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Complete 911 Timeline

Before 9/11

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

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Page 3 of 9 (841 events)
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Uzbekistan signs a deal with Enron “that could lead to joint development of the Central Asian nation’s potentially rich natural gas fields.” [Houston Chronicle, 6/25/1996] The $1.3 billion venture teams Enron with the state companies of Russia and Uzbekistan. [Houston Chronicle, 6/30/1996] On July 8, 1996, the US government agrees to give $400 million to help Enron and an Uzbek state company develop these natural gas fields. [Oil & Gas Journal, 7/8/1996]

Entity Tags: Enron Corporation, Uzbekistan

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

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 will 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 will blame Hezbollah, the Iranian-influenced group, but US investigators will still believe Osama bin Laden was involved. [Seattle Times, 10/29/2001] US intelligence will be listening 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 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 Towers 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: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Al-Qaeda, Mamoun Darkazanli

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

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

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

Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia reach agreement with state companies in Turkmenistan and Russia to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan; the agreement is finalized in 1997. [Unocal, 8/13/1996]

Entity Tags: Unocal, Delta Oil

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

Based on a review of the Lexis-Nexus database, the term al-Qaeda is first mentioned in the mainstream media on this day. A United Press International article draws from a State Department fact sheet released today (see August 14, 1996) and states, “Earlier, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Usama Bin Ladin drew on his family’s wealth ‘plus donations received from sympathetic merchant families in the Gulf region’ to organize the Islamic Salvation Foundation, or al-Qaida. The group established recruitment centers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan that enlisted and sheltered thousands of Arab recruits to fight the Soviets. ‘This network remains active,’ the State Department said.” (The spelling is the same as in the original.) [US Department of State, 8/14/1996; United Press International, 8/14/1996] The term was first used in an overseas article by the French wire service Agence France-Presse, in May 1993 (see May 30, 1993). The CIA has been aware of the term since at least the start of 1996 (see Shortly Before February 1996) and possibly by 1991, if not earlier (see February 1991- July 1992). However, the term will remain little used and little understood by the media for the next several years. For instance, the New York Times will first mention it two years later in quoting the courtroom testimony of one of the plotters of the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). It is referred to as “al-Qaeda, an international terrorist group, led by Mr. bin Laden.” [New York Times, 8/28/1998]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

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

Ahmed Rashid.Ahmed Rashid. [Source: Jane Scherr/ University of California, Berkeley]Ahmed Rashid, correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and The Daily Telegraph, conducts extensive investigative research in Afghanistan after the Taliban conquest of Kabul. As he will later write in his 2000 book, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, he sees a “massive regional polarization between the USA, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Taliban on one side and Iran, Russia, the Central Asian states and the anti-Taliban alliance on the other. While some focused on whether there was a revival of the old CIA-ISI connection from the Afghan jihad era, it became apparent to me that the strategy over pipelines had become the driving force behind Washington’s interest in the Taliban, which in turn was prompting a counter-reaction from Russia and Iran. But exploring this was like entering a labyrinth, where nobody spoke the truth or divulged their real motives or interests. It was the job of a detective rather than a journalist because there were few clues. Even gaining access to the real players in the game was difficult, because policy was not being driven by politicians and diplomats, but by the secretive oil companies and intelligence services of the regional states.” [Rashid, 2001, pp. 163]

Entity Tags: Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Ahmed Rashid, Saudi Arabia, Taliban

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

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

Taliban forces conquering Afghanistan.Taliban forces conquering Afghanistan. [Source: Banded Artists Productions]The Taliban conquer Kabul [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] , establishing control over much of Afghanistan. A surge in the Taliban’s military successes at this time is later attributed to an increase in direct military assistance from Pakistan’s ISI. [New York Times, 12/8/2001] The oil company Unocal is hopeful that the Taliban will stabilize Afghanistan and allow its pipeline plans to go forward. According to some reports, “preliminary agreement [on the pipeline] was reached between the [Taliban and Unocal] long before the fall of Kabul .… Oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America’s, has been so supportive of the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/11/1996] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that some State Department diplomats are willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan, which would allow a Unocal oil pipeline to be built through the country. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Taliban, US Department of State, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Unocal, 9/11 Commission

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, Pakistan and the ISI

Marvin Bush.Marvin Bush. [Source: Eric Draper / White House]A security company called Stratesec acquires an $8.3 million contract to help provide security at the World Trade Center. It is one of numerous contractors hired in the upgrade of security at the WTC following the 1993 bombing. Stratesec, which was formerly called Securacom, is responsible for installing the “security-description plan”—the layout of the electronic security system—at the World Trade Center. It has a “completion contract” to provide some of the center’s security “up to the day the buildings fell down,” according to Barry McDaniel, its CEO.
Involved with Airport Security - Another of Stratesec’s biggest security contracts, between 1995 and 1998, is with the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, providing electronic security for Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport. Its work includes maintaining the airfield access systems, the CCTV (closed circuit television) systems, and the electronic badging systems. American Airlines Flight 77—one of the planes hijacked on 9/11—takes off from Dulles.
Directors Include Bush Family Member - Marvin P. Bush, the youngest brother of future President George W. Bush, is a director at Stratesec from 1993 to June 2000, when most of its work on these big projects is done. Wirt D. Walker III, a distant relative of George W. Bush, is chairman of the board at Stratesec from 1992, and its CEO from 1999 until January 2002. Another of Stratesec’s directors, from 1991 to 2001, is Mishal Yousef Saud Al Sabah, who is a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. Al Sabah is also chairman of an investment company called the Kuwait-American Corporation (KuwAm), which, between 1993 and 1999, holds a large, often controlling share of Stratesec. In 1996, it owns 90 percent of the company; by 1999 it owns 47 percent.
Other Interests - Walker and Al Sabah are also co-investors in two inter-related aviation companies: Aviation General and Commander Aircraft. According to a 2005 report by freelance journalist Margie Burns: “Aviation General boasted of its international clientele. A 1996 press release announced its sale of airplanes to the National Civil Aviation Training Organization (NCATO) of Giza, Egypt, ‘the sole civilian pilot training organization in Egypt.’ The announcement mentions Al Sabah as chairman of KuwAm and board member of Commander Aircraft Company.” NCATO also has contractual partnerships with several US flight schools, including Embry-Riddle University in Florida.
Connections with Foreign Company a Delicate Matter - According to Wayne Black, the head of a Florida-based security firm, it is delicate for a security company serving international facilities to be so interlinked with a foreign-owned company. He suggests, “Somebody knew somebody.” Black also points out that when a company has a security contract, “you know the inner workings of everything.” Furthermore, if another company is linked to the security company, then “what’s on your computer is on their computer.” After 9/11 Stratesec CEO Barry McDaniel will be asked whether FBI or other agents have questioned him or others at Stratesec about their security work related to 9/11. He answers, “No.” [American Reporter, 1/20/2003; Prince George's Journal, 2/4/2003; Progressive Populist, 3/1/2003; Progressive Populist, 4/15/2003; Washington Spectator, 2/15/2005] Other companies involved with the security overhaul during this time include Ensec Inc., which is in charge of creating a new parking access control system, E-J Electric Installation Co., and Electronic Systems Associates, a division of Syska Hennessy. [Access Control & Security Systems, 7/1/1997; CEE News, 1/1/2001; CEE News, 10/1/2001; Building Design and Construction, 7/1/2002]

Entity Tags: Mishal Yousef Saud Al Sabah, Kuwait-American Corporation (KuwAm), Marvin Bush, Stratesec, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, World Trade Center, Wirt D. Walker III, Washington Dulles International Airport, Ensec, Inc., Embry-Riddle University, National Civil Aviation Training Organization, E-J Electric Installation Co., Commander Aircraft, Aviation General, Electronic Systems Associates

Category Tags: US Air Security, WTC Investigation

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

In a Washington Post op-ed, Zalmay Khalilzad calls on the US to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. “It is time for the United States to reengage.…The Taliban does not practice the anti-US style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran—it is closer to the Saudi model.” He calls on the US to help the Taliban “put Afghanistan on a path toward peace,” noting that continuing violence “has been a source of regional instability and an obstacle to building pipelines to bring Central Asian oil and gas to Pakistan and the world markets.” [Washington Post, 10/7/1996] However, by 2000, Khalilzad will sour on the Taliban. In a speech in March 2000, he will state, “Afghanistan was and is a possible corridor for the export of oil and gas from the Central Asian states down to Pakistan and to the world. A California company called Unocal was interested in exploring that option, but because of the war in Afghanistan, because of the instability that’s there, those options, or that option at least, has not materialized.” [Los Angeles World Affairs Council, 3/9/2000]

Entity Tags: United States, Taliban, Unocal, Zalmay M. Khalilzad

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

The Daily Telegraph publishes an interesting article about pipeline politics in Afghanistan. “Behind the tribal clashes that have scarred Afghanistan lies one of the great prizes of the 21st century, the fabulous energy reserves of Central Asia.… ‘The deposits are huge,’ said a diplomat from the region. ‘Kazakhstan alone may have more oil than Saudi Arabia. Turkmenistan is already known to have the fifth largest gas reserves in the world.’” [Daily Telegraph, 10/11/1996]

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, US Dominance

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

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] 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

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 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

