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Before 9/11

Warning Signs (228)
Foreign Intelligence Warnings (27)
Insider Trading (36)
Counterterrorism Before 9/11 (181)
Able Danger (39)
Military Exercises (38)
Hunt for bin Laden (73)
Pipeline Politics (54)

Al-Qaeda Members

Al-Qaeda in Germany (42)
Alhazmi and Almihdhar (74)
Other 9/11 Hijackers (48)
Marwan Alshehhi (21)
Mohamed Atta (37)
Ziad Jarrah (9)
Hani Hanjour (15)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (33)
Zacarias Moussaoui
Nabil al-Marabh (10)

Geopolitics and 9/11

Pakistani ISI (126)
Randy Glass (7)
Sibel Edmonds (6)
Saeed Sheikh (3)
Mahmood Ahmed (3)
Drugs (21)
Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden Family (110)
Bin Laden Family (33)
Israel (33)
Iraq (49)
US Dominance (34)

Day of 9/11

All day of 9/11 events (401)
Flight AA 11 (62)
Flight UA 175 (49)
Flight AA 77 (70)
Flight UA 93 (105)
George Bush (66)
Dick Cheney (24)
Donald Rumsfeld (24)
Richard Clarke (22)

The Post-9/11 World

Afghanistan (49)
Investigations (166)
9/11 Congressional Inquiry (0)
9/11 Commission (0)
Other 9/11 Investigations (0)
Other events (79)
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Complete 911 Timeline: Zacarias Moussaoui

 
  

Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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1995: French Intelligence Begin Compiling Moussaoui's Ties to Terrorism

       French intelligence begins tracking Zacarias Moussaoui, who is a French national. Over the next few years they develop a substantial dossier on him, including information demonstrating that he has links to al-Qaeda, has made several journeys to Afghanistan, and has undertaken training there at a terrorism camp. This information will be passed to the FBI's Minnesota field office (see August 22, 2001), and to the counterterrorism section at FBI headquarters in late August 2001. [Seattle Times, 7/7/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, al-Qaeda, France
          

1999: French Observe Moussaoui Traveling Between London, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

      
Zacarias Moussaoui in 1989.
Zacarias Moussaoui, living in London, is observed by French intelligence making several trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan. French investigators later claim the British spy agency MI5 was alerted and requested to place Moussaoui under surveillance. The request appears to have been ignored. [Independent, 12/11/01]
People and organizations involved: France, UK Security Service, Zacarias Moussaoui
          

September-October 2000: Moussaoui Visits Malaysia After CIA Stops Surveillance There

      
Yazid Sufaat.
Zacarias Moussaoui visits Malaysia twice, and stays at the very same condominium where the January al-Qaeda meeting (see January 5-8, 2000) was held. [CNN, 8/30/02; Los Angeles Times, 2/2/02; Washington Post, 2/3/02] After that meeting, Malaysian intelligence keeps watch on the condominium at the request of the CIA. However, the CIA stops the surveillance before Moussaoui arrives, spoiling a chance to expose the 9/11 plot by monitoring Moussaoui's later travels. The Malaysians later say they were surprised by the CIA's lack of interest. “We couldn't fathom it, really,” Rais Yatim, Malaysia's Legal Affairs minister, told Newsweek. “There was no show of concern.” [Newsweek, 6/2/02] While Moussaoui is in Malaysia, Yazid Sufaat, the owner of the condominium, signs letters falsely identifying Moussaoui as a representative of his wife's company. [Washington Post, 2/3/02; Reuters, 9/20/02] When Moussaoui is later arrested in the US about one month before the 9/11 attacks, this letter in his possession could have led investigators back to the condominium and the connections with the January 2000 meeting attended by two of the hijackers. [USA Today, 1/30/02] Moussaoui's belongings also contained phone numbers that could have linked him to Ramzi Bin al-Shibh (and his roommate, Mohamed Atta), another participant in the Malaysian meeting. [Associated Press, 12/12/01 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Mohamed Atta, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Yazid Sufaat, Rais Yatim, Zacarias Moussaoui, Malaysian Secret Service, Central Intelligence Agency
          

October 2000-February 2001: Moussaoui Travels to London and Afghanistan

      
Zacarias Moussaoui passing through a London airport (date unknown).
Zacarias Moussaoui had been staying in Malaysia so that he could take flight training classes at the Malaysian Flying Academy in Malacca. However, he is unhappy with the quality of training there. He takes the $35,000 given to him by his hosts, Yazid Sufaat and Hambali, and spends it to buy fertilizer to construct bombs. Then he gives up and travels to London in early December, where he meets with Ramzi Bin al-Shibh (who stays in London from December 2 to 9). Hambali sends a messenger to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Afghanistan to complain about Moussaoui's attitude. On December 9, Moussaoui leaves London. He makes his way to Afghanistan and meets with Mohammed. Mohammed decides to send him to take flight training classes in the US instead. He is given $35,000 in cash to pay for flying lessons by someone in Pakistan. After he enters the US in February, bin al-Shibh wires him another $14,000 from Germany. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03; Washington Post, 3/28/03; Knight Ridder, 9/9/02]
People and organizations involved: Yazid Sufaat, Zacarias Moussaoui, Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
          

February 23-June 2001: Moussaoui Takes Lessons at Flight School Previously Used by al-Qaeda

       Zacarias Moussaoui flies to the US. Three days later, he starts flight training at the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma. (Other Islamic extremists had previously trained at the same flight school or other schools in the area (see September 1999)). He trains there until May, but does not do well and drops out before getting a pilot's license. His visa expires on May 22, but he does not attempt to renew it or get another one. He stays in Norman, arranging to change flight schools, and frequently exercising in a gym. [MSNBC, 12/11/01; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02] According to US investigators, would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh later says he meets Moussaoui in Karachi (Pakistan) in June 2001. [Washington Post, 11/20/02]
People and organizations involved: Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Airman Flight School, Zacarias Moussaoui
          

