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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]
Al-Rajhi Bank logo. [Source: Al-Rajhi Bank.]A 2003 CIA report will claim that extremists “ordered operatives in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen” to use accounts at the Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp. The Al-Rajhi Bank is one of the biggest Saudi banks, with billions in assets. Who gave this order and when has not been made public. However, some examples of militants using the bank are later alleged:
When al-Qaeda leaer 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 also was on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989).
A US intelligence memo from shortly after 9/11 says that a money courier for al-Qaeda 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: International Islamic Relief Organization, Red Crescent (Saudi branch), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Global Relief Foundation, Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, Salah al-Rajhi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Hani Hanjour, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Nawaf Alhazmi, Wadih El-Hage, Muslim World League
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
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).
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).
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 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 the Taliban through more direct action. The time-frame for this strategy is about three years. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] CIA Director 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 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 does not sign it until October. [MSNBC, 5/16/2002; Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2002; Washington Post, 4/1/2004]
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]
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).
In October 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell visits Pakistan and tells Pakistani officials that, shortly before 9/11, the CIA learned two prominent Pakistani nuclear scientists had met with al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in mid-August 2001 (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] In a 2007 book, former CIA Director George Tenet will confirm that the CIA learned of this 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] But no evidence will come forward that President Bush or other top US officials were warned of this, or that there were 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 knew about it and 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 that “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 ]
Just after 8 a.m., President Bush sits down at his hotel on Longboat Key, Florida, for his daily intelligence briefing with Mike Morell, his CIA briefer. They discuss developments in the Middle East, and particularly the Palestinian situation. According to the London Telegraph, “The president’s briefing appears to have included some reference to the heightened terrorist risk reported throughout the summer,” but it contains nothing serious enough to cause Bush to call National Security Adviser Rice, who is currently on her way from her home to her office at the White House. However, journalist and author Ronald Kessler will contradict this, claiming, “Bush placed a call to Condoleezza Rice and asked her to follow up on a few points.” The briefing ends by around 8:15 a.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Kessler, 2004, pp. 136; Tenet, 2007, pp. 165]
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]
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]
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).
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]
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]
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).
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, 9/11/2001]
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).
The FBI interviews Eric Gill, a security guard at Dulles Airport who may have encountered some of the 9/11 hijackers attempting to access aircraft the night before 9/11 (see Around 8:15 p.m. September 10, 2001). Gill tells the FBI his story, but the FBI fails to show him a video it has found of the hijackers passing through an airport security checkpoint on 9/11, even though it is shown to all his colleagues, except the partner he was on duty with when he saw the hijackers. The FBI also obtains video of two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Salem Alhazmi, at Dulles on the day he says he saw another two of them, Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, but does not show this video to him and this video will not be publicly mentioned until 2008. It is unclear what the FBI does with logs for a door through which Gill says the hijackers would have passed, but they are not shown to Gill. Two days later, the FBI shows him poor quality photocopied pictures of the hijackers and Gill identifies two of them as the people he saw on September 10, but the FBI then loses interest in him, as they think one of the men he identifies hijacked a plane from Boston, not Dulles. Another man who may have seen the hijackers the night before 9/11, Khalid Mahmoud, is taken away by the INS and does not return, presumably because he has been deported. Gill will speak to a 9/11 Commission staffer on the telephone about 18 months later, but nothing will come of this. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 281 ; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 38-40, 43-5]
At around 9:30 p.m., Afghanistan time (1:00 p.m., New York time), Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil holds a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, and claims that the 9/11 attacks did not originate from Afghanistan. He reads a statement by Taliban leader Mullah Omar, which claims that Osama bin Laden also was not involved: “This type of terrorism is too great for one man,” the statement says. [New Yorker, 6/10/2002]
After taking off from Barksdale Air Force Base (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), President Bush calls Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, to his cabin near the front of the plane. He asks Morell who he thinks is responsible for the attack. Morell replies, “I would bet everything on bin Laden.” He lists some of bin Laden’s previous attacks: the 1998 attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Bush asks about the Palestinian extremist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Morell says it is unlikely this group could be responsible for the day’s attack, as PFLP simply doesn’t have the capability for something like this. Bush asks how long it will take to know if bin Laden is to blame. Based on previous attacks, Morell says, it will probably be a matter of days. Bush says that if anything definitive is learned about the attack, he wants to be the first to know. [Kessler, 2003, pp. 195; Tenet, 2007, pp. 165-166]
The FBI’s Minneapolis office asks for permission to interview Zacarias Moussaoui a few hours after the end of the 9/11 attacks, but permission is denied, apparently on the grounds that there is no emergency. On 9/11, the office’s counsel, Coleen Rowley, seeks permission from the Acting US Attorney to question Moussaoui about whether al-Qaeda has any further plans to hijack airliners or otherwise attack the US. The next day she asks again; this time the request is sent to the Justice Department. Such questioning would not usually be permitted, but Rowley argues that it should be allowed under a public safety exception. However, permission is denied and Rowley is told that the emergency is over so the public safety exception does not apply. Rowley will later comment: “We were so flabbergasted about the fact we were told no public safety emergency existed just hours after the attacks that my boss advised me to document it in a memo which became the first document in the legal subfile of the FBI’s ‘Penttbom’ case.” [Huffington Post, 5/2/2007] Some sources will suggest that Moussaoui was to be part of a second wave of attacks (see September 5, 2002). He is also an associate of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who will attempt to blow up an airliner later this year (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000 and December 22, 2001).
