Immigration Issues

Identity and Immigration Status of 9/11 Terrorists (2011)

According to authorities, all of the hijackers who committed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were foreigners. All of them entered the country legally on a temporary visa, mostly tourist visas with entry permits for six months.  Although four of them attended flight school in the United States, only one is known to have entered on an appropriate visa for such study, and one entered on an F-1 student visa.  Besides the four pilots, all but one of the terrorists entered the United States only once and had been in the country for only three to five months before the attacks. 

The four pilots had been in the United States for extended periods, although none was a legal permanent resident. Some had received more than one temporary visa, most of which were currently valid on September 11, but at least three of them had fallen out of status and were, therefore, in the United States illegally.

The terrorists had obtained U.S. identification that was used for boarding flights in the form of Florida, Virginia, California and New Jersey driver's licenses/ID cards. One of the terrorists, Mohamed Atta, was detained in Florida for driving without a license, but subsequently obtained one. Thirteen of the terrorists had Florida driver's licenses or ID cards, seven had Virginia driver's licenses, at least two had California licenses and two had New Jersey driver's licenses. According to the March 28, 2002 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Robert Thibadeau, director of Carnegie Mellon's Internet Security laboratory, says that "the 19 terrorists on Sept. 11 were holding 63 state driver's licenses for identification."

In the probe of the attack, numerous other people with potential connections to the hijackings have been detained for immigration violations.

[Note: In the conversion of names from the Arabic alphabet into ours, there is no single correct spelling. This is why the names of the terrorists vary in their spelling in different news accounts, and why computerized databases will not recognize the name when it is spelled differently from how it was entered into the database. For example, Mohamed could be spelled Muhamed or Mohammed, and al-Suami could be spelled Alsuami or al Swami, etc.]

The Pentagon Plane (AA Flight 77, Dulles to Los Angeles)

  1. Hani Hasan Hanjour (26) — Saudi Arabian — pilot
    • First came to U.S. in Oct. 1991 to study English in Tucson, Arizona.
    • Had been in U.S. in April 1996, when he lived in Oakland, Cal. where he studied English, and later received flight training in Scottsdale, Arizona. He left in Nov. 1996 and returned again in Nov. 1997 while he obtained a FAA commercial pilot certificate. He left again in April 1999.
    • Obtained student visa (F-1) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in Sept. 2000 after an initial refusal. According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, Hanjour failed to reveal in his visa application that he had previously traveled to the United States.
    • Returned Dec. 2000 to study English at Holy Names College (Oakland CA) but never showed up at the school. In illegal status because he did not enroll, and his entry permit had expired at the time of the attack.
    • Lived in San Diego, Phoenix and Mesa, Ariz. (with Nawaf al-Hamzi), and later in Northern Virginia.
    • Had a Virginia driver's license.

  2. Khalid al-Mihdhar (or Almidhar) — Saudi Arabian
    • Obtained U.S. tourist visa in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in April 1999.
    • In Malaysia in Jan. 2000. Followed by Malaysian agents tipped off by CIA (see Wash. Post 2/3/02).
    • Arrived at Los Angeles Jan. 15, 2000 with Nawaf al-Hamzi on B-2 tourist visa from Malaysia.
    • Lived in San Diego, where he took flight training in May 2000 with Nawaf al-Hamzi.
    • Left U.S. in June 2000 and obtained new B-1 visa in Saudi Arabia. According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, his application falsely indicated he had not previously traveled to the United States and contained “suspicious indicators.” It also revealed that he had more than one passport.
    • Returned July 4, 2001, lived in New York.
    • Put on the Watch List for terrorists in August 2001 after entering U.S. last time.
    • In legal nonimmigrant status at the time of the attack.
    • Had a Virginia driver's license.

  3. Nawaf al-Hamzi (or Alhamzi) — Saudi Arabian (brother of Salem)
    • Obtained U.S. tourist visa in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in April 1999. According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, his application contained “suspicious indicators.”
    • In Malaysia in Jan. 2000. Followed by Malaysian agents tipped off by CIA (see Wash. Post 2/3/02).
    • Arrived at Los Angeles Jan. 15, 2000 with al-Midhar from Malaysia.
    • Lived in San Diego, where he took flight training in May 2000 with al-Midhar, in Dec. 2000 moved to Mesa Arizona (with Hani Hanjour), and later to Fort Lee, N.J., Wayne, N.J. and Northern Virginia.
    • Applied to INS July 12, 2000 for extension of permitted stay in U.S. (apparently granted for additional six months).
    • Put on the Watch List for terrorists in August 2001. (with al-Mihdhar)
    • Had been in illegal visa overstay status for nine months at the time of the attack.
    • Had California, Florida and Virgina driver's licenses.

