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A Boeing 707 belonging to an Argentine airline comes close to hitting the television mast atop the World Trade Center’s North Tower. The plane is flying in clouds at 1,500 feet, instead of at its assigned altitude of 3,000 feet, and descending toward Kennedy Airport. About four miles, or less than 90 seconds, from the WTC, the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) in Hempstead, Long Island, becomes aware of the situation thanks to a new automated alarm system and is able to radio the pilot with the order to climb. The alarm system that sounds, called Minimum Safe Altitude Warning, has been in operation for about a year. When radar shows a plane at an altitude within 500 feet of the highest obstruction in a particular area and 30 seconds away, a buzzer sounds repeatedly at the TRACON. At the same time, the letters LA (for low altitude) flash on the radar scope next to the plane’s blip. (Witkin 2/26/1981)
The New York Port Authority, which owns the World Trade Center, is aware of terrorism occurring around the world and that the WTC is vulnerable to attack. It has therefore created the Terrorist Intelligence Unit within its police department, headed by Detective Sergeant Peter Caram, to gather information about terrorist groups and assess the vulnerability of its numerous facilities to attack. On this day, Caram writes a memo to the assistant superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department, reporting that the FBI has uncovered a terrorist threat: Two supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini are allegedly planning to bomb the WTC in the near future. Although the attack never occurs, this is the first of numerous occasions during the 1980s where the WTC is considered a potential target for a terrorist attack. (Caram 2001, pp. 4-5; New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004)
Detective Sergeant Peter Caram, the head of the New York Port Authority’s Terrorist Intelligence Unit, has been directed by the assistant superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department to compile a report on the vulnerability of the WTC to a terrorist attack. Having previously worked at the WTC Command, Caram has exclusive knowledge of some of the center’s security weaknesses. On this day he issues his four-page report, titled “Terrorist Threat and Targeting Assessment: World Trade Center.” It looks at the reasoning behind why the WTC might be singled out for attack, and identifies three areas of particular vulnerability: the perimeter of the WTC complex, the truck dock entrance, and the subgrade area (the lower floors below ground level). Caram specifically mentions that terrorists could use a car bomb in the subgrade area—a situation similar to what occurs in the 1993 bombing (see February 26, 1993). (Caram 2001, pp. 5, 84-85; New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004) This is the first of several reports during the 1980s, identifying the WTC as a potential terrorist target.
The Office of Special Planning (OSP), a unit set up by the New York Port Authority to assess the security of its facilities against terrorist attacks (see Early 1984), spends four to six months studying the World Trade Center. It examines the center’s design through looking at photographs, blueprints, and plans. It brings in experts such as the builders of the center, plus experts in sabotage and explosives, and has them walk through the WTC to identify any areas of vulnerability. According to New York Times reporters James Glanz and Eric Lipton, when Edward O’Sullivan, head of the OSP, looks at WTC security, he finds “one vulnerability after another. Explosive charges could be placed at key locations in the power system. Chemical or biological agents could be dropped into the coolant system. The Hudson River water intake could be blown up. Someone might even try to infiltrate the large and vulnerable subterranean realms of the World Trade Center site.” In particular, “There was no control at all over access to the underground, two-thousand-car parking garage.” However, O’Sullivan consults “one of the trade center’s original structural engineers, Les Robertson, on whether the towers would collapse because of a bomb or a collision with a slow-moving airplane.” He is told there is “little likelihood of a collapse no matter how the building was attacked.” (Glanz and Lipton 2004, pp. 227; New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004) The OSP will issue its report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center” late in 1985 (see November 1985).
While the Office of Special Planning is still working on its report about the vulnerability of the World Trade Center to terrorist attack, the New York Port Authority hired security consultant Charles Schnabolk to also review the center’s security systems. (Reeves 10/12/2001; New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004) Schnabolk was involved in designing the original security system when the WTC complex was built. (Institue for Design Professionals 2009; The Security Design Group 2010) This month his secret report, titled “Terrorism Threat Perspective and Proposed Response for the World Trade Center” is released. It sets out four levels of possible terrorism against the center, and gives examples of each: ”(1) PREDICTABLE—Bomb threats; (2) PROBABLE—Bombing attempts, computer crime; (3) POSSIBLE—Hostage taking; (4) CATASTROPHIC—Aerial bombing, chemical agents in water supply or air conditioning (caused by agents of a foreign government or a programmed suicide).” Similar to other reports in the mid-1980s, it also warns that the WTC “is highly vulnerable through the parking lot.” (Reeves 10/12/2001; New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004)
After assessing the security of New York Port Authority facilities, the Office of Special Planning (OSP), the Port Authority’s own antiterrorist task force, releases a report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center.” For security purposes, only seven copies are made, being hand-delivered and signed for by its various recipients, including the executive director of the Port Authority, the superintendent of the Port Authority Police, and the director of the World Trade Department. (New York Court of Appeals 2/16/1999; Solnik 1/5/2000) Because of the WTC’s visibility, symbolic value, and it being immediately recognizable to people from around the world, the report concludes that the center is a “most attractive terrorist target.” (New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004) The report, which is 120 pages long, lists various possible methods of attacking the center. (New York Court of Appeals 2/16/1999; Caram 2001, pp. 103; Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 87) One of these is that a “time bomb-laden vehicle could be driven into the WTC and parked in the public parking area.… At a predetermined time, the bomb could be exploded in the basement.” (Glanz and Lipton 2004, pp. 227) As a Senate Committee Report will find in August 1993, “The specifics of the February 26, 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center garage were almost identical to those envisioned in the [OSP] report.” (New York Court of Appeals 2/16/1999) Due to the Port Authority’s failure to adequately implement the OSP’s recommendations, the report will be crucial evidence in a successful civil trial against it in October 2005, charging negligence in failing to prevent the 1993 bombing. (Mumma 10/26/2005; Hartocollis 10/27/2005; Hoban 2/18/2006) As of mid-2006, the other possible methods of attacking the WTC listed in the report remain undisclosed.
Following the release of the Office of Special Planning’s (OSP) report, which called the WTC a “most attractive terrorist target” (see November 1985), the New York Port Authority, which owns the center, seeks a second opinion on the OSP’s recommendations. At a cost of approximately $100,000, it hires the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to review the general security of the WTC. SAIC states in its report that the attractiveness of the WTC’s public areas to terrorists is “very high.” Like the OSP, SAIC pays particular attention to the underground levels of the center and describes a possible attack scenario much like what occurs in the 1993 bombing. (Caram 2001, pp. 105-106; New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004)
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; Stewart 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 )
Despite being on a US terrorist watch list for three years, radical Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman enters the US on a “much-disputed” tourist visa issued by an undercover CIA agent. (Friedman 3/30/1993; Weaver 5/1996; Lance 2003, pp. 42) Abdul-Rahman was heavily involved with the CIA and Pakistani ISI efforts to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, and became famous traveling all over the world for five years recruiting new fighters for the Afghan war. The CIA gave him visas to come to the US starting in 1986 (see December 15, 1986-1989) . However, he never hid his prime goals to overthrow the governments of the US and Egypt. (Weaver 5/1996) FBI agent Tommy Corrigan will later say that prior to Abdul-Rahman’s arrival, “terrorism for all intents and purposes didn’t exist in the United States. But [his] arrival in 1990 really stoke the flames of terrorism in this country. This was a major-league ballplayer in what at the time was a minor-league ballpark. He was… looked up to worldwide. A mentor to bin Laden, he was involved with the MAK over in Pakistan.” The charity front Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) is also known as Al-Kifah, and it has a branch in Brooklyn known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. The head of that branch, Mustafa Shalabi, picks up Abdul-Rahman at the airport when he first arrives and finds an apartment for him. Abdul-Rahman soon begins preaching at Al Farouq mosque, which is in the same building as the Al-Kifah office, plus two other locals mosques, Abu Bakr and Al Salaam. (Lance 2006, pp. 53) He quickly turns Al-Kifah into his “de facto headquarters.” (Weaver 5/1996) He is “infamous throughout the Arab world for his alleged role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.” Abdul-Rahman immediately begins setting up a militant Islamic network in the US. (Friedman 3/30/1993) He is believed to have befriended bin Laden while in Afghanistan, and bin Laden secretly pays Abdul-Rahman’s US living expenses. (Weaver 5/1996; ABC News 8/16/2002) For the next two years, Abdul-Rahman will continue to exit and reenter the US without being stopped or deported, even though he is still on the watch list (see Late October 1990-October 1992).
During the mid-1980s, a series of reports described the vulnerability of the World Trade Center to terrorist attack (see July 1985)(see November 1985)(see (Mid-1986)). Now, because of the increased risk of terrorism against the US due to the Gulf War, the New York Port Authority hires private security company Burns and Roe Securacom to prepare a further report, and tells them that the WTC is a terrorist target. Unlike previous investigators, Burns and Roe Securacom finds that the center’s shopping and pedestrian areas, rather than the underground parking garage, are the most likely targets. (New York County Supreme Court 1/20/2004; Hartocollis 10/27/2005) After separating from Burns and Roe, Securacom (later called Stratesec) will become one of a number of firms involved in providing security at the WTC, right up to the day of 9/11 (see October 1996). (Burns 3/1/2003)
Al-Qaeda operatives Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef enter the US together. Ajaj is arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Yousef is not arrested and will later mastermind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. “The US government was pretty sure Ajaj was a terrorist from the moment he stepped foot on US soil,” because his “suitcases were stuffed with fake passports, fake IDs, and a cheat sheet on how to lie to US immigration inspectors,” plus “two handwritten notebooks filled with bomb recipes, six bomb-making manuals, four how-to videotapes concerning weaponry, and an advanced guide to surveillance training.” However, Ajaj is charged only with passport fraud and serves a six-month sentence. From prison, Ajaj frequently calls Yousef and others involved in the 1993 WTC bombing plot, but no one will translate the calls until long after the bombing. (Braun et al. 10/14/2001) Ajaj will be released from prison three days after the WTC bombing, but is later rearrested and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. (Braun et al. 10/14/2001) One of the manuals seized from Ajaj will be horribly mistranslated for the trial. For instance, the title page is said to say “The Basic Rule,” published in Jordan in 1982, when in fact the title says “al-Qaeda” (which means “the base” in English), published in Afghanistan in 1989. Investigators will subsequently complain that a proper translation could have shown an early connection between al-Qaeda and the WTC bombing. (Engelberg 1/14/2001) An Israeli newsweekly will report that the Palestinian Ajaj may have been a mole for the Israeli Mossad. The Village Voice will suggest that Ajaj may have had “advance knowledge of the World Trade Center bombing, which he shared with Mossad, and that Mossad, for whatever reason, kept the secret to itself.” Ajaj is not just knowledgeable, but is involved in the planning of the bombing from his prison cell. (Friedman 8/3/1993)
An expert panel commissioned by the Pentagon in 1993 postulates that an airplane could be used as a missile to bomb national landmarks. Marvin Cetron, president of Forecasting International, a company which conducts studies for many companies and governments, writes the panel’s report. He will later recall telling the panel, “Coming down the Potomac, you could make a left turn at the Washington Monument and take out the White House, or you could make a right turn and take out the Pentagon.” (Reeve 1999, pp. 259-260; Warrick and Stephens 10/2/2001 ) However, State Department officials edit out the planes as weapons references in the final version of the panel’s Terror 2000 Report. (Hess 5/17/2002) Centron later says, “We were told by the Department of Defense not to put it in… and I said, ‘It’s unclassified, everything is available.’ In addition, they said, ‘We don’t want it released, because you can’t handle a crisis before it becomes a crisis. And no one is going to believe you.’” (ABC News 2/20/2002) Air Force Col. Doug Menarchik, who organized the study for the Pentagon, will later recall, “It was considered radical thinking, a little too scary for the times. After I left, it met a quiet death.” (Warrick and Stephens 10/2/2001 ) However, in 1994, Cetron will write in a Futurist magazine article about the report, “Targets such as the World Trade Center not only provide the requisite casualties but, because of their symbolic nature, provide more bang for the buck. In order to maximize their odds for success, terrorist groups will likely consider mounting multiple, simultaneous operations with the aim of overtaxing a government’s ability to respond, as well as demonstrating their professionalism and reach.” (Warrick and Stephens 10/2/2001 )
An attempt to topple the World Trade Center fails, but six people are killed and over 1000 are injured in the misfired blast. An FBI explosives expert later states that, “If they had found the exact architectural Achilles’ heel or if the bomb had been a little bit bigger, not much more, 500 pounds more, I think it would have brought her down.” Ramzi Yousef, who has close ties to bin Laden, organizes the attempt. (Friedman 3/30/1993; US Congress 2/24/1998) The New York Times later reports on Emad Salem, an undercover agent who will be the key government witness in the trial against Yousef. Salem testifies that the FBI knew about the attack beforehand and told him they would thwart it by substituting a harmless powder for the explosives. However, an FBI supervisor called off this plan, and the bombing was not stopped. (Blumenthal 10/28/1993) Other suspects were ineptly investigated before the bombing as early as 1990. Several of the bombers were trained by the CIA to fight in the Afghan war, and the CIA later concludes, in internal documents, that it was “partly culpable” for this bombing (see January 24, 1994). (Marshall 11/1/1998) 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is an uncle of Yousef and also has a role in the WTC bombing (see March 20, 1993). (Gumbel 6/6/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002) One of the attackers even leaves a message which will later be found by investigators, stating, “Next time, it will be very precise.” (Neumeister 9/30/2001)
In the wake of the WTC bombing, the Seattle Times interviews John Skilling who was one of the two structural engineers responsible for designing the Trade Center. Skilling recounts his people having carried out an analysis which found the Twin Towers could withstand the impact of a Boeing 707. He says, “Our analysis indicated the biggest problem would be the fact that all the fuel (from the airplane) would dump into the building. There would be a horrendous fire. A lot of people would be killed.” But, he says, “The building structure would still be there.” (Nalder 2/27/1993) The analysis Skilling is referring to is likely one done in early 1964, during the design phase of the towers. A three-page white paper, dated February 3, 1964, described its findings: “The buildings have been investigated and found to be safe in an assumed collision with a large jet airliner (Boeing 707—DC 8) traveling at 600 miles per hour. Analysis indicates that such collision would result in only local damage which could not cause collapse or substantial damage to the building and would not endanger the lives and safety of occupants not in the immediate area of impact.” However, besides this paper, no documents are known detailing how this analysis was made. (Glanz and Lipton 2004, pp. 131-132; Lew, Bukowski, and Carino 10/2005, pp. 70-71) The other structural engineer who designed the towers, Leslie Robertson, carried out a second study later in 1964, of how the towers would handle the impact of a 707 (see Between September 3, 2001 and September 7, 2001). However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), following its three-year investigation into the WTC collapses, will in 2005 state that it has been “unable to locate any evidence to indicate consideration of the extent of impact-induced structural damage or the size of a fire that could be created by thousands of gallons of jet fuel.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 13)
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. (Grunwald 10/28/2001; Stewart 2002, pp. 193-194; Stewart 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. (Stewart 2/11/2002; Thompson 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; Stewart 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; Stewart 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. (Grunwald 10/28/2001; BBC 2/10/2003)
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. (Grunwald 10/28/2001; Stewart 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)
Following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), the New York Port Authority asks investigative and security consulting firm Kroll Associates to help design new security measures for the WTC. Kroll’s Deputy Chairman Brian Michael Jenkins leads the analysis of future terrorist threats and how they might be addressed. Assessments conclude that a second terrorist attack against the WTC is probable. Although it is considered unlikely, the possibility of terrorists deliberately flying a plane into the WTC towers is included in the range of possible threats. (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 11; Finnegan 10/19/2009 )
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; Berger 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).
