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Day of 911

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Incompetence, bad luck, obstr. of justice

 
  

Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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Showing 101-200 of 367 events (use filters to narrow search):    previous 100    next 100

March 2000 (E)

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

March 5, 2000

       An unnamed nation tells the CIA that hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi had flown from an important meeting in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) to Los Angeles in mid-January 2000 (see January 15-early February, 2000). [New York Times 10/17/02] According to a senior FBI official, the information is also about hijacker Khalid Almihdhar: “In March 2000, the CIA received information concerning the entry of Almihdhar and Alhazmi into the United States.” [Michael Rolince Testimony, 9/20/02] The CIA disputes this, however. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03] A cable is immediately sent to CIA Headquarters noting (at least) that Nawaf Alhazmi has traveled to Los Angeles. The cable is marked “Action Required: None, FYI [For Your Information].” CIA Director Tenet later claims that “Nobody read that cable in the March timeframe.” [New York Times, 10/17/02] Yet the day after the cable is received, “another overseas CIA station note[s], in a cable to the bin Laden unit at CIA headquarters, that it had ‘read with interest’ the March cable, ‘particularly the information that a member of this group traveled to the US… ’ ” [Congressional Inquiry 9/20/02] Yet again, CIA fails to put their names on a watch list, and again fails to alert the FBI so they can be tracked. [Congressional Inquiry, 9/20/02] Senior CIA counterterrorism official Cofer Black later says, “I think that month we watch listed about 150 people. [The watch listing] should have been done. It wasn't.” [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

March 10, 2000

       National Security Advisor Sandy Berger chairs a Cabinet-level meeting to review the wave of attempted terror attacks around the millennium. Counterterrorism reports that disruption efforts “have not put too much of a dent” into bin Laden's overseas network, and that it is feared “sleeper cells” of terrorist have taken root in the US. Some ideas, like expanding the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the US, are adopted. Others, like a centralized translation unit for domestic intercepts, are not. [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (D)]
          

March 21, 2000

       FBI agent Robert Wright (see also October 1998 and June 9, 2001), having been accused of tarnishing the reputation of fellow agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, makes a formal internal complaint about Abdel-Hafiz. FBI agent Barry Carmody seconds Wright's complaint. Wright and Carmody accuse Abdel-Hafiz, a Muslim, of hindering investigations by openly refusing to record other Muslims. The FBI was investigating if BMI Inc., a New Jersey based company with connections to Saudi financier Yassin al-Qadi (see October 12, 2001), had helped fund the 1998 US embassy bombings. [Wall Street Journal 11/26/02; ABC News 12/19/02] Federal prosecutor Mark Flessner and other FBI agents back up the allegations against Abdel-Hafiz. [ABC News, 12/19/02] Carmody also claims that Abdel-Hafiz hurt an inquiry into the possible terrorist ties of fired University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian by refusing to record a conversation with the professor in 1998. [Tampa Tribune 3/4/03] Complaints to superiors and headquarters about this never get a response. [Fox News, 3/6/03] Furthermore, “Far from being reprimanded, Abdel-Hafiz [is] promoted to one of the FBI's most important anti-terrorism posts, the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia, to handle investigations for the FBI in that Muslim country.” [ABC News, 12/19/02] Abdel-Hafiz is finally suspended in February 2003 after his scandal is widely reported in the press. [Tampa Tribune, 3/4/03] Bill O'Reilly of Fox News claims that on March 4, 2003, the FBI threatens to fire Wright if he speaks publicly about this, one hour before Wright is scheduled to appear on Fox News. [Fox News, 3/4/03] Is Abdel-Hafiz promoted to a sensitive Saudi post because he won't ask hard questions there?
          

Spring-Summer 2000

       Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, while living in San Diego (see Early February-Summer 2000), telephones an al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen owned by his father-in-law (note that the facility is not named, but references in the Congressional Inquiry report are consistent with other mentions of this safe house). This safe house has been closely monitored since 1998, as even bin Laden himself makes calls to it (Late August 1998 (B)). The NSA intercepts these calls, but they don't realize the “Khalid” calling the safe house is calling from the US. This is only determined by an analysis of phone toll records obtained after 9/11. The NSA had been aware of a “Khalid,” “Nawaf Alhazmi,” and his brother “Salem” having communications with this safe house in 1999 (see Early 1999 (B) and December 1999 (B)). In summer 2000 there are additional communications to the safe house from “Khalid” and “Salem,” but again the NSA doesn't realize the meaning or importance of these calls. There may have been more communications—the section of the Congressional Inquiry dealing with these calls is heavily censored. Some but not all of the information about certain calls are passed on to the FBI and CIA. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

Spring 2000

       German investigators finally agree to the CIA's idea of recruiting businessman Mamoun Darkazanli as an informer (see September 20, 1998, December 1999 and September 24, 2001). An agent of the LFV, the Hamburg state intelligence agency, casually approaches Darkazanli and asks him whether he is interested in becoming a spy. Darkazanli replies that he is just a businessman who knows nothing about al-Qaeda or terrorism. The Germans inform the local CIA representative that the approach failed. The CIA agent refuses to admit defeat. But when German agents ask for more information to show Darkazanli they know of his terrorist ties, the CIA fails to give any information. As it happened, at the end of January 2000, Darkazanli had just met with terrorist Barakat Yarkas in Madrid, Spain. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02] Darkazanli is a longtime friend and business partner of Yarkas, the most prominent al-Qaeda agent in Spain. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/03] The meeting included other suspected al-Qaeda figures, and was monitored by Spanish police. If the CIA was aware of the Madrid meeting, they don't tell the Germans. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02] The CIA had also begun surveillance of Atta in January 2000, but they keep all knowledge of that investigation secret from the Germans (see January-May 2000). A second LFV attempt to recruit Darkazanli also fails. The CIA then attempts to work with federal German intelligence officials in Berlin to “turn” Darkazanli. Results of that effort aren't known. [Chicago Tribune 11/17/02]
          

Spring 2000 (C)

       Sources who know bin Laden later claim that bin Laden's stepmother has a second meeting with her son Osama in Afghanistan (see Spring 1998). The trip is approved by the Saudi royal family. The Saudis pass the message to him that “ ‘they wouldn't crack down on his followers in Saudi Arabia’ as long as he set his sights on targets outside the desert kingdom.” In late 1999, the Saudi government had told the CIA about the upcoming trip, and suggested placing a homing beacon on her luggage. This doesn't happen—Saudis later claim they weren't taken seriously, and Americans claim they never received specific information on her travel plans. [New Yorker 11/5/01; Washington Post 12/19/01]
          

April 4, 2000

       ISI Director and “leading Taliban supporter”Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed visits Washington. In a message meant for both Pakistan and the Taliban, US officials tell him that al-Qaeda has killed Americans and “people who support those people will be treated as our enemies.” However, no actual action, military or otherwise, is taken against either the Taliban or Pakistan. [Washington Post 12/19/01]
          

April 17, 2000

       Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams, who later becomes famous for writing a memo correctly diagnosing al-Qaeda's use of US flight schools to train hijackers (see July 10, 2001), gets a tip that makes him suspicious that some flight students might be terrorists. [New York Times, 6/19/02] It appears that flight school student Zacaria Soubra is seen at a shooting range with a known jihad veteran. [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01 (C)] On this day, he starts a formal investigation into Soubra. [Arizona Republic, 7/24/03] Soubra is the main focus of Williams' later memo. But Williams' work is greatly slowed because of internal politics and personal disputes. When he finally returns to this case in December 2000, he and all the other agents on the international-terrorism squad are diverted to work on a high-profile arson case. Says James Hauswirth, another Arizona agent, “[Williams] fought it. Why take your best terrorism investigator and put him on an arson case? He didn't have a choice.” The arson case is finally solved in June 2001 and Williams once again returns to the issue of terrorist flight school students. His memo comes out one month later instead of some time in 2000. Hauswirth writes a letter to FBI Director Mueller in late 2001, complaining, “[Terrorism] has always been the lowest priority in the division; it still is the lowest priority in the division.” Others concur that terrorism cases were a low priority in the Arizona FBI. [Los Angeles Times 5/26/02; New York Times 6/19/02]
          

