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The four hijackers of flight 93 apparently arrive in Newark from Florida on this day, although there is much confusion over this. Two of them, Ahmed Alnami and Saeed Alghamdi, take Spirit Airlines flight 1460 via Atlanta, leaving around 6:30 p.m. and arriving three hours later. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 253 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 81 ] However, the travel of the other two, Ziad Jarrah and Ahmed Alghamdi, is very confusing:
Ticket Purchase - According to an initial FBI chronology, Jarrah and Alghamdi book tickets on Continental Flight 1500 on September 5. But the chronology gives the wrong times, departure at 8:35 p.m. and arrival at 11:20 p.m., for this flight, which, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, actually leaves just after midday (note: the 8:35 p.m. and 11:20 p.m. times are actually for Continental Flight 1700). The chronology also refers to this flight as “Spirit Airlines Flight 1500.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 253 ; Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2/20/2008] Chronologies for Jarrah and Alhaznawi submitted at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui will say that they purchase tickets for Spirit Air Flight 1500. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ]
Continental Flight 1500 - A stipulation used at the Moussaoui trial will claim that Jarrah takes this flight, and also Flight 1700 (note: this is impossible as he does not have time to arrive in Newark on the first flight, rent a car and hotel room there, and return to Florida in time for the second flight). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 81-82 ] Jarrah rents the car and hotel room in Newark just before 5:00 p.m., suggesting that he does indeed take Continental flight 1500, which arrives in time for him to rent the car. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 264 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] A luggage tag will be found after 9/11 indicating that Jarrah did in fact fly on this flight. However, Jarrah’s name is not on the passenger manifest for this flight and neither is Alhaznawi’s. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 261, 265 ]
Spirit Flight 1460 or 1500 - Used Spirit Airline tickets dated September 7 will be found after 9/11 in Newark for all four flight 93 hijackers. This indicates Jarrah and Alhaznawi may fly with Alnami and Alghamdi on Spirit Airlines. However, Spirit Airlines flight 1460 arrives in Newark several hours after Jarrah rents a car and hotel room there. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 264 ] Chronologies for Jarrah and Alhaznawi submitted at the Moussaoui trial will say that they purchase tickets for “Spirit flt 1500”, but this may be a typo due to confusion with the Continental booking that is said to have occurred the same day, also for a flight 1500. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ]
Continental Flight 1700 - Jarrah takes this flight, which arrives in Newark several hours after he rents a car and hotel room there, according to the Moussaoui trial stipulation, which also says he takes the earlier flight (for which he is not on the manifest). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 81-82 ] Alhaznawi, who has a ticket for either Continental 1500 or Spirit 1500 and for whom a used ticket for a Spirit flight was found, takes this flight, according to one of the Moussaoui trial chronologies, the Moussaoui trial stipulation, and a chart of the hijackers’ name usage used as evidence at the Moussaoui trial. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 81-82 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 24 ]
EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman tells residents at a town hall meeting in Libby, Montana, a designated Superfund Site where the EPA is remedying asbestos contamination (see (August 2001)), “It has never been our plan to look to you to pay for any part of this cleanup, including the cleanup of residential properties.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/7/2001]
Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of President Bush, issues a new executive order authorizing the Florida National Guard to order its membership on active duty in response to acts of terrorism. The new order (EO 2001-261) states that the National Guard may now be called upon to assist law enforcement activities at Florida ports “[b]ased on the potential massive damage to life and property that may result from an act of terrorism at a Florida port.” This new order replaces an earlier one (EO 2001-17) issued on January 19, 2001, and which was not to expire until June 30, 2003, that is identical except for the new terrorism clause. [State of Florida, 9/7/2001]
The future of “continental air sovereignty” over America is in doubt. Discussions at the Air Force’s highest levels call for the dismantling of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US and its command and control structure. [Filson, 2003, pp. 149] Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region, will later add that “the secretary of the Air Force, James G. Roche, stated that he and the then chief of staff of the Air Force, General John Jumper, had decided to withdraw funding for air defense, and they had made that decision on September 7, 2001.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 289] Earlier in the summer of 2001, “a reduction in air defenses had been gaining currency in recent months among task forces assigned by [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to put together recommendations for a reassessment of the military” (see Summer 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2001]
’The President’s Man: A Line in the Sand.’ [Source: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment]A made-for-television film made by Chuck Norris for CBS Television is delivered to the network. Originally entitled The President’s Man: Ground Zero, the film stars Norris as Joshua McCord, a “Mission Impossible”-type special agent that the president of the United States likes to call upon when the FBI or CIA are not up to the task. McCord and his crew have just returned from West Africa, where they blew up Saddam Husein’s nuclear supplies, when they receive another urgent mission from the White House. This time a group of young Muslim terrorists has smuggled a small nuclear bomb into the US. The group is directed by a shadowy sheikh hiding deep underground below an ancient fort in Afghanistan. The sheikh threatens to blow up an American city unless the US releases terrorists captured after a previous attack. McCord’s mission: grab the sheikh from his lair, then find the bomb before it is too late. [New York Times, 2001; Glenn Beck, 3/3/2009] According to Norris, CBS will refuse to show the film. He will say: “CBS got so scared of it, they said… ‘[W]e can’t release this.… [I]t’s too prophetic.’” The film will later be released on video under the title The President’s Man: A Line in the Sand. [Glenn Beck, 3/3/2009]
According to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks, future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed “Atta, Hani Hanjour, and possibly additional [Middle Eastern] males were observed at [a] Kinkos [store in] Laurel, Maryland, xeroxing passports, cutting and pasting.” There is no further explanation about this or what it might mean. The document will add that video surveillance was retrieved showing “Atta and other individuals.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002]
9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi transfers $200 from his and Atta’s joint account at SunTrust Bank to fellow hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari’s account in Buraidah, Saudi Arabia. Alomari’s account is with Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp, which will later be unsuccessfully sued for allegedly supporting terrorism (see August 15, 2002). The transfer costs $50 plus charges. The reason for the transfer is not clear, as Alomari, who also has an account with the Hudson United Bank in the US (see June 27-August 23, 2001), had only left Florida the previous day and will be in Boston at the same time as Alshehhi on September 9. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] Records show that Alshehhi completes the transaction just before 4.00 p.m. However, according to some accounts, Alshehhi is drinking at Shuckums bar at this time (see September 7, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/13/2001; Observer, 9/16/2001]
The State Department issues a little noticed warning, alerting against an attack by al-Qaeda. However, the warning focuses on a threat to American citizens overseas, and particularly focuses on threats to US military personnel in Asia. [US Department of State, 9/7/2001] In the one-page alert, the State Department says it received information in May 2001 “that American citizens may be the target of a terrorist threat from extremist groups with links to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization. Such individuals have not distinguished between official and civilian targets.… As always, we take this information seriously. US Government facilities worldwide remain on heightened alert.” Such warnings are issued periodically and usually are so vague that few pay them serious attention. In any event, most airlines and officials will claim that they did not see this warning until after 9/11. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/14/2001]
Shuckums bar and grill, in Hollywood, Florida. [Source: Patrick Durand/ Corbis]Two future 9/11 hijackers drink alcohol with an unidentified man. Mohamed Atta spends time drinking with Marwan Alshehhi and a third man at Shuckums, a sports bar in Hollywood, Florida. Bartender Patricia Idrissi will later remember that the third man plays a video machine at one end of the restaurant while Atta and Alshehhi sit drinking and arguing. Alshehhi drinks rum and coke; Atta consumes five Stolichnaya vodkas with orange juice. When it comes to pay Atta complains about their $48 bill and argues with the manager. “You think I can’t pay my bill?” Atta shouts. “I am a pilot for American Airlines. I can pay my f_cking bill.” Then he reportedly peels out a note from a thick wad of $50 and $100 bills, leaving a $2 tip. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Observer, 9/16/2001] Atta, Alshehhi, and the third unidentified man came into Shuckums already drunk, according to Idrissi, who will tell the St. Petersburg Times, “They were wasted.” Idrissi directs the men to a nearby Chinese restaurant. Later they return and drink some more, each ordering about five drinks. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/13/2001] According to manager Tony Amos, “The guy Mohamed was drunk, his voice was slurred, and he had a thick accent.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] According to the London Observer, the men are drinking at Shuckums during the afternoon. [Observer, 9/16/2001] However, Amos will tell the Associated Press that they visit his bar on “Friday night.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] The account of the story will slowly change over time, and later articles will say Atta plays video games and drinks cranberry juice instead of vodka, and that Alshehhi is the one who argues over the bill and pays (see September 12, 2001 and After). [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] In 2011, the Miami Herald will note that the third man with Atta and Alshehhi is never identified. [Miami Herald, 5/5/2011] According to some witnesses, Atta and Alshehhi spend the evening of September 7 in Longboat Key, Florida. (see September 7, 2001). [Longboat Observer, 11/21/2001]
The cover of President Bush’s schedule for September 11. [Source: Ari Fleischer]President Bush’s plan to visit a Sarasota, Florida, elementary school on September 11 is publicly announced. According to the Longboat Observer, numerous eyewitnesses see future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in Longboat Key, which is near Sarasota, this evening. They appear to stay at a Holiday Inn very close to the place Bush will later stay. Atta is seen at the Holiday Inn bar, where he orders one drink, a rum and Coke. He is met by an unidentified male who motions he doesn’t speak English, and then they leave. [Longboat Observer, 11/21/2001] However, other witnesses will later recall seeing Atta and Alshehhi at a bar in Hollywood, Florida, this evening (see September 7, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/13/2001]
MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, the location of CENTCOM headquarters. [Source: Jason Robertson / US Air Force]Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), says his biggest fear is that terrorists will attack the World Trade Center. Franks gives a presentation to the CENTCOM intelligence staff at the command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, about what he thinks the major threats facing the US in the Middle East and Central Asia are. When he finishes, a young sergeant asks him, “General, what keeps you awake at night?” According to Computerworld magazine, Franks replies, “The thought of one tower of the World Trade Center collapsing into the other tower, killing thousands of people.” But in his memoir, published in 2004, Franks will write that he answers, “A terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York—that’s what keeps me awake at night.” Franks, according to his own recollections, then elaborates, saying, “If international terrorists were to strike a major blow against America, I fear the specter of the nation’s military operating as combatants within our borders for the first time since the 1860s.” Therefore, he continues, “the thing that keeps me awake at night… is the possible use of our armed forces against American citizens.” Military personnel, he says, are “not police officers, sheriffs, or the FBI,” and so if they “were ever required to act in that capacity during a major emergency like an attack on the World Trade Center, the effect on America could be devastating.” He concludes by saying, “Martial law would not sit well in a free and open society.” [Computerworld, 10/21/2003; Franks, 2004, pp. 236-237] As CENTCOM commander, Franks is in charge of US military operations in an area covering 25 nations in North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. [CNN, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 1/7/2006] He will lead the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. [United Press International, 8/17/2004]
French author Bernard-Henri Levy claims to know an anonymous manager at a Dubai, United Arab Emirates, bank who gives him astute and accurate tips on Arab banking. The manager tells Henri-Levy in 2002, “We know a bank here that made [a put option] transaction between the 8th and 10th of September on certain Dow Jones blue-chip stocks for accounts linked to bin Laden. I know the name of a bank that, by shorting 8,000 shares of United Airlines on the 7th of September, then 1,200 shares of American Airlines on the morning of the 10th, allowed the attack to finance itself.” The manager won’t name the bank, but he quotes bin Laden from a late September 2001 interview, stating, “al-Qaeda is full of young, modern, and educated people who are aware of the cracks inside the Western financial system, and know how to exploit them. These faults and weaknesses are like a sliding noose strangling the system.” [Daily Ummat (Karachi), 9/28/2001; Levy, 2003, pp. 312-313] The timing and amount of type of stock speculation mentioned in this account is similar to, but not the same as, previously published reports (see September 6-10, 2001). Levy suspects the al-Qaeda agent making these transactions is the financially astute Saeed Sheikh, graduate of the London School of Economics. An al-Qaeda agent using the alias Mustafa Ahmad is captured by a surveillance camera entering the Bank of Dubai on September 10, Dubai time, to pick up money sent by Mohamed Atta in previous days, but this video footage has never been publicly released. Levy and others argue that Mustafa Ahmad and Saeed Sheikh are one and the same (see September 5-10, 2001). [Levy, 2003, pp. 312-313]
Mohand Alshehri. [Source: Spiegel TV]In the days before the attacks, some of the hijackers (including Waleed Alshehri and/or Wail Alshehri) apparently sleep with prostitutes in Boston hotel rooms, or at least try to do so. A driver working at an “escort service” used by the hijackers claims he regularly drove prostitutes to a relative of bin Laden about once a week until 9/11, when the relative disappeared. Bin Laden has several relatives in the Boston area, most or all of whom returned to Saudi Arabia right after 9/11. [Boston Herald, 10/10/2001] On September 7, two female escorts are sent to “Arab men” in the Park Inn, Boston. One of the escorts will later say that a photo of Satam Al Suqami looks “very familiar.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 264 ] On September 10, four other hijackers in Boston (Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, and Satam Al Suqami) call around to find prostitutes to sleep with on their last night alive, but in the end decline. Says one official, “It was going to be really expensive and they couldn’t come to a consensus on price, so that was the end of it… Either they thought it was too extravagant [over $400] or they did not have enough money left.” [Boston Globe, 10/10/2001]
Flight 11 hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari completes a lost ticket form and asks for a replacement ticket for his 9/11 flight. The circumstances in which he lost his ticket are unclear, but he will be issued with a new one the following day at the American Airlines terminal at Logan Airport in Boston. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 265, 271 ]
The weekend before the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Marine Aviation and its personnel are moved out of the Pentagon’s Wedge One and into the nearby Butler Building. The building is under construction, as it is being reinforced. Thanks to the move, no marines are killed or even seriously injured on 9/11. [Leatherneck, 11/2001]
Big Sky Resort, Montana. [Source: FedCenter.gov]Emergency managers from around the US, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joseph Allbaugh and representatives from the emergency management agencies of 47 states, are in Big Sky, Montana, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), where the main focuses include the issues of domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Most State Emergency Managers in Attendance - Conference attendees include around 350 government and industry emergency specialists. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ] Among them are almost all of America’s state emergency management directors and most of the senior FEMA staff. [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] They are there, reportedly, “to hear briefings on the latest issues in domestic preparedness, improve state and local capabilities, address energy shortages, and discuss lessons from the February 2001 Nisqually earthquake.” [State Government News, 10/2001 ] The attendees discuss anti-terrorism planning courses, and the status of federal aid and cooperation efforts. [Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002] Allbaugh is the event’s keynote speaker and gives his talk on September 10, in which he describes his focus on improving emergency capabilities and preparing for disaster. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ]
Conference Ends Early Due to Attacks - The NEMA conference is originally scheduled to run until September 12. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001; National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001] But because of the terrorist attacks on September 11, it ends a day early (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] Special arrangements are then made for some of the emergency managers in attendance to be flown home on military aircraft, while others have to drive long distances back to their states (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ]
Timing of Attacks Inconvenient - In May this year, President Bush put FEMA in charge of responding to any terrorist attacks in the United States, charging it with creating an Office of National Preparedness to coordinate the government’s response to such attacks (see May 8, 2001). [White House, 5/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 5/9/2001] Following the attacks on September 11, FEMA spokesman Mark Wolfson will note the inconvenience of these attacks occurring at the same time as the NEMA conference. He will say that FEMA officials do not know whether the attacks were timed to catch emergency officials off guard, but “it is something that law enforcement investigators might be looking at.” [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] NEMA is the professional association of state emergency management directors. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001] Its annual conference is being held in Montana this year because its president, Jim Greene, is the administrator of the state’s Disaster and Emergency Services Division. [Billings Gazette, 10/5/2000; National Journal, 1/16/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]
Firefighters battle a blaze at a Tucson McDonald’s restaurant. [Source: Moonbattery (.com)]Activists with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) set fire to a McDonald’s restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, causing $500,000 in damages. McDonald’s has long been a target for the organization because of the firm’s large-scale slaughter of beef cattle, and the cover of the ALF manual “ARSON-Around with Auntie ALF” depicts a cartoon of a McDonalds burnt to the ground (see 1997). ALF and its sister organization, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), claim credit for the fire in a joint statement, and say the fire is meant as a warning to corporations worldwide. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
The air traffic control tower at Logan Airport. [Source: Public Domain]Several unidentified Middle Eastern men try unsuccessfully to get a tour of the air traffic control tower at Boston’s Logan Airport, while, later in the day, a Middle Eastern man is able to enter the tower and look around. In the first incident, around late morning or early afternoon, four or five Middle Eastern men approach an air traffic controller in the parking area while he is on a cigarette break. The controller will later describe two of the men as “approximately 38 to 42 years of age,” while the others are “approximately 30 to 34 years of age.” (Mohamed Atta, the oldest of the 9/11 hijackers, is 33 years old at the time of the attacks.) One of the older men has a mustache, and all of them are dressed casually. The men ask the controller to let them have a tour of the control tower, but he refuses. After a brief conversation, he gives the men a phone number to call if they want a tour. Later on this day, during the evening, a Middle Eastern man who introduces himself as a pilot is able to enter and tour the tower. The man is able to get to the tower’s 19th floor, even though access to that floor is restricted. Officials later surmise that he waited in one of the elevators until an employee on the 19th floor called for it, and then the employee went down after the Middle Eastern man got off. The man enters a room where some controllers are on break. When the controllers ask the man what he is doing, he says he is a pilot who wants a tour of the tower cab. An unnamed source will later describe: “He showed some ID, said he was a pilot, and because it was not a busy time, they said OK. It is not that unusual for a pilot to get a tour.” The man heads up the stairs to the tower cab where he spends about 15 minutes and engages the controllers there in conversation. He says he lives in Haverhill and has family in Afghanistan, and then leaves on his own. The two incidents on this day will be recalled as suspicious after the 9/11 attacks, but the identity of the Middle Eastern men will not be established. [Boston Globe, 9/16/2001; Boston Globe, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 2003]
9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Majed Moqed fail to cash a check at the First Union Bank, where they are accompanied by an unidentified Middle Eastern male. The unidentified male presents a Pennsylvania driving license to a bank employee. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 265 ] However, there is no record of any of the hijackers obtaining a Pennsylvania driver’s license. For example, no such license is mentioned in the 9/11 Commission’s Terrorist Travel monograph, which lists the documents the hijackers obtained in the US. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 20-33 ] There is only one known instance of any 9/11 hijacker visiting Pennsylvania before 9/11, and that was a three day trip by Ziad Jarrah to Philadelphia in June 2001. Interestingly, Jarrah was seen with an unknown older man during that trip (see June 3-4, 2001). It is unclear whether the unidentified male with Hanjour and Moqed is an associate of the hijackers, or whether one of the hijackers obtained a Pennsylvania driver’s license and the FBI and 9/11 Commission failed to uncover this.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office. [Source: FBI]The FBI’s Washington, DC, field office (WFO) holds a field training exercise in which various agencies practice their response to a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The exercise is led by Special Agent Christopher Combs on behalf of the FBI. [9/11 Commission, 8/5/2003 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/17/2011] Combs is the assistant WMD coordinator on the National Capital Response Squad—an antiterrorism rapid response unit—out of the WFO.
