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A surveillance program known as Catcher’s Mitt is curtailed, and ten to twenty al-Qaeda wiretaps, as well as some Hamas wiretaps, are not renewed. This follows the discovery of errors in applications for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) related to both al-Qaeda and Hamas and the introduction of new procedures (see Summer 2000-September 11, 2001, Summer-October 2000, October 2000, and March 2001). [New York Times, 9/19/2001; Newsweek, 5/27/2002; Newsweek, 3/29/2004] In addition, other similar programs such as Able Danger and Monarch Passage are shut down at the same time (see (February-March 2001) and January-March 2001).
FBI translators Sibel Edmonds and Behrooz Sarshar will later claim to know of an important warning given to the FBI at this time. In their accounts, a reliable informant on the FBI’s payroll for at least ten years tells two FBI agents that sources in Afghanistan have heard of an al-Qaeda plot to attack the US and Europe in a suicide mission involving airplanes. Al-Qaeda agents, already in place inside the US, are being trained as pilots. By some accounts, the names of prominent US cities are mentioned. A report on the matter is filed with squad supervisor Thomas Frields, but it’s unclear if this warning reaches FBI headquarters or beyond. The two translators will later privately testify to the 9/11 Commission. [WorldNetDaily, 3/24/2004; Salon, 3/26/2004; WorldNetDaily, 4/6/2004; Village Voice, 4/14/2004] Sarshar’s notes of the interview indicate that the informant claimed his information came from Iran, Afghanistan, and Hamburg, Germany (the location of the primary 9/11 al-Qaeda cell). However, anonymous FBI officials will claim the warning was very vague and doubtful. [Chicago Tribune, 7/21/2004] In reference to this warning and apparently others, Edmonds will say, “President Bush said they had no specific information about September 11, and that’s accurate. However, there was specific information about use of airplanes, that an attack was on the way two or three months beforehand, and that several people were already in the country by May of 2001. They should’ve alerted the people to the threat we were facing.” [Salon, 3/26/2004] She will add, “There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used but not specifically about how they would be used and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities with skyscrapers.” [Independent, 4/2/2004]
Former Reagan-era Interior Secretary James Watt, who once bragged that under his regime “We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber,” tells a reporter, “Everything [Vice President Dick] Cheney’s saying, everything the president’s saying, they’re saying exactly what we were saying 20 years ago, precisely. Twenty years later, it sounds like they’ve just dusted off the old work.” [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/3/2004]
Journalist Hamid Mir talks to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is living in exile in Iran at the time. Hekmatyar predicts that the Taliban will fall by the end of the year. Mir will later recall, “he was telling me that the Americans will attack Afghanistan, Taliban government will fall, and then we’ll continue our jihad against the Americans.” Hekmatyar is opposed to the Taliban but openly supports bin Laden. He tells Mir, “Osama bin Laden is a great man and I support his ideology and I support his objectives.… He is a good friend of mine and he is a real muhjahid.” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 287] A senior Taliban official will make a similar prediction to Mir before 9/11 and hint the justification for the US attack would be a major attack against US interests (see August 2-3, 2001).
Peter Jouvenal. [Source: Dominc Medley]British cameraman Peter Jouvenal is reporting on Afghanistan at this time and using a young Afghan known only as “Ahmed” to run errands. Ahmed also has a job running errands for Osama bin Laden at the same time. Jouvenal will later recount that Ahmed was helping bin Laden by “meeting people in Pakistan and taking them across the border, taking messages around for Osama, buying his food, taking messages to the Internet and logging on and receiving, printing, sending.” Ahmed buys bin Laden’s meals most every day. But Jouvenal says that “somewhere on the line Ahmed tied up with the CIA” and decided that working for bin Laden was too dangerous. Ahmed asks Jouvenal for help to get a visa for himself and his family to defect to the US, which Ahmed eventually gets. He also tells Jouvenal that al-Qaeda is planning to hijack an airplane in the US in an attempt to get Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman released from prison. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 287-289] There are some similarities between Ahmed’s case and the case of “Max” who leaves Afghanistan around the same time and warns of a hijacking, but there are differences as well (see March-April 2001). It is not known if they are the same person. Regardless, Ahmed’s case contradicts CIA assertions that they never had any asserts close to bin Laden. It is not known why the CIA did not use Ahmed to track bin Laden’s location or poison his food. One month later the White House will be warned of the hijacking plot, but it is unknown if this came from Ahmed or other sources (see May 23, 2001).
A CIA informer who is aware of Zacarias Moussaoui’s connection to terrorism and met him in Azerbaijan in 1997 (see 1997) shares some information on him with the CIA. However, the informer is not aware of Moussaoui’s real name and knows him under an alias, “Abu Khalid al-Francia.” An intelligence official will indicate in 2002 that the source reports on Moussaoui under this name. However, CIA director George Tenet, writing in 2007, will say that the informer only reports on Moussaoui as “al Francia.” One of Moussaoui’s known aliases in 2001 is Abu Khalid al-Sahrawi, similar to the name the source knows him under, but when Moussaoui is arrested in the US (see August 16, 2001) the CIA apparently does not realize that Abu Khalid al-Francia is Moussaoui. [MSNBC, 12/11/2001; Associated Press, 6/4/2002; Tenet, 2007, pp. 201]
Photo of Iraqi aluminum tube, misidentified as a component for a nuclear reactor. [Source: CIA]The CIA writes at least 15 reports (only seven of which have been identified; see, e.g., June 20, 2001, June 30, 2001,
September 2004-September 2006,
November 24, 2001,
December 15, 2001,
June 14, 2001,
April 10, 2001) about Iraq’s interest in purchasing 7075-T6 aluminum tubes. Several of the assessments are distributed only to high-level policy makers, including President Bush, and are not sent to other intelligence agencies for peer review. According to a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigation, all the assessments rely on the same evidence and they all fail to note that the opinions of leading centrifuge experts at the Energy Department conflict with the CIA’s view. [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59; New York Times, 10/3/2004]
Nicky Hager. [Source: Rotorua District Council]New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager appears before a European Parliament investigative committee to testify about the US’s satellite surveillance program, Echelon (see July 11, 2001). Hager has discovered information about Echelon’s use by the New Zealand equivalent of the NSA, the Government Communication Security Bureau (GCSB). In researching Echelon’s use by the USA, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, Hager learned of the extent of the system’s “capability to monitor the whole of governments, regional and international organizations, non-government organizations, companies and individuals throughout Europe.” Although Hager warns the committee not to focus exclusively on Echelon’s use for corporate benefits, he gives several examples of such uses in the South Pacific, including monitoring “deals to do with Japan… collecting intelligence on meat sales, which is very important for New Zealand… intelligence to do with oil prices… [and] a particularly large Japanese development project in the South Pacific where there was potential for New Zealand companies to win contracts. In other words, there were both macro-level and micro-level economic intelligence being collected.” Corporate executives routinely received such information, Hager testifies, and tells about “the fantastic amount of intelligence that was arriving, for example, monitoring international trade meetings.… From my sources, they said that whenever there was a GATT meeting or another major international meeting, there were hundreds of reports of the monitoring of the different delegations which were arriving in New Zealand and being shared between [British]/USA partners, and I have absolutely no doubt about that, because I have talked to people who saw it coming from the NSA.” [European Parliament, 4/24/2001]
Lt. Col. Donald Miles, spokesman for Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, tells MSNBC.com: “Space is the ultimate high ground. The high ground has always provided an advantage, whether it’s a hill, a balloon, an observation aircraft or air superiority. You take that to the next level, and we’re talking about space superiority.” [MSNBC, 4/27/2001]
MSNBC interviews Paul Stares, an expert on space at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, for an article it is preparing on US plans to weaponize space. Stares is very critical of these plans, arguing that it will spark a new arms race and ultimately increase the vulnerability of US military and commercial assets in space. “It is currently not in the US interest to develop an anti-satellite system,” he says. “We have more to lose than gain from developing such a system. So you really have to wonder at the end of the day whether this is a path we really want to encourage others to go down.” Other experts interviewed by MSNBC have similar opinions. Michael Krepon, president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, also says that by weaponizing space, it would encourage others to do the same. [MSNBC, 4/27/2001]
The charters of the Bahamas branch of the Al Taqwa Bank and the related Akida Bank are revoked. Al Taqwa’s headquarters in Switzerland will be shut down after 9/11 following accusations that it helped fund al-Qaeda and other Islamist militant groups (see November 7, 2001). [Randal, 2005, pp. 225] The US Treasury Department will later state that the Bahamas branch of “Al Taqwa and Akida Bank are not functional banking institutions in the conventional sense. They are shell companies lacking a physical presence and sharing the same address in the Bahamas where they were licensed.” [US Department of the Treasury, 8/29/2002] Press reports at the time say the closure is the result of Jordanian, French, and US intelligence reports indicating al-Qaeda money coming from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates had been channeled through Al Taqwa. [Forward, 10/17/2003] Journalist Jonathan Randal will later note that US intelligence on Al Taqwa was solid enough before 9/11 to lead to this closure. “Egyptian, US, and other Western specialists had long suspected this well-known Muslim Brotherhood bank had ties to al-Qaeda as well as to radical Algerian, Egyptian, and Palestinian Islamist groups. One persistent rumor suggested Osama had been bugged telephoning the bank in Nassau, [Bahamas,] in 1996 to discuss rearranging his finances at the time of his departure from Khartoum, [Sudan.]” [Randal, 2005, pp. 225]
Televangelist Pat Robertson, the head of the Christian Coalition and a former Republican presidential candidate, says that while he is staunchly opposed to abortion, he believes that China’s one-child policy, which he seems to think includes forcible abortions for families with more than one child, is acceptable. Robertson, who has admitted to having extensive personal business interests in China, says that nation suffers from “tremendous unemployment” and is plagued with “antiquated factories” owned by the government “that will have to be shut down, spawning more loss of jobs.… So, I think that right now they are doing what they have to do. I don’t agree with forced abortion, but I don’t think the United States needs to interfere with what they’re doing internally in this regard.” Robertson adds that the Chinese are “courting a demographic catastrophe” by aborting more girls than boys, and speculates that in 10 or 20 years Chinese men will have to import wives from Indonesia, which “will, in a sense, dilute the—what they consider the racial purity of the Han Chinese.” [Feminist Women's Health Center News, 2010]
Bard O’Neill. [Source: Offoffoff.com]Cofer Black, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, tells a class at a military college that “something big” is going to happen, likely in the US, and he will be blamed for it. This is according to Bard O’Neill, a Middle East expert and professor of national security strategy at the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair, in southwest Washington, DC. O’Neill will tell the 9/11 Commission that, sometime this month, Black talks to a class in the sensitive compartmented information facility at the National War College. Black says that “something big [is] coming and that it very likely could be in the US.” He says he will get blamed for the incident, and that he has “his resignation already signed in his drawer and ready to pull out when it happened.” [9/11 Commission, 9/3/2003 ] Black will later tell the Congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks that during the spring and summer of this year, he “became convinced that al-Qaeda was going to strike hard,” and that, while “the Arabian peninsula and Israel were the most likely targets,” by late summer, he “was growing more concerned about a potential attack on the United States.” [US Congress, 9/26/2002]
Future 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi possibly enters and photographs the cockpit of an American Airlines Boeing 757 during a flight from Boston to Los Angeles. This is according to a flight attendant working in first class, whose account is mentioned in a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks. She will claim that Alshehhi approaches her while boarding, tells her he has recently received his pilot’s license, and asks to see the cockpit. Later in the flight, he meets and speaks with the pilot, and possibly photographs the cockpit. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002]
A source with al-Qaeda connections speculates to US intelligence that Osama “bin Laden would be interested in commercial pilots as potential terrorists.” The source warns that the US should not focus only on embassy bombings, because al-Qaeda is seeking “spectacular and traumatic” attacks along the lines of the WTC bombing in 1993. Because the source is offering personal speculation and not hard information, the information is not disseminated widely. [US Congress, 9/18/2002; New York Times, 9/18/2002]
Ali Soufan in Afghanistan after 9/11. [Source: FBI]Ali Soufan, a lead investigator into the bombing of the USS Cole, again requests information from the CIA about leads turned up by the investigation. He made a similar request in late 2000, but got no reply (see Late November 2000). After learning that some of the bombers made calls between one of their houses in Yemen, the Washington Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, where some of them stayed, and a payphone in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (see (January 5-8, 2000) and Early December 2000), Soufan sends an official teletype with the request for information and also a photo of al-Qaeda manager Khallad bin Attash. The CIA is well aware that there was an al-Qaeda summit at a condominium near the payphone in Kuala Lumpur (see January 5-8, 2000), and in fact considered it so important that CIA Director George Tenet and other CIA leaders were repeatedly briefed about it (see January 6-9, 2000). [New York Times, 4/11/2004; Wright, 2006, pp. 330-331; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] The CIA even has photos from the Malaysia summit of al-Quso standing next to hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, and other photos of bin Attash standing next to Almihdhar. [Newsweek, 9/20/2001 ] However, the CIA does not share any of what they know with Soufan, and Soufan continues to remain unaware the Malaysia summit even took place. Author Lawrence Wright will later comment, “If the CIA had responded to Soufan by supplying him with the intelligence he requested, the FBI would have learned of the Malaysia summit and of the connection to Almihdhar and Alhazmi. The bureau would have learned—as the [CIA] already knew—that the al-Qaeda operatives were in America and had been there for more than a year. Because there was a preexisting indictment for bin Laden in New York, and Almihdhar and Alhazmi were his associates, the bureau already had the authority to follow the suspects, wiretap their apartment, intercept their communications, clone their computer, investigate their contacts—all the essential steps that might have prevented 9/11.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 330-331]
Richard Wetherald, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), writes a press release on a paper he has written on global warming that will soon be published in the prestigious Geophysical Research Letters. But a few days after submitting the press release, NOAA press officer Jana Goldman informs him that the release has been rejected. The reason provided by NOAA is that since the journal will be sending out its own press release, there is no need for NOAA to do one as well. Wetherald doesn’t buy it. According to Wetherald, NOAA would not be duplicating efforts because while the journal’s press release will be written in technical jargon, the NOAA release he drafted is written in language that is more accessible to the public. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]
Al- Qaeda leader Hambali. [Source: Virtual Information Center]In April 2001, the Malaysian government connects al-Qaeda leader Hambali with a gun-smuggling syndicate, and as a result police place an all points bulletin for him. A month later, Hambali is connected to a botched bank robbery also in Malaysia. Twenty-six members of the Malaysian militant group Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) are arrested and questioned about the robbery. Authorities discover the group has been responsible for a number of attacks, including the bombing of a Hindu temple, and that Hambali is a top leader. [New Straits Times, 2/10/2002; New Straits Times, 8/16/2003] A photograph of Hambali is found in a raid at this time, and is matched with a photo of him discovered in 1995 on Ramzi Yousef’s computer that contained files detailing the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). [New Straits Times, 2/2/2002] His picture appears in the media no later than mid-August. [New Straits Times, 8/18/2001; New Straits Times, 9/9/2001] The US is already aware of Hambali’s involvement in the Bojinka plot (see May 23, 1999). However, this new evidence of Hambali’s importance does not lead to any renewed focus on the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit attended by Hambali and two of the 9/11 hijackers that was monitored by Malaysian intelligence (see January 5-8, 2000).
