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9/11 Timeline

Before 9/11

Project: 9/11 Timeline
Open-Content project managed by matt, Paul, KJF

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The NORAD emblem.The NORAD emblem. [Source: NORAD]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending US airspace, gradually reduces the number of aircraft it has on “alert”—armed and ready for immediate takeoff—in response to the changing nature of the threats it has to defend against, so that there will be just 14 fighter jets on alert across the continental United States when the 9/11 attacks take place. [Jones, 2011, pp. 7-8]
NORAD Has 1,200 Interceptor Aircraft in 1960 - NORAD is a bi-national organization, established by the US and Canada in 1958 to counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 16] It is initially responsible for intercepting any Soviet long-range bombers that might attack the Northern Hemisphere. By 1960, it has about 1,200 interceptor aircraft dedicated to this task. But during the 1960s, the Soviets become less reliant on manned bombers, and shift instead to ballistic missiles. In response to this changed threat and also budget constraints, the number of NORAD interceptor aircraft goes down to about 300 by the mid-1970s.
NORAD's Mission Changes after Cold War Ends - With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, the threats NORAD has to counter change significantly. During the early 1990s, NORAD’s mission consequently changes from one of air defense to one of maintaining “air sovereignty,” which NORAD defines as “providing surveillance and control of the territorial airspace.” The new mission includes intercepting suspicious aircraft, tracking hijacked aircraft, assisting aircraft in distress, and counterdrug operations. [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 14-15; 9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file; Jones, 2011, pp. 7] As this change takes place, the number of aircraft defending American airspace is reduced. In 1987, there are 52 fighters on alert in the continental United States. [Filson, 1999, pp. 112-113] But by December 1999, there are just 14 alert fighters remaining around the continental US. [Airman, 12/1999]
Number of Alert Sites Goes Down Prior to 9/11 - The number of NORAD “alert sites”—bases where the alert aircraft are located—is also reduced in the decades prior to 9/11. During the Cold War, there are 26 of these sites. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 16] By 1991, there are 19 of them, according to Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of NORAD’s Continental US Region from 1997 to 2002. [Filson, 2003, pp. v] By 1994, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, there are 14 alert sites around the US. [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 1] And by 1996, only 10 alert sites remain. [Utecht, 4/7/1996, pp. 9-10]
Military Officials Call for Eliminating Alert Sites - In the 1990s, some officials at the Pentagon argue for the alert sites to be eliminated entirely. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 16-17] The Department of Defense’s 1997 Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review indicates that the number of alert sites around the continental US could be reduced to just four, but the idea is successfully blocked by NORAD (see May 19, 1997). [Filson, 2003, pp. iv-v, 34-36; 9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file] However, three alert sites are subsequently removed from the air sovereignty mission. These are in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Burlington, Vermont; and Great Falls, Montana. [American Defender, 4/1998]
Seven Alert Sites Remain - By December 1999, therefore, there are just seven alert sites around the continental US, each with two fighters on alert. These sites are Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida; Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida; Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon; March Air Reserve Base, California; Ellington Air National Guard Base, Texas; Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts; and Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Only two of these sites—Otis ANGB and Langley AFB—serve the northeastern United States, where the hijackings on September 11 will take place. [Airman, 12/1999; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Larry Arnold

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

Dan Hill.Dan Hill. [Source: Amanda Gordon / Bloomberg]Dan Hill, a US Army Ranger who is undergoing officer training, comes up with a hypothetical plan by which the Soviet Union could start a nuclear war with the United States, which involves a suicide pilot crashing a military transport plane into the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.
Trainees Tasked with Imagining How to Start a World War - After his tour in Vietnam came to an end in mid-1969, Hill was chosen for the career officer training program at Fort Benning, Georgia. He is currently taking a course in nuclear weapons deployment. Toward the end of the semester, he is given the assignment of imagining he is a Soviet premier who wants to start World War III against the US. Hill and his fellow trainees are told to prepare a written plan, describing how they would initiate the war.
Plan Involves Crashing Plane into Capitol Building - Hill comes up with a plan, which he gives the code name “State of the Union.” It involves recruiting and training a suicide pilot, obtaining a C-47 transport plane, and filling it with explosives. Then, as journalist and author James B. Stewart will describe: “On the night of the State of the Union, the pilot would fly the plane straight into the Capitol building, through the rotunda, and into the House of Representatives, where the bombs on the plane would be set to explode. He’d take out the president, his cabinet, the members of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and most senators and representatives. At that moment, the Soviet Union would unleash its nuclear missiles.” According to Hill, everyone in the US would be “watching TV, there’s no air defense around the Capitol; by the time anyone realized an aircraft was near, it would be too late.”
Commander Questions Hill about His Plan - On the Monday after Hill submits his plan, a lieutenant colonel in intelligence stops him on his way to class and says, “I’ve got some people who would like to talk to you.” Hill is taken to a room where Major General John Carley, the assistant commander of the infantry school, is waiting, along with six men in uniform and several other men who are dressed in dark suits, all of them looking serious. Carley is holding Hill’s paper and asks, “How did you come up with this?” Hill replies, “This is my area of expertise,” and explains that he has been trained in unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, the use of explosives, and demolition. He is then questioned for almost an hour about his plan. Finally, Carley says, “We’d prefer you forget you ever did this.” Hill agrees to do so and is then dismissed.
Hill Informs Friend about His Plan - Hill writes to his friend Rick Rescorla, who has also served in the Army, about the incident. In his reply, Rescorla writes: “You evil-minded b_stard! When you have these thoughts, don’t publicize them to anyone. The plan is tactically and technically proficient; it makes sense, but only to people like you and me. To the rest of the world, it looks like the workings of a deviant mind. This kind of thing terrifies people.” [Stewart, 2002, pp. 152-153] Rescorla will subsequently work as the head of security for a company at the World Trade Center. [New Yorker, 2/11/2002] While he is in that position, he will be drawing from Hill’s plan when, after the 1993 bombing, he determines that terrorists will likely target the WTC again by crashing a cargo plane into it (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194] Hill will learn that, shortly after his meeting with Carley, enhanced air defenses were installed for Washington. He will therefore think that some good may have come from the meeting. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 153]

Entity Tags: Rick Rescorla, John Carley, Daniel J. Hill

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Three hijacked aircraft at Dawson’s Field in Jordan.Three hijacked aircraft at Dawson’s Field in Jordan. [Source: Jordanian National Archive]Terrorists try to simultaneously hijack three airliners heading to the United States from Europe in a series of events that culminate in two of the airliners, along with another plane, being blown up at an airfield in Jordan. The hijackers are members of a group called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who want to gain the release of Palestinian militants held in Europe and Israel.
Hijackers Carry Hidden Weapons onto the Planes - The series of events begins on September 6, 1970, when the PFLP members board three commercial aircraft at various European airports: Swissair Flight 100 from Zurich, TWA Flight 74 from Frankfurt, and El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam. All three planes are bound for New York. The terrorists are able to carry concealed guns and grenades onto them.
Pilot Manages to Prevent One Hijacking - The pilot of one of the planes, Flight 219, is alerted to four suspicious passengers—actually the PFLP members—before he takes off and has two of them removed from the plane. However, the other suspicious passengers, Leila Khaled and Patrick Arguello, are allowed to stay on board. Once the plane is airborne, they go to the front of it carrying hand grenades and demand to be let into the cockpit. But, to prevent the hijacking, the pilot puts the plane into a steep dive, thereby throwing the two terrorists off their feet. Arguello is shot dead by an air marshal in the ensuing struggle while Khaled is disarmed and held captive. The plane makes an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport, near London, and Khaled is then arrested by British authorities.
Two Hijacked Planes Land in Jordan - Flight 100 and Flight 74, unlike Flight 219, are easily hijacked and, on the instruction of the hijackers, head to Jordan. They land at Dawson’s Field, a disused airstrip in the desert. Dozens of PFLP members are waiting there to assist the hijackers. The planes’ passengers are held at the airstrip for days. The terrorists demand the release of PFLP prisoners in Israel and Europe, and threaten to kill the hostages if their demands are refused. Meanwhile, reporters and television cameramen assemble around the airstrip, and the events taking place there are broadcast to the world.
Fourth Plane Is Flown to Egypt and Blown Up - Remarkably, one of the PFLP members forced to get off Flight 219 in Amsterdam is able to get on another plane bound for New York, Pan Am Flight 93, with a hand grenade hidden in his groin area. He hijacks the flight once it is airborne and asks to be flown to Dawson’s Field. The pilot tells him the plane is too large to land there and so he instead flies to Cairo, Egypt. [Jewish Journal, 2/23/2006; Wall Street Journal, 2/24/2006; PBS, 2/27/2006; Jerusalem Post, 9/16/2011; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/19/2016] On the way, the plane stops in Beirut, Lebanon, where it is laced with explosives. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003 pdf file] After it lands in Cairo, the passengers are able to get off just before it blows up.
Fifth Plane Is Hijacked and Flown to Jordan - On September 9, PFLP sympathizers hijack another plane, BOAC Flight 775 bound from Bombay, India, to Beirut. On their direction, the plane is flown to Dawson’s Field, where it joins Flight 100 and Flight 74. The PFLP thus has three planes and 310 hostages, the majority of them Americans, under its control at the airstrip. The group sets a deadline of September 12 for its demands to be met. On September 11, 200 of the hostages are taken to Amman, the Jordanian capital, for release. However, Jewish passengers and the planes’ flight crews remain as hostages at the airstrip.
Three Planes Are Blown Up but No One Is Killed - On September 12, the PFLP blows up the three planes at Dawson’s Field. Fortunately, no one is on them when it does this, but the dramatic scene is filmed and broadcast around the world. Despite the approach of Jordanian troops, the PFLP members at the airstrip are then able to get away, taking the remaining hostages with them. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 59; Jerusalem Post, 9/16/2011] On September 29, the PFLP will release these hostages. The following day, Khaled, along with six Arab prisoners held in European jails, will be released and flown to Cairo. [Daily Telegraph, 1/1/2001] However, the hijackings will fail to result in the freedom of most of the prisoners whose release the PFLP demanded.
Day of the Hijackings Is the 'Blackest Day in Aviation History' - The series of events will become known as “Black September.” [Jerusalem Post, 9/16/2011] Until 9/11, September 6, 1970, when the first hijackings occur, will be known as “the blackest day in aviation history.” [Jewish Journal, 2/23/2006; PBS, 2/27/2006] The events will lead the international aviation community to finally take coordinated action to prevent hijackings. Additionally, they are “the first major terrorist hijacking attempt that captured the media’s attention,” according to Norman Shanks, the security manager at Heathrow Airport from 1986 to 1991. [New York Times, 3/29/2016]
Hijackings Have Similarities with the 9/11 Attacks - Mary Schiavo, inspector general of the Department of Transportation from 1990 to 1996, will later note the similarities between the Black September hijackings and the events of September 11, 2001, when she criticizes the failure of authorities to prevent the 9/11 attacks. While the events of September 11 were “astonishing in the numbers of casualties and the enormity of the devastation,” she will comment, “the modus operandi of the terrorists” was not new. “Almost 31 years after four planes were hijacked and blown up in an Islamic jihad staged in Jordan, four US planes were hijacked in what Osama bin Laden would call, in congratulatory messages, a jihad,” she will state. “Astonishingly,” she will add, “we heard, even from the FAA and the Department of Transportation, that ‘nothing like this ever happened before.’” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Patrick Arguello, Norman Shanks, Leila Khaled, Mary Schiavo

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, All Day of 9/11 Events

Georg Sieber.Georg Sieber. [Source: Sarah Morris]Dr. Georg Sieber, a West German police psychologist, imagines the possibility of terrorists using a plane as a weapon and crashing it into the crowded Olympic Stadium when he comes up with a list of scenarios for possible attacks that could occur when his country hosts the Olympic Games. [Graff, 2011, pp. 40] In the months leading up to this year’s Olympics in Munich, organizers ask Sieber to conduct a risk analysis and predict worst-case scenarios for the games. The psychologist is “a serious student of global terrorist activity,” according to historian and author David Clay Large. For his analysis, he examines the activities of the most ruthless terrorist groups, such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Palestine Liberation Organization, the West German Baader-Meinhof gang, and the Basque separatist group ETA. He comes up with 26 worst-case scenarios, which he outlines in minute detail. Most of the scenarios focus on the Olympic Village where athletes will stay during the games. They include bombings by the IRA and ETA, and kidnappings by the Italian Mafia and the Uruguayan terrorist group Tupamaros. Notably, one of the scenarios involves a 9/11-style event in which Swedish neo-fascists hire a jet aircraft and deliberately crash it into the packed Olympic Stadium in a suicide attack. The organizers, however, are unhappy with Sieber’s predictions. Manfred Schreiber, the Munich police chief, thinks they are too far-fetched and unrealistic. Sieber is asked to come up with some scenarios that are less frightening and that the organizers will consider more likely to occur. One of his imagined catastrophes, however, turns out to be eerily prescient. It involves armed Palestinian commandos getting into the Olympic Village, invading the Israeli team’s apartment, killing one or two hostages, and then demanding the release of Arab political prisoners from Israeli jails and a plane to fly the terrorists to a friendly Arab capital. [Time, 8/25/2002; Large, 2012, pp. 120] An attack almost identical to this occurs on the morning of September 5, during the Olympics. It involves eight men affiliated with the Palestinian terrorist group Black September breaking into the Israeli team’s apartment, and taking hostage 11 athletes and coaches. [Time, 9/5/2014] Sieber’s plane crash scenario will also turn out to be prescient in its resemblance to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. It “foreshadowed a September day in another city many years later,” Time magazine will comment in 2002. [Time, 8/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Manfred Schreiber, Georg Sieber

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs

William Haas, the pilot of Southern Airways Flight 49.William Haas, the pilot of Southern Airways Flight 49. [Source: Smithsonian Institution]Three men hijack a commercial airliner and threaten to crash it into a nuclear plant, and authorities also fear they might crash it into President Richard Nixon’s winter home in Florida. [Graff, 2011, pp. 43-47] The hijacking occurs on Southern Airways Flight 49, a DC-9 bound from Memphis, Tennessee, to Miami, Florida, with scheduled stops in Birmingham, Alabama, Montgomery, Alabama, and Orlando, Florida. [Slate, 6/19/2013] The plane has 27 passengers and four crew members on board. The hijackers—three men with criminal records—are Lewis Moore, Henry Jackson, and Melvin Cale. The aim of the hijacking, Moore will later say, is to bring attention to the brutality and racism of the Detroit Police Department. The ordeal, which lasts 29 hours, is, at the current time, “the most chilling domestic hijacking in US history,” according to national security historian Timothy Naftali. [Naftali, 2005, pp. 61; Detroit Free Press, 6/6/2016]
Hijackers Demand a $10 Million Ransom - The hijackers manage to smuggle guns and grenades onto Flight 49 in a raincoat. [Slate, 6/19/2013] The plane takes off from Memphis at 5:05 p.m. on November 10. The hijackers seize control of it at 7:22 p.m., during the second leg of the flight. One of them enters the cockpit carrying a revolver and with an arm around the neck of a flight attendant. He tells the pilot, William Haas, “Head north, Captain, this is a hijacking.” [Detroit Free Press, 11/12/1972; Graff, 2011, pp. 43] The hijackers demand $10 million to release the plane. [Naftali, 2005, pp. 61] Haas transmits a hijack code to air traffic controllers who, in response, begin the well-known and widely used procedures for dealing with a hijacking. They notify the FBI in Washington, DC, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s special hijacking command post.
Airline Is Told of the Hijackers' Ransom Demand - The plane lands in Jackson, Mississippi, at 8:10 p.m. to be refueled and then takes off at 8:36 p.m., heading for Detroit, Michigan, where the hijackers intend to settle their complaints with city officials. At around 10:30 p.m., while the plane is circling over Detroit, the FBI notifies the city’s mayor and Southern Airways of the hijackers’ ransom demand. At 12:05 a.m. on November 11, the plane leaves the Detroit area due to bad weather and heads for Cleveland, Ohio, where it lands and is refueled. It takes off from Cleveland at 1:38 a.m. and heads for Toronto, Canada.
Hijackers Threaten to Crash the Plane into a Nuclear Facility - While it is on the ground in Toronto, the hijackers learn that Southern Airways has only gathered $500,000 in ransom money. They refuse to take this and release the passengers. Consequently, after being refueled, the plane takes off at 6:15 a.m. and flies back to the US. It heads for Knoxville, Tennessee. As it is ascending, the hijackers tell controllers that unless their demands are met, they will crash Flight 49 into the Oak Ridge nuclear facility, near Knoxville. [Detroit Free Press, 11/12/1972; Graff, 2011, pp. 43-45] Jackson says: “We’re tired of all this bull. No more foolin’ around. We’re taking this f_cker to Oak Ridge and dive it into a nuclear reactor.” [Burleson, 2007, pp. 66] By this time, the White House, the Pentagon, and the Atomic Energy Commission are all involved in dealing with the crisis. [Graff, 2011, pp. 45] Meanwhile, key personnel at Oak Ridge discuss the possible outcomes of Flight 49 crashing into their facility. At the bare minimum, they all agree, the impact could rupture the protective shell and result in a massive release of radioactivity; the worst possibility is a core meltdown. [Burleson, 2007, pp. 66-67]
White House Official Talks to the Hijackers - The plane diverts to Lexington, Kentucky, to be refueled and, by 11:00 a.m., is again over Oak Ridge. The hijackers are then connected to the White House. John Ehrlichman, the president’s top domestic aide, comes on the radio and Jackson tells him, “I’m up over Oak Ridge, where I’ll either throw a grenade or I’ll put this plane down nose first.” He says he and the other hijackers want a letter signed by the president stating that their ransom money is a grant from the government and they won’t be prosecuted. Ehrlichman says it will take some time to fulfil their request.
Hijackers Receive the Ransom Money - The hijackers then direct the plane to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it lands at 1:30 p.m. It is refueled and the hijackers are given the ransom money, along with food and other supplies. Southern Airways has only been able to put together $2 million, but the airline is assuming—correctly, as it turns out—that the hijackers will lack the time to count the money and realize it is much less than the amount they demanded. The plane leaves Chattanooga at 2:35 p.m. and heads to Cuba, where many hijackers fled during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Authorities Fear the Plane May Be Crashed into the President's Winter Home - As Flight 49 is flying south over Florida, authorities become concerned that the hijackers might crash it into the president’s retreat in Key Biscayne, where Nixon is currently staying. Military officials contact Florida’s Homestead Air Reserve Base and fighter jets there are placed on alert as a precaution. Fortunately, no incident occurs and Flight 49 lands in Havana at 4:49 p.m. However, to the surprise of the hijackers, the Cubans are unhappy about the plane’s arrival and soldiers surround the aircraft after it touches down. José Abrantes, President Fidel Castro’s head of security, explains to the hijackers the nation’s discomfort about the situation. Therefore, after being refueled, Flight 49 leaves Havana and heads back to the US.
FBI Agents Shoot the Plane's Tires - It lands at McCoy Air Force Base in Orlando at 9:17 p.m. By now, Robert Gebhardt, assistant director of the FBI’s investigative division, has given the order to disable the plane when it is next on the ground. Consequently, after it lands, FBI agents start shooting at its tires. The hijackers, realizing what is happening, order Haas to start the plane’s engines. In the panic that follows, Jackson threatens Harold Johnson, the co-pilot, and shoots him in the arm in front of the terrified passengers. The hijackers give the order to take off and, despite now having two flat tires, the plane is able to get off the ground. Jackson then orders Haas to fly to Cuba again. The damaged plane makes an emergency landing in Havana at 12:32 a.m. on November 12. [Detroit Free Press, 11/12/1972; Graff, 2011, pp. 45-52] Cuban soldiers then arrest the hijackers and seize the ransom money, so it can be returned to Southern Airways. [Slate, 6/19/2013]
New Security Measures Will Be Introduced in response to the Hijacking - The catastrophic incident will lead to increased security in the aviation industry. Within two months, mandatory screening of all passengers and carry-on luggage will be introduced. The Justice Department will sign an agreement with the Department of Defense, making military assistance available to the FBI in the event of a terrorist emergency. Other measures will be considered but not introduced, such as armoring cockpit doors, allowing pilots to carry weapons, and centralizing airport security nationwide under a single agency. [Naftali, 2005, pp. 66-67; Graff, 2011, pp. 53] “No one understands the impact that this flight and this 30-hour ordeal had on the nation, and transforming everyone, from the White House to the FBI, to the way that we board an airplane every day,” Brendan Koerner, author of a book about aircraft hijackings, will comment in 2016. [Detroit Free Press, 6/6/2016] As a result of the hijacking of Flight 49, “the American public for the first time began to take the question of terrorism seriously and began to accept trade-offs of civil liberties in exchange for greater security,” journalist and author Garrett Graff will write. [Graff, 2011, pp. 53-54]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, José Abrantes, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Harold Johnson, William Haas, Henry Jackson (hijacker), United States Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis Moore, White House, Melvin Cale, John Ehrlichman, US Department of Defense, Southern Airways, Robert Gebhardt