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finds at least 136 security violations at Boston’s Logan Airport between 1997 and early 1999. Flights 11 and 175 will depart from Logan on 9/11. Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the airport, is fined $178,000 for these breaches, which include failing to screen baggage properly and easy access to parked planes. In summer 1999, a teenager is able to climb over the airport’s security fence, walk two miles across the tarmac, board a 747, and fly on it to London. In September 1999, the Boston Globe finds that doors are often left open at the airport, making it possible for potentially anyone to gain access to planes on the ground. [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] After 9/11, an analysis by the Boston Globe will conclude that Logan’s security record is “dismal” (see 1991-2000). [Boston Globe, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Massachusetts Port Authority, Logan International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration

Category Tags: US Air Security

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

Battalion Chief Ray Downey of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) warns senior firefighters about the need to prepare for terrorist attacks and says another attack in the United States is “going to happen.” He issues the warning in a speech he gives at the annual Fire Department Instructors Conference, a six-day event in Indianapolis, Indiana. [Fire Engineering, 7/1997; Fire Engineering, 9/1997; Fire Engineering, 3/1998]
Fire Chief Says Firefighters Have a 'Lot to Learn' about Terrorism - Downey says in his speech: “Terrorism has taken on a new light. It’s a new part of the fire service that we all had better prepare for.” He mentions the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993), the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, in July 1996. He warns, “I stand up here to tell you, having been involved in [responding to] all three of those terrorist incidents personally, at the scene, that we have an awful lot to learn.”
Chief Says a Chemical or Biological Attack Is 'Going to Happen' - Downey describes a number of smaller-scale terrorist attacks or planned terrorist attacks that have occurred in the US in just the last six or eight months and then asks, “Is the fire service ready to handle these incidents?” He asks the firefighters attending his speech if they know about chemical agents such as “sarin” and “mustard gas” or biological agents such as “anthrax” and “botulism.” He asks if they think an attack involving one of these agents is “not possible.” He then cautions them to “[g]et with it” and says, “It’s not a matter of what, where, or who—but when” such an attack will occur. He concludes, “It’s going to happen—accept the fact.” [Fire Engineering, 9/1997]
Chief Helps Prepare His Department to Respond to Terrorism - Downey is a member of the FDNY’s Special Operations Command (SOC) and is put in charge of the unit sometime this year. [New York Times, 11/22/2001; Fire Engineering, 3/2002] The SOC is an elite group of firefighters who respond to unique fire and emergency situations. [Long Island Herald, 7/13/2007; Smithsonian, 8/31/2013] Its members are trained to deal with catastrophes. [New York Daily News, 10/21/2001] As head of the unit, Downey will be responsible for planning the FDNY’s response to terrorist attacks. [Downey, 2004, pp. 222] Fire Engineering magazine will comment in 2002, “Due in part to [Downey’s] diligence, FDNY is one of the best equipped and most prepared fire departments in terrorism response in the world.” [Fire Engineering, 3/2002] Downey will be killed when the WTC collapses on September 11, 2001. [New York Times, 11/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Ray Downey

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

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

William Cohen.William Cohen. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense William Cohen issues a comprehensive assessment of America’s defense requirements, called the Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). This is a six-month analysis of the “threats, risks and opportunities for US national security,” and reviews all aspects of the US defense strategy. [US Department of Defense, 5/19/1997] Among other things, the 1997 QDR outlines the conversion of six continental air defense squadrons to general purpose, training or other missions. It calls for there being just four “alert” air defense sites around the US: at Otis, Massachusetts; Homestead, Florida; Riverside, California; and Portland, Oregon. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997; Filson, 2003, pp. 348] Major General Larry Arnold, who is commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region on 9/11, later says: “The QDR didn’t make any sense at all. [T]here was a fight just to maintain the number of alert sites that we had. We felt we could operate fairly reasonably with about ten sites and thought eight was the absolute highest risk we could take.” NORAD Commander in Chief General Howell M. Estes III has written to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that a minimum of seven alert sites are needed to maintain America’s air sovereignty. In the end, three extra alert sites are added to the four suggested in the QDR. These are at Hampton, Virginia; Panama City, Florida; and Ellington, Texas. Larry Arnold later says, “I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with seven [alert sites] because there are great large distances between the alert sites.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 36] Other bases will lose their NORAD air defense functions over the next year, including those in Fresno, California; Fargo, North Dakota; Duluth, Minnesota; Burlington, Vermont; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Great Falls, Montana. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997] Of these closed bases, the most critical loss on 9/11 will be the Atlantic City, New Jersey base, located about halfway between New York City and Washington. Boston air traffic control, apparently unaware the base has lost its air defense function will try and fail to contact the base shortly after learning about the first hijacking of the morning, Flight 11 (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Howell M. Estes III, Larry Arnold, William S. Cohen

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, US Air Security

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

The US military and other government agencies conduct a military exercise called “Eligible Receiver 97” to ascertain the nation’s vulnerability to electronic attacks by other states or terrorists. A Red Team of “hackers” from the NSA penetrates military computers and civilian infrastructure in the telecommunications and electricity industries. While the details are classified, officials say that the exercise shows that the US could suffer a catastrophic attack in the form of an “electronic Pearl Harbor.” The electricity could be shut down and the 911 emergency phone service could be disrupted. These fears will find confirmation after 9/11 when evidence of possible cyber attacks by al-Qaeda will be uncovered (see Summer 2001 and 2002). [CNN, 11/7/1997; Washington Times, 4/16/1998; Washington Post, 5/24/1998; CNN, 4/6/1999; Air Force Magazine, 12/2005] However, George Smith, a computer security expert, discounts the threat. An electronic Pearl Harbor, he says, is “not likely.” Computer viruses and other forms of computer attack are not effective weapons and the vulnerability of the civilian infrastructure is exaggerated. [Issues in Science and Technology, 1998]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, George Smith

Category Tags: Military Exercises

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

The CIA creates a secret task force to monitor Central Asia’s politics and gauge its wealth. Covert CIA officers, some well-trained petroleum engineers, travel through southern Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan to sniff out potential oil reserves. [Time, 5/4/1998]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, US Dominance

A modernization program of the 1st Air Force’s air operation centers, which include NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is started. Over the next several years, Litton Data Systems is tasked with computerizing the way the Air National Guard accomplishes its air sovereignty mission, which is the surveillance of US skies in coordination with the FAA. Until now, flight plans from the FAA have been “compiled in logs and have to be searched by hand to identify aircraft,” according to National Guard magazine. “The new system will mean fewer manual inquiries and phone contact with FAA officials about commercial aircraft. The FAA flight plan is now hooked up via computer with the new R/SAOCs [Regional/Sector Air Operation Centers] so operators can easily track friendly aircraft through our air space without having to get someone on the phone or thumb through written log books of flight plans. Composite air pictures are now shown in real time on the screen with no delay in transmission. Plans on the screen are shown as they are happening.” The software also allows computer simulations to be used for training purposes, so operators can “go through a situation at their terminals as if it were happening.” Col. Dan Navin, the special assistant to the commander of 1st Air Force, says, “It will enhance our ability to do what many say is the most important job of the Air Force, and that is air sovereignty.” The new systems should be fully operational in all seven 1st Air Force air operation centers by 2003. [National Guard, 9/1997] It is possible that this software is being used on the morning of 9/11, when a NORAD training exercise will include simulated information, known as “inject,” being shown on its radar screens (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, 1st Air Force, Air National Guard, Litton Data Systems

