"Alleged 9/11 Hijackers Still Alive" Conspiracy Theory
This specific claim is a subset of 9/11 conspiracy theories in general. Believers in the general 9/11 conspiracy theory ("9/11 Truthers" or simply "Truthers") claim that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA were either caused by some nefarious agents--usually the Bush Administration, Israel, or the New World Order--or deliberately permitted to take place. The "hijackers still alive" subset is a claim that one or more (9 is the most common number, but 7 is often heard) of the men identified by the FBI and the 9/11 Commission as the hijackers of the four planes are in fact still alive somewhere, thus supposedly proving or tending to indicate that the "official story" of 9/11 is false.
"The hijackers are still alive!" is not in and of itself usually used by Truthers as a primary argument at the core of the conspiracy, but it is often thrown in as an extra. For example, after spinning the usual controlled demolition claims or attacking the "official story" in one way or other, Truthers will often add, "And, by the way, several of the hijackers are still alive," as if this last bit is supposed to convince those of us who are not immediately won over by their theories about exploding paint or space beams.
The reason this claim is being treated individually apart from other 9/11 material on this site is because of its unique status as having virtually 100% acceptance by all
9/11 Truthers--and also because it's an interesting example of a conspiracy theory that arose from one single source as opposed to a myriad of origins. Ironically, Truthers often disagree on the core basics of the 9/11 conspiracy mythology--witness, for example, the public and visible split between advocates of Steven Jones, who believes the towers were brought down by some incendiary compound hidden in the paint used at the World Trade Center, and Judy Wood, who believes "directed energy weapons" were used. However, virtually all
Truthers believe the hijackers are still alive. (I say "virtually" because while I have never met a Truther who does not believe the hijackers are still alive, I can't categorically state that there isn't one lonely LIHOP'er out there who concedes that they're dead). Suffice it to say that "the hijackers are still alive!" is one of the least controversial claims in the 9/11 conspiracy mythos.
Conspiracy Theorists Who Promote This Claim:
As stated, almost all Truthers believe the hijackers are still alive, so you can find dozens of repetitions of the claim with a simple Google search. These are only a few representative examples.
Rebuttal Part One: Facts
All of the 9/11 hijackers are deceased. Not one of them has been seen alive since September 11, 2001, much less conclusively proven to be alive. Not one
The "hijackers are still alive" meme seems to have started from one single source: a BBC article run on September 23, 2001, barely two weeks after the disaster. (The article is here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1559151.stm
) In relevant part, the BBC stated:
"Another of the men named by the FBI as a hijacker in the suicide attacks on Washington and New York has turned up alive and well. The identities of four of the 19 suspects accused of having carried out the attacks are now in doubt. Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Centre on 11 September. His photograph was released, and has since appeared in newspapers and on television around the world. Now he is protesting his innocence from Casablanca, Morocco. He told journalists there that he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco when they happened. He has contacted both the Saudi and American authorities, according to Saudi press reports. He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Daytona Beach in the United States, and is indeed the same Waleed Al Shehri to whom the FBI has been referring."
The problem, however, is that the FBI was "referring" to several
people named "Waleed al-Shehri," and it was clear from the very beginning that there was more than one person with that name that the FBI was interested in, if only to narrow the list down to the one who did 9/11. A press release dated September 14, 2001 (available here: http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel01/091401hj.htm
) shows that the FBI was tracking up to three
men possibly named "Waleed al Shehri," one from Hollywood, one from Orlando and one from Daytona Beach:
"2) Waleed M. Alshehri - Dates of birth used: September 13, 1974/January 1, 1976/ March 3, 1976/ July 8, 1977/ December 20, 1978/ May 11, 1979/ November 5, 1979; Possible residence (s) : Hollywood, Florida/ Orlando, Florida/ Daytona Beach, Florida; Believed to be a pilot."
As it turned out, the Waleed M.
Alshehri who sat in seat 2B on American Airlines Flight 11--the one who was born in 'Asir Province, Saudi Arabia on December 20, 1978--had not
trained at a flight school in the United States. He was a "muscle" hijacker. (Source: http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/profiles/waleed_al-shehri.htm
) But there was also a man called Waleed A.
Alshehri who had graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1997, and he was identified by the FBI and later cleared. In the early days of the investigation, before Waleed A.
