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9/11 Timeline

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

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Osama bin Laden is pictured on the cover of the Amalgam Virgo exercise.
Osama bin Laden is pictured on the cover of the Amalgam Virgo exercise. [Source: NORAD]The US military conducts Amalgam Virgo 01, a multi-agency live-fly homeland security exercise sponsored by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and involving the hypothetical scenario of a cruise missile being launched by “a rogue [government] or somebody” from a barge off the East Coast. Osama bin Laden is pictured on the cover of the proposal for the exercise. (Gilmore 6/4/2002; Arkin 2005, pp. 253; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) The exercise takes place at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Drones simulating cruise missiles are launched from Tyndall, head out to sea, circle a ship as if they are being launched from there, and then head back to land. Air Force F-16s, Navy gunners, and Army missile defense units attempt to find and track the drones. The Coast Guard attempts to catch the ship serving as the dummy launch site. (Coryell 6/3/2001) Another scenario in the exercise involves a suicide mission in which a Haitian man with AIDS attempts to deliberately crash a small private plane into NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall AFB. (US Air Force 2001) The next Amalgam Virgo exercise, scheduled to take place in 2002, will involve two simultaneous commercial aircraft hijackings. Planning for that exercise will begin in July 2001 (see July 2001). (Gilmore 6/4/2002; Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004)

Associates of the 9/11 hijackers call a number in Yemen also called by the radicals who bombed two US embassies in East Africa in 1998. The calls, which MSNBC says are made “in the weeks before the attacks,” are presumably to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, run by Ahmed al-Hada, an associate of Nairobi embassy bomber Mohamed al-Owhali (see August 4-25, 1998). The number is monitored by US intelligence at this time and is also called by the hijackers themselves (see Early 2000-Summer 2001), at least one of the calls being around this time (see (August 2001)). But it is not clear what intelligence the NSA and CIA gleaned from these calls or which associates of the hijackers make the calls. (MSNBC 10/3/2001) However, it is thought that one of the hijackers’ associates, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, met with an associate of al-Hada’s in Yemen the year before (see Before October 12, 2000) and traveled to Yemen before the bombing of the USS Cole (see October 10-21, 2000).

The New York State Insurance Disaster Coalition, which comprises a number of public and private organizations, holds two training exercises based around the scenario of a hurricane hitting the state, and these will improve the response of insurance companies and other coalition members to the 9/11 attacks just weeks later. The Disaster Coalition was recently set up by the State of New York, modeled on the “Partners in Recovery” program established in Florida after Hurricane Andrew struck the state in 1992. The Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) developed a national program called State Disaster Coalitions that would be responsible for creating long-term partnerships between public and private sector leaders so as to enhance cooperation, communication, and the use of resources after a catastrophic event. New York then became the first state in the US to develop the IBHS State Disaster Coalition model. Its Disaster Coalition includes the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the New York Department of Insurance, the New York Insurance Association, and several insurance companies. (Ryland 3/2002; Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado 2003, pp. 449) The Disaster Coalition has developed the “New York State Insurance Disaster Response Plan,” which enables the creation of a new public-private disaster planning team in order to expedite the state’s response to catastrophes and facilitate the recovery of those who have insured losses. (Gregory V. Serio 5/10/2001)
Exercises Consider a Hurricane Striking the State - Members of the Disaster Coalition now participate in two tabletop exercises and technology tests, to assess the program’s readiness and the thoroughness of the program’s strategy. The exercises, which are led by the SEMO, are based around the scenario of a major hurricane hitting Long Island. Participants will subsequently consider both exercises to have been successful. It will be determined that the Disaster Coalition is ready to deal with an emergency, and the necessary infrastructure is in place to implement an effective and unified public-private response to a major catastrophic event in the state.
Coalition's Response Plan Will Be Activated on 9/11 - The Disaster Coalition will play a significant role a few weeks later, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Its representatives will assemble at the Insurance Emergency Operations Center in Albany, where they will work as part of a team on behalf of the victims of the attacks. The New York State Insurance Disaster Response Plan will be activated within two hours of the collapses of the Twin Towers. Despite the unprecedented challenge the attacks present, the financial needs of most victims who file insurance claims will be met. Furthermore, the number of complaints will be unusually low for such a huge catastrophe. Despite nearly 19,000 insurance claims being made, only 20 complaints will be filed.
Plan Will Be Found to Have Improved the Response to the 9/11 Attacks - Disaster Coalition members and insurance catastrophe team leaders will meet two months after the attacks to assess how well their plan functioned throughout the crisis. At the gathering, one insurance company representative will comment that colleagues in his home office had known New York could handle the unprecedented events because the state “had a Disaster Coalition capable of responding in the best way possible under catastrophic conditions.” Commenting on the success of the program, Harvey Ryland, president and CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, will write: “It’s hard to think that things could have been worse on September 11, but the lessons learned from [Hurricane] Andrew led the way so that victims could be helped faster and recovery could take place more quickly, through public and private partnership.” (George E. Pataki and Gregory V. Serio 12/31/2001, pp. 12 pdf file; Ryland 3/2002)

Chief Ray Downey of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) firmly believes that a major terrorist attack in the United States is imminent. According to a book written by his nephew, in the months before 9/11, Downey has on his desk “all the reports he can get his hands on about the threat of terrorism.” This is because he “has become convinced that a major terrorist attack is coming and that very few people in New York, or the United States, are prepared for this eventuality.” (Downey 2004, pp. 218-219)
Fire Chief Warns, 'We're Gonna Get Hit Bad' - Downey was in charge of rescue operations following the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993 (see February 26, 1993), the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996. (Goldstein 11/22/2001; Fire Engineering 3/2002) Having witnessed the aftermath of these attacks, he now feels “certain that a big one [is] coming next.” Whenever a conversation turns to the subject of terrorism, he warns, “We’re gonna get hit bad.” Furthermore, the 1993 WTC bombing demonstrated to him that Islamic terrorists see New York as their prime target. Downey has discussed his concerns with his men and outlined various scenarios to them. He thinks the “big one” is most likely going to be an attack involving a chemical or dirty bomb in an urban environment. (Downey 2004, pp. 224)
Chief Has Planned the Fire Department's Response to Terrorism - Downey is in charge of the FDNY’s renowned Special Operations Command (SOC). (Crittle and Venezia 12/16/2001; Fire Engineering 3/2002) The SOC is an elite group of firefighters who respond to unique fire and emergency situations, and its members are trained to deal with catastrophes. (McPhee 10/21/2001; Rifilato 7/13/2007; Smithsonian 8/31/2013) As head of the unit, Downey is responsible for planning the FDNY’s response to terrorist attacks. He has “worked out various scenarios for terrorist attacks—who would be the first, second, and third of his companies on scene; what would each unit do,” according to the book by his nephew. He has “studied floor plans of major landmarks, looked at aerial views of [New York], thought about traffic routes, bridges, and tunnels.” (Downey 2004, pp. 222-223)
Chief Serves on a Government Commission on Terrorism - Downey is also a member of the Gilmore Commission, an advisory panel established in 1999 to assess America’s capabilities for responding to domestic terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. (Goldstein 11/22/2001; Fire Engineering 3/2002) And in his spare time, he has traveled around the country, “preaching the need to prepare for terrorism,” according to Hal Bruno, chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. (Moore 9/13/2001)

John O’Neill, special agent in charge of the FBI’s national security division in New York, and two other senior FBI officials meet New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to discuss the threat of an imminent terrorist attack. O’Neill attends the briefing along with Kenneth Maxwell, the FBI agent in charge of counterterrorism in New York, and Barry Mawn, director of the FBI’s New York office. The three men present evidence indicating an imminent terrorist plot. Maxwell says everything suggests a big attack is being planned. At the end of the briefing, Kerik asks, “Could that happen here?” Maxwell says the attack is more likely to occur abroad than in the United States. “I can’t say for sure that it wouldn’t, but historically al-Qaeda has always attacked us overseas,” he replies. All the same, he adds, “They’re definitely planning something huge.” FBI agents are currently trying to determine what is happening with the summer’s high level of al-Qaeda threats (see Summer 2001). “Things were happening; people were on standby,” FBI agent Abby Perkins will later comment. But, Perkins will say, “Everyone thought it’d be an international attack.” (Graff 2011, pp. 298)

9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah spends three days in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On June 2, Jarrah flies from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Philadelphia International Airport. He has a round trip ticket, with his return flight booked for June 9. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, he rents a Chevrolet Cavalier from Alamo Rent a Car at the airport. Jarrah stays for the three days at the Best Western Hotel in northeast Philadelphia, registering there in his own name. On June 3 and 4, he pays for three sessions of computer use—lasting 45 minutes, 51 minutes, and 48 minutes—at the Kinko’s store in Philadelphia, and spends time on the Internet. Also on those two days, Jarrah has sessions training at the Hortman Aviation flight school (see June 3-4, 2001). Jarrah’s whereabouts on June 6 are unknown; he will not use the “back end” of his round trip ticket to fly back to Fort Lauderdale that day. On June 7, Jarrah will drive the rented Chevrolet to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and leave it at the Alamo car rental location there, having driven 455 miles in it. He will then fly to Las Vegas (see June 7-10, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 3/20/2002, pp. 48, 50-51; 9/11 Commission 1/2004 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 54-55 pdf file)

Hortman Aviation.Hortman Aviation. [Source: Hortman Aviation Services Inc.]9/11 hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah has two sessions of training at a flight school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but is denied a request to rent a plane from there due to his inadequate piloting skills. Jarrah arrived in Philadelphia on June 2 (see June 2-5, 2001). The following day, he arrives at Hortman Aviation, a flight school at the Northeast Philadelphia Airport, and asks to rent a Piper Cherokee aircraft from there. (9/11 Commission 4/27/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 242; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 54 pdf file) He indicates that he has 225 hours of flying time, and says he has a private pilot’s license but is working on his commercial license. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 3/20/2002, pp. 50-51)
Jarrah Wants to Fly the Hudson Corridor - Jarrah tells Herbert Hortman, the owner and operator of Hortman Aviation, that he is “in town for a couple of days” and that he is interested in flying along the Hudson Corridor. (9/11 Commission 4/27/2004 pdf file) The Hudson Corridor is a “hallway” along the Hudson River where a pilot can fly at low altitude without having to fly on radar. It passes New York landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center, but heavy air traffic makes it a dangerous route for an inexperienced pilot to fly. Hortman will later reflect that, in hindsight, he finds it “highly unusual” for someone from Florida, like Jarrah, to know of the Hudson Corridor. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 3/20/2002, pp. 51; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 242)
Instructor Finds Jarrah Has Poor Landing Skills - Hortman assigns David Powell, an instructor at the flight school, to take Jarrah on a “check out” flight, to determine his piloting skills. Accompanied by Powell, Jarrah flies across the Delaware River to New Jersey and lands at the Flying W Airport in Lumberton. During the flight, Jarrah tells Powell that he is from Germany and that he learned to fly in Florida. Although Jarrah is able to complete the flight, he is deemed to be unsatisfactory in his ability to land the aircraft: He lands the Piper Cherokee, which has fixed, un-retractable landing gear, on the nose gear, rather than using the proper technique of landing it on its main gear. Powell tells him he will have to return the following day for a second check out flight.
Jarrah Has Second 'Check Out' Flight, but Instructor Still Unhappy - Jarrah returns to the flight school on June 4 and takes the second check out flight. Although he handles the plane more effectively this time, Powell notes that on this occasion there is minimal wind, and so Jarrah’s landings are unaffected by the wind. Powell also finds that Jarrah has difficulty using the plane’s radio and contacting the control tower at the Northeast Philadelphia Airport. He does not recommend that Jarrah be allowed to rent an aircraft from Hortman Aviation. Herbert Hortman tells Jarrah he will need to return to the flight school for another day of instruction before he will be allowed to rent and fly an aircraft from there. Jarrah schedules a third lesson and check out flight, but never returns to Hortman Aviation. Although Jarrah has an FAA pilot’s license that was issued in Florida, Hortman is surprised he has qualified for this, considering his limited flying skills, and speculates that the license was issued by a less than reputable flying school. (9/11 Commission 4/12/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 4/27/2004 pdf file)
Jarrah Accompanied by Unidentified Older Man - On at least one occasion when Jarrah attends Hortman Aviation, he is accompanied by another man, who he introduces as his “uncle.” The man is also Middle Eastern, but has a darker complexion than Jarrah. Hortman will later describe him as being of average height and in his mid to late 40s. He is “appropriately dressed” and does not appear to be a recent immigrant to the United States. Hortman is unable to tell whether the man understands English, as Jarrah does all the talking. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 3/20/2002, pp. 51; 9/11 Commission 4/27/2004 pdf file) Like Jarrah, Hani Hanjour, the alleged hijacker pilot of Flight 77 on 9/11, requests flights along the Hudson Corridor around this time, at a flight school in New Jersey (see (April-July 2001)). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 242)

At some point in 2000, three men claiming to be Afghans but using Pakistani passports entered the Cayman Islands, possibly illegally. (Whitefield 9/20/2001) In late 2000, Cayman and British investigators began a yearlong probe of these men, which will last until 9/11. (Serrano and Dahlburg 9/20/2001) They are overheard discussing hijacking attacks in New York City during this period. On this day, they are taken into custody, questioned, and released some time later. This information is forwarded to US intelligence. (Cameron 5/17/2002) In late August, a letter to a Cayman radio station will allege these same men are agents of bin Laden “organizing a major terrorist act against the US via an airline or airlines.” (Whitefield 9/20/2001; Serrano and Dahlburg 9/20/2001)

A warrant is issued for the arrest of Mohamed Atta in the state of Florida. On April 26, Atta had been stopped in a random inspection near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and given a citation for having no driver’s license (see April 26, 2001). He failed to show up for his May 28 court hearing, resulting in the arrest warrant. After this, Atta will fly all over the US using his real name, and even flies to Spain and back in July (see July 8-19, 2001), but is never stopped or questioned. The police apparently never try to find him. (Wall Street Journal 10/16/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation 11/12/2001) Atta will be stopped for speeding in July, but apparently his arrest warrant will not have been added to the police database by then (see July 5, 2001). Three other future 9/11 hijackers are also stopped for speeding in the US (see April 1, 2001, August 1, 2001, and September 9, 2001). Curiously, on the day of 9/11, a woman claiming to be Atta’s wife will go to a Florida courthouse and attempt to clear this from Atta’s record, but Atta does not have a wife (see September 11, 2001).

