WASHINGTON -- US 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 yesterday.
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 [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.
Banna was accused of carrying out one of Iraq's deadliest suicide bombings, the Feb. 28 attack in Hillah that killed 125 people. But Jordan's government and Banna's family said he carried out a different bombing. Terrorist group Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the Hillah bombing.
The Homeland Security memo said Banna was carrying a valid Jordanian passport and valid work visa. But customs agents believed the passport was falsified and rejected Banna's entry after a secondary security screening and questioning, customs spokeswoman Kristi Clemens said.