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Complete 911 Timeline

The Warning Signs

Project: Complete 911 Timeline
Open-Content project managed by matt, Paul, KJF, mtuck, paxvector

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

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

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs

The October 1983 bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.The October 1983 bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. [Source: US Marine Corps.]In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, and US Marines were sent to Lebanon as a peacekeeping force in September 1982. On April 18, 1983, the US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is bombed by a suicide truck attack, killing 63 people. On October 23, 1983, a Marine barracks in Beirut is bombed by another suicide truck attack, killing 241 Marines. In February 1984, the US military will depart Lebanon. The radical militant group Islamic Jihad will take credit for both attacks (note that this not the group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri). The group is believed to be linked to Hezbollah. Prior to this year, attacks of this type were rare. But the perceived success of these attacks in getting the US to leave Lebanon will usher in a new era of suicide attacks around the world. The next two years in particular will see a wave of such attacks in the Middle East, many of them committed by the radical militant group Hezbollah. [US Congress, 7/24/2003; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] The Beirut bombings will also inspire bin Laden to believe that the US can be defeated by suicide attacks. For instance, he will say in a 1998 interview, “We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions.” [ABC News, 5/28/1998] In 1994, bin Laden will hold a meeting with a top Hezbollah leader (see Shortly After February 1994), and arrange for some of his operatives to be trained in the truck bombing techniques that had been used in Beirut. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 48]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Islamic Jihad Organization, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Hezbollah

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Ayman Al-Zawahiri

August 11-20, 1988: Bin Laden Forms Al-Qaeda

The notes from al-Qaeda’s formation meeting. The short lines on the right side are the list of attendees.The notes from al-Qaeda’s formation meeting. The short lines on the right side are the list of attendees. [Source: CNN]Bin Laden conducts two meetings to discuss “the establishment of a new military group,” according to notes that are found later. Notes reveal the group is initially called al-Qaeda al-Askariya, which roughly translates to “the military base.” But the name soon shortens to just al-Qaeda, meaning “the base” or “the foundation.” [Associated Press, 2/19/2003; Wright, 2006, pp. 131-134] With the Soviets in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, it is proposed to create the new group to keep military jihad, or holy war, alive after the Soviets are gone. The notes don’t specify what the group will do exactly, but it concludes, “Initial estimate, within six months of al-Qaeda (founding), 314 brothers will be trained and ready.” In fact, al-Qaeda will remain smaller than that for years to come. Fifteen people attend these two initial meetings. [Wright, 2006, pp. 131-134] In addition to bin Laden, other attendees include:
bullet Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002]
bullet Mohammed Atef, a.k.a. Abu Hafs.
bullet Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a.k.a. Abu Hajer.
bullet Jamal al-Fadl.
bullet Wael Hamza Julaidan.
bullet Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a US citizen, who is notetaker for the meetings. [Wright, 2006, pp. 131-134]
Al-Fadl will reveal details about the meetings to US investigators in 1996 (see June 1996-April 1997). Notes to the meeting will be found in Bosnia in early 2002. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] It will take US intelligence years even to realize a group named al-Qaeda exists; the first known incidence of US intelligence being told the name will come in 1993 (see May 1993).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Loay Bayazid, Osama bin Laden, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Jamal al-Fadl, Mohammed Atef, Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Wael Hamza Julaidan

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Warning Signs, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden

In the controversial film The Maltese Double Cross—Lockerbie by Allan Francovich, DEA agent Steve Donahue says that in 1989 a man named Mustafa Jafar provides him with information about a possible attack on the World Trade Center. After describing information that Jafar had given him about a possible drugs shipment being carried on Pan Am 103, which was downed over Lockerbie, Donahue says: “In the course of many calls and in direct contact with the FBI and a number of other people, the State Department, and every normal channel and authority, it became quite clear that [Jafar] had significant information, and in fact had predictive information, in terms of the attacks on the World Trade Center, which was one of several attacks which he said were staged, were going to be staged, at that time. This was well in advance of those attacks.” The World Trade Center will be bombed in 1993 (see February 26, 1993). Francovich’s film about Lockerbie is controversial because it blames Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and their contacts with the US for the bombing, rather than Libya. [Allan Francovich, 1994]

Entity Tags: Allan Francovich, Steve Donahue, Mustafa Jafar

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman.Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [Source: FBI]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. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; Atlantic Monthly, 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. [Atlantic Monthly, 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.” [Atlantic Monthly, 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. [Village Voice, 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. [Atlantic Monthly, 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).

Entity Tags: National Security Agency, Osama bin Laden, Meir Kahane, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, US Department of State, Abu Bakr Mosque, Al Farouq Mosque, Al Salaam Mosque, Anwar Sadat, World Trade Center

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Warning Signs, 1993 WTC Bombing, Ali Mohamed, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Al-Kifah/MAK

Meir Kahane.Meir Kahane. [Source: Publicity photo]Egyptian-American El Sayyid Nosair assassinates controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane’s organization, the Jewish Defense League, was linked to dozens of bombings and is ranked by the FBI as the most lethal domestic militant group in the US at the time. Nosair is captured after a police shoot-out. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993] Within hours, overwhelming evidence suggests that the assassination was a wide conspiracy but the US government will immediately declare that Nosair was a lone gunman and ignore the evidence suggesting otherwise (see November 5, 1990 and After). Nosair will later be acquitted of Kahane’s murder (though he will be convicted of lesser charges) as investigators continue to ignore most of the evidence in his case which links to a wider conspiracy (see December 7, 1991). Nosair is connected to al-Qaeda through his job at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, an al-Qaeda front (see 1986-1993). A portion of Nosair’s defense fund will be paid for by bin Laden, although this will not be discovered until some time later. [ABC News, 8/16/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 34-37]

Entity Tags: Meir Kahane, Al-Qaeda, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, El Sayyid Nosair

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1993 WTC Bombing, Ali Mohamed, Al-Kifah/MAK, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks

Virginia BuckinghamVirginia Buckingham [Source: Publicity photo]Data compiled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shows that over this period Boston’s Logan Airport has one of the worst records for security among major US airports. Flight 11 and Flight 175 depart from Logan on 9/11. While it is only America’s eighteenth busiest airport, it has the fifth highest number of security violations. FAA agents testing its passenger screening are able to get 234 guns and inert hand grenades and bombs past its checkpoint guards or through its X-ray machines. Though it is possible that the high number of violations is because the FAA tests more frequently at Logan than elsewhere, an official later quoted by the Boston Globe says lax security is the only explanation, as all checkpoints at every major airport are meant to be tested monthly. In contrast, Newark Airport, from where Flight 93 departs on 9/11, has an above average security record. Washington’s Dulles Airport, from where Flight 77 takes off, is below average, though not as bad as Logan. Officials familiar with security at Logan will, after 9/11, point to various flaws. For example, the State Police office has no video surveillance of the airport’s security checkpoints, boarding gates, ramp areas, or perimeter entrances. [Boston Globe, 9/26/2001] Security cameras had been put into use at most US airports in the mid-1980s. When Virginia Buckingham takes over as executive director of Massachusetts Port Authority in 1999, she is surprised at the lack of cameras at Logan, and orders them that year. Yet by 9/11, they still will not have been installed. [Boston Herald, 9/29/2001; Boston Globe, 9/30/2001] In spite of Logan’s poor security record, after 9/11 the Boston Globe will report, “[A]viation specialists have said it is unlikely that more rigorous attention to existing rules would have thwarted the 10 hijackers who boarded two jets at Logan on Sept. 11.” [Boston Globe, 10/17/2001]

Entity Tags: Newark International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Virginia Buckingham, Federal Aviation Administration, Logan International Airport

Category Tags: Warning Signs, US Air Security

A terrorist group plans to kill some of the world’s most important leaders in Madrid, Spain, by crashing two hijacked planes into the buildings where they are meeting for a Middle East peace conference. [London Times, 9/14/2001] The Madrid Conference is hosted by the government of Spain, and is co-sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union. It opens on October 30, 1991, and lasts for three days. [Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1/28/1999] The unnamed Islamic fundamentalist group intends to hijack two aircraft outside Spain and fly them to Madrid. One aircraft is to be crashed into the Spanish Royal Palace during a reception for world leaders, including US President George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the Soviet Union. The other aircraft is to be crashed into a hotel where the Soviet delegation to the conference is staying. The plot is foiled by Arab intelligence. The plot will come to light in the days after September 11, 2001, when former Spanish Secretary of State for Security Rafael Vera reveals it, and it is compared to the 9/11 attacks. [London Times, 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: Rafael Vera, George Herbert Walker Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Zahir Shah.Zahir Shah. [Source: Associated Press]An assailant posing as a Portuguese journalist stabs Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan, in his home in exile in Rome. Shah survives. The New York Times will later report that US investigators concluded the assailant had ties to al-Qaeda. [United Press International, 11/6/1991; New York Times, 10/14/2001] The assailant, a Portuguese convert to Islam named Paulo Jose de Almeida Santos, will later claim he was one of the first members of al-Qaeda. He claims that he discusses the plan to kill Zahir Shah in detail with bin Laden, as there is civil war in Afghanistan at the time and there is a possibility that Shah could return there and lead a secular government hostile to bin Laden’s interests. But he will say he didn’t get specific permission from bin Laden for the attack. “[T]here wasn’t a well-defined hierarchy, we were rather disorganized; you could give a try to whatever entered into your head.” He also says that bin Laden “was the guy who gave money to keep the organization going… but he didn’t give many orders.” Santos is immediately caught and serves eight years in an Italian prison for the attack. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 116-119]

Entity Tags: Zahir Shah, Paulo Jose de Almeida Santos, Al-Qaeda

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks

Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later claim in a book that al-Qaeda planned to bomb a target inside the US this year. Operatives plan to get explosives in Italy and ship them to the US via Cuba. However, the operation is aborted. Further details, such as what the target is or who is involved, are unknown. Gunaratna is known to have sources inside US intelligence and will claim the information came from the CIA, but it is unclear when the CIA may have first learned about this alleged plot. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 133]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Al-Qaeda operative Khalil Deek runs military training camps in Southern California in the early 1990s. Those trained in the camps include followers of the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and some of the people involved in the 1993 “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). Deek is a member of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell based in Orange County and has reportedly been under investigation by US intelligence since the late 1980s (see Late 1980s). Rita Katz, a private counterterrorism expert who sometimes works with US officials, will learn of these camps when speaking to an FBI agent in early 2002. According to Katz, she is told that the FBI had known about the camps for “years” but had not acted because of the “wall” between criminal and intelligence investigations. The FBI agent will tell Katz that the information about the camps was “Intel information. Unusable.” [Katz, 2003, pp. 186-187] Deek also attracts attention for his suspected involvement with Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, the militant group led by Abdul-Rahman, because of the group’s plans “to bomb a Masonic temple in Los Angeles.” [LA Weekly, 9/15/2005] Katz will conclude that “the FBI had learned that Deek was running military training camps for al-Qaeda in California and was planning to blow up various American targets. And the agency let these people go about their business undisturbed.” [Katz, 2003, pp. 186-187] Around the same time, Deek also works in Bosnia for a charity suspected of funneling weapons and new recruits to the mujaheddin fighting there (see Early 1990s). In late 1999, Deek will be captured overseas for participation in a planned millennium bombing (see December 11, 1999). It will later be alleged that he was a mole for the Jordanian government (see Shortly After December 11, 1999).

Entity Tags: Rita Katz, Khalil Deek, Al-Qaeda, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Khalil Deek, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy

Bin Laden (center) being feted by Sudanese leaders.Bin Laden (center) being feted by Sudanese leaders. [Source: CBC] (click image to enlarge)With a personal fortune of around $250 million (estimates range from $50 to $800 million [Miami Herald, 9/24/2001] ), Osama bin Laden begins plotting attacks against the US from his new base in Sudan. The first attack kills two tourists in Yemen at the end of 1992. [New Yorker, 1/24/2000] The CIA learns of his involvement in that attack in 1993, and learns that same year that he is channeling money to Egyptian extremists. US intelligence also learns that by January 1994 he is financing at least three militant training camps in North Sudan. [New York Times, 8/14/1996; PBS Frontline, 2001; US Congress, 7/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Other Government-Militant Collusion

Ahmad Ajaj.Ahmad Ajaj. [Source: FBI]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. [Los Angeles Times, 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. [Los Angeles Times, 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. [New York Times, 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. [Village Voice, 8/3/1993]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Al-Qaeda, Ahmad Ajaj, Ramzi Yousef

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Other Possible Moles or Informants, Ramzi Yousef, 1993 WTC Bombing, Israel

Beginning in November 1992, Egyptian intelligence repeatedly warns US intelligence that Sheikh Abdul-Rahman’s principal mosques in the US, the Al Salaam and Al Farouq mosques in Brooklyn, are “hotbeds of terrorist activity,” and that Abdul-Rahman is plotting a new round of terrorist attacks in Egypt. The Al-Kifah Refugee Center charity front is based inside the Al Farouq mosque (see 1986-1993). One Egyptian official later says, “There were many, many contacts between Cairo and Washington.” On November 12, 1992, members of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group led by Abdul-Rahman machine-guns a bus-load of Western tourists in Egypt, injuring five Germans. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993] Between February 6 and 11, 1993, some FBI agents travel to Cairo, Egypt, to discuss Egyptian concerns with officials there. The Egyptians are said to warn about certain terrorist cells in the US connected to Abdul-Rahman but do not specifically warn about the WTC bombing. [New York Times, 4/6/1993] Perhaps as a result of these concerns, on February 13, the FBI obtains a FISA warrant and begins tapping Abdul-Rahman’s phone calls. [Lance, 2003, pp. 103] Shortly after the WTC bombing two weeks later (see February 26, 1993), Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will say that the bombing could have been prevented if Egypt’s warnings had been heeded. [New York Times, 4/6/1993]

Entity Tags: Egypt, Al Farouq Mosque, Al Salaam Mosque, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Hosni Mubarak, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1993 WTC Bombing, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Al-Kifah/MAK

The Movenpick hotel in Aden, Yemen.The Movenpick hotel in Aden, Yemen. [Source: Al Bab]Bombs explode at two hotels, the Movenpick and the Gold Mohur, in Aden, Yemen, killing a tourist and a hotel worker. US soldiers involved in an operation in Somalia are sometimes billeted nearby, but none are killed or injured in the blasts. [Bergen, 2001, pp. 176; Scheuer, 2006, pp. 147] US intelligence will conclude in April 1993 that “[Bin Laden] almost certainly played a role” in this attack. However, there is little chance of a successful prosecution due to lack of evidence. [Bergen, 2001, pp. 176; US Congress, 7/24/2003] Other operatives involved in the bombing are reputedly “point man” Tariq Nasr al-Fadhli, a leading Afghan veteran and tribal leader who later lives on a Yemeni government stipend, and Jamal al-Nahdi, who is said to have lost a hand in the blast. [New York Times, 11/26/2000] The Yemen government sends an armored brigade to arrest al-Fadhli and he eventually surrenders, but is soon set free. Author Peter Bergen will later comment: “[T]he Yemeni government seems to have developed amnesia: al-Fadhli became a member of the president’s personally selected consultative council and his sister is married to General Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, a member of President Saleh’s family; al-Nahdi is a businessman in Sana’a and a member of the permanent committee of Yemen’s ruling party.” [Bergen, 2001, pp. 176] The US announces it is withdrawing from Yemen shortly after the bombings (see Shortly After December 29, 1992).

