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Profile: 9/11 Commission

 
  

Positions that 9/11 Commission has held:



 

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9/11 Commission actively participated in the following events:

 
  

1998-1999: FAA Intelligence Unit Warns of Al-Qaeda Hijacking Threat      Complete 911 Timeline

       The FAA issues an advisory to airports and air carriers, setting forth its views on the hijacking threat. The advisory states that while conditions for terrorist hijackings of airliners had been less favorable in the 1980s and 1990s, “We believe that the situation has changed. We assess that the prospect for terrorist hijacking has increased and that US airliners could be targeted in an attempt to obtain the release of indicted or convicted terrorists imprisoned in the United States.” However, “the terrorist hijacking of a US airliner is more probable outside the United States due to access to safe havens.” [New York Times, 09/14/05; 9/11 Commission staff report, 8/26/04, p. 59]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Federal Aviation Administration
          

Late August 1998: CIA Learns That Mohammed Was Involved in the African Embassy Bombings      Complete 911 Timeline

       A foreign government sends the CIA a list of the names of individuals who flew into Nairobi before the al-Qaeda attack on the US embassy there (see August 7, 1998). Based on information from another agency, the CIA recognizes one of the passenger's names as an alias for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The other agency also describes Mohammed as being close to bin Laden. This information is given to the FBI and other US intelligence agencies. However, the 9/11 Commission claims that such information does not generate an aggressive investigative response. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Federal Bureau of Investigation, al-Qaeda, 9/11 Commission, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden
          

January 21-September 10, 2001: Transportation Secretary Says Bush Administration Does Nothing to Fight Terrorism      Complete 911 Timeline

       In 2003, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta will be asked by the 9/11 Commission, “Did this higher level of [terrorist] chatter [before 9/11] ... result in any action across the government? I take it your answer is no.” He replies, “That�s correct.” [Associated Press, 5/23/03 (C)]
People and organizations involved: Norman Mineta, 9/11 Commission
          

January 31, 2001: Bipartisan Commission Issues Final Report on Terrorism, but Conclusions Are Ignored      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Gary Hart (left) and Warren Rudman (right) testify before a Senate committee in 2002.
The final report of the US Commission on National Security/21st Century, co-chaired by former Senators Gary Hart (D) and Warren Rudman (R) is issued. The bipartisan report was put together in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Hart and Rudman personally brief National Security Adviser Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Powell on their findings. The report has 50 recommendations on how to combat terrorism in the US, but all of them are ignored by the Bush administration. According to Senator Hart, Congress begins to take the commission's suggestions seriously in March and April, and legislation is introduced to implement some of the recommendations. Then, “Frankly, the White House shut it down... The president said ‘Please wait, We're going to turn this over to the vice president’ ... and so Congress moved on to other things, like tax cuts and the issue of the day.” The White House announces in May that it will have Vice President Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism despite the fact that this commission had just studied the issue for 2 1/2 years. Interestingly, both this commission and the Bush administration were already assuming a new cabinet level National Homeland Security Agency would be enacted eventually, even as the public remained unaware of the term and the concept. [Salon, 9/12/01; Salon, 4/2/04] Hart is incredulous that neither he nor any of the other members of this commission are ever asked to testify before the 9/11 Commission. [Salon, 4/6/04]
People and organizations involved: Newt Gingrich, US Congress, Donald Rumsfeld, 9/11 Commission, Warren Rudman, Colin Powell, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Bush administration, Gary Hart, Commission on National Security/21st Century, Condoleezza Rice
          

August 6, 2001: Justice Department Reaffirms Wall Policy      Complete 911 Timeline

       In testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Attorney General Ashcroft complains, “[T]he single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents.” However, on this day, Ashcroft's Assistant Attorney General, Larry Thompson, writes a memo reaffirming the policy that is later criticized as this “wall.” [9/11 Commission Thompson Testimony, 12/8/03; Washington Post, 4/18/04]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, John Ashcroft
          

Before September 11, 2001: Key Counterterrorism Position Still Unfilled      Complete 911 Timeline

       The position of Deputy Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, the Defense Department post traditionally dealing the most with counterterrorism, still has not been filled since being vacated in January 2001 when Bush became president. Aides to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later tell the 9/11 Commission that “the new [Defense Department] team was focused on other issues” and not counterterrorism. [Newsweek, 3/24/04]
People and organizations involved: US Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, Central Intelligence Agency, 9/11 Commission
          

(After 9:00 a.m.): Indianapolis Flight Control Issues Alert to Look for Flight 77; FAA and NORAD Not Notified      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to the 9/11 Commission, shortly after 9:00 a.m., Indianapolis flight control begins to notify other government agencies that American 77 is missing and has possibly crashed. For instance, at 9:08 a.m., Indianapolis contacts Air Force Search and Rescue at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and tells them to look out for a downed aircraft. They also contact the West Virginia State Police, and ask whether they have any reports of a downed aircraft. However, they apparently do not notify the FAA or NORAD. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Langley Air Force Base, 9/11 Commission, Indianapolis flight control
          

(After 9:03 a.m.): Secret Service Agent Establishes Open Line with FAA      Complete 911 Timeline

       Soon after the second WTC tower is hit, a senior Secret Service agent who is responsible for coordinating the president's movements establishes an open line with his counterpart at the FAA. This FAA official tells him of further planes, on top of the two that have already crashed, that are unaccounted for and possibly hijacked. Although the Secret Service agent asks someone to pass this information on to the Secret Service's operations center, the 9/11 Commission says that either this does not happen or else the message is passed on but not disseminated. Therefore the information fails to reach agents assigned to the vice president and, consequently, “the Vice President was not evacuated at that time.” [9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/24/04, p. 464] However, some other accounts contradict this, saying the vice president is indeed evacuated from his White House office by Secret Service agents at around this time. [Telegraph, 12/16/01; ABC News, 9/14/02 (B); New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Secret Service, 9/11 Commission
          

(9:21-9:26 a.m.): United Airlines Dispatchers Advise Pilots to Secure Cockpit Doors; Flight 93 Gets the Message      Complete 911 Timeline

       At 9:21 a.m., United Airlines dispatchers are told to advise their flights to secure cockpit doors. Flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger has apparently already started doing this on his own a couple of minutes earlier. Sending electronic messages one by one, at 9:24 he sends a message to Flight 93 reading: “Beware of cockpit intrusion. Two aircraft in New York hit Trade Center buildings.” Ballinger claims that he was specifically instructed by superiors not to tell pilots why they needed to land (apparently he added the detail about the WTC against orders). [New York Observer, 6/17/04] Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl acknowledges the message two minutes later, replying, “Ed, confirm latest message please Jason.” This is the last vocal contact from the cockpit of Flight 93. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] Note that this formal warning is in addition to an informal one sent by Ballinger that reached Flight 93 around 9:00 a.m. In contrast to United Airlines, the 9/11 Commission finds no evidence that American Airlines sends such warnings to their pilots at any time during the hijackings.
People and organizations involved: Ed Ballinger, 9/11 Commission, American Airlines, United Airlines, Jason Dahl
          

(9:28 a.m.): Cleveland Flight Control Hears Sounds of Struggle as Flight 93 Is Hijacked      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Jason Dahl.
Flight 93 acknowledges a transmission from a Cleveland flight controller. This is the last normal contact with the plane. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] According to the 9/11 Commission, less than a minute later, the controller, and pilots of aircraft in the vicinity, hear “a radio transmission of unintelligible sounds of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin...” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Guardian, 10/17/01; Newsweek, 11/25/01] Someone, presumably pilot Jason Dahl, is overheard by controllers as he shouts, “Mayday!” [New York Times, 7/22/04 (B)] Seconds later, the controller responds: “Somebody call Cleveland?” Then there are more sounds of screaming and someone yelling, “Get out of here, get out of here.” [MSNBC, 7/30/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Observer, 12/2/01; Newsweek, 9/22/01; Toronto Sun, 9/16/01] Then the voices of the hijackers can be heard talking in Arabic. The words are later translated to show they are talking to each other, saying, “Everything is fine.” [Newsweek, 11/25/01] Later passenger phone calls describe two dead or injured bodies just outside the cockpit; presumably these are the two pilots. [New York Times, 7/22/04 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Cleveland flight control, Jason Dahl, 9/11 Commission
          

