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Profile: 9/11 Commission
a.k.a. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
9/11 Commission was a participant or observer in the following events:
Page 1 of 4 (330 events)previous
A young Hani Hanjour.
[Source: FBI]Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour first arrives in the US on October 3, 1991. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 520] Some media accounts have him entering the country in 1990. He apparently is the first hijacker to enter the US. [Time, 9/24/2001; Cox News Service, 10/15/2001; New York Times, 6/19/2002] He takes an English course in Tucson, Arizona until early 1992. There are some important al-Qaeda operatives currently living in Tucson. However, it is not known if Hanjour has contact with them at this time, or even when he first develops his radical militant beliefs. According to Hanjour’s eldest brother Abulrahman, Hani stays in Arizona for three months then returns to Saudi Arabia, where he spends the next five years managing his family’s lemon and date farm. [Washington Post, 10/15/2001] FBI Director Robert Mueller also reports his stay as lasting three months. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] However, the FBI tells one person that Hanjour may have stayed in the US for as long as 15 months. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002]
The CIA produces the last edition of its Redbook before 9/11. The Redbook is a manual written by the CIA for immigration officials; it helps the officials identify terrorists using telltale signs in their passports through commonalities among forged passports, travel cachets, and visas used by terrorists. The 1992 edition claims that more than “200 people carrying forged passports provided by terrorist groups have been identified before they could engage in terrorist acts.”
Types of Fraud - It focuses on five types of travel document fraud committed by terrorists: forgeries of some 35 national passports and the travel cachets of at least 45 countries; forged documents terrorists purchase from commercial vendors; stolen blank passports, which terrorists can fill in with biographical data of their choosing; information on genuine altered passports that have been photo-substituted or given an extended validity date; and genuine, unaltered passports, most likely procured with the knowledge of the issuing country or through a corrupt government official.
Reason for Discontinuance - The 9/11 Commission will say that the Redbook stops being published in 1992 due to “a lack of new exemplars,” but then add that there was plenty of “raw data” and a “rich trove of information on the travel tactics of terrorists” after this time. Citing an interview with an unnamed source, the commission will say that the CIA claimed it had no new data to analyze, as the FBI did not share what it gathered from its law enforcement investigations. However, the CIA did certainly obtain some new exemplars between 1992 and 9/11. For instance, it found some visa stamps, blank Egyptian birth certificates, and a forged passport in a June 1998 raid on extremists in Albania.
Significance of Non-Publication - The commission will also note that the information contained in the Redbook is directly relevant to al-Qaeda’s travel tactics before 9/11: “From the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center to the disruption of the millennium plot in December 1999, information suggested that al-Qaeda continued to employ all five methods of document fraud first noted in the Redbook years earlier, along with some new methods of their own.” The commission will also highlight how important the failure to take advantage of the information contained in the Redbook will be: “In practical terms, this meant the United States denied itself the ability to disrupt terrorist operations and prevent undetected terrorist entries by disrupting operatives’ ability to travel.” Several of the 9/11 hijackers will have anomalies in their passports (see November 2, 2007). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 45-46, 61, 69, 102 ] Islamist radicals linked to the WTC bombings and fighting in Bosnia will obtain a copy of the Redbook at some point in the next three years (see 1995 or Before).
Siddig Siddig Ali. [Source: Chester Higgins / New York Times]In March 1995, Emad Salem, an FBI informant and an ex-Egyptian army officer, publicly testifies in a 1995 trial of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plotters. He mentions a plot taking place at this time by Islamic radicals tied to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990). A Sudanese Air Force pilot would hijack an airplane, attack Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, then crash the plane into the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Siddig Siddig Ali, who will be one of the defendants in the trial, asks Salem for help to find “gaps in the air defense in Egypt” so the pilot could “bomb the presidential house and then turn around, crash the plane into the American embassy after he ejects himself out of the plane.” Abdul-Rahman gives his approval to the plot, but apparently it never goes beyond the discussion stage. Although details of this plot are in public records of the World Trade Center bombing trial, both the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry and 9/11 Commission fail to mention it. [Lance, 2004, pp. 196; Intelwire, 4/8/2004] Abdul-Rahman is closely tied to bin Laden and in fact in 1998 there will be an al-Qaeda hijacking plot designed to free him from prison (see 1998). Individuals connected to Abdul-Rahman and al-Qaeda will also plot to crash an airplane into the White House in 1996 (see January 1996).
While Ramzi Yousef occasionally plots attacks not in line with Osama bin Laden’s goals (see June 20, 1994), there is considerable evidence that he usually works in concert with bin Laden. Pakistani investigators will later determine that in the middle of 1994 a group of militant Saudi businessmen visit Pakistan and meet with al-Qaeda operatives to discuss setting up a series of secret radio transmitters to broadcast propaganda into Saudi Arabia. Yousef is present at several of the meetings with two senior al-Qaeda leaders when wider plots to overthrow the Saudi government are discussed. Yousef also spends parts of 1994 in the Philippines, responding to bin Laden’s request to further train the Abu Sayyaf militant group there (see August-September 1994). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 71-72] The 9/11 Commission will not mention evidence such as this, and instead it will conclude that Yousef’s ties to bin Laden were tenuous, saying that in the early 1990s Yousef and his uncle, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, were “rootless but experienced operatives… who—though not necessarily formal members of someone else’s organization—were traveling around the world and joining in projects that were supported by or linked to bin Laden, the Blind Sheikh, or their associates.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 59]
Dallah Avco logo.
[Source: Dallah Avco]A Saudi named Omar al-Bayoumi arrives in San Diego, California. He will later become well known for his suspicious connections to both some 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi government, although the 9/11 Commission will say that it received no evidence that he was involved in terrorism or the 9/11 attacks. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
Saudi Government Spy - Acquaintances in San Diego long suspect al-Bayoumi is a Saudi government spy reporting on the activities of Saudi-born college students. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/2002; Newsweek, 11/22/2002; San Diego Magazine, 9/2003] Says one witness, “He was always watching [young Saudi college students], always checking up on them, literally following them around and then apparently reporting their activities back to Saudi Arabia.” [Newsweek, 11/24/2002] Chairman of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and his investigators will, in author Philip Shenon’s words, “find it obvious that the amiable al-Bayoumi was a low-ranking Saudi intelligence agent,” and “someone who had been put on the ground in San Diego by his government to keep an eye on the activities of the relatively large Saudi community in Southern California.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 52]
'Ghost Employee' - Just prior to moving to the US, al-Bayoumi worked for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan. His salary in this job was approved by Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official whose son, Saud al-Rashid, is strongly suspected of al-Qaeda ties (see May 16, 2002). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ] Once in San Diego, al-Bayoumi tells people that he is a student or a pilot, and even claims to be receiving monthly payments from “family in India” (despite being Saudi). However, he is none of those things. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, UK), 10/21/2001; Wall Street Journal, 8/11/2003] In fact, as he tells some people, he receives a monthly stipend from Dallah Avco, a Saudi aviation company that has extensive ties to the same Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Newsweek, 11/24/2002] From early 1995 until 2002, al-Bayoumi is paid about $3,000 a month for a project in Saudi Arabia even though he is living in the US. According to the New York Times, Congressional officials believe he is a “ghost employee” doing no actual work. The classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report will note that his payments increase significantly just after he comes into contact with two hijackers in early 2000. [New York Times, 8/2/2003] The FBI investigates possible ties between Dallah Avco and al-Qaeda. [Newsweek, 10/29/2001] The firm’s owner, Saudi billionaire Saleh Abdullah Kamel, will deny the accusation. [Newsweek, 7/28/2003]
Entity Tags: Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, Al-Qaeda, 9/11 Commission, Dallah Avco, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hamid al-Rashid, Omar al-Bayoumi, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Saleh Abdullah Kamel, Abdullah, Saud al-Rashid
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Taliban forces conquering Afghanistan. [Source: Banded Artists Productions]The Taliban conquer Kabul [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] , establishing control over much of Afghanistan. A surge in the Taliban’s military successes at this time is later attributed to an increase in direct military assistance from Pakistan’s ISI. [New York Times, 12/8/2001] The oil company Unocal is hopeful that the Taliban will stabilize Afghanistan and allow its pipeline plans to go forward. According to some reports, “preliminary agreement [on the pipeline] was reached between the [Taliban and Unocal] long before the fall of Kabul .… Oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America’s, has been so supportive of the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/11/1996] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that some State Department diplomats are willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan, which would allow a Unocal oil pipeline to be built through the country. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]
In mid-1996, Jamal al-Fadl will walk into a US embassy in Eritrea, defect from al-Qaeda, and become a key informant for the US about al-Qaeda’s inner workings and leadership (see June 1996-April 1997). The 9/11 Commission’s final report will later mention, “Corroborating evidence [to al-Fadl’s revelations] came from another walk-in source at a different US embassy.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 109] Nothing more has been publicly revealed about this other defector, except for a 9/11 Commission footnote mentioning that the information about his defection comes from a January 1997 CIA cable. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 479] This person does not seem to be L’Houssaine Kherchtou, another al-Qaeda defector from around this time, since the 9/11 Commission mentions him by name elsewhere in their final report, and he does not talk to the US until mid-2000 (see Summer 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 62] This also does not fit the profile of Essam al Ridi, another al-Qaeda informant, who does not get into contact with US officials until after the embassy bombings in 1998. [Radio Free Europe, 9/10/2006] The 9/11 Commission also notes that, “More confirmation [about al-Fadl’s revelations] was supplied later that year by intelligence and other sources, including material gathered by FBI agents and Kenyan police from an al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi” (see August 21, 1997). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 109]
The CIA apparently ignores a warning from a recently retired CIA agent that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is heading al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations. Robert Baer left the CIA in late 1997 and began private consulting in the Middle East. Baer soon meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before. Al Thani tells Baer that KSM is now bin Laden’s chief of terrorist operations, and gives Baer other details about KSM, including how some Qatari royals helped KSM escape Qatar the year before after the CIA tracked him there (see January-May 1996 and Early 1998). In early 1998, Baer passes all this information on to a friend still in the CIA, who then passes it on to the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. But the friend writes back a week later, saying the CIA showed no interest. [Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] The 9/11 Commission, by contrast, will later claim that, in 1997 and 1998, KSM has some links with al-Qaeda, but mostly helps them collect newspaper articles and update computer equipment. Supposedly, not until after the August 1998 embassy bombings does he begin working directly with al-Qaeda on plotting attacks. This account appears entirely based on KSM’s testimony taken while in US custody. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 149-150] It will later be reported that up to 90 percent of KSM’s testimony could be inaccurate, mostly due to the use of torture (see Late August 1998). Further, the CIA gained evidence shortly after the embassy bombings that KSM was one of the masterminds of those bombings, which would strongly support Baer’s information over the 9/11 Commission version (see August 6, 2007).
Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in California, claims to write a letter to Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan and his wife, Princess Haifa bint Faisal, asking for financial help because his wife needs thyroid surgery. The Saudi embassy sends Basnan $15,000 and pays the surgical bill. However, according to University of California at San Diego hospital records, Basnan’s wife, Majeda Dweikat, is not treated until April 2000. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002] Basnan will later come under investigation for possibly using some of this money to support two of the 9/11 hijackers who arrive in San Diego (see November 22, 2002), although the 9/11 Commission will conclude that evidence does not support these charges. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
KSM’s name is not included in this US wanted poster of embassy bombing suspects. The names included are: Mustafa Mohammed Fadhil, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam, and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan. [Source: US State Department]According the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, shortly after the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), a foreign government sends the CIA a list of individuals who flew into Nairobi before the attack. The CIA recognizes that one of the names is an alias for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). The report that identified this alias also describes KSM as being close to bin Laden. [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Yet the 9/11 Commission will fail to mention KSM’s role in the embassy bombings and instead will suggest that KSM is not yet a member of al-Qaeda at this time and only joined al-Qaeda after being impressed by the results of the embassy bombings. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 149-150]
Afghan tribal allies of the US apparently make some failed attempts to capture Osama bin Laden around this time. The 9/11 Commission will later report that during these two months: “[T]he tribals claimed to have tried at least four times to ambush bin Laden. Senior CIA officials doubted whether any of these ambush attempts actually occurred. But the tribals did seem to have success in reporting where bin Laden was.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 127] Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit at the time, will later list a September 1998 attempt by the tribals to capture bin Laden north of Kandahar as one of the ten missed opportunities to capture him in 1998 and 1999. [Scheuer, 2008, pp. 284]
The CIA seems not to understand permission given by President Bill Clinton to assassinate Osama bin Laden (see December 24, 1998). The instruction was contained in a memorandum of notification signed by Clinton authorizing the agency to use a group of tribal fighters to kill bin Laden. Previously, the tribal leaders had only been authorized to capture bin Laden, and this new memo marks an important shift in policy. According to author Philip Shenon, the memo is “written in stark language” and it makes it very clear “that the president was telling the tribal leaders they could kill bin Laden.” However, the actual memo is closely held within the CIA, and the 9/11 Commission will comment, “This intent [to have bin Laden killed] was never well communicated or understood within the agency.” Apparently, it is never even communicated to Michael Scheuer, head of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit. Scheuer will later express his frustration at not being allowed to try to kill bin Laden, “We always talked about how much easier it would have been to kill him.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 133; Shenon, 2008, pp. 358]
Mohamedou Ould Slahi. [Source: WDR.de]The 9/11 Commission will later call Mohamedou Ould Slahi “a significant al-Qaeda operative who, even [in late 1999], was well known to US and German intelligence, though neither government apparently knew he was operating in Germany.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 165]
Thinks He Was Monitored - However, while in US custody after 9/11, Slahi will allege that a phone call he received in January 1999 from his cousin Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid, a top al-Qaeda leader living in Afghanistan, was monitored. Slahi will say, “I later learned that my cousin was using Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone that was intercepted.” Another mutual cousin was arrested that month and Slahi says, “I wasn’t captured, but I am sure I was followed by the German police [and/or] German intelligence.” He claims the imam at his mosque told him that German officials had come to ask questions about him and was told Slahi had ties with terrorists. [US Department of Defense, 4/20/2006, pp. 184-216] In 2000, the New York Times will report that German authorities became interested in Slahi “shortly after the bombings of American Embassies in East Africa in 1998. The German authorities learned that [he] might have ties to Islamic extremists in Europe.” [New York Times, 1/29/2000]
Links to 9/11 Hijackers - After Hamburg al-Qaeda cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh is captured in 2002, he will allegedly claim that Slahi was the one who originally recruited 9/11 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah. [Agence France-Presse, 10/26/2002] After 9/11, another prisoner in US custody will say that Slahi and bin al-Shibh met in Frankfurt in 1999 through an acquaintance. This acquaintance will go further and will claim Slahi knew bin al-Shibh and Jarrah since at least 1998 and that Slahi later lived with them in Hamburg. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 496] In October 1999, bin al-Shibh and Alshehhi call Slahi, and he invites them to come to where he lives in Duisburg, Germany. Bin al-Shibh, Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah soon go visit him there. Karim Mehdi, an apparent leader of the al-Qaeda Ruhr Valley cell who will later be sentenced to nine years in prison for a post-9/11 plot, is also at this meeting. Bin al-Shibh, Alsehhi, and Jarrah follow Slahi’s advice to go to Afghanistan instead of Chechnya, and he gives them instructions on how to meet up with al-Qaeda operatives there. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 165; Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 8/3/2005; Associated Press, 10/26/2006] US investigators later believe Slahi worked closely on al-Qaeda matters with bin al-Shibh and instructed another militant to go to the US and to take part in the 9/11 plot. Additionally, he is believed to have a key role in Ahmed Ressam’s millennium plot (see December 15-31, 1999). [Los Angeles Times, 4/24/2006]
No Action - German authorities are monitoring and wiretapping the phones at bin al-Shibh’s apartment throughout 1999 (see November 1, 1998-February 2001 and 2000), but they apparently do not connect Slahi to the Hamburg militants or do not act on that connection. The Germans will apparently miss another chance to learn of his ties to the Hamburg cell in April 2000, when Slahi is arrested for three weeks in Germany and then let go (see January-April 2000). [US Department of Defense, 4/20/2006, pp. 184-216] Note that the testimonies of detainees such as Slahi and bin al-Shibh are suspect due to widespread allegations that they were tortured into confessions (for instance, see September 27, 2001).
Following the issue of another directive governing a set of operations against Osama bin Laden, the CIA is said to become confused over whether it can mount an operation to assassinate him. In December, President Bill Clinton authorized the CIA to kill bin Laden using a group of tribal leaders in Afghanistan (see December 24, 1998), but a few weeks later he issued another memo governing relations between the CIA and the Northern Alliance that did not contain authorization to kill bin Laden (see February 1999). The CIA will later say that the reason it does not take advantage of the authorization to kill him using the tribal leaders is because it is confused by the second memo. The CIA’s inspector general will comment: “Given the law, executive order, and past problems with covert action programs, CIA managers refused to take advantage of the ambiguities that did exist.” The 9/11 Commission will also say that “the limits of the available authority were not tested.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 133; Central Intelligence Agency, 6/2005, pp. xxi ]
9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta enters a lottery for permanent resident status in the US. The application is submitted over the Internet to the National Visa Service, a company that, for a $50 fee, helps individuals enter green card lotteries for permanent resident status in the US. Atta submits another lottery application in November, but both applications are unsuccessful. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 19-20 ] This may indicate that Atta is already involved in the 9/11 plot in some way prior to December 1999, when the 9/11 Commission suggests he joins the plot (see Late November-Early December 1999). He appears to have traveled to Afghanistan (see Late 1997-Early 1998) and has discussed studying in the US with his parents (see October 1999). In addition, he and fellow Hamburg cell member Marwan Alshehhi may have already started taking flying lessons (see April 1999 and October 1999).
Ahmed Alnami. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Although at least two of the 9/11 hijackers are distinctly unreligious when young (see (1998)), some of them appear to be moderately religious before they travel to Afghanistan:
According to the 9/11 Commission, Hamza and Ahmed Alghamdi attend prayer services regularly;
Salem Alhazmi stops drinking and starts going to the mosque three months before he disappears;
Abdulaziz Alomari and Ahmed Alnami are reported to become more religious after contact with the education system in Saudi Arabia (see 1999-2000).
But in general, the Saudi 9/11 hijackers are seen as devout, but not fanatical. For example, the 9/11 Commission will comment, “Their families often did not consider these young men religious zealots,” and Alnami’s father will say his son “practiced religion like most of us do.” [ABC News, 3/15/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 232-3]
A transfer of 241 million euros (over $250 million) is made to Pakistan in this year from a Swiss bank account belonging jointly to Osama bin Laden and a Pakistani. The Pakistani is Akberali Moawalla, a former business partner and an acquaintance of Osama’s brother Yeslam bin Laden. This Deutsche Bank joint account belongs to a company called Cambridge, which is a subsidiary of the Saudi Binladin Group, the bin Laden family company. After French investigators will discover records of this money transfer in late 2004, a French judge will authorize widening a probe into the financial network surrounding the bin Laden family. [Reuters, 12/26/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] The discovery of this sizable joint bank account will contradict the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission, which will claim that bin Laden inherited far less than is commonly reported and never had a fortune in the hundreds of millions of dollars (see August 21, 2004). [Agence France-Presse, 7/26/2004]
Mary Deborah Doran. [Source: Havecamerawilltravel.com]Al-Qaeda operative Khallad bin Attash possibly flies to the US around this time. In 2011, former FBI agent Ali Soufan will write in a book that in late 2003, he and some other FBI officials plus some CIA officials briefed the 9/11 Commission about al-Qaeda. In the course of that briefing, an FBI official named Mary Deborah Doran said, “[W]e found that Salah bin Saeed bin Yousef—this is the alias Khallad [bin Attash] traveled under—was listed as having traveled to LAX [Los Angeles Airport] during the millennium.” A CIA analyst present denies that bin Attash ever went to the US. Doran replied, “You may be right, but if he wasn’t there, why is his alias on the flight manifest?” Apparently, the CIA analyst has no response to this. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 303] This is all that is publicly known, since even though this information is presented to the 9/11 Commission, the Commission never even mentions bin Attash going to the US as a possibility in its final report.
