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January 30, 2003: Government Reveals Moussaoui Fifth-Jet Theory

The government reveals in a closed-door court hearing that recent interrogations of top al-Qaeda prisoners indicate that Zacarias Moussaoui may have been part of a plot to hijack a fifth plane on the day of 9/11, perhaps with the White House as its target. This is in contrast to the government’s original accusation that Moussaoui was to be the “20th hijacker” on Flight 93. Because Moussaoui does not have a security clearance, he cannot see the classified evidence against him, but he later learns of this “fifth-jet theory” while reading a transcript of the hearing that was not thoroughly redacted. (Bohn and Bernardini 8/8/2003; Novak 10/19/2003) At Moussaoui’s 2006 trial (see March 6-May 4, 2006), the prosecution will support the fifth jet theory—which Moussaoui both admits (see March 27, 2006) and denies (see April 22, 2005)—arguing that he engaged in parallel conduct with the hijackers (see February 23-August 16, 2001) and was supported by the same people (see July 29, 2001-August 3, 2001 and June 13-September 25, 2000). The theory is also supported by the hearsay of what one of the hijackers reportedly told a relative. In February 2001, Khalid Almihdhar told a cousin that Osama bin Laden was planning to launch five attacks against the US (see Late October 2000-July 4, 2001). But during interrogations, some captured al-Qaeda leaders will reportedly insist that Moussaoui was only a back-up (see November 20, 2002), while others will claim that he was part of a follow-up operation (see Before 2008).

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