The Center for Cooperative Research
U:     P:    
Not registered yet? Register here
 
Search
 
Current timeline only
Advanced Search


Main Menu
Home 
History Engine Sub-Menu
Timelines 
Entities 
Forum 
Miscellaneous Sub-Menu
Donate 
Links 
End of Main Menu

Volunteers Needed!
Submit a timeline entry
Donate: If you think this site is important, please help us out financially. We need your help!
Email updates
 



  View mode (info):
  Ordering (info):
  Time period (info):

Before 9/11

Warning Signs (228)
Foreign Intelligence Warnings (27)
Insider Trading (36)
Counterterrorism Before 9/11
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 (40)
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)
Click here to join: Suggest changes to existing data, add new data to the website, or compile your own timeline. More Info >>

 

Complete 911 Timeline: Counterterrorism before 9/11

 
  

Project: Complete 911 Timeline

Export to XML Printer Friendly View Email to a Friend Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size


Showing 1-100 of 181 events (use filters to narrow search):    next 100

1991: White House Is Protected From Airplane Attack During Gulf War

       Time magazine reports in 1994, “During the Gulf War, uniformed air-defense teams could be seen patrolling the top floor [of the White House] with automatic rifles or shoulder-mounted ground-to-air missiles.” [Time, 9/26/94] While a battery of surface-to-air-missiles remains permanently on the roof of the White House, the rest of these defenses are apparently removed after the war is over. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/01] Yet even though counterterrorism officials later call the alerts in the summer of 2001 “the most urgent in decades,” similar defensive measures will apparently not be taken. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry Report, 9/18/02]
          

January 20, 1993: Bill Clinton Inaugurated

      
President Bill Clinton.
Bill Clinton replaces George H. W. Bush as US president. He remains president until January 2001.
People and organizations involved: George Herbert Walker Bush, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

March 1994: FBI Begins to Focus on Radical Fundamentalism

       The FBI creates the Radical Fundamentalist Unit to investigate international radical fundamentalism, including al-Qaeda. (An FBI unit focusing on bin Laden will not be created until 1999.) [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, al-Qaeda, Radical Fundamentalist Unit, Osama bin Laden
          

December 16, 1994-May 1995: Osama's Brother-in-Law Held in US, Then Let Go Despite Ties to Islamic Militancy

      
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa.
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to bin Laden, is arrested in the US. Khalifa, who financed the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines, has recently been sentenced to death in Jordan for funding a group that staged a series of bombings in that country. The FBI finds and quickly translates literature in Khalifa's luggage advocating training in assassination, explosives, and weapons, bombing churches, and murdering Catholic priests. Over the next weeks, they discover his ties to funding bin Laden's activities, as well as to Ramzi Yousef and other Operation Bojinka plotters (see December 16, 1994-February 1995). [New York Times, 5/2/02 (B); Lance, 2003, pp 233-35] Bin Laden could be connected to many Islamic militant activities through Khalifa's connections. Yet, in January 1995, Secretary of State Warren Christopher writes to Attorney General Janet Reno asking for Khalifa's deportation to Jordan for the sake of international cooperation against terrorism. By April, Khalifa's conviction in Jordan is overturned, and the evidence of his ties to Islamic militancy is growing. For instance, US media accounts in April allege he “bankrolls a network of Arab terrorists” including Ramzi Yousef, plus “violent Muslim extremists” in the Philippines, the Mideast, Russia, Romania, Albania, and the Netherlands. It is noted that he denies “any nefarious link with his brother-in- law, Osama bin Laden, who financed Arab volunteers to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/95; Associated Press, 4/26/95] Yet the US government's attempt to deport him to Jordan continues. Khalifa is sent to Jordan in May 1995. In a later retrial there, he is set free. Says one expert working at the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center at the time, “I remember people at the CIA who were ripsh_t at the time. Not even speaking in retrospect, but contemporaneous with what the intelligence community knew about bin Laden, Khalifa's deportation was unreal.” [New York Times, 5/2/02 (B); San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/95; Lance, 2003, pp 233-35; Associated Press, 4/26/95] The Saudi government claims that they jailed Khalifa after 9/11, but in fact he appears to be free and running a seafood restaurant in that country. [New York Times, 5/2/02 (B); Chicago Tribune, 2/22/04]
People and organizations involved: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Warren Christopher, Sheik Mohammed ibn Rashid al Maktum, Osama bin Laden, Ramzi Yousef
          

December 16, 1994-February 1995: Phone Numbers Link Bin Laden Bother-in-Law to Bojinka Plotters

       When bin Laden's brother-in-law Mohamed Jamal Khalifa is arrested in San Francisco, his phonebook and electronic organizer are found. They contain phone numbers to Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah, associates of Bojinka plotter Ramzi Yousef, and Osama bin Laden's phone number. When the Manila apartment used by these two plotters is raided, Yousef's computer contains Khalifa's phone number. Wali Khan Shah is arrested several days later, and his phone book and phone bills contain five phone numbers for Khalifa, plus Khalifa's business card. Phone bills also show frequent telephone traffic between Khalifa and Khan's apartment in Manila in November 1994. When Yousef is arrested in February 1995 (see February 7, 1995), he has Khalifa's phone number and address, and more information on him in an encrypted computer file. Not surprisingly given all these links, Yousef is questioned about his ties to Khalifa within hours of being taken into US custody. He admits that he knew the name bin Laden, and knew him to be a relative of Khalifa's. [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/95; Associated Press, 4/26/95; FBI Affadavit, 4/29/02] Khalifa has already been tied to two others convicted of the 1993 WTC bombing. Yet despite these ties to Islamic militancy, and others, he will be deported from the US.
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

1995: US Declines to Accept Sudanese Files on al-Qaeda Leaders

       The government of Sudan offers the US all its files on bin Laden. He had been living in Sudan since 1991 partly because there were no visa requirements to live there. Sudanese officials had been monitoring him, collecting a “vast intelligence database on Osama bin Laden and more than 200 leading members of his al-Qaeda terrorist network. ... [The US was] offered thick files, with photographs and detailed biographies of many of his principal cadres, and vital information about al-Qaeda's financial interests in many parts of the globe.” The US apparently declines to accept the Sudanese government's offer. After 9/11, a US agent who has seen the files on bin Laden's men in Khartoum says that some files were “an inch and a half thick.” [Guardian, 9/30/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, United States, al-Qaeda, Sudan
          

January 24, 1995: Clinton Tries to Stop Terrorist Funding with Executive Order

       President Clinton issues Executive Order No. 12947, making it a felony to raise or transfer funds to designated terrorist groups or their front organizations. [White House, 1/24/95; Clarke, 2004, pp 98]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

March 1995: US Ignores Information About al-Qaeda in Training Manual

       Belgian investigators find a CD-ROM of an al-Qaeda training manual and begin translating it a few months later. Versions of the manual are circulated widely and are seized by the police all over Europe. A former CIA official claims the CIA does not obtain a copy of the manual until the end of 1999: “The truth is, they missed for years the largest terrorist guide ever written.” He blames CIA reluctance to scrutinize its support for the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s. The CIA, however, claims that the manual is not that important, and that in any case it had copies for years. [CBS News, 2/20/02; New York Times, 1/14/01]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda
          

April 19, 1995: Oklahoma City Bombing; Possible Middle East Connection

       The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is bombed. US citizen Timothy McVeigh is convicted of the bombing, but some maintain there is a Middle Eastern connection. For instance, Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, says the possibility is intriguing and he has been unable to disprove it. [Clarke, 2004, pp 127] The bombing leads to a surge in concern about terrorism. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act becomes law as a result of such concern. However, many anti-terrorism provisions Clinton seeks are not approved by the Republican-controlled Congress. Many politicians agree with the National Rifle Association that proposed restrictions on bomb-making would infringe on the constitutional right to bear arms. [Clarke, 2004, pp 98-99]
People and organizations involved: Timothy McVeigh, Richard A. Clarke, US Congress
          

June 1995: US Considers Bombing bin Laden for Sponsoring Assassination Attempt

      
Hassan al-Turabi.
There is a failed assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as he visits Ethiopia. The CIA concludes bin Laden authorized the operation, and they plan a retaliation attack. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] Evidence suggests that the government of Sudan and Hassan al-Turabi, Sudan's leader, know where bin Laden is living and helped support the plot. The United Nations Security Council places sanctions on Sudan as a result. The US examines options for attacking bin Laden and/or al-Turabi's facilities in the Sudanese capital. The options developed by the US military are rejected for being unstealthy and a de facto war on Sudan. In the ensuing months, there are reports of Egyptian covert operations against bin Laden and an Egyptian military build-up on the Sudanese border. These factors influence bin Laden's decision to move to Afghanistan in 1996 (see May 18, 1996). [Clarke, 2004, pp 140-41]
People and organizations involved: Sudan, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Hosni Mubarak, United Nations Security Council, Hassan al-Turabi
          

1996: British Intelligence and al-Qaeda Allegedly Cooperate in Plot to Assassinate Libyan Leader

       Al-Muqatila, a cover for a Libyan al-Qaeda cell, tries to kill Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. Al-Qadhafi survives, but several militants and innocent bystanders are killed. [Dawn, 10/30/02] According to David Shayler, a member of the British intelligence agency MI5, and Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, authors of the controversial book The Forbidden Truth, the British intelligence agency MI6 pays al-Qaeda the equivalent of $160,000 to help fund this assassination attempt. Shayler later goes to prison for revealing this information and the British press is banned from discussing the case (see November 5, 2002). [Observer, 11/10/02; New York Times, 8/5/98 Sources: David Shayler, Jean-Charles Brisard, Guillaume Dasquie] Anas al-Liby, a member of the group, is given political asylum in Britain and lives there until May 2000 despite suspicions that he is an important al-Qaeda figure (see Late 1996-May 2000). [FBI, 2002; Observer, 11/10/02]
People and organizations involved: Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, Al-Muqatila, UK Security Service, UK Secret Intelligence Service, Britain, al-Qaeda
          

Early 1996: CIA Forms New Counterterrorism bin Laden Unit

       The CIA's Counter Terrorism Center creates a special unit focusing specifically on bin Laden. It is informally called Alex Station. About 10 to 15 individuals are assigned to the unit initially. This grows to about 35 to 40 by 9/11. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02] The unit is set up “largely because of evidence linking [bin Laden] to the 1993 bombing of the WTC.” [Washington Post, 10/3/01 (C)] By early 1997, the unit is certain that bin Laden is not just a financier but an organizer of terrorist activity. It knows that al-Qaeda has a military committee planning operations against US interests worldwide. Although this information is disseminated in many reports, the unit's sense of alarm about bin Laden isn't widely shared or understood within the intelligence and policy communities. Employees in the unit feel their zeal attracts ridicule from their peers. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (C)]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda
          

