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9/11: Flights of Fancy in Florida

by Chaim Kupferberg Friday, Nov. 28, 2003 at 10:59 AM

In these selected excerpts from his landmark article, Chaim Kupferberg looks at the Florida portion of the 9/11 Legend, using the recorded recollections of Yosri Fouda - the only journalist ever to interview the 9/11 mastermind - in order to expose a glaring contradiction in the "official" record of 9/11.

The following are selected excerpts only. The complete text for this article may be found at


As for his choice for flight training, Atta and his comrades presciently chose to hone their skills within commuter distance of the C.I.A./military base that would later serve as Central Command for the War in Afghanistan. As posted on the CBS News site on March 5, 2003, here was Binalshibh's simple explanation to Yosri Fouda as to why Florida was chosen for its flight schools:

"The prices in America were convenient and the weather was ideal for more flying hours, especially in the coastal states like Florida ... and the term of study wouldn't take long."

Perhaps Binalshibh might have added that it would also allow Atta and his comrades to lay an incriminating trail in the presence of bona fide American eyewitnesses, and all within shouting distance of the military handlers at MacDill Air Force Base. As an added bonus, two of Atta's fellow hijackers would also be set up with rental accommodations by the wife of the employee of a C.I.A.-founded company. Gloria Irish, the wife of the tabloid Sun editor Michael Irish, rented a Delray Beach apartment to hijackers Marwan Al-Shehhi and Saeed Alghamdi. Perhaps it is a coincidence, but the very first victim of the post-9/11 anthrax attacks also happened to be a Sun photo editor by the name of Bob Stevens. And perhaps another peculiar coincidence, as reported in the St. Petersburg Times on October 15, 2001:

"Mike Irish, who, records show, is a licensed airplane pilot, several years ago was a member of the Civil Air Patrol based at a small-plane airport in Lantana, just north of Delray Beach, an official there told the Washington Post. One of the hijackers, Atta, reportedly rented a plane at that airport to practice flying for three days in August. Stevens, the Sun photo editor who died of anthrax Oct. 5, also lives in Lantana. But there is no indication whether Irish or Stevens ever crossed paths with Atta."

To anyone familiar with covert operations, the above item would perhaps set off alarm bells. In theory, if Atta and his comrades were intelligence assets, they would be handled by resident, intelligence-connected, "babysitters" whose job it would be to set up accommodations and provide support where needed. Were the Irishes "babysitters" in an intelligence operation?

...In addition to ... MacDill Air Force base and the Irishes, the state of Florida is host to a number of other eyewitnesses whose background - and testimonies - deserve far greater scrutiny than they have heretofore earned. For instance, witness Bert Rodriguez had specifically trained hijacker Ziad Jarrah in martial arts and close quarter fighting with knives. Perhaps Jarrah had a premonition that, on his designated flight - United Flight 93 - he would be facing off with a small coterie of rebellious passengers, in particular, martial arts champ Jeremy Glick.

Florida is also blessed with a profusion of flight schools. Yet of this rich aeronautical menu from which to choose, most of the September 11 hijackers were drawn to two flight schools practically next door to one another, both owned by Dutch nationals who purchased their respective schools within months of one another in 1998. The two owners, Rudi Dekkers and Arne Kruithof, also shared - according to independent journalist Daniel Hopsicker - a particularly troublesome post-9/11 fate, plagued by legal troubles and a pair of matching aviation accidents that nearly took both Dekkers and Kruithof out of the picture.

Kruithof also played a major part in one other crucial aspect of the 9/11 Legend. As FBI Director Mueller had taken pains to point out, Binalshibh was originally slated to be the "twentieth hijacker." Yet when his visa requests were repeatedly turned down, a decision was made to replace him with Moussaoui - at least according to the "authorized" version - and Binalshibh would thereafter play his part as the overall 9/11 coordinator in partnership with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. As for Kruithof's part in all this, I reference a portion of the following exchange between Fouda and Abdallah Schleifer of the Kamal Adham Center For Journalism (where Fouda was a fellow):

Fouda: "...I also interviewed the owner of the flight school, Arne Kruithof, where Ziad Al-Jarrah (who flew the United Airlines plane which crashed in Pennsylvania) learned how to fly. And Kruithof confirmed that he had twice tried to get Ramzi [Binalshibh] an entry visa upon Ziad's urging ... When Ziad asked Kruithof why the visa requests were turned down, the flight school owner said he didn't know. But American officials subsequently made no secret of it. They said Ramzi was turned down because he was implicated in the [October 2000]USS Cole attack."

Schleifer: "Your sources are presumably American intelligence sources?"

Fouda: "Yes."

Schleifer: "Now if I understand you correctly, American intelligence sources be it within the INS or some other agency the INS checked him out with, knew at the time they turned Ramzi down that he was implicated in the Cole attack. That's rather odd, because if they knew that and turned him down for that reason, you'd think they would have wondered who else was at that flight school and why?"