The Lackawanna Six. Top row, from left: Faysal Galab, Mukhtar al-Bakri, and Sahim Alwan. Bottom row, from left: Yahya Goba, Shafel Mosed, and Yaseinn Taher. [Source: Associated Press]A group of seven men in Lackawanna, near Buffalo, New York, are influenced by religious discussions with two al-Qaeda operatives, Kamal Derwish and Juma al-Dosari. The seven US citizens—Yaseinn Taher, Yahya Goba, Shafel Mosed, Mukhtar al-Bakri, Sahim Alwan, Faysal Galab, and Jaber Elbaneh—leave for jihad training in Afghanistan. They tell friends they are merely going to Pakistan for religious instruction. Escorted by Derwish, the men travel separately and attend a six-week long weapons course at the Al Farooq camp. Some of them meet Osama bin Laden in Kandahar and they all hear him give a speech (see (June 2001)). However, most of them apparently think they are in over their heads and find excuses to cut their basic training course short and return home. The six who return show little to no evidence of any al-Qaeda plotting in the following months. Jaber Elbaneh, however, becomes committed and stays overseas with al-Qaeda. The six who return will later be arrested and dubbed an al-Qaeda cell known as the “Lackawanna Six” (see September 13, 2002). [PBS Frontline, 10/16/2003]
Entity Tags: Yaseinn Taher, Al Farooq training camp, Shafel Mosed, Yahya Goba, Osama bin Laden, Faysal Galab, Jaber Elbaneh, Juma al-Dosari, Sahim Alwan, Mukhtar al-Bakri, Kamal Derwish
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
While monitoring a plot to blow up Mount Rushmore and carry out other attacks (see November 2000-Spring 2002), the Florida FBI investigates Adnan Shukrijumah, an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta (see May 2, 2001). Imran Mandhai is a leader of the Mount Rushmore plot, and he attends the same mosque in the greater Miami area that Shukrijamah does. Mandhai tries to recruit him for the plot. However, Shukrijumah declines and never says anything incriminating within earshot of undercover surveillance teams or an FBI informer using the alias Mohamed who has gotten close to Mandhai. The FBI investigates Shukrijumah anyway, but only finds that he lied on his green card application regarding a prior arrest. The Florida FBI is apparently unaware of his connection to the 9/11 hijackers. An investigator on the case will tell USA Today, “Shukrijumah sensed what Mandhai did not: that ‘Mohamed’ was an FBI informant.” After 9/11 the FBI will give Mandhai a lie detector test and ask him if he knew any of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks. He says he did not, but his answer is judged to be false, and he confesses he was thinking of Shukrijumah. The FBI is also investigating Shukrijumah over another plot at this time (see (Spring 2001)). Shukrijumah apparently disappears from the Miami area around the time Mandhai and Jokhan are first interviewed by the FBI. He then travels around North America (see July-September 2001). [Miami Herald, 3/31/2003; US News and World Report, 4/7/2003; USA Today, 6/15/2003; ABC News, 9/10/2009] The FBI will later find that Shukrijumah is a top al-Qaeda operative and offer a reward of $5 million for information leading to his capture (see March 21, 2003 and After). [Rewards for Justice, 3/2003] The FBI informant named “Mohamed” is likely Elie Assaad, who will later claim he associates some with Shukrijumah and Atta at a Florida mosque around this time (see Early 2001).
Future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi frequently eat at a Subway restaurant in Coral Springs, Florida, with two unnamed men. According to an account the owner of the restaurant gives the FBI after 9/11, Atta regularly eats there about once a week, and he is often joined by some combination of the other three men, often all four together. According to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks, the owner later identifies Atta, Alshehhi, and one of the other two men from photographs, but the name of that other man is redacted. In the FBI document, the names of any of the 9/11 hijackers are not redacted, but most other names, including some known hijacker associates, are redacted. (One logical possibility for this third man would be Adnan Shukrijumah, a known al-Qaeda operative who is living in Miramar at the time, about 22 miles away, and is seen with Atta and Alshehhi in the area around this time (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001)). Additionally, the fourth man cannot be identified by the FBI at all. The owner will describe this person as a “male, late 30s, with black eyes, weighing approximately 170 pounds, with long facial features, and wearing a robe.” This fourth man usually pays the bill, and he seems to be giving the other three instructions. The four men often talk a long time at the restaurant even after finishing their meals. Atta and Alshehhi move to Coral Springs in April 2001 and stay there just one month (see April 11, 2001). However, they remain in the area for several more months. For instance, they next live in Hollywood, Florida, which is 30 miles away. They will be seen in Hollywood as late as September 7, 2001 (see September 7, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002]
According to the 9/11 Commission, soon after settling in the area (see March 2001-September 1, 2001), 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour starts receiving “ground instruction” at Air Fleet Training Systems, a flight school in Teterboro, New Jersey. While there, he flies the Hudson Corridor: “a low-altitude ‘hallway’ along the Hudson River that passes New York landmarks like the World Trade Center.” His instructor refuses a second request to fly the Corridor, “because of what he considered Hanjour’s poor piloting skills.” Soon after, Hanjour switches to Caldwell Flight Academy in Fairfield, New Jersey, about 25 miles from lower Manhattan, from where he rents small aircraft several times during June and July. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 242] In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Caldwell’s owner will confirm that several suspects sought by the FBI, reportedly including hijacker Mohamed Atta, had rented planes from him, though when they did so is unstated. A search of the Lexis Nexus database indicates there are no media accounts of any witnesses recalling Hanjour or any of the other hijackers attending these schools. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/24/2001; Evening Standard, 9/25/2001]
CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson (see 1997), returning to duty from maternity leave and now going by her married name, is one of two officers assigned to the Iraq desk of the counterproliferation division (CPD). Plame Wilson’s job involves extensive covert operational responsibility. She supervises and coordinates NOCs (nonofficial covered officers) in several areas of the globe, helping plan and execute operations to recruit Iraqi nationals as CIA assets, focusing on graduate students, scientists, and businessmen, hoping to find information about Iraq’s secretive quest for unconventional weapons parts and technologies. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Plame Wilson is made the chief of operations of the Iraq branch of CPD. That branch is renamed the “Joint Task Force on Iraq,” or JTFI. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 365-366]
CIA managers Gary Schroen, of the Near East division, and Richard Blee, responsible for Alec Station, the agency’s bin Laden unit, meet Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud in Paris, France. [Coll, 2004, pp. 560] Massoud, who is in Europe to address the European Parliament (see April 6, 2001), tells Schroen and Blee “that his own intelligence had learned of al-Qaeda’s intention to perform a terrorist act against the United States that would be vastly greater than the bombings of the American embassies in East Africa.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 337] Declassified Defense Intelligence Agency documents from November 2001 will say that Massoud has gained “limited knowledge… regarding the intentions of [al-Qaeda] to perform a terrorist act against the US on a scale larger than the 1998 bombing of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.” They will further point out he may have been assassinated two days before 9/11 (see September 9, 2001) because he “began to warn the West.” [PakTribune (Islamabad), 9/13/2003; Agence France-Presse, 9/14/2003] Blee hands Massoud a briefcase full of cash. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Schroen and Blee assure Massoud that, although he has been visited less by the CIA recently, they are still interested in working with him, and they will continue to make regular payments of several hundred thousand dollars each month. Commenting on the military situation in Afghanistan, Massoud says his defenses will hold for now, but the Northern Alliance is doing badly and no longer has the strength to counterattack. [Coll, 2004, pp. 561-2]
Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour rent an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, for about a month, with the help of Eyad Alrababah, a man whom they met at a local mosque. The mosque is run by Anwar al-Awlaki, an associate of Alhazmi’s from San Diego who was investigated by the FBI over terrorism suspicions (see March 2001 and After). Alhazmi and Hanjour had previously lived in Phoenix, Arizona (see December 12, 2000-March 2001) and will later move to Paterson, New Jersey (see March 2001-September 1, 2001). Alrababah will later say that he just happened to meet them after a service in the mosque, when they mentioned they were looking for an apartment and he had a friend who had one to rent. However, given al-Awlaki’s previous association with Alhazmi, some FBI agents will later doubt this and suspect that al-Awlaki told Alrababah to help the hijackers. The 9/11 Commission will comment, “We share that suspicion, given the remarkable coincidence of al-Awlaki’s prior relationship with Alhazmi.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 230]
US spy satellites photograph missile components being loaded onto a Pakistani C-130 transport plane in Pyongyang, North Korea. Intelligence reports produced about the images conclude that the cargo is a direct exchange for nuclear technology coming from Khan Research Laboratories, the main Pakistani nuclear weapons facility. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 309] Pakistan and North Korea have been exchanging nuclear technology for missiles for some time (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After).
