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[Source: Family photo]An emergency call is received at the 911 center in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, from Edward Felt, a passenger on Flight 93. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/8/2002] Felt makes the 911 call using his cell phone. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 45; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] It is answered by dispatcher John Shaw, on a line at the center specifically for incoming cell phone calls. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ; Longman, 2002, pp. 193] Glenn Cramer, a supervisor at the 911 center, hears Shaw responding to the caller, “You are what hijacked?” and consequently picks up a phone that allows him to listen in on the rest of Felt’s call. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/7/2001]
Call Center Workers Mishear Name - Felt identifies himself. Shaw and Cramer apparently mishear, and both will recall that he says his name is “Ed Wart.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ] (The FBI will initially refuse to disclose the caller’s name to the press, but he is later revealed to have been Edward Felt, a 41-year-old engineer from New Jersey. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 194; New York Times, 3/27/2002] ) Felt says, “We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked!” He repeatedly states that his call is not a hoax. [ABC News, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/11/2001] He says the passengers need help immediately. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ]
Felt Answers Questions about His Flight, but Does Not Describe Hijackers - Shaw asks Felt standard questions, such as where is he? What type of plane is he on? And what has happened? [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/11/2002] Felt tells Shaw his cell phone number and says he is on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. [Longman, 2002, pp. 193-194; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant., 4/11/2006 ] He says he is locked in the bathroom of the plane, but does not say if this is its front or rear bathroom. He does not say anything about how many hijackers are on board, nor make any statements about any weapons the hijackers may possess. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ] Nor does he mention any attempt by the passengers to regain control of the plane. [Longman, 2002, pp. 196]
Felt Describes 'Lots of Passengers,' though Plane Is Mostly Empty - Shaw will recall to the FBI that Felt tells him the plane is loaded with numerous passengers. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] Glenn Cramer will similarly tell the FBI that Felt describes “lots of passengers” on board. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ] Yet there are only 37 passengers (including the four hijackers) on Flight 93, constituting just 20 percent of its passenger capacity of 182. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 36] Felt says: “We’re going down. We’re going down.” [New York Times, 3/27/2002; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002] Cramer will say that Felt describes an explosion on the aircraft and smoke coming from it, but others—including Shaw—will deny this (see (Between 9:58 a.m. and 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ; Longman, 2002, pp. 264; Valley News Dispatch, 9/11/2002]
Call Ends after One Minute - Shaw will tell the FBI the call lasts “less than five minutes” before the line disconnects. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] According to other accounts, it lasts just over one minute. [Dayton Daily News, 9/12/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 197; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/8/2002; Valley News Dispatch, 9/11/2002] After the call ends, other employees at the Westmoreland County 911 center are instructed to notify the FBI and the FAA about it. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ] When the FBI arrives at the center, it will immediately take possession of the tape of Felt’s call. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001]
According to an emergency call center supervisor who listens in on the call, when passenger Edward Felt phones 911 from Flight 93 to report that his plane has been hijacked, he says he has heard an explosion and sees smoke coming from the plane. But others will explicitly deny this. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 3/27/2002] Felt called 911 on his cell phone at 9:58 a.m., and talks to a dispatcher at the 911 center in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania (see 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 193; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 45]
Said to Mention Explosion - Glenn Cramer, a supervisor at the center, listens in on the call on a separate line. The following day, he will tell the FBI that Felt said “some sort of explosion had occurred aboard the aircraft,” and “that there was white smoke somewhere on the plane.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/7/2001] Cramer will similarly tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Felt said he “did hear some sort of an explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane, but he didn’t know where.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001] Some people will later cite this account as evidence that Flight 93 was shot down by the military to prevent it reaching its target, or was brought down when a bomb on board went off. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; New York Times, 3/27/2002; Independent, 8/13/2002; Mirror, 9/12/2002; Philadelphia Daily News, 9/16/2002]
Account Disputed - However, others dispute Cramer’s account. John Shaw, the dispatcher who Felt talks to, will apparently make no mention of Felt reporting an explosion or smoke when he is interviewed by the FBI later in the day. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] And, in 2002, Shaw will state specifically that Felt made no mention of any explosion or smoke. “Didn’t happen,” he will say. Sandra Felt, the wife of Edward Felt, will hear the recording of the 911 call and subsequently also say her husband did not mention an explosion or smoke. [Longman, 2002, pp. 264; New York Times, 3/27/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/21/2002; Valley News Dispatch, 9/11/2002] Authorities will not explain Cramer’s contradictory account, and in September 2002 Britain’s Daily Mirror will report, “Glenn Cramer has now been gagged by the FBI.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002]
People inside the World Trade Center flee down a stairway. [Source: Shannon Stapleton]Almost all the occupants of the South Tower who are able to evacuate the building have done so and have crossed the street to safety. Only 11 occupants who were below the impact floors are still in the building when it collapses. However, 619 building occupants in or above the impact zone have either already died or perish in the collapse, as do many emergency workers. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxix, 44] Most workers in the North Tower also leave the building before it collapses (see 10:27 a.m. September 11, 2001).
A GTE Airfone recovered from the debris of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. [Source: Smithsonian National Museum of American History]After Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer has finished speaking to GTE customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson (see Shortly Before 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001), he puts down the seatback phone he has been talking on but leaves the line connected. Jefferson continues listening until after the time the plane crashes, yet does not hear any sound when the crash occurs. As she later recalls, “I was still on the line and the plane took a dive and by then, it just went silent. I held on until after the plane crashed—probably about 15 minutes longer and I never heard a crash—it just went silent because—I can’t explain it. We didn’t lose a connection because there’s a different sound that you use. It’s a squealing sound when you lose a connection. I never lost connection, but it just went silent.” She says that soon afterwards, “they had announced over the radio that United Airlines Flight 93 had just crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and a guy put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Lisa, you can release the line now. That was his plane.‘… [E]ventually I gave in and I hung the phone up.” [Beliefnet (.com), 2006] According to a summary of the passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, Beamer’s call lasts for “3,925 seconds.” As it began just before 9:44 a.m., this would mean it ends around 10:49 a.m. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Employees at CIA headquarters are aware that Flight 93 is unaccounted for, and assume their building is its intended target. This is according to CIA contractor Billy Waugh, who is currently doing some work for the agency and is at its Langley headquarters at the time of the attacks. In a 2004 book, Waugh will describe: “We had witnessed the hits on the World Trade Center and knew the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 remained unaccounted for. It was a widespread assumption within the building that this flight was headed straight for us in the CIA headquarters.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 293-294] At around 10:00 a.m., much of CIA headquarters is evacuated, following reports of unresponsive aircraft possibly heading toward Washington (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 164] Waugh recalls, “There was no panic, just an understanding that those in my division needed to walk to the west parking lot, away from the buildings, and await the inevitable impact.” He adds that, “Upon hearing that Flight 93 had gone down in a Pennsylvania field, a couple of us returned to the HQ building to pick up any necessary gear.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 294] The 9/11 Commission will state that Flight 93’s intended target is either the Capitol building or the White House, not CIA headquarters. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14] However, in 2006 MSNBC will note, “to this day, the ultimate target of the terrorists on this aircraft has never been confirmed.” [MSNBC, 9/12/2006]
When a housekeeper at the Park Inn in Boston, where 9/11 hijackers Wail and Waleed Alshehri stayed before the attacks, attempts to clean their room, a “male of foreign descent” tells her she should not clean it yet and should return in the early afternoon, as someone is still asleep there. The hijackers are thought to have left the hotel and checked in for their flights several hours previously (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The male’s identity is unknown and the housekeeper’s story appears to confuse the FBI, as an entry about it in an FBI timeline drafted after the attacks ends with five question marks. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 292 ]
Based on information from the plane’s flight data recorder, the National Transportation Safety Board will later determine that Flight 93’s autopilot is turned off at “about 10:00,” and remains off for the flight’s final minutes. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/13/2002 ] Phil Bradshaw, whose wife is an attendant on Flight 93, will later hear the plane’s cockpit voice recording. Being a pilot himself, he recognizes on it the sound of the alarm that goes off when the autopilot is disconnected. [News and Record (Piedmont Triad, NC), 9/11/2002] CNN’s Kelli Arena will hear the recording during the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial and will report that, shortly after this alarm sounds, “Another alarm goes off.” [CNN, 4/12/2006] According to journalist and author Jere Longman, as well as the alarm set off when the autopilot was disconnected, another alarm “would have sounded because the plane was traveling at five hundred seventy-five miles an hour in the final minutes, far exceeding the design limits of four hundred twenty-five miles an hour below twenty thousand feet and two hundred eighty-seven miles an hour below ten thousand feet.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 208] So presumably this is the second alarm described by Arena.
Abu Laila. [Source: Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine]The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a radical Palestinian group, denies responsibility for the terrorist attacks in the US after an Arab television station said it admitted responsibility for them. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; Poynter Institute, 9/2/2002] At around 9:43 a.m., Abu Dhabi television reported that it had received a call from the DFLP, claiming responsibility for crashing the planes into the World Trade Center (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 9/12/2001] Now, however, a spokesman for the DFLP denies that the group was behind the attacks. [Poynter Institute, 9/2/2002] The spokesman who issues the denial at this time is apparently Qais Abdel Rahim, the leader of the DFLP. Speaking from the West Bank, Rahim says his group condemns the attacks. “We are not responsible for this type of terror attack. We are against it,” he says. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Liverpool Daily Post, 9/12/2001]
Group's Leaders Are Unaware of the Attacks - DFLP officials will subsequently review the group’s worldwide operations to see if the group has any links to the attacks. “I called all the DFLP offices outside Palestine; I made sure they had no connection to the attacks—or even to the media reports,” Abu Laila, a senior figure in the DFLP, will later recall. The group’s leaders will tell him that “they were not even aware of the attacks.”
Official Statement Will Deny Responsibility for the Attacks - The DFLP will issue an official statement later today, denying responsibility for the attacks in the US. [Ma'an News Agency, 9/11/2011] “The Democratic Front rejects any kind of operation outside of the land of occupied Palestine, away from the immediate battlefield confronting the occupation forces and the armed settlers,” the statement will say. The DFLP will blame the false attribution of responsibility on “the Israeli security intelligence agencies,” which, it will state, “are trying to frame us.” These agencies, according to the statement, “orchestrated the set-up to criminalize our struggle because of our fidelity to this struggle, and our sophisticated way of organizing under the leadership of the working class and the progressive people of Palestine.” [Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, 9/11/2001]
Experts Believe that Palestinian Groups Are Not to Blame - Most experts in the US will agree that “no Palestinian faction has the wherewithal to carry out such a coordinated and well-executed series of attacks” as have occurred today, according to the Los Angeles Times. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001] One expert, Eli Carmon of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center’s counterterrorism department, will say it is unlikely that any Palestinian groups are involved. “They have a lot to lose because America would react very harshly against the Palestinians,” he will say. [Irish Examiner, 9/11/2001] “The DFLP does not even confront Israel; how would it confront the US?” Laila will comment. [Ma'an News Agency, 9/11/2011]
Richard Dearlove. [Source: Daily Express]CIA Director George Tenet later recalls that, at some unspecified time during this day, a commercial passenger jet on its way to Britain behaves suspiciously, raising fears that al-Qaeda might have launched a two-continent attack. Aircraft are equipped with a device called a transponder, which transmits information to controllers on the ground, such as the plane’s flight number, altitude and speed. But this plane is emitting all kinds of “squawks,” with its transponder going off and on. Tenet calls Richard Dearlove, his counterpart at the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), to inform him of what is going on. Eventually, according to Tenet, the problem is resolved, and it turns out to have been caused simply by the transponder being faulty. [Washington Post, 9/17/2001; Tenet, 2007, pp. 166]
Dorothy Garcia. [Source: Darryl Bush / San Francisco Chronicle]Andrew Garcia, a passenger on Flight 93, makes a phone call to his wife, Dorothy Garcia, but is quickly cut off and does not call again. [Longman, 2002, pp. 190-191; Discovery Channel, 2005] Garcia, a 62-year-old businessman from Portola Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area, calls his wife on his cell phone. He is only able to get out one word, her name “Dorothy.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/14/2001; Sun (Sunnyvale), 9/26/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 12/27/2001] According to Garcia’s son, the line then “got staticky and faded out.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/14/2001]
United Airlines official Sandy Rogers calls Ellen King at the FAA’s Command Center to discuss Flight 93. The timing of the call is not known specifically, although it appears to be after the Pentagon was hit and could not be long after Flight 93 is thought to have crashed, which is shortly after 10:00 a.m. (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rogers tells King that Flight 93 has been hijacked, and King responds, “Oh God… thank you,” indicating she was previously unaware of the hijacking. However, the FAA had been aware of the situation since a few minutes after the hijacking took place (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Rogers also says: “It’s over Hagerstown now and you’re not aware of it. It’s heading toward Washington, DC, and we are under a threat of a hijacking on board and this flight is out of our control now heading toward Washington, DC.” Rogers states that United Airlines is “advising the military” about the plane and King also says that the FAA will do the same. [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 37-39 ] However, there are no other reports of Flight 93 ever being over Hagerstown, which is in Maryland. Flight 93 is said to crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and is thought never to reach Maryland. There will be some—apparently mistaken—reports that the plane is still airborne after it is thought to have crashed (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:10 a.m.-10:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), and this may be another such report.
Passengers on Flight 93 continue struggling against the hijackers as they try to retake control of the plane, up to the point when the plane crashes. The passengers have been carrying out a sustained attempt to force their way into the cockpit and, in response, one of the hijackers apparently suggested flying the plane into the ground (see 9:57 a.m.-9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:00 a.m.-10:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13-14]
Hijackers Possibly Fight over the Plane's Controls - The cockpit voice recording from the plane will later reveal that a hijacker in the cockpit, speaking in Arabic, now gives the instruction: “Down, down. Pull it down! Pull it down!” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/4/2003; McMillan, 2014, pp. 104] At this point, the 9/11 Commission Report will comment, the hijackers are still “at the controls, but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14] The hijacker then shouts, “Down!” A hijacker, possibly the same one, exclaims: “Hey! Hey!” He then says: “Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/4/2003; McMillan, 2014, pp. 104-105] This indicates that the hijackers might be fighting among themselves over the plane’s controls, Newsweek will suggest. [Newsweek, 12/3/2001]
Loud Air Noise Is Heard in the Cockpit - Over about the next 20 seconds, the cockpit voice recorder picks up the sounds of grunting and loud air noise. A hijacker then prays, saying: “Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!” The sound of a struggle is picked up by the cockpit voice recorder and a male passenger shouts loudly, “No!”
