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Profile: Rick Rescorla
Rick Rescorla was a participant or observer in the following events:
Dan Hill. [Source: Amanda Gordon / Bloomberg]Dan Hill, a US Army Ranger who is undergoing officer training, comes up with a hypothetical plan by which the Soviet Union could start a nuclear war with the United States, which involves a suicide pilot crashing a military transport plane into the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.
Trainees Tasked with Imagining How to Start a World War - After his tour in Vietnam came to an end in mid-1969, Hill was chosen for the career officer training program at Fort Benning, Georgia. He is currently taking a course in nuclear weapons deployment. Toward the end of the semester, he is given the assignment of imagining he is a Soviet premier who wants to start World War III against the US. Hill and his fellow trainees are told to prepare a written plan, describing how they would initiate the war.
Plan Involves Crashing Plane into Capitol Building - Hill comes up with a plan, which he gives the code name “State of the Union.” It involves recruiting and training a suicide pilot, obtaining a C-47 transport plane, and filling it with explosives. Then, as journalist and author James B. Stewart will describe: “On the night of the State of the Union, the pilot would fly the plane straight into the Capitol building, through the rotunda, and into the House of Representatives, where the bombs on the plane would be set to explode. He’d take out the president, his cabinet, the members of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and most senators and representatives. At that moment, the Soviet Union would unleash its nuclear missiles.” According to Hill, everyone in the US would be “watching TV, there’s no air defense around the Capitol; by the time anyone realized an aircraft was near, it would be too late.”
Commander Questions Hill about His Plan - On the Monday after Hill submits his plan, a lieutenant colonel in intelligence stops him on his way to class and says, “I’ve got some people who would like to talk to you.” Hill is taken to a room where Major General John Carley, the assistant commander of the infantry school, is waiting, along with six men in uniform and several other men who are dressed in dark suits, all of them looking serious. Carley is holding Hill’s paper and asks, “How did you come up with this?” Hill replies, “This is my area of expertise,” and explains that he has been trained in unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, the use of explosives, and demolition. He is then questioned for almost an hour about his plan. Finally, Carley says, “We’d prefer you forget you ever did this.” Hill agrees to do so and is then dismissed.
Hill Informs Friend about His Plan - Hill writes to his friend Rick Rescorla, who has also served in the Army, about the incident. In his reply, Rescorla writes: “You evil-minded b_stard! When you have these thoughts, don’t publicize them to anyone. The plan is tactically and technically proficient; it makes sense, but only to people like you and me. To the rest of the world, it looks like the workings of a deviant mind. This kind of thing terrifies people.” [Stewart, 2002, pp. 152-153] Rescorla will subsequently work as the head of security for a company at the World Trade Center. [New Yorker, 2/11/2002] While he is in that position, he will be drawing from Hill’s plan when, after the 1993 bombing, he determines that terrorists will likely target the WTC again by crashing a cargo plane into it (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194] Hill will learn that, shortly after his meeting with Carley, enhanced air defenses were installed for Washington. He will therefore think that some good may have come from the meeting. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 153]
Rick Rescorla, a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, and Dan Hill, a former Army colleague of his, write a report in which they warn that terrorists could attack the WTC by detonating a truck filled with explosives in the underground parking garage, but the Port Authority, which manages the WTC, dismisses their warning. Rescorla, who previously served in the US Army, is now working as the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter, and his office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 173-177; New Yorker, 2/11/2002]
Former Army Ranger Agrees to Identify WTC Vulnerabilities - Rescorla has become increasingly concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the United States, especially after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up by a terrorist bomb over Scotland in December 1988, and he thinks the WTC is “an obvious target.” He therefore asks his friend Hill to join him in New York and be his consultant. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 173] Hill, a former Army Ranger, has been trained in counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, demolition, and the use of explosives. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 152-153] “If anyone can figure out how to hurt this building, you can,” Rescorla tells him, and adds, “I want to know the worst.” Hill agrees to help Rescorla. After he arrives in New York, Rescorla takes him to the WTC. Rescorla explains the basic engineering of the Twin Towers and suggests they examine the buildings, starting at the bottom and then working up.
