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Profile: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was a participant or observer in the following events:
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Just prior to 9/11, the CIA and FBI do not have enough staff working on al-Qaeda. Only 17 to 19 people are working in the FBI’s special unit focusing on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] The FBI has a $4.3 billion anti-terrorism budget, but of its 27,000 employees, just 153 are devoted to terrorism analysis. [Sydney Morning Herald, 6/8/2002] The FBI’s “analytic expertise has been ‘gutted’ by transfers to operational units” and only one strategic analyst is assigned full time to al-Qaeda. The FBI office in New York is very aware of the threat from bin Laden, but many branch offices remain largely unaware. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] A senior FBI official later tells Congress that there are fewer FBI agents assigned to counterterrorism on this day than in August 1998, when the US embassy bombings in Africa made bin Laden a household name. [New York Times, 9/22/2002] The CIA has only about 35 to 40 people assigned to their special bin Laden unit. It has five strategic analysts working full time on al-Qaeda. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] The CIA and FBI later complain that some of these figures are misleading. [New York Times, 9/18/2002] “Individuals in both the CIA and FBI units… reported being seriously overwhelmed by the volume of information and workload prior to September 11, 2001.” Despite numerous warnings that planes could be used as weapons, such a possibility was never studied, and a congressional report later blames lack of staff as a major reason for this. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also notes, “Between the Department of Justice and the FBI, they had a whole task force working on finding a couple of houses of prostitution in New Orleans. They had one on al-Qaeda.” [CBS News, 9/25/2002]
Odigo’s logo. [Source: Odigo]Two employees of Odigo, Inc., an Israeli company, receive warnings of an imminent attack in New York City about two hours before the first plane hits the WTC. Odigo, one of the world’s largest instant messaging companies, has its headquarters two blocks from the WTC. The Odigo Research and Development offices where the warnings were received are located in Herzliyya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Israeli security and the FBI were notified immediately after the 9/11 attacks began. The two employees claim not to know who sent the warnings. “Odigo service includes a feature called People Finder that allows users to seek out and contact others based on certain interests or demographics. [Alex] Diamandis [Odigo vice president of sales and marketing] said it was possible that the attack warning was broadcast to other Odigo members, but the company has not received reports of other recipients of the message.” [Ha'aretz, 9/26/2001; Washington Post, 9/27/2001] Odigo claims the warning did not specifically mention the WTC, but the company refuses to divulge what was specified, claiming, “Providing more details would only lead to more conjecture.” [Washington Post, 9/28/2001] However, a later newspaper report claims that the message declared “that some sort of attack was about to take place. The notes ended with an anti-Semitic slur. ‘The messages said something big was going to happen in a certain amount of time, and it did—almost to the minute,’ said Alex Diamandis, vice president of sales for the high-tech company… He said the employees did not know the person who sent the message, but they traced it to a computer address and have given that information to the FBI.” [Washington Post, 10/4/2001] Odigo gave the FBI the Internet address of the message’s sender so the name of the sender could be found. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 9/26/2001] Two months later, it is reported that the FBI is still investigating the matter, but there have been no reports since. [Courier Mail, 11/20/2001]
Sergeant Matt Rosenberg, an army medic at the Pentagon, is studying “a new medical emergency disaster plan based on the unlikely scenario of an airplane crashing into the place.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] The day before, Rosenberg later recalls in an interview with the Office of Medical History, he called the FBI with questions about who would have medical jurisdiction if such an event were to take place. “Believe it or not, the day prior to the incident, I was just on the phone with the FBI, and we were talking ‘so who has command should this happen, who has the medical jurisdiction, who does this, who does that,’ and we talked about it and talked about it, and he helped me out a lot. And then the next day, during the incident, I actually found him. He was out there on the incident that day.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 9]
Preparations are already underway for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are scheduled to take place in Washington, DC on September 29-30, 2001. Many of the agencies that will be involved in the emergency response to the Pentagon attack, including the Arlington County Fire Department, are engaged in preparations for the IMF/World Bank event (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [United Press International, 9/6/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-4 ; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 314] The meetings have been designated as a National Special Security Event (NSSE). [New York Times, 8/18/2001; Euromoney, 9/1/2001] The Secret Service is in charge of security for NSSEs. [United States Secret Service, 2002] The FBI and FEMA also have key roles. [CSO Magazine, 9/2004; Scripps Howard News Service, 1/11/2005] There are questions about how preparations for an NSSE might have affected security around Washington. When preparing for such an event, the Secret Service carries out “a tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination in the areas of venue and motorcade route security, communications, credentialing, and training.” It conducts a “variety of training initiatives,” including “simulated attacks and medical emergencies, inter-agency tabletop exercises, and field exercises.” [United States Secret Service, 2002] According to former FBI Director Louis Freeh, in 2000 and 2001 the use of airplanes by terrorists in suicide missions is “part of the planning” for NSSEs. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] Also, the Secret Service is mandated to create capabilities for achieving “airspace security” over NSSEs. [US Congress, 3/30/2000 ] But whether it has such capabilities already in place around Washington is unknown. Though there are only about four or five NSSEs each year, preparations also happen to be underway in New York for another possible NSSE (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Homeland Security, 7/9/2003; US Department of Homeland Security, 11/8/2004] The IMF/World Bank event will be cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks. [CBS News, 9/17/2001]
Larry Wansley. [Source: Publicity photo]At 8:45 a.m., Larry Wansley learns of the hijacking of Flight 11. Wansley is the managing director of corporate security for American Airlines, and is at the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He is informed of the hijacking in an urgent phone call from the airline’s Command Center, located on the floor above its System Operations Control (SOC), about a mile away from headquarters (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The SOC learned there was some kind of problem with Flight 11 at 8:20 a.m. (see 8:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). Since as early as 8:21, details of Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong’s emergency call have been constantly relayed to Craig Marquis, a manager at the SOC (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet the 8:45 call is apparently Wansley’s first notification of the hijacking. He calls Danny Defenbaugh, the special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office. Wansley is himself a former undercover FBI agent, and Defenbaugh is a longtime friend of his. This call is “the first step in the well-researched, secret hijack-response plan all commercial airlines have in place.” As Wansley is relaying information, he hears screaming from an adjacent conference room, as several employees watch the aftermath of the first WTC crash on television. The TV in Defenbaugh’s office has been turned on, but reportedly neither of the two men connects the images of the burning tower with the hijacking they are trying to deal with. As they continue discussing their response plans, television shows the second plane hitting the South Tower. No doubt realizing this is a terrorist attack, Defenbaugh says, “The ball game just changed.” Around this time, Wansley learns that the first plane to hit the WTC was the hijacked American Airlines flight. He will subsequently make a hurried drive to the nearby Command Center, where the FBI will already be setting up its own command post (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Dallas Observer, 11/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14]
Shortly before 9/11, American Airlines revised its crisis plan for dealing with situations including “plane crashes and 1978-style hijackings” (see Late Summer 2001). However, on this day, “American abandoned its freshly minted crisis communications plan almost immediately, not because putting the CEO out front isn’t the best plan of action in a crisis, but because the FBI rushed to American’s Command Center and made it clear who was in charge.” [PR Week, 11/5/2001] Larry Wansley, the American Airlines director of security, is at the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He had contacted the Dallas FBI about the hijacking of Flight 11 at around 8:45 a.m. (see (8:45 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After learning of the two planes hitting the World Trade Center, he makes a hurried drive to the airline’s Command Center, about a mile from the headquarters, on the floor above its System Operations Control (SOC). Already, by the time he arrives, the FBI is setting up its own command post there, reviewing the Flight 11 passenger manifest, and replaying the recording of flight attendant Betty Ong’s emergency phone call. [Dallas Observer, 11/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Tim Doke, the American Airlines vice president for corporate communications, later recounts that the “FBI essentially gagged us from any meaningful media interaction immediately following the terrorist attacks.” [Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, 12/4/2002] American Airlines’ first press release, issued within a few hours of the attacks, will refer all questions to the FBI. [PR Week, 11/5/2001]
Satam Al Suqami’s remarkably undamaged passport, marked and wrapped in plastic. It is shown as evidence in the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial. [Source: FBI]The passport of 9/11 hijacker Satam Al Suqami is reportedly found a few blocks from the World Trade Center. [ABC News, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 9/16/2001] Barry Mawn, the director of the FBI’s New York office, will say that police and the FBI found it during a “grid search” of the area. [CNN, 9/18/2001] However, according to the 9/11 Commission, the passport is actually discovered by a male passer-by who is about 30 years old and wearing a business suit. The man gives it to New York City Police Department Detective Yuk H. Chin shortly before 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower of the WTC collapses. The man leaves before he is identified. Chin, according to the 9/11 Commission, will give the passport to the FBI later in the day. [9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 40 ] An FBI timeline concerned with the 9/11 hijackers will state that the passport is found by a civilian “on the street near [the] World Trade Center,” and is “soaked in jet fuel.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 291 ] According to FBI agent Dan Coleman, Al Suqami’s passport is handed to a New York City detective who is “down there, trying to talk to people as they were coming out of the buildings.” By the time the detective looks up again after receiving the passport, the man who handed it to him has run off, “which doesn’t make sense,” Coleman will say. The passport is then given to a detective on the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Coleman will say that by this evening, “we realized… that this was the passport of one of the people that headquarters had identified as one of the 19 probable hijackers.” [France 5, 3/14/2010] Investigative journalist Nick Davies will later write that he talked to “senior British sources who said they believed that the discovery of a terrorist’s passport in the rubble of the Twin Towers in September 2001 had been ‘a throwdown,’ i.e. it was placed there by somebody official.” [Davies, 2009, pp. 248] The Guardian will comment, “The idea that Mohamed Atta’s passport had escaped from that inferno unsinged [tests] the credulity of the staunchest supporter of the FBI’s crackdown on terrorism.” (Note that, as in this Guardian account, the passport will frequently be mistakenly referred to as belonging to Atta, not Al Suqami.) [Guardian, 3/19/2002]
The conference room on Air Force One. [Source: George Bush Library]Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, the president’s plane, receives no contact from any US government agency, such as the CIA or the FBI, about the first plane crash at the World Trade Center, although numerous agencies call the plane immediately after the second crash. Air Force One is currently at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida, where it has been since the previous evening (see September 10, 2001). Tillman boarded the plane at around 8:15 a.m. this morning, and he has been preparing to take off at 10:45 a.m. and take President Bush back to Washington, DC.
Pilot Sees the Coverage of the First Crash but Thinks It Is an Accident - While he is walking around the plane and checking all the rooms, Tillman is called upstairs by the plane’s radio operator. Upstairs, the radio operator shows him the coverage of the first crash at the WTC on television and says: “I don’t know what’s going on; neither does the media. But it doesn’t look like it’s anything important; it looks like it’s an aircraft accident.” Air Force One, according to Tillman, has 42 phone lines that specifically connect to government agencies such as the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency. But, Tillman will later recall: “None of those phones were going off. Everybody thought this was just an aircraft accident.” He will say that the plane’s crew receives “no information from any command and control authority” at this time. Tillman believes that, in light of what has happened, Bush will want to visit New York. Everyone on the plane is therefore told to be ready to go. He tells the radio operator simply to keep monitoring what is happening in New York and then heads downstairs to continue checking the rooms on Air Force One.
All the Phones Start Ringing after the Second Attack - After the second plane hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Tillman is again called upstairs. The radio operator alerts him to the television coverage of what has happened. “We now have an understanding that it’s a deliberate attack on the [Twin] Towers,” Tillman will say. “All the information we had was from the news media at this point,” he will comment. But whereas no government agencies previously called Air Force One, suddenly, Tillman will recall: “All the phone lines are coming alive. Every agency in the world wants to know what our status is [and] if we’re ready to go.” “We were hooked into the PEOC [the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, a bunker below the White House] and the JOC [Joint Operations Center] for the Secret Service,” he will say, adding, “They’re all in the link now.” In response to the second attack, security around Air Force One will be increased (see (9:04 a.m.-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] The plane will take off from the Sarasota airport with Bush on board at 9:54 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]
President Bush will say in a speech later that evening, “Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans.” [US President, 9/17/2001] However, the Wall Street Journal reports that lower level officials activate CONPLAN (Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan) in response to the emerging crisis. CONPLAN, created in response to a 1995 Presidential Decision Directive issued by President Clinton and published in January 2001, details the responsibility of seven federal agencies if a terrorist attack occurs. It gives the FBI the responsibility for activating the plan and alerting other agencies. Bush in fact later states that he doesn’t give any orders responding to the attack until after 9:55 a.m. [US Government, 1/2001; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ]
The FBI arrives at the FAA’s Boston Center, in Nashua, New Hampshire, “minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center,” and seizes tape recordings of radio transmissions from the hijacked plane. Boston Center handled Flight 11, and recorded intermittent radio transmissions from its cockpit (see (After 8:14 a.m.-8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001] According to FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown, the FAA has to turn over all its records from 9/11 to the FBI immediately afterwards. She says it is not unusual for the FAA to turn over its records after a major disaster, but normally this is to the National Transportation Safety Board, not the FBI. [Griffin, 2004, pp. 185]
Shortly after the second attack on the World Trade Center, FBI agents call the FAA’s Cleveland Center and warn air traffic controllers there to keep an eye on Delta Air Lines Flight 1989. According to USA Today, controllers at the Cleveland Center, which is tracking Delta 1989, have already been watching this flight, and, like the FBI, suspect “that terrorists plan to hijack [it] next.” Although Delta 1989 is not showing any signs of being hijacked, the reason for their suspicion is that it has many similarities to the two aircraft that hit the World Trade Center: it is also a Boeing 767, heavy with fuel, and had taken off from Boston’s Logan Airport around the same time as they did. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] At 9:27 a.m., the FAA’s Boston Center will—apparently mistakenly—report that Delta 1989 is missing (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] And at around 9:30 a.m., Cleveland Center controllers will mistakenly conclude that it has been hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002]
After receiving a call from her husband Tom Burnett, who is on the hijacked Flight 93 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), Deena Burnett calls 911 to report the hijacking. She used to be a flight attendant, so knows what to say in an emergency. Her 911 call is recorded and she will later be provided with a tape of it. According to journalist and author Jere Longman, who is played this tape, Deena reports: “My husband just called me from United Flight 93. The plane has been hijacked. They just knifed a passenger and there are guns on the airplane.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 107-108 and 278] However, in her 2006 book, Deena Burnett will give a slightly different account according to which she makes no mention of guns on the plane, instead telling the dispatcher: “My husband is on an airplane that has been hijacked. He just called me from the airplane on his cellular telephone. He told me they have a bomb on board.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 62-63] (Note that the 9/11 Commission later concludes that the Flight 93 hijackers do not possess guns (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13] ) Deena then tells the dispatcher the flight number and route. Her call is transferred to a man at the police department, who then switches her to the FBI. She repeats her story to a special agent, who initially misunderstands her, thinking she is saying her husband was on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center. Once she has clarified that he is on another plane, the agent gives her a list of questions to ask her husband if she speaks with him again, such as how many hijackers are there and what weapons do they have? At that moment, her call waiting beeps, as Tom Burnett is calling a second time (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 63] Deena will be unable to ask Tom the questions the agent has asked her to during his subsequent calls from Flight 93, because, she later recalls, “I didn’t want to take up any precious time talking any more than was necessary,” and “I had wanted to hear Tom’s voice.” Instead, she writes down everything he says and everything that is going on. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 68] According to Longman, Deena will call the FBI back minutes later, following her husband’s second call (see (Between 9:36 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 110] But according to Deena Burnett’s 2006 book, she will not speak to the FBI agent again until around 10:00 a.m., after her husband’s final call to her from Flight 93 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 68-69]
Shortly before Flight 77 hits the Pentagon, Washington’s Dulles Airport, from where it had departed, is “locked down” by the FAA, and many FBI and INS agents arrive, but their behavior is considered odd. Ed Nelson, a security manager at the airport, thinks something is not “adding up,” due to the unusual questions his employees are being asked: “They were not asking about the hijackers—they were focusing on what my screeners might have done wrong. It was as if they were working off a script.” FBI agents will later confirm this, and an FBI supervisor will say: “The orders came from headquarters through the local Washington-area FBI field offices and the Joint Task Force on Terrorism. The teams of agents were told to ‘get the screeners to admit they had violated FAA recommended procedures.’” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 36]
According to journalist and author Jere Longman, after her husband Tom Burnett has called her a second time from the hijacked Flight 93 (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), Deena Burnett calls the FBI again. She had previously spoken with an FBI agent after she’d called 911 following her first call from her husband (see 9:31 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Longman provides no details of what is said during this second call to the FBI. [Longman, 2002, pp. 110-111] Deena Burnett’s account, presented in her own 2006 book, will make no mention of any call to the FBI at this time. She only says that at this time she speaks by phone with her husband’s two sisters and his parents. According to her 2006 account, Deena will not speak to the FBI a second time until around 10:00 a.m., after Tom has made his fourth and final call to her from Flight 93 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 64-65 and 68-69]
An employee at a gas station located across the street from the Pentagon servicing military personnel later says the station’s security cameras should have recorded the moment of impact. However, he says, “I’ve never seen what the pictures looked like. The FBI was here within minutes and took the film.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/11/2001] A security camera atop a hotel close to the Pentagon also records the impact. Hotel employees watch the film several times before the FBI confiscates the video. [Washington Times, 9/21/2001] The Justice Department will refuse to release the footage, claiming that if they did it might provide intelligence to someone who would want to harm the US, but some Pentagon officials say they see no national security value to the video. [CNN, 3/7/2002] The gas station footage and video taken from one nearby hotel, the Doubletree, will eventually be released in 2006, but do not show much (see September 13, 2006-Early December 2006). Reporter Sandra Jontz, who is evacuated from the Pentagon some time after it is hit, notices a Department of Transportation camera that monitors traffic backups pointed towards the crash site. [Bull and Erman, 2002, pp. 281] As of the end of 2006, the footage from this camera has not been released.
A number of FBI agents are, for unknown reasons, already at the Navy Annex—a building near the Pentagon—when the Pentagon is hit, and help clear the Navy Annex when it is evacuated in response to the attack. [Naval Historical Center, 12/21/2001] The Navy Annex is a massive building located a few hundred yards uphill from the Pentagon. It has enough room for 6,000 employees. Currently, about 100 Navy personnel work in it, and most of the space is used by the Marine Corps. [American Forces Press Service, 9/24/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 14; GlobalSecurity (.org), 5/7/2011]
Building Manager Sounds Fire Alarm, Starts Evacuation - Coneleous Alexander, a building manager at the Navy Annex, hears the explosion from the Pentagon attack (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Alexander “knew immediately it was the Pentagon” that had been hit, he will later recall. He runs to the front of the Navy Annex and sees the smoke coming from the Pentagon. Alexander immediately sounds the fire alarm and starts getting people out of the Navy Annex. He receives no directions from the Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon—on what to do, but knows from his training that he has to get people out of the building.