Late April-Mid-May 2000

       Atta reportedly has a very strange meeting with Johnelle Bryant of the US Department of Agriculture (incidentally, one month before the official story claims he arrived in the US for the first time). According to Bryant, in the meeting Atta does all of the following:
  1. He initially refuses to speak with one who is “but a female.”
  2. He asks her for a loan of $650,000 to buy and modify a crop-dusting plane.
  3. He mentions that he wants to “build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up every available square inch of the aircraft except for where the pilot would be sitting.”
  4. He uses his real name even as she takes notes, and makes sure she spells it correctly.
  5. He says he has just arrived from Afghanistan.
  6. He tells about his travel plans to Spain and Germany.
  7. He expresses an interest in visiting New York.
  8. He asks her about security at the WTC and other US landmarks.
  9. He discusses al-Qaeda and its need for American membership.
  10. He tells her bin Laden “would someday be known as the world's greatest leader.”
  11. He asks to buy the aerial photograph of Washington hanging on her Florida office wall, throwing increasingly large “wads of cash” at her when she refuses to sell it. ABC News, 6/6/02]
  12. After Bryant points out one of the buildings in the Washington photograph as her former place of employment, he asks her, “How would you like it if somebody flew an airplane into your friends' building?”
  13. He asks her, “What would prevent [me] from going behind [your] desk and cutting [your] throat and making off with the millions of dollars” in the safe behind her.
  14. He asks, “How would America like it if another country destroyed [Washington] and some of the monuments in it like the cities in [my] country had been destroyed?” (Atta supposedly comes from Egypt—what cities have been destroyed there in recent decades?)
  15. He gets “very agitated” when he isn't given the money in cash on the spot.
Atta later tries to get the loan again from the same woman, this time “slightly disguised” by wearing glasses. Three other terrorists also attempt to get the same loan from Bryant, but all of them fail. Bryant turns them down because they don't meet the loan requirements, and fails to notify anyone about these strange encounters until after 9/11. Government officials not only confirm the account and say that Bryant passed a lie detector test, but elaborate that the account jibes with other information they have received from interrogating prisoners. Supposedly, failing to get the loan, the terrorists switched plans from using crop dusters to hijacking aircraft.
Department of Agriculture official Johnelle Bryant
[ABC News 6/6/02; London Times 6/8/02]
Compare Atta's meeting with FBI Director Mueller's later testimony about the hijackers: “There were no slip-ups. Discipline never broke down. They gave no hint to those around them what they were about.” [CNN, 9/28/02] Why would the terrorists have been depending on such a loan in the first place instead of just spending some of bin Laden's millions to buy the plane? Were the terrorists comically inept, and the US just as inept for not catching them, or is the story government propaganda? Could Atta (or someone impersonating him) have been trying to make himself conspicuous as part of a trail of false evidence? Why didn't Bryant report someone who threatened her with violence, and threatened terrorist acts?
          

April 30, 2000

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

May 2000

       The CIA and FBI sends a joint investigative team to Sudan to investigate if that country is a sponsor of terrorism. It determines that it is not, but the US doesn't take Sudan off its official list of terrorist states. Sudan offers again (see 1995 and April 1996) to hand over their voluminous files on al-Qaeda, and the offer is again turned down. [Guardian 9/30/01]
          

May 22, 2000

       By early 2000, German intelligence monitoring al-Qaeda suspect Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see March 1997 and September 21, 1999) notice that Mounir El Motassadeq and Said Bahaji regularly meet with Zammar. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] In March 2000, Germany's internal intelligence service places Motassadeq and Bahaji on a border patrol watch list. The two are members of al-Qaeda's Hamburg cell with Mohamed Atta and others. Their international arrivals and departures are to be reported immediately. On this day, Motassadeq flies to Istanbul, Turkey, and from there goes to an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the border patrol only notes his destination of Istanbul. Bahaji doesn't travel, and when he finally does shortly before 9/11, it isn't noted (see September 3-5, 2001). [Der Spiegel 2/3/03]
          

May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001

       Nabil al-Marabh, possibly an al-Qaeda sleeper agent with 9/11 ties (see 1989-May 2000), engages in many suspicious activities. He stabs his Detroit roommate in the knee during an argument on May 30, 2000. He pleads guilty in December 2000 to assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. [Boston Herald, 9/20/01] He is given a six-month suspended sentence; he fails to appear for probation and his deportation order is not carried out. An arrest warrant is issued for him in March 2001. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/01, Ottawa Citizen, 10/29/01] Al-Marabh lives in Detroit with an al-Qaeda agent named Yousef Hmimssa (see September 17, 2001 (D)). [Boston Herald, 9/20/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] He receives five driver's licenses in Michigan over a period of 13 months in addition to carrying driver's licenses for Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida and Ontario, Canada. [Toronto Star, 10/26/01] On September 11, 2000, he obtains a Michigan license permitting him to drive semi-trucks containing hazardous materials, including explosives and caustic materials. He is still unsuccessfully trying to find a tractor-trailer driving job one month before 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] In early 2001 he mostly lives in Toronto, Canada, with Hassan Almrei, a man running some al-Qaeda front businesses. [ABC 7, 1/31/02] Many witnesses see al-Marabh with two 9/11 hijackers at his uncle's Toronto photocopy store (see January 2001-September 11, 2001). On June 27, 2001, al-Marabh is arrested while trying to enter the US from Canada in the back of a tractor-trailer, carrying a false Canadian passport and citizenship card. [St. Catherine's Standard, 9/28/01, St. Catherine Standard, 10/2/01] He had been illegally crossing the US-Canadian border for years. [Ottawa Citizen 10/29/01] Despite suspicions that he is connected to al-Qaeda, the US immediately deports him to Canada. [New York Times, 7/13/02] He spends two weeks in a Canadian prison, where he boasts to other prisoners that he is in contact with the FBI. He is ordered to live with his uncle in Toronto. These prisoners are puzzled that the FBI doesn't try to interview them about al-Marabh after 9/11. Al-Marabh fails to show up for a deportation hearing in August and for a court date in September. [St. Catherine Standard, 10/2/01] “Had Canadian security agents investigated Mr. al-Marabh when they had the chance back in June, when he was jailed by immigration authorities, they may have discovered any number of his worldwide links to convicted and suspected terrorists, including two of the [9/11 hijackers].” [Ottawa Citizen, 10/29/01] Despite all of these al-Qaeda connections and more, the US later decides al-Marabh is not a terrorist and deports him to Syria (see September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002,Late 2002, and January 2004).
          

June 2000

       Atta and other hijackers begin to open bank accounts in Florida. At least 35 accounts are opened, 14 of them at SunTrust Bank. All are opened with fake social security numbers (some with randomly made up numbers), yet none of the accounts are checked or questioned by the banks. [New York Times, 7/10/02] One transfer from the United Arab Emirates three months later totaling $69,985 prompts the bank to make a “suspicious transaction report” to the US Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. This is not followed up (see also June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). [Financial Times 11/29/01]
          

June 10, 2000

       Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar flies from San Diego to Frankfurt, Germany. [Congressional Inquiry, 9/20/02] Authorities later believe that Almihdhar visits his cousin-in-law Ramzi bin al-Shibh and bin al-Shibh's roommate Atta and other al-Qaeda members in bin al-Shibh's terrorist cell. But since the CIA fails to notify Germany about their suspicions of either Almihdhar or bin al-Shibh, both of whom were seen attending the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000), German police fail to monitor them and a chance to uncover the 9/11 plot is missed. [Die Zeit 10/1/02; Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03] Note that FBI Director Mueller and the Congressional inquiry into 9/11 claim that Almihdhar doesn't return to the US for over a year (see July 4, 2001) [Congressional Inquiry, 9/20/02, Congressional Inquiry, 9/26/02], despite obvious evidence to the contrary. For instance, an FBI agent is told Khalid Almihdhar is in the room when he calls Almihdhar's landlord in autumn 2000 (see Autumn 2000 (B) and Summer-December 2000) and there are indications Almihdhar attends a flight school in Arizona in early 2001. [Arizona Republic 9/28/01]
          