Category Tags: US Air Security, Military Exercises

William Flanagan.William Flanagan. [Source: US Department of Defense]The Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and Wall Street bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald hold three “economic security exercises,” in which the participants consider, among other scenarios, terrorists attacking the US financial community with bombings using aircraft. The exercises are intended to explore the link between national security and economic issues. [Cantor Fitzgerald, 4/29/1999; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001; Foreign Policy, 9/12/2011] They bring together “key figures from the national security, governmental, and financial communities to explore and test the relationships between international events, national security, and financial markets,” according to a report prepared by the Naval War College. [Hayes, 6/1998, pp. 1 pdf file] The exercises are all held in New York. [Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001] The first one takes place on the top floor of one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, where Cantor Fitzgerald has its main offices. [Washington Post, 3/6/2002; Associated Press, 1/19/2011] Whether the second and third exercises also take place at the WTC is unstated.
1997 Exercise Considers Attacks on the US Financial Community - The first exercise, held in October 1997, is based around two related scenarios that would take place in February and March 2000, in the middle of the US presidential primary season. [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997; Hayes, 6/1998, pp. 1 pdf file] The first scenario involves a crisis “spilling out of conflict in the oil fields of the Middle East,” which is “followed by terrorist assaults against oil fields in the Persian Gulf and US military installations,” according to Fortune magazine. America’s access to Persian Gulf oil supplies is threatened and there is a disruption of the “sea lines of communication.” The second scenario involves a cyber-terrorist attack on Wall Street, in which information warfare attacks are launched against the critical infrastructures underpinning America’s business and financial communities. The computer networks of US financial institutions and power grids in the New York area are targeted, with the intention of inflicting psychological and economic damage on the US. [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001; Fortune, 10/8/2001] Furthermore, according to David Rothkopf, managing director of Kissinger Associates, who attends the exercise, participants consider “a variety of potential ways terrorists might target the US financial community, including bombings using trucks or aircraft.” [Foreign Policy, 9/12/2011]
Senior Government Officials Attend the 1997 Exercise - The exercise addresses the potential vulnerability of the US to “asymmetric warfare,” which one participant will later describe as warfare in which “a little guy with the right technology can confront the big giant in a devastating way.” [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997] In the simulated scenarios, according to Fortune, “the terrorists succeeded spectacularly.” [Fortune, 10/8/2001] Those attending the exercise include Richard Clarke, President Clinton’s special assistant for global affairs, Rand Beers, special assistant to the president and senior director for intelligence programs, and Anthony Lake, the former national security adviser. [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997; Rothkopf, 2014, pp. 266]
1998 Exercise Involves a Rebellion in Indonesia - The second exercise, held on June 1, 1998, focuses on a hypothetical financial crisis combined with a sea lines of communication disruption in Asia, involving Indonesia. The scenario, which would take place around late 1998 to early 1999, involves opposition forces mounting successful rebellions in parts of Indonesia and leaders of the opposition movement declaring themselves Indonesia’s legitimate government. The US military intervenes in response to the crisis. Subsequently, “malevolent insiders” launch coordinated attacks against selected financial institutions in Singapore. These are followed by cyberattacks against some financial institutions in Japan. [Hayes, 6/1998 pdf file; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001]
1999 Exercise Is Based around the Y2K Computer Problem - The third exercise, held on May 3, 1999, focuses on the possible global financial consequences of a serious Year 2000 computer problem, caused by computers being unable to properly read dates at the start of the new millennium, as well as “related events surrounding the millennial date change event.” [New York Times, 2/9/1999; Cantor Fitzgerald, 4/29/1999; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001]
Cantor Fitzgerald Requested the 'War Games' in the Mid-1990s - The three economic security exercises are the “brainchild” of retired Admiral William Flanagan, former commander in chief of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, who is now the senior managing director of Cantor Fitzgerald. [Wall Street Journal, 5/5/1997; Proceedings, 10/2001; Virginian-Pilot, 9/11/2006] According to Thomas Barnett, a senior strategic researcher at the Naval War College, they have come about because Cantor Fitzgerald went to the Naval War College in the mid-1990s and said it would like to run “economic-oriented war games” with the college. [Institute of International Studies, 3/8/2005] Several senior members of Cantor Fitzgerald have close professional ties with the US Navy, so the collaboration between the company and the Naval War College is a “natural partnership,” according to a report prepared by the college. [Hayes, 6/1998, pp. 1 pdf file]
Exercise Scenarios Are 'Amazingly Prescient' - The fact that the exercises explore “such real-world scenarios as a terrorist strike on Wall Street, war in the Persian Gulf, and a financial crisis in Asia,” Barnett will comment after 9/11, “proved amazingly prescient.” [Barnett, 2004, pp. 197] “September 11 was crystallizing,” he will say. “We all just went, ‘This is what we were talking about: a peacetime, war-like event that’s so profound it forces us to rethink everything.’” [Esquire, 12/2002] The exercises will evolve into something called the “New Rule Sets Project,” which is a research partnership between the Naval War College and Cantor Fitzgerald that aims to explore how globalization is altering America’s definitions of national security (see May 1, 2000-June 4, 2001). [Barnett, 2004, pp. 46; Institute of International Studies, 3/8/2005] Cantor Fitzgerald will suffer the greatest single loss by any company on 9/11, with 658 of its employees dying in the North Tower of the WTC. [Business Week, 9/10/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Naval War College, Rand Beers, Cantor Fitzgerald Securities, David Rothkopf, Thomas Barnett, William J. Flanagan Jr., Anthony Lake

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

Halliburton, a company headed by future Vice President Dick Cheney, announces a new agreement to provide technical services and drilling for Turkmenistan. The press release mentions, “Halliburton has been providing a variety of services in Turkmenistan for the past five years.” On the same day, a consortium to build a pipeline through Afghanistan is formed. It is called CentGas, and the two main partners are Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia. [Halliburton, 10/27/1997; CentGas, 10/27/1997]

Entity Tags: Centgas, Halliburton, Inc., Turkmenistan, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

Industry newsletter reports that Saudi Arabia has abandoned plans for open bids on a $2 billion power plant near Mecca, deciding that the government will build it instead. Interestingly, one of the bids was made by a consortium of Enron, the Saudi Binladin Group (run by Osama’s family), and Italy’s Ansaldo Energia. [Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections, 1/22/1998]

Entity Tags: Saudi Arabia, Saudi Binladin Group, Ansaldo Energia, Enron Corporation

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, Bin Laden Family

Ashton Carter.Ashton Carter. [Source: Aspen Institute]Over a period of nine months, faculty from Harvard University, Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Virginia meet in a collaborative effort called the Catastrophic Terrorism Study Group. Its members include experts on terrorism, national security, intelligence, and law enforcement. The project director is Philip Zelikow, future executive director of the 9/11 Commission. Future 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick is also a member, along with Ernest May, who will be a senior advisor to the 9/11 Commission. The culmination of the group’s efforts is a report written by Zelikow and its two co-chairs: former Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and former CIA Director John Deutch. A condensed version of the report is published in the journal Foreign Affairs in late 1998. They write: “Long part of the Hollywood and Tom Clancy repertory of nightmarish scenarios, catastrophic terrorism has moved from far-fetched horror to a contingency that could happen next month. Although the United States still takes conventional terrorism seriously… it is not yet prepared for the new threat of catastrophic terrorism.” They predict the consequences of such an event: “An act of catastrophic terrorism that killed thousands or tens of thousands of people and/or disrupted the necessities of life for hundreds of thousands, or even millions, would be a watershed event in America’s history. It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented for peacetime and undermine Americans’ fundamental sense of security within their own borders in a manner akin to the 1949 Soviet atomic bomb test, or perhaps even worse. Constitutional liberties would be challenged as the United States sought to protect itself from further attacks by pressing against allowable limits in surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects, and the use of deadly force. More violence would follow, either as other terrorists seek to imitate this great ‘success’ or as the United States strikes out at those considered responsible. Like Pearl Harbor, such an event would divide our past and future into a ‘before’ and ‘after.’” [Carter, Deutch, and Zelikow, 10/1998; Foreign Affairs, 11/1998; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. xi-xiv]

Entity Tags: Jamie Gorelick, Philip Zelikow, John Deutch, Catastrophic Terrorism Study Group, Ernest May, Ashton Carter

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events, Role of Philip Zelikow

New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) conducts a training exercise called Operation ICE, which is designed to prepare emergency response workers for the possibility of a terrorist attack and includes a simulated chemical attack near the World Trade Center. [City of New York, 11/9/1997; New York Times, 11/9/1997; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Operation ICE is the largest terrorism response exercise ever conducted by the city. Its aim, according to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is “to see what would happen if in fact there was a chemical attack and to see how police, fire, EMS [emergency medical services], hospitals, the FBI… would all respond.” [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997]
Volunteers Go to Hospitals with the Symptoms of Chemical Exposure - Operation ICE incorporates a series of field and tabletop exercises. It consists of three interconnected training events, called MEDEX, FIELDEX, and INFRAEX. MEDEX, apparently the first event to take place, is held on November 8. Forty-one city hospitals are involved in it. The aim is for the emergency workers who participate to learn how to deal with and treat “walk-in, self-referred” patients who arrive at emergency rooms minutes or hours after they have been exposed to a chemical agent. Volunteers, playing the victims, visit the hospitals, complaining about various symptoms. Hospital personnel have to determine the type of chemical exposure that matches the symptoms and decide how to treat the victims. [New York Times, 11/9/1997; Fire Engineering, 3/1998]
Field Exercise Is Held near the WTC - FIELDEX, which is the centerpiece of Operation ICE, takes place a day later, on November 9. This is an elaborate field training exercise involving a simulated chemical attack at a large public gathering. It is directed by Jerome Hauer, head of the OEM, and more than 600 emergency response workers take part. They belong to agencies including the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department, the FBI, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the Departments of Defense, Environmental Protection, Health, and Transportation. [City of New York, 11/9/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997] The exercise is held less than a mile away from the WTC, on Greenwich Street, between Hubert and North Moore Streets. [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997] It takes place “eerily in the shadow of the Twin Towers,” Giuliani will later comment. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 63]
Islamic Terrorists Release a Lethal Gas in the Simulation - The scenario for the exercise involves a rally held by a controversial political group. This is “a greed-is-good kind of group,” Giuliani will say. A speaker at the rally explains the group’s philosophy, which gets his listeners angry, and two or three of them consequently attack the group. They release VX, a deadly nerve gas, killing 21 people and injuring at least 27. The mock attackers are Islamic terrorists, according to Giuliani. Red Cross volunteers and police cadets pretend to be victims of the attack, while several mannequins represent people who have been killed. FIELDEX lasts for four hours. [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
Real Bomb Goes Off before the Exercise Starts - Participating emergency response workers are unaware of the details of the scenario before the exercise begins. “[W]e know to be prepared, that it is going to happen, but haven’t been given any particulars,” one law enforcement official comments. [New York Times, 11/9/1997] Local residents reportedly approve of the exercise, despite the disruption it causes. One woman remarks that she feels it “needs to be done” because, she says, “Living downtown, we are a direct target for this kind of threat, with the World Trade Center and everything.” [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997] Ironically, two hours before the exercise commences, a real but crude bomb explodes in front of an office building a few blocks away from where the exercise is held. No advance warning is given but, fortunately, no one is injured. No one will take responsibility for the bombing. [New York Times, 11/10/1997]
Exercise Is Mostly Funded by the Defense Department - The INFRAEX segment of Operation ICE consists of a workshop that considers how the simulated attack would affect the city’s infrastructure, and how any adverse effects could be minimized and corrected. The date when this part of the exercise is held is unstated. [Fire Engineering, 3/1998] Operation ICE is the culmination of a yearlong disaster preparedness project. [City of New York, 11/9/1997] Most of the funding for it has come from a grant from the Department of Defense. [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997] The exercise is intended to be a model for cities throughout the US. [Fire Engineering, 3/1998]