FBI Agents Already at Navy Annex, Assist Evacuation - As the evacuation begins, Alexander notices about 10 FBI agents going down the halls of the Navy Annex. He knows what they are because they have “FBI” written on the backs of their jackets. However, he does not know where they have come from. Interviewed three months later, Alexander will speculate that the FBI agents may have come to the Navy Annex because they received prior notification of a hijacked aircraft heading toward Washington, DC, but he will say their presence at his building “puzzles him to this day.” Because there are no members of the DPS on hand to help evacuate the building, the FBI agents assist in this task. The agents will also give Alexander updates on alerts about potential further attacks. People are moved “farther and farther” from the building following each threat warning, according to Alexander. Later in the day, Navy and Marine Corps senior officers will re-enter the Navy Annex to establish a command center there (see (3:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 11/5/2001; Naval Historical Center, 12/21/2001]
Alice Hoglan, the mother of Mark Bingham, a passenger on Flight 93, informs the FBI that her son has just phoned her from the plane, and then calls Bingham’s cell phone and leaves two voicemail messages. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/17/2001; Barrett, 2002, pp. 157-158] Alice Hoglan is currently staying at the home of her brother, Vaughn Hoglan, and his wife in Saratoga, California. [Longman, 2002, pp. 129; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/10/2003] Bingham has just called her and told her his flight was taken over by three men who said they had a bomb, but the call got broken off after less than three minutes (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/13/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 41, 99]
Bingham's Mother Realizes Flight 93 Will Likely Crash - No one in the Hoglan household was aware of the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. But after the call from Bingham ends, Vaughn Hoglan switches on the television to see if there is any news about Flight 93 and the family sees, for the first time, the recorded footage of Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [BBC, 12/2001; Barrett, 2002, pp. 157] Alice Hoglan then realizes the hijacking of Flight 93 is part of a “grand and ugly scheme,” and that her son’s plane will likely crash, too. [San Francisco Chronicle, 1/28/2005; San Jose Mercury News, 9/10/2011]
Bingham's Mother Tells the FBI about the Hijacking - Being a flight attendant with United Airlines, she calls her airline to ask about her son’s plane. [Los Gatos Patch, 8/25/2011] However, she will later recall, all she gets is a recorded message, which states, “United Flight 93 left Newark at 8:01 a.m. and will arrive San Francisco, Gate 82, at 11:19 a.m.” [BBC, 12/2001] She also calls 9-1-1 to report what has happened. She is put through to the San Francisco division of the FBI and speaks to an agent there. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/17/2001] The agent asks her a series of questions about the hijackers on Flight 93, but she is unable to answer them.
Bingham's Mother Leaves Messages for Her Son - Alice Hoglan then tries calling her son twice on his cell phone, intending to let him know the full scale of the attack that his plane’s hijacking is part of. On both occasions, she has to leave messages on his voicemail. She makes the first call at 9:54 a.m. (Because she is flustered, she miscalculates the East Coast time by an hour during the call and also mistakenly says Flight 93 might be used as a “target” rather than as a “weapon.”) She says: “Mark, this is your mom. It’s 10:54 a.m. [Eastern Time]. The news is that it’s been hijacked by terrorists. They are planning to probably use the plane as a target to hit some site on the ground. So, if you possibly can, try to overpower these guys if you can, ‘cause they will probably use the plane as a target. I would say go ahead and do everything you can to overpower them, because they’re hellbent. Try to call me back if you can. You know the number here. Okay, I love you sweetie. Bye.” A minute or so later she calls Bingham’s cell phone again and leaves a second, similar message. Among other things, she urges her son to “group some people and perhaps do the best you can to get control of [the plane].” [Barrett, 2002, pp. 157-158; San Jose Mercury News, 9/10/2011; McMillan, 2014, pp. 122] Bingham will never receive these messages. [ABC News, 3/30/2002] His plane will crash in a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14, 30]
Greg Callahan. [Source: NBC News]Newark, New Jersey, flight controller Greg Callahan is talking on the phone to an FBI agent. The agent says about Flight 93: “We suspect that this aircraft has now been taken over by hostile forces.” The agent describes the sharp turn it has made over eastern Ohio and that it is now heading back over southwestern Pennsylvania. Callahan says he could tell the plane is on a course for Washington. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The FBI has been in contact with Deena Burnett and informed of what her husband, Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett, has been saying since at least 9:34 a.m. (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001) [Longman, 2002, pp. 110] It is unclear where in the chain of command details of these Flight 93 calls reach, and the 9/11 Commission has not clarified the issue of what the FBI knew and when.
Logo of the FBI’s National Capital Response Squad. [Source: FBI]Within five minutes of the Pentagon being hit, the first group from the FBI’s National Capital Response Squad arrives there. Due to this being a terrorist attack, the Pentagon and its grounds are immediately declared a federal crime scene. Under the terms of a 1995 presidential directive, this makes them the exclusive responsibility of the FBI. The FBI immediately begins collecting evidence and is also responsible for recovering bodies. Its agents are able to confiscate security videos from a nearby gas station within minutes of the crash (see (After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). More than 700 FBI agents, assisted by hundreds of individuals from other organizations, will participate in the recovery operation. [US President, 6/21/1995; Washington Times, 9/12/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-7, A-23, C-1, C-54 ]
A US Park Police helicopter that is responding to the attack on the Pentagon and flying above the building transmits a live video feed of the crash scene to the FBI and other agencies, providing them with instant information about the extent of the damage and destruction at the Pentagon. [US Congress. House, 9/11/2002; National Park Service, 9/21/2002] The helicopter, which has the call sign “Eagle I,” is one of two helicopters belonging to the Park Police Aviation Unit that arrived at the Pentagon minutes after the attack there (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001] It has microwave “downlink” capability, which enables its crew to fly over a particular location and transmit instantaneous video images to the Park Police chief’s command post and other locations.
FBI Requests Video of Crash Scene - Shortly after Eagle I arrives over the Pentagon, the crew receives a request from the FBI to send it information using the downlink on their helicopter’s video camera. [McDonnell, 2004, pp. 22 ] According to Sergeant Ronald Galey, the pilot of Eagle I, the FBI arrives on the scene “within 10 minutes or 15 minutes” of his helicopter reaching the Pentagon. Galey will later recall: “We heard from them immediately: ‘Start your downlink, we want to capture everything that we can.’” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] The downlink capability then enables the crew of Eagle I “to transmit real-time images and information to people who needed them to make decisions,” according to the National Park Service’s account of 9/11. As well as the FBI, the images are sent to the Secret Service, the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police, and Park Police headquarters. Eagle I spends “the next four or five hours flying overhead and transmitting video images to the FBI.” [National Park Service, 9/21/2002; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 23 ]
Fire Department Chief Goes Up in Helicopter - The Park Police’s two Bell 412 helicopters are packed with sophisticated equipment. As well as the microwave downlink, they have an infrared heat detection system known as FLIR (forward looking infrared). When the Arlington County Fire Department later has difficulty getting its equipment to the proper locations to fight the fires in the Pentagon, its chief will be taken up in Eagle I and flown low over the building. The infrared imagery will help him locate the fires under the roof so he can better position his firefighting crews and equipment. [National Park Service, 1/17/2002; Rotor and Wing, 2/2002; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 23-24 ]
Lisa Jefferson. [Source: Lisa Jefferson]Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer reaches a GTE operator using one of the plane’s seatback phones. He had tried using his credit card on the phone, but been unable to get authorization, so his call is routed to a customer service center in the Chicago area. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 198-199; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 11 ] Beamer initially reaches operator Phyllis Johnson, who calls customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson over and informs her of the call. As Jefferson later recalls, “I asked [Johnson] information that I needed to report to our surveillance center. And by the time I came back, she appeared to be traumatized, and that’s when I told her I would take the call over… She was just dazed.” Having immediately contacted the FBI, airline security, and GTE operations personnel, Jefferson gets on the line and speaks to Beamer for the next 13 minutes (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002; Beliefnet (.com), 2006] She later informs Beamer’s wife Lisa, “[I]t was a miracle that Todd’s call hadn’t been disconnected. Because of the enormous number of calls that day, the GTE systems overloaded and lines were being disconnected all around her… She kept thinking, This call is going to get dropped! Yet Todd stayed connected… all the way to the end.” [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 217] According to journalist and author Jere Longman, “GTE-Verizon [does] not routinely tape its telephone calls. As a supervisor, [Jefferson] would have been the one to monitor the taping, but she did not want to risk losing the call.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 199] Yet an early article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will claim that, “because it was to an operator,” Beamer’s call “was tape-recorded.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/19/2001] Lisa Beamer will only be informed of her husband’s call from Flight 93 three days later, and be read a summary of it written by Jefferson (see September 14, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/3/2001]
[Source: Family photo]After having trouble getting authorization on an Airfone to call his family (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001), Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer is able to speak to GTE customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson. Jefferson, who quickly alerts the FBI about Beamer’s call, talks to him for 13 minutes. According to a report in the London Observer, she has the FBI simultaneously on another line, offering guidance. She immediately asks Beamer for details of the flight, like “What is your flight number? What is the situation? Where are the crew members?” With the help of a flight attendant sitting next to him, Beamer details the numbers of passengers and crew on the plane. He says the hijackers have divided the passengers into two groups, with ten of them in first class at the front of the plane, and 27 in the back. (Jefferson’s written summary of the conversation will say that the larger number of passengers was in the front. However, Beamer’s wife later says that Jefferson informed her it was in fact the other way around.) According to some reports, Beamer says three people have hijacked the plane. Two of them, armed with knives, are in the cockpit and have locked the door; the third is in first class with what appears to be a bomb strapped around his waist. A curtain has been closed separating first class from the coach section of the plane. Other accounts claim the hijacker with the bomb is in fact in the rear of the plane. According to one report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Beamer describes four hijackers in total: the two in the cockpit, the one with the bomb guarding the passengers in the back of the plane, and a fourth in first class. But the Orlando Sentinel says Beamer tells Jefferson he is free to talk because the hijacker in first class has closed the curtain, indicating there is no hijacker at the back of the plane. (Beamer himself is at the back of plane, calling from a phone in row 32.) According to an early article in Newsweek, he says that one passenger is dead and he doesn’t know about the pilots. However, journalist and author Jere Longman later writes that Beamer describes to Jefferson two people on the floor in fist class, possibly dead. The flight attendant next to him can be overheard saying these are the plane’s captain and co-pilot. The attendant does not mention their names or say they are wearing uniforms, but she sounds certain. Beamer then repeats what the attendant has told him. At some point in the call, Beamer asks, “Do you know what [the hijackers] want? Money or ransom or what?” He seems unaware of the other hijackings that have occurred. Jefferson informs him of the two planes crashing in New York. [Chicago Tribune, 9/16/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/19/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 198-200; Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 11 ] Beamer says of the hijackers, “It doesn’t seem like they know how to fly the plane.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001] He also tells Jefferson about himself, including where he is from, that he has two sons, and that his wife is expecting a third child in January. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001] He tells her, “I just want to talk to somebody and just let someone know that this is happening.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 204]
Deena Burnett has just minutes earlier spoken by phone with her husband, Tom Burnett, a passenger on Flight 93 (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Deena Burnett’s account that she presents in her own book in 2006, an FBI agent she talked with after her husband’s first call (see 9:31 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001) now calls and speaks to her again, briefly. She tells the agent she has just got off the phone with her husband. He wants to know if Tom provided any details of the hijackers, such as how many there are and what language they speak, but Deena says no. She says the only background noise she heard was other people who seemed to be sitting near her husband, speaking English. During Tom’s final call, the background was silent. The agent says the FBI has tried calling Tom’s cell phone, but there was no answer. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 68-69] According to the account in Deena Burnett’s book, this appears to be her first contact with the FBI since she made her 911 call at 9:31. But according to journalist and author Jere Longman, Deena called the FBI shortly after 9:35, following her second call from her husband (see (Between 9:36 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 110] Deena will speak with the FBI again more than two hours later, when three agents arrive at her house to interview her (see (12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Shortly after arriving at Washington’s Dulles Airport, from which Flight 77 took off, the FBI confiscates a security tape from a checkpoint through which the hijackers passed before boarding the plane. Airport security manager Ed Nelson will later say: “They pulled the tape right away.… They brought me to look at it. They went right to the first hijacker on the tape and identified him. They knew who the hijackers were out of hundreds of people going through the checkpoints. They would go ‘roll and stop it’ and showed me each of the hijackers.… It boggles my mind that they had already had the hijackers identified.… Both metal detectors were open at that time, and lots of traffic was moving through. So picking people out is hard.… I wanted to know how they had that kind of information. So fast. It didn’t make sense to me.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 37] Some of the hijackers are identified on the passenger manifests around this time (see (9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and this knowledge is disseminated in the US intelligence community (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
The FBI is reportedly in “chaos,” in particular because its Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) is stranded away from Washington, DC, being instead in California for a major training exercise. The CIRG would normally coordinate the FBI’s rapid response to a crisis incident, such as a terrorist attack. [NBC 4, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 73-75] But NBC News reports that the FBI has been “operating a massive exercise from their hostage rescue unit. All of their top teams, about 50 personnel, helicopters, equipment, [have been] in Monterey, California, for the last two days, scheduled to fly back today commercially. So all of those people are out of place.” [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] USA Today will add that the day’s attacks are “so unexpected that a joint FBI/CIA anti-terrorist task force that specifically prepared for this type of disaster was on a training exercise in Monterey.” [USA Today, 9/11/2001] NBC News concludes: “It’s fair to say, according to sources that we’ve talked to here at NBC, that the FBI rescue operations and other FBI operations are really in chaos right now, because they can’t reach their officials in New York, all of their phone lines are down. And now you’ve got all of their special experts on this stuck in Monterey, California.… So they are seriously out of pocket, and there is a real breakdown of the FBI anti-terror coordination team, which is of course the principal team that would lead any effort.” [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] The US politics website evote.com will similarly conclude, “[J]ust as the worst terrorist act was being committed on American lives and property, the chief federal agency responsible for preventing such crimes was being AWOL.” [Evote [.com], 9/11/2001] The CIRG arrived in California the previous day for a week of special weapons and tactics (SWAT)-related field training (see September 10, 2001). Its members will be flown back to Washington around late afternoon on a specially arranged flight (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Darling, 2010, pp. 75-76]
Flight 93 apparently starts to break up before it crashes, because debris is found very far away from the crash site. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] The plane is generally obliterated upon landing, except for one half-ton piece of engine found some distance away. Some reports indicate that the engine piece was found over a mile away. [Independent, 8/13/2002] The FBI reportedly acknowledges that this piece was found “a considerable distance” from the crash site. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] Later, the FBI will cordon off a three-mile wide area around the crash, as well as another area six to eight miles from the initial crash site. [CNN, 9/13/2001] One story calls what happened to this engine “intriguing, because the heat-seeking, air-to-air Sidewinder missiles aboard an F-16 would likely target one of the Boeing 757’s two large engines.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] Smaller debris fields are also found two, three, and eight miles away from the main crash site. [Independent, 8/13/2002; Mirror, 9/12/2002] Eight miles away, local media quote residents speaking of a second plane in the area and burning debris falling from the sky. [Reuters, 9/13/2001] Residents outside Shanksville reported “discovering clothing, books, papers, and what appeared to be human remains. Some residents said they collected bags-full of items to be turned over to investigators. Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from the immediate crash scene. Workers at Indian Lake Marina said that they saw a cloud of confetti-like debris descend on the lake and nearby farms minutes after hearing the explosion…” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001] Moments after the crash, Carol Delasko initially thinks someone had blown up a boat on Indian Lake: “It just looked like confetti raining down all over the air above the lake.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/14/2001] Investigators say that far-off wreckage “probably was spread by the cloud created when the plane crashed and dispersed by a ten mph southeasterly wind.” [News Journal (Wilmington, DE), 9/16/2001] However, much of the wreckage is found sooner than that wind could have carried it, and not always southeast.
Looking straight down onto the Flight 93 crash site. North is to the top. Note the impact point north of the road, and the burned trees to the south of it. [Source: FBI]A second plane, described “as a small, white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings,” is seen by at least ten witnesses flying low and in erratic patterns, not much above treetop level, over the crash site within minutes of United Flight 93 crashing. [Independent, 8/13/2002]
Lee Purbaugh: “I didn’t get a good look but it was white and it circled the area about twice and then it flew off over the horizon.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
Susan Mcelwain: Less than a minute before the Flight 93 crash rocked the countryside, she sees a small white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings swoop low over her minivan near an intersection and disappear over a hilltop, nearly clipping the tops of trees lining the ridge. [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001] She later adds, “There’s no way I imagined this plane—it was so low it was virtually on top of me. It was white with no markings but it was definitely military, it just had that look. It had two rear engines, a big fin on the back like a spoiler on the back of a car and with two upright fins at the side. I haven’t found one like it on the Internet. It definitely wasn’t one of those executive jets. The FBI came and talked to me and said there was no plane around.… But I saw it and it was there before the crash and it was 40 feet above my head. They did not want my story—nobody here did.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
John Fleegle and two work colleagues arrive at the crash site “before any fireman or paramedics or anybody.” According to Fleegle, “When we got there, there was a plane flying up above and he was smart, he flew straight for the sun so you couldn’t look at it and see exactly what type of plane, if it was a fighter or what it was.” However, Fleegle claims the plane “was decent sized. It wasn’t just a little private jet or something like that, from what we could see.” [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 35-36]
Dennis Decker and/or Rick Chaney, say: “As soon as we looked up [after hearing the Flight 93 crash], we saw a midsized jet flying low and fast. It appeared to make a loop or part of a circle, and then it turned fast and headed out.” Decker and Chaney described the plane as a Learjet type, with engines mounted near the tail and painted white with no identifying markings. “It was a jet plane, and it had to be flying real close when that 757 went down. If I was the FBI, I’d find out who was driving that plane.” [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001]
Kathy Blades, who is staying about quarter of a mile from the impact site, runs outside after the crash and sees a jet, “with sleek back wings and an angled cockpit,” race overhead. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/18/2001]
Anna Ruth Fisher says, “After the crash, another jet went near over to look.” Her mother, Anna B. Fisher, adds, “We were looking at the smoke cloud when we saw the jets circling up there.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 27]
Jim Brandt sees a small plane with no markings stay about one or two minutes over the crash site before leaving. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/12/2001]
Bob Page sees a large plane circling the crash site for about two or three minutes, before climbing almost vertically into the sky. He cannot see what kind of plane it is or if there are any markings on it, but says, “It sure wasn’t no puddle jumper.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/2001]
Tom Spinelli: “I saw the white plane. It was flying around all over the place like it was looking for something. I saw it before and after the crash.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
The FBI later claims this was a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet, directed after the crash to fly from 37,000 feet to 5,000 feet and obtain the coordinates for the crash site to help rescuers (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001] The FBI also says there was a C-130 military cargo aircraft flying at 24,000 feet about 17 miles away (see 10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001), but that plane wasn’t armed and had no role in the crash. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001] Note that this is the same C-130 that flies very close to Flight 77 right as that planes crashes into the Pentagon (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Entity Tags: Anna B Fisher, Dennis Decker, Anna Ruth Fisher, Bob Page, Susan Mcelwain, Kathy Blades, Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Fleegle, Tom Spinelli, Lee Purbaugh, Jim Brandt, Rick Chaney
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Falcon 20 business jet. [Source: Portuguese Air Force]According to some accounts, following a request from the FAA’s Cleveland Center, a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet reports seeing puffs of smoke in the area of Flight 93’s last known position. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ] The FBI later says the business jet was within 20 miles of Flight 93 when it crashed, at an altitude of 37,000 feet, and on its way to Johnstown. It was asked to descend to 5,000 feet to help locate the crash site for the benefit of the responding emergency crews. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001] Stacey Taylor appears to be the Cleveland Center controller who made the request. She later recalls: “I had another airplane [other than Flight 93] that I was working. And I told him, I said, ‘Sir,’ I said, ‘I think we have an aircraft down.’ I said, ‘This is entirely up to you, but if you’d be willing to fly over the last place that we spotted this airplane—and see if you can see anything.‘… So he flew over and at first he didn’t see anything and then he said, ‘We see a great big plume or a cloud of smoke.’” [MSNBC, 9/9/2006] The business jet belongs to VF Corp, a Greensboro, North Carolina clothing firm. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001] According to David Newell, VF Corp’s director of aviation and travel, Cleveland Center contacted the plane’s copilot Yates Gladwell when it was at an altitude “in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 4,000 ft,” rather than 37,000 feet, as claimed by the FBI. He will add: “They got down within 1,500 ft. of the ground when they circled. They saw a hole in the ground with smoke coming out of it. They pinpointed the location and then continued on.” [Popular Mechanics, 3/2005] This incident occurs around 40 minutes after the FAA initiated a nationwide ground stop, which required planes in the air to land as soon as reasonable (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25] The FBI will claim the VF Corp business jet is probably the plane some witnesses on the ground see up above, shortly after the crash of Flight 93 (see (Before and After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001] However, at least two witnesses say they saw a plane overhead even before the time of the Flight 93 crash, and one of them describes it as “definitely military,” rather than a business jet. Also, some will describe it as flying much lower than the Falcon 20 was—just “40 feet above my head,” according to one witness. [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002]
Wells Morrison is the supervisory special agent in charge of the FBI’s Mon Valley Resident Agency, a satellite of the bureau’s Pittsburgh field office. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 4/13/2003] He receives a call informing him that a plane has crashed in Somerset County. Another phone call informs him that Westmoreland County 911 received a call saying a plane had been hijacked. (This is the call believed to have been from Flight 93 passenger Edward Felt (see 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).) He sends an agent out, who quickly seizes the tape of the call from the emergency dispatchers. Morrison also has agents sent to the Flight 93 crash site and subsequently goes there himself, being one of the first FBI agents to arrive at the scene. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Kashurba, 2002, pp. 109-110] Patrick Madigan of the Pennsylvania State Police, who arrives at the crash site around 10:20 a.m., says the first FBI agent gets there soon after him. Initially, four or five FBI agents will be there. [Department of the Army and the Air Force National Guard Bureau, 2002 ; Kashurba, 2002, pp. 60 and 110] In the subsequent days, about 150 agents will be involved in the recovery effort (see (September 11-27, 2001)). [Longman, 2002, pp. 259] As it is a crime scene, the FBI is in charge of the Flight 93 crash site and the subsequent investigation. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/4/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/17/2002]
Michael Gould. [Source: US Air Force]Officials in NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, are notified that an aircraft out of San Diego, California, may be hijacked and could be targeting Cheyenne Mountain. [BBC, 9/1/2002; Grant, 2004, pp. 26] The FBI warns NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) “that a flight originating in San Diego might be hijacked and headed for a target in Colorado,” according to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] According to an official Air Force report on the war on terrorism, the CMOC is told that the flight is “headed to Denver,” and Brigadier General Michael Gould, the commander of the CMOC, then realizes there are “plenty” of targets near Denver, “from the Air Force bases around Colorado Springs to downtown Denver or even Cheyenne Mountain.” [Grant, 2004, pp. 26]
Cheyenne Mountain Is the Plane's Target - According to other accounts, Cheyenne Mountain specifically is believed to be the plane’s intended target. [Washington Post, 7/29/2006] Brigadier General Jim Hunter, the vice commander of the CMOC, will later recall that the operations center receives intelligence that “there might be another airliner airborne from a city in the United States,” which has reportedly “been hijacked near San Diego,” and the plane’s target is “specifically Cheyenne Mountain.”
