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Update - April 8, 2004

by Paul Thompson

The Center for Cooperative Research that hosts the 9/11 Timeline has had a complete website overhaul. We have converted over to a new database system that allows much greater search functionality. There's also a new forum and a new look and feel.

9/11 has been in the news a lot lately, thanks to new books by Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, and other events. These will be covered in the next update. This update still catches up on material from 2003. It's the biggest update yet.



Mid 1980s (C): Controversial author Gerald Posner says ex-CIA officials claim that General Akhtar Abdul Rahman, ISI head from 1980 to 1987, regularly meets bin Laden in Peshawar, Pakistan. The ISI and bin Laden form a partnership that forces Afghan tribal warlords to pay a “tax” on the opium trade. By 1985, bin Laden and the ISI are splitting annual profits of up to $100 million a year. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, p. 29]

August 1990-March 1991: Iraq invades and conquers Kuwait in August 1990. Bin Laden, newly returned to Saudi Arabia (see February 15, 1989), offers the Saudi government the use of his thousands of mujaheddin fighters to defend the country in case Iraq attacks it. The Saudi government turns him down, and allows 300,000 US soldiers on Saudi soil instead. Bin Laden is incensed, and immediately goes from ally to enemy of the Saudis. After a slow buildup, the US invades Iraq in March 1991 and reestablishes Kuwait. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 40-41] Bin Laden soon leaves the country and starts his career as terrorist (see March 1991 and April 1991).

April 1991: Bin Laden, recently returned to Saudi Arabia (February 15, 1989), is placed under house arrest for his opposition to the continued placing of US soldiers on Saudi soil (see August 1990-March 1991 and March 1991). [Newsweek 2/1/99 or Frontline 9/01] Controversial author Gerald Posner claims that a still classified US intelligence report describes a secret deal between bin Laden and Saudi intelligence minister Prince Turki al-Faisal at this time. Although bin Laden has suddenly turned in an enemy of the Saudi state, he is nonetheless too popular for his role with the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to be easily imprisoned or killed. Bin Laden is allowed to leave Saudi Arabia with his money and supporters, but the Saudi government will publicly disown him. Privately, the Saudis will continue to fund his supporters with the understanding that they will never be used against Saudi Arabia. The wrath of the fundamentalist movement is thus directed away from the vulnerable Saudis. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 40-42] Posner says the Saudis “effectively had [bin Laden] on their payroll since the start of the decade.” [Time, 8/31/03] This deal is reaffirmed in 1996 and 1998 (see 1996 (C), May 1996, June 1996, and July 1998). Bin Laden first returns to Afghanistan. But after staying there a few months, he moves again, settling into Sudan with hundreds of ex-Mujaheddin supporters. [Newsweek 2/1/99 or Frontline 9/01]

1992-1996: Bin Laden is based in Sudan. With a personal fortune of around $250 million (estimates range from $50 to $800 million [Miami Herald, 9/24/01]), he begins plotting terrorist attacks against the US. The first attack kills two tourists in Yemen at the end of 1992 (see December 1992). [New Yorker, 1/24/00] The CIA learns of his involvement in that attack in 1993, also learns that year he is channeling money to Egyptian extremists. US intelligence also learns that by January 1994 he is financing at least three terrorist training camps in North Sudan. [New York Times 8/14/96, Frontline, 9/01, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

December 1992: A bomb explodes in a hotel in Aden, Yemen, killing two tourists. US soldiers had just left the hotel for Somalia. Intelligence agents suspect this may be the first terrorist attack against the US connected to bin Laden. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] US intelligence concludes in April 1993 that “[Bin Laden's] almost certainly played a role.” [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

June 24, 1993: Eight people are arrested, foiling a plot to bomb several New York landmarks. The targets were the United Nations building, 26 Federal Plaza, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. The plotters are connected to Ramzi Yousef (see September 1, 1992, February 26, 1993, and January 6, 1995) and Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990). If the bombing planned for later in the year had been successful, thousands would have died. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

March 1994: The FBI creates the Radical Fundamentalist Unit to investigate international radical fundamentalism, including al-Qaeda. In 1999, the Usama Bin Laden Unit is created to look more specifically in al-Qaeda. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

April 9, 1994: The Saudi government revokes bin Laden's citizenship and moves to freeze his assets in Saudi Arabia because of his support for Muslim fundamentalist movements. [New York Times 4/10/94, Frontline, 9/01] But apparently this is only a public front; privately they continue to support him as part of a secret deal made in 1991 (see April 1991).

April 19, 1995: The Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is bombed. US citizen Timothy McVeigh is convicted of the bombing, but some maintain there is a Middle Eastern connection with the bombing. The bombing leads to a surge in concern about terrorism,. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act is devised and becomes law as a result of such concern. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

June 1995: There is a failed assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The CIA concludes bin Laden authorized the operation. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

May 1996: According to later declassified government documents, Assistant Secretary of State Robin Rafel speaks to the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister about Afghanistan. She says, the US government “now hopes that peace in the region will facilitate US business interests like the proposed Unocal gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan.” [A/S Raphel Consultations with Deputy FM Chernyshev, National Security Archive, May 13, 1996]

June 1996 (B): Controversial author Gerald Posner claims that bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida meet with senior members of Pakistan's military, including Mushaf Ali Mir, who becomes chief of Pakistan's air force in 2000. Bin Laden had moved to Afghanistan the month before, and the Pakistanis offer bin Laden protection if he allies with the Taliban. The alliance proves successful, and bin Laden calls it “blessed by the Saudis,” who are already giving money to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 105-106, Time, 8/31/03] Perhaps not coincidentally, this meetings comes only one month after a deal reaffirming Saudi support for al-Qaeda (see May 1996). Bin Laden is initially based in Jalalabad, which is free of Taliban control, but after the deal he moves his base to Kandahar, which is the center of Taliban power. [Asia Times, 9/17/03]

September 11, 1996 (B): The Egyptian government issues an arrest warrant for bin Laden, the first in the world (see also April 15, 1998).

May 26, 1997: The Saudi government extends formal recognition of the Taliban government of Afghanistan. They are the first country to do so. Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates also eventually recognize the Taliban, and these three are still the ones officially recognizing them on 9/11. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

1998 (H): Hendropriyono, the Indonesian chief of intelligence, claims in 2003 that, “We had intelligence predicting the September 11 attacks three years before it happened but nobody believed us.” He says Indonesian intelligence agents identify bin Laden as the leader of the group plotting the attack and that the US disregards the warning, but otherwise offers no additional details. The Associated Press notes, “Indonesia's intelligence services are not renowned for their accuracy.” [AP, 7/9/03 (C)]

May 28, 1998: In an interview with ABC News reporter John Miller, bin Laden indicates he may attack a US military passenger aircraft using antiaircraft missiles. In the subsequent media coverage, Miller repeatedly refers to bin Laden as “the world's most dangerous terrorist,” and even “the most dangerous man in the world.” [ABC News, 5/28/98, ABC News, 6/12/98, Esquire, 2/99, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

May 28, 1998 (B): Pakistan conducts a successful nuclear test. Former Clinton official Karl Inderfurth later notes that concerns about an Indian-Pakistani conflict, or even nuclear confrontation, compete with efforts to press Pakistan on terrorism. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

June 8, 1998: A US grand jury issues a sealed indictment charging bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders with conspiracy to attack the US. The indictment is publicly released on November 4, 1998. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02] The grand jury took two years to reach an indictment, largely based on information from an informant (see June 1996). [New York Times, 09/30/01 (B), Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B), Frontline, 9/01] This secret indictment is superseded by a public one later in the year (see November 4, 1998).

September 23, 1998: US senior administrative officials admit that they had no evidence that directly linked bin Laden to the Al Shifa factory at the time of retaliatory strikes on Aug 20. Intelligence officials found financial transactions between bin Laden and the Military Industrial Corporation—a company run by the Sudan's government. (Source: New York Times 9/23/98) [Frontline, 9/01]

November 4, 1998: The US publicly indicts bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, and others with the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (see August 7, 1998). Bin Laden had been secretly indicted on different charges earlier in the year (see June 8, 1998). Record $5 million rewards are announced for information leading to his arrest and the arrest of Mohammed Atef. [PBS Frontline, 2001] Shortly thereafter, bin Laden allocates $9 million in reward money for the assassinations of four US government officials in response to the reward on him. A year later it is learned that the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, FBI Director, and CIA Director are the targets. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, MSNBC, 9/18/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

February 1999 (C): US Intelligence obtains information that Iraq has formed a suicide pilot unit that it plans to use against British and US forces in the Persian Gulf. The CIA comments that is highly unlikely and probably disinformation. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

June 7, 1999: The FBI puts Bin Laden on the FBI's “10 Most Wanted List.” [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

October 8, 1999: The State Department designates al-Qaeda a foreign terrorist organization. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000: Earlier in December, the CIA estimates that al-Qaeda will launch between five to 15 attacks against American targets around the world over the New Year's weekend. “Because the US is [bin Laden]'s ultimate goal…we must assume that several of these targets will be in the US…” [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B), Time, 8/4/02] Since late 1999, there is intelligence that targets in Washington and New York would be attacked at this time. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] There in fact are a number of planned attacks, including bomb attacks on the Boston and Los Angeles airports, a hotel in Jordan, and a naval ship in Yemen. (see November 30, 1999, December 14, 1999, and January 3, 2000). But all of the attacks are foiled, thanks partly to a good deal of luck. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]

March 2000 (C): Dale Watson, the chief of the FBI's counterterrorism unit, convenes a terrorism meeting at headquarters of the agents in charge of all 56 field offices. [New York Times, 6/2/02] He specifically encourages the offices to look for al-Qaeda sleeper cells. [AP 7/23/03] Watson is “startled to learn how little some bureau offices around the country, operating independently of headquarters, had done to investigate terrorism. Even after the meeting, in the months before Sept. 11, senior agents at headquarters [are] reduced to repeatedly cajoling the special agents in charge of the field offices to work harder on counterterrorism inquiries.” [New York Times, 6/2/02]

March 2000 (D): US Intelligence Community obtains information suggesting al-Qaeda is planning attacks in specific West Coast areas, possibly involving the assassination of several public officials. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] While these attacks didn't materialize, this is the same month the CIA learns that two known al-Qaeda terrorists have just flown to Los Angeles and fail to pass that information to the FBI.

