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Context of 'May 2001: Iranian Tells of Plot to Attack WTC'

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Peter Caram.Peter Caram. [Source: SRR Training]The New York Port Authority, which owns the World Trade Center, is aware of terrorism occurring around the world and that the WTC is vulnerable to attack. It has therefore created the Terrorist Intelligence Unit within its police department, headed by Detective Sergeant Peter Caram, to gather information about terrorist groups and assess the vulnerability of its numerous facilities to attack. On this day, Caram writes a memo to the assistant superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department, reporting that the FBI has uncovered a terrorist threat: Two supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini are allegedly planning to bomb the WTC in the near future. Although the attack never occurs, this is the first of numerous occasions during the 1980s where the WTC is considered a potential target for a terrorist attack. [Caram, 2001, pp. 4-5; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Peter Caram

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Invesigators remove boxes of evidence from El Sayyid Nosair’s residence hours after the assassination.Invesigators remove boxes of evidence from El Sayyid Nosair’s residence hours after the assassination. [Source: National Geographic]US government agencies cover up evidence of a conspiracy in the wake of El Sayyid Nosair’s assassination of controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane (see November 5, 1990). Nosair is captured a few blocks from the murder site after a police shoot-out. An FBI informant says he saw Nosair meeting with Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman a few days before the attack, and evidence indicating a wider plot with additional targets is quickly found. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993] Later that night, police arrive at Nosair’s house and find a pair of Middle Eastern men named Mahmud Abouhalima and Mohammed Salameh there. They are taken in for questioning. Additionally, police collect a total of 47 boxes of evidence from Nosair’s house, including: [Lance, 2003, pp. 34-35]
bullet Thousands of rounds of ammunition.
bullet Maps and drawings of New York City landmarks, including the World Trade Center.
bullet Documents in Arabic containing bomb making formulas, details of an Islamic militant cell, and mentions of the term “al-Qaeda.”
bullet Recorded sermons by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in which he encourages his followers to “destroy the edifices of capitalism” and destroy “the enemies of Allah” by “destroying their… high world buildings.”
bullet Tape-recorded phone conversations of Nosair reporting to Abdul-Rahman about paramilitary training, and even discussing bomb-making manuals.
bullet Videotaped talks that Ali Mohamed delivered at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
bullet Top secret manuals also from Fort Bragg. There are even classified documents belonging to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Army’s Central Command. These manuals and documents had clearly come from Mohamed, who completed military service at Fort Bragg the year before and frequently stayed in Nosair’s house.
bullet A detailed and top secret plan for Operation Bright Star, a special operations training exercise simulating an attack on Baluchistan, a part of Pakistan between Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea. [Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001; Raleigh News and Observer, 11/13/2001; Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001; ABC News, 8/16/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 34-35]
bullet Also within hours, two investigators will connect Nosair with surveillance photographs of Mohamed giving weapons training to Nosair, Abouhalima, Salameh, and others at a shooting range the year before (see July 1989). [Lance, 2003, pp. 34-35] But, ignoring all of this evidence, still later that evening, Joseph Borelli, the New York police department’s chief detective, will publicly declare the assassination the work of a “lone deranged gunman.” He will further state, “I’m strongly convinced that he acted alone.… He didn’t seem to be part of a conspiracy or any terrorist organization.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later conclude, “The [New York Police Department] and the District Attorney’s office… reportedly wanted the appearance of speedy justice and a quick resolution to a volatile situation. By arresting Nosair, they felt they had accomplished both.” [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; Lance, 2003, pp. 34-36] Abouhalima and Salameh are released, only to be later convicted for participating in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Investigators will later find in Nosair’s possessions a formula for a bomb almost identical to one used in the WTC bombing. [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995] As one FBI agent will later put it, “The fact is that in 1990, myself and my detectives, we had in our office in handcuffs, the people who blew up the World Trade Center in ‘93. We were told to release them.” The 47 boxes of evidence collected at Nosair’s house that evening are stored away, inaccessible to prosecutors and investigators. The documents found will not be translated until after the World Trade Center bombing. Nosair will later be acquitted of Kahane’s murder (though he will be convicted of lesser charges), as investigators will continue to ignore all evidence that could suggest Nosair did not act alone (see December 7, 1991). [ABC News, 8/16/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 34-37] District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who prosecuted the case, will later speculate the CIA may have encouraged the FBI not to pursue any other leads. Nosair worked at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center which was closely tied to covert CIA operations in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s and After). [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995]

