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NCIC logo. [Source: NCIC] (click image to enlarge)FBI agent Robert Fuller has been tasked to find out if hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar are in the US, now that their names have been added to a terrorist watch list (see September 4-5, 2001). Fuller later claims that he requests a criminal history check in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, a computer database frequently used by every level of law enforcement. However, the Bergen Record will later report: “[H]e never performed one of the most basic tasks of a police manhunt. He never ran Almihdhar or Alhazmi through the NCIC computer. That simple act would have alerted local cops to look for the suspected terrorists.” Fuller also allegedly requests that a national motor vehicle index be searched. [Bergen Record, 7/11/2002; Bergen Record, 5/18/2004; US Department of Justice, 11/2004] A government webpage about the NCIC database posted before 9/11 boasts that it has an enhanced name search capability, returning results of phonetically similar names and name derivatives. [National Criminal Information Center, 5/5/2001] According to an FBI timeline assembled shortly after 9/11, the following incidents are in the NCIC database:
April 1, 2001. Nawaf Alhazmi receives a speeding ticket from Oklahoma State Highway Patrol in Clinton, Oklahoma (see April 1, 2001). He is driving the Toyota Corolla he bought in San Diego the year before. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 131 ; Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/2002]
Alhazmi tells police in Alexandria, Virginia, that he was mugged. Even though he declines to press charges, this incident is added to the NCIC database (see May 1, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 139 ]
July 7, 2001. Alhazmi’s Corolla is queried by police in South Hackensack, New Jersey. The incident is added to the motor vehicle index as well as the NCIC database (see July 7, 2001). One newspaper will later comment that a search of the NCIC “would have told the agent a local cop… had already spotted Alhazmi in [the New Jersey town of] South Hackensack.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 179 ; US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; Bergen Record, 5/18/2004]
August 28, 2001. A rental car rented by Alhazmi is queried by police in Totowa, New Jersey (see August 28, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 236 ] While this incident will be in the NCIC database when the FBI searches it after 9/11, it is unknown if it is accessible by Fuller when he searches it.
If Fuller really does check both the NCIC and motor vehicle databases, it is not clear why he fails to find any of these incidents and thus prove that Alhazmi was in the US.
British radical leader and informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997) sends £6,000 (about $9,000) to Afghanistan. The money is to be used to build a computer lab in Kandahar that can be used by Taliban officials and the general public. The money is sent by courier, an aide to Abu Hamza called James Ujaama. However, Ujaama is stopped by British authorities at the airport on his way to Pakistan, apparently because they are suspicious of his travel patterns and the amount of money he is carrying. Ujaama tells them the money is for a Taliban school and that he will go to Afghanistan even if he cannot get a visa, because this is easy. The officials are suspicious, but let him go, simply asking him to report to them on his return. However, Ujaama does not make it to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border before the 9/11 attacks and will return to London within a few weeks without delivering the money. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 197-198]
Would-be 9/11 hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh flies out of Germany on September 5, 2001, and stays in Spain for a few days while on his way to Afghanistan. Bin al-Shibh knows the date of the 9/11 attacks by this time (see (August 20, 2001) and August 29, 2001). Investigators later believe he stays in a private home in Madrid, but it will not be revealed whose home this is. He never uses his return ticket to Germany. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002]
Meeting with Atta? - 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta may also be in Spain on September 5 (see September 5, 2001). Bin al-Shibh and Atta met in Spain in July 2001 (see July 8-19, 2001), and there are suggestions they utilized a local al-Qaeda support network while they were there.
On to Afghanistan - Bin al-Shibh gets a set of false identity papers while in Spain. Then he flies to Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and finally to Afghanistan. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 230]
Would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh makes three phone calls on this day, and one is to 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi in the US. Bin al-Shibh makes the three calls from the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany, as he is about to take a flight to Spain on his way to Pakistan (see September 5, 2001). Nothing more is known about the call to Alghamdi. However, the call may be an opportunity to discover the 9/11 plot, because at least some of bin al-Shibh’s phone calls are monitored around this time. Details are murky, but a call between bin al-Shibh and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is monitored in late July 2001, although it is not clear if it is monitored by US or German intelligence, or both (see July 20, 2001).
Second Call to Jordanian - At the airport, bin al-Shibh also calls an unnamed Jordanian who is said to be a close friend of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah from a time both of them were studying in Griefswald, Germany, in the mid-1990s. This person lived in the same Hamburg apartment as hijacker Mohamed Atta, was said to have become an Islamist radical, and shared bank accounts and cell phone numbers with some of the hijackers living in Hamburg. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] This almost certainly is Bashir Musleh, because Musleh is a Jordanian who is a close friend of Jarrah’s from when they both studied in Griefswald. Author Terry McDermott identifies him as one of the Hamburg group. [McDermott, 2005, pp. xi, 53]
Third Call to Cell Member Meziche - The third and final call is to Naamen Meziche, a French citizen of Algerian descent, and a longtime resident of Hamburg, Germany. The call to Meziche’s house lasts 34 seconds. Meziche appears to be a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, but German investigators will never be able to develop enough evidence to charge him with a crime. He will be killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010). [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2010]
The Daily Mail will later report, “US aviation authorities were warned of a terrorist attack by an Islamic group only days before the September 11 atrocities. The CIA issued a confidential warning that Muslim fundamentalists were preparing a spectacular attack imminently, but it was unable to specify the target.” Around this time, author Salman Rushdie is traveling in North America to promote a new book. [Daily Mail, 10/7/2001] In 1989, Iranian clerics issued a fatwa (death threat) against Rushdie for perceived insults to Islam, but the fatwa was lifted in 1998 and Rushdie had recently emerged from hiding. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/23/2001] According to the Daily Mail, aviation regulators conclude Rushdie is the likely target of this CIA warning, and the FAA imposes new restrictions on him on September 6, 2001 (see September 6, 2001). At least two airlines prevent Rushdie from flying with them at all. [Daily Mail, 10/7/2001] Apparently the FAA takes no other action and gives no other warning except for extra security measures involving Rushdie. The 9/11 Commission will later briefly mention the pre-9/11 restrictions on Rushdie but will not explain what the intelligence was exactly that led to the restrictions. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 56]
[Source: Public domain]The FAA places severe flight restrictions on author Salman Rushdie, who is in the US to promote a new book. The restrictions are so strict and costly that at least two airlines refuse to fly him at all. The FAA tells Rushdie’s publisher that US intelligence has given warning of “something out there” but fails to give any further details. One newspaper will later state, “The FAA confirmed that it stepped up security measures concerning Mr. Rushdie but refused to give a reason.” [London Times, 9/27/2001; Daily Mail, 10/7/2001] The Daily Mail will later report that the CIA secretly gave the FAA a “confidential warning that Muslim fundamentalists were preparing a spectacular attack imminently, but it was unable to specify the target.” But the only action the FAA takes is to require more security for Rushdie’s flights (see Shortly Before September 6, 2001). Rushdie had been the subject of an Iranian fatwa (death threat) until it was lifted in 1998. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/23/2001]
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]
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]
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]
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]
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.
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]
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]
Massoud’s two assassins pictured just before their assassination attempt. One holds the rigged video camera. [Source: CNN]General Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, is assassinated by two al-Qaeda agents posing as Moroccan journalists. [Time, 8/12/2002] A legendary mujaheddin commander and a brilliant tactician, Massoud had pledged to bring freedom and democracy to Afghanistan. The BBC says the next day, “General Massoud’s death might well have meant the end of the [Northern] alliance” because there clearly was no figure with his skills and popularity to replace him. [BBC, 9/10/2001; BBC, 9/10/2001] “With Massoud out of the way, the Taliban and al-Qaeda would be rid of their most effective opponent and be in a stronger position to resist the American onslaught.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/2002] It appears the assassination was supposed to happen earlier: the “journalists” waited for three weeks in Northern Alliance territory to meet Massoud. Finally on September 8, an aide says they “were so worried and excitable they were begging us.” They were granted an interview after threatening to leave if the interview did not happen in the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, the Taliban army (together with elements of the Pakistani army) had massed for an offensive against the Northern Alliance in the previous weeks, but the offensive began only hours after the assassination. Massoud was killed that day but Northern Alliance leaders pretend for several days that Massoud was only injured in order to keep the Northern Alliance army’s morale up, and they are able to stave off total defeat. The timing of the assassination and the actions of the Taliban army suggest that the 9/11 attacks were known to the Taliban leadership. [Time, 8/12/2002] Though it is not widely reported, the Northern Alliance releases a statement the next day: “Ahmed Shah Massoud was the target of an assassination attempt organized by the Pakistani [intelligence service] ISI and Osama bin Laden” (see September 10, 2001). [Radio Free Europe, 9/10/2001; Newsday, 9/15/2001; Reuters, 10/4/2001] This suggests that the ISI may also have had prior knowledge of the attack plans.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf meets with Hamid Gul, former head of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, according to a 2002 report in the New Yorker. The meeting is said to take place this evening at ISI headquarters. Gul has just returned from Northern Afghanistan. This information is according to Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the defense minister in Afghanistan’s government at the time of the 2002 New Yorker article. Also on this day, Ahmed Shah Massoud, top leader of the Northern Alliance, is assassinated (see September 9, 2001). Fahim is Massoud’s second in command, and takes over leadership of the Northern Alliance. At this time, Pakistan is supporting the Taliban, who are fighting the Northern Alliance. An intelligence officer “close to Massoud” will tell the New Yorker that Musharraf and Gul are at ISI headquarters for a party to celebrate Massoud’s death. While Fahim alleges Musharraf and Gul are there, he will only say “maybe” there is a party. [New Yorker, 6/10/2002] The Northern Alliance will claim that the ISI and al-Qaeda are behind Massoud’s assassination (see September 10, 2001). Gul retired from the ISI in 1989 (see April 1987), but there are allegations that he has continued to actively support Islamist militants ever since (see December 7, 2008 and July 26, 2010). In 2004, UPI will report allegations that he was a central figure in the 9/11 plot (see July 22, 2004). There will also be claims that the head of the ISI at the time of 9/11, Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, helped fund some of the 9/11 hijackers (see October 7, 2001).
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]
A message is posted on Alsaha.com, a website based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, apparently warning of the 9/11 attacks. It proclaims that in the next two days, a “big surprise” is coming from the Saudi Arabian region of Asir, the remote, mountainous province that produced most of the 19 hijackers who strike on September 11. After 9/11, the FBI and CIA will closely monitor this website as “a kind of terrorist early-warning system” due to its popularity with Muslim fundamentalists. However, it is doubtful if they are monitoring the site before 9/11, or notice this message. [Newsweek, 5/25/2003] Additionally, on September 10, someone in Jordan will post on a website that an attack is close to “zero hour.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 233]
Osama bin Laden calls his stepmother and says, “In two days, you’re going to hear big news and you’re not going to hear from me for a while.” [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]
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 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]
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]
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]
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).