April 30, 2000: The State Department issues it's annual report describing the US attempt to combat terrorism. For the first time it focuses on South Asia. “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]

December 2000: A classified section of the yearly National Intelligence Estimate report given to Congress downplays any threat to domestic aviation. It says that FBI investigations confirm domestic and international terrorist groups are operating within the US but they are focusing primarily on fundraising, recruiting new members, and disseminating propaganda. While international terrorists have conducted attacks on US soil, these acts represent anomalies in their traditional targeting which focuses on US interests overseas. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

Early 2001: Clinton and Bush staff overlap for several months while new Bush appointees are appointed and confirmed. Clinton holdovers seem more concerned than the new Bush staffers. For instance, in January 2001 Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger tells his replacement Condoleezza Rice: “I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject,” and other Bush staffers confirm this account. National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism Richard Clarke describes his first debriefing of Rice: “The focus was on al-Qaeda—who is al-Qaeda, what is al-Qaeda and why is it an existential threat?” Army Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick, manager of Clinton's National Security Council staff, remains at the NSC nearly four months after Bush took office. He notes that Clinton's advisers meet “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 were doing.” [Washington Post, 1/20/02] Bush's first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later says terrorism moved “to the back burner” until 9/11. [Washington Post, 10/2/02]

January 2001-September 4, 2001: Even before Bush's official inauguration, Clinton holdover National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism 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 August-September 2000). [Washington Post, 1/20/02, CBS, 6/25/03] 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] 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] The issue comes to head on September 4, one of only two times Bush's cabinet level advisors meets to discuss terrorism before 9/11 (see September 4, 2001). [New Yorker, 7/28/03] CIA Director Tenet says his agency will operate the armed Predator “over my dead body.” [Washington Post, 10/2/02] Clarke says, “The Air Force said it wasn't their job to fly planes to collect intelligence. No one around the table seemed to have a can-do attitude. Everyone seemed to have an excuse.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03] The decision on using Predators is put off again, and only start to be used again days after 9/11. [AP, 6/25/03]

March 2001 (E): An intelligence source claims that a group of al-Qaeda operatives is planning to conduct an unspecified attack inside the US in April. One of the operatives allegedly resides in the US. There are also reports of planned attacks in California and New York State for the same month, though it isn't clear if this is reference to the same plot. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

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

May 2001 (K): The Defense Department learns and shares with US intelligence that seven people associated with bin Laden had left from various locations and headed to Canada, Britain, and the US. The next month, the CIA learns that key operatives in al-Qaeda are disappearing, while others are preparing for martyrdom. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

Summer 2001 (H): Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, later claims that at this time, CIA Director “Tenet [is] around town literally pounding on desks saying, something is happening, this is an unprecedented level of threat information. He didn't know where it was going to happen, but he knew that it was coming.” [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

Before September 9, 2001: Declassified Defence Intelligence Agency documents from November 2001 suggest that Northern Alliance leader General Massoud had gained “limited knowledge” “regarding the intentions of [al-Qaeda] to perform a terrorist act against the US on a scale larger than the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.” It further points out he may have been assassinated (see September 9, 2001) because he “began to warn the West.” The documents are heavily censored, and specifics are lacking, but he did make a public veiled warning before European Parliament earlier in the year (see April 2001 (C)). [AFP, 9/14/03, Pakistan Tribune, 9/13/03]

September 9, 2001 (H): In his first budget, Bush spends $13.6 billion on counterterrorist programs across 40 departments and agencies compared to $12 billion in Clinton's last year. However, military commanders ask for $600 million more to combat terrorists, to be diverted from ballistic missile defense. On this day, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says he would recommend a veto for the additional anti-terrorism money. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]

September 9, 2001 (I): A message is posted on Alsaha.com, a website based in Abu Dubai, United Arab Emirates, warning of the 9/11 attack. It proclaims that in the next two days, a “big surprise” is coming from the Saudi Arabian region of Asir, the remote, mountainous province that produced most of the 19 hijackers who struck on September 11. Since 9/11 the FBI and CIA have closely monitored this website as “a kind of terrorist early-warning system” due to its popularity with Muslim fundamentalists. But it isn't clear if they were monitoring the site before 9/11, or noticed this message. [Newsweek, 5/25/03]

September 13, 2001 (F): After a complete airflight ban in the US begun during the 9/11 attacks, some commercial flights begin resuming this day. However, all private flights are still banned from flying. Nonetheless, some private flights do take place, carrying Saudi royalty and members of the bin Laden family to transit points so they can leave the country. These flights take place even as fighters escort down three other private planes attempting to fly. Most of the Saudi royals and bin Ladens in the US at the time are high school or college students and young professionals. New York Times, 9/30/01, Vanity Fair, 10/03] One of the flights is a Lear Jet that leaves from a private Raytheon hangar in Tampa, Florida (see also September 25, 2001) and takes three Saudis to Lexington, Kentucky. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/01] Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US who is so close to the Bush family that he is nicknamed “Bandar Bush,” pushes for and helps arrange the flights at the request of frightened Saudis. Vanity Fair, 10/03, CBC, 10/29/03 (D)] For two years, a violation of the air ban is denied by the FAA, FBI, and White House, and decried as an urban legend except for one article detailing them in a Tampa newspaper (Tampa Tribune, 10/5/01). Finally in 2003, Richard Clarke, National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism confirms the existence of these flights, and Secretary of State Powell confirms them as well. [Vanity Fair, 10/03, MSNBC, 9/7/03] But the White House is still silent on the matter. [New York Times, 9/4/03] The Saudis are evacuated to Saudi Arabia over the next several days (see September 14-19, 2001).

Yeslam bin Laden, Osama's half brother, and a Westernized leader of the Binladin Group. [Vanity Fair]

September 14-19, 2001: Following secret flights inside the US that are in violation of a national private airplane flight ban (see September 13, 2001), members of the bin Laden family and Saudi royalty quietly depart the US. The flights are only publicly acknowledged after all the Saudis have left. [Boston Globe, 9/21/01, New York Times, 9/30/01] About 140 Saudis, including around 24 members of the bin Laden family, are passengers in these flights. Most of their identities aren't known. However, some of the passengers include:

  1. The son of the Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan. Sultan is being sued for alleged complicity in the 9/11 plot (see August 15, 2002). [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/01] He is alleged to have contributed at least $6 million since 1994 to four charities that finance al-Qaeda. [Vanity Fair, 10/03]
  2. Khalil bin Laden. He has been investigated by the Brazilian government for possible terrorist connections. [Vanity Fair, 10/03]
  3. Abdullah bin Laden [ABC]

    Abdullah and Omar bin Laden, cousins of bin Laden. Abdullah was the US director of the Muslim charity World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). The governments of India, Pakistan, Philippines, and Bosnia have all accused WAMY of funding terrorism. These two relatives were investigated by the FBI in 1996 in a case involving espionage, murder, and national security (September 11, 1996). Their case is reopened on September 19 right after 9/11 they leave the country. [Vanity Fair, 10/03] Remarkably, four of the 9/11 hijackers briefly live in the town of Falls Church, Virginia, three blocks from the WAMY office headed by Abdullah bin Laden. [BBC Newsnight, 11/6/01]

  4. Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen. He is a prominent Saudi official who is in the same hotel as three of the hijackers the night before 9/11. He leaves on one of the first flights to Saudi Arabia before the FBI can properly interview him about this (see September 10, 2001 (U)).

There is a later dispute regarding how thoroughly the Saudis are interviewed before they leave and who approves the flights. Richard Clarke, National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism, says he agrees to the flights after the FBI assures him none of those on board have connections to terrorism and that it is “a conscious decision with complete review at the highest levels of the State Department and the FBI and the White House.” [Congressional Testimony, 9/3/03] According to Vanity Fair, both the FBI and the State Department “deny playing any role whatsoever in the episode.” However, Dale Watson, the FBI's former head of counterterrorism, says the Saudis on the planes “[are] identified, but they [are] not subject to serious interviews or interrogations” before they leave. [Vanity Fair, 10/03] An FBI spokesman says the bin Laden relatives are only interviewed by the FBI “at the airport, as they [are] about to leave.” [National Review, 9/11/02] There are claims that some passengers aren't interviewed by the FBI at all. [Vanity Fair, 10/03] One bin Laden relative who stays in the US says that even a month after 9/11 his only contact with the FBI is a brief phone call. [Boston Globe, 9/21/01, New Yorker, 11/5/01] Numerous experts are surprised that the bin Ladens are not interviewed more extensively before leaving, pointing out that interviewing the relatives of suspects is standard investigative procedure. [National Review, 9/11/02, Vanity Fair, 10/03] MSNBC claims that “members of the Saudi royal family met frequently with bin Laden—both before and after 9/11” [MSNBC, 9/5/03], and many royals and bin Laden relatives are being sued for having a role in 9/11 (see August 15, 2002). The Boston Globe opines that the flights occur “too soon after 9/11 for the FBI even to know what questions to ask, much less to decide conclusively that each Saudi [royal] and bin Laden relative [deserve] an ‘all clear,’ never to be available for questions again.” [Boston Globe, 9/30/03] Senator Charles Schumer (D) says of the secret flights, “This is just another example of our country coddling the Saudis and giving them special privileges that others would never get. It's almost as if we didn't want to find out what links existed.” [New York Times, 9/4/03]

Prince Ahmed bin Abdul-Aziz.