Threat Reportedly Leads to the Blast Doors Being Shut - The Regina Leader-Post will point out, “Protected by 2,600 feet of granite, the NORAD command center and hundreds of personnel in their green flight suits were actually in the safest place in North America.” Hunter will comment, “They could have driven airliners into that mountain all day.” [BBC, 9/1/2002; Regina Leader-Post, 9/12/2011] But, according to some accounts, the concern about the suspicious plane is what leads to the 25-ton blast doors to the CMOC being closed for the first time ever in a real-world, non-exercise event (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; BBC, 9/1/2002; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2011]
Suspicious Flight Is a False Alarm - The suspect aircraft eventually identifies itself and lands uneventfully. But, Gould will recall, NORAD starts “expanding our focus away from just the northeast corridor” of the US and also begins “considering other critical infrastructure, [such as] nuclear power plants.” Gould will add, “We’re just thinking, ‘What kind of damage could an airliner full of fuel do?’” [Grant, 2004, pp. 26] Later on today, CMOC personnel will be informed that a truck, or a number of trucks, carrying Arab-looking men is heading their way, but the apparent threat will turn out to be a false alarm (see (Shortly After 1:05 p.m.) September 11, 2001). “We were receiving all kinds of input from everybody,” Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will comment. Every rumor is treated as a potential threat. “It didn’t make sense, but those phone calls were happening,” Glover will say. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002]
With reports of another airplane headed toward Washingon, fire and rescue workers were directed to temporarily move away from the Pentagon. [Source: Jon Culberson]At around 10:15 a.m., fire and rescue workers at the Pentagon in response to the attack there are evacuated away from the site, due to a warning of another hijacked aircraft flying towards Washington, DC, currently 20 minutes away. The warning is passed on by Special Agent Chris Combs, the FBI’s representative at the Pentagon crash site. Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz then orders the fire and rescue personnel to evacuate to a highway overpass several hundred yards from the Pentagon. Combs receives the information about the inbound aircraft from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which is in direct contact with the FAA. He then confirms it with the control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. According to a report put out by the government of Arlington County, Virginia, updates are announced of the approaching aircraft “until the last warning when [it] went below radar coverage in Pennsylvania, an estimated 4 minutes flying time from the Pentagon.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 and A30 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 315] Yet if the timing of this account is correct, the approaching plane could not have been Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania considerably earlier (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Finally, Combs is informed by Jim Rice, his boss at the Washington Field Office, “You’re all clear.” Rice adds, incorrectly, “The plane hit Camp David.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 131] At 10:38, firefighters and rescue workers are allowed to return to the Pentagon and resume their activities. [Fire Engineering, 11/2002] There will be two more evacuations of the Pentagon site in the following 24 hours, also due to false alarms over reports of unidentified inbound aircraft (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001).
Venton Hollifield. [Source: ABC News / Associated Press]A man who was found behaving suspiciously in the World Trade Center and arrested is passed on to the FBI, but the detective who arrested him is subsequently told to stay quiet about what has happened. [Appel, 2009, pp. 174-175] Several officers belonging to New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU) encountered the suspicious man as they were making their way down the stairs of the North Tower of the WTC. The man, who looked Middle Eastern, behaved aggressively toward the ESU officers and so one of them, Detective Timothy Morley, arrested and handcuffed him (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Appel, 2009, pp. 125-128]
Detective Headed out to Find the FBI - When the ESU officers reached the bottom of the North Tower, Morley told his colleagues, “I’m gonna take this guy and hand him over to the first FBI agent I see.” He then headed out with the suspicious man, accompanied by his colleague, Lieutenant Venton Hollifield, and a Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) sergeant who carried the man’s belongings. The men soon encountered Police Chief Allen Hale from Manhattan North. Hollifield told Hale about the man they were escorting and his strange behavior in the WTC. Some intelligence officers with Hale talked to Morley about the suspicious man and took notes.
Suspicious Man Tried to Pull Away When the North Tower Collapsed - When the North Tower started to collapse, at 10:28 a.m. (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), Morley and the PAPD sergeant grabbed their prisoner and tried to run with him for cover. But the man dug his heels into the ground and tried to pull away from them. Morley was eventually able to drag the man along and find protection behind a fire truck. [Appel, 2009, pp. 131-133] Sometime after the collapse, Morley encountered Hale again. Surprised to see that Morley was still escorting the suspicious man, Hale fetched a van, and drove Morley and his prisoner to Stuyvesant High School, where the ESU has set up a command post.
FBI Agents Interview the Prisoner - Now, at the school, some FBI agents show up to debrief Morley’s prisoner and they take him to an office to do so. They also ask Morley to write down for them everything that has happened. After a time, the FBI agents decide they want to take the man to the Police Academy. Morley, Hale, the FBI agents, and the prisoner therefore go to the Police Academy, where Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik are now based (see (After 10:28 a.m.-12:00 pm.) September 11, 2001).
Unidentified Official Tells the Detective to Keep Quiet - After they arrive at the academy, the prisoner is taken away to be debriefed by some intelligence officers. Meanwhile, Hale walks over to Giuliani and talks to him. He apparently tells the mayor about how Morley came to arrest the suspicious man in the WTC, as Giuliani subsequently walks over to Morley, shakes his hand, and says to him, “Good job.” A police inspector nearby then approaches Morley and asks him why the mayor had been shaking his hand. Morley starts telling the inspector about his encounter with the suspicious man in the North Tower. However, before he finishes his account of what happened, a man who has been standing across from him and eavesdropping on the conversation steps forward and interrupts. The man is dressed in a dark suit and is presumably some kind of government agent. He says to Morley, “If you know what’s good for you, I wouldn’t repeat that story.” Morley is astonished. He asks the man who he is, but the man only replies, “Never mind who I am.” In his anger, Morley decides he will go and tell his story to Kerik. He enters the room where Kerik is seated, but is unable to get the police commissioner’s attention and eventually gives up his attempt to talk to him. [Appel, 2009, pp. 173-176] The following day, the suspicious man that the ESU officers encountered in the WTC will have his arrest voided and be released from custody. [Appel, 2009, pp. 339] Further details of who he is and what he was doing in the North Tower are unknown.
Richard Belme. [Source: CNN]A United Airlines aircraft maintenance officer working at a maintenance facility in London, England, receives a suspicious satellite phone call from an unknown aircraft, apparently made by the plane’s pilot, who sounds distraught, possibly as if he is being choked.
Caller Sounds Strange, Makes No Sense - The call lasts for about seven or eight sentences, but the maintenance officer is unable to make sense of what it is about. He will later recall that the caller sounds strange, and tell the 9/11 Commission that this is the “only phone call that he’d ever received of that nature in the 10 years he’s been on the job for United.” The maintenance officer presumes that the caller is the plane’s pilot, because this specific type of satellite phone call can only be made from the flight deck of a commercial airliner. However, the caller’s manner of talking is not professional. The number for the London facility would not have been programmed into the phone, so the caller would have needed to type it in.
Caller Possibly Being Choked - The maintenance officer subsequently contacts the United Airlines System Aircraft Maintenance Control (SAMC) at San Francisco International Airport to report the strange call. The FBI is already at the SAMC and is made aware of his report. It is informed that the maintenance officer has said the caller from the plane “sounded as if they were being choked.” However, when he is interviewed by the 9/11 Commission in November 2003, the maintenance officer will state that “it is difficult to say whether or not the pilot was getting choked.” He will say he “doesn’t believe this to be the case and doesn’t recall reporting this,” although he will indicate that it is “possible he previously told someone that it sounded like the person was being choked.”
Origin of Call Unknown - The suspicious call comes up as “registration number unknown.” However, the maintenance officer recognizes it as coming from what he will call a “Sat 7 phone,” because, he will say, “the background noise was characteristic of that type of satellite call.” Typically, Boeing 767s and 777s have the equipment to make “Sat 7” calls, although the maintenance officer believes the call is most likely from a 777. The United Airlines legal department will subsequently tell the maintenance officer that “it would be possible to find the station that placed the call, because United must have a record of the phone call.” Satellite phone communication is expensive and each call is itemized when paid for. However, a 9/11 Commission memorandum in November 2003 will state that, at that time, the origin of the call “is still unknown.”
Call Unrelated to Two United Airlines Hijackings - According to the maintenance officer, the call is not tape recorded. But according to Richard Belme, a manager at the SAMC, the call is recorded but then only stored for a short time, maybe three months. The maintenance officer’s notes from this day will subsequently be shredded. The 9/11 Commission will conclude that the suspicious call could not have come from either of the two hijacked United Airlines flights because it does not coincide with the timeframe of those flights. Furthermore, United Airlines Flight 93 was a Boeing 757 and so would not have been equipped with the type of phone necessary to make the call. In mid-2003, the aircraft maintenance officer will be told that “this issue [is] over.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 ]
Passengers and crew members on board Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which was wrongly suspected to have been hijacked, are finally allowed to get off their plane and are taken to be interviewed by the FBI. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; WKYC, 9/11/2006] Delta 1989 made an emergency landing at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio after FAA and military personnel mistakenly thought it was hijacked and might have a bomb on board (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167-169] The plane was directed to a remote part of the airport, far away from the terminal, and the pilots were told not to allow passengers off.
No Evidence of Hijacking or Bomb - At 11:28 a.m., Cleveland Airport’s air traffic manager calls city officials and says he has no apparent reason to believe Delta 1989 has been hijacked, and he does not have any specific bomb threats. He says he has just received clearance from the FAA headquarters, which told him the airport had no reason to hold the aircraft unless city officials have other information from the FBI. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 229]
SWAT Team and FBI Approach Plane - Delta 1989’s pilots, Captain Paul Werner and First Officer David Dunlap, are finally informed that the Cleveland Police SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team and a team of FBI agents are coming out to their aircraft. While the FBI agents approach the plane, the SWAT team takes up a position about 50 yards behind it. Lt. Bernie Barabas, the leader of the SWAT team, will later recall, “If there had been some sort of problem and this turned into a situation where this was a live hijacking, or if they started killing Americans, we were going to act.”
SWAT Team Sees Pilot with Bloodied Face - Suspicion is aroused when Werner accidentally knocks his head and cuts it while returning to his seat, after going to the cabin to speak to the plane’s passengers. The members of the SWAT team outside are perplexed when they see him leaning out of the window to give the “all clear” signal, with blood running down his face. They then board the plane. [WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 270]
Passengers Taken off Plane - By 11:34 a.m., according to an FAA chronology, the FBI has commenced a controlled debarkation of Delta 1989. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ] The FBI agents slowly and carefully remove the passengers in small groups. [WKYC, 9/11/2006] According to some accounts, there are 78 people on the plane. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] But other accounts say there are about 200 on it. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Newsnet 5, 9/11/2001; WCPN, 9/12/2001] The FBI then instructs everyone that has got off to gather their belongings and line them up on the tarmac. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 270] Every piece of luggage and carry-on baggage will be opened and examined by security agents. [WKYC, 9/11/2006] Bomb-sniffing dogs board the aircraft, which is then searched, but no explosives will be found.
Passengers Taken Away and Interviewed - The SWAT team gathers the plane’s crew and passengers onto nearby buses. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 271] According to a timeline provided by the Cleveland Airport air traffic control tower, at 12:23 p.m. the passengers are taken to the Federal Facilities Building, located on the opposite side of the airfield to the terminal, where they are debriefed by the FBI. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] But the Associated Press will report that they are taken to a nearby NASA facility, presumably the Glenn Research Center, which is located next to the Cleveland airport. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; National Journal's Technology Daily, 11/27/2002] After being interviewed separately by FBI agents, the passengers will be put up at a local Holiday Inn. [Portland Press Herald, 9/15/2001]
Within two hours of the attacks the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron (RADES) based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah begins reviewing the radar trails of the four earlier hijacked aircraft, after Pentagon officials have turned to them to find out exactly what happened. Using their own software, the unit has the unique ability to create a “track of interest analysis,” singling out and zooming in on each of the planes. The unit has captured most of the flights of the four planes, but lost sight of Flight 93 at some point. [Airman, 12/2003] The FBI also contacts RADES within hours of the attacks, requesting detailed information on the hijacked planes. [Hilltop Times, 4/15/2004] NORAD official Colonel Alan Scott later will tell the 9/11 Commission that much of his radar data for the “primary targets” on 9/11 was not seen that day. He will say, “It was reconstructed days later by the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, and other agencies like it who are professionals at going back and looking at radar tapes and then given that they are loaded with knowledge after the fact, they can go and find things that perhaps were not visible during the event itself.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Data reconstructed by RADES will be used as a source several times in the account of the hijackings and military response to them in the 9/11 Commission’s final report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 457-459]
A few hours after the attacks, German intelligence intercepts a phone conversation between followers of bin Laden that leads the FBI to search frantically for two more teams of suicide hijackers, according to US and German officials. The Germans overhear the operatives refer to “the 30 people traveling for the operation.” The FBI scours flight manifests and any other clues for more conspirators still at large. [New York Times, 9/29/2001] Two days later, authorities claim to have identified teams of as many as 50 infiltrators who supported or carried out the strikes. About 40 are accounted for as dead or in custody; ten are missing. They also believe a total of 27 suspected operatives received some form of pilot training. This corresponds with many analyses that the attacks required a large support network. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2001] Yet there is no evidence that any accomplices in the US shortly before 9/11 have since been arrested or charged.
