Steven Butler was the FBI Unit Chief for the San Diego field office since 1998, but back in 1994 he was beginning to “make his bones” as they say. A recent bombing in Orange County led to some think it was deliberate. Orange County is quite diverse, home to many Orthodox catholics and also a very populous areas for Arabs. Butler was a “flat-foot”, someone who enjoyed hitting the streets and investigating crimes the old fashioned way. It is how he came across paths with a known Muslim who was quite affable. Butler in time became quite fond of the good matured man, known to many in the Orange County area and in the city of Lemon Grove. Butler then asked him to become an asset, someone the Bureau can rely on for information about certain individuals who are on the FBI’s “radar”. The man agreed, and on May 14th 1994, the FBI opened him as an asset, code named “Stan”. According to an “FBI Inspector General Review of the FBI’s handling of information relating to the 9/11 attacks”, “Stan” provided menial information at first:
“He normally was questioned about specific individuals who
were under investigation by the FBI, although he occasionally volunteered information that he thought might be relevant.”
In the spring of 1996, “Stan” began renting out rooms in his 5 bedroom home. Sheikh would tell his handler, Steven Butler, who became now quite fond of “Stan” that he was a retired English professor at San Diego State University and also Vice President for International Projects at American Commonwealth University (ACU). One late evening “Stan” would tell Butler that he was born in India 1954, and became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1976. Butler’s talks with his asset would become sporadic over the months which led to years. “Stan” would frequent the Islamic Center of San Diego and became a staple there since his arrival in Lemon Grove, but provided information to Butler about certain people who were overstaying their U.S Visas.
Nothing about “Stan” stood out and was always known to be a reserved man with principals. One April afternoon in the year of 2000, “Stan” posted an announcement letter on the Islamic Center bulletin board. The letter was written in English and explained that rooms were available in Lemon Grove it provided an address and phone number, it also had a short request, that whoever wished to rent these rooms were to be “observant” Muslims. Over the next few days, “Stan” visited the Secretary’s office of the mosque, after some small talk, the secretary then pointed behind the Sheikh and said there were two men who wished to speak with him. The two men were later known to be Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
al-Mihdhar spoke no English at all, al-Hazmi very little. Both men spoke Arabic to “Stan” who gave his actual name to both al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. They explained to him that they needed a place to stay “very badly”. al-Hazmi explained that they were living in an apartment which was close by to the Islamic Center, but they had to leave the premises because the owner of the home was leaving for Saudi Arabia. The apartment was rented by a Saudi on Mt. Aida Avenue, and was known to “Stan”. He felt compassion for both of the seemingly “lonely” Saudi’s, in a large unknown land like the United States “Stan” knew they wouldn’t be welcomed by most, he agreed to rent a room to both men. al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi moved in on May 10th 2000.
By this time nobody knew about “Stan’ renting rooms to two unknown Saudis. “Stan” told both men he was also an English Professor at San Diego State, and then advised both to take some courses in English. But sometimes he would find al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi in the middle of the day lounging in the home and not at English classes. “Stan” would ask why they weren’t at the school, al-Hazmi would respond that the class was “not good” and that they wouldn’t attend anymore. Both of the men were mostly “secretive” and were always together, and never around others except “Stan”. al-Mihdhar would tell “Stan” about their wish to take flight training nearby, which “Stan” would replay again that they also take English courses since it is rather important that if they wanted to become pilots they also had to known English.
Both men were “very pious” Muslims according to “Stan”. One example of their “modesty” was when they were watching television, a scantly clad cheerleader came on screen, al-Mihdhar asked “Stan” to turn it off. The three men would practice “Salah” which are the Islamic dawn prayers. One day another Saudi came to visit “Stan”, his name was Omar al-Bayoumi, both men became good friends which started at the Islamic Center in san Diego where they first met. al-Bayoumi would greet al-Hazmi who he saw mingling in “Stan’s” home and stated that it was he who referred al-Midhhar and al-Hazmi to see “Stan” about renting out rooms to them both. When al-Bayoumi left, Nawaf al-Hazmi would explain to “Stan” that he didn't like al-Bayoumi and thought he was a “Saudi” agent of sorts.