July 2000

      
Jack Roche. [AFP]
Jack Roche, an Australian Caucasian Muslim, tries to inform on al-Qaeda for Australia or the US, but is ignored. Roche had come back from Afghanistan in April, where he took an explosives training course and met with bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and other top al-Qaeda leaders. In Pakistan, Mohammed discussed attacking US jets in Australia and gave Roche money to start an al-Qaeda cell in Australia. Roche also met Hambali in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) and is given more money there. Early this month he tries calling the US embassy in Australia but is ignored. He then tries to contact the Australian intelligence agency several times, but is also ignored by them. In September 2000 his housemate also tries to contact Australian intelligence about what he's learned from Roche but his call is ignored as well. Australian Prime Minister John Howard later acknowledges that authorities made a “very serious mistake” in ignoring Roche though he also downplays the importance of Roche's information. Roche is later sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiring with al-Qaeda to blow up an Israeli embassy. [BBC 6/1/04; Los Angeles Times 6/7/04]
          

Summer-December 2000

      
Shaikh's house in Lemon Grove, California
Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar move to the house of Abdussattar Shaikh in San Diego. [San Diego Union-Tribune 9/16/01] Shaikh, a local Muslim leader, is later revealed to be a “tested” undercover “asset” working with the local FBI. [Newsweek, 9/9/02] Shaikh inexplicably fails to tell his FBI handler important details about the hijackers and appears to be lying about many matters concerning them (see Autumn 2000 (B)). In early media reports, the two are said to have moved in around September (for instance, [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/16/01, Wall Street Journal, 9/17/01]) but the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry implies that Shaikh lied about this, and they moved in much earlier. Alhazmi stays until December (see also Autumn 2000); Almihdhar appears to be mostly out of the US after June (see June 10, 2000). [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] Neighbors claim that Atta is a frequent visitor, and Hani Hanjour visits as well. [Chicago Tribune 9/30/01; AP 9/29/01; Las Vegas Review Journal 10/26/01; San Diego Channel 10 9/27/01; San Diego Channel 10 10/11/01] But Shaikh denies Atta's visits, the FBI never mentions them, and the media appears to have forgotten about them. [AP 9/29/01] There is even one report that the two hijackers and Atta meet with suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi around this time (see Summer 2000). Echoing reports from their first apartment (see Early February-Summer 2000), neighbors witness strange late night visits with Alhazmi and Almihdhar. [AP, 9/16/01 (D)] For instance, one neighbor says, “There was always a series of cars driving up to the house late at night. Sometimes they were nice cars. Sometimes they had darkened windows. They'd stay about 10 minutes.” [Time 9/24/01 (B)]
          

August 12, 2000

       Italian intelligence successfully wiretap the al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Milan, Italy from late 1999 until summer 2001. [Boston Globe, 8/4/02] In a wiretapped conversation from this day, suspected Yemeni terrorist Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman tells wanted Egyptian terrorist Es Sayed about a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft and the sky, a blow that “will be written about in all the newspapers of the world. This will be one of those strikes that will never be forgotten…. This is a terrifying thing. This is a thing that will spread from south to north, from east to west: The person who came up with this program is a madman from a madhouse, a madman but a genius.” In another conversation, Abdulrahman tells Es Sayed: “I'm studying airplanes. I hope, God willing, that I can bring you a window or a piece of an airplane the next time we see each other.” The comment is followed by laughter. Beginning in October 2000, FBI experts helped Italian police analyze the intercepts and warnings. Neither Italy nor the FBI understands their meaning until after 9/11, but apparently Italians understand enough to give the US an attack warning in March 2001 (see March 2001 (B)). [Los Angeles Times, 5/29/02, Guardian, 5/30/02, Washington Post, 5/31/02] FTW The Milan cell “is believed to have created a cottage industry in supplying false passports and other bogus documents.” [Boston Globe, 8/4/02] If the hijackers were using false identities (see also January 24, 2001), could Abdulrahman, current whereabouts unknown, actually have been one of the 9/11 hijackers?
          

September-October 2000

       Zacarias Moussaoui visits Malaysia twice, and stays at the very same condominium where the January al-Qaeda meeting was held (see January 5-8, 2000). [CNN 8/30/02; Los Angeles Times 2/2/02; Washington Post 2/3/02] After that meeting, Malaysian intelligence keeps watch on the condominium at the request of the CIA. But the CIA stops the surveillance before Moussaoui arrives, spoiling a chance to expose the 9/11 plot by monitoring Moussaoui's later travels. The Malaysians later say they were surprised by the CIA's lack of interest. “We couldn't fathom it, really,” Rais Yatim, Malaysia's Legal Affairs minister, told Newsweek. “There was no show of concern.” [Newsweek 6/2/02] While Moussaoui is in Malaysia, Yazid Sufaat, the owner of the condominium, signs letters falsely identifying Moussaoui as a representative of his wife's company. [Reuters 9/20/02; Washington Post 2/3/02] When Moussaoui is later arrested in the US about one month before the 9/11 attacks, this letter in his possession could have led investigators back to the condominium and the connections with the January 2000 meeting attended by two of the hijackers (see January 5-8, 2000). [USA Today, 1/30/02] Moussaoui's belongings also contained phone numbers that could have linked him to Ramzi bin al-Shibh (and his roommate Atta), another participant in the Malaysian meeting. [Associated Press, 12/12/01 (B)] But the papers aren't examined until after the 9/11 attack (see September 11, 2001 (J)).
          

September-October 2000

      
Predator footage of a man who is apparently bin Laden surrounded by an entourage heading to a mosque in 2000.
An unmanned spy plane called the Predator begins flying over Afghanistan, showing incomparably detailed real-time video and photographs of the movements of what appears to be bin Laden and his aides. It flies successfully over Afghanistan 16 times. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/04 (C)] President Clinton is impressed by a two-minute video of bin Laden crossing a street heading toward a mosque. Bin Laden is surrounded by a team of a dozen armed men creating a professional forward security perimeter as he moves. The Predator had been used since 1996 in the Balkans and also in Iraq. One Predator crashes on takeoff and another is chased by a fighter, but it apparently identifies bin Laden on three occasions. Its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials, mostly because seasonal winds are picking up. It is agreed to resume the flights in the spring, but the Predator fails to fly over Afghanistan again until after 9/11 (see January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001 September 4, 2001 (E)). [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 220-221, New York Times, 12/30/01, Washington Post, 12/19/01] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet apparently inaccurately tells President Bush, “The unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft that was now armed with Hellfire missiles had been operating for more than a year out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan.” [Washington Post 1/29/02]
          

September 2000 (E)

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

Autumn 2000 (B)

      
Abdussattar Shaikh has only allowed the media to publish a photo of his profile
While hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar live in the house of an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh (see Summer-December 2000), the informant continues to have contact with his FBI handler. The handler, Steven Butler, later claims that during summer Shaikh mentions the names “Nawaf” and “Khalid” in passing and that they are renting rooms from him. [Newsweek, 9/9/02, AP, 7/25/03 (B), Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] On one occasion, Shaikh tells Butler on the phone he can't talk because Khalid is in the room. [Newsweek, 9/9/02] Butler is told they are good, religious Muslims who are legally in the US to visit and attend school. Butler asks Shaikh for their last names, but is not given them. He is not told they're pursuing flight training. Shaikh says they are apolitical and have done nothing to arouse suspicion. However, according to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, he later admits that Alhazmi has “contacts with at least four individuals [he] knew were of interest to the FBI and about whom [he] had previously reported to the FBI.” Three of these four people are being actively investigated at the time the hijackers are there. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] The report mentions Osama Mustafa as one (Autumn 2000), and Shaikh admits that suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi was a friend (see September 1998-July 1999). [Los Angeles Times, 7/25/03, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] The FBI later concludes Shaikh is not involved in the 9/11 plot, but they have serious doubts about his credibility. After 9/11 he gives inaccurate information and has an “inconclusive” polygraph examination about his foreknowledge of the 9/11 attack. The FBI believes he has contact with hijacker Hani Hanjour, but he claims to not recognize him. There are other “significant inconsistencies” in the informant's statements about the hijackers, including when he met first them and later meetings with them. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry later concludes that had the informant's contacts with the hijackers been capitalized on, it “would have given the San Diego FBI field office perhaps the Intelligence Community's best chance to unravel the September 11 plot.” [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03] The FBI later tries to prevent Butler and Shaikh from testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. Butler ends up testifying but Shaikh does not (see October 5, 2002 and October 9, 2002).
          