Parking Area Has No Visible Security - The two men begin by walking around the entire 16-acre WTC complex. Hill then asks Rescorla where the loading and docking operations are, and Rescorla takes him to a ramp that goes to the basement levels of the WTC. After they walk down the ramp, past a loading dock, and into a parking area, Hill asks, “Where are the guards?” Rescorla replies, “There are no guards.” Hill then notices that all the major columns and supporting beams in the parking area are visible and exposed.
Hill Thinks Parking Area Is a 'Soft Touch' - After thinking for a few minutes, Hill says: “Hell, Rick. This is a soft touch. It’s not even a challenge.” He then explains to Rescorla how he would attack the WTC if he was a terrorist. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart, Hill says he would “bring in a stolen truck, painted like a delivery truck. He’d fill it with a mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel, then drive down the ramp and park. With four or five men dressed in coveralls, he could plant additional charges near key supporting pillars within 15 minutes. Then he and the men would walk out and disperse, and he’d remove his coveralls.” He would then take a taxi to another location, where he would have a van waiting with a woman, two children, and possibly a dog inside. He would use a cell phone or a beeper to detonate the truck bomb and then make his getaway. “Nobody’s going to stop a family and a dog on Interstate 95,” Hill tells Rescorla.
Port Authority Dismisses Rescorla's Concerns - Later on, the two men analyze Hill’s findings and incorporate them into a report for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the WTC buildings. The following day, Rescorla meets with some Port Authority officials and notifies them of his and Hill’s concerns, but they are uninterested. Rescorla later tells Hill that the officials’ response was to say, “You worry about your floors and we’ll worry about the rest, including the basements and parking.” All the same, Rescorla sends copies of his and Hill’s report to the Port Authority and also the New York City Police Department, but he receives no responses. Rescorla and Hill are unaware that the Port Authority’s Office of Special Planning submitted a report in 1985 that warned of a bombing at the WTC of a similar kind to what they have envisioned, and also emphasized the vulnerability of the basement levels (see November 1985). However, no steps were taken to increase security at the WTC in response to that report. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 173-177] In February 1993, terrorists will attack the WTC in almost exactly the way that Hill predicts, by parking a van containing a 1,500-pound urea nitrate bomb in the basement and detonating it with a timer (see February 26, 1993). [Parachini, 2000, pp. 190-191 ]
Rick Rescorla. [Source: Public domain]Rick Rescorla, a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, and his friend Dan Hill conduct an analysis of the security measures at the WTC and conclude that terrorists will likely attack the Twin Towers again, probably by crashing a plane into them. Rescorla, who has served in the US Army and worked for British military intelligence, is now the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter. His office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194; New Yorker, 2/11/2002] After the WTC is bombed in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993), Rescorla calls Hill to New York to be his security consultant and assess the situation. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 191; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005] Hill is a former Army Ranger and has had training in counterterrorism. [New Yorker, 2/11/2002; St. Augustine Record, 8/14/2011]
Anti-American Hostility Found at Mosques - Hill and Rescorla suspect that the WTC bombing was committed by Muslims. Rescorla suggests that Hill, who is himself a Muslim and speaks Arabic, try to gather some intelligence. Hill therefore lets his beard grow and visits several mosques in New Jersey. He gets into conversations with people at the mosques, expressing pro-Islamic opinions and taking an anti-American line. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart: “[A]t every other location, Hill was struck by the intense anti-American hostility he encountered. Though these were not his own views, he barely had to mention that he thought American policy toward Israel and the Middle East was misguided, or that Jews wielded too much political power, to unleash a torrent of anti-American, anti-Semitic rhetoric. Many applauded the bombing of the World Trade Center, lamenting that it hadn’t done more damage.” Referring to his experiences at the mosques, Hill tells Rescorla, “We’ve got a problem.” He also believes that, as the symbolic “tower of the Jews,” the WTC is likely to remain a target for terrorists. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 192-193; New Yorker, 2/11/2002]
Rescorla Thinks Terrorists Will Use a Different Method of Attack - Rescorla thinks that since terrorists failed to bring the Twin Towers down with a truck bomb, they may in future try a different method of attack, such as using a small, portable nuclear weapon or flying a plane into the building. He phones his friend Fred McBee and asks him to examine the possibility of an air attack on the WTC. By using a flight simulator on his computer, McBee concludes that such an attack seems “very viable” (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005]
Report Warns of Another Attack on the WTC - Hill and Rescorla write a report incorporating their findings and analysis. The report warns that the WTC will likely remain a target for anti-American militants. It notes that Muslim terrorists are showing increasing tactical and technological awareness, and that the numerous young Muslims living in the United States constitute a potential “enemy within.” Rescorla states that terrorists will not rest until they have succeeded in bringing down the Twin Towers.