Entity Tags: US intelligence, Tariq Nasr al-Fadhli, Jamal al-Nahdi, Osama bin Laden, Peter Bergen

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks, Yemeni Militant Collusion, 1993 Somalia Fighting

Marvin Centron.Marvin Centron. [Source: Publicity photo]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; Washington Post, 10/2/2001 pdf file] However, State Department officials edit out the planes as weapons references in the final version of the panel’s Terror 2000 Report. [United Press International, 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.” [Washington Post, 10/2/2001 pdf file] 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.” [Washington Post, 10/2/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Doug Menarchik, Marvin Cetron, World Trade Center

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Essam al Ridi.Essam al Ridi. [Source: CNN]Osama bin Laden buys a US military aircraft in Arizona, paying about $210,000 for a converted Saber-40. The transaction is arranged through Wadih El-Hage, a bin Laden employee in Sudan, and Essam al Ridi, a US-based helper for radical Islamists. Before the purchase is made, the two men discuss the transaction on the phone (see August 1992-1993) and El-Hage sends money to al Ridi, who had learned to fly in the US (see Between August 1992 and 1993). Bin Laden apparently wants to use the plane to transport stinger missiles from Pakistan to Sudan, but it is unclear whether it is ever actually used to do this. After modifying the plane, al Ridi flies it from the US to Khartoum, Sudan, where he meets El-Hage, bin Laden, al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef, and others. They have dinner, where al Ridi also sees “quite a few” AK 47s, and men in Sudanese military uniforms. Al Ridi also visits bin Laden at the offices of one of his companies, Wadi al Aqiq, and bin Laden offers him a job as a pilot, spraying crops and then shipping them to other countries. However, al Ridi, who argued with bin Laden during the Soviet-Afghan war, rejects the offer, saying bin Laden is not offering him enough money. [United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1/14/2001; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 5/19/2002] The plane will later be used to transport bin Laden operatives on a trip to Somalia before the “Black Hawk Down” incident (see Before October 1993), but al Ridi will later crash it (see (1994-1995)).

Entity Tags: Wadi al Aqiq, Wadih El-Hage, Essam al Ridi, Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atef

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Wadih El-Hage, 1993 Somalia Fighting

January 20, 1993: Bill Clinton Inaugurated


President Bill Clinton.
President Bill Clinton. [Source: Library of Congress]Bill Clinton replaces George H. W. Bush as US president. He remains president until January 2001.

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, George Herbert Walker Bush

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Warning Signs, US Dominance, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Al-Qaeda in Balkans

Mir Aimal Kasi.Mir Aimal Kasi. [Source: FBI]A Pakistani militant named Mir Aimal Kasi walks up to the main headquarters of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and opens fire with an AK-47. He shoots five CIA personnel as they sit in their cars, killing two of them. Remarkably, Kasi simply walks off and then flies back to Pakistan. A massive international manhunt ensues, and a joint FBI-CIA team will capture him in a central Pakistan town in 1997. He is then rendered to the US instead of going through the less controversial but lengthier extradition process (see June 15, 1997). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 41-42] While Kasi apparently acted alone, he will be treated as a hero and sheltered by radical Islamists in Afghanistan until his capture. Kasi will be convicted of murder later in 1997. Four US oil workers will be killed in Pakistan one day later in apparent retaliation. [Washington Post, 11/13/1997] Kasi will later say that he was upset with US policy in the Middle East and was hoping to assassinate the CIA director. He will be convicted of murder and executed in 2002. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 41-42]

Entity Tags: Mir Aimal Kasi, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Warning Signs

A 20-year-old Ethiopian man hijacks a Lufthansa Airbus bound from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa, via Cairo. Wielding a gun (which is subsequently found to be just a starter pistol), he forces the pilot to divert the plane to New York. The 11-hour ordeal ends after the plane lands at JFK International Airport and the hijacker surrenders to the FBI. [CNN, 3/14/1996; Guardian, 2/8/2000; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 457]
Fears of Plane Being Crashed - Journalist Eric Margolis, who is on the plane, will later say that he and the other passengers are “convinced the hijacker… intended to crash the plane into Manhattan.” [Eric Margolis (.com), 2/13/2000] While giving television commentary on the morning of 9/11, Larry Johnson—currently the deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism—will say it was feared when the plane was flown to New York “that it might be crashed into something.” [NBC, 9/11/2001]
Air Force Responds - In response to the hijacking, F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, from where fighters will also be launched in response to the first hijacking on 9/11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Later, F-16s are scrambled from Atlantic City, New Jersey. The fighters intercept the Lufthansa aircraft off the coast of eastern Canada, and initially trail it from a distance of about ten miles. As the plane approaches JFK Airport, the fighters move in to a distance of five miles. They do a low fly-by as the plane lands at JFK. They circle overhead for a while, until the hijacking situation is resolved, and then return to their bases. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 29]
Participants in Response Also Involved on 9/11 - This is the last hijacking to occur prior to 9/11 involving US air traffic controllers, FAA management, and military coordination. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14; Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004] At least two of the military personnel who participate in the response to it will play key roles in responding to the 9/11 attacks. Robert Marr, who on 9/11 will be the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is currently the assistant deputy commander of operations at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 3/27/2005] On this occasion, he talks with his counterpart at the FAA and explains that the FAA needs to start a request up its chain of command, so the military can respond quickly if the hijacking—which takes place in Europe—comes to the United States. He then informs his own chain of command to be prepared for a request for military assistance from the FAA. Several hours later, Marr is notified that military assistance has been authorized, and the fighter jets are scrambled from Otis and Atlantic City. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 26-27] Timothy Duffy, who will be one of the F-15 pilots that launches from Otis Air Base in response to the first hijacking on 9/11, is also involved. His role on this occasion is unreported, though presumably he pilots one of the jets scrambled from Otis after the Lufthansa plane. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 29]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Aviation Administration, Larry C. Johnson, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr, Otis Air National Guard Base, Timothy Duffy

Category Tags: Warning Signs, US Air Security

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

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

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1993 WTC Bombing, Ali Mohamed, Ramzi Yousef, Other Possible Moles or Informants

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

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

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1993 WTC Bombing

Fred McBee.Fred McBee. [Source: History Channel]Fred McBee, a friend of a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, determines, using a flight simulator on his computer, that it would be possible for terrorists to crash a jumbo jet into the Twin Towers. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005] Rick Rescorla is the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter and his office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. In response to the recent bombing at the WTC (see February 26, 1993), he is conducting an analysis of the security measures there. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; New Yorker, 2/11/2002] Rescorla thinks that terrorists might try attacking the WTC again by crashing a plane into the towers. He therefore phones McBee, who is in Oklahoma, and asks him to examine the possibility of an air attack. McBee has the Microsoft Flight Simulator program on his computer. He has been experimenting on the program with a small Cessna plane, but, while he is on the phone with Rescorla, he changes this to a Boeing 737. He then pulls up the image of Lower Manhattan and is able to simulate a crash into the WTC. “It was a piece of cake,” McBee will later comment. “There’s nothing to stop you… once you’re in the air.” He tries to simulate crashing into the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, and is again successful. But when he tries the same experiment with Washington, DC, as the location, he finds that the White House and the Capitol building are blacked out. McBee concludes that a terrorist attack involving crashing a plane into a building “looks very viable.” Presumably taking McBee’s findings into account, Rescorla co-writes a report in which he states that the WTC is likely to remain a target for terrorists, and suggests that the next attack could involve terrorists crashing a cargo plane into the Twin Towers (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Rick Rescorla, Fred McBee

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1993 WTC Bombing

Brian Michael Jenkins.Brian Michael Jenkins. [Source: Rand Corporation]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; New Yorker, 10/19/2009 pdf file]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Brian Michael Jenkins, Kroll Associates, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1993 WTC Bombing

Siddig Siddig Ali.Siddig Siddig Ali. [Source: Chester Higgins / New York Times]In March 1995, Emad Salem, an FBI informant and an ex-Egyptian army officer, publicly testifies in a 1995 trial of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plotters. He mentions a plot taking place at this time by Islamic radicals tied to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990). A Sudanese Air Force pilot would hijack an airplane, attack Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, then crash the plane into the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Siddig Siddig Ali, who will be one of the defendants in the trial, asks Salem for help to find “gaps in the air defense in Egypt” so the pilot could “bomb the presidential house and then turn around, crash the plane into the American embassy after he ejects himself out of the plane.” Abdul-Rahman gives his approval to the plot, but apparently it never goes beyond the discussion stage. Although details of this plot are in public records of the World Trade Center bombing trial, both the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry and 9/11 Commission fail to mention it. [Lance, 2004, pp. 196; Intelwire, 4/8/2004] Abdul-Rahman is closely tied to bin Laden and in fact in 1998 there will be an al-Qaeda hijacking plot designed to free him from prison (see 1998). Individuals connected to Abdul-Rahman and al-Qaeda will also plot to crash an airplane into the White House in 1996 (see January 1996).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, World Trade Center, 9/11 Commission, Emad Salem, Siddig Siddig Ali, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Other Possible Moles or Informants

Roy Goodman.Roy Goodman. [Source: Frances Roberts / New York Times]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.” [Newsday, 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.” [Albany Times Union, 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)). [Newsday, 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. [Newsday, 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.” [Albany Times Union, 10/2/2001; Newsday, 11/12/2001; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 88]

Entity Tags: Guy Tozzoli, Peter Caram, James M. Fox, Roy M. Goodman, Raymond Kelly, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, 1993 WTC Bombing

Guy Tozzoli.Guy Tozzoli. [Source: Business Wire]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. [Newsday, 11/12/2001; Globe and Mail, 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. [Newsday, 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. [Newsday, 11/12/2001; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 58-59]

Entity Tags: Alan Reiss, Guy Tozzoli, Charles Jennings, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, 1993 WTC Bombing

Yossef Bodansky, the director of the Republican Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the US Congress, writes that Iran is training terrorists in aviation hijacking at a secret facility in Wakilabad, near the city of Mashad. The training includes suicide missions. “According to a former trainee in Wakilabad, one of the exercises included having an Islamic jihad detachment seize (or hijack) a transport aircraft. Then, trained air crews from among the terrorists would crash the airliner into a selected objective.” [Bodansky, 1993, pp. 15] After the 9/11 attacks, Bodansky will suspect Iranian culpability. He will say: “We’ve known since the mid-eighties, for example, that Iran was training people to fly as kamikazes on commercial planes, as bombs, into civilian targets.… The bottom line is that the attack in New York and Washington was carefully prepared and studied. The people who flew into the World Trade Center were highly trained professionals with experience in flying large commercial jets. Flying large aircraft at low altitudes in an urban sky is not a simple thing.” [New Yorker, 9/24/2001] Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), the chair of a Congressional task force on terrorism and unconventional warfare, will make the same charge. [Associated Press, 9/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Yossef Bodansky, Iran

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Informant Emad Salem, pictured bent over in a green shirt, enables the FBI to take surveillance footage like this of the plotters making a bomb.Informant Emad Salem, pictured bent over in a green shirt, enables the FBI to take surveillance footage like this of the plotters making a bomb. [Source: National Geographic]Eight people are arrested, foiling a plot to bomb several New York City landmarks. The targets were the United Nations building, 26 Federal Plaza, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. This is known as the “Landmarks” or “Day of Terror” plot. The plotters are connected to Ramzi Yousef and the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. If the bombing, planned for later in the year, had been successful, thousands would have died. An FBI informant named Emad Salem had infiltrated the group, gathering information that leads to arrests of the plotters (see April 23, 1993). [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Abdul-Rahman will eventually be sentenced to life in prison for a role in the plot. Nine others will be given long prison terms, including Ibrahim El-Gabrowny and Clement Rodney Hampton-El. [New York Times, 1/18/1996] Siddig Siddig Ali, who was possibly the main force behind the plot (see April 23, 1993), will eventually be sentenced to only 11 years in prison because he agreed to provide evidence on the other suspects [New York Times, 10/16/1999]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Siddig Siddig Ali, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, Emad Salem, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Ali Mohamed, Ramzi Yousef, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman

A National Security Agency (NSA) linguist runs afoul of his superiors after he and other linguists submit a report concluding that Islamist terrorists are planning attacks on America. The analyst, who insists on remaining anonymous and is nicknamed “J” by press reports, is fluent in an unusual number of languages. His and his colleagues’ study of Arabic language messages, and the flow of money to terrorist organizations from Saudi Arabia, lead them to believe that Saudi extremists are plotting an attack. J will recall in January 2006: “You could see, this was the pure rhetoric of Osama bin Laden and his group, the exact same group, and we had an early indication.… All of us in the group had this view of a burgeoning threat, and suddenly we were all trotted off to the office of security. Then came the call to report for a battery of psychological tests.” J will issue further warnings of potential terrorist strikes, this time involving hijackers, passenger planes, and US buildings, in May 2001 (see May 2001). In 2006, other current and former NSA officials will claim that the NSA routinely uses unfavorable psychological evaluations to retaliate against whistleblowers and those employees who come into conflict with superiors (see January 25-26, 2006). [Cybercast News Service, 1/25/2006]

Entity Tags: “J”, National Security Agency

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Remote Surveillance, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism Financing

A UN vehicle burning in Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 3, 1993.A UN vehicle burning in Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 3, 1993. [Source: CNN]Eighteen US soldiers are killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, in a spontaneous gun battle following an attempt by US Army Rangers and Delta Force to snatch two assistants of a local warlord; the event later becomes the subject of the movie Black Hawk Down. A 1998 US indictment will charge Osama bin Laden and his followers with training the attackers. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002]
Rocket Propelled Grenades - While rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) are not usually effective against helicopters, the fuses on the RPGs fired by the Somalis against US helicopters are modified so that they explode in midair. During the Soviet-Afghan War, bin Laden associates had learned from the US and British that, although it is hard to score a direct hit on a helicopter’s weak point—its tail rotor—a grenade on an adjusted fuse exploding in midair can spray a tail rotor with shrapnel, causing a helicopter to crash. [Los Angeles Times, 2/25/2002]
Possibly Trained by Al-Qaeda - For months, many al-Qaeda operatives had been traveling to Somalia and training militants in an effort to oppose the presence of US soldiers there. Even high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders like Mohammed Atef were directly involved (see Late 1992-October 1993).
Comment by Bin Laden - In a March 1997 interview, bin Laden will say of the Somalia attack, “With Allah’s grace, Muslims over there cooperated with some Arab mujaheddin who were in Afghanistan… against the American occupation troops and killed large numbers of them.” [CNN, 4/20/2001]
Some Al-Qaeda Operatives Leave Somalia after Battle - Al-Qaeda operative L’Houssaine Kherchtou, who supports the organization’s operations in Somalia, will later say that he was told this event also led at least some al-Qaeda members to flee Somalia. “They told me that they were in a house in Mogadishu and one of the nights one of the helicopters were shot, they heard some shooting in the next house where they were living, and they were scared, and the next day they left because they were afraid that they will be caught by the Americans.” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 141]