Passengers Are Apparently in the Cockpit When the Plane Crashes - While some people are screaming, a hijacker whispers: “Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!” Finally, at 10:03 a.m. and 10 seconds, everything goes silent and the cockpit voice recording ends. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/4/2003; McMillan, 2014, pp. 105] Flight 93 crashes in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, one second later, according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14, 30] In the final moments of the struggle, voices that previously seemed muffled and distant on the cockpit voice recording suddenly become clearer, according to relatives of Flight 93’s passengers who will hear the recording in 2002 (see April 18, 2002). These relatives will see this as evidence that passengers made it into the cockpit before the plane crashed. [Longman, 2002, pp. 271; MSNBC, 7/30/2002]
Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania. [Source: CNN]Exactly when Flight 93 crashes is unclear. According to NORAD, Flight 93 crashes at 10:03 a.m. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] The 9/11 Commission gives an exact time of 11 seconds after 10:03 a.m. It will claim this “time is supported by evidence from the staff’s radar analysis, the flight data recorder, NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] analysis, and infrared satellite data.” It does note that “[t]he precise crash time has been the subject of some dispute.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army and drafted by scientists Won-Young Kim and Gerald Baum to determine when the plane crashed will conclude that the crash happened at 10:06:05 a.m. [Kim and Baum, 2002 ; San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9/2002] The discrepancy is so puzzling that the Philadelphia Daily News will publish an article on the issue, titled “Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape.” This notes that leading seismologists agree on the 10:06 a.m. time, give or take a couple of seconds. [Philadelphia Daily News, 9/16/2002] The New York Observer will note that, in addition to the seismology study, “The FAA gives a crash time of 10:07 a.m. In addition, the New York Times, drawing on flight controllers in more than one FAA facility, put the time at 10:10 a.m. Up to a seven-minute discrepancy? In terms of an air disaster, seven minutes is close to an eternity. The way our nation has historically treated any airline tragedy is to pair up recordings from the cockpit and air traffic control and parse the timeline down to the hundredths of a second. However, as [former Inspector General of the Transportation Department] Mary Schiavo points out, ‘We don’t have an NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation here, and they ordinarily dissect the timeline to the thousandth of a second.’” [New York Observer, 2/15/2004]
The FBI is reportedly in “chaos,” in particular because its Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) is stranded away from Washington, DC, being instead in California for a major training exercise. The CIRG would normally coordinate the FBI’s rapid response to a crisis incident, such as a terrorist attack. [NBC 4, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 73-75] But NBC News reports that the FBI has been “operating a massive exercise from their hostage rescue unit. All of their top teams, about 50 personnel, helicopters, equipment, [have been] in Monterey, California, for the last two days, scheduled to fly back today commercially. So all of those people are out of place.” [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] USA Today will add that the day’s attacks are “so unexpected that a joint FBI/CIA anti-terrorist task force that specifically prepared for this type of disaster was on a training exercise in Monterey.” [USA Today, 9/11/2001] NBC News concludes: “It’s fair to say, according to sources that we’ve talked to here at NBC, that the FBI rescue operations and other FBI operations are really in chaos right now, because they can’t reach their officials in New York, all of their phone lines are down. And now you’ve got all of their special experts on this stuck in Monterey, California.… So they are seriously out of pocket, and there is a real breakdown of the FBI anti-terror coordination team, which is of course the principal team that would lead any effort.” [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] The US politics website evote.com will similarly conclude, “[J]ust as the worst terrorist act was being committed on American lives and property, the chief federal agency responsible for preventing such crimes was being AWOL.” [Evote [.com], 9/11/2001] The CIRG arrived in California the previous day for a week of special weapons and tactics (SWAT)-related field training (see September 10, 2001). Its members will be flown back to Washington around late afternoon on a specially arranged flight (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Darling, 2010, pp. 75-76]
Several local people believe they hear a missile overhead just before Flight 93 goes down. Barry Lichty, a US Navy veteran and mayor of Indian Lake Borough (just to the east of where Flight 93 crashes), is watching television with his wife. He says he hears “a loud roar above the house that sounded like a missile.… Shortly thereafter, we heard an explosion and a tremor. My first reaction, as a former utility employee, was that maybe someone shot a missile into the substation.” He says Flight 93 “did not come over my house. I don’t know what we heard.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 158-159] Joe Wilt, who lives a quarter-mile from the crash site, hears a “whistling like a missile, then a loud boom.” He says, “The first thing I thought it was, was a missile.” [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] And Ernie Stuhl, the mayor of Shanksville, later says, “I know of two people - I will not mention names - that heard a missile. They both live very close, within a couple of hundred yards.… This one fellow’s served in Vietnam and he says he’s heard them, and he heard one that day.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/18/2001] Officials will emphatically deny that Flight 93 was shot down, as some people later suggest (see September 14, 2001). [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/14/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 264] However, a number of witnesses report seeing a small, white jet plane near the crash site, around the time Flight 93 reportedly goes down (see (Before and After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Numerous eyewitnesses see and hear Flight 93 just before its crash:
Terry Butler, at Stoystown: He sees the plane come out of the clouds, low to the ground. “It was moving like you wouldn’t believe. Next thing I knew it makes a heck of a sharp, right-hand turn.” It banks to the right and appears to be trying to climb to clear one of the ridges, but it continues to turn to the right and then veers behind a ridge. About a second later it crashes. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001]
Accounts of the plane making strange noises -
Laura Temyer of Hooversville: “I didn’t see the plane but I heard the plane’s engine. Then I heard a loud thump that echoed off the hills and then I heard the plane’s engine. I heard two more loud thumps and didn’t hear the plane’s engine anymore after that.” (She insists that people she knows in state law enforcement have privately told her the plane was shot down, and that decompression sucked objects from the aircraft, explaining why there was a wide debris field.) [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001]
Charles Sturtz, a half-mile from the crash site: The plane is heading southeast and has its engines running. No smoke can be seen. “It was really roaring, you know. Like it was trying to go someplace, I guess.” [WPXI 11 (Pittsburgh), 9/13/2001]
Michael Merringer, two miles from the crash site: “I heard the engine gun two different times and then I heard a loud bang…” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
Tim Lensbouer, 300 yards away: “I heard it for ten or 15 seconds and it sounded like it was going full bore.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001]
Accounts of the plane flying upside down -
Rob Kimmel, several miles from the crash site: He sees it fly overhead, banking hard to the right. It is 200 feet or less off the ground as it crests a hill to the southeast. “I saw the top of the plane, not the bottom.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 210-211] Eric Peterson of Lambertsville: He sees a plane flying overhead unusually low. The plane seemed to be turning end-over-end as it dropped out of sight behind a tree line. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001]
Bob Blair of Stoystown: He sees the plane spiraling and flying upside down, not much higher than the treetops, before crashing. [Daily American, 9/12/2001]
Accounts of a sudden plunge and more strange sounds -
An unnamed witness says he hears two loud bangs before watching the plane take a downward turn of nearly 90 degrees. [News Channel 5 (Cleveland), 9/11/2001]
Tom Fritz, about a quarter-mile from the crash site: He hears a sound that “wasn’t quite right” and looks up in the sky. “It dropped all of a sudden, like a stone,” going “so fast that you couldn’t even make out what color it was.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001]
Terry Butler, a few miles north of Lambertsville: “It dropped out of the clouds.” The plane rose slightly, trying to gain altitude, then “it just went flip to the right and then straight down.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001]
Lee Purbaugh, 300 yards away: “There was an incredibly loud rumbling sound and there it was, right there, right above my head—maybe 50 feet up.… I saw it rock from side to side then, suddenly, it dipped and dived, nose first, with a huge explosion, into the ground. I knew immediately that no one could possibly have survived.” [Independent, 8/13/2002]
Upside down and a sudden plunge -
Linda Shepley: She hears a loud bang and sees the plane bank to the side. [ABC News, 9/11/2001] She sees the plane wobbling right and left, at a low altitude of roughly 2,500 feet, when suddenly the right wing dips straight down, and the plane plunges into the earth. She says she has an unobstructed view of Flight 93’s final two minutes. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001]
Kelly Leverknight in Stony Creek Township of Shanksville: “There was no smoke, it just went straight down. I saw the belly of the plane.” It sounds like it is flying low, and it’s heading east. [Daily American, 9/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001]
Tim Thornsberg, working in a nearby strip mine: “It came in low over the trees and started wobbling. Then it just rolled over and was flying upside down for a few seconds… and then it kind of stalled and did a nose dive over the trees.” [WPXI 11 (Pittsburgh), 9/13/2001] Some claim that these witness accounts support the idea that Flight 93 is hit by a missile. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] While this theory certainly can be disputed, it is worth noting that some passenger planes hit by missiles continued to fly erratically for several minutes before crashing. For instance, a Korean Airline 747 was hit by two Russian missiles in 1983, yet continued to fly for two more minutes. [Korean Air, 8/31/1983] Kelly Leverknight, whose home is a couple of miles from the Flight 93 crash site, adds that planes going overhead are nothing unusual here because the area is a “military flight corridor.” [Daily American, 9/12/2001]
Entity Tags: Terry Butler, Kelly Leverknight, Eric Peterson, Linda Shepley, Lee Purbaugh, Rob Kimmel, Tim Thornsberg, Michael Merringer, Tim Lensbouer, Tom Fritz, Bob Blair, Laura Temyer, Charles Sturtz
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Flight 93 apparently starts to break up before it crashes, because debris is found very far away from the crash site. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] The plane is generally obliterated upon landing, except for one half-ton piece of engine found some distance away. Some reports indicate that the engine piece was found over a mile away. [Independent, 8/13/2002] The FBI reportedly acknowledges that this piece was found “a considerable distance” from the crash site. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] Later, the FBI will cordon off a three-mile wide area around the crash, as well as another area six to eight miles from the initial crash site. [CNN, 9/13/2001] One story calls what happened to this engine “intriguing, because the heat-seeking, air-to-air Sidewinder missiles aboard an F-16 would likely target one of the Boeing 757’s two large engines.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] Smaller debris fields are also found two, three, and eight miles away from the main crash site. [Independent, 8/13/2002; Mirror, 9/12/2002] Eight miles away, local media quote residents speaking of a second plane in the area and burning debris falling from the sky. [Reuters, 9/13/2001] Residents outside Shanksville reported “discovering clothing, books, papers, and what appeared to be human remains. Some residents said they collected bags-full of items to be turned over to investigators. Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from the immediate crash scene. Workers at Indian Lake Marina said that they saw a cloud of confetti-like debris descend on the lake and nearby farms minutes after hearing the explosion…” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001] Moments after the crash, Carol Delasko initially thinks someone had blown up a boat on Indian Lake: “It just looked like confetti raining down all over the air above the lake.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/14/2001] Investigators say that far-off wreckage “probably was spread by the cloud created when the plane crashed and dispersed by a ten mph southeasterly wind.” [News Journal (Wilmington, DE), 9/16/2001] However, much of the wreckage is found sooner than that wind could have carried it, and not always southeast.
John Fleegle, a manager at the Indian Lake Marina about 1.5 miles from where Flight 93 crashes, is indoors with some colleagues, watching the televised coverage of the World Trade Center attack. Then, as he later describes, “All of a sudden the lights flickered and we joked that maybe they were coming for us. Then we heard engines screaming close overhead. The building shook. We ran out, heard the explosion and saw a fireball mushroom,” following the crash. When he later describes this incident while on a training course in Atlanta, Fleegle will be told that what happened means Flight 93 “was shot down.” A man there who says he is a retired Air Force officer will tell Fleegle, “[W]hen your lights flickered, [it was because] they zap the radar frequency on everything before they shoot. Your lights didn’t flicker from the impact—your lights flickered because they zapped the radar system before they shot it.” However, William “Buck” Kernan, a retired four-star Army general, will dispute this claim, saying, “[R]egarding an aircraft engaging an airborne target having an electrical disruption on the ground, no, this would not be a result of lock on or any electromagnetic pulsing.” He will suggest it is “possible that overpressure from explosions could momentarily disrupt microwave connections or cause sensations on ground relays, wiring, etc.” that might result in the lights having flickered. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/14/2001; Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 35-36] But, consistent with Fleegle’s allegation, a number of local residents—including military veterans—say they heard the sound of a missile overhead just before the time of the crash (see Just Before 10:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). Another local resident, Val McClatchey, will report her lights and phone going out around the time of the crash. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002] According to Barry Lichty, the mayor of Indian Lake Borough, the town’s electricity goes out around this time. He later learns that the plane crash had disrupted service to the borough. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/2001] Interestingly, one alternative theory later suggested is that Flight 93 could have been brought down using “electromagnetic interference” (see August 13, 2002). The US Air Force and Pentagon have in fact “conducted extensive research on ‘electronic warfare applications’ with the possible capacity intentionally to disrupt the mechanisms of an airplane in such a way as to provoke, for example, an uncontrollable dive.” [Independent, 8/13/2002]
The military liaison at the FAA’s Cleveland Center calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and alerts it to the hijacked Flight 93. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is the first notification NEADS receives about Flight 93, but it comes too late, since the plane has already crashed (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 30; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 46]
'Bomb on Board' Flight 93 - At 10:05 a.m., the military liaison at the Cleveland Center, who is unaware that Flight 93 has just crashed, calls NEADS to inform it that Flight 93 is heading toward Washington, DC. Even though communicating with NEADS is not one of his responsibilities, he wants to make sure it is in the loop. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 224] At NEADS, the call is answered by Tech Sergeant Shelley Watson. Shortly into the call, at 10:07, the military liaison tells her: “We got a United 93 out here. Are you aware of that?” He continues, “That has a bomb on board.” Watson asks: “A bomb on board? And this is confirmed? You have a mode three [beacon code], sir?” The military liaison replies, “No, we lost his transponder” (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The news about Flight 93 is shouted out to Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander. Nasypany responds: “Gimme the call sign. Gimme the whole nine yards.… Let’s get some info, real quick. They got a bomb?”
Liaison Wants Fighters Sent toward Flight 93 - The military liaison continues, asking Watson if NEADS scrambled fighter jets in response to Delta 1989, an aircraft that was mistakenly reported as having been hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Watson replies: “We did. Out of Selfridge and Toledo” (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001), and says these jets are airborne. When the military liaison asks if the fighters can be directed to where Flight 93 is, Watson asks him if the Cleveland Center has latitude and longitude coordinates for this aircraft. The military liaison replies that he has not got this information available right now. All he knows is that Flight 93 has “got a confirmed bomb on board… and right now, his last known position was in the Westmoreland area.… Which is… in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
NEADS Searches on Radar - The news of a bomb on board Flight 93 spreads quickly at NEADS, and personnel there search for the aircraft’s primary return on their radar screens. But because the plane has already crashed, they will be unable to locate it. NEADS will only learn that Flight 93 has crashed at 10:15 a.m., during a call with the FAA’s Washington Center (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 30-31]
FAA Failed to Notify Military Earlier - The Cleveland Center’s notification to NEADS about Flight 93 comes 39 minutes after the plane was hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and 33 minutes after FAA headquarters was alerted to the hijacking (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11, 28] At the time NEADS is alerted to Flight 93, NORAD is similarly uninformed about this aircraft, according to the 9/11 Commission. The Commission will state, “At 10:07, its representative on the air threat conference call stated that NORAD had ‘no indication of a hijack heading to DC at this time.’” According to the Commission, the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon learned about the Flight 93 hijacking slightly earlier on, at 10:03 a.m. (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, the NMCC was notified by the White House, not the FAA. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42] A former senior FAA executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, will later try to explain why it takes the FAA so long to alert NEADS to Flight 93. He will say, “Our whole procedures prior to 9/11 were that you turned everything [regarding a hijacking] over to the FBI.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Yet military instructions contradict this, stating, “In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA.” [US Department of Defense, 7/31/1997 ; US Department of Defense, 6/1/2001 ]
NORAD Commanders Claim Earlier Awareness of Flight 93 - Two senior NORAD officials will contradict the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion, and claim they were aware of Flight 93 well before it crashed (see Shortly Before 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:36 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 68, 71-73] Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, will tell the Commission that, while the flight was still airborne, “his focus was on UAL 93, which was circling over Chicago,” and he “distinctly remembers watching the flight UAL 93 come west, and turn over Cleveland.” [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 1/23/2004 ] Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental US NORAD Region, will recall, “[W]e watched the [Flight] 93 track as it meandered around the Ohio-Pennsylvania area and started to turn south toward DC.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 71]
The military liaison at the FAA’s Cleveland Center is informed that Flight 93 has been hijacked and is given information about its location. It is unclear when the liaison first receives this information, but it must happen before 10:07, as he telephones NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) at this time to pass on the information (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 30] Military liaison officers at the FAA’s Command Center are also said to be informed of the hijacking of Flight 93 (see After 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001).
