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N.J. Says Feds Must OK Searches

August 8, 2002

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ The state attorney general Thursday ordered all terrorism-related search warrants to be cleared through federal authorities, following a botched attempt last week to arrest a man suspected of selling fake IDs to two of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Both state Attorney General David Samsom and U.S. Attorney Chris Christie denied the new rules were related to the raid by Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale. But both said they met with Speziale last week; they refused to provide details of the meeting.

Speziale invited members of news organizations, including The Associated Press, to accompany county officials as they raided the home and businesses of Egyptian immigrant Mohamed El-Atriss last week. El-Atriss was not there, and authorities later learned he had left the country days earlier.

``We discussed the incident and decided to move on in a constructive way with today’s directives,″ Samson said.

Authorities say El-Atriss had given phony IDs to one of the hijackers aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, and to another hijacker on one of the airliners that destroyed the World Trade Center.

Investigators said last week there was no evidence El-Atriss knew what the hijackers were planning to do.

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