by Russ Kick
The US has the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Secret Service, and a host of other intelligence and security agencies. These agencies employ Echelon, which monitors the majority of electronic communication in the world; Carnivore, which intercepts email; Tempest, a technology that can read a computer monitor's display from over a block away; Keyhole satellites that have a resolution of four inches 1; and other spy technologies, probably most of which we don't know about. In 2001, the US spent $30 billion on intelligence gathering and an additional $12 billion on counterterrorism.2 With all of these resources, and more, we're supposed to believe that the government didn't have the slightest inkling that terrorists were planning to attack the United States, much less hijack planes and send them careening into major landmarks.
As we'll see in this article, the facts just don't support the ignorance excuse. At the very least, the success of the 911 attacks reveals gross incompetence, criminal negligence, and general stupidity on the part of intelligence and other aspects of the government. Remember, this is truly the most charitable interpretation that can be given. A darker scenario - and one that, as we shall see, is quite supportable by the facts - is that some parties in the government knew what was about to happen but failed to act.
Let us build the case slowly, starting with the more general warning signs that were allegedly missed. Gradually, we shall move up the evidence ladder, to the indications that the US knew what was about to happen.
In December 2000, a committee appointed by Congress – the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction – released their second annual report. It flatly stated: “We are impelled by the stark realization that a terrorist attack on some level inside our borders is inevitable.”
Even more to the point, on September 10, 2001, the Congressional Research Service issued a report titled “Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors.” This prescient report stated: “Signs continue to point to... a rise in the scope of threat posed by the independent network of exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.... Osama bin Laden's network, which is independently financed and enjoys safe haven in Afghanistan, poses an increasingly significant threat to US interests in the Near East and perhaps elsewhere.”
Finally, the clincher comes when the report reveals ominous signs “that the network wants to strike within the United States itself.”
Chartered by the Department of Defense and supported by Congress and the White House, the US Commission on National Security/21st Century (originally called the National Security Study's Senior Advisory Board) is a blue-ribbon panel charged with examining how the US can best protect itself and its citizens, both at home and abroad. Chaired by two former Senators, the Commission includes a who's who of the military-industrial complex: a former CEO of Lockheed Martin, a retired general and former NATO commander, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a former Secretary of Defense and Energy and Director of the CIA, a former US Ambassador to the UN, and many others. They spent several years traveling to 25 countries, interviewing over 100 experts, and otherwise conducting important research, which was completely ignored.
Their first report, released on September 15, 1999, flat-out warned: “Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers.” In fact, the first of the fifteen major conclusions it listed was, “America will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland, and our military superiority will not entirely protect us.”
The Commission's final report, released on March 15, 2001, was longer and even more emphatic. Among its findings:
“The combination of unconventional weapons proliferation with the persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the US homeland to catastrophic attack. To deter attack against the homeland in the 21st century, the United States requires a new triad of prevention, protection, and response.”[Emphasis added.]
“America's present global predominance does not render it immune from these dangers. To the contrary, US preeminence makes the American homeland more appealing as a target, while America's openness and freedoms make it more vulnerable.”
“This Commission believes that the security of the American homeland from the threats of the new century should be the primary national security mission of the US government.”
“Since the occurrence of even one event that causes catastrophic loss of life would represent an unacceptable failure of policy, US strategy should therefore act as far forward as possible to prevent attacks on the homeland.”
Although the Commission focused primarily on weapons of mass destruction, it also recognized the threat of cheap, low-tech methods when it noted that those who want to cause terror are now “less obliged to gain large industrial capabilities in order to wreak havoc.... Clearly, the threshold for small groups or even individuals to inflict massive damage on those they take to be their enemies is falling dramatically.”
As if all this foreshadowing weren't enough, one of the Senators who headed the Commission mentioned the possibility of “a weapon of mass destruction in a high-rise building” to a reporter from the London Guardian.
A report commissioned by the Defense Department's Office of Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict discussed the possibility of terrorists using a plane to bomb national landmarks. The date of this report? 1993.5
In 1994, Marvin J. Cetron wrote of possible terrorist attacks in The Futurist magazine: “Targets such as the World Trade Center not only provide the requisite casualties but, because of their symbolic nature, provide more bang for the buck. In order to maximize their odds for success, terrorist groups will likely consider mounting multiple, simultaneous operations with the aim of overtaxing a government's ability to respond, as well as demonstrating their professionalism and reach.”
Cetron led a group of military officials and experts in a terrorism conference at Langley Air Force Base in 1993. They discussed the use of planes to ram targets, and Cetron told the group: “Coming down the Potomac, you could make a left turn at the Washington Monument and take out the White House, or you could make a right turn and take out the Pentagon.”
Steven Emerson is an investigative journalist whose 1994 PBS documentary Jihad in America exposed the existence of Muslim terror networks in the US. In early 1997, Emerson said: “[The threat of terrorism] is greater now than before the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993] as the numbers of these groups and their members expands. In fact, I would say that the infrastructure now exists to carry off twenty simultaneous World Trade Center-type bombings across the United States.”
With Daniel Pipes, Emerson plainly wrote at the end of May 2001 that bin Laden's group, al Qaeda, is “planning new attacks on the US.” This information appeared in the Wall Street Journal, which is read by all manner of politicians, executives, and other movers and shakers.
When it comes to experts who predicted attacks on the US, no one was more on-target than Yossef Bodansky, who has deep contacts in the world of intelligence and counterterrorism. In early 1995 he issued a warning that a federal building in America's heartland was going to be attacked. That April, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was blown to smithereens.
