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What’s in a Name?


I’d like to second Andy’s point re Mohammed Atta’s name. He’s the only one of the 9/11 hijackers I can mention in a column without checking first. Call me a schmuck, but even now I find the rest of the batting order confusing: be honest, can you tell your Ahmed al-Ghamdi from your Ahmed al-Nami or your Ahmed al-Haznawi or your Ahmed al-Gore? (For the benefit of the 9/11 Commission, one of these was not a 9/11 hijacker.) How about your Waleed al-Shehri from your Wail al-Shehri? You can’t tell the players with a score card.

On any list of Arab suspects, Mohammed Atta’s stands out because it’s closest to a Western form. Two names, no intervening al or bin. The surname could be Italian – like Tony Danza, who like Mr Atta is also believed to have spent time in Brooklyn. I think it’s highly likely that, if you were going to remember any name on a terrorist watch list, it would be this one.

If JPod is going to question memory, the more interesting question is why, until they were handed their cue cards, Lee Hamilton and the other Commissioners apparently had no memory of this “Able Danger” unit or its work. Unlike Andy, I’m no expert in this field, but simply because I don’t want to sound like a chump in interviews I’m pretty much on top of the Mohammed Atta timeline, its contradictions and its gaps. Isn’t that the least Americans are entitled to expect from the grandees in whose name the “definitive” “non-partisan” report on 9/11 is issued? The sense you get from the Commissioners’ statements last week is that they left way too much of this stuff to anonymous staffers to fillet. Maybe they should have spent less time in make-up for CNN.


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