Autumn 2000

       Hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi works at a gas station while living in San Diego (see Early February-Summer 2000 and Summer-December 2000). This is the only apparent instance of any of the hijackers having a job while in the US. He and hijacker Khalid Almihdhar also frequently socialize at the gas station, and Alhazmi works there on and off for about a month at some point after Almihdhar has gone overseas. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03, Washington Post, 12/29/01, Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] The station, Sam's Star Mart, is owned by Osama “Sam” Mustafa. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/25/03] Mustafa is first investigated by the FBI in 1991 after he tells a police officer that the US needs another Pan Am 103 attack and that he could be the one to carry it out. He also says all Americans should be killed because of the 1991 Iraq War. In 1994 he is investigated for being a member of the Palestinian terror groups PFLP and PLO and for threatening to kill an Israeli intelligence officer living in San Diego. The investigation is closed, but opens again in 1997 when he is tied to a possible terror plot in North Carolina. Apparently it is closed again before 9/11. He also associates with Osama Basnan (see April 1998 and December 4, 1999) and others who have contacts with the hijackers. Witnesses claim he cheers when first told of the 9/11 attacks. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] The gas station is managed by Ed Salamah. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/25/03, Washington Post, 12/29/01] In January 2000, the brother of a known al-Qaeda operative is under surveillance and is seen chatting with Salamah. The Los Angeles FBI office is investigating this operative, and calls Salamah about it. Salamah refuses to come to Los Angeles for an interview, and refuses to give his home address to be interviewed there. Faced with a reluctant witness, the FBI drops the matter. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03; Newsweek 7/28/03] The hijackers are living with an FBI informant who is aware of their contact with at least Mustafa, and that informant has given reports about Mustafa to the FBI in the past. But the informant fails to tell the FBI about their contacts with him (see Autumn 2000 (B)). The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry strongly implies Salamah and Mustafa assisted the hijackers with the 9/11 plot, but the FBI appears uninterested in them and maintain the hijackers received no assistance from anyone. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

October 12, 2000

      
Damage to the USS Cole.
The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen harbor by al-Qaeda terrorists. 17 US soldiers are killed. [ABC News, 10/13/00] The Prime Minister of Yemen at the time later claims that hijacker “Khalid Almihdhar was one of the Cole perpetrators, involved in preparations. He was in Yemen at the time and stayed after the Cole bombing for a while, then he left.” [Guardian 10/15/01] John O'Neill and his team of 200 hundred FBI investigators enter Yemen two days later, but are unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them, and tensions with US Ambassador Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. Even though O'Neill's boss visits and finds that Bodine is O'Neill's “only detractor,” O'Neill and much of his team is forced to leave in November, and the investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials. [New Yorker, 1/14/02, Sunday Times, 2/3/02, The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/14/02, p. 237] Increased security threats forces the reduced FBI team still in Yemen to withdraw altogether in June 2001. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02 (B)] The Sunday Times later notes, “The failure in Yemen may have blocked off lines of investigation that could have led directly to the terrorists preparing for September 11.” [Sunday Times 2/3/02]
          

Late Autumn 2000

       Covert CIA support for Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance guerrilla leader fighting the Taliban, is minimal and fraying (see October 1999 (C)). In the wake of the USS Cole bombing, the CIA develops a plan where the US would increase support for Massoud if he produces strong intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke outlines this CIA proposal to National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, but Berger rejects it. Aid to Massoud continues to languish under the new Bush administration (see April 6, 2001), and nearly the exact same plan to aid Massoud is tentatively approved a week before 9/11 (see September 4, 2001). [Washington Post 2/23/04]
          

November 7, 2000

       In the wake of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000) National Security Advisor Sandy Berger meets with Defense Secretary William Cohen to discuss a new approach to targeting bin Laden. Berger says, “We've been hit many times, and we'll be hit again. Yet we have no option beyond cruise missiles.” He once again brings up the idea of a “boots on the ground” option—a Delta Force special operation to get bin Laden (see Late 1998-2000). A plan is drawn up but the order to do it is never given. Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton are against it. By December 21, the CIA reports that it strongly suspects that al-Qaeda is behind the bombing, but fails to definitively conclude that. That makes such an attack politically difficult. Says a former senior Clinton aide, “If we had done anything, say, two weeks before the election, we'd be accused of helping [presidential candidate] Al Gore.” [Time 8/4/02; 9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (D)]
          

December 2000 (C)

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

December 2000 (B)

       CIA Director Tenet and other top CIA officials brief President-elect Bush, Vice President-elect Cheney, National Security Advisor Rice, and other incoming national security officials on al-Qaeda and covert action programs in Afghanistan. Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt recalls conveying that bin Laden is one of the gravest threats to the country. Bush asks whether killing bin Laden would end the problem. Pavitt says he answers that killing bin Laden would have an impact but not stop the threat. The CIA recommends the most important action to combat al-Qaeda is to arm the Predator drone and use it over Afghanistan. [9/11 Commission 3/24/04; Reuters 3/24/04 (B)] But while the drone is soon armed, Bush never gives the order to use it in Afghanistan until after 9/11 (see January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001).
          

December 2000-April 2001

       According to later German reports, “a whole horde of Israeli counter-terror investigators, posing as students, [follow] the trails of Arab terrorists and their cells in the United States … In the town of Hollywood, Florida, they [identify] … Atta and Marwan Alshehhi as possible terrorists. Agents [live] in the vicinity of the apartment of the two seemingly normal flight school students, observing them around the clock.”Supposedly, around April, the Israeli agents are discovered and deported, terminating the investigation. [Der Spiegel, 10/1/02] However, 80 additional agents are apprehended between June and December 2001 [Fox News, 12/12/01] and even more have been uncovered since (see May 7, 2002). Did the surveillance of Atta and others in fact end in April? Other reports have implied the story and connection (see March 5, 2002). Supposedly, the Mossad waits until late August 2001 before informing the CIA what it learns, and the CIA doesn't take the warning seriously (see August 23, 2001).
          

