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Context of '(Before 6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Middle Eastern Men Reportedly Arrive at Resort Where President Bush Is Staying and Falsely Claim to Have an Interview with Him'

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CIA managers Gary Schroen, of the Near East division, and Richard Blee, responsible for Alec Station, the agency’s bin Laden unit, meet Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud in Paris, France. [Coll, 2004, pp. 560] Massoud, who is in Europe to address the European Parliament (see April 6, 2001), tells Schroen and Blee “that his own intelligence had learned of al-Qaeda’s intention to perform a terrorist act against the United States that would be vastly greater than the bombings of the American embassies in East Africa.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 337] Declassified Defense Intelligence Agency documents from November 2001 will say that Massoud has gained “limited knowledge… regarding the intentions of [al-Qaeda] to perform a terrorist act against the US on a scale larger than the 1998 bombing of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.” They will further point out he may have been assassinated two days before 9/11 (see September 9, 2001) because he “began to warn the West.” [PakTribune (Islamabad), 9/13/2003; Agence France-Presse, 9/14/2003] Blee hands Massoud a briefcase full of cash. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Schroen and Blee assure Massoud that, although he has been visited less by the CIA recently, they are still interested in working with him, and they will continue to make regular payments of several hundred thousand dollars each month. Commenting on the military situation in Afghanistan, Massoud says his defenses will hold for now, but the Northern Alliance is doing badly and no longer has the strength to counterattack. [Coll, 2004, pp. 561-2]

Entity Tags: Lawrence Wright, Gary C. Schroen, Defense Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Alec Station, Central Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Richard Blee

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A mysterious Arab rap band records a CD, which includes songs apparently about upcoming terrorist attacks. The group, called the Arab Assassins, records its songs at the GHC Recording Studio in Sarasota, Florida. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, their lyrics “range from generic references to Palestinian beliefs to verses that could be considered by some as a warning of what unfolded in New York City and Washington, DC” on 9/11. These refer to subjects such as bombings, New York, and fundamentalist Islamic martyrs. Lyrics include, “I know I’m going to die,” “I’m next on God’s list,” “Partners torn, transformed to martyrs,” “to turn wives into widows,” and “the US will remember this.” After 9/11, the recording studio’s owner Chris Musgrave will comment, “There are some weird coincidences here.” The rap group is made up of three brothers who claim to be from Brooklyn. Yet officials with the Recording Industry Association of America later say they have never heard of the Arab Assassins, and none of the large Internet music sites offer any recordings by them. After recording several songs at the studio, the Arab Assassins take six copies of their CD, and then leave a telephone number that is listed as disconnected. The day after 9/11, the local FBI will seize a copy of the CD from the studio, but offer no comments to the press on the band. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/13/2001] Some Middle Eastern men will be witnessed in Sarasota early in the morning of 9/11 acting suspiciously, though details of their identities are unknown (see (Before 6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Arab Assassins

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The cover of President Bush’s schedule for September 11.The cover of President Bush’s schedule for September 11. [Source: Ari Fleischer]President Bush’s plan to visit a Sarasota, Florida, elementary school on September 11 is publicly announced. According to the Longboat Observer, numerous eyewitnesses see future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in Longboat Key, which is near Sarasota, this evening. They appear to stay at a Holiday Inn very close to the place Bush will later stay. Atta is seen at the Holiday Inn bar, where he orders one drink, a rum and Coke. He is met by an unidentified male who motions he doesn’t speak English, and then they leave. [Longboat Observer, 11/21/2001] However, other witnesses will later recall seeing Atta and Alshehhi at a bar in Hollywood, Florida, this evening (see September 7, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Massoud’s two assassins pictured just before their assassination attempt. One holds the rigged video camera.Massoud’s two assassins pictured just before their assassination attempt. One holds the rigged video camera. [Source: CNN]General Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, is assassinated by two al-Qaeda agents posing as Moroccan journalists. [Time, 8/12/2002] A legendary mujaheddin commander and a brilliant tactician, Massoud had pledged to bring freedom and democracy to Afghanistan. The BBC says the next day, “General Massoud’s death might well have meant the end of the [Northern] alliance” because there clearly was no figure with his skills and popularity to replace him. [BBC, 9/10/2001; BBC, 9/10/2001] “With Massoud out of the way, the Taliban and al-Qaeda would be rid of their most effective opponent and be in a stronger position to resist the American onslaught.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/2002] It appears the assassination was supposed to happen earlier: the “journalists” waited for three weeks in Northern Alliance territory to meet Massoud. Finally on September 8, an aide says they “were so worried and excitable they were begging us.” They were granted an interview after threatening to leave if the interview did not happen in the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, the Taliban army (together with elements of the Pakistani army) had massed for an offensive against the Northern Alliance in the previous weeks, but the offensive began only hours after the assassination. Massoud was killed that day but Northern Alliance leaders pretend for several days that Massoud was only injured in order to keep the Northern Alliance army’s morale up, and they are able to stave off total defeat. The timing of the assassination and the actions of the Taliban army suggest that the 9/11 attacks were known to the Taliban leadership. [Time, 8/12/2002] Though it is not widely reported, the Northern Alliance releases a statement the next day: “Ahmed Shah Massoud was the target of an assassination attempt organized by the Pakistani [intelligence service] ISI and Osama bin Laden” (see September 10, 2001). [Radio Free Europe, 9/10/2001; Newsday, 9/15/2001; Reuters, 10/4/2001] This suggests that the ISI may also have had prior knowledge of the attack plans.