The local structure most severely damaged when Flight 93 crashes in rural Pennsylvania is a stone cottage, an estimated 1,000 feet from the crash site. Located within thick trees, the cottage belongs to Barry Hoover who is away at work at the time of the crash. Reportedly, “every window and door” has been “blown off and obliterated, its ceilings and floor tiles had been blasted loose and much of the interior was wrecked.” Hoover describes it as “like what you see after a tornado or hurricane goes through—a total ruin.” The garage adjacent to it has its door blown off by the shockwave from the crash. According to Somerset County Solicitor Dan Rullo, “The way it was described to me was that it must have been blown up, the springs snapped, and it came back upside down.” The surrounding area is scattered with remains and debris. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/14/2001; Kashurba, 2002, pp. 122; Washington Post, 5/12/2002]
A local resident is able to take the only photo showing the Flight 93 crash in the seconds after the plane went down. Val McClatchey lives just over a mile away from the crash site. [Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2006] She is at home watching television when she hears the surge of a plane engine, sees a silver flash outside, and then hears a loud boom that causes her house to shake. Luckily she has her new digital camera ready by her door. She was planning to photograph a friend who had promised to fly over in a helicopter on this day. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/29/2003; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/6/2006; Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown), 9/9/2006] She grabs it and from her front porch manages to take a picture of the smoke cloud rising into the sky, “approximately five seconds after impact,” she says. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002; Windsor Park Stories, 3/23/2003] Her photo will appear in numerous newspapers and magazines. According to the FBI, it is the only known image taken within seconds of the crash. Considering the sparsely populated area in which Flight 93 went down, Pittsburgh FBI agent Jeff Killeen calls it “one-of-a-kind.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/6/2006; Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown), 9/9/2006; Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2006]
At some unspecified time, apparently relatively soon after Flight 93 crashed, Vice President Dick Cheney calls CIA Director George Tenet and asks him if he is anticipating any further attacks. Tenet replies, “No. My judgment is that they’re done for the day.” Tenet will later explain his reasoning behind this judgment: “There was a lull in the action, and to me that was telling.… I had no data to go on. But the pattern of spectacular multiple attacks within a very tight attack window was consistent with what we knew of al-Qaeda’s modus operandi based on the East African embassy attacks and others. Events happened within a strict timeline, and then they were done.” Yet at 10 a.m., Tenet had wanted the CIA headquarters evacuated, following reports that several airplanes were not responding to communications and were perhaps heading toward Washington. A large number of the CIA’s workforce had therefore been sent home (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 164 and 167] And according to recordings of the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) later obtained by Vanity Fair magazine, “inside NEADS there was no sense that the attack was over with the crash of United 93; instead, the alarms go on and on. False reports of hijackings, and real responses, continue well into the afternoon” (see 10:15 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Tenet and his staff will return to the CIA headquarters building at around 1 p.m. after having earlier evacuated to the CIA’s printing plant nearby. By that time, Tenet will say, “The danger was over for the day, in our estimation.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 168]
Paper debris found in New Baltimore, six miles from the crash site. [Source: Steve Mellon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] (click image to enlarge)Despite the apparent lack of plane wreckage and human remains at the Flight 93 crash site (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), a large amount of paper debris is found there, mostly intact. Faye Hahn, an EMT who responds to the initial call for help, finds “pieces of mail” everywhere. [McCall, 2002, pp. 31-32] Roger Bailey of the Somerset Volunteer Fire Department finds mail “scattered everywhere” around the site. He says, “I guess there were 5,000 pounds of mail on board.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 38] Some envelopes are burned, but others are undamaged. Flight 93 had reportedly been carrying a cargo of thousands of pounds of US mail. [Longman, 2002, pp. 213-214] Whether this is later examined as crime scene evidence is unclear: According to Bailey, over subsequent days, whenever a lot of this mail has been recovered, the post office will be called and a truck will come to take it away. Several of the first responders at the crash site also see an unscorched bible lying open on the ground, about 15 yards from the crash crater. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 43, 110 and 129; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 6/13/2006] Local coroner Wallace Miller will later come across a second bible at the warehouse where the Flight 93 victims’ belongings are kept. [Washington Post, 5/12/2002] Other paper debris rains down on the nearby Indian Lake Marina (see (Before 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to witness Tom Spinelli, this is “mainly mail,” and also includes “bits of in-flight magazine.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002] Other paper items will be recovered from the crash site in the following days. These include a fragment of Ziad Jarrah’s passport and a business card linking al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to the 9/11 hijackers. [CNN, 8/1/2002; Washington Post, 9/25/2002] A flight crew log book and an in-flight manual belonging to Lorraine Bay, a flight attendant on Flight 93, will also be recovered. [National Museum of American History, 9/20/2003]
The 9/11 Commission later concludes that if Flight 93 had not crashed, it would probably have reached Washington around this time. The commission notes that there are only three fighters over Washington at this time, all from Langley, Virginia. However, the pilots of these fighters were never briefed about why they were scrambled. As the lead pilot explained, “I reverted to the Russian threat… I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea. You know, you look down and see the Pentagon burning and I thought the b_stards snuck one by us.… You couldn’t see any airplanes, and no one told us anything.” The pilots knew their mission was to identify and divert aircraft flying within a certain radius of Washington, but did not know that the threat came from hijacked planes. In addition, the commission notes that NEADS did not know where Flight 93 was when it crashed, and wonders if they would have determined its location and passed it on the pilots before the plane reached Washington. They conclude, “NORAD officials have maintained that they would have intercepted and shot down United 93. We are not so sure.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS calls Washington flight control at this time. Asked about Flight 93, flight control responds, “He’s down.” It is clarified that the plane crashed “somewhere up northeast of Camp David.… That’s the last report. They don’t know exactly where.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The crash site is in fact about 85 miles northwest of Camp David. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001]
The exterior wall on the south side of the World Trade Center’s North Tower apparently bows before the building collapses. The first inquiry into the collapse, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers, states that the perimeter walls bow outward (see (9:21 a.m.-9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001)). However, a subsequent report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology states that the south wall of the North Tower bows inward. In places the wall is said to bow inward by approximately 55 inches at floor 97, and NIST interprets this bowing to mean that the floors must be sagging. NIST will find that the sagging and bowing are two of the seven major factors that led to the collapse of each tower, as the bowing walls are no longer able to support their share of the buildings’ weight, causing the buildings to tilt and the upper sections to fall. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 32-34, 87]
Almost all the occupants of the North Tower who are able to evacuate the building have done so. Only 107 occupants who were below the impact floors remain in the building, while around 7,400 have escaped. However, 1,355 building occupants in or above the impact zone have either already died or perish in the collapse, as do many emergency workers. Overall, 99 percent of building occupants below the impact floors escape to safety. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxviii, 32] Most workers in the South Tower also left the building before it collapsed (see 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Carol Marin. [Source: Columbia Journalism Review]CBS News correspondent Carol Marin witnesses what she describes as a “gigantic fireball” coming from the base of the North Tower as it starts to collapse. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Chicago Sun-Times, 9/12/2001; Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002] Marin headed to the scene of the attacks and arrived on West Street after the South Tower collapsed. She then sees the second tower come down, later describing, “I was only a block or two away from the North Tower when the street trembled under my feet, a fireball of pooled jet fuel exploded out of the building’s base, and it too, unbelievably, started to collapse right in front of me.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/10/2006] (However, the explosion could not be due to “pooled jet fuel,” as, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, “The jet fuel” from the planes “was mostly consumed within the first few minutes after impact.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/18/2004; New York Times, 4/5/2005] ) In one telling, Marin describes, “a roar seemed to come out of the earth,” causing the fireball. [Gilbert et al., 2002] In another, she says, “there was a roar, an explosion, and we could see coming toward us a ball of flame, stories high.” She runs, and a firefighter throws her against a building to protect her. She recalls, “The flame somehow stopped short of us.” [CBS News, 2002, pp. 54] Other witnesses also describe the ground shaking before the North Tower collapse (see Shortly Before 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). And some witnesses similarly report seeing a fireball at ground level coming from the South Tower when it collapsed (see Shortly Before 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001).
The team studying the WTC collapses for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will later observe that the antenna on WTC 1 began to fall before the exterior of the building: “Review of videotape recordings of the collapse taken from various angles indicates that the transmission tower on top of the structure began to move downward and laterally slightly before movement was evident at the exterior wall. This suggests that collapse began with one or more failures in the central core area of the building.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 2-27] In a program featuring some members of the FEMA/ASCE team, the BBC will comment: “The mast was directly supported by the tower’s inner core. The way it fell suggests it was failure of the inner core that began the collapse, whereas in the South Tower it had been the outer walls.” [BBC, 3/7/2002]
During a phone call with Christopher Meyer, the British ambassador to the United States, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice suggests the possibility of Iraqi complicity in the attacks on New York and Washington. Following the strike on the Pentagon, Meyer held an emergency meeting of his staff at the British Embassy. He then calls Rice to offer condolences and support. He asks her who does she think was responsible for the attacks? In his 2005 memoirs, Meyer will recall: “The names al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were already in circulation. She said that the early evidence suggested that it was them. But there could also be a connection with Iraq. That would need investigating.” [BBC Radio 4, 2002 ; Meyer, 2005, pp. 188 and 190] However, in a 2007 interview, he will suggest Rice might have made this reference to possible Iraqi complicity in a later call, saying, “I think it was in the same conversation [I had with Rice on the morning of September 11], or it may have been the next one we had very soon after, she said, ‘Well, one thing we need to look into is to see whether Iraq’s had anything to do with this.’” [PBS Frontline, 12/20/2007]
Eric Edelman. [Source: US Department of Defense]An anonymous phone call is received at the White House in which the caller says Air Force One, the president’s plane, will be the next terrorist target and uses code words indicating they have inside information about government procedures. [Cheney, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 9/13/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18] Air Force One is currently flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, with President Bush on board (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] The White House receives a call from an anonymous individual, warning that the next target of the terrorist attacks will be Air Force One. The caller refers to the plane as “Angel.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] “Angel” is the Secret Service’s code name for Air Force One. [Williams, 2004, pp. 81; CBS News, 11/25/2009] An unnamed “high White House official” will later say the use of “American code words” shows the caller has “knowledge of procedures that made the threat credible.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001]
Government Officials Told about Threat - News of the threatening call is promptly passed on to government officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)—a bunker below the White House—and reported on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 ; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] Vice President Dick Cheney, who is in the PEOC, will comment that the news “reinforced the notion here… that the government has been targeted and that we need to be extra careful about making certain we protected the continuity of government, secured the president, secured the presidency.” [White House, 11/19/2001] According to Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is also in the PEOC, “The talk among the principals in the room quickly determined that the use of a code word implied that the threat to Air Force One and the president could well be from someone with access to [the president’s] inner circle—possibly someone who was near the president at that very moment.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 61]
Accounts Conflict over Who Receives Call - It is unclear who at the White House answers the call in which the threat against Air Force One is made. The call is received by the White House switchboard, according to some accounts. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] Other accounts will indicate it is received by the White House Situation Room. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] Eric Edelman, a member of Cheney’s staff who is in the PEOC, will say the call is received by the Secret Service. [White House, 10/25/2001] But two Secret Service agents who are on duty today will deny “that their agency played any role in receiving or passing on a threat to the presidential jet,” according to the Wall Street Journal. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ] However, a Secret Service pager message will be sent at 10:32 a.m., which states that the “JOC”—the Secret Service Joint Operations Center at the White House—has received an “anonymous call” reporting that “Angel is [a] target.” [CBS News, 11/25/2009]
Military Officer Passes on Details of Threat - Officials in the PEOC reportedly learn about the threat to Air Force One from a military officer working in the center. Although Cheney will say the threat “came through the Secret Service,” he will say later this year that he is unsure who passed the details of it to those in the PEOC. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; White House, 11/19/2001] An official in Cheney’s office will say in 2004 that Cheney was informed of the threat by “a uniformed military person” manning the PEOC, although Cheney and his staff are unaware who that individual was. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ] National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will say that those in the PEOC are told about the threat by a “communicator,” meaning one of the military officers who works in the PEOC, and is responsible for “establishing phone lines and video lines, and staying in touch with the National Military Command Center” at the Pentagon. [White House, 11/1/2001] The military officer Rice is referring to may be Darling. Darling will recall that he answers a call from the White House Situation Room about the threat to Air Force One and then passes on the information he receives to Rice, telling her, “Ma’am, the [Situation Room] reports that they have a credible source in the Sarasota, Florida, area that claims Angel is the next target.” Rice immediately passes on the news to Cheney, according to Darling. [Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] Cheney will subsequently call Bush and tell him about the threat (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; CBS News, 9/11/2002]
Reason for 'Bogus' Threat Unclear - The threat will be determined to be “almost surely bogus,” according to Newsweek. [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] The Secret Service’s intelligence division tracked down the origin of this threat,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “and, during the day, determined that it had originated in a misunderstanding by a watch officer in the White House Situation Room.” Although the 9/11 Commission will say it found the intelligence division’s “witnesses on this point to be credible,” Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, will dispute this account. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] By the end of 2001, White House officials will say they still do not know where the threat came from. [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] Darling will write in 2010, “To this day, it has never been determined why either the ‘credible source’ or Situation Room personnel used that code word [i.e. ‘Angel’] in their report to the PEOC.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 62] “The best we can tell,” Rice will say, is that “there was a call that talked about events—something happening to the president on the ground in Florida. And that somehow got interpreted as Air Force One.” She will say that the fact the caller knew the code name for Air Force One is “why we still continue to suspect it wasn’t a crank call.” [White House, 11/1/2001] However, former Secret Service officials will say the code name wasn’t an official secret, but instead “a radio shorthand designation that had been made public well before 2001.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ]
Alarm is raised when a panel truck is noticed that has a drawing of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center on its side. The truck is parked on a street six blocks away from the WTC. It has “the skyline of Lower Manhattan decaled on the side, and somebody [has] taken a black Magic Marker and drawn a plane exploding into the Twin Towers” on it, according to author Anthea Appel. Local residents are frightened by the vehicle, which they fear is a truck bomb. The New York Police Department evacuates the entire block around the truck and calls out the bomb squad. The truck’s occupants are detained by the police until a thorough search has been conducted. The vehicle turns out to be an innocent delivery truck, and its occupants are found to be Middle Easterners who speak no English and have rented the truck. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; Appel, 2009, pp. 210]
President Bush asks Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, about a claim that has supposedly been made by a radical Palestinian group, of responsibility for the attacks on the US and is told the group lacks the capability to have carried out the attacks. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 166; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 52] Abu Dhabi television reported, at around 9:43 a.m., that it had received a call from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), claiming responsibility for crashing the planes into the World Trade Center (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but at around 10:00 a.m., the group denied that it was behind the attacks (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 9/12/2001; Poynter Institute, 9/2/2002] Now, on Air Force One, Bush calls Morell to his office. He asks Morell what he thinks about the DFLP’s supposed claim of responsibility for the attacks. Morell tells Bush he doubts the validity of the assertion. “Mr. President,” he says, “DFLP is a Palestinian rejectionist group with a long history of terrorism against Israel, but they do not possess the capability to do this.” Before Morell leaves the office, Bush asks him to call CIA Director George Tenet and tell him to make sure that he, the president, is informed right away as soon as the CIA has any definitive information about the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks. “Michael, I want to be the first to know. Got that?” he says. Morell replies, “Yes, sir” and says he will call Tenet right away (see (Shortly After 10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Bush apparently talks to Morell around the time the White House informs personnel on Air Force One that it has received a threat against the president’s plane (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), since Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, tells Morell about the threat as he is leaving the president’s office. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 52-53]
The press incorrectly reports that an airliner has crashed on or near Camp David. [Daily Record (Baltimore), 9/12/2001; US Department of Transportation, 3/2002] Camp David is the presidential retreat, located about 70 miles north of Washington, DC, in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. [Federation of American Scientists, 10/2/2000; Associated Press, 7/30/2007] On Air Force One, at 10:37, White House chief of staff Andrew Card relays to the president the incorrect report of the crash. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108] At around 11:09, CBS News reports that “a plane apparently has crashed at or near Camp David.” [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] An early article by Forbes states, “There are reports of a fourth airliner [having] been brought down near Camp David… by US military fighters.” [Forbes, 9/11/2001] And an early report by the Northwestern Chronicle similarly states, “Air Force officials say an airliner has been forced down by F-16 fighter jets near Camp David.” [Northwestern Chronicle, 9/11/2001] Theresa Hahn, the catering manager for a restaurant in the Camp David area, hears the erroneous report. She subsequently describes, “Lots of fire trucks were on the road and no one can get up there.” But J. Mel Poole, the Catoctin Mountain Park superintendent, states there has been “no crash at Camp David.” [Daily Record (Baltimore), 9/12/2001] At some point, the FAA calls the military to confirm the crash, and is reassured that no crash occurred at Camp David. [Freni, 2003, pp. 42] The actual Flight 93 crash site is about 85 miles northwest of Camp David. [PBS, 9/11/2001] The Secret Service reportedly tells the White House that Flight 93 may have been on a course for Camp David. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/11/2001] And, following a military briefing, Representative James Moran (D-VA) tells reporters that Flight 93 was apparently heading for Camp David. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2001] (However, the 9/11 Commission will later state that its intended target was either the White House or the Capitol building. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14] ) The source of the incorrect report of the Camp David crash is unclear. However, when the FAA’s Washington Center first informed NEADS that Flight 93 had crashed, at 10:15, it simply reported that it had gone down “somewhere up northeast of Camp David” (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001), so this may have created some of the confusion. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] There are also numerous false reports of terrorist attacks having taken place in Washington, DC around this time (see (Between 9:50-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Some commentators make the connection that the 9/11 attacks come 23 years after the signing of the Camp David accords—a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt—on September 17, 1978. [Forbes, 9/11/2001; Village Voice, 9/11/2001; Daily Record (Baltimore), 9/12/2001] WCBS reports, “[T]here is speculation that perhaps, perhaps, this may be in retaliation for those accords.” [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002]