March 31, 2002: Author Gerald Posner, controversial for his books debunking JFK assassination and other conspiracy theories, claims a remarkable interrogation of al-Qaeda prisoner Abu Zubaida begins at this time. Zubaida, arrested three days earlier, is tricked into thinking the US has handed him to the Saudis for a more brutal interrogation, but in fact the Saudis are still American agents. Zubaida expresses great relief at this, and under the influence of the “truth serum” Sodium Pentothal, tells his interrogators to call Prince Ahmed bin Abdul-Aziz, a nephew of the Saudi king. He provides telephone numbers from memory and says, “He will tell you what to do.” He proceeds to give more information and phone numbers, claiming ties with higher ups in both the Saudi and Pakistani governments. He also names

  1. Pakistani air force chief Mushaf Ali Mir, said to be closely tied to the fundamentalists in the ISI,
  2. Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al-Faisal,
  3. Prince Sultan bin Faisal, another nephew of the Saudi King, and
  4. Prince Fahd bin Turki, another member of the Saudi royalty.

Zubaida claims all of these people were intermediaries he dealt with in the frequent transfer of money to al-Qaeda. The phone numbers and other details jibe with what US intelligence knows. According to Zubaida, he was present in a meeting in 1996 where the Pakistanis and the Saudis struck a deal with bin Laden, promising him protection, arms, and supplies in exchange for not being the targets of future terror attacks. He claimed both governments were told the US would be attacked on 9/11, but not given the details of how the attack would work. Within months, all of the people named by Zubaida die mysteriously except for Prince Turki, who is made an ambassador, giving him diplomatic immunity. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 186-194] Posner says he learned this story from two unnamed US government sources who gave similar, independent accounts. One is from the CIA and the other is a senior Bush administration official “inside the executive branch.” [Salon, 10/18/03] With the notable exception of a prominent Time magazine article [Time, 8/31/03], few news outlets cover the story [Salon, 10/18/03, MSNBC, 9/5/03, Asia Times, 9/17/03 (B)], and some that do cover it only in the form of book reviews. [Washington Post, 9/10/03 (C), New York Times, 10/12/03, New York Times, 10/29/03 (B)] Some experts put forth the theory that the story could be made up by neoconservatives interested in starting a war with Saudi Arabia. It is also possible Zubaida mixed facts with lies, as he was found to lie to interrogators on many other occasions. [Salon, 10/18/03] There is also speculation that the gist of the story may be true, but that Zubaida's Saudi and Pakistani contacts may have been pinned on dead men to protect the still guilty living. [Asia Times, 9/17/03, Salon, 10/18/03]

Mushaf Ali Mir. [AFP]

July 22, 2002 (B): Three prominent members of the Saudi royal family die in mysterious circumstances. Prince Ahmed bin Abdul-Aziz, a nephew of the Saudi king, prominent businessman, and owner of the winning 2002 Kentucky Derby horse, is said to die of a heart attack at the age of 43. The next day, Prince Sultan bin Faisal, another nephew of the king, dies driving to Prince Ahmed's funeral. A week later, Prince Sultan bin Faisal supposedly “dies of thirst” in the Arabian desert. Seven months later, on February 20, 2003, Pakistan's air force chief Mushaf Ali Mir, dies in a plane crash in clear weather, along with his wife and closest confidants. Controversial author Gerald Posner implies that all of these events are linked together and the deaths not accidental, because of the testimony of captured al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 31, 2002). Supposedly, Zubaida confessed that he was working with all of the above individuals, and that they had foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot. The deaths all occurred not long after the respective governments were told of Zubaida's confessions. Only one other key figure named by Zubaida remains alive: Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki bin Faisal. Posner says, “He's the J. Edgar Hoover of Saudi Arabia,” too powerful and aware of too many secrets to be killed off. Prince Turki loses his Intelligence Minister job ten days before 9/11, and is later made Saudi ambassador to Britain, giving him diplomatic immunity from any criminal prosecution. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 190-194, Time, 8/31/03]

January 15, 2003: Famous spy novelist John le Carré, in an essay entitled, “The United States of America Has Gone Mad,” says “The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded.” He also comments, “How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America's anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history.” [London Times, 1/15/03]

Click here for a larger version.

June 22, 2003: La Vanguardia, one of Spain's most prominent newspapers, publishes the first of a series of stories regarding what appears to be a strange large bump or bumps underneath Flight 175 just before it hit the WTC. Earlier in the year, a Spanish university conducted a digital analysis of photos of this plane and concluded the bumps were three dimensional and not shadows or some other trick of the light. Other aviation experts were consulted and also appeared puzzled. The newspaper contacted Boeing, maker of the airplane. Boeing claims to have an explanation, but cannot reveal it “for security reasons.” They have not given this explanation for numerous other 9/11-related inquiries. [La Vanguardia, 6/22/03, La Vanguardia, 7/13/03, La Vanguardia, 9/7/03] La Vanguardia refuses to speculate what the bumps might be. [La Vanguardia, 7/27/03] In September 2003, more footage of the crash is released, and La Vanguardia asserts this new image also shows the “bumps.” [La Vanguardia, 9/9/03]

July 31, 2003: John S. Pistole, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, testifies before a Congressional committee. He states, the 9/11 investigation “has traced the origin of the funding of 9/11 back to financial accounts in Pakistan, where high-ranking and well-known Al Qaeda operatives played a major role in moving the money forward, eventually into the hands of the hijackers located in the U.S.” [Senate Testimony, 7/31/03] Pistole does not reveal any further details, but in India it is noted that this is consistent with previous reports that Saeed Sheikh and ISI Director Mahmood Ahmed were behind the funding of 9/11. [Times of India, 8/1/03, Pioneer, 8/7/03]

Michael Meacher.

September 6, 2003: British government minister Michael Meacher publishes an essay entitled, “The War on Terrorism is Bogus.” Meacher is a long time British Member of Parliament, and served as Environmental Minister for six years until three months before releasing this essay. The Guardian, which publishes the essay, states that Meacher claims, “the war on terrorism is a smokescreen and that the US knew in advance about the September 11 attack on New York but, for strategic reasons, chose not to act on the warnings. He says the US goal is ‘world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies’ and that this Pax Americana ‘provides a much better explanation of what actually happened before, during and after 9/11 than the global war on terrorism thesis.’ Mr Meacher adds that the US has made ‘no serious attempt’ to catch the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden.” [Guardian, 9/6/03] Meacher provides no personal anecdotes based on his years in Tony Blair's cabinet, but he cites numerous mainstream media accounts to support his thesis. He emphasizes the Project for a New American Century 2000 report (see September 2000) as a “blueprint” for a mythical “global war on terrorism,”“propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda—the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies” in Afghanistan and Iraq. Read Meacher's complete essay here: Guardian, 9/6/03 (B). Meacher's stand causes a controversial debate in Britain (see also BBC, 9/6/03, Telegraph, 9/7/03 (B)), but the story is almost completely ignored by the mainstream US media.

September 10, 2003: Slate reports that two years after the 9/11 attacks, neither the Chicago Board Options Exchange nor the Securities and Exchange Commission will make any comment about their investigations into insider trading before 9/11. “Neither has announced any conclusion. The SEC has not filed any complaint alleging illegal activity, nor has the Justice Department announced any investigation or prosecution. … So, unless the SEC decides to file a complaint—unlikely at this late stage—we may never know what they learned about terror trading.” [Slate, 9/10/03]

Ellen Mariani.

September 12, 2003: 9/11 victim's relative Ellen Mariani sues the US government for what she claims is their foreknowledge of 9/11 (see lawsuit here). “I'm 100 percent sure that they knew,” she says. In doing so, she is ineligible for government compensation from what she calls the “shut-up and go-away fund.” She believes she would have received around $500,000. According to a statement by her lawyer, the lawsuit against Bush, Vice President Cheney, the CIA, Defense Department, and other administration members “is based upon prior knowledge of 9/11; knowingly failing to act, prevent or warn of 9/11; and the ongoing obstruction of justice by covering up the truth of 9/11; all in violation of the laws of the United States.” As the Toronto Star has noted, this interesting story has been “buried” by the mainstream media. Coverage has been limited mostly to Philadelphia where the case was filed and New Hampshire where Mariani lives. [AP, 12/24/03, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/23/03, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/3/03, Aljazeera, 12/9/03, Toronto Star, 11/30/03, Village Voice, 12/3/03]

October 2003: 9/11 Independent Commission staff director Philip Zelikow and several members of his staff visit Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries on a fact finding mission. While in Pakistan, they interview at least two senior members of the ISI. Whether or not this means they are investigating a possible ISI role in the 9/11 plot is unclear. [UPI, 11/5/03]



8:30 a.m.: The FAA's Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, Virginia has their usual daily senior staff meeting. The national operations manager interrupts the meeting to report a possible hijacking in progress. Later, a supervisor interrupts the meeting to report a flight attendant on the hijacked aircraft may have been stabbed. The meeting breaks up before the first WTC crash at 8:46.