Entity Tags: US Department of Transportation, Jerome Hauer, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Defense, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Emergency Management, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Operation ICE, New York City Fire Department, American Red Cross, Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City Police Department

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

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

Thomas Gouttierre.Thomas Gouttierre. [Source: University of Nebraska]Unocal pays University of Nebraska $900,000 to set up a training facility near Osama bin Laden’s Kandahar compound, to train 400 Afghan teachers, electricians, carpenters and pipe fitters in anticipation of using them for their pipeline in Afghanistan. One hundred and fifty students are already attending classes in southern Afghanistan. Unocal is playing University of Nebraska professor Thomas Gouttierre to develop the training program. Gouttierre travels to Afghanistan and meets with Taliban leaders, and also arranges for some Taliban leaders to visit the US around this time (see December 4, 1997). [Daily Telegraph, 12/14/1997; Coll, 2004, pp. 364] It will later be revealed that the CIA paid Gouttierre to head a program at the University of Nebraska that created textbooks for Afghanistan promoting violence and jihad (see 1984-1994). Gouttierre will continue to work with the Taliban after Unocal officially cuts off ties with them. For instance, he will host some Taliban leaders visiting the US in 1999 (see July-August 1999).

Entity Tags: Taliban, Unocal, Osama bin Laden, University of Nebraska, Thomas Gouttierre

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

Major General Larry Arnold, who became commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) in December 1997, fights to preserve the resources assigned to US air sovereignty (see May 19, 1997 and Late August 2001). To emphasize the need for air bases with fighter jets on alert, Arnold frequently gives a presentation describing “asymmetric” threats and including a slide featuring Osama bin Laden. As Arnold will later recall: “[W]e thought that the biggest threat to the US in the briefing that I always gave… was going to come from an asymmetric threat, from a terrorist or a rogue nation, or maybe associated with the drug cartels to some degree. The picture that we used to have on one of our slides there, dating all the way back to 1997 and 1998, was Osama bin Laden.” [Filson, 2002] Colonel Alan Scott, who serves under Arnold at CONR, will later describe the “El Paso example” that Arnold uses to illustrate the need for more alert sites. Scott says: “We had fairly large gaps between our seven alert sites pre-9/11. The largest was between Riverside, CA, and Houston, TX. El Paso, TX, was in the middle of those two alert sites. There was no perceived ‘military’ threat from Mexico. As the threat of terrorism arose, General Arnold began to use the example in his talks to various groups. The example was that if a terrorist called and said in one hour he would overfly El Paso, TX, and spray deadly gas, we would watch it live on CNN because we could not get aircraft to that location in time to stop the attack.” [Filson, 7/14/2002]

Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Alan Scott

Category Tags: US Air Security

Taliban representatives in Texas, 1997.Taliban representatives in Texas, 1997. [Source: Lions Gate Films]Representatives of the Taliban are invited guests to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Future President George W. Bush is Governor of Texas at the time. The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials. According to the Daily Telegraph, “the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban’s policies against women and children ‘despicable,’ appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract.” A BBC regional correspondent says that “the proposal to build a pipeline across Afghanistan is part of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea.” [BBC, 12/4/1997; Daily Telegraph, 12/14/1997] It has been claimed that the Taliban meet with Enron officials while in Texas (see 1996-September 11, 2001). Enron, headquartered in Texas, has an large financial interest in the pipeline at the time (see June 24, 1996). The Taliban also visit Thomas Gouttierre, an academic at the University of Nebraska, who is a consultant for Unocal and also has been paid by the CIA for his work in Afghanistan (see 1984-1994 and December 1997). Gouttierre takes them on a visit to Mt. Rushmore. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 328-329]

Entity Tags: Unocal, Thomas Gouttierre, Clinton administration, Enron Corporation, George W. Bush, Taliban

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

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

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

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

At its operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices dealing with hijackings five times per month, on average, during training exercises. A NORAD document produced a month after 9/11 will state that the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) “routinely conducts the Amazon Arizona series of internal exercises that include hijack scenarios.” Prior to September 11, 2001, the document continues, “CMOC averaged five hijack training events each month.” Further details of these “Amazon Arizona” exercises are unstated in the document. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 10/13/2001] But other sources provide additional information about what they might entail.
Exercises Are 'One of the Busiest Times' in Operations Center - According to a 1989 NORAD document, “Arizona” exercises are a “Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base internal system training mission.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 8/25/1989] And in 2004, NORAD will state that its exercises before 9/11 that include hijacking scenarios test “track detection and identification; scramble and interception; hijack procedures; internal and external agency coordination; and operational security and communications security procedures.” [CNN, 4/19/2004] According to Stacey Knott, a technician at the CMOC, “One of the busiest times” in the operations center “is during exercises.… We have the battle staff and CAT [Crisis Action Team] in here; generals and admirals are running in and out.” Knott has said that exercises at the CMOC give her “an idea what things would be like if something were to go down,” and so, “[i]f something actually did happen, we’d be ready for it.” [Airman, 1/1996]
Operations Center Is 'Focal Point for Air Defense Operations' - It is unclear over what period up to 9/11 the CMOC averages five hijack training events per month. It appears to be at least going back to 1998: In 2003, Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his office keeps computer hard drive information about NORAD exercises “roughly” back to that year. Merchant will add that he “did not believe that his office retained other exercise information, such as after-action reviews, for exercises prior to 1998.” [9/11 Commission, 11/14/2003 pdf file] According to NORAD’s website, “the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center provides warning of ballistic missile or air attacks against North America, assists the air sovereignty mission for the United States and Canada, and, if necessary, is the focal point for air defense operations to counter enemy bombers or cruise missiles.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 11/27/1999] On the morning of 9/11, members of the battle staff at the CMOC will be participating in the exercise Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Airman, 3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Stacey Knott, Amazon Arizona, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Ken Merchant

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

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

The FAA creates “Red Teams” —small, secretive teams traveling to airports and attempting to foil their security systems—in response to the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Scotland. According to later reports, the Red Teams conduct extensive testing of screening checkpoints at a large number of domestic airports in 1998. The results were frightening: “We were successful in getting major weapons—guns and bombs—through screening checkpoints with relative ease, at least 85 percent of the time in most cases. At one airport, we had a 97 percent success rate in breaching the screening checkpoint.… The individuals who occupied the highest seats of authority in the FAA were fully aware of this highly vulnerable state of aviation security and did nothing.” [New York Times, 2/27/2002] In 1999, the New York Port Authority and major airlines at Boston’s Logan Airport will be “fined a total of $178,000 for at least 136 security violations [between 1999-2001]. In the majority of incidents, screeners hired by the airlines for checkpoints in terminals routinely [fail] to detect test items, such as pipe bombs and guns.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Federal Aviation Administration

Category Tags: US Air Security

Paul Nenninger.Paul Nenninger. [Source: KRCU]The US Secret Service runs training exercises that involve computer simulations of planes crashing into the White House, in order to test security there. [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]
Plane Crash Scenarios Test White House Security - Secret Service agent Paul Nenninger has, since 1997, been assigned to the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland, where he serves as program manager in charge of the Security and Incident Modeling Lab (SIMLAB). [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 299] In a 2005 book, he will write that from 1998 up until the time of the 9/11 attacks, the Rowley Training Center is “crashing planes into the White House… on a simulation program provided by the military.” This is done “to test the security responses of the various agencies that interact to provide security and support to the White House.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175] The plane crash scenarios are perhaps inspired by an incident in 1994, when a suicidal pilot crashed a Cessna into the White House grounds (see September 11, 1994). Time magazine reported at the time that “security officials have long feared in private [that] the White House is vulnerable to sneak attack from the air.” [Time, 9/26/1994; New York Times, 10/3/2001]
Exercises Held Based on 'Terrorist Attacks on the White House' - Nenninger will not state whether the simulated plane crashes are imagined to be part of a terrorist attack. However, he will comment that simulations “allow you to practice scenarios that can be attempted by a terrorist or other deranged individual.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 177-178] And in May 2001, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill testifies that the Secret Service “holds interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House.” However, it is unclear if he is referring to the same exercises as those described by Nenninger. [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001]
Secret Service Uses Advanced Analytical Software - For the simulations, the Secret Service has what Nenninger will describe as “a very good piece of analytical software” called the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS). This program was developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. It was released by LLNL in 1998 and distributed to the Secret Service by the Joint Warfighting Center at Fort Monroe, Virginia. [Science and Technology Review, 9/2000; Nenninger, 2005, pp. 176] JCATS can handle things like “alarms” and “FAA radar” in the simulations, according to Nenninger. The computer simulations are particularly popular with the Secret Service’s special operations units, which request “more and more time in SIMLAB.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 184-185]
Colleague Says 'You Know All about That' in Response to Attack on WTC - On the morning of September 11, 2001, Nenninger is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, for a board meeting. When he and the others there for the meeting learn that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center, another Secret Service agent in the room points at Nenninger and, referring to the computer simulations he has been involved with, comments, “You know all about that.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Paul O’Neill, Paul L. Nenninger