When Exactly Could This Occur? - If bin Attash does go to Los Angeles, it is unclear exactly when this takes place. Bin Attash appears to be busy in Malaysia for most of late December 1999, recovering from surgery there (see Mid-December 1999). Then he makes a series of test flights from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok to Hong Kong and back from December 31, 1999 to January 2, 2000 (see December 31, 1999-January 2, 2000). One logical possibility is that he continues these test flights to the US and back from January 2 to 5, returning to Malaysia in time for the al-Qaeda summit he attends there from January 5 to 8 (see January 5-8, 2000). After the summit, it is known he goes to Bangkok, Thailand, and stays there until he flies to Karachi, Pakistan, on January 20 (see January 8, 2000 and January 20, 2000). But it is also possible he could fly to Los Angeles and back during his time in Thailand, since many of his days there are not accounted for. Future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khallad Almihdhar attend the Malaysia summit with bin Attash and then fly to Los Angeles on January 15 (see January 15, 2000) and start living in California, so it could be that bin Attash goes to Los Angeles to prepare the way for the two hijackers, or to help them start living there.
If He Goes to the US, Does the CIA Know? - Since the CIA knows bin Attash is using the Salah bin Saeed bin Yousef alias for all his plane flights around this time, and flies with Alhazmi and Almihdhar to Thailand using this alias on January 8, and Alhazmi and Almihdhar fly to Los Angeles one week later, it would be logical for the agency to check if bin Attash ever goes to the US under that name as well. But it is unknown if the CIA checks for this information before 9/11.
Victims’ family members Lorie Van Auken (right) and Kristen Breitweiser (left) are shocked to learn Tom Wilshire blocked a cable to the FBI about Khalid Almihdhar’s visa. [Source: Banded Artists]Doug Miller, an FBI agent assigned to Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, reads CIA cables reporting that 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar has a US visa and drafts a cable to the FBI to inform it of this. The CIA obtained the information through a tap on Almihdhar’s phone in Yemen (see December 29, 1999) and by monitoring him as he passed through Dubai (see January 2-5, 2000) on his way to an al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000).
Draft Cable - Miller writes that Almihdhar has a US visa (see April 3-7, 1999) and that the visa application states his destination is New York and he intends to stay for three months. The draft cable mentions the tap on Almihdhar’s phone, his planned travel to Malaysia, and the links between his phone and the 1998 East African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998 and October 4, 2001). It also says that the CIA has obtained photographs of Almihdhar and these will be sent separately. Miller asks the FBI for feedback resulting from an FBI investigation.
Blocked - Another CIA officer named Michael Anne Casey accesses Miller’s draft about an hour after he writes it. The cable is then blocked on the orders of the station’s deputy chief, Tom Wilshire, as a few hours after Miller drafts the cable Casey attaches a message to it saying, “pls hold off on [cable] for now per [Tom Wilshire].” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 502; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 240 ] Miller is also told, “This is not a matter for the FBI.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 311]
'No Reason to Kill the Message' - Author James Bamford will later comment: “A potential terrorist and member of al-Qaeda was heading for the US, the FBI’s jurisdiction—its turf—and he [Miller] was putting the FBI on notice so it could take action. There was no reason to kill the message.” [Bamford, 2008, pp. 19] Miller will later say he has no “rational answer” as to why the cable was blocked, but will speculate that Alec Station officers were annoyed he had encroached on their territory. [Congressional Quarterly, 10/1/2008] Casey drafts a cable falsely saying that the information about Almihdhar’s visa has been shared with the FBI (see Around 7:00 p.m. January 5, 2000) and there will be a discussion the next day about whether the cable should be sent (see January 6, 2000). The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General will later call the failure to pass the information to the FBI a “significant failure” but will be unable to determine why the information was not passed on. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 250 ] The 9/11 Commission will know of the incident, but will relegate it to an endnote in its final report, omitting Wilshire’s role entirely. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 502] The CIA inspector general will falsely claim that the cable is not sent, “[a]pparently because it was in the wrong format or needed editing.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 6/2005, pp. xv ]
Future 9/11 hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah is briefly detained and questioned at the Dubai airport (see January 30-31, 2000), and some reports will suggest this is because he is already on a US watch list. It is not known when he may have been put on a watch list or why. The only information about this will come from conflicting accounts as to why Jarrah is stopped and questioned by immigration officials for several hours in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 30.
Did the US Tell the UAE to Stop Jarrah? - According to one version, UAE officials claim Jarrah is stopped based on a tip-off from the US. A UAE source will tell author Jane Corbin: “It was at the request of the Americans and it was specifically because of Jarrah’s links with Islamic extremists, his contacts with terrorist organizations. That was the extent of what we were told.” [Corbin, 2003] In 2002, CNN will also report that Jarrah is stopped because he is on a US watch list. It claims this is sourced not only from UAE sources, but from other governments in the Middle East and Europe. However, US officials will claim no such tip-off was ever given. [CNN, 8/1/2002]
Passport and Religious Material Version - Other versions of the story will claim that Jarrah first raises suspicion because of an overlay of the Koran in his passport and because he is carrying religious tapes and books. This is what the 9/11 Commission will claim. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 496] Other accounts, such as one in Vanity Fair in late 2004, will support this version. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
UAE Has Existing Program to Track Militants for the CIA - There may be a middle version of sorts, that Jarrah may be stopped because the CIA wants people with a profile just like his to be stopped. According to CNN: “The questioning of Jarrah in Dubai fits the pattern of a CIA operation described to CNN by UAE and European sources. Those sources say that in 1999, the CIA began an operation to track suspected al-Qaeda operatives, as they transited there. One of those sources provided [a] drawing showing the airport layout and describes how people wanted for questioning were intercepted, most often at a transit desk. As was the case with Ziad Jarrah, CNN sources say UAE officials were, often, told in advance by American officials who was coming in and whom they wanted questioned.” [CNN, 8/1/2002] It will also be reported that in the summer of 1999, the CIA asked immigration officials all over the region to question anyone who may have been returning from training camps in Afghanistan, and Jarrah fits that profile (see Summer 1999). [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
After being prompted by CIA colleagues in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to provide information about what happened to future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar and al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash after they flew from Malaysia to Thailand on January 8, 2000 (see January 8, 2000 and (February 25, 2000)), the CIA station in Bangkok, Thailand, sends out a cable saying that Alhazmi arrived in the US from Thailand with an apparently unnamed companion on January 15 (see January 15, 2000). This information was received from Thai intelligence, which watchlisted Almihdhar and Alhazmi after being asked to do so by the CIA (see January 13, 2000 and January 15, 2000). [New York Times, 10/17/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 181, 502]
Companion - The companion to whom the cable refers is presumably Almihdhar. According to later testimony of a senior FBI official, the CIA learns the companion is Almihdhar at this time: “In March 2000, the CIA received information concerning the entry of Almihdhar and Alhazmi into the United States.” [US Congress, 9/20/2002] The CIA disputes this, however. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 ] If the companion the cable refers to is Almihdhar, then it is unclear why he would not be named, as the NSA has been intercepting his calls for at least a year (see Early 1999), he was under CIA surveillance earlier in January (see January 5-8, 2000), he is known to have a US visa (see January 2-5, 2000), he is associated with Alhazmi (see January 8-9, 2000), and this cable is prompted by another cable specifically asking where Almihdhar is (see February 11, 2000).
Missed Opportunity - Later, CIA officials, including CIA Director George Tenet and Counterterrorist Center Director Cofer Black, will admit that this was one of the missed opportunities to watchlist the hijackers. Black will say: “I think that month we watchlisted about 150 people. [The watchlisting] should have been done. It wasn’t.” Almihdhar and Alhazmi will not be added to the US watchlist until August 2001 (see August 23, 2001). [New York Times, 10/17/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 ]
Unclear Who Reads Cable - Although Tenet will tell the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that nobody at CIA headquarters reads this cable at this time (see October 17, 2002), the CIA’s inspector general will conclude that “numerous” officers access this cable and others about Almihdhar. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria District, 3/28/2006 ] These officers are not named, but Tom Wilshire, the CIA’s deputy unit chief in charge of monitoring the two men at this time, will access it in May 2001 at the same time as he accesses other cables about Almihdhar from early 2000 (see May 15, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will say that the cables are “reexamined” at this time, suggesting that Wilshire may have read them before. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 267, 537] Wilshire certainly did access at least two of the cables in January 2000, indicating he may read the cable about the arrival of Alhazmi and the unnamed companion in the US in March 2000. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 240, 282 ]
FBI Not Informed - The knowledge that Alhazmi has entered the US will be disseminated throughout the CIA, but not to the FBI or other US intelligence agencies (see March 6, 2000 and After). When asked about the failure by the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Wilshire will be unable to explain it, saying: “It’s very difficult to understand what happened with that cable when it came in. I do not know exactly why it was missed. It would appear that it was missed completely.” [US Congress, 9/20/2002]
Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Nawaf Alhazmi, CIA Bangkok Station, 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Alec Station, Tom Wilshire, Khalid Almihdhar, Malaysian Secret Service
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Johnelle Bryant. [Source: ABC News]9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta reportedly has a very strange meeting with Johnelle Bryant of the US Department of Agriculture. Incidentally, this meeting takes place one month before the official story claims he arrived in the US for the first time. According to Bryant, in the meeting Atta does all of the following:
He initially refuses to speak with one who is “but a female.”
He asks her for a loan of $650,000 to buy and modify a crop-dusting plane.
He mentions that he wants to “build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up every available square inch of the aircraft except for where the pilot would be sitting.”
He uses his real name even as she takes notes, and makes sure she spells it correctly.
He says he has just arrived from Afghanistan.
He tells about his travel plans to Spain and Germany.
He expresses an interest in visiting New York.
He asks her about security at the WTC and other US landmarks.
He discusses al-Qaeda and its need for American membership.
He tells her bin Laden “would someday be known as the world’s greatest leader.”
He asks to buy the aerial photograph of Washington hanging on her Florida office wall, throwing increasingly large “wads of cash” at her when she refuses to sell it. [ABC News, 6/6/2002]
After Bryant points out one of the buildings in the Washington photograph as her former place of employment, he asks her, “How would you like it if somebody flew an airplane into your friends’ building?”
He asks her, “What would prevent [me] from going behind [your] desk and cutting [your] throat and making off with the millions of dollars” in the safe behind her.
He asks, “How would America like it if another country destroyed [Washington] and some of the monuments in it like the cities in [my] country had been destroyed?”
He gets “very agitated” when he isn’t given the money in cash on the spot.
Atta later tries to get the loan again from the same woman, this time “slightly disguised” by wearing glasses. Three other terrorists also attempt to get the same loan from Bryant, but all of them fail. Bryant turns them down because they do not meet the loan requirements, and fails to notify anyone about these strange encounters until after 9/11. Government officials not only confirm the account and say that Bryant passed a lie detector test, but also elaborate that the account is consistent with other information they have received from interrogating prisoners. Supposedly, failing to get the loan, the terrorists switched plans from using crop dusters to hijacking aircraft. Other department employees also remember the encounter, again said to take place in April 2000. The 9/11 Commission has failed to mention any aspect of Johnelle Bryant’s account. [Washington Post, 9/25/2001; ABC News, 6/6/2002; London Times, 6/8/2002] Compare Atta’s meeting with FBI Director Mueller’s later testimony about the hijackers: “There were no slip-ups. Discipline never broke down. They gave no hint to those around them what they were about.” [CNN, 9/28/2002]
Historian Ernest May. [Source: Belfer Center]An eminent historian finds serious flaws in a historical treatise about former President John F. Kennedy. The book, The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis, was written in 1997 by conservative historians Ernest May and Philip D. Zelikow, and purports to be an unprecedentedly accurate representation of the events of 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis based on transcriptions of recorded meetings, conferences, telephone conversations, and interviews with various participants. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/2000] Zelikow is a former member of George H. W. Bush’s National Security Council and a close adviser to future National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. [US Department of State, 8/5/2005] May is a Harvard professor. Both will participate heavily in the creation of the 2004 report by the 9/11 Commission. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 387-393] Almost three years after the Kennedy book’s publication, Sheldon M. Stern, the historian for the John F. Kennedy Library from 1977 through 1999, pores over it and the May/Zelikow transcripts. In the original edition, May and Zelikow admitted that their final product was not perfect: “The reader has here the best text we can produce, but it is certainly not perfect. We hope that some, perhaps many, will go to the original tapes. If they find an error or make out something we could not, we will enter the corrections in subsequent editions or printings of this volume.” But when Stern checks the book against the tapes, he finds hundreds of errors in the book, some quite significant. Stern concludes that the errors “significantly undermine [the book’s] reliability for historians, teachers, and general readers.” May and Zelikow have corrected a few of the errors in subsequent editions, but have not publicly acknowledged any errors. Stern concludes, “Readers deserve to know that even now The Kennedy Tapes cannot be relied on as an accurate historical document.” [Atlantic Monthly, 5/2000] One error has then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy talking about the planned “invasion” of Russian ships heading to Cuba, when the tapes actually show Kennedy discussing a far less confrontational “examination” of those vessels. May and Zelikow imply that the Kennedy administration was discussing just the kind of confrontation that it was actually trying to avoid. Another error has CIA Director John McCone referring to the need to call on former President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a “facilitator,” where McCone actually said “soldier.” May and Zelikow will be rather dismissive of Stern’s findings, saying that “none of these amendments are very important.” Stern will express shock over their response, and respond, “When the words are wrong, as they are repeatedly, the historical record is wrong.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 42]
Entity Tags: Kennedy administration, Philip Zelikow, John F. Kennedy, Sheldon M. Stern, Robert F. Kennedy, Ernest May, John A. McCone, 9/11 Commission, George Herbert Walker Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Dwight Eisenhower
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The King Fahd Mosque in Culver City. [Source: Damian Dovarganes]Hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi travel to Los Angeles with an associate, Mohdar Abdullah, before Almihdhar leaves the US the next day (see June 10, 2000). When they visit the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, Abdullah is surprised that Alhazmi and Almihdhar already know several people at the mosque. Abdullah will later say, “I was surprised that anybody at the mosque knew them, because as far as I knew Alhazmi and Almihdhar hadn’t visited Los Angeles since they arrived in the US.” They meet one of the hijackers’ Los Angeles acquaintances, known as Khallam, again later that night at their motel. According to the 9/11 Commission, Khallam asks Abdullah to leave the motel room, so he can talk to Alhazmi and Almihdhar in private. However, Abdullah will later dispute this, saying he is not asked leave the room, but that Alhazmi leaves to make an international phone call from a pay phone. The identity of the person he calls is unknown, but it is possible that he talks to Ahmed al-Hada, an al-Qaeda operative whose safe house is monitored by the US and who Alhazmi sometimes calls from the US (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). Khallam will apparently never be found after 9/11. The FBI will consider the possibility that he is Khallad bin Attash, as there are some reports that bin Attash is in the US at this time and met the mosque’s imam, Fahad al Thumairy. However, this theory will never be confirmed. [Los Angeles Times, 7/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 216, 514] The next day, Alhazmi, Abdullah and an unknown man make a casing video at Los Angeles Airport (see June 10, 2000). It is possible that the third man is Khallam.
The book Study of Revenge. [Source: Public domain]Laurie Mylroie, a researcher who held faculty positions at Harvard and the US Naval War College, publishes the book Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America. She argues that the Iraqi government was behind the 1993 WTC bombing. The book is published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a prominent neoconservative think tank, and her book has strong support from many important neoconservatives.
Lauded by Neoconservatives - Richard Perle calls the book “splendid and wholly convincing,” while Paul Wolfowitz calls it a “provocative and disturbing book.” Former CIA Director James Woolsey says, “Anyone who wishes to continue to deal with Saddam [Hussein] by ignoring his role in international terrorism…and by giving only office furniture to the Iraqi resistance now has the staggering task of trying to refute this superb work.” In her acknowledgements, she thanks John Bolton, I. Lewis Libby, and Wolfowitz for their support and help in writing the book. All of them will go on to take prominent positions in the Bush administration.
Mylroie's Theories Discredited - But war correspondent and terrorism expert Peter Bergen will later comment, “Mylroie became enamored of her theory that Saddam was the mastermind of a vast anti-US terrorist conspiracy in the face of virtually all evidence and expert opinion to the contrary. In what amounts to the discovery of a unified field theory of terrorism, Mylroie believes that Saddam was not only behind the ‘93 Trade Center attack, but also every anti-American terrorist incident of the past decade…” Bergen will continue, “[B]y the mid-‘90s, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, the FBI, the US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, the CIA, the NSC, and the State Department had all found no evidence implicating the Iraqi government in the first Trade Center attack.” Bergen will comment that normally a book like this would not have mattered, except that the neoconservatives “believed her theories, bringing her on as a consultant at the Pentagon, and they seem to continue to entertain her eccentric belief that Saddam is the fount of the entire shadow war against America.” [Washington Monthly, 12/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 216]
No Credible Evidence of Iraqi Involvement in WTC Bombing - The book will be used as a lodestar of neoconservative thought when terrorists launch the 9/11 attacks, when neoconservatives inside and outside the Bush administration will pin the blame for the attacks on Iraq (see September 13, 2001). [Unger, 2007, pp. 216] In 2004, the 9/11 Commission will conclude, “We have found no credible evidence to support theories of Iraqi government involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 559]
Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Peter Bergen, Richard Perle, Saddam Hussein, Laurie Mylroie, John R. Bolton, American Enterprise Institute, 9/11 Commission, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, James Woolsey
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence
Hours after the USS Cole is bombed (see October 12, 2000), presidential candidate Governor George W. Bush is asked about the bombing. He replies, “Today, we lost sailors because of what looks like to be a terrorist attack. Terror is the enemy. Uncertainty is what the world is going to be about, and the next president must be able to address uncertainty. And that’s why I want our nation to develop an antiballistic missile system that will have the capacity to bring certainty into this uncertain world.” Author Craig Unger comments, “Bush’s proposal of an antiballistic missile system suggests that he failed to understand that al-Qaeda’s terrorism was fundamentally different from conventional warfare.” [Unger, 2004, pp. 107, 479] Bush will make similar comments on other occasions, causing the 9/11 Commission to later note, “Public references by candidate and then President Bush about terrorism before 9/11 tended to reflect [his] priorities, focusing on state-sponsored terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction] as a reason to mount a missile defense.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 509]
Future 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alnami and candidate hijacker Mushabib al-Hamlan obtain US visas from the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14-15 ] Alnami’s visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000) and will issue Alnami with a second visa next year (see April 23, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] Alnami’s application is incomplete, as he lists his occupation as “student,” but does not provide a complete address for his school. He also gives his US address as “in Los Angeles” and writes that “my friend Moshibab” will be traveling with him. The 9/11 Commission will later suggest that Alnami’s passport may contain fraudulent travel stamps associated with al-Qaeda, although this is not certain and is apparently not noticed at this time. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14-15 ] The 9/11 Commission will also suggest that one or more of Alnami’s passports may contain a suspicious indicator of Islamist extremism, but this is not certain (see November 6, 1999 and November 2, 2007). Some of the radicals who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 also had Saudi passports with the same indicator (see Around February 1993). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 563-4; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14-15 ] Before obtaining the visa, Alnami and al-Hamlan followed instructions given them by al-Qaeda leaders Mohammed Atef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and contacted future 9/11 hijacker Waleed Alshehri in Jeddah. They briefly share an apartment with Alshehri, who provides them with directions to the consulate and shows them how to fill out visa applications. Al-Hamlan will soon drop out of the plot after contacting his family. Alnami will later be said to fly to Beirut with the Alshehris (see Mid-November, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526]
9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alghamdi apparently flies to Beirut. Based on NSA reporting drafted shortly after September 11, the 9/11 Commission will say that a senior Hezbollah operative is on the same flight, although it will point out that this is “perhaps by coincidence.” The commission will suggest this is the first leg on a journey to Afghanistan, and say that this flight may be part of Iranian assistance to al-Qaeda consisting of allowing operatives to transit Iran without stamping their passports on the way to and from Afghanistan (see After October 12, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240, 529; Shenon, 2008, pp. 370-3] Alghamdi obtained a US visa in Saudi Arabia on September 3, 2000. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13 ] What he did between obtaining the visa and taking this flight is unknown, as is the place from which he flies to Beirut.
