December 23, 2011
A federal district court in Manhattan yesterday entered a historic ruling that reveals new facts about Iran's support of al Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks. U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels ruled yesterday that Iran and Hezbollah materially and directly supported al Qaeda in the September 11, 2001 attacks and are legally responsible for damages to hundreds of family members of 9/11 victims who are plaintiffs in the case.
Judge Daniels had announced his ruling in Havlish, et al. v. bin Laden, et al., in open court on Thursday, December 15, 2011, following a three-hour courtroom presentation by the families' attorneys. Judge Daniels entered a written Order of Judgment yesterday backed by 53 pages of detailed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.
Fiona Havlish, whose husband Donald perished in the World Trade Center North Tower on 9/11 said, "This is a historic day. For ten years we've wanted the truth to be known about who was responsible for our losses. Now we have that answer."
Ellen Saracini, the wife of United Airlines 175 pilot Victor Saracini, which the hijackers crashed into the WTC South Tower, said after the hearing last Thursday, "We just came from Judge Daniels' court where he ruled in favor of holding accountable those who perpetrated the attacks of 9/11... I just smiled up to Victor and I said we're still thinking about you ... we're there for you ... we'll always be there for you. But today's very special."
In Havlish, et al. v. bin Laden, et al., Judge Daniels held that the Islamic Republic of Iran, its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Iran's agencies and instrumentalities, including, among others, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ("IRGC"), the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security ("MOIS"), and Iran's terrorist proxy Hezbollah, all materially aided and supported al Qaeda before and after 9/11.
"The families have waited a very long time for this day and they have been through a lot. So I was greatly relieved that the families received an answer to the question that they asked me ten years ago: they asked who was the responsible party? How did this happen? Today a federal court judge has said that a principal responsible party is the Islamic Republic of Iran," said Thomas E. Mellon, Jr. of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, law firm of Mellon Webster & Shelly, the lead attorney for the Havlish plaintiffs.
The evidence was developed over a seven-year international investigation by the Havlish attorneys who pursued the 9/11 Commission's recommendation regarding an apparent link between Iran, Hezbollah, and the 9/11 hijackers, following the Commission's own eleventh-hour discovery of significant National Security Agency ("NSA") intercepts: "We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government." 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT, p. 241. The Havlish evidence included sworn testimony and affidavits from the following:
Ten expert witnesses including three former 9/11 Commission staff members, two former CIA case officers, two investigative journalists, and an Iran analyst who has testified in 25 cases involving Iranian terrorism.
Three Iranian defectors who were operatives of MOIS and the IRGC. Witness X, whose dramatic testimony was previously filed under seal, was revealed to be Abolghasem Mesbahi, a former MOIS operative in charge of Iran's espionage operations in Western Europe. Judge Daniels found that Mesbahi has testified in numerous prosecutions of Iranian and Hezbollah terrorists, including the Mykonos case in Germany and the AMIA case in Argentina, and found to be highly reliable and credible.
Judge Daniels also credited Mesbahi's testimony that he received messages during the summer of 2001 from inside the Iranian government that an Iranian contingency plan for unconventional warfare against the U.S. called "Shaitan dar Atash" had been activated. "This is compelling proof that Iran was deeply involved in the 9/11 conspiracy," said Tim Fleming, lead investigative attorney for the Havlish group. Included among Judge Daniels' findings in Havlish are the following:
Members of the 9/11 Commission staff testified that Iran aided the hijackers by concealing their travel through Iran to access al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Iranian border inspectors refrained from stamping the passports of 8 to 10 of the 9/11 hijackers because evidence of travel through Iran would have prevented the hijackers from obtaining visas at U.S. embassies abroad or gaining entry into the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report addressed these facts and called for further investigation. 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT at pp. 240-41.
Expert and U.S. government evidence also confirmed that Iran facilitated the escape of al Qaeda leaders and members from the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan into Iran and provided safe haven inside Iran after 9/11.