Exercise Is Based around a Chemical Weapons Attack - The exercise is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack, according to Combs. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 76; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/17/2011] Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department will later describe it as a “major chemical exercise,” presumably meaning it involves a hypothetical attack with a chemical weapon. It is held at an unspecified location in Fairfax County in Northern Virginia and is attended by “all the area fire departments, police departments, and the FBI,” Combs will say. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/17/2011; Arlington TV, 7/18/2011; Arlington TV, 10/8/2014] It is held on the Sunday before 9/11—September 9—according to Combs. [Kettl, 2008, pp. 203; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/17/2011] Other accounts, however, will state that it is held on September 8, the Saturday before 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 8/5/2003 ; Arlington TV, 7/18/2011; Arlington TV, 10/8/2014]
Exercise Improves the Response to the Pentagon Attack - Many people who participate in the exercise will be involved in the emergency response to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11. [Kettl, 2008, pp. 203] Combs, for example, will arrive at the Pentagon just minutes after the attack there and initially serve as the on-scene FBI commander at the crash site. [9/11 Commission, 8/5/2003 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 76] The exercise reportedly has a beneficial effect on the ability of its participants to respond to the Pentagon attack. It is “one more of those opportunities for us to not only get to know each other but [also to] figure out how we were going to interoperate with each other,” Schwartz will comment. Consequently, on September 11, there will already be “a great deal of understanding about how we were going to work together on this kind of an incident.” [Arlington TV, 7/18/2011] The FBI’s WFO and the Arlington County Fire Department, which participates in today’s exercise, regularly train together and often respond jointly to real-world incidents. [9/11 Commission, 8/5/2003 ]
Inova Fairfax Hospital. [Source: Inova Health System Media Services]A training exercise is held at Inova Fairfax Hospital, just outside Washington, DC, which is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a chemical weapon. [Washington Post, 11/8/2001; American Hospital Association, 2002, pp. 27 ; New York Times, 1/6/2002] The large-scale exercise involves local, state, and federal participants, although which particular agencies take part is unstated. It centers around a simulated attack on the Fairfax County courthouse with sarin, a deadly nerve gas. [American Hospital Association, 2002, pp. 27 ] The simulated scenario is intended to overwhelm the medical system with hundreds or thousands of victims. Dr. Thomas Mayer, chair of Inova Fairfax Hospital’s emergency department, will later explain: “You say, ‘Here’s the scenario: We have 160 victims. How do we triage them? Where will they go? How will they be handled?’” [New York Times, 1/6/2002]
Model Tested in the Exercise Works Well - The “command hospital communication concept” is tested in the exercise. This model involves the “command hospital”—Inova Fairfax, which has the appropriate communications system—serving as a link to other hospitals in the area and being responsible for ensuring that patients with specific needs are sent to the appropriate medical facilities. The exercise is reportedly a success. “Everything worked fine,” Patrick Walters, a senior vice president at Inova Health System, will say. [American Hospital Association, 2002, pp. 27 ; Condon-Rall, 2011, pp. 186]
Hospital Responds to the Pentagon Attack on September 11 - Inova Fairfax Hospital, the largest hospital in Northern Virginia, is located 10 miles from the Pentagon. [ACP Hospitalist, 1/2007; Washington Post, 10/10/2010] On September 11, it will activate its disaster plan following reports of the attacks on the World Trade Center (see (Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. B3 ] After being informed about the attack on the Pentagon, hospital officials will quickly clear over 200 beds for the anticipated casualties. [Washington Post, 11/8/2001] However, although the regional plan process works well when tested in today’s exercise, on September 11 it “didn’t work at all,” Walters will say. [American Hospital Association, 2002, pp. 28 ]
A training exercise is held at New York’s La Guardia Airport, based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a biological weapon. Mark Edelman, chief external relations officer of the Greater New York chapter of the American Red Cross, will later say the Greater New York chapter has been preparing for the possibility of a biological terrorist attack since the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). And today—“the very Saturday before September 11”—there is “a bioterror drill at La Guardia Airport,” he will add. Details of what the exercise involves are unstated. Whether any agencies other than the Red Cross participate in the exercise is also unstated. [Philanthropy News Digest, 12/7/2001] La Guardia Airport is located eight miles from midtown Manhattan in the borough of Queens, New York, and is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. [Bloomberg, 7/27/2015; Reuters, 7/27/2015] Another exercise is being held there today by the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, which is based around a simulated plane crash (see September 8, 2001). [Academic Emergency Medicine, 3/2002]
Steve Kanarian. [Source: Steve Kanarian]The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) holds a training exercise at New York’s La Guardia Airport, based around the scenario of a jet aircraft carrying about 150 passengers crashing at the end of the runway. [Academic Emergency Medicine, 3/2002; Kanarian, 2011, pp. 23] The exercise, called Operation Low Key, is an annual drill, which assesses the emergency preparedness response to aviation accidents at La Guardia Airport. [Kanarian, 2011, pp. 18]
Exercise Is Intended as Preparation for a Mass Casualty Incident - Before the exercise begins, its participants gather in a briefing room at the airport where Robert McCracken, chief of EMS operations, tells them the exercise is “an important drill for preparation for an aviation accident or a MCI [mass casualty incident].” The exercise commences when an announcement is made, informing participants that a “10-40”—a confirmed plane crash—has been reported at the airport. Participants in their emergency vehicles are then escorted across the runway by members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD). [Kanarian, 2011, pp. 21-23] (La Guardia Airport is run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. [Reuters, 7/27/2015] )
Exercise Is Regarded as 'a Job Well Done' - The participants arrive at the scene of the simulated crash where there is a plane, and mock casualties are strewn around the runway. To the left, a fire is burning, simulating a burning aircraft. The firefighters and EMS personnel then carry out their response to the mock disaster as if they were responding to a real incident. At the end of the exercise, they gather in the PAPD building at the airport and discuss the day’s events. They are “complimented on a job well done,” according to Steve Kanarian, an FDNY paramedic who participates in the exercise. [Kanarian, 2011, pp. 23-25] La Guardia Airport is eight miles from midtown Manhattan in the borough of Queens, New York. [Bloomberg, 7/27/2015; Reuters, 7/27/2015] Another exercise is being held there today by the Red Cross, which is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a biological weapon (see September 8, 2001). [Philanthropy News Digest, 12/7/2001] Three days later, on September 11, FDNY EMS personnel will receive a real report of a “10-40” and subsequently respond to the crashes at the World Trade Center. [Fire Engineering, 9/2002; JEMS, 9/7/2011]
Just two days before 9/11, the New York Times publishes an article on their website examining the threat of an al-Qaeda attack on US interests. The article focuses on a videotape made by bin Laden which was released in June 2001 (see June 19, 2001). The article notes that “When the two-hour videotape surfaced last June, it attracted little attention, partly because much of it was spliced from previous bin Laden interviews and tapes. But since then the tape has proliferated on Islamic Web sites and in mosques and bazaars across the Muslim world.” It further notes that in the video, bin Laden “promises more attacks.” Referring to the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, he says, “The victory of Yemen will continue.” He promises to aid Palestinians fighting Israel, an important shift in emphasis from previous pronouncements. He also praises the Taliban, suggesting that previous reports of a split between bin Laden and the Taliban were a ruse. The article comments, “With his mockery of American power, Mr. bin Laden seems to be almost taunting the United States.” [New York Times, 9/9/2001] Curiously, shortly after 9/11, the New York Times will remove the article from their website archive and redirect all links from the article’s web address, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/09/international/asia/09OSAM.html, to the address of another article written by the same author shortly after 9/11, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/12/international/12OSAM.html. (Note the dates contained within the addresses.)
National Security Adviser Rice, upset with a media leak, orders an investigation that will uncover evidence of widespread Israeli spying in the US. The Saudis had recently threatened to end their close alliance with the US (see August 27, 2001 and August 29-September 6, 2001), and on September 6, 2001, President Bush held a meeting attended by Rice and others to work on how to appease Saudi concerns (see September 6, 2001). Just three days after the meeting, there is a story by Jane Perlez in the New York Times accurately detailing what was discussed in the meeting. It will later be reported that Rice is furious about the leak to Perlez and immediately demands a clampdown on leakers. The determination to improve secrecy increases in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This leak investigation focuses on Israelis in the US. No one is ever prosecuted for the leak to Perlez, but the investigation will takes on a life of its own and continue for years. [New York Times, 9/9/2001; JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 5/17/2005; Nation, 7/14/2005] It appears the FBI had been investigating Israeli spying in the US since at least 1999 (see April 13, 1999-2004), and there are reports of a discovery of a “massive” Israeli spy operation in the US in 2001 (see 2001) and/or the discovery of the Israeli art student spy ring (see March 23, 2001 and June 2001). It is unclear if there is any connection between these investigations and this media link investigation or not.
Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) practice their responses to a simulated plane hijacking in which terrorists plan to blow up a hijacked airliner over New York City. The scenario is part of the annual NORAD training exercise Vigilant Guardian. [9/11 Commission, 2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 3] In the scenario, the fictitious hijackers take over a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft bound from London, Britain, to JFK International Airport in New York. According to a document later produced by the 9/11 Commission, the terrorist hijackers have explosives on the plane and “plan to detonate them over NYC.” As the scenario plays out, a “Blue Force” is able to divert the hijacked aircraft. When the terrorists then realize they are not near New York, they “detonate [the] explosives over land near the divert location.” There are no survivors. [9/11 Commission, 2004] NEADS is based in Rome, New York, and will play a key role in coordinating the US military’s response to the 9/11 attacks two days later. On the morning of September 11, its personnel will be scheduled to practice another scenario based around an aircraft hijacking, presumably as part of the same Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Ziad Jarrah. [Source: CNN]9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah is stopped in Maryland for speeding, ticketed, and released. No red flags show up when his name is run through the computer by the state police, even though he already had been questioned in January 2001 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the request of the CIA for “suspected involvement in terrorist activities” (see January 30, 2001) Baltimore’s mayor has criticized the CIA for not informing them that Jarrah was on the CIA’s watch list. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/13/2001; Associated Press, 12/14/2001] Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) will later make reference to Jarrah’s detention in the UAE and the fact that an arrest warrant had been put out for Mohamed Atta (see June 4, 2001), and comment, “Had local law enforcement been able to run the names of Jarrah and Atta against a watch list, it is likely that they would have been arrested and detained, and at least one team of hijackers would no longer have had a pilot.” [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 37] Three other hijackers are also stopped for speeding while they are in the US (see April 26, 2001).