  4. Salem al-Hamzi (or Alhamzi)- Saudi Arabian (brother of Nawaf)
    • Obtained U.S. tourist visa in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in April 1999.
    • Arrived U.S. June 2001.
    • Lived in Fort Lee, N.J., Wayne, N.J.
    • In legal nonimmigrant status at the time of the attack.
    • Had a Virginia driver's license.

  5. Majed Moqed — Saudi Arabian
    • Identity in doubt.
    • Entered on tourist visa obtained in Saudi Arabia after May 2001.
    • In legal nonimmigrant status at the time of the attack.
    • Had a Virginia driver's license.

The WTC North Tower Plane (AA Flight 11, Boston to Los Angeles)

  1. Mohamed Atta — Egyptian (43) — pilot
    • Born in Egypt in 1968.
    • Graduated from Cairo Univ. with degree in Architectural Engineering in 1990.
    • Obtained visitor visa in Berlin Germany, May 2000.
    • Entered U.S. at Newark on June 3, 2000 on tourist visa and given entry permit until December 2, 2000.
    • Applied in Sept. 2000 to INS for change in status to trainee.
    • Attended Huffman Aviation school in Venice Florida with al-Shehhi.
    • Arrested in Florida for driving without license, and failed to show up for court date — bench warrant issued.
    • Subsequently obtained Florida driver's license.
    • Obtained FAA pilot's certificate.
    • According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, had overstayed his entry permit as of Dec. 4, 2000.
    • Flew to Madrid Jan. 2001.
    • United Arab Emirate (UAE) authorities state Atta detained in January 2001 on basis of his name appearing on terrorist alert list, but was not held in absence of U.S. charges. UAE states that U.S. authorities were warned Atta intended to return to U.S.
    • Returned to U.S. on January 10, 2001 at Miami and was sent to secondary inspection because he acknowledged being in flight training but did not have required trainee visa. Interagency Border Information System (IBIS) database checked. Admitted by INS based on pending application for change to trainee status.
    • Moved to Georgia in Jan. 2001 for additional flight training with al-Shehhi.
    • Left U.S. and returned from Madrid on July 19, 2001 and given permission to stay until November 2, 2001.
    • Also lived in Hollywood and Coral Springs, Fla.
    • Received change of status approval by INS in September a year after the attacks.

  2. Satam al-Suqami (25) — Saudi Arabian
    • Obtained business visa in Saudi Arabia (but was residing in United Arab Emirates).
    • Entered U.S. in May 2001. According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, asked for and was admitted for 20 days and was in overstay status at the time of the attacks. The Commission staff also said his passport was doctored (presumably with pages removed to hide his travel to countries where he obtained terrorist training).
    • Was the only terrorist who did not have a U.S. ID to board the plane and used his passport.
    • Was in overstay status at the time of the attack.

  3. Waleed al-Shehri (or Alshehri) (21) — Saudi Arabian (brother of Wail)
    • Obtained tourist visa in Saudi Arabia.
    • Entered U.S. in May 2000.
    • Licensed pilot.
    • Lived in Hollywood, Orlando and Daytona Beach (all in Florida).
    • In illegal nonimmigrant status (visa overstay) at time of the attack.
    • Had a Florida driver's license.

  4. Wail (or Wael) al-Shehri (or Alshehri) (25) — Saudi Arabian (brother of Waleed)
    • Obtained tourist visa in Saudi Arabia.
    • Lived in Hollywood, Fla. and Newton, Mass.
    • Had a Florida ID card.

  5. Abdulaziz al-Omari (or Alomari) — Saudi Arabian
    • Obtained tourist visa in Saudi Arabia in June 2001.
    • According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, his passport was doctored (presumably with pages removed to hide his travel to countries where he obtained terrorist training).
    • In legal nonimmigrant status at the time of the attack.
    • Lived in Hollywood, Fla.
    • Had a Florida and Virginia driver's licenses.

