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Some time shortly before 9/11, American Airlines revises its crisis communications plan. According to a PR Week magazine article shortly after 9/11, “Those charged with imagining worst-case scenarios laid out contingencies for plane crashes and 1978-style hijackings.” However, “They never dreamed of terrorists turning two aircrafts into weapons of mass destruction, of coordinating disaster communication with another airline in the same predicament, or of working in the shadows of the FBI.” Tim Doke, an American Airlines spokesman, later says, “We realized that nowhere in our plan did we contemplate such a circumstance” as what happened on 9/11. When the 9/11 attacks occur, American Airlines will have to abandon “its freshly minted crisis communications plan almost immediately… because the FBI rushed to American’s Command Center and made it clear who was in charge.” [PR Week, 11/5/2001; O'Dwyer's PR Services Report, 1/2003]
According to the 9/11 Commission, on this day “A new listing for [9/11 hijacker Khalid] Almihdhar was placed in an INS and Customs lookout database, describing him as ‘armed and dangerous’ and someone who must be referred to secondary inspection.” However, this information will only first appear in a little-noticed Commission staff report released one month after the 9/11 Commission Final Report. It will not be explained who determined Almihdhar to be armed and dangerous or what information this was based on. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 31 ] By September 5, 2001, the lookout database will be inexplicably changed and inspectors will be told not to detain Almihdhar after all (see September 4-5, 2001).
I-49, a squad of FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors that began focusing on bin Laden in 1996 (see January 1996), is upset that the NSA is not sharing its monitoring of the phone calls of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). The squad builds their own antenna in Madagascar specifically to intercept KSM’s calls. [Wright, 2006, pp. 344] It has not been revealed when this antenna was built or what was learned from this surveillance. However, there have been media reports that the NSA monitored some phone calls between KSM and Mohamed Atta in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001). Further, US intelligence monitored a call between KSM and Atta a day before 9/11 that was the final go-ahead for the attacks (see September 10, 2001). So presumably the I-49 squad should have known about these calls as well if this antenna did what it was designed to do.
Part of the opening page of Gore Vidal’s article about Timothy McVeigh in Vanity Fair. [Source: Vanity Fair]Vanity Fair publishes a profile of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001) by author and pundit Gore Vidal, who attended McVeigh’s execution (see May 6, 2001) and who exchanged letters with McVeigh for three years while he awaited execution. McVeigh invited Vidal to attend his execution as a result of their letter exchange.
Simplistic Portrayal of McVeigh as Lone 'Mad Bomber' - Vidal is convinced that the government orchestrated McVeigh’s conviction (see June 2, 1997) and the media’s portrayal of McVeigh as a lone mad bomber who “wanted to destroy innocent lives for no reason other than a spontaneous joy in evildoing.” Vidal also asserts that, in the government’s story, McVeigh “had no serious accomplices” (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). Orchestrating the media response was not particularly difficult, he writes, as few in the mainstream press were particularly interested in why McVeigh carried out the bombing aside from the simple explanation that he was “evil incarnate.” Any explanation of more complexity, Vidal writes, was dismissed as wild conspiracy theories. It was predictable, Vidal writes, that evidence pertinent to McVeigh’s case was not provided until well after his conviction and sentencing (see May 10-11, 2001), and that it would be largely ignored (see June 1-7, 2001). Vidal recounts numerous instances where, when he began to attempt an explanation of McVeigh’s obsession with the 1993 Branch Davidian conflagration (see April 19, 1993) and his belief that he was at war with the US government on a variety of news broadcasts, he was cut short by the hosts.
'Counter-Attack' against US Government - According to Vidal, McVeigh was clear in his letters that the bombing was more than just, McVeigh wrote, “a simple act of ‘revenge’ for Waco,” but “a strike against the US government,” or more precisely, “a ‘counter-attack’ rather than a self-declared war.” In one letter, he quoted pundit H.L. Mencken as writing, “Every normal man must be temped at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” Vidal recalls that he warned McVeigh that “Mencken often resorted to Swiftian hyperbole and was not to be taken too literally.” He then speculates on the “interesting possibility,” perhaps “the grandest conspiracy of all… that he neither made nor set off the bomb outside the Murrah Building: it was only later, when facing either death or life imprisonment, that he saw to it that would be given sole credit for hoisting the black flag and slitting throats, to the rising fury of various ‘militias’ across the land who are currently outraged that he is getting sole credit for a revolutionary act organized, some say, by many others. At the end, if this scenario is correct, he and the detested Feds were of a single mind.” Regardless of who carried out the bombing, Vidal writes, it is clear that “McVeigh himself was eager to commit what he called ‘federally assisted suicide.’” Vidal quotes an interview with Dr. John Smith, a psychiatrist who interviewed McVeigh in prison and was then released from his oath of confidentiality by McVeigh to discuss his findings with reporters, who concluded that McVeigh was quite sane, and carried out the bombing both in revenge for the Waco assault and because “he also wanted to make a political statement about the role of the federal government and protest the use of force against the citizens.” Smith found that McVeigh was disappointed that the media had refused to discuss what he considered “the misuse of power by the federal government” that impelled him to carry out the bombing.
Limited Contact with Militias - According to Smith, McVeigh told him, “I did not expect a revolution.” He had had numerous discussions with some of the militia groups around Kingman, Arizona, Smith said, about how easy it would be to “cut Interstate 40 in two” and thereby disrupt the transportation between the eastern and western portions of the country, but those discussions, McVeigh told Smith, were “rather grandiose” and never acted upon. Vidal acknowledges that for three years before the bombing, McVeigh lived in the semi-underground world of the American militia movement. During that time, he came to believe, as many militia members did at the time, that the federal government planned on following up its assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994) with a massive, nationwide raid on gun owners and militia members in the spring of 1995. Vidal writes, “This was all the trigger that McVeigh needed for what he would do—shuffled the deck, as it were.” Vidal claims that McVeigh, unlike many militia members, had “no hang-ups about blacks, Jews, and all the other enemies of the various ‘Aryan’ white nations to be found in the Patriots’ ranks.” He was fascinated with the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) and 1987-1988), he acknowledges, but only for its themes of individual Americans using guns and explosives to overthrow “the System.” Smith bolstered Vidal’s contention by reporting that McVeigh had insisted to him that he was not a racist nor a homophobe—“he made that very clear.”
Rationale for Bombing, and for Killing Civilians, Children - Vidal quotes a 1998 essay McVeigh wrote for the right-wing publication Media Bypass, “Essay on Hypocrisy,” that addressed his choice to blow up the Murrah Building, which contained a daycare center. The US, he wrote, set the precedent for bombing and killing civilians. When US military forces attack Iraqi government buildings with daycare centers or schools in them, McVeigh wrote, the media reported the children were being used as “shields” by the Iraqis. Vidal claims that no evidence exists that proves McVeigh knew about the presence of children in the Murrah Building, and repeats McVeigh’s claims that he had no such foreknowledge. However, Vidal notes, the FBI knew about the children in the Branch Davidian compound, “and managed to kill 27 of them.” In a final set of longhand notes McVeigh sent to Vidal in the weeks before his execution, McVeigh wrote: “I explain herein why I bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I explain this not for publicity, nor seeking to win an argument of right or wrong, I explain so that the record is clear as to my thinking and motivations in bombing a government installation. I chose to bomb a Federal Building because such an action served more purposes than other options. Foremost, the bombing was a retaliatory strike: a counter-attack, for the cumulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years (including, but not limited to, Waco). From the formation of such units as the FBI’s ‘Hostage Rescue’ and other assault teams amongst federal agencies during the 80s, culminating in the Waco incident, federal actions grew increasingly militaristic and violent, to the point where at Waco, our government—like the Chinese—was deploying tanks against its own citizens.” The federal government has militarized the police, he wrote, and his bombing was designed as a “pre-emptive (or pro-active) strike against those forces and their command and control centers within the federal building. When an aggressor force continually launches attacks from a particular base of operations, it is sound military strategy to take the flight to the enemy. Additionally, borrowing a page from US foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile, by bombing a government building and the government employees within that building who represent that government. Bombing the Murrah Federal Building was morally and strategically equivalent to the US hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations. Based on observations of the policies of my own government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option. From this perspective what occurred in Oklahoma City was no different than what Americans rain on the heads of others all the time, and, subsequently, my mindset was and is one of clinical detachment. (The bombing of the Murrah Building was not personal no more than when Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marine personnel bomb or launch cruise missiles against (foreign) government installations and their personnel.)”
'Exaggerated Sense of Justice' - Vidal has previously written that McVeigh suffered from what he called “an exaggerated sense of justice,” outraging many who read his words. He defends that characterization, and writes, “I knew that few Americans seriously believe that anyone is capable of doing anything except out of personal self-interest, while anyone who deliberately risks—and gives—his life to alert his fellow citizens to an onerous government is truly crazy.” McVeigh’s act may not have sparked a rebellion, Vidal writes, but it did presage an explosion of sorts in the number of citizens identifying themselves with the militia movement, many of whom joined local militia groups because they believed the government had orchestrated the bombing and then unjustly blamed McVeigh for it. Others believe that government agents planted bombs inside the Murrah Building set to go off when McVeigh’s truck bomb detonated. Many believe that McVeigh was used by the government to perpetuate “state police power,” similar to instances during the Vietnam War when “bogus Viet Cong units that were sent out to rape and murder Vietnamese to discredit the National Liberation Front,” or when US forces pretended to “find” Communist arms dumps in El Salvador. Vidal repeats the tale that all 17 members of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) working in their Murrah Building office suspiciously failed to report to work on the day of the bombing, suggesting that they knew of the bombing in advance (see December 30, 1998).
Militia Involvement? - Vidal then engages in a long and detailed attack on the evidence that shows McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols built the bomb themselves. He believes that McVeigh and Nichols were involved in a complex and shadowy “plot involving militia types and government infiltrators—who knows?—as prime movers to create panic in order to get” President Clinton to enact the Anti-Terrorism Act, and cites research by journalist and author Joel Dyer, who in his own writings detailed his belief that the government downplayed McVeigh’s militia affiliations to make a case that he was a quintessential and possibly deranged “lone bomber.” Dyer and Vidal both cite the poor defense put on by McVeigh’s trial lawyer, Stephen Jones, who, Dyer contended, “often left the jury more confused and bored than convinced of his client’s innocence. Even when he succeeded in his attempts to demonstrate that a large conspiracy was behind the bombing, he did little to show that McVeigh was not at the center of the conspiracy. Jones’s case led some reporters to speculate that McVeigh himself was limiting his own defense in order to prevent evidence that might implicate others in the bombing from entering the record.” McVeigh did indeed confess to the bombing to his defense lawyers and, later, to Vidal, but, Vidal writes, “I believe that by confessing McVeigh was, once again, playing the soldier, attempting to protect his co-conspirators.” Vidal writes that his own research has unearthed a number of militia members who may have played a part in the April 19 bombing, and a systematic effort by the FBI and the McVeigh prosecution team to quash any evidence of that sort during McVeigh’s trial. He also challenges the government’s assertion that the reports of a third co-conspirator, “John Doe No. 2,” was a US Army private with no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). Instead, he writes, that person was likely a well-known militia member in Shawnee County, Kansas, and possibly a member of the separatist Republic of Texas organization. He cites a book on the bombing by former journalist David Hoffman, who was convicted of trying to tamper with the McVeigh jury (see December 30, 1998), as being “the most thorough of a dozen or two accounts of what did and did not happen on that day in April.” Like Vidal, Hoffman does not believe that McVeigh’s truck bomb could have caused the damage inflicted on the Murrah Building, and cites a number of military and government experts who make the same contentions, even citing one report that claims the “five separate bombs” used in the explosion “have a Middle Eastern ‘signature,’ pointing to either Iraqi or Syrian involvement” (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Vidal notes that the search for bodies in the destroyed building was halted after 16 days (see May 4, 1995), against the wishes of those who wanted to continue attempting to search for more evidence in the bomb site. Six days later the building was demolished (see 7:01 a.m. May 23, 1995), leading one critic, retired Air Force Brigadier General Benton K. Partin, to declare that the building was demolished as “a classic cover-up” executed by Communist agents. Vidal writes of Partin’s belief that Communists orchestrated the cover-up, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” (Vidal errs in his “six day” claim; the building was demolished 19 days later.) Vidal writes: “In the end, McVeigh, already condemned to death, decided to take full credit for the bombing. Was he being a good professional soldier, covering up for others? Or did he, perhaps, now see himself in a historic role with his own private Harper’s Ferry, and though his ashes molder in the grave, his spirit is marching on? We may know—one day.” [Vanity Fair, 9/2001]
Entity Tags: Joel Dyer, David Hoffman, Benton K. Partin, Federal Bureau of Investigation, H.L. Mencken, Timothy James McVeigh, Gore Vidal, Stephen Jones, Terry Lynn Nichols, Vanity Fair, John Smith, Murrah Federal Building
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed. [Source: Matt Dunham/ Reuters]According to a senior Defense Department source quoted in the book “Intelligence Failure” by David Bossie, Defense Department personnel become aware of a Milan newspaper interview with Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a self-designated spokesman for al-Qaeda. In the interview, he brags about al-Qaeda recruiting “kamikaze bombers ready to die for Palestine.” Mohammed boasts of training them in Afghanistan. According to this source, the Defense Department seeks “to present its information [to the FBI], given the increased ‘chatter,’ of a possible attack in the United States just days before [9/11]. The earliest the FBI would see the [Defense Department] people who had the information was on September 12, 2001.” [Bossie, 5/2004] In 1998, Bakri had publicized a fax bin Laden sent him that listed the four objectives al-Qaeda had in their war with the US. First on the list was: “Bring down their airliners.”