Wallace Miller. [Source: Steve Mellon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]Wallace Miller, the coroner of Somerset County, who is one of the first people to arrive at the Flight 93 crash scene, is surprised by the absence of human remains at the site. He will later say: “If you didn’t know, you would have thought no one was on the plane. You would have thought they dropped them off somewhere.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 217] The only recognizable body part Miller sees is a piece of spinal cord with five vertebrae attached. He will tell Australian newspaper The Age: “I’ve seen a lot of highway fatalities where there’s fragmentation. The interesting thing about this particular case is that I haven’t, to this day, 11 months later, seen any single drop of blood. Not a drop.” [Age (Melbourne), 9/9/2002] Dave Fox, a former firefighter, also arrives early at the crash scene, but sees just three chunks of human tissue. He will comment, “You knew there were people there, but you couldn’t see them.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002] Yet, in the following weeks, hundreds of searchers will find about 1,500 scorched human tissue samples, weighing less than 600 pounds—approximately eight percent of the total body mass on Flight 93. Months after 9/11, more remains will be found in a secluded cabin, several hundred yards from the crash site. [Washington Post, 5/12/2002]
James K. Will. [Source: WTAE-TV]After hearing a plane has crashed in his area, a farmer flies over the Flight 93 crash site to take photos of the wreckage. James K. Will, who is an aerial photographer as well as a farmer, had just landed his Cessna on a private airstrip at his farm in Berlin, Pennsylvania, after visiting nearby Altoona. His mother rushed out and told him there were reports of a plane having crashed near Shanksville. He’d grabbed his camera and set off in his plane for the site, to take photos of the wreckage. He later recalls that he circles the Flight 93 crash scene around 45 minutes after the crash occurred. He says, “I thought it was just an accident.” He is then intercepted by a state police helicopter, which escorts him to the Johnstown airport. He will be questioned and briefly detained there before being released. His plane will be searched and then released. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/15/2001] At around 9:45 a.m., all FAA facilities had been ordered to instruct every aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). About 20 minutes earlier, the FAA had initiated a nationwide ground stop, which prohibited takeoffs and required planes in the air to land as soon as reasonable (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25 and 29]
Two pages from Moussaoui’s notebooks mentioning Ahad Sabet (Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s alias), plus phone number and mention of his residence in Germany. [Source: FBI]Within an hour of the 9/11 attacks, the Minnesota FBI uses a memo written to FBI headquarters shortly after Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest to ask permission from a judge for the search warrant they have been desperately seeking. After the World Trade Center is hit for the first time at 8:46 a.m., Mike Maltbie of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters calls the Minneapolis field office and talks to FBI agent Coleen Rowley. When Rowley says it is essential they get a warrant to search Moussaoui’s belongings, Maltbie instructs her to take no action, because it could have an impact on matters of which she is not aware. Rowley replies that it would have to be the “hugest coincidence” if Moussaoui were not related to the attack. She will recall that Maltbie replies that coincidence is the right word. Maltbie will later say he does not recall using the word “coincidence” in the conversation. Maltbie then consults Tom Ainora, an attorney at the FBI’s national security law unit, who says Minneapolis should seek the warrant. While Rowley is waiting for Maltbie to call back, one of her colleagues, Chris Briese, talks to RFU chief Dave Frasca. According to Briese, Frasca initially says there is not enough evidence for a criminal warrant, but when they find out the Pentagon has been hit Frasca consents. Frasca will say that he consents immediately. [Time, 5/21/2002; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 178-9 ] Briese later tells Samit that Frasca also initially claims it is just “a coincidence.” [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6/4/2006] A federal judge approves a criminal search warrant this afternoon. [New Yorker, 9/30/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/9/2006] The Radical Fundamentalist Unit at FBI headquarters had previously blocked requests for criminal and intelligence search warrants (see August 21, 2001 and August 28, 2001). Rowley will note that this very memo was previously deemed insufficient by FBI headquarters to get a search warrant, and the fact that they are immediately granted one when finally allowed to ask shows “the missing piece of probable cause was only the [FBI headquarters’] failure to appreciate that such an event could occur.” [Time, 5/21/2002] After the warrant is granted, Moussaoui’s belongings are then rushed to an evidence response team, which discovers documents linking Moussaoui to 11 of the hijackers (see August 16, 2001). Rowley later suggests that if they had received the search warrant sooner, “There is at least some chance that… may have limited the September 11th attacks and resulting loss of life.” [Time, 5/27/2002]
Entity Tags: Michael Maltbie, Tom Ainora, Radical Fundamentalist Unit, Zacarias Moussaoui, Harry Samit, FBI Minnesota field office, National Security Law Unit, David Frasca, Chris Briese, FBI Headquarters, Coleen Rowley
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Cathal Flynn. [Source: PBS]An Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) employee tells journalist Seymour Hersh that the 9/11 hijackings were accomplished with guns put on the planes by airport employees. Hersh then calls Rear Admiral Cathal Flynn, associate administrator of security at the Federal Aviation Administration, and tells him, “The guns were put onto the plane by the ramp workers.” When Flynn argues that there are no reports of this, Hersh replies, “Those ramp workers aren’t even checked,” and insists, “There were pistols and they were put onto the plane by the ramp workers.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 47-8] Although there are some reports of guns being used on the hijacked flights (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), the 9/11 Commission, for example, will not say that guns were used by the hijackers. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
At around 8:00 p.m., Afghanistan time (11:30 a.m., New York time), Taliban leader Mullah Omar allegedly says, “Things have gone much further than expected.” This is according to what the New Yorker will describe as “Afghan intelligence sources” who monitor the call. (It is unclear what “Afghan intelligence sources” means, since the Taliban control nearly all of Afghanistan at this time, but it could be a reference to Northern Alliance forces; the CIA gave them equipment to monitor the Taliban (see Winter 1999-March 2000).) Omar’s comment takes place over an hour after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed, which means thousands have been killed in the attacks, not hundreds (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). An Afghan intelligence official will later say: “They were expecting a reaction. But they thought it would be a Clinton-type reaction. They didn’t anticipate the kind of revenge that occurred.” [New Yorker, 6/10/2002] The “Clinton-type reaction” presumably is a reference to the August 1998 missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan during the Clinton administration (see August 20, 1998).
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, says he has just been “briefed by the highest levels of the FBI and of the intelligence community.” He says, “They’ve come to the conclusion that this looks like the signature of Osama bin Laden, and that he may be the one behind this.” [Salon, 9/12/2001]
Several of the hijackers have tickets to continue from the destinations of their 9/11 flights. However, they do not take the flights, as all air traffic has been grounded in the US (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and they are presumed to have died in the 9/11 attacks. Flight 77 hijackers Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi, and Flight 175 hijackers Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, and Hamza Alghamdi are to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Flight 93 hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi is to continue from San Francisco to San Diego, whereas Ziad Jarrah is to continue to Las Vegas. Alghamdi also has tickets for flights later in September (see September 20-29, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 233, 238, 242 246, 288 ]
At around 9:30 p.m., Afghanistan time (1:00 p.m., New York time), Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil holds a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, and claims that the 9/11 attacks did not originate from Afghanistan. He reads a statement by Taliban leader Mullah Omar, which claims that Osama bin Laden also was not involved: “This type of terrorism is too great for one man,” the statement says. [New Yorker, 6/10/2002]
Logan Walters. [Source: SCF Partners]While he is at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush receives an intelligence report from the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), informing him that a high-speed object is heading for his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It is already more than 45 minutes since US airspace had been cleared of all aircraft except military and emergency flights (see 12:16 p.m. September 11, 2001). Bush orders an underling to notify everyone at the ranch about this. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 117; CBS News, 9/2/2003] In the White House Situation Room, they are also informed of the rogue aircraft. Logan Walters, who is Bush’s personal aide, calls the ranch’s caretaker and tells him, “Get as far away from there as you can.” Senior national security official Franklin Miller then receives a phone call informing him that a combat air patrol (CAP) has been established over the ranch. [Draper, 2007, pp. 142] (A CAP is an aircraft patrol with the purpose of intercepting and destroying hostile aircraft before they reach their targets. [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2001] ) Miller heads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House to ask Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the CAP. Both men agree that it seems unnecessarily excessive. When Miller returns to the Situation Room, he sets about calling off the CAP, but finds that it wasn’t even established to begin with, and that, furthermore, the report of a rogue aircraft was a false alarm. [Draper, 2007, pp. 143] A threat to Air Force One had allegedly been received earlier on (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but this too is later deemed to have been a false alarm. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
A Ryder truck. [Source: Ryder]Personnel in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) in Colorado are informed that a truck, or a number of trucks, carrying men who appear to be Arabs is heading up the mountain toward the CMOC, but the apparent threat will turn out to be a false alarm. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002] A NORAD representative describes what CMOC personnel are told over the Pentagon’s air threat conference call, saying, “We just received some intel that eight Ryder vans may be en route to the Cheyenne Mountain complex.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001] According to some accounts, though, only one vehicle—not eight—is reportedly heading toward the CMOC and this is carrying a number of Arab-looking men. CMOC personnel receive “an input that there [is] a yellow transport truck coming up the hill with seven Islamic folks in the front cab,” Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will later recall. [BBC, 9/1/2002] According to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, there is a “rumor” going around the CMOC about a “Ryder rental truck full of explosives,” driven by “Arab-looking men,” that is “targeting the mountain.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] The source of the information about the truck, or trucks, supposedly approaching the CMOC is unstated.
Blast Doors Are Reportedly Shut due to the Threat - The massive blast doors leading to the CMOC are closed in response to this apparent threat, according to the NORAD representative on the air threat conference call (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He says over the conference call, “Cheyenne Mountain is closing [the] blast doors in response to [a] possible threat of eight Ryder trucks en route from downtown to the Cheyenne Mountain complex.”
Threat Is a False Alarm - The supposed threat will turn out to be a false alarm. The NORAD representative will later report over the conference call: “I previously briefed [about a] possible eight Ryder trucks en route to Cheyenne Mountain. That threat has been negated. That is no longer a threat.” He will be asked if the report about the trucks was “an accurate assessment” or if someone had to “neutralize the force,” presumably meaning military action had to be taken against the trucks. The NORAD representative will answer simply, “We have no more details at this time.” It is unclear when CMOC personnel are alerted to the truck, or trucks, that is supposedly heading their way. The NORAD representative on the air threat conference call first mentions the trucks shortly after he reported that an unidentified aircraft had been spotted flying toward President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001] Bush was told about this aircraft at 1:05 p.m. (see 1:05 p.m. September 11, 2001), which was presumably around the time that NORAD was alerted to it. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 117] CMOC personnel presumably therefore learn about the truck, or trucks, supposedly heading their way shortly after 1:05 p.m.
President Bush asks Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, who is responsible for today’s attacks on the US and Morell says he is sure al-Qaeda is to blame. About 15 minutes after Air Force One left Barksdale Air Force Base (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), White House chief of staff Andrew Card enters the staff section of the plane, where Morell is seated, and tells Morell that the president wants to see him. Morell goes to Bush’s office, where he then sits alone with the president and Card.
CIA Briefer Says He'd Bet Al-Qaeda Was behind the Attacks - Bush wants to know who Morell thinks is responsible for today’s attacks. “Michael, who did this?” he asks. Morell explains that he doesn’t have any intelligence indicating who is to blame, so he will simply provide his personal opinion. “I said that there were two countries capable of carrying out an attack like this, Iran and Iraq, but I believed both would have everything to lose and nothing to gain from the attack,” he will later recall. The culprit was almost certainly a non-state actor, he says, adding that he has no doubt that the trail of evidence will lead to the doorstep of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. “I’d bet my children’s future on that,” he says.
Briefer Is Unsure How Long It Will Take to Determine Who Is Responsible - “When will we know?” Bush asks. Morell replies, “I can’t say for sure,” and then goes over some recent terrorist attacks and says how long it took the CIA to determine, with any certainty, who was responsible. He says that in the case of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), it took a couple of days; with the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 (see October 12, 2000), it took a couple of months; but with the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia (see June 25, 1996), it had taken over a year. He says the CIA may know soon who is to blame for today’s attacks, but then again it might take some time. Bush says nothing in response once Morell has finished giving his views on who is responsible for today’s attacks and the men sit in silence for a while. Finally, Morell asks, “Is there anything else, Mr. President?” and Bush replies, “No, Michael, thank you.” Morell then returns to his seat in the staff section of the plane. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 55-56; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush will learn that the CIA has linked al-Qaeda to today’s attacks later this afternoon, after Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). During a video teleconference, CIA Director George Tenet will tell him that early signs indicate the terrorist group is behind the attacks (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Bowden, 2012, pp. 17-18]
The FBI’s Minneapolis office asks for permission to interview Zacarias Moussaoui a few hours after the end of the 9/11 attacks, but permission is denied, apparently on the grounds that there is no emergency. On 9/11, the office’s counsel, Coleen Rowley, seeks permission from the Acting US Attorney to question Moussaoui about whether al-Qaeda has any further plans to hijack airliners or otherwise attack the US. The next day she asks again; this time the request is sent to the Justice Department. Such questioning would not usually be permitted, but Rowley argues that it should be allowed under a public safety exception. However, permission is denied and Rowley is told that the emergency is over so the public safety exception does not apply. Rowley will later comment: “We were so flabbergasted about the fact we were told no public safety emergency existed just hours after the attacks that my boss advised me to document it in a memo which became the first document in the legal subfile of the FBI’s ‘Penttbom’ case.” [Huffington Post, 5/2/2007] Some sources will suggest that Moussaoui was to be part of a second wave of attacks (see September 5, 2002). He is also an associate of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who will attempt to blow up an airliner later this year (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000 and December 22, 2001).
Logo of the International Islamic Relief Organization. [Source: International Islamic Relief Organization]A man is questioned by the police after being noticed behaving suspiciously near the Capitol building in Washington, DC, and found to belong to an organization with links to terrorism. Suspicions are raised about the man after he is observed following members of the press around the Capitol building and trying to listen in on their conversations. The man is subsequently held by the Capitol Police and questioned. His name is found to be “Shaykh M. Zacharias,” according to an FAA log. He is a member of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), is employed by a non-governmental organization in Nairobi, Kenya, and is “somehow connected” to the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). The police have permission to search his hotel room, according to the FAA log. Further details of what, if anything, inquiries into the man discover are unstated. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] The IIRO, of which he is a member, is a charity funded by the Saudi Arabian government and private Saudi individuals. [Emerson, 2002, pp. 157] Police believe it is a front for financing terrorism. [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002]
Two sections from RumsfeldÃ¢Â€Â™s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone. [Source: Defense Department]Defense Secretary Rumsfeld aide Stephen Cambone is taking notes on behalf of Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center. These notes will be leaked to the media nearly a year later. According to the notes, although Rumsfeld has already been given information indicating the 9/11 attacks were done by al-Qaeda (see 12:05 p.m. September 11, 2001) and he has been given no evidence so far indicating any Iraqi involvement, he is more interested in blaming the attacks on Iraq. According to his aide’s notes, Rumsfeld wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].… Need to move swiftly.… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 285] In a 2004 book, author James Moore will write, “Unless Rumsfeld had an inspired moment while the rest of the nation was in shock, the notes are irrefutable proof that the Bush administration had designs on Iraq and Hussein well before the president raised his hand to take the oath of office.” [Moore, 3/15/2004, pp. 18]
Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Alec Station, is tasked to come up with actions that can be taken immediately to strike back at al-Qaeda. According to Michael Scheuer, the first head of Alec Station, one of the most promising ideas considered is to ask other countries to raid Islamist charity fronts and seize computers and documents. Scheuer will later assert that the “suggested raids would have netted far more relevant data on how the [charity front-al-Qaeda link] worked than we ever had before.” However, he claims the White House rejects the idea because of concerns that it would offend Muslim popular opinion. [Scheuer, 2008, pp. 306]
The Washington Post reports, “Several US officials said there was no warning in the days before the attacks that a major operation was in the works. ‘In terms of specific warning that something of this nature was to occur, no,’ one official said.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2001] An anonymous “senior US official” tells ABC News, “There were no warnings regarding time or place. There are always generic threats now but there was nothing to indicate anything specific of this nature. In fact, in recent weeks, we were not in all that high a period of threat warning.” [ABC News, 9/12/2001]
Before going to sleep, President Bush writes in his diary, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.… We think it’s Osama bin Laden.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
It is later reported that FBI officials believe that a second grouping or cell of “perhaps 20 al-Qaeda terrorists [are] in the United States on Sept. 11 to carry out another attack. Members of this second cell, one official [says], apparently [abandon] apartments they… rented in Paterson, New Jersey, and Fairfax, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., after Sept. 11, leaving rented furniture and other possessions behind in their haste.” [St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/7/2002] Another article notes, “Police always have had concerns about sleeper agents in the [Brooklyn, New York] area. They particularly were concerned by a story… from several NYPD sources about an abandoned rental car that was parked in front of a mosque only a few blocks from New Utrecht. The car had been rented under the phony name ‘Bomkr’ from Logan International Airport in Boston shortly before the attacks. Investigators thought the name sounded a lot like ‘bomb car.’ The anonymous party rented several other cars from Logan, all of which either have disappeared or been abandoned. Police suspect the cars were used by al-Qaeda operatives to return to their home bases after the attacks.” [Insight, 9/10/2002]
Around 2:30 a.m., the FBI arrives at Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice, Florida, inquiring about suspected hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, who attended the school (see July 6-December 19, 2000). Huffman Aviation has around 200 students, about half of them foreigners. The FBI takes away all its records on former students, including photocopies of Atta and Alshehhi’s passports, as well as two computers. [Charlotte Sun, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/13/2001; US Congress, 3/19/2002] Students at another Florida flight school say the FBI arrived at their school within hours of the attacks (see September 11, 2001).