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

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

Luc Besson.Luc Besson. [Source: Publicity photo]Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox works on producing WW3.com, a movie about cyber-terrorists declaring war on the United States, which will include a 9/11-like scene where a Boeing 767 crashes into New York’s Central Park. [Variety, 1/26/1998; Fox News, 6/3/2002] The storyline of WW3.com is rooted in a 1997 article in Wired magazine, which described the potential for the US becoming engaged in a cataclysmic and nation-crippling “information war.” [Wired, 5/1997; Variety, 8/24/2000; New York Times, 6/27/2007] 20th Century Fox acquires the rights to this article in January 1998, as source material for the movie. Screenwriter David Marconi, who previously wrote the action movie Enemy of the State, works on the script.
Idea behind Movie Is a 'Blueprint for Disaster' - WW3.com will “blend the tensions of a Cold War thriller with a high-concept, special effects-laden storyline involving cyber-terrorists who have declared war on the United States,” according to Variety magazine. [Variety, 1/26/1998] The idea of the movie, according to Marconi, is “about basically turning the US into Kuwait. It was a blueprint for disaster.” The climax of the story features a Boeing 767 crashing into a Simon and Garfunkel concert in Central Park, just a few miles from the World Trade Center. [Fox News, 6/3/2002] The two planes that crash into the WTC on September 11 are also Boeing 767s. [Fox News, 9/11/2003] Marconi will later comment that the screenplay for WW3.com “was incredibly prescient about the events of September 11.”
NSA Employees Suggest 9/11-Like Scenarios - Experts from the National Security Agency (NSA) assist Marconi while he is working on the screenplay. These experts, Marconi will recall, are “more than helpful in laying out situations not dissimilar from what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon” on September 11, although he will provide no details of these situations. Marconi will add: “One of my experts [at the NSA] told Boeing they had trouble with their avionics. He came up with scenarios. One was that a guy disguises himself as someone who works in food service in order to get on the plane. It’s much more low-tech than you think.” On the day of the 9/11 attacks, one of the people at the NSA who has been assisting Marconi calls the screenwriter and says to him, “Turn on the TV, it’s happening.” [Fox News, 6/3/2002]
Movie 'in Limbo' by 2002 - In August 2000, Variety reports that the well-known French film writer, director, and producer Luc Besson will produce WW3.com, although at this time the movie is still without a director. [Variety, 8/24/2000] But in June 2002, Fox News will report that the movie has been “lost in limbo.” [Fox News, 6/3/2002] The script will eventually be rewritten and made into the fourth Die Hard movie, Live Free or Die Hard, which is released in 2007. [Variety, 7/6/2004; New York Times, 6/27/2007] WW3.com is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten after the 9/11 attacks (see February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001; Washington Times, 3/7/2002]

Entity Tags: David Marconi, Luc Besson, 20th Century Fox, National Security Agency

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

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

In an interview, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Adviser, admits that it was US policy to support radical Islamists to undermine Russia. He admits that US covert action drew Russia into starting the Afghan war in 1979 (see July 3, 1979). Asked if he has regrets about this, he responds, “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.” Then he is asked if he regrets “having given arms and advice to future terrorists,” and he responds, “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?” The interviewer then says, “Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.” But Brzezinski responds, “Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn’t a global Islam….” [Le Nouvel Observateur (Paris), 1/15/1998] Even after 9/11, Brzezinski will maintain that the covert action program remains justified. [Nation, 10/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Zbigniew Brzezinski

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, US Dominance, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Unocal Vice President John J. Maresca—later to become a Special Ambassador to Afghanistan—testifies before the House of Representatives that until a single, unified, friendly government is in place in Afghanistan, the trans-Afghan pipeline will not be built. He suggests that with a pipeline through Afghanistan, the Caspian basin could produce 20 percent of all the non-OPEC oil in the world by 2010. [US Congress, 2/12/1998]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Unocal, John J. Maresca

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

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

Bill Richardson.Bill Richardson. [Source: BBC]Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul. (All such meetings are illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.) US officials at the time call the oil and gas pipeline project a “fabulous opportunity” and are especially motivated by the “prospect of circumventing Iran, which offers another route for the pipeline.” [Boston Globe, 9/20/2001] Richardson tries to persuade the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US, promising to end the international isolation of the Taliban if they cooperate. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 195; US Department of State, 1/30/2004]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Osama bin Laden, Bill Richardson

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, Hunt for Bin Laden

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

Military medical personnel tend to simulated victims during the exercise ‘Cloudy Office.’ Military medical personnel tend to simulated victims during the exercise ‘Cloudy Office.’ [Source: Renee Sitler / US Air Force]A training exercises is held in which hundreds of personnel from the military and other government agencies practice their response to a terrorist attack at the Pentagon involving chemical weapons. The exercise, which lasts about 10 hours, is called “Cloudy Office,” and is run by the Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon—and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Over 500 people from federal, state, and local agencies take part. [BBC, 5/31/1998; American Forces Press Service, 6/9/1998; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 151]
Scenario Involves Terrorists Taking Pentagon Staffers Hostage - Cloudy Office is based around a scenario in which nine pro-Iraqi terrorists, armed with pistols and shotguns, split off from a group of tourists at the Pentagon, burst into Secretary of Defense William Cohen’s office, and take Cohen’s staff hostage. The mock terrorists have with them a gallon jug of liquid simulating sarin, a liter bottle of diluted sarin, and an explosive device. They threaten to release the sarin—a lethal nerve gas—if their demands are not met. Someone accidentally knocks over the jug in the confusion, thereby releasing lethal fumes throughout the Pentagon. Hazardous material teams from local fire departments arrive at the scene and set up decontamination facilities, and military medical personnel set up triage units to treat potential sarin victims. Meanwhile, members of the DPS go into the Pentagon to negotiate with the mock terrorists. Eventually the mock terrorists release the hostages and surrender. [Tulsa World, 5/31/1998; Washington Post, 5/31/1998; American Forces Press Service, 6/9/1998] Twenty-six people are killed and 100 contaminated by the sarin gas in the scenario, with the mock victims being played by military employees. [CNN, 5/30/1998; American Forces Press Service, 6/9/1998; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 151]
Pentagon Is Seen as a Potential Terrorist Target - Cloudy Office has been four months in the planning and is by far the largest exercise of its kind to be held in metropolitan Washington, DC. [Washington Post, 5/31/1998; American Forces Press Service, 6/9/1998] It was prompted partly by the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, which killed 12 commuters. [CNN, 5/30/1998; Washington Post, 5/31/1998; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 151] It is part of an effort to improve America’s ability to respond to incidents involving chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. The Pentagon was selected as the location for the exercise because, as an international symbol of the United States military, it is considered a plausible terrorist target, according to John Jester, chief of the DPS. Agencies that participate include the Office of the Secretary of Defense; the Army Pentagon Medical Facility; the Washington Metropolitan Strike Force; the FBI; Arlington County, Virginia, fire and rescue departments; hazardous material teams; and the Virginia Office of Public Health. [Tulsa World, 5/31/1998; American Forces Press Service, 6/9/1998]

Entity Tags: Defense Protective Service, Cloudy Office, Washington Metropolitan Strike Force, Virginia Office of Public Health, Arlington County Fire Department, US Department of the Army, John Jester, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

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

In June 2001, a CIA cable describing background information on bin Laden’s associates will mention that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is regularly traveling to the US. The CIA’s Renditions Branch had been looking for KSM since at least 1997. In July 2001, the source of this information will positively identify KSM’s photo from a line up and clarify that the last known time KSM went to the US was in the summer of 1998 (see June 12, 2001). Presumably, KSM may have been more reluctant to travel to the US after the crackdown on al-Qaeda in the wake of the August 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 277, 533] In May 1995, the FBI learned that KSM had been in the US, had a current and valid US visa, and was planning to come back to the US, possibly to take flying lessons (see April-May 1995). Additionally, KSM will receive a new US visa on July 23, 2001, though it isn’t known if he ever uses it (see July 23, 2001).

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Hijacker Visas and Immigration

Enron’s agreement from 1996 (see June 24, 1996) to develop natural gas with Uzbekistan is not renewed. Enron closes its office there. The reason for the “failure of Enron’s flagship project” is an inability to get the natural gas out of the region. Uzbekistan’s production is “well below capacity” and only 10 percent of its production is being exported, all to other countries in the region. The hope was to use a pipeline through Afghanistan, but “Uzbekistan is extremely concerned at the growing strength of the Taliban and its potential impact on stability in Uzbekistan, making any future cooperation on a pipeline project which benefits the Taliban unlikely.” A $12 billion pipeline through China is being considered as one solution, but that wouldn’t be completed until the end of the next decade at the earliest. [Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections, 10/12/1998]

Entity Tags: Taliban, China, Uzbekistan, Enron Corporation

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

The State Department warns Saudi officials that bin Laden might target civilian aircraft. Three State Department officials meet Saudi officials in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and pass along a warning based on an interview bin Laden had just given to ABC News . In the interview, bin Laden threatened to strike in the next “few weeks” against “military passenger aircraft” and mentioned surface-to-air missiles. The State Department warns the Saudis that bin Laden does “not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians” and there is “no specific information that indicates bin Laden is targeting civilian aircraft.” However, they add, “We could not rule out that a terrorist might take the course of least resistance and turn to a civilian [aircraft] target.” NBC News will note that the 9/11 Commission “made no mention of the memo in any of its reports… It is unknown why the [Commission] did not address the warning.” [New York Times, 12/9/2005; MSNBC, 12/9/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

