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Context of '(After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001: CIA Receives Passenger Lists From Hijacked Planes After Initial Problems'

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CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. [Source: GlobeXplorer]A fire lasting several hours leads to the forced evacuation of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. [Reuters, 8/8/2001] The fire is discovered on August 7 at around 5:45 p.m., in the northeast section of the agency’s older headquarters building, and more than 60 firefighters are involved in putting it out. It was reportedly caused by a workman at the top of an elevator shaft dropping a welder, which ignited wood at the bottom of the shaft. Both the older headquarters building and the agency’s new headquarters building nearby are evacuated. Following this fire, A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard—the executive director of the CIA since March this year—is dismayed to find that plans for an evacuation of the headquarters are patchy, and that some of the fire alarms do not work. In the ensuing month he therefore initiates regular fire drills and equips key agency officials with tiny walkie-talkies, meaning communication will still be possible should cell phones ever go out. Krongard declares that evacuating safely is to be more important than storing classified material, and has the agency’s computer network reprogrammed so an evacuation warning could be flashed on all computer screens. Journalist and author Ronald Kessler will describe the August 7 fire as being “fortuitous,” as little over a month later, on the morning of September 11, CIA Director George Tenet will order the evacuation of the headquarters building due to fears that it might be targeted (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). On that day, Tenet and other top officials will reconvene at an alternate location on the CIA campus, “[f]ollowing procedures laid out by Krongard after the fire.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 3/16/2001; Associated Press, 8/7/2001; Washington Post, 8/8/2001; Kessler, 2003, pp. 222-223]

Entity Tags: A.B. (“Buzzy”) Krongard, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael Woodward, a manager at the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston, instructs a colleague to find out the details of three hijackers on Flight 11, based on their seat numbers, but it is unclear whether his colleague is then able to identify the hijackers. [ABC News, 7/18/2002; New York Observer, 2/15/2004] Since 8:32 a.m., Woodward has been on the phone with Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, who has been describing to him the trouble on her plane (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11] During the call, she says that the men who hijacked her plane were in seats 9D, 9G, and 10B. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file] According to the New York Observer, Woodward then orders a colleague “to punch up those seat locations on the computer.” [New York Observer, 2/15/2004] This enables airline personnel “to pull up [the hijackers’] names, phone numbers, addresses—and even credit card numbers—on the reservations computer,” according to ABC News. ABC News will add, “One of the names that came up was Mohamed Atta,” the name of the lead hijacker. [ABC News, 7/18/2002] However, apart from 10B—the number of the seat belonging to Satam Al Suqami—the seat numbers provided by Sweeney are different to the numbers of the seats assigned to the hijackers. The five hijackers on Flight 11 were in seats 2A, 2B, 8D, 8G, and 10B, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. Atta was in seat 8D—not one of the seats mentioned by Sweeney. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2] It is therefore unclear whether American Airlines is able to determine the identities of any of the hijackers, other than, presumably, Al Suqami, at this time. Evelyn Nunez, a passenger service agent at the American Airlines flight services office, was provided with the seat number of Al Suqami, but none of the other hijackers, when she talked with Sweeney in an earlier call, at 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). By running a computer check, she was able to determine Al Suqami’s identity from this number. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58] Nancy Wyatt, another employee in the flight services office, will pass on the three hijackers’ seat numbers provided by Sweeney to the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, when she calls it at 8:40 a.m. (see 8:40 a.m.-8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14]

Entity Tags: Michael Woodward, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

CIA Director George Tenet has just learned of the first attack on the WTC while having breakfast with former Senator David Boren (D-OK) at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. He later says, “It was obvious to us both that I had to leave immediately.” Along with Tim Ward, the head of his security detail, he gets into his car and, with lights flashing, hurries back to the CIA headquarters in Langley. Tenet later recalls that in these first minutes after the attack, “All the random dots we had been looking at started to fit into a pattern.… [M]y head was exploding with connections. I immediately thought about the ‘Bojinka’ plot to blow up twelve US airliners over the Pacific and a subsequent plan to fly a small airplane into CIA headquarters, which was broken up in 1994.” During his journey, he calls John Moseman, his chief of staff, and instructs him to assemble the senior CIA staff and key people from the Counterterrorist Center in the conference room next to his office. However, Tenet claims, it is difficult for him to get calls through on the secure phone, meaning he is “Essentially… in a communications blackout between the St. Regis and Langley, the longest twelve minutes of my life.” He only learns that a second plane hit the World Trade Center when he arrives at CIA headquarters. Tenet enters the conference room at around 9:15 a.m. By that time, he says, “I don’t think there was a person in the room who had the least doubt that we were in the middle of a full-scale assault orchestrated by al-Qaeda.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 161-163]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