Bodansky's 1999 book Bin Laden: The Man Who Targeted America became a bestseller after the 911 attacks, but a book he wrote all the way back in 1993 has proven downright scary in its foresight regarding suicide bombers on American soil. In Target America: Terrorism in the US Today, Bodansky wrote in depth about the Muslim terrorists who are not only targeting America but were already in the country.
He devoted much space in the first chapter to the training of hijackers and pilots to commandeer airliners and crash them into targets in furtherance of the Jihad. “The training of suicide pilots started in Busher air base in Iran in the early 1980s, with some 90 Pilatus PC-7 aircraft purchased from Switzerland... [Emphasis added.] Tehran decided to send experienced pilots, including Hushang Morteza'i, to the Won San air base in North Korea, where they would 'be trained under the supervision of Korean instructors, known for their kamikaze flights,' for one year....
“For the disruption of aerial traffic in the West, from airport attacks to hijacking, Iran maintained two major installations for terrorist training. The first installation was established in Wakilabad near Mashhad. The entire Western-built airport was given over to the terrorist training program. The latest Western airport equipment was purchased and transferred to the training facility. Iran Air maintained a Boeing 707 and a Boeing 727 jet in the airport, and could send a Boeing 747 for special classes. There were several former Iran Air and Iranian Air Force pilots among the staff and students, including some who were trained in the United States.
“According to a former trainee in Wakilabad, one of the exercises included having an Islamic Jihad detachment seize (or hijack) a transport aircraft. Then, trained air crews from among the terrorists would crash the airliner with its passengers into a selected objective.”
You might want to read that again to let it truly sink in. As you do, recall that this information was published eight years before the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon.
Here are some other important and relevant extracts from Target America:
“One of the main objectives of the Iranian terrorist system was to launch daring operations in the West, especially in the United States.” [Emphasis added.]
“The February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York was but one of the first events in a new phase of the Islamist Jihad against the West, one that if carried out as planned, will be characterized by a spate of terrorism throughout America and Western Europe.”
“The leading terrorists are known as 'Afghans,' having been trained with the mujahideen in Pakistan. [Emphasis added.] Some fought in Afghanistan.... Muslim volunteers from several Arab and Asian countries were encouraged to come to Pakistan and join the Afghan Jihad.”
“The states controlling the Islamist terrorist network, primarily Syria and Iran, are committed to extending their struggle into the US and are willing to withstand the consequences. Therefore, in the early 1980s they began a lengthy, prudent, and professional process of consolidating a stable and redundant infrastructure in America based on a myriad of dormant networks and using established methods for the insertion of experts and triggermen. This approach is derived from, and essentially similar to, the successful terrorist build-up in Western Europe in the 1980s and incorporates many of the lessons learned from the rich operational experience accumulated there.”
“By the mid-1980s, the Iranian-sponsored Islamist network in the US and Canada had markedly expanded and become better organized. The Islamist infrastructure already included all the components of a mature terrorist support system. These included safe houses in major cities, weapons, ammunition, money, systems to provide medical and legal aid, false identity papers and intelligence for the operative. The network was also large in scale and spanned the United States.”
“These very acts of terrorism testify to the existence of a vibrant Islamist communal structure in the US identical to that of numerous Islamist communities in Western Europe that have been harboring, supporting, and recruiting Islamist terrorists, both individuals and networks. Now that the masters of Islamist international terrorism have given the order to strike, there should be no doubt that the bombing of the World Trade Center was, indeed, only the beginning.”8
After Target America, Bodansky continued to sound the alarm. His 1996 report “Islamic Terrorism in the United States” opens: “The explosion that shook New York, and the rest of America, was only the beginning. The World Trade Center bombing and the second terrorist network exposed in late June are but a prelude to an escalation of Islamic terror in the United States.
“The Islamic world has embarked on a Holy War – Jihad – against the West, especially the United States, that is being waged primarily through international terrorism. Unlike past terrorist campaigns, this war will be waged on American soil.”
“The terrorist plots in New York clearly demonstrated that it was now both permissible and possible to strike at the heart of America. In essence, the primary legacy of the bombing is the encouragement for the likeminded to follow. Indeed, French experts believe that the New York bombing amounts to 'the beginning of a “war” between radical Islam and the United States.'”9
So, who is Bodansky? What does it matter if some guy warned of what would happen in a little-known book published in 1993 by a small, independent publisher? Because he's not some obscure, self-proclaimed expert – he happens to be the Director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare in the US House of Representatives. He works for and has the ear of the US Congress. Yet somehow they had absolutely no idea that terrorists would strike the US or that they'd use hijacked planes as weapons.
Like the rest of the government, CIA Director George Tenet has claimed to be shocked and amazed by the attacks on the US. Then perhaps he'd care to explain why he said this in a speech on December 7, 2000: “Today, Americans must recognize that ours is a world without front lines. That the continental United States – and not just our embassies and forces abroad – is itself susceptible to attack. And that the potential method of assault goes well beyond a terrorist with a truck full of conventional explosives....
“When you take the sheer number and variety of people out in the world who would do harm to our country, its interests, or its allies, and if you add to that the wild card of technology – which enables, drives, and magnifies dangers to us – you will understand why we in the Intelligence Community believe that the chances for unpleasant – even deadly – surprise are greater now than at any time since the end of the Second World War.”10
On February 2 of that year, Tenet discussed bin Laden in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “Usama bin Laden is still foremost among these terrorists, because of the immediacy and seriousness of the threat he poses. Everything we have learned recently confirms our conviction that he wants to strike further blows against America. Despite some well-publicized disruptions, we believe he could still strike without additional warning.”11
But Tenet was specifically talking about bin Laden's threat to the US even earlier than that. On February 2, 1999, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Looking out over the next year, Mr. Chairman, let me mention two specific concerns. First, there is not the slightest doubt that Usama bin Laden, his worldwide allies, and his sympathizers are planning further attacks against us. Despite progress against his networks, bin Laden's organization has contacts virtually worldwide, including in the United States – and he has stated unequivocally, Mr. Chairman, that all Americans are targets.... [Emphasis added.]