(see Summer 1998) The main focus of FBI agent Ken Williams’s July 2001 memo, warning about Middle Eastern students training in Arizona flight schools, was a member of Bakri’s organization (see July 10, 2001). In 2004, the US will charge Bakri with 11 terrorism-related crimes, including attempting to set up a terror training camp in Oregon and assisting in the kidnapping of two Americans and others in Yemen. [MSNBC, 5/27/2004]
It will later be speculated that, around this time, people with foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks short sell reinsurance company stocks that are insuring either or both the airplanes and the buildings involved in the attacks. Munich Re, the largest European reinsurance company, loses 22 percent of its value in the two month before 9/11, with about half of that taking place in the week before the attacks. German authorities will later alert the Securities and Exchange Commission of “suspect movements” with Munich Re. [Agence France-Presse, 9/17/2001] Suspicious inquiries into the short selling of millions of company shares are made in France days before the attacks. [Reuters, 9/20/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/22/2001] Munich Re stock will plummet after the attacks, as they claim the attacks will cost them $2 billion. [Dow Jones Business News, 9/20/2001] There is also suspicious trading activity involving reinsurers Swiss Reinsurance and AXA. These trades are especially curious because the insurance sector “is one of the brightest spots in a very difficult market” at this time. [Los Angeles Times, 9/19/2001] A source within AXA will later say, “There are indications that the shorting has been going on for some time. People inside the company could not understand why” there had been so much shorting of the stock in recent weeks. “This could give some explanation why the stocks were going down so much when there seemed to be no apparent reason.” AXA shares drop almost 10 percent in the week before 9/11, and will plummet afterwards. The attacks will cost the company up to $400 million because of its coverage of both airplanes and buildings. [Los Angeles Times, 9/18/2001]
CIA Director George Tenet will claim in his 2007 book that “a group of assets from a Middle Eastern service” is unknowingly working for the CIA by this time. Out of the more than twenty people in this group, one third are working against al-Qaeda. By September 2001, two assets have successfully penetrated al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 145] The name of the Middle Eastern country is not known. It is also not known when this group first started working for the CIA nor when the assets first penetrated the camps. Nor has it been reported what information these assets may have shared with the CIA before 9/11. It is known that bin Laden was dropping hints about the upcoming 9/11 attacks to training camp trainees in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001). Further, US citizen John Walker Lindh was told details of the 9/11 attacks within weeks of joining a training camp that summer (see May-June 2001).
The NSA intercepts “multiple phone calls from Abu Zubaida, bin Laden’s chief of operations, to the United States.” The timing and information contained in these intercepted phone calls has not been disclosed. [ABC News, 2/18/2002] In 2007, author and former CIA officer Robert Baer will comment that “apparently, when Abu Zubaida was captured, telephone records, including calls to the United States, were found in the house he was living in. The calls stopped on September 10, and resumed on September 16 (see September 16, 2001 and After). There’s nothing in the 9/11 Commission report about any of this, and I have no idea whether the leads were run down, the evidence lost or destroyed.” [Time, 12/7/2007] US intelligence had just been warned about a week earlier that Zubaida may be planning an attack on the US (see August 24, 2001). Zubaida’s exact position within al-Qaeda is disputed; he will be captured in 2002 (see March 28, 2002). It appears that a number of Western intelligence agencies were monitoring Zubaida’s calls since at least late 1998 (see October 1998 and After), and continue monitoring his calls in the weeks after 9/11 (see October 8, 2001).
A courtroom sketch of Mohammed Mansour Jabarah. [Source: Andrea Shepard / Associated Press]Hambali, a top al-Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia, appears aware of the date of the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a young Canadian citizen who recently joined al-Qaeda, meets Hambali in Karachi, Pakistan, to get instructions in carrying out an attack in Southeast Asia. Hambali tells him, “Make sure you leave before Tuesday” - September 11. Jabarah does heed the warning and flies to Southeast Asian on September 10. He will be arrested in 2002 and deported to Canada, where he will make a full confession about his al-Qaeda contacts (including an unheeded warning about the October 2002 Bali bombings (see August 21, 2002). [National Post, 1/18/2003] Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is also in Karachi and working with Jabarah and Hambali on future Southeast Asian plots, and KSM also warns Jabarah to travel before September 11. [CBC News, 10/2004]
ATM video footage of Hani Hanjour. [Source: FBI]The standard accounts place 9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Khalid Almihdhar on the East Coast for the entire time in the weeks before the attacks (see (August 23-September 10, 2001)). [New York Times, 9/21/2001; Associated Press, 9/21/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; CNN, 9/26/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001; New York Times, 11/6/2001; US Congress, 9/26/2002] However, neighbors at Parkwood Apartments in San Diego where the three lived in 2000 are clear in their assertions that all three were there until days before 9/11. For instance, one article states, “Authorities believe Almihdhar, Hanjour and Alhazmi… moved out a couple of days before the East Coast attacks.” [KGTV 10 (San Diego), 11/1/2001] Ed Murray, a resident at the complex, said that all three “started moving out Saturday night-and Sunday [September 9] they were gone.” [KGTV 10 (San Diego), 9/14/2001; KGTV 10 (San Diego), 9/20/2001] This is the same day that Alhazmi is reportedly seen in an East Coast shopping mall. [CNN, 9/26/2001] As with previous reports, neighbors also see them getting into strange cars late at night. A neighbor interviewed shortly after 9/11 said, “A week ago, I was coming home between 12:00 and 1:00 A.M. from a club. I saw a limo pick them up. It was not the first time. In this neighborhood you notice stuff like that. In the past couple of months, I have seen this happen at least two or three times.” [Time, 9/24/2001] To add to the confusion, there have been reports that investigators think Almihdhar is still alive and the Chicago Tribune says of Alhazmi, Almihdhar, and Hanjour: “The most basic of facts—the very names of the men—are uncertain. The FBI has said each used at least three aliases. ‘It’s not going to be a terrible surprise down the line if these are not their true names,’ said Jeff Thurman, an FBI spokesman in San Diego.” [Chicago Tribune, 9/30/2001]
9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar are seen to practice using flight simulator software while at an apartment in San Diego. A neighbor will later say he often saw a computer switched on inside the men’s apartment running a flight simulator program, “I could look in, if the door was open. You could always see a flight simulator type of thing, with airplanes on it.” According to eyewitnesses, this takes place shortly before 9/11. Alhazmi and Almihdhar lived in San Diego in 2000 (see January 15-February 2000 and February 2000-Early September 2001), but are usually thought to be on the East Coast in the summer of 2001 (see August 27-September 1, 2001 and September 5-10, 2001). However, there are multiple eyewitness reports of them being seen in the San Diego area around this time, back in the same apartment where they had lived in 2000 (see Early September 2001). [KGTV 10 (San Diego), 9/14/2001; KGTV 10 (San Diego), 9/18/2001]
Binyam Mohamed, a young Ethiopian with British citizenry, is in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. He later tells a journalist that he wants nothing more than to leave for London before the West can retaliate against al-Qaeda and the Taliban (see May-September, 2001). But Mohamed is unable to leave before the US-led coalition launches its attacks in November. According to Mohamed, he is caught among the tide of refugees, and in early 2002 makes his way across the Afghan-Pakistan border and into the city of Karachi. On April 3, he books a flight to London, but officials turn him away, saying his passport looks wrong (Mohamed entered the region using a friend’s passport). On April 9, he tries again to book a flight with the same passport, and is detained by Pakistani authorities. This is the beginning of almost seven years of incarceration, interrogation, and torture (see February 24, 2009). [Daily Mail, 3/8/2009] Apparently some of the details of Mohamed’s recollections will differ from the recounting of his story as later told by his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith.
Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji leaves Germany for Pakistan, and travels under his own name (see September 3-5, 2001), but German authorities apparently fail to notice his departure. In March 2000, Bahaji’s name was placed on a German watch list, and his name has remained on that list (see March 2000). So, according to normal procedures, his name should have been flagged when his flight information was recorded on a computer. Then a fax should have been sent from German immigration authorities to the BfV, Germany’s domestic intelligence service. But in 2003, a BfV official will claim that the BfV was never informed about Bahaji’s departure. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will be extremely skeptical that the BfV is being honest about this. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003]
Said Bahaji at his 1999 wedding. [Source: Public domain]Members of Mohamed Atta’s Hamburg al-Qaeda cell leave Germany for Pakistan. Said Bahaji flies out of Hamburg on September 3, 2001, using his real name. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] German intelligence already has Bahaji under surveillance, and German border guards are under orders to report if he leaves the country, yet the border guards fail to note his departure (see September 3, 2001). [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] German agents later discover two other passengers on the same flight traveling with false passports who stay in the same room with Bahaji when they arrive in Karachi, Pakistan. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Investigators now believe his flight companions were Ismail Bin Murabit (a.k.a. Ismail Ben Mrabete) and Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb), both Algerians in their late 40s. Three more associates—Mohammed Belfatmi, an Algerian extremist from the Tarragona region of Spain, and the brothers Mohammad Sarwar Joia and Patrick Joia—also travel on the same plane. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003; Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] Ramzi bin al-Shibh flies out of Germany on September 5 and stays in Spain a few days before presumably heading for Pakistan (see September 5, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Some of these men are reported to meet in Karachi around this time, possibly with others (see September 4-5, 2001).
