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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 8 of 9 (867 events)
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F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch.F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch. [Source: Jack Braden / United States Air Force]At the time of the 9/11 attacks, the 94th Fighter Squadron, which is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, is away on a 90-day combat deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch, to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Two days before 9/11, on September 9, the 27th Fighter Squadron, which is also stationed at Langley AFB, returns from Saudi Arabia, where it has been performing the same mission. (BBC 12/29/1998; Air Force Association 10/2/2002; 1st Fighter Association 2003) The 94th and 27th Fighter Squadrons are two of the three F-15 fighter squadrons that are part of the 1st Fighter Wing, which is the “host unit” at Langley AFB. The third of these is the 71st Fighter Squadron. Between them, the three squadrons have 54 “primary assigned” F-15C fighter jets. (Langley Air Force Base 11/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 2/12/2006) On September 11, most of the F-15s of the 71st FS are also away from base, for the Red Flag exercise in Nevada (see (Late August-September 17, 2001)). (Sizemore 9/24/2001; Doscher 9/15/2006)
Langley Jets Not Part of NORAD Alert Unit - Langley Air Force Base, which is 130 miles south of the Pentagon, is one of two “alert sites” that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) can call upon to get jets quickly launched. However, the F-15s of the 1st Fighter Wing are not involved in this mission. Instead, that task belongs to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which has a small detachment at Langley AFB and keeps two fighter jets there ready to take off when required. (Weisman 9/16/2001; Hebert 2/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Spencer 2008, pp. 114) Despite not being part of the NORAD alert unit, aircraft from the 1st Fighter Wing are involved in the military response to the 9/11 attacks. Jets belonging to the 27th FS are airborne within two hours of the attacks, “providing protection for the National Command Authority and the rest of the nation’s civilian and military leadership.” (Air Force Association 10/2/2002) And F-15s belonging to the 71st FS are launched from Langley AFB following the attacks, to patrol the skies of the East Coast. (Langley Air Force Base 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association 3/14/2006)
Possible Effect on 9/11 Response - Whether the deployment of the 94th Fighter Squadron to Saudi Arabia diminishes Langley AFB’s ability to respond on 9/11 is unknown. However, Air Force units are cycled through deployments like Operation Southern Watch by the Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) Center, which is at Langley Air Force Base. And according to NORAD Commander Larry Arnold, “Prior to Sept. 11, we’d been unsuccessful in getting the AEF Center to be responsible for relieving our air defense units when they went overseas.” (Camelo 6/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org) 12/21/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 99)

John Magaw.John Magaw. [Source: Public domain]About a week before 9/11, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joe Allbaugh replaces the agency’s acting deputy director, John Magaw, a veteran federal law enforcement agent and experienced counterterrorism official, with Michael Brown, a close friend of his and a long-time political associate with no previous experience in emergency management. (Baker 2009, pp. 484) Magaw is a former director of the US Secret Service and of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). In December 1999, Magaw was appointed at FEMA to coordinate the agency’s domestic terrorism efforts. (Market Wire 12/1999) Allbaugh nominated Michael Brown as the agency’s general counsel upon taking office in January. Brown previously worked as a lawyer for a horse racing association. He has no experience in disaster management (See March 1, 2003). According to Russ Baker, an independent investigative journalist and author of Family of Secrets, a Bush family expose: “One day, Mr. Allbaugh came in and said, ‘I know you’ve got these other things to do. I’m going to ask Mr. Brown to be deputy,’ recalled Magaw who promptly returned to the subordinate position assigned him by Clinton. The timing was remarkable. Just a week before September 11, 2001, Allbaugh replaced a key anti-terrorism official with a crony who had close to zero relevant experience.” (Baker 2009, pp. 484)

With President Bush back in Washington after a long vacation, CIA Director George Tenet resumes personally delivering the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) to him. Tenet has one meeting with Bush on August 31, 2001, after Bush’s return (see August 17 and 31, 2001), and then briefs him six more times in the first eight days of September. Bush is out of town the next few days, so he is briefed by other CIA personnel. (Agence France-Presse 4/15/2004) By this time, Tenet has been told about the arrest of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 23, 2001). But there is no evidence he mentions this to Bush before 9/11. Further, on August 23, 2001, the CIA watchlisted 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi and began looking for them in the US (see August 23, 2001), but there’s no evidence Tenet or anyone else briefed Bush about this, either.

“On or around” this day, the Mossad give their “latest” warning to the US of a major, imminent attack by al-Qaeda, according to sources close to Mossad. One former Mossad agent says, “My understanding is that the warning was not specific. No target was identified. But it should have resulted in an increased state of security.” US intelligence claims this never happened. (McGinty 9/16/2001)

The Defense Logistics Agency Headquarters Complex at Fort Belvoir.The Defense Logistics Agency Headquarters Complex at Fort Belvoir. [Source: US Army] (click image to enlarge)The US Army sharply restricts public access to Fort Belvoir, one of its installations about 12 miles south of the Pentagon. After being an open post for over 25 years, Belvoir has now erected barriers across many of the roads leading into it, leaving only six guarded gates as points of entry and exit. Twenty access points are being permanently closed. Visitors must now register their vehicles at a visitor’s center or get a day pass to enter the base. (MDW News Service 7/2001; Vogel 8/15/2001) The access restrictions will allow commanders to know who is entering the base 24 hours a day and adjust security measures immediately if needed. (Wamble 8/3/2001) All other Military District of Washington (MDW) installations are implementing similar changes, due to Army concerns about terrorism (see August 15, 2001). Fort Belvoir has about 20,000 workers and is home to many different agencies, including the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), plus the headquarters of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Technical Information Service. (Military District of Washington 8/2000; Vogel 8/15/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org) 10/21/2001) Occupying over 500 acres at Belvoir is Davison Army Airfield. The 12th Aviation Battalion, which is MDW’s aviation-support unit, is stationed at Davison. This operates UH1 “Huey” and UH60 Black Hawk helicopters in support of training and “contingencies” for various MDW units. (Military District of Washington 8/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/5/2002) The Washington Post has reported, “Fort Belvoir will be holding exercises the next two Tuesdays to test the changes” in access to the base. (Vogel 8/15/2001) This will therefore include September 11 (a Tuesday). Other reports will confirm an antiterrorism exercise being conducted at Belvoir on 9/11 (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001).

White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke sends a memo to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in which he warns that hundreds of Americans could die in an attack by al-Qaeda and complains that the Bush administration is not doing enough to combat the threat posed by the terrorist network. (9/11 Commission 3/24/2004; Eggen and Pincus 3/25/2004) The National Security Council’s principals committee—a group of senior officials who advise the president on issues of national security policy—is set to meet today to discuss al-Qaeda. Before the meeting takes place, Clarke sends a memo to Rice in which he criticizes US counterterrorism efforts.
Al-Qaeda Could Kill 'Hundreds of Americans' - The “real question” before the members of the principals committee, Clarke writes in the memo, is, “[A]re we serious about dealing with the al-Qaeda threat?” He suggests: “Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the [White House Counterterrorism Security Group] has not succeeded in stopping al-Qaeda attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US. What would those decision makers wish that they had done earlier?” “That future day could happen at any time,” he adds.
Clarke Complains about the Lack of Response to the USS Cole Bombing - Clarke criticizes the US military for failing to respond to the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, in October 2000 (see October 12, 2000). “Many in al-Qaeda and the Taliban may have drawn the wrong lesson from the Cole: that they can kill Americans without there being a US response, without there being a price,” he writes. He states that he cannot understand “why we continue to allow the existence of large-scale al-Qaeda bases where we know people are being trained to kill Americans.”
Clarke Warns of a Possible 'Big Attack, with Lots of Casualties' - Clarke complains that without adequate funding: “You are left with a modest effort to swat flies, to try to prevent specific al-Qaeda attacks by using [intelligence] to detect them, and friendly governments’ police and intelligence officers to stop them. You are left waiting for the big attack, with lots of casualties, after which some major US retaliation will be in order.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 212-213)
Rice Later Says Memo Is 'Not a Warning about September 11th' - Rice will later say of Clarke’s memo: “It would not be appropriate or correct to characterize what Dick [Clarke] wrote to me on September 4th as a warning of an impending attack. What he was doing was, I think, trying to buck me up so that when I went into this principals meeting, I was sufficiently on guard against the kind of bureaucratic inertia that he had fought all of his life.” The memo, she will say, “was a warning to me not to get dragged down by the bureaucracy, not a warning about September 11th.” (9/11 Commission 4/8/2004) The principals committee’s meeting today is the committee’s first meeting on al-Qaeda issues. (9/11 Commission 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 212) Clarke had “urgently” called for such a meeting back in January this year (see January 25, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 237)

Preparations take place for a training exercise that will develop plans for restoring operations in New York’s Financial District, where the World Trade Center is located, after a terrorist attack. A week before the 9/11 attacks, according to a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute, New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) are “preparing a tabletop exercise to develop plans for [the] recovery of operations and business continuity in the Financial District after a terrorist attack.” It is unclear whether the exercise takes place now or is simply being prepared for and is scheduled to take place at a later date. The report will note that plans for a program that enables the credentialing of key personnel so businesses can gain access to a restricted area in an emergency have been tested in Buffalo, New York. Presumably this program is discussed as part of the current exercise preparations. (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 30 pdf file) The program is apparently the Corporate Emergency Access System, which was developed by the Business Network of Emergency Resources, a nonprofit organization based in Buffalo. Under this system, organizations designate essential employees who should, if necessary, have access to their facilities during emergencies in order to perform business recovery activities. (General Accounting Office 2/2003, pp. 100 pdf file; Picarillo 5/2004 pdf file) The OEM was created in 1996 by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani with the purpose of, among other things, improving New York’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks (see 1996). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 283) The MTA is the public benefit corporation that is responsible for public transportation in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area counties. (Walsh 2012, pp. 27 pdf file)

FBI headquarters dispatches a memo to the entire US intelligence community summarizing what has been learned about Zacarias Moussaoui. The memo, written by Mike Maltbie, an agent in the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU), reports that the FBI has become suspicious of Moussaoui because he took flight simulation training for a 747 jet, a course normally taken by airline pilots. Moussaoui, who has no flying experience, paid cash for the training, the memo also notes. It also says that Moussaoui has radical Islamic fundamentalist beliefs and has been linked to Chechen militants. However, the memo does not include a threat assessment or indicate that some FBI investigators believe Moussaoui is part of a yet unknown plot to hijack an airplane and use it in a terrorist attack. As a later congressional inquiry will report, the memo fails to “recommend that the addressees take any action or look for any additional indicators of a terrorist attack, nor [does] it provide any analysis of a possible hijacking threat or provide any specific warnings.” (US Congress 9/24/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 175-6 pdf file) Several days earlier, Maltbie blocked the release of a memo from the FBI’s Minneapolis field office that was addressed to the FAA and did contain a threat assessment (see August 29-September 4, 2001). When the FAA receives the FBI memo, it decides not to issue a security alert to the nation’s airports in response. An FAA representative later explains to the New York Post, “[Moussaoui] was in jail and there was no evidence he was connected to other people.” (Lathem 5/21/2002) The FBI memo contrasts sharply with an internal CIA warning sent out on August 24. That memo, which was based on less information, warned that Moussaoui might be “involved in a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the US” (see August 24, 2001). (US Congress 9/18/2002) It turns out that prior to this time, al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam had started cooperating with investigators. He had trained with Moussaoui in Afghanistan and will willingly share this information after 9/11. The FBI dispatch, with its notable lack of urgency and details, fails to prompt the agents in Seattle holding Ressam to question him about Moussaoui. Had the connection between these two men been learned before 9/11, presumably the search warrant for Moussaoui would have been approved and the 9/11 plot might have unraveled (see Late August-Early September 2001). (Sunday Times (London) 2/3/2002)

The fire alarm system in World Trade Center Building 7 is placed on “test condition,” which causes any alarms to be ignored, every morning in the seven days preceding September 11. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 6/2004, pp. 94; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 67; National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 69) WTC 7 is a 47-story office building located 370 feet north of the North Tower. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 2) Its alarm system is placed on test condition “every morning at about the same time” in the seven days before September 11, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Since it will be in test condition on September 11 for a period of eight hours, starting at 6:47 a.m. (see 6:47 a.m.-2:47 p.m. September 11, 2001), the system is presumably put on test condition at a similar time and also for eight hours in the seven days before then. At the end of the eight-hour period, the alarm system automatically returns to normal monitoring.
Alarms Are Ignored During Testing - Test condition is usually requested when maintenance or testing is being carried out on the alarm system. While the system is in this mode, any alarms that are received are considered to be the result of the maintenance or testing and are therefore ignored. Furthermore, while the system is in test condition, any alarm signals do not appear on the operator’s display. However, records of the alarm are still recorded in the system’s history file. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 66; National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 68-69)
Alarm System Is Monitored Away from the WTC - The alarm system in WTC 7 records information at just one location within the building: the fire command station in the third-floor lobby. It is monitored at a location away from the WTC site by AFA Protective Systems, a New York-based company that designs, installs, and services fire alarm systems. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 6/2004, pp. 93; National Institute of Standards and Technology 4/5/2005 pdf file; US Immigration and Customs Enforcement 8/4/2017) AFA Protective Systems usually places the alarm system in WTC 7 on test condition in response to a request from the building manager. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 69) It is unclear who the building manager is, although Mike Catalano, chief engineer for Salomon Smith Barney at WTC 7, will later say the building manager is a man called Ed Campbell. (International Union of Operating Engineers 2003, pp. 27; 9/11 Commission 1/16/2004 pdf file) Records indicate that the alarm system in WTC 7 is often placed on test condition. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 69)

At least one member of the al-Qaeda cell in Milan, Italy, apparently uses steganography, a method of encoding messages within computerized photographs. In Milan’s Via Quaranta mosque in Milan, frequented by Egyptian al-Qaeda operative Mahmoud Es Sayed, pictures of the World Trade Center that have steganographic messages in them are saved on a computer. A number of other pictures of world leaders and pornography are also manipulated in a similar manner. These pictures will not be discovered until months after 9/11, but they help suggest that some in the Milan cell had foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot. Es Sayed had been wiretapped on previous occasions, and was heard making comments suggesting he had such foreknowledge (see August 12, 2000) (see January 24, 2001). His current whereabouts are unknown. (Salomon 5/8/2003)

Peter Chiarelli.Peter Chiarelli. [Source: US Army]Army officers plan an exercise for the Army’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon based around the scenario of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center, which they intend to run during the week following September 11. The officer who is in charge of preparing the exercise is Major General Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli took over as the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization around early to mid-August this year. In this position, he is in charge of current operations in the Army Operations Center (AOC)—the Army’s “command and control center,” according to Chiarelli—located in the basement of the Pentagon. (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Schwab and Jewell 9/2004; Hasenauer 8/5/2008)
New Army Director Plans to Run Crisis Team Exercise - Chiarelli will later recall how the plans for the exercise come about. He will tell an interviewer that in some of the briefings he received when learning about his new post, he was told “that the Crisis Action Team had not stood up, except for an exercise, in about 10 years in any great role.” Therefore, after beginning in the post, he “planned to do an exercise for the Crisis Action Team.” Around the same time, the Personnel Contingency Cell, which is one of the CAT’s support teams, has been directed to put together a new mass casualty standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Army.
New Operating Procedure Has Scenario of Plane Hitting WTC - About a week before 9/11, Raymond Robinson Jr., the chief of operations for the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, and two other officers come to brief Chiarelli on their new SOP. Chiarelli will recall, “The real amazing thing of that SOP is that the scenario was an aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center.” Chiarelli tells the officers, “Hey, not only is this a good SOP and a good plan, but at the same time, to really make this good, what we need to do is exercise it.” Therefore, as he will later recall, “[W]e decided to integrate a scenario like that into my first CAT exercise.” The scenario of a plane crashing into the WTC would be used “to drive this exercise” that Chiarelli is planning to run. Chiarelli will not say what type of aircraft is envisaged hitting the WTC in the scenario, nor specify whether it would have been a hijacked plane or one that crashed into the WTC accidentally.
Exercise Scheduled for September 17 or September 13 - The exact date on which the CAT exercise is set to take place is unclear. Chiarelli will say he has his “folks design it for me on the 17th of September.” (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 95-97) However, Army Center of Military History historian Stephen Lofgren will mention, while interviewing Chiarelli’s deputy, Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, that the exercise is scheduled to take place “a couple of days” after September 11, meaning September 13. (Vaughn 2/12/2002) The exercise is presumably canceled as a result of the 9/11 attacks. The CAT, whose members are set to participate in it, will be activated on September 11 in response to the attacks on the WTC, so as to “respond to the contingency in New York if requested by state and local officials” (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 134)

A Moroccan militant in a prison in Brazil apparently makes an unheeded warning about the 9/11 attacks. Gueddan Abdel Fatah was imprisoned in January 2001 after a hold-up attempt. On September 5, 2001, he hands a letter to a lawyer named Edith Espinosa, and asks her to take copies to head of the Brazilian prison system and the US embassy. (BBC 9/15/2001) Espinosa forgets to deliver the letter. On September 10, he sees her again and says that any warning now would be too late. (United Press International 10/1/2001) In the letter, Fatah says, “I need to talk urgently about very important issues.” He says he intends to reveal information about militant groups that are planning attacks, and he makes reference to “two explosions” that could take place in the US. Shortly after 9/11, he will be questioned and says he was working with a group of Muslim militants in the tri-border area between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay that is a known haven for many Muslim extremist groups. One member of the group had a contact in New York City and “was constantly phoning the United States and holding coded conversations.” This member allegedly told him, “We are waiting for the United States to explode.” (BBC 9/15/2001) Fatah claims that he visited the US consulates in Argentina and Brazil before his arrest eight months earlier and tried to pass on the warning, but no one paid attention to him. (United Press International 10/1/2001) Both Osama bin Laden and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed visited the tri-border area in previous years (see December 1995 and June 1998).