Entity Tags: L’Houssaine Kherchtou, Mohammed Atef, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Ali Mohamed, Osama Bin Laden, 1993 Somalia Fighting, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks

Mohammed Loay Bayazid.Mohammed Loay Bayazid. [Source: Intelwire.com]According to reliable al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl (see June 1996-April 1997), in late 1993 he meets with a former high-ranking Sudanese government official to discuss buying enriched uranium. Is taken to an anonymous address in Khartoum, Sudan, and shown a two- to three-foot long metal cylinder with South African markings. Intermediaries demand $1.5 million to buy the cylinder which is supposed to contain uranium. Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a founding member of al-Qaeda and also president of the US-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) at the time, is brought in to examine the deal. Al-Fadl is then instructed to write a document for al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim detailing the offer. Salim reviews the document and approves the purchase. Al-Fadl never sees the purchase go through, but he is given $10,000 for his role and is told the uranium will be shipped to Cyprus to be tested. He later learns from second-hand sources that the deal went through and the uranium was good. If so, there has been no sign of al-Qaeda attempting to use the uranium ever since. US intelligence does not know about the deal at the time, but learns of it when al-Fadl defects in 1996 (see June 1996-April 1997). The incident will be referred to in an indictment against Salim in 1998. [Boston Globe, 9/16/2001; New York Daily News, 10/1/2001; Lance, 2006, pp. 262-263]

Entity Tags: Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Al-Qaeda, Jamal al-Fadl, Mohammed Loay Bayazid

Category Tags: Warning Signs, BIF

By 1990, Arizona became one of the main centers in the US for radical Muslims, and it remains so through 9/11. A number of future al-Qaeda leaders live in Tucson, Arizona, in the early 1990s (see 1986). Around 1991, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour moved to Arizona for the first time (see October 3, 1991-February 1992) and he will spend much of the rest of the decade in the state. The FBI apparently remains largely oblivious of Hanjour, though one FBI informant claims that by 1998 they “knew everything about the guy.” [New York Times, 6/19/2002; Washington Post, 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 521] In 1994, the Phoenix FBI office uncovers startling evidence connecting Arizona to radical Muslim militants. According to FBI agent James Hauswirth, they are told that a group of “heavy duty associates” of al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman have arrived in the area, fleeing New York in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. They are in the area to train a recruit as a suicide bomber. The recruit apparently is an FBI informant. FBI agent Ken Williams, who will later author the July 2001 “Phoenix memo,” orders surveilance of the training. The informant is driven to a remote stretch of desert and instructed in how to use explosives. A device is thrown at a car, but it fails to explode. The FBI secretly videotapes the entire incident. One of the two men is later positively linked to Abdul-Rahman. But apparently the investigation into the people involved fails to make progress. Hauswirth later blames this on a lack of support from higher-ups in the Phoenix office, recalling, “The drug war was the big thing back then, and terrorism was way on the back burner.” Additionally, also in 1994, a key FBI informant will begin monitoring local radical militants (see October 1996). However, terrorism will remain a low priority for the Phoenix, Arizona, FBI office (see April 2000-June 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 5/26/2002; New York Times, 6/19/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 209-210]

Entity Tags: James Hauswirth, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Hani Hanjour, Ken Williams

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Wadih El-Hage, Phoenix Memo

A flight engineer at Federal Express who is facing a potentially career-ending disciplinary hearing boards a DC-10 as a passenger, storms the cockpit with a hammer, and hits each of the three members of the cockpit crew in the head. He severely injures all of them, but they nonetheless are able to wrestled him down and regain control of the plane. Company employees claim he was trying to hit a company building in Memphis, Tennessee. [New York Times, 10/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Express

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Peter Probst.Peter Probst. [Source: Publicity photo]The Pentagon privately publishes a report called Terror 2000. It is designed to help US intelligence prepare for new terrorism threats. Peter Probst in the Pentagon’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict supervises the report. The panel consults with 40 experts, including a top Russian intelligence official and a senior Israeli intelligence official. The report concludes that the world is witnessing the dawn of a new age of “superterrorism.” It predicts chemical and biological attacks and says that terrorists will soon try to conduct simultaneous bombings and attacks. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 259-260] Also, in contrast to the state-sponsored terrorism familiar to most Americans at the time, the report says tomorrow’s “most dangerous” terrorists would be “motivated not by political ideology but by fierce ethnic and religious hatreds.… Their goal will not be political control but utter destruction of their chosen enemies.” [Washington Post, 10/2/2001 pdf file] The report further states: “We appear to be entering an era in which few, if any, restraints will remain.… Unlike politically motivated terrorists, [religiously motivated terrorists] do not shrink from mass murder.… Mass casualties are not to be shunned… but sought because they demonstrate to unbelievers the cataclysmic nature of divine retribution.” [United Press International, 5/17/2002] It also postulates the use of planes as weapons, but this is not put in the report, partly for fear of giving potential terrorists ideas (see 1993-1994). The study is presented to officials in Congress, FEMA, the CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, Justice Department, State Department, and senior executives from the telecommunications, banking and computer industries. State Department officials consider publicly releasing the report but ultimately decide not to. “That was a mistake,” Probst will later say. [Washington Post, 10/2/2001 pdf file; United Press International, 5/17/2002] Marvin Cetron, an expert who wrote the report, will later say, “Some of the people thought it was right on—but most of them thought it was too far out.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 259-260]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Peter Probst, Marvin Cetron

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy.Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy. [Source: HarperCollins]A novel by the military thriller writer Tom Clancy, one of America’s top-selling authors, includes a plotline of a suicide pilot deliberately crashing a commercial jet plane into the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. The story of Debt of Honor is based around a crisis between Japan and the United States. A short, armed conflict between the two nations arises and is won by the US. The book ends with a Japanese commercial airline pilot deliberately crashing a Boeing 747 into the US Capitol building during a joint session of Congress. The president is killed, along with most of the Senate, House, Supreme Court, and others. [New York Times, 10/2/1994; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/13/1996; Inter Press Service, 9/15/2001; Newsday, 5/20/2002] Clancy later describes to the BBC how he’d gone about writing this book: “I didn’t write Debt of Honor without first discussing it with an Air Force officer. And so I ran this idea past him and all of a sudden this guy’s eyeballing me rather closely and I said come on general, I know you must have looked at this before, you’ve got to have a plan for it. And the guy goes, ‘Mr. Clancy, to the best of my knowledge, if we had a plan to deal with this, it would be secret, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you about it, but to the best of my knowledge we’ve never looked at this possibility before.’” [BBC, 3/24/2002] Debt of Honor makes number one on the New York Times bestseller list. [Washington Post, 10/6/1994] Following the 9/11 attacks, there will be considerable interest in it, particularly because the Capitol building is considered to have been a likely intended target of Flight 93. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/17/2001; Book Magazine, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14]

Entity Tags: Tom Clancy

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Frank Corder piloted this Cessna, which crashed into the White House lawn and skidded up to the side of the building.Frank Corder piloted this Cessna, which crashed into the White House lawn and skidded up to the side of the building. [Source: Getty Images]A suicidal and apparently apolitical pilot named Frank Corder steals a single-engine plane from an airport north of Baltimore, Maryland, and attempts to crash it into the White House. He crashes into a wall two stories below the presidential bedroom (President Clinton is not there at the time). Corder is killed on impact. [Time, 9/26/1994; New York Times, 10/3/2001] A Time magazine story shortly after the incident notes, “The unlikely incident confirmed all too publicly what security officials have long feared in private: the White House is vulnerable to sneak attack from the air. ‘For years I have thought a terrorist suicide pilot could readily divert his flight from an approach to Washington to blow up the White House,’ said Richard Helms, CIA director from 1966 to 1972.” The article further notes that an attack of this type had been a concern since 1974, when a disgruntled US Army private staged an unauthorized helicopter landing on the South Lawn. Special communications lines were established between the Secret Service and Washington’s National Airport control tower to the Secret Service operations center, but the line is ineffective in this case because no flight controller pays attention to the flight in time. [Time, 9/26/1994]

Entity Tags: Richard Helms, Frank Corder, US Secret Service, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Category Tags: Warning Signs, US Air Security

Damage inside the Philippine Airlines flight.Damage inside the Philippine Airlines flight. [Source: CNN]Ramzi Yousef attempts a trial run of Operation Bojinka, planting a small bomb on a Philippine Airlines flight to Tokyo and disembarking on a stopover before the bomb is detonated. The bomb explodes, killing one man and injuring several others. It would have successfully caused the plane to crash if not for the heroic efforts of the pilot. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; US Congress, 9/18/2002] A man telephones the Associated Press and claims the attack was the work of the Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine militant group. One Bojinka plotter will later confess that the caller was Yousef. Yousef makes the call as part of a long term cooperation arrangement with the Abu Sayyaf. [Los Angeles Times, 5/28/1995] Yousef has been working with the Abu Sayyaf for several years and members of the group are deeply involved in the Bojinka plot (see December 1991-May 1992 and Late 1994-January 1995).

Entity Tags: Operation Bojinka, Ramzi Yousef, Abu Sayyaf

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Ramzi Yousef, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks, Philippine Militant Collusion

When bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohamed Jamal Khalifa is arrested in San Francisco, his phonebook and electronic organizer are found. They contain phone numbers to Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah, associates of Bojinka plotter Ramzi Yousef, and Osama bin Laden’s phone number. When the Manila apartment used by these two plotters is raided, Yousef’s computer contains Khalifa’s phone number. Shah is arrested several days later, and his phone book and phone bills contain five phone numbers for Khalifa, plus Khalifa’s business card. Phone bills also show frequent telephone traffic between Khalifa and Shah’s apartment in Manila in November 1994. When Yousef is arrested in February 1995 (see February 7, 1995), he has Khalifa’s phone number and address, and more information on him in an encrypted computer file. Not surprisingly given all these links, Yousef is questioned about his ties to Khalifa within hours of being taken into US custody. He admits that he knew the name bin Laden, and knew him to be a relative of Khalifa’s. [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/1995; Associated Press, 4/26/1995; US Congress, 4/29/2002] Khalifa has already been tied to two others convicted of the 1993 WTC bombing. Yet despite these ties to Islamic militancy, and others, he will be deported from the US (see December 16, 1994-May 1995).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, Wali Khan Amin Shah

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden Family, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Ramzi Yousef

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa.Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. [Source: CBS News]Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to bin Laden, is arrested in the US. He is held for visa fraud, but he is believed to be a major terrorist. His arrest takes place at a Holiday Inn in Morgan Hill, California. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] That is only about 20 miles from Santa Clara, where double agent Ali Mohamed is running an al-Qaeda cell (see 1987-1998). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later say of Khalifa and Mohamed, “It seems to me that they were probably in contact. I’m basing that only intuitively on the fact that they were in the same area, they were close to bin Laden, and they would’ve had an incentive to stay together.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 167] According to one account, Khalifa is arrested on behalf of the government of Jordan, because he is on trial there. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] Another account claims that Philippine authorities “tipped off Federal authorities on Khalifa’s movements.” [Filipino Reporter, 4/27/1995] He is traveling on a Saudi passport. He’d flown into the US from London on December 1 and has papers indicating he would be heading back to the Philippines. [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159] It has been claimed that the CIA helped him get his US visa (see December 1, 1994). There are many reasons for US authorities to suspect Khalifa is a major terrorist figure:
bullet He is arrested with Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the dozen or so original members of al-Qaeda. Bayazid had attempted to purchase nuclear material for bin Laden the year before (see December 16, 1994).
bullet Philippine investigators had recently completed a secret report on terrorist funding. The report focuses on Khalifa, and says his activities in the Philippines strongly link with Muslim extremist movements in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Russia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Albania, the Netherlands, and Morocco. It calls a charity which Khalifa runs a “pipeline through which funding for the local extremists is being coursed.” Perhaps not coincidentally, the report was released just one day before Khalifa’s arrest in the US (see December 15, 1994).
bullet His possessions, which are quickly examined and translated, include a handwritten manual in Arabic detailing how to set up a terrorist curriculum at a school in the Philippines, giving lessons in bomb-making and assassination. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001]
bullet Khalifa’s business card was discovered in a search of the New York City residence of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in 1993 (see August 1993).
bullet He is an unindicted coconspirator in the “Landmarks” bombings plot, which would have killed thousands in New York City. The trial is getting underway at this time. Abdul-Rahman will be convicted and sentenced to over 300 years in prison (see June 24, 1993).
bullet A State Department cable from days after his arrest states Khalifa is a “known financier of terrorist operations and an officer of an Islamic NGO in the Philippines that is a known Hamas front.”
bullet An alias is found in his personal organizer that was also used in a bomb-making manual brought into the US by Ahmad Ajaj, Ramzi Yousef’s travel partner, when the two of them came to the US to implement the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see September 1, 1992).
bullet Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah’s phone number is found in Khalifa’s possessions. The Bojinka plot, if successful, also would have killed thousands (see January 6, 1995). [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
bullet A number in Pakistan that Ramzi Yousef had used to call the Philippines is found as well. Author Peter Lance will later note that such numbers “should have led the FBI directly to Ramzi Yousef, the world’s most wanted man” at the time. [Lance, 2006, pp. 160]
However, despite this wealth of highly incriminating material, within weeks of his arrest the US will decide to deport him to Jordan (see January 5, 1995). Over the next four months, even more of his links to terrorist activity will be discovered (see Late December 1994-April 1995). But Khalifa will be deported anyway (see April 26-May 3, 1995), and then soon freed in Jordan (see July 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Steven Emerson, US Department of State, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Philippines, Ahmad Ajaj, Peter Lance, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, Ali Mohamed, Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Jordan, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Ramzi Yousef, Philippine Militant Collusion, Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden Family, Key Captures and Deaths, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia

French special forces storming the hijacked Air France plane.French special forces storming the hijacked Air France plane. [Source: French channel 3]An Air France Airbus A300 carrying 227 passengers and crew is hijacked in Algiers, Algeria by four Algerians wearing security guard uniforms. They are members of a militant group linked to al-Qaeda. They land in Marseille, France, and demand a very large amount of jet fuel. During a prolonged standoff, the hijackers kill two passengers and release 63 others. They are heavily armed with 20 sticks of dynamite, assault rifles, hand grenades, and pistols. French authorities later determine their aim is to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but French Special Forces storm the plane before it can depart from Marseille. [Time, 1/2/1995; New York Times, 10/3/2001] Time magazine details the Eiffel Tower suicide plan in a cover story. A week later, Philippine investigators breaking up the Bojinka plot in Manila find a copy of the Time story in bomber Ramzi Yousef’s possessions. Author Peter Lance notes that Yousef had close ties to Algerian Islamic militants and may have been connected to or inspired by the plot. [Time, 1/2/1995; Lance, 2003, pp. 258] Even though this is the third attempt in 1994 to crash an airplane into a building, the New York Times will note after 9/11 that “aviation security officials never extrapolated any sort of pattern from those incidents.” [New York Times, 10/3/2001] Some doubts about who was ultimately behind the hijacking will surface later when allegations emerge that the GIA is infiltrated by Algerian intelligence. There is even evidence the top leader of the GIA at this time is a government mole (see October 27, 1994-July 16, 1996). As journalist Jonathan Randal later relates, the aircraft was originally held at the Algiers airport “in security circumstances so suspect the French government criticized what it felt was the Algerian authorities’ ambiguous behavior. Only stern French insistence finally extracted [Algerian government] authorization to let the aircraft take off.” [Randal, 2005, pp. 171]