The WTC South Tower Plane (UA Flight 175, Boston to Los Angeles)

  1. Marwan al-Shehhi (or Alshehhi) — United Arab Emirates — pilot
    • Studied electrical engineering at Tech. Univ. in Hamburg.
    • In January 2000, obtained 10-year, multiple entry tourist visa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
    • Entered the U.S. in May 2000, applied September for change of status to student.
    • Attended flight school in Florida, obtained FAA pilot's certificate.
    • Took at least 3 trips out of U.S. and back. (Overstayed entry permit as of Nov. 2000, left U.S. in Dec. 2000, returned Jan. 2001.)
    • Attended flight school in Georgia with Atta in Jan. 2001. According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, was sent to secondary inspection, but was admitted.) 
    • Flew to Egypt April 8, 2001, returned from Morocco May 2, 2001.
    • In legal nonimmigrant status at the time of the attack.
    • Lived in New York City area, Georgia and moved to Hollywood, Fla. in July with Atta and trained at Huffman Aviation in Venice.
    • Had a Florida driver's license.

  2. Fayez Ahmed Rashid Ahmed al-Qadi Banihammad (aka Fayez Ahmed) — United Arab Emirates 
    • Obtained tourist visa in United Arab Emirates.
    • Entered U.S. in June.
    • Lived in Delray Beach, Fla.

  3. Ahmed al-Ghamdi (or Alghamdi) — Saudi Arabian
    • Obtained tourist visa in Saudi Arabia.
    • Entered U.S. in May.
    • In illegal visa overstay status at the time of the attack.
    • Lived in Delray Beach, Fla.
    • Had a Florida ID card.
    • Had a Virginia driver's license.

  4. Hamza Saleh al-Ghamdi (or Alghamdi) (20) — Saudi Arabian
    • Obtained visa in Saudi Arabia.
    • Lived in Delray Beach, Fla.
    • Had a Florida driver's license.

  5. Mohand al-Shehri (or Alshehri) — Saudi Arabian
    • Identity in doubt.
    • Obtained tourist visa in Saudi Arabia.
    • Admitted to U.S. in May.
    • Lived in Delray Beach, Fla.

The Pennsylvania Plane (UA Flight 93, Newark to San Francisco)

  1. Ziad Samir Jarrah — Lebanese — pilot 
    • Born in Lebanon in 1975.
    • Studied aircraft construction and maintenance at Hamburg tech. univ. 1996-00.
    • Obtained five-year, multiple-entry tourist visa in Germany.
    • Entered U.S. in June 27, 2000 at Atlanta.
    • Trained as a pilot in Venice, Florida and Virginia Gardens, Florida but never obtained student trainee visa.  Received FAA pilot's certificate.
    • Took at least 5 trips out of U.S. and back (flew to Germany July 25 and returned August 5, 2001).
    • Lived in Delray Beach, Fla.
    • In legal nonimmigrant status at the time of the attack.
    • Had a Florida driver's license.

  2. Saeed al-Ghamdi (or Alghamdi) — Saudi Arabian
    • Identity in doubt.
    • Obtained tourist visa in Saudi Arabia. According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, application falsely stated he had not previously applied for a U.S. visa.
    • Entered U.S. in June 2001. According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, he was sent to secondary inspection, because he had a one-way ticket and $500, but was admitted.
    • Lived in Delray Beach, Fla.
    • Had a Florida ID card.

  3. Ahmed Ibrahim A. al-Haznawi (or Alhaznawi) (21) — Saudi Arabian
    • Obtained tourist visa in Saudi Arabia.
    • Entered the U.S. in June 2001. According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, his passport may have had "suspicious indicators."
    • In legal nonimmigrant status at the time of the attack.
    • Lived in Delray Beach, Fla.
    • Had a Florida driver's license.

  4. Ahmed Abdullah al-Nami (or Alnami) (23) — Saudi Arabian
    • Obtained tourist visa in Saudi Arabia.
    • Entered the U.S. in May 2001. According to the 2/04 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, his passport may have had "suspicious indicators."
    • In legal nonimmigrant status at the time of the attack.
    • Lived in Delray Beach, Fla.
    • Had a Florida ID card.

Other Conspiritors:

  • Khalid Sheikh Mohamed (Coordinator) — Indicted in 1996 in N. Y. for his role in an earlier terrorist plot. Had a Saudi Arabian passport (although not a Saudi national) — obtained a U.S. visa in July 2001.
  • Ramzi Bin-al-shibh — Yemeni (potential pilot) — denied visa four times.
  • Zakariya Essabar — Moroccan — potential pilot/hijacker — denied visa.
  • Saeed “Jihad” al Gamdi — Potential hijacker — denied visa.
  • Ali Abdul Aziz Ali — Pakistani — financial facilitator — denied visa.
  • Mohamed al Kahtani — potential hijacker — denied visa.

 


Data compiled from various news sources and checked where possible against official sources including the Dec. 2002 Senate report "Joint inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001" (Released in July 2003) and the Feb. 2004 Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks.

Updated November 2011