2. The omission of evidence about Mohamed Atta — such as his reported fondness for alcohol, pork, and lap dances — that is in tension with the Commission's claim that he had become fanatically religious (20-21).
The report states:
When Atta arrived in Germany, he appeared religious, but not fanatically so. This would change, especially as his tendency to assert leadership became increasingly pronounced. (pg.160)
After leaving Afghanistan, the hijackers made clear efforts to avoid appearing radical. Once back in Hamburg, they distanced themselves from conspicuous extremists like Zammar, whom they knew attracted unwanted attention from the authorities. They also changed their appearance and behaviour. Atta wore Western clothing, shaved his beard, and no longer attended extremist mosques. (pg.167)
The word “Atta” appears 293 times in the Commission Report, however there is no reference to a fondness for alcohol, pork, or lap dances.
The claim inherent in the allegation is that Mohamed Atta had a fondness for alcohol, pork, and lap dances.
This claim immediately poses a problem as it relies on Atta’s personal opinion. “Fondness” is entirely subjective and cannot be measured. However, for the moment I will consider the claim that Atta drank alcohol, ate pork, and received lap dances.
These claims originate from a single source – an interview with Amanda Keller – an American who claimed to be Mohammed Atta’s girlfriend in Florida. The interview was conducted by Mad Cow Productions researcher Daniel Hopsicker who alleges that Atta was running a heroin smuggling operation for Osama Bin Laden. The findings of Hopsicker’s research were published in his book Welcome To Terrorland, and this appears to be the only source for the claims made about Atta.
The interview can be watched here:
It’s worth noting that Ms Keller makes no reference to pork or lap dances in this interview, and recounts that “Mohamed” frowned on her for drinking alcohol in public.
Similar general claims of drinking and un-Muslim-like behaviour were made about the hijackers. Some examples include:
Mad Cow Productions
Free Arab Voice
The Boston Herald
Before the validity of these claims is examined, it is important to determine their significance. Although the allegation contains the inherent claim that Mohamed Atta had a fondness for alcohol, pork, and lap dances, it also contains an implied claim.
This is that Mohamed was not in fact, a religious fanatic as the Commission Report claims, and therefore did not carry out the September 11 attacks.
One of the flaws in this line of reasoning is that Religious Fanatics do not necessarily follow closely the religious teachings of their religion. The Qur’an states:
Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. (5:32)
Clearly Islamic Terrorists who indiscriminately kill hundreds of civilians are in direct violation of their religion.
We have already seen from the Report that the hijackers made a conscious effort to blend in with other westerners – dressing smartly, shaving off their beards, and distancing themselves from other Islamic extremist groups.
Such “blending in” has been a standard aspect of covert military and intelligence operations for centuries. The Romans often employed spies, who would infiltrate the communities of their enemies and live amongst them, adapting their customs.
This appears to be an idea that some Islamic Extremists have embraced:
Atta has been associated with a sect called Al Takfir wal Hijra, run by al Quaeda second-in-command Ayman Al-Zawahiri. This is an extreme fundamentalist sect, however...
"A major element of Takfir religious practice is subterfuge. The threat of Takfir is that its cold, heartless killers could easily be the boy or girl next door. Takfir Wal Hijra members are permitted to disregard the injunctions of Islamic law in order to blend into infidel societies.
In other words, Takfirs can have sex with loose women, drink alcohol, eat pork and do whatever else they feel is appropriate to advance their mission...
Mohammed Atta, although puritanical in his behavior, was believed to be Takfiri. He's not the only al Qaeda operative you could point the finger at. Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed went to discos, drank alcohol and dated call girls. Yousef in particular is renowned for being generally unIslamic and non-observant of prayers and fasting. Although no one has suggested openly that Yousef and KSM were Takfiri, it's hardly a stretch".
Other sources on paint a similar picture:
Other sources of evidence suggest it wasn’t just this particular extremist sect whom followed these principles:
...In the mountain of documents left behind in al-Qaedas’ training camps in Afghanistan, one Yemeni, Khalid, wrote to his brother describing the people he had just joined:
I am in a whirlpool of contradictions. You cannot trust anyone here. Imagine that I might have to hide the copy of the Koran you gave me for fear it might get stolen like my watch. They train us here on how to mix with the Christians and how to emulate their life style. We have to learn how to drink alcohol and to shave off our beards.
Al-Majallh issue no. 1188, 23 November 2002, p. 24
cited page 20, Masterminds of Terror, Yousri Fouda and Nick Fielding
An Al Qaeda training manual recovered from the house of Nazih al Wadih Raghie by the Manchester Metropolitan
Police on May 10, 2000 reflects the notion of “blending in”.