Three days of public hearings are held to examine the security and safety aspects of the recent World Trade Center bombing. New York State Senator Roy Goodman (R-Manhattan) presides over the hearings. His committee questions 26 witnesses in what journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins will later call “a no-holds-barred probe of the City [of New York] and of the Port Authority.” (Rayman 11/12/2001; Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 86)
Bombing Was a 'Dire Warning' - During the hearings, Goodman calls the WTC “an extremely inviting target” for terrorists, and says the recent bombing (see February 26, 1993) was a “tragic wake-up call” and “a dire warning of the future disasters which could occur with far greater loss of life if we fail to prepare” for terrorism “here at home.” (Odato 10/2/2001; Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 86-87) He also refers to a number of Port Authority consultant and internal security reports, which predicted the kind of bombing that occurred at the WTC (see January 17, 1984, July 1985, November 1985, and (Mid-1986)), and criticizes Port Authority officials who appear for failing to follow the recommendations of these reports.
Detective Says He Fears a 'Further Disaster' - One Port Authority employee who appears, Detective Sergeant Peter Caram, warns about the continuing threat to the WTC. Caram is the only Port Authority employee with a top security clearance and who is assigned to the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. He says he fears a “further disaster somewhere down the line” and, referring to the WTC, implores the Port Authority to “harden our target.” James Fox, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office, similarly warns, “We would be well advised to prepare for the worst and hope for [the] best.” And New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says New York should remain at “a heightened state of awareness and readiness for the foreseeable future.” (Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 87)
Official Recommends Practicing for a Plane Hitting the WTC - On the final day of the hearings, Guy Tozzoli, the director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, recalls a drill held in 1982, which simulated a plane crashing into the WTC (see November 7, 1982), and recommends that New York’s emergency response agencies train again for an aircraft hitting the Twin Towers (see (March 29, 1993)). (Rayman 11/12/2001)
Report Based on Hearings Is 'Largely Ignored' - The exact dates of the hearings are unclear. The hearings begin on March 22, according to Barrett and Collins. (Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 86) And according to Newsday, March 29 is the third and final day of the hearings. (Rayman 11/12/2001) Goodman will issue a 34-page report in August this year based on the hearings. The report, titled “The World Trade Center Bombing: A Tragic Wake-Up Call,” will describe the WTC as “a singular potential terrorist target.” It will call for a special task force and for increased security in the parking facilities under public skyscrapers. But Goodman will say, shortly after 9/11, that his report’s recommendations “were largely ignored as time dulled the sensitivity of the public to terrorist threats.” (Odato 10/2/2001; Rayman 11/12/2001; Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 88)
Guy Tozzoli, a former director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, recommends during a legislative hearing that emergency response agencies and the New York Port Authority train for the possibility of an aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center, but his recommendation will be ignored. (Rayman 11/12/2001; MacArthur 6/4/2002; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 59) Tozzoli, who is known as “Mr. World Trade Center” due to his close association with the WTC complex, makes his recommendation on the third and final day of public hearings, presided over by New York State Senator Roy Goodman (R-Manhattan), into the security and safety aspects of the recent WTC bombing (see (March 22-29, 1993)). He is the last person, out of 26 witnesses, to be questioned. (Rayman 11/12/2001; Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 86) Tozzoli’s testimony is “the only time that an airplane scenario came up in any detail” during the hearings, according to Newsday. Tozzoli’s recommendation, however, will be ignored. Alan Reiss, the director of the World Trade Department at the time of the 9/11 attacks, will say in November 2001 that “no exercise based on an airplane scenario was done over the past eight years.”
Computer Simulation Examined Effect of a Plane Hitting the WTC - During his testimony, Tozzoli also describes a computer simulation that was performed when the Twin Towers were being constructed—apparently referring to a simulation conducted in 1964 (see February 27, 1993 and Between September 3, 2001 and September 7, 2001)—to determine the effect of a Boeing 707 crashing into one of the buildings. “The computer said [the 707] would blow out the structural steel supports along one side of the building completely to seven floors, and naturally there would be a large loss of life on those seven floors because of the explosion,” Tozzoli says. “However,” he continues, “the structure of the building would permit the 50 floors or whatever it is above to remain and not topple, because the loads would distribute themselves around the other three walls and then eventually be assimilated in the floors below.” Furthermore, Tozzoli describes a training exercise the Port Authority held in 1982, which simulated a plane crashing into the Twin Towers (see November 7, 1982).
Report Based on Hearings Ignores Tozzoli's Recommendation - No newspapers mention Tozzoli’s testimony, and the report based on the hearings will not include Tozzoli’s recommendation that the Port Authority train for an aircraft hitting the WTC. Charles Jennings, a professor of fire protection at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, will comment, shortly after 9/11, that Tozzoli’s recommendation appears to contradict official claims that no one could have prepared for what happened on September 11. “The fact that this was explicitly suggested by Port Authority personnel in a public hearing certainly suggests that there was or should have been awareness of this threat and consideration of planning for it among the effected agencies,” he will say. (Rayman 11/12/2001; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 58-59)
FBI agents, having held Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad for about a month, write a memo containing what they have learned from interrogating him. The memo contains many interesting revelations, including that Ramzi Yousef, a mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, “wanted to return to the United States in the future to bomb the World Trade Center a second time.” However, this memo does not contain a word about the second wave of Operation Bojinka—to fly about 12 hijacked airplanes into prominent US buildings—even though Murad had recently fully confessed this plot to Philippines investigators, who claim they turned over tapes, transcripts, and reports with Murad’s confessions of the plot to the US when they handed over Murad. It has not been explained why this plot is not mentioned in the FBI’s summary of Murad’s interrogation. (Lance 2003, pp. 280-82) If the US does not learn of the second wave plot from Murad’s interrogation, it appears the US get the same information from a different source at about the same time (see Spring 1995). After 9/11, a Philippine investigator will refer to this third plot when he says of the 9/11 attacks, “It’s Bojinka. We told the Americans everything about Bojinka. Why didn’t they pay attention?” (Fainaru and Grimaldi 9/23/2001) In an interview after 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will claim that the 9/11 attacks were a refinement and resurrection of this plot. (Fouda 9/9/2002)
A security company called Stratesec acquires an $8.3 million contract to help provide security at the World Trade Center. It is one of numerous contractors hired in the upgrade of security at the WTC following the 1993 bombing. Stratesec, which was formerly called Securacom, is responsible for installing the “security-description plan”—the layout of the electronic security system—at the World Trade Center. It has a “completion contract” to provide some of the center’s security “up to the day the buildings fell down,” according to Barry McDaniel, its CEO.
Involved with Airport Security - Another of Stratesec’s biggest security contracts, between 1995 and 1998, is with the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, providing electronic security for Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport. Its work includes maintaining the airfield access systems, the CCTV (closed circuit television) systems, and the electronic badging systems. American Airlines Flight 77—one of the planes hijacked on 9/11—takes off from Dulles.
Directors Include Bush Family Member - Marvin P. Bush, the youngest brother of future President George W. Bush, is a director at Stratesec from 1993 to June 2000, when most of its work on these big projects is done. Wirt D. Walker III, a distant relative of George W. Bush, is chairman of the board at Stratesec from 1992, and its CEO from 1999 until January 2002. Another of Stratesec’s directors, from 1991 to 2001, is Mishal Yousef Saud Al Sabah, who is a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. Al Sabah is also chairman of an investment company called the Kuwait-American Corporation (KuwAm), which, between 1993 and 1999, holds a large, often controlling share of Stratesec. In 1996, it owns 90 percent of the company; by 1999 it owns 47 percent.
Other Interests - Walker and Al Sabah are also co-investors in two inter-related aviation companies: Aviation General and Commander Aircraft. According to a 2005 report by freelance journalist Margie Burns: “Aviation General boasted of its international clientele. A 1996 press release announced its sale of airplanes to the National Civil Aviation Training Organization (NCATO) of Giza, Egypt, ‘the sole civilian pilot training organization in Egypt.’ The announcement mentions Al Sabah as chairman of KuwAm and board member of Commander Aircraft Company.” NCATO also has contractual partnerships with several US flight schools, including Embry-Riddle University in Florida.
Connections with Foreign Company a Delicate Matter - According to Wayne Black, the head of a Florida-based security firm, it is delicate for a security company serving international facilities to be so interlinked with a foreign-owned company. He suggests, “Somebody knew somebody.” Black also points out that when a company has a security contract, “you know the inner workings of everything.” Furthermore, if another company is linked to the security company, then “what’s on your computer is on their computer.” After 9/11 Stratesec CEO Barry McDaniel will be asked whether FBI or other agents have questioned him or others at Stratesec about their security work related to 9/11. He answers, “No.” (Burns 1/20/2003; Burns 2/4/2003; Burns 3/1/2003; Burns 4/15/2003; Burns 2/15/2005) Other companies involved with the security overhaul during this time include Ensec Inc., which is in charge of creating a new parking access control system, E-J Electric Installation Co., and Electronic Systems Associates, a division of Syska Hennessy. (Carey 7/1/1997; Fischbach 1/1/2001; Fischbach 10/1/2001; Building Design and Construction 7/1/2002)
The New York Police Department’s Chief of Department Lou Anemone creates a citywide security plan that ranks 1,500 of the city’s buildings, shopping areas, and transportation hubs as potential terrorist targets. The World Trade Center is rated as “critical”—the highest rating possible—on Anemone’s “vulnerability list.” Other “critical” targets include the New York Stock Exchange, and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels. Anemone later says the WTC “was very much near the top of that [vulnerability] list, certainly in the top 20.” He announces his findings in 1998 at one of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s weekly public safety meetings. Yet, he says, after finishing his briefing, Giuliani just “glazed over.” Anemone adds, “We never had any discussion about security at the World Trade Center. We never even had a drill or exercise there.” Anemone will later say that, based upon information from FBI counterterrorism expert John O’Neill, the detectives assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and other intelligence, he “knew the World Trade Center was a real continuing target.” (Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 105-106)
According to closed-session testimony by CIA, FBI and NSA heads, al-Qaeda begins planning the 9/11 attacks this year. (Diamond and Kiely 6/18/2002) In a June 2002 interview, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed also asserts that planning for the attacks begin at this time. (Shahine 9/8/2002) However, it appears the targeting of the WTC and pilot training began even earlier. An al-Qaeda operative in Spain will later be found with videos filmed in 1997 of major US structures (including “innumerable takes from all distances and angles” of the WTC). There are numerous connections between Spain and the 9/11 hijackers, including an important meeting there in July 2001, however, the person who filmed the 1997 video will be acquitted of making it for al-Qaeda in 2005 (see September 26, 2005). (Socolovsky 7/17/2002) Hijacker Waleed Alshehri was living in Florida since 1995, started training for his commercial pilot training degree in 1996, and obtained his license in 1997 (though it is not certain if this refers to the same person). (Mackay 9/16/2001; Socolovsky 7/17/2002)
Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer. Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, will say after 9/11 that he does not remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirm that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell will claim he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plane and fly it into CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent US buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that KSM later will adjust and turn into the 9/11 plot (see January 20, 1995) (see February-Early May 1995). While Philippine investigators claim this information was passed on to US intelligence, it’s not clear just which US officials may have learned this information and what they did with it, if anything. (Smith 9/25/2001) Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. (Lyons 9/22/2002) After 9/11, Snell will go on to become Senior Counsel and a team leader for the 9/11 Commission. Author Peter Lance later calls Snell “one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission’s final report.” Lance says Snell ignored evidence presented to the Commission that shows direct ties between the Bojinka plot and 9/11, and in so doing covers up Snell’s own role in the failure to make more use of evidence learned from Murad and other Bojinka plotters. (Glazov 1/27/2005)
Three terrorism specialists present an analysis of security threats to FAA security officials. Their analysis describes two scenarios involving planes as weapons. In one, hijacked planes are flown into nuclear power plants along the East Coast. In the other, hijackers commandeer Federal Express cargo planes and simultaneously crash them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol, the Sears Tower, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Stephen Gale, one of the specialists, later says the analysis is based in part upon attempts that had been made in 1994 to crash airplanes in the Eiffel Tower and the White House (see September 11, 1994) (see December 24, 1994). Gale later recalls that one FAA official responds to the presentation by saying, “You can’t protect yourself from meteorites.” (Fainaru 5/19/2002)
A foreign intelligence agency warns the FBI’s New York office that Arab militants plan to fly a bomb-laden aircraft from Libya into the World Trade Center. The FBI and the FAA do not take the threat seriously because of the state of aviation in Libya. Later, other intelligence information will connect this group to al-Qaeda. The CIA will include the same information in an intelligence report. (Risen 9/18/2002; US Congress 9/18/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 97-98 ) An FBI spokesperson later says the report “was not ignored, it was thoroughly investigated by numerous agencies” and found to be unrelated to al-Qaeda. (Priest and Eggen 9/19/2002) However, the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will come to the conclusion that the group in fact did have ties to al-Qaeda. (Risen 9/18/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003 )
Employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates the World Trade Center, and the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) take part in training exercises that simulate major fires on upper floors of the WTC. (Rayman 11/12/2001; 9/11 Commission 11/3/2003; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 )
On June 6, 1999, members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) and the FDNY participate in an exercise that simulates a five-alarm, full-floor fire on the 92nd floor of the WTC’s South Tower. The exercise, held early on a Sunday morning, makes use of smoke machines, lighting, and mannequins, to create a realistic environment for participants. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 )
In September 2000, the Port Authority and the FDNY conduct a similar exercise on the empty 93rd floor of one of the Twin Towers (the particular tower is unstated). Like the June 1999 exercise, it is held on a Sunday morning, simulates a five-alarm fire, and uses smoke machines to make it more realistic. Alan Reiss, the director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, will later recall: “It was a major full-floor high-rise fire. It was a full-scale fire simulation.” Five FDNY engine companies take part. The exercise is videotaped and elevators are unavailable while it is taking place. (Rayman 11/12/2001)
At some point in the summer of 2001, the Port Authority and 30 FDNY companies train for a five-alarm fire on the 90th floor of the South Tower. Fire safety directors working for OCS Security, which holds the fire safety contract for the WTC, also take part in the exercise. (9/11 Commission 11/3/2003)
The PAPD holds “annual tabletop drills involving both police and the civilian management at the World Trade Center,” to exercise the emergency response plans for the WTC, according to Reiss. These drills are developed by PAPD specialists, Reiss will say, and other agencies besides the Port Authority—such as the FDNY—can participate. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 ) However, despite being recommended in 1993 to train for the event of a plane hitting the WTC (see (March 29, 1993)), the Port Authority conducts no exercises simulating that scenario in the subsequent eight years before 9/11. (Rayman 11/12/2001) Whether the Port Authority held exercises simulating large fires on the upper floors of the WTC before 1999 is unclear.
