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Context of '(Between Spring and Summer 2001): FBI Rejects Former Army Ranger’s Plan to Assassinate Bin Laden'

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Dan Hill.Dan Hill. [Source: Amanda Gordon / Bloomberg]Dan Hill, a US Army Ranger who is undergoing officer training, comes up with a hypothetical plan by which the Soviet Union could start a nuclear war with the United States, which involves a suicide pilot crashing a military transport plane into the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.
Trainees Tasked with Imagining How to Start a World War - After his tour in Vietnam came to an end in mid-1969, Hill was chosen for the career officer training program at Fort Benning, Georgia. He is currently taking a course in nuclear weapons deployment. Toward the end of the semester, he is given the assignment of imagining he is a Soviet premier who wants to start World War III against the US. Hill and his fellow trainees are told to prepare a written plan, describing how they would initiate the war.
Plan Involves Crashing Plane into Capitol Building - Hill comes up with a plan, which he gives the code name “State of the Union.” It involves recruiting and training a suicide pilot, obtaining a C-47 transport plane, and filling it with explosives. Then, as journalist and author James B. Stewart will describe: “On the night of the State of the Union, the pilot would fly the plane straight into the Capitol building, through the rotunda, and into the House of Representatives, where the bombs on the plane would be set to explode. He’d take out the president, his cabinet, the members of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and most senators and representatives. At that moment, the Soviet Union would unleash its nuclear missiles.” According to Hill, everyone in the US would be “watching TV, there’s no air defense around the Capitol; by the time anyone realized an aircraft was near, it would be too late.”
Commander Questions Hill about His Plan - On the Monday after Hill submits his plan, a lieutenant colonel in intelligence stops him on his way to class and says, “I’ve got some people who would like to talk to you.” Hill is taken to a room where Major General John Carley, the assistant commander of the infantry school, is waiting, along with six men in uniform and several other men who are dressed in dark suits, all of them looking serious. Carley is holding Hill’s paper and asks, “How did you come up with this?” Hill replies, “This is my area of expertise,” and explains that he has been trained in unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, the use of explosives, and demolition. He is then questioned for almost an hour about his plan. Finally, Carley says, “We’d prefer you forget you ever did this.” Hill agrees to do so and is then dismissed.
Hill Informs Friend about His Plan - Hill writes to his friend Rick Rescorla, who has also served in the Army, about the incident. In his reply, Rescorla writes: “You evil-minded b_stard! When you have these thoughts, don’t publicize them to anyone. The plan is tactically and technically proficient; it makes sense, but only to people like you and me. To the rest of the world, it looks like the workings of a deviant mind. This kind of thing terrifies people.” [Stewart, 2002, pp. 152-153] Rescorla will subsequently work as the head of security for a company at the World Trade Center. [New Yorker, 2/11/2002] While he is in that position, he will be drawing from Hill’s plan when, after the 1993 bombing, he determines that terrorists will likely target the WTC again by crashing a cargo plane into it (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194] Hill will learn that, shortly after his meeting with Carley, enhanced air defenses were installed for Washington. He will therefore think that some good may have come from the meeting. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 153]