Fort Myer and Fort Lesley J. McNair, both within two miles of the Pentagon, implement “full access control,” which means they increase the level of military police surveillance of those who enter them. Visitors are now required to register and sign in at a visitor center, and obtain a temporary pass. The measures, part of a security crackdown due to concerns about terrorism, will allow commanders to know who is entering their installations 24 hours a day and adjust their security measures immediately as needed. (Wamble 8/3/2001; Vogel 8/15/2001) All other Army posts in the Washington, DC area are currently implementing similar access restrictions (see August 15, 2001).

French and US intelligence officials hold meetings in Paris on combating terrorism. The French newspaper Le Monde claims that the French try again to warn their US counterparts about Zacarias Moussaoui, “but the American delegation… paid no attention… basically concluding that they were going to take no one’s advice, and that an attack on American soil was inconceivable.” The US participants also say Moussaoui’s case is in the hands of the immigration authorities and is not a matter for the FBI. (Burrell, Gumbel, and Sengupta 12/11/2001; Ridgeway 5/28/2002) The FBI arranges to deport Moussaoui to France on September 17, so the French can search his belongings and tell the FBI the results. Due to the 9/11 attacks, the deportation never happens. (US Congress 10/17/2002)

The Daily Mail will later report, “US aviation authorities were warned of a terrorist attack by an Islamic group only days before the September 11 atrocities. The CIA issued a confidential warning that Muslim fundamentalists were preparing a spectacular attack imminently, but it was unable to specify the target.” Around this time, author Salman Rushdie is traveling in North America to promote a new book. (Watts 10/7/2001) In 1989, Iranian clerics issued a fatwa (death threat) against Rushdie for perceived insults to Islam, but the fatwa was lifted in 1998 and Rushdie had recently emerged from hiding. (Jensen 9/23/2001) According to the Daily Mail, aviation regulators conclude Rushdie is the likely target of this CIA warning, and the FAA imposes new restrictions on him on September 6, 2001 (see September 6, 2001). At least two airlines prevent Rushdie from flying with them at all. (Watts 10/7/2001) Apparently the FAA takes no other action and gives no other warning except for extra security measures involving Rushdie. The 9/11 Commission will later briefly mention the pre-9/11 restrictions on Rushdie but will not explain what the intelligence was exactly that led to the restrictions. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 56)

According to a later interview with would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a courier sent by bin al-Shibh tells Osama bin Laden on this day when the 9/11 attacks will take place. (Fouda 9/9/2002) However, there are doubts about this interview (see April, June, or August 2002). The message may have been taken from bin al-Shibh in Germany to Pakistan by al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Zakariya Essabar (see Late August 2001).

Antoinette DiLorenzo, teaching English to a class of Pakistani immigrants, asks a student gazing out the window, “What are you looking at?” The student points towards the WTC, and says, “Do you see those two buildings? They won’t be standing there next week.” At the time, nothing is thought of it, but on September 13, the FBI will interview all the people in the classroom and confirm the event. The FBI later places the boy’s family under surveillance but apparently is unable to find a connection to the 9/11 plot. An MSNBC reporter later sets out to disprove this “urban myth,” but to his surprise, finds all the details of the story are confirmed. The fact that the family members are recent immigrants from Pakistan might mean the information came from Pakistan. (Alter 10/12/2001) Supposedly, on November 9, 2001, the same student predicts there will be a plane crash on November 12. On that day, American Airlines Flight 587 will crash on takeoff from New York, killing 260 people. Investigators will later determine that the crash is accidental. One official at the school later says many Arab-American students have come forward with their own stories about having prior knowledge before 9/11: “Kids are telling us that the attacks didn’t surprise them. This was a nicely protected little secret that circulated in the community around here.” (Shapiro 9/10/2002)

Two unnamed investors buy a large number of shares of Stratesec, a company that provides airport security systems and which also has a contract to help provide security at the World Trade Center (see October 1996). Stratesec’s stock will increase in value from $0.75 per share on 9/11 to $1.49 per share when the market reopens on September 17. The value of the unnamed investors’ 56,000 shares will rise by over $50,000 in the weeks following the attacks. The purchase will draw the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission after 9/11, when it reviews possible profiteering by individuals with foreknowledge of the attacks. However, the FBI will find no evidence of a terrorist link and so decide not to pursue an investigation of the trades (see also July 22, 2004). (9/11 Commission 8/18/2003, pp. 4-5 pdf file)

Egon Hawrylak.Egon Hawrylak. [Source: US Air Force]The US Army holds a major training exercise at Fort Lesley J. McNair, a base near the Pentagon, along with numerous law enforcement and emergency response agencies, and the exercise will improve coordination between these agencies when they work together in response to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11. (National Guard Bureau 4/1/2002 pdf file; EENET 6/5/2002 pdf file) Fort McNair, which is two miles east of the Pentagon, is the location of the headquarters of the US Army Military District of Washington (MDW). Numerous staff elements of the command stage their operations from the base. (Global Security (.org) 1/12/2002; US Army Military District of Washington 10/22/2004) Colonel Egon Hawrylak, the deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and security for the MDW, will later recall that on this day, “[W]e had conducted a huge tabletop exercise” at Fort McNair “with all the state, federal, and local law enforcement and emergency disaster relief agencies.” The exercise is held “in preparation for” the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which are scheduled to take place in Washington, DC, on September 29 and September 30. Agencies that participate in the exercise include the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) and the FBI. Hawrylak will say that during the exercise, members of the different agencies “talked about things, so we knew each other; we knew how to coordinate and get things done together.” Hawrylak will not say what scenarios are prepared for during the exercise. He will say, however, that the exercise contributes to “the great working relationship” that the Army has with the ACFD, the FBI, and other agencies when they have to work together to respond to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11. (Reuters 9/17/2001; National Guard Bureau 4/1/2002 pdf file; EENET 6/5/2002 pdf file) On September 5, security at Fort McNair was increased as part of a nationwide crackdown ordered by Army leaders who are concerned about terrorism (see August 15, 2001 and September 5, 2001). (Wamble 8/3/2001; Vogel 8/15/2001)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices for dealing with the simulated hijackings of two commercial aircraft by terrorists, as part of its annual training exercise called Vigilant Guardian. Whether the simulated hijackings take place simultaneously or at different times of the day is unclear. (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 3)
Terrorists Threaten to 'Rain Terror from the Skies' - One of the two exercise scenarios involves the hijacking of a Boeing 747 bound from Tokyo, Japan, to Anchorage, Alaska. According to a document later produced by the 9/11 Commission, the scenario involves the “[t]hreat of harm to [the plane’s] passengers and possibly [a] large population within [the] US or Canada.” It includes what is apparently a fictitious Asian terrorist group called “Mum Hykro,” which is threatening to “rain terror from the skies onto a major US city unless the US declares withdrawal from Asian conflict.” During the hijacking scenario, some of the plane’s passengers are killed. The plane’s course is changed to take it to Vancouver, Canada, and then to San Francisco, California. In response to the hijacking, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and FAA headquarters direct military assistance, in the form of “covert shadowing” of the hijacked aircraft. NORAD has to liaise with the appropriate air traffic control centers. Its Alaskan region (ANR) and its Canadian region (CANR) participate in the scenario.
Group Threatens to Blow up Plane - In the other hijacking scenario, 10 members of another fictitious terrorist group, “Lin Po,” seize control of a Boeing 747 bound from Seoul, South Korea, to Anchorage. The hijackers have weapons on board that were smuggled onto the plane in small tote bags by ground crew members prior to takeoff. Gas containers were also smuggled onto the aircraft by baggage handlers before takeoff. Arming devices are attached to these containers, which can be remotely detonated. The terrorist group issues demands and threatens to blow up the plane if these are not met. The CIA and NSA caution that the group has the means and motivation to carry out a chemical and biological attack. The group kills two of the plane’s passengers and threatens to use the gas it has on board in some manner. In response to the simulated hijacking, NORAD directs fighter jets to get in a position to shoot down the hijacked airliner, and orders ANR to intercept and shadow it. In the scenario, the 747 eventually lands in Seattle, Washington. (9/11 Commission 2004)
Most NORAD Exercises Include Hijack Scenario - Vigilant Guardian is one of four major exercises that NORAD conducts each year. Most of these exercises include a hijack scenario. (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004) Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission in 2003 that he cannot “remember a time in the last 33 years when NORAD has not run a hijack exercise.” (9/11 Commission 11/14/2003 pdf file) This year’s Vigilant Guardian will include additional aircraft hijacking scenarios on September 9 and September 10 (see September 9, 2001 and September 10, 2001), and a further simulated plane hijacking is scheduled for the morning of September 11 (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

Salman Rushdie.
Salman Rushdie. [Source: Public domain]The FAA places severe flight restrictions on author Salman Rushdie, who is in the US to promote a new book. The restrictions are so strict and costly that at least two airlines refuse to fly him at all. The FAA tells Rushdie’s publisher that US intelligence has given warning of “something out there” but fails to give any further details. One newspaper will later state, “The FAA confirmed that it stepped up security measures concerning Mr. Rushdie but refused to give a reason.” (Doran 9/27/2001; Watts 10/7/2001) The Daily Mail will later report that the CIA secretly gave the FAA a “confidential warning that Muslim fundamentalists were preparing a spectacular attack imminently, but it was unable to specify the target.” But the only action the FAA takes is to require more security for Rushdie’s flights (see Shortly Before September 6, 2001). Rushdie had been the subject of an Iranian fatwa (death threat) until it was lifted in 1998. (Jensen 9/23/2001)

Ben Soltane Adel, a Tunisian detained in Milan, Italy, for belonging to an extremist cell (see January 24, 2001), receives a letter from a fellow militant. The envelope contains an empty chewing gum wrapper. The wrapper is from Brooklyn Gum, a popular Italian brand that features a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, so presumably it is a hint to Adel about the 9/11 targets. Prison guards notice the wrapper when they open the envelope and think it odd. However, they do not realize the full significance of it until five days later. (Vidino 2006, pp. 226) Some Islamist militants in Milan appear to have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks around this time (see September 7, 2001) and September 4, 2001). In January 2001, Adel was monitored talking about using forged documents to help the “brothers who are going to the United States” with Mahmoud Es Sayed, one of the people in Italy who seems to know about the 9/11 plot (see January 24, 2001 and August 12, 2000).
Release and Imprisoned Again - In early 2004, Adel will be released after serving a three and a half year sentence in Italy, and then deported to Tunisia. In June 2007, it will be reported that he is on a UN al-Qaeda and Taliban blacklist, and he is imprisoned in Tunisia. (Isle of Man Customs Division 6/11/2007)

A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard.A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard. [Source: Public domain]Suspicious trading occurs on the stock of American and United, the two airlines hijacked in the 9/11 attacks. “Between 6 and 7 September, the Chicago Board Options Exchange [sees] purchases of 4,744 put option contracts [a speculation that the stock will go down] in UAL versus 396 call options—where a speculator bets on a price rising. Holders of the put options would [net] a profit of $5 million once the carrier’s share price [dive] after September 11. On September 10, 4,516 put options in American Airlines, the other airline involved in the hijackings, [are] purchased in Chicago. This compares with a mere 748 call options in American purchased that day. Investigators cannot help but notice that no other airlines [see] such trading in their put options.” One analyst later says, “I saw put-call numbers higher than I’ve ever seen in ten years of following the markets, particularly the options markets.” (Carpenter 9/18/2001; Berthelsen 9/19/2001) “To the embarrassment of investigators, it has also [learned] that the firm used to buy many of the ‘put’ options… on United Airlines stock was headed until 1998 by ‘Buzzy’ Krongard, now executive director of the CIA.” Krongard was chairman of Alex Brown Inc., which was bought by Deutsche Bank. “His last post before resigning to take his senior role in the CIA was to head Bankers Trust—Alex Brown’s private client business, dealing with the accounts and investments of wealthy customers around the world.” (Blackhurst 10/14/2001)

The Chicago Board Options Exchange sees suspicious trading on Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, two of the largest WTC tenants. In the first week of September, an average of 27 put option contracts in its shares are bought each day. Then the total for the three days before the attacks is 2,157. Merrill Lynch, another WTC tenant, see 12,215 put options bought between September 7-10, when the previous days had seen averages of 252 contracts a day. (Blackhurst 10/14/2001) Dylan Ratigan of Bloomberg Business News, speaking of the trading on Morgan Stanley and other companies, says, “This would be one of the most extraordinary coincidences in the history of mankind if it was a coincidence.” (ABC News 9/20/2001)

The French newspaper Le Figaro will report in late 2001 that on this day, “According to Arab diplomatic sources as well as French intelligence, very specific information [is] transmitted to the CIA with respect to terrorist attacks against American interests around the world, including on US soil.” A French intelligence report sent to the US this day “enumerates all the intelligence, and specifies that the order to attack [is] to come from Afghanistan.” (Richard 10/31/2001) It will later be revealed that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gives Mohamed Atta the final go-ahead in a phone call from Afghanistan the day before 9/11 (see September 10, 2001).


Father Jean-Marie Benjamin.
Father Jean-Marie Benjamin. [Source: Public domain]At a wedding in Todi, Italy, Father Jean-Marie Benjamin is told of a plot to attack the US and Britain using hijacked airplanes as weapons. He is not told specifics regarding time or place. He immediately passes what he knows to a judge and several politicians. He later will state, “Although I am friendly with many Muslims, I wondered why they were telling me, specifically. I felt it my duty to inform the Italian government.” Benjamin has been called “one of the West’s most knowledgeable experts on the Muslim world.” Two days after 9/11, he will meet with the Italian Foreign Minister on this topic. He will say he learned the attack on Britain failed at the last minute. (Zenit (Vatican) 9/16/2001) An al-Qaeda cell based in nearby Milan, Italy, appears to have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see August 12, 2000) and (see January 24, 2001). It is not known if the Italian government warns the US government of this latest warning before 9/11.

