British Waiter Told FBI
Of 911-Style Plot

By Sophie Goodchild and Zachary Mesenbourg
The Independent - UK
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 confirmed yesterday.
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 aircraft cockpit.
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



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