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]
In a major post-9/11 speech, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will claim that “shortly before September 11, bin Laden told associates that he had a major operation against America under preparation, [and] a range of people were warned to return back to Afghanistan because of action on or around September 11.” His claims will come from a British document of telephone intercepts and interrogations revealing al-Qaeda orders to return to Afghanistan by September 10. [CNN, 10/4/2001; Time, 10/5/2001] Would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh will later claim that his message on what day the 9/11 attacks would happen reached bin Laden on September 6, 2001. If that is true, bin Laden would only have had a few days to warn others (see September 6, 2001). [Australian, 9/9/2002]
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).
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]
CBS News footage of the Rawalpindi, Pakistan, hospital where bin Laden was allegedly treated the day before 9/11. [Source: CBS News]CBS later reports that on this day, Osama bin Laden is admitted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, for kidney dialysis treatment. Pakistani military forces guard bin Laden. They also move out all the regular staff in the urology department and send in a secret team to replace them. It is not known how long he stays there. [CBS News, 1/28/2002]
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]
Two peripheral members of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, leave Germany to attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Ibrahim Diab, a Lebanese national, and Bechim Ademi, a naturalized German, are said to be recent al-Qaeda recruits. They have been attending the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg also attended by many of the cell members. They will later claim that cell members Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mohammed Haydar Zammar convinced them to go to Afghanistan for training (and Zammar paid for at least Diab’s ticket (see August 2001). By September 23, 2001, they will have reached a training camp near Kabul and begun weapons training. They will recognize Hamburg cell members Zakariya Essabar and Said Bahaji at the camp. Bahaji left Germany for Afghanistan in early September 2001 (see September 3-5, 2001) and Essabar made a similar trip around the same time (see Late August 2001). Essabar stays with the camp’s leaders and seems to have an important position. Diab and Ademi will be arrested in Pakistan in October 2001 (see October 29, 2001). [Chicago Tribune, 2/23/2003] They will be sent back to Germany in November 2001, after pressure by the German government. They will be interrogated by German officials and reveal the information mentioned above. However, they will be released and not charged with any crime. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 7/20/2004] It is unclear if the timing of their departure from Germany one day before the 9/11 attacks shows foreknowledge of the attacks or if it is just a coincidence.
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 Northern Alliance releases a statement, saying, “Ahmed Shah Massoud was the target of an assassination attempt organized by the Pakistani [intelligence service] ISI and Osama bin Laden.” Massoud was the head leader of the Northern Alliance, the main group fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, until he was assassinated the previous day (see September 9, 2001). [Radio Free Europe, 9/10/2001; Newsday, 9/15/2001; Reuters, 10/4/2001] In June 2002, the New Yorker will report that there has been little to no investigation in Afghanistan into who was responsible for Massoud’s assassination. Even though the Northern Alliance has taken power, one of the figures some suspect of a role in the assassination is Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a warlord with radical Islamist ties but who also has gained power in the new Afghan government. However, Afghan Defense Minister and Northern Alliance leader Mohammad Qasim Fahim will tell the New Yorker that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was at ISI headquarters hours after Massoud was assassinated, possibly celebrating the assassination with ISI officials there (see September 9, 2001). [New Yorker, 6/10/2002] If Fahim had been immediately aware of this intelligence, it could help explain how quickly the Northern Alliance blamed the ISI.
Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar is on a German watch list of suspected Muslim extremists before 9/11, the Washington Post will later report. However, more details, such as when he is placed on the watch list, are unknown. [Washington Post, 6/12/2002] Cell members Said Bahaji and Mounir El Motassadeq are also placed on a watch list, both of them in March 2000 (see March 2000).
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]
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
Based on interviews with FBI officials, the New Yorker will report that, for several years prior to 9/11, the US government plans for “simulated terrorist attacks, including scenarios [involving] multiple-plane hijackings.” This presumably refers to more than just the Amalgam Virgo 02 exercise (see July 2001), which is based on the scenario of two planes being simultaneously hijacked. [New Yorker, 9/24/2001] Similarly, NORAD will state that before 9/11, it normally conducts four major exercises each year at headquarters level. Most of them include a hijack scenario, and some of them are apparently quite similar to the 9/11 attacks (see Between 1991 and 2001 and Between September 1999 and September 10, 2001). [USA Today, 4/18/2004; CNN, 4/19/2004] According to author Lynn Spencer, before September 11, “To prepare for their missions in support of NORAD, the Air National Guard pilots—some of the finest pilots in the world—often use hijacking scenarios to train for intercept tactics.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 84-85] John Arquilla, an associate professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, later says that while “No one knew specifically that 20 people would hijack four airliners and use them for suicide attacks against major buildings… the idea of such an attack was well known, [and] had been war gamed as a possibility in exercises before Sept. 11.” [Monterey County Herald, 7/18/2002]
Ike Skelton. [Source: Publicity photo]On the morning of 9/11, David Welna, National Public Radio’s Congressional correspondent, will say, “I spoke with Congressman Ike Skelton—a Democrat from Missouri and a member of the Armed Services Committee—who said that just recently the Director of the CIA [George Tenet] warned that there could be an attack—an imminent attack—on the United States of this nature. So this is not entirely unexpected.” More details, such as when Tenet said this, who else he may have said it to, and so forth, remain unknown. [NPR, 9/11/2001]
A month after 9/11, the New York Times will report: “Interpreting intercepted communications, which are cryptic and in code, and sorting through all the rumors present a formidable challenge. One intercept before the Sept. 11 attack was, according to two senior intelligence officials, the first early warning of the assault and it set off a scramble by American and other intelligence agencies. In that call, Mr. bin Laden advised his wife in Syria to come back to Afghanistan. That message, which was intercepted by the intelligence services of more than one country, was passed on to the United States, officials from three countries said.” [New York Times, 10/21/2001] Bin Laden apparently makes a similar phone call to his stepmother in Syria on September 9, 2001 (see September 9, 2001).
The position of Deputy Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, the Defense Department post traditionally dealing the most with counterterrorism, still has not been filled since being vacated in January 2001 when Bush became president. Aides to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later tell the 9/11 Commission that “the new [Defense Department] team was focused on other issues” and not counterterrorism. [Newsweek, 3/24/2004]
Just prior to 9/11, the CIA and FBI do not have enough staff working on al-Qaeda. Only 17 to 19 people are working in the FBI’s special unit focusing on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] The FBI has a $4.3 billion anti-terrorism budget, but of its 27,000 employees, just 153 are devoted to terrorism analysis. [Sydney Morning Herald, 6/8/2002] The FBI’s “analytic expertise has been ‘gutted’ by transfers to operational units” and only one strategic analyst is assigned full time to al-Qaeda. The FBI office in New York is very aware of the threat from bin Laden, but many branch offices remain largely unaware. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] A senior FBI official later tells Congress that there are fewer FBI agents assigned to counterterrorism on this day than in August 1998, when the US embassy bombings in Africa made bin Laden a household name. [New York Times, 9/22/2002] The CIA has only about 35 to 40 people assigned to their special bin Laden unit. It has five strategic analysts working full time on al-Qaeda. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] The CIA and FBI later complain that some of these figures are misleading. [New York Times, 9/18/2002] “Individuals in both the CIA and FBI units… reported being seriously overwhelmed by the volume of information and workload prior to September 11, 2001.” Despite numerous warnings that planes could be used as weapons, such a possibility was never studied, and a congressional report later blames lack of staff as a major reason for this. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also notes, “Between the Department of Justice and the FBI, they had a whole task force working on finding a couple of houses of prostitution in New Orleans. They had one on al-Qaeda.” [CBS News, 9/25/2002]
Another deputies meeting further considers policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, and makes further revisions to the National Security Presidential Directive regarding al-Qaeda. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] By the end of the meeting, a formal, three-phase strategy is agreed upon. An envoy is to go to Afghanistan and give the Taliban another chance to expel Osama bin Laden. If this fails, more pressure will be put on the Taliban, including more support for the Northern Alliance and other groups. If the Taliban still refuse to change, the US will try to overthrow them through more direct action. The time-frame for this strategy is about three years. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] CIA Director George Tenet is formally tasked to draw up new authorities for the covert action program envisioned and request funding to implement it. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The directive is then to be sent to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for approval. President Bush is apparently aware of the directive and prepared to sign it (though he hasn’t attended any of the meetings about it), but he will not sign it until October. [MSNBC, 5/16/2002; Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2002; Washington Post, 4/1/2004]
The Sphinx Trading sign. [Source: National Geographic]Some of the 9/11 hijackers rent mailboxes from a company called Sphinx Trading, which was also used by ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdul-Rahman and at least one of his associates. The mailboxes are located in Jersey City, New Jersey, four doors down from the mosque where Abdul-Rahman was imam in the early 1990s. El Sayyid Nosair, who assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane and was linked to the Islamic militant cell Abdul-Rahman headed (see November 5, 1990 and December 7, 1991), also had a mailbox there before he was arrested in 1990. Sphinx Trading is owned by Waleed al-Noor, who was named an unindicted co-conspirator at the ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot trial (see June 24, 1993). The hijackers will later obtain fake IDs from al-Noor’s partner, Mohamed el-Atriss. The names of the hijackers who had mailboxes there are never given, but in the summer of 2001 el-Atriss interacts with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour (see (July-August 2001)), at least. [New York Times, 6/25/2003; Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 372-4; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] An FBI agent will later comment: “The fact that this location was where Almihdhar, in particular, got his bogus credentials, is not only shocking, it makes me angry. The [Joint Terrorist Task Force] in the [New York Office] had this location back in 1991. In the mid-90s they listed al-Noor, the coowner, as a coconspirator, unindicted in the plot to blow up bridges and tunnels. And now we find out that this is the precise location where the most visible of all the hijackers in the US got his ID? Incredible. All the Bureau’s New York Office had to do was sit on that place over the years and they would have broken right into the 9/11 plot.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 373]
It has been widely reported that the CIA never had any assets near bin Laden before 9/11. For instance, Lawrence Wright will write in his highly regarded 2006 book, The Looming Tower, “The fact is that the CIA had no one inside al-Qaeda or the Taliban security that surrounded bin Laden.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 265] But author Ronald Kessler will write in a 2004 book, “Often, the CIA used operatives from Arab intelligence services like those of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and other countries to infiltrate bin Laden’s organization.” A longtime CIA officer says, “Egyptians, Jordanians, [and] Palestinians penetrated the bin Laden organization for us. It’s B.S. that we didn’t.” Kessler further explains that such operations remain one of the CIA’s best-kept secrets and often occur even with intelligence agencies the CIA is sometimes otherwise at odds with. Kessler says, “In return for help, the CIA provided them with money, equipment, and intelligence on their adversaries. Over the years, the Jordanians, for example, relied on the CIA to alert them to plots against the king. Over time, the Jordanians became so good at the intelligence game that they were better at detecting plots than the CIA.” [Kessler, 2004, pp. 143] Jack Cloonan, an FBI expert on al-Qaeda, will later say, “There were agents run into the camps. But most of them were not very well placed,” and lacked access to the inner circles. [United Press International, 11/27/2006] One example of such an asset may be Khalil Deek, who worked closely with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see 1998-December 11, 1999) and was reportedly a mole for Jordanian intelligence (see Shortly After December 11, 1999). In the months before 9/11, Jordan will warn the US that al-Qaeda is planning a major attack inside the US using aircraft (see Late Summer 2001), and Egypt will warn the CIA that al-Qaeda has 20 operatives on a mission in the US, some of them training to fly (see Late July 2001).