US intelligence obtains information from several sources that bin Laden is considering attacks in the US, including Washington and New York. This information is given to senior US officials in July 1998. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] Information mentions an attack in Washington, probably against public places. US intelligence assumes that bin Laden places a high priority on conducting attacks in the US. More information about a planned al-Qaeda attack on a Washington government facility will be uncovered in the spring of 1999. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; US Congress, 7/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Cheney while CEO of Halliburton.Cheney while CEO of Halliburton. [Source: Public domain]Speaking at a “Collateral Damage Conference” hosted by the Cato Institute, Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney says, “[W]e oftentimes find ourselves operating in some very difficult places. The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all things considered, one would not normally choose to go. But, we go where the business is.” During this speech he also emphasizes the importance of the Caspian Basin. “I can’t think of a time when we’ve had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian. It’s almost as if the opportunities have arisen overnight,” he says. [Cato Institute, 6/23/1998; Chicago Tribune, 8/10/2000]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, US Dominance

A foreign intelligence agency warns the FBI’s New York office that Arab militants plan to fly a bomb-laden aircraft from Libya into the World Trade Center. The FBI and the FAA do not take the threat seriously because of the state of aviation in Libya. Later, other intelligence information will connect this group to al-Qaeda. The CIA will include the same information in an intelligence report. [New York Times, 9/18/2002; US Congress, 9/18/2002; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 97-98 pdf file] An FBI spokesperson later says the report “was not ignored, it was thoroughly investigated by numerous agencies” and found to be unrelated to al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 9/19/2002] However, the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will come to the conclusion that the group in fact did have ties to al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 9/18/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, World Trade Center

Category Tags: Warning Signs

The Islamic Jihad, a militant group that has joined forces with al-Qaeda, issues a statement threatening to retaliate against the US for its involvement rounding up an Islamic Jihad cell in Albania (see Summer 1998). It is believed Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote the statement, which says, “We wish to inform the Americans… of preparations for a response which we hope they read with care, because we shall write it with the help of God in the language they understand.” The bombing of two US embassies in Africa follows two days later (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [CNN, 1/2001; Wright, 2006, pp. 269]

Entity Tags: Islamic Jihad, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1998 US Embassy Bombings, Ayman Al-Zawahiri

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

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

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Hunt for Bin Laden, Pipeline Politics, Ali Mohamed, 1998 US Embassy Bombings, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks

The Northern Alliance capital of Afghanistan, Mazar-i-Sharif, is conquered by the Taliban. Military support of Pakistan’s ISI plays a large role; there is even an intercept of an ISI officer stating, “My boys and I are riding into Mazar-i-Sharif.” [New York Times, 12/8/2001] This victory gives the Taliban control of 90 percent of Afghanistan, including the entire proposed pipeline route. CentGas, the consortium behind the gas pipeline that would run through Afghanistan, is now “ready to proceed. Its main partners are the American oil firm Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia, plus Hyundai of South Korea, two Japanese companies, a Pakistani conglomerate and the Turkmen government.” However, the pipeline cannot be financed unless the government is officially recognized. “Diplomatic sources said the Taliban’s offensive was well prepared and deliberately scheduled two months ahead of the next UN meeting” where members are to decide whether the Taliban should be recognized. [Daily Telegraph, 8/13/1998]

Entity Tags: Centgas, Taliban, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Northern Alliance

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, Pakistan and the ISI

Mohamed al-Owhali is arrested and immediately begins confessing his role in the recent al-Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. He reveals to the FBI what an FBI agent will later call “blue-chip” information. [CNN, 1/19/2001] He reveals to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and others that when he was told by a handler in Afghanistan that he would take part in an operation in Kenya, he insisted “I want to attack inside the US” instead. But his handler tells him that the Kenya attack is important because it will keep the US distracted while the real attack is being prepared. Al-Owhali futher explains to his interrogators, “We have a plan to attack the US, but we’re not ready yet. We need to hit you outside the country in a couple of places so you won’t see what is going on inside. The big attack is coming. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.” [USA Today, 8/29/2002; Wright, 2006, pp. 278-279] Presumably, al-Owhali is also the suspect at this time who “inform[s] the FBI that an extensive network of al-Qaeda ‘sleeper agents’ currently exists in the US.” It is known that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke passes on this information to Condoleezza Rice when she begins her position as National Security Adviser in January 2001 (see January 25, 2001), but other details about this warning are not known. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 260] Al-Owhali also reveals the telephone number of a key al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen (see Late August 1998) and warns that an al-Qaeda attack is Yemen is being planned (see Mid-August 1998). [CNN, 1/19/2001]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Condoleezza Rice, Mohamed al-Owhali, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs, 1998 US Embassy Bombings

General Richard B. Myers takes over as commander in chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), commander in chief of the US Space Command, and commander of the Air Force Space Command. He replaces General Howell M. Estes III. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 6/3/1998; Air Force News, 8/19/1998] Myers will serve in these positions until February 22, 2000, when he will be replaced by General Ralph E. Eberhart. [Air Force News, 2/22/2000] On 9/11, Myers will serve as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Myers, 2009, pp. 10]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard B. Myers, Air Force Space Command, US Space Command

Timeline Tags: US Military

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

At some point during his tenure as commander in chief of NORAD (see August 14, 1998), General Richard Myers expresses concerns about the adequacy of the radar system over the US, which NORAD shares with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in what is called the Joint Surveillance System. Myers will later tell the 9/11 Commission that NORAD is unable to “correlate” over 50 percent of the unknown radar tracks it picks up, either because it cannot launch an interceptor aircraft in time or because it cannot deal with the tracks appropriately. Some of them disappear from radar before NORAD can correlate them with the FAA. Myers makes Pentagon officials aware of the problem, telling them, “don’t think we’re providing 100 percent air sovereignty here… we’re looking outward, and a number of those tracks are never correlated.” He will recall that in connection with the internal radar issue, “I saw a letter I put out talking about a potential terrorist issue… that’s why you would want these radars up… it’s kind of a future issue.” According to Myers, there is talk about the future potential of a terrorist threat as a rationale for “trying to get people to address the FAA/[Air Force] radar funding issue in a more robust way.” Myers also finds NORAD’s command and control software inadequate. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that the “system was very old and was contracted to be replaced, but the contractor did not perform. The issue was how many tracks the system could handle at once; NORAD kept modifying the equipment to allow more inputs but it needed a new system.” However, Myers will also confirm to the 9/11 Commission that “from a technical radar standpoint, NORAD had pretty good coastal range, and that the activity on 9/11 was within the radar area that was accessible to NORAD.” [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 6/9/2004]

Entity Tags: Joint Surveillance System, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard B. Myers

Category Tags: US Air Security

Mohamed al-Owhali is arrested and immediately begins confessing to FBI investigators his role in the recent al-Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). In addition to revealing the existence of an al-Qaeda network in the US planning an attack there (August 12-25, 1998) and also revealing the phone number of a key al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen (see Late August 1998), it appears he also reveals al-Qaeda plans for an attack in Yemen. In October 2000, Al-Qaeda operatives bombed the USS Cole in a port in Yemen (see October 12, 2000). In January 2001, in coverage of al-Owhali’s trial for his role in the embassy bombings, a court document mentions that during his interrogation he mentioned “a possible attack in Yemen.” [CNN, 1/19/2001] However, one newspaper notes, “It could not be learned how the authorities followed up on the information or how detailed it was.” [New York Times, 1/18/2001] It will later be revealed that al-Owhali identified the two leaders of the Cole bombing as participants in the planning for the US embassy bombings. [CNN, 10/16/2001]

Entity Tags: Mohamed al-Owhali, Al-Qaeda

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 2000 USS Cole Bombing

El Shifa Plant in Sudan.El Shifa Plant in Sudan. [Source: US government]The US fires 66 missiles at six al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and 13 missiles at a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, in retaliation for the US embassy bombings. [Washington Post, 10/3/2001] The US insists the attacks are aimed at terrorists “not supported by any state,” despite obvious evidence to the contrary. The Sudanese Al Shifa factory is hit in the middle of the night when it is unoccupied. Intelligence will later suggest that the factory had no links to bin Laden (see September 23, 1998). Between six and 30 people are killed in the Afghanistan attacks. But no important al-Qaeda figures die. [Observer, 8/23/1998; New Yorker, 1/24/2000; Wright, 2006, pp. 285] At least one of the missiles accidentally landed inside Pakistan and Pakistan may have been able to build their own cruise missile from examining the remains. There are additional reports that bin Laden was able to sell unexploded missiles to China for more than $10 million. [Wright, 2006, pp. 285] President Clinton is soon widely accused of using the missile strike to distract the US public from a personal sex scandal (see August 17-Late August 1998).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Clinton administration

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Pipeline Politics, 1998 US Embassy Bombings, Osama Bin Laden, Pakistan and the ISI

State Department official Michael Malinowski.State Department official Michael Malinowski. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]Two days after the US missile strikes on militant training camps in Afghanistan (see August 20, 1998), top Taliban leader Mullah Omar unexpectedly telephones the State Department in Washington. He talks to Michael Malinowski, office director for Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh in the Bureau of South Asian Affairs. Although Mullah Omar does not threaten the US, he suggests that the missile strikes could spark more terrorist attacks. He says the Taliban is open to the idea of establishing a secure communication channel with US officials, possibly through the US embassy in Pakistan (there is no embassy in Afghanistan). The State Department comments, “Omar’s contact with a US official is rather remarkable, given his reclusive nature and his past avoidance of contact with all things American.” [US Department of State, 8/23/1998 pdf file; US Department of State, 1/14/2002] The US then sends the Taliban some evidence of bin Laden’s militant activities (see August 23, 1998), but it appears the secure communications channel never materializes.

