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Wednesday, September 25, 2002; Page A01


U.S. Says Card Links Moussaoui, Hijackers


By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer

A BUSINESS card found in the wreckage of United Airlines Flight 93 in the Pennsylvania countryside provides a link between the Sept. 11 hijackers and alleged conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

The card may be the first concrete evidence of contact or association by Moussaoui with any of the 19 hijackers who commandeered four airplanes and killed more than 3,000 people. The indictment charging Moussaoui, 34, with conspiring with the hijackers was scant on details that would connect him with the terrorists.

But prosecutors revealed a link yesterday in arguing that cockpit voice recordings from Flight 93 should be played at Moussaoui's trial in January. In court papers, the lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Spencer, said Moussaoui had called a phone number that investigators found written on a business card they tied to Ziad Jarrah, one of the Flight 93 hijackers.

Spencer said the tapes would help prove the identities of the terrorists aboard the flight. He wrote that Jarrah's voice can be identified by one of his classmates at a Florida flight school.

"Jarrah's role as a hijacker on Flight 93 is important to the government's evidence linking defendant [Moussaoui] to the conspiracy," Spencer wrote, "because a telephone number that defendant called during the conspiracy was scrawled on a business card belonging to Jarrah, which was found at the crash site in Pennsylvania."

Spencer's brief does not say to whom the phone number belonged or whether the person or business is relevant to the conspiracy. It also is not clear whether the card had Jarrah's name on it or was found among his belongings.

The brief also does not state specifically when Moussaoui called the phone number. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy began in 1989, when Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atef formed al Qaeda.

Moussaoui, a French national who at one time lived in London, has said in court that he is a member of al Qaeda but was not involved in the Sept. 11 plot.

The indictment states that in the spring and summer of 2000, an unindicted co-conspirator, Yemeni national Ramzi Binalshibh, repeatedly tried to get a visa to enter the United States. It also says Jarrah tried to enroll Binalshibh in a Florida flight school.

After Binalshibh's third failed attempt to gain a U.S. visa, in September 2000, Moussaoui began making inquiries about attending flight school in Oklahoma. In December, the indictment alleges, Binalshibh flew to London while Moussaoui was there. In February 2001, Moussaoui flew from London to the United States, declared he was carrying $35,000 in cash and enrolled in a flight school in Norman, Okla.

Moussaoui took numerous flight lessons in Oklahoma but failed to get a pilot's license. In August 2001, the indictment alleges, Binalshibh wired $14,000 from Germany to Moussaoui in Oklahoma. Moussaoui then moved to Minnesota to take more flying lessons. He was arrested there Aug. 16, 2001, after attracting the suspicion of the school's staff.

The indictment also says Binalshibh wired money to Marwan al-Shehhi, one of the hijackers on a plane that hit the World Trade Center, and to an unspecified flight school in Florida.

Binalshibh was arrested this month in Pakistan and taken out of the country by U.S. authorities. He is said to be a planner of the Sept. 11 attacks who roomed and worked with Mohamed Atta, believed to be the operational leader of the plot.

Spencer outlined the prosecution's link between Moussaoui and Jarrah in court papers written to persuade U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema to let prosecutors play voice recordings from Flight 93 and from a private jet that recorded some of Flight 93's transmissions.

On Sept. 13, Brinkema wrote that she had listened to the tapes and was concerned that "the recordings appear to have marginal evidentiary value while posing unfair prejudice to the defendant."

Spencer noted that the government is required to prove that a hijacking occurred as part of the prosecution of Moussaoui. "There is no better evidence of the hijacking than the actual words of the hijackers during the course of the hijacking," Spencer wrote.

The prosecutor said "the tapes support the indictment's allegation that the hijackers were Islamic extremists."

"The violent acts depicted on the CVRs [cockpit voice recordings] assist the jury in determining the means the hijackers used to overtake the crew and passengers," Spencer wrote, "a fact that may be critical in putting into context some of the evidence regarding the defendant's conduct."

Prosecutors also must prove that Flight 93 was "destined for a target in Washington, D.C.," Spencer wrote, and therefore "will have to prove that the passengers of Flight 93 fought back against their attackers," aborting the terrorist mission. "As such, the CVRs complete the story of the indictment and should be admitted."

© 2002 The Washington Post Company


Listen to the sound clip (MP3 format) of air traffic control receiving communications from Flight 93 on the morning of 9/11 Click here for the clip

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