- United States and British security agents failed to act
on a tip-off they received more than a year before the September 2001 atrocities
that al-Qa'ida terrorists planned a large-scale attack in the US, the FBI
- Niaz Khan, a former curry house waiter from Britain,
told FBI investigators in April 2000 that he had been trained as a hijacker
for Osama bin Laden and had even been taught the layout of a Boeing commercial
- They did not follow up the lead, and allowed him to leave
the US voluntarily. He was detained by the security services on his arrival
in Britain, but was released after being held overnight and returned to
his home in Burnley, Lancashire.
- The only action the FBI took was to add Mr Khan's name
to its list of people banned from boarding commercial aircraft.
- An FBI spokeswoman told The Independent on Sunday that
they had done a "very thorough job" investigating the 29-year-old's
claims for two weeks, but were unable to substantiate them. "I don't
think we thought he was crazy at all," she said. "We listened
to what he had to say but we couldn't substantiate it. We have a lot of
investigative methods that we use. Every effort was made."
- The FBI's confirmation that it let Mr Khan walk free
comes weeks before the publication of a report by Congress on the 11 September
attacks. This is expected to be critical of intelligence failures by the
CIA and other agencies and will also make specific reference to Mr Khan's
case. It has emerged that the claims Mr Khan made to the FBI were detailed
in a report to a Congressional intelligence committee in 2002.
- Mr Khan told interviewers that he became involved with
al-Qa'ida after they spotted him in a Burnley mosque and offered to settle
his gambling debts. After training at a camp in Pakistan, he flew to the
US to meet a contact for instructions on his suicide mission.
- But the married man had second thoughts. Shortly after
landing, Mr Khan walked into FBI offices in Newark, New Jersey, and told
agents that he had received arms training in a Pakistani camp. They gave
him a lie-detector test which he passed, but his interrogators allowed
him to leave.
- It is understood that after the 11 September attacks
the US authorities did contact British security services asking to re-interrogate
Mr Khan, but did not receive a reply. He contacted Crimestoppers, the British
crime-fighting organisation and was interviewed by British intelligence
officers, but no action was taken.
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=528731