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Context of 'September 29, 2002: Israeli Spies Hunting for Iraqi Scud Missile Sites'

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Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian, travels to Afghanistan in 1989 and fights against the pro-Soviet government there. He becomes a radical Islamist and reportedly trains at an al-Qaeda training camp there. He forms a militant group later known as al-Tawhid. In 1993, he returns to Jordan but is quickly arrested for possessing grenades and is sentenced to 15 years in prison. But he gathers many followers inside the prison and is connected to growing Jordanian radical militant networks outside the prison. In May 1999, Abdullah II becomes the new king of Jordan and al-Zarqawi is released from prison as part of a general amnesty. [Atlantic Monthly, 6/8/2006] In late 1999, al-Zarqawi is allegedly involved in an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman, Jordan (see November 30, 1999). [Guardian, 10/9/2002; Independent, 2/6/2003; Washington Post, 2/7/2003] By the end of 1999, he returns to Afghanistan and meets bin Laden. However, bin Laden reportedly strongly dislikes him, because al-Zarqawi comes across as too ambitious, abrasive, and overbearing, and has differing ideological views. But another al-Qaeda laeder, Saif al-Adel, sees potential and convinces bin Laden to give a token $5,000 to set up his own training camp near the town of Herat, close to the border with Iran. He begins setting up the camp in early 2000 (see Early 2000-December 2001). [Atlantic Monthly, 6/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al-Tawhid, Saif al-Adel

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

On December 5, 1999, a Jordanian raid discovers 71 vats of bomb making chemicals in this residence.On December 5, 1999, a Jordanian raid discovers 71 vats of bomb making chemicals in this residence. [Source: Judith Miller]Jordanian officials successfully uncover an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the Radisson Hotel in Amman, Jordan, and other sites on January 1, 2000. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] The Jordanian government intercepts a call between al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida and a suspected Jordanian terrorist named Abu Hoshar. Zubaida says, “The training is over.” [New York Times, 1/15/2001] Zubaida also says, “The grooms are ready for the big wedding.” [Seattle Times, 6/23/2002] This call reflects an extremely poor code system, because the FBI had already determined in the wake of the 1998 US embassy bombings that “wedding” was the al-Qaeda code word for bomb. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 214] Furthermore, it appears al-Qaeda fails to later change the system, because the code-name for the 9/11 attack is also “The Big Wedding.” [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002] Jordan arrests Hoshar while he’s still on the phone talking to Zubaida. In the next few days, 27 other suspects are charged. A Jordanian military court will initially convict 22 of them for participating in planned attacks, sentencing six of them to death, although there will be numerous appeals (see April 2000 and After). In addition to bombing the Radisson Hotel around the start of the millennium, the plan calls for suicide bombings on two border crossings with Israel and a Christian baptism site. Further attacks in Jordan are planned for later. The plotters had already stockpiled the equivalent of 16 tons of TNT, enough to flatten “entire neighborhoods.” [New York Times, 1/15/2001] Key alleged plotters include:
bullet Raed Hijazi, a US citizen who is part of a Boston al-Qaeda cell (see June 1995-Early 1999). He will be arrested and convicted in late 2000 (see September 2000 and October 2000). [New York Times, 1/15/2001]
bullet Khalid Deek, who is also a US citizen and part of an Anaheim, California al-Qaeda cell. He will be arrested in Pakistan and deported to Jordan, but strangely he will released without going to trial.
bullet Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He will later be a notorious figure in the Iraq war starting in 2003. [Washington Post, 10/3/2004]
bullet Luai Sakra. The Washington Post will later say he “played a role” in the plot, though he is never charged for it. Sakra apparently is a CIA informant before 9/11, perhaps starting in 2000 (see 2000). [Washington Post, 2/20/2006]
The Jordanian government will also later claim that the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland helped finance the network of operatives who planned the attack. The bank will be shut down shortly after 9/11 (see November 7, 2001). [Newsweek, 4/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Raed Hijazi, Abu Zubaida, Al-Qaeda, Al Taqwa Bank, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Khalil Deek, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abu Hoshar, Jordan, Luai Sakra

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In early 2000, Islamist militant leader Musab Abu al-Zarqawi starts a new training camp in Afghanistan, near the town of Herat. Osama bin Laden reportedly does not like him, but al-Zarqawi gets some help from al-Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel, who serves as a liaison between al-Zarqawi and al-Qaeda. His camp starts with only a dozen or so followers, but it rapidly grows and eventually numbers several thousand. His group consists mostly of Jordanians and Syrians, and is helped by links to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the Atlantic Monthly, bin Laden repeatedly asks al-Zarqawi to come to him and take an oath of allegiance, but each time al-Zarqawi refuses. “Under no circumstances did [al-Zarqawi] want to become involved in the battle between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. He also did not believe that either bin Laden or the Taliban was serious enough about jihad.” But in October 2001, the US begins bombing Afghanistan, and al-Zarqawi’s camp is targeted. He is reportedly wounded in the chest when a ceiling falls on him. But in December 2001, he manages to escape to Iran with about 300 followers and is based there for several months while regrouping. [Atlantic Monthly, 6/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden, Saif al-Adel, Al-Tawhid

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Akamai’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Akamai’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. [Source: Akamai]In order to protect the White House website against a predicted attack by the Code Red virus, Richard Clarke, the White House counterterrorism chief, employs high-tech firm Akamai, which is run by Daniel Lewin, who will be the first person killed in the 9/11 hijackings. [Clarke and Knake, 2010, pp. 112; Forbes, 4/8/2010; Forbes, 7/1/2010; Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011] Akamai was co-founded in 1998 by Lewin, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Tom Leighton, a professor of applied mathematics at MIT. Its technology enables the Internet to handle Web congestion, so content can be delivered quickly and efficiently. [Slate, 9/11/2015; Forbes, 3/25/2019] The Code Red worm was created to cause damage by conducting a “distributed denial of service” attack, which, according to Scientific American, “overwhelms a website by directing computers to deluge it with spurious connections.” [Scientific American, 10/28/2002] It is designed to attack the White House infrastructure on the Internet by bombarding the White House Web server with data, thereby shutting it down for hours or even days. [Register, 7/24/2001; Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, 8/26/2001; MIT Technology Review, 10/1/2003; Forbes, 3/25/2019]
Help Is Needed to Stop an Attack on the White House Website - Clarke wants help from Akamai because he has learned that 300,000 computers infected with Code Red are about to attack the White House website. [Forbes, 4/8/2010] He therefore turns up at the company’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is the first time Akamai has dealt with him. “We did not know him, but he somehow knew us,” Leighton, who is Akamai’s chief scientist, will later remark. [Forbes, 3/25/2019] Lewin is presumably one of the people Clarke deals with during the visit since, as well as being the firm’s co-founder, as chief technology officer he “effectively ran the company,” according to Lior Netzer, one of his colleagues. [Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011] Clarke tells Akamai “that there was going to be a massive attack on the White House Internet infrastructure… and he believed that we could help him,” Leighton will recall. Akamai agrees to provide the White House with the assistance he requests. [Forbes, 3/25/2019]
Akamai Stops the Virus - The Code Red worm attacks the White House website with requests that threaten to overload its server on July 19. [CNET News, 7/27/2001; Guardian, 8/31/2001] But Akamai is able to stop the fraudulent data requests by redirecting them to Akamai servers around the world.
Akamai Has No Experience of Cybersecurity Work - It is unclear when Clarke approaches Akamai for help. The firm is enlisted by him “with just a few hours’ notice,” according to Forbes magazine. [Forbes, 7/1/2010] But Leighton will say he visits Akamai two weeks before the worm is set to attack the White House’s Internet infrastructure. It is also unclear why Clarke has chosen to go to Akamai for help since the company apparently has never previously done any cybersecurity work. Leighton will in fact say that the assistance it provides to the White House on this occasion “gave birth to our government and security business.” According to Leighton, the reason is that Clarke has “figured out that [Akamai] had a large edge network with a large number of servers close to where the users were and where the attacking bots were,” and he “felt that if the traffic was directed through us, that the network had enough capacity to filter out the attack and protect the core.” [Forbes, 3/25/2019] Ironically, Lewin will apparently be the first person killed in the 9/11 attacks. He will be a passenger on Flight 11, the first plane to be hijacked, and reportedly have his throat slashed when the hijackers are taking over (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011; Raskin, 2013, pp. 218; CNN, 9/11/2013; Tablet, 9/11/2013]

Entity Tags: Akamai, Richard A. Clarke, Tom Leighton, Daniel Lewin, Lior Netzer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

American Airlines Flight 11 pushes back from the gate at Boston’s Logan Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2] There are discrepancies over which gate it leaves from. Most early reports state that it pushes out from Gate 26 in Terminal B of the airport. [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Chicago Sun-Times, 9/13/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Bernstein, 2002, pp. 179; Der Spiegel, 2002, pp. 36] However, one unnamed Logan Airport employee will say it leaves from Gate 32, also in Terminal B. [Boston Globe, 9/11/2001] The transcript of radio communications with the flight confirms it left from Gate 32, and the 9/11 Commission also later states this. [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 451] The reason for the discrepancy in these reports is unclear. Flight 11, a Boeing 767 with a capacity of 158 passengers, is about half full on this day, with 81 passengers on board (including the five hijackers), along with the two pilots and nine flight attendants. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6] It will take off at 7:59 (see (7:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Daniel Lewin.Daniel Lewin. [Source: Akamai]Daniel Lewin, a 31-year-old Internet entrepreneur who is a passenger on Flight 11, has his throat slashed by hijacker Satam Al Suqami while the plane is being hijacked, thereby becoming the first person to be killed in the 9/11 attacks. [Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011; Raskin, 2013, pp. 202-203; CNN, 9/11/2013] Lewin was traveling to California to sign a deal he hoped would save his company, which is struggling as a result of the dot-com collapse. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/18/2001; Zuckoff, 2019, pp. 39] He is in seat 9B in the business class section of the plane, behind hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari, and directly in front of Al Suqami. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Assault Will Be Described by Flight Attendants - Details of the events that lead to Lewin’s death will be revealed in phone calls made by two of the flight attendants on Flight 11 to people on the ground. Betty Ong will speak to employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, and at 8:19 a.m., presumably referring to Lewin, tell them, “Somebody’s stabbed in business class” (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8] She will subsequently report that Lewin might be dead, saying she has been “informed by other flight attendants that a passenger by the name of Daniel Lewin may have been fatally wounded.” She will say the passenger who was killed was “possibly” in seat 9B (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] Meanwhile, Amy Sweeney will talk to personnel at the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston in a series of calls beginning at 8:25 a.m. and, presumably referring to the attack on Lewin, report that “a passenger in row 9… had their throat cut by a passenger in seat 10B,” which is Al Suqami’s seat (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001, 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10-11] She will say the injured passenger “is bleeding severely” and “is not going to make it.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001]
Claim Will Be Made that Lewin Was Shot - Some evidence will indicate that Lewin was shot, rather than having his throat slashed, by Al Suqami (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001, 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 5:13 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; United Press International, 3/6/2002; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002] However, FAA and FBI officials will later say a report of a gun on Flight 11 was a mistake, and the 9/11 Commission will conclude that a shooting on Flight 11 was unlikely to have occurred. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 452-453]
Lewin Would Have Tried to Stop the Hijackers - Lewin is presumably attacked by Al Suqami at around 8:14 a.m. or shortly after, since this is when the hijacking of Flight 11 begins, according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). It is unclear whether he has his throat slashed while attempting to stop the terrorists. The 9/11 Commission Report will tentatively suggest that he “may have made an attempt to stop the hijackers in front of him, not realizing that another was sitting behind him.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4-5] However, numerous friends and family members of Lewin who are interviewed by author Molly Knight Raskin for a book about the entrepreneur will say they are sure he died while trying to stop the hijackers. They will state that “there was no way Lewin could have sat idly by and watched terrorists hurt flight attendants and attempt to hijack the plane.” “I know he’d have fought like a lion,” Brad Rephen, who knew Lewin as a teenager, will say.
Lewin Is 'Pure Strength' - Their belief that Lewin would have tried to stop the hijackers is due in part to his physical strength. [Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011; Raskin, 2013, pp. 218-219] He is “muscular and agile,” and “pure strength from head to toe,” according to Raskin. As a teenager, he regularly attended a gym and trained so hard “that his physical strength multiplied,” friends of his will say. By the age of 16, he was able to bench-press more than 300 pounds. [Raskin, 2013, pp. 30-31; Psychology Today, 9/2013] He won the title of “Mr. Teenage Israel” in a coveted bodybuilding competition. [Tablet, 9/11/2013] Rephen will find it difficult to believe a hijacker could have taken him down with just a knife. “I’m pretty sure that if [the hijackers] had knives, [Lewin] would have taken them,” he will say. [Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011]
Lewin Had Training in Counterterrorism - The ability of Lewin to take on the hijackers and his willingness to do so are presumably greater due to his military experience. He moved with his family from Denver, Colorado, to Israel when he was 14 and, when he was 18, joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He spent almost four years in the IDF, eventually rising to the rank of captain, and served in the Sayeret Matkal—the IDF’s most elite counterterrorism unit. [Chicago Tribune, 9/17/2001; Ha'aretz, 11/11/2011; Raskin, 2013, pp. 4] The Sayeret Matkal is “perhaps the most effective counterterrorism force in the world,” according to Vanity Fair, and, according to Raskin, its members have “almost unmatched counterterrorism skills.” [Vanity Fair, 12/2001; Raskin, 2013, pp. 38]
Lewin Committed Himself to Defeating Terrorism - Furthermore, Lewin knows conversational Arabic and, Raskin will note, this would have enabled him to pick up on any verbal cues of the planned hijacking, if the terrorists had given any. [Psychology Today, 9/2013] Ironically, while he was in the IDF, Lewin became committed to eliminating terrorism. “Danny had a very clear view that the way to address terrorism was not to sit idly by and let innocent people be killed, but to actively go out and cut the head off the stick,” one of his brothers will say. [Raskin, 2013, pp. 37-38]
Lewin Is a Highly Successful Businessman - Lewin is a particularly talented and successful person. After returning to the US from Israel in 1996, while he was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) he co-invented a way for the Internet to handle Web congestion, thereby making it run faster. [Psychology Today, 9/2013; Zuckoff, 2019, pp. 38; Forbes, 3/25/2019] This led him to co-found the high-tech firm Akamai in 1998. The company, of which he is chief technology officer, now has around 1,500 employees. [Ha'aretz, 9/13/2001; Ha'aretz, 9/5/2008; Raskin, 2013, pp. 200] It has had great success. By the age of 30, Lewin’s net worth was $285.9 million and Lewin was, for a time, a paper billionaire. [Raskin, 2013, pp. 195; Psychology Today, 9/2013; CNN, 9/11/2013] In April 2001, Forbes magazine placed him at number 72 in its annual list of “100 Highest Rollers,” made up of the highest earners working in information technology. Three months later, Enterprise Systems magazine included him in the top 10 of its list of leaders in technology. [Forbes, 4/2/2001; Enterprise Systems, 7/2001; Raskin, 2013, pp. 195] Akamai was even employed recently by the White House to provide cybersecurity for its Internet infrastructure (see July 2001). [Clarke and Knake, 2010, pp. 112; Forbes, 3/25/2019]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, Brad Rephen, Israel Defense Forces, Satam Al Suqami, Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney, Daniel Lewin, Sayeret Matkal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vanessa Minter.Vanessa Minter. [Source: Capitol Broadcasting Company]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, calls the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, to report the emergency on her plane. Ong makes the call using an Airfone. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Flight attendants know the reservations 800 number that she calls because they often call it to help passengers with reservations questions. Calls made to the number are routed to the first available phone station at one of several facilities, including the office in Cary. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 72-74; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8]
Ong Tells Agent, 'We're Being Hijacked' - The call is answered by Vanessa Minter, a reservation agent. The first thing Ong says is, “I think we’re being hijacked.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453] Minter will later reflect: “There was something in her voice that said: ‘Okay, this isn’t funny. This isn’t a joke. This is real.’” [WRAL, 9/9/2011]
Resolution Agent Joins Call - Minter asks Ong to hold for a moment. She then phones the American Airlines international resolution desk, which is on the other side of the building. Winston Sadler, the resolution agent, answers, and Minter tells him she has a woman on the phone who is calling from an American Airlines flight that is being hijacked. Minter says she cannot find the “emergency button” on her phone, and Sadler notices that she seems panicked. He offers to take over the call, and so Minter transfers it to him. The phone system allows Sadler to be connected to Minter’s line while Minter remains on it.
Alarm Sent Out to Notify Supervisor - Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Sadler pushes the emergency button on his phone, which initiates a tape recording of Ong’s call and also sends out an alarm that notifies Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, to pick up the call. Gonzalez will join the call from Ong a short time later (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler will tell the FBI that as soon as he joins Ong’s call, he is convinced it is a genuine phone call from an airplane, because he is used to hearing the background noise that occurs in calls from airplane telephones, and he can hear such noise during Ong’s call. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]
Only First Four Minutes of Call Recorded - Ong’s call will last over 25 minutes, ending at around 8:44 a.m. or 8:45 a.m. (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and in it Ong will relay crucial information about what is happening on her plane. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] However, only the first four minutes of the call are recorded. This is because the recently installed recording system at the reservations office has a default time limit. The recording system it replaced did not have such a time limit. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez, American Airlines, Vanessa Minter, Winston Sadler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Betty Ong.Betty Ong. [Source: The Eagle-Tribune]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, begins relaying information about the trouble on her plane to employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] Ong has just called the reservations office to report the hijacking of Flight 11, and is on the line with two employees there: Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]
Ong Describes Hijacking but Gives Wrong Flight Number - Ong tells Minter and Sadler: “The cockpit’s not answering, somebody’s stabbed in business class, and I think there’s Mace, that we can’t breathe.… I think we’re getting hijacked.” Sadler asks Ong what flight she is on and Ong replies, incorrectly, “Flight 12.” She says her plane just left Boston and is supposed to go to Los Angeles, and the pilots are not answering the phone in the cockpit. She says she is in the jump seat, 3R, which is at the back of the plane, behind the coach section. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6, 8] However, Amy Sweeney, another flight attendant who makes a call from Flight 11, is in the next-to-last row of passenger seats in the coach section of the plane, and she will say that Ong is sitting next to her (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Observer, 2/15/2004; New York Observer, 6/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11]
Ong Says Two Flight Attendants Stabbed - Sadler asks Ong her name and she replies: “My name is Betty Ong. I’m number three [flight attendant] on Flight 11.” She says the number one flight attendant and the number five flight attendant have been stabbed. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] These two attendants are Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6] Ong says, “Nobody knows who stabbed who and we can’t even get up to business class right now, ‘cause nobody can breathe.” She also says: “We can’t get into the cockpit. The door won’t open.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] Sadler takes notes of the call, using his computer “scratch pad.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44] He notifies Ong of this, saying, “I’m taking it down, all the information.” He tells Ong, “We’re also, you know, of course, recording this.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6]
Ong Receiving Details of Hijacking from Colleague - During the entire conversation, Sadler will later recall, Ong seems to be talking to someone in the background and receiving information from them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44] This person is presumably Sara Low, another of the flight attendants, who was assigned to the front of the plane and so would have witnessed the hijacking when it happened. [Associated Press, 3/5/2009; New York Daily News, 3/6/2009; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/11/2011] Ong will keep repeating herself during the call, Minter will recall, such as repeatedly mentioning the stabbings on her plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41] Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, has been alerted to the call and will soon join it (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, American Airlines, Winston Sadler, Vanessa Minter

