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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bin Laden Brother-in-Law Detained On Immigration Hold In 1995

By J.M. Berger

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden, was designated as an "immigration hold" by the U.S. Justice Department through at least Aug. 31, 1995, even though he had been deported months earlier.

A new document obtained by INTELWIRE sheds light on previously reported mysteries involving Khalifa's 1995 detention by U.S. authorities but raises new questions.

Khalifa was arrested by U.S. officials and deported in 1995 under unusual circumstances (story).

U.S. and Philippines authorities have long alleged Khalifa was a top al Qaeda financier. A Saudi national, Khalifa consistently denied any link to terrorism and was never successfully convicted of a terrorist-related offense.

After his December 1994 arrest, Khalifa was imprisoned in an immigration holding cell at the Santa Rosa County Jail until on or about April 19, 1995, when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred.

U.S. officials were concerned about security risks associated with Khalifa in the wake of the bombing and prior to the identification of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols as suspects, sources said.

On the evening of the Oklahoma attack, Khalifa was moved to a maximum security federal prison in Dublin, Calif., according to a Bureau of Prisoners record obtained by INTELWIRE through the Freedom of Information Act (document).

The U.S. Marshals designated Khalifa for special handling with the notation "use extreme caution."

The BOP record indicated that Khalifa was held in U.S. custody until Aug. 31, 1995.

But INS statements, contemporaneous newspaper reports and witness accounts indicate Khalifa was deported to Jordan in early May, to face trial for his alleged role in a cinema bombing there. Khalifa was acquitted of those charges and was never successfully convicted of any terrorism offense.

Some time in August 1995, Khalifa returned to his native Saudi Arabia.

A new document obtained by INTELWIRE increases the disconnect between Khalifa's actual chain of custody and the Justice Department's paper trail.

A U.S. Marshals prisoner tracking record seems to confirm the Bureau of Prisons record indicating Khalifa remained in U.S. custody through Aug. 31, 1995.

The document, displayed below, claims Khalifa was boarded at the Dublin federal prison for 134 days.

However, a large number of sources dispute these records.

The Marshals record indicates that Khalifa was designated as an "immigration hold" through Aug. 31, 1995. An immigration hold is normally used for suspects held in the U.S. who have been charged with a crime, in order to prevent them from being released in the event they are cleared of non-immigration charges.

However, Khalifa was never publicly charged with any terrorism offense on U.S. soil.

Evidence found in Khalifa's luggage connected him to Wali Khan Amin Shah, who was later convicted of conspiring in Manila with Ramzi Yousef and future 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to bomb U.S. airliners.

Although material taken from Khalifa was deployed to capture at least one member of the Manila cell, and some of his phone records were introduced during the trial, the Saudi was never openly charged in the plot.

The tracking form indicates Khalifa was released from the custody of the Dublin facility "to immigration hold on 8/31/95." It was unclear whether the hold was released at that time or later.

The Marshals document also contains a redacted notation dated Nov. 8, 1995. It describes Khalifa as being in the custody of U.S. Marshals, but the date was unclear.

The U.S. Marshals Service said it possessed no other documents relating to Khalifa.

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Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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