July 28, 2001: Captured Operative Had Links That Could Have Led to Moussaoui, 9/11 Plot

      
Djamel Beghal.
High-level al-Qaeda operative Djamel Beghal is arrested in Dubai on his way back from Afghanistan. Earlier in the month the CIA sent friendly intelligence agencies a list of al-Qaeda agents they wanted to be immediately apprehended, and Beghal was on the list (see July 3, 2001). Beghal quickly starts to talk, and tells French investigators about a plot to attack the American embassy in Paris. Crucially, he provides new details about the international-operations role of top al-Qaeda deputy Abu Zubaida, whom he had been with a short time before. [New York Times, 12/28/01 (B); Time, 8/4/02] One European official says Beghal talks about “very important figures in the al-Qaeda structure, right up to bin Laden's inner circle. [He] mention[s] names, responsibilities and functions—people we weren't even aware of before. This is important stuff.” [Time, 11/12/01] One French official says of Beghal's interrogations, “We shared everything we knew with the Americans.” [Time, 5/19/02] The New York Times later reports that, “Enough time and work could have led investigators from Mr. Beghal to an address in Hamburg where Mohamed Atta and his cohorts had developed and planned the Sept. 11 attacks.” Beghal had frequently associated with Zacarias Moussaoui. However, although Moussaoui is arrested (see August 15, 2001) around the same time that Beghal is revealing the names and details of all his fellow operatives, Beghal is apparently not asked about Moussaoui. [Time, 8/4/02; New York Times, 12/28/01 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Djamel Beghal, Mohamed Atta, al-Qaeda
          

August 1, 2001: Atta, Alshehhi, and Moussaoui Possibly Meet in Oklahoma City Motel

       A motel owner in Oklahoma City later claims that Zacarias Moussaoui and hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi all come to his motel on this day. Although the FBI has investigated this lead, they have not commented on it, and prosecutors have not attempted to use the incident as evidence in their case against Moussaoui. It is widely admitted that the case against Moussaoui is not strong (for instance, Newsweek states: “there's nothing that shows Moussaoui ever had contact with any of the 9/11 hijackers” [Newsweek, 8/5/02] ). The LA Weekly speculates the FBI may want to ignore this lead because it “could force the FBI to reopen its investigation of Middle Eastern connections to the 1995 Oklahoma City blast, because convicted bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols reportedly stayed at the same motel, interacting with a group of Iraqis during the weeks before the bombing.” [La Weekly, 8/2/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Marwan Alshehhi, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Zacarias Moussaoui, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohamed Atta
          

Early August 2001: Moussaoui Moves to Minnesota

       Zacarias Moussaoui moves from Oklahoma to Minnesota some time in early August, in order to attend flight school training there. [MSNBC, 12/11/01; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui
          

August 13-15, 2001: Moussaoui Immediately Raises Suspicions at Flight School

       Zacarias Moussaoui trains at the Pan Am International Flight School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he pays $8,300 ($1500 by credit card and the remainder in cash) to use a Boeing 474 Model 400 aircraft simulator. After just one day of training most of the staff is suspicious that he is a terrorist, especially after they discuss with him “how much fuel [is] on board a 747-400 and how much damage that could cause if it hit[s] anything.” Staff members call the FBI with their concerns later that day. [New York Times, 2/8/02; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02] They are suspicious because:
In contrast to all the other students at this high-level flight school, he has no aviation background, little previous training, and no pilot's license. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02]

He wants to fly a 747 not because he plans to be a pilot, but as an “ego boosting thing.” [New York Times, 10/18/02]
Yet within hours of his arrival, it is clear he “was not some affluent joyrider.” [New York Times, 2/8/02]
He is “extremely” interested in the operation of the plane's doors and control panel. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02]
He also is very keen to learn the protocol for communicating with the flight tower, despite having no plans to become an actual pilot. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
He is evasive and belligerent when asked about his background. When an instructor, who notes from his records that Moussaoui is from France, attempts to greet him in French, Moussaoui appears not to understand, saying that he had spent very little time in France and that he is from the Middle East. The instructor considers it odd that Moussaoui did not specify the Middle Eastern country. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 12/21/01; Washington Post, 1/2/02]

He tells a flight instructor he is not a Muslim, but the instructor senses he is lying about this. [New Yorker, 9/30/02]

He says he would “love” to fly a simulated flight from London to New York, raising fears he has plans to hijack such a flight. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02]
His original e-mail to the flight school similarly stated he wanted to be good enough to fly from London to New York. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
He pays for thousands of dollars in expenses from a large wad of cash. [New York Times, 2/8/02]

He seems determined to pack a large amount of training in a short period for no apparent reason. [New York Times, 2/8/02]

He mostly practices flying in the air, not taking off or landing (although reports claiming he did not want to take off or land at all appear to be an exaggeration). [New York Times, 2/8/02; Slate, 5/21/02; Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 12/21/01; New York Times, 5/22/02]
Failing to get much initial interest from the FBI, the flight instructor tells the FBI agents, “Do you realize how serious this is? This man wants training on a 747. A 747 fully loaded with fuel could be used as a weapon!” [New York Times, 2/8/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Pan Am International Flight School, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