Alshehri was cleared, Embry-Riddle reacted to the inclusion of its alumnus on the FBI list, stating "The fact that one of the perpetrators of this massive crime may have once been here is appalling." (Source: http://www.erau.edu/er/newsmedia/newsreleases/2001/link.html
) The "Waleed al-Shehri" quoted in the September 23 BBC article was that
Waleed al-Shehri, who was totally different than the one who boarded American Airlines Flight 11. Indeed the innocent (and alive) Waleed al-Shehri quickly contacted American authorities in Morocco, and later gave an interview (transcript available here: http://www.ncmonline.com/content/ncm/2001/oct/1005identities.html"
/a>) in which he stated:
"[I]n the morning of Sunday last my friend called me to say that CNN had shown a picture of me. I was dumbfounded. I decided then to go back to Casablanca and get in contact with the Saudi embassy. The ambassador Dr. Abd-ul-Azeez Khoja received me on Tuesday last and showed great concern about what was happening. He said that the foreign minister Prince Sa'ud al-Faisal was personally investigating the situation. Then I went to the American embassy in Rabat and told the people there what my situation was. I told them I was quite alive though I was reported as dead. I was supposed to have died in the suicide attack against the World Trade Center. They apologized to me for the confusion that had occurred. They were interested in flight schools in Florida that trained pilots."
Because they figured (rightly) that most of the hijackers had some sort of flight training, the FBI was looking for men with this credential, which was why they focused, quite naturally, upon Waleed A.
al-Shehri who they knew had trained at an aeronautical university. Media outlets picked this up, found a picture of the innocent Waleed al-Shehri and ran it, which was why his photo appeared. When they realized he was not the guy, the FBI moved on, and no action was ever taken against Waleed A.
al-Shehri--who, of course, had done nothing wrong.
So what about the Waleed M.
al-Shehri who the FBI eventually realized was their man? Neither he nor his brother, Wail al-Shehri (interesting; the Waleed A.
Al Shehri who graduated from Embry-Riddle in the 1990s did not have a brother named Wail) have been seen anywhere since September 11, 2001. Their families certainly have not seen them. Members of the al-Shehri family--the right
al-Shehri family--haven't seen them since 2000, and when interviewed by a British newspaper (see here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1407285/The-six-sons-of-Asir.html
) their cousin seemed not only to accept that they were
involved in 9/11, but in fact he was proud that his relative had committed mass murder:
"'When we read their names we were very proud because the black hand of Americans are in everything,' said their cousin. 'I don't think my cousins were exploited. I think they did it out of their own convictions.'"
Okay, so al Shehri was clearly a case of mistaken identity. What about the other hijackers mentioned in the September 23 BBC story...
...such as Abdulaziz al-Omari? Mistaken identity, compounded by possible identity theft (as reported shortly after the attacks here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/1341391/Revealed-the-men-with-stolen-identities.html
). The Abdulaziz al-Omari who protested he was sitting at his desk in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 9/11/2001--the one who works for the Saudi phone company--is a totally different guy than the Abdulaziz al-Omari whom the Saudi government identified as being one of the 9/11 hijackers (source here: http://www.arabianews.org/english/article.cfm?qid=12&sid=6"
Abdulaziz al-Omari has, not surprisingly, never been seen anywhere since September 11, 2001.
...such as Saeed Alghamdi? Mistaken identity. The Saeed Al-Ghamdi who was a pilot for Saudi Airlines, and protested his innocence, was clearly not the Saeed Al-Ghamdi who made a suicide tape shortly before 9/11 (story here: http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/09/12/hijack.tape/index.html
) in which he warned Americans, "God will punish you in a big way. And we promise the United States of America that we will stop you, that we will hurt you."
...such as Khalid al Midhar? Mistaken identity, compounded by identity theft. A radiologist from Texas named Badr Mohammed Hamzi was detained by the FBI in 2001 because he used the name "Khalid al Midhar." (Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/sep/21/afghanistan.september112
) He was later released when it was discovered he had nothing to do with the attacks. (Source: http://multimedia.belointeractive.com/attack/investigation/0927vaman.html
) He is presumably still alive. One of the other people in the world who happened to have that name--the Khalid al Midhar who was born in Saudi Arabia in 1975 and arrived in the US in Los Angeles in January 2000 (source: http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2002_hr/DCI_18_June_testimony_new.pdf
)--eventually wound up on American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. There have been no reports of him turning up alive later on either.
When the BBC realized that its infamous September 23 report was being used by conspiracy theorists to bolster their claims, it issued a statement in October 2006:
"A five-year-old story from our archive has been the subject of some recent editorial discussion here. The story, written in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, was about confusion at the time surrounding the names and identities of some of the hijackers. This confusion was widely reported and was also acknowledged by the FBI.... The confusion over names and identities we reported back in 2001 may have arisen because these were common Arabic and Islamic names."