Early 1996-October 1998: US Tracks bin Laden's Satellite Phone Calls

       During this period, bin Laden and Mohammed Atef, his military commander, use a satellite phone provided by a friend to direct al-Qaeda's operations. Its use is discontinued two months after a US missile strike against bin Laden's camps on August 20, 1998, when an unnamed senior official boasts that the US can track his movements through the use of the phone. [Sunday Times, 3/24/02] Records show “Britain was at the heart of the terrorist's planning for his worldwide campaign of murder and destruction.” 260 calls were made to 27 phone numbers in Britain. The other countries called were Yemen (over 200 calls), Sudan (131), Iran (106), Azerbaijan (67), Pakistan (59), Saudi Arabia (57), a ship in the Indian Ocean (13), the US (6), Italy (6), Malaysia (4), and Senegal (2). “The most surprising omission is Iraq, with not a single call recorded.” [Sunday Times, 3/24/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atef
          

March 1996: US, Sudan Squabble over bin Laden's Fate

       The US pressures Sudan to do something about bin Laden, who is currently based in that country. According to some accounts, Sudan readily agrees, not wanting to be labeled a terrorist nation. Sudan's defense minister engages in secret negotiations with the CIA in Washington. Sudan offers to extradite bin Laden to anywhere he might stand trial. Some accounts claim that Sudan offers bin Laden to the US, but the US decides not to take him because they do not have enough evidence at the time to charge him with a crime [Washington Post, 10/3/01; Village Voice, 10/31/01] Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for both Clinton and George W. Bush, calls this story a “fable” invented by the Sudanese and Americans friendly to Sudan. He points out that bin Laden “was an ideological blood brother, family friend, and benefactor” to Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi, so any offers to hand him over may have been disingenuous. [Clarke, 2004, pp 142-43] (CIA Director Tenet later denies that Sudan made any “direct offers to hand over bin Laden.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02] ) The US reportedly asks Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan to accept bin Laden into custody, but is refused by all three governments. [Coll, 2004, pp 323] The 9/11 Commission later claims it finds no evidence that Sudan offers bin Laden directly to the US, but it does find evidence that Saudi Arabia is discussed as an option. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/23/04] US officials insist that bin Laden leave the country for anywhere but Somalia. One US intelligence source in the region later states: “We kidnap minor drug czars and bring them back in burlap bags. Somebody didn't want this to happen.” [Village Voice, 10/31/01; Washington Post, 10/3/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Richard A. Clarke, George Tenet, Hassan al-Turabi, Central Intelligence Agency, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Sudan, United States
          

April 1996: US and Britain Again Decline to Accept al-Qaeda Files

       As in 1995, the US again rejects Sudan's offer to turn over voluminous files about bin Laden and al-Qaeda. An American involved in the secret negotiations later says that the US could have used Sudan's offer to keep an eye on bin Laden, but that another arm of the federal government blocks the efforts. “I've never seen a brick wall like that before. Somebody let this slip up,” he says. “We could have dismantled his operations and put a cage on top. It was not a matter of arresting bin Laden but of access to information. That's the story, and that's what could have prevented September 11. I knew it would come back to haunt us.” [Village Voice, 10/31/01; Washington Post, 10/3/01] Around this time, MI6, the British intelligence agency, also rebuffs Sudan's offer to provide al-Qaeda intelligence. Sudan makes a standing offer: “If someone from MI6 comes to us and declares himself, the next day he can be in [the capital city] Khartoum.” A Sudanese government source later adds, “We have been saying this for years.” The offer is not taken up until after 9/11. [Guardian, 9/30/01]
People and organizations involved: Sudan, Clinton administration, Osama bin Laden, UK Secret Intelligence Service, al-Qaeda
          

May 18, 1996: Sudan Expels bin Laden; US Fails to Stop His Flight to Afghanistan

       After Sudan asks bin Laden to leave the country, he moves to Afghanistan. He departs along with many other al-Qaeda members, plus much money and resources. Bin Laden flies to Afghanistan in a C-130 transport plane with an entourage of about 150 men, women, and children, stopping in Doha, Qatar, to refuel, where governmental officials greet him warmly. [Coll, 2004, pp 325; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] The US knows in advance that bin Laden is going to Afghanistan, but does nothing to stop him. Elfatih Erwa, Sudan's minister of state for defense at the time, later says in an interview, “We warned [the US]. In Sudan, bin Laden and his money were under our control. But we knew that if he went to Afghanistan no one could control him. The US didn't care; they just didn't want him in Somalia. It's crazy.” [Washington Post, 10/3/01; Village Voice, 10/31/01]
People and organizations involved: Elfatih Erwa, al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Somalia, Sudan
          

June 1996: Informant Exposes al-Qaeda Secrets to US; No Apparent Response Ensues

       Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda operative from al-Qaeda's first meeting in the late 1980s until 1995, tells the US everything he knows about al-Qaeda. Before al-Fadl's debriefings, US intelligence had amassed thick files on bin Laden and his associates and contacts. However, they had had no idea how the many pieces fit together. “Al-Fadl was the Rosetta Stone,” an official says. “After al-Fadl, everything fell into place.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp 154-65] By late 1996, based largely on al-Fadl's information, the CIA definitively confirms that bin Laden is more of a operative than just a financier of the organization. The agency also learns the term “al-Qaeda” for the first time. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] Yet the US will not take “bin Laden or al-Qaeda all that seriously” until after the bombing of US embassies in Africa in 1998. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp 213] It takes two years to turn al-Fadl's information into the first US indictment of bin Laden. [PBS Frontline, 9/01; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B); New York Times, 09/30/01 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Jamal al-Fadl, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

June 1996-February 1997: British Intelligence Recruits Prominent Al-Qaeda Cleric, Extent of His Cooperation Is Unclear

       In June and December 1996, and again in February 1997, a British MI5 agent meets with radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, hoping he will inform on his fellow extremists. Qatada is a Jordanian national who entered the UK in September 1993 using a forged United Arab Emirates passport, and was granted asylum in 1994. In his meetings with the MI5 agent he claims to “wield powerful, spiritual influence over the Algerian community in London.” He says he does not want London to become a center for settling Islamic scores, and that he will report anyone damaging British interests. He says the individuals he has influence over pose no threat to British security, and promises that “he would not bite the hand that fed him.” He also promises to “report anyone damaging the interests of [Britain].” The MI5 agent records that “surprisingly enough—[Abu Qatada] revealed little love of the methodology and policies pursued by Osama bin Laden. He certainly left me with the impression that he had nothing but contempt for bin Laden's distant financing of the jihad.” [London Times, 3/25/04; Guardian, 3/24/04; Channel 4 News, 3/23/04; Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal, 1/04] Yet Qatada is later described as being a “key [British] figure” in al-Qaeda related terror activity. Videos of his sermons are later discovered in the Hamburg flat used by Mohamed Atta. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, who is later convicted in connection with the 9/11 attacks, are alleged to have sought religious advice from him. [Guardian, 8/11/05; BBC News, 8/11/05] Reportedly, after Qatada's February 1997 meeting with the British agent, no further such meetings occur. [Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal, 1/04] However, some French officials later allege that Qatada continues to be an MI5 agent, and this is what allows him to avoid arrest after 9/11 (see Early December 2001). [Observer, 2/24/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: UK Security Service, Abu Qatada, Osama bin Laden
          

July 6-August 11, 1996: Atlanta Rules Established to Protect Against Attacks Using Planes as Flying Weapons

       US officials identify crop dusters and suicide flights as potential weapons that could threaten the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. They take steps to prevent any air attacks. They ban planes from getting too close to Olympic events. During the games, they deploy Black Hawk helicopters and US Customs Service jets to intercept suspicious aircraft over the Olympic venues. Agents monitor crop-duster flights within hundreds of miles of downtown Atlanta. They place armed fighter jets on standby at local air bases. Flights to Atlanta get special passenger screening. Law enforcement agents also fan out to regional airports throughout northern Georgia “to make sure nobody hijacked a small aircraft and tried to attack one of the venues,” says Woody Johnson, the FBI agent in charge. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke uses this same security blanket approach to other major events, referring to the approach as “Atlanta Rules.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 108-09; Wall Street Journal, 4/1/04; Chicago Tribune, 11/18/01]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Richard A. Clarke, Woody Johnson
          

July 17, 1996-September 1996: TWA Flight 800 Crashes; Counterterrorism Funding Boosted in Response

       TWA Flight 800 crashes off the coast of Long Island, New York, killing the 230 people on board. The cause of the crash is debated for a long time afterward, and terrorism is considered a possibility. With this accident in mind, President Clinton requests, and Congress approves, over $1 billion in counter-terrorism-related funding in September 1996. [Clarke, 2004, pp 130]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, US Congress
          

October 1996: Security Firm with Connections to Bush Family Acquires Security Contract for World Trade Center; Possible Security Breach Is Alleged

       A security company called Stratesec acquires an $8.3 million contract to help provide security at the World Trade Center. It is one of numerous contractors hired in the upgrade of security at the WTC following the 1993 bombing. Stratesec, which was formerly called Securacom, is responsible for installing the “security-description plan”—the layout of the electronic security system—at the World Trade Center. It has a “completion contract” to provide some of the center's security “up to the day the buildings fell down,” according to Barry McDaniel, its CEO from January 2002. Another of Stratesec's biggest security contracts, between 1995 and 1998, is with the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, providing electronic security for Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport. Their work includes maintaining the airfield access systems, the CCTV (closed circuit television) systems, and the electronic badging systems. American Airlines Flight 77—one of the planes hijacked on 9/11—takes off from Dulles. Marvin P. Bush, the youngest brother of future President George W. Bush, is a director at Stratesec from 1993 to June 2000, when most of their work on these big projects is done. Wirt D. Walker III, a distant relative of George W. Bush, is chairman of the board at Stratesec from 1992, and its CEO from 1999 until January 2002. Another of Stratesec's directors, from 1991 to 2001, is Mishal Yousef Saud Al Sabah, who is a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. Al Sabah is also chairman of an investment company called the Kuwait-American Corporation (KuwAm), which, between 1993 and 1999, holds a large, often controlling share of Stratesec. In 1996, it owns 90 percent of the company; by 1999 it owns 47 percent. According to Wayne Black, the head of a Florida-based security firm, it is delicate for a security company serving international facilities to be so interlinked with a foreign-owned company. He suggests: “Somebody knew somebody.” Black also points out that when a company has a security contract, “you know the inner workings of everything.” Furthermore, if another company is linked to the security company, then “what's on your computer is on their computer.” After 9/11 Stratesec CEO Barry McDaniel is asked whether FBI or other agents have questioned him or others at Stratesec about their security work related to 9/11. He answers , “No.” [Progressive Populist, 2/1/03; Washington Spectator, 2/15/05; Progressive Populist, 4/15/03; Prince George's Journal, 2/4/03; American Reporter, 1/20/03]
People and organizations involved: World Trade Center, Stratesec
          

Late 1996-May 2000: British Intelligence and al-Qaeda Allegedly Cooperate in Plot to Assassinate Libyan Leader