Abolghasem Mesbahi testified he was part of an IRGC-MOIS task force that designed contingency plans for unconventional warfare against the U.S., code-named "Shaitan dar Atash" ("Satan in Flames") which included crashing hijacked passenger airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House. During the weeks before 9/11, Mesbahi received three coded messages from a source inside Iran's government indicating that the Shaitan dar Atash plan had been activated.
Mesbahi also testified that in 2000 Iran used front companies to obtain a Boeing 757- 767-777 flight simulator for training the terrorists. Due to U.S. trade sanctions, Iran has never had any Boeing 757-767-777 aircraft, but all the airplanes hijacked on 9/11 were Boeing 757 or 767 aircraft.
A May 14, 2001 memorandum from inside the Iranian government demonstrating that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was aware of the impending attacks and instructing intelligence operatives to restrict communications to existing contacts with al Qaeda's Ayman al Zawahiri and Hizballah's Imad Mughniyah. - Documents obtained from German federal prosecutors showing that 9/11 coordinator Ramzi Binalshihb traveled to Iran in January 2001 on his way to Afghanistan to brief Osama bin Laden on the plot's progress. - Evidence from the 9/11 Commission Report that a "senior Hezbollah operative," which the Havlish evidence identifies as Hezbollah terrorist chief Imad Mughniyah, coordinated activities in Saudi Arabia and was present (or his associate) on flights the hijackers took to and from Beirut and Iran. 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT at pp. 240-41. Mughniyah, a longtime agent of Iran, orchestrated a string of terror operations against the U.S. and Israel during the 1980s and 1990s. He was assassinated in Syria in February of 2008.
Attorneys emphasized that it is important to understand that Iran, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda formed a terror alliance in the early 1990s. The attorneys cited their national security and intelligence experts, including Dr. Patrick Clawson, Dr. Bruce Tefft, Clare Lopez, Kenneth Timmerman, Dr. Ronen Bergman, Edgar Adamson, and 9/11 Commission staff members Dietrich Snell, Dr. Daniel Byman, and Janice Kephart, as well as the published writings of Robert Baer, to explain how the pragmatic terror leaders overcame the Sunni-Shi'a divide in order to confront the U.S. (the "Great Satan") and Israel (the "Lesser Satan"). Iran and Hezbollah then provided training to members of al Qaeda in, among other things, the use of explosives to destroy large buildings. The Iran-Hezbollah-al Qaeda alliance led to terror strikes against the U.S. at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia (1996), the simultaneous U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), and the USS Cole (2000). Shortly after the Cole attack, Iran was facilitating the international travel of the 9/11 hijackers.
"It was a wonderful day. A great day where the truth was finally revealed in a court of law with strong, strong evidence. The judge allowed us to put on and present all the evidence that we had filed directly or under seal and he accepted it and made a ruling in our favor," said Dennis Pantazis, one of the Havlish attorneys. "Now we go on to prove damages for each one of the family members," he added.
The case is Fiona Havlish, et al v. Usama Bin Laden, et al, 03-CV-9848 (GBD), and is part of the consolidated proceeding In Re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, Civil Action No. 03 MDL 1570 (GBD).
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September 8, 2011.
Attorneys representing families of 9/11 victims today are filing their second lawsuit against Iran asserting evidence that Iran played a key role in planning and facilitating the 9/11 attacks. The new case, Bingham, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al., is being filed in federal court by the same attorneys who have been litigating Havlish, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al., now pending in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Alice Hoagland, lead plaintiff in the new Bingham case, is the mother of 9/11 hero Mark Bingham, one of the passengers on United Flight 93 who stormed the cockpit to try to re-take control of the aircraft from the terrorist hijackers. In the ensuing struggle for the cockpit, the hijackers were forced to crash the plane in Shanksville, Pennsylvania before it could reach its intended target, which is believed to be the White House or the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Their heroic actions saved the lives of countless people.
“Mark Bingham and other passengers on Flight 93 gave their lives for their country, without any knowledge on that morning they would have to do it, yet they proceeded without hesitation. We, their survivors, deserve to know why they had to give their lives and who was supporting, aiding and abetting al Qaeda. Our whole country deserves to know,” said Mark Bingham’s mother.