Dr. Marcella Fierro [Source: Ernie Branson]Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marcella Fierro, believing that state forensic pathologists have jurisdiction over the Pentagon’s land, reassigns staff from three other regional offices to the Northern Virginia office in order to conduct postmortem examinations on victims of the Pentagon attack. However, following what the Washington Post calls a “behind-the-scenes tug of war,” after FBI and Defense Department officials meet with her they instead opt to conduct forensic and mortuary activities at Defense Department facilities. Fierro requests and later receives a letter from Attorney General John Ashcroft relieving her department of its responsibilities. [Washington Post, 9/13/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-47 ]
W. Gene Corley. [Source: ASCE]The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its contractor, Greenhorne and O’Mara, Inc., from Greenbelt, Maryland, begin putting together a Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT), to conduct a formal analysis of the World Trade Center collapses, and produce a report of its findings. FEMA routinely deploys such teams following disasters, like floods or hurricanes. The 23-member BPAT team set up at the WTC collapse site is assembled by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and headed by Dr. W. Gene Corley of Construction Technologies Laboratories in Skokie, Illinois. Corley was previously the principal investigator for FEMA’s study of the Murrah Building, in Oklahoma City in 1995. [New Yorker, 11/12/2001] BPAT team members are based nationwide and have to communicate with each other mostly by phone, as they continue with their regular jobs. While some of them are being paid for their efforts, others are working on the investigation voluntarily. They are told not to speak with reporters, under threat of dismissal from the team, supposedly because of the delicacy of the subject with which they are dealing. The BPAT team receives $600,000 of funding from FEMA, plus approximately $500,000 in ASCE in-kind contributions. [New York Times, 12/25/2001; Associated Press, 1/14/2002; US Congress, 3/6/2002] The team will have great difficulty accessing the collapse site and evidence they want to see (see March 6, 2002). They will be unable to get FEMA to obtain such basic data as detailed blueprints of the WTC buildings. FEMA will also refuse to allow them to make appeals to the public for photos and videos of the towers that might aid their investigation. Bureaucratic restrictions will often prevent them from making forensic inspections at Ground Zero, interviewing witnesses, or getting important evidence, like recorded distress calls from people who were trapped in the towers. [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 330] The end product of their investigation is the FEMA World Trade Center Building Performance Study, released in May 2002 (see May 1, 2002).
The US is not interested in help from a high-level Taliban informant. Mullah Mohammed Khaksar was the Taliban’s intelligence minister and is currently their deputy interior minister. He is in charge of security in the Afghan capital of Kabul and regularly meets with other high ranking Taliban leaders. But since 1997, he has also been secretly providing a steady stream of intelligence to the Northern Alliance, the enemies of the Taliban. Further, he had offered to help the US defeat the Taliban, and several times before 9/11 CIA agents disguised as journalists visited him to solicit inside information (see April 1999). [Washington Post, 11/30/2001] However, in the weeks after 9/11, he passes letters to get in contact with US intelligence, but never hears back from them. Time magazine will later report, “Khaksar said he was ready to pass on information that might lead to the capture of the fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar and to some al-Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan. But he waited days, weeks, months, and nobody contacted him.” [Time, 2/25/2002] Finally in late November 2001, he will publicly defect to the Northern Alliance, thus ending his ability to get real-time information on the movements of Omar and others. [Knight Ridder, 11/29/2001] The US will continue to remain uninterested in what Khaksar has to say (see February 25, 2002).
According to the New York Post, “Credit cards belonging to the suicide hijackers continued to be used after the Sept. 11 attacks—indicating associates of the terrorists remained in the United States weeks after the kamikaze strikes, authorities said…” The cards are used at least until around the start of October 2001. An unnamed official says, “We believe there are additional people out there. Many of the closest associates got out of the country early on, but we also believe there are a number of people here we’re still looking at.” The hijackers had more than 100 credit cards in their own names, variations of their names, or by using false identities. The credit card transactions are recorded in Florida, New Jersey, and Maryland. While officials believe it is possible that at least some of the credit cards may have been stolen and used by people not connected to the hijackers. In some cases, the credit card use helps investigators detain associates of the hijackers. [New York Post, 10/17/2001] An October 2001 FBI timeline of hijacker movements made public in 2008 will note some of these credit card uses. For instance, a credit card jointly owned by hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi is used twice on September 15, and a credit card owned by hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad is used on September 17. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 296 ] What becomes of these detained people is not clear, because use of hijacker credit cards is not asserted for anyone later charged or released by US authorities. An account six months later will suggest that investigators have only connected 27 credit cards to the hijackers, not more than 100. [CNN, 5/22/2002]
According to counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, immediately after 9/11, a European intelligence agency warns the US that a prominent member of the Indonesian government is in close touch with al-Qaeda. This is said to come from communication intercepts. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 267] Hamzah Haz, vice president of Indonesia from July 2001 to October 2004, calls himself “very close” to Islamist militant leaders such as Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah. But there have been no reports linking him to al-Qaeda (see July 23, 2001-October 20, 2004).
John McCole [Source: Robson Books]Some gruesome remains are discovered in the World Trade Center ruins:
Investigators find a pair of severed hands bound together with plastic handcuffs on a nearby building. They are believed to have belonged to a flight attendant. [Newsday, 9/15/2001]
Honorary firefighter Michael Bellone and two other recovery workers discover the body of an attendant from American Airlines Flight 11. Reportedly, the men’s digging efforts reveal “a blue skirt, then one side of a body, and finally a pair of wings still attached to the lapel of a woman’s jacket.” [Swanson, 2003, pp. 140; Daily Standard (Grand Lake), 9/11/2006] Other reports describe the discovery of the body of a flight attendant with her hands bound. Presumably they are referring to the same remains. [Guardian, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 9/15/2001]
There are reports of whole rows of seats with passengers in them being found, as well as much of the cockpit of one of the planes, complete with the body of a suspected hijacker. Police cannot confirm these reports. [Ananova, 9/13/2001; Guardian, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 9/15/2001]
Fire Lieutenant John McCole sees a body bag with a tag on it saying, “Possible Perp—pilot.” McCole later comments, “I found it pretty amazing that someone’s body could remain so intact after crashing through a skyscraper into the middle of an inferno.” [McCole, 2002, pp. 57] Yet, contradicting the claim that a hijacker’s body was found, only in February 2003 are the remains of two hijackers identified (see Late February 2003).
While all of these bodies and plane parts are supposedly found, it will be claimed that none of the four black boxes for the two aircraft that hit the WTC are ever found. A National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson later says: “It’s extremely rare that we don’t get the recorders back. I can’t recall another domestic case in which we did not recover the recorders.” [CBS News, 2/25/2002] The black boxes are considered “nearly indestructible,” are placed in the safest parts of the aircraft, and are designed to survive impacts much greater than the WTC impact. They can withstand heat of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, and can withstand an impact of an incredible 3,400 G’s. [ABC News, 9/17/2001] However, in 2004, it will be reported that some of the black boxes are found in the weeks after 9/11, but their discovery is kept secret (see October 2001).
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) tells the Associated Press that the US government has been monitoring Osama bin Laden’s communications electronically, and overheard two bin Laden aides celebrating the successful terrorist attack: “They have an intercept of some information that included people associated with bin Laden who acknowledged a couple of targets were hit.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; ABC News, 9/12/2001] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly denounces the report, not as untrue, but as an unauthorized release of classified information. [Department of Defense, 9/12/2001]
Neoconservative academic and author Laurie Mylroie, who has argued that Saddam Hussein was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombings (see October 2000), publishes an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal blaming Hussein for the 9/11 bombings. Though Mylroie has been thoroughly discredited (one former journalist, Peter Bergen, will call her a “crackpot”—see December 2003), and though US intelligence analysts are already telling journalists and White House officials that Iraq had nothing to do with the bombings, Mylroie’s assertions receive major coverage from many US and British media outlets. In a follow-up interview on CBS News, she says, “In my view, yesterday’s events were the latest in Saddam’s war against the United States.” Author Craig Unger later notes that Mylroie’s baseless charges may be considered harmless eccentricity except for two things:
Her claims perfectly parallel the policy aims of her neoconservative colleagues and associates in the White House; and
while few Americans have ever heard of Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, and few find it credible that such devastation could be wrought by a small group of cave-dwelling fanatics, Saddam Hussein is a familiar name to most Americans, “a villain,” Unger will write, “straight out of central casting.” Mylroie’s specious claims will help fix the blame for 9/11 in Americans’ minds directly on Hussein and Iraq, Unger will claim. [Unger, 2007, pp. 215-216]
A close aide to Osama bin Laden reports that bin Laden denies any role in the previous day’s attacks on the United States, but has praised those responsible for them. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] The aide, one of bin Laden’s senior lieutenants, speaks by satellite telephone with Palestinian journalist Jamal Ismail, who is the Islamabad bureau chief of Abu Dhabi Television. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/13/2001] Ismail has long-standing ties with bin Laden and has conducted several interviews with him over the last few years. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001] The aide, who does not want to be publicly named, calls Ismail early in the day from a hideout somewhere in Afghanistan. He quotes bin Laden as calling the attacks on the US “punishment from almighty Allah” for America’s attempt to “control the entire world by force.” He tells Ismail, “Osama bin Laden thanked Almighty Allah and bowed before him when he heard this news [of the attacks].” But, the aide says, bin Laden has stated, “I have no information about the attackers or their aims and I don’t have any links with them.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/13/2001; Reuters, 9/13/2001; BBC, 9/14/2001]
Airphone from Flight 93 wreckage. [Source: National Museum of American History]The first FBI agents arrive at the Flight 93 crash scene soon after it goes down. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 60] Due to the criminal nature of the crash, the FBI becomes lead authority for the investigation of the site. Attempts are made to have the area declared a federal disaster, but these are unsuccessful. [DMORT National News, 1/2002] For about two weeks, the FBI’s evidence recovery team of about 150 agents goes over the site with sifters, filtering evidence from the soil. It recovers about 510 pounds of human remains. [Longman, 2002, pp. 259; Age (Melbourne), 9/9/2002] Despite the lack of wreckage reported by those first at the crash scene (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the FBI claims that it recovers 95 percent of the plane. The largest piece found, it says, is a seven-foot-long piece of the fuselage skin, including four windows. With the exception of the two black boxes, all wreckage is passed on to United Airlines. Asked what United will do with this, a spokeswoman says, “I don’t think a decision has been made… but we’re not commenting.” [CNN, 9/24/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/25/2001] While conducting its investigation of the crash site, the FBI overrules a plan to carefully map the area and mark the positions of debris so as to determine exactly how Flight 93 crashed, claiming this would be too time-consuming (see September 16, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 262] After it completes its work, the site becomes the responsibility of the county coroner, who continues the search for remains. [Longman, 2002, pp. 258-259]
Naamen Meziche. [Source: Public domain]Shortly after 9/11, US officials are finally able to investigate the possessions of prisoner Zacarias Moussaoui, and they discover the phone number of Naamen Meziche on a piece of paper. Meziche is an apparent member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, although his involvement in the cell will only be made public after he is killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010). He is a French citizen of Algerian descent, and a longtime resident of Hamburg, Germany. Investigators also learn that Moussaoui called Meziche’s number at some time in August 2001 (presumably before Moussaoui’s arrest on August 16 (see Early August 2001)). German intelligence begins investigating Meziche and discovers more phone and e-mail communications with suspected al-Qaeda operatives. Few details are publicly released, but one detail is known: on September 5, 2001, hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh called Meziche from the airport as he was leaving Germany for Pakistan in anticipation of the 9/11 attacks (see September 5, 2001). Police ask dozens of witnesses for evidence against Meziche. In 2002, Meziche is questioned by police and denies getting the calls from bin al-Shibh or Moussaoui. [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2010] In 2003, the German government secretly classifies Meziche as a threat. An investigation is launched in 2004 with the hope of charging him with forming a terrorist organization, but it is later suspended. On March 5, 2009, Meziche flies to Pakistan with a group of radical Islamists from Pakistan and attends training camps (see March 5, 2009). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/11/2010] After Meziche’s death in the 2010 drone strike, German investigators will express their frustration at being unable to arrest him. On several occasions, suspects have been pulled off of airplanes just before takeoff, only to be released a few hours later. One unnamed intelligence official will say: “You can’t charge them with a crime until they show up in a terrorist camp. And then we can only hope they don’t return.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2010]
On September 12, 2001, 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi’s 1988 Toyota Corolla is found at a parking lot near Washington, DC. Alhazmi and fellow hijacker Khalid Almihdhar bought the car in San Diego in March 2000 (see March 25, 2000). [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001] Various items are found in the car (see September 11-13, 2001), including an old telephone number of Osama Awadallah. Alhazmi knew Awadallah when he lived in San Diego in 2000. Awadallah’s San Diego house is searched soon thereafter, and photos, videos, and articles relating to Osama bin Laden are found. Investigators also discover that copies of bin Laden’s fatwas (religious edicts) and other similar materials were distributed by people living in the house. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 219-220] Awadallah worked with Alhazmi at a San Diego gas station with a number of radical Islamists (see Autumn 2000). A witness claims that one day before 9/11, he seemed to be celebrating the upcoming 9/11 attacks at the gas station, telling co-workers, “it is finally going to happen” (see Late August-September 10, 2001). Authorities will never develop enough evidence to charge Awadallah with any serious crime, and he will be deported in 2006 after a long legal battle (see May 4, 2006).
In searches conducted shortly after the 9/11 attacks, investigators discover direct links between the 9/11 hijacker cell in Hamburg and the Madrid al-Qaeda cell led by Barakat Yarkas. German police find Yarkas’s phone number in papers belong to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. His number is also found in the diary of Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji. [New York Times, 12/28/2001; Irujo, 2005, pp. 150-153] Investigators also find many videos of sermons by Abu Qatada in the apartment where Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell used to live. Qatada is already closely linked to Yarkas and his Madrid cell (see 1995-February 2001). [Guardian, 8/11/2005] Since Spanish intelligence had been monitoring Yarkas’s call since 1995 (see 1995 and After), it is unknown if they ever monitored a call between Yarkas and Atta or Bahaji. However, no such calls will be mentioned in subsequent trials in Spain. The Spanish did monitor numerous calls between Yarkas and Hamburg associates Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). For years, the Spanish have merely been monitoring Yarkas’s cell. But after discovering these links, the decision is made to shut the cell down. Yarkas and others are arrested in November 2001 (see November 13, 2001). [Irujo, 2005, pp. 162-163] Qatada has been an informant for British intelligence since about 1997; it is unknown if he told his British handlers anything about the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg (see June 1996-February 1997).