Salem Alhazmi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]9/11 hijacker Salem Alhazmi flies from Saudi Arabia to Beirut.
Tracked by Saudis - According to the 9/11 Commission, Alhazmi’s passport has an indicator of Islamic extremism (see April 4, 1999). Such indicators are used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007), so the Saudi authorities presumably register his departure.
Alleged Iran Link - The 9/11 Commission will mention this flight in a section of its report dealing with possible co-operation between Iran, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda on travel issues (see October 8-13, 2000, After October 12, 2000, and Mid-November, 2000), but there are no direct links between this flight and Iranian operatives. The co-operation consisted of Iran allowing al-Qaeda operatives to transit Iran without stamping their passports on the way to and from Afghanistan (see After October 12, 2000), so the Commission suggests this flight may be the first step on a journey to Afghanistan. The 9/11 Commission’s statement that Alhazmi took this flight is based on intelligence reports from the NSA, mostly drafted shortly after 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240-1, 529; Shenon, 2008, pp. 370-3]
Reason for Presence in Saudi Arabia Unclear - Although several of the hijackers are in Saudi Arabia at this time to obtain visas, it is unclear why Alhazmi would be in the country, as there is no mention of him obtaining a US visa around this time. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13-16 ]
Returns, Leaves Again - Alhazmi leaves Saudi Arabia again on January 1, 2001, traveling to Yemen. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 116 ] He is presumably tracked by Saudi authorities as he enters Saudi Arabia after returning from Beirut and also as he leaves Saudi Arabia for Yemen.
Waleed Alshehri. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Based on intelligence reports, the 9/11 Commission will later say that 9/11 hijackers Wail Alshehri, Waleed Alshehri, and Ahmed Alnami travel in a group from Saudi Arabia to Beirut and then onward to Iran in mid-November 2000. An associate of a senior Hezbollah operative is also on the flight from Beirut to Iran. According to US intelligence, Hezbollah officials in Beirut and Iran are expecting the arrival of a group at around this time and this group is important enough to merit the attention of senior figures in Hezbollah. The commission will say that this flight may be part of Iranian assistance to al-Qaeda consisting of allowing operatives to transit Iran without stamping their passports on the way to and from Afghanistan (see After October 12, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240, 529]
Contradicted by Families' Claims - However, two to three years before the 9/11 Commission publishes these claims, the families of both Ahmed Alnami and the Alshehri brothers will deny they travel anywhere at this time, and say they leave home in December, not the middle of November. After 9/11, Alnami’s father will initially say Alnami has been missing since December 2000 and will later repeat that he left home in December 2000 in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. [Washington Post, 9/25/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/15/2002] The Alshehri brothers’ family will also claim they do not leave until after mid-November 2000. Initially, the father will say that they left “last Ramadan.” [Arab News, 9/17/2001] The month of Ramadan begins on November 27 in 2000. [Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11/26/2000] Based on a 2002 interview with one of their brothers, the Boston Globe will also later say that they leave in December. [Boston Globe, 3/3/2002] If this is true, the story of their travel with a Hezbollah operative would probably be incorrect.
9/11 Commission's Sourcing - The 9/11 Commission cites intelligence reports, mostly drafted between October and December 2001, as its sources. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240, 529] These reports come from the NSA. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 370-373]
Alnami Possibly Tracked by Saudi Intelligence - According to the 9/11 Commission, Alnami may have had a passport with an indicator of Islamic extremism (see November 6, 1999). Such indicators were used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007).
Elizabeth Colton (left) may have issued Satam al Suqami’s US visa. [Source: US Department of State/FBI]Future 9/11 hijacker Satam al Suqami obtains a US visa from the American embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al Suqami has traveled extensively around Asia in recent years (see November 5, 1998-September 24, 2000) and uses a passport that has fraudulent travel stamps that will later be associated with al-Qaeda, but this is apparently not noticed. The application is incomplete, as al Suqami does not give the name and address of his current employer. The consular officer who issues the visa will later tell the House Committee on Government Reform that al Suqami was interviewed and will recall details of the interview: The reason for the interview is because al Suqami gives his occupation as “dealer,” which Saudis often use to mean businessman, and several questions are asked, including who is paying for his trip. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 16, 38 ] The officer will repeat this claim to the State Department’s inspector general, adding that she specifically remembers the interview, has a photographic memory, and recalls al Suqami’s photo. [Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 2/6/2003] However, the officer will say that notes are always taken during interviews and there are no such notes on al Suqami’s application. The 9/11 Commission will say that this raises “the possibility that the officer’s memory of having conducted the interview was false.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 16 ] The officer’s identity is unknown, although she may well be Elizabeth Colton. The 9/11 Commission’s Terrorist Travel monograph will say that, before joining the State Department, the officer had interviwed the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 49, 62 ] Colton has previously been chief of Newsweek’s bureau in Cairo, Egypt, where the Blind Sheikh lived before immigrating to the US (see December 15, 1986-1989). [Consulate General of the United States, Dubai, UAE, 8/2007] She has also met other notable personalities in the Middle East, such as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. [State Magazine, 11/2000] A State Department inspector general memo of an interview of the officer will say that she helped develop the Visa Express program introduced in Saudi Arabia in May and June of 2001 (see May 2001). [Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 2/6/2003] The Visa Express manual will list Colton as the program’s Riyadh contact. [Embassy of the United States, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 6/2001]
The FBI and FAA jointly publish the yearly National Intelligence Estimate report mandated by Congress. It reads, “FBI investigations confirm domestic and international terrorist groups operating within the US but do not suggest evidence of plans to target domestic civil aviation. Terrorist activity within the US has focused primarily on fundraising, recruiting new members, and disseminating propaganda. While international terrorists have conducted attacks on US soil, these acts represent anomalies in their traditional targeting which focuses on US interests overseas.” This differs from assessments in previous years that suggested there were groups targeting domestic aviation. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will conclude that assessment is “relatively low… notwithstanding historical intelligence information to the contrary.” [US Congress, 9/18/2002]
In 2003, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta will later be asked by the 9/11 Commission, “Did this higher level of [terrorist] chatter [before 9/11]… result in any action across the government? I take it your answer is no.” He will reply, “That’s correct.” [Associated Press, 5/23/2003]
Gary Hart (left) and Warren Rudman (right) testify before a Senate committee in 2002. [Source: Reuters / Win McNamee]The final report of the US Commission on National Security/21st Century, co-chaired by former Senators Gary Hart (D-CO) and Warren Rudman (R-NH), is issued. The bipartisan panel was put together in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Hart and Rudman personally brief National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Colin Powell on their findings. The report has 50 recommendations on how to combat terrorism in the US, but all of them are ignored by the Bush administration.
Shelved by White House - According to Hart, Congress will begin to take the commission’s suggestions seriously in March and April, and legislation is introduced to implement some of the recommendations. Then, “Frankly, the White House shut it down.… The president said, ‘Please wait, we’re going to turn this over to the vice president‘… and so Congress moved on to other things, like tax cuts and the issue of the day.” The White House will announce in May that it will have Vice President Dick Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism, despite the fact that this commission had just studied the issue for 2 1/2 years. Interestingly, both this commission and the Bush administration were already assuming a new cabinet level National Homeland Security Agency would be enacted eventually, even as the public remained unaware of the term and the concept. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Salon, 4/2/2004]
Cannot Get Meeting with Bush - At the meeting with Rice, Rudman says he wants to see President Bush, and is planning to deliver a “blunt and very direct” warning to him that he needs to deal early in his presidency with the question of domestic terror threats. Rice initially agrees to pass on Rudman’s request for a meeting with Bush, but nothing happens. Rudman will contact Rice’s office several times, but still no meeting is arranged. Rudman will later say he is “disappointed” by this, adding, “There’s no question in my mind that somebody at the White House dropped the ball on this.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 56-57]
Ignored by 9/11 Commission - Hart will be incredulous that neither he nor any of the other members of this commission are ever asked to testify before the 9/11 Commission. [Salon, 4/6/2004] The 9/11 Commission will later make many of the same recommendations as this commission. However, it will barely mention the Hart/Rudman Commission in its final report, except to note that Congress appointed it and failed to follow through on implementing its recommendations. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 107, 479]
Entity Tags: US Congress, Newt Gingrich, Warren Rudman, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Gary Hart, Commission on National Security/21st Century, Bush administration (43), 9/11 Commission, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
According to a US intelligence report drafted in October 2001, a source reports in February 2001 that a person he identifies as “the big instructor” complains frequently that the US has not yet attacked. This is apparently a reference to the lack of a US response to the USS Cole bombing by al-Qaeda (see October 12, 2000). The 9/11 Commission will say that the “big instructor” is “probably a reference to bin Laden.” The Commission will add, “According to the source, bin Laden wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 191, 507]
Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi make a brief trip to Virginia Beach, where they cash a check for $4,000 and rent a mailbox. Newsweek will later report that federal investigators believe Mohamed Atta visits Norfolk, Virginia, site of a huge US Navy base, at this time, stating, “The Feds believe that Atta was scoping out an aircraft carrier as a target.” However, the 9/11 Commission will comment, “We have found no explanation for these travels.” [Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Newsweek, 10/29/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004, pp. 7; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 229, 523; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] Atta and Alshehhi will return to Virginia Beach a few weeks later (see April 3-4, 2001 and around). The address of a Virginia post office box used by the future hijackers will be found in a raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Pakistan in 2002, but details beyond this are unknown (see May 16, 2002). [9/11 Commission, 12/4/2003 ]
Satam Al Suqami. [Source: FBI]In the wake of the foiled al-Qaeda plot to blow up hotels in Jordan during the millennium celebrations, Jordan gives tips to the US that launch a Customs investigation into one of the plotters, Raed Hijazi, and his US connections. “Customs agents for months traced money flowing from several Boston banks to banks overseas, where officials believe the funds were intended for bin Laden’s network.” In September and October 2000, Jordanian officials gave US investigators evidence of financial transactions connecting Raed Hijazi, Nabil al-Marabh, and future 9/11 hijacker Hamza Alghamdi (see September 2000; October 2000). By spring 2001, Custom agents further connect al-Marabh and Hijazi to financial deals with future 9/11 hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi and Satam Al Suqami. The Washington Post will later note, “These various connections not only suggest that investigators are probing ties between bin Laden and the hijackers, but also that federal authorities knew about some of those associations long before the bombings.” [Washington Post, 9/21/2001] It appears that the money flowed from al-Marabh to Alghamdi and Al Suqami. [Cox News Service, 10/16/2001; ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] While accounts of these connections to Alghamdi and Al Suqami will be widely reported in the media in the months after 9/11, a Customs Service spokesman will say he can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the inquiry. [New York Times, 9/18/2001] It appears that the two hijackers are not put on any kind of watch list and are not stopped when they arrive in the US on April 23, 2001, and May 2, 2001, respectively (see April 23-June 29, 2001). British newspapers will note that Alghamdi was one of several hijackers who should have been “instantly ‘red-flagged’ by British intelligence” but in fact is not when he passes through Britain sometime in early 2001 (see January-June 2001). The 9/11 Commission Final Report will fail to mention the Customs investigation and will give no hint that these hijackers’ names were known in the US before 9/11.
The Dar al Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. [Source: Fox News]After living together in Phoenix since December 2000, 9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi move to Falls Church, Virginia, where imam Anwar al-Awlaki preaches. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004] They live only a few blocks from where two nephews of Osama bin Laden with ties to terrorism go to work (see February-September 11, 1996 and June 1, 2004). They continue to live there off and on until around August. They begin attending the Dar al Hijrah mosque. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002] When they and hijacker Khalid Almihdhar lived in San Diego in early 2000, they attended a mosque there led by al-Awlaki. This imam moved to Falls Church in January 2001, and now the hijackers attend his sermons at the Dar al Hijrah mosque. Some later suspect that al-Awlaki is part of the 9/11 plot because of their similar moves, and other reasons:
The FBI says al-Awlaki had closed door meetings with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in 2000 while all three of them were living in San Diego (see February-August 2000). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
Police later find the phone number of al-Awlaki’s mosque when they search “would-be twentieth hijacker” Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s apartment in Germany. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
The FBI was investigating al-Awlaki for ties to Islamic militant groups in early 2000 (see June 1999-March 2000).
A neighbor of al-Awlaki later claims that, in the first week of August 2001, al-Awlaki knocked on his door and told him he is leaving for Kuwait: “He came over before he left and told me that something very big was going to happen, and that he had to be out of the country when it happened” (see Early August 2001). [Newsweek, 7/28/2003]
US officials will allow al-Awlaki to leave the US twice in 2002, but by 2008 they will conclude that he is linked to al-Qaeda attacks (see Early September 2006-December 2007 and February 27, 2008).
Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Hani Hanjour, Germany, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Anwar al-Awlaki, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ramzi bin al-Shibh
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour rent an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, for about a month, with the help of Eyad Alrababah, a man whom they met at a local mosque. The mosque is run by Anwar al-Awlaki, an associate of Alhazmi’s from San Diego who was investigated by the FBI over terrorism suspicions (see March 2001 and After). Alhazmi and Hanjour had previously lived in Phoenix, Arizona (see December 12, 2000-March 2001) and will later move to Paterson, New Jersey (see March 2001-September 1, 2001). Alrababah will later say that he just happened to meet them after a service in the mosque, when they mentioned they were looking for an apartment and he had a friend who had one to rent. However, given al-Awlaki’s previous association with Alhazmi, some FBI agents will later doubt this and suspect that al-Awlaki told Alrababah to help the hijackers. The 9/11 Commission will comment, “We share that suspicion, given the remarkable coincidence of al-Awlaki’s prior relationship with Alhazmi.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 230]
In 2005 (see February 10, 2005), it will be revealed that of the FAA’s 105 daily intelligence summaries between these dates, 52 mention bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or both. Most of the mentions are “in regard to overseas threats.” None of the warnings specifically predict something similar to the 9/11 attacks, but five of them mention al-Qaeda’s training for hijackings and two reports concern suicide operations unconnected to aviation. [Associated Press, 2/11/2005] One of the warnings mentions air defense measures being taken in Genoa, Italy, for the July 2001 G-8 summit to protect from a possible air attack by terrorists (see July 20-22, 2001). However, the New Jersey Star-Ledger is virtually the only newspaper in the US to report this fact. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 2/11/2005] Despite all these warnings, the FAA fails to take any extra security measures. They do not expand the use of in-flight air marshals or tighten airport screening for weapons. A proposed rule to improve passenger screening and other security measures ordered by Congress in 1996 has held up and is still not in effect by 9/11. The 9/11 Commission’s report on these FAA warnings released in 2005 (see February 10, 2005) will conclude that FAA officials were more concerned with reducing airline congestion, lessening delays, and easing air carriers’ financial problems than preventing a hijacking. [Associated Press, 2/11/2005] The FAA also makes no effort to expand its list of terror suspects, which includes only a dozen names by 9/11 (see April 24, 2000). The former head of the FAA’s civil aviation security branch later says he wasn’t even aware of TIPOFF, the government’s main watch list, which included the names of two 9/11 hijackers before 9/11. Nor is there any evidence that a senior FAA working group responsible for security ever meets in 2001 to discuss “the high threat period that summer.” [New York Times, 2/10/2005]
An apartment in Hollywood, Florida, where Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi lived for a month from May 13. [Source: Patrick Durand / Corbis]Several large deposits are made on the 9/11 hijacker pilots’ accounts. The joint SunTrust account of Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi receives $8,600 on May 11, $3,400 on May 22, and $8,000 on June 1, when $3,000 is also deposited in Ziad Jarrah’s SunTrust account. The 9/11 Commission will not identify the source of these funds, but will speculate that they may be from physically imported cash or traveler’s checks the investigation did not identify, or funds that were previously withdrawn, but not spent. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 136-7 ] Alternatively, they may be related to the way in which Mohamed Atta distributes cash transferred to his US bank accounts (see Mid-July-Mid-August 2001).
Tom Wilshire, a former deputy chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit currently detailed to the FBI, accesses a number of cables about travel by 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi in 2000 (see March 5, 2000), but fails to draw the FBI’s attention to this or ask the INS whether they are still in the US. The cables report on Khalid Almihdhar’s travel to Malaysia in January 2000, his US visa, al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, and Alhazmi’s travel from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Bangkok, Thailand, with another person, and then to Los Angeles. Wilshire had previously blocked a notification to the FBI that Almihdhar had a US visa (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000). He writes to another CIA analyst about the travel (see May 15, 2001), but does not alert the FBI to the fact Alhazmi came to the US. Neither does he check with the INS to see whether Alhazmi and Almihdhar are in the country. When one of his colleagues finds these cables in late August, she will immediately check with the INS and become alarmed when she is told they are in the US (see August 21-22, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 266-8, 537; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 283 ] The 9/11 Commission will explain his failure to alert the FBI by saying he was focused on a possible terrorist attack in Malaysia: “Despite the US links evident in this traffic, [Wilshire] made no effort to determine whether any of these individuals was in the United States. He did not raise the possibility with his FBI counterpart. He was focused on Malaysia.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 268]
According to National Security Adviser Rice, in the summer of 2001, “The FBI tasked all 56 of its US field offices to increase surveillance of known suspected terrorists and to reach out to known informants who might have information on terrorist activities.” [9/11 Commission, 4/8/2004] But the 9/11 Commission later will conclude, “An NSC [National Security Council] staff document at the time describes such a tasking as having occurred in late June but does not indicate whether it was generated by the NSC or the FBI.… [H]owever, the FBI could not find any record of having received such a directive.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 264] According to Newsday, 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer “told Rice that the Commission had ‘to date… found nobody, nobody at the FBI, who knows anything about a tasking of field offices.’ Even Thomas Pickard, at the time acting FBI director, told the panel that he ‘did not tell the field offices to do this,’ Roemer said.” [Newsday, 4/10/2004] The last time the FBI field offices were tasked about the Muslim extremist threat was in April 2001 (see April 13, 2001). Pickard claims that he did individually warn some field offices about the heightened threat in July, but the 9/11 Commission will conclude, “We found little evidence that any such concerns had reached FBI personnel beyond the New York Field Office.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 264, 536]
Hani Hanjour. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]While most evidence places future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour on the East Coast in the summer of 2001, Hanjour may undergo some flight training in Phoenix, Arizona, as well. Hanjour trained at the Sawyer School of Aviation previously (see 1998), and there is some evidence he returns there. One school document records Hanjour’s name for use of a flight simulator on June 23, 2001, though his name does not appear on payment records. Faisal al-Salmi, Rayed Abdullah, and Lotfi Raissi also use the flight simulator this day. Al-Salmi will later be convicted of lying about his associations with Hanjour (see February 15, 2002). Abdullah had moved with Hanjour from Florida in 1997, and is known for giving extremist speeches at a Phoenix mosque (see October 1996-Late April 1999). Raissi will later be suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plot, then cleared (see September 21, 2001). There are also indications that Hanjour signs up to use a flight simulator in August with three other Muslim men, including al-Salmi. One Sawyer employee is fairly certain she sees Hanjour during the summer. Another witness sees Hanjour with al-Salmi elsewhere in Phoenix. The 9/11 Commission will note that the evidence of Hanjour training in Phoenix during the summer is not definitive, but “the FBI’s Phoenix office believes it is plausible that Hanjour return[s] to Arizona for additional training.” [New York Times, 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 529] On July 10, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum to FBI headquarters urging a nationwide check on Middle Eastern students at flight schools (see July 10, 2001), but apparently neither Williams nor anyone else actually conducts any kind of check on Phoenix flight schools at this time (see July 10-September 11, 2001).