Abu Hamza al-Masri, the radical British imam, is apparently tipped off about the imminent 9/11 attacks during a telephone conversation with militant contacts of his in Afghanistan. Al-Masri, the imam at Finsbury Park mosque in London, will allege this in a court submission seen by the London Times in 2018. He will write that he is called today from Afghanistan by two of his “old neighbors in his Pakistan time.” The men are not members of al-Qaeda, he will state. However, they tell him that “something very big will happen very soon.” He believes they are referring to an imminent terrorist attack in the United States. Al-Masri will also state that he believes his home telephone is currently being tapped by the police. “If true, the claim raises questions about whether British authorities were aware of the warning and failed to pass it on to their American counterparts” before 9/11, Abu Dhabi newspaper The National will comment. Furthermore, he believes intelligence agencies around the world must be aware of the information he receives. He thinks that “this news is widely spread and everyone is phoning friends” about it, he will state. Therefore, he will comment, “the intelligence [agencies] of many countries must have had an earful about it.” Al-Masri himself is an agent of the British intelligence service MI5 and the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch, who operates under the code name “Damson Berry” (see Early 1997). (National 1/14/2018; Lam 1/15/2018; Basu 1/16/2018)

MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, the location of CENTCOM headquarters.MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, the location of CENTCOM headquarters. [Source: Jason Robertson / US Air Force]Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), says his biggest fear is that terrorists will attack the World Trade Center. Franks gives a presentation to the CENTCOM intelligence staff at the command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, about what he thinks the major threats facing the US in the Middle East and Central Asia are. When he finishes, a young sergeant asks him, “General, what keeps you awake at night?” According to Computerworld magazine, Franks replies, “The thought of one tower of the World Trade Center collapsing into the other tower, killing thousands of people.” But in his memoir, published in 2004, Franks will write that he answers, “A terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York—that’s what keeps me awake at night.” Franks, according to his own recollections, then elaborates, saying, “If international terrorists were to strike a major blow against America, I fear the specter of the nation’s military operating as combatants within our borders for the first time since the 1860s.” Therefore, he continues, “the thing that keeps me awake at night… is the possible use of our armed forces against American citizens.” Military personnel, he says, are “not police officers, sheriffs, or the FBI,” and so if they “were ever required to act in that capacity during a major emergency like an attack on the World Trade Center, the effect on America could be devastating.” He concludes by saying, “Martial law would not sit well in a free and open society.” (Verton 10/21/2003; Franks 2004, pp. 236-237) As CENTCOM commander, Franks is in charge of US military operations in an area covering 25 nations in North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. (CNN 10/24/2001; ABC News 1/7/2006) He will lead the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. (Iqbal 8/17/2004)

’The President’s Man: A Line in the Sand.’’The President’s Man: A Line in the Sand.’ [Source: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment]A made-for-television film made by Chuck Norris for CBS Television is delivered to the network. Originally entitled The President’s Man: Ground Zero, the film stars Norris as Joshua McCord, a “Mission Impossible”-type special agent that the president of the United States likes to call upon when the FBI or CIA are not up to the task. McCord and his crew have just returned from West Africa, where they blew up Saddam Husein’s nuclear supplies, when they receive another urgent mission from the White House. This time a group of young Muslim terrorists has smuggled a small nuclear bomb into the US. The group is directed by a shadowy sheikh hiding deep underground below an ancient fort in Afghanistan. The sheikh threatens to blow up an American city unless the US releases terrorists captured after a previous attack. McCord’s mission: grab the sheikh from his lair, then find the bomb before it is too late. (Times 2001; Norris 3/3/2009) According to Norris, CBS will refuse to show the film. He will say: “CBS got so scared of it, they said… ‘[W]e can’t release this.… [I]t’s too prophetic.’” The film will later be released on video under the title The President’s Man: A Line in the Sand. (Norris 3/3/2009)

The State Department issues a little noticed warning, alerting against an attack by al-Qaeda. However, the warning focuses on a threat to American citizens overseas, and particularly focuses on threats to US military personnel in Asia. (US Department of State 9/7/2001) In the one-page alert, the State Department says it received information in May 2001 “that American citizens may be the target of a terrorist threat from extremist groups with links to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization. Such individuals have not distinguished between official and civilian targets.… As always, we take this information seriously. US Government facilities worldwide remain on heightened alert.” Such warnings are issued periodically and usually are so vague that few pay them serious attention. In any event, most airlines and officials will claim that they did not see this warning until after 9/11. (Matier and Ross 9/14/2001)

The future of “continental air sovereignty” over America is in doubt. Discussions at the Air Force’s highest levels call for the dismantling of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US and its command and control structure. (Filson 2003, pp. 149) Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region, will later add that “the secretary of the Air Force, James G. Roche, stated that he and the then chief of staff of the Air Force, General John Jumper, had decided to withdraw funding for air defense, and they had made that decision on September 7, 2001.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 289) Earlier in the summer of 2001, “a reduction in air defenses had been gaining currency in recent months among task forces assigned by [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to put together recommendations for a reassessment of the military” (see Summer 2001). (Schrader and Richter 9/15/2001)

French author Bernard-Henri Levy claims to know an anonymous manager at a Dubai, United Arab Emirates, bank who gives him astute and accurate tips on Arab banking. The manager tells Henri-Levy in 2002, “We know a bank here that made [a put option] transaction between the 8th and 10th of September on certain Dow Jones blue-chip stocks for accounts linked to bin Laden. I know the name of a bank that, by shorting 8,000 shares of United Airlines on the 7th of September, then 1,200 shares of American Airlines on the morning of the 10th, allowed the attack to finance itself.” The manager won’t name the bank, but he quotes bin Laden from a late September 2001 interview, stating, “al-Qaeda is full of young, modern, and educated people who are aware of the cracks inside the Western financial system, and know how to exploit them. These faults and weaknesses are like a sliding noose strangling the system.” (Laden 9/28/2001; Levy 2003, pp. 312-313) The timing and amount of type of stock speculation mentioned in this account is similar to, but not the same as, previously published reports (see September 6-10, 2001). Levy suspects the al-Qaeda agent making these transactions is the financially astute Saeed Sheikh, graduate of the London School of Economics. An al-Qaeda agent using the alias Mustafa Ahmad is captured by a surveillance camera entering the Bank of Dubai on September 10, Dubai time, to pick up money sent by Mohamed Atta in previous days, but this video footage has never been publicly released. Levy and others argue that Mustafa Ahmad and Saeed Sheikh are one and the same (see September 5-10, 2001). (Levy 2003, pp. 312-313)

Big Sky Resort, Montana.Big Sky Resort, Montana. [Source: FedCenter.gov]Emergency managers from around the US, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joseph Allbaugh and representatives from the emergency management agencies of 47 states, are in Big Sky, Montana, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), where the main focuses include the issues of domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Most State Emergency Managers in Attendance - Conference attendees include around 350 government and industry emergency specialists. (Janofsky 9/12/2001; DeMers 10/2001 pdf file) Among them are almost all of America’s state emergency management directors and most of the senior FEMA staff. (Nagy 9/13/2001) They are there, reportedly, “to hear briefings on the latest issues in domestic preparedness, improve state and local capabilities, address energy shortages, and discuss lessons from the February 2001 Nisqually earthquake.” (DeMers 10/2001 pdf file) The attendees discuss anti-terrorism planning courses, and the status of federal aid and cooperation efforts. (Nagy 9/10/2002) Allbaugh is the event’s keynote speaker and gives his talk on September 10, in which he describes his focus on improving emergency capabilities and preparing for disaster. (Janofsky 9/12/2001; DeMers 10/2001 pdf file)
Conference Ends Early Due to Attacks - The NEMA conference is originally scheduled to run until September 12. (Natural Hazards Observer 3/2001; National Emergency Management Association 8/15/2001) But because of the terrorist attacks on September 11, it ends a day early (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Borgstrom 10/25/2001) Special arrangements are then made for some of the emergency managers in attendance to be flown home on military aircraft, while others have to drive long distances back to their states (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Nagy 9/13/2001; DeMers 10/2001 pdf file)
Timing of Attacks Inconvenient - In May this year, President Bush put FEMA in charge of responding to any terrorist attacks in the United States, charging it with creating an Office of National Preparedness to coordinate the government’s response to such attacks (see May 8, 2001). (White House 5/8/2001; Gerstenzang 5/9/2001) Following the attacks on September 11, FEMA spokesman Mark Wolfson will note the inconvenience of these attacks occurring at the same time as the NEMA conference. He will say that FEMA officials do not know whether the attacks were timed to catch emergency officials off guard, but “it is something that law enforcement investigators might be looking at.” (Nagy 9/13/2001) NEMA is the professional association of state emergency management directors. (Natural Hazards Observer 3/2001) Its annual conference is being held in Montana this year because its president, Jim Greene, is the administrator of the state’s Disaster and Emergency Services Division. (Billings Gazette 10/5/2000; Murray 1/16/2001; Janofsky 9/12/2001)

The air traffic control tower at Logan Airport.The air traffic control tower at Logan Airport. [Source: Public Domain]Several unidentified Middle Eastern men try unsuccessfully to get a tour of the air traffic control tower at Boston’s Logan Airport, while, later in the day, a Middle Eastern man is able to enter the tower and look around. In the first incident, around late morning or early afternoon, four or five Middle Eastern men approach an air traffic controller in the parking area while he is on a cigarette break. The controller will later describe two of the men as “approximately 38 to 42 years of age,” while the others are “approximately 30 to 34 years of age.” (Mohamed Atta, the oldest of the 9/11 hijackers, is 33 years old at the time of the attacks.) One of the older men has a mustache, and all of them are dressed casually. The men ask the controller to let them have a tour of the control tower, but he refuses. After a brief conversation, he gives the men a phone number to call if they want a tour. Later on this day, during the evening, a Middle Eastern man who introduces himself as a pilot is able to enter and tour the tower. The man is able to get to the tower’s 19th floor, even though access to that floor is restricted. Officials later surmise that he waited in one of the elevators until an employee on the 19th floor called for it, and then the employee went down after the Middle Eastern man got off. The man enters a room where some controllers are on break. When the controllers ask the man what he is doing, he says he is a pilot who wants a tour of the tower cab. An unnamed source will later describe: “He showed some ID, said he was a pilot, and because it was not a busy time, they said OK. It is not that unusual for a pilot to get a tour.” The man heads up the stairs to the tower cab where he spends about 15 minutes and engages the controllers there in conversation. He says he lives in Haverhill and has family in Afghanistan, and then leaves on his own. The two incidents on this day will be recalled as suspicious after the 9/11 attacks, but the identity of the Middle Eastern men will not be established. (Kornblut and Farragher 9/16/2001; Brelis 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 2003)

Inova Fairfax Hospital.Inova Fairfax Hospital. [Source: Inova Health System Media Services]A training exercise is held at Inova Fairfax Hospital, just outside Washington, DC, which is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a chemical weapon. (Smith 11/8/2001; American Hospital Association 2002, pp. 27 pdf file; Altman and Kolata 1/6/2002) The large-scale exercise involves local, state, and federal participants, although which particular agencies take part is unstated. It centers around a simulated attack on the Fairfax County courthouse with sarin, a deadly nerve gas. (American Hospital Association 2002, pp. 27 pdf file) The simulated scenario is intended to overwhelm the medical system with hundreds or thousands of victims. Dr. Thomas Mayer, chair of Inova Fairfax Hospital’s emergency department, will later explain: “You say, ‘Here’s the scenario: We have 160 victims. How do we triage them? Where will they go? How will they be handled?’” (Altman and Kolata 1/6/2002)
Model Tested in the Exercise Works Well - The “command hospital communication concept” is tested in the exercise. This model involves the “command hospital”—Inova Fairfax, which has the appropriate communications system—serving as a link to other hospitals in the area and being responsible for ensuring that patients with specific needs are sent to the appropriate medical facilities. The exercise is reportedly a success. “Everything worked fine,” Patrick Walters, a senior vice president at Inova Health System, will say. (American Hospital Association 2002, pp. 27 pdf file; Condon-Rall 2011, pp. 186)
Hospital Responds to the Pentagon Attack on September 11 - Inova Fairfax Hospital, the largest hospital in Northern Virginia, is located 10 miles from the Pentagon. (Dyan 1/2007; Kravitz 10/10/2010) On September 11, it will activate its disaster plan following reports of the attacks on the World Trade Center (see (Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. B3 pdf file) After being informed about the attack on the Pentagon, hospital officials will quickly clear over 200 beds for the anticipated casualties. (Smith 11/8/2001) However, although the regional plan process works well when tested in today’s exercise, on September 11 it “didn’t work at all,” Walters will say. (American Hospital Association 2002, pp. 28 pdf file)

A training exercise is held at New York’s La Guardia Airport, based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a biological weapon. Mark Edelman, chief external relations officer of the Greater New York chapter of the American Red Cross, will later say the Greater New York chapter has been preparing for the possibility of a biological terrorist attack since the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). And today—“the very Saturday before September 11”—there is “a bioterror drill at La Guardia Airport,” he will add. Details of what the exercise involves are unstated. Whether any agencies other than the Red Cross participate in the exercise is also unstated. (Philanthropy News Digest 12/7/2001) La Guardia Airport is located eight miles from midtown Manhattan in the borough of Queens, New York, and is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (Braun and Gjorgievska 7/27/2015; Malo 7/27/2015) Another exercise is being held there today by the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, which is based around a simulated plane crash (see September 8, 2001). (Asaeda 3/2002)

Steve Kanarian.Steve Kanarian. [Source: Steve Kanarian]The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) holds a training exercise at New York’s La Guardia Airport, based around the scenario of a jet aircraft carrying about 150 passengers crashing at the end of the runway. (Asaeda 3/2002; Kanarian 2011, pp. 23) The exercise, called Operation Low Key, is an annual drill, which assesses the emergency preparedness response to aviation accidents at La Guardia Airport. (Kanarian 2011, pp. 18)
Exercise Is Intended as Preparation for a Mass Casualty Incident - Before the exercise begins, its participants gather in a briefing room at the airport where Robert McCracken, chief of EMS operations, tells them the exercise is “an important drill for preparation for an aviation accident or a MCI [mass casualty incident].” The exercise commences when an announcement is made, informing participants that a “10-40”—a confirmed plane crash—has been reported at the airport. Participants in their emergency vehicles are then escorted across the runway by members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD). (Kanarian 2011, pp. 21-23) (La Guardia Airport is run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (Malo 7/27/2015) )
Exercise Is Regarded as 'a Job Well Done' - The participants arrive at the scene of the simulated crash where there is a plane, and mock casualties are strewn around the runway. To the left, a fire is burning, simulating a burning aircraft. The firefighters and EMS personnel then carry out their response to the mock disaster as if they were responding to a real incident. At the end of the exercise, they gather in the PAPD building at the airport and discuss the day’s events. They are “complimented on a job well done,” according to Steve Kanarian, an FDNY paramedic who participates in the exercise. (Kanarian 2011, pp. 23-25) La Guardia Airport is eight miles from midtown Manhattan in the borough of Queens, New York. (Braun and Gjorgievska 7/27/2015; Malo 7/27/2015) Another exercise is being held there today by the Red Cross, which is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a biological weapon (see September 8, 2001). (Philanthropy News Digest 12/7/2001) Three days later, on September 11, FDNY EMS personnel will receive a real report of a “10-40” and subsequently respond to the crashes at the World Trade Center. (Goldfarb 9/2002; Kanarian 9/7/2011)

The FBI’s Washington Field Office.The FBI’s Washington Field Office. [Source: FBI]The FBI’s Washington, DC, field office (WFO) holds a field training exercise in which various agencies practice their response to a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The exercise is led by Special Agent Christopher Combs on behalf of the FBI. (9/11 Commission 8/5/2003 pdf file; Combs 5/17/2011) Combs is the assistant WMD coordinator on the National Capital Response Squad—an antiterrorism rapid response unit—out of the WFO.
Exercise Is Based around a Chemical Weapons Attack - The exercise is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack, according to Combs. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 76; Combs 5/17/2011) Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department will later describe it as a “major chemical exercise,” presumably meaning it involves a hypothetical attack with a chemical weapon. It is held at an unspecified location in Fairfax County in Northern Virginia and is attended by “all the area fire departments, police departments, and the FBI,” Combs will say. (Combs 5/17/2011; Arlington TV 7/18/2011; Schwartz 10/8/2014) It is held on the Sunday before 9/11—September 9—according to Combs. (Kettl 2008, pp. 203; Combs 5/17/2011) Other accounts, however, will state that it is held on September 8, the Saturday before 9/11. (9/11 Commission 8/5/2003 pdf file; Arlington TV 7/18/2011; Schwartz 10/8/2014)
Exercise Improves the Response to the Pentagon Attack - Many people who participate in the exercise will be involved in the emergency response to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11. (Kettl 2008, pp. 203) Combs, for example, will arrive at the Pentagon just minutes after the attack there and initially serve as the on-scene FBI commander at the crash site. (9/11 Commission 8/5/2003 pdf file; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 76) The exercise reportedly has a beneficial effect on the ability of its participants to respond to the Pentagon attack. It is “one more of those opportunities for us to not only get to know each other but [also to] figure out how we were going to interoperate with each other,” Schwartz will comment. Consequently, on September 11, there will already be “a great deal of understanding about how we were going to work together on this kind of an incident.” (Arlington TV 7/18/2011) The FBI’s WFO and the Arlington County Fire Department, which participates in today’s exercise, regularly train together and often respond jointly to real-world incidents. (9/11 Commission 8/5/2003 pdf file)

The weekend before the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Marine Aviation and its personnel are moved out of the Pentagon’s Wedge One and into the nearby Butler Building. The building is under construction, as it is being reinforced. Thanks to the move, no marines are killed or even seriously injured on 9/11. (Allison 11/2001)

Just two days before 9/11, the New York Times publishes an article on their website examining the threat of an al-Qaeda attack on US interests. The article focuses on a videotape made by bin Laden which was released in June 2001 (see June 19, 2001). The article notes that “When the two-hour videotape surfaced last June, it attracted little attention, partly because much of it was spliced from previous bin Laden interviews and tapes. But since then the tape has proliferated on Islamic Web sites and in mosques and bazaars across the Muslim world.” It further notes that in the video, bin Laden “promises more attacks.” Referring to the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, he says, “The victory of Yemen will continue.” He promises to aid Palestinians fighting Israel, an important shift in emphasis from previous pronouncements. He also praises the Taliban, suggesting that previous reports of a split between bin Laden and the Taliban were a ruse. The article comments, “With his mockery of American power, Mr. bin Laden seems to be almost taunting the United States.” (Burns 9/9/2001) Curiously, shortly after 9/11, the New York Times will remove the article from their website archive and redirect all links from the article’s web address, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/09/international/asia/09OSAM.html, to the address of another article written by the same author shortly after 9/11, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/12/international/12OSAM.html. (Note the dates contained within the addresses.)