On May 19, 2011, the lawyers filed papers in federal court in Manhattan disclosing for the first time that Iran’s and Hizballah’s terrorist leader, Imad Mughniyah, was an active participant in escorting 9/11 hijackers through Iran and into Afghanistan for terrorist training, and in assisting the hijackers to obtain “clean” passports and visas enabling entry into the United States. Also, the attorneys for the families have filed evidence establishing that top Iranian officials assisted al Qaeda leadership and operatives to escape to Iran from Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in the wake of 9/11. Iran then provided safe haven and support for these al Qaeda members inside Iran.
In July, the Havlish attorneys filed under seal the sworn testimony of three defectors from Iran’s intelligence agency, the Ministry of Information and Security. The 25 hours of sworn testimony of the three defectors, recorded on videotape, shows Iran’s key role, involving top Iranian government officials, in the planning and preparation for the 9/11 attacks. Lead attorney Thomas E. Mellon, Jr. of Doylestown, Pennsylvania of the law firm of Mellon Webster & Shelly stated that “our ten experts, including three former 9/11 Commission staff members, have stated the evidence is ‘clear and convincing’ that the Islamic Republic of Iran was involved in the 9/11 attacks and that Iran’s agent Hizballah was a direct participant.”
One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in Havlish and Bingham, Timothy Fleming of the Washington, D.C. office of Wiggins Childs Quinn & Pantazis, in Birmingham, Alabama, said, “Ten years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Iran has been shown to be a key al Qaeda supporter. It is well known that Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism throughout the world for the last thirty years. The Havlish and Bingham cases will hold Iran accountable for its sponsorship of al Qaeda and 9/11.”
On July 28, 2011, the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Treasury said that Iran has been supporting al Qaeda by permitting terrorist operatives, recruits, and cash to be transported across Iran’s territory to al Qaeda camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In a Treasury Department press release, the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said, “Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world today. By exposing Iran’s secret deal with al-Qa‘ida allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism.”
Former CIA case officers and nationally recognized terrorism analysts also support the Havlish and Bingham cases’ proof. Their sworn affidavits disclosing and analyzing Iran’s involvement can be found on the internet at www.iran911case.com.
Janice Kephart, a former staff counsel to the 9/11 Commission, was specifically involved in the 9/11 Commission’s investigation regarding how the 9/11 hijackers attained entry into the United States. Havlish attorneys submitted Kephart’s sworn affidavit to federal judge George B. Daniels in which Kephart noted that “the 9/11 terrorists had engaged in a specific terrorist travel operation. In other words, not only did the four nearly simultaneous hijackings of four commercial airplanes constitute a coordinated operation, but so did the hijackers' travel.” Kephart also states that, because Iran assisted al Qaeda to acquire “clean” passports and visas, “there is clear and convincing evidence that Iran and Hizbollah provided material support to al Qaeda by actively facilitating the travel of eight to ten of the 9/11 hijackers to Iran or Beirut immediately after their acquisition of the U.S. visas, into and out of Afghanistan, and that these U.S. visas were garnered specifically for the purpose of terrorist travel into the United States to carry out the 9/11 attacks.” As the Kephart affidavit states, “for terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.”
A Senior Counsel on the staff of the 9/11 Commission, Dietrich L. Snell was the leader of the Commission staff team investigating the 9/11 plot. Snell’s affidavit, also submitted to Judge Daniels in May, states that “there is clear and convincing evidence pointing to the involvement on the part of Hizbollah and Iran in the 9/11 attack, especially as it pertains to travel facilitation and safe haven.”
“We need to have the entire truth revealed regarding who was involved in 9/11, that’s the only way for there to be closure for the families of the victims of 9/11,” said Ellen Saracini, wife of Victor Saracini, Captain of United Flight 175, which was the aircraft that hit the World Trade Center South Tower.
Fiona Havlish, whose husband Donald Havlish died in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, added, “We welcome the addition of more people to the legal cases against Iran. It’s important that people stand up against the world’s principal state sponsor of terror because, unless we do, 9/11 could happen again.”
