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Before 9/11

Military Exercises
Counterterrorism Before 9/11
Insider Trading
Foreign Intelligence Warnings
Warning Signs
Pipeline Politics
Hunt for bin Laden

Al-Qaeda Members

Marwan Alshehhi
Hani Hanjour
Ziad Jarrah
Nabil al-Marabh
Zacarias Moussaoui
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
Alhazmi and Almihdhar
Mohamed Atta
Other 9/11 Hijackers
Al-Qaeda in Germany

Geopolitics and 9/11

Randy Glass
Israel
Iraq
Saeed Sheikh
Bin Laden Family
Pakistani ISI
Drugs
Mahmood Ahmed
US Dominance
Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden Family

Day of 9/11

Flight UA 175
Flight AA 11
Flight AA 77
Donald Rumsfeld
Dick Cheney
George Bush
Flight UA 93
Richard Clarke
All day of 9/11 events

The Post-9/11 World

Afghanistan
Other events
Investigations
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Complete 911 Timeline

 
  

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May 2001: Bush, Who Has Yet to Take Any Action Against al-Qaeda, Is Tired of Swatting at Flies

       It is claimed that after a routine briefing by CIA Director Tenet to President Bush regarding the hunt for al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, Bush complains to National Security Adviser Rice that he is tired of “swatting at flies” and wants a comprehensive plan for attacking terrorism. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke already has such a plan, but it has been mired in bureaucratic deadlock since January. After this, progress remains slow. [Time, 8/4/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
          

May 2001: Hijackers Take Advantage of New, Anonymous Visa Express Procedure

      
A portion of Salem Alhazmi's New Jersey identification card.
The US introduces the “Visa Express” program in Saudi Arabia, which allows any Saudi Arabian to obtain a visa 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; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 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; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 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. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/20/02] Even 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will successfully get a US Visa through this program in July (using a false name but real photograph), despite a posted $2 million reward for his capture. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/04] Only three percent of Saudi visa applicants are turned down by US consular officers in fiscal 2000 and 2001. In contrast, about 25 percent of US visa seekers worldwide are rejected. Acceptance is even more difficult for applicants from countries considered to have ties to terrorism such as Iraq or Iran. [Washington Post, 10/31/01] The widely criticized program is finally canceled in July 2002.
          

May 2001: Cheney's Energy Plan Foresees Government Helping US Companies Expand Into New Markets

       Vice President Cheney's national energy plan is released to the public. It calls for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and easing regulatory barriers to building nuclear power plants. [Associated Press, 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 one meeting a month and a half before Enron declares bankruptcy in December 2001). Two separate lawsuits are later filed to reveal details of how the government's energy policy was formed and whether Enron or other players may have influenced it, but as of mid-2004 the Bush administration has successfully resisted all efforts to release these documents. [Associated Press, 12/9/02]
          

May 2001: Bin Laden Associates Head West, Prepare for Martyrdom

       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. The next month, the CIA learns that key operatives in al-Qaeda are disappearing while others are preparing for martyrdom. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02; Washington Post, 9/19/02 (B)]
          

May 2001: Warnings About Impending Terrorist Attack Fail to Alert White House

       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 and 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. In fact, the group hardly meets at all. By comparison, the Counterterrorism and Security Group met two or three times a week between 1998 and 2000 under Clinton. [New York Times, 12/30/01]
          

May 2001: Tenet Visits Pakistan; Armitage Calls on India

      
Richard Armitage.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a former covert operative and 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 Mahmood. A long-time regional expert with extensive CIA ties publicly says, “The CIA still has close links with the ISI.” [SAPRA, 5/22/01; Times of India, 3/7/01]
          

May-August 2001: Hijackers Take Practice Flights and Enjoy Las Vegas Diversions

       A number of the hijackers make at least six trips to Las Vegas. It is probable they met here after doing practice runs on cross-country flights. At least Mohamed Atta, Marwan 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 2001: US Military Drafts Scenario for Afghan Operation

       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.” [Agence France-Presse, 7/23/02] This seems to contradict other accounts suggesting the military made no Afghanistan invasion plans or preparations after Bush took office (see December 2000).
          

May 6-September 6, 2001: Some Hijackers Work Out at Gyms, Some Merely Hang Out

      
Ziad Jarrah's computer record at the US1 Fitness gym.
The hijackers work out at various gyms, presumably getting in shape for the hijacking. Ziad Jarrah appears to train intensively from May to August, and Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi also take exercising very seriously. [New York Times, 9/23/01; Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] However, these three are presumably pilots who would need the training the least. For instance, Jarrah's trainer says, “If he wasn't one of the pilots, he would have done quite well in thwarting the passengers from attacking.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] For instance, Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi work out for only four days in early September. [Associated Press, 9/21/01] Three others—Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri and Satam al-Suqami— “simply clustered around a small circuit of machines, never asking for help and, according to a trainer, never pushing any weights. ‘You know, I don't actually remember them ever doing anything... They would just stand around and watch people.’ ” [New York Times, 9/23/01] Those three also had a one month membership in Florida—whether they ever actually worked out there is unknown. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01]
          

May 8, 2001: Cheney Heads Task Force Responding to Domestic Attacks, but No Action Is Taken Before 9/11

      
Vice President Dick Cheney on television, May 8, 2001.
Bush entrusts Vice President Cheney to head the new Office of National Preparedness, a part of FEMA. This office is supposed to oversee a “national effort” to coordinate all federal programs for responding to domestic attacks. Cheney informs the press: “One of our biggest threats as a nation” may include “a terrorist organization overseas. We need to look at this whole area, oftentimes referred to as homeland defense.” The focus is on state-funded terrorists using weapons of mass destruction, and neither bin Laden nor al-Qaeda is mentioned. [New York Times, 7/8/02] Cheney's task force is supposed to report to Congress by October 1, 2001, after a review by the National Security Council. Bush states that he “will periodically chair a meeting of the National Security Council to review these efforts.” [Washington Post, 1/20/02] In July, two senators send draft counterterrorism legislation to Cheney's office, but a day before 9/11, they are told it might be another six months before he gets to it. The task force is just beginning to hire staff a few days before 9/11. Former Senator Gary Hart (D) later implies that this task force is created to prevent Congress from enacting counterterrorism legislation proposed by a bipartisan commission he had co-chaired in January. [Salon, 4/2/04; Salon, 4/6/04]
          

May 10, 2001: Ashcroft Omits Counterterrorism from List of Goals

       Attorney General Ashcroft sends a letter to department heads telling them the Justice Department's new agenda. He cites seven goals, but counterterrorism is not one of them. Yet just one day earlier, he testified before Congress and said of counterterrorism, “The Department of Justice has no higher priority.” [New York Times, 2/28/02] Dale Watson, head of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, recalls nearly falling out of his chair when he sees counterterrorism not mentioned as a goal. [9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04] In August, a strategic plan is distributed, listing the same seven goals and 36 objectives. Thirteen objectives are highlighted, but the single objective relating to counterterrorism is not highlighted. [New York Times, 2/28/02]
          

May 15, 2001: CIA Hides al-Qaeda Meeting Information from FBI

       A supervisor at the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center sends a request to CIA headquarters for the surveillance photos of the January 2000 al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia. Three days later, the supervisor explains the reason for his interest in an e-mail to a CIA analyst: “I'm interested because Khalid Almihdhar's two companions also were couriers of a sort, who traveled between [the Far East] and Los Angeles at the same time ([H]azmi and [S]alah).” Hazmi refers to hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salah Said is the alias al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash traveled under during the meeting. Apparently, the supervisor receives the photos. Toward the end of May, a CIA analyst contacts a specialist working at FBI headquarters about the photographs. The CIA wants the FBI analyst to review the photographs and determine if a person who had carried money to Southeast Asia for bin Attash in January 2000 could be identified. The CIA fails to tell the FBI analyst anything about Almihdhar or Alhazmi. Around the same time, the CIA analyst receives an e-mail mentioning Alhazmi's travel to the US. These two analysts travel to New York the next month and again the CIA analyst fails to divulge what he knows. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
          

May 16, 2001: US Strengthens Military Relations with Central Asian Republics

       US General Tommy Franks, later to head the US occupation of Afghanistan, visits the capital of Tajikistan. He says the Bush administration considers Tajikistan “a strategically significant country” and offers military aid. This follows a visit by a Department of Defense official earlier in the year. The Guardian later asserts that by this time, “US Rangers were also training special troops in Kyrgyzstan. There were unconfirmed reports that Tajik and Uzbek special troops were training in Alaska and Montana.” [Guardian, 9/26/01]
          

May 23, 2001: Former Unocal Employee Becomes Bush's Special Assistant to Middle East and Central Asia

      
Zalmay Khalilzad.
Zalmay Khalilzad is appointed Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Gulf, Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues on the National Security Council. Khalilzad was an official in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. During the Clinton years, he worked for Unocal. After 9/11, he will be appointed as special envoy to Afghanistan. [Independent, 1/10/02; State Department profile, 2001] He previously worked under Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and helped him write a controversial 1992 plan for US world domination.(see March 8, 1992) [New York Times, 3/22/03] He was a member of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century. The Asia Times notes, “It was Khalilzad?when he was a huge Taliban fan?who conducted the risk analysis for Unocal (Union Oil Company of California) for the infamous proposed $2 billion, 1,500 kilometer-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan [TAP] gas pipeline.” [Asia Times, 12/25/03] After 9/11, he will be appointed as special envoy to Afghanistan and become what some call the "real president" of that country (see January 1, 2002).
          