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz asks the CIA to look over the 2000 book, Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America by Laurie Mylroie, which argued that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center (see October 2000). Wolfowitz will mention shortly after 9/11 how he asked the CIA to do this, but it is unknown what their response is. Presumably it is not one Wolfowitz liked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 559] Wolfowitz also asks Thomas Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), to have his analysts look at the book. The DIA is unable to find any evidence that support the theory. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 76] Around late July, the US reopens the files on WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef, presumably in response to these requests (see Late July or Early August 2001). But no evidence will be found to support Mylroie’s theory that Yousef was an Iraqi agent. The 9/11 Commission will conclude in 2004, “We have found no credible evidence to support theories of Iraqi government involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 559]
The INS extends future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi’s permitted stay in the US, 11 months after he filed a late application to extend it (see July 12-27, 2000). The INS should not grant the extension due to the late filing, but does so anyway. It is unclear why it has taken 11 months to process the application. The approval retroactively extends Alhazmi’s stay for six months, from the date it originally expired until January 14, 2001. While his unlawful US presence after July 14, 2000 is retroactively legalized, Alhazmi’s presence after January 14, 2001 remains unlawful, and no other applications for extensions will be filed. [Immigration and Naturalization Service, 2002; INS email, 3/20/2002; Immigration and Naturalization Service, 5/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 12, 25 ] An INS report will note, “The application shouldn’t have been approved because it was filed 13 days late.” However, an official, whose name will be redacted, will write in an INS e-mail: “Per [redacted]. This is a common occurrence that is within the adjudicator’s discretion to forgive a late filing, if it is brief and the applicant has a good story.… How do you suppose the press may spin this, and more importantly, how will the INS defend itself?” [Immigration and Naturalization Service, 2002; INS email, 3/20/2002] Alhazmi never receives notification of the extension, as the notice will be returned as undeliverable on March 25, 2002. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 25 ] His passport contains an indicator of Islamist extremism used to track terrorists by the Saudi authorities (see March 21, 1999). The 9/11 Commission will comment that this extension is “[y]et another opportunity to spot the suspicious indicator,” but US authorities fail to do so. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 12 ] The precise state of US knowledge about the indicator at this time is unknown (see Around February 1993). The CIA will learn of it no later than 2003, but will still not inform immigration officials then (see February 14, 2003).
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke warns National Security Adviser Rice and Assistant National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that six separate intelligence reports show al-Qaeda personnel warning of a pending attack. These include a warning by al-Qaeda leaders that the next weeks “will witness important surprises” (see June 21, 2001) and a new recruitment video making further threats (see June 19, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will say that “Clarke [argues] that this [is] all too sophisticated to be merely a psychological operation to keep the United States on edge…” It is unclear how Rice and Hadley respond, but the CIA agrees with Clarke’s assessment. [Newsweek, 7/22/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 257]
All the hijackers based in New Jersey open at least one bank account there:
Hani Hanjour opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on June 27, 2001;
He opens another account with the same bank three days later, when Nawaf Alhazmi also opens one;
Ahmed Alghamdi, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Majed Moqed open accounts with the Dime Savings Bank on July 9, 2001;
Khalid Almihdhar opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 18, 2001. He closes it on August 31;
Salem Alhazmi opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 21, 2001;
Abdulaziz Alomari opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 26, 2001;
Khalid Almihdhar opens an account with the First Union National Bank on August 22, 2001 with a $50 deposit. He changes his contact address on September 5;
Hani Hanjour opens an account with First Union National Bank on August 23, 2001 with a $50 deposit. He then attempts to withdraw $5,000 on September 5 and $4,900 from it on September 7, despite it containing nothing but the original $50. Unable to make the withdrawal, he cashes a $20 check instead. Hanjour closes the account the next day. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] These hijackers will subsequently fly on three of the planes on 9/11. In its Terrorist Financing monograph the 9/11 Commission will note: “Among other things they used the debit cards to pay for hotel rooms—activity that would have enabled the FBI to locate them, had the FBI been able to get the transaction records fast enough. Moreover, Alhazmi used his debit card on August 27 to buy tickets for himself… and fellow Flight 77 hijacker Salem Alhazmi. If the FBI had found either Almihdhar or Nawaf Alhazmi, it could have found the other. They not only shared a common bank but frequently were together when conducting transactions. After locating Almihdhar and Alhazmi, the FBI could have potentially linked them through financial records to the other Flight 77 hijackers… Nawaf Alhazmi and Flight 77 pilot Hani Hanjour had opened separate savings accounts at the same small New Jersey bank at the same time and both gave the same address. On July 9, 2001, the other Flight 77 muscle hijacker, Majed Moqed, opened an account at another small New Jersey bank at the same time as Nawaf Alhazmi, and used the same address. Given timely access to the relevant records and sufficient time to conduct a follow-up investigation, the FBI could have shown that Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, and Salem al Hazmi were connected to potential terrorist operatives Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 58-59, 141 ] The hijackers also open several other bank accounts (see June 28-July 7, 2000).
FBI Director Robert Mueller will later tell the joint inquiry of Congress that, “In July 2001, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari, Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmed Alghamdi, and Majed Moqed purchased personal identification cards at Apollo Travel in Paterson, New Jersey. Atta purchased a Florida identification card, while the others purchased New Jersey identification cards.” [US Congress, 9/26/2002] Although the travel agency’s owner will be interviewed several times after 9/11 and will mention selling plane tickets to Atta and Nawaf Alhazmi, he will never mention selling them ID cards (see June 19-25, 2001 and March 2001-September 1, 2001). [Bergen Record, 9/27/2001; Bergen Record, 9/27/2001; CNN, 10/29/2001; Newsday, 9/19/2002] Neither the 9/11 Commission or any other body will say any hijacker received an ID card from Apollo. However, the Commission will say that a similar group of hijackers obtained similar ID cards around this time (see (July-August 2001)). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27 ] Some of these cards may have been obtained from Mohamed el-Atriss, who will be sentenced to jail for selling the hijackers false ID (see (July-August 2001) and November 2002-June 2003). El-Atriss will be co-operating with the FBI at the time Mueller makes this statement and will have promised to “keep his eyes and ears open” for other terrorists (see September 13, 2001-Mid 2002).
Entity Tags: Ahmed Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Robert S. Mueller III, Nawaf Alhazmi, Mohamed el-Atriss, Mohamed Atta, Apollo Travel, Khalid Almihdhar, 9/11 Commission, Majed Moqed
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
On July 10, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum to FBI headquarters urging a nationwide check on Middle Eastern students at flight schools (see July 10, 2001), but apparently neither Williams nor anyone else actually conducts any kind of check on Phoenix flight schools at this time. Phoenix flight school managers will later claim that the FBI does not ask them for tips on suspicious students before 9/11. A Sawyer School manager apparently had suspicions about some of his students (though he does not mention alleged Flight 77 pilot Hani Hanjour specifically). He later will say that had he known the FBI was concerned that some students might be Islamic militants, “I would have called someone.” Another flight school manager claims he has a good relationship with the FBI and is surprised he is not asked about Williams’s concerns. He will complain, “Should flight schools be clairvoyant?” [New York Times, 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 529] In fact, although Hanjour left Arizona in March 2001 and lived on the East Coast after that time, there is evidence he comes back for some flight training in the Phoenix area in June and August 2001, including at the Sawyer School (see Summer 2001). The 9/11 Commission will later note that the evidence of Hanjour training in Phoenix during the summer is not definitive, but “the FBI’s Phoenix office believes it is plausible that Hanjour return[s] to Arizona for additional training.” [New York Times, 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 529] It does not appear that Williams or any other FBI official checks flight schools anywhere else in Arizona before 9/11.
Thomas Pickard. [Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation]Acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard attempts to brief Attorney General John Ashcroft on the al-Qaeda terrorist threat for a second time (see June 28, 2001), but Ashcroft is uninterested and says he does not want to hear about it, according to Pickard’s later account.
'I Don't Want to Hear about It Anymore' - According to a June 24, 2004 letter from Pickard to the 9/11 Commission, Pickard opens the briefing by discussing “counterintelligence and counterterrorism matters.” Pickard’s letter will go on to say: “The fourth item I discussed was the continuing high level of ‘chatter’ by al-Qaeda members. The AG [attorney general] told me, ‘I don’t want to hear about it anymore, there’s nothing I can do about it.’ For a few seconds, I did not know what to say, then I replied that he should meet with the director of the CIA to get a fuller briefing on the matter.… I resumed my agenda but I was upset about [Ashcroft’s] lack of interest. He did not tell me nor did I learn until April 2004 that the CIA briefed him on the increase in chatter and level of threat on July 5, 2001” (see July 5, 2001 and July 11-17, 2001). [Pickard, 6/24/2004] In testimony under oath to the 9/11 Commission in 2004, Pickard will affirm that, “at least on two occasions” he briefed Ashcroft on a rising threat level and concerns about an impending attack, which were being reported by the CIA. Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste will ask Pickard if he has told Commission staff that Ashcroft “did not want to hear about this anymore,” to which Pickard will respond, “That is correct.” [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004 ] According to Pickard’s later recollection: “Before September 11th, I couldn’t get half an hour on terrorism with Ashcroft. He was only interested in three things: guns, drugs, and civil rights.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 293]
Differing Accounts of What Was Said at the Meeting - According to the 9/11 Commission’s June 3, 2004 record of its interview with Watson, “Pickard told Watson that he was briefing Ashcroft on counterterrorism, and Ashcroft told him that he didn’t want to hear ‘anything about these threats,’ and that ‘nothing ever happened.’” [9/11 Commission, 6/3/2004 ] Author Philip Shenon will write about this meeting in his 2008 book, The Commission, based on interviews with Pickard and “Commission investigators who researched his allegations,” but none of the quotes or representations of fact in Shenon’s text will cite a specific source. Shenon will make reference to Mark Jacobson and Caroline Barnes as being the 9/11 Commission staffers who interviewed Pickard. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 240-248, 433] According to Shenon’s version of the meeting, Ashcroft replies to Pickard: “I don’t want you to ever talk to me about al-Qaeda, about these threats. I don’t want to hear about al-Qaeda anymore.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 247] Ashcroft, in testimony under oath to the 9/11 Commission, will dismiss Pickard’s allegation, saying, “I did never speak to him saying that I did not want to hear about terrorism.” [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004 ] Pickard will respond to Ashcroft’s testimony in his 2004 letter, saying, “What [Ashcroft] stated to the Commission under oath is correct, but they did not ask him, ‘Did he tell me he did not want to hear about the chatter and level of threat?’ which is the conversation to which I testified under oath.” [Pickard, 6/24/2004] The deputy attorney general at the time of the meeting, Larry D. Thompson, and Ashcroft’s chief of staff, David T. Ayres, will sign a letter to the 9/11 Commission on July 12, 2004, in which they say they are responding to Pickard’s allegation that when he briefed Ashcroft “on the al-Qaeda threat prior to September 11, 2001, the attorney general responded that he did not want to hear such information anymore.” The letter will say Thompson and Ayres were present at that and the other regular meetings between Pickard and Ashcroft, and “the attorney general made no such statement in that or any other meeting.” [Ayres, 7/12/2004] The 9/11 Commission Report will conclude, “We cannot resolve this dispute.” [Commission, 2004]
Differing Accounts of Who Was at the Meeting - Pickard’s 2004 letter will state that Ayres is at the meeting, but has left the room prior to that part of the meeting, as he does not have the required level of security clearance. Pickard’s letter indicated that the FBI Assistant Director for Criminal Investigations, Ruben Garcia, is at the meeting and also witnesses the exchange. [Pickard, 6/24/2004] Shenon’s book puts Garcia at the meeting, but does not make reference to Garcia’s account of what is said there. Also, in the notes to Shenon’s book, it will not say that he interviewed Garcia. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 247-248, 433] According to a June 22, 2004 NBC News report: “Commission investigators also tracked down another FBI witness at the meeting that day, Ruben Garcia… Several sources familiar with the investigation say Garcia confirmed to the Commission that Ashcroft did indeed dismiss Pickard’s warnings about al-Qaeda.” Furthermore, “Pickard did brief Ashcroft on terrorism four more times that summer, but sources say the acting FBI director never mentioned the word al-Qaeda again in Ashcroft’s presence—until after Sept. 11.” [MSNBC, 6/22/2004] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, “Ruben Garcia… attended some of Pickard’s briefings of the attorney general but not the one at which Pickard alleges Ashcroft made the statement.” [Commission, 2004, pp. 536n52]
Ashcroft Denies FBI Requests and Appeals, Cuts Counterterrorism Funding - Following the meeting, on July 18, Ashcroft will reject the FBI’s request for an increase in funding for counterterrorism, and instead propose cuts to that division (see July 18, 2001). Pickard will appeal this decision; Ashcroft will reject the appeal on September 10, 2001 (see September 10, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004]
Entity Tags: Larry D. Thompson, John Ashcroft, Mark Jacobson, Thomas Pickard, David Ayres, Dale Watson, 9/11 Commission, Caroline Barnes, Central Intelligence Agency, Philip Shenon, Al-Qaeda, Ruben Garcia
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
An unnamed Sudanese national living in Saudi Arabia makes two wire transfers totaling about $6,500 from the National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia to 9/11 plot facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi’s Standard Chartered Bank account in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The 9/11 Commission will later report that a “foreign security agency” learned from the sender that he had been asked to wire the funds by Uthman Alshehri, a brother of hijackers Waleed and Wail Alshehri. According to the commission, $4,900 of this is deposited in a UAE account of hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad. What happens to the other $1,600 is unclear. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 138, 143 ] After the money is deposited in his UAE account, Banihammad receives a call from an associate in Germany on August 18 and withdraws $3,000 on August 20 and $4,800 on August 22 from the account. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 6/2002 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] Court documents suggest that more money was sent to the hijackers by al-Hawsawi. “[Khalid] Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) explained that Alshehhi was sent $81,000 (US) via al-Baluchi for Alshehhi’s, Atta’s, and Jarrah’s flight training… Most of these types of transfers were made by al-Hawsawi who was located in the UAE.” However, doubts have been expressed about the reliability of this document, which was based on KSM’s testimony, obtained through the use of torture (see June 16, 2004). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 7/31/2006 ] For some time after 9/11, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi is described in the media as the hijackers’ paymaster, even though this is the only confirmed transfer associated with him. Moreover, there are questions about his identity and whether or not “Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi” is his real name. [CNN, 3/4/2003]
9/11 hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour is pulled over for speeding on South George Mason Drive in Arlington, Virginia, for going 50-55 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone. He is driving a Chevrolet van rented two days before from Borough Jeep Chrysler in Wayne, New Jersey. He has a Florida driver’s license that gives his address as Miramar, Florida, where he lived in the mid-1990s (see Spring 1996). [CNN, 9/26/2001; CNN, 1/9/2002; Washington Post, 1/9/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] However, according to the 9/11 Commission, he did not have a Florida driver’s license, although he did have a Florida ID card. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 32 ] Three weeks after the stop, Hanjour sends Arlington General District Court a money order for the $70 and $30 court costs. [Washington Post, 1/9/2002] Three other plot leaders are also stopped for speeding in the US (see April 1, 2001).
President Bush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch on August 6, 2001. Advisors wait with classified briefings. [Source: White House]President Bush receives a classified presidential daily briefing (PDB) at his Crawford, Texas ranch indicating that Osama bin Laden might be planning to hijack commercial airliners. The PDB provided to him is entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” The entire briefing focuses on the possibility of terrorist attacks inside the US. [New York Times, 5/15/2002; Newsweek, 5/27/2002] The analysts who drafted the briefing will say that they drafted it on the CIA’s initiative (see July 13, 2004), whereas in 2004 Bush will state that he requested a briefing on the topic due to threats relating to a conference in Genoa, Italy, in July 2001, where Western intelligence agencies believed Osama bin Laden was involved in a plot to crash an airplane into a building to kill Bush and other leaders (see April 13, 2004). The analysts will later explain that they saw it as an opportunity to convey that the threat of an al-Qaeda attack in the US was both current and serious. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 260] The existence of this briefing is kept secret, until it is leaked in May 2002, causing a storm of controversy (see May 15, 2002). While National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will claim the memo is only one and a half pages long, other accounts state it is 11 1/2 pages instead of the usual two or three. [New York Times, 5/15/2002; Newsweek, 5/27/2002; Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002] A page and a half of the contents will be released on April 10, 2004; this reportedly is the full content of the briefing. [Washington Post, 4/10/2004] The briefing, as released, states as follows (note that the spelling of certain words are corrected and links have been added):
Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US (see December 1, 1998). Bin Laden implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America” (see May 26, 1998).
After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, bin Laden told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a -REDACTED-service (see December 21, 1998).
An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told -REDACTED- service at the same time that bin Laden was planning to exploit the operative’s access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.
The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of bin Laden’s first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself (see December 14, 1999), but that bin Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaida encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaida was planning his own US attack (see Late March-Early April 2001 and May 30, 2001).
Ressam says bin Laden was aware of the Los Angeles operation.
Although bin Laden has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998) demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Laden associates surveyed our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993 (see Late 1993-Late 1994), and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.
Al-Qaeda members—including some who are US citizens—have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks (see January 25, 2001). Two al-Qaeda members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were US citizens (see September 15, 1998), and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s (see November 1989 and September 10, 1998).
A clandestine source said in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks (see October-November 1998).
“We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [REDACTED] service in 1998 saying that bin Laden wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdul-Rahman and other US-held extremists” (see 1998, December 4, 1998, and May 23, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223] According to the Washington Post, this information came from a British service. [Washington Post, 5/18/2002]
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York (see May 30, 2001).
The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the US that it considers bin Laden-related (see August 6, 2001). CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives (see May 16-17, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223]
In retrospect, the briefing is remarkable for the many warnings that apparently are not included (see for instance, from the summer of 2001 prior to August alone: May 2001, June 2001, June 12, 2001, June 19, 2001, Late Summer 2001, July 2001, July 16, 2001, Late July 2001, Late July 2001, Summer 2001, June 30-July 1, 2001, July 10, 2001, and Early August 2001). According to one account, after the PDB has been given to him, Bush tells the CIA briefer, “You’ve covered your ass now” (see August 6, 2001).
Incredibly, the New York Times later reports that after being given the briefing, Bush “[breaks] off from work early and [spends] most of the day fishing.” [New York Times, 5/25/2002] In 2002 and again in 2004, National Security Adviser Rice will incorrectly claim under oath that the briefing only contained historical information from 1998 and before (see May 16, 2002 and April 8, 2004).