Entity Tags: Eiffel Tower, Al-Qaeda, Ramzi Yousef

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs, Ramzi Yousef, Algerian Militant Collusion, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks, Other Possible Moles or Informants

One of Ramzi Yousef’s timers seized by Philippines police in January 1995.One of Ramzi Yousef’s timers seized by Philippines police in January 1995. [Source: Peter Lance]Responding to an apartment fire, Philippine investigators uncover an al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Pope that is scheduled to take place when he visits the Philippines one week later. While investigating that scheme, they also uncover Operation Bojinka, planned by the same people: 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). [Independent, 6/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Many initial reports after 9/11 will claim the fire was accidental and the police discovery of it was a lucky break, but in 2002 the Los Angeles Times will report that the police started the fire on purpose as an excuse to look around the apartment. In the course of investigating the fire, one of the main plotters, Abdul Hakim Murad, is arrested. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] The plot has two main components. On January 12, Pope John Paul II is scheduled to visit Manila and stay for five days. A series of bombs along his parade route would be detonated by remote control, killing thousands, including the Pope. Yousef’s apartment is only 500 feet from the residence where the Pope will be staying. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 78; Lance, 2006, pp. 138] Then, starting January 21, a series of bombs would be placed on airplanes. [Insight, 5/27/2002] Five men, Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Abdul Hakim Murad, Abd al-Karim Yousef (a.k.a., Adel Anon, Yousef’s twin brother), and Khalid Al-Shaikh (thought to be an alias for KSM) would depart to different Asian cities and place a timed bomb on board during the first leg of passenger planes traveling to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York. They would then transfer to another flight and place a second bomb on board that flight. In all, 11 to 12 planes would blow up in a two day period over the Pacific. If successful, some 4,000 people would have been killed. [Agence France-Presse, 12/8/2001; Insight, 5/27/2002; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] According to another account, some of the bombs would be timed to go off weeks or even months later. Presumably worldwide air travel could be interrupted for months. [Lance, 2003, pp. 260-61] A second wave of attacks involving crashing airplanes into buildings in the US would go forward later, once the pilots are trained for it (see February-Early May 1995).

Entity Tags: Abd al-Karim Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Operation Bojinka, Al-Qaeda, Abdul Hakim Murad

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef, Philippine Militant Collusion, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks, Key Captures and Deaths, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia

As the Bojinka plot is foiled (see January 6, 1995), a document found on Ramzi Yousef’s computer spells out the Bojinka plotters’ broad objectives. “All people who support the US government are our targets in our future plans and that is because all those people are responsible for their government’s actions and they support the US foreign policy and are satisfied with it.… We will hit all US nuclear targets. If the US government keeps supporting Israel, then we will continue to carry out operations inside and outside the United States to include…” At this point, the document comes to a halt in mid-sentence. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, much more than Ramzi Yousef, is the mastermind of the Bojinka plot. He will continue to work on the plot until it eventually morphs into the 9/11 attack. [Associated Press, 6/25/2002] Philippine Gen. Renado De Villa will later state, “They didn’t give up the objective.” Captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad “clearly indicated it was a large-scale operation. They were targeting the US. And they had a worldwide network. It was very clear they continued to work on that plan until someone gave the signal to go.” [Washington Post, 9/23/2001]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Renado De Villa

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef


Abdul Hakim Murad.
Abdul Hakim Murad. [Source: Justice Department]Philippine and US investigators learn that Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and their fellow plotters were actually planning three different attacks when they were foiled in early January. In addition to the planned assassination of the Pope, and the first phase of Operation Bojinka previously discovered, they also planned to crash about a dozen passenger planes into prominent US buildings. It is often mistakenly believed that there is one Bojinka plan to blow up some planes and crash others into buildings, but in fact these different forms of attack are to take place in two separate phases. [Lance, 2003, pp. 259] Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza learns about this second phase through the examination of recently captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad. On January 20, Mendoza writes a memo about Murad’s latest confession, saying, “With regards to their plan to dive-crash a commercial aircraft at the CIA headquarters, subject alleged that the idea of doing same came out during his casual conversation with [Yousef ] and there is no specific plan yet for its execution. What the subject [has] in his mind is that he will board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger. Then he will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit, and dive it at the CIA headquarters. He will use no bomb or explosives. It is simply a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute.” [Insight, 5/27/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 277-78]

Entity Tags: Abdul Hakim Murad, Operation Bojinka, Rodolfo Mendoza, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef

Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza.Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza. [Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation]As Colonel Mendoza, the Philippines investigator, continues to interrogate Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad, details of a post-Bojinka “second wave” emerge. Author Peter Lance calls this phase “a virtual blueprint of the 9/11 attacks.” Murad reveals a plan to hijack commercial airliners at some point after the effect of Bojinka dies down. Murad himself had been training in the US for this plot. He names the ten or so buildings that would be targeted for attack:
bullet CIA headquarters.
bullet The Pentagon.
bullet An unidentified nuclear power plant.
bullet The Transamerica Tower in San Francisco.
bullet The Sears Tower in Chicago.
bullet The World Trade Center.
bullet John Hancock Tower in Boston.
bullet US Congress.
bullet The White House. [Washington Post, 12/30/2001; Lance, 2003, pp. 278-280; Playboy, 6/1/2005]
Murad continues to reveal more information about this plot until he is handed over to the FBI in April (see April-May 1995). He also mentions that ten suicide pilots have already been chosen and are training in the US (see February 1995-1996). Mendoza uses what he learns from Murad and other sources to make a flow chart connecting many key al-Qaeda figures together (see Spring 1995). Philippine authorities later claim that they provide all of this information to US authorities, but the US fails to follow up on any of it. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4] Sam Karmilowicz, a security official at the US embassy in Manila, Philippines during this time period, will later claim that just before Murad was deported to the US in early May, he picked up an envelope containing all that the Philippine government had learned from Murad. He then sent the envelope to a US Justice Department office in New York City. He believes Mike Garcia and Dietrich Snell, assistant US attorneys who will later prosecute Murad, almost certainly had access to this evidence (see Early 1998). [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Ramzi Yousef, Rodolfo Mendoza, Hambali, Peter Lance, Dietrich Snell, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Mike Garcia, Abdul Hakim Murad

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Key Warnings

While Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad is being interrogated by Philippine Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza (see February-Early May 1995), he mentions that he had pilot training in the US and ten other operatives are being trained to fly in the US. The second wave of the Bojinka plot required many suicide pilots. Mendoza will later recall that Murad said, “There is really formal training [going on] of suicide bombers. He said that there were other Middle Eastern pilots training and he discussed with me the names and flight training schools they went to.” Murad also mentioned some of their targets had already been picked and included CIA headquarters, the Pentagon, and an unidentified nuclear facility. [Lance, 2003, pp. 279] The ten other men who met him at US flight schools or were getting similar training came from Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. The names of these men have never been publicly released, but apparently none of them match the names of any of the 9/11 hijackers. The Associated Press will later report, “The FBI interviewed people at the flight schools highlighted by Filipino police but did not develop evidence that any of the other Middle Easterners other than Murad were directly plotting terrorism. With no other evidence of a threat, they took no further action…” [Associated Press, 3/5/2002] Murad also revealed that between November 1991 and July 1992, he had trained at four different flight schools in the US. His friend Nasir Ali Mubarak and another man named Abdullah Nasser Yousef were roommates with Murad as they trained at the same schools at the same time. Mubarak appears to be one of Murad’s ten pilots, because he had served in the United Arab Emirates air force and the Associated Press mentioned one of the ten was “a former soldier in the United Arab Emirates.” [Associated Press, 3/5/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/16/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 1/12/2003] Richard Kaylor, the manager of Richmor Aviation in Albany, New York, later says that FBI agents interviewed him in 1996 about the three men who studied at his school. He says he was told that the FBI was first alerted to his flight school after a Richmor business card was found in the Philippines apartment where Murad, Ramzi Yousef, and KSM had lived. But that is the only time the FBI interviewed him on these matters before 9/11. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] An assistant manager at Richmor will later say of Murad and his roommates, “Supposedly they didn’t know each other before, they just happened to show up here at the same time. But they all obviously knew each other.” [Associated Press, 3/5/2002] The FBI investigates Mubarak in 1995 and does not find that he has any ties to terrorism. Mubarak will continue to openly live and work in the US, marrying an American woman. He will claim the FBI never interviewed him until hours after the 9/11 attacks, so apparently the ten named by Murad may not have been interviewed in 1995 after all. He will be deported in 2002, apparently solely because of his association with Murad ten years earlier. Nothing more is publicly known about Abdullah Nasser Yousef. [San Francisco Chronicle, 1/12/2003] Murad will also mention to the FBI a few months later that future 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had a valid US visa and has been thinking about learning to fly in the US. Murad says he had recommended Richmor Aviation to KSM (see April-May 1995). There appears to have been little knowledge of Murad’s ten pilot claim inside US intelligence before 9/11; for instance FBI agent Ken Williams will not mention it in his July 2001 memo about suspected militants training in US flight schools (see July 10, 2001).

Entity Tags: Abdullah Nasser Yousef, Richmor Aviation, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Rodolfo Mendoza, Abdul Hakim Murad, Nasir Ali Mubarak

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Phoenix Memo, Key Warnings

Ramzi Yousef apprehended.Ramzi Yousef apprehended. [Source: Public domain]Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan, in a safe house owned by Osama bin Laden (see February 1992-February 7, 1995). At the time, Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is staying in the same building and brazenly gives an interview to Time magazine as “Khalid Sheikh,” describing Yousef’s capture. [Lance, 2003, pp. 328] Yousef had recruited Istaique Parker to implement a limited version of Operation Bojinka, but Parker got cold feet and instead turned in Yousef (see February 3-7, 1995). [Lance, 2003, pp. 284-85] Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will later report that at this time the CIA “fought with the FBI over arresting Yousef in Pakistan—the CIA reportedly wanted to continue tracking him—and President Clinton was forced to intervene.” [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995] Yousef is rendered to the US the next day and makes a partial confession while flying there (see February 8, 1995).

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Operation Bojinka, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Istaique Parker, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Ramzi Yousef, 1993 WTC Bombing, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Key Captures and Deaths

Rafael Garcia.Rafael Garcia. [Source: Newsbreak Weekly]Rafael Garcia, Chairman and CEO of the Mega Group of Computer Companies in the Philippines, often works with the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to decode computer files. He is assigned the task of decoding encrypted files on Ramzi Yousef’s computer. Garcia will later comment to a popular Philippine newsweekly, “This was how we found out about the various plots being hatched by the cell of Ramzi Yousef. First, there was the plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II. Then, we discovered a second, even more sinister plot: Project Bojinka… This was a plot to blow up 11 airlines over the Pacific Ocean, all in a 48-hour period… Then we found another document that discussed a second alternative to crash the 11 planes into selected targets in the United States instead of just blowing them up in the air. These included the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia; the World Trade Center in New York; the Sears Tower in Chicago; the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco; and the White House in Washington, DC… I submitted my findings to NBI officials, who most certainly turned over the report (and the computer) either to then Senior Superintendent Avelino Razon of the [Philippine National Police] or to Bob Heafner of the FBI… I have since had meetings with certain US authorities and they have confirmed to me that indeed, many things were done in response to my report.” [Newsbreak Weekly, 11/15/2001] Around the same time, Philippine interrogators were learning the same information from captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see February-Early May 1995). There has been some question whether Murad’s complete description of Bojinka’s second wave plot reached US authorities (see May 11, 1995), but if it did not, the US appears to have learned the information from Garcia’s report. In fact, after 9/11, Garcia will claim to have spoken to a retired FBI agent who will recall being aware of the Bojinka second wave plot, and says of it, “This was ignored in the preparation of evidence for the trial [of the Bojinka plotters] because there was no actual attempt to crash any plane into a US target.… So there was no crime to complain about.” [Village Voice, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abdul Hakim Murad, Rafael Garcia, National Bureau of Investigation, Ramzi Yousef

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Ramzi Yousef, Key Warnings

One of the Bojinka documents found. This Word document apparently lists flight times.One of the Bojinka documents found. This Word document apparently lists flight times. [Source: CBC]In the wake of uncovering the Operation Bojinka plot, Philippine authorities find a letter on a computer disc written by the plotters of the failed 1993 WTC bombing. This letter apparently was never sent, but its contents will be revealed in 1998 congressional testimony. [US Congress, 2/24/1998] The Manila police chief also reports discovering a statement from bin Laden around this time that, although they failed to blow up the WTC in 1993, “on the second attempt they would be successful.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Operation Bojinka

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, 1993 WTC Bombing

The flow chart made by Colonel Mendoza.The flow chart made by Colonel Mendoza. [Source: Peter Lance] (click image to enlarge)Philippines investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza makes a remarkably accurate flow chart connecting many key operators in the Bojinka plot, and sends it to US investigators. The chart is based on what he is learning from interrogating Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see February-Early May 1995), while also drawing on a terrorism report he recently finished (see December 15, 1994) and debriefings of a key undercover operative (see Early February 1995). The chart identifies the following key organizations as being involved in the plot:
bullet Al-Harakat al-Islamiya. Meaning “Islamic Movement,” this is an apparently meaningless group name used by Ramzi Yousef and others to disguise their connections to al-Qaeda. Yousef also sometimes uses the equally meaningless name “The Liberation Army.”
bullet The Abu Sayyaf. This Philippine Muslim militant group is believed to help with the Bojinka plot that is also penetrated by Philippine intelligence (see Late 1994-January 1995). The chart mentions 20 Abu Sayyaf operatives trained by Yousef in 1992 (see December 1991-May 1992). [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
bullet IRIC (International Research and Information Center). Most of the money for Bojinka is believed to flow through this charity front. The chart names the only three employees: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (bin Laden’s brother-in-law), Abu Omar (whose real name is Ahmad al-Hamwi (see 1995 and After), and Dr. Zubair. Mendoza’s 1994 report names Abdul Salam Zubair as an Iraqi working as Khalifa’s assistant in running a number of charity fronts. [Japan Economic Newswire, 4/24/1995; Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
bullet Konsonjaya. Money for the Bojinka plot also flows through this Malaysian business front (see June 1994). Amien Mohammed (real name: Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari) is named and is one of the company directors. There is a link to Wali Khan Amin Shah, another company director. Hambali, a major al-Qaeda figure, is also a company director but is not included in the chart.
The chart also mentions many other key figures in the plot:
bullet Osama bin Laden, who is connected to the IRIC and Yousef’s group.
bullet “Usama Asmorai / Wali K” is Wali Khan Amin Shah.
bullet “Yousef / Adam Ali / A Basit” is Ramzi Yousef.
bullet “Salem Ali / Mohmad” is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM).
bullet Abdul Hakin Murad. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
bullet “Ibrahim Muneer / Munir.” Ibrahim Munir, a rich Saudi Arabian businessman, has close ties to bin Laden. He came to the Philippines in November and witnesses say he was Yousef’s constant companion. In 2003, it will be reported he is still wanted by authorities. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 139; Ressa, 2003, pp. 20]
bullet The names in hexagonal boxes are the girlfriends of the plotters. Some Bojinka money is transferred in their names.
However, despite the accurate information in this chart, only Shah, Yousef, and Murad will be caught before 9/11. Khalifa is actually in US custody at the time the US is given this chart (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), but he is allowed to be deported a short time later (see April 26-May 3, 1995). The US also learns about a connection between Konsonjaya and bin Laden by searching Yousef’s apartment. But the other Konsonjaya directors, including Hambali, will not be apprehended, and the IRIC will be allowed to continue functioning with the same staff after being taken over by another charity front connected to Khalifa (see 1995 and After). [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]