One day after 9/11, the New York Times will report that FBI agents in Florida investigating the hijackers quickly “descended on flight schools, neighborhoods and restaurants in pursuit of leads.” At one flight school, “students said investigators were there within hours of Tuesday’s attacks.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] Also on September 12, the Times will report, “Authorities said they had also identified accomplices in several cities who had helped plan and execute Tuesday’s attacks. Officials said they knew who these people were and important biographical details about many of them. They prepared biographies of each identified member of the hijack teams, and began tracing the recent movements of the men.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] In September 2002, 9/11 victim’s relative Kristen Breitweiser, testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, will cite these news reports and will ask, “How did the FBI know exactly where to go only a few hours after the attacks? How did they know which neighborhoods, which flight schools and which restaurants to investigate so soon in the case?… How are complete biographies of the terrorists, and their accomplices, created in such short time? Did our intelligence agencies already have open files on these men? Were they already investigating them? Could the attacks of September 11th been prevented?” [US Congress, 9/18/2002] In at least some cases, it appears that US intelligence did quickly access existing files on the hijackers. The Washington Post reports, “In the hours after Tuesday’s bombings, investigators searched their files on [Satam] Al Suqami and [Ahmed] Alghamdi, noted the pair’s ties to [Nabil] al-Marabh and launched a hunt for him.” A top Customs official claims that by checking flight manifests and comparing them with other information such as watch lists, he is able to determine the names of all 19 hijackers by 11:00 a.m.(see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/21/2001]
Personnel from several agencies searching for evidence at the Pentagon. [Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation]Beginning shortly before midday on September 11, 2001, and continuing until September 12, the FBI conducts a careful search across the grounds of the Pentagon, looking for remnants of the aircraft that hit the building. [PBS, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon. His first priority is to locate and gather all the airplane parts and other pieces of evidence from the lawn on the west side of the building. He sends out all available agents to conduct a grid search. The lawn is divided into quadrants, and then agents walk back and forth, sticking a small flag near any evidence they find, getting the evidence photographed in its place, and then scooping it into a bag. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 180] Arlington police officers, military personnel, and others also participate in the search. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] They also look for evidence across grass and roadways several hundred yards from the Pentagon. [PBS, 9/12/2001] Some pieces of the aircraft that hit the Pentagon are found nearly 1,000 feet away from the building, on the other side of Washington Boulevard. Thousands of tiny pieces of aluminum have also carried forward over the Pentagon, into its center courtyard. Other pieces of debris landed on its roof, along with body parts from at least one victim. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 29] According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, the searchers find “many scraps and a few personal items widely scattered on the grass and heliport. Plane remnants varied from half-dollar size to a few feet long.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] Authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman will describe: “Agents found what looked like a big Plexiglas windowpane on the lawn, which might have been part of an airplane window, except it was too big.… Somebody suggested it could be one of the blast-proof windows from the Pentagon, somehow blown 500 feet from the building.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 180]
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, says he has just been “briefed by the highest levels of the FBI and of the intelligence community.” He says, “They’ve come to the conclusion that this looks like the signature of Osama bin Laden, and that he may be the one behind this.” [Salon, 9/12/2001]
Los Angeles International Airport. [Source: Ric Francis/Associated Press]Los Angeles International Airport, the original destination of three of the aircraft hijacked in the morning’s terrorist attacks, is evacuated except for essential personnel. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] Officials closed the airport at 9:25 a.m., but now police start evacuating it. For hours, heavily armed agents and bomb-sniffing dogs patrol the terminals. Dozens of Los Angeles Police Department officers and FBI agents search through the airport. A few areas are scrutinized with particular care, such as around a suspicious parcel in Terminal 4, where American Airlines flights usually arrive and take off. However, no bombs are found. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001] While security is heightened at many US airports, the security precautions are particularly high at the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports (see 12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001), since these were the intended destinations of the four hijacked aircraft. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001]
The Navy Annex, located next to the Virginia State Police Barracks. [Source: Arlington County After-Action Report]The FBI establishes a command post for its response to the Pentagon attack at the Virginia State Police Barracks, overlooking the Pentagon. [Fire Engineering, 11/2002] Around midday, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Blecksmith arrived at the Pentagon and took over from Special Agent Chris Combs as the FBI’s on scene commander. He had quickly decided that the area around the Arlington County Fire Department’s incident command post by the Pentagon was too crowded and lacked support facilities. He therefore decides it will be safer for the FBI to carry out its operations at the Virginia State Police Barracks, located next to the Navy Annex, a few hundred yards from the Pentagon. Along with Combs, Blecksmith establishes the FBI’s command post there, and starts moving the FBI up to it. The two men will spend most of the afternoon at the barracks, where they work on establishing a Joint Operations Center (JOC) at nearby Fort Myer. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A23 and C50 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 178] The JOC will open early the following morning (see September 12, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161]
Due to the chaos and gridlock resulting from the morning’s attacks, the FBI is hampered in mobilizing its investigative operation at the Pentagon. Because the Pentagon is a crime scene, it is the FBI’s job to gather and document every piece of evidence there. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 177] Special Agent Chris Combs, the FBI’s representative at the crash site, has been setting up the FBI operation since arriving at 9:49 a.m. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A20 and 1-1 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 178] Since before 10:00 a.m., the bureau’s evidence recovery team has been arriving. But although every available agent has been paged, many are stuck in traffic, and it will take several hours before the entire FBI contingent makes it to the Pentagon. The FBI also has a fleet of sophisticated command vehicles and helicopters, plus other specialized equipment. But even though the crash site is within the “FBI’s backyard,” according to authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, by around 12:15 p.m. none of this has arrived yet. The bureau’s rapid-deployment gear, which includes everything needed to gather and document evidence, is stored in a warehouse in Washington, DC. But with traffic in the region at a standstill, it is almost impossible to get this through the streets to the Pentagon. Chris Combs asks his boss at the FBI’s Washington field office if any helicopters are available to get equipment to the Pentagon quickly. But several choppers at the FBI facility in Quantico, just 30 miles south of the Pentagon, are reserved for specific duties during government emergencies and are currently locked down. And according to Creed and Newman, other government helicopters the bureau relies upon for backup are tied up, though what they are being used for is unstated. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A22 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 177-179] Furthermore, NBC News has reported that the FBI’s top teams have been away from Washington for the last two days for a major training exercise in California (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). This means about 50 personnel, plus helicopters and equipment, are currently out of place and unavailable. [NBC 4, 9/11/2001]
Deena Burnett is visited at her home in San Ramon, California, by three FBI agents, and questioned about the calls she received from her husband, Tom Burnett, who was a passenger on Flight 93. Deena has now learned of the plane crashing in Pennsylvania, and a police officer staying with her informed her that this was her husband’s plane. The FBI agents spend over an hour with Deena, asking her about her husband and what he’d said in his four calls from Flight 93. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 71-72 and 74-75] She describes to them how Tom called her using his cell phone and told her his flight had been hijacked. In his final call he’d described how a group of the passengers was going to “do something.” She says her husband was a former college football player and very intelligent, so if he’d concluded he was going to die, he would have taken action. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] Deena remembers that she’d taken notes, writing down the details of her husband’s calls. But she does not want the agents to have these, saying, “You wouldn’t be able to read it anyway.” They do not take the notes with them when they leave. They will return later in the day and tell Deena specifically not to say anything to anyone—especially the media—about her cell phone conversations with her husband, because it is part of their investigation. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 75 and 81]
The FBI interviews Eric Gill, a security guard at Dulles Airport who may have encountered some of the 9/11 hijackers attempting to access aircraft the night before 9/11 (see Around 8:15 p.m. September 10, 2001). Gill tells the FBI his story, but the FBI fails to show him a video it has found of the hijackers passing through an airport security checkpoint on 9/11, even though it is shown to all his colleagues, except the partner he was on duty with when he saw the hijackers. The FBI also obtains video of two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Salem Alhazmi, at Dulles on the day he says he saw another two of them, Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, but does not show this video to him and this video will not be publicly mentioned until 2008. It is unclear what the FBI does with logs for a door through which Gill says the hijackers would have passed, but they are not shown to Gill. Two days later, the FBI shows him poor quality photocopied pictures of the hijackers and Gill identifies two of them as the people he saw on September 10, but the FBI then loses interest in him, as they think one of the men he identifies hijacked a plane from Boston, not Dulles. Another man who may have seen the hijackers the night before 9/11, Khalid Mahmoud, is taken away by the INS and does not return, presumably because he has been deported. Gill will speak to a 9/11 Commission staffer on the telephone about 18 months later, but nothing will come of this. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 281 ; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 38-40, 43-5]
GTE customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson had spoken with Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer for 13 minutes before his plane crashed (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Before heading home from work at 1 p.m., she is questioned by phone by three FBI agents, who asked her scores of questions about her conversation with Beamer. Later in the afternoon, an FBI agent phones her at home. He provides her with several numbers to call, should she remember further details about her conversation with Beamer. He also tells her to maintain secrecy about the call. Jefferson later describes, “In fact, he stressed the importance of keeping the matter under wraps.” [Jefferson and Middlebrooks, 2006, pp. 61-62 and 69] It is not until three days later that the FBI first releases information on the call, and that Beamer’s wife learns of it (see September 14, 2001). [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 185-186] It is unclear why the FBI wants it kept secret until then. Phone calls made by several other passengers from Flight 93 will be reported within a day of the attacks. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001]
On September 11—after the 9/11 attacks are over—the New York FBI office learns that one of the hijackers was Khalid Almihdhar. One of the FBI agents at the office, Steve Bongardt, had attempted to get permission to search for Almihdhar in late August, but was not allowed to do so. He wrote an e-mail on August 29 (see August 29, 2001) predicting that “someday someone will die… the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.’” He will later testify that upon seeing Almihdhar’s name on one of the passenger flight manifests, he angrily yells, “This is the same Almihdhar we’ve been talking about for three months!” In an attempt to console him, his boss replies, “We did everything by the book.” Now that Bongardt is allowed to conduct a basic Internet search for Almihdhar that he had been denied permission to conduct before 9/11, he finds the hijacker’s address “within hours.” [Washington Post, 9/21/2002; US Congress, 12/11/2002] The FBI field office in San Diego also was not notified before 9/11 that Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi had been put on a no-fly watch list on August 24, 2001 (see September 4-5, 2001). Bill Gore, the FBI agent running the San Diego office on this day, will later make reference to the fact that Alhazmi’s correct phone number and address were listed in the San Diego phone book, and say: “How could [we] have found these people when we didn’t know we were looking for them? The first place we would have looked is the phone book.… I submit to you we would have found them.” [US Congress, 12/11/2002]
The FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center. [Source: FBI]Attorney General John Ashcroft spends most of the rest of the day at the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC), after arriving there in the early afternoon (see (Between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 129] The SIOC, which is located on the fifth floor of the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC, functions as a 24-hour watch post and crisis management center. The huge, windowless center can seat 380 people, and is equipped with sophisticated computers and communications equipment. [CNN, 11/20/1998; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/18/2004]
FBI Director Briefs Ashcroft - Ashcroft will later recall that when he arrives at the SIOC, the place is “teeming with people, abuzz with activity, voices and papers everywhere, with dozens of people coming in and out with bits and pieces of new information moment by moment.” Numerous rows of computer screens are “filled with data, and eight large video display screens were being monitored constantly.” Ashcroft is met by FBI Director Robert Mueller, who briefs him on what is so far known regarding the terrorist attacks.
Priority Is to Clear the Skies - During his initial period at the SIOC, Ashcroft will recall, the “overriding priority” is to make sure all commercial aircraft are on the ground. There are also concerns about some planes that have landed and individuals on them who might have been hijackers, and concerns about securing airports so that flights can get up and running again as soon as possible. [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 120-121]
SIOC Is 'the Place to Be to Get Information' - Most of the leading Justice Department and FBI officials remain at the SIOC throughout the day. Other officials in the center along with Ashcroft and Mueller include Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, and Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; US Department of Justice, 9/12/2001] According to Ashcroft, the SIOC is “the place to be to get information, and so everyone wanted to be there.” [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ] Ashcroft will later recall, “I spent the hours, days, and most of the first weeks, months, after the attack on the United States in the [SIOC].” He will add, “That day, in those early hours, the prevention of terrorist attacks became the central goal of the law enforcement and national security mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” [CNN, 5/30/2002]
A US Airways airliner. [Source: Public domain]A US Airways plane that is flying to the United States from Madrid, Spain, is incorrectly suspected of being hijacked. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; White House, 10/24/2001] It is stated over an FAA teleconference that the White House has reported this suspicious aircraft, which is heading to Philadelphia International Airport, and the military is scrambling fighter jets in response to it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002 ] NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the plane by US Customs and the FBI, according to a NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD has been unable to locate the aircraft on radar, according to the NORAD representative. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001] Accounts conflict over whether the plane is US Airways Flight 930 or Flight 937. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002 ]
Plane Is Reportedly Transmitting the Hijack Signal - Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, will later recall that when those in the PEOC learn of the suspect flight, “we got word that it was only 30 minutes or so outside of US airspace.” According to Libby, the plane’s transponder is transmitting the code for a hijacking: He will say it is reported that the flight has been “showing hijacking through some electronic signal.” [White House, 11/14/2001] However, according to the NORAD representative on the air threat conference call, the plane’s transponder has not been “squawking” the code for a hijacking. “We do not have squawk indication at this point,” he has said.
Plane Is Reportedly Diverted to Pittsburgh - An FAA representative on the air threat conference call apparently says an e-mail has been sent from the suspicious aircraft, stating that the plane is being diverted to Pittsburgh, although the FAA representative’s communications are distorted and therefore unclear. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
President Says Fighters Can Shoot Down the Plane - President Bush discusses the suspicious US Airways flight with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over the air threat conference call after landing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), listens in. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87-88] Rumsfeld wants Bush to confirm that fighters are authorized to shoot down the plane if it is considered a threat to a city in the US. “The reason I called… was just to verify that your authorization for the use of force would apply as well in this situation,” he says. Bush replies, “It does, but let us make sure that the fighters and you on the ground get all the facts.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
Plane Is on the Ground in Spain - After a time, it will be found that the plane is not a threat and is on the ground in Spain. Arnold will be called by Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, and told, “We just talked to the airline and that aircraft is back on the ground in Madrid.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 88] According to Libby, “It turned out that, I think, it was only 35 minutes out of Spanish airspace, not out of our airspace.” [White House, 11/14/2001] Reggie Settles, the FAA representative at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, will be informed by US Airways that Flight 937 in fact never existed. However, he will be told, there is a US Airways Flight 911, which “took off from Madrid,” but “has turned back and returned to Madrid,” and “is not en route to the United States.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
President Decides to Leave Offutt after the Concerns Are Resolved - After he learns that the suspicious plane is back in Spain, Arnold will pick up the hot line and tell Bush: “Mr. President, this is the CONR commander.… No problem with Madrid.” According to Arnold, Bush will reply, “Okay, then I’m getting airborne.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 88] Bush will take off from Offutt aboard Air Force One at around 4:30 p.m. (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001] Numerous aircraft are incorrectly suspected of being hijacked on this day (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Newhouse News Service, 3/31/2005] The US Airways flight from Madrid is the last of these, according to Arnold. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002]
Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, North American Aerospace Defense Command, US Airways, Robert Marr, Reggie Settles, White House, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Northeast Air Defense Sector, US Customs Service
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Yaron Shmuel, one of the five Israelis found in the van. [Source: Public domain via Israeli television]The FBI issues a BOLO (be on lookout) bulletin for three suspicious men who were seen leaving the New Jersey waterfront minutes after the first hijacked plane hit the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Law enforcement officers in the greater New York City area are warned in a radio dispatch to watch for a “vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack.” The bulletin reads, in part: “White, 2000 Chevrolet van…with ‘Urban Moving Systems’ sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center…. Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals.” The van is located a short time later and five men inside it are arrested (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007]
Robert J. Darling. [Source: Robert J. Darling]Government and military officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House learn that the FBI’s crisis response team wants to be flown from California back to Washington, DC, and, because of the team’s crucial role in responding to terrorism, they arrange a flight for it as a matter of priority. [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-75] The FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) arrived in California the previous day for a week of field training (see September 10, 2001) and was therefore stranded away from Washington when the terrorist attacks occurred this morning (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 75]
FBI San Francisco Office Arranges to Get Team to Washington - Two agents belonging to the CIRG learned of the attacks when the FBI’s San Francisco field office phoned them just before 9:00 a.m. (Eastern time) and alerted them to the events in New York. The agents quickly went to the field office, where Bruce Gebhardt, the special agent in charge, gave them the details of what had happened, and told them to get their team together and head to the San Francisco airport. Gebhardt said that although US airspace was closed to all commercial air traffic (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he would do what he could to get the CIRG transported back to Washington as soon as possible. The team members therefore packed their gear and went to the airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 8/18/2004; Darling, 2010, pp. 75-76]
Transporting Unit Home Becomes 'Priority' at White House - In the PEOC, Colonel Michael Irwin, the director of operations for the White House Military Office, is called by a senior member of the FBI, who requests airlift support for the CIRG. The request is quickly passed to Joe Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff. Hagin hands it back to Irwin and says: “I want you to get these folks back to DC immediately! Let the military know this is a White House priority.” The task of getting the CIRG back to Washington is then passed to Major Robert Darling, the White House Military Office airlift operations liaison officer, who is also in the PEOC. It becomes his “number-one mission priority.” The CIRG is the unit that coordinates the FBI’s rapid response to crisis incidents, including terrorist attacks. Therefore, “It made perfect sense,” Darling will later comment, “that the president would want them home and at the ready, given the day’s events.”
United Airlines Offers to Provide Aircraft - After learning that the FBI has essential personnel trying to return to Washington, United Airlines quickly offers its services. If the White House can authorize an aircraft to fly under the Special Assignment Air Mission designator, the airline says, it will provide the required aircraft and crew immediately. With the approval of Hagin and a phone call to NORAD, United Airlines Flight 8811 is authorized to transport the CIRG back to Washington. “Within the hour” of this authorization being given, according to Darling, the CIRG members will take off from San Francisco and head back to Washington (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-76]
The white van used by five Israeli agents as they were leaving New York on 9/11.Five Israelis are arrested for “puzzling behavior” related to the WTC attacks. Shortly after an FBI lookout bulletin was issued for a van with the words “Urban Moving Systems” written on the side, officers with the East Rutherford Police Department in New Jersey stop the van after matching the license plate number with the one given in the bulletin. According to the police report, Officer Scott DeCarlo and Sgt. Dennis Rivelli approach the van and demand the driver exit the vehicle. The driver, Sivan Kurzberg, does not obey after being asked several more times, so the police physically remove Kurzberg and four other men from the van and handcuff them. They have not been told the reasons for their arrest, but Kurzberg tells them, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” Again before the police have made any mention of the 9/11 attacks, another one of the arrested men says, “[W]e were on the West Side Highway in New York City during the incident.” In fact, it will later be determined they were on the roof of a building at Liberty State Park, watching and videotaping the first crash into the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001; Ha'aretz, 9/17/2001; CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] The FBI and additional police quickly arrive. They shut down the section of Route 3 in East Rutherford where the van was stopped and evacuate a nearby hotel as a security precaution. [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] One man is found with $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock, another has two foreign passports on him, and a box cutter is found in the van. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Another has pictures of the men standing with the burning wreckage of the WTC in the background. [Forward, 3/15/2002] All five identify themselves as Israeli citizens and claim to be working for the New Jersey-based Urban Moving Systems company. In addition to the driver Sivan Kurzberg, the others are identified as Paul Kurzberg (Sivan’s brother), Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel. The men are detained but not charged. [Forward, 3/15/2002; ABC News, 6/21/2002] The next day it will be reported that “bomb-sniffing dogs reacted as if they had detected explosives.” An investigator high up in the Bergen County law enforcement hierarchy will say in 2006, “There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted…. It looked like they’re hooked in with this [referring to the 9/11 attacks]. It looked like they knew what was going to happen.…It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park.” [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] The FBI will later conclude at least two of the five are Mossad agents and that all were on a Mossad surveillance mission. The FBI interrogates them for weeks. [Forward, 3/15/2002] They are held on immigration violation charges, but will be released 71 days later (see November 20, 2001). [ABC News, 6/21/2002]
Entity Tags: Yaron Shmuel, Sivan Kurzberg, Urban Moving Systems, World Trade Center, Paul Kurzberg, Scott DeCarlo, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dennis Rivelli, Omer Marmari, Oded Ellner, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Van Harp. [Source: US Department of Defense]Van Harp, the head of the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office, is away from the capital in South Carolina for his summer vacation, and has to be flown back to Washington in an FBI plane to help respond to the terrorist attacks. [Washington Post, 3/4/2002; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C45, C47 ; 9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 ] Harp took command of the Washington field office (WFO) as its new assistant director in charge in July this year. [Washington Post, 4/18/2003; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010] But on this day he is in Hilton Head, South Carolina, on vacation with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He learned of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center when his secretary, Donna Cummings, paged him shortly after the attack occurred. Harp then called Cummings and she told him what had happened. He switched on the television in time to see the second plane crashing into the WTC, and had known then that he needed to return to Washington.