According to a 2007 book by former CIA Director George Tenet, shortly before 9/11, the CIA learns that a Pakistani charity front has been helping al-Qaeda acquire weapons of mass destruction. The charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), was founded in 2000 by two prominent nuclear scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed (see 2000). UTN allegedly is conducting charitable projects in Afghanistan, but a friendly intelligence service tells the CIA that UTN is really helping al-Qaeda build weapons, especially nuclear weapons. Tenet will claim that he presses “all of our contacts worldwide to find out anything we could about the people and organizations with WMD that might be wiling to share expertise with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.” Ben Bonk, deputy chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC), meets with Musa Kusa, head of Libya’s intelligence service, and Kusa tells him that Libya had contact with UTN. “Yes, they tried to sell us a nuclear weapon. Of course, we turned them down.” According to Tenet, this confirms other information from a different intelligence agency that UTN approached Libya with an offer to provide WMD expertise. The CIA then informs the Pakistani government of this, and Pakistan brings in seven board members of UTN for questioning. But according to Tenet, “The investigation was ill-fated from the get-go” and the UTN officials “were not properly isolated and questioned.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 262-263] Also shortly before 9/11, the CIA also learns that the two nuclear scientists who founded UTN had recently met with Osama bin Laden and advised him on how to make a nuclear weapon (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). But despite all this the US takes no other action against UTN before 9/11, not even freezing the assets of the charity until December 2001 (see Early October-December 2001).
The CIA learns that two prominent Pakistani nuclear scientists have met with al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in mid-August 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell will tell Pakistani officials when he visits Pakistan in October this year (see Early October-December 2001). In the meeting, the two scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, discussed helping al-Qaeda make a nuclear weapon (see Mid-August 2001). [Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 268-269] CIA Director George Tenet will confirm, in a 2007 book, that the CIA learned of this meeting prior to 9/11. He will write: “A Western intelligence service came to us in the fall of 2001 [with details of the meeting].… [The] CIA pressed the Pakistanis to confront Mahmood and Majeed with this new information. We put [evidence that a charity named Ummah Tameer-e-Nau run by Mahmood and Majeed tried to sell Libya a nuclear weapon] on the table. We also passed new information that had been collected by other intelligence services. To no avail. Then 9/11 struck and there was no slowing down in this pursuit.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 264] No evidence will be presented showing that President Bush or other top US officials are warned of this, or that there are any general warnings inside the US government about this. Pakistan is not successfully pressured about it before 9/11 (in fact, the Pakistani ISI already knows about it and has failed to warn the US (see Between Mid-August and September 10, 2001)), and after 9/11 the only action Pakistan will take is to twice arrest and then quickly release the two scientists. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment in a 2007 book, “This information, added to the missing canisters of highly enriched uranium [in Pakistan], might have been sufficient to redirect” top Bush officials to take sterner action against al-Qaeda before 9/11. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 311]
Nageeb Abdul Jabar Mohammed Al-Hadi is on an airplane from Frankfurt, Germany, to Chicago when the flight is diverted to Toronto, Canada, due to the shutdown of flights to the US in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks. Customs officers search his suitcases and find two Lufthansa airline crew uniforms (he was a Lufthansa sales representative in Yemen) and a piece of torn paper with cryptic writing on it sewn into the pocket of a pair of pants. He is also carrying four Yemeni passports, each with a different passport number. Three bear his photograph and variations of his name, while a fourth has the name and photo of another person. He is married to a US woman living in Detroit. He is arrested and detained. [Hamilton Spectator, 9/26/2001] Al-Hadi is connected through telephone records to Nabil al-Marabh. [Toronto Sun, 9/27/2001] In May 2002, it will be reported that Canada has approved his deportation to the US, where he is wanted on several charges of passport forgery. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 5/7/2002] It appears that in January 2003, he is convicted in the US on the forgery charges. [Washington Post, 6/12/2005]
State Department official Hillary Mann, walking home after being evacuated from the United Nations building after the two World Trade Center attacks, is contacted by a senior Iranian diplomat on her personal cell phone. Mann and the Iranian, whom she will refuse to name but will describe as a cultured man in his fifties with salt-and-pepper hair, have been secretly meeting in a small conference room at the UN. He says the attacks were most likely the work of al-Qaeda, and then says, “I hope that we can still work together.” In the following weeks, the Iranian official will maintain contact with Mann, offering backchannel support for the US and the chance for more full-fledged, open diplomatic contacts. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]
9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s “wife” attempts to clear Atta’s driving record. On April 26, 2001, Atta was issued a citation for driving without a license (see April 26, 2001). Because he failed to show up for a hearing, an arrest warrant was issued for him on June 4, 2001 (see June 4, 2001). According to an FBI report on hijacker activities after 9/11, “A woman claiming to be Atta’s wife arrived at Broward County Courthouse on September 11, 2001 and attempted to clear his record.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002] There will be no known reports of Atta having a wife, although he may have gotten engaged once (see October 1999). A search of article databases shows that Atta’s name is first mentioned in the media on September 12. [Knight Ridder Newspapers, 9/12/2001] The FBI makes no further mention of who this woman may be or what her motive may be, and this incident will not be reported by the media.
In the months leading up to the war with Iraq, Bush administration officials manipulate the intelligence provided to them by analysts in order to drum up support for the invasion. Some analysts complain that they are under pressure to write assessments that support the administration’s case for invading Iraq. On March 7, 2002, Knight Ridder reports that various military officials, intelligence employees, and diplomats in the Bush administration have charged “that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House’s argument that Hussein poses such an immediate threat to the United States that preemptive military action is necessary.” [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2002]
Willie Brown. [Source: San Francisco City Government]Eight hours prior to the terrorist attacks, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown receives a warning from his “security people at the airport,” advising him to be cautious in traveling. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001] Later reports will claim that this is because someone saw the State Department warning of September 7 (see September 7, 2001), which focused on the threat to military personnel in Asia. Brown is scheduled to fly to New York the next morning. [US Department of State, 9/7/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/14/2001] The source of the warning, and why it is personally issued to Brown, will remain unknown.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, just hours before the 9/11 attacks begin, the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, reports a front page story entitled “Air-Travel Ban Keeps Rushdie Out of Canada.” The story notes that author Salman Rushdie was not allowed on an Air Canada flight into Canada on September 7, 2001, and he canceled a planned Canadian trip as a result. The article correctly notes that on September 6, the FAA “issued an emergency directive banning Mr. Rushdie from all flights in and out of the United States, reflecting a heightened state of alert” (see September 6, 2001). Rushdie is also having trouble flying inside the US because of the restrictions and one US flight he had recently scheduled had been canceled. The article says the FAA will not explain why the directive about Rushdie had been issued. [Globe and Mail, 9/11/2001] But the Daily Mail will later report that the CIA gave the FAA warning of a spectacular and imminent Muslim fundamentalist attack and the FAA incorrectly guessed this had to do with Rushdie traveling on a book tour (see Shortly Before September 6, 2001). Rushdie had been the subject of an Iranian fatwa (death threat) until it was lifted in 1998. He was in Houston, Texas, for a book reading as part of a North American book tour and planned to fly to Minneapolis on 9/11. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/23/2001] This news report about the FAA’s heightened state of alert is only reported in the Globe and Mail before the 9/11 attacks begin. A search of the Lexis Nexus database shows articles about it in just six news sources in the weeks after the attacks. [United Press International, 9/11/2001; New York Post, 9/21/2001; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/23/2001; London Times, 9/27/2001; Ananova, 9/27/2001; Daily Mail, 10/7/2001]
Odigo’s logo. [Source: Odigo]Two employees of Odigo, Inc., an Israeli company, receive warnings of an imminent attack in New York City about two hours before the first plane hits the WTC. Odigo, one of the world’s largest instant messaging companies, has its headquarters two blocks from the WTC. The Odigo Research and Development offices where the warnings were received are located in Herzliyya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Israeli security and the FBI were notified immediately after the 9/11 attacks began. The two employees claim not to know who sent the warnings. “Odigo service includes a feature called People Finder that allows users to seek out and contact others based on certain interests or demographics. [Alex] Diamandis [Odigo vice president of sales and marketing] said it was possible that the attack warning was broadcast to other Odigo members, but the company has not received reports of other recipients of the message.” [Ha'aretz, 9/26/2001; Washington Post, 9/27/2001] Odigo claims the warning did not specifically mention the WTC, but the company refuses to divulge what was specified, claiming, “Providing more details would only lead to more conjecture.” [Washington Post, 9/28/2001] However, a later newspaper report claims that the message declared “that some sort of attack was about to take place. The notes ended with an anti-Semitic slur. ‘The messages said something big was going to happen in a certain amount of time, and it did—almost to the minute,’ said Alex Diamandis, vice president of sales for the high-tech company… He said the employees did not know the person who sent the message, but they traced it to a computer address and have given that information to the FBI.” [Washington Post, 10/4/2001] Odigo gave the FBI the Internet address of the message’s sender so the name of the sender could be found. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 9/26/2001] Two months later, it is reported that the FBI is still investigating the matter, but there have been no reports since. [Courier Mail, 11/20/2001]
The Vice President’s Residence. [Source: David Bohrer/ White House]Just before 7:00 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney sits in the library of the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, for his regular CIA briefing. His solo briefing is more detailed than the president’s because he asks for more material. According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, the briefing is “unremarkable.” Cheney typically sets off for the three-mile drive to the White House at 7:30 a.m. He usually joins the president for his intelligence briefing, but with Bush away in Florida, there is no briefing at the White House on this day. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 327-328] According to David Kuo, a special assistant to the president, Cheney arrives at the White House at just after 7:00 a.m. this morning. Kuo will later recall that Cheney “looked like an absentminded professor, deep in thought, oblivious to the world.” [Kuo, 2006, pp. 183]
From left to right: Senator Bob Graham (D), Senator Jon Kyl (R), and Representative Porter Goss (R). [Source: US Senate, National Park Service, US House of Representatives]Around 8:00 a.m., on September 11, 2001, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed is at a breakfast meeting at the Capitol with the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and Representative Porter Goss (R-FL), a 10-year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine operations wing. Also present at the meeting are Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and the Pakistani ambassador to the US, Maleeha Lodhi, as well as other officials and aides. (Goss, Kyl, and Graham had just met with Pakistani President Pervez Mushrraf in Pakistan two weeks earlier (see August 28-30, 2001)). [Salon, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 5/18/2002] Graham and Goss will later co-head the joint House-Senate investigation into the 9/11 attacks, which will focus on Saudi government involvement in the 9/11 attacks, but will say almost nothing about possible Pakistani government connections to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks (see August 1-3, 2003 and December 11, 2002). [Washington Post, 7/11/2002] Note that Senator Graham should have been aware of a report made to his staff the previous month (see Early August 2001) that one of Mahmood’s subordinates had told a US undercover agent that the WTC would be destroyed. Some evidence suggests that Mahmood ordered that $100,000 be sent to hijacker Mohamed Atta (see October 7, 2001).