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Islamic Jihad, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Los Angeles International Airport, Condoleezza Rice, Abu Zubaida, Al-Qaeda, World Trade Center, Central Intelligence Agency, 9/11 Commission, Ahmed Ressam, Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Bush being briefed at his ranch on August 6, 2001. [Source: Associated Press]On April 29, 2004, President Bush will testify before the 9/11 Commission, but almost no details of what he said will be publicly released. He testifies with Vice President Cheney, in private, not under oath, is not recorded, and the notes that the commissioners take are censored by the White House (see April 29, 2004). However, the 9/11 Commission will release a one paragraph summary of how Bush claims he responded to the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001, entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). The Commission recalls, “The President told us the August 6 report was historical in nature. President Bush said the article told him that al-Qaeda was dangerous, which he said he had known since he had become President. The President said bin Laden had long been talking about his desire to attack America. He recalled some operational data on the FBI, and remembered thinking it was heartening that 70 investigations were under way (see August 6, 2001). As best he could recollect, [National Security Adviser] Rice had mentioned that the Yemenis’ surveillance of a federal building in New York had been looked into in May and June, but there was no actionable intelligence (see May 30, 2001). He did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the Attorney General or whether Rice had done so. He said that if his advisers had told him there was a cell in the United States, they would have moved to take care of it. That never happened.” The 9/11 Commission will conclude that they could find no evidence of any further discussions or actions taken by Bush and his top advisers in response to the briefing (see Between August 6 and September 10, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 260]
The 9/11 Commission will later state that after the now famous “bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” memo is given to President Bush on August 6, 2001 (see August 6, 2001), “We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the president and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al-Qaeda attack in the United States.” [Newsweek, 4/28/2005] 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey will later state to CNN,“[B]y the way, there’s a credible case that the president’s own negligence prior to 9/11 at least in part contributed to the disaster in the first place.… [I]n the summer of 2001, the government ignored repeated warnings by the CIA, ignored, and didn’t do anything to harden our border security, didn’t do anything to harden airport country, didn’t do anything to engage local law enforcement, didn’t do anything to round up INS and consular offices and say we have to shut this down, and didn’t warn the American people. The famous presidential daily briefing on August 6, we say in the report that the briefing officers believed that there was a considerable sense of urgency and it was current. So there was a case to be made that wasn’t made.… The president says, if I had only known that 19 Islamic men would come into the United States of America and on the morning of 11 September hijack four American aircraft, fly two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one into an unknown Pennsylvania that crashed in Shanksville, I would have moved heaven and earth. That’s what he said. Mr. President, you don’t need to know that. This is an Islamic Jihadist movement that has been organized since the early 1990s, declared war on the United States twice, in ‘96 and ‘98. You knew they were in the United States. You were warned by the CIA. You knew in July they were inside the United States. You were told again by briefing officers in August that it was a dire threat. And what did you do? Nothing, so far as we could see on the 9/11 Commission.” [CNN, 11/8/2004]
Hani Hanjour. [Source: FBI]9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour goes to the Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland, about 20 miles west of Washington. He wants to rent a single engine Cessna airplane. However, when two instructors take him on three test runs, they find he has trouble controlling and landing the plane. One instructor has to help him land. Due to his poor skills, therefore, he is not allowed to rent one of their planes without more lessons. Further, while Hanjour appears to have logged over 600 hours of flying experience and possesses a valid pilot’s license (though it has in fact expired), he refuses to provide contact information: He gives no phone number and only gives his address as being a hotel in Laurel. In spite of Hanjour’s lack of flying skills, chief instructor Marcel Bernard later claims, “There’s no doubt in my mind that once [Flight 77] got going, he could have pointed that plane at a building and hit it.” [Capital News, 9/19/2001; Gazette (Greenbelt), 9/21/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; Washington Post, 10/15/2001] However, on 9/11, in piloting Flight 77 into the Pentagon, Hanjour would have needed to do much more than simply point the plane at a target. Because Flight 77 at first seemed to overshoot its target, the Washington Post will note that “the unidentified pilot executed a pivot so tight that it reminded observers of a fighter jet maneuver. The plane circled 270 degrees to the right to approach the Pentagon from the west, whereupon Flight 77 fell below radar level.… Aviation sources said the plane was flown with extraordinary skill, making it highly likely that a trained pilot was at the helm.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2001] One Washington air traffic controller will later comment, “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane.” [ABC News, 10/24/2001] One law enforcement official who will study Flight 77’s descent after 9/11 will call it the work of “a great talent… virtually a textbook turn and landing.” [Washington Post, 9/10/2002] Remarkably, the 9/11 Commission will overlook the numerous accounts of Hanjour’s terrible piloting skills (see April 15, 1999 and January-February 2001) and state that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed assigned the Pentagon target specifically to Hanjour because he was “the operation’s most experienced pilot.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 530]
CIA records show that CIA Director George Tenet briefed President Bush twice in August—once in Crawford, Texas, on August 17, and once in Washington, on August 31. [Washington Post, 4/15/2004] In Tenet’s 2007 book, he will briefly mention that “A few weeks after the August 6 PDB [titled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US’ (see August 6, 2001)] was delivered, I followed it to Crawford to make sure the president stayed current on events. That was my first visit to the ranch.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 145] Later asked about what he told Bush at this meeting, Tenet will only say, “I held nothing back from the president. He understood our concerns about threats. He understood what we were doing around the world at the time.” [MSNBC, 5/7/2007] By the time of the second briefing, Tenet has been briefed about Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest (see August 23, 2001), but, apparently, he fails to tell Bush about it. [Washington Post, 4/15/2004] In April 2004, Tenet will testify under oath before the 9/11 Commission that he had no direct communication with President Bush during the month of August. [New York Times, 4/15/2004] This is quickly discovered to be untrue. A CIA spokesperson will then claim, “He momentarily forgot [about the briefings]” (see April 14, 2004). [Washington Post, 4/15/2004] Tenet will personally brief Bush six more times before 9/11 and will still apparently fail to mention Moussaoui to him (see September 1-8, 2001).
On August 21, the FBI’s legal attache in London hand-delivers a request for information about Zacarias Moussaoui to British officials. On August 24, the CIA tells the British that Moussaoui is a possible “suicide hijacker” who is involved in “suspicious 747 flight training.” The CIA asks for information on him on August 28. The FBI raises the matter with the British again on September 3 and again on September 5. Although the British do not respond to these requests until just after 9/11, French intelligence, which has been sharing information about Moussaoui with the British (see 1999), sends the FBI some information about Moussaoui’s activities and history in England (see August 22, 2001). Then, on September 13, 2001, the British supposedly learn new information that Moussaoui attended an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan (see 1995-1998). The 9/11 Commission will conclude, “Had this information been available in late August 2001, the Moussaoui case would almost certainly have received intense and much higher-level attention.” A British official will complain, “We passed on all the relevant information [about Moussaoui] as soon as we obtained it.” [Guardian, 4/14/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 274-75] However, the British had Moussaoui under surveillance in 2000 (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000), and appear to have failed to pass on any information about this surveillance or what it uncovered.
The 9/11 Commission later will note that at this time, an unnamed foreign intelligence “service report[s] that [al-Qaeda deputy leader] Abu Zubaida [is] considering mounting terrorist attacks in the United States, after postponing possible operations in Europe. No targets, timing or method of attack [are] provided.” Newsweek will suggest that most or all of this information may have come from a US debriefing of al-Qaeda bomber Ahmed Ressam in May 2001 (see May 30, 2001). Newsweek will note that it is a common occurrence for foreign intelligence agencies to “simply rereport to the CIA what it had originally learned from the FBI through separate channels.” Still, even “the multiple channels for Ressam’s warnings [do] little to change thinking within the FBI or CIA…” [Newsweek, 4/28/2005; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 6 ] However, it is possible the information could be more than a mirror of what Ressam said, since a number of Western intelligence agencies are monitoring Zubaida’s phone calls before 9/11 (see October 1998 and After).
After 9/11, no clear evidence that any of the FBI’s top managers are informed of the search for hijacker Khalid Almihdhar will be uncovered and the 9/11 Commission will comment, “It appears that no one informed higher levels of management in either the FBI or CIA about the case.” However, the Commission will also note that “one witness recalls a discussion with a senior FBI official, that official denies that a discussion took place. The other alleged participant does not recall such a meeting.” The list of sources that follows this passage indicates that the senior official is International Terrorism Operations Section chief Michael Rolince, who is also informed of the Moussaoui case around this time, but will attempt to play down his knowledge of it (see Late August 2001 and March 21, 2006), and the other participants are two of the following: FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi, CIA officer Tom Wilshire, and acting head of the FBI’s bin Laden unit Rod Middleton. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 270, 538]
Future 9/11 hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad attempts to get into an airplane cockpit on a test flight across the US, according to flight attendant Gregory McAleer. McAleer is employed by United Airlines. He will later claim to the 9/11 Commission that on August 30, 2001, he is working on Flight 514, a Boeing 737-300 flying from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to Logan Airport in Boston.
Strange Encounter - Early in the boarding process a Middle Eastern male enters the airplane with a “jump seat” pass. This pass allows the person to sit in the jump seat, an extra seat in the airplane’s cockpit. Typically, only licensed pilots employed by US domestic airlines are given these passes. The man is not dressed in a pilot’s uniform, but wears casual clothes and carries a suitcase. McAleer sees this man entering the cockpit and talking to the pilot and copilot. After a few moments, the man leaves the cockpit and takes a seat in the coach section. McAleer is curious and asks the pilot about the man. The pilot says the man can’t use the jump seat since he doesn’t have the proper ID. Later in the flight, McAleer has a chance to question the man while both of them are waiting to use the lavatory. The man claims to be a pilot for a regional airline, but when McAleer, who has a pilot’s license, asks him questions about his job and his knowledge of flying, the answers don’t add up and the man also asks him some suspicious questions. McAleer finds the man’s behavior so suspicious that he wonders at the time if he could be a terrorist.
FBI and United Airlines Not that Interested - Several days after 9/11, McAleer will contact the FBI’s Chicago field office about the incident. An FBI agent takes his information, but does not seem very interested or even comprehending about the jump seat idea. Several days after that, McAleer describes the incident to a United Airlines flight attendant supervisor. After conferring with a manager, the supervisor tells him: “Do not talk to the FBI again. I went to [United Airlines assistant station manager] Mitch Gross and he told me to tell you not to talk to the FBI again. If you have any concerns you can call the [United Airlines] Crisis Center. The FBI agents are working on the case.” McAleer gives the information by phone to the Crisis Center, but he still is unsatisfied. He later tells the story to Gross, and Gross tells him, “You are not to talk to anyone about this.” On September 27, 2001, McAleer will read a local newspaper article that shows the pictures of all of the 9/11 hijackers for the first time (see September 27, 2001), and he quickly concludes that hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad was the suspicious man who had flown on Flight 514. McAleer continues to try to raise the issue, for instance with United Airlines corporate security, but without much success.
FBI Stops Media Coverage - Eventually, McAleer will come in contact with a USA Today reporter named Blake Morrison. After checking with the FBI, Morrison decides to write a story about McAleer’s experience. However, at the last minute, the FBI contacts Morrison and asks him not to run the article. As a result, the article only runs in the international edition of USA Today, on June 12, 2002. Morrison later tells McAleer that an FBI source told him that Banihammad’s name was not on the flight manifest. This does not surprise McAleer, since people using jump seat passes or companion passes are not usually on the manifest. The 9/11 Commission will not mention McAleer’s story at all, and will dismiss the jumpseating issue in general. [9/11 Commission, 8/12/2003 ]
Legal Implications - There will be reports that other 9/11 hijackers used test flights to try to get into cockpits, and some tried to sit in jump seats (see November 23, 2001 and November 23, 2001). There will also be reports that jump seats were used by the hijackers in the 9/11 attacks (see September 24, 2001 and November 23, 2001).
Jumpseating will become a contentious issue, because if it could be shown that the 9/11 hijackers were able to get into cockpits using jump seats, American Airlines and United Airlines could be sued for significant damages. In fact, McAleer’s account will later be used in a 9/11 negligence lawsuit against United Airlines. In 2011, it will be reported that attorneys in the lawsuit are attempting to depose the agents who interviewed McAleer, but the Justice Department is refusing to let the agents testify. [WBUR NPR Boston, 1/31/2011]
A portion of Khalid Almihdhar’s New York identification card. The address is a Ramada Inn hotel, which was owned by Marriott at the time.
[Source: 9/11 Commission]The FBI’s New York office technically began an investigation to locate 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar on August 29, but in fact the one inexperienced agent assigned to the search, Robert Fuller, is busy for several days and only begins the search at this time (see August 29, 2001). Within a day, Fuller identifies connections between Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, and widens the search to look for both of them. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004; New York Observer, 11/28/2004] The FBI will later claim that it searches aggressively. An internal review shortly after 9/11 will find that “everything was done that could have been done” to find them. [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/2001] However, FBI agents familiar with the search will later describe it as unhurried and routine. A report by the Office of the Inspector General completed in late 2004 will conclude, “[T]he FBI assigned few resources to the investigation and little urgency was given to the investigation.” [US Department of Justice, 11/2004] In conducting his search, Fuller takes the following steps on September 4-5:
He requests that Almihdhar’s name bed added to the INS watch list, called LOOKOUT. He describes Almihdhar as a potential witness in a terrorist investigation. He later claims that he identifies him only as a witness, not a potential terrorist, to prevent overzealous immigration officials from overreacting. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
He contacts the Customs Service and verifies that Almihdhar has been placed on its watch list. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
He requests a local criminal history check on Almihdhar and Alhazmi through the New York City Police Department. The request turns up nothing. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
He will claim that he requests a criminal history check in the NCIC, which is a computer database frequently used by every level of law enforcement. However, the Bergen Record will report that he “never performed one of the most basic tasks of a police manhunt. He never ran Almihdhar or Alhazmi through the NCIC computer. That simple act would have alerted local cops to look for the suspected terrorists.” At least four separate incidents involving Alhazmi were recorded in the NCIC database (see September 5, 2001). [Bergen Record, 7/11/2002; Bergen Record, 5/18/2004; US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
He requests a credit check. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
He requests that a national motor vehicle index be searched. However, a July 2001 police query on Alhazmi’s car that is in that index is not found (see September 5, 2001).
On September 5, Fuller and another agent contact the Marriott hotels in New York City, since Almihdhar had indicated when he entered the US in July 2001 that his destination was a Marriott hotel in New York. Later this same day he is told Almihdhar had never registered as a guest at any of the six Marriott hotels there. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
He will claim that he conducts a search in the ChoicePoint database, a commerical databases on personal information about US citizens. He will claim he searches the database and fails to find any information on them, but the chairman of ChoicePoint will later confirm the database did have information on the hijackers before 9/11, but the FBI did not ask to search the database until shortly after 9/11 (see September 4, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 539; US Department of Justice, 11/2004; New York Observer, 11/28/2004]
There are additional searches he could make that he apparently fails to do. For instance, he apparently fails to check car registration databases. Alhazmi did own a car (see March 25, 2000), and the 9/11 Commission will note: “A search on [his] car registration would have unearthed a license check by the South Hackensack Police Department that would have led to information placing Alhazmi in the [greater New York City] area and placing Almihdhar at a local hotel for a week in early July 2001. The hijackers actively used the New Jersey bank accounts, through ATM, debit card, and cash transactions, until September 10.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 539]
Additionally, even though the two were known to have previously entered the US through Los Angeles, drivers’ license records in California are not checked.
He also fails to check national credit card and bank account databases.
All of these would have had positive results. Alhazmi’s name was even in the 2000-2001 San Diego phone book, listing the address where he and Almihdhar may have been living up to as late as September 9, 2001 (see Early September 2001). [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001; Los Angeles Times, 10/28/2001; Newsweek, 6/2/2002] There appears to be no further mention of any further work on this search after September 5, except for one request to the Los Angeles FBI office made on September 10 (see September 10, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will note: “We believe that if more resources had been applied and a significantly different approach taken, Alhazmi and Almihdhar might have been found. They had used their true names in the United States. Still, the investigators would have needed luck as well as skill to find them prior to September 11.… Many FBI witnesses have suggested that even if [they] had been found, there was nothing the agents could have done except follow [them] onto the planes. We believe this is incorrect. Both Alhazmi and Almihdhar could have been held for immigration violations or as material witnesses in the Cole bombing case. Investigation or interrogation of them, and investigation of their travel and financial activities, could have yielded evidence of connections to other participants in the 9/11 plot. The simple fact of their detention could have derailed the plan. In any case, the opportunity did not arise.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 272]
The Daily Mail will later report, “US aviation authorities were warned of a terrorist attack by an Islamic group only days before the September 11 atrocities. The CIA issued a confidential warning that Muslim fundamentalists were preparing a spectacular attack imminently, but it was unable to specify the target.” Around this time, author Salman Rushdie is traveling in North America to promote a new book. [Daily Mail, 10/7/2001] In 1989, Iranian clerics issued a fatwa (death threat) against Rushdie for perceived insults to Islam, but the fatwa was lifted in 1998 and Rushdie had recently emerged from hiding. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/23/2001] According to the Daily Mail, aviation regulators conclude Rushdie is the likely target of this CIA warning, and the FAA imposes new restrictions on him on September 6, 2001 (see September 6, 2001). At least two airlines prevent Rushdie from flying with them at all. [Daily Mail, 10/7/2001] Apparently the FAA takes no other action and gives no other warning except for extra security measures involving Rushdie. The 9/11 Commission will later briefly mention the pre-9/11 restrictions on Rushdie but will not explain what the intelligence was exactly that led to the restrictions. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 56]
Hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari using an ATM in Portland, Maine, on September 10, at 8:41 p.m. Mohamed Atta can be seen further back in the first and last image.