An Important Question: How can a Muslim spy live among enemies if he maintains his Islamic characteristics? How can he perform his duties to Allah and not want to appear Muslim?
Concerning the issue of clothing and appearance (appearance of true religion), Ibn Taimia - may Allah have mercy on him - said, "If a Muslim is in a combat or godless area, he is not obligated to have a different appearance from [those around him ].The [Muslim] man may prefer or even be obligated to look like them, provided his action brings a religious benefit of preaching to them, learning their secrets and informing Muslims, preventing their harm, or some other beneficial goal."
Resembling the polytheist in religious appearance is a kind of "necessity permits the forbidden” even though they [forbidden acts] are basically prohibited. As for the visible duties, like fasting and praying, he can fast by using any justification not to eat with them [polytheist]. As for prayer, the book (Al-Manhaj Al-Haraki Lissira Al-Nabawiya)quotes Al-Bakhari that "he [the Moslem ]may combine the noon and afternoon [prayers], sunset and evening [prayers]. That is based on the fact that the prophet -Allah bless and keep him -combined [prayers] in Madina without fear or hesitation."
However the document adds:
Though scholars have disagreed about the interpretation of that tradition, it is possible - though Allah knows best -that the Moslem spy combines [prayers ].It is noted, however, that it is forbidden to do the unlawful, such as drinking wine or fornicating. There is nothing that permits those.
The Al Qaeda Manual
Eleventh Lesson: Espionage (1) Intelligence Gathering Using Open Methods
Other high profile Islamic Terrorist plots indicate blending in may be commonplace.
Such as this article about one of the Madrid Bombers:
Despite his reputation for fanaticism at the Madrid mosque he attended, Ahmidan also frequented discotheques and bars. He struck his Spanish neighbors as friendly and flashy. They remember him zooming by on a motorcycle with his long-haired girlfriend, a Spanish woman with a taste for revealing outfits
Even the Muslim world can find possible explanations for such behaviour. S. Abdallah Schleifer, the publisher and senior editor of TBS Journal (www.tbsjournal.com), and al Jazeeras Yosri Fouda give their thoughts here:
SAS: My own instinct is that just as they inhabited a psychic or psychological state that convinced them they were reliving the Prophet's experiences at the very moment they were about to violate both the very strict shari'a ("Islamic law") rules governing war and the Prophet's canonic sayings condemning the killing of civilians, so they must have assumed that the purifying nature of their approaching martyrdom gave them some sort of cosmic dispensation.
YF: Speaking of dispensation and states of mind, when I was in Karachi waiting to meet up with Ramzi and Khalid, my contact called me at the hotel I was staying at to arrange a meeting time. Since it was Friday I suggested we meet in the mosque either before or after the prayer and he said to me "No, no, no! Don't leave the hotel." And I said, "But it's Friday and there are the prayers," and he said, "No, no, no! God will forgive you." But I think their sense of dispensation was derived directly from the idea that they were engaged in jihad ("holy struggle"). Now you know, in jihad there are certain liberties allowed.
SAS: You mean like not having to pray in a congregational manner if that puts the believers in danger, or being allowed to say one's prayers on horseback if on guard or patrol and not having to dismount and pray, as one usually does, on the ground.
YF: Right. Well, I believe they took the liberty of making their own interpretation of these dispensations or liberties granted to the one making jihad.
It’s clearly not as simple as Dr Griffin presents it to be. Further investigation of the specific claims made about the hijackers suggests the argument may be weaker than it appears.
Soon after initial reports linking Amanda Keller and Atta, Ms Keller claimed that the man she had dated was another student at the flying school also called Mohamed.
Keller said comments attributed to her in the Herald-Tribune on Saturday, saying that Atta lived in her apartment, were wrong. She said that it was this unidentified fifth man, also named Mohammed, that stayed in her home.
Keller again changed her story for her December 2002 interview with Daniel Hopsicker, however after the interview she retracted her claims.
In September 2006 the Herald Tribune reported that the FBI had confirmed Amanda Keller had not known Atta.
But the former Venice stripper now says her boyfriend was another flight student not connected to 9/11. And, for the first time, federal investigators say she's right.
"There's nothing there to corroborate the relationship between the two," a New York-based FBI counterterrorism agent said recently after reviewing 9/11 case files.
Among other things, the government checked Atta's phone records and found the two had never called each other.