Amrullah Saleh. [Source: Associated Press' Kamran Jebreili]Northern Alliance leader Amrullah Saleh calls the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center to inform it of the assassination of anti-Taliban commander Ahmed Shah Massoud (see September 9, 2001). His call is taken by Richard Blee, the manager responsible for Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit. Although Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, an expert on Afghanistan, realizes the assassination means “something terrible [is] about to happen” (see September 9, 2001), Blee does not appear to connect the assassination to a spike in warnings about an al-Qaeda attack against US interests, even though he has been briefing senior officials about this all summer (see May 30, 2001, June 28, 2001, July 10, 2001, and Late July 2001). The Northern Alliance realizes that the Taliban will attack them immediately, because they are leaderless, and Saleh asks for support from the CIA. However, some at the CIA think that the Northern Alliance has no chance without Massoud, who held it together. Other officers “[call] frantically around Washington to find a way to aid the rump Northern Alliance before it [is] eliminated.” The CIA informs the White House of the assassination, and the news soon leaks to CNN. This prompts the Northern Alliance to call again, this time complaining about the leak. [Coll, 2004, pp. 582-4]
President Bush’s first budget calls for $13.6 billion on counterterrorism programs, compared with $12.8 billion in President Clinton’s last budget and $2 billion ten years earlier. However, there are gaps between what military commanders say they need to combat terrorism and what they are slated to receive. These gaps are still unresolved on September 11. [Knight Ridder, 9/27/2001; Washington Post, 1/20/2002; Time, 8/12/2002]
9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar stay in a motel near a fundamentalist storefront mosque in Laurel, Maryland. The hijackers drop off two bags at the mosque, to which they attach a note stating: “gift for the brothers.” The FBI will recover the bags one day after the 9/11. An FBI document will identify the mosque at the Ayah Islamic Center, also known as the Ayah Dawah mosque. According to the 9/11 Commission, the bags contain “fruit, clothing, flight logs, and various other materials.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 53 ] The FBI will later reveal that the bags contain pilot log books, receipts, and other evidence documenting the brief flight training that Alhazmi and Almihdhar underwent in San Diego in early 2000. It is unclear why they would have kept the receipts, some mentioning their names, for over a year and then left them at a mosque to be found. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 273, 295 ] After 9/11, the FBI will investigate the mosque, asking people if they recognized any of the hijackers. They will determine the imam, Said Rageah, worked part-time raising money for the Global Relief Foundation. Shortly after 9/11, the US will declare this charity a terrorism financier and shut it down. The FBI will investigate him for over a year but ultimately will not find any link to the 9/1 attacks. [Washington Post, 1/6/2002; Newsweek, 9/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 53 ] Newsweek will later ask rhetorically, “Who are these mysterious brothers the hijackers left behind when they immolated themselves on September 11? Was that just the usual endearing term that fellow Muslims use for each other? Or is there a deeper connection?” [Newsweek, 9/30/2002]
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (right) in Afghanistan in 1988.
[Source: Public domain]Congressperson Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who has long experience in Afghanistan and even fought with the mujaheddin there, later will claim he immediately sees the assassination of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud (see September 9, 2001) as a sign that “something terrible [is] about to happen.” He is only able to make an appointment to meet with top White House and National Security Council officials for 2:30 pm. on September 11. The events of that morning will render the meeting moot. [US Congress, 9/17/2001]
At Boston’s Logan Airport, during the morning, businesswoman Jan Shineman is checking in for Flight 11 to Los Angeles, when she notices a man resembling 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta behaving suspiciously. She later recalls him wearing “summery, holiday-type clothes… and he had no baggage, just a folder with a notebook.” She sees him again at the gate for Flight 11, “taking notes, watching the pilots in the cockpit through the window by the gate. They were running through their pre-flight checks.” She decides, “if he had boarded I would have told the captain about him, he was so odd and frightening.” [Guardian, 7/5/2002; Corbin, 2003, pp. 229] Atta will return to Logan Airport and board Flight 11 to Los Angeles on 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1-2]
Pakistani ISI Director Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, who is visiting Washington (see September 4-11, 2001), meets with CIA Director George Tenet. In his 2007 book, Tenet will claim that he “tried to press” Mahmood to do something about Taliban support for bin Laden, since the Pakistani government has been supporting the Taliban since its creation in 1994. But Mahmood was supposedly “immovable when it came to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.” Tenet will say that Mahmood’s sole suggestion was the US should try bribing key Taliban officials to get them to turn over bin Laden. However, “even then he made it clear that neither he nor his service would have anything to do with the effort, not even to the extent of advising us whom we might approach.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 141-142]
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) commences Northern Vigilance, a military operation that involves it deploying fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian Air Force training exercise. The Russian exercise is scheduled to take place over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans from September 10 to September 14 (see September 10, 2001), and the NORAD fighters are set to stay in Alaska and Northern Canada until it ends. [BBC, 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; Washington Times, 9/11/2001] As well as conducting this operation, NORAD is currently running a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian, which “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see September 10, 2001, (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 458] The Russians will cancel their exercise on the morning of September 11 in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001), when they “knew NORAD would have its hands full,” according to the Toronto Star. [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] It is unknown from which bases NORAD sends fighters for Northern Vigilance and how many US military personnel are involved. However, in December 2000, it took similar action—called Operation Northern Denial—in response to a “smaller scale” Russian “long-range aviation activity in northern Russia and the Arctic.” More than 350 American and Canadian military personnel were involved on that occasion. [Canadian Chief of Defense Staff, 5/30/2001, pp. 6 ; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001]
Osama bin Laden calls his stepmother and says, “In two days, you’re going to hear big news and you’re not going to hear from me for a while.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/2/2001] US officials will later tell CNN that “in recent years they’ve been able to monitor some of bin Laden’s telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded.” [New York Times, 10/2/2001] Stepmother Al-Khalifa bin Laden, who raised Osama bin Laden after his natural mother died, is apparently waiting in Damascus, Syria, to meet Osama there, so he calls to cancel the meeting. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 10/7/2001] They had met periodically in recent years. Before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother. The next day government officials say about the call, “I would view those reports with skepticism.” [CNN, 10/2/2001] Bin Laden gave his natural mother a similar warning some months ago that was also overheard by the NSA (see Spring-Summer 2001).
US officials later will admit American agents had infiltrated al-Qaeda cells in the US, though how many agents and how long they had been in al-Qaeda remains a mystery. On this day, electronic intercepts connected to these undercover agents hear messages such as, “Watch the news” and “Tomorrow will be a great day for us.” When asked why these messages did not lead to boosted security or warnings the next day, officials will refer to them as “needles in a haystack.” What other leads may have come from this prior to this day will not be revealed. [USA Today, 6/4/2002] At least until February 2002, the official story will be that the “CIA failed to penetrate al-Qaeda with a single agent.” [ABC News, 2/18/2002]
Amr “Tony” Elgindy. [Source: San Diego Union Tribune]Amr Elgindy orders his broker to liquidate his children’s $300,000 trust account fearing a sudden crash in the market. He also tells his stockbroker that the Dow Jones average, then at 9,600, will fall to below 3,000. Elgindy is arrested in San Diego in May 2002, along with FBI agents Jeffrey Royer and Lynn Wingate, who, according to government prosecutors, were using their FBI positions to obtain inside information on various corporations. They also questioned whether Elgindy had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. [New York Times, 5/23/2002; London Times, 5/30/2002; New York Times, 6/8/2002] A report published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, however, casts some doubt on the government’s allegations. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/16/2002] In 2005, now former FBI agent Jeffrey Royer admits to giving Elgindy confidential details of federal investigations, including a probe of the 9/11 attacks. Royer claims he did it to use Elgindy’s knowledge to help develop evidence of criminal wrongdoing. A court case against Royer and Elgindy continues. [Associated Press, 1/5/2005]
A fifth grader in Dallas, Texas, casually tells his teacher, “Tomorrow, World War III will begin. It will begin in the United States, and the United States will lose.” The teacher reports the comment to the FBI, but does not know if they act on it at the time. The student skips the next two days of school. The event may be completely coincidental, but the newspaper that reports the story also notes that two charities, Holy Land Foundation and InfoCom, located in an adjacent suburb have been under investigation based on suspected fund-raising activities for Islamic militant organizations. One InfoCom employee had his name in the telephone book of Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s personal secretary, and he was seen with El-Hage as recently as 1998 (see September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001). [Houston Chronicle, 9/19/2001] The FBI investigates and decides “no further investigation [is] warranted.” [Houston Chronicle, 10/1/2001]
Patrick Fitzgerald was involved in the prosecution of all the major al-Qaeda legal cases in the US before 9/11. Just before 9/11, he switched to prosecuting political corruption cases and will later become known for prosecuting the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. On this day, he sends an e-mail to a colleague who is also switching from working on terrorism cases. He writes, “You can’t leave, they’re going to hit us again and someone has got to be around to work it.” [Observer, 2/12/2006]
John O’Neill, who is later described by the New Yorker magazine as the FBI’s “most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists,” recently retired from the bureau and started a new job as director of security at the World Trade Center (see August 23, 2001). [New Yorker, 1/14/2002] On this day he meets up with his old friend Raymond Powers, the former New York Police Department chief of operations, to discuss security procedures. Their conversation turns to Osama bin Laden. According to journalist and author Murray Weiss, “just as he had reiterated since 1995 to any official in Washington who would listen, O’Neill said he was sure bin Laden would attack on American soil, and expected him to target the Twin Towers again.” He says to Powers, “It’s going to happen, and it looks like something big is brewing.” [Weiss, 2003, pp. 355 and 359-360] Later on, O’Neill goes out in the evening with his friends Robert Tucker and Jerome Hauer. Again, he starts discussing bin Laden. He tells his friends, “We’re due. And we’re due for something big.” He says, “Some things have happened in Afghanistan. I don’t like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan.” This is probably a reference to the assassination of Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud the previous day (see September 9, 2001). He adds, “I sense a shift, and I think things are going to happen.” Asked when, he replies, “I don’t know, but soon.” [New Yorker, 1/14/2002; PBS, 10/3/2002] O’Neill will be in his office on the 34th floor of the South Tower the following morning when the first attack occurs, and dies when the WTC collapses. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 366; Fox News, 8/31/2004]
Luai Sakra. [Source: Associated Press]In his 2007 book At the Center of the Storm, former CIA Director George Tenet will write that on September 10, 2001, “a source we were jointly running with a Middle Eastern country went to see his foreign handler and basically told him that something big was about to go down. The handler dismissed him.” Tenet claims the warning was “frightening but without specificity.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 160] While Tenet will not mention the name of the source, his description perfectly matches a Syrian-born militant named Luai Sakra. Sakra will be arrested in Turkey in 2005 (see July 30, 2005) and reportedly will tell interrogators after his arrest, “I was one of the people who knew the 9/11 perpetrators, and I knew the plans and times beforehand.” He claims to have provided the pilots with passports and money (see September 2000-July 24, 2001). Der Spiegel will report, “Western investigators accept Sakra’s claims, by and large, since they coincide with known facts. On September 10, 2001, he tipped off the Syrian secret service… that terrorist attacks were about to occur in the United States. The evidently well-informed al-Qaeda insider even named buildings as targets, and airplanes as weapons. The Syrians passed on this information to the CIA—but only after the attacks.” [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/24/2005] In 2007, Sakra will also claim to have trained some of the 9/11 hijackers in Turkey starting in late 1999 (see Late 1999-2000). If Tenet is referring to Sakra, then it appears Sakra did develop a relationship with the CIA that continued at least through 9/11 (see 2000).
Sami Omar Hussayen, nephew of Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen.
[Source: Family photo]Three hijackers, Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, and Nawaf Alhazmi, check into the same hotel as a prominent Saudi government official, Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen. [Washington Post, 10/2/2003] Hussayen originally stayed at a different nearby hotel, but moved to this hotel on the same day the hijackers checked in. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 45] Investigators have not found any evidence that the hijackers met with Hussayen, and stress it could be a coincidence. [Daily Telegraph, 3/10/2003] However, one prosecutor working on a related case will assert, “I continue to believe it can’t be a coincidence.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/2/2003] An FBI agent will later say that Hussayen “may have had some connection to the attacks and is likely to have met with those funding the hijackers if not the hijackers themselves.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 45] Hussayen is interviewed by the FBI shortly after 9/11, but according to testimony from an FBI agent, the interview is cut short when Hussayen “feign[s] a seizure, prompting the agents to take him to a hospital, where the attending physicians [find] nothing wrong with him.” The agent recommends that Hussayen “should not be allowed to leave until a follow-up interview could occur.” [Washington Post, 10/2/2003] The agent returns to the hotel the next day, but finds Hussayen unhelpful. After she leaves, Hussayen calls the Saudi embassy, which contacts the FBI. Another, less aggressive agent is sent to talk to Hussayen and finds no additional information, so the FBI says he can leave the US. The first agent does not want him to go without answering her questions, but, according to authors Joe and Susan Trento, “Because of pressure from [Saudi ambassador to the US] Prince Bandar on the Bush administration… the agent’s superiors overruled her.” The superiors are not named. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 45] For most of the 1990s, Hussayen was director of the SAAR Foundation, a Saudi charity that is being investigated for terrorism ties and will be raided in early 2002 (see March 20, 2002). A few months after 9/11 he is named a minister of the Saudi government and put in charge of its two holy mosques. Hussayen had arrived in the US in late August 2001 planning to visit some Saudi-sponsored charities. Many of the charities on his itinerary, including the Global Relief Foundation, Muslim World League, IIRO (International Islamic Relief Organization), IANA (Islamic Assembly of North America), and World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), have since been shut down or investigated for alleged ties to Islamic militant groups. [Washington Post, 10/2/2003] His nephew, Sami Omar Hussayen, will be indicted in early 2004 for using his computer expertise to assist militant groups, and will be charged with administering a website associated with IANA, an organization which expressly advocated suicide attacks and using airliners as weapons in the months before 9/11. Investigators also will claim the nephew was in contact with important al-Qaeda figures. [Washington Post, 10/2/2003; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/10/2004] The nephew will be acquitted later in 2004 of the terrorism-related charges. The defense will not dispute that he posted messages advocating suicide bombings, but will argue that he had the Constitutional right to do so. The jury will deadlock on most of the counts. [Washington Post, 6/11/2004] IANA apparently will remain under investigation, as well as the flow of money from the uncle to nephew. [Daily Telegraph, 3/10/2003] The uncle is not charged with any crime. [Wall Street Journal, 10/2/2003]
Entity Tags: Khalid Almihdhar, Muslim World League, Nawaf Alhazmi, SAAR Foundation, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Sami Omar Hussayen, Susan Trento, Joseph Trento, Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen, International Islamic Relief Organization, Al-Qaeda, Bandar bin Sultan, Islamic Assembly of North America, Global Relief Foundation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hani Hanjour
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, from Qatar but a legal US resident, arrives in the US with his wife and five children, reportedly to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. [Peoria Journal Star, 12/19/2001; New York Times, 6/21/2004] Al-Marri appears to have been sent to the US by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). During his interrogation, KSM will identify al-Marri as “the point of contact for al-Qaeda operatives arriving in the US for September 11 follow-on operations.” He will describe al-Marri as “the perfect sleeper agent because he has studied in the United States, had no criminal record, and had a family with whom he could travel.” [Newsweek, 6/15/2003] However, there are doubts about the reliability of KSM’s interrogation, which is believed that have been obtained through the use of torture (see June 16, 2004). Al-Marri also lived in Illinois for part of 2000 under a different name. [New York Daily News, 1/11/2003] He is apparently related to Mohamed al-Khatani, who attempted to enter the US in August 2001 to join the 9/11 plot (see July 2002). [New York Times, 6/21/2004] In December 2001, al-Marri will be detained as a material witness to the 9/11 attacks (see December 12, 2001).