(9:32 a.m.): Flight 93 Hijacker Tells Passengers Bomb Is Onboard; Flight Controllers Overhear      Complete 911 Timeline

       A hijacker says over the radio to Flight 93's passengers: “Ladies and gentlemen, here is the captain, please sit down. Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb aboard.” Apparently, Cleveland flight controllers can understand about a minute of screams, before a voice again says something about a “bomb on board.” A hijacker says in broken English that they are returning to the airport. [MSNBC, 9/3/02; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; Newsweek, 9/22/01] According to the 9/11 Commission's account, the hijacker's voice says, “Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board.” The controller understands, but chooses to respond, “Calling Cleveland [flight control], you're unreadable. Say again, slowly.” Apparently there's no answer. The controller notifies his supervisor, who soon passes the notice to FAA headquarters. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Cleveland flight control, Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11 Commission
          

(Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.): Bush and Cheney Said to Confer on Shootdown Orders, 9/11 Commission Doubts Their Account      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to a 9/11 Commission staff report, Vice President Cheney is told that a combat air patrol has been established over Washington. Cheney then calls President Bush to discuss the rules of engagement for the pilots. Bush authorizes the shootdown of hijacked aircraft at this time. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] According to a Washington Post article, which places the call after 9:55 a.m., “Cheney recommended that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any such civilian airliners—as momentous a decision as the president was asked to make in those first hours.” Bush then talks to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to clarify the procedure, and Rumsfeld passes word down the chain of command. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] Cheney and Bush recall having this phone call, and National Security Adviser Rice recalls overhearing it. However, as the commission notes, “Among the sources that reflect other important events that morning there is no documentary evidence for this call, although the relevant sources are incomplete. Others nearby who were taking notes, such as the vice president's chief of staff, [I. Lewis ‘Scooter’] Libby, who sat next to him, and [Lynne] Cheney, did not note a call between the president and vice president immediately after the vice president entered the conference room.” The commission also apparently concludes that no evidence exists to support the claim that Bush and Rumsfeld talked about such procedures at this time. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Commission Chairman Thomas Kean says, “The phone logs don't exist, because they evidently got so fouled up in communications that the phone logs have nothing. So that's the evidence we have.” Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton says of the shootdown order, “Well, I'm not sure it was carried out.” [New York Daily News, 6/18/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (C)] Newsweek reports that it “has learned that some on the commission staff were, in fact, highly skeptical of the vice president's account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report. According to one knowledgeable source, some staffers ‘flat out didn't believe the call ever took place.’ ” According to a 9/11 Commission staffer, the report “was watered down” after vigorous lobbying from the White House. [Newsweek, 6/20/04] An account by Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek (who was overseeing NORAD's Colorado headquarters, where he claims to hear Bush give a shootdown order), as well as the order to empty the skies of aircraft, appears to be discredited. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01]
People and organizations involved: Lee Hamilton, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, 9/11 Commission, George W. Bush, Mike Jellinek
          

September 14, 2001: Lack of Debate About Poor Fighter Response on 9/11      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Miami Herald reports, “Forty-five minutes. That's how long American Airlines Flight 77 meandered through the air headed for the White House, its flight plan abandoned, its radar beacon silent... Who was watching in those 45 minutes? ‘That's a question that more and more people are going to ask,’ said one controller in Miami. ‘What the hell went on here? Was anyone doing anything about it? Just as a national defense thing, how are they able to fly around and no one go after them?’ ” [Miami Herald, 9/14/01] In the year after this article and a similar one in the Village Voice [Village Voice, 9/13/01] , there will be only one other US article questioning slow fighter response times, and that article notes the strange lack of articles on the topic. [Slate, 1/16/02] The fighter response issue finally makes news in 9/11 Commission hearings in 2004.
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission
          

September 19, 2001-Present: Claims of an Atta-Iraqi Spy Meeting Are Repeatedly Asserted and Denied      Complete 911 Timeline

       Media coverage relating to an alleged meeting between hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi spy named Ahmed al-Ani took place in Prague, Czech Republic, has changed repeatedly over time:
September 19, 2001: It is first reported that an April 8, 2001, meeting took place; Atta is named later. [Los Angeles Times, 9/19/01; CNN, 10/11/01]
October 20, 2001: The story is denied. [New York Times, 10/20/01]
October 27, 2001: The story is confirmed. [New York Times, 10/27/01]
October 27, 2001: It is claimed Atta met with Iraqi agents four times in Prague, plus in Germany, Spain, and Italy. [Times of London, 10/27/01]
November 12, 2001: Conservative columnist William Safire calls the meeting an “undisputed fact.” [New York Times, 11/12/01]
December 9, 2001: Vice President Cheney asserts that the existence of the meeting is “pretty well confirmed.” [Washington Post, 12/9/01]
December 16, 2001: The identities of both al-Ani and Atta, alleged to have been at the meetings, are disputed. [New York Times, 12/16/01]
January 12, 2002: It is claimed at least two meetings took place, including one a year earlier. [Daily Telegraph, 1/12/02]
February 6, 2002: It is reported that the meeting probably took place, but was not connected to the 9/11 attacks. [New York Times, 2/6/02]
March 15, 2002: Evidence that the meeting took place is considered between “slim” and “none.” [Washington Post, 3/15/02]
March 18, 2002: William Safire again strongly asserts that the meeting took place. [New York Times, 3/18/02]
April 28-May 2, 2002: The meeting is largely discredited. For example, the Washington Post quotes FBI Director Mueller stating that, “We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts,” yet no evidence that Atta left the country was found. According to the Post, “[a]fter months of investigation, the Czechs [say] they [are] no longer certain that Atta was the person who met al-Ani, saying ‘he may be different from Atta.’ ” [Washington Post, 5/1/02] Newsweek cites a US official who contends that, “Neither we nor the Czechs nor anybody else has any information [Atta] was coming or going [to Prague] at that time.” [Washington Post, 5/1/02; New York Times, 5/2/02; Newsweek, 4/28/02]
May 8, 2002: Some Czech officials continue to affirm the meeting took place. [Prague Post, 5/8/02]
May 9, 2002: William Safire refuses to give up the story, claiming a “protect-Saddam cabal” in the high levels of the US government is burying the story. [New York Times, 5/9/02]
July 15, 2002: The head of Czech foreign intelligence states that reports of the meeting are unproved and implausible. [Prague Post, 7/15/02]
August 2, 2002: With a war against Iraq growing more likely, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer suggests the meeting did happen, “despite deep doubts by the CIA and FBI.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/2/02]
August 19, 2002: Newsweek states: “The sole evidence for the alleged meeting is the uncorroborated claim of a Czech informant.” According to Newsweek, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is nonetheless pushing the FBI to have the meeting accepted as fact. [Newsweek, 8/19/02]
September 10, 2002: The Bush administration is no longer actively asserting that the meeting took place. [Washington Post, 9/10/02]
September 17, 2002: Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld “accept reports from Czech diplomats” that the meeting took place. [USA Today, 9/17/02]
September 23, 2002: Newsweek reports that the CIA is resisting Pentagon demands to obtain pictures of the alleged meeting from Iraqi exiles. One official says, “We do not shy away from evidence. But we also don't make it up.” [Newsweek, 9/23/02]
October 20, 2002: Czech officials, including President Vaclav Havel, emphatically deny that the meeting ever took place. It now appears Atta was not even in the Czech Republic during the month the meeting was supposed to have taken place. President Havel told Bush “quietly some time earlier this year” that the meeting did not happen. [New York Times, 10/21/02; UPI, 10/20/02]
December 8, 2002: Bush adviser Richard Perle continues to push the story, stating, “To the best of my knowledge that meeting took place.” [CBS News, 12/8/02]
July 9, 2003: Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmed al-Ani is captured by US forces in Iraq. [Washington Post, 7/9/03]
July 10, 2003: In a story confirming al-Ani's capture, ABC News cites US and British intelligence officials who have seen surveillance photos of al-Ani's meetings in Prague, and who say that there is a man who looks somewhat like Atta, but is not Atta. [ABC News, 7/10/03]
September 14, 2003: Vice President Cheney repeats the claims that Atta met with al-Ani in Prague on NBC's “Meet the Press.” [Washington Post, 9/15/03]
December 13, 2003: It is reported that al-Ani told interrogators he did not meet Atta in Prague. [Washington Post, 9/29/03; Reuters, 12/13/03]
June 16, 2004: The 9/11 Commission concludes that the meeting never happened. They claim cell phone records and other records show Atta never left Florida during the time in question. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/16/04 (B)]
July 17, 2004: Vice President Cheney says no one has “been able to confirm” the Atta meeting in Prague or to “to knock it down.” [CNN, 6/18/04]
People and organizations involved: Richard Perle, Vaclav Havel, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, Ari Fleischer, 9/11 Commission, Paul Wolfowitz, Mohamed Atta, Robert S. Mueller III
          