The Defense Logistics Agency Headquarters Complex at Fort Belvoir. [Source: US Army] (click image to enlarge)The US Army sharply restricts public access to Fort Belvoir, one of its installations about 12 miles south of the Pentagon. After being an open post for over 25 years, Belvoir has now erected barriers across many of the roads leading into it, leaving only six guarded gates as points of entry and exit. Twenty access points are being permanently closed. Visitors must now register their vehicles at a visitor’s center or get a day pass to enter the base. [MDW News Service, 7/2001; Washington Post, 8/15/2001] The access restrictions will allow commanders to know who is entering the base 24 hours a day and adjust security measures immediately if needed. [MDW News Service, 8/3/2001] All other Military District of Washington (MDW) installations are implementing similar changes, due to Army concerns about terrorism (see August 15, 2001). Fort Belvoir has about 20,000 workers and is home to many different agencies, including the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), plus the headquarters of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Technical Information Service. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000; Washington Post, 8/15/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 10/21/2001] Occupying over 500 acres at Belvoir is Davison Army Airfield. The 12th Aviation Battalion, which is MDW’s aviation-support unit, is stationed at Davison. This operates UH1 “Huey” and UH60 Black Hawk helicopters in support of training and “contingencies” for various MDW units. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/5/2002] The Washington Post has reported, “Fort Belvoir will be holding exercises the next two Tuesdays to test the changes” in access to the base. [Washington Post, 8/15/2001] This will therefore include September 11 (a Tuesday). Other reports will confirm an antiterrorism exercise being conducted at Belvoir on 9/11 (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001).
President Bush’s cabinet-rank advisers discuss terrorism for the second of only two times before 9/11. [Washington Post, 5/17/2002] National Security Adviser Rice chairs the meeting; neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney attends. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later says that in this meeting, he and CIA Director Tenet speak passionately about the al-Qaeda threat. No one disagrees that the threat is serious. Secretary of State Powell outlines a plan to put pressure on Pakistan to stop supporting al-Qaeda. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld appears to be more interested in Iraq. The only debate is over whether to fly the armed Predator drone over Afghanistan to attack al-Qaeda (see September 4, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 237-38] Clarke’s earlier plans to “roll back” al-Qaeda first submitted on January 25, 2001 (see January 25, 2001) have been discussed and honed in many meetings and are now presented as a formal National Security Presidential Directive. The directive is “apparently” approved, though the process of turning it into official policy is still not done. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] There is later disagreement over just how different the directive presented is from Clarke’s earlier plans. For instance, some claim the directive aims not just to “roll back” al-Qaeda, but also to “eliminate” it altogether. [Time, 8/12/2002] However, Clarke notes that even though he wanted to use the word “eliminate,” the approved directive merely aims to “significantly erode” al-Qaeda. The word “eliminate” is only added after 9/11. [Washington Post, 3/25/2004] Clarke will later say that the plan adopted “on Sept. 4 is basically… what I proposed on Jan. 25. And so the time in between was wasted.” [ABC News, 4/8/2004] The Washington Post will similarly note that the directive approved on this day “did not differ substantially from Clinton’s policy.” [Washington Post, 3/27/2004] Time magazine later comments, “The fight against terrorism was one of the casualties of the transition, as Washington spent eight months going over and over a document whose outline had long been clear.” [Time, 8/12/2002] The primary change from Clarke’s original draft is that the approved plan calls for more direct financial and logistical support to the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban groups. The plan also calls for drafting plans for possible US military involvement, “but those differences were largely theoretical; administration officials told the [9/11 Commission’s] investigators that the plan’s overall timeline was at least three years, and it did not include firm deadlines, military plans, or significant funding at the time of the September 11, 2001, attacks.” [Washington Post, 3/27/2004; Reuters, 4/2/2004]
Entity Tags: Taliban, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Al-Qaeda, Northern Alliance, Donald Rumsfeld, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Richard A. Clarke, Condoleezza Rice
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Attendees to an important cabinet-level meeting on terrorism have a heated debate over what to do with the armed Predator drone, which has been ready for use over Afghanistan since June 2001 (see Early June-September 10, 2001). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke has been repeatedly pushing for the use of the Predator over Afghanistan (in either armed or unarmed versions), and he again argues for its immediate use. Everyone agrees that the armed Predator capability is needed, but there are disputes over who will manage and/or pay for it. CIA Director Tenet says his agency will operate the armed Predator “over my dead body.” [Washington Post, 10/2/2002] Clarke recalls, “The Air Force said it wasn’t their job to fly planes to collect intelligence. No one around the table seemed to have a can-do attitude. Everyone seemed to have an excuse.” [New Yorker, 7/28/2003] National Security Adviser Rice concludes that the armed Predator is not ready (even though it had been proven in tests during the summer), but she also presses Tenet to reconsider his opposition to immediately resume reconnaissance flights, suspended since September the year before. After the meeting, Tenet agrees to proceed with such flights. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The armed Predator is activated just days after 9/11, showing that it was ready to be used after all. [Associated Press, 6/25/2003]
FBI headquarters dispatches a memo to the entire US intelligence community summarizing what has been learned about Zacarias Moussaoui. The memo, written by Mike Maltbie, an agent in the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU), reports that the FBI has become suspicious of Moussaoui because he took flight simulation training for a 747 jet, a course normally taken by airline pilots. Moussaoui, who has no flying experience, paid cash for the training, the memo also notes. It also says that Moussaoui has radical Islamic fundamentalist beliefs and has been linked to Chechen militants. However, the memo does not include a threat assessment or indicate that some FBI investigators believe Moussaoui is part of a yet unknown plot to hijack an airplane and use it in a terrorist attack. As a later congressional inquiry will report, the memo fails to “recommend that the addressees take any action or look for any additional indicators of a terrorist attack, nor [does] it provide any analysis of a possible hijacking threat or provide any specific warnings.” [US Congress, 9/24/2002; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 175-6 ] Several days earlier, Maltbie blocked the release of a memo from the FBI’s Minneapolis field office that was addressed to the FAA and did contain a threat assessment (see August 29-September 4, 2001). When the FAA receives the FBI memo, it decides not to issue a security alert to the nation’s airports in response. An FAA representative later explains to the New York Post, “[Moussaoui] was in jail and there was no evidence he was connected to other people.” [New York Post, 5/21/2002] The FBI memo contrasts sharply with an internal CIA warning sent out on August 24. That memo, which was based on less information, warned that Moussaoui might be “involved in a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the US” (see August 24, 2001). [US Congress, 9/18/2002] It turns out that prior to this time, al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam had started cooperating with investigators. He had trained with Moussaoui in Afghanistan and will willingly share this information after 9/11. The FBI dispatch, with its notable lack of urgency and details, fails to prompt the agents in Seattle holding Ressam to question him about Moussaoui. Had the connection between these two men been learned before 9/11, presumably the search warrant for Moussaoui would have been approved and the 9/11 plot might have unraveled (see Late August-Early September 2001). [Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]
Robert Fuller, an inexperienced FBI agent, searches for hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in the US on this day (see September 4-5, 2001). He claims that his search includes querying the ChoicePoint database. ChoicePoint is one of several companies maintaining commerical databases on personal information about US citizens. The FBI has a contract to access the ChoicePoint database, but none of the others. Fuller supposedly does not find any record on either Alhazmi or Almihdhar. He suggests this is because of variations in the spelling of names. However, the chairman of ChoicePoint will later confirm that although the database did have information on the hijackers before 9/11, the FBI did not ask to search the database until shortly after 9/11. The 9/11 Commission will conclude the database was not searched, and notes, “Searches of readily available databases could have unearthed” their California drivers’ licenses, car registrations, and telephone listings. Thomas Pickard, acting FBI Director at the time this search is made, will later falsely claim in public testimony before the 9/11 Commission that the FBI was not allowed to search the ChoicePoint database before 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 539; US Department of Justice, 11/2004; New York Observer, 11/28/2004] An FBI timeline put together shortly after 9/11 will mention that Alhazmi’s 2000 San Diego phone number was in the ChoicePoint database. The exact spelling for the phone number listing was Nawaf M. Al Hazmi. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 59 ]
White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke sends a memo to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in which he warns that hundreds of Americans could die in an attack by al-Qaeda and complains that the Bush administration is not doing enough to combat the threat posed by the terrorist network. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Washington Post, 3/25/2004] The National Security Council’s principals committee—a group of senior officials who advise the president on issues of national security policy—is set to meet today to discuss al-Qaeda. Before the meeting takes place, Clarke sends a memo to Rice in which he criticizes US counterterrorism efforts.
Al-Qaeda Could Kill 'Hundreds of Americans' - The “real question” before the members of the principals committee, Clarke writes in the memo, is, “[A]re we serious about dealing with the al-Qaeda threat?” He suggests: “Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the [White House Counterterrorism Security Group] has not succeeded in stopping al-Qaeda attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US. What would those decision makers wish that they had done earlier?” “That future day could happen at any time,” he adds.
Clarke Complains about the Lack of Response to the USS Cole Bombing - Clarke criticizes the US military for failing to respond to the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, in October 2000 (see October 12, 2000). “Many in al-Qaeda and the Taliban may have drawn the wrong lesson from the Cole: that they can kill Americans without there being a US response, without there being a price,” he writes. He states that he cannot understand “why we continue to allow the existence of large-scale al-Qaeda bases where we know people are being trained to kill Americans.”
Clarke Warns of a Possible 'Big Attack, with Lots of Casualties' - Clarke complains that without adequate funding: “You are left with a modest effort to swat flies, to try to prevent specific al-Qaeda attacks by using [intelligence] to detect them, and friendly governments’ police and intelligence officers to stop them. You are left waiting for the big attack, with lots of casualties, after which some major US retaliation will be in order.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 212-213]
Rice Later Says Memo Is 'Not a Warning about September 11th' - Rice will later say of Clarke’s memo: “It would not be appropriate or correct to characterize what Dick [Clarke] wrote to me on September 4th as a warning of an impending attack. What he was doing was, I think, trying to buck me up so that when I went into this principals meeting, I was sufficiently on guard against the kind of bureaucratic inertia that he had fought all of his life.” The memo, she will say, “was a warning to me not to get dragged down by the bureaucracy, not a warning about September 11th.” [9/11 Commission, 4/8/2004] The principals committee’s meeting today is the committee’s first meeting on al-Qaeda issues. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 212] Clarke had “urgently” called for such a meeting back in January this year (see January 25, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 237]
ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed visits Washington for the second time. On September 10, a Pakistani newspaper reports on his trip so far. It says his visit has “triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council” as well as meetings with CIA Director Tenet (see September 9, 2001), unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon, and his “most important meeting” with Marc Grossman, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. The article suggests, “[O]f course, Osama bin Laden” could be the focus of some discussions. Prophetically, the article adds, “What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time [his] predecessor was [in Washington], the domestic [Pakistani] politics turned topsy-turvy within days.” [News (Islamabad), 9/10/2001] This is a reference to the Musharraf coup just after an ISI Director’s visit on October 12, 1999 (see October 12, 1999).
FBI Agent Robert Fuller. [Source: Lyric Cabral]On September 4 and 5, 2001, FBI agent Robert Fuller attempts to find hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in the US. However, he fails to perform many basic checks, including a check of credit card usage (see September 4-5, 2001). In 2006, journalist Bob Woodward will report that CIA Director George Tenet believed that FBI could have potentially stopped the 9/11 attacks. Woodward will write, paraphrasing Tenet, “If the FBI had done a simple credit card check on the two 9/11 hijackers who had been identified in the United States before 9/11, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, they would have found that the two men had bought 10 tickets for early morning flights for groups of other Middle Eastern men for September 11, 2001. That was knowledge that might conceivably have stopped the attacks.” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 79-80] Alhazmi and Almihdhar did buy some tickets for themselves and Nawaf Alhazmi also bought a ticket for his brother Salem Alhazmi, but it has not been reported that they bought as many as ten tickets (see August 25-27, 2001 and August 25-September 5, 2001).