“We have noted recent activity similar to what occurred prior to the African embassy bombings, Mr. Chairman, and I must tell you we are concerned that one or more of bin Laden's attacks could occur at any time.”12
As we'll see toward the end of this article, Tenet knew even more than he admitted openly, although these public statements by themselves are quite telling.
Less than two hours after the first plane plowed into the World Trade Center's north tower, Abdel-Bari Atwan – editor of the al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper in London – told Reuters: “Osama bin Laden warned three weeks ago that he would attack American interests in an unprecedented attack, a very big one.... Personally we received information that he planned very, very big attacks against American interests. We received several warnings like this.”13
Atwan chose not to alert the authorities, though, cryptically adding: “We did not take it so seriously, preferring to see what would happen before reporting it.” Reuters sheds a little light on the topic by slyly noting, “Atwan has interviewed bin Laden and maintains close contacts with his followers.” In a report prior to the attacks, the FBI said that al-Quds al-Arabi has published violent fatwas (Islamic edicts) from bin Laden, including one which “stated that Muslims should kill Americans – including civilians – anywhere in the world where they can be found.”14
Perhaps this explains why Atwan wasn't anxious to let everyone know about bin Laden's unprecedented threats. What we definitely know from this is that bin Laden wasn't keeping quiet about his plans. If the staff of a paper in Britain knew, why didn't any intelligence agents?
On September 7, 2001, the State Department issued a “worldwide caution” which said: “American citizens may be the target of a terrorist threat from extremist groups with links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization.”
It went on to warn, “Such individuals have not distinguished between official and civilian targets. As always, we take this information seriously. US Government facilities worldwide remain on heightened alert.”
The warning was supposedly directed at Americans overseas – particularly in Asia – though in a press conference held the Friday before the attacks, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the warning was issued “to ensure that the general American public is aware of this potential danger to their safety.”
Days after the attacks, former US Secretary of State George Schultz said he was “startled” by the State Department's memo. “I have no idea what intelligence lies behind the warning, but they put this out because they had some sort of intelligence,” he said. “They had some sort of rumbling of something, even if they didn't pinpoint it in the right direction.... [S]omething was cooking.”
“US Airlines May Be a Terror Risk Over Next 3 Days,” read the headline of a story from Airjet Airline World News. Dated June 23, 2001, the news release is worth quoting at length:
“With US Gulf forces already on high alert, the US State Department is expected to issue a travel advisory shortly warning Americans traveling overseas to be on their guard.
“Videotapes allegedly show Osama bin Laden threatening to attack US interests in the region. Indictments against 13 Saudi nationals and one Lebanese, charging them with killing 19 US servicemen at a military base in Saudi Arabia in 1996 appears to be the catalyst.
“With the announcement of the indictments, US Attorney General Ashcroft noted how terrorists are targeting the United States. 'Americans are a high-priority target for terrorists,' he said.... [Emphasis added.]
“The Arabic satellite television channel MBC has reported, 'the next two weeks will witness a big surprise.'
“A reporter of MBC said, 'A severe blow is expected against US and Israeli interests worldwide.' MBC said the reporter met with Osama bin Laden two days ago in Afghanistan.
“'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?' the correspondent said.... [Emphasis added.]
“Bob Monetti, President of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 said, 'I hope the airlines are watching this situation closely.'
“Mr. Monetti, who lost his son Rick on Pan Am 103, is also a special advisor to the FAA on security related matters. Monetti is hopeful about the progress that has been made since the bombing of Pan Am 103.
“However, Monetti expressed serious concern about the abilities of the airlines to stop a terrorist organization from carrying out their plans as promised. Monetti noted that Osama bin Laden has had several terrorist targets over the years and not all of them have been military.
“'The airlines are at risk – They need to take all appropriate measures and counter-measures to ensure the safety of their passengers,' Monetti said.” [Emphasis added.] 16
San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was scheduled to fly from his hometown to New York on the morning of September 11. The night before, though, he received a call telling him that he needed to be very careful about flying. Though Brown has tried to downplay the warning, he received it around 10 PM Pacific time – not exactly business hours, indicating that the warning could be considered urgent. Further adding to mystery, the mayor refuses to say exactly who warned him, referring only to “my security people at the airport.”
When the assistant deputy director of the San Francisco International Airport was contacted, he admitted that the FAA had issued two or three security warnings in the past two months. Too bad none of the people on the four flights had been apprised of these multiple warnings.
From the Times of London: “The author Salman Rushdie believes that US authorities knew of an imminent terrorist strike when they banned him from taking internal flights in Canada and the US only a week before the attacks.
“On September 3 the Federal Aviation Authority made an emergency ruling to prevent Mr. Rushdie from flying unless airlines complied with strict and costly security measures. Mr. Rushdie told the Times that the airlines would not upgrade their security.
“The FAA told the author's publisher that US intelligence had given warning of 'something out there' but failed to give any further details.
“The FAA confirmed that it stepped up security measures concerning Mr. Rushdie but refused to give a reason.”18
The reason almost certainly is that Rushdie is famously hated by Muslims for his novel The Satanic Verses, and US intelligence (and possibly the FAA) knew that Islamic terrorists were preparing to hijack planes.
A small fire broke out in an apartment in Manila in 1995. It turns out the place was a veritable bomb-making factory, and authorities quickly realized it was a hideout for Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist mastermind who has since been convicted for his role in 1993 WTC bombing. Yousef evaded the Filipino authorities, but they nabbed his accomplice, Abdul Hakim Murad, who had been trained as a pilot in the US. Both men are believed to be part of bin Laden's network.