October 25, 2002: German-US Breakdown in Communications Hampers Anti-Terrorism Measures      Complete 911 Timeline

       PBS Newshour reports, “[German authorities] say they're not getting the cooperation they need from the authorities in the [US], and they're worried that a political dispute between Washington and Berlin is hampering their ability to protect the public... In Hamburg, the police say that breakdown in communications between the US and German governments has also led to a dramatic reduction in the amount of investigative help they're getting from the [US]” The Bush administration has not spoken to the German government since it won re-election four months earlier while openly opposing Bush's planned war on Iraq. Germans say existing prosecutions of 9/11 suspects are now threatened by the information breakdown. [Online Newshour, 10/25/02] The Germans helped capture suspected al-Qaeda operative Mohamed Heidar Zammar and turned him over to a third country, yet now they're learning very little from his interrogations, even though he has admitted to being involved in a plot to attack a consulate in Germany. A US State Department official denies there is any problem, aside from a few “bumps in the road.” [New York Times, 11/4/02] June 2004, German prosecutor Matthias Krauss, who investigated the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, will be scheduled to testify before the 9/11 Commission about both pre-9/11 communication problems between German and US intelligence officials and the US government�s cooperation with foreign governments prosecuting suspected terrorists in the post-9/11 period. However, he will unexpectedly cancel at the last minute. [Associated Press, 6/15/04]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Matthias Krauss, Bush administration, Germany, al-Qaeda
          

November 15, 2002: Congress Starts New 9/11 Investigation      Complete 911 Timeline

       Congress approves legislation creating an independent commission—the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States—to “examine and report on the facts and causes relating to the September 11th terrorist attacks” and “make a full and complete accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks.” President Bush signs it into law November 27, 2002. [US Department of State, 11/28/02] Bush originally opposed an independent commission (see May 23, 2002), but he changes his mind over the summer (see September 20, 2002) after political pressure. The Democrats concede several important aspects of the commission (such as subpoena approval) after the White House threatens to create a commission by executive order, over which it would have more control. Bush will appoint the commission chairman and he sets a strict time frame (18 months) for the investigation. [CNN, 11/15/02] The commission will only have a $3 million budget. Senator Jon Corzine (D) and others wonder how the commission can accomplish much with such a small budget. [Associated Press, 1/20/03] The budget is later increased (see March 26, 2003).
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Jon Corzine, US Congress, George W. Bush
          

November 27, 2002: Kissinger Named Chairman of New 9/11 Commission      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Henry Kissinger.
President Bush names Henry Kissinger as Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. Congressional Democrats appoint George Mitchell, former Senate majority leader and peace envoy to Northern Ireland and the Middle East, as vice chairman. Their replacements and the other eight members of the commission are chosen by mid-December. Kissinger served as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser for Presidents Nixon and Ford. [New York Times, 11/29/02] Kissinger's ability to remain independent is met with skepticism. [CNN, 11/30/02; Sydney Morning Herald, 11/29/02; Chicago Sun-Times, 12/13/02; Washington Post, 12/17/02; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/3/02] . He has a very controversial past. For instance, “Documents recently released by the CIA, strengthen previously-held suspicions that Kissinger was actively involved in the establishment of Operation Condor, a covert plan involving six Latin American countries including Chile, to assassinate thousands of political opponents.” He is also famous for an “obsession with secrecy.” [BBC, 4/26/02] It is even difficult for Kissinger to travel outside the US. Investigative judges in Spain, France, Chile, and Argentina seek to question him in several legal actions related to his possible involvement in war crimes, particularly in Latin America, Vietnam, Cambodia (see March 1969-1973), Laos (see 1969-1973), Bangladesh, Chile, and East Timor (see December 7, 1976). [BBC, 4/18/02; Village Voice, 8/15-21/01; Chicago Tribune, 12/1/02] The New York Times suggests, “Indeed, it is tempting to wonder if the choice of Mr. Kissinger is not a clever maneuver by the White House to contain an investigation it long opposed.” [New York Times, 11/29/02] The Chicago Tribune notes that “the president who appointed him originally opposed this whole undertaking.” Kissinger is “known more for keeping secrets from the American people than for telling the truth” and asking him “to deliver a critique that may ruin friends and associates is asking a great deal.” [Chicago Tribune, 12/5/02]
People and organizations involved: George Mitchell, 9/11 Commission, George W. Bush, Henry A. Kissinger
          

December 11, 2002: Mitchell Resigns from New 9/11 Commission      Complete 911 Timeline

      
George Mitchell.
George Mitchell resigns as vice chairman of the recently-created 9/11 investigative commission. Lee Hamilton, an Indiana congressman for more than 30 years and chairman of the committee which investigated the Iran-Contra affair, is named as his replacement. [CNN, 12/11/02] Mitchell cites time constraints as his reason for stepping down, but he also does not want to sever ties with his lawyer-lobbying firm, Piper Rudnick, or reveal his list of clients. Recent clients include the governments of Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. [Newsweek, 12/15/02]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, George Mitchell, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Lee Hamilton
          

December 13, 2002: Kissinger Resigns from New 9/11 Commission      Complete 911 Timeline