FBI Granted Permission to Send Plane to Collect Harp - Because all planes have been grounded across the US (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the FBI initially arranged for state troopers in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to drive Harp back to Washington. But the bureau was then able to get special permission from the FAA to send an aircraft to fly Harp home. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 424; Washington Post, 3/4/2002; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C47 ] The FBI therefore sent one of its aircraft to collect Harp from Hilton Head Airport. The small, single-engine plane received clearance to take off from Manassas Regional Airport, 30 miles west of Washington, at around 2:30 p.m. The time when it lands in Hilton Head is unstated, as is the time when it lands back at the Manassas airport. From the Manassas airport, Harp drives to an FBI command post at Washington Dulles International Airport and then arrives at the WFO sometime later in the afternoon. He will stay at the field office until 2:20 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Kessler, 2002, pp. 424; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-2, S-41 ]
Three of Office's Four Leaders Absent - The WFO is the second largest of the FBI’s 56 field offices in terms of staffing. It comprises 657 agents and 650 professional support staff. Serving under Harp, three special agents in charge (SACs) direct the office’s administrative and technical, criminal investigations, and national security divisions. However, of the WFO’s four senior leaders, only SAC Arthur Eberhart, the head of the administrative and technical division, was present at the office when the terrorist attacks took place. SAC Ellen Knowlton, who headed the criminal investigative division, was recently reassigned to FBI headquarters, and so her position is currently vacant. SAC Timothy Bereznay was only recently appointed to head the national security division, and so he has not yet reported to the WFO. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C3, C45 ; 9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/6/2006] The WFO will be one of the key FBI offices involved in the fight against terrorism following the 9/11 attacks. [Washington Post, 4/18/2003]
United Airlines Flight 8811 takes off from San Francisco, California, to transport a group of FBI agents to Washington, DC. The Boeing 757 is carrying 75 FBI agents and 14,000 pounds of equipment across the US. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 279] The agents are members of the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) and its Hostage Rescue Team, which is operated by the CIRG, who arrived in California the previous day for a week of field training (see September 10, 2001) and were therefore stranded away from Washington when the terrorist attacks occurred this morning (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). After learning that the FBI had essential personnel wanting to return to Washington, United Airlines offered to provide an aircraft and crew to fly them home (see (3:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 73-76] Flight 8811 has received approval to take off from NORAD headquarters. It is one of the first non-military aircraft to be permitted to take off since NORAD implemented a limited version of a plan called “SCATANA,” which gave the military control over US airspace (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After taking off, the plane’s pilot, Captain Barry Nance, is cleared “direct” across the country. As he flies to Washington, Nance hears just three other aircraft over the radio, all of them military fighter jets. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 279] Flight 8811 will reach Washington just after midnight and land at Reagan National Airport. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 282; Lynn Spencer, 2008]
Susan Mcelwain, who lives two miles from the Flight 93 crash site, had seen a small jet plane flying very low overhead as she was driving home. She later recalls that it had been “heading right to the point where Flight 93 crashed and must have been there at the very moment it came down.” But it was only later in the afternoon, after returning home and turning on the TV, that she’d realized what she’d seen was connected to the attacks in New York and Washington. While she was confused that a Boeing 757—not a small jet plane—was being reported as having gone down near where she’d been, she’d then realized that the small plane was flying in a different direction to that being described for Flight 93. So she got her husband to tell the police about what she’d witnessed. Consequently, late in the evening, the FBI turns up to talk to her about it. Yet, as Mcelwain later recalls, “They did not want my story.” They keep asking her how big the plane she’d seen was. When she tells them it was small, not much bigger than her van, one of the agents tells her, “You don’t know what a 757 looks like.” She retorts, “Don’t be condescending towards me. If you don’t want to believe me, that’s fine, but I thought I should report what I saw. You ought to know there was something else in the air at the same time this was going on. We want to make sure it was ours and not somebody else’s.” After this, she will recall, the agent “did seem to get a little nicer. Told me that it was a white Learjet. Somebody was taking pictures. And I said, ‘Before the crash?’ and he says, ‘Well, we’ve got to go,’ and that was the end of it.” [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002; Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 38-40] Numerous other witnesses also saw a small jet plane flying above the crash site around the time Flight 93 reportedly went down (see (Before and After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
One page of a torn up 757 cockpit poster used by the hijackers. It was found in a trash compactor at the Days Inn, near the Newark Airport. [Source: FBI]Investigators find a remarkable number of possessions left behind by the hijackers:
Two of Mohamed Atta’s bags are found on 9/11. They contain a handheld electronic flight computer, a simulator procedures manual for Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, two videotapes relating to “air tours” of the Boeing 757 and 747 aircraft, a slide-rule flight calculator, a copy of the Koran, Atta’s passport, his will, his international driver’s license, a religious cassette tape, airline uniforms, a letter of recommendation, “education related documentation” and a note (see September 28, 2001) to other hijackers on how to mentally prepare for the hijacking. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/15/2001; Boston Globe, 9/18/2001; Independent, 9/29/2001; Associated Press, 10/5/2001] Author Terry McDermott will later comment, “Atta’s bag contained nearly every important document in his life… If you wanted to leave a roadmap for investigators to follow, the suitcase was a pretty good place to start.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 306]
Marwan Alshehhi’s rental car is discovered at Boston’s Logan Airport containing an Arabic language flight manual, a pass giving access to restricted areas at the airport, documents containing a name on the passenger list of one of the flights, and the names of other suspects. The name of the flight school where Atta and Alshehhi studied, Huffman Aviation, is also found in the car. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2001]
A car registered to Nawaf Alhazmi is found at Washington’s Dulles Airport on September 12. This is the same car he bought in San Diego in early 2000 (see March 25, 2000). Inside is a copy of Atta’s letter to the other hijackers, a cashier’s check made out to a flight school in Phoenix, four drawings of the cockpit of a 757 jet, a box cutter-type knife, maps of Washington and New York, and a page with notes and phone numbers. [Arizona Daily Star, 9/28/2001; Cox News Service, 10/21/2001; Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002] The name and phone number of Osama Awadallah, a friend of Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in San Diego, is also found on a scrap of paper in the car (see September 12, 2001 and After). [CNN, 2/1/2002]
A rental car is found in an airport parking lot in Portland, Maine. Investigators are able to collect fingerprints and hair samples for DNA analysis. [Portland Press Herald, 10/14/2001]
A Boston hotel room contains airplane and train schedules. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/15/2001]
FBI agents carry out numerous garbage bags of evidence from a Florida apartment where Saeed Alghamdi lived. [CNN, 9/17/2001]
Two days before 9/11, a hotel owner in Deerfield Beach, Florida, finds a box cutter left in a hotel room used by Marwan Alshehhi and two unidentified men. The owner checks the nearby trash and finds a duffel bag containing Boeing 757 manuals, three illustrated martial arts books, an 8-inch stack of East Coast flight maps, a three-ring binder full of handwritten notes, an English-German dictionary, an airplane fuel tester, and a protractor. The FBI seizes all the items when they are notified on September 12 (except the binder of notes, which the owner apparently threw away). [Miami Herald, 9/16/2001; Associated Press, 9/16/2001]
In an apartment rented by Ziad Jarrah and Ahmed Alhaznawi, the FBI finds a notebook, videotape, and photocopies of their passports. [Miami Herald, 9/15/2001]
In a bar the night before 9/11, after making predictions of a attack on America the next day, the hijackers leave a business card and a copy of the Koran at the bar. The FBI also recovers the credit card receipts from when they paid for their drinks and lap dances. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001]
A September 13 security sweep of Boston airport’s parking garage uncovers items left behind by the hijackers: a box cutter, a pamphlet written in Arabic, and a credit card. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001]
A few hours after the attacks, suicide notes that some of the hijackers wrote to their parents are found in New York. Credit card receipts showing that some of the hijackers paid for flight training in the US are also found. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2001]
A FedEx bill is found in a trash can at the Comfort Inn in Portland, Maine, where Atta stayed the night before 9/11. The bill leads to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, allowing investigators to determine much of the funding for 9/11. [Newsweek, 11/11/2001; London Times, 12/1/2001]
A bag hijackers Alhazmi and Almihdhar left at a mosque in Laurel, Maryland, is found on September 12. The bag contains flight logs and even receipts from flight schools from San Diego the year before (see September 9, 2001).
On 9/11, in a Days Inn hotel room in Newark, New Jersey, investigators find used plane tickets for Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ahmed Alnami. The tickets are all from a Spirit Continental Airlines flight from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Newark on September 7. Also, flight manuals for Boeing 757 and 767 airplanes are found in English and Arabic. [Investigative Services Division, FBI Headquarters, 4/19/2002]
The hijackers past whereabouts can even be tracked by their pizza purchases. An expert points out: “Most people pay cash for pizza. These [hijackers] paid with a credit card. That was an odd thing.” [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/3/2002] “In the end, they left a curiously obvious trail—from martial arts manuals, maps, a Koran, Internet and credit card fingerprints. Maybe they were sloppy, maybe they did not care, maybe it was a gesture of contempt of a culture they considered weak and corrupt.” [Miami Herald, 9/22/2001] The New Yorker quotes a former high-level intelligence official as saying: “Whatever trail was left was left deliberately—for the FBI to chase” (see Late September 2001). [New Yorker, 10/8/2001]
Entity Tags: Huffman Aviation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington Dulles International Airport, Marwan Alshehhi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Mohamed Atta, Saeed Alghamdi, Osama Awadallah, Nawaf Alhazmi, Terry McDermott, Ziad Jarrah
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
It is later reported that FBI officials believe that a second grouping or cell of “perhaps 20 al-Qaeda terrorists [are] in the United States on Sept. 11 to carry out another attack. Members of this second cell, one official [says], apparently [abandon] apartments they… rented in Paterson, New Jersey, and Fairfax, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., after Sept. 11, leaving rented furniture and other possessions behind in their haste.” [St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/7/2002] Another article notes, “Police always have had concerns about sleeper agents in the [Brooklyn, New York] area. They particularly were concerned by a story… from several NYPD sources about an abandoned rental car that was parked in front of a mosque only a few blocks from New Utrecht. The car had been rented under the phony name ‘Bomkr’ from Logan International Airport in Boston shortly before the attacks. Investigators thought the name sounded a lot like ‘bomb car.’ The anonymous party rented several other cars from Logan, all of which either have disappeared or been abandoned. Police suspect the cars were used by al-Qaeda operatives to return to their home bases after the attacks.” [Insight, 9/10/2002]
Around 2:30 a.m., the FBI arrives at Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice, Florida, inquiring about suspected hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, who attended the school (see July 6-December 19, 2000). Huffman Aviation has around 200 students, about half of them foreigners. The FBI takes away all its records on former students, including photocopies of Atta and Alshehhi’s passports, as well as two computers. [Charlotte Sun, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/13/2001; US Congress, 3/19/2002] Students at another Florida flight school say the FBI arrived at their school within hours of the attacks (see September 11, 2001).
Dr. Marcella Fierro [Source: Ernie Branson]Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marcella Fierro, believing that state forensic pathologists have jurisdiction over the Pentagon’s land, reassigns staff from three other regional offices to the Northern Virginia office in order to conduct postmortem examinations on victims of the Pentagon attack. However, following what the Washington Post calls a “behind-the-scenes tug of war,” after FBI and Defense Department officials meet with her they instead opt to conduct forensic and mortuary activities at Defense Department facilities. Fierro requests and later receives a letter from Attorney General John Ashcroft relieving her department of its responsibilities. [Washington Post, 9/13/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-47 ]
After arriving at the Pentagon on September 11 (see 9:42 a.m. September 11, 2001), the FBI is involved in removing bodies and body parts from the crash site. It works closely with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams and fire department Technical Rescue Teams (TRT). Members of these teams hunt through the debris, searching for survivors. When they find bodies or body parts, they call upon the FBI to photograph, number, and tag these remains. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-54 ] Though the Flight 77 passengers had been in the back of the plane at the time of the crash, most of their remains are found deep inside the building, near the end of the area traveled by the aircraft debris. Conversely, the remains of the suspected hijackers, who would have been at the front of the plane, are found relatively close to the front of the building, where the plane first impacted it. (However, these remains will be identified as belonging to the hijackers only through a process of elimination, as they do not match DNA samples of the victims of the attack.) According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Pentagon Building Performance Report, the location of the remains as such indicates that “the front of the aircraft disintegrated essentially upon impact but, in the process, opened up a hole allowing the trailing portions of the fuselage to pass into the building.” Journalist Steve Vogel concludes, “The fuselage in essence turned inside out as it passed through the Pentagon.” The search and rescue operations at the Pentagon come to an end on the morning of September 22, and the Arlington County Fire Department then turns command of the crash site over to the FBI. [Washington Post, 11/21/2001; Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 40 ; Vogel, 2007, pp. 432 and 467]
A number of witnesses who claim they saw Mohamed Atta living in Venice, Florida in early 2001 later allege that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, they are intimidated by the FBI and told to keep quiet about what they knew. Amanda Keller, who claims to have lived with Atta during early 2001 (see (February-April 2001)), later says that, even after she moved away from Venice, FBI agents called her every other day for several months after the attacks. She tells investigative reporter Daniel Hopsicker about “intimidation by the FBI” that she suffered, adding, “They told me not to talk to anybody, to keep my mouth shut.” Stephanie Frederickson, who remembers Keller and Atta living next door to her in the Sandpiper Apartments in Venice, later recalls, “At first, right after the attack, [the FBI] told me I must have been mistaken in my identification. Or they would insinuate that I was lying. Finally they stopped trying to get me to change my story, and just stopped by once a week to make sure I hadn’t been talking to anyone. Who was I going to tell? Most everyone around here already knew.” Charles Grapentine, the manager of the Sandpiper Apartments, also confirms Atta having lived with Keller. He says that, after 9/11, the FBI “called me a liar, and told me to keep my mouth shut.” [Hopsicker, 2004, pp. 62-63, 65 and 88-89] According to the FBI’s account of events, Atta had left Venice by late December 2000 or early January 2001. Its account makes no mention of him returning there later. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] A former manager at Huffman Aviation, the Venice flight school attended by Atta in late 2000 (see July 6-December 19, 2000), also later alleges that the FBI intimidated him and told him to keep quiet. He says the FBI was “outside my house four hours after the attack.” He claims his phones were bugged after 9/11, and adds, “I thought these guys [Atta and his associates] were double agents. Why is that so incriminating?” [Hopsicker, 2004, pp. 149-150]
The FBI dramatically escalates its warrantless wiretaps of US citizens, most without the proper paperwork or oversight. The public will not learn of the FBI wiretapping program until October 2005, when classified documents will be made available to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), an advocacy group that will sue the Justice Department for records relating to the Patriot Act. According to those documents, which are heavily redacted, the FBI conducts clandestine surveillance on some US residents for 18 months and even longer. The FBI will also internally investigate at least 287 violations of its use of secret surveillance against US citizens. One target will be kept under surveillance for over five years, including a 15-month stretch where the FBI fails to notify Justice Department lawyers after the subject moves from New York to Detroit. According to an FBI investigation, that delay is a violation of department guidelines and will prevent the department “from exercising its responsibility for oversight and approval of an ongoing foreign counterintelligence investigation of a US person.” Other cases involve agents obtaining e-mails after warrants expire, seizing bank records without authorization, and conducting improper “unconsented physical search(es).” EPIC’s general counsel, David Sobel, will say in October 2005 that the classified documents indicate possible misconduct by the FBI in counterintelligence investigations, and highlight the need for greater congressional oversight of clandestine surveillance within the United States. “We’re seeing what might be the tip of the iceberg at the FBI and across the intelligence community,” Sobel will say. “It indicates that the existing mechanisms do not appear adequate to prevent abuses or to ensure the public that abuses that are identified are treated seriously and remedied.” The FBI will counter by insisting that all of the infractions are minor, mostly what it calls administrative errors, and that any information obtained improperly is quarantined and eventually destroyed. One senior FBI official will say, “Every investigator wants to make sure that their investigation is handled appropriately, because they’re not going to be allowed to keep information that they didn’t have the proper authority to obtain. But that is a relatively uncommon occurrence. The vast majority of the potential [violations] reported have to do with administrative timelines and time frames for renewing orders.” Catherine Lotrionte, the counsel for the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which is tasked with overseeing the FBI’s domestic surveillance operations, will refuse to disclose any details of any of the FBI violations, saying most of its work is classified and covered by executive privilege. The surveillance operations are conducted under the aegis of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (see 1978), whose threshold for such surveillance is lower than for criminal warrants. In 2004 alone, over 1,700 new cases will be opened by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. [Washington Post, 10/24/2005] Though Bush officials eventually admit to beginning surveillance of US citizens after the 9/11 attacks, that assertion is disputed by evidence suggesting that the domestic surveillance program began well before 9/11 (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, and July 2001).