An investigator with Philippine intelligence said: “Murad narrated to us about a plan by the Ramzi cell in the continental US to hijack a commercial plane and ram it into the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and also the Pentagon.”
Investigators found evidence that the terrorists were also targeting the White House, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco, and – brace yourself – the World Trade Center.
A search of Yousef's computer also turned up a plan to blow up eleven US airliners during international flights in a two-day period. The terrorists had even mapped out which flights to target and when to set the timers on the bombs. This orgy of destruction was named Project Bojinka by the terrorists.
An unnamed official admitted the obvious to the World Tribune: “What we saw was the completion of Yousef's plans. The resemblance is too strong to ignore.”
FBI; Director Robert Mueller has repeatedly pleaded ignorance about the fact that terrorists were training to be pilots in the US. When this training was first announced in the days following the attacks, he pretended that this was “news, quite obviously,” and said: “If we had understood that to be the case, we would have – perhaps one could have averted this.” Several facts show that Mueller is a bald-faced liar.
First;, while investigating the simultaneous 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, federal authorities discovered that two of bin Laden's associates had been trained as pilots. This revelation even became part of the public record in the first half of 2001, when these two men testified during trial in New York.
Second;, the vice president of Airman Flight School in Oklahoma has revealed that the FBI twice interviewed him about suspected terrorists training at his school, once in August 2001 and once in 1999. In the earlier incident, investigators asked about Ihab Ali Nawawi – charged in the embassy bombings – who had trained at Airman.
In; the later incident – taking place just three weeks before the 911 attacks – the feds asked questions about Zacarias Moussaoui, an Algerian now being held in New York over his suspected ties to the hijackers. They wanted to know if Moussaoui had made “extreme comments” about the US during his time training at Airman. When asked why they were inquiring, the agents said “he had done something very bad.”
It; turns out that Moussaoui had been arrested over an alleged passport violation when he tried to take flying lessons at a second school, this one in Minnesota. According to Europe 1 radio, he “had several passports, technical information on Boeing aircraft and flight manuals.” He was being held in a county jail.
Several; things had made the Algerian extraordinarily suspicious. He wanted to learn to fly a Boeing 747 even though he had negligible experience or training in air travel, and he was offering thousands of dollars in cash if someone would teach him how to fly. Moussaoui was openly interested only in how to steer the plane in the air; he didn't care about learning to take off or land. To top it off, he specifically asked about flying in New York City airspace and about opening cabin doors while in flight.
At; least ten days before the 911 attacks, French intelligence warned the FBI that Moussaoui had connections to Muslim militants and may have been trained at terrorist camps in Afghanistan. The FBI then confirmed that Moussaoui was involved with bin Laden's group, yet they still didn't take him into federal custody, and the Justice Department wouldn't give permission to examine his hard drive.
(Authorities now believe that Moussaoui was the missing “twentieth” hijacker. Each of the four 911 planes was hijacked by five men, except for United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. Moussaoui was supposedly the fifth man but couldn't make his date with destiny because he was locked up.)
Even; further back, operators of two other flight schools – Coastal Aviation in North Carolina and Richmor Aviation in New York – said that the FBI questioned them about Abdul Hakim Murad (caught in the Philippines, as mentioned above) and several Arab pilots connected to him. This took place in 1996.
In; the end, 37 of the hijackers and their associates are known to have trained as pilots in the US. Clearly, the authorities' claims that they were unaware of Muslim terrorist suspects training as pilots is completely bogus.
NBC; News puts it as well as anyone could: “The World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks with hijacked airliners have been called 'unimaginable,' 'without precedent' and 'impossible to predict.' But were they? In 1994, in a strikingly similar plan, suicidal Algerian hijackers plotted to use an Air France jetliner, loaded with fuel and dynamite, as a deadly weapon – and to aim it at the Eiffel Tower.”
Air; France Flight 8969 was hijacked by four Muslim militants – believed to have ties to bin Laden – as it got ready to take off from Algiers for Paris on Christmas Eve. The terrorists loaded the plane with explosives and, stopping in Marseilles, had it filled with extra fuel to make it highly combustible for ramming into the Eiffel Tower. Before the plane took off again, though, commandos stormed it, killing the hijackers.
In; an unrelated incident earlier that year, a disgruntled Federal Express employee broke into the cockpit of a DC-10 and brained all three members of the flight crew with a hammer. Luckily, despite their serious injuries, they fended him off and kept control of the plane. According to the man's coworkers, he planned to crash the plane into FedEx's corporate headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee.
And; it turns out that even these harbingers of the 911 attacks weren't completely unprecedented. A somewhat similar plan was hatched by Muslim militants to hijack Pan Am Flight 76 in Pakistan in 1986, and blow it to smithereens over Tel Aviv, raining debris and fuel onto the Israeli city. Luckily, the Palestinian hijackers were captured before the plane had taken off.
Lest; you still think the authorities didn't know Islamic terrorists were planning on using hijacked planes as weapons, let's turn our attention to the G8 Summit in Italy. This meeting of the world's eight economic superpowers, which took place in Genoa in July 2001, became infamous when police shot and killed an unarmed protestor.
Security; at the event was tight and included surface-to-air missiles, as well as the shutting down of airspace over the city. This seemed ridiculously excessive at the time, but Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini revealed the actual reason for the heightened state of alert: Italian intelligence had uncovered a plan to assassinate President Bush during the event by crashing a hijacked commercial airliner either into Airforce One or one of the buildings being used for the summit. According to three sources – Prime Minister Fini, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's bodyguard service – the threat to kill Bush (and possibly other leaders) came from Osama bin Laden.