8:34 a.m.: FAA Administrator Jane Garvey later testifies that NORAD is notified Flight 11 has been hijacked. [New York Times, 12/30/03] This contradicts both the account of one NORAD employee who says it happens three minutes earlier (see 8:31 a.m.), and NORAD's official account, which claims it happens six minutes later (see 8:40 a.m.).

8:46 a.m.: Two little known French documentary filmmakers are filming a documentary on New York City firefighters about ten blocks from the WTC. One of them hears a roar, looks up, and captures a distant image of the first WTC crash. They continue shooting footage nonstop for many hours, and their footage is first shown that evening on CNN. [New York Times, 1/12/02, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 9/19/01] So Bush's claim that he sees the first attack live on TV is technically impossible (see (9:01 a.m.)).

9:00 a.m. (B): The National Reconnaissance Office plans a simulation of an airplane accidentally crashing into its headquarters. The office is located four miles from Washington's Dulles airport where one of the real hijacked planes takes off. The NRO “operates many of the nation's spy satellites. It draws its personnel from the military and the CIA.” The simulation is apparently run by John Fulton “and his team at the CIA.” An agency spokesman says, “It was just an incredible coincidence that this happened to involve an aircraft crashing into our facility. As soon as the real world events began, we canceled the exercise.” [AP, 8/21/02, UPI, 8/22/02]

(9:01 a.m.): An unidentified woman in the La Guardia control tower speaks to a Port Authority police officer. La Guardia is one of a couple major New York City airports, and the Port Authority patrol both the WTC and the city's airports. The woman asks the officer what has happened at the WTC, and the officer replies he's learned from the news that a plane crashed into it. [New York Times, 12/30/03] Around the same time, one flight controller in the tower says to another, “But you don't know anything.” The other responds, “We don't know. We're looking at it on Channel 5 right now.” [Bergen Record, 1/4/04] “Nothing on the [later released transcripts] shows that the La Guardia controllers knew that the planes flying into their airspace had been seized by terrorists, or that military aircraft were screaming in pursuit over the Hudson River.” Port Authority officials appear to be equally oblivious (see also 9:13 a.m.). [New York Times, 12/30/03]

(Before 9:02): At some point before the second WTC crash, FAA's command center sets up a teleconference with FAA facilities in the New York area. Also on the same floor of the same building is “the military cell”—the Air Traffic Services Cell, created by the FAA and the Defense Department for use when needed to coordinate priority aircraft movement during warfare or emergencies. “The Pentagon staffs it only three days per month for refresher training, but Sept. 11 happen[s] to be one of those days.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/01]

9:10 a.m.: According to released transcripts, a caller from the Port Authority police desk tells a La Guardia Airport control tower employee, that “they are considering [the crashes into the WTC] a criminal act.” the control tower employee replies, “We believe that, and we are holding all aircraft on the ground.” [AP, 12/29/03] La Guardia is one of a couple major New York City airports, and the Port Authority patrol both the WTC and the city's airports.

9:13 a.m.: A flight controller at La Guardia Airport in New York City is called by a Port Authority police officer. The officer asks, “They are inquiring whether or not you can call Kennedy's tower, because they can't get through, and inquire whether or not they had any contact with these aircrafts.” The flight controller responds, “At this time, we do not think that anyone in the F.A.A. had any contact with them.” [New York Times, 12/30/03] “Kennedy” is a reference to John. F. Kennedy Airport, another major airport in New York City. Port Authority police, who patrol both the WTC and the airports, seek information from the controllers about the hijackers. But the controllers are unable to offer any news (see also 9:01 a.m.). [New York Times, 12/30/03]

(Between 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m.): At some point between the collapse of the two WTC towers, it is said that fire chiefs order for the firefighters to come down. It has not been reported exactly who issued this order or when. Witnesses claim that scores of firefighters were resting on lower floors in the minutes before the second tower collapsed, unaware of the danger. “Some firefighters who managed to get out said they had no idea the other building had already fallen, and said that they thought that few of those who perished knew.” At least 121 firefighters in the tower die. The fire department blames equipment failure with a radio repeater. However, the Port Authority claims that later transcripts of radio communications show the repeaters worked. [New York Times, 11/9/02 (B)]


February 15, 1989: Soviet forces withdraw from Afghanistan. Afghan Communists retain control of Kabul, the capital, until April 1992. [Washington Post, 7/19/92] Later in the year, bin Laden returns to Saudi Arabia a triumphant hero. Crown Prince Abdullah personally greets him. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 40-41] He returns to working with the family construction business. [New Yorker, 1/24/00]

March 1991: As the Gulf War against Iraq ends (see August 1990-March 1991), the US does not withdraw all of its soldiers from Saudi Arabia, but stations some 15,000-20,000 there permanently. [Nation, 2/15/99] President Bush Sr. falsely claims that all US troops have withdrawn. [Guardian, 12/21/01] Their presence isn't admitted until 1995, and there has never been an official explanation as to why they are there. The Nation postulates that they are there to prevent a coup. Saudi Arabia has an incredible array of high-tech weaponry, but may lack the expertise to use it and local soldiers may have conflicting loyalties. In 1998, bin Laden will release a statement: “For more than seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.” [Nation, 2/15/99]

1995-2001: After the Taliban takes control of the area around Kandahar, Afghanistan (see September 1994), prominent Persian Gulf state officials and businessmen, including high-ranking UAE and Saudi government ministers such as Saudi intelligence minister Prince Turki al-Faisal (see July 1998), frequently secretly fly into Kandahar on state and private jets for hunting expeditions. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] General Wayne Downing, Bush's former national director for combating terrorism, says: “They would go out and see Osama, spend some time with him, talk with him, you know, live out in the tents, eat the simple food, engage in falconing, some other pursuits, ride horses.” [MSNBC, 9/5/03] While there, some develop ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda and give them money. Both Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar sometimes participate in these hunting trips. Former US and Afghan officials suspect that the dignitaries' outbound jets may also have smuggled out al-Qaeda and Taliban cargo, just as smuggling was rampant on other airplanes flying out of the country (see Mid-1996-October 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01]

November 13, 1995: Two truck bombs kill five Americans and two Indians in a US-operated Saudi National Guard training center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda is blamed for the attacks. [AP, 8/19/02] The attack changes US investigators' views of bin Laden from terrorist financier to terrorist leader. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 150] The facility attacked is owned by the Vinnell Corporation, thought by some experts to be a CIA front. [London Times, 5/14/03]

1996 (C): The Saudi Arabian government increases its payments to al-Qaeda first started in 1991 (see Early 1991), becoming its largest financial backer. It also gives money to other extremist groups throughout Asia. This money vastly increases al-Qaeda's capabilities. [New Yorker, 10/16/01] Presumably two meetings in early summer bring about the change (see also May 1996 and June 1996). Says one US official, “'96 is the key year… Bin Laden hooked up to all the bad guys—it's like the Grand Alliance—and had a capability for conducting large-scale operations.” The Saudi regime, he says, had “gone to the dark side.” Electronic intercepts by the NSA “depict a regime increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country's religious rank and file, and so weakened and frightened that it has brokered its future by channeling hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it.”US officials later privately complain “that the Bush Administration, like the Clinton Administration, is refusing to confront this reality, even in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks.” [New Yorker, 10/16/01]

January 1996: US intelligence gets information concerning a planned suicide attack by individuals connected with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990) and a key al-Qaeda operative. The plan is to fly from Afghanistan to the US and attack the White House. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]

January 8, 1996: The CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center creates a special unit to focus specifically on bin Laden. About 16 individuals are assigned to the unit initially. This grows to about 40 by 9/11. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] The unit is set up “largely because of evidence linking him to the 1993 bombing of the WTC.” [Washington Post, 10/3/01 (C)]

The Hotel Royale Monceau.

May 1996: French intelligence secretly monitors a meeting of Saudi billionaires at the Hotel Royale Monceau in Paris this month with the financial representative of al-Qaeda. “The Saudis, including a key Saudi prince joined by Muslim and non-Muslim gun traffickers, [meet] to determine who would pay how much to Osama. This [is] not so much an act of support but of protection—a payoff to keep the mad bomber away from Saudi Arabia.” [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] Participants also agree that bin Laden should be rewarded for promoting Wahhabism, the Saudi variant of Islam, in Chechnya, Kashmir, Bosnia, and other places. [CBC, 10/29/03 (C)] This extends a secret deal first made between the Saudi government and bin Laden in 1991 (see Early 1991, and also 1996 (C), June 1996, July 1998). The 9/11 victims' relatives also site the “nonpublished French intelligence report” of this meeting in their lawsuit against important Saudis. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 8/16/02] According to French terrorism expert Jean-Charles Brisard and/or reporter Greg Palast, there are about 20 people at the meeting, including:

  1. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Intelligence Minister (who apparently is the unnamed “key Saudi prince” mentioned by Palast). [CBC, 10/29/03 (C)]
  2. Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz. [CBC, 10/29/03 (C), Business Post, 10/7/01]
  3. Saudi Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh. Bakhsh also saved Bush Jr.'s Harken Oil from bankruptcy around 1990. [Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/03, Democracy Now, 3/4/03; CBC, 10/29/03 (C)]
  4. Adnan Khashoggi.

