A Syrian national with established ties to the 9/11 hijackers is currently living in the suburbs of northern New Jersey, unworried about facing deportation by the U.S. government due to a series of mistakes made at the federal level, Fox News reports.
Following an investigation, Fox News found that Daoud Chehazeh received political asylum for the third time in November following a series of "bureaucratic screw ups at the federal level," making him "virtually immune from deportation." Fox reportedly reviewed court documents and interviews with former federal and state investigators in the case.
More from Fox News's exclusive report:
Chehazeh arrived in the U.S. in July 2000 from Saudi Arabia and quickly settled into Paterson, N.J.'s Middle Eastern community. Paterson was the launching pad for the plot, where 11 of the 19 hijackers passed through before the attacks.
In Paterson, Chehazeh met up and lived with another key facilitator of the hijackers, a Jordanian named Eyad al Rababah. The significance of the Chehazeh-Rababah support network for the hijackers in Virginia and New Jersey was first reported by Fox News in May 2011. Law enforcement sources told Fox News that revelations Chehazeh was still living in the U.S. went to the most senior levels of the FBI.
Seven months before the attacks, Chehazeh, who had no job and no known source of income, suddenly decided to leave Paterson. Along with his roommate, Rababah, the two men moved to suburban Washington, D.C., and almost immediately made contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, who was the imam at the mosque in Falls Church, Va.
By April 2001, beside al-Awlaki, Chehazeh's new circle of friends and neighbors included future Flight 77 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour, a pilot. Chehazeh made a point to tell Rababah, even though both men later admitted to investigators they were not religious men, to go to the mosque and ask Imam al-Awlaki for work.
Jim Bush, the New Jersey state criminal investigator who was part of the 9/11 investigation code-named PENTTBOMB, said allowing Chehazeh to remain in the U.S. is a "slap in the face to Americans, especially the victims of 9/11 and the families."
Bush's partner, former FBI special agent Bob Bukowski, claims the Syrian national was "definitely part of that conspiracy."
"He facilitated the moves and protection up to the whole flight, basically, of Flight 77. Could we prove that in a court of law? No. But there are other remedies. Deport him. That's what should have been done in this case," he said.
So why hasn't Chehazeh been deported?
The U.S. government did make an effort to deport him, spending more than $500,000. However, Bush told Fox News that he knew how the system works. Additionally, as the FBI investigated him following the 9/11 attacks, the immigration judge on the case apparently was not clued in about his terror ties.
Here's exactly what happened, according to Fox News:
In 2001, court documents show U.S. immigration judge Annie Garcy helped Chehazeh fill out his asylum application. She would eventually rule that he belonged to a social group of "people who are hopelessly in debt."
"I think it was unusual for a federal judge to grant him asylum based upon his being a member of a social group called hopeless debtors," said Andrew Napolitano, a superior court judge in New Jersey for eight years who now is a senior judicial analyst for Fox News. "The federal judge concluded that he would be tortured or killed in Syria."
After the Board of Immigration Appeals reopened Chehazeh's case in 2007 due to the alleged terror ties, he hired really good pro bono attorneys from NewYork City to represent him.
Then, last November, the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed its decision to reopen the case, and officially closed the case on Feb. 13. In other words, Chehazeh appears to be staying in the U.S. for the foreseeable future without fear of prosecution or deportation.
To read Fox News' entire report, click here.