In; spite of the incidents mentioned above, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Jane F. Garvey, had the nerve to tell a House subcommittee nine days after the attacks: “This is a whole new world for us.” Making this and other related claims of industry surprise even more silly are the FAA's annual “Criminal Acts Against Aviation” reports. The 2000 report said that while bin Laden “is not known to have attacked civil aviation, he has both the motivation and the wherewithal to do so.... Bin Laden's anti-Western and anti-American attitudes make him and his followers a significant threat to civil aviation, particularly to US civil aviation.”
The; New York Times notes: “The previous year's edition of that report said that an exiled Islamic leader in Britain proclaimed in August 1998 that Mr. bin Laden would 'bring down an airliner, or hijack an airliner to humiliate the United States.' “
As; of August 21, 2001, the CIA, the FBI, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service knew that two associates of bin Laden were in the country. One of them had been seen on videotape talking to a suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen (also thought to be the work of al Qaeda). These two men – Khalid Al-Midhar and Salem Alhamzi – are listed as two of the hijackers of American Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon.
The; FBI was unable to trace the two men. Not that they apparently gave it their all. The suspects were known to have lived in the San Diego area (one of them even attended college there), yet the agents didn't ask the Los Angeles field office for help until one or two days before the 911 attacks. And according to FBI Special Agent Jeff Thurman in San Diego, they didn't contact the San Diego office itself until two days after the attacks.
In; June 2001, Federal Protective Service officers in New York arrested three Middle Eastern men who were engaged in photographic reconnaissance of federal buildings in New York City. In another stunning display of incompetence, after the FBI and INS interrogated the men, they were let go. When the men's film was finally developed days later, the feds were beside themselves. “The photos were of security checkpoints, police posts and surveillance cameras at 26 Federal Plaza, two federal courthouses and the federal building at 290 Broadway,” according to the New York Post.
Their; intentions were so obvious that even the FBI could understand. The Post wrote that “anxious authorities expressed concern that plans for a terror attack were under way.” They tried to apprehend the three again, but according to a leaked US Marshals memo: “Further investigation by the FBI showed that the three have left their last known residences, leaving behind paychecks from their employment.”
The; FBI and military intelligence now believe that the three are part of bin Laden's network.
From; January to May 2000, Mohamed Atta – considered the ringleader of the hijacking teams – lived in Frankfurt, Germany, where the CIA had him under surveillance. (According to the German news magazine Focus, the agents didn't tell German authorities about Atta, who came to the US in June 2000 to take flying lessons.) This is in stark contrast to the statements of authorities, who claim that as of Atta's entry into the US in January 2001, they had no idea he was involved in terrorist activity.
On; a related note, German security officials say they had been observing Said Bahaji – a prime suspect under warrant for the 911 attacks – at some point before Sept. 11. They refuse to say when their investigation of him began or ended. Bahaji is now believed to have arranged travel documents and accommodations for some of the hijackers.
What; are we to make of the fact that the CIA intercepted bin Laden's men making a celebratory phone call just after the attacks? Had the US been unable to monitor al Qaeda's calls before September 11, but miraculously managed to start intercepting calls on that very day? Of course not. Based on just this information, we can deduce that US intelligence had been monitoring the terrorists' communications before the fateful day.
We; also have direct proof that this is so. On September 10, 2001, US intelligence agencies intercepted a call between “bin Laden supporters in the United States and senior members of bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist organization” in which they discussed an impending “big attack.” This comes from an unnamed source the Washington Times identified as “a senior administration official.”
Unfortunately;, though the call was made on the 10th, it wasn't analyzed by intelligence until several days after September 11. The administration official said that this time-lag is an unfortunate part of intelligence gathering.
However;, there's no time-lag excuse with another intercepted message from a member of al Qaeda, who declared that bin Laden was preparing a “Hiroshima” against the US. This message was uncovered sometime in 2000.
Even; if these messages were too vague and/or too late to help prevent the attacks, they do tell us one crucial thing: Despite official claims to the contrary, the US was monitoring the conversations of al Qaeda bigshots in Afghanistan and bin Laden's followers in America. Certainly, these two conversations taking place a year apart couldn't have been the only time the terrorists discussed the operation over compromised communications channels.
We; also know that bin Laden's supporters were being monitored by German intelligence based on this report from CNN: “German intelligence services intercepted a phone call September 11 after the terrorist attacks on the United States in which two followers of Osama bin Laden applauded the deadly assaults, a German intelligence official said.... The official said the phone call did not originate in Germany or any other European nation, but refused to identify the country or region.”
“In two days you're going to hear big news and you're not going to hear from me for a while.” That was the tip-off bin Laden gave to his stepmother on September 9, 2001. According to NBC News, this phone call was intercepted by a “foreign intelligence service.”28
Thus;, we know that 1) it was possible to intercept bin Laden's communications, despite US statements that his communications are either encrypted or made through non-electronic means; and 2) some intelligence agency picked up bin Laden's warning of a big event on September 11, after which he would be incommunicado.
Further; destroying the notion that authorities couldn't possibly have foreseen the attacks on the twin towers is the fact that the terrorists who bombed them in 1993 said they would keep trying. In fact, while investigating the bombing of the WTC, authorities found a message on the computer of conspirator Nidal Ayyad: “Next time, it will be very precise.”
Days; after Ramzi Yousef and his confederates bombed the WTC on February 26, 1993, they sent a letter to the New York Times. It read, in part:
“We are, the fifth battalion in the LIBERATION ARMY, declare our responsibility for the explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region.