Hill and Rescorla Suggest Terrorists Flying a Plane into the WTC - Rescorla and Hill also lay out what they think the next terrorist attack could look like. According to Stewart, it would involve “an air attack on the Twin Towers, probably a cargo plane traveling from the Middle East or Europe to Kennedy or Newark Airport, loaded with explosives, chemical or biological weapons, or even a small nuclear weapon. Besides New York, other cities might be targeted, such as Washington or Philadelphia. Perhaps terrorists would attack all three.” Rescorla and Hill’s report concludes that Rescorla’s company, Dean Witter, should leave the WTC and move to somewhere safer in New Jersey. However, Dean Witter’s lease does not expire until 2006, and so the company will remain at the WTC. But Rescorla will start conducting regular evacuation drills for all its employees in the South Tower. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194; New Yorker, 2/11/2002] Rescorla will be in his office at the WTC on 9/11. He will personally escort his company’s employees out of the South Tower, but die himself when the tower collapses. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; BBC, 2/10/2003]
Fred McBee. [Source: History Channel]Fred McBee, a friend of a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, determines, using a flight simulator on his computer, that it would be possible for terrorists to crash a jumbo jet into the Twin Towers. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005] Rick Rescorla is the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter and his office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. In response to the recent bombing at the WTC (see February 26, 1993), he is conducting an analysis of the security measures there. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; New Yorker, 2/11/2002] Rescorla thinks that terrorists might try attacking the WTC again by crashing a plane into the towers. He therefore phones McBee, who is in Oklahoma, and asks him to examine the possibility of an air attack. McBee has the Microsoft Flight Simulator program on his computer. He has been experimenting on the program with a small Cessna plane, but, while he is on the phone with Rescorla, he changes this to a Boeing 737. He then pulls up the image of Lower Manhattan and is able to simulate a crash into the WTC. “It was a piece of cake,” McBee will later comment. “There’s nothing to stop you… once you’re in the air.” He tries to simulate crashing into the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, and is again successful. But when he tries the same experiment with Washington, DC, as the location, he finds that the White House and the Capitol building are blacked out. McBee concludes that a terrorist attack involving crashing a plane into a building “looks very viable.” Presumably taking McBee’s findings into account, Rescorla co-writes a report in which he states that the WTC is likely to remain a target for terrorists, and suggests that the next attack could involve terrorists crashing a cargo plane into the Twin Towers (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005]
Dan Hill, a former Army Ranger, formulates a plan to kill Osama bin Laden, but this plan will eventually have to be called off due to a lack of government support. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203-204, 244-245; New York Times, 9/8/2002] After the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), Hill learns that the United States and Saudi Arabia are jointly offering a reward of $15 million for the capture of bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the attacks. He sees this as an opportunity for him to organize a mission to go to Afghanistan and kill bin Laden. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203] Hill is a Muslim and speaks fluent Arabic. Furthermore, after retiring from the Army in 1975, during the 1980s he fought with the mujahedeen against the occupying Russians in Afghanistan. [Deseret News, 9/6/2009; San Francisco Opera, 1/2011]
Hill Discusses Plan with Friend from Afghanistan - Hill contacts his friend Said Nader Zori to discuss the assassination plan. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203] Nader Zori is a former mujahedeen fighter who fought alongside Hill in Afghanistan and subsequently emigrated to the US. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 168, 201] Hill asks him, “Is your brother-in-law still going in and out of Afghanistan?” Nader Zori’s brother-in-law now lives in Islamabad, Pakistan, but he worked for a short time in Afghanistan’s defense ministry after the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989, and still has many contacts in that country. Nader Zori replies, “All the time.” Hill then asks if Nader Zori’s brother-in-law has any contacts in the Taliban, and Nader Zori says yes. Hill lays out to his friend a plan to put together a group, with Nader Zori’s brother-in-law as its commander, organize an ambush, and attack and kill bin Laden. Hill and Nader Zori would participate in the operation, and the reward money would be split between the group’s members.
