WASHINGTON – Federal authorities have charged the first person with aiding the terrorist hijackers, according to court documents released Monday. The number of people arrested or detained in the wide-ranging investigation grew to 352.
Herbert Villalobos was charged in federal court in suburban Virginia with aiding one of the suspected hijackers to fraudulently obtain a Virginia identification card a month before the Sept. 11 attacks.
A second man who aided with the I.D.'s is cooperating and was not charged, prosecutors said. The court records disclosed as many as five of the hijackers got Virginia cards in the month before the attacks.
Meanwhile, the terrorism investigation proceeded on several fronts.
Attorney General John Ashcroft disclosed that 352 people have been arrested or detained in the investigation and an additional 392 people were being sought for questioning about the attacks in New York and Washington.
"We think they have information that could be helpful to the investigation," the attorney general told lawmakers.
The Federal Aviation Administration grounded farm crop dusters another day for fear they could be used in a biological or chemical attacks -- a ban that was being lifted at midnight -- and also considered asking airports and airlines to take new precautions with their own workers.
The FAA said it was considering requiring that the workers' identifications be verified, followed by new checks of employment histories and possible criminal backgrounds.
The order on background checks would affect tens of thousands of airport workers who have access to secure locations in airports, people such as baggage handlers, food service workers and mechanics.
Initially, FAA officials said the order had been given. But late Monday, the agency said it was still considering the idea and hadn't formally acted. The agency has asked airports and airlines to make sure that identification badges used by employees with secure access are valid.
In Florida, court records in Broward County showed one of the 19 hijack suspects was wanted on an arrest warrant at the time of the attacks.
A bench warrant was issued June 4 for Mohamed Atta for failing to appear in court on a charge of driving without a license. Atta's Florida driver's license was revoked on Aug. 23.
"There's over 200,000 warrants in the system," county sheriff's spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said. "So naturally, you're going to make sure you're going out and getting those wanted for murder. This is not one that's going to jump out at you."
In Virginia, an FBI affidavit filed in federal court alleged that as many as five hijackers -- Hani Hanjour, Salem Al-Hamzi, Majed Moqed, Ahmed Saleh Alghamdi and Abdulaziz Alomari -- went to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 2.
All five were at the office that day to "conduct transactions relating to Virginia identification cards," the affidavit said.
The affidavit alleges that Villalobos and a second man -- his identity not revealed because he is a confidential witness -- signed identity papers for the hijackers.
The affidavit said Villalobos, using the alias Oscar Diaz, signed papers certifying that Alomari lived in Virginia. Alomari has been identified as a hijacker of a Boston flight that crashed into the World Trade Center.
The second man, a confidential witness, signed both a residency certification and an identity affidavit that was used by Alghamdi to obtain an identification card, the affidavit said. Alghamdi has been identified as a hijacker of the second plane that struck the Trade Center.
The affidavit said the unidentified local man was standing in a parking lot near the motor vehicles office along with several other men, including Villalobos, when three men approached in a van and asked for help in getting Virginia identification cards.
Villalobos and his acquaintances then drove together to an attorney's office nearby with the others following. The papers, which can be used as identification for getting driver's licenses and state identification cards, require the signature of a notary public.
In Michigan the president of a truck driving school confirmed two men arrested last week had taken attended the school and one of them obtained a permit to transport hazardous materials.
Karim Koubriti, 23, and Ahmed Hannan, 33, arrested Sept. 17, attended the U.S. Truck Driver Training School in Detroit this summer, said the school's president, Joseph LaBarge. Koubriti passed the state commercial drivers license exam on Aug. 22 and received a permit to transport hazardous materials. Hannan failed the road test, LaBarge said.
As for the crop dusters, Ashcroft told the House Judiciary Committee the FBI had gathered information raising fears the small farm planes could be used in a biological or chemical attack. "There is no clear indication of the time or place of these attacks," he said.
Ashcroft said that Atta, one of the hijackers, had shown interest in crop dusters and that another person now in federal custody had downloaded computer information about the planes.
J.D. "Will" Lee, 62, general manager of South Florida Crop Care in Belle Glade, said Monday that groups of two or three Middle Eastern men came by almost every weekend for six or eight weeks before the terrorist attacks, including the weekend just before the assaults.
Lee said a co-worker, James Lester, positively identified one as Atta.
In other developments:
-- The Coast Guard is requiring that incoming vessels supply local port officials with the identities of crew members and passengers. "We want to identify individuals and cargos that should not get into the United States," Capt. Mike Lapinski said.
-- Nabil Al-Marabh, 32, a convenience store clerk arrested in Chicago last week by an FBI-led terrorism task force, was transferred to New York following four days of questioning, FBI spokeswoman Virginia Wright said.
-- A San Diego Zoo security guard told the FBI she recalled finding a metal case at the zoo several weeks ago that may have belonged to suspected hijacker Hanjour, zoo spokeswoman Christine Simmons said. The case, which contained identification, some other papers and possibly cash, was claimed from the zoo's lost and found. The zoo kept no record of who claimed it, Simmons said.
-- In the crash of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, the FBI has determined from the onsite investigation that no explosive was involved. Passengers on the flight said in cell phone calls that one man had what appeared to be a bomb strapped to him.