Entity Tags: Ahmed Shah Massoud, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Northern Alliance

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At least two messages in Arabic are intercepted by the NSA. One states, “The match is about to begin” and the other states, “Tomorrow is zero hour.” Later reports translate the first message as, “The match begins tomorrow.” [Reuters, 9/9/2002] The messages were sent between someone in Saudi Arabia and someone in Afghanistan. The NSA will claim that they are not translated until September 12, and that even if they had been translated in time, “they gave no clues that authorities could have acted on.” [ABC News, 6/7/2002; Reuters, 6/19/2002] Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Bob Graham will later confirm that the messages were from al-Qaeda sources—a location or phone number—that made them a high priority, but that they were not from bin Laden or one of his top commanders. [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 139] On the morning of September 12, 2001, the CIA will tell President Bush that a recently intercepted message from al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida referred to the 9/11 attacks as “zero hour,” but it is not clear if this is the same message or a different message (see September 12, 2001). These messages turn out to be only two of about 30 pre-9/11 communications from suspected al-Qaeda operatives or other militants referring to an imminent event. An anonymous official will say of these messages, including the “Tomorrow is zero hour” message: “You can’t dismiss any of them, but it does not tell you tomorrow is the day.” [Reuters, 9/9/2002] There will be a later attempt to explain the messages away by suggesting they referred to the killing of Afghan opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud the day before (see September 9, 2001). [Reuters, 10/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Shah Massoud, Al-Qaeda, National Security Agency, Abu Zubaida

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Shay Sullivan.Shay Sullivan. [Source: Longboat Observer]A group of Middle Eastern men pulls up at the resort on Longboat Key, Florida, where President Bush is staying and falsely claims to have an interview scheduled with the president, but the men are turned away from the premises, according to a local fire marshal who later hears about the incident. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001] Bush arrived at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key at 6:30 p.m. on September 10 and then spent the night there (see September 10, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 13; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Sometime before 6:00 a.m. on September 11, or possibly on the evening of September 10, a van occupied by some Middle Eastern men pulls up at the resort. The men claim to be reporters and say they are there for a “poolside” interview with Bush. They then ask for a particular Secret Service agent by name. Security guards phone the receptionist at the resort and relay the men’s request. The receptionist has not heard of the Secret Service agent named by the men or anything about a planned interview with Bush. She passes the phone to a Secret Service agent, who similarly tells the security guards that no one knows of the agent the men referred to or is aware of any scheduled interview with the president. The Secret Service agent says the men should contact the president’s public relations office in Washington, DC, and has them turned away from the premises. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001; Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011]
Incident Resembles Recent Assassination Method - Some people will later note the similarity of this alleged incident to the method used to assassinate General Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, on September 9. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Massoud was killed by a bomb hidden in the video camera of two Arab men who said they were journalists who wanted to interview him (see September 9, 2001). [Time, 8/12/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/2002] “Were the men on Longboat Key planning to kill Bush in similar fashion?” the St. Petersburg Times will ask. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]
Fire Marshal Learns about Incident - The alleged incident on Longboat Key will come to light after reporter Shay Sullivan hears local Fire Marshal Carroll Mooneyhan describing it to a colleague during a lull in a firefighters’ union meeting and then writes an article about it for the Longboat Observer. Mooneyhan does not witness the incident firsthand, but will learn about it when he is at the front desk at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort at around 6:00 a.m. on September 11. At that time, he will overhear the receptionist and a security guard discussing what happened. It is unclear when exactly the incident they discuss is meant to have occurred. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001; Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011] The Secret Service will question Mooneyhan about what he hears. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Two weeks after 9/11, the FBI will reportedly be looking into the alleged incident. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001]
Incident Is Later Denied - The day after the incident is first reported in the Longboat Observer, Mooneyhan “went silent” about it, Sullivan will say. [Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011] In 2004, Mooneyhan will deny telling anyone at the Longboat Observer about the incident. “How did they get that information from me if I didn’t know it?” he will say. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] However, Sullivan will suggest that Mooneyhan may have been “ordered to stop talking about it.” He will note that Secret Service agents visited his newspaper and “suggested we back off the story.” [Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011] Longboat Key Police Chief John Kintz will say in 2011 that he has been unable to find any evidence of the incident. “[T]here wasn’t a single person who could confirm that it happened,” he will say, adding, “We never found anyone who worked at the gate who could tell us that that happened.” [Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011]
Other Suspicious Incidents Occur - Other suspicious incidents occur in the Longboat Key area around this time. Shortly after 4:00 a.m. on September 11, a Sudanese man contacts police in Sarasota and says he is concerned that a friend of his might pose a threat to the president while he is visiting the area (see 4:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Summers and Swan, 2011, pp. 457] And at 8:50 a.m. on September 11, a local man will see a van in Sarasota with two Middle Eastern men screaming out the windows, “Down with Bush” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001] Whether these two incidents are related to the alleged incident at the Longboat Key resort is unclear.