At 6:30 p.m., President Bush arrives at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 13; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] He is in Florida as part of a weeklong effort to place a national spotlight on education and reading, and visited a school in Jacksonville earlier in the day. [ABC News, 9/10/2001; Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), 9/10/2001] In preparation for the president’s visit to the resort, all guests have been cleared out of the building “to make way for the invasion of White House staffers, aides, communications technicians—even an antiterrorism unit.” Overnight, snipers and surface-to-air missiles are located on the roof of the Colony and adjacent structures, to protect the president. “The Coast Guard and the Longboat Key Police Department manned boats that patrolled the surf in front of the resort all night. Security trucks with enough men and arms to stop a small army parked right on the beach. An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane circled high overhead in the clear night sky.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 13 and 25; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Whether this is a typical level of security for a presidential visit, or is increased due to recent terror warnings, is unstated.
Silverstein Properties, Larry Silverstein’s company which took over the lease of the WTC weeks earlier (see July 24, 2001), has a meeting planned for the morning of 9/11 in it’s temporary offices on the 88th floor of the WTC North Tower, along with Port Authority officials. It is to discuss what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. However, this evening the meeting is canceled because one participant cannot attend. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; Ha'aretz, 11/21/2001] Of Silverstein Properties’ 160 staff, 54 are in the North Tower when it is hit, and four of them die. [Globe and Mail, 9/7/2002]
At least two messages in Arabic are intercepted by the NSA. One states, “The match is about to begin” and the other states, “Tomorrow is zero hour.” Later reports translate the first message as, “The match begins tomorrow.” [Reuters, 9/9/2002] The messages were sent between someone in Saudi Arabia and someone in Afghanistan. The NSA will claim that they are not translated until September 12, and that even if they had been translated in time, “they gave no clues that authorities could have acted on.” [ABC News, 6/7/2002; Reuters, 6/19/2002] Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Bob Graham will later confirm that the messages were from al-Qaeda sources—a location or phone number—that made them a high priority, but that they were not from bin Laden or one of his top commanders. [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 139] On the morning of September 12, 2001, the CIA will tell President Bush that a recently intercepted message from al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida referred to the 9/11 attacks as “zero hour,” but it is not clear if this is the same message or a different message (see September 12, 2001). These messages turn out to be only two of about 30 pre-9/11 communications from suspected al-Qaeda operatives or other militants referring to an imminent event. An anonymous official will say of these messages, including the “Tomorrow is zero hour” message: “You can’t dismiss any of them, but it does not tell you tomorrow is the day.” [Reuters, 9/9/2002] There will be a later attempt to explain the messages away by suggesting they referred to the killing of Afghan opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud the day before (see September 9, 2001). [Reuters, 10/17/2002]
The US Army applies for a patent on a new rifle-launched gas grenade which is purportedly meant for non-lethal crowd control. It is designed to release aerosols “selected from the group consisting of smoke, crowd control agents, biological agents, chemical agents, obscurants, marking agents, dyes and inks, chaffs and flakes.” [United States Patent and Trademark Office, 2/25/2003; Global Security Newswire, 5/28/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9/2003] The patent is approved in February (see February 25, 2002) .
A group of second-year students at the Army School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) produces a 68-page plan for sending peacekeepers to Israel in the event that the Israelis and Palestinians agree to a peace plan and the creation of a Palestinian state. Though the cover of the report indicates that the report has been written for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maj. Chris Garver, a Fort Leavenworth spokesman, says that it was only an academic exercise. An article about the report appears in the Washington Times on September 10, 2001. The report refers to Israel’s armed forces as a “500-pound gorilla in Israel” that is “well armed and trained” and is “known to disregard international law to accomplish mission.” Of the Mossad, the report says: “Wildcard. Ruthless and cunning. Has capability to target US forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act.” It describes Palestinian youths as “loose cannons; under no control, sometimes violent.” The SAMS officers write that US goals for the first 30 days of such a mission would be to “create conditions for development of Palestinian State and security of Israel”; ensure “equal distribution of contract value or equivalent aid” that would help legitimize the peacekeeping force and stimulate economic growth; “promote US investment in Palestine”; “encourage reconciliation between entities based on acceptance of new national identities”; and “build lasting relationship based on new legal borders and not religious-territorial claims.” [Washington Times, 9/10/2001]
Michele Heidenberger. [Source: Family photo]At least two of the four flight attendants who will be on American Airlines Flight 77—the third plane to be hijacked—on 9/11 are not originally scheduled to be on this plane, and are only assigned to it shortly before—or early in the morning of—September 11:
Michele Heidenberger regularly flies from Washington’s Reagan National Airport to Dallas. But she will tell a colleague she is working Flight 77 on 9/11 as she is building up vacation time so she can go to Italy in October. [Murphy, 2006, pp. 42-43]
Renee May is assigned to Flight 77 early in the morning of 9/11. Before she is offered the flight, American Airlines asks another attendant, Lena Brown, to take it, but Brown says she is unable to get to the airport in time. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/9/2002; Daily Reflector, 9/11/2002]
One of the pilots—either Charles Burlingame or David Charlebois—is also not originally scheduled to be on Flight 77 on September 11, and only accepts the flight shortly before then (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001] Many of the flight attendants who will be on the other three hijacked planes are also only assigned to those flights shortly before 9/11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).
Jeffrey Collman. [Source: Family photo]At least four of the nine flight attendants who will be on American Airlines Flight 11—the first plane to hit the World Trade Center—on 9/11 are not originally scheduled to be on this flight, but are assigned to it shortly before September 11 or early in the morning of 9/11:
Jeffrey Collman does not “normally work the Boston-to-Los Angeles route but [makes] an exception to get vacation time at the end of the month.” [Seattle Times, 9/17/2001]
Barbara “Bobbi” Arestegui accepts extra shifts as she is saving up her earned vacation time. [Cape Cod Times, 9/18/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/10/2002; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006]
Jean Roger is on a “standby” work list in September 2001. Someone calls in sick the morning of 9/11 and she takes their place. [Chicago Tribune, 9/15/2001; Boston Globe, 9/9/2003]
Sara Low is “not originally scheduled to work” Flight 11. [Associated Press, 9/25/2001]
John Ogonowski, the plane’s pilot, is also not originally scheduled to be on Flight 11, but requests to fly it shortly before September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). [Georgetown Record, 9/18/2003] Many of the flight attendants on the other three hijacked planes are also only assigned to those flights shortly before 9/11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).
Alan Beaven. [Source: Family photo / AP]Of the 33 passengers (excluding the four hijackers) who are on board Flight 93 on September 11, at least 16 are not originally booked on this flight, but arrange to be on it very shortly before 9/11, or—in some cases—on the morning of 9/11 itself:
Environmental lawyer Alan Beaven arranges to take Flight 93 to San Francisco the day before 9/11, as he is duty-bound to go there to help settle a case after talks have just broken down. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001; Sacramento Bee, 9/30/2001]
Todd Beamer would normally have flown the night of September 10, as he has a business meeting scheduled for later in the day of 9/11. But he delays his flight, as he wants some time with his children after returning from a trip to Italy. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2006] He usually flies Continental Airlines, but chooses United to save his company money. [Longman, 2002, pp. 18]
Edward Felt also usually flies Continental Airlines, but books himself onto Flight 93 at the last minute after his company gives him short notice of a meeting he needs to attend in San Francisco. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/15/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 194]
Mark Bingham should be flying on September 10, but delays his flight as he has a hangover after a friend’s birthday party. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001; Newsweek, 9/26/2001]
Deora Bodley is originally scheduled to fly from Newark to San Francisco on September 11 on United Airlines Flight 91. [Sacramento Bee, 9/14/2001] She decides on the night of September 10 to switch to Flight 93, as its departure time is more than an hour earlier. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001]
Lauren Grandcolas is booked on Flight 91, but on September 11 arrives early at the airport and switches to Flight 93. [Longman, 2002, pp. 12; MSNBC, 9/11/2006]
Husband and wife Donald and Jean Peterson are booked on Flight 91, but also arrive early and switch to Flight 93. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 13 and 16]
Christine Snyder calls the airport early in the morning of September 11 and transfers from Flight 91 to Flight 93 for an earlier start. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001]
Tom Burnett is scheduled for a later flight, but switches to Flight 93 to get home earlier. [Knight Ridder, 9/14/2001] According to journalist and author Jere Longman, he too is originally booked on Flight 91. [Longman, 2002, pp. 8] But the San Francisco Chronicle says he is originally booked on a Delta Airlines flight in the afternoon of 9/11. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001]
Georgine Corrigan switches flights when she checks in at the airport early in the morning of 9/11, so as to get home sooner; her original plane would make two stops on the way to San Francisco, but Flight 93 is non-stop. [Longman, 2002, pp. 12; Associated Press, 9/9/2006]
Jeremy Glick should be on a flight the night of September 10. According to some accounts there are problems due to a fire at Newark Airport. [Dallas Morning News, 9/17/2001] The flight is rerouted to JFK Airport in New York and is due to arrive in California at 3:00 a.m., which does not suit Glick. [MSNBC, 9/11/2006] But according to Newsweek, Glick is originally due to take Flight 93 on September 10, but misses it after getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001]
Nicole Miller’s original flight the night of September 10 is canceled due to a thunderstorm. [Saratoga News, 9/26/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 55] She is then unable to get a seat on the same flight as her close friend Ryan Brown, as this is full, so takes Flight 93 instead. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 10/20/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2006]
Toy-company executive Lou Nacke is called by his boss the evening of September 10 and told to take the first plane to San Francisco, in order to help a customer. [Newsweek, 9/26/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 124]
In the few days prior to September 11, sisters-in-law Patricia Cushing and Jane Folger move forward the time of their flight. [Longman, 2002, pp. 33 and 35]
Flight 93’s pilot is not originally meant to be flying on September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001), and at least three of the flight attendants are also assigned to Flight 93 at a late date (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). The 37 passengers (including the four hijackers) that are on board constitute just 20 percent of the plane’s passenger capacity of 182. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 36]
Entity Tags: Deora Bodley, Patricia Cushing, Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett, Christine Snyder, Nicole Miller, Mark Bingham, Alan Beaven, Lauren Grandcolas, Lou Nacke, Edward Felt, Georgine Corrigan, Donald Peterson, Jean Peterson, Jane Folger, Jeremy Glick
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, misses a chance to capture an unnamed high-ranking al-Qaeda leader in the Netherlands. The US intelligence community learned of the chance through intercepts of al-Qaeda communications, but there is a battle over access to such intelligence. The NSA, which acquires the information, insists that it will not provide the CIA will full transcripts of calls between al-Qaeda members that it intercepts, but only with summaries of them, which the CIA finds less useful. In this case, there is a delay by the NSA in preparing the summary, and by the time it is passed to Alec Station, the al-Qaeda leader is no longer within reach. [Newsweek, 8/21/2007]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld blasts the Pentagon bureaucracy. In a speech to kick off the Pentagon’s “Acquisition and Logistics Excellence Week,” Rumsfeld tells his audience: “The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America. This adversary is one of the world’s last bastions of central planning.… With brutal consistency, it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas. It disrupts the defense of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at risk.… The adversary [is] Pentagon bureaucracy. Not the people, but the processes.… In this building, despite the era of scarce resources taxed by mounting threats, money disappears into duplicate duties and bloated bureaucracy—not because of greed, but gridlock. Innovation is stifled—not by ill intent, but by institutional inertia.” [US Department of Defense, 9/10/2001; Roberts, 2008, pp. 140] He also announces that the US military is missing over $2 trillion (see September 10, 2001).
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which is responsible for detecting and responding to any attack on the mainland United States, is in the early stages of a major training exercise called Vigilant Guardian that is to take place off the shores of the northeastern US and Canada. The exercise is not scheduled to really take off until the following day, September 11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but simulated intelligence briefings and meetings are now being held to set the stage for the mock engagements to come. According to author Lynn Spencer, Vigilant Guardian “is the kind of war game that the Russians usually respond to, even in this post-Cold War era.” The Russians have in fact announced that they will be deploying aircraft to several of their “Northern Tier” bases on September 11. Russian jets have penetrated North American airspace during previous NORAD exercises, and Colonel Robert Marr, the commander of NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), has prepared for them to do so again during the current exercise. If this happens, armed US fighter jets will intercept the Russian aircraft and escort them back to their own territory. In case there is any confrontation, Marr has ordered that his alert fighter jets be loaded with additional fuel and weapons. According to Spencer, on September 11, all alert fighters will be “loaded with live missiles in anticipation of any show of force that might be needed to respond to the Russians.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 3-5] NORAD has already announced that it is deploying fighters to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian air force exercise being conducted in the Russian Arctic and North Pacific Ocean throughout this week (see September 9, 2001). [BBC, 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001] According to the 9/11 Commission, the Vigilant Guardian exercise will in fact postulate “a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 458]
Staff members at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) are apparently briefed on the possibility of terrorists deliberately crashing a plane into the World Trade Center. According to author Lynn Spencer, when Trey Murphy—a former US Marine who is now a weapons controller at NEADS—first sees the television footage on September 11 showing that a plane has hit the WTC, the news will bring to mind one of his briefings: “What if a terrorist flies an airplane with a weapon of mass destruction into the World Trade Center? It had always been one of the military’s big fears.… [T]he image on the [television] screen certainly reminded him of his briefing.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 179] It is also later reported that, in the two years prior to 9/11, NORAD conducts exercises simulating terrorists crashing hijacked aircraft into targets that include the WTC (see Between September 1999 and September 10, 2001). [USA Today, 4/18/2004] Yet, in May 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will claim, “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center… that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile” (see May 16, 2002). [White House, 5/16/2002] And in 2004, NORAD commander General Ralph Eberhart will say, “Regrettably, the tragic events of 9/11 were never anticipated or exercised.” [USA Today, 4/18/2004]
The night before 9/11, two men are observed behaving suspiciously on a United Airlines flight from San Diego to Boston. This is according Elaine Lawrence, who is one of the plane’s flight attendants. She later recalls that the men—one who appears Middle Eastern, the other Caucasian—upgrade from coach to first class, and then sit “on the left side of the plane, seats 3A and 3B,” near the cockpit door. She will comment: “It was really weird. They didn’t eat, they didn’t sleep, they didn’t watch the movie. Why upgrade?” Furthermore, she recalls: “[W]hen we were getting close to Boston they asked if we could see the World Trade Center towers. ‘Do we see the towers?’ the guy kept asking. I told him we wouldn’t be going by New York.” After the attacks the following day, she will call the FBI and inform them of this incident. Lawrence was in fact originally scheduled to be an attendant on Flight 175—the second plane to hit the WTC—on 9/11. However, as she is planning to go on vacation, she has traded shifts with another flight attendant, Amy Jarret (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/23/2001]
Andrew Warren, a CIA officer who will later be accused of date rape (see September 2007 and February 17, 2008), leaves the agency to work in the financial sector in New York. Warren was midway through his first assignment with the CIA, apparently in Iraq or Kuwait (see (1997)). [Los Angeles Times, 1/29/2009; Guardian, 1/29/2009] Warren will be working in New York on the day of 9/11. According to his website, after the first plane hits the World Trade Center he walks out of the Travelers Building, possibly indicating he works for the Travelers Companies. Warren then attempts to call his brother and sister, who work in the area and travel inside the WTC. Unable to contact them because of cell phone problems, he walks to the midtown area, where he finds a landline and gets through to them, reassuring himself of their safety. Warren will also recall “thousands of people walking up the West Side Highway,” “reports of car bombs… in the Battery Park area,” and “National Guardsmen on 5th Avenue carrying M-16 rifles with bayonets fixed and unsheathed.” [Peopleoftheveil(.com), 3/2002] Warren will later re-join the CIA (see After September 11, 2001).