A deputy head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center warns a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee, “We’re on the verge of more attacks that are larger and more deadly.” Apparently this is based on the spike in “chatter” picked up by NSA and CIA monitors and the realization that a number of well-known al-Qaeda operatives have gone underground. (Zeman et al. 11/2004)

Future 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi possibly enters an airline cockpit using an alias. According to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks, a person matching Alshehhi’s photograph but using the name Matthew Cohen boards an American Airlines Boeing 767 flight from New York City to San Francisco. This person asks for and gets a tour of the cockpit just before the flight takes off. He talks to the pilot and asks questions, such as how high and fast the plane can fly, and how much fuel it can hold. The pilot will later recognize Alshehhi from a news photograph. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 4/19/2002) Another of the 9/11 hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, flies from Baltimore to Los Angeles on this same day, and then drives to Las Vegas, so perhaps Alshehhi is meeting other hijackers in Las Vegas (see June 7-10, 2001).

Ziad Jarrah.Ziad Jarrah. [Source: National Geographic]9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah takes a trip to Las Vegas, and will reportedly later say he was followed on the trip. One of the hijackers’ associates, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, will later say that Jarrah felt he was followed on a flight from New York to California by “security officers.” Bin al-Shibh will also say that fellow hijacker Marwan Alshehhi was followed on a similar flight (see May 24-27, 2001). Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar also thought they were followed on a flight to the US (see January 15, 2000 and Mid-July 2000). (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 135) Jarrah flies first class from Baltimore to Los Angeles on a United Airlines Boeing 757, the same type of plane he will apparently fly on 9/11, and then continues to Las Vegas. Three days later he returns his rental car, having driven 350 miles, and flies back to Baltimore, where he boards a plane back to Fort Lauderdale. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 23 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 55 pdf file) His uncle will describe the trip as a “gambling junket.” (Williams 10/23/2001) Several other hijackers also travel to Vegas (see May 24-August 14, 2001).

Margaret Gillespie.Margaret Gillespie. [Source: Doug Dreyer / Associated Press]The FBI and the CIA hold a meeting to discuss the investigation into the USS Cole bombing and a possible connection between it and al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit (see January 5-8, 2000). However, the CIA and FBI headquarters refuse to share all they know, and agents investigating the Cole bombing become angry over this.
Attendees - The meeting, which lasts between two and four hours, is attended by CIA officer Clark Shannon, FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi, an FBI agent loaned to the CIA named Margaret Gillespie, FBI agent Steve Bongardt, FBI agent Russell Fincher, and Assistant US Attorney David Kelley.
Purpose - Although there is no agenda for the meeting and Corsi will later say it is a brainstorming session, author Lawrence Wright will say that one of the reasons for the meeting is that CIA officer Tom Wilshire, an associate of Shannon’s, “want[ed] to know… what the FBI knew” about al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit. (ABC News 8/16/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 289-294 pdf file; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file) FBI agent Ali Soufan will also say that he later learned that Wilshire “was fishing to see if the FBI knew anything about the men in the photos.” (Soufan 2011, pp. 243)
Photos Shown - Initially, Bongardt and Fincher brief Shannon on progress in the Cole investigation. Corsi then shows the two Cole investigators three photographs taken at al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit in 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000), showing future 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, and another man, and Shannon asks if the agents recognize Fahad al-Quso, who is thought to have attended the Malaysia summit and has been interviewed by the FBI. However, one of the photos shows Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and a tree, and the CIA has already recognized Almihdhar and Alhazmi, so it is unclear how the Cole investigators are supposed to recognize al-Quso in the photo. Corsi received the photographs from Wilshire, but Wilshire did not provide her with all the relevant information about them (see Late May, 2001).
Questions Asked - Bongardt and Fincher ask who is in the pictures, why were taken, and whether there are other photos of the meeting. Shannon refuses to say, but Corsi eventually admits one of the men is named Khalid Almihdhar. As a name alone is not sufficient reason to start an investigation, Bongardt asks for a date of birth or other details that will allow him to know which Khalid Almihdhar in the world is being discussed, but Shannon refuses to provide them. Shannon admits that Almihdhar was traveling on a Saudi passport and then leaves the meeting. Lawrence Wright will say that providing a date of birth is “standard procedure—the first thing most investigators would do.” Realizing that the photos pertain to the Cole investigation, Bongardt and Fincher become angry at the lack of information being provided and the meeting descends into a “shouting match.” (ABC News 8/16/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 289-294 pdf file; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file)
What Shannon Knew - Shannon will later admit that at this time he knew Almihdhar had a US visa, that Alhazmi had traveled to the US in 2000, that al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash had been recognized in one of the photos, and that Alhazmi was known to be an experienced operative. However, he does not tell any of this to any FBI agents, as he apparently thinks he does not have the authority. He does not let them keep copies of the photos either and will give conflicting accounts of the meeting after 9/11 (see Between September 12, 2001 and October 17, 2002). (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 289-292 pdf file)
Corsi Withholds Information - Corsi has NSA information saying Almihdhar and Alhazmi attended the Malaysia meeting, but apparently believes that the Cole agents cannot be told more because of restrictions on sharing intelligence with criminal agents (see July 19, 1995). However, one of the Cole agents present is an intelligence agent, so the information can be communicated to him immediately without Corsi obtaining permission from the NSA and/or Justice Department. In addition, the NSA sent the information to the FBI’s New York field office, where the Cole investigators are based, in 1999 (see December 1999-January 2000). Furthermore, when she asks the NSA’s permission to share the information 10 weeks later, the NSA approves the request on the same day (see August 27-28, 2001). She does not share the information at this time, but promises Bongardt and Fincher to try to do so later. The Cole agents will not receive more information for months. (US Congress 9/20/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 269, 537)
Almihdhar Gets New Visa - Two days after this meeting, Almihdhar has no trouble getting a new, multiple reentry US visa (see May 2001 and June 13, 2001). (Pound 12/12/2001; US Congress 9/20/2002)

Saeed Alghamdi.Saeed Alghamdi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi is seen in a Florida hotel by the manager before he is said to enter the US. Although the 9/11 Commission will say he arrives in America on June 27 (see April 23-June 29, 2001), the manager of the Deluxe Inn in Dania, Florida, will tell the FBI that he stays there for these three nights from June 11-14 together with fellow hijackers Mohamed Atta, Ahmed Alnami, and Marwan Alshehhi, who completed the registration forms. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 157 pdf file)

Future 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi goes into a branch of the SunTrust Bank in Del Ray, Florida, apparently with fellow hijacker Hamza Alghamdi. Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta opened an account at SunTrust in July 2000, and Alshehhi tells the teller that he wants to cash a check for $2,818 and then use the money to purchase a cashier’s check to rent a nearby apartment. However, he arouses suspicion by presenting identification documents with different addresses and the bank personnel think the signature on the check does not match the signature on the file. The bank manager refuses to cash the check, and issues a 30-day internal alert to other SunTrust branches to watch out for possible fraud. But the next day, the alert is cancelled. After 9/11, SunTrust will be unable to figure out why this happened. A later review will show that Alshehhi does not cash any check at any branch around this time. Alghamdi also has a SunTrust bank account, but he also does not cash any check around this time. (9/11 Commission 4/13/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 53, 140 pdf file)

A CIA report says that a man named “Khaled” is actively recruiting people to travel to various countries, including the US, to stage attacks. CIA headquarters presume from the details of this report that Khaled is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). On July 11, the individual source for this report is shown a series of photographs and identifies KSM as the person he called “Khaled.” (Diamond 12/12/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 277, 533) This report also reveals that:
bullet Al-Qaeda operatives heading to the US would be “expected to establish contact with colleagues already living there.”
bullet KSM himself had traveled to the US frequently, and as recently as May 2001.
bullet KSM is a relative of bomber Ramzi Yousef.
bullet He appears to be one of bin Laden’s most trusted leaders.
bullet He routinely tells others that he can arrange their entry into the US as well. However, the CIA doesn’t find this report credible because they think it is unlikely that he would come to the US (in fact, it appears he had (see Summer 1998)). Nevertheless, they consider it worth pursuing. One agent replies, “If it is KSM, we have both a significant threat and an opportunity to pick him up.” In July, the source clarifies that the last time he can definitely place KSM in the US was in the summer of 1998 (see Summer 1998). The CIA disseminates the report to all other US intelligence agencies, military commanders, and parts of the Treasury and Justice Departments. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later request that the CIA inform them how CIA agents and other agencies reacted to this information, but the CIA does not respond to this. (US Congress 7/24/2003) It appears that KSM will send at least one and probably two operatives to the US after this time and before 9/11 (see August 4, 2001 and September 10, 2001). On July 23, 2001, the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will give KSM a US visa (he uses an alias but his actual photo appears on his application) (see July 23, 2001). Also, during this summer and as late as September 10, 2001, the NSA will intercept phone calls between KSM and Mohamed Atta, but the NSA will not share this information with any other agencies (see Summer 2001).

Following a meeting at which FBI agents investigating the attack on the USS Cole were shown pictures of operatives who attended al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, including 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, but were not given all the relevant information (see June 11, 2001), deputy head of the investigation Steve Bongardt continues to ask for the material, but FBI headquarters fails to provide it. Bongardt apparently has “heated telephone conversations and e-mail exchanges” with FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi over the passage of the information. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 291, 294 pdf file) Bongardt will tell the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, “I’ve had several conversations with the analyst [Corsi] after that, because we would talk on other matters, and almost every time I would ask her, ‘What’s the story with the Almihdhar information, when is it going to get passed, do we have anything yet, when is it going to get passed,’ and each time I was told that the information had not been passed yet. And the sense I got from here, based on our conversations, was that she was trying as hard as she could to get the information passed or at least the ability to tell us about the information.” (US Congress 9/20/2002) But in fact Corsi does not appear to take any steps towards having the information passed to the Cole investigators for two and a half months after the meeting. Part of the relevant information is from a wiretap on Almihdhar’s phone (see Shortly Before December 29, 1999) and, due to measures related to the “wall,” the NSA general counsel has to approve its passage to criminal agents. Corsi finally asks the NSA to approve passage of the information on August 27; the NSA immediately agrees, but Corsi continues to withhold the information from Bongardt (see August 27-28, 2001). The other part of the information consists of photos of the two hijackers in Malaysia with other extremists (see January 5-8, 2000). Corsi will later say she “probably” has follow up conversations about passing the photographs with the two CIA officers, Tom Wilshire and Clark Shannon, who gave them to her (see Late May, 2001), but these alleged conversations do not result in the photos being passed to Bongardt, even though Wilshire will later say that, as far as he was concerned at this point, they could be distributed through the FBI. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 294 pdf file) After Corsi is told that Almihdhar is in the US (see August 21-22, 2001), this information is made available to intelligence investigators at the FBI (see August 28, 2001), but not to the team investigating the Cole bombing (see August 28, 2001).

Future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar obtains a second US visa from the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 24-25 pdf file) The visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the future 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). (9/11 Commission 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State) 1/30/2003) Almihdhar’s passport, which was issued two weeks previously (see June 1, 2001), lacks an expiry date, but contains an indicator of possible terrorist affiliation used by the Saudi authorities to track suspected radicals (see November 2, 2007). His application form is incomplete, as it lists his occupation as “businessman,” but does not give his employer’s name and address.
Lies on Application Form - The form, which is submitted through the Visa Express program (see May 2001), meaning Almihdhar is not interviewed, contains two lies: Almihdhar says he has never received an American visa or traveled to the US, whereas he received a visa in 1999 (see April 3-7, 1999) and traveled to the US on it in 2000 (see January 15, 2000). As Almihdhar’s first visa was also issued by the Jeddah consulate, through which the CIA sent radical Arabs to the US for training during the Soviet-Afghan war (see September 1987-March 1989), consular officials could discover he is lying, but information about prior visas issuances is not automatically displayed to them.
Known Terrorist - By this time, several intelligence agencies are aware that Almihdhar is an al-Qaeda operative; for example, the CIA (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000), NSA (see December 29, 1999), FBI (see January 5-6, 2000), a US Army intelligence program (see January-February 2000), the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency (see 1997), Malaysian Special Branch (see January 5-8, 2000), and an intelligence service in the United Arab Emirates (see January 2-5, 2000)).
Parallels to Case of Blind Sheikh - Almihdhar will re-enter the US on the visa three weeks later (see July 4, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will find that the series of missteps preceding the issuance of visas to Almihdhar and the other future 9/11 hijackers has some “eerie parallels” to the “series of exceptional failures” that led to US visas being issued to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see December 15, 1986-1989 and July 1990). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 24-27, 33, 49 pdf file)

Arnaud de Borchgrave.Arnaud de Borchgrave. [Source: Publicity photo]United Press International (UPI) reporter Arnaud de Borchgrave interviews top Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Afghanistan on June 13, 2001. The next day, in an article about the interview, de Borchgrave writes, “Saudi Arabia and the [United Arab Emirates] secretly fund the Taliban government by paying Pakistan for its logistical support to Afghanistan. Despite Pakistan’s official denials, the Taliban is entirely dependent on Pakistani aid. This was verified on the ground by UPI. Everything from bottled water to oil, gasoline and aviation fuel, and from telephone equipment to military supplies, comes from Pakistan.” (de Borchgrave 6/14/2001; Waterman 4/9/2004)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak later claims that Egyptian intelligence discovers a “communiqué from bin Laden saying he wanted to assassinate President Bush and other G8 heads of state during their summit in Genoa, Italy” on this day. The communiqué specifically mentions this would be done via “an airplane stuffed with explosives.” The US and Italy are sent urgent warnings of this. (Sanger 9/26/2001) Mubarak will claim that Egyptian intelligence officials informed American intelligence officers between March and May 2001 that an Egyptian agent had penetrated al-Qaeda. Presumably, this explains how Egypt is able to give the US these warnings. (Tyler and MacFarquhar 6/4/2002)

At President Bush’s first meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels, Belgium, Bush outlines his five top defense issues. Missile defense is at the top of the list. Terrorism is not mentioned at all. This is consistent with his other statements before 9/11. Almost the only time he ever publicly mentions al-Qaeda or bin Laden before 9/11 is later in the month, in a letter that renews Clinton administration sanctions on the Taliban. (CNN 6/13/2001; Wright 4/1/2004) He only speaks publicly about the dangers of terrorism once before 9/11, in May, except for several mentions in the context of promoting a missile defense shield. (Gellman 1/20/2002)

Osama Bin Laden tells trainees in his Afghanistan training camps that there will be an attack in the near future. US intelligence learns of this comment and it is mentioned to top US leaders in an early July 2001 briefing (see July 10, 2001). More details, such as how the US learned this or how many people bin Laden told this to, have not been made public. (Tenet 2007, pp. 152) But in the summer of 2001, bin Laden is overheard making a number of similar comments hinting at upcoming attacks (see Summer 2001).

