FBI doubts over hijacker identities
Many 9/11 web sites and authors claim that the identification of the hijackers remains in doubt, even by the FBI. This Insight story is typical.
The key part here is the Mueller September 2002 quote: that there is "no legal proof to prove the identities of the suicidal hijackers." Is he really expressing doubts about the names released by the FBI, a year earlier? Many people appear to think so, and as we write the claim is reproduced online at WhatReallyHappened.com, Mujca.com, a Debunking the BBC's Conspiracy Files site, and more.
And yet something about this doesn't quite feel right. The quote itself doesn't look to us like something Mueller would say. No "legal proof"? So he might have illegal proof? Saying "no proof to prove" is redundant: "no proof of" would make more sense. And the use of "suicidal" rather than the more common "suicide hijackers" looks odd, too. It's still not unknown, and perhaps if Mueller were caught off guard somewhere, on a bad day, then he might have come up with something like this, but we'd like to see the source, first. So where is it?
We used Google to look for the quote, and came up with many hits, but no-one revealed an original source. They either linked to each other, or simply referred to "CNN", occasionally with September dates. But then, a breakthrough: a Robert Fisk article that used the same quote, dated October 18th 2001:
So the September 2002 date for Mueller's comment appears to be an error in the 2002 article, that's just been reproduced around the web. But it doesn't stop there. Here's a version that appeared 6 days earlier at WhatReallyHappened.com, according to Archive.org:
No quotes here to indicate Mueller actually used these words. That may be an error, of course, but it's also possible the comment was a paraphrase, which then had quotes added to make it look like Mueller said those exact words.
Of course the origin of this story makes little difference. It's far more important to find out what Mueller really said.
WhatReallyHappened.com was referring to a comment on September 20th, but that's when Mueller made his comments: the September 21st here is simply the date of this particular report. And so it appears we've found the words that inspired the comment that there is "no legal proof to prove the identities of the suicidal hijackers."
If that's true, then it's plainly a very deceptive presentation of Mueller's view. He explicitly says that he's already sure of the identities of some of the hijackers, even only 9 days after the attacks. Mueller isn't certain about others, but they are being investigated to provide a definitive answer. This is far from there being "no legal proof to prove the identities of the suicidal hijackers."
What's more, these investigations were resolved by November, when the FBI announced:
Of course we can’t prove that Mueller really believed that, however the point is clear. The first quote took place soon after the attacks, not in 2002; the questions were quickly resolved so it's long out of date; and people or sites who still use it, without mentioning what happened next, are not telling the whole story.