      
Anas al-Liby.
Anas al-Liby, member of a Libyan al-Qaeda cell called Al-Muqatila, lives in Britain during this time. He had stayed with bin Laden in Sudan until bin Laden moved to Afghanistan in 1996 (see May 18, 1996). Then, as the Observer puts it, “Astonishingly, despite suspicions that he was a high-level al-Qaeda operative, al-Liby was given political asylum in Britain and lived in Manchester until May of 2000 when he eluded a police raid on his house and fled abroad. The raid discovered a 180-page al-Qaeda ‘manual for jihad’ containing instructions for terrorist attacks.” He was apparently involved in a plot with the British intelligence agency to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi in 1996 (see 1996) and presumably his ability to live in Britain was connected to that plot. [Observer, 11/10/02] After the failed assassination attempt, the British allegedly continued to support Al-Muqatila—for instance, the group openly published a newsletter from a London office. [Brisard, Dasquie and Madsen, 2002, pp 97-98] Whistleblower David Shayler had given British authorities details of this Libya plot in 1998 and again in 1999, and later serves a short prison sentence for revealing this information to the public (see November 5, 2002). [Observer, 8/27/00] Well after the failed attempt, the British allegedly continue to support Al-Muqatila—for instance, the group openly publishes a newsletter from a London office. [Brisard, Dasquie and Madsen, 2002, pp 97-98] Al-Liby remains on the US government's most wanted list with a reward of $25 million for his capture. He is wanted for his involvement in the 1998 African embassy bombings. [Observer, 11/10/02; FBI, 2002]
People and organizations involved: Al-Muqatila, Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, Osama bin Laden, Britain, David Shayler, al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

1997: Al-Qaeda Still Not Recognized as Terrorist Organization by State Department

       While the State Department listed bin Laden as a financier of terror in its 1996 survey of terrorism, al-Qaeda is not included on the 1997 official US list of terrorist organizations subject to various sanctions. Al-Qaeda will not be officially recognized as a terrorist organization until 1998. [New York Times, 12/30/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, US Department of State
          

January 20, 1997: Clinton Re-inaugurated; Atlanta Rules Applied at This and Other Events

       Bill Clinton is re-inaugurated as president. An extensive set of security measures to prevent airplanes as weapons crashing into the inauguration is used. These measures, first used in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and thus referred to as the “Atlanta Rules,” include the closing of nearby airspace, the use of intercept helicopters, the basing of armed fighters nearby, and more. This plan will later be used for the 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 50th anniversary celebration in Washington, the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, the 2000 Democratic convention in New York, and the George W. Bush inauguration in 2001. [Wall Street Journal, 4/1/04; Clarke, 2004, pp 110-11] At some point near the end of the Clinton administration, the Secret Service and Customs Service agree to create a permanent air defense unit to protect Washington. However, these agencies are part of the Treasury Department, and the leadership there refuses to fund the idea. The permanent unit is not created until after 9/11. [Wall Street Journal, 4/1/04]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Clinton administration, Secret Service, George W. Bush
          

May 19, 1997: Military Review Suggests Cutting Fighter Protection Over US; Several Bases Are Discontinued

       Secretary of Defense William Cohen issues a comprehensive assessment of America's defense requirements, called the Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). This is a six-month analysis of the “threats, risks and opportunities for US national security,” and reviews all aspects of the US defense strategy. [Department of Defense, 5/19/97] Amongst other things, the 1997 QDR outlines the conversion of six continental air defense squadrons to general purpose, training or other missions. It calls for there being just four “alert” air defense sites around the US: at Otis, Massachusetts; Homestead, Florida; Riverside, California; and Portland, Oregon. [Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review, 5/97; Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, p. 34] Major General Larry Arnold, who is commanding general of NORAD's Continental Region on 9/11, later says, “The QDR didn't make any sense at all. � [T]here was a fight just to maintain the number of alert sites that we had. We felt we could operate fairly reasonably with about 10 sites and thought eight was the absolute highest risk we could take.” NORAD Commander in Chief General Howell M. Estes III has written to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that a minimum of seven alert sites are needed to maintain America's air sovereignty. In the end, three extra alert sites are added to the four suggested in the QDR. These are at Hampton, Virginia.; Panama City, Florida.; and Ellington, Texas. Larry Arnold later says: “I didn't feel particularly comfortable with seven [alert sites] because there are great large distances between the alert sites.” [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, p. 36] Other bases will lose their NORAD air defense functions over the next year, including those in Fresno, California; Fargo, North Dakota; Duluth, Minnesota; Burlington, Vermont; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Great Falls, Montana. [Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review, 5/97] Of these closed bases, the most critical loss on 9/11 will be the Atlantic City, New Jersey, base, located about halfway between New York City and Washington. Boston air traffic control, apparently unaware the base has lost its air defense function will try and fail to contact the base shortly after learning about the first hijacking of the morning, Flight 11 (see (8:34 a.m.)).
People and organizations involved: Howell M. Estes III, William S. Cohen, Larry Arnold
          

1998: Training Exercise Held at the White House, Based Around Militants Using a Plane as a Weapon

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke chairs a tabletop exercise at the White House, involving a scenario where anti-American militants fill a Learjet with explosives, and then fly it on a suicide mission toward a target in Washington, DC. Officials from the Pentagon, Secret Service, and FAA attend, and are asked how they would stop such a threat. Pentagon officials say they could launch fighters from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, but would need authorization from the president to shoot the plane down, and currently there is no system to do this. The 9/11 Commission later states: “There was no clear resolution of the problem at the exercise.” [Slate, 7/22/04; 9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/24/04, pp. 345 & 457-458]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, US Department of Defense, Secret Service, Richard A. Clarke, Langley Air Force Base
          

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

       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
          

1998: FAA Testing Reveals Frightening Airport Security Lapses; Little Done in Response Except Small Penalties

       The FAA creates “Red Teams” —small, secretive teams traveling to airports and attempting to foil their security systems—in response to the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Scotland. According to later reports, the Red Teams conduct extensive testing of screening checkpoints at a large number of domestic airports in 1998. The results were frightening: “We were successful in getting major weapons—guns and bombs—through screening checkpoints with relative ease, at least 85 percent of the time in most cases. At one airport, we had a 97 percent success rate in breaching the screening checkpoint. ... The individuals who occupied the highest seats of authority in the FAA were fully aware of this highly vulnerable state of aviation security and did nothing.” [New York Times, 2/27/02] In 1999, the New York Port Authority and major airlines at Boston's Logan Airport will be “fined a total of $178,000 for at least 136 security violations [between 1999-2001]. In the majority of incidents, screeners hired by the airlines for checkpoints in terminals routinely [fail] to detect test items, such as pipe bombs and guns.” [Associated Press, 9/12/01 (C)]
People and organizations involved: New York Port Authority, Federal Aviation Administration
          

April 15, 1998: Libya Issues First Arrest Warrant for bin Laden

      
Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi.
The first Interpol (international police) arrest warrant for bin Laden is issued—by Libya. [Observer, 11/10/02] According to the authors of the controversial book The Forbidden Truth, British and US intelligence agencies play down the arrest warrant, and have the public version of the warrant stripped of important information, such as the summary of charges and the fact that Libya requested the warrant. At this point, no Western country has yet issued a warrant for bin Laden, even though he publicly called for attacks on Western targets beginning in 1996. The arrest warrant is issued for the 1994 murder of two German antiterrorism agents. Allegedly, Britain and the US aren't interested in catching bin Laden at this time due to his involvement with Britain in attempts to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi in 1996 (see 1996). [Brisard, Dasquie and Madsen, 2002, pp 97-98]
People and organizations involved: Britain, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, United States, UK Secret Intelligence Service
          

May 1998: FBI Gives Counterterrorism Top Priority but No Extra Resources

       The FBI issues a strategic, five-year plan that designates national and economic security, including counterterrorism, as its top priority for the first time. However, it is later determined that neither personnel nor resources are shifted accordingly. FBI counterterrorism spending remains constant from this point until 9/11. Only about six percent of the FBI's agent work force is assigned to counterterrorism on 9/11. [New York Times, 4/18/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

May 22, 1998: Clinton Creates Counterterrorism Post, Selects Richard Clarke

       President Clinton creates the new post of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism. He names Richard Clarke for the job, and Clarke soon becomes known as the counterterrorism “tsar.” [Washington Post, 4/20/00] This is outlined in a new presidential directive on counterterrorism that also outlines goals of fighting terrorism and attempts to strengthen interagency coordination of counterterrorism efforts. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
People and organizations involved: Richard A. Clarke, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

June 8, 1998: Grand Jury Issues Sealed Indictment Against bin Laden and Others

       A US grand jury issues a sealed indictment, charging bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders with conspiracy to attack the United States. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02 (C)] The grand jury took two years to reach an indictment, largely based on information from Jamal al-Fadl, a former al-Qaeda operative. [PBS Frontline, 9/01; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B); New York Times, 09/30/01 (B)] This secret indictment will be superseded by a public one issued in November 1998. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02 (C)]
People and organizations involved: Jamal al-Fadl, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

August 7, 1998: Al-Qaeda Bombs US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania

      
Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right).
Two US embassies in Africa are bombed almost simultaneously. The attack in Nairobi, Kenya, kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. The attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kills 11 and injures 85. The attack is blamed on al-Qaeda. [PBS Frontline, 2001] The attack shows al-Qaeda has a capability for simultaneous attacks. A third attack against the US embassy in Uganda fails. [Associated Press, 9/25/98]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda
          

August 20, 1998: US Fires on al-Qaeda's Afghan Training Camps, Sudanese Facility

      
El Shifa Plant in Sudan.
The US fires 66 missiles at six al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and 13 missiles at a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, in retaliation for the US embassy bombings. [Washington Post, 10/3/01 (C)] The US insists the attacks are aimed at terrorists “not supported by any state,” despite obvious evidence to the contrary. The Sudanese factory is hit in the middle of the night when it is unoccupied. About 30 people are killed in the Afghanistan attacks, but no important al-Qaeda figures die. [Observer, 8/23/98; New Yorker, 1/24/00]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Clinton administration
          

September 1998: Memo Outlines al-Qaeda's US Infrastructure

       US intelligence authors a memorandum detailing al-Qaeda's infrastructure in the US. This memo, which includes information regarding al-Qaeda's use of fronts for terrorist activities [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02] , is provided to senior US officials. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda
          

October 1998: Chicago FBI Investigation of al-Qaeda Funding Is Thwarted

      
FBI agents John Vincent (left), and Robert Wright (right).
FBI agents Robert Wright and John Vincent, tracking a terrorist cell in Chicago, are told to simply follow suspects around town and file reports. The two agents believe some of the money used to finance the 1998 US embassy bombing in Africa leads back to Chicago and Saudi multimillionaire businessman Yassin al-Qadi. Supervisors try, but temporarily fail, to halt the investigation into al-Qadi's possible terrorist connections. However, at this time, a supervisor prohibits Wright and Vincent from making any arrests connected to the bombings, or opening new criminal investigations. Even though they believe their case is growing stronger, in January 2001, Wright is told that the Chicago case is being closed and that “it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie.” Wright tells ABC: “Those dogs weren't sleeping, they were training, they were getting ready. ... September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit. ... Absolutely no doubt about that.” Chicago federal prosecutor Mark Flessner, also working on the case, says there “were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let [the building of a criminal case] happen.” Wright will write an internal FBI memo harshly criticizing their decisions regarding the case in June 2001. Al-Qadi is named in a March 2000 affidavit as a source of terrorist funds in Chicago. [ABC News, 12/19/02 (B); ABC News, 12/19/02; ABC News, 11/26/02] He is also on secret US and UN lists of major al-Qaeda financiers. His charity, the Muwafaq Foundation, is allegedly an al-Qaeda front that transferred $820,000 to the Palestinian group Hamas through a Muslim foundation called the Quranic Literacy Institute. (The date of the transfer has not been released.) [CNN, 10/15/01 (B)] Al-Qadi says he shut down Muwafaq in 1996, but the charity has received money from the United Nations since then. [BBC, 10/20/01; CNN, 10/15/01 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Yassin al-Qadi, Quranic Literacy Institute, Hamas, Muwafaq Foundation, International Terrorism Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mark Flessner, US Department of Justice, Robert Wright, al-Qaeda, John Vincent
          

October 8, 1998: FAA Warns of al-Qaeda Threat to US Civil Aviation

       The FAA issues the first of three 1998 warnings to US airports and airlines urging a “high degree of vigilance” against threats to US civil aviation from al-Qaeda. It specifically warns against a possible terrorist hijacking “at a metropolitan airport in the Eastern United States.” The information is based on statements made by bin Laden and other Islamic leaders and intelligence information obtained after the US cruise missile attacks in August. All three warnings come in late 1998, well before 9/11. [Boston Globe, 5/26/02]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda
          

November 4, 1998: US Issues Public Indictment of bin Laden, Others for Embassy Bombings

       The US publicly indicts bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, and others for the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Bin Laden had been secretly indicted on different charges earlier in the year in June. Record $5 million rewards are announced for information leading to his arrest and the arrest of Mohammed Atef. [PBS Frontline, 2001] Shortly thereafter, bin Laden allocates $9 million in reward money for the assassinations of four US government officials in response to the reward on him. A year later, it is learned that the secretary of state, defense secretary, FBI director, and CIA director are the targets. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03; MSNBC, 9/18/02]
People and organizations involved: United States, Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, George Tenet, Madeleine Albright, William S. Cohen, Louis J. Freeh
          

December 1, 1998: Bin Laden Actively Planning Attacks Inside US

       According to a US intelligence assessment, “[bin Laden] is actively planning against US targets and already may have positioned operatives for at least one operation. ... Multiple reports indicate [he] is keenly interested in striking the US on its own soil ... Al-Qaeda is recruiting operatives for attacks in the US but has not yet identified potential targets.” Later in the month, a classified document prepared by the CIA and signed by President Clinton states: “The intelligence community has strong indications that bin Laden intends to conduct or sponsor attacks inside the US” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B); Washington Post, 9/19/02 (B); 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Central Intelligence Agency
          

December 4, 1998: CIA Issues Ineffective Declaration of War on al-Qaeda

       CIA Director Tenet issues a “declaration of war” on al-Qaeda, in a memorandum circulated in the intelligence community. This is ten months after bin Laden's fatwa on the US (see February 22, 1998), which is called a “de facto declaration of war” by a senior US official in 1999. Tenet says, “We must now enter a new phase in our effort against bin Laden. ... each day we all acknowledge that retaliation is inevitable and that its scope may be far larger than we have previously experienced. ... We are at war. ... I want no resources or people spared in this efforts [sic], either inside CIA or the [larger intelligence] community.” Yet a Congressional joint committee later finds that few FBI agents ever hear of the declaration. Tenet's fervor does not “reach the level in the field that is critical so [FBI agents] know what their priorities are.” In addition, even as the counterterrorism budget continues to grow generally, there is no massive shift in budget or personnel until after 9/11. For example, the number of CIA personnel assigned to the Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) stays roughly constant until 9/11, then nearly doubles from approximately 400 to approximately 800 in the wake of 9/11. The number of CTC analysts focusing on al-Qaeda rises from three in 1999 to five by 9/11. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02; New York Times, 9/18/02]
People and organizations involved: Counterterrorist Center, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, George Tenet
          

Late 1998: Al-Qaeda Leader Located in Sudan, but US Does Not Try to Capture Him

       Intelligence agents learn Mohammed Atef (also known as Abu Hafs)—head of Islamic Jihad and one of the top three leaders of al-Qaeda [ABC News, 11/17/01] — is staying in a particular hotel room in Khartoum, Sudan. White House officials ask that Atef be killed or captured and interrogated. International capture operations of wanted militants, a practice known as “rendition,” have become routine by the mid-1990s (see 1993-2004), but in this case, both the Defense Department and the CIA are against it, although Atef does not even have bodyguards. The CIA puts the operation in the “too hard to do box,” according to one former official. The CIA says it is incapable of conducting such an operation in Sudan, but in the same year, the CIA conducts another spy mission in the same city. [New York Times, 12/30/01; Clarke, 2004, pp 143-46] A plan is eventually made to seize him, but by then he has left the country. [New York Times, 12/30/01] Atef is considered a top planner of the 9/11 attacks, and is later killed in a bombing raid in November 2001 (see November 15, 2001).
People and organizations involved: Clinton administration, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Defense, Mohammed Atef
          

Early 1999: Memo Calls for New Approach on bin Laden; Focuses on State-Sponsorship, Money Trail

       State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Michael Sheehan writes a memo calling for a new approach in containing bin Laden. He urges a series of actions the US could take toward Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen to persuade them to help isolate al-Qaeda. He calls Pakistan the key country and urges that terrorism be made the central issue with them. He advises the US to work with all these countries to curb money laundering. However, a former official says Sheehan's plan lands “with a resounding thud.” Pakistan continues to “feign cooperation but [does] little” about its support for the Taliban. [New York Times, 10/29/01]
People and organizations involved: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Clinton administration, Yemen, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Michael Sheehan, al-Qaeda
          

1999: FBI Creates bin Laden Unit

       The FBI creates its own unit to focus specifically on bin Laden, three years after the CIA created such a special unit. By 9/11, 17 to 19 people are working in this unit out of over 11,000 FBI staff. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

June 1999: CIA Reports That bin Laden Plans Attack in US

       In testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and in a briefing to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staffers one month later, the chief of the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center describes reports that bin Laden and his associates are planning attacks in the US. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency
          

June 7, 1999: Bin Laden Finally Makes FBI's 10 Most Wanted

       The FBI puts bin Laden on its “10 Most Wanted List.” This is almost a year and a half after bin Laden's “declaration of war” against the US on February 22, 1998 (see February 22, 1998), and about six months after the CIA's “declaration of war against al-Qaeda” in December 1998 (see December 4, 1998). It is also three years after an internal State Department document connected bin Laden to financing and planning numerous terrorist attacks. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B); PBS Frontline, 10/3/02 (C)]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden
          

June 8, 1999: New York Emergency Command Center Opened in WTC Building 7

      
Giuliani's emergency command center.
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opens a $13 million emergency Command Center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. [Newsday, 9/12/01] The center is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, and terrorist attacks. The 50,000 square foot center has reinforced, bulletproof, and bomb-resistant walls, its own air supply and water tank, and three backup generators. This Command Center is to be staffed around the clock and is intended as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism. [Times of London, 9/12/01; CNN, 6/7/99] The center is ridiculed as “Rudy's bunker.” [Time, 12/31/01] Most controversial is the 6,000-gallon fuel tank. In 1998 and 1999, Fire Department officials warn that the fuel tank violates city fire codes and poses a hazard. According to one Fire Department memorandum, if the tank were to catch fire it could produce “disaster.” Building 7 will be destroyed late in the day on 9/11; some suspect this tank helps explains why. [New York Times, 12/20/01]
People and organizations involved: World Trade Center, Rudolph ("Rudy") Giuliani
          

October 8, 1999: Al-Qaeda Declared Foreign Terrorist Organization

       The secretary of state finally legally declares al-Qaeda a foreign terrorist organization that is threatening to the US. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Madeleine Albright, al-Qaeda
          

November 30, 1999: Jordan Thwarts al-Qaeda Plot

       Jordanian officials successfully uncover an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the Radisson Hotel in Amman, Jordan, and other sites on January 1, 2000. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02 (C)] A call between al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida and a suspected Jordanian terrorist exposes the plot. In the call, Zubaida states, “The grooms are ready for the big wedding.” [Seattle Times, 6/23/02] This call reflects an extremely poor code system, because the FBI had already determined in the wake of the 1998 US embassy bombings that “wedding” was the al-Qaeda code word for bomb. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp 214] Furthermore, it appears al-Qaeda fails to later change the system, because the code-name for the 9/11 attack is also “The Big Wedding.” [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/02] This attempt also reveals to investigators the important role of Abu Zubaida in al-Qaeda plots. A January 2001 New York Times article about the attempt will call Zubaida “a crucial link between local initiative and central command.” [New York Times, 1/15/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Abu Zubaida, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jordan
          

Early December 1999: US Takes Action to Stop al-Qaeda Millennium Bombing Plot

       The CIA learns from the Jordanian government about an al-Qaeda millennium bombing plot. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told of this, and he implements a plan to neutralize the threat. [Clarke, 2004, pp 205, 211] The plan, approved by President Clinton, focuses on harassing and disrupting al-Qaeda members throughout the world. The FBI is put on heightened alert, counterterrorism teams are dispatched overseas, a formal ultimatum is given to the Taliban to keep al-Qaeda under control, and friendly intelligence agencies are asked to help. There are Cabinet-level meetings nearly every day dealing with terrorism [Associated Press, 6/28/02; Washington Post, 4/20/00] All US embassies, military bases, police departments, and other agencies are given a warning to be on the lookout for signs of an al-Qaeda millennium attack. One alert border agent responds by arresting terrorist Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999), which leads to the unraveling of several bombing plots (see December 14-31, 1999). No terror attacks occur. However, Clarke claims the FBI generally remains unhelpful. For example, around this time the FBI says there are no websites in the US soliciting volunteers for training in Afghanistan or money for terrorist front groups. Clarke has a private citizen check to see if this is true, and within days, he is given a long list of such websites. The FBI and Justice Department apparently fail to do anything with the information. [Newsweek, 3/31/04 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Taliban, al-Qaeda, Ahmed Ressam, Central Intelligence Agency, Jordan, Richard A. Clarke, US Department of Justice, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

December 14-31, 1999: FBI Thwarts Additional Millennium Attack Plots

      
Ahmed Ressam.
In the wake of the arrest of Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999), FBI investigators work frantically to uncover more millennium plots before they are likely to take place at the end of the year. Documents found with Ressam lead to co-conspirators in New York, then Boston and Seattle. Enough people are arrested to prevent any attacks. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later says, “I think a lot of the FBI leadership for the first time realized that ... there probably were al-Qaeda people in the United States. They realized that only after they looked at the results of the investigation of the millennium bombing plot.” [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02] Yet Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger later claims that the FBI will still repeatedly assure the Clinton White House until Clinton leaves office that al-Qaeda lacks the ability to launch a domestic strike (see 2000).
People and organizations involved: Sandy Berger, Richard A. Clarke, Ahmed Ressam, al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

December 14, 1999: Al-Qaeda Operative Planning LAX Attack Is Arrested

      
Diana Dean.
Al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam is arrested in Port Angeles, Washington, attempting to enter the US with components of explosive devices. One hundred and thirty pounds of bomb-making chemicals and detonator components are found inside his rental car. He subsequently admits he planned to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999. [New York Times, 12/30/01] Alert border patrol agent Diana Dean stops him; she and other agents nationwide had been warned recently to look for suspicious activity. Ressam's bombing would have been part of a wave of attacks against US targets over the New Year's weekend (see December 14-31, 1999). He is later connected to al-Qaeda and convicted. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02; PBS Frontline, 10/3/02]
People and organizations involved: Diana Dean, al-Qaeda, Ahmed Ressam, Los Angeles International Airport
          

December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000: Attacks Against American Targets Avoided Through Alerts and Luck

       Earlier in December, the CIA estimated that al-Qaeda would launch between five and 15 attacks against American targets around the world over the New Year's weekend. “Because the US is [bin Laden]'s ultimate goal ... we must assume that several of these targets will be in the US...” [Time, 8/4/02; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] Since late 1999, there has been intelligence that targets in Washington and New York would be attacked at this time. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02] There in fact are a number of planned attacks, including bomb attacks on the Boston and Los Angeles airports, a hotel in Jordan, and a naval ship in Yemen. However, all of the attacks are foiled, thanks to alerts and luck. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden
          

2000: FBI Repeatedly Tells Clinton That Al-Qaeda Is Unable to Attack Inside US

       In the wake of disrupting Ahmed Ressam's millennium bomb plot at the end of 1999 and arresting his cohorts (see December 14, 1999) (see December 14-31, 1999), US intelligence remains concerned that al-Qaeda sleeper cells remain in the US (see March 10, 2000). However, Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger later claims that the FBI still repeatedly assures the Clinton White House that al-Qaeda lacks the ability to launch a domestic strike. [New York Times, 9/22/02] He says, “Until the very end of our time in office, the view we received from the [FBI] was that al-Qaeda had limited capacity to operate in the US and any presence here was under surveillance.” No analysis is done before 9/11 to investigate just how big that presence might be. [Washington Post, 9/20/02]
People and organizations involved: Clinton administration, Sandy Berger, al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency
          

March 2000: Clinton Attempt to Fight Terrorism Financing Defeated by Republican

       The Clinton administration begins a push to fight terrorism financing by introducing a tough anti-money laundering bill. The bill faces tough opposition, mostly from Republicans and lobbyists who enjoy the anonymity of offshore banking, which would be affected by the legislation. Despite passing the House Banking Committee by a vote of 31 to 1 in July 2000, Senator Phil Gramm (R) refuses to let the bill come up for a vote in his Senate Banking Committee. [Time, 10/15/01] Other efforts begun at this time to fight terrorism financing are later stymied by the new Bush administration in February 2001.
People and organizations involved: Clinton administration, Bush administration, Phil Gramm
          

March 2000: FBI Agent Apparently Destroys bin Laden E-Mail Intercepts

       An FBI agent, angry over a glitch in an e-mail tracking program that has somehow mixed innocent non-targeted e-mails with those belonging to al-Qaeda, reportedly accidentally destroys all of the FBI's Denver-based intercepts of bin Laden's colleagues under investigation. The tracking program is called Carnivore. However, the explanation sounds dubious and it is flatly contradicted in the same article: “A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday night that the e-mails were not destroyed.” [Associated Press, 5/28/02]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Carnivore, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

March 10, 2000: Review of Counterterrorism Efforts Show Continued Worries

       National Security Adviser Sandy Berger chairs a Cabinet-level meeting to review the wave of attempted terror attacks around the millennium. There are counterterrorism reports that disruption efforts “have not put too much of a dent” into bin Laden's overseas network, and that it is feared “sleeper cells” of al-Qaeda operatives have taken root in the US. Some ideas, like expanding the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the US, are adopted. Others, like a centralized translation unit for domestic intercepts, are not. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] In July 2004, it is revealed that the Justice Department is investigating Berger for taking classified documents relating to this review effort out of a secure reading room in 2003. Most of the documents are returned, but a few apparently are lost. [Associated Press, 7/20/04; Washington Post, 7/22/04]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Sandy Berger, US Department of Justice
          

April 20, 2000: Some Complain Clinton Administration Focusing Too Much on Terrorism

       The Washington Post writes, “With little fanfare, [President Clinton] has begun to articulate a new national security doctrine in which terrorists and other ‘enemies of the nation-state’ are coming to occupy the position once filled by a monolithic communist superpower.” In his January 2000 State of the Union address, President Clinton predicts that terrorists and organized criminals will pose “the major security threat” to the US in coming decades. However, some claim that a “preoccupation with bin Laden has caused errors in judgment.” National Security Adviser Sandy Berger counters that the threat of large-scale terrorist attacks on US soil is “a reality, not a perception. ... We would be irresponsible if we did not take this seriously.” Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke predicts that the US's new enemies “will come after our weakness, our Achilles heel, which is largely here in the United States.” [Washington Post, 4/20/00]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Osama bin Laden, Richard A. Clarke, Sandy Berger
          

April 24, 2000: Mohammed and Other Al-Qaeda Put on New Domestic 'No-Fly' List

       TIPOFF is a US no-fly list of individuals who should be detained if they attempt to leave or enter the US. There are about 60,000 names on this list by 9/11 (see December 11, 1999). Apparently there had been no prohibition of travel inside the US, but on this day a FAA security directive puts six names on a newly created domestic no-fly list. All six are said to be associates of bomber Ramzi Yousef, including his uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. On August 28, 2001, six more names will be added to this list. Apparently all 12 names are associated with al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremist groups. 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey will later note the discrepancy of the 60,000-name list with the 12-name list and comment, “ seems to me, particularly with what was going on at the time, that some effort would have been made to make—to produce a larger list than [only 12 names].” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/04] On the day of 9/11, two of the 9/11 hijackers will be on the 60,000-name TIPOFF list but not the 12-name domestic list, so airport security does not know to stop them from boarding the planes they hijack that day (see August 23, 2001).
People and organizations involved: Ramzi Yousef, TIPOFF, Bob Kerrey, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Federal Aviation Administration
          

April 27, 2000: FAA Advisory Warns of Increased Risk of Terrorist Hijacking

       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 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: Federal Aviation Administration
          

April 30, 2000: State Department Issues Counterterrorism Report Focused on South Asia

       The State Department issues its annual report describing the US attempt to combat terrorism. For the first time, it focuses on South Asia. The New York Times notes, “The report reserves its harshest criticism for Afghanistan” and “is also severely critical of Pakistan.” However, neither country is placed on the official list of countries sponsoring terrorism, which has remained unchanged since 1993. [New York Times, 4/30/00]
People and organizations involved: US Department of State
          

May 2000: CIA and FBI Again Reject Sudan's Offer to Provide al-Qaeda Files

       The CIA and FBI send a joint investigative team to Sudan to investigate whether that country is a sponsor of terrorism. It determines that it is not, but the US does not take Sudan off its official list of terrorist states. As in 1995 and 1996, Sudan offers to hand over its voluminous files on al-Qaeda, and the offer is again turned down. [Guardian, 9/30/01]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, al-Qaeda, Sudan, Central Intelligence Agency
          

Summer 2000-September 11, 2001: Illegal FBI Activity Leads to Suspension of Surveillance of al-Qaeda Suspects in US

       In the summer of 2000, Royce Lamberth, chief judge of the special federal court that reviews FISA national-security wiretaps, finds out that an FBI official is misrepresenting petitions for taps on terror suspects. An investigation is launched. From this time well into 2001, the FBI is forced to shut down wiretaps of al-Qaeda-related suspects connected to the 1998 African embassy bombing. One source familiar with the case says that about 10 to 20 al-Qaeda related wiretaps have to be shut down and it becomes more difficult to get permission for new FISA wiretaps. Newsweek notes, “The effect [is] to stymie terror surveillance at exactly the moment it was needed most: requests from both Phoenix [with the Ken Williams memo] and Minneapolis [with Zacarias Moussaoui's arrest] for wiretaps [will be] turned down [by FBI superiors].” [Newsweek, 5/27/02]
People and organizations involved: Royce Lamberth, Ken Williams, Zacarias Moussaoui, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

September-October 2000: Predator Flights over Afghanistan Are Initiated Then Halted

      
Footage from a Predator drone apparently shows bin Laden surrounded by security.
An unmanned spy plane called the Predator begins flying over Afghanistan, showing incomparably detailed real-time video and photographs of the movements of what appears to be bin Laden and his aides. It flies successfully over Afghanistan 16 times. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04] President Clinton is impressed by a two-minute video of bin Laden crossing a street heading toward a mosque. Bin Laden is surrounded by a team of a dozen armed men creating a professional forward security perimeter as he moves. The Predator has been used since 1996, in the Balkans and Iraq. One Predator crashes on takeoff and another is chased by a fighter, but it apparently identifies bin Laden on three occasions. Its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials, mostly because seasonal winds are picking up. It is agreed to resume the flights in the spring, but the Predator fails to fly over Afghanistan again until after 9/11. [Clarke, 2004, pp 220-21; Washington Post, 12/19/01] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet apparently inaccurately tells President Bush, “The unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft that was now armed with Hellfire missiles had been operating for more than a year out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan.” [Washington Post, 1/29/02]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, George Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency
          

September 2000: Candidate George W. Bush Promises Emphasis on Countering Terrorism in US

       George W. Bush, campaigning for president, writes in an article, “There is more to be done preparing here at home. I will put a high priority on detecting and responding to terrorism on our soil.” [National Guard Magazine, 9/00] This repeats verbatim comments made in a speech a year before at the start of the presidential campaign [Citadel, 9/23/99] , and in both cases the context is about weapons of mass destruction. However, after 9/11, now President Bush will say of bin Laden: “I knew he was a menace and I knew he was a problem. I was prepared to look at a plan that would be a thoughtful plan that would bring him to justice, and would have given the order to do that. I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn't feel that sense of urgency.” [Washington Post, 5/17/02]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden
          

September 15-October 1, 2000: Sydney Olympics Officials' Top Concern: Airliner-Based al-Qaeda Attack

       Olympics officials later reveal, “A fully loaded, fueled airliner crashing into the opening ceremony before a worldwide television audience at the Sydney Olympics is one of the greatest security fears for the Games.” During the Olympics, Australia has six planes in the sky at all times ready to intercept any wayward aircraft. In fact, “IOC officials [say] the scenario of a plane crash during the opening ceremony was uppermost in their security planning at every Olympics since terrorists struck in Munich in 1972.” bin Laden is considered the number-one threat. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/20/01] These security measures are similar to those used in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and other events, including Clinton's second inauguration. Similar planning is already underway before 9/11 for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. [Wall Street Journal, 4/1/04]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

October 12, 2000: USS Cole Bombed by al-Qaeda Militants; Investigation Thwarted

      
Damage to the USS Cole.
The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen, harbor by al-Qaeda militants. Seventeen US soldiers are killed. [ABC News, 10/13/00]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, USS Cole
          

October 14-November, 2000: Investigation Into USS Cole Bombing Is Thwarted

      
Barbara Bodine at a press conference days after the bombing of the USS Cole.
FBI agent John O'Neill and his team of 200 FBI investigators enter Yemen two days after the bombing of the USS Cole in an attempt to discover who was responsible. However, they are unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them and due to tensions between O'Neill and US Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. Even though O'Neill's boss visits and finds that Bodine is O'Neill's “only detractor,” O'Neill and much of his team are forced to leave in November, and the investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials. [New Yorker, 1/14/02; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp 237; Sunday Times, 2/3/02] Increased security threats force the reduced FBI team still in Yemen to withdraw altogether in June 2001. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02 (B)] The Prime Minister of Yemen at the time later claims that hijacker “Khalid Almihdhar was one of the Cole perpetrators, involved in preparations. He was in Yemen at the time and stayed after the Cole bombing for a while, then he left.” [Guardian, 10/15/01] The Sunday Times later notes, “The failure in Yemen may have blocked off lines of investigation that could have led directly to the terrorists preparing for September 11.” [Sunday Times, 2/3/02]
People and organizations involved: Khalid Almihdhar, John O'Neill, USS Cole, Barbara Bodine, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

December 2000: Incoming Bush Administration Briefed on Terrorism Threat; Apparently Ignores Recommendations

       CIA Director Tenet and other top CIA officials brief President-elect Bush, Vice President-elect Cheney, future National Security Adviser Rice, and other incoming national security officials on al-Qaeda and covert action programs in Afghanistan. Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt recalls conveying that bin Laden is one of the gravest threats to the country. Bush asks whether killing bin Laden would end the problem. Pavitt says he answers that killing bin Laden would have an impact but not stop the threat. The CIA recommends the most important action to combat al-Qaeda is to arm the Predator drone and use it over Afghanistan. [Reuters, 3/24/04 (B); 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04] However, while the drone is soon armed, Bush never gives the order to use it in Afghanistan until after 9/11 (see September 4, 2001).
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, James Pavitt, al-Qaeda, George Tenet
          

December 2000: National Intelligence Estimate Report Downplays Threat to Domestic Aviation

       A classified section of the yearly National Intelligence Estimate report given to Congress downplays any threat to domestic aviation. It says that FBI investigations confirm domestic and international terrorist groups are operating within the US but they are focusing primarily on fundraising, recruiting new members, and disseminating propaganda. While international terrorists have conducted attacks on US soil, these acts represent anomalies from their traditional targeting which focuses on US interests overseas. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Congress, Central Intelligence Agency
          

December 20, 2000: Clarke Plan to Neutralize al-Qaeda Deferred Pending Administration Transition

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke submits a plan to “roll back” al-Qaeda over a period of three to five years until it is ineffectual. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] The main component is a dramatic increase in covert aid to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to first tie down the terrorists and then “eliminate the sanctuary” for bin Laden. Financial support for terrorist activities will be systematically attacked, nations fighting al-Qaeda will be given aid to defeat them, and the US will plan for direct military and covert action in Afghanistan. The plan will cost several hundred million dollars. However, since there are only a few weeks left before the Bush administration takes over, it is decided to defer the decision until the new administration is in place. One senior Clinton official later says, “We would be handing [the Bush administration] a war when they took office on January 20. That wasn't going to happen.” However, the plan is rejected by the Bush administration and no action is taken (see January 25, 2001). According to one senior Bush administration official, the proposal amounts to “everything we've done since 9/11.” [Time, 8/4/02] Russia's President Vladimir Putin later claims he tried to egg on the previous Clinton administration— without success—to act militarily against the whole Taliban regime: “Washington's reaction at the time really amazed me. They shrugged their shoulders and said matter-of-factly: ‘We can't do anything because the Taliban does not want to turn him over.’ ” [Guardian, 9/22/01]
People and organizations involved: Northern Alliance, Bush administration, Clinton administration, al-Qaeda, Richard A. Clarke, Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden
          

Early 2001: Bush Staffers Less Concerned with Terrorism

      
Donald Kerrick.
Clinton and Bush staff overlap for several months while new Bush appointees are appointed and confirmed. Clinton holdovers seem more concerned about al-Qaeda than the new Bush staffers. For instance, according to a colleague, Sandy Berger, Clinton's National Security Adviser, had become “totally preoccupied” with fears of a domestic terror attack. [Newsweek, 5/27/02] Brian Sheridan, Clinton's outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, is astonished when his offers during the transition to bring the new military leadership up to speed on terrorism are brushed aside. “I offered to brief anyone, any time on any topic. Never took it up.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/04] Army Lieutenant General Donald Kerrick, Deputy National Security Adviser and manager of Clinton's NSC (National Security Council) staff, still remains at the NSC nearly four months after Bush takes office. He later notes that while Clinton's advisers met “nearly weekly” on terrorism by the end of his term, he does not detect the same kind of focus with the new Bush advisers: “That's not being derogatory. It's just a fact. I didn't detect any activity but what [Clinton holdover Richard] Clarke and the CSG [Counterterrorism and Security Group] were doing.” [Washington Post, 1/20/02] Kerrick submits a memo to the new people at the NSC, warning, “We are going to be struck again.” He says, “They never responded. It was not high on their priority list. I was never invited to one meeting. They never asked me to do anything. They were not focusing. They didn't see terrorism as the big megaissue that the Clinton administration saw it as.” Kerrick adds, “They were gambling nothing would happen.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/04] Bush's first Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Henry Shelton, later says terrorism was relegated “to the back burner” until 9/11. [Washington Post, 10/2/02]
People and organizations involved: Hugh Shelton, Bush administration, al-Qaeda, Sandy Berger, Clinton administration, National Security Council, Brian Sheridan, Counterterrorism and Security Group, Donald Kerrick
          

Early 2001: Taliban Disinformation Project Is Cancelled

       The heads of the US military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have become frustrated by the lack of CIA disinformation operations to create dissent among the Taliban, and at the very end of the Clinton administration, they begin to develop a Taliban disinformation project of their own, which is to go into effect in 2001. When they are briefed, the Defense Department's new leaders kill the project. According to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton, “[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld and Deputy [Defense] Secretary Paul Wolfowitz were against the Joint Staff having the lead on this.” They consider this a distraction from their core military missions. As far as Rumsfeld is concerned, “This terrorism thing was out there, but it didn't happen today, so maybe it belongs lower on the list ... so it gets defused over a long period of time.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/04]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Hugh Shelton, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, US Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, Clinton administration
          

Early January 2001: Al-Qaeda Threat Highlighted for Powell

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke briefs Secretary of State Powell about the al-Qaeda threat. He urges decisive and quick action against al-Qaeda. Powell meets with the CSG (Counterterrorism and Security Group) containing senior counterterrorism officials from many agencies. He sees that all members of the group agree al-Qaeda is an important threat. For instance, Deputy Defense Secretary Brian Sheridan says to Powell, “Make al-Qaeda your number one priority.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 227-30]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Brian Sheridan, Counterterrorism and Security Group, Colin Powell, Richard A. Clarke
          

January-August 2001: Airlines Receive FAA Warnings, But Later Claim They Were Given No Real Hints of Possible Terrorist Attacks

       The FAA gives 15 warnings to domestic airlines between January and August 2001, but about one general security warning a month had been common for a long time. [CNN, 5/17/02] Even a government official later calls the content of these 15 warnings “standard fare.” [Miami Herald, 5/17/02] As one newspaper later reports, “there were so many [warnings] that airline officials grew numb to them.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/23/02] In May 2002, in response to recent revelations about what was known before 9/11, the major airlines will hold a press conference claiming they were never warned of a specific hijacking threat, and were not told to tighten security. For instance, an American Airlines spokesman states that the airline “received no specific information from the US government advising the carrier of a potential terrorist hijacking in the United States in the months prior to September 11, 2001. American receives FAA security information bulletins periodically, but the bulletins were extremely general in nature and did not identify a specific threat or recommend any specific security enhancements.” [Miami Herald, 5/17/02] Bush administration officials later state that the terror information they are receiving is so vague that tighter security does not seem required. [Associated Press, 5/18/02] However, it seems that even these general warnings are never passed on to airline employees. Rosemary Dillard, a supervisor for American Airlines, states, “My job was supervision over all the flight attendants who flew out of National, Baltimore, or Dulles. In the summer of 2001, we had absolutely no warnings about any threats of hijackings or terrorism, from the airline or from the FAA.” [New York Observer, 6/17/04] The content of these seemingly harmless warnings remain classified after 9/11. They are said to be exempted from public disclosure by a federal statute that covers “information that would be detrimental to the security of transportation if disclosed.” [New York Observer, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, American Airlines, Federal Aviation Administration, Rosemary Dillard
          

January 3, 2001: Clarke Demoted by Rice and Future 9/11 Commission Executive Director

       National Security Adviser Rice decides this day to retain Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for the Clinton administration, and his staff. However, she downgrades his official position as National Coordinator for Counterterrorism. While he is still known as the counterterrorism “tsar,” he has less power and now reports to deputy secretaries instead of attending Cabinet-level meetings. He no longer is able to send memos directly to the president, or easily interact with Cabinet-level officials. [Clarke, 2004, pp 227-30; Guardian, 3/25/04] In 2004, Rice will reveal that the person she tasks with considering changes to Clarke and his staff is Philip Zelikow, the future Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission. Zelikow recuses himself from those parts of the 9/11 Commission's investigation directly relating to his role in this and other matters. However, 9/11 victims' relatives are not satisfied. For instance, one relative says, “Zelikow has conflicts. I'm not sure that his recusal is sufficient. His fingerprints are all over that decision [to demote Clarke].” [UPI, 4/10/04]
People and organizations involved: Philip Zelikow, Condoleezza Rice, Richard A. Clarke
          

January 3, 2001: Clarke Briefs Rice on al-Qaeda Threat; Keeps Job but Loses Power

       Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for the Clinton administration, briefs National Security Adviser Rice and her deputy, Steve Hadley, about al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 1/20/02] Outgoing National Security Adviser Sandy Berger makes an unusual appearance at the start of the meeting, saying to Rice, “I'm coming to this briefing to underscore how important I think this subject is.” He claims that he tells Rice during the transition between administrations, “I believe that the Bush administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject.” Clarke presents his plan to “roll back” al-Qaeda that he had given to the outgoing Clinton administration a couple of weeks earlier. [Time, 8/4/02] He gets the impression that Rice has never heard the term al-Qaeda before. [Guardian, 3/25/04; Clarke, 2004, pp 227-30]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Richard A. Clarke, Bush administration, Stephen Hadley, Sandy Berger, al-Qaeda
          

January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001: Armed Predator Drone Is Readied, but Unused

      
A Predator drone.
Even before President Bush's official inauguration, Clinton holdover counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke pushes National Security Adviser Rice and other incoming Bush officials to resume Predator drone flights over Afghanistan (originally carried out in September and October 2000) in an attempt to find and assassinate bin Laden. [CBS News, 6/25/03; Washington Post, 1/20/02] On January 10, Rice is shown a video clip of bin Laden filmed by a Predator drone the year before. [Washington Post, 1/20/02] Clarke learns of an Air Force plan to arm the Predator. The original plan calls for three years of testing, but Clarke pushes so hard that the armed Predator is ready in three months. [New Yorker, 7/28/03] A Hellfire missile is successfully test fired from a Predator on February 16, 2001. [CBS News, 6/25/03] In early June, a duplicate of the brick house where bin Laden is believed to be living in Kandahar, Afghanistan, is built in Nevada, and destroyed by a Predator missile. The test shows that the missile fired from miles away would have killed anyone in the building, and one participant calls this the long sought after “holy grail” that could kill bin Laden within minutes of finding him. [Washington Post, 1/20/02] Clarke repeatedly advocates using the Predator, armed or unarmed. However, bureaucratic infighting between the CIA and the Air Force over who would pay for it and take responsibility delays its use. Clarke later says, “Every time we were ready to use it, the CIA would change its mind.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03] Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley decide to delay reconnaissance flights until the armed version is ready. In July 2001, Hadley directs the military to have armed Predators ready to deploy no later than September 1. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] The issue comes to a head in early September, but even then, a decision to use the Predator is delayed [New Yorker, 7/28/03]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Richard A. Clarke, Stephen Hadley, Condoleezza Rice, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush
          

January 20-September 10, 2001: Bush Briefed on al-Qaeda over 40 Times

       National Security Adviser Rice later testifies to the 9/11 Commission that in the first eight months of Bush's presidency before 9/11, “the president receive[s] at these [Presidential Daily Briefings] more than 40 briefing items on al-Qaeda, and 13 of those [are] in response to questions he or his top advisers posed.” [Washington Post, 4/8/04 (C)] The content of the warnings in these briefings are unknown. However, CIA Director George Tenet claims that none of the warnings specifically indicates terrorists plan to fly hijacked commercial aircraft into buildings in the US. [New York Times, 4/4/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, al-Qaeda, George Tenet
          

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

       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 21, 2001: George W. Bush Inaugurated

       George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, replacing President Bill Clinton.
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

January 25, 2001: Clarke Presents Plan to Roll Back al-Qaeda, but Response Is Delayed

      
Richard Clarke.
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke submits a proposal to National Security Adviser Rice and “urgently” asks for a Cabinet-level meeting on the al-Qaeda threat. [Clarke, 2004, pp 230-31] He forwards his December 2000 strategy paper and a copy of his 1998 “Delenda Plan” (see August 27, 1998). He lays out a proposed agenda for urgent action:
Approve covert assistance to Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]

Significantly increase funding for CIA counterterrorism activity. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]

Respond to the USS Cole bombing with an attack on al-Qaeda. (The link between al-Qaeda and that bombing had been assumed for months and is confirmed in the media two days later.) According to the Washington Post, “Clarke argue[s] that the camps [are] can't-miss targets, and they [matter]. The facilities [amount] to conveyor belts for al-Qaeda's human capital, with raw recruits arriving and trained fighters departing either for front lines against the Northern Alliance, the Afghan rebel coalition, or against American interests somewhere else. The US government had whole libraries of images filmed over Tarnak Qila and its sister camp, Garmabat Ghar, 19 miles farther west. Why watch al-Qaeda train several thousand men a year and then chase them around the world when they left?” No retaliation is taken on these camps until after 9/11. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]

Go forward with new Predator drone reconnaissance missions in the spring and use an armed version when it is ready. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]

Step up the fight against terrorist fundraising. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]

Be aware that al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the US are not just a potential threat, but are a “major threat in being.” Additionally, more attacks have almost certainly been set in motion. [Washington Post, 1/20/02; PBS Frontline, 10/3/02]
Rice's response to Clarke's proposal is that the Cabinet will not address the issue until it has been “framed” at the deputy secretary level. However, this initial deputy meeting is not given high priority and it does not take place until April 2001. [Clarke, 2004, pp 230-31] Henry Shelton, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman until 9/11, says, “The squeaky wheel was Dick Clarke, but he wasn't at the top of their priority list, so the lights went out for a few months. Dick did a pretty good job because he's abrasive as hell, but given the [bureaucratic] level he was at” there was no progress. [Benjamin and Simon, 2002, pp 335-36; Los Angeles Times, 3/30/04] Some counterterrorism officials think the new administration responds slowly simply because Clarke's proposal originally came from the Clinton administration. [Time, 8/4/02] For instance, Thomas Maertenson, on the National Security Council in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, says, “They really believed their campaign rhetoric about the Clinton administration. So anything [that administration] did was bad, and the Bushies were not going to repeat it.” [New York Times, 3/24/04; Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 3/25/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Richard A. Clarke, Northern Alliance, al-Qaeda, Thomas Maertenson, Central Intelligence Agency, Henry H. Shelton, Clinton administration, Bush administration, Taliban, Ahmed Shah Massoud
          

January 27, 2001: Al-Qaeda's Role in USS Cole Bombing Triggers No Immediate Response

       The Washington Post reports that the US has confirmed the link between al-Qaeda and the October 2000 USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000). [Washington Post, 1/27/01] This conclusion is stated without hedge in a February 9 briefing for Vice President Cheney. [Washington Post, 1/20/02] In the wake of that bombing, Bush stated on the campaign trail, “I hope that we can gather enough intelligence to figure out who did the act and take the necessary action. ... There must be a consequence.” [Washington Post, 1/20/02] Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz later complains that by the time the new administration is in place, the Cole bombing was “stale.” Defense Secretary Rumsfeld concurs, stating that too much time had passed to respond. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (B)] The new Bush administration fails to resume the covert deployment of cruise missile submarines and gunships on six-hour alert near Afghanistan's borders that had begun under President Clinton. The standby force gave Clinton the option of an immediate strike against targets in Afghanistan harboring al-Qaeda's top leadership. This failure makes a possible assassination of bin Laden much more difficult. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Bush administration, Paul Wolfowitz
          

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

      
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
          

Late January 2001: US Intelligence Told to Back Off from bin Laden and Saudis

       The BBC later reports, “After the elections, [US intelligence] agencies [are] told to ‘back off’ investigating the bin Ladens and Saudi royals, and that anger[s] agents.” This follows previous orders to abandon an investigation of bin Laden relatives in 1996 (see September 11, 1996), and difficulties in investigating Saudi royalty. [BBC, 11/6/01] An unnamed “top-level CIA operative” says there is a “major policy shift” at the National Security Agency at this time. Bin Laden could still be investigated, but agents could not look too closely at how he got his money. One specific CIA investigation hampered by this new policy is an investigation in Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and his Khan Laboratories. Khan is considered the “father” of Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability. But since the funding for this nuclear program gets traced back to Saudi Arabia, restrictions are placed on the inquiry. [Palast, 2002, pp 99-100] Presumably another investigation canceled is an investigation by the Chicago FBI into ties between Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi and the US embassy bombings in August 1998 (see October 1998), because during this month an FBI agent is told that the case is being closed and that “it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie.” Reporter Greg Palast notes that President Clinton was already hindering investigations by protecting Saudi interests. However, as he puts it, “Where Clinton said, ‘Go slow,’ Bush policymakers said, ‘No go.’ The difference is between closing one eye and closing them both.” [Palast, 2002, pp 102]
People and organizations involved: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Bin Laden Family, Osama bin Laden, Yassin al-Qadi
          

Early February 2001: Clarke Urges Cheney to Take Action Against al-Qaeda

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke briefs Vice President Cheney about the al-Qaeda threat. He urges decisive and quick action against al-Qaeda. Cheney soon visits CIA headquarters for more information about al-Qaeda. However, at later high-level meetings Cheney fails to bring up al-Qaeda as a priority issue. [Clarke, 2004, pp 227-30; Time, 8/4/02]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda
          

February 2001: Bush Administration Abandons Global Crackdown on Terrorist Funding

       According to Time magazine, “The US was all set to join a global crackdown on criminal and terrorist money havens [in early 2001]. Thirty industrial nations were ready to tighten the screws on offshore financial centers like Liechtenstein and Antigua, whose banks have the potential to hide and often help launder billions of dollars for drug cartels, global crime syndicates—and groups like Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization. Then the Bush administration took office.” [Time, 10/15/01] After pressure from the powerful banking lobby, the Treasury Department under Paul O'Neill halts US cooperation with these international efforts begun in 2000 by the Clinton administration. Clinton had created a National Terrorist Asset Tracking Center in his last budget, but under O'Neill no funding for the center is provided and the tracking of terrorist financing slows down. [Time, 10/15/01; Foreign Affairs, 7/01]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Clinton administration, Paul O'Neill
          

February 7, 2001: Tenet Warns Congress About bin Laden

       CIA Director Tenet warns Congress in open testimony that the “threat from terrorism is real, it is immediate, and it is evolving.” He says bin Laden and his global network remains “the most immediate and serious threat” to US interests. “Since 1998 bin Laden has declared that all US citizens are legitimate targets,” he says, adding that bin Laden “is capable of planning multiple attacks with little or no warning.” [Sunday Herald, 9/23/01; Associated Press, 2/7/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, US Congress, Osama bin Laden, George Tenet
          

February 9, 2001: Bin Laden's Financial Network Laid Bare

       US officials claim significant progress in defeating bin Laden's financial network, despite significant difficulties. It is claimed that “bin Laden's financial and operational networks has been ‘completely mapped’ in secret documents shared by the State Department, CIA, and Treasury Department, with much of the mapping completed in detail by mid-1997.” [UPI, 2/9/01] Reporter Greg Palast later notes that when the US freezes the assets of terrorist organizations in late September 2001, US investigators likely knew much about the finances of those organizations but took no action before 9/11. [Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/03]
People and organizations involved: Greg Palast, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, US Department of the Treasury
          

February 13, 2001: NSA Breaks al-Qaeda's Secret Codes

       UPI, while covering a trial of bin Laden's al-Qaeda followers, reports that the NSA has broken bin Laden's encrypted communications. US officials confirm “codes were broken.” Presumably, this happened some time earlier and the codes have been changed by this time. [UPI, 2/13/01]
People and organizations involved: National Security Agency, al-Qaeda
          

February 26, 2001: Paul Bremer: Bush Administration Paying No Attention to Terrorism

       Paul Bremer, who will be appointed the US administrator of Iraq in 2003, says in a speech that the Bush administration is “paying no attention” to terrorism. “What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, ‘Oh my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this.’ ” Bremer speaks shortly after chairing the National Commission on Terrorism, a bipartisan body formed during the Clinton administration. [Associated Press, 4/29/04]
People and organizations involved: National Commission on Terrorism, Clinton administration, Bush administration, Paul Bremer
          

March-May 2001: FAA Briefs Airports on Security; They Cite, Then Dismiss Possibility of Planes as Weapons

       A series of top-secret security briefings are given to airport officials at the top 19 airports in the US. The airports warned include those at Boston, Washington, and Newark, which are eventually used by the hijackers. A 9/11 Commission Report on this later notes, “The briefings highlight the threat posed by terrorists in general and bin Laden in particular, including his threats against aviation. The renewed interest in hijacking by terrorist groups [is] also covered.” The briefings note that if “the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable.” But they also note that such a hijacking would be harder to carry out. Around the same time, the FAA distributes an unclassified CD-ROM presentation to airlines and airports. “The presentation cite[s] the possibility that terrorists might conduct suicide hijackings but state[s]: ‘Fortunately, we have no indication that any group is currently thinking in that direction.’ ” This briefing and presentation doesn't lead to any upgrade in security or improved passenger screening at the airports. Apparently, the information isn't widely shared with pilots, flight attendants, passenger screeners, and the like, and it doesn't lead to any specific FAA advisories or actions. [Newsday, 2/11/05; New York Times, 2/10/05; New Jersey Star-Ledger, 2/11/05] For instance, Dave Machett, a pilot who is president of the grassroots organization Airline Pilots Security Alliance, says that “Not one word” reached the pilots. “The flight crews were kept completely in the dark about this growing threat.” [Newsday, 2/11/05] 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer comments, “The FAA deserves to be raked over the coals for ignoring the warnings and being more concerned about reducing air traffic congestion than dealing with possible terrorist attacks.” [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 2/11/05]
People and organizations involved: Tim Roemer, Osama bin Laden, Dave Machett, 9/11 Commission Report, Federal Aviation Administration
          

Spring 2001: Ashcroft Doesn't Want FBI Director to Talk About Terrorism

       Attorney General John Ashcroft talks with FBI Director Louis Freeh before an annual meeting of special agents. Ashcroft lays out his priorities, which according to one participant is “basically violent crime and drugs.” Freeh bluntly replies that those are not his priorities and he talks about counterterrorism. “Ashcroft does not want to hear about it,” says one witness. [Newsweek, 5/27/02]
People and organizations involved: Louis J. Freeh, John Ashcroft
          

March 7, 2001: Plan to Fight al-Qaeda Considered, but with Little Urgency

       Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley chairs an informal meeting of some counterparts from other agencies to discuss al-Qaeda. They begin a broad review of the government's approach to al-Qaeda and Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, the approach is “two-pronged and included a crisis warning effort to deal with immediate threats and longer-range planning by senior officials to put into place a comprehensive strategy to eradicate al-Qaeda.” Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke again pushes for immediate decisions on assisting Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Hadley suggests dealing with this as part of the broad review. Clarke supports a larger program, but he warns that delay risks the Alliance's defeat. Clarke also advocates using the armed Predator drone. However, despite an increasing number of alarming warnings following this meeting, there is little follow-up. “By June, a draft of a presidential directive authorizing an ambitious covert action plan is circulating through the upper echelons of the administration, but there seem[s] little urgency about putting the plan into effect.” [New York Times, 4/4/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D); 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04; New York Times, 3/24/04 (D)]
People and organizations involved: Stephen Hadley, Richard A. Clarke, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Northern Alliance, al-Qaeda
          

March 8, 2001: US Declines to Freeze al-Qaeda's Assets Despite Call from UN and EU

       The United Nations and the European Union direct their members to freeze the assets of some al-Qaeda leaders, including Sa'd Al-Sharif, bin Laden's brother-in-law and the head of his finances, but the US does not do so until after 9/11. [Guardian, 10/13/01 (B)] For a time, the US claims that Sa'd Al-Sharif helped fund the 9/11 attacks, but the situation is highly confused and his role is doubtful (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002).
People and organizations involved: Sa'd Al-Sharif, United Nations, European Union
          

March 26, 2001: CIA Benefits from Major Software Improvements

       The Washington Post reports on major improvements of the CIA's intelligence gathering capability “in recent years.” A new program called Oasis uses “automated speech recognition” technology to turn audio feeds into formatted, searchable text. It can distinguish one voice from another and differentiates “speaker 1” from “speaker 2” in transcripts. Software called Fluent performs “cross lingual” searches, translates difficult languages like Chinese and Japanese (apparently such software is much better than similar publicly available software), and even automatically assesses the contextual importance. Other new software can turn a suspect's “life story into a three-dimensional diagram of linked phone calls, bank deposits and plane trips,” while still other software can efficiently and quickly process vast amounts of video, audio, and written data. [Washington Post, 3/26/01] However, the government will later report that a number of messages about the 9/11 attacks, such as one stating “tomorrow is the zero hour,” are not translated until after 9/11 because analysts were “too swamped.” [ABC News, 6/7/02]
People and organizations involved: Fluent, Oasis, Central Intelligence Agency
          

April 1, 2001-September 10, 2001: Nearly Half of FAA's Daily Intelligence Summaries Mention bin Laden or Al-Qaeda; No Action is Taken

       In 2005 (see February 10, 2005), it will be revealed that of the FAA's 105 daily intelligence summaries between these dates, 52 mention bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or both. Most of the mentions are “in regard to overseas threats.” None of the warnings specifically predict something similar to the 9/11 attacks, but five of them mention al-Qaeda's training for hijackings and two reports concern suicide operations unconnected to aviation. [Associated Press, 2/11/05] One of the warnings mentions air defense measures being taken in Genoa, Italy, for the July 2001 G-8 summit to protect from a possible air attack by terrorists. However, the New Jersey Star-Ledger is virtually the only newspaper in the US to report this fact. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 2/11/05] Despite all these warnings, the FAA fails to take any extra security measures. They do not expand the use of in-flight air marshals or tighten airport screening for weapons. A proposed rule to improve passenger screening and other security measures ordered by Congress in 1996 has held up and is still not in effect by 9/11. The 9/11 Commission's report on these FAA warnings released in 2005 (see February 10, 2005) will conclude that FAA officials were more concerned with reducing airline congestion, lessening delays, and easing air carriers' financial problems than preventing a hijacking. [Associated Press, 2/11/05] The FAA also makes no effort to expand its list of terror suspects, which includes only a dozen names by 9/11. The former head of the FAA's civil aviation security branch later says he wasn't even aware of TIPOFF, the government's main watch list, which included the names of two 9/11 hijackers before 9/11. Nor is there any evidence that a senior FAA working group responsible for security ever meets in 2001 to discuss “the high threat period that summer.” [New York Times, 2/10/05]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, US Congress, al-Qaeda, Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11 Commission
          

April-May 2001: Bush, Cheney Receive Numerous al-Qaeda Warnings

       President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and national security aides are given briefing papers headlined, “Bin Laden Planning Multiple Operations,” “Bin Laden Public Profile May Presage Attack,” and “Bin Laden Network's Plans Advancing.” The exact contents of these briefings remain classified, but apparently, none specifically mentions a domestic US attack. [New York Times, 4/18/04]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

April 4, 2001: Bugging Techniques Reach New Heights

       The BBC reports on advances in electronic surveillance. The US's global surveillance program, Echelon, has become particularly effective in monitoring mobile phones, recording millions of calls simultaneously and checking them against a powerful search engine designed to pick out key words that might represent a security threat. Laser microphones can pick up conversations from up to a kilometer away by monitoring window vibrations. If a bug is attached to a computer keyboard, it is possible to monitor exactly what is being keyed in, because every key on a computer has a unique sound when depressed. [BBC, 4/4/01] Furthermore, a BBC report on a European Union committee investigation into Echelon one month later notes that the surveillance network can sift through up to 90% of all Internet traffic, as well as monitor phone conversations, mobile phone calls, fax transmissions, net browsing history, satellite transmissions and so on. Even encryption may not help much. The BBC suggests that “it is likely that the intelligence agencies can crack open most commercially available encryption software.” [BBC, 5/29/01]
People and organizations involved: Eiffel Tower
          

April 18, 2001: FAA Warns Airlines About Middle Eastern Hijackers

       The FAA sends a warning to US airlines that Middle Eastern militants could try to hijack or blow up a US plane and that carriers should “demonstrate a high degree of alertness.” The warning stems from the April 6, 2001, conviction of Ahmed Ressam over a failed plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport during the millennium celebrations. This warning expires on July 31, 2001. [Associated Press, 5/18/02] This is one of 15 general warnings issued to airlines in 2001 before 9/11 (see January-August 2001), but it is more specific than usual. [CNN, 3/02; CNN, 5/17/02]
People and organizations involved: Los Angeles International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration, Ahmed Ressam
          

April 30, 2001: Wolfowitz in Deputy Secretary Meeting: Who Cares About [bin Laden]?

       The Bush administration finally has its first Deputy Secretary-level meeting on terrorism. [Time, 8/4/02] According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, he advocates that the Northern Alliance needs to be supported in the war against the Taliban, and the Predator drone flights need to resume over Afghanistan so bin Laden can be targeted. [Clarke, 2004, pp 231] Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the focus on al-Qaeda is wrong. He states, “I just don't understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden,” and “Who cares about a little terrorist in Afghanistan?” Wolfowitz insists the focus should be Iraqi-sponsored terrorism instead. He claims the 1993 attack on the WTC must have been done with help from Iraq, and rejects the CIA's assertion that there has been no Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the US since 1993. (A spokesperson for Wolfowitz later calls Clarke's account a “fabrication.”) [Newsweek, 3/22/04; Clarke, 2004, pp 30, 231] Wolfowitz repeats these sentiments immediately after 9/11 and tries to argue that the US should attack Iraq. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage agrees with Clarke that al-Qaeda is an important threat. Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, chairing the meeting, brokers a compromise between Wolfowitz and the others. The group agrees to hold additional meetings focusing on al-Qaeda first (in June and July), but then later look at other terrorism, including any Iraqi terrorism. [Clarke, 2004, pp 30, 231-32] Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin also attend the hour-long meeting. [Time, 8/4/02]
People and organizations involved: John E. McLaughlin, Taliban, Paul Wolfowitz, al-Qaeda, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Stephen Hadley, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, Promis, Bush administration, Richard Armitage
          
Showing 1-100 of 181 events (use filters to narrow search):    next 100


Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under the Creative Commons License below:

Creative Commons License Home |  About this Site |  Development |  Donate |  Contact Us
Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Use