August 15, 2001: Moussaoui Is Arrested; FBI Headquarters Uninterested

      
Zacarias Moussaoui.
Based on the concerns of flight school staff, Zacarias Moussaoui is arrested and detained in Minnesota on the excuse of an immigration violation. [Time, 5/27/02] The FBI confiscates his possessions, including a computer laptop, but does not have a search warrant to search through them. When arresting him, they note that he possesses two knives, fighting gloves, and shin guards, and has prepared “through physical training for violent confrontation.” An FBI interview of him adds more concerns. For example, he states that he is in the US working as a “marketing consultant” for a computer company, but is unable to provide any details of his employment. Nor can he convincingly explain his $32,000 bank balance. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02; MSNBC, 12/11/01] An FBI report states that when asked about his trips to Pakistan, “the questioning caused him to become extremely agitated, and he refused to discuss the matter further.” The report also notes, “Moussaoui was extremely evasive in many of his answers.” [CNN, 9/28/02] His roommate is interviewed on the same day, and tells agents that Moussaoui believes it is “acceptable to kill civilians who harm Muslims,” that Moussaoui approves of Muslims who die as “martyrs, and that Moussaoui might be willing to act on his beliefs.” [Washington Post, 5/24/02] Minnesota FBI agents quickly become frustrated at the lack of interest in the case from higher ups, and grow increasingly concerned. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
People and organizations involved: FBI Minnesota field office, Zacarias Moussaoui, FBI Headquarters
          

August 17 and 31, 2001: Tenet Briefs President Bush; Fails to Mention Moussaoui

       CIA records show that Tenet briefed the president twice in August—once in Crawford, Texas, on August 17, and once in Washington, on August 31. By the time of the second briefing, Tenet is aware of Zacarias Moussaoui's arrest , but, apparently, he fails to tell Bush about it. [Washington Post, 4/15/04 (B)] In April 2004, Tenet will testify under oath before the 9/11 Commission that he had no direct communication with President Bush during the month of August. [New York Times, 4/15/04] This is quickly discovered to be untrue. A CIA spokesperson will then claim, “He momentarily forgot [about the briefings].” [Washington Post, 4/15/04 (B)]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, George Tenet, Zacarias Moussaoui, 9/11 Commission
          

August 21, 2001: Local FBI Pleads with Headquarters to Warn Secret Service About Moussaoui

       The Minnesota FBI office e-mails FBI headquarters on this day, saying it is “imperative” that the Secret Service be warned of the danger that a plot involving Zacarias Moussaoui might pose to the president's safety. However, no such warning is ever sent. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02; New York Times, 10/18/02]
People and organizations involved: FBI Minnesota field office, George W. Bush, Zacarias Moussaoui, FBI Headquarters, Secret Service
          

August 22, 2001: France Gives FBI Information on Moussaoui; FBI Headquarters Still Refuses Search Warrant

       Responding to the request of the FBI's Minnesota field office, the French provide intelligence information they have compiled over the past several years relating to Zacarias Moussaoui. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02] The French say Moussaoui has ties with radical Islamic groups and recruits men to fight in Chechnya. They believe he spent time in Afghanistan in 1999. He had been on a French watch list for several years, preventing him from entering France. A French justice official later says that “the government gave the FBI ‘everything we had’ ” on Moussaoui, “enough to make you want to check this guy out every way you can. Anyone paying attention would have seen he was not only operational in the militant Islamist world but had some autonomy and authority as well.” [Time, 5/27/02] A senior French investigator later says, “Even a neophyte working in some remote corner of Florida, would have understood the threat based on what was sent.” [Time, 8/4/02] The French Interior Minister also emphasizes, “We did not hold back any information.” [ABC News, 9/5/02] However, senior officials at FBI headquarters still maintain that the information “was too sketchy to justify a search warrant for his computer.” [Time, 8/4/02]
People and organizations involved: France, FBI Minnesota field office, FBI Headquarters, Zacarias Moussaoui
          

August 23 or 24, 2001: CIA Senior Staff Sits on Moussaoui Memo

       CIA Director Tenet and CIA senior staff are briefed about the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui in a briefing entitled “Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly.” However, apparently others such as President Bush and the White House counterterrorism group are not told about Moussaoui until after the 9/11 attacks begin. Even the acting director of the FBI is not told, despite the fact that lower level FBI officials who made the arrest tried to pass on the information. Tenet later maintains that there was no reason to alert President Bush or to share information about Moussaoui during an early September 2001 Cabinet-level meeting on terrorism, saying, “All I can tell you is, it wasn't the appropriate place. I just can't take you any farther than that.” [Washington Post, 4/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Zacarias Moussaoui, George W. Bush, George Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency
          

August 23, 2001: FBI Agents Visit Moussaoui's Former Flight School; Fail to Make Connections

       Two agents from the Oklahoma City FBI office visit Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, to learn about Zacarias Moussaoui's training there earlier in the year. One of these agents had visited the same school in September 1999 to learn more about Ihab Ali, an al-Qaeda agent who trained there in 1993. Apparently, this agent forgets the connection when he visits the school to look into Moussaoui. He later admits he should have connected the two cases. [Boston Globe, 9/18/01; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] The staff director of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry later states, “No one will ever know whether a greater focus on the connection between these events would have led to the unraveling of the September 11 plot.” [New York Daily News, 9/25/02] The Oklahoma City office also does not connect Moussaoui to a memo that had come from its office in May 1998 warning that “large numbers of Middle Eastern males” were receiving flight training in Oklahoma and could be planning terrorist attacks (see May 15, 1998). Furthermore, Moussaoui's Oklahoma roommate Hussein Attas is also under suspicion at this time. The person who attempted to post bond for Attas had previously been the subject of an extensive investigation by the same Oklahoma City FBI office. That person had numerous ties to extremist groups and was involved in recruiting for a Palestinian militant group. This connection is also not noticed. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]
People and organizations involved: FBI Oklahoma City field office, FBI Minnesota field office, Hussein Attas, Airman Flight School, Zacarias Moussaoui, Ihab Ali
          