Pakistan's Demands - Graham will later say of the meeting: “We were talking about terrorism, specifically terrorism generated from Afghanistan.” The New York Times will report that bin Laden is specifically discussed. [Vero Beach Press Journal, 9/12/2001; Salon, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 6/3/2002] The US wants more support from Pakistan in its efforts to capture bin Laden. However, Mahmood says that unless the US lifts economic sanctions imposed on Pakistan and improves relations, Pakistan will not oppose the Taliban nor provide intelligence and military support to get bin Laden. He says, “If you need our help, you need to address our problems and lift US sanctions.” He also encourages the US to engage the Taliban diplomatically to get them to change, instead of isolating them. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “It was absurd for Mahmood to insist now that the Americans engage with the Taliban, when [Pakistan’s] own influence over them was declining and al-Qaeda’s increasing.”
Meeting Interrupted by 9/11 Attacks - Zamir Akram, an accompanying Pakistani diplomat, leaves the room for a break. While outside, he sees a group of Congressional aides gathered around a television set. As Akram walks up to the TV, he sees the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center. He immediately runs back to the meeting to the tell the others. But even as he gets there, a congressional aide comes in to say that Capitol Hill is being evacuated. The aide says, “There is a plane headed this way.” Mahmood and the rest of the Pakistani delegation immediately leave and attempt to return to the Pakistani embassy. But they are stuck in traffic for three hours before they get there. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 26-27]
Brenton Greene. [Source: National Communications System]CIA representatives give a briefing to a little-known government agency called the National Communications System (NCS) at a facility just outside Washington, DC, where they discuss the threat that international terrorists pose to the US’s telecommunications infrastructure. The NCS is a relatively small agency that works to ensure the uninterrupted availability of critical communications networks during times of national crisis. It will play an important role in the response and recovery efforts following the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, when damage to the World Trade Center area severely impairs the local telecommunications infrastructure. [Verton, 2003, pp. 135-137; National Communications System, 2004, pp. 56 ]
Briefing Attended by Public and Private Sectors Representatives - The briefing is held at what journalist and author Dan Verton will call “a secure facility outside of Washington, DC.” Presumably this is the NCS’s National Coordinating Center in Arlington, Virginia. Attendees include Brenton Greene, the director of the NCS since April 2001, and representatives from seven other federal agencies and over 40 technology and communications companies that operate many of the US’s most critical communications networks. The representatives from the private sector, according to Verton, are all “senior executives from their respective companies, and all had government security clearances that granted them access to the most sensitive intelligence data pertaining to threats to the infrastructures that formed not only the lifelines of their businesses but the lifelines of the nation as well.”
CIA Outlines Threat to Telecommunications Infrastructure - Although Greene is a 25-year veteran of the Navy’s submarine force and is “used to classified briefings and operating in the shadows,” the current briefing, according to Verton, promises “to be different from any other he had taken part in.” The CIA representatives begin it at 8:00 a.m. by outlining the growing international terrorist threat to the US telecommunications infrastructure.
Terrorists Aware of Benefits of Targeting Telecommunications - Verton will describe that the briefing participants then agree that there is “a growing body of evidence relating to the increased sophistication in information warfare (IW) capabilities of foreign nations.” Additionally, a cyber-attack against computer systems in the US “would likely involve a major disruption of key telecommunications infrastructures serving other sectors of the economy, including banking and finance, electric power, and air traffic control.” Greene will later comment: “Everything runs on telecom. If it’s a major cyber-event, it’s going to have a physical tail. If it’s a major physical event, it’s going to have a cyber-tail.” The CIA representatives say that some terrorist organizations are also becoming aware of the potential offered by targeting the telecommunications infrastructure.
Briefing Continues despite News of First Crash - Shortly after 8:46 a.m., when the first plane hits the WTC, Navy Captain J. Katharine Burton enters the briefing room and whispers to Greene the news of what has happened. With no further information available and no evidence that the crash was anything more than an accident, Greene calmly passes on the news to the other people in the room, and then orders the briefing to continue. The CIA representatives therefore go on until news arrives of the second plane hitting the WTC at 9:03 a.m., and televisions are turned on to CNN, which is showing live coverage from New York. Greene will later recall: “It was clear then that there was some threat. When the second plane hit, I said: ‘I’m leaving. I need to go look at the implications of this.’” [Verton, 2003, pp. 135-139, 141]
9/11 Attacks Are 'the Most Significant Challenge' to the NCS - The NCS will play a key role in the government’s response to the 9/11 attacks, which result in severe damage and impairment to the telecommunications infrastructure serving the area around the WTC. [National Communications System, 2004, pp. 56 ] Greene will later recall that the destruction caused by the attacks becomes “the most significant challenge that the National Communications System had ever seen.” [Verton, 2003, pp. 151] The NCS’s National Coordinating Center is activated, and supports response and recovery efforts (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After leaving the briefing, Greene will head to his “Continuity of Government” site, from where the status of the communications network is constantly monitored, and priorities and repairs are coordinated. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ]
Mike Morell. [Source: CIA]President Bush receives his daily intelligence briefing in his room at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida, where he has just spent the night (see September 10, 2001), but the briefing includes nothing about terrorism. The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) is a summary of the most current intelligence reports from around the world. It is delivered to Bush each day by Mike Morell, a CIA analyst. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Bowden, 2012, pp. 4-5; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] It usually includes seven or eight items. Fifteen minutes are usually allotted for the briefing, although it often lasts longer than this.
Brief Arrived Late - The PDB today was, unusually, late to arrive. It was going to be sent from CIA headquarters, via the White House Situation Room, to the White House Communications Agency command post at the resort at 3:30 a.m. But at 4:30 a.m. it had not arrived and so Morell called CIA headquarters to see if there was a problem. He was told there wasn’t and the material had been sent at 3:30 a.m., as planned. He then phoned the command post and was assured that the brief would be brought to him soon. Morell therefore received the PDB after 4:30 a.m., which left him less than three hours to master its contents and select supplementary materials to show the president.
CIA Briefer Met the Situation Room Director to Prepare - Morell met Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, at 7:30 a.m. to compare the information they each planned to show the president during the briefing. At 7:55 a.m. the two went up to Bush’s suite. Shortly after 8:00 a.m. they enter the president’s room to give the briefing, and find Bush seated at a table with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, is also in the room for the briefing. Bush puts down his newspaper and asks, “Anything of interest this morning?”
Brief Includes No Terrorism-Related Items - Loewer goes first. She spends a couple of minutes updating Bush on the Middle East peace process. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 45-46; Priess, 2016, pp. 238-239] Morell then goes through the PDB with the president. The information in it today covers Russia, China, and the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. [Bush, 2010, pp. 126; Bowden, 2012, pp. 5; Priess, 2016, pp. 239] There is nothing in it about terrorist threats. [Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 46; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “On arguably the most important day in President Bush’s tenure, his intelligence briefing was uneventful,” Morell will later comment. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ] It takes Morell less than 10 minutes to go through the PDB with Bush, according to author David Priess. Bush then talks on the phone for a couple of minutes with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, in a call he has requested in response to some of the news Loewer has given him. [Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 46-47; Priess, 2016, pp. 239] He asks Rice to follow up on a few points. [Kessler, 2004, pp. 136; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Briefing Lasts 15 to 25 Minutes - The briefing is over by 8:25 a.m., according to Morell. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 47] It ends “close to 8:30,” Loewer will say. [Priess, 2016, pp. 239] But according to other accounts, the briefing lasts 15 minutes and so is over by around 8:15 a.m. (see 8:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2004, pp. 136; Bohn, 2015, pp. 213] After leaving Bush’s suite, Morell and Loewer will head down to take their places in the motorcade that is going to transport them to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, which the president is scheduled to visit this morning. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 47; Priess, 2016, pp. 239]
CIA Director George Tenet is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D-OK), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks north of the White House. According to journalist Bob Woodward, Boren asks Tenet, “What are you worried about these days?” Tenet replies, “Bin Laden,” and says he is convinced the al-Qaeda leader is going to do something big. Boren asks him how could one person without the resources of a foreign government be such a threat? Tenet responds, “You don’t understand the capabilities and the reach of what they’re putting together.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 1 and 3; Chicago Sun-Times, 12/6/2002] When, shortly afterwards, Tenet learns of the first attack on the World Trade Center, he will immediately say he thinks bin Laden is responsible (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
A homemaker living near Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey sees three men behaving strangely on a nearby roof and alerts the authorities. This homemaker, who has given only her first name Maria, is called by a neighbor shortly after the first plane has hit the WTC and is told about the impact. She has a view of the WTC from her apartment building so she gets her binoculars and watches the disaster. However, she also notices three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. Maria will later recall, “They seemed to be taking a movie.” They are taking video or photos of themselves with the WTC burning in the background. But what strikes Maria is their expressions: “They were like happy, you know… They didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange.” She writes down the license plate number of the van and calls the police. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Apparently the men leave the area a few minutes after the first attack is over. [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] An FBI lookout bulletin for the van will be issued later in the day (see 3:31 p.m. September 11, 2001) and the three men (plus two more discovered with them) will be detained (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). When the men detained, one of them will be found with pictures of the group standing with the burning wreckage of the WTC in the background. [Forward, 3/15/2002] At least some of the pictures were taken while standing on top of the van. [New York Times, 10/8/2001] The lawyer for the five men will later note that one photograph developed by the FBI shows one of the men, Sivan Kurzberg, holding a lighted lighter in the foreground, with the burning WTC in the background. [New York Times, 11/21/2001] It will apparently be determined at least two of the men are Israeli spies, but what they were doing and why will remain in dispute. One of these Israelis will later say, “our purpose was to document the event.” [ABC News, 6/21/2002]
Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Sivan Kurzberg, Urban Moving Systems, Scott DeCarlo, Maria, Omer Marmari, Paul Kurzberg, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad), Oded Ellner, Yaron Shmuel
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Satam Al Suqami’s remarkably undamaged passport, marked and wrapped in plastic. It is shown as evidence in the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial. [Source: FBI]The passport of 9/11 hijacker Satam Al Suqami is reportedly found a few blocks from the World Trade Center. [ABC News, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 9/16/2001] Barry Mawn, the director of the FBI’s New York office, will say that police and the FBI found it during a “grid search” of the area. [CNN, 9/18/2001] However, according to the 9/11 Commission, the passport is actually discovered by a male passer-by who is about 30 years old and wearing a business suit. The man gives it to New York City Police Department Detective Yuk H. Chin shortly before 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower of the WTC collapses. The man leaves before he is identified. Chin, according to the 9/11 Commission, will give the passport to the FBI later in the day. [9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 40 ] An FBI timeline concerned with the 9/11 hijackers will state that the passport is found by a civilian “on the street near [the] World Trade Center,” and is “soaked in jet fuel.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 291 ] According to FBI agent Dan Coleman, Al Suqami’s passport is handed to a New York City detective who is “down there, trying to talk to people as they were coming out of the buildings.” By the time the detective looks up again after receiving the passport, the man who handed it to him has run off, “which doesn’t make sense,” Coleman will say. The passport is then given to a detective on the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Coleman will say that by this evening, “we realized… that this was the passport of one of the people that headquarters had identified as one of the 19 probable hijackers.” [France 5, 3/14/2010] Investigative journalist Nick Davies will later write that he talked to “senior British sources who said they believed that the discovery of a terrorist’s passport in the rubble of the Twin Towers in September 2001 had been ‘a throwdown,’ i.e. it was placed there by somebody official.” [Davies, 2009, pp. 248] The Guardian will comment, “The idea that Mohamed Atta’s passport had escaped from that inferno unsinged [tests] the credulity of the staunchest supporter of the FBI’s crackdown on terrorism.” (Note that, as in this Guardian account, the passport will frequently be mistakenly referred to as belonging to Atta, not Al Suqami.) [Guardian, 3/19/2002]
The conference room on Air Force One. [Source: George Bush Library]Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, the president’s plane, receives no contact from any US government agency, such as the CIA or the FBI, about the first plane crash at the World Trade Center, although numerous agencies call the plane immediately after the second crash. Air Force One is currently at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida, where it has been since the previous evening (see September 10, 2001). Tillman boarded the plane at around 8:15 a.m. this morning, and he has been preparing to take off at 10:45 a.m. and take President Bush back to Washington, DC.