An unnamed high-ranking official at the State Department arranges the release of four foreign operatives that have been taken in for questioning by the FBI on suspicion that they knew about or somehow aided the 9/11 attacks, according to FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI, becoming a whistleblower, and say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated. Edmonds will say that the target of an FBI investigation into a nuclear smuggling ring calls the official, indicates names of people who have been taken into custody since 9/11, and says, “We need to get them out of the US because we can’t afford for them to spill the beans.” The official says he will “take care of it,” and the four suspects on the list are released from interrogation and extradited. [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008] The names of the four suspects are not known, but one of the lead 9/11 hijackers, Marwan Alshehhi, and the sister of another, Mohamed Atta, will later be associated with the target of an FBI investigation connected to nuclear sciences, so this could possibly be a reference to this person (see July 1999). The high-ranking State Department official who is not named in the Sunday Times article is said to be Marc Grossman by both Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, writing in the American Conservative. [Raw Story, 1/20/2008; American Conservative, 1/28/2008]
Before 9/11, New York City was scheduled to have a major terrorism training exercise on this day, in a large commercial warehouse on the Hudson River. Called Tripod, it was intended to test how well the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) could administer treatment in the event of a biological-terrorism attack. More than 1,000 Police Academy cadets and Fire Department trainees were recruited to act the parts of terrified civilians afflicted with a range of medical conditions. Various individuals were invited to watch, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the police and fire commissioners, and representatives of the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Presumably many have already arrived for the exercise when the 9/11 attacks occur (see 7:00 a.m. -9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Because Pier 92, where Tripod was due to take place, has been set up ready for the exercise, OEM staff are able to move there and quickly convert it into a large emergency operations center when their original command center (in WTC Building 7) is evacuated and later destroyed during 9/11. Thus, within 31 hours of the attacks, OEM has a functional facility able to manage the search and rescue effort, just four miles north-northwest of the WTC site. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Tripod is the follow-up to a previous training exercise in New York, called RED Ex (see May 11, 2001). [New York Sun, 12/20/2003] Due to the 9/11 attacks, Tripod is called off, but will eventually take place on May 22, 2002. [City of New York, 5/22/2002]
Despite having been told by the FBI not to do so, Deena Burnett decides to speak to several groups of reporters about the four calls her husband Tom Burnett made to her from Flight 93, before it crashed in Pennsylvania. The FBI visited Deena the previous evening and, she later recalls, “told me specifically not to say anything to anyone about my cell phone conversations with Tom, especially the media, because it was part of their investigation.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 81] But by this morning, she will comment, “everything I would have told the media had been reported on the news by the FBI, police, and Father Frank” Colacicco, from the church where her family worships. “If they could tell their stories, I knew now I could tell mine. There would be no harm to ‘the evidence’ in answering [reporters’] questions.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 93-94] Throughout the day, she has six “media waves” separately come into her home to interview her. The reporters are interested in the cell phone calls she received from her husband. She recalls: “I had to be very cautious about everything I said. I didn’t want to say anything that would interfere with the FBI investigation. I verified the calls had taken place, but gave no specific information about what Tom and I had discussed.” The FBI visits Deena around 3:00 p.m. to ask some follow-up questions to their interviews with her the previous day (see (12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). In her 2006 book, Deena Burnett makes no mention of them complaining about her having talked to the media. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 97-104]
Fort Myer. [Source: US Army]At 6:00 a.m., the FBI opens the Joint Operations Center (JOC) for coordinating the emergency response to the Pentagon attack. The JOC is located in a community center at Fort Myer, an army base 1.5 miles northwest of the Pentagon, and is commanded by FBI Special Agent in Charge Timothy Bereznay. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A23 and A28 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] The US government’s January 2001 Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan (CONPLAN) allocated to the FBI responsibility for activating a JOC to coordinate the activities of federal departments and agencies in response to terrorist attacks. All the government organizations responding to the Pentagon attack are expected to assign a senior representative with decision-making authority to the JOC. There are 26 such representatives in all. Because many of the responding agencies are unfamiliar with the functions of the JOC, there is initially “considerable confusion” after it opens. [US Government, 1/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C49 and C51 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] The FBI has been able to set up the JOC particularly quickly as a result of its preparations for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, scheduled to take place in Washington at the end of September (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). Months previously, the FBI surveyed regional sites and chose Fort Myer as the location to coordinate the law enforcement response to any violent protests at that event. [Guardian, 9/14/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161]
FBI Special Agent John Adams, who is now in charge of evidence recovery at the Pentagon during the daytime, addresses how the FBI should deal with the physical evidence at the crash site. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 347 and 351] As the Pentagon is a crime scene, the FBI is responsible for collecting and documenting evidence there. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 177] Agents are still carefully gathering together wreckage, but there is an overwhelming amount of it to deal with. Several FBI supervisors convene and discuss what the bureau should be recovering. One of them says every airplane part is significant and needs to be treated as valuable evidence. But Adams counters: “That can’t be. We know what happened here. Do we really need to collect every piece of the airplane?” Adams goes over to some National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) crash experts at the site, who are responsible for determining what happened to Flight 77. When he asks them, “Do you guys want pieces of the plane?” an NTSB official responds: “No, it’s clear what happened here. We don’t need pieces of the wings and stuff like that. But we do need the black boxes.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 351-352]
The FBI launches an internal investigation into its failings before 9/11, but will not publicize the probe’s course or findings. The only thing known about the investigation is that two FBI agents who were detailed to Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, before 9/11 are interviewed by the investigators and give a different account of their conduct to the version they provide to the Justice Department’s inspector general. The two agents, Doug Miller and Mark Rossini, were involved in the blocking of a CIA cable to the FBI about 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000 and January 6, 2000) and falsely claimed to the inspector general that they could recall nothing about this (see (February 12, 2004)). However, they tell the internal investigation the truth, that they were ordered by Alec Station’s deputy chief, Tom Wilshire, and another CIA officer to withhold the cable from the FBI. [Congressional Quarterly, 10/1/2008]
A manager at the FAA’s New York Center begins forwarding evidence relating to the 9/11 attacks to the FBI, but he does not pass on, or reveal the existence of, a tape recording of some of the center’s air traffic controllers recalling their interactions with the hijacked aircraft. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ] Shortly after the attacks occurred, Kevin Delaney, the New York Center’s quality assurance manager, was instructed to make a tape recording of six controllers at the center who had been involved in handling or tracking two of the hijacked aircraft, giving their personal accounts of what happened (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ; Washington Post, 5/6/2004; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
Tape Not Provided to FBI - In response to verbal requests from the FBI, the FAA’s liaison to the bureau provides it with evidential material relating to the 9/11 attacks. Beginning on September 12, Delaney forwards evidence materials, as they become available, to the FBI through this liaison. But, although the tape of the controllers’ statements was logged into the New York Center’s record of evidence, neither Delaney nor Mike McCormick, the center’s manager, passes it to the FBI. Furthermore, neither of the two managers even discloses the existence of the tape to the FBI or the FAA liaison. Nor do they provide the center’s evidence log, which references the tape, to the FBI. Yet McCormick will later claim that one of his reasons for having requested the tape be made on September 11 was that he wanted a recording of the controllers’ statements that would be immediately available for law enforcement efforts. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004] He had also reassured the six controllers that the tape with their recorded statements on would be strictly for use only by law enforcement personnel (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ]
Tape Could Have Been Provided on Following Day - By September 13, the FAA liaison will have provided the FBI with air traffic control voice and radar data, which the bureau is most interested in receiving, as well as several written statements that have already been obtained from controllers at the FAA’s Boston and Cleveland Centers, and from personnel at Washington’s Dulles Airport. Had McCormick or Delaney notified the liaison of the tape’s existence, he could have forwarded it to the FBI along with these statements. The tape will be deliberately destroyed several months later (see Between December 2001 and February 2002), and is never made available to the FBI for its investigation. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
In the weeks following 9/11, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) assists the FBI in its response to the attacks. Over 60 NTSB employees work at the scenes of the crashes—the Pentagon, Pennsylvania, and New York—and at the board’s headquarters in Washington, DC, helping to identify aircraft parts, searching for and analyzing the flight recorders, and assisting the victims’ families. [National Transportation Safety Board, 9/13/2001; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, 6/25/2002] However, unusually, none of the four planes that crashed are the subject of formal NTSB investigations. According to Vern Grose, a highly respected air disaster analyst and former NTSB member: “First of all, after any aircraft crash, the NTSB [normally] launches what they call a ‘go team’ within two hours and that go team will have up to twelve people on it. Specialists in airframe, in engines, in electronics, in human factors. And these folks all go to the scene—they isolate the scene. From that point on, it’s the NTSB’s responsibility.” But with the crashes on 9/11, Grose says, “it’s my understanding that it did not occur exactly like that. They may have launched an NTSB crew, but it never took the same course a normal investigation would have.” [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 40-41] The NTSB says that, because the four crashes were “criminal acts,” the FBI is consequently the “lead investigative agency.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 9/13/2001] Therefore, the NTSB will later state that it “did not determine the probable cause” of any of the four crashes, “and does not plan to issue a report or open a public docket.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006; National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006; National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006; National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006] However, even under these circumstances, Grose calls the lack of NTSB investigation “unacceptable.” He says, “Though the NTSB statute states the leadership of the investigation will defer to the FBI, the NTSB has still completed formal investigations into crashes deemed criminal acts.” It previously did so, for example, in the case of EgyptAir Flight 990, in which a pilot crashed a plane in an apparent suicide attempt (see October 31, 1999). [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 41] The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette complains about the unconventional investigative process, specifically in relation to Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. It says that, while the NTSB is “a small government agency whose procedures are fairly open,” with the FBI instead handling the investigation, “everything, even the most minute details, are being kept under strict lock and key.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/4/2001] As well as the lack of an NTSB investigation, attempts at conducting a precise grid search of the Flight 93 crash site will be overruled by the FBI (see September 16, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 262]
The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany’s federal anticrime agency, obtains a DNA sample for one of the 9/11 hijackers, alleged Flight 93 pilot Ziad Jarrah, after a search of the home of his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen. After the BKA sends the sample to the FBI, the bureau matches it with the DNA profile of one of four sets of unknown human remains recovered from the site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 crashed. According to an FBI report provided to the 9/11 Commission, presumably sometime between 2003 and 2004, no relatives of the alleged 9/11 hijackers provide the bureau with DNA samples for comparison. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2003]
Airphone from Flight 93 wreckage. [Source: National Museum of American History]The first FBI agents arrive at the Flight 93 crash scene soon after it goes down. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 60] Due to the criminal nature of the crash, the FBI becomes lead authority for the investigation of the site. Attempts are made to have the area declared a federal disaster, but these are unsuccessful. [DMORT National News, 1/2002] For about two weeks, the FBI’s evidence recovery team of about 150 agents goes over the site with sifters, filtering evidence from the soil. It recovers about 510 pounds of human remains. [Longman, 2002, pp. 259; Age (Melbourne), 9/9/2002] Despite the lack of wreckage reported by those first at the crash scene (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the FBI claims that it recovers 95 percent of the plane. The largest piece found, it says, is a seven-foot-long piece of the fuselage skin, including four windows. With the exception of the two black boxes, all wreckage is passed on to United Airlines. Asked what United will do with this, a spokeswoman says, “I don’t think a decision has been made… but we’re not commenting.” [CNN, 9/24/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/25/2001] While conducting its investigation of the crash site, the FBI overrules a plan to carefully map the area and mark the positions of debris so as to determine exactly how Flight 93 crashed, claiming this would be too time-consuming (see September 16, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 262] After it completes its work, the site becomes the responsibility of the county coroner, who continues the search for remains. [Longman, 2002, pp. 258-259]
On September 12, the FBI in Miami issues a national bulletin for law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for two cars connected with the 9/11 attacks. One is a red 1989 Pontiac registered to Mohamed Atta, presumably the car he bought in July 2000 (see Early July 2000). The other is an Oldsmobile Alero, leased from a company in Boca Raton, but this is located later in the day. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; WESH 2 (Orlando/Daytona), 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/13/2001] About six weeks later, the Pontiac and another unspecified car that belonged to Atta and Marwan Alshehhi are found at a used car dealership in Tamarac, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. The hijackers reportedly sold them a week before 9/11. [CNN, 10/26/2001; CNN, 10/28/2001; Miami Herald, 10/29/2001] Also around this time, Brad Warrick, the owner of a Florida company that rented cars to Atta (see August 6-September 9, 2001), reports finding about a teaspoon of an unidentified white powder in the trunk of a Ford Escort used by Atta in the days before the attacks. The FBI had impounded the car for two weeks after 9/11, and it has not been used since. An FBI spokeswoman says it is unlikely that agents would have missed a suspicious powder and suggests it could be fingerprinting dust. [Miami Herald, 10/29/2001; Reuters, 10/29/2001; Washington Post, 10/30/2001]
Under the authority of the FBI, remains of 9/11 victims at the Pentagon are taken to a temporary morgue in the Pentagon’s north parking lot, where they are photographed, labeled, and then placed in refrigeration. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-47 ; Quartermaster Professional Bulletin, 3/2005] They are then transported to Davison Army Airfield at nearby Fort Belvoir, and from there to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, where there is a large mortuary created for use in wartime. FBI agents accompany the remains at all points during transportation. [American Forces Press Service, 9/15/2001; PBS, 9/21/2001; Soldiers, 10/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-55 ] About 250 people, including 50 medical examiners and 50 members of the FBI’s ‘disaster team,’ work at the mortuary to identify the remains. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001] Remains are first scanned for the presence of unexploded ordnance or metallic foreign bodies. FBI experts then collect trace evidence to find any chemicals from explosives, and also conduct fingerprint identifications. [Pentagram, 11/30/2001] Other techniques used include dental records and X-rays. Tissue samples are sent to an Armed Forces laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, for DNA analysis. [PBS, 9/21/2001] Identification is problematic because specimens are often unrecognizable body parts, and are nearly always mixed with debris composed of aircraft and building materials. [Harcke, Bifano, and Koeller, 4/2002] However, by the time Dover staff formally end their identification effort, on November 16, they have identified remains of 184 of the 189 people who died in the Pentagon or aboard Flight 77, including the five hijackers (see November 21, 2001). [Washington Post, 11/21/2001]
FBI agent Robert Wright will later claim that the FBI takes extraordinary efforts to gag him in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. According to Wright, “On September the 11th, as I watched the World Trade Center towers burn, I did not initially share the same feelings of surprise and shock and dismay most Americans felt. I just thought to myself, ‘It has begun.’” On the afternoon of 9/11, he claims that he is called by reporters from the New York Times and 60 Minutes who already are aware of his issues with FBI management (see June 9, 2001-July 10, 2001). They ask if he would be willing to go public with his story. He declines. “I’m confident if I had gone public at that time I would have been fired. I realized my termination would only aid the FBI by allowing management to claim I was simply a former employee who was disgruntled over his termination.” Over the next few days, his former supervisor prohibits him from working with the 9/11 investigation. He is not allowed to answer any incoming telephone calls from the general public. The FBI prohibits him from publishing his recently completed book on FBI failures (see May 9, 2002). His lawyers contact a congressman who invites him to come to Washington and present his information to Congress. Wright is immediately prohibited from traveling outside of Chicago without FBI approval. Larry Klayman, one of two lawyers now representing Wright, later says he calls the Justice Department a few days after 9/11 and asks that Wright be allowed to present his issues to Attorney General John Ashcroft. Klayman claims he receives a reply from Michael Chertoff, then head of the Criminal division, who refuses to meet with Wright and says, “We are tired of conspiracy theories.” [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] On September 20, Wright’s legal representatives publish a list of 20 entities described as “Tax Exempt and Other Entities to Investigate Immediately.” The US will later shut down many of these entities. [Judicial Watch, 9/20/2001] The restrictions placed on Wright will largely continue to hold in the years afterwards. For instance, as of the end of 2005, his book still has not been approved for publication (see May 9, 2002).
At the time of 9/11, the FBI’s Saudi Arabia office was comprised of only legal attache Wilfred Rattigan and his assistant Gamal Abdel-Hafiz. Abdel-Hafiz, the FBI’s only Muslim agent at the time, had been appointed to the position in February 2001 despite a controversy with his FBI work back in the US (see Early 1999-March 21, 2000). Some fellow FBI agents accused him of refusing to secretly record conversations with Muslim suspects. Time will report, “The FBI sent reinforcements [to the Saudi Arabian office] within two weeks of 9/11, but it appears that the bureau’s team never got on top of the thousands of leads flowing in from the US and Saudi governments.… According to several former employees of the US embassy in Riyadh, the FBI legal attache’s office housed within the embassy was often in disarray during the months that followed 9/11. When an FBI supervisor arrived [nearly a year after 9/11] to clean up the mess, she found a mountain of paper and, for security reasons, ordered wholesale shredding that resulted in the destruction of unprocessed documents relating to the 9/11 investigations.” In June 2005, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin investigating allegations that the FBI’s Saudi office was “delinquent in pursuing thousands of leads” related to 9/11. Piles of time-sensitive leads still had not been followed up when the supervisor arrives. The FBI will claim that the thousands of shredded documents were duplicated elsewhere. But the Judiciary Committee will assert some material is lost. One employee will claim that some of the lost information “was leads, suspicious-activity material, information on airline pilots.” Rattigan, who has converted to Islam, later will sue the FBI for discrimination and will claim that the FBI refused to provide him with adequate resources to cope with the workload after 9/11. [Frontline, 10/16/2003; Time, 6/27/2005]
In 2007, Los Angeles Times journalist Steven Braun, coauthor of a book on arms dealer Victor Bout, will claim, “We now know that one of Bout’s pals approached an American intelligence agent soon after the [9/11] attacks, suggesting that the US use his operation in arming the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. We don’t know for sure if the US accepted, but European intelligence officials believe a relationship blossomed. Within two years, Bout was flying for us not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan.” [Harper's, 7/26/2007] The Bout associate Braun refers to is Sanjivan Ruprah. In November 2001, Ruprah contacts an FBI agent and offers a deal. He and Bout will secretly help the US arm the Northern Alliance in its fight against the Taliban, and help the US gain information on al-Qaeda and other militant groups. He and Bout would provide and deliver many millions of dollars’ worth of weapons that the Northern Alliance has already told Bout that they need. It is unclear if the deal ever goes through, and some experts and officials doubt it. However, one European official will later say, “We know Bout had his aircraft near Afghanistan and made them available to the US efforts almost immediately. They needed him and he had the only airlift capacity in the region.… The deal was, if he flew, the US would leave him alone.” Richard Chichakli, a close associate of Bout’s, will later boast that Bout organized three flights carrying US personnel to Afghanistan. (He will later withdraw the claim.) Ruprah twice flies to the US for secret talks with the FBI about such deals, despite being on a UN travel ban list. Such contacts are kept secret from US officials attempting to arrest Bout. Ruprah will be arrested in Belgium in February 2002, and documents found in his possession are the only reason anything is known about his secret talks with the FBI. Two months later, he is freed on bail and immediately skips the country. He is soon arrested in Italy, then curiously freed on bail again, and then escapes again. He has not been rearrested since. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 194-202] Prior to 9/11, Bout was the main arms dealer for the Taliban, greatly assisting al-Qaeda in the process. He had been supplying weapons to the Northern Alliance until about 1996, but switched sides once the Taliban gained the upper hand in the conflict (see October 1996-Late 2001). But despite these alleged US ties, it 2002 it will be reported that Bout has recently been helping al-Qaeda and the Taliban transport gold (see Summer 2002). He will work for the US military in Iraq in 2003 (see Late April 2003-2007).
After a complete air flight ban in the US began during the 9/11 attacks, some commercial flights begin resuming this day. However, all private flights are still banned from flying. Nonetheless, at least one private flight carrying Saudi royalty takes place on this day. And in subsequent days, other flights carry royalty and bin Laden family members. These flights take place even as fighters escort down three other private planes attempting to fly. Most of the Saudi royals and bin Ladens in the US at the time are high school or college students and young professionals. [New York Times, 9/30/2001; Vanity Fair, 10/2003] The first flight is a Lear Jet that leaves from a private Raytheon hangar in Tampa, Florida, and takes three Saudis to Lexington, Kentucky. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/2001] This flight apparently takes place several hours after a private meeting between President Bush and Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Some think the idea of the flights were approved at that meeting (see September 13, 2001). For two years, this violation of the air ban is denied by the FAA, FBI, and White House, and decried as an urban legend except for one article detailing them in a Tampa newspaper. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/2001] Finally, in 2003, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke confirms the existence of these flights, and Secretary of State Powell confirms them as well. [MSNBC, 9/7/2003; Vanity Fair, 10/2003] However, the White House remains silent on the matter. [New York Times, 9/4/2003] Officials at the Tampa International Airport finally confirm this first flight in 2004. But whether the flight violated the air ban or not rests on some technicalities that remain unresolved. [Lexington Herald-Leader, 6/10/2004] The Saudis are evacuated to Saudi Arabia over the next several days (see September 14-19, 2001).