[Source: FBI]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari arrive in Portland, Maine, where they spend the night. In October 2001, the FBI will release detailed information and photographs of the two hijackers in the town in an apparent attempt to find out from the public more about what they were doing there. According to the FBI, the pair leave Boston in the afternoon in a blue Nissan Altima and drive to South Portland, where they check into a Comfort Inn around 5:45 p.m. They are caught on security cameras visiting a gas station, two ATMs, and shopping at a Wal-Mart. The next morning they fly back to Boston, where they board the airplane they will hijack. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001; Boston Herald, 10/5/2001; Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/12/2001] In September 2002, the New York Times speculates, “There have been many theories [for going to Portland]: that they made contact with a confederate in Portland who gave them the final go-ahead, or more likely, that by arriving on a connecting flight, they would avoid the security check in Boston. None of those explanations seems entirely satisfactory, given the risk….” [New York Times, 9/11/2002] The 9/11 Commission will later speculate that the most “plausible theory” is that the hijackers make the trip so as to help avoid suspicion that might be created from all ten hijackers departing on Boston flights arriving in the Boston airport at roughly the same time. [Washington Post, 2/13/2005]
In June 2004, future 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey will say that before 9/11, “There’s no question the Taliban was getting money from the Saudis… and there’s no question they got much more than that from the Pakistani government. Their motive is a secondary issue for us.” He claims this finding is based almost entirely on information known to the US government before 9/11. “All we’re doing is looking at classified documents from our own government, not from some magical source. So we knew what was going on, but we did nothing.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/16/2004] However, the 9/11 Commission will leave such material out of its final report and in fact make the claim in its last staff statement, “There is no convincing evidence that any government financially supported al-Qaeda before 9/11.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
The position of Deputy Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, the Defense Department post traditionally dealing the most with counterterrorism, still has not been filled since being vacated in January 2001 when Bush became president. Aides to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later tell the 9/11 Commission that “the new [Defense Department] team was focused on other issues” and not counterterrorism. [Newsweek, 3/24/2004]
The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that Flight 11 is hijacked at 8:14 or shortly after. It will state, “Information supplied by eyewitness accounts indicates that the hijackers initiated and sustained their command of the aircraft using knives (as reported by two flight attendants); violence, including stabbing and slashing (as reported by two flight attendants); the threat of violence (as indicated by a hijacker in radio transmissions received by air traffic control); Mace (reported by one flight attendant); the threat of a bomb, either fake or real (reported by one flight attendant); and deception about their intentions (as indicated by a hijacker in a radio transmission received by air traffic control).” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8] The Commission says, “We do not know exactly how the hijackers gained access to the cockpit; FAA rules required that the doors remain closed and locked during flight.… Perhaps the terrorists stabbed the flight attendants to get a cockpit key, to force one of them to open the cockpit door, or to lure the captain or first officer out of the cockpit. Or the flight attendants may just have been in their way.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] Pilots are trained to handle hijackings by staying calm, complying with any requests, and, if possible, dialing an emergency four-digit code on their plane’s transponder. It only takes a few seconds to dial this code. [CNN, 9/12/2001] Yet, as the Boston Globe notes, “It appears that the hijackers’ entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call” (see (8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] The Los Angeles Times reports that, when flight attendant Amy Sweeney makes a phone call from the plane, she says the hijackers have “just gained access to the cockpit.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001] Yet her first attempted call is not until 8:22, and, according to official accounts, her first call that stays connected is at 8:25, well past when the 9/11 Commission says the hijacker takeover occurs. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] According to an employee at the FAA’s Boston Center, Flight 11 is hijacked while it is over Gardner, Massachusetts, about 45 miles northwest of Boston. [Telegraph (Nashua), 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/13/2001]
According to the 9/11 Commission, “Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked [Flight 77] from the moment its transponder was turned off at 8:56 [a.m.].” However, for eight minutes and 13 seconds, between 8:56 and 9:05, this primary radar data is not displayed to Indianapolis Center air traffic controllers. “The reasons are technical, arising from the way the software processed radar information, as well as from poor primary radar coverage where American 77 was flying.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to the Washington Post, Flight 77 “was hijacked in an area of limited radar coverage.” The Post adds that there are two particular types of radar system. “Secondary” radar “is the type used almost exclusively today in air traffic control. It takes an aircraft’s identification, destination, speed, and altitude from the plane’s transponder and displays it on a controller’s radar screen.” “Primary” radar, on the other hand, “is an older system. It bounces a beam off an aircraft and tells a controller only that a plane is aloft—but does not display its type or altitude. The two systems are usually mounted on the same tower.” Normally, “If a plane simply disappears from radar screens, most controllers can quickly switch on the primary system, which should display a small plus sign at the plane’s location, even if the aircraft’s transponder is not working. But the radar installation near Parkersburg, W. Va., was built with only secondary radar—called ‘beacon-only’ radar. That left the controller monitoring Flight 77 at the Indianapolis Center blind when the hijackers apparently switched off the aircraft’s transponder (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001), sources said.” [Washington Post, 11/3/2001] In its final report, the 9/11 Commission will include a rather elaborate explanation for the loss of primary radar contact with Flight 77, saying it is because “the ‘preferred’ radar in this geographic area had no primary radar system, the ‘supplemental’ radar had poor primary coverage, and the FAA ATC [air traffic control] software did not allow the display of primary radar data from the ‘tertiary’ and ‘quadrary’ radars.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 460] The Commission will note that two managers at the Indianapolis Center who assist in the search on radar for the missing aircraft do “not instruct other controllers at Indianapolis Center to turn on their primary radar coverage to join in the search for American 77.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
According to the 9/11 Commission, shortly after 9:00 a.m., Indianapolis flight control begins to notify other government agencies that American 77 is missing and has possibly crashed. For instance, at 9:08 a.m., Indianapolis contacts Air Force Search and Rescue at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and tells them to look out for a downed aircraft. It is not clear what Air Force Search and Rescue does with this information. Indianapolis also contacts the West Virginia State Police at about 9:15 a.m., and asks whether they have any reports of a downed aircraft (see Soon After 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, they apparently do not contact NORAD, but do notify the FAA regional center at 9:09 a.m. (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Soon after the second WTC tower is hit, a senior Secret Service agent who is responsible for coordinating the president’s movements establishes an open line with his counterpart at the FAA. This FAA official tells him of further planes, on top of the two that have already crashed, that are unaccounted for and possibly hijacked. Although the Secret Service agent asks someone to pass this information on to the Secret Service’s operations center, the 9/11 Commission says that either this does not happen or else the message is passed on but not disseminated. Therefore the information fails to reach agents assigned to the vice president and, consequently, “the Vice President was not evacuated at that time.”
[9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 464] However, some other accounts contradict this, saying the vice president is indeed evacuated from his White House office by Secret Service agents at around this time. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002]
Around this time, according to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke reaches the Secure Video Conferencing Center just off the main floor of the Situation Room in the West Wing of the White House. From there, he directs the response to the 9/11 attacks and stays in contact with other top officials through video links. Clarke claims that on video he can see Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet, FBI Director Robert Mueller, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson (filling in for the traveling Attorney General John Ashcroft), Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (filling in for the traveling Secretary of State Colin Powell), and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers (filling in for the traveling Chairman Henry Shelton). National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is with Clarke, but she lets him run the crisis response, deferring to his longer experience on terrorism matters. Clarke is also told by an aide, “We’re on the line with NORAD, on an air threat conference call.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 2-4; Australian, 3/27/2004] According to the 9/11 Commission, logs indicate that Clarke’s video teleconference only begins at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), which is later than Clarke suggests, and CIA and FAA representatives only join it at 9:40 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36 and 462] Other accounts claim that, rather than being involved in Clarke’s teleconference at this time, Donald Rumsfeld is still in his office waiting for his intelligence briefing (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and Richard Myers is in a meeting on Capitol Hill (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001; Clarke, 2006, pp. 218-219] The 9/11 Commission claims that, “While important,” Clarke’s conference has “no immediate effect on the emergency defense efforts.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Yet, as the Washington Post puts it, “everyone seems to agree” Clarke is the chief crisis manager on 9/11. [Washington Post, 3/28/2004] Even Clarke’s later opponent, National Security Adviser Rice, calls him 9/11’s “crisis management guy.” [United Press International, 4/9/2004] The conference is where the government’s emergency defense efforts are concentrated.
Entity Tags: Larry D. Thompson, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard B. Myers, Richard Armitage, John Ashcroft, Robert S. Mueller III, Richard A. Clarke, Henry Hugh Shelton, Jane Garvey, Donald Rumsfeld, 9/11 Commission, George J. Tenet, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The FAA sets up a hijacking teleconference with several agencies, including the Defense Department. This is almost one hour after the FAA’s Boston flight control began notifying the chain of command (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001) and notified other flight control centers about the first hijacking at 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger, this teleconference (called the “hijack net”) is “the fundamental primary source of information between the FAA, [Defense Department], FBI, Secret Service, and… other agencies.” Yet even after the delay in setting it up, FAA and Defense Department participants later claim it plays no role in coordinating the response to the hijackings. The 9/11 Commission says, “The NMCC [National Military Command Center inside the Pentagon] officer who participated told us that the call was monitored only periodically because the information was sporadic, it was of little value, and there were other important tasks. The FAA manager of the teleconference also remembered that the military participated only briefly before the Pentagon was hit.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36] According to a statement provided by the FAA to the 9/11 Commission in 2003, this teleconference began significantly earlier—“[w]ithin minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
Alan Scott. [Source: United States Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) processes and transmits an order to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, to scramble three of its F-16 fighter jets. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16] NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany instructed his personnel to issue this order one minute earlier (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001). Although he’d originally wanted the Langley jets sent to the Washington area, he will soon adjust this heading to send them to the Baltimore area. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27]
NEADS Orders Jets North - A NEADS officer calls Langley Air Force Base and instructs: “Langley command post, this is Huntress with an active air defense scramble for Quit 2-5 and Quit 2-6.… Scramble immediately.… Scramble on a heading of 010, flight level 290.” This means the jets are to head in a direction just east of north, at an altitude of 29,000 feet. [9/11 Commission, 1/9/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 96; Spencer, 2008, pp. 142] At Langley Air Force Base, a Klaxon horn will sound, notifying the pilots of the scramble order (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they will be airborne by 9:30 (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 63; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16; Spencer, 2008, pp. 141]
Fighters Launched in Response to Flight 77? - In later testimony, military officials will give contradictory explanations for why the Langley F-16s are scrambled. An early NORAD timeline will indicate the fighters are launched in response to NORAD being notified at 9:24 that Flight 77 has been hijacked (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] Colonel Alan Scott, the former vice commander of the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR), will suggest the same, telling the 9/11 Commission: “At 9:24 the FAA reports a possible hijack of [Flight] 77.… And at that moment as well is when the Langley F-16s were scrambled out of Langley.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 1st Air Force, 8/8/2006] And a timeline provided by senior Defense Department officials to CNN will state, “NORAD orders jets scrambled from Langley” in order to “head to intercept” Flight 77. [CNN, 9/17/2001]
In Response to Flight 93? - However, Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will give a different explanation. He will tell the 9/11 Commission, “we launched the aircraft out of Langley to put them over top of Washington, DC, not in response to American Airline 77, but really to put them in position in case United 93 were to head that way.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
In Response to Incorrect Report about Flight 11? - In 2004, the 9/11 Commission will dispute both these previous explanations, and conclude that the Langley jets are scrambled in response to an incorrect report that Flight 11 is still airborne and heading toward Washington, DC (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 26-27; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 15] Tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor will corroborate this account. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] According to the 9/11 Commission, its conclusion is also confirmed by “taped conversations at FAA centers; contemporaneous logs compiled at NEADS, Continental Region headquarters, and NORAD; and other records.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 34] Major Nasypany will tell the Commission that the reason the Langley jets are directed toward the Baltimore area is to position them between the reportedly southbound Flight 11 and Washington, as a “barrier cap.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27 and 461] John Farmer, senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will later suggest that NORAD deliberately misled Congress and the Commission by hiding the fact that the Langley scramble takes place in response to the erroneous report that Flight 11 is still airborne. He will write that the mistaken report “appears in more logs, and on more tapes, than any other single event that morning.… It was the reason for the Langley scramble; it had triggered the Air Threat Conference Call. Yet it had never been disclosed; it was, instead, talked around.” [Farmer, 2009, pp. 266-267]
Conflicting Times - Early news reports will put the time of the scramble order slightly later than the 9/11 Commission places it, between 9:25 and “about 9:27.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; CNN, 9/19/2001] But a NORAD timeline released a week after the attacks will give the same time as the Commission does, of 9:24. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27]
According to Deena Burnett, when her husband Tom Burnett first calls her from Flight 93 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), he mentions that one of the plane’s hijackers has a gun. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107; San Francisco Chronicle, 4/21/2002; Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002] She will recall him telling her: “The hijackers have already knifed a guy. One of them has a gun. They’re telling us there’s a bomb on board.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 61] However, contradicting this account, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the Flight 93 hijackers do not possess a gun. It will state: “[N]one of the other callers [from Flight 93] reported the presence of a firearm. One recipient of a call from the aircraft recounted specifically asking her caller whether the hijackers had guns. The passenger replied that he did not see one. No evidence of firearms or of their identifiable remains was found at the aircraft’s crash site, and the cockpit voice recorder gives no indication of a gun being fired or mentioned at any time. We believe that if the hijackers had possessed a gun, they would have used it in the flight’s last minutes as the passengers fought back.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13] News reports shortly after 9/11 and later in 2001 will mention Tom Burnett describing the hijackers having knives and claiming to have a bomb, but say nothing about him referring to a hijacker with a gun. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001; Newsweek, 12/3/2001] According to notes of her initial interview with the FBI (see (12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Deena Burnett tells the investigators that her husband described to her a passenger being knifed and the hijackers claiming to have a bomb. But the notes will make no mention of her saying she was told about a hijacker possessing a gun. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] And Deena apparently does not mention any gun in early interviews with the press, saying only: “[My husband] said, ‘I’m on the airplane, the airplane that’s been hijacked, and they’ve already knifed a guy. They’re saying they have a bomb. Please call the authorities.’” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/15/2001] But she will later state: “He told me one of the hijackers had a gun. He wouldn’t have made it up. Tom grew up around guns. He was an avid hunter and we have guns in our home. If he said there was a gun on board, there was.” [London Times, 8/11/2002]
Jason Dahl. [Source: Publicity photo]According to the 9/11 Commission, less than a minute after Flight 93 acknowledged a routine radio transmission from the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), John Werth—the controller handling the flight—and pilots of other aircraft in the vicinity of Flight 93 hear “a radio transmission of unintelligible sounds of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; CBS News, 9/10/2006] Someone, presumably Flight 93’s pilot Jason Dahl, is overheard by controllers as he shouts, “Mayday!” [New York Times, 7/22/2004] Seconds later, the controller responds, “Somebody call Cleveland?” Then there are more sounds of screaming and someone yelling, “Get out of here, get out of here.” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; MSNBC, 7/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Then the voices of the hijackers can be heard talking in Arabic. The words are later translated to show they are talking to each other, saying, “Everything is fine.” [Newsweek, 12/3/2001] Later, passenger phone calls will describe two dead or injured bodies just outside the cockpit; presumably these are the two pilots. [New York Times, 7/22/2004]
The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the four hijackers take over Flight 93 at 9:28 a.m., one minute after the plane’s crew made their last communication with the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Commission, the hijackers “wielded knives (reported by at least five callers); engaged in violence, including stabbing (reported by at least four callers and indicated by the sounds of the cockpit struggle transmitted over the radio); relocated the passengers to the back of the plane (reported by at least two callers); threatened use of a bomb, either real or fake (reported by at least three callers); and engaged in deception about their intentions (as indicated by the hijacker’s radio transmission received by FAA air traffic control).” Flight 93 suddenly drops 685 feet in the space of just 30 seconds, and the Cleveland Center hears two suspicious radio transmissions from its cockpit (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will add, “While this appears to show the exact time that the hijackers invaded the cockpit, we have found no conclusive evidence to indicate precisely when the terrorists took over the main cabin or moved passengers seated in the first-class cabin back to coach.” The four hijackers waited about 46 minutes after takeoff before beginning their takeover of Flight 93. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38-39] Yet, the Commission claims, when alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta met with fellow Hamburg cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain about two months earlier (see July 8-19, 2001), he’d said that the “best time [for the hijackers] to storm the cockpit would be about 10-15 minutes after takeoff, when the cockpit doors typically were opened for the first time.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 245] The Commission will state, “We were unable to determine why [the Flight 93 hijackers] waited so long.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] The long wait is particularly notable, considering that Flight 93 had already been significantly delayed before taking off from Newark Airport (see 8:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). In fact, in an early timeline, Pentagon officials will state the hijacking occurred significantly earlier, at around 9:16, and in 2003, NORAD officials repeat this claim (see 9:16 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
At the FAA’s Cleveland Center, an air traffic controller hears a transmission, presumably made by Flight 93 hijacker-pilot Ziad Jarrah, stating: “Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down, keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] As the 9/11 Commission later notes, “Like [Mohamed] Atta on Flight 11, Jarrah apparently did not know how to operate the communication radios; thus his attempts to communicate with the passengers were broadcast on the [air traffic control] channel.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 98] While this communication is assumed to have come from Flight 93, an early FAA report states that it came “from an unknown origin.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ] According to Newsweek, just prior to the communication, Cleveland Center controllers heard the sound of screaming from the flight. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001] The 9/11 Commission states that, around the time of the transmission, the plane’s cockpit voice recording indicates “that a woman, most likely a flight attendant, was being held captive in the cockpit. She struggled with one of the hijackers who killed or otherwise silenced her.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] Though the Cleveland air traffic controller understands the hijacker’s communication, he responds to it: “Calling Cleveland Center, you’re unreadable. Say again, slowly.” He also notifies his supervisor who passes the information up the chain of command, and the FAA’s Command Center is subsequently informed, “United 93 may have a bomb on board.” At 9:34 the Command Center will relay this information to FAA headquarters (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28]
A fighter and helicopter both fly directly above the Pentagon on 9/11 on the morning of 9/11. Exact time is unknown. [Source: Agence France-Presse]The three F-16s scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, at 9:30 a.m. finally reach Washington and the burning Pentagon. The 129 mile distance could theoretically have been covered by the fighters in six minutes, but they’ve taken a wide detour over the ocean (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). The exact time they arrive is unclear. An early timeline laid out to CNN by senior Defense Department officials will claim they arrive as early as 9:49 a.m., but the 9/11 Commission later claims they only establish “a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington” at “approximately 10:00 a.m.” [CBS News, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 34]
Conflicting Press Accounts - Press accounts of when the first fighters reach Washington are highly contradictory. Early news accounts describe fighters arriving from Andrews Air Force Base, not Langley, “within minutes,” “a few moments,” or “just moments” after the Pentagon crash. [Denver Post, 9/11/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002] Other newspaper accounts inaccurately deny that fighters from Andrews are deployed [USA Today, 9/16/2001] , and some deny Andrews even has fighters available. [USA Today, 9/16/2001] Defense officials will initially claim, “There were no military planes in the skies over Washington until 15 to 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit”—in other words, 9:53 a.m. to 9:58 a.m. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/14/2001] But an ABC News report will suggest that by around 10:00 a.m., “Dozens of fighters are buzzing in the sky” over Washington. [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
Fighter Jets Don't Arrive until Later? - In contrast, the New York Times reports: “In the White House Situation Room and at the Pentagon, the response seemed agonizingly slow. One military official recalls hearing words to the effect of, ‘Where are the planes?’” The Pentagon will insist it had air cover over its own building by 10 a.m. However, numerous witnesses on the ground, including a reporter for the New York Times who is headed toward the building, will say they did not see any fighters until around 10:40 a.m., or “closer to 11” (see (10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 130-131] According to some accounts, the plane that flies over the Pentagon at that time is Major Billy Hutchison’s F-16, launched from Andrews Air Force Base. [Filson, 2003, pp. 81-82; Spencer, 2008, pp. 235-236] NORAD will initially claim the Langley fighters were about 105 miles from the Pentagon when it was hit at 9:37, and the 9/11 Commission will later claim they were 150 miles away (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27]
Dick Cheney talking to Condoleezza Rice. [Source: David Bohrer / White House] (click image to enlarge)According to the 9/11 Commission, Vice President Dick Cheney is told that the Air Force is trying to establish a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington. Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, then calls President Bush on Air Force One to discuss the rules of engagement for this CAP. Cheney later tells the 9/11 Commission that he’d felt “it did no good to establish the CAP unless the pilots had instructions on whether they were authorized to shoot if the plane would not divert.” He recalls that “the president signed off on that concept.” Bush will recall this phone call and emphasize to the 9/11 Commission that, during it, he had authorized the shootdown of hijacked aircraft. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is in the PEOC with Cheney, will tell the Commission she recalls hearing Cheney inform the president: “Sir, the CAPs are up. Sir, they’re going to want to know what to do.” Then she hears Cheney say, “Yes sir.” However, as the Commission will later note, “Among the sources that reflect other important events that morning there is no documentary evidence for this call, although the relevant sources are incomplete” (see (Mid 2004)). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41] Reportedly, some members of the Commission’s staff will not believe this call between Bush and Cheney ever took place. [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] Cheney phones Bush at 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the 9/11 Commission, it is in fact during that call that Bush authorizes the military to shoot down threatening aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41]
Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania. [Source: CNN]Exactly when Flight 93 crashes is unclear. According to NORAD, Flight 93 crashes at 10:03 a.m. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] The 9/11 Commission gives an exact time of 11 seconds after 10:03 a.m. It will claim this “time is supported by evidence from the staff’s radar analysis, the flight data recorder, NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] analysis, and infrared satellite data.” It does note that “[t]he precise crash time has been the subject of some dispute.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army and drafted by scientists Won-Young Kim and Gerald Baum to determine when the plane crashed will conclude that the crash happened at 10:06:05 a.m. [Kim and Baum, 2002 ; San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9/2002] The discrepancy is so puzzling that the Philadelphia Daily News will publish an article on the issue, titled “Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape.” This notes that leading seismologists agree on the 10:06 a.m. time, give or take a couple of seconds. [Philadelphia Daily News, 9/16/2002] The New York Observer will note that, in addition to the seismology study, “The FAA gives a crash time of 10:07 a.m. In addition, the New York Times, drawing on flight controllers in more than one FAA facility, put the time at 10:10 a.m. Up to a seven-minute discrepancy? In terms of an air disaster, seven minutes is close to an eternity. The way our nation has historically treated any airline tragedy is to pair up recordings from the cockpit and air traffic control and parse the timeline down to the hundredths of a second. However, as [former Inspector General of the Transportation Department] Mary Schiavo points out, ‘We don’t have an NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation here, and they ordinarily dissect the timeline to the thousandth of a second.’” [New York Observer, 2/15/2004]
In 2004, the 9/11 Commission will ask President Bush his early thoughts on who might have been responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The Commission will summarize his answer: “President Bush had wondered immediately after the attack whether Saddam Hussein’s regime might have had a hand in it. Iraq had been an enemy of the United States for 11 years, and was the only place in the world where the United States was engaged in ongoing combat operations. As a former pilot, the President was struck by the apparent sophistication of the operation and some of the piloting, especially [Hani] Hanjour’s high-speed dive into the Pentagon. He told us he recalled Iraqi support for Palestinian suicide terrorists as well. Speculating about other possible states that could be involved, the President told us he also thought about Iran.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 333]
Following the attacks, there is no agreement on the speed with which the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission says that the South Tower collapsed in “ten seconds” and the National Institute of Standards and Technology says that tops of the buildings came down “essentially in free fall.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 146] In the dispute over the reason for the WTC’s collapse after 9/11, it is claimed that, if the towers fell in ten seconds, then this is evidence they were destroyed by explosives. For example, David Ray Griffin, a theologian and outspoken critic of commission’s report, writes, “For a 1,300-foot building, however, ten seconds is almost free-fall speed. But if each floor produced just a little resistance, so that breaking through each one took half a second, the collapse of all those floors—80 or 95 of them—would have taken 40 to 47 seconds. Can we really believe that the upper part of the buildings encountered virtually no resistance from the lower part?” [Griffin, 2004, pp. 16] But according to Canadian scientist Frank Greening, who studies the Twin Towers’ collapse, the freefall time would be about 9.6 seconds, and he calculates that it takes longer for the buildings to fall—twelve to thirteen and a half seconds—and states this does not indicate that explosives were used. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/25/2005]
CBS News announces that “contrary to early reports, US Air Force jets did get into the air on Tuesday while the attacks were under way.” According to this new account, the first fighters got airborne toward New York City at 8:52 a.m. [CBS News, 9/14/2001] The day before this announcement, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers in Congressional testimony stated that the first fighters got airborne only after the Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m. (see September 13, 2001). [US Congress, 9/13/2001] NORAD spokesman Marine Corps Major Mike Snyder also claimed no fighters launched anywhere until after the Pentagon was hit. [Boston Globe, 9/15/2001] Four days later, the official NORAD timeline is changed to include this new account. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani later testifies before the 9/11 Commission that he found out from the White House at about 9:58 a.m. that the first fighters were not launched toward New York City until twelve minutes earlier—9:46 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] This would correspond to Myers’ and Snyder’s accounts that no fighters are scrambled until after the Pentagon is hit. But the 9/11 Commission later agrees with this CBS report and by their account the first fighters launch around 8:52. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The Miami Herald reports, “Forty-five minutes. That’s how long American Airlines Flight 77 meandered through the air headed for the White House, its flight plan abandoned, its radar beacon silent… Who was watching in those 45 minutes? ‘That’s a question that more and more people are going to ask,’ said one controller in Miami. ‘What the hell went on here? Was anyone doing anything about it? Just as a national defense thing, how are they able to fly around and no one go after them?’” [Miami Herald, 9/14/2001] In the year after this article and a similar one in the Village Voice [Village Voice, 9/13/2001] , there will be only one other US article questioning slow fighter response times, and that article notes the strange lack of articles on the topic. [Slate, 1/16/2002] The fighter response issue finally makes news in 9/11 Commission hearings in 2004.