Pilot Sees the Coverage of the First Crash but Thinks It Is an Accident - While he is walking around the plane and checking all the rooms, Tillman is called upstairs by the plane’s radio operator. Upstairs, the radio operator shows him the coverage of the first crash at the WTC on television and says: “I don’t know what’s going on; neither does the media. But it doesn’t look like it’s anything important; it looks like it’s an aircraft accident.” Air Force One, according to Tillman, has 42 phone lines that specifically connect to government agencies such as the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency. But, Tillman will later recall: “None of those phones were going off. Everybody thought this was just an aircraft accident.” He will say that the plane’s crew receives “no information from any command and control authority” at this time. Tillman believes that, in light of what has happened, Bush will want to visit New York. Everyone on the plane is therefore told to be ready to go. He tells the radio operator simply to keep monitoring what is happening in New York and then heads downstairs to continue checking the rooms on Air Force One.
All the Phones Start Ringing after the Second Attack - After the second plane hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Tillman is again called upstairs. The radio operator alerts him to the television coverage of what has happened. “We now have an understanding that it’s a deliberate attack on the [Twin] Towers,” Tillman will say. “All the information we had was from the news media at this point,” he will comment. But whereas no government agencies previously called Air Force One, suddenly, Tillman will recall: “All the phone lines are coming alive. Every agency in the world wants to know what our status is [and] if we’re ready to go.” “We were hooked into the PEOC [the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, a bunker below the White House] and the JOC [Joint Operations Center] for the Secret Service,” he will say, adding, “They’re all in the link now.” In response to the second attack, security around Air Force One will be increased (see (9:04 a.m.-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] The plane will take off from the Sarasota airport with Bush on board at 9:54 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]
Most days, at 8:30 a.m., CIA Director George Tenet holds a meeting in his conference room at CIA headquarters where 15 top agency officials contribute the news from their particular area. But on this day Tenet is away, having breakfast with former Senator David Boren (D-OK) (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In his place, running the meeting is A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the CIA’s executive director. After the first attack occurs, the senior duty officer of the CIA’s Operations Center interrupts and announces, “Excuse me, Mr. Krongard, but I thought you would want to know that a plane just struck the World Trade Center.” The Operations Center, which is staffed, 24 hours a day by 15 officers, has three televisions that are usually tuned to CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. So presumably the duty officer has just seen the initial televised reports coming from New York. Krongard then adjourns his meeting and returns to his office. [Kessler, 2003, pp. 196-197 and 202]
Within the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland is a little-known unit called the Defense Special Missile and Astronautics Center (DEFSMAC). According to author James Bamford, who is an expert on the NSA, the center’s purpose is “to serve as the nation’s chief warning bell for a planned attack on America. It serves as the focal point for ‘all-source’ intelligence—listening posts, early-warning satellites, human agents, and seismic detectors.” According to one former NSA official, DEFSMAC “has all the inputs from all the assets, and is a warning activity. They probably have a better feel for any worldwide threat to this country from missiles, aircraft, or overt military activities, better and more timely, at instant fingertip availability, than any group in the United States.” If they received indications that an attack was imminent, DEFSMAC officials could “immediately send out near-real-time and in-depth, all-source intelligence alerts to almost 200 ‘customers,’ including the White House Situation Room, the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, the [Defense Intelligence Agency] Alert Center, and listening posts around the world.” Its analysts could be “closely monitoring all intercepts flooding in; examining the latest overhead photography; and analyzing data from early-warning satellites 22,300 miles above the equator. DEFSMAC would then flash the intelligence to the US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, and other emergency command centers.” But on this morning, as Bamford will conclude, “DEFSMAC learned of the massive airborne attacks after the fact—not from America’s multibillion-dollar spy satellites or its worldwide network of advanced listening posts, or its army of human spies, but from a dusty, off-the-shelf TV set.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 33-35] The NSA had in fact intercepted numerous calls between some of the hijackers in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen, beginning in early 2000 and ending just weeks before 9/11 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). [MSNBC, 7/21/2004] It also intercepted two messages in Arabic on September 10, stating, “The match is about to begin,” and “Tomorrow is zero hour,” but these are supposedly not translated until September 12 (see September 10, 2001). [Washington Post, 6/20/2002] The NSA even intercepted a series of communications between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta beginning in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), continuing to a message where KSM gives Atta the final go-ahead for the attacks on September 10, 2001 (see September 10, 2001). Michael Hayden, the director of the NSA, will later claim that the “NSA had no [indications] that al-Qaeda was specifically targeting New York and Washington… or even that it was planning an attack on US soil” (see October 17, 2002). [National Journal, 6/19/2006]
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), calls the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) to report the hijacking of Flight 11, but the SIOC can provide him with no additional information about the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] The FAA’s Boston Center alerted NEADS to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] But Stuart will later recall that when he then calls the SIOC to report the incident, he finds that the center has “no information to pass that could shed light on the nature of the… hijacking.” Stuart is handed off to two or three individuals at the SIOC. He explains what is happening and asks for law enforcement information, but, he will say, the SIOC “had nothing.” One of the people that Stuart talks to says to him, “Oh sh_t, I have to go,” and then hangs up. Stuart will tell the 9/11 Commission that he calls the SIOC at around 8:48 a.m. using his personal credit card. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] The SIOC is located on the fifth floor of the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC. It functions as a 24-hour watch post and crisis management center, and is equipped with sophisticated computers and communications equipment. [CNN, 11/20/1998; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/18/2004]
The National Military Joint Intelligence Center. [Source: Joseph M. Juarez / Defense Intelligence Agency]Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), calls the National Military Joint Intelligence Center (NMJIC) at the Pentagon regarding the hijacking of Flight 11, but the center is unable to provide him with any more information than he already has. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] NEADS was alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Stuart now calls the Air Force desk at the NMJIC about it. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] The NMJIC, located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon, constantly monitors worldwide developments for any looming crises that might require US involvement. [Washington Times, 9/25/1997; Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2/6/2006] It “forms the heart of timely intelligence support to national-level contingency operations,” according to James Clapper, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. And during a crisis, it “serves as a clearinghouse for all requests for national-level intelligence information.” [Joint Forces Quarterly, 3/1994 ] However, Stuart will later recall that the NMJIC can provide him with “no additional relevant information” on the hijacking. Stuart then calls Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. But, Stuart will say, the 1st Air Force also has “no further information” about the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ]
The FBI arrives at the FAA’s Boston Center, in Nashua, New Hampshire, “minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center,” and seizes tape recordings of radio transmissions from the hijacked plane. Boston Center handled Flight 11, and recorded intermittent radio transmissions from its cockpit (see (After 8:14 a.m.-8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001] According to FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown, the FAA has to turn over all its records from 9/11 to the FBI immediately afterwards. She says it is not unusual for the FAA to turn over its records after a major disaster, but normally this is to the National Transportation Safety Board, not the FBI. [Griffin, 2004, pp. 185]
David Boren. [Source: University of Oklahoma]CIA Director George Tenet is told of the first WTC crash while he is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D-OK), at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. They are interrupted when CIA bodyguards converge on the table to hand Tenet a cell phone. Tenet is told that the WTC has been attacked by an airplane. Boren later says, “I was struck by the fact that [the messenger] used the word ‘attacked.’” Tenet then hands the cell phone back to an aide and says to Boren, “You know, this has bin Laden’s fingerprints all over it.” “‘He was very collected,’ Boren recalls. ‘He said he would be at the CIA in 15 minutes, what people he needed in the room and what he needed to talk about.’” [USA Today, 9/24/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002] According to other accounts, Tenet responds to the caller, “They steered the plane directly into the building?” Tenet then says to Boren, “That looks like bin Laden.” Tenet muses aloud, “I wonder if this has something to do with the guy [Zacarias Moussaoui] who trained for a pilot’s license.” (Moussaoui had been arrested several weeks earlier.) [St. Paul Pioneer Press, 5/29/2002; Stern, 8/13/2003] According to another account, Tenet pauses while on the phone to tell Boren, “The World Trade Center has been hit. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t an accident. It looks like a terrorist act,” then returns to the phone to identify who should be summoned to the CIA situation room. [Time, 9/14/2001] Tenet later tells author Ronald Kessler, “There was no doubt that al-Qaeda was going to come here eventually, and that something spectacular was planned. I knew immediately who it was [behind the attack].” [Kessler, 2003, pp. 196] In his own 2007 book, Tenet will largely confirm the above accounts. He will add, “Most people, I understand, assumed that the first crash was a tragic accident. It took the second plane hitting the second tower to show them that something far worse was going on. That wasn’t the case for me. We had been living too intimately with the possibility of a terrorist attack on the United States. I instantly thought that this had to be al-Qaeda.” He also mentions thinking aloud about Moussaoui. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 161] Tenet will subsequently hurry back to CIA headquarters in his car (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
CIA Director George Tenet has just learned of the first attack on the WTC while having breakfast with former Senator David Boren (D-OK) at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. He later says, “It was obvious to us both that I had to leave immediately.” Along with Tim Ward, the head of his security detail, he gets into his car and, with lights flashing, hurries back to the CIA headquarters in Langley. Tenet later recalls that in these first minutes after the attack, “All the random dots we had been looking at started to fit into a pattern.… [M]y head was exploding with connections. I immediately thought about the ‘Bojinka’ plot to blow up twelve US airliners over the Pacific and a subsequent plan to fly a small airplane into CIA headquarters, which was broken up in 1994.” During his journey, he calls John Moseman, his chief of staff, and instructs him to assemble the senior CIA staff and key people from the Counterterrorist Center in the conference room next to his office. However, Tenet claims, it is difficult for him to get calls through on the secure phone, meaning he is “Essentially… in a communications blackout between the St. Regis and Langley, the longest twelve minutes of my life.” He only learns that a second plane hit the World Trade Center when he arrives at CIA headquarters. Tenet enters the conference room at around 9:15 a.m. By that time, he says, “I don’t think there was a person in the room who had the least doubt that we were in the middle of a full-scale assault orchestrated by al-Qaeda.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 161-163]
Mike Morell, President Bush’s CIA briefer, calls the CIA’s operations center to see if anyone there knows more about what has happened at the World Trade Center and is told that the WTC was hit by a large commercial airliner. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 48] Morell learned that a plane had crashed into the WTC as he was being driven to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where Bush is going to attend a reading event. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was in the same vehicle as him, received a pager message stating what had happened and then exclaimed, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center” (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 17; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Fleischer asked Morell if he knew anything about the incident. “As the in-house intelligence officer, Morell was the man they looked to for the scoop when something startling happened,” journalist and author Mark Bowden will comment. [Bowden, 2012, pp. 3] The CIA officer knew nothing about the incident but said he would make some calls to inquire about it.