Documentation used by Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi in the United Arab Emirates.Documentation used by Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi in the United Arab Emirates. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi assists four hijackers transiting Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on their way to the US: Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Salem Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Saeed Alghamdi. Banihammad stays at al-Hawsawi’s flat in nearby Sharjah for two or three weeks and they open bank accounts together (see June 25, 2001 and Early August-August 22, 2001), and al-Hawsawi recognizes Alghamdi and Alhazmi from Afghanistan. He coordinates their arrival dates in telephone conversations with Mohamed Atta (see Late June-August, 2001) and then purchases tickets for them, paying for Alomari and Alhazmi. Al-Hawsawi provides this information to the US under interrogation, which is considered by some to make it unreliable (see June 16, 2004), and then again before a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay to determine his combat status (see March 9-April 28, 2007). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US department of Defense 3/21/2007 pdf file) It is unclear who assisted the nine muscle hijackers who transited Dubai before this: Waleed Alshehri, Satam Al Suqami, Ahmed Alghamdi, Maqed Moqed, Hamza Alghamdi, Mohand Alshehri, Ahmed Alnami, Ahmed Alhaznawi, and Wail Alshehri (see April 11-June 28, 2001 and April 23-June 29, 2001).

A major training exercise based upon a simulated terrorist attack is held in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, which neighbors Somerset County where Flight 93 crashes on 9/11. The exercise, called Mall Strike 2001, is conducted in Greengate Mall, Hempfield, and involves over 600 emergency first responders and emergency managers responding to the simulated release of a toxic chemical agent and the simulated release of radiation and radiological contamination. (Pavetti 2001 pdf file; Kline 9/11/2002) Mall Strike is organized by the Pennsylvania Region 13 Working Group: a 13-county organization that began preparing for terrorist attacks in 1998. When Flight 93 crashes on September 11, the Region 13 Working Group’s chair immediately contacts other members of the group and emergency teams are quickly deployed to the crash site. The group’s four years of preparing and working together “allowed them to develop and train teams that could work efficiently together during an event of this magnitude.” (Department of Homeland Security 3/12/2003 pdf file)

Future 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alnami apparently attempts to purchase a gun at a US gun show. According to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks, an unnamed person later tells the FBI that he is at a gun show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as a customer. But while waiting for his daughter to come out of the bathroom, a man resembling Alnami approaches him and asks how to purchase a gun without paperwork or having to wait. The person tells Alnami that it is not possible, but Alnami asserts that he understands that it is. Apparently, this is the extent of their interaction, and it is not known if this person is in fact Alnami, or if he manages to later successfully buy a gun. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 4/19/2002) There will later be some disputed claims that a gun is used by the hijackers in the 9/11 attacks (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001).

9/11 hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad applies for and receives a US visa, although his application is incomplete and his passport is only five days old. Banihammad is a citizen of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The consular officer in Abu Dhabi, UAE, who adjudicates his visa will later say that interviews were almost never required of UAE nationals for visas and it was treated as a de facto visa waiver country. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 25 pdf file) Banihammad neglects to list a present occupation or the purpose of his trip. In the field asking where he intends to stay in the US, he writes, “No.” (Mowbray 10/9/2002) He is apparently a former UAE immigration officer. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 25 pdf file) His birth date is wrongly entered into the system—as May 19, 1977, instead of March 19, 1977. This means that if he comes into contact with US consular officials again, the computer system that provides details about visa applicants will not associate this visa application with Banihammad and his real date of birth, and it will appear he did not apply for a US visa at this time. (United States General Accounting Office 10/21/2002, pp. 46 pdf file)

Future 9/11 hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari obtains a US visa from the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 525) The visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). (9/11 Commission 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State) 1/30/2003) Alomari’s application is incomplete, as he lists his home address as the Alqudos Hotel in Jeddah. He is not interviewed and the application is submitted by Attar Travel as a part of the Visa Express program (see May 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 25 pdf file) Further, Alomari leaves blank the fields for his sex, his wife’s name, and his school’s address, although he says he is a student. He claims to be a tourist, that he wants to stay two months from June 25, and that he will first stay at the JKK Whyndam Hotel. (US Department of State 6/18/2001) The 9/11 Commission will say Alomari’s passport contains fraudulent travel stamps whose use will subsequently be associated with al-Qaeda. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 563-4; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 25 pdf file)

The INS extends future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi’s permitted stay in the US, 11 months after he filed a late application to extend it (see July 12-27, 2000). The INS should not grant the extension due to the late filing, but does so anyway. It is unclear why it has taken 11 months to process the application. The approval retroactively extends Alhazmi’s stay for six months, from the date it originally expired until January 14, 2001. While his unlawful US presence after July 14, 2000 is retroactively legalized, Alhazmi’s presence after January 14, 2001 remains unlawful, and no other applications for extensions will be filed. (Immigration and Naturalization Service 2002; INS email 3/20/2002; Immigration and Naturalization Service 5/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 12, 25 pdf file) An INS report will note, “The application shouldn’t have been approved because it was filed 13 days late.” However, an official, whose name will be redacted, will write in an INS e-mail:  “Per [redacted]. This is a common occurrence that is within the adjudicator’s discretion to forgive a late filing, if it is brief and the applicant has a good story.… How do you suppose the press may spin this, and more importantly, how will the INS defend itself?” (Immigration and Naturalization Service 2002; INS email 3/20/2002) Alhazmi never receives notification of the extension, as the notice will be returned as undeliverable on March 25, 2002. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 25 pdf file) His passport contains an indicator of Islamist extremism used to track terrorists by the Saudi authorities (see March 21, 1999). The 9/11 Commission will comment that this extension is “[y]et another opportunity to spot the suspicious indicator,” but US authorities fail to do so. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 12 pdf file) The precise state of US knowledge about the indicator at this time is unknown (see Around February 1993). The CIA will learn of it no later than 2003, but will still not inform immigration officials then (see February 14, 2003).

Scenes in the al-Qaeda recruitment video show operatives training at the al-Farouq camp in Afghanistan.Scenes in the al-Qaeda recruitment video show operatives training at the al-Farouq camp in Afghanistan. [Source: CBC]An al-Qaeda recruitment video created months earlier is made public. The video had been circling amongst radical militants, but appears on the news worldwide after a Kuwaiti newspaper gets a copy. The video celebrates the bombing of the USS Cole. Bin Laden appears on the video, and while he does not take credit for the bombing, others in the video do. Bin Laden says that Muslims have to leave countries that are ruled by “allies of Jews and Christians,” and join his cause to be “prepared” for holy war. In an address to Palestinians, he calls for “blood, blood and destruction, destruction.” He says, “We give you the good news that the forces of Islam are coming…” He also issues a call to arms: “Your brothers in Palestine are waiting for you; it’s time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts the most.” He also tells his supporters to “slay the United States and Israel.” A similar video appeared shortly before the bombing of the USS Cole. (Associated Press 6/20/2001; Associated Press 6/20/2001; Newsweek 7/22/2001; Eggen and Loeb 9/11/2001) Intrest in the videotape will grow in the Muslim world in the months before the 9/11 attacks (see September 9, 2001).

9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour attempts to obtain pilot’s certification to fly at night, but is unsuccessful as he fails the test. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 67 pdf file) More details, such as the location of the airfield where the test was taken, are not known, but Hanjour’s flying skills were previously said to be poor (see January-February 2001).

9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi flies from Newark to Miami and presumably meets the other hijackers there. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243) Earlier in the month the CIA showed the FBI a photo of Alhazmi taken at a meeting in Malaysia with other al-Qaeda members, but refused to identify him in the photo (see June 11, 2001). The CIA will watchlist Alhazmi in August (see August 23, 2001), but his Florida trip apparently fails to lead US intelligence to the other hijackers. He obtains a Florida driver’s license on June 25 (see April 12-September 7, 2001), giving the same address as two of the other Florida-based hijackers, but this will not be noticed before 9/11 either. (Bousquet and Ulferts 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 26 pdf file) Alhazmi purchased his ticket for the outward journey at Apollo Travel in Paterson, New Jersey, which was also used by Mohamed Atta (see March 2001-September 1, 2001), and perhaps some of the other hijackers (see July 2001). (CNN 10/29/2001)

Future 9/11 hijacker Salem Alhazmi obtains a US visa from the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. There are some problems with his visa application, which is submitted through the Visa Express program (see May 2001):
bullet The application is incomplete;
bullet Alhazmi gives his occupation as “unemployed” (this does not concern consular staff because Saudi Arabia is a rich country);
bullet His passport is only four days old;
bullet The passport contains a suspicious indicator of Islamic extremism placed their by Saudi intelligence in order to track him (see June 16, 2001 and November 2, 2007). Some of the radicals who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 also had Saudi passports with the same indicator (see Around February 1993); (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 563-4; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 25-6 pdf file)
bullet Some of the other future hijackers who apply for visas around this time lie on their applications, claiming never to have received a US visa before, although the opposite is true (see April 23, 2001, June 12, 2001, and June 13, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will not discuss whether Alhazmi claims on this application to have received a US visa before or not, as the Commission will appear to be unaware of any such previous application by him. However, according to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Alhazmi did previously obtain a US visa, in 1999 (see April 3-7, 1999); (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004 pdf file)
bullet The NSA has been intercepting calls between Alhazmi and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen for at least two years (see Early 1999, Shortly Before December 29, 1999, and Summer 2000);
bullet The visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the future 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). (9/11 Commission 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State) 1/30/2003)

Time magazine reports: “For sheer diabolical genius (of the Hollywood variety), nothing came close to the reports that European security services are preparing to counter a bin Laden attempt to assassinate President Bush at next month’s G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. According to German intelligence sources, the plot involved bin Laden paying German neo-Nazis to fly remote-controlled model aircraft packed with Semtex into the conference hall and blow the leaders of the industrialized world to smithereens. (Paging Jerry Bruckheimer).” The report only appears on the Time website and not in the US version of the magazine. (Karon 6/20/2001) This report follows warnings given by Egypt the week before. In addition, there are more warnings before the summit in July. James Hatfield, author of an unflattering book on Bush called Fortunate Son, repeats the claim in print a few days later, writing: “German intelligence services have stated that bin Laden is covertly financing neo-Nazi skinhead groups throughout Europe to launch another terrorist attack at a high-profile American target.” (Hatfield 7/3/2001) Two weeks later, Hatfield apparently commits suicide. However, there is widespread speculation that his death was payback for his revelation of Bush’s cocaine use in the 1970s. (York 7/20/2001)

9/11 hijacker Salem Alhazmi leaves Saudi Arabia. The precise date is unknown, although it must be some time between June 20, when he obtains a US visa in Jeddah (see June 20, 2001) and June 29, when he arrives in the US from the United Arab Emirates (see April 23-June 29, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 25-27 pdf file) According to the 9/11 Commission, Alhazmi has a passport containing an indicator of Islamic extremism (see June 20, 2001). Such indicators are used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007).

Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), warns that the United States must prepare for an “asymmetric” attack resembling the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941 that led America to enter World War II. In a speech to the Operations Security Professionals Society, Franks says, “The asymmetric threat is serious and deserves our focused thought and preparation.” (“Asymmetric warfare threats,” according to the Washington Times, “include efforts by weaker powers to defeat stronger ones using attacks that can include weapons of mass destruction, the use of computer-based information warfare, and terrorism.”) Franks continues, “The point is to avoid another Pearl Harbor-like event by recognizing the threat and preparing to meet this growing challenge.” He says the US military will address how to deal with asymmetric threats in its ongoing defense transformation efforts. (Gertz and Scarborough 6/22/2001) The 9/11 attacks, which occur less than three months after Franks issues this warning, will be described as an example of “asymmetric” warfare, like what Franks is referring to. (BBC 2/9/2004; Russett, Starr, and Kinsella 2009, pp. 12; van Baarda and Verweij 2009, pp. ix; Dixit 3/9/2010) They will also be frequently compared to the attack on Pearl Harbor in the days after they occur. (James 9/12/2001; Nakao and Ness 9/14/2001) As commander in chief of CENTCOM, Franks is in charge of US military operations in a region that goes from North Africa, across the Arabian Peninsula, to Central Asia and Afghanistan. After 9/11, he will become “one of three men running the Bush administration’s military campaign against Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization,” ABC News will report. (CNN 10/24/2001; ABC News 1/7/2006) He will lead the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. (Iqbal 8/17/2004)

Baker Atyani, reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company, sits with Ayman al-Zawahiri and bin Laden.Baker Atyani, reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company, sits with Ayman al-Zawahiri and bin Laden. [Source: CNN] (click image to enlarge)Baker Atyani, a reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Company interviews bin Laden. Keeping a promise made to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, bin Laden does not say anything substantive, but Ayman al-Zawahiri and other top al-Qaeda leaders promise that “[the] coming weeks will hold important surprises that will target American and Israeli interests in the world.” (Mroue 6/24/2001; Associated Press 6/25/2001) Atyani says, “There is a major state of mobilization among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?” (Reuters 6/23/2001) He adds, “I told my channel that his followers were telling me that the coffin business will increase in the states, the United States.” (CNN 8/23/2006) After 9/11, Aytani will conclude, “I am 100 percent sure of this, and it was absolutely clear they had brought me there to hear this message.” (Bamford 2004, pp. 236) He is also shown a several-months-old videotape in which bin Laden declares, “It’s time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts most.” The video is soon made public (see June 21, 2001). (CNN 6/21/2001) Author James Bamford theorizes that the original 9/11 plot involved a simultaneous attack on Israel and that shoe bomber Richard Reid may have originally wanted to target an Israeli aircraft around this time. For instance, Reid flies to Tel Aviv, Israel on July 12, 2001, to test if airline security would check his shoes for bombs. (Bamford 2004, pp. 236-39)