Early December 2000

      
Fahad al-Quso.
Terrorist Fahad al-Quso is arrested by the government of Yemen. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02, PBS Frontline, 10/3/02] In addition to being involved in the USS Cole bombing, al-Quso was at the January 2000 Malaysian meeting with al-Qaeda agents Khallad bin Attash and hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (see January 5-8, 2000). Al-Quso tells Yemeni investigators that he flew from Yemen to Bangkok in January 2000 for a secret meeting where he turned over $36,000 in cash to bin Attash. The FBI asks the CIA for more information about bin Attash and the Malaysian meeting; the FBI claims the CIA never gives them the requested information that could have led them to Alhazmi and Almihdhar as well. [New York Times, 4/11/04 (B)] For instance, there are pictures from the Malaysian meeting of al-Quso next to hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, but the CIA doesn't share the pictures with the FBI before 9/11. [Newsweek 9/20/01] Meanwhile, FBI head investigator John O'Neill feels al-Quso is holding back important information from his Yemeni captors and wants him interrogated by the FBI. But O'Neill had been kicked out of Yemen by his superiors a week or two before (see October 12, 2000), and without his influential presence, the Yemeni government won't allow an interrogation. Al-Quso is finally interrogated days after 9/11, and admits to meeting with Alhazmi and Almihdhar in January 2000. One investigator calls the missed opportunity of exposing the 9/11 plot through al-Quso's connections “mind-boggling.” [PBS Frontline 10/3/02]
          

December 20, 2000

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

December 26, 2000

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

Mid-November 2001

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

Early 2001

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

Early 2001 (B)

       The heads of the US military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are frustrated by the lack of CIA disinformation operations to create dissent among the Taliban. At the very end of the Clinton administration they start developing a Taliban disinformation project of their own, which would go into effect in 2001. When they are briefed, the Defense Department's new leaders kill the project. Joint Chiefs of Staff ChairmanHenry Shelton says, “[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld and Deputy [Defense] Secretary Paul Wolfowitz were against the Joint Staff having the lead on this.” They consider this a distraction from their core military missions. According to Shelton, as far as Rumsfeld was concerned, “this terrorism thing was out there, but it didn't happen today, so maybe it belongs lower on the list…so it gets defused over a long period of time.” [Los Angeles Times 3/30/04]
          

January 2001-September 11, 2001

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

January-February 2001

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

January-June 2001

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

January 3, 2001

       Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for the Clinton administration, briefs National Security Advisor Rice and her deputy, Steve Hadley about al-Qaeda. [Washington Post 1/20/02] Outgoing National Security Advisor Sandy Berger makes an unusual appearance at the start of the meeting, saying to Rice, “I'm coming to this briefing to underscore how important I think this subject is.” He claims that he tells Rice during the transition between administrations, “I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject.” Clarke presents his plan to “roll back” al-Qaeda that he'd given to the outgoing Clinton administration a couple of weeks earlier (see December 20, 2000). [Time 8/4/02] He gets the impression that Rice has never heard the term al-Qaeda before. Rice decides this day to retain Clarke and his staff, but downgrades his official position, National Coordinator for Counterterrorism (see May 22, 1998). While he is still known as the counterterrorism “tsar,” he has less power and now reports to deputy secretaries instead of attending Cabinet-level meetings. He no longer is able to send memos directly to the president. [Guardian 3/25/04]
          

January 4, 2001

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

January 10, 2001

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

January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001

      
A Predator drone.
Even before Bush's official inauguration, Clinton holdover counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke pushes National Security Advisor Rice and other incoming Bush officials to resume Predator drone flights over Afghanistan in an attempt to find and assassinate bin Laden (see September-October 2000 (B)). [Washington Post, 1/20/02, CBS, 6/25/03] On January 10, Rice is shown a video clip of bin Laden filmed by a Predator drone the year before. [Washington Post 1/20/02] Clarke learns of an Air Force plan to arm the Predator. The original plan calls for three years of testing, but Clarke pushes so hard that the armed Predator is ready in three months. [New Yorker, 7/28/03] A Hellfire missile is successfully test fired from a Predator on February 16, 2001. [CBS, 6/25/03] In early June, a duplicate of the brick house where bin Laden is believed to be living in Kandahar, Afghanistan is built in Nevada, and destroyed by a Predator missile. The test shows that the missile fired from miles away would have killed anyone in the building, and one participant calls this the long sought after “holy grail” that could kill bin Laden within minutes of finding him. [Washington Post 1/20/02] Clarke repeatedly advocates using the Predator, armed or unarmed (see January 25, 2001, March 7, 2001 (B),April 30, 2001). However, bureaucratic infighting between the CIA and the Air Force over who would pay for it and take responsibility delays its use. Clarke says, “Every time we were ready to use it, the CIA would change its mind.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03] National Security Advisor Rice and her deputy Steve Hadley decide to hold off on reconnaissance flights until the armed version in ready. In July, Hadley directs the military to have armed Predators ready to deploy no later than September 1. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] The issue comes to a head in early September , but even then a decision to use the Predator is delayed (see September 4, 2001 (C) September 4, 2001 (E)). [New Yorker 7/28/03]
          

January 11-18, 2001

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

January 19, 2001

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

January 24, 2001

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

January 25, 2001

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke submits a proposal to National Security Advisor Rice and “urgently” asks for a Cabinet-level meeting on the al-Qaeda threat. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 230-231] He forwards his December 2000 strategy paper (see December 20, 2000) and a copy of his 1998 Delenda plan (see August 27, 1998). He lays out a proposed agenda for urgent action:
  1. Approve covert assistance to Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
  2. Significantly increase funding for CIA counterterrorism activity. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
  3. Respond to the USS Cole bombing with an attack on al-Qaeda. The link between al-Qaeda and that bombing had been assumed for months and is confirmed in the media two days later (see January 27, 2001)). According to the Washington Post, “Clarke argue[s] that the camps [are] can't-miss targets, and they [matter]. The facilities [amount] to conveyor belts for al-Qaeda's human capital, with raw recruits arriving and trained fighters departing either for front lines against the Northern Alliance, the Afghan rebel coalition, or against American interests somewhere else. The US government had whole libraries of images filmed over Tarnak Qila and its sister camp, Garmabat Ghar, 19 miles farther west. Why watch al-Qaeda train several thousand men a year and then chase them around the world when they left?” No retaliation is taken on these camps until after 9/11. [Washington Post 1/20/02]
  4. Go forward with new Predator drone reconnaissance missions in the spring and use an armed version when it's ready (see January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001). [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
  5. Step up the fight against terrorist fundraising. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
  6. Be aware that al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the US are not just a potential threat, but are a “major threat in being.” Additionally, more attacks have almost certainly been set in motion. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02; Washington Post 1/20/02] />
Rice's response to Clarke's proposal is that the Cabinet won't address the issue until it has been “framed” at the deputy secretary level. However, this initial deputy meeting is not given high priority and doesn't take place until April 2001 (see April 30, 2001). Henry Shelton, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman until 9/11, says, “The squeaky wheel was Dick Clarke, but he wasn't at the top of their priority list, so the lights went out for a few months. Dick did a pretty good job because he's abrasive as hell, but given the [bureaucratic] level he was at” there was no progress. [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/04, The Age of Sacred Terror, by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, 10/02, pp. 335-336] Some counterterrorism officials think the new administration responds slowly simply because Clarke's proposal originally came from the Clinton administration. [Time, 8/4/02] For instance, Thomas Maertenson, on the National Security Council in both the Clinton and Bush Jr. administrations, says, “They really believed their campaign rhetoric about the Clinton administration. So anything [that administration] did was bad, and the Bushies were not going to repeat it.”
          

January 25, 2001

      
Richard Clarke.
Richard Clarke, National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism and holdover from the Clinton administration, submits a proposal to the new administration for an attack on al-Qaeda in revenge of the USS Cole bombing. In the wake of that bombing, Bush stated on the campaign trail: “I hope that we can gather enough intelligence to figure out who did the act and take the necessary action … there must be a consequence.” According to the Washington Post: “Clarke argue[s] that the camps were can't-miss targets, and they [matter]. The facilities [amount] to conveyor belts for al-Qaeda's human capital, with raw recruits arriving and trained fighters departing—either for front lines against the Northern Alliance, the Afghan rebel coalition, or against American interests somewhere else. The US government had whole libraries of images filmed over Tarnak Qila and its sister camp, Garmabat Ghar, 19 miles farther west. Why watch al-Qaeda train several thousand men a year and then chase them around the world when they left?”[Washington Post, 1/20/02] Clarke also warns that there are al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the US, which are a “major threat in being.” Two days later, the US confirms the link between al-Qaeda and the USS Cole bombing. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02 (D)] No retaliation is taken on these camps until after 9/11. Other suggestions by Clarke, such as supporting the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban or boosting the CIA Counterterrorism Center approximately $50 million budget, also go unheeded. [Washington Post 1/20/02]
          

January 27, 2001 (B)