Adnan Shukrijumah. [Source: FBI]The FBI investigates Adnan Shukrijumah, an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001), in connection with a South Florida-based Islamic militant group that is plotting to recruit operatives and finance attacks and assassinations in the Middle East (see (October 1993-November 2001)). The group includes Jose Padilla associates Adham Amin Hassoun and Mohammed Hesham Youssef, and is connected to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and the suspect charity Benevolence International Foundation (see 1988-1989). Shukrijumah keeps his distance from the core plotters and despite FBI wiretaps on the group’s phones, the FBI is unable to establish a firm connection between him and the plans. Shukrijumah is also being investigated over a plot to attack various businesses in Florida and blow up Mount Rushmore around this time (see April-May 2001). The FBI later determines that Shukrijumah is a top al-Qaeda operative and will issue a $5 million reward for his capture (see March 21, 2003 and After). [US News and World Report, 4/7/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 11/23/2003; Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2006]
A poor photocopy of Nawaf Alhazmi’s US driver’s license. [Source: FBI]9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is stopped by an Oklahoma police officer for speeding. He is stopped while traveling east on interstate highway 40, near Clinton, Oklahoma. It is likely he is with Hani Hanjour and the two are driving across the US, because they moved out of an apartment in Arizona the day before and will be seen in Virginia several days later (see December 12, 2000-March 2001 and March 2001 and After). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 131-132 ; Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/2002] Alhazmi’s license information is run through a computer to determine whether there are any warrants for his arrest. There are none, so he is issued a ticket and sent on his way. He is driving the Toyota Corolla that he bought in San Diego the year before (see March 25, 2000). The CIA has known that Alhazmi is an al-Qaeda operative possibly living in the US since March 2000, but has failed to share this knowledge with other agencies. [Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/2002; Newsweek, 6/2/2002] Police do not check his immigration status, which would require a call to an Law Enforcement Support Center hotline. Had such a call been made, it would have revealed he had been in the US illegally since January 2001. [US Congress, 9/20/2002; GovExec, 3/16/2004] This incident is added to the NCIC, a widely used nationwide police database (see September 5, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 131 ]
In 2005 (see February 10, 2005), it will be revealed that of the FAA’s 105 daily intelligence summaries between these dates, 52 mention bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or both. Most of the mentions are “in regard to overseas threats.” None of the warnings specifically predict something similar to the 9/11 attacks, but five of them mention al-Qaeda’s training for hijackings and two reports concern suicide operations unconnected to aviation. [Associated Press, 2/11/2005] One of the warnings mentions air defense measures being taken in Genoa, Italy, for the July 2001 G-8 summit to protect from a possible air attack by terrorists (see July 20-22, 2001). However, the New Jersey Star-Ledger is virtually the only newspaper in the US to report this fact. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 2/11/2005] Despite all these warnings, the FAA fails to take any extra security measures. They do not expand the use of in-flight air marshals or tighten airport screening for weapons. A proposed rule to improve passenger screening and other security measures ordered by Congress in 1996 has held up and is still not in effect by 9/11. The 9/11 Commission’s report on these FAA warnings released in 2005 (see February 10, 2005) will conclude that FAA officials were more concerned with reducing airline congestion, lessening delays, and easing air carriers’ financial problems than preventing a hijacking. [Associated Press, 2/11/2005] The FAA also makes no effort to expand its list of terror suspects, which includes only a dozen names by 9/11 (see April 24, 2000). The former head of the FAA’s civil aviation security branch later says he wasn’t even aware of TIPOFF, the government’s main watch list, which included the names of two 9/11 hijackers before 9/11. Nor is there any evidence that a senior FAA working group responsible for security ever meets in 2001 to discuss “the high threat period that summer.” [New York Times, 2/10/2005]
Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi make a second visit to Virginia Beach (see February 19-20, 2001). They close their recently rented mailbox there and, after checking out of the Diplomat Inn, cash a check for $8,000 at a nearby SunTrust Bank branch. [National Review, 9/27/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004, pp. 8; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 228, 523; Wall Street Journal, 11/22/2005] They also cash another check for $10,000 in the same place at around the same time. [Virginian Pilot, 9/27/2001; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/10/2005] Bank surveillance footage of Atta on April 4 will be found after 9/11. [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 238]
Representatives of 13 environmentalist groups meet with officials from Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001). Since late January, some 40 task force meetings have been held, all with oil and energy company executives and lobbyists (see Before January 20, 2001, After January 20, 2001, Mid-February, 2001, Mid-February, 2001, March 5, 2001, March 20, 2001, March 21, 2001, March 22, 2001, April 12, 2001. April 17, 2001, and April 17, 2001 and After). Today is the one day where environmental groups are allowed to have any input. Anna Aurilio of the US Public Interest Group will later say, “It was clear to us that they were just being nice to us.” (Notably, the only people ever identified as “lobbyists” by the task force to the press are the representatives from the environmental groups from today’s meeting.) Their input is neither wanted nor used; an initial draft of the task force’s report has already been prepared and President Bush has already been briefed on its contents. The names of the various officials, executives, lobbyists, and representatives who meet with the task force will not be released for six years (see July 18, 2007). Until this meeting, the only environmentalist group to meet with the Cheney task force has been the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, founded in 1998 by conservative tax activist Grover Norquist and Gale Norton, now the Bush administration’s Secretary of the Interior. That group is now run by Italia Federici, described by the Washington Post as “socially involved” with Norton’s deputy, J. Steven Griles. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 18; Washington Post, 7/18/2007]
One of the approximately 30 radomes at the Echelon station in Menwith Hill, England. A radome covers an antenna to protect it from the weather and disguise the direction it is pointing. [Source: Matt Crypto / Public domain]The BBC reports on advances in electronic surveillance. The US’s global surveillance program, Echelon, has become particularly effective in monitoring mobile phones, recording millions of calls simultaneously and checking them against a powerful search engine designed to pick out key words that might represent a security threat. Laser microphones can pick up conversations from up to a kilometer away by monitoring window vibrations. If a bug is attached to a computer keyboard, it is possible to monitor exactly what is being keyed in, because every key on a computer has a unique sound when depressed. [BBC, 4/4/2001] Furthermore, a BBC report on a European Union committee investigation into Echelon one month later notes that the surveillance network can sift through up to 90 percent of all Internet traffic, as well as monitor phone conversations, mobile phone calls, fax transmissions, net browsing history, satellite transmissions and so on. Even encryption may not help much. The BBC suggests that “it is likely that the intelligence agencies can crack open most commercially available encryption software.” [BBC, 5/29/2001]
A day after Chinese president Jiang Zemin demands that the US apologize for the crash of a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet that cost the life of the Chinese pilot (see March 31, 2001), Secretary of State Colin Powell expresses US “regret” over the death of pilot Wang Wei. The Pentagon claims that the crew of the American EP-3 managed to destroy much of the most sensitive surveillance equipment on the plane before it crash-landed on China’s Hainan Island, but, notes GlobalSecurity’s John Pike, “This airplane is basically just stuffed with electronics. Short of blowing up the airplane, there’s unavoidably a limit as to what they could destroy.” Chinese authorities say they will continue to detain the 24 crew members while they investigate the incident, and demand that the US halt all of its surveillance flights near Chinese territory. “We cannot understand why the United States often sent its planes to make surveillance flights in areas so close to China,” Jiang says. “And this time, in violation of international law and practice, the US plane bumped into our plane, invaded the Chinese territorial airspace and landed at our airport.” The next day, China’s Foreign Ministry says that Powell’s expression of regret is not enough; it again demands a full US apology and says that its officials will only meet with US officials to discuss the incident when Washington takes what it calls a “cooperative approach.” Bush reiterates Powell’s expression of regret over the death of Wei, and says though he does not want the incident to jeopardize Sino-American relations, the crew of the spy plane should be returned immediately. [CNN, 4/2001; Reuters, 4/4/2001]
Anti-government groups believe that convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) was a brainwashed “patsy” who undermined them, and is not a martyr to their cause, according to experts who monitor the groups. McVeigh is awaiting execution at an Indiana prison. Mark Pitcavage, who tracks right-wing hate groups for the Anti-Defamation League, says: “They view Timothy McVeigh as a patsy, as a sort of Lee Harvey Oswald type. Why hasn’t he come clean? Because he’s been brainwashed, [the groups believe,] and the government wants to execute him before he can wake up.” The Oswald comparison refers to the belief that some have that Oswald was an innocent man framed for the killing of President John F. Kennedy. Some anti-government extremists say that McVeigh was programmed by government agents to cause dissension among anti-government groups, and to give the government an excuse to crack down on the groups. Even so, some experts warn, some anti-government and militia groups will choose April 19, the date of the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), as a day to recognize and to possibly carry out further violence. Political scientist Evan McKenzie says, “Every April 19, everyone should hold their breath.” [Reuters, 4/5/2001]
The EP-3 on an airstrip on Hainan Island. [Source: CNN]Chinese and US authorities continue to mediate the dispute over the crash of a US spy plane in Chinese territory (see March 31, 2001 and April 4-5, 2001). John Warner (R-VA), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the two sides are working on a written agreement on what happened, which would be approved by the leaders of both countries. Bush officials have been careful to call the detained US crew members “detainees”, but Senator Henry Hyde (R-IL) denounces the detention of the crew, calling them “hostages.” [CNN, 4/2001] Secretary of State Colin Powell is careful not to call the crew “hostages,” instead calling them “detainees[dq] who are being held [dq]incommunicado under circumstances which I don’t find acceptable.” [CNN, 4/4/2001] The pilot of the spy plane, Lieutenant Shane Osborn, later describes the interrogation tactics of the Chinese, which include verbal abuse and sleep deprivation. [PBS Frontline, 10/18/2001] Hyde is joined by outraged neoconservatives such as Robert Tracinski, who writes on April 9, “Meanwhile, [the Chinese] are ‘holding’ the airplane’s crew; ‘holding’ is the term we use to avoid calling our airmen ‘prisoners’ or ‘hostages.’” Tracinski echoes the sentiments of other neoconservatives when he accuses the US of pandering to the Chinese over the incident, and ignoring the plight of jailed Chinese dissidents. [Capitalism Magazine, 4/9/2001] On April 7, some details of the written agreement are revealed, with the US expressing further regrets over the death of the pilot of the Chinese fighter jet involved in the collision, but without the formal apology demanded by China. [CNN, 4/2001; Capitalism Magazine, 4/9/2001]
Negotiations and disputes over the collision and subsequent crash of a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet over Chinese waters continue (see March 31, 2001, April 4-5, 2001, and April 6-7, 2001). US officials warn long-term relations are at risk because of the dispute; Vice President Dick Cheney insists the US will not apologize over the incident. President Bush sends an unsigned letter to the wife of the slain Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, that expresses his “regret” over his death. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the letter is “very personal” and “not part of the political exchange.” Powell says that evening on national television, “[W]e have expressed regrets and we have expressed our sorrow, and we are sorry that the life was lost.” [CNN, 4/2001; Associated Press, 4/8/2001]
An informant for the BIS, the Czech intelligence agency, reportedly sees Iraqi diplomat Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani meeting in a restaurant outside Prague with an Arab man in his 20s. This draws concern from the intelligence community because the informant suggests the person is “a visiting ‘student’ from Hamburg—and… potentially dangerous.” [New York Times, 11/19/2003 Sources: Jan Kavan] The young man is never positively identified or seen again. Fearing that al-Ani may have been attempting to recruit the young man for a mission to blow-up Radio Free Europe headquarters, the diplomat is told to leave the country on April 18. [New York Times, 10/27/2001; United Press International, 10/20/2002; New York Times, 11/19/2003 Sources: Unnamed US officials, Jan Kavan] Information about the incident is passed on to US intelligence. After the 9/11 attacks and after it is reported on the news that Atta had likely visited Prague, the BIS informant will say the young man at the restaurant was Atta. (see September 14, 2001) This information leads hawks to come up with the so-called “Prague Connection” theory, which will hold that 9/11 plotter Mohomed Atta flew to Prague on April 8, met with al-Ani to discuss the planning and financing of the 9/11 attacks, and returned to the US on either April 9 or 10. [New York Times, 10/27/2001; United Press International, 10/20/2002; New York Times, 11/19/2003 Sources: Unnamed US officials, Unnamed BIS informant, Jan Kavan] The theory will be widely discounted by October 2002. [New York Times, 10/21/2002 Sources: Unnamed US officials, Unnamed BIS informant]
In a column exploring the idea of US-led regime change in Iraq and advocating the support of Iraqi opposition groups to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland calls Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi (see 1992-1996) “a dedicated advocate of democracy” in Iraq. (Hoagland lauds Chalabi’s advanced college degrees, his success as a Jordanian banker (see August 2, 1989), and what he calls Chalabi’s exposure of the CIA’s “gross failures” in Iraq (see (1994)). Hoagland decries “15 years of failed US policy toward Saddam,” and writes that Chalabi is a fine choice to lead Iraq in the place of Hussein. “Mr. Chalabi is a dedicated advocate of democracy who does fight against enormous military odds and deep religious and social divisions in the Arab world,” he writes. Lambasting those in the CIA and State Department who are determined to prove that Chalabi is a fraud (see January 1996), Hoagland writes, “A policy review dedicated to trashing him and other exiles is a shameful and self-defeating way to begin anew on Iraq. It is a phony way to argue that nothing can or should be done to oust the predatory psychopath who holds Iraq hostage.” [Washington Post, 4/9/2001; Unger, 2007, pp. 206]
The dispute between the US and China over the downed US spy plane over Chinese territory, and the subsequent detention of the crew by the Chinese (see March 31, 2001, April 4-5, 2001, April 6-7, 2001, and April 8, 2001), is resolved. Chinese officials approve the letter from US officials expressing regret over the incident, and early that morning, the crew members are released into American custody. [CNN, 4/2001] The plane, filled with secret US surveillance equipment, remains in Chinese custody; it will eventually be disassembled on Hainan Island by US crews and returned to American custody in July, 2001. [US Pacific Command, 7/2001] Defense expert Paul Beaver says China’s acquisition of even part of the surveillance equipment—whatever was not destroyed by the crew before the plane was boarded by Chinese troops—is an incalculable loss to the United States. China may cut the US lead in electronic warfare by at least a decade. “The EP-3E is the jewel in the crown of the US Navy’s electronic intelligence gathering capability and the loss of its secrets to a potential unfriendly nation is a grievous loss to the US,” Beaver writes. He writes that the loss of the EP-3 is perhaps the most serious loss to the US intelligence community since the downing of Francis Gary Powers’s U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1961, and warns that China could even sell the technology it acquires to nations such as Russia or Pakistan. [BBC, 4/3/2001] It is not publicly revealed until 2006 that President Bush secretly engaged Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar to conduct the delicate negotiations with the Chinese over the US aircraft and crew. Bandar, a close friend of the Bush family and a senior Saudi official, is an unusual choice for the negotiations, but Bandar has a special relationship with the Chinese due to Saudi Arabia’s various deals to purchase arms and missiles, and the increasing reliance of China on Saudi oil. Bandar, never a modest man, considers it a personal favor from the Chinese to have them release the 24 American hostages. Bandar also oversees the wording of the American “apology” to the Chinese for the incident, where the US apologizes for entering Chinese airspace to make an emergency landing, but does not apologize for the E-3’s legitimate intelligence-gathering mission. Secretary of State Colin Powell, nominally in charge of the US negotiations, only finds out about Bandar’s efforts through the NSA’s monitoring of Bandar’s phone calls to the Chinese; when he calls Bandar to congratulate him on his success, Bandar snaps to the Secretary of State, “How the hell do you know?” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 28-29] Media pundit Eric Alterman characterizes the response of the US media as “extremely indulgent” towards Bush, with the notable exception of neoconservatives, who complain about “the national humilation [Bush] has brought upon the United States” and Bush’s “weakness…and fear.” Alterman says that while the incident itself is a foreign policy disaster, the manipulation of a compliant US media is brilliant. He notes that Bush was able to apologize twice to the Chinese without actually being reported in America as apologizing. Neither was the tremendous intelligence loss of the EP-3 focused upon as the potential disaster that many military and intelligence officials perceived it to be. He quotes Washington Post correspondent John Harris as writing, “The truth is, this new president has done things with relative impunity that would have been huge uproars if they had occurred under Clinton. Take it from someone who made a living writing about these uproars.…Take the recent emergency landing of a US surveillance plane in China. Imagine how conservatives would have reacted had Clinton insisted that detained military personnel were not actually hostages, and then cut a deal to get the people (but not the plane) home by offering two ‘very sorrys’ to the Chinese, while also saying that he had not apologized. What is being hailed as Bush’s shrewd diplomacy would have been savaged as ‘Slick Willie’ contortions.” [Alterman, 2003, pp. 194-197]
The Tara Gardens Condominiums complex. [Source: Coralsprings.com]Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi move into Apartment 122 in the Tara Gardens Condominiums complex in Coral Springs, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale in southeast Florida. Atta rents the apartment using his own name and they pay $840 per month in rent. Atta will list the apartment as his address when he applies for a driver’s license in May. According to the London Times, while in Coral Springs, Alshehhi spends his days “washing piles of laundry for the gang in the development’s washing machines,” and Atta is “often in the parking lot, chain smoking.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/13/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/16/2001; Boston Globe, 9/23/2001; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 228, 230] Diana Padilla, who lives upstairs from them, later recalls, “You would say hello to [Atta] and nothing—no reaction.” [Detroit Free Press, 9/22/2001] Atta and Alshehhi are seen at a local restaurant, apparently being given instructions by an unknown robed man (see April-August 2001). The two of them stay in Coral Springs until mid-May, and then move to Hollywood, Florida, about 30 miles away. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002]
Dale Watson, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism program, sends a memo to FBI Director Louis Freeh warning that Islamic radicals are planning a “terrorist operation.” The memo states that “Sunni extremists with links to Ibn al Kahhatb, an extremist leader in Chechnya, and to Osama bin Laden [have been involved in] serious operational planning… since late 2000, with an intended culmination in late spring 2001.” Watson says the planning was sparked by the renewal of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000. “[A]ll the players are heavily intertwined,” the memo notes. Additionally, the memo says that “[m]ultiple sources also suggest that [bin Laden’s] organization is planning a terrorist attack against US interests.” The memo is also sent to other FBI officials, such as International Terrorism Operations Section (ITOS) chief Michael Rolince, who will later be involved in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui (see Late August 2001 and (August 30-September 10, 2001)) [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/2001 ] Based on this report, ITOS sends an e-mail (see April 13, 2001) to all field offices, asking agents to help identify information pertaining to the “current operational activities relating to Sunni extremism.” The e-mail does not mention Ibn Khattab. [Associated Press, 3/21/2006] These plans may be for the 9/11 attacks—at least some of the alleged hijackers are linked to bin Laden (see January 5-8, 2000), and Zacarias Moussaoui is linked to Ibn Khattab (see Late 1999-Late 2000). Some of the hijackers fought in Chechnya and therefore might also be linked to Ibn Khattab (see 1996-December 2000). Officials at FBI headquarters will later refuse a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings saying they believe Ibn Khattab is not closely connected to Osama bin Laden and is not hostile to the US (see August 22, 2001 and August 23-27, 2001).