    The notorious Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi. [Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/03, Democracy Now, 3/4/03] In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, Slate has claimed that Khashoggi is a “shadowy international arms merchant” who is “connected to every scandal of the past 40 years.” Amongst other things, he was a major investor in BCCI and a key player in the Iran-Contra affair. [Slate, 12/4/00, Slate, 11/14/01, Slate, 3/12/03]

  5. An unnamed brother of Osama bin Laden. [CBC, 10/29/03 (C)]
  6. An unnamed representative from the Saudi Defense Ministry. [CBC, 10/29/03 (C)]

Palast, noting that the French monitored the meeting, asks, “Since US intelligence was thus likely informed, the question becomes why didn't the government immediately move against the Saudis?” [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] An apparent follow-up meeting occurs in 1998 (see July 1998).

June 1996: Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda operative from al-Qaeda's first meeting in the late 1980s until 1995, tells the US everything he knows about al-Qaeda. “Before al-Fadl's debriefings, US intelligence had amassed thick files on bin Laden and his associates and contacts. But they'd had no idea how the many pieces fit together. ‘Al-Fadl was the Rosetta Stone,’ an official says. ‘After al-Fadl, everything fell into place.’” [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, pp. 154-165] By late 1996, based largely on al-Fadl's information, the CIA finally concludes bin Laden is more of a terrorist than just a terrorist financier. They also learn the term “al-Qaeda” for the first time. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] Yet the US will not take “bin Laden or al-Qaeda all that seriously” until after the bombing of US embassies in Africa in 1998. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, pp. 213] It takes two years two turn al-Fadl's information into the first US indictment of bin Laden (see June 8, 1998). [New York Times, 09/30/01 (B), Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B), Frontline, 9/01]

Bombing of the Khobar Towers. [Corbis]

June 25, 1996: Explosions destroy the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers and wounding 500. [CNN, 6/26/96] Saudi officials later interrogate the suspects, declare them guilty, and execute them—without letting the FBI talk to them. [PBS Frontline, 2001, Irish Times, 11/19/01] Saudis blame Hezbollah, the Iranian-influenced group, but US investigators still believe bin Laden was somehow involved. [Seattle Times, 10/29/01] Bin Laden admits instigating the attacks in a 1998 interview. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] Ironically, the bin Laden family is later awarded the contract to rebuild the installation. [New Yorker, 11/5/01] In 1997, Canada catches one of the Khobar Tower attackers and extradites him to the US. But in 1999, he is shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he can reveal what he knows about al-Qaeda and the Saudis. One anonymous insider calls it, “Clinton's parting kiss to the Saudis.” [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] In June 2001, a US grand jury indicts 13 Saudis for the bombing. According to the indictment, Iran and Hezbollah are both involved in the attack. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

WAMY logo.

September 11, 1996: An FBI investigation into two relatives of bin Laden, begun in February 1996, is closed. The FBI wanted to learn more about Abdullah bin Laden, “because of his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth [WAMY]—a suspected terrorist organization.” [Guardian, 11/7/01] Abdullah was the US director of WAMY and lived with his brother Omar in Falls Church, Virginia, a town just outside Washington. The coding on the document, marked secret, indicates the case involved espionage, murder, and national security. WAMY has its offices at 5613 Leesburg Pike. Remarkably, it is later determined that four of the 9/11 hijackers lived at 5913 Leesburg Pike at the same time the two bin Laden brothers were there. WAMY has not been put on a list of terrorist organizations in the US, but it has been banned in Pakistan. [BBC Newsnight, 11/6/01, Guardian, 11/7/01, see related leaked documents here] The Indian and Philippine governments have also cited WAMY for funding terrorism. “WAMY was involved in terrorist-support activity,” says a security official who served under George W. Bush. “There's no doubt about it.” [Vanity Fair, 10/03] A high-placed intelligence official tells the Guardian: “There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis. There were particular investigations that were effectively killed.” [Guardian, 11/7/01] An unnamed US source says to the BBC, “There is a hidden agenda at the very highest levels of our government.” [BBC Newsnight, 11/6/01] The Bosnian government later says a charity with Abdullah bin Laden on its board had channeled money to Chechen guerrillas (see also September 20, 2002 (C)), something that “is only possible because the Clinton CIA gave the wink and nod to WAMY and other groups who were aiding Bosnian guerrillas when they were fighting Serbia, a US-approved enemy.” The investigation into WAMY is only restarted two days after 9/11, around the same time these bin Ladens leave the US (see September 13-19, 2001). [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] (Note that this Abdullah bin Laden is possibly bin Laden's cousin, not brother, and is apparently not the same as the Abdullah bin Laden who serves as the bin Laden family spokesman. [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03]

May 26, 1998: In a press conference from Afghanistan, bin Laden discusses “bringing the war home to America.” [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] He indicates the results of his jihad will be “visible” within weeks. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

June 1998 (C): US intelligence obtains information from several sources that bin Laden is considering attacks in the US, including Washington and New York. This information is given to senior US officials in July 1998. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] Information mentions an attack in Washington probably against public places. US intelligence guesses bin Laden places a high priority on conducting attacks in the US. In spring 1999 there is more information about a planned al-Qaeda attack on a Washington government facility. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

July 1998: According to documents exposed in a later lawsuit, a meeting takes place in Kandahar, Afghanistan, that leads to a secret deal between Saudi Arabia and the Taliban. Those present include Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabian intelligence (see also Early 1980 and Spring 1998), Taliban leaders, senior officers from the ISI, and bin Laden. Saudi Arabia agrees to give the Taliban and Pakistan“several hundred millions” of dollars, and in return bin Laden promises no attacks against Saudi Arabia. The Saudis also agree to ensure that requests for the extradition of al-Qaeda members will be blocked and promise to block demands by other countries that bin Laden's Afghan training camps will be closed down. Saudi Arabia had previously given money to the Taliban and bribe money to bin Laden (see 1996 (C)), but this ups the ante. [Sunday Times, 8/25/02] A few weeks after the meeting, Prince Turki sends 400 new pickup trucks to Afghanistan. At least $200 million follow. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/23/01, New York Post, 8/25/02] Controversial author Gerald Posner gives a similar account said to come from high US government officials, and adds that al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida also attends the meeting. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 189-190] Note that reports of this meeting seemingly contradict reports of a meeting the month before between Turki and the Taliban, in which the Taliban agreed to get rid of bin Laden (see June 1998).

August 1998 (B): A CIA intelligence report asserts that Arab terrorists are planning to fly a bomb-laden aircraft from a foreign country into the WTC. The FBI and the FAA don't take the threat seriously because of the state of aviation in that unnamed country. Later, other intelligence information connects this group to al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 9/18/02, Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] An FBI spokesman says the report “was not ignored, it was thoroughly investigated by numerous agencies” and found to be unrelated to al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 9/19/02] However, the group in fact did have “ties to al-Qaeda.” [New York Times, 9/18/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

Mid-August 1998: President Clinton signs a Memorandum of Notification authorizing the CIA to plan an assassination of bin Laden. The CIA draw up detailed profiles of bin Laden's daily routines, where he sleeps, and his travel arrangements. The assassination never happens, supposedly because of inadequate intelligence. But, as one officer later says, “you can keep setting the bar higher and higher, so that nothing ever gets done.” An officer who helped draw up the plans says, “We were ready to move” but “we were not allowed to do it because of this stubborn policy of risk avoidance… It is a disgrace.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/16/01] Additional memorandums quickly follow that authorize the assassination of less than ten other al-Qaeda leaders, and authorize the shooting down of private aircraft containing bin Laden. [Washington Post, 12/19/01] “These directives [lead] to nothing.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03]

Mid-August 1998-January 2001: Within days of the US embassy bombings (see August 8, 1998), the US permanently stations two submarines in the Indian Ocean, ready to hit al-Qaeda with cruise missiles on short notice. Missile are fired from these subs later in the month in a failed attempt to assassinate bin Laden (see August 20, 1998). Six to ten hours advance warning is now needed to review the decision, program the cruise missiles and have them reach their target. On at least three other occasions, spies in Afghanistan report bin Laden's location with information suggesting he would remain there for some time. Each time, Clinton approves the strike. Each time, CIA Director Tenet says the information is not reliable enough and the attack cannot go forward. [Washington Post, 12/19/01, New York Times, 12/30/01] The submarines are removed shortly after President Bush takes office (see Late January 2001 (B)).