According; to the testimony of two terrorism experts before a Senate committee in 1998: “The conspirators also drafted a second letter, which was later recovered from an erased file on a computer disk seized from Ayyad's office. In this second letter, which the conspirators apparently did not send, they proclaimed that the World Trade Center bomb did not do as much damage as had been intended, because their 'calculations were not very accurate this time.' They warned, however, that they would be more precise in the future and would continue to target the World Trade Center if their demands were not met.”
Obviously;, their demands were not met, as the US has continued to support Israel and otherwise have a heavy hand in Middle Eastern affairs. And as they promised, Muslim terrorists continued to target the US and, specifically, the World Trade Center. Could they have been any clearer about their intentions?
It; wasn't just the 1993 bombers who threatened the World Trade Center, either. Avelino Razon, who was Manila police chief at the time that Abdul Hakim Murad was arrested in the Philippines, told Agence France-Presse: “I remember that after the first World Trade Center bombing Osama bin Laden made a statement that on the second attempt they would be successful.”30
According; to NBC News: “Bin Laden himself said in June that he was preparing a 'hard hit' against US interests across the globe.”
In; its supposed indictment of bin Laden – released when the world was demanding some evidence that he was behind the 911 attacks – the British government noted: “In two interviews broadcast on US television in 1997 and 1998 he referred to the terrorists who carried out the earlier attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 as 'role models'.”
In; its 70-point bill of indictment against bin Laden, the British government admitted blatant signs that were somehow missed: “In August and early September close associates of bin Laden were warned to return to Afghanistan from other parts of the world by 10 September. Immediately prior to 11 September some known associates of bin Laden were naming the date for action as on or around 11 September.”32
According; to journalists Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair – publishers of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch – a man who worked at the World Trade Center told them that “security was heightened three weeks ago [before the attacks], including the introduction for the first time of sniffer dogs and the physical search of all trucks prior to their being waved into the entrance from the street.”
(Similarly, security was heightened at an Army base in New Jersey for reasons that weren't apparent. “Our informant says that at the start of July the Arsenal was placed at a very [high] state of alert, with some staff locked in their offices for a period.”)
If; a nation knows it's about to be attacked, it will often strike first. It turns out that this incredibly obvious piece of military strategy figures heavily into the 911 attacks. As the BBC reported: “Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani Foreign Secretary, was told by senior American officials in mid-July  that military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October. Mr. Naik said US officials told him of the plan at a UN-sponsored international contact group on Afghanistan which took place in Berlin.” This group included Americans, Russians, Iranians, Pakistanis, and a representative of the Northern Alliance opposition in Afghanistan.
The; plan was to capture or kill bin Laden and the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, as well as to topple the entire Taliban government. The BBC continues: “Mr. Naik was told that Washington would launch its operation from bases in Tajikistan, where American advisers were already in place. He was told that Uzbekistan would also participate in the operation and that 17,000 Russian troops were on standby.”
So; are we sure that the Taliban knew about this US plan to invade them? Absolutely. Naik declared to the Guardian of London: “I told the Pakistani government, who informed the Taliban via our foreign office and the Taliban ambassador here.”
The; revelations that the US had foreknowledge have come out so fast and furiously that Secretary of State Colin Powell was forced to make a halfway admission. Yes, we knew terrorist attacks against American interests were coming, he admitted in early October 2001, but we had absolutely no specifics. No idea that it would be against the US.
Vice; President Dick Cheney admitted much the same thing during an appearance on Meet the Press, saying that they knew a “big operation” was going to occur, but they had absolutely no idea how, when, or where.
An; unnamed US official revealed a good bit more: “There was something specific in early August that said to us that he [bin Laden] was determined in striking on US soil.” Still, the official claims that they didn't know exactly what to expect.
The; fact that these officials admitted this much is surprising, but it was necessary because signs were undeniable that the US knew something was about to bust loose. As far as not having any idea that the US itself would be the target, many of the warnings discussed in this article show this claim to be ridiculous.
The; Boston Globe reports that, based on the investigation of the embassy bombings in 1998, “US officials also were aware that bin Laden had recruited US citizens to join his al Qaeda terrorist group and that many of them received military and intelligence training in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sudan. Members of the organization lived in California, Texas and Oregon, among other states.”36
The; idea that authorities had no idea the Pentagon could be a target is laughable, according to information in the Daily Telegraph. “For years, staff at the Pentagon joked that they worked at 'Ground Zero', the spot at which an incoming nuclear missile aimed at America's defenses would explode. There is even a snack bar of that name in the central courtyard of the five-sided building, America's most obvious military bullseye.”37
In; what might be a case of ESP, Florida Governor Jeb Bush – who is, of course, the president's brother – called up his state's National Guard on September 7, 2001. Executive Order 01-261 repeatedly makes reference to the Guard aiding law enforcement and emergency-management personnel in the event of “civil disturbance.” Section 3 expressly tasks the Guard with aiding security at Florida's ports due to the “the potential massive damage to life and property that may result from an act of terrorism at a Florida port, [and] the necessity to protect life and property from such acts of terrorism...”38 Odd that such an order was signed into effect four days before the terrorist attacks.
From; mid-June to mid-July 2000, at least seventeen Internet domain names were registered which indicated when and where the attacks were to occur. Among the Web addresses: “attackontwintowers.com,” “nycterroriststrike.com,” “pearlharborinmanhattan.com,” “terrorattack2001.com,” “worldtradetowerattack.com,” and “wterroristattack2001.com.” Unfortunately, the names were allowed to expire, so tracking the people who bought them may not be easy.
Counterterrorism; and security expert Neil Livingstone - author of America the Vulnerable and other similar books – was tipped off about the names by someone at a domain name registrar. (In the summer of 2000, around 90 companies were registering domains. To protect his source, Livingstone is refusing to name the individual or the company.) When domains that were registered are allowed by their owners to expire, the names are announced as being available again, and this is apparently how they were first discovered. (Beginning September 11, 2001, some of these domain names have been purchased again, presumably by different people).