       The Washington Post reports that the US has confirmed the link between al-Qaeda and the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000). [Washington Post, 1/27/01] This conclusion is stated without hedge in a February 9 briefing for Vice President Cheney. [Washington Post, 1/20/02] In the wake of that bombing, Bush stated on the campaign trail: “I hope that we can gather enough intelligence to figure out who did the act and take the necessary action… there must be a consequence.”[Washington Post, 1/20/02]Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz later complains that by the time the new administration is in place, the Cole bombing was “stale.” Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also states too much time had passed to respond. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (B)] The new Bush administration fails to resume the covert deployment of cruise missile submarines and gunships on six-hour alert near Afghanistan's borders that had begun under President Clinton (see Late 1998-2000). The standby force gave Clinton the option of an immediate strike against targets in Afghanistan harboring al-Qaeda's top leadership. This makes a possible assassination of bin Laden much more difficult. [Washington Post 1/20/02]
          

January 30, 2001

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

January 31, 2001

       The final report of the US Commission on National Security/21st Century, co-chaired by former Senators Gary Hart (D), and Warren Rudman (R) is issued (see also September 15, 1999). The bipartisan report was put together in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Hart and Rudman personally brief National Security Advisor Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Powell on their findings. The report has 50 recommendations on how to combat terrorism in the US, but all of them are ignored by the Bush Administration. According to Senator Hart, Congress begins to take the commission's suggestions seriously in March and April, and legislation is introduced to implement some of the recommendations. But then, “Frankly, the White House shut it down…The president said ‘Please wait, we're going to turn this over to the vice president’ …And so Congress moved on to other things, like tax cuts and the issue of the day.” The White House announces in May that it will have Vice President Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism (see May 8, 2001), despite the fact that this commission had just studied the issue for 2 1/2 years. Interestingly, both this commission and the Bush Administration were already assuming a new cabinet level National Homeland Security Agency would be enacted eventually even as the general public remained unaware of the term and the concept. [Salon, 9/12/01, Salon, 4/2/04 download the complete report here: USCNS Reports] Hart is incredulous that neither he nor any of the other members of this commission are ever asked to testify before the 9/11 Commission. [Salon 4/6/04]
          

February 2001 (D)

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

February 2001 (C)

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

Early February 2001

       Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for the Clinton administration, briefs Vice President Cheney about the al-Qaeda threat. He urges decisive and quick action against al-Qaeda. Cheney soon visits CIA headquarters for more information about al-Qaeda. But at later high level meetings he fails to bring up al-Qaeda as a priority issue. [Time 8/4/02]
          

February 9, 2001 (B)

       US officials claim significant progress in defeating bin Laden's financial network, despite significant difficulties. It is claimed that, “bin Laden's financial and operational networks has been ‘completely mapped’ in secret documents shared by the State Department, CIA and Treasury Department, with much of the mapping completed in detail by mid-1997.” [UPI 2/9/01] Reporter Greg Palast later notes that when the US freezes the assets of terrorist organizations in late September 2001 (see September 24, 2001), US investigators likely knew much about the finances of those organizations but took no action before 9/11. [Santa Fe New Mexican 3/20/03]
          

February 13, 2001

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

February 26, 2001

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

March 2001 (C)

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

March 2001 (D)

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

March 7, 2001 (B)

      
Steve Hadley
Deputy National Security Advisor Steve Hadley chairs an informal meeting of some counterparts from other agencies to discuss al-Qaeda. They begin a broad review of the government's approach to al-Qaeda and Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, the approach is “two-pronged and included a crisis warning effort to deal with immediate threats and longer-range planning by senior officials to put into place a comprehensive strategy to eradicate al-Qaeda.” Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke again pushes for immediate decisions on assisting Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance in Afghanistan (see also October 1999 (C), Late Autumn 2000 and April 6, 2001). Hadley suggests dealing with this as part of the broad review. Clarke supports a larger program, but he warns that delay risks the Alliance's defeat. Clarke also advocates using the armed Predator drone (see January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001). But despite an increasing number of alarming warnings following this meeting, there is little follow up. “By June, a draft of a presidential directive authorizing an ambitious covert action plan is circulating through the upper echelons of the administration, but there seem[s] little urgency about putting the plan into effect” (see Early June 2001 (B)). [New York Times 4/4/04; New York Times 3/24/04 (D); 9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04; 9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (D)]
          

March 7, 2001

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

March 8, 2001

       The United Nations and the European Union direct their members to freeze the assets of some al-Qaeda leaders, including Sa'd Al-Sharif, bin Laden's brother-in-law and the head of his finances, but the US does not do so (see UN list). Their assets are finally frozen by the US after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). [Guardian, 10/13/01 (B)] The US for a time claims that Sa'd Al-Sharif helped fund the 9/11 attacks, but the situation is highly confused and his role is doubtful (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002).
          

April 1, 2001

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

Spring 2001 (B)

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

April 2001

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

Spring 2001 (C)

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

April 6, 2001 (C)

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

April 26, 2001

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

April 30, 2001

       The Bush administration finally has its first Deputy Secretary-level meeting on terrorism (see January 25, 2001). [Time, 8/4/02] According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, he advocates that the Northern Alliance needs to be supported in the war against the Taliban (see April 6, 2001) and the Predator drone flights need to resume over Afghanistan so bin Laden can be targeted (see January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001). Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the focus on al-Qaeda is wrong. He states, “I just don't understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden,” and “Who cares about a little terrorist in Afghanistan?” Wolfowitz insists the focus should be Iraqi-sponsored terrorism instead. He claims the 1993 attack on the WTC must have been done with help from Iraq, and rejects the CIA's assertion that there has been no Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the US since 1993. A spokesman for Wolfowitz later calls Clarke's account a “fabrication.” [Newsweek 3/22/04] Wolfowitz repeats these sentiments after 9/11 and tries to argue that the US should attack Iraq (see September 12, 2001 (F)). Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage agrees with Clarke that al-Qaeda is an important threat. Deputy National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, chairing the meeting, brokers a compromise between Wolfowitz and the others. The group agrees to hold additional meetings focusing on al-Qaeda first (see Early June 2001 (B) and June 27-July 16, 2001), but then later look at other terrorism, including any Iraqi terrorism. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, p. 30, pp. 231-232] Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby and Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin also attend the hour long meeting. [Time 8/4/02]
          

April 30, 2001 (B)

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

May 2001 (D)

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

May 2001 (L)

       It is claimed that after a routine briefing by CIA Director Tenet to President Bush regarding the hunt for al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, Bush complains to National Security Advisor Rice that he is tired of “swatting at flies” and wants a comprehensive plan for attacking terrorism. Clarke already has such a plan, but it is mired in bureaucratic deadlock (see January 25, 2001, March 7, 2001 (B), and April 30, 2001). After this, progress remains slow (see Early June 2001 (B) and June 27-July 16, 2001). [Time 8/4/02; 9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (D)]
          

May 2001

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

May 2001 (H)

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

May 8, 2001

       Bush entrusts Cheney to head the new Office of National Preparedness, a part of FEMA. This office is supposed to oversee a “national effort” to coordinate all federal programs for responding to domestic attacks. Cheney says to the press, “One of our biggest threats as a nation” may include “a terrorist organization overseas. We need to look at this whole area, oftentimes referred to as homeland defense.” The focus is on state funded terrorists using weapons of mass destruction, and neither bin Laden nor al-Qaeda is mentioned. [New York Times 7/8/02] Cheney's task force is supposed to report to Congress by October 1, 2001, after a review by the National Security Council. Bush states that “I will periodically chair a meeting of the National Security Council to review these efforts.” [Washington Post 1/20/02] In July, two senators send draft counterterrorism legislation to Cheney's office, but a day before 9/11 they're told it might be another six months before he can take a look at it (see September 10, 2001 (S)). The task force is just getting started on hiring staff a few days before 9/11 (see September 10, 2001 (R)). Former Senator Gary Hart (D) later implies that this task force is created to prevent Congress from enacting counterterrorism legislation proposed by a bipartisan commission Hart had co-chaired (see January 31, 2001).
          