Entity Tags: Rick Rescorla, John Carley, Daniel J. Hill

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bomb damage in underground levels of the WTC in 1993.Bomb damage in underground levels of the WTC in 1993. [Source: Najlah Feanny/ Corbis]An attempt to topple the World Trade Center fails, but six people are killed and over 1000 are injured in the misfired blast. An FBI explosives expert later states that, “If they had found the exact architectural Achilles’ heel or if the bomb had been a little bit bigger, not much more, 500 pounds more, I think it would have brought her down.” Ramzi Yousef, who has close ties to bin Laden, organizes the attempt. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; US Congress, 2/24/1998] The New York Times later reports on Emad Salem, an undercover agent who will be the key government witness in the trial against Yousef. Salem testifies that the FBI knew about the attack beforehand and told him they would thwart it by substituting a harmless powder for the explosives. However, an FBI supervisor called off this plan, and the bombing was not stopped. [New York Times, 10/28/1993] Other suspects were ineptly investigated before the bombing as early as 1990. Several of the bombers were trained by the CIA to fight in the Afghan war, and the CIA later concludes, in internal documents, that it was “partly culpable” for this bombing (see January 24, 1994). [Independent, 11/1/1998] 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is an uncle of Yousef and also has a role in the WTC bombing (see March 20, 1993). [Independent, 6/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] One of the attackers even leaves a message which will later be found by investigators, stating, “Next time, it will be very precise.” [Associated Press, 9/30/2001]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Emad Salem, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Rick Rescorla.Rick Rescorla. [Source: Public domain]Rick Rescorla, a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, and his friend Dan Hill conduct an analysis of the security measures at the WTC and conclude that terrorists will likely attack the Twin Towers again, probably by crashing a plane into them. Rescorla, who has served in the US Army and worked for British military intelligence, is now the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter. His office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194; New Yorker, 2/11/2002] After the WTC is bombed in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993), Rescorla calls Hill to New York to be his security consultant and assess the situation. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 191; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005] Hill is a former Army Ranger and has had training in counterterrorism. [New Yorker, 2/11/2002; St. Augustine Record, 8/14/2011]
Anti-American Hostility Found at Mosques - Hill and Rescorla suspect that the WTC bombing was committed by Muslims. Rescorla suggests that Hill, who is himself a Muslim and speaks Arabic, try to gather some intelligence. Hill therefore lets his beard grow and visits several mosques in New Jersey. He gets into conversations with people at the mosques, expressing pro-Islamic opinions and taking an anti-American line. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart: “[A]t every other location, Hill was struck by the intense anti-American hostility he encountered. Though these were not his own views, he barely had to mention that he thought American policy toward Israel and the Middle East was misguided, or that Jews wielded too much political power, to unleash a torrent of anti-American, anti-Semitic rhetoric. Many applauded the bombing of the World Trade Center, lamenting that it hadn’t done more damage.” Referring to his experiences at the mosques, Hill tells Rescorla, “We’ve got a problem.” He also believes that, as the symbolic “tower of the Jews,” the WTC is likely to remain a target for terrorists. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 192-193; New Yorker, 2/11/2002]
Rescorla Thinks Terrorists Will Use a Different Method of Attack - Rescorla thinks that since terrorists failed to bring the Twin Towers down with a truck bomb, they may in future try a different method of attack, such as using a small, portable nuclear weapon or flying a plane into the building. He phones his friend Fred McBee and asks him to examine the possibility of an air attack on the WTC. By using a flight simulator on his computer, McBee concludes that such an attack seems “very viable” (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005]
Report Warns of Another Attack on the WTC - Hill and Rescorla write a report incorporating their findings and analysis. The report warns that the WTC will likely remain a target for anti-American militants. It notes that Muslim terrorists are showing increasing tactical and technological awareness, and that the numerous young Muslims living in the United States constitute a potential “enemy within.” Rescorla states that terrorists will not rest until they have succeeded in bringing down the Twin Towers.
Hill and Rescorla Suggest Terrorists Flying a Plane into the WTC - Rescorla and Hill also lay out what they think the next terrorist attack could look like. According to Stewart, it would involve “an air attack on the Twin Towers, probably a cargo plane traveling from the Middle East or Europe to Kennedy or Newark Airport, loaded with explosives, chemical or biological weapons, or even a small nuclear weapon. Besides New York, other cities might be targeted, such as Washington or Philadelphia. Perhaps terrorists would attack all three.” Rescorla and Hill’s report concludes that Rescorla’s company, Dean Witter, should leave the WTC and move to somewhere safer in New Jersey. However, Dean Witter’s lease does not expire until 2006, and so the company will remain at the WTC. But Rescorla will start conducting regular evacuation drills for all its employees in the South Tower. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194; New Yorker, 2/11/2002] Rescorla will be in his office at the WTC on 9/11. He will personally escort his company’s employees out of the South Tower, but die himself when the tower collapses. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; BBC, 2/10/2003]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Rick Rescorla, Daniel J. Hill, Fred McBee

