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Context of 'September 10, 2001: US Generals Warned Not to Fly on Morning of 9/11'

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According to a Newsweek report on September 13, “[t]he state of alert had been high during the past two weeks, and a particularly urgent warning may have been received the night before the attacks, causing some top Pentagon brass to cancel a trip. Why that same information was not available to the 266 people who died aboard the four hijacked commercial aircraft may become a hot topic on the Hill.” [Newsweek, 9/13/2001] Far from becoming a hot topic, the only additional media mention of this story will be in the next issue of Newsweek: “a group of top Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns.” [Newsweek, 9/24/2001]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On the morning of September 11, 2001, just hours before the 9/11 attacks begin, the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, reports a front page story entitled “Air-Travel Ban Keeps Rushdie Out of Canada.” The story notes that author Salman Rushdie was not allowed on an Air Canada flight into Canada on September 7, 2001, and he canceled a planned Canadian trip as a result. The article correctly notes that on September 6, the FAA “issued an emergency directive banning Mr. Rushdie from all flights in and out of the United States, reflecting a heightened state of alert” (see September 6, 2001). Rushdie is also having trouble flying inside the US because of the restrictions and one US flight he had recently scheduled had been canceled. The article says the FAA will not explain why the directive about Rushdie had been issued. [Globe and Mail, 9/11/2001] But the Daily Mail will later report that the CIA gave the FAA warning of a spectacular and imminent Muslim fundamentalist attack and the FAA incorrectly guessed this had to do with Rushdie traveling on a book tour (see Shortly Before September 6, 2001). Rushdie had been the subject of an Iranian fatwa (death threat) until it was lifted in 1998. He was in Houston, Texas, for a book reading as part of a North American book tour and planned to fly to Minneapolis on 9/11. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/23/2001] This news report about the FAA’s heightened state of alert is only reported in the Globe and Mail before the 9/11 attacks begin. A search of the Lexis Nexus database shows articles about it in just six news sources in the weeks after the attacks. [United Press International, 9/11/2001; New York Post, 9/21/2001; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/23/2001; London Times, 9/27/2001; Ananova, 9/27/2001; Daily Mail, 10/7/2001]

Entity Tags: Salman Rushdie, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A short pre-recorded statement is broadcast on television, in which President Bush tells the nation that all appropriate security measures are being taken, and he assures people that “the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” [CNN, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 117] The 219-word statement, lasting two minutes, was recorded about half an hour ago in a conference room at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19]
Bush Says US Will Find and Punish Terrorists - Bush begins: “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by faceless cowards. And freedom will be defended.” He continues: “Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” He reassures the public that he has been in contact with his colleagues in Washington, DC, and they “have taken all appropriate security precautions to protect the American people. Our military at home and around the world is on high alert status, and we have taken the necessary security precautions to continue the functions of your government.” He says, “[W]e will do whatever is necessary to protect America and Americans.” He concludes his statement, saying: “The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake: We will show the world that we will pass this test. God bless.” [CNN, 9/11/2001; White House, 9/11/2001]
Bush Remains at Base after Speech Is Broadcast - After the president’s statement was recorded, Rich Del Haya, a military public relations officer at Barksdale, brought the videotape of it to a TV satellite truck outside the base. A technician there put the tape into a deck to be broadcast. However, the uplink failed twice. Finally, the third broadcast goes out to American TV screens. TV anchors emphasize that the president’s remarks are recorded, not live. “The implication,” journalist and author Bill Sammon will later write, “was that the White House had purposely delayed the airing of the tape in order to get a head start on the president’s next secret destination.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117; Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] The 9/11 Commission Report will similarly state that “for security reasons,” Bush’s statement “was taped and not broadcast live.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] But according to Sammon: “[T]he tape delay had been a function of mere logistics—there were no cables available at Barksdale for a live feed on such short notice. In fact, Bush remained at Barksdale more than half an hour after his taped speech was aired.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117]
Bush's Delivery of Statement Is 'Not Reassuring' - Some commentators will later be critical of Bush’s performance in delivering his statement. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will write: “The president’s eyes were red-rimmed when he walked in. His performance was not reassuring. He spoke haltingly, mispronouncing several words as he looked down at his notes.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] Howard Fineman of Newsweek will call the speech “the low point” in the president’s war on terrorism. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 116] Bush will comment that the “sentiment” of his speech “was right, but the setting—a sterile conference room at a military base in Louisiana—did not inspire much confidence.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133]