       Henry Kissinger resigns as head of the new 9/11 Commission. [Associated Press, 12/13/02; Associated Press, 12/13/02] Two days earlier, the Bush administration argued that Kissinger was not required to disclose his private business clients. [New York Times, 12/12/02] However, the Congressional Research Service insists that he does, and Kissinger resigns rather than reveal his clients. [Seattle Times, 12/14/02; MSNBC, 12/13/02] It is reported that Kissinger is (or has been) a consultant for Unocal, the oil corporation, and was involved in plans to build pipelines through Afghanistan (see September-October 1995). [Salon, 12/3/02; Washington Post, 10/5/98] Kissinger claims he did no current work for any oil companies or Mideast clients, but several corporations with heavy investments in Saudi Arabia, such as ABB Group, a Swiss-Swedish engineering firm, and Boeing Corp., pay him consulting fees of at least $250,000 a year. A Boeing spokesman said its “long-standing” relationship with Kissinger involved advice on deals in East Asia, not Saudi Arabia. Boeing sold $7.2 billion worth of aircraft to Saudi Arabia in 1995. [Newsweek, 12/15/02] In a surprising break from usual procedures regarding high-profile presidential appointments, White House lawyers never vetted Kissinger for conflicts of interest. [Newsweek, 12/15/02] The Washington Post says that after the resignations of Kissinger and Mitchell, the commission “has lost time” and “is in disarray, which is no small trick given that it has yet to meet.” [Washington Post, 12/14/02]
People and organizations involved: Henry A. Kissinger, Bush administration, Congressional Research Service, 9/11 Commission
          

December 16, 2002: Ex-Governor Kean replaces Kissinger as Chairman of New 9/11 Commission      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Thomas Kean.
President Bush names former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean as the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission after his original choice, Henry Kissinger, resigned (see December 13, 2002). [Washington Post, 12/17/02] In an appearance on NBC, Kean promises an aggressive investigation. “It's really a remarkably broad mandate, so I don't think we'll have any problem looking under every rock. I've got no problems in going as far as we have to in finding out the facts.” [Associated Press, 12/17/02] However, Kean plans to remain president of Drew University and devote only one day a week to the commission. He also claims he would have no conflicts of interest, stating: “I have no clients except the university.” [Washington Post, 12/17/02] However, he has a history of such conflicts of interest. Multinational Monitor has previously stated: “Perhaps no individual more clearly illustrates the dangers of university presidents maintaining corporate ties than Thomas Kean,” citing the fact that he is on the Board of Directors of Aramark (which received a large contract with his university after he became president), Bell Atlantic, United Health Care, Beneficial Corporation, Fiduciary Trust Company International, and others. [Multinational Monitor, 11/97]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, George W. Bush
          

January 27, 2003: 9/11 Commission Starts Off with Little Funding      Complete 911 Timeline

       The 9/11 Commission, officially titled the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, holds its first meeting in Washington. The commission has $3 million and only a year and a half to explore the causes of the attacks. By comparison, a 1996 federal commission to study legalized gambling was given two years and $5 million. [Associated Press, 1/27/03] Two months later the Bush administration grudgingly increases the funding to $12 million total (see March 26, 2003). Philip Zelikow, the director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and formerly in the National Security Council during George H. W. Bush's administration, is also appointed executive director of the commission. [Associated Press, 1/27/03] Zelikow cowrote a book with National Security Adviser Rice. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/03] A few days later, Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton says, “The focus of the commission will be on the future. We want to make recommendations that will make the American people more secure. ... We're not interested in trying to assess blame, we do not consider that part of the commission's responsibility.” [UPI, 2/6/03]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Philip Zelikow, Lee Hamilton, 9/11 Commission
          

March 26, 2003: Bush Turns Down Increased Budget for 9/11 Commission      Complete 911 Timeline

       Time reports that the 9/11 Commission has requested an additional $11 million to add to the $3 million for the commission, and the Bush administration has turned down the request. The request will not be added to a supplemental spending bill. A Republican member of the commission says the decision will make it “look like they have something to hide.” Another commissioner notes that the recent commission on the Columbia shuttle crash will have a $50 million budget. Stephen Push, a leader of the 9/11 victims' families, says the decision “suggests to me that they see this as a convenient way for allowing the commission to fail. they've never wanted the commission and I feel the White House has always been looking for a way to kill it without having their finger on the murder weapon.” The administration has suggested it may grant the money later, but any delay will further slow down the commission's work. Already, commission members are complaining that scant progress has been made in the four months since the commission started, and they are operating under a deadline. [Time, 3/26/03] Three days later, it is reported that the Bush administration has agreed to extra funding, but only $9 million, not $11 million. The commission agrees to the reduced amount. [Washington Post, 3/29/03] The New York Times criticizes such penny-pinching, saying, “Reasonable people might wonder if the White House, having failed in its initial attempt to have Henry Kissinger steer the investigation, may be resorting to budgetary starvation as a tactic to hobble any politically fearless inquiry.” [New York Times, 3/31/03]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, 9/11 Commission, Stephen Push
          

March 28, 2003: Independence of 9/11 Commission Called Into Question      Complete 911 Timeline

       An article highlights conflicts of interest amongst the commissioners on the 9/11 Commission. It had been previously reported that many of the commissioners had ties to the airline industry (see December 16, 2002), but a number have other ties. “At least three of the ten commissioners serve as directors of international financial or consulting firms, five work for law firms that represent airlines and three have ties to the US military or defense contractors, according to personal financial disclosures they were required to submit.” Bryan Doyle, project manager for the watchdog group Aviation Integrity Project says, “It is simply a failure on the part of the people making the selections to consider the talented pool of non-conflicted individuals.” Commission chairman Thomas Kean says that members are expected to steer clear of discussions that might present even the appearance of a conflict. [Associated Press, 3/28/03]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, Bryan Doyle
          

March 31, 2003: US Government Draws Harsh Criticism at First 9/11 Commission Hearing      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Mindy Kleinberg.
The 9/11 Commission has its first public hearing. The Miami Herald reports, “Several survivors of the attack and victims' relatives testified that a number of agencies, from federal to local, are ducking responsibility for a series of breakdowns before and during September 11.” [Miami Herald, 3/31/03] The New York Times suggests that the 9/11 Commission would never have been formed if it were not for the pressure of the 9/11 victims' relatives. [New York Times, 4/1/03] Some of the relatives strongly disagreed with statements from some commissioners that they would not place blame. For instance, Stephen Push states, “I think this commission should point fingers. ... Some of those people [who failed us] are still in responsible positions in government. Perhaps they shouldn't be.” [UPI, 3/31/03] The most critical testimony comes from 9/11 relative Mindy Kleinberg, but her testimony is only briefly reported on by a few newspapers. [UPI, 3/31/03; New Jersey Star-Ledger, 4/1/03; Newsday, 4/1/03; New York Times, 4/1/03; New York Post, 4/1/03] In her testimony, Kleinberg says, “It has been said that the intelligence agencies have to be right 100 percent of the time and the terrorists only have to get lucky once. This explanation for the devastating attacks of September 11th, simple on its face, is wrong in its value. Because the 9/11 terrorists were not just lucky once: They were lucky over and over again.” She points out the insider trading based on 9/11 foreknowledge, the failure of fighters to catch the hijacked planes in time, hijackers getting visas in violation of standard procedures, and other events, and asks how the hijackers could have been lucky so many times. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/31/03]
People and organizations involved: Mindy Kleinberg, Stephen Push, 9/11 Commission
          

April 24, 2003: 9/11 Committee Member Barred from Viewing Intelligence Material      Complete 911 Timeline

       9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer tries to review the transcripts of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. However, he learns that he has no permission to see them, even though he served on the Inquiry and had read the material before. [Washington Post, 4/26/03] Roemer says the arrangement is outrageous: “No entity, individual, or organization should sift through or filter our access to material.” [Associated Press, 4/30/03]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/11 Commission, Tim Roemer
          

July 8, 2003: 9/11 Commission Denounces Lack of Cooperation      Complete 911 Timeline