Proposed Commander Wants Government Assistance with Mission - Nader Zori writes a letter to his brother-in-law, outlining Hill’s plan, which he gives to a courier to take to Islamabad and deliver. He receives a response several weeks later. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart, the brother-in-law writes that he is “interested. He had Taliban contacts; he knew the locations of three compounds bin Laden used in Kandahar, and he knew that bin Laden made regular trips between Kandahar and Kabul. He traveled in a small convoy of just three vehicles.” But Nader Zori’s brother-in-law wants the assurance of US government support for the mission.
Friend Concerned that Hill Might Not Survive Mission - Hill contacts the FBI office in Jacksonville, Florida, and discusses his plan with Leo Morris, an agent there. Morris seems enthusiastic and says he will contact his superiors in Washington, DC, and get back to Hill. Hill then contacts his friend Rick Rescorla to talk about the plan. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 203-204] Rescorla, who, like Hill, served in the Army, now works as vice president for security at the Wall Street investment firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in its offices at the World Trade Center. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; National Review, 9/20/2002] The two men discuss Hill’s plan in detail. Hill offers to split his share of the reward money with Rescorla, but Rescorla is apprehensive. He says that while he thinks Hill might succeed in killing bin Laden, he may not make it out alive afterward. Hill replies: “I’m 60. I’m not risking that much.” He adds that the mission would mean he would “go out in a blaze of glory.” [Stewart, 2002, pp. 204] Hill will meet with the FBI to ask for military assistance for his plan (see (Between May and June 2000)), but his request will be rejected (see (Between Spring and Summer 2001)) and so the plan is not carried out. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230-231, 245]
Dan Hill, a former Army Ranger who has devised a plan to kill Osama bin Laden, is told by the FBI that his request for US military assistance, which he needs for his plan to go ahead, has been rejected. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 245] Hill and his friend Said Nader Zori have assembled a group of former mujahedeen fighters who are ready to go into Afghanistan to attack and kill bin Laden. The two men met with Ellen Glasser, an agent at the FBI office in Jacksonville, Florida, in the late spring of 2000 to discuss the plan and request military support, and Glasser said she would refer the proposal to FBI headquarters in Washington, DC (see (Between May and June 2000)). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 230-231] Since then, Hill has been pushing the FBI’s Jacksonville office for a response to his request, but felt he was getting nowhere. Meanwhile, Nader Zori has been told by his sources in Afghanistan that something big is going to happen, probably during the holy month of Ramadan. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 244-245] (Ramadan this year will begin on November 16 and end on December 16. [New York Times, 12/13/2001; New York Times, 12/17/2001] ) Now, about a year after his meeting with Glasser, Hill receives a phone call from the FBI agent, informing him that his plan has been rejected. “Nothing can be done,” she says. Hill is upset and tells Glasser that bin Laden “is not screwing around.” He tells her about a report he wrote with his friend Rick Rescorla, which warned of the terrorist threat the US faced. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 245] Rescorla is the vice president for security at the Wall Street investment firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and works at the World Trade Center. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; National Review, 9/20/2002] In their report, written after the 1993 WTC bombing, Hill and Rescorla warned that terrorists could carry out an attack that involved crashing a cargo plane into the Twin Towers (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194] Hill tells Glasser that an attack involving terrorists deliberately crashing an aircraft is “going to strike New York, Philadelphia, or Washington, DC. Or maybe all three.” He says the attack is likely to take place around Ramadan and so his plan to kill bin Laden needs to be put into action right away. But Glasser apologizes and again says, “Nothing can be done.” Hill subsequently phones Rescorla and tells him that his plan will have to be called off. Rescorla tells Hill he is unsurprised at the FBI’s response. “The FBI is a bunch of incompetent duds,” he says. “And don’t bother going to the CIA. It’s just as bad.” [Stewart, 2002, pp. 245]
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