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Samuel Joseph Byck.Samuel Joseph Byck. [Source: Unknown]Samuel Joseph Byck, an unemployed former tire salesman from Philadelphia, tries to hijack a commercial aircraft with the intent of crashing it into the White House and killing President Richard Nixon, but commits suicide when his attempt runs into difficulties. Byck has focused his resentment on Nixon after being turned down for a loan by the Small Business Administration. He has come up with a plot to assassinate the president, called “Operation Pandora’s Box,” which entails hijacking an airliner and crashing it into the White House on a day when Nixon is there. [Edmund Preston, 1987, pp. 52-53; LA Weekly, 9/12/2001; Weekly View, 4/10/2014]
Man Shoots a Guard before Boarding a Plane - A few hours before making his assassination attempt, Byck mails a tape-recorded message in which he describes his plan to the renowned investigative reporter Jack Anderson. [Casa Grande Dispatch, 7/28/2004] Then, early this morning, he drives to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to carry out the plot. He has with him a revolver and a bomb, which he made using gasoline housed in motor oil bottles and a crude igniter switch. At the airport, without warning, he pulls out the revolver and shoots dead a security guard. He then leaps over the security check and gets onto Delta Air Lines Flight 523 to Atlanta, Georgia, a DC-9, choosing this plane because it is the nearest flight that is ready to take off.
Man Shoots the Pilots and Threatens to Blow Up the Plane - On the plane, Byck orders the pilots to take off immediately. They say they are unable to take off until the wheel blocks have been removed. Frustrated by the delay, Byck shoots the pilots, fatally wounding one of them. In his desperation, he then grabs a passenger and orders her to “fly the plane.” He also threatens to blow up the plane unless a flight attendant closes the door. After a standoff between Byck and the police ensues, a police officer starts firing through the cabin door, and two of his shots hit and wound Byck. Then, as the authorities close in, Byck commits suicide by shooting himself in the head. A briefcase containing the gasoline bomb is subsequently found under his body.
Incident 'Resonates' in American Minds after 9/11 - Following this incident, a bunker will be built deep inside the White House and large guns will be placed on the roof of the White House. A report published by the Federal Aviation Administration in 1987 will note that while Byck “lacked the skill and self-control to reach his target, he had provided a chilling reminder of the potential of violence against civil aviation.” After the attempted assassination occurs, Byck’s plot to kill Nixon will remain little known except within the US Secret Service. But it will again be mentioned in reports after 9/11. Then, one journalist will remark that “the terrifying memory of Samuel Byck’s misguided scheme resonates in every American’s mind whenever the thought of 9/11 visits our nightmares.” And LA Weekly will comment, “In the evolution of terrorism, the use of American commercial airliners as murder weapons was ‘pioneered’ by… Byck.” [Edmund Preston, 1987, pp. 52-53; LA Weekly, 9/12/2001; Weekly View, 4/10/2014]

Entity Tags: Jack Anderson, Samuel Joseph Byck, Richard M. Nixon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Warning Signs

Soviet tanks entering Afghanistan in late 1979.Soviet tanks entering Afghanistan in late 1979. [Source: Banded Artists Productions]The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan. The Russians were initially invited in by the Afghan government to deal with rising instability and army mutinies, and they start crossing the border on December 8. But on December 26, Russian troops storm the presidential palace, kill the country’s leader, Haizullah Amin, and the invitation turns into an invasion. [Blum, 1995, pp. 342] Later declassified high-level Russian documents will show that the Russian leadership believed that Amin, who took power in a violent coup from another pro-Soviet leader two months before, had secret contacts with the US embassy and was probably a US agent. Further, one document from this month claims that “the right wing Muslim opposition” has “practically established their control in many provinces… using foreign support.” [Cooley, 2002, pp. 8] It has been commonly believed that the invasion was unprovoked, but the Russians will later be proven largely correct. In a 1998 interview, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, will reveal that earlier in the year Carter authorized the CIA to destabilize the government, provoking the Russians to invade (see July 3, 1979). [Le Nouvel Observateur (Paris), 1/1998; Mirror, 1/29/2002] Further, CIA covert action in the country actually began in 1978 (see 1978), if not earlier (see 1973-1979). The US and Saudi Arabia will give a huge amount of money (estimates range up to $40 billion total for the war) to support the mujaheddin guerrilla fighters opposing the Russians, and a decade-long war will ensue. [Nation, 2/15/1999]

Entity Tags: United States, Saudi Arabia, Haizullah Amin, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, along with then-President Gerald Ford, April 28, 1975.Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, along with then-President Gerald Ford, April 28, 1975. [Source: David Hume Kennerly / Gerald R. Ford Library] (click image to enlarge)Throughout the 1980s, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are key players in one of the most highly classified programs of the Reagan administration. Presently, Cheney is working as a Republican congressman, while Rumsfeld is head of the pharmaceutical company G. D. Searle. At least once per year, they both leave their day jobs for periods of three or four days. They head to Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, and along with 40 to 60 federal officials and one member of the Reagan Cabinet are taken to a remote location within the US, such as an underground bunker. While they are gone, none of their work colleagues, or even their wives, knows where they are. They are participating in detailed planning exercises for keeping government running during and after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
Unconstitutional 'Continuity of Government' - This highly secret “Continuity of Government” (COG) program is known as Project 908. The idea is that if the US were under a nuclear attack, three teams would be sent from Washington to separate locations around the US to prepare to take leadership of the country. If somehow one team was located and hit with a nuclear weapon, the second or third team could take its place. Each of the three teams includes representatives from the State Department, Defense Department, CIA, and various domestic-policy agencies. The program is run by a new government agency called the National Program Office. Based in the Washington area, it has a budget of hundreds of million dollars a year, which grows to $1 billion per year by the end of Reagan’s first term in office. Within the National Security Council, the “action officer” involved in the COG program is Oliver North, who is a key figure in the mid-1980s Iran-Contra scandal. Reagan’s Vice President, George H. W. Bush, also supervises some of the program’s efforts. As well as Cheney and Rumsfeld, other known figures involved in the COG exercises include Kenneth Duberstein, who serves for a time as President Reagan’s chief of staff, and future CIA Director James Woolsey. Another regular participant is Richard Clarke, who on 9/11 will be the White House chief of counterterrorism (see (1984-2004)). The program, though, is extraconstitutional, as it establishes a process for designating a new US president that is nowhere authorized in the US Constitution or federal law. After George H. W. Bush is elected president in 1988 and the effective end of the Soviet Union in 1989, the exercises continue. They will go on after Bill Clinton is elected president, but will then be based around the threat posed by terrorists, rather than the Soviet Union (see 1992-2000). According to journalist James Mann, the participation of Rumsfeld and Cheney in these exercises demonstrates a broader truth about them: “Over three decades, from the Ford administration onward, even when they were out of the executive branch of government, they were never too far away; they stayed in touch with its defense, military, and intelligence officials and were regularly called upon by those officials. Cheney and Rumsfeld were, in a sense, a part of the permanent, though hidden, national security apparatus of the United States.” [Mann, 2004, pp. 138-145; Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004; Washington Post, 4/7/2004; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 85]
No Role for Congress - According to one participant, “One of the awkward questions we faced was whether to reconstitute Congress after a nuclear attack. It was decided that no, it would be easier to operate without them.” Thus the decision is made to abandon the Constitutional framework of the nation’s government if this plan is ever activated. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 198]
Reactivated after 9/11 - The plan they rehearse for in the COG exercises will be activated, supposedly for the first time, in the hours during and after the 9/11 attacks (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 3/1/2002] Mann subsequently comments, “The program is of particular interest today because it helps to explain the thinking and behavior of the second Bush Administration in the hours, days, and months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.” [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Oliver North, National Program Office, James Woolsey, Kenneth Duberstein, Donald Rumsfeld, George Herbert Walker Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Military Exercises, Military Exercises

An E-4B Airborne Command Post.An E-4B Airborne Command Post. [Source: US Air Force] (click image to enlarge)During the 1980s, top-secret exercises are regularly held, testing a program called Continuity of Government (COG) that would keep the federal government functioning during and after a nuclear war (see 1981-1992). The program includes a special plane called the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP). This is a modified Boeing 747, based at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC that has its own conference room and special communications gear. Nicknamed the “Doomsday” plane, it could act as an airborne command post from where a president could run the country during a nuclear war. One of the COG exercises run by the Reagan administration involves a team of officials actually staying aloft in the NEACP for three days straight. The team cruises across the US, and up and down the coasts, periodically being refueled in mid-air. [Schwartz, 1998; Mann, 2004, pp. 144] Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld participate in the COG exercises, though whether they are aboard the NEACP in this particular one is unknown. [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004] The plan that is being rehearsed for in the exercises will be activated in response to the 9/11 attacks (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Also on 9/11, three Doomsday planes (then known as “National Airborne Operations Center” planes) will be in the air, due to an exercise taking place that morning called Global Guardian (see Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Schwartz, 1998; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Military Exercises

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey holds a drill at the World Trade Center based on the scenario of a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers. Numerous agencies participate in the drill, which is held on a Sunday. As well as the Port Authority, these include the New York City Fire Department, the New York City Police Department, and the Emergency Medical Services. Guy Tozzoli, the director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, will describe the drill during a legislative hearing in 1993 (see (March 29, 1993)). He will recall that the Port Authority simulates the “total disaster” of “the airplane hitting the building” and participants simulate “blood coming out of people.” He will add that the drill is “a real preparation for a disaster.” [Newsday, 11/12/2001; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 58-59] (During the hearing, Tozzoli will mistakenly recall the drill being conducted in the late 1970s, but it is in fact held in November 1982. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 274] ) The drill follows an incident in 1981, when an Argentine aircraft came within 90 seconds of crashing into the WTC’s North Tower as a result of having problems communicating with air traffic controllers (see February 20, 1981). Asked about the drill shortly after 9/11, Tozzoli will say it was held “just to have people trained within the city for that particular scenario [of a plane hitting the WTC].” The 1982 exercise appears to be the last “joint drill involving all the emergency responders” held at the WTC prior to the 9/11 attacks, 19 years later, according to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. [Newsday, 11/12/2001; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 59]

Entity Tags: Guy Tozzoli, New York City Police Department, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New York City Fire Department

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

Richard Clarke, who will be the counterterrorism “tsar” on 9/11, regularly participates in a series of highly secret “Continuity of Government” (COG) exercises. [Washington Post, 4/7/2004] Throughout the 1980s, the COG exercises rehearse how to keep the federal government running during and after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union (see 1981-1992). After the fall of the Soviet Union, the exercises continue, but based instead around a possible terrorist attack on the United States (see 1992-2000). [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004] In 2004, Clarke will reveal that he has participated regularly in these exercises over the previous 20 years. He recalls that he had “gone off into caves in mountains in remote locations and spent days on end in miserable conditions, pretending that the rest of the world had blown up, and going through the questions, going through the drill.” He adds: “Everyone there play acts that it’s really happened. You can’t go outside because of the radioactivity. You can’t use the phones because they’re not connected to anything.” He also describes the COG plan requiring coded communications, saying: “There’s an elaborate system for the people in this network, first of all, to verify each other’s identity. That person on the other end has a certain password and information that they have to pass for us to believe that they’re who they say they are.” [Washington Post, 4/7/2004; ABC News, 4/25/2004] Clarke was a senior analyst at the State Department since 1979, and rises to prominence during the Reagan administration when he becomes deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence. [Washington Post, 3/13/2003; BBC, 3/22/2004] After being a member of the National Security Council since 1992, in 1998 he is appointed as counterterrorism “tsar” (see May 22, 1998). [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004 pdf file; New York Review of Books, 5/13/2004; Independent, 6/14/2004] According to journalist James Mann, the COG program is of particular interest because it helps explain the thinking and behavior of the Bush administration “in the hours, days, and months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.” [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004] On the morning of 9/11, Clarke is in fact responsible for activating the COG plan, the first time it is ever implemented (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8; ABC News, 4/25/2004] Also participating in the COG exercises, at least throughout at 1980s, are Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who on 9/11 are the vice president and secretary of defense, respectively. [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

Peter Caram.Peter Caram. [Source: SRR Training]The New York Port Authority, which owns the World Trade Center, is aware of terrorism occurring around the world and that the WTC is vulnerable to attack. It has therefore created the Terrorist Intelligence Unit within its police department, headed by Detective Sergeant Peter Caram, to gather information about terrorist groups and assess the vulnerability of its numerous facilities to attack. On this day, Caram writes a memo to the assistant superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department, reporting that the FBI has uncovered a terrorist threat: Two supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini are allegedly planning to bomb the WTC in the near future. Although the attack never occurs, this is the first of numerous occasions during the 1980s where the WTC is considered a potential target for a terrorist attack. [Caram, 2001, pp. 4-5; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Peter Caram

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

Detective Sergeant Peter Caram, the head of the New York Port Authority’s Terrorist Intelligence Unit, has been directed by the assistant superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department to compile a report on the vulnerability of the WTC to a terrorist attack. Having previously worked at the WTC Command, Caram has exclusive knowledge of some of the center’s security weaknesses. On this day he issues his four-page report, titled “Terrorist Threat and Targeting Assessment: World Trade Center.” It looks at the reasoning behind why the WTC might be singled out for attack, and identifies three areas of particular vulnerability: the perimeter of the WTC complex, the truck dock entrance, and the subgrade area (the lower floors below ground level). Caram specifically mentions that terrorists could use a car bomb in the subgrade area—a situation similar to what occurs in the 1993 bombing (see February 26, 1993). [Caram, 2001, pp. 5, 84-85; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] This is the first of several reports during the 1980s, identifying the WTC as a potential terrorist target.

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Peter Caram

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

Peter Goldmark.Peter Goldmark. [Source: Environmental Defense Fund]Peter Goldmark, the executive director of the New York Port Authority, is concerned that, in light of terrorist attacks occurring around the world (see April 18-October 23, 1983), Port Authority facilities, including the World Trade Center, could become terrorist targets. [Associated Press, 9/28/2005; New York Times, 10/27/2005] He therefore creates a unit called the Office of Special Planning (OSP) to evaluate the vulnerabilities of all Port Authority facilities and present recommendations to minimize the risks of attack. The OSP is staffed by Port Authority police and civilian workers, and is headed by Edward O’Sullivan, who has experience in counterterrorism from earlier careers in the Navy and Marine Corps. In carrying out its work, the OSP will consult with such US agencies as the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, NSA, and Defense Department. It will also consult with security officials from other countries that have gained expertise in combating terrorism, such as England, France, Italy, and Israel. [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 226; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] According to Peter Caram, head of the Port Authority’s Terrorist Intelligence Unit, the OSP will develop “an expertise unmatched in the United States.” [Caram, 2001, pp. 12] In 1985 it will issue a report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center” (see November 1985). [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999] It will exist until 1987. [Village Voice, 1/5/2000]

Entity Tags: Office of Special Planning, Peter Goldmark, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

The Office of Special Planning (OSP), a unit set up by the New York Port Authority to assess the security of its facilities against terrorist attacks (see Early 1984), spends four to six months studying the World Trade Center. It examines the center’s design through looking at photographs, blueprints, and plans. It brings in experts such as the builders of the center, plus experts in sabotage and explosives, and has them walk through the WTC to identify any areas of vulnerability. According to New York Times reporters James Glanz and Eric Lipton, when Edward O’Sullivan, head of the OSP, looks at WTC security, he finds “one vulnerability after another. Explosive charges could be placed at key locations in the power system. Chemical or biological agents could be dropped into the coolant system. The Hudson River water intake could be blown up. Someone might even try to infiltrate the large and vulnerable subterranean realms of the World Trade Center site.” In particular, “There was no control at all over access to the underground, two-thousand-car parking garage.” However, O’Sullivan consults “one of the trade center’s original structural engineers, Les Robertson, on whether the towers would collapse because of a bomb or a collision with a slow-moving airplane.” He is told there is “little likelihood of a collapse no matter how the building was attacked.” [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 227; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] The OSP will issue its report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center” late in 1985 (see November 1985).

Entity Tags: Office of Special Planning, Leslie Robertson, Edward O’Sullivan, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

Charles Schnabolk.Charles Schnabolk. [Source: Institute for Design Professionals]While the Office of Special Planning is still working on its report about the vulnerability of the World Trade Center to terrorist attack, the New York Port Authority hired security consultant Charles Schnabolk to also review the center’s security systems. [UExpress (.com), 10/12/2001; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] Schnabolk was involved in designing the original security system when the WTC complex was built. [Institue for Design Professionals, 2009; The Security Design Group, 2010] This month his secret report, titled “Terrorism Threat Perspective and Proposed Response for the World Trade Center” is released. It sets out four levels of possible terrorism against the center, and gives examples of each: ”(1) PREDICTABLE—Bomb threats; (2) PROBABLE—Bombing attempts, computer crime; (3) POSSIBLE—Hostage taking; (4) CATASTROPHIC—Aerial bombing, chemical agents in water supply or air conditioning (caused by agents of a foreign government or a programmed suicide).” Similar to other reports in the mid-1980s, it also warns that the WTC “is highly vulnerable through the parking lot.” [UExpress (.com), 10/12/2001; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Charles Schnabolk, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing, WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

President Ronald Reagan signs a directive that contributes to the modern era of “continuity planning,” which will ensure the maintenance of a functioning government in the event of a catastrophic attack on Washington, DC. This Continuity of Government (COG) plan will be activated for the first time on 9/11, in response to the terrorist attacks that day (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 3/1/2002; ABC News, 4/25/2004] National Security Decision Directive 188 (NSDD 188), “Government Coordination for National Security Emergency Preparedness,” states that it is the policy of the United States to have capabilities at all levels of government to respond to a range of national security emergencies, “from major natural calamities to hostile attacks on the nation.” The US policy “includes an emergency mobilization preparedness program which provides an effective capability to meet defense and essential civilian needs during those emergencies.” The National Security Council (NSC) is assigned as the “principal forum” where the national security emergency preparedness policy will be considered, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is to “assist in the implementation of this policy through a coordinating role with the other federal agencies.” NSDD 188 also assigns responsibility for continuity planning to an interagency panel that includes the Office of Management and Budget, and the Defense, Treasury, and Justice Departments. [US President, 9/16/1985; Washington Post, 3/1/2002] A subsequent executive order in 1988 will apply the COG plan to “any national security emergency situation that might confront the nation” (see November 18, 1988), and a presidential directive in 1998 will update it to specifically deal with the emerging threat posed by terrorists (see Early 1998 and October 21, 1998). [US President, 11/18/1988; Clarke, 2004, pp. 166-167 and 170; Washington Post, 6/4/2006]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

After assessing the security of New York Port Authority facilities, the Office of Special Planning (OSP), the Port Authority’s own antiterrorist task force, releases a report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center.” For security purposes, only seven copies are made, being hand-delivered and signed for by its various recipients, including the executive director of the Port Authority, the superintendent of the Port Authority Police, and the director of the World Trade Department. [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999; Village Voice, 1/5/2000] Because of the WTC’s visibility, symbolic value, and it being immediately recognizable to people from around the world, the report concludes that the center is a “most attractive terrorist target.” [New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] The report, which is 120 pages long, lists various possible methods of attacking the center. [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999; Caram, 2001, pp. 103; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 87] One of these is that a “time bomb-laden vehicle could be driven into the WTC and parked in the public parking area.… At a predetermined time, the bomb could be exploded in the basement.” [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 227] As a Senate Committee Report will find in August 1993, “The specifics of the February 26, 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center garage were almost identical to those envisioned in the [OSP] report.” [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999] Due to the Port Authority’s failure to adequately implement the OSP’s recommendations, the report will be crucial evidence in a successful civil trial against it in October 2005, charging negligence in failing to prevent the 1993 bombing. [Bloomberg, 10/26/2005; New York Times, 10/27/2005; New York Times, 2/18/2006] As of mid-2006, the other possible methods of attacking the WTC listed in the report remain undisclosed.

Entity Tags: Office of Special Planning, World Trade Center, World Trade Department, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

Following the release of the Office of Special Planning’s (OSP) report, which called the WTC a “most attractive terrorist target” (see November 1985), the New York Port Authority, which owns the center, seeks a second opinion on the OSP’s recommendations. At a cost of approximately $100,000, it hires the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to review the general security of the WTC. SAIC states in its report that the attractiveness of the WTC’s public areas to terrorists is “very high.” Like the OSP, SAIC pays particular attention to the underground levels of the center and describes a possible attack scenario much like what occurs in the 1993 bombing. [Caram, 2001, pp. 105-106; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

Dave Frasca, who will later go on to play a key role in the FBI’s failure to get a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings before 9/11 (see August 21, 2001 and August 29, 2001), joins the FBI. Frasca initially works at the bureau’s Newark, New Jersey, field office. It is unclear what cases he works on in the first three years of his employment, but they are not related to counterterrorism. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 123 pdf file]

Entity Tags: David Frasca, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Misc Entries

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events, Zacarias Moussaoui

The New York Port Authority’s Office of Special Planning (OSP) is closed down. It had been established in 1984 (see Early 1984) to evaluate and address the vulnerabilities of Port Authority facilities, including the World Trade Center, to terrorist attacks. [Village Voice, 1/5/2000; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] The reasons for the closure are unknown. However, Peter Goldmark, who’d created the OSP, had resigned as executive director of the Port Authority in 1985 to take a new job. [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 226-228] So the absence of his support for the office may have been a factor.

Entity Tags: Office of Special Planning

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

August 11-20, 1988: Bin Laden Forms Al-Qaeda

The notes from al-Qaeda’s formation meeting. The short lines on the right side are the list of attendees.The notes from al-Qaeda’s formation meeting. The short lines on the right side are the list of attendees. [Source: CNN]Osama bin Laden conducts two meetings to discuss “the establishment of a new military group,” according to notes that will be found later. Notes will reveal the group is initially called al-Qaeda al-Askariya, which roughly translates to “the military base.” But the name will soon shorten to just al-Qaeda, meaning “the base” or “the foundation.” [Associated Press, 2/19/2003; Wright, 2006, pp. 131-134] With the Soviets in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, it is proposed to create the new group to keep military jihad, or holy war, alive after the Soviets are gone. The notes don’t specify what the group will do exactly, but they conclude, “Initial estimate, within six months of al-Qaeda [founding], 314 brothers will be trained and ready.” In fact, al-Qaeda will remain smaller than this for years to come. Fifteen people attend these two initial meetings. [Wright, 2006, pp. 131-134] In addition to bin Laden, other attendees include:
bullet Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002]
bullet Mohammed Atef, a.k.a. Abu Hafs.
bullet Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a.k.a. Abu Hajer.
bullet Jamal al-Fadl.
bullet Wael Hamza Julaidan.
bullet Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a US citizen, who is notetaker for the meetings. [Wright, 2006, pp. 131-134]
Al-Fadl will reveal details about the meetings to US investigators in 1996 (see June 1996-April 1997). Notes to the meeting will be found in Bosnia in early 2002. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] It will take US intelligence years even to realize a group named al-Qaeda exists; the first known incidence of US intelligence being told the name will come in 1993 (see May 1993).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, Mohammed Atef, Wael Hamza Julaidan, Jamal al-Fadl, Al-Qaeda, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events, Other Pre-9/11 Events

President Ronald Reagan signs a directive that details the US government’s plan for dealing with national emergencies, including a nuclear attack against the country. Executive Order 12656, “Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities,” sets out the specific responsibilities of federal departments and agencies in national security emergencies. [US President, 11/18/1988] It deals with the nation’s Continuity of Government (COG) plan, which would ensure the federal government continued to function should such an emergency occur. [Washington Post, 3/1/2002; Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004] The order states, “The policy of the United States is to have sufficient capabilities at all levels of government to meet essential defense and civilian needs during any national security emergency.” It defines a “national security emergency” as “any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.” The order directs the head of every federal department and agency to “ensure the continuity of essential functions” during such an emergency by, among other things, “providing for succession to office and emergency delegation of authority.” According to Executive Order 12656, the National Security Council is “the principal forum for consideration of national security emergency preparedness policy,” and the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is to “assist in the implementation of national security emergency preparedness policy by coordinating with the other federal departments and agencies and with State and local governments.” [US President, 11/18/1988] The COG plan this directive deals with will be activated for the first time on 9/11, in response to the terrorist attacks that day (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 3/1/2002; ABC News, 4/25/2004] Author Peter Dale Scott will later comment that, by applying the COG plan to “any national security emergency,” Executive Order 12656 means that the attacks of 9/11 will meet the requirements for the plan to be put into action. [Scott, 2007, pp. 185-186] In fact, a presidential directive in 1998 will update the COG plan specifically to deal with the threat posed by terrorists (see Early 1998 and October 21, 1998). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 166-167 and 170; Washington Post, 6/4/2006]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events


President George Herbert Walker Bush.
President George Herbert Walker Bush. [Source: White House]George H. W. Bush replaces Ronald Reagan and remains president until January 1993. Many of the key members in his government will have important positions again when his son George W. Bush becomes president in 2001. For instance, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell later becomes Secretary of State, and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney later becomes vice president.

Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

A convoy of Soviet tanks leaving Afghanistan.A convoy of Soviet tanks leaving Afghanistan. [Source: National Geographic]Soviet forces withdraw from Afghanistan, in accordance with an agreement signed the previous year (see April 1988). However, Afghan communists retain control of Kabul, the capital, until April 1992. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992] It is estimated that more than a million Afghans (eight per cent of the country’s population) were killed in the Soviet-Afghan War, and hundreds of thousands had been maimed by an unprecedented number of land mines. Almost half of the survivors of the war are refugees. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism official during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the counterterrorism “tsar” by 9/11, will later say that the huge amount of US aid provided to Afghanistan drops off drastically as soon as the Soviets withdraw, abandoning the country to civil war and chaos. The new powers in Afghanistan are tribal chiefs, the Pakistani ISI, and the Arab war veterans coalescing into al-Qaeda. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 52-53]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

Jack Anderson.Jack Anderson. [Source: Associated Press]Jack Anderson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, warns in a television documentary that terrorists could crash a plane into a landmark building in Washington, DC, such as the Pentagon or the White House. Anderson will later write that in the program he points out “the vulnerability of Washington landmarks to a terrorist attack.” The reasoning behind his warning, he will write, is that Reagan National Airport in Washington is “a greater convenience for terrorists hoping to attack the White House, the Capitol, or the Pentagon.” He notes in the documentary that “a plane could appear to onlookers to be landing at Reagan [National Airport], take a turn, and dive at the most critical seats of government.” The documentary is “created 10 years before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,” Anderson will write, which would mean it is made in 1991. [Meridian Magazine, 9/18/2001; Casa Grande Dispatch, 7/28/2004] However, other accounts indicate that the documentary he will describe is in fact a program broadcast in May 1989, titled “Target USA.” This program includes “a chain of revelations of various plans by terrorist groups within and outside of the US,” according to its producer, Saban Productions. In it, Anderson “spells out what he says is a real threat to the American infrastructure,” according to the Chicago Tribune. He interviews numerous people whose lives have been involved with or affected by terrorism. Referring to the program, Anderson has commented that after spending “trillions and trillions of dollars” to protect itself from “a nuclear holocaust that’s unlikely to occur now,” America has ended up “with a threat that we’re unprepared for, that is underfunded and underplanned and understrategized [for].” [Hollywood Reporter, 7/11/1988; Chicago Tribune, 5/30/1989] The documentary attracts a large national audience. [Meridian Magazine, 9/18/2001] It is one of the “unheeded warnings” before 9/11 “about terrorists flying airliners into buildings,” Anderson will comment. [Casa Grande Dispatch, 7/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Saban Productions, Jack Anderson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Captain Tom Herring, an F-15 pilot with the Florida Air National Guard.Captain Tom Herring, an F-15 pilot with the Florida Air National Guard. [Source: Airman]Fighter jets are regularly scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in response to suspicious or unidentified aircraft flying in US airspace in the years preceding 9/11. [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 4; Associated Press, 8/14/2002] For this task, NORAD keeps a pair of fighters on “alert” at a number of sites around the US. These fighters are armed, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes of receiving a scramble order (see Before September 11, 2001). [American Defender, 4/1998; Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; Grant, 2004, pp. 14] Various accounts offer statistics about the number of times fighters are scrambled:
bullet A General Accounting Office report published in May 1994 states that “during the past four years, NORAD’s alert fighters took off to intercept aircraft (referred to as scrambled) 1,518 times, or an average of 15 times per site per year.” Of these incidents, the number of scrambles that are in response to suspected drug smuggling aircraft averages “one per site, or less than 7 percent of all of the alert sites’ total activity.” The remaining activity, about 93 percent of the total scrambles, “generally involved visually inspecting unidentified aircraft and assisting aircraft in distress.” [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 4]
bullet In the two years from May 15, 1996 to May 14, 1998, NORAD’s Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), which is responsible for the “air sovereignty” of the western 63 percent of the continental US, scrambles fighters 129 times to identify unknown aircraft that might be a threat. Over the same period, WADS scrambles fighters an additional 42 times against potential and actual drug smugglers. [Washington National Guard, 1998]
bullet In 1997, the Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS)—another of NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental US—tracks 427 unidentified aircraft, and fighters intercept these “unknowns” 36 times. The same year, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) handles 65 unidentified tracks and WADS handles 104 unidentified tracks, according to Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region on 9/11. [American Defender, 4/1998]
bullet In 1998, SEADS logs more than 400 fighter scrambles. [Grant, 2004, pp. 14]
bullet In 1999, Airman magazine reports that NORAD’s fighters on alert at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida are scrambled 75 times per year, on average. According to Captain Tom Herring, a full-time alert pilot at the base, this is more scrambles than any other unit in the Air National Guard. [Airman, 12/1999]
bullet General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on 9/11, will later state that in the year 2000, NORAD’s fighters fly 147 sorties. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file]
bullet According to the Calgary Herald, in 2000 there are 425 “unknowns,” where an aircraft’s pilot has not filed or has deviated from a flight plan, or has used the wrong radio frequency, and fighters are scrambled 129 times in response. [Calgary Herald, 10/13/2001]
bullet Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times to intercept suspicious aircraft, according to the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 8/14/2002]
Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region at the time of the 9/11 attacks, will say that before 9/11, it is “not unusual, and certainly was a well-refined procedure” for NORAD fighters to intercept an aircraft. He will add, though, that intercepting a commercial airliner is “not normal.” [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] On September 11, 2001, NEADS scrambles fighters that are kept on alert in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27]

Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Western Air Defense Sector, Norton Schwartz, Southeast Air Defense Sector, Ralph Eberhart, Tom Herring

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

Dave Frasca, who will later go on to play a key role in the FBI’s failure to get a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings before 9/11 (see August 21, 2001 and August 29, 2001), starts to work on counterterrorism issues at the FBI’s Newark, New Jersey, field office. Frasca joined the FBI three years previously (see 1987), but has worked on other, unknown issues before this. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 123 pdf file]

Entity Tags: David Frasca, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Misc Entries

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events, Zacarias Moussaoui

Rick Rescorla, a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, and Dan Hill, a former Army colleague of his, write a report in which they warn that terrorists could attack the WTC by detonating a truck filled with explosives in the underground parking garage, but the Port Authority, which manages the WTC, dismisses their warning. Rescorla, who previously served in the US Army, is now working as the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter, and his office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 173-177; New Yorker, 2/11/2002]
Former Army Ranger Agrees to Identify WTC Vulnerabilities - Rescorla has become increasingly concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the United States, especially after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up by a terrorist bomb over Scotland in December 1988, and he thinks the WTC is “an obvious target.” He therefore asks his friend Hill to join him in New York and be his consultant. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 173] Hill, a former Army Ranger, has been trained in counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, demolition, and the use of explosives. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 152-153] “If anyone can figure out how to hurt this building, you can,” Rescorla tells him, and adds, “I want to know the worst.” Hill agrees to help Rescorla. After he arrives in New York, Rescorla takes him to the WTC. Rescorla explains the basic engineering of the Twin Towers and suggests they examine the buildings, starting at the bottom and then working up.
Parking Area Has No Visible Security - The two men begin by walking around the entire 16-acre WTC complex. Hill then asks Rescorla where the loading and docking operations are, and Rescorla takes him to a ramp that goes to the basement levels of the WTC. After they walk down the ramp, past a loading dock, and into a parking area, Hill asks, “Where are the guards?” Rescorla replies, “There are no guards.” Hill then notices that all the major columns and supporting beams in the parking area are visible and exposed.
Hill Thinks Parking Area Is a 'Soft Touch' - After thinking for a few minutes, Hill says: “Hell, Rick. This is a soft touch. It’s not even a challenge.” He then explains to Rescorla how he would attack the WTC if he was a terrorist. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart, Hill says he would “bring in a stolen truck, painted like a delivery truck. He’d fill it with a mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel, then drive down the ramp and park. With four or five men dressed in coveralls, he could plant additional charges near key supporting pillars within 15 minutes. Then he and the men would walk out and disperse, and he’d remove his coveralls.” He would then take a taxi to another location, where he would have a van waiting with a woman, two children, and possibly a dog inside. He would use a cell phone or a beeper to detonate the truck bomb and then make his getaway. “Nobody’s going to stop a family and a dog on Interstate 95,” Hill tells Rescorla.
Port Authority Dismisses Rescorla's Concerns - Later on, the two men analyze Hill’s findings and incorporate them into a report for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the WTC buildings. The following day, Rescorla meets with some Port Authority officials and notifies them of his and Hill’s concerns, but they are uninterested. Rescorla later tells Hill that the officials’ response was to say, “You worry about your floors and we’ll worry about the rest, including the basements and parking.” All the same, Rescorla sends copies of his and Hill’s report to the Port Authority and also the New York City Police Department, but he receives no responses. Rescorla and Hill are unaware that the Port Authority’s Office of Special Planning submitted a report in 1985 that warned of a bombing at the WTC of a similar kind to what they have envisioned, and also emphasized the vulnerability of the basement levels (see November 1985). However, no steps were taken to increase security at the WTC in response to that report. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 173-177] In February 1993, terrorists will attack the WTC in almost exactly the way that Hill predicts, by parking a van containing a 1,500-pound urea nitrate bomb in the basement and detonating it with a timer (see February 26, 1993). [Parachini, 2000, pp. 190-191 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York City Police Department, Rick Rescorla, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, World Trade Center, Daniel J. Hill

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: 1993 WTC Bombing

In the mid-1990s, the CIA suffers “brain drain,” as budget restrictions cause the agency to get rid of many of its most experienced officials. CIA official Michael Scheuer will later explain: “They called it a buyout program through the whole federal government, and they thought they were going to get rid of the deadwood. What happened was they lost the age-40-to-48 group of very strong potential senior officers, those people who couldn’t stand the bureaucracy anymore. They couldn’t stand the crap, so they retired, and we lost a whole generation.” In 1997, George Tenet becomes the new CIA director (see July 11, 1997) and he attempts to stop the loss of talent. He even initiates a massive recruitment drive for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations’ clandestine service. But according to a Vanity Fair article, “unfortunately, the training of these new spies remained very much old-school: they were taught how to operate undercover in European embassies, but not how to infiltrate Islamic terrorist cells.” Tenet’s choice for the latest deputy director of operations typifies the problem. His pick is Jack Downing, a 57-year-old veteran CIA officer who served as station chief in Moscow and Beijing during the Cold War. Scheuer will comment, “Downing was a Marine, and then he was a very, very successful officer during the Cold War, but he didn’t have a clue about transnational targets, and he didn’t like analysts.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Jack Downing, Michael Scheuer, George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

During the mid-1980s, a series of reports described the vulnerability of the World Trade Center to terrorist attack (see July 1985)(see November 1985)(see (Mid-1986)). Now, because of the increased risk of terrorism against the US due to the Gulf War, the New York Port Authority hires private security company Burns and Roe Securacom to prepare a further report, and tells them that the WTC is a terrorist target. Unlike previous investigators, Burns and Roe Securacom finds that the center’s shopping and pedestrian areas, rather than the underground parking garage, are the most likely targets. [New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004; New York Times, 10/27/2005] After separating from Burns and Roe, Securacom (later called Stratesec) will become one of a number of firms involved in providing security at the WTC, right up to the day of 9/11 (see October 1996). [Progressive Populist, 3/1/2003]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

At some point between 1991 and 2001, a regional NORAD sector holds an exercise simulating a foreign hijacked airliner crashing into a prominent building in the United States, the identity of which is classified. According to military officials, the building is not the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. The exercise involves some flying of military aircraft, plus a “command post exercise” where communication procedures are rehearsed in an office environment. [CNN, 4/19/2004]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

Time magazine reports in 1994, “During the Gulf War, uniformed air-defense teams could be seen patrolling the top floor [of the White House] with automatic rifles or shoulder-mounted ground-to-air missiles.” [Time, 9/26/1994] While a battery of surface-to-air-missiles remains permanently on the roof of the White House, the rest of these defenses are apparently removed after the war is over. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] Yet even though counterterrorism officials later call the alerts in the summer of 2001 “the most urgent in decades,” similar defensive measures will apparently not be taken. [US Congress, 9/18/2002]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Military Exercises

During the 1980s, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were regular participants in top-secret exercises, designed to test a program called Continuity of Government (COG) that would keep the federal government functioning during and after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union (see 1981-1992). Despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the COG exercises continue into the 1990s, being budgeted still at over $200 million per year.
Exercises Prepare for Terrorist Attacks - Now, terrorists replace the Soviet Union as the imagined threat in the exercises. The terrorism envisaged is almost always state-sponsored, with the imagined terrorists acting on behalf of a government. According to journalist James Mann, the COG exercises are abandoned fairly early in the Clinton era, as the scenario is considered farfetched and outdated. However another journalist, Andrew Cockburn, suggests they continue for longer.
Exercise Participants Are Republican Hawks - Cockburn adds that, while the “shadow government” created in the exercises had previously been drawn from across the political spectrum, now the players are almost exclusively Republican hawks. A former Pentagon official with direct knowledge of the program will later say: “It was one way for these people to stay in touch. They’d meet, do the exercise, but also sit around and castigate the Clinton administration in the most extreme way. You could say this was a secret government-in-waiting. The Clinton administration was extraordinarily inattentive, [they had] no idea what was going on.” [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 88]
Richard Clarke Participates - A regular participant in these COG exercises is Richard Clarke, who on 9/11 will be the White House chief of counterterrorism (see (1984-2004)). [Washington Post, 4/7/2004; ABC News, 4/25/2004] Although he will later come to prominence for his criticisms of the administration of President George W. Bush, some who have known him will say they consider Clarke to be hawkish and conservative (see May 22, 1998). [Boston Globe, 3/29/2004; US News and World Report, 4/5/2004] The Continuity of Government plan will be activated, supposedly for the first time, in the hours during and after the 9/11 attacks (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 3/1/2002]

Entity Tags: Clinton administration, Andrew Cockburn, Richard A. Clarke, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, James Mann, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Military Exercises

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and his nephew Ramzi Yousef have high-level protection in Pakistan around 1993, at least. This is according to Rehman Malik, who is head of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at the time. In July 1993, KSM and Yousef are unsuccessful in an attempt to assassinate Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (see July 1993). Malik will later say, “It seemed to us [in the FIA] that the entire family were involved in this business [of terrorism]. Ramzi and Khalid were both out to make a name for themselves. They had close connections with the jihadis, but it was unclear who they were working for. They were both extremely dangerous men, and to us in the FIA, it always appeared that they had protection at a higher level. When we raided Ramzi’s house in Quetta, he had been warned. Likewise with Zahid [Shaikh Mohammed, KSM’s brother] in Peshawar.” [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 96] Also around this time, US investigators find KSM and his brother Zahid are linked to the ISI. They even find photographs of them with high-ranking Pakistani political leaders (see Spring 1993).

Entity Tags: Federal Investigation Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef, Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Rehman Malik

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11

Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommends that the number of aircraft dedicated to defending US airspace be reduced, a recommendation echoed by the General Accounting Office (GAO) over a year later. The continental air defense mission, carried out by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), was developed during the Cold War to protect against any Soviet bombers that might try to attack the US via the North Pole. In 1960, NORAD had about 1,200 fighter jets dedicated to this task, but now its US portion comprises 180 Air National Guard fighters, located in 10 units and 14 alert sites around the US. In February 1993, Powell issues a report in which he suggests that, due to the former Soviet Union no longer posing a significant threat, the air defense mission could be transferred to existing general-purpose combat and training forces. In May 1994, the GAO issues a report agreeing with Powell, saying that a “dedicated continental air defense force is no longer needed.” The report also says: “NORAD plans to reduce the number of alert sites in the continental United States to 14 and provide 28 aircraft for the day-to-day peacetime air sovereignty mission. Each alert site will have two fighters, and their crews will be on 24-hour duty and ready to scramble within five minutes.” [US Department of Defense, 2/12/1993; General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994] NORAD will play a key role in responding to the hijackings on 9/11. By then, it will have just 14 fighters available around the US on “alert”—on the runway, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes of being ordered into the air. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17]

Entity Tags: General Accounting Office, Colin Powell, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Bomb damage in underground levels of the WTC in 1993.Bomb damage in underground levels of the WTC in 1993. [Source: Najlah Feanny/ Corbis]An attempt to topple the World Trade Center in New York City fails, but six people are killed and over 1,000 injured in the misfired blast. The explosion is caused by the detonation of a truck bomb in the underground parking garage. An FBI explosives expert will later state, “If they had found the exact architectural Achilles’ heel or if the bomb had been a little bit bigger, not much more, 500 pounds more, I think it would have brought her down.” Ramzi Yousef, who has close ties to Osama bin Laden, organizes the attempt. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; US Congress, 2/24/1998] The New York Times will report on Emad Salem, an undercover agent who will be the key government witness in the trial against Yousef. Salem will testify that the FBI knew about the attack beforehand and told him it would thwart the attack by substituting a harmless powder for the explosives. However, an FBI supervisor called off this plan and the bombing was not stopped. [New York Times, 10/28/1993] Other suspects were ineptly investigated before the bombing as early as 1990. Several of the bombers were trained by the CIA to fight in the Afghan war and the CIA will conclude, in internal documents, that it was “partly culpable” for this bombing (see January 24, 1994). [Independent, 11/1/1998] 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is an uncle of Yousef and also has a role in the bombing (see March 20, 1993). [Independent, 6/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] One of the bombers even leaves a message, which will be found by investigators, stating, “Next time, it will be very precise.” [Associated Press, 9/30/2001]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, World Trade Center, Emad Salem, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: 1993 WTC Bombing, 1993 WTC Bombing

Fred McBee.Fred McBee. [Source: History Channel]Fred McBee, a friend of a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, determines, using a flight simulator on his computer, that it would be possible for terrorists to crash a jumbo jet into the Twin Towers. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005] Rick Rescorla is the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter and his office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. In response to the recent bombing at the WTC (see February 26, 1993), he is conducting an analysis of the security measures there. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; New Yorker, 2/11/2002] Rescorla thinks that terrorists might try attacking the WTC again by crashing a plane into the towers. He therefore phones McBee, who is in Oklahoma, and asks him to examine the possibility of an air attack. McBee has the Microsoft Flight Simulator program on his computer. He has been experimenting on the program with a small Cessna plane, but, while he is on the phone with Rescorla, he changes this to a Boeing 737. He then pulls up the image of Lower Manhattan and is able to simulate a crash into the WTC. “It was a piece of cake,” McBee will later comment. “There’s nothing to stop you… once you’re in the air.” He tries to simulate crashing into the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, and is again successful. But when he tries the same experiment with Washington, DC, as the location, he finds that the White House and the Capitol building are blacked out. McBee concludes that a terrorist attack involving crashing a plane into a building “looks very viable.” Presumably taking McBee’s findings into account, Rescorla co-writes a report in which he states that the WTC is likely to remain a target for terrorists, and suggests that the next attack could involve terrorists crashing a cargo plane into the Twin Towers (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Rick Rescorla, Fred McBee

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, 1993 WTC Bombing

Neil Gallagher.Neil Gallagher. [Source: C-SPAN]FBI terrorism experts get together and determine that any attacks in the future will likely be on a greater scale than those that have occurred previously, and might include multiple hijackings. At some unspecified time after the World Trade Center is bombed, in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993), Neil Gallagher, chief of the FBI’s counterterrorism section, assembles some of the FBI’s experts to try to imagine what the next terrorist attacks will be like. The experts come to a clear consensus, according to journalist and author Garrett Graff. “Attacks were going to be more spectacular: multiple hijackings, bigger bombs, maybe even a weapon of mass destruction,” he will later write. FBI Special Agent Jack Cloonan will comment on the realization of the threat posed by radical Islamists, saying: “It dawned on everyone after the World Trade Center [bombing] and the Sheikh [Omar Abdul-Rahman] trial. You get the first inclination that there’s a radical Islamic movement that extends far beyond Egypt and the Middle East. It appeared to extend big into the United States. Thousands of people subscribed to these beliefs. This was not just rhetoric from these groups.” [Graff, 2011, pp. 195]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Neil Gallagher, Jack Cloonan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs

Rick Rescorla.Rick Rescorla. [Source: Public domain]Rick Rescorla, a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, and his friend Dan Hill conduct an analysis of the security measures at the WTC and conclude that terrorists will likely attack the Twin Towers again, probably by crashing a plane into them. Rescorla, who has served in the US Army and worked for British military intelligence, is now the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter. His office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194; New Yorker, 2/11/2002] After the WTC is bombed in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993), Rescorla calls Hill to New York to be his security consultant and assess the situation. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 191; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005] Hill is a former Army Ranger and has had training in counterterrorism. [New Yorker, 2/11/2002; St. Augustine Record, 8/14/2011]
Anti-American Hostility Found at Mosques - Hill and Rescorla suspect that the WTC bombing was committed by Muslims. Rescorla suggests that Hill, who is himself a Muslim and speaks Arabic, try to gather some intelligence. Hill therefore lets his beard grow and visits several mosques in New Jersey. He gets into conversations with people at the mosques, expressing pro-Islamic opinions and taking an anti-American line. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart: “[A]t every other location, Hill was struck by the intense anti-American hostility he encountered. Though these were not his own views, he barely had to mention that he thought American policy toward Israel and the Middle East was misguided, or that Jews wielded too much political power, to unleash a torrent of anti-American, anti-Semitic rhetoric. Many applauded the bombing of the World Trade Center, lamenting that it hadn’t done more damage.” Referring to his experiences at the mosques, Hill tells Rescorla, “We’ve got a problem.” He also believes that, as the symbolic “tower of the Jews,” the WTC is likely to remain a target for terrorists. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 192-193; New Yorker, 2/11/2002]
Rescorla Thinks Terrorists Will Use a Different Method of Attack - Rescorla thinks that since terrorists failed to bring the Twin Towers down with a truck bomb, they may in future try a different method of attack, such as using a small, portable nuclear weapon or flying a plane into the building. He phones his friend Fred McBee and asks him to examine the possibility of an air attack on the WTC. By using a flight simulator on his computer, McBee concludes that such an attack seems “very viable” (see Shortly After February 26, 1993). [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193; Steve Humphries, 9/11/2005]
Report Warns of Another Attack on the WTC - Hill and Rescorla write a report incorporating their findings and analysis. The report warns that the WTC will likely remain a target for anti-American militants. It notes that Muslim terrorists are showing increasing tactical and technological awareness, and that the numerous young Muslims living in the United States constitute a potential “enemy within.” Rescorla states that terrorists will not rest until they have succeeded in bringing down the Twin Towers.
Hill and Rescorla Suggest Terrorists Flying a Plane into the WTC - Rescorla and Hill also lay out what they think the next terrorist attack could look like. According to Stewart, it would involve “an air attack on the Twin Towers, probably a cargo plane traveling from the Middle East or Europe to Kennedy or Newark Airport, loaded with explosives, chemical or biological weapons, or even a small nuclear weapon. Besides New York, other cities might be targeted, such as Washington or Philadelphia. Perhaps terrorists would attack all three.” Rescorla and Hill’s report concludes that Rescorla’s company, Dean Witter, should leave the WTC and move to somewhere safer in New Jersey. However, Dean Witter’s lease does not expire until 2006, and so the company will remain at the WTC. But Rescorla will start conducting regular evacuation drills for all its employees in the South Tower. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 193-194; New Yorker, 2/11/2002] Rescorla will be in his office at the WTC on 9/11. He will personally escort his company’s employees out of the South Tower, but die himself when the tower collapses. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001; BBC, 2/10/2003]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Rick Rescorla, Daniel J. Hill, Fred McBee

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

Brian Michael Jenkins.Brian Michael Jenkins. [Source: Rand Corporation]Following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), the New York Port Authority asks investigative and security consulting firm Kroll Associates to help design new security measures for the WTC. Kroll’s Deputy Chairman Brian Michael Jenkins leads the analysis of future terrorist threats and how they might be addressed. Assessments conclude that a second terrorist attack against the WTC is probable. Although it is considered unlikely, the possibility of terrorists deliberately flying a plane into the WTC towers is included in the range of possible threats. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 11 pdf file; New Yorker, 10/19/2009 pdf file]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Brian Michael Jenkins, Kroll Associates, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing, WTC Investigation, 1993 WTC Bombing

Roy Goodman.Roy Goodman. [Source: Frances Roberts / New York Times]Three days of public hearings are held to examine the security and safety aspects of the recent World Trade Center bombing. New York State Senator Roy Goodman (R-Manhattan) presides over the hearings. His committee questions 26 witnesses in what journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins will later call “a no-holds-barred probe of the City [of New York] and of the Port Authority.” [Newsday, 11/12/2001; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 86]
Bombing Was a 'Dire Warning' - During the hearings, Goodman calls the WTC “an extremely inviting target” for terrorists, and says the recent bombing (see February 26, 1993) was a “tragic wake-up call” and “a dire warning of the future disasters which could occur with far greater loss of life if we fail to prepare” for terrorism “here at home.” [Albany Times Union, 10/2/2001; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 86-87] He also refers to a number of Port Authority consultant and internal security reports, which predicted the kind of bombing that occurred at the WTC (see January 17, 1984, July 1985, November 1985, and (Mid-1986)), and criticizes Port Authority officials who appear for failing to follow the recommendations of these reports.
Detective Says He Fears a 'Further Disaster' - One Port Authority employee who appears, Detective Sergeant Peter Caram, warns about the continuing threat to the WTC. Caram is the only Port Authority employee with a top security clearance and who is assigned to the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. He says he fears a “further disaster somewhere down the line” and, referring to the WTC, implores the Port Authority to “harden our target.” James Fox, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office, similarly warns, “We would be well advised to prepare for the worst and hope for [the] best.” And New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says New York should remain at “a heightened state of awareness and readiness for the foreseeable future.” [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 87]
Official Recommends Practicing for a Plane Hitting the WTC - On the final day of the hearings, Guy Tozzoli, the director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, recalls a drill held in 1982, which simulated a plane crashing into the WTC (see November 7, 1982), and recommends that New York’s emergency response agencies train again for an aircraft hitting the Twin Towers (see (March 29, 1993)). [Newsday, 11/12/2001]
Report Based on Hearings Is 'Largely Ignored' - The exact dates of the hearings are unclear. The hearings begin on March 22, according to Barrett and Collins. [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 86] And according to Newsday, March 29 is the third and final day of the hearings. [Newsday, 11/12/2001] Goodman will issue a 34-page report in August this year based on the hearings. The report, titled “The World Trade Center Bombing: A Tragic Wake-Up Call,” will describe the WTC as “a singular potential terrorist target.” It will call for a special task force and for increased security in the parking facilities under public skyscrapers. But Goodman will say, shortly after 9/11, that his report’s recommendations “were largely ignored as time dulled the sensitivity of the public to terrorist threats.” [Albany Times Union, 10/2/2001; Newsday, 11/12/2001; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 88]

Entity Tags: Guy Tozzoli, Peter Caram, James M. Fox, Roy M. Goodman, Raymond Kelly, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, 1993 WTC Bombing

Saeed Sheikh may be recruited by the British intelligence service MI6, according to a claim made in a book published in 2006 by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. According to Musharraf, Saeed Sheikh, who will be involved in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl (see January 23, 2002) and will be said to wire money to the 9/11 hijackers (see Early August 2001), may be recruited by MI6 while studying in London, and when he goes to Bosnia to support the Muslim cause there, this may be at MI6’s behest (see April 1993). Musharraf will further speculate, “At some point, he probably became a rogue or double agent.” [London Times, 9/26/2006] The London Times will provide some support for this theory, suggesting that Saeed will later have dealings with British intelligence (see 1999).

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Saeed Sheikh, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11

By 1990, Arizona became one of the main centers in the US for radical Muslims, and it remains so through 9/11. A number of future al-Qaeda leaders live in Tucson, Arizona, in the early 1990s (see 1986). Around 1991, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour moved to Arizona for the first time (see October 3, 1991-February 1992) and he will spend much of the rest of the decade in the state. The FBI apparently remains largely oblivious of Hanjour, though one FBI informant claims that by 1998 they “knew everything about the guy.” [New York Times, 6/19/2002; Washington Post, 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 521] In 1994, the Phoenix FBI office uncovers startling evidence connecting Arizona to radical Muslim militants. According to FBI agent James Hauswirth, they are told that a group of “heavy duty associates” of al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman have arrived in the area, fleeing New York in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. They are in the area to train a recruit as a suicide bomber. The recruit apparently is an FBI informant. FBI agent Ken Williams, who will later author the July 2001 “Phoenix memo,” orders surveilance of the training. The informant is driven to a remote stretch of desert and instructed in how to use explosives. A device is thrown at a car, but it fails to explode. The FBI secretly videotapes the entire incident. One of the two men is later positively linked to Abdul-Rahman. But apparently the investigation into the people involved fails to make progress. Hauswirth later blames this on a lack of support from higher-ups in the Phoenix office, recalling, “The drug war was the big thing back then, and terrorism was way on the back burner.” Additionally, also in 1994, a key FBI informant will begin monitoring local radical militants (see October 1996). However, terrorism will remain a low priority for the Phoenix, Arizona, FBI office (see April 2000-June 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 5/26/2002; New York Times, 6/19/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 209-210]

Entity Tags: James Hauswirth, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Hani Hanjour, Ken Williams

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Phoenix Memo

Edward Walker.Edward Walker. [Source: PBS]The Sunday Times reports that a new US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) being drafted warns that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is likely to be overthrown by Islamic militants if present trends continue. The NIE is said to roughly match a secret Israeli intelligence estimate from late 1993. The Times notes that in 1991, 96 Islamic militants and police were killed; in 1992 the number was 322; and in 1993 it was 1,116. The Egyptian government has responded with draconian measures, including mass arrests. US intelligence officials worry that these techniques are not working, and have been urging Egypt to introduce political and economic reform. [Sunday Times (London), 2/20/1994] While the US sometimes helps Egypt fight Islamist militants, it also sometimes supports the militants, especially the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood. Both Robert Pelletreau, US ambassador to Egypt from 1991 to 1993, and Edward Walker, US ambassador to Egypt from 1994 to 1997, secretly maintain contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood. One National Security Council member in 1995 says that Egypt’s militants are the wave of the future and, “This reality explains the rationale for the Clinton administration’s early decision to maintain a discreet dialogue with… Egyptian Islamists.” [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 319-325] In fact, the harsh measures will work and the militant threat will greatly decrease in future years.

Entity Tags: US intelligence, Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt, Edward Walker, Hosni Mubarak, Robert Pelletreau

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Avelino “Sonny” Razon.Avelino “Sonny” Razon. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corp.]In December 1994, Philippine police reportedly begin monitoring a Pakistani businessman by the name of Tariq Javed Rana. According to Avelino Razon, a Philippine security official, the decision to put Rana under surveillance is prompted by a report that “Middle Eastern personalities” are planning to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his upcoming January 1995 visit to Manila. “[We] had one man in particular under surveillance—Tariq Javed Rana, a Pakistani suspected of supporting international terrorists with drug money. He was a close associate of Ramzi Yousef,” Razon later recalls. But it is possible that police began monitoring Rana before this date. In September, the Philippine press reported that he was a suspect in an illegal drug manufacturing ring, and the US embassy in Manila received a tip that Rana was linked to the ISI and was part of a plot to assassinate President Clinton during his November 1994 visit to Manila (see September 18-November 14, 1994). [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006] While under surveillance in December, Rana’s house burns down. Authorities determine that the fire was caused by nitroglycerin which can be used to improvise bombs. One month later, a fire caused by the same chemical is started in Ramzi Yousef’s Manila apartment (see January 6, 1995), leading to the exposure of the Bojinka plot to assassinate the Pope and crash a dozen airplanes. [Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002; CounterPunch, 3/9/2006] Rana is arrested by Philippine police in early April 1995. It is announced in the press that he is connected to Yousef and that he will be charged with investment fraud. He is said to have supported the militant group Abu Sayyaf and to have helped Yousef escape the Philippines after the fire in Yousef’s apartment. A search of the Lexis Nexus database shows there have been no media reports about Rana since his arrest. Around the same time as his arrest, six other suspected Bojinka plotters are arrested, but then eventually let go (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). [Associated Press, 4/2/1995]

Entity Tags: Tariq Javed Rana, Abu Sayyaf, Ramzi Yousef, Avelino Razon, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, John Paul II

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

French special forces storming the hijacked Air France plane.French special forces storming the hijacked Air France plane. [Source: French channel 3]An Air France Airbus A300 carrying 227 passengers and crew is hijacked in Algiers, Algeria by four Algerians wearing security guard uniforms. They are members of a militant group linked to al-Qaeda. They land in Marseille, France, and demand a very large amount of jet fuel. During a prolonged standoff, the hijackers kill two passengers and release 63 others. They are heavily armed with 20 sticks of dynamite, assault rifles, hand grenades, and pistols. French authorities later determine their aim is to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but French Special Forces storm the plane before it can depart from Marseille. [Time, 1/2/1995; New York Times, 10/3/2001] Time magazine details the Eiffel Tower suicide plan in a cover story. A week later, Philippine investigators breaking up the Bojinka plot in Manila find a copy of the Time story in bomber Ramzi Yousef’s possessions. Author Peter Lance notes that Yousef had close ties to Algerian Islamic militants and may have been connected to or inspired by the plot. [Time, 1/2/1995; Lance, 2003, pp. 258] Even though this is the third attempt in 1994 to crash an airplane into a building, the New York Times will note after 9/11 that “aviation security officials never extrapolated any sort of pattern from those incidents.” [New York Times, 10/3/2001] Some doubts about who was ultimately behind the hijacking will surface later when allegations emerge that the GIA is infiltrated by Algerian intelligence. There is even evidence the top leader of the GIA at this time is a government mole (see October 27, 1994-July 16, 1996). As journalist Jonathan Randal later relates, the aircraft was originally held at the Algiers airport “in security circumstances so suspect the French government criticized what it felt was the Algerian authorities’ ambiguous behavior. Only stern French insistence finally extracted [Algerian government] authorization to let the aircraft take off.” [Randal, 2005, pp. 171]

Entity Tags: Eiffel Tower, Al-Qaeda, Ramzi Yousef

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) holds a training exercise based on the scenario of an aircraft hijacking, which involves a real plane playing the part of the hijacked aircraft. The exercise will be described to the 9/11 Commission in 2004 by Major Paul Goddard, who is the chief of live exercises for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) at the time of the 9/11 attacks. According to Goddard, the exercise, held in 1995, is called “Twin Star” and the FAA invites NORAD to participate in it, “since a real commercial airliner was to be shadowed by a fighter intercept.” Goddard will tell the 9/11 Commission his understanding is that the exercise involves the entire FAA system, and the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon also participates in it. [9/11 Commission, 3/4/2004] Colin Scoggins, the military operations specialist at the FAA’s Boston Center on 9/11, will describe what is apparently this exercise when he is interviewed by the 9/11 Commission in 2003. He will say he believes the exercise is “joint FAA/military” and is conducted “in 1995 or 1996.” According to Scoggins, the exercise involves “a military scramble to escort a hijacked aircraft,” but the fighter jets taking part are “unable to intercept” the mock hijacked plane. [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file] Apparently describing the same exercise in a documentary film, Scoggins will say, “We had run a hijack test years before [9/11] and the fighters never got off on the appropriate heading, and it took them forever to catch up.” [Michael Bronner, 2006]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Colin Scoggins, National Military Command Center, Twin Star, Paul Goddard, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

The FBI has around 12,500 agents, but only about 50 of them work in counterterrorism. The FBI also has 56 field offices. This is according to John MacGaffin, a CIA officer tasked with improving interagency communication with the FBI in the mid-1990s. MacGaffin will later recall that the attitude of many in the FBI at the time is, “We don’t do intelligence.” Instead the FBI is focused on domestic law enforcement and the pursuit of criminal cases. A common joke within government is that the FBI catches bank robbers and the CIA robs banks. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: John MacGaffin, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Dave Frasca, who will later go on to play a key role in the FBI’s failure to get a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings before 9/11 (see August 21, 2001 and August 29, 2001), is promoted from his job at the FBI’s Newark, New Jersey, field office to the position of special supervisory agent at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. There, Frasca works at the International Terrorism Operations Section (ITOS), but not at the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU), which he will head during the Moussaoui case and which deals with Sunni Muslim suspects not linked closely to Osama bin Laden. It is unclear which unit he does work for at ITOS, but the other four units there besides the RFU include groups focusing on bin Laden as well as Hizbollah and related entities. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 14-15, 108, 123 pdf file]

Entity Tags: David Frasca, International Terrorism Operations Section, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Misc Entries

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events, Zacarias Moussaoui

Numerous training exercises are held around the US, based on the scenario of terrorist attacks that involve aircraft hijackings. Richard Clarke, the counterterrorism “tsar” from 1998 until October 2001, will later testify that, before 9/11: “In many, many cities and probably most metropolitan areas, the FBI had worked with the state and local authorities to plan responses to certain kinds of terrorist attacks. We then held a series of exercises around the country. For example, on weapons of mass destruction attacks, we had had a whole series of exercises about hijackings of aircraft.” [US Congress, 6/11/2002 pdf file] Further details of these exercises, such as the specific period over which they occur, are unstated. According to a 1999 report by the General Accounting Office, between June 1995 and June 1998 the FBI leads 24 training exercises in which “some state and local organizations” also participate. These exercises include various scenarios including, among others, “aircraft hijackings” and “terrorist attacks.” [United States General Accounting Office, 6/25/1999, pp. 1 and 41 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

One of Ramzi Yousef’s timers seized by Philippines police in January 1995.One of Ramzi Yousef’s timers seized by Philippines police in January 1995. [Source: Peter Lance]Responding to an apartment fire, Philippine investigators uncover an al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Pope that is scheduled to take place when he visits the Philippines one week later. While investigating that scheme, they also uncover Operation Bojinka, planned by the same people: 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). [Independent, 6/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Many initial reports after 9/11 will claim the fire was accidental and the police discovery of it was a lucky break, but in 2002 the Los Angeles Times will report that the police started the fire on purpose as an excuse to look around the apartment. In the course of investigating the fire, one of the main plotters, Abdul Hakim Murad, is arrested. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] The plot has two main components. On January 12, Pope John Paul II is scheduled to visit Manila and stay for five days. A series of bombs along his parade route would be detonated by remote control, killing thousands, including the Pope. Yousef’s apartment is only 500 feet from the residence where the Pope will be staying. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 78; Lance, 2006, pp. 138] Then, starting January 21, a series of bombs would be placed on airplanes. [Insight, 5/27/2002] Five men, Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Abdul Hakim Murad, Abd al-Karim Yousef (a.k.a., Adel Anon, Yousef’s twin brother), and Khalid Al-Shaikh (thought to be an alias for KSM) would depart to different Asian cities and place a timed bomb on board during the first leg of passenger planes traveling to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York. They would then transfer to another flight and place a second bomb on board that flight. In all, 11 to 12 planes would blow up in a two day period over the Pacific. If successful, some 4,000 people would have been killed. [Agence France-Presse, 12/8/2001; Insight, 5/27/2002; Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002] According to another account, some of the bombs would be timed to go off weeks or even months later. Presumably worldwide air travel could be interrupted for months. [Lance, 2003, pp. 260-61] A second wave of attacks involving crashing airplanes into buildings in the US would go forward later, once the pilots are trained for it (see February-Early May 1995).

Entity Tags: Abd al-Karim Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Operation Bojinka, Al-Qaeda, Abdul Hakim Murad

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Key Warnings

As the Bojinka plot is foiled (see January 6, 1995), a document found on Ramzi Yousef’s computer spells out the Bojinka plotters’ broad objectives. “All people who support the US government are our targets in our future plans and that is because all those people are responsible for their government’s actions and they support the US foreign policy and are satisfied with it.… We will hit all US nuclear targets. If the US government keeps supporting Israel, then we will continue to carry out operations inside and outside the United States to include…” At this point, the document comes to a halt in mid-sentence. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, much more than Ramzi Yousef, is the mastermind of the Bojinka plot. He will continue to work on the plot until it eventually morphs into the 9/11 attack. [Associated Press, 6/25/2002] Philippine Gen. Renado De Villa will later state, “They didn’t give up the objective.” Captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad “clearly indicated it was a large-scale operation. They were targeting the US. And they had a worldwide network. It was very clear they continued to work on that plan until someone gave the signal to go.” [Washington Post, 9/23/2001]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Renado De Villa

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed


Abdul Hakim Murad.
Abdul Hakim Murad. [Source: Justice Department]Philippine and US investigators learn that Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and their fellow plotters were actually planning three different attacks when they were foiled in early January. In addition to the planned assassination of the Pope, and the first phase of Operation Bojinka previously discovered, they also planned to crash about a dozen passenger planes into prominent US buildings. It is often mistakenly believed that there is one Bojinka plan to blow up some planes and crash others into buildings, but in fact these different forms of attack are to take place in two separate phases. [Lance, 2003, pp. 259] Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza learns about this second phase through the examination of recently captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad. On January 20, Mendoza writes a memo about Murad’s latest confession, saying, “With regards to their plan to dive-crash a commercial aircraft at the CIA headquarters, subject alleged that the idea of doing same came out during his casual conversation with [Yousef ] and there is no specific plan yet for its execution. What the subject [has] in his mind is that he will board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger. Then he will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit, and dive it at the CIA headquarters. He will use no bomb or explosives. It is simply a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute.” [Insight, 5/27/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 277-78]

Entity Tags: Abdul Hakim Murad, Operation Bojinka, Rodolfo Mendoza, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza.Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza. [Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation]As Colonel Mendoza, the Philippines investigator, continues to interrogate Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad, details of a post-Bojinka “second wave” emerge. Author Peter Lance calls this phase “a virtual blueprint of the 9/11 attacks.” Murad reveals a plan to hijack commercial airliners at some point after the effect of Bojinka dies down. Murad himself had been training in the US for this plot. He names the ten or so buildings that would be targeted for attack:
bullet CIA headquarters.
bullet The Pentagon.
bullet An unidentified nuclear power plant.
bullet The Transamerica Tower in San Francisco.
bullet The Sears Tower in Chicago.
bullet The World Trade Center.
bullet John Hancock Tower in Boston.
bullet US Congress.
bullet The White House. [Washington Post, 12/30/2001; Lance, 2003, pp. 278-280; Playboy, 6/1/2005]
Murad continues to reveal more information about this plot until he is handed over to the FBI in April (see April-May 1995). He also mentions that ten suicide pilots have already been chosen and are training in the US (see February 1995-1996). Mendoza uses what he learns from Murad and other sources to make a flow chart connecting many key al-Qaeda figures together (see Spring 1995). Philippine authorities later claim that they provide all of this information to US authorities, but the US fails to follow up on any of it. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4] Sam Karmilowicz, a security official at the US embassy in Manila, Philippines during this time period, will later claim that just before Murad was deported to the US in early May, he picked up an envelope containing all that the Philippine government had learned from Murad. He then sent the envelope to a US Justice Department office in New York City. He believes Mike Garcia and Dietrich Snell, assistant US attorneys who will later prosecute Murad, almost certainly had access to this evidence (see Early 1998). [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Ramzi Yousef, Rodolfo Mendoza, Hambali, Peter Lance, Dietrich Snell, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Mike Garcia, Abdul Hakim Murad