USOGA logo. [Source: US Oil and Gas Association]An official from the oil giant Conoco, along with two officials from the US Oil and Gas Association (USOGA), meet with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001). In November 2005, ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva will claim that no one from Conoco ever met with the task force (see November 16, 2005). [Washington Post, 11/16/2005]
The most famous image of Mohamed Atta came from his Florida driver’s license.
[Source: 9/11 Commission]At least six 9/11 hijackers get more than one Florida driver’s license. They get the second license simply by filling out change of address forms:
Waleed Alshehri—first license May 4, duplicate May 5;
Marwan Alshehhi—first license, April 12, duplicate in June;
Ziad Jarrah—first license May 2, duplicate July 10;
Ahmed Alhaznawi—first license July 10, duplicate September 7 (see September 7, 2001);
Hamza Alghamdi—first license June 27, two duplicates, the second in August; and
“A sixth man” with a Florida duplicate is not named. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001] Additionally, some hijackers obtained licenses from multiple states. For instance, Nawaf Alhazmi had licenses from California, New York, and Florida at the same time, apparently all in the same name. [Newsday, 9/21/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001; Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/2002]
The journal Science publishes a study suggesting that a major factor in rising ocean temperatures is likely “the increase of anthropogenic gases
in Earth’s atmosphere.” The study’s conclusions are based on analysis of historical ocean data pertaining to the latter half of the twentieth century. These findings are supported by results that were produced by an atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. [Levitus et al., 2001 ]
Shortly after discovering that Osama bin Laden and Chechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab may be planning an attack against the US (see Before April 13, 2001), the FBI sends a message to all its field offices summarizing intelligence reporting to date on the Sunni extremist threat (see February 6, 2001). (Bin Laden is the most wanted Sunni extremist by this time.) The offices are told to task all resources, including human sources and electronic databases, for any information pertaining to “current operational activities relating to Sunni extremism.” No specific domestic threat is mentioned, but the FBI’s mission is to protect domestic security while the CIA is in charge of overseas threats. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 255; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 1 ] There is no mention about what is done, if anything, in response to this message. This also appears to be the last time before 9/11 that FBI field offices are tasked to work on any Muslim extremist threat in the US. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 264]
Tom Delworth, a scientist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, tries to generate media attention for a paper (see April 13, 2001) he co-authored on the influence of human activities on the warming of the oceans. A media advisory and press conference about the paper is scheduled, but is repeatedly degraded until it is ultimately canceled. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 32 ]
While staying in a flat in Alexandria, Virginia (see Early April-Early May, 2001), 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour tell two roommates that they had thought of going to Afghanistan for jihad. According to the 9/11 Commission, “The al-Qaeda operatives spent little time with their roommates, but did mention at one point that they had considered going to Afghanistan for jihad.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 523] In fact, Alhazmi, an al-Qaeda veteran, has already spent time in Afghanistan (see 1993-1999). Hanjour may also have traveled to Afghanistan already (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). Alhazmi made similar comments when he lived in San Diego (see (Spring 2000)).
Shell Oil logo. [Source: Terra Daily (.com)]Royal Dutch/Shell Group chairman Sir Mark Moody Stuart, Shell Oil chairman Steven Miller, and two other officials from those firms meet with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001). In November 2005, Shell Oil president John Hofmeister will claim that no one from Shell ever met with the task force (see November 16, 2005). [Washington Post, 11/16/2005]
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), whose execution is rapidly approaching (see January 16, 2001), politely declines a request by the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) that he make his last meal a vegetarian one. In a handwritten letter responding to PETA’s request, McVeigh writes that he sympathizes with the group’s cause, but will not make that request. PETA issued the request through the prison warden, stating that McVeigh’s last meal should have no meat because “Mr. McVeigh should not be allowed to take even one more life.” The warden refused, and PETA sent the request directly to McVeigh. “Truth is, I understand your cause—I’ve seen slaughter houses myself—but I still believe in reasonable taking and eating of game (as an outdoorsman and hunter),” he writes. “My one main problem with the ‘veg’ movement is this (besides the fact I’m a libertarian): Where do you draw the line and what standard is used to define that line?” McVeigh questions whether “grubs/worms/etc.” suffer. He also argues that “plants are alive, too. They react to stimuli (including pain); have circulatory systems, etc.… To me, the answer is as the Indians believed: respect for the life you take to sustain yourself, but come to terms with your place in the ‘food chain.’” He congratulates the organization on the media attention it has garnered as a result of the request, writing: “You should have seen the local editorial response to your letter. You gotta remember, this is meat-eatin’ farm country; still, good job getting the attention to your cause (like protesting dead rats on [the popular television reality show] ‘Survivor’).” McVeigh closes by saying he cannot “sustain a prolonged intellectual debate on the subject, as my time is short” but suggests the organization should contact his friend Ted Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996), an inmate of the Florence, Colorado, “supermax” prison that until recently housed McVeigh, whom McVeigh says would be more likely to take up the vegetarian issue. [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
The Joint Chiefs of Staff holds a large, worldwide exercise called Positive Force, which focuses on the Defense Department’s ability to conduct large-scale military operations and coordinate these operations. [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 8/14/2000 ] The 2001 Positive Force exercise is a “continuity of operations exercise,” meaning it deals with government contingency plans to keep working in the event of an attack on the US. [Guardian, 4/15/2004] Over a dozen government agencies, including NORAD, are invited to participate. The exercise prepares them for various scenarios, including non-combatant evacuation operations, cyber attacks, rail disruption, and power outages. It includes “a series of simulated attacks against the maritime, surface and aviation sectors” of America’s national security transportation infrastructure. [US Congress, 5/8/2001; Provider Update, 10/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 6/9/2002] Apparently, one of the scenarios that was considered for this exercise involved “a terrorist group hijack[ing] a commercial airliner and fly[ing] it into the Pentagon.” But the proposed scenario, thought up by a group of Special Operations personnel trained to think like terrorists, was rejected. Joint Staff action officers and White House officials said the additional scenario is either “too unrealistic” or too disconnected to the original intent of the exercise. [Air Force Times, 4/13/2004; Boston Herald, 4/14/2004; Washington Post, 4/14/2004; New York Times, 4/14/2004; Guardian, 4/15/2004]
Vice President Cheney meets with Enron CEO Kenneth Lay as part of Cheney’s secretive energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001). Though Cheney may not know it, Enron is on the verge of collapse, with liabilities far outweighing assets and heavily doctored earnings statements. Enron’s only income generation comes from the unregulated energy markets in California and other Western states (see January 23, 2001). Enron traders are gouging the California markets at an unprecedented pace; as authors Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein later write, Enron is “taking power plants off-line to create shortages, booking transmission lines for current that never move[s], and shuttling electricity back and forth across state lines to circumvent price controls,” among a plethora of other illegal market manipulations.
Ignoring California's Energy Crisis - Unable to make a profit between buying Enron’s energy at staggering prices and then selling it at regulated rates, one of California’s two largest utility companies has filed for bankruptcy and the other has accepted a government bailout. California is in a calamitous energy crisis. Governor Gray Davis is pleading for rate caps that would help both utility companies and consumers. But price caps are the last thing Lay wants. Once in Cheney’s office, Lay gives Cheney a three-page memo outlining Enron’s recommendations for the administration’s national energy policy Cheney’s group is developing. Prominently featured in the memo is the following recommendation: “The administration should reject any attempt to deregulate wholesale power markets by adopting price caps.” Almost every recommendation in the Lay memo will find its way into the energy task force’s final report. Cheney may not know that Enron is in such dire financial straits, but he does know that energy prices in California have gone from $30 to $300 per megawatthour, with periodic jumps to as high as $1,500. He also knows that Enron’s profits in California, along with other power producers, have gone up 400% to 600%.
Price Caps in Spite of Lay, Cheney - Lay does not get his way; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will override Cheney’s arguments and impose price caps on energy traders working in California. The state’s energy prices are brought under control, Enron’s trading schemes—luridly given such sobriquets as “Death Star,” “Fat Boy,” and “Get Shorty”—are brought to an end, and Enron collapses six months later (see December 2, 2001). Cheney will have a measure of revenge by forcing one of Lay’s adversaries on FERC, Curtis Hebert, out of his position (see August 14, 2001).