A map of the Flight 93 debris field. [Source: Pittsburgh Tribune- Review]Investigators say they have found debris from the Flight 93 crash far from the main crash site. A second debris field centers around Indian Lake about three miles from the crash scene, where eyewitnesses report seeing falling debris only moments after the crash. More debris is found in New Baltimore, some eight miles away. Later in the day, the investigators say all that debris likely was blown there. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001] Another debris field is found six miles away, and human remains are found miles away. State police and the FBI have cordoned off an area where there is plane debris, about six to eight miles from the main crash site. After all of this is discovered, the FBI still “stresses” that “no evidence [has] surfaced” to support the idea that the plane was shot down. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001] A half-ton piece of one of the engines is found 2,000 yards away from the main crash site. This was the single heaviest piece recovered from the crash. [Philadelphia Daily News, 12/28/2001; Independent, 8/13/2002] Days later, the FBI says the wide debris field was probably the result of the explosion on impact. The Independent nevertheless later cites the wide debris field as one of many reasons why widespread rumors remain that the plane was shot down. [Independent, 9/20/2001]
Flight 93’s flight data recorder, found at the crash site in Shanksville. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Around 4:50 p.m. on September 13, investigators discover the flight data recorder from Flight 93, one of the plane’s two “black boxes.” It is buried about 15 feet down in the main crater at the crash site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Around 8:25 p.m. the following evening, the other ‘black box’—the plane’s cockpit voice recorder—is found about 25 feet below ground in roughly the same spot. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/15/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 217] The flight data recorder monitors airplane functions like its speed and altitude, while the cockpit voice recorder picks up conversations in the plane’s cockpit. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/14/2001] Both are mounted in a plane’s tail. They are encased in very strong materials, like titanium, and insulated so as to withstand a crash impact. [BBC, 9/15/2001] Wells Morrison, the FBI’s second in command at the Flight 93 crash scene, later comments, “It was strange. The black boxes are right next to each other on the aircraft, but one was found thirteen feet deeper into the crater than the other.… We were surprised, quite honestly, that we didn’t find them sooner.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 109 and 115] The cockpit voice recorder is sent to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington, and then on to its manufacturer, Honeywell, to try to extract information from it. [CBS News, 9/16/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/4/2001] It is supposedly the only one from the four hijacked flights to have survived the crash impact and ensuing fire. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] In April 2002, the 31-minute recording from it is played in private to victims’ relatives (see April 18, 2002). It will be played in public for the first time in April 2006, during the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui (see April 12, 2006). [CNN, 4/13/2006]
Late in the evening of September 13, 2001, search and rescue operations at the Pentagon have to be temporarily suspended when—after firefighters thought they had the crash site under control—a sizeable fire breaks out, sending smoke hundreds of feet into the air. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; NPR, 9/14/2001] The fire erupts in the pile of debris at the impact area where the aircraft hit the Pentagon, and is apparently caused by a “hot spot” that reignited. Fire commanders had been concerned about the smoke coming from the pile earlier in the evening, yet there is no engine available to extinguish any fire. There was an engine by the pile all through the day, but this left at the end of the day shift. Because of tightened security, the engine due to replace it is taking longer than usual to arrive. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 389 and 393] The order goes out: “We need everybody to evacuate. The building is on fire again.” Firefighters and workers for agencies such as the FBI and FEMA evacuate, either to the lawn in front of the crash site or the Pentagon’s center courtyard. Yet the fire appears to be contained in the rubble pile, with little danger of spreading. One worker questions: “So why are they stopping us? Why can’t we keep working?” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 393-394 and 400-401] Eventually, a fire truck arrives to tackle the blaze. About two hours after it first flared up, the fire is out and recovery workers can continue their activities. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 394-395 and 401] Firefighting and other rescue operations were also significantly disrupted three times during September 11-12, due to false alarms over unidentified aircraft approaching Washington (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001, and (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001). [Fire Engineering, 11/2002]
Barry Mawn. [Source: Associated Press]On September 13, New York authorities take into custody ten people of Middle Eastern descent at JFK International and La Guardia Airports, reportedly fearing they intend to hijack aircraft and commit another suicidal terrorist attack on a US target. This leads to all three major New York-area airports—JFK, La Guardia, and Newark—being abruptly shut down, just hours after they reopened for the first time since the 9/11 attacks took place. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001]
Armed and Carrying False ID - According to the Washington Post, the detained individuals are carrying knives and false identification. [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Four of them are reportedly arrested as they try to board a flight from JFK Airport to Los Angeles, and a woman is held on suspicion of assisting these four. Some of the four are reported as having pilots’ certificates from Flight Safety International in Vero Beach, Florida, where some of the alleged 9/11 hijackers are currently believed to have taken flying lessons. Later on, the other five men are arrested at La Guardia Airport “under similar circumstances.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001] According to the New York Times, “Law enforcement officials said one of those held was carrying a false pilot’s identification.” Furthermore, several of the detained men “showed up at the airport with tickets for flights canceled on Tuesday [September 11] and tried to use them.” Investigators say they believe one of the men had been among a group of passengers that behaved suspiciously and became aggressive after their aircraft—United Airlines Flight 23—had its takeoff canceled on the morning of 9/11 (see (After 9:19 a.m.) September 11, 2001). New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik says one of the men arrested at JFK Airport “attempted to clear security and he was stopped.” [New York Times, 9/14/2001]
Men Released, No Connections Found to 9/11 Attacks - However, the following morning the FBI announces that none of the detainees had any connection to the 9/11 attacks, and all but one of them have been released. Barry Mawn, the head of the New York FBI office, says: “The reporting that has been going on all night, I can definitively tell you, is inaccurate.… [W]e did talk to approximately a dozen individuals. We have only one individual left who is still being questioned by the task force. All other ten have been released.” [CNN, 9/14/2001; PBS, 9/14/2001] Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker says that no knives, box cutters, guns, or other weapons were found on the individuals. [Washington Post, 9/15/2001] After talking to the directors of the FBI and CIA, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) tells CNN that the detained men had “no connection whatsoever to what happened at the World Trade towers or the Pentagon, or this organizational network.” He explains: “One guy, an actual pilot, got on the plane, coincidentally had his brother’s identification as well. His brother happened to live in the apartment complex that was one in Boston where some of [the alleged hijackers] had actually been.” Biden adds: “Ten other people were going to a Boeing conference. They had stickers on their bags.… The folks at the airport thought, hey, wait a minute, are they impersonating crew? And they weren’t.” Biden says the one man who has not yet been released “was a screwball who was acting out, you know, acting out and saying and demanding.… Making problems, and they arrested him.” By 11:20 a.m. on September 14, the three New York-area airports are reopened. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001]
None of the manifests for the hijacked flights have ever been released, except for this partially obscured page which appears in Terry McDermott’s 2005 book, Perfect Soldiers. McDermott has not explained how or where he got this document. Names of the five hijackers are highlighted. [Source: Terry McDermott]On September 13, the FBI says there were 18 hijackers, and releases their names. Hani Hanjour’s name is not on the list. [CNN, 9/13/2001] On the morning of the next day, CNN announces on the air that “CNN managed to grab a list of the names of the 18 suspected hijackers that is supposed to be officially released by justice sometime later today.” An announcer reads the list, which actually contains 19 names. It is the same list as the day before, except for one new name: Mosear Caned. (Note that the name is a very rough phonetic spelling from a CNN transcript.) [CNN, 9/14/2001] Later in the day, the list is revised. Caned is gone and is replaced by Hani Hanjour. It is never explained who Caned is, how he got on the list, or even how his name is correctly spelled. No name even remotely similar to his appears on any of the released manifests of the hijacked 9/11 flights. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Associated Press, 9/14/2001] A few days later, it is reported that Hanjour’s “name was not on the American Airlines manifest for [Flight 77] because he may not have had a ticket.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001]
Mohamed el-Atriss produced fake ID cards for the 9/11 hijackers. [Source: Associated Press]Mohamed el-Atriss, who supplied some of the hijackers with fake IDs (see (July-August 2001)), is visited by FBI agents and begins to help them with their inquiries. [Washington Post, 2/5/2003; Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003] El-Atriss turns over his files to the FBI and, according to his lawyer, promises to “keep his eyes and ears open” for other Islamic militants. He tells the FBI he did not know the hijackers’ intentions when he sold them the ID cards. [Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] He is interviewed extensively by federal authorities over the next few months and successfully passes a lie detector test confirming he did not know they intended to hijack a plane. [Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003] However, authorities plant an electronic surveillance device inside a printer he orders, to monitor who he is making documents for. [Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] El-Atriss’ usefulness suffers a setback when a local sheriff raids his business and arrests him in 2002 (see July 31, 2002), apparently without the FBI’s approval (see July 31, 2002 and After).
At the Flight 93 crash site, an excavator digs through the soil where the plane impacted. [St. Anthony Messenger, 9/6/2006] It takes scoops of dirt and dumps them into a high-lift bucket, which takes the dirt to a flagged off area and slowly dumps it there. A couple of FBI men then search through it with their hands. Occasionally, the excavator digs into a “hot spot” in the earth, causing a small fire. The Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department has to be called in to extinguish these fires. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 56 and 128] The cause of the ‘hot spots’ is unknown.
A business card of Assem Jarrah, Ziad’s cousin. [Source: FBI]Several effects apparently belonging to Flight 93 hijackers are recovered from the crash site in Somerset County. They are:
A Saudi Arabian ID card of Ahmed Alnami; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
A Saudi Arabian Youth Hostel Association card of Ahmed Alnami; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Two passport sized photographs of Ahmed Alnami; [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]
A charred section of Ziad Jarrah’s passport; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Saeed Alghamdi’s Saudi Arabian passport; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
A business card of Assem Jarrah, Ziad Jarrah’s second cousin (who allegedly has been a spy for three governments (see September 16, 2002)). It has Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s Hamburg address written on the back (see September 24, 2002); [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/7/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Part of Ahmed Alnami’s Florida driving license; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
A red bandana (a passenger on Flight 93 described the hijackers as using red bandanas, though this could have been someone else’s bandana (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Dominick Suter, owner of the company Urban Moving Systems, flees the country to Israel. The FBI later tells ABC News, “Urban Moving may have been providing cover for an Israeli intelligence operation.” Suter has been tied to the five Israeli agents caught filming the WTC attack. The FBI had questioned Suter around September 12, removing boxes of documents and a dozen computer hard drives. However, when the FBI returns a few days later, he is gone. [New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, 12/13/2001; Forward, 3/15/2002; ABC News, 6/21/2002]
Officials deny that Flight 93 was shot down, but propose the theory that the hijackers had a bomb on board and blew up the plane. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/14/2001] Later in the month, it is reported that the “FBI has determined from the on site investigation that no explosive was involved.” [Associated Press, 9/25/2001]
Flight 77’s damaged cockpit voice recorder. [Source: FBI]At around 3:40 a.m., investigators at the Pentagon recover the two “black boxes” from Flight 77. [Washington Times, 9/14/2001] These boxes are the plane’s flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder. [BBC, 9/15/2001] Some news reports claim they are found by two Fairfax County firefighters, Carlton Burkhammer and Brian Moravitz, as they comb through debris near the impact site. [Washington Post, 9/19/2001; Newsweek, 9/28/2001] But according to Arlington County spokesman Dick Bridges, members of the FBI’s evidence response team find them. [PBS, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman will later clarify that Burkhammer and Moravitz find an object initially believed to be one of the black boxes, but closer inspection reveals it to be just “a charred chunk of machinery.” Subsequently, FBI photographer Jennifer Hill finds the cockpit voice recorder in a stack of rubble while assisting searchers. Thirty minutes later, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) expert locates the flight data recorder in the same area. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 396-397 and 400-402] But Allyn Kilsheimer, a structural engineer who helps coordinate the emergency response at the Pentagon, later claims he had “found the black box,” which, he says, he had “stepped on… by accident.” [GW Magazine, 3/2002; Popular Mechanics, 3/2005] Washington FBI agent Christopher Combs says, “Somebody almost threw [the black boxes] away because they didn’t know what they looked like.” [Disaster News Network, 10/30/2002]
Conflicting Accounts of Where Boxes Are Found - According to Dick Bridges, the two recorders are discovered “right where the plane came into the building.” [Associated Press, 9/14/2001] But the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Pentagon Building Performance Report, released in 2003, will claim that the flight data recorder was found “nearly 300 ft into the structure.” [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 40 ] In Creed and Newman’s account, the recorders are found in the Pentagon’s middle C Ring, near the “punch-out” hole made by the impacting aircraft. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 400-402]
Boxes Taken Away for Analysis - The boxes are taken to the NTSB’s laboratory in Washington, where data is extracted from the flight data recorder, but they are reclaimed by the FBI later on in the morning. [Washington Times, 9/14/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 402] A flight data recorder tracks an airplane’s flight movements for the last 25 hours, while the cockpit voice recorder contains radio transmissions and sounds from the cockpit for the last 30 minutes of its flight. Both are mounted in the tail of an aircraft and are encased in very strong materials like titanium. According to American Airlines and United Airlines, the black boxes aboard Flight 77 and the other hijacked planes were modern solid-state versions, which are more resistant to damage than older magnetic tape recorders. [Associated Press, 9/15/2001; BBC, 9/15/2001] FBI Director Robert Mueller later says that Flight 77’s data recorder has provided altitude, speed, and other information about the flight, but the voice recorder contained “nothing useful.” [CBS News, 2/25/2002] The 9/11 Commission will describe the cockpit voice recorder as being “badly burned and not recoverable.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] According to CBS News, preliminary information shows that the cockpit voice tape “appears to be blank or erased.” [CBS News, 9/16/2001] The two black boxes from Flight 93 are also recovered around this time (see September 13-14, 2001).
FBI Director Robert Mueller.
[Source: FBI]FBI Director Mueller describes reports that several of the hijackers had received flight training in the US as “news, quite obviously,” adding, “If we had understood that to be the case, we would have—perhaps one could have averted this.” It will later be discovered that contrary to Mueller’s claims, the FBI had interviewed various flight school staffs about Middle Eastern militants on numerous occasions, from 1996 until a few weeks before 9/11. [Boston Globe, 9/18/2001; Washington Post, 9/23/2001] Three days later, he says, “There were no warning signs that I’m aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country.” [US Department of Justice, 9/17/2001] Slate magazine will contrast this with numerous other contradictory statements and articles, and will award Mueller the “Whopper of the Week.” [Slate, 5/17/2002]
Khalil bin Laden at the Orlando, Florida, airport, about to be flown out of the country in the days after 9/11. [Source: Lions Gate Films]Following a secret flight inside the US that is in violation of a national private airplane flight ban, members of the bin Laden family and Saudi royalty quietly depart the US. The flights are only publicly acknowledged after all the Saudis have left. [Boston Globe, 9/21/2001; New York Times, 9/30/2001] About 140 Saudis, including around 24 members of the bin Laden family, are passengers in these flights. The identities of most of these passengers are not known. However, some of the passengers include:
The son of the Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan. Sultan is sued in August 2002 for alleged complicity in the 9/11 plot. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/2001] He is alleged to have contributed at least $6 million since 1994 to four charities that finance al-Qaeda. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003]
Khalil bin Laden. He has been investigated by the Brazilian government for possible terrorist connections. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003]
Abdullah bin Laden and Omar bin Laden, cousins of bin Laden. Abdullah was the US director of the Muslim charity World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). The governments of India, Pakistan, Philippines, and Bosnia have all accused WAMY of funding terrorism. These two relatives were investigated by the FBI in 1996 (see February-September 11, 1996) in a case involving espionage, murder, and national security. Their case is reopened on September 19, right after they leave the country. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] Remarkably, four of the 9/11 hijackers briefly lived in the town of Falls Church, Virginia, three blocks from the WAMY office headed by Abdullah bin Laden. [BBC, 11/6/2001]
Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen. He is a prominent Saudi official who was in the same hotel as three of the hijackers the night before 9/11. He leaves on one of the first flights to Saudi Arabia before the FBI can properly interview him about this. [Washington Post, 10/2/2003]
Akberali Moawalla. A Pakistani and business partner of Osama’s brother Yeslam bin Laden. In 2000, a transfer of over $250 million was made from a bank account belonging jointly to Moawalla and Osama bin Laden (see 2000). [Washington Post, 7/22/2004]
There is a later dispute regarding how thoroughly the Saudis are interviewed before they leave and who approves the flights. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke says he agrees to the flights after the FBI assures him none of those on board has connections to terrorism and that it is “a conscious decision with complete review at the highest levels of the State Department and the FBI and the White House.” [US Congress, 9/3/2003] Clarke says the decision to approve the flights “didn’t get any higher than me.” [Hill, 5/18/2004] According to Vanity Fair, both the FBI and the State Department “deny playing any role whatsoever in the episode.” However, Dale Watson, the head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, says the Saudis on the planes “[are] identified, but they [are] not subject to serious interviews or interrogations” before they leave. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] An FBI spokesperson says the bin Laden relatives are only interviewed by the FBI “at the airport, as they [are] about to leave.” [National Review, 9/11/2002] There are claims that some passengers are not interviewed by the FBI at all. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] Abdullah bin Laden, who stays in the US, says that even a month after 9/11, his only contact with the FBI is a brief phone call. [Boston Globe, 9/21/2001; New Yorker, 11/5/2001] The FBI official responsible for coordinating with Clarke is Assistant Director Michael Rolince, who is in charge of the Bureau’s International Terrorism Operations Section and assumes responsibility for the Saudi flights. Rolince decides that the Saudis can leave after their faces are matched to their passport photos and their names are run through various databases, including some watch lists, to check the FBI has no derogatory information about them.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 196-197, 209 ] Numerous experts are surprised that the bin Ladens are not interviewed more extensively before leaving, pointing out that interviewing the relatives of suspects is standard investigative procedure. [National Review, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 10/2003] MSNBC claims that “members of the Saudi royal family met frequently with bin Laden—both before and after 9/11” [MSNBC, 9/5/2003] , and many Saudi royals and bin Laden relatives are being sued for their alleged role in 9/11. The Boston Globe opines that the flights occur “too soon after 9/11 for the FBI even to know what questions to ask, much less to decide conclusively that each Saudi [royal] and bin Laden relative [deserve] an ‘all clear,’ never to be available for questions again.” [Boston Globe, 9/30/2003] Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says of the secret flights: “This is just another example of our country coddling the Saudis and giving them special privileges that others would never get. It’s almost as if we didn’t want to find out what links existed.” [New York Times, 9/4/2003] Judicial Watch will disclose FBI documents that say, “Osama bin Laden may have chartered one of the Saudi flights.” [Judicial Watch, 6/20/2007]
Entity Tags: Abdullah bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), Omar bin Laden, Bin Laden Family, Dale Watson, Charles Schumer, Michael Rolince, Richard A. Clarke, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counterterrorism Division (FBI), Osama bin Laden, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, US Department of State, Khalil bin Laden, Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
An employee of a company running an Internet-based airline reservation system alerts the FBI to unusual reservations made on American Airlines Flight 11. Seven individuals reserved seats in the early hours of September 11 through a Pakistani travel agency, but did not show up for the flight. The reservation records are anomalous in many respects. The reservations included four individuals with the last name of “Cooper” and three with the last name of “Norris,” but without a full first name, which is against company policy. The records contain no credit card information or telephone numbers, which is also against standard practice. In addition, the same passengers were also booked on another flight, going from Los Angeles to St. Louis, with a schedule incompatible with Flight 11’s. FBI investigators wonder if these “no show” reservations were part of the 9/11 plot. One theory is that the suspected hijackers and/or unknown associates purchased multiple tickets on the targeted flights in an attempt to ensure the number of passengers aboard each flight remained tactically manageable. A second theory is that the suspected hijackers specifically chose Flights 11 and 77 because they knew their passenger loads were typically low. But after inquiring with American Airlines, investigators establish that the average passenger loads for Flights 11 and 77 on Tuesdays were 38 percent and 26 percent respectively, whereas the passenger loads for Flights 11 and 77 on 9/11 were higher than normal, at 53 percent and 38 percent respectively. It is unclear whether the seven “no shows” are ever identified or if they and the travel agency are subsequently cleared of any terrorist connection. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2002] The FBI will also investigate no shows on the two United Airlines flights targeted on 9/11, without uncovering anything suspicious. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2002; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2002]