Entity Tags: Joseph Borelli, Mahmud Abouhalima, Meir Kahane, Federal Bureau of Investigation, El Sayyid Nosair, Al-Qaeda, Ali Mohamed, Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Morgenthau, Mohammed Salameh, Al-Kifah Refugee Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Nelson DeMille.Nelson DeMille. [Source: Sandy DeMille]Members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) tell a best-selling author that they believe the next terrorist attack in the United States will involve suicide pilots deliberately flying planes into the World Trade Center. [Demille, 2010, pp. xii; Connecticut Post, 8/3/2010] The New York JTTF has exclusive jurisdiction over local terrorism investigations. [City Journal, 10/2001] It has over 140 members, including personnel from the FBI, the New York City Police Department, the Port Authority Police Department, the Secret Service, and the CIA. The task force is “on the forefront of the war against terrorism,” according to the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. [FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 3/1/1999; Washington Post, 10/23/2002] Thriller writer Nelson DeMille interviews some of its members while carrying out research for his novel The Lion’s Game, which he writes in 1999 and is published in January 2000. [Demille, 2010, pp. xi-xii; Al-Masry Al-Youm, 4/27/2010]
Author Told that 'Suicide Pilots' Will Fly Learjets into the WTC - DeMille will later recall that while he is at 26 Federal Plaza, where the New York JTTF is located, “Just in passing we were talking about the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center” (see February 26, 1993). DeMille wonders if there will be another terrorist attack in the United States. He asks the JTTF personnel: “What do you think the next attack would be? Will there be another attack?” They reply: “Yeah. It’s gonna be the World Trade Center again. They missed it.” [Sirius XM Book Radio, 6/16/2010] (Presumably, when the JTTF personnel say, “They missed it,” they mean that the terrorists failed to cause the WTC to collapse when they bombed it in 1993.) DeMille then asks, “What’s gonna happen?” The JTTF personnel say the next attack will involve “two or three or four Learjets, private jets full of aviation fuel and explosives, flying into the towers.” [WOR, 6/14/2010] The planes, they say, will be “flown into the North and South Towers of the Trade Center” by “suicide pilots.” [Demille, 2010, pp. xii; Connecticut Post, 8/3/2010] The suicide pilots will be “guys who know how to fly and not [how] to land” a plane. [New York Daily News, 9/11/2011]
Terrorists Will Want to Cause 'Maximum Death' - DeMille asks the JTTF personnel why they think the terrorists will specifically target the WTC again. He says: “Why not any other iconic landmark? Why not the Empire State Building?” They tell him it is because the terrorists will be “looking for maximum death.” [WOR, 6/14/2010] This discussion, according to DeMille, takes place “almost two years before the actual events of September 11, 2001.” [Demille, 2010, pp. xii]
JTTF Knows about Arabs Learning to Fly in the US - DeMille will tell the New York Times that the members of the New York JTTF “were all obsessed with the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, and they were convinced we’d be attacked again.” [New York Times, 11/9/2006] He will say that JTTF personnel “knew” the target of the next terrorist attack in the US would be the WTC. “They were pretty, pretty definite about that,” he will add. [WOR, 6/14/2010] They also “knew that Arabs were training in the United States to fly small planes,” according to DeMille. [Newsweek, 1/23/2002]
JTTF Has 'Foreknowledge' or 'Forethought' of 9/11 - DeMille will write that because of what he is told by the JTTF personnel: “[W]hen the events of the morning of September 11, 2001, unfolded, I was not taken completely unaware. And neither were the people who had spent years investigating terrorist threats to this country.” [Demille, 2010, pp. xii] He will note that the JTTF personnel he talks to are “close to right” about the nature of the next attack in the US. He will say, “They knew the target and they knew the method” the terrorists would use. [Sirius XM Book Radio, 6/16/2010] DeMille will also say that when he sees the attacks on the WTC on September 11, he finds it “just chilling to think that [members of the JTTF] had some, if not foreknowledge, at least some forethought of this.” [77WABC, 5/22/2010] Radio host Glenn Beck will comment that what the JTTF personnel tell DeMille shows that the US government “knew specifically” what the 9/11 attacks would involve. [Premiere Radio Networks, 6/9/2010]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nelson DeMille, New York City Police Department, Glenn Beck, Port Authority Police Department, US Secret Service, New York Joint Terrorism Task Force

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

May 2001: Iranian Tells of Plot to Attack WTC

An Iranian in custody in New York City tells local police of a plot to attack the WTC. No more details are known. [Fox News, 5/17/2002] Interestingly, an Iranian in prison in Germany will also warn of an attack on the WTC (see Early September 2001), but it is not known if the two cases are related.