May 29, 2001: US Citizens Overseas Cautioned

       The State Department issues an overseas caution connected to the conviction of defendants in the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. That warning says, “Americans citizens abroad may be the target of a terrorist threat from extremist groups” with links to bin Laden. The warning will be reissued on June 22. [CNN, 6/23/01]
          

May 30, 2001: Convicted Terrorist Warns of Major al-Qaeda Operation in the US Involving Hijackings, Explosives, and/or New York City

      
Ahmed Ressam.
Ahmed Ressam is convicted in the spring of 2001 for attempting to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport (see December 14, 1999). Facing the likelihood of life in prison, he starts cooperating with authorities in an attempt to reduce his sentence. On this day, he details his experiences in al-Qaeda training camps and his many dealings with top al-Qaeda deputy Abu Zubaida. According to FBI notes from Ressam's interrogation, Zubaida asked Ressam to send him original Canadian passports to help Zubaida “get people to America.” Zubaida “wanted an operation in the US” and talked about the need to get explosives into the US for this operation, but Ressam makes it clear this was a separate plot from the one he was involved with. Notes from this day further explain that Ressam doesn't know if any explosives made it into the US because once an operation was initiated, operators were not supposed to talk about it to anyone. There's no concrete evidence that Ressam knows any detail of the 9/11 attacks. [Newsweek, 4/28/05] However, Fox News reports that roughly around this time Ressam testifies “that attack plans, including hijackings and attacks on New York City targets, [are] ongoing.” [Fox News, 5/17/02] Ressam will repeat some of this in a public trial a month later. Questioned shortly after 9/11, Ressam will point out that given what he's already told his US interrogators, the 9/11 attacks should not be surprising. He notes that he'd described how Zubaida talked “generally of big operations in [the] US with big impact, needing great preparation, great perseverance, and willingness to die.” Ressam had told of “plans to get people hired at airports, of blowing up airports, and airplanes.” Apparently, the FBI waits until July to share the information from this debriefing with other intelligence agencies, the INS, Customs Service, and the State Department. Ressam's warnings are first mentioned to Bush in his now famous August 6, 2001 briefing, but as Newsweek notes, “the information from Ressam that was contained in [Bush's] PDB [is] watered down and seem[s] far more bland than what the Algerian terrorist was actually telling the FBI.” Zubaida's second plot is boiled down to one sentence: “Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaida was planning his own US attack.” [Newsweek, 4/28/05]
          

May 30, 2001: Yemenis Are Caught Taking Suspicious New York Photos

       Two Yemeni men are detained after guards see them taking photos at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City. They are questioned by INS agents and let go. A few days later, their confiscated film is developed, showing photos of security checkpoints, police posts, and surveillance cameras of federal buildings, including the FBI's counterterrorism office. The two men are later interviewed by the FBI and determined not to be terrorists. However, they had taken the pictures on behalf of a third person living in Indiana. By the time the FBI looks for him, he has fled the country and his documentation is found to be based on a false alias. In 2004, it is reportedly still unknown whether the third man is a terrorist. The famous briefing given to President George W. Bush on August 6, 2000, will mention the incident, warning that the FBI is investigating “suspicious activity in this country consistent with the preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.” When Bush's August 6 briefing is released in 2004, a White House fact sheet fails to mention the still missing third man. [New York Post, 7/1/01; New York Post, 9/16/01; Washington Post, 5/16/04]
          

May 31, 2001: Tightly Organized System of al-Qaeda Cells Found in US

       The Wall Street Journal summarizes tens of thousands of pages of evidence disclosed in a recently concluded trial of al-Qaeda terrorists. They are called “a riveting view onto the shadowy world of al-Qaeda.” The documents reveal numerous connections between al-Qaeda and specific front companies and charities. They even detail a “tightly organized system of cells in an array of American cities, including Brooklyn, N.Y.; Orlando, Fla.; Dallas, Tex.; Santa Clara, Calif.; Columbia, Mo., and Herndon, Va.” The 9/11 hijackers had ties to many of these same cities and charities. [Wall Street Journal, 5/31/01]
          

Summer 2001: Pakistani Intelligence Rescues bin Laden Associate

       Egyptian investigators track down a close associate of bin Laden named Ahmed al-Khadir, wanted for bombing the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad in 1995. Egyptians surround the safe house in Pakistan where al-Khadir is hiding. They notify the ISI to help arrest him, and the ISI promises swift action. Instead, a car sent by the ISI filled with Taliban and having diplomatic plates arrives, grabs al-Khadir and drives him to safety in Afghanistan. Time magazine later reports the incident as demonstrating the strong ties between the ISI and both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [Time, 5/6/02]
          

June 2001: Enron Shuts Down Expensive Indian Plant Afghan Pipeline Fails to Materialize

       Enron's power plant in Dabhol, India, is shut down. The failure of the $3 billion plant, Enron's largest investment, contributes to Enron's bankruptcy in December. Earlier in the year, India stopped paying its bill for the energy from the plant, because energy from the plant cost three times the usual rates. [New York Times, 3/20/01] Enron had hoped to feed the plant with cheap Central Asian gas, but this hope was dashed when a gas pipeline through Afghanistan was not completed. The larger part of the plant is still only 90 percent complete when construction stops around this time. [New York Times, 3/20/01] Enron executives meet with the Commerce Secretary about its troubled Dabhol power plant during this year [New York Times, 2/21/02] , and Vice President Cheney lobbies the leader of India's main opposition party about the plant this month. [New York Times, 2/21/02]
          

June 2001: US Intelligence Warns of Spectacular Attacks by al-Qaeda Associates

       US intelligence issues a terrorist threat advisory, warning US government agencies that there is a high probability of an imminent terrorist attack against US interests: “Sunni extremists associated with al-Qaeda are most likely to attempt spectacular attacks resulting in numerous casualties.” The advisory mentions the Arabian Peninsula, Israel, and Italy as possible targets for an attack. Afterwards, intelligence information provided to senior US leaders continues to indicate that al-Qaeda expects near-term attacks to have dramatic consequences on governments or cause major casualties. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02]
          

June-July 2001: Terrorist Threat Reports Surge, Frustration with White House Grows

       Terrorist threat reports, already high in the preceding months, surge even higher. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and national security aides are given briefing papers with headlines such as “Bin Laden Threats Are Real” and “Bin Laden Planning High Profile Attacks.” The exact contents of these briefings remain classified, but according to the 9/11 Commission they consistently predict upcoming attacks that will occur “on a catastrophic level, indicating that they would cause the world to be in turmoil, consisting of possible multiple—but not necessarily simultaneous—attacks.” CIA Director Tenet later recalls that by late July the warnings coming in could not get any worse. He feels that President Bush and other officials grasp the urgency of what they are being told. [9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04 (B)] But Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin later states that he feels a great tension, peaking these months, between the Bush administration's apparent misunderstanding of terrorism issues and his sense of great urgency. McLaughlin and others are frustrated when inexperienced Bush officials question the validity of certain intelligence findings. Two unnamed, veteran Counter Terrorism Center officers deeply involved in bin Laden issues are so worried about an impending disaster that they consider resigning and going public with their concerns. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (C)] Dale Watson, head of counterterrorism at the FBI, wishes he had “500 analysts looking at Osama bin Laden threat information instead of two.” [9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04 (B)]
          

June 2001: DEA Draws Up Report on Israeli Spies

      
The cover of the DEA report, as depicted on television.
The DEA's Office of Security Programs prepares a 60-page internal memo on the Israeli “art student spy ring.” [DEA report, 6/01] The memo is a compilation of dozens of field reports, and was meant only for the eyes of senior officials at the Justice Department (of which the DEA is adjunct), but it is leaked to the press around December 2001. The report connects the spies to efforts to foil investigations into Israeli organized crime activity involving the importation of the drug Ecstasy. The spies also appear to be snooping on top-secret military bases. For instance, on April 30, 2001, an Air Force alert was issued from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City concerning “possible intelligence collection being conducted by Israeli art students.” Tinker AFB houses AWACS surveillance craft and Stealth bombers. By the time of the report, the US has “apprehended or expelled close to 120 Israeli nationals” but many remain at large. [Le Monde, 3/5/02; Salon, 5/7/02] An additional 20 or so Israeli spies are apprehended between June and 9/11. [Fox News, 12/12/01]
          

Early June 2001: Taliban Leader Claims Interest in Resolving bin Laden Issue

       Reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar says the Taliban would like to resolve the bin Laden issue, so there can be “an easing and then lifting of UN sanctions that are strangling and killing the people of [Afghanistan].” [UPI, 6/14/01]
          

Summer 2001: NSA Fails to Share Intercepted Information About Calls Between Atta and Mohammed

       Around this time, the NSA intercepts telephone conversations between Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Mohamed Atta, but apparently does not share the information with any other agencies. The FBI has a $2 million reward for Mohammed at the time, while Atta is in charge of operations inside the US. [Knight Ridder, 6/6/02; Independent, 6/6/02] The NSA either fails to translate these messages in a timely fashion or fails to understand the significance of what was translated. [Knight Ridder, 6/6/02]
          

Summer 2001: FBI Tells Local Law Enforcement There Is No Credible Threat of Terrorism In the US

       The communicated terrorist threat information is shared with state and local law enforcement entities through National Law Enforcement Threat System (NLETS) reports. However, at this time, the heightened state of alert for a terrorist attack in the US is not reflected at all in these NLETS reports. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry notes, “In a May 2001 NLETS report, for example, the FBI assessed the risk of terrorism as ‘low,’ and, in a July 2, 2001 NLETS report, stated that the FBI had no information indicating a credible threat of terrorist attack in the United States, although the possibility of such an attack could not be discounted.” Further reports focus only on the potential of terrorist attacks against US interests overseas. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] On July 5 and 6, 2001, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke specifically warns FBI officials that al-Qaeda is planning “something spectacular,” and says, “They may try to hit us at home. You have to assume that is what they are going to do.” Yet apparently the FBI doesn't pass any of Clarke's warnings or sense of urgent emergency to the state and local emergency responders (see July 5, 2001)(see July 6, 2001).
          

