Friday, December 13, 2002

It is instructive that a criminal trial in Germany is the only place where any new revelations about September 11 are appearing. Testimony by an FBI agent at the trial of Mounir El Motassadeq concerned: 1) the fact that gas or mace was used on the flights to disable the passengers; and 2) the fact that the hijackers wired back some of the money they had received to fund the terrorist operation. We in fact already knew that at least three of the hijackers (Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Waleed Alshehri) returned $5,000 or so each by wire transfer to someone in the United Arab Emirates named Mustapha Ahmad Al-Hawsawi (which may be an alias for Shayk Saiid, a man who has sometimes been confused with the alleged murderer of Daniel Pearl, Omar Saeed Sheikh), a man who may be an associate of bin Laden. The money was picked up in Sharjah at a branch of the Al Ansari Exchange. My comments:

  • The admission that gas was used means that the hijackers were able to smuggle weapons onto the planes, weapons which should have been caught by aiport screeners, the negligence of which is the responsibility of the airlines (who have successfully lobbied for the bare minimum in screening, as proper screening costs them money). We have seen the boxcutter story foisted on the American public presumably to save the airlines from liability claims on the basis that the hijackings were committed using implements that were legally taken aboard the planes (I've already written about the silliness of the boxcutter story). Now that the U. S. airline industry is going bankrupt (which seems to be an intentional ploy by the Bush Administration and the airline executives to force down the wages of airline employees), the unsecured claims of the relatives of the victims of 9-11 are becoming irrelevant, and the truth can start to come out.

  • The payments made by the hijackers back to their presumed funding source is very odd. I assume the theory is that the hijackers who were going to die in the mission had no more need for the money, and sent it back to be used to fund more terrorism. I also assume the money was divided into three separate payments in order to keep each transfer under $10,000, a number that can generate scrutiny. Why then was it sent by a completely traceable method? We've heard about the halawa system of money transfer, which has been banned, at the cost of considerable suffering to people who relied on funds transferred from immigrants in first world countries to places like Somalia where there is no other practical way to transfer money. This system would allow for untraceable money transfers. There are other ways that the money could have been returned. Instead, the hijackers used easily traceable transfers. The hijackers had to know that the American authorities would have tracked these transfers back to their recipient. The only conclusion to be drawn is that the hijjackers wanted these transfers to be tracked in order to ensure that the terrorism was financially tied to a known al-Qaeda financier. Presumably they divided the amount into payments of less that $10,000 to ensure that the transfers would not raise suspicions before September 11 that could have interfered with the success of the terrorist attacks. Considering the total amount of money involved in the 9-11 operation, this $15,000 was hardly worth returning, but is a big enough sum to be noticeable. Just as with the $100,000 sent to Atta from Pakistan, it provides some of the little evidence there is to tie the 9-11 attacks to al-Qaeda.