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right).Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right). [Source: Associated Press] (click image to enlarge)Two US embassies in Africa are bombed within minutes of each other. At 10:35, local time, a suicide car bomb attack in Nairobi, Kenya, kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. Mohamed al-Owhali and someone known only as Azzam are the suicide bombers, but al-Owhali runs away at the last minute and survives. Four minutes later, a suicide car bomb attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kills 11 and injures 85. The attacks are blamed on al-Qaeda. Hamden Khalif Allah Awad is the suicide bomber there. [PBS Frontline, 2001; United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38, 5/2/2001] The Tanzania death toll is low because, remarkably, the attack takes place on a national holiday so the US embassy there is closed. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 195] The attack shows al-Qaeda has a capability for simultaneous attacks. The Tanzania bombing appears to have been a late addition, as one of the arrested bombers allegedly told US agents that it was added to the plot only about 10 days in advance. [United State of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 14, 3/7/2001] A third attack against the US embassy in Uganda does not take place due to a last minute delay (see August 7, 1998). [Associated Press, 9/25/1998] August 7, 1998, is the eighth anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Saudi Arabia, and some speculate that is the reason for the date of the bombings. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 46] In the 2002 book The Cell, reporters John Miller, Michael Stone, and Chris Miller will write, “What has become clear with time is that facets of the East Africa plot had been known beforehand to the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, and to Israeli and Kenyan intelligence services.… [N]o one can seriously argue that the horrors of August 7, 1998, couldn’t have been prevented.” They will also comment, “Inexplicable as the intelligence failure was, more baffling still was that al-Qaeda correctly presumed that a major attack could be carried out by a cell that US agents had already uncovered.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 195, 206] After 9/11, it will come to light that three of the alleged hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi, had some involvement in the bombings (see October 4, 2001, Late 1999, and 1993-1999) and that the US intelligence community was aware of this involvement by late 1999 (see December 15-31, 1999), if not before.

Entity Tags: Hamden Khalif Allah Awad, Mohamed al-Owhali, Salem Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Azzam, Al-Qaeda, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Dan Hill, a former Army Ranger, formulates a plan to kill Osama bin Laden, but this plan will eventually have to be called off due to a lack of government support. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203-204, 244-245; New York Times, 9/8/2002] After the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), Hill learns that the United States and Saudi Arabia are jointly offering a reward of $15 million for the capture of bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the attacks. He sees this as an opportunity for him to organize a mission to go to Afghanistan and kill bin Laden. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203] Hill is a Muslim and speaks fluent Arabic. Furthermore, after retiring from the Army in 1975, during the 1980s he fought with the mujahedeen against the occupying Russians in Afghanistan. [Deseret News, 9/6/2009; San Francisco Opera, 1/2011]
Hill Discusses Plan with Friend from Afghanistan - Hill contacts his friend Said Nader Zori to discuss the assassination plan. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203] Nader Zori is a former mujahedeen fighter who fought alongside Hill in Afghanistan and subsequently emigrated to the US. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 168, 201] Hill asks him, “Is your brother-in-law still going in and out of Afghanistan?” Nader Zori’s brother-in-law now lives in Islamabad, Pakistan, but he worked for a short time in Afghanistan’s defense ministry after the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989, and still has many contacts in that country. Nader Zori replies, “All the time.” Hill then asks if Nader Zori’s brother-in-law has any contacts in the Taliban, and Nader Zori says yes. Hill lays out to his friend a plan to put together a group, with Nader Zori’s brother-in-law as its commander, organize an ambush, and attack and kill bin Laden. Hill and Nader Zori would participate in the operation, and the reward money would be split between the group’s members.
Proposed Commander Wants Government Assistance with Mission - Nader Zori writes a letter to his brother-in-law, outlining Hill’s plan, which he gives to a courier to take to Islamabad and deliver. He receives a response several weeks later. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart, the brother-in-law writes that he is “interested. He had Taliban contacts; he knew the locations of three compounds bin Laden used in Kandahar, and he knew that bin Laden made regular trips between Kandahar and Kabul. He traveled in a small convoy of just three vehicles.” But Nader Zori’s brother-in-law wants the assurance of US government support for the mission.
Friend Concerned that Hill Might Not Survive Mission - Hill contacts the FBI office in Jacksonville, Florida, and discusses his plan with Leo Morris, an agent there. Morris seems enthusiastic and says he will contact his superiors in Washington, DC, and get back to Hill. Hill then contacts his friend Rick Rescorla to talk about the plan. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203-204] Rescorla, who, like Hill, served in the Army, now works as vice president for security at the Wall Street investment firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in its offices at the World Trade Center. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; National Review, 9/20/2002] The two men discuss Hill’s plan in detail. Hill offers to split his share of the reward money with Rescorla, but Rescorla is apprehensive. He says that while he thinks Hill might succeed in killing bin Laden, he may not make it out alive afterward. Hill replies: “I’m 60. I’m not risking that much.” He adds that the mission would mean he would “go out in a blaze of glory.” [Stewart, 2002, pp. 204] Hill will meet with the FBI to ask for military assistance for his plan (see (Between May and June 2000)), but his request will be rejected (see (Between Spring and Summer 2001)) and so the plan is not carried out. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230-231, 245]