Personnel at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, practice for the scenario of an aircraft being hijacked by Cuban asylum seekers. The scenario is part of the annual NORAD training exercise, Vigilant Guardian. [9/11 Commission, 2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 3] In the scenario, the fictitious hijackers take over an Ilyushin IL-62 jet airliner that took off from Havana, Cuba. The hijackers, who are “demanding political asylum, demand to be taken to” New York City, according to a document later produced by the 9/11 Commission. As the scenario plays out, the FAA requests support from NORAD. The FAA directs the plane toward Jacksonville, Florida, but the hijackers then demand to be taken to Atlanta, Georgia. Finally, the hijacked plane lands safely at Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia. [9/11 Commission, 2004] The following morning, September 11, personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, are scheduled to practice what is apparently a similar plane hijacking scenario, presumably as part of the same Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Vanity Fair, that scenario will involve “politically motivated perpetrators” seeking asylum “on a Cuba-like island.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
The US military reduces the Information Operations Condition (Infocon) to Normal—the lowest possible threat level—less than 12 hours before the 9/11 attacks commence, reportedly due to reduced fears of attacks on computer networks.
Level Reduced Due to 'Decreased Threat' - The Infocon level is lowered to Normal, meaning there is no special threat, at 9:09 p.m. this evening. The reason for this, according to historical records for the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, is “a decreased threat from hacker and virus attacks on the computer networks across the US.” [Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/3/2001; 1st Fighter Wing History Office, 12/2001] Since October 1999, the commander of the US Space Command has been in charge of Defense Department computer network defense, and has had the authority to declare Infocon levels. [IAnewsletter, 12/2000 ] General Ralph Eberhart, the current commander of both the US Space Command and NORAD, is thus responsible for evaluating the threat to US military computers and issuing information conditions—“Infocons”—to the US military. He is presumably therefore responsible for lowering the Infocon level this evening.
Higher Infocon Level Requires More Precautions - It is unclear what difference the reduced Infocon level makes. But an e-mail sent earlier in the year from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, where NORAD and the US Space Command are headquartered, revealed the steps to be taken when the Infocon level is raised one level from Normal, to Alpha. These steps include “changing passwords, updating keys used to create classified communication lines, minimizing cell phone use, backing up important documents on hard drive, updating virus protection on home computers, reporting suspicious activity, and reviewing checklists.” [Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/3/2001]
Level Increased Earlier in Year - It is also unclear what the Infocon level was prior to being reduced this evening and why it had been at that raised level. Pentagon networks were raised to Infocon Alpha for the first time at the end of April this year, as a precaution against attacks on US systems, after Chinese hackers warned of such attacks in Internet chat room postings. [United Press International, 4/30/2001; Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/3/2001; United Press International, 7/24/2001] The Infocon level was raised to Alpha a second time in late July, due to the threat posed by the Code Red computer virus. [United Press International, 7/24/2001; US Department of Defense, 7/24/2001] It will be raised again, from Normal to Alpha, during the morning of September 11, immediately after the second attack on the World Trade Center takes place (see 9:04 a.m. September 11, 2001). [1st Fighter Wing History Office, 12/2001]
System Intended to Protect Defense Department Computers - The Joint Chiefs of Staff established the Infocon system in March 1999 in response to the growing and sophisticated threat to Defense Department information networks. The system is intended as a structured, coordinated approach to defend against and react to attacks on Defense Department systems and networks. Reportedly, it “provides a structured, operational approach to uniformly heighten or reduce defensive posture, defend against unauthorized activity, and mitigate sustained damage to the defense information infrastructure.” It is analogous to other Defense Department alert systems, such as Defense Condition (Defcon) and Threat Condition (Threatcon). The Infocon system comprises five levels of threat, each with its own procedures for protecting systems and networks. These levels go from Normal, through Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, up to Delta, which, according to Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, is when “You’re currently under an absolutely massive hack attack, from a variety of means, from a variety of sources. You’re talking a very concerted, focused attack effort to get into [Defense Department] systems.” [IAnewsletter, 12/2000 ; General Accounting Office, 3/29/2001 ; US Department of Defense, 7/24/2001]
The Special Routing Arrangement Service (SRAS), which is run by the National Communications System (NCS), is turned on for “exercise mode,” meaning it is ready to be utilized the following day in response to the terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] The NCS, which is part of the Department of Defense, is a relatively small agency established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and which is intended to ensure the uninterrupted availability of critical communications networks during times of national crisis. It is mandated to insure that critical telephony and data continue to flow, even when the US is under attack. [Verton, 2003, pp. 136; Clarke, 2004, pp. 20; National Communications System, 10/21/2007]
System Is 'Miraculously' Ready to Function on September 11 - Brenton Greene, the director of the NCS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that “[o]n the 10th of September, miraculously, the SRAS… system was turned on for exercise mode, and thus it was ready to function on September 11.” A summary of Greene’s interview with the Commission will indicate that the SRAS is related to the highly secret Continuity of Government (COG) plan. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] This plan aims to ensure that the federal government will continue to function in the event of an attack on the US, and it will be activated for the first time on September 11 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004; ABC News, 4/25/2004] The SRAS reportedly provides “a vehicle for continuity of operations by providing survivable communications linkages to federal and defense end users over the public network.” [Department of Homeland Security, 5/2007 ] Whether the SRAS is turned on for “exercise mode” because the NCS or its National Coordinating Center (NCC) in Arlington, Virginia, are conducting or participating in a training exercise is unstated.
SRAS Relates to Continuity of Government Program - Greene will tell the 9/11 Commission that one of the NCS’s three main programs relates to COG. “The main communications system of the country must be kept going or no one can communicate,” he will say. Therefore, “There is a separate network linking the National Coordinating Center and the major carriers and networks as a backup.” According to Greene, “In the situation where Continuity of Government is put into play, there is a communications system where no one can trace the site of the call on either end.” (Presumably this is a reference to the SRAS.) This backup communications network, according to Greene, will prove “its value as a separate link on 9/11, because it coordinated network use between Network Operations Centers while the network was saturated.” [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ]
NCS Plays Important Role on 9/11 - Robert Kenny, the director of media relations for the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, will later recall, “We found that [the NCS] program was very helpful during September 11.” [CNET News, 1/16/2009] The NCC will be activated that day in response to the attacks (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will support subsequent recovery efforts. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] Earlier that morning, the CIA will actually be giving a briefing to the NCS about the international terrorist threat to the US’s telecommunications infrastructure (see 8:00 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Verton, 2003, pp. 135-139]
Suzanne Giesemann. [Source: Suzanne Giesemann]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gives a warning to be prepared for a domestic terrorist attack at any time, because the conditions are right for such an attack to occur. Shelton will later recall issuing the warning in a speech he gives at a conference on global terrorism. He ends the speech with the admonition to “be on your toes,” because, he will recall, “conditions were such that a domestic terrorist attack could occur at any time.” Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann, an aide to the chairman, will similarly recall that Shelton ends his conference speech with a warning “to prepare for a terrorist attack at any time and any place.” According to Shelton, the conference takes place the week before September 11, but Giesemann will say it takes place several weeks before September 11. Further details of the conference, such as where it is being held and who else is attending it, are unstated. Both Shelton and Giesemann will be reminded of the chairman’s prophetic warning when they are first notified of the attacks in New York on 9/11 (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431]
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who, with Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), has sent a copy of draft legislation on counterterrorism and national defense to Vice President Cheney’s office on July 20, is told by Cheney’s top aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby on this day “that it might be another six months before he would be able to review the material.” [Dianne Feinstein, 5/17/2002; Newsweek, 5/27/2002]
9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta calls 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Afghanistan. KSM gives final approval to Atta to launch the attacks. The specifics of the conversation haven’t been released. [Independent, 9/15/2002] Unnamed intelligence officials later tell Knight Ridder Newspapers that the call is monitored by the NSA, but only translated after the 9/11 attacks. KSM, “using coded language, [gives] Atta final approval” for the attacks. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002] NSA monitored other calls between KSM and Atta in the summer of 2001 but did not share the information about this with other agencies (see Summer 2001). Additionally, it will later be revealed that an FBI squad built an antenna in the Indian Ocean some time before 9/11 with the specific purpose of listening in on KSM’s phone calls, so they may have learned about this call to Atta on their own (see Before September 11, 2001).
The US military never uses its elite units to hunt Osama bin Laden or any other al-Qaeda leaders before 9/11. US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is said to have less than 1000 operatives, mainly Navy Seals and Army Delta Force, which are the most trained and qualified personnel in the US for hunting fugitives. Professor Richard Shultz at Tufts University’s Fletcher School will be commissioned by the Pentagon shortly after 9/11 to research why such special forces were not used before 9/11 to hunt bin Laden or other al-Qaeda leaders. He will find that US military leaders always said they needed better intelligence. They did a lot of planning but took no action. Shultz will say, “It’s your strike force, and yet it was never used once for its primary mission before Sept. 11.” JSOC forces will have more successes after 9/11, including playing roles in the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006 (see June 8, 2006). [San Francisco Examiner, 3/2/2007]
Attorney General John Ashcroft rejects a proposed $58 million increase in financing for the FBI’s counterterrorism programs. The money would have paid for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 additional analysts and 54 additional translators. On the same day, he sends a request for budget increases to the White House. It covers 68 programs—but none of them relate to counterterrorism. He also sends a memorandum to his heads of departments, stating his seven priorities—none of them relate to counterterrorism. [Guardian, 5/21/2002; New York Times, 6/1/2002; New York Times, 6/2/2002] He further proposes cutting a program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants for equipment like radios and preparedness training from $109 million to $44 million. Yet Ashcroft stopped flying public airplanes in July due to an as yet undisclosed terrorist threat (see July 26, 2001), and in a July speech he proclaimed, “Our No. 1 priority is the prevention of terrorist attacks.” [New York Times, 2/28/2002]
Credit card receipts later discovered by the FBI apparently show that alleged lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is in Manhattan on this day. According to FBI agents, he visits the observation deck on the 107th floor of the south WTC tower. CNN will report, “Officials speculate Atta may have been in New York… to program the towers’ location into a global positioning system.” A global positioning system (GPS) uses satellite technology to pinpoint any location on Earth. According to the FBI, Atta bought himself such a device, costing about $500, by mail order. [ABC News, 5/22/2002; CNN, 5/22/2002] Investigators will reportedly consider this trip necessary, “because they believe the hijackers were too inexperienced to handle the jumbo jets without help.” [New York Daily News, 5/22/2002] BBC reporter Jane Corbin points out that Atta was also witnessed at Boston’s Logan Airport the previous morning (see September 9, 2001), where he could have entered start-point co-ordinates for his 9/11 flight into the GPS device. [Corbin, 2003, pp. 230] However, there is no mention of Atta’s New York visit in the 9/11 Commission Report. According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, Atta spent the previous night at the Milner Hotel in Boston, and then shortly after noon on this day is in Boston where he picks up Abdulaziz Alomari and drives to Portland, Maine. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] The 200-mile journey from Boston to New York takes approximately four hours by car. [MIT, 5/25/2006] So if Mueller’s account is correct, it seems difficult to comprehend Atta having time to travel to New York, go up the WTC, make purchases on his credit card, and then return to Boston, all in the space of one morning. An article in the New York Post will in fact claim that the person in Manhattan was “a distinguished renal and gene specialist at Johns Hopkins University Hospital” in Baltimore, Maryland. This man, who is also called Mohamed Atta, happened to have visited New York in the days before 9/11, “for a whirlwind weekend with his new bride.” The article claims that it had erroneously been reported that alleged hijacker Mohamed Atta “was casing the Twin Towers days before Sept. 11—even after the FBI concluded it was just the kidney doctor, who had planned to take his wife to Windows on the World for dinner in the North Tower.” [New York Post, 5/28/2002]
Amy Jarret. [Source: Family photo]At least four of the seven flight attendants who will be on United Airlines Flight 175—the second plane to hit the World Trade Center—on 9/11 are not originally supposed to take this flight, and are only assigned to be on it shortly before September 11:
Amy Jarret will be on Flight 175 because she switches shifts with one of the original attendants, Elaine Lawrence. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/23/2001]
Robert Fangman takes the place of attendant Elise O’Kane, who accidentally enters an incorrect code into the computer when signing up for flights, and is instead scheduled for flights to Denver during September 2001. [Boston Globe, 5/22/2005; CNN, 10/8/2005]
Lauren Gurskis reschedules herself to a September 12 flight so she can drive her son to his first day of kindergarten. Kathryn Laborie is most likely the attendant who takes her place. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002]
Barbara McFarland swaps shifts with another attendant so she can spend an extra day with her son. The attendant that replaces her is unstated. [Cape Cod Times, 9/14/2001; Cape Cod Times, 3/10/2002]
Many of the flight attendants who will be on the other three hijacked planes are also only assigned to those flights shortly before 9/11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).
Wanda Green. [Source: Family photo]Of the five flight attendants who will be on United Airlines Flight 93—the fourth hijacked aircraft—on 9/11, at least three are not originally scheduled to be on this flight, but are assigned to it late:
Sandra Bradshaw picks “up Flight 93 late in the planning.” She trades flights with another attendant. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Greensboro News-Record, 9/3/2006]
Wanda Green is originally scheduled to fly on September 13, but requests a change of shift due to commitments in her other job as a real estate agent. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 23]
Deborah Welsh usually avoids early morning flights, but agrees to trade shifts with another worker. [Chicago Tribune, 10/2/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; Associated Press, 9/9/2006]
The pilot, Jason Dahl, is also not originally meant to be on Flight 93 on September 11, but trades a trip later in the month in order to fly on that day (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). And at least 16 of the passengers on Flight 93 only book onto it at a late date (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001). Many of the flight attendants who will be on the other three hijacked planes are also only assigned to those flights shortly before 9/11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001).