CIA Officer Thought the Crash Was an Accident - Morell initially assumed the crash was an accident. “The image in my mind,” he will later recall, “was of a small plane losing its way in a storm or fog and hitting the World Trade Center. I figured the death toll would include only two or three people on the plane and perhaps a few more in offices at the point of impact.” All the same, after entering the school, he calls the operations center at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to see if anyone there knows more about the crash. He assumes someone there likely will because, he will write, “I had come to rely on the group of hard-working officers in the center, both to set aside for me key pieces of overnight reporting and to answer my many questions.”
CIA Officer Is Told a Large Plane Hit the WTC - However, the duty officer Morell talks to is able to tell him little more than what he already knows. The one new detail the duty officer provides, Morell will recall, is that “the initial reports indicated that the plane [that hit the WTC] was a large commercial jet.” “My hope that this was not terrorism started to fade,” he will write. Morell then walks into the holding room next to the classroom where Bush is going to listen to some children reading and notices that the time is 9:00 a.m. Minutes later, he will learn about Flight 175 crashing into the WTC (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) and realize immediately that the incident is a “deliberate act of terrorism.” [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 47-48]
In the CIA’s Near East Division (NE) front office suite on the sixth floor of the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, everyone thinks Osama bin Laden is to blame as soon as they see the second aircraft hitting the World Trade Center. Gary Schroen, a former CIA station chief in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, is in the NE office suite, where several people have been staring at the television showing the burning North Tower. As Schroen later recalls, “We were getting calls from CTC [the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center], friends of the CTC in and around the building, that the World Trade Center, one of the towers had been struck.” According to Schroen, there are “like, 30 of us standing around,” and “as soon as the second aircraft smashed into the second tower, everyone said, ‘Bin Laden. It was bin Laden.… This is the attack that bin Laden’s been promising.’” [Schroen, 2005, pp. 12-14; NPR, 5/2/2005; PBS Frontline, 1/20/2006] When CIA Director George Tenet learned of the first WTC attack, he reportedly said immediately that he thought bin Laden was responsible (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 4]
At the CIA’s Langley headquarters, Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt has arrived back at his office after attending an 8:30 a.m. meeting in the agency’s conference room (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The second WTC tower has already been hit by this time. Pavitt sends a message to all CIA stations, saying, “I expect each station and each officer to redouble efforts of collecting intelligence on this tragedy.” Mary, the CIA’s New York station chief, calls him. In this call, Pavitt and Mary agree that Osama bin Laden is behind the attack. According to journalist and author Ronald Kessler, they believe that “Its scope, temerity, degree of planning, and viciousness fit his way of operating.” [Kessler, 2003, pp. 202-204]
According to CIA Director George Tenet, “Only minutes” after the South Tower is hit, the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) receives a report that at least one other commercial passenger jet plane is unaccounted for. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 163] The CTC is based at the CIA headquarters in Langley, and is run by the agency’s operations division. It gathers intelligence and runs covert operations abroad. It employs hundreds of analysts, and includes experts assigned from Defense Department intelligence agencies, the Pentagon’s Central Command, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other government agencies. According to the Los Angeles Times, “It serves as the nerve center for the CIA’s effort to disrupt and deter terrorist groups and their state sponsors.” [St. Petersburg Times, 10/2/2001; Los Angeles Times, 10/12/2001] Further details of the unaccounted-for plane, and where the CTC learns of it from, are unclear. The plane is presumably Flight 77, which veered off course at 8:54 (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and was evidently lost by 8:56 (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] The FAA will later claim it had established several phone bridges at around 8:50 a.m., which included various government agencies, on which it shared “real-time information… about the unfolding events, including information about loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] So the CTC may have learned of the errant plane by this means. Yet the 9/11 Commission will claim the FAA’s phone bridges were not established until about 9:20 (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36] And NORAD is supposedly only alerted to Flight 77 at 9:24, according to some accounts (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001), or 9:34, according to others (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Tom Greer. [Source: CBS News]Members of Delta Force, the US Army’s elite counterterrorist unit, who are in Hungary for a training exercise receive numerous false reports of attacks that have supposedly occurred in the United States and it takes two days before they have an accurate picture of what the terrorist attacks in the US involved. [Fury, 2008, pp. 56-59] Hundreds of US military personnel are in Europe for a major exercise called Jackal Cave. This exercise, run by the Joint Special Operations Command, involves participants tracking down mock terrorists and organized criminals who are supposedly trafficking in weapons of mass destruction (see (8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Many personnel who are involved in Jackal Cave have been settling into their temporary headquarters for the exercise, at the end of a taxiway at Taszár Air Base in Hungary. A Delta Force squadron that is participating in the exercise is housed in a couple of tents there. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 404; Naylor, 2015, pp. ix-xi]
Delta Force Officers Didn't Think the First Crash Was Terrorism - Tom Greer, a Delta Force officer, learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center while preparing for the exercise. His squadron operations sergeant, who he will later refer to only as “Bart,” came into his tent to relay some information to him and his squadron operations officer, “Super D.” While there, Bart casually mentioned, “Hey, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.” Greer and Super D initially gave little thought to the news. “[N]o one was considering that terrorists might… be behind this new situation,” Greer will write. However, minutes later, Bart returned to the tent with a look of disbelief on his face and said: “Another plane just crashed into the other Trade Center building. Now they think it’s terrorists!” Greer and Super D went to their tactical operations center (TOC) to see if the television was on there, so they could watch the coverage of the attacks. The TOC, Greer will describe, was “wall to wall… with concerned soldiers, staff officers, commanders, [Army] Rangers, Army helicopter pilots, Air Force officers, and a few Delta [Force] operators.” Everyone there was watching CNN and trying to make sense of what was happening in the US.
Intelligence Updates Include Many False Reports - After a time, Greer and Super D return to their tent. There, intelligence analysts post hourly updates of what has happened in the US. However, the updates include numerous reports of incidents that never occurred. These alleged incidents, according to Greer, include an American F-15 fighter jet deliberately shooting down an airliner—American Airlines Flight 1089—over the Atlantic Ocean; an F-15 shooting down an airliner—Delta Air Lines Flight 766—over northwest Virginia; and an F-16 fighter following an airliner—United Airlines Flight 283—that is believed to be heading toward Washington, DC, and is not responding to communications. The F-16’s pilot is authorized to use “lethal force” if the airliner reaches US airspace. Additionally, the updates report that the Capitol building and the White House have been hit by jumbo jets, and are both on fire.