Avoiding Scrutiny and Oversight - This meeting and others are cleverly designed to avoid legal government oversight. According to the Federal Advisory Committees Act (FACA), the energy task force should be subject to public accountability because private parties—in this case, oil and gas industry executives and lobbyists—are helping shape government policy. Cheney’s legal counsel, David Addington, devises a simple scheme to avoid oversight. When a group of corporate lobbyists come together to create policy, a government official is present. Suddenly, FACA does not apply, and the task force need not provide any information whatsoever to the public. Dubose and Bernstein will later write: “It was bold as [artist] Rene Magritte’s near-photographic representation of a pipe over the inscription ceci n’est pas une pipe—‘this is not a pipe.’ Fifteen oil industry lobbyists meet in the Executive Office Building and one midlevel bureaucrat from the Department of Energy steps into the room—and voila, ceci n’est pas une foule de lobbyists. Because one government employee sat in with every group of lobbyists, a committee of outside advisers was not a committee of outside advisers.” Between Addington’s bureaucratic end-around and Cheney’s chairmanship of the working group giving the entire business the cloak of executive privilege, little information gets out of the group. “The whole thing was designed so that the presence of a government employee at a meeting could keep the Congress out,” a Congressional staff lawyer later says. It also keeps the press at bay. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 3-4, 10]
Entity Tags: National Energy Policy Development Group, US Department of Energy, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Kenneth Lay, Jake Bernstein, Enron Corporation, David S. Addington, Curtis Hebert, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Gray Davis, Lou Dubose, Federal Advisory Committees Act
Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record
George Skelton, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, gets an unexpected call asking if he wants to interview Vice President Cheney. Skelton thinks the call might be to lay some groundwork for the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. But Cheney wants to talk energy. Skelton is happy to oblige: energy prices are out of control in California. Cheney doesn’t just want to talk energy, though, he wants to talk about how bad an idea price caps are (see April 17, 2001 and After). “Price caps provide short-term relief for politicians,” Cheney says, in an oblique swipe at California’s Democratic governor, Gray Davis. He continues, “But they do nothing to deal with the basic, fundamental problem.” Skelton asks if the administration will support temporary price caps to get California through the immediate crisis period, and Cheney replies: “Six months? Six years? Once politicians can no longer resist the temptation to go with price caps, they usually are unable to muster the courage to end them.… I don’t see that as a possibility.” Cheney goes on: “Frankly, California is looked on by many folks as a classic example of the kinds of problems that arise when you do use price caps.” What Skelton does not know is that Cheney is echoing the recommendations of Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, whose company is primarily responsible for the California energy crisis. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 4-5]
The White House fails to produce the documentation it says it has compiled on the so-called Clinton “vandal scandal,” the allegations that Clinton staffers looted and vandalized the White House, Air Force One, and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, in the last days of the Clinton administration (see January 26, 2001). As a result, the General Accounting Office (GAO) is unable to pursue an investigation of the allegations as requested by Bush officials. In January, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters that the White House was compiling a “catalogue” of damages and missing items; in recent days, Fleischer has said that no actual list was being documented, but instead White House staffers (or a single staffer, Fleischer is unclear) were keeping track of the damages “in their heads.” In a letter responding to the GAO’s March request for details about “damage that may have been deliberately caused” by the Clinton administration, Phillip Larsen, a special assistant to the president, tells GAO official Bernard Ungar: “After investigation, we have located no such record. And our repair records do not contain information that would allow someone to determine the cause of the damage that is being repaired.” [Knight Ridder, 6/4/2001]
On April 18, 2001, future 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi flies from Miami, Florida, to Cairo, Egypt, via Amsterdam, Netherlands. He returns on May 2 by the same route. The 9/11 Commission will later comment, “We do not know the reason for this excursion.” Alshehhi bought the tickets only two days before his trip. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 135-140 ; 9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] Alshehhi allegedly meets with hijacker Mohamed Atta’s father, Mohamed al-Amir Awad al-Sayed Atta, who lives in Cairo. The father will later tell investigators that Alshehhi came to pick up Atta’s international driver’s license. However, further investigation will determine that Atta has it with him already. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 216, 300]
House Democrats Henry Waxman (D-CA) and John Dingell (D-MI) write to Andrew Lundquist, the executive director of the Cheney energy task force (see January 29, 2001), asking for access to the task force’s records. Waxman and Dingell ask with whom the task force met and what had been said at those meetings. They base their request on the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), an open-government law that states when nongovernment officials, such as energy company officials or lobbyists, help craft public policy, the government must ensure that a balance of viewpoints is represented and such meetings must be open to the press and the public. Two weeks later, Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, replies, denying Waxman and Dingell any information. Addington says that FACA does not apply to the task force, and attaches a memo from Lundquist asserting that while nongovernmental officials have been part of the task force’s deliberations, since they were not official members of the task force, their participation does not count. “These meetings… were simply forums to collect individuals views rather than to bring a collective judgment to bear,” Addington writes. Addington then advises the representatives that they need to show “due regard for the constitutional separation of powers,” claims that the White House can assert executive privilege over the task force’s records, and finishes with the assertion that Congress is not even entitled to the information Addington has provided—he has done so, he writes, “as a matter of comity between the executive and legislative branches.” [General Accounting Office, 8/25/2003 ; Savage, 2007, pp. 87-88]
On April 19, 2001, the interagency Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) chaired by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke discusses recent reports that al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is planning an attack. The next day, a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) with the title “Bin Laden Planning Multiple Operations” is sent to top White House officials. The New York Times will later report that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were among those who received this warning. Since SEIBs are usually based on previous days’ President Daily Briefings, President Bush probably learned about this report on April 19 (see January 20-September 10, 2001). [New York Times, 4/18/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 255; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 2 ]
After acquiring a new Saudi passport (see April 21, 2001), future 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alnami obtains a new US visa at the US consulate in Jeddah, even though he already has a valid US visa in his old passport (see October 28, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 21 ] The visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000) and had issued Alnami’s previous visa. [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] A handwritten note on Alnami’s application indicates that he is interviewed briefly, either by Steinger or another staff member.
Previous Visa - Alnami marks the “no” box in response to a question asking if he has ever applied for a US visa previously, but changes his answer to “yes,” possibly due to the brief interaction with Steinger or another consular official. However, he fails to specify when he applied for the visa. Had he done so, it would have been clear that he was applying for another visa long before his previous visa had expired, which would have raised questions. The information about his previous visa is available at the consulate, but is not accessed, as consular workers do not usually examine previous visa issuances, only refusals.
Not Interviewed - The 9/11 Commission will later say that Saudis were rarely interviewed at this time. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 21, 184-5 ] However, according to a consular officer serving in Jeddah at the time, while most Saudis may not have been interviewed, “the majority” of males traveling alone aged between 16 and 40 are interviewed and officers are “not shy” of turning them down on security grounds. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 36 ]
Suspicious Indicator in Passport - The 9/11 Commission will also suggest that one or more of Alnami’s passports may contain a suspicious indicator of Islamic extremism, but this is not certain (see April 21, 2001 and November 2, 2007). Some of the radicals who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 also had Saudi passports with the same indicator (see Around February 1993). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 563-4; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14-15 ]
This Ahmed Al-Haznawi picture is a photocopy of his 2001 US visa application. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The 13 hijackers commonly known as the “muscle” allegedly first arrive in the US. The muscle provides the brute force meant to control the hijacked passengers and protect the pilots. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, these men “were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 tall, “and slender in build.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004, pp. 8] According to FBI Director Mueller, they all pass through Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and their travel was probably coordinated from abroad by Khalid Almihdhar. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] However, some information contradicts their official arrival dates:
April 23: Waleed Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami arrive in Orlando, Florida. Suqami in fact arrived before February 2001. A man named Waleed Alshehri lived with a man named Ahmed Alghamdi in Virginia and Florida between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). [Daily Telegraph, 9/20/2001] Alshehri appears quite Americanized in the summer of 2001, frequently talking with an apartment mate about football and baseball, even identifying himself a fan of the Florida Marlins baseball team. [Associated Press, 9/21/2001]
May 2: Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi arrive in Washington. Both actually arrived by mid-March 2001. A man named Ahmed Alghamdi lived with a man named Waleed Alshehri in Florida and Virginia between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). [Daily Telegraph, 9/20/2001] Alghamdi apparently praises Osama bin Laden to Customs officials while entering the country and Moqed uses an alias (see May 2, 2001).
May 28: Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami allegedly arrive in Miami, Florida. Alnami may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see April 21, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities. The precise state of US knowledge about the indicator at this time is not known (see Around February 1993). The CIA will learn of it no later than 2003, but will still not inform immigration officials then (see February 14, 2003). According to other reports, however, both Mohand Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi may have arrived by January 2001 (see January or July 28, 2001).
June 8: Ahmed Alhaznawi and Wail Alshehri arrive in Miami, Florida. Alhaznawi may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see Before November 12, 2000), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
June 27: Fayez Banihammad and Saeed Alghamdi arrive in Orlando, Florida.
June 29: Salem Alhazmi and Abdulaziz Alomari allegedly arrive in New York. According to other reports, however, Alhazmi arrived before February 2001. Alhazmi has a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see June 16, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
After entering the US (or, perhaps, reentering), the hijackers arriving at Miami and Orlando airports settle in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area along with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah. The hijackers, arriving in New York and Virginia, settle in the Paterson, New Jersey, area along with Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] Note the FBI’s early conclusion that 11 of these muscle men “did not know they were on a suicide mission.” [Observer, 10/14/2001] CIA Director Tenet’s later claim that they “probably were told little more than that they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States” [US Congress, 6/18/2002] and reports that they did not know the exact details of the 9/11 plot until shortly before the attack [CBS News, 10/9/2002] are contradicted by video confessions made by all of them in March 2001 (see (December 2000-March 2001)).
Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohand Alshehri, Majed Moqed, Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah, Saeed Alghamdi, Khalid Almihdhar, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Satam Al Suqami, Nawaf Alhazmi, Hani Hanjour, Salem Alhazmi, George J. Tenet, Hamza Alghamdi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alghamdi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ahmed Alnami
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The first lines of the declassified Northwoods document.
[Source: Public domain] (click image to enlarge)James Bamford’s book, Body of Secrets, reveals a secret US government plan named Operation Northwoods. All details of the plan come from declassified military documents. [Associated Press, 4/24/2001; Baltimore Sun, 4/24/2001; Washington Post, 4/26/2001; ABC News, 5/1/2001] The heads of the US military, all five Joint Chiefs of Staff, proposed in a 1962 memo to stage attacks against Americans and blame Cuba to create a pretext for invasion. Says one document, “We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington.… We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba. Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of indignation.” In March 1962, Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the Operation Northwoods plan to President John Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. The plan was rejected. Lemnitzer then sought to destroy all evidence of the plan. [Baltimore Sun, 4/24/2001; ABC News, 5/1/2001] Lemnitzer was replaced a few months later, but the Joint Chiefs continued to plan “pretext” operations at least through 1963. [ABC News, 5/1/2001] One suggestion in the plan was to create a remote-controlled drone duplicate of a real civilian aircraft. The real aircraft would be loaded with “selected passengers, all boarded under carefully prepared aliases,” and then take off with the drone duplicate simultaneously taking off near by. The aircraft with passengers would secretly land at a US military base while the drone continues along the other plane’s flight path. The drone would then be destroyed over Cuba in a way that places the blame on Cuban fighter aircraft. [Harper's, 7/1/2001] Bamford says, “Here we are, 40 years afterward, and it’s only now coming out. You just wonder what is going to be exposed 40 years from now.” [Insight, 7/30/2001] Some 9/11 skeptics will claim that the 9/11 attacks could have been orchestrated by elements of the US government, and see Northwoods as an example of how top US officials could hatch such a plot. [Oakland Tribune, 3/27/2004]
President Bush misstates US foreign policy when he says that the US will do “whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself” in the event of attack by China. Since the Reagan administration, the US government has conducted what it calls a “One-China” policy, agreeing with the Chinese position that Taiwan is a breakaway province of China yet attempting to walk a fine line between the two contentious nations through tacit recognition of the island nation, and regular arms and economic aid packages. Taiwan insists it is a separate nation, while China regards Taiwan as a renegade province that is part of China proper. The US also announces a major arms sales package for Taiwan. The Chinese continue to detain a US surveillance plane downed in a midair collision with a Chinese fighter jet (see March 31, 2001), another source of strain between the US and China. Publicly, White House officials such as press secretary Ari Fleischer say that Bush’s comments about defending Taiwan from Chinese attack are consistent with US policy, but privately, officials scramble to mollify outraged Chinese government officials. [United Press International, 4/26/2001; International Herald Tribune, 4/30/2001] Later in the day, Bush hedges his earlier comments, saying that his statement does not reflect a change in official US policies towards China and Taiwan. “Our nation will help Taiwan defend itself,” Bush says “At the same time, we support the one-China policy, and we expect the dispute to be resolved peacefully.” Bush says any declaration of Taiwanese independence “is not part of the one-China policy.” A senior administration official explains that Bush’s comments are merely an attempt to “try to get the words straight…to reaffirm existing US policy.… No change was intended” and Bush simply “didn’t present the whole thought.” [CNN, 4/25/2001] Bush’s comment reflects the position of administration neoconservatives such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who want the US to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation and pledge to defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression. At the same time, the United States has also said it has commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, and it has been implicit but never stated the United States would help Taiwan defend itself. Bush said repeatedly during the 2000 presidential campaign that he intended to redefine the US’s position towards Taiwan. [CNN, 4/25/2001]
In a 7 to 3 vote, an FDA advisory panel recommends approving the antibiotic Ketek, also known as telithromycin, for use in treating streptococcus pneumonia. But the panel does not recommend approving it for use against acute chronic bronchitis, sinusitis, or penicillin-resistant or erythromycin-resistant strep. The panel also recommends conducting additional clinical trials to “see if hints of concern… are real or not” about the drug’s potential side affects on the heart and liver. [Associated Press, 4/26/2001]
9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is stopped at a random inspection near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and given a citation for having no driver’s license. He will get a new Florida driver’s license on May 5. However, he will fail to show up for his May 28 court hearing, and a warrant will be issued for his arrest on June 4 (see June 4, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 12/14/2001] Police do not check his immigration status, which would require a call to a Law Enforcement Support Center hotline. Had such a call been made, it would have revealed Atta had overstayed his visa. [GovExec, 3/16/2004] An FBI timeline compiled after 9/11 does not mention whether this incident is entered into the NCIC, a nationwide police database. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 138 ] Curiously, on the day of 9/11, a woman claiming to be Atta’s wife will go to a Florida courthouse and attempt to clear this from Atta’s record, but Atta did not have a wife (see September 11, 2001).