Entity Tags: World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An Iranian man known as Ali S. in a German jail awaiting deportation repeatedly phones US law enforcement to warn of an imminent attack on the WTC in early September. He calls it “an attack that will change the world.” After a month of badgering his prison guards, he is finally able to call the White House 14 times in the days before the attack. He then tries to send a fax to President Bush, but is denied permission hours before the 9/11 attacks. German police later confirm the calls. Prosecutors later will say Ali had no foreknowledge and his forebodings were just a strange coincidence. They will say he is mentally unstable. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 9/13/2001; Ananova, 9/14/2001; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/16/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 9/17/2001]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Ali S., George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Billy Crystal.Billy Crystal. [Source: Evan Agostini / Associated Press]Filming was originally going to start on this day for a comedy movie called Till Death Do Us Part, which would feature a terrorist targeting New York and include a key scene set at the World Trade Center, but the film has been postponed and is going to be rewritten as a result of the 9/11 attacks. [Newsday, 9/13/2001; United Press International, 11/1/2001; Variety, 11/12/2001] Till Death Do Us Part, which is set to star the well-known actors Michael Douglas and Billy Crystal, “is about two fathers, soon to be related by their children’s marriage, who find themselves trying to foil a terrorist bent on creating havoc in New York City,” according to Newsday. The story includes a “significant scene” that takes place at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the WTC. [Newsday, 9/13/2001] The movie has “a big World Trade Center scene with terrorists,” Crystal has said. “Funny, but the whole story was about that,” he added. [United Press International, 11/1/2001] Till Death Do Us Part is supposed to be a remake of the 1979 movie The In-Laws, which was about a dentist and a CIA agent in South America. Its script was written by Nat Mauldin, who previously worked on the 1996 movie The Preacher’s Wife and the 1998 movie Dr. Dolittle. [Variety, 11/15/2000; Hollywood (.com), 5/8/2001] The decision to postpone work on Till Death Do Us Part was made the week after 9/11, because the movie’s plot concerned “New York, the World Trade Center, and terrorists,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/27/2001] After the film was put on hold, Douglas explained: “There are too many elements we just couldn’t live with since the terrorist attack. It’s going back to the drawing boards.” [Times of India, 9/26/2001] The movie will subsequently be rewritten. [Variety, 11/12/2001] It will be released in May 2003, but renamed The In-Laws and without Crystal starring in it. [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2003; CNN, 5/23/2003; Entertainment Weekly, 5/30/2003] Till Death Do Us Part is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following the 9/11 attacks (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001). [Newsday, 9/13/2001; ABC News, 9/25/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001]

Entity Tags: Michael Douglas, Billy Crystal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

American Medical News reports that doctors in New York City are still treating large numbers of patients for respiratory conditions stemming from the World Trade Center disaster. About one-third of all New York City firefighters have symptoms of what is now termed the “WTC cough,” typified by persistent dry unproductive coughs, wheezing, sinus irritation and shortness of breath. One-fifth of responding firefighters also complain of GERD (gastroentero reflux disease) which doctors believe may have been caused by ingesting the pulverized concrete and glass that was present in the World Trade Center dust. “What you inhale, you also swallow,” explains David J. Prezant, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the New York City Fire Department. “Your entire tongue was coated with this stuff.” Doctors believe these health problems were caused in part by the shortcomings of protective breathing masks, which are not supposed to be worn for days on end. [American Medical News, 11/26/2001; Newsday, 9/10/2002; Newsday, 9/30/2002]

Entity Tags: David J. Prezant

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

May 30, 2002: WTC Recovery Efforts End

Recovery efforts end at the World Trade Center site. [Associated Press, 5/31/2002]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

By this time, 358 New York City firefighters and paramedics are on sick leave or light-duty because they have the “World Trade Center cough” (see November 26, 2001). [Newsday, 9/10/2002]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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