Summer 2001: Military Plans Reducing Domestic Air Defenses Still Further

       During this period, apparently, there are only 14 fighter planes on active alert to defend the continental US (and six more defending Canada and Alaska). [Bergen Record, 12/5/03] However, in the months before 9/11, rather than increase the number, the Pentagon was planning to reduce the number still further. Just after 9/11, the Los Angeles Times will report, “While defense officials say a decision had not yet been made, a reduction in air defenses had been gaining currency in recent months among task forces assigned by [Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld to put together recommendations for a reassessment of the military.” By comparison, in the Cold War atmosphere of the 1950s, the US had thousands of fighters on alert throughout the US. [Los Angeles Times, 9/15/01 (B)] As late as 1998, there were 175 fighters on alert status. [Bergen Record, 12/5/03] Also during this time, FAA officials try to dispense with “primary” radars altogether, so that if a plane were to turn its transponder off, no radar could see it. NORAD rejects the proposal [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02]
          

Early June 2001: Extensive ISI Support for Taliban Continues

       UPI reporters visiting Taliban leader Mullah Omar note, “Saudi Arabia and the [United Arab Emirates] secretly fund the Taliban government by paying Pakistan for its logistical support to Afghanistan. Despite Pakistan's official denials, the Taliban is entirely dependent on Pakistani aid. This was verified on the ground by UPI. Everything from bottled water to oil, gasoline and aviation fuel, and from telephone equipment to military supplies, comes from Pakistan.” [UPI, 6/14/01]
          

Summer 2001: Classified al-Qaeda Surveillance Program Curtailed

       According to Newsweek, the Justice Department curtails “a highly classified program called ‘Catcher's Mitt’ to monitor al-Qaeda suspects in the United States.” This is apparently because a federal judge severely chastised the FBI for improperly seeking permission to wiretap terrorists. [Newsweek, 3/22/04]
          

Summer 2001: Threat Alerts Increase to Record High

       Congressman Porter Goss (R), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, later says on the intelligence monitoring of terrorist groups, “the chatter level [goes] way off the charts” around this time and stays high until 9/11. Given Goss's history as a CIA operative, presumably he is kept “in the know” to some extent. [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/02] A later Congressional report states: “Some individuals within the intelligence community have suggested that the increase in threat reporting was unprecedented, at least in terms of their own experience.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02] Two counterterrorism officials later describe the alerts of this summer as “the most urgent in decades.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02]
          

Summer 2001: Saudi and Taliban Leaders Reportedly Discuss bin Laden

      
Crown Prince Abdullah.
An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 claims that Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, makes a clandestine visit to Pakistan around this time. After meeting with senior army officials, he visits Afghanistan with ISI Director Mahmood. They meet Taliban leader Mullah Omar and try to convince him that the US is likely to launch an attack on Afghanistan. They insist bin Laden be sent to Saudi Arabia, where he would be held in custody and not handed over to any third country. If bin Laden were to be tried in Saudi Arabia, Abdullah would help make sure he is acquitted. Mullah Omar apparently rejects the proposal. The article suggests that Abdullah is secretly a supporter of bin Laden and is trying to protect him from harm. [Asia Times, 8/22/01] A similar meeting may also take place about a week after 9/11 (see September 19, 2001).
          

Early June 2001: Counterterrorism Plan Circulated, but Contingency Plans Are Not Created

      
Steve Hadley.
Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley circulates a draft presidential directive on policy toward al-Qaeda. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and his staff regard the new approach as essentially the same as the proposal that they developed in December 2000 and presented to the Bush administration in January 2001. The draft has the goal of eliminating al-Qaeda as a threat over a multi-year period, and calls for funding through 2006. It has a section calling for the development of contingency military plans against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Hadley contacts Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to tell him these contingency plans will be needed soon. However, no such plans are developed before 9/11. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and others later admit that the contingency plans available immediately after 9/11 are unsatisfactory. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (B); 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] The draft is now discussed in three more deputy-level meetings.
          

June or July 2001: Hijackers Plan Attacks from German University

       Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and an unknown third person are seen in the ground-floor workshops of the architecture department at this time, according to at least two witnesses from the Hamburg university where Atta had studied. They are seen on at least two occasions with a white, three-foot scale model of the Pentagon. Between 60 and 80 slides of the Sears building in Chicago and the WTC are found to be missing from the technical library after 9/11. [Sunday Times, 2/3/02]
          

June 1, 2001: New Policy: Only Defense Secretary May Approve Fighter Jet Launch

       According to the New York Observer and government documents, the procedure for dealing with hijackings within the United States changes on this date. It requires that, with the exception of “immediate responses,” requests for military assistance must be forwarded to the Defense Secretary (Donald Rumsfeld) for approval. Rumsfeld later claims that protection against a domestic terrorist attack is not his responsibility; it is instead “a law-enforcement issue.” [New York Observer, 6/17/04; CJCSI, 7/31/97; Department of Defense, 6/1/01]
          

Summer 2001: FBI Neglects Chance to Infiltrate al-Qaeda Training Camp

       A confidential informant tells an FBI field office agent that he has been invited to a commando-training course at a camp operated by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The information is passed up to FBI headquarters, which rejects the idea of infiltrating the camp. An “asset validation” of the informant, a routine but critical exercise to determine whether information from the source was reliable, is also not done. The FBI later has no comment on the story. [US News and World Report, 6/10/02]
          

Summer 2001: Hijackers Use a Variety of Means to Get into Cockpit During Test Flights

       According to the Boston Globe, during various cross-country test run flights in the summer of 2001, “Some of the hijackers were seen videotaping crews on their flights. Other times, they asked for cockpit tours. Two also rode in the cockpit of the planes of one national airline, said a pilot who requested anonymity. The practice, known as ‘jumpseating,’ allows certified airline pilots to use a spare seat in the cockpit when none is available in the passenger cabin. Airlines reciprocate to help pilots get home or to the city of their originating flight.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/01]
          

June 2001: Germans Warn of Plan to Use Aircraft as Missiles on US and Israeli Symbols

       German intelligence warns the CIA, Britain's intelligence agency, and Israel's Mossad that Middle Eastern terrorists are planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack “American and Israeli symbols, which stand out.” A later article quotes unnamed German intelligence sources who state the information was coming from Echelon surveillance technology, and that British intelligence had access to the same warnings. However, there were other informational sources, including specific information and hints given to, but not reported by, Western and Near Eastern news media six months before 9/11. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 9/11/01; Washington Post, 9/14/01; Fox News, 5/17/02]
          

June 2001: US Still Fails to Aid Taliban Resistance

       The US considers substantially aiding Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance. As one counterterrorism official put it, “You keep [al-Qaeda terrorists] on the front lines in Afghanistan. Hopefully you're killing them in the process, and they're not leaving Afghanistan to plot terrorist operations.” A former US special envoy to the Afghan resistance visits Massoud this month. Massoud gives him “all the intelligence he [has] on al-Qaeda” in the hopes of getting some support in return. However, he gets nothing more than token amounts and his organization isn't even given “legitimate resistance movement” status. [Time, 8/4/02]
          

Summer 2001: Tenet Believes Something Is Happening

      
CIA Director George Tenet.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage later claims that at this time, CIA Director “Tenet [is] around town literally pounding on desks saying, something is happening, this is an unprecedented level of threat information. He didn't know where it was going to happen, but he knew that it was coming.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
          

June 2001: Clarke Asks for Different Job as White House Fails to Share His Urgency

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke asks for a transfer to start a new national program on cyber security. His request is granted, and he is to change jobs in early October 2001. He makes the change despite the 9/11 attacks. He claims that he tells National Security Adviser Rice and her deputy Steve Hadley, “Perhaps I have become too close to the terrorism issue. I have worked it for ten years and to me it seems like a very important issue, but maybe I'm becoming like Captain Ahab with bin Laden as the White Whale. Maybe you need someone less obsessive about it.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 25-26; White House, 10/9/01] He later claims, “My view was that this administration, while it listened to me, either didn't believe me that there was an urgent problem or was unprepared to act as though there were an urgent problem. And I thought, if the administration doesn't believe its national coordinator for counterterrorism when he says there's an urgent problem, and if it's unprepared to act as though there's an urgent problem, then probably I should get another job.” [New York Times, 3/24/04]
          

June 2001: Hijackers Meet in London

       British investigators believe that at least five of the hijackers have a “vital planning meeting” held in a safe house in north London, Britain. [Times of London, 9/26/01] Authorities suspect that Mustapha Labsi, an Algerian now in British custody, trains the hijackers in this safe house, as well as previously training the hijackers in Afghanistan. [Daily Telegraph, 9/30/01]
          

Summer 2001: Bin Laden Speech Mentions 20 Martyrs in Upcoming Attack; Other Hints of Attack Spread Widely

       Word begins to spread within al-Qaeda that an attack against the US is imminent, according to later prison interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Many within al-Qaeda are aware that Mohammed has been preparing operatives to go to the US. Additionally, bin Laden makes several remarks hinting at an upcoming attack, spawning rumors throughout Muslim extremist circles worldwide. For instance, in a recorded speech at the al Faruq training camp in Afghanistan, bin Laden specifically urges trainees to pray for the success of an upcoming attack involving 20 martyrs. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/16/04 (B)] There are other indications that knowledge of the attacks spreads in Afghanistan. The Daily Telegraph later reports that “the idea of an attack on a skyscraper [is] discussed among [bin Laden's] supporters in Kabul.” At some unspecified point before 9/11, a neighbor in Kabul sees diagrams showing a skyscraper attack in a house known as a “nerve center” for al-Qaeda activity. [Daily Telegraph, 11/16/01] US soldiers will later find forged visas, altered passports, listings of Florida flight schools and registration papers for a flight simulator in al-Qaeda houses in Afghanistan. [New York Times, 12/6/01] A bin Laden bodyguard later claims that in May 2001 he hears bin Laden tell people in Afghanistan that the US would be hit with a terrorist attack, and thousands would die. [Guardian, 11/28/01]
          

June 2001: CIA Fears Terrorists Will Strike on Fourth of July.