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) says that he bombed the Murrah Federal Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) after considering a plan to assassinate Attorney General Janet Reno. McVeigh’s statement comes in a written response he gives to questions submitted by Fox News reporter Rita Cosby. McVeigh calls the bombing both a retaliatory strike and a pre-emptive one against an “increasingly militaristic and violent federal government.” Last month, McVeigh’s admission of his role in the bombing was made public by two reporters, in which he called the deaths of children in the blast “collateral damage” (see March 29, 2001). McVeigh provides the answers to the Fox reporters’ questions to make sure his motives for setting the bomb are clear. “I explain this not for publicity,” he writes. “I explain so that the record is clear as to my thinking and motivations in bombing a government installation.” He notes again that the date of April 19 was chosen to reflect the date of the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), calling the government’s assault on the Davidian compound the equivalent of the Chinese government’s “deploying tanks against its own citizens.” McVeigh says he waited two years for the government to correct its “abuse of power,” and became angry when “they actually gave awards and bonus pay to those agents involved, and conversely, jailed the survivors of the Waco inferno after the jury wanted them set free” (see January-February 1994). McVeigh says he observed what he calls “multiple and ever-more aggressive raids across the country” by the government that constituted what he calls an unacceptable pattern of behavior. He says violent action against the government became an option for him only after protest marches, letter-writing campaigns, and media awareness “failed to correct the abuse.” His first thought was “a campaign of assassination,” including Reno, Judge Walter Smith, who handled the Branch Davidian trial, and Lon Horiuchi, the FBI agent who shot to death the wife of white separatist Randy Weaver during the Ruby Ridge siege (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992). Assassinating Reno, McVeigh says, would “mak[e] her accept ‘full responsibility’ in deed, not just word,” for the Davidian disaster. But, he says, federal agents are merely soldiers, and he decided to strike against them at what he calls one of their command centers. The bombing, he says, was “morally and strategically equivalent to the US hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations,” and therefore was acceptable for that reason. “I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile, by bombing a government building and the government employees within that building who represent that government,” he writes. “Based on the observations of the policies of my own government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option.” Asked about calling the children slain in the blast “collateral damage,” McVeigh writes: “Collateral Damage? As an American news junkie; a military man; and a Gulf War Veteran, where do they think I learned that (It sure as hell wasn’t Osami [sic] Bin Laden!)” [Fox News, 4/26/2001; Associated Press, 4/27/2001; New York Times, 4/27/2001; Fox News, 4/27/2001]
At the Associated Press’s annual meeting, Vice President Dick Cheney says the US needs to add another 1,300 to 1,900 new power plants to the country’s energy infrastructure over the next 20 years. He calls for the building of nuclear power plants and more coal-fired power plants that use clean technologies. Nuclear power is one of “the cleanest methods of power generation that we know,” he says. “If we’re serious about environmental protection, then we must seriously question the wisdom of backing away from what is, as a matter of record, a safe, clean, and very plentiful energy source.” On the issue of energy conservation, which some believe should be a core component of any plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions and US dependency on foreign oil, Cheney says, “To speak exclusively of conservation is to duck the tough issues. Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis—all by itself—for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.” [Washington Post, 5/1/2001]
The US State Department issues its annual report on terrorism. The report cites the role of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and notes the Taliban “continued to provide safe haven for international terrorists, particularly Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and his network.” However, as CNN describes it, “Unlike last year’s report, bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization is mentioned, but the 2001 report does not contain a photograph of bin Laden or a lengthy description of him and the group. A senior State Department official told CNN that the US government made a mistake last year by focusing too tightly on bin Laden and ‘personalizing terrorism… describing parts of the elephant and not the whole beast.’” [CNN, 4/30/2001] The report is unusually critical of Pakistan, noting, “Pakistan increased its support to the Taliban and continued its support to militant groups active in Indian-held Kashmir, such as the Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (HUM), some of which engaged in terrorism.… Credible reporting indicates that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers. Pakistan has not prevented large numbers of Pakistani nationals from moving into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. [Pakistan] also failed to take effective steps to curb the activities of certain madrassas, or religious schools, that serve as recruiting grounds for terrorism.” However, despite this criticism and a further critique that Afghanistan has been the “primary hub” for militants “involved in most major terrorist plots or attacks against the United States in the past 15 years and now engaged in international militant and terrorist acts around the world,” neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan is placed on the official list of countries sponsoring terrorism. The report merely hints that both of them could be added to the list in the next year unless their behavior improves. [US Department of State, 4/30/2001; CNN, 4/30/2001] In 1999, an unnamed Western diplomat explained to Human Rights Watch that if Pakistan were designated a terrorist state, it would mean the termination of international financial assistance. This would result in the near-collapse of the Pakistani economy, since two-thirds of Pakistan’s budget is funded by international loans and credits. [Human Rights Watch, 7/1/2001]
The US State Department’s 2000 annual report states in its section on state-sponsored terrorism that the Iraqi government’s “terrorist” activities consist primarily of its use of violence to silence dissident exiles. The report also notes that Iraq has not supported any militant operations against the West “since its failed plot to assassinate former President Bush in 1993 in Kuwait.” Significantly the report does not tie Iraq to international Islamic militant groups like al-Qaeda. [US Department of State, 4/30/2001; US Department of State, 4/30/2001; Newsday, 12/24/2001]
During a National Security Council deputy principals meeting on April 30, 2001, Paul Wolfowitz is challenged by White House counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke after asserting that Iraq is involved in terrorism. Recalling the meeting, Clarke tells The Guardian in a March 2004 interview: “April was an initial discussion of terrorism policy writ large and at that meeting I said we had to talk about al-Qaeda. And because it was terrorism policy writ large [Paul] Wolfowitz said we have to talk about Iraqi terrorism and I said that’s interesting because there hasn’t been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States. There hasn’t been any for 8 years. And he said something derisive about how I shouldn’t believe the CIA and FBI, that they’ve been wrong. And I said if you know more than I know tell me what it is, because I’ve been doing this for 8 years and I don’t know about any Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the US since 1993. When I said let’s start talking about bin Laden, he said bin Laden couldn’t possibly have attacked the World Trade Center in ‘93. One little terrorist group like that couldn’t possibly have staged that operation. It must have been Iraq.” [Guardian, 3/23/2004] During the same meeting, Wolfowitz also allegedly dismisses bin Laden and al-Qaeda as a serious threat (see April 30, 2001).
The Bush administration finally has its first Deputy Secretary-level meeting on terrorism. [Time, 8/12/2002] According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, he advocates that the Northern Alliance needs to be supported in the war against the Taliban, and the Predator drone flights need to resume over Afghanistan so bin Laden can be targeted. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 231] Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the focus on al-Qaeda is wrong. He states, “I just don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden,” and “Who cares about a little terrorist in Afghanistan?” Wolfowitz insists the focus should be Iraqi-sponsored terrorism instead. He claims the 1993 attack on the WTC must have been done with help from Iraq, and rejects the CIA’s assertion that there has been no Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the US since 1993 (see April 30, 2001). (A spokesperson for Wolfowitz later calls Clarke’s account a “fabrication.”) [Clarke, 2004, pp. 30, 231; Newsweek, 3/22/2004] Wolfowitz repeats these sentiments immediately after 9/11 and tries to argue that the US should attack Iraq. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage agrees with Clarke that al-Qaeda is an important threat. Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, chairing the meeting, brokers a compromise between Wolfowitz and the others. The group agrees to hold additional meetings focusing on al-Qaeda first (in June and July), but then later look at other terrorism, including any Iraqi terrorism. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 30, 231-32] Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin also attend the hour-long meeting. [Time, 8/12/2002]
Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Richard Armitage, Richard A. Clarke, Taliban, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Central Intelligence Agency, John E. McLaughlin, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The Bush administration cancels the 2004 deadline for automobile companies to develop prototype “supercars” capable of getting as much as 80 miles per gallon. The supercar program—initiated during the Clinton administration—will be replaced with one that focuses on “longer-term technologies,” according to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. The federal government has so far sunk $1.4 billion into the “supercars” program. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/10/2001]
David Schippers, the House Judiciary Committee’s chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial, was hired to represent FBI agent Robert Wright in September 1999 (see August 3, 1999). After 9/11, Schippers will claim that he began privately informing congresspeople about Wright’s investigation into terrorism financing in the US in early 2001, but found little interest (see February-March 2001). Schippers appears to have had different sources than Wright who began telling him about attack warnings. Supposedly, the first warning was based on a secret February 1995 report which stated that bin Laden was planning three attacks on the US: the bombing of a federal building in the heartland of the US, shooting down or blowing up an airplane, and a massive attack in lower Manhattan. Schippers believes the first warning was a prediction of the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and the second was a prediction of the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800 (see July 17, 1996-September 1996). In some versions of this warning, the Manhattan attack was meant to be caused by a “dirty bomb” - explosives mixed with radioactive materials - but other accounts described the use of planes as weapons instead. He says one of his sources for this early warning was Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. Schippers will claim that his sources continued to uncover further information. The Manhattan warning “had started out just a general threat, but they narrowed it and narrowed it, more and more with time,” until the “same people who came out with the first warning” tell him in May 2001 that “an attack on lower Manhattan is imminent.” Schippers speaks to several FBI agents directly, and hears that “there are [other agents] all over the country who are frustrated and just waiting to come out.” They are frustrated by “a bureaucratic elite in Washington short-stopping information,” which gives “terrorism a free reign in the United States.” Schippers later claims that some FBI agents later told him that before 9/11, “they had [Mohamed] Atta in their sights.” They also had attempted to “check out” the names and activities of “very strange characters training at flight schools.” He will claim that “FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota” tell him “there [is] going to be an attack on lower Manhattan.” Schippers will later claim that he will attempt to contact Attorney General John Ashcroft and other politicians about this warning in coming months, but that they will show little interest (see July-Late August 2001). [WorldNetDaily, 10/21/2001; Indianapolis Star, 5/18/2002; Ahmed, 2004, pp. 258-260]
According to a later account by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, Capt. Scott Phillpott calls him “in desperation” around this time. Able Danger has been effectively shut down, but Phillpott wants to know if he can bring the Able Danger options that had been presented to higher officials in early 2001 (see Early 2001, January-March 2001 and March 2001) and use one of Shaffer’s Stratus Ivy facilities to continue to work. Shaffer claims that he replies, “I tell him with all candor that I would love nothing better than to loan him my facility and work the options with him (to exploit them for both [intelligence] potential and for actual offensive operations) but tell him that my DIA chain of command has directed me to stop all support to him and the project. In good faith, I ask my boss, Col. Mary Moffitt if I can help Scott and exploit the options—and that there would be a DIA quid pro quo of obtaining new ‘lead’ information from the project. She takes offense at me even mentioning Able Danger in this conversation, tells me that I am being insubordinate, and begins the process of removing me from my position as chief of Stratus Ivy. As a direct result of this conversation, she directs that I be ‘moved’ to a desk officer position to oversee Defense [human intelligence] operations in Latin America.” [US Congress, 2/15/2006 ]
An Iranian in custody in New York City tells local police of a plot to attack the WTC. No more details are known. [Fox News, 5/17/2002] Interestingly, an Iranian in prison in Germany will also warn of an attack on the WTC (see Early September 2001), but it is not known if the two cases are related.
A National Security (NSA) linguist who only allows himself to be identified to the media as “J” warns his superiors at the agency that terrorists may be planning to hijack passenger planes to ram into buildings, and that security measures need to be implemented to prevent this. Instead, J is ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation. (J was given similar treatment in another instance eight years before; see September 11, 1993). J will later claim that NSA officials dismissed his warnings, and instead labeled him as “obsessed” with the idea of a “kamikaze” threat because of time he had spent in Japan. In 2006, J will say that any time his analysis countered conventional wisdom, he was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluations. He will eventually develop an irregular heartbeat due to the stress of anticipating further retaliatory, potentially career-damaging psychological evaluations. “I believe it was retaliation, but how do you prove that?” he will ask. J will spend his last decade at NSA with no promotion or raise, and will say that another linguist left the agency during that time out of disgust with what was happening. “Who was going to listen to us? Who could do anything anyway?” he asks in 2006. In 2006, other current and former NSA officials will claim that the NSA routinely uses unfavorable psychological evaluations to retaliate against whistleblowers and those employees who come into conflict with superiors (see January 25-26, 2006). [Cybercast News Service, 1/26/2006] It is not clear whether J’s warnings are related to the 33 other warnings picked up by NSA analysts during this same time period (see May-July 2001.)
Khalil Deek, member of an al-Qaeda cell in Anaheim, California, is mysteriously released in Jordan and allowed to go free. Deek had been arrested on suspicions that he masterminded a series of planned millennium attacks in Jordan (see December 11, 1999). Investigators believe he may have masterminded an attempted bombing of the Los Angeles airport as well (see December 15-31, 1999), and in fact US intelligence had been interested in him since the late 1980s (see Late 1980s, December 14-25, 1999, and May 2000). But despite is the seemingly strong evidence against him, he is released this month after mounting a hunger strike. Relatives tell a US newspaper that US government officials pressured Jordan to let him go. [Orange County Register, 9/12/2005] Despite the fact that US officials had previously labeled him a terrorist mastermind, they do not protest his release. [Orange County Weekly, 6/15/2006] The Jordanian government claims they lacked evidence Deek was aware of terrorist activities. [Orange County Weekly, 6/17/2004] The Los Angeles Times reports that he had cooperated with US investigators in deciphering al-Qaeda computer documents. [Los Angeles Times, 3/29/2000] He is deported to the United Arab Emirates. He is rearrested there and held for several days, and then let go again. [Orange County Weekly, 5/31/2001] A few days later, Deek emerges at the US embassy in Pakistan with his wife and family. He approaches the embassy gates, asking staffers there help to bring his family back to the US. However, he is only able to speak to someone through an intercom and is not allowed in the building. He is told to come back in two weeks. A newspaper will later comment, “Given that the US government already considered him a dangerous man, it’s not surprising that embassy officials weren’t eager to provide him with travel visas. But it is weird that they didn’t let him inside the building and simply arrest him.” [Orange County Weekly, 6/15/2006] It will later be alleged that Deek was actually a mole for the Jordanian government (see Shortly After December 11, 1999).