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Key Warnings

While Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad is being interrogated by Philippine Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza (see February-Early May 1995), he mentions that he had pilot training in the US and ten other operatives are being trained to fly in the US. The second wave of the Bojinka plot required many suicide pilots. Mendoza will later recall that Murad said, “There is really formal training [going on] of suicide bombers. He said that there were other Middle Eastern pilots training and he discussed with me the names and flight training schools they went to.” Murad also mentioned some of their targets had already been picked and included CIA headquarters, the Pentagon, and an unidentified nuclear facility. [Lance, 2003, pp. 279] The ten other men who met him at US flight schools or were getting similar training came from Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. The names of these men have never been publicly released, but apparently none of them match the names of any of the 9/11 hijackers. The Associated Press will later report, “The FBI interviewed people at the flight schools highlighted by Filipino police but did not develop evidence that any of the other Middle Easterners other than Murad were directly plotting terrorism. With no other evidence of a threat, they took no further action…” [Associated Press, 3/5/2002] Murad also revealed that between November 1991 and July 1992, he had trained at four different flight schools in the US. His friend Nasir Ali Mubarak and another man named Abdullah Nasser Yousef were roommates with Murad as they trained at the same schools at the same time. Mubarak appears to be one of Murad’s ten pilots, because he had served in the United Arab Emirates air force and the Associated Press mentioned one of the ten was “a former soldier in the United Arab Emirates.” [Associated Press, 3/5/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/16/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 1/12/2003] Richard Kaylor, the manager of Richmor Aviation in Albany, New York, later says that FBI agents interviewed him in 1996 about the three men who studied at his school. He says he was told that the FBI was first alerted to his flight school after a Richmor business card was found in the Philippines apartment where Murad, Ramzi Yousef, and KSM had lived. But that is the only time the FBI interviewed him on these matters before 9/11. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] An assistant manager at Richmor will later say of Murad and his roommates, “Supposedly they didn’t know each other before, they just happened to show up here at the same time. But they all obviously knew each other.” [Associated Press, 3/5/2002] The FBI investigates Mubarak in 1995 and does not find that he has any ties to terrorism. Mubarak will continue to openly live and work in the US, marrying an American woman. He will claim the FBI never interviewed him until hours after the 9/11 attacks, so apparently the ten named by Murad may not have been interviewed in 1995 after all. He will be deported in 2002, apparently solely because of his association with Murad ten years earlier. Nothing more is publicly known about Abdullah Nasser Yousef. [San Francisco Chronicle, 1/12/2003] Murad will also mention to the FBI a few months later that future 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had a valid US visa and has been thinking about learning to fly in the US. Murad says he had recommended Richmor Aviation to KSM (see April-May 1995). There appears to have been little knowledge of Murad’s ten pilot claim inside US intelligence before 9/11; for instance FBI agent Ken Williams will not mention it in his July 2001 memo about suspected militants training in US flight schools (see July 10, 2001).

Entity Tags: Abdullah Nasser Yousef, Richmor Aviation, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Rodolfo Mendoza, Abdul Hakim Murad, Nasir Ali Mubarak

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Phoenix Memo, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Key Warnings

Ramzi Yousef apprehended.Ramzi Yousef apprehended. [Source: Public domain]Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan, in a safe house owned by Osama bin Laden (see February 1992-February 7, 1995). At the time, Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is staying in the same building and brazenly gives an interview to Time magazine as “Khalid Sheikh,” describing Yousef’s capture. [Lance, 2003, pp. 328] Yousef had recruited Istaique Parker to implement a limited version of Operation Bojinka, but Parker got cold feet and instead turned in Yousef (see February 3-7, 1995). [Lance, 2003, pp. 284-85] Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will later report that at this time the CIA “fought with the FBI over arresting Yousef in Pakistan—the CIA reportedly wanted to continue tracking him—and President Clinton was forced to intervene.” [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995] Yousef is rendered to the US the next day and makes a partial confession while flying there (see February 8, 1995).

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Operation Bojinka, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Istaique Parker, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, 1993 WTC Bombing

Shortly after bomber Ramzi Yousef is arrested (see February 7, 1995), investigators discover a computer file of a letter on his laptop that is signed by “Khalid Sheikh, and Bojinka.” An eyewitness account of the arrest is given to Time magazine by a “Khalid Sheikh,” who is also staying in the same building. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 154, 162] Investigators also discover that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had frequently visited Yousef’s apartment in Manila, Philippines, where the bombs for the Bojinka plot were being made. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] They also find Yousef has multiple fax and phone numbers for a “Khalid Doha.” Doha is the capital of Qatar. KSM has been living there openly since 1992 (see 1992-1995). Shortly after being apprehended, US authorities notice that Yousef calls one of these numbers in Qatar and asks to speak to a “Khalid.” The US already connected KSM to the 1993 WTC bombing just weeks after that attack and knew that he was living in Doha, Qatar (see March 20, 1993). [US Congress, 7/24/2003] There is an entry in Yousef’s seized telephone directory for a Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle and KSM’s brother. Not long after this discovery is made, Pakistani investigators raid Zahid’s offices in Peshawar, Pakistan, but Zahid has already fled (see 1988-Spring 1995). In 1993, US investigators already discovered the connections between Yousef, Zahid, and KSM, after raiding Zahid’s house in Pakistan and finding pictures of them (see Spring 1993). [McDermott, 2005, pp. 154, 162] The FBI successfully arranges for a photograph to be taken of KSM. He is positively identified from the photo in December 1995. This results in his indictment in January 1996 for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing. US intelligence labels him a “top priority,” according the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, 1993 WTC Bombing

Rafael Garcia.Rafael Garcia. [Source: Newsbreak Weekly]Rafael Garcia, Chairman and CEO of the Mega Group of Computer Companies in the Philippines, often works with the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to decode computer files. He is assigned the task of decoding encrypted files on Ramzi Yousef’s computer. Garcia will later comment to a popular Philippine newsweekly, “This was how we found out about the various plots being hatched by the cell of Ramzi Yousef. First, there was the plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II. Then, we discovered a second, even more sinister plot: Project Bojinka… This was a plot to blow up 11 airlines over the Pacific Ocean, all in a 48-hour period… Then we found another document that discussed a second alternative to crash the 11 planes into selected targets in the United States instead of just blowing them up in the air. These included the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia; the World Trade Center in New York; the Sears Tower in Chicago; the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco; and the White House in Washington, DC… I submitted my findings to NBI officials, who most certainly turned over the report (and the computer) either to then Senior Superintendent Avelino Razon of the [Philippine National Police] or to Bob Heafner of the FBI… I have since had meetings with certain US authorities and they have confirmed to me that indeed, many things were done in response to my report.” [Newsbreak Weekly, 11/15/2001] Around the same time, Philippine interrogators were learning the same information from captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see February-Early May 1995). There has been some question whether Murad’s complete description of Bojinka’s second wave plot reached US authorities (see May 11, 1995), but if it did not, the US appears to have learned the information from Garcia’s report. In fact, after 9/11, Garcia will claim to have spoken to a retired FBI agent who will recall being aware of the Bojinka second wave plot, and says of it, “This was ignored in the preparation of evidence for the trial [of the Bojinka plotters] because there was no actual attempt to crash any plane into a US target.… So there was no crime to complain about.” [Village Voice, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abdul Hakim Murad, Rafael Garcia, National Bureau of Investigation, Ramzi Yousef

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs

One of the Bojinka documents found. This Word document apparently lists flight times.One of the Bojinka documents found. This Word document apparently lists flight times. [Source: CBC]In the wake of uncovering the Operation Bojinka plot, Philippine authorities find a letter on a computer disc written by the plotters of the failed 1993 WTC bombing. This letter apparently was never sent, but its contents will be revealed in 1998 congressional testimony. [US Congress, 2/24/1998] The Manila police chief also reports discovering a statement from bin Laden around this time that, although they failed to blow up the WTC in 1993, “on the second attempt they would be successful.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Operation Bojinka

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: 1993 WTC Bombing, Warning Signs

The flow chart made by Colonel Mendoza.The flow chart made by Colonel Mendoza. [Source: Peter Lance] (click image to enlarge)Philippines investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza makes a remarkably accurate flow chart connecting many key operators in the Bojinka plot, and sends it to US investigators. The chart is based on what he is learning from interrogating Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see February-Early May 1995), while also drawing on a terrorism report he recently finished (see December 15, 1994) and debriefings of a key undercover operative (see Early February 1995). The chart identifies the following key organizations as being involved in the plot:
bullet Al-Harakat al-Islamiya. Meaning “Islamic Movement,” this is an apparently meaningless group name used by Ramzi Yousef and others to disguise their connections to al-Qaeda. Yousef also sometimes uses the equally meaningless name “The Liberation Army.”
bullet The Abu Sayyaf. This Philippine Muslim militant group is believed to help with the Bojinka plot that is also penetrated by Philippine intelligence (see Late 1994-January 1995). The chart mentions 20 Abu Sayyaf operatives trained by Yousef in 1992 (see December 1991-May 1992). [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
bullet IRIC (International Research and Information Center). Most of the money for Bojinka is believed to flow through this charity front. The chart names the only three employees: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (bin Laden’s brother-in-law), Abu Omar (whose real name is Ahmad al-Hamwi (see 1995 and After), and Dr. Zubair. Mendoza’s 1994 report names Abdul Salam Zubair as an Iraqi working as Khalifa’s assistant in running a number of charity fronts. [Japan Economic Newswire, 4/24/1995; Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
bullet Konsonjaya. Money for the Bojinka plot also flows through this Malaysian business front (see June 1994). Amien Mohammed (real name: Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari) is named and is one of the company directors. There is a link to Wali Khan Amin Shah, another company director. Hambali, a major al-Qaeda figure, is also a company director but is not included in the chart.
The chart also mentions many other key figures in the plot:
bullet Osama bin Laden, who is connected to the IRIC and Yousef’s group.
bullet “Usama Asmorai / Wali K” is Wali Khan Amin Shah.
bullet “Yousef / Adam Ali / A Basit” is Ramzi Yousef.
bullet “Salem Ali / Mohmad” is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM).
bullet Abdul Hakin Murad. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]
bullet “Ibrahim Muneer / Munir.” Ibrahim Munir, a rich Saudi Arabian businessman, has close ties to bin Laden. He came to the Philippines in November and witnesses say he was Yousef’s constant companion. In 2003, it will be reported he is still wanted by authorities. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 139; Ressa, 2003, pp. 20]
bullet The names in hexagonal boxes are the girlfriends of the plotters. Some Bojinka money is transferred in their names.
However, despite the accurate information in this chart, only Shah, Yousef, and Murad will be caught before 9/11. Khalifa is actually in US custody at the time the US is given this chart (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), but he is allowed to be deported a short time later (see April 26-May 3, 1995). The US also learns about a connection between Konsonjaya and bin Laden by searching Yousef’s apartment. But the other Konsonjaya directors, including Hambali, will not be apprehended, and the IRIC will be allowed to continue functioning with the same staff after being taken over by another charity front connected to Khalifa (see 1995 and After). [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4]

Entity Tags: Rodolfo Mendoza, Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ahmad al-Hamwi, Abu Sayyaf, Abdul Salam Zubair, Konsonjaya, Hambali, Abdul Hakim Murad, International Relations and Information Center, Ibrahim Munir

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Richmor Aviation logo.Richmor Aviation logo. [Source: Richmor Aviation]The FBI interrogates Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad and learns that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has been in the US and is planning to return for flight training. Murad had already been interrogated in the Philippines by Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza (see February-Early May 1995). The Associated Press will say that KSM “had traveled to Israel and the United States, according to [Mendoza’s] report.” Further, Murad met KSM several times in Pakistan in 1993, and “their conversations focused mainly on aircraft because of Mohammed’s intense interest in pilot training, Mendoza quoted Murad as saying.” [Associated Press, 6/25/2002] After Murad is handed over to the FBI around April, along with Mendoza’s report on him, he repeats much the same information to the FBI and adds more details about a man he calls Abdul Majid (which Mendoza had already learned was one of KSM’s many aliases). [Associated Press, 6/25/2002; Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002] An FBI account of his April 1995 interrogation dated May 11, 1995, states, “Murad also advised that Majid had a United States visa and was planning to travel to the US sometime in the near future. Murad stated that he thought that Majid might go to the Richmor Flying School in Albany, New York, because Majid seemed interested in obtaining his pilots license and Murad suggested the Richmor Flying School.” [Associated Press, 6/25/2002; Lance, 2006, pp. 501-502] Despite this warning, apparently KSM will still be able to travel to the US, because in the summer of 2001 an al-Qaeda operative will reveal that KSM visited the US at least through the summer of 1998 (see Summer 1998).

Entity Tags: Rodolfo Mendoza, Richmor Aviation, Abdul Hakim Murad, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Key Warnings

Thomas Donlon.Thomas Donlon. [Source: Thomas Donlon]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the aborted Bojinka plot, gives FBI agents details of Bojinka and other terrorist plots against the United States while he is being flown to America from the Philippines, and one possible future attack he mentions is a second bombing of the World Trade Center. [New York Times, 8/6/1996; Lance, 2003, pp. 280; Graff, 2011, pp. 182] Philippine authorities hand Murad over to the FBI at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on April 12. During the long flight to the US, he is interviewed by Special Agents Frank Pellegrino and Thomas Donlon for about five hours. He is read his Miranda rights twice. He then agrees to talk to Pellegrino and Thomas on the plane in English, without an interpreter. He says he wants to cooperate with the US government and agrees to give a statement. [United States v. Yousef, 5/29/1996; United States v. Yousef et al., 5/3/2002 pdf file; Graff, 2011, pp. 182] He then provides the two FBI agents with minute details of the Bojinka plot and describes other plots against the US. [Lance, 2003, pp. 280; Graff, 2011, pp. 182]
Murad Describes His Role in Bojinka - Murad says his planned role in Bojinka was to board a flight in Singapore and plant a bomb on it before it made its first stop, in Hong Kong. After the plane landed in Hong Kong, he was to take a different flight back to Singapore and plant a bomb on this plane too. He says he’d expected the explosion when the bomb went off would tear a hole in the aircraft and cause it to crash in the Pacific Ocean. He says he believes other conspirators were going to bomb other flights. He says Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing, told him the bombing of a Philippine Airlines flight in December 1994 was a test run to ensure that the chemicals and timing devices in the bombs the Bojinka perpetrators would use worked properly (see December 12, 1994). [New York Times, 8/6/1996; United States v. Yousef et al., 5/3/2002 pdf file]
Murad Describes Possible Future Attacks - Murad also describes some plans for future terrorist attacks. He says he discussed with Yousef the possibility of blowing up a nuclear plant in the US and the two men talked about conducting additional attacks on American airline carriers, such as United Airlines and Northwest Airlines. He says the aim of these attacks would be “to make the American people and the American government suffer for their support of Israel.” [New York Times, 8/6/1996; Lance, 2003, pp. 510] One chilling piece of information he provides is that Yousef intends to return to the US to bomb the WTC a second time. This is because Yousef “felt that he should have been able to bring it down the first time, but lack of money had left him unable to build a bomb of sufficient size,” journalist and author Garrett Graff will later write. [Lance, 2003, pp. 280; Graff, 2011, pp. 182] During the interview, Murad is “cooperative” and “a gentleman,” Pellegrino will state. He “answered all the questions without hesitation,” Pellegrino will say. [New York Times, 8/6/1996] The flight with Murad on board arrives in New York on April 13. [United States v. Yousef, 5/29/1996]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Thomas Donlon, Frank Pellegrino, Abdul Hakim Murad, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs

After Presidential Decision Directive 39 (PDD-39), issued in June 1995 (see June 21, 1995), requires key federal agencies to maintain well-exercised counterterrorist capabilities, the number of counterterrorism exercises being conducted increases significantly. According to a 1999 report by the General Accounting Office, whereas 32 counterterrorist exercises are held between June 1995 and June 1996, from June 1997 to June 1998, 116 such exercises are conducted. Some of the exercises held between June 1995 and June 1998 are “tabletop exercises,” where participants work through a scenario around a table or in a classroom and discuss how their agency might react; others are “field exercises,” where an agency’s leadership and operational units practice their skills in a realistic field setting. Four exercises during this period are “no-notice” exercises, where participants have no advance notice of the exercise. These four exercises are conducted by either the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Department of Energy. DoD leads 97 of the exercises—almost half of the total—held between June 1995 and June 1998. The Secret Service leads 46, the FBI 24, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) leads 16. Most of the exercises are conducted in the US and are based around the scenario of a domestic terrorist attack. Although intelligence agencies have determined that conventional explosives and firearms continue to be the weapons of choice for terrorists, the majority of exercises are based around scenarios involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons or agents. More than two-thirds of the exercises have WMD scenarios, with the most common WMD being chemical agents, such as sarin. The other exercises have more traditional and more likely scenarios involving conventional weapons and explosives. [United States General Accounting Office, 6/25/1999 pdf file; Washington Post, 10/2/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Government Accountability Office, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Secret Service, US Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Energy

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Military Exercises

Bruce Butterworth.Bruce Butterworth. [Source: Mineta Transportation Institute]John O’Neill, a senior FBI agent, tells congressional staffers there are no threats to aviation in the US. The staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the FBI, the director of central intelligence, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a briefing about threats to civil aviation. O’Neill goes to the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, to respond to this request on behalf of the FBI. Cathal Flynn, the FAA’s associate administrator for civil aviation security, who goes on behalf of the FAA, will later recall that at the briefing, Senate Intelligence Committee staffers ask, “What are the indications—or what are the threats—to aviation?” In response, according to Flynn, “John O’Neill said there are none.” [9/11 Commission, 9/9/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Bruce Butterworth, the FAA’s director of civil aviation security operations, who is apparently at the briefing, will similarly describe O’Neill’s response. He will say he “recalled FBI agent John O’Neill’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee wherein he was unwilling to corroborate FAA claims about credible threats to civil aviation.” [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file]
FBI Has Learned of 'Indications' of Threats to Aviation - Flynn finds O’Neill’s response to the Intelligence Committee staffers odd, since, he will say, the FBI has learned of a “few indications” of possible threats to aviation, such as a suspicious individual trying to get “a job with airport access” at Los Angeles International Airport. He writes a note to O’Neill, reminding him about this incident. But, according to Flynn, O’Neill “looked at the note” and “still didn’t say anything, didn’t change what he had said.” As the two men are leaving the briefing, Flynn asks O’Neill about the incident and O’Neill tells him there was “nothing to it.” [9/11 Commission, 9/9/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]
O'Neill Is the FBI's 'Most Committed Tracker of Osama bin Laden' - It is unclear when this briefing takes place. It presumably occurs sometime between July 1995 and September 2000—the time period during which Butterworth is the FAA’s director of civil aviation security operations. [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file] According to Flynn, O’Neill is “the head of antiterrorism for the FBI” when the briefing is held. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] This suggests that it takes place sometime between January 1995 and January 1997, when O’Neill is chief of the counterterrorism section at the FBI’s Washington headquarters. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2006] During his time working for the FBI, O’Neill becomes “the bureau’s most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists,” according to the New Yorker. [New Yorker, 1/14/2002] Journalist and author Murray Weiss will write that O’Neill “had reiterated since 1995 to any official in Washington who would listen” that “he was sure bin Laden would attack on American soil.” [Weiss, 2003, pp. 360]

Entity Tags: Senate Intelligence Committee, John O’Neill, Cathal Flynn, Bruce Butterworth

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

The FBI opens a case on Osama bin Laden. Dan Coleman and John Ligouri, members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), are sent to the CIA Counterterrorist Center (CTC) to see what the CIA knows about bin Laden. “They were amazed by the amount of material - some forty thick files’ worth - that they found.… Most of the information consisted of raw, unfocused data: itineraries, phone records, associates lists, investment holdings, bank transfers.” The vast majority of the data comes from NSA electronic eavesdropping and most of it has not been properly analyzed (see Early 1990s). They find that the CTC has been conducting a vigorous investigation on Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s personal secretary. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 148-149] Coleman will go on to become the FBI’s biggest expert on bin Laden and will help start the bureau’s bin Laden unit. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 90] It is not known when the CIA or NSA began monitoring bin Laden or El-Hage.