       The CIA provides senior US policy makers with a classified warning of a potential attack against US interests that is thought to be tied to Fourth of July celebrations in the US. [Sunday Herald, 9/23/01]
          

June 4, 2001: Illegal Afghans Overheard Discussing New York City Hijacking Attack

       At some point in 2000, three men claiming to be Afghans but using Pakistani passports entered the Cayman Islands, possibly illegally. [Miami Herald, 9/20/01] In late 2000, Cayman and British investigators began a yearlong probe of these men, which lasts until 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] They are overheard discussing hijacking attacks in New York City during this period. On this day, they are taken into custody, questioned, and released some time later. This information is forwarded to US intelligence. [Fox News, 5/17/02] In late August, a letter to a Cayman radio station will allege these same men are agents of bin Laden “organizing a major terrorist act against the US via an airline or airlines.” [Miami Herald, 9/20/01; Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01]
          

June 9, 2001: FBI Agent Writes Memo Claiming His Agency Is Not Trying to Catch Known Terrorists Living in the US

      
Robert Wright.
Robert Wright, an FBI agent who spent ten years investigating terrorist funding, writes a memo that slams the FBI. He states, “Knowing what I know, I can confidently say that until the investigative responsibilities for terrorism are transferred from the FBI, I will not feel safe... The FBI has proven for the past decade it cannot identify and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States and its citizens at home and abroad. Even worse, there is virtually no effort on the part of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit to neutralize known and suspected international terrorists living in the United States.” [Cybercast News Service, 5/30/02] He claims the “FBI was merely gathering intelligence so they would know who to arrest when a terrorist attack occurred” rather than actually trying to stop the attacks. [UPI, 5/30/02] Wright's shocking allegations are largely ignored when they first become public a year later. He is asked on CNN's Crossfire, one of the few outlets to cover the story at all, “Mr. Wright, your charges against the FBI are really more disturbing, more serious, than [Coleen] Rowley's [on August 28, 2001]. Why is it, do you think, that you have been ignored by the media, ignored by the congressional committees, and no attention has been paid to your allegations?” The Village Voice says that the problem is partly because he went to the FBI and asked permission to speak publicly instead of going straight to the media as Rowley did. The FBI put severe limits on what details Wright can divulge. He is now suing them. [Village Voice, 6/19/02]
          

June 11, 2001: FBI and CIA Hold Shouting Match over Terrorist Information; CIA Still Withholds Information

       A CIA analyst and FBI analyst travel to New York and meet with FBI officials at FBI headquarters about the USS Cole investigation. The CIA analyst has already shown photographs from the al-Qaeda Malaysia meeting attended by hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar to an FBI analyst, but failed to explain what he knows about them. The CIA analyst now shows the same photos to the additional FBI agents. He wants to know if they can identify anyone in the photos for a different case he is working on. “The FBI agents recognized the men from the Cole investigation, but when they asked the CIA what they knew about the men, they were told that they did not have clearance to share that information. It ended up in a shouting match.” [ABC News, 8/16/02] The CIA analyst later admits that at the time, he knows Almihdhar had a US visa, that Alhazmi had traveled to the US in March, that al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash had been recognized in one of the photos, and that Alhazmi was known to be an experienced terrorist. However, he does not tell any of this to any FBI agent. He does not let them keep copies of the photos either. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] He promises them more information later, but the FBI agents do not receive more information until after 9/11. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/20/02] Two days after this meeting, Almihdhar has no trouble getting a new, multiple reentry US visa. [US News and World Report, 12/12/01; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/20/02] CIA Director Tenet later claims, “Almihdhar was not who they were talking about in this meeting.” When Senator Carl Levin (D) reads the following to Tenet— “The CIA analyst who attended the New York meeting acknowledged to the joint inquiry staff that he had seen the information regarding Almihdhar's US visa and Alhazmi's travel to the United States but he stated that he would not share information outside of the CIA unless he had authority to do so.” —Tenet claims that he talked to the same analyst, who told him something completely different. [New York Times, 10/17/02]
          

June 12, 2001: Sting Operation Exposes al-Qaeda, ISI, and Drug Connections; Investigators Face Obstacles to Learn More

      
Kevin Ingram, Randy Glass, and Diaa Mohsen in August 1999.
Operation Diamondback, a sting operation uncovering an attempt to buy weapons illegally for the Taliban, bin Laden, and others, ends with a number of arrests. An Egyptian named Diaa Mohsen and a Pakistani named Mohammed Malik are arrested and accused of attempting to buy Stinger missiles, nuclear weapon components, and other sophisticated military weaponry for the Pakistani ISI. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/23/01; Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B)] Malik appears to have had links to important Pakistani officials and Kashmiri terrorists, and Mohsen claims a connection to a man “who is very connected to the Taliban” and funded by bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B); MSNBC, 8/2/02] Some other ISI agents came to Florida on several occasions to negotiate, but they escaped being arrested. They wanted to pay partially in heroin. One mentioned that the WTC would be destroyed. These ISI agents said some of their purchases would go to the Taliban in Afghanistan and/or terrorists associated with bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B); MSNBC, 8/2/02] Both Malik and Mohsen lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/01] Mohsen pleads guilty after 9/11, “but remarkably, even though [he was] apparently willing to supply America's enemies with sophisticated weapons, even nuclear weapons technology, Mohsen was sentenced to just 30 months in prison.” [MSNBC, 8/2/02] Malik's case appears to have been dropped, and reporters find him working in a store in Florida less than a year after the trial ended. [MSNBC, 8/2/02] Malik's court files remain completely sealed, and in Mohsen's court case, prosecutors “removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns.” [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B)] Also arrested are Kevin Ingram and Walter Kapij. Ingram pleads guilty to laundering $350,000 and he is sentenced to 18 months in prison. [Associated Press, 12/1/01] Ingram was a former senior investment banker with Deutschebank, but resigned in January 1999 after his division suffered costly losses. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/01] Walter Kapij, a pilot with a minor role in the plot, is given the longest sentence, 33 months in prison. [Palm Beach Post, 1/12/02] Informant Randy Glass plays a key role in the sting, and has thirteen felony fraud charges against him reduced as a result, serving only seven months in prison. Federal agents involved in the case later express puzzlement that Washington higher-ups did not make the case a higher priority, pointing out that bin Laden could have gotten a nuclear bomb if the deal was for real. Agents on the case complain that the FBI did not make the case a counterterrorism matter, which would have improved bureaucratic backing and opened access to FBI information and US intelligence from around the world. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B); MSNBC, 8/2/02] Federal agents frequently couldn't get prosecutors to approve wiretaps. [Cox News Service, 8/2/02] Glass says, “Wouldn't you think that there should have been a wire tap on Diaa [Mohsen]'s phone and Malik's phone?” [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02] An FBI supervisor in Miami refused to front money for the sting, forcing agents to use money from US Customs and even Glass's own money to help keep the sting going. [Cox News Service, 8/2/02]
          

June 12, 2001: CIA Learns Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Is Sending Terrorists to US to Meet Up With Operatives Already Living There

       A CIA report says that a man named “Khaled” is actively recruiting people to travel to various countries, including the US, to commit terrorist acts. CIA headquarters presume from the details of this report that Khaled is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. On July 11, the individual source for this report is shown a series of photographs and identifies Mohammed as the person he called “Khaled.” [9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/22/04; USA Today, 12/12/02] This report also reveals that
Terrorists heading to the US would be “expected to establish contact with colleagues already living there.”

Mohammed himself had traveled to the US frequently, and as recently as May 2001.

He is a relative of bomber Ramzi Yousef.

He appears to be one of bin Laden's most trusted leaders.

He routinely tells others that he can arrange their entry into the US as well.
However, the CIA doesn't find this report credible because they think it is unlikely that he would come to the US. Nevertheless, they consider it worth pursuing. One agent replies, “If it is KSM, we have both a significant threat and an opportunity to pick him up.” The CIA disseminates the report to all other US intelligence agencies, military commanders, and parts of the Treasury and Justice Departments. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later request that the CIA inform them how CIA agents and other agencies reacted to this information, but the CIA does not respond to this. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] On July 23, 2001, the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will give Mohammed a US visa (he uses an alias but his actual photo appears on his application). Also, during this summer and as late as September 10, 2001, the NSA will intercept phone calls between Mohammed and Mohamed Atta, but the NSA will not share this information with any other agencies (see Summer 2001).
          

June 13, 2001: Bin Laden Wants to Assassinate Bush with an Explosives-Filled Airplane

       Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak later claims that Egyptian intelligence discovers a “communiqué from bin Laden saying he wanted to assassinate President Bush and other G8 heads of state during their summit in Genoa, Italy” on this day. The communiqué specifically mentions this would be done via “an airplane stuffed with explosives.” The US and Italy are sent urgent warnings of this. [New York Times, 9/26/01] Mubarak claims that Egyptian intelligence officials informed American intelligence officers between March and May 2001 that an Egyptian agent had penetrated al-Qaeda. Presumably, this explains how Egypt is able to give the US these warnings. [New York Times, 6/4/02]
          

June 13, 2001: Counterterrorism Not Part of Bush Defense Plan

       At President Bush's first meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels, Belgium, Bush outlines his five top defense issues. Missile defense is at the top of the list. Terrorism is not mentioned at all. This is consistent with his other statements before 9/11. Almost the only time he ever publicly mentions al-Qaeda or bin Laden before 9/11 is later in the month, in a letter that renews Clinton administration sanctions on the Taliban. [CNN, 6/13/01; Washington Post, 4/1/04] He only speaks publicly about the dangers of terrorism once before 9/11, in May, except for several mentions in the context of promoting a missile defense shield. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]
          

June 14, 2001: New Organization Aims to Counter US Dominance in Central Asia China, Russia, and four Central Asian countries create the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

       Its explicit purpose is to oppose US dominance, especially in Central Asia. [Guardian, 10/23/01; Heritage Foundation, 7/18/01] Russian defense minister Igor Sergeyev writes, “The actions of Islamic extremists in Central Asia give Russia the chance to strengthen its position in the region.” [Guardian, 1/16/02] In March 2003, the Guardian will note that the new ring of US military bases built in the Afghan war “has, in effect, destroyed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which Russia and China had established in an attempt to develop a regional alternative to US power.” [Guardian, 3/11/03]
          

June 20, 2001: Time Magazine Mentions al-Qaeda Using Planes as Weapons

       Time magazine reports: “For sheer diabolical genius (of the Hollywood variety), nothing came close to the reports that European security services are preparing to counter a bin Laden attempt to assassinate President Bush at next month's G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. According to German intelligence sources, the plot involved bin Laden paying German neo-Nazis to fly remote-controlled model aircraft packed with Semtex into the conference hall and blow the leaders of the industrialized world to smithereens. (Paging Jerry Bruckheimer).” The report only appears on the website, and not in the US version of the magazine. [Time, 6/20/01] This report follows warnings given by Egypt the week before. In addition, there are more warnings before the summit in July. James Hatfield, author of an unflattering book on Bush called Fortunate Son, repeats the claim in print a few days later, writing: “German intelligence services have stated that bin Laden is covertly financing neo-Nazi skinhead groups throughout Europe to launch another terrorist attack at a high-profile American target.” [Online Journal, 7/3/01] Two weeks later, Hatfield apparently commits suicide. However, there is widespread speculation that his death was payback for his revelation of Bush's cocaine use in the 1970s. [Salon, 7/20/01]
          