Updates Record 13 Hijackings - By the morning of September 12, the updates have included reports of 13 airliners being hijacked. Of these, four airliners were supposedly shot down over land or water by American fighters while the other nine airliners supposedly hit targets in New York and Washington. Greer and his colleagues only gain an accurate picture of what the 9/11 attacks involved on September 13. Greer will state why he thinks they initially received so much incorrect information, writing, “Miscommunication, manifested in multiple reports by various news agencies of the same event, the jammed telephone lines and cell towers bulging from maximum usage, and the fact we were on the other side of the world had contributed to the fantastic and inaccurate reports.” [Fury, 2008, pp. 57-60]
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is told that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center by Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., his senior military assistant, but continues with a routine intelligence briefing. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] Rumsfeld learned about the first crash at the WTC during a meeting in his private dining room at the Pentagon, but he assumed it was an accident (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vogel, 2007, pp. 428; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 334-335] After the meeting ended he returned to his office to receive his daily intelligence briefing. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37] Giambastiani was at the meeting in Rumsfeld’s private dining room and similarly returned to his office when it ended—apparently around 9:00 a.m.—to continue with his regular work. The television in his office was on and so he saw the second hijacked plane crashing into the WTC live, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He apparently realized right away that the incident was a terrorist attack. “Then there was absolutely no doubt in anybody’s mind that it was not a random event or an accident,” he will later comment, adding, “There was absolutely no doubt in my mind.” He goes to tell Rumsfeld what has happened. “I went in and informed the secretary [of defense],” he will say. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 ] “Someone came in and said that another plane had hit a different tower of the World Trade Center,” Rumsfeld will recall. [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] The two men apparently now realize the seriousness of the crisis. “When the second plane hit the World Trade Center, it became clear that it was more than an accident,” Rumsfeld will comment. [CBS, 9/8/2002] “We knew there was a problem here,” Giambastiani will say. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 ] However, Rumsfeld continues with his intelligence briefing. “[H]e resumed the briefing while awaiting more information,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state. He will still be in his office receiving the briefing at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is attacked (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Vogel, 2007, pp. 438-439]
David McNulty. [Source: Air National Guard]An intelligence officer with the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) at Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles outside Washington, is unable to obtain further information about the attacks from other agencies, and instead has to make do with what he can learn from television reports. [Filson, 2003, pp. 79; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155-156] Having learned of the two attacks in New York, Major David McNulty, the senior intelligence officer of the 113th Wing of the DCANG, checks the SIPRNET—the Department of Defense’s classified version of the Internet—for pertinent information, but apparently without success. He phones anyone he can think of who might be able to provide information, including the Air Combat Command Intelligence Squadron at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the 609th Air Intelligence Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, the FBI field office in Washington, and the Secret Service’s White House Joint Operations Center. Yet, as he will later recall, the agencies have “nothing to report.” Even his call to the FBI is “a fruitless effort.” [9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155-156] McNulty will say, “I even called the National Security Agency 24-hour information desk and they knew nothing more than I did.” He adds, “We were all getting our information from CNN.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 79] According to Knight Ridder, “Air defense around Washington, DC, is provided mainly by fighter planes from Andrews Air Force Base.” [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2001] However, author Lynn Spencer will claim that because the DCANG “is a general purpose F-16 unit, no one is specifically tasked with keeping the squadron informed.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 156]
Norman Seip. [Source: US Air Force]A National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network (NOIWON) conference call is established to allow government agencies in the Washington, DC, area to quickly share information regarding the ongoing events, but the call reportedly contributes little of value to the emergency response to the terrorist attacks. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/13/2004; Government Executive, 6/1/2009] The NOIWON call is convened by the CIA sometime between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m., according to FAA chronologies. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ] According to an officer at the Pentagon, the White House Situation Room is taking the lead at the time he answers the NOIWON call. [9/11 Commission, 5/5/2004]
FAA Participates in Call - At the FAA headquarters in Washington, the NOIWON call is answered by Bart Merkley, one of two officers on duty in the ACI Watch—a small, 24-hour intelligence facility located on the building’s third floor. [9/11 Commission, 7/13/2004] Merkley stays on the call for its entire duration. He passes onto it information he has learned from the Tactical Net—a teleconference established by the operations center at FAA headquarters at 8:50 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
NMCC Participates in Call - At the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, the initial call on the NOIWON line is answered by Commander Pat Gardner, the assistant deputy director for operations. [9/11 Commission, 5/5/2004] Subsequently, Brigadier General Norman Seip will take over the line and remain on it for most of the day. According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, this is because the “White House Situation Room insisted on having a flag officer on an open line” with it. [9/11 Commission, 7/21/2003 ]
NOIWON Call of Little Use - The NOIWON call apparently contributes little of value to the emergency response to the terrorist attacks. Darrel Smith, who is working alongside Merkley in the ACI Watch at FAA headquarters, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not remember any useful or significant information coming as a result of the NOIWON call.” [9/11 Commission, 7/13/2004] Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations in the NMCC throughout the attacks, will tell the Commission that he “recalled no situational awareness that came from the NOIWON call.” [9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 ] Gardner will say he “doesn’t remember specifically what was discussed” on the call. [9/11 Commission, 5/5/2004] FAA records will state, “It is believed that the [Department of Defense] received information” concerning the attacks over the NOIWON call, but the FAA “holds no records of that communication.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001]
Call Delays Establishing of NMCC's Conference - Furthermore, the NOIWON call delays the Pentagon’s response to the attacks. The NMCC’s usual first action in response to a crisis is to establish a “significant event conference” in order to gather and disseminate information from government agencies, and discuss what actions should be taken. However, the NOIWON call reportedly intervenes with the preparations for such a conference call. According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, “The NMCC abandoned its attempt to convene a [significant event conference] so its watch officers could participate in the NOIWON conference.” [9/11 Commission, 7/21/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The significant event conference will therefore only commence at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37]
No Recording of Call - The NOIWON is described as “a dedicated secure telephone system with a conferencing capability for the rapid exchange and sharing of high interest and time-sensitive information between Washington-area operations centers.” [Government Executive, 6/1/2009] During breaking crises it is used by the major national security watch centers around Washington, including the NMCC and the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, the State Department Operations Center, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the CIA’s operations center, the NSA’s operations center, and the White House Situation Room. [Radi, 3/1997 ] The 9/11 Commission will later request a transcript of the NOIWON call conducted on this day, but despite “multiple searches,” no recording of it will be found. [9/11 Commission, 8/22/2003; Stephen A. Cambone, 10/14/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/16/2004]
After receiving a call from her husband Tom Burnett, who is on the hijacked Flight 93 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), Deena Burnett calls 911 to report the hijacking. She used to be a flight attendant, so knows what to say in an emergency. Her 911 call is recorded and she will later be provided with a tape of it. According to journalist and author Jere Longman, who is played this tape, Deena reports: “My husband just called me from United Flight 93. The plane has been hijacked. They just knifed a passenger and there are guns on the airplane.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 107-108 and 278] However, in her 2006 book, Deena Burnett will give a slightly different account according to which she makes no mention of guns on the plane, instead telling the dispatcher: “My husband is on an airplane that has been hijacked. He just called me from the airplane on his cellular telephone. He told me they have a bomb on board.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 62-63] (Note that the 9/11 Commission later concludes that the Flight 93 hijackers do not possess guns (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13] ) Deena then tells the dispatcher the flight number and route. Her call is transferred to a man at the police department, who then switches her to the FBI. She repeats her story to a special agent, who initially misunderstands her, thinking she is saying her husband was on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center. Once she has clarified that he is on another plane, the agent gives her a list of questions to ask her husband if she speaks with him again, such as how many hijackers are there and what weapons do they have? At that moment, her call waiting beeps, as Tom Burnett is calling a second time (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 63] Deena will be unable to ask Tom the questions the agent has asked her to during his subsequent calls from Flight 93, because, she later recalls, “I didn’t want to take up any precious time talking any more than was necessary,” and “I had wanted to hear Tom’s voice.” Instead, she writes down everything he says and everything that is going on. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 68] According to Longman, Deena will call the FBI back minutes later, following her husband’s second call (see (Between 9:36 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 110] But according to Deena Burnett’s 2006 book, she will not speak to the FBI agent again until around 10:00 a.m., after her husband’s final call to her from Flight 93 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 68-69]
Shortly before Flight 77 hits the Pentagon, Washington’s Dulles Airport, from where it had departed, is “locked down” by the FAA, and many FBI and INS agents arrive, but their behavior is considered odd. Ed Nelson, a security manager at the airport, thinks something is not “adding up,” due to the unusual questions his employees are being asked: “They were not asking about the hijackers—they were focusing on what my screeners might have done wrong. It was as if they were working off a script.” FBI agents will later confirm this, and an FBI supervisor will say: “The orders came from headquarters through the local Washington-area FBI field offices and the Joint Task Force on Terrorism. The teams of agents were told to ‘get the screeners to admit they had violated FAA recommended procedures.’” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 36]
According to journalist and author Jere Longman, after her husband Tom Burnett has called her a second time from the hijacked Flight 93 (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), Deena Burnett calls the FBI again. She had previously spoken with an FBI agent after she’d called 911 following her first call from her husband (see 9:31 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Longman provides no details of what is said during this second call to the FBI. [Longman, 2002, pp. 110-111] Deena Burnett’s account, presented in her own 2006 book, will make no mention of any call to the FBI at this time. She only says that at this time she speaks by phone with her husband’s two sisters and his parents. According to her 2006 account, Deena will not speak to the FBI a second time until around 10:00 a.m., after Tom has made his fourth and final call to her from Flight 93 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 64-65 and 68-69]
Eric Shinseki. [Source: US Army]Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization, is informed that a hijacked aircraft is thought to be heading toward Washington, DC, and is possibly aiming for the Pentagon. Chiarelli was in his office at the Pentagon, preparing to go to a scheduled meeting, when he learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center. In response, he instructed a colleague to activate the Army’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Shortly after doing so, he was phoned by General Eric Shinseki, the Army’s chief of staff who is currently in Singapore, attending a conference. Shinseki asked for a situation report. “All I could tell him, basically, was what I had seen on TV,” Chiarelli will later recall. “I didn’t have any time to leave the room, to go to the CAT, to check with the intel folks,” he will add. Now, while Chiarelli is still on the phone with Shinseki, Oscar Benjamin, an analyst in the Army’s Antiterrorism Operations Intelligence Cell (ATOIC), comes into his office. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Rossow, 2003, pp. 65; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 95-98] The ATOIC is responsible for providing terrorism early warning to the Army. [University of Wisconsin, 2/25/2009] Benjamin reports that additional aircraft have been hijacked and one of these aircraft is thought to be heading toward Washington—“in his opinion for the Pentagon,” according to author Robert Rossow. Chiarelli passes this information on to Shinseki. Realizing there is little he can do from Singapore, Shinseki says he will call back later and ends the call. Chiarelli then heads to the Army Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon, where the CAT is assembling. Just after he arrives on the CAT floor, one of his intelligence officers (possibly Benjamin, although this is unstated) comes in and, he will recall, tells him “that they had credible information that one of the [additional hijacked] aircraft was headed for DC.” Chiarelli will then hear the sound of the impact as the Pentagon is hit. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Rossow, 2003, pp. 65-66; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 98-99] (The Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10] )