Entity Tags: Wadih El-Hage, Osama bin Laden, John Ligouri, Central Intelligence Agency, Counterterrorist Center, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dan Coleman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Osama bin Laden

In 1995, the FBI is given the CIA’s files on bin Laden, and they discover that the CIA has been conducting a vigorous investigation on Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s personal secretary and a US citizen (see October 1995). The FBI had already started investigating El-Hage in 1991 (see March 1991), and in 1993 they found out he had bought weapons for one of the 1993 WTC bombers (see Summer 1993). Thanks to the CIA files, the FBI learns that in early 1992 El-Hage moved to Sudan and worked there as bin Laden’s personal secretary. [PBS Frontline, 4/1999; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 148-149] Then, in 1994, he moved to Nairobi, Kenya, and officially started running a bogus charity there called “Help Africa People.” [PBS Frontline, 4/1999; CNN, 10/16/2001] In fact, El-Hage is running an al-Qaeda cell that will later carry out the 1998 African embassy bombings. He stays in close contact with top al-Qaeda leaders. [PBS Frontline, 4/1999] Apparently El-Hage is under US surveillance in Kenya, or at least people he is calling are under surveillance. For instance, a phone call between El-Hage in Kenya and Ali Mohamed in California is recorded in late 1994 (see Late 1994).and there are many calls recorded between El-Hage and bin Laden in Sudan. FBI agent Dan Coleman will analyze all this information about El-Hage and eventually supervise a raid on his Kenya house in 1997 (see August 21, 1997). [Wright, 2006, pp. 242-244]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Help Africa People, Dan Coleman, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wadih El-Hage

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

CIA leadership allegedly suppresses a report about Osama bin Laden’s hunt for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and only disseminates the report after pressure. After the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Alec Station, is created in early 1996 (see February 1996), one of its first tasks is to see if bin Laden is attempting to acquire WMDs.
Bin Laden a Bigger Threat than Previously Realized - Michael Scheuer, head of the unit in its early years, will later say that the unit soon discovers bin Laden is “much more of a threat than I had thought.… It became very clear very early that he was after [WMDs], and we showed conclusively at that point that he didn’t have them. But we had never seen as professional an organization in charge of procurement.” Scheuer will later tell Congress that when the unit finds detailed intelligence in 1996 on bin Laden’s attempts to get a nuclear weapon, superiors in the CIA suppress the report. Only after three officers in the CIA knowledgeable about bin Laden complain and force an internal review does the CIA disseminate the report more widely within the US intelligence community.
Incident Leads to Bunker Mentality - The incident contributes to a bunker mentality between the bin Laden unit and the rest of the CIA (see February 1996-June 1999). According to Vanity Fair, the CIA’s “top brass started to view Scheuer as a hysteric, spinning doomsday scenarios.” Some start referring to him and the bin Laden unit as “the Manson family,” in reference to mass murderer Charles Manson and his followers. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Alec Station, Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Scheuer, US intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) holds regular interagency training exercises in the years preceding 9/11, aiming to carry out a tabletop or field exercise every eight to 12 weeks. Mayor Rudy Giuliani is personally involved in many of these. The exercises are very lifelike. Giuliani will later recall, “We used to take pictures of these trial runs and they were so realistic that people who saw them would ask when the event shown in the photograph had occurred.” Scenarios drilled include a sarin gas attack in Manhattan, anthrax attacks, and truck bombs. One exercise, which takes place in May 2001, is based on terrorists attacking New York with bubonic plague (see May 11, 2001). Another, conducted in conjunction with the New York Port Authority, includes a simulated plane crash. Just one week before 9/11, the OEM is preparing a tabletop exercise with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to develop plans for business continuity in New York’s Financial District—where the World Trade Center is located—after a terrorist attack (see (September 4, 2001)). OEM staffers are actually preparing for a bioterrorism exercise on the morning of 9/11 (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001). Jerome Hauer, OEM director from 1996 to February 2000, will recall, “We looked at every conceivable threat that anyone on the staff could think of, be it natural or intentional, but not the use of aircraft as missiles.” He will tell the 9/11 Commission: “We had aircraft crash drills on a regular basis. The general consensus in the city was that a plane hitting a building… was that it would be a high-rise fire.… There was never a sense, as I said in my testimony, that aircraft were going to be used as missiles.” [Time, 12/22/2001; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 62-63; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15, 30 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004 pdf file] The OEM was created in 1996 by Giuliani to manage New York’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks (see 1996). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Jerome Hauer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Military Exercises, WTC Investigation

On the left: 5613 Leesburg Pike, address for WAMY’s US office. On the right: 5913 Leesburg Pike, the 2001 address for hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi.On the left: 5613 Leesburg Pike, address for WAMY’s US office. On the right: 5913 Leesburg Pike, the 2001 address for hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi. [Source: Paul Sperry]The FBI begin an investigation into two relatives of bin Laden in February 1996, then close it on September 11, 1996. The FBI wanted to learn more about Abdullah Awad bin Laden, “because of his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth [WAMY]—a suspected terrorist organization.” [Guardian, 11/7/2001] Abdullah Awad was the US director of WAMY and lived with his brother Omar in Falls Church, Virginia, a suburb of Washington. They are believed to be nephews of Osama bin Laden. The coding on a leaked FBI document about the case, marked secret, indicates the case related to national security. WAMY’s office address is 5613 Leesburg Pike. It will later be determined that at least two of the 9/11 hijackers lived at 5913 Leesburg Pike for much of 2001 at the same time the two bin Laden brothers were working only three blocks away (see March 2001 and After). WAMY has been banned in Pakistan by this time. [BBC, 11/6/2001; Guardian, 11/7/2001] The Indian and Philippine governments also will cite WAMY for funding Islamic militancy. The 9/11 Commission later will hear testimony that WAMY “has openly supported Islamic terrorism. There are ties between WAMY and 9/11 hijackers. It is a group that has openly endorsed the notion that Jews must be killed.… [It] has consistently portrayed the United States, Jews, Christians, and other infidels as enemies who have to be defeated or killed. And there is no doubt, according to US intelligence, that WAMY has been tied directly to terrorist attacks.” [9/11 Commission, 7/9/2003, pp. 66] A security official who will later serve under President Bush will say, “WAMY was involved in terrorist-support activity. There’s no doubt about it.” [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] Before 9/11, FBI investigators had determined that Abdullah Awad had invested about $500,000 in BMI Inc., a company suspected of financing groups officially designated as terrorist organizations (see 1986-October 1999). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003] The Bosnian government will say in September 2002 that a charity with Abdullah Awad bin Laden on its board had channeled money to Chechen guerrillas, something that reporter Greg Palast will claim “is only possible because the Clinton CIA gave the wink and nod to WAMY and other groups who were aiding Bosnian guerrillas when they were fighting Serbia, a US-approved enemy.” The investigation into WAMY will be restarted a few days after 9/11, around the same time these two bin Ladens will leave the US (see September 14-19, 2001). [Palast, 2002, pp. 96-99] (Note that Abdullah Awad bin Laden is Osama bin Laden’s nephew, and is not the same person as the Abdullah bin Laden who is Osama’s brother and serves as the bin Laden family spokesperson.) [Palast, 2002, pp. 98-99; Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003] WAMY’s Virginia offices will be raided by US agents in 2004 (see June 1, 2004).

Entity Tags: Abdullah Awad bin Laden, Omar bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

During Michael Scheuer’s time as head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit Alec Station from 1996 to 1999 (see February 1996 and June 1999), the unit has conflicts with other parts of the US intelligence community. Scheuer has an angry and dogmatic style that sometimes alienates people.
Conflict with Counterterrorism 'Tsar' Clarke - Scheuer and Richard Clarke, the US counterterrorism “tsar,” do not get along, even though both are among the first people in government to take the Osama bin Laden threat seriously. Clarke can also be abrasive. One former CIA insider will later say, “I can say that, among individuals that I tend to trust, Clarke was regarded as more serious about terrorism in the 1990s than just about anybody else in the US government, but he was a truly painful individual to work with.” Clarke will later similarly criticize Scheuer, saying: “Throwing tantrums and everything doesn’t help.… [You shouldn’t be] so dysfunctional within your agency that you’re making it harder to get something done.” And Scheuer will later criticize Clarke, saying: “[He] was an interferer of the first level, in terms of talking about things that he knew nothing about and killing them.… He was always playing the FBI off against us or us against the NSA.”
Conflict with the FBI - The bin Laden unit does not get along with some FBI agents assigned to it as well. From the very start, some FBI officials, including bin Laden expert John O’Neill, resist cooperating with the unit. CIA official John MacGaffin will later claim, “O’Neill just fought it and fought it [cooperating with Alec Station].” O’Neill and Scheuer “were at each other’s throats.” On one occasion an FBI agent at the bin Laden unit is caught hiding CIA files inside his shirt to take them back to O’Neill. Scheuer will also claim that the FBI rarely follows up leads the bin Laden unit sends it. Furthermore, the FBI never shares information. “I bet we sent 700 or 800 requests for information to the FBI, and we never got an answer to any of them,” Scheuer says.
Conflicts with CIA Higher-Ups - The bin Laden unit also has conflicts with others within the CIA, including powerful superiors. An incident in 1996 leads to a breakdown of trust between Scheuer and his superiors (see 1996). John MacGaffin, who is a top CIA official for clandestine operations at the time, will later say of Scheuer, “He’s a good guy, [but] he’s an angry guy.”
Situation Improves after Scheuer - In June 1999, Richard Blee replaces Scheuer as head of the bin Laden unit, and he will stay involved in the bin Laden issue until after 9/11 (see December 9, 2001). Vanity Fair will later comment that Blee “was just as heated up over bin Laden as Scheuer had been, but obviously less likely to cause the kind of friction that would discomfit the [CIA director].” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: John MacGaffin, Alec Station, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Richard Blee, Richard A. Clarke, John O’Neill, Michael Scheuer, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Bandido’s bar in Manila. This may be the restaurant frequented by KSM.Bandido’s bar in Manila. This may be the restaurant frequented by KSM. [Source: Public domain]In January 1995 the Bojinka plot is foiled in the Philippines and on February 7, 1995, Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995), but Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) continues to live in the Philippines much of the time. KSM remains confident that he will not be arrested, and eats at a particular restaurant in Manila at roughly the same time almost every night. In early 1996, the FBI and Philippine authorities attempt to arrest KSM at Bandido’s restaurant. But counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later claim the “operation failed apparently due to the visibility of the FBI and other agents working on the case.” KSM flees to Qatar, where he was been living off and on since 1992 (see 1992-1996). But Gunaratna claims KSM continues to live part of the time in the Philippines as well until about September 1996. [Gunaratna, 2003]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Jamal al-Fadl testifying in a courtroom. Because his identity has been kept secret, his face has been blocked out.Jamal al-Fadl testifying in a courtroom. Because his identity has been kept secret, his face has been blocked out. [Source: CNN]Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda operative from al-Qaeda’s first meeting in the late 1980s until 1995, tells the US everything he knows about al-Qaeda. Before al-Fadl’s debriefings, US intelligence had amassed thick files on bin Laden and his associates and contacts. However, they had had no idea how the many pieces fit together. But an official says. “After al-Fadl, everything fell into place.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 154-65] The New Yorker will later call al-Fadl “arguably the United States’ most valuable informant on al-Qaeda.” FBI agent Dan Coleman will later say on al-Fadl, “He’s been very, very important to us. When it comes to understanding al-Qaeda, he’s the Rosetta Stone.” FBI agent Mike Anticev will similarly say, “He spoke to us in great detail, and everything that he told us panned out.” CIA officials debrief al-Fadl for a month and a half. Then the CIA hands him, and transcripts of all their interviews with him, over to the FBI. [New Yorker, 9/11/2006] Coleman and US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald interrogate al-Fadl at a US military base in Germany for months. [Lance, 2006, pp. 261] Roughly between November 1996 and April 1997, al-Fadl tells the FBI about:
bullet The historical background of al-Qaeda. Al-Fadl was one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see August 11-20, 1988).
bullet The structure of al-Qaeda and its leadership composition.
bullet Al-Qaeda’s objectives and direction.
bullet Its financial infrastructure and networks. Al-Fadl has extensive knowledge of this because he worked as an al-Qaeda financial officer (see December 1996-January 1997).
bullet Its connections and collaboration with other terrorist groups and supporters.
bullet Its activities against US soldiers in Somalia (see October 3-4, 1993).
bullet Its activities in Bosnia. Al-Fadl was sent there on several missions (see Autumn 1992 and Autumn 1992).
bullet The Al-Kifah Refugee Center, al-Qaeda’s most important charity front in the US. Al-Fadl worked there in the 1980s (see 1986-1993).
bullet Bin Laden’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Al-Fadl was personally involved in an effort to buy uranium for al-Qaeda (see Late 1993). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 479]
bullet Bin Laden’s plans to attack either inside the US or US embassies (see Late 1996).
Al-Fadl continues to help US intelligence until current day. For instance, in 2000, he will help US officials capture his brother-in-law, Mohammed Suliman al-Nalfi, who is said to be close to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Nalfi will eventually be sentenced to ten years in prison in the US. Al-Fadl will have no knowledge of the 9/11 plot, but he will continue to identify captured al-Qaeda operatives after 9/11. [New Yorker, 9/11/2006] Interestingly, al-Fadl, a Sudanese citizen, will later claim that he worked with the Sudanese intelligence agency with the direct approval of bin Laden. [Day 2. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., 2/6/2001]

Entity Tags: Jamal al-Fadl, Mike Anticev, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Dan Coleman, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Destruction at the Khobar Towers, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.Destruction at the Khobar Towers, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. [Source: US Air Force]Explosions destroy the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers and wounding 500. [CNN, 6/26/1996] Saudi officials will later interrogate the suspects, declare them guilty, and execute them—without letting the FBI talk to them. [PBS Frontline, 2001; Irish Times, 11/19/2001] Saudis will blame Hezbollah, the Iranian-influenced group, but US investigators will still believe Osama bin Laden was involved. [Seattle Times, 10/29/2001] US intelligence will be listening when al-Qaeda’s number two leader Ayman al-Zawahiri calls bin Laden two days after the bombing to congratulate him on the operation (see June 27, 1996). The New York Times will report that Mamoun Darkazanli, a suspected al-Qaeda financier with extensive ties to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, is involved in the attack. [New York Times, 9/25/2001; New York Times, 9/29/2001] Bin Laden will admit to instigating the attacks in a 1998 interview. [Miami Herald, 9/24/2001] Ironically, the bin Laden family’s construction company will be awarded the contract to rebuild the installation. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001] In 1997, Canada will catch one of the Khobar Towers attackers and extradite him to the US. However, in 1999, he will be shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he can reveal what he knows about al-Qaeda and the Saudis. One anonymous insider will call it “President Clinton’s parting kiss to the Saudis.” [Palast, 2002, pp. 102] In June 2001, a US grand jury will indict 13 Saudis for the bombing. According to the indictment, Iran and Hezbollah were also involved in the attack. [US Congress, 7/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Al-Qaeda, Mamoun Darkazanli

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Al-Qaeda's Hamburg Cell, Warning Signs, Al-Qaeda's Hamburg Cell

Harry Ellen.Harry Ellen. [Source: Associated Press]Harry Ellen, a businessman who converted to Islam, has high credibility with Muslims in Arizona because of his work on behalf of the Palestinian cause. He has had important meetings with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In 1994, he began working as an FBI informant. Ken Williams, the Phoenix FBI agent who will later write the July 2001 “Phoenix memo”(see July 10, 2001), is his handler. In October 1996, Ellen tells Williams that he has suspicions about an Algerian pilot who is training other Middle Eastern men to fly. He later recalls, “My comment to Williams was that it would be pitiful if the bad guys were able to gain this kind of access to airplanes, flight training and crop dusters. I said, ‘You really ought to look at this, it’s an interesting mix of people.’” Ellen had previously begun spying on a man known as Abu Sief, which apparently is his alias. Sief had come to Arizona from New Jersey in 1993, and bragged about having close ties with al-Qaeda figures Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and Ramzi Yousef (when Yousef’s computer is seized in the Philippines in 1995, there is a mention of a contact in Tucson, Arizona, but it is unknown if this is a reference to Sief or someone else (see January 7-11, 1995)). Sief attended a New Jersey mosque that many of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers also attended. Ellen soon sees the unnamed Algerian pilot meeting with Abu Sief. He tells this to Williams and later will claim, “I told him to be very concerned about air schools.” However, Ellen will claim that Williams responds by telling him to “leave it alone.” So he does. Ellen later believes that Williams should have sent the gist of his Phoenix memo at this time, instead of four and a half years later. Hani Hanjour is living in Phoenix by this time and taking flight training nearby (see October 1996-Late April 1999). Ellen later will say he did not know Hanjour directly, but he knew some of his friends and relatives. Ellen and Williams will have a falling out in late 1998 on an unrelated manner, and Ellen’s flow of information will stop. [Washington Post, 5/24/2002; New York Times, 5/24/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 211, 352-355, inset 21]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Harry Ellen, Ken Williams, Abu Sief, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Phoenix Memo

An Inmarsat Compact M satellite phone, the type used by bin Laden.An Inmarsat Compact M satellite phone, the type used by bin Laden. [Source: Inmarsat]During this period, Osama bin Laden uses a satellite phone to direct al-Qaeda’s operations. The phone—a Compact M satellite phone, about the size of a laptop computer—was purchased by a student in Virginia named Ziyad Khaleel for $7,500 using the credit card of a British man named Saad al-Fagih. After purchasing the phone, Khaleel sent it to Khalid al-Fawwaz, al-Qaeda’s unofficial press secretary in London (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). Al-Fawwaz then shipped it to bin Laden in Afghanistan. [CNN, 4/16/2001] It appears US intelligence actually tracks the purchase as it occurs (see November 1996-Late December 1999), probably because an older model satellite phone bin Laden has is already being monitored (see Early 1990s). Bin Laden’s phone (873682505331) is believed to be used by other top al-Qaeda leaders as well, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammad Atef. Al-Fawwaz also buys satellite phones for other top al-Qaeda leaders around the same time. Though the calls made on these phones are encrypted, the NSA is able to intercept and decrypt them. As one US official will put it in early 2001, “codes were broken.” [United Press International, 2/13/2001; Newsweek, 2/18/2002] The Los Angeles Times will report that the monitoring of these phones “produced tens of thousands of pages of transcripts over two years.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001] Bin Laden’s satellite phone replaces an older model he used in Sudan that apparently was also monitored by the NSA (see Early 1990s). Billing records for his new phone are eventually released to the media in early 2002. Newsweek will note, “A country-by-country analysis of the bills provided US authorities with a virtual road map to important al-Qaeda cells around the world.” [Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002] The countries called are:
bullet Britain (238 or 260). Twenty-seven different phone numbers are called in Britain. Accounts differ on the exact number of calls. Khalid al-Fawwaz, who helps publish statements by bin Laden, receives 143 of the calls, including the very first one bin Laden makes with this phone. Apparently most of the remaining calls are made to pay phones near him or to his associates. He also frequently calls Ibrahim Eidarous, who works with al-Fawwaz and lives near him. [CNN, 4/16/2001; Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 111]
bullet Yemen (221). Dozens of calls go to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, which is run by the father-in-law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar (see Late August 1998). [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Bamford, 2008, pp. 8]
bullet Sudan (131). Bin Laden lived in Sudan until 1996 (see May 18, 1996), and some important al-Qaeda operatives remained there after he left (see February 5, 1998). [Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002]
bullet Iran (106). Newsweek will later report: “US officials had little explanation for the calls to Iran. A Bush administration official said that US intelligence has believed for years that hard-line anti-American factions inside Iran helped bin Laden’s organization operate an ‘underground railroad’ smuggling Islamic militants to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.” [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002]
bullet Azerbaijan (67). An important al-Qaeda operative appears to be based in Baku, Azerbaijan. [Washington Post, 5/2/2001] This is most likely Ahmad Salama Mabruk, who is very close to al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri and is said to be the head of the al-Qaeda cell there. He kidnapped by the CIA in Baku in late August 1998 (see Late August 1998).
bullet Kenya (at least 56). In the embassy bombings trial, prosecutors introduce evidence showing 16 calls are made on this phone to some of the embassy bombers in Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), apparently all before a raid in August 1997 (see August 21, 1997). The defense introduces evidence showing at least 40 more calls are made after that time (see Late 1996-August 1998). [CNN, 4/16/2001]
bullet Pakistan (59).
bullet Saudi Arabia (57).
bullet A ship in the Indian Ocean (13).
bullet The US (6).
bullet Italy (6).
bullet Malaysia (4).
bullet Senegal (2). [Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002]
bullet Egypt (unknown). Newsweek reports that calls are made to Egypt but doesn’t say how many. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002]
bullet Iraq (0). Press reports note that the records indicate zero calls were made to Iraq. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002; Sunday Times (London), 3/24/2002] 1,100 total calls are made on this phone. Adding up the above numbers means that the destination of over 100 calls is still unaccounted for. [Newsweek, 2/18/2002] The use of this phone stops two months after the August 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. However, it appears bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders continue to use other satellite phones occasionally after this time. Shortly after 9/11, James Bamford, an expert authority on the agency, says “About a year or so ago the NSA lost all track of him.… He may still use [satellite phones] occasionally to talk about something mundane, but he discovered that the transmitters can be used for honing.” [CNN, 9/21/2001] According to a different account, bin Laden will attempt to use a different phone communication method, but US intelligence will soon discover it and continue monitoring his calls (see Late 1998 and After).

Entity Tags: Ziyad Khaleel, Saad al-Fagih, Osama bin Laden, Ibrahim Eidarous, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Mohammed Atef, Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ahmad Salama Mabruk

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Yemen Hub, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Osama bin Laden

A hijacked airliner crashes into the shallow waters off the coast of a resort in the Comoros Islands.A hijacked airliner crashes into the shallow waters off the coast of a resort in the Comoros Islands. [Source: SIPA] (click image to enlarge)Several Ethiopians take over a passenger airliner and let it run out of fuel. Hijackers fight with the pilot as they try to steer the plane into a resort on a Comoros Islands beach in the Indian Ocean, but seconds before reaching the resort the pilot is able to crash the plane into shallow waters instead, 500 yards short of the resort. One hundred and twenty-three of the 175 passengers and crew die. [New York Times, 11/25/1996; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/26/1996; Houston Chronicle, 11/26/1996]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs

Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, discovers that al-Qaeda has established a communications hub and operations center in Sana’a, Yemen, and that there are frequent calls between it and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan (see May 1996 and November 1996-Late August 1998). [Antiwar, 10/22/2008; PBS, 2/3/2009] According to Alec Station chief Michael Scheuer, the CIA learns of this “communications conduit” through a CIA officer detailed to the NSA and stationed overseas. According to Scheuer, the NSA “refuse[s] to exploit the conduit and threaten[s] legal action against the agency officer who advised of its existence.” Despite the threat, the officer continues to supply the information. Scheuer asks senior CIA officials to intervene with the NSA, but this only leads to “a desultory interagency discussion without resolution.” [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004] Author James Bamford will say: “Scheuer knew how important the house [the operations center in Yemen] was, he knew NSA was eavesdropping on the house. He went to NSA, went to the head of operations for NSA,… Barbara McNamara, and asked for transcripts of the conversations coming into and going out of the house. And the best the NSA would do would be to give them brief summaries every… once a week or something like that, you know, just a report, not the actual transcripts or anything. And so he got very frustrated, he went back there and they still refused.” [Antiwar, 10/22/2008] Because of the lack of information, the CIA will actually build its own listening post to get some of the information the NSA is concealing from it (see After December 1996).