Amrullah Saleh.Amrullah Saleh. [Source: Associated Press' Kamran Jebreili]Northern Alliance leader Amrullah Saleh calls the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center to inform it of the assassination of anti-Taliban commander Ahmed Shah Massoud (see September 9, 2001). His call is taken by Richard Blee, the manager responsible for Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit. Although Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, an expert on Afghanistan, realizes the assassination means “something terrible [is] about to happen” (see September 9, 2001), Blee does not appear to connect the assassination to a spike in warnings about an al-Qaeda attack against US interests, even though he has been briefing senior officials about this all summer (see May 30, 2001, June 28, 2001, July 10, 2001, and Late July 2001). The Northern Alliance realizes that the Taliban will attack them immediately, because they are leaderless, and Saleh asks for support from the CIA. However, some at the CIA think that the Northern Alliance has no chance without Massoud, who held it together. Other officers “[call] frantically around Washington to find a way to aid the rump Northern Alliance before it [is] eliminated.” The CIA informs the White House of the assassination, and the news soon leaks to CNN. This prompts the Northern Alliance to call again, this time complaining about the leak. (Coll 2004, pp. 582-4)

A message is posted on Alsaha.com, a website based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, apparently warning of the 9/11 attacks. It proclaims that in the next two days, a “big surprise” is coming from the Saudi Arabian region of Asir, the remote, mountainous province that produced most of the 19 hijackers who strike on September 11. After 9/11, the FBI and CIA will closely monitor this website as “a kind of terrorist early-warning system” due to its popularity with Muslim fundamentalists. However, it is doubtful if they are monitoring the site before 9/11, or notice this message. (Isikoff, Klaidman, and Thomas 5/25/2003) Additionally, on September 10, someone in Jordan will post on a website that an attack is close to “zero hour.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 233)

Osama bin Laden calls his stepmother and says, “In two days, you’re going to hear big news and you’re not going to hear from me for a while.” (Fenton and Steele 10/2/2001) US officials will later tell CNN that “in recent years they’ve been able to monitor some of bin Laden’s telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded.” (Shenon and Johnston 10/2/2001) Stepmother Al-Khalifa bin Laden, who raised Osama bin Laden after his natural mother died, is apparently waiting in Damascus, Syria, to meet Osama there, so he calls to cancel the meeting. (MacKay 10/7/2001) They had met periodically in recent years. Before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother. The next day government officials say about the call, “I would view those reports with skepticism.” (Ensor and O'Connor 10/2/2001) Bin Laden gave his natural mother a similar warning some months ago that was also overheard by the NSA (see Spring-Summer 2001).

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (right) in Afghanistan in 1988.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (right) in Afghanistan in 1988. [Source: Public domain]Congressperson Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who has long experience in Afghanistan and even fought with the mujaheddin there, later will claim he immediately sees the assassination of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud (see September 9, 2001) as a sign that “something terrible [is] about to happen.” He is only able to make an appointment to meet with top White House and National Security Council officials for 2:30 pm. on September 11. The events of that morning will render the meeting moot. (US Congress 9/17/2001)

Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) practice their responses to a simulated plane hijacking in which terrorists plan to blow up a hijacked airliner over New York City. The scenario is part of the annual NORAD training exercise Vigilant Guardian. (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 3) In the scenario, the fictitious hijackers take over a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft bound from London, Britain, to JFK International Airport in New York. According to a document later produced by the 9/11 Commission, the terrorist hijackers have explosives on the plane and “plan to detonate them over NYC.” As the scenario plays out, a “Blue Force” is able to divert the hijacked aircraft. When the terrorists then realize they are not near New York, they “detonate [the] explosives over land near the divert location.” There are no survivors. (9/11 Commission 2004) NEADS is based in Rome, New York, and will play a key role in coordinating the US military’s response to the 9/11 attacks two days later. On the morning of September 11, its personnel will be scheduled to practice another scenario based around an aircraft hijacking, presumably as part of the same Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Bronner 8/1/2006)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) commences Northern Vigilance, a military operation that involves it deploying fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian Air Force training exercise. The Russian exercise is scheduled to take place over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans from September 10 to September 14 (see September 10, 2001), and the NORAD fighters are set to stay in Alaska and Northern Canada until it ends. (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Gertz 9/11/2001) As well as conducting this operation, NORAD is currently running a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian, which “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see September 10, 2001, (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) The Russians will cancel their exercise on the morning of September 11 in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001), when they “knew NORAD would have its hands full,” according to the Toronto Star. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) It is unknown from which bases NORAD sends fighters for Northern Vigilance and how many US military personnel are involved. However, in December 2000, it took similar action—called Operation Northern Denial—in response to a “smaller scale” Russian “long-range aviation activity in northern Russia and the Arctic.” More than 350 American and Canadian military personnel were involved on that occasion. (Canadian Chief of Defense Staff 5/30/2001, pp. 6 pdf file; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001)

US officials later will admit American agents had infiltrated al-Qaeda cells in the US, though how many agents and how long they had been in al-Qaeda remains a mystery. On this day, electronic intercepts connected to these undercover agents hear messages such as, “Watch the news” and “Tomorrow will be a great day for us.” When asked why these messages did not lead to boosted security or warnings the next day, officials will refer to them as “needles in a haystack.” What other leads may have come from this prior to this day will not be revealed. (Diamond 6/4/2002) At least until February 2002, the official story will be that the “CIA failed to penetrate al-Qaeda with a single agent.” (ABC News 2/18/2002)

The trading ratio on United Airlines is 25 times greater than normal at the Pacific Exchange. Pacific Exchange officials later decline to state whether this abnormality is being investigated. (Berthelsen 9/19/2001)

Alan Beaven.Alan Beaven. [Source: Family photo / AP]Of the 33 passengers (excluding the four hijackers) who are on board Flight 93 on September 11, at least 16 are not originally booked on this flight, but arrange to be on it very shortly before 9/11, or—in some cases—on the morning of 9/11 itself:
bullet Environmental lawyer Alan Beaven arranges to take Flight 93 to San Francisco the day before 9/11, as he is duty-bound to go there to help settle a case after talks have just broken down. (van Derbeken 9/17/2001; Hecht 9/30/2001)
bullet Todd Beamer would normally have flown the night of September 10, as he has a business meeting scheduled for later in the day of 9/11. But he delays his flight, as he wants some time with his children after returning from a trip to Italy. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001; Pauley 9/11/2006) He usually flies Continental Airlines, but chooses United to save his company money. (Longman 2002, pp. 18)
bullet Edward Felt also usually flies Continental Airlines, but books himself onto Flight 93 at the last minute after his company gives him short notice of a meeting he needs to attend in San Francisco. (New Jersey Star-Ledger 9/15/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 194)
bullet Mark Bingham should be flying on September 10, but delays his flight as he has a hangover after a friend’s birthday party. (van Derbeken 9/17/2001; Breslau 9/26/2001)
bullet Deora Bodley is originally scheduled to fly from Newark to San Francisco on September 11 on United Airlines Flight 91. (Kollars and Korber 9/14/2001) She decides on the night of September 10 to switch to Flight 93, as its departure time is more than an hour earlier. (van Derbeken 9/17/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001)
bullet Lauren Grandcolas is booked on Flight 91, but on September 11 arrives early at the airport and switches to Flight 93. (Longman 2002, pp. 12; Pauley 9/11/2006)
bullet Husband and wife Donald and Jean Peterson are booked on Flight 91, but also arrive early and switch to Flight 93. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 13 and 16)
bullet Christine Snyder calls the airport early in the morning of September 11 and transfers from Flight 91 to Flight 93 for an earlier start. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001)
bullet Tom Burnett is scheduled for a later flight, but switches to Flight 93 to get home earlier. (Fischer 9/14/2001) According to journalist and author Jere Longman, he too is originally booked on Flight 91. (Longman 2002, pp. 8) But the San Francisco Chronicle says he is originally booked on a Delta Airlines flight in the afternoon of 9/11. (van Derbeken 9/17/2001)
bullet Georgine Corrigan switches flights when she checks in at the airport early in the morning of 9/11, so as to get home sooner; her original plane would make two stops on the way to San Francisco, but Flight 93 is non-stop. (Longman 2002, pp. 12; Associated Press 9/9/2006)
bullet Jeremy Glick should be on a flight the night of September 10. According to some accounts there are problems due to a fire at Newark Airport. (Townsend, Brown, and Fraley 9/17/2001) The flight is rerouted to JFK Airport in New York and is due to arrive in California at 3:00 a.m., which does not suit Glick. (Pauley 9/11/2006) But according to Newsweek, Glick is originally due to take Flight 93 on September 10, but misses it after getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. (Breslau 9/22/2001)
bullet Nicole Miller’s original flight the night of September 10 is canceled due to a thunderstorm. (Brooks 9/26/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 55) She is then unable to get a seat on the same flight as her close friend Ryan Brown, as this is full, so takes Flight 93 instead. (Fry 10/20/2002; Pauley 9/11/2006)
bullet Toy-company executive Lou Nacke is called by his boss the evening of September 10 and told to take the first plane to San Francisco, in order to help a customer. (Breslau 9/26/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 124)
bullet In the few days prior to September 11, sisters-in-law Patricia Cushing and Jane Folger move forward the time of their flight. (Longman 2002, pp. 33 and 35)
Flight 93’s pilot is not originally meant to be flying on September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001), and at least three of the flight attendants are also assigned to Flight 93 at a late date (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). The 37 passengers (including the four hijackers) that are on board constitute just 20 percent of the plane’s passenger capacity of 182. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 36)

Luai Sakra.Luai Sakra. [Source: Associated Press]In his 2007 book At the Center of the Storm, former CIA Director George Tenet will write that on September 10, 2001, “a source we were jointly running with a Middle Eastern country went to see his foreign handler and basically told him that something big was about to go down. The handler dismissed him.” Tenet claims the warning was “frightening but without specificity.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 160) While Tenet will not mention the name of the source, his description perfectly matches a Syrian-born militant named Luai Sakra. Sakra will be arrested in Turkey in 2005 (see July 30, 2005) and reportedly will tell interrogators after his arrest, “I was one of the people who knew the 9/11 perpetrators, and I knew the plans and times beforehand.” He claims to have provided the pilots with passports and money (see September 2000-July 24, 2001). Der Spiegel will report, “Western investigators accept Sakra’s claims, by and large, since they coincide with known facts. On September 10, 2001, he tipped off the Syrian secret service… that terrorist attacks were about to occur in the United States. The evidently well-informed al-Qaeda insider even named buildings as targets, and airplanes as weapons. The Syrians passed on this information to the CIA—but only after the attacks.” (Stark 8/24/2005) In 2007, Sakra will also claim to have trained some of the 9/11 hijackers in Turkey starting in late 1999 (see Late 1999-2000). If Tenet is referring to Sakra, then it appears Sakra did develop a relationship with the CIA that continued at least through 9/11 (see 2000).

Florida Air National Guard crew chiefs and a pilot scrambling to an F-15 during an alert drill at Homestead Air Reserve Base.Florida Air National Guard crew chiefs and a pilot scrambling to an F-15 during an alert drill at Homestead Air Reserve Base. [Source: Airman]Fighter jets that are scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in response to suspicious or unidentified aircraft in US airspace are able to take off within minutes of receiving a scramble order, in the years preceding 9/11. (McKenna 1/1996; Dennehy 9/15/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 117) NORAD keeps a pair of fighters on “alert” at a number of sites around the US. These fighters are armed and fueled, ready for takeoff. (Arnold 4/1998; Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003) Even before 9/11, the fighters are regularly scrambled to intercept errant aircraft (see 1990-2001). (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 4; Associated Press 8/14/2002)
Pilots Stay Close to Their Aircraft - Pilots on alert duty live near to their fighters, so they will be ready for a prompt takeoff if required. Author Lynn Spencer will write that pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia “live, eat, and sleep just steps from jets.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 117) According to Major Martin Richard, a pilot with the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, “Every day” at his base, “365 days a year, 24 hours a day, at least two fighter pilots and four maintenance personnel ate, slept, and lived nestled adjacent to three fully loaded F-15 jets.” (Richard 2010, pp. 8)
Fighters Can Get Airborne in Minutes - The fighters on alert are required to be in the air within minutes of a scramble order. General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on 9/11, will tell the 9/11 Commission that they “have to be airborne in 15 minutes.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Richard will write that the objective of the alert pilots at his base is “to be airborne in 10 minutes or less if the ‘horn’ went off.” (Richard 2010, pp. 8) According to other accounts, fighters on alert are generally airborne in less than five minutes. Airman magazine reports in 1996 that NORAD’s alert units “work around the clock, and usually have five minutes or less to scramble when the warning klaxon sounds.” (McKenna 1/1996) A few days after 9/11, the Cape Cod Times will report that, “if needed,” the fighters on alert at Otis Air Base “must be in the air within five minutes.” (Dennehy 9/15/2001) According to Spencer, pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base are “always just five minutes away from rolling out of the hangars in their armed fighters.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 117) Captain Tom Herring, a full-time alert pilot at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, says in 1999, “If needed, we could be killing things in five minutes or less.” (McKenna 12/1999) In 1994, NORAD is planning to reduce the number of alert sites in the continental United States and, according to a report published that year by the General Accounting Office, “Each alert site will have two fighters, and their crews will be on 24-hour duty and ready to scramble within five minutes.” (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 16)
'Everything Else Just Stops' following Scramble Order - Once an order to scramble is received, alert pilots try to get airborne as quickly as they can. According to Richard, being a pilot sitting on alert is “akin to being a fireman.” Richard will later recall that when the horn goes off, signaling for him to get airborne, “no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had to swiftly don my anti-g suit, parachute harness, and helmet, run to the jet where my maintenance crew was waiting, fire up the powerful jet engines, and check all of the systems while simultaneously talking with the Otis command post who had a direct feed from NEADS [NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector]. When the horn blew, a frantic, harrowing race into a high pressure situation ensued.” (Richard 2010, pp. 8) Herring says: “We go full speed when that klaxon sounds and people know not to get in front of us, because we take scrambles very seriously.… We’re fired up about what we do and we’re the best at what we do.” (McKenna 12/1999) Technical Sergeant Don Roseen, who keeps the alert fighters at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida ready for instant takeoff, says in 1999 that these fighters are “hot and cocked, they are ready.” Roseen says that when the klaxon goes off, “everything else just stops.”
Suspicious Aircraft 'Could Be a Terrorist' - When they are taking off, pilots may be unaware exactly why they are being scrambled. Major Steve Saari, an alert pilot at Tyndall Air Force Base, says: “There are several different things you could run into and you don’t know until you’re airborne. And sometimes you can’t tell until you have a visual identification.” Saari says: “The unknown [aircraft] could be something as simple as a lost civilian or it could be somebody defecting from Cuba. It could be a terrorist or anything in-between.” (Filson 3/1999) According to Airman magazine, the unidentified aircraft might be “Cuban MiGs, drug traffickers, smugglers, hijackers, novice pilots who’ve filed faulty flight plans, or crippled aircraft limping in on a wing and a prayer.” (McKenna 12/1999)
Intercepted Aircraft Could Be Shot Down - Fighters can respond in a number of ways when they intercept a suspect aircraft. In 2011, Jeff Ford—at that time the aviation and security coordinator for the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Interagency Coordination Directorate—will say that before 9/11, scrambled fighters can “intercept the aircraft, come up beside it, and divert it in the right direction toward an airfield or find out what the problems are in order to assist.” (Doscher 9/8/2011) According to MSNBC: “[I]nterceptors can fly alongside a plane to see who’s flying it. They can also try to force it off course. Once it is apparent that it is not following directions, it might be forced over the ocean or to a remote airport—or even shot down.” (Arnot 9/12/2001) On September 11, 2001, NEADS will scramble fighters that are kept on alert in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27)

