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Context of 'June 2001: US Intelligence Warns of Spectacular Attacks by Al-Qaeda Associates'

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US intelligence issues a terrorist threat advisory, warning US government agencies that there is a high probability of an imminent attack against US interests: “Sunni extremists associated with al-Qaeda are most likely to attempt spectacular attacks resulting in numerous casualties.” The advisory mentions the Arabian Peninsula, Israel, and Italy as possible targets for an attack. Afterwards, intelligence information provided to senior US leaders continues to indicate that al-Qaeda expects near-term attacks to have dramatic consequences on governments or cause major casualties. [US Congress, 9/18/2002]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) with the title “Bin Laden Attacks May Be Imminent” is sent to top White House officials. The details of this brief are not known. It is probable President Bush received this warning since SEIBs are usually rehashes of the previous days’ President Daily Briefing (see January 20-September 10, 2001). Also on this day a CIA cable is distributed with the title, “Possible Threat of Imminent Attack from Sunni Extremists.” The cable warns that there is a high probability of near-term “spectacular” terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 256, 534]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, George W. Bush, White House, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

CIA Director Tenet writes an intelligence summary for National Security Adviser Rice: “It is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.” A highly classified analysis at this time adds, “Most of the al-Qaeda network is anticipating an attack. Al-Qaeda’s overt publicity has also raised expectations among its rank and file, and its donors.” [Washington Post, 5/17/2002] The same day, Tenet is briefed by another CIA official that bin Laden “will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests” (see June 28, 2001). [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Apparently, these warnings are partly based on a warning given by al-Qaeda leaders to a reporter a few days earlier (see June 21, 2001). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke also later asserts that Tenet tells him around this time, “It’s my sixth sense, but I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 235]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Bush administration (43), Al-Qaeda, Condoleezza Rice, George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Sir Stephen Lander.Sir Stephen Lander. [Source: Public domain]According to an officially authorized book on the MI5 published in 2009, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, warns top British leaders that a surge in the number of reports of threat information is “sufficient to conclude that [Osama bin Laden] and those that share his agenda are currently well advanced in operational planning for a number of major attacks on Western interests.” Similar MI5 warnings about an imminent attack will continue up until 9/11, including one put out on the morning of 9/11. However, apparently none of these suggest a major attack in the US or an attack using hijacked airplanes. MI6 is Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, and presumably most information about al-Qaeda and attack threats would come from it and not MI5. In fact, MI5 appears to be much less aware of al-Qaeda at this time. Sir Stephen Lander, director general of MI5 from 1996 to 2002, will later say that MI5 was “slow to get going” on the al-Qaeda threat because it was preoccupied with the IRA, and after 9/11 it had a “major set to, sitting around a board room table working out how to move on.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/5/2009] This warning appears similar, but not identical, to a warning 10 days later that is an analysis involving all British intelligence agencies (see July 16, 2001).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Stephen Lander, UK Security Service (MI5)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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