August 23-27, 2001: Minnesota FBI Agents Convinced Moussaoui Plans to Do Something with a Plane, Undermined by FBI Headquarters

       In the wake of the French intelligence report (see August 22, 2001) on Zacarias Moussaoui, FBI agents in Minnesota are “in a frenzy” and “absolutely convinced he [is] planning to do something with a plane.” One agent writes notes speculating Moussaoui might “fly something into the World Trade Center.” [Newsweek, 5/20/02] Minnesota FBI agents become “desperate to search the computer lap top” and “conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects,” especially since Moussaoui acted as if he was hiding something important in the laptop when arrested. [Time, 5/27/02; Time, 5/21/02] They decide to apply for a search warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). “FISA allows the FBI to carry out wiretaps and searches that would otherwise be unconstitutional” because “the goal is to gather intelligence, not evidence.” [Washington Post, 11/4/01] Standards to get a warrant through FISA are so low that out of 10,000 requests over more than 20 years, not a single one was turned down. Previously, when the FBI did not have a strong enough case, it allegedly simply lied to FISA. In May 2002, the FISA court complained that the FBI had lied in at least 75 warrant cases during the Clinton administration, once even by the FBI director. [New York Times, 8/27/02] However, as FBI Agent Coleen Rowley later puts it, FBI headquarters “almost inexplicably, throw[s] up roadblocks” and undermines their efforts. Headquarters personnel bring up “almost ridiculous questions in their apparent efforts to undermine the probable cause.” One Minneapolis agent's e-mail says FBI headquarters is “setting this up for failure.” That turns out to be correct. [Time, 5/21/02; Time, 5/27/02]
People and organizations involved: Coleen Rowley, FBI Minnesota field office, FBI Headquarters, World Trade Center, Clinton administration, Zacarias Moussaoui
          

August 24, 2001: Frustrated Minnesota FBI Asks CIA for Help with Moussaoui Case

       Frustrated with the lack of response from FBI headquarters about Zacarias Moussaoui, the Minnesota FBI contacts an FBI agent working with the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center, and asks for help. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02] On this day, the CIA sends messages to stations and bases overseas requesting information about Moussaoui. The message says that the FBI is investigating Moussaoui for possible involvement in the planning of a terrorist attack and mentions his efforts to obtain flight training. It also suggests he might be “involved in a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the US” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02] It calls him a “suspect 747 airline attacker” and a “suspect airline suicide hijacker” —showing that the form of the 9/11 attack is not a surprise, at least to the CIA. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02] FBI headquarters responds by chastising the Minnesota FBI for notifying the CIA without approval. [Time, 5/21/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Central Intelligence Agency, FBI Minnesota field office, FBI Headquarters
          

August 27, 2001: Minnesota FBI Suffers Further Resistance and Does Not Receive Phoenix Memo

       An agent at the FBI headquarters' Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) tells the FBI Minnesota office supervisor that the supervisor is getting people “spun up” over Zacarias Moussaoui. The supervisor replies that he is trying to get people at FBI headquarters “spun up” because he is trying to make sure that Moussaoui does “not take control of a plane and fly it into the World Trade Center.” He later alleges the headquarters agent replies, “[T]hat's not going to happen. We don't know he's a terrorist. You don't have enough to show he is a terrorist. You have a guy interested in this type of aircraft—that is it.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02] Three weeks earlier, Dave Frasca, the head of the RFU unit, had received Ken Williams' memo (see July 10, 2001) expressing concern about terrorists training in US flight schools and he also knew all about the Moussaoui case, but he apparently was not “spun up” enough to connect the two cases. [Time, 5/27/02] Neither he nor anyone else at FBI headquarters who saw Williams' memo informed anyone at the FBI Minnesota office about it before 9/11. [Time, 5/21/02]
People and organizations involved: Radical Fundamentalist Unit, David Frasca, Zacarias Moussaoui, FBI Headquarters, World Trade Center, FBI Minnesota field office
          

August 28, 2001: Minnesota FBI's Moussaoui Warrant Request Is Edited, Then Dropped by FBI Deputy General Counsel

       A previously mentioned unnamed RFU (Radical Fundamentalism Unit) agent edits the Minnesota FBI's request (see August 23-27, 2001) for a FISA search warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui's possessions. Minnesota is trying to prove that Moussaoui is connected to al-Qaeda through a rebel group in Chechnya, but the RFU agent removes information connecting the Chechnya rebels to al-Qaeda. Not surprisingly, the FBI Deputy General Counsel who receives the edited request decides on this day that the connection to al-Qaeda is insufficient to allow an application for a search warrant through FISA, so FISA is never even sought. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02] According to a later memo written by Minneapolis FBI legal officer Coleen Rowley, FBI headquarters is to blame for not getting the FISA warrant because of this rewrite of the request. She states: “I feel that certain facts ... have, up to now, been omitted, downplayed, glossed over and/or mischaracterized in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI and/or perhaps even for improper political reasons.” She asks, “Why would an FBI agent deliberately sabotage a case?” The superiors acted so strangely that some agents in the Minneapolis office openly joked that these higher-ups “had to be spies or moles ... working for Osama bin Laden.” FBI headquarters also refuses to contact the Justice Department to try to get a search warrant through ordinary means. Rowley and others are unable to search Moussaoui's computer until after the 9/11 attacks. Rowley later notes that the headquarters agents who blocked the Minnesota FBI were promoted after 9/11. [Sydney Morning Herald, 5/28/02; Time, 5/21/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, US Department of Justice, al-Qaeda, Zacarias Moussaoui, FBI Headquarters, FBI Minnesota field office, Coleen Rowley, Radical Fundamentalist Unit
          