On August 31, 2001, 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar was placed in an INS and Customs lookout database, and described as “armed and dangerous” and someone who must be referred to secondary inspection (see August 31, 2001). On September 4, the State Department revokes Almihdhar’s visa for his “participation in terrorist activities.” On September 5, the INS entered the September 4 notice that Almihdhar’s visa has been revoked into the INS lookout system. However, it is also noted that the State Department has identified Almihdhar as a potential witness in an FBI investigation, and inspectors are told not to detain him. This information will appear in a little-noticed 9/11 Commission staff report released one month after the Commission’s Final Report. It will not be explained why the description of Almihdhar as armed and dangerous and to be referred to secondary inspection has been changed and who made the change. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004 ]
Several al-Qaeda operatives connected to the 9/11 plot appear to have a meeting in Karachi, possibly to finalize details related to the plot. Some of the operatives arrive from Germany, via Istanbul, by plane (see September 3-5, 2001). They include Said Bahaji, an associate of the hijackers, Afghan brothers Mohammad Sarwar Joya and Patrick Joya, an Algerian named Mohammed Belfatmi who also just arrived on the same Istanbul to Karachi leg of the flight as the others. Belfatmi is said to have had a role in arranging a meeting in Spain between 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see July 8-19, 2001). Men known as Abdellah Hosayni and Ammar Moul are also on the flight from Germany. However, these last two apparently are traveling under false identities, and it will later be reported that they are really Ismail Bin Murabit (a.k.a. Ismail Ben Mrabete) and Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb). An informer later says both Murabit and Ahmed attended the same al-Qaeda training camp as Bahaji. All five of these men - Bahaji, Murabit, Ahmed, the Joya brothers, and Belfatmi - stay in the same hotel once they arrive in Karachi. [Fortune, 10/30/2001; CNN, 10/31/2001; Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] Ahmed is suspected by German investigators of having a “major role” in preparations for 9/11. [CNN, 10/31/2001] A Pakistani newspaper will say that, “It was, in all probability, a meeting to tie up loose ends before the countdown to the attack.” [Pioneer, 8/7/2003] Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Hambali are in Karachi at this time, although it is unclear whether they meet with Bahaji and the others (see Early September 2001). The Joya brothers, who are apparently under surveillance by German police around this time, return to Istanbul on October 5 and 16. In Germany in late October, Patrick Joya will even talk to a reporter and admit recently traveling to Pakistan. [Fortune, 10/30/2001; CNN, 10/31/2001; Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] What happens to the Joya brothers after this time is unclear. Ahmed will later be arrested in the same raid that nabs al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, and he will be sent to the US-run Guantanamo prison (see March 28, 2002).
Fort Myer and Fort Lesley J. McNair, both within two miles of the Pentagon, implement “full access control,” which means they increase the level of military police surveillance of those who enter them. Visitors are now required to register and sign in at a visitor center, and obtain a temporary pass. The measures, part of a security crackdown due to concerns about terrorism, will allow commanders to know who is entering their installations 24 hours a day and adjust their security measures immediately as needed. [MDW News Service, 8/3/2001; Washington Post, 8/15/2001] All other Army posts in the Washington, DC area are currently implementing similar access restrictions (see August 15, 2001).
A Moroccan militant in a prison in Brazil apparently makes an unheeded warning about the 9/11 attacks. Gueddan Abdel Fatah was imprisoned in January 2001 after a hold-up attempt. On September 5, 2001, he hands a letter to a lawyer named Edith Espinosa, and asks her to take copies to head of the Brazilian prison system and the US embassy. [BBC, 9/15/2001] Espinosa forgets to deliver the letter. On September 10, he sees her again and says that any warning now would be too late. [United Press International, 10/1/2001] In the letter, Fatah says, “I need to talk urgently about very important issues.” He says he intends to reveal information about militant groups that are planning attacks, and he makes reference to “two explosions” that could take place in the US. Shortly after 9/11, he will be questioned and says he was working with a group of Muslim militants in the tri-border area between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay that is a known haven for many Muslim extremist groups. One member of the group had a contact in New York City and “was constantly phoning the United States and holding coded conversations.” This member allegedly told him, “We are waiting for the United States to explode.” [BBC, 9/15/2001] Fatah claims that he visited the US consulates in Argentina and Brazil before his arrest eight months earlier and tried to pass on the warning, but no one paid attention to him. [United Press International, 10/1/2001] Both Osama bin Laden and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed visited the tri-border area in previous years (see December 1995 and June 1998).
NCIC logo. [Source: NCIC] (click image to enlarge)FBI agent Robert Fuller has been tasked to find out if hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar are in the US, now that their names have been added to a terrorist watch list (see September 4-5, 2001). Fuller later claims that he requests a criminal history check in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, a computer database frequently used by every level of law enforcement. However, the Bergen Record will later report: “[H]e never performed one of the most basic tasks of a police manhunt. He never ran Almihdhar or Alhazmi through the NCIC computer. That simple act would have alerted local cops to look for the suspected terrorists.” Fuller also allegedly requests that a national motor vehicle index be searched. [Bergen Record, 7/11/2002; Bergen Record, 5/18/2004; US Department of Justice, 11/2004] A government webpage about the NCIC database posted before 9/11 boasts that it has an enhanced name search capability, returning results of phonetically similar names and name derivatives. [National Criminal Information Center, 5/5/2001] According to an FBI timeline assembled shortly after 9/11, the following incidents are in the NCIC database:
April 1, 2001. Nawaf Alhazmi receives a speeding ticket from Oklahoma State Highway Patrol in Clinton, Oklahoma (see April 1, 2001). He is driving the Toyota Corolla he bought in San Diego the year before. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 131 ; Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/2002]
Alhazmi tells police in Alexandria, Virginia, that he was mugged. Even though he declines to press charges, this incident is added to the NCIC database (see May 1, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 139 ]
July 7, 2001. Alhazmi’s Corolla is queried by police in South Hackensack, New Jersey. The incident is added to the motor vehicle index as well as the NCIC database (see July 7, 2001). One newspaper will later comment that a search of the NCIC “would have told the agent a local cop… had already spotted Alhazmi in [the New Jersey town of] South Hackensack.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 179 ; US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; Bergen Record, 5/18/2004]
August 28, 2001. A rental car rented by Alhazmi is queried by police in Totowa, New Jersey (see August 28, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 236 ] While this incident will be in the NCIC database when the FBI searches it after 9/11, it is unknown if it is accessible by Fuller when he searches it.
If Fuller really does check both the NCIC and motor vehicle databases, it is not clear why he fails to find any of these incidents and thus prove that Alhazmi was in the US.
British radical leader and informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997) sends £6,000 (about $9,000) to Afghanistan. The money is to be used to build a computer lab in Kandahar that can be used by Taliban officials and the general public. The money is sent by courier, an aide to Abu Hamza called James Ujaama. However, Ujaama is stopped by British authorities at the airport on his way to Pakistan, apparently because they are suspicious of his travel patterns and the amount of money he is carrying. Ujaama tells them the money is for a Taliban school and that he will go to Afghanistan even if he cannot get a visa, because this is easy. The officials are suspicious, but let him go, simply asking him to report to them on his return. However, Ujaama does not make it to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border before the 9/11 attacks and will return to London within a few weeks without delivering the money. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 197-198]
According to a later report by Agence France-Presse, Spanish prosecutor Pedro Rubira says that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is in Madrid, Spain, on this day. [Agence France Presse, 6/1/2005] He previously met co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain in July (see July 8-19, 2001) and bin al-Shibh is in Madrid at this time (see September 5, 2001). [MSNBC, 12/11/2001; McDermott, 2005, pp. 230] However, there are no other known reports of Atta being in Madrid in September 2001. For example, no such trip is mentioned in the 9/11 Commission report (although the Agence France-Presse article comes one year after the 9/11 Commission’s report). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
Would-be 9/11 hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh flies out of Germany on September 5, 2001, and stays in Spain for a few days while on his way to Afghanistan. Bin al-Shibh knows the date of the 9/11 attacks by this time (see (August 20, 2001) and August 29, 2001). Investigators later believe he stays in a private home in Madrid, but it will not be revealed whose home this is. He never uses his return ticket to Germany. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002]
Meeting with Atta? - 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta may also be in Spain on September 5 (see September 5, 2001). Bin al-Shibh and Atta met in Spain in July 2001 (see July 8-19, 2001), and there are suggestions they utilized a local al-Qaeda support network while they were there.
On to Afghanistan - Bin al-Shibh gets a set of false identity papers while in Spain. Then he flies to Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and finally to Afghanistan. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 230]
Would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh makes three phone calls on this day, and one is to 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi in the US. Bin al-Shibh makes the three calls from the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany, as he is about to take a flight to Spain on his way to Pakistan (see September 5, 2001). Nothing more is known about the call to Alghamdi. However, the call may be an opportunity to discover the 9/11 plot, because at least some of bin al-Shibh’s phone calls are monitored around this time. Details are murky, but a call between bin al-Shibh and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is monitored in late July 2001, although it is not clear if it is monitored by US or German intelligence, or both (see July 20, 2001).
Second Call to Jordanian - At the airport, bin al-Shibh also calls an unnamed Jordanian who is said to be a close friend of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah from a time both of them were studying in Griefswald, Germany, in the mid-1990s. This person lived in the same Hamburg apartment as hijacker Mohamed Atta, was said to have become an Islamist radical, and shared bank accounts and cell phone numbers with some of the hijackers living in Hamburg. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] This almost certainly is Bashir Musleh, because Musleh is a Jordanian who is a close friend of Jarrah’s from when they both studied in Griefswald. Author Terry McDermott identifies him as one of the Hamburg group. [McDermott, 2005, pp. xi, 53]
Third Call to Cell Member Meziche - The third and final call is to Naamen Meziche, a French citizen of Algerian descent, and a longtime resident of Hamburg, Germany. The call to Meziche’s house lasts 34 seconds. Meziche appears to be a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, but German investigators will never be able to develop enough evidence to charge him with a crime. He will be killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010). [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2010]
Oklahoma City District Attorney Wes Lane announces that Oklahoma will continue prosecuting convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 29, 1999) on 160 state charges of murder, in part because the state fears Nichols may win his federal appeals (see June 4, 1998). “I will not roll the dice on this issue. There is simply too much at stake,” Lane says. He says that the state will seek the death penalty against Nichols. Lane took over the case after District Attorney Robert Macy retired in June 2001; some have speculated that Oklahoma might drop the case due to the expenditure, the difficulty of finding an impartial jury, and the emotional toll on the victims of another trial. Nichols’s lead lawyer for the state case, Brian Hermanson, writes in a letter quoted by local newspapers that Nichols was willing to drop his appeals and accept a federal life sentence to avoid a state trial. The letter states: “Taking such a step ensures that he will spend the rest of his life in prison. It would enable Mr. Lane to drop the state prosecution, thereby sparing Oklahoma the trauma and expense of another trial.” Lane responds that “the interests of the people of the State of Oklahoma cannot be vindicated by the blind reliance on the federal government or Terry Lynn Nichols,” and says he will seek sanctions against Hermanson for what he calls a “glaring, blatant violation” of a state court order not to discuss the case. Shelly Thompson, who lost her mother in the blast (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), says: “You can’t just get away with a little bit of a crime. We’re going to go for the whole thing. I want to make sure he will stay in prison for his life. This is something I need to do for her. He was not found guilty in my mother’s death and 159 other deaths. They are more than numbers.” [New York Times, 9/6/2001; The Oklahoman, 4/2009; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
An identity card of Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi used in some of these transactions. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]The hijackers in the US return money to Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, one of their facilitators in the United Arab Emirates:
September 4: Hijacker Mohamed Atta sends al-Hawsawi a FedEx package from Florida. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] The package contains hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad’s ATM card and checkbook. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 10 ] The FedEx bill will be found shortly after 9/11 in the trash at the hotel Atta stays at on the night before 9/11 (see September 11-13, 2001);
September 5: $8,000 is wired from Banihammad’s SunTrust bank account to his bank account in the United Arab Emirates, to which al-Hawsawi has access (see June 25, 2001);
September 8: Mohamed Atta sends $2,860 to “Mustafa Ahmed” from a Western Union office in Laurel, Maryland;
September 8: Later that day Atta sends another $5,000 to “Mustafa Ahmed” from another Western Union office in the same town;
September 9: Hijacker Waleed Alshehri sends $5,000 to “Ahamad Mustafa” from a Western Union office at Logan Airport in Boston;
September 10: Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi sends $5,400 to “Mustafa Ahmad” from a Western Union office at the Greyhound Bus Station in Boston;
September 10: Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour use the name “Rawf Al Dog” to send an express mail package from Laurel, Maryland, to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. When the FBI intercepts the package at Dulles Airport after 9/11, they find it contains the debit card and PIN for Khalid Almihdhar’s First Union Bank account, which has a balance of $9,838.31. [MSNBC, 12/11/2001; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 75 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 76 ]
Atta, Alshehhi, and Alshehri also call al-Hawsawi at this time to give him the numbers for the money they are sending. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 10 ] Although al-Hawsawi admits receiving this money in a substitution for testimony at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui in 2006 and again at a Guantanamo Bay hearing (see March 21, 2007), some detainees are apparently subjected to torture, which has led some to doubt the reliability and validity of their statements (see June 16, 2004). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 10 ; US department of Defense, 3/21/2007 ]
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]
Former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO), one of the two co-chairs of a comprehensive, bipartisan report on terrorism released in January 2001, meets with National Security Adviser Rice to see if the Bush administration is implementing the report’s recommendations. He later claims to give her a grave warning. He recalls to tone of her response: “She didn’t seem to feel a terrible sense of urgency. Her response was simply ‘I’ll talk to the vice president about it.‘… Even at this late date, nothing was being done inside the White House.” [Salon, 4/2/2004]
According to a later interview with would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a courier sent by bin al-Shibh tells Osama bin Laden on this day when the 9/11 attacks will take place. [Australian, 9/9/2002] However, there are doubts about this interview (see April, June, or August 2002). The message may have been taken from bin al-Shibh in Germany to Pakistan by al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Zakariya Essabar (see Late August 2001).