By 9:50 a.m., CIA Director George Tenet is in his office on the seventh floor of the agency’s Langley headquarters. He later describes: “[E]veryone was wondering, what next? Reports came in of several airplanes that were not responding to communications from the ground and perhaps heading toward Washington. Several [Counterterrorist Center] officers reminded us that al-Qaeda members had once discussed flying an airplane into CIA headquarters, the top floor of which we were presently occupying.” Tenet himself later recalls that, in the minutes after he’d learned of the first attack, he’d “thought about the ‘Bojinka’ plot to blow up twelve US airliners over the Pacific and a subsequent plan to fly a small airplane into CIA headquarters” (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 7-8; Tenet, 2007, pp. 162 and 164] According to CIA contractor Billy Waugh, people at the headquarters are aware that Flight 93 is currently unaccounted for, and it is “a widespread assumption within the building that this flight [is] headed straight for us in the CIA headquarters” (see (Before 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 293-294] Tenet asks Mike Hohlfelder, the chief of his security detail, for his recommendation, and is advised, “Let’s evacuate.” Though he later claims he was “reluctant” about this, Tenet tells his senior leadership: “We have to save our people. We have to evacuate the building.” Therefore, at about 10 a.m., the word goes out for a large number of the CIA’s thousands of employees to go home. Initially, the senior leadership team moves from Tenet’s seventh-floor conference room to another room on the first floor, but it then exits the headquarters building and heads across the campus to the CIA’s printing plant, where a crude operational capability has been set up. However, due to the objections of CIA counterterrorism chief Cofer Black, those in the Counterterrorist Center and the Global Response Center are allowed to stay in place in the headquarters (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Tenet and his staff will leave the printing plant and return to the headquarters at around 1 p.m., by which time they will consider the danger to be over. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 8-9; Tenet, 2007, pp. 164-165 and 168] The CIA headquarters evacuation is aided by the fact that a fire had occurred there just over a month earlier. Consequently, new evacuation procedures had been laid out, which Tenet follows on this day (see August 7-September 10, 2001). [Kessler, 2003, pp. 222-223]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Hohlfelder, Billy Waugh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told in private by Dale Watson, the head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division: “We got the passenger manifests from the airlines. We recognize some names, Dick. They’re al-Qaeda.” Clarke asks, “How the f_ck did they get on board then?” Watson replies: “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, friend. CIA forgot to tell us about them.” As they are talking about this, they see the first WTC tower collapse on television. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 13-14] Some hijacker names, including Mohamed Atta’s, were identified on a reservations computer over an hour earlier (see (Shortly After 8:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Counterterrorism Division (FBI), Dale Watson, Mohamed Atta, Al-Qaeda, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Counterterrorist Center logo.Counterterrorist Center logo. [Source: CIA]At around 10 a.m., following reports that several aircraft were not responding to communications and could be heading toward Washington, CIA Director George Tenet orders the evacuation of the CIA headquarters building in Langley, Virginia (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, Cofer Black, the director of the Counterterrorist Center (CTC), is unhappy about this and tells Tenet, “Sir, we’re going to have to exempt CTC from this because we need to have our people working the computers.” The CTC, according to the Los Angeles Times, is “the nerve center for the CIA’s effort to disrupt and deter terrorist groups and their state sponsors.” About 200 employees are currently working in it. Eight of them are in the Global Response Center on the sixth floor of the building, monitoring the latest intelligence on terrorism throughout the world. The rest are in a windowless facility low down in the building. When Tenet points out that the Global Response Center staff will be at risk, Black responds, “They have the key function to play in a crisis like this. This is exactly why we have the Global Response Center.” When Tenet points out, “They could die,” Black replies, “Well, sir, then they’re just going to have to die.” After pausing, Tenet agrees, “You’re absolutely right.” Tenet later says, “Now that we were under attack, the Counterterrorist Center, with its vast data banks and sophisticated communications systems, was more vital than ever. Even as we were discussing going or staying, CTC was sending out a global alert to our stations around the world, ordering them to go to their liaison services and agents to collect every shred of information they could lay their hands on.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/12/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 8-9; Tenet, 2007, pp. 164-165]