The “exit hole” in an inner wall of the Pentagon. [Source: Public domain]Various explanations are offered for the “exit hole” that appeared in an internal wall in the Pentagon following the attack on 9/11 (see May 3, 2002):
As the hole is near the end of the plane’s trajectory through the building, it is suggested it was made by a piece of the plane. Pentagon Renovation Program spokesman Lee Evey explains on September 15, “the nose of the plane just barely broke through the inside of the C Ring, so it was extending into A-E Drive a little bit.” [US Department of Defense, 9/15/2001]
Eleven days later, another military source claims that an engine of the plane was responsible for creating the hole. [MDW News Service, 9/26/2001]
Photos, video, and some eyewitness accounts agree on landing gear elements at or near the hole, indicating one of the three sets of landing gear may have been responsible. Sergeant First Class Reginald Powell recalls seeing “a big 8 by 10… hole in the wall. You could see the tire, the landing gear, were just forward of it.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 118] The book Debunking 9/11 Myths by Popular Mechanics magazine will say in 2006 that the density of the landing gear means it was “responsible for puncturing the wall in Ring C.” The book cites Air Force Surgeon General Paul Carlton Jr. and Paul Mlakar, lead author of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Pentagon Building Performance Report, who says “he saw the landing gear with his own eyes.” [Dunbar and Reagan, 2006, pp. 70] A wheel hub is found outside the hole in the A-E Drive service roadway and photographed there. [Jeff Scott and Joe Yoon, 1/21/2007]
Another theory put forth in a 2004 National Geographic program is that reverberating shockwaves from the plane’s impact were responsible for the hole. [National Geographic Channel, 2004]
Shortly after the attack, rescue workers reportedly “punched a hole” somewhere in the Pentagon “to clean it out,” although there are no sources that say that this was the reason for the hole to the A-E Drive. [US Department of Defense, 9/15/2001] Some accounts refer to the hole as a ‘punch out’ hole, due to the words “punch out” spray painted near it after 9/11. [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 30 ] However, punch out appears to be a construction term referring to a list of problems to be corrected. In this case it may be a call for assessment of the damage inside. [Home Building Manual, 8/25/2007]
French author Thierry Meyssan claims that the unusual nature and shape of the hole indicates it was made by a missile, not an airliner (see Early March 2002). [Meyssan, 2002, pp. 55-63]
The 2008 book Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11, by Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, will offer a description of the hole and how it was created that is strikingly similar to Meyssan’s earlier observations but without questioning the official account that Flight 77 crashed into the building. In its photo-insert, the book shows a photograph of the exit hole and comments: “The ‘punch-out’ hole blown into a wall where Flight 77 finally came to rest. The hole was created by explosive energy; the plane’s soft aluminum nose and fuselage crumpled the instant it struck the building.” The book also says in its description of the crash, “The 182,000-pound aircraft was morphing into an enormous mass of energy and matter, plowing forward like a horizontal volcanic eruption.” It continues, “As the mass traveled through the building, it began to resemble a shaped charge, a form of explosive that funnels its force into a small, directed area—like a beam of energy—in order to punch holes through armor or other strong material.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 27]
In addition, the ASCE team’s photo of the hole, and its assessment of the damaged support columns nearest to it, are provided by the FBI, suggesting the bureau has special jurisdiction at the exit hole. [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 30 ]
In a 2002 speech, former President Bill Clinton will relate information he says he learned from a close friend who works at Acxiom, the world’s largest processor of consumer data. According to this friend, a couple of days after 9/11, FBI agents arrive at Acxiom and discover information about five of the 9/11 hijackers in Acxiom’s computer databases. Clinton relates, “One of the men who flew an airplane into the World Trade Center [presumably either Marwan Alshehhi or Mohamed Atta] had 30 credit cards, a quarter of a million of dollars in debt, and a consolidated payout schedule of $9,800 a month.… Mohamed Atta, the ring leader, had 12 addresses, two places he lived and 10 safe houses, under the names Mohamed Atta, Mohammed J. Atta, J. Atta, and his middle initial spelled out.” [Clinton, 12/3/2002; Fortune, 2/9/2004] No information like this will be revealed by any subsequent official 9/11 investigations, except for a vague one sentence reference in a 9/11 Commission Report footnote that “Searches of readily available databases could have unearthed” valuable information on at least some of the hijackers. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 539] The chairman of ChoicePoint, another large data brokerage company, will state that his company had data on some of the hijackers before 9/11, but he won’t provide any details. After two of the hijackers are put on a no-fly list in late August 2001, an FBI agent will apparently fail to check if their names appear in the ChoicePoint database, though he claims to have done so (see August 29, 2001). [New York Observer, 11/28/2004]
A report suggests the crash site of Flight 93 is being searched and recorded in 60 square-foot grids. [News Journal (Wilmington, DE), 9/16/2001] This approach is preferred by Wallace Miller, the local coroner, and Dennis Dirkmaat, a forensic anthropologist involved in searching the crash site. According to journalist and author Jere Longman, “The distribution patterns developed from such precise marking of airplane parts, remains and personal effects might have told them such things as exactly how the airplane struck the ground. Theoretically, by associating the location of particular remains with the location of parts of the airplane, they may have also gained some clues about which passengers had rushed the cockpit.” However, almost a year later Longman reports that this approach was not followed: “The FBI overruled them, instead dividing the site into five large sectors. It would be too time-consuming to mark tight grids, and would serve no real investigative purpose, the bureau decided. There was no mystery to solve about the crash. Everybody knew what happened to the plane.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 262] While the FBI claims there is no mystery, some news articles suggest the plane was shot down. (For example, [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; Independent, 8/13/2002] ) In addition, at the time of this decision, investigators are still considering the possibility that a bomb might have destroyed the plane (see September 14, 2001). Unlike every other major airplane crash in modern history, no National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation is being conducted into the crash of Flight 93 (see After September 11, 2001). [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 40-41]
An oil worker named Salem Alhazmi claimed the media was using a picture of him and saying it was that of the alleged hijacker of the same name. [Source: Saudi Gazette]Reports appear in many newspapers suggesting that some of the people the US initially says were 9/11 hijackers are actually still alive and that the actual hijackers may have used stolen identities:
No media outlet has claimed that Hamza Alghamdi is still alive, but his family says the FBI photo “has no resemblance to him at all.” [Arab News, 9/22/2001; Washington Post, 9/25/2001]
CNN shows a picture of a Saudi pilot called Saeed Alghamdi and claims it is the hijacker of the same name. However, the pilot is alive and working in Tunisia. The FBI listed the hijacker’s possible residence as Delray Beach, Florida, where the pilot trained in 1998, 1999, and 2000, which may be why CNN uses a photograph of the wrong person. The pilot returns to Saudi Arabia to avoid problems and CNN apologises for the error. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2001; Arab News, 9/18/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001; BBC, 9/23/2001]
A man named Salem Alhazmi claims he is the alleged hijacker of the same name, but he works in a petrochemical plant and had his passport stolen three years ago in Cairo. He says a picture being used in the media is of him. However, he is a different age to the hijacker, 26 not 21, has a different middle name, Ibrahim not Mohamed, and the photos appear to be of different people. In addition, the FBI does not release official pictures of the hijackers until a week after he makes this claim. The father of the other Salem Alhazmi says his son is missing, as is Salem’s brother and fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. [Washington Post, 9/20/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Guardian, 9/21/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/27/2001; Saudi Gazette, 9/29/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 191 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
A man named Ahmed Alnami is alive and working as an administrative supervisor with Saudi Arabian Airlines in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] He has never lost his passport and finds it “very worrying” that his identity appears to have been stolen. [Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001] However, there is another Ahmed Alnami who is 10 years younger and appears to be dead, according to his father. [ABC News, 3/15/2002] Ahmed Alnami’s family says his FBI picture is correct. [Washington Post, 9/25/2001]
A man called Abdulrahman Alomari is alive and works as a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Independent, 9/17/2001; BBC, 9/23/2001] He was a neighbour of Adnan Bukhari and Amer Kamfar, who were both wrongly suspected of involvement in the 9/11 attacks at the start of the investigation. He moved out of his home in Vero Beach, Florida, shortly before the attacks. [CNN, 9/14/2001] A man called Abdulaziz Alomari is an engineer with Saudi Telecoms. [BBC, 9/23/2001] He claims that his passport was stolen in 1995 while he was living in Denver, Colorado. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] He says: “They gave my name and my date of birth, but I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive.” [London Times, 9/20/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001] The FBI initially gave two possible birthdates for Abdulaziz Alomari. One is apparently that of the engineer, the other that of the alleged hijacker. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2001; New Yorker, 5/27/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
The Saudi government has claimed that Mohand Alshehri is alive and that he was not in the US on 9/11, but no more details are known. [Associated Press, 9/29/2001]
The brothers Waleed M. Alshehri and Wail Alshehri are alive. Their father is a diplomat who has been stationed in the US and Mumbai (Bombay), India. A Saudi spokesman says: “This is a respectable family. I know his sons and they’re both alive.” [Arab News, 9/19/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] There is a second pair of Saudi brothers named Wail and Waleed M. Alshehri who may have been the real hijackers. Their father says they have been missing since December 2000. [Arab News, 9/17/2001; ABC News, 3/15/2002] The still-living Waleed M. Alshehri is a pilot with Saudi Airlines, studying in Morocco. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Associated Press, 9/22/2001] He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Dayton Beach in the United States. [BBC, 9/23/2001; Daily Trust (Abuja), 9/24/2001] He was interviewed by US officials in Morocco and cleared of all charges against him (though apparently the FBI is still using his picture). [Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, 9/21/2001] The still-living Waleed Alshehri is also apparently a pilot. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] He claims he saw his picture on CNN and recognized it from when he studied flying in Florida. But he also says he has no brother named Wail. [As-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), 9/22/2001]
Mohamed Atta’s father says he spoke to his son on the phone on September 12, 2001. [New York Times, 9/19/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/20/2001]
On September 19, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation distributes a “special alert” to its member banks asking for information about the attackers. The list includes “Al-Midhar, Khalid. Alive.” The Justice Department later calls this a “typo.” [Associated Press, 9/20/2001; Cox News Service, 10/21/2001] The BBC says, “There are suggestions that another suspect, Khalid Almihdhar, may also be alive.” [BBC, 9/23/2001] The Guardian says Almihdhar is believed to be alive, but investigators are looking into three possibilities. Either his name was stolen for a hijacker alias, or he allowed his name to be used so that US officials would think he died, or he died in the crash. [Guardian, 9/21/2001]
Majed Moqed was last seen by a friend in Saudi Arabia in 2000. This friend claims the FBI picture does not look like Moqed. [Arab News, 9/22/2001]
The Official Account Evolves - The Saudi government insists that five of the Saudis mentioned as 9/11 hijackers are still alive. [New York Times, 9/21/2001] On September 20, FBI Director Robert Mueller says: “We have several others that are still in question. The investigation is ongoing, and I am not certain as to several of the others.” [Newsday, 9/21/2001] On September 27, after all of the revelations mentioned above are reported in the media, Mueller will state, “We are fairly certain of a number of them.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001] On September 20, the London Times reports, “Five of the hijackers were using stolen identities, and investigators are studying the possibility that the entire suicide squad consisted of impostors.” [London Times, 9/20/2001] The mainstream media briefly doubts some of the hijackers’ identities. For instance, a story in The Observer on September 23 puts the names of hijackers like Saeed Alghamdi in quotation marks. [Observer, 9/23/2001] However, the story will die down, and it will hardly be noticed when Mueller states on November 2, 2001: “As I have indicated before, one of the initial responsibilities of that investigation was to determine who the hijackers were. We at this point definitely know the 19 hijackers who were responsible for that catastrophe.” [Office of the Press Secretary, 11/2/2001] A law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, will confirm that the hijackers’ names released in late September, on the 28th, are the true identities of all 19 hijackers. The Associated Press story quoting him will add that “the names were those listed on the planes’ passenger manifests and investigators were certain that those were the names the hijackers used when they entered the United States.” But the Saudi Institute, an independent human rights watchdog group that researches the hijackers’ identities, will maintain that Abdulaziz Alomari used someone else’s passport. [Associated Press, 11/3/2001; Associated Press, 11/3/2002] In 2003, FBI spokesman Bill Carter will say: “There has been no change in thought about the identities of those who boarded those planes. It’s like saying my name is John Smith. There are a lot of people with the name of John Smith, but they’re not the same person.” When asked about Mueller’s comments, Carter will say, “He might have told Congress [about the identity theft], but we have done a thorough investigation and we are confident.” Carter will also comment that the bureau identified the hijackers “[t]hrough extensive investigation,” and say, “We checked the flight manifests, their whereabouts in this country, and we interviewed witnesses who identified the hijackers.” [Insight, 6/24/2003] The 9/11 Commission will later endorse the hijackers’ names published by the FBI around this time. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
Entity Tags: Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11 Commission, Majed Moqed, Abdulaziz Alomari, Marwan Alshehhi, Khalid Almihdhar, Mohand Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, William Carter, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Robert S. Mueller III, Saeed Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
A confidential FBI bulletin states a “badly damaged” commercially manufactured cigarette lighter with a concealed knife blade has been recovered at the Flight 93 crash scene. The knife was about two and three-fourths inches long, with a knife blade of about two and a half inches. [Los Angeles Times, 9/18/2001] A 9/11 Commission staff report in 2004 will also mention this knife. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 104]
The Detroit house where Nabil al-Marabh used to live and where Karim Koubriti, Ahmed Hannan, and Farouk Ali-Haimoud are arrested. [Source: BBC]Federal agents looking for Nabil al-Marabh fail to find him at an old Detroit address, but they accidentally discover three other possible operatives there. Karim Koubriti, Ahmed Hannan, and Farouk Ali-Haimoud are arrested. They were working as dishwashers at the Detroit airport. Investigators initially believe they were casing the airport for possible security breaches. [Boston Globe, 11/15/2002] An associate of theirs named Abel Ilah Elmardoudi will be arrested in North Carolina in November 2002. [Boston Globe, 11/15/2002] All four men will be put on trial. Initially, the evidence against them appears strong. For instance, a notebook is found that seems to show a plot to assassinate ex-Defense Secretary William Cohen during a visit to Turkey. [Washington Post, 9/20/2001; Associated Press, 11/17/2001] A stash of false documents is also found, and the men have false passports, Social Security cards, and immigration papers. Some of these documents connect them to al-Marabh. [Boston Herald, 9/20/2001; ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002; Boston Globe, 11/15/2002] Al-Marabh had moved out of the Detroit address and the men moved in about two years earlier. [Local 4 News (Detroit), 9/22/2001] In June 2003, Elmardoudi and Koubriti will be convicted of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and Hannan will be convicted of document fraud. However, the case against them will later fall apart amidst charges of prosecutorial misconduct. The so-called assassination plot on Cohen, for instance, appears to have been based on random doodles by a mentally unstable friend. All convictions will eventually be overturned and the men will be freed (see June 2003-August 2004).
On September 18, 2001, a scientist in Milwaukee tells police that he is building an anthrax delivery system in his basement. The unnamed scientist is drunk and having a dispute with a neighbor when he makes the comments to the police. On September 28, FBI agents arrive with a search warrant but find no anthrax or any sign of an anthrax delivery system. The man is said to work in a bowling alley, but had worked as a senior research scientist at Battelle Memorial Institute, a private contractor working with the US government on bioweapons programs including anthrax. He was fired from Battelle in 1996 and again in 1999. He is said to have specialties “in the areas of radio chemistry, military ordnance and munitions, and decontamination.” After being fired in 1999, his house was searched and chemicals were found in his basement that were not illegal to possess but which could have been used to make a lethal concoction. The story will first be reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on October 5, 2001, right when the real anthrax attacks are first becoming public (see October 4, 2001 and Shortly Afterwards). [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/5/2001] ABC News will revive the story on December 20, 2001, and say the unnamed scientist is under investigation for a role in the anthrax attacks. ABC will claim the FBI did find suspicious chemicals in his basement, but not anthrax. [ABC News, 12/20/2001] However, the next day it will be reported that the ABC story was wrong. US Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) will say he talked to FBI Director Robert Mueller after hearing the ABC New report, and Mueller “said the ABC News report was not true, that ‘The network did not check with us, we have no investigation and no one with or formerly with Battelle is a suspect.’” [Columbus Dispatch, 12/21/2001]
After being briefly detained in July 2001, Nabil al-Marabh went Chicago and spent the next two months working for an uncle there. [Knight Ridder, 5/23/2003] In early September, he got a job working the late shift at a quickie market and liquor store. On September 19, his uncle shows up at the store to tell al-Marabh that his face has been on television and that he is wanted by the FBI. He and his uncle are still discussing this when the FBI arrives a few minutes later and takes him away. [New York Times, 10/14/2001] He has $22,000 in cash and $25,000 worth of amber jewels in his possession when arrested, despite holding only a sporadic series of low-paying jobs. [National Post, 9/4/2002] Al-Marabh appears to have been working on some kind of plot involving hazardous materials and trucks since at least August 2000 (see August 2000-January 2001). He had just received another duplicate of his Michigan hazardous materials driver’s license on September 16 and apparently is waiting for another duplicate to arrive. [New York Times, 9/21/2001; Local 4 News (Detroit), 9/22/2001] He has applied for a job at a local trucking company but is arrested before completing the application process. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] In the days after his arrest, about ten Middle Eastern men across the US will be arrested for having similar hazardous materials licenses that have been fraudulently obtained. Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, an al-Qaeda operative and friend of al-Marabh, began applying for a hazardous materials license in Minnesota in August 2001 (see Mid-August 2001). [WCVB 5 (Boston), 9/27/2001] In January 2002, it will be reported that “federal authorities now believe al-Qaeda had planted [al-Marabh in Chicago] to help prepare for the next volley of terrorist attacks.” [ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002]
The FBI claims on this day that there were six hijacking teams on the morning of 9/11. [New York Times, 9/19/2001; Guardian, 10/13/2001] A different report claims investigators are privately saying eight. [Independent, 9/25/2001] However, the reports below suggest there may have been as many as nine aborted flights, leading to a potential total of 13 hijackings:
Knives of the same type used in the successful hijackings were found taped to the backs of fold-down trays on a Continental Airlines flight from Newark. [Guardian, 9/19/2001]
The FBI is investigating American Airlines Flight 43, which was scheduled to leave Boston about 8:10 a.m. bound for Los Angeles but was canceled minutes before takeoff due to a mechanical problem. [BBC, 9/18/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/18/2001; Guardian, 9/19/2001] Another version claims the flight left from Newark and made it as far as Cincinnati before being grounded in the nationwide air ban. [New York Times, 9/19/2001]
Knives and box cutters were found on two separate canceled Delta Airlines planes later that day, one leaving Atlanta for Brussels and the other leaving from Boston. [Time, 9/22/2001; Independent, 9/25/2001]
On September 14, two knives were found on an Air Canada flight that would have flown to New York on 9/11 if not for the air ban. [CNN, 10/15/2001]
Two men arrested on 9/11 may have lost their nerve on American Airlines Flight 1729 from Newark to San Antonio via Dallas that was scheduled to depart at 8:50 a.m., and was later forced to land in St. Louis. Alternately, they may have been planning an attack for September 15, 2001. Their names are Mohammed Azmath and Ayub Ali Khan, whose real name according to later reports is Syed Gul Mohammad Shah. [New York Times, 9/19/2001]
There may have been an attempt to hijack United Airlines Flight 23 flying from JFK Airport, New York to Los Angeles around 9:00 a.m. Shortly after 9:00 a.m., United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger sent out a warning about the first WTC crash to the flights he was handling (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). Because of this warning, the crew of Flight 23 told the passengers it had a mechanical problem and immediately returned to the gate. Ballinger was later told by authorities that six men initially wouldn’t get off the plane. When the men finally disembarked, they disappeared into the crowd and never returned. Later, authorities checked their luggage and found copies of the Koran and al-Qaeda instruction sheets. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] In mid-2002, a NORAD deputy commander says “we don’t know for sure” if Flight 23 was to have been hijacked. [Globe and Mail, 6/13/2002]
According to anonymous FAA officials, a plane bound for Chicago, home of the Sears Tower, could have been another target for hijacking. The plane landed unexpectedly at the Cleveland airport after the FAA initiated a national ground stop. Four Middle Eastern men had deplaned and left the airport before officials could detain them for questioning. [Freni, 2003, pp. 81]
A box cutter knife was found under a seat cushion on American Airlines Flight 160, a 767 that would have flown from San Diego to New York on the morning of 9/11 but for the air ban. [Chicago Tribune, 9/23/2001]
The FBI is said to be seeking a number of passengers who failed to board the same, rescheduled flights when the grounding order on commercial planes in the US was lifted. [BBC, 9/18/2001] The Independent points out suspicions have been fueled “that staff at US airports may have played an active role in the conspiracy and helped the hijackers to circumvent airport security.” They also note, “It is possible that at least some of the flights that have come under scrutiny were used as decoys, or as fallback targets.” [Independent, 9/25/2001]
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