In a public speech to the Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announces that the Department of Defense “cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” CBS later calculates that 25 percent of the yearly defense budget is unaccounted for, and quotes a long-time defense budget analyst: “[Their] numbers are pie in the sky. The books are cooked routinely year after year.” Coverage of this rather shocking story is nearly nonexistent given the events of the next day. [US Department of Defense, 9/10/2001; CBS News, 1/29/2002] In April 2002 it will be revealed that $1.1 trillion of the missing money comes from the 2000 fiscal year. Auditors won’t even quantify how much money is missing from fiscal year 2001, causing “some [to] fear it’s worse” than 2000. The Department of the Army will state that it won’t publish a stand-alone financial statement for 2001 because of “the loss of financial-management personnel sustained during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.” [Insight, 4/29/2002] This $1.1 trillion plus unknown additional amounts continues to remain unaccounted for, and auditors say it may take eight years of reorganization before a proper accounting can be done. [Insight, 8/21/2003]
The domestic terrorism task force announced by President Bush and Vice President Cheney in May 2001 is just gearing up. Cheney appointed Admiral Steve Abbot to lead the task force in June, but he does not receive his White House security pass until now. Abbot has only hired two staffers and been working full time for a few days prior to 9/11. The task force was to have reported to Congress by October 1, 2001, a date they could not have met. [New York Times, 12/27/2001; Congressional Quarterly, 4/15/2004]
Hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari using an ATM in Portland, Maine, on September 10, at 8:41 p.m. Mohamed Atta can be seen further back in the first and last image.
[Source: FBI]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari arrive in Portland, Maine, where they spend the night. In October 2001, the FBI will release detailed information and photographs of the two hijackers in the town in an apparent attempt to find out from the public more about what they were doing there. According to the FBI, the pair leave Boston in the afternoon in a blue Nissan Altima and drive to South Portland, where they check into a Comfort Inn around 5:45 p.m. They are caught on security cameras visiting a gas station, two ATMs, and shopping at a Wal-Mart. The next morning they fly back to Boston, where they board the airplane they will hijack. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001; Boston Herald, 10/5/2001; Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/12/2001] In September 2002, the New York Times speculates, “There have been many theories [for going to Portland]: that they made contact with a confederate in Portland who gave them the final go-ahead, or more likely, that by arriving on a connecting flight, they would avoid the security check in Boston. None of those explanations seems entirely satisfactory, given the risk….” [New York Times, 9/11/2002] The 9/11 Commission will later speculate that the most “plausible theory” is that the hijackers make the trip so as to help avoid suspicion that might be created from all ten hijackers departing on Boston flights arriving in the Boston airport at roughly the same time. [Washington Post, 2/13/2005]
The Pink Pony strip club. [Source: Durand Patrick / Corbis]In the Pink Pony strip club in Daytona Beach, Florida the night before the 9/11 attacks, three men make anti-American sentiments and talk of impending bloodshed. One says, “Wait ‘til tomorrow. America is going to see bloodshed.” These are not any of the hijackers, since they had all left Florida by this time, but it is suspected these men knew the hijackers. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; MSNBC, 9/23/2001] Mohamed Atta is said to have regularly frequented the same bar (see Before September 11, 2001). However, in September 2002, the St. Petersburg Times will report, “Some other famous terrorist sightings never panned out, including that of the manager at a Daytona Beach strip club, who told the world he heard three men spewing anti-American venom and predicting bloodshed the night of Sept. 10. When his story seemed to change with each telling, law enforcement moved on.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/1/2002]
Members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team. [Source: Training and Simulation Journal]The FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) goes to California for a week of training and is therefore stranded away from Washington, DC, when it is required to help in the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 75] The CIRG is “the unit that coordinates the FBI’s rapid response to crisis incidents, including terrorist attacks,” according to Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office. Its members arrive in San Francisco this evening to participate in a week of special weapons and tactics (SWAT)-related field training. [Darling, 2010, pp. 74-75] While the 9/11 attacks are underway, NBC News will report that the FBI is in a state of “chaos,” partly because of the CIRG being stranded in California (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] On the afternoon of September 11, the White House will arrange for the CIRG to return to Washington as a matter of priority (see (3:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and the unit’s members will be flown back later that day (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-76]
Unit Created to Respond to Terrorist Incidents - The CIRG would be a valuable resource for responding to the 9/11 attacks. The unit was established in 1994 “to give the FBI the ability to respond with the tactical and investigative expertise needed in a major terrorist incident,” according to the Congressional Research Service. It has crisis managers, hostage negotiators, behavioral scientists, surveillance assets, and agents that it can utilize. [United States General Accounting Office, 9/1997, pp. 40 ; Brake, 4/19/2001, pp. 9-10 ] The CIRG also has a “seven-step approach” it follows, which uses “active listening” to defuse a crisis. According to the Indian Express, “by showing support and empathy, [CIRG] negotiators often can talk a hijacker into surrendering largely by listening.” [Law Enforcement Bulletin, 8/1997; Indian Express, 12/29/1999]
Hostage Rescue Team Serves as Domestic Counterterrorism Unit - The tactical centerpiece of the CIRG is the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), a full-time team headquartered in Quantico, Virginia, that is able to deploy to any location within four hours of notification. Its skills include hostage rescue tactics, precision shooting, and tactical site surveys. [United States General Accounting Office, 9/1997, pp. 40 ; Brake, 4/19/2001, pp. 10 ] The HRT was created to give civilian law enforcement agencies a counterterrorist community comparable to that which exists in the military. Many of its members have a military background. [Training and Simulation Journal, 2/2009] According to Darling, the HRT is ”the domestic counterterrorism unit, offering a tactical resolution option in hostage and high-risk law enforcement situations.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 7]
A Tu-95 Bear bomber. [Source: Unknown]The Russian Air Force begins a major training exercise over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans that is scheduled to last all week, ending on September 14, and which is being monitored by US fighter aircraft. The exercise is set to include the participation of strategic Tu-160 Blackjack, Tu-95 Bear, and Tu-22 bombers, along with IL-78 tanker aircraft. It will involve the strategic bombers staging a mock attack against NATO planes that are supposedly planning an assault on Russia, and is set to include practice missile attacks. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has sent fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor the Russian exercise (see September 9, 2001). [BBC, 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; Washington Times, 9/11/2001] NORAD is conducting its own exercise this week called Vigilant Guardian, which, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union” (see September 10, 2001, (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 458] Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, will later comment that when the Russians hold an exercise, “NORAD gets involved in an exercise, just to make sure that they understand we know that they’re moving around and that they’re exercising.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002] But NORAD has stated, “[I]t is highly unlikely that Russian aircraft [participating in the exercise] would purposely violate Canadian or American airspace.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001] The Russians will promptly cancel their exercise on September 11, in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001). [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]
Florida Air National Guard crew chiefs and a pilot scrambling to an F-15 during an alert drill at Homestead Air Reserve Base. [Source: Airman]Fighter jets that are scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in response to suspicious or unidentified aircraft in US airspace are able to take off within minutes of receiving a scramble order, in the years preceding 9/11. [Airman, 1/1996; Cape Cod Times, 9/15/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 117] NORAD keeps a pair of fighters on “alert” at a number of sites around the US. These fighters are armed and fueled, ready for takeoff. [American Defender, 4/1998; Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] Even before 9/11, the fighters are regularly scrambled to intercept errant aircraft (see 1990-2001). [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 4; Associated Press, 8/14/2002]
Pilots Stay Close to Their Aircraft - Pilots on alert duty live near to their fighters, so they will be ready for a prompt takeoff if required. Author Lynn Spencer will write that pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia “live, eat, and sleep just steps from jets.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 117] According to Major Martin Richard, a pilot with the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, “Every day” at his base, “365 days a year, 24 hours a day, at least two fighter pilots and four maintenance personnel ate, slept, and lived nestled adjacent to three fully loaded F-15 jets.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 8]
Fighters Can Get Airborne in Minutes - The fighters on alert are required to be in the air within minutes of a scramble order. General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on 9/11, will tell the 9/11 Commission that they “have to be airborne in 15 minutes.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Richard will write that the objective of the alert pilots at his base is “to be airborne in 10 minutes or less if the ‘horn’ went off.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 8] According to other accounts, fighters on alert are generally airborne in less than five minutes. Airman magazine reports in 1996 that NORAD’s alert units “work around the clock, and usually have five minutes or less to scramble when the warning klaxon sounds.” [Airman, 1/1996] A few days after 9/11, the Cape Cod Times will report that, “if needed,” the fighters on alert at Otis Air Base “must be in the air within five minutes.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/15/2001] According to Spencer, pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base are “always just five minutes away from rolling out of the hangars in their armed fighters.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 117] Captain Tom Herring, a full-time alert pilot at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, says in 1999, “If needed, we could be killing things in five minutes or less.” [Airman, 12/1999] In 1994, NORAD is planning to reduce the number of alert sites in the continental United States and, according to a report published that year by the General Accounting Office, “Each alert site will have two fighters, and their crews will be on 24-hour duty and ready to scramble within five minutes.” [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 16]
'Everything Else Just Stops' following Scramble Order - Once an order to scramble is received, alert pilots try to get airborne as quickly as they can. According to Richard, being a pilot sitting on alert is “akin to being a fireman.” Richard will later recall that when the horn goes off, signaling for him to get airborne, “no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had to swiftly don my anti-g suit, parachute harness, and helmet, run to the jet where my maintenance crew was waiting, fire up the powerful jet engines, and check all of the systems while simultaneously talking with the Otis command post who had a direct feed from NEADS [NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector]. When the horn blew, a frantic, harrowing race into a high pressure situation ensued.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 8] Herring says: “We go full speed when that klaxon sounds and people know not to get in front of us, because we take scrambles very seriously.… We’re fired up about what we do and we’re the best at what we do.” [Airman, 12/1999] Technical Sergeant Don Roseen, who keeps the alert fighters at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida ready for instant takeoff, says in 1999 that these fighters are “hot and cocked, they are ready.” Roseen says that when the klaxon goes off, “everything else just stops.”
Suspicious Aircraft 'Could Be a Terrorist' - When they are taking off, pilots may be unaware exactly why they are being scrambled. Major Steve Saari, an alert pilot at Tyndall Air Force Base, says: “There are several different things you could run into and you don’t know until you’re airborne. And sometimes you can’t tell until you have a visual identification.” Saari says: “The unknown [aircraft] could be something as simple as a lost civilian or it could be somebody defecting from Cuba. It could be a terrorist or anything in-between.” [American Defender, 3/1999] According to Airman magazine, the unidentified aircraft might be “Cuban MiGs, drug traffickers, smugglers, hijackers, novice pilots who’ve filed faulty flight plans, or crippled aircraft limping in on a wing and a prayer.” [Airman, 12/1999]
Intercepted Aircraft Could Be Shot Down - Fighters can respond in a number of ways when they intercept a suspect aircraft. In 2011, Jeff Ford—at that time the aviation and security coordinator for the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Interagency Coordination Directorate—will say that before 9/11, scrambled fighters can “intercept the aircraft, come up beside it, and divert it in the right direction toward an airfield or find out what the problems are in order to assist.” [Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] According to MSNBC: “[I]nterceptors can fly alongside a plane to see who’s flying it. They can also try to force it off course. Once it is apparent that it is not following directions, it might be forced over the ocean or to a remote airport—or even shot down.” [MSNBC, 9/12/2001] On September 11, 2001, NEADS will scramble fighters that are kept on alert in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27]
Entity Tags: 102nd Fighter Wing, Tyndall Air Force Base, Don Roseen, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Jeff Ford, Tom Herring, Langley Air Force Base, Ralph Eberhart, Steve Saari, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Martin Richard, Otis Air National Guard Base, Northeast Air Defense Sector
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
One of the pilots on American Airlines Flight 77—the third plane to be hijacked on 9/11—is not originally booked to be on that flight, and only accepts it shortly before September 11. American Airlines pilot Bill Cheng is originally due to fly Flight 77 on 9/11. But in late August he applies for that day off, so he can go camping. “When another pilot signed up for the slot, Mr. Cheng’s application was accepted.” Whether his replacement is Charles Burlingame, the plane’s captain, or David Charlebois, its first officer, is unstated. [New York Times, 9/13/2001] Pilots on two of the other aircraft hijacked on 9/11 are also not originally scheduled to fly that day, but are booked onto those planes shortly before September 11 (see September 10, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).
Pilot Jason Dahl, who will be at the controls of United Airlines Flight 93—the fourth hijacked aircraft—on 9/11, is not originally scheduled for that flight, but wants to get in extra hours so he can take time off work for his fifth wedding anniversary on September 14. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2006] Therefore, some time shortly before 9/11, he trades a trip later in September in order to fly September 11. [Denver Post, 12/16/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 1] Yet the week before September 11, he sends out an e-mail seeking another pilot to take his place, so he can have that day with his family. [Rocky Mountain News, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/15/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001] Pilots on two of the other aircraft hijacked on 9/11 are also not originally scheduled to fly that day, but are booked onto those planes shortly before September 11 (see September 10, 2001, Shortly Before September 11, 2001, and Shortly Before September 11, 2001).
John Ogonowski, who will pilot American Airlines Flight 11—the first plane to hit the World Trade Center—on 9/11, is not originally supposed to be on that flight, but is scheduled to fly it shortly before September 11. The original pilot is Walter Sorenson. But, according to the Georgetown Record, Sorenson is “disappointed when he [is] replaced by Captain John Ogonowski, who [has] seniority over Sorenson and requested to fly [on 9/11].” [Georgetown Record, 9/18/2003; Georgetown Record, 9/7/2005] However, other reports indicate Ogonowski is later unhappy about having to fly on September 11, and tries, unsuccessfully, to switch to another flight. [Public Radio International, 9/13/2002] Thomas McGuinness, who will be the co-pilot of Flight 11 on 9/11, is, like Ogonowski, not originally supposed to be on that flight, but arranges to take it on the afternoon before September 11 (see September 10, 2001). [Peter Scheibner, 8/30/2011; KSAX, 1/20/2012] Pilots on two of the other aircraft hijacked on 9/11 are also not originally scheduled to fly that day, but are booked onto those planes shortly before September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001 and Shortly Before September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Denver Post, 12/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2006]
Thomas McGuinness. [Source: Courtesy photo]Thomas McGuinness, who will who be the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 11—the first plane to hit the World Trade Center—on September 11, only arranges to be on that flight the afternoon before, pushing from it the original co-pilot, who assigned himself to the flight less than 30 minutes earlier. [Peter Scheibner, 8/30/2011; WYFF 4, 9/10/2011; KSAX, 1/20/2012] The original co-pilot of Flight 11 is Steve Scheibner, a Baptist pastor and a commander in the Naval Reserves, who also works part-time as an on-call pilot for American Airlines. [New York Times, 2/27/2000; Portland Press Herald, 3/1/2003; Fergus Falls Daily Journal, 1/20/2012]
Pilot Puts Name Down for Flight 11 - Scheibner will later describe how McGuinness comes to take his place on the flight. He will recall: “I was available to go flying on September 11. So at about three o’clock in the afternoon of September 10 I sat down at the computer and I logged in like I normally do, to check to see if there was any unassigned flying for the next day. And sure enough there was one trip that was available on September 11. It was American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston’s Logan Airport to Los Angeles.… And I looked at it and there was no pilot assigned to it yet.” Scheibner checks to see if there are any reserve pilots available, but, he will say, “It just so happened [that] on September 11, 2001, there was only one guy available to go flying on that day and that was me.” He therefore puts his name down for Flight 11. Scheibner tells his wife he will be flying to Los Angeles the following day, packs his bags for the flight, and takes them out to the car ready.