May 10, 2001

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

May 15, 2001

       A Supervisor at the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center sends a request to CIA headquarters for the surveillance photos of the al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia at the start of 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 6-9, 2000). Three days later, the supervisor explains the reason for the interest in an e-mail to a CIA analyst: “I'm interested because Khalid Almihdhar's two companions also were couriers of a sort, who traveled between [the Far East] and Los Angeles at the same time (hazmi and salah).” Hazmi refers to hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salah Said is the alias al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash traveled under during the meeting. Apparently the supervisor receives the photos. Towards the end of May, a CIA analyst contacts a specialist working at FBI headquarters about the photographs. The CIA wanted the FBI analyst to review the photographs and determine if a person who had carried money to Southeast Asia for Khallad bin Attash in January 2000 could be identified. The CIA fails to tell the FBI analyst anything about Almihdhar or Alhazmi. Around the same time, the CIA analyst receives an e-mail mentioning Alhazmi's travel to the US. These two analysts travel to New York the next month and again the CIA analyst fails to divulge what he knows (see June 11, 2001). [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

May 31, 2001

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

June 2001 (I)

       US intelligence learns that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is interested in “sending terrorists to the United States” and planning to assist their activities once they arrive. The 9/11 Congressional inquiry says the significance of this is not understood at the time, and data collection efforts are not subsequently “targeted on information about [Mohammed] that might have helped understand al-Qaeda's plans and intentions.” [Committee Findings, 12/11/02, Los Angeles Times, 12/12/02, USA Today, 12/12/02] The FBI has a $2 million reward for Mohammed at the time (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001) That summer, the NSA intercepts phone calls between Mohammed and Mohamed Atta, but apparently fails to pay attention (see Summer 2001), and on September 10, 2001, the US monitors a call from Atta to Mohammed in which Atta gets final approval for the 9/11 attacks, but this also doesn't lead to action (see September 10, 2001 (F)). In mid-2002, it is reported that “officials believe that given the warning signals available to the FBI in the summer of 2001, investigators correctly concentrated on the [USS] Cole investigation, rather than turning their attention to the possibility of a domestic attack.” [New York Times 6/9/02]
          

June 2001 (F)

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

Early June 2001 (B)

       Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley circulates a draft presidential directive on policy toward al-Qaeda. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and his staff regard the new approach as essentially similar to the proposal they developed in December 2000 (see December 2000) and presented to the Bush administration in January 2001 (see ). The draft has the goal of eliminating al-Qaeda as threat over a multi-year period, and calls for funding through 2006. It has a section calling for the development of contingency military plans against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Hadley contacts Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to tell him these contingency plans will be needed soon. However, no such plans are developed before 9/11. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and others later admit that the contingency plans available immediately after 9/11 are unsatisfactory. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (B), 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] The draft is now discussed in three more deputy level meetings (see June 27-July 16, 2001).
          

June 2001 (E)

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

June 1, 2001

       According to the New York Observer and government documents, “the decades-old procedure for a quick response by the nation's air defense” changes on this date. “Now, instead of NORAD's military commanders being able to issue the command to launch fighter jets, approval [has] to be sought from the civilian Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.” Rumsfeld later claims that protection against a domestic terrorist attack is not his responsibility, but “a law-enforcement issue.” The Observer asks, “Why, in that case, did he take onto himself the responsibility of approving NORAD's deployment of fighter planes?” [New York Observer 6/17/04]
          

June-July 2001

       Terrorist threat reports, already high (see April-May 2001), surge even higher. President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and national security aides are given briefing papers with headlines such as “Bin Laden Threats Are Real” and “Bin Laden Planning High Profile Attacks.” The exact contents of these briefings remain classified, but according to the 9/11 Commission they consistently predict upcoming attacks that will occur “on a catastrophic level, indicating that they would cause the world to be in turmoil, consisting of possible multiple — but not necessarily simultaneous—attacks.” CIA Director Tenet later recalls that by late July the warnings coming in could not get any worse. He feels that Bush and other officials grasp the urgency of what they are being told. [9/11 Commission Report 4/13/04 (B)] But Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin later states that he feels a great tension, peaking these months, between the Bush administration's need to understand terrorism issues and his sense of great urgency. McLaughlin and others are frustrated when inexperienced Bush officials question the validity of certain intelligence findings. Two unnamed, veteran counterterrorism center officers deeply involved in bin Laden issues are so worried about an impending disaster that they consider resigning and going public with their concerns. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/04 (C)] Dale Watson, head of counterterrorism at the FBI, wishes he had “500 analysts looking at Osama bin Laden threat information instead of two.” [9/11 Commission Report 4/13/04 (B)]
          

June 3, 2001

       This is one of only two dates that Bush's national security leadership meets formally to discuss terrorism (see also September 4, 2001 (C)). This group, made up of the National Security Adviser, CIA Director, Defense Secretary, Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others, met around 100 times before 9/11 to discuss a variety of topics, but apparently rarely terrorism. In wake of these reports, the White House “aggressively defended the level of attention, given only scattered hints of al-Qaeda activity.” This lack of discussion stands in sharp contrast to the Clinton administration and public comments by the Bush administration. [Time, 8/4/02] Bush said in February 2001: “I will put a high priority on detecting and responding to terrorism on our soil.” A few weeks earlier, Tenet had told Congress, “The threat from terrorism is real, it is immediate, and it is evolving.” [AP 6/28/02]
          

June 4, 2001

       At some point in 2000, three men claiming to be Afghans but using Pakistani passports enter the Cayman Islands, possibly illegally. [Miami Herald, 9/20/01] In late 2000, Cayman and British investigators begin a yearlong probe of these men which lasts until 9/11. [Los Angeles Times 9/20/01] They are overheard discussing hijacking attacks in New York City. On this day, they are taken into custody, questioned and released some time later. This information is forwarded to US intelligence. [Fox News, 5/17/02] In late August, a letter to a Cayman radio station will allege these same men are agents of bin Laden “organizing a major terrorist act against the US via an airline or airlines”(see August 29, 2001).
          

June 9, 2001

      
FBI agent Robert Wright.
Robert Wright, an FBI agent who spent ten years investigating terrorist funding (see October 1998), writes a memo that slams the FBI. He states, “Knowing what I know, I can confidently say that until the investigative responsibilities for terrorism are transferred from the FBI, I will not feel safe… The FBI has proven for the past decade it cannot identify and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States and its citizens at home and abroad. Even worse, there is virtually no effort on the part of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit to neutralize known and suspected international terrorists living in the United States.”[Cybercast News Service, 5/30/02] He claims “FBI was merely gathering intelligence so they would know who to arrest when a terrorist attack occurred” rather than actually trying to stop the attacks. [UPI 5/30/02] Wright's shocking allegations are largely ignored when they first become public a year later. He is asked on CNN's Crossfire, one of the few outlets to cover the story at all, “Mr. Wright, your charges against the FBI are really more disturbing, more serious, than [Coleen] Rowley's [(see August 28, 2001 (D))]. Why is it, do you think, that you have been ignored by the media, ignored by the congressional committees, and no attention has been paid to your allegations?” The Village Voice says the problem is partly because he went to the FBI and asked permission to speak publicly instead of going straight to the media as Rowley did. The FBI put severe limits on what details Wright can divulge. He is now suing them (see also May 30, 2002). [Village Voice 6/19/02]
          