September 4, 2001: FBI Dispatches Vague Message to US Intelligence Community About Moussaoui Investigation

       FBI headquarters dispatches a message to the entire US intelligence community about the Zacarias Moussaoui investigation. According to a later Congressional inquiry, the message notes “that Moussaoui was being held in custody but [it does not] describe any particular threat that the FBI thought he posed, for example, whether he might be connected to a larger plot. [It also does] not recommend that the addressees take any action or look for any additional indicators of a terrorist attack, nor [does] it provide any analysis of a possible hijacking threat or provide any specific warnings.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/24/02] The FAA is also given the warning, but the FAA decides not to issue a security alert to the nation's airports. An FAA representative says, “He was in jail and there was no evidence he was connected to other people.” [New York Post, 5/21/02] This is in sharp contrast to an internal CIA warning sent out on August 24 based on even less information, which stated Moussaoui might be “involved in a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the US” (see August 24, 2001). [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02] It turns out that prior to this time, terrorist Ahmed Ressam had started cooperating with investigators. He had trained with Moussaoui in Afghanistan and willingly shared this information after 9/11. The FBI dispatch, with its notable lack of urgency and details, failed to prompt the agents in Seattle holding Ressam to ask him about Moussaoui. Had the connection between these two been learned before 9/11, presumably the search warrant for Moussaoui would have been approved and the 9/11 plot might have unraveled. [Sunday Times, 2/3/02]
People and organizations involved: FBI Headquarters, Federal Aviation Administration, Central Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Ressam, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Zacarias Moussaoui
          

September 5-6, 2001: French Again Warn US About Moussaoui

       French and US intelligence officials hold meetings in Paris on combating terrorism. The French newspaper Le Monde claims that the French try again to warn their US counterparts about Zacarias Moussaoui, “but the American delegation ... paid no attention ... basically concluding that they were going to take no one's advice, and that an attack on American soil was inconceivable.” The US participants also say Moussaoui's case is in the hands of the immigration authorities and is not a matter for the FBI. [Independent, 12/11/01; Village Voice, 5/28/02] The FBI arranges to deport Moussaoui to France on September 17, so the French can search his belongings and tell the FBI the results. Due to the 9/11 attacks, the deportation never happens. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Central Intelligence Agency, France, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

September 11, 2001: The 9/11 Attack: 3,000 Die in New York City and Washington, D.C.

      
The September 11, 2001 attacks. From left to right: The World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93 crash.
The 9/11 attack: Four planes are hijacked, two crash into the WTC, one into the Pentagon, and one crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. Nearly 3,000 people are killed.
People and organizations involved: United Airlines, al-Qaeda, American Airlines, Pentagon, World Trade Center
          

September 11, 2001: FBI Agents Obtain Warrant for Moussaoui Too Late

       Zacarias Moussaoui reportedly cheers as he watches the 9/11 attack on television inside a prison, where he is being held on immigration charges. [BBC, 12/12/01] Within an hour of the attacks, the Minnesota FBI uses a memo written to FBI headquarters shortly after Moussaoui's arrest to ask permission from a judge for the search warrant they have been desperately seeking. Even after the attacks, FBI headquarters is still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the similarities between the actual attack and the fears expressed by the local FBI agents before 9/11 as a mere coincidence. [Time, 5/21/02] However, a federal judge approves the warrant that afternoon. [New Yorker, 9/30/02] Minnesota FBI Agent Coleen Rowley notes 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, 5/21/02] The search uncovers information suggesting Moussaoui may have been planning an attack using crop dusters, but it does not reveal any direct connection to the 9/11 hijackers. However, investigators find some German telephone numbers and the name “Ahad Sabet.” The numbers allow them to determine the name is an alias for Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Mohamed Atta's former roommate, and they find he wired Moussaoui money. They also find a document connecting Moussaoui with the Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, a lead that could have led to hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. [MSNBC, 12/11/01; New Yorker, 9/30/02] 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, 5/27/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Mohamed Atta, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Yazid Sufaat, Khalid Almihdhar, FBI Minnesota field office, FBI Headquarters, Nawaf Alhazmi, Coleen Rowley
          

December 11, 2001: Moussaoui Indicted, Could Face Death Penalty

       Zacarias Moussaoui is criminally indicted for his role in the 9/11 attacks. If he is found guilty, he could be sentenced to death. [MSNBC, 12/11/01; Associated Press, 12/12/01] Moussaoui has admitted to being a member of al-Qaeda, but while he has been involved in militant activity, many have expressed doubts that he was involved in the 9/11 plot.
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Zacarias Moussaoui
          

December 19, 2001: Sufaat Arrested, May Hold Key to 9/11-Crop Duster Mystery

      
Yazid Sufaat.
Yazid Sufaat is arrested in Malaysia. Sufaat is a Malaysian who owns a condominium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where a January 2000 al-Qaeda summit was held (see January 5-8, 2000). He also graduated in 1987 from a California university with a degree in biological sciences. According to interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Hambali, and other captured prisoners, Sufaat was given the lead in developing chemical and biological weapons for al-Qaeda. But he apparently had been unable to buy the kind of anthrax he wanted for an attack. Zacarias Moussaoui, Mohamed Atta, and other al-Qaeda operatives appeared to have had an interest in crop dusters before 9/11. It has been suggested that this interest served to further Sufaat's biological weapons plot. This would especially make sense in the case of Moussaoui, since he stayed with Sufaat in Sufaat's Malaysia apartment for two months in late 2000. Sufaat remains in Malaysian custody. The US has only been able to directly interview him on one brief occasion, in November 2002. [Washington Post, 3/28/03; CNN, 10/10/03; Chicago Tribune, 12/7/03]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Yazid Sufaat, al-Qaeda, Mohamed Atta, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
          

