• U.S.

Was Mohammed Atta Overlooked?

2 minute read
Timothy J. Burger and Brian Bennett

That question has recently been buzzing around Washington, but now the chairman of the defunct 9/11 commission has lashed out at the Bush Administration for failing to address publicly claims that the panel ignored a tip that Atta had been flagged in the U.S. as a terrorist well before he led the 2001 attacks. Former chairman Tom Kean told TIME that the White House should confirm whether, right after 9/11, Congressman Curt Weldon handed then Deputy National Security Adviser Steven Hadley a 1999 Pentagon chart pegging Atta as a member of al-Qaeda. Weldon makes the allegation in a book he published this summer and claims the commission failed to scrutinize a Pentagon data-mining program called “Able Danger.” “I’m offended, because people say, ‘Well, why didn’t you do anything?'” says Kean. “This was information that was not given us.” After largely declining comment for nearly two weeks, a Pentagon spokesman told TIME last week that the Defense Department has been “aggressively looking into these allegations” but has yet to find documentation to support them.

Meanwhile, another possible gap in the 9/11 report has emerged. The panel found that hijacker Khalid Almihdhar had left the U.S. from the summer of 2000 until two months before the attacks. But USAID Systems, a Florida ID firm, confirmed last week that he was issued a card–reproduced in a book last year–in New York or New Jersey exactly six years before its expiration date of Dec. 30, 2006. Kean says there was solid evidence that Almihdhar was out of the U.S. at that time but any indication to the contrary “would be important to follow up.” –By Timothy J. Burger and Brian Bennett

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