Exclaiming that al-Bayoumi would always carry around a video recorder taking pictures and video. Meanwhile, reports were later taken from neighbors who lived nearby where al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi lived and stated that both men would have frequent visitors in the late evenings. It would later be found out by the FBI, that two visits would see Mohammed Atta and Hani Hanjour enter the home of “Stan”. On July 12, two days before his visa expires, an I-539 application to extend 9/11 hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi’s U.S stay is filed with the California Service Center (CSC) of the INS. The I-539 form is not received by the CSC until July 27, 2000, and officially it is considered a late filing.
Meanwhile Steven Butler would visit his contact in June. “Stan” explained to Butler that he had two men living with him. Butler inquired who they were and “Stan” explained they were two Saudi’s who just arrived inside the United States in January. Butler asked for their names but “Stan” only provided their first names, Khalid and Nawaf, not their surnames. Shaikh tells Butler that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar are good, religious Muslims who are legally in the US to visit and attend school. Butler asks Shaikh for their last names, but Shaikh refuses to provide them. Butler is not told that they are pursuing flight training.
However “Stan” would also relate to Butler that al-Hazmi has had “contact” with at least four individuals he knew were of interest to the FBI and about whom he had previously reported to the FBI. Butler was extremely interested now in “Khalid” and “Nawaf” and repeatedly asked his asset, what their last names were so he can run a check in the database. “Stan” would tell Butler that he should come back again soon this way he could give him this information. Shortly after this, Khalid al-Mihdhar would fly to Germany, leaving Nawaf al-Hazmi alone with “Stan”. However, al-Hazmi also abruptly leaves the home of “Stan” and find a place in La Mesa, California. he would also begin employment also immediately finding a job at Stan’s Star Mart servicing cars.
Thus the story would seemingly end, with both men out of the home of “Stan” and Butler never obtaining the last names of “Khalid” and “Nawaf”. September 11th 2001….after the attacks, the FBI PENTTBOM’s investigation into the 9/11 hijackers led back to Butler’s asset, “Stan”. He was debriefed about the two men now known as hijackers for American Airlines Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon. “Stan” told the FBI everything he knew about the men, and it was then that they saw “Stan” as someone who knew nothing about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Butler would retire “Stan” as an asset in 2002. But as the smoke cleared, the mysterious asset for Steven Butler had more “mystery” to him…..San Diego State later exclaimed that this man was never at any point employed as an English Professor. Nor was he a Vice President for International Projects at American Commonwealth University (ACU), ACU was nothing more than a “diploma mill” which was owned by a retired Air Force General named William Lyon.
Shortly after the termination of “Stan” by the FBI as an informant, his name would become publicly known. His name was Abdussattar Shaikh. Nothing more would become known to the public about him, as he remains retired and still living in Lemon Grove, California. Later, Th Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 report described the informant as “the Intelligence Community’s best chance to unravel the September 11 plot”. “After September 11, much would be learned about al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar’s time in San Diego and the Intelligence Community’s missed opportunities to find and investigate them before the terrorist attacks in which they participated,” the reports states.
When interviewed by the FBI after the attacks, Agent Butler revealed that “Stan” had told him that “two Saudi national visitors were residing in a room at his residence, but their last names were never revealed to me.” The asset did not describe his boarders as suspicious or otherwise worthy of further scrutiny. Butler reported that he never obtained al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar’s full identities from the asset and that he did not conduct any investigation of them. He also contends that how as he supposed to do a proper investigation when the CIA also withheld pertinent information from the FBI about Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi’s dual US Visas and also about being inside the country as well. “Most FBI agents in the field did not have direct access to the shared Intelligence Community database that did contain some of the information on al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, such as the NSA information,” reads the report.