Entity Tags: Leo Morris, Osama bin Laden, Daniel J. Hill, Rick Rescorla, Said Nader Zori

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ellen Glasser.Ellen Glasser. [Source: City of Jacksonville, Florida]Dan Hill, a former Army Ranger, meets with an FBI agent to discuss a plan he has devised to kill Osama bin Laden, for which he will need military assistance, but the agent is skeptical and only promises to refer Hill’s proposal to FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230-231] Hill came up with his plan, to go to Afghanistan and kill bin Laden, after the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. However, the man Hill intends to be the mission’s commander wants the assurance of US government support for the operation (see After August 7, 1998). Hill talked to Leo Morris, an agent at the Jacksonville, Florida, FBI office, about his plan, and Morris said he would get back to him after consulting his superiors in Washington. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203-204]
Fighters Now Available to Perform Mission - The plan has progressed while Hill has been waiting for the FBI to get in touch. Hill’s friend Said Nader Zori, who will be participating in the mission, has been to Pakistan and assembled a group of former mujahedeen fighters who are willing to assist. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230] Nader Zori is himself a former mujahedeen fighter who fought against the Russians in Afghanistan during the 1980s and subsequently emigrated to the US. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 168, 201] Finally, Hill receives a phone call from Ellen Glasser—like Morris an agent at the FBI’s Jacksonville office—who says she is interested in Hill’s plan, and requests a meeting with Hill and Nader Zori. Hill agrees to see her, and in the late spring of 2000 they all meet at his house. Glasser is accompanied by her husband, Donald Glasser, who also works for the FBI at the Jacksonville office.
Hill Describes How His Group Will Kill Bin Laden - During the meeting, Hill outlines his plan to Glasser. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart, he tells her: “Their contacts in Afghanistan reported that bin Laden traveled frequently between meetings with Mullah Omar and other high-ranking Taliban officials in the southern city of Kandahar, and Kabul, the capital, near Farmihedda, where bin Laden kept his headquarters. He traveled with only light security: a convoy of three vehicles, bin Laden in the middle with eight armed guards—four in the front and four in the rear. The mountainous terrain provided several ambush sites. Their armed force would attack the convoy, kill the guards, and kill bin Laden.”
FBI Wants Bin Laden Captured, Not Killed - Glasser seems startled and says, “Oh, we don’t do things like that.” Hill replies: “I know you don’t. That’s why we’ll do it.” Glasser says the FBI’s idea was that bin Laden would be captured and brought to the US. Hill is astonished. “How would we do that?” he asks. “What would we do with the bodyguards? How would we get him out alive?” Glasser ponders this and then asks how Hill’s group would prove it had killed bin Laden. Hill says it would pack his head and hands in an iced cooler, and bin Laden’s identity could be verified once his remains reached the US. Hill says this is why he needs US military assistance: It would be impossible to get bin Laden’s remains out of Afghanistan over land, so it would be necessary for a C-130 transport plane with a skyhook to fly over his group’s position, hook the cooler, and then reel it up into the plane’s cargo bay.
Agent Will Refer Proposal to FBI Headquarters - Glasser seems skeptical about the plan. She also explains, “Money’s tight.” However, Hill says that as long as he knows that, if his plan succeeds, he will get the $15 million reward that has been offered for capturing bin Laden, his group will finance the operation, except for the use of the C-130. Glasser then asks: “How do we know you’re telling the truth? How do we know you have the contacts in Afghanistan?” Hill says he could bring some of his group’s members to the US if Glasser will arrange for tourist visas. Whatever it takes, he will do it. Glasser still looks unconvinced. She tells Hill, “This would all have to be approved,” and says she will refer his proposal to the Counterterrorism Center at FBI headquarters. Before Glasser and her husband leave, Hill points out to them that nuclear weapons have allegedly disappeared from the former Soviet arsenal in Uzbekistan, and he adds that evidence indicates bin Laden is becoming more powerful and sophisticated over time. “Someone has got to take him out,” he says. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230-232] Glasser will get in touch with Hill about a year later and tell him that his request for government assistance has been rejected (see (Between Spring and Summer 2001)). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 245]

