Admitting Terror, Part 4

The INS's Mary Schneider warned of the terrorist threat, but nobody listened

Ali, an Egyptian national, drove a cab in Orlando before the FBI tied him to bin Laden and jailed him in 1999. Intriguingly, Ali took flight training in 1993 at a school in Oklahoma that has subsequently been linked to some of the September 11 terrorists. Since the attacks, it has been discovered that former Orlando resident Ziyad Khaleel, 37 years old, bought a $7500 satellite telephone that wound up with bin Laden in Afghanistan, according to media accounts. Another Egyptian immigrant living in Orlando, Hady Omar Jr., was arrested in Arkansas the day after the attacks because authorities found he'd made airplane reservations for three of the hijackers. And relatives of suspected September 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta have also lived in Orlando. One of them, a man named Majed Atta, abruptly left the area in September.

The suspects identified in Schneider's complaints "were from areas where there were terrorists and their backgrounds troubled her," Ross says. "She didn't like the way they got into the country or what they were doing here."

Contacted by New Times, Schneider declined to comment at length, saying only that she had gathered a lot of evidence and still seeks a full investigation. "I would like to see criminal activity stopped, but I don't want to point my finger at the government at this time," she said. "We all need to be supportive of our government since September 11."

Ross, her onetime attorney, is unafraid to say that the INS, the FBI, and the Justice Department failed. "They dropped the ball in a big way," he says. "I was shocked that the Justice Department never investigated this. I don't think INS officials thought that what happened on September 11 would ever happen. Now people are actually going to look at this. Had the government followed [Schneider's] philosophy, we probably would have stopped some very bad people.

"[Schneider] would say, "David, you don't understand -- we are in danger. They are sending these terrorists into this country, and I can't understand why more isn't being done. They are going to commit acts of terrorism in this country,'" Ross recalls.

"She happened to hit the nail right on the head."

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