Pilot Receives No Confirmation Call from Airline - However, shortly after Scheibner puts his name down for the flight, McGuinness takes the position from him. Scheibner will say how this comes about. According to Scheibner, the “final assignment” of a pilot to a flight involves a phone call from American Airlines, where someone from the airline will say, “Hey, we wanna let you know you’ve been assigned a trip.” Once this call has been made, even if another pilot wants to take your place, they cannot do so. There is therefore “a 30-minute window of opportunity” to replace a pilot who has already been assigned to a flight. After that, “Once that phone call gets made, it’s a done deal.” But after Scheibner signs up for Flight 11, the anticipated call from American Airlines never comes. Later on, during the evening, Scheibner thinks, “You know, they never assigned that trip to me.”
McGuinness Replaces Scheibner as Co-Pilot - Scheibner will explain what instead happens. He will say that McGuinness is one of American Airlines’ “line holding pilots” and is a “little bit senior” to him. At “about three o’clock in the afternoon,” Scheibner will say, McGuinness “went over to the computer and he logged in and he looked and he saw that [Flight 11] was open, but my name had been penciled in.” McGuinness knows he is “still in that 30-minute window of opportunity,” and so he calls American Airlines and asks: “Am I legal to take this trip? In other words, can I bump Scheibner off that trip?” According to Scheibner, American Airlines says, “Yep, you’re legal for that trip, but you gotta give us a call back in the next 20 minutes, or else we’re gonna finalize the assignment.” McGuinness does indeed call the airline again and tells it he will take the flight. “At that moment,” Scheibner will say, American Airlines “erased my name off the trip [and] they assigned it to Tom [McGuinness].” [Peter Scheibner, 8/30/2011] For a pilot to take another pilot’s place like this is a rare occurrence. In 2011, Scheibner will note, “I can count three times in 20 years at American Airlines that I’ve been bumped from a trip the night before.” [WYFF 4, 9/10/2011]
Scheibner Learns Flight's Fate from Airline Website - On September 11, Scheibner will not initially realize that the flight he tried to be on was targeted in the terrorist attacks. It will only be in the evening that he will be wondering who was on the flight he signed up for, and so log into the American Airlines website to check. He will recall: “I logged in and when the screen came up in front of me, it looked exactly like it did the day before when it had that trip and it had my name penciled in. Except this time it had this trip sequence, my name wasn’t there, and it said these three words: ‘Sequence. Failed. Continuity.’” These words are the code the airline uses to say, “The trip never made it to its destination.” [Peter Scheibner, 8/30/2011] John Ogonowski, who will pilot Flight 11 on 9/11, is, like McGuinness, not originally supposed to be on that flight, but is scheduled to take it shortly before September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). [Georgetown Record, 9/18/2003; Georgetown Record, 9/7/2005] Pilots on two of the other aircraft hijacked on 9/11 are also not originally scheduled to fly that day, but are booked onto those planes shortly before September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001 and Shortly Before September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Denver Post, 12/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2006]
The FBI conducts a training exercise based on the scenario of an aircraft hijacking at Washington Dulles International Airport, the airport from which American Airlines Flight 77—the third plane to be hijacked—will take off on 9/11 (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The FBI exercise is based around a “traditional” hijacking that involves hostages being taken by the hijackers, according to Dana Pitts, an airport operations manager for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Members of the Dulles Airport staff provide some “operational support” during the exercise. Further details, including the date when the exercise is held, are unstated. [9/11 Commission, 10/16/2003 ] The FBI is the agency that has jurisdiction if a hijacking or hostage-taking incident occurs on an aircraft that is still on the ground. [Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, 5/6/2000 ; NPR, 9/20/2001]
Personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrive in New York for a forthcoming training exercise and, as a result, their equipment is available to be used by members of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU) who are involved in search and rescue operations at Ground Zero the following day. [Appel, 2009, pp. 195-196] The FEMA representatives are among hundreds of people scheduled to take part in a terrorism training exercise on September 12 that is being organized by the New York City Office of Emergency Management (see September 12, 2001). The exercise, called “Tripod,” is set to take place at Pier 92 on the Hudson River. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; City of New York, 5/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
FEMA Personnel Set Up Equipment for Exercise - The FEMA personnel arrive in New York at some time on September 10 and begin setting up their equipment at Pier 92 for the forthcoming exercise, according to a book by NYPD police officer Anthea Appel. [Appel, 2009, pp. 195] It is unclear which specific FEMA personnel arrive in New York on this day. The first FEMA urban search and rescue teams to respond at Ground Zero will arrive in New York late at night on September 11 (see (10:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Government Executive, 9/1/2002; Fire Engineering, 10/1/2002] And most of the senior FEMA staff is currently in Montana, attending a conference (see September 8-11, 2001). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ]
FEMA Equipment Used by Emergency Responders on 9/11 - In response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, according to Appel, the FEMA equipment that is being set up at Pier 92 for the exercise will be packed up and moved to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, where the ESU sets up a command post. Then, at around 5:00 p.m., it will be moved to the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers, to be used by ESU officers involved in the search and rescue efforts there. [McKinsey & Company, 8/19/2002 ; Appel, 2009, pp. 195-196]
Joseph Hagin. [Source: Publicity photo]A group of White House staffers, including the deputy chief of staff for operations and the deputy director of the White House Military Office, goes to New York to prepare for President Bush’s forthcoming appearance at the United Nations General Assembly, and is consequently away from Washington, DC, when the terrorist attacks occur on September 11. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/20/2003] Bush is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders on September 24. [Reuters, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 10/29/2001] The group, which comprises about 15 members of the White House staff, heads to New York this afternoon to conduct the “survey trip” for his appearance. The group includes Joseph Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, and Captain Michael Miller, the deputy director of the White House Military Office. During the evening, Hagin meets at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where the group is staying, with Tony Carbonetti, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s chief of staff. The White House staffers are scheduled to meet with the staff at the US Mission to the United Nations on the morning of September 11. They will start making their way back to Washington after the attack on the Pentagon, and arrive at the White House later in the day (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002] It is unclear what effect the absence of these staffers has on the White House’s ability to respond to the 9/11 attacks. However, as the deputy chief of staff for operations, Hagin has an important role to play at the White House, so his absence could presumably be detrimental. Hagin is responsible for the management and administrative functions of the White House, and also plans all of the president’s travel. [Washington Post, 7/4/2008] He will describe himself as being responsible for “scheduling, advance, Oval Office operations, the White House Military Office, the liaison with the Secret Service, the Office of Management and Administration… and then the Office of Administration.” [Cohen et al., 2008, pp. 9 ] Hagin is “an operational wizard,” according to Politico, who “manages everything around the president and the presidency except politics and policy.” He is “the single junction where Bush’s personal life, presidency, security, and military support all come together.” [Politico, 7/3/2008]
James Cameron. [Source: Contactmusic (.com )]Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox is working on a movie, called Deadline, which would feature terrorists hijacking a commercial aircraft. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2001; Washington Times, 12/10/2001; Baltimore City Paper, 1/2/2002] Deadline is being written by brothers Peter and David Griffiths, who also wrote the screenplay for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Collateral Damage. The Griffiths have already completed two drafts of the script for Deadline. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2001; Variety, 2/7/2002] Reports will describe the movie’s storyline as “involving terrorists taking over a jetliner”; featuring “the hijacking of an airliner”; and featuring “terrorists taking over a commercial aircraft.” Further details, however, are unknown. The movie is “in top-secret development at 20th Century Fox,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Deadline is being produced by James Cameron, the director of movies such as Titanic and The Terminator. And Tony Scott, who previously directed blockbuster movies such as Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State, has expressed an interest in Deadline, according to sources close to the film. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2001; Washington Times, 12/10/2001; Baltimore City Paper, 1/2/2002] However, 20th Century Fox will suspend work on the film in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It will be one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten after 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Village Voice, 12/4/2001; Washington Times, 3/7/2002] In November 2008, Variety magazine will report that the movie has been revived, with the new name Nagasaki Deadline. Variety will report that the storyline centers on “an emotionally damaged FBI agent who must decipher historic events in a desperate race to avert a terrorist plot.” It is unclear if this was the original plot of the movie or if the story has been changed since 9/11. [Variety, 11/11/2008] In 2010, it will be reported that a director has been found for the movie. [Deadline, 6/28/2010; Variety, 6/29/2010] By 2013, no further details of the movie will have been announced.
A World Trade Center security manager receives no warnings from the Secret Service or the US Customs Service about possible terrorist threats to the WTC in the period just before 9/11. George Tabeek, the New York Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC since 1999, will later recall that, before 9/11, he is “regularly in contact with the Secret Service and US Customs about possible threats to the World Trade Center by terrorists and others.” But in the weeks just before September 11, Tabeek will say, “I never heard anything, not even a whisper.” [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011] Yet, according to some security personnel at the WTC, the Twin Towers are on a heightened security alert in the two weeks before 9/11, “because of numerous phone threats” (see Late August-September 10, 2001). [Newsday, 9/12/2001]
Douglas Karpiloff. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]A command center for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, located in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, is upgraded to make it more secure, and the improvements will reportedly save the lives of people in the command center when the nearby South Tower collapses on September 11. [Newsday, 9/12/2001; Civil Air Patrol News, 1/2002; Newsday, 1/23/2002] The Port Authority’s Security Command Center (SCC) is on the 22nd floor of the North Tower. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 294] Newsday will report, on the day after 9/11, that officials had “recently” increased security at the WTC “by installing bulletproof windows and fireproof doors in the 22nd-floor computer command center.” [Newsday, 9/12/2001] According to George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, by September 11, the WTC in fact has “bulletproof window glass in most areas.” [FDU Magazine, 6/2008] The installation of the bulletproof windows—and presumably, also, the fireproof doors—in the SCC is made at the request of Douglas Karpiloff, the Port Authority’s director of security and life safety for the WTC. [Newsday, 1/23/2002]
Upgrades Intended to Protect against 'Aerial Attacks' - According to Hermina Jones, a security guard at the WTC, the upgrades to the SCC are intended “to secure the towers against aerial attacks.” [Newsday, 9/12/2001] Tabeek will later recall, “We had planned for the possibility of a small airplane—a corporate jet, maybe—crashing into one of the [WTC] buildings by accident,” although it is unclear if this comment is made in reference to the installation of bulletproof windows at the WTC. [FDU Magazine, 6/2008]
Security Improvements Save Lives on September 11 - Some people will credit the upgrades to the SCC with saving their lives on September 11. Tabeek will be in the SCC that day when the first of the Twin Towers—the South Tower—collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). When that happens, according to Tabeek, the “impact of the explosion peeled off the outer skin of [the North Tower], shattering the thick double-paned windows [of the SCC] in the process.” Tabeek will say, however, that the “inner layer of laminated bulletproof glass put in months earlier… withstood the blast and undoubtedly saved his life and those of the others with him.” Victor Guarnera, the chief technical adviser and manager of security systems for the World Trade Department, who is also in the SCC at that time, will describe what happens when the collapse occurs, saying, “The outer windows [of the SCC] exploded, either from impact [of debris from the South Tower] or differential pressure, but the inner window wall of high-tempered bomb and bullet-resistant glass we had installed a few months before held fast.” Guarnera will comment that the bulletproof windows “were responsible for our survival up to that point.” [Civil Air Patrol News, 1/2002; Newsday, 1/23/2002]
Time magazine reports: “Enthusiasm is building inside the administration to take down Saddam [Hussein] once and for all. [Colin] Powell too would love to see Saddam unhorsed, says an official at State. ‘But you need a serious plan that’s doable. The question is how many lives and resources you have to risk.’” Powell is said to have doubts about how to remove Hussein and calls such an idea still “hypothetical.” But Time notes that “plenty of others on the Bush team are gung-ho.” [Time, 9/10/2001]
Time magazine publishes an article calling Secretary of State Colin Powell the “odd man out” in the administration, adding that his centrist politics make him “chum in the water for the sharks in Dubya’s sea,” particularly Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. One top diplomat, asked to provide an adjective for the phrase, “Colin Powell is a ‘blank’ secretary of state,” replies, “Yes, he is.” A senior administration official says, “I’ve been struck by how not struck I am by him.” Time states, “Powell’s megastar wattage looks curiously dimmed, as if someone has turned his light way down.” When Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is asked why he took the number two spot in the Pentagon, he replies with one word, “Powell” (see January 11, 2001). (Wolfowitz will later deny making the remark.) Author Craig Unger will write that Wolfowitz’s terse reply “gave the game away. He was there to neutralize Powell, to implement the hard-line neocon[servative] vision.” Time concludes, “Enthusiasm is building inside the administration to take down [Iraq’s] Saddam [Hussein] once and for all,” a policy to which Powell is opposed. [Time, 9/10/2001; Time, 9/10/2001; Unger, 2007, pp. 213]
Al-Rajhi Bank logo. [Source: Al-Rajhi Bank.]Extremists order “operatives in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen” to use accounts at the Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp, according to a 2003 CIA report. The Al-Rajhi Bank is one of the biggest Saudi banks, with billions in assets. Who gives this order and when will not be made public. However, some examples of militants using the bank will later be alleged:
When al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim is arrested in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998), he is carrying records of an Al-Rajhi account.
When Wadih El-Hage’s house in Kenya is raided in 1997, investigators find contact information in his address book for Salah Al-Rajhi, one of the billionaire co-owners of the bank (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007]
Some of the 9/11 hijackers use the bank. For instance, Hani Hanjour is sent wire transfers from Al-Rajhi bank in Saudi Arabia at least six times in 1998 and 1999. In September 2000, Nawaf Alhazmi uses $2,000 in Al-Rajhi traveler’s checks paid for by an unnamed person in Saudi Arabia. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 19, 31, 33, 34, 41, 87 ] And Abdulaziz Alomari has an account at the bank (see September 7, 2001).
The bank is used by a number of charities suspected of militant links, including the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), the Muslim World League, the Saudi branch of Red Crescent, Global Relief Foundation, and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/2003]
An al-Qaeda affiliate in Spain holds accounts at the bank. According to a fax later recovered by Spanish police, the group’s chief financier tells a business partner to use the bank for their transactions. [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/2003]
In 2000, Al-Rajhi Bank couriers deliver money to insurgents in Indonesia to buy weapons and bomb-making materials.
According to a 2003 German report, bank co-founder Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi contributes to a charity front buying weapons for Islamic militants in Bosnia in the early 1990s. He is also on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989).
A US intelligence memo from shortly after 9/11 will say that a money courier for al-Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, travels on a visa obtained by the bank.