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opens a $13 million emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. (MacGowan 9/12/2001) The center is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, and terrorist attacks. The 50,000 square foot center has reinforced, bulletproof, and bomb-resistant walls, its own air supply and water tank, beds, showers to accommodate 30 people, and three backup generators. It also has rooms full of video monitors from where the mayor can oversee police and fire department responses. It is to be staffed around the clock and is intended as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism. (CNN 6/7/1999; Bone 9/12/2001; Glanz and Lipton 2004, pp. 233) The center is ridiculed as “Rudy’s bunker.” (Pooley 12/22/2001) Author Philip Shenon will later comment that it “seemed the supreme example of how Giuliani’s ego and arrogance knew no bounds after four years in office,” and: “WABC Radio mocked Giuliani with a name-that-bunker contest for its listeners. Among the most popular entries: ‘Rudy’s Nuclear Winter Palace’ and ‘The Nut Shell.’” It is criticized because of the cost and because of the location, next to the WTC towers, one of the city’s top terrorist targets. In addition, the high floor it is on means it is vulnerable to power, water, and elevator outages. (Shenon 2008, pp. 346-347) Most controversial is the 6,000-gallon fuel tank. In 1998 and 1999, Fire Department officials warn that the fuel tank violates city fire codes and poses a hazard. According to one Fire Department memorandum, if the tank were to catch fire it could produce “disaster.” Building 7 will be destroyed late in the day on 9/11; some suspect this tank helps explains why. (Glanz and Lipton 12/20/2001)
US government informant Randy Glass records a conversation at a dinner attended by himself, illegal arms dealers Diaa Mohsen and Mohammed Malik, a former Egyptian judge named Shireen Shawky, and Pakistani ISI agent Rajaa Gulum Abbas, held at a restaurant within view of the World Trade Center. FBI agents pretending to be restaurant customers sit at nearby tables. (MSNBC 8/2/2002; WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach) 8/5/2002) Abbas says he wants to buy a whole shipload of weapons stolen from the US military to give to Osama bin Laden. (Pacenti 8/2/2002) Abbas points to the WTC and says, “Those towers are coming down.” This ISI agent later makes two other references to an attack on the WTC. (Pacenti 8/2/2002; WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach) 8/5/2002; Pacenti 10/17/2002) Abbas also says, “Americans [are] the enemy,” and, “We would have no problem with blowing up this entire restaurant because it is full of Americans.” (NBC 3/18/2003) The meeting is secretly recorded and parts will be shown on television in 2003. (MSNBC 3/18/2003)
According to USA Today, “In the two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command conduct[s] exercises simulating what the White House [later] says was unimaginable at the time: hijacked airliners used as weapons to crash into targets and cause mass casualties.” One of the imagined targets is the World Trade Center. According to NORAD, these scenarios are regional drills, rather than regularly scheduled continent-wide exercises. They utilize “[n]umerous types of civilian and military aircraft” as mock hijacked aircraft, and test “track detection and identification; scramble and interception; hijack procedures; internal and external agency coordination; and operational security and communications security procedures.” The main difference between these drills and the 9/11 attacks is that the planes in the drills are coming from another country, rather than from within the US. Before 9/11, NORAD reportedly conducts four major exercises at headquarters level per year. Most of them are said to include a hijack scenario (see Before September 11, 2001). (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004; Starr 4/19/2004)
The North Tower of the WTC suffers a fire on its 104th floor. This is the 15th and last of what the National Institute of Standards and Technology later describes as “significant fires,” which occurred in the Twin Towers from 1975 onwards, and prior to 9/11. These fires each activate up to three sprinklers but are confined to just one floor. (Kuligowski, Evans, and Peacock 9/2005, pp. 7-11) Additionally, on February 14, 1975 a major fire occurred, the result of arson, which began on the 11th floor of the North Tower during the middle of the night. Spreading through floor openings in the utility closets, it caused damage from the 10th to 19th floors, though this was generally confined to the utility closets. However, on the 11th floor about 9,000 square feet was damaged. This was about 21 percent of the floor’s total area (43,200 square feet) and took weeks to repair. Some parts of the steel trusses (floor supports) buckled due to the heat. 132 firefighters were called to the tower in response, and because the fire was so hot, many got their necks and ears burned. Fire Department Captain Harold Kull described the three-hour effort to extinguish it as “like fighting a blowtorch.” (WTC Environmental Assessment Working Group 9/2002, pp. 10 ; Glanz 5/8/2003; Glanz and Lipton 2004, pp. 213, 214, 324; Kuligowski, Evans, and Peacock 9/2005, pp. 1) An article in Fire Engineering magazine will later summarize, “[A]lmost all large buildings will be the location for a major fire in their useful life. No major high-rise building has ever collapsed from fire. The WTC was the location for such a fire in 1975; however, the building survived with minor damage and was repaired and returned to service.” (Glover 10/2002) Building 7 of the WTC, which completely collapses late in the afternoon on 9/11, has also suffered a ‘significant’ fire in 1988, occurring on its third floor, with multiple sprinklers being activated. (Kuligowski, Evans, and Peacock 9/2005, pp. 12)
During a review of security procedures, Charlie Schnabolk, a security consultant who wrote a secret report in 1985 about the security of the World Trade Center (see July 1985), is asked what are the greatest terrorist dangers to the WTC? He replies, “Someone blowing up the PATH tubes from New Jersey,” and “someone flying a plane into the building.” Further details, such as who is conducting the security review and who Schnabolk gives his warning to, are unreported. (Reeves 10/12/2001)
Around this time, a number of very suspicious web domains are registered, including the following: attackamerica.com, attackonamerica.com, attackontwintowers.com, august11horror.com, august11terror. com, horrorinamerica.com, horrorinnewyork.com, nycterroriststrike.com, pearlharborinmanhattan.com, terrorattack2001.com, towerofhorror.com, tradetowerstrike.com, worldtradecenter929.com, worldtrade-centerbombs.com, worldtradetowerattack.com, worldtradetowerstrike.com, and wterroristattack2001.com. A counterterrorism expert says, “It’s unbelievable that [the registration company] would register these domain names” and “if they did make a comment to the FBI, it’s unbelievable that the FBI didn’t react to it.” Several of the names mention 2001 and, apparently, there were no other websites mentioning other years. Registering a site requires a credit card, so presumably, this story could provide leads, but it is unclear what leads the FBI gets from this, if any. No sites will be active on 9/11. (Johnson 9/19/2001) All of the domain name registrations will expire around June 2001. (Johnson 9/20/2001) This story will later be incorrectly called an “urban legend,” (Berlau 3/11/2002)
The Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) conducts a briefing, based on its analysis of the terrorist threat, in which the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are identified as the buildings in the United States most likely to be attacked, and the possibility of one of the Twin Towers collapsing is mentioned. This is according to a counterterrorism and counterintelligence analyst for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who is assigned to the JFIC from April 1998 to June 2001. (Defense Intelligence Agency 5/8/2006 ) This individual, whose name is unstated, will later be referred to by the code name “Iron Man.” (US Department of Defense 9/23/2008, pp. 5 )
Unit Produces Reports on the Most Likely Terrorist Targets - The briefing was prepared by the JFIC’s Asymmetric Threat Division (DO5), which is responsible for reporting on “asymmetric threats,” especially terrorism. Between mid-1998 and mid-2001, DO5 carries out a wide range of original analysis. Based on this analysis, according to Iron Man, it creates numerous original reports that identify the probable and possible movements and locations of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It also creates reports on the most likely targets for domestic and international terrorists, both within and outside the US.
WTC and the Pentagon Are Named as Likely Targets - The first of its reports are prepared in the summer of 2000 and are briefed to numerous US Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) staffers. The first version of the briefing is titled “The WMD [weapon of mass destruction] Threat to the US” and is apparently produced in late July 2000. (The “information cut-off date” for the briefing is July 16, 2000.) The briefing slides emphasize “that New York City [is] the most difficult consequence management problem” and recommend using New York as “the model for planning/exercises,” according to Iron Man. The oral briefing is more specific, indicating that the Twin Towers are “the most likely buildings to be attacked in the US, followed closely by the Pentagon.” The person who delivers the briefing indicates that the “worst-case scenario” would involve one of the Twin Towers collapsing onto the other.
Possibility of a Plane Hitting the WTC Is Discussed - Iron Man will recall that the possibility of a plane striking the Twin Towers may have been discussed in the briefing. “[I]t was certainly discussed in the red cell analysis leading up to the briefing,” he will write. During that analysis, the acting deputy director of DO5 proposed that the Twin Towers might be struck by a jet aircraft. In the discussion that follows the oral briefing, the possibility of contacting WTC security, engineering, and architectural personnel is suggested. The idea is not explored further, though, “because of a command climate discouraging contact with the civilian community,” according to Iron Man. At the end of the briefing, JFCOM’s operations directorate instructs that the “national military terrorism exercise” for 2002 should be based on a “New York worse-case scenario.” The military is unable to use this scenario for its 2001 exercise because it is already financially committed to conducting an exercise involving a cruise ship that year.
Subsequent Briefing Names the WTC and the Pentagon as Likely Targets - The slides used in the July briefing will be revised for a briefing apparently delivered in late September this year, on “The Chemical and Biological Threat to the US.” This briefing will include a more detailed slide that lists likely targets in the US. The cities most likely to be attacked, according to the slide, are New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. The target at the top of those listed for New York is the Wall Street district and for Washington, the Pentagon. The oral briefing will, as in the July briefing, specify that the WTC and the Pentagon are the most likely terrorist targets, according to Iron Man. (Defense Intelligence Agency 5/8/2006 ) However, a September 2008 report by the Department of Defense’s inspector general will apparently contradict Iron Man’s allegations. “Evidence indicated that the JFIC did not have knowledge regarding imminent domestic targets prior to 9/11,” it will state. (US Department of Defense 9/23/2008, pp. 5 )
Unit's Work Is Well Known - The JFIC was established in 1999, evolving from the Atlantic Intelligence Command. Its mission is to “provide general and direct intelligence support to the USJFCOM, the USJFCOM staff directorates, subordinate unified commands, joint task forces, service component commands, and subordinate joint forces commands tasked with executing the USJFCOM geographic or functional missions.” (US Department of Defense 9/23/2008, pp. i, 3 ) The JFIC created the Asymmetric Threat Division, DO5, in 1999, in order to ensure the quality of its analysis of international terrorist threats against the US. DO5 provides current intelligence briefings and produces the Worldwide Terrorist Threat Summary in support of the USJFCOM intelligence staff. (Defense Intelligence Agency 5/8/2006 ; US Department of Defense 9/23/2008, pp. 3 ) DO5’s work is very well known within the JFIC, according to Iron Man. Furthermore, Iron Man will write, DO5 is “widely known in the intelligence community to be conducting all-source intelligence analysis” of al-Qaeda. (Defense Intelligence Agency 5/8/2006 ) However, the JFIC’s commanding officer will tell the Department of Defense’s inspector general that “the tracking of Osama bin Laden did not fall within JFIC’s mission.” (US Department of Defense 9/23/2008, pp. 6 )
Frank De Martini, an architect who works as the World Trade Center’s construction manager, is interviewed for a History Channel documentary about the WTC towers. He says, “I believe the building probably could sustain multiple impacts of jetliners because this structure is like the mosquito netting on your screen door, this intense grid, and the jet plane is just a pencil puncturing the screen netting. It really does nothing to the screen netting.” (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 149) De Martini will be in his office on the 88th floor of the North Tower when it is hit on 9/11. He will die when the tower collapses, after helping more than 50 people escape. (Associated Press 8/29/2003; Dwyer 8/29/2003)
The pilot episode of a short-lived Fox television program involves a scenario chillingly similar to the 9/11 attacks that occur six months later. In the episode of The Lone Gunmen, which is a spin-off of the popular show The X-Files, a small, radical faction within the US government takes over a large passenger jet plane from the ground, using remote control, and then tries to crash it into the World Trade Center. Their intention is to blame the attack on foreign terrorists and therefore revive the arms race. Their plot is thwarted at the last moment, with the pilots regaining control of the plane and steering it upwards over the Twin Towers. (Harmon 9/14/2001; Martin 6/20/2002 ) In the program, the plane is destined for Boston, where two of the hijacked aircraft will in fact take off from on September 11. (Fox Television 3/4/2001; Howe and Brelis 9/12/2001) One of its stars, Bruce Harwood, will later call the storyline a “strange awful coincidence,” and add, “[W]ho knows if it was the source of inspiration for September 11.” (Mirror 11/26/2002) Ratings are good for the show, with 13 million people watching it. (Ausiello 3/9/2001) Yet despite the similarity to the actual attacks on the WTC, there will be very little commentary about this after September 11. Media commentator Jack Myers will observe, “This seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order.” (Martin 6/20/2002 ) A best selling 1994 novel by Tom Clancy had similarly included a large passenger jet used as a weapon, being deliberately crashed into the US Capitol building (see August 17, 1994). (Pinkerton 5/20/2002)
A source with al-Qaeda connections speculates to US intelligence that Osama “bin Laden would be interested in commercial pilots as potential terrorists.” The source warns that the US should not focus only on embassy bombings, because al-Qaeda is seeking “spectacular and traumatic” attacks along the lines of the WTC bombing in 1993. Because the source is offering personal speculation and not hard information, the information is not disseminated widely. (US Congress 9/18/2002; Risen 9/18/2002)
An Iranian in custody in New York City tells local police of a plot to attack the WTC. No more details are known. (Cameron 5/17/2002) Interestingly, an Iranian in prison in Germany will also warn of an attack on the WTC (see Early September 2001), but it is not known if the two cases are related.