May 21, 2002: FBI Whistleblower Reveals Slip-Ups in Moussaoui Arrest Before 9/11

      
Coleen Rowley.
Minnesota FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, upset with what she considers lying from FBI Director Mueller and others in the FBI about the handling of the Zacarias Moussaoui case, releases a long memo she wrote about the case two weeks before 9/11. [Time, 5/21/02] She also applies for whistleblower protection. Time magazine calls the memo a “colossal indictment of our chief law-enforcement agency's neglect” and says it “raises serious doubts about whether the FBI is capable of protecting the public—and whether it still deserves the public's trust.” [Time, 5/27/02] Three days after 9/11, Mueller made statements such as “There were no warning signs that I'm aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country.” Coleen Rowley and other Minnesota FBI agents “immediately sought to reach [Mueller's] office through an assortment of higher-level FBI [headquarters] contacts, in order to quickly make [him] aware of the background of the Moussaoui investigation and forewarn [him] so that [his] public statements could be accordingly modified.” Yet Mueller continued to make similar comments, including in a Senate hearing on May 8, 2002. [Time, 5/21/02; New York Times, 5/30/02] Finally, after Rowley's memo becomes public, Mueller states, “I cannot say for sure that there wasn't a possibility we could have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers.” He also admits: “I have made mistakes occasionally in my public comments based on information or a lack of information that I subsequently got.” [New York Times, 5/30/02] Time magazine later names Rowley one of three “Persons of the Year” for 2002, along with fellow whistleblowers Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom and Sherron Watkins of Enron. [Time, 12/22/02; Time, 12/22/02]
People and organizations involved: Coleen Rowley, FBI Minnesota field office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, Zacarias Moussaoui
          

June 3, 2002: FBI Downplays Significance of Moussaoui's E-mails

       Former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy states: “Even in the [Zacarias] Moussaoui case, there's lots of uproar over the fact that the—there was a failure to obtain a warrant to search his computer. Well, the facts now are that warrant was ultimately obtained. The computer was searched and guess what? There was nothing significant on there pertaining to 9/11.” [CNN, 6/3/02] Three days later, the Washington Post reports: “Amid the latest revelations about FBI and CIA lapses prior to the September 11 attacks, congressional investigators say it is now clear that the evidence that lay unexamined in Zacarias Moussaoui's possession was even more valuable than previously believed. A notebook and correspondence of Moussaoui's not only appears to link him to the main hijacking cell in Hamburg, Germany, but also to an al-Qaeda associate in Malaysia whose activities were monitored by the CIA more than a year before the terror attacks on New York and Washington.” [Washington Post, 6/6/02] Slate magazine later gives Kennedy the “Whopper of the Week” award for his comment. [Slate, 6/7/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, al-Qaeda, Weldon Kennedy
          

September 5, 2002: French Believe Moussaoui Was Prepared for Second Wave of Attacks

       Based on the recent interrogations of al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui's al-Qaeda associates, including his alleged handler, French intelligence believes Moussaoui was not part of the 9/11 attacks, but was being readied for a second wave of attacks. Says one French official: “Moussaoui was going to be a foot soldier in a second wave of attacks that was supposed to culminate in early 2002 with simultaneous bombings against US embassies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as several hijackings in the United States.” However, the US has charged him with being the “20th hijacker” who planned to be on Flight 77 in the 9/11 attack. [ABC News, 9/5/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, France
          

September 24, 2002: Discovered Business Card Helps Case Against Moussaoui

       Federal prosecutors say a business card found in the wreckage of Flight 93 provides a link between alleged conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and hijacker Ziad Jarrah. Supposedly a business card belonging to Jarrah has a phone number written on it, and Moussaoui had once called that number. It was not explained what the number is, whose phone number it was, when Moussaoui called it, when the card was found, or how investigators know the card belonged to Jarrah. [MSNBC, 9/24/02] Interestingly, this find comes just as the case against Moussaoui is facing trouble. For instance, one month earlier, USA Today reported that investigators had found no link between Moussaoui and the other hijackers. [USA Today, 8/29/02] Prosecutors have been trying to get permission to play the Flight 93 cockpit voice recordings to the jury, but on September 13, the judge said, “the recordings appear to have marginal evidentiary value while posing unfair prejudice to the defendant.” [Washington Post, 9/25/02]
People and organizations involved: Ziad Jarrah, Zacarias Moussaoui
          

September 25, 2002: FBI Director Denies Moussaoui Leads Could Have Prevented 9/11

       In an interview with CBS, FBI Director Mueller states, “I can tell you there are things I wish we had done differently. That there are things we should have followed up on. But the bottom line is I do not believe that we would have been able to prevent 9/11.” Speaking about the Zacarias Moussaoui case, he says, “That took us several months, to follow that lead, and it also required the full support of the German authorities, and it would have been very, I think impossible to have followed that particular lead in the days between the time in which Moussaoui was detained and September 11th.” [CBS News, 9/25/02] This negativism is in sharp contrast to a previous statement he made on May 21, 2002 (see May 21, 2002), as well as the opinion of many rank and file FBI officers, some of whom have made a chart showing how all the hijackers could have been caught if certain leads had been followed. [Newsweek, 6/2/02] Mueller's opinion on the Moussaoui case is contradicted by many, including FBI agents working on that case. [Time, 5/21/02] The media also does not agree. For instance the Independent suggested information on Moussaoui's computer “might have been enough to expose the Hamburg cell, which investigators believe was the key planning unit for 11 September.” [Independent, 12/11/01]
People and organizations involved: Robert S. Mueller III, Zacarias Moussaoui, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