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, seeks to transfer $600 million to counterterrorism from the missile defense program to fill budgetary gaps. However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sends a letter on this day saying he would urge Bush to veto the measure. Levin nonetheless pushes the measure through the next day on a party-line vote. It’s unclear if a veto would have followed. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; Time, 8/12/2002; New York Times, 4/4/2004]
Ben Soltane Adel, a Tunisian detained in Milan, Italy, for belonging to an extremist cell (see January 24, 2001), receives a letter from a fellow militant. The envelope contains an empty chewing gum wrapper. The wrapper is from Brooklyn Gum, a popular Italian brand that features a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, so presumably it is a hint to Adel about the 9/11 targets. Prison guards notice the wrapper when they open the envelope and think it odd. However, they do not realize the full significance of it until five days later. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 226] Some Islamist militants in Milan appear to have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks around this time (see September 7, 2001) and September 4, 2001). In January 2001, Adel was monitored talking about using forged documents to help the “brothers who are going to the United States” with Mahmoud Es Sayed, one of the people in Italy who seems to know about the 9/11 plot (see January 24, 2001 and August 12, 2000).
Release and Imprisoned Again - In early 2004, Adel will be released after serving a three and a half year sentence in Italy, and then deported to Tunisia. In June 2007, it will be reported that he is on a UN al-Qaeda and Taliban blacklist, and he is imprisoned in Tunisia. [Isle of Man Customs Division, 6/11/2007]
A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard. [Source: Public domain]Suspicious trading occurs on the stock of American and United, the two airlines hijacked in the 9/11 attacks. “Between 6 and 7 September, the Chicago Board Options Exchange [sees] purchases of 4,744 put option contracts [a speculation that the stock will go down] in UAL versus 396 call options—where a speculator bets on a price rising. Holders of the put options would [net] a profit of $5 million once the carrier’s share price [dive] after September 11. On September 10, 4,516 put options in American Airlines, the other airline involved in the hijackings, [are] purchased in Chicago. This compares with a mere 748 call options in American purchased that day. Investigators cannot help but notice that no other airlines [see] such trading in their put options.” One analyst later says, “I saw put-call numbers higher than I’ve ever seen in ten years of following the markets, particularly the options markets.”
[Associated Press, 9/18/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/19/2001]
“To the embarrassment of investigators, it has also [learned] that the firm used to buy many of the ‘put’ options… on United Airlines stock was headed until 1998 by ‘Buzzy’ Krongard, now executive director of the CIA.” Krongard was chairman of Alex Brown Inc., which was bought by Deutsche Bank. “His last post before resigning to take his senior role in the CIA was to head Bankers Trust—Alex Brown’s private client business, dealing with the accounts and investments of wealthy customers around the world.”
The four hijackers of flight 93 apparently arrive in Newark from Florida on this day, although there is much confusion over this. Two of them, Ahmed Alnami and Saeed Alghamdi, take Spirit Airlines flight 1460 via Atlanta, leaving around 6:30 p.m. and arriving three hours later. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 253 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 81 ] However, the travel of the other two, Ziad Jarrah and Ahmed Alghamdi, is very confusing:
Ticket Purchase - According to an initial FBI chronology, Jarrah and Alghamdi book tickets on Continental Flight 1500 on September 5. But the chronology gives the wrong times, departure at 8:35 p.m. and arrival at 11:20 p.m., for this flight, which, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, actually leaves just after midday (note: the 8:35 p.m. and 11:20 p.m. times are actually for Continental Flight 1700). The chronology also refers to this flight as “Spirit Airlines Flight 1500.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 253 ; Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2/20/2008] Chronologies for Jarrah and Alhaznawi submitted at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui will say that they purchase tickets for Spirit Air Flight 1500. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ]
Continental Flight 1500 - A stipulation used at the Moussaoui trial will claim that Jarrah takes this flight, and also Flight 1700 (note: this is impossible as he does not have time to arrive in Newark on the first flight, rent a car and hotel room there, and return to Florida in time for the second flight). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 81-82 ] Jarrah rents the car and hotel room in Newark just before 5:00 p.m., suggesting that he does indeed take Continental flight 1500, which arrives in time for him to rent the car. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 264 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] A luggage tag will be found after 9/11 indicating that Jarrah did in fact fly on this flight. However, Jarrah’s name is not on the passenger manifest for this flight and neither is Alhaznawi’s. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 261, 265 ]
Spirit Flight 1460 or 1500 - Used Spirit Airline tickets dated September 7 will be found after 9/11 in Newark for all four flight 93 hijackers. This indicates Jarrah and Alhaznawi may fly with Alnami and Alghamdi on Spirit Airlines. However, Spirit Airlines flight 1460 arrives in Newark several hours after Jarrah rents a car and hotel room there. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 264 ] Chronologies for Jarrah and Alhaznawi submitted at the Moussaoui trial will say that they purchase tickets for “Spirit flt 1500”, but this may be a typo due to confusion with the Continental booking that is said to have occurred the same day, also for a flight 1500. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ]
Continental Flight 1700 - Jarrah takes this flight, which arrives in Newark several hours after he rents a car and hotel room there, according to the Moussaoui trial stipulation, which also says he takes the earlier flight (for which he is not on the manifest). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 81-82 ] Alhaznawi, who has a ticket for either Continental 1500 or Spirit 1500 and for whom a used ticket for a Spirit flight was found, takes this flight, according to one of the Moussaoui trial chronologies, the Moussaoui trial stipulation, and a chart of the hijackers’ name usage used as evidence at the Moussaoui trial. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 81-82 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 24 ]
According to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks, future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed “Atta, Hani Hanjour, and possibly additional [Middle Eastern] males were observed at [a] Kinkos [store in] Laurel, Maryland, xeroxing passports, cutting and pasting.” There is no further explanation about this or what it might mean. The document will add that video surveillance was retrieved showing “Atta and other individuals.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002]
9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi transfers $200 from his and Atta’s joint account at SunTrust Bank to fellow hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari’s account in Buraidah, Saudi Arabia. Alomari’s account is with Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp, which will later be unsuccessfully sued for allegedly supporting terrorism (see August 15, 2002). The transfer costs $50 plus charges. The reason for the transfer is not clear, as Alomari, who also has an account with the Hudson United Bank in the US (see June 27-August 23, 2001), had only left Florida the previous day and will be in Boston at the same time as Alshehhi on September 9. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] Records show that Alshehhi completes the transaction just before 4.00 p.m. However, according to some accounts, Alshehhi is drinking at Shuckums bar at this time (see September 7, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/13/2001; Observer, 9/16/2001]
The State Department issues a little noticed warning, alerting against an attack by al-Qaeda. However, the warning focuses on a threat to American citizens overseas, and particularly focuses on threats to US military personnel in Asia. [US Department of State, 9/7/2001] In the one-page alert, the State Department says it received information in May 2001 “that American citizens may be the target of a terrorist threat from extremist groups with links to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization. Such individuals have not distinguished between official and civilian targets.… As always, we take this information seriously. US Government facilities worldwide remain on heightened alert.” Such warnings are issued periodically and usually are so vague that few pay them serious attention. In any event, most airlines and officials will claim that they did not see this warning until after 9/11. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/14/2001]
Shuckums bar and grill, in Hollywood, Florida. [Source: Patrick Durand/ Corbis]Two future 9/11 hijackers drink alcohol with an unidentified man. Mohamed Atta spends time drinking with Marwan Alshehhi and a third man at Shuckums, a sports bar in Hollywood, Florida. Bartender Patricia Idrissi will later remember that the third man plays a video machine at one end of the restaurant while Atta and Alshehhi sit drinking and arguing. Alshehhi drinks rum and coke; Atta consumes five Stolichnaya vodkas with orange juice. When it comes to pay Atta complains about their $48 bill and argues with the manager. “You think I can’t pay my bill?” Atta shouts. “I am a pilot for American Airlines. I can pay my f_cking bill.” Then he reportedly peels out a note from a thick wad of $50 and $100 bills, leaving a $2 tip. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Observer, 9/16/2001] Atta, Alshehhi, and the third unidentified man came into Shuckums already drunk, according to Idrissi, who will tell the St. Petersburg Times, “They were wasted.” Idrissi directs the men to a nearby Chinese restaurant. Later they return and drink some more, each ordering about five drinks. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/13/2001] According to manager Tony Amos, “The guy Mohamed was drunk, his voice was slurred, and he had a thick accent.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] According to the London Observer, the men are drinking at Shuckums during the afternoon. [Observer, 9/16/2001] However, Amos will tell the Associated Press that they visit his bar on “Friday night.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] The account of the story will slowly change over time, and later articles will say Atta plays video games and drinks cranberry juice instead of vodka, and that Alshehhi is the one who argues over the bill and pays (see September 12, 2001 and After). [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] In 2011, the Miami Herald will note that the third man with Atta and Alshehhi is never identified. [Miami Herald, 5/5/2011] According to some witnesses, Atta and Alshehhi spend the evening of September 7 in Longboat Key, Florida. (see September 7, 2001). [Longboat Observer, 11/21/2001]
The cover of President Bush’s schedule for September 11. [Source: Ari Fleischer]President Bush’s plan to visit a Sarasota, Florida, elementary school on September 11 is publicly announced. According to the Longboat Observer, numerous eyewitnesses see future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in Longboat Key, which is near Sarasota, this evening. They appear to stay at a Holiday Inn very close to the place Bush will later stay. Atta is seen at the Holiday Inn bar, where he orders one drink, a rum and Coke. He is met by an unidentified male who motions he doesn’t speak English, and then they leave. [Longboat Observer, 11/21/2001] However, other witnesses will later recall seeing Atta and Alshehhi at a bar in Hollywood, Florida, this evening (see September 7, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/13/2001]
MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, the location of CENTCOM headquarters. [Source: Jason Robertson / US Air Force]Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), says his biggest fear is that terrorists will attack the World Trade Center. Franks gives a presentation to the CENTCOM intelligence staff at the command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, about what he thinks the major threats facing the US in the Middle East and Central Asia are. When he finishes, a young sergeant asks him, “General, what keeps you awake at night?” According to Computerworld magazine, Franks replies, “The thought of one tower of the World Trade Center collapsing into the other tower, killing thousands of people.” But in his memoir, published in 2004, Franks will write that he answers, “A terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York—that’s what keeps me awake at night.” Franks, according to his own recollections, then elaborates, saying, “If international terrorists were to strike a major blow against America, I fear the specter of the nation’s military operating as combatants within our borders for the first time since the 1860s.” Therefore, he continues, “the thing that keeps me awake at night… is the possible use of our armed forces against American citizens.” Military personnel, he says, are “not police officers, sheriffs, or the FBI,” and so if they “were ever required to act in that capacity during a major emergency like an attack on the World Trade Center, the effect on America could be devastating.” He concludes by saying, “Martial law would not sit well in a free and open society.” [Computerworld, 10/21/2003; Franks, 2004, pp. 236-237] As CENTCOM commander, Franks is in charge of US military operations in an area covering 25 nations in North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. [CNN, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 1/7/2006] He will lead the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. [United Press International, 8/17/2004]
French author Bernard-Henri Levy claims to know an anonymous manager at a Dubai, United Arab Emirates, bank who gives him astute and accurate tips on Arab banking. The manager tells Henri-Levy in 2002, “We know a bank here that made [a put option] transaction between the 8th and 10th of September on certain Dow Jones blue-chip stocks for accounts linked to bin Laden. I know the name of a bank that, by shorting 8,000 shares of United Airlines on the 7th of September, then 1,200 shares of American Airlines on the morning of the 10th, allowed the attack to finance itself.” The manager won’t name the bank, but he quotes bin Laden from a late September 2001 interview, stating, “al-Qaeda is full of young, modern, and educated people who are aware of the cracks inside the Western financial system, and know how to exploit them. These faults and weaknesses are like a sliding noose strangling the system.” [Daily Ummat (Karachi), 9/28/2001; Levy, 2003, pp. 312-313] The timing and amount of type of stock speculation mentioned in this account is similar to, but not the same as, previously published reports (see September 6-10, 2001). Levy suspects the al-Qaeda agent making these transactions is the financially astute Saeed Sheikh, graduate of the London School of Economics. An al-Qaeda agent using the alias Mustafa Ahmad is captured by a surveillance camera entering the Bank of Dubai on September 10, Dubai time, to pick up money sent by Mohamed Atta in previous days, but this video footage has never been publicly released. Levy and others argue that Mustafa Ahmad and Saeed Sheikh are one and the same (see September 5-10, 2001). [Levy, 2003, pp. 312-313]
Mohand Alshehri. [Source: Spiegel TV]In the days before the attacks, some of the hijackers (including Waleed Alshehri and/or Wail Alshehri) apparently sleep with prostitutes in Boston hotel rooms, or at least try to do so. A driver working at an “escort service” used by the hijackers claims he regularly drove prostitutes to a relative of bin Laden about once a week until 9/11, when the relative disappeared. Bin Laden has several relatives in the Boston area, most or all of whom returned to Saudi Arabia right after 9/11. [Boston Herald, 10/10/2001] On September 7, two female escorts are sent to “Arab men” in the Park Inn, Boston. One of the escorts will later say that a photo of Satam Al Suqami looks “very familiar.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 264 ] On September 10, four other hijackers in Boston (Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, and Satam Al Suqami) call around to find prostitutes to sleep with on their last night alive, but in the end decline. Says one official, “It was going to be really expensive and they couldn’t come to a consensus on price, so that was the end of it… Either they thought it was too extravagant [over $400] or they did not have enough money left.” [Boston Globe, 10/10/2001]
Flight 11 hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari completes a lost ticket form and asks for a replacement ticket for his 9/11 flight. The circumstances in which he lost his ticket are unclear, but he will be issued with a new one the following day at the American Airlines terminal at Logan Airport in Boston. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 265, 271 ]
Firefighters battle a blaze at a Tucson McDonald’s restaurant. [Source: Moonbattery (.com)]Activists with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) set fire to a McDonald’s restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, causing $500,000 in damages. McDonald’s has long been a target for the organization because of the firm’s large-scale slaughter of beef cattle, and the cover of the ALF manual “ARSON-Around with Auntie ALF” depicts a cartoon of a McDonalds burnt to the ground (see 1997). ALF and its sister organization, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), claim credit for the fire in a joint statement, and say the fire is meant as a warning to corporations worldwide. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Majed Moqed fail to cash a check at the First Union Bank, where they are accompanied by an unidentified Middle Eastern male. The unidentified male presents a Pennsylvania driving license to a bank employee. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 265 ] However, there is no record of any of the hijackers obtaining a Pennsylvania driver’s license. For example, no such license is mentioned in the 9/11 Commission’s Terrorist Travel monograph, which lists the documents the hijackers obtained in the US. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 20-33 ] There is only one known instance of any 9/11 hijacker visiting Pennsylvania before 9/11, and that was a three day trip by Ziad Jarrah to Philadelphia in June 2001. Interestingly, Jarrah was seen with an unknown older man during that trip (see June 3-4, 2001). It is unclear whether the unidentified male with Hanjour and Moqed is an associate of the hijackers, or whether one of the hijackers obtained a Pennsylvania driver’s license and the FBI and 9/11 Commission failed to uncover this.
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.)
Ziad Jarrah. [Source: CNN]9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah is stopped in Maryland for speeding, ticketed, and released. No red flags show up when his name is run through the computer by the state police, even though he already had been questioned in January 2001 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the request of the CIA for “suspected involvement in terrorist activities” (see January 30, 2001) Baltimore’s mayor has criticized the CIA for not informing them that Jarrah was on the CIA’s watch list. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/13/2001; Associated Press, 12/14/2001] Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) will later make reference to Jarrah’s detention in the UAE and the fact that an arrest warrant had been put out for Mohamed Atta (see June 4, 2001), and comment, “Had local law enforcement been able to run the names of Jarrah and Atta against a watch list, it is likely that they would have been arrested and detained, and at least one team of hijackers would no longer have had a pilot.” [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 37] Three other hijackers are also stopped for speeding while they are in the US (see April 26, 2001).
9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar stay in a motel near a fundamentalist storefront mosque in Laurel, Maryland. The hijackers drop off two bags at the mosque, to which they attach a note stating: “gift for the brothers.” The FBI will recover the bags one day after the 9/11. An FBI document will identify the mosque at the Ayah Islamic Center, also known as the Ayah Dawah mosque. According to the 9/11 Commission, the bags contain “fruit, clothing, flight logs, and various other materials.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 53 ] The FBI will later reveal that the bags contain pilot log books, receipts, and other evidence documenting the brief flight training that Alhazmi and Almihdhar underwent in San Diego in early 2000. It is unclear why they would have kept the receipts, some mentioning their names, for over a year and then left them at a mosque to be found. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 273, 295 ] After 9/11, the FBI will investigate the mosque, asking people if they recognized any of the hijackers. They will determine the imam, Said Rageah, worked part-time raising money for the Global Relief Foundation. Shortly after 9/11, the US will declare this charity a terrorism financier and shut it down. The FBI will investigate him for over a year but ultimately will not find any link to the 9/1 attacks. [Washington Post, 1/6/2002; Newsweek, 9/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 53 ] Newsweek will later ask rhetorically, “Who are these mysterious brothers the hijackers left behind when they immolated themselves on September 11? Was that just the usual endearing term that fellow Muslims use for each other? Or is there a deeper connection?” [Newsweek, 9/30/2002]
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (right) in Afghanistan in 1988.
[Source: Public domain]Congressperson Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who has long experience in Afghanistan and even fought with the mujaheddin there, later will claim he immediately sees the assassination of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud (see September 9, 2001) as a sign that “something terrible [is] about to happen.” He is only able to make an appointment to meet with top White House and National Security Council officials for 2:30 pm. on September 11. The events of that morning will render the meeting moot. [US Congress, 9/17/2001]
At Boston’s Logan Airport, during the morning, businesswoman Jan Shineman is checking in for Flight 11 to Los Angeles, when she notices a man resembling 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta behaving suspiciously. She later recalls him wearing “summery, holiday-type clothes… and he had no baggage, just a folder with a notebook.” She sees him again at the gate for Flight 11, “taking notes, watching the pilots in the cockpit through the window by the gate. They were running through their pre-flight checks.” She decides, “if he had boarded I would have told the captain about him, he was so odd and frightening.” [Guardian, 7/5/2002; Corbin, 2003, pp. 229] Atta will return to Logan Airport and board Flight 11 to Los Angeles on 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1-2]
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]
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).
9/11 facilitators Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi leave the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a hurry. At a hearing held in Guantanamo Bay in 2007 to determine Ali’s combat status, his departure from the UAE just before 9/11 will be included in the facts supporting his designation as an enemy combatant. However, he will deny having foreknowledge of 9/11 and say he had to leave the UAE as his work permit was canceled. [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2007 ] Al-Hawsawi leaves Dubai on the morning of 9/11 for Karachi. Shortly before, he had learned that the operation for which the hijackers had traveled to the US would take place on September 11, and had been advised by fellow operatives Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed that he should return to Pakistan. [US department of Defense, 3/21/2007 ] Before leaving, al-Hawsawi transferred $40,000 the hijackers had returned to him to his Visa card (see September 5-10, 2001). He makes six ATM withdrawals on the card in Pakistan two days later and then disappears. [MSNBC, 12/11/2001]
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]
Patrick Fitzgerald was involved in the prosecution of all the major al-Qaeda legal cases in the US before 9/11. Just before 9/11, he switched to prosecuting political corruption cases and will later become known for prosecuting the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. On this day, he sends an e-mail to a colleague who is also switching from working on terrorism cases. He writes, “You can’t leave, they’re going to hit us again and someone has got to be around to work it.” [Observer, 2/12/2006]
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).