June 21, 2001: Senior al-Qaeda Officials Say Important Surprises Coming Soon

       A reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company interviews bin Laden. Keeping a promise made to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, bin Laden does not say anything substantive, but Ayman al-Zawahiri and other top al-Qaeda leaders promise that “[the] coming weeks will hold important surprises that will target American and Israeli interests in the world.” [Associated Press, 6/24/01; Associated Press, 6/25/01] The reporter says, “There is a major state of mobilization among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?” [Reuters, 6/23/01] After 9/11, the reporter concludes, “I am 100 percent sure of this, and it was absolutely clear they had brought me there to hear this message.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 236] The reporter is also shown a several-months-old videotape with bin Laden declaring to his followers, “It's time to penetrate America and Israel and hit him them where it hurts most.” [CNN, 6/21/01] Author James Bamford theorizes that the original 9/11 plot involved a simultaneous attack on Israel and that shoe bomber Richard Reid may have originally wanted to target an Israeli aircraft around this time. For instance, Reid flies to Tel Aviv, Israel on July 12, 2001, to test if airline security would check his shoes for bombs. [Bamford, 2004, pp 236-39]
          

June 25, 2001: Hijacker Opens Bank Account in Dubai

       Hijacker Fayez Banihammad opens a bank account in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), with 9/11 paymaster “Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi.” That name is a likely alias for Saeed Sheikh, who is known to visit Dubai frequently in this time period. [MSNBC, 12/11/01] Banihammad flies to the US the next day. Banihammad gives power of attorney to “al-Hawsawi” on July 18, and then “al-Hawsawi” sends Banihammad Visa and ATM cards in Florida. Banihammad uses the Visa card to buy his airplane ticket for 9/11. [Washington Post, 12/13/01; MSNBC, 12/11/01] The same pattern of events occurs for some other hijackers, though the timing is not fully known. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/26/02] Visa cards are given to several other hijackers in Dubai. [Times of London, 12/1/01] Other hijackers, including Hani Hanjour, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Khalid Almihdhar, open foreign bank and credit card accounts in the UAE and in Saudi Arabia. Majed Moqed, Saeed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Wail Alshehri, and possibly others purchase travelers checks in the UAE, presumably with funds given to them when they pass through Dubai. It is believed that “al-Hawsawi” is in Dubai every time the hijackers pass through. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/26/02]
          

June 26, 2001: US, Russia, and Regional Powers Cooperate to Oust Taliban

       An Indian magazine reports more details of the cooperative efforts of the US, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran against the Taliban regime: “India and Iran will ‘facilitate’ US and Russian plans for ‘limited military action’ against the Taliban if the contemplated tough new economic sanctions don't bend Afghanistan's fundamentalist regime.” Earlier in the month, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of the Confederation of Independent States that military action against the Taliban may happen, possibly with Russian involvement using bases and forces from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as well. [IndiaReacts, 6/26/01]
          

June 26, 2001: State Department Issues Worldwide Caution; Military on Alert Overseas

       The State Department issues a worldwide caution warning American citizens of possible attacks. [CNN, 3/02] Also around this time, US military forces in the Persian Gulf are placed on heightened alert and naval ships there are sent out to sea, and other defensive steps are taken overseas. This is in response to a recent warning the week before where an al-Qaeda video was shown, saying, “It's time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts most.” However, as author James Bamford later notes, “No precautions were ever taken within the United States, only overseas.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 241]
          

June 27, 2001: India and Pakistan Discuss Building Pipeline Project Through Iran

       The Wall Street Journal reports that Pakistan and India are discussing jointly building a gas pipeline from Central Asian gas fields through Iran to circumvent the difficulties of building the pipeline through Afghanistan. Iran has been secretly supporting the Northern Alliance to keep Afghanistan divided so no pipelines could be put through it. [Wall Street Journal, 6/27/01]
          

June 27-July 16, 2001: Counterterrorism Plan Delayed with More Deputies Meetings

       The first Bush administration deputy-secretary-level meeting on terrorism in late April is followed by three more deputy meetings. Each meeting focuses on one issue: one meeting is about al-Qaeda, one about the Pakistani situation, and one on Indo-Pakistani relations. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke's plan to roll back al-Qaeda, which has been discussed at these meetings, is worked on some more, and is finally approved by National Security Adviser Rice and the deputies on August 13. It now can move to the Cabinet level before finally reaching President Bush. The Cabinet-level meeting is scheduled for later in August, but too many participants are on vacation, so the meeting takes place in early September. [Washington Post, 1/20/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
          

June 28, 2001: Tenet Warns of Imminent al-Qaeda Attack

       CIA Director Tenet writes an intelligence summary for National Security Adviser Rice: “It is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.” A highly classified analysis at this time adds, “Most of the al-Qaeda network is anticipating an attack. Al-Qaeda's overt publicity has also raised expectations among its rank and file, and its donors.” [Washington Post, 5/17/02] Apparently, the same analysis also adds, “Based on a review of all source reporting over the last five months, we believe that [bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] This warning is shared with “senior Bush administration officials” in early July. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02] Apparently, these warnings are largely based on a warning given by al-Qaeda leaders to a reporter a few days earlier. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke also later asserts that Tenet tells him around this time, “It's my sixth sense, but I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 235]
          

June 29, 2001: Surveillance Indicates Al-Qaeda Will Attack Genoa Summit With More Than One Plane

      
Abu Hamza al-Masri.
The Italian secret service SISDE records a meeting in the Finsbury Park mosque, in northern London, Britain. Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri (an Afghanistan war veteran heading a radical Islamic group), Mustapha Melki (linked to al-Qaeda member Abu Doha), and a man only known as Omar talk to each other. Notes of the meeting state, “Abu Hamza proposed an ambitious but unlikely plot which involved attacks carried by planes.” This is apparently a reference to an attack on the upcoming G8 summit in Genoa scheduled in several weeks. But unlike other reports of an al-Qaeda attack on that summit, this refers to an attack using more than one plane. The notes of the meeting conclude, “The belief that Osama bin Laden is plotting an attack is spreading among the radical Islamic groups.” [Discovery News, 9/13/01]
          

Late June 2001: FAA Disregards Recommended Antiterrorist Measures

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gives a direct warning to the FAA to increase security measures in light of an impending terrorist attack. The FAA refuses to take such measures. [New Yorker, 1/14/02]
          

Late September-Early October 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Agrees to Face International Tribunal; US Not Interested?

       Leaders of Pakistan's two Islamic parties are negotiating bin Laden's extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for the 9/11 attacks during this period, according to a later Mirror article. Under the plan, bin Laden will be held under house arrest in Peshawar and will face an international tribunal, which will decide whether to try him or hand him over to the US. According to reports in Pakistan (and the Daily Telegraph ), this plan has been approved by both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar. [Mirror, 7/8/02] Based on the first priority in the US's new “war on terror” proclaimed by President Bush, the US presumably would welcome this plan. For example, Bush had just announced, “I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ ” [ABC News, 9/17/01] Yet, Bush's ally in the war on terror, Pakistani President Musharraf, rejects the plan (stating that his reason for doing so was because he “could not guarantee bin Laden's safety”). Based on a US official's later statements, it appears that the US did not want the deal: “Casting our objectives too narrowly” risked “a premature collapse of the international effort [to overthrow the Taliban] if by some lucky chance Mr. bin Laden was captured.” [Mirror, 7/8/02]
          

Late Summer 2001: US Contingency Plans to Attack Afghanistan

       According to a later Guardian report, “reliable western military sources say a US contingency plan exist[s] on paper by the end of the summer to attack Afghanistan from the north.” [Guardian, 9/26/01]
          

Late Summer 2001: Jordan Warns US That Aircraft Will Be Used in Major Attack Inside the US

       Jordanian intelligence (the GID) makes a communications intercept deemed so important that King Abdullah's men relay it to Washington, probably through the CIA station in Amman. To make doubly sure the message gets through it is passed through an Arab intermediary to a German intelligence agent. The message states that a major attack, code named “The Big Wedding,” is planned inside the US and that aircraft will be used. “When it became clear that the information was embarrassing to Bush administration officials and congressmen who at first denied that there had been any such warnings before September 11, senior Jordanian officials backed away from their earlier confirmations.” The Christian Science Monitor calls the story “confidently authenticated” even though Jordan has backed away from it. [International Herald Tribune, 5/21/02; Christian Science Monitor, 5/23/02]
          

Late Summer 2001: US Intelligence Learns al-Qaeda Is Considering Mounting Terrorist Operations in the US

       US intelligence learns that an al-Qaeda operative is considering mounting terrorist operations in the US. There is no information on the timing or specific targets. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02]
          

July 1, 2001: Senators Warn of Terrorist Incident Within Three Months

       Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) and Richard Shelby (R), both members of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, appear on CNN's “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer,” and warn of potential attacks by bin Laden. Feinstein says, “One of the things that has begun to concern me very much as to whether we really have our house in order, intelligence staff have told me that there is a major probability of a terrorist incident within the next three months.” [CNN, 3/02]
          

July 2001: India Warns US of Possible Terror Attacks

       India gives the US general intelligence on possible terror attacks; details are not known. US government officials later confirm that Indian intelligence had information “that two Islamist radicals with ties to Osama bin Laden were discussing an attack on the White House,” but apparently, this particular report is not given to the US until two days after 9/11. [Fox News, 5/17/02]
          

July 2001: CIA Learns Impending Attack Widely Known in Afghanistan

       The CIA hears an individual who had recently been in Afghanistan say, “Everyone is talking about an impending attack.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02; Washington Post, 9/19/02] This corresponds with evidence that bin Laden and others were telling many in Afghanistan about the attacks at this time (see Summer 2001).
          