Attorneys in the case, as well as Alice Hoagland, Fiona Havlish, Ellen Saracini, and others, are available for interviews.
For further story information, see the Havlish & Bingham website at www.iran911case.com.
May 19, 2011. Attorneys representing families of 9/11 victims today are informing a federal court in Manhattan that they are filing comprehensive evidence that Iran played a key role in planning and facilitating the 9/11 attacks and called on the U.S. Government to declassify documents detailing what the U.S. intelligence community knew about Iran’s relationship to al Qaeda prior to September 11, 2001. “Today, nearly a decade after the attacks that took so many of our loved ones away, we believe
the 9/11 families and the American people deserve to know the full truth about Iran’s complicity,” said Thomas E. Mellon, Jr. of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, law firm of Mellon Webster & Shelly, the lead attorney in Havlish, et al. v. bi Laden, et al., now pending in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
“We simply want to make sure that those who are responsible for assisting the September 11 terrorists in their attack on the United States are found accountable for the harm they caused,” said Fiona Havlish whose husband, Donald, perished on the 101st floor of the North Tower.
Representing eight law firms from across the United States, the attorneys and their team of investigators have turned up convincing evidence that Imad Mughniyah was the main liaison between Iran’s leadership and al Qaeda and that Mughniyah played an active role in planning the 9/11 attacks. Mughniyah, a Lebanese Shiite, was a top commander in Hezbollah, the terrorist organization created and supported by Iran since the early 1980s. Mughniyah was assassinated on February 14, 2008, in Damascus, Syria.
“Our experts, including three former 9/11 Commission staff members, have stated that the evidence is ‘clear and convincing’ that the Islamic Republic of Iran was involved in the 9/11 attacks,” said Timothy B. Fleming, the lead investigative attorney in the case, of the D.C. office of the firm Wiggins Childs Quinn & Pantazis.
“The 9/11 Commission called for further investigation by the U.S. Government into the al Qaeda-Iran-Hezbollah relationship, but until now there’s been no indication that any government agency has taken any action to pursue this matter,” said Mellon. “Through interviews with former U.S. Government and intelligence officials, members of the 9/11 Commission staff, former Iranian intelligence officers, and a wide variety of non-governmental experts and fact witnesses, we have undertaken this ‘further investigation,’” Mellon added. Before 9/11, the FBI considered Mughniyah to be the world’s most wanted terrorist.
The United States Government has accused Mughniyah of masterminding the April 1983 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, that killed 63 people; the October 1983 simultaneous attacks on the U.S. and French military barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French soldiers; and the kidnapping and murder of numerous U.S. hostages in Lebanon, including the CIA’s Beirut station chief William Buckley and U.S. Marine Lt. Colonel Richard Higgins.
Mughniyah was also wanted by the FBI for his involvement in the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847 and the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, and by Interpol for his role in the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy, and the July 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish community center, both in Buenos Aires.
Today, the Havlish attorneys disclosed that they have taken sworn testimony, which will be filed under seal, from former Iranian intelligence operatives describing the direct participation of Imad Mughniyah and top government officials of Iran in the planning of, and preparation for, the 9/11 attacks.
These witnesses also describe the roles of Mughniyah and top Iranian officials in assisting al Qaeda leadership and operatives to escape from Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in the wake of 9/11. Iran then provided safe haven and support for these al Qaeda members inside Iran.
“The 9/11 Commission discovered, just days before publication of its report, important U.S. intelligence documents that detailed Iran’s involvement in aiding and abetting the 9/11 plot,” Mellon pointed out.
On page 240 of its final report, the 9/11 Commission stated that “a senior Hezbollah operative visited Saudi Arabia to coordinate activities there,” and that this “senior Hezbollah operative” and his associate were on the same air flights as several of the future hijackers who were traveling to and from Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.
“We have compelling evidence that the ‘senior Hezbollah operative’ was Imad Mughniyah,” added Dennis G. Pantazis, of the Birmingham, Alabama law firm of Wiggins Childs Quinn & Pantazis.