August 20, 1998: The US fires 66 missiles at six training camps in Afghanistan and 13 missiles at a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan in retaliation for the US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998). [Washington Post, 10/3/01 (C)] The US makes clear the attacks are aimed at terrorists “not supported by any state” despite obvious evidence to the contrary in Afghanistan. About 30 people are killed in the attacks, but no important al-Qaeda figures. [Observer, 8/23/98, New Yorker, 1/24/00] Suspected terrorist financiers Khalid bin Mahfouz (see April 1999) and Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi (see November 22, 2002 (B)) appear to have been the main investors in the Sudanese factory. However, “subsequent lab tests and court actions leave little doubt the El Shifa plant was producing only human and veterinary drugs.” [Ottawa Citizen, 9/29/01] The US later unfreezes the bank accounts of the nominal factory owner and takes other actions indicating guilt, but admits no wrongdoing. It is later learned that of the six camps targeted in Afghanistan, only four were hit, and of those only one had connections to bin Laden. Two of the camps belong to the ISI, and five ISI officers and some twenty trainees are killed. Clinton says on TV that the missiles were aimed at a “gathering of key terrorist leaders”, which turns out to have taken place a month earlier, in Pakistan. [Observer, 8/23/98, New Yorker, 1/24/00] Richard Clarke, then National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism, later claims, “The best post-facto intelligence we had was that bin Laden had left the training camp within an hour of the attack. I have reason to believe that a retired head of the ISI was able to pass information along to al-Qaeda that an attack was coming.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03]

September 1998: US intelligence gives a memorandum to senior officials detailing al-Qaeda's infrastructure in the US. This includes the use of fronts for terrorist activities. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] This information is provided to senior US officials. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

September 1998 (B): US intelligence finds information that bin Laden's next operation could possibly involve crashing an aircraft loaded with explosives into a US airport. This information is provided to senior US officials. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Washington Post, 9/19/02]

October-November 1998: US intelligence learns that al-Qaeda is trying to establish a terrorist cell within the US. There are indications they might be trying to recruit US citizens. In the next month, there is information that a terror cell in the United Arab Emirates is attempting to recruit a group of five to seven young men from the US to travel to the Middle East for training. This is part of a plan to strike a US domestic target. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

Autumn 1998: US intelligence hears of a bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington areas. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, New York Times, 9/18/02] In December it learns that al-Qaeda plans to hijack US aircraft are proceeding well. Two individuals have successfully evaded checkpoints in a dry run at a New York airport. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

November 1998: US intelligence learns that a Turkish extremist group named Kaplancilar had planned a suicide attack. The conspirators, who were arrested, planned to crash an airplane packed with explosives into a famous tomb during a government ceremony. The Turkish press said the group had cooperated with bin Laden and the FBI includes this incident in a bin Laden database. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

December 1, 1998: A US intelligence assessment: “[Bin Laden] is actively planning against US targets and already may have positioned operatives for at least one operation… Multiple reports indicate [he] is keenly interested in striking the US on its own soil… al-Qaeda is recruiting operatives for attacks in the US but has not yet identified potential targets.” Later in the month, a classified document prepared by the CIA and signed by Clinton states: “The intelligence community has strong indications that bin Laden intends to conduct or sponsor attacks inside the US.” [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Washington Post, 9/19/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]

Late 1998-2000: National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright repeatedly ask about having a “boots on the ground” option to kill bin Laden, using the elite Delta Force. Clinton also supports the idea, telling Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Shelton, “You know, it would scare the [expletive] out of al-Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into the middle of their camp.” But Shelton says he wants “nothing to do” with such an idea. He calls it naive, and ridicules it as “going Hollywood.” He says he would need a large force, not just a small team. [Washington Post, 12/19/01] U.S. Central Command chief General Anthony Zinni is considered the chief opponent to the “boots on the ground” idea. [Washington Post, 10/2/02] Clinton orders “formal planning for a mission to capture the al-Qaeda leadership.” Reports are contradictory, but some claim Clinton was told such plans were drawn up when in fact they were not. [Time, 8/4/02, Washington Post, 10/2/02]

A Predator drone.

August-September 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. 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. [New York Times, 12/30/01, Washington Post, 12/19/01] The Predator had been used since 1995 in the Balkans. It could take images day or night and through cloud cover, but not to the level of clear facial features. During 11 trial flights in Afghanistan, many intelligence experts conclude it makes three separate sightings of bin Laden, based on his unusual height, entourage, and other factors. But one of the Predators crashes upon landing, and the coming of the very windy and harsh winter weather stops the flights. Officials anticipate putting Predators back in the air as early as March 2001 after the weather improves, but no Predators are flown over Afghanistan until after 9/11. [AP, 6/25/03, CBS, 6/25/03]

Richard Clarke.

January 25, 2001: 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] 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]

April 2001 (C): Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, has been trying to get aid from the US, 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.” [Time, 8/4/02]

Did bin Laden receive life saving treatment at this hospital in Dubai?

July 4-14, 2001: Bin Laden, America's most wanted criminal with a $5 million bounty on his head, supposedly receives lifesaving treatment for renal failure from American surgeon specialist Dr. Callaway at the American hospital in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He is possibly accompanied by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (who is said to be bin Laden's personal physician, al-Qaeda's second-in-command, and leader of Egypt's Islamic Jihad), plus several bodyguards. Callaway supposedly treated bin Laden in 1996 and 1998, also in Dubai. Callaway later refuses to answer any questions on this matter. [Le Figaro, 10/31/01, Agence France-Presse, 11/1/01, London Times, 11/01/01] During his stay, bin Laden is visited by “several members of his family and Saudi personalities,” including Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence, as well as two CIA officers (see also July 12, 2001). [Guardian, 11/1/01] FTWThe explosive story is widely reported in Europe, but barely at all in the US (possibly only by UPI [UPI, 11/1/01]). French terrorism expert Antoine Sfeir says the story of this meeting has been verified and is not surprising: It “is nothing extraordinary. Bin Laden maintained contacts with the CIA up to 1998. These contacts have not ceased since bin Laden settled in Afghanistan. Up to the last moment, CIA agents hoped that bin Laden would return to the fold of the US, as was the case before 1989.” [Le Figaro, 11/1/01]

A Raytheon 727 lands in New Mexico in August, 2001. [AP]

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

August 4-30, 2001: President Bush spends most of August 2001 at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, nearly setting a record for the longest presidential vacation. While it is billed a “working vacation,” ABC reports Bush is doing “nothing much” aside from his regular daily intelligence briefings. [ABC, 8/3/01, Washington Post, 8/7/01, Salon, 8/29/01] One such unusually long briefing at the start of his trip is a warning that bin Laden is planning to attack in the US, but Bush spends the rest of that day fishing (see August 6, 2001). By the end of his trip, Bush has spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route. [Washington Post, 8/7/01] At the time, a poll shows that 55 percent of Americans say Bush is taking too much time off. [USA Today, 8/7/01] Vice President Cheney also spends the entire month in a remote location in Wyoming. [Jackson Hole News and Guide, 8/15/01]

Bush being briefed at his ranch in August 2001. [AP]

August 6, 2001: President Bush receives a classified intelligence briefing at his Crawford, Texas ranch indicating that bin Laden might be planning to hijack commercial airliners. The memo read to him is titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”, and the entire memo focuses on the possibility of terrorist attacks inside the US. [Newsweek, 5/27/02, New York Times, 5/15/02] The contents have never been made public. However, according to the 9/11 Congressional inquiry (they call it “a closely held intelligence report for senior government officials” presented in early August 2001), the memo includes at least the following information:

  1. Bin Laden has wanted to conduct attacks inside the US since 1997.
  2. “Members of al-Qaeda, including some US citizens, [have] resided in or traveled to the US for years and that the group apparently maintain[s] a support structure” in the US.
  3. A discussion of the arrest of Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999) and the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998).
  4. Uncorroborated information obtained in 1998 that bin Laden wants to hijack airplanes to gain the release of US-held extremists such as Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990).
  5. Information acquired in May 2001 indicating al-Qaeda is planning to infiltrate the US from Canada and attack the US using high explosives (see May 2001 (B)).
  6. “FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks.”
  7. The number of bin Laden-related investigations underway [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]

Incredibly, the New York Times later reports that Bush “[breaks] off from work early and [spends] most of the day fishing” (see also August 4-30, 2001). [New York Times, 5/25/02] FTW The existence of this memo is kept secret, until it is leaked in May 2002, causing a storm of controversy (see May 15, 2002). National Security Advisor Rice gives an inaccurate description of the memo, claiming it is only one and a half pages long (other accounts state it is 11 and a half pages instead of the usual two or three). [Newsweek, 5/27/02, New York Times, 5/15/02, Die Zeit, 10/1/02] She falsely claims “it was an analytic report that talked about [bin Laden]'s methods of operation, talked about what he had done historically, in 1997, in 1998. … I want to reiterate, it was not a warning. There was no specific time, place, or method mentioned.” [White House, 5/16/02]

August 30-September 4, 2001: According to Egyptian President Hasni Mubarak, Egyptian intelligence warns American officials that bin Laden's network is in the advanced stages of executing a significant operation against an American target, probably within the US. [AP, 12/7/01, New York Times, 6/4/02] He says he learned this information from an agent working inside al-Qaeda. US officials deny receiving any such warning from Egypt. [ABC News, 6/4/02]

September 4, 2001 (C): Bush's Cabinet-rank advisers have their second ever meeting on terrorism (see June 3, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/17/02] Back in January, terrorism “czar” Richard Clarke had proposed an ambitious plan to “roll back” al-Qaeda's operations around the world. The plan was strengthened and finally approved at this meeting. It no longer plans a “roll back” of al-Qaeda but aims to “eliminate” it altogether. The plan calls for significant support to the Northern Alliance, the last remaining resistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the same time, the US military would launch air strikes on training camps and special-operations missions in Afghanistan. In the words of a senior Bush Administration official, the proposals amounted to “everything we've done since 9/11.” The plan was awaiting Bush's signature on 9/11. Clinton's limited missile attack in 1998 faced a lot of controversy—this new ambitious plan would have faced much more opposition had it not been for 9/11. [Time, 8/4/02] A senior Bush administration official dismisses the allegations: “This idea that there was somehow a kind of—some sort of full-blown plan for going after al-Qaeda is just incorrect.” [CNN, 8/5/02] The long unresolved issue of using Predator drones to monitor and possibly assassinate bin Laden is again brought up, and again left unresolved (see January 2001-September 4, 2001).