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Nydia Gonzalez.Nydia Gonzalez. [Source: 9/11 Commission]Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, joins a phone call between two employees at her office and Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] Ong called the reservations office at 8:18 a.m. to report the hijacking (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and has since then been talking to two employees there: Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler. Sadler pushed the emergency button on his phone to alert personnel in the operations area of the reservations office, so that one of them could pick up the call from Ong. A colleague of Gonzalez’s initially picked up the call, but Gonzalez quickly takes over from them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Gonzalez, Minter, and Sadler are in different areas of the reservations office, but all three of them are able to monitor Ong’s call. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]
Supervisor Told of Stabbings on Flight 11 - The first thing Gonzalez says when she joins the call is: “This is operations. What flight number are we talking about?” Ong earlier told Minter and Sadler, incorrectly, that she was on “Flight 12,” not Flight 11 (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler therefore tells Gonzalez, “Flight 12.” Ong quickly corrects him, saying: “We’re on Flight 11 right now. This is Flight 11.… Boston to Los Angeles.” She also repeats information she previously gave to Minter and Sadler, saying, “Our number one [flight attendant] has been stabbed and our [number] five [flight attendant] has been stabbed.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6]
Supervisor Notifies Airline's Operations Center - Gonzalez is an operations specialist, and her responsibilities include monitoring any emergency situations with American Airlines flights and forwarding information to the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17] She immediately realizes the seriousness of the situation on Flight 11 and therefore, while remaining connected to Ong’s call, phones the SOC on a separate line to notify it of the problem (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] Gonzalez will later recall that she finds Ong to be “calm, professional, and in control throughout the call.” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file] She will also say that during the time she is monitoring Ong’s call, she does not hear much commotion in the background. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez, Winston Sadler, Vanessa Minter, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, that the hijackers on her plane are in the cockpit, and nobody is able to communicate with the cockpit. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10] Ong is on the phone with three employees at the reservations office—Vanessa Minter, Winston Sadler, and Nydia Gonzalez—and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453]
Ong Says Flight Attendants Cannot Get into Cockpit - Ong now asks some people on her plane, presumably other flight attendants, “Can anybody get up to the cockpit?” Based on what they tell her, she says to the reservations office employees: “We can’t even get into the cockpit. We don’t know who’s up there.” Presumably referring to the pilots, Sadler says, “Well if they were shrewd, they would keep the door closed.” He asks Ong, “Would they [i.e. the pilots] not maintain a sterile cockpit?” Ong replies: “I think the guys [i.e. the hijackers] are up there. They might have gone there, jammed their way up there, or something.” She adds: “Nobody can call the cockpit. We can’t even get inside.” Ong previously mentioned that some people on her plane had been stabbed. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] Gonzalez therefore asks her, “You’re saying that the guys that are doing the stabbing, they’re in the cockpit?” Gonzalez then asks, “How many people [i.e. hijackers] are we talking about?” Ong says two men are involved. Gonzalez asks Ong if she can describe them. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong has not seen the hijackers herself and so she cannot provide a description of them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]
Passengers Unaware of Hijacking - Gonzalez asks, “How are the passengers?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong says she believes the passengers in the coach section are unaware that their plane has been hijacked. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44] Gonzalez will later recall her saying that the passengers “suspect something [is] going on, but [are] not aware of the situation.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] Gonzalez checks with Ong: “So this is all happening in first class? Coach is not aware of what’s going on?” She then tells Ong to “calm down,” and reassures her, saying: “We’ve got security on the line. We’re gonna do everything we can.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]
Gonzalez Relays Information to Operations Center - Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17-18] She now passes on some of the new information Ong has provided, letting Marquis know that Ong said two men are in the cockpit of Flight 11 with the pilots. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]

Entity Tags: Craig Marquis, American Airlines, Nydia Gonzalez, Betty Ong, Vanessa Minter, Winston Sadler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, finally reaches the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston, and tells the employee who answers the call about the trouble on her plane. Sweeney’s two previous attempts at calling the flight services office failed to connect (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). But her third attempted call is answered by Evelyn Nunez, a passenger service agent for American Airlines. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10]
Sweeney Says Two Attendants Stabbed, One Passenger Had Throat Cut - Sweeney talks fast during the call. She says she is an American Airlines flight attendant, but does not give her name. Nunez will later tell the FBI that Sweeney says that “Flight 12 at Gate 32 had two flight attendants stabbed.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58] (Although Sweeney is on Flight 11, not Flight 12, Flight 11 departed from Gate 32 at Logan Airport (see 7:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 7] ) Sweeney says a passenger seated in row 9 of the plane had their throat cut by a passenger in seat 10B. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58] This would be a reference to passenger Daniel Lewin being attacked by hijacker Satam Al Suqami (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Ha'aretz, 7/22/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] Sweeney also says there is a bomb on the plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58]
Sweeney Given Details of Hijacking by Another Flight Attendant - Sweeney makes this call from the next-to-last row of passenger seats in the coach section of her plane, using an Airfone. [New York Observer, 2/15/2004; New York Observer, 6/20/2004] She gets her information about the trouble on Flight 11 from Sara Low, another of the flight attendants, who was assigned to the front of the plane and so would have witnessed the hijacking when it happened. [Boston Herald, 12/15/2008; Associated Press, 3/5/2009] But after 1 minute and 47 seconds, the call is cut off. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Flight Services Manager Overhears Call - Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan Airport, hears Nunez talking on the phone to Sweeney. Nunez is talking in a “rather loud” voice, Woodward will recall, and keeps saying to Sweeney: “What, what, what?… Who’s hurt?… What?” When Woodward asks what is wrong, Nunez says she has received an odd phone call, in which the caller said someone was hurt on Flight 12. “She indicated that someone had been hurt, stabbed,” Woodward will recall. Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission that he mistakenly thinks the incident the caller described “was air rage, because there was a lot of that type of thing going on at the time.” He thinks that “maybe there was a disturbance in the terminal.” Woodward will subsequently head to a departure gate to see if anything is wrong there (see (8:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file]
Agent Determines Name of Hijacker - Nunez immediately calls flight operations for American Airlines to determine the status of Flight 12, the plane Sweeney said she was on. Nunez learns that it was in fact Flight 11 that recently left Logan Airport. She then runs a computer check to find the name of the passenger Sweeney identified, who was in seat 10B on Flight 11. Nunez determines that the passenger was Al Suqami. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58] Sweeney will call the American Airlines flight services office again at 8:29 a.m. and 8:32 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Evelyn Nunez, Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney, Michael Woodward, Sara Low

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At 8:26, Flight 11, which is already way off course, makes an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south over Albany, New York. A minute later, it turns right, to the south-southwest. Then, two minutes on, at 8:29, it turns left to the south-southeast. Boston air traffic controllers never lose sight of the flight, though they can no longer determine altitude as the transponder is turned off. Its last known altitude was 29,000 feet. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Before this turn, the FAA had tagged Flight 11’s radar dot for easy visibility and, at American Airlines’ System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas, “All eyes watched as the plane headed south. On the screen, the plane showed a squiggly line after its turn near Albany, then it straightened.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Boston air traffic controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” [ABC News, 9/6/2002] However, apparently, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has different radar. When they are finally told about the flight, they cannot find it (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). NEADS has to repeatedly phone the FAA, airlines, and others, for clues as to the plane’s location. NEADS will eventually focus on a radar blip they believe might be Flight 11, and watch it close in on New York. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Mark Hodgkins, American Airlines, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan International Airport in Boston, goes with a colleague to the American Airlines gate area at Logan Airport in response to a call from a flight attendant on Flight 11, but finds the area quiet and sees that all of his airline’s morning flights, including Flight 11, have already left the airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10]
Manager and Colleague Head to Departure Gate - Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, called the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport at 8:25 a.m. and told Evelyn Nunez, a passenger service agent, about the trouble on her plane (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). Nunez passed on the details of the call to Woodward. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10] She told Woodward that the plane on which the trouble occurred was at Gate 32 at the airport. Woodward therefore heads to the departure gate with Elizabeth Williams, a colleague of his, to see if the plane is still there. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6] Williams will later recall that Woodward tells her that “they needed to go to Gate 32 because two flight attendants had been stabbed.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4] Sweeney incorrectly told Nunez that she was on Flight 12, not Flight 11. However, Flight 11 did indeed depart from Gate 32 at Logan Airport (see 7:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 7]
Manager and Colleague Realize They Have Been Given Incorrect Information - Woodward will say that when he and Williams reach Gate 32, they find that all of American Airlines’ morning flights have already left Logan Airport. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10] However, Williams will contradict this, telling the FBI that when she and Woodward reach the departure gate, they find “an empty airplane” there. Williams uses the gate-side computer to search for information on the flight time of the plane at Gate 32, while Woodward phones Nunez. Williams and Woodward then conclude that they must have received incorrect information. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4]
Manager Realizes Flight 12 Is a Plane from Los Angeles - Woodward realizes that Flight 12—the plane Sweeney said she was on—is a flight from the West Coast that has not yet left for Boston. He says to Williams: “Wait a minute: Flight 12 comes in at night. It hasn’t even left Los Angeles yet.” Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission that he is currently thinking about how “sometimes the [American Airlines] operations center will call when there is a problem on a flight, and tell them to meet it when the aircraft lands.” Presumably he means that he is wondering if the call Nunez received from Sweeney was actually made by someone at the airline’s operations center, who was referring to a flight that is heading to Boston. Woodward and Williams check out the gate area and then, finding nothing wrong there, walk back to their office, which takes them about two minutes. Woodward will talk to Sweeney when she calls the flight services office again at 8:32 a.m. (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10-11]