Entity Tags: Taliban, Michael Malinowski, US Department of State, Mullah Omar

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, 1998 US Embassy Bombings

Mary Carol Turano is appointed director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Boston Civil Aviation Security Field Office (CASFO). This is the office that oversees security at Logan Airport, from where Flights 11 and 175 depart on 9/11. Yet Turano has little experience in airport security, and has not even begun the basic training that all FAA special agents must undergo. During her tenure, according to an agent who is assigned to Logan, staff that document security violations become frustrated, as she allows violations to accumulate without taking appropriate action. After 9/11, it will be revealed that she lacks the identification badge necessary for unescorted access to secure areas. An official familiar with airport security procedures will comment, “An organization does well what a commander checks, and how can you check what they do if you don’t have a ramp access badge?” Turano is subsequently reassigned. [Associated Press, 9/29/2001; Boston Globe, 9/29/2001; WBUR (Boston), 10/4/2001; Thomas, 2003, pp. 61; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 pdf file] Logan Airport’s poor record for security continues while she heads CASFO (see 1991-2000 and 1997-September 1999).

Entity Tags: Boston Civil Aviation Security Field Office, Mary Carol Turano, Federal Aviation Administration

Category Tags: US Air Security

CIA operatives kidnap Ahmad Salama Mabruk and two other members of Islamic Jihad outside a restaurant in Baku, Azerbaijan (see Late August 1998). This is part of a covert CIA program to arrest Islamic Jihad operatives around the world and send them to Egypt (see Summer 1995). [Wall Street Journal, 7/2/2002] Mabruk is the closest ally of Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two leader. Mabruk’s laptop computer turns out to contain al-Qaeda organizational charts and vital information about Islamic Jihad members in Europe. FBI agent Dan Coleman later calls this “the Rosetta Stone of al-Qaeda.” However, the CIA will not turn this information over to the FBI. John O’Neill, head of the FBI’s New York office, tries to get around this by sending an agent to Azerbaijan to get copies of the computer files from the Azerbaijani government. When that fails, he persuades President Clinton to personally appeal to the president of Azerbaijan for the files. The FBI eventually gets the files, but the incident deepens the tensions between the CIA and FBI. [Wright, 2006, pp. 268-269] The US monitored 67 phone calls between bin Laden and Azerbaijan from 1996 to 1998 (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Presumably, many of these would have been to Mabruk. Mabruk is sent to Egypt and given a long prison sentence. [Wall Street Journal, 7/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Islamic Jihad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ahmad Salama Mabruk, Central Intelligence Agency, Dan Coleman, John O’Neill, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Ayman Al-Zawahiri

The FBI learns that al-Qaeda is planning an attack on the US, but “things are not ready yet. We don’t have everything prepared,” according to a captured member of the al-Qaeda cell that bombed the US embassy in Kenya. [USA Today, 8/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Warning Signs

According to a consular officer later interviewed by the 9/11 Commission, at this time the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, begins interviewing “a majority” of male Saudi US visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 40. The officer will say that this is because the consulate is aware of Osama bin Laden, knows he is dangerous, and is concerned about the possibility that Saudi visa applicants might intend to go to the US to participate in terrorist attacks. Al-Qaeda has recently attacked two US embassies in East Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Although some US officials in Saudi Arabia around this time will later say that they were unaware Saudis could be security threats, the official will call this position “absurd” and “patently ridiculous.” The official will also define how they looked for potential extremists: Saudi applicants who had long beards, a short robe, or other indicators of fundamentalism, and fundamentalist Muslim clerics who want a visa to chant the Koran in a US mosque around the time of Ramadan receive greater scrutiny. In addition, even an applicant who does not look like an extremist but is from a location known to have produced extremists, such as Qassim Province, “and he doesn’t have a good explanation, and he wants to go to the US for an extended stay, that person didn’t get a visa.” These applicants are denied visas under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which is for use against applicants who are suspected of wanting to immigrate. One of this officer’s colleagues will confirm the interview policy at this time, saying they interview 100 percent of Saudi citizens who are first-time student visa applicants, 80 percent of all students, and five percent of all other Saudi applicants. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 124-125 pdf file] Around fall 2000 this policy of aggressively interviewing Saudi visa applicants will apparently be scaled back (see Early Fall 2000) by Shayna Steinger, a consular officer who will go on to issue 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000).

Entity Tags: US Consulate, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Office

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events, Hijacker Visas and Immigration

US intelligence hears of a bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington areas. [US Congress, 9/18/2002; New York Times, 9/18/2002] In December it will learn that al-Qaeda plans to hijack US aircraft are proceeding well and that two individuals have successfully evaded checkpoints in a dry run at a New York airport. [US Congress, 7/24/2003]

Entity Tags: US intelligence, Al-Qaeda

Category Tags: Warning Signs

US intelligence uncovers information that bin Laden’s next operation could possibly involve crashing an aircraft loaded with explosives into a US airport. This information is provided to senior US officials. [US Congress, 9/18/2002; Washington Post, 9/19/2002]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Warning Signs

In the wake of the US embassy bombings in Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the US arrests Wadih El-Hage, who will later be convicted for his role in those bombings. Looking through his diaries, investigators discover a reference to a “joint venture” between al-Qaeda and the Holy Land Foundation, a charity based in Texas known for its support of Hamas. The name and phone number of a Texas man connected to Holy Land is also found in El-Hage’s address book (see September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001). The US had considered taking action against Holy Land in 1995 (see January 1995-April 1996) and again in 1997 (1997). Yet, as the Wall Street Journal will later note, “Even when [this] evidence surfaced in 1998 suggesting a tie between the foundation and Osama bin Laden, federal investigators didn’t act.” [Wall Street Journal, 2/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Wadih El-Hage, Osama bin Laden, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Al-Qaeda

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Terrorism Financing, Wadih El-Hage

Julie Sirrs.Julie Sirrs. [Source: Julie Sirrs]Julie Sirrs, a military analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), travels to Afghanistan. Fluent in local languages and knowledgeable about the culture, she made a previous undercover trip there in October 1997. She is surprised that the CIA was not interested in sending in agents after the failed missile attack on Osama bin Laden in August 1998, so she returns at this time. Traveling undercover, she meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. She sees a terrorist training center in Taliban-controlled territory. Sirrs will later claim: “The Taliban’s brutal regime was being kept in power significantly by bin Laden’s money, plus the narcotics trade, while [Massoud’s] resistance was surviving on a shoestring. With even a little aid to the Afghan resistance, we could have pushed the Taliban out of power. But there was great reluctance by the State Department and the CIA to undertake that.” She partly blames the interest of the US government and the oil company Unocal to see the Taliban achieve political stability to enable a trans-Afghanistan pipeline (see May 1996 and September 27, 1996). She claims, “Massoud told me he had proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul.” She also states, “The State Department didn’t want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban.” After two weeks, Sirrs returns with a treasure trove of maps, photographs, and interviews. [ABC News, 2/18/2002; ABC News, 2/18/2002; New York Observer, 3/11/2004] By interviewing captured al-Qaeda operatives, she learns that the official Afghanistan airline, Ariana Airlines, is being used to ferry weapons and drugs, and learns that bin Laden goes hunting with “rich Saudis and top Taliban officials” (see Mid-1996-October 2001 and 1995-2001). [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/2001] When Sirrs returns from Afghanistan, her material is confiscated and she is accused of being a spy. Says one senior colleague, “She had gotten the proper clearances to go, and she came back with valuable information,” but high level officials “were so intent on getting rid of her, the last thing they wanted to pay attention to was any information she had.” Sirrs is cleared of wrongdoing, but her security clearance is pulled. She eventually quits the DIA in frustration in 1999. [ABC News, 2/18/2002; New York Observer, 3/11/2004] Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) will claim that the main DIA official behind the punishment of Sirrs is Lieutenant General Patrick Hughes, who later becomes “one of the top officials running the Department of Homeland Security.” [Dana Rohrabacher, 6/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Unocal, Osama bin Laden, US Department of State, Northern Alliance, Patrick Hughes, Defense Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Al-Qaeda, Julie Sirrs, Central Intelligence Agency, Dana Rohrabacher, Ariana Airlines