The National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly intercepts a phone call from one of bin Laden’s operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the Republic of Georgia. The caller says he has “heard good news” and that another target is still to come (presumably, the target Flight 93 is intended to hit). [CBS News, 9/4/2002] The caller is also supposed to say that the attackers are following through on “the doctor’s program.” This is said to be a reference to al-Qaeda’s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has a doctorate in medicine. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Since the 9/11 crisis began, NSA translators have been told to focus on Middle Eastern intercepts and translate them as they are received instead of oldest first, as is the usual practice. This call is translated in the next hour or two, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld hears about it just after noon. [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 54]
Shortly after arriving at Washington’s Dulles Airport, from which Flight 77 took off, the FBI confiscates a security tape from a checkpoint through which the hijackers passed before boarding the plane. Airport security manager Ed Nelson will later say: “They pulled the tape right away.… They brought me to look at it. They went right to the first hijacker on the tape and identified him. They knew who the hijackers were out of hundreds of people going through the checkpoints. They would go ‘roll and stop it’ and showed me each of the hijackers.… It boggles my mind that they had already had the hijackers identified.… Both metal detectors were open at that time, and lots of traffic was moving through. So picking people out is hard.… I wanted to know how they had that kind of information. So fast. It didn’t make sense to me.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 37] Some of the hijackers are identified on the passenger manifests around this time (see (9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and this knowledge is disseminated in the US intelligence community (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Wells Morrison is the supervisory special agent in charge of the FBI’s Mon Valley Resident Agency, a satellite of the bureau’s Pittsburgh field office. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 4/13/2003] He receives a call informing him that a plane has crashed in Somerset County. Another phone call informs him that Westmoreland County 911 received a call saying a plane had been hijacked. (This is the call believed to have been from Flight 93 passenger Edward Felt (see 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).) He sends an agent out, who quickly seizes the tape of the call from the emergency dispatchers. Morrison also has agents sent to the Flight 93 crash site and subsequently goes there himself, being one of the first FBI agents to arrive at the scene. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Kashurba, 2002, pp. 109-110] Patrick Madigan of the Pennsylvania State Police, who arrives at the crash site around 10:20 a.m., says the first FBI agent gets there soon after him. Initially, four or five FBI agents will be there. [Department of the Army and the Air Force National Guard Bureau, 2002 ; Kashurba, 2002, pp. 60 and 110] In the subsequent days, about 150 agents will be involved in the recovery effort (see (September 11-27, 2001)). [Longman, 2002, pp. 259] As it is a crime scene, the FBI is in charge of the Flight 93 crash site and the subsequent investigation. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/4/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/17/2002]
Mike Morell, President Bush’s CIA briefer, speaks to Cofer Black, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, who can provide him with little more information about the attacks on the US than is generally known. Morell, who is with the president on Air Force One, has just spoken to Bush, who asked him to call CIA Director George Tenet and tell him to inform the president immediately when the CIA has any definitive information about the perpetrators of today’s attacks (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Morell now sits down in the staff section of the plane, picks up the phone by his seat, and calls Tenet’s office at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. However, the headquarters is currently being evacuated (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so Tenet and his staff are in the process of relocating to a secure site. The secretary who answers Morell’s call says Tenet is unavailable and Morell instead has to talk to Black, the nearest senior official, after the secretary passes the phone to him. During their conversation, Black tells Morell what the CIA currently knows about the attacks on the US, which, Morell will later comment, “was little beyond what the rest of the world knew.” Morell then passes on the president’s request to be informed right away as soon as the CIA has information about who is responsible for the attacks and asks Black to share the request with Tenet. As he hangs up the phone, however, Morell is doubtful that his message will be passed on. “I was not confident [Tenet] would get the word, given the evacuation and given everything that would be asked of Black over the next few hours,” he will recall. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 52-53] Tenet will inform Bush, for the first time, that the CIA has linked al-Qaeda to the attacks during a video teleconference at around 3:15 p.m. this afternoon (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26-27; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326]
Two pages from Moussaoui’s notebooks mentioning Ahad Sabet (Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s alias), plus phone number and mention of his residence in Germany. [Source: FBI]Within an hour of the 9/11 attacks, the Minnesota FBI uses a memo written to FBI headquarters shortly after Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest to ask permission from a judge for the search warrant they have been desperately seeking. After the World Trade Center is hit for the first time at 8:46 a.m., Mike Maltbie of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters calls the Minneapolis field office and talks to FBI agent Coleen Rowley. When Rowley says it is essential they get a warrant to search Moussaoui’s belongings, Maltbie instructs her to take no action, because it could have an impact on matters of which she is not aware. Rowley replies that it would have to be the “hugest coincidence” if Moussaoui were not related to the attack. She will recall that Maltbie replies that coincidence is the right word. Maltbie will later say he does not recall using the word “coincidence” in the conversation. Maltbie then consults Tom Ainora, an attorney at the FBI’s national security law unit, who says Minneapolis should seek the warrant. While Rowley is waiting for Maltbie to call back, one of her colleagues, Chris Briese, talks to RFU chief Dave Frasca. According to Briese, Frasca initially says there is not enough evidence for a criminal warrant, but when they find out the Pentagon has been hit Frasca consents. Frasca will say that he consents immediately. [Time, 5/21/2002; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 178-9 ] Briese later tells Samit that Frasca also initially claims it is just “a coincidence.” [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6/4/2006] A federal judge approves a criminal search warrant this afternoon. [New Yorker, 9/30/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/9/2006] The Radical Fundamentalist Unit at FBI headquarters had previously blocked requests for criminal and intelligence search warrants (see August 21, 2001 and August 28, 2001). Rowley will note that this very memo was previously deemed insufficient by FBI headquarters to get a search warrant, and the fact that they are immediately granted one when finally allowed to ask shows “the missing piece of probable cause was only the [FBI headquarters’] failure to appreciate that such an event could occur.” [Time, 5/21/2002] After the warrant is granted, Moussaoui’s belongings are then rushed to an evidence response team, which discovers documents linking Moussaoui to 11 of the hijackers (see August 16, 2001). Rowley later suggests that if they had received the search warrant sooner, “There is at least some chance that… may have limited the September 11th attacks and resulting loss of life.” [Time, 5/27/2002]
Entity Tags: Michael Maltbie, Tom Ainora, Radical Fundamentalist Unit, Zacarias Moussaoui, Harry Samit, FBI Minnesota field office, National Security Law Unit, David Frasca, Chris Briese, FBI Headquarters, Coleen Rowley
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
At around 8:00 p.m., Afghanistan time (11:30 a.m., New York time), Taliban leader Mullah Omar allegedly says, “Things have gone much further than expected.” This is according to what the New Yorker will describe as “Afghan intelligence sources” who monitor the call. (It is unclear what “Afghan intelligence sources” means, since the Taliban control nearly all of Afghanistan at this time, but it could be a reference to Northern Alliance forces; the CIA gave them equipment to monitor the Taliban (see Winter 1999-March 2000).) Omar’s comment takes place over an hour after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed, which means thousands have been killed in the attacks, not hundreds (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). An Afghan intelligence official will later say: “They were expecting a reaction. But they thought it would be a Clinton-type reaction. They didn’t anticipate the kind of revenge that occurred.” [New Yorker, 6/10/2002] The “Clinton-type reaction” presumably is a reference to the August 1998 missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan during the Clinton administration (see August 20, 1998).
Dan Miller. [Source: Publicity photo]A member of Congress who has been travelling with President Bush on Air Force One asks Mike Morell, Bush’s CIA briefer, who he thinks is behind the attacks on the US and Morell says he is certain al-Qaeda is responsible. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 54] After Air Force One landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), while Bush headed off to record a message to the American people (see (11:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001), Morell stayed on the plane with most of the president’s staff. [Bowden, 2012, pp. 16] Two members of Congress who have been travelling with the president, Representatives Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Dan Miller (R-FL), also stayed on the plane after it landed. They now sit in the conference room with Morell, watching the news coverage of the attacks on television. One of them—which one is unstated—knows Morell works for the CIA and provides the president with his daily intelligence briefing. He therefore asks him who he thinks is responsible for the attacks on the US. Morell replies that he would bet every dollar he has that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization is to blame. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Lakeland Ledger, 9/10/2011; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 54]
One day after 9/11, the New York Times will report that FBI agents in Florida investigating the hijackers quickly “descended on flight schools, neighborhoods and restaurants in pursuit of leads.” At one flight school, “students said investigators were there within hours of Tuesday’s attacks.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] Also on September 12, the Times will report, “Authorities said they had also identified accomplices in several cities who had helped plan and execute Tuesday’s attacks. Officials said they knew who these people were and important biographical details about many of them. They prepared biographies of each identified member of the hijack teams, and began tracing the recent movements of the men.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] In September 2002, 9/11 victim’s relative Kristen Breitweiser, testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, will cite these news reports and will ask, “How did the FBI know exactly where to go only a few hours after the attacks? How did they know which neighborhoods, which flight schools and which restaurants to investigate so soon in the case?… How are complete biographies of the terrorists, and their accomplices, created in such short time? Did our intelligence agencies already have open files on these men? Were they already investigating them? Could the attacks of September 11th been prevented?” [US Congress, 9/18/2002] In at least some cases, it appears that US intelligence did quickly access existing files on the hijackers. The Washington Post reports, “In the hours after Tuesday’s bombings, investigators searched their files on [Satam] Al Suqami and [Ahmed] Alghamdi, noted the pair’s ties to [Nabil] al-Marabh and launched a hunt for him.” A top Customs official claims that by checking flight manifests and comparing them with other information such as watch lists, he is able to determine the names of all 19 hijackers by 11:00 a.m.(see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/21/2001]
Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, Jerome Hauer, director of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) from 1996 to 2000, appears on CBS News with Dan Rather. Rather asks him if pre-positioned explosives could have been used to bring down the Twin Towers. Hauer discounts the possibility, saying: “[M]y sense is that just the velocity of the plane and the fact that you have a plane filled with fuel hitting that building that burned, that the velocity of the plane certainly had an impact on the structure itself. And then the fact that it burned and you had that intense heat probably weakened the structure as well. And I think it was simply the planes hitting the buildings and causing the collapse.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001] Why Hauer already believes the plane crashes and subsequent fires alone caused the collapses is unclear. In fact, when he testifies before the 9/11 Commission in 2004, he will be asked whether OEM had, before 9/11, conducted “any planning for what would be the response if a commercial or a private plane were to accidentally [hit] either the World Trade Center or some other building in New York City?” He will reply: “We had aircraft crash drills on a regular basis. The general consensus in the city was that a plane hitting a building… was that it would be a high-rise fire” (see 1996-September 11, 2001). Yet he will not say that the building collapsing had been considered a possibility. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Rather also asks Hauer if the attacks could have been carried out without state sponsorship. Hauer replies: “I’m not sure I agree that this is necessarily state-sponsored. It… certainly has the fingerprints of somebody like bin Laden.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001]
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, says he has just been “briefed by the highest levels of the FBI and of the intelligence community.” He says, “They’ve come to the conclusion that this looks like the signature of Osama bin Laden, and that he may be the one behind this.” [Salon, 9/12/2001]
CIA Director Tenet tells Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about an intercepted phone call from earlier in the day at 9:53 a.m. An al-Qaeda operative talked of a fourth target just before Flight 93 crashed. Rumsfeld’s assistant Stephen Cambone dictates Rumsfeld’s thoughts the time, and the notes taken will later be leaked to CBS News. According to CBS, “Rumsfeld felt it was ‘vague,’ that it ‘might not mean something,’ and that there was ‘no good basis for hanging hat.’ In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002] A couple of hours later, Rumsfeld will use this information to begin arguing that Iraq should be attacked, despite the lack of verified ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq (see (2:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
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