Entity Tags: National Security Agency, Alec Station, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Scheuer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi intelligence minister until shortly before 9/11 (see August 31, 2001), will later claim that al-Qaeda attempts to smuggle weapons into Saudi Arabia to mount attacks on police stations. The plot is uncovered and prevented by Saudi intelligence, and two of the unsuccessful gunrunners, future hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, are watchlisted. [Salon, 10/18/2003; Wright, 2006, pp. 266, 310-311, 448] However, Almihdhar and Alhazmi continue to move in and out of Saudi Arabia unchecked and will obtain US visas there in April 1999 (see 1993-1999 and April 3-7, 1999). The US is supposedly informed of Almihdhar and Alhazmi’s al-Qaeda connection by the end of 1999 (see Late 1999). Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, an associate of Almihdhar and Alhazmi (see January 5-8, 2000), is implicated in a plot to smuggle four Russian antitank missiles into Saudi Arabia around the same time, although it is unclear whether this is the same plot or a different one. The Saudi authorities uncover this plot and the US is apparently informed of the missile seizure in June 1998. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 152-3, 491]

Entity Tags: Saudi General Intelligence Presidency, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Nawaf Alhazmi, Turki al-Faisal, Khalid Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Key Hijacker Events

Felix Sater.Felix Sater. [Source: Felix Sater]Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman, works as a spy for American intelligence, and obtains valuable information about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, including bin Laden’s satellite telephone numbers. [BuzzFeed News, 3/12/2018] Sater was born in Moscow in 1966 but moved with his family to America when he was a child and is now an American citizen. [US Congress. House, 12/2017; ABC News, 8/23/2019] He becomes an informant for the FBI around December 1998 after pleading guilty for his role in a $40 million stock fraud scheme orchestrated by New York mafia members. To avoid a prison sentence, he signs a cooperation agreement with the US government. [BuzzFeed News, 3/12/2018; Politico, 5/16/2019; Hill, 5/16/2019; Daily Mail, 8/23/2019] However, his work for American intelligence begins more than a year before this, he will later claim, when he meets an employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency who tells him his country needs him and then recruits him in support of American intelligence efforts. [US Congress. House, 12/2017; ABC News, 8/23/2019] He works as a spy for over 20 years, assisting the CIA, the FBI, and other agencies. [US Department of Justice, 8/27/2009 pdf file; Politico, 3/12/2018]
Sater Faces 'Tremendous Risks' in His Intelligence Work - Sater provides what he will describe as “extraordinary assistance” to the US government that involves “serious matters of national security.” His work poses “tremendous risks to my safety and the safety of my family,” he will state, and implicates “some of our nation’s greatest enemies, whose terrorism threatened our way of life.” His activities include:
bullet Establishing a network of contacts in various countries that includes intelligence officers, military operatives, and personnel at military research facilities. [US Congress. House, 12/2017] Among these contacts are a former senior KGB officer and arms dealer who possesses information regarding “potential threats to the United States emanating from Afghanistan and certain Central Asian republics,” and an intelligence officer working for the Northern Alliance, the resistance group fighting Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban. [US Department of Justice, 8/27/2009 pdf file; BuzzFeed News, 3/12/2018]
bullet Providing information about the location of bin Laden and elements of his command structure. [US Congress. House, 12/2017]
bullet Providing information about who is selling arms to bin Laden. [US Department of Justice, 8/27/2009 pdf file]
bullet Obtaining five of bin Laden’s personal satellite telephone numbers. [US Department of Justice, 8/27/2009 pdf file; US Congress. House, 12/2017; BuzzFeed News, 3/12/2018]
bullet Providing information about the locations of hidden al-Qaeda terrorist training camps.
bullet Assembling a team of mercenaries in an effort to kill bin Laden in one of his terrorist training camps.
bullet Providing information about the location of Stinger missiles that were initially provided to the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, before they are acquired by al-Qaeda. [US Congress. House, 12/2017]
Sater Goes 'above and beyond' What Is Expected - Sater is apparently dedicated and effective in his work for the US government, and will receive significant praise for it. Agents who supervise him will all say he is “an exemplary cooperator who worked diligently to further the aims of the missions to which he was assigned.” [US Department of Justice, 8/27/2009 pdf file] A senior intelligence official who works directly on terrorism cases before and after 9/11 will comment, “Felix likely does not realize how important his work has been in saving American lives” and “deserves a commendation” for his efforts. [BuzzFeed News, 3/12/2018] He went “above and beyond what is expected of most cooperators, and placed himself in great jeopardy in so doing,” federal prosecutors involved with his stock fraud case will write. [US Department of Justice, 8/27/2009 pdf file; Daily Mail, 8/23/2019]
Sater Is Happy to Assist the US Government - Sater is apparently happy to work with US intelligence agencies. He will state that he “enthusiastically embraced” the opportunity to serve and protect his country. He will continue working for US intelligence after 9/11, and provide information about the names and passports of al-Qaeda operatives, and information about the locations of al-Qaeda weapons caches, among other things (see After September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House, 12/2017] He will become known after the 2016 US presidential election for his business ties to then President Donald Trump. [CBS News, 11/29/2018; Hill, 5/16/2019; ABC News, 8/23/2019]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Felix Sater, Defense Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

Battalion Chief Ray Downey of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) warns senior firefighters about the need to prepare for terrorist attacks and says another attack in the United States is “going to happen.” He issues the warning in a speech he gives at the annual Fire Department Instructors Conference, a six-day event in Indianapolis, Indiana. [Fire Engineering, 7/1997; Fire Engineering, 9/1997; Fire Engineering, 3/1998]
Fire Chief Says Firefighters Have a 'Lot to Learn' about Terrorism - Downey says in his speech: “Terrorism has taken on a new light. It’s a new part of the fire service that we all had better prepare for.” He mentions the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993), the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, in July 1996. He warns, “I stand up here to tell you, having been involved in [responding to] all three of those terrorist incidents personally, at the scene, that we have an awful lot to learn.”
Chief Says a Chemical or Biological Attack Is 'Going to Happen' - Downey describes a number of smaller-scale terrorist attacks or planned terrorist attacks that have occurred in the US in just the last six or eight months and then asks, “Is the fire service ready to handle these incidents?” He asks the firefighters attending his speech if they know about chemical agents such as “sarin” and “mustard gas” or biological agents such as “anthrax” and “botulism.” He asks if they think an attack involving one of these agents is “not possible.” He then cautions them to “[g]et with it” and says, “It’s not a matter of what, where, or who—but when” such an attack will occur. He concludes, “It’s going to happen—accept the fact.” [Fire Engineering, 9/1997]
Chief Helps Prepare His Department to Respond to Terrorism - Downey is a member of the FDNY’s Special Operations Command (SOC) and is put in charge of the unit sometime this year. [New York Times, 11/22/2001; Fire Engineering, 3/2002] The SOC is an elite group of firefighters who respond to unique fire and emergency situations. [Long Island Herald, 7/13/2007; Smithsonian, 8/31/2013] Its members are trained to deal with catastrophes. [New York Daily News, 10/21/2001] As head of the unit, Downey will be responsible for planning the FDNY’s response to terrorist attacks. [Downey, 2004, pp. 222] Fire Engineering magazine will comment in 2002, “Due in part to [Downey’s] diligence, FDNY is one of the best equipped and most prepared fire departments in terrorism response in the world.” [Fire Engineering, 3/2002] Downey will be killed when the WTC collapses on September 11, 2001. [New York Times, 11/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Ray Downey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs

William Cohen.William Cohen. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense William Cohen issues a comprehensive assessment of America’s defense requirements, called the Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). This is a six-month analysis of the “threats, risks and opportunities for US national security,” and reviews all aspects of the US defense strategy. [US Department of Defense, 5/19/1997] Among other things, the 1997 QDR outlines the conversion of six continental air defense squadrons to general purpose, training or other missions. It calls for there being just four “alert” air defense sites around the US: at Otis, Massachusetts; Homestead, Florida; Riverside, California; and Portland, Oregon. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997; Filson, 2003, pp. 348] Major General Larry Arnold, who is commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region on 9/11, later says: “The QDR didn’t make any sense at all. [T]here was a fight just to maintain the number of alert sites that we had. We felt we could operate fairly reasonably with about ten sites and thought eight was the absolute highest risk we could take.” NORAD Commander in Chief General Howell M. Estes III has written to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that a minimum of seven alert sites are needed to maintain America’s air sovereignty. In the end, three extra alert sites are added to the four suggested in the QDR. These are at Hampton, Virginia; Panama City, Florida; and Ellington, Texas. Larry Arnold later says, “I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with seven [alert sites] because there are great large distances between the alert sites.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 36] Other bases will lose their NORAD air defense functions over the next year, including those in Fresno, California; Fargo, North Dakota; Duluth, Minnesota; Burlington, Vermont; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Great Falls, Montana. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997] Of these closed bases, the most critical loss on 9/11 will be the Atlantic City, New Jersey base, located about halfway between New York City and Washington. Boston air traffic control, apparently unaware the base has lost its air defense function will try and fail to contact the base shortly after learning about the first hijacking of the morning, Flight 11 (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Howell M. Estes III, Larry Arnold, William S. Cohen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Military Exercises

Logo of the National Strategy Forum.Logo of the National Strategy Forum. [Source: National Strategy Forum]John O’Neill, special agent in charge of the FBI’s national security division in New York, gives an extensive speech in which he warns of the threat posed by religious extremist groups, which, he says, “have the ability to strike us here in the United States.” [New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Graff, 2011, pp. 200] O’Neill gives the 45-minute speech to the National Strategy Forum in Chicago. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 180, 185]
O'Neill Says Islamic Extremism Is Growing 'Very Fast' - In it, he points out that the FBI and most of the intelligence community, in their efforts to stop terrorism, still investigate states that sponsor terrorism, such as “Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, [and] Sudan.” However, he says, the bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993) “made us painfully aware that there is this new realm that’s out there that’s growing at a pretty fast pace” and this is “religious extremism.” He adds that while there is extremism in all of the major religions of the world, “one of the ones that we see growing very, very fast is Islamic extremism.” Islamic extremists, he says, are “bound by a jihad, a religious belief as opposed to any nation or state.” He also explains why the US could be the target of terrorist attacks. “[N]o intelligent state will attack the United States in the foreseeable future because of our military superiority,” he says. Instead, he continues, “the only way that these individuals can attack us and have some effect is through acts of terrorism.”
Soviet-Afghan War Created a Network of Extremists - O’Neill highlights the significance of the 1979-1989 Soviet war in Afghanistan (see December 8, 1979), which he calls “a major watershed event.” He explains how the war created a network of Islamic extremists around the world who have the training and experience to carry out acts of terrorism. During the war, he says, “the jihad and Islamic players came together to fight the Russians.” These men received training in “insurgency” and “terrorist activity” while the conflict was taking place. However, an unfortunate consequence is that they are now “back in their various countries around the world with that training and having the network capabilities to know other jihad players around the world who have the same like mind, the same fundamentalist thinking, and the same type of training.” Their experiences in the Soviet-Afghan war might prompt them to carry out attacks against the United States, he suggests. He says a significant feature of the conflict was that “they won.” The extremists “beat one of the largest standing armies in the world at that time” and this “gave them a buoyed sense of success,” and a sense that “they could take on other countries like the US and be likewise successful.”
Extremist Groups 'Have the Ability' to Strike in the US - “Almost all of the extreme groups that we hear [about] in the newspaper, various organizations, have a presence in the United States today,” O’Neill comments. These groups, he explains, “are heavily involved in recruiting” and “heavily involved in fund-raising activity.” He adds that most of the groups, “if they chose to, have the ability to strike us here in the United States.” He also points out that while, over the last decade or so, the number of terrorist attacks around the world has fallen significantly, the attacks that do occur tend to be larger and deadlier. The reason for this is that “if you are going to engage in terrorist attacks for political or social agendas, you want to make it on the news.” “The larger the attack, the more newsworthy they can make it,” he comments. He ends on a pessimistic note, telling his audience: “Unfortunately, I cannot predict that no Americans will be injured or killed as a result of a terrorist attack. And, in fact, it will happen as long as violence is seen as the way to move along political or social agendas. We will have terrorism as a problem to contend with.” [National Strategy Forum, 6/11/1997]
FBI Headquarters Is Uninterested in Terrorism - Despite warning about the threat posed by Islamic extremists, O’Neill makes no mention of Osama bin Laden. All the same, his speech “electrified the crowd,” journalist and author Murray Weiss will later comment. Weiss will describe the speech as “a particular landmark” in which O’Neill manages to “trace a chillingly accurate picture of the danger posed by Islamic fundamentalism and its potential to unleash a virulent new strain of terrorism on the world.” [Weiss, 2003, pp. 180, 185] However, the agent’s concern about the threat posed by Islamic extremists makes him an exception within the FBI. Dale Watson, chief of the FBI’s international terrorism section, national security division, will comment that there is currently a lack of interest in the threat at FBI headquarters. “No one was thinking about the counterterrorism program—what the threat was and what we were trying to do about it,” he will say. He will remark that no one is thinking about where al-Qaeda’s next target might be and “no one [is] really looking.” [Weiner, 2012, pp. 391]

Entity Tags: Dale Watson, John O’Neill

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs

George J. Tenet becomes the new director of the CIA. He will remain in the position well after 9/11. Tenet was never a CIA field agent, but started his government career as a Congressional aide. From 1993 to 1995 he was a senior intelligence staffer on the National Security Council. He was a CIA deputy director from 1995. In December 1996, John Deutch abruptly resigned as CIA director and Tenet was made acting director until he is confirmed as the new director in July 1997. [USA Today, 10/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, John Deutch, George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Some time after he is appointed CIA Director (see July 11, 1997), but before 9/11, George Tenet negotiates a series of agreements with telecommunications and financial institutions “to get access to certain telephone, Internet, and financial records related to ‘black’ intelligence operations.” The arrangements are made personally by the companies’ CEOs and Tenet, who plays “the patriot card” to get the information. The arrangement involves the CIA’s National Resources Division, which has at least a dozen offices in the US. The Division’s main aim is to recruit people in the US to spy abroad. However, in this case the Division makes arrangements so that other intelligence agencies, such as the NSA, can access the information and records the CEOs agree to provide. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 323-5] There is a history of co-operation between the CIA’s National Resources Division and the NSA. For example, Monte Overacre, a CIA officer assigned to the Division’s San Diego office in the early 1990s, said that he worked with the NSA there, obtaining information about foreign telecommunications programs and passing it on to the Technology Management Office, a joint venture between the two agencies. [Mother Jones, 1/1998] One US official will say that the arrangements only give the CIA access to the companies’ passive databanks. However, reporter Bob Woodward will say that the programme raises “serious civil liberties questions and also demonstrate[d] that the laws had not kept pace with the technology.” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 324-5] There will be an interagency argument about the program after 9/11 (see (2003 and After)).

Entity Tags: Monte Overacre, National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Technology Management Office, Bob Woodward, George J. Tenet, CIA National Resources Division

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Yemen Hub

William Flanagan.William Flanagan. [Source: US Department of Defense]The Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and Wall Street bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald hold three “economic security exercises,” in which the participants consider, among other scenarios, terrorists attacking the US financial community with bombings using aircraft. The exercises are intended to explore the link between national security and economic issues. [Cantor Fitzgerald, 4/29/1999; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001; Foreign Policy, 9/12/2011] They bring together “key figures from the national security, governmental, and financial communities to explore and test the relationships between international events, national security, and financial markets,” according to a report prepared by the Naval War College. [Hayes, 6/1998, pp. 1 pdf file] The exercises are all held in New York. [Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001] The first one takes place on the top floor of one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, where Cantor Fitzgerald has its main offices. [Washington Post, 3/6/2002; Associated Press, 1/19/2011] Whether the second and third exercises also take place at the WTC is unstated.
1997 Exercise Considers Attacks on the US Financial Community - The first exercise, held in October 1997, is based around two related scenarios that would take place in February and March 2000, in the middle of the US presidential primary season. [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997; Hayes, 6/1998, pp. 1 pdf file] The first scenario involves a crisis “spilling out of conflict in the oil fields of the Middle East,” which is “followed by terrorist assaults against oil fields in the Persian Gulf and US military installations,” according to Fortune magazine. America’s access to Persian Gulf oil supplies is threatened and there is a disruption of the “sea lines of communication.” The second scenario involves a cyber-terrorist attack on Wall Street, in which information warfare attacks are launched against the critical infrastructures underpinning America’s business and financial communities. The computer networks of US financial institutions and power grids in the New York area are targeted, with the intention of inflicting psychological and economic damage on the US. [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001; Fortune, 10/8/2001] Furthermore, according to David Rothkopf, managing director of Kissinger Associates, who attends the exercise, participants consider “a variety of potential ways terrorists might target the US financial community, including bombings using trucks or aircraft.” [Foreign Policy, 9/12/2011]
Senior Government Officials Attend the 1997 Exercise - The exercise addresses the potential vulnerability of the US to “asymmetric warfare,” which one participant will later describe as warfare in which “a little guy with the right technology can confront the big giant in a devastating way.” [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997] In the simulated scenarios, according to Fortune, “the terrorists succeeded spectacularly.” [Fortune, 10/8/2001] Those attending the exercise include Richard Clarke, President Clinton’s special assistant for global affairs, Rand Beers, special assistant to the president and senior director for intelligence programs, and Anthony Lake, the former national security adviser. [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997; Rothkopf, 2014, pp. 266]
1998 Exercise Involves a Rebellion in Indonesia - The second exercise, held on June 1, 1998, focuses on a hypothetical financial crisis combined with a sea lines of communication disruption in Asia, involving Indonesia. The scenario, which would take place around late 1998 to early 1999, involves opposition forces mounting successful rebellions in parts of Indonesia and leaders of the opposition movement declaring themselves Indonesia’s legitimate government. The US military intervenes in response to the crisis. Subsequently, “malevolent insiders” launch coordinated attacks against selected financial institutions in Singapore. These are followed by cyberattacks against some financial institutions in Japan. [Hayes, 6/1998 pdf file; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001]
1999 Exercise Is Based around the Y2K Computer Problem - The third exercise, held on May 3, 1999, focuses on the possible global financial consequences of a serious Year 2000 computer problem, caused by computers being unable to properly read dates at the start of the new millennium, as well as “related events surrounding the millennial date change event.” [New York Times, 2/9/1999; Cantor Fitzgerald, 4/29/1999; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001]
Cantor Fitzgerald Requested the 'War Games' in the Mid-1990s - The three economic security exercises are the “brainchild” of retired Admiral William Flanagan, former commander in chief of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, who is now the senior managing director of Cantor Fitzgerald. [Wall Street Journal, 5/5/1997; Proceedings, 10/2001; Virginian-Pilot, 9/11/2006] According to Thomas Barnett, a senior strategic researcher at the Naval War College, they have come about because Cantor Fitzgerald went to the Naval War College in the mid-1990s and said it would like to run “economic-oriented war games” with the college. [Institute of International Studies, 3/8/2005] Several senior members of Cantor Fitzgerald have close professional ties with the US Navy, so the collaboration between the company and the Naval War College is a “natural partnership,” according to a report prepared by the college. [Hayes, 6/1998, pp. 1 pdf file]
Exercise Scenarios Are 'Amazingly Prescient' - The fact that the exercises explore “such real-world scenarios as a terrorist strike on Wall Street, war in the Persian Gulf, and a financial crisis in Asia,” Barnett will comment after 9/11, “proved amazingly prescient.” [Barnett, 2004, pp. 197] “September 11 was crystallizing,” he will say. “We all just went, ‘This is what we were talking about: a peacetime, war-like event that’s so profound it forces us to rethink everything.’” [Esquire, 12/2002] The exercises will evolve into something called the “New Rule Sets Project,” which is a research partnership between the Naval War College and Cantor Fitzgerald that aims to explore how globalization is altering America’s definitions of national security (see May 1, 2000-June 4, 2001). [Barnett, 2004, pp. 46; Institute of International Studies, 3/8/2005] Cantor Fitzgerald will suffer the greatest single loss by any company on 9/11, with 658 of its employees dying in the North Tower of the WTC. [Business Week, 9/10/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Naval War College, Rand Beers, Cantor Fitzgerald Securities, David Rothkopf, Thomas Barnett, William J. Flanagan Jr., Anthony Lake

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

Ashton Carter.Ashton Carter. [Source: Aspen Institute]Over a period of nine months, faculty from Harvard University, Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Virginia meet in a collaborative effort called the Catastrophic Terrorism Study Group. Its members include experts on terrorism, national security, intelligence, and law enforcement. The project director is Philip Zelikow, future executive director of the 9/11 Commission. Future 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick is also a member, along with Ernest May, who will be a senior advisor to the 9/11 Commission. The culmination of the group’s efforts is a report written by Zelikow and its two co-chairs: former Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and former CIA Director John Deutch. A condensed version of the report is published in the journal Foreign Affairs in late 1998. They write: “Long part of the Hollywood and Tom Clancy repertory of nightmarish scenarios, catastrophic terrorism has moved from far-fetched horror to a contingency that could happen next month. Although the United States still takes conventional terrorism seriously… it is not yet prepared for the new threat of catastrophic terrorism.” They predict the consequences of such an event: “An act of catastrophic terrorism that killed thousands or tens of thousands of people and/or disrupted the necessities of life for hundreds of thousands, or even millions, would be a watershed event in America’s history. It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented for peacetime and undermine Americans’ fundamental sense of security within their own borders in a manner akin to the 1949 Soviet atomic bomb test, or perhaps even worse. Constitutional liberties would be challenged as the United States sought to protect itself from further attacks by pressing against allowable limits in surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects, and the use of deadly force. More violence would follow, either as other terrorists seek to imitate this great ‘success’ or as the United States strikes out at those considered responsible. Like Pearl Harbor, such an event would divide our past and future into a ‘before’ and ‘after.’” [Carter, Deutch, and Zelikow, 10/1998; Foreign Affairs, 11/1998; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. xi-xiv]

Entity Tags: Jamie Gorelick, Philip Zelikow, John Deutch, Catastrophic Terrorism Study Group, Ernest May, Ashton Carter

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Role of Philip Zelikow, Other Pre-9/11 Events