Entity Tags: Counterterrorist Center, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Cofer Black

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Shortly after arriving at Washington’s Dulles Airport, from which Flight 77 took off, the FBI confiscates a security tape from a checkpoint through which the hijackers passed before boarding the plane. Airport security manager Ed Nelson will later say: “They pulled the tape right away.… They brought me to look at it. They went right to the first hijacker on the tape and identified him. They knew who the hijackers were out of hundreds of people going through the checkpoints. They would go ‘roll and stop it’ and showed me each of the hijackers.… It boggles my mind that they had already had the hijackers identified.… Both metal detectors were open at that time, and lots of traffic was moving through. So picking people out is hard.… I wanted to know how they had that kind of information. So fast. It didn’t make sense to me.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 37] Some of the hijackers are identified on the passenger manifests around this time (see (9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and this knowledge is disseminated in the US intelligence community (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Ed Nelson, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At some unspecified time after when Flight 93 crashed, CIA Director George Tenet receives the passenger lists for the hijacked planes. He is currently in the CIA’s printing plant, after having evacuated the agency’s headquarters building (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). An analyst from the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) has raced across to the plant with the list, and says, “Some of these guys on one of the planes are the ones we’ve been looking for in the last few weeks.” He specifically points at the names Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi (two of the alleged Flight 77 hijackers). According to Tenet, this is “the first time we had absolute proof of what I had been virtually certain of from the moment I heard about the attacks: we were in the middle of an al-Qaeda plot.” Tenet will later say that after the CTC had first “requested passenger lists from the planes that had been turned into weapons that morning… the initial response from some parts of the bureaucracy (which parts since mercifully forgotten) was that the manifests could not be shared with CIA. There were privacy issues involved.” They were only obtained after some “gentle reasoning, and a few four-letter words.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 167] The agency that provided these lists to the CTC may have been the Customs Office of Intelligence. According to Robert Bonner, the commissioner-designate of US Customs, “through an evaluation of data related to the passengers manifest for the four terrorist hijacked aircraft, Customs Office of Intelligence was able to identify the likely terrorist hijackers. Within 45 minutes of the attacks, Customs forwarded the passenger lists with the names of the victims and 19 probable hijackers to the FBI and the intelligence community” (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will claim he was told as early as 9:59 a.m. that the FBI had received the passenger manifests from the airlines (see (9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 13-14]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mike Morell, President Bush’s CIA briefer, speaks to Cofer Black, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, who can provide him with little more information about the attacks on the US than is generally known. Morell, who is with the president on Air Force One, has just spoken to Bush, who asked him to call CIA Director George Tenet and tell him to inform the president immediately when the CIA has any definitive information about the perpetrators of today’s attacks (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Morell now sits down in the staff section of the plane, picks up the phone by his seat, and calls Tenet’s office at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. However, the headquarters is currently being evacuated (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so Tenet and his staff are in the process of relocating to a secure site. The secretary who answers Morell’s call says Tenet is unavailable and Morell instead has to talk to Black, the nearest senior official, after the secretary passes the phone to him. During their conversation, Black tells Morell what the CIA currently knows about the attacks on the US, which, Morell will later comment, “was little beyond what the rest of the world knew.” Morell then passes on the president’s request to be informed right away as soon as the CIA has information about who is responsible for the attacks and asks Black to share the request with Tenet. As he hangs up the phone, however, Morell is doubtful that his message will be passed on. “I was not confident [Tenet] would get the word, given the evacuation and given everything that would be asked of Black over the next few hours,” he will recall. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 52-53] Tenet will inform Bush, for the first time, that the CIA has linked al-Qaeda to the attacks during a video teleconference at around 3:15 p.m. this afternoon (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26-27; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326]