On September 11—after the 9/11 attacks are over—the New York FBI office learns that one of the hijackers was Khalid Almihdhar. One of the FBI agents at the office, Steve Bongardt, had attempted to get permission to search for Almihdhar in late August, but was not allowed to do so. He wrote an e-mail on August 29 (see August 29, 2001) predicting that “someday someone will die… the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.’” He will later testify that upon seeing Almihdhar’s name on one of the passenger flight manifests, he angrily yells, “This is the same Almihdhar we’ve been talking about for three months!” In an attempt to console him, his boss replies, “We did everything by the book.” Now that Bongardt is allowed to conduct a basic Internet search for Almihdhar that he had been denied permission to conduct before 9/11, he finds the hijacker’s address “within hours.” [Washington Post, 9/21/2002; US Congress, 12/11/2002] The FBI field office in San Diego also was not notified before 9/11 that Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi had been put on a no-fly watch list on August 24, 2001 (see September 4-5, 2001). Bill Gore, the FBI agent running the San Diego office on this day, will later make reference to the fact that Alhazmi’s correct phone number and address were listed in the San Diego phone book, and say: “How could [we] have found these people when we didn’t know we were looking for them? The first place we would have looked is the phone book.… I submit to you we would have found them.” [US Congress, 12/11/2002]
Two sections from RumsfeldÃ¢Â€Â™s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone. [Source: Defense Department]Defense Secretary Rumsfeld aide Stephen Cambone is taking notes on behalf of Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center. These notes will be leaked to the media nearly a year later. According to the notes, although Rumsfeld has already been given information indicating the 9/11 attacks were done by al-Qaeda (see 12:05 p.m. September 11, 2001) and he has been given no evidence so far indicating any Iraqi involvement, he is more interested in blaming the attacks on Iraq. According to his aide’s notes, Rumsfeld wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].… Need to move swiftly.… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 285] In a 2004 book, author James Moore will write, “Unless Rumsfeld had an inspired moment while the rest of the nation was in shock, the notes are irrefutable proof that the Bush administration had designs on Iraq and Hussein well before the president raised his hand to take the oath of office.” [Moore, 3/15/2004, pp. 18]
Yaron Shmuel, one of the five Israelis found in the van. [Source: Public domain via Israeli television]The FBI issues a BOLO (be on lookout) bulletin for three suspicious men who were seen leaving the New Jersey waterfront minutes after the first hijacked plane hit the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Law enforcement officers in the greater New York City area are warned in a radio dispatch to watch for a “vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack.” The bulletin reads, in part: “White, 2000 Chevrolet van…with ‘Urban Moving Systems’ sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center…. Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals.” The van is located a short time later and five men inside it are arrested (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007]
The white van used by five Israeli agents as they were leaving New York on 9/11.Five Israelis are arrested for “puzzling behavior” related to the WTC attacks. Shortly after an FBI lookout bulletin was issued for a van with the words “Urban Moving Systems” written on the side, officers with the East Rutherford Police Department in New Jersey stop the van after matching the license plate number with the one given in the bulletin. According to the police report, Officer Scott DeCarlo and Sgt. Dennis Rivelli approach the van and demand the driver exit the vehicle. The driver, Sivan Kurzberg, does not obey after being asked several more times, so the police physically remove Kurzberg and four other men from the van and handcuff them. They have not been told the reasons for their arrest, but Kurzberg tells them, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” Again before the police have made any mention of the 9/11 attacks, another one of the arrested men says, “[W]e were on the West Side Highway in New York City during the incident.” In fact, it will later be determined they were on the roof of a building at Liberty State Park, watching and videotaping the first crash into the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001; Ha'aretz, 9/17/2001; CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] The FBI and additional police quickly arrive. They shut down the section of Route 3 in East Rutherford where the van was stopped and evacuate a nearby hotel as a security precaution. [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] One man is found with $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock, another has two foreign passports on him, and a box cutter is found in the van. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Another has pictures of the men standing with the burning wreckage of the WTC in the background. [Forward, 3/15/2002] All five identify themselves as Israeli citizens and claim to be working for the New Jersey-based Urban Moving Systems company. In addition to the driver Sivan Kurzberg, the others are identified as Paul Kurzberg (Sivan’s brother), Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel. The men are detained but not charged. [Forward, 3/15/2002; ABC News, 6/21/2002] The next day it will be reported that “bomb-sniffing dogs reacted as if they had detected explosives.” An investigator high up in the Bergen County law enforcement hierarchy will say in 2006, “There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted…. It looked like they’re hooked in with this [referring to the 9/11 attacks]. It looked like they knew what was going to happen.…It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park.” [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] The FBI will later conclude at least two of the five are Mossad agents and that all were on a Mossad surveillance mission. The FBI interrogates them for weeks. [Forward, 3/15/2002] They are held on immigration violation charges, but will be released 71 days later (see November 20, 2001). [ABC News, 6/21/2002]