Entity Tags: Rodolfo Mendoza, Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ahmad al-Hamwi, Abu Sayyaf, Abdul Salam Zubair, Konsonjaya, Hambali, Abdul Hakim Murad, International Relations and Information Center, Ibrahim Munir

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Hambali, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Philippine Militant Collusion, Ramzi Yousef, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia

Richmor Aviation logo.Richmor Aviation logo. [Source: Richmor Aviation]The FBI interrogates Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad and learns that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has been in the US and is planning to return for flight training. Murad had already been interrogated in the Philippines by Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza (see February-Early May 1995). The Associated Press will say that KSM “had traveled to Israel and the United States, according to [Mendoza’s] report.” Further, Murad met KSM several times in Pakistan in 1993, and “their conversations focused mainly on aircraft because of Mohammed’s intense interest in pilot training, Mendoza quoted Murad as saying.” [Associated Press, 6/25/2002] After Murad is handed over to the FBI around April, along with Mendoza’s report on him, he repeats much the same information to the FBI and adds more details about a man he calls Abdul Majid (which Mendoza had already learned was one of KSM’s many aliases). [Associated Press, 6/25/2002; Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002] An FBI account of his April 1995 interrogation dated May 11, 1995, states, “Murad also advised that Majid had a United States visa and was planning to travel to the US sometime in the near future. Murad stated that he thought that Majid might go to the Richmor Flying School in Albany, New York, because Majid seemed interested in obtaining his pilots license and Murad suggested the Richmor Flying School.” [Associated Press, 6/25/2002; Lance, 2006, pp. 501-502] Despite this warning, apparently KSM will still be able to travel to the US, because in the summer of 2001 an al-Qaeda operative will reveal that KSM visited the US at least through the summer of 1998 (see Summer 1998).

Entity Tags: Rodolfo Mendoza, Richmor Aviation, Abdul Hakim Murad, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Key Warnings

Senator Sam Nunn.Senator Sam Nunn. [Source: Carnegie Corporation of New York]Time magazine’s cover story reports on the potential for anti-American militants to kill thousands in highly destructive acts. It mentions that, three weeks earlier, Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) had outlined a scenario in which terrorists attack the US Capitol building on the night of a State of the Union address, by crashing a radio-controlled airplane into it, “engulfing it with chemical weapons and causing tremendous death and destruction.” The scenario is “not far-fetched,” and the required technology is readily available, Nunn said. [Time, 4/3/1995] An almost identical scenario was included in the storyline of the Tom Clancy bestseller Debt of Honor, released the previous year, but this involved a plane guided by a suicide pilot, rather than radio control (see August 17, 1994). High-ranking al-Qaeda leaders will claim later that Flight 93’s target was the Capitol Building. [Guardian, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Sam Nunn, Time magazine

Category Tags: Warning Signs

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?” [Washington Post, 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. [Australian, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Abdul Hakim Murad, Operation Bojinka, World Trade Center, Ramzi Yousef, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Ramzi Yousef

A 1998 CNN map of likely flights to be hijacked in one version of Operation Bojinka.A 1998 CNN map of likely flights to be hijacked in one version of Operation Bojinka. [Source: CNN]The first media mention of the Bojinka plot to crash an airplane into CIA headquarters occurs on this day, according to a search of the Lexis-Nexus database. An article in The Advertiser, an Australian newspaper, mentions the Bojinka plots to assassinate the Pope and then blow up about a dozen airplanes over the Pacific. The article adds, “Then the ultimate assault on the so-called ‘infidels’: a plane flown by a suicide bomber was to nose-dive and crash into the American headquarters of the CIA, creating carnage.” [Advertiser, 6/3/1995] While this first mention may be obscure from a United States point of view, the Bojinka planes-as-weapons plot will be mentioned in other media outlets in the years to come. In fact, in 2002 CNN correspondent David Ensor will comment about CNN coverage: “[E]veryone, all your viewers who wanted to, could have known that at one point Ramzi Yousef and some others were allegedly plotting to fly an airliner into the CIA headquarters in the United States, that, in fact, the idea of using an airliner as a weapon, that idea at least, had already been aired.… We talked about it. We’ve done stories about it for years, frankly.” [CNN, 6/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Operation Bojinka, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot

The US intelligence community releases a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) entitled “The Foreign Terrorist Threat in the United States.” Partly prompted by the World Trade Center bombing two years earlier (see February 26, 1993), it warns that radical Islamists have an enhanced ability “to operate in the United States” and that the danger of them attacking in the US will only increase over time. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 104; Shenon, 2008, pp. 314] It concludes that the most likely terrorist threat will come from emerging “transient” terrorist groupings that are more fluid and multinational than older organizations and state-sponsored surrogates. This “new terrorist phenomenon” is made up of loose affiliations of Islamist extremists violently angry at the US. Lacking strong organization, they get weapons, money, and support from an assortment of governments, factions, and individual benefactors. [9/11 Commission, 4/14/2004] The estimate warns that terrorists are intent on striking specific targets inside the US, especially landmark buildings in Washington and New York such as the White House, the Capitol, Wall Street, and the WTC. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 314] It says: “Should terrorists launch new attacks, we believe their preferred targets will be US government facilities and national symbols, financial and transportation infrastructure nodes, or public gathering places. Civil aviation remains a particularly attractive target in light of the fear and publicity that the downing of an airline would evoke and the revelations last summer of the US air transport sector’s vulnerabilities.” Osama bin Laden is not mentioned by name, but he will be in the next NIE, released in 1997 (see 1997; see also October 1989). [Associated Press, 4/16/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 54 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US intelligence

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Israel’s right-wing Likud party, publishes a short book calling on Western nations to unite against terrorism, called Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists. [New York Times, 11/5/1995; New York Times, 11/22/1995; Netanyahu, 2001] In the book, Netanyahu describes his long personal involvement in counterterrorism. He served in Israel’s elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, and participated in freeing airline hostages in 1972. [New York Times, 4/20/1999] His brother Jonathan was also a member of Sayaret Maktal and was killed during the rescue of hostages at Entebbe in 1976. [BBC News, 7/3/2006] Netanyahu created an institute devoted to counterterrorism research and named it after his brother. The Jonathan Institute organized a major international conference in 1979 attended by, among others, Senator Henry Jackson (D-WA) and George H. W. Bush. [Netanyahu, 2001, pp. 63-65] The new terrorist network, warns Netanyahu, was born at the end of the Afghan War among Arab Mujahedeen veterans. “The Soviet Union completed its withdrawal from Kabul in 1989,” he writes, “and the Islamic resistance forces have since dispersed.… [T]he Islamic resistance won, offering proof of the innate faithful supremacy of Islam over the infidel powers. In many cases these providential warriors have since been in search of the next step on the road to the triumph of Islam. Often they have had to move from country to country, having been denied the right to return to their home countries for fear that their excessive zeal would find an outlet there. Since the end of the war in Afghanistan, an international Sunni terrorist network has thus sprung into being, composed in the main of Islamic veterans and their religious leaders.… It is this group which is associated with bombers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.” [Netanyahu, 2001, pp. 80-81] Netanyahu also warns of the spread of Jihadist groups among Muslim communities in Western countries. For example, El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian immigrant who murdered an Israeli rabbi in New York in 1990 (see November 5, 1990), was a follower of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, who immigrated to the United States in the early 1990s. The bombers involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack were also followers of Abdul-Rahman. After the attack, investigators re-examined files found at Nosair’s home. One document said, “We have to thoroughly demoralize the enemies of God… by means of destroying and blowing up the towers that constitute the pillars of their civilization, such as the tourist attractions and the high buildings of which they are so proud.” [Netanyahu, 2001, pp. 94]

Entity Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Jonathan Institute, El Sayyid Nosair, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Destruction at the Saudi National Guard training center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.Destruction at the Saudi National Guard training center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [Source: CNN]Two truck bombs kill five Americans and two Indians in the US-operated Saudi National Guard training center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda is blamed for the attacks. [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] The attack changes US investigators’ views of the role of bin Laden, from al-Qaeda financier to its leader. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 150] The Vinnell Corporation, thought by some experts to be a CIA front, owns the facility that has been attacked. [London Times, 5/14/2003]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Vinnell Corporation

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Saudi Arabia

Movladi Udugov.Movladi Udugov. [Source: Public domain]According to Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russian intelligence, “In 1996, one of the ideologists of Wahhabism, Movladi Udugov stated that an air attack on the Kremlin was possible and even then we treated that statement seriously.” Udugov is considered the chief public spokesperson for the Chechen rebels. He threatens that the rebels would hijack a civilian airplane and then have a suicide pilot fly it into the Kremlin to protest Russian actions in Chechnya. Fighting between Russia and the rebels is particularly intense in 1996, which is the end of the first Chechen war from 1994 to 1996 (see December 11, 1994 and August 1996). [United Press International, 9/15/2001] The Chechen rebels and al-Qaeda are loosely linked at the time, especially through Chechen leader Ibn Khattab (see 1986-March 19, 2002).

Entity Tags: Nikolai Patrushev, Movladi Udugov

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Islamist Militancy in Chechnya

Finding a business card for a US flight school in the possession of Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad, the FBI investigates the US flight schools Murad attended. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] He had trained at about six flight schools off and on, starting in 1990. Apparently, the FBI closes the investigation when they fail to find any other potential suspects. [Insight, 5/27/2002] However, Murad had already confessed to Philippine authorities the names of about ten other associates learning to fly in the US, and the Philippine authorities had asserted that they provided this information to the US. Murad detailed how he and a Pakistani friend crisscrossed the US, attending flight schools in New York, Texas, California and North Carolina. The Associated Press reports, “He also identified to Filipino police approximately 10 other Middle Eastern men who met him at the flight schools or were getting similar training. One was a Middle Eastern flight instructor who came to the United States for more training; another a former soldier in the United Arab Emirates. Others came from Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. None of the pilots match the names of the 19 hijackers from Sept. 11.” An assistant manager at a Schenectady, New York, flight school where Murad trained later recalls, “There were several [Middle Eastern pilot students] here. At one point three or four were here. Supposedly they didn’t know each other before, they just happened to show up here at the same time. But they all obviously knew each other.” However, US investigators somehow fail to detect any of these suspects before 9/11, despite being given their names. [Associated Press, 3/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Abdul Hakim Murad, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot

Early 1996: KSM Said to be Building a Bomb

In early 1996, while US officials are waiting from approval from officials in Qatar so they can arrest Khalid Shaikh Mohammmed (KSM) there, the Qatari government tells the US that it fears KSM is constructing an explosive device. They also say that he possesses more than 20 different passports. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002] By this time, the US is aware of KSM’s involvement in the 1995 Bojinka plot involving explosives (see January 6, 1995) and his role in the 1993 WTC bombing (see March 20, 1993).

Entity Tags: Qatar, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

US intelligence obtains information concerning a suicide attack on the White House planned by individuals connected with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and a key al-Qaeda operative. The plan is to fly from Afghanistan to the US and crash into the White House. [US Congress, 9/18/2002]

Entity Tags: US intelligence, Al-Qaeda

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman

Gregory Scarpa Jr.Gregory Scarpa Jr. [Source: Publicity photo (mafiason.com]Ramzi Yousef, mastermind along with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Operation Bojinka plots, is in a maximum-security prison, sentenced to hundreds of years of prison time for his plots. However, he can communicate with Gregory Scarpa Jr., a mob figure in the cell next to him. The FBI sets up a sting operation with Scarpa’s cooperation to learn more of what and whom Yousef knows. Scarpa is given a telephone, and he allows Yousef to use it. However, Yousef uses the sting operation for his own ends, communicating with operatives on the outside in code language without giving away their identities. He attempts to find passports to get co-conspirators into the US, and there is some discussion about imminent attacks on US passenger jets. Realizing the scheme has backfired, the FBI terminates the telephone sting in late 1996, but Yousef manages to keep communicating with the outside world for several more months. [New York Daily News, 9/24/2000; New York Daily News, 1/21/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 280-82; Harmon, 2009, pp. 187-188,199-201]

Entity Tags: Gregory Scarpa Jr., Ramzi Yousef, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Ramzi Yousef, 1995 Bojinka Plot

Jamal al-Fadl testifying in a courtroom. Because his identity has been kept secret, his face has been blocked out.Jamal al-Fadl testifying in a courtroom. Because his identity has been kept secret, his face has been blocked out. [Source: CNN]Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda operative from al-Qaeda’s first meeting in the late 1980s until 1995, tells the US everything he knows about al-Qaeda. Before al-Fadl’s debriefings, US intelligence had amassed thick files on bin Laden and his associates and contacts. However, they had had no idea how the many pieces fit together. But an official says. “After al-Fadl, everything fell into place.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 154-65] The New Yorker will later call al-Fadl “arguably the United States’ most valuable informant on al-Qaeda.” FBI agent Dan Coleman will later say on al-Fadl, “He’s been very, very important to us. When it comes to understanding al-Qaeda, he’s the Rosetta Stone.” FBI agent Mike Anticev will similarly say, “He spoke to us in great detail, and everything that he told us panned out.” CIA officials debrief al-Fadl for a month and a half. Then the CIA hands him, and transcripts of all their interviews with him, over to the FBI. [New Yorker, 9/11/2006] Coleman and US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald interrogate al-Fadl at a US military base in Germany for months. [Lance, 2006, pp. 261] Roughly between November 1996 and April 1997, al-Fadl tells the FBI about:
bullet The historical background of al-Qaeda. Al-Fadl was one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see August 11-20, 1988).
bullet The structure of al-Qaeda and its leadership composition.
bullet Al-Qaeda’s objectives and direction.
bullet Its financial infrastructure and networks. Al-Fadl has extensive knowledge of this because he worked as an al-Qaeda financial officer (see December 1996-January 1997).
bullet Its connections and collaboration with other terrorist groups and supporters.
bullet Its activities against US soldiers in Somalia (see October 3-4, 1993).
bullet Its activities in Bosnia. Al-Fadl was sent there on several missions (see Autumn 1992 and Autumn 1992).
bullet The Al-Kifah Refugee Center, al-Qaeda’s most important charity front in the US. Al-Fadl worked there in the 1980s (see 1986-1993).
bullet Bin Laden’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Al-Fadl was personally involved in an effort to buy uranium for al-Qaeda (see Late 1993). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 479]
bullet Bin Laden’s plans to attack either inside the US or US embassies (see Late 1996).
Al-Fadl continues to help US intelligence until current day. For instance, in 2000, he will help US officials capture his brother-in-law, Mohammed Suliman al-Nalfi, who is said to be close to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Nalfi will eventually be sentenced to ten years in prison in the US. Al-Fadl will have no knowledge of the 9/11 plot, but he will continue to identify captured al-Qaeda operatives after 9/11. [New Yorker, 9/11/2006] Interestingly, al-Fadl, a Sudanese citizen, will later claim that he worked with the Sudanese intelligence agency with the direct approval of bin Laden. [Day 2. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., 2/6/2001]