The CIA notifies its station chiefs about intelligence suggesting a possible al-Qaeda suicide attack on a US target over the next few days. CIA Director George Tenet asks that all US ambassadors be briefed on the warning. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 256)

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) with the title “Bin Laden Attacks May Be Imminent” is sent to top White House officials. The details of this brief are not known. It is probable President Bush received this warning since SEIBs are usually rehashes of the previous days’ President Daily Briefing (see January 20-September 10, 2001). Also on this day a CIA cable is distributed with the title, “Possible Threat of Imminent Attack from Sunni Extremists.” The cable warns that there is a high probability of near-term “spectacular” terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 256, 534)

Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan are friends with each other and suspected associates of 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. On June 23, 2001, al-Bayoumi moves out of the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego where Almihdhar and Alhazmi had lived the year before, and possibly live in again just before 9/11 (see Early September 2001). Basnan had been living in an apartment complex nearby, but he moves into the Parkwood Apartments in July. On the rental application, Basnan lists al-Bayoumi as a personal reference and a friend. A classified FBI report shortly after 9/11 suggests that the fact that Basnan moved in shortly after al-Bayoumi left “could indicate he succeeded Omar al-Bayoumi and may be undertaking activities on behalf of the Government of Saudi Arabia.” Both Basnan and al-Bayoumi have been suspected to be Saudi government agents. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 pdf file) Al-Bayoumi moves to Britain (see September 21-28, 2001). Basnan remains in San Diego through 9/11. According to one US official, Basnan later “celebrate[s] the heroes of September 11” and talks about “what a wonderful, glorious day it had been” at a party shortly after the attacks. (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002; Reno 9/2003)

John Miller.John Miller. [Source: FBI]ABC News reporter John Miller gives a speech in which he discusses the growing indications that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has plans to carry out an attack in the United States. Miller gives his speech at the annual conference of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 286-287) The conference, held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from June 24 to June 30, is attended by around 700 law enforcement officers from around the world. (German 6/15/2001) Miller will later explain some of the thinking behind his claim that bin Laden could be planning an attack in the US. “At that time,” he will write, “US authorities were divided over where bin Laden would strike next. Most officials believed that he was aiming at ‘soft’ US targets overseas, based on his past actions and electronic phone intercepts of al-Qaeda members around the world.” Other officials, though, taking into account al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam’s failed plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999 (see December 14, 1999), believe his next attack will take place on US soil. Miller will write that a “spike in phone traffic among suspected al-Qaeda members in the early part of the summer, as well as debriefings of Ressam,” have convinced investigators that bin Laden is planning “a significant operation” and he is “planning it soon.” Furthermore, he will comment, “[N]o one working on the problem seemed to doubt bin Laden’s intentions to target Americans.” (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 287) Miller has been a correspondent for ABC News, with a primary focus on terrorism, since 1995. Notably, he interviewed bin Laden in Afghanistan in May 1998 (see May 28, 1998). Before joining ABC News, he spent many years as a television crime reporter in New York, and between 1994 and 1995 served as deputy police commissioner of New York City. (Miller 5/28/1998; Kiesewetter 1/16/2002; Federal Bureau of Investigation 8/23/2005; Powers 10/17/2011)

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) sent to top White House officials is entitled, “Bin Laden and Associates Making Near-Term Threats.” It reports that multiple attacks are expected over the coming days, including a “severe blow” against US and Israeli “interests” during the next two weeks. SEIBs usually contain the same information as the previous day’s President Daily Briefings (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable Bush received this warning. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 256, 534)

Fayez Ahmed Banihammad.Fayez Ahmed Banihammad. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]9/11 facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi uses a cash deposit to open a checking account at a Standard Chartered Bank branch in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). (Al-Hawsawi is thought by some to be an alias for Saeed Sheikh, see September 7-10, 2001 and September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002). Hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad opens a savings account and a checking account with approximately $30,000 in UAE currency, at the same branch. (MSNBC 12/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 138 pdf file) Banihammad, a UAE national apparently from the Emirate of Sharjah, flies to the US two days later. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file) Banihammad gives power of attorney to al-Hawsawi on July 18. Then al-Hawsawi sends Visa and ATM cards to Banihammad in Florida and deposits an extra $4,900 in Banihammad’s account (see Early August-August 22, 2001). Banihammad uses the Visa card to buy his and Mohand Alshehri’s airplane ticket for 9/11. (MSNBC 12/11/2001; Eggen 12/13/2001; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file) Several other hijackers have foreign accounts that they use while they are in the US (see December 5, 2000).

A courtroom artist’s depiction of Mahmoud Jaballah.A courtroom artist’s depiction of Mahmoud Jaballah. [Source: CBC]On June 27, 2001, Nabil al-Marabh is arrested while trying to enter the US from Canada in the back of a tractor-trailer, carrying a forged Canadian passport and a bogus social insurance card. (Walter 10/2/2001) The New York Times will note that, “American officials had plenty of reason to believe that he was up to no good. Nine months earlier, he had been identified to American intelligence agents as one of Osama bin Laden’s operatives in the United States. American customs agents knew about money he had transferred to an associate of Osama bin Laden in the Middle East. And the Boston police had issued a warrant for his arrest after he violated probation for stabbing a friend with a knife. But [US officials] simply let him go.” (Zernike 10/14/2001) The US turns him back to the Canadians. He is held for two weeks, then released on bail despite evidence linking him to militants (see Shortly Before July 11, 2001). During his two-week detention in a Canadian prison, al-Marabh boasts to other prisoners that he remains in contact with the FBI. When one prisoner asks him why, his reply is “because I’m special.” After 9/11, these prisoners will be puzzled that the FBI has not tried to interview them on what they know about al-Marabh. Al-Marabh will fail to show up for a Canadian deportation hearing in August and for a court date in September. It appears he quickly sneaks back into the US instead. (Walter 10/2/2001) Al-Marabh’s Boston landlord will later be asked if he thought al-Marabh could have been a terrorist. The landlord will reply, “He was too stupid, number one, to be a terrorist. Because terrorists today are very intelligent people. But he might be used by some smarter or intelligent sources, who use people like that.” (ABC News 7 (Chicago) 1/31/2002) In July, just after he is released on bail in Canada, the Boston police will go to his former Boston address with a warrant for his March arrest, but he will not be there. (Risen and Engelberg 10/14/2001) Also at some point in July, Canadian authorities inform US Customs about some dubious financial transactions involving al-Marabh, and apparently the information is used in a Customs money-laundering probe (see Spring 2001). (Hosenball 10/1/2001) One prominent former Canadian intelligence official will say that whether a more detailed look at al-Marabh at this time could have stopped the 9/11 attacks is an “intriguing question.… It becomes ever more intriguing as evidence seeps in.” (Dimmock and Sands 10/29/2001)

The first Bush administration deputy-secretary-level meeting on terrorism in late April is followed by three more deputy meetings. Each meeting focuses on one issue: one meeting is about al-Qaeda, one about the Pakistani situation, and one on Indo-Pakistani relations. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke’s plan to roll back al-Qaeda, which has been discussed at these meetings, is worked on some more, and is finally approved by National Security Adviser Rice and the deputies on August 13. It now can move to the Cabinet-level before finally reaching President Bush. The Cabinet-level meeting is scheduled for later in August, but too many participants are on vacation, so the meeting takes place in early September. (Gellman 1/20/2002; 9/11 Commission 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/24/2004)

All the hijackers based in New Jersey open at least one bank account there:
bullet Hani Hanjour opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on June 27, 2001;
bullet He opens another account with the same bank three days later, when Nawaf Alhazmi also opens one;
bullet Ahmed Alghamdi, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Majed Moqed open accounts with the Dime Savings Bank on July 9, 2001;
bullet Khalid Almihdhar opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 18, 2001. He closes it on August 31;
bullet Salem Alhazmi opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 21, 2001;
bullet Abdulaziz Alomari opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 26, 2001;
bullet Khalid Almihdhar opens an account with the First Union National Bank on August 22, 2001 with a $50 deposit. He changes his contact address on September 5;
bullet Hani Hanjour opens an account with First Union National Bank on August 23, 2001 with a $50 deposit. He then attempts to withdraw $5,000 on September 5 and $4,900 from it on September 7, despite it containing nothing but the original $50. Unable to make the withdrawal, he cashes a $20 check instead. Hanjour closes the account the next day. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file) These hijackers will subsequently fly on three of the planes on 9/11. In its Terrorist Financing monograph the 9/11 Commission will note: “Among other things they used the debit cards to pay for hotel rooms—activity that would have enabled the FBI to locate them, had the FBI been able to get the transaction records fast enough. Moreover, Alhazmi used his debit card on August 27 to buy tickets for himself… and fellow Flight 77 hijacker Salem Alhazmi. If the FBI had found either Almihdhar or Nawaf Alhazmi, it could have found the other. They not only shared a common bank but frequently were together when conducting transactions. After locating Almihdhar and Alhazmi, the FBI could have potentially linked them through financial records to the other Flight 77 hijackers… Nawaf Alhazmi and Flight 77 pilot Hani Hanjour had opened separate savings accounts at the same small New Jersey bank at the same time and both gave the same address. On July 9, 2001, the other Flight 77 muscle hijacker, Majed Moqed, opened an account at another small New Jersey bank at the same time as Nawaf Alhazmi, and used the same address. Given timely access to the relevant records and sufficient time to conduct a follow-up investigation, the FBI could have shown that Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, and Salem al Hazmi were connected to potential terrorist operatives Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 58-59, 141 pdf file) The hijackers also open several other bank accounts (see June 28-July 7, 2000).

Shortly after being appointed acting FBI director, Thomas Pickard gives his first briefing to Attorney General John Ashcroft. Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and Ruben Garcia, the FBI’s Assistant Director for Criminal Investigations, also attend the briefing. Pickard sends an agenda in advance, and terrorism is the first item on it, as the CIA is reporting there is an increased risk of attacks. During the briefing, Ashcroft suggests he does not know much about al-Qaeda, so Pickard fills him in. “I told him about al-Qaeda and [Osama] bin Laden, a little history about the World Trade Center bombing and East Africa,” Pickard will later say. Pickard also talks about increase in “chatter” by al-Qaeda operatives, and says this could be a sign of an upcoming attack. The speculation is it would take place in Southeast Asia or the Middle East, but other locales could not be ruled out. His terrorism briefing lasts about an hour. Although Ashcroft listens to Pickard’s explanation, he asks few questions about terrorism. He shows more interest in other items on the agenda, such as ending delays on background checks for gun buyers, which interests him because of his relationship with the National Rifle Association. (Pickard 6/24/2004; Shenon 2008, pp. 246-247)

CIA official Richard Blee gives a briefing on the state of the terrorism threat to CIA Director George Tenet and Counterterrorist Center Director Cofer Black. According to an account by Tenet in his 2007 book, Blee identifies more than 10 specific pieces of intelligence about impending attacks. Tenet claims that experienced analysts call this intelligence “both unprecedented and virtually 100 percent reliable.” Blee specifically mentions:
bullet A key Afghanistan training camp commander was seen weeping with joy because he believed he could see his trainees in heaven, implying a successful suicide attack to come.
bullet For the last three to five months, al-Qaeda’s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is believed to have been involved in an unprecedented effort to prepare terrorist operations.
bullet Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the USS Cole bombing masterminds, has disappeared. (Tenet 2007, pp. 149) Leaders of the Cole bombing are believed to be planning new attacks against the US. (Tenet 2007, pp. 147)
bullet Other important operatives around the world are disappearing or preparing for martyrdom. (Tenet 2007, pp. 149)
Blee concludes by saying: “Based on a review of all source reporting over the last five months, we believe that [Osama bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.” (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 322; Tenet 2007, pp. 149) This warning, including the concluding quote, is shared with “senior Bush administration officials” in early July. (US Congress 9/18/2002)

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke writes an e-mail to National Security Adviser Rice saying that the pattern of al-Qaeda activity indicating attack planning has “reached a crescendo.” He adds, “A series of new reports continue to convince me and analysts at State, CIA, DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], and NSA that a major terrorist attack or series of attacks is likely in July.” For instance, one report from an al-Qaeda source in late June warned that something “very, very, very, very” big is about to happen, and that most of bin Laden’s network is anticipating the attack. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 256; US District Court of Eastern Virginia 5/4/2006, pp. 1 pdf file) CIA Director Tenet sends Rice a very similar warning on the same day (see June 28, 2001). The 9/11 Commission does not record Rice taking any action in response to these warnings. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 256)

CIA Director Tenet writes an intelligence summary for National Security Adviser Rice: “It is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.” A highly classified analysis at this time adds, “Most of the al-Qaeda network is anticipating an attack. Al-Qaeda’s overt publicity has also raised expectations among its rank and file, and its donors.” (Gellman 5/17/2002) The same day, Tenet is briefed by another CIA official that bin Laden “will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests” (see June 28, 2001). (US Congress 7/24/2003) Apparently, these warnings are partly based on a warning given by al-Qaeda leaders to a reporter a few days earlier (see June 21, 2001). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke also later asserts that Tenet tells him around this time, “It’s my sixth sense, but I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 235)

A MASCAL (mass casualty) training exercise is held at Fort Belvoir, an army base 12 miles south of the Pentagon. It is “designed to enhance the first ready response in dealing with the effects of a terrorist incident involving an explosion.” (Passino 7/5/2001)

Abu Hamza al-Masri.Abu Hamza al-Masri. [Source: BBC]The Italian Secret Service SISDE records a meeting in the Finsbury Park mosque, in northern London, Britain. Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri (an Afghanistan war veteran heading a radical Islamic group), Mustapha Melki (linked to al-Qaeda member Abu Doha—see February 2001), and a man only known as Omar talk to each other. Notes of the meeting state, “Abu Hamza proposed an ambitious but unlikely plot which involved attacks carried by planes.” This is apparently a reference to an attack on the upcoming G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, scheduled in several weeks (see July 20-22, 2001). But unlike other reports of an al-Qaeda attack on that summit, this refers to an attack using more than one plane. The notes of the meeting conclude, “The belief that Osama bin Laden is plotting an attack is spreading among the radical Islamic groups.” (Lorenzi 9/13/2001)

US intelligence learns that an al-Qaeda operative is considering mounting operations in the US. There is no information on the timing or specific targets. (US Congress 9/18/2002)

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gives a direct warning to the FAA to increase security measures in light of an impending terrorist attack. The FAA refuses to take such measures. (Wright 1/14/2002)

According to a statement later made by 9/11 plot facilitator Ramzi bin al-Shibh under interrogation, at this time he is to courier operational details that are too sensitive to trust to telephone or e-mail to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. He arranges a meeting with Atta in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and travels there on a genuine Saudi passport in the name of Hasan Ali al-Assiri. While in Kuala Lumpur, bin al-Shibh applies for a Yemeni passport, but Atta does not show up and bin al-Shibh travels to Bangkok. Atta fails to come to Bangkok as well and bin al-Shibh then flies to Amsterdam and travels to Hamburg by train. In Hamburg he purchases a plane ticket to Spain, where he finally meets Atta (see July 8-19, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 5 pdf file) However, the reliability of such statements by detainees is questioned due to the methods used to extract them (see June 16, 2004). Another of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, is in Malaysia around this time, but it is not clear whether he and bin al-Shibh meet (see June 2001).