Entity Tags: Evelyn Nunez, Logan International Airport, Elizabeth D. Williams, Michael Woodward, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground the seat numbers of two hijackers who have gained unauthorized access to the cockpit of her plane. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6] Ong is on the phone with three members of staff at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8] She previously said she thought that two hijackers had forced their way into the cockpit, but could provide no description of them (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]
Ong Provides Hijackers' Seat Numbers - Nydia Gonzalez, one of the reservations office employees, now asks Ong: “Do you know any information as far as the gents, the men that are in the cockpit with the pilots. Were they from first class?” Ong replies that the men were in seats 2A and 2B. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] These seats, in the first class section of the plane, were occupied by hijackers Wail Alshehri and Waleed Alshehri. Ong would not have seen these two men, as she is at the back of the plane. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6] However, the reservations office employees gain the impression that she is getting information from someone else, such as another flight attendant. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]
Gonzalez Relays Information to Airline Operations Center - Gonzalez has been passing on the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17-18] She has just told Marquis that, according to Ong, the “number five” flight attendant on Flight 11—Barbara Arestegui—has been stabbed, but “seems to be breathing,” and the “number one” flight attendant—Karen Martin—has been “stabbed pretty badly, and she’s lying down on the floor,” possibly unconscious. The other flight attendants are at the back of the plane with Ong, Gonzalez said. Gonzalez also told Marquis that the passengers in the coach section “might not be aware of what’s going on right now,” meaning they are unaware that their plane has been hijacked.
Ong Says Pilots Made No Announcements - Gonzalez now relays to Marquis the hijackers’ seat numbers that Ong provided, and adds that the two hijackers “are in the cockpit with the pilots.” She then returns to her conversation with Ong. She asks if the pilots have “made any announcements on the PA system.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong says there have been no announcements. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] Gonzalez then asks if Flight 11 is “still flying erratically” (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). Ong says that “right now it’s more or less stabilized.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Later during her call with the reservations office, Ong will provide the seat number of a third hijacker on her plane (see 8:35 a.m.-8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12]

Entity Tags: Nydia Gonzalez, American Airlines, Craig Marquis, Betty Ong

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

James Sayer.James Sayer. [Source: Boston Globe]Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reaches the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston for the second time, and describes the trouble on her plane to an employee there. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Sweeney called the flight services office at 8:25 a.m. and told Evelyn Nunez, a passenger service agent, about the trouble on Flight 11, but the call was cut off after less than two minutes (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Sweeney now calls the flight services office again. Nunez is busy making a phone call, so Sweeney’s call is answered by James Sayer, a staff assistant.
Sweeney Describes Stabbings on Flight 11 - Sayer takes notes while he is talking to Sweeney. He will later describe to the FBI what she tells him. Sweeney apparently does not give her name during the call. Sayer will recall that “[o]n the telephone was [a] female flight attendant on… Flight 11, calling from the air, who stated that two flight attendants were stabbed and a man in business class had been stabbed in the throat.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8] Sweeney would be referring to flight attendants Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin, and passenger Daniel Lewin (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001), who were attacked by the hijackers. [ABC News, 7/18/2002; Ha'aretz, 7/22/2004] Sweeney says that a “doctor and nurse on board the plane [are] caring for the injured man,” Sayer will recall. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8] Michael Woodward, a manager in the flight services office who talks with Sweeney in a subsequent call (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will also tell the FBI that Sweeney says a doctor and nurse are caring for a passenger who has been stabbed. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6] However, Betty Ong, another flight attendant on Flight 11, is currently talking over the phone to employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), and she will say there are no doctors on the plane (see 8:36 a.m.-8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file]
Hijackers Have a Bomb and Are in the Cockpit - Sweeney tells Sayer that the individuals who took over her plane “had Mace and pepper spray,” and she can “detect an odor in the cabin.” She says that “two people had gone in the cockpit and they said they had a bomb.” Apparently describing the bomb, Sweeney says she “observed two boxes connected with red and yellow wire.”
Sweeney Gives Incorrect Information about Plane's Location and Hijackers' Seat Numbers - Sweeney says Flight 11 is currently in the air over New York City, Sayer will recall. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8] However, Flight 11 recently turned south over Albany, which is about 150 miles north of New York (see (8:26 a.m.-8:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so is still a long way from the city. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file] Sweeney also indicates that she thinks there are only three hijackers on Flight 11, telling Sayer that the hijackers were in seats 9C, 9G, and 10B. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8] However, apart from seat 10B, these seat numbers are different to those registered in the hijackers’ names. The five hijackers on Flight 11 had been in seats 2A, 2B, 8D, 8G, and 10B, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [BBC, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2]
Call Is Disconnected, but Sweeney Phones Again - Sweeney’s call is cut off after 43 seconds. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Sayer will answer the phone when Sweeney contacts the flight services office again at 8:32 a.m., but he will pass the call on to Woodward. It is unclear whether all the information that Sayer describes to the FBI, about the problems on Flight 11, is given to him by Sweeney in the current call, or if she provides some of it to him in the 8:32 a.m. call. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11]

Entity Tags: Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney, American Airlines, James W. Sayer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gerard Arpey.Gerard Arpey. [Source: American Airlines]Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, learns of the trouble on Flight 11 and then heads to the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center, but he is unable to contact the airline’s president to alert him to the crisis at this time. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]
Arpey Told about Call from Flight Attendant - At around 8:30 a.m., Arpey, who is in his office at American Airlines’ headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, makes a routine phone call to the nearby SOC. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] The call is answered by Joseph Bertapelle, the manager of SOC operations coordination/air traffic systems. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] Bertapelle tells Arpey about a phone call the airline has received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] Since 8:18 a.m., Ong has been on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and one of those employees has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9]
Arpey Wonders if Ong's Call Is Genuine - Bertapelle tells Arpey that Marquis has learned that Ong said there were “bad guys” on her plane and a flight attendant had been stabbed. Arpey wonders if the call from Ong is genuine. Considering the number of “crank” calls the airline receives, he will later comment, he is “conditioned to be somewhat skeptical.” However, when Bertapelle says Ong has reported a cockpit intrusion (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), this information makes Arpey think “that the incident could be the real thing.”
Arpey Unable to Reach Airline's President - Immediately after the call with Bertapelle ends, Arpey tries calling Don Carty, the president of American Airlines, to let him know what is happening. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] But Carty is at home answering e-mails and so has not yet arrived at his office. Arpey therefore leaves a message, requesting that Carty call him as soon as possible.
Arpey Heads to Operations Center, Learns Details of Hijacking - Arpey briefs his executive assistant on what he has learned about the trouble on Flight 11. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] He then heads to the SOC, along with Dan Huffman, American Airlines’ senior vice president of maintenance and engineering. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] The SOC is about a mile away from the airline’s headquarters, and Arpey will recall that he arrives there at between 8:35 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. After he reaches the SOC, managers there tell him they are now treating Flight 11 as a confirmed hijacking. Arpey is told that the plane’s pilots are still not responding to calls from the flight attendants and that Ong said a passenger in first class had been stabbed, possibly fatally (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learns that the FAA has notified the airline that, instead of heading west on its intended flight path, Flight 11 is heading south; the plane’s transponder has been turned off; and the pilots are not responding to radio calls (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Arpey also learns that airline managers are setting up the System Operations Command Center in order to deal with the emergency (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and because they are doing this, he will say, he “knew that they had concluded the incident was real.” [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] As executive vice president of operations, Arpey is responsible for American Airlines’ worldwide flight operations, and he will therefore be directly involved in the airline’s subsequent emergency response efforts and other operational decisions throughout the day. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Gerard Arpey, Don Carty, Dan Huffman, American Airlines, Joseph Bertapelle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, tells colleagues of hers to keep the information they have received about the hijacking of Flight 11 to themselves. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Gonzalez and two of her colleagues—Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler—are on the phone with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 who called the reservations office to report the hijacking of her plane (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001, 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453] Gonzalez reassures Ong, telling her, “Okay, sweetie… we’ve got security working on [dealing with the hijacking] right now.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] (Gonzalez is referring to the fact that she has contacted the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas and alerted it to the trouble on Flight 11 (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] ) Gonzalez adds, “We’re gonna maintain this line open as much as we can.” Presumably addressing all of the other participants in the call—Ong, Minter, and Sadler—she then says: “We don’t want to spread anything around. Okay?” The others apparently agree to keep quiet about the hijacking, as Gonzalez responds to them, “Excellent.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]

Entity Tags: Winston Sadler, Nydia Gonzalez, Vanessa Minter, Betty Ong

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael Woodward.Michael Woodward. [Source: Discovery Channel]Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reaches the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston for the third time, and, in a phone call lasting 12 or 13 minutes, gives details of the trouble on her plane to a manager there. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Sweeney has already called the flight services office two times and provided employees there with details of the hijacking of Flight 11, but both calls were cut off after a short time (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Manager Takes Over Answering Call - At 8:32 a.m., Sweeney reaches the office for the third time. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] The call is answered by James Sayer, a staff assistant. But Sayer tells Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan Airport, that the caller is Sweeney, and Woodward then takes over the call. Woodward is friends with Sweeney and has known her personally for 10 years. Furthermore, Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission, Sayer is not trained to handle emergency calls. Woodward asks Sweeney, “Amy, sweetie, what’s going on?” She replies, “Listen to me very, very carefully.” Realizing that Sweeney is going to give him important information, Woodward immediately begins taking notes.
Sweeney Provides Details of Hijacking - Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission that, in a matter-of-fact and official manner, Sweeney then describes to him the trouble on her plane. She says she is sitting in the back of the aircraft next to Betty Ong, another flight attendant, and the two of them are trying to relay as much information as they can to people on the ground. She says her plane has been hijacked, a man in first class had his throat slashed, and two flight attendants—Karen Martin and Barbara Arestegui—have been stabbed. Sweeney says that Martin isn’t doing very well and is on oxygen, but Arestegui is less seriously injured and seems to be alright. She says the hijackers have gained entry into the cockpit, though she doesn’t say how they did this, and there is a bomb in the cockpit. She makes no comments about the condition of the pilots, but says the flight attendants are unable to contact the cockpit. Later in the conversation, she says she doesn’t think the original pilot is in control of the plane, because they are flying “all over the place.” [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11-12]
Sweeney Gives Seat Numbers of Hijackers - Sweeney apparently believes there are only three hijackers on Flight 11. She tells Woodward that the people who hijacked her plane were in seats 9D, 9G, and 10B. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14] However, apart from seat 10B, these are different seats to those assigned to the hijackers on the tickets they purchased. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2] Sweeney tells Woodward that the hijackers are of Middle Eastern descent. She says one of them spoke excellent English and another spoke very little English. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file]
Doctor or Nurse Requested - Woodward will say, when he is first questioned by the FBI about Sweeney’s call, that Sweeney tells him that a doctor and nurse are caring for the passenger who had his throat slashed. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6] But Ong, who is on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), says there are no doctors on Flight 11 (see 8:36 a.m.-8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file] However, in a second interview with the FBI and in his interview with the 9/11 Commission, Woodward will say only that a doctor or nurse has been paged.
Woodward Gives Contradictory Accounts of Type of Phone Used - Woodward hears no noise in the background during his conversation with Sweeney. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file] The information Sweeney provides about the hijacking has been given to her by Sara Low, a flight attendant who was assigned to the front of Flight 11 and so would have witnessed the hijacking when it happened. [Boston Herald, 12/15/2008; Associated Press, 3/5/2009] In interviews with the FBI, Woodward will say that Sweeney makes the call using an Airfone, or that he is unsure whether she uses an Airfone or a cell phone. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2] But he will tell the 9/11 Commission that she makes the call on a cell phone. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file] However, the FBI will state that Sweeney is using an Airfone. [9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4; New York Observer, 6/20/2004; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/11/2011] There is no tape machine in the flight services office, and so her call is not recorded. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; New York Observer, 6/20/2004]
Airline Contacted about Call - At 8:40 a.m., one of Woodward’s colleagues in the flight services office calls the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, and passes on to it the information that Sweeney is providing to Woodward (see 8:40 a.m.-8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sweeney’s call ends after 12 or 13 minutes (see (8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11, 14; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, James W. Sayer, Michael Woodward, Sara Low, Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground that a passenger on her plane has been stabbed and may be dead. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] Ong is on the phone with three members of staff at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453]
Ong Names Passenger Who May Have Been 'Fatally Wounded' - One of them, Nydia Gonzalez, asks Ong if the first class section of her plane was full when the flight was hijacked. She then asks, “Do we know how the passengers up there [in first class] are doing, if any of the passengers got hurt?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] When she first reached the reservations office, Ong mentioned that somebody had been “stabbed in business class,” but gave no further details about the stabbing (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8] Now, Gonzalez will later recall, Ong says she has been “informed by other flight attendants that a passenger by the name of Daniel Lewin may have been fatally wounded” (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] This is “the first indication” that authorities on the ground receive “of a fatality on board” Flight 11, according to the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] Gonzalez asks, “One of our passengers is?” She then checks with Ong, “So just, you know of just one [passenger] that got stabbed?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]
Gonzalez Passes on News of Fatality to Airline Operations Center - Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas, on another phone line (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17-18] She immediately passes on the new information. Gonzalez tells Marquis: “They think they might have a fatality on the flight. One of our passengers, possibly on [seat] 9B, Levin or Lewin, might have been fatally stabbed.” She says, “I was just asking about how [the] first class passengers were doing, and [Ong] mentioned that there might be one that they think might be fatally stabbed.” Gonzalez then returns to her conversation with Ong (see 8:35 a.m.-8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12]

