Saudi Tracking of 9/11 Hijackers - Additions to the 9/11 Timeline as of November 9, 2008

All the new entries this week are about tracking of terrorists, in particular the 9/11 hijackers, as they moved between countries. Until the early 1990s, the CIA produced a Redbook that instructed immigration inspectors on how to spot terrorists by examining their passports. However, publication ceased just before the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which was unfortunate because some of the 9/11 hijackers had the same indicators of terrorist affiliation in their passports as three of the WTC bombers. When a top al-Qaeda support site in Europe was raided in Italy in 1995, two copies of the Redbook were found there.

9/11 hijackers Salem Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar obtained passports tagged by the Saudi authorities with a indicator of terrorist affiliation in April 1999. They soon left Saudi Arabia and the Saudi authorities probably noted this. Ahmed Alnami may have received a passport with a similar indicator later in the year, but US authorities did not spot an indicator in Nawaf Alhazmi's passport when he extended his stay in the US in mid-2000. Almihdhar was presumably tracked by the authorities when he entered and left Saudi Arabia at the end of 2000 and beginning of 2001.

There must have been as series of watch list hits in Saudi Arabia in May 2001, as Ahmed Alhaznawi entered the country, Alnami left, and then Almihdhar arrived again. In June, Alhaznawi left, and then Salem Alhazmi arrived, obtained another passport, which was again tagged by the Saudi authorities, and then left, followed by Almihdhar.

It is unclear when the CIA realised what the indicator meant, but it produced a report mentioning it in February 2003. However, this report had not been disseminated even a year later, meaning that terrorists with the same indicators of terrorist affiliation as the WTC bombers and the 9/11 hijackers could freely enter and leave the US unmolested by immigration officials.

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