The 2003 CIA report will state: “Islamic extremists have used Al-Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation since at least the mid-1990s as a conduit for terrorist transactions.… Senior al-Rajhi family members have long supported Islamic extremists and probably know that terrorists use their bank.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007]
Entity Tags: Wadih El-Hage, Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, Salah al-Rajhi, Red Crescent (Saudi branch), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Muslim World League, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Global Relief Foundation, Hani Hanjour, International Islamic Relief Organization, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Abdulaziz Alomari, Nawaf Alhazmi
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Kenneth Katzman. [Source: CCTV America]A report is issued to Congress that warns of the danger Osama bin Laden poses to US interests and states that his al-Qaeda network “wants to strike within the United States.” [Guardian, 9/14/2001; News24, 9/18/2001; CNN, 9/28/2001] The report, titled “Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2001,” is “an annual analysis of Near Eastern terrorist groups and countries on the US ‘terrorism list’”—countries that the secretary of commerce and the secretary of state have determined “provide repeated support for international terrorism.”
Al-Qaeda 'Wants to Strike within the United States' - The report warns of the increasing threat posed by al-Qaeda. “Signs continue to point to… a rise in the scope of threat posed by the independent network of exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden,” it states. It continues: “Osama bin Laden’s network, which is independently financed and enjoys safe haven in Afghanistan, poses an increasingly significant threat to US interests in the Near East and perhaps elsewhere. The primary goals of bin Laden and his cohort are to oust pro-US regimes in the Middle East and gain removal of US troops from the region.” Furthermore, the report warns, “US allegations of past plotting by the bin Laden network suggest that the network wants to strike within the United States itself.” [Katzman, 9/10/2001 ]
Al-Qaeda Has Been Looking for 'Ways to Attack US Interests' - The report was written by Kenneth Katzman, a former CIA analyst who is now the Congressional Research Service’s resident expert on Middle Eastern terrorism. [New York Times, 8/21/1998; CNN, 9/28/2001] It is based on information from numerous sources, including the State Department’s annual report on international terrorism, titled Patterns of Global Terrorism: 2000; press reports; and conversations with US counterterrorism officials, experts, investigative journalists, and foreign diplomats. [Katzman, 9/10/2001, pp. 1 ] Shortly after 9/11, Katzman will say his report’s conclusions about the danger al-Qaeda poses were based on “an assessment that they were continuing to plot against the United States and look for ways to attack US interests.” He will also say, “It was apparent in my research that there was a continued pattern of plotting, a continued pattern of looking for opportunities to hit the United States, either military forces or civilians.”
Author Is Like a 'Prophet Who Could Foretell the Future' - In light of what is written in the report, CNN news anchor Aaron Brown will comment that Katzman “may well be official Washington’s closest present-day parallel to an ancient prophet who could foretell the future.” [CNN, 9/28/2001] But the Congressional Research Service will state that the fact that his report was issued the day before 9/11 is merely a coincidence. [News24, 9/18/2001]
Charles Nemfakos. [Source: US Navy]Charles Nemfakos, deputy under secretary of the Navy, says the United States would need to suffer an attack equivalent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941 that led America to enter World War II before it addressed the problems with its defense policy. [Campus Connection, 9/25/2002] Nemfakos is giving a briefing to a group of about 30 civilian employees of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Crane, Indiana, who have come to Washington, DC, to interact with some of the Navy’s top officials and complete a program for a certificate in public management. [Greene County Daily World, 9/14/2001; IU Home Pages, 9/14/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 47] Someone asks him what it would take for America’s defense policy to be clear and concise in the 21st century. Greg Smith, one of the NSWC employees at the briefing, will later recall that in response, “Nemfakos stated that he felt an event equivalent to Pearl Harbor, either terrorist or military, would be the only event that would awaken the United States from the complacency and security they have had since the end of the Vietnam [War] era.” [Campus Connection, 9/25/2002] Many people will compare the following day’s terrorist attacks to the attack on Pearl Harbor. “[A]s anyone glued to the television set knows,” the San Francisco Chronicle will report on September 14, “the words ‘Pearl Harbor’ are part of the running commentary accompanying the unending scenes of ruin and death that have invaded our homes and consciousness in the last few days.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/14/2001]
David O. Cooke. [Source: US Department of Defense]Some Pentagon Renovation Program workers are concerned about the possibility of a plane being deliberately crashed into the Pentagon. This is according to Stacie Condrell, the leader of the Pentagon Renovation Program’s planning, relocation, requirements integration, standards, and space management group. Condrell will say, shortly after 9/11, that although the emergency response to an attack on the Pentagon was not part of its area of responsibility, her group had been “involved, as builders, in what we can do to be smarter and better prepared against things like” the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
Workers Contemplate a 'Crazy Pilot' Crashing a Plane into the Pentagon - She will say that, before 9/11, “the particular plane incident” her group thought might happen would involve “one of the regularly scheduled US Air commuter flights from North Carolina that flies directly over the center courtyard [of the Pentagon] 10 or 12 times a day.” This plane “would have a crazy pilot who would crash into the building.” The reason her group had this concern, Condrell will say, is that “all of the people specifically involved in analyzing the physical threat to our environment”—such as the secretary of defense, the other military secretaries, and members of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Protective Service—“mention over and over again that [the Pentagon is] the only national military headquarters in the world that allows commercial overflight.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 10/30/2001]
Administrator Considers the Possibility of a Plane Hitting the Pentagon - David O. “Doc” Cooke, the Pentagon’s director of administration and management, will similarly say that the event of a plane being deliberately crashed into the Pentagon is seen as a possibility before 9/11. He will say that ways in which the Pentagon might be attacked that are considered possible include “a small aircraft, probably containing explosives, which would either drop the explosive or possibly dive into the building.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 10/18/2001]
An Explosion outside the Pentagon Is Seen as the Biggest Threat - However, Lee Evey, manager of the Pentagon Renovation Program from November 1997, will say that an attack involving an explosion outside the building is considered the biggest danger to the Pentagon. When asked what he had considered the most likely threat to the Pentagon before 9/11, he will say that a “blast”—meaning an external explosion—“as a threat to the building was very much on our minds.” He will add that the Oklahoma City and Khobar Towers bombings in 1995 and 1996, respectively (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 25, 1996), “really influenced our thinking.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 10/22/2001] Due to this concern, around 1997 or 1998, the Army Corps of Engineers performs simulations to measure how much damage the Pentagon would suffer if a truck bomb exploded outside it. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 12/7/2001; Vogel, 2007, pp. 417] The Pentagon Renovation Program, which began in the early 1990s, involves a complete overhaul of the interior of the Pentagon. [American Forces Press Service, 9/30/2005] From 1998, upgrading security at the Pentagon is one of its priorities. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 6]
Logo of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team. [Source: Nuclear Emergency Search Team]Members of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) are away from America when it comes under terrorist attack, taking part in a training exercise in Europe called Jackal Cave. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson, 1/23/2009] Jackal Cave, which is run by the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command, involves participants tracking down a hypothetical force made up of terrorists and organized criminals who are trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, or “loose nukes” (see (8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Naylor, 2015, pp. ix-x] Over 500 personnel, 62 aircraft, and 420 tons of cargo are involved in the exercise. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 404] Three components of NEST are taking part: the Lincoln Gold Augmentation Team, the Nuclear/Radiological Advisory Team, and the Joint Technical Operations Team. The NEST personnel are in Europe by September 10, if not before then, for the exercise. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178] It is unclear where exactly in Europe they go, but some Special Operations personnel are in Hungary, Croatia, and Bosnia for the exercise, so the NEST personnel may be in one or more of these countries too. [Naylor, 2015, pp. x]
Exercise Participants Are Flown Back to the US - Jackal Cave is promptly canceled in response to the attacks in the United States on September 11. [BBC News, 9/13/2001; Naylor, 2015, pp. xiii] NEST and Department of Energy personnel who are in Europe for the exercise are then taken home by military airlift. They are all back in America by September 15. [Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, 2001 ; Richelson, 2009, pp. 178]
Nuclear Search Team Is Put on Standby - Shortly after the attacks occur on September 11, NEST members (presumably those who are not involved in the exercise) are informed that they could potentially be called out for duty and told to be on standby. One NEST member will later say he received the instruction to be on standby sometime between around 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on September 11. This alert is ordered as a precaution and is not in response to any specific nuclear threat, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On September 12, NEST flies its specially equipped plane to New York to search for industrial radioactive sources and hot spots under the rubble of the World Trade Center. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 10/11/2005; Richelson, 2009, pp. 179-180]
Exercise Is the Team's First Overseas Deployment Since 1998 - NEST, which is based in Las Vegas, Nevada, is “an elite band of scientists, engineers, computer experts, and technicians that would respond to terrorists armed with stolen or homemade nuclear weapons or radioactive materials,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The team has about 1,000 members who would, if necessary, be responsible for finding and disabling nuclear devices. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16/2001; Associated Press, 12/18/2001; Dumas, 2010, pp. 46] Its involvement in Jackal Cave is its first participation in an overseas exercise since 1998. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson, 1/23/2009]
Ariel Merari. [Source: International Institute for Counter-Terrorism]The FAA’s intelligence division conducts a conference call to examine the idea of “suicide attackers” during which a leading authority on the subject says a suicide attack on aviation is unlikely. At an unspecified time before 9/11, James Padgett—the manager of the global issues division of the FAA’s Office of Civil Aviation Security Intelligence at the time of the 9/11 attacks—arranges a conference call in which the analysts in his division get to talk to Ariel Merari, a professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, about suicide terrorism. [9/11 Commission, 10/7/2003 ] Merari has spent years studying suicide attacks around the world and specializes in the profiles of suicide bombers. [Boston Globe, 9/23/2001; Washington Post, 10/16/2001] He has authored or coauthored numerous books, articles, monographs, and chapters on political terrorism and other forms of political violence, and has served as a consultant to various branches of several governments. [Merari, 10/2000 ] Merari says, during the conference call, that throughout his research he has yet to find a single instance of a suicide attack on aviation. He says he thinks such an attack would be unlikely for psychological reasons relating to the extended time between the “point of no return” and the execution of the attack. He “certainly did not raise the possibility of multiple hijackers willing to kill themselves,” Padgett will later comment. [9/11 Commission, 10/7/2003 ]
Howard Rubinstein. [Source: Rubenstein Public Relations]Howard Rubenstein cancels a meeting he had scheduled at the World Trade Center for the morning of September 11. [Lifestyles, 9/2004] Rubenstein, a famous public relations man for powerful New Yorkers, has represented Larry Silverstein, the World Trade Center leaseholder (see July 24, 2001), for many years. [Daily Deal, 6/7/2004 ] He will later recount how a staff meeting at his own firm requires him to cancel a meeting he has scheduled for the morning of 9/11 with John O’Neill, who was recently appointed as director of security at the World Trade Center (see August 23, 2001): “The Monday before the Tuesday, I get a call from John O’Neill.… He said, ‘Why don’t you come down on 9/11, come to a breakfast meeting at 8:00, where we’ll talk about what we’re doing to prevent terror attacks?’ So I said, ‘Okay.’ And he said, ‘Bring your staff, two people.’ I said that’s fine, because we were then representing the World Trade Center. Then I thought about it on Monday, and I called him, I said, ‘I have a staff meeting on Tuesday, do you mind if I don’t go?’ He said, ‘No, send somebody.’ I said, ‘But that somebody is also at my staff meeting.’ He said come at 9:00 instead of 8:00.” Rubenstein’s cancellation of this meeting appears to save his life. He will recall that, the morning of 9/11: “I’m sitting in my staff meeting, and my secretary runs in and said the World Trade Center just got hit, and you were supposed to be there. Everyone at that breakfast meeting died, including John O’Neill.” [PBS, 7/15/2004] After the attacks, Rubenstein and his firm, Rubenstein Associates, will play a leading role in publicizing Larry Silverstein’s legal claims against several insurance companies (see September 12, 2001). [PR Week, 2/10/2003]
A group of five Arabs attempts to penetrate a secure area leading to parked aircraft at Washington’s Dulles Airport. However, they are seen by two security guards, Eric Gill and Nicolas de Silva. Gill, who will later identify two of the men as 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, notices they approach a door to the secure area in a suspicious manner and that only three of them are dressed as United Airlines ramp workers and have the correct passes. Gill, a Pakistani, prevents the two without passes from entering the secure area, and realizes that he does not recognize the other three, and that their uniforms are unusually dirty for United employees. The men tell Gill to “f_ck off” and say that they are “important people,” but Gill still refuses to let the two without passes enter, and eventually all five men retreat. Gill goes off duty at 10:00 p.m. and his supervisor will comment after 9/11, “If someone wanted access to the aircraft, say to plant weapons, it would have been easy for the group Eric saw to come back after he got off duty and simply use the ID cards they had to activate the electronic lock and slip through.” Reporters Joe and Susan Trento, who break this story, will be unable to interview another security guard, Khalid Mahmoud, who was guarding the next door, as he will be immediately taken by the INS after 9/11 and presumably deported. De Silva has a poor memory for faces and will recall the incident happening, but will not be able to identify any of the Arabs. The FBI and 9/11 Commission will apparently not place much weight on Gill’s identification of the hijackers, as Alshehhi is believed to be in Boston at this time (see Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 2-6, 44-5] However, Alshehhi checks out of his hotel on this date and his last recorded action in Boston is before noon, so he may have flown to Dulles in the afternoon and could return by the following morning (see September 10, 2001). An INS employee will tell journalist Seymour Hersh that guns were placed on the planes on 9/11 (see After 11:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Security cameras record two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and possibly Salem Alhazmi, at Dulles this same day, but it is unclear whether their presence is related to this incident. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 281 ]
Though the NSA specializes in intercepting communications, the CIA and FBI intercept as well. After 9/11, CIA and FBI officials will discover messages with phrases like, “There is a big thing coming,”
“they’re going to pay the price,” and “We’re ready to go.” Supposedly, most or all of these intercepted messages will not be analyzed until after 9/11. [Newsweek, 10/1/2001]
In June 2004, future 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey will say that before 9/11, “There’s no question the Taliban was getting money from the Saudis… and there’s no question they got much more than that from the Pakistani government. Their motive is a secondary issue for us.” He claims this finding is based almost entirely on information known to the US government before 9/11. “All we’re doing is looking at classified documents from our own government, not from some magical source. So we knew what was going on, but we did nothing.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/16/2004] However, the 9/11 Commission will leave such material out of its final report and in fact make the claim in its last staff statement, “There is no convincing evidence that any government financially supported al-Qaeda before 9/11.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
An Echelon station in Menwith Hill, Britain. [Source: BBC]By the 1980s, a high-tech global electronic surveillance network shared between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is gathering intelligence all over the world. The BBC describes Echelon’s power as “astounding,” and elaborates: “Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism.” [BBC, 11/3/1999] One major focus for Echelon before 9/11 is al-Qaeda. For instance, one account mentions Echelon intercepting al-Qaeda communications in Southeast Asia in 1996 (see Before September 11, 2001). A staff member of the National Security Council who regularly attends briefings on bin Laden states, “We are probably tapped into every hotel room in Pakistan. We can listen in to just about every phone call in Afghanistan.” However, he and other critics will claim one reason why US intelligence failed to stop terrorism before 9/11 was because there was too much of a focus on electronic intelligence gathering and not enough focus on human interpretation of that vast data collection. [Toronto Star, 2/2/2002]
Entity Tags: United Kingdom, United States, Osama bin Laden, Echelon, National Security Council, Canada, Australia, Al-Qaeda, New Zealand
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties
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