Entity Tags: Michael J. Morell, Cofer Black, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Robert Bonner, the head of Customs and Border Protection, later testifies, “We ran passenger manifests through the system used by Customs—two were hits on our watch list of August 2001.” (This is presumably a reference to hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, watch-listed on August 23, 2001.) “And by looking at the Arab names and their seat locations, ticket purchases and other passenger information, it didn’t take a lot to do a rudimentary link analysis. Customs officers were able to ID 19 probable hijackers within 45 minutes. I saw the sheet by 11 a.m. And that analysis did indeed correctly identify the terrorists.” [New York Observer, 2/15/2004] However, Bonner appears to be at least somewhat incorrect: for two days after the attacks (see September 13, 2001-September 14, 2001), the FBI believes there are only 18 hijackers, and the original list contains some erroneous Arab-sounding names on the flight manifests, such as Adnan Bukhari and Ameer Bukhari. [CNN, 9/13/2001] Some hijacker names, including Mohamed Atta’s, were identified on a reservations computer around 8:30 a.m. (see (Shortly After 8:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and Richard Clarke was told some of the names were al-Qaeda around 10:00 a.m. (see (9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001)

Entity Tags: Robert Bonner, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Adnan Bukhari, Ameer Bukhari

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

One day after 9/11, the New York Times will report that FBI agents in Florida investigating the hijackers quickly “descended on flight schools, neighborhoods and restaurants in pursuit of leads.” At one flight school, “students said investigators were there within hours of Tuesday’s attacks.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] Also on September 12, the Times will report, “Authorities said they had also identified accomplices in several cities who had helped plan and execute Tuesday’s attacks. Officials said they knew who these people were and important biographical details about many of them. They prepared biographies of each identified member of the hijack teams, and began tracing the recent movements of the men.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] In September 2002, 9/11 victim’s relative Kristen Breitweiser, testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, will cite these news reports and will ask, “How did the FBI know exactly where to go only a few hours after the attacks? How did they know which neighborhoods, which flight schools and which restaurants to investigate so soon in the case?… How are complete biographies of the terrorists, and their accomplices, created in such short time? Did our intelligence agencies already have open files on these men? Were they already investigating them? Could the attacks of September 11th been prevented?” [US Congress, 9/18/2002] In at least some cases, it appears that US intelligence did quickly access existing files on the hijackers. The Washington Post reports, “In the hours after Tuesday’s bombings, investigators searched their files on [Satam] Al Suqami and [Ahmed] Alghamdi, noted the pair’s ties to [Nabil] al-Marabh and launched a hunt for him.” A top Customs official claims that by checking flight manifests and comparing them with other information such as watch lists, he is able to determine the names of all 19 hijackers by 11:00 a.m.(see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ahmed Alghamdi, Satam Al Suqami, Kristen Breitweiser, Nabil al-Marabh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

None of the manifests for the hijacked flights have ever been released, except for this partially obscured page which appears in Terry McDermott’s 2005 book, Perfect Soldiers. McDermott has not explained how or where he got this document. Names of the five hijackers are highlighted.None of the manifests for the hijacked flights have ever been released, except for this partially obscured page which appears in Terry McDermott’s 2005 book, Perfect Soldiers. McDermott has not explained how or where he got this document. Names of the five hijackers are highlighted. [Source: Terry McDermott]On September 13, the FBI says there were 18 hijackers, and releases their names. Hani Hanjour’s name is not on the list. [CNN, 9/13/2001] On the morning of the next day, CNN announces on the air that “CNN managed to grab a list of the names of the 18 suspected hijackers that is supposed to be officially released by justice sometime later today.” An announcer reads the list, which actually contains 19 names. It is the same list as the day before, except for one new name: Mosear Caned. (Note that the name is a very rough phonetic spelling from a CNN transcript.) [CNN, 9/14/2001] Later in the day, the list is revised. Caned is gone and is replaced by Hani Hanjour. It is never explained who Caned is, how he got on the list, or even how his name is correctly spelled. No name even remotely similar to his appears on any of the released manifests of the hijacked 9/11 flights. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Associated Press, 9/14/2001] A few days later, it is reported that Hanjour’s “name was not on the American Airlines manifest for [Flight 77] because he may not have had a ticket.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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