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Shortly After 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001: Head of CIA’s Bin Laden Unit Blames Al-Qaeda for the Crash at the WTC

Richard Blee, chief of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, immediately thinks Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network are to blame when he sees the coverage on television of the crash at the World Trade Center. Blee is in the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, this morning. After Flight 11 crashes into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), he goes across the hall to Alec Station’s cluster of cubicles. He points to a television, which is showing the coverage of what has happened in New York, and says, “That’s bin Laden or al-Qaeda.” One of his colleagues disagrees. “You can’t say that; it could be an accident,” they say. “Every time something happens, you can’t say that it’s al-Qaeda,” they add. Opinion is divided among the Alec Station analysts at the CTC, but most of them think the crash was an accident. Blee is resolute, though. “It’s bin Laden,” he says. Blee and his colleagues will still be arguing about the cause of the crash when, at 9:03 a.m., the second hijacked plane crashes into the WTC (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Coll 2018, pp. 30)

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