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Context of 'September 6-10, 2001: Suspicious Trading on Stocks of Two Large WTC Tenants'

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’Blackout,’ by John J. Nance.’Blackout,’ by John J. Nance. [Source: Pan Books]Blackout, the new novel by aviation thriller writer John J. Nance, includes scenes which appear to predict aspects of the 9/11 attacks, such as a character suggesting the possibility of a Boeing 747 crashing into the World Trade Center because its pilots have been incapacitated by terrorists. [Nance, 2000, pp. 251, 320, 344-345; Associated Press, 8/24/2003] The novel’s storyline involves its two central characters, FBI agent Kat Bronsky and Washington Post reporter Robert MacCabe, investigating what has caused two American passenger jets to crash. It appears that terrorists are using a special ray gun stolen from the government to kill or blind pilots in midair, resulting in their planes crashing. [Publishers Weekly, 1/31/2000; Los Angeles Times, 4/16/2000]
FBI Agent Fears 747 Hitting WTC - In one scene, Bronsky explains to MacCabe her fear that the terrorists are “going to shoot down another airliner somewhere.” She says: “So who’s next? Are we going to get a seven-forty-seven impacting the World Trade Center in New York because the two pilots were neutralized on takeoff from Newark or Kennedy?” [Nance, 2000, pp. 319-320] Similar to this scenario, in the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the WTC will be hit by two Boeing 767s. [New York Times, 9/11/2001]
Agent Suggests Terrorists Profiting from Insider Trading - In a later scene, Bronsky suggests to MacCabe that the attacks against aircraft may be motivated by financial gain. She says: “How can you make lots of money from seriously undermining the airlines? How about selling their stock short or softening up the industry for financial takeovers?” She suggests the terrorists “may already be getting precisely what they want from collapsing airline market prices.” When asked if stock prices are down as a result of the plane crashes, Bronsky replies: “Big-time. As much as a 10 percent drop. If this continues, they’ll go into free fall.” [Nance, 2000, pp. 344-345] Similar to this scenario, evidence of possible insider trading will surface in the aftermath of 9/11, indicating that some people may have profited from having advance knowledge of the attacks. [CNN, 9/24/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 499] In the week before 9/11 there will be surges in the volume of put options, which pay off when a stock drops in price, purchased on the stocks of the parent companies of American Airlines and United Airlines, the airlines whose planes are targeted in the attacks (see September 6-10, 2001). [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/29/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 499] Also, in the month before 9/11 there will be a significant increase in short selling of stocks of those two companies, essentially betting that the value of the stocks will decrease (see Early September 2001). [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/24/2001] On the first day of trading following the attacks, the shares of the two companies will fall by 39 percent and 42 percent. [Associated Press, 9/18/2001]
Terrorist Has Name Similar to Alleged 9/11 Commander - Furthermore, one of the terrorists responsible for causing the plane crashes in Blackout is called “Ben Laren,” a name similar to (Osama) bin Laden, who allegedly orders the 9/11 attacks. [Nance, 2000, pp. 251]
Earlier Novel Described Plane Used as a Weapon - Nance, described by Publishers Weekly as “[a]rguably the king of the modern-day aviation thriller,” is a decorated Air Force pilot and a retired airline captain. He has extensive flying experience, having piloted jet aircraft including Boeing 727s, 737s, and 747s. He is also an internationally recognized analyst on matters of aviation safety and works for ABC News as an aviation consultant. [Publishers Weekly, 1/31/2000; Associated Press, 8/24/2003; ABC News, 1/6/2006] In his 1995 novel Pandora’s Clock, Nance in fact mentioned the possibility of a plane being used as a weapon by terrorists. In that novel, the deputy director of the CIA recalled an American-trained Iranian pilot, who is a member of a terrorist group, who had been caught “preparing to fly a MIG-29 fighter on a low-level suicide mission into Rome. His target had been the Vatican—and the Pope.” [Nance, 1995, pp. 144]

Entity Tags: John J. Nance

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Insider trading based on advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks may have begun on this date, if not earlier. Investigators later discover a large number of put option purchases (a speculation that the stock will go down) that expire on September 30 at the Chicago Board Options Exchange are bought on this date. If exercised, these options would have led to large profits. One analyst later says, “From what I’m hearing, it’s more than coincidence.” [Reuters, 9/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Chicago Board Options Exchange

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) later announces that they are investigating the trading of shares of 38 companies in the days just before 9/11. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the New York Stock Exchange sees “unusually heavy trading in airline and related stocks several days before the attacks.” All 38 companies logically stand to be heavily affected by the attacks. They include parent companies of major airlines American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Southwest, United, and US Airways as well as cruise lines Carnival and Royal Caribbean, aircraft maker Boeing and defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The SEC is also looking into suspicious short selling of numerous insurance company stocks, but, to date, no details of this investigation have been released. [Associated Press, 10/2/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/3/2001]

Entity Tags: US Securities and Exchange Commission, New York Stock Exchange

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Chicago Board Options Exchange sees suspicious trading on Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, two of the largest WTC tenants. In the first week of September, an average of 27 put option contracts in its shares are bought each day. Then the total for the three days before the attacks is 2,157. Merrill Lynch, another WTC tenant, see 12,215 put options bought between September 7-10, when the previous days had seen averages of 252 contracts a day. [Independent, 10/14/2001] Dylan Ratigan of Bloomberg Business News, speaking of the trading on Morgan Stanley and other companies, says, “This would be one of the most extraordinary coincidences in the history of mankind if it was a coincidence.” [ABC News, 9/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Morgan Stanley, World Trade Center, Dylan Ratigan, American Airlines, Chicago Board Options Exchange

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The trading ratio on United Airlines is 25 times greater than normal at the Pacific Exchange. Pacific Exchange officials later decline to state whether this abnormality is being investigated. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/19/2001]