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is located in World Trade Center Building 7, organizes a bio-terrorism drill where militant extremists attack the city with bubonic plague and Manhattan is quarantined. The “tabletop exercise” is called RED Ex—meaning “Recognition, Evaluation, and Decision-Making Exercise” —and involves about seventy different entities, agencies, and locales from the New York area. Federal legislation adopted in 1997 requires federal, state, and local authorities to conduct regular exercises as part of the Domestic Preparedness Program (DPP). The US Defense Department chose New York City as the venue for RED Ex due to its size, prominence, and level of emergency preparedness. Various high-level officials take part, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, OEM Director Richard Sheirer, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Agencies and organizations that participate include New York City Fire Department, New York City Police Department, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The exercise is supposedly so intense that, according to one participant, “five minutes into that drill, everybody forgot it was a drill.” (Mindel and Higgins 5/11/2001; New York City Government 9/5/2001, pp. 74 ; Miner 12/20/2003; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004) According to OEM Director Richard Sheirer, “Operation RED Ex provided a proving ground and a great readiness training exercise for the many challenges the city routinely faces, such as weather events, heat emergencies, building collapses, fires, and public safety and health issues.” (Mindel and Higgins 5/11/2001) In his prepared testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Bernard Kerik later states: “The City, through its OEM, had coordinated plans for many types of emergencies; and those plans were tested frequently.” The types of emergencies they prepared for, he states, included “building collapses” and “plane crashes.” (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 ) Considering Richard Sheirer’s comments, RED Ex appears to be one example where the city tests for building collapses. Details about training for airplanes crashing into New York City remain unknown. The second part of this exercise, called Tripod, is scheduled to take place in New York on September 12, 2001, but is cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks.
Cover artwork is designed for a forthcoming CD, which looks eerily like the attack on the World Trade Center that occurs three months later. The CD, “Party Music,” is the fourth album by a little-known hip-hop group called The Coup, which is known for its political activism. (CNN 9/13/2001; Segal 5/22/2002) The intended cover design shows the two members of the group standing in front of the Twin Towers. One of them is pressing a button on a guitar tuner, as if it was a detonator, and two fireballs are exploding from the top floors of the WTC above them. (Kogan 11/2/2001) Days after 9/11, Wired magazine comments, “If it weren’t for the super-imposed images of the Oakland, California, hip-hop duo known as The Coup, the scene could pass for a remarkably precise replica of the horrific tragedy that befell New York City on Tuesday morning.” The CD is in fact initially scheduled for release in early September, but at some point before 9/11, it is pushed back two months for release in November. Furthermore, as Wired describes, “Timing of the original album printing was disturbingly in sync with real-world events. The printers were set to crank out copies of the fiery World Trade Center image on Tuesday [September 11]… when the label put in a last-minute call, urging them to stop the presses.” (Glasner 9/13/2001) The group’s lead member, Raymond “Boots” Riley, is described by Kansas City newspaper The Pitch as a “confessed communist” who “has built a career out of making bold political statements.” (Edwards 11/8/2001) Riley later says he’d come up with the idea for the CD cover along with his photographer, and they’d finished work on it by the beginning of June. He says, “Any similarities [with 9/11] are totally coincidental, and it was originally supposed to be more of a metaphor for destroying capitalism—where the music is making capitalist towers blow up.” (Goedde 9/20/2001) A new cover will be designed and used when the CD is eventually released. (Edwards 11/8/2001) But copies are sent out prior to 9/11 to members of the press and others, and reviews appear in several publications before September 11 that show the original cover artwork of the exploding WTC. (Glasner 9/13/2001)
Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and an unknown third person are seen in the ground-floor workshops of the architecture department at this time, according to at least two witnesses from the Hamburg university where Atta had studied. They are seen on at least two occasions with a white, three-foot scale model of the Pentagon. Between 60 and 80 slides of the Sears building in Chicago and the WTC are found to be missing from the technical library after 9/11. (Sunday Times (London) 2/3/2002) A Hamburg friend of Atta’s, Margritte Schroeder, will confirm that Atta is in Hamburg around this time, saying later in 2001, “I saw him here in early July and he was as nice as ever.” Other eyewitnesses see Atta and Alshehhi in Hamburg as well. But there is no record of Alshehhi leaving the US around this time, which suggests that he travels on a false passport for this trip. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 251, 290)
Operation Diamondback, a sting operation uncovering an attempt to buy weapons illegally for the Taliban, bin Laden, and others, ends with a number of arrests. An Egyptian named Diaa Mohsen and a Pakistani named Mohammed Malik are arrested and accused of attempting to buy Stinger missiles, nuclear weapon components, and other sophisticated military weaponry for the Pakistani ISI. (Frieden 6/15/2001; Burstein 8/23/2001; Mintz 8/2/2002) Malik appears to have had links to important Pakistani officials and Kashmiri militants, and Mohsen claims a connection to a man “who is very connected to the Taliban” and funded by bin Laden. (Mintz 8/2/2002; MSNBC 8/2/2002) Some other ISI agents came to Florida on several occasions to negotiate, but they escaped being arrested. They wanted to pay partially in heroin. One mentioned that the WTC would be destroyed. These ISI agents said some of their purchases would go to the Taliban in Afghanistan and/or militants associated with bin Laden. (Mintz 8/2/2002; MSNBC 8/2/2002) Both Malik and Mohsen lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Morrill 6/20/2001) Mohsen pleads guilty after 9/11, “but remarkably, even though [he was] apparently willing to supply America’s enemies with sophisticated weapons, even nuclear weapons technology, Mohsen was sentenced to just 30 months in prison.” (MSNBC 8/2/2002) Malik’s case appears to have been dropped, and reporters find him working in a store in Florida less than a year after the trial ended. (MSNBC 8/2/2002) Malik’s court files remain completely sealed, and in Mohsen’s court case, prosecutors “removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns.” (Mintz 8/2/2002) Also arrested are Kevin Ingram and Walter Kapij. Ingram pleads guilty to laundering $350,000 and he is sentenced to 18 months in prison. (Frieden 6/15/2001; Hocker 6/19/2001; Riddle 12/1/2001) Ingram was a former senior investment banker with Deutsche Bank, but resigned in January 1999 after his division suffered costly losses. (Hocker 6/19/2001; Morrill 6/20/2001) Walter Kapij, a pilot with a minor role in the plot, is given the longest sentence, 33 months in prison. (Frieden 6/15/2001; Hocker 6/19/2001; Pacenti 1/12/2002) Informant Randy Glass plays a key role in the sting, and has thirteen felony fraud charges against him reduced as a result, serving only seven months in prison. Federal agents involved in the case later express puzzlement that Washington higher-ups did not make the case a higher priority, pointing out that bin Laden could have gotten a nuclear bomb if the deal was for real. Agents on the case complain that the FBI did not make the case a counterterrorism matter, which would have improved bureaucratic backing and opened access to FBI information and US intelligence from around the world. (Mintz 8/2/2002; MSNBC 8/2/2002) Federal agents frequently couldn’t get prosecutors to approve wiretaps. (Pacenti 8/2/2002) Glass says, “Wouldn’t you think that there should have been a wire tap on Diaa [Mohsen]‘s phone and Malik’s phone?” (WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach) 8/5/2002) An FBI supervisor in Miami refused to front money for the sting, forcing agents to use money from US Customs and even Glass’s own money to help keep the sting going. (Pacenti 8/2/2002)
A property risk assessment report is prepared for Silverstein Properties before it acquires the lease for the World Trade Center (see July 24, 2001). It identifies the scenario of an aircraft hitting one of the WTC towers as one of the “maximum foreseeable losses.” The report says, “This scenario is within the realm of the possible, but highly unlikely.” Further details of the assessment, such as who prepared it, are unreported. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 5/2003, pp. 16 ; Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 189; Barrett and Collins 9/1/2006)
Real estate development and investment firm Silverstein Properties and real estate investment trust Westfield America Inc. finalize a deal worth $3.2 billion to purchase a 99-year lease on the World Trade Center. The agreement covers the Twin Towers, World Trade Center Buildings 4 and 5 (two nine-story office buildings), and about 425,000 square feet of retail space. (Bagli 4/27/2001; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 7/24/2001; IREIzine 7/26/2001) Westfield America Inc. will be responsible for the retail space, known as the Mall. Silverstein Properties’ lease will cover the roughly 10 million square feet of office space of the Twin Towers and Buildings 4 and 5. Silverstein Properties already owns Building 7 of the WTC, which it built in 1987. This is the only time the WTC has ever changed hands since it was opened in 1973. (International Council of Shopping Centers 4/27/2001; Westfield Group 7/24/2001; Daily Telegraph 9/11/2001; Glanz 11/29/2001; CNN 8/31/2002) It was previously controlled by the New York Port Authority, a bi-state government agency. (Malanga 5/12/2007) Silverstein and Westfield are given the right to rebuild the structures if they are destroyed. (Goldberger 5/20/2002)
Silverstein Properties Not the Highest Bidder - Silverstein Properties’ bid for the WTC, at $3.22 billion, was the second highest after Vornado Realty Trust’s, at $3.25 billion. Silverstein Properties won the contract only after protracted negotiations between the Port Authority and Vornado Realty Trust failed. The privatization of the WTC has been overseen by Lewis M. Eisenberg, the chairman of the Port Authority. Eisenberg, a financier, is involved in Republican politics. (Bagli 3/17/2001; Kessler 8/20/2004)
Banks Provide Most Money for Deal - Larry Silverstein, the president of Silverstein Properties, only uses $14 million of his own money for the deal. His partners, who include real estate investors Lloyd Goldman and Joseph Cayre, put up a further $111 million, and banks provide $563 million in loans. (Brill 2003, pp. 156; Bagli 11/22/2003; Seemuth 2/2005; Frangos and Grant 9/11/2008)
Silverstein's Lenders Want More Insurance - The Port Authority had carried only $1.5 billion in insurance coverage on all its buildings, including the WTC, but Silverstein’s lenders insist on more, eventually demanding $3.55 billion in cover. (Frankel 9/3/2002) After 9/11, Larry Silverstein will claim the attacks on the World Trade Center constituted two separate events, thereby entitling him to a double payout totaling over $7 billion. (English 10/9/2001; Vuillamy 8/18/2002) Eventually, after several years of legal wrangling, a total of $4.55 billion of insurance money will be paid out for the destruction of the WTC (see May 23, 2007). Most of this appears to go to Silverstein Properties. How much goes to Westfield America Inc. is unclear. (Topousis 5/24/2007)
In 1999, a Moroccan named Hassan Dabou infiltrated al-Qaeda for the Moroccan intelligence agency. He was sent to Afghanistan, posing as an Islamic radical on the run from the Moroccan government. While there, he was able to grow close to bin Laden. He heard bin Laden repeatedly vent his anger at the failure of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 (see February 26, 1993). Bin Laden was “very disappointed” that the towers did not fall. Dabou heard that bin Laden had planned “something spectacular” involving “large scale operations in New York in the summer or fall of 2001.” Moroccan intelligence passed this information to US. Around this time, US intelligence is so interested that they call Dabou to Washington to report on this information in person. Dabout makes the trip in secret, but apparently his cover is blown and he is unable to go back and gather more intelligence. Dabou is still in Washington cooperating with US intelligence agents when 9/11 occurs. After 9/11 he will remain in Washington, get a new identity, and continue to work with US intelligence. (Agence France-Presse 11/22/2001; Cooley 5/21/2002; McGrory 6/12/2002)
Randy Glass, a former con artist turned government informant, will later claim that he contacts the staff of Senator Bob Graham (D-NY) and Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) at this time, and warns them of a plan to attack the World Trade Center, but his warnings are ignored. (Pacenti 10/17/2002) Glass also tells the media at the present time that his recently concluded informant work has “far greater ramifications than have so far been revealed,” and, “potentially, thousands of lives [are] at risk.” (Burstein 8/7/2001) Glass was a key informant in a sting operation involving Pakistani ISI agents who were illegally trying to purchase sophisticated US military weaponry in return for cash and heroin. He will claim that in July 1999, one ISI agent named Rajaa Gulum Abbas pointed to the WTC and said, “Those towers are coming down.” (Pacenti 10/17/2002) Most details will apparently remain sealed. For instance Glass will claim that his sealed sentencing document dated June 15, 2001, lists threats against the WTC and Americans but, according to Glass, “[t]he complaints were ordered sanitized by the highest levels of government.” (WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach) 8/5/2002) Florida State Senator Ron Klein, who has dealings with Glass before 9/11, will say he is surprised it took so many months for the US to listen to Glass. “Shame on us,” he will say. (Pacenti 10/17/2002) Klein will recall getting a warning from Glass, though he cannot recall if it mentions the WTC specifically. He will say he was told US intelligence agencies would look into it. (Walter 10/7/2002) Graham will later acknowledge that his office has contact with Glass before 9/11, and is told about a WTC attack, saying, “I was concerned about that and a dozen other pieces of information which emanated from the summer of 2001.” However, Graham will say that he personally is unaware of Glass’s information until after 9/11. (Pacenti 10/17/2002) In October 2002, Glass will testify under oath before a private session of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, and tell it that he has “specific evidence, and I can document it.” (Pacenti 10/17/2002)
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. (Sanger 5/15/2002; Hirsh and Isikoff 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. (Sanger 5/15/2002; Hirsh and Isikoff 5/27/2002; Schrom 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. (Pincus and Eggen 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. (Woodward and Eggen 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.” (Rich 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).
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.” (Isikoff and Hosenball 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)
Walid Arkeh, a Jordanian serving time in a Florida prison, is interviewed by FBI agents after warning the government of an impending al-Qaeda attack. He had been in a British jail from September 2000 to July 2001, and while there had befriended three inmates, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdel Bary, and Ibrahim Eidarous. US prosecutors charge, “The three men ran a London storefront that served as a cover for al-Qaeda operations and acted as a conduit for communications between bin Laden and his network.” (Bloodsworth 10/30/2002) Al-Fawwaz was bin Laden’s press agent in London, and bin Laden had called him over 200 times before al-Fawwaz was arrested in 1998. (Huband 11/29/2001; Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002) The other two had worked in the same office as al-Fawwaz (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). All three had been indicted as co-conspirators with bin Laden in the August 1998 US embassy bombings. Arkeh tells the FBI that he had learned from these three that “something big [is] going to happen in New York City,” and that they call the 1993 attack on the WTC “unfinished business.” Tampa FBI agents determine that he had associated with these al-Qaeda agents, but nonetheless they do not believe him. According to Arkeh, one agent responds to his “something big” warning by saying: “Is that all you have? That’s old news.” The agents fail to learn more from him. On September 9, concerned that time is running out, a fellow prisoner will try to arrange a meeting, but nothing will happen before 9/11. The Tampa FBI agents will have a second interview with him hours after the 9/11 attacks, but even long after 9/11 they will claim that he cannot be believed. On January 6, 2002, the Tampa FBI will issue a statement: “The information [was] vetted to FBI New York, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa Division and the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. All agreed the information provided by this individual was vague and unsubstantiated… Mr. Arkeh did not provide information that had any bearing on the FBI preventing September 11.” (Bloodsworth 1/6/2002; Bloodsworth 10/30/2002) However, a different group of FBI agents will interview him in May 2002 and find his information credible (see May 21-22, 2002).
