Monday, October 07, 2002

One of the mysteries of 9-11 is the transfer of the Hamburg cadre from Germany to Florida in mid-2000. The cadre consisted of at least seven people who were centered around a man called Mohammed Haydar Zammar and who lived, at least for a time, on Marienstrasse in Hamburg: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Ramzi Binalshibh, Said Bahaji, Zakariya Essabar, and Mounir El Motassadeq. Marmoun Darkazanli may also have played a role, though he remains in Germany and has not been arrested. Mounir El Motassadeq, who denies the connection (although he signed Atta's 'will' and had power of attorney on Alshehhi's bank account), is in custody in Germany and Binalshibh may have been recently captured in Pakistan. Said Bahaji and Zakariya Essabar are still being sought on arrest warrants in Germany. Binalshibh may have attended the famous meeting in Kuala Lumpur also attended by Nawaf Alhamzi and Khalid Almihdhar where the terrorist attacks were supposedly first planned, and later met with Atta in Spain in July 2001 to finalize the plan. As I have already mentioned numerous times, it is clear that the original Atta and Jarrah didn't move to Florida. Others took their identities, and simply started to operate in the United States while the original group of Islamic students was still active in Germany. In fact, it may be that Atta and Jarrah were identified by the group in Germany as people who matched the right profile and whose identities could be easily stolen and used by professionals in the United States who would have a much better chance of pulling off the terrorist operation (and, at least in the case of Atta, it is not impossible that consent was given to the identity being used). The real 9-11 operation didn't start until the operatives were in Florida, and they arrived while the Hamburg group was still in Germany. It seems odd that the intelligence or military agency who planned this would allow the German group and the Florida group to operate at the same time. You'd think that they would eliminate the Hamburg group just before the mercenaries using the stolen identities started to operate in Florida. It seems, however, that our mental construct of the essential immutability of personal identity is so strong that we are prepared to edit out of our minds even the most extreme anomalies in order to preserve the illusion of continuity of identity. Intelligence agencies therefore don't have to worry about the overlap in most cases, and in fact having the identities overlap may have the paradoxical effect of strengthening the composite identity of the imposters. There are four possible problems all of which have to be, and have been, ignored by the controlled, lazy, and stupid press:

  1. When the person whose identity was stolen, and is supposed to be dead, appears claiming his identity was stolen (e. g., Waleed Alshehri).

  2. When there is a massive change in personality (e. g., Atta, Jarrah). Radical personality changes do occur in cases of severe head trauma, brain tumors, or severe mental illness (Wail Alshehri may have become a fanatic due to mental illness), but it is impossible to believe that such people could function at the high level of competence of, say, Atta, for over a year.

  3. When the person is clearly in two places at the same time (e. g., Atta in Florida in spring 2000, while the original Atta was still in Hamburg; Atta even earlier in officer's training school in Montgomery, Alabama, an issue which raises the further question of how Egyptian architecture student Atta, with a fear of flying, ended up in an American officer's training school; and similar bilocation problems with Jarrah).

  4. When there is some noticeable and key personality component which changes (e. g., the Hamburg Atta spoke German fluently, but when the owner of the Florida flight training school tried to talk to Atta in German, Atta did not respond and just walked away - leaving us to wonder whether he would have responded to Hebrew, Spanish, Farsi, or French - and the terrorist playing 'Atta' in Logan airport claimed to only speak Arabic although the 'Atta' we know from Florida spoke English well).

What has been bothering me is the case of Marwan Alshehhi. He was one of the original members of the Hamburg group, supposedly a cousin of Atta, and generally inseparable from Atta. Unlike the dour and rude Atta, Alshehhi was quite personable and friendly. I have divided the hijackers into two groups, the mercenaries or 'secular' hijackers, and the al-Qaeda members, or 'religious' hijackers (I feel the September 11 terrorism was a joint operation between Islamic fundamentalists who have been labelled, perhaps misleadingly, 'al-Qaeda', and an intelligence agency). I am wondering whether Alshehhi was the sole connection of al-Qaeda and the Hamburg group to the Florida group of mercenaries, or whether his identity was also stolen and he was impersonated by a mercenary in Florida. The Germans claim that in April or May 2000 Alshehhi boasted of the coming attack to a librarian by saying that the World Trade Center would be hit and "there will be thousands of dead." Not that long after, someone called 'Alshehhi' was operating in Florida. If it is the same guy, and Alshehhi, unlike Atta or Jarrah, actually did move from Hamburg to Florida, Alshehhi may represent the bridge in Florida between al-Qaeda and whatever intelligence agency supplied the mercenaries. Alshehhi's personality seems to be more in line with the religious group rather than the mercenaries, but there are two troubling anomalies:
We're supposed to believe that these people are so fanatical about their religion that they are prepared to kill themselves for it, and this sort of behavior would seem to preclude being in the religious group. I am therefore still confused about the identity of Alshehhi, but despite his sins feel he is more likely to be in the religious group. He may have felt he had to play along with the behaviour patterns of the thugs he had to work with.