September 14, 2001 (E): CBS News announces a new revelation: airplanes were scrambled before the Pentagon was hit, but they were scrambled from Langley Air Force Base—too far away to catch the plane in time. [CBS, 9/14/01] This comes after numerous officials, from the Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Myers in Congressional testimony to Vice President Cheney, state that the first planes were scrambled towards Washington only after the Pentagon was hit. [CBS News, 9/12/01, NBC Meet the Press, 9/16/01, General Myers' Senate confirmation hearing, 9/13/01] NORAD spokesman Marine Corps Major Mike Snyder also claimed no fighters were scrambled anywhere until the Pentagon was hit. [Boston Globe, 9/15/01] Four days later, the official NORAD timeline is changed to include this new discovery. [NORAD, 9/18/01]

Lofti Raissi. [AP]

September 21, 2001 (B): Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot living in Britain, is arrested and accused of helping to train four of the hijackers. An FBI source says, “We believe he is by far the biggest find we have had so far. He is of crucial importance to us.” [Las Vegas Review Journal, 9/29/01] However, in April 2002 a judge dismisses all charges against him. US officials originally said, “They had video of him with Hani Hanjour, who allegedly piloted the plane that crashed into the Pentagon; records of phone conversations between the two men; evidence that they had flown a training plane together; and evidence that Raissi had met several of the hijackers in Las Vegas. It turned out, the British court found, that the video showed Raissi with his cousin, not Mr. Hanjour, that Raissi had mistakenly filled in his air training logbook and had never flown with Hanjour, and that Raissi and the hijackers were not in Las Vegas at the same time. The US authorities never presented any phone records showing conversations between Raissi and Hanjour. It appears that in this case the US authorities handed over all the information they had…” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/27/02] Raissi later says he will sue the British and American governments unless he is given a “widely publicized apology” for his months in prison and the assumption of “guilty until proven innocent.” [Reuters, 8/14/02] In September 2003 he does sue both governments for $20 million. He also wins a undisclosed sum from the British tabloid Mail on Sunday for printing false charges against him. [Guardian, 9/16/03, Arizona Republic, 10/14/03, BBC, 10/7/03]

Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds [CBS]

March 22, 2002: Translator Sibel Edmonds later claims that she is fired by the FBI on this day after repeatedly raising suspicions about a coworker named Jan (or Can) Dickerson. When Dickerson was hired in November 2001, she had connections to a Turkish intelligence officer and had worked with a Turkish organization, both of which were being investigated by the FBI's own counter-intelligence unit. Edmonds claims that Dickerson insisted that she alone translate documents relating to the investigation of this organization and official. When Edmonds reviewed Dickerson's translations, she found information that the Turkish officer had spies inside the State Department and Pentagon was not being translated. Dickerson then tried to recruit Edmonds as a spy, and when she refused threatened to kill Edmonds. After her boss and others in the FBI failed to respond to her complaints, she wrote to the Justice Department's inspector general's office in March: “Investigations are being compromised. Incorrect or misleading translations are being sent to agents in the field. Translations are being blocked and circumvented.” Edmonds is then fired and she sues the FBI. The FBI eventually concludes Dickerson had left out significant information from her translations. A second FBI whistleblower, John Cole, also claims to know of security lapses in the screening and hiring of FBI translators. [Washington Post, 6/19/02, Cox News, 8/14/02, CBS, 7/13/03] In October 2002, at the request of FBI Director Mueller, Attorney General Ashcroft asks a judge to throw out Edmonds's lawsuit against the Justice Department. He says he is applying the state secrets privilege in order “to protect the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States.” [AP, 10/18/02] The supervisor who told her not to make these accusations and also encouraged her to go slow in her translations (see Late September 2001) is later promoted. [CBS, 7/13/03]

Abu Zubaida [New York Times]

March 28, 2002: FBI agents and Pakistani police commandos raid a house in the city of Faisalabad, Pakistan, and capture al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. He's shot three times but survives. [New York Times, 4/14/02] Many documents are found that lead to the indictment of 100 more people. [Newsweek, 9/4/02] US intelligence found his location by tracing his phone calls. [New York Times, 4/14/02] He has since given the US useful information on 9/11 and other al-Qaeda plans. [Newsweek, 9/4/02] Zubaida is considered one of the highest in al-Qaeda's leadership and the highest ranking prisoner captured by the US so far. [New York Times, 4/14/02] It is believed that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed takes over Zubaida's tasks. [Asia Times, 9/11/02] The claim is later made that during interrogation Zubaida claims ties to people high in the Saudi and Pakistani governments (see March 31, 2002).

Walid Arkeh [Orlando Sentinel]

May 21-22, 2002: Walid Arkeh is a prisoner in Florida who claims to have told the FBI in August 2001 that al-Qaeda was likely to attack the WTC and other targets soon. At the time, his information was dismissed (see August 21, 2001). After 9/11, his warning is still not taken seriously by the local FBI, but on May 21 he is interviewed by a different group of FBI agents in New York City. They being asking him what three al-Qaeda prisoners he befriended had told him of the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998). When Arkeh mentions he has information about 9/11 that he told the FBI before 9/11, the agents are stunned. One says to him: “Let me tell you something. If you know what happened in New York, we are all in deep shit. We are in deep trouble.”He tells them that these prisoners hinted that the WTC would be attacked, and targets in Washington were mentioned as well. However, they did not tell him a date or that airplanes would be used. The New York FBI later informs him that they found his information credible. [Orlando Sentinel, 10/30/02] Arkeh is later deported to Jordan despite a Responsible Cooperators Program promising visas to those who provided important terrorist information. It is unclear if even one person has been given rewards through this program. [Orlando Sentinel, 11/10/02, Orlando Sentinel, 1/11/03, Orlando Sentinel, 3/12/03]

January 10, 2003: FBI Director Mueller personally awards Marion (Spike) Bowman with a presidential citation and cash bonus of approximately 25 percent of his salary. [Salon, 3/3/03 (B)]Bowman, head of the FBI's National Security Law Unit and the person who refused to seek a special warrant for a search of Zacarias Moussaoui's belongings before the 9/11 attacks (see August 23-27, 2001 and August 28, 2001 (D)) is among nine recipients of bureau awards for “exceptional performance.” The award comes shortly after a 9/11 Congressional inquiry report saying Bowman's unit gave Minneapolis FBI agents “inexcusably confused and inaccurate information” that was “patently false.” [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/22/02] Bowman's unit also blocked an urgent request by FBI agents to begin searching for Khalid Almihdhar after his name was put on a watch list (see August 29, 2001). In early 2000, the FBI acknowledged serious blunders in surveillance Bowman's unit conducted during sensitive terrorism and espionage investigations, including agents who illegally videotaped suspects, intercepted e-mails without court permission, and recorded the wrong phone conversations. [AP, 1/10/03] As Senator Charles Grassely (R) and others have pointed out, not only has no one in government been fired or punished for 9/11, but several others have been promoted:

  1. Pasquale D'Amuro, the FBI's counter-terrorism chief in New York City before 9/11, is promoted to the bureau's top counterterrorism post. [Time, 12/30/02]
  2. FBI Supervisory special agent Michael Maltbie, who removed information from the Minnesota FBI's application to get the search warrant for Moussaoui, is promoted to field supervisor. [Salon, 3/3/03 (B)]
  3. David Frasca, head of the FBI's Radical Fundamentalist Unit, is “still at headquarters,” Grassley notes. [Salon, 3/3/03 (B)] Frasca received the Phoenix memo warning al-Qaeda terrorists could use flight schools inside the US (see July 10, 2001), and then a few weeks later he received the request for Moussaoui's search warrant. “The Phoenix memo was buried; the Moussaoui warrant request was denied.” [Time, 5/27/02] Even after 9/11 he continued to “threw up roadblocks” in the Moussaoui case. [New York Times, 5/27/02]
  4. President Bush later names Barbara Bodine the director of Central Iraq shortly after the US conquest of Iraq. Many in government are upset about the appointment because of her blocking of the USS Cole investigation, which some say could have uncovered the 9/11 plot (see October 12, 2000). She failed to admit she was wrong or apologize. [Washington Times, 4/10/03] However, she is fired after about a month, apparently for doing a poor job.
  5. An FBI official who tolerates penetration of the translation department by Turkish spies and encourages slow translations just after 9/11 is promoted (see March 22, 2002). [CBS, 7/13/03]
  6. The CIA has promoted two unnamed top leaders of its unit responsible for tracking al-Qaeda in 2000, when the agency mistakenly failed to put the two suspected terrorists on the watch list. “The leaders were promoted even though some people in the intelligence community and in Congress say the counterterrorism unit they ran bore some responsibility for waiting until August 2001 to put the suspect pair on the interagency watch list.” CIA Director Tenet has failed to fulfill a promise given to Congress in late 2002 that he would name the CIA officials responsible for 9/11 failures. [New York Times, 5/15/03]



8:25 a.m.: Boston flight controllers notify other flight control centers of the Flight 11 hijacking, but supposedly they don't notify (NORAD for another 6 or 15 minutes (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.). [8:25:00, Guardian, 10/17/01] Note that this means the controllers working Flights 77 and Flight 93 would have been aware of Flight 11's hijacking from this time. [Village Voice, 9/13/01]