John O’Neill begins his new job as head of security at the WTC. O’Neill had been the special agent in charge of the FBI’s National Security Division in New York, and was the bureau’s top expert on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. (Kolker 12/17/2001; Wright 1/14/2002) He’d left his job with the FBI just the day before (see August 22, 2001). His friend Jerome Hauer, who is the former head of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, had found him the job at the World Trade Center. Developer Larry Silverstein, who recently took over the lease of the WTC (see July 24, 2001), had been highly impressed with O’Neill but insisted he start in the post no later than the first week of September, when his firm Silverstein Properties is set to assume control of the buildings. O’Neill had agreed to this. (Weiss 2003, pp. 336-338, 345-346 and 349-351) After hearing that O’Neill has got this job, Chris Isham, a senior producer at ABC News who is a close friend, says to him, “Well, that will be an easy job. They’re not going to bomb that place again.” O’Neill replies, “Well actually they’ve always wanted to finish that job. I think they’re going to try again.” (Isham 5/31/2002) After a few days as the WTC security director, O’Neill will move into his new office on the 34th floor of the South Tower. (Weiss 2003, pp. 353-354 and 366)
In the wake of the French intelligence report (see August 22, 2001) on Zacarias Moussaoui, FBI agents in Minneapolis, Minnesota, are “in a frenzy” and “absolutely convinced he [is] planning to do something with a plane.” Agent Greg Jones tells FBI headquarters that Moussaoui might “fly something into the World Trade Center.” (Isikoff 5/20/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 153 ) Minneapolis FBI agents become “desperate to search the computer lap top” and “conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects,” especially since Moussaoui acted as if he was hiding something important in the laptop when arrested. (Time 5/21/2002; Ratnesar and Weisskopf 5/27/2002) As the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters has already blocked an application for a criminal warrant (see August 21, 2001), the FBI’s Minneapolis field office must apply for one under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Minneapolis agent Harry Samit completes an application for a warrant to search Moussaoui’s belongings on August 25. To obtain the warrant, he has to show there is probable cause to believe Moussaoui is an agent of a foreign power. The memo states that Moussaoui recruited a fighter for a particular Chechen rebel group connected to al-Qaeda, so he is connected to al-Qaeda through the Chechens. However, the RFU at FBI headquarters believes that the Chechen rebels should not be described as a foreign power and that the link between the Chechens and bin Laden is not strong enough. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 128-132 ; US Department of Justice 3/1/2006 ) However, earlier in 2001 the FBI had received information indicating that this Chechen group and bin Laden were planning to attack US interests (see Before April 13, 2001). Minneapolis FBI agent Coleen Rowley later sums up how the Minneapolis agents feel at this point, when she says FBI headquarters “almost inexplicably, throw up roadblocks” and undermine their efforts. Headquarters personnel bring up “almost ridiculous questions in their apparent efforts to undermine the probable cause.” One of Jones’ e-mails to FBI headquarters says they are “setting this up for failure.” That turns out to be correct. (Time 5/21/2002; Ratnesar and Weisskopf 5/27/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 161 )
Shortly after 9/11, the Independent reports that in late August 2001, “security [is] abruptly heightened at the World Trade Center with the introduction of sniffer dogs and systematic checks on trucks bringing in deliveries. No explanation has been given for this measure.” (Gumbel 9/17/2001) Newsday claims that around the same time, security personnel at the WTC begin working extra-long shifts because of numerous phone threats. However, on September 6, bomb-sniffing dogs are abruptly removed. Security further drops right before 9/11. WTC guard Daria Coard says in an interview later on the day of 9/11: “Today was the first day there was not the extra security.” (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001)
George Tabeek, a security manager with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, expresses his concerns about an aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center, perhaps in a terrorist attack. (CBS News 2/11/2009; Grant 9/6/2011) The Port Authority was, until late July, responsible for the management and operation of the WTC (see July 24, 2001), and most Port Authority World Trade Department employees are still working in the WTC. (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 7/24/2001; IREIzine 7/26/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 281)
Possibility of Plane Hitting WTC Discussed - Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC since 1999, will later say that, following the 1993 bombing of the WTC (see February 26, 1993), the Port Authority “put thousands and thousands of hours into safety construction and safety procedures.” Over $100 million has been spent on improving security and fire safety. Therefore, according to Tabeek, “the World Trade Center was safer on 9/11 than 99 percent of the buildings in America.” Tabeek will say: “We were already looking into bio-chem. We were talking about weapons of mass destruction.” He will add that, just two weeks before 9/11, “[W]e talked about ever getting hit by a plane, but it was never in our wildest dreams a commercial airliner.” (Nugent 6/2008; CBS News 2/11/2009)
Possibility of Attack Using Plane Discussed with New Head of Security - Tabeek discusses the possibility of a plane hitting the WTC again on September 6, the Thursday before 9/11. That evening, John O’Neill, the new head of security at the WTC (see August 23, 2001), calls him to a conference room in the South Tower, to discuss security and “threat assessment.” During the meeting, Tabeek describes the improved security at the WTC, telling O’Neill: “We’re 99 percent locked down. You’re not going to get in here with a bomb that’s going to do substantial damage within the building, because we minimized that.” According to Tabeek, O’Neill asks: “Okay, you say to me we’re 99 percent locked down. What’s the other 1 percent?” Tabeek replies, “A plane.” O’Neill says, “Come on, you’re grabbing at straws.” But Tabeek tells him, “No, in ‘93 we’re an American economic bad cop… and now we’re an American-Israeli economic bad cop, more of a threat today than we ever were.” He adds that the plane involved would be “a corporate jet slamming into the building,” with “minimal loss of life, minimal economic loss.” Tabeek will later comment, “I never expected something bigger.” (Grant 9/6/2011) An analysis carried out on behalf of the Port Authority after the 1993 WTC bombing identified the scenario of terrorists deliberately crashing a plane into the Twin Towers as one of a number of possible threats (see After February 26, 1993). (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 11) Tabeek will tell one magazine, “We had planned for the possibility of a small airplane—a corporate jet, maybe—crashing into one of the [WTC] buildings by accident.” (Nugent 6/2008)
At New Utrecht High School, in Brooklyn, New York City, about one week before 9/11, a Pakistani student in a bilingual class points at the WTC during a heated political argument and declares, “Look at those two buildings. They won’t be here next week.” The teacher notifies New York police after 9/11, who in turn notify the FBI. The status of the FBI investigation into this incident is unknown as of early October 2001. (Smith 10/12/2001)
An Iranian man known as Ali S. in a German jail awaiting deportation repeatedly phones US law enforcement to warn of an imminent attack on the WTC in early September. He calls it “an attack that will change the world.” After a month of badgering his prison guards, he is finally able to call the White House 14 times in the days before the attack. He then tries to send a fax to President Bush, but is denied permission hours before the 9/11 attacks. German police later confirm the calls. Prosecutors later will say Ali had no foreknowledge and his forebodings were just a strange coincidence. They will say he is mentally unstable. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg) 9/13/2001; Ananova 9/14/2001; Mackay 9/16/2001; Hunter 9/17/2001)
In the first week of September 2001, the real estate development and investment firm Silverstein Properties assumes control of the World Trade Center. The company had acquired the lease to operate the Twin Towers from the New York Port Authority in late July (see July 24, 2001). It has already begun managing the facility with its own executives. Selected Port Authority employees, including Alan Reiss, the director of the World Trade Center, have been assisting the firm during a three-month transition period. But in the weeks prior to 9/11, according to the New York Times, “Silverstein Properties asked Mr. Reiss to let it more fully operate everything from safety systems to tenant relations.” (Moss and Bagli 9/13/2001; Kleinfield 10/14/2001; Weiss 2003, pp. 338; 9/11 Commission 11/3/2003; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 )
Leslie Robertson, one of the two original structural engineers for the World Trade Center, is asked at a conference in Frankfurt, Germany what he had done to protect the Twin Towers from terrorist attacks. He replies, “I designed it for a 707 to smash into it,” though does not elaborate further. (Chicago Tribune 9/12/2001; Knight Ridder 9/12/2001) The Twin Towers were in fact the first structures outside the military and nuclear industries designed to resist the impact of a jet airplane. (Robertson 3/2002; Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 1-17) The Boeing 707 was the largest in use when the towers were designed. Robertson conducted a study in late 1964, to calculate the effect of a 707 weighing 263,000 pounds and traveling at 180 mph crashing into one of the towers. He concluded that the tower would remain standing. However, no official report of his study has ever surfaced publicly. (Glanz and Lipton 2004, pp. 138-139, 366) A previous analysis, carried out early in 1964, calculated that the towers would handle the impact of a 707 traveling at 600 mph without collapsing (see February 27, 1993). In 2002, though, Robertson will write, “To the best of our knowledge, little was known about the effects of a fire from such an aircraft, and no designs were prepared for that circumstance.” (Robertson 3/2002) The planes that hit the WTC on 9/11 are 767s, which are almost 20 percent heavier than 707s. (Ashley 10/9/2001; Seabrook 11/19/2001)
At least one member of the al-Qaeda cell in Milan, Italy, apparently uses steganography, a method of encoding messages within computerized photographs. In Milan’s Via Quaranta mosque in Milan, frequented by Egyptian al-Qaeda operative Mahmoud Es Sayed, pictures of the World Trade Center that have steganographic messages in them are saved on a computer. A number of other pictures of world leaders and pornography are also manipulated in a similar manner. These pictures will not be discovered until months after 9/11, but they help suggest that some in the Milan cell had foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot. Es Sayed had been wiretapped on previous occasions, and was heard making comments suggesting he had such foreknowledge (see August 12, 2000) (see January 24, 2001). His current whereabouts are unknown. (Salomon 5/8/2003)
The Zim-American Israeli Shipping Co. moves their North American headquarters from the 16th floor of the WTC to Norfolk, Virginia, one week before the 9/11 attacks. The Israeli government owns 49 percent of the company. (O'Brien 9/4/2001) Zim announced the move and its date six months earlier. (Dinsmore 4/3/2001) More than 200 workers had just been moved out; about ten are still in the building making final moving arrangements on 9/11, but escape. (Shaviv 9/13/2001; Tirschwell 10/18/2001) The move leaves only one Israeli company, ClearForest, with 18 employees, in the WTC on 9/11. The four or five employees in the building at the time manage to escape. (Shaviv 9/13/2001) One year later, a Zim ship is impounded while attempting to ship Israeli military equipment to Iran; it is speculated that this is done with the knowledge of Israel. (Pinto 3/29/2002)
Antoinette DiLorenzo, teaching English to a class of Pakistani immigrants, asks a student gazing out the window, “What are you looking at?” The student points towards the WTC, and says, “Do you see those two buildings? They won’t be standing there next week.” At the time, nothing is thought of it, but on September 13, the FBI will interview all the people in the classroom and confirm the event. The FBI later places the boy’s family under surveillance but apparently is unable to find a connection to the 9/11 plot. An MSNBC reporter later sets out to disprove this “urban myth,” but to his surprise, finds all the details of the story are confirmed. The fact that the family members are recent immigrants from Pakistan might mean the information came from Pakistan. (Alter 10/12/2001) Supposedly, on November 9, 2001, the same student predicts there will be a plane crash on November 12. On that day, American Airlines Flight 587 will crash on takeoff from New York, killing 260 people. Investigators will later determine that the crash is accidental. One official at the school later says many Arab-American students have come forward with their own stories about having prior knowledge before 9/11: “Kids are telling us that the attacks didn’t surprise them. This was a nicely protected little secret that circulated in the community around here.” (Shapiro 9/10/2002)
The Chicago Board Options Exchange sees suspicious trading on Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, two of the largest WTC tenants. In the first week of September, an average of 27 put option contracts in its shares are bought each day. Then the total for the three days before the attacks is 2,157. Merrill Lynch, another WTC tenant, see 12,215 put options bought between September 7-10, when the previous days had seen averages of 252 contracts a day. (Blackhurst 10/14/2001) Dylan Ratigan of Bloomberg Business News, speaking of the trading on Morgan Stanley and other companies, says, “This would be one of the most extraordinary coincidences in the history of mankind if it was a coincidence.” (ABC News 9/20/2001)
Former FBI counterterrorism chief John O’Neill recently started his new job as director of security at the World Trade Center (see August 23, 2001). From the outset, he has engrossed himself in discovering what security systems are in place there, and what will be needed in future. On this day, he runs into Rodney Leibowitz, a friend of his, and complains to him about the very poor standard of security at the Twin Towers. For instance, he mentions that, even though the complex receives bomb threats on a daily basis, its telephone system does not feature caller identification. (Weiss 2003, pp. 354 and 358) The Trade Center has in fact recently been on a heightened security alert, due to numerous phone threats (see Late August-September 10, 2001). (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001) Leibowitz is the president and CEO of a company called First Responder Inc., which provides bioterrorism preparedness training to healthcare professionals. (First Responder Inc. 1/14/2004 ) Until the 9/11 attacks intervene, First Responder Inc. is in fact scheduled to send in a team to conduct a threat assessment of the World Trade Center for O’Neill on September 15. (Swanson 2003, pp. 52)
John O’Neill, who is later described by the New Yorker magazine as the FBI’s “most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists,” recently retired from the bureau and started a new job as director of security at the World Trade Center (see August 23, 2001). (Wright 1/14/2002) On this day he meets up with his old friend Raymond Powers, the former New York Police Department chief of operations, to discuss security procedures. Their conversation turns to Osama bin Laden. According to journalist and author Murray Weiss, “just as he had reiterated since 1995 to any official in Washington who would listen, O’Neill said he was sure bin Laden would attack on American soil, and expected him to target the Twin Towers again.” He says to Powers, “It’s going to happen, and it looks like something big is brewing.” (Weiss 2003, pp. 355 and 359-360) Later on, O’Neill goes out in the evening with his friends Robert Tucker and Jerome Hauer. Again, he starts discussing bin Laden. He tells his friends, “We’re due. And we’re due for something big.” He says, “Some things have happened in Afghanistan. I don’t like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan.” This is probably a reference to the assassination of Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud the previous day (see September 9, 2001). He adds, “I sense a shift, and I think things are going to happen.” Asked when, he replies, “I don’t know, but soon.” (Wright 1/14/2002; PBS 10/3/2002) O’Neill will be in his office on the 34th floor of the South Tower the following morning when the first attack occurs, and dies when the WTC collapses. (Weiss 2003, pp. 366; Weiss 8/31/2004)
Staff members at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) are apparently briefed on the possibility of terrorists deliberately crashing a plane into the World Trade Center. According to author Lynn Spencer, when Trey Murphy—a former US Marine who is now a weapons controller at NEADS—first sees the television footage on September 11 showing that a plane has hit the WTC, the news will bring to mind one of his briefings: “What if a terrorist flies an airplane with a weapon of mass destruction into the World Trade Center? It had always been one of the military’s big fears.… [T]he image on the [television] screen certainly reminded him of his briefing.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 179) It is also later reported that, in the two years prior to 9/11, NORAD conducts exercises simulating terrorists crashing hijacked aircraft into targets that include the WTC (see Between September 1999 and September 10, 2001). (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004) Yet, in May 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will claim, “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center… that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile” (see May 16, 2002). (White House 5/16/2002) And in 2004, NORAD commander General Ralph Eberhart will say, “Regrettably, the tragic events of 9/11 were never anticipated or exercised.” (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004)