       A status report released by the 9/11 Commission shows that various government agencies are not cooperating fully with the investigation. Neither the CIA nor the Justice Department have provided all requested documents. Lack of cooperation on the part of the Department of Defense “[is] becoming particularly serious,” and the commission has received no responses whatsoever to requests related to national air defenses. The FBI, State Department, and Transportation Department receive generally positive reviews. [Associated Press, 7/9/03] Commissioner Tim Roemer complains, “We're not getting the kind of cooperation that we should be. We need a steady stream of information coming to us ... Instead, We're getting a trickle.” [Guardian, 7/10/03] Chairman Thomas Kean is also troubled by the Bush administration's insistence on having a Justice Department official present during interviews with federal officials. [Associated Press, 7/9/03] The 9/11 Commission is eventually forced to subpoena documents from the Defense Department and FAA (see October-November 2003).
People and organizations involved: US Department of Transportation, Bush administration, Thomas Kean, US Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tim Roemer, US Department of Defense, US Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, 9/11 Commission
          

October-November 2003: 9/11 Commission Subpoenas FAA and Pentagon for Missing Documents      Complete 911 Timeline

       The 9/11 Commission unanimously agrees to subpoena the FAA after it refuses to produce records relating to FAA notification to US air defenses concerning the hijacked planes on 9/11. The panel states, “This disturbing development at one agency has led the commission to reexamine its general policy of relying on document requests rather than subpoenas.” [Associated Press, 10/15/03] The commission also votes to subpoena the Pentagon for documents related to NORAD's fighter response on 9/11. The commission says it is “especially dismayed” by incomplete document production on the part of NORAD. The commission explains, “In several cases we were assured that all requested records had been produced, but we then discovered, through investigation, that these assurances were mistaken.” [Associated Press, 11/7/03]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Federal Aviation Administration, US Department of Defense, North American Aerospace Defense Command
          

October 21, 2003: 9/11 Commission Staff Meet Member of Able Danger Unit      Complete 911 Timeline

       Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, along with two members of the commission's staff, meets at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan with three individuals doing intelligence work for the US Defense Department. [CNN, 8/17/05] Among these is Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, an Army intelligence officer who worked closely with a military intelligence unit called Able Danger, which between fall 1999 and spring 2001 was tasked with assembling information about al-Qaeda networks around the world (see Fall 1999; January-March 2001) . According to Shaffer's own later account, he gives the commission staff a detailed account of what Able Danger was, and tells them, “We found two of the three cells which conducted 9/11, to include [Mohamed] Atta.” At the end of the meeting, Philip Zelikow approaches him and says, “This is important. We need to continue this dialogue when we get back to the states. ” [Government Security News, 9/05] Following the meeting, Zelikow calls back to the 9/11 Commission's headquarters in Washington to request that staff draft a document request, seeking information on Able Danger from the Department of Defense. [Kean-Hamilton statement, 8/12/05] According to Anthony Shaffer, “My understanding from talking to another member of the press is that [Zelikow's] call came into America at four o clock in the morning. He got people out of bed over this.” [Government Security News, 9/05] Shaffer subsequently tries contacting Philip Zelikow in January 2004 (see Early January 2004). Spokesmen for the commission members contradict Shaffer's account, claiming that, while they are told of the existence of Able Danger at this briefing, they aren't informed that it had identified Mohamed Atta and the other hijackers as threats. [New York Times, 8/10/05] An official statement says that a memorandum prepared by the commission staff after the meeting “does not record any mention of Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers, or any suggestion that their identities were known to anyone at DOD before 9/11. Nor do any of the three Commission staffers who participated in the interview, or the executive branch lawyer, recall hearing any such allegation.” [Kean-Hamilton statement, 8/12/05]
People and organizations involved: Able Danger, Anthony Shaffer, Philip Zelikow, US Department of Defense, Mohamed Atta, 9/11 Commission
          

November 12, 2003: 9/11 Commission and White House Agree to Terms of Access      Complete 911 Timeline

       Senators of both parties have been accusing the White House of stonewalling the 9/11 Commission by blocking its demands for documents despite threats of a subpoena. [Associated Press, 10/27/03] On this day, the White House and the 9/11 Commission strike a deal. The main issue is access to the presidential daily briefings given to President Bush. Under the deal, only some of the ten commissioners will be allowed to examine classified intelligence documents, and their notes will be subject to White House review. Some 9/11 victims' relatives complain that the agreement gives the White House too much power. The Family Steering Committee complains, “All ten commissioners should have full, unfettered, and unrestricted access to all evidence.” It urges the public release of “the full, official, and final written agreement.” [Associated Press, 11/13/03] Commissioner Max Cleland is unsatisfied with the deal and resigns a short time later (see December 9, 2003).
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, George W. Bush, 9/11 Commission
          

December 9, 2003: Bob Kerry Replaces Max Cleland on 9/11 Commission      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator who also served as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is appointed to the 9/11 Commission, replacing Max Cleland, who leaves the commission to accept a position on the board of the Export-Import Bank. [Washington Post, 12/10/03] Just before resigning, Cleland called the Bush administration's attempts to stonewall and “slow walk” the commission a “national scandal.” He criticized the commission for cutting a deal with the White House that compromised their access to information, and said, “I'm not going to be part of looking at information only partially. I'm not going to be part of just coming to quick conclusions. I'm not going to be part of political pressure to do this or not do that. I'm not going to be part of that. This is serious.” [Salon, 11/21/03]
People and organizations involved: Bob Kerrey, Max Cleland, 9/11 Commission, Bush administration, Export-Import Bank
          

Early January 2004: Able Danger Intelligence Officer Tries Contacting 9/11 Commission      Complete 911 Timeline

       Following an October 2003 meeting with three members of the 9/11 Commission's staff (see October 21, 2003), Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer tries contacting Philip Zelikow, the commission's executive director, as requested by Zelikow himself. Shaffer is an Army intelligence officer who worked closely with a military intelligence unit called Able Danger, which identified Mohamed Atta and three other future 9/11 hijackers in early 2000 (see January-February 2000). He phones Zelikow's number the first week of January 2004. The person who replies tells him, “I will talk to Dr. Zelikow and find out when he wants you to come in.” However, Shaffer receives no call back, so a week later he phones again. This time, the person who answers him says, “Dr. Zelikow tells me that he does not see the need for you to come in. We have all the information on Able Danger.” [Government Security News, 9/05] Yet the commission doesn't even receive the Able Danger documentation they had previously requested from the Defense Department until the following month (see February 2004). [Kean-Hamilton statement, 8/12/05]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, Anthony Shaffer, Philip Zelikow, Able Danger
          

February 2004: 9/11 Commission Receives Documentation Relating to Able Danger Program      Complete 911 Timeline

       The 9/11 Commission receives documents that it had requested from the Department of Defense, relating to a military intelligence unit called Able Danger, which had allegedly identified Mohamed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers more than a year before the attacks. [Norristown Times Herald, 8/13/05; New York Times, 8/9/05] The commission requested the documents in November 2003, after a meeting in Afghanistan with Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, an Army intelligence officer who had worked closely with the unit (see October 21, 2003). Some documents are given directly to the commission, others are available for review in a Department of Defense reading room, where commission staff make notes summarizing them. Some of the documents include diagrams of Islamic militant networks. However, an official statement later claims, “None of the documents turned over to the Commission mention Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers. Nor do any of the staff notes on documents reviewed in the DOD reading room indicate that Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers were mentioned in any of those documents. ” [Washington Post, 8/13/05; Kean-Hamilton statement, 8/12/05] Shaffer responds, “I'm told confidently by the person who moved the material over, that the Sept. 11 commission received two briefcase-sized containers of documents. I can tell you for a fact that would not be one-twentieth of the information that Able Danger consisted of during the time we spent.” [Fox News, 8/17/05]
People and organizations involved: Able Danger, US Department of Defense, Anthony Shaffer, 9/11 Commission
          

February 9, 2004: Full 9/11 Commission Allowed To View PDB Summaries      Complete 911 Timeline