Silverstein Properties, Larry Silverstein’s company which took over the lease of the WTC weeks earlier (see July 24, 2001), has a meeting planned for the morning of 9/11 in it’s temporary offices on the 88th floor of the WTC North Tower, along with Port Authority officials. It is to discuss what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. However, this evening the meeting is canceled because one participant cannot attend. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; Ha'aretz, 11/21/2001] Of Silverstein Properties’ 160 staff, 54 are in the North Tower when it is hit, and four of them die. [Globe and Mail, 9/7/2002]
At least two messages in Arabic are intercepted by the NSA. One states, “The match is about to begin” and the other states, “Tomorrow is zero hour.” Later reports translate the first message as, “The match begins tomorrow.” [Reuters, 9/9/2002] The messages were sent between someone in Saudi Arabia and someone in Afghanistan. The NSA will claim that they are not translated until September 12, and that even if they had been translated in time, “they gave no clues that authorities could have acted on.” [ABC News, 6/7/2002; Reuters, 6/19/2002] Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Bob Graham will later confirm that the messages were from al-Qaeda sources—a location or phone number—that made them a high priority, but that they were not from bin Laden or one of his top commanders. [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 139] On the morning of September 12, 2001, the CIA will tell President Bush that a recently intercepted message from al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida referred to the 9/11 attacks as “zero hour,” but it is not clear if this is the same message or a different message (see September 12, 2001). These messages turn out to be only two of about 30 pre-9/11 communications from suspected al-Qaeda operatives or other militants referring to an imminent event. An anonymous official will say of these messages, including the “Tomorrow is zero hour” message: “You can’t dismiss any of them, but it does not tell you tomorrow is the day.” [Reuters, 9/9/2002] There will be a later attempt to explain the messages away by suggesting they referred to the killing of Afghan opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud the day before (see September 9, 2001). [Reuters, 10/17/2002]
The night before 9/11, two men are observed behaving suspiciously on a United Airlines flight from San Diego to Boston. This is according Elaine Lawrence, who is one of the plane’s flight attendants. She later recalls that the men—one who appears Middle Eastern, the other Caucasian—upgrade from coach to first class, and then sit “on the left side of the plane, seats 3A and 3B,” near the cockpit door. She will comment: “It was really weird. They didn’t eat, they didn’t sleep, they didn’t watch the movie. Why upgrade?” Furthermore, she recalls: “[W]hen we were getting close to Boston they asked if we could see the World Trade Center towers. ‘Do we see the towers?’ the guy kept asking. I told him we wouldn’t be going by New York.” After the attacks the following day, she will call the FBI and inform them of this incident. Lawrence was in fact originally scheduled to be an attendant on Flight 175—the second plane to hit the WTC—on 9/11. However, as she is planning to go on vacation, she has traded shifts with another flight attendant, Amy Jarret (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/23/2001]
Suzanne Giesemann. [Source: Suzanne Giesemann]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gives a warning to be prepared for a domestic terrorist attack at any time, because the conditions are right for such an attack to occur. Shelton will later recall issuing the warning in a speech he gives at a conference on global terrorism. He ends the speech with the admonition to “be on your toes,” because, he will recall, “conditions were such that a domestic terrorist attack could occur at any time.” Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann, an aide to the chairman, will similarly recall that Shelton ends his conference speech with a warning “to prepare for a terrorist attack at any time and any place.” According to Shelton, the conference takes place the week before September 11, but Giesemann will say it takes place several weeks before September 11. Further details of the conference, such as where it is being held and who else is attending it, are unstated. Both Shelton and Giesemann will be reminded of the chairman’s prophetic warning when they are first notified of the attacks in New York on 9/11 (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431]
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).
Hamza Bin Laden in 2001. [Source: Getty Images]Several members of Osama bin Laden’s family cross into Iran on foot shortly before the 9/11 attacks. The exact number of family members that cross at this time is unknown, although 19 of bin Laden’s relatives will soon be present in Iran: one wife, seven children, and 11 grandchildren. The children are Saad, who is 20; Ossman, 17; Mohammed, 15; Fatma, 14; Hamza, 12; Iman, 9; and Bakr, 7. They are placed under virtual house arrest in a high-security compound near Tehran, “for their own safety.” The Iranian authorities will publicly deny their presence in the country, and will attempt to cut off their communications with the outside world. Al-Qaeda operatives will also be held in Iran after 9/11 (see Spring 2002). The whereabouts of the detained family members will remain unknown until November 2009, when they will contact another son of bin Laden, Omar Ossama, who is currently living in Qatar with his wife. The family will tell Omar they live as normal a life as possible, cooking meals, watching television, and reading. They will be allowed out only rarely for shopping trips. As a number of families are being held in the compound, some of the older siblings will be able to marry and have their own children. “The Iranian government did not know what to do with this large group of people that nobody else wanted, so they just kept them safe,” Omar Ossama will later say. [Times (London), 12/23/2009]
The US military never uses its elite units to hunt Osama bin Laden or any other al-Qaeda leaders before 9/11. US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is said to have less than 1000 operatives, mainly Navy Seals and Army Delta Force, which are the most trained and qualified personnel in the US for hunting fugitives. Professor Richard Shultz at Tufts University’s Fletcher School will be commissioned by the Pentagon shortly after 9/11 to research why such special forces were not used before 9/11 to hunt bin Laden or other al-Qaeda leaders. He will find that US military leaders always said they needed better intelligence. They did a lot of planning but took no action. Shultz will say, “It’s your strike force, and yet it was never used once for its primary mission before Sept. 11.” JSOC forces will have more successes after 9/11, including playing roles in the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006 (see June 8, 2006). [San Francisco Examiner, 3/2/2007]
Attorney General John Ashcroft rejects a proposed $58 million increase in financing for the FBI’s counterterrorism programs. The money would have paid for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 additional analysts and 54 additional translators. On the same day, he sends a request for budget increases to the White House. It covers 68 programs—but none of them relate to counterterrorism. He also sends a memorandum to his heads of departments, stating his seven priorities—none of them relate to counterterrorism. [Guardian, 5/21/2002; New York Times, 6/1/2002; New York Times, 6/2/2002] He further proposes cutting a program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants for equipment like radios and preparedness training from $109 million to $44 million. Yet Ashcroft stopped flying public airplanes in July due to an as yet undisclosed terrorist threat (see July 26, 2001), and in a July speech he proclaimed, “Our No. 1 priority is the prevention of terrorist attacks.” [New York Times, 2/28/2002]
Credit card receipts later discovered by the FBI apparently show that alleged lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is in Manhattan on this day. According to FBI agents, he visits the observation deck on the 107th floor of the south WTC tower. CNN will report, “Officials speculate Atta may have been in New York… to program the towers’ location into a global positioning system.” A global positioning system (GPS) uses satellite technology to pinpoint any location on Earth. According to the FBI, Atta bought himself such a device, costing about $500, by mail order. [ABC News, 5/22/2002; CNN, 5/22/2002] Investigators will reportedly consider this trip necessary, “because they believe the hijackers were too inexperienced to handle the jumbo jets without help.” [New York Daily News, 5/22/2002] BBC reporter Jane Corbin points out that Atta was also witnessed at Boston’s Logan Airport the previous morning (see September 9, 2001), where he could have entered start-point co-ordinates for his 9/11 flight into the GPS device. [Corbin, 2003, pp. 230] However, there is no mention of Atta’s New York visit in the 9/11 Commission Report. According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, Atta spent the previous night at the Milner Hotel in Boston, and then shortly after noon on this day is in Boston where he picks up Abdulaziz Alomari and drives to Portland, Maine. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] The 200-mile journey from Boston to New York takes approximately four hours by car. [MIT, 5/25/2006] So if Mueller’s account is correct, it seems difficult to comprehend Atta having time to travel to New York, go up the WTC, make purchases on his credit card, and then return to Boston, all in the space of one morning. An article in the New York Post will in fact claim that the person in Manhattan was “a distinguished renal and gene specialist at Johns Hopkins University Hospital” in Baltimore, Maryland. This man, who is also called Mohamed Atta, happened to have visited New York in the days before 9/11, “for a whirlwind weekend with his new bride.” The article claims that it had erroneously been reported that alleged hijacker Mohamed Atta “was casing the Twin Towers days before Sept. 11—even after the FBI concluded it was just the kidney doctor, who had planned to take his wife to Windows on the World for dinner in the North Tower.” [New York Post, 5/28/2002]
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 Pink Pony strip club. [Source: Durand Patrick / Corbis]In the Pink Pony strip club in Daytona Beach, Florida the night before the 9/11 attacks, three men make anti-American sentiments and talk of impending bloodshed. One says, “Wait ‘til tomorrow. America is going to see bloodshed.” These are not any of the hijackers, since they had all left Florida by this time, but it is suspected these men knew the hijackers. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; MSNBC, 9/23/2001] Mohamed Atta is said to have regularly frequented the same bar (see Before September 11, 2001). However, in September 2002, the St. Petersburg Times will report, “Some other famous terrorist sightings never panned out, including that of the manager at a Daytona Beach strip club, who told the world he heard three men spewing anti-American venom and predicting bloodshed the night of Sept. 10. When his story seemed to change with each telling, law enforcement moved on.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/1/2002]
The Northern Alliance releases a statement, saying, “Ahmed Shah Massoud was the target of an assassination attempt organized by the Pakistani [intelligence service] ISI and Osama bin Laden.” Massoud was the head leader of the Northern Alliance, the main group fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, until he was assassinated the previous day (see September 9, 2001). [Radio Free Europe, 9/10/2001; Newsday, 9/15/2001; Reuters, 10/4/2001] In June 2002, the New Yorker will report that there has been little to no investigation in Afghanistan into who was responsible for Massoud’s assassination. Even though the Northern Alliance has taken power, one of the figures some suspect of a role in the assassination is Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a warlord with radical Islamist ties but who also has gained power in the new Afghan government. However, Afghan Defense Minister and Northern Alliance leader Mohammad Qasim Fahim will tell the New Yorker that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was at ISI headquarters hours after Massoud was assassinated, possibly celebrating the assassination with ISI officials there (see September 9, 2001). [New Yorker, 6/10/2002] If Fahim had been immediately aware of this intelligence, it could help explain how quickly the Northern Alliance blamed the ISI.
Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar is on a German watch list of suspected Muslim extremists before 9/11, the Washington Post will later report. However, more details, such as when he is placed on the watch list, are unknown. [Washington Post, 6/12/2002] Cell members Said Bahaji and Mounir El Motassadeq are also placed on a watch list, both of them in March 2000 (see March 2000).
Al-Rajhi Bank logo. [Source: Al-Rajhi Bank.]Extremists order “operatives in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen” to use accounts at the Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp, according to a 2003 CIA report. The Al-Rajhi Bank is one of the biggest Saudi banks, with billions in assets. Who gives this order and when will not be made public. However, some examples of militants using the bank will later be alleged:
When al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim is arrested in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998), he is carrying records of an Al-Rajhi account.
When Wadih El-Hage’s house in Kenya is raided in 1997, investigators find contact information in his address book for Salah Al-Rajhi, one of the billionaire co-owners of the bank (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007]
Some of the 9/11 hijackers use the bank. For instance, Hani Hanjour is sent wire transfers from Al-Rajhi bank in Saudi Arabia at least six times in 1998 and 1999. In September 2000, Nawaf Alhazmi uses $2,000 in Al-Rajhi traveler’s checks paid for by an unnamed person in Saudi Arabia. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 19, 31, 33, 34, 41, 87 ] And Abdulaziz Alomari has an account at the bank (see September 7, 2001).
The bank is used by a number of charities suspected of militant links, including the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), the Muslim World League, the Saudi branch of Red Crescent, Global Relief Foundation, and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/2003]
An al-Qaeda affiliate in Spain holds accounts at the bank. According to a fax later recovered by Spanish police, the group’s chief financier tells a business partner to use the bank for their transactions. [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/2003]
In 2000, Al-Rajhi Bank couriers deliver money to insurgents in Indonesia to buy weapons and bomb-making materials.
According to a 2003 German report, bank co-founder Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi contributes to a charity front buying weapons for Islamic militants in Bosnia in the early 1990s. He is also on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989).
A US intelligence memo from shortly after 9/11 will say that a money courier for al-Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, travels on a visa obtained by the bank.