There you have it. All clearly cases of mistaken identity and same or similar names. So much for these four guys. What about the other hijackers that conspiracy theorists insist are still alive?
Mohammed Atta, the remorseless, steely-eyed killer who was the operational leader of the 9/11 attacks and who evidently shouted "Allah is great!" gleefully as the plane he hijacked was about to slam into one of the WTC towers, is often claimed by Truthers to still be alive. Why? Probably because Atta's father gave an interview to a British newspaper (here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/sep/02/september11.usa
) in which he claimed:
"He is hiding in a secret place so as not to be murdered by the US secret services... My son called me the day after the attacks on September 12 at around midday. We spoke for two minutes about this and that. He didn't tell me where he was calling from. At that time neither of us knew anything about the attacks."
"September 12 at around midday" would have been about 5AM September 12 in New York, so clearly if this happened, it occurred after
the attacks. This sounds like conclusive proof that Atta must have been alive at that time, doesn't it?
Not quite. First, Atta's father kept changing his story. A week after the attacks, he told a Saudi newspaper that he had not heard from Mohammed since the attacks (here: http://archive.arabnews.com/?page=1&section=0&article=9482&d=19&m=9&y=2001
"Atta's father, a lawyer, said he had not heard from his son since the attack, but was confident he had nothing to do with the carnage."
Note: as you'll see from that article, he is "confident" not because he claims to have seen his son after 9/11 or knows that he had an alibi, but simply because the father couldn't believe that his son would do something so horrific. Sorry, Dad. He did. In addition to all the other evidence of his guilt, the man caught on a security camera boarding Flight 11 (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atta_in_airport.jpg
) is very clearly the same man issued a visa in 2000 (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MohamedAttaVisa.jpg
) and who was also the same man identified by the FBI as one of the hijackers (his most famous picture, file: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mohamed_Atta.jpg
Second, Mohammed Atta was never seen again after September 11, 2001, anywhere in the world. As years went by and Mohammed didn't call or come home, the elder Atta eventually accepted that his son was one of the hijackers and that he was dead, prominently hanging a picture of his son on his front door, and went to CNN praising the July 7, 2005 London terror attacks and demanding $5,000 for an interview, which CNN declined to pay him. (Source here: http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/07/19/atta.father.terror/index.html
Okay, scratch Atta then. What about the other four? (Truthers have had no luck quote-mining or obfuscating about some of the hijackers, so nine is their limit). Unfortunately for them the Truthers have already expended the best of their ammunition.
Mohand al-Shehri? Dead. The suggestion that he was alive was raised by the Saudi embassy shortly after the attacks, and subsequently dropped; an interview with his father indicates that he accepted from the beginning that his son was involved. (Source: http://911myths.com/index.php/Mohand_al-Shehri_still_alive%3F
) In addition to no other Mohand al-Shehris claiming they were falsely accused, the real Mohand al-Shehri has never been seen anywhere in the world since September 11, 2001.
Salem al-Hazmi? Dead. Confused initially with a Salem al-Hamzi
(different spelling) who was a Saudi petrochemical worker whose whereabouts in Yanbou on September 11, 2001 can clearly be accounted for. (Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/1341391/Revealed-the-men-with-stolen-identities.html
) Salem al-Hazmi has never been seen anywhere in the world anywhere since September 11, 2001.
Ahmed al-Nami? Dead. Mistaken identity, compounded by likely identity theft. The Ahmed al-Nami who was 33 in 2001 and worked for Saudi Airlines clearly was not involved in the 9/11 attacks. (Source: same as in the above paragraph). The Ahmed al-Nami who was 23 in 2001--and who fought in Chechnya and was last heard from by his family in June 2001--was on United Airlines Flight 93. That
Ahmed al-Nami has never been seen anywhere in the world since September 11, 2001. (Source: http://911myths.com/index.php/Ahmed_al-Nami_still_alive%3F
Wail al-Shehri, the brother of the Waleed M.
al-Shehri discussed above? Dead. The suggestion of Wail al-Shehri still being alive is due entirely to the association with his brother, about whom, as you saw above, there was considerably more confusion than with any other 9/11 hijacker. Wail al-Shehri appears on a martyrdom video recorded in Afghanistan (source: http://www.webcitation.org/5bTYljW3y
) and was last seen by his parents in December 2000 (source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1407285/The-six-sons-of-Asir.html
). Wail al-Shehri has never been seen anywhere in the world since September 11, 2001.