Entity Tags: Daniel Lewin, Craig Marquis, American Airlines, Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ray Scott, a manager at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, joins a phone call that his office has received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 64-65] Since 8:18 a.m., Ong has been on the phone with employees at the reservations office and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] Scott was alerted to this, being told that an employee at the reservations office was handling an emergency phone call concerned with a hijacking. He went to the desk of reservation agent Vanessa Minter, one of the employees participating in the call, and now takes her place on the call.
Scott Listens but Does Not Say Anything - After joining the call, Scott does not say anything to Ong. Instead, he just listens while Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, does the talking. Minter remains with Scott after he takes her place on the call. Scott will stay on the call with Ong until it ends.
Scott Delayed before Joining Call - Minter will later recall that there was a delay before Scott was able to take over from her. She will say that after he arrived at her desk, she gave Scott her headset. However, he was unable to use it as it has an earpiece that was custom-made for Minter. Scott therefore had to go away and get his own headset, and is only able to join the call with Ong after returning to Minter’s desk with it.
Accounts Conflict over When Scott Joins Call - The time at which Scott joins the call with Ong is unclear. Minter will estimate that she participates in the call for over 20 minutes before Scott takes over from her. This would mean Scott joins it sometime after 8:38 a.m. But Scott will estimate that he listens to about the last 10 minutes of the conversation with Ong. Since the call ends at around 8:44 a.m. or 8:45 a.m. (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), this would mean he joins it at around 8:34 a.m., or shortly after. Scott will also say that he is listening to the call when Ong says a passenger who was in seat 10B is now in the cockpit. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 64-65] This would mean he is already participating in the call by 8:35 a.m., when Ong provides this information (see 8:35 a.m.-8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12]

Entity Tags: Vanessa Minter, Nydia Gonzalez, Ray C. Scott, Betty Ong

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground the name and seat number of a hijacker who is in the cockpit of her plane and is likely responsible for stabbing a passenger. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] Ong has, since 8:18 a.m., been on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] She previously provided the seat numbers of two hijackers who, she said, were in the cockpit (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). She now gives details of a third hijacker who she also says is in the cockpit.
Ong Says Hijacker 'Tom Sukani' Is in the Cockpit - Nydia Gonzalez, one of the reservations office employees talking with Ong, asks about this hijacker. She says to Ong, “He’s the one that’s in the, he’s in the cockpit,” and then asks: “You said ‘Tom Sukani?‘… And he was in [seat] 10B.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] “Tom Sukani” is presumably Satam Al Suqami, and either Ong has mispronounced his name or Gonzalez has misheard it. Al Suqami was assigned to seat 10B. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6] Gonzalez continues, saying, “Okay, so he’s one of the persons that are in the cockpit.” She then asks Ong, “And as far as weapons, all they have are just knives?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12]
Gonzalez Relays Hijacker's Details to Operations Center - Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas, on another phone line (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17-18] She now passes on Ong’s latest information. She tells Marquis, “Apparently, one of the passengers that’s in the cockpit: the name that they got was Tom Al Zukani and he was in [seat] 10B, not 9A and B as they previously stated.”
Ong Gives Details of Stabbed Passenger - Gonzalez then asks Ong about the details of a passenger who was stabbed. Ong previously mentioned that Daniel Lewin had been stabbed and may have died (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] Lewin had been seated directly in front of Al Suqami, and so, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Al Suqami was “probably” the hijacker who stabbed him (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] After checking Lewin’s details, Gonzalez passes on the information to Marquis, albeit stating Lewin’s first name incorrectly. She tells Marquis, “Okay, and the passenger that got hurt was [in seat] 9B, David Lewin.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]
Marquis Thinks Hijacker Has a Swiss Army Knife - Presumably referring to this latest information from Ong, Marquis will later tell the FBI that when he learns that Al Suqami is armed with a knife, he thinks “that the knife might have been a Swiss Army knife of some sort, because it was not that uncommon for passengers to have these.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51] After receiving the information about Al Suqami being in the cockpit, Marquis initiates procedures to “lockout” Flight 11 (see 8:36 a.m.-8:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12]

Entity Tags: Nydia Gonzalez, American Airlines, Betty Ong, Craig Marquis

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Flight attendants Karen Martin and Barbara Arestegui.Flight attendants Karen Martin and Barbara Arestegui. [Source: Family photos]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground that there are no doctors on her plane who could help the injured crew members, and this information leads an airline manager to decide that he wants Flight 11 to land at the next available airport. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file] Ong is on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8] She previously told them that the “number one” flight attendant on her plane—Karen Martin—and the “number five” flight attendant—Barbara Arestegui—had been stabbed (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6]
Ong Confirms that Stabbed Flight Attendant Is on Oxygen - Nydia Gonzalez, one of the reservations office employees talking to Ong, asks, “So the number one flight attendant—the one that was stabbed—she’s on oxygen right now?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong says that other crew members have been “able to administer oxygen” to Martin and that Martin is “able to breathe,” Gonzalez will later recall. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file] Gonzalez then asks, “And the number five: that was a superficial wound, you were saying?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong says the number five flight attendant’s injury is less serious. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]
Ong Says There Is No Doctor on Flight 11 - While she is on the phone with Ong, Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas, on another phone line (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17-18] Marquis now requests that Gonzalez ask Ong a question. He says to Gonzalez: “Who’s helping them? Is there a doctor on board?” Gonzalez passes on Marquis’s question, asking Ong, “Is there a doctor on board, Betty, that’s assisting you guys?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong indicates that there isn’t a doctor on Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file]
Marquis Wants Flight 11 to Land - Marquis will tell the FBI that because there is “no doctor on board Flight 11 to help the injured,” he wants “the aircraft to land at the next available airport.” Because of “the medical emergencies and the violence” on the plane, Marquis will say, he intends “for medical personnel and law enforcement to meet the aircraft as soon as it landed.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51]

Entity Tags: Nydia Gonzalez, Craig Marquis, Betty Ong, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Nancy Wyatt, a manager at the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston, talks on the phone with an employee at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center, and passes on to them information that is being provided by a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11, but the SOC employee advises Wyatt to keep quiet about the hijacking. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41; 9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14; Rutgers Law Review, 9/7/2011, pp. 14 pdf file] Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, called the flight services office at 8:32 a.m., and has since then been providing details of the trouble on her plane to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan Airport (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11]
Wyatt Passes on Details of Call in Real Time - Wyatt, who, like Woodward, is an American Airlines flight services manager, calls the American Airlines SOC in Fort Worth, Texas, at 8:40 a.m. Her call is answered by Ray Howland. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/15/2001, pp. 2-4; 9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14] During the call, Wyatt is able to pass on information to Howland in real time, because she is standing next to Woodward and so is hearing his side of the conversation with Sweeney, and she is also able to read the notes he is taking, based on what Sweeney tells him. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file]
Wyatt Unclear about Name of Flight Attendant - Wyatt is unclear about the identity of the flight attendant Woodward is talking to. At the start of the call with Howland, she says, “We’ve got the flight attendants on the line here.” A couple of minutes later, she says, “We’ve got… Betty Ong, the purser, on the line.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41] However, Ong is currently on the phone with the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8] Finally, another couple of minutes later and after checking with Woodward, Wyatt tells Howland, “Amy Sweeney is on the phone.”
Wyatt Passes on Hijackers' Seat Numbers - Based on Sweeney’s information, Wyatt says that Flight 11 “is in a rapid descent.” She tells Howland that the hijackers were in seats 9D, 9G, and 10B, and she says one of them “speaks no English.” She also reports, several minutes into the call, that the hijackers are “in the cockpit.” Wyatt tells Howland that two flight attendants, Karen Martin and Barbara Arestegui, have been stabbed. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41] Referring to passenger Daniel Lewin, who was attacked by one of the hijackers (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001), she says: “There is severe bleeding. There is a slashed throat.” She subsequently says, “There is a passenger also injured.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41; WBUR, 9/8/2011]
Airline Wants Information Withheld from Plane's Crew - During the call, Howland tells Wyatt that the SOC wants some information to be withheld from Sweeney and the other crew members on Flight 11. After Wyatt says the flight attendants on Flight 11 “are concerned” because they “don’t know what’s going on in the cockpit,” Howland replies that the SOC is “trying to get in contact with the cockpit,” but then says, “We don’t really want to tell [Sweeney] that.” Wyatt confirms: “Okay, don’t. Okay, okay. Got it.” And when Wyatt later asks: “Do we know where that plane is going to right now?” Howland replies: “We don’t know.… [I]t looks like it’s going to JFK” International Airport in New York, but he then says: “I mean, we don’t really want to give a whole lot of information to that flight. Okay?” Wyatt confirms: “Okay, we’re not. We’re not giving them that information to that flight.”
Airline Employees Told to Keep Quiet about Hijacking - Wyatt and Howland also want American Airlines employees on the ground to keep quiet about the hijacking. At about 8:46 a.m., while she is still on the phone with Howland, Wyatt says to a colleague of hers: “Evelyn, don’t mention this to anyone. Me, you, Beth. Just the five of us. Okay?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41] (“Evelyn” and “Beth” are Evelyn Nunez and Elizabeth Williams, two American Airlines employees at Logan Airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file] ) Near the end of her call with Howland, Wyatt asks, “What do you want us to do as far as just keeping our mouths shut and not… ?” Howland answers simply, “That’s basically it.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41] Wyatt notifies Howland when the call from Sweeney gets disconnected, at around 8:45 a.m. (see (8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14] Her call with Howland ends at 8:48 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4]

Entity Tags: Evelyn Nunez, American Airlines, Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney, Elizabeth D. Williams, Nancy Wyatt, Ray Howland, Michael Woodward

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dianne Snyder.Dianne Snyder. [Source: Family photo]Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells an American Airlines manager at Logan International Airport in Boston that the passengers in the coach section of her plane believe there is simply a routine medical emergency at the front of their plane. [ABC News, 7/18/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6] Sweeney, who is sitting at the back of the coach section of Flight 11, phoned the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport at 8:32 a.m. Since then, she has been describing the trouble on her plane to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Observer, 2/15/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11] Sweeney now tells Woodward that the passengers in the coach section are calm, and under the impression that there is a routine medical emergency in the first class section of the plane. Presumably this means they are unaware that their plane has been hijacked. Sweeney says three flight attendants—Jeffrey Collman, Sara Low, and Dianne Snyder—are attending to duties, such as getting medical supplies, while she and Betty Ong are reporting events over the phone. [ABC News, 7/18/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14] (Ong is another flight attendant, who is sitting next to Sweeney and is talking on the phone with the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8, 11] )

Entity Tags: Michael Woodward, Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA hears that a passenger on Flight 11 has been shot. The operations center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, receives the information over a conference call with the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (ROC). Further details, such as where the ROC got this information from, are unstated. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002] The passenger being referred to who was allegedly shot is presumably Daniel Lewin, a 31-year-old Internet entrepreneur who was seated in the business class section of Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8; Slate, 9/11/2015] At 9:20 a.m., Janet Riffe, the FAA’s principal security inspector assigned to American Airlines, will reportedly talk to Suzanne Clark, a manager for corporate security at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, and be told that the passenger in seat 9B on Flight 11 was shot by the passenger in seat 10B (see 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file] 9B is Lewin’s seat and 10B is the seat of alleged hijacker Satam Al Suqami. [Tablet, 9/11/2013] An FAA memo written this evening will include the same information, stating that “a passenger located in seat 10B shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B.” [United Press International, 3/6/2002] However, FAA and FBI officials will later say the report of there being a gun on Flight 11 was a mistake, and the 9/11 Commission will determine that a shooting on Flight 11 was unlikely to have occurred. Officials will say Lewin was probably killed with a knife. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 452-453] Most evidence will indicate he had his throat slashed by Al Suqami, apparently at around 8:14 a.m. when the hijackers took over Flight 11 (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17; Raskin, 2013, pp. 218]