Entity Tags: John Kintz, George W. Bush, US Secret Service, Carroll Mooneyhan, Shay Sullivan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

CNN is the first major network to show the footage of the crash site. It breaks into a commercial and anchor Carol Lin says, “This just in. You are looking at… obviously a very disturbing live shot there—that is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.” CNN then switches to Sean Murtagh, the network’s vice president of finance, who says in a live telephone interview, “I just witnessed a plane that appeared to be cruising at a slightly lower than normal altitude over New York City. And it appears to have crashed into—I don’t know which tower it is—but it hit directly in the middle of one of the World Trade Center towers. It was a jet, maybe a two-engine jet, maybe a 737… a large passenger commercial jet… It was teetering back and forth, wing-tip to wing-tip, and it looks like it has crashed into—probably, twenty stories from the top of the World Trade Center—maybe the eightieth to eighty-fifth floor. There is smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center.” [CNN, 9/11/2001; Bamford, 2004, pp. 16-17] Many reports do not come until a few minutes later. For instance, ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52 a.m. [ABC News, 9/14/2002] Incredibly, a NORAD timeline presented to the 9/11 Commission in 2003 claims that CNN doesn’t begin its coverage of the attacks until 8:57. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Carol Lin, Sean Murtagh, World Trade Center, CNN

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Longboat Key resident has a strange encounter with some Middle Eastern men. He is standing on the Sarasota bay front, waiting for President Bush’s motorcade to go by on its way to the Booker Elementary School. He sees a dilapidated van passing by, with two Middle Eastern men “screaming out the windows, ‘Down with Bush’ and raising their fists in the air.” This would be around the time when reports of the first WTC crash are first being broadcast (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). The man will later report this incident to the police and then be questioned by the FBI about it. Several hours earlier, some Middle Eastern men had pulled up in a van at the resort where Bush was staying, falsely claiming to have an interview with him (see (Before 6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is unknown whether these were the same men as were seen on the Sarasota bay front. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash.Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash. [Source: Agence France-Presse]President Bush is in a Booker Elementary School second-grader classroom. His chief of staff, Andrew Card, enters the room and whispers into his ear, “A second plane hit the other tower, and America’s under attack.” [Education Channel, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] Intelligence expert James Bamford describes Bush’s reaction: “Immediately [after Card speaks to Bush] an expression of befuddlement passe[s] across the president’s face. Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appear[s] uninterested in further details. He never ask[s] if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks.… Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turn[s] back to the matter at hand: the day’s photo-op.” [Bamford, 2002, pp. 633] Bush begins listening to a story about a goat. But despite the pause and change in children’s exercises, as one newspaper put it, “For some reason, Secret Service agents [do] not bustle him away.” [Globe and Mail, 9/12/2001] Bush later says of the experience: “I am very aware of the cameras. I’m trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I’m sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children’s story and I realize I’m the commander in chief and the country has just come under attack.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Bush continues to listen to the goat story for several more minutes. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39] According to author Christopher Andersen, the reason he does this is, “Without all the facts at hand, George Bush ha[s] no intention of upsetting the schoolchildren who had come to read for him.” [CBS News, 11/1/2002] Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is only three and a half miles away. In fact, the elementary school was chosen for the photo-op partly because of its closeness to the airport. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/2002] Why the Secret Service does not move Bush away from his publicized location (see September 7, 2001) that morning remains unclear.

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, George W. Bush, James Bamford, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Alan Cullison, a Wall Street Journal reporter in Afghanistan, obtains two computers looted from an al-Qaeda house in Kabul. One computer apparently belonged to al-Qaeda military commander Mohammed Atef but contained few files. The other had been used mostly by al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman Al-Zawahiri and had about 1,000 files dating back to 1997. The reporter later gives the computers to the CIA which confirms the authenticity of the files. The computer files reveal how al-Qaeda operates on a day-to-day basis. The files include correspondence, budgets, attack plans, and training manuals. Messages between various al-Qaeda’s offices reveal a fractious, contentious community of terror plotters. There are disputes about theology, strategy, and even expense reports. A montage of 9/11 television reports set to rousing victory reports shows that the computer was used after the attacks. While some of the new information is surprising, for the most part it confirms the claims made about al-Qaeda by Western governments. A letter drafted on the computer in May 2001 confirms that al-Qaeda was behind the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud (see September 9, 2001). Other messages shows that the organization orchestrated the 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). However, there is no material relating specifically to the plotting of the 9/11 attacks. [Wall Street Journal, 12/31/2001; Atlantic Monthly, 9/2004]

Entity Tags: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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