Mid-September 2001-October 2001: Pentagon Tells Ex-CIA Director to Tie Iraq to 9/11

       It is later reported that “Within just a few days” of 9/11, Richard Perle convene[s] the Defense Policy Board “to discuss how Washington could use the incidents as justification for attacking Iraq, and [ex-CIA director and prominent neoconservative James] Woolsey [is] tasked to go to Europe to collect evidence that Hussein was linked to al-Qaeda. He spen[ds] many weeks on that mission, emerging with the story that an unnamed informant had told Czech intelligence that he had seen the leader of the Sep. 11 skyjackers meet with an Iraqi agent in Prague in the April before the attack. Even though the report was dismissed as not credible by US, British, French, and Israeli intelligence agencies, it [becomes] the basis--endlessly repeated by Woolsey and other neocons on television talk shows and in op-ed pages of major newspapers--of a major propaganda campaign against Iraq...” [Foreign Policy In Focus, 4/8/03] Woolsey starts his propaganda campaign two days after 9/11 with an article attempting to connect Iraq to the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. He claims that Iraqi intelligence helped bomber Ramzi Yousef steal the identity of a Kuwaiti student studying at a college in Wales. He argues that if his theory is correct,“then it was Iraq that went after the World Trade Center last time. Which makes it much more plausible that Iraq has done so again.” [New Republic, 9/13/01] Woolsey or someone else connected to US intelligence appear to have been pursuing this line of inquiry shortly before 9/11. The London Times notes shortly after 9/11,“Until two months ago the US security agencies had never asked anyone at the college to verify Ramzi Yousef's confession of his days in Wales. Why they suddenly re-opened the files on him only seven weeks before the suicide attacks in America is not clear.” [London Times, 9/22/01]
          

July 2, 2001: FBI Warns of Possible al-Qaeda Attacks; Little Action Results

       The FBI issues a warning of possible al-Qaeda attacks to law enforcement agencies, stating, “[T]here are threats to be worried about overseas. While we cannot foresee attacks domestically, we cannot rule them out.” It further states, “[T]he FBI has no information indicating a credible threat of terrorist attack in the United States.” It asks law enforcement agencies to “exercise vigilance” and “report suspicious activities” to the FBI. Two weeks later, acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard has a conference call with all field office heads mentioning the heightened threat. However, FBI personnel later fail to recall any heightened sense of threat from summer 2001. Only those in the New York field office took any action or recall this later. [CNN, 3/02 (H); 9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04 (B)]
          

July 2, 2001: Osama bin Laden Periodically Undergoes Dialysis with Approval of the ISI

       Indian sources claim that “bin Laden, who suffers from renal deficiency, has been periodically undergoing dialysis in a Peshawar military hospital with the knowledge and approval of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), if not of [Pakistani President] Musharraf himself.” [SARPA, 7/2/01] While one might question the bias of an Indian newspaper on this issue, highly respected intelligence newsletter Jane's Intelligence Digest later reports the story, and adds, “None of [these details] will be unfamiliar to US intelligence operatives who have been compiling extensive reports on these alleged activities.” [Jane's Intelligence Digest, 9/20/01] CBS will later report bin Laden had emergency medical care in Pakistan the day before 9/11. [CBS News, 1/28/02] If these stories are true, it appears Pakistan could have captured bin Laden for the US at any time. The Jane's Intelligence Digest article adds, “It is becoming clear that both the Taliban and al-Qaeda would have found it difficult to have continued functioning—including the latter group's terrorist activities—without substantial aid and support from Islamabad [Pakistan].” [Jane's Intelligence Digest, 9/20/01]
          

July 3, 2001: Tenet Makes Urgent Request

       CIA Director Tenet makes an urgent special request to 20 friendly foreign intelligence services, asking for the arrests of anyone on a list of known al-Qaeda operatives. [Washington Post, 5/17/02]
          

July 3, 2001: Rare Discussion Takes Place Between National Security Advisers on Terrorism

       This is one of only two dates that Bush's national security leadership discusses terrorism. (The other discussion occurs on September 4.) Apparently, the topic is only mentioned in passing and is not the focus of the meeting. This group, made up of the national security adviser, CIA director, defense secretary, secretary of state, joint chiefs of staff chairman and others, met around 100 times before 9/11 to discuss a variety of topics, but apparently rarely terrorism. The White House “aggressively defended the level of attention [to terrorism], given only scattered hints of al-Qaeda activity.” This lack of discussion stands in sharp contrast to the Clinton administration and public comments by the Bush administration. [Time, 8/4/02] Bush said in February 2001, “I will put a high priority on detecting and responding to terrorism on our soil.” A few weeks earlier, Tenet told Congress, “The threat from terrorism is real, it is immediate, and it is evolving.” [Associated Press, 6/28/02]
          

July 4, 2001: Hijacker Who Should Have Been on Watch List Re-enters US Without Difficulty

       Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar reenters the US. The CIA and FBI have recently been showing interest in him, but have still failed to place him on a terrorist watch list. Had he been placed on a watch list by this date, he would have been stopped and possibly detained as he tried to enter the US. He enters on a new US visa obtained in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on June 13, 2001. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] The FBI notes that he returns just days after the last of the hijacker “muscle” has entered the US, and speculates that he returns because his job in bringing them over is finished. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
          

July 4-14, 2001: Bin Laden Reportedly Receives Lifesaving Treatment in Dubai, Said to Meet with CIA While There

      
The American Hospital in Dubai.
Bin Laden, America's most wanted criminal with a $5 million bounty on his head, supposedly receives lifesaving treatment for renal failure from American specialist Dr. Terry Callaway at the American hospital in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He is possibly accompanied by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (who is said to be bin Laden's personal physician, al-Qaeda's second-in-command, and leader of Egypt's Islamic Jihad), plus several bodyguards. Callaway supposedly treated bin Laden in 1996 and 1998, also in Dubai. Callaway later refuses to answer any questions on this matter. [Le Figaro, 10/31/01; Agence France-Presse, 11/1/01; Times of London, 11/01/01] During his stay, bin Laden is visited by “several members of his family and Saudi personalities,” including Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence. [Guardian, 11/1/01] On July 12, bin Laden reportedly meets with CIA agent Larry Mitchell in the hospital. Mitchell apparently lives in Dubai as an Arab specialist under the cover of being a consular agent. The CIA, the Dubai hospital, and even bin Laden deny the story. The two news organizations that broke the story, Le Figaro and Radio France International, stand by their reporting. [Le Figaro, 10/31/01; Radio France International, 11/1/01] The explosive story is widely reported in Europe, but there are only two, small wire service stories on it in the US. [UPI, 11/1/01; Reuters, 11/10/01] The Guardian claims that the story originated from French intelligence, “which is keen to reveal the ambiguous role of the CIA, and to restrain Washington from extending the war to Iraq and elsewhere.” The Guardian adds that during his stay bin Laden is also visited by a second CIA officer. [Guardian, 11/1/01] In 2003, reporter Richard Labeviere will provide additional details of what he claims happened in a book entitled “The Corridors of Terror.” He claims he learned about the meeting from a contact in the Dubai hospital. He claims the event was confirmed in detail by a Gulf prince who presented himself as an adviser to the Emir of Bahrain. This prince claimed the meeting was arrange by Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's intelligence director. The prince said, “By organizing this meeting...Turki thought he could start direct negotiations between [bin Laden] and the CIA on one fundamental point: that bin Laden and his supporters end their hostilities against American interests.” In exchange, the CIA and Saudis would allow bin Laden to return to Saudi Arabia and live freely there. The meeting is said to be a failure. [Reuters, 11/14/03] On July 15, Larry Mitchell reportedly returns to CIA headquarters to report on his meeting with bin Laden. [Radio France International, 11/1/01] French terrorism expert Antoine Sfeir says the story of this meeting has been verified and is not surprising: It “is nothing extraordinary. Bin Laden maintained contacts with the CIA up to 1998. These contacts have not ceased since bin Laden settled in Afghanistan. Up to the last moment, CIA agents hoped that bin Laden would return to the fold of the US, as was the case before 1989.” [Le Figaro, 11/1/01] A CIA spokesman calls the entire account of bin Laden's stay at Dubai “sheer fantasy.” [Reuters, 11/14/03]
          

July 5, 2001: Clarke Warns of Something Really Spectacular; FAA and FBI Respond Poorly

       At the request of National Security Adviser Rice and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke leads a meeting of the Counterterrorism and Security Group, attended by officials from a dozen federal agencies. They discuss intelligence regarding terrorism threats and potential attacks on US installations overseas. Two attendees recall Clarke stating that “something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon.” One who attended the meeting later calls the evidence that “something spectacular” is being planned by al-Qaeda “very gripping.” [Time, 8/4/02; Washington Post, 5/17/02] Clarke directs every counterterrorist office to cancel vacations, defer non-vital travel, put off scheduled exercises, and place domestic rapid-response teams on much shorter alert. By early August, all of these emergency measures are no longer in effect. [CNN, 3/02; Washington Post, 5/17/02] The FAA issues general and routine threat advisories that don't reflect the level of urgent emergency expressed by Clarke, Tenet, and others (see January-August 2001). FAA Administrator Jane Garvey later claims she was unaware of a heightened threat level, but in 2005 it will be revealed that about half of the FAA's daily briefings in this time period referred to bin Laden or al-Qaeda (see April 1, 2001-September 10, 2001). [New York Times, 4/18/04] Clarke says rhetorically that he wants to know if a sparrow has fallen from a tree. A senior FBI official attends the meeting and promises a redoubling of efforts. However, just five days later, when FBI agent Ken Williams sends off his memo speculating that al-Qaeda may be training operatives as pilots in the US, the FBI fails to share this information with any other agency. [Washington Post, 5/17/02; Clarke, 2004, pp 236-37] The FBI also fails to tell Clarke about the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 15, 2001), or what they know about Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (see August 24, 2001).
          

July 5, 2001: Genoa Planes as Weapons Threat Helps Inspire Bush to Ask For Famous August 2001 Briefing

       In 2002, Newsweek will report, “The White House acknowledged for the first time, [President] Bush was privately beginning to worry about the stream of terror warnings he was hearing that summer, most of them aimed at U.S. targets abroad. On July 5, five days before the Phoenix memo, Bush directed Rice to figure out what was going on domestically.” [Newsweek, 5/27/02] In 2004, President Bush will explain why he requested this. “[T]he reason I did is because there had been a lot of threat intelligence from overseas. And part of it had to do with the Genoa [Italy] G8 conference that I was going to attend.” [New York Times, 4/13/04 (D)] Though he doesn't mention it, the chief security concern at the late July 2001 conference he mentions is intelligence that al-Qaeda plans to fly an airplane into the conference. This threat is so widely reported before the conference (with some reports before July 5 (see June 13, 2001)(see Mid-July 2001)) that the attack is called off. For instance, in late June, Time magazine mentioned a German intelligence report of a bin Laden plot “to fly remote-controlled model aircraft packed with Semtex into the conference hall and blow the leaders of the industrialized world to smithereens.”(see June 20, 2001) Bush's request will result in the later-famous August 6, 2001 briefing entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.”(see August 6, 2001) [New York Times, 4/13/04 (D)]
          

July 6, 2001: Clarke Briefs Senior Security Officials on al-Qaeda Threat

       One day after heading a meeting on al-Qaeda with the Counterterrorism and Security Group, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke heads a similar meeting at the White House with senior security officials at the FAA, Immigration, Secret Service, Coast Guard, Customs, and other agencies. The CIA and FBI give briefings on the growing al-Qaeda threat. The CIA says al-Qaeda members “believe the upcoming attack will be ‘spectacular,’ qualitatively different from anything they have done to date.” [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] Then Clarke says, “You've just heard that CIA thinks al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us. So do I. You heard CIA say it would probably be in Israel or Saudi Arabia. Maybe. But maybe it will be here. Just because there is no evidence that says that it will be here, does not mean it will be overseas. They may try to hit us at home. You have to assume that is what they are going to do. Cancel summer vacations, schedule overtime, have your terrorist reaction teams on alert to move fast. Tell me, tell each other, about anything unusual.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 236] Despite this and other warnings to the FBI, the FBI continues to inform state and local agencies that the chances of a terrorist attack is low (see Summer 2001).
          

