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'I'll be back,' foiled hijacker told agent
New York Daily News ^ | 1/27/04 | JAMES GORDON MEEK

Posted on 01/27/2004 4:19:26 AM PST by kattracks

WASHINGTON - A U.S. customs inspector praised for keeping the 20th hijacker in the 9/11 plot from getting into the country told Congress yesterday that the "hostile" Saudi gave him the creeps and vowed, "I'll be back."

Jose Melendez-Perez told the 9/11 Commission, the panel probing the attacks on America, that he was spooked enough by the man identified only as "Al-Qahtani" to put him on a plane out of Orlando after he arrived in the U.S. from London and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with a one-way ticket and $2,800 in cash.

Al-Qahtani was dressed head-to-toe in black when he arrived on Aug. 4, 2001, a month before the Sept. 11 hijackings, Melendez-Perez said. As an interpreter grilled him about his travel plans, the "arrogant" Saudi grew visibly angry, he recalled.

"When the subject looked at me, I felt a bone-chilling, cold effect," he added.

He wondered if the Saudi was "possibly a hit man - but my wife said I've been watching too many movies."

When Al-Qahtani was ordered deported, he "turned and said in English something to the effect of, 'I'll be back.'"

Arriving the same day in the same Orlando airport, officials said, was lead hijacker Mohamed Atta. While Melendez-Perez did the right thing, commission officials said, "at least two and as many as eight" of the 19 other hijackers' papers, including Atta's, "showed evidence of fraudulent manipulation" that went undetected.

"This is an example of how a well-trained and alert inspector performed admirably in refusing admission to the United States of an individual who should not have gained entry," said Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic commission member and former Watergate prosecutor.

"If everyone was as professional as you were, the Sept. 11 attacks would not have taken place," former chief Navy John Lehman, a commission member, told Melendez-Perez.

Incredibly, FBI agents investigating the 9/11 attacks never interviewed Melendez-Perez. An FBI source told the Daily News that Melendez-Perez escaped the bureau's attention because agents instead interviewed Al-Qahtani at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he has been held since his capture in Afghanistan in late 2001.

The FBI concluded in July 2002 he was probably supposed to be the fifth hijacker aboard United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. The FBI source added that Melendez-Perez may soon be debriefed.

The commission, whose chairman is former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, a Republican, also revealed yesterday that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed used a fake identity to obtain a visa on July 23, 2001, but did not use it. The congressional 9/11 inquiry previously reported that Mohammed, busted a year ago in Pakistan, visited the U.S. as late as May 2001.

The panel is looking at government agency failures across the spectrum relating to 9/11. Today, it is set to look at airline safety.



TOPICS: Front Page News; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: 200105; 200107; 20010723; 200108; 20010804; 20010911; 201108; 20110804; 911; 911commission; airlinesecurity; alqahtani; alqhatani; atta; customs; dubai; fbi; hitman; illbeback; ksm; london; maninblack; melendezperez; mohammedatta; oops; orlando; orlandoairport; qahtani; qhatani; uae; uk

1 posted on 01/27/2004 4:19:27 AM PST by kattracks
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To: kattracks
http://www.9-11commission.gov/press/index.htm
2 posted on 01/27/2004 4:22:50 AM PST by OXENinFLA ("A free Iraq will help change a neighborhood that needs to change." GWB 1- 22-04)
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To: kattracks
Immigration asleep-at-the-wheel bump.
3 posted on 01/27/2004 4:29:24 AM PST by FreedomPoster (This space intentionally blank)
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To: kattracks
I am currently reading "Terrorist Hunter", the author is anonymous.

According to her, the FBI withheld large amounts of information from the INS Terrorism Unit.

Even before reading this book I had much disdain for gov't bureaucrats.

I now have complete disgust!

4 posted on 01/27/2004 4:32:05 AM PST by RIGHT IN LAS VEGAS
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To: kattracks
You hate to be presumptive about this kind of thing, but I know how this screener felt. I saw a guy (of Arab descent) when I was in the Bangkok airport who gave me the exact same feeling, like he was either smuggling drugs or up to something no good. I was close enough to him to see he was flying to Chicago. That worried me. I was relieved to see just a while later he was being held in an office (presumably for questioning), and very obviously not happy about it.
5 posted on 01/27/2004 4:35:06 AM PST by tdadams
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To: kattracks
The FBI concluded in July 2002 he was probably supposed to be the fifth hijacker aboard United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.

It seems very possible that Melendez-Perez may have prevented the Capitol Building or the White House from being hit on 9/11.

6 posted on 01/27/2004 4:37:17 AM PST by San Jacinto
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To: kattracks
Al-Qahtani: "I'll be back."

Al-Qahtani watches too many movies....

7 posted on 01/27/2004 4:46:17 AM PST by smith288 ("YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWW" - Howard Dean)
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To: kattracks
The FBI source added that Melendez-Perez may soon be debriefed.

Soon? SOON!?!?! Like in a couple more years, maybe?

8 posted on 01/27/2004 4:54:16 AM PST by GovernmentShrinker
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To: kattracks
I'm surprised that the "Liberals" haven't branded Melendez-Perez a "racist", gotten him fired and thrown into jail, and provided a team of lawyers to enable Al-Qahtani to sue him for every penny he's got, gain entry to the U.S., write a book about his victimhood, launch a lecture tour, and highjack as many passenger planes as he jolly well feels like. Maybe they just haven't gotten cranked up yet.
9 posted on 01/27/2004 6:19:14 AM PST by Savage Beast (Whom will the terrorists vote for? Not George Bush--that's for sure! ~Happy2BMe)
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To: RIGHT IN LAS VEGAS; kattracks
<< I am currently reading "Terrorist Hunter", the author is anonymous.

According to her, the FBI withheld large amounts of information from the INS Terrorism Unit.

Even before reading this book I had much disdain for gov't bureaucrats.

I now have complete disgust! >>

In America twenty five thousand much more attractive corporations and free-enterprise businesses get to fish and net and long-line and dredge the talent pool before the gummint gets the evil, the cynical, the envy motivated, the hatred driven, the pathologically mean-spirited, the quota hires and the rest of the otherwise deservedly-unemployed bottom feeders.

Add to that that the vast organized criminal gangs we euphamistically refer to as the "DemocRATS" have been in charge of hiring for more than seventy years.

And then consider that the rest of US [Most Americans, that is] are the world's most loving, kind, warm-spirited and generous people on Earth and that we suffer the consequences both domestically and world-wide of projecting our goodness on to everyone we encounter and/or ever deal with -- including our for the most part execrable "public servants."

Who, as you have observed, serve us very very poorly indeed, if at all.
10 posted on 01/27/2004 8:37:10 AM PST by Brian Allen ( Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God - Thomas Jefferson)
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To: Savage Beast
Are you a press agent?
11 posted on 01/27/2004 10:53:32 AM PST by duckandcover
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To: duckandcover
I know I shouldn't give them any ideas, Duck. They're so predictable.
12 posted on 01/27/2004 11:23:48 AM PST by Savage Beast (Whom will the terrorists vote for? Not George Bush--that's for sure! ~Happy2BMe)
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