June 11, 2001

       A CIA analyst and FBI analyst travel to New York and meet with FBI officials at FBI headquarters about the USS Cole investigation. The CIA analyst has already showed photographs from the al-Qaeda Malaysia meeting attended by hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi (see January 5-8, 2000), to the FBI analyst, but failed to explain what he knows about them (see May 15, 2001). The CIA analyst now shows the same photos to the additional FBI agents. He wants to know if the FBI agents can identify anyone in the photos for a different case he's working on. “The FBI agents recognized the men from the Cole investigation, but when they asked the CIA what they knew about the men, they were told that they didn't have clearance to share that information. It ended up in a shouting match. [ABC News, 8/16/02] The CIA analyst later admits that at the time he knows Almihdhar had a US visa (see April 3-7, 1999), that Alhazmi had traveled to the US (see March 5, 2000), that al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash had been recognized in one of the photos (see January 4, 2001), and that Alhazmi was known to be an experienced terrorist. But he doesn't tell any of this to any FBI agent. He doesn't let them keep copies of the photos either. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] He promises them more information later, but the FBI agents don't receive more information until after 9/11. [Congressional Inquiry, 9/20/02] Two days after this meeting, Almihdhar has no trouble getting a new multiple reentry US visa. [US News and World Report 12/12/01; Congressional Inquiry 9/20/02] CIA Director Tenet later claims, “Almihdhar was not who they were talking about in this meeting.” When Senator Carl Levin (D) reads the following to Tenet, “The CIA analyst who attended the New York meeting acknowledged to the joint inquiry staff that he had seen the information regarding Almihdhar's US visa and Alhazmi's travel to the United States but he stated that he would not share information outside of the CIA unless he had authority to do so,” Tenet claims that he talked to the same analyst and was told something completely different. [New York Times 10/17/02]
          

June 12, 2001

      
Diaa Mohsen, left and Mohamed Malik, right, caught on an undercover video. A portrait of Mohamed Malik on the right.
Operation Diamondback, a sting operation uncovering an attempt to buy weapons illegally for the Taliban, bin Laden, and others, ends with a number of arrests. An Egyptian named Diaa Mohsen and a Pakistani named Mohammed Malik are arrested and accused of attempting to buy Stinger missiles, nuclear weapon components, and other sophisticated military weaponry for the Pakistani ISI. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/23/01, Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B)] Malik appears to have had links to important Pakistani officials and Kashmiri terrorists, and Mohsen claims a connection to a man “who is very connected to the Taliban” and funded by bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B), MSNBC, 8/2/02] Some other ISI agents came to Florida on several occasions to negotiate, but they escaped being arrested. They wanted to partially pay in heroin. One mentioned that the WTC would be destroyed (see July 14, 1999and Early August 2001). These ISI agents said some of their purchases would go to the Taliban in Afghanistan and/or terrorists associated with bin Laden. [New York Times 6/16/01; Washington Post 8/2/02 (B); MSNBC 8/2/02] Both Malik and Mohsen lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/01] A number of the people held by the US after 9/11, including possible al-Qaeda members Syed Gul Mohammad Shah and Mohammed Azmath (see September 11, 2001 (K)) are from the same Jersey City neighborhood. [New York Post 9/23/01] Mohsen pleads guilty after 9/11, “But remarkably, even though [he was] apparently willing to supply America's enemies with sophisticated weapons, even nuclear weapons technology, Mohsen was sentenced to just 30 months in prison.” [MSNBC, 8/2/02] Malik's case appears to have been dropped, and reporters find him working in a store in Florida less than a year after the trial ended. [MSNBC 8/2/02] Malik's court files remain completely sealed, and in Mohsen's court case, prosecutors “removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns.” [Washington Post 8/2/02 (B)] Also arrested are Kevin Ingram and Walter Kapij. Ingram pleads guilty to laundering $350,000 and is sentenced to 18 months in prison. [AP, 12/1/01] Ingram was a former senior investment banker with Deutschebank, but resigned in January 1999 after his division suffered costly losses. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/01] Walter Kapij, a pilot with a minor role in the plot, is given the longest sentence, 33 months in prison. [Palm Beach Post, 1/12/02] Informant Randy Glass plays a key role in the sting, and has thirteen felony fraud charges against him reduced as a result, serving only seven months in prison. Federal agents involved in the case later express puzzlement that Washington higher-ups didn't make the case a higher priority, pointing out that bin Laden could have gotten a nuclear bomb if the deal was for real. Agents on the case complain that the FBI didn't make the case a counter-terrorism matter, which would have improved bureaucratic backing and opened access to FBI information and US intelligence from around the world. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B), MSNBC, 8/2/02] Federal agents frequently couldn't get prosecutors to approve wiretaps. [Cox News, 8/2/02] Glass says, “Wouldn't you think that there should have been a wire tap on Diaa [Mohsen]'s phone and Malik's phone?” [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02] An FBI supervisor in Miami refused to front money for the sting, forcing agents to use money from US Customs and even Glass's own money to help keep the sting going. [Cox News 8/2/02]
          

June 13, 2001 (B)

       At President Bush's first meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels, Belgium, Bush outlines his five top defense issues. Missile defense is at the top of the list. Terrorism is not mentioned at all. This is consistent with his other statements before 9/11. Almost the only time he ever publicly mentions al-Qaeda or bin Laden before 9/11 is later in the month, in a letter that renews Clinton administration sanctions on the Taliban. [CNN 6/13/01; Washington Post 4/1/04] He only speaks publicly about the dangers of terrorism once before 9/11 (see May 8, 2001), except for several mentions in the context of promoting a missile defense shield. [Washington Post 1/20/02]
          

June 21, 2001

       A reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company interviews bin Laden. Keeping a promise made to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, bin Laden doesn't say anything substantive, but Ayman al-Zawahiri and top al-Qaeda others say, “The coming weeks will hold important surprises that will target American and Israeli interests in the world.” [AP, 6/24/01, AP, 6/25/01] The reporter later says, “I am 100 percent sure of this, and it was absolutely clear they had brought me there to hear this message.” [A Pretext for War, by James Bamford, 6/04, p. 236] Additionally, the reporter is shown a several-months-old videotape with bin Laden declaring to his followers, “It's time to penetrate America and Israel and hit him them where it hurts most.” [CNN 6/21/01] Author James Bamford theorizes that the original 9/11 plot involved a simultaneous attack on Israel and that shoe bomber Richard Reid may have originally wanted to target an Israeli aircraft around this time. For instance, Reid flies to Tel Aviv, Israel on July 12, 2001 to test if airline security would check his shoes for bombs.
          

June 26, 2001 (B)

       The State Department issues a worldwide caution warning American citizens of possible attacks. [CNN, 3/02] Also around this time, US military forces in the Persian Gulf are placed on heightened alert and naval ships there are sent out to sea, and other defensive steps are taken overseas. This is in response to a recent warning where bin Laden said, “It's time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts most” (see June 21, 2001). But, as author James Bamford later notes, “No precautions were ever taken within the United States, only overseas.”
          

June 27-July 16, 2001

       The first Bush administration Deputy-Secretary-level meeting on terrorism in late April (see April 30, 2001) is followed by three more deputy meetings. Each meeting focuses on one issue: one meeting is about al-Qaeda, one about the Pakistani situation, and one on Indo-Pakistani relations. The plan to roll back al-Qaeda that has been discussed at these meetings is worked on some more and finally approved by National Security Advisor Rice and the deputies on August 13. It now can move to the Cabinet-level before finally reaching President Bush. The Cabinet-level meeting is scheduled for later in August, but too many participants are on vacation, so the meeting takes place in early September (see September 4, 2001 (C)). [Washington Post 1/20/02; 9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04; 9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (D)]
          

Late June 2001

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

Late September-Early October 2001

       According to a later Mirror article, leaders of Pakistan's two Islamic parties negotiate bin Laden's extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden would be held under house arrest in Peshawar and would face an international tribunal, which would decide whether to try him or hand him over to the US. According to reports in Pakistan (and the Telegraph), this plan has both bin Laden's approval and that of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. However, the plan is vetoed by Pakistan's president Musharraf who says he “could not guarantee bin Laden's safety.” But it appears the US did not want the deal: a US official later says that “casting our objectives too narrowly”risked “a premature collapse of the international effort [to overthrow the Taliban] if by some lucky chance Mr. bin Laden was captured.” [Mirror 7/8/02]
          

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 (B)

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

Summer 2001 (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 (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]
          
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