The night before 9/11, two men are observed behaving suspiciously on a United Airlines flight from San Diego to Boston. This is according Elaine Lawrence, who is one of the plane’s flight attendants. She later recalls that the men—one who appears Middle Eastern, the other Caucasian—upgrade from coach to first class, and then sit “on the left side of the plane, seats 3A and 3B,” near the cockpit door. She will comment: “It was really weird. They didn’t eat, they didn’t sleep, they didn’t watch the movie. Why upgrade?” Furthermore, she recalls: “[W]hen we were getting close to Boston they asked if we could see the World Trade Center towers. ‘Do we see the towers?’ the guy kept asking. I told him we wouldn’t be going by New York.” After the attacks the following day, she will call the FBI and inform them of this incident. Lawrence was in fact originally scheduled to be an attendant on Flight 175—the second plane to hit the WTC—on 9/11. However, as she is planning to go on vacation, she has traded shifts with another flight attendant, Amy Jarret (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). (Taylor 10/23/2001)
Credit card receipts later discovered by the FBI apparently show that alleged lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is in Manhattan on this day. According to FBI agents, he visits the observation deck on the 107th floor of the south WTC tower. CNN will report, “Officials speculate Atta may have been in New York… to program the towers’ location into a global positioning system.” A global positioning system (GPS) uses satellite technology to pinpoint any location on Earth. According to the FBI, Atta bought himself such a device, costing about $500, by mail order. (ABC News 5/22/2002; Candiotti 5/22/2002) Investigators will reportedly consider this trip necessary, “because they believe the hijackers were too inexperienced to handle the jumbo jets without help.” (Smith 5/22/2002) BBC reporter Jane Corbin points out that Atta was also witnessed at Boston’s Logan Airport the previous morning (see September 9, 2001), where he could have entered start-point co-ordinates for his 9/11 flight into the GPS device. (Corbin 2003, pp. 230) However, there is no mention of Atta’s New York visit in the 9/11 Commission Report. According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, Atta spent the previous night at the Milner Hotel in Boston, and then shortly after noon on this day is in Boston where he picks up Abdulaziz Alomari and drives to Portland, Maine. (US Congress 9/26/2002) The 200-mile journey from Boston to New York takes approximately four hours by car. (MIT 5/25/2006) So if Mueller’s account is correct, it seems difficult to comprehend Atta having time to travel to New York, go up the WTC, make purchases on his credit card, and then return to Boston, all in the space of one morning. An article in the New York Post will in fact claim that the person in Manhattan was “a distinguished renal and gene specialist at Johns Hopkins University Hospital” in Baltimore, Maryland. This man, who is also called Mohamed Atta, happened to have visited New York in the days before 9/11, “for a whirlwind weekend with his new bride.” The article claims that it had erroneously been reported that alleged hijacker Mohamed Atta “was casing the Twin Towers days before Sept. 11—even after the FBI concluded it was just the kidney doctor, who had planned to take his wife to Windows on the World for dinner in the North Tower.” (Weiss 5/28/2002)
A World Trade Center security manager receives no warnings from the Secret Service or the US Customs Service about possible terrorist threats to the WTC in the period just before 9/11. George Tabeek, the New York Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC since 1999, will later recall that, before 9/11, he is “regularly in contact with the Secret Service and US Customs about possible threats to the World Trade Center by terrorists and others.” But in the weeks just before September 11, Tabeek will say, “I never heard anything, not even a whisper.” (Grant 9/6/2011) Yet, according to some security personnel at the WTC, the Twin Towers are on a heightened security alert in the two weeks before 9/11, “because of numerous phone threats” (see Late August-September 10, 2001). (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001)
A command center for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, located in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, is upgraded to make it more secure, and the improvements will reportedly save the lives of people in the command center when the nearby South Tower collapses on September 11. (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001; Guarnera 1/2002; Nash 1/23/2002) The Port Authority’s Security Command Center (SCC) is on the 22nd floor of the North Tower. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 ; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 294) Newsday will report, on the day after 9/11, that officials had “recently” increased security at the WTC “by installing bulletproof windows and fireproof doors in the 22nd-floor computer command center.” (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001) According to George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, by September 11, the WTC in fact has “bulletproof window glass in most areas.” (Nugent 6/2008) The installation of the bulletproof windows—and presumably, also, the fireproof doors—in the SCC is made at the request of Douglas Karpiloff, the Port Authority’s director of security and life safety for the WTC. (Nash 1/23/2002)
Upgrades Intended to Protect against 'Aerial Attacks' - According to Hermina Jones, a security guard at the WTC, the upgrades to the SCC are intended “to secure the towers against aerial attacks.” (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001) Tabeek will later recall, “We had planned for the possibility of a small airplane—a corporate jet, maybe—crashing into one of the [WTC] buildings by accident,” although it is unclear if this comment is made in reference to the installation of bulletproof windows at the WTC. (Nugent 6/2008)
Security Improvements Save Lives on September 11 - Some people will credit the upgrades to the SCC with saving their lives on September 11. Tabeek will be in the SCC that day when the first of the Twin Towers—the South Tower—collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). When that happens, according to Tabeek, the “impact of the explosion peeled off the outer skin of [the North Tower], shattering the thick double-paned windows [of the SCC] in the process.” Tabeek will say, however, that the “inner layer of laminated bulletproof glass put in months earlier… withstood the blast and undoubtedly saved his life and those of the others with him.” Victor Guarnera, the chief technical adviser and manager of security systems for the World Trade Department, who is also in the SCC at that time, will describe what happens when the collapse occurs, saying, “The outer windows [of the SCC] exploded, either from impact [of debris from the South Tower] or differential pressure, but the inner window wall of high-tempered bomb and bullet-resistant glass we had installed a few months before held fast.” Guarnera will comment that the bulletproof windows “were responsible for our survival up to that point.” (Guarnera 1/2002; Nash 1/23/2002)
Two employees of Odigo, Inc., an Israeli company, receive warnings of an imminent attack in New York City about two hours before the first plane hits the WTC. Odigo, one of the world’s largest instant messaging companies, has its headquarters two blocks from the WTC. The Odigo Research and Development offices where the warnings were received are located in Herzliyya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Israeli security and the FBI were notified immediately after the 9/11 attacks began. The two employees claim not to know who sent the warnings. “Odigo service includes a feature called People Finder that allows users to seek out and contact others based on certain interests or demographics. [Alex] Diamandis [Odigo vice president of sales and marketing] said it was possible that the attack warning was broadcast to other Odigo members, but the company has not received reports of other recipients of the message.” (Dror 9/26/2001; Washington Post 9/27/2001) Odigo claims the warning did not specifically mention the WTC, but the company refuses to divulge what was specified, claiming, “Providing more details would only lead to more conjecture.” (Washington Post 9/28/2001) However, a later newspaper report claims that the message declared “that some sort of attack was about to take place. The notes ended with an anti-Semitic slur. ‘The messages said something big was going to happen in a certain amount of time, and it did—almost to the minute,’ said Alex Diamandis, vice president of sales for the high-tech company… He said the employees did not know the person who sent the message, but they traced it to a computer address and have given that information to the FBI.” (Fallis and Cha 10/4/2001) Odigo gave the FBI the Internet address of the message’s sender so the name of the sender could be found. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg) 9/26/2001) Two months later, it is reported that the FBI is still investigating the matter, but there have been no reports since. (Griffith 11/20/2001)
According to later reports, the alarm system in WTC 7 is placed on “TEST” status for a period due to last eight hours. This ordinarily happens during maintenance or other testing, and any alarms received from the building are generally ignored. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 6/2004, pp. 28)
A helicopter is tracked on radar apparently crashing into the World Trade Center, according to a report later given by a New York air traffic controller over an FAA teleconference.
Helicopter Is 'the Only Target that We Saw ... to Fly into the Trade Center' - At around 10:15 a.m., Tom White, an operations manager at the FAA’s New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), will tell those on the FAA teleconference that his facility tracked a Sikorsky helicopter that had taken off from the airport in Poughkeepsie, New York, and this helicopter appeared to fly into the WTC at 8:27 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). White will add that, after replaying radar information, it is concluded that the helicopter is “the only target that we saw in the vicinity of the Trade Center at 12:27 [Zulu time, or 8:27 a.m. Eastern time] to fly into the Trade Center.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/21/2004) (However, the first crash at the WTC will not occur until 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) ) The “Poughkeepsie airport” the helicopter took off from is presumably Dutchess County Airport. Sikorsky reportedly bases a fleet of its S-76 helicopters at Dutchess County Airport, “dispatching them to the New York metro areas as needed.” (Venable 5/2000; Wagstaff 8/1/2003) Poughkeepsie is about 70 miles north of New York City. (Sherman 2/3/2008)
Helicopter 'Consistent with the Speed' of What Hits WTC - White will say the helicopter’s tail number is N7601S, that it departed the Poughkeepsie airport at 8:03 a.m., and that it then headed south at a speed of around 160 knots, or 184 miles per hour. He will add: “The tower [presumably the air traffic control tower at the Poughkeepsie airport] says the only thing they had southbound at that time was a Sikorsky helicopter, which is consistent with the speed that we followed it down.… They’re saying they replayed the radar and it’s consistent with the speed of what went into the [WTC] tower.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) (However, an analysis by the US government will later estimate that Flight 11 hits the WTC at 494 miles per hour, or 429 knots, which is significantly faster than the helicopter was flying. (Lipton and Glanz 2/23/2002) )
Mistaken Information Later Corrected - It will apparently take until early afternoon for the suspicions about the Sikorsky helicopter hitting the WTC to be dismissed. An FAA chronology of this day’s events will state that at 1:00 p.m., the “Sikorsky helicopter” is “now believed not to have hit the WTC.” (Federal Aviation Administration 1/2/2002 ) Another FAA chronology will state that at 1:04 p.m., it is reported that the Sikorsky helicopter “landed 20 minutes early, normal GE run at 12:28Z [i.e. 8:28 a.m. Eastern time] to WTC.” (It is unclear what is meant by “normal GE run.”) (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)
At Fort Belvoir, an army base 12 miles south of the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Mark R. Lindon is conducting a “garrison control exercise” when the 9/11 attacks begin. The object of this exercise is to “test the security at the base in case of a terrorist attack.” Lindon later says, “I was out checking on the exercise and heard about the World Trade Center on my car radio. As soon as it was established that this was no accident, we went to a complete security mode.” Staff Sgt. Mark Williams of the Military District of Washington Engineer Company at Fort Belvoir also later says: “Ironically, we were conducting classes about rescue techniques when we were told of the planes hitting the World Trade Center.” Williams’ team is one of the first response groups to arrive at the site of the Pentagon crash and one of the first to enter the building following the attack. (Hagee 9/5/2002) A previous MASCAL (mass casualty) training exercise was held at Fort Belvoir a little over two months earlier (see June 29, 2001). It was “designed to enhance the first ready response in dealing with the effects of a terrorist incident involving an explosion.” (Passino 7/5/2001) Located at Fort Belvoir is Davison Army Airfield, from where UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly. Davison’s mission includes maintaining “a readiness posture in support of contingency plans,” and providing “aviation support for the White House, US government officials, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and other government agencies.” (Fahrig 5/7/1999; Military District of Washington 8/2000)
According to a WTC janitor, there is an explosion in the basement of the North Tower just before the plane hits up above. William Rodriguez has worked at the World Trade Center for 20 years, including the time of the 1993 bombing, and is responsible for cleaning three stairwells in the North Tower. He is talking to his supervisor in an office in the B-1 level in the basement when, he says, “I heard this massive explosion below, on level B-2 or 3.” He says, “The floor vibrated. We were all thrown upwards, then everyone in the office started screaming.” Then, “seconds later, there was another explosion way above, which made the building sway from side to side. And this, we later discovered, was the first plane hitting the North Tower on the 90th floor.” A man then runs into the office, shouting, “Explosion! Explosion!” The man, Felipe David, had been standing in front of a nearby lift when a fireball had burst from the lift shaft, severely burning him. Rodriguez will later question, “Now you tell me how an explosion from a jet liner could have burnt a man 90 floors down within seconds of impact?” The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will suggest that the basement explosion Rodriguez heard might have been caused by a fireball traveling from the aircraft down the central lift shaft. However, some time after hearing it, Rodriguez rescues two people trapped in a lift. He will therefore doubt NIST’s claim, saying that if it were true, “Why were the two people [I] rescued from the lift not burnt to death?” (Jacobson 3/20/2006; Western Morning News 12/2/2006; Cowie 2/16/2007; Wintle 2/26/2007) Rodriguez also claims to have witnessed alleged hijacker Mohand Alshehri in the World Trade Center in June 2001 (see June 2001).
Flight 11 slams into the WTC North Tower (Building 1). Hijackers Mohamed Atta Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Satam Al Suqami presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. Seismic records pinpoint the crash at 26 seconds after 8:46 a.m. (CNN 9/12/2001; New York Times 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Cauchon 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; Dwyer et al. 5/26/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002) The NIST report states the crash time to be 8:46:30. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 19) The 9/11 Commission Report states the crash time to be 8:46:40. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dwyer et al. 5/26/2002) The plane strikes the 93rd through 99th floors in the 110-story building. No one above the crash line survives; approximately 1,360 people die. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full at the time of the attack, with between 5,000 to 7,000 people in each tower. This number is lower than expected. Many office workers have not yet shown up to work, and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 A.M. have yet to arrive. (Cauchon 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20-22) The impact severs some columns on the north side of the North Tower. Each tower is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which weighs 283,600 lb and is traveling at an estimated speed of around 430 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 35 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another two. The damage to the South Tower’s perimeter will be similar (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 20, 22) The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so this damage reduces its ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.5 percent. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 6) The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may have damaged the core even after crashing through the exterior wall. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): “Moving at 500 mph, an engine broke any exterior column it hit. If the engine missed the floor slab, the majority of the engine core remained intact and had enough residual momentum to sever a core column upon direct impact.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 107) According to NIST’s base case computer model, three of the core columns are severed and another ten suffer some damage. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. 189 ) If this is accurate, it means that the impact damage to the core reduces the Tower’s strength by another approximately 7.5 percent, meaning that the building loses about 15 percent of its strength in total. This damage will be cited after 9/11 by NIST and others researchers as an event contributing to the building’s collapse (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged. The original fireproofing on the fire floors was mostly Blazeshield DC/F, but some of the fireproofing on the flooring has recently been upgraded to Blazeshield II, which is about 20 percent denser and 20 percent more adhesive. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 ) Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but NIST will estimate the damage to it using a computer model. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 43 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 60,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about one and a half floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 23) According to NIST, more fireproofing is stripped from the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).