September 30, 2002: No Plea Bargain Sought in Case Against Moussaoui

      
Zacarias Moussaoui.
Seymour Hersh of New Yorker magazine reveals that, despite a weak case against Zacarias Moussaoui, no federal prosecutor has discussed a plea bargain with him since he was indicted in November 2001. Hersh reports that “Moussaoui's lawyers, and some FBI officials, remain bewildered at the government's failure to pursue a plea bargain.” Says a federal public defender, “I've never been in a conspiracy case where the government wasn't interested in knowing if the defendant had any information—to see if there wasn't more to the conspiracy.” Apparently a plea bargain isn't being considered because Attorney General Ashcroft wants nothing less than the death penalty for Moussaoui. One former CIA official claims, “They cast a wide net and [Moussaoui] happened to be a little fish who got caught up in it. They know it now. And nobody will back off.” A legal expert says, “It appears that Moussaoui is not competent to represent himself, because he doesn't seem to understand the fundamentals of the charges against him, but I am starting to feel that the rest of us are crazier ... we may let this man talk himself to death to soothe our sense of vulnerability.” [New Yorker, 9/30/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, John Ashcroft, Seymour Hersh
          

November 20, 2002: Moussaoui Served as Backup Only

       The US claims that captured would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh has said that Zacarias Moussaoui met 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Afghanistan during the winter of 2000-01 and that Mohammed gave Moussaoui the names of US contacts. [Washington Post, 11/20/02] Bin al-Shibh and Mohammed agreed Moussaoui should be nothing more than a backup figure in the 9/11 plot because he could not keep a secret and was too volatile and untrustworthy. Supposedly, bin al-Shibh wired Moussaoui money intended for other terrorist activities, not 9/11. [USA Today, 11/20/02] There have been suggestions that the US may move Moussaoui's case from a civilian court to a military tribunal, which would prevent bin al-Shibh from testifying, but the issue remains undecided. [USA Today, 11/20/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
          

January 30, 2003: Government Reveals Fifth-Jet Theory

       The government reveals in a closed-door court hearing that recent interrogations of top al-Qaeda prisoners indicate that Zacarias Moussaoui may have been part of a plot to hijack a fifth plane on the day of 9/11, perhaps with the White House as its target. This is in contrast to the government's original accusation that Moussaoui was to be the “20th hijacker” on Flight 93. Because Moussaoui does not have a security clearance, he cannot see the classified evidence against him, but he later learns of this “fifth-jet theory” while reading an inadequately blacked-out transcript of the hearing. [Time, 10/19/03; CNN, 8/8/03]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui
          

February 26, 2003: Whistleblower Believes FBI Not Prepared for New Terrorist Threats

       Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistleblower who was proclaimed Time magazine's Person of the Year in 2002, sends another public letter to FBI Director Mueller. She believes the FBI is not prepared for new terrorist attacks likely to result from the upcoming Iraq war. She also says counterterrorism cases are being mishandled. She claims the FBI and the Justice Department have not questioned captured al-Qaeda suspects Zacarias Moussaoui and Richard Reid about their al-Qaeda contacts, choosing instead to focus entirely on prosecution. She writes, “Lack of follow-through with regard to Moussaoui and Reid gives a hollow ring to our ‘top priority’ —i.e., preventing another terrorist attack. Moussaoui almost certainly would know of other al-Qaeda contacts, possibly in the US, and would also be able to alert us to the motive behind his and Mohamed Atta's interest in crop-dusting.” Moussaoui's lawyer also says the government has not attempted to talk to Moussaoui since 9/11. [New York Times, 3/5/03 (B); New York Times, 3/6/03 (C)]
People and organizations involved: Coleen Rowley, Robert S. Mueller III, US Department of Justice, Zacarias Moussaoui, Richard C. Reid
          

March 27, 2003: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Says Moussaoui Not Involved in 9/11

       The Washington Post reports that information obtained from interrogations of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed further undermines the government's case against Zacarias Moussaoui for his alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Apparently, Mohammed told his interrogators that Moussaoui was not part of the 9/11 hijacker group, but was in the US for a second wave of attacks that were planned for early 2002. Details of any such plan have not been revealed. Legal experts agree that at the very least, “on the death penalty, [this information] is quite helpful to Moussaoui.” In spite of Mohammed's revelations, the government still feels that it can convict Moussaoui of being involved in a conspiracy with al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 3/28/03]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
          

May 14, 2003: Judge Rules That Moussaoui Should Have Same Access to Top al-Qaeda Prisoners as Prosecution

       In January 2003, Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that Zacarias Moussaoui must be allowed to conduct a videotaped deposition of bin al-Shibh. However, the government still refuses to allow Moussaoui access to bin al-Shibh, stating that even its own lawyers do not have access to question al-Qaeda captives. But on May 12, the government revealed that lawyers have been submitting questions to al-Qaeda detainees about Moussaoui's role in the 9/11 plot. Two days later, Judge Brinkema demands to know, “If circumstances have changed such that submission of written questions is now possible, when did the circumstances change and why was neither this court nor the district court so informed at the time?” She also suggests that since the prosecution can submit questions to al-Qaeda operatives in custody, Moussaoui should also be allowed to do the same. [New York Times, 5/15/04]
People and organizations involved: Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Zacarias Moussaoui, Leonie Brinkema
          

