Could Terrorist E-mails Have Been on Charlotte Computer?

by Amy Oshier
NBC 2 [A Florida TV station]
April 24, 2002

CHARLOTTE COUNTY — A series of e-mails that may have been sent by terrorist Mohammed Atta are now being viewed by the public. The Charlotte sheriff's office first obtained the e-mails and turned them over to the FBI for investigation.

Two of the four documents are in Arabic. The others don’t seem to outline terrorist plans, instead expressing Muslim concerns spread over 17 pages.

The transmissions were said to have been forwarded on to a computer in Charlotte by Atta in the months leading up to the September 11th attacks.

"I can't say specifically if these are, but these do look familiar and they may very well be and we passed that on to the FBI," said sheriff Bill Clement.

In September, Clement held a news conference regarding the e-mails. They appear to be forwards of a mass mailing. One details the passing of a Muslim figure and asks for prayers.

Another refers to a Muslim girl attending American University in Cairo and mentions students making insults against Islam and the prophet Muhammad. The correspondences came through a vendor at the local airport called Eastern Avionics.

A salesperson believes he sold a headset to Marwan al-Shehi, Atta's partner in crime, and somehow got added to their group e-mail list. When he started getting messages, some of them in arabic, he turned them over to the sheriff.

The FBI took all of the documents, stripping them from a hard drive at Eastern Avionics. The agency's interest may go beyond the text.

"The interesting part's where there were some e-mail addresses that could be gleaned. I think they were gonna be investigated," Clement said.

Atta's name never appears, but people say they saw him in the area.

"The picture in the paper looked really familiar and people from the airport said, ‘Hey you know they were here," said Cathy Mohr of the Tailwinds Café.

The sheriff's office doesn't know if the e-mails contained critical information or not - their investigation ended when they turned them over.

The feds don't share any of their information, even with local law enforcement.

But it is feasible that the terrorists visited the area, since they trained in Venice and it's a short flight. It's common for students to fly the airport, eat, and maybe shop with the airport vendors.


Copyright 2002

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