Photo and signature from Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi’s passport.Photo and signature from Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi’s passport. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta makes several calls to plot facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi to coordinate the arrival in the US of four muscle hijackers (see April 23-June 29, 2001) and one candidate hijacker (see August 4, 2001) al-Hawsawi is assisting in the United Arab Emirates. Al-Hawsawi is in contact with Atta both before tickets are purchased, to learn where the hijackers are traveling, and after the hijackers arrive, to check whether they have made it through immigration. Atta and two other hijackers also call al-Hawsawi later to make arrangements for returning unspent money (see September 5-10, 2001). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US department of Defense 3/21/2007 pdf file)

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) sent to top White House officials is entitled, “Bin Laden Planning High-Profile Attacks.” It states that bin Laden operatives expect near-term attacks to have dramatic consequences of catastrophic proportions. Despite evidence of delays possibly caused by heightened US security, the planning for the attacks is continuing. The briefing also contains another report entitled, “Bin Laden Threats Are Real.” SEIBs are typically based on the previous day’s President Daily Briefings (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable Bush is given this warning. Also on this day, Saudi Arabia declares its highest level of terror alert. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 256-257, 534; US District Court of Eastern Virginia 5/4/2006, pp. 3 pdf file)

The three authors of the book Germs, Judith Miller (left), Stephen Engelberg (top), and William Broad (bottom). This was the book Miller was working on before 9/11; it was published several weeks after 9/11.The three authors of the book Germs, Judith Miller (left), Stephen Engelberg (top), and William Broad (bottom). This was the book Miller was working on before 9/11; it was published several weeks after 9/11. [Source: Publicity photo]New York Times reporter Judith Miller learns her government counterterrorism sources are worried that al-Qaeda is going to attack a US target on the Fourth of July holiday. There has been an increase in chatter about an impending attack. In 2005, Miller will recall, “Everyone in Washington was very spun-up in the counterterrorism world at that time. I think everybody knew that an attack was coming—everyone who followed this.… I got the sense that part of the reason that I was being told of what was going on was that the people in counterterrorism were trying to get the word to the president or the senior officials through the press, because they were not able to get listened to themselves.”
Conversation Overheard - She has a conversation with a still-anonymous top-level White House source who reveals there is some concern about a top-secret NSA intercept between two al-Qaeda operatives. She explains, “They had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the [USS] Cole. And one al-Qaeda operative was overheard saying to the other, ‘Don’t worry; we’re planning something so big now that the US will have to respond.’ And I was obviously floored by that information. I thought it was a very good story: (1) the source was impeccable; (2) the information was specific, tying al-Qaeda operatives to, at least, knowledge of the attack on the Cole; and (3) they were warning that something big was coming, to which the United States would have to respond. This struck me as a major page one-potential story.”
Not Printed - Miller tells her editor Stephen Engelberg about the story the next day. But Engelberg says, “You have a great first and second paragraph. What’s your third?” Miller finds only one other source to confirm these details.
Yemen Connection - She later learns from her first source that the conversation occurred in Yemen. Though the telephone number is never disclosed, some circumstances suggest one of the parties taking part in the call may have been at the al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, that is monitored by US intelligence. One of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, lives there with his wife and children (see Late August 1998), and communicates there will be forthcoming attacks to at least one family member (see Late October 2000-July 4, 2001). The hijackers in the US apparently call the Yemen hub around this time (see (August 2001)). On July 3, the CIA will request the arrest of Djamel Beghal (see July 3, 2001), an al-Qaeda operative whose calls to the hub are apparently being monitored at this time (see Before July 3, 2001).
Regrets - Miller later regrets not following through more because she “had a book coming out” as well as other stories and that there wasn’t a “sense of immediacy” about the information. In 2005, Engelberg will confirm Miller’s story and agree that he wanted more specifics before running the story. Engelberg also later wonders “maybe I made the wrong call,” asking, “More than once I’ve wondered what would have happened if we’d run the piece?” The New York Times has yet to mention the warning in all of their post-9/11 reporting and the 9/11 Commission has never mentioned anything about the warning either. In 2005, Miller will spend 85 days in jail for refusing to reveal a source and then leave the New York Times after widespread criticism about her reporting. (McCollam 9/2005; O'Connor and Malone 5/18/2006; Strupp 5/18/2006)

NORAD is already planning for the Amalgam Virgo 02 exercise. This exercise, scheduled for June 2002, will involve the simulation of two simultaneous commercial aircraft hijackings. One plane, a Delta 757, flown by Delta pilots, will fly from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. It will be “hijacked” by FBI agents posing as terrorists. The other plane will be a Navy C-9 bound from Oak Harbor, Washington, to Vancouver, British Columbia, and will be “hijacked” by Royal Canadian Mounted Police. On both planes, military personnel will act as civilian passengers. US and Canadian fighters are to respond, and either force the planes to land or simulate shooting them down. Describing Amalgam Virgo 02 to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD’s Major General Craig McKinley later says, “Threats of killing hostages or crashing were left to the script writers to invoke creativity and broaden the required response for players.” About 1,500 people will participate in the exercise. USA Today will note that this is an exception to NORAD’s claim that, prior to 9/11, it focused only on external threats to the US and did not consider the possibility of threats arising from within the US. 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste will similarly comment that this planned exercise shows that, despite frequent comments to the contrary, the military considered simultaneous hijackings before 9/11. (CNN 6/4/2002; Gilmore 6/4/2002; Wadhams 6/5/2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004)

India gives the US general intelligence on possible terror attacks; details are not known. US government officials later will confirm that Indian intelligence had information “that two Islamist radicals with ties to Osama bin Laden were discussing an attack on the White House,” but apparently, this particular information is not included in the July general warning and is not be given to the US until two days after 9/11. (Cameron 5/17/2002)

FBI Director Robert Mueller will later tell the joint inquiry of Congress that, “In July 2001, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari, Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmed Alghamdi, and Majed Moqed purchased personal identification cards at Apollo Travel in Paterson, New Jersey. Atta purchased a Florida identification card, while the others purchased New Jersey identification cards.” (US Congress 9/26/2002) Although the travel agency’s owner will be interviewed several times after 9/11 and will mention selling plane tickets to Atta and Nawaf Alhazmi, he will never mention selling them ID cards (see June 19-25, 2001 and March 2001-September 1, 2001). (Chadwick 9/27/2001; Maddux 9/27/2001; CNN 10/29/2001; Berry 9/19/2002) Neither the 9/11 Commission or any other body will say any hijacker received an ID card from Apollo. However, the Commission will say that a similar group of hijackers obtained similar ID cards around this time (see (July-August 2001)). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 27 pdf file) Some of these cards may have been obtained from Mohamed el-Atriss, who will be sentenced to jail for selling the hijackers false ID (see (July-August 2001) and November 2002-June 2003). El-Atriss will be co-operating with the FBI at the time Mueller makes this statement and will have promised to “keep his eyes and ears open” for other terrorists (see September 13, 2001-Mid 2002).

The CIA hears an individual who had recently been in Afghanistan say, “Everyone is talking about an impending attack.” (US Congress 9/18/2002; Milbank 9/19/2002) This corresponds with evidence that bin Laden and others were telling many in Afghanistan about the attacks at this time (see Summer 2001).

Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, is detained in Jordan and then let go. According to a German intelligence official speaking in 2002, Zammar is in transit through Jordan. However, the official will not say where Zammar is going, where he is coming from, or why he is held. Zammar is detained for several days and then deported back to Germany. (Finn 6/12/2002) When Zammar is questioned by German intelligence shortly after 9/11 (see Shortly After September 11-October 27, 2001), he will mention his detention in Jordan. He will say that Jordanian officials “asked me about Afghanistan, the people there, my beliefs, contacts in Jordan, and my party membership. By party membership that meant whether I was a follower of Hezbollah, Hamas, [Islamic] Jihad, or Osama bin Laden.” (New York Times 1/18/2003) Interestingly, in the beginning of July, CIA Director George Tenet made an urgent request to allied intelligence agencies to arrest anyone on a list of known al-Qaeda operatives (see July 3, 2001). In 1999, US intelligence determined that Zammar was in contact with one of Osama bin Laden’s senior operational coordinators, and the US notes Zammar’s terrorist links on numerous occasions before 9/11 (see Summer 1999), so Zammar would be a likely candidate for Tenet’s list. Zammar also was the target of a German intelligence investigation that started in 1996 and lasted at least three years (see 1996).

Ali Soufan, an FBI agent working on the investigation into the USS Cole bombing, submits a third request to the CIA for information about travel by al-Qaeda operatives in Southeast Asia (see Late November 2000 and April 2001). Whereas in previous requests to the CIA he had only asked for information about a possible meeting somewhere in Southeast Asia, he has now developed a much clearer understanding of the relationship between al-Qaeda manager Khallad bin Attash and the Cole conspirators, and correctly suspects some operatives met in Malaysia in January 2000. He asks the CIA about this and about a trip by bin Attash to Bangkok to meet another two members of the Cole bombing team (see January 13, 2000). The CIA actually monitored the meeting Soufan suspects took place in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) and considered it so important that the CIA director and other top officials were repeatedly briefed about it (see January 6-9, 2000), but the CIA does not respond to his inquiry. FBI managers are also aware of some of this information, including the existence of an al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia at the time Soufan suspects one took place, but they apparently do not tell Soufan either (see January 6, 2000). (Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file) Author Lawrence Wright will later say: “The FBI’s investigating the death of 17 American sailors and they’re asking the CIA for information that would solve the crime. And the CIA is refusing, essentially obstructing justice.” (Wright 10/5/2006)

According to statements by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds in 2004 and 2005, in July or August 2001, an unnamed FBI field agent discovers foreign documentation revealing “certain information regarding blueprints, pictures, and building material for skyscrapers being sent overseas. It also reveal[s] certain illegal activities in obtaining visas from certain embassies in the Middle East, through network contacts and bribery.” The document is in a foreign language and apparently the agent isn’t given an adequate translation of it before 9/11. Approximately one month after 9/11, the agent will suspect the original translation is insufficient and will ask the FBI Washington Field Office to retranslate it. The significant information mentioned above will finally be revealed, but FBI translation unit supervisor Mike Feghali will decide not to send this information back to the field agent. Instead, he will send a note stating that the translation was reviewed and the original translation was accurate. The field agent will never receive the accurate translation. This is all according to Edmonds’s letter. Edmonds will claim Feghali “has participated in certain criminal activities and security breaches, and [engaged] in covering up failures and criminal conducts within the department.” While the mainstream media will not report on this incident, in January 2005 an internal government report will determine that most of Edmonds’s allegations have been verified and none of them could be refuted. (Edmonds 8/1/2004; Edmonds 8/22/2005)

Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card, recovered from the Pentagon crash site.Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card, recovered from the Pentagon crash site. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division] (click image to enlarge)Khalid Almihdhar obtains a fake USA ID card from forger Mohamed el-Atriss. Abdulaziz Alomari also obtains fake ID, an international driver’s license, from el-Atriss, and some of the other hijackers may do as well. (National Public Radio 8/20/2002; Hanley 6/25/2003; Lance 2006, pp. 372-3; Kelly 9/11/2006) USA ID cards are not issued by governmental organizations, as are passports and driver’s licenses, for example. They are marketed by the manufacturer as being suitable for frequent customers to small businesses, such as VIP diners at a restaurant, gym members, and visitors to a check cashing store. (Usaidsystems (.com) 7/1/2007) El-Atriss, who is called seven times by Hani Hanjour and also by another unknown hijacker, is an associate of Waleed al-Noor, a co-conspirator in the 1993 ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot (see June 24, 1993), and will be sentenced to six months in jail after 9/11 despite being of assistance to the FBI (see Before September 11, 2001, September 13, 2001-Mid 2002, and November 2002-June 2003). (Associated Press 7/3/2003; Lance 2006, pp. 372-3; Kelly 9/11/2006) An image of Almihdhar’s card, which gives his address as a hotel where he stayed for two nights after returning to the US a few days before, will be reproduced in the 9/11 Commission’s Terrorism Travel Monograph, but the Commission will fail to point out it was a fake. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 192 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 52 pdf file) Five other hijackers obtain USA ID cards around this time: Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Majed Moqed, and Ahmed Alghamdi. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 27-29, 31-32, 34-44 pdf file) Almihdhar’s card is similar to some of these hijackers’ USA ID cards, indicating they may also be fake, although this is not certain. Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card contains the same hotel address and the same expiry date as Almihdhar’s card. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Salem Alhazmi’s card contains the same expiry date, indicating it was issued at a time Salem Alhazmi was out of the country (see April 23-June 29, 2001). In addition, the serial numbers are similar: the number of Salem Alhazmi’s card, which was supposedly issued on July 1 or 2, is 3408826-A, whereas the number of Almihdhar’s card, which the 9/11 Commission says was issued eight or nine days later, is 3408825-A. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 192 pdf file; Burger and Bennett 8/29/2005) The fake document for Alomari is purchased from el-Atriss’ All Service Plus business in Paterson, New Jersey, by fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. (CBS News 7/31/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 61 pdf file; Kelly 9/11/2006)