New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) conducts a training exercise called Operation ICE, which is designed to prepare emergency response workers for the possibility of a terrorist attack and includes a simulated chemical attack near the World Trade Center. [City of New York, 11/9/1997; New York Times, 11/9/1997; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Operation ICE is the largest terrorism response exercise ever conducted by the city. Its aim, according to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is “to see what would happen if in fact there was a chemical attack and to see how police, fire, EMS [emergency medical services], hospitals, the FBI… would all respond.” [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997]
Volunteers Go to Hospitals with the Symptoms of Chemical Exposure - Operation ICE incorporates a series of field and tabletop exercises. It consists of three interconnected training events, called MEDEX, FIELDEX, and INFRAEX. MEDEX, apparently the first event to take place, is held on November 8. Forty-one city hospitals are involved in it. The aim is for the emergency workers who participate to learn how to deal with and treat “walk-in, self-referred” patients who arrive at emergency rooms minutes or hours after they have been exposed to a chemical agent. Volunteers, playing the victims, visit the hospitals, complaining about various symptoms. Hospital personnel have to determine the type of chemical exposure that matches the symptoms and decide how to treat the victims. [New York Times, 11/9/1997; Fire Engineering, 3/1998]
Field Exercise Is Held near the WTC - FIELDEX, which is the centerpiece of Operation ICE, takes place a day later, on November 9. This is an elaborate field training exercise involving a simulated chemical attack at a large public gathering. It is directed by Jerome Hauer, head of the OEM, and more than 600 emergency response workers take part. They belong to agencies including the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department, the FBI, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the Departments of Defense, Environmental Protection, Health, and Transportation. [City of New York, 11/9/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997] The exercise is held less than a mile away from the WTC, on Greenwich Street, between Hubert and North Moore Streets. [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997] It takes place “eerily in the shadow of the Twin Towers,” Giuliani will later comment. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 63]
Islamic Terrorists Release a Lethal Gas in the Simulation - The scenario for the exercise involves a rally held by a controversial political group. This is “a greed-is-good kind of group,” Giuliani will say. A speaker at the rally explains the group’s philosophy, which gets his listeners angry, and two or three of them consequently attack the group. They release VX, a deadly nerve gas, killing 21 people and injuring at least 27. The mock attackers are Islamic terrorists, according to Giuliani. Red Cross volunteers and police cadets pretend to be victims of the attack, while several mannequins represent people who have been killed. FIELDEX lasts for four hours. [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
Real Bomb Goes Off before the Exercise Starts - Participating emergency response workers are unaware of the details of the scenario before the exercise begins. “[W]e know to be prepared, that it is going to happen, but haven’t been given any particulars,” one law enforcement official comments. [New York Times, 11/9/1997] Local residents reportedly approve of the exercise, despite the disruption it causes. One woman remarks that she feels it “needs to be done” because, she says, “Living downtown, we are a direct target for this kind of threat, with the World Trade Center and everything.” [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997] Ironically, two hours before the exercise commences, a real but crude bomb explodes in front of an office building a few blocks away from where the exercise is held. No advance warning is given but, fortunately, no one is injured. No one will take responsibility for the bombing. [New York Times, 11/10/1997]
Exercise Is Mostly Funded by the Defense Department - The INFRAEX segment of Operation ICE consists of a workshop that considers how the simulated attack would affect the city’s infrastructure, and how any adverse effects could be minimized and corrected. The date when this part of the exercise is held is unstated. [Fire Engineering, 3/1998] Operation ICE is the culmination of a yearlong disaster preparedness project. [City of New York, 11/9/1997] Most of the funding for it has come from a grant from the Department of Defense. [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997] The exercise is intended to be a model for cities throughout the US. [Fire Engineering, 3/1998]

Entity Tags: US Department of Transportation, Jerome Hauer, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Defense, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Emergency Management, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Operation ICE, New York City Fire Department, American Red Cross, Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City Police Department

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

A son of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the al-Qaeda leader convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up tunnels and other New York City landmarks, is heard to say that the best way to free his father from a US prison might be to hijack an American plane and exchange the hostages. This will be mentioned in President Bush’s August 2001 briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/18/2002] It may be the warning was discovered by reporters at bin Laden’s press conference this month, since two of Abdul-Rahman’s sons are there and speak in belligerent tones (see May 26, 1998 and May 1998). A similar warning will be discovered in May 2001, but will not be mentioned in Bush’s briefing (see May 23, 2001).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, Al-Qaeda, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB

Hendropriyono, the Indonesian chief of intelligence, will later claim that, “[we] had intelligence predicting the September 11 attacks three years before it happened but nobody believed us.” He says Indonesian intelligence agents identify bin Laden as the leader of the group plotting the attack and that the US disregards the warning, but otherwise offers no additional details. The Associated Press notes, “Indonesia’s intelligence services are not renowned for their accuracy.” [Associated Press, 7/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Hendropriyono, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Foreign Intelligence Warnings

At its operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices dealing with hijackings five times per month, on average, during training exercises. A NORAD document produced a month after 9/11 will state that the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) “routinely conducts the Amazon Arizona series of internal exercises that include hijack scenarios.” Prior to September 11, 2001, the document continues, “CMOC averaged five hijack training events each month.” Further details of these “Amazon Arizona” exercises are unstated in the document. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 10/13/2001] But other sources provide additional information about what they might entail.
Exercises Are 'One of the Busiest Times' in Operations Center - According to a 1989 NORAD document, “Arizona” exercises are a “Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base internal system training mission.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 8/25/1989] And in 2004, NORAD will state that its exercises before 9/11 that include hijacking scenarios test “track detection and identification; scramble and interception; hijack procedures; internal and external agency coordination; and operational security and communications security procedures.” [CNN, 4/19/2004] According to Stacey Knott, a technician at the CMOC, “One of the busiest times” in the operations center “is during exercises.… We have the battle staff and CAT [Crisis Action Team] in here; generals and admirals are running in and out.” Knott has said that exercises at the CMOC give her “an idea what things would be like if something were to go down,” and so, “[i]f something actually did happen, we’d be ready for it.” [Airman, 1/1996]
Operations Center Is 'Focal Point for Air Defense Operations' - It is unclear over what period up to 9/11 the CMOC averages five hijack training events per month. It appears to be at least going back to 1998: In 2003, Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his office keeps computer hard drive information about NORAD exercises “roughly” back to that year. Merchant will add that he “did not believe that his office retained other exercise information, such as after-action reviews, for exercises prior to 1998.” [9/11 Commission, 11/14/2003 pdf file] According to NORAD’s website, “the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center provides warning of ballistic missile or air attacks against North America, assists the air sovereignty mission for the United States and Canada, and, if necessary, is the focal point for air defense operations to counter enemy bombers or cruise missiles.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 11/27/1999] On the morning of 9/11, members of the battle staff at the CMOC will be participating in the exercise Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Airman, 3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Stacey Knott, Amazon Arizona, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Ken Merchant

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

Dave Frasca, who will later go on to play a key role in the FBI’s failure to get a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings before 9/11 (see August 21, 2001 and August 29, 2001), is appointed to a supervisory position on a counterterrorism squad at the FBI’s Miami office. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 123 pdf file]

Entity Tags: David Frasca, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Misc Entries

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events, Zacarias Moussaoui

It is later revealed that, in the years up to 9/11, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has little knowledge of the threat posed by al-Qaeda. [MSNBC, 10/25/2007] In private testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2004, after being asked about the “flow of information about al-Qaeda threats from 1998-2001,” Giuliani will reply, “At the time, I wasn’t told it was al-Qaeda, but now that I look back at it, I think it was al-Qaeda.” Giuliani will also concede that it was only “after 9/11” that “we brought in people to brief us on al-Qaeda.” Before 9/11, he says, “we had nothing like this… which was a mistake, because if experts share a lot of info,” there would be a “better chance of someone making heads and tails” of the situation. [Village Voice, 10/23/2007] In a later television interview, he will admit that he “didn’t see the enormity of” the threat al-Qaeda posed to the United States prior to 9/11, and add: “I never envisioned the kind of attack that they did.… [W]hat I envisioned were the kind of suicide bombings that had gone on in, in Israel. I had been briefed on that.… But I had no idea of the kind of level of attack that was in store for us.” [MSNBC, 12/9/2007] He blames his lack of knowledge on terrorism partly on the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), a partnership between the FBI and the New York City Police Department. Giuliani will state: “We already had JTTF, and got flow information no one else got. But did we get the flow of information we wanted? No. We would be told about a threat, but not about the underlying nature of the threat. I wanted all the same information the FBI had, and we didn’t get that until after 9/11.” [Village Voice, 10/23/2007] He will also complain, “I was dependent on the briefings that I was getting from… the [Clinton] administration, and… I don’t think they saw the threat as big as it was.” [MSNBC, 12/9/2007] In 2004, the 9/11 Commission asks Thomas Von Essen, who is Giuliani’s fire commissioner, what information he had about terrorism prior to 9/11. He will reply, “I was told nothing at all.” Yet in a speech in 2007, Giuliani will claim that, with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing: “Bin Laden declared war on us.… I thought it was pretty clear at the time, but a lot of people didn’t see it, couldn’t see it.” He also claims to have been “studying terrorism” for more than 30 years. [Associated Press, 6/26/2007; Village Voice, 10/23/2007]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Qaeda, Thomas Von Essen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke chairs a tabletop exercise at the White House, involving a scenario where anti-American militants fill a Learjet with explosives, and then fly it on a suicide mission toward a target in Washington, DC. Officials from the Pentagon, Secret Service, and FAA attend, and are asked how they would stop such a threat. Pentagon officials say they could launch fighters from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, but would need authorization from the president to shoot the plane down, and currently there is no system to do this. The 9/11 Commission later states: “There was no clear resolution of the problem at the exercise.” [Slate, 7/22/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 345, 457-458]

Entity Tags: Langley Air Force Base, US Secret Service, US Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Military Exercises, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Paul Nenninger.Paul Nenninger. [Source: KRCU]The US Secret Service runs training exercises that involve computer simulations of planes crashing into the White House, in order to test security there. [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]
Plane Crash Scenarios Test White House Security - Secret Service agent Paul Nenninger has, since 1997, been assigned to the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland, where he serves as program manager in charge of the Security and Incident Modeling Lab (SIMLAB). [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 299] In a 2005 book, he will write that from 1998 up until the time of the 9/11 attacks, the Rowley Training Center is “crashing planes into the White House… on a simulation program provided by the military.” This is done “to test the security responses of the various agencies that interact to provide security and support to the White House.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175] The plane crash scenarios are perhaps inspired by an incident in 1994, when a suicidal pilot crashed a Cessna into the White House grounds (see September 11, 1994). Time magazine reported at the time that “security officials have long feared in private [that] the White House is vulnerable to sneak attack from the air.” [Time, 9/26/1994; New York Times, 10/3/2001]
Exercises Held Based on 'Terrorist Attacks on the White House' - Nenninger will not state whether the simulated plane crashes are imagined to be part of a terrorist attack. However, he will comment that simulations “allow you to practice scenarios that can be attempted by a terrorist or other deranged individual.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 177-178] And in May 2001, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill testifies that the Secret Service “holds interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House.” However, it is unclear if he is referring to the same exercises as those described by Nenninger. [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001]
Secret Service Uses Advanced Analytical Software - For the simulations, the Secret Service has what Nenninger will describe as “a very good piece of analytical software” called the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS). This program was developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. It was released by LLNL in 1998 and distributed to the Secret Service by the Joint Warfighting Center at Fort Monroe, Virginia. [Science and Technology Review, 9/2000; Nenninger, 2005, pp. 176] JCATS can handle things like “alarms” and “FAA radar” in the simulations, according to Nenninger. The computer simulations are particularly popular with the Secret Service’s special operations units, which request “more and more time in SIMLAB.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 184-185]
Colleague Says 'You Know All about That' in Response to Attack on WTC - On the morning of September 11, 2001, Nenninger is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, for a board meeting. When he and the others there for the meeting learn that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center, another Secret Service agent in the room points at Nenninger and, referring to the computer simulations he has been involved with, comments, “You know all about that.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Paul O’Neill, Paul L. Nenninger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

Ken Williams.Ken Williams. [Source: FBI]The FBI field office in Phoenix, Arizona, investigates a possible Middle Eastern extremist taking flight lessons at a Phoenix airport. FBI agent Ken Williams initiates an investigation into the possibility of Islamic militants learning to fly aircraft, but he has no easy way to query a central FBI database about similar cases. Because of this and other FBI communication problems, he remains unaware of most US intelligence reports about the potential use of airplanes as weapons, as well as other, specific FBI warnings issued in 1998 and 1999 concerning Islamic militants training at US flight schools (see May 15, 1998; September 1999). Williams will write the “Phoenix memo” in July 2001 (see July 10, 2001). He had been alerted about some suspicious flight school students in 1996, but it is not clear if this person was mentioned in that previous alert or not (see October 1996). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ken Williams, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Phoenix Memo, Hani Hanjour, Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training

Robert Baer.Robert Baer. [Source: Publicity photo]In December 1997, former CIA agent Robert Baer, newly retired from the CIA and working as a terrorism consultant, meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before, and whom he calls the “black prince.” Al Thani tells Baer that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was being sheltered by then Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani in 1996 (see January-May 1996). However, the black prince knows other details, based on what Qatari police and intelligence learned when KSM was in the country. He says that KSM is chief of al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations (see Early 1998). KSM was leading an al-Qaeda cell in Qatar together with Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, the brother of the Egyptian who had killed Anwar Sadat. They also were linked to bomber Ramzi Yousef. But what worries the black prince is that KSM and Islambouli are experts in hijacking commercial planes. He tells Baer that KSM “is going to hijack some planes.” Further, he says that KSM has moved to the Czech Republic, and has also traveled to Germany to meet bin Laden associates there. In early 1998 Baer sends this information to a friend in the CIA Counterterrorist Center, who forwards the information to his superiors. Baer doesn’t hear back from the CIA. He says, “There was no interest.” [Baer, 2002, pp. 270-71; Vanity Fair, 2/2002; United Press International, 9/30/2002; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Later in 1998, President Clinton will be briefed about a hijacking threat in the US involving Islambouli, but it is unclear if Islambouli was actually involved in the 9/11 plot or any other hijacking plots targeting the US (see December 4, 1998). He will not have been captured by March 2008. Baer tries to interest reporter Daniel Pearl in a story about KSM before 9/11, but Pearl will still be working on it when he is kidnapped and later murdered in early 2002. [United Press International, 4/9/2004] Baer also tries to interest New York Times reporter James Risen in the information about KSM. But just before Risen can come to the Middle East to meet the black prince, the black prince is kidnapped in Lebanon and sent to prison in Qatar. There will be speculation that the CIA turned on the source to protect its relationship with the Qatari government. Risen will publish an article in July 1999 about KSM, but it will not include most of the information from the black prince, since Risen will not be able to confirm it. [New York Times, 7/8/1999; BBC, 7/25/1999; Gertz, 2002, pp. 55-58; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Al-Thani will continue to support al-Qaeda, even hosting visits by bin Laden between 1996 and 2000 (see 1996-2000). [ABC News, 2/7/2003] Yet the US will not have frozen al-Thani’s assets or taken other action by March 2008.

Entity Tags: James Risen, Robert Baer, Ramzi Yousef, Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Daniel Pearl, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, Counterterrorist Center, Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Key Warnings

The CIA apparently ignores a warning from a recently retired CIA agent that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is heading al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations. Robert Baer left the CIA in late 1997 and began private consulting in the Middle East. Baer soon meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before. Al Thani tells Baer that KSM is now bin Laden’s chief of terrorist operations, and gives Baer other details about KSM, including how some Qatari royals helped KSM escape Qatar the year before after the CIA tracked him there (see January-May 1996 and Early 1998). In early 1998, Baer passes all this information on to a friend still in the CIA, who then passes it on to the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. But the friend writes back a week later, saying the CIA showed no interest. [Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] The 9/11 Commission, by contrast, will later claim that, in 1997 and 1998, KSM has some links with al-Qaeda, but mostly helps them collect newspaper articles and update computer equipment. Supposedly, not until after the August 1998 embassy bombings does he begin working directly with al-Qaeda on plotting attacks. This account appears entirely based on KSM’s testimony taken while in US custody. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 149-150] It will later be reported that up to 90 percent of KSM’s testimony could be inaccurate, mostly due to the use of torture (see Late August 1998). Further, the CIA gained evidence shortly after the embassy bombings that KSM was one of the masterminds of those bombings, which would strongly support Baer’s information over the 9/11 Commission version (see August 6, 2007).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Robert Baer, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, 9/11 Commission, Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Dietrich Snell.Dietrich Snell. [Source: Morris Mac Matzen/ Associated Press]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer. Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, will say after 9/11 that he does not remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirm that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell will claim he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plane and fly it into CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent US buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that KSM later will adjust and turn into the 9/11 plot (see January 20, 1995) (see February-Early May 1995). While Philippine investigators claim this information was passed on to US intelligence, it’s not clear just which US officials may have learned this information and what they did with it, if anything. [New York Daily News, 9/25/2001] Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. [Albany Times-Union, 9/22/2002] After 9/11, Snell will go on to become Senior Counsel and a team leader for the 9/11 Commission. Author Peter Lance later calls Snell “one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission’s final report.” Lance says Snell ignored evidence presented to the Commission that shows direct ties between the Bojinka plot and 9/11, and in so doing covers up Snell’s own role in the failure to make more use of evidence learned from Murad and other Bojinka plotters. [FrontPage Magazine, 1/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, World Trade Center, Dietrich Snell, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Abdul Hakim Murad, Operation Bojinka, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Luc Besson.Luc Besson. [Source: Publicity photo]Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox works on producing WW3.com, a movie about cyber-terrorists declaring war on the United States, which will include a 9/11-like scene where a Boeing 767 crashes into New York’s Central Park. [Variety, 1/26/1998; Fox News, 6/3/2002] The storyline of WW3.com is rooted in a 1997 article in Wired magazine, which described the potential for the US becoming engaged in a cataclysmic and nation-crippling “information war.” [Wired, 5/1997; Variety, 8/24/2000; New York Times, 6/27/2007] 20th Century Fox acquires the rights to this article in January 1998, as source material for the movie. Screenwriter David Marconi, who previously wrote the action movie Enemy of the State, works on the script.
Idea behind Movie Is a 'Blueprint for Disaster' - WW3.com will “blend the tensions of a Cold War thriller with a high-concept, special effects-laden storyline involving cyber-terrorists who have declared war on the United States,” according to Variety magazine. [Variety, 1/26/1998] The idea of the movie, according to Marconi, is “about basically turning the US into Kuwait. It was a blueprint for disaster.” The climax of the story features a Boeing 767 crashing into a Simon and Garfunkel concert in Central Park, just a few miles from the World Trade Center. [Fox News, 6/3/2002] The two planes that crash into the WTC on September 11 are also Boeing 767s. [Fox News, 9/11/2003] Marconi will later comment that the screenplay for WW3.com “was incredibly prescient about the events of September 11.”
NSA Employees Suggest 9/11-Like Scenarios - Experts from the National Security Agency (NSA) assist Marconi while he is working on the screenplay. These experts, Marconi will recall, are “more than helpful in laying out situations not dissimilar from what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon” on September 11, although he will provide no details of these situations. Marconi will add: “One of my experts [at the NSA] told Boeing they had trouble with their avionics. He came up with scenarios. One was that a guy disguises himself as someone who works in food service in order to get on the plane. It’s much more low-tech than you think.” On the day of the 9/11 attacks, one of the people at the NSA who has been assisting Marconi calls the screenwriter and says to him, “Turn on the TV, it’s happening.” [Fox News, 6/3/2002]
Movie 'in Limbo' by 2002 - In August 2000, Variety reports that the well-known French film writer, director, and producer Luc Besson will produce WW3.com, although at this time the movie is still without a director. [Variety, 8/24/2000] But in June 2002, Fox News will report that the movie has been “lost in limbo.” [Fox News, 6/3/2002] The script will eventually be rewritten and made into the fourth Die Hard movie, Live Free or Die Hard, which is released in 2007. [Variety, 7/6/2004; New York Times, 6/27/2007] WW3.com is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten after the 9/11 attacks (see February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001; Washington Times, 3/7/2002]

Entity Tags: David Marconi, Luc Besson, 20th Century Fox, National Security Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

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Key Events

Key Day of 9/11 Events (99)Key Hijacker Events (142)Key Warnings (33)

Day of 9/11

All Day of 9/11 Events (1387)Flight AA 11 (146)Flight UA 175 (95)Flight AA 77 (160)Flight UA 93 (235)George Bush (136)Dick Cheney (58)Donald Rumsfeld (38)Richard Clarke (36)Pentagon (134)World Trade Center (87)Shanksville, Pennsylvania (25)Alleged Passenger Phone Calls (71)Training Exercises (58)

The Alleged 9/11 Hijackers

Alhazmi and Almihdhar (333)Marwan Alshehhi (123)Mohamed Atta (190)Hani Hanjour (72)Ziad Jarrah (66)Other 9/11 Hijackers (145)Possible Hijacker Associates in US (33)Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training (68)Hijacker Contact w Government in US (34)Possible 9/11 Hijacker Funding (9)HIjacker Visas and Immigration (6)

Alhazmi and Almihdhar: Specific Cases

Bayoumi and Basnan Saudi Connection (47)CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar (116)Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US (39)

Projects and Programs

Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit (165)Able Danger (59)Phoenix Memo (27)Yemen Hub (70)

Before 9/11

Warning Signs (307)Insider Trading/ Foreknowledge (47)Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11 (59)Alleged Israeli Spy Ring (23)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (197)Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11 (25)Military Exercises (84)1993 WTC Bombing (18)Other Pre-9/11 Events (49)

Warning Signs: Specific Cases

Foreign Intelligence Warnings (32)Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB (40)Presidential Level Warnings (29)

The Post-9/11 World

9/11 Investigations (559)9/11 Related Criminal Proceedings (14)9/11 Denials (29)US Government and 9/11 Criticism (45)9/11 Related Lawsuits (22)Media (35)Other Events (78)

Investigations: Specific Cases

9/11 Commission (185)Role of Philip Zelikow (82)9/11 Congressional Inquiry (29)CIA OIG 9/11 Report (16)FBI 9/11 Investigation (104)WTC Investigation (110)

Other Al-Qaeda-Linked Figures

Anwar Al-Awlaki (15)Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (106)Mohammed Haydar Zammar (34)Nabil Al-Marabh (29)Osama bin Laden (10)Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh (66)Zacarias Moussaoui (152)Al-Qaeda's Hamburg Cell (112)
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