Daoud Chehazeh, left, and Eyad al Rababah
Free to do as he pleases, living out his days in the suburbs of northern New Jersey, a Syrian national who is a known associate of the 9/11 hijackers never has to worry about deportation by the U.S. government, according to an investigation by Fox Files.
With nearly 400,000 people waiting for U.S. citizenship, Daoud Chehazeh last November received political asylum for a third time after a series of bureaucratic screw ups at the federal level, according to a review of court documents and interviews with former federal and state investigators.
“It’s a slap in the face to Americans, especially the victims of 9/11 and the families,” said Jim Bush, who as a New Jersey state criminal investigator was part of the 9/11 investigation code-named PENTTBOMB. His partner in the investigation was Bob Bukowski, a now-retired FBI special agent.
“Three thousand people were murdered,” Bukowski said. “(Chehazeh) was definitely part of that conspiracy. … He facilitated the moves and protection up to the whole flight, basically, of Flight 77. Could we prove that in a court of law? No. But there are other remedies. Deport him. That’s what should have been done in this case.”
“This is an example of our national security policy gone mad,” Debra Burlingame, the co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, said. Fox Files’ findings and the connection between Chehazeh and the Flight 77 hijackers were especially disheartening because Burlingame’s brother, Charles, was the pilot of Flight 77, which was hijacked and slammed into the Pentagon.
“This is what comes of demilitarizing the ‘War on Terror’ and political correctness, treating enemies with the rights of ordinary people,” she said. “We owe a person like this absolutely nothing. His confederates were summarily executed by drone. This is an utterly incoherent national security policy.”
Chehazeh arrived in the U.S. in July 2000 from Saudi Arabia and quickly settled into Paterson, N.J.’s Middle Eastern community. Paterson was the launching pad for the plot, where 11 of the 19 hijackers passed through before the attacks.
In Paterson, Chehazeh met up and lived with another key facilitator of the hijackers, a Jordanian named Eyad al Rababah. The significance of the Chehazeh-Rababah support network for the hijackers in Virginia and New Jersey was first reported by Fox News in May 2011. Law enforcement sources told Fox News that revelations Chehazeh was still living in the U.S. went to the most senior levels of the FBI.
Seven months before the attacks, Chehazeh, who had no job and no known source of income, suddenly decided to leave Paterson. Along with his roommate, Rababah, the two men moved to suburban Washington, D.C., and almost immediately made contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, who was the imam at the mosque in Falls Church, Va.
Fox Files’ exclusive reporting showed al-Awlaki, killed in September 2011 by a CIA drone strike in Yemen, was a guest speaker at the Pentagon five months after the 2001 attacks and that there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence suggesting the cleric was an overlooked key player in the plot.
By April 2001, beside al-Awlaki, Chehazeh’s new circle of friends and neighbors included future Flight 77 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour, a pilot. Chehazeh made a point to tell Rababah, even though both men later admitted to investigators they were not religious men, to go to the mosque and ask Imam al-Awlaki for work.
“Al-Rababah returns home with two of the hijackers,” Bush explained. “And that’s the first time, that we know of, that Daoud Chehazeh met the hijackers.”
Rababah got the hijackers an apartment in Virginia. He helped them get settled. And in May 2001, Rababah drove al-Hazmi, Hanjour and two of the newly arrived muscle hijackers to Connecticut and New Jersey. The 9/11 Commission Report said that within a few weeks seven of the hijackers were living in New Jersey in a one-room apartment.
For now it looks like Chehazeh is never leaving the United States. Last November, the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed its decision to reopen Chehazeh’s case. And on Feb. 13, the case was officially closed and entered into court records of the United States District Court District of New Jersey.
But others suspected of 9/11 connections faced very different outcomes. Rababah was deported to Jordan in 2003. And al-Awlaki was killed by drone in Yemen in 2011.
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The Obama administration is in deep with Syrian jihadis at this point but who else might be linked to this case? Chehazeh lived in Paterson, NJ home of one of the most radical mosques in the U.S. where the imam is an illegal immigrant convicted of being part of terror group Hamas. That imam is one Chris Christie has personally praised and helped avoid deportation. Catherine Herridge should delve into Christie’s knowledge and possible involvement in this case.