- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Federal prosecutors yesterday charged an Arlington, Va. man with helping five of the hijackers in the deadly attack on America fraudulently obtain Virginia driver's licenses and identification cards. Another Virginia man is being held as a "cooperating witness" in the ongoing probe.
Herbert Villalobos, using the alias Oscar Diaz, was charged with unlawfully signing identity papers for the hijackers, which allowed the men to obtain Virginia driver's licenses and identification cards with false addresses, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia.
Driver's licenses and identification cards, among other things, would have allowed the men to check in at airports.
Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Salem Al-Hasmi, Majed Moqed, Ahmed Alghamdi and Abdulaziz Alomari approached Mr. Villalobos and the witness in the parking lot of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles office in Arlington on Aug. 2, said the affidavit signed by FBI Agent Brian Weidner. Mr. Villalobos, who identified the five hijackers from photographs shown to him by the FBI, said the men were seeking help to obtain identification.
The unnamed "confidential witness" told the FBI he and Mr. Villalobos went with the men to an attorney's office, where they received notarized forms allowing the five to obtain identification cards. He said each of the hijackers paid him $80 for his efforts, $35 of which went to the attorney's secretary.
Al-Hasmi, Moqed and Hanjour were aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that slammed into the Pentagon. Alomari was on American Airlines Flight 11 that hit the World Trade Center's north tower. Alghamdi was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 that rammed into the World Trade Center's south tower.
Federal authorities said the hijackers were able to obtain driver's licenses and identification cards by using a loophole in Virginia law that allows a person to bypass a requirement to produce at least three forms of identification.
Authorities said the men instead presented notarized residency forms co-signed by Mr. Villalobos and the unnamed witness as state residents and notarized identity forms co-signed by a lawyer. The procedure is acceptable under Virginia law.
Meanwhile, the FBI's hunt for those involved in the attacks has expanded to include the questioning of dozens of convicted Islamic militants in prisons nationwide in a search for "sleeper agents" who might strike again or assist those who did.
Federal authorities said several of those targeted for interviews have significant knowledge of the terrorist organization al Qaeda, founded and funded by fugitive Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Leading the list are Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian convicted in April of smuggling explosives from Canada into Washington state as part of a conspiracy to bomb buildings including Los Angeles International Airport during year 2000 celebrations, and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, an Islamic militant convicted as the leader of the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center that killed six and injured more than 1,000.
"There is considerable interest in a number of these people, and interviews have begun and will continue," said one federal official who asked not to be identified.
Ressam, facing 140 years in prison, cooperated with federal authorities once before, naming Haydar Abu Doha as one of his contacts in the Los Angeles bomb plot. He also gave prosecutors information on bin Laden's training camps and the al Qaeda organization and identified nearly a dozen cell members who had not been prosecuted.
Ressam spent seven months in one of those training camps, authorities said. Formal sentencing in Ressam's conviction has been postponed.
Yousef was convicted in 1997 in the World Trade Center truck bombing. He remained a fugitive for nearly three years after the attack, but was returned to the United States after a $2 million reward led to his capture in Pakistan.
At his sentencing when a federal judge ordered him to prison for 240 years, he shouted: "I am a terrorist and proud of it."
He fled the United States the night of the bombing, leaving behind letters condemning the United States for its support of Israel and threatening more terrorist acts.
The 1993 plot against the World Trade Center had a much loftier goal than six fatalities; it envisioned toppling one of the towers into its twin amid of cloud of cyanide gas. The truck bomb, however, failed to topple the building and the cyanide inside it was destroyed in the resulting fire.
Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday said federal authorities have detained 352 persons, most of whom are being held on immigration charges. Another 392 persons were being sought by the FBI for questioning.
He told the House Judiciary Committee that authorities believe those being held or sought have information about the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The investigation into the acts of Sept. 11 is ongoing, moving aggressively forward," he told the committee.
He added that the FBI has served 324 search warrants and issued 3,410 subpoenas after investigating 80,000 tips generated by agents or obtained from the public.
As the FBI probe continued, crop dusters were grounded nationwide for a second day yesterday in the wake of concerns over potential chemical or biological attacks by terrorists.
Federal authorities also ordered sweeping background and criminal checks on airport security personnel, baggage handlers and food service workers.
The Federal Aviation Administration continues to recruit and train armed air marshals to be assigned to domestic flights across the country with instructions to prevent with deadly force if necessary those who would commandeer U.S. aircraft.
The FAA is considering ordering all airports and airlines to begin new background and criminal checks of those who have access to airliners, ramps, tarmacs and other secure areas.
The agency initially said yesterday it had ordered the extra checks, but reported late last night that it had not done so formally and that the proposal remained under consideration.

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