"Admitting Terror": U.S. Allowed 9/11 Bombers Into the Country Illegally Because of Airlines' Pressure

Twelve years ago, just a month after the towers fell in New York, New Times reporter Bob Norman showed you that the 9/11 bombers had been allowed to enter the country illegally through Miami.

The series he wrote, "Admitting Terror," won a Livingston Award for Young Journalists because it showed immigration authorities had kowtowed to the airline industry and hurried people through immigration.

It was a powerful piece of journalism at a powerful time in our country, and it's worth remembering on the 12th anniversary of the attack. If you want to read the whole series, click on this link to "Admitting Terror" or follow the jump for excerpts.

"The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had terror ringleader Mohamed Atta in its grasp before the September 11 attacks. Then the agency, which stands on the domestic frontline in the war on terrorism, let him go. The 34-year-old Egyptian arrived at Miami International Airport earlier this year on a flight from Spain. His intention, he told immigration inspectors, was to learn to fly planes. Because he planned to go to school, the tourist visa he had used on a previous visit was invalid; the law required that he obtain a student visa from a U.S. consulate before entering the country. Following INS procedure, an inspector stopped Atta at the immigration line and sent him to 'hard secondary,' a room where intense investigations of suspected illegal aliens are supposed to take place.

"Five years ago Walter 'Dan' Cadman left South Florida in disgrace. The former director of Florida operations for the Immigration and Naturalization Service had been caught deceiving a Congressional task force and then trying to cover up his actions. The Justice Department, after an investigation into what became known as Kromegate, recommended that Cadman be fired or, at the very least, receive a 30-day suspension and be permanently relieved of management duties.

"In 1996 the INS transferred Cadman from his position in Florida to the service's Washington, D.C., headquarters, where he was temporarily demoted to an investigator's position. But two years later, Immigration's top brass quietly handed him a new job, a position that was more important than anyone could have known: The INS made Cadman its counterterrorism chief.

"More than two years before the September 11 attacks, a seasoned federal immigration officer named Mary Schneider vehemently complained that Islamic visitors who were possibly terrorists were moving into the Orlando area. She told Immigration and Naturalization Service officials that hundreds of aliens, some of whom she suspected were tied to Osama bin Laden, were illegally gaining residence. She further alleged that several INS supervisors had accepted bribes in return for allowing those aliens to remain in the country."

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse