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Pakistan,ISI,drugs
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Flight AA 11
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Complete 911 Timeline

 
  

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December 2000 (C)

       The CIA's counterterrorism center develops an plan to strike at bin Laden in Afghanistan called the “Blue Sky memo.” It recommends increased support to anti-Taliban groups and especially a major effort to back Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance, to tie down al-Qaeda personnel before they leave Afghanistan. No action is taken in the last few weeks of the Clinton administration; the CIA presses the ideas unsuccessfully early in the new Bush administration. [9/11 Commission 3/24/04 (C)] The National Security Council counterterrorism staff also prepare a strategy paper, incorporating ideas from the Blue Sky memo (see December 20, 2000). [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (D)]
          

December 2000 (B)

       CIA Director Tenet and other top CIA officials brief President-elect Bush, Vice President-elect Cheney, National Security Advisor 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. [9/11 Commission 3/24/04; Reuters 3/24/04 (B)] But while the drone is soon armed, Bush never gives the order to use it in Afghanistan until after 9/11 (see January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001).
          

December 19, 2000

       The Washington Post reports that “the United States has quietly begun to align itself with those in the Russian government calling for military action against Afghanistan and has toyed with the idea of a new raid to wipe out Osama bin Laden. Until it backed off under local pressure, it went so far as to explore whether a Central Asian country would permit the use of its territory for such a purpose.” Russia and the US are discussing “what kind of government should replace the Taliban. Thus, while claiming to oppose a military solution to the Afghan problem, the United States is now talking about the overthrow of a regime that controls nearly the entire country, in the hope it can be replaced with a hypothetical government that does not exist even on paper.” [Washington Post, 12/19/00] It appears that all pre-9/11 plans to invade Afghanistan involve attacking from the north with Russia (see March 15, 2001, June 26, 2001 and July 21, 2001), but 9/11 allows the US to do it without Russian help.
          

December 20, 2000

       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 would be systematically attacked, nations fighting al-Qaeda would be given aid to defeat them, and the US would plan for direct military and covert action in Afghanistan. The plan would 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 to the new administration. One senior Clinton official later says, “We would be handing [the Bush Administration] a war when they took office on Jan. 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). But, 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 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]
          

December 26, 2000

       Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, while still learning to fly in Florida, stall a small plane on a Miami International Airport runway. Unable to start the plane, they simply walk away. Flight controllers have to guide the waiting passenger airliners around the stalled aircraft until it is towed away 35 minutes later. They weren't supposed to be using that airport in the first place. The FAA threatens to investigate the two students and the flight school they are attending. The flight school sends records to the FAA, but no more is heard of the investigation. [New York Times, 10/17/01] “Students do stupid things during their flight course, but this is quite stupid,”says the owner of the flight school. Nothing was wrong with the plane. [CNN, 10/17/01] Why did the investigation stop? Did the two ditch the plane intentionally to later lead investigators on a false trail?
          

Mid-March 2001

       Hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, Hani Hanjour, and Nawaf Alhazmi stay four days in the Fairfield Motor Inn, Fairfield, Connecticut. They meet with Eyad M. Alrababah, a Jordanian living in Bridgeport who has been charged with providing false identification to at least 50 illegal aliens. This meeting takes place about six weeks before the FBI says Moqed and Alghamdi enter the US. [AP 3/6/02; Congressional Intelligence Committee 9/26/02]
          

Mid-July 2001

       US intelligence reports another spike in warnings (see June 13, 2001 and June 20, 2001) related to the July 20-22 G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy. The reports include specific threats discovered by the head of Russia's Federal Bodyguard Service that al-Qaeda will try to kill Bush as he attends the summit. [CNN, 3/02] Two days before the summit begins, the BBC reports: “The huge force of officers and equipment which has been assembled to deal with unrest has been spurred on by a warning that supporters of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden might attempt an air attack on some of the world leaders present.” [BBC, 7/18/01] The attack is called off (see July 20-22, 2001).
          

Mid-July 2001 (C)

       CIA Director Tenet has a special meeting with National Security Advisor Rice and her aides about al-Qaeda. Says one official at the meeting, “[Tenet] briefed [Rice] that there was going to be a major attack.” Another at the meeting says Tenet displays a huge wall chart showing dozens of threats. Tenet doesn't rule out a domestic attack but says an overseas attack is more likely. [Time 8/4/02]
          

Mid-July 2001 (B)

       John O'Neill, FBI counter-terrorism expert, privately discusses White House obstruction in his bin Laden investigation. O'Neill says: “The main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it.” He adds: “All the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden's organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia.” O'Neill also believes the White House is obstructing his investigation of bin Laden because they are still keeping the idea of a pipeline deal with the Taliban open. [CNN 1/8/02; CNN 1/9/02; Irish Times 11/19/01; Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth]
          

Mid-November 2001

       Ismail Khan, governor of Herat province and one of Afghanistan's most successful militia leaders, later claims that his troops and other Northern Alliance fighters held back at the request of the US from sweeping into Kandahar at this time. The reasoning was that the US didn't want the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance to conquer Pashtun areas. But Khan maintains “we could have captured all the Taliban and the al-Qaeda groups. We could have arrested Osama bin Laden with all of his supporters.” [USA Today, 1/2/02] British newspapers at the time report bin Laden is surrounded in a 30-mile area, but the conquest of Kandahar takes weeks without the Northern Alliance and bin Laden slips away. [CNN, 11/18/01 (B)] Did the US not want the Northern Alliance to conquer this area in the hopes that a moderate version of the Taliban could remain in power (see November 13, 2001)?
          

Mid-August 2001 (B)

       Abdul Haq, a famous Afghan leader of the mujaheddin, returns to Peshawar, Pakistan, from the US. Having failed to gain US support (see February 2001 (C)), except for that of some private individuals such as former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Haq begins organizing subversive operations in Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times 10/28/01 (B); Wall Street Journal 11/2/01] He is later killed entering Afghanistan in October 2001, after his position is betrayed to the Taliban by the ISI (see October 25, 2001).
          

Mid-June 2001

       A two-hour video tape of al-Qaeda terrorists training at an Afghanistan camp appears in Kuwait and subsequently makes its way to the internet. The tape shows bin Laden making threats against the US and terrorists attacking targets bearing US emblems. [Sunday Herald 9/23/01]
          

January - September 10, 2001

       National Security Advisor Rice later says that in the 8 months Bush is president before 9/11, he is “briefed by [CIA Director] George Tenet at least 40-some - 40-plus of his briefings dealt in one way or another with al-Qaeda, or the al-Qaeda threat.” Tenet claims that none of the warnings specifically indicate terrorists plan to fly hijacked commercial aircraft into buildings in the United States. [New York Times 4/4/04 (B) http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/04/politics/04SUMM.html]
          

January 2001 (B)

       Hijackers Hamza Alghamdi and Mohand Alshehri rent a post office box in Delray Beach, Florida, according to the Washington Post. Yet FBI Director Mueller later claims they don't enter the country until May 28, 2001. [Washington Post 9/30/01; Congressional Intelligence Committee 9/26/02]
          

January-June 2001

       11 of the 9/11 hijackers stay in or pass through Britain, according to the British Home Secretary and top investigators. Most come between April and June, just passing through from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. But investigators suspect some stay in Britain for training and fundraising (see June 2001 (H)). Not all 11 names are given, but one can deduce from the press accounts that Ahmed Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, and Saeed Alghamdi were definitely in Britain. Ahmed Alghamdi was one of several that should have been “instantly ‘red-flagged’ by British intelligence,”because of his links to Raed Hijazi, a suspected ally of bin Laden being held in Jordan on charges of conspiring to destroy holy sites (see Spring 2001 (B)). Two of the following three also were in Britain: Wail Alshehri, Fayez Banihammad, and Abdulaziz Alomari. All or almost all appear to be the “muscle”(see April 23-June 29, 2001) and specific leaders like Atta and Alshehhi are ruled out as having passed through. [London Times, 9/26/01, , BBC, 9/28/01, Sunday Herald, 9/30/01] However, police are investigating if Mohamed Atta visited Britain in 1999 and 2000 together with some Algerians. [Telegraph, 9/30/01] The London Times also writes, “Officials hope that the inquiries in Britain will disclose the true identities of the suicide team. Some are known to have arrived in Britain using false passports and fake identities that they kept for the hijack.” This contradicts assertions by FBI Director Mueller that all the hijackers used their own, real names (see September 16-23, 2001).
          

January-February 2001

       In January, the Arizona flight school JetTech alerts the FAA about hijacker Hani Hanjour. No one at the school suspects Hanjour of terrorist intent, but they tell the FAA he lacks both the English and flying skills necessary for the commercial pilot's license he has. The flight school manager: “I couldn't believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had.” A former employee says, “I'm still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all.” They also note he is an exceptionally poor student who doesn't seem to care about passing his courses. [New York Times 5/4/02 (B)] An FAA official named John Anthony actually sits next to Hanjour in class and observes his skills. He suggests the use of a translator to help Hanjour pass, but the flight school points out that goes “against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license.” [AP, 5/10/02] The FAA verifies that Hanjour's pilot's license is legitimate, but takes no other action. But since 9/11, the FBI appears to have questions about how Hanjour got his license in 1999. They have questioned and polygraphed the Arab American instructor who signed off on his flying skills. [CBS, 5/10/02] His license also in fact had already expired in late 1999. [AP, 9/15/01 (B)] In February, Hanjour begins advanced simulator training, “a far more complicated task than he had faced in earning a commercial license.” [New York Times, 6/19/02] The flight school again alerts the FAA about this and gives a total of five alerts about Hanjour, but no further action on him is taken. The FBI is not told about Hanjour. [CBS, 5/10/02] Ironically, a few months later, Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams recommends in a memo that the FBI liaison with local flight schools and keep track of suspicious activity by Middle Eastern students (see July 10, 2001).
          

January 2001-September 11, 2001

       Numerous witnesses later recall seeing hijackers Mohamed Atta and/or Marwan Alshehhi in Nabil al-Marabh's Toronto apartment building and photocopy shop at various times during this year. [Toronto Sun, 9/28/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] Al-Marabh has connections with other hijackers (see Spring 2001 (B)) and other al-Qaeda figures (see 1989-May 2000 and May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001). Some of the dozens of eyewitness accounts say Atta sporadically works in the photocopy shop. [Toronto Sun, 10/21/01] Partially completed fake IDs are found in the store, which is owned by al-Marabh's uncle, and at al-Marabh's apartment. [Toronto Sun, 9/28/01, Toronto Sun, 10/16/01] There is a large picture of bin Laden hanging in the store. [Toronto Sun, 10/21/01] “Forensic officers said there are similarities in the paper stock, laminates and ink seized from the downtown store and that which was used in identification left behind by the [9/11 hijackers].” [Toronto Sun, 10/16/01] US and Canadian police later determine that there is a flurry of phone calls and financial transactions between al-Marabh, Atta, and Alshehhi days before the attacks. [Toronto Sun, 11/16/01] US intelligence also intercepts al-Marabh's associates making phone calls immediately praising the 9/11 attacks. [Ottawa Citizen, 10/29/01] Al-Marabh is said to head a Toronto al-Qaeda cell, and three members of his cell have been arrested. [Toronto Sun 11/23/01] Despite all of these al-Qaeda connections and more, the US later decides al-Marabh is not a terrorist and deports him to Syria (see September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002, Late 2002, and January 2004).
          

Mid-September 2001

       The Guardian later claims that Pakistani President Musharraf has a meeting of his 12 or 13 most senior officers. Musharraf proposes to support the US in the imminent war against the Taliban and bin Laden. Supposedly, four of his most senior generals oppose him outright in “a stunning display of disloyalty.” The four are ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, Lt. Gen. Muzaffar Usmani, Lt. Gen. Jamshaid Gulzar Kiani, and Lt. Gen. Mohammad Aziz Khan. All four are removed from power over the next month (see October 7, 2001). If this meeting took place, it's hard to see when it could have happened, since the article states it happened “within days” of 9/11, but Mahmood was in the US until late September 16 (see September 11-16, 2001), then flew to Afghanistan for two days (see September 17-18 and 28, 2001), then possibly to Saudi Arabia (see September 19, 2001 (B)). [Guardian, 5/25/02] Why would Musharraf send Mahmood on important diplomatic missions even late in the month if he is so disloyal?
          

Early 2001 (B)

       The heads of the US military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are frustrated by the lack of CIA disinformation operations to create dissent among the Taliban. At the very end of the Clinton administration they start developing a Taliban disinformation project of their own, which would go into effect in 2001. When they are briefed, the Defense Department's new leaders kill the project. Joint Chiefs of Staff ChairmanHenry Shelton says, “[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. According to Shelton, as far as Rumsfeld was 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]
          

Early 2001

      
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, Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger had become “totally preoccupied” with fears of a domestic terror attack. [Newsweek 5/27/02] Brian Sheridan, Clinton's outgoing assistant Secretary of Defense for special operations and low intensity conflict, is astonished when his offers during the transition to bring the new Pentagon 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 Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick, Deputy National Security Advisor and manager of Clinton's NSC (National Security Council) staff, remains at the NSC nearly four months after Bush took office. He notes that Clinton's advisers met “nearly weekly” on terrorism by the end of his term. But he doesn't 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] Dick Clarke and the CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] were doing.” [Washington Post 1/20/02] He 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 moved “to the back burner” until 9/11. [Washington Post 10/2/02]
          

Early January 2001

       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 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, Assistant Defense Secretary Brian Sheridan says to Powell, “Make al-Qaeda your number one priority.”
          

January 3, 2001

       Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for the Clinton administration, briefs National Security Advisor Rice and her deputy, Steve Hadley about al-Qaeda. [Washington Post 1/20/02] Outgoing National Security Advisor 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'd given to the outgoing Clinton administration a couple of weeks earlier (see December 20, 2000). [Time 8/4/02] He gets the impression that Rice has never heard the term al-Qaeda before. Rice decides this day to retain Clarke and his staff, but downgrades his official position, National Coordinator for Counterterrorism (see May 22, 1998). 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. [Guardian 3/25/04]
          

January 4, 2001

      
Khallad bin Attash
The FBI's investigation into the USS Cole bombing learns that terrorist Khallad bin Attash had been a principal planner of the bombing [AP, 9/21/02 (B)], and that two other participants in the bombing had delivered money to bin Attash at the time of the January 2000 al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). The FBI shares this information with the CIA. Based on a description of bin Attash from an informant, CIA analysts reexamine pictures from the Malaysian meeting and identify bin Attash with both hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. The CIA has already been informed that Alhazmi at least has entered the US (see March 5, 2000), yet once again they failed to watch list either Alhazmi or Almihdhar. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] CNN later notes that at this point the CIA at least “could have put Alhazmi and Almihdhar and all others who attended the meeting in Malaysia on a watch list to be kept out of this country. It was not done.” [CNN, 6/4/02] More incredibly, even bin Attash is not placed on the watch list at this time, despite being labeled as the principal planner of the Cole bombing (he is finally placed on the watch list in August 2001 (see August 23, 2001 (C))). [Los Angeles Times 9/22/02] CIA headquarters is told what these CIA analysts have learned, but it appears the FBI is not told. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

January 4, 2001 (B)

       Atta flies from Miami, Florida to Madrid, Spain. He has been in the US since June 3, 2000, learning to fly in Florida with Marwan Alshehhi. [Miami Herald, 9/22/01] He returns to the US on January 10 (see January 10, 2001). He makes a second trip to Spain later that year (see July 8-19, 2001).
          

January 10, 2001

       “INS documents, matched against an FBI alert given to German police, show two men named Mohamed Atta [arrive] in Miami on Jan. 10, each offering different destination addresses to INS agents, one in Nokomis, near Venice, the other at a Coral Springs condo. He was admitted, despite having overstayed his previous visa by a month. The double entry could be a paperwork error, confusion over a visa extension. It could be Atta arrived in Miami, flew to another country like the Bahamas and returned the same day. Or it could be that two men somehow cleared immigration with the same name using the same passport number.”[Miami Herald, 9/22/01] Officials later call this a bureaucratic snafu, and insist only one Atta entered the US on this date. [AP, 10/28/01] If this was just a bureaucratic snafu and the same entry processed twice, then why are different destination addresses given in each case? Could someone else posing as Atta have entered the US on this day? Also, Atta arrives on a tourist visa yet tells immigration inspectors that he is taking flying lessons in the US, which requires a M-1 student visa. [Washington Post, 10/28/01] The fact that he had overstayed his visa over a month on a previous visit also doesn't cause a problem. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01] The INS later defends its decision, but “immigration experts outside the agency dispute the INS position vigorously.” For instance Stephen Yale-Loehr, co-author of a 20-volume treatise on immigration law: “They just don't want to tell you they blew it. They should just admit they made a mistake.” [Washington Post 10/28/01]
          

January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001

      
A Predator drone.
Even before Bush's official inauguration, Clinton holdover counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke pushes National Security Advisor Rice and other incoming Bush officials to resume Predator drone flights over Afghanistan in an attempt to find and assassinate bin Laden (see September-October 2000 (B)). [Washington Post, 1/20/02, CBS, 6/25/03] 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, 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 (see January 25, 2001, March 7, 2001 (B),April 30, 2001). However, bureaucratic infighting between the CIA and the Air Force over who would pay for it and take responsibility delays its use. Clarke says, “Every time we were ready to use it, the CIA would change its mind.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03] National Security Advisor Rice and her deputy Steve Hadley decide to hold off on reconnaissance flights until the armed version in ready. In July, 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 (see September 4, 2001 (C) September 4, 2001 (E)). [New Yorker 7/28/03]
          

January 11-18, 2001

       Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi flies from the US to Casablanca, Morocco and back, for reasons unknown. He is able to reenter the US without trouble, despite having overstayed his previous visa by about five weeks. [Department of Justice 5/20/02; Los Angeles Times 9/27/01]
          

January 19, 2001

       New United Nations sanctions against Afghanistan take effect, adding to those from 1999 (see November 14, 1999). The sanctions limit travel by senior Taliban authorities, freeze bin Laden's and the Taliban's assets, and order the closure of Ariana Airlines offices abroad. The sanctions also impose an arms embargo against the Taliban, but not against Northern Alliance forces battling the Taliban. [AP 12/19/00] The arms embargo has no visible effect because the sanctions fail to stop Pakistani military assistance. [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04] The sanctions also fail to stop the illegal trade network the Taliban is secretly running through Ariana (see Mid-1996-October 2001). Two companies, Air Cess and Flying Dolphin, take over most of Ariana's traffic. Air Cess is owned by the Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, and Flying Dolphin is owned by the United Arab Emirates' former ambassador to the US, who is also an associate of Bout (see October 1996). In late 2000, despite UN reports linking Flying Dolphin to arms smuggling, the United Nations gives Flying Dolphin permission to take over Ariana's closed routes, which it does until the new sanctions take effect. Bout's operations are still functioning and he has not been arrested. [Los Angeles Times 1/20/02; Montreal Gazette 2/5/02] Ariana is essentially destroyed in the October 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times 11/18/01]
          

January 21, 2001

       George Bush Jr. is inaugurated as the 43rd US President, replacing Clinton. The only Cabinet-level figure to permanently remain in office is CIA Director Tenet, appointed in 1997 and reputedly a long time friend of Bush Sr. FBI Director Louis Freeh stays on until June 2001. Numerous figures in Bush's administration have been directly employed in the oil industry, including Bush, Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice. It is later revealed that Cheney is still being paid up to $1 million a year in “deferred payments” from Halliburton, the oil company he headed. [Guardian, 3/12/03] Enron's ties also reach deep into the administration. [Washington Post 1/18/02] Security precautions are taken to guard against the possibility of an attack on the inauguration ceremony using an airplane as a flying weapon (see also January 20, 1997). [Wall Street Journal 4/1/04]
          

January 24, 2001

       On this day, Italian intelligence hear another interesting wiretapped conversation (see also August 12, 2000), this one between terrorists Es Sayed and Ben Soltane Adel, two member's of al-Qaeda's Milan cell. Adel asks, in reference to fake documents, “Will these work for the brothers who are going to the United States?” Sayed responds angrily, saying “Don't ever say those words again, not even joking!” “If it's necessary … whatever place we may be, come up and talk in my ear, because these are very important things. You must know … that this plan is very, very secret, as if you were protecting the security of the state.” This is only one of many clues found from the Italian wiretaps and passed on to US intelligence in March 2001 (see March 2001 (B)). But they apparently are not properly understood until after 9/11. The Spanish government claims to have uncovered 9/11 clues from wiretaps as well (see August 27, 2001), and a priest was told of the 9/11 plot at an Italian wedding (see September 7, 2001), suggesting a surprising number of people in Europe may have had foreknowledge of 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 5/29/02] Adel is later arrested and convicted of belonging to a terrorist cell and Es Sayed fled to Afghanistan in July 2001. [Guardian 5/30/02]
          

January 25, 2001

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke submits a proposal to National Security Advisor Rice and “urgently” asks for a Cabinet-level meeting on the al-Qaeda threat. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 230-231] He forwards his December 2000 strategy paper (see December 20, 2000) and a copy of his 1998 Delenda plan (see August 27, 1998). He lays out a proposed agenda for urgent action:
  1. Approve covert assistance to Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
  2. Significantly increase funding for CIA counterterrorism activity. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
  3. 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 (see January 27, 2001)). 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]
  4. Go forward with new Predator drone reconnaissance missions in the spring and use an armed version when it's ready (see January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001). [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
  5. Step up the fight against terrorist fundraising. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
  6. 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. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02; Washington Post 1/20/02] />
Rice's response to Clarke's proposal is that the Cabinet won't address the issue until it has been “framed” at the deputy secretary level. However, this initial deputy meeting is not given high priority and doesn't take place until April 2001 (see April 30, 2001). 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. [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/04, The Age of Sacred Terror, by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, 10/02, pp. 335-336] 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 Jr. 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.”
          

January 25, 2001

      
Richard Clarke.
Richard Clarke, National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism and holdover from the Clinton administration, submits a proposal to the new administration for an attack on al-Qaeda in revenge of the USS Cole bombing. 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.” According to the Washington Post: “Clarke argue[s] that the camps were 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?”[Washington Post, 1/20/02] Clarke also warns that there are al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the US, which are a “major threat in being.” Two days later, the US confirms the link between al-Qaeda and the USS Cole bombing. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02 (D)] No retaliation is taken on these camps until after 9/11. Other suggestions by Clarke, such as supporting the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban or boosting the CIA Counterterrorism Center approximately $50 million budget, also go unheeded. [Washington Post 1/20/02]
          

January 27, 2001 (B)

       The Washington Post reports that the US has confirmed the link between al-Qaeda and the 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 also states 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 (see Late 1998-2000). The standby force gave Clinton the option of an immediate strike against targets in Afghanistan harboring al-Qaeda's top leadership. This makes a possible assassination of bin Laden much more difficult. [Washington Post 1/20/02]
          

Late January 2001

       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 (see September 11, 1996), and difficulties in investigating Saudi royalty. [BBC, 11/6/01] [FTW] An unnamed “top-level CIA operative” says there is a “major policy shift” at the National Security Agency at this time. Osama bin Laden could still be investigated, but agents could not look too closely at how he got his money. [Best Democracy Money Can Buy] Presumably one such investigation canceled is an investigation by the Chicago FBI into ties between Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi and the US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998) and other terrorist acts, 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”(see October 1998). Reporter Greg Palast notes that President Clinton was already hindering investigations by protecting Saudi interests. But, 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.” [Best Democracy Money Can Buy]
          

January 30, 2001

       Hijacker Ziad Jarrah is questioned for several hours at the Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates, at the request of the CIA for “suspected involvement in terrorist activities,” then let go. This is according to United Arab Emirates, US and European officials, but the CIA denies the story. The CIA notified local officials that he would be arriving from Pakistan on his way back to Europe, and they wanted to know where he had been in Afghanistan and how long he had been there. US officials were informed of the results of the interrogation before Jarrah left the airport. Jarrah had already been in the US for six months learning to fly. “UAE and European intelligence sources told CNN that the questioning of Jarrah fits a pattern of a CIA operation begun in 1999 to track suspected al-Qaeda operatives who were traveling through the United Arab Emirates.” He was then permitted to leave, eventually going to the US. [CNN, 8/1/02] Why the US would flag him now but not when he entered the US or after is unclear (see September 9, 2001 (E)).
          

January 31, 2001

       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 (see also September 15, 1999). 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 Advisor 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. But 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 (see May 8, 2001), 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 general public remained unaware of the term and the concept. [Salon, 9/12/01, Salon, 4/2/04 download the complete report here: USCNS Reports] 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]
          

January 31, 2001 (B)

       The Bush Administration holds its first National Security Council meeting, ten days after Bush's inauguration. According to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's account in a 2004 book, the first and most important topic discussed is Iraq. O'Neill states that “From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go.” There was no dissent amongst top officials to this idea. O'Neill states, “It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this.’ For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the US has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.” [CBS 1/11/04] O'Neill also claims, “In the 23 months I was [Treasury Secretary], I never saw anything that I would characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction.” [Time 1/10/04]
          

February 2001 (C)

       Abdul Haq, a famous Afghan leader of the mujaheddin, convinces Robert McFarlane, National Security Adviser under President Reagan, that Haq and about 50 fellow commanders could lead a force to start a revolt against the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan. However, Haq wants to do this under the authority of Zahir Shah, the popular former king of Afghanistan, whom the US doesn't support. The CIA fails to give any support to this revolt idea. Says one CIA official to McFarlane a few months later, “We don't yet have our marching orders concerning US policy; it may be that we will end up dealing with the Taliban.” Haq goes ahead with his plans without US support, and is later betrayed and killed (see Mid-August 2001 (B) and October 25, 2001). [Los Angeles Times 10/28/01 (B); Wall Street Journal 11/2/01]
          

February 2001 (B)

       A former CIA anti-terror expert later claims that an allied intelligence agency sees “two of Osama's sisters apparently taking cash to an airport in Abu Dhabi [United Arab Emirates], where they are suspected of handing it to a member of bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization.” This is cited as one of many incidents showing an “interconnectedness”between Osama bin Laden and the rest of his family. [New Yorker 11/5/01]
          

February-July 2001

       A trial is held in New York City for four defendants charged with involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings. All are ultimately convicted. Testimony reveals that two bin Laden operatives had received pilot training in Texas and Oklahoma and another had been asked to take lessons. One bin Laden aide becomes a government witness and gives the FBI detailed information about a pilot training scheme. This new information does not lead to any new FBI investigations into the matter. [Washington Post 9/23/01]
          

February 2001

       At least six unconnected people later claim they recognize hijackers Satam Al Suqami and Salem Alhazmi living in San Antonio, Texas, until this month. The management of an apartment building says the two men abandoned their leases at about this time, and some apartment residents recognize them. However, all the witnesses say that Suqami was going by Alhazmi's name, and vice versa! [KENS 5 Eyewitness News, 10/1/01] One pilot shop employee recognizes Alhazmi as a frequent visitor to the store and interested in a 757 or 767 handbook, though he also says Alhazmi used Suqami's name. [KENS 5 Eyewitness News, 10/3/01] The apartment leasing agent also recalls a Ziad Jarrah who once lived there in June 2001 and looked the same as the hijacker. [San Antonio Express-News 9/22/01; AP 9/22/01 (B)] Local FBI confirm that a Salem Alhazmi attended the nearby Alpha Tango Flight School and lived in that apartment building, but they say he is a different Salem Alhazmi who is still alive and living in Saudi Arabia. [KENS 5 Eyewitness News, 10/4/01] However, that Salem Alhazmi (see September 16-23, 2001) says he's never been to the US and has proved to the authorities he didn't leave Saudi Arabia in the two years prior to 9/11. [Washington Post, 9/20/01] The FBI gave no explanation for Satam Al Suqami's presence. Neither hijacker is supposed to have arrived in the US before April, 2001 (see April 23-June 29, 2001). Is the FBI covering up sightings of hijackers that don't fit into their storyline? Why did they apparently switch names, and what does this say about the veracity of the names of other hijackers?
          

Early February 2001

       Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for the Clinton administration, 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. But at later high level meetings he fails to bring up al-Qaeda as a priority issue. [Time 8/4/02]
          

February 2001 (D)

       Time magazine writes, “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. [Foreign Affairs 7/01; Time 10/15/01]
          

February 7, 2001

       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.” [AP 2/7/01; Sunday Herald 9/23/01]
          

February 9, 2001 (B)

       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 (see September 24, 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]
          

February 9, 2001

       Vice President Cheney is briefed that it has been conclusively proven bin Laden was behind the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). Bush has been in office a matter of days, when secret pipeline negotiations with the Taliban have begun. The new administration has already twice threatened the Taliban that the US would hold the Taliban responsible for any al-Qaeda attack. But, fearful of ending those negotiations, the US does not retaliate against either the Taliban or known bin Laden bases in Afghanistan in the manner Clinton did in 1998. [Washington Post 1/20/02]
          

February 13, 2001

       UPI reporter Richard Sale, while covering a trial of bin Laden's al-Qaeda followers, reports that the NSA has broken bin Laden's encrypted communications. US officials say “codes were broken.” [UPI, 2/13/01] Presumably al-Qaeda changes its security after this time, but also the US government officials later claim that the planning for the 9/11 attack began in 1998 if not earlier (see also 1998). [New York Times, 10/14/01] [FTW]
          

February 23, 2001

       Al-Qaeda agent Zacarias Moussaoui flies to the US. Three days later he starts flight training at the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma. The school and the area had a history of training terrorist pilots (see May 18, 1998 and September 1999 (E)). He trains there until May, but doesn't do well and drops out before getting a pilot's license. His visa expires on May 22, but he doesn't attempt to renew it or get another one. He stays in Norman, making arrangements to change flight schools, and frequently exercising in a gym. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, MSNBC, 12/11/01] According to US investigators, would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see November 20, 2002) later says he meets Moussaoui in Karachi (Pakistan) in June 2001. [Washington Post, 11/20/02] Moussaoui moves to a flight school in Minnesota in August (see August 13-15, 2001) and is arrested by the FBI a short time later (see August 15, 2001). [Senate Intelligence Committee 10/17/02; MSNBC 12/11/01]
          

February 26, 2001

      
Mohammed bin Laden, center, son of Osama bin Laden, right, marries the daughter of Mohammed Atef, left.
Bin Laden attends the wedding of his son Mohammad in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Although bin Laden is supposedly long estranged from his family, bin Laden's stepmother, two brothers and sister are also said to have attended, according to the only journalist who was invited (see also Spring 1998 and Spring 2000 (C)). [Reuters 3/1/01; Sunday Herald 10/7/01]
          

February 26, 2001

       Paul Bremer, 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 spoke shortly after chairing the National Commission on Terrorism, a bipartisan body formed during the Clinton administration. [AP 4/29/04]
          

March 2001 (D)

      
Dar al Hijrah mosque
Hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi move to Falls Church, Virginia, a large Muslim community near Washington. [Washington Post 9/10/02 (B)] They live only a few blocks from where two nephews of bin Laden with ties to terrorism work (see September 11, 1996). They continue to live there off and on until around August (see August 1-2, 2001). They begin attending the Dar al Hijrah mosque. [Washington Post, 9/10/02 (B)] When they and Khalid Almihdhar lived in San Diego in early 2000 (see Early February-Summer 2000), they attended a mosque there led by the imam Anwar Al Aulaqi. This imam moved to Falls Church in January 2001, and now the hijackers attend his sermons at the Dar al Hijrah mosque. Some later suspect that Aulaqi is part of the 9/11 plot because of their similar moves, and other reasons:
  1. The FBI says Aulaqi had closed door meetings with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in 2000 while all three of them are living in San Diego. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
  2. Police later find the phone number of Aulaqi's mosque when they search “would-be twentieth hijacker” Ramzi bin al-Shibh's apartment in Germany. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
  3. The FBI was investigating Aulaqi for terrorist ties in early 2000 (see June 1999-March 2000).
  4. A neighbor of Aulaqi later claims that in the first week of August 2001, Aulaqi knocks on his door and tells him he is leaving for Kuwait: “He came over before he left and told me that something very big was going to happen, and that he had to be out of the country when it happened.” [Newsweek, 7/28/03]
  5. Aulaqi is apparently in the country in late September, 2001, and claims to not recognize any of the hijackers. [Copley News, 10/1/01]
  6. A week after 9/11, he says the hijackers were framed, and suggests Israel was behind 9/11. [Washington Post, 7/23/03]
  7. Aulaqi leaves the US in early 2002. [Time, 8/11/03] In late 2002 he briefly returns and is temporarily detained as part of the Green Quest money laundering investigation (see December 5, 2002). But he is let go. [WorldNetDaily 8/16/03]
By late 2003 the US is looking for him in Yemen. [New Republic 8/21/03] The FBI appears to be divided about him, with some thinking he's part of the 9/11 plot and some disagreeing. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03, Time, 8/11/03] The 9/11 Commission later reports that Aulaqi gave substantial help to the two hijackers, that his relationship with them is "suspicious," and it cannot be discounted that he knew of the plot in advance. [AP 6/27/04 http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apus_story.asp?category=1110&slug=Attacks%20Hijackers%20Helpers]
          

March 2001

      
A still of Alhaznawi from the Al Jazeera video on the left. The WTC was digitally inserted in the video background later. The picture on the right is from the FBI.
Supposedly, all 13 of the “muscle” hijackers (see April 23-June 29, 2001) record a farewell video before leaving training in Kandahar, Afghanistan around this time. [CBS, 10/9/02] A video of Ahmed Alhaznawi is shown by the Al Jazeera TV network in April 2002. In it, he pledges to give his life to “martyrdom” and swears to send a “bloodied message” to Americans by attacking them in their “heartland.” [Guardian, 4/16/02] Compare a still frame of the video with an FBI photo of Alhaznawi. [CNN, 4/16/02] In September 2002, Al Jazeera also shows a similar farewell video of Abdulaziz Alomari made around the same time (see September 8-11, 2002). [AP, 9/9/02] Alomari states, “I am writing this with my full conscience and I am writing this in expectation of the end, which is near… God praise everybody who trained and helped me, namely the leader Sheik Osama bin Laden.” [Washington Post, 9/11/02] Al-Jazeera also shows Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi and Saeed Alghamdi and Wail Alshehri in Kandahar studying maps and flight manuals. [Financial Times, 9/11/02] Does the making of these videos hint that many in Afghanistan may have had foreknowledge about the 9/11 attacks (see July 2001)?
          

March-August 2001

       In March and August, Atta visits a small airport in South Florida and asks detailed questions about how to start and fly a crop-duster plane. People there easily recall him because he was so persistent. After explaining his abilities, Atta is told he is not skilled enough to fly a crop-duster. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] Employees at South Florida Crop Care in Belle Glade, Florida later tell the FBI that Atta was among the men who in groups of two or three visited the crop dusting firm nearly every weekend for six or eight weeks before the attacks. Says employee James Lester: “I recognized him because he stayed on my feet all the time. I just about had to push him away from me.” [AP 9/15/01] Yet, according to US investigators, Atta and the other hijackers gave up on the crop-duster idea back in 2000. (see Late April-Mid-May 2000).
          

March 1, 2001

       The Taliban begins blowing up two giant stone Buddhas of Bamiyan. They face great international condemnation in response, but no longer seem to be courting international recognition. Apparently even ISI efforts to dissuade them fail. [Time 8/4/02; Time 8/4/02]
          

March 2001 (E)

       An intelligence source claims that a group of al-Qaeda operatives is planning to conduct an unspecified attack inside the US in April. One of the operatives allegedly resides in the US. There are also reports of planned attacks in California and New York State for the same month, though it isn't clear if this is reference to the same plot. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

March 2001 (B)

       The Italian government gives the US information about possible attacks based on apartment wiretaps in the Italian city of Milan. [Fox News, 5/17/02] Presumably, the information includes a discussion between two al-Qaeda agents talking about a “very, very secret” plan to forge documents “for the brothers who are going to the United States”(see January 24, 2001). The warning may also have mentioned a wiretap the previous August involving one of the same people that discussed a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft (see August 12, 2000). Two months later, wiretaps of the same Milan cell also reveal a plot to attack a summit of world leaders (see May 2001).
          

March 2001 (C)

       Taliban envoy Rahmatullah Hashimi meets with reporters, middle-ranking State Department bureaucrats and private Afghanistan experts in Washington. He carries a gift carpet and a letter from Afghan leader Mullah Omar for President Bush. He discusses turning bin Laden over, but the US wants to be handed bin Laden and the Taliban want to turn him over to some third country. A CIA official later says: “We never heard what they were trying to say.” “We had no common language. Ours was, ‘Give up bin Laden.’ They were saying, ‘Do something to help us give him up.’ … I have no doubts they wanted to get rid of him. He was a pain in the neck.” Others claim the Taliban were never sincere. About 20 more meetings on giving up bin Laden take place up till 9/11, all fruitless. [Washington Post, 10/29/01] Hashimi also proposes that the Taliban would hold bin Laden in one location long enough for the US to locate and destroy him. However, this offer is refused. This is according to Laila Helms, daughter of former CIA director Richard Helms, who is doing public relations for the Taliban at the time (while interesting this came out before 9/11, one must be skeptical if the offer was made since her job was public relations for the Taliban). [Village Voice 6/6/01]
          

March 4, 2001

      
A Lone Gunman advertisement
Contradicting the later claim that no one could have envisioned the 9/11 attacks, a short-lived Fox TV program called The Lone Gunmen airs a pilot episode in which terrorists try to fly an airplane into the WTC. The heroes save the day and the airplane narrowly misses the building. There are no terrorists on board the aircraft; remote control technology is used to steer the plane. Ratings were good for the show, yet the eerie coincidence is barely mentioned after 9/11. Says one media columnist, “This seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order.” [TV Guide 6/21/02] The heroes also determine, “The terrorist group responsible was actually a faction of our own government. These malefactors were seeking to stimulate arms manufacturing in the lean years following the end of the Cold War by bringing down a plane in New York City and fomenting fears of terrorism.” [Myers Report 6/20/02]
          

March 5, 2001

       Paul O'Neill, Bush's Treasury Secretary at this time, later recalls that the most important topic of the Bush Administration in its early months is regime change in Iraq (see also January 31, 2001 (B)). Planning at this time envisions peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq's oil wealth. One document from around February 2001 is titled, “Plan for post-Saddam Iraq.” Another Pentagon document from this date is titled, “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts.” It includes a map of potential areas for exploration in Iraq. [CBS 1/11/04]
          

March 7, 2001

       The Russian Permanent Mission at the United Nations secretly submits “an unprecedentedly detailed report” to the UN Security Council about bin Laden, his whereabouts, details of his al-Qaeda network, Afghan drug running, and Taliban connections in Pakistan. The report provides “a listing of all bin Laden's bases, his government contacts and foreign advisors,” and enough information to potentially kill him. The US fails to act. Alex Standish, the editor of the highly respected Jane's Intelligence Review, concludes that the attacks of 9/11 were less of an American intelligence failure and more the result of “a political decision not to act against bin Laden.” [Jane's Intelligence Review 10/5/01]
          

March 7, 2001 (B)

      
Steve Hadley
Deputy National Security Advisor 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 (see also October 1999 (C), Late Autumn 2000 and April 6, 2001). 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 (see January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001). But 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” (see Early June 2001 (B)). [New York Times 4/4/04; New York Times 3/24/04 (D); 9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04; 9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (D)]
          

March 8, 2001

       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 (see UN list). Their assets are finally frozen by the US after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). [Guardian, 10/13/01 (B)] The US for a time 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).
          

March 15, 2001

       Jane's Intelligence Review reports that the US is working with India, Iran and Russia “in a concerted front against Afghanistan's Taliban regime.” India is supplying the Northern Alliance with military equipment, advisers and helicopter technicians and both India and Russia are using bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for their operations (see December 19, 2000, June 26, 2001 and July 21, 2001). [Jane's Intelligence Review 3/15/01]
          

March 23, 2001

       The Office of National Drug Control Policy issues a National Security Alert describing “apparent attempts by Israeli nationals to learn about government personnel and office layouts.” This later comes to light through a leaked Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) document called “Suspicious Activities Involving Israeli Art Students at DEA Facilities.” A crackdown ensues and by June around 120 Israelis are apprehended. More are apprehended later. [DEA report 6/01]
          

March 26, 2001

       The Washington Post reports on a 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, even translating difficult languages like Chinese and Japanese (apparently such software is much better than similar publicly available software) as well as automatically assessing their importance. There's also software that can turn a suspect's “life story into a three-dimensional diagram of linked phone calls, bank deposits and plane trips,” and other software to 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” weren't translated until after 9/11 because analysts were “too swamped.” [ABC News, 6/7/02] Doesn't that contradict the automated aspect of much translation?
          

April 2001 (D)

       A report commissioned by former US Secretary of State James Baker and the Council on Foreign Relations entitled “Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century” is submitted to Vice President Cheney this month. “The report is linked to a veritable who's who of US hawks, oilmen and corporate bigwigs.” The report says the “central dilemma” for the US administration is that “the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience.” It warns that the US is running out of oil, with a painful end to cheap fuel already in sight. It argues that “the United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma,” and that one of the “consequences” of this is a “need for military intervention” to secure its oil supply. It argues that Iraq needs to be overthrown so the US can control its oil. [Sunday Herald 10/5/02; Sydney Morning Herald 12/26/02] In what may be a reference to a pipeline through Afghanistan, the report suggests the US should “Investigate whether any changes to US policy would quickly facilitate higher exports of oil from the Caspian Basin region… the exports from some oil discoveries in the Caspian Basin could be hastened if a secure, economical export route could be identified swiftly” (see also September 2000 and Spring 2001). [Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century, 4/01] Could the Bush administration have let 9/11 happen to get access to Central Asian oil, and gain support for a war with Iraq, amongst other reasons?
          

April-May 2001

       National Security Advisor Rice later says US intelligence sources start to learn of specific threats regarding al-Qaeda attacks against US targets or interests around this time. [CNN, 3/02, Reuters, 5/16/02] While its true that intelligence warnings were increasing at this time, what about the many specific warnings from before this (for instance, see March 2000 (B) and March 2001 (B))?
          

Spring 2001

       The Sydney Morning Herald later reports, “The months preceding September 11 [see] a shifting of the US military's focus … Over several months beginning in April [2001] a series of military and governmental policy documents [are] released that [seek] to legitimize the use of US military force” “in the pursuit of oil and gas.” Michael Klare, an international security expert and author of Resource Wars, says the military has increasingly come to “define resource security as their primary mission.” An article in the Army War College's journal by Jeffrey Record, a former staff member of the Senate armed services committee, argues for the legitimacy of “shooting in the Persian Gulf on behalf of lower gas prices.” He also “advocate[s] the acceptability of presidential subterfuge in the promotion of a conflict” and “explicitly urge[s] painting over the US's actual reasons for warfare with a nobly high-minded veneer, seeing such as a necessity for mobilizing public support for a conflict.” In April, Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in the Persian Gulf/South Asia area, testifies to Congress in April that his command's key mission is “access to [the region's] energy resources.” The next month US Central Command begins planning for war with Afghanistan, plans that are later used in the real war (see May 2001 (F)). [Sydney Morning Herald, 12/26/02] Other little noticed but influential documents reflect similar thinking (see September 2000 and April 2001 (D)).
          

April 2001 (B)

       A source with terrorist connections speculates to US intelligence that “bin Laden would be interested in commercial pilots as potential terrorists.” The source warns that the US should not focus only on embassy bombings, because terrorists are seeking “spectacular and traumatic” attacks, along the lines of the WTC bombing in 1993. Because the source was offering personal speculation and not hard information, the information is not disseminated widely. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02; New York Times 9/18/02]
          

Spring 2001 (B)

       A US Customs Service investigation finds evidence that Nabil al-Marabh (see 1989-May 2000, May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001 and January 2001-September 11, 2001) has funneled money to hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi and Satam Al Suqami. [Cox News, 10/16/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] By summer, Customs uncovers a series of financial transactions between al-Marabh and al-Qaeda agent Raed Hijazi. [New York Times 9/21/01; AP 11/17/01] It is later reported that “some of the 11 hijackers who passed through” Britain in spring 2001 on their way to the US (see April 23-June 29, 2001) “should have been instantly ‘red-flagged’ by British intelligence. One was Ahmed Alghamdi” because of his connection to Raed Hijazi (see January-June 2001). [Sunday Herald, 9/30/01] Presumably another would be Satam Al Suqami. If they should have been flagged by Britain in spring 2001 because of a US investigation, isn't it likely that they should have been flagged by the US as well? Despite all of these al-Qaeda connections and more, the US later decides al-Marabh is not a terrorist and deports him to Syria (see September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002, Late 2002, and January 2004). A Congressional 9/11 inquiry later concludes that US intelligence “possessed no intelligence or law enforcement information” before 9/11 on any of the hijackers except for Khalid Almihdhar and Salem and Nawaf Alhazmi. The inquiry suggests the other hijackers may have been selected “because they did not have previously established ties to terrorist organizations.” [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/20/02]
          

April 1, 2001

       Hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is stopped by an Oklahoma policeman for speeding. His license information is run through a computer to check if there are any warrants for his arrest. There are none; he is issued a ticket and sent on his way. The CIA has known Alhazmi is a terrorist and possibly living in the US since March 2000 (see March 5, 2000), but has failed to share this knowledge with other agencies. [Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/02, Newsweek, 6/2/02] He also has been in the country illegally since January 2001, but this also doesn't raise any flags. [Congressional Intelligence Committee 9/20/02]
          

April 2001

       FBI translators Sibel Edmonds and Behrooz Sarshar later claim to know of an important warning given to the FBI at this time. In their accounts, a reliable informant on the FBI's payroll for at least ten years tells two FBI agents that sources in Afghanistan have heard of an al-Qaeda plot to attack the US and Europe in a suicide mission involving airplanes. Al-Qaeda agents, already in place inside the US, being trained as pilots. By some accounts, the names of prominent US cities are mentioned. It is unclear if this warning reaches FBI headquarters or beyond. The two translators later privately testify to the 9/11 Commission. [WorldNetDaily, 4/6/04 http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=37903, Village Voice, 4/14/04 http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0415/mondo10.php, Salon, 3/26/04 http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/03/26/translator/] In reference to this warning and apparently others, Edmonds says, “President Bush said they had no specific information about Sept. 11, and that's accurate. But there was specific information about use of airplanes, that an attack was on the way two or three months beforehand and that several people were already in the country by May of 2001. They should've alerted the people to the threat we were facing.” [Salon, 3/26/04 http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/03/26/translator/] She adds, “There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used but not specifically about how they would be used and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities with skyscrapers.” [Independent 4/2/04 http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=507514]
          

Spring 2001 (C)

       Attorney General 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 didn't want to hear about it,” says one witness. [Newsweek 5/27/02]
          

April 2001

       NORAD is planning to conduct a training exercise named Positive Force. Some Special Operations personnel trained to think like terrorists unsuccessfully propose adding a scenario simulating “an event having a terrorist group hijack a commercial airliner and fly it into the Pentagon.” Military higher-ups and White House officials reject the exercise as either “too unrealistic” or too disconnected to the original intent of the exercise. The proposal comes shortly before the exercise, which takes place this month. [Boston Herald 4/14/04; Guardian 4/15/04; Washington Post 4/14/04 (G); New York Times 4/14/04]
          

April-May 2001

       President 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 mention a domestic US attack. [New York Times 4/18/04]
          

April 4, 2001

       The BBC reports on advances in electronic surveillance. Echelon has become particularly effective against 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 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]
          

April 6, 2001 (C)

      
Massoud addressing the European Parliament.
Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, has been trying to get aid from the US (see October 1999 (C), and March 7, 2001 (B)), but his people are only allowed to meet with low level US officials. In an attempt to get his message across, he addresses the European Parliament: “If President Bush doesn't help us, these terrorists will damage the US and Europe very soon.” [Dawn 4/7/04; Time 8/4/02] Massoud also meets privately with some CIA officials while in Europe. He tells them that his guerrilla war against the Taliban is faltering and unless the US gives a significant amount of aid, the Taliban will conquer all of Afghanistan. No more aid is forthcoming. [Washington Post 2/23/04]
          

April 8, 2001

       Supposedly, Atta flies from the US to Prague, Czech Republic, and meets with Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, an Iraqi spy. He returns on April 9 or 10. [New York Times, 10/27/01] But did he actually fly to Prague? A US official later states, “Neither we nor the Czechs nor anybody else has any information [Atta] was coming or going [to Prague] at that time.” [Newsweek, 4/28/02] FBI Director Mueller states, “We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts,” yet no evidence that he left the country was found. [Washington Post, 5/1/02] Investigators believe Atta was in Florida the whole time, and the Czech government eventually agrees. [BBC, 5/1/02, UPI, 10/20/02, New York Times, 10/21/02] But assuming al-Ani met with someone, could it be someone other than Atta, perhaps someone impersonating him? “After months of investigation, the Czechs [say] they [are] no longer certain that Atta was the person who met al-Ani, saying ‘he may be different from Atta.’ ” [Washington Post, 5/1/02] “Some in Prague who knew the diplomat say he met with a used car salesman named Saleh from Nuremburg, Germany, who looked like Mr. Atta. ‘He is a perfect double for Atta,’ said a Syrian businessman who has lived in Prague for 35 years and says he knew the diplomat and the car salesman. ‘I saw him several times with [al-Ani].’ … Czech intelligence officials offered still another theory: the Mohamed Atta who came to Prague last April was not the hijacker but a Pakistani of the same name. ‘He didn't have the same identity card number,’an unidentified Interior Ministry official told the newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes. ‘There was a great difference in their ages, their nationalities didn't match, basically nothing— it was someone else.’ ” [New York Times, 12/16/01] Could the use of an impersonator explain why some Czech officials remained convinced so long that Atta came to this meeting [AP, 12/17/01], while FBI investigators remained convinced that he never left Florida? [Washington Post, 5/1/02] See September 19, 2001-October 20, 2002 for the remarkable way coverage of this story has changed over time.
          

April 12-September 7, 2001

       At least six hijackers get more than one Florida driver's license. They get the second license simply by filling out change of address forms.
  1. Waleed Alshehri: first license May 4, duplicate May 5.
  2. Marwan Alshehhi: first license, April 12, duplicate in June.
  3. Ziad Jarrah: first license May 2, duplicate July 10.
  4. Ahmed Alhaznawi: first license July 10, duplicate September 7.
  5. Hamza Alghamdi: first license June 27, two duplicates, the second in August.
  6. the sixth man with a Florida duplicate is not named. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01]
Additionally, some hijackers got licenses in multiple states. For instance, Nawaf Alhazmi had licenses from California, New York, and Florida at the same time, apparently all in the same name. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01, Newsday, 9/21/01, Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/02] Why would they need duplicates of even the exact same license, unless it was, as an article put it, to “[allow] two or more people to use the same identity”? [South Florida Sun-Sentinel 9/28/01]

          

April 18, 2001

       Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi flies from Miami, Florida, to Amsterdam, Netherlands. He returns on May 2. Investigators have not divulged where he went or what he did while in Europe. [Justice Department, 5/20/02] Could his trip be connected to other trips he and others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell take to get terrorist funding from the Dutch city of Eindhoven (see Mid-June 1999)?
          

April 18, 2001 (B)

       The FAA sends a warning to US airlines that Middle Eastern terrorists 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. [AP, 5/18/02] This is one of 15 general warnings issued to airlines between January and August (the airlines have been getting an average of more than one warning a month for a long time), but this one is slightly more specific. [CNN 3/02; CNN 5/17/02] As one newspaper later reports, “there were so many that airline officials grew numb to them.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/23/02] The Bush administration officials have said the threats were so vague that they did not require tighter security. [AP 5/18/02]
          

April 23, 2001

       A Global Hawk plane flies 22 hours from the US to Australia without pilot or passengers. A Global Hawk manager says, “The aircraft essentially flies itself, right from takeoff, right through to landing, and even taxiing off the runway”(see 1998 (D)and September 25, 2001). [ITN 4/24/01]
          

April 23-June 29, 2001

       The 13 hijackers commonly known as the “muscle” first arrive in the US. The muscle provides the brute force meant to control the hijacked passengers and protect the pilots. [Washington Post, 9/30/01] According to FBI Director Mueller, they all pass through Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and their travel was probably coordinated from abroad by Khalid Almihdhar. [Congressional Intelligence Committee 9/26/02] But some information contradicts their official arrival dates:
  • April 23: Waleed Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami arrive in Orlando, Florida. Suqami in fact arrived before February 2001 (see February 2001). Alshehri was leasing a house near Washington in 1999 and 2000 with Ahmed Alghamdi (see 1999 (H)). He also lived with Ahmed Alghamdi in Florida for seven months in 1997. [Telegraph, 9/20/01] Alshehri appears quite Americanized in the summer of 2001, frequently talking with an apartment mate about football and baseball, even identifying himself a fan of the Florida Marlins baseball team. [AP 9/21/01]
  • May 2: Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi arrive in Washington. Both actually arrived by mid-March 2001 (see Mid-March 2001). Ahmed Alghamdi was living with Waleed Alshehri near Washington until July 2000 (see 1999 (H)). He also lived with Waleed Alshehri in Florida for seven months in 1997. [Telegraph 9/20/01]
  • May 28: Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami arrive in Miami, Florida. Both Mohand Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi arrived by January 2001 (see January 2001 (B)).
  • June 8: Ahmed Alhaznawi and Wail Alshehri arrive in Miami, Florida.
  • June 27: Fayez Banihammad and Saeed Alghamdi arrive in Orlando, Florida.
  • June 29: Salem Alhazmi and Abdulaziz Alomari arrive in New York. Alhazmi in fact arrived before February 2001 (see February 2001).
After entering the US (perhaps reentering for some), the hijackers arriving at Miami and Orlando airports settle in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area along with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah. The hijackers, arriving in New York and Virginia, settle in the Paterson, New Jersey, area along with Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] Note that the FBI's early conclusion that 11 of these muscle men “did not know they were on a suicide mission,” [Observer 10/14/01] is contradicted by video confessions made by all of them in Afghanistan (see March 2001), and CIA Director Tenet later says they “probably were told little more than that they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States.” [CIA Director Tenet Testimony 6/18/02] They didn't know the exact details of the 9/11 plot until shortly before the attack. [CBS 10/9/02]
          

April 24, 2001

      
The first lines of the declassified Northwoods document.
James Bamford's book Body of Secrets reveals a secret US government plan named Operation Northwoods. All details of the plan come from declassified military documents. [AP, 4/24/01, Baltimore Sun, 4/24/01, ABC News, 5/1/01, Washington Post, 4/26/01] The heads of the US military, all five Joint Chiefs of Staff, proposed in a 1962 memo to commit terrorist acts against Americans and blame Cuba to create a pretext for invasion. Says one document, “We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington…. We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba. Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of indignation.” In March 1962, Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the Operation Northwoods plan to President John Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. The plan was rejected. Lemnitzer then sought to destroy all evidence of the plan. [Baltimore Sun, 4/24/01, ABC News, 5/1/01] Lemnitzer is replaced a few months later, but the Joint Chiefs continue to plan “pretext” operations at least through 1963. [ABC News, 5/1/01] One suggestion in the plan is to create a remote-controlled drone duplicate of a real civilian aircraft. The real aircraft would be loaded with “selected passengers, all boarded under carefully prepared aliases,” and then take off with the drone duplicate simultaneously taking off near by. The aircraft with passengers would secretly land at a US military base while the drone continues along the other plane's flight path. The drone would then be destroyed over Cuba in a way that places the blame on Cuban fighter aircraft. [Harper's, 7/1/01] Bamford says, “Here we are, 40 years afterward, and it's only now coming out. You just wonder what is going to be exposed 40 years from now.” [Insight, 7/30/01] Some 9/11 skeptics later claim that the 9/11 attacks could have been orchestrated by elements of the US government, and see Northwoods as an example of how top US officials could hatch such a plot. [Oakland Tribune 3/27/04]
          

April 26, 2001

       Atta is stopped at a random inspection near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and given a citation for having no driver's license. He fails to show up for his May 28 court hearing a warrant is issued for his arrest on June 4. After this, he flies all over the US using his real name, and even flies to Spain and back in July (see July 8-19, 2001) and is never stopped or questioned. The police never try to find him. [Wall Street Journal 10/16/01; Australian Broadcasting Corp. 11/12/01]
          

April 30, 2001

       The Bush administration finally has its first Deputy Secretary-level meeting on terrorism (see January 25, 2001). [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 (see April 6, 2001) and the Predator drone flights need to resume over Afghanistan so bin Laden can be targeted (see January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001). Assistant 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 spokesman for Wolfowitz later calls Clarke's account a “fabrication.” [Newsweek 3/22/04] Wolfowitz repeats these sentiments after 9/11 and tries to argue that the US should attack Iraq (see September 12, 2001 (F)). Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage agrees with Clarke that al-Qaeda is an important threat. Deputy National Security Advisor 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 (see Early June 2001 (B) and June 27-July 16, 2001), but then later look at other terrorism, including any Iraqi terrorism. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, p. 30, pp. 231-232] Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby and Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin also attend the hour long meeting. [Time 8/4/02]
          

April 30, 2001 (B)

       The US State Department issues its annual report on terrorism (see also April 30, 2000). The report does cite the role of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and notes the Taliban “continued to provide safe haven for intentional terrorists, particularly Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and his network.” However, as CNN describes it, “Unlike last year's report, bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization is mentioned, but the 2000 report does not contain a photograph of bin Laden or a lengthy description of him and the group. A senior State Department official told CNN that the US government made a mistake last year by focusing too tightly on bin Laden and ‘personalizing terrorism…describing parts of the elephant and not the whole beast.’ ” [CNN 4/30/01]
          

May-August 2001

       A number of the hijackers make at least six trips to Las Vegas. It's probable they met here after doing practice runs on cross-country flights. At least Atta, Alshehhi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Ziad Jarrah, Khalid Almihdhar and Hani Hanjour were involved. All of these “fundamentalist” Muslims drink alcohol, gamble, and frequent strip clubs. They even have strippers perform lap dances for them. [San Francisco Chronicle 10/4/01; Newsweek 10/15/01]
          

May-July 2001

       In a two month time period, the NSA reports “at least 33 communications indicating a possible, imminent terrorist attack.” None of these reports provide any specific information on where, when, or how an attack might occur. These reports are widely disseminated to other intelligence agencies. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, [MSNBC 9/18/02] ] National Security Advisor Rice later reads what she calls “chatter that was picked up in [2001's] spring and summer. ‘Unbelievable news coming in weeks,’ said one. ‘Big event—there will be a very, very, very, very big uproar.’ ‘There will be attacks in the near future.’ ” [Washington Post 4/8/04 (C)] The NSA Director later claims that all of the warnings were red herrings. [NSA Director Congressional Testimony 10/17/02]
          

May 2001

       Around this time, intercepts from Afghanistan warn that al-Qaeda could attack an American target in late June or on the July 4 holiday. However, The White House's Counterterrorism Security Group does not meet to discuss this prospect. This group also fails to meet after intelligence analysts overhear conversations from an al-Qaeda cell in Milan suggesting that bin Laden's agents might be plotting to kill Bush at the European summit in Genoa, Italy, in late July (see July 20-22, 2001). In fact, the group hardly meets at all. By comparison, the Counterterrorism Security Group met two or three times a week between 1998 and 2000 under Clinton. [New York Times 12/30/01]
          

May 2001 (D)

       Secretary of State Powell gives $43 million in aid to Afghanistan's Taliban government, purportedly to assist hungry farmers who are starving since the destruction of their opium crop in January on orders of the Taliban. [Los Angeles Times, 5/22/01] This follows $113 million given by the US in 2000 for humanitarian aid. [State Department Fact Sheet 12/11/01] A Newsday editorial notes that the Taliban “are a decidedly odd choice for an outright gift… Why are we sending these people money—so much that Washington is, in effect, the biggest donor of aid to the Taliban regime?”
          

May 2001 (C)

       The Defense Department gains and shares information indicating that seven people associated with bin Laden have departed from various locations for Canada, Britain, and the US. This is around the time that most of the 19 hijackers enter the US—could those be some of the people referred to? The next month, the CIA learns that key operatives in al-Qaeda are disappearing while others are preparing for martyrdom. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02; Washington Post 9/19/02 (B)]
          

May 2001 (B)

       US intelligence obtains information that al-Qaeda is planning to infiltrate the US from Canada and carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives. The report doesn't say exactly where inside the US, or when, or how an attack might occur. Two months later, the information is shared with the FBI, the INS, US Customs Service, and the State Department, and told to Bush in August (see August 6, 2001). [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02; Washington Post 9/19/02 (B)]
          

May 2001 (J)

       US Medicine magazine later reports, “Though the Department of Defense had no capability in place to protect the Pentagon from an ersatz guided missile in the form of a hijacked 757 airliner, DoD [Department of Defense] medical personnel trained for exactly that scenario in May.” The tri-Service DiLorenzo Health Care Clinic and the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic train inside the Pentagon this month “to fine-tune their emergency preparedness.” [US Medicine 10/01]
          

May 2001 (I)

       An Iranian in custody in New York City tells local police of a plot to attack the World Trade Center. No more details are known. [Fox News 5/17/02]
          

May 2001 (K)

       The Defense Department learns and shares with US intelligence that seven people associated with bin Laden had left from various locations and headed to Canada, Britain, and the US. The next month, the CIA learns that key operatives in al-Qaeda are disappearing, while others are preparing for martyrdom. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

May 2001 (E)

      
Richard Armitage
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a career covert operative and former Navy Seal, travels to India on a publicized tour while CIA Director Tenet makes a quiet visit to Pakistan to meet with President General Musharraf. Armitage has long and deep Pakistani intelligence connections (as well as a role in the Iran-Contra affair). It would be reasonable to assume that while in Islamabad, Tenet, in what was described as “an unusually long meeting,” also meets with his Pakistani counterpart, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed (see October 7, 2001). A long-time regional expert with extensive CIA ties stated publicly: “The CIA still has close links with the ISI.” [SAPRA, 5/22/01, Times of India, 3/7/01] [FTW]
          

May 2001 (F)

       General William Kernan, commander in chief of the Joint Forces Command, later mentions: “The details of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan which fought the Taliban and al-Qaeda after the September 11 attacks, were largely taken from a scenario examined by Central Command in May 2001.” [AFP 7/23/02]
          

May 2001 (G)

       Vice President Cheney's national energy plan is publicly released. It calls for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and easing regulatory barriers to building nuclear power plants. [AP, 12/9/02] There are several interesting points, little noticed at the time. It suggests that the US cannot depend exclusively on traditional sources of supply to provide the growing amount of oil that it needs. It will also have to obtain substantial supplies from new sources, such as the Caspian states, Russia, and Africa. It also notes that the US cannot rely on market forces alone to gain access to these added supplies, but will also require a significant effort on the part of government officials to overcome foreign resistance to the outward reach of American energy companies. [Japan Today, 4/30/02] The plan was largely decided through Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force. Both before and after this, Cheney and other Task Force officials meet with Enron executives, including a meeting a month and a half before Enron declares bankruptcy (see December 2, 2001). Two separate lawsuits are later filed to reveal details of how the government's energy policy was formed and if Enron or other players may have influenced it, but so far the Bush Administration has resisted all efforts to release these documents (see October 17, 2002 and February 7, 2003 (B)). [AP 12/9/02] At the very least, it's known that Enron executives met with the Commerce Secretary about its troubled Dabhol power plant in 2001 (see November 1993). [New York Times, 2/21/02] If these documents are released, they could show what the government did to support Enron's Dabhol plant with an Afghanistan gas pipeline.
          

May 2001 (H)

       The US introduces the “Visa Express” program in Saudi Arabia, which allows any Saudi Arabian to obtain visas through his or her travel agent instead of appearing at a consulate in person. An official later states, “The issuing officer has no idea whether the person applying for the visa is actually the person in the documents and application.” [US News and World Report, 12/12/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] At the time, warnings of an attack against the US led by the Saudi Osama bin Laden are higher than they had ever been before— “off the charts” as one senator later puts it. [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/02, Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] A terrorism conference had recently concluded that Saudi Arabia was one of four top nationalities in al-Qaeda. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/19/02] Five hijackers—Khalid Almihdhar, Abdulaziz Alomari, Salem Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Fayez Ahmed Banihammad—use Visa Express over the next month to enter the US. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] The widely criticized program is finally canceled in July 2002 (see July 19, 2002).
          
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