As if this all was not evidence enough, the bodily remains of 13 of the 19 hijackers have been found and identified by the FBI in the rubble of the attacks they caused. (Source: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/79402/Exclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-foundExclusive-Remains-of-9-11-killers-found
) Yes, 13 of 19. That means that the conspiracy theorists must
be wrong on no fewer than three
of their claims, since they claim nine are "still alive." But the fact that three remain unidentified doesn't mean that they're not there--there are still hundreds of victims of the 9/11 attacks whose remains are also unidentified. The fact that (A) those victims are conclusively established to have been at the WTC, the Pentagon or on Flight 93 at the time of the disaster, combined with (B) they have not been seen anywhere alive since, means that they must have died in the disaster. Even Truthers don't generally claim that Barbara Olson or Todd Beamer are still out there walking around (I say "generally" because I vaguely recall some Truther nimrod claiming that Barbara Olson is alive and living in Mexico. I'm sure Ted Sorenson would be interested to know that).
Therefore, it is clear that since all of the hijackers were conclusively placed aboard the flights and none of them have been seen alive since September 11, 2001, this means that all
of them died in the attacks. There is no other possibility. Not 10 of them. All 19.
Rebuttal Part Two: Logical Analysis
Truthers make a great many ridiculous claims. But "the hijackers are still alive!" is probably one of the stupidest--which makes it all the more astonishing that it has 100% acceptance in Truther circles, even among those who are thought to be the "intellectuals" of the movement. In fact, even a perfunctory examination of the logic (or lack thereof) involved indicates strongly that, even without the evidence presented above, the 19 hijackers are dead, and that belief otherwise is self-delusion on the highest order.
In evaluating conspiracy theories it's always helpful to look at the theory, step back and imagine what would have to happen in order for the theory to be true. Here, the Truthers want you to believe that all
of the following must be true:
- Someone decided to "do" 9/11 and make it look like hijackers took over the four planes.
- Whoever did this evidently chose Arab names at random, or selected as the "hijackers" at least nine real people who had nothing to do with Al-Qaida.
- The perpetrators identified these (at least) 9 innocent people to the FBI as the hijackers.
- The perpetrators of 9/11 persisted in their identification of the (at least) 9 fake hijackers despite the fact that every one of them would presumably be able to come up with an airtight alibi.
- The perpetrators went to the time and trouble of faking martyrdom videos of several of the innocent people that they intended to claim were responsible for 9/11.
- After 9/11, the perpetrators were so unconcerned about the possibility of the real persons whose names they used as "hijackers" coming forward to claim they were alive that the perpetrators did absolutely nothing to stop them. They let the nine innocent people accused of being the hijackers carry on with completely normal lives and made absolutely no attempt to silence, intimidate or assassinate them.
- None of the people involved in the perpetration of this fraud either got cold feet and blew the whistle, or screwed up and inadvertently allowed evidence of their deception to leak out.
Does this make any sense at all? The Truthers called "no-planers," who believe that aircraft did not strike the WTC or the Pentagon in real life at all, are forced to explain the fact that the passengers and crews of the un-hijacked (according to them) planes never came home by suggesting that they must have been killed (usually gassed) or otherwise silenced. But to believe that "nine hijackers are still alive!" you must necessarily believe that, whatever was done to get the passengers of the four planes out of the way, it was not done with respect to the hijackers!
No, according to Truthers, they're still out there leading perfectly normal lives. Why would the perpetrators do this? They're willing to kill 3,000 innocent Americans to prop up the hijack story, but they care so much about 19 random Saudis that they're willing to give them a total pass?
Logically, it is much easier to prove that a particular person is alive than it is to prove that he or she is dead. First of all, assuming there is an official record of our existence (such as a birth certificate, driver's license etc.), we are presumed to be alive until proven otherwise. (If I were to vanish today with no trace or explanation, legally I could not be declared "dead" until 2017!) Secondly, if a person is mistakenly
believed to be dead, all he or she needs to do is show up and say, "No, here I am." If there's some question about mistaken identity, then a living person could provide numerous different types of evidence--fingerprints, DNA, paper-trail records like credit card receipts or mail, photographs, etc.--to either clear up the mistake or to establish conclusively that the judgment that they were dead is erroneous.
On the other hand, if I were to vanish today with no trace or explanation, how could you prove that I'm dead? You could do it with, (A) my body, which can furnish conclusive evidence (fingerprints, DNA, dental records) or, (B) barring that, some pretty unimpeachable circumstantial evidence that I'm dead, such as, an eyewitness report of me jumping off Victoria Falls, combined with a suicide note in my own hand, and the fact that I have never been seen anywhere again since the date and time this supposedly happened.
