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Archive for Monday, September 17, 2001

Suspects linked to library computers

September 17, 2001

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— Investigators are looking into the possibility that some of the suspected hijackers in last week's deadly attacks on Washington and New York may have communicated with each other by using computers available at public libraries.

At least one south Florida librarian has told authorities that she recognized the name of a suspected terrorist on one of her computer sign-in sheets after the FBI released the list of hijackers' names on Friday.

Library officials in Fairfax County, Va., also said Sunday that FBI agents on Thursday requested the computer lab sign-in lists from the Sherwood Regional Library. Agents picked up copies of the computer logs from July 1 to Sept. 13, according to branch manager Liz Promen.

In Delray Beach, Fla., librarian Kathleen Hensman said that Mohald Alshehri, who is listed as a hijacker, and two other Middle Eastern men came into the library within the past month, wanting to use a computer with Internet access. She said the men appeared to be on edge, and watched her to see if she was monitoring their use.

"It just stood out in my mind, their behavior and the name," said Hensman, 41, who heads the reference department. "It's a public facility what can we do? I feel saddened that we were part of this in a way."

Public library officials say the use of computers with Internet access, which affords clients the option of logging onto chatrooms and exchanging private messages, is a controversial issue in the library industry, and that policies on patron use and the amount of privacy allowed differ from place to place. In Fairfax County, after marking lab sign-in lists, patrons can sit down at a computer and start working without having to log on.

The Delray Beach library is located near a hotel where several of the suspects reportedly stayed in the weeks leading up to the attack.

The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale reported Sunday that visitors to two libraries in Hollywood, Fla., said they recalled seeing Mohamed Atta there. Authorities have identified Atta as one of the pilots who crashed into the World Trade Center on Tuesday, and have said that at one time he and several other suspects lived in the Hollywood area.

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