Staff members at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) are apparently briefed on the possibility of terrorists deliberately crashing a plane into the World Trade Center. According to author Lynn Spencer, when Trey Murphy—a former US Marine who is now a weapons controller at NEADS—first sees the television footage on September 11 showing that a plane has hit the WTC, the news will bring to mind one of his briefings: “What if a terrorist flies an airplane with a weapon of mass destruction into the World Trade Center? It had always been one of the military’s big fears.… [T]he image on the [television] screen certainly reminded him of his briefing.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 179) It is also later reported that, in the two years prior to 9/11, NORAD conducts exercises simulating terrorists crashing hijacked aircraft into targets that include the WTC (see Between September 1999 and September 10, 2001). (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004) Yet, in May 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will claim, “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center… that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile” (see May 16, 2002). (White House 5/16/2002) And in 2004, NORAD commander General Ralph Eberhart will say, “Regrettably, the tragic events of 9/11 were never anticipated or exercised.” (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004)

Amy Jarret.Amy Jarret. [Source: Family photo]At least four of the seven flight attendants who will be on United Airlines Flight 175—the second plane to hit the World Trade Center—on 9/11 are not originally supposed to take this flight, and are only assigned to be on it shortly before September 11:
bullet Amy Jarret will be on Flight 175 because she switches shifts with one of the original attendants, Elaine Lawrence. (Taylor 10/23/2001)
bullet Robert Fangman takes the place of attendant Elise O’Kane, who accidentally enters an incorrect code into the computer when signing up for flights, and is instead scheduled for flights to Denver during September 2001. (Killeen 5/22/2005; CNN 10/8/2005)
bullet Lauren Gurskis reschedules herself to a September 12 flight so she can drive her son to his first day of kindergarten. Kathryn Laborie is most likely the attendant who takes her place. (Kahn 9/8/2002)
bullet Barbara McFarland swaps shifts with another attendant so she can spend an extra day with her son. The attendant that replaces her is unstated. (Murphy 9/14/2001; Murphy 3/10/2002)
Many of the flight attendants who will be on the other three hijacked planes are also only assigned to those flights shortly before 9/11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).

Logo of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team.Logo of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team. [Source: Nuclear Emergency Search Team]Members of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) are away from America when it comes under terrorist attack, taking part in a training exercise in Europe called Jackal Cave. (Richelson 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson 1/23/2009) Jackal Cave, which is run by the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command, involves participants tracking down a hypothetical force made up of terrorists and organized criminals who are trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, or “loose nukes” (see (8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Naylor 2015, pp. ix-x) Over 500 personnel, 62 aircraft, and 420 tons of cargo are involved in the exercise. (Arkin 2005, pp. 404) Three components of NEST are taking part: the Lincoln Gold Augmentation Team, the Nuclear/Radiological Advisory Team, and the Joint Technical Operations Team. The NEST personnel are in Europe by September 10, if not before then, for the exercise. (Richelson 2009, pp. 178) It is unclear where exactly in Europe they go, but some Special Operations personnel are in Hungary, Croatia, and Bosnia for the exercise, so the NEST personnel may be in one or more of these countries too. (Naylor 2015, pp. x)
Exercise Participants Are Flown Back to the US - Jackal Cave is promptly canceled in response to the attacks in the United States on September 11. (BBC News 9/13/2001; Naylor 2015, pp. xiii) NEST and Department of Energy personnel who are in Europe for the exercise are then taken home by military airlift. They are all back in America by September 15. (Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education 2001 pdf file; Richelson 2009, pp. 178)
Nuclear Search Team Is Put on Standby - Shortly after the attacks occur on September 11, NEST members (presumably those who are not involved in the exercise) are informed that they could potentially be called out for duty and told to be on standby. One NEST member will later say he received the instruction to be on standby sometime between around 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on September 11. This alert is ordered as a precaution and is not in response to any specific nuclear threat, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On September 12, NEST flies its specially equipped plane to New York to search for industrial radioactive sources and hot spots under the rubble of the World Trade Center. (Davidson 9/16/2001; ABC News 10/11/2005; Richelson 2009, pp. 179-180)
Exercise Is the Team's First Overseas Deployment Since 1998 - NEST, which is based in Las Vegas, Nevada, is “an elite band of scientists, engineers, computer experts, and technicians that would respond to terrorists armed with stolen or homemade nuclear weapons or radioactive materials,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The team has about 1,000 members who would, if necessary, be responsible for finding and disabling nuclear devices. (Davidson 9/16/2001; Associated Press 12/18/2001; Dumas 2010, pp. 46) Its involvement in Jackal Cave is its first participation in an overseas exercise since 1998. (Richelson 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson 1/23/2009)

In a major post-9/11 speech, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will claim that “shortly before September 11, bin Laden told associates that he had a major operation against America under preparation, [and] a range of people were warned to return back to Afghanistan because of action on or around September 11.” His claims will come from a British document of telephone intercepts and interrogations revealing al-Qaeda orders to return to Afghanistan by September 10. (NPA 10/4/2001; Waller 10/5/2001) Would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh will later claim that his message on what day the 9/11 attacks would happen reached bin Laden on September 6, 2001. If that is true, bin Laden would only have had a few days to warn others (see September 6, 2001). (Fouda 9/9/2002)

James Cameron.James Cameron. [Source: Contactmusic (.com )]Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox is working on a movie, called Deadline, which would feature terrorists hijacking a commercial aircraft. (Goldstein 9/25/2001; Washington Times 12/10/2001; Williams 1/2/2002) Deadline is being written by brothers Peter and David Griffiths, who also wrote the screenplay for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Collateral Damage. The Griffiths have already completed two drafts of the script for Deadline. (Goldstein 9/25/2001; McCarthy 2/7/2002) Reports will describe the movie’s storyline as “involving terrorists taking over a jetliner”; featuring “the hijacking of an airliner”; and featuring “terrorists taking over a commercial aircraft.” Further details, however, are unknown. The movie is “in top-secret development at 20th Century Fox,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Deadline is being produced by James Cameron, the director of movies such as Titanic and The Terminator. And Tony Scott, who previously directed blockbuster movies such as Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State, has expressed an interest in Deadline, according to sources close to the film. (Goldstein 9/25/2001; Washington Times 12/10/2001; Williams 1/2/2002) However, 20th Century Fox will suspend work on the film in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It will be one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten after 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). (Hoberman 12/4/2001; Washington Times 3/7/2002) In November 2008, Variety magazine will report that the movie has been revived, with the new name Nagasaki Deadline. Variety will report that the storyline centers on “an emotionally damaged FBI agent who must decipher historic events in a desperate race to avert a terrorist plot.” It is unclear if this was the original plot of the movie or if the story has been changed since 9/11. (McNary 11/11/2008) In 2010, it will be reported that a director has been found for the movie. (Fleming 6/28/2010; McNary 6/29/2010) By 2013, no further details of the movie will have been announced.

The Special Routing Arrangement Service (SRAS), which is run by the National Communications System (NCS), is turned on for “exercise mode,” meaning it is ready to be utilized the following day in response to the terrorist attacks. (9/11 Commission 3/16/2004 pdf file) The NCS, which is part of the Department of Defense, is a relatively small agency established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and which is intended to ensure the uninterrupted availability of critical communications networks during times of national crisis. It is mandated to insure that critical telephony and data continue to flow, even when the US is under attack. (Verton 2003, pp. 136; Clarke 2004, pp. 20; National Communications System 10/21/2007)
System Is 'Miraculously' Ready to Function on September 11 - Brenton Greene, the director of the NCS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that “[o]n the 10th of September, miraculously, the SRAS… system was turned on for exercise mode, and thus it was ready to function on September 11.” A summary of Greene’s interview with the Commission will indicate that the SRAS is related to the highly secret Continuity of Government (COG) plan. (9/11 Commission 3/16/2004 pdf file) This plan aims to ensure that the federal government will continue to function in the event of an attack on the US, and it will be activated for the first time on September 11 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Mann 3/2004; ABC News 4/25/2004) The SRAS reportedly provides “a vehicle for continuity of operations by providing survivable communications linkages to federal and defense end users over the public network.” (Department of Homeland Security 5/2007 pdf file) Whether the SRAS is turned on for “exercise mode” because the NCS or its National Coordinating Center (NCC) in Arlington, Virginia, are conducting or participating in a training exercise is unstated.
SRAS Relates to Continuity of Government Program - Greene will tell the 9/11 Commission that one of the NCS’s three main programs relates to COG. “The main communications system of the country must be kept going or no one can communicate,” he will say. Therefore, “There is a separate network linking the National Coordinating Center and the major carriers and networks as a backup.” According to Greene, “In the situation where Continuity of Government is put into play, there is a communications system where no one can trace the site of the call on either end.” (Presumably this is a reference to the SRAS.) This backup communications network, according to Greene, will prove “its value as a separate link on 9/11, because it coordinated network use between Network Operations Centers while the network was saturated.” (9/11 Commission 3/16/2004 pdf file)
NCS Plays Important Role on 9/11 - Robert Kenny, the director of media relations for the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, will later recall, “We found that [the NCS] program was very helpful during September 11.” (McCullagh 1/16/2009) The NCC will be activated that day in response to the attacks (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will support subsequent recovery efforts. (9/11 Commission 3/16/2004 pdf file) Earlier that morning, the CIA will actually be giving a briefing to the NCS about the international terrorist threat to the US’s telecommunications infrastructure (see 8:00 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Verton 2003, pp. 135-139)

The Pink Pony strip club.The Pink Pony strip club. [Source: Durand Patrick / Corbis]In the Pink Pony strip club in Daytona Beach, Florida the night before the 9/11 attacks, three men make anti-American sentiments and talk of impending bloodshed. One says, “Wait ‘til tomorrow. America is going to see bloodshed.” These are not any of the hijackers, since they had all left Florida by this time, but it is suspected these men knew the hijackers. (Associated Press 9/14/2001; Hansen 9/23/2001) Mohamed Atta is said to have regularly frequented the same bar (see Before September 11, 2001). However, in September 2002, the St. Petersburg Times will report, “Some other famous terrorist sightings never panned out, including that of the manager at a Daytona Beach strip club, who told the world he heard three men spewing anti-American venom and predicting bloodshed the night of Sept. 10. When his story seemed to change with each telling, law enforcement moved on.” (Tobin 9/1/2002)

The night before 9/11, two men are observed behaving suspiciously on a United Airlines flight from San Diego to Boston. This is according Elaine Lawrence, who is one of the plane’s flight attendants. She later recalls that the men—one who appears Middle Eastern, the other Caucasian—upgrade from coach to first class, and then sit “on the left side of the plane, seats 3A and 3B,” near the cockpit door. She will comment: “It was really weird. They didn’t eat, they didn’t sleep, they didn’t watch the movie. Why upgrade?” Furthermore, she recalls: “[W]hen we were getting close to Boston they asked if we could see the World Trade Center towers. ‘Do we see the towers?’ the guy kept asking. I told him we wouldn’t be going by New York.” After the attacks the following day, she will call the FBI and inform them of this incident. Lawrence was in fact originally scheduled to be an attendant on Flight 175—the second plane to hit the WTC—on 9/11. However, as she is planning to go on vacation, she has traded shifts with another flight attendant, Amy Jarret (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). (Taylor 10/23/2001)

The FBI conducts a training exercise based on the scenario of an aircraft hijacking at Washington Dulles International Airport, the airport from which American Airlines Flight 77—the third plane to be hijacked—will take off on 9/11 (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The FBI exercise is based around a “traditional” hijacking that involves hostages being taken by the hijackers, according to Dana Pitts, an airport operations manager for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Members of the Dulles Airport staff provide some “operational support” during the exercise. Further details, including the date when the exercise is held, are unstated. (9/11 Commission 10/16/2003 pdf file) The FBI is the agency that has jurisdiction if a hijacking or hostage-taking incident occurs on an aircraft that is still on the ground. (Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority 5/6/2000 pdf file; NPR 9/20/2001)

Wanda Green.Wanda Green. [Source: Family photo]Of the five flight attendants who will be on United Airlines Flight 93—the fourth hijacked aircraft—on 9/11, at least three are not originally scheduled to be on this flight, but are assigned to it late:
bullet Sandra Bradshaw picks “up Flight 93 late in the planning.” She trades flights with another attendant. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001; Johnson 9/3/2006)
bullet Wanda Green is originally scheduled to fly on September 13, but requests a change of shift due to commitments in her other job as a real estate agent. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 23)
bullet Deborah Welsh usually avoids early morning flights, but agrees to trade shifts with another worker. (Barker 10/2/2001; Vulliamy 12/2/2001; Associated Press 9/9/2006)
The pilot, Jason Dahl, is also not originally meant to be on Flight 93 on September 11, but trades a trip later in the month in order to fly on that day (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). And at least 16 of the passengers on Flight 93 only book onto it at a late date (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001). Many of the flight attendants who will be on the other three hijacked planes are also only assigned to those flights shortly before 9/11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001).