The 2003 CIA report will state: “Islamic extremists have used Al-Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation since at least the mid-1990s as a conduit for terrorist transactions.… Senior al-Rajhi family members have long supported Islamic extremists and probably know that terrorists use their bank.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007]
Entity Tags: Wadih El-Hage, Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, Salah al-Rajhi, Red Crescent (Saudi branch), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Muslim World League, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Global Relief Foundation, Hani Hanjour, International Islamic Relief Organization, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Abdulaziz Alomari, Nawaf Alhazmi
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Ariel Merari. [Source: International Institute for Counter-Terrorism]The FAA’s intelligence division conducts a conference call to examine the idea of “suicide attackers” during which a leading authority on the subject says a suicide attack on aviation is unlikely. At an unspecified time before 9/11, James Padgett—the manager of the global issues division of the FAA’s Office of Civil Aviation Security Intelligence at the time of the 9/11 attacks—arranges a conference call in which the analysts in his division get to talk to Ariel Merari, a professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, about suicide terrorism. [9/11 Commission, 10/7/2003 ] Merari has spent years studying suicide attacks around the world and specializes in the profiles of suicide bombers. [Boston Globe, 9/23/2001; Washington Post, 10/16/2001] He has authored or coauthored numerous books, articles, monographs, and chapters on political terrorism and other forms of political violence, and has served as a consultant to various branches of several governments. [Merari, 10/2000 ] Merari says, during the conference call, that throughout his research he has yet to find a single instance of a suicide attack on aviation. He says he thinks such an attack would be unlikely for psychological reasons relating to the extended time between the “point of no return” and the execution of the attack. He “certainly did not raise the possibility of multiple hijackers willing to kill themselves,” Padgett will later comment. [9/11 Commission, 10/7/2003 ]
A group of five Arabs attempts to penetrate a secure area leading to parked aircraft at Washington’s Dulles Airport. However, they are seen by two security guards, Eric Gill and Nicolas de Silva. Gill, who will later identify two of the men as 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, notices they approach a door to the secure area in a suspicious manner and that only three of them are dressed as United Airlines ramp workers and have the correct passes. Gill, a Pakistani, prevents the two without passes from entering the secure area, and realizes that he does not recognize the other three, and that their uniforms are unusually dirty for United employees. The men tell Gill to “f_ck off” and say that they are “important people,” but Gill still refuses to let the two without passes enter, and eventually all five men retreat. Gill goes off duty at 10:00 p.m. and his supervisor will comment after 9/11, “If someone wanted access to the aircraft, say to plant weapons, it would have been easy for the group Eric saw to come back after he got off duty and simply use the ID cards they had to activate the electronic lock and slip through.” Reporters Joe and Susan Trento, who break this story, will be unable to interview another security guard, Khalid Mahmoud, who was guarding the next door, as he will be immediately taken by the INS after 9/11 and presumably deported. De Silva has a poor memory for faces and will recall the incident happening, but will not be able to identify any of the Arabs. The FBI and 9/11 Commission will apparently not place much weight on Gill’s identification of the hijackers, as Alshehhi is believed to be in Boston at this time (see Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 2-6, 44-5] However, Alshehhi checks out of his hotel on this date and his last recorded action in Boston is before noon, so he may have flown to Dulles in the afternoon and could return by the following morning (see September 10, 2001). An INS employee will tell journalist Seymour Hersh that guns were placed on the planes on 9/11 (see After 11:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Security cameras record two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and possibly Salem Alhazmi, at Dulles this same day, but it is unclear whether their presence is related to this incident. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 281 ]
Though the NSA specializes in intercepting communications, the CIA and FBI intercept as well. After 9/11, CIA and FBI officials will discover messages with phrases like, “There is a big thing coming,”
“they’re going to pay the price,” and “We’re ready to go.” Supposedly, most or all of these intercepted messages will not be analyzed until after 9/11. [Newsweek, 10/1/2001]
In June 2004, future 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey will say that before 9/11, “There’s no question the Taliban was getting money from the Saudis… and there’s no question they got much more than that from the Pakistani government. Their motive is a secondary issue for us.” He claims this finding is based almost entirely on information known to the US government before 9/11. “All we’re doing is looking at classified documents from our own government, not from some magical source. So we knew what was going on, but we did nothing.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/16/2004] However, the 9/11 Commission will leave such material out of its final report and in fact make the claim in its last staff statement, “There is no convincing evidence that any government financially supported al-Qaeda before 9/11.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
An Echelon station in Menwith Hill, Britain. [Source: BBC]By the 1980s, a high-tech global electronic surveillance network shared between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is gathering intelligence all over the world. The BBC describes Echelon’s power as “astounding,” and elaborates: “Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism.” [BBC, 11/3/1999] One major focus for Echelon before 9/11 is al-Qaeda. For instance, one account mentions Echelon intercepting al-Qaeda communications in Southeast Asia in 1996 (see Before September 11, 2001). A staff member of the National Security Council who regularly attends briefings on bin Laden states, “We are probably tapped into every hotel room in Pakistan. We can listen in to just about every phone call in Afghanistan.” However, he and other critics will claim one reason why US intelligence failed to stop terrorism before 9/11 was because there was too much of a focus on electronic intelligence gathering and not enough focus on human interpretation of that vast data collection. [Toronto Star, 2/2/2002]
Entity Tags: United Kingdom, United States, Osama bin Laden, Echelon, National Security Council, Canada, Australia, Al-Qaeda, New Zealand
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties
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).
At some point, a man later believed to be 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi buys a pilot’s headset from Eastern Avionics, a vendor at the Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, Florida (see (2000-August 2001)). Subsequently, in the months leading up to 9/11, the salesperson receives e-mails, which may have been sent by hijacker Mohamed Atta as part of a mass mailing. Some are in Arabic, and appear to express Muslim concerns, with one including a photo taken in the Middle East of a dead child. After 9/11, the FBI will take hold of all these e-mails. The local sheriff will point out that there are some other people’s e-mail addresses that can be gleaned from the messages, although the FBI never publicly reveals the identities of these individuals. [Charlotte Sun, 9/21/2001; Charlotte Sun, 10/2/2001; NBC 2 (Fort Myers), 4/24/2002] Investigative reporter Daniel Hopsicker, who later obtains copies of the e-mails, will report that some of the 40 or so addresses Atta sent to belong to employees of US defense contractors. [Atta, 4/24/2002; Hopsicker, 2004, pp. 104-105]
Cheetah’s nude bar in San Diego. [Source: Cheetah's]A number of the 9/11 hijackers apparently drink alcohol heavily in bars, sleep with prostitutes, and watch strip shows in the US in the months and especially the days leading up to 9/11.
In late February 2001, hijacker Ziad Jarrah frequents a strip club in Jacksonville, Florida (see February 25-March 4, 2001).
In July 2001, hijackers Hamza Alghamdi and Marwan Alshehhi make two purchases of “pornographic video and sex toys” from a Florida store (see July 4-27, 2001).
Some hijackers, including possibly Satam Al Suqami and Waleed and Wail Alshehri, sleep with prostitutes in the days before 9/11 (see September 7-11, 2001).
On September 10, three hijacker associates spend $200 to $300 apiece on lap dances and drinks in the Pink Pony, a Daytona Beach, Florida, strip club. While the hijackers have left Florida by this time, Mohamed Atta is reported to have visited the same strip club, and these men appear to have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). [Boston Herald, 10/10/2001]
Alshehhi and Atta are seen entering the Hollywood, Florida, sports bar Shuckums already drunk. They proceed to drink even more hard alcohol there (see September 7, 2001).
Atta and Alshehhi are seen at Sunrise 251, a bar in Palm Beach, Florida. They spend $1,000 in 45 minutes on Krug and Perrier-Jouet champagne. Atta is with a tall busty brunette in her late twenties; Alshehhi is with a shortish blonde. Both women are known locally as regular companions of high-rollers. [Daily Mail, 9/16/2001]
A stripper at the Olympic Garden Topless Cabaret in Las Vegas, Nevada, will later recall Alshehhi being “cheap,” paying only $20 for a lap dance. [Cox News Service, 10/16/2001]
Several hijackers reportedly patronize the Nardone’s Go-Go Bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They are even seen there on the weekend before 9/11. [Boston Herald, 10/10/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001]
Majed Moqed visits a porn shop on three occasions and rents a porn video. The mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, will later say of the six hijackers who stay there, “Nobody ever saw them at mosques, but they liked the go-go clubs.” [Newsday, 9/23/2001; Newsweek, 10/15/2001]
Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar often frequent Cheetah’s, a nude bar in San Diego. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002]
Alshehhi is possibly seen in the Cheetah nightclub in Pompado Beach, Florida, on July 1, 2001. Six dancers who work there will later claim to have seen him. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 173 ]
Hamza Alghamdi watches a porn video on either the afternoon of September 9 or on September 10. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 272 ; Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001]
Temple University, Philadelphia, professor Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub will later comment: “It is incomprehensible that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next day in the name of Islam.… People who would kill themselves for their faith would come from very strict Islamic ideology. Something here does not add up.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/16/2001]
Entity Tags: Hamza Alghamdi, Khalid Almihdhar, Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, Marwan Alshehhi, Majed Moqed, Mohamed Atta, Wail Alshehri, Waleed Alshehri, Satam Al Suqami, Nawaf Alhazmi, Ziad Jarrah
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
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]
Newsweek will report in 2006, “The intelligence community generally agrees that the number of true A-list al-Qaeda operatives out there around the time of 9/11 was no more than about 1,000, perhaps as few as 500, most in and around Afghanistan.” [Newsweek, 6/28/2006] John Arquilla, a Special Operations expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, makes a higher end estimate, claiming “there were probably 3,000 core al-Qaeda operatives” around the time of 9/11. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007] US intelligence will later conclude that about 20,000 people passed through al-Qaeda training camps from 1996 to 9/11, and many of them will keep some level of affiliation with the group. However, only about 180 operatives have pledged loyalty to Osama bin Laden by 9/11. Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will say, “Al-Qaeda is an elite organization that takes very few members.” [New York Times, 9/10/2002; US News and World Report, 6/2/2003] Ali Soufan, an FBI agent focusing on al-Qaeda before 9/11, will later claim that at the time of 9/11, al-Qaeda had about 400 members. [Soufan, 2011, pp. xxiii] Author Terry McDermott will later comment: “Over 20-plus years, tens of thousands of men went through the Afghan training camps. In the same period, nearly a dozen attacks attributed to Islamic fundamentalists occurred around the world. But most of these men and most of these attacks had little, other than overlapping intent, to do with al-Qaeda. Most were independent groups running independent, often local, operations. In the attacks that were instigated by al-Qaeda, the same handful of people were involved in virtually every one. Even foot soldiers were recycled to new operations. The organization was so small that almost everybody in it at one time or another had personal interactions with top leadership.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 194, 201-202]
Another deputies meeting further considers policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, and makes further revisions to the National Security Presidential Directive regarding al-Qaeda. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] By the end of the meeting, a formal, three-phase strategy is agreed upon. An envoy is to go to Afghanistan and give the Taliban another chance to expel Osama bin Laden. If this fails, more pressure will be put on the Taliban, including more support for the Northern Alliance and other groups. If the Taliban still refuse to change, the US will try to overthrow them through more direct action. The time-frame for this strategy is about three years. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] CIA Director George Tenet is formally tasked to draw up new authorities for the covert action program envisioned and request funding to implement it. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The directive is then to be sent to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for approval. President Bush is apparently aware of the directive and prepared to sign it (though he hasn’t attended any of the meetings about it), but he will not sign it until October. [MSNBC, 5/16/2002; Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2002; Washington Post, 4/1/2004]
In October 2001, an Iranian named Mehrzad Arbane will tell an associate that he may have smuggled two of the 9/11 hijackers into the US. The associate, a known cocaine smuggler, will be so alarmed that he will become a government informant against Arbane. In 2004, Arbane will be convicted of smuggling cocaine from Latin America into the US and it will be reported he is also being investigated for money laundering and smuggling people from the Middle East into the US. It is not known which hijackers he may have smuggled into the US or when this may have taken place. [Village Voice, 5/25/2004] This runs counter to the 9/11 Commission’s claim, as expressed by one 9/11 Commission staffer, “The plotters all used their own passports to get into the country.” [United Press International, 8/17/2005]
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).
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