       The 9/11 Commission gets greater access to classified intelligence briefings under a new agreement with the White House. The 10-member panel had been barred from reviewing notes concerning the presidential daily briefings taken by three of its own commissioners and the commission's director in December 2003. The new agreement allows all commission members the opportunity to read White House-edited versions of the summaries. The White House had faced criticisms for allowing only some commissioners to see the notes. Still, only three commissioners are allowed to see the original, unclassified documents. [Associated Press, 2/10/04]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Bush administration, Central Intelligence Agency
          

February 11, 2004: Hijackers Said to Use Short Knives, Not Box Cutters      Complete 911 Timeline

       It is reported the 9/11 Commission now believes that the hijackers used short knives instead of box cutters. The New York Observer comments, “Remember the airlines' first reports, that the whole job was pulled off with box cutters? In fact, investigators for the commission found that box cutters were reported on only one plane [Flight 77]. In any case, box cutters were considered straight razors and were always illegal. Thus the airlines switched their story and produced a snap-open knife of less than four inches at the hearing. This weapon falls conveniently within the aviation-security guidelines pre-9/11.” [New York Observer, 2/11/04] It was publicly revealed in late 2002 that box cutters were illegal on 9/11. [Associated Press, 11/11/02]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission
          

March 21, 2004: Counterterrorism Tsar Clarke Goes Public with Complaints Against Bush Response to Terrorism      Complete 911 Timeline

       Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” from 1998 until October 2001, ignites a public debate by accusing Bush of doing a poor job fighting al-Qaeda before 9/11. In a prominent 60 Minutes interview, he says, “I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. ... I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism.” He adds, “We had a terrorist organization that was going after us! Al-Qaeda. That should have been the first item on the agenda. And it was pushed back and back and back for months.” He complains that he was Bush's chief adviser on terrorism, yet he never got to brief Bush on the subject until after 9/11. [Salon, 3/24/04; Guardian, 3/23/04; CBS News, 3/21/04; CBS News, 3/20/04] The next day, his book Against All Enemies is released and becomes a best seller. [Washington Post, 3/22/04] He testifies before the 9/11 Commission a few days later (see March 24, 2004).
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, al-Qaeda, George W. Bush, Richard A. Clarke
          

March 24, 2004: Counterterrorism Tsar Clarke Gives High-Profile Testimony      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Richard Clarke sworn in before the 9/11 Commission.
Just a few days after releasing a new book, former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke testifies before the 9/11 Commission. His opening statement consists of little more than an apology to the relatives of the 9/11 victims. He says, “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you. For that failure, I would ask ... for your understanding and forgiveness.” Under questioning, he praises the Clinton administration, saying, “My impression was that fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al-Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration—certainly no higher priority.” But he's very critical of the Bush administration, stating, “By invading Iraq ... the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism.” He says that under Bush before 9/11, terrorism was “an important issue, but not an urgent issue. ... [CIA Director] George Tenet and I tried very hard to create a sense of urgency by seeing to it that intelligence reports on the al-Qaeda threat were frequently given to the president and other high-level officials. But although I continue to say it was an urgent problem, I don't think it was ever treated that way.” He points out that he made proposals to fight al-Qaeda in late January 2001. While the gist of them were implemented after 9/11, he complains, “I didn't really understand why they couldn't have been done in February [2001].” He says that with a more robust intelligence and covert action program, “we might have been able to nip [the plot] in the bud.” [Washington Post, 3/24/04; New York Times, 3/24/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04] It soon emerges that President Bush's top lawyer places a telephone call to at least one of the Republican members of the commission just before Clarke's testimony. Critics call that an unethical interference in the hearings. [Washington Post, 4/1/04 (B)] Democratic commissioner Bob Kerrey complains, “To call commissioners and coach them on what they ought to say is a terrible mistake.” [New York Daily News, 4/2/04]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Clinton administration, Richard A. Clarke, 9/11 Commission, George Tenet, al-Qaeda, Bob Kerrey
          

April 8, 2004: Rice Testifies Before the 9/11 Commission      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Condoleezza Rice sworn in before the 9/11 Commission.
National Security Adviser Rice testifies before the 9/11 Commission under oath and with the threat of perjury. The Bush administration originally opposed her appearance, but relented after great public demand. [Independent, 4/3/04] In her statement she repeats her claim that “almost all of the reports [before 9/11] focused on al-Qaeda activities outside the United States. ... The information that was specific enough to be actionable referred to terrorists operation overseas.” Moreover, she stresses that the “kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us.” But she concedes, “In fact there were some reports done in '98 and '99. I think I was—I was certainly not aware of them...” [Washington Post, 4/8/04 (C)] During heated questioning several subjects are discussed:
Why didn't counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke brief President Bush on al-Qaeda before September 11? Clarke says he had wished to do so, but Rice states, “Clarke never asked me to brief the president on counterterrorism.” [Washington Post, 4/8/04 (C)]
What was the content of the briefing President Bush received on August 6, 2001 (see August 6, 2001)? While Rice repeatedly underlines that it was “a historical memo ... not threat reporting,” Commissioners Richard Ben-Veniste and Tim Roemer ask her why then it cannot be declassified. [Washington Post, 4/8/04 (C)] Two days later the White House finally publishes it, and it is shown to contain more than just historical information.
Did Rice tell Bush of the existence of al-Qaeda cells in the US before August 6, 2001? Rice says that she does not remember whether she “discussed it with the president.” [Washington Post, 4/8/04 (C)]
Were warnings properly passed on? Rice points out, “The FBI issued at least three nationwide warnings to federal, state, and law enforcement agencies, and specifically stated that although the vast majority of the information indicated overseas targets, attacks against the homeland could not be ruled out. The FBI tasked all 56 of its US field offices to increase surveillance of known suspected terrorists and to reach out to known informants who might have information on terrorist activities.” But Commissioner Jamie Gorelick remarks, “We have no record of that. The Washington field office international terrorism people say they never heard about the threat, they never heard about the warnings.” [Washington Post, 4/8/04 (C)] Rice does not apologize to the families of the victims, as Clarke did weeks earlier. The Associated Press comments, “The blizzard of words in Condoleezza Rice's testimony Thursday did not resolve central points about what the government knew, should have known, did and should have done before the September 11 terrorist attacks.” [Associated Press, 4/8/04 (C)] The Washington Post calls “her testimony an ambitious feat of jujitsu: On one hand, she made a case that ‘for more than 20 years, the terrorist threat gathered, and America's response across several administrations of both parties was insufficient.’ At the same time, she argued that there was nothing in particular the Bush administration itself could have done differently that would have prevented the attacks of September 11, 2001—that there was no absence of vigor in the White House's response to al-Qaeda during its first 233 days in office. The first thesis is undeniably true; the second both contradictory and implausible.” [Washington Post, 4/9/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, 9/11 Commission, Bush administration, Jamie Gorelick, Richard Ben-Veniste, Tim Roemer, al-Qaeda, Richard A. Clarke, George W. Bush, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

April 29, 2004: Bush and Cheney Privately Meet with 9/11 Commission; Decline to Provide Testimony Under Oath      Complete 911 Timeline

      
There were no pictures allowed of the Bush and Cheney joint testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Here are Commissioners Thomas Kean, Fred Fielding, and Lee Hamilton preparing to begin the testimony.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney appear for three hours of private questioning before the 9/11 Commission. (Former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore met privately and separately with the commission earlier in the month. [New York Times, 4/30/04; Washington Post, 4/30/04] ) The commission permits Bush and Cheney to appear together, in private, and not under oath. The testimony is not recorded. Commissioners can take notes, but the notes are censored by the White House. [Knight Ridder, 3/31/04; New York Times, 4/3/04; Newsweek, 4/2/04] The commission drew most of their questions from a list submitted to the White House before the interview, but few details about the questions or the answers given are available. [Washington Post, 4/29/04] Two commissioners, Lee Hamilton and Bob Kerrey, leave the session early for other engagements. They claim they had not expected the interview to last more than the previously agreed upon two-hour length. [New York Times, 5/1/04]
People and organizations involved: Lee Hamilton, Bob Kerrey, 9/11 Commission, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, George W. Bush
          