According to CBS News, in the afternoon before the attack, “alarm bells were sounding over unusual trading in the US stock options market.” It has been documented that the CIA, the Mossad, and many other intelligence agencies monitor stock trading in real time using highly advanced programs such as Promis. Both the FBI and the Justice Department have confirmed the use of such programs for US intelligence gathering through at least this summer. This would confirm that the CIA should have had additional advance warning of imminent attacks against American and United Airlines planes. (CBS News 9/19/2001) There are even allegations that bin Laden was able to get a copy of Promis. (Fox News 10/16/2001)

Personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrive in New York for a forthcoming training exercise and, as a result, their equipment is available to be used by members of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU) who are involved in search and rescue operations at Ground Zero the following day. (Appel 2009, pp. 195-196) The FEMA representatives are among hundreds of people scheduled to take part in a terrorism training exercise on September 12 that is being organized by the New York City Office of Emergency Management (see September 12, 2001). The exercise, called “Tripod,” is set to take place at Pier 92 on the Hudson River. (Griscom 10/15/2001; City of New York 5/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 5/19/2004)
FEMA Personnel Set Up Equipment for Exercise - The FEMA personnel arrive in New York at some time on September 10 and begin setting up their equipment at Pier 92 for the forthcoming exercise, according to a book by NYPD police officer Anthea Appel. (Appel 2009, pp. 195) It is unclear which specific FEMA personnel arrive in New York on this day. The first FEMA urban search and rescue teams to respond at Ground Zero will arrive in New York late at night on September 11 (see (10:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Friel 9/1/2002; Endrikat 10/1/2002) And most of the senior FEMA staff is currently in Montana, attending a conference (see September 8-11, 2001). (Nagy 9/13/2001; DeMers 10/2001 pdf file)
FEMA Equipment Used by Emergency Responders on 9/11 - In response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, according to Appel, the FEMA equipment that is being set up at Pier 92 for the exercise will be packed up and moved to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, where the ESU sets up a command post. Then, at around 5:00 p.m., it will be moved to the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers, to be used by ESU officers involved in the search and rescue efforts there. (McKinsey & Company 8/19/2002 pdf file; Appel 2009, pp. 195-196)

Kenneth Katzman.Kenneth Katzman. [Source: CCTV America]A report is issued to Congress that warns of the danger Osama bin Laden poses to US interests and states that his al-Qaeda network “wants to strike within the United States.” (MacAskill and Whitaker 9/14/2001; News24 9/18/2001; CNN 9/28/2001) The report, titled “Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2001,” is “an annual analysis of Near Eastern terrorist groups and countries on the US ‘terrorism list’”—countries that the secretary of commerce and the secretary of state have determined “provide repeated support for international terrorism.”
Al-Qaeda 'Wants to Strike within the United States' - The report warns of the increasing threat posed by al-Qaeda. “Signs continue to point to… a rise in the scope of threat posed by the independent network of exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden,” it states. It continues: “Osama bin Laden’s network, which is independently financed and enjoys safe haven in Afghanistan, poses an increasingly significant threat to US interests in the Near East and perhaps elsewhere. The primary goals of bin Laden and his cohort are to oust pro-US regimes in the Middle East and gain removal of US troops from the region.” Furthermore, the report warns, “US allegations of past plotting by the bin Laden network suggest that the network wants to strike within the United States itself.” (Katzman 9/10/2001 pdf file)
Al-Qaeda Has Been Looking for 'Ways to Attack US Interests' - The report was written by Kenneth Katzman, a former CIA analyst who is now the Congressional Research Service’s resident expert on Middle Eastern terrorism. (Weiner 8/21/1998; CNN 9/28/2001) It is based on information from numerous sources, including the State Department’s annual report on international terrorism, titled Patterns of Global Terrorism: 2000; press reports; and conversations with US counterterrorism officials, experts, investigative journalists, and foreign diplomats. (Katzman 9/10/2001, pp. 1 pdf file) Shortly after 9/11, Katzman will say his report’s conclusions about the danger al-Qaeda poses were based on “an assessment that they were continuing to plot against the United States and look for ways to attack US interests.” He will also say, “It was apparent in my research that there was a continued pattern of plotting, a continued pattern of looking for opportunities to hit the United States, either military forces or civilians.”
Author Is Like a 'Prophet Who Could Foretell the Future' - In light of what is written in the report, CNN news anchor Aaron Brown will comment that Katzman “may well be official Washington’s closest present-day parallel to an ancient prophet who could foretell the future.” (CNN 9/28/2001) But the Congressional Research Service will state that the fact that his report was issued the day before 9/11 is merely a coincidence. (News24 9/18/2001)

At 6:30 p.m., President Bush arrives at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida. (Sammon 2002, pp. 13; Bayles 9/10/2002) He is in Florida as part of a weeklong effort to place a national spotlight on education and reading, and visited a school in Jacksonville earlier in the day. (ABC News 9/10/2001; Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville) 9/10/2001) In preparation for the president’s visit to the resort, all guests have been cleared out of the building “to make way for the invasion of White House staffers, aides, communications technicians—even an antiterrorism unit.” Overnight, snipers and surface-to-air missiles are located on the roof of the Colony and adjacent structures, to protect the president. “The Coast Guard and the Longboat Key Police Department manned boats that patrolled the surf in front of the resort all night. Security trucks with enough men and arms to stop a small army parked right on the beach. An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane circled high overhead in the clear night sky.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 13 and 25; Bayles 9/10/2002) Whether this is a typical level of security for a presidential visit, or is increased due to recent terror warnings, is unstated.

In a public speech to the Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announces that the Department of Defense “cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” CBS later calculates that 25 percent of the yearly defense budget is unaccounted for, and quotes a long-time defense budget analyst: “[Their] numbers are pie in the sky. The books are cooked routinely year after year.” Coverage of this rather shocking story is nearly nonexistent given the events of the next day. (Rumsfeld 9/10/2001; CBS News 1/29/2002) In April 2002 it will be revealed that $1.1 trillion of the missing money comes from the 2000 fiscal year. Auditors won’t even quantify how much money is missing from fiscal year 2001, causing “some [to] fear it’s worse” than 2000. The Department of the Army will state that it won’t publish a stand-alone financial statement for 2001 because of “the loss of financial-management personnel sustained during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.” (O'Meara 4/29/2002) This $1.1 trillion plus unknown additional amounts continues to remain unaccounted for, and auditors say it may take eight years of reorganization before a proper accounting can be done. (O'Meara 8/21/2003)

Suzanne Giesemann.Suzanne Giesemann. [Source: Suzanne Giesemann]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gives a warning to be prepared for a domestic terrorist attack at any time, because the conditions are right for such an attack to occur. Shelton will later recall issuing the warning in a speech he gives at a conference on global terrorism. He ends the speech with the admonition to “be on your toes,” because, he will recall, “conditions were such that a domestic terrorist attack could occur at any time.” Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann, an aide to the chairman, will similarly recall that Shelton ends his conference speech with a warning “to prepare for a terrorist attack at any time and any place.” According to Shelton, the conference takes place the week before September 11, but Giesemann will say it takes place several weeks before September 11. Further details of the conference, such as where it is being held and who else is attending it, are unstated. Both Shelton and Giesemann will be reminded of the chairman’s prophetic warning when they are first notified of the attacks in New York on 9/11 (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Giesemann 2008, pp. 23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 431)

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta calls 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Afghanistan. KSM gives final approval to Atta to launch the attacks. The specifics of the conversation haven’t been released. (Buncombe 9/15/2002) Unnamed intelligence officials later tell Knight Ridder Newspapers that the call is monitored by the NSA, but only translated after the 9/11 attacks. KSM, “using coded language, [gives] Atta final approval” for the attacks. (Rubin and Dorgan 9/9/2002) NSA monitored other calls between KSM and Atta in the summer of 2001 but did not share the information about this with other agencies (see Summer 2001). Additionally, it will later be revealed that an FBI squad built an antenna in the Indian Ocean some time before 9/11 with the specific purpose of listening in on KSM’s phone calls, so they may have learned about this call to Atta on their own (see Before September 11, 2001).

Charles Nemfakos.Charles Nemfakos. [Source: US Navy]Charles Nemfakos, deputy under secretary of the Navy, says the United States would need to suffer an attack equivalent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941 that led America to enter World War II before it addressed the problems with its defense policy. (Taylor 9/25/2002) Nemfakos is giving a briefing to a group of about 30 civilian employees of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Crane, Indiana, who have come to Washington, DC, to interact with some of the Navy’s top officials and complete a program for a certificate in public management. (Pruett 9/14/2001; Williams 9/14/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 47) Someone asks him what it would take for America’s defense policy to be clear and concise in the 21st century. Greg Smith, one of the NSWC employees at the briefing, will later recall that in response, “Nemfakos stated that he felt an event equivalent to Pearl Harbor, either terrorist or military, would be the only event that would awaken the United States from the complacency and security they have had since the end of the Vietnam [War] era.” (Taylor 9/25/2002) Many people will compare the following day’s terrorist attacks to the attack on Pearl Harbor. “[A]s anyone glued to the television set knows,” the San Francisco Chronicle will report on September 14, “the words ‘Pearl Harbor’ are part of the running commentary accompanying the unending scenes of ruin and death that have invaded our homes and consciousness in the last few days.” (Nakao and Ness 9/14/2001)

Silverstein Properties, Larry Silverstein’s company which took over the lease of the WTC weeks earlier (see July 24, 2001), has a meeting planned for the morning of 9/11 in it’s temporary offices on the 88th floor of the WTC North Tower, along with Port Authority officials. It is to discuss what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. However, this evening the meeting is canceled because one participant cannot attend. (Sorkin and Romero 9/12/2001; Leibovich-Dar 11/21/2001) Of Silverstein Properties’ 160 staff, 54 are in the North Tower when it is hit, and four of them die. (Saunders et al. 9/7/2002)

One of the pilots on American Airlines Flight 77—the third plane to be hijacked on 9/11—is not originally booked to be on that flight, and only accepts it shortly before September 11. American Airlines pilot Bill Cheng is originally due to fly Flight 77 on 9/11. But in late August he applies for that day off, so he can go camping. “When another pilot signed up for the slot, Mr. Cheng’s application was accepted.” Whether his replacement is Charles Burlingame, the plane’s captain, or David Charlebois, its first officer, is unstated. (Sciolino and Cushman 9/13/2001) Pilots on two of the other aircraft hijacked on 9/11 are also not originally scheduled to fly that day, but are booked onto those planes shortly before September 11 (see September 10, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, is approached by his US counterpart and warned that Osama bin Laden is planning an attack on the US. According to Zaeef’s 2010 memoir, at some point before 9/11 Zaeef is contacted by William Milam, the US ambassador to Pakistan, who “unexpectedly asked for an appointment that very same day. (The Americans occasionally got agitated over small things.)” Milam insists on the meeting, although Zaeef is tired, and comes to visit him at his home, accompanied by Paula Thedi, political affairs officer to the US ambassador in Pakistan. According to Zaeef’s book, Milam “seemed worried and impatient and started to talk as soon as he entered the room.” He tells Zaeef: “Our intelligence reports reveal that Osama is planning a major attack on America. This is why we had to come immediately at such a late hour. You need to tell officials in Afghanistan to prevent the attacks!” Zaeef will write that he immediately forwards the ambassador’s concerns to Kabul, and Kabul responds 23 hours later with a letter that states: “Afghanistan has no intention to harm the United States of America now or in the future. We do not condone attacks of any kind against America and prevent anyone from using Afghan soil to plan or train for any such attacks.” Zaeef will say he personally translates this statement from Pashtu and passes it to the American ambassador. Immediately after 9/11, Zaeef will issue a similar statement to the media on Kabul’s stance, which says: “We strongly condemn the events that happened in the United States at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We share the grief of all those who have lost their nearest and dearest in these incidents. All those responsible must be brought to justice. We want them to be brought to justice, and we want America to be patient and careful in their actions.” Zaeef will be detained after the US invasion of Afghanistan and held for several years, including a spell in Guantanamo, before his release without charge. (Zaeef 1/20/2010, pp. 138)

John O’Neill, who is later described by the New Yorker magazine as the FBI’s “most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists,” recently retired from the bureau and started a new job as director of security at the World Trade Center (see August 23, 2001). (Wright 1/14/2002) On this day he meets up with his old friend Raymond Powers, the former New York Police Department chief of operations, to discuss security procedures. Their conversation turns to Osama bin Laden. According to journalist and author Murray Weiss, “just as he had reiterated since 1995 to any official in Washington who would listen, O’Neill said he was sure bin Laden would attack on American soil, and expected him to target the Twin Towers again.” He says to Powers, “It’s going to happen, and it looks like something big is brewing.” (Weiss 2003, pp. 355 and 359-360) Later on, O’Neill goes out in the evening with his friends Robert Tucker and Jerome Hauer. Again, he starts discussing bin Laden. He tells his friends, “We’re due. And we’re due for something big.” He says, “Some things have happened in Afghanistan. I don’t like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan.” This is probably a reference to the assassination of Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud the previous day (see September 9, 2001). He adds, “I sense a shift, and I think things are going to happen.” Asked when, he replies, “I don’t know, but soon.” (Wright 1/14/2002; PBS 10/3/2002) O’Neill will be in his office on the 34th floor of the South Tower the following morning when the first attack occurs, and dies when the WTC collapses. (Weiss 2003, pp. 366; Weiss 8/31/2004)

George Carlin.George Carlin. [Source: TheFamousPeople (.com)]The comedian George Carlin makes a joke during a performance that, ironically in light of the terrorist attacks the following day, is about a passenger aircraft being caused to explode in mid-air and Osama bin Laden getting blamed for the incident. Tonight, as on the previous night, Carlin performs a show at the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas in which he works through material he intends to use when he records his next HBO special, in November. That special is going to be called “I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die.”
Carlin Jokes about Emergencies in Which the 'Back End of the Plane Blows Off' - During the show, Carlin makes a joke about what can happen when passengers fart in an airliner. “In these third world flights, in the economy section, about an hour after the meal service they quite often have these life-threatening fart emergencies,” he begins. He says that in these situations, “the worst place to be is in the last three rows, because what happens is these planes get flying so fast that all the most vicious, lethal, volatile, flammable, unstable farts get pushed toward the back of the airplane where they begin to build up pressure.” This can lead to the plane exploding in mid-air, he claims. He says: “They build and they build and they build until they reach critical fart density—CFD—and they continue to build throughout the flight until finally some kid turns on a Game Boy, and b-boom-boom! The whole back end of the plane blows off.”
Carlin Says Bin Laden Gets Wrongly Blamed for the Incidents - Carlin then mentions the al-Qaeda leader when he says: “And you know who gets blamed? Osama bin Laden. Terrorists get blamed for these explosions that are nothing more than cabbage-fart detonations.” He adds that, after the disasters, the “FBI don’t know what to do” because its agents are “looking for explosives” when “they should be looking for minute traces of rice and bok choy.” (Zinoman 9/4/2016; Crouch 9/10/2016; Carlin 9/16/2016)
Joke Will Be Unused after 9/11 - Carlin will abandon or rewrite much of the material he has been working on for his HBO special, including this joke, in response to the 9/11 attacks and the name of the special will be changed to “Complaints and Grievances.” The joke about bin Laden and exploding airplanes will remain virtually unknown until September 2016, eight years after Carlin’s death, when it is included on an album that includes material recorded during the comedian’s September 2001 performances in Las Vegas. (Edgers 9/7/2016; Crouch 9/10/2016; Lowry 9/12/2016)
Carlin Is a Controversial Comedian and Social Commentator - Carlin is “the dean of counterculture comedians,” according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. His jokes have frequently breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language, and he is also “as much a social commentator and philosopher as comedian.” (Norman 6/23/2008) The New York Times will call him “the greatest political comic in history if measured only by stand-up specials.” (Zinoman 9/4/2016) In his social commentary and his comedy routines he attacks “what he thought of as the palliating and obfuscating agents of American life—politicians, advertisements, religion, the media, and conventional thinking of all stripes,” the Times will report. (Watkins and Weber 6/24/2008)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which is responsible for detecting and responding to any attack on the mainland United States, is in the early stages of a major training exercise called Vigilant Guardian that is to take place off the shores of the northeastern US and Canada. The exercise is not scheduled to really take off until the following day, September 11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but simulated intelligence briefings and meetings are now being held to set the stage for the mock engagements to come. According to author Lynn Spencer, Vigilant Guardian “is the kind of war game that the Russians usually respond to, even in this post-Cold War era.” The Russians have in fact announced that they will be deploying aircraft to several of their “Northern Tier” bases on September 11. Russian jets have penetrated North American airspace during previous NORAD exercises, and Colonel Robert Marr, the commander of NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), has prepared for them to do so again during the current exercise. If this happens, armed US fighter jets will intercept the Russian aircraft and escort them back to their own territory. In case there is any confrontation, Marr has ordered that his alert fighter jets be loaded with additional fuel and weapons. According to Spencer, on September 11, all alert fighters will be “loaded with live missiles in anticipation of any show of force that might be needed to respond to the Russians.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 3-5) NORAD has already announced that it is deploying fighters to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian air force exercise being conducted in the Russian Arctic and North Pacific Ocean throughout this week (see September 9, 2001). (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001) According to the 9/11 Commission, the Vigilant Guardian exercise will in fact postulate “a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458)