Said; Livingstone, “It's unbelievable that they [the registration company] would register these domain names, probably without any comment to the FBI. If they did make a comment to the FBI, it's unbelievable that the FBI didn't react to it.”
Reports; have been swirling that ordinary people, mostly Arab-Americans in New York City, knew about the attacks before they happened. FBI agents have told the media that they're tracking down numerous people who spoke of the impending attacks in the New York area, confirming that such warnings occurred. A veteran NYPD investigator said that numerous Arab-Americans in New York had heard that the attacks were going to happen. “The officer said the story 'had been out on the street,' and the number of leads turning up was so 'overwhelming' that it was difficult to tell who had heard about the attacks from second-hand sources and who had heard it from someone who may have been a participant,” according to the Journal News of Westchester, New York.
A; police detective in Brooklyn said that investigations of numerous Middle Easterners who didn't show up for work at the WTC on September 11 are “a serious and major priority.” The Independent of London reported: “Dozens of members of a mosque in the Bronx told the FBI they had also been given a vague warning to stay out of lower Manhattan.”
Three; incidents of which we know details involve schoolchildren (which makes sense, since kids are notoriously poor judges of when to keep their lips buttoned). On September 10, 2001, a fifth-grader in a Dallas suburb made a startling declaration to his teacher: “Tomorrow, World War III will begin. It will begin in the United States, and the United States will lose.” The boy was absent from school on September 11 and 12.
A; school district official “said the boy is multiracial but that she does not believe his ethnicity includes a Middle Eastern background,” according to the Houston Chronicle. The paper further notes: “Two charities in the neighboring suburb of Richardson have been investigated in the past for possible ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations.”
In; another incident, this one in Jersey City, a pupil at an unnamed school had warned people to stay away from lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11. Several hijackers lived in Jersey City.
Even; more to the point, one week before the attacks, a Brooklyn high school freshman pointed out a classroom window at the WTC towers and said to the class and his teacher: “Do you see those two buildings? They won't be standing there next week.” The boy's family had recently immigrated from Pakistan.
Minutes; after the 911 attacks, school officials told the authorities about the student's correct prediction. On September 13, the FBI and NYPD interviewed the boy, his brother, and their father. After the interviews, the father promptly left the country for Pakistan, leaving the rest of his family behind.
Two; weeks before the attacks, Saddam Hussein put his military on its highest state of alert, something he hadn't done since the Gulf War a decade earlier. He also hid in his network of bunkers and moved his wives out of their palatial residence in Baghdad.
What; makes this so suspicious is that Hussein had no apparent reason for declaring a red alert and going into hiding. A US intelligence official commented: “He was clearly expecting a massive attack and it leads you to wonder why.”
Things; become clearer when you realize that Hussein “had been providing al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, with funding, logistical back-up and advanced weapons training,” according to an investigation by the Daily Telegraph. According to the London newspaper: “The CIA is understood to have evidence that Mohammed Atta, one of the suicide bombers, met an Iraqi intelligence officer earlier this year in Prague.... In the past four months at least three high-ranking Iraqi intelligence officials – among them Hassan Ezba Thalaj, a veteran officer with a reputation for ruthlessness – have visited Pakistan to meet representatives of al-Qaeda. Previous visitors have taken large sums of money with them, including Ahmed al Jafari, a senior Baghdad intelligence officer who took £420,000 [$598,000] 18 months ago. Other funds have been forwarded via banks in Lebanon.”
During; the summer of 2001, Russian media were abuzz with talks of some kind of “attack” against the US that would destabilize and perhaps topple the economy. Russian citizens were urged to convert their dollar to rubles.
On; July 12, Pravda ran a page-one article headlined, “The Dollar and America Will Fall Down on August 19?” While speaking at a conference focusing on the financial collapse of the US, Dr. Tatyana Koryagina - who works for a division of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development – gave an interview to the newspaper. The interviewer asked her, “All the participants at the hearings stated that America is a huge financial pyramid, which will crash soon. Still, it is hard to understand how this could happen in the first and richest country of the world – without a war, without missile or bomb strikes?” She cryptically replied: “Besides bombs and missiles, there are other kinds of weaponry, much more destructive ones.”
Among; her other ominous comments: “One must take into account the shadow economy, shadow politics and the religious component, while predicting the development of the present financial situation.” “The US has been chosen as the object of financial attack because the financial center of the planet is located there. The effect will be maximal. The strike waves of economic crisis will spread over the planet instantly, and will remind us of the blast of a huge nuclear bomb.” “Serious forces are acting against those who are now preparing the attack on the United States.”
On; July 17, Pravda ran another interview, this time with Dr. Sergei Glazyev, one of Russia's leading economists and the Chairman of the Duma Commission on Economic Politics. The article was entitled “The Dollar and the US Could Fall at Any Moment.” Exactly two weeks later, Pravda published yet another interview of this type – with Malaysia's ambassador to Russia – titled, “The Dollar and the US Will Fall.”
Other; Russian papers ran similar stories, and even the Russian-language TV station in New York addressed the situation, assuring Russians in the Big Apple that “the Moscow rumors are ungrounded.”
For; over a year, authorities in the Cayman Islands were investigating three Afghan men who arrived on the island under strange circumstances. They claimed they boarded a ship in Turkey bound for Canada, but were dropped off in the Caymans, which they initially thought was Canada. Authorities say they're sure the trio actually arrived via Cuba using Pakistani passports.
So; what's the kicker? As the Los Angeles Times revealed: “Two weeks before the hijackings, an anonymous letter sent to a Cayman Islands radio station warned that the three might be involved with bin Laden in preparing 'a major terrorist act against the US via an airline or airlines.'”