April 22, 2004: Death Penalty Allowed by Appeals Court

       In spite of multiple rulings beginning in 2002 that Zacarias Moussaoui must be allowed to question witnesses, including Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, the government has continued to refuse any access to high-level al-Qaeda prisoners. Because of this, Judge Brinkema sanctions the government by ruling in October 2003 that the prosecution could not seek the death penalty. [Time, 10/19/03] Prosecutors have appealed the decision and, on this day, a federal appeals panel restores the government's right to seek the death penalty. However, the same ruling hands a partial victory to Moussaoui, ordering prosecutors to work out a method that would permit Moussaoui to question three high-level prisoners. CBS News reports that the judge ruled, “Moussaoui could have access to information from three al-Qaeda prisoners [Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi] who may be able to exonerate him.” [CBS News, 4/23/04] As a result of the appeals decision, the government will file a motion in July 2004, seeking to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of Moussaoui. The motion explains that the evaluation would only be used to counter any defense strategy to spare Moussaoui the death penalty by citing his mental condition. The motion states, “Like most capital cases, the mental condition of the defendant is likely to play a significant rule during the penalty phase.” [Guardian, 7/7/04; CBS News, 4/23/04]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Leonie Brinkema
          

March 22, 2005: Ruling Prohibits Moussaoui Access to Top al-Qaeda Prisoners, but Issue Remains Unresolved

       Zacarias Moussaoui wants captured al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh to testify in his trial. However, an appeals court in April 2004 had only allowed indirect access to those prisoners, and further appeals court decisions in September and October 2004 had reaffirmed that ruling. On this date, the US Supreme Court, without comment, refuses to hear a further appeal. This was expected because the Supreme Court typically doesn't hear such appeals until after the case goes to trial. [Washington Post, 9/14/04; Washington Post, 10/14/04; Washington Post, 3/22/05] Moussaoui's guilty plea one month later (see April 22, 2005) may lead to a new round of appeals. Presiding judge Leonie Brinkema has indicated she believes witness access is “highly relevant to the sentencing phase,” which will begin next, and could constitute “mitigating evidence” that could make the difference between Moussaoui receiving the death penalty or not. [Washington Post, 4/23/05]
People and organizations involved: Leonie Brinkema, Supreme Court, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Zacarias Moussaoui
          

April 22, 2005: Moussaoui Pleads Guilty to All Charges Against Him, But Denies Role in 9/11 Plot

      
Zacarias Moussaoui.
In an unexpected move, Zacarias Moussaoui pleads guilty to all six terrorism conspiracy charges against him. Moussaoui had been arrested weeks before 9/11, and was formally charged in December 2001 for his role in the 9/11 plot. He says it is “absolutely correct” that he is guilty of the charges: conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries; to commit aircraft piracy; to destroy aircraft; to use weapons of mass destruction; to murder US government employees; and to destroy US government property. However, he says, “I was not part of 9/11,” but rather claims he was part of a “broader conspiracy” aimed at post-9/11 attacks. He says he was personally directed by bin Laden to pilot a 747 and “strike the White House” with it, but as part of a “different conspiracy than 9/11.” His plea means there will be no trial to determine guilt, but there will still be a trial to determine his sentencing, which could be as severe as the death penalty. He promises to fight in the sentencing phase, stating he doesn't deserve death because he was not directly connected to the 9/11 plot. [Washington Post, 4/23/05; CNN, 4/23/05] A CNN legal analyst notes that Moussaoui's guilty plea “makes little sense.” Moussaoui may have actually had a chance to be proven not guilty because of the many thorny legal issues his case raises (two suspected members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell have been found not guilty in German courts because they have not been allowed access to testimony from al-Qaeda prisoners who might exonerate them, and Moussaoui so far has been denied access to those same prisoners (see March 22, 2005)). It is pointed out that Moussaoui gave a guilty plea without “any promise of leniency in exchange for his plea,” and that he is unlikely to gain any sympathetic advantage from it in the death penalty trial. CNN's analyst notes that the statements in his plea “suggest that Moussaoui [mistakenly] thought he had tricked the prosecution.” Doubts still remain whether Moussaoui is fully mentally sound and capable of legally defending himself. [CNN, 4/28/05] A terrorism expert for RAND Corporation says of Moussaoui's rather confusing statements, “If we thought by the end of the day we would find the holy grail as to exactly what the genesis of 9/11 was and what Moussaoui's role in it was, we have been sorely disappointed. This contradiction in his behavior raises more questions than it answers.” The Washington Post notes that, “It remains uncertain” whether the death penalty trial “will divulge much new information about the plot.” [Washington Post, 4/23/05 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Osama bin Laden
          

April 30, 2005: Despite Moussaoui's Guilty Plea, Judge Still Won't Allow Release of Critical FBI Report

       Leonie Brinkema, the federal judge overseeing the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, denies a request to make public an unclassified version of a report on the FBI's failure to stop the 9/11 attacks. The report, written by the Justice Department's Inspector General Glenn Fine, was completed in July 2004 but has been held up from publication because of the Moussaoui trial. One portion of the report deals with the FBI's handling of Moussaoui's arrest in August 2001 (see August 15, 2001). However, he pleaded guilty earlier in April (see April 22, 2005). Judge Brinkema doesn't give an explanation for continuing to keep the report classified or hint when it might finally be unclassified. Most of the report has no bearing on Moussaoui. [Washington Post, 4/30/05] The report will be released two months later with the section on Moussaoui completely removed (see June 9, 2005).
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Glenn Fine, Leonie Brinkema
          


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