May 11, 2004: Administration Gives Top Prisoner Access to Some, Denies Custody to Others      Complete 911 Timeline

       In a secret agreement with the White House, the 9/11 Commission obtains the right to question at least two top al-Qaeda leaders in US custody. The two men are believed to be Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, two accused masterminds of the 2001 attacks. [Baltimore Sun, 5/12/04] The results of the commission's questioning of these suspects are published in a 9/11 Staff Statement released in June 2004. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/16/04 (B)] However, in an ironic twist, during a 9/11-related lawsuit hearing held in June, US authorities refuse to acknowledge whether or not they have Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in custody. [Associated Press, 6/15/04; Associated Press, 4/23/04] Insurance companies representing 9/11 victims had requested that the US Justice Department serve a summons against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, but a judge rules that the US government does not have to disclose whether it is holding alleged terrorists in custody. [Associated Press, 4/23/04; Associated Press, 6/15/04]
People and organizations involved: US Department of Justice, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, 9/11 Commission, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al-Qaeda
          

June 16, 2004: 9/11 Commission Gives Account of Prisoner Interrogations      Complete 911 Timeline

       The 9/11 Commission releases a new report on how the 9/11 plot developed. Most of their information appears to come from interrogations of prisoners Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a key member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell. In this account, the idea for the attacks appears to have originated with Mohammed. In mid-1996, he met bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef in Afghanistan. He presented several ideas for attacking the US, including a version of the 9/11 plot using ten planes (presumably an update of Operation Bojinka's second phase plot (see February 1995).). Bin Laden does not commit himself. In 1999, bin Laden approves a scaled-back version of the idea, and provides four operatives to carry it out: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Khallad bin Attash, and Abu Bara al Taizi. Attash and al Taizi drop out when they fail to get US visas. Alhazmi and Almihdhar prove to be incompetent pilots, but the recruitment of Mohamed Atta and the others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell solves that problem. Bin Laden wants the attacks to take place between May and July 2001, but the attacks are ultimately delayed until September. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/16/04 (B)] However, information such as these accounts resulting from prisoner interrogations is seriously doubted by some experts, because it appears they only began cooperating after being coerced or tortured. For instance, it is said that Mohammed was “waterboarded” (see September 11, 2002) a technique in which his head is pushed under water until he nearly drowns. Information gained under such duress often is unreliable. Additionally, there is a serious risk that the prisoners might try to intentionally deceive. [New York Times, 6/17/04] One CIA report of his interrogations is called, “Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's Threat Reporting—Precious Truths, Surrounded by a Bodyguard of Lies.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/23/04 (B)] The commission itself expresses worry that Mohammed could be trying to exaggerate the role of bin Laden in the plot to boost bin Laden's reputation in the Muslim world. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/16/04 (B)] Most of what these prisoners have said is uncorroborated from other sources. [New York Times, 6/17/04 (E)]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Osama bin Laden, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
          

June 20, 2004: 9/11 Commission Figure Says Pakistan Was 'Up to Their Eyeballs' with Taliban and al-Qaeda      Complete 911 Timeline

       “An unnamed senior staff member” on the 9/11 Commission tells the Los Angeles Times that, before 9/11, Pakistani officials were “up to their eyeballs” in collaboration with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. As an example, this source says of bin Laden moving to Afghanistan in 1996, “He wouldn't go back there without Pakistan's approval and support, and had to comply with their rules and regulations.” From “day one,” the ISI helped al-Qaeda set up an infrastructure, and jointly operated training camps. The article further notes that what the commission will publicly say on this is just the "tip of the iceberg" of the material they've been given on the matter. [Los Angeles Times, 6/20/04] In fact, the commission's final report released a month later will barely mention the ISI at all. [9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/24/04]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Taliban, al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden
          

July 12, 2004: 9/11 Commission Staff Meet with Navy Officer Involved with Able Danger Unit      Complete 911 Timeline

       Ten days before the 9/11 Commission releases its final report, a senior member of its staff, Dietrich Snell, accompanied by another commission staff member, meets at one of the commission's Washington, DC offices with a US Navy officer who worked with a US Army intelligence program called Able Danger, which had been tasked with assembling information about al-Qaeda networks around the world. This officer, Captain Scott Phillpott, tells them he saw an Able Danger document in 2000 that described Mohamed Atta as part of a Brooklyn al-Qaeda cell. He complains that this information about Atta, and information about other alleged members of the Brooklyn cell, was deleted from the document soon after he saw it, due to the concerns of Department of Defense lawyers. However, despite having this meeting with Phillpott, and having met previously with an Army intelligence officer who was also involved with Able Danger (see October 21, 2003), the 9/11 Commission makes no mention of the unit in their final report. The commissioners later claim that Phillpott's information “[does] not mesh with other conclusions” they are drawing from their investigation. Consequently, the commission staff conclude “that the officer's account [is] not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation.” Able Danger is not mentioned in their final report, they claim, because “the operation itself did not turn out to be historically significant.” [Associated Press, 8/11/05; New York Times, 8/11/05; New York Times, 8/13/05; Kean-Hamilton statement, 8/12/05; New York Times, 8/22/05; Washington Post, 8/13/05] Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer additionally claims, “Captain Phillpott actually told the 9-11 Commission about the fact that Able Danger discovered information regarding the Cole attack. ... There was information that Able Danger found that related to al-Qaeda planning an attack. That information unfortunately didn't get anywhere either. So that is another clue that was given to the 9-11 Commission to say, hey, this [Able Danger] capability did some stuff, and they chose not to even look at that.” [Jerry Doyle Show, 9/20/05]
People and organizations involved: US Department of Defense, Anthony Shaffer, al-Qaeda, Able Danger, Mohamed Atta, Scott Phillpott, Dietrich Snell, 9/11 Commission
          

July 16, 2004: 9/11 Commission Chairman's Comments Lead to Flurry of Reporting on Iran, None on Pakistan      Complete 911 Timeline

       Shortly before the 9/11 Commission is due to release its final report (see July 22, 2004), Commission Chairman Thomas Kean says, “We believe. . . . that there were a lot more active contacts, frankly, [between al-Qaeda and] Iran and with Pakistan than there were with Iraq.” [Time, 7/16/04] The US media immediately runs prominent stories on the Commission's evidence regarding Iran and nearly completely ignores evidence regarding Pakistan. The Commission's final report mentions that around ten of the hijackers passed through Iran in late 2000 and early 2001. At least some Iranian officials turned a blind eye to the passage of al-Qaeda agents, but there was no evidence that the Iranian government had any foreknowledge or involvement in the 9/11 plot. [Reuters, 7/18/04; Time, 7/16/04] In the wake of these findings, President Bush states of Iran, “As to direct connections with September 11, we're digging into the facts to determine if there was one.” This puts Bush at odds with his own CIA, which has seen no Iran-9/11 ties. [Los Angeles Times, 7/20/04] Bush has long considered Iran part of his “axis of evil,” and there has been talk of the US attacking or overthrowing the Iranian government. [Reuters, 7/18/04] Provocative articles appear, such as one in the Daily Telegraph titled, “Now America Accuses Iran of Complicity in World Trade Center Attack.” [Daily Telegraph, 7/18/04] Yet, while this information on Iran makes front page news in most major newspapers, evidence of a much stronger connection between Pakistan and 9/11 is nearly completely ignored. For instance, only UPI reports on a document suggesting high-level Pakistani involvement in the 9/11 attacks that is revealed this same week. [UPI, 7/22/04] Furthermore, the 9/11 Commission's final report will contain almost nothing on Pakistan's ties to al-Qaeda, despite evidence given to the Commission that, according to one commissioner speaking to the Los Angeles Times, showed that Pakistan was “up to their eyeballs” in intrigue with al-Qaeda. [9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/22/04; Los Angeles Times, 6/20/04]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda, Pakistan, Iran, Thomas Kean
          

