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U.S. cable details activities of 3 men who may have links to 9/11

From Susan Candiotti, CNN
A recent WikiLeaks online document dump included a February 8, 2010, U.S. diplomatic cable about 9/11.
A recent WikiLeaks online document dump included a February 8, 2010, U.S. diplomatic cable about 9/11.
  • A new WikiLeaks cable details a February 2010 discussion at U.S. Embassy in Qatar
  • Three men mentioned, all from Qatar, visited New York and DC prior to 9/11, an ex-official says
  • They then went to LA, where their flights and hotel room were paid for by a convicted terrorist

(CNN) -- Three mysterious Qatari men might have had ties to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a recently published U.S. diplomatic cable.

The men's stories and identities -- Meshad al Alhajri, Fahad Abdulla and Ali Alfehaid -- were revealed in a WikiLeaks online document dump that included a February 8, 2010, U.S. diplomatic cable spelling out discussions from a U.S. meeting in Doha, Qatar. That meeting was led by Mirembe Nantongo, then and now the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Qatar. It was held more than eight years after the 2001 attacks for "watchlisting purposes," according to the document, suggesting that those named should be put on terror lists.

A law enforcement source familiar with the 9/11 investigations said Thursday the three men have been known to the U.S. government since soon after 9/11 but there currently is no active manhunt or ongoing investigation.

"They were investigated for any potential links to the hijackers and their role in the 9/11 attacks," the source said Thursday. "No links were ever determined."

However, given last year's cable about the meeting in Qatar, the men were still of interest to the United States years after the 9/11 terror attacks.

The law enforcement source did not explain why or whether the men should be on a terror watch list. They are not charged with any crimes.

The current whereabouts of the three men could not be determined Thursday by CNN.

Following the attacks, the FBI and other agencies conducted a massive worldwide search for those who helped carry out the attacks.

"In that time frame, we investigated thousands of then-suspicious activities and individuals that were ultimately discounted," the same source added.

According to the WikiLeaks cable, the three flew on British Airways on August 15, 2001, from London to the United States. Over the next nine days, they visited New York (including the World Trade Center and Statue of Liberty) as well as Virginia and Washington, with one stop being the White House.

On August 24, 2001, al Alhajri, Abdulla and Alfehaid flew to Los Angeles, where they stayed in a motel.

According to a second source, a former law enforcement official, the three paid for the room in cash and told the motel staff they did not want housekeeping service, the ex-law enforcement official confirmed. When they checked out, they left behind pilots' uniforms, paperwork containing pilots' names and cardboard boxes that were addressed to Syria, Israel, Afghanistan and Jordan.

Booked on a September 10, 2001, flight from Los Angeles to Washington, their flight, as well as hotel room, was paid for by "a convicted terrorist," according to the WikiLeaks-released cable.

But the three men never showed up for the flight.

Had they, the three would have flown on American Airlines flight 144 -- the same plane hijacked the next day and flown into the Pentagon in northern Virginia.

Besides the convicted terrorist, who was not named in the cable, the three men were tied in the WikiLeaks cable to Mohamed al Mansoori. The United Arab Emirates native had spent time traveling with al Alhajri, Abdulla and Alfehaid during their time in California.

Al Mansoori was being investigated for possibly funneling money to support the 9/11 hijackers. His visa was revoked, but his name wasn't put on a terror watchlist -- something that the WikiLeaks cable's author suggested should change.

The former law enforcement official said he did not know if al Alhajri, Abdulla and Alfehaid had any direct or indirect role in the 9/11 attacks, or why they left the United States.

"Primarily, they were looking for the (three men) to collect any intelligence on what they were doing and looking at the money (trail)," the former law enforcement official said.

CNN's Mark Engel contributed to this report.