An article published in Military Review, which bills itself as “the professional journal for the US Army,” states, “the Caspian Sea appears to be sitting on yet another sea—a sea of hydrocarbons.… The presence of these oil reserves and the possibility of their export raises new strategic concerns for the United States and other Western industrial powers. As oil companies build oil pipelines from the Caucasus and Central Asia to supply Japan and the West, these strategic concerns gain military implications.” [Scott, 2007, pp. 20, 281]
US intelligence obtains information that al-Qaeda is planning to infiltrate the US from Canada and carry out an operation using high explosives. The report does not say exactly where, when, or how an attack might occur. Two months later, the information is shared with the FBI, the INS, the US Customs Service, and the State Department, and it will be shared with President Bush in August. [US Congress, 9/18/2002; Washington Post, 9/19/2002] This information could come from captured al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam, who warns around this month that al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida has been seeking Canadian passports as part of a plot to attack the US, possibly by planting explosives in several US cities (see May 30, 2001 and May 2001). [Calgary Herald, 4/3/2002]
The Washington Post will later report, “In May 2001, the CIA learned supporters of bin Laden were planning to infiltrate the United States; that seven were on their way to the United States, Canada and Britain; that his key operatives ‘were disappearing while others were preparing for martyrdom,’ and that bin Laden associates ‘were planning attacks in the United States with explosives.’” [US Congress, 9/18/2002; Washington Post, 9/19/2002] This information may be related to a warning given by captured al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam this month that al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is seeking Canadian passports for himself and five other top militants in order to plant explosives in US cities (see May 30, 2001 and May 2001). [Calgary Herald, 4/3/2002] It is not known if the seven traveling to the US, Canada, and Britain refer to any of the 9/11 hijackers, but 11 of the hijackers travel to the US in May and June (see April 23-June 29, 2001), stopping in Britain along the way (see January-June 2001). Investigators will later say that they are not sure if the aliases Zubaida wanted on the Canadian passports could have been used by some of the 9/11 hijackers. [Calgary Herald, 4/3/2002]
The Army’s DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic (DTHC) and the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic, both housed within the Pentagon, hold a tabletop exercise along with Arlington County Emergency Medical Services. The scenario practiced for is of an airplane crashing into the Pentagon’s west side—the same side as is impacted in the attack on 9/11. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. B17 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 23 and 107] Reportedly, the purpose of the exercise is “to fine-tune their emergency preparedness.” [US Medicine, 10/2001] According to US Medicine newspaper, the plane in the scenario is a hijacked Boeing 757. [US Medicine, 1/2002] (Flight 77, that targets the Pentagon on 9/11, is a 757. [New York Times, 9/13/2001] ) But a federally funded report on the response to the Pentagon attack says it is a commuter airplane. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. B17 ] The Defense Department’s own book about the Pentagon attack says the plane in this exercise is a twin-engine aircraft (757s, like Flight 77, are twin-engine aircraft), but that it crashes into the Pentagon by accident in the scenario. [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 107] The idea of a plane hitting the Pentagon was suggested by Colonel John Baxter, the commander of the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic, who has often been reminded that the Pentagon is on the flight path of nearby Reagan National Airport. The scenario was approved by Air Force Surgeon General Paul Carlton Jr. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 107 and 109] Baxter and Col. James Geiling, the commander of the DTHC, later say this exercise prepares them well to respond to the Pentagon attack on 9/11. For example, the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic retools its trauma packs as a result. [US Medicine, 10/2001] And, due to the exercise, staffers of both clinics will wear special blue vests on 9/11 labeled “physician,” “nurse,” or “EMT,” to allow for easy identification. [Uniformed Services University, 1/2002 ] Paul Carlton will say, “We learned a lot from that exercise and applied those lessons to September 11.” [Murphy, 2002, pp. 222] And Major Lorie Brown, the chief nurse of the DTHC, who leads the exercise, will later recall, “The training made a huge difference” on 9/11. [Nursing Spectrum, 9/24/2001] The two Pentagon clinics routinely hold mass casualty tabletop exercises. The scenario changes for each drill. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 107]
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah refuses an invitation to meet with President George Bush at the White House. Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia with King Fahd unable to perform his position due to illness, says: “We want [the US] to consider their own conscience. Don’t they see what is happening to the Palestinian children, women, the elderly, the humiliation, the hunger?” Brent Scowcroft, a close friend of the president’s father and former national security adviser, echoes Abdullah’s concerns, warning Bush that moderate Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia are “deeply disappointed with this administration and its failure to do something to moderate the attitude of Israel.” Scowcroft adds that the Palestinians will not stop their own violence towards Israel without the prospect of a viable Palestinian state. According to author Craig Unger, it is virtually unthinkable that Scowcroft would have publicly spoken so critically of the Bush administration without the approval of Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush, so Scowcroft’s statement has, in effect, put the two Bushes at loggerheads. Unger will write, “In effect, in their own constrained fashion, the father and son had drawn swords.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 209-211]
Victoria “Torie” Clarke joins the Defense Department. She is a public relations specialist who served as press secretary for President George H. W. Bush’s 1992 re-election campaign, worked closely with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and was an Assistant US Trade Representative during the first Bush’s presidency. In the private sector, she was president of Bozell Eskew Advertising, Vice President of the National Cable Telecommunications Association, and the Washington director for the PR firm of Hill & Knowlton, the firm so heavily involved in promoting and selling the 1991 Gulf War (see January 16, 1991 and After). She brings strong ideas to her new position about achieving what she calls “information dominance” in both the domestic and foreign “markets” (see February 2003). She directs what John Stauber, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, calls the “twin towers of propaganda” for the Pentagon: “embedding news media with the troops, and embedding military propagandists into the TV media” (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). [Stennis Center for Public Service, 8/17/2007; New York Times, 4/20/2008; Bill Berkowitz, 5/10/2008]
According to a Gallup poll, 52 percent of Americans believe the federal government is “so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 35]
According to FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, “Four months before 9/11”, FBI monitoring overhears Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz “discussing with the Turkish ambassador in Washington an arrangement whereby the US would invade Iraq and divide the country.… They were negotiating what Turkey required in exchange for allowing an attack from Turkish soil.” National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, later a critic of the Iraq War, is initially in favor of the plan, but will later drop his support when it becomes clear Turkish demands for control of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq will not be granted. [The American Conservative, 11/1/2009]
Tom Wilshire, a former deputy chief of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, is detailed to the FBI to help with its counterterrorism work. Wilshire was involved in the failure to watchlist 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar during the al-Qaeda Malaysia summit (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000), and will also be involved in the failed search for them in the summer of 2001 (see May 15, 2001, Late May, 2001, and July 13, 2001), as well as the failure to obtain a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings (see August 24, 2001). He acts as the CIA’s chief intelligence representative to Michael Rolince, head of the Bureau’s International Terrorism Operations Section. His primary role is apparently to help the FBI exploit information for intelligence purposes. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 282-348 ]
A portion of Salem Alhazmi’s New Jersey identification card.
[Source: 9/11 Commission] (click image to enlarge)The US introduces the “Visa Express” program in Saudi Arabia, which allows any Saudi Arabian to obtain a visa through his or her travel agent instead of appearing at a consulate in person. An official later states, “The issuing officer has no idea whether the person applying for the visa is actually the person in the documents and application.” [US News and World Report, 12/12/2001; US Congress, 9/20/2002] At the time, warnings of an attack against the US led by the Saudi Osama bin Laden are higher than they had ever been before—
“off the charts” as one senator later puts it. [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2002; US Congress, 9/18/2002] A terrorism conference had recently concluded that Saudi Arabia was one of four top nationalities in al-Qaeda. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 5/19/2002]
Suspect Travel Agency - Ten Saudi travel agency companies are allowed to issue US visas as part of the program. One company, Fursan Travel and Tourism, is a subsidiary of Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., a multibillion Saudi banking conglomerate. Fursan is also the only one out of the ten deputized to handle the collection and initial processing of US visas. After 9/11, the CIA will suggest taking action against Al Rajhi for its suspected support of Islamist militancy, but the Bush Administration will decide not to do anything (see Mid-2003 and Mid-2003). It is believed that al-Qaeda and other militant groups advised their operatives to use Al Rajhi for their banking needs (see Before September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/2003]
Used by 9/11 Plotters - Five hijackers—Khalid Almihdhar, Abdulaziz Alomari, Salem Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Fayez Ahmed Banihammad—use Visa Express over the next month to enter the US. [US Congress, 9/20/2002] Alomari has a bank account with Al Rajhi, but it is unknown if he or any of the other hijackers use Fursan, the Al Rajhi subsidiary, since the names of travel agencies do not appear on copies of the hijackers’ visa applications that are later made public. [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/2003] Even 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will successfully get a US Visa through the “Visa Express” program in July (using a false name but real photograph), despite a posted $2 million reward for his capture. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2004]
Saudi Visas Almost Never Rejected - Only three percent of Saudi visa applicants are turned down by US consular officers in fiscal 2000 and 2001. In contrast, about 25 percent of US visa seekers worldwide are rejected. Acceptance is even more difficult for applicants from countries alleged to have ties to terrorism such as Iraq or Iran. [Washington Post, 10/31/2001] The widely criticized program is finally canceled in July 2002, after a public outcry. [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/2003]
[Source: NATO]Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a former covert operative and Navy Seal, travels to India on a publicized tour while CIA Director Tenet makes a quiet visit to Pakistan to meet with President Pervez Musharraf. Armitage has long and deep Pakistani intelligence connections (as well as a role in the Iran-Contra affair). While in Pakistan, Tenet, in what was described as “an unusually long meeting,” also secretly meets with his Pakistani counterpart, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed. [SAPRA (New Delhi), 5/22/2001] According to a senior ISI officer in 2006, Tenet urges Mahmood to trade information on Osama bin Laden. However, Mahmood does not cooperate. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 309, 520]
Kay Nehm [Source: Generalbundesanwalt]An associate of the hijackers named Mounir El Motassadeq sends $1,000 to an account of Mohamed Atta in Florida. The money is sent from an account of hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in Germany for which El Motassadeq has a power of attorney. This transaction is not mentioned by US authorities, but is disclosed by Kay Nehm, a prosecutor in the case against El Motassadeq in Germany. El Motassadeq will later be convicted for membership of al-Qaeda (see August 19, 2005). [Dawn (Karachi), 9/1/2002; CNN, 2/19/2003 Sources: Kay Nehm]
It is claimed that after a routine briefing by CIA Director Tenet to President Bush regarding the hunt for al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, Bush complains to National Security Adviser Rice that he is tired of “swatting at flies” and wants a comprehensive plan for attacking terrorism. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke already has such a plan, but it has been mired in bureaucratic deadlock since January. After this, progress remains slow. [Time, 8/12/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] According to Vanity Fair, when 9/11 commissioner Bob Kerrey asked Rice in 2004 exactly what flies Bush swatted before 9/11, “she fumbled embarrassingly for an answer.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
Bust of Plutarch, displayed in the Delphi Museum. [Source: Livius (.org)]Writing in his book The Conscience of a Liberal, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-WI) quotes the Roman historian Plutarch, who was active around 100 A.D. Plutarch had explained one reason why the Roman Republic fell: “The abuse of buying and selling votes crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, however, this process of corruption spread to the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved to the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.” Wellstone adds: “The way in which money has come to dominate politics is the foremost ethical issue of politics of our time. The corruption is far more serious than any wrongdoing by an individual officeholder. It is systematic corruption, in which there is a huge imbalance of power between the vast majority of people and those few who have the financial wherewithal to count more. We as a nation have moved dangerously far away from the central principle of representative democracy: Each person counts as one and no more than one.” [Wellstone, 5/2001]
Michael Frost Beckner. [Source: Public domain]Michael Frost Beckner, the creator of a forthcoming CBS drama series about the CIA, writes a 9/11-like storyline for an episode of his show in which Osama bin Laden has three American aircraft hijacked. [Variety, 11/20/2001] The series, which is scheduled to begin airing in late September, is called The Agency and will show the CIA tackling problems of national security, taking on villains such as Arab terrorists and Colombian drug dealers. [Guardian, 9/6/2001; Guardian, 10/5/2001; CNN, 10/31/2001] Beckner will later tell Variety magazine that, this month, he writes an episode of The Agency “in which bin Laden had three US planes hijacked.” He will apparently provide no further details of the storyline. Variety will report, “Needless to say, the script was never completed.” [Variety, 11/20/2001] Beckner will also reveal that a number of the storylines for the first series of The Agency were suggested to him by Chase Brandon, the CIA’s entertainment liaison officer. [Jenkins, 2012, pp. 65-66] Whether the storyline about bin Laden organizing plane hijackings was suggested by Brandon is unknown. Furthermore, Beckner will say that he has “done a lot of back and forth with the CIA” in his career as a writer, and explain that the agency “would let in anyone, including a little writer like me, to hear that al-Qaeda and bin Laden are going to attack us.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ] The CIA is in fact cooperating extensively with the producers of The Agency, such as by vetting scripts and allowing filming at CIA headquarters. [New York Times, 8/26/2001] The pilot episode of the show, which Beckner writes, will feature a storyline in which bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist group plots to blow up a department store in London (see September 27, 2001). [New York Times, 9/29/2001; Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ] And another episode, also written by Beckner, will be based around a planned terrorist attack in the US using anthrax (see October 18, 2001). [Variety, 10/16/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 66]
Around this time, intercepts from Afghanistan warn that al-Qaeda could attack an American target in late June or on the July 4 holiday. However, the White House’s Cabinet-level principals group does not meet to discuss this prospect. This group also fails to meet after intelligence analysts overhear conversations from an al-Qaeda cell in Milan suggesting that bin Laden’s agents might be plotting to kill Bush at the European summit in Genoa, Italy, in late July (see July 20-22, 2001). In fact, the group will only hold one meeting on terrorism before 9/11 (see September 4, 2001). [New York Times, 12/30/2001] According to 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer, before 9/11 the principals group met 32 times on other issues, such as Iraq, Russia, China, the Middle East, and missile defense. [Editor & Publisher, 10/1/2006] By comparison, the principals group met to discuss terrorism around once a week between 1998 and 2000 under Clinton (see Late August 1998-November 2000). [New York Times, 12/30/2001]
Eileen Luongo. [Source: CNN]A nurse at a drug rehabilitation clinic in a suburb of Miami allegedly witnesses several 9/11 hijackers using one of the clinic’s computers. Eileen Luongo, the director of nursing at the Seawinds Healthcare Services in Miami Shores, sees Mohamed Atta at the center in May. She says, “His features were so striking I stared at him for like two minutes and he stared back at me.” In August, she claims, she sees three other alleged 9/11 hijackers there: Marwan Alshehhi, Satam Al Suqami, and Waleed Alshehri. She spends 45 minutes with them after they come into her office to write a letter on a computer. She says, “They just came in like they knew where they were going and they had been there before.” Luongo later says she wondered if the men were acquaintances of the center’s Egyptian owner, Mohammed Ibrahim, or his relatives. [Miami Herald, 11/29/2001; CNN, 11/30/2001; FOX News, 12/7/2001] Ibrahim, according to the Miami New Times, is a “convicted felon and charming con man,” who, despite a dubious past, “remains remarkably unhindered by legal considerations and is constantly acquiring properties and embarking on new business ventures.” Since autumn 2000, unknown armed men have occasionally been witnessed showing up at Seawinds, such as a Cuban man who drove up and said to a member of staff, “Tell your boss I’m gonna kill him if he doesn’t pay me.” Furthermore, according to its former medical director Dr. Evan Zimmer, the clinic does not have the necessary licenses for the treatments it administers. [Miami New Times, 2/22/2001] Ibrahim is deported from the US in June 2001 and Seawinds will close three months later. After seeing photos of the suspected hijackers in a newspaper in late September 2001, Eileen Luongo will contact the FBI and report her encounters with four of them. Agents will meet her at Fort Lauderdale Hospital, where she works part-time. FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela says Luongo’s information provides “credible leads we needed to follow up on.” Yet immediately after she meets the agents, Luongo will be fired for doing so. At the time, the hospital will be under investigation by the FBI itself for possible health care fraud. [Miami Herald, 11/29/2001; CNN, 11/30/2001; CNN, 11/30/2001]
In 2001, bin Laden apparently pressures Khalid Shaikh Mohammed for an attack date earlier than 9/11. According to information obtained from the 9/11 Commission (apparently based on a prison interrogation of Mohammed), bin Laden first requests an attack date of May 12, 2001, the seven-month anniversary of the USS Cole bombing. Then, when bin Laden learns from the media that Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would be visiting the White House in June or July 2001, he attempts once more to accelerate the operation to coincide with his visit. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] The surge of warnings around this time could be related to these original preparations. By mid-July, US intelligence will learn of this delay (see July 13, 2001).