8:31 a.m.: NORAD employee Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins later says that Boston flight control notifies NORAD of Flight 77's hijacking at this time, not at 8:40 as has been widely reported, even by Deskins previously (see 8:40 a.m.) or another account claiming 8:34 (see 8:34 a.m.). [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another later report states, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” [ABC News, 9/14/02]

NORAD commander Larry Arnold. [Code One]

(8:40 a.m.): Boston flight control supposedly notifies NORAD that Flight 11 has been hijacked (another accounts say it happens earlier (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:34 a.m.). [8:38, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:38, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:40, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:40, AP, 8/19/02, 8:40, Newsday, 9/10/02] Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell, a member of the Air National Guard at NEADS, part of NORAD, takes the call from Boston Center. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, Newhouse News, 1/25/02] He gives the phone to Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins, regional Mission Crew Chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise: “I picked up the line and I identified myself to the Boston Center controller, and he said, we have a hijacked aircraft and I need to get you some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” Deskins then tells Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, “I have FAA on the phone, the shout line, Boston Center. They said they have a hijacked aircraft.” Marr then calls Major General Larry Arnold at NORAD's command Center in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and says, “Boss, I need to scramble [fighters at] Otis [Air National Guard Base].” Arnold later says, “I said go ahead and scramble them, and we'll get the authorities later.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] Deskins later says that initially she and “everybody” else at NEADS thought the call was part of the Vigilant Guardian exercise. After the phone call she had to clarify to everyone that it was not a drill. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, also says that when he hears of the hijacking at this time, “The first thing that went through my mind was, is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?” [ABC News, 9/11/02]

8:44 a.m.: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is talking about terrorism in the Pentagon. According to Representative Cox, at the meeting, Rumsfeld says, “Let me tell ya. I've been around the block a few times. There will be another event.” He then repeats it for emphasis, “There will be another event.” [AP, 9/16/01, Rep. Cox Statement, 9/11/01] According to Rumsfeld himself, “I had said at an 8:00 o'clock breakfast that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy defense department that contributes to—That underpins peace and stability in our world.” [CNN, 12/5/01]

Flight 11 hits the WTC North Tower at 8:46. Note that few images exist of this hit. [Gamma Press]

8:46:26 a.m.: Flight 11 slams into the north tower, 1 World Trade Center. [8:45, CNN, 9/12/01, 8:45, New York Times, 9/12/01, 8:46, New York Times, 9/12/01, 8:46, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:46, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:46, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:46, AP, 8/19/02, 8:46, USA Today, 9/3/02, 8:46, USA Today, 8/13/02, 8:46, Newsday, 9/10/02, 8:47:00, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:48, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 8:46:26, New York Times, 9/11/02, 8:46:26, seismic records, USA Today, 12/20/01] Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel and is traveling 470 mph. [New York Times, 9/11/02] It strikes the 93rd through 98th floors in the 110 story building. At the crash point and above, approximately 1,360 people die and none survived. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full, with between 5,000 to 7,000 in each tower. This is mainly because many office workers haven't shown up to work yet and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 have yet to arrive. USA Today, 12/20/01]

(8:48 a.m.): The first news reports appear on TV and radio that a plane may have crashed into the WTC. [New York Times, 9/15/01, CNN, 9/11/01] Many reports don't come until a few minutes later. For instance ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52. [ABC, 9/14/02]

(8:55 a.m.): A public announcement is broadcast inside the WTC South Tower, saying that the building is secure and people can return to their offices. [New York Times, 9/11/02, click on interactive popup] Such announcements continue until a few minutes before the building is hit, and “may [lead] to the deaths of hundreds of people.” No one knows exactly what is said (though many later recall the phrase “the building is secure”) or who gives the authority to say it. [USA Today, 9/3/02] Additionally, security agents inside the building repeated similar messages. For instance, one survivor recounts hearing, “Our building is secure. You can go back to your floor. If you're a little winded, you can get a drink of water or coffee in the cafeteria.” [New York Times, 9/13/01 (G)] Another survivor recalls a crowd actually running over a man with a bullhorn encouraging them to return to their desks. [Newsday, 9/12/01] However, despite messages to the contrary, about two-thirds of the tower's occupants evacuate during the 17 minutes between the attacks. [USA Today, 12/20/01]

Flight 175 an instant before it hits the WTC south tower. [AP]

9:02:54 a.m.: Flight 175 hits the south tower, 2 World Trade Center. [9:02, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:02, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:02, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:03, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:03 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:03, Guardian, 10/17/01, 9:03, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:03, AP, 8/19/02, 9:03, Newsday, 9/10/02, 9:03, USA Today, 9/3/02, 9:03, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:05, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:05, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:02:54, New York Times, 9/11/02, 9:02:54, seismic records, USA Today, 12/20/01] Millions watch the crash live on television. The plane strikes the 78th through 84th floors in the 110 story building. Approximately 100 people are killed or injured in the initial impact; 600 people in the tower eventually die. All but four work above the crash point. The death toll is far lower than in the north tower because about two-thirds of the tower's occupants get out in the 17 minutes after the first tower is struck (see also (8:55 a.m.)). [USA Today, 12/20/01] F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base are still 71 miles or eight minutes away when the tower is hit. [NORAD, 9/18/01]

(9:03-9:08 a.m.): In a series of stages, flight control managers ban aircraft from flying near the cities used by the hijackers. First, takeoffs and landings in New York City are stopped within a minute of the Flight 175 crash, without asking for permission from Washington. Boston and Newark follow suit in the next few minutes. Around 9:08, departures nationwide heading to or through New York and Boston airspace are canceled. [AP, 8/12/02, Newsday, 9/10/02, AP, 8/19/02, USA Today, 8/13/02] The actual order to stop all planes from taking off at New York's La Guardia airport is given to the airplanes on the ground at 9:07. [New York Times, 12/30/03] Also “a few minutes” after the Flight 175 crash into the WTC at 9:03, all takeoffs from Washington are stopped. [USA Today, 8/12/02, USA Today, 8/13/02]

9:17 a.m.: The FAA shuts down all New York City area airports. [CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01] A flight controller at La Guardia airport reports the taxiways, runways, and airspace completely clear at 9:37. [New York Times, 12/30/03]

FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney [USA Today]

(9:26 a.m.): Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, “almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff—civilian, military, or law enforcement.” Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. A limited number of military flights—the FAA won't reveal details—are allowed to fly during this ban. [Time, 9/14/01] Garvey later calls it “a national ground stop … that prevented any aircraft from taking off.” [House Committee, 9/21/01] However, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta later says he was the one to give the order: “As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception.” [State Department, 9/20/01] 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US at the time. A later account says Ben Sliney, the FAA's National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney's first day on the job as National Operations Manager, “the chess master of the air traffic system.” [USA Today, 8/13/02] When he had accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, “What is the limit of my authority?” The man who had promoted him replied, “Unlimited.” [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] Yet another account, by Linda Schuessler, manager of tactical operations at the FAA Command Center where Sliney was located, says, “…it was done collaboratively… All these decisions were corporate decisions. It wasn't one person who said, Yes, this has got to get done.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/01] About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 a.m. [USA Today, 8/13/02] [9:25, Time, 9/14/01, 9:25, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:26, House Committee, 9/21/01, 9:26, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, 9:26, Newsday, 9/23/01, 9:26, AP, 8/19/02, 9:26, Newsday, 9/10/02]

This picture of Rumsfeld (center), taken from the US Army website, is captioned, “Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld returns to Pentagon inner offices Tuesday morning after surveying the damage from the hijacked plane which crashed into the building moments before.” This contradicts his claim that he was helping victims for nearly an hour after the attack. [US Army]

(9:38 a.m.): Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is in the Pentagon meeting with Representative Cox (R), and is apparently completely oblivious of the approaching Flight 77. As he watches TV coverage of the WTC, he says, “Believe me, this isn't over yet. There's going to be another attack, and it could be us.” Supposedly, “moments later, the plane hit.” [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Rumsfeld's office is on the fourth floor of the Pentagon, relatively near the impact. He later says that just after the explosion, “I went downstairs and went outside. And around the corner and of course, there it was.” He claims he immediately began helping the wounded: “There was a, a young woman bleeding, sitting on the ground, and I think she said to me, she didn't know who I was, she said, she could see people holding, drips going into people, IV of some kind, and she said, something to the effect, if people would, if someone could bring that person over, I could hold it.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] He helps load the wounded into ambulances until 10:30 (see 10:30 a.m.). [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/12/01, CNN, 12/5/01]

Smoke from the WTC south tower collapse covers lower Manhattan. [AP/ABC]

10:19 a.m.: There are reports on television of a fire at the State Department. At 10:20 a.m. and apparently again at 10:33 a.m. it is reported this was caused by a car bomb. [10:00, Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01, 10:19, Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/02, 10:20, Telegraph, 12/16/01] At 10:23, the Associated Press reports, “A car bomb explodes outside the State Department, senior law-enforcement officials say.” [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/02] Secretary of State Richard Armitage sees this on television, goes outside the building to see if it true, finds out it isn't, and calls his colleagues to inform them that the reports are false. [ABC, 9/15/02 (B)] There are numerous other false reports, including explosions at the Capitol building and USA Today headquarters. [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/02]


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