Meanwhile;, the Ottawa Citizen reports that “a man in the Cayman Islands was said to have contacted American authorities in late August saying he overheard three Afghan men in a bar discussing planned attacks on the US.” There's no way to know if this man and the letter-writer are the same person, or whether these three men are the same ones mentioned in the letter, but either way at least one person knew what was going to happen and warned the authorities and the media.
David; Shippers is the attorney who led the impeachment case against President Clinton. Whether or not you agree with his politics, Shippers is definitely not a fringe figure. He's a heavily connected Washington insider. In interviews since the attacks, he has told of trying to warn members of Congress and the Attorney General about planned attacks to be carried out by Islamic terrorists. Understandably cagey about his sources, Shippers has said that he learned that the plan involved detonating a suitcase nuclear bomb in lower Manhattan and using hijacked commercial airliners to ram the White House and Capitol building. (Obviously, his sources weren't 100 percent accurate, but they were certainly close.) For months he tried to get John Ashcroft, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and others to listen. They would initially express interest – sometimes even approaching him – but then he'd never hear from them again.
Shippers; is now representing several outraged FBI agents who say they learned about the attacks ahead of time, but were forbidden by superiors from doing anything about them. Often, they specialized in Muslim terrorism but were pulled off their beats when they uncovered important information.
In; one of the most unusual developments, the German newspaper Neue Presse reports that an Iranian man being held in Hanover warned US intelligence officials of an attack that was to take place in America the week of September 10. After pleading with his captors to let him talk to authorities in America, he was allowed to call (at least one of those he called was the Secret Service). However, US officials hung up on him when he said that he was awaiting deportation from Germany. Mere hours before the 911 attacks commenced, the 29-year-old begged to fax a letter to President Bush. He was denied the chance.
Authorities; were very interested in him after the fact, though. On September 14, he was interrogated by US officials from the Justice Department and intelligence agencies. Although some German officials attempted to downplay the story by insisting the man didn't know much, the Lower Saxony Justice Ministry confirmed to an Irish news Website that the detainee did indeed warn the US of an impending series of attacks.
According; to the Daily Telegraph of London: “Israeli intelligence officials say that they warned their counterparts in the United States last month that large-scale terrorist attacks on highly visible targets on the American mainland were imminent.... The Telegraph has learnt that two senior experts with Mossad, the Israeli military intelligence service, were sent to Washington in August to alert the CIA and FBI to the existence of a cell of as many of 200 terrorists said to be preparing a big operation.”46
Agence; France-Press reports: “The Russian intelligence service had warned Washington several times in the past of the possibility of terrorist strikes on US soil, the head of the service, Nikolai Patrushev, said yesterday. 'We had clearly warned them,' said Mr. Patrushev, who is head of the FSB, the successor organization to the KGB. He added that their US counterparts 'did not pay the necessary attention' to their warnings, the Interfax news agency reported.”47
According; to the highly respected German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, members of German intelligence confirmed that US, UK, and Israeli intelligence agencies had indeed picked up on the plot by Muslim terrorists to hijack jetliners and crash them into US landmarks. (Israel was targeted, as well.) Using the global snooping system of Echelon, these countries knew six months in advance about the 911 attacks.
The; German sources said US intelligence took the threats very seriously and increased surveillance of the terrorists. The problem allegedly was that they couldn't agree on a way to prevent the attacks.48
As; mentioned earlier in this article, authorities in the Philippines uncovered Project Bojinka, the radical Muslim plot to ram hijacked jets into American landmarks and to blow up eleven US airliners in two days. They turned over this information to the FBI. It is not known what, if anything, the feds did with it.
The; Washington Post writes: “Watching the attacks in New York and Washington unfold on television earlier this month, an investigator here gasped, 'It's Bojinka.' He said later: 'We told the Americans everything about Bojinka. Why didn't they pay attention?'”49
" Rusty Capps, a retired FBI counterterrorism chief: “We've had indications this was coming for some years.”50
Michael; Cherkasky, former New York City prosecutor who worked on the 1993 WTC bombing investigation and currently the head of Kroll, Inc., a well-known security company: “I believe that we had sufficient, specific information to say we were at enormous risk during the year 2000, 2001 of having a very, very serious incident here.”51
Jerry; Bremer, a former State Department terrorism expert and the chair of a national commission on terrorism in 2000: “We all predicted this. We had strategic warning. This is not something the analysts missed.”52
The; most damning quote of all comes from an on-the-scene bulletin from National Public Radio on the morning of September 11. Congressional correspondent David Welna was reporting from the Capitol building as it was being evacuated: “I spoke with Congressman Ike Skelton – a Democrat from Missouri and a member of the Armed Services Committee – who said that just recently the director of the CIA warned that there could be an attack – an imminent attack – on the United States of this nature. So this is not entirely unexpected.”53
So there you have it. Numerous government reports predicting strikes on US soil. Experts and officials predicting the same thing. Warnings from the State Department and the FAA. The discovery of Project Bojinka. Previous attempts at using hijacked commercial aircraft as weapons of mass destruction. The FBI's prior knowledge of terrorists training at pilot schools in the US. Threats by the 1993 WTC bombers and bin Laden himself to take out the World Trade Center. Members of al Qaeda, including some of the hijackers and bin Laden, under surveillance beforehand. Heightened security at the WTC in August. Activation of the Florida National Guard. Domain names that advertised the attacks. Direct warnings from several countries and individuals. Prior knowledge among people on the street. Word from German intelligence that the US knew about the specific plans six months in advance. Admissions from ex-officials that this wasn't a surprise. And finally, a Congressman admitting that the Director of the CIA had just warned of “an imminent attack on the United States of this nature.”