Entity Tags: United Airlines, Pacific Exchange

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

$2.5 million in put options on American Airlines and United Airlines are reported unclaimed. This is likely the result of the suspension in trading on the New York Stock Exchange after the attacks which gave the SEC time to be waiting if the owners showed up to redeem their put options placed the week before the 9/11 attacks. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/29/2001]

Entity Tags: New York Stock Exchange, American Airlines, United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Subash Gurung.Subash Gurung. [Source: CNN/Courtesy WLS-TV]A young Nepalese man named Subash Gurung is arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare airport trying to board a United Airlines flight to Omaha with numerous knives, a can of mace, and a stun gun. He is in the US on an expired student visa. He is unemployed at the time of his arrest. Gurung claims that he was in a hurry and was unaware of the knives and other items in his luggage. But CNN reports that Gurung gave as his address an apartment building in Chicago that was also used by one of two terror suspects arrested on September 12, 2001 (see September 19, 2001 and After and October 20, 2001). This individual, Ayub Ali Khan (whose real name is apparently Syed Gul Mohammad Shah), lived in New Jersey but also used a Chicago address. A CNN government source says “many phone calls were made to and from that apartment, and credit card bills were paid from that address.” After being released by local police on bond, Gurung will be re-arrested the following day by the FBI for a weapons violation. Despite the apparent link to Ayub Ali Khan, the FBI denies any terror connection: “There is no allegation that this incident involves any suspected terrorist activity.” [CNN, 11/5/2001; CNN, 11/6/2001] Gurung will be convicted of a weapons charge in October 2002, and then deported. [New York Times, 10/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Subash Gurung, Syed Gul Mohammad Shah, Mohammed Azmath

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Jay Hallen, a 24-year old Yale graduate, is bored with his job at a real-estate firm. He is fascinated with the Middle East, and has taken some Arabic classes and read some history books about the region. He contacts Reuben Jeffrey, an adviser to CPA head L. Paul Bremer whom Hallen had met in 2002 when trying to land a job at the White House, and asks if there is a job for him in Baghdad.
'I Don't Have a Finance Background' - Three weeks later, Hallen is in Baghdad, and meets with Thomas Foley, the CPA official in charge of privatizing Iraq’s state-owned enterprises. Foley, a former classmate of President Bush and a major Republican donor, says he is putting Hallen in charge of Baghdad’s stock exchange. Hallen is shocked. “Are you sure?” Hallen asks. “I don’t have a finance background.” No problem, Foley responds. He will be the project manager; his subordinates will do the actual work. Before the invasion, Baghdad’s stock exchange was primitive by American standards; author Rajiv Chandrasekaran will describe it as loud, boisterous, and, despite all appearances, quite functional. After the invasion it was looted to the bare walls and ignored by the first wave of US economic reconstruction specialists. But Iraqi brokers and businessmen want it reopened, so the CPA acquiesces.
Revamping the Exchange - Hallen launches an ambitious, if almost entirely ignorant, plan to modernize and upgrade the stock exchange to make it the most technologically sophisticated exchange in the Arab world. He also wants to implement a new securities law that would make the exchange independent of the Finance Ministry. The Iraqi brokers and businessmen who clamored for the exchange to reopen are horrified at Hallen’s plans. “People are broke and bewildered,” broker Talib Tabatabai—a graduate of Florida State’s business department—tells Hallen. “Why do you want to create enemies? Let us open the way we were.” Tabatabai, like other brokers, believes Hallen’s plan is ludicrously grandiose. “It was something so fancy, so great, that it couldn’t be accomplished,” he will later recall. But Hallen is unmoved.
Hallen's View - “Their laws and regulations were completely out of step with the modern world,” Hallen will later say. “There was just no transparency in anything. It was more of a place for Saddam and his friends to buy up private companies that they otherwise didn’t have a stake in.” To just reopen the exchange the way it was, Hallen will insist, “would have been irresponsible and short-sighted.” Hallen recruits a team of American volunteers, most with no more experience or knowledge of finance than he has, to rewrite the securities laws, train the brokers, and purchase the necessary computers. By the spring of 2004, CPA head Bremer approves the new laws and appoints nine Iraqis hand-picked by Hallen to become the exchange’s board of governors.
No CPA Role - The new exchange board names Tabatabai as its chairman. The new laws have no place for a CPA adviser as a decision-maker; immediately a conflict between Hallen and the board arises. Hallen wants to wait several more months for the new computer system to arrive and be installed; unwilling to wait, Tabatabai and the board members buy dozens of dry-erase boards for the exchange floor, and two days after Hallen’s tour ends, the exchange is open for business. Without CPA oversight, the exchange quickly begins functioning more or less as it did before the invasion. When asked what would have happened had Hallen not been assigned to reopen the exchange, Tabatabai will answer: “We would have opened months earlier. He had grand ideas, but those ideas did not materialize.… Those CPA people reminded me of Lawrence of Arabia.” [Washington Post, 9/17/2006]

Entity Tags: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Reuben Jeffrey, Talib Tabatabai, Thomas Foley, Iraq Finance Ministry, Coalition Provisional Authority, Jay Hallen, L. Paul Bremer

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Slate reports that two years after the 9/11 attacks, neither the Chicago Board Options Exchange nor the Securities and Exchange Commission will make any comment about their investigations into insider trading before 9/11. “Neither has announced any conclusion. The SEC has not filed any complaint alleging illegal activity, nor has the Justice Department announced any investigation or prosecution.… So, unless the SEC decides to file a complaint—unlikely at this late stage—we may never know what they learned about terror trading.” [Slate, 9/10/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, US Securities and Exchange Commission, Chicago Board Options Exchange

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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