July 6, 2001: Clarke Tells Rice to Prepare for 3 to 5 Simultaneous Attacks; No Apparent Response

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke sends National Security Advisor Rice an e-mail message “outlining a number of steps agreed on” at the Counterterrorism and Security Group meeting the day before, “including efforts to examine the threat of weapons of mass destruction and possible attacks in Latin America. One senior administration official [says] Mr. Clarke [writes] that several agencies, including the FBI, the CIA, and the Pentagon, [have] been directed to develop what the official [says are] ‘detailed response plans in the event of three to five simultaneous attacks.’” However, no response or follow-up action has been pointed out. [New York Times, 4/4/04 (B)]
          

July 8-19, 2001: Atta, Bin Al-Shibh, Alshehhi, and Others Meet in Spain to Finalize Attack Plans

       Mohamed Atta travels to Spain again (his first trip was in January). Three others cross the Atlantic with him but their names are not known, as they apparently use false identities. [El Mundo, 9/30/01] Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a member of his Hamburg terrorist cell, arrives in Spain on July 9, and stays until July 16. [New York Times, 5/1/02] Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi also comes to Spain at about the same time and leaves on July 17. [Associated Press, 6/30/02] Alshehhi must have traveled under another name, because US immigration has no records of his departure or return. [Department of Justice, 5/20/02] Investigators believe Atta, Alshehhi, and bin al-Shibh meet with at least three unknown others in a secret safe house near Tarragona. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02; Associated Press, 6/30/02] It is theorized that the final details of the 9/11 attacks are set at this meeting. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] Atta probably meets with, and is hosted by, Barakat Yarkas and other Spanish al-Qaeda members. [International Herald Tribune, 11/21/01] One of the unknowns at the meeting could be Yarkas's friend Mamoun Darkanzali, a German with connections to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. Darkanzali travels to Spain and meets with Yarkas during the time Atta is there. He travels with an unnamed Syrian Spanish suspect, who lived in Afghanistan and had access there to al-Qaeda leaders. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/03] The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia later reports that Atta also meets with fellow hijackers Waleed Alshehri and Wail Alshehri on July 16. [Associated Press, 9/27/01] Strangely enough, on July 16, Atta stayed in the same hotel in the town of Salou that had hosted FBI counterterrorist expert John O'Neill a few days earlier, when he made a speech to other counterterrorism experts on the need for greater international cooperation by police agencies to combat terrorism. Bin al-Shibh arrived in Salou on July 9, which means he would have been there when the counter-terrorist meeting took place. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp 135]
          

July 8, 2001: Prominent Prisoner Publicly Warns of al-Qaeda Intent to Export Violence to US Soil

       About a month after al-Qaeda prisoner Ahmed Ressam told US interrogators new details of al-Qaeda plans to attack the US (see May 30, 2001), he conveys similar information during a public trial. As the Los Angeles Times reports at the time, “Testifying in the New York trial of an accused accomplice, Ressam said his [al-Qaeda] colleagues are intent on exporting violence to US soil. ‘If one is to carry out an operation, it would be better to hit the biggest enemy. I mean America,’ he told a federal jury. Ressam also identified a number of other Algerian terrorists who had been part of his original attack team [to bomb the Los Angeles airport in 2000], most of whom remain at large.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/8/01]
          

July 10, 2001: FBI Agent Sends Memo Warning That Inordinate Number of Muslim Extremists Are Learning to Fly in Arizona

      
FBI agent Ken Williams.
Phoenix, Arizona, FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum warning about suspicious activities involving a group of Middle Eastern men taking flight training lessons in Arizona. The memo is titled: “Zakaria Mustapha Soubra; IT-OTHER (Islamic Army of the Caucasus),” because it focuses on Zakaria Soubra, a Lebanese flight student in Prescott, Arizona, and his connection with a terror group in Chechnya that has ties to al-Qaeda. It is subtitled: “Osama bin Laden and Al-Muhjiroun supporters attending civil aviation universities/colleges in Arizona.” [Fortune, 5/22/02; Arizona Republic, 7/24/03] The memo is based on an investigation Williams had initiated in 2000, but had trouble pursuing because of the low priority the Arizona FBI office gave terror investigations. In the memo, Williams does the following:
Names nine other suspect students from Pakistan, India, Kenya, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. [Die Zeit, 10/1/02]
Hijacker Hani Hanjour, attending flight school in Arizona in early 2001, is not mentioned in the memo, but one of his acquaintances is. Another person on the list is later arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03; Washington Post, 7/25/03 (C)]
Notes that he interviewed some of these students, and heard some of them make hostile comments about the US. Additionally, he noticed that they were suspiciously well informed about security measures at US airports. [Die Zeit, 10/1/02]

Notes an increasing, “inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” taking flight lessons in Arizona. [Die Zeit, 10/1/02; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

Suspects that some of the ten people he has investigated are connected to al-Qaeda. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
He discovered that one of them was communicating through an intermediary with Abu Zubaida. [San Jose Mercury News, 5/23/02] Potentially this is the same member of the list mentioned above who is later captured with Abu Zubaida.
Discusses connections between several of the students and a radical group called Al-Muhajiroun. [San Jose Mercury News, 5/23/02]
This group supported bin Laden, and issued a fatwa, or call to arms, that included airports on a list of acceptable terror targets. [Associated Press, 5/22/02] Soubra, the main focus of the memo, is a member of Al-Muhajiroun and an outspoken radical, but he is later cleared of any ties to terrorism. [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01 (C)] Though Williams doesn't include it in his memo, in the summer of 1998 the leader of Al-Muhajiroun publicized a fax sent by bin Laden to him that listed al-Qaeda's four objectives in fighting the US. The first objective was “bring down their airliners.”(see Summer 1998). [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01 (C)]
Warns of a possible “effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the US to attend civil aviation universities and colleges” [Fortune, 5/22/02]
, so they can later hijack aircraft. [Die Zeit, 10/1/02]
Recommends that the “FBI should accumulate a listing of civil aviation universities/colleges around the country. FBI field offices with these types of schools in their area should establish appropriate liaison. FBI [headquarters] should discuss this matter with other elements of the US intelligence community and task the community for any information that supports Phoenix's suspicions.” [Arizona Republic, 7/24/03]
(The FBI has already done this, but because of poor FBI communications, Williams is not aware of the report.)
Recommends that the FBI ask the State Department to provide visa data on flight school students from Middle Eastern countries, which will facilitate FBI tracking efforts. [New York Times, 5/4/02]
The memo is emailed to six people at FBI headquarters in the bin Laden and radical fundamentalist units, and to two people in the FBI New York field office. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] He also shares some concerns with the CIA. [San Jose Mercury News, 5/23/02] One anonymous government official who has seen the memo says, “This was as actionable a memo as could have been written by anyone.” [Insight, 5/27/02] However, the memo is merely marked “routine,” rather than “urgent.” It is generally ignored, not shared with other FBI offices, and the recommendations are not taken. One colleague in New York replies at the time that the memo is “speculative and not very significant.” [Die Zeit, 10/1/02; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] Williams is unaware of many FBI investigations and leads that could have given weight to his memo. Authorities later claim that Williams was only pursuing a hunch, but one familiar with classified information says, “This was not a vague hunch. He was doing a case on these guys.” [San Jose Mercury News, 5/23/02]
          

July 12, 2001: Ashcroft Reputedly Uninterested in Terrorism

       On July 5, the CIA briefed Attorney General Ashcroft on the al-Qaeda threat, warning that a significant terrorist attack is imminent, and a strike could occur at any time. [9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04 (B)] On this day, acting FBI Director Tom Pickard briefs Ashcroft about the terror threat inside the US. Pickard later swears under oath that Ashcroft tells him, “[I do] not want to hear about this anymore.” Ashcroft, also under oath, later categorically denies the allegation, saying, “I did never speak to him saying that I didn't want to hear about terrorism.” However, Ruben Garcia, head of the Criminal Division, and another senior FBI official corroborate Pickard's account. Ashcroft's account is supported by his top aide, but another official in Ashcroft's office who could also support Ashcroft's account says he cannot remember what happened. Pickard briefs Ashcroft on terrorism four more times that summer, but he never mentions al-Qaeda to Ashcroft again before 9/11. [MSNBC, 6/22/04] Pickard later makes an appeal to Ashcroft for more counterterrorism funding; Ashcroft rejects the appeal on September 10, 2001. [9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04] Pickard later says, “Before September 11th, I couldn't get half an hour on terrorism with Ashcroft. He was only interested in three things: guns, drugs, and civil rights.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp 293]
          

July 13, 2001: CIA Reexamines Malaysia Meeting but Major League Killer Is Not Put on Watch List

       The same supervisor of the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) who expressed interest two months earlier in surveillance photos from the al-Qaeda Malaysia meeting now finds a cable he had been looking for regarding that same meeting. The cable, from January 2001, discusses al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash's presence at the meeting. The supervisor explains later that bin Attash's presence at the meeting had been troubling him. He writes an e-mail to the CTC, stating, “[Bin Attash] is a major league killer, who orchestrated the Cole attack and possibly the Africa bombings.” Yet bin Attash is still not put on a terrorist watch list. An FBI analyst assigned to the CTC is given the task of reviewing all other CIA cables about the Malaysian meeting. It takes this analyst until August 21—over five weeks later—to put together that Khalid Almihdhar had a US visa and that Nawaf Alhazmi had traveled to the US. Yet other CIA agents are already very aware of these facts but are not sharing the information. Working with immigration officials, this analyst then learns that Almihdhar entered and left the US in 2000, and entered again on July 4, 2001, and that Alhazmi appears to still be in the US. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
          

Mid-July 2001: More G-8 Summit Warnings Describe Plane as Flying Bomb

       US intelligence reports another spike in warnings 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.
          