Entity Tags: Daniel J. Hill, Ellen Glasser, Donald Glasser, Osama bin Laden, Said Nader Zori

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dan Hill, a former Army Ranger who has devised a plan to kill Osama bin Laden, is told by the FBI that his request for US military assistance, which he needs for his plan to go ahead, has been rejected. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 245] Hill and his friend Said Nader Zori have assembled a group of former mujahedeen fighters who are ready to go into Afghanistan to attack and kill bin Laden. The two men met with Ellen Glasser, an agent at the FBI office in Jacksonville, Florida, in the late spring of 2000 to discuss the plan and request military support, and Glasser said she would refer the proposal to FBI headquarters in Washington, DC (see (Between May and June 2000)). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230-231] Since then, Hill has been pushing the FBI’s Jacksonville office for a response to his request, but felt he was getting nowhere. Meanwhile, Nader Zori has been told by his sources in Afghanistan that something big is going to happen, probably during the holy month of Ramadan. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 244-245] (Ramadan this year will begin on November 16 and end on December 16. [New York Times, 12/13/2001; New York Times, 12/17/2001] ) Now, about a year after his meeting with Glasser, Hill receives a phone call from the FBI agent, informing him that his plan has been rejected. “Nothing can be done,” she says. Hill is upset and tells Glasser that bin Laden “is not screwing around.” He tells her about a report he wrote with his friend Rick Rescorla, which warned of the terrorist threat the US faced. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 245] Rescorla is the vice president for security at the Wall Street investment firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and works at the World Trade Center. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; National Review, 9/20/2002] In their report, written after the 1993 WTC bombing, Hill and Rescorla warned that terrorists could carry out an attack that involved crashing a cargo plane into the Twin Towers (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194] Hill tells Glasser that an attack involving terrorists deliberately crashing an aircraft is “going to strike New York, Philadelphia, or Washington, DC. Or maybe all three.” He says the attack is likely to take place around Ramadan and so his plan to kill bin Laden needs to be put into action right away. But Glasser apologizes and again says, “Nothing can be done.” Hill subsequently phones Rescorla and tells him that his plan will have to be called off. Rescorla tells Hill he is unsurprised at the FBI’s response. “The FBI is a bunch of incompetent duds,” he says. “And don’t bother going to the CIA. It’s just as bad.” [Stewart, 2002, pp. 245]

Entity Tags: Ellen Glasser, Osama bin Laden, Daniel J. Hill, Rick Rescorla

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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