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April 17, 2005

Mystery Flight: Al Qaeda Still Trying For Jet Attack?

Compelling and frightening... although somewhat reassuring, too:

Fifteen minutes after KLM Flight 685 took off from Amsterdam for Mexico City on April 8, Mexican authorities forwarded the names of all the passengers to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The reason: the flight was scheduled to pass through U.S. airspace after making a long swing over Canada. The information was then passed on to the U.S. National Targeting Center, based at a secret address in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. That's when the routine became extraordinary: by the time the Boeing 747 had finished its three-hour crossing of the Atlantic, Homeland Security screeners were on high alert. The names of two Saudi passengers aboard the KLM flight had begun producing "hits" on the screening center's lists of 70,000 suspect foreigners.

One of these hits—from an FBI database of terror suspects known as TIPOFF—smacked investigators right between the eyes. The two Saudis, the database reported, were brothers and pilots who had attended the same Arizona flight school as 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour. Soon the multiplicity of U.S. terror databases started pumping out similar hits. Fearing that Flight 685 might be a 9/11-style plot in the making, U.S. authorities refused the plane overflight rights, and Canada rejected a request to land. Much to the chagrin of its 278 passengers, the KLM jet made an exhausting odyssey back to Amsterdam.

...

At least one of the two Saudis had previously been deported from the United States, according to Homeland Security sources. ... During FBI questioning, a law-enforcement official told NEWSWEEK, the Saudi acknowledged knowing Hani Hanjour. Upon further questioning, he also conceded that he had known another of the 9/11 hijackers.

Even so, by the end of last week the reasons the Saudi brothers gave for their trip to Mexico appeared to be holding up, U.S. investigators conceded.

Uh-huh.


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posted by Ace at 12:53 PM

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