Over a two-month period, the NSA reports “at least 33 communications indicating a possible, imminent terrorist attack.” None of these reports provide any specific information on where, when, or how an attack might occur. The reports are widely disseminated to other intelligence agencies. [US Congress, 9/18/2002; MSNBC, 9/18/2002; Senate, 9/26/2002, pp. p. 9365] National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will later read what she calls “chatter that was picked up in [2001’s] spring and summer. ‘Unbelievable news coming in weeks,’ said one. ‘A big event… there will be a very, very, very, very big uproar.’ There will be attacks in the near future.’” [Washington Post, 4/8/2004] The NSA director will claim in 2002 that all of the warnings were red herrings unrelated to the 9/11 attacks. [US Congress, 10/17/2002] However, in 2004 it will be revealed that the 9/11 attacks were originally planned to take place between May and July 2001, but were delayed until September (see May-July 2001).
John Walker Lindh.
[Source: Alexandria, Virginia, Sheriff's Department]John Walker Lindh, a young Caucasian man from California who has converted to Islam, travels to Peshawar, Pakistan, in an attempt to fight for Islamic causes. He had been studying the Koran for about six months elsewhere in Pakistan, but otherwise had no particularly special training, qualifications, or connections. Within days, he is accepted into al-Qaeda and sent to the Al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan. Seven other US citizens are already training there (see April-August 2001). He inadvertently learns details of the 9/11 attacks. In June, he is told by an instructor that “bin Laden had sent forth some fifty people to carry out twenty suicide terrorist operations against the United States and Israel.” He learns that the 9/11 plot is to consist of five attacks, not the four that actually occur. The other fifteen operations are to take place later. He is asked if he wants to participate in a suicide mission, but declines. [Mahoney, 2003, pp. 162, 216; Bamford, 2004, pp. 234-36]
News of Upcoming Attacks Are Widespread in Camps - Although Lindh does not tell this information to any US officials, the fact that he learns this much so quickly is indicative of how widely news of the upcoming attacks are spreading in the al-Qaeda training camps. For instance, early 2001, bin Laden gave a speech at one of the camps talking about an attack on the US that would kill thousands (see Early 2001). In the summer, bin Laden specifically urges trainees to pray for the success of an upcoming attack involving 20 martyrs (see Summer 2001). By July, a source will tell the CIA that (see July 2001)
What Could an Informant in the Camps Learn? - Author James Bamford comments, “The decision to keep CIA employees at arm’s length from [al-Qaeda] was a serious mistake. At the same moment the CIA was convinced al-Qaeda was impenetrable, a number of American citizens were secretly joining al-Qaeda in Afghanistan—and being welcomed with open arms.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 161]
President Bush gives a speech at the National Defense University outlining what he calls a “new strategic framework” for the nation’s strategic defense policy. “This afternoon, I want us to think back some 30 years to a far different time in a far different world,” he tells his listeners. “The United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a hostile rivalry.… Our deep differences were expressed in a dangerous military confrontation that resulted in thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other on hair-trigger alert. Security of both the United States and the Soviet Union was based on a grim premise: that neither side would fire nuclear weapons at each other, because doing so would mean the end of both nations.” Bush is referring to the concept of “mutual assured destruction,” or MAD, which has driven the policies of the US and the former Soviet Union since the 1950s. “We even went so far as to codify this relationship in a 1972 ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty (see May 26, 1972), based on the doctrine that our very survival would best be insured by leaving both sides completely open and vulnerable to nuclear attack,” he says.
A Different Threat - Times have now changed: “Today, the sun comes up on a vastly different world.… Today’s Russia is not yesterday’s Soviet Union.… Yet, this is still a dangerous world, a less certain, a less predictable one. More nations have nuclear weapons and still more have nuclear aspirations. Many have chemical and biological weapons. Some already have developed… ballistic missile technology.… And a number of these countries are spreading these technologies around the world. Most troubling of all, the list of these countries includes some of the world’s least-responsible states. Unlike the Cold War, today’s most urgent threat stems not from thousands of ballistic missiles in the Soviet hands, but from a small number of missiles in the hands of these states, states for whom terror and blackmail are a way of life.” Bush cites the example of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who, he says, could have forced a very different outcome to the 1991 Gulf War (see January 16, 1991 and After) had he “been able to blackmail with nuclear weapons.” Hussein is an exemplar of today’s hate-driven dictators, Bush asserts: “Like Saddam Hussein, some of today’s tyrants are gripped by an implacable hatred of the United States of America. They hate our friends, they hate our values, they hate democracy and freedom and individual liberty. Many care little for the lives of their own people. In such a world, Cold War deterrence is no longer enough.”
ABM Treaty Now a Hindrance to US Security - “To maintain peace, to protect our own citizens and our own allies and friends, we must seek security based on more than the grim premise that we can destroy those who seek to destroy us,” Bush says. “Today’s world requires a new policy, a broad strategy of active non-proliferation, counter proliferation and defenses.… We need new concepts of deterrence that rely on both offensive and defensive forces. Deterrence can no longer be based solely on the threat of nuclear retaliation.… We need a new framework that allows us to build missile defenses to counter the different threats of today’s world. To do so, we must move beyond the constraints of the 30-year-old ABM Treaty. This treaty does not recognize the present, or point us to the future. It enshrines the past. No treaty that prevents us from addressing today’s threats, that prohibits us from pursuing promising technology to defend ourselves, our friends and our allies is in our interests or in the interests of world peace.… We can, and will, change the size, the composition, the character of our nuclear forces in a way that reflects the reality that the Cold War is over.” Bush is heralding his intention of withdrawing from the 1972 ABM Treaty (see December 13, 2001). Bush says of the treaty: “We should leave behind the constraints of an ABM Treaty that perpetuates a relationship based on distrust and mutual vulnerability. This Treaty ignores the fundamental breakthroughs in technology during the last 30 years. It prohibits us from exploring all options for defending against the threats that face us, our allies and other countries. That’s why we should work together to replace this Treaty with a new framework that reflects a clear and clean break from the past, and especially from the adversarial legacy of the Cold War.” [White House, 5/1/2001; CNN, 5/1/2001; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 171-172]
An Old Response to a New Threat - Author J. Peter Scoblic later calls Bush’s rationale “disingenuous.” He explains: “Conservatives had wanted to field missile defenses ever since the Soviet Union had developed ICBMs.… But somewhat paradoxically, following the collapse of the Soviet Union—and with it the likelihood of of a missile attack—conservative calls for missile defense increased” (see September 27, 1994). [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 171-172] Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace calls Bush’s proposal “tragically mistaken.” [PBS, 5/1/2001] Senator John Kerry (D-MA), an outspoken opponent of Bush’s foreign policies, says: “This is essentially a satisfy-your-base, political announcement. It serves no other purpose.” [New York Times, 5/1/2001]
9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is mugged outside of his apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, by an “unknown black male.” He files a police report about this and gives his correct name and local address. He reports that he had seen his alleged assailant outside of his apartment almost every day for the previous two weeks. This information in inputted into the NCIC, a widely used nationwide police database. In August 2001, Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar will be watchlisted and an FBI agent will begin looking for them in the US (see September 4-5, 2001). But, as one news report will later note, the agent “never perform[s] one of the most basic tasks of a police manhunt. He never [runs] Almihdhar or Alhazmi through the NCIC computer” (see September 5, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 139 ] A police officer takes a statement from Alhazmi in his apartment, but Alhazmi signs a release indicating he does not want the incident investigated. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/27/2002] He has been in the country illegally since January 2001. [US Congress, 9/20/2002]
Waleed Alshehri. [Source: FBI]The 9/11 hijackers open nine new SunTrust bank accounts in Florida. One is opened by hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah, the others by the newly arrived hijackers:
Satam Al Suqami and Waleed Alshehri open a joint account on May 1 with a $9,000 deposit; [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 136 ]
Ziad Jarrah opens an account on May 15;
Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, and Mohand Alshehri open accounts on June 1;
Wail Alshehri opens an account on June 18;
Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alhaznawi open accounts on July 12;
Fayez Ahmed Banihammad opens an account on July 18. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 3, 19 ] Many of the hijackers also obtain Florida driver’s licenses and ID cards at the same time (see April 12-September 7, 2001).
Entity Tags: Wail Alshehri, Ziad Jarrah, Waleed Alshehri, Satam Al Suqami, SunTrust Bank, Mohand Alshehri, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, Saeed Alghamdi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Congressional Democrats are highly critical of President Bush’s proposal to abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and instead implement a “new strategic framework” for the US’s defense against nuclear weapons (see May 1, 2001). Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) says: “Many in the administration… argue that deploying an ineffective defense can still be an effective system simply because it would cause uncertainty in the minds of our adversaries. That position is based on the flawed assumption that a president would be willing to gamble our nation’s security on a bluff, and that no adversary would be willing or able to call such a bluff. Instead of increasing our security, pursuing a strategy that cannot achieve its goal could leave our nation less secure and our world less stable.” Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), an acknowledged expert on US defense capabilities, says, “To abandon the ABM with the hope to get that [missile defense] capacity somewhere down the line would damage the security interests of the United States.” Senator John Kerry (D-MA) notes: “If you can’t shoot down 100 percent of them [nuclear missiles], you haven’t gotten rid of mutually assured destruction. And if you can, you set off an arms race to develop a capacity that can’t be touched by a missile defense system.” Perhaps most disparaging is a comment by Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) who says that the new missile defense systems under consideration are “more appropriate to [film studio] Dreamworks and [film director] Steven Spielberg than to actual implementation.” [Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, 5/2/2001]
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