Entity Tags: Satam Al Suqami, Federal Aviation Administration, Daniel Lewin

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash.The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash. [Source: Reuters]Flight 11 slams into the WTC North Tower (Building 1). Hijackers Mohamed Atta Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Satam Al Suqami presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. Seismic records pinpoint the crash at 26 seconds after 8:46 a.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; USA Today, 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; New York Times, 5/26/2002; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002] The NIST report states the crash time to be 8:46:30. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 19] The 9/11 Commission Report states the crash time to be 8:46:40. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7] Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 5/26/2002] The plane strikes the 93rd through 99th floors in the 110-story building. No one above the crash line survives; approximately 1,360 people die. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full at the time of the attack, with between 5,000 to 7,000 people in each tower. This number is lower than expected. Many office workers have not yet shown up to work, and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 A.M. have yet to arrive. [USA Today, 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 20-22] The impact severs some columns on the north side of the North Tower. Each tower is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which weighs 283,600 lb and is traveling at an estimated speed of around 430 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 35 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another two. The damage to the South Tower’s perimeter will be similar (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 20, 22] The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so this damage reduces its ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.5 percent. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 6] The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may have damaged the core even after crashing through the exterior wall. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): “Moving at 500 mph, an engine broke any exterior column it hit. If the engine missed the floor slab, the majority of the engine core remained intact and had enough residual momentum to sever a core column upon direct impact.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 107] According to NIST’s base case computer model, three of the core columns are severed and another ten suffer some damage. [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. 189 pdf file] If this is accurate, it means that the impact damage to the core reduces the Tower’s strength by another approximately 7.5 percent, meaning that the building loses about 15 percent of its strength in total. This damage will be cited after 9/11 by NIST and others researchers as an event contributing to the building’s collapse (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged. The original fireproofing on the fire floors was mostly Blazeshield DC/F, but some of the fireproofing on the flooring has recently been upgraded to Blazeshield II, which is about 20 percent denser and 20 percent more adhesive. [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 pdf file] Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but NIST will estimate the damage to it using a computer model. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 43 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 60,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about one and a half floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 23] According to NIST, more fireproofing is stripped from the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Satam Al Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, World Trade Center, Wail Alshehri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Janet Riffe.Janet Riffe. [Source: FAA]Janet Riffe, the FAA’s principal security inspector for American Airlines, reportedly talks over the phone with Suzanne Clark, a manager of corporate security at American Airlines, and is told that a passenger on Flight 11 was shot dead by another passenger. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003] Riffe went to the aviation command center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, after being alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 by a colleague sometime between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., she will later recall. Since then, she has been making notes about the calls she has received providing information about the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004]
Airline Manager Says a Hijacker Shot a Passenger - She now calls the American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, for a status update and talks to Clark. [General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002] Clark is not her usual point of contact at the headquarters. She usually talks to Chris Bidwell, another manager of corporate security, but he is currently out of his office. After Riffe tries unsuccessfully to reach him, her call is passed on to Clark. [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003 pdf file] During the call, Clark tells her about the alleged shooting on Flight 11. She says one of the plane’s flight attendants contacted the American Airlines System Operations Control center and reported that the passenger in seat 9B had been shot and killed by the passenger in seat 10B. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] 9B is the seat of Daniel Lewin, a 31-year-old Internet entrepreneur, and 10B is the seat of alleged hijacker Satam Al Suqami. [Tablet, 9/11/2013; Slate, 9/11/2015] Just one bullet was fired, Clark says. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] She also says the plane is heading back to JFK International Airport in New York. This is the only conversation between the two women today, according to Riffe. [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004]
Alleged Shooting Will Be Mentioned in an FAA Memo - After the call ends, Riffe will fill out an event sheet, describing what was said. The event sheet will subsequently be seen by Riffe’s manager, Fran Lozito, who in turn will show it to Lee Longmire, the director of civil aviation security operations at the FAA. The details in it will later be entered into a log and the information in the log will be included in a memo that the FAA prepares this evening (see 5:13 p.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 5/11/2004]
Airline Manager Will Claim the Call Likely Never Occurred - Riffe will confirm to the 9/11 Commission that a conversation in which Clark told her about a shooting on Flight 11 took place. [9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file] Clark, though, will dispute this, claiming that the conversation probably never occurred. She will tell the 9/11 Commission that she “doesn’t remember talking to Janet Riffe” today. But “if the conversation ever took place,” she will comment, “[i]t was brief” and she “can’t remember what she said.” Furthermore, she will claim she only learned the names and seat numbers of the Flight 11 hijackers on the day after 9/11, and she doesn’t recall receiving any information about the weapons or tactics used on the hijacked flights, thereby implying she would have been unable to provide the information she was supposed to have given to Riffe. [9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003 pdf file] But Steve Jenkins, the FAA’s principal security inspector for United Airlines who is with Riffe in the aviation command center today, will corroborate Riffe’s account. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that he recalls Riffe commenting “on a report she said she received from American’s corporate offices about a gun being used on Flight 11, just after she received the report.” [9/11 Commission, 2/24/2004 pdf file]
Officials Will Dismiss the Claim of a Shooting - Other people besides Riffe have been told about a shooting on Flight 11. At 8:44 a.m., the operations center at FAA headquarters was told that a passenger on the plane had been shot over a conference call with the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002] However, FAA and FBI officials will say the report of a gun on Flight 11 was a mistake, and the 9/11 Commission will determine that a shooting on Flight 11 was unlikely to have occurred. Officials will say Lewin was probably killed with a knife. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 452-453] Most evidence will indicate he had his throat slashed by Al Suqami, apparently at around 8:14 a.m. when the hijackers took over Flight 11 (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17; Raskin, 2013, pp. 218]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Chris Bidwell, Daniel Lewin, Suzanne Clark, Janet Riffe, Satam Al Suqami, Federal Aviation Administration, Steve Jenkins

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Tom Burnett.
Tom Burnett. [Source: Family photo]Tom Burnett, a passenger on Flight 93, calls his wife Deena Burnett at their home in San Ramon, California. [Longman, 2002, pp. 106-107] She looks at the caller ID and recognizes the number as being that of his cell phone. She asks him if he is OK, and he replies: “No, I’m not. I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked.” He says, “They just knifed a guy,” and adds that this person was a passenger. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 61] (According to journalist and author Jere Longman, this would likely have been Mark Rothenberg in seat 5B; Burnett was assigned seat 4B. Rothenberg is the only first class passenger who does not make a call from the flight. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] ) Deena asks, “Are you in the air?” She later recalls, “I didn’t understand how he could be calling me on his cell phone from the air.” According to Deena Burnett, Tom continues: “Yes, yes, just listen. Our airplane has been hijacked. It’s United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. We are in the air. The hijackers have already knifed a guy. One of them has a gun. They’re telling us there’s a bomb on board. Please call the authorities.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 61] (However, the 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the hijackers did not possess a gun, as Tom Burnett apparently claims here (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13] ) At the end of the call, which lasts just seconds, Tom says he will call back and then hangs up. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 62] Deena does not have time to tell him about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002] But she writes down everything he tells her. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 62] She notes the call having occurred at 9:27 a.m. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] Yet, the 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the hijacker takeover of Flight 93 does not occur until a minute later, at 9:28 (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38] Deena later wonders if her husband made this call before the hijackers took control of the cockpit, as he’d spoken quietly and quickly, as if he were being watched. He has an ear bud and a mouthpiece attached to a cord that hangs over his shoulder, which may have enabled him to use his phone surreptitiously. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] According to Deena Burnett’s account, this is the first of four calls Tom makes to her from Flight 93, all or most of which he makes using his cell phone. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 75] However, a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussoui trial will state that Burnett makes only three calls from the plane; uses an Airfone, not his cell phone; and makes his frst call at 9:30, not 9:27 (see 9:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 9-10 pdf file] This is the first of over 30 phone calls made by passengers from Flight 93. [MSNBC, 7/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Mark Rothenberg, Deena Burnett, Tom Burnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Cathal Flynn.Cathal Flynn. [Source: PBS]An Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) employee tells journalist Seymour Hersh that the 9/11 hijackings were accomplished with guns put on the planes by airport employees. Hersh then calls Rear Admiral Cathal Flynn, associate administrator of security at the Federal Aviation Administration, and tells him, “The guns were put onto the plane by the ramp workers.” When Flynn argues that there are no reports of this, Hersh replies, “Those ramp workers aren’t even checked,” and insists, “There were pistols and they were put onto the plane by the ramp workers.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 47-8] Although there are some reports of guns being used on the hijacked flights (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), the 9/11 Commission, for example, will not say that guns were used by the hijackers. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Cathal Flynn

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An internal FAA memorandum is written, which mentions that Daniel Lewin, a passenger on Flight 11, was shot dead by hijacker Satam Al Suqami, but various agencies and investigations will later determine that the alleged shooting never happened. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17] The memo, titled “Executive Summary,” is prepared by civil aviation security personnel officials in the aviation command center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, and intended for distribution to the office of FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. It is based on information received in the command center from numerous sources throughout the day that was recorded in an official log. [USA Today, 2/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file] The details of the alleged shooting on Flight 11 come from information entered into the log based on notes made by Janet Riffe, the FAA’s principal security inspector for American Airlines, in which she described a phone conversation she had this morning with Suzanne Clark, a manager of corporate security at American Airlines (see 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file]
Memo States that a Flight Attendant Reported a Shooting - The memo states that it is “a summary of the events which have occurred” today and includes brief descriptions of the four hijackings that took place this morning. In its description of the hijacking of Flight 11, it states that at 9:20 a.m., Riffe “was notified by Suzanne Clark of American Airlines corporate headquarters that an onboard flight attendant contacted American Airlines operations center and informed that a passenger located in seat 10B shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B.” The memo names Lewin as the passenger who was killed and Al Suqami as the passenger who shot him. Just one bullet was reported to have been fired, it states. It also states incorrectly that Flight 11 crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center at 9:25 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] (Flight 11 actually crashed into the North Tower of the WTC at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7] )
Agencies Will Dismiss the Allegation of a Shooting - Various agencies and investigations will determine that the reported shooting on Flight 11 never occurred. After the memo is leaked to the press in 2002, FAA and FBI officials will say the report of a gun on the plane was a mistake. The FAA will say the memo is just a “first draft” and the final draft omits any claim of a gun being fired. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown will say the mistaken information was due to “a miscommunication” and add that the memo “was corrected that very evening.” [USA Today, 2/27/2002; Washington Post, 3/2/2002; United Press International, 3/6/2002]
GAO Will Find No Corroboration for the Allegation - The General Accounting Office (GAO) will conduct a comprehensive investigation of the alleged shooting in which it interviews FAA personnel and senior managers, and American Airlines personnel. Based on these interviews, it will subsequently state, “American Airlines personnel deny ever reporting a shooting on any of the hijacked flights on September 11, 2001.” The GAO will conclude that “there is no information to corroborate a shooting on American Airlines Flight 11.” [General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002]
Accounts of Calls from Flight 11 Will Not Support the Allegation - The 9/11 Commission will subsequently also investigate whether there was a shooting on Flight 11 and determine, “The evidence derived from eyewitness accounts of the events that unfolded on [Flight 11] does not support a conclusion that a shooting on the flight is likely to have occurred.” [9/11 Commission, 2003] In explaining how it reached its conclusion, the Commission will point out that “authoritative information about whether a shooting occurred on Flight 11 could have come only from individuals on the aircraft who were reporting events to contacts on the ground.” It will note that two flight attendants on Flight 11—Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney—“placed calls to ground contacts to report what was happening on the aircraft.” But, it will state, in none of the tape recordings of these calls and accounts of witnesses to them “is the presence of a gun or the occurrence of a shooting reported.” In contrast, witnesses to the calls stated that the two flight attendants were “quite specific about the presence of knives, and the stabbing or slashing of two crew members and a passenger.” Furthermore, the victim of the alleged shooting is said in the memo to have been in seat 9B, which was the same seat that “according to several of the witness accounts from the aircraft, was assigned to the passenger who was stabbed.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17] (9B was Lewin’s seat. [Tablet, 9/11/2013] )
FAA and the FBI Will Find No Evidence of a Gun on Flight 11 - Additionally, the Commission will state that the “FAA has no information which confirms the presence of a gun on… Flight 11” and the FBI has similarly advised that it has “no evidence of a gun being used onboard the aircraft.” [9/11 Commission, 2003] The Commission will point out that “while investigators have uncovered evidence of numerous knife purchases by the 19 hijackers leading up to September 11, 2001, there was no evidence that they purchased or possessed firearms.” Furthermore, while the four hijacking teams generally used similar tactics, “No evidence has been uncovered to suggest that the hijackers on any of the other flights [besides Flight 11] used firearms.” The Commission will comment that it “seems unlikely that one of the teams would depart from the tactical discipline of the plotters’ mutual strategy.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 17]
American Airlines Manager Will Deny that a Shooting Occurred - The Commission will state that in interviews it conducted, while Riffe said the information in the memo was accurate, Clark denied having reported a shooting. The Commission will also mention that around the time the memo was written, someone in the aviation command center contacted American Airlines to verify the account of a shooting and was informed that it was incorrect. American Airlines “reported that it had no information about anyone being shot,” the Commission will state. [9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003 pdf file] Most evidence will indicate that, rather than being shot, Lewin had his throat slashed by Al Suqami (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17; Raskin, 2013, pp. 218] However, one other incident supports the allegation in the memo of a shooting on Flight 11. At 8:44 a.m., the operations center at FAA headquarters was told that a passenger on the plane had been shot over a conference call with the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Daniel Lewin, American Airlines, 9/11 Commission, Satam Al Suqami, Suzanne Clark, Janet Riffe, Federal Bureau of Investigation, General Accounting Office, Laura Brown, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker, a few days after 9/11 members of the elite Israeli counterterrorism unit Sayeret Matkal arrive in the US and begin training with US Special Forces in a secret location. The two groups are developing contingency plans to attack Pakistan’s military bases and remove its nuclear weapons if the Pakistani government or the nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands. [New Yorker, 10/29/2001] There may have been threats to enact this plan on September 13, 2001. The Japan Times later notes that this “threat to divest Pakistan of its ‘crown jewels’ was cleverly used by the US, first to force [Pakistani President] Musharraf to support its military campaign in Afghanistan, and then to warn would-be coup plotters against Musharraf.” [Japan Times, 11/10/2001]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan, Sayeret Matkal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Jordanian Islamist militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi flees Afghanistan (see Early 2000-December 2001) and heads to Iran where he continues to run his militant group, al-Tawhid. He uses telephones and a network of couriers to maintain contact with operatives in Europe. By April 2002, he still is based in Iran and has little to no ties to Iraq. But some time in mid-2002, he unites with Ansar al-Islam, an Islamist group based in a part of northern Iraq controlled by Kurdish rebels and opposed to Saddam Hussein (see Mid-2002). He reportedly moves his base of operations there and establishes an explosive training center camp there as well. [Independent, 2/6/2003; Newsweek, 6/25/2003] In an effort to justify military action against Iraq, the Bush administration will later claim that Saddam Hussein is aware of al-Zarqawi’s presence in Baghdad and therefore is guilty of knowingly harboring a terrorist (see September 26, 2002). The administration will also allege—falsely—that al-Zarqawi is a senior al-Qaeda agent and that his visit is evidence that Saddam’s regime has ties to Osama bin Laden. [Guardian, 10/9/2002; Independent, 2/6/2003; Newsweek, 6/25/2003 Sources: Shadi Abdallah] But the administration never offers any conclusive evidence to support this allegation. The claim is disputed by intelligence analysts in both Washington and London. [Daily Telegraph, 2/4/2003]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

It is reported that in the wake of 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft has prevented the FBI from investigating gun-purchase records to discover if any of the hundreds arrested or suspected since 9/11 had bought any guns. The White House supports him, saying they have no intention of changing the law to clarify the FBI’s ability to search gun-purchase records. [CNN, 12/6/2001; New York Times, 12/6/2001] A spokesman for The International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest group of law enforcement executives in the US, says, “This is absurd and unconscionable. The decision has no rational basis in public safety. It sounds to me like it was made for narrow political reasons based on a right-to-bear-arms mentality.” [New York Times, 12/6/2001] There were reports that the 9/11 hijackers on at least Flight 11 and Flight 93 used guns in the hijacking (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Federal Bureau of Investigation, International Association of Chiefs of Police