After the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar is questioned and monitored by German intelligence. The US government pressures the German government to arrest him, but he is not arrested. [New York Times, 1/18/2003] Zammar is a dual German and Syrian citizen. When he plans to travel to Morocco in October, he lacks a passport. So, on October 25, the German government gives him a passport good for one year, allowing him to leave the country. He goes to Morocco two days later. While in Morocco, he is captured and renditioned by US forces and sent to prison in Syria (see October 27-November 2001 and December 2001). Time magazine will report in 2002 that US officials are “angry at Germany for allowing several al-Qaeda suspects to flee in the weeks after 9/11. And some German officials concede they should have arrested Zammar last October.” [Washington Post, 6/12/2002; Time, 7/1/2002]
The government’s initial response to the 9/11 attacks is that it had no evidence whatsoever that bin Laden planned an attack in the US. “There was a ton of stuff, but it all pointed to an attack abroad,” says one official. Furthermore, in the 24 hours after the attack, investigators would have been searching through “mountains of information.” However, “the vast electronic ‘take’ on bin Laden, said officials who requested anonymity, contained no hints of a pending terror campaign in the United States itself, no orders to subordinates, no electronic fund transfers, no reports from underlings on their surveillance of the airports in Boston, Newark, and Washington.” [Miami Herald, 9/12/2001]
US President George Bush speaks privately with White House counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke in the White House Situation Room. According to Clarke, Bush tells him to investigate the possibility that Iraq was involved in the attacks. “I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything,” Bush says. “See if Saddam did this.” When Clarke responds, “But Mr. President, al-Qaeda did this,” Bush replies, “I know, I know, but… see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.” Clarke insists that the CIA, FBI, and White House already concluded that there were no such links. As he exits the room, Bush “testily” says again, “Look into Iraq, Saddam.” [Washington Post, 3/22/2004 Sources: Richard A. Clarke] During a “60 Minutes” interview, Clarke will say that Bush’s instructions were made in a way that was “very intimidating,” and which hinted that Clarke “should come back with that answer.”
“Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.” [CBS News, 3/21/2004; New York Times, 3/23/2004] Clarke’s account is later confirmed by several eyewitnesses. [CBS News, 3/21/2004; BBC, 3/23/2004; Guardian, 3/26/2004] After his meeting with Bush, Clarke works with CIA and FBI experts to produce the report requested by Bush (see September 18, 2001).
Mike Morell. [Source: Public domain]CIA Director George Tenet arrives at the White House to give the president his daily intelligence briefing. With him is Mike Morell, the president’s regular CIA briefer. They meet with Bush at 8 a.m. in the Oval Office, joined by Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) on this day is about ten to twelve pages long, and a further twelve pages includes full reports from case officers, the Directorate of Intelligence, and the National Security Agency. The PDB includes a review of the available intelligence tracing the previous day’s attacks back to Osama bin Laden and his top al-Qaeda associates. Among the evidence presented:
Several reports identify Capitol Hill and the White House as intended targets of the attacks.
One report says a bin Laden associate incorrectly “gave thanks for the explosion in the Congress building.”
A key figure in the al-Qaeda charity front the Wafa Humanitarian Organization had initially claimed that “The White House has been destroyed,” but then had to correct himself.
A report shows that al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan had said at 9:53 a.m. the previous day that the attackers were following through with “the doctor’s program” (see 9:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is thought to be a reference to the second-ranking member of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician often referred to as “the Doctor.”
The CIA and the FBI have evidence connecting at least three of the alleged hijackers to Osama bin Laden and his training camps in Afghanistan. Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Salem Alhazmi were quickly linked to al-Qaeda on the day of 9/11, as two of them were on a US watch list even before 9/11 (see 9:53 p.m. September 11, 2001). The attacks were also consistent with intelligence reports throughout the summer that indicated bin Laden was planning “spectacular attacks” against US targets.
A report out of Kandahar, Afghanistan shows the attacks were “the results of two years’ planning.”
Another report says the attacks were “the beginning of the wrath.”
A key piece of evidence involves Abu Zubaida, who has been identified as the chief field commander for the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. A supposedly reliable report received after the 9/11 attacks stated that Zubaida had referred to September 11 as “zero hour.” It is not known is an intercepted message from before 9/11 saying “tomorrow is zero hour,” or some other message (see September 10, 2001).
According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, “For Tenet, the evidence on bin Laden was conclusive—game, set, match.” Though Tenet, along with Rice and other officials, has already spent several months working on a plan to vastly expand covert action in Afghanistan and worldwide, he tells Bush that an even more extensive plan will soon be presented for approval, and this will be very expensive. The president tells him, “Whatever it takes.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 39-41; Washington Post, 1/28/2002; Kessler, 2003, pp. 231-233; Tenet, 2007, pp. 165] Bush will approve Tenet’s plan by the following Monday (see September 17, 2001).
Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, Michael J. Morell, Osama bin Laden, Khalid Almihdhar, George J. Tenet, Wafa Humanitarian Organization, Abu Zubaida, George W. Bush, Al-Qaeda, Condoleezza Rice, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz asks during a meeting, “Why we are [sic] beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden?” Clarke responds with an explanation that only al-Qaeda “poses an immediate and serious threat to the United States.” Wolfowitz then claims that Iraq poses “at least as much” a danger. According to Clarke, FBI and CIA representatives who are present at the meeting agree that there is no evidence to support Wolfowitz’s assertion. [Washington Post, 3/22/2004 Sources: Richard A. Clarke]
Abu Jandal. [Source: CNN]On the day of 9/11, FBI agent Ali Soufan happened to be in Yemen, working on the recently revived USS Cole bombing investigation there. For nearly a year, the CIA had hidden all information about the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia from Soufan (see Late October-Late November 2000 and Early December 2000). On September 12, 2001, he receives from the CIA a packet of information containing a complete report about the Malaysia summit and three surveillance photos from it. According to author Lawrence Wright, “When Soufan realized that the [CIA] and some people in the [FBI] had known for more than a year and a half that two of the hijackers [Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi] were in the [US], he ran into the bathroom and retched.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 362-367] A full list of the FBI officials who knew of the Malaysia summit is not known. However, in the summer of 2001 head of counterterrorism Dale Watson and acting Director Thomas Pickard were aware of it, but did not tell other officials on the CIA’s instructions (see July 12, 2001). [Pickard, 6/24/2004] Using the new information, Soufan interrogates Fahad al-Quso, an al-Qaeda operative who was involved with the Malaysia summit although he may not have actually attended it (see January 5-6, 2000). Al-Quso is living freely in Yemen but is pressured into talking to Soufan by the Yemeni government. After a few days, al-Quso admits to recognizing 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi, whom he met in Kandahar, Afghanistan, near the end of 1999. Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, happens to be in custody in Yemen as well. After some more days, Jandal tells Soufan everything he knows about al-Qaeda. He recognizes photos of Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta, Khalid Almihdhar, and four other 9/11 hijackers, from when they were in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. [Wright, 2006, pp. 362-367]
After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration seizes the new opportunities to expand the power of the presidency that present themselves as part of the government’s response to the attacks (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Bush-Cheney legal team, largely driven by Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff (see January 21, 2001), aggressively pushes for new opportunities to expand executive branch authorities.
'Bravado,' 'Close-Minded Group of Like-Minded People' - A senior White House official later tells author and reporter Charlie Savage of the “pervasive post-9/11 sense of masculine bravado and one-upmanship when it came to executive power.” In Savage’s words, and quoting the official, “a ‘closed group of like-minded people’ were almost in competition with one another, he said, to see who could offer the farthest-reaching claims of what a president could do. In contrast, those government lawyers who were perceived as less passionate about presidential power were derided as ‘soft’ and were often simply cut out of the process” (see also September 25, 2001).
Suspicion of Oversight - “The lawyers for the administration felt a tremendous amount of time pressure, and there was a lot of secrecy,” the official will say. “These things were being done in small groups. There was a great deal of suspicion of the people who normally act as a check inside the executive branch, such as the State Department, which had the reputation of being less aggressive on executive power. This process of faster, smaller groups fed on itself and built a dynamic of trying to show who was tougher on executive power.”
Addington and Yoo: Outsized Influence - While nominally the leaders of the White House legal team are Attorney General John Ashcroft and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, neither has as much influence as lawyers and staffers ostensibly of lower rank than themselves. Ashcroft is a vociferous supporter of the administration’s anti-terrorism policies, but is not a member of Bush’s inner circle and sometimes disagrees with the White House’s legal moves. Neither Ashcroft nor Gonzales have prior experience dealing with the legal issues surrounding executive power and national security. Two of the driving forces behind the White House’s push for more presidential power are Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, and an obscure deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), John Yoo. Because of a dispute between Ashcroft and the Bush inner circle over who should lead the OLC, there is no official chief of the OLC until November 2002, leaving Yoo and his fellows free to be as aggressive as they like on expanding presidential power and handling the war on terrorism. When the OLC chief, law professor Jay Bybee, finally arrives, he, like Ashcroft and Gonzales, finds himself hampered by his lack of knowledge of the law as it pertains to national security. Savage will later write, “When he finally started work, Bybee let deputies continue to spearhead the review of matters related to the war on terrorism.” Yoo is only a deputy assistant attorney general, but he has “signing power”—the ability to make his opinion legally binding—and is rarely reviewed by his peers because much of his work is classified. [Savage, 2007, pp. 76-78] As for Addington, Lawrence Wilkerson, the chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, will later say that he was the leader of the small but highly influential group of lawyers “who had these incredible theories and would stand behind their principles [Cheney, Bush, and others], whispering in their ears about these theories, telling them they have these powers, that the Constitution backs these powers, that these powers are ‘inherent’ and blessed by God and if they are not exercised, the nation will fall. He’d never crack a smile. His intensity and emotions and passion for these theories are extraordinary.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 84]
On September 12, the FBI in Miami issues a national bulletin for law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for two cars connected with the 9/11 attacks. One is a red 1989 Pontiac registered to Mohamed Atta, presumably the car he bought in July 2000 (see Early July 2000). The other is an Oldsmobile Alero, leased from a company in Boca Raton, but this is located later in the day. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; WESH 2 (Orlando/Daytona), 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/13/2001] About six weeks later, the Pontiac and another unspecified car that belonged to Atta and Marwan Alshehhi are found at a used car dealership in Tamarac, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. The hijackers reportedly sold them a week before 9/11. [CNN, 10/26/2001; CNN, 10/28/2001; Miami Herald, 10/29/2001] Also around this time, Brad Warrick, the owner of a Florida company that rented cars to Atta (see August 6-September 9, 2001), reports finding about a teaspoon of an unidentified white powder in the trunk of a Ford Escort used by Atta in the days before the attacks. The FBI had impounded the car for two weeks after 9/11, and it has not been used since. An FBI spokeswoman says it is unlikely that agents would have missed a suspicious powder and suggests it could be fingerprinting dust. [Miami Herald, 10/29/2001; Reuters, 10/29/2001; Washington Post, 10/30/2001]
FBI agent Robert Wright will later claim that the FBI takes extraordinary efforts to gag him in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. According to Wright, “On September the 11th, as I watched the World Trade Center towers burn, I did not initially share the same feelings of surprise and shock and dismay most Americans felt. I just thought to myself, ‘It has begun.’” On the afternoon of 9/11, he claims that he is called by reporters from the New York Times and 60 Minutes who already are aware of his issues with FBI management (see June 9, 2001-July 10, 2001). They ask if he would be willing to go public with his story. He declines. “I’m confident if I had gone public at that time I would have been fired. I realized my termination would only aid the FBI by allowing management to claim I was simply a former employee who was disgruntled over his termination.” Over the next few days, his former supervisor prohibits him from working with the 9/11 investigation. He is not allowed to answer any incoming telephone calls from the general public. The FBI prohibits him from publishing his recently completed book on FBI failures (see May 9, 2002). His lawyers contact a congressman who invites him to come to Washington and present his information to Congress. Wright is immediately prohibited from traveling outside of Chicago without FBI approval. Larry Klayman, one of two lawyers now representing Wright, later says he calls the Justice Department a few days after 9/11 and asks that Wright be allowed to present his issues to Attorney General John Ashcroft. Klayman claims he receives a reply from Michael Chertoff, then head of the Criminal division, who refuses to meet with Wright and says, “We are tired of conspiracy theories.” [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] On September 20, Wright’s legal representatives publish a list of 20 entities described as “Tax Exempt and Other Entities to Investigate Immediately.” The US will later shut down many of these entities. [Judicial Watch, 9/20/2001] The restrictions placed on Wright will largely continue to hold in the years afterwards. For instance, as of the end of 2005, his book still has not been approved for publication (see May 9, 2002).
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, partying in Pakistan after 9/11. [Source: Associated Press]After probably completing last-minute financial transactions with some 9/11 hijackers, Saeed Sheikh flies to Pakistan. [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2001] He meets with bin Laden in Afghanistan a few days later. [Washington Post, 2/18/2002; London Times, 2/25/2002; Guardian, 7/16/2002] The US government claims Saeed fights for the Taliban in Afghanistan in September and October 2001. [CNN, 3/14/2002] Some reports indicate that after the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saeed acts as a go-between with bin Laden and the ISI seeking to hide bin Laden. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002] He also helps produce a video of a bin Laden interview. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002] Sometime in October 2001 [Guardian, 7/16/2002] , Saeed moves back to his home in Lahore, Pakistan, and lives there openly. He is frequently seen at local parties hosted by government leaders. In January 2002, he hosts a party to celebrate the birth of his newborn baby. [USA Today, 2/25/2002; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002] He stays in his well-known Lahore house with his new wife and baby until January 19, 2002—four days before reporter Daniel Pearl is kidnapped. [BBC, 7/16/2002]
Following the attacks, there is no agreement on the speed with which the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission says that the South Tower collapsed in “ten seconds” and the National Institute of Standards and Technology says that tops of the buildings came down “essentially in free fall.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 146] In the dispute over the reason for the WTC’s collapse after 9/11, it is claimed that, if the towers fell in ten seconds, then this is evidence they were destroyed by explosives. For example, David Ray Griffin, a theologian and outspoken critic of commission’s report, writes, “For a 1,300-foot building, however, ten seconds is almost free-fall speed. But if each floor produced just a little resistance, so that breaking through each one took half a second, the collapse of all those floors—80 or 95 of them—would have taken 40 to 47 seconds. Can we really believe that the upper part of the buildings encountered virtually no resistance from the lower part?” [Griffin, 2004, pp. 16] But according to Canadian scientist Frank Greening, who studies the Twin Towers’ collapse, the freefall time would be about 9.6 seconds, and he calculates that it takes longer for the buildings to fall—twelve to thirteen and a half seconds—and states this does not indicate that explosives were used. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/25/2005]
An Italian network of extremists that has been closely monitored by local authorities (see After April 2001) goes silent following 9/11, after which only one message is intercepted. The message, which says, “Congratulations for the USA,” is from an unknown militant to Abdelhalim Remadna, a leading radical based in Milan. Remadna is arrested on November 12 as he attempts to flee Italy. One of his associates, Yassin Chekkouri, is arrested on the same day. Remadna will be sentenced to eight years in prison, whereas Chekkouri will receive four. Mahmoud Es Sayed, one of their associates who apparently had some foreknowledge of 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and September 4, 2001), escapes Italy some time in October, but is apparently killed at the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 227-30]
Martin Gilbertson. [Source: BBC]On September 12, 2001, Martin Gilbertson attends a party in Beeston, a neighborhood in Leeds, Britain, where a group of Muslim youths are celebrating the 9/11 attacks that took place the day before. Gilbertson is introduced to three men who run the Iqra Islamic bookshop and some related establishments in Beeston. Their leader appears to be Martin McDaid, a former Royal Marine who converted to Islam and changed his name to Adbullah Mohammed. Gilbertson, a former Hell’s Angel and rock and roll roadie, is not Muslim, but McDaid and the others ask if he can instruct them in website production. Over the next two years, Gilbertson ends up getting paid to do the production work for them himself, as well as repairing their computers and setting up encryptions to protect their computers from being monitored.
Gets to Know 7/7 Bombers - Two of the future 7/7 London bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, live in Beeston and regularly visit the Iqra bookshop. Gilbertson comes to know them well. But after spending time editing video footage meant to serve as radical Islamist recruiting propaganda DVDs, he becomes alarmed at the content and decides to go to the police.
Informs Police - In October 2003, he goes to the local police to warn them about the circle of radical Islamists he is working for. For instance, he warns that McDaid is “ranting and raving” about “jihad.” He is told to send his material to the anti-terrorist squad at the West Yorkshire police headquarters instead. So he sends them a package containing some of the DVDs he helped make, a contact number, a list of names (including Tanweer and Khan), and details about their e-mail traffic. He leaves the area some months later and loses contact with the group. He never hears back, until he goes to the police again shortly after the 7/7 bombings.
