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Day of 911

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Bush on 9/11
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Complete 911 Timeline

 
  

Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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Showing 501-600 of 1602 events (use filters to narrow search):    previous 100    next 100

Summer 2001 (G)

       Supposedly, since 1997 there are only fourteen fighter planes on active alert to defend the continental US. But 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 reported, “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)] 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]
          

Summer 2001 (E)

       Supposedly, by this time there are only fourteen fighter planes on active alert to defend the continental US (and six more defending Canada and Alaska). [Bergen Record 12/5/03] But 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 reported, “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]
          

July 2001

       The CIA hears an individual who had recently been in Afghanistan say, “Everyone is talking about an impending attack.” [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Washington Post, 9/19/02] The Telegraph later reports that “the idea of an attack on a skyscraper was discussed among [bin Laden's] supporters in Kabul.” At some unspecified point before 9/11, a neighbor in Kabul saw diagrams showing a skyscraper attack in a house known as a “nerve center” for al-Qaeda activity. [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] 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] CIA Director Tenet later claims that the 9/11 plot was “in the heads of three or four people.” [USA Today 2/7/02] How many people in Afghanistan really knew of the 9/11 attack plans?
          

July 1, 2001

       Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) and Richard Shelby (R), both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, appear on CNN's “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer”, and warn of potential attacks by bin Laden. Says Feinstein: “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]
          

Summer 2001 (H)

       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.” [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

Summer 2001 (I)

       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 (I)

       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]
          

July 2001 (B)

       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 information is not given to the US until two days after 9/11. [Fox News 5/17/02]
          

Summer 2001 (D)

       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 brings up the incident to show the strong ties between the ISI and both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [Time 5/6/02]
          

Summer 2001 (F)

      
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 (see Late 1995), makes a clandestine visit to Pakistan around this time. After meeting with senior army officials, he visits Afghanistan with ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed (see October 7, 2001). 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 (see Late 1998 (F)). [Asia Times, 8/22/01] A similar meeting may also take place after 9/11 (see September 19, 2001 (B)).
          

July 2, 2001 (B)

       The FBI issues a warning of possible al-Qaeda attacks on law enforcement agencies, stating, “there are threats to be worried about overseas. While we cannot foresee attacks domestically, we cannot rule them out.” It further states, “the FBI has no information indicating a credible threat of terrorist attack in the United States.” It asks 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 recall this or took any special actions. [CNN 3/02 (H); 9/11 Commission Report 4/13/04 (B)]
          

July 2, 2001 (B)

       The FBI issues a warning of possible al-Qaeda attacks on law enforcement agencies, stating, “there are threats to be worried about overseas. While we cannot foresee attacks domestically, we cannot rule them out.” [CNN 3/02]
          

July 2, 2001

       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 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, 01/28/02] If these stories are true, it appears Pakistan could have captured bin Laden for the US at any time. The Jane's 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

       Bush's Cabinet-level national security leadership discuss terrorism in a meeting. This group of “Principals” —National Security Advisor Rice, CIA Director Tenet, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Shelton and others—meet around 100 times before 9/11 to discuss a variety of topics, but this is one of only two times when terrorism is discussed (see also September 4, 2001 (C)). This lack of discussion stands in sharp contrast to the Clinton administration where this group meets and discusses terrorism every two to three weeks after mind-1998 and nearly every day during times of heightened terrorist concerns. [AP 6/28/02]
          

July 3, 2001 (B)

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

July 4-14, 2001

      
Did bin Laden receive life saving treatment at this 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 surgeon specialist Dr. 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; London Times 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, as well as two CIA officers (see also July 12, 2001). [Guardian, 11/1/01] [FTW] The explosive story is widely reported in Europe, but barely at all in the US (possibly only by UPI [UPI, 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]
          

July 4, 2001

       Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar reenters the US. The CIA and FBI have recently been showing interest in him (see May 15, 2001 and June 11, 2001), 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 (see also May 2001 (H)). [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] The FBI notes he returns just days after the last of the hijacker “muscle” has entered the US (see April 23-June 29, 2001), and speculate he returns because his job in bringing them over is finished. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

July 5, 2001

       At the request of National Security Advisor Rice and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke leads a meeting of the CSG (Counterterrorism 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, “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 threat advisories, but neither the FAA's top administrator nor Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is aware of an increased threat level. [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. But 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 (see July 10, 2001), the FBI doesn't share this information with any other agency. [Washington Post 5/17/02]
          

July 6, 2001

       One day after heading a meeting on al-Qaeda with the Counterterrorism and Security Group (CSG) (see July 5, 2001), 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 a ‘spectacular,’ qualitatively different from anything they have done to date.” [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] Then Clarke later claims he 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.”
          

July 8-19, 2001

       Atta travels to Spain again (see January 4, 2001 (B)). 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. [AP, 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, AP, 6/30/02] It is theorized this meeting is when the final details of the 9/11 attacks are set. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] It is probable Atta meets with and is hosted by Barakat Yarkas and other Spanish al-Qaeda members (see August 27, 2001). [International Herald Tribune, 11/21/01] One of the unknowns at the meeting could be Yarkas's friend Mamoun Darkazanli, a German with connections to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell (see Spring 2000). Darkazanli 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. [AP, 9/27/01] Strangely enough, on July 16, Atta stayed in the same hotel in the town of Salou that had hosted FBI counter-terrorist expert John O'Neill a few days earlier, when he made a speech to other counter-terrorism 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. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 135] Did bin al-Shibh and/or Atta attend O'Neill's speech to learn from the enemy, or even secretly meet with O'Neill or some other counter-terrorist official?
          

July 10, 2001

      
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 begun the year before (see April 17, 2000), but had trouble pursuing because of the low priority the Arizona FBI office gave terror investigations (see 1994 (C)). In the memo, Williams does the following:
  1. Names nine other suspect students from Pakistan, India, Kenya, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, in addition to Soubra. [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 (see 1997-July 2001). Another person on the list is later arrested in Pakistan in 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03, Washington Post, 7/25/03 (C)]
  2. Notes he interviewed some of these students, and heard some of them make hostile comments about the US. He also noticed they were suspiciously well informed about security measures at US airports. [Die Zeit 10/1/02]
  3. Notes an increasing, “inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” taking flight lessons in Arizona. [Die Zeit 10/1/02; Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
  4. Suspects that some of the 10 people he's investigated are connected to al-Qaeda. [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.
  5. Discovers 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. [AP 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)]
  6. 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]
  7. Recommends, “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] In fact, the FBI has already done this, but because of poor FBI communications, Williams is not aware of the report (see 1999 (L)).
  8. Recommends the FBI ask the State Department to provide visa data on flight school students from Middle Eastern countries so the bureau can track them more easily. [New York Times, 5/4/02]
The memo is e-mailed 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. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] He also shares some concerns with the CIA. [San Jose Mercury News 5/23/02] But the memo is merely marked “routine,” not “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, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] Williams also was unaware of many FBI investigations and leads that could have given weight to his memo (see 1998 (F), May 18, 1998, After May 15, 1998, 1999 (L), September 1999 (E), January-February 2001). Authorities later claim 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 (B)

       On July 5, the CIA briefs 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 Attorney General Ashcroft about the terror threat inside the US. Pickard later swears under oath that Ashcroft tells him, “he did 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 Ashcroft's office claimed would also support Ashcroft's account says he can't 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] Picard 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.”
          

July 12, 2001

       While in Dubai, United Arab Emirates to receive lifesaving medical treatment (see July 4-14, 2001), Bin Laden supposedly meets with CIA agent Larry Mitchell in the Dubai hospital on this day, and possibly others. Mitchell reportedly 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. Le Figaro and Radio France International stand by it. [Le Figaro 10/31/01; Radio France International 11/1/01; Reuters 11/10/01] The Guardian claims that the two news organizations that broke the story, Le Figaro and Radio France International, got their information 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] On July 15, Larry Mitchell supposedly returns to CIA headquarters to report on his meeting with bin Laden. [Radio France International, 11/1/01] If this meeting did happen, then does it show the US was not serious about wanting bin Laden dead?
          