A homemaker living near Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey sees three men behaving strangely on a nearby roof and alerts the authorities. This homemaker, who has given only her first name Maria, is called by a neighbor shortly after the first plane has hit the WTC and is told about the impact. She has a view of the WTC from her apartment building so she gets her binoculars and watches the disaster. However, she also notices three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. Maria will later recall, “They seemed to be taking a movie.” They are taking video or photos of themselves with the WTC burning in the background. But what strikes Maria is their expressions: “They were like happy, you know… They didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange.” She writes down the license plate number of the van and calls the police. (ABC News 6/21/2002) Apparently the men leave the area a few minutes after the first attack is over. (Ketcham 2/7/2007) An FBI lookout bulletin for the van will be issued later in the day (see 3:31 p.m. September 11, 2001) and the three men (plus two more discovered with them) will be detained (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). When the men detained, one of them will be found with pictures of the group standing with the burning wreckage of the WTC in the background. (Perelman 3/15/2002) At least some of the pictures were taken while standing on top of the van. (Cowan 10/8/2001) The lawyer for the five men will later note that one photograph developed by the FBI shows one of the men, Sivan Kurzberg, holding a lighted lighter in the foreground, with the burning WTC in the background. (Lewin and Cowan 11/21/2001) It will apparently be determined at least two of the men are Israeli spies, but what they were doing and why will remain in dispute. One of these Israelis will later say, “our purpose was to document the event.” (ABC News 6/21/2002)
During the 9/11 catastrophe, around 200 people die in the WTC’s elevators without getting help from elevator mechanics, according to an in-depth study later performed by USA Today. Some of the victims are burned by the initial explosion, some die as the elevator cars plummet when their cables are severed, and some are stuck and perish in the collapse. USA Today will say it “could not locate any professional rescues of people stuck in elevators. The Fire Department of New York and the Port Authority also could not cite successful rescues.” After the North Tower is hit, most of the WTC’s 83 elevator mechanics gather in the lobby of the South Tower, but when the second plane hits, they evacuate. In contrast, a passing elevator mechanic from another company runs into the WTC and dies trying to free trapped passengers. USA Today will comment: “When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, Otis Elevator’s mechanics led the rescue of 500 people trapped in elevators. Some mechanics were dropped onto the roofs of the Twin Towers by helicopter. Others, carrying 50-pound oxygen tanks on their backs, climbed through smoke to machine rooms high in the towers. On Sept. 11, the elevator mechanics—many of the same men involved in the rescues in 1993—left the buildings after the second jet struck, nearly an hour before the first building collapsed.” Although ACE Elevator, the local company which won the WTC contract from Otis in 1994, will say it was acting in accordance with procedure, USA Today will note: “The departure of elevator mechanics from a disaster site is unusual. The industry takes pride in rescues. In the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, elevator mechanics worked closely with the firefighters making rescues.” Robert Caporale, editor of Elevator World will say, “Nobody knows the insides of a high-rise like an elevator mechanic. They act as guides for firefighters, in addition to working on elevators.” The Port Authority will also say that their departure was in conflict with the emergency plan. “There was no situation in which the mechanics were advised or instructed to leave on their own.” (Cauchon 12/19/2001; Cauchon and Moore 9/4/2002)
At the air traffic control tower at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, controllers see the smoke coming from the World Trade Center in the distance and start calling other FAA facilities in the area about this. Controller Rick Tepper looks out the window of the tower across the Hudson River at New York City, and sees the huge cloud of smoke coming from the North Tower, which Flight 11 has crashed into it. He points this out to fellow controller Greg Callahan. In his office at the tower, Bob Varcadipane, the supervisor there, starts receiving a flood of phone calls reporting that a small aircraft has hit the WTC. According to author Lynn Spencer, “The assumption is that only a small plane could have gone so badly off course.” The Newark tower controllers start calling the towers at JFK, La Guardia, and Teterboro Airports, along with other air traffic control facilities in the area, to see if any of them has lost an aircraft. But none say they have; they have not yet been informed of the crash and are shocked at what they see when told to look out their windows at the burning WTC. Varcadipane calls the FAA’s New York Center to find out if they know whose plane hit the Twin Towers. He is told: “No, but Boston Center lost an airplane. They lost an American 767.” Varcadipane wonders if this 767 is the plane that hit the WTC, and says back: “I have a burning building and you have a missing airplane. This is very coincidental.” According to NBC: “a horrific realization dawns on controllers. American Flight 11, still missing from radar, finally has been found.” Word of the plane’s fate subsequently “quickly travels throughout the air traffic control world.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 41-42) However, the FAA’s Indianapolis Center, which handles Flight 77, will reportedly not learn of the first hijackings until around 9:20 a.m. (see (9:20 a.m.-9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32)
An automated announcement is reportedly activated in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, advising workers to stay in their offices rather than evacuate, although a senior official will later dispute the accounts of security officers who describe hearing it. The announcement is heard by workers in the Port Authority’s Security Command Center (SCC) on the 22nd floor of the North Tower.
Automated Announcement Heard by 'a Lot of People' - The recorded female voice that makes the announcement usually comes on automatically in situations such as when a sprinkler is loose, telling people to return to their offices, according to Hermina Jones, a security guard in the SCC. Jones will recall that the automated recording now comes on, apparently after being activated by the impact of Flight 11 hitting the North Tower. She will say that “a lot of people listened to that and went back to their offices. When tenants called me on the intercom, I told them to ignore it and take Stairway A.” Jones will add, “You could hear [the recording] in the background, telling them over and over, ‘Please go back in your office.’” Nancy Joyner, a security supervisor, also notices the recorded announcement. “Whenever there is smoke, sometimes the alarm will trigger, and that’s when you heard [the recording],” she will say. She will add, “That day [i.e. September 11], the recording came on.”
Port Authority Official Says There Are 'No Automated Announcements' - However, Alan Reiss, the director of the World Trade Department of the Port Authority, will dispute the recollections of Jones and Joyner, and claim that no recording goes off. He will state, “There were no automated announcements used anywhere in the World Trade Center, as such recordings are not permitted by fire codes.” Furthermore, Reiss will state, “no messages of any kind—live or otherwise—could be heard over [the North Tower’s] public address system, which was severed by the impact of the first plane.” (Rayman 9/10/2002; Reiss 10/8/2002) The 9/11 Commission Report will indicate, however, that announcements might be heard in a few areas of the North Tower. “Because of damage to building systems caused by the impact of the plane,” the report will state, “public address announcements were not heard in many locations.” Around the time that the automated announcement is reportedly going off in the North Tower, an announcement is made in the South Tower, advising workers to stay in their offices, instead of evacuating (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). That announcement, though, is made by a deputy fire safety director, rather than being a recorded message. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 286-288)
Mike Pecoraro, an engineer who is part of the crew that services the World Trade Center complex, is at work in the mechanical shop in the second subbasement of the north WTC tower when it is hit. When the room he is in starts filling with white smoke and he can smell kerosene (jet fuel), he heads upstairs with a co-worker toward a small machine shop on the C level. Yet, he will later recall: “There was nothing there but rubble. We’re talking about a 50 ton hydraulic press—gone!” He then heads for the parking garage, yet finds that “there were no walls, there was rubble on the floor, and you can’t see anything.” He ascends to the B level where he sees a 300-pound steel and concrete fire door, which is lying on the floor, wrinkled up “like a piece of aluminum foil.” Pecoraro recalls seeing similar things at the WTC when it was bombed in 1993 and is therefore convinced that a bomb has gone off this time. When he makes it into the main lobby, he sees massive damage. “The whole lobby was soot and black, elevator doors were missing,” he will describe. “The marble was missing off some of the walls. Twenty-foot section of marble, 20 by 10 foot sections of marble, gone from the walls.… Broken glass everywhere, the revolving doors were all broken and their glass was gone.” Pecoraro will say he only later hears that “jet fuel actually came down the elevator shaft, blew off all the [elevator] doors, and flames rolled through the lobby. That explained all the burnt people and why everything was sooted in the lobby.” He makes it out of the North Tower before it collapses. (Chief Engineer 8/1/2002)
CNN is the first major network to show the footage of the crash site. It breaks into a commercial and anchor Carol Lin says, “This just in. You are looking at… obviously a very disturbing live shot there—that is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.” CNN then switches to Sean Murtagh, the network’s vice president of finance, who says in a live telephone interview, “I just witnessed a plane that appeared to be cruising at a slightly lower than normal altitude over New York City. And it appears to have crashed into—I don’t know which tower it is—but it hit directly in the middle of one of the World Trade Center towers. It was a jet, maybe a two-engine jet, maybe a 737… a large passenger commercial jet… It was teetering back and forth, wing-tip to wing-tip, and it looks like it has crashed into—probably, twenty stories from the top of the World Trade Center—maybe the eightieth to eighty-fifth floor. There is smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center.” (CNN 9/11/2001; Bamford 2004, pp. 16-17) Many reports do not come until a few minutes later. For instance, ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52 a.m. (ABC News 9/14/2002) Incredibly, a NORAD timeline presented to the 9/11 Commission in 2003 claims that CNN doesn’t begin its coverage of the attacks until 8:57. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
After firefighters arrive at the North Tower, janitor William Rodriguez leads some of them up its stairs. Being one of only five people possessing a master key, he opens emergency exit doors as he goes up, allowing people to escape from the building. But between the tower’s 20th and 30th floors he hears a series of explosions. The source of these is unknown. Then, when he reaches the 33rd floor he hears what sounds like heavy equipment being dragged across the floor of the level above. He finds this puzzling, he later says, because the 34th floor is supposed to be empty and has been off limits for weeks due to a construction project. After he reaches the 39th floor, Rodriguez is ordered to turn back by the firefighters with him. He then hears the sound of the second plane hitting the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. Rodriguez also claims he heard an explosion from the North Tower’s basement just seconds before it was hit at 8:46 a.m. (see (8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will later be credited with saving many lives on 9/11, and be treated as a hero. (Chaddock 3/25/2004; Western Morning News 12/2/2006; Cowie 2/16/2007; Wintle 2/26/2007)
CIA Director George Tenet is told of the first WTC crash while he is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D-OK), at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. They are interrupted when CIA bodyguards converge on the table to hand Tenet a cell phone. Tenet is told that the WTC has been attacked by an airplane. Boren later says, “I was struck by the fact that [the messenger] used the word ‘attacked.’” Tenet then hands the cell phone back to an aide and says to Boren, “You know, this has bin Laden’s fingerprints all over it.” “‘He was very collected,’ Boren recalls. ‘He said he would be at the CIA in 15 minutes, what people he needed in the room and what he needed to talk about.’” (Slavin and Page 9/24/2001; ABC News 9/14/2002) According to other accounts, Tenet responds to the caller, “They steered the plane directly into the building?” Tenet then says to Boren, “That looks like bin Laden.” Tenet muses aloud, “I wonder if this has something to do with the guy [Zacarias Moussaoui] who trained for a pilot’s license.” (Moussaoui had been arrested several weeks earlier.) (Getler 5/29/2002; Laabs 8/13/2003) According to another account, Tenet pauses while on the phone to tell Boren, “The World Trade Center has been hit. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t an accident. It looks like a terrorist act,” then returns to the phone to identify who should be summoned to the CIA situation room. (Gibbs 9/14/2001) Tenet later tells author Ronald Kessler, “There was no doubt that al-Qaeda was going to come here eventually, and that something spectacular was planned. I knew immediately who it was [behind the attack].” (Kessler 2003, pp. 196) In his own 2007 book, Tenet will largely confirm the above accounts. He will add, “Most people, I understand, assumed that the first crash was a tragic accident. It took the second plane hitting the second tower to show them that something far worse was going on. That wasn’t the case for me. We had been living too intimately with the possibility of a terrorist attack on the United States. I instantly thought that this had to be al-Qaeda.” He also mentions thinking aloud about Moussaoui. (Tenet 2007, pp. 161) Tenet will subsequently hurry back to CIA headquarters in his car (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 11 when it hit the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which investigates the collapses, will say “The initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 183) Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” (Chertoff et al. 3/2005) Flight 11, a Boeing 767, had a fuel capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 10,000 gallons when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and a comparable amount was consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Therefore, approximately 7,000 gallons splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually have fewer combustibles than some other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reaches a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). Although steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20, 29, 24, 77) The jet fuel will also burn up in the South Tower about 10 minutes after it is hit (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Staff at Fort Monmouth, an Army base in New Jersey located about 50 miles south of New York City, is preparing to hold a “disaster drill” to test emergency response capabilities to a fake chemical attack. The exercise, called Timely Alert II, is to involve various law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel, including Fort Monmouth firefighters and members of the New Jersey State Police. Personnel are to be deployed and measures taken as in a real emergency. A notice has been sent out, warning that anyone not conducting official business will be turned away from Fort Monmouth during the exercise. Soon after 9 a.m., the exercise director tells a group of participating volunteers that a hijacked plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. The participants pretend to be upset, believing this is just part of the simulation. When they see the live televised footage of the WTC attacks, some people at the base think it is an elaborate training video to accompany the exercise. One worker tells a fire department training officer: “You really outdid yourself this time.” Interestingly, the follow-up exercise held in July 2002 (Timely Alert III) does incorporate simulated television news reports to give participants the impression that the emergency is real. And in the first Timely Alert exercise, held on the base in January 2001, a call had come through of a supposed “real” bomb situation, but this “fortunately turned out to be a report related to a training aid being used during the exercise.” On 9/11, Fort Monmouth is geared to go into high-alert status as part of Timely Alert II. The exercise is called off once the base is alerted to the real attacks. (Monmouth Message 2/9/2001; Conohan 9/21/2001; Sheehan 9/21/2001; Harnes 7/24/2002; Sheehan 8/23/2002; US Department of the Army 7/26/2003 ; Foster 9/12/2003) Fort Monmouth is home to various Army, Defense Department, and other government agencies. The largest of these is the US Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM). CECOM serves to “develop, acquire, field, and sustain superior information technologies and integrated systems for America’s warfighters.” It is tasked with the “critical role of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR).” (Communications-Electronics Command 4/17/2002; US Department of the Army 1/2003 ; GlobalSecurity (.org) 2/12/2006) Fort Monmouth services also directly assist in the emergency response later in the day. Its fire department deploys to Atlantic Highlands to assist passengers coming from Manhattan by ferry, and members of its Patterson Army Health Clinic are also sent out to help. Teams of CECOM experts from the base are later deployed to ground zero in New York with equipment capable of locating cellular phone transmissions within the ruins of the collapsed World Trade Center. Its explosive ordnance company is also deployed to assist authorities should they come across anything they think might be explosives, while digging through the debris in search of victims. (Conohan 9/21/2001; Sheehan 9/21/2001)
Data recovery experts later looking at 32 hard drives salvaged from the 9/11 attacks discover a surge in credit card transactions from the World Trade Center in the hours before and during the attacks. Unusually large sums of money are rushed through computers even as the disaster unfolds. Investigators later say: “There is a suspicion that some people had advance knowledge of the approximate time of the plane crashes in order to move out amounts exceeding $100 million. They thought that the records of their transactions could not be traced after the mainframes were destroyed.” The data recovery effort is led by the German company Convar. Convar will not disclose the identity of its clients. (Reuters 12/17/2001; Kirschbaum 12/19/2001; Perera 12/20/2001)