David O. Cooke.David O. Cooke. [Source: US Department of Defense]Some Pentagon Renovation Program workers are concerned about the possibility of a plane being deliberately crashed into the Pentagon. This is according to Stacie Condrell, the leader of the Pentagon Renovation Program’s planning, relocation, requirements integration, standards, and space management group. Condrell will say, shortly after 9/11, that although the emergency response to an attack on the Pentagon was not part of its area of responsibility, her group had been “involved, as builders, in what we can do to be smarter and better prepared against things like” the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
Workers Contemplate a 'Crazy Pilot' Crashing a Plane into the Pentagon - She will say that, before 9/11, “the particular plane incident” her group thought might happen would involve “one of the regularly scheduled US Air commuter flights from North Carolina that flies directly over the center courtyard [of the Pentagon] 10 or 12 times a day.” This plane “would have a crazy pilot who would crash into the building.” The reason her group had this concern, Condrell will say, is that “all of the people specifically involved in analyzing the physical threat to our environment”—such as the secretary of defense, the other military secretaries, and members of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Protective Service—“mention over and over again that [the Pentagon is] the only national military headquarters in the world that allows commercial overflight.” (Condrell 10/30/2001 pdf file)
Administrator Considers the Possibility of a Plane Hitting the Pentagon - David O. “Doc” Cooke, the Pentagon’s director of administration and management, will similarly say that the event of a plane being deliberately crashed into the Pentagon is seen as a possibility before 9/11. He will say that ways in which the Pentagon might be attacked that are considered possible include “a small aircraft, probably containing explosives, which would either drop the explosive or possibly dive into the building.” (Cooke 10/18/2001 pdf file)
An Explosion outside the Pentagon Is Seen as the Biggest Threat - However, Lee Evey, manager of the Pentagon Renovation Program from November 1997, will say that an attack involving an explosion outside the building is considered the biggest danger to the Pentagon. When asked what he had considered the most likely threat to the Pentagon before 9/11, he will say that a “blast”—meaning an external explosion—“as a threat to the building was very much on our minds.” He will add that the Oklahoma City and Khobar Towers bombings in 1995 and 1996, respectively (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 25, 1996), “really influenced our thinking.” (Evey 10/22/2001 pdf file) Due to this concern, around 1997 or 1998, the Army Corps of Engineers performs simulations to measure how much damage the Pentagon would suffer if a truck bomb exploded outside it. (Glatz 12/7/2001 pdf file; Vogel 2007, pp. 417) The Pentagon Renovation Program, which began in the early 1990s, involves a complete overhaul of the interior of the Pentagon. (Wood 9/30/2005) From 1998, upgrading security at the Pentagon is one of its priorities. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 6)

Pilot Jason Dahl, who will be at the controls of United Airlines Flight 93—the fourth hijacked aircraft—on 9/11, is not originally scheduled for that flight, but wants to get in extra hours so he can take time off work for his fifth wedding anniversary on September 14. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001; Pauley 9/11/2006) Therefore, some time shortly before 9/11, he trades a trip later in September in order to fly September 11. (Wallace 12/16/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 1) Yet the week before September 11, he sends out an e-mail seeking another pilot to take his place, so he can have that day with his family. (Vaughan 9/12/2001; Chen and Nieves 9/15/2001; van Derbeken 9/17/2001) Pilots on two of the other aircraft hijacked on 9/11 are also not originally scheduled to fly that day, but are booked onto those planes shortly before September 11 (see September 10, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).

Patrick Fitzgerald was involved in the prosecution of all the major al-Qaeda legal cases in the US before 9/11. Just before 9/11, he switched to prosecuting political corruption cases and will later become known for prosecuting the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. On this day, he sends an e-mail to a colleague who is also switching from working on terrorism cases. He writes, “You can’t leave, they’re going to hit us again and someone has got to be around to work it.” (Harris 2/12/2006)

John Ogonowski, who will pilot American Airlines Flight 11—the first plane to hit the World Trade Center—on 9/11, is not originally supposed to be on that flight, but is scheduled to fly it shortly before September 11. The original pilot is Walter Sorenson. But, according to the Georgetown Record, Sorenson is “disappointed when he [is] replaced by Captain John Ogonowski, who [has] seniority over Sorenson and requested to fly [on 9/11].” (Applegate 9/18/2003; Georgetown Record 9/7/2005) However, other reports indicate Ogonowski is later unhappy about having to fly on September 11, and tries, unsuccessfully, to switch to another flight. (Public Radio International 9/13/2002) Thomas McGuinness, who will be the co-pilot of Flight 11 on 9/11, is, like Ogonowski, not originally supposed to be on that flight, but arranges to take it on the afternoon before September 11 (see September 10, 2001). (Peter Scheibner 8/30/2011; KSAX 1/20/2012) Pilots on two of the other aircraft hijacked on 9/11 are also not originally scheduled to fly that day, but are booked onto those planes shortly before September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001 and Shortly Before September 11, 2001). (Sciolino and Cushman 9/13/2001; Wallace 12/16/2001; Pauley 9/11/2006)

Ariel Merari.Ariel Merari. [Source: International Institute for Counter-Terrorism]The FAA’s intelligence division conducts a conference call to examine the idea of “suicide attackers” during which a leading authority on the subject says a suicide attack on aviation is unlikely. At an unspecified time before 9/11, James Padgett—the manager of the global issues division of the FAA’s Office of Civil Aviation Security Intelligence at the time of the 9/11 attacks—arranges a conference call in which the analysts in his division get to talk to Ariel Merari, a professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, about suicide terrorism. (9/11 Commission 10/7/2003 pdf file) Merari has spent years studying suicide attacks around the world and specializes in the profiles of suicide bombers. (Wen 9/23/2001; Vedantam 10/16/2001) He has authored or coauthored numerous books, articles, monographs, and chapters on political terrorism and other forms of political violence, and has served as a consultant to various branches of several governments. (Merari 10/2000 pdf file) Merari says, during the conference call, that throughout his research he has yet to find a single instance of a suicide attack on aviation. He says he thinks such an attack would be unlikely for psychological reasons relating to the extended time between the “point of no return” and the execution of the attack. He “certainly did not raise the possibility of multiple hijackers willing to kill themselves,” Padgett will later comment. (9/11 Commission 10/7/2003 pdf file)

Members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team.Members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team. [Source: Training and Simulation Journal]The FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) goes to California for a week of training and is therefore stranded away from Washington, DC, when it is required to help in the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Nichols 9/11/2001; Darling 2010, pp. 75) The CIRG is “the unit that coordinates the FBI’s rapid response to crisis incidents, including terrorist attacks,” according to Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office. Its members arrive in San Francisco this evening to participate in a week of special weapons and tactics (SWAT)-related field training. (Darling 2010, pp. 74-75) While the 9/11 attacks are underway, NBC News will report that the FBI is in a state of “chaos,” partly because of the CIRG being stranded in California (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (NBC 4 9/11/2001) On the afternoon of September 11, the White House will arrange for the CIRG to return to Washington as a matter of priority (see (3:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and the unit’s members will be flown back later that day (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). (Darling 2010, pp. 73-76)
Unit Created to Respond to Terrorist Incidents - The CIRG would be a valuable resource for responding to the 9/11 attacks. The unit was established in 1994 “to give the FBI the ability to respond with the tactical and investigative expertise needed in a major terrorist incident,” according to the Congressional Research Service. It has crisis managers, hostage negotiators, behavioral scientists, surveillance assets, and agents that it can utilize. (United States General Accounting Office 9/1997, pp. 40 pdf file; Brake 4/19/2001, pp. 9-10 pdf file) The CIRG also has a “seven-step approach” it follows, which uses “active listening” to defuse a crisis. According to the Indian Express, “by showing support and empathy, [CIRG] negotiators often can talk a hijacker into surrendering largely by listening.” (Noesner and Webster 8/1997; Bagla 12/29/1999)
Hostage Rescue Team Serves as Domestic Counterterrorism Unit - The tactical centerpiece of the CIRG is the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), a full-time team headquartered in Quantico, Virginia, that is able to deploy to any location within four hours of notification. Its skills include hostage rescue tactics, precision shooting, and tactical site surveys. (United States General Accounting Office 9/1997, pp. 40 pdf file; Brake 4/19/2001, pp. 10 pdf file) The HRT was created to give civilian law enforcement agencies a counterterrorist community comparable to that which exists in the military. Many of its members have a military background. (Cavallaro 2/2009) According to Darling, the HRT is ”the domestic counterterrorism unit, offering a tactical resolution option in hostage and high-risk law enforcement situations.” (Darling 2010, pp. 7)

Amr “Tony” Elgindy.Amr “Tony” Elgindy. [Source: San Diego Union Tribune]Amr Elgindy orders his broker to liquidate his children’s $300,000 trust account fearing a sudden crash in the market. He also tells his stockbroker that the Dow Jones average, then at 9,600, will fall to below 3,000. Elgindy is arrested in San Diego in May 2002, along with FBI agents Jeffrey Royer and Lynn Wingate, who, according to government prosecutors, were using their FBI positions to obtain inside information on various corporations. They also questioned whether Elgindy had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. (Berenson 5/23/2002; Ayres 5/30/2002; Barboza and Berenson 6/8/2002) A report published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, however, casts some doubt on the government’s allegations. (Calbreath 6/16/2002) In 2005, now former FBI agent Jeffrey Royer admits to giving Elgindy confidential details of federal investigations, including a probe of the 9/11 attacks. Royer claims he did it to use Elgindy’s knowledge to help develop evidence of criminal wrongdoing. A court case against Royer and Elgindy continues. (Associated Press 1/5/2005)

At least two messages in Arabic are intercepted by the NSA. One states, “The match is about to begin” and the other states, “Tomorrow is zero hour.” Later reports translate the first message as, “The match begins tomorrow.” (Zakaria 9/9/2002) The messages were sent between someone in Saudi Arabia and someone in Afghanistan. The NSA will claim that they are not translated until September 12, and that even if they had been translated in time, “they gave no clues that authorities could have acted on.” (ABC News 6/7/2002; Zakaria 6/19/2002) Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Bob Graham will later confirm that the messages were from al-Qaeda sources—a location or phone number—that made them a high priority, but that they were not from bin Laden or one of his top commanders. (Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 139) On the morning of September 12, 2001, the CIA will tell President Bush that a recently intercepted message from al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida referred to the 9/11 attacks as “zero hour,” but it is not clear if this is the same message or a different message (see September 12, 2001). These messages turn out to be only two of about 30 pre-9/11 communications from suspected al-Qaeda operatives or other militants referring to an imminent event. An anonymous official will say of these messages, including the “Tomorrow is zero hour” message: “You can’t dismiss any of them, but it does not tell you tomorrow is the day.” (Zakaria 9/9/2002) There will be a later attempt to explain the messages away by suggesting they referred to the killing of Afghan opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud the day before (see September 9, 2001). (Reuters 10/17/2002)

Michael Caine.Michael Caine. [Source: BBC]Oscar-winning British actor Michael Caine starts writing a thriller novel in which terrorists deliberately crash a plane into a skyscraper in London, England, but he will stop working on it in response to the 9/11 attacks. (BBC Radio 4 9/29/2010; BBC 9/29/2010; Blake 9/30/2010) Caine is well known for starring in many movies, such as Alfie, The Cider House Rules, and The Dark Knight. (Lipworth 11/9/2007; Mottram 10/3/2011) The actor, who has never written a novel before, will later recall that his book is going to be a thriller about terrorism. “It’s the sort of thing I read all the time,” he will say. The storyline includes “an airplane crash into a skyscraper in the City [of London],” he will add. However, Caine stops writing the novel when terrorists crash planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. “Then it did it in real life,” he will say. “So I stopped. I was quite stunned by that and I never wrote it again.” Caine will claim that he got the idea for his novel from a documentary he saw on television. “I was watching all the programs about terrorism because I was writing this book,” he will say. In the documentary, “the chief constable of Manila in the Philippines… had arrested this man who’d overstayed his visa. And it was [future 9/11 hijacker] Mohamed Atta. And [the chief constable] held up a picture, a drawing he’d found in Atta’s luggage of an airplane going into the Sears Tower in Chicago.” When he saw this, Caine thought, “Well, what a great idea that is.” Therefore, he will say, “I used it.” (BBC Radio 4 9/29/2010; BBC 9/29/2010; Blake 9/30/2010) Caine is apparently referring to the interrogation of Abdul Hakim Murad—not Atta—by Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza of the Philippine National Police in 1995. Murad told Mendoza about a plan to fly planes into buildings in the United States. These buildings reportedly included the Sears Tower and the WTC (see February-Early May 1995). (CNN 9/18/2001; Lance 2003, pp. 278-280; BBC 6/15/2003; 9/11 Commission 3/15/2004 pdf file)

Thomas McGuinness.Thomas McGuinness. [Source: Courtesy photo]Thomas McGuinness, who will who be the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 11—the first plane to hit the World Trade Center—on September 11, only arranges to be on that flight the afternoon before, pushing from it the original co-pilot, who assigned himself to the flight less than 30 minutes earlier. (Peter Scheibner 8/30/2011; WYFF 4 9/10/2011; KSAX 1/20/2012) The original co-pilot of Flight 11 is Steve Scheibner, a Baptist pastor and a commander in the Naval Reserves, who also works part-time as an on-call pilot for American Airlines. (Talbot 2/27/2000; Hoey 3/1/2003; Fergus Falls Daily Journal 1/20/2012)
Pilot Puts Name Down for Flight 11 - Scheibner will later describe how McGuinness comes to take his place on the flight. He will recall: “I was available to go flying on September 11. So at about three o’clock in the afternoon of September 10 I sat down at the computer and I logged in like I normally do, to check to see if there was any unassigned flying for the next day. And sure enough there was one trip that was available on September 11. It was American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston’s Logan Airport to Los Angeles.… And I looked at it and there was no pilot assigned to it yet.” Scheibner checks to see if there are any reserve pilots available, but, he will say, “It just so happened [that] on September 11, 2001, there was only one guy available to go flying on that day and that was me.” He therefore puts his name down for Flight 11. Scheibner tells his wife he will be flying to Los Angeles the following day, packs his bags for the flight, and takes them out to the car ready.
Pilot Receives No Confirmation Call from Airline - However, shortly after Scheibner puts his name down for the flight, McGuinness takes the position from him. Scheibner will say how this comes about. According to Scheibner, the “final assignment” of a pilot to a flight involves a phone call from American Airlines, where someone from the airline will say, “Hey, we wanna let you know you’ve been assigned a trip.” Once this call has been made, even if another pilot wants to take your place, they cannot do so. There is therefore “a 30-minute window of opportunity” to replace a pilot who has already been assigned to a flight. After that, “Once that phone call gets made, it’s a done deal.” But after Scheibner signs up for Flight 11, the anticipated call from American Airlines never comes. Later on, during the evening, Scheibner thinks, “You know, they never assigned that trip to me.”
McGuinness Replaces Scheibner as Co-Pilot - Scheibner will explain what instead happens. He will say that McGuinness is one of American Airlines’ “line holding pilots” and is a “little bit senior” to him. At “about three o’clock in the afternoon,” Scheibner will say, McGuinness “went over to the computer and he logged in and he looked and he saw that [Flight 11] was open, but my name had been penciled in.” McGuinness knows he is “still in that 30-minute window of opportunity,” and so he calls American Airlines and asks: “Am I legal to take this trip? In other words, can I bump Scheibner off that trip?” According to Scheibner, American Airlines says, “Yep, you’re legal for that trip, but you gotta give us a call back in the next 20 minutes, or else we’re gonna finalize the assignment.” McGuinness does indeed call the airline again and tells it he will take the flight. “At that moment,” Scheibner will say, American Airlines “erased my name off the trip [and] they assigned it to Tom [McGuinness].” (Peter Scheibner 8/30/2011) For a pilot to take another pilot’s place like this is a rare occurrence. In 2011, Scheibner will note, “I can count three times in 20 years at American Airlines that I’ve been bumped from a trip the night before.” (WYFF 4 9/10/2011)
Scheibner Learns Flight's Fate from Airline Website - On September 11, Scheibner will not initially realize that the flight he tried to be on was targeted in the terrorist attacks. It will only be in the evening that he will be wondering who was on the flight he signed up for, and so log into the American Airlines website to check. He will recall: “I logged in and when the screen came up in front of me, it looked exactly like it did the day before when it had that trip and it had my name penciled in. Except this time it had this trip sequence, my name wasn’t there, and it said these three words: ‘Sequence. Failed. Continuity.’” These words are the code the airline uses to say, “The trip never made it to its destination.” (Peter Scheibner 8/30/2011) John Ogonowski, who will pilot Flight 11 on 9/11, is, like McGuinness, not originally supposed to be on that flight, but is scheduled to take it shortly before September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). (Applegate 9/18/2003; Georgetown Record 9/7/2005) Pilots on two of the other aircraft hijacked on 9/11 are also not originally scheduled to fly that day, but are booked onto those planes shortly before September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001 and Shortly Before September 11, 2001). (Sciolino and Cushman 9/13/2001; Wallace 12/16/2001; Pauley 9/11/2006)