July 22, 2004: 9/11 Commission Finds No Insider Trading      Complete 911 Timeline

       In a footnote contained in its Final Report, the 9/11 Commission dismissed allegations of insider trading in the days preceding 9/11. According to the Final Report, the put options of the parent companies of United Airlines were placed by a “US-based institutional investor with no conceivable ties to al-Qaeda” “as part of a trading strategy that also included buying 115,000 shares of American on September 10.” With respect to the highly suspicious trading on the parent company of American Airlines, the Commission stated that much of the trades were “traced to a specific US-based options trading newsletter, faxed to its subscribers on Sunday, September 9, which recommended these trades.” According to the Commission, “The SEC and the FBI, aided by other agencies and the securities industry, devoted enormous resources to investigating this issue, including securing the cooperation of many foreign governments. These investigators have found that the apparently suspicious consistently proved innocuous.” [9/11 Commission, 7/22/2004, pp 499]
People and organizations involved: Securities and Exchange Commission, al-Qaeda, American Airlines, 9/11 Commission, United Airlines, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

July 24, 2004: 9/11 Commission Report Fails to Mention Possible ISI Connections to 9/11      Complete 911 Timeline

       Despite previous leaks to the media showing the 9/11 Commission was given information showing Pakistani officials were “up to their eyeballs” in collaboration with the Taliban and al-Qaeda before 9/11 [Los Angeles Times, 6/14/04] , and even reports of a document given to the commission claiming the “ISI was fully involved in devising and helping the entire [9/11 plot]” [UPI, 7/22/04] , the 9/11 Commission's Final Report released on this day rarely mentions the ISI at all. The only significant mention is a brief comment that the ISI was the Taliban's “primary patron.” ISI Director Mahmood Ahmed is mentioned only twice, both in the context of post-9/11 diplomacy. Saeed Sheikh is not mentioned at all. The report notes that details of the 9/11 plot were widely known by the Taliban leadership, but fails to consider if the Taliban shared that knowledge or involvement with their “primary patron.” [9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/24/04] Indeed, far from criticizing Pakistan, the commission praises the country for its support in the war on terrorism, and suggests that the US should greatly increase its foreign aid there. [Associated Press, 7/24/04]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Taliban, Saeed Sheikh, Mahmood Ahmed, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, 9/11 Commission
          

October 2004: Harper's Magazine Cover Story Slams 9/11 Commission Report      Complete 911 Timeline

      
The cover of Harper's Magazine, October 2004, depicting the whitewashing of the 9/11 Commission.
Bucking the trend of generally positive reviews of the 9/11 Commission's final report, Harper's Magazine publishes a cover story harshly criticizing the report. The story opines, “The plain, sad reality ... is that The 9/11 Commission Report, despite the vast quantity of labor behind it, is a cheat and a fraud. It stands as a series of evasive maneuvers that infantilize the audience, transform candor into iniquity, and conceal realities that demand immediate inspection and confrontation. ... In the course of blaming everybody a little, the Commission blames nobody—blurs the reasons for the actions and hesitations of successive administrations, masks choices that, fearlessly defined, might actually have vitalized our public political discourse.” [Harper's, 10/04]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Commission Report
          

February 10, 2005: Censored Version of Critical 9/11 Report Completed Before Presidential Elections Is Finally Released      Complete 911 Timeline

       A report by the 9/11 Commission on the FAA and 9/11 is publicly released. The fact that the report reveals nearly half of all FAA daily briefings between April and early September 2001 mentioned al-Qaeda, bin Laden, or both causes headlines (see April 1, 2001-September 10, 2001). However, the report was actually completed in August 2004 but was held up by the Bush administration. Some speculate that the publication of the report was delayed until after the November 2004 presidential election to help Bush get reelected. For instance, 9/11 victim's relative Carol Ashley states, “I'm just appalled that this was withheld for five months. That contributes to the idea that the government knew something and didn't act, it contributes to the conspiracy theories out there.” Representative Henry Waxman (D) asks for a hearing on whether the Bush administration played politics with the report's release, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives doesn't allow such a hearing. [Associated Press, 2/11/05] Additionally, the released version of this report is heavily censored in some areas. The 9/11 Commission asserts that the whole report should be released, but the Bush administration is blocking their efforts to release the censored portions. Politicians, 9/11 victims' relatives, open-government advocates, and others call for the release of the entire report, but to no avail. [New York Times, 2/11/05]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Federal Aviation Administration, Bush administration, Henry A. Waxman, 9/11 Commission
          

September 13, 2005: Revised Version of 9/11's Commission's FAA Report Released; Some Material Still Blacked Out      Complete 911 Timeline

       A new version of a report by the 9/11 Commission on the FAA and 9/11, which was completed in August 2004, is publicly released. A heavily censored version of the same report came out in February 2005 (see February 10, 2005). Commission members complained that the deleted material included information crucial to understanding what went wrong on 9/11. The newly released version restores dozens of portions of the report, but numerous references to shortcomings in aviation security remain blacked out. Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the former heads of the 9/11 Commission, state: “While we still believe that the entire document could be made available to the public without damaging national security, we welcome this step forward.” Commission officials say they were perplexed by the White House's original attempts to black out material that they considered trivial or mundane. [New York Times, 09/14/05; Associated Press, 9/13/05]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Kean, Federal Aviation Administration, Lee Hamilton, 9/11 Commission
          

September 14, 2005: Former 9/11 Commission Members Dismiss Able Danger Evidence      Complete 911 Timeline

       Former members of the 9/11 Commission dismiss recent allegations regarding a secret military intelligence unit called Able Danger, which had been set up in 1999 to bring together information about al-Qaeda. Several former members of the unit have come forward claiming the program identified Mohamed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers more than a year before the attacks (see August 17, 2005; August 22-September 1, 2005). The 9/11 Commission has been criticized for not mentioning Able Danger in its final report. In response, its former chairman, Thomas Kean, claims there is no evidence that anyone in the government knew about Mohamed Atta before 9/11, and there are no documents that verify the claims made by former members of the unit. However, the Pentagon has recently confirmed that documents associated with Able Danger were destroyed in accordance with regulations about gathering intelligence on people inside the US. Another former commissioner, Slade Gorton, says, “Bluntly, it just didn't happen and that's the conclusion of all 10 of us.” But a spokesman for Rep. Curt Weldon (R), who helped bring to light the existence of the program, says that none of the commissioners met with anyone from Able Danger, “yet they choose to speak with some form of certainty without firsthand knowledge.” [Fox News, 9/16/05; Associated Press, 9/15/05] The commission's claim that no one in the US knew about Mohamed Atta before 9/11 is further contradicted by reports stating that the CIA had been tracking him while he was still in Germany, early in 2000 (see January-May 2000). And soon after 9/11, Newsweek reported US officials stating that Atta “had been known as [an associate] of Islamic terrorists” well before 9/11. [Newsweek, 9/20/01]
People and organizations involved: Slade Gorton, Thomas Kean, Able Danger, Mohamed Atta, Curt Weldon, 9/11 Commission
          

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