Police Fail to Say If They Were Informed - A West Yorkshire police spokesman will later say: “It’s going to be almost impossible to trace what happened to a specific item of mail. We don’t have an anti-terrorist squad, and there’s no way of saying to where it might have gone from the mailroom. We get all sorts of material on extremist groups—but it’s impossible to say whether this made its way into the intelligence system, whether it was discounted as low-level intelligence or whether it was acted upon in some way.”
Talk about Dying for the Cause - Gilbertson will later say that he did not hear any specific plans for suicide bombing. But an associate of his will later say: “Some people made it clear they had no objection to dying for their cause. They didn’t see it as suicide, and didn’t talk much about martyrdom. They saw the suicide bomb as the only weapon they had in a war in which they were outgunned and overpowered.” [Guardian, 6/24/2006]
Police Raid - Gilbertson will later tell the BBC: “I know that other people were talking to the police at the same time. There were many people who were voicing their concerns about what was happening in Beeston. But nobody would listen.” But he also believes that police raided the Iqra bookshop soon after he mailed his warning. He says that in early 2004, he was asked to repair a laptop belonging to one of the people he had warned the police about, and was told the laptop had been damaged after being seized by police. He says that he thought, “Oh, the police listened to me.” [BBC, 5/9/2007]
According to a later account provided by CIA Director George Tenet, he bumps into Pentagon adviser Richard Perle in the White House who tells him, “Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday, they bear responsibility.” Tenet, recalling his reaction to Perle’s statement, later says, “I’ve got the manifest with me that tells me al-Qaeda did this. Nothing in my head that says there is any Iraqi involvement in this in any way shape or form and I remember thinking to myself, as I’m about to go brief the president, ‘What the hell is he talking about?’” (Note: Tenet says in his book that this incident happened on September 12; however, after Perle insists that he was not in the country that day, Tenet concedes that it may have happened a little later). [Tenet, 2007; CBS News, 4/29/2007; CNN, 4/30/2007] On September 16, 2001, Perle will hint in a CNN interview that Iraq should be punished for the 9/11 attacks (see September 16, 2001).
The LfV, the security service for the Hamburg region, shows a surprising amount of knowledge about the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, suggesting that the agency may have had an informant close to the cell. In 2004, Manfred Murck, deputy director of the LfV, will claim that the LfV’s greatest regret is that it never monitored the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] However, shortly after 9/11, a photograph is found in the house of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah’s girlfriend Aysel Senguen that was taken at Jarrah and Senguen’s non-legally binding wedding in April 1999 (see (April 1, 1999)).
Notes on the Photo - Eighteen out of 22 men in the picture are soon identified; many of them are members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell. Seven of the men are easily identified. Eleven more are identified by the LfV, and 10 of them by name, including 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, and hijacker associates Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abdelghani Mzoudi, and Mounir El Motassadeq. Investigators at other German intelligence agencies don’t know where the photo was taken, but the LfV reveals that it was taken inside the Al-Quds mosque. In 2003, the Frankfurt newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will conclude that the LfV had an informant who knew details about the Al-Quds mosque and its attendees. The newspaper will base this on the LfV notes about the photo written just after 9/11. These notes show that not only does the LfV know that the picture was taken inside Al-Quds (when its agents were never supposed to go inside a mosque), but it knows the picture was taken in early 1999, because the carpet shown in the picture was changed shortly after that time. Furthermore, the LfV photo notes show knowledge of “even seemingly trivial details” about some of the people in the picture. For instance, the notes mention that hijacker associate Mzoudi “cleans and cooks together with Abderrasak Labied in the Al-Quds mosque.” [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] (Labied is another suspected member of the Hamburg cell.) [Washington Post, 9/11/2002] Some men in the photo left Hamburg later in 1999, but the LfV notes are still able to identify them.
Knowledge of Mohamed Atta's Group - The LfV also shows detailed knowledge about some of the 9/11 hijackers. For instance, starting in 1999, Atta led an Islamic study group at the Technical University Hamburg-Harburg known as “Islam AG.” The LfV is able to identify which of the men in the picture attended this study group. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003]
Informant or Some Other Source of Knowledge? - The LfV notes indicate that if the LfV did not have an informant involved with the Al-Quds mosque since 1999, at the very least it has a great deal of knowledge about the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell members.
One of the first and most frequently told stories about the 9/11 hijackers is the visit of two hijackers to Shuckums, a sports bar in Hollywood, Florida, on September 7, 2001 (see September 7, 2001). What is particularly interesting about this story is how it changes over time. In the original story, first reported on September 12, 2001 [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] , hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, and an unidentified man, came into the restaurant already drunk. “They were wasted,” says bartender Patricia Idrissi, who directed them to a nearby Chinese restaurant. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/13/2001] Later they returned and drank—Atta ordered five vodka and orange juices, while Alshehhi ordered five rum and Cokes. [Time, 9/24/2001] According to manager Tony Amos, “The guy Mohamed was drunk, his voice was slurred, and he had a thick accent.” Idrissi says they argued about the bill, and when she asked if there was a problem, “Mohamed said he worked for American Airlines and he could pay his bill.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] This story is widely reported through much of September. [New York Times, 9/13/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/15/2001; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/16/2001; Miami Herald, 9/22/2001; Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Time, 9/24/2001] However, beginning on September 15, a second story appears. [Toronto Star, 9/15/2001] This story is similar to the first, except that here, Atta was playing video games and drinking cranberry juice instead of vodka, and Alshehhi was the one who argued over the bill and paid. After some coexistence, the second story becomes predominant in late September 2001. This new version makes no reference to the fact that alcohol had been mentioned in previous accounts of the incident. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/22/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/12/2001; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]
CIA Director George Tenet and Cofer Black, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, meet at 9:30 a.m. in the White House Situation Room with President Bush and the National Security Council. Tenet presents a plan for tracking down Osama bin Laden, toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan, and confronting terrorism worldwide. According to journalist Bob Woodward, the plan involves “bringing together expanded intelligence-gathering resources, sophisticated technology, agency paramilitary teams and opposition forces in Afghanistan in a classic covert action. They would then be combined with US military power and Special Forces into an elaborate and lethal package designed to destroy the shadowy terrorist networks.” A key concept is to utilize the Northern Alliance, which is the main opposition force in Afghanistan. Despite being “a strained coalition of sometimes common interests,” Tenet says that along with the CIA teams “and tons of money, the Alliance could be brought together into a cohesive fighting force.” Black gives a presentation describing the effectiveness of covert action. He says they will need to go after the Taliban as well as al-Qaeda, as the two are joined at the hip. He wants the mission to begin as soon as possible, and adds, “When we’re through with them, they will have flies walking across their eyeballs.” Black claims that once they are on the ground, victory could be achieved in weeks. According to Bob Woodward, “No one else in the room, including Tenet, believed that was possible.” Black also warns the president, “Americans are going to die.… How many, I don’t know. Could be a lot.” Bush responds, “That’s war. That’s what we’re here to win.” This is the second presentation laying out an increasingly detailed set of CIA proposals for expanding its fight against terrorism. (George Tenet had given the first when he met with the president the day before (see September 12, 2001).) Tenet will give a more detailed presentation of the CIA’s covert action plan two days later, at Camp David (see September 15, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 50-53; Washington Post, 1/29/2002; Kessler, 2003, pp. 233-234]
Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Cofer Black, George W. Bush, National Security Council, Osama bin Laden, Northern Alliance, Taliban
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
Ann Coulter. [Source: Universal Press Syndicate]Conservative columnist Ann Coulter writes an enraged op-ed for the National Review. Reflecting on the 9/11 attacks and the loss of her friend Barbara Olson in the attacks (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Coulter says America’s retribution should be immediate and generalized: “This is no time to be precious about locating the exact individuals directly involved in this particular terrorist attack. Those responsible include anyone anywhere in the world who smiled in response to the annihilation of patriots like Barbara Olson. We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don’t need an ‘international coalition.’ We don’t need a study on ‘terrorism.’ We certainly didn’t need a congressional resolution condemning the attack this week.” Coulter says a “fanatical, murderous cult”—Islam—has “invaded” the nation, welcomed by Americans and protected by misguided laws that prohibit discrimination and “‘religious’ profiling.” She blasts airport security measures that insist on checking every passenger—“[a]irports scrupulously apply the same laughably ineffective airport harassment to Suzy Chapstick as to Muslim hijackers. It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.” She concludes by calling for all-out vengeance: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.” [National Review, 9/13/2001] In October 2002, Reason magazine’s Sara Rimensnyder will call Coulter’s screed “the single most infamous foreign policy suggestion inspired by 9/11.” [Reason Magazine, 10/2002]
Nizar Trabelsi. [Source: Daily Telegraph]Nizar Trabelsi, an al-Qaeda operative involved in numerous plots, is arrested in Brussels, Belgium. Police find machine pistols, chemical formulas for making bombs, detailed maps of the US embassy in Paris, and a business suit—it appears Trabelsi intended to walk into the embassy with the suit covering a suicide bomb vest and then detonate the explosives. The arrest is apparently due to information gleaned from Djamel Begham, a top al-Qaeda operative arrested in July (see July 24 or 28, 2001). Two of the plots Trabelsi is said to be involved in, an attack on a NATO base in Belgium and the attack on the US embassy in Paris, are thwarted. Trabelsi will later be found guilty in Belgium of planning the attack on the base (see September 30, 2003). [CNN, 10/3/2001] However, a third plot in which Trabelsi is involved—a plot to blow up two transatlantic airliners—is not thwarted. The plot is to be carried out by two al-Qaeda operatives who are in contact with Trabelsi around this time, Saajid Badat and Richard Reid. Reid returned to Europe from Asia in July or August (see July 2001), after which he stayed in Belgium with Trabelsi, who also found him work in hotel kitchens. Badat is also in contact with Trabelsi using phone cards, and analysis of them will help lead to his arrest some time later. The plot will fail when Badat backs out (see (December 14, 2001)) and Reid is unable to detonate the explosives before he is overpowered by fellow passengers and crew (see December 22, 2001). It is unclear why this third plot is not stopped as well after Trabelsi’s arrest. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 229-231] However, his arrest does lead to more arrests in Spain 13 days later (see September 26, 2001).
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef. [Source: Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images]Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban says that Osama bin Laden has told them he played no role in the September 11 attacks on the United States. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, tells Reuters, “We asked from him, [and] he told [us] we don’t have any hand in this action.” [Reuters, 9/13/2001] Zaeef says bin Laden has been cut off from all outside communication, including telephone and the Internet, and so it would have been impossible for him to have coordinated the attacks. [Reuters, 9/13/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2001] Zaeef says the Taliban is willing to cooperate with the US in investigating the 9/11 attacks, stating, “We are ready for any help according to [Islamic] Sharia law.” But he stresses that if America has any evidence against bin Laden, it should provide it to the Taliban, which has sheltered him as a “guest.” [Reuters, 9/13/2001]
Human remains from the Flight 93 crash site are moved to a temporary morgue that has been set up at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory, several miles away in Friedens. High-tech mortuary equipment has been brought to the armory in a tractor-trailer. [Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, 9/12/2001 ; WTAE-TV, 9/13/2001] 75 to 100 specialists, including pathologists and fingerprint experts, are involved in the attempt to identify the remains. Forensic anthropologist Dennis Dirkmaat says that because the remains have suffered “extreme fragmentation,” most will need to be identified using DNA analysis. [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] When remains cannot be identified at the temporary morgue, samples are sent on to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, where samples from the Pentagon crash are also being analyzed (see September 11-November 16, 2001). [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/25/2001; Stars and Stripes, 10/8/2001; KCRA, 12/20/2001] By December 19, the remains of all 40 passengers and crew from Flight 93 have been identified, using fingerprints, dental records, and DNA. Investigators have, by a process of elimination, also been able to isolate genetic profiles of the four hijackers. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/30/2001; DMORT National News, 1/2002; Associated Press, 2/26/2002; Stripe, 9/20/2002] Searchers recovered about 510 pounds of human remains at the crash scene, equaling about eight percent of the total bodyweight on the plane. According to Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller, everything else was vaporized. [Washington Post, 5/12/2002; Age (Melbourne), 9/9/2002; Canadian Press, 3/28/2004]
Aircraft debris area. [Source: NIST]In February 2002, the Associated Press reports that the only remaining pieces of the planes that hit the WTC located at the Staten Island landfill, where workers are sorting through the debris from Ground Zero, are some pieces of landing gear and a piece of Flight 175’s fuselage. FBI spokesman Joseph Valiquette says, “So little (airplane) debris has been recovered that there’s really no way to quantify it.” [Associated Press, 2/24/2002; CBS News, 2/25/2002] Yet other reports contradict this. According to the New York Times, soon after 9/11, rescue workers find “large sections of one of the airplanes, including passenger seats,” which had landed on the roof and scaffolding on a small skyscraper at 90 West Street. [New York Times, 6/8/2002; New York Times, 3/5/2004] Some early reports even claim that a cockpit of one of the planes and some plane seats with the remains of passengers strapped into them have been found in the WTC debris (See September 12-14, 2001). Other recovered plane wreckage includes life jackets and portions of seats found on the roof of the nearby Bankers Trust building. One of the planes’ jet engines and a landing gear from Flight 175 are found in streets nearby. [Civil Engineering, 5/2002; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 2-16, 2-31] In June 2002, parts of one plane’s luggage racks are found among debris in adjacent buildings. [Associated Press, 6/8/2002; New York Times, 6/8/2002] Some photographs of aircraft debris found at Ground Zero can be found in the book Above Hallowed Ground which gathers pictures taken by NYPD officers. [Department, 2002, pp. 66-69] Another photography book, Aftermath by Joel Meyerowitz, includes a picture of an aircraft wheel and fuselage recovered at Fresh Kills. [Meyerowitz, 2006, pp. 223]
Majed Moqed’s identification card found in the rubble. [Source: FBI]Two or three documents belonging to the Flight 77 hijackers are found in the rubble at the Pentagon. One is a “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Student Identity Card” with Majed Moqed’s name on it. Forensic examination will later indicate that the card may have been fraudulent. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 44 ] Another is Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27, 42 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] The 9/11 Commission will say that Salem Alhazmi’s USA ID is also found, although this will not be mentioned at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, where an otherwise exhaustive list of the hijackers’ ID found at the crash sites is submitted. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27, 42 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] In addition, the Commission will say that Salem Alhazmi was unable to produce a photo ID when checking in for his flight on 9/11 (see (7:25 a.m.-7:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), so it is unclear how the document could have come to be at the Pentagon. Based on report from the Secret Service, the 9/11 Commission will say these two documents appear genuine. However, they may actually be fakes (see (July-August 2001)). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27 ] There are at least a couple of other reported instances of other similar paper-based objects surviving the same plane crash, as well as that of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania (see After 10:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Athens Banner-Herald, 9/10/2004]
A business card of Assem Jarrah, Ziad’s cousin. [Source: FBI]Several effects apparently belonging to Flight 93 hijackers are recovered from the crash site in Somerset County. They are:
A Saudi Arabian ID card of Ahmed Alnami; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
A Saudi Arabian Youth Hostel Association card of Ahmed Alnami; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Two passport sized photographs of Ahmed Alnami; [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]
A charred section of Ziad Jarrah’s passport; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Saeed Alghamdi’s Saudi Arabian passport; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
A business card of Assem Jarrah, Ziad Jarrah’s second cousin (who allegedly has been a spy for three governments (see September 16, 2002)). It has Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s Hamburg address written on the back (see September 24, 2002); [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/7/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Part of Ahmed Alnami’s Florida driving license; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
A red bandana (a passenger on Flight 93 described the hijackers as using red bandanas, though this could have been someone else’s bandana (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Lisa Beamer. [Source: NBC]Since 9/11, Lisa Beamer—whose husband Todd Beamer died on Flight 93—has reportedly had one “nagging question.” According to Newsweek, she’d wondered, “Why had her husband, a man so attached to his cell phone that [she] had to confiscate it when they went on vacation, not called her from the plane? Other passengers had called home from Flight 93 to say goodbye and talk to their loved ones. Why not Todd?” [Newsweek, 12/3/2001] This evening, she receives a call from her family liaison with United Airlines, informing her that the FBI has released information that Todd made a call from the flight: Using a GTE Airfone, he’d spoken to an operator in the Chicago area. The FBI had been keeping the information private until it reviewed the material. The liaison reads her a summary of the call written by Lisa Jefferson, the GTE supervisor with whom Todd had spoken (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 185-186] During the call, Jefferson had asked Todd if he’d wanted to be connected to his wife. However, as Jefferson later recalls, he’d “said no, that he did not want to upset her as they were expecting their third child in January.” [Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002] Instead, he’d asked Jefferson to contact his family if he didn’t “make it out of this.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 200] In her book, published in 2002, Lisa Beamer writes that she was “so glad he didn’t” contact her from the plane, because, “Had I learned about Todd’s circumstances by hearing his voice from the plane, I no doubt would have lost it.” While Lisa Beamer only learns of her husband’s call from Flight 93 on this day, the CEO of the company for which he’d worked appears to have been aware of its details a day earlier (see September 13, 2001). [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 184-185 and 201-202]
In interviews, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak raises questions about who was behind the 9/11 attacks, in particular questioning whether the alleged perpetrators had the necessary flying skills to carry out the attacks. Before becoming president, Mubarak had a successful career in the Egyptian Air Force, having been a pilot, instructor, and squadron leader. He’d eventually become director of the Air Force Academy, Air Force chief of staff, commander of the Air Force, and deputy minister for military affairs. [Egyptian Presidency, 1997; George Washington University, 6/29/1999] Just days after 9/11, he discusses the attack on the Pentagon, saying, “The Pentagon is not very high, a pilot could come straight to the Pentagon like this to hit, he should have flown a lot in this area to know the obstacles which could meet him when he is flying very low with a big commercial plane to hit the Pentagon in a special place.” He adds, “Somebody has studied this very well, someone has flown in this area very much.” When asked, “Are you suggesting it was an inside operation?” he replies, “Frankly speaking, I don’t want to jump to conclusions.” [Egyptian Presidency, 9/15/2001] In an interview six weeks later, he repeats his concerns, saying, “I find it hard to believe that people who were learning to fly in Florida could, within a year and a half, fly large commercial airlines and hit with accuracy the towers of the World Trade Center which would appear, to the pilot from the air, the size of a pencil. Only a professional pilot could carry out this mission, not someone who learned to fly for 18 months in Florida.” [Egyptian Presidency, 10/25/2001] Mubarak also later claims that Egyptian intelligence had warned American officials 12 days before 9/11 that al-Qaeda was in the advance stages of conducting a significant operation against a US target (see August 30, 2001-September 4, 2001). [Associated Press, 12/7/2001; New York Times, 6/4/2002]
General Hamid Gul, the former head of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), gives several interviews in which he says Osama bin Laden is not responsible for 9/11, and that he believes the attacks were perpetrated by the Israeli overseas intelligence service, Mossad, and renegade elements within the US Air Force. [Newsweek, 9/14/2001; Tehelka (.com), 9/14/2001; United Press International, 9/26/2001]
Failure of US Air Defenses - Gul points to the failure of the US Air Force to halt the 9/11 attacks. He tells Newsweek: “F-16s don’t scramble in time, though they had 18 minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.… A flight to Los Angeles turns to Washington and is in the air for 45 minutes, and the world’s most sophisticated air defense doesn’t go into action.” [Newsweek, 9/14/2001] In an interview with United Press International editor at large Arnaud de Borchgrave, he says: “The attacks against the Twin Towers started at 8:45 a.m. and four flights are diverted from their assigned air space and no air traffic controller sounds the alarm. And no Air Force jets scramble until 10 a.m. That also smacks of a small scale Air Force rebellion, a coup against the Pentagon perhaps? Radars are jammed, transponders fail. No IFF—friend or foe identification—challenge.” He adds: “In Pakistan, if there is no response to IFF, jets are instantly scrambled and the aircraft is shot down with no further questions asked. This was clearly an inside job.”