Personnel at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, practice for the scenario of an aircraft being hijacked by Cuban asylum seekers. The scenario is part of the annual NORAD training exercise, Vigilant Guardian. (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 3) In the scenario, the fictitious hijackers take over an Ilyushin IL-62 jet airliner that took off from Havana, Cuba. The hijackers, who are “demanding political asylum, demand to be taken to” New York City, according to a document later produced by the 9/11 Commission. As the scenario plays out, the FAA requests support from NORAD. The FAA directs the plane toward Jacksonville, Florida, but the hijackers then demand to be taken to Atlanta, Georgia. Finally, the hijacked plane lands safely at Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia. (9/11 Commission 2004) The following morning, September 11, personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, are scheduled to practice what is apparently a similar plane hijacking scenario, presumably as part of the same Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Vanity Fair, that scenario will involve “politically motivated perpetrators” seeking asylum “on a Cuba-like island.” (Bronner 8/1/2006)

Hamza Bin Laden in 2001.Hamza Bin Laden in 2001. [Source: Getty Images]Several members of Osama bin Laden’s family cross into Iran on foot shortly before the 9/11 attacks. The exact number of family members that cross at this time is unknown, although 19 of bin Laden’s relatives will soon be present in Iran: one wife, seven children, and 11 grandchildren. The children are Saad, who is 20; Ossman, 17; Mohammed, 15; Fatma, 14; Hamza, 12; Iman, 9; and Bakr, 7. They are placed under virtual house arrest in a high-security compound near Tehran, “for their own safety.” The Iranian authorities will publicly deny their presence in the country, and will attempt to cut off their communications with the outside world. Al-Qaeda operatives will also be held in Iran after 9/11 (see Spring 2002). The whereabouts of the detained family members will remain unknown until November 2009, when they will contact another son of bin Laden, Omar Ossama, who is currently living in Qatar with his wife. The family will tell Omar they live as normal a life as possible, cooking meals, watching television, and reading. They will be allowed out only rarely for shopping trips. As a number of families are being held in the compound, some of the older siblings will be able to marry and have their own children. “The Iranian government did not know what to do with this large group of people that nobody else wanted, so they just kept them safe,” Omar Ossama will later say. (Brown 12/23/2009)

Michele Heidenberger.Michele Heidenberger. [Source: Family photo]At least two of the four flight attendants who will be on American Airlines Flight 77—the third plane to be hijacked—on 9/11 are not originally scheduled to be on this plane, and are only assigned to it shortly before—or early in the morning of—September 11:
bullet Michele Heidenberger regularly flies from Washington’s Reagan National Airport to Dallas. But she will tell a colleague she is working Flight 77 on 9/11 as she is building up vacation time so she can go to Italy in October. (Murphy 2006, pp. 42-43)
bullet Renee May is assigned to Flight 77 early in the morning of 9/11. Before she is offered the flight, American Airlines asks another attendant, Lena Brown, to take it, but Brown says she is unable to get to the airport in time. (Moscoso 8/9/2002; Kopkowski 9/11/2002)
One of the pilots—either Charles Burlingame or David Charlebois—is also not originally scheduled to be on Flight 77 on September 11, and only accepts the flight shortly before then (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). (Sciolino and Cushman 9/13/2001) Many of the flight attendants who will be on the other three hijacked planes are also only assigned to those flights shortly before 9/11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).

According to a Newsweek report on September 13, “[t]he state of alert had been high during the past two weeks, and a particularly urgent warning may have been received the night before the attacks, causing some top Pentagon brass to cancel a trip. Why that same information was not available to the 266 people who died aboard the four hijacked commercial aircraft may become a hot topic on the Hill.” (Hirsh 9/13/2001) Far from becoming a hot topic, the only additional media mention of this story will be in the next issue of Newsweek: “a group of top Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns.” (Thomas and Hosenball 9/24/2001)

Howard Rubinstein.Howard Rubinstein. [Source: Rubenstein Public Relations]Howard Rubenstein cancels a meeting he had scheduled at the World Trade Center for the morning of September 11. (Davidovit 9/2004) Rubenstein, a famous public relations man for powerful New Yorkers, has represented Larry Silverstein, the World Trade Center leaseholder (see July 24, 2001), for many years. (Fitzgerald 6/7/2004 pdf file) He will later recount how a staff meeting at his own firm requires him to cancel a meeting he has scheduled for the morning of 9/11 with John O’Neill, who was recently appointed as director of security at the World Trade Center (see August 23, 2001): “The Monday before the Tuesday, I get a call from John O’Neill.… He said, ‘Why don’t you come down on 9/11, come to a breakfast meeting at 8:00, where we’ll talk about what we’re doing to prevent terror attacks?’ So I said, ‘Okay.’ And he said, ‘Bring your staff, two people.’ I said that’s fine, because we were then representing the World Trade Center. Then I thought about it on Monday, and I called him, I said, ‘I have a staff meeting on Tuesday, do you mind if I don’t go?’ He said, ‘No, send somebody.’ I said, ‘But that somebody is also at my staff meeting.’ He said come at 9:00 instead of 8:00.” Rubenstein’s cancellation of this meeting appears to save his life. He will recall that, the morning of 9/11: “I’m sitting in my staff meeting, and my secretary runs in and said the World Trade Center just got hit, and you were supposed to be there. Everyone at that breakfast meeting died, including John O’Neill.” (PBS 7/15/2004) After the attacks, Rubenstein and his firm, Rubenstein Associates, will play a leading role in publicizing Larry Silverstein’s legal claims against several insurance companies (see September 12, 2001). (Cordasco 2/10/2003)

A Tu-95 Bear bomber.A Tu-95 Bear bomber. [Source: Unknown]The Russian Air Force begins a major training exercise over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans that is scheduled to last all week, ending on September 14, and which is being monitored by US fighter aircraft. The exercise is set to include the participation of strategic Tu-160 Blackjack, Tu-95 Bear, and Tu-22 bombers, along with IL-78 tanker aircraft. It will involve the strategic bombers staging a mock attack against NATO planes that are supposedly planning an assault on Russia, and is set to include practice missile attacks. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has sent fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor the Russian exercise (see September 9, 2001). (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Gertz 9/11/2001) NORAD is conducting its own exercise this week called Vigilant Guardian, which, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union” (see September 10, 2001, (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, will later comment that when the Russians hold an exercise, “NORAD gets involved in an exercise, just to make sure that they understand we know that they’re moving around and that they’re exercising.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/11/2002) But NORAD has stated, “[I]t is highly unlikely that Russian aircraft [participating in the exercise] would purposely violate Canadian or American airspace.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001) The Russians will promptly cancel their exercise on September 11, in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001). (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011)

A fifth grader in Dallas, Texas, casually tells his teacher, “Tomorrow, World War III will begin. It will begin in the United States, and the United States will lose.” The teacher reports the comment to the FBI, but does not know if they act on it at the time. The student skips the next two days of school. The event may be completely coincidental, but the newspaper that reports the story also notes that two charities, Holy Land Foundation and InfoCom, located in an adjacent suburb have been under investigation based on suspected fund-raising activities for Islamic militant organizations. One InfoCom employee had his name in the telephone book of Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s personal secretary, and he was seen with El-Hage as recently as 1998 (see September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001). (Ratcliffe 9/19/2001) The FBI investigates and decides “no further investigation [is] warranted.” (Houston Chronicle 10/1/2001)

The US military reduces the Information Operations Condition (Infocon) to Normal—the lowest possible threat level—less than 12 hours before the 9/11 attacks commence, reportedly due to reduced fears of attacks on computer networks.
Level Reduced Due to 'Decreased Threat' - The Infocon level is lowered to Normal, meaning there is no special threat, at 9:09 p.m. this evening. The reason for this, according to historical records for the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, is “a decreased threat from hacker and virus attacks on the computer networks across the US.” (Diedrich 5/3/2001; 1st Fighter Wing History Office 12/2001) Since October 1999, the commander of the US Space Command has been in charge of Defense Department computer network defense, and has had the authority to declare Infocon levels. (Sarff 12/2000 pdf file) General Ralph Eberhart, the current commander of both the US Space Command and NORAD, is thus responsible for evaluating the threat to US military computers and issuing information conditions—“Infocons”—to the US military. He is presumably therefore responsible for lowering the Infocon level this evening.
Higher Infocon Level Requires More Precautions - It is unclear what difference the reduced Infocon level makes. But an e-mail sent earlier in the year from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, where NORAD and the US Space Command are headquartered, revealed the steps to be taken when the Infocon level is raised one level from Normal, to Alpha. These steps include “changing passwords, updating keys used to create classified communication lines, minimizing cell phone use, backing up important documents on hard drive, updating virus protection on home computers, reporting suspicious activity, and reviewing checklists.” (Diedrich 5/3/2001)
Level Increased Earlier in Year - It is also unclear what the Infocon level was prior to being reduced this evening and why it had been at that raised level. Pentagon networks were raised to Infocon Alpha for the first time at the end of April this year, as a precaution against attacks on US systems, after Chinese hackers warned of such attacks in Internet chat room postings. (United Press International 4/30/2001; Diedrich 5/3/2001; United Press International 7/24/2001) The Infocon level was raised to Alpha a second time in late July, due to the threat posed by the Code Red computer virus. (United Press International 7/24/2001; US Department of Defense 7/24/2001) It will be raised again, from Normal to Alpha, during the morning of September 11, immediately after the second attack on the World Trade Center takes place (see 9:04 a.m. September 11, 2001). (1st Fighter Wing History Office 12/2001)
System Intended to Protect Defense Department Computers - The Joint Chiefs of Staff established the Infocon system in March 1999 in response to the growing and sophisticated threat to Defense Department information networks. The system is intended as a structured, coordinated approach to defend against and react to attacks on Defense Department systems and networks. Reportedly, it “provides a structured, operational approach to uniformly heighten or reduce defensive posture, defend against unauthorized activity, and mitigate sustained damage to the defense information infrastructure.” It is analogous to other Defense Department alert systems, such as Defense Condition (Defcon) and Threat Condition (Threatcon). The Infocon system comprises five levels of threat, each with its own procedures for protecting systems and networks. These levels go from Normal, through Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, up to Delta, which, according to Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, is when “You’re currently under an absolutely massive hack attack, from a variety of means, from a variety of sources. You’re talking a very concerted, focused attack effort to get into [Defense Department] systems.” (Sarff 12/2000 pdf file; General Accounting Office 3/29/2001 pdf file; US Department of Defense 7/24/2001)

A sixth-grade student of Middle Eastern descent in Jersey City, New Jersey, says something that alarms his teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. “Essentially, he [warns] her to stay away from lower Manhattan because something bad [is] going to happen,” says Sgt. Edgar Martinez, deputy director of police services for the Jersey City Police Department. (Shapiro 9/10/2002)

Jeffrey Collman.Jeffrey Collman. [Source: Family photo]At least four of the nine flight attendants who will be on American Airlines Flight 11—the first plane to hit the World Trade Center—on 9/11 are not originally scheduled to be on this flight, but are assigned to it shortly before September 11 or early in the morning of 9/11:
bullet Jeffrey Collman does not “normally work the Boston-to-Los Angeles route but [makes] an exception to get vacation time at the end of the month.” (Seattle Times 9/17/2001)
bullet Barbara “Bobbi” Arestegui accepts extra shifts as she is saving up her earned vacation time. (Maxwell 9/18/2001; Cape Cod Times 9/10/2002; Cape Cod Times 9/11/2006)
bullet Jean Roger is on a “standby” work list in September 2001. Someone calls in sick the morning of 9/11 and she takes their place. (Chicago Tribune 9/15/2001; English 9/9/2003)
bullet Sara Low is “not originally scheduled to work” Flight 11. (Associated Press 9/25/2001)
John Ogonowski, the plane’s pilot, is also not originally scheduled to be on Flight 11, but requests to fly it shortly before September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). (Applegate 9/18/2003) Many of the flight attendants on the other three hijacked planes are also only assigned to those flights shortly before 9/11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).

Joseph Hagin.Joseph Hagin. [Source: Publicity photo]A group of White House staffers, including the deputy chief of staff for operations and the deputy director of the White House Military Office, goes to New York to prepare for President Bush’s forthcoming appearance at the United Nations General Assembly, and is consequently away from Washington, DC, when the terrorist attacks occur on September 11. (National Journal 8/31/2002; Wilkinson 1/20/2003) Bush is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders on September 24. (Reuters 9/12/2001; Associated Press 10/29/2001) The group, which comprises about 15 members of the White House staff, heads to New York this afternoon to conduct the “survey trip” for his appearance. The group includes Joseph Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, and Captain Michael Miller, the deputy director of the White House Military Office. During the evening, Hagin meets at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where the group is staying, with Tony Carbonetti, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s chief of staff. The White House staffers are scheduled to meet with the staff at the US Mission to the United Nations on the morning of September 11. They will start making their way back to Washington after the attack on the Pentagon, and arrive at the White House later in the day (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Journal 8/31/2002) It is unclear what effect the absence of these staffers has on the White House’s ability to respond to the 9/11 attacks. However, as the deputy chief of staff for operations, Hagin has an important role to play at the White House, so his absence could presumably be detrimental. Hagin is responsible for the management and administrative functions of the White House, and also plans all of the president’s travel. (Abramowitz 7/4/2008) He will describe himself as being responsible for “scheduling, advance, Oval Office operations, the White House Military Office, the liaison with the Secret Service, the Office of Management and Administration… and then the Office of Administration.” (Cohen et al. 2008, pp. 9 pdf file) Hagin is “an operational wizard,” according to Politico, who “manages everything around the president and the presidency except politics and policy.” He is “the single junction where Bush’s personal life, presidency, security, and military support all come together.” (Allen 7/3/2008)

Though the NSA specializes in intercepting communications, the CIA and FBI intercept as well. After 9/11, CIA and FBI officials will discover messages with phrases like, “There is a big thing coming,” “they’re going to pay the price,” and “We’re ready to go.” Supposedly, most or all of these intercepted messages will not be analyzed until after 9/11. (Hosenball 10/1/2001)

Ike Skelton.Ike Skelton. [Source: Publicity photo]On the morning of 9/11, David Welna, National Public Radio’s Congressional correspondent, will say, “I spoke with Congressman Ike Skelton—a Democrat from Missouri and a member of the Armed Services Committee—who said that just recently the Director of the CIA [George Tenet] warned that there could be an attack—an imminent attack—on the United States of this nature. So this is not entirely unexpected.” More details, such as when Tenet said this, who else he may have said it to, and so forth, remain unknown. (NPR 9/11/2001)

A month after 9/11, the New York Times will report: “Interpreting intercepted communications, which are cryptic and in code, and sorting through all the rumors present a formidable challenge. One intercept before the Sept. 11 attack was, according to two senior intelligence officials, the first early warning of the assault and it set off a scramble by American and other intelligence agencies. In that call, Mr. bin Laden advised his wife in Syria to come back to Afghanistan. That message, which was intercepted by the intelligence services of more than one country, was passed on to the United States, officials from three countries said.” (Bonner and Tagliabue 10/21/2001) Bin Laden apparently makes a similar phone call to his stepmother in Syria on September 9, 2001 (see September 9, 2001).

Based on interviews with FBI officials, the New Yorker will report that, for several years prior to 9/11, the US government plans for “simulated terrorist attacks, including scenarios [involving] multiple-plane hijackings.” This presumably refers to more than just the Amalgam Virgo 02 exercise (see July 2001), which is based on the scenario of two planes being simultaneously hijacked. (New Yorker 9/24/2001) Similarly, NORAD will state that before 9/11, it normally conducts four major exercises each year at headquarters level. Most of them include a hijack scenario, and some of them are apparently quite similar to the 9/11 attacks (see Between 1991 and 2001 and Between September 1999 and September 10, 2001). (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004; Starr 4/19/2004) According to author Lynn Spencer, before September 11, “To prepare for their missions in support of NORAD, the Air National Guard pilots—some of the finest pilots in the world—often use hijacking scenarios to train for intercept tactics.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 84-85) John Arquilla, an associate professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, later says that while “No one knew specifically that 20 people would hijack four airliners and use them for suicide attacks against major buildings… the idea of such an attack was well known, [and] had been war gamed as a possibility in exercises before Sept. 11.” (Howe 7/18/2002)

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