July 13, 2001 (B)

       The same Supervisor of the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) who expressed interest in surveillance photos from the al-Qaeda Malaysia meeting (see January 5-8, 2000) two months earlier (see May 15, 2001) now finds a cable he'd been looking for regarding that same meeting. The cable from January 2001 discusses al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash's presence at the meeting (see January 4, 2001). He explains later that bin Attash's presence at the meeting had been troubling him. He writes an e-mail to the Counter Terrorism Center, 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 to review all other CIA cables about the Malaysian meeting. It takes this analyst until August 21—over five weeks later—to put together that Almihdhar had a US visa (see April 3-7, 1999), and that Alhazmi had traveled to the US (see March 5, 2000). Yet there are other CIA agents who are already very aware of these facts and not sharing the information (see June 11, 2001). Working with immigration officials, this analyst then learns that Almihdhar entered and left the US in 2000, and entered again on July 4, 2001 (see July 4, 2001) and that Alhazmi appears to still be in the US. As a result, the two terrorists are finally placed on a terrorist watch list two days later (see August 23, 2001 (C)). [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

July 13, 2001

       With the threat of a new terrorist attack on the rise, the CIA has agents reexamine records in the search for new leads. A CIA cable is rediscovered showing that Khallad bin Atash had attended the January 2000 meeting in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 4, 2001). The CIA official who finds it immediately e-mails the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC), saying bin Atash “is a major league killer, who orchestrated the Cole attack and possibly the Africa bombings.” Yet bin Atash is still not put on a terrorist watch list. An FBI analyst assigned to the CTC is given the task to review all other CIA cables about the Malaysian meeting. It takes this analyst until August 21—over five weeks later—to determine that two attendees of the meeting, hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, had entered the US on January 15, 2000, and that Almihdhar had reentered the US on July 4, 2001. [Congressional Intelligence Committee 9/20/02]
          

July 16, 2001 (B)

       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 period. The FBI isn't told about this lead until after 9/11. He is later interrogated by the FBI and released. He claims what he knew was known by many. [Village Voice 9/25/02 (B)]
          

July 16, 2001

       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 MI6 and GCHQ 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.” [London Times, 6/14/02] This information could be from or in addition to a warning based on surveillance of al-Qaeda prisoner Khalid al-Fawwaz (see August 21, 2001). [Fox News 5/17/02]
          

July 18, 2001

       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]
          

July 20-22, 2001

       The G8 summit is held in Genoa, Italy. Acting on previous warnings that al-Qaeda would attempt to kill Bush and other leaders (see June 13, 2001, June 20, 2001, andMid-July 2001), Italy surrounds the summit with antiaircraft guns, keeps fighters in the air, and closes 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 claim success in preventing an attack. Lying about Genoa keeps the public and the airlines uninformed about the seriousness of the current terrorist threat. [Los Angeles Times 9/27/01]
          

July 21, 2001

       Three American officials, Tom Simons (former US Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Assistant 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] It 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, former US State Department official Lee 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 (see also December 19, 2000, March 15, 2001 and June 26, 2001). 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. [Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth] Niaz Naik says 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 American participants deny that the pipeline was an issue at the meeting. [Salon 8/16/02] So then what was the “carpets of gold” phrase referring to? [FTW]
          

July 24, 2001

       Larry Silverstein's $3.2 billion purchase of the WTC is finalized. [Ireizine, 7/26/01] It's 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] Silverstein may get $7 billion in insurance from the 9/11 destruction of the WTC towers. [Guardian 10/24/01]
          

July 26, 2001

       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, 7/26/01] FTW “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 its claimed the threat assessment had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, but Ashcroft walked out of his office rather than answer questions about it. [AP, 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 says of this warning: “Why wasn't it shared with the public at large?” [Washington Post 5/27/02]
          

July 27, 2001

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke reports to National Security Advisor Rice and her deputy Steve Hadley that the spike in intelligence indicating a near-term attack appeared 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 3/24/04 (C)]
          

Late July 2001

      
Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Muttawakil.
The Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil learns that bin Laden is planning a “huge attack” on targets inside America. The attack is imminent, and will kill thousands. He learns this from Tahir Yildash, leader of the rebel Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is allied with al-Qaeda at the time. Muttawakil sends an emissary to pass this information on to the US consul general, and another US official, “possibly from the intelligence services,” also attends the meeting. The message is not taken very seriously; one source blames this on “warning fatigue”from too many warnings. Also, supposedly the emissary was from the Foreign Ministry, but didn't say the message came from Muttawakil himself. The emissary then takes the message to the Kabul offices of UNSMA, the political wing of the UN. They also fail to take the warning seriously. [Independent, 9/7/02, Reuters, 9/7/02] Isn't it ironic the US destroyed the Taliban, who tried to warn them of the attacks? See for more on this topic.
          

Late July 2001 (B)

      
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 John 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 it is FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota who first contact him and tell him that a terrorist attack is going to occur in lower Manhattan. A group of these agents now want to testify about what they know, but want legal protection from government retribution. [Alex Jones Show 10/10/01]
          

Late July 2001 (D)

       CBS later has a brief mention in a long story on another topic: “Just days after 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 10/9/02] This appears to be one of several accurate Egyptian warnings based on informants (see June 13, 2001 and August 30-September 4, 2001). Could Egypt have known the names of some or all of the hijackers? Given FBI agent Ken Williams' memo about flight schools a short time before (see July 10, 2001), shouldn't the US have investigated this closely instead of completely ignoring it?
          

Late summer 2001

       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.” Christian Science Monitor calls the story “confidently authenticated” even though Jordan has backed away from it. [International Herald Tribune, 5/21/02, ] [FTW]
          

Late summer 2001 (C)

       The Guardian later reports, “Reliable western military sources say a US contingency plan existed on paper by the end of the summer to attack Afghanistan from the north.” [Guardian 9/26/01]
          

Late July 2001 (C)

       Argentina's Jewish community receives warnings of a major terrorist attack against either the United States, Argentina or France from “a foreign intelligence source.” The warning was then relayed to the Argentine security authorities. It was agreed to keep the warning secret in order to avoid panic while reinforcing security at Jewish sites in the country. Says a Jewish leader, “It was a concrete warning that an attack of major proportion would take place, and it came from a reliable intelligence source. And I understand the Americans were told about it.” Argentina has a large Jewish community that has been bombed in the past, and has been an area of al-Qaeda activity. [Forward 5/31/02]
          

Late summer 2001 (B)

       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. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02]
          

July 31, 2001

       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 had expired 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 remain classified. [CNN 3/02; Ananova 5/17/02]
          

Early August 2001 (D)

      
Aftab Ansari.
The ransom for a wealthy Indian shoe manufacturer, kidnapped in Calcutta, India, two weeks earlier, is paid to an Indian gangster named Aftab Ansari. Ansari is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and has ties to the ISI and Saeed Sheikh (see November 1994-December 1999). Ansari gives about $100,000 of the about $830,000 in ransom money to Saeed, who sends it to hijacker Mohamed Atta. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/02, Independent, 1/24/02] A series of recovered e-mails shows the money is sent just after August 11. This appears to be one of a series of Indian kidnappings this gang carries out in 2001. [India Today, 2/14/02, Times of India, 2/14/02] Saeed provides training and weapons to the kidnappers in return for a percentage of the profits. [Frontline, 2/2/02, India Today, 2/25/02] Note that this appears to be an additional $100,000 sent by Saeed to Atta on top of the $100,000 he likely sent to Atta in 2000 (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). If it's true ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed orders Saeed to send $100,000 to the hijackers, it isn't clear to which $100,000 that refers (see October 7, 2001).
          

August 2001 (E)

       The CIA issues a report warning the White House, Pentagon and Department of State that bin Laden is intent on launching a terrorist attack soon, possibly inside the US. [Sunday Herald 9/23/01]
          

August 2001 (G)

      
Robert Baer
Former CIA agent Robert Baer (see December 1997 and January 23, 2002) is advising a prince in a Persian Gulf royal family, when a military associate of this prince passes information to him about a “spectacular terrorist operation” that will take place shortly. He is also given a computer record of around 600 secret al-Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The list includes 10 names that will be placed on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list after 9/11. He is also given evidence that a Saudi merchant family had funded the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), and that the Yemeni government is covering up information related to that bombing. At the military officer's request, he offers all this information to the Saudi Arabian government. But an aide to the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan, refuses to look at the list or to pass the names on (Sultan is later sued for his complicity in the 9/11 plot, see August 15, 2002). Baer also passes the information on to a senior CIA official and the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center, but there is no response or action. Large sections of Baer's book are blacked out, having been censored by the CIA. [Financial Times 1/12/02; See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism Robert Baer 2/02 pp. 270-271; Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failures Led to September 11 Bill Gertz pp. 55-58]
          

August 2001 (D)

       Russian President Putin warns the US that suicide pilots are training for attacks on US targets. [Fox News 5/17/02] The head of Russian intelligence also later states, “We had clearly warned them” on several occasions, but they “did not pay the necessary attention.” [Agence France-Presse 9/16/01] A Russian newspaper on September 12, 2001 claims that “Russian Intelligence agents know the organizers and executors of these terrorist attacks. More than that, Moscow warned Washington about preparation to these actions a couple of weeks before they happened.” Interestingly, the article claims that at least two of the terrorists were Muslim radicals from Uzbekistan. [Izvestia 9/12/01] (the story currently on the Izvestia web site has been edited to delete a key paragraph, the link is to a translation of the original article from From the Wilderness) [FTW]
          

August 1, 2001 (C)

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

August 1-2, 2001

       Hijackers Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar meet Luis Martinez-Flores, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, in a 7-Eleven parking lot in Fall Church, Virginia. He is paid $100 cash to Martinez-Flores accompany the two to a local Department of Motor Vehicles office and signs forms attesting to their permanent residence in Virginia. Given new state identity cards, the cards are used the next day to get Virginia identity cards for between five and seven additional hijackers, including Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, and Salem Alhazmi. [Arizona Daily Star 9/28/01; Washington Post 9/30/01; Wall Street Journal 10/16/01]
          

August 1, 2001

      
James Woods
Actor James Woods, flying first class on an airplane, notices four Arabic-looking men, the only other people in the first class section. He concludes they are terrorists, acting very strangely (for instance, only talking in whispers). [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] He tells a stewardess, “I think this plane is going to be hijacked” adding, “I know how serious it is to say this.” He conveys his worries to the pilots and is assured that the cockpit would be locked. [New Yorker, 5/27/02] The flight staff later notifies the FAA about these suspicious individuals. Though the government won't say, it is highly unlikely that any action is taken regarding the flight staff's worries. [New Yorker, 5/27/02] Woods isn't interviewed by the FBI about this until after 9/11. Woods says the FBI believes that all four men did take part in the 9/11 attacks, and the flight he was on was a practice flight for them. [O'Reilly Factor, 2/14/02] Woods believes one was Khalid Almihdhar and another was Hamza Alghamdi. [New Yorker, 5/27/02] The FBI later reports that this may have been one of a dozen test run flights starting as early as January. Flight attendants and passengers on other flights later recall men looking like the hijackers who took pictures of the cockpit aboard flights and/or took notes. [AP 5/29/02] Given the number of test flights, did others alert authorities before 9/11? The FBI hasn't been able to find any evidence of hijackers on the flight manifest for Woods' flight. [New Yorker, 5/27/02] Were the hijackers using false identities?
          

August 2001 (B)

       At least six 9/11 hijackers, including all of those that boarded Flight 77, live in Laurel, Maryland from about this time. They reportedly include Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi (though also see Early September 2001). Laurel, Maryland is home to a Muslim cleric named Moataz Al-Hallak who teaches at a local Islamic school and has been linked to bin Laden. He has testified three times before a grand jury investigating bin Laden. NSA expert James Bamford later states, “the terrorist cell that eventually took over the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon ended up living, working, planning and developing all their activities in Laurel, Maryland, which happens to be the home of the NSA. So they were actually living alongside NSA employees as they were plotting all these things.” [Washington Post 9/19/01; BBC 6/21/02]
          

Early August 2001

      
Randy Glass.
Randy Glass, a former con artist turned government informant, later claims that he contacts the staff of Senator Bob Graham and Representative Robert Wexler at this time and warns them of a plan to attack the WTC, but his warnings are ignored. [Palm Beach Post 10/17/02] Glass also tells the media at this time that his recently concluded informant work has “far greater ramifications than have so far been revealed,” and “potentially, thousands of lives [are] at risk.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel 8/7/01] Glass was a key informant in a sting operation involving ISI agents trying to illegally purchase sophisticated US military weaponry in return for cash and heroin (see June 12, 2001). He claims that in 1999, one ISI agent named Rajaa Gulum Abbas pointed to the WTC and said, “Those towers are coming down”(see July 14, 1999). [Palm Beach Post 10/17/02] Most details remain sealed, but Glass points out that his sentencing document dated June 15, 2001, lists threats against the World Trade Center and Americans. [WPBF Channel 25 8/5/02] Florida State Senator Ron Klein, who had dealings with Glass before 9/11, says he is surprised it took so many months for the US to listen to Glass: “Shame on us.” [Palm Beach Post, 10/17/02] Senator Graham acknowledges that his office had contact with Glass before 9/11, and was told about a WTC attack: “I was concerned about that and a dozen other pieces of information which emanated from the summer of 2001.” But Graham later says he personally was unaware of Glass's information until after 9/11. [Palm Beach Post 10/17/02] In October 2002, Glass testifies under oath before a private session of the Congressional 9/11 inquiry. He states, “I told [the inquiry] I have specific evidence, and I can document it.” [Palm Beach Post, 10/17/02] This testimony and most evidence still has not been made public.
          

August 2001 (F)

       US intelligence learns of a plot to either bomb the US embassy in Nairobi from an airplane or crash an airplane into it. Two people who were reportedly acting on instructions from bin Laden met in October 2000 to discuss this plot. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02]
          

Early August 2001 (B)

       AP later reports that the “CIA had developed general information a month before the attacks that heightened concerns that bin Laden and his followers were increasingly determined to strike on US soil.” A CIA official affirmed that: “There was something specific in early August that said to us that [bin Laden] was determined in striking on US soil.” A major excuse given since 9/11 is that the Bush administration was focused on overseas attacks, and didn't expect a domestic attack (for instance see May 16, 2002 (B)). [AP 10/3/01]
          

Early August 2001 (C)

       Britain gives the US another warning about an al-Qaeda attack.The previous British warning (see July 16, 2001) was vague as to method, but this warning specifies multiple airplane hijackings. This warning is included in Bush's briefing on August 6. [Sunday Herald 5/19/02]
          

August 2001 (H)

       Future anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill's high level Department of Defense security clearance is revoked. He is working at a private company at the time, but no explanation is given to his employers. [Baltimore Sun 7/18/02]
          

August 2001 (C)

       The French magazine Maximale and the Moroccan newspaper al-Ittihad al-Ichtiraki later simultaneously report that a Moroccan agent named Hassan Dabou had penetrated al-Qaeda to the point of getting close to bin Laden by this time. Dabou claims he learns that bin Laden is “very disappointed”that the 1993 bombing had not toppled the WTC, and plans “large scale operations in New York in the summer or fall of 2001.” Dabou is called to the US to report this information directly, and in so doing blows his cover, losing his ability to gather more intelligence. The International Herald Tribune later calls the story “not proved beyond a doubt” but intriguing, and asks the CIA to confirm or deny, which it has not done. [Agence France Presse, 11/22/01, International Herald Tribune, 5/21/02, London Times, 6/12/02] [FTW]
          

Between August 2001 and September 11, 2001

       A NORAD exercise, planned in July 2001 and conducted some time afterwards but apparently before 9/11, involves real planes from airports in Utah and Washington state that simulate a hijacking. Those planes are escorted by US and Canadian aircraft to airfields in British Columbia and Alaska. USA Today notes that this is an exception to NORAD's claim that they focused only on external threats to the US and did not consider the possibility of threats arising from within the US. [USA Today 4/18/04]
          

August 2001 (I)

       The US receives intelligence that bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is receiving medical treatment at a clinic in San'a, Yemen. However, the Bush administration rejects a plan to capture him, as officials are not 100 percent sure the patient is al-Zawahiri. Officials later regret the missed opportunity. [ABC News 2/20/02]
          

August-October 2001

       British intelligence asks India for legal assistance in catching Saeed Sheikh sometime during August 2001. Saeed has been openly living in Pakistan since 1999 and has even traveled to Britain at least twice during that time (see January 1, 2000-September 11, 2001), despite having kidnapped Britons and Americans (see June 1993-October 1994). [London Times, 4/21/02, Vanity Fair, 8/02] According to the Indian media, informants in Germany tell the internal security service there that Saeed helped fund hijacker Mohamed Atta (see Early August 2001 (D)). [Frontline, 10/6/01] On September 23, it is revealed that the British have asked India for help in finding Saeed, but it isn't explained why. [London Times, 9/23/01] His role in training the hijackers and financing the 9/11 attacks soon becomes public knowledge, though some elements are disputed (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002). [Telegraph, 9/30/01, CNN, 10/6/01, CNN, 10/8/01] The Gulf News claims that the US freezes the assets of Pakistani terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad on October 12, 2001 because it has established links between Saeed Sheikh and 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). [Gulf News 10/11/01] However, in October, an Indian magazine notes, “Curiously, there seems to have been little international pressure on Pakistan to hand [Saeed] over” [Frontline, 10/6/01], and the US doesn't formally ask Pakistan for help to find Saeed until January 2002 (see November 2001-February 5, 2002).
          

August 1, 2001 (B)

       With the approaching third anniversary of the US embassy bombings in Africa, the FBI reissues a warning that overseas law enforcement agencies could be targets. [CNN 3/02]
          

August 2001

      
A Raytheon 727 lands in New Mexico in August, 2001.
The US company Raytheon lands a 727 six times in a military base in New Mexico without any pilots on board. This is done to test equipment making future hijackings more difficult, by allowing ground control to take over the flying of a hijacked plane. [AP 10/2/01 (C); Der Spiegel 10/28/01] Several Raytheon employees with possible ties to this remote control technology program appear to have been on the hijacked 9/11 flight (see September 25, 2001). However, most media reports after 9/11 suggest such technology is currently impossible. For instance, the Observer quotes an expert who says “the technology is pretty much there” but still untried. [Observer 9/16/01] An aviation-security expert at Jane's Defence Weekly says this type of technology belongs “in the realms of science fiction.” [Financial Times, 9/18/01 (B), Economist, 9/20/01] Even Bush appears to deny the technology current exists. He gives a speech after 9/11 in which he mentions that the government would give grants to research “new technology, probably far in the future, allowing air traffic controllers to land distressed planes by remote control.” [New York Times 9/28/01]
          

August 2, 2001

       Christina Rocca, the Director of Asian Affairs at the State Department, secretly meets the Taliban ambassador in Islamabad, apparently in a last ditch attempt to secure a pipeline deal. Rocca was previously in charge of contacts with Islamic guerrilla groups at the CIA, and oversaw the delivery of Stinger missiles to Afghan mujaheddin in the 1980s. [Irish Times, 11/19/01, Salon, 2/8/02, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth] [FTW]
          

August 4-30, 2001

       President Bush spends most of August 2001 at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, nearly setting a record for the longest presidential vacation. While it is billed a “working vacation,” ABC reports Bush is doing “nothing much” aside from his regular daily intelligence briefings. [ABC 8/3/01; Washington Post 8/7/01; Salon 8/29/01] One such unusually long briefing at the start of his trip is a warning that bin Laden is planning to attack in the US, but Bush spends the rest of that day fishing (see August 6, 2001). By the end of his trip, Bush has spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route. [Washington Post 8/7/01] At the time, a poll shows that 55 percent of Americans say Bush is taking too much time off. [USA Today, 8/7/01] Vice President Cheney also spends the entire month in a remote location in Wyoming. [Jackson Hole News and Guide 8/15/01]
          

August 4, 2001

       President Bush sends a letter to Pakistani President Musharraf, warning him about supporting the Taliban. However, the tone is similar to past requests dating to the Clinton administration. There had been some discussion that US policy toward Pakistan should change. For instance, At the end of June, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke “urged that the United States think about what it would do after the next attack, and then take that position with Pakistan now, before the attack.” Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage later acknowledges that a new approach to Pakistan had not yet been implemented by 9/11. [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04]
          

August 6, 2001 (B)

       Richard Perle, head of the Defense Policy Board and foreign policy advisor to Bush, is asked about new challenges now that the Cold War is over. He cites three: “We're concerned about Saddam Hussein, we're concerned about the North Koreans, about some future Iranian government that may have the weapon they're now trying so hard to acquire… ” [Australian Broadcasting Corp., 8/6/01] Note that these three nations are the same three named in Bush's famous January 2002 “axis of evil” speech (see January 29, 2002). [CNN, 1/29/02] High US officials are later talking about attacking all three, even though there are almost no connections between any of them and al-Qaeda. [Newsweek, 8/11/02] Meanwhile, bin Laden and most top leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban remain at large. Was the 9/11 attack an excuse for the US to go after its enemies?
          

August 6, 2001 (C)

       Inside trading based on advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks may have begun on this date, if not earlier. Investigators later discover a large number of put option purchases (a speculation that the stock will go down) at the Chicago Board Options Exchange bought on this date that expire on September 30 (see also September 6-10, 2001). These would have led to large profits. One analyst says, “From what I'm hearing, it's more than coincidence.” [Reuters 9/20/01]
          

August 6, 2001

       In testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Attorney General Ashcroft complains, “the single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents.” However, on this day, Ashcroft's Assistant Attorney General, Larry Thompson, writes a memo reaffirming the policy that is later criticized as this “wall.” [Thompson Testimony 12/8/03 http://www.brook.edu/views/testimony/thompson/20031208.htm; Washington Post 4/18/04 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20786-2004Apr17.html]
          

August 6, 2001

       President Bush receives a classified intelligence briefing at his Crawford, Texas ranch indicating that bin Laden might be planning to hijack commercial airliners. The memo read to him is titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” The entire memo focuses on the possibility of terrorist attacks inside the US.[Newsweek, 5/27/02, New York Times, 5/15/02] A page and a half of the contents are released after National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice testifies to the 9/11 Commission [Washington Post, 4/10/04]. The 9/11 Congressional inquiry call it “a closely held intelligence report for senior government officials” presented in early August 2001. Rice testifies that the memo is mostly historic regarding bin Laden's previous activities and she says it contains no specific information that would have prevented an attack. The memo, as released, includes at least the following information:
  1. Bin Laden has wanted to conduct attacks inside the US since 1997.
  2. “Members of al-Qaeda, including some US citizens, [have] resided in or travelled to the US for years and the group apparently maintain[s] a support structure” in the US.
  3. A discussion of the arrest of Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999) and the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998).
  4. Uncorroborated information obtained in 1998 that bin Laden wants to hijack airplanes to gain the release of US-held extremists such as Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990).
  5. Information acquired in May 2001 indicating al-Qaeda is planning to infiltrate the US from Canada and attack the US using high explosives (see May 2001 (B)).
  6. “FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks.”
  7. The number of on-going bin Laden-related investigations. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
Incredibly, the New York Times later reports that Bush “[breaks] off from work early and [spends] most of the day fishing” (see also August 4-30, 2001). [New York Times 5/25/02] The existence of this memo is kept secret, until it is leaked in May 2002, causing a storm of controversy (see May 15, 2002). National Security Advisor Rice gives an inaccurate description of the memo, claiming it is only one and a half pages long (other accounts state it is 11 and a half pages instead of the usual two or three). [Newsweek 5/27/02; New York Times 5/15/02; Die Zeit 10/1/02] She falsely claims, “It was an analytic report that talked about [bin Laden]'s methods of operation, talked about what he had done historically, in 1997, in 1998…. I want to reiterate, it was not a warning. There was no specific time, place, or method mentioned.” [White House 5/16/02]
          

August 7, 2001

       One day after Bush receives a Presidential Daily Briefing entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001), a version of the same material is given to other top government officials. But this Senior Executive Intelligence Brief or SEIB, doesn't the most important information from Bush's briefing. It doesn't mention that there are 70 FBI investigations into possible al-Qaeda activity, doesn't mention a May 2001 threat of US-based explosives attacks (see May 2001 (B)), and doesn't mention FBI concerns about recent casing of buildings in New York City (see May 30, 2001). Typically, this type of memo “goes to scores of Cabinet-agency officials from the assistant secretary level up and doesn't include raw intelligence or sensitive information about ongoing law enforcement matters,” according to the Associated Press. Some members of Congress express concern that policy makers were given an incomplete view of the terrorist threat. [AP 4/13/04 (B)]
          

August 8-15, 2001

       At some point between these dates, Israel warns the US that an al-Qaeda attack is imminent. [Fox News, 5/17/02] Two high ranking agents from the Mossad come to Washington and warn the FBI and CIA that from 50 to 200 terrorists have slipped into the US and are planning “a major assault on the United States.” They say indications point to a “large scale target”, and that Americans would be “very vulnerable.” They add there could be Iraqi connections to the al-Qaeda attack. [Telegraph 9/16/01; Los Angeles Times 9/20/01; Ottawa Citizen 9/17/01] The Los Angeles Times later retracts the story after a CIA spokesman says, “There was no such warning. Allegations that there was are complete and utter nonsense.” [Los Angeles Times 9/21/01 (B)] In light of later revelations of a Mossad spy ring trailing numerous Muslim terrorists in the US, it is easy to see that Mossad would have known this info. Could this be later disinformation by the Mossad to spin the spy ring story and blame Iraq for 9/11, or it is another smoking gun showing extensive US foreknowledge?
          

August 11 or 12, 2001

      
Mike Vreeland: con artist, or special agent?
US Navy Lt. Delmart “Mike” Vreeland, jailed in Toronto on fraud charges and claiming to be an officer in US Naval Intelligence, writes a note which may have contained details of the pending 9/11 attacks, and seals it an envelope which he gives to Canadian authorities. He claims to have been a courier delivering a sealed pouch, which he opened when its recipient failed to show up. The document he claims to have read, written in Russian, not only describes the attack but has the added comment: “Let one happen, stop the rest”. This incident is fraught with controversy, as are the accounts of who Vreeland is and what he has done in the past. Read the documents linked here and decide. [Toronto Star, 10/23/01, external link to ] FTW He apparently later disappears. [Toronto Sun 9/10/02]
          

August 13-15, 2001

       Zacarias Moussaoui trains at the Pan Am International Flight School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he pays $8,300 ($1500 by credit card and the remainder in cash) to use a Boeing 474 Model 400 aircraft simulator. After just one day of training most of the staff is suspicious that he's a terrorist. They discuss “how much fuel [is] on board a 747-400 and how much damage that could cause if it hit[s] anything.” They call the FBI with their concerns later that day. [New York Times, 2/8/02, Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] They are suspicious because:
  1. In contrast to all the other students at this high-level flight school, he has no aviation background, little previous training and no pilot's license. [ Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02]
  2. He wants to fly a 747 not because he plans to be a pilot, but as an “ego boosting thing.” [New York Times, 10/18/02] Yet within hours of his arrival, it is clear he “was not some affluent joy-rider.” [New York Times, 2/8/02]
  3. He is “extremely” interested in the operation of the plane's doors and control panel. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] He also is very keen on learning the protocol for communicating with the flight tower despite having no plans to actually become a pilot. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
  4. He is evasive and belligerent when asked about his background. When an instructor, who notes from his records that Moussaoui is from France, attempts to greet him in French, Moussaoui appears not to understand, saying that he had spent very little time in France and that he is from the Middle East. The instructor considers it odd that Moussaoui did not specify the Middle Eastern country. [Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune, 12/21/01; Washington Post, 1/2/02]
  5. He tells a flight instructor he is not a Muslim, but the instructor senses he is lying, badly, about it. [New Yorker, 9/30/02]
  6. He says he would “love” to fly a simulated flight from London to New York, raising fears he has plans to hijack such a flight. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] His original e-mail to the flight school similarly stated he wanted to be good enough to fly from London to New York. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
  7. He pays for thousands of dollars in expenses from a large wad of cash. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
  8. He seemed to be trying to pack a large amount of training in a short period of time for no apparent reason. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
  9. He mostly practices flying in the air, not taking off or landing (although note that reports claiming he didn't want to take off or land at all appear to be an exaggeration). [New York Times, 2/8/02, Slate, 5/21/02, Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune, 12/21/01, New York Times, 5/22/02]
Failing to get much initial interest from the FBI, the flight instructor tells the FBI agents, “Do you realize how serious this is? This man wants training on a 747. A 747 fully loaded with fuel could be used as a weapon!” [New York Times 2/8/02]

          

August 14, 2001

       Two apparent associates of Mohamed Atta's Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, Ismail Ben Mrabete and Ahmed Taleb, purchase tickets to fly to Pakistan on September 3, 2001. They are joined on that flight by cell member Said Bahaji. All three apparently then disappear into Afghanistan (see September 3-5, 2001). It is later discovered that Taleb had been in e-mail contact with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/03] If these tickets were bought in anticipation of the 9/11 attacks, then this is the earliest indication of when at least the rough timing of 9/11 must have been planned by. Because this precedes the arrest of Moussaoui by one day (see August 15, 2001), it also suggests that arrest didn't affect the timing of 9/11.
          

August 15, 2001

      
Cofer Black.
Cofer Black, head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, says in a speech to the Department of Defense's annual Convention of Counterterrorism, “We are going to be struck soon, many Americans are going to die, and it could be in the US.” Black later complains that top leaders are unwilling to act at this time unless they are given “such things as the attack is coming within the next few days and here is what they are going to hit.” [Congressional Inquiry 9/26/02 (B)]
          

August 15, 2001

      
Zacarias Moussaoui.
Based on the concerns of flight school staff (see August 13-15, 2001), Zacarias Moussaoui is arrested and detained in Minnesota on the excuse of an immigration violation. [Time, 5/27/02, some reports say the 16th because the arrest happened late at night] The FBI confiscates his possessions, including a computer laptop, but don't have a search warrant to search through them. But when arresting him they note he possesses two knives, fighting gloves and shin guards, and had prepared “through physical training for violent confrontation.” An FBI interview of him adds more concerns. For example, he is supposedly in the US working as a “marketing consultant” for a computer company, but is unable to provide any details of his employment. Nor can he convincingly explain his $32,000 bank balance. [MSNBC, 12/11/01, Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] An FBI report states that when asked about his trips to Pakistan, the gateway to Afghanistan, “the questioning caused him to become extremely agitated, and he refused to discuss the matter further.”The report also notes “Moussaoui was extremely evasive in many of his answers.” [CNN, 9/28/02] His roommate is interviewed on the same day, and tells agents that Moussaoui believes it is “acceptable to kill civilians who harm Muslims,”that Moussaoui approves of Muslims who die as “martyrs”, and says Moussaoui might be willing to act on his beliefs. [Washington Post 5/24/02] But Minnesota FBI agents quickly become frustrated at the lack of interest in the case from higher ups. [New York Times, 2/8/02] For instance, on August 21 they e-mail FBI headquarters saying it's “imperative”that the Secret Service be warned of the danger a plot involving Moussaoui might pose to the President's safety. But no such warning is ever sent. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, New York Times, 10/18/02] (Also note that there is another report [Boston Herald, 9/14/01] of a terrorist arrest that sounds almost the same as the Moussaoui story. The only differences are that this unnamed man was arrested in Boston, not Minnesota, and was called Algerian instead of French, though it notes he had a French passport. It is very possible this is a slightly garbled, early version of the same Moussaoui case.)
          

August 16, 2001

       The FAA issues a warning to airlines concerning disguised weapons. According to later testimony by National Security Advisor Rice, the FAA is concerned about reports that the terrorists have made breakthroughs in disguising weapons as cell phones, key chains and pens (if this is true, why are all of these items still allowed on planes after 9/11, yet fingernail scissors and tweezers are not?). [CNN 3/02; Reuters 5/16/02] However, the major airlines later deny receiving such notification. For instance, a Delta spokesperson states: “We were not aware of any warnings or notifications of any specific threats.” [Fox News 5/16/02]
          

August 19, 2001

       The New York Times reports that counter-terrorism expert John O'Neill is under investigation for an incident involving a missing briefcase. [New York Times, 8/19/01] In July 2000, he misplaced a briefcase containing important classified information, but it was found a couple of hours later still unlocked and untouched. Why such a trivial issue would come up over a year later and be published in the New York Times seemed entirely due to politics. Says the New Yorker, “The leak seemed to be timed to destroy O'Neill's chance of being confirmed for [an] NSC job,” and force him into retirement. A high-ranking colleague says the leak was “somebody being pretty vicious to John.” [New Yorker, 1/14/02] John O'Neill suspects the article was orchestrated by his enemy Tom Pickard, then interim director of the FBI. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02 (B)] The New Yorker later speculates that with the retirement of FBI Director Freeh in June, it appears O'Neill lost his friends in high places, and the new FBI Director wanted him replaced with a Bush ally. [New Yorker, 1/14/02] O'Neill quits a few days later (see August 22, 2001 (B)).
          

August 20, 2001

       In a later interview, would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh claims that roughly around this day, he receives a coded e-mail about the 9/11 plot from Mohamed Atta. It reads, “The first term starts in three weeks…. There are 19 certificates for private studies and four exams.”Bin al-Shibh learns the exact day of the attack on August 29 (see August 29, 2001 (C)). [Guardian, 9/9/02] Hijacker Hani Hanjour also makes surveillance test flights near the Pentagon and WTC around this time, showing the targets have been confirmed as well. [CBS 10/9/02 (B)] Information in a notebook later found in Afghanistan suggests the 9/11 attack was planned for later, but was moved up at the last minute. [MSNBC, 1/30/02] The FBI later notices spikes in cell phone use between the hijackers just after the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui and just before the hijackers begin to buy tickets for the flights they would hijack (see August 24-29, 2001). [New York Times, 9/10/02] CIA Director Tenet has hinted that Zacarias Moussaoui's arrest a few days earlier (see August 15, 2001) may be connected to when the date of the attack was picked. [CIA, 6/18/02] On the other hand, some terrorists appear to have made plans to flee Germany in advance of the 9/11 attacks one day before Moussaoui's arrest (see August 14, 2001).
          

August 21, 2001 (B)

       Thomas Donnelly, Deputy Executive Director of the Project for the New American Century, an influential neoconservative think tank, explains to the Washington Post that the US should embrace its role as imperialist hegemons over the world. He says many important politicians privately agree with him. “There's not all that many people who will talk about it openly,” he says. “It's discomforting to a lot of Americans. So they use code phrases like ‘America is the sole superpower.’ ” He also says, “I think Americans have become used to running the world and would be very reluctant to give it up, if they realized there were a serious challenge to it.” [Washington Post, 8/21/01] These types of policies are denounced in Bush's 2000 election, and it is frequently claimed that the Bush Administration only changes its mind toward a more aggressive policy after 9/11. But in this summer of 2001, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's office “sponsored a study of ancient empires—Macedonia, Rome, the Mongols—to figure out how they maintained dominance.” [New York Times 3/5/03]
          

August 21, 2001

      
Left to right: Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdel Bary and Ibrahim Ediarous.
Walid Arkeh, a Jordanian serving time in a Florida prison, is interviewed by FBI agents after warning the government of an impending terrorist attack. He had been in a British jail from September 2000 to July 2001, and while there had befriended three inmates, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdel Bary and Ibrahim Eidarous. US prosecutors charge that “the three men ran a London storefront that served as a cover for al-Qaeda operations and acted as a conduit for communications between bin Laden and his network.” [Orlando Sentinel, 10/30/02] Al-Fawwaz was bin Laden's press agent in London, and bin Laden had called him over 200 times before al-Fawwaz was arrested in 1998. [Financial Times, 11/29/01 (B), Sunday Times, 3/24/02] The other two had worked in the same office as al-Fawwaz. All three have been indicted as co-conspirators with bin Laden in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998). Arkeh tells the FBI that he had learned from these three that “something big was going to happen in New York City,” and that they had called the 1993 attack on the WTC “unfinished business.” Tampa FBI agents determine that he had associated with these al-Qaeda agents, but nonetheless they don't believe him. According to Arkeh, one agent responds to his “something big”warning by saying: “Is that all you have? That's old news.” The agents fail to learn more from him. On September 9, concerned that time is running out, a fellow prisoner tried to arrange a meeting, but nothing happens before 9/11. The Tampa FBI agents have a second interview with him hours after the 9/11 attacks, but even long after 9/11 they claim he cannot be believed. On January 6, 2002, the Tampa FBI issued a statement: “The information [was] vetted to FBI New York, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa Division and the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. All agreed the information provided by this individual was vague and unsubstantiated… Mr. Arkeh did not provide information that had any bearing on the FBI preventing September 11. ” [Orlando Sentinel, 1/6/02, Orlando Sentinel, 10/30/02] However, a different group of FBI agents interviews him later and finds his information is credible (see May 21-22, 2002). See for more on this topic.
          

August 22, 2001 (C)

       The Asia Times reports that the US is engaged in “intense negotiations” with Pakistan for assistance in an operation to capture or kill bin Laden. But despite promised rewards, there is a “very strong lobby within the [Pakistani] army not to assist in any US moves to apprehend bin Laden.” [Asia Times 8/22/01]
          

August 22, 2001 (B)

       Counter-terrorism expert John O'Neill quits the FBI. He says it's partly because of the recent power play against him (see August 19, 2001), but also because of repeated obstruction of his investigations into al-Qaeda. [New Yorker, 1/14/02] In his last act, he signs papers ordering FBI investigators back to Yemen to resume the USS Cole investigation, now that Barbara Bodine is leaving as Ambassador (they arrive a couple days before 9/11) (see October 12, 2000). He never hears the CIA warning about hijackers Alhazmi and Almihdhar sent out just one day later. Because he fell out of favor a few months earlier, he also is never told about Ken Williams' flight school memo (see July 10, 2001), nor about the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 15, 2001) [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02 (D)], nor is he at a June meeting when the CIA revealed some of what it knew about Alhazmi and Almihdhar (see June 11, 2001). [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02] The FBI New York office is eventually warned of Walid Arkeh's warning that the WTC would be attacked, but presumably not in time for O'Neill to hear it (see August 21, 2001). One can only wonder what the government's “most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists” [New Yorker, 1/14/02] could have accomplished if he was aware of these things.
          

August 22, 2001

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

August 23 or 24, 2001

       CIA Director Tenet and CIA senior staff are briefed about the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 15, 2001) in a briefing entitled “Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly.” However, apparently others such as President Bush and the White House counterterrorism group are not told about Moussaoui until after the 9/11 attacks begin. Even the acting director of the FBI is not told, despite the fact that it was lower level FBI officials who made the arrest and tried to pass on the information. Tenet later maintains there was no reason to alert President Bush or to share information about Moussaoui during an early September 2001 Cabinet-level meeting on terrorism (see September 4, 2001 (C)), saying, “All I can tell you is, it wasn't the appropriate place. I just can't take you any farther than that.” [Washington Post 4/17/04]
          

August 23, 2001 (B)

      
John O'Neill.
John O'Neill begins his new job as head of security at the WTC. [New Yorker, 1/14/02] A friend says to him, “Well, that will be an easy job. They're not going to bomb that place again.” O'Neill replies, “Well actually they've always wanted to finish that job. I think they're going to try again.” On September 10 he moves into his new office on the 34th floor of the North Tower. That night, he tells colleague Jerry Hauer, “We're due for something big. I don't like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan” (a probable reference to the assassination of Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud the day before (see September 9, 2001)). O'Neill is killed the next day in the 9/11 attack. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02 (D)]
          

August 23, 2001 (D)

       The FBI begins a search for hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in response to a CIA cable about them (see August 23, 2001 (C)). The FBI later claims that they responded aggressively. An internal review after 9/11 found that “everything was done that could have been done” to find them. [Los Angeles Times 10/28/01] However, even aside from a failed attempt to start a criminal investigation (see August 28, 2001), the search is halfhearted at best. As the Wall Street Journal later explains, the search “consisted of little more than entering their names in a nationwide law enforcement database that would have triggered red flags if they were taken into custody for some other reason.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/17/01] A national motor vehicle index is checked, but a speeding ticket issued to Alhazmi the previous April is not detected. [Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] Nor is a recorded interaction between Alhazmi and local police in Fairfax, Virginia in May that could have led investigators to Alhazmi's East Coast apartment. [San Diego Union-Tribune,9/27/02] Even though the two were known to have entered the US through Los Angeles, drivers' license records in California are not checked. The FBI also fails to check national credit card or bank account databases, and car registration. All of these would had positive results. Alhazmi's name was even in the 2000-2001 San Diego phone book, listing the address where he and Almihdhar may have been living off and on until about September 9, 2001 (see Early February-Summer 2000 and Early September 2001). [Newsweek 6/2/02; South Florida Sun-Sentinel 9/28/01; Los Angeles Times 10/28/01]
          

August 23-27, 2001

       In the wake of the French intelligence report on Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 22, 2001), FBI agents in Minnesota are “in a frenzy” and “absolutely convinced he [is] planning to do something with a plane.” One agent writes notes speculating Moussaoui might “fly something into the World Trade Center.” [Newsweek, 5/20/02] Minnesota FBI agents become “desperate to search the computer lap top” and “conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects,” especially since Moussaoui acted as if he was hiding something important in the laptop when arrested. [Time, 5/21/02, Time, 5/27/02] FTW They decide to apply for a search warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). “FISA allows the FBI to carry out wiretaps and searches that would otherwise be unconstitutional” because “the goal is to gather intelligence, not evidence.” [Washington Post, 11/4/01] Standards to get a warrant through FISA are so low that out of 10,000 requests over more than 20 years, not a single one was turned down. When the FBI didn't have a strong enough case, it appears it simply lied to FISA. In May 2002, the FISA court complained that the FBI had lied in at least 75 warrant cases during the Clinton administration, once even by the FBI Director. [New York Times, 8/27/02] However, as FBI agent Coleen Rowley later puts it, FBI headquarters “almost inexplicably, throw[s] up roadblocks” and undermines their efforts. Headquarters personnel bring up “almost ridiculous questions in their apparent efforts to undermine the probable cause.” One Minneapolis agent's e-mail says FBI headquarters is “setting this up for failure.” That turns out to be correct (see August 28, 2001 (D)). [Time 5/21/02; Time 5/27/02]
          

August 23, 2001 (C)

       Thanks to the request of an unnamed FBI analyst assigned to the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center (see July 13, 2001), the CIA sends a cable to the State Department, INS, Customs Service, and FBI requesting that “bin Laden-related individuals” Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and two others be put on the terrorism watch list. Since March 2000, if not earlier, the CIA had good reason to believe these two were al-Qaeda terrorists living in the US, but did nothing and told no other agency about it until now (see March 5, 2000). They are not be found in time, and both die in the 9/11 attacks. FBI agents later state that if they been told about Almihdhar and Alhazmi sooner, “There's no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together” given the frequent contact between these two and the other hijackers. [Newsweek, 6/2/02] However, in what the Washington Post calls a “critical omission,” the FAA, Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and the FBI's Financial Review Group are not notified. The two later groups have the power to tap into private credit card and bank data, and claim they could have readily found Alhazmi and Almihdhar given the frequency the two used credit cards. [Washington Post 7/25/03 (C)] Furthermore, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and his Counterterrorism and Security Group are not told about these two terrorists before 9/11 either. [Newsweek, 3/24/04] At the same time, the CIA requests that Khallad bin Attash be added to the watch list—eight months after he was known to have been the main planner of the USS Cole bombing (see January 4, 2001). One other attendee of the Malaysian meeting (see January 5-8, 2000) is also put on the watch list, but that name remains confidential. [New York Times 9/21/02] The CIA later claims the request was labeled “immediate,” the second most urgent category (the highest is reserved for things like declarations of war). [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01] The FBI denies that it was marked “immediate” and other agencies treated the request as a routine matter. [Los Angeles Times, 10/18/01, Congressional Inquiry, 9/20/02] The State Department places all four on the watch list the next day. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03] However, this watch list, named TIPOFF (see December 11, 1999), only checks their names if they use international flights. There is another watch list barring suspected terrorists from flying domestically. On 9/11 it contains about two dozen names. But none of these four are placed on that list. [Knight Ridder 1/27/04]
          

August 23, 2001 (E)

       Two agents from the Oklahoma City FBI office visit Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, to learn about al-Qaeda agent Zacarias Moussaoui's training there earlier in the year (see February 23, 2001). One of these agents had visited the same school in September 1999 to learn more about Ihab Ali, an al-Qaeda agent who trained there in 1993 (see September 1999 (E)). Apparently this agent forgets the connection when he visits the school to look into Moussaoui. He later admits he should have connected the two cases. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B), Boston Globe, 9/18/01] The staff director of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry later states, “No one will ever know whether a greater focus on the connection between these events would have led to the unraveling of the Sept. 11 plot.” [New York Daily News, 9/25/02] The Oklahoma City office also doesn't connect Moussaoui to a memo that had come from its office in 1998 warning that “large numbers of Middle Eastern males” were receiving flight training in Oklahoma and could be planning terrorist attacks (see May 18, 1998). Furthermore, Moussaoui's roommate Hussein Attas is also under suspicion with him at this time. The person who attempted to post bond for Attas had previously been the subject of an extensive investigation by the same Oklahoma City FBI office. That person had numerous terror ties, and was involved in recruiting for a Palestinian terror group. This connection is also not noticed. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)]
          

August 23, 2001

       According to German newspapers, the Mossad gives the CIA a list of terrorists living in the US and say that they appear to be planning to carry out an attack in the near future. It is unknown if these are the 19 9/11 hijackers or if the number is a coincidence. However, four names on the list are known and are names of the 9/11 hijackers: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Marwan Alshehhi, and Mohamed Atta. [Die Zeit 10/1/02; Der Spiegel 10/1/02; BBC 10/2/02; Ha'aretz 10/3/02] The Mossad appears to have learned about this through its “art student” spy ring (see for instance, March 5, 2002). Yet apparently this warning and list are not treated as particularly urgent by the CIA and also not passed on to the FBI. It's not clear if this warning influenced the adding of Alhazmi and Almihdhar to a terrorism watch list on this same day, and if so, why only those two. [Der Spiegel 10/1/02] Israel has denied that there were any Mossad agents in the US. [Ha'aretz, 10/3/02] The US has denied knowing about Atta before 9/11, despite other media reports to the contrary (see January-May 2000).
          