Mid-July 2001: John O'Neill Rails Against White House and Saudi Obstructionism

       FBI counterterrorism expert John O'Neill 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 (see July 21, 2001). [CNN, 1/8/02; CNN, 1/9/02; Irish Times, 11/19/01; Brisard, Dasquie and Madsen, 2002, pp xxix]
          

Mid-July 2001: Tenet Warns Rice About Major Attack

       CIA Director Tenet has a special meeting with National Security Adviser 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 does not rule out a domestic attack but says an overseas attack is more likely. [Time, 8/4/02]
          

July 16, 2001: British Spy Agencies Warn al-Qaeda Is in The Final Stages of Attack in the West

       British spy agencies send a report to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other top officials warning that al-Qaeda is in “the final stages” of preparing a terrorist attack in the West. The prediction is “based on intelligence gleaned not just from [British intelligence] but also from US agencies, including the CIA and the National Security Agency,” which cooperate with the British. “The contents of the July 16 warning would have been passed to the Americans, Whitehall sources confirmed.” The report states there is “an acute awareness” that the attack is “a very serious threat.” [Times of London, 6/14/02]
          

July 16, 2001: New York Taxi Driver Tells of E-mails Warning Imminent al-Qaeda Attack on New York and Washington

       A Village Voice reporter is told by a New York taxi driver, “You know, I am leaving the country and going home to Egypt sometime in late August or September. I have gotten e-mails from people I know saying that Osama bin Laden has planned big terrorist attacks for New York and Washington for that time. It will not be safe here then.” He does in fact return to Egypt for that time. The FBI, which is not told about this lead until after 9/11, interrogates and then releases him. He claims that many others knew what he knew prior to 9/11. [Village Voice, 9/25/02 (B)]
          

July 18, 2001: FBI, FAA Issues Another Warning

       The FBI issues another warning to domestic law enforcement agencies about threats stemming from the convictions in the millennium bomb plot trial. The FAA also issues a warning, telling the airlines to “use the highest level of caution.” [CNN, 3/02] This is another one of 15 general warnings issued to airlines in 2001 before 9/11 (see January-August 2001), but it is more specific than usual. [CNN, 3/02; CNN, 5/17/02]
          

July 20-22, 2001: During G-8 Summit, Italian Military Prepare Against Attack from the Sky

      
Extra security precautions for the G8 Summit in Genoa.
The G8 summit is held in Genoa, Italy. Acting on previous warnings that al-Qaeda would attempt to kill Bush and other leaders, Italian authorities surround the summit with antiaircraft guns. They keep fighters in the air and close off local airspace to all planes. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01] The warnings are taken so seriously that Bush stays overnight on an aircraft carrier offshore, and other world leaders stay on a luxury ship. [CNN, 7/18/01] No attack occurs. US officials at the time state that the warnings were “unsubstantiated” but after 9/11, they will claim success in preventing an attack. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01]
          

July 21, 2001: US Official Threatens Possible Military Action Against Taliban by October if Pipeline Is Not Pursued

      
Niaz Naik.
Three former American officials, Tom Simons (former US Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Deputy Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs), and Lee Coldren (former State Department expert on South Asia) meet with Pakistani and Russian intelligence officers in a Berlin hotel. [Salon, 8/16/02] This is the third of a series of back-channel conferences called “brainstorming on Afghanistan.” Taliban representatives sat in on previous meetings, but boycotted this one due to worsening tensions. However, the Pakistani ISI relays information from the meeting to the Taliban. [Guardian, 9/22/01] At the meeting, Coldren passes on a message from Bush officials. He later says, “I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action.” [Guardian, 9/26/01] Accounts vary, but former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik later says he is told by senior American officials at the meeting that military action to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan is planned to “take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.” The goal is to kill or capture both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, topple the Taliban regime, and install a transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. Uzbekistan and Russia would also participate. Naik also says, “It was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban.” [BBC, 9/18/01] One specific threat made at this meeting is that the Taliban can choose between “carpets of bombs” —an invasion—or “carpets of gold” — the pipeline. [Brisard, Dasquie and Madsen, 2002, pp 43] Naik contends that Tom Simons made the “carpets” statement. Simons claims, “It's possible that a mischievous American participant, after several drinks, may have thought it smart to evoke gold carpets and carpet bombs. Even Americans can't resist the temptation to be mischievous.” Naik and the other American participants deny that the pipeline was an issue at the meeting. [Salon, 8/16/02]
          

July 23, 2001: Mohammed Given US Visa

      
The photograph of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed on his 2001 US visa application.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is granted a visa to enter the US, despite being under a federal terrorism indictment, having a $2 million reward on his head, and being one of only a dozen people in the world on a US domestic no-fly list (see April 24, 2000). There is no evidence that he actually uses his visa to travel to the US. Investigators speculate that he may have considered a trip to shepherd some aspect of the 9/11 plot. He applied for the visa using a Saudi passport and an alias (Abdulrahman al Ghamdi), but the photo he submitted really is of him. He uses the new, controversial Visa Express program that allows Saudis to apply for US visas without having to appear in person at any point during the application process (see May 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/04] Just a month earlier, the CIA passed a warning to all US intelligence agencies, certain military commanders, and parts of the Justice and Treasury Departments saying that Mohammed may be attempting to enter the US (see June 12, 2001). However, either this warning isn't given to immigration officials or else they fail to notice his application. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/04]
          

July 24, 2001: World Trade Center Ownership Changes Hands For the First Time

      
Larry Silverstein.
Private businessman Larry Silverstein's $3.2 billion purchase of the World Trade Center is finalized. [Ireizine, 7/26/01] It is the only time the WTC has ever changed hands. It was previously owned by the New York Port Authority, a bi-state government agency. [ICSC, 4/27/01] After 9/11, Silverstein attempts to get $7 billion in insurance for the 9/11 destruction of the WTC towers. [Guardian, 10/24/01] In late 2004, he will be tentatively awarded $2.2 billion, double what insurance companies offered to pay him. [UPI, 12/6/04] A judge also makes a ruling that keeps open the possibility he could eventually receive as much as $6.4 billion. [Associated Press, 12/7/04]
          

July 26, 2001: Ashcroft Stops Flying Commercial Airlines; Refuses to Explain Why

      
Attorney General John Ashcroft.
CBS News reports that Attorney General Ashcroft has stopped flying commercial airlines due to a threat assessment, but “neither the FBI nor the Justice Department ... would identify [to CBS] what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it.” [CBS News, 7/26/01] “Ashcroft demonstrated an amazing lack of curiosity when asked if he knew anything about the threat. ‘Frankly, I don't,’ he told reporters.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/02] It is later reported that he stopped flying in July based on threat assessments made on May 8 and June 19. In May 2002, it is claimed the threat assessment had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, but Ashcroft walked out of his office rather than answer questions about it. [Associated Press, 5/16/02] The San Francisco Chronicle concludes, “The FBI obviously knew something was in the wind. ... The FBI did advise Ashcroft to stay off commercial aircraft. The rest of us just had to take our chances.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/02] CBS's Dan Rather later asks of this warning: “Why wasn't it shared with the public at large?” [Washington Post, 5/27/02]
          

July 27, 2001: Rice Briefed on Terrorist Threats, Advised to Keep Ready

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke reports to National Security Adviser Rice and her deputy Steve Hadley that the spike in intelligence indicating a near-term attack appears to have ceased, but he urges them to keep readiness high. Intelligence indicates that an attack has been postponed for a few months. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] In early August, CIA Director Tenet also reports that intelligence suggests that whatever terrorist activity might have been originally planned has been delayed. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (C)]
          

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

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

Late July 2001: Ex-House Judiciary Committee's Chief Investigator Tries to Warn About Plans to Strike Buildings in New York

      
David Schippers.
David Schippers, noted conservative Chicago lawyer and the House Judiciary Committee's chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial, claims two days after 9/11 that he had tried to warn federal authorities about plans to strike buildings in lower Manhattan. Schippers says, “I was trying to get people to listen to me because I had heard that the terrorists had set up a three-pronged attack:” an American airplane, the bombing of a federal building in the heartland and a massive attack in lower Manhattan. He tries contacting Attorney General Ashcroft, the White House, and even the House managers with whom he had worked, but nobody returns his phone calls. “People thought I was crazy. What I was doing was I was calling everybody I knew telling them that this has happened,” he says. “I'm telling you the more I see of the stuff that's coming out, if the FBI had even been awake they would have seen it.” He also claims to know of ignored warnings about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and evidence that Middle Easterners were connected with that attack. [Indianapolis Star, 5/18/02] Other mainstream sources have apparently shied away from Schippers' story, but he has added details in an interview on the partisan Alex Jones Show. He claims that FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota first contact him and tell him that a terrorist attack is going to occur in lower Manhattan. A group of these agents reportedly wants to testify about what they know, but first want legal protection from government retribution. [Alex Jones Show, 10/10/01]
          

Late July 2001 (D): Egypt Warns CIA of 20 al-Qaeda Operatives in US; Four Training to Fly; CIA Is Not Interested

       CBS later reports, in a long story on another topic: “Just days after [Mohamed] Atta return[s] to the US from Spain, Egyptian intelligence in Cairo says it received a report from one of its operatives in Afghanistan that 20 al-Qaeda members had slipped into the US and four of them had received flight training on Cessnas. To the Egyptians, pilots of small planes didn't sound terribly alarming, but they [pass] on the message to the CIA anyway, fully expecting Washington to request information. The request never [comes].” [CBS News, 10/9/02] This appears to be just one of several accurate Egyptian warnings from their informants inside al-Qaeda.
          

July 31, 2001: FAA Issues General Hijacking Warning

       The FAA issues another warning to US airlines, citing no specific targets but saying, “terror groups are known to be planning and training for hijackings, and we ask you therefore to use caution.” These alerts will expire by 9/11. Note that pilots and flight attendants later claim they were never told about warnings such as these. The airlines also disagree about the content of pre-9/11 warnings generally. For instance, American Airlines states these warnings were “extremely general in nature and did not identify a specific threat or recommend any specific security enhancements.” The text of these warnings remains classified. [CNN, 3/02; Ananova, 5/17/02]
          
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