Entity Tags: Howard Fineman, George W. Bush, Bob Woodward

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The New York Post has a banner headline on May 16, 2002.The New York Post has a banner headline on May 16, 2002. [Source: New York Post]The Bush administration is embarrassed when the CBS Evening News reveals that President Bush had been warned about al-Qaeda domestic attacks in August 2001 (see August 6, 2001). [New York Times, 5/15/2002; Washington Post, 5/16/2002] CBS’s David Martin reports: “The president’s daily intelligence brief is delivered to the president each morning, often by the director of central intelligence himself. In the weeks before 9/11 it warned that an attack by Osama bin Laden could involve the hijacking of a US aircraft.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 113] Bush had repeatedly said that he had “no warning” of any kind. Press secretary Ari Fleischer states unequivocally that while Bush had been warned of possible hijackings, “[t]he president did not—not—receive information about the use of airplanes as missiles by suicide bombers.” [New York Times, 5/15/2002; Washington Post, 5/16/2002] “Until the attack took place, I think it’s fair to say that no one envisioned that as a possibility.” [MSNBC, 9/18/2002] Fleischer claims the August memo was titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike the US,” but the real title is soon found to end with “Strike in US” [Washington Post, 5/18/2002] The Guardian will state a few days later, “[T]he memo left little doubt that the hijacked airliners were intended for use as missiles and that intended targets were to be inside the US.” It further states that, “now, as the columnist Joe Conason points out in the current edition of the New York Observer, ‘conspiracy’ begins to take over from ‘incompetence’ as a likely explanation for the failure to heed—and then inform the public about—warnings that might have averted the worst disaster in the nation’s history.” [Guardian, 5/19/2002] Current deputy press secretary Scott McClellan will point out in 2008: “The [CBS] report left much open to question. Was it suggesting that the president had received info that should have led him to act? Was it just a possible warning sign, like many others that may have gone unheeded? Or was it something else, possibly a nonspecific bit of intelligence from years earlier?” McClellan will write that the uncertainty “mattered little to Democratic leaders in Congress. They saw an opportunity to attack the president’s strong suit—his leadership in the war on terrorism—and cut into his enormous popularity ahead of the midterm elections that coming November.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 113]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), David Martin, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, Scott McClellan, Ari Fleischer, Joe Conason

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the first half of September 2002, a secret report compiled by the CIA, State Department, FBI, NSA, and other US agencies lists six likely bomb targets in Indonesia, including two Bali nightclubs (the Sahid Bali Seaside Resort and the Hard Rock Hotel) that are just a short distance away from the two nightclubs that will ultimately be attacked one month later (see October 12, 2002). The CIA passes the report to its stations in Southeast Asia, alerting them to an imminent attack. The information is at least partially based on the interrogation of al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, who revealed that al-Qaeda is planning an attack on nightclubs and restaurants in Southeast Asia, particularly in Bali (see August 21, 2002). [Guardian, 10/17/2002; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 6/26/2003] On September 26, 2002, the US embassy in Indonesia issues a public warning that states, “Americans and Westerners should avoid large gatherings, and locations known to cater primarily to a Western clientele such as certain bars, restaurants and tourist areas.” However, the US State Department does not issue any travel warning for Indonesia, and other governments such as Australia do not issue any warnings. There also is no evidence that the owners of Bali nightclubs are given any warnings. [Sydney Morning Herald, 10/10/2003] A US intelligence source will later tell the Guardian, “The State Department didn’t act on [the early September warning] and it’s become a bubbling scandal.” The Guardian will say shortly after the October 2002 Bali bombings that the warning has “fueled a growing row” in the US, Britain, and Australia “over whether Indonesia could have acted sooner against Islamist militants or whether tourists could have been given more warning of the dangers of traveling to resorts like Bali.” [Guardian, 10/17/2002] The Sydney Morning Herald will conclude in 2003 that it is now “impossible for anyone to believe that Mohammed Mansour Jabarah’s interrogation did not result in the US learning of JI’s plan for a terrorist attack in Bali.” Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will later call Jabarah’s warning “stunningly explicit and specific.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 10/10/2003]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of State, Jemaah Islamiyah, National Security Agency, Richard Armitage

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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