Mayor Rudy Giuliani updates a directive that is intended to eliminate conflict between agencies when they respond to an emergency, such as a terrorist attack, in New York. (City of New York 7/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 284-285) Since at least the late 1970s, New York’s mayors have recognized that the tense relations between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the New York Fire Department (FDNY) are a potentially serious problem, and have tried, unsuccessfully, to rectify the situation. (Buntin 9/2005) In a new attempt to resolve the problem, Giuliani updates a directive titled “Direction and Control of Emergencies in the City of New York.” This document states that its purpose is to eliminate “potential conflict among responding agencies which may have areas of overlapping expertise and responsibility.”
Specified Agency Would Be the 'Incident Commander' for an Emergency - To achieve this, the directive designates which agency would serve as the “incident commander” for different types of emergencies. The incident commander would be “responsible for the management of the city’s response to the emergency.” Meanwhile, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which Giuliani created in 1996 (see 1996), would “coordinate the participation of all city agencies in resolving the event,” and “assist the incident commander in his/her efforts in the development and implementation of the strategy for resolving the event.”
Fire or Police Department Would Be in Command for a Terrorist Attack - The document states that in the event of an “air crash” or a “structural collapse,” the FDNY would be the incident commander. In the event of a terrorist attack, the incident commander would be either the NYPD or the FDNY, depending on the type of terrorist attack that occurs (for example, whether it is an attack involving weapons of mass destruction or one in which just conventional weapons are used). However, the directive notes, the nature of terrorist attacks “is such that the incident command will shift as the event evolves.” Therefore, it continues, “Any conflicts regarding the issue of command at these incidents will be resolved by OEM.” (City of New York 7/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 284-285)
Directive Is Followed 'to Some Degree' on September 11 - The directive will be followed with limited success when the terrorist attacks occur on September 11. “To some degree, the mayor’s directive for incident command was followed on 9/11,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state. The report will continue, “It was clear that the lead response agency was the FDNY and that the other responding local, federal, bistate, and state agencies acted in a supporting role.” The report will note, however, that “the response operations lacked the kind of integrated communications and unified command contemplated in the directive.” “These problems existed both within and among individual responding agencies,” it will add. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 319)

Representatives of the FBI warn members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) that a serious terrorist attack is likely. Late one Friday this month, NYPD Chief of Department Joseph Esposito holds a meeting, which the FBI representatives come to. The FBI representatives reveal that there is a lot of “chatter” going on and a major terrorist attack is likely to occur. “They didn’t know when or where, but indications were that it would be overseas,” author Will Merrill will write. The matter is considered serious enough that a meeting has been called “in New York City late on a Friday afternoon” to discuss it, Merrill will note. (Merrill 2011, pp. 155)

Peter LaPorte.Peter LaPorte. [Source: Executive Affairs Group]Officials consider a scenario in which a terrorist chemical attack occurs in Washington, DC. Local officials, along with members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), come up with “a scenario in which terrorists release poison gas at hot dog stands, one at 17th and D Streets NW and one on the Mall near the Museum of American History,” the Washington Post will later describe. Whether they do this as part of a training exercise will be unstated. As they envisage the scenario, the officials successfully predict the public’s behavior on September 11, when traffic in Washington will be clogged as workers head home in response to the live television reports of the terrorist attacks. The FEMA members and Peter LaPorte, director of the DC Emergency Management Agency, determine, after considering the scenario, that if a terrorist attack occurs, the public must be given information within an hour of the incident so as to knock down rumors, explain the fastest routes out of the city, and identify areas to avoid. They suggest that authorities should make use of the Washington Area Warning System, which is a mechanism for providing emergency communications to officials in the Washington area during a crisis, or hold a news conference immediately. However, on September 11, the first news conference in Washington will take place more than three hours after the first hijacked plane crashes into the World Trade Center. Following the simulation, LaPorte and the FEMA members will urge that a plan be created, which outlines how the Washington area should respond to a terrorist incident and efforts to create such a plan will then get underway. However, since the plan’s intended date of completion is spring 2002, it will not be ready to be implemented on September 11. “It’s clear these [emergency response] things didn’t happen [on September 11] because we didn’t have a plan,” Bruce Baughman, director of FEMA’s planning and readiness division, will complain in the days after 9/11. (Twomey, Leonnig, and Dvorak 9/17/2001)

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

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), both future members of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, appear on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer,” and warn of potential attacks by bin Laden. Feinstein says, “One of the things that has begun to concern me very much as to whether we really have our house in order, intelligence staff have told me that there is a major probability of a terrorist incident within the next three months.” (CNN 3/2002)

The FBI’s Counterterrorism Division issues a warning of possible al-Qaeda attacks to law enforcement agencies called “Potential Anti-US Attacks.” It states: “[T]here are threats to be worried about overseas. While we cannot foresee attacks domestically, we cannot rule them out.” It further states, “[T]he FBI has no information indicating a credible threat of terrorist attack in the United States.” It asks law enforcement agencies to “exercise vigilance” and “report suspicious activities” to the FBI. Two weeks later, acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard has a conference call with all field office heads mentioning the heightened threat (see July 19, 2001). However, FBI personnel later fail to recall any heightened sense of threat from summer 2001. Only those in the New York field office take any action or will recall this later. (CNN 3/2002; 9/11 Commission 4/13/2004)

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) entitled “Planning for Bin Laden Attacks Continues, Despite Delays” is sent to top White House officials. SEIBs are typically based on the previous day’s presidential daily briefing (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable President Bush is given this warning. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 258, 534; US District Court of Eastern Virginia 5/4/2006, pp. 4 pdf file)

Indian sources claim that “bin Laden, who suffers from renal deficiency, has been periodically undergoing dialysis in a Peshawar military hospital with the knowledge and approval of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), if not of [Pakistani President] Musharraf himself.” (Raman 7/2/2001) While one might question the bias of an Indian newspaper on this issue, highly respected intelligence newsletter Jane’s Intelligence Digest later reports the story, and adds, “None of [these details] will be unfamiliar to US intelligence operatives who have been compiling extensive reports on these alleged activities.” (Jane's Intelligence Digest 9/20/2001) CBS will later report bin Laden had emergency medical care in Pakistan the day before 9/11. (CBS News 1/28/2002) If these stories are true, it appears Pakistan could have captured bin Laden for the US at any time. The Jane’s Intelligence Digest article adds, “It is becoming clear that both the Taliban and al-Qaeda would have found it difficult to have continued functioning—including the latter group’s terrorist activities—without substantial aid and support from Islamabad [Pakistan].” (Jane's Intelligence Digest 9/20/2001)

The NSA monitors calls between an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen and one or more operatives involved in a plot to attack the US embassy in Paris. The communications hub in Yemen is run by Ahmed al-Hada, father-in-law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, who is also involved in the US embassy bombings (see August 4-25, 1998), the USS Cole bombing (see Mid-August 1998-October 2000), and 9/11 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). The Paris plot is apparently foiled based on this information, although the details are sketchy. (Kaplan and Whitelaw 3/15/2004) The name of the operative or operatives who talk to the communications hub in Yemen is unknown. One candidate is Djamel Beghal, who will be arrested on July 28 (see July 24 or 28, 2001) based on a tip-off issued by the CIA to partner agencies on July 3 (see July 3, 2001). Another is Nizar Trabelsi, who will be arrested on September 13, although Trabelsi may be arrested based on information gleaned from Beghal. Both Beghal (see Spring 1998) and Trabelsi (see September 13, 2001) are connected to a plot to destroy an airliner with a shoe bomb, but this is not stopped (see December 22, 2001).

US intelligence learns that Osama bin Laden has recently promised colleagues that an attack is near. This warning is first revealed in CIA Director George Tenet’s 2007 book. He will not explain how this was known except that it was “learned as a result of intelligence.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 149 Sources: George J. Tenet)

This is one of only two dates that Bush’s national security leadership discusses terrorism. (The other discussion occurs on September 4.) Apparently, the topic is only mentioned in passing and is not the focus of the meeting. This group, made up of the national security adviser, CIA director, defense secretary, secretary of state, Joint Chiefs of staff chairman and others, met around 100 times before 9/11 to discuss a variety of topics, but apparently rarely terrorism. The White House “aggressively defended the level of attention [to terrorism], given only scattered hints of al-Qaeda activity.” This lack of discussion stands in sharp contrast to the Clinton administration and public comments by the Bush administration. (Elliott 8/12/2002) Bush said in February 2001, “I will put a high priority on detecting and responding to terrorism on our soil.” A few months earlier, Tenet told Congress, “The threat from terrorism is real, it is immediate, and it is evolving” (see February 7, 2001). (Bridis 6/28/2002)

9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar departs Saudi Arabia, flying to the US. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 237) According to the 9/11 Commission, Almihdhar has a passport containing an indicator of Islamic extremism (see June 1, 2001). Such indicators are used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007), so the Saudis presumably register his departure.

9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar reenters the US. The CIA and FBI have recently been showing interest in him, but have still failed to place him on a watch list of US-designated terrorists. Had he been placed on a watch list by this date, he would have been stopped and possibly detained as he tried to enter the US. He enters on a new US visa obtained in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on June 13, 2001. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 169 pdf file)
Invalid Passport, Indicator of Terrorist Affiliation - His passport is invalid, as it lacks an expiry date. However, his passport does contain an indicator that he is a terrorist, an indicator used by the Saudi authorities to track his movements (see June 1, 2001 and July 4, 2001), but this indicator is not recognized by US officials. The precise state of US knowledge about the indicator at this time is not known (see Around February 1993). The CIA will learn of it no later than 2003, but will still not inform immigration officials then (see February 14, 2003). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 27 pdf file) His visa application said that he had not previously been to the US, which is not true (see January 15, 2000), so his entry is illegal. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 351 pdf file)
'Muscle' Have Already Arrived - The FBI will note that he returns just days after the last of the hijacker “muscle” has entered the US, and will speculate that he returns because his job in bringing them over is finished. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 169 pdf file)
Source: Lists WTC as Destination - According to a stipulation introduced at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, he lists the Marriot Hotel in the World Trade Center complex as his destination, but does not stay there that night. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 52 pdf file)

9/11 hijackers Hamza Alghamdi and Marwan Alshehhi make two purchases of “pornographic video and sex toys” from a Florida store. They spend $252.17 on videos and toys at Video Outlet in Deerfield Beach on July 4, then return on July 27 and spend another $183.22. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 176, 178, 196, 198 pdf file) These two and other hijackers are also reported to attend strip shows, watch porn, and use an escort service (see Before September 11, 2001 and September 7-11, 2001).

The American Hospital in Dubai.The American Hospital in Dubai. [Source: American Hospital]Bin Laden, America’s most wanted criminal with a $5 million bounty on his head, supposedly receives lifesaving treatment for renal failure from American specialist Dr. Terry Callaway at the American hospital in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He is possibly accompanied by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (who is said to be bin Laden’s personal physician as well as al-Qaeda’s second-in-command), plus several bodyguards. Callaway supposedly treated bin Laden in 1996 and 1998, also in Dubai. Callaway later refuses to answer any questions on this matter. (Richard 10/31/2001; Agence France-Presse 11/1/2001; Sage 11/1/2001) During his stay, bin Laden is visited by “several members of his family and Saudi personalities,” including Prince Turki al-Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence. (Sampson 11/1/2001) On July 12, bin Laden reportedly meets with CIA agent Larry Mitchell in the hospital. Mitchell apparently lives in Dubai as an Arab specialist under the cover of being a consular agent. The CIA, the Dubai hospital, and even bin Laden deny the story. The two news organizations that broke the story, Le Figaro and Radio France International, stand by their reporting. (Richard 10/31/2001; Labeviere 11/1/2001) The explosive story is widely reported in Europe, but there are only two, small wire service stories on it in the US. (Bryant 11/1/2001; Laden 11/10/2001) The Guardian claims that the story originated from French intelligence, “which is keen to reveal the ambiguous role of the CIA, and to restrain Washington from extending the war to Iraq and elsewhere.” The Guardian adds that during his stay bin Laden is also visited by a second CIA officer. (Sampson 11/1/2001) In 2003, reporter Richard Labeviere will provide additional details of what he claims happened in a book entitled “The Corridors of Terror.” He claims he learned about the meeting from a contact in the Dubai hospital. He claims the event was confirmed in detail by a Gulf prince who presented himself as an adviser to the Emir of Bahrain. This prince claimed the meeting was arranged by Prince Turki al-Faisal. The prince said, “By organizing this meeting…Turki thought he could start direct negotiations between [bin Laden] and the CIA on one fundamental point: that bin Laden and his supporters end their hostilities against American interests.” In exchange, the CIA and Saudis would allow bin Laden to return to Saudi Arabia and live freely there. The meeting is said to be a failure. (Reuters 11/14/2003) On July 15, Larry Mitchell reportedly returns to CIA headquarters to report on his meeting with bin Laden. (Labeviere 11/1/2001) French counterterrorism expert Antoine Sfeir says the story of this meeting has been verified and is not surprising: It “is nothing extraordinary. Bin Laden maintained contacts with the CIA up to 1998. These contacts have not ceased since bin Laden settled in Afghanistan. Up to the last moment, CIA agents hoped that bin Laden would return to the fold of the US, as was the case before 1989.” (Bouilhet 11/1/2001) A CIA spokesman calls the entire account of bin Laden’s stay at Dubai “sheer fantasy.” (Reuters 11/14/2003)