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Shadi Abdellah.Shadi Abdellah. [Source: Associated Press]In April 2002, Shadi Abdellah, a militant connected to the al-Tawhid group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is arrested by German police. Abdellah also briefly worked as one of bin Laden’s bodyguards (see Early 2001). He begins cooperating with German authorities. He reveals that al-Zarqawi is not a part of al-Qaeda but is actually the founder of al-Tawhid, which he says works “in opposition” to al-Qaeda (see 1989-Late 1999). The aim of the group is to kill Jews and install an Islamic regime in Jordan. The group is not really interested in the US, and this is the key ideological difference between it and al-Qaeda. Abdallah recounts one instance where al-Zarqawi vetoed a proposal to share charity funds collected in Germany with al-Qaeda. According to Abdallah, al-Zarqawi’s organization had also “competed” with al-Qaeda for new recruits. He also reveals that al-Zarqawi’s religious mentor is Abu Qatada, an imam openly living in Britain. [Independent, 2/6/2003; Newsweek, 6/25/2003; Bergen, 2006, pp. 356-358] A German intelligence report compiled in April 2002 based on Abdellah’s confessions further states that “Al-Zarqawi mentioned to Abdellah that the possibility of a merger conflicted with the religious orientation of [Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid (a.k.a. Abu Hafs the Mauritanian)] who was responsible within al-Qaeda for religious or Islamic matters, which contradicted the teachings practices by al-Zarqawi.” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 359-422] Newsweek will later report that “several US officials” claim “they were aware all along of the German information about al-Zarqawi.” [Independent, 2/6/2003] Nonetheless, Bush will claim in a televised speech on October 7, 2002 (see October 7, 2002) that a “very senior al-Qaeda leader… received medical treatment in Baghdad this year,” a reference to al-Zarqawi. And Colin Powell will similarly state on February 5, 2003 (see February 5, 2003) that “Iraq is harboring the network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda lieutenants.” Both statements are made even though “US intelligence already had concluded that al-Zarqawi was not an al-Qaeda member…” [BBC, 2/5/2003; US Department of State, 2/5/2003; Washington Post, 6/22/2003 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence sources]

Entity Tags: Shadi Abdellah, Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Abu Qatada, Al-Tawhid

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

An aerial photo of the Khurmal training camp, actually in the nearby village of Sargat. This image was shown during Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN on February 5, 2003.An aerial photo of the Khurmal training camp, actually in the nearby village of Sargat. This image was shown during Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN on February 5, 2003. [Source: Public domain, via National Security Archive]US intelligence determines that Islamist militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has recently moved to a part of northern Iraq controlled by Kurdish rebels, and his militant group has set up a chemical weapons lab there. The lab, located near the town of Khurmal, allegedly produces ricin and cyanide. [MSNBC, 3/2/2004] By early 2002, al-Zarqawi had been identified as a significant terrorist target, based on intelligence that he ran an important training camp in Afghanistan (see Early 2000-December 2001) and had already unsuccessfully attempted plots against Israeli and European targets. CIA intelligence indicates al-Zarqawi is in the camp, along with many al-Qaeda fighters who had recently fled from US air strikes in Afghanistan. Additionally, there are preparations and training in the camp for new attacks on Western interests. [Wall Street Journal, 10/25/2004] The US military draws up plans to attack the site with cruise missiles, and the plans are sent to the White House. However, NBC News will later report that, “according to US government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.” [MSNBC, 3/2/2004] Officials involved in the planning expect a swift decision, but are surprised when weeks go by without any response from the White House. Finally, information is somehow leaked to the media in Turkey that the US is considering targeting the camp, and intelligence shows that al-Zarqawi and his group flee the camp soon thereafter. [Wall Street Journal, 10/25/2004]

Entity Tags: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, US Military, White House, National Security Council

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

The area controlled by Ansar al-Islam in 2002 is marked in orange. Two of the group’s camps, Sargat and Biyara, are both near the town of Khurmal.  The area controlled by Ansar al-Islam in 2002 is marked in orange. Two of the group’s camps, Sargat and Biyara, are both near the town of Khurmal. [Source: Adam Weiskind / Christian Science Monitor (slightly modified)]Beginning in early 2002, some Islamist militants fleeing from the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan settle in parts of Iraq controlled by Kurdish rebels. According to an informant, around the middle of 2002, militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi holds a meeting somewhere in Iraq with Mullah Krekar, head of the Ansar al-Islam militant group. This group controls a very small region of Kurdish Iraq near the Iranian border. Krekar and al-Zarqawi agree to work closely together, and they plan to equip some militants to carry out attacks against US targets in Jordan and in Iraq once the US invades Iraq. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 362] Al-Zarqawi moves to the area controlled by Ansar al-Islam a short time later (see December 2001-Mid-2002).

Entity Tags: Ansar al-Islam, Mullah Krekar, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

A wanted poster for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted by the US military in Iraq.A wanted poster for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted by the US military in Iraq. [Source: US Department of Defense]Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claims the US government has “bulletproof” confirmation of ties between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda members, including “solid evidence” that al-Qaeda maintains a presence in Iraq. The allegation refers to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian who is the founder of al-Tawhid, an organization whose aim is to kill Jews and install an Islamic regime in Jordan (see December 2001-Mid-2002). Rumsfeld’s statement is based on intercepted telephone calls in which al-Zarqawi was overheard calling friends or relatives. But Knight Ridder Newspapers reports that, according to US intelligence officials, “The intercepts provide no evidence that the suspected terrorist was working with the Iraqi regime or that he was working on a terrorist operation while he was in Iraq.” [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2002] Two years later, Rumsfeld will back away from his allegation after it is disproven (see October 4, 2004).

Entity Tags: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Map showing ranges of suspected Iraqi Scud missiles.Map showing ranges of suspected Iraqi Scud missiles. [Source: CIA]Jane’s Foreign Report reveals that Israeli forces have been operating within Iraq. Citing Israeli sources, it reports that the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit was dispatched into Iraqi sovereign territory “to find and identify places used by, or likely to be used by, Iraqi Scud missile launchers.” The newsletter explains, “Our information is that neither Israel nor the United States have a clue about what, if anything, Saddam Hussein is hiding,” and that “It was this ignorance that persuaded the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to assign the Sayeret Matkal to a job that is sensitive and dangerous.” [Ha'aretz, 9/29/2002; Jerusalem Post, 9/29/2002; USA Today, 11/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Sayeret Matkal, Ariel Sharon

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Fallujah II chemical plant.Fallujah II chemical plant. [Source: CIA]In a televised speech, President Bush presents the administration’s case that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a threat to the security of the nation and insists that regime change would improve lifes for Iraqis. “Some worry that a change of leadership in Iraq could create instability and make the situation worse. The situation could hardly get worse, for world security and for the people of Iraq. The lives of Iraqi citizens would improve dramatically if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power, just as the lives of Afghanistan’s citizens improved after the Taliban.” The speech is widely criticized for including false and exaggerated statements.
Iraq has attempted to purchase equipment used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons - Bush claims that a shipment of 3,000 aluminum tubes to Iraq, which were intercepted in Jordan by US authorities in July of 2001 (see July 2001), had been destined for use in a uranium enrichment program. But by this time numerous experts and government scientists have already warned the administration against making this allegation. [US President, 10/14/2002] Three weeks before Bush’s speech, The Washington Post ran a story on the aluminum tubes. The article summarized a study by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), disputing the administration’s claim that the tubes were to be used for gas centrifuges. The report was authored by the institute’s president and founder, David Albright, a respected nuclear physicist, who had investigated Iraq’s nuclear weapons program after the First Gulf War as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection team and who has spoken before Congress on numerous occasions. In his study, he concluded that Iraq’s attempts to import the tubes “are not evidence that Iraq is in possession of, or close to possessing, nuclear weapons” and “do not provide evidence that Iraq has an operating centrifuge plant or when such a plant could be operational.” [Washington Post, 9/19/2002; Guardian, 10/9/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002; Albright, 10/9/2003] Soon after the speech, Albright tells The Guardian newspaper that there is still no evidence to substantiate that interpretation. As one unnamed specialist at the US Department of Energy explains to the newspaper, “I would just say there is not much support for that [nuclear] theory around here.” [Guardian, 10/9/2002] The Washington Post article also reported that government experts on nuclear technology who disagreed with the White House view had told Albright that the administration expected them to remain silent. [Washington Post, 9/19/2002; Independent, 9/22/2002] Houston G. Wood III, a retired Oak Ridge physicist considered to be “among the most eminent living experts” on gas centrifuges reviewed the tube question in August 2001 (see 1950s) and concluded at that time that it was very unlikely that the tubes had been imported to be used for centrifuges in a uranium enrichment program. He later tells The Washington Post in mid-2003 that “it would have been extremely difficult to make these tubes into centrifuges,” adding that it stretched “the imagination to come up with a way.” He also says that other centrifuge experts whom he knew shared his assessment of the tubes. [Washington Post, 8/10/2003] In addition to the several outside experts who criticized the tubes allegation, analysts within the US intelligence community also doubted the claim. Less than a week before Bush’s speech, the Energy Department and the State Department’s intelligence branch, the INR, had appended a statement to a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq disputing the theory (see October 1, 2002). [Central Intelligence Agency, 10/1/2002 Sources: David Albright]
Saddam Hussein ordered his nuclear program to continue in 1998 - Bush says that US intelligence has information that Saddam Hussein ordered his nuclear program to continue after inspectors left in 1998. “Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities, including three uranium enrichment sites,” Bush charges. “That same year, information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer who had defected revealed that despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program to continue.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002; US President, 10/14/2002] But Bush’s “high-ranking” source turns out to be Khidir Hamza, who is considered by many to be an unreliable source. Albright, who was president of the Institute for Science and International Security where Hamza worked as an analyst from 1997 to 1999, says that after Hamza defected, “he went off the edge [and] started saying irresponsible things.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002] And General Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law who was in charge of the dictator’s former weapons program but who defected in 1995, told UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors, as well as US and British intelligence, that Khidir Hamza was “a professional liar.” Kamel explained, “He worked with us, but he was useless and always looking for promotions. He consulted with me but could not deliver anything…. He was even interrogated by a team before he left and was allowed to go.” [United Nations Special Commission, 4/16/1998; New Yorker, 5/12/2003]
Iraq is developing drones that could deploy chemical and biological weapons - The President claims that Iraq is developing drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which “could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.” He goes so far as to say, “We’re concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.” [Guardian, 10/9/2002; US President, 10/14/2002] But this claim comes shortly after US intelligence agencies completed a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, in which Air Force intelligence had disputed the drone allegation (see October 1, 2002). Bush’s drone allegation is quickly derided by experts and other sources. The Guardian of London reports two days later that according to US military experts, “Iraq had been converting eastern European trainer jets, known as L-29s, into drones, but… that with a maximum range of a few hundred miles they were no threat to targets in the US.” [Guardian, 10/9/2002] And the San Francisco Chronicle will cite experts who say that “slow-moving unmanned aerial vehicles would likely be shot down as soon as they crossed Iraq’s borders” because “Iraqi airspace is closely monitored by US and British planes and radar systems.” The report will also note, “It’s also unclear how the vehicles would reach the US mainland—the nearest point is Maine, almost 5, 500 miles away—without being intercepted.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002] Anthony Cordesman, a security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, will say he believes the drone allegation is unrealistic. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he says, “As a guesstimate, Iraq’s present holdings of delivery systems and chemical and biological weapons seem most likely to be so limited in technology and operational lethality that they do not constrain US freedom of action or do much to intimidate Iraq’s neighbors.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002] These criticisms of Bush’s claim are validated after the US invasion of Iraq. Two US government scientists involved in the post-invasion hunt for weapons of mass destruction will tell the Associated Press in August 2003 that they inspected the drones and concluded that they were never a threat to the US. “We just looked at the UAVs and said, ‘There’s nothing here. There’s no room to put anything in here,’” one of the scientists will say. “The US scientists, weapons experts who spoke on condition of anonymity, reached their conclusions after studying the small aircraft and interviewing Iraqi missile experts, system designers and Gen. Ibrahim Hussein Ismail, the Iraqi head of the military facility where the UAVs were designed,” the Associated Press will explain in its report. [Associated Press, 8/24/2003]
Saddam Hussein could give terrorists weapons of mass destruction - Bush asserts, “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.” [US President, 10/14/2002] But not only have numerous experts and inside sources disputed this theory (see July 2002-March 19, 2003), US intelligence’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq—completed just one week before—concluded that this is an unlikely scenario (see October 1, 2002). “Baghdad, for now, appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States,” the document clearly stated. “Should Saddam conclude that a US-led attack could no longer be deterred he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002]
Iraq rebuilding facilities associated with production of biological and chemical weapons - Bush claims that surveillance photos indicate that Iraq “is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons.” [US President, 10/14/2002] On the following day, photos are published on the White House website showing that Iraq had repaired three sites damaged by US bombs—the Al Furat Manufacturing Facility, the Nassr Engineering Establishment Manufacturing Facility, and Fallujah II. [US President, 10/14/2002] But no evidence is provided by the White House demonstrating that these sites have resumed activities related to the production of weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi authorities will give reporters a tour of the facilities on October 10 (see October 10, 2002).
Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases - Bush alleges that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda operatives “in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.” [US President, 10/14/2002] The claim is based on a September 2002 CIA document which had warned that its sources were of “varying reliability” and that the claim had not yet been substantiated (see September 2002). The report’s main source, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operative who offered the information to CIA interrogators while in custody, later recants the claim (see February 14, 2004). A Defense Intelligence Agency report in February 2002 (see February 2002) had also expressed doubt in the claim, going so far as to suggest that al-Libi was “intentionally misleading [his] debriefers.” [CNN, 9/26/2002; New York Times, 7/31/2004; Newsweek, 7/5/2005; New York Times, 11/6/2005] And earlier in the month, US intelligence services had concluded in their National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that this allegation could not be confirmed. [CNN, 9/26/2002; Newsday, 10/10/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12/2002; Washington Post, 6/22/2003]
A very senior al-Qaeda leader received medical treatment in Baghdad - Bush claims: “Some al-Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al-Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks.” The allegation refers to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian who is the founder of al-Tawhid, an organization whose aim is to kill Jews and install an Islamic regime in Jordan. It was first leaked to the press by an anonymous US official several days before Bush’s speech (see October 2, 2002). The allegation is partly based on intercepted telephone calls in which al-Zarqawi was overheard calling friends or relatives (see December 2001-Mid-2002). But on the same day as Bush’s speech, Knight Ridder Newspapers reports that according to US intelligence officials, “The intercepts provide no evidence that the suspected terrorist was working with the Iraqi regime or that he was working on a terrorist operation while he was in Iraq.” [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2002; US President, 10/14/2002] Al-Zarqawi will link with al-Qaeda, but only in 2004, after the start of the war in Iraq (see October 17, 2004).