Why, indeed. In Fouda's account, Kruithof "didn't know" at the time why the visa requests were turned down. Yet an October 24, 2001 Los Angeles Times article by Eric Lichtblau and Carol J. Williams apparently offers an alternative account:

"...FBI agents told officials of the Florida flight school that Binalshibh was rejected because of unspecified involvement 'with the bombing of the USS Cole,' according to Arne Kruithof, president of the school."

In other words, Kruithof here admits - only six weeks after 9/11 - that he was personally informed as to the reason for Binalshibh's visa rejection. What the Times article does not make clear is whether Kruithof came by this knowledge at the time of Binalshibh's last reported visa rejection - May 2001 - or after September 11. It is a crucial question, for it goes to the heart of Kruithof's - and Fouda's - credibility. In Fouda's account, Fouda had to glean the reason for Binalshibh's visa rejection through "American intelligence sources," though Fouda at the time could have easily learned of this from Kruithof, who had known this at least as early as October 24, 2001. In Fouda's account, his interview with Kruithof came after his historic interview with Binalshibh and Khalid - that is, far into 2002. And thus do we come to the Complicity v. Complacency debate of 9/11. In Schleifer's exchange with Fouda concerning the above episode, Schleifer opines:

"Or, even more to the point they should have issued him [Binalshibh] a visa just to get him in to the United States and grabbed him for the Cole attack. If that's the case it fits right into a list of intelligence blunders by both the FBI and the CIA that have already surfaced in the press and in Congressional hearings."

Not so fast. Lost amid all this is the crucial fact that Kruithof was making the visa request at the urging of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah. Assuming that Kruithof was informed of the reason for the last visa rejection at the time he received the rejection, then logic dictates that Kruithof would have felt compelled to report who urged him to make that request. In other words, there would be no wiggle room here for a "complacency" explanation. Unfortunately, the open-ended phrasing of the above-mentioned Los Angeles Times article does leave room for a lawyerly caveat that the FBI agents confided in Kruithof after 9/11.

Even so, the reason for Binalshibh's rejection remains as a corroborated fact. Thus, if even this fact gets disputed, either Fouda and Kruithof were telling fibs or the FBI and "American intelligence sources" were feeding Fouda and Kruithof a load. If Fouda's credibility is at question, then so, too, is his crucial interview with Binalshibh and Khalid. On the other hand, if the FBI and "American intelligence sources" were feeding both Fouda and Kruithof the same erroneous factoid, then it raises the obvious question as to whether the powers-that-be have fabricated an Official 9/11 Legend - the overall premise of this article. As regards Kruithof, a number of questions are raised by this episode. First, if he did in fact learn of the reason behind Binalshibh's visa rejection before 9/11, then one may only conclude that Kruithof was subsequently protecting his student, Ziad Jarrah, from exposure. On the other hand, if he learned of it after, then it raises the question as to why a major news organization (the Los Angeles Times) would have to come by this official information by way of a lowly flight school president. Either way, someone - Fouda, Kruithof, or the authorities - comes out blackened by this episode, and the standard fig leaf of complaceny will not cover the naked thatch of complicity...

...However, in [Washington Post journalist Peter] Finn's version of Binalshibh's visa rejection, there could be absolutely no possibility that Binalshibh was rejected by reason of the Cole attack, which occurred in October 2000. Finn reports:

"After the meeting in Malaysia, Binalshibh planned to participate directly in the attacks as a pilot. Between May and October 2000, however, he failed four times in Germany and Yemen to obtain a U.S. visa.

'It was only by luck, really, he wasn't given a visa,' said one official. 'Otherwise, he'd have been on one of those planes that went down.' "

Perhaps it was also luck that, in this latest version, Binalshibh's last visa request would occur before the Cole bombing and not as late as May 2001, as reported earlier in the Los Angeles Times by Lichtblau and Williams. In other words, Finn's version of the visa request directly contradicts both the Times version and Fouda's version. Moreover, the official version by this time was that Binalshibh tried "four times" to get an entry visa, whereas in Fouda's account with Schleifer, Fouda was quite explicit that only two attempts were made, citing Binalshibh and Kruithof's own words as support for this proposition:

Fouda:"He [Binalshibh] originally wanted to join the other 19 hijackers. But he was turned down twice when he tried to get an entry visa. When he failed I think he just focused on his role as a coordinator."

Schleifer: "This was by his own admission, that he tried twice and failed, or is this something you uncovered on your own?"

Fouda: "Yes, he mentioned it and I had that confirmed from other sources...And Kruithof confirmed that he had twice tried to get Ramzi an entry visa upon Ziad's urging..."

If a possible "smoking gun" of complicity or complacency could be ferreted out from Fouda and Kruithof, Finn's key installment here functioned to smother that contingency.

End of excerpts.

For the complete text of this article, please go to:

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