Bin Laden Innocent - Gul says he believes Osama bin Laden would have been incapable of perpetrating such a sophisticated attack. When de Borchgrave asks, “What makes you think Osama wasn’t behind September 11?” Gul responds: “From a cave inside a mountain or a peasant’s hovel? Let’s be serious.… He doesn’t have the means for such a sophisticated operation.” He comments: “Within ten minutes of the second Twin Tower being hit… CNN said Osama bin Laden had done it. That was a planned piece of disinformation by the real perpetrators. It created an instant mindset and put public opinion into a trance, which prevented even intelligent people from thinking for themselves.” [United Press International, 9/26/2001] He tells the Indian news website Tehelka.com that blaming bin Laden and Afghanistan “is a convenient bogey to divert attention.” [Tehelka (.com), 9/14/2001]
Blames Israel - Israelis are Gul’s prime suspects for 9/11. He says: “Mossad and its American associates are the obvious culprits. Who benefits from the crime?” [United Press International, 9/26/2001] He tells Newsweek: “I can’t say for sure who was behind [9/11], but it’s the Israelis who are creating so much misery in the world. The Israelis don’t want to see any power in Washington unless it’s subservient to their interests, and President Bush has not been subservient.” [Newsweek, 9/14/2001] In his interview with Tehelka.com, he adds: “One knows that after the Florida fiasco of the presidential election, there is a big rift between the Jewish lobbies and George Bush and his administration. He has not taken a single Jew in his Cabinet. So [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and company are very upset with George Bush. They [the Jewish lobbies] have been told to indulge in acts of terrorism in the past. Why can’t they do it now?” [Tehelka (.com), 9/14/2001]
Supports Taliban and Opposes US Action against Afghanistan - General Gul was the head of the ISI between 1987 and 1989 (see April 1987). [Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001] As Newsweek describes, he is “widely considered the architect of the Afghan jihad: the man who, with financial and logistical support from the CIA, engineered the fight of the mujaheddin against the Soviet Union and its proxy government in Kabul in the 1980s. Now, he’s a big fan of the country’s ruling Taliban.” [Newsweek, 9/14/2001] He currently serves as an adviser to Pakistan’s extremist religious political parties, which oppose their government’s decision to support the US in any action against the Taliban. [United Press International, 9/26/2001] Newsweek comments: “If General Gul were anyone else, it would be easy to dismiss him as a crackpot. But here in military-ruled Pakistan, he remains an influential figure, even in semiretirement.” [Newsweek, 9/14/2001]
President Bush in front of the Islamic Center on September 17, 2001. Alamoudi is on the far right. [Source: Martin H. Simon/ Corbis]In the weeks after 9/11, President Bush makes a number of public appearances with Muslim leaders in an attempt to reach out to what is perceived as the moderate Muslim community. However, some leaders invited to appear with Bush are actually radical Islamists with suspected terrorism ties. For instance, on September 14, 2001, Bush appears at a prayer service dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 attacks with Abdurahaman Alamoudi, the president of the American Muslim Council. US intelligence had suspected Alamoudi of ties with bin Laden and other terrorist leaders since 1994 (see Shortly After March 1994), and in late 2000 the Bush campaign returned a campaign contribution from Alamoudi because of his controversial ties (see July 2000). Alamoudi also proclaimed his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, both officially designated terrorist groups by the US, at a 2000 public rally in Washington. Another invited attendee at the prayer service is Muzzammil Siddiqi, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Society of Orange County. Siddiqi said of the US government a year earlier, “If you remain on the side of injustice the wrath of God will come.” [Fox News, 10/1/2001] In the early 1990s, the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, lectured about violent jihad at Siddiqi’s mosque while Siddiqi sat beside him to translate. Several members of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell, including Khalil Deek and Adam Gadahn, were regular attendees at his mosque. [New Yorker, 1/22/2007] “Former Secret Service officer Ron Williams says, “The intelligence community has known for sometime the association of Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi and Mr. Alamoudi and their association with terrorist organizations.” [Fox News, 10/1/2001] Agha Jafri, a Shia Muslim leader, calls Siddiqi part of a Saudi-backed “mafia” intent on crushing moderate Sufi and Shiite Muslims in the US and says, “They hate us.” [St. Petersburg Times, 3/11/2003] On September 17, 2001, Bush speaks before the Islamic Center, a Washington mosque. Alamoudi is again pictured with Bush. On September 26, Bush meets with 15 prominent Muslim leaders at the White House. Siddiqi sits next to Bush. Other Muslim leaders at these meetings have expressed support for Hamas and other officially designated terrorist groups. Influential Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist has been working to build a political alliance between the Republican Party and Muslim Americans since at least 1998 (see 1998-September 2001), and he is allegedly responsible for arranging these meetings and vouching for the attendees. [New Republic, 11/1/2001] Bush apparently does not make any more public appearances with Alamoudi or Siddiqi after a Fox News report in early October 2001 regarding their appearances with him. [Fox News, 10/1/2001] It will later come out that Alamoudi met with two of the 9/11 hijackers’ suspected associates in 2000 (see October-November 2000), and in 2004, Alamoudi will be sentenced to a long prison term for illegal dealings with Libya (see October 15, 2004). Siddiqi remains an imam in Orange County and denies any terrorism links. An FBI official will say in 2007, “We have a very strong relationship with Dr. Siddiqi.” [New Yorker, 1/22/2007]
Some attendees of the Camp David meeting on September 15, 2001. From left to right: I. Lewis Libby, John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz. [Source: PBS]President Bush meets with his advisers at Camp David for a day of intensive discussions about how to respond to the 9/11 attacks. CIA Director George Tenet has arrived there “with a briefcase stuffed with top-secret documents and plans, in many respects the culmination of more than four years of work on bin Laden, the al-Qaeda network and worldwide terrorism.” With him is his deputy, John McLaughlin, and counterterrorism chief Cofer Black. Also in the conference room with them, among others, are Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell. For his 30-minute presentation, Tenet gives out a briefing packet titled “Going to War.” His presentation covers several key components for the fight against terrorism:
Tenet advocates substantially stepping up “direct support of the Northern Alliance,” the main Afghan opposition group, as part of a strategy to create “a northern front, closing the safe haven” of Afghanistan. His idea is that “Afghan opposition forces, aided by the United States, would move first against the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, try to break the Taliban’s grip on that city and open up the border with Uzbekistan. From there the campaign could move to other cities in the north.” Tenet also explains that the CIA had begun working with a number of tribal leaders in the south of Afghanistan the previous year, and these could be enticed to joint a US-led campaign.
The plan includes “a full-scale covert attack on the financial underpinnings of the terrorist network, including clandestine computer surveillance and electronic eavesdropping to locate the assets of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”
The CIA and FBI would work together to track down bin Laden supporters in the US.
A key proposal is a recommendation that the president give the CIA “exceptional authorities” to destroy al-Qaeda. Tenet wants a broad intelligence order allowing the agency to conduct covert operations without requiring formal approval for each specific operation, thus authorizing it to operate without restraint. Tenet and his senior deputies would be permitted to approve “snatch” operations abroad. Journalist Bob Woodward calls this “truly exceptional power.”
Tenet has with him a draft of a presidential intelligence order—a “finding”—that would give the CIA power “to use the full range of covert instruments, including deadly force.”
Another proposal is that, with additional hundreds of millions of dollars for new covert action, the CIA could “buy” intelligence services of key Arab nations including Egypt, Jordan, and Algeria. These could act as surrogates for the US. As Bob Woodward points out, this “would put the United States in league with questionable intelligence services, some of them with dreadful human rights records. Some had reputations for ruthlessness and using torture to obtain confessions.”
Tenet calls for the initiation of intelligence contact with certain rogue states, such as Libya and Syria, so as to obtain helpful information about the terrorists. (Subsequently, by early 2002, Syria will have emerged as one of the CIA’s most effective allies in the fight against al-Qaeda (see Early 2002-January 2003).)
He has with him a top-secret document called the “Worldwide Attack Matrix.” This details covert operations in 80 countries that he is recommending or are already underway. “Actions ranged from routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks.” As Woodward describes, this proposal represents “a striking departure for US policy. It would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history.”
The president reportedly is much pleased with Tenet’s proposals, “virtually shouting ‘Great job!’” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 74-78; Washington Post, 1/31/2002; Kessler, 2003, pp. 234] He will grant all Tenet’s requests by the following Monday (see September 17, 2001). Tenet had presented a cruder version of the CIA plan at the White House two days earlier (see September 13, 2001).
Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, John E. McLaughlin, George J. Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld, Al-Qaeda, George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency, Colin Powell, Cofer Black, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
Sharifuddin Pirzada. [Source: Aamir Qureshi / AFP / Getty Images]On September 15, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed returns to Pakistan from the US, and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf holds a meeting with Mahmood and about a dozen other senior officers to discuss how Pakistan should respond to the 9/11 attacks. Musharraf will later recall that the group “made a dispassionate, military-style analysis of our options,” aware that on his decision hung “the fate of millions of people and the future of Pakistan.” For six hours, Mahmood, Lt. Gen. Muzaffar Usmani, Lt. Gen. Jamshaid Gulzar Kiani, and Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan argue that Pakistan should not help the US at all in its imminent war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Mahmood states, “Let the US do its dirty work. Its enemies are our friends.” The Guardian will later call this “a stunning display of disloyalty.” However, Sharifuddin Pirzada, Musharraf’s legal counselor, and a high-ranking Pakistani army officer will claim in a 2007 book that Musharraf in fact did not disagree. He tells his advisers, “Pakistan has been deluged by terrorism for decades. We have learned to live with it. The Americans, too, should get used to the taste of blood.” But Musharraf also sees a strategic opportunity to manipulate the situation for Pakistan’s benefit. Pirzada will later recall, “Musharraf saw that for Pakistan it was 1979 all over again.” This is reference to the start of the Soviet-Afghan war, that led to billions of dollars in aid for Pakistan. “‘We should offer up help,’ Musharraf said, ‘and, mark my words, we will receive a clean bill of health.’” [Guardian, 5/25/2002; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 313-314] Musharraf eventually silences the dissenting generals by suggesting that if Pakistan does not agree to the US demands, Pakistan’s long-time enemy India will gladly take the place of Pakistan in assisting the US. That evening, Musharraf speaks to Wendy Chamberlin, the US ambassador to Pakistan, and tells her that Pakistan has agreed to all of the US demands. However, he strongly hints that Pakistan needs immediate economic relief and an end to US economic sanctions in return. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 30-31] Musharraf has already offered the US unconditional help in its fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban (see September 13-15, 2001 and (Between 7:00 and 11:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). But just four days after this meeting, Musharraf gives a speech on Pakistani television implying that Pakistan’s alliance with the US is only a temporary and opportunistic necessity. He says, “I have done everything for Afghanistan and the Taliban when the whole world was against them. We are trying our best to come out of this critical situation without any damage to them” (see September 19, 2001).
Mark Anthony Stroman, a member of a white supremacist prison gang, murders Dallas store owner Waqar Hasan as he grills hamburgers in his store. Stroman will later tell a prison inmate that his murder of Hasan is his ninth crime against Muslims and Middle Easterners, and says he is murdering them in revenge for the 9/11 attacks (see October 4, 2001 and After). [Push Junction, 7/6/2011] Almost ten years later, Stroman will be executed for a similar murder (see July 20, 2011).
Shortly after 9/11, US investigators are finally able to access prisoner Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings. A German cell phone number is found in his address book. In Germany, cell phone buyers must present a passport or other official identification, so German police quickly discover that the number belongs to Karl Herweg of Dusseldorf, Germany. Looking at phone records, it is discovered that in the weeks before 9/11, Herweg called Mounir El Motassadeq, Zakariya Essabar, and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, all believed to be members of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, along with a few of the 9/11 hijackers. Additionally, Herweg called “Mohammed R.,” who remains publicly unknown but is believed to be a key 9/11 suspect. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] (Note that if this is the correct first name and initial, it could be a reference to Mohammed Rajih, a Yemeni whom German authorities will investigate for terrorist ties at some point before 2005, and who has links to some Hamburg cell figures—see 1998.) [Vidino, 2006, pp. 256] Herweg also called a satellite phone probably used by al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. However, police learn that no one in Dusseldorf has the name “Karl Herweg.” There is a couple living next door to the bogus address with the last name of Herweg, but they have no children and have never heard of any Karl Herweg. Police begin tapping Herweg’s phone. But when no new calls are made or received by early November 2001, the surveillance is discontinued. However, phone records show that at least one call is made with the phone afterwards. Herweg’s actual identity and his relationship to Moussaoui and the Hamburg cell will remain a mystery. In 2003, the Chicago Tribune will call Herweg “one of the most important figures in the continuing mystery that is Sept. 11.” [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003]
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