An oil worker named Salem Alhazmi claimed the media was using a picture of him and saying it was that of the alleged hijacker of the same name. [Source: Saudi Gazette]Reports appear in many newspapers suggesting that some of the people the US initially says were 9/11 hijackers are actually still alive and that the actual hijackers may have used stolen identities:
No media outlet has claimed that Hamza Alghamdi is still alive, but his family says the FBI photo “has no resemblance to him at all.” [Arab News, 9/22/2001; Washington Post, 9/25/2001]
CNN shows a picture of a Saudi pilot called Saeed Alghamdi and claims it is the hijacker of the same name. However, the pilot is alive and working in Tunisia. The FBI listed the hijacker’s possible residence as Delray Beach, Florida, where the pilot trained in 1998, 1999, and 2000, which may be why CNN uses a photograph of the wrong person. The pilot returns to Saudi Arabia to avoid problems and CNN apologises for the error. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2001; Arab News, 9/18/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001; BBC, 9/23/2001]
A man named Salem Alhazmi claims he is the alleged hijacker of the same name, but he works in a petrochemical plant and had his passport stolen three years ago in Cairo. He says a picture being used in the media is of him. However, he is a different age to the hijacker, 26 not 21, has a different middle name, Ibrahim not Mohamed, and the photos appear to be of different people. In addition, the FBI does not release official pictures of the hijackers until a week after he makes this claim. The father of the other Salem Alhazmi says his son is missing, as is Salem’s brother and fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. [Washington Post, 9/20/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Guardian, 9/21/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/27/2001; Saudi Gazette, 9/29/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 191 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
A man named Ahmed Alnami is alive and working as an administrative supervisor with Saudi Arabian Airlines in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] He has never lost his passport and finds it “very worrying” that his identity appears to have been stolen. [Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001] However, there is another Ahmed Alnami who is 10 years younger and appears to be dead, according to his father. [ABC News, 3/15/2002] Ahmed Alnami’s family says his FBI picture is correct. [Washington Post, 9/25/2001]
A man called Abdulrahman Alomari is alive and works as a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Independent, 9/17/2001; BBC, 9/23/2001] He was a neighbour of Adnan Bukhari and Amer Kamfar, who were both wrongly suspected of involvement in the 9/11 attacks at the start of the investigation. He moved out of his home in Vero Beach, Florida, shortly before the attacks. [CNN, 9/14/2001] A man called Abdulaziz Alomari is an engineer with Saudi Telecoms. [BBC, 9/23/2001] He claims that his passport was stolen in 1995 while he was living in Denver, Colorado. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] He says: “They gave my name and my date of birth, but I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive.” [London Times, 9/20/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001] The FBI initially gave two possible birthdates for Abdulaziz Alomari. One is apparently that of the engineer, the other that of the alleged hijacker. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2001; New Yorker, 5/27/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
The Saudi government has claimed that Mohand Alshehri is alive and that he was not in the US on 9/11, but no more details are known. [Associated Press, 9/29/2001]
The brothers Waleed M. Alshehri and Wail Alshehri are alive. Their father is a diplomat who has been stationed in the US and Mumbai (Bombay), India. A Saudi spokesman says: “This is a respectable family. I know his sons and they’re both alive.” [Arab News, 9/19/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] There is a second pair of Saudi brothers named Wail and Waleed M. Alshehri who may have been the real hijackers. Their father says they have been missing since December 2000. [Arab News, 9/17/2001; ABC News, 3/15/2002] The still-living Waleed M. Alshehri is a pilot with Saudi Airlines, studying in Morocco. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Associated Press, 9/22/2001] He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Dayton Beach in the United States. [BBC, 9/23/2001; Daily Trust (Abuja), 9/24/2001] He was interviewed by US officials in Morocco and cleared of all charges against him (though apparently the FBI is still using his picture). [Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, 9/21/2001] The still-living Waleed Alshehri is also apparently a pilot. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] He claims he saw his picture on CNN and recognized it from when he studied flying in Florida. But he also says he has no brother named Wail. [As-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), 9/22/2001]
Mohamed Atta’s father says he spoke to his son on the phone on September 12, 2001. [New York Times, 9/19/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/20/2001]
On September 19, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation distributes a “special alert” to its member banks asking for information about the attackers. The list includes “Al-Midhar, Khalid. Alive.” The Justice Department later calls this a “typo.” [Associated Press, 9/20/2001; Cox News Service, 10/21/2001] The BBC says, “There are suggestions that another suspect, Khalid Almihdhar, may also be alive.” [BBC, 9/23/2001] The Guardian says Almihdhar is believed to be alive, but investigators are looking into three possibilities. Either his name was stolen for a hijacker alias, or he allowed his name to be used so that US officials would think he died, or he died in the crash. [Guardian, 9/21/2001]
Majed Moqed was last seen by a friend in Saudi Arabia in 2000. This friend claims the FBI picture does not look like Moqed. [Arab News, 9/22/2001]
The Official Account Evolves - The Saudi government insists that five of the Saudis mentioned as 9/11 hijackers are still alive. [New York Times, 9/21/2001] On September 20, FBI Director Robert Mueller says: “We have several others that are still in question. The investigation is ongoing, and I am not certain as to several of the others.” [Newsday, 9/21/2001] On September 27, after all of the revelations mentioned above are reported in the media, Mueller will state, “We are fairly certain of a number of them.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001] On September 20, the London Times reports, “Five of the hijackers were using stolen identities, and investigators are studying the possibility that the entire suicide squad consisted of impostors.” [London Times, 9/20/2001] The mainstream media briefly doubts some of the hijackers’ identities. For instance, a story in The Observer on September 23 puts the names of hijackers like Saeed Alghamdi in quotation marks. [Observer, 9/23/2001] However, the story will die down, and it will hardly be noticed when Mueller states on November 2, 2001: “As I have indicated before, one of the initial responsibilities of that investigation was to determine who the hijackers were. We at this point definitely know the 19 hijackers who were responsible for that catastrophe.” [Office of the Press Secretary, 11/2/2001] A law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, will confirm that the hijackers’ names released in late September, on the 28th, are the true identities of all 19 hijackers. The Associated Press story quoting him will add that “the names were those listed on the planes’ passenger manifests and investigators were certain that those were the names the hijackers used when they entered the United States.” But the Saudi Institute, an independent human rights watchdog group that researches the hijackers’ identities, will maintain that Abdulaziz Alomari used someone else’s passport. [Associated Press, 11/3/2001; Associated Press, 11/3/2002] In 2003, FBI spokesman Bill Carter will say: “There has been no change in thought about the identities of those who boarded those planes. It’s like saying my name is John Smith. There are a lot of people with the name of John Smith, but they’re not the same person.” When asked about Mueller’s comments, Carter will say, “He might have told Congress [about the identity theft], but we have done a thorough investigation and we are confident.” Carter will also comment that the bureau identified the hijackers “[t]hrough extensive investigation,” and say, “We checked the flight manifests, their whereabouts in this country, and we interviewed witnesses who identified the hijackers.” [Insight, 6/24/2003] The 9/11 Commission will later endorse the hijackers’ names published by the FBI around this time. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
Entity Tags: Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11 Commission, Majed Moqed, Abdulaziz Alomari, Marwan Alshehhi, Khalid Almihdhar, Mohand Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, William Carter, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Robert S. Mueller III, Saeed Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
William Safire’s New York Times editorial published November 12, 2001, in which he calls the alleged meeting between Atta and an Iraqi agent an “undisputed fact.” [Source: PBS]Media coverage relating to an alleged meeting between hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi spy named Ahmed al-Ani took place in Prague, Czech Republic, has changed repeatedly over time:
September 18, 2001: It is first reported that 9/11 plotter Mohamed Atta met in Prague, Czech Republic, with an Iraqi diplomat in April 2001. The name of the diplomat, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, is mentioned in follow up articles. [Associated Press, 9/18/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/19/2001; CNN, 10/11/2001; New York Times, 11/19/2003]
October 20, 2001: The story is denied by some Czech officials (see October 16, 2001). [New York Times, 10/20/2001]
October 26, 2001: The story is confirmed by the Czech interior minister (see October 26, 2001). [New York Times, 10/27/2001]
October 27, 2001: It is claimed Atta met with Iraqi agents four times in Prague, and was given a vial of antrax. Atta is alleged to have had further meetings with Iraqi agents in Germany, Spain, and Italy (see October 27, 2001). [London Times, 10/27/2001]
November 12, 2001: Conservative columnist William Safire calls the meeting an “undisputed fact” in a New York Times editorial (see November 12, 2001). [New York Times, 11/12/2001]
December 9, 2001: Vice President Cheney asserts that the existence of the meeting is “pretty well confirmed” (see December 9, 2001). [Washington Post, 12/9/2001]
December 16, 2001: The identities of both al-Ani and Atta, alleged to have been at the meetings, are disputed by a Czech police chief (see December 16, 2001). [New York Times, 12/16/2001; Associated Press, 12/16/2001]
January 12, 2002: It is claimed at least two meetings took place, including one a year earlier. [Daily Telegraph, 1/12/2002]
February 6, 2002: It is reported that senior US intelligence officials believe the meeting took place, but they believe it is not enough evidence to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks (see February 6, 2002). [New York Times, 2/6/2002]
March 15, 2002: Evidence that the meeting took place is considered between “slim” and “none.” [Washington Post, 3/15/2002]
March 18, 2002: William Safire again strongly asserts that the meeting took place. [New York Times, 3/18/2002]
April 28-May 2, 2002: The meeting is largely discredited. For example, the Washington Post quotes FBI Director Mueller stating that, “We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts,” yet no evidence that Atta left the country was found. According to the Post, “[a]fter months of investigation, the Czechs [say] they [are] no longer certain that Atta was the person who met al-Ani, saying ‘he may be different from Atta.’” [Washington Post, 5/1/2002] Newsweek cites a US official who contends that, “Neither we nor the Czechs nor anybody else has any information [Atta] was coming or going [to Prague] at that time” (see April 28, 2002). [Newsweek, 4/28/2002; Washington Post, 5/1/2002; New York Times, 5/2/2002]
May 8, 2002: Some Czech officials continue to affirm the meeting took place. [Prague Post, 5/8/2002]
May 9, 2002: William Safire refuses to give up the story, claiming a “protect-Saddam cabal” in the high levels of the US government is burying the evidence. [New York Times, 5/9/2002]
July 15, 2002: The head of Czech foreign intelligence states that reports of the meeting are unproved and implausible. [Prague Post, 7/15/2002]
August 2, 2002: With a war against Iraq growing more likely, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer suggests the meeting did happen, “despite deep doubts by the CIA and FBI.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/2/2002]
August 19, 2002: Newsweek states: “The sole evidence for the alleged meeting is the uncorroborated claim of a Czech informant.” According to Newsweek, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is nonetheless pushing the FBI to have the meeting accepted as fact. [Newsweek, 8/19/2002]
September 10, 2002: The Bush administration is no longer actively asserting that the meeting took place. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002]
September 17, 2002: Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld “accept reports from Czech diplomats” that the meeting took place. [USA Today, 9/17/2002]
September 23, 2002: Newsweek reports that the CIA is resisting Pentagon demands to obtain pictures of the alleged meeting from Iraqi exiles. One official says, “We do not shy away from evidence. But we also don’t make it up.” [Newsweek, 9/23/2002]
October 10, 2002: British officials deny the meeting ever took place (see October 4-10, 2002). [Financial Times, 10/4/2002; Guardian, 10/10/2002]
October 20, 2002: Czech officials, including President Vaclav Havel, emphatically deny that the meeting ever took place. It now appears Atta was not even in the Czech Republic during the month the meeting was supposed to have taken place. President Havel told Bush “quietly some time earlier this year” that the meeting did not happen (see Early 2002, probably May or later). [United Press International, 10/20/2002; New York Times, 10/21/2002]
December 8, 2002: Bush adviser Richard Perle continues to push the story, stating, “To the best of my knowledge that meeting took place.” [CBS News, 9/5/2002] He says this despite the fact that in October 2002, Czech officials told Perle in person that the meeting did not take place (see October 20, 2002).
July 9, 2003: Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmed al-Ani is captured by US forces in Iraq. [Washington Post, 7/9/2003]
July 10, 2003: In a story confirming al-Ani’s capture, ABC News cites US and British intelligence officials who have seen surveillance photos of al-Ani’s meetings in Prague, and who say that there is a man who looks somewhat like Atta, but is not Atta. [ABC News, 7/10/2003]
September 14, 2003: Vice President Cheney repeats the claims that Atta met with al-Ani in Prague on NBC’s Meet the Press. He says “we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting” the meeting, but he also cites the when making the claim that Iraq officially supported al-Qaeda (see September 14, 2003 and September 14, 2003). [Washington Post, 9/15/2003]
July 25, 2003: The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry makes public its conclusion that the meeting never took place (see January-July 2003).
December 13, 2003: It is reported that al-Ani told interrogators he did not meet Atta in Prague. [Washington Post, 9/29/2003; Reuters, 12/13/2003]
February 24, 2004: CIA Director George Tenet says of the meeting: “We can’t prove that one way or another.” [New York Times, 7/9/2004]
June 16, 2004: The 9/11 Commission concludes that the meeting never happened. They claim cell phone records and other records show Atta never left Florida during the time in question (see June 16, 2004). [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
June 17, 2004: Vice President Cheney says no one has “been able to confirm” the Atta meeting in Prague or to “to knock it down” He calls reports suggesting that the 9/11 Commission has reached a contradictory conclusion “irresponsible,” even though the 9/11 Commission did conclude just that the day before (see June 17, 2004). [CNN, 6/18/2004]
July 1, 2004: CIA Director Tenet says that the CIA is “increasingly skeptical” the meeting ever took place (see July 1, 2004). [New York Times, 7/9/2004]
July 12, 2004: The 9/11 Commission publicly concludes the meeting never took place (see July 12, 2004).
March 29, 2006: Cheney says of the meeting: “And that reporting waxed and waned where the degree of confidence in it, and so forth, has been pretty well knocked down now at this stage, that that meeting ever took place” (see March 29, 2006).