In 2002, Newsweek will report: “The White House acknowledged for the first time, [President] Bush was privately beginning to worry about the stream of terror warnings he was hearing that summer, most of them aimed at US targets abroad. On July 5, five days before the Phoenix memo (see July 10, 2001), Bush directed [Condoleezza] Rice to figure out what was going on domestically.” (Hirsh and Isikoff 5/27/2002) In 2004, President Bush will explain why he requested this: “[T]he reason I did is because there had been a lot of threat intelligence from overseas. And part of it had to do with the Genoa [Italy] G8 conference that I was going to attend.” (US President 4/19/2004) Though he does not mention it, the chief security concern at the late July 2001 conference he mentions is intelligence that al-Qaeda plans to fly an airplane into the conference. This threat is so widely reported before the conference (with some reports before July 5 (see June 13, 2001 and Mid-July 2001) that the attack is called off (see July 20-22, 2001). For instance, in late June, Time magazine mentioned a German intelligence report of an Osama bin Laden plot “to fly remote-controlled model aircraft packed with Semtex into the conference hall and blow the leaders of the industrialized world to smithereens” (see June 20, 2001). Bush will later claim that this request is specifically for the later-famous August 6, 2001 briefing entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001), although the CIA analysts who draft it will deny this (see July 13, 2004). (US President 4/19/2004)

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is pulled over for speeding in Delray Beach, Florida, but is only given a warning. On June 4, a Florida warrant was issued for Atta’s arrest, as he skipped court following a previous traffic offense (see June 4, 2001), but the warrant apparently has not yet been entered in a police database, so the police officer does not know this. (Ulferts 12/14/2001; Zeller 3/16/2004) Police do not check his immigration status, which would require a call to a Law Enforcement Support Center hotline. Had such a call been made, it would have revealed Atta had overstayed his visa. (Zeller 3/16/2004) Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) will later comment about this and the failure to red flag Ziad Jarrah when he also gets a ticket (see September 9, 2001), “Had local law enforcement been able to run the names of Jarrah and Atta against a watch list, it is likely that they would have been arrested and detained, and at least one team of hijackers would no longer have had a pilot.” (Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 37) An FBI timeline compiled after 9/11 does not mention if this incident is entered into the NCIC, a nationwide police database. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 177 pdf file)

Tom Wilshire, a CIA officer assigned to the FBI, sends an e-mail to managers at Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, saying there is a potential connection between recent warnings of an attack against US interests and al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit in January 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000). He notes “how bad things look in Malaysia” and points out that hijacker Khalid Almihdhar may be connected to the radicals who attacked the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). He recommends that the Cole bombing and the Malaysia summit be re-examined for potential connections to the current warnings of an attack. The e-mail ends, “all the indicators are of a massively bad infrastructure being readily completed with just one purpose in mind.” (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 298 pdf file) This is one of a series of e-mails sent around this time by Wilshire to Alec Station about al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit (see July 13, 2001 and July 23, 2001). Presumably, one of the recipients at CIA headquarters is Richard Blee, the manager responsible for Alec Station, as he apparently receives at least one of the e-mails (see July 13, 2001).

The movements of John O’Neill, the FBI manager responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden, appear to mirror those of the 9/11 hijackers and their associates while they are in Spain. Associates of the hijackers gather in Granada, in southern Spain, at the beginning of July (see July 6, 2001 and Shortly After). O’Neill arrives in Spain with some friends on July 5 and stays in Marbella until at least July 8. For at least part of the time in Marbella he is accompanied by Mark Rossini, an FBI agent currently detailed to Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, who translates for O’Neill in Spain and whose friend lets O’Neill use his beach house. (Weiss 2003, pp. 340-2; Wright 2006, pp. 316-7, 344-5) (Note: Marbella and Granada are both in the southern Spanish province of Andalusia, but are about 120 miles apart.) Lead hijacker Mohamed Atta then arrives in Madrid on July 8, leaving on July 9. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 244) O’Neill and Rossini arrive in Madrid on July 9 and O’Neill gives a speech to the Spanish Police Foundation there on July 10. (O'Neill 7/10/2001; Weiss 2003, pp. 340-2) After leaving Madrid, Atta travels to Catalonia, where he meets Ramzi bin al-Shibh and possibly other associates (see July 8-19, 2001). The authors of The Cell, one of whom—John Miller—was a close friend of O’Neill’s, will say O’Neill also visits the same part of Catalonia to make a speech at some point on his trip to Spain (note: it is unclear whether this is just a garbled account of his speech in Madrid, or whether he made two speeches). They will also say that he and Atta even stay at the same hotel, the Casablanca Playa in the small town of Salou, but at different times. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 289-90, 293) O’Neill leaves Spain on July 16, so he and his girlfriend Valerie James would probably be in the Salou area at around the same time as Atta, bin al-Shibh, and their associates. (Weiss 2003, pp. 340-2) The overlap between the 9/11 operatives on the one hand and O’Neill and Rossini on the other is usually ignored in media accounts, but the episode in Salou is mentioned in The Cell, which indicates it is a mere coincidence. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 289-90)

On July 5, 2001, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gave a dramatic briefing to representatives from several domestic agencies on the urgent al-Qaeda threat (see July 5, 2001). However, the warnings given generally are not passed on by the attendees back to their respective agencies. The domestic agencies were not questioned about how they planned to address the threat and were not told what was expected of them. According to the 9/11 Commission, attendees later “report that they were told not to disseminate the threat information they received at the meeting. They interpreted this direction to mean that although they could brief their superiors, they could not send out advisories to the field.” One National Security Council official has a different recollection of what happened, recalling that attendees were asked to take the information back to their agencies and “do what you can” with it, subject to classification and distribution restrictions. But, for whatever reason, none of the involved agencies post internal warnings based on the meeting, except for Customs which puts out a general warning based entirely on publicly known historical facts. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 258, 264) The FAA issues general and routine threat advisories that don’t reflect the level of urgency expressed by Clarke and others (see January-August 2001). FAA Administrator Jane Garvey later claims she was unaware of a heightened threat level, but in 2005 it will be revealed that about half of the FAA’s daily briefings during this time period referred to bin Laden or al-Qaeda (see April 1, 2001-September 10, 2001). (Johnston and Dwyer 4/18/2004) Clarke said rhetorically in the meeting that he wants to know if a sparrow has fallen from a tree. A senior FBI official attended the meeting and promised a redoubling of the FBI’s efforts. However, just five days after Clarke’s meeting, FBI agent Ken Williams sends off his memo speculating that al-Qaeda may be training operatives as pilots in the US (see July 10, 2001), yet the FBI fails to share this information with Clarke or any other agency. (Gellman 5/17/2002; Clarke 2004, pp. 236-37) The FBI will also fail to tell Clarke about the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 16, 2001), or what they know about Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (see August 23, 2001).

Sir Stephen Lander.Sir Stephen Lander. [Source: Public domain]According to an officially authorized book on the MI5 published in 2009, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, warns top British leaders that a surge in the number of reports of threat information is “sufficient to conclude that [Osama bin Laden] and those that share his agenda are currently well advanced in operational planning for a number of major attacks on Western interests.” Similar MI5 warnings about an imminent attack will continue up until 9/11, including one put out on the morning of 9/11. However, apparently none of these suggest a major attack in the US or an attack using hijacked airplanes. MI6 is Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, and presumably most information about al-Qaeda and attack threats would come from it and not MI5. In fact, MI5 appears to be much less aware of al-Qaeda at this time. Sir Stephen Lander, director general of MI5 from 1996 to 2002, will later say that MI5 was “slow to get going” on the al-Qaeda threat because it was preoccupied with the IRA, and after 9/11 it had a “major set to, sitting around a board room table working out how to move on.” (Gardham 10/5/2009) This warning appears similar, but not identical, to a warning 10 days later that is an analysis involving all British intelligence agencies (see July 16, 2001).

The CIA warns the interagency Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) that al-Qaeda members “believe the upcoming attack will be ‘spectacular,’ qualitatively different from anything they have done to date.” (9/11 Commission 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 259) Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who leads the CSG, similarly warned the CSG of a “spectacular” al-Qaeda attack the day before (see July 5, 2001).

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke sends National Security Adviser Rice an e-mail message “outlining a number of steps agreed on” at the Counterterrorism Security Group meeting the day before (see July 5, 2001), “including efforts to examine the threat of weapons of mass destruction and possible attacks in Latin America. One senior administration official [says] Mr. Clarke [writes] that several agencies, including the FBI, the CIA, and the Pentagon, [have] been directed to develop what the official [says are] ‘detailed response plans in the event of three to five simultaneous attacks.’” However, no response or follow-up action has been pointed out. (Johnston and Schmitt 4/4/2004)

Police officer Dave Agar in South Hackensack, New Jersey, is searching the parking lots of cheap motels, looking for suspicious cars. He submits the license plate number of a 1988 Toyota parked outside the Jade East motel to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a computer database frequently used by every level of law enforcement. He discovers that Nawaf Alhazmi owns the car. The computer record shows no outstanding warrants for Alhazmi (though it does give other information, including his address in San Diego). Agar makes a record of his search and continues his patrol. It is later discovered that Abdulaziz Alomari registered a room in the Jade East motel from July 6-13, and Khalid Almihdhar stayed most of that week with Alhazmi at the nearby Congress Inn. It is also discovered that Almihdhar, Alhazmi, and two or three other men had dinner together at a local diner. Police speculate the hijackers were holding a meeting to discuss their plot. One officer later says, “You wonder what would have happened if the check had turned up something on Alhazmi. We certainly would have brought him in for questioning.” (Pochna 7/11/2002; Kelly 5/18/2004) In late August, an FBI agent will look for Alhazmi and Almihdhar in the New York City area, but he will fail to check NCIC or car registration records that would have revealed the record of Agar’s search mentioning Alhazmi’s name (see September 5, 2001 and September 4-5, 2001).

An adapted 9/11 Commission chart of knives purchased by the hijackers.An adapted 9/11 Commission chart of knives purchased by the hijackers. [Source: 9/11 Commission]Several 9/11 hijackers purchase multi-use tools and small knives that “may actually have been used in the attacks.” according to the 9/11 Commission. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 248-249)
bullet On July 8, Flight 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta buys two Victorinox Swiss Army knives at Zurich Airport, Switzerland, while on his way to Spain (see July 8-19, 2001). He possibly attempts to buy box cutters in Florida on August 27. On August 30, he buys a Leatherman multi-tool in Boynton Beach, Florida. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 530; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 4, 85)
bullet On August 13, Flight 175 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, and Hamza Alghamdi buy knives and multi-tools. Alshehhi buys a Cliphanger Viper and an Imperial Tradesman Dual Edge, both short-bladed knives. Banihammad buys a Stanley two-piece snap knife set, and Alghamdi buys a Leatherman Wave multi-tool. All purchases are made in the same city, though the 9/11 Commission does not say where this is. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 17)
bullet On August 27, Flight 77 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi buys Leatherman multi-tool knives. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) Although it is unknown whether any of these knives and tools are used on 9/11, the 9/11 Commission will point out, “While FAA rules did not expressly prohibit knives with blades under four inches long, the airlines’ checkpoint operations guide (which was developed in cooperation with the FAA), explicitly permitted them.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 84) Regarding Flight 93, personal financial records do not reflect weapons being purchased by any of the hijackers. However, the FBI will reportedly recover “14 knives or portions of knives, including a box cutter,” at the crash site. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 457; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 35)

Some al-Qaeda operatives hold a meeting in northern Spain to finalize plans for the 9/11 attacks. Those allegedly present are listed below. The first two operatives listed are definitely present; it is less certain that the others are there:
bullet Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. (Olmedo 9/30/2001)
bullet Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an associate of Atta from Hamburg, arrives in Spain on July 9, and stays until July 16. Spanish authorities are notified of his arrival in the country by German intelligence (see (Around July 9, 2001)). (Frantz 5/1/2002)
bullet Some reports say that 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi attends, although if he does, he may use a false identity, as US immigration has no records of his departure or return. (Olmedo 9/30/2001; US Department of Justice 5/20/2002)
bullet The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia will later report that 9/11 hijackers Waleed and Wail Alshehri meet Atta on July 16. (Associated Press 9/27/2001) However, there will be no mention of them attending the meeting in some other accounts. For example, their attendance will not be mentioned in the relevant section of the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243-5)
bullet Amer el-Azizi. (Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004; Shrader 1/23/2005) El-Azizi, who seems to have made preparations for the meeting, is under surveillance at this time, as Spanish authorities are listening in on his phone calls. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004) Calls possibly related to the meeting’s organization were overheard (see Before July 8, 2001). (Rotella 4/14/2004; Rotella 4/29/2004) Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon will later indict el-Azizi for helping plan 9/11 and say that he assisted the plotters by arranging accommodation for them and acting as a courier. However, US officials will be less certain of his involvement. (Shrader 1/23/2005) His arrest shortly after 9/11 will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).
bullet Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda-linked cell in Spain. (Dillon 11/20/2001; Rotella 1/14/2003)
bullet Mohammed Belfatmi. Belfatmi is an associate of Yarkas, and lives near the hotels where Atta and bin al-Shibh stay. He will flee Europe just before 9/11 with Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg (see September 3-5, 2001). (Rotella 1/14/2003; BBC Worldwide Monitoring 12/2/2004)
bullet Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, associates of Atta’s from Germany.
bullet Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni.
bullet Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg. According to Spanish investigators, Bahaji is with Atta the entire time, and they both stay at the Monica Hotel. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137)
bullet 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). In 2002, Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda will allegedly interview bin al-Shibh and KSM together before either of them are arrested (see April, June, or August 2002). Neither bin al-Shibh nor KSM will discuss any details of the meeting with Fouda, including who attended. KSM will neither confirm nor deny he was there. However, in a 2003 book, Fouda will claim that, according to Spanish investigators, the initial attendees are Atta, bin al-Shibh, Bahaji, and a fourth man who might be KSM. They are later joined by Alshehhi and two unnamed others. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137)
However, there is a parallel meeting in Granada, in the south of Spain, at this time, and Yarkas, Darkazanli, Zammar, and Allouni may only be at that meeting, and may not meet Atta and bin al-Shibh in person (see July 6, 2001 and Shortly After). (Dillon 11/20/2001; Rotella 1/14/2003) After being captured, bin al-Shibh will deny meeting anyone other than Atta while in Spain. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243-5) However, questions will be raised about the quality of information obtained from detainees due to the methods—including torture—used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). The movements of Atta and his associates in Spain are apparently mirrored by those of FBI agents John O’Neill and Mark Rossini (see July 5-16, 2001).

