U.S. Customs authorities blocked a Jordanian man from entering the country 20 months before he was accused of carrying out an Iraq suicide bombing, according to an internal Homeland Security memo obtained Wednesday.
The Aug. 22 memo to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff credited Customs agents with identifying Ra’ed Mansour al-Banna as a suspicious traveler on June 14, 2003, when he flew into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
“While it is not clear that al-Banna was a suicidal jihadist, the basis for denying him entry was that CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officers that interviewed him believed his intent for entering ... was inconsistent with the purpose of his visa,” wrote Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner.
Al-Banna has been accused of carrying out one of Iraq’s deadliest suicide bombing — the Feb. 28 attack in Hillah that killed 125 people.
But the Jordanian government and al-Banna’s family said he carried out a different suicide bombing in Iraq. The terrorist group al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the Hillah bombing.
The Homeland Security memo, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press, said al-Banna was carrying a valid Jordanian passport and a valid work visa. But the Customs agents believed the passport was falsified, and ultimately rejected al-Banna’s entry after secondary security screening and questioning, said Customs spokeswoman Kristi Clemens.
Al-Banna’s denied entry into the United States was briefly mentioned in an April report in Time Magazine.