August 24-29, 2001

       The hijackers book their flights for 9/11, using their apparent real names. Most pay using credit cards on the internet. [Miami Herald, 9/22/01] At least five tickets are one way only. [Los Angeles Times, 9/18/01] So 9/11 must have been the confirmed date of the attack by August 24, but other evidence suggests it could have been known earlier (see August 14, 2001). Why would they pay using credit cards in their real names? Or were the names we know them as actually stolen identities?
          

August 24, 2001 (B)

       Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar buys his 9/11 plane ticket on-line using a credit card; Nawaf Alhazmi does the same the next day. [Congressional Inquiry, 9/26/02] Both men are put on a terrorist watch list this same day (see August 23, 2001 (C)), but the watch list only means they will be stopped if trying to enter or leave the US. Procedures are in place for law enforcement agencies to share watch list information with airlines and airports and such sharing is common, but the FAA and the airlines are not notified about this case, so the purchases raise no red flags. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C)] An official later states that had the FAA been properly warned, “they should have been picked up in the reservation process.” [Washington Post 10/2/02]
          

August 24, 2001

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

August 25, 2001

       A supplemental Visa credit card on a “Mustafa Al-Hawsawi”bank account is issued in the name of Abdulrahman A. A. Al-Ghamdi, who the FBI says is an alias for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The FBI believes this helps prove Mohammed is a superior to the 9/11 paymaster. [Congressional Intelligence Committee 9/26/02; Houston Chronicle 6/5/02] The identity of “Mustafa Al-Hawsawi”is highly contested, but may well be Saeed Sheikh (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002). Mohammed and Sheikh appear to work together in the kidnapping of reporter Daniel Pearl (see January 23, 2002).
          

August 27, 2001

      
Barakat Yarkas in jail.
Spanish police tape a series of cryptic, coded phone calls from a caller in Britain using the codename “Shakur” to Barakat Yarkas (also known as Abu Dahdah), the leader of a Spanish al-Qaeda cell presumably visited by Atta (see July 8-19, 2001). A Spanish judge claims that a call by Shakur on this day shows foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Shakur says that he is “giving classes” and that “in our classes, we have entered the field of aviation, and we have even cut the bird's throat.” Another possible translation is: “We are even going to cut the eagle's throat,”which would be a clearer metaphor for the US. [Observer, 11/25/01, Guardian, 2/14/02] In a Spanish indictment, the unknown Shakur is described as “a presumed member of the Sept. 11 suicide commandos.” [International Herald Tribune 11/21/01] The Spanish terrorist cell led by Yarkas was allegedly a hub of financing, recruitment and support services for al-Qaeda in Europe. Yarkas's phone number is later also found in the address book of Said Bahaji (see November 1, 1998-February 2001), and he had ties with Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see March 1997) and Mamoun Darkazanli (see Spring 2000) - all three are associates of Atta in Hamburg. [Los Angeles Times, 11/23/01] Yarkas also “reportedly met with bin Laden twice and was in close contact with” top deputy Muhammad Atef. [Washington Post, 11/19/01] On November 11, 2001, Yarkas and 10 other Spaniards are arrested and charged with al-Qaeda terrorist activity. [International Herald Tribune 11/21/01]
          

August 27, 2001 (C)

       The FBI contacts the State Department and the INS to find out the visa status of recently watch listed hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. Almihdhar's visa obtained in June (see July 4, 2001) is revoked the same day; Alhazmi's visa has already expired and he's in the country illegally. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03] However neither agency is asked “to assist in locating the individuals, nor was any other information provided [that] would have indicated either a high priority or imminent danger.” An INS official later states, “if [the INS] had been asked to locate the two suspected terrorists … in late August on an urgent, emergency basis, it would have been able to run those names through its extensive database system and might have been able to locate them.” The State Department says “it might have been able to locate the two suspected terrorists if it had been asked to do so.” [Congressional Inquiry 9/20/02]
          

August 27, 2001 (B)

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

Late August 2001 (D)

       French intelligence gives a general terrorist warning to the US; apparently its contents echo an Israeli warning from earlier in the month (see August 8-15, 2001). [Fox News 5/17/02]
          

Late August 2001 (C)

       A Telegraph article later claims that Iraq leader Saddam Hussein puts his troops on their highest military alert since the Gulf War. A CIA official states that there was nothing obvious to warrant this move: “He was clearly expecting a massive attack and it leads you to wonder why.”Hussein apparently made a number of other moves at the time suggesting foreknowledge and the article strongly suggests Iraqi complicity in the 9/11 attacks. [Telegraph 9/23/01 (B)] Iraq will later be sued by 9/11 victims' relatives on the grounds that they had 9/11 foreknowledge but didn't warn the US (see September 4, 2002). Given Rumsfeld's early efforts to blame Iraq (see September 11, 2001 (V)) could such stories be early propaganda to justify a US attack on Iraq? Perhaps Iraq knew what might happen on 9/11 and worried they would be targeted in response?
          

August 28, 2001 (D)

      
FBI officer Coleen Rowley.
A previously mentioned unnamed RFU agent (see August 27, 2001 (B)) edits the Minnesota FBI's request for a FISA search warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui's possessions. Minnesota is trying to prove that Moussaoui is connected to al-Qaeda through a rebel group in Chechnya, but the RFU agent removes information connecting the Chechnya rebels to al-Qaeda. Not surprisingly, the FBI Deputy General Counsel who receives the edited request decides on this day that there isn't enough connection to al-Qaeda to allow an application for a search warrant through FISA, so FISA is never even asked. [Senate Intelligence Committee 10/17/02] According to a later memo written by Minneapolis FBI legal officer Coleen Rowley (see an edited version of the memo here: Time, 5/21/02), FBI headquarters is to blame for not getting the FISA warrant because of this rewrite of the request. She says “I feel that certain facts … have, up to now, been omitted, downplayed, glossed over and/or mis-characterized in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI and/or perhaps even for improper political reasons.” She asks, “Why would an FBI agent deliberately sabotage a case?” The superiors acted so strangely that some agents in the Minneapolis office openly joked that these higher-ups “had to be spies or moles … working for Osama bin Laden.” Failing to approve the warrant through FISA, FBI headquarters also refuses to contact the Justice Department to try and get a search warrant through ordinary means. Rowley and others are unable to search Moussaoui's computer until after the 9/11 attacks. Rowley later notes that the headquarters agents who blocked the Minnesota FBI were promoted after 9/11 (see January 10, 2003). [Sydney Morning Herald, 5/28/02, Time, 5/21/02] [FTW]
          

Late August 2001 (B)

       In an interview with the London-based newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, bin Laden boasts that he is planning a “very, very big” and “unprecedented” strike against the US. The interview is not publicly released until after 9/11, however, so its unclear if US intelligence was aware of this before 9/11. [Independent 9/17/01; ABC News 9/12/01]
          
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