Other accounts suggest discrepancies in Ms Keller’s testimony. She has stated that she only ever knew Mohamed by the name “Mohamed Arajaki” – even spelling out the name in the interview. Although the 9/11 hijackers often employed aliases, there is no evidence that Atta ever used the alias “Arajaki”, and the FBI did not list it as one of his aliases in any of their press statements.
Other eye witness accounts of Ms Keller and her partner “Mohamed” further suggest it may not have been the leader of the 9/11 plot, for example Tony and Vonnie LaConca, the couple who owned the house rented by Keller and Mohamed. They were interviewed by the Sun Herald.
An FDLE agent working in conjunction with the FBI arrived at the LaConca home around 10:30 a.m. Thursday and questioned the couple for two hours concerning a man they knew only as "Mohamed."
The couple told the agent the man was about 25, 5 feet 10 inches, 160 pounds, had "dark, perfect" skin, and was clean cut and "very polite."
"He was a very handsome guy," Vonnie LaConca said in an interview. "He had beautiful, unblemished skin."
Is this Mohamed the 32 year old 5 foot 8 Atta? Perhaps not. The FDLE agent showed them photographs of four suspected hijackers;
"The first photo they showed us was the pilot who crashed into the first building," Vonnie LaConca said. "It was not Mohamed or his friend. But the last picture they showed us was very close, but I could not say 100 percent that it was him."
The article also suggests this Mohamed was training for his commercial pilot’s license in 2001 – weeks after Mohamed Atta acquired his, in December 2001.
And it appears this other Mohamed may actually exist, with evidence coming – oddly enough – from Mad Cow Productions.
A mysterious French-Arab man resurfaced last week who authorities had dubbed the ‘5th terrorist pilot’ and a ‘Second’ Mohamed in Venice, FL. In an email, he alleged that a number of eyewitnesses, including the girl who had lived with him, had all mistaken him... for Mohamed Atta.
It was he they'd known in Venice, not the terrorist ringleader, he asserted. And he suggested the confusion might owe something to their common name, "Mohamed."
There’s certainly plenty of doubt that Mohamed Atta was the man Amanda Keller knew, which would undermine accusations that he in particular enjoyed drinking, pork, and lap dances.
But what about other articles? At the head of this section we saw numerous articles recounting three of the hijackers – including Atta – enjoying alcohol and lap dances at a strip club called the Pink Pony. But what does the original article, in USA Today, say?
MIAMI (AP) — The night before terrorists struck New York and Washington, three men spewed anti-American sentiments in a bar and talked of impending bloodshed, according to a strip club manager interviewed by the FBI. John Kap, manager of the Pink Pony and Red Eyed Jack's Sports Bar in Daytona Beach, said the men made the claims to a bartender and a patron. "They were talking about what a bad place America is. They said 'Wait 'til tomorrow. America is going to see bloodshed,"' Kap said.
There’s a number of things to note in this version of events. First, the bar manager is recounting events that other people witnessed – a bartender and another patron. This is second hand information. Secondly, in this article the bar manager makes no mention of the three men being any of the nineteen hijackers.
There are other examples of the hijackers drinking as well, such as this story from The Telegraph:
Tony Amos, the manager of Shuckums Oyster Bar and Restaurant in Hollywood, just north of Miami, was interviewed by the FBI and he and his barman and a waitress all identified Atta and his cousin as some hard drinkers who propped up the bar last Friday.
Atta's bill for three hours of vodka drinking came to $48 (£33). When he drunkenly disputed the charge, Mr Amos intervened. "Of course I can pay the bill," Atta told him. "I'm an airline pilot."
That certainly supports the contention that Atta enjoyed alcohol, but it’s not the only version of events. The Washington Post recounted the story a little differently.
Last Friday night, Atta, Shehhi and an unidentified man spent 3 1/2 hours at a sports bar, Shuckums, in Hollywood, Fla. While Atta played video games, the other two had about five drinks each and appeared resistant to paying the $48 tab. The manager, Tony Amos, recalled yesterday that he inquired whether they could not afford the bill. Shehhi "looked at me with an arrogant look," Amos said. "He pulled out a wad of cash and put it on the bar table and said, 'There is no money issue. I am an airline pilot.' "
The story is a little different in this version, and Atta doesn’t appear to drink at all.
We know the Commission Report didn’t mention these activities by the hijackers, but Dr Griffin’s allegation is that these things really did happen, and that by not mentioning them the Commission were lying by omission. However on closer inspection, these stories don’t seem to have much weight behind them after all.
The inherent claim that Mohamed Atta had a fondness for alcohol, pork and lap dances is rejected.