Applied to the 9/11 hijackers, in category (A), we have the remains of 13 of them, and for the remaining six, there is evidence in category (B), most unimpeachably the fact that they were established to have been on the planes and have never been seen again, thus proving that all 19 are dead.
But if just one
of them was really alive--not a different man with the same name, not a different man whose identity might have been stolen years before--if just one
of the hijackers really was
still alive, it would be very easy for that person to conclusively establish this fact. If Waleed M. al-Shehri really is alive, why doesn't he call a press conference to trumpet his innocence, fax his fingerprints and dental records to Al-Jazeera, and lodge an official protest with the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia?
Conspiracy theorists will say, "It's because he knows the U.S. government will rub him out if they know where he is, dummy!" But that makes no sense either. If the U.S. government falsely claimed that Waleed M. al-Shehri was aboard American Airlines Flight 11, and then the selfsame Waleed M. al-Shehri walks into an Al-Jazeera TV studio in 2010 (or on September 15, 2001) carrying a file of his fingerprints and dental records, that would conclusively prove the U.S. government is wrong. If the gubbermint rubbed him out after the story was out, what good would that
do? You could still conclusively prove that Waleed M. al-Shehri was not
aboard American Airlines Flight 11, and
that the government hit him for blowing the whistle on their story. It'd be easier to leave him alive. So Waleed M. al-Shehri would have absolutely no incentive not
to go public--particularly considering that a genuine and provable "9/11 Hijacker Still Alive!" story would be the scoop of the century and he could command millions of dollars for interviews across the Arab world, if not the West.
Furthermore--and this may be the most damning point of all--if any of the hijackers were still alive, how come not a single 9/11 Truther has ever interviewed one?
Assume for the sake of argument that Waleed M. al-Shehri is
still alive, and that nobody in the mainstream media cares (which is ludicrous, but just assume it). If it's so obvious that he's alive and walking around just fine, why doesn't Alex Jones, Peter Joseph Merola, David Ray Griffin, Dylan Avery or Jason Bermas hop a flight to Riyadh, get an exclusive interview and shout from the rooftops that this is conclusive
evidence that the "official story" is fake? Or at the very least try to email him and get an official statement? If 9/11 was an inside job, wouldn't al-Shehri and his family have a vested interest in proving that? Even if no one in the mainstream media gives a damn--which again is a silly assumption--there are plenty of conspiracy outlets on the Internet that would slash each other's throat to get an exclusive on that story.
But not one 9/11 Truther has ever claimed to have spoken to or contacted one of these "alive" hijackers, and none of the "alive" hijackers have tried to contact them. Not one. Not a single instance. Zero
. Trust me, I've looked. There's not a one.
Ask a Truther, "If you believe the hijackers are still alive, why don't you try to contact one?" and, if you get an answer at all, what you get will be some sort of excuse, brush-off, or frontal attack. No Truther has ever explained why their movement has no interest in contacting any real hijackers--unless of course it has
been tried, and whatever gullible Truther tried it discovered in short order what the rest of us already know: that the 9/11 hijackers are dead. All 19 of them.
"The hijackers are still alive!" is a totally 100% false claim, demonstrably deceptive, as well as insulting to the intelligence to maintain. All
of the media reports that Truthers point to as "proof" of this claim are reports of confusion regarding mistaken identity. None
of the hijackers identified in the 9/11 Commission Report or established by the FBI more than a few months after the disaster have ever been seen alive again. None
of them. Try as they might, Truthers cannot produce a single accused hijacker who is still alive. Furthermore, U.S. authorities have recovered and identified physical remains of at least 13 of them (as of January 2009).
Belief that any of the hijackers are still alive requires an abrogation of logic so total that it leaves the believer open to a serious question of their cognitive abilities. In order to accept this claim you have to believe that the 9/11 conspirators were so careless or incompetent as to leave alive and completely unimpeded at least 9 people who can easily and conclusively prove that they're still alive and obviously did not die in the 9/11 attacks. That the conspirators would have done so is ridiculous. Furthermore, the complete failure of the 9/11 Truth movement to produce even one
of these men, or even to try to interview them or contact them in any way, indicates that even Truthers, deep down, cannot seriously maintain that they are still alive--and that their shouting to the contrary means either they haven't investigated the facts, or haven't thought about them deeply enough to realize how moronic this claim actually is. This in itself demonstrates that the Truthers who make a big deal out of trumpeting how thorough and well-sourced their claims are--Peter Joseph Merola, David Ray Griffin and Dylan Avery all fall into this category--are in fact either inexcusably sloppy in their scholarship, or deliberately deceptive in the claims they choose to present to the public hoping you'll buy them.
The hijackers are dead. Every single one of them.