Twenty years later, it appears they are still there.
Had you driven through a certain intersection on Leesburg Pike in Falls Church, Virginia, yesterday or today, you would have seen a group of men — some standing, some sitting, but all waiting in the shade, apparently hoping someone would drive up and hire them to do some work.
Twenty years ago, two Saudi nationals, Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar, drove up to that very location looking for someone to help them do something illegal.
What happened then was described in a “Statement of Facts” that the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia presented in federal court in the case of the United States of America v. Luis A. Martinez-Flores.
“At all times material to this case, the defendant was a citizen and national of El Salvador living in the United States unlawfully,” the statement said.
“On or about the evening of August 1, 2001, the defendant was seeking day labor from passersby in a parking lot at a 7-11 store in Falls Church, Virginia,” it said.
“On that same date, Hanjour and Almihdhar drove a van with out-of-state license plates into the same parking lot while the defendant was there,” it said. “Once in the lot, Hanjour and Almihdhar told the day laborers who approached their van that they needed someone to certify that they were Virginia residents on a DMV form.”
Not everyone there was ready to cooperate.
“When the first two laborers who approached Hanjour and Almihdhar refused to help the men, the defendant came forward and agreed to help Hanjour and Almihdhar in return for a cash payment of $100,” the statement said.
At that time, a person could get an identification from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles even if they did not produce a document that demonstrated they did, in fact, live in Virginia. Instead, they could get a third party to swear to a document called a DL51, which certified that they did live at a Virginia address.
This is what Hanjour and Almihdhar needed Martinez-Flores, the “national of El Salvador living in the United States unlawfully,” to do for them.
“Once the matter was agreed, the defendant got into Hanjour and Almihdhar’s van and directed them to the Springfield DMV office in Springfield, Virginia,” the statement said. “There, the defendant helped both Hanjour and Almihdhar to complete a DL51 form.” They claimed to have an address on Leesburg Pike in Falls Church.
“This address did not belong to either Hanjour or Almihdhar, but was rather the address on the defendant’s Virginia identification card,” it said. “The defendant no longer lived at that address, but had in the past.”
“Once they had completed the DL51 forms, the defendant, Hanjour, and Almihdhar swore that the information on the forms was correct before a DMV clerk,” it said.
“A few moments later, DMV clerks issued both Hanjour and Almihdhar Virginia identification cards,” said this “Statement of Facts.”
It was time for Martinez-Flores to get paid.
“Once Hanjour and Almihdhar had received their identification cards, the defendant, Hanjour and Almihdhar got back in the van and returned to the 7-11 store,” said the statement. “Almihdhar then obtained $100 in cash from an automated teller machine inside the 7-11 store and gave the money to the defendant.”
Timothy P. Carney and I co-authored a story on this incident that was published by Human Events on Nov. 5, 2001. It cited an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Jesus H. Gomez that had been filed in federal court.
“DMV records also show that Hanjour and Almihdhar used the address Martinez gave them on August 1, 2001, to complete DL51 forms for Majed Moqed (Moqed) and Salem Alhazmi (Alhazmi) on August 2, 2001,” Gomez wrote.
“DMV records further show that Hanjour used the address Martinez gave him on August 1, 2001, to complete a DL51 form for Ziad Jarrah (Jarrah) on August 29, 2001,” said Gomez.
On Sept. 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 took off from Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia. Four of the five hijackers on that plane had gotten Virginia identifications using the address provided to Hanjour and Almihdhar by Martinez-Flores. They were Hanjour — the hijacking pilot — Almihdhar, Moqed and Alhazmi. That plane flew into the Pentagon.
The fifth hijacker who used that address on a Virginia identification was Jarrah, the hijacking pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
In February 2002, a federal judge sentenced Martinez-Flores to serve 21 months in prison.
“Luis Martinez-Flores, 28, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador living in Falls Church, had pleaded guilty to document fraud for falsely certifying that Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar — two of the hijackers aboard the jet that hit the Pentagon — were Virginia residents,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported then.
After the 9/11 attacks, Virginia stopped using DL51s to issue identifications.
Only a government agency such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement could determine whether the men who still regularly congregate in the same area where Hanjour and Almihdhar picked up Martinez-Flores are legally present in this country. But it is not unreasonable to conclude that in the 20 years since 2001, our federal government has not secured our borders or fully enforced its immigration laws.
In August 2004, the staff of the 9/11 Commission published a report on terrorist travel that discussed the Virginia identifications secured by Hanjour, Almihdhar, Moqed, Hazmi and Jarrah.
“In all,” said that report, “the five hijackers based their Virginia identification documents on the residency information of one bribed Salvadoran.”
Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSnews.com.