Entity Tags: Yaron Shmuel, Sivan Kurzberg, Urban Moving Systems, World Trade Center, Paul Kurzberg, Scott DeCarlo, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dennis Rivelli, Omer Marmari, Oded Ellner, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Alec Station, is tasked to come up with actions that can be taken immediately to strike back at al-Qaeda. According to Michael Scheuer, the first head of Alec Station, one of the most promising ideas considered is to ask other countries to raid Islamist charity fronts and seize computers and documents. Scheuer will later assert that the “suggested raids would have netted far more relevant data on how the [charity front-al-Qaeda link] worked than we ever had before.” However, he claims the White House rejects the idea because of concerns that it would offend Muslim popular opinion. [Scheuer, 2008, pp. 306]
Later in the day of 9/11, weapons are found planted on board three US airplanes. A US official will say, “These look like inside jobs.” Time magazine will later report, “Sources tell Time that US officials are investigating whether the hijackers had accomplices deep inside the airports’ ‘secure’ areas.” [Time, 9/22/2001] Penetrating airport security does not appear to have been that difficult: Argenbright, the company in charge of security at all the airports used by the hijackers, had virtually no security check on any of its employees, and even hired criminals and illegal immigrants. Security appears to be particularly abysmal at Boston’s Logan Airport, even after 9/11. [Boston Globe, 10/1/2001; CNN, 10/12/2001] An FAA official had similar concerns about two other security contractors at Logan Airport: Huntleigh USA, a subsidiary of ICTS International NV, a large Israeli security company, and Globe Aviation. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Christian Science Monitor, 1/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004, pp. 6 ]
Van Harp. [Source: US Department of Defense]Van Harp, the head of the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office, is away from the capital in South Carolina for his summer vacation, and has to be flown back to Washington in an FBI plane to help respond to the terrorist attacks. [Washington Post, 3/4/2002; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C45, C47; 9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 ] Harp took command of the Washington field office (WFO) as its new assistant director in charge in July this year. [Washington Post, 4/18/2003; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010] But on this day he is in Hilton Head, South Carolina, on vacation with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He learned of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center when his secretary, Donna Cummings, paged him shortly after the attack occurred. Harp then called Cummings and she told him what had happened. He switched on the television in time to see the second plane crashing into the WTC, and had known then that he needed to return to Washington.
FBI Granted Permission to Send Plane to Collect Harp - Because all planes have been grounded across the US (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the FBI initially arranged for state troopers in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to drive Harp back to Washington. But the bureau was then able to get special permission from the FAA to send an aircraft to fly Harp home. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 424; Washington Post, 3/4/2002; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C47] The FBI therefore sent one of its aircraft to collect Harp from Hilton Head Airport. The small, single-engine plane received clearance to take off from Manassas Regional Airport, 30 miles west of Washington, at around 2:30 p.m. The time when it lands in Hilton Head is unstated, as is the time when it lands back at the Manassas airport. From the Manassas airport, Harp drives to an FBI command post at Washington Dulles International Airport and then arrives at the WFO sometime later in the afternoon. He will stay at the field office until 2:20 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Kessler, 2002, pp. 424; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-2, S-41 ]
Three of Office's Four Leaders Absent - The WFO is the second largest of the FBI’s 56 field offices in terms of staffing. It comprises 657 agents and 650 professional support staff. Serving under Harp, three special agents in charge (SACs) direct the office’s administrative and technical, criminal investigations, and national security divisions. However, of the WFO’s four senior leaders, only SAC Arthur Eberhart, the head of the administrative and technical division, was present at the office when the terrorist attacks took place. SAC Ellen Knowlton, who headed the criminal investigative division, was recently reassigned to FBI headquarters, and so her position is currently vacant. SAC Timothy Bereznay was only recently appointed to head the national security division, and so he has not yet reported to the WFO. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C3, C45; 9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/6/2006] The WFO will be one of the key FBI offices involved in the fight against terrorism following the 9/11 attacks. [Washington Post, 4/18/2003]
The Washington Post reports, “Several US officials said there was no warning in the days before the attacks that a major operation was in the works. ‘In terms of specific warning that something of this nature was to occur, no,’ one official said.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2001] An anonymous “senior US official” tells ABC News, “There were no warnings regarding time or place. There are always generic threats now but there was nothing to indicate anything specific of this nature. In fact, in recent weeks, we were not in all that high a period of threat warning.” [ABC News, 9/12/2001]
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