Indian Point nuclear power plant.Indian Point nuclear power plant. [Source: New York Power Authority]According to the 9/11 Commission, during their meeting in Spain where they discuss the looming attacks (see July 8-19, 2001), 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta tells would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh he has considered targeting a nuclear facility he saw during familiarization flights near New York. This is presumably Indian Point, which is about 30 miles north of NYC. (Herbert 4/4/2002) Flight 11, which Atta pilots on 9/11, passes directly over Indian Point minutes before hitting the WTC (see 8:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, “the other pilots did not like the idea. They thought a nuclear target would be difficult because the airspace around it was restricted, making reconnaissance flights impossible and increasing the likelihood that any plane would be shot down before impact.… Nor would a nuclear facility have particular symbolic value.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 245) Also, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 “mastermind,” supposedly later tells his US interrogators he originally planned ten hijackings, with the additional targets including nuclear power plants. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 154) In 2002, Mohammed will reportedly tell an Al Jazeera reporter he’d thought of hitting a couple of nuclear facilities on 9/11, but decided not to, “for fear it would go out of control.”(see April, June, or August 2002) Although the 9/11 hijackers had dismissed the idea, in January 2002 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will send a memo to power plants around the US, based upon information from the FBI, warning that al-Qaeda has planned a second airline attack, which would involve flying a commercial aircraft into a nuclear plant. (CNN 1/31/2002) Also that month, in his State of the Union speech, President Bush will say US soldiers in Afghanistan have discovered diagrams of American nuclear power plants there. (US President 2/4/2002)

Ramzi bin al-Shibh.Ramzi bin al-Shibh. [Source: US Department of State]German authorities notify their Spanish counterparts of a trip by Ramzi bin al-Shibh to Spain, where he meets an associate, lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta (see July 8-19, 2001). Presumably, the notification is before or soon after the trip, but the original news report merely says, “Despite the fact that the German authorities informed Spain of Ramzi’s trip, the meeting in which the 11 September attacks were finalized was not detected.” Several of bin al-Shibh’s German associates are known to have been under surveillance around this time (see 1996, November 1, 1998-February 2001, and May 22, 2000), and, if the article if correct, this indicates that bin al-Shibh’s movements are also being monitored by German intelligence. Spanish authorities are monitoring some operatives who may interact with Atta and bin al-Shibh in Spain (see Before July 8, 2001 and July 8-19, 2001), but the Spanish apparently do not conduct surveillance of the two men. (BBC Worldwide Monitoring 12/2/2004)

Chechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab promises some “very big news” to his fighters and this statement is communicated to the CIA. The CIA then forwards the warning to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice together with several similar pieces of intelligence, saying it is evidence that an al-Qaeda attack is imminent (see July 10, 2001). (Tenet 2007, pp. 151) The FBI is already aware that Ibn Khattab and Osama bin Laden, who have a long relationship (see 1986-March 19, 2002), may be planning a joint attack against US interests (see Before April 13, 2001). One of the operatives, Zacarias Moussaoui, will be arrested a month later (see August 16, 2001), but a search warrant for his belongings will not be granted (see August 16, 2001, August 22, 2001 and August 28, 2001).

The CIA receives several pieces of intelligence over a 24-hour period, all of which predict an imminent attack. They include:
bullet Ibn Khattab, a Chechen radical connected to Osama bin Laden (see 1986-March 19, 2002), promises his troops “very big news” (see (July 9, 2001));
bullet Islamic extremists are traveling to Afghanistan in greater numbers;
bullet There have been significant departures of extremist families from Yemen;
bullet There are indications of threats against US interests in Lebanon, Morocco, and Mauritania.
This information will be promptly communicated to CIA Director George Tenet (see July 10, 2001) and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (see July 10, 2001). (Tenet 2007, pp. 151)

FBI agent Ken Williams.FBI agent Ken Williams. [Source: FBI]Phoenix, Arizona, FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum warning about suspicious activities involving a group of Middle Eastern men taking flight training lessons in Arizona. The memo is titled: “Zakaria Mustapha Soubra; IT-OTHER (Islamic Army of the Caucasus),” because it focuses on Zakaria Soubra, a Lebanese flight student in Prescott, Arizona, and his connection with a terror group in Chechnya that has ties to al-Qaeda. It is subtitled: “Osama bin Laden and Al-Muhjiroun supporters attending civil aviation universities/colleges in Arizona.” (Behar 5/22/2002; House 7/24/2003) Williams’ memo is based on an investigation of Sorba that Williams had begun in 2000 (see April 2000), but he had trouble pursuing because of the low priority the Arizona FBI office gave terror investigations (see April 2000-June 2001). Additionally, Williams had been alerted to suspicions about radical militants and aircraft at least three other times (see October 1996; 1998; November 1999-August 2001). In the memo, Williams does the following:
bullet Names nine other suspect students from Pakistan, India, Kenya, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. (Schrom 10/1/2002) Hijacker Hani Hanjour, attending flight school in Arizona in early 2001 and probably continuing into the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), is not one of the students, but, as explained below, it seems two of the students know him. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file; Smith 7/25/2003)
bullet Notes that he interviewed some of these students, and heard some of them make hostile comments about the US. Additionally, he noticed that they were suspiciously well informed about security measures at US airports. (Schrom 10/1/2002)
bullet Notes an increasing, “inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” taking flight lessons in Arizona. (Schrom 10/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file)
bullet Suspects that some of the ten people he has investigated are connected to al-Qaeda. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file) One person on the list, Ghassan al Sharbi, will be arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). Al Sharbi attended a flight school in Prescott, Arizona. He also apparently attended the training camps in Afghanistan and swore loyalty to bin Laden in the summer of 2001. He apparently knows Hani Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). He also is the roommate of Soubra, the main target of the memo. (Krikorian 1/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 521)
bullet Discovers that one of them was communicating through an intermediary with Abu Zubaida. This apparently is a reference to Hamed al Sulami, who had been telephoning a Saudi imam known to be Zubaida’s spiritual advisor. Al Sulami is an acquaintance of Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 520-521, 529)
bullet Discusses connections between several of the students and a radical group called Al-Muhajiroun. (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002) This group supported bin Laden, and issued a fatwa, or call to arms, that included airports on a list of acceptable terror targets. (Solomon 5/22/2002) Soubra, the main focus of the memo, is a member of Al-Muhajiroun and an outspoken radical. He met with Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of Al-Muhajiroun in Britain, and started an Arizona chapter of the organization. After 9/11, some US officials will suspect that Soubra has ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. He will be held two years, then deported to Lebanon in 2004. (Connell 10/28/2001; Krikorian 1/24/2003; Wagner 5/2/2004; Sherman 11/2004) Though Williams doesn’t include it in his memo, in the summer of 1998, Bakri publicized a fax sent by bin Laden to him that listed al-Qaeda’s four objectives in fighting the US. The first objective was “bring down their airliners.” (see Summer 1998). (Connell 10/28/2001)
bullet Warns of a possible “effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the US to attend civil aviation universities and colleges” (Behar 5/22/2002) , so they can later hijack aircraft. (Schrom 10/1/2002)
bullet Recommends that the “FBI should accumulate a listing of civil aviation universities and colleges around the country. FBI field offices with these types of schools in their area should establish appropriate liaison. FBI [headquarters] should discuss this matter with other elements of the US intelligence community and task the community for any information that supports Phoenix’s suspicions.” (House 7/24/2003) (The FBI has already done this, but because of poor FBI communications, Williams is not aware of the report.)
bullet Recommends that the FBI ask the State Department to provide visa data on flight school students from Middle Eastern countries, which will facilitate FBI tracking efforts. (Risen 5/4/2002)
The memo is addressed to the following FBI Agents:
bullet Dave Frasca, chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters;
bullet Elizabeth Harvey Matson, Mark Connor and Fred Stremmel, Intelligence Operations Specialists in the RFU;
bullet Rod Middleton, acting chief of the Usama bin Laden Unit (UBLU);
bullet Jennifer Maitner, an Intelligence Operations Specialist in the UBLU;
bullet Jack Cloonan, an agent on the New York FBI’s bin Laden unit, the I-49 squad; (see January 1996 and Spring 2000).
bullet Michael S. Butsch, an agent on another New York FBI squad dealing with other Sunni terrorists. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 7/10/2001 pdf file; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file)
However, the memo is not uploaded into the FBI’s information system until the end of the month and is apparently not received by all these people (see July 27, 2001 and after). Williams also shares some concerns with the CIA (see (July 27, 2001)). (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002) One anonymous government official who has seen the memo says, “This was as actionable a memo as could have been written by anyone.” (Insight 5/27/2002) However, the memo is merely marked “routine,” rather than “urgent.” It is generally ignored, not shared with other FBI offices, and the recommendations are not taken. One colleague in New York replies at the time that the memo is “speculative and not very significant.” (Schrom 10/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file) Williams is unaware of many FBI investigations and leads that could have given weight to his memo. Authorities later claim that Williams was only pursuing a hunch, but one familiar with classified information says, “This was not a vague hunch. He was doing a case on these guys.” (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002)

Children at the Um Al-Qura Islamic School, where both Jaballah and Shehab served as principals.Children at the Um Al-Qura Islamic School, where both Jaballah and Shehab served as principals. [Source: Um Al-Qura Islamic School]On June 27, 2001, Nabil al-Marabh was arrested while trying to enter the US from Canada. He is already wanted in the US for skipping bail on an attempted murder charge, and US intelligence has linked him to al-Qaeda (see June 27, 2001-July 11, 2001). He is held in Canada. About two weeks after his arrest, there is a court hearing to determine if he should be released. His lawyer argues that he should be released because his uncle, Ahmed Shehab, can keep him in line. The lawyer does not mention that Shehab works at a school headed by Mahmoud Jaballah. Canadian intelligence has been closely monitoring Jaballah since 1996 and has overheard him communicating with many top militant leaders, including al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri (see May 11, 1996-August 2001 and February 1998). Presumably Canadian intelligence is well aware of Jaballah’s job at the school discussed in the hearing, yet this is never mentioned to the judge. Jaballah had been arrested in 1999 for suspected ties to Islamic militants and then released, and his school job had been mentioned in media reports. In August 2001, he will be arrested again, and Shebab will replace him as principal at the school. (Sallot and Oziewicz 11/4/1999; Risen and Engelberg 10/14/2001; Shephard 7/17/2004) While in jail, al-Marabh is visited by Hassan Almrei, who had been his roommate earlier in the year (see October 19, 2001). (Fennell 12/10/2001) Almrei will also later testify that in 1995 he obtained a false passport for al-Marabh, and that after al-Marabh’s arrest in June 2001, al-Marabh asked him to obtain a second false passport for him. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 pdf file) Canadian authorities were investigating Almrei since at least September 2000, and may have suspected his role in a plot against the Toronto airport by this time (see January 2001-Summer 2001). But authorities either do not notice al-Marabh’s links to Jaballah and/or Almrei or do not care, because he is released on bail on July 11 and immediately disappears.

Anthony Williams.Anthony Williams. [Source: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press]The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the National Emergency Management Association co-sponsor a two-day event held in Washington called Preparing the Nation: A National Policy Summit on Domestic Terrorism. Federal officials, state teams of governors’ key policy advisors, and state leaders in law enforcement, public health, fire, and emergency management attend. Speakers include Attorney General John Ashcroft, Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT), and Governor Robert Wise (D-WV). (National Governors Association 6/25/2001; Kriner 7/11/2001; National Governors Association 7/13/2001) The agenda of the event is structured around a tabletop exercise, based on a hypothetical bioterrorist attack. The scenario involves a neo-nazi terrorist releasing six liters of plague slurry in a fictional city resembling New York, called Gotham. (National Governors Association 6/25/2001; National Governors Association 7/10/2001 pdf file; National Governors Association 7/10/2001, pp. 7 pdf file) In his speech at the event, Anthony Williams, the mayor of the District of Columbia, says it is especially appropriate that the summit is being held in DC, because “our city has been called ground zero for a potential terrorism incident. ‘It’s only a matter of time,’ they say, ‘before Washington, DC is the site of a terrorist attack.’” (Williams 7/10/2001 pdf file) Assistant FBI Director Dale Watson tells the summit that a significant terrorist attack is likely on US soil (see July 11, 2001). (Stein 7/12/2001) In his speech, Ashcroft says, “Our number one priority is the prevention of terrorist attacks” (see July 11, 2001). (Ashcroft 7/11/2001 pdf file) Charles DeVita, the vice president for global safety and security for the Red Cross, says, “Conferences like these are starting to take place because even the federal government is realizing that [acts of terrorism are a major] threat. It’s not a matter of if, but when this is going to happen.” (Kriner 7/11/2001)

On July 10, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum to FBI headquarters urging a nationwide check on Middle Eastern students at flight schools (see July 10, 2001), but apparently neither Williams nor anyone else actually conducts any kind of check on Phoenix flight schools at this time. Phoenix flight school managers will later claim that the FBI does not ask them for tips on suspicious students before 9/11. A Sawyer School manager apparently had suspicions about some of his students (though he does not mention alleged Flight 77 pilot Hani Hanjour specifically). He later will say that had he known the FBI was concerned that some students might be Islamic militants, “I would have called someone.” Another flight school manager claims he has a good relationship with the FBI and is surprised he is not asked about Williams’s concerns. He will complain, “Should flight schools be clairvoyant?” (Thomas 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 529) In fact, although Hanjour left Arizona in March 2001 and lived on the East Coast after that time, there is evidence he comes back for some flight training in the Phoenix area in June and August 2001, including at the Sawyer School (see Summer 2001). The 9/11 Commission will later note that the evidence of Hanjour training in Phoenix during the summer is not definitive, but “the FBI’s Phoenix office believes it is plausible that Hanjour return[s] to Arizona for additional training.” (Thomas 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 529) It does not appear that Williams or any other FBI official checks flight schools anywhere else in Arizona before 9/11.

CIA counterterrorism chief Cofer Black and Richard Blee, a manager responsible for the CIA’s bin Laden unit, meet with CIA Director George Tenet and review the latest intelligence about al-Qaeda. Black lays out a case based on communications intercepts and other intelligence suggesting a growing chance that al-Qaeda will attack the US soon. There is no smoking gun per se, but there is a huge volume of data indicating an attack is coming (see July 9-10, 2001). The case is so compelling—Tenet will later say it “literally made my hair stand on end”—that Tenet decides to brief the White House on it this same day (see July 10, 2001). (Woodward 10/1/2006; Tenet 2007, pp. 151)

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