Entity Tags: Al-Tawhid, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Anthony Cordesman, David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security, Heritage Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, George W. Bush, Hussein Kamel, Houston G. Wood III, Al-Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, International Atomic Energy Agency, US Department of State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, US Department of Energy, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, Taliban, Ibrahim Hussein Ismail, Khidir Hamza

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

US intelligence concludes that Islamist militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is planning to use ricin in attacks on civilians in Europe. Several months earlier, the US had determined the location of his main training camp and chemical weapons lab, located in a part of northern Iraq controlled by Kurdish rebels, and decided against attacking it with cruise missiles (see June 2002). [MSNBC, 3/2/2004] By this time, al-Zarqawi is known to have masterminded the assassination of a senior American diplomat in Jordan the month before. Al-Zarqawi had his group had fled the camp several months before, but new intelligence indicates that he has reoccupied it. At the time, he is using a satellite telephone, and intercepts of his communications show that he is frequently calling from within the camp. [Wall Street Journal, 10/25/2004] In light of the new intelligence, the US military draws up a second attack plan on the camp, but the White House again decides against it. Former National Security Council member Roger Cressey will later claim, “People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists.” [MSNBC, 3/2/2004]

Entity Tags: White House, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Roger Cressey, National Security Council, US Military

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

British police discover a ricin lab allegedly connected to a militant training camp in northern Iraq controlled by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Six suspects are arrested in London. The US has known about the camp and its ties to chemical weapons production for months, and twice the US military has drawn up plans for a strike upon it, and twice the White House has decided against taking action (see June 2002 and November 2002). Based on these new developments in London, the US military draws up a third attack plan against the camp, but again the White House rejects taking action. [MSNBC, 3/2/2004] Communications intercepts indicate that al-Zarqawi is still making calls on his satellite phone from within the camp. [Wall Street Journal, 10/25/2004] Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, deputy commander to Gen. Tommy Franks at Central Command at the time, will later say that the training camp “was so troubling to us. We almost took them out three months before the Iraq war started. We almost took that thing, but we were so concerned that the chemical cloud from there could devastate the region that we chose to take them by land rather than by smart weapons.” [PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006] However, in March 2003 shortly after the Iraq war begins, the camp will actually be hit by air strikes and not the land attack indicated by DeLong (see March 20, 2003). NBC News will later comment, “Military officials insist their case for attacking al-Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the [Bush] administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam [Hussein].” [MSNBC, 3/2/2004] President Bush will secretly decide around early March 2003 not to attack the camp until the US invasion of Iraq is underway later that month (see Early March 2003).

Entity Tags: Michael DeLong, National Security Council, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, US Military, White House

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

Colin Powell and George Tenet, at the UN presentation.Colin Powell and George Tenet, at the UN presentation. [Source: CBS News]US Secretary of State Colin Powell presents the Bush administration’s case against Saddam to the UN Security Council, in advance of an expected vote on a second resolution that the US and Britain hope will provide the justification to use military force against Iraq. [US Department of State, 2/5/2003] At the insistence of Powell, CIA Director George Tenet is seated directly behind him to the right. “It was theater, a device to signal to the world that Powell was relying on the CIA to make his case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” Vanity Fair magazine will later explain. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 371-2; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 232] In his speech before the Council, Powell makes the case that Iraq is in further material breach of past UN resolutions, specifically the most recent one, UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). Sources cited in Powell’s presentation include defectors, informants, communication intercepts, procurement records, photographs, and detainees. [US Department of State, 2/5/2003] Most of the allegations made by Powell are later demonstrated to be false. “The defectors and other sources went unidentified,” the Associated Press will later report. “The audiotapes were uncorroborated, as were the photo interpretations. No other supporting documents were presented. Little was independently verifiable.” [Associated Press, 8/9/2003]
Iraq's December 7 Declaration Was Inaccurate - Powell contends that Iraq’s December 7 declaration was not complete. According to UN Resolution 1441 the document was supposed to be a “currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects” of its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. But Saddam has not done this, says Powell, who explains that Iraq has yet to provide sufficient evidence that it destroyed its previously declared stock of 8,500 liters of anthrax, as it claimed in the declaration. Furthermore, notes the secretary of state, UNSCOM inspectors had previously estimated that Iraq possessed the raw materials to produce as much as 25,000 liters of the virus. [New York Times, 2/5/2003; US Department of State, 2/5/2003; Washington Post, 2/6/2003]
Iraq Has Ties to Al-Qaeda - Powell repeats earlier claims that Saddam Hussein’s government has ties to al-Qaeda. Powell focuses on the cases of the militant Islamic group Ansar-al-Islam and Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian, who had received medical treatment in Baghdad during the summer of 2002 (see December 2001-Mid-2002). [US Department of State, 2/5/2003] However, just days before Powell’s speech, US and British intelligence officials—speaking on condition of anonymity—told the press that the administration’s allegations of Iraqi-al-Qaeda ties were based on information provided by Kurdish groups, who, as enemies of Ansar-al-Islam, should not be considered reliable. Furthermore, these sources unequivocally stated that intelligence analysts on both sides of the Atlantic remained unconvinced of the purported links between Iraq and al-Qaeda (see February 3-4, 2003). [Independent, 2/3/2003; Daily Telegraph, 2/4/2003] Powell also claims that Iraq provided “chemical or biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda associates beginning in December 2000.” The claim is based on a September 2002 CIA document which had warned that its sources were of “varying reliability” and that the claim was not substantiated (see September 2002). The report’s main source, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operative who offered the information to CIA interrogators while in custody, later recounts the claim (see February 14, 2004). [CNN, 9/26/2002; New York Times, 7/31/2004; Newsweek, 7/5/2005] Larry Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff, will later say that neither he nor Powell ever received “any dissent with respect to those lines… indeed the entire section that now we know came from [al-Libi].” [Newsweek, 11/10/2005] Senior US officials will admit to the New York Times and Washington Post after the presentation that the administration was not claiming that Saddam Hussein is “exercising operational control” of al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 2/6/2003; Washington Post, 2/7/2003]
Iraq Has Missiles Capable of Flying Up to 1,200 Kilometers - Describing a photo of the al-Rafah weapons site, Powell says: “As part of this effort, another little piece of evidence, Iraq has built an engine test stand that is larger than anything it has ever had. Notice the dramatic difference in size between the test stand on the left, the old one, and the new one on the right. Note the large exhaust vent. This is where the flame from the engine comes out. The exhaust vent on the right test stand is five times longer than the one on the left. The one of the left is used for short-range missiles. The one on the right is clearly intended for long-range missiles that can fly 1,200 kilometers. This photograph was taken in April of 2002. Since then, the test stand has been finished and a roof has been put over it so it will be harder for satellites to see what’s going on underneath the test stand.” [US Department of State, 2/5/2003; New York Times, 2/5/2003] But according to the Associated Press, “… UN missile experts have reported inspecting al-Rafah at least five times since inspections resumed Nov. 27, have studied the specifications of the new test stand, regularly monitor tests at the installation, and thus far have reported no concerns.” [Associated Press, 2/7/2003] Similarly, Reuters quotes Ali Jassem, an Iraqi official, who explains that the large stand referred to in Powell’s speech is not yet in operation and that its larger size is due to the fact that it will be testing engines horizontally. [Reuters, 2/7/2003; Guardian, 2/15/2003] Several days later, Blix will report to the UN that “so far, the test stand has not been associated with a proscribed activity.” [Guardian, 2/15/2003]
Iraqis Attempted to Hide Evidence from Inspectors - Powell shows the UN Security Council satellite shots depicting what he claims are chemical weapons bunkers and convoys of Iraqi cargo trucks preparing to transport ballistic missile components from a weapons site just two days before the arrival of inspectors. “We saw this kind of housecleaning at close to 30 sites,” Powell explains. “We must ask ourselves: Why would Iraq suddenly move equipment of this nature before inspections if they were anxious to demonstrate what they had or did not have?” [US Department of State, 2/5/2003] But the photos are interpreted differently by others. An unnamed UN official and German UN Inspector Peter Franck both say the trucks in the photos are actually fire engines. [Mercury News (San Jose), 3/18/2003; Agence France-Presse, 6/6/2003]
'Literally Removed the Crust of the Earth' - Another series of photos—taken during the spring and summer of 2002—show that Iraqis have removed a layer of topsoil from the al-Musayyib chemical complex. This piece of evidence, combined with information provided by an unnamed source, leads Powell to draw the following conclusion: “The Iraqis literally removed the crust of the earth from large portions of this site in order to conceal chemical weapons evidence that would be there from years of chemical weapons activity.” [US Department of State, 2/5/2003; Washington Post, 2/6/2003] Showing another series of pictures—one taken on November 10 (before inspections) and one taken on December 22—Powell says that a guard station and decontamination truck were removed prior to the arrival of inspectors. Powell does not explain how he knows that the truck in the photograph was a decontamination truck. [US Department of State, 2/5/2003; Washington Post, 2/6/2003; Washington Post, 2/6/2003] AP reporter Charles Hanley says that some of Powell’s claims that Iraq is hiding evidence are “ridiculous.” Powell says of a missile site, “This photograph was taken in April of 2002. Since then, the test stand has been finished and a roof has been put over it so it will be harder for satellites to see what’s going on underneath the test stand.” Hanley later says, “What he neglected to mention was that the inspectors were underneath, watching what was going on.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Communication Intercepts Demonstrate Iraqi Attempts to Conceal Information from Inspectors - Powell plays recordings of three conversations intercepted by US intelligence—one on November 26, another on January 30, and a third, a “few weeks” before. The conversations suggest that the Iraqis were attempting to hide evidence from inspectors. [New York Times, 2/5/2003; US Department of State, 2/5/2003; London Times, 2/6/2003; Sydney Morning Herald, 2/7/2003] Senior administration officials concede to the Washington Post that it was not known “what military items were discussed in the intercepts.” [Washington Post, 2/13/2003] Some critics argue that the intercepts were presented out of context and open to interpretation. [Sydney Morning Herald, 2/7/2003; Sydney Morning Herald, 2/9/2003] Others note that the conversations were translated from Arabic by US translators and were not analyzed or verified by an independent specialist. [Newsday, 2/6/2003]
Biological Weapons Factories - Colin Powell says that US intelligence has “firsthand descriptions” that Iraq has 18 mobile biological weapons factories mounted on trucks and railroad cars. Information about the mobile weapons labs are based on the testimonies of four sources—a defected Iraqi chemical engineer who claims to have supervised one of these facilities, an Iraqi civil engineer (see December 20, 2001), a source in “a position to know,” and a defected Iraqi major (see February 11, 2002). Powell says that the mobile units are capable of producing enough dry biological agent in a single month to kill several thousand people. He shows computer-generated diagrams and pictures based on the sources’ descriptions of the facilities. Powell says that according to the chemical engineer, during the late 1990s, Iraq’s biological weapons scientists would often begin the production of pathogens on Thursday nights and complete the process on Fridays in order to evade UNSCOM inspectors whom Iraq believed would not conduct inspections on the Muslim holy day. [New York Times, 2/5/2003; US Department of State, 2/5/2003; Washington Post, 2/6/2003; Reuters, 2/11/2003] Powell tells the delegates, “The source was an eyewitness, an Iraqi chemical engineer, who supervised one of these facilities. He actually was present during biological agent production runs. He was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998. Twelve technicians died from exposure to biological agents.” He displays models of the mobile trucks drawn from the source’s statements. [CBS News, 11/4/2007] Responding to the allegation, Iraqi officials will concede that they do in fact have mobile labs, but insist that they are not used for the development of weapons. According to the Iraqis, the mobile labs are used for food analysis for disease outbreaks, mobile field hospitals, a military field bakery, food and medicine refrigeration trucks, a mobile military morgue and mobile ice making trucks. [Guardian, 2/5/2003; ABC News, 5/21/2003] Iraq’s explanation is consistent with earlier assessments of the UN weapons inspectors. Before Powell’s presentation, Hans Blix had dismissed suggestions that the Iraqis were using mobile biological weapons labs, reporting that inspections of two alleged mobile labs had turned up nothing. “Two food-testing trucks have been inspected and nothing has been found,” Blix said. And Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, said, “The outline and characteristics of these trucks that we inspected were all consistent with the declared purposes.” [Guardian, 2/5/2003; ABC News, 5/21/2003]
'Curveball' Primary Source of Claims - Powell’s case is further damaged when it is later learned that one of the sources Powell cited, the Iraqi major, had been earlier judged unreliable by intelligence agents at the Defense Intelligence Agency (see February 11, 2002). In May 2002, the analysts had issued a “fabricator notice” on the informant, noting that he had been “coached by [the] Iraqi National Congress” (INC) (see May 2002). But the main source for the claim had been an Iraqi defector known as “Curveball,” who was initially believed to be the brother of a top aide to Ahmed Chalabi. The source claimed to be a chemical engineer who had helped design and build the mobile labs. His information was passed to Washington through Germany’s intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), which had been introduced to the source by the INC. In passing along the information, the BND noted that there were “various problems with the source.” And only one member of the US intelligence community had actually met with the person—an unnamed Pentagon analyst who determined the man was an alcoholic and of dubious reliability. Yet both the DIA and the CIA validated the information. [Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, 8/22/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/28/2004; Knight Ridder, 4/4/2004; Newsweek, 4/19/2004; Newsweek, 7/19/2004] Powell says that the US has three other intelligence sources besides Curveball for the mobile bioweapons labs. Powell will be infuriated to learn that none of those three sources ever corroborated Curveball’s story, and sometimes their information contradicted each other. One of the three had failed a polygraph test and was determined to have lied to his debriefers. Another had already been declared a fabricator by US intelligence community, and had been proven to have mined his information off the Internet. [Buzzflash (.com), 11/27/2007] In November 2007, Curveball is identified as Rafid Ahmed Alwan. Serious questions about Curveball’s veracity had already been raised by the time of Powell’s UN presentation. He will later be completely discredited (see November 4, 2007).
Further Problems with Mobile Lab Claims - In addition to the inspectors’ assessments and the dubious nature of the sources Powell cited, there are numerous other problems with the mobile factories claim. Raymond Zilinskas, a microbiologist and former UN weapons inspector, argues that significant amounts of pathogens such as anthrax, could not be produced in the short span of time suggested in Powell’s speech. “You normally would require 36 to 48 hours just to do the fermentation…. The short processing time seems suspicious to me.” He also says: “The only reason you would have mobile labs is to avoid inspectors, because everything about them is difficult. We know it is possible to build them—the United States developed mobile production plants, including one designed for an airplane—but it’s a big hassle. That’s why this strikes me as a bit far-fetched.” [Washington Post, 2/6/2003] After Powell’s speech, Blix will say in his March 7 report to the UN that his inspectors found no evidence of mobile weapons labs (see March 7, 2003). [CNN, 3/7/2003; Agence France-Presse, 3/7/2003; CNN, 3/7/2003] Reporter Bob Drogin, author of Curveball: Spies, Lies and the Con Man Who Caused a War, says in 2007, “[B]y the time Colin Powell goes to the UN to make the case for war, he shows the world artists’ conjectures based on analysts’ interpretations and extrapolations of Arabic-to-German-to-English translations of summary debriefing reports of interviews with a manic-depressive defector whom the Americans had never met. [CIA director George] Tenet told Powell that Curveball’s information was ironclad and unassailable. It was a travesty.” [Alternet, 10/22/2007]
'Four Tons' of VX Toxin - Powell also claims that Iraq has “four tons” of VX nerve toxin. “A single drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes,” he says. “Four tons.” Hanley later notes, “He didn’t point out that most of that had already been destroyed. And, on point after point he failed to point out that these facilities about which he was raising such alarm were under repeated inspections good, expert people with very good equipment, and who were leaving behind cameras and other monitoring equipment to keep us a continuing eye on it.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Iraq is Developing Unmanned Drones Capable of Delivering Weapons of Mass Destruction - Powell asserts that Iraq has flight-tested an unmanned drone capable of flying up to 310 miles and is working on a liquid-fueled ballistic missile with a range of 745 miles. He plays a video of an Iraqi F-1 Mirage jet dispersing “simulated anthrax.” [US Department of State, 2/5/2003; New York Times, 2/5/2003; Washington Post, 2/6/2003] But the Associated Press will later report that the video was made prior to the 1991 Gulf War. Apparently, three of the four spray tanks shown in the film had been destroyed during the 1991 military intervention. [Associated Press, 8/9/2003]
Imported Aluminum Tubes were Meant for Centrifuge - Powell argues that the aluminum tubes which Iraq had attempted to import in July 2001 (see July 2001) were meant to be used in a nuclear weapons program and not for artillery rockets as experts from the US Energy Department, the INR, and the IAEA have been arguing (see February 3, 2003) (see January 11, 2003) (see August 17, 2001) (see January 27, 2003). To support the administration’s case, he cites unusually precise specifications and high tolerances for heat and stress. “It strikes me as quite odd that these tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds US requirements for comparable rockets,” he says. “Maybe Iraqis just manufacture their conventional weapons to a higher standard than we do, but I don’t think so.” Powell also suggests that because the tubes were “anodized,” it was unlikely that they had been designed for conventional use. [US Department of State, 2/5/2003; Washington Post, 2/5/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003] Powell does not mention that numerous US nuclear scientists have dismissed this claim (see August 17, 2001) (see September 23, 2002) (see December 2002). [Albright, 10/9/2003] Powell also fails to say that Iraq has rockets identical to the Italian Medusa 81 mm rockets, which are of the same dimensions and made of the same alloy as the 3,000 tubes that were intercepted in July 2001 (see After January 22, 2003). [Washington Post, 8/10/2003] This had been reported just two weeks earlier by the Washington Post. [Washington Post, 1/24/2003] Moreover, just two days before, Powell was explicitly warned by the US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research not to cite the aluminum tubes as evidence that Iraq is pursuing nuclear weapons (see February 3, 2003). [Financial Times, 7/29/2003]
Iraq Attempted to Acquire Magnets for Use in a Gas Centrifuge Program - Powell says: “We… have intelligence from multiple sources that Iraq is attempting to acquire magnets and high-speed balancing machines. Both items can be used in a gas centrifuge program to enrich uranium. In 1999 and 2000, Iraqi officials negotiated with firms in Romania, India, Russia and Slovenia for the purchase of a magnet production plant. Iraq wanted the plant to produce magnets weighing 20 to 30 grams. That’s the same weight as the magnets used in Iraq’s gas centrifuge program before the Gulf War.” [US Department of State, 2/5/2003; New York Times, 2/6/2003] Investigation by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] will demonstrate that the magnets have a dual use. IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said a little more than a week before, on January 27, in his report to the Security Council: “Iraq presented detailed information on a project to construct a facility to produce magnets for the Iraqi missile program, as well as for industrial applications, and that Iraq had prepared a solicitation of offers, but that the project had been delayed due to ‘financial credit arrangements.’ Preliminary investigations indicate that the specifications contained in the offer solicitation are consistent with those required for the declared intended uses. However, the IAEA will continue to investigate the matter….” (see January 27, 2003) [Annan, 1/27/2003 pdf file] On March 7, ElBaradei will provide an additional update: “The IAEA has verified that previously acquired magnets have been used for missile guidance systems, industrial machinery, electricity meters and field telephones. Through visits to research and production sites, reviews of engineering drawings and analyses of sample magnets, IAEA experts familiar with the use of such magnets in centrifuge enrichment have verified that none of the magnets that Iraq has declared could be used directly for a centrifuge magnetic bearing.” (see March 7, 2003) [CNN, 3/7/2003]
Iraq Attempted to Purchase Machines to Balance Centrifuge Rotors - Powell states: “Intercepted communications from mid-2000 through last summer show that Iraq front companies sought to buy machines that can be used to balance gas centrifuge rotors. One of these companies also had been involved in a failed effort in 2001 to smuggle aluminum tubes into Iraq.” [US Department of State, 2/5/2003; New York Times, 2/6/2003]
Powell Cites Documents Removed from Home of Iraqi Scientist Faleh Hassan - Powell cites the documents that had been found on January 16, 2003 by inspectors with the help of US intelligence at the Baghdad home of Faleh Hassan, a nuclear scientist. Powell asserts that the papers are a “dramatic confirmation” that Saddam Hussein is concealing evidence and not cooperating with the inspections. The 3,000 documents contained information relating to the laser enrichment of uranium (see January 16, 2003). [Daily Telegraph, 1/18/2003; Associated Press, 1/18/2003; BBC, 1/19/2003; US Department of State, 2/5/2003] A little more than a week later, in the inspectors’ February 14 update to the UN Security Council (see February 14, 2003), ElBaradei will say, “While the documents have provided some additional details about Iraq’s laser enrichment development efforts, they refer to activities or sites already known to the IAEA and appear to be the personal files of the scientist in whose home they were found. Nothing contained in the documents alters the conclusions previously drawn by the IAEA concerning the extent of Iraq’s laser enrichment program.” [Guardian, 2/15/2003; BBC, 2/17/2003; Associated Press, 8/9/2003]
Iraq is Hiding Missiles in the Desert - Powell says that according to unidentified sources, the Iraqis have hidden rocket launchers and warheads containing biological weapons in the western desert. He further contends that these caches of weapons are hidden in palm groves and moved to different locations on a weekly basis. [US Department of State, 2/5/2003] It will later be suggested that this claim was “lifted whole from an Iraqi general’s written account of hiding missiles in the 1991 war.” [Associated Press, 8/9/2003]
Iraq Has Scud Missiles - Powell also says that according to unnamed “intelligence sources,” Iraq has a few dozen Scud-type missiles. [Associated Press, 8/9/2003]
Iraq Has Weapons of Mass Destruction - Secretary of State Colin Powell states unequivocally: “We… have satellite photos that indicate that banned materials have recently been moved from a number of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities. There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.” Elsewhere in his speech he says: “We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.” [US Department of State, 2/5/2003; CNN, 2/5/2003]
Governments, Media Reaction Mixed - Powell’s speech will fail to convince many skeptical governments, nor will it impress many in the European media. But it will have a tremendous impact in the US media (see February 5, 2003 and After).

