Skip to comments.One Sea-Tac suspect detained around 9-11, sources say
Posted on 08/14/2003 7:17:08 AM PDT by Barney Gumble
Federal agents have searched several Western Washington locations in an expanding investigation of two Pakistani men arrested at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Saturday after their names appeared on terrorism watch lists.
Agents also have scrutinized passenger lists for possible associates of the men on the American Airlines and JetBlue flights for which they tried to buy tickets. The men, who bought one-way tickets with cash, have not been charged with a crime and have not been publicly identified.
One, a 29-year-old with a New York driver's license, had been detained and released at an unnamed airport once before and had been under scrutiny as a possible terrorist by the CIA, which had listed him on the no-fly list, several federal sources said yesterday.
One source said that incident occurred the day before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Two other sources said it occurred close to that date but could not be specific.
Airline employees at Sea-Tac called authorities Saturday night after the two men tried to take separate flights to New York City. One abandoned his ticket and left the counter after security was called. The second man, 36, had a Vancouver, B.C., driver's license. His name appeared on the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) "selectee" list, which mandates additional scrutiny of that passenger but is less stringent than the no-fly list.
The men, who had been seen together earlier in the evening, went to separate ticket counters about an hour apart, law-enforcement sources said.
Later, during questioning, the men told investigators they had been smuggled across the U.S. border from British Columbia several weeks ago. They are being held on immigration charges.
It could be weeks before the men are given an immigration hearing. The timing will depend on the outcome of the criminal investigation, said Michael Milne, a Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman.
One law-enforcement source said FBI agents had executed search warrants in Western Washington and elsewhere in connection with the investigation. Details of the searches were not available, and the warrants remained sealed.
The FBI has sent inquiries to law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in Pakistan and Canada, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. The State Department, on its official Web site, has identified Pakistan as a stronghold of Islamic extremism.
The Seattle investigation has taken on urgency because of recent events and intelligence gathered by authorities in the United States and Canada, a federal source said yesterday.
On Aug. 3, President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the U.S. had obtained credible evidence that terrorists were continuing to target airlines.
Tuesday in Newark, N.J., the FBI arrested a British arms dealer in a sting in which agents posing as terrorists purchased a shoulder-fired missile that could down a commercial airliner.
Buying one-way tickets with cash as the two men at Sea-Tac did Saturday has been a red flag for security officials. Several Sept. 11 hijackers made similar purchases.
I mean if you intend to make a one-way trip, what's the big deal about springing for the return trip $300-$500.
"One, a 29-year-old with a New York driver's license, had been detained and released at an unnamed airport once before and had been under scrutiny as a possible terrorist by the CIA, which had listed him on the no-fly list, several federal sources said yesterday."
Nice to know we have a catch and release policy for terrorists.