According to a soldier at the scene, WTC Building 7 is evacuated before the second tower is hit. (Fleming-Michael 10/18/2001) The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) states, “As the second aircraft struck WTC 2, a decision was made to evacuate WTC 7.” This would be just after the Port Authority Police Department called for the evacuation of the entire WTC complex (see 8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). But by this time, “many WTC 7 occupants [have] already left the building and others [have] begun a self-evacuation of the building.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 109) All individuals in the Secret Service’s New York field office, located in WTC 7, were ordered to evacuate after the first attack, and they are in the process of doing so when the second plane hits the South Tower. (PCCW Newsletter 3/2006) The Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the WTC, to be used to protect the president if there were an attack on the city when he visits it. (Weiss 2003, pp. 379) Presumably, this missile is abandoned with the evacuation. The Office of Emergency Management’s command center, on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, is not evacuated until later, at 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
The minute Flight 175 hits the South Tower, fighter pilot Major Daniel Nash will recall, clear visibility allows him to see smoke pour out of Manhattan, even though NORAD will say he is 71 miles away from there. (Dennehy 8/21/2002) The other Otis pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, recalls, “We’re 60 miles out, and I could see the smoke from the towers.” They call NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) for an update, and, as Duffy will recall: “At that point, they said the second aircraft just hit the World Trade Center. That was news to me. I thought we were still chasing American [Airlines Flight] 11.” (ABC News 9/14/2002) In another account Duffy will relate: “It was right about then when they said the second aircraft had just hit the World Trade Center, which was quite a shock to both [Nash] and I, because we both thought there was only one aircraft out there. We were probably 70 miles or so out when the second one hit. So, we were just a matter of minutes away.” (BBC 9/1/2002) He asks NEADS for clarification of their mission, but the request is met with “considerable confusion.” (Scott 6/3/2002) Bob Varcadipane, a Newark, New Jersey, air traffic controller who sees the Flight 175 crash, will claim: “I remember the two F-15s. They were there moments after the impact. And I was just—said to myself, ‘If only they could have gotten there a couple minutes earlier.’ They just missed it.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002) However, the 9/11 Commission appears to believe that the pilots never get near New York City at this time. According to the Commission’s account, lacking a clear target, the Otis fighters took off toward military controlled airspace over the ocean, off the coast of Long Island. A map released by the Commission indicates that at 9:03 they are about 100 miles away and heading southwest instead of west to New York City. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor reveal Major Kevin Nasypany telling Colonel Robert Marr, “Fighters are south of—just south of Long Island.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) The 9/11 Commission says that, at 9:10 a.m., the FAA’s Boston Center tells the Otis fighters about the second WTC tower being struck. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459)
Flight 175 hits the South Tower of the World Trade Center (Tower Two). Seismic records pinpoint the time at six seconds before 9:03 a.m. (rounded to 9:03 a.m.). Hijackers Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alghamdi presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. (New York Times 9/12/2001; CNN 9/12/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Cauchon 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; Dwyer et al. 5/26/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Moore and Cauchon 9/2/2002) According to the NIST report, the crash time is 9:02:59. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 38) According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the crash time is 9:03:11. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) Millions watch the crash live on television. The plane strikes the 77th through 85th floors in the 110-story building. Approximately 100 people are killed or injured in the initial impact; 600 people in the tower eventually die. The death toll is far lower than in the North Tower because about two-thirds of the South Tower’s occupants have evacuated the building in the 17 minutes since the first tower was struck. (Cauchon 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 41) The combined death toll from the two towers is estimated at 2,819, not including the hijackers. (Associated Press 8/21/2002) The impact severs some columns on the south side of the South Tower. Each of the Twin Towers is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which is traveling at an estimated speed of around 500 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 33 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another one. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 39) The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so the damage to them reduces the tower’s ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.1 percent. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 6) The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may be able to damage the core even after crashing through the exterior wall (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 107) According to NIST’s base case model, five of the core columns are severed and another five suffer some damage. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. 235 ) This may reduce the tower’s ability to bear loads by a further approximately 8 percent, meaning that the aircraft impact accounted for a loss of about 15 percent of the building’s strength. This damage will be cited as an event contributing to the building’s collapse after 9/11 (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). NIST’s base case estimate of damage to the North Tower’s core will be similar, even though the aircraft impact there was dissimilar (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 11 hit the North Tower’s core head on, whereas Flight 175 only hits the corner of the South Tower’s core. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20-23, 38-41) In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 ) Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will try to estimate the damage to fireproofing using a series of computer models. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 39 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 80,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about two floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 41) According to NIST, less fireproofing is stripped from the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001).
The second plane hitting the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) causes internal alarms to go off in WTC Building 7, located just a few hundred feet away from the Twin Towers. The alarms warn there is no water pressure and that the building’s emergency power generator has been activated. Office of Emergency Management (OEM) staff, based in Building 7, immediately request air security over New York. They are told that federal support is on its way, but the Federal Aviation Administration instructs them to use NYPD and Port Authority Police Department air assets to clear the airspace around the WTC. They are also warned that the Kennedy Airport control tower is reporting an unaccounted for plane heading towards New York. A report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will claim that this plane is Flight 93, which later crashes in Pennsylvania. (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 16) However, Flight 93 is still flying west at this time, and only reverses course and heads towards Washington at around 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to at least one person at the scene, WTC 7 is evacuated around this time due to the reports of this incoming third plane (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dionne and Heightman 3/2002, pp. 68 )
Brian Clark, the executive vice president of brokerage firm Euro Brokers, was on the 84th floor of the South Tower, where his firm’s offices are, when Flight 175 crashed into it. He had headed out, going down Stairway A, which is the only staircase in the tower that remains intact from top to bottom, and was soon joined by Stanley Praimnath, who also works in the South Tower. They reach a point that Clark later guesses to have been around the 77th or 78th floor, where the stairway walls are cracked, allowing them to look through. This would be around the lower end of the floors where the plane impacted. However, Clark sees no large fire. He later says, “[Y]ou could look through the cracks and see flames. They were just quietly licking up, not a roaring inferno. And there was some smoke there, but again I think the stairs were pressurized, pushing the air out so we had less smoke in the stairway than you might imagine.” (BBC 3/7/2002; New York Times 5/26/2002; Clark 9/6/2002; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004) This apparently contradicts later claims that the tower was subjected to “extreme fires” prior to its collapse. (Lipton 10/20/2004) Firefighter Orio Palmer will make it up to this level of the tower later on, and also report only finding small fires there (see 9:52 a.m. September 11, 2001). Clark and Praimnath continue down the stairs and make it out just minutes before the collapse. They are two of only four people who were at or above the impact zone after Flight 175 hit, who are able to escape from the South Tower. (Okwu 9/9/2002) A further 14 people are able to get out of the building from its 78th floor, which is the lower part of the crash zone. (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 255)
The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 175 when it hit the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which later investigates the collapses, will say the “initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 183) Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” (Chertoff et al. 3/2005) Flight 175, a Boeing 767, had a capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 9,100 gallons of fuel when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and 910 to 2,275 gallons were consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Approximately 6,100 gallons therefore splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually had fewer combustibles than other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reached a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). While steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 29, 38, 42, 77) The jet fuel also burned up in the North Tower about 10 minutes after it was hit (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). When a group of firefighters reach the bottom impact floor in the South Tower just before collapse, they only find two isolated fires (see 9:52 a.m. September 11, 2001).
The exterior wall on the east side of the World Trade Center’s South Tower apparently bows before the building collapses. The first inquiry into the collapse, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers, states that the perimeter walls bow outward. “Expansion of floor slabs and framing results in outward deflection of columns and potential overload,” the investigation concludes. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 2-25) However, a subsequent report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology states that the east wall of the South Tower bows inward. In places the wall is said to bow inward by between seven and nine inches at floor 80, and NIST interprets this bowing to mean that the floors must be sagging. NIST will find that the sagging and bowing are two of the seven major factors that led to the collapse of each tower, as the bowing walls are no longer able to support their share of the buildings’ weight, causing the buildings to tilt and the upper sections to fall. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 43-46, 87) A wall in the North Tower also apparently bows before the building collapses (see 10:23 a.m. September 11, 2001).
A man who is on the 105th floor of the South Tower calls emergency 9-1-1 to report that floors below his location, “in the 90-something floor,” have collapsed. The 9-1-1 operator types a record of this call into the Special Police Radio Inquiry Network (SPRINT) data link, which will be passed on to the New York fire department’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS). It isn’t known when the call is made exactly, but the EMS Dispatch computer apparently receives the call record at this time. However, because it is classified as a “supplement message,” it is not yet read by anyone. The police dispatcher dealing with the area around the WTC also receives the call record, but misinterprets it as meaning that the floor the person is on has collapsed. EMS dispatchers are dealing with an enormous volume of calls as well as performing many other tasks under extreme pressure during the crisis, so a report later concludes that the EMS operators didn’t have the time to review the information before the collapse of the South Tower at 9:59 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the fire chiefs never received the information. (New York City Fire Department 8/19/2002)
About ten minutes prior to its collapse, a New York Police Department (NYPD) helicopter unit reports over the Special Operations Division radio channel that “large pieces” are falling from the South Tower. While police hear this transmission, the fire department does not, and there is no police representative at the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) command post to pass the information on. (Fire Engineering 9/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 95) None of the NYPD helicopter pilots predict the South Tower collapse in advance. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 304)
Video footage later reveals that in the minutes immediately before the collapse of the WTC’s South Tower, a stream of molten metal starts pouring out of a window opening around the northeast corner of its 80th floor. FEMA later suggests that this is “possibly aluminum from the airliner,” and comments, “This is of particular interest because, although the building collapse appears to have initiated at this floor level, the initiation seems to have occurred at the southeast rather than the northeast corner.” (Civil Engineering 5/2002; Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 2-34; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 207) According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, “The composition of the flowing material can only be the subject of speculation, but its behavior suggests it could have been molten aluminum.” (Pitts, Butler, and Junker 9/2005, pp. 375) However physics professor Steven E. Jones will in 2006 dispute this, saying that molten aluminum is silvery and never turns yellow, like what is in the video footage. He will instead claim the presence of this molten metal supports the theory that explosives, specifically thermite, are what caused the Twin Towers to collapse. He says thermite can cause steel to melt and become yellowish. (Dean 4/10/2006)
Two firefighters climbing up the South Tower, Orio Palmer and Ronald Bucca, have reached its 78th floor, the lower end of the impact zone where Flight 175 hit. (Dwyer and Fessenden 8/4/2002) They are just two floors below the level where, minutes later, its collapse initiates. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 2-34) Over radio, Palmer tells firefighter Joseph Leavey, “We’ve got two isolated pockets of fire. We should be able to knock it down with two lines.” (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 206) The fact that they reached so high up the tower only comes to light almost a year later, when a tape of radio communications from 9/11 is made public (see August 4, 2002). The New York Times will report “[N]owhere on the tape is there any indication that firefighters had the slightest indication that the tower had become unstable or that it could fall.” (Dwyer and Flynn 11/9/2002) Palmer’s communication appears to contradict claims that “extreme fires” contributed to the tower’s collapse. (Barter 9/13/2001; Lipton 10/20/2004) Ronald Bucca, a Special Forces veteran, had actually conducted his own private research into Islamic militancy following the 1993 WTC bombing. He’d even taken time, in 1996, to attend the beginning of the trial of Ramzi Yousef, a mastermind of the bombing (see September 5, 1996). (Lance 2003, pp. 180-183, 333-334)
Some witnesses reportedly see a massive fireball at ground level, coming from the South Tower just before it starts to collapse. According to a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute (a research institute founded by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta), “People inside the South Tower felt the floor vibrate as if a small earthquake were occurring.… The vibration lasted for about 30 seconds. The doors were knocked out, and a huge ball of flame created by the exploding diesel fuel from the building’s own supply tank shot from the elevator shaft and out the doors of the South Tower, consuming everything in its path. Minutes later, at 9:59 a.m., the tower collapsed.” (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 16) Around the same time, Port Authority Police Officer Will Jimeno is in a corridor leading toward the North Tower. “Suddenly the hallway began to shudder,” and he sees “the giant fireball explode in the street,” when the South Tower begins to collapse. (James 1/2003) Ronald DiFrancesco is the last person to make it out of the South Tower before it collapses. As he is heading toward the exit that leads onto Church Street, he hears a loud roar as the collapse begins. According to the Ottawa Citizen, “Mr. DiFrancesco turned to his right in the direction of Liberty Street, to see a massive fireball—compressed as the South Tower fell—roiling toward [him].” He bolts for the exit, before being knocked unconscious and blown many yards across the street. (Cauchon 12/18/2001; Duffy 6/4/2005; Duffy 6/5/2005; Clark 9/5/2006) A number of other witnesses report feeling the ground shaking just seconds before the South Tower collapses (see Shortly Before 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001).
In the lobby of Building 7 of the WTC, EMS Division Chief John Peruggia is in discussion with Fire Department Captain Richard Rotanz and a representative from the Department of Buildings. As Peruggia later describes, “It was brought to my attention, it was believed that the structural damage that was suffered to the [Twin] Towers was quite significant and they were very confident that the building’s stability was compromised and they felt that the North Tower was in danger of a near imminent collapse.” Peruggia grabs EMT Richard Zarrillo and tells him to pass on the message “that the buildings have been compromised, we need to evacuate, they’re going to collapse.” Zarrillo heads out to the fire command post, situated in front of 3 World Financial, the American Express Building, where he relays this message to several senior firefighters. He says, “OEM says the buildings are going to collapse; we need to get out.” (OEM is the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, which has its headquarters in WTC 7.) Fire Chief Pete Ganci’s response is, “who the f___ told you that?” Seconds later, they hear the noise of the South Tower as it collapses. (Turi 10/23/2001; Peruggia 10/25/2001; Zarrillo 10/25/2001; Fortis 11/9/2001) Others also appear to have been aware of the imminent danger. Fire Chief Joseph Pfeifer, who is at the command post in the lobby of the North Tower, says, “Right before the South Tower collapsed, I noticed a lot of people just left the lobby, and I heard we had a crew of all different people, high-level people in government, everybody was gone, almost like they had information that we didn’t have.” He says some of them are moving to a new command post across the street. (Pfeifer 10/23/2001; Firehouse Magazine 4/2002; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 214) Mayor Giuliani also says he receives a prior warning of the first collapse, while at his temporary headquarters at 75 Barclay Street (see (Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
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