Entity Tags: Jamal al-Fadl, Mike Anticev, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Dan Coleman, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, 1998 US Embassy Bombings, Terrorism Financing, Key Captures and Deaths, Other Possible Moles or Informants

Destruction at the Khobar Towers, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.Destruction at the Khobar Towers, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. [Source: US Air Force]Explosions destroy the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers and wounding 500. [CNN, 6/26/1996] Saudi officials later interrogate the suspects, declare them guilty, and execute them—without letting the FBI talk to them. [PBS Frontline, 2001; Irish Times, 11/19/2001] Saudis blame Hezbollah, the Iranian-influenced group, but US investigators still believe bin Laden was involved. [Seattle Times, 10/29/2001] US intelligence listens when al-Qaeda’s number two leader Ayman al-Zawahiri calls bin Laden two days after the bombing to congratulate him on the operation (see June 27, 1996). The New York Times will later report that Mamoun Darkazanli, a suspected al-Qaeda financier with extensive ties to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, is involved in the attack. [New York Times, 9/25/2001; New York Times, 9/29/2001] Bin Laden will admit to instigating the attacks in a 1998 interview. [Miami Herald, 9/24/2001] Ironically, the bin Laden family’s construction company will be awarded the contract to rebuild the installation. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001] In 1997, Canada will catch one of the Khobar Tower attackers and extradite him to the US. However, in 1999, he will be shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he can reveal what he knows about al-Qaeda and the Saudis. One anonymous insider will call it “President Clinton’s parting kiss to the Saudis.” [Palast, 2002, pp. 102] In June 2001, a US grand jury will indict 13 Saudis for the bombing. According to the indictment, Iran and Hezbollah were also involved in the attack. [US Congress, 7/24/2003]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Al-Qaeda, Mamoun Darkazanli, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Hezbollah, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Mamoun Darkazanli, Saudi Arabia, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks

US officials identify crop dusters and suicide flights as potential weapons that could threaten the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. They take steps to prevent any air attacks. They ban planes from getting too close to Olympic events. During the games, they deploy Black Hawk helicopters and US Customs Service jets to intercept suspicious aircraft over the Olympic venues. Agents monitor crop-duster flights within hundreds of miles of downtown Atlanta. They place armed fighter jets on standby at local air bases. Flights to Atlanta get special passenger screening. Law enforcement agents also fan out to regional airports throughout northern Georgia “to make sure nobody hijacked a small aircraft and tried to attack one of the venues,” says Woody Johnson, the FBI agent in charge. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will use this same security blanket approach to other major events, referring to the approach as “Atlanta Rules.”(see January 20, 1997) [Chicago Tribune, 11/18/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 108-09; Wall Street Journal, 4/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Woody Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Richard A. Clarke

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, US Air Security

TWA Flight 800 crashes off the coast of Long Island, New York, killing the 230 people on board. The cause of the crash is debated for a long time afterward, and terrorism is considered a possibility. With this accident in mind, President Clinton requests, and Congress approves, over $1 billion in counterterrorism-related funding in September 1996. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 130]

Entity Tags: US Congress, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Bin Laden issuing his 1996 fatwa.Bin Laden issuing his 1996 fatwa. [Source: PBS]Secure in his new base in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden issues a public fatwa, or religious decree, authorizing attacks on Western military targets in the Arabian Peninsula. This eliminates any doubts that bin Laden is merely a financier of attacks, rather than an active militant. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] He made a similar call to attack US troops in Saudi Arabia in an open letter to the Saudi king the year before (see August 1995), which was followed by an actual attack (see November 13, 1995). The fatwa is published by Khalid al-Fawwaz, who runs bin Laden’s European headquarters in London. However, British authorities do not appear concerned. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 111] He will issue a new fatwa in 1998 authorizing attacks against the US and its allies all over the world (see February 22, 1998).

Entity Tags: Khalid al-Fawwaz, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Osama Bin Laden, Saudi Arabia, Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

The State Department issues a fact sheet on bin Laden, calling him “one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today.” The text ties bin Laden to funding specific attacks, such as the attempt to kill dozens of US soldiers in Yemen in 1992 (see December 29, 1992). The fact sheet is also mentions the term “al-Qaeda,” leading to the first media reports using that term the next day (see August 14, 1996). The fact sheet also contains details about bin Laden’s finances, such as the allegation that he co-founded the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank in Sudan in 1990 with a group of wealthy Sudanese and capitalized it with $50 million of his fortune. [US Department of State, 8/14/1996; New York Times, 8/14/1996] Much of this information appears to come from al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl. The CIA had just finished debriefing him weeks before (see June 1996-April 1997).

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Al-Shamal Islamic Bank, Osama bin Laden, Jamal al-Fadl

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Hunt for Bin Laden

Ramzi Yousef and two other defendants, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, are convicted of crimes relating to Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995). [CNN, 9/5/1996] In the nearly 6,000-page transcript of the three-month Bojinka trial, there is not a single mention of the “second wave” of Bojinka that closely paralleled the 9/11 plot. Interrogations by Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza had exposed the details of this plot quite clearly (see January 20, 1995 and February-Early May 1995). However, not only does the FBI not call Mendoza to testify, but his name is not even mentioned in the trial, not even by his assistant, who does testify. “The FBI seemed to be going out of its way to avoid even a hint of the plot that was ultimately carried out on 9/11,” author Peter Lance will later note. [Lance, 2003, pp. 350-51] Murad was extensively tortured during his imprisonment in the Philippines (see After January 6, 1995), and some observers such as law professor Alan Dershowitz will assert that Murad’s case proves the reliability of torture, claiming that Murad’s torture prevented a major disaster. However, others disagree. Law professor Stephanie Athey, in her examination of the case, will write in 2007 that Murad’s torture actually produced little useful information. A computer found in Murad’s apartment held key details of the plot (see January 7-11, 1995 and Spring 1995). CIA agent Michael Scheuer will later say that the information collected from Murad’s apartment, not the information gleaned from Murad’s torture, provided actual useful intelligence. [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008]

Entity Tags: Rodolfo Mendoza, Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, Alan M. Dershowitz, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Michael Scheuer, Operation Bojinka, Stephanie Athey, Wali Khan Amin Shah

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Ramzi Yousef, 1995 Bojinka Plot

US intelligence learns of an Iranian plot to hijack a Japanese plane over Israel and crash it into Tel Aviv. While the plot was never carried out, it is one more example of intelligence agencies being aware that planes could be used as suicide weapons. [US Congress, 9/18/2002]

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Harry Ellen.Harry Ellen. [Source: Associated Press]Harry Ellen, a businessman who converted to Islam, has high credibility with Muslims in Arizona because of his work on behalf of the Palestinian cause. He has had important meetings with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In 1994, he began working as an FBI informant. Ken Williams, the Phoenix FBI agent who will later write the July 2001 “Phoenix memo”(see July 10, 2001), is his handler. In October 1996, Ellen tells Williams that he has suspicions about an Algerian pilot who is training other Middle Eastern men to fly. He later recalls, “My comment to Williams was that it would be pitiful if the bad guys were able to gain this kind of access to airplanes, flight training and crop dusters. I said, ‘You really ought to look at this, it’s an interesting mix of people.’” Ellen had previously begun spying on a man known as Abu Sief, which apparently is his alias. Sief had come to Arizona from New Jersey in 1993, and bragged about having close ties with al-Qaeda figures Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and Ramzi Yousef (when Yousef’s computer is seized in the Philippines in 1995, there is a mention of a contact in Tucson, Arizona, but it is unknown if this is a reference to Sief or someone else (see January 7-11, 1995)). Sief attended a New Jersey mosque that many of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers also attended. Ellen soon sees the unnamed Algerian pilot meeting with Abu Sief. He tells this to Williams and later will claim, “I told him to be very concerned about air schools.” However, Ellen will claim that Williams responds by telling him to “leave it alone.” So he does. Ellen later believes that Williams should have sent the gist of his Phoenix memo at this time, instead of four and a half years later. Hani Hanjour is living in Phoenix by this time and taking flight training nearby (see October 1996-Late April 1999). Ellen later will say he did not know Hanjour directly, but he knew some of his friends and relatives. Ellen and Williams will have a falling out in late 1998 on an unrelated manner, and Ellen’s flow of information will stop. [Washington Post, 5/24/2002; New York Times, 5/24/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 211, 352-355, inset 21]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Harry Ellen, Ken Williams, Abu Sief, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Phoenix Memo, Ramzi Yousef

A hijacked airliner crashes into the shallow waters off the coast of a resort in the Comoros Islands.A hijacked airliner crashes into the shallow waters off the coast of a resort in the Comoros Islands. [Source: SIPA] (click image to enlarge)Several Ethiopians take over a passenger airliner and let it run out of fuel. Hijackers fight with the pilot as they try to steer the plane into a resort on a Comoros Islands beach in the Indian Ocean, but seconds before reaching the resort the pilot is able to crash the plane into shallow waters instead, 500 yards short of the resort. One hundred and twenty-three of the 175 passengers and crew die. [New York Times, 11/25/1996; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/26/1996; Houston Chronicle, 11/26/1996]

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Key Warnings

According to the New Yorker, “Two years before the embassy bombings in East Africa, [Al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl] warned US officials that bin Laden’s followers might try to attack US embassies abroad or targets inside America.” [New Yorker, 9/11/2006] He also reveals that al-Qaeda maintains an important cell in Nairobi, Kenya. He gives the names of many operatives, including Wadih El-Hage, the head of the Nairobi cell. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 200] Al-Fadl defected to the US in mid-1996 and became a high-trusted informant (see June 1996-April 1997). In an early 2001 trial, he will roughly repeat the warning he gave, saying, “maybe [al-Qaeda] try to do something inside United States and they try to fight the United States Army outside, and also they try make bomb against some embassy outside.” Two US embassies will be bombed in Africa in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [CNN, 2/7/2001]

Entity Tags: Jamal al-Fadl, Wadih El-Hage

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Other Possible Moles or Informants, 1998 US Embassy Bombings

Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, writes a report based on information from al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl saying that al-Qaeda intends to get nuclear weapons (see Late 1993). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 190] Alec Station chief Michael Scheuer will write in 2004 that, by this time, his unit has “acquired detailed information about the careful, professional manner in which al-Qaeda [is] seeking to acquire nuclear weapons… there could be no doubt after this date that al-Qaeda [is] in deadly earnest in seeking nuclear weapons.” [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004] Scheuer will add that due to al-Qaeda’s “extraordinarily sophisticated and professional effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction… by the end of 1996, it [is] clear that this [is] an organization unlike any other one we had ever seen.” [CBS News, 11/14/2004] The 50-paragraph report, which describes in detail how Osama bin Laden sought the scientists and engineers he needed to acquire enriched uranium and then weaponize it, is sent to CIA headquarters. However, Scheuer’s superiors refuse to distribute the report, saying it is alarmist. Instead, only two of the paragraphs are circulated, buried in a larger memo. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 190] However, according to Scheuer: “Three officers of the [CIA]‘s bin Laden cadre [protest] this decision in writing, and [force] an internal review. It [is] only after this review that this report [is] provided in full to [US intelligence] leaders, analysts, and policymakers.” [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004] The memo’s final distribution will come about a year after it is written. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 190]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Scheuer, Al-Qaeda, Alec Station

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

FBI and CIA are concerned that an unnamed militant group, which has apparently purchased an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), will use it for attacks against US interests. At the time, the agencies believed that the only reason to use this UAV would be for either reconnaissance or attack. The primary concern is that it will be used to attack outside the United States, for example, by flying a UAV into a US Embassy or a visiting US delegation. [US Congress, 9/18/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Warning Signs

The US intelligence community releases another National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) dealing with terrorism. It mentions Osama bin Laden on the first page as an emerging threat and points out he might be interested in attacks inside the US. However, the section mentioning bin Laden is only two sentences long and lacks any strategic analysis on how to address the threat. A previous NIE dealing with terrorism was released in 1995 and did not mention bin Laden (see July 1995). [Associated Press, 4/16/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 54 pdf file] The NIE also notes, “Civilian aviation remains a particularly attractive target for terrorist attacks.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 104] There will be no more NIEs on terrorism before 9/11 despite the bombing of US embassies in Africa in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998) and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 (see October 12, 2000). However, there will be some more analytical papers about bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The 9/11 Commission, in particular executive director Philip Zelikow and staffer Doug MacEachin, will be shocked that this is the final NIE on terrorism before the attacks and that, in the words of author Philip Shenon, “no one at the senior levels of the CIA had attempted—for years—to catalog and give context to what was known about al-Qaeda.” MacEachin thinks it is “unforgivable” there is no NIE for four years and that, according to Shenon, “if policy makers had understood that the embassy bombings and the attack on the Cole were simply the latest in a long series of attacks by the same enemy, they would have felt compelled to do much more in response.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 314]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, US intelligence, Doug MacEachin

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

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]

Entity Tags: Lou Anemone, World Trade Center, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Bill Clinton is re-inaugurated as president. An extensive set of security measures to prevent airplanes as weapons crashing into the inauguration is used. These measures, first used at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and thus referred to as the “Atlanta Rules,” include the closing of nearby airspace, the use of intercept helicopters, the basing of armed fighters nearby, and more. This plan will later be used for the 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 50th anniversary celebration in Washington, the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, the 2000 Democratic convention in New York, and the George W. Bush inauguration in 2001. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 110-11; Wall Street Journal, 4/1/2004]
Plans for Permanent Air Defense Unit Rejected - At some point near the end of the Clinton administration, the Secret Service and Customs Service will agree to create a permanent air defense unit to protect Washington. However, these agencies are part of the Treasury Department, and the leadership there will refuse to fund the idea. White House counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later recount: “Treasury nixed the air defense unit, and my attempts within the White House to overrule them came to naught. The idea of aircraft attacking in Washington seemed remote to many people and the risks of shooting down aircraft in a city were thought to be far too high.” The permanent unit will not be created until after 9/11. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 131; Wall Street Journal, 4/1/2004]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, US Secret Service, George W. Bush, Clinton administration, Richard A. Clarke