“Imad Mughniyah was known to be an agent of Iran, running terrorist operations for Iran and Hezbollah. Mughniyah’s participation in the hijackers’ preparations for the 9/11 attacks leaves no doubt that Iran was directly involved in, and had foreknowledge of, a planned terrorist attack on the U.S.,” Mellon said. “Discoveries about Mughniyah’s role are very important because, as found by the 9/11 Commission, ‘after 9/11, Iran and Hezbollah wished to conceal any past evidence of cooperation with Sunni terrorists associated with al Qaeda,’” Fleming added.
The Clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has already entered a default against the Iranian government defendants, and the Havlish Plaintiffs now ask the Court, based on all the evidence, to enter judgment against Iran.
The case appears as In Re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, Civil Action No. 03 MDL 1570 (GBD): Havlish, et al. v. bin Laden, et al., Civil Action No. 03-CV-9848 (GBD). Over the past nine years, the eight law firms of the Havlish consortium have invested thousands of hours of time to investigate Iran’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
“When Tim Fleming and I joined this coalition of attorneys representing the 9/11 families, our immediate and ultimate goal was to provide the families with a full accounting of what happened, how it happened, and who was responsible for that terrible day in September 2001,” said Pantazis.
“Developing evidence of Iran’s involvement with al Qaeda regarding the events of 9/11 is like putting together a large jigsaw puzzle where many of the pieces are missing and will never be found. Still, the picture is clear that Iran’s and Hezbollah’s complicity cannot be seriously challenged,” said Mellon. “Over the last nine years, after interviewing dozens of people, reviewing hundreds of documents, and consulting with many experts in the field, we have developed a strong evidentiary case of Iran’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks,” Mellon added.
“These families have waited nearly ten years to hear the truth. Under the scrutiny of a federal Judge, hopefully this will be accomplished in the next few months,” Pantazis said.
Ellen Saracini, the widow of Victor Saracini, Captain of United Flight 175, which was the second aircraft to hit the World Trade Center, stated, “The September 11 attacks were an attack on the American way of life and on the American belief in a civil society where we respect others and resolve our differences in an orderly and peaceful way. It is only appropriate that those who are attacking our way of life are found accountable in our American system.”
Attorneys in the case, as well as leading Plaintiff Ellen Saracini, and others, are available for interviews.
For further story information, contact:
The lead plaintiff, Fiona Havlish is the surviving spouse of Donald Havlish who was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001 on the 101st floor of the South Tower while working for AON, Inc. Additionally, the action was brought by six other individuals representing their loved ones.
Russa Steiner is a resident of Pennsylvania and is the surviving spouse of William R. Steiner. Bill Steiner was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. Bill was employed by Marsh, Inc. on the 97th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Clara Chirchirillo is a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is the surviving spouse of Peter Chirchirillo. Peter was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. Peter was employed by Marsh, Inc. on the 98th floor of the North Tower in the World Trade Center.
Tara Bane is a resident of Pennsylvania and is the surviving spouse of Michael A. Bane. Michael Bane was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. Michael was employed by Marsh & McLennan Company on the 100th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Grace M. Parkinson-Godshalk is a resident of Pennsylvania and is the mother of William R. Godshalk. Bill Godshalk was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. Bill was employed by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods located on the 89th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
Ellen L. Saracini is a resident of Pennsylvania and is the surviving spouse of Victor J. Saracini. Vic Saracini was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. Vic was employed by United Airlines and was the pilot of United Flight 175 which crashed into the South Tower.
Theresann Lostrangio is a resident of Pennsylvania and is the surviving spouse of Joseph Lostrangio. Joe Lostrangio was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. Joe was employed by Devonshire Group on the 77th Floor of the North Tower in the World Trade Center.
The above named plaintiffs maintain that the tragic events of September 11, 2001 involve the participation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Specifically, proofs filed in the Southern District of New York before The Honorable George B. Daniels maintain there is clear and convincing evidence that Iran provided material support to al Qaeda before, during and after the events of September 11, 2001 especially pertaining to travel facilitation and safe haven.
Please see the links to the relevant legal documents regarding the history and background of the Havlish case.