WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 Justice Department officials today disclosed the names of 19 men who they said had commandeered four commercial jets in Tuesday's terror attacks, and the officials said they wanted to question more than 100 other people who are associated with the hijackers.
Several of the 19 men identified by federal officials as those who carried out the suicide missions lived in Florida or at least had recent Florida addresses. Others were listed as having lived in New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Arizona.
In New York City today, the authorities arrested an unidentified associate of Osama bin Laden's brother, government officials said. The man is suspected of having information about plans for the attack and was arrested on a sealed material witness warrant obtained by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
The arrest was the first directly connected to the terror plot. Arrests on material witness warrants are usually issued when the authorities believe someone has information about a crime, but may not have themselves broken the law or to place people in custody who are considered flight risks.
Seven of the 19 men identified by the F.B.I. as the hijackers were believed to be pilots, officials said.
They added that four of the men with flight training were aboard American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston that was the first aircraft to take off and the first to strike the World Trade Center ? suggesting that the terrorists had, for unknown reasons, concentrated their flying expertise on that flight.
Scant biographical information about the men was disclosed. Their nationalities, immigration status, ages, occupations and recent activities have not been released in most cases. Law enforcement officials said, however, that they possessed a substantial amount of that information, and that most of the men, if not all, had Middle Eastern origins.
The longer list of those sought for questioning was not released publicly, but officials said they included people they wanted to speak to because they might have information about the plot. The list was sent to 18,000 local police departments and other law enforcement agencies as part of the overall investigation which the F.B.I. has officially named the "Pentbomb" investigation.
Law enforcement officials said that they were concerned that trained pilots remained at large who trained at flight schools with the hijackers and could be prepared to carry out other operations. That concern moved security precautions to a high alert status as the country's air traffic system reopened.
Federal authorities remained on edge today. F.B.I. officials met with Georgia law enforcement agencies to advise them that investigators had received information suggesting that Atlanta may have been one of the terrorists' targets. Federal officials today discounted the source's information, which included tips that Boston and Richmond, Va., might also have been selected for terrorist acts.
It was uncertain whether the 19 names of the hijackers put out by officials today were the true names of the hijackers. The names were apparently those used by the men when they purchased airline tickets, but it was unclear whether they might have used aliases, stolen identities or forged documents.
The government said that the men they believed to be the hijackers used those names to buy tickets and board the planes. The officials identified the 19 by a variety of steps. In one case, a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11 telephoned American to report a hijacker's seat number.
In addition, investigators have interviewed family members, friends and co-workers of nearly all passengers on all four flights, eliminating other people on the flight as hijacking suspects. After most of the passengers were removed from suspicion by that investigation, officials determined that the 19 had no plausible personal histories that would exclude them from the list of probable hijackers.
Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I., said, "We have a fairly high level of confidence" in the accuracy of the names.
Of the separate list of more than 100 people, Attorney General John Ashcroft told a news conference today, "These are the names of individuals the F.B.I. would like to talk to because we believe they may have information that might be helpful to the investigation."
Mr. Mueller, speaking at the same news conference, said the authorities had so far served 30 search warrants and hundreds of subpoenas, obtaining items like computers and documents. Of the 36,000 leads received by the F.B.I., he said, about 30,000 have come over the Internet.
So far, immigration authorities have arrested a number of people in connection with the investigation, but only for suspected violations of immigration law. No one has been arrested or charged for their direct involvement in the attack.
On Thursday, the authorities said they believed that 18 men had boarded planes to take part in the hijackings. But today, Mr. Ashcroft said that further investigation led officials to conclude that there was a 19th person who had not been counted who was aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which struck the Pentagon after taking off from Dulles airport in Virginia.
"The F.B.I. requests that anyone who may have information about these individuals ? even though these individuals are presumed to be dead ? anyone with information about these individuals immediately contact an F.B.I. field office or call the toll-free hot line," Mr. Ashcroft said. That number is Call +1866-483-5137.
While many of the hijackers had been living in the United States, officials were also trying to determine how others had recently entered the country.
Investigators have sought passenger lists on ferries between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Maine, but they no longer believe that the men slipped across the Canadian border. Moreover, Canadian officials said they had no evidence that any of the hijackers crossed their border into the United States.
Mr. Mueller said today that some of the 19 men believed to have hijacked the planes on Tuesday were in the United States in violation of the immigration laws or the terms of their visas.
"Some of them were out of status," Mr. Mueller said. "I'm not certain how many or which names, or which individuals."
Today, the F.B.I. provided information on the immigration status of two of the 19 hijacking suspects. One, Khalid al-Midhar, who was in the plane that slammed into the Pentagon, was here as a business visitor, on a B-1 visa.
Another suspect, Marwan al- Shehhi, who was in the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center, was here on a tourist visa, known as a B-2 visa, the bureau said.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Justice Dept. Identifies 19 Men as Suspected Hijackers
The New York Times By NEIL A. LEWIS and DAVID JOHNSTON, Published: September 15, 2001