Category Tags: Warning Signs

The White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, led by Vice President Al Gore, issues its final report, which highlights the risk of terrorist attacks in the US. The report references Operation Bojinka, the failed plot to bomb twelve American airliners out of the sky over the Pacific Ocean, and calls for increased aviation security. The commission reports that [it] “believes that terrorist attacks on civil aviation are directed at the United States, and that there should be an ongoing federal commitment to reducing the threats that they pose.” [Gore Commission, 2/12/1997] However, the report has little practical effect: “Federal bureaucracy and airline lobbying [slow] and [weaken] a set of safety improvements recommended by a presidential commission—including one that a top airline industry official now says might have prevented the September 11 terror attacks.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/6/2001]

Entity Tags: Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Operation Bojinka

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Tayyib al-Madani (a.k.a. Abu Fadel) turns himself in to the Saudi government. He handled the distribution of al-Qaeda’s finances and ran some of Osama bin Laden’s businesses in Sudan. It is said that he had to approve every al-Qaeda expenditure of more than $1,000. [Risen, 2006, pp. 181] Tayyib is close to bin Laden and is married to bin Laden’s niece. FBI agent Ali Soufan will later say that Tayyib had lost a leg many years earlier, fighting in Afghanistan against the Soviets. In constant pain since his amputation, he went to London to seek treatment. Eventually, he turns himself in to the Saudis in London in the hope that they can help with his medical problems. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 45-46] The Saudi government gives the US some limited information it learns from questioning Tayyib. The US presses the Saudi government for direct access to him to learn more, but the Saudis will not allow it (see September-November 1998). In August 1997, the Daily Telegraph will publicly reveal that Tayyib has turned himself in. The article suggests that he may have been working as a Saudi double agent for some time before defecting. US sources will say that Saudis have shared information that some money has been sent from bin Laden bank accounts in Pakistan and Afghanistan to individuals in London, Detroit, Brooklyn, and Jersey City in New Jersey. The article will note that Tayyib’s “information is thought to have been the reason a federal grand jury has been secretly convened in New York to examine the financing of terrorism in America.” It is unclear what becomes of the individuals being sent the money, but the article will suggest that the recent arrest of two Palestinians planning an attack in New York City is connected to Tayyib’s revelations (see July 31, 1997). [Daily Telegraph, 8/2/1997]

Entity Tags: Saudi Arabia, Ali Soufan, Tayyib al-Madani

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism Financing

The Associated Press reports that senior FBI officials have determined that militant Islamic groups are operating in the US. FBI agent John O’Neill is quoted as saying, “Almost every one of these groups has a presence in the United States today. A lot of these groups now have the capacity and the support infrastructure in the United States to attack us here if they choose to.” [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002]

Entity Tags: John O’Neill, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Warning Signs

A Department of Energy study group chaired by former CIA Director James Woolsey and Harvard professor Joseph Nye warns that the United States is unprepared for the rising threat of a nuclear, biological, or chemical terrorist attack on the homeland. [Science & Technology Review, 1/1998] Despite the urgency of the threat, Woolsey and Nye say they doubt that the US can really mobilize in time. In an essay published in the Los Angeles Times, they write: “The very nature of US society makes it difficult to prepare for this security problem. Within recent memory, we have not had to battle a foreign invading force on US soil. Because of our ‘Pearl Harbor’ mind-set, we are unlikely to mount an adequate defense until we suffer an attack. Because the threat of terrorism with weapons of mass destruction is amorphous (rogue states, transnational groups, ad hoc groups or individuals) and constantly changing, it is difficult to make predictions and preparations. However, given the current geopolitical state of the world, there is every indication that terrorism will be the most likely physical threat to the US homeland for at least the next decade. Only if we go beyond business as usual and respond in a broader and more systematic manner do we stand a chance of dealing with this problem before the horror of another Pearl Harbor.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/1/1997; Washington Diplomat, 12/2001]

Entity Tags: James Woolsey, Joseph Nye

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer.Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer. [Source: Associated Press]Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, and Lafi Khalil, two Palestinian men who had recently immigrated from the West Bank to the US, are arrested in New York City. They are found with a number of hand made bombs, and officials claim they were mere hours away from using them on a busy Atlantic Avenue subway station and on a commuter bus. Police were tipped off to them by a roommate. [New York Times, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] In the days immediately after the arrests, numerous media reports claim that the FBI has tied the two men to Hamas. For instance, the Associated Press reports, “The FBI has linked two suspects in a Brooklyn suicide-bombing plot to the militant Mideast group Hamas… One man was linked to Hamas by intelligence sources, the other through an immigration document he had filled out in which he said he had been accused in Israel of having been in a terrorist organization. The organization, the source said, was Hamas.” Reports say both suspects “are working for Mousa Abu Marzouk, the Hamas political leader who lived in Virginia for 15 years before being arrested in 1995, imprisoned as a terrorism suspect, and then deported earlier [in 1997].”(see July 5, 1995-May 1997) [Associated Press, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] According to another account, “law enforcement authorities say these suspects made frequent phone calls from local neighborhood stores to various Hamas organization offices in the Middle East.” [PBS, 8/1/1997] Just days earlier, there had been a Hamas suicide bombing in Israel that killed fifteen people. Mezer or Khalil reportedly called the suicide bombers “heroes” and added, “We wish to join them.” [New York Times, 8/2/1997] A note is found in their apartment that threatens a series of attacks unless several jailed militants were released, including Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the top leader of Hamas. A copy of the letter was sent to the State Department two days before their arrest. A portrait of Abdul-Rahman is also found on the wall of their apartment. [CNN, 8/2/1997; New York Times, 8/6/1997] However, on August 4, US officials announce that the two had no ties to Hamas or any other organization. In his trial, Mezer will say he planned to use the bombs to kill as many Jews as possible, though not in a subway. He will describe himself as a supporter of Hamas but not a member. He will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Khalil will be acquitted of the terrorism charge, but convicted of having a fake immigration card. He will be sentenced to three years in prison and then ordered deported. [CNN, 8/4/1997; New York Times, 7/21/1998; National Journal, 9/19/2001]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Lafi Khalil, Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, US Department of State, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Mousa Abu Marzouk

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal, Terrorism Financing, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman

Tourists in Luxor, Egypt, cower as militants begin firing on them.Tourists in Luxor, Egypt, cower as militants begin firing on them. [Source: BBC]Fifty-eight foreign tourists are killed in Luxor, Egypt. Six radical militants attack an ancient Egyptian temple with machine guns before finally being killed by Egyptian police. The attack is the peak of a campaign to destroy the Egyptian tourism industry that had begun five years before. Thirty-four foreigners and 1,200 Egyptians were killed in the previous attacks. Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group) takes credit for the attack. This group was founded in the late 1970s by Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman. The militants are ultimately hoping to destabilize the Egyptian economy and overthrow the government. However, the attacks backfire, alienating many Egyptians. This will be the last serious militant attack in Egypt before 9/11. [New York Times, 11/18/1997; New York Times, 11/18/1997; Los Angeles Times, 10/26/2001] The Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad is also thought to be involved. In 1999, Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda’s second in command, will be convicted in absentia for his role in this attack and other attacks. [BBC, 9/27/2004] Also in 1999, the Egyptian government will claim it has determined that bin Laden helped finance the attack. [BBC, 5/13/1999]

Entity Tags: Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Islamic Jihad

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke chairs a tabletop exercise at the White House, involving a scenario where anti-American militants fill a Learjet with explosives, and then fly it on a suicide mission toward a target in Washington, DC. Officials from the Pentagon, Secret Service, and FAA attend, and are asked how they would stop such a threat. Pentagon officials say they could launch fighters from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, but would need authorization from the president to shoot the plane down, and currently there is no system to do this. The 9/11 Commission later states: “There was no clear resolution of the problem at the exercise.” [Slate, 7/22/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 345, 457-458]

Entity Tags: Langley Air Force Base, US Secret Service, US Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Military Exercises, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, US Air Security

Ken Williams.Ken Williams. [Source: FBI]The FBI field office in Phoenix, Arizona, investigates a possible Middle Eastern extremist taking flight lessons at a Phoenix airport. FBI agent Ken Williams initiates an investigation into the possibility of Islamic militants learning to fly aircraft, but he has no easy way to query a central FBI database about similar cases. Because of this and other FBI communication problems, he remains unaware of most US intelligence reports about the potential use of airplanes as weapons, as well as other, specific FBI warnings issued in 1998 and 1999 concerning Islamic militants training at US flight schools (see May 15, 1998; September 1999). Williams will write the “Phoenix memo” in July 2001 (see July 10, 2001). He had been alerted about some suspicious flight school students in 1996, but it is not clear if this person was mentioned in that previous alert or not (see October 1996). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ken Williams, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Phoenix Memo, Hani Hanjour, Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training

A son of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the al-Qaeda leader convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up tunnels and other New York City landmarks, is heard to say that the best way to free his father from a US prison might be to hijack an American plane and exchange the hostages. This will be mentioned in President Bush’s August 2001 briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/18/2002] It may be the warning was discovered by reporters at bin Laden’s press conference this month, since two of Abdul-Rahman’s sons are there and speak in belligerent tones (see May 26, 1998 and May 1998). A similar warning will be discovered in May 2001, but will not be mentioned in Bush’s briefing (see May 23, 2001).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, Al-Qaeda, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman

Hendropriyono, the Indonesian chief of intelligence, will later claim that, “[we] had intelligence predicting the September 11 attacks three years before it happened but nobody believed us.” He says Indonesian intelligence agents identify bin Laden as the leader of the group plotting the attack and that the US disregards the warning, but otherwise offers no additional details. The Associated Press notes, “Indonesia’s intelligence services are not renowned for their accuracy.” [Associated Press, 7/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Hendropriyono, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Foreign Intelligence Warnings

Dietrich Snell.Dietrich Snell. [Source: Morris Mac Matzen/ Associated Press]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. [New York Daily News, 9/25/2001] Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. [Albany Times-Union, 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. [FrontPage Magazine, 1/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, World Trade Center, Dietrich Snell, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Abdul Hakim Murad, Operation Bojinka, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Robert Baer.Robert Baer. [Source: Publicity photo]In December 1997, former CIA agent Robert Baer, newly retired from the CIA and working as a terrorism consultant, meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before, and whom he calls the “black prince.” Al Thani tells Baer that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was being sheltered by then Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani in 1996 (see January-May 1996). However, the black prince knows other details, based on what Qatari police and intelligence learned when KSM was in the country. He says that KSM is chief of al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations (see Early 1998). KSM was leading an al-Qaeda cell in Qatar together with Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, the brother of the Egyptian who had killed Anwar Sadat. They also were linked to bomber Ramzi Yousef. But what worries the black prince is that KSM and Islambouli are experts in hijacking commercial planes. He tells Baer that KSM “is going to hijack some planes.” Further, he says that KSM has moved to the Czech Republic, and has also traveled to Germany to meet bin Laden associates there. In early 1998 Baer sends this information to a friend in the CIA Counterterrorist Center, who forwards the information to his superiors. Baer doesn’t hear back from the CIA. He says, “There was no interest.” [Baer, 2002, pp. 270-71; Vanity Fair, 2/2002; United Press International, 9/30/2002; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Later in 1998, President Clinton will be briefed about a hijacking threat in the US involving Islambouli, but it is unclear if Islambouli was actually involved in the 9/11 plot or any other hijacking plots targeting the US (see December 4, 1998). He will not have been captured by March 2008. Baer tries to interest reporter Daniel Pearl in a story about KSM before 9/11, but Pearl will still be working on it when he is kidnapped and later murdered in early 2002. [United Press International, 4/9/2004] Baer also tries to interest New York Times reporter James Risen in the information about KSM. But just before Risen can come to the Middle East to meet the black prince, the black prince is kidnapped in Lebanon and sent to prison in Qatar. There will be speculation that the CIA turned on the source to protect its relationship with the Qatari government. Risen will publish an article in July 1999 about KSM, but it will not include most of the information from the black prince, since Risen will not be able to confirm it. [New York Times, 7/8/1999; BBC, 7/25/1999; Gertz, 2002, pp. 55-58; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Al-Thani will continue to support al-Qaeda, even hosting visits by bin Laden between 1996 and 2000 (see 1996-2000). [ABC News, 2/7/2003] Yet the US will not have frozen al-Thani’s assets or taken other action by March 2008.

Entity Tags: James Risen, Robert Baer, Ramzi Yousef, Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Daniel Pearl, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, Counterterrorist Center, Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Joseph Eash.Joseph Eash. [Source: Department of Defense]A Defense Department official expresses concern about the possibility of an aircraft being used as a weapon to cause massive damage. At some point during his tenure as commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), Major General Larry Arnold briefs Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Advanced Technology Joseph Eash about proposed cruise missile defense initiatives. Arnold suggests to Eash the scenario of a cruise missile with a weapon of mass destruction being launched into the US. But Eash is concerned about an attack carried out using a plane that takes off within the US. As Arnold will later recount, Eash tells him, “I’m worried about someone taking an airplane off from within the US and using it as a weapon of mass destruction.” Arnold will comment, “I don’t think he envisioned someone hijacking an airliner and crashing it into the World Trade Center, but I think he envisioned a light airplane or business jet that had been stolen, either to drop some chemicals or biological agents, or maybe even to crash it.” [Filson, 2002]

Entity Tags: Joseph Eash, Larry Arnold

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Other Pre-9/11 Events

Osama bin Laden (right), Mohammed Atef (center), and an unidentified militant at the press conference publicizing the expanded fatwa in May 1998. Ayman al-Zawahiri is out of the picture, sitting on the other side of bin Laden.Osama bin Laden (right), Mohammed Atef (center), and an unidentified militant at the press conference publicizing the expanded fatwa in May 1998. Ayman al-Zawahiri is out of the picture, sitting on the other side of bin Laden. [Source: BBC]Osama bin Laden issues a fatwa (religious edict), declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims “to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military… in any country in which it is possible.” [Al-Quds al-Arabi (London), 2/23/1998; PBS Frontline, 2001; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/16/2001] This is an expansion of an earlier fatwa issued in August 1996, which called for attacks in the Arabian Peninsula only (see August 1996). Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad, is one of many militant leaders who sign the fatwa. This reveals to the public an alliance between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad that has long been in effect. According to journalist Lawrence Wright, the fatwa was actually mostly written by al-Zawahiri the month before, even though it is released in bin Laden’s name only. (Some members of Islamic Jihad are upset by it and quit the group.) [Wright, 2006, pp. 259-261] Also signing the fatwa are representatives from militant groups in Afghanistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Azerbaijan, and Palestine. All these representatives call themselves allied to the “International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” (the name al-Qaeda has not been widely popularized yet). New York magazine will note, “The [fatwa gives] the West its first glimpse of the worldwide conspiracy that [is] beginning to form.” [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] The fatwa is published by Khalid al-Fawwaz, who runs bin Laden’s European headquarters in London, and its publication is preceded by what authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory term a “barrage of calls” from bin Laden’s monitored satellite phone to al-Fawwaz. However, this does not motivate British authorities to take any action against al-Fawwaz. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 111] In March 1998, 40 Afghan clerics issue a fatwa calling for a jihad against the US. A group of Pakistani clerics issues a similar fatwa in April. These fatwas give much more religious authority to bin Laden’s fatwa. It is suspected that bin Laden “discreetly prompted these two bodies to issue the ordinances.” [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 62-63] Bin Laden then will hold a press conference in May 1998 to publicize the fatwa (see May 26, 1998).