September 8, 2006: A bipartisan Senate report confirms that the meeting never took place (see September 8-10, 2006). [US Senate and Intelligence Committee, 9/8/2006 ]
September 10, 2006: Cheney still breathes life into reports of the meeting, reversing position and refusing to deny that the meeting took place (see September 10, 2006). [Meet the Press, 9/10/2006]
April 2007: In a new book, former CIA Director Tenet claims, “It is my understanding that in 2006, new intelligence was obtained that proved beyond any doubt that the man seen meeting with [a] member of the Iraqi intelligence service in Prague in 2001 was not Mohamed Atta” (see 2006). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 355]
Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, 9/11 Commission, Mohamed Atta, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Vaclav Havel, William Safire, Robert S. Mueller III
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
A private plane picks up Saudis who have gathered in Boston and flies them to Paris, then ultimately to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Because most of the passengers on board are relatives of Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 Commission calls this the “so-called bin Laden flight.” The commission claims there are 26 passengers on board, three of them security personnel. They further report that “22 of the 26… were interviewed by the FBI. Many were asked detailed questions.” However, the commission does not answer how many were not asked detailed questions, or were not questioned at all. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 557] However, Craig Unger, author of the book House of Bush, House of Saud, publishes the flight manifest during the same week as the 9/11 Commission’s final report is released, and this list contains 29 names (including the three security personnel), not 26. [Craig Unger website, 7/22/2004] The 2005 book Al-Qaeda Will Conquer by Guillaume Dasquié also makes note of this three-person discrepancy. [Financial Times, 4/27/2005]
A few weeks after the attacks, US investigators say the hijackers appeared to have spent about $500,000 while in the US. An official says, “This was not a low-budget operation. There is quite a bit of money coming in, and they are spending quite a bit of money.” [Washington Post, 9/29/2001; Guardian, 10/1/2001; Washington Post, 10/7/2001] In a detailed analysis published in the summer of 2002, the FBI will again report that the hijackers had access to a total of $500,000 to $600,000, of which $325,000 flowed through their SunTrust accounts. [New York Times, 7/10/2002; CNN, 7/10/2002 Sources: Dennis Lormel] The same figure is provided by John S. Pistole, FBI Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division, when he testifies before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “[T]he 9/11 hijackers utilized slightly over $300,000 through formal banking channels to facilitate their time in the US. We assess they used another $200-300,000 in cash to pay for living expenses.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 133 ] However, officials later back away from this figure and in August 2004 the 9/11 Commission says that the hijackers’ spending in the US was only “more than $270,000.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 143 ] In addition, the number of bank accounts the hijackers are said to have opened varies. Shortly after the attacks, investigators believe they had about a dozen accounts at US banks. In July 2002, Dennis Lormel, chief of the FBI unit investigating the money behind the attacks, tells the New York Times they had 35 accounts, including 14 with the SunTrust Bank. [Washington Post, 10/7/2001; New York Times, 7/10/2002 Sources: Dennis Lormel] However, a year after the attacks, FBI Director Robert Mueller tells the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, “In total, the hijackers opened 24 bank accounts at four different US banks.” [US Congress, 9/26/2002] Not only is Mueller’s assertion contradicted by Lormel’s previous statement, but it is also demonstrably false, as the hijackers had at least 25 US bank accounts with at least 6 different banks (SunTrust Bank, Hudson United Bank, Dime Savings Bank, First National Bank of Florida, Bank of America, and First Union National Bank) (see February 4, 2000, June 28-July 7, 2000, Early September 2000, May 1-July 18, 2001, and June 27-August 23, 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 19 ] The 9/11 Commission’s Report and its Terrorist Financing Monograph focus on some of the transfers made to the hijackers (see January 15, 2000-August 2001, June 13-September 25, 2000, June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000, and December 5, 2000), but ignore others (see June 2000-August 2001, May 2001, Early August-August 22, 2001, Summer 2001 and before, and Late August-Early September 2001). Neither the report nor the monograph gives the total number of bank accounts the hijackers opened. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004 ] In addition, the identities of the hijackers’ financiers reportedly change over time (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002).
The Boston Globe reports information strongly suggesting that at least one hijacker was inside each of the cockpits when the hijackings began. An airplane captain theorizes how they took control: “The most likely scenarios are something that was swift, where the pilots couldn’t have changed their transponder code and called the controllers. You think four times in one morning one of those crews would have done that. That means they had to be upon them before they could react.” On practice flights before 9/11, the hijackers repeatedly obtained access to cockpits by various methods. Perhaps the most important method was jumpseating, which allows certified airline pilots to use a spare seat in the cockpit when none is available in the passenger cabin. Airlines reciprocate to help pilots get home or to the city of their originating flight. Officials say they do not believe any of the hijackers were jumpseating on 9/11 despite media reports to the contrary. However, since 9/11 the FAA has banned the practice unless a pilot works for the airline in whose cockpit that person wants to ride. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the hijackers didn’t use jumpseating because they couldn’t find any paperwork relating to jumpseat requests.
On December 14, 2001, it is first reported that 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah was stopped and questioned at Dubai airport (see January 30-31, 2000); a controversy follows on when the US was told about this and what was done about it.
Initial Account - The story of Jarrah being detained at Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), first appears in the Chicago Tribune on December 14. This initial report says that Jarrah was stopped because he was on a US watch list. US officials refuse to comment on the matter. (Note that this report and most other early accounts place the incident on January 30, 2001 (see January 31, 2000 and After), but this appears to be incorrect and later reports say it happened exactly one year earlier, on January 30, 2000.) [Associated Press, 12/14/2001]
Did the US Tell the UAE to Stop Jarrah? - Jane Corbin reports the same story for the BBC in December 2001 and then repeats it in a book. Once again, US officials refuse to comment on the story. In her account, UAE officials claim Jarrah was stopped based on a tip-off from the US. A UAE source tells Corbin: “It was at the request of the Americans and it was specifically because of Jarrah’s links with Islamic extremists, his contacts with terrorist organizations. That was the extent of what we were told.” [BBC, 12/12/2001; Corbin, 2003] One day after the BBC report, a US official carefully states that the FBI was not aware before 9/11 that another US agency thought Jarrah was linked to any terrorist group. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/13/2001]
CNN Revives the Story, Has More Sources - In August 2002, CNN also reports that Jarrah was stopped because he was on a US watch list. It claims this information comes not only from UAE sources, but from other governments in the Middle East and Europe. It also still refers to the incorrect January 31, 2001 date. For the first time, a CIA spokesperson comments on the matter and says the CIA never knew anything about Jarrah before 9/11 and had nothing to do with his questioning in Dubai. [CNN, 8/1/2002]
Denials Are Helped by Confusion over Date - Regarding the denials by US authorities, author Terry McDermott point outs: “It is worth noting, however, that when the initial reports of the Jarrah interview [came out,] the Americans publicly denied they had ever been informed of it. As it happened, Corbin had the wrong date for the event, so the American services might have been technically correct in denying any knowledge of it. They later repeated that denial several times when other reports repeated the inaccurate date.” Based on information from his UAE sources, McDermott concludes that the stop occurred and that the US was informed of it at the time. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 294-5]
FBI Memo Confirms US Was Notified - In February 2004, the Chicago Tribune claims it discovered a 2002 FBI memo that discusses the incident. The memo clearly states that the incident “was reported to the US government” at the time. This account uses the January 30, 2000 date, and all later accounts do so as well. [Chicago Tribune, 2/24/2004]
9/11 Commission Downplays Incident - In July 2004, the 9/11 Commission calls the incident a “minor problem” and relegates it to an endnote in its final report on the 9/11 attacks. It does not mention anything about the US being informed about Jarrah’s brief detention at the time it happened. In this account, Jarrah was not on a US watch list, but he raised suspicion because of an overlay of the Koran in his passport and because he was carrying religious tapes and books. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 496]
Vanity Fair Adds New Details - A November 2004 Vanity Fair article adds some new details. In this account, UAE officials were first suspicious of Jarrah because of a page of the Koran stuck in his passport, then they searched his luggage and found it full of jihadist propaganda videos. Six months earlier, the CIA had asked immigration throughout the region to question anyone who might have been to a training camp in Afghanistan, which gave the UAE even more reason to question him. Jarrah was asked about his time in Afghanistan and revealed that he intended to go to flight school in the US, but he was let go. The UAE told the CIA about all this, but German officials say the CIA failed to pass the information on to German intelligence. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
German and More FBI Documents Also Confirm US Was Involved - McDermott has access to German intelligence files in writing his book published in 2005. He says that German documents show that the UAE did contact the US about Jarrah while he was still being held. But the US had not told the Germans what was discussed about him. Other FBI documents confirming the incident are also obtained by McDermott, but they indicate the questioning was routine. UAE officials insist to McDermott this is absolutely untrue. McDermott suggests that the CIA may not have told the FBI much about the incident. He also says that while UAE officials were holding Jarrah, US officials told them to let Jarrah go because the US would track him (see January 30-31, 2000). [McDermott, 2005, pp. 294]
Continued Denials - In September 2005, US officials continue to maintain they were not notified about the stop until after 9/11. [Chicago Tribune, 9/28/2005] Original reporting on the incident will not occur much in the years after then.
The FBI reveals that it knows what is on the Flight 93 black boxes, but refuses to release the transcript or audio recording. Families of the victims have requested to hear the cockpit voice recording, but the FBI says, “[W]e do not believe that the horror captured on the cockpit voice recording will console them in any way.”
[CNN, 12/21/2001] Accuracy in Media immediately submits a Freedom of Information Act request to have the transcript released, but the FBI turns it down because a release “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.” The Philadelphia Daily News asks, “What enforcement proceedings?” and suggests the FBI may be covering up a shootdown of the plane. [Philadelphia Daily News, 12/28/2001] The recordings are later played, but only in private to victims’ relatives and the 9/11 Commission.
President Bush says he is opposed to establishing a special, independent commission to probe how the government dealt with terrorism warnings before 9/11. [CBS News, 5/23/2002] He will later change his stance in the face of overwhelming support for the idea (see September 20, 2002), and will then sabotage an agreement reached with Congress to establish a commission. Several years after leaving the White House, current Bush press secretary Scott McClellan will write that the president’s reluctance to open an independent investigation into the 9/11 attacks (see November 15, 2002) was part of a larger penchant for secrecy in the administration. McClellan will write: “Unfortunately, the initial response of the Bush White House to demands by partisan critics in Congress and elsewhere for an independent investigation fueled the firestorm of anger. It was an early indication that the Bush administration did not sufficiently accept the necessity for transparency in its management of the public business. The president and his senior advisers had little appetite for outside investigations. They resisted openness, and believed that investigations simply meant close scrutiny of things they would prefer to keep confidential. Not that anything they’d done had necessarily crossed a legal line; rather, some things done privately might not look so good if disclosed publicly, and might cause political embarrassment for the president.… The Bush administration lacked real accountability in large part because Bush himself did not embrace openness or government in the sunshine. His belief in secrecy and compartmentalization was activated when controversy began to stir.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 117-118]
Both the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission examine the NSA’s intercepts of various calls made by the hijackers to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry refers to several of the calls and gives an idea of the content of some of them. But it does not mention those made by Nawaf Alhazmi and possibly other hijackers from the US after the USS Cole bombing, which are only disclosed later in the media (see Mid-October 2000-Summer 2001 and March 15, 2004 and After). However, this section of the Inquiry report is heavily redacted so most details remain unknown. It states that, although the NSA intercepted the calls and disseminated dispatches about some of them, the NSA did not realize the hijackers were in the US at the time the calls were made. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 ] The 9/11 Commission Report contains a briefer section on the intercepts and deals with those which led to the surveillance of the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). In addition, it mentions that Almihdhar called his wife from San Diego in the spring of 2000, but fails to mention that his wife lived at an al-Qaeda communications hub and that the calls were intercepted by the NSA (see Spring-Summer 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 181, 222] The Los Angeles Times comments: “The [9/11 Congressional Inquiry] and the Sept. 11 commission that came after it referred indirectly to the calls from Yemen to San Diego. But neither report discloses what the NSA gleaned from the calls, or why they were never disclosed to the FBI.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/21/2005] The publication of the 9/11 Commission report and revelations about domestic surveillance by the NSA will lead to increased media interest in and revelations about the intercepts starting from 2004 (see March 15, 2004 and After).
Shayna Steinger, a consular officer who issued 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000), gives incorrect testimony about one of the visa issuances to the House Committee on Government Reform. The incorrect testimony concerns the issue of a visa to Hani Hanjour, the alleged pilot of Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon. Steinger initially refused to grant Hanjour a visa (see September 10, 2000), but then reversed her decision two weeks later (see September 25, 2000). Steinger claims that she initially denied Hanjour a visa because he applied under the Visa Express program. However, the visa was denied in September 2000 and the Visa Express program did not begin until May 2001 (see May 2001). Steinger claims to have a memory of the event which cannot be correct. “I remember that I had refused him for interview, because he had applied for a tourist visa and he said that his reason for going to the United States was to study,” she tells the committee. The denial was “for administrative reasons,” she adds. It meant: “No. Come in. I want to talk to you.” The 9/11 Commission will point out that this cannot have been the case, stating, “In fact, the date Hanjour applied (as shown on his written application) and the date he was denied (as shown both on the application and on [the State Department’s] electronic records) are the same: September 10, 2000.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 37-38 ] This is apparently the first time Steinger has been interviewed by anyone about the 12 visa issuances. [Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] Steinger will be interviewed twice more about the visas, changing her story about Hanjour. One interview is by the State Department’s inspector general (see January 20, 2003), the other by the 9/11 Commission (see December 30, 2003).
An article in Time magazine briefly mentions a key meeting between the CIA and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, where top CIA officials warned Rice of an impending attack (see July 10, 2001). The meeting will be left out of the 9/11 Commission report, although CIA Director George Tenet will tell the Commission about it (see January 28, 2004). Time writes: “In mid-July, Tenet sat down for a special meeting with Rice and aides. ‘George briefed Condi that there was going to be a major attack,’ says an official; another, who was present at the meeting, says Tenet broke out a huge wall chart… with dozens of threats. Tenet couldn’t rule out a domestic attack but thought it more likely that al-Qaeda would strike overseas.” [Time, 8/4/2002] According to a transcript of Tenet’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission, he told Rice there could be an al-Qaeda attack in weeks or perhaps months, that there would be multiple, simultaneous attacks causing major human casualties, and that the focus would be US targets, facilities, or interests. As Time reports, Tenet says the intelligence focuses on an overseas attack, but a domestic attack could not be ruled out. [Washington Post, 10/3/2006] News of the meeting will emerge in 2006 (see September 29, 2006), but the 9/11 Commission members will deny they were told about it. After the transcript is shared with reporters, they will reverse their denials (see September 30-October 3, 2006). Rice will also deny the meeting took place, only to reverse her position as well (see October 1-2, 2006).
The Bush administration submits to Congress a 31-page document entitled “The National Security Strategy of the United States.”
Preemptive War - The National Security Strategy (NSS) openly advocates the necessity for the US to engage in “preemptive war” against nations it believes are likely to become a threat to the US’s security. It declares: “In an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle. The United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.” The declaration that the US will engage in preemptive war with other nations reverses decades of American military and foreign policy stances; until now, the US has held that it would only launch an attack against another nation if it had been attacked first, or if American lives were in imminent danger. President Bush had first mentioned the new policy in a speech in June 2002 (see June 1, 2002), and it echoes policies proposed by Paul Wolfowitz during the George H. W. Bush administration (see March 8, 1992). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 128]
US Must Maintain Military 'Beyond Challenge' - The National Security Strategy states that the ultimate objective of US national security policy is to “dissuade future military competition.” The US must therefore “build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge. Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.” [London Times, 9/21/2002]
Ignoring the International Criminal Court - The NSS also states, “We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept.” [US President, 9/2002]
Declaring War on Terrorism Itself - It states: “The enemy is not a single political regime or person or religion or ideology. The enemy is terrorism—premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents.” Journalism professor Mark Danner will later comment in the New York Times: “Not Islamic terrorism or Middle Eastern terrorism or even terrorism directed against the United States: terrorism itself. ‘Declaring war on “terror,”’ as one military strategist later remarked to me, ‘is like declaring war on air power.’” [New York Times Magazine, 9/11/2005]
Fundamental Reversal of Containment, Deterrence Principles - Washington Post reporter Tim Reich later describes the NSS as “revers[ing] the fundamental principles that have guided successive presidents for more than 50 years: containment and deterrence.” Foreign policy professor Andrew Bacevich will write that the NSS is a “fusion of breathtaking utopianism [and] barely disguised machtpolitik.” Bacevich continues, “It reads as if it were the product not of sober, ostensibly conservative Republicans but of an unlikely collaboration between Woodrow Wilson and the elder Field Marshal von Moltke.” [American Conservative, 3/24/2003]
Written by Future Executive Director of 9/11 Commission - The document is released under George W. Bush’s signature, but was written by Philip D. Zelikow, formerly a member of the previous Bush administration’s National Security Council, and currently a history professor at the University of Virginia and a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Zelikow produced the document at the behest of his longtime colleague National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (see June 1, 2002). His authorship of the document will not be revealed until well after he is appointed executive director of the 9/11 commission (see Mid-December 2002-March 2003). Many on the Commission will consider Zelikow’s authorship of the document a prima facie conflict of interest, and fear that Zelikow’s position on the Commission will be used to further the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemptive war (see March 21, 2004). [US Department of State, 8/5/2005; Shenon, 2008, pp. 128]
Entity Tags: Tim Reich, University of Virginia, National Security Council, Bush administration (43), Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, 9/11 Commission, Andrew Bacevich, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Philip Zelikow
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US International Relations, 9/11 Timeline
In sworn testimony to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, CIA Director George Tenet repeatedly claims that a March 2000 cable sent to CIA headquarters reporting that hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi had entered the US was not read by anybody. He says, “I know that nobody read that cable,” “Nobody read that cable in the March timeframe,” and “[N]obody read that information only cable.” [New York Times, 10/17/2002] Former Counterterrorist Center Director Cofer Black will also claim that the cable was not read. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ] However, a later investigation by the CIA Office of Inspector General will find that numerous CIA officers had actually read the cable shortly after it was sent (see March 6, 2000 and After). Nevertheless, the 9/11 Commission will later assert that, “No-one outside the Counterterrorist Center was told any of this” (about Alhazmi’s arrival in the US) and neglect to mention that Tenet had previously misstated the CIA’s knowledge of the hijackers. Neither will the 9/11 Commission investigate the cause of the CIA’s apparent inaction. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 181]
PBS Newshour reports, “[German authorities] say they’re not getting the cooperation they need from the authorities in the [US], and they’re worried that a political dispute between Washington and Berlin is hampering their ability to protect the public… In Hamburg, the police say that breakdown in communications between the US and German governments has also led to a dramatic reduction in the amount of investigative help they’re getting from the [US]” The Bush administration has not spoken to the German government since it won re-election four months earlier while openly opposing Bush’s planned war on Iraq. Germans say existing prosecutions of 9/11 suspects are now threatened by the information breakdown. [Online NewsHour, 10/25/2002] The Germans helped capture suspected al-Qaeda operative Mohamed Heidar Zammar and turned him over to a third country, yet now they’re learning very little from his interrogations, even though he has admitted to being involved in a plot to attack a consulate in Germany. A US State Department official denies there is any problem, aside from a few “bumps in the road.”
[New York Times, 11/4/2002] June 2004, German prosecutor Matthias Krauss, who investigated the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, will be scheduled to testify before the 9/11 Commission about both pre-9/11 communication problems between German and US intelligence officials and the US government’s cooperation with foreign governments prosecuting suspected terrorists in the post-9/11 period. However, he will unexpectedly cancel at the last minute.
[Associated Press, 6/15/2004]
Anwar al-Awlaki, the imam for three of the 9/11 hijackers in the US, lives openly in Britain.
Growing Suspicions about Al-Awlaki in US - After 9/11, US investigators increasingly suspect that al-Awlaki’s links with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour in the US were more than just a coincidence. In October 2002, al-Awlaki is briefly detained while visiting the US but is not arrested, even though there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest (see October 2002). The FBI as a whole does not believe he was involved in the 9/11 plot. However, some disagree. One detective tells the 9/11 Commission in 2003 or 2004 that al-Awlaki “was at the center of the 9/11 story.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry releases its final report in 2003, and it states that al-Awlaki “was a central figure in a support network that aided [Alhazmi and Almihdhar]” (see August 1-3, 2003).
No Attempt to Arrest Him Living Openly in Britain - Al-Awlaki does not visit the US again, after his near arrest. But he lives openly in Britain, a close US ally. He teaches Islam to students in London and adopts an increasingly religious fundamentalist stance. His lectures grow in popularity, especially through sales of CDs of recorded speeches. He travels widely through Britain giving lectures. But despite growing evidence against him in the US, there is no known attempt to have him arrested in Britain. At some point in 2004, he moves to Yemen to preach and study there. [New York Times, 5/8/2010]
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