The US military has drawn up plans three times between June 2002 and January 2003 to launch an air strike against a training camp in northern Iraq controlled by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that is said to be producing chemical weapons (see June 2002, November 2002, and January 2003), but months have passed and the White House has not given any formal reply to any of the attack plans. Finally, several weeks before the start of the US invasion of Iraq in late March 2003, the White House indicates that President Bush has rejected any strike on the camp until after the US invasion of Iraq begins. The camp will be attacked on March 20. Bush administration officials will later say the camp was not targeted for a number of reasons, including uncertain intelligence reports and the difficulties of hitting al-Zarqawi within a large camp area. But Gen. John Keane, the US Army’s vice chief of staff at the time, will later call the camp “one of the best targets we ever had.” He and other officials will claim the intelligence on al-Zarqawi’s location was sound and the risk of collateral damage was small due to the camp’s location in a remote mountain area. But Pentagon spokesperson Lawrence Di Rita will later claim that one reason for not taking action was “the president’s decision to engage the international community on Iraq.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/25/2004] And CIA official Michael Scheuer will later say, “The reasons the intelligence service got for not shooting al-Zarqawi was simply that the President and the National Security Council decided it was more important not to give the Europeans the impression we were gunslingers.… Mr. Bush had Mr. al-Zarqawi in his sights for almost every day for a year before the invasion of Iraq and he didn’t shoot because they were wining and dining the French in an effort to get them to assist us in the invasion of Iraq.” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 5/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Lawrence Di Rita, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, National Security Council, George W. Bush, John Keane, Michael Scheuer

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

When the recording of flight attendant Betty Ong is played in public before the 9/11 Commission in January 2004, family members demand that the FBI honor the family members’ rights under the Victims Assistance Act to hear any and all phone calls made from the hijacked airplanes. So, on this date, about 130 victims’ relatives gather in Princeton, New Jersey, and hear previously unavailable calls. But the Justice Department only plays what it decided are “relevant” calls. However, attendees are ordered not to disclose what they hear lest it compromise the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui. [CNN, 5/28/2004; Associated Press, 6/5/2004; New York Observer, 6/20/2004] Some family members nonetheless later discuss what they have heard. Witnesses describe one recording of two American Airlines managers who are told details of flight attendant Amy Sweeney’s call from Flight 11 shortly after the first hijacking has begun. Rather than report news of a possible hijacking to other government agencies so they can learn what to do in case there is a crisis, the managers say things like, “don’t spread this around. Keep it close,” and “Keep it quiet” (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001) [New York Observer, 6/20/2004]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Zacarias Moussaoui, Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Knight Ridder Newspapers reports on a leaked CIA assessment that undercuts the White House claim of links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The assessment, requested some months ago by Vice President Cheney, finds no evidence to show that Saddam’s regime ever harbored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an independent colleague of Osama bin Laden (see April 2002), and finds no evidence of any “collaborative relationship” between the former Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda (see October 2, 2002). In February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations Security Council that al-Zarqawi went to Baghdad for medical treatment and, while there, helped establish a terrorist base in Baghdad (see February 5, 2003). The assessment now shows that claim was incorrect. So was the administration’s claim that al-Zarqawi received safe haven from Hussein. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who in September 2002 called the evidence of links between Hussein and al-Qaeda “bulletproof” (see September 26, 2002), now says, “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.” Rumsfeld continues, “I just read an intelligence report recently about one person [al-Zarqawi] who’s connected to al-Qaeda who was in and out of Iraq and there’s the most tortured description of why he might have had a relationship and why he might not have had a relationship.” In June 2003, President Bush called al-Zarqawi “the best evidence of connection” between Iraq and al-Qaeda; after the assessments are leaked, Bush insists that al-Zarqawi “was in and out of Baghdad,” apparently continuing to press the idea that Saddam and al-Qaeda were connected. Al-Zarqawi did spend a lot of time in Iraq, but almost always in the northern sections of Iraq where Saddam’s control did not reach. [Knight Ridder, 10/4/2004] The day after the Knight Ridder report, Vice President Cheney will say during a debate with vice-presidential opponent John Edwards (D-NC) that al-Zarqawi was based in Baghdad both before and after the March 2003 invasion, a claim that is demonstrably false (see October 5, 2004).

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Bush administration (43), Knight Ridder Newspapers, Saddam Hussein, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

In a vice-presidential debate between Vice President Cheney and Senator John Edwards, Cheney says of Islamist militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: “We know he was running a terrorist camp, training terrorists in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. We know that when we went into Afghanistan that he then migrated to Baghdad. He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Khurmal, where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use.… He was, in fact, in Baghdad before the war, and he’s in Baghdad now after the war.” [Commission on Presidential Debates, 10/5/2004] It is true that al-Zarqawi was running a camp in Afghanistan prior to 9/11 (see Early 2000-December 2001). But just days before this debate, the CIA gave Cheney a new report about possible links between al-Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein’s government, a report that Cheney himself had requested several months before (see October 4, 2004). The report doubts there were any such links, and also doubts that al-Zarqawi was in Baghdad getting medical treatment in the months before the Iraq war (see October 4, 2004). [Knight Ridder, 10/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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