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, Hunt for Bin Laden, Drugs

US intelligence learns al-Qaeda is trying to establish a cell within the US. There are indications that the organization might be trying to recruit US citizens. This apparently will be mentioned in President Bush’s August 6, 2001 briefing, which states, “A clandestine source said in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks” (see August 6, 2001). In the next month, there is information that a terror cell in the United Arab Emirates is attempting to recruit a group of five to seven young men from the US to travel to the Middle East for training. This is part of a plan to strike a US domestic target. [US Congress, 9/18/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke advocates an aggressive approach to dealing with terrorists and countries that harbor them, and says terrorists are likely to go after America’s “Achilles’ heel,” which is “in Washington… in New York,” and “throughout the country.” He makes these comments during a two-day conference on countering chemical and biological warfare, held in Washington, DC. [New York Times, 10/8/1998; USIS Washington File, 10/8/1998]
Enemies Could Target Washington or New York - In his speech at the conference, Clarke says, “The United States can defeat in a conventional war any other military in the world.” Therefore: “Our enemies instead will use unconventional techniques, either exclusively or as a supplement to their attack. They will use terrorism. They will use cyber attack and information warfare. And they will use chem-bio attack.” He adds that America’s enemies “will go after our Achilles’ heel,” which is “in Washington. It is in New York. It is throughout the country. For no longer can we count as a nation on the two great oceans defending us from foreign attack here at home.”
US Willing to Take 'The First Step' - Clarke says that the US government has developed a strategy for dealing with chemical and biological weapons attacks, which includes an aggressive approach toward terrorist groups and rogue states. He says these groups and states “should know that those who engage in terrorist acts, including terrorist acts involving chemical and biological weapons, can be assured that they will pay a high price.” The government’s promise to them is “attack us and you will unleash a relentless and methodical machine against you.” Furthermore, Clarke says, the US is willing to act preemptively: “The United States reserves for itself the right of self-defense, and if that means our taking the first step, we will do so. We will not tolerate terrorist organizations acquiring or maintaining stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.” [USIS Washington File, 10/8/1998]
US Will Target Countries that Harbor Terrorists - In an interview after his speech, Clarke emphasizes that countries that harbor these terrorist groups also risk being targeted by the US. He points to the recent missile attacks against Sudan in retaliation for the US embassy bombings in Africa (see August 20, 1998), and says the US will “definitely do something” about such countries. “The something depends on what the circumstances are.” [New York Times, 10/8/1998] Clarke will repeat his claim that the nation’s “Achilles’ heel” terrorists will come after is “here in the United States” in an April 2000 interview with the Washington Post (see April 2, 2000). [Washington Post, 4/2/2000]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

The FAA issues the first of three warnings this year to US airports and airlines urging a “high degree of vigilance” against threats to US civil aviation from al-Qaeda. It specifically warns against a possible terrorist hijacking “at a metropolitan airport in the Eastern United States.” The information is based on statements made by Osama bin Laden and other Islamic leaders, and intelligence obtained after the US cruise missile attacks in August. All three warnings come in late 1998, well before 9/11. [Boston Globe, 5/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Federal Aviation Administration

Category Tags: US Air Security, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

A training exercise, code-named Poised Response, is held at the FBI’s headquarter in Washington, DC, based around a possible terrorist attack in the nation’s capital. US Attorney General Janet Reno invites 200 policemen from the Washington metropolitan area to participate. They have to consider four scenarios: a car bombing, an explosive device in a federal building, an assassination attempt on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and a chemical weapon attack on a Washington Redskins football game. As Time magazine later describes, while the exercise participants are “never told which terrorist might carry out such an audacious attack, Reno and other top Administration aides had one man in mind: Osama bin Laden, whose Afghan camp had been blasted by US cruise missiles two months earlier. His operatives might be coming to town soon.” Time will report there being evidence that bin Laden could be planning to strike Washington or New York (see December 21, 1998). Reportedly, Poised Response is unsuccessful, quickly degenerating into interagency squabbling, and Reno leaves it feeling uneasy. [Agence France-Presse, 12/15/1998; Time, 12/21/1998; Washington Times, 5/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Janet Reno

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

The Kemal Ataturk mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey.The Kemal Ataturk mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey. [Source: Noha El-Hennawy / Los Angeles Times]US intelligence learns that a Turkish extremist group named Kaplancilar, led by Metin Kaplan and based in Cologne, Germany, had planned a suicide attack. The conspirators, who have been arrested, planned to crash an airplane packed with explosives into the Kemal Ataturk mausoleum in Ankara during a government ceremony. The Turkish press says the group has cooperated with Osama bin Laden, and the FBI includes this incident in a bin Laden database. [New York Times, 2/5/2002; US Congress, 9/18/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Metin Kaplan, Osama bin Laden, Kaplancilar, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Warning Signs

According to a US intelligence assessment, “[bin Laden] is actively planning against US targets and already may have positioned operatives for at least one operation.… Multiple reports indicate [he] is keenly interested in striking the US on its own soil… Al-Qaeda is recruiting operatives for attacks in the US but has not yet identified potential targets.” Later in the month, a classified document prepared by the CIA and signed by President Clinton states: “The intelligence community has strong indications that bin Laden intends to conduct or sponsor attacks inside the US.” [US Congress, 9/18/2002; Washington Post, 9/19/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; US Congress, 7/24/2003] This warning 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: Al-Qaeda, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB

Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli.Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli. [Source: Public domain]On December 4, 1998, an item in President Clinton’s Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) is titled, “Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks.” The PDB says “Bin Laden and is allies are preparing for attacks in the US, including an aircraft hijacking to obtain the release of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Muhammad Sadiq ‘Awda. One source quoted a senior member of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (IG) saying that, as of late October, the IG had completed planning for an operation in the US on behalf of bin Laden, but that the operation was on hold. A senior bin Laden operative from Saudi Arabia was to visit IG counterparts in the US soon thereafter to discuss options-perhaps including an aircraft hijacking.” The same source says bin Laden may implement plans to hijack US aircraft before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on December 20 and that two members of the operational team had evaded security checks in a recent trial run at a New York airport. A possible different source says that in late September, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, brother of the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and described in the PDB as an IG leader, was planning to hijack a US airliner during the “next couple of weeks” to free Abdul-Rahman and other prisoners. The PDB also says that “some members of the bin Laden network have received hijack training, according to various sources, but no group directly tied to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization has ever carried out an aircraft hijacking. Bin Laden could be weighing other types of operations against US aircraft.” The PDB mentions other bin Laden related threats, including recent reports that the IG has obtained surface-to-air missiles and intends to move them from Yemen to Saudi Arabia to shoot down aircraft. [Washington Post, 7/18/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 128-130] The private intelligence group Stratfor will later say that, in addition to his ties with IG, Islambouli worked with bin Laden in the Maktab al-Khidamat charity front in Pakistan and is believed to have lived in Afghanistan in the 1990s as “part of the group of key Egyptian advisers surrounding bin Laden.” Islambouli will formally join with al-Qaeda in 2006. [Stratfor, 8/10/2006] In early 1998, the CIA ignored information from a recently retired CIA agent that claimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was in a terrorist cell with Islambouli, both were experts on plane hijackings, and were planning to hijack planes (see Early 1998). Perhaps not coincidentally, on this same day, CIA Director George Tenet issues a “declaration of war” against al-Qaeda in a memo to the US intelligence community (see December 4, 1998). Also on this day, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke holds a meeting of his interagency Counterterrorism and Security Group (CSG) to discuss the threat. The group agrees that New York City airports should go on a maximum security alert that weekend and security should be boosted at other East Coast airports. The FBI, FAA, and New York City Police Department get versions of the PDB report. Later in December and again in January 1999 the source says the hijacking has been postponed because two operatives have been arrested in Washington or New York. But the FBI is unable to find any information to support the threat nor is it able to verify any arrests similar to what the source described, and the source remains mysterious. The high alert in New York airports is canceled by the end of January. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 128-130] This PDB will be mentioned in President Bush’s famous August 6, 2001 PDB, but mentions that US officials “have not been able to corroborate” the plot (see August 6, 2001).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Federal Aviation Administration, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Richard A. Clarke, Counterterrorism and Security Group, Ramzi Yousef, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Muhammad Sadiq ‘Awda, Osama bin Laden, New York City Police Department, Maktab al-Khidamat

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

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

Unocal announces it is withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. President Clinton refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, making business there legally problematic. A concern that Clinton will lose support among women voters for upholding the Taliban plays a role in the cancellation. [New York Times, 12/5/1998]

Entity Tags: Centgas, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Unocal, Taliban

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

In a Time magazine cover story entitled “The Hunt for Osama,” it is reported that intelligence sources “have evidence that bin Laden may be planning his boldest move yet—a strike on Washington or possibly New York City in an eye-for-an-eye retaliation. ‘We’ve hit his headquarters, now he hits ours,’ says a State Department aide.” [Time, 12/21/1998]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Warning Signs

During the investigation of the August 7, 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), FBI counterterrorism expert John O’Neill finds a memo by al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef on a computer. The memo shows that bin Laden’s group has a keen interest in and detailed knowledge of negotiations between the Taliban and the US over an oil and gas pipeline through Afghanistan. Atef’s analysis suggests that the Taliban are not sincere in wanting a pipeline, but are dragging out negotiations to keep Western powers at bay. [Salon, 6/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Atef, United States, Taliban, John O’Neill, Al-Qaeda

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, Hunt for Bin Laden

Page 3 of 9 (841 events)
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Ordering 

Time period


Categories

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 (1312)Dick Cheney (55)Donald Rumsfeld (33)Flight AA 11 (145)Flight AA 77 (145)Flight UA 175 (87)Flight UA 93 (242)George Bush (130)Passenger Phone Calls (67)Pentagon (127)Richard Clarke (32)Shanksville, Pennsylvania (23)Training Exercises (56)World Trade Center (89)

The Alleged 9/11 Hijackers

Alhazmi and Almihdhar (343)Marwan Alshehhi (134)Mohamed Atta (206)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 (452)Insider Trading/ Foreknowledge (53)US Air Security (75)Military Exercises (83)Pipeline Politics (67)Other Pre-9/11 Events (56)

Counterterrorism before 9/11

Hunt for Bin Laden (158)Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11 (225)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (252)

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 (657)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 (77)

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 (146)WTC Investigation (112)Other 9/11 Investigations (135)

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 (353)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (432)Internal US Security After 9/11 (125)
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