Entity Tags: Islamic Jihad, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism, Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements

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.” [Washington Post, 5/19/2002]

Entity Tags: Pentagon, Federal Aviation Administration, World Trade Center, James L. Jones, Golden Gate Bridge, Federal Express, Sears Tower

Category Tags: Warning Signs, US Air Security

Eric Harris.Eric Harris. [Source: CNN]Eric Harris, one of the teenage gunmen who will be involved in the Columbine High School massacre, writes in his diary about a plot to hijack a plane and crash it into New York City. Harris and Dylan Klebold are two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, who on April 20, 1999, will kill 12 of their peers and then themselves in the school’s library. After the shooting, investigators will discover Harris’s journals. An entry written about a year before the massacre reads in part: “If by some wierd as s—t luck my and V survive and escape we will move to some island somewhere or maybe mexico, new zelend or some exotic place where americans cant get us. if there isnt such a place, then we will hijack a hell of a lot of bombs and crash a plane into NYC with us inside iring away as we go down.” [CNN, 12/6/2001] CNN will first report on the diary entry April 26, 1999, a week after the shootings, but will not quote from it until the December 6, 2001 report. [CNN, 4/26/1998]

Entity Tags: Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Category Tags: Warning Signs

The card containing Abdul-Rahman’s message.The card containing Abdul-Rahman’s message. [Source: Peter Bergen]Pakistani journalist Ismail Khan is given a copy of ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdul-Rahman’s purported will by one of his sons, while attending bin Laden’s first and only press conference in May 1998 (see May 26, 1998). Abdul-Rahman is serving life in prison in the US but his will anticipates that he will die soon from mistreatment. He says, “Extract the most violent revenge… Cut off all relations with [the Americans, Christians, and Jews], tear them to pieces, destroy their economies, burn their corporations, destroy their peace, sink their ships, shoot down their planes, and kill them on air, sea, and land. And kill them wherever you may find them, ambush them, take them hostage, and destroy their observatories. Kill these infidels.” Whether this will really was smuggled out of a US prison or not, the words will have a big impact for bin Laden’s followers and mark a dramatic increase in the violent rhetoric used by al-Qaeda. Ahmed Ressam, who will later be arrested for trying to bomb the Los Angeles airport, trains at the Khaldan training camp in mid-1998. He will later testify that this statement from Abdul-Rahman was widely distributed at the training camp. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 204-205] US intelligence is presumably aware of the purported will, since CNN will report about it later in 1998. [CNN, 11/8/1998] Journalist Peter Bergen, who is given a copy of the message around this time, will later comment that the message to “attack the US economy and American aviation was an important factor in the 9/11 attacks.… [His] fatwas are the nearest equivalent al-Qaeda has to an ex cathedra statement by the Pope.… [He] was able for the first time in al-Qaeda’s history to rule that it was legally permissible, and even desirable, to carry out attacks against American planes and corporations, exactly the type of attacks that took place on 9/11.” Bergen notes that while one cannot be certain if Abdul-Rahman actually wrote the message, in other cases his imprisonment did not prevent him from getting messages out through his family or lawyers. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 208-209]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ismail Khan, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, Ahmed Ressam, Peter Bergen

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman

An FBI pilot sends his supervisor in the Oklahoma City FBI office a memo warning that he has observed “large numbers of Middle Eastern males receiving flight training at Oklahoma airports in recent months.” The memo, titled “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” further states this “may be related to planned terrorist activity” and “light planes would be an ideal means of spreading chemicals or biological agents.” The memo does not call for an investigation, and none occurs. [NewsOK (Oklahoma City), 5/29/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003] The memo is “sent to the bureau’s Weapons of Mass Destruction unit and forgotten.” [New York Daily News, 9/25/2002] In 1999, it will be learned that an al-Qaeda agent has studied flight training in Norman, Oklahoma (see May 18, 1999). Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi will briefly visit the same school in 2000; Zacarias Moussaoui will train at the school in 2001 (see February 23-June 2001).

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohamed Atta, Zacarias Moussaoui, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Phoenix Memo

The FBI receives reports that a militant Islamic organization might be planning to bring students to the US for flight training, at some point in 1998 after the May 15 memo (see May 15, 1998) warns about Middle Eastern men training at US flight schools. [New York Daily News, 9/25/2002] The FBI is aware that people connected to this unnamed organization have performed surveillance and security tests at airports in the US and made comments suggesting an intention to target civil aviation. Apparently, this warning is not shared with other FBI offices or the FAA, and a connection with the Oklahoma warning is not made; a similar warning will follow in 1999 (see 1999). [US Congress, 7/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Phoenix Memo

Top: Bin Laden, surrounded by security, walking to the press conference. Bottom: the three journalists attending the press conference sit next to bin Laden.Top: Bin Laden, surrounded by security, walking to the press conference. Bottom: the three journalists attending the press conference sit next to bin Laden. [Source: CNN]Bin Laden discusses “bringing the war home to America,” in a press conference from Khost, Afghanistan. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] Bin Laden holds his first and only press conference to help publicize the fatwa he published several months before. Referring to the group that signed the fatwa, he says, “By God’s grace, we have formed with many other Islamic groups and organizations in the Islamic world a front called the International Islamic Front to do jihad against the crusaders and Jews.” He adds later, “And by God’s grace, the men… are going to have a successful result in killing Americans and getting rid of them.” [CNN, 8/20/2002] He also indicates the results of his jihad will be “visible” within weeks. [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Two US embassies will be bombed in August (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Bin Laden sits next to Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef during the press conference. Two Pakistani journalists and one Chinese journalist attends. But event never gets wide exposure because no independent videotaping is allowed (however, in 2002 CNN will obtain video footage of the press conference seized after the US conquered Afghanistan in late 2001). Pakistani journalist Ismail Khan attends and will later recall, “We were given a few instructions, you know, on how to photograph and only take a picture of Osama and the two leaders who were going to sit close by him. Nobody else.” Two sons of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman attend and distribute what they claim is the will or fatwa of their father (see May 1998), who has been sentenced to life in prison in the US. Journalist Peter Bergen will later comment that the significance of the sons’ presence at the press conference “can’t be underestimated” because it allows bin Laden to benefit from Abdul-Rahman’s high reputation amongst radical militants. Bergen also later says the press conference is a pivotal moment for al-Qaeda. “They’re going public. They’re saying, ‘We’re having this war against the United States.’” [CNN, 8/20/2002] The specific comment by bin Laden about “bringing the war home to America” will be mentioned in the August 2001 memo given to President Bush entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Ismail Khan, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, Mohammed Atef, Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1998 US Embassy Bombings, Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Osama Bin Laden, Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements

During his interview with John Miller, bin Laden is positioned in front of East Africa on a map, and US embassies will be bombed in East Africa several months later. Bin Laden has considered it his religious duty to give warning before attacks and thus has left clues like this.During his interview with John Miller, bin Laden is positioned in front of East Africa on a map, and US embassies will be bombed in East Africa several months later. Bin Laden has considered it his religious duty to give warning before attacks and thus has left clues like this. [Source: CNN]In an interview with ABC News reporter John Miller, Osama bin Laden indicates he may attack a US military passenger aircraft using antiaircraft missiles. Bin Laden says: “We are sure of our victory. Our battle with the Americans is larger than our battle with the Russians.… We predict a black day for America and the end of the United States as United States, and will be separate states, and will retreat from our land and collect the bodies of its sons back to America.” In the subsequent media coverage, Miller will repeatedly refer to bin Laden as “the world’s most dangerous terrorist,” and “the most dangerous man in the world.” [ABC News, 5/28/1998; ABC News, 6/12/1998; Esquire, 2/1999; US Congress, 7/24/2003] The book The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright will later note, “Looming behind his head was a large map of Africa, an unremarked clue.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 264] Bin Laden admits to knowing Wali Khan Amin Shah, one of the Bojinka plotters (see June 1996), but denies having met Bojinka plotter Ramzi Yousef or knowing about the plot itself. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] A Virginia man named Tarik Hamdi (see March 20, 2002) helped set up Miller’s interview. He goes with Miller to Afghanistan and gives bin Laden a new battery for his satellite phone (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, will later claim that this battery was somehow bugged to help the US monitor bin Laden. [Newsweek, 8/10/2005] In 2005, Miller will become the FBI’s assistant director of the Office of Public Affairs. [All Headline News, 8/24/2005]

Entity Tags: John Miller, Operation Bojinka, Osama bin Laden, Vincent Cannistraro, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Tarik Hamdi, Ramzi Yousef

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Remote Surveillance, Warning Signs, Hunt for Bin Laden, Osama Bin Laden, Ramzi Yousef, 1998 US Embassy Bombings, Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements

Bin Laden sends a fax from Afghanistan to Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a London-based Muslim imam who dubs himself the “mouth, eyes, and ears of Osama bin Laden.” Bakri publicly releases what he calls bin Laden’s four specific objectives for a holy war against the US. The instruction reads, “Bring down their airliners. Prevent the safe passage of their ships. Occupy their embassies. Force the closure of their companies and banks.” Noting this, the Los Angeles Times will wryly comment that “Bin Laden hasn’t been shy about sharing his game plan.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001] In 2001, FBI agent Ken Williams will grow concerned about some Middle Eastern students training in Arizona flight schools. He will link several of them to Al-Muhajiroun, an extremist group founded by Bakri. Williams will quote several fatwas (calls to action) from Bakri in his later-famous July 2001 memo (see July 10, 2001). However, he apparently will not be aware of this particular call to action. These students linked to Bakri’s group apparently have no connection to any of the 9/11 hijackers. In another interview before 9/11, Bakri will boast of recruiting “kamikaze bombers ready to die for Palestine.” (see Early September 2001) [Associated Press, 5/23/2002]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Ken Williams, Al-Muhajiroun, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Phoenix Memo, Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements, Omar Bakri & Al-Muhajiroun, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

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Key Events

Key Day of 9/11 Events (101)Key Hijacker Events (145)Key Warnings (95)

Day of 9/11

All Day of 9/11 Events (1250)Dick Cheney (53)Donald Rumsfeld (33)Flight AA 11 (145)Flight AA 77 (145)Flight UA 175 (87)Flight UA 93 (241)George Bush (121)Passenger Phone Calls (67)Pentagon (117)Richard Clarke (31)Shanksville, Pennsylvania (23)Training Exercises (56)World Trade Center (87)

The Alleged 9/11 Hijackers

Alhazmi and Almihdhar (343)Marwan Alshehhi (134)Mohamed Atta (205)Hani Hanjour (72)Ziad Jarrah (74)Other 9/11 Hijackers (172)Possible Hijacker Associates in US (79)Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training (73)Hijacker Contact w Government in US (33)Possible 9/11 Hijacker Funding (42)Hijacker Visas and Immigration (135)

Alhazmi and Almihdhar: Specific Cases

Bayoumi and Basnan Saudi Connection (51)CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar (120)Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US (39)

Projects and Programs

Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit (172)Able Danger (60)Sibel Edmonds (61)Phoenix Memo (27)Randy Glass/ Diamondback (8)Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal (67)Remote Surveillance (241)Yemen Hub (75)

Before 9/11

Soviet-Afghan War (105)Warning Signs (432)Insider Trading/ Foreknowledge (53)US Air Security (71)Military Exercises (67)Pipeline Politics (67)Other Pre-9/11 Events (55)

Counterterrorism before 9/11

Hunt for Bin Laden (158)Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11 (223)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (249)

Warning Signs: Specific Cases

Foreign Intelligence Warnings (35)Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB (39)Presidential Level Warnings (31)

The Post-9/11 World

9/11 Investigations (651)9/11 Related Criminal Proceedings (22)9/11 Denials (29)US Government and 9/11 Criticism (67)9/11 Related Lawsuits (24)Media (47)Other Post-9/11 Events (76)

Investigations: Specific Cases

9/11 Commission (257)Role of Philip Zelikow (87)9/11 Congressional Inquiry (41)CIA OIG 9/11 Report (16)FBI 9/11 Investigation (144)WTC Investigation (112)Other 9/11 Investigations (128)

Possible Al-Qaeda-Linked Moles or Informants

Abu Hamza Al-Masri (102)Abu Qatada (36)Ali Mohamed (78)Haroon Rashid Aswat (17)Khalil Deek (20)Luai Sakra (12)Mamoun Darkazanli (36)Nabil Al-Marabh (41)Omar Bakri & Al-Muhajiroun (25)Reda Hassaine (23)Other Possible Moles or Informants (169)

Other Al-Qaeda-Linked Figures

Abu Zubaida (99)Anwar Al-Awlaki (17)Ayman Al-Zawahiri (81)Hambali (39)Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (139)Mohammed Haydar Zammar (44)Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (47)Osama Bin Laden (228)Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh (105)Ramzi Yousef (67)Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (57)Victor Bout (23)Wadih El-Hage (45)Zacarias Moussaoui (159)

Al-Qaeda by Region

"Lackawanna Six" (13)Al-Qaeda in Balkans (168)Al-Qaeda in Germany (189)Al-Qaeda in Italy (55)Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia (149)Al-Qaeda in Spain (121)Islamist Militancy in Chechnya (50)

Specific Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks or Plots

1993 WTC Bombing (73)1993 Somalia Fighting (13)1995 Bojinka Plot (78)1998 US Embassy Bombings (121)Millennium Bomb Plots (43)2000 USS Cole Bombing (114)2001 Attempted Shoe Bombing (23)2002 Bali Bombings (36)2004 Madrid Train Bombings (82)2005 7/7 London Bombings (87)

Miscellaneous Al-Qaeda Issues

Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks (89)Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements (102)Key Captures and Deaths (124)

Geopolitics and Islamic Militancy

US Dominance (112)Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links (255)Iraq War Impact on Counterterrorism (83)Israel (61)Pakistan and the ISI (470)Saudi Arabia (249)Terrorism Financing (312)Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism (322)US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy (69)Algerian Militant Collusion (41)Indonesian Militant Collusion (20)Philippine Militant Collusion (74)Yemeni Militant Collusion (47)Other Government-Militant Collusion (23)

Pakistan / ISI: Specific Cases

Pakistani Nukes & Islamic Militancy (37)Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11 (73)Saeed Sheikh (59)Mahmood Ahmed (30)Haven in Pakistan Tribal Region (179)2008 Kabul Indian Embassy Bombing (10)Hunt for Bin Laden in Pakistan (154)

Terrorism Financing: Specific Cases

Al Taqwa Bank (29)Al-Kifah/MAK (54)BCCI (37)BIF (28)BMI and Ptech (21)Bin Laden Family (62)Drugs (71)

'War on Terrorism' Outside Iraq

Afghanistan (299)Drone Use in Pakistan / Afghanistan (49)Destruction of CIA Tapes (92)Escape From Afghanistan (61)High Value Detainees (179)Terror Alerts (50)Counterterrorism Action After 9/11 (352)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (432)Internal US Security After 9/11 (125)
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