American foreknowledge of the attacks has been demonstrated over and over again. Film producer and political activist Aaron Russo said that a member of the Rockefeller family, one of the biggest financial powers in the US, had told him eleven months before the attacks that there would soon be ‘an event’ and a ‘hoax’ to start a ‘war on terror’ and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But if that’s all a bit ‘conspiracy theorist’ for you, here are the cold, hard facts: America had over a hundred warnings during the summer of 2001 that a spectacular al Qaeda attack on major Washington and/or New York targets, involving multiple hijacked airplanes and possibly planes flown into buildings, was imminent. Although US intelligence services had successfully prevented three to four dozen al Qaeda attacks during the nineties, this time they did nothing.
Following the attacks, President George W. Bush said “nobody in our government at least, and I don’t the think the prior government, could envisage flying air planes into buildings”, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice claimed no-one “could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile”. An Air Force general called the attack “something we had never seen before, something we had never even thought of”, FBI Director Robert Mueller announced “there were no warning signs that I’m aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country”, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard B Myers said “You hate to admit it, but we hadn’t thought about this”. These claims were patently false:
- In 1993, a plot to crash a plane into the US Embassy in Egypt was revealed by an FBI informant, and when an Ethiopean man hijacked a plane it was feared he was going to crash it into Manhattan, but the incident eventually ended peacefully.
- In 1994, French authorities stopped a plot to crash a hijacked passenger plane into the Eiffel tower.
- In 1995, investigators in the Philippines uncovered a plot to hijack airliners and crash them into ten US buildings.
- In 1996, US intelligence learned of a plot to fly a plane from Afghanistan to the US and crash it into the White House.
- In 1998, both the CIA and FBI learned that Libyan militants planned to fly a bomb-laden plane into the World Trade Center.
- In July 2001, at the G8 summit in Genoa, anti-aircraft missiles were installed in response to a report that terrorists may try to crash a plane to kill George Bush and other world leaders.
- In August 2001, US intelligence learned of a plot to use an airplane either to crash into or bomb the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
- Also see ‘16 – Artful incompetence‘ on previous terrorism drills simulating situations very similar to the attacks.
As early as 1998, the US was well aware that Osama bin Laden and his cohorts were planning a strike on Washington or New York. And in September 1999, a terrorism report prepared by the Federal Research Division, an arm of the Library of Congress, for the National Intelligence Council, predicted an al Qaeda attack involving crashing planes into major US buildings. In April 2000, a British al Qaeda member turned himself in to the FBI and revealed a plan to hijack an aircraft and fly it into a building. And in 2001, the warnings came thick and fast:
- February 2001 – CIA director George Tenet publicly warned Congress that bin Laden’s network was the most immediate and serious threat to US interests. Yet also around this time, Bush named missile defence as his top priority, ignored a counterterrorism plan to ‘roll back’ al Qaeda, and abandoned a crackdown on terrorist funding.
- May 2001 – An Algerian al Qaeda operative convicted of a previous bombing attempt warned authorities that “attack plans, including hijackings and attacks on New York City targets, [are] ongoing”. Also in May, US officials received at least three further warnings about an approaching attack on the US, and ABC news was told of a plan to hijack aircraft in an attack on the west, but did not report it, due to pressure from an intelligence agency.
- June 2001 – German intelligence warned the CIA, MOSSAD and British intelligence that Middle Eastern militants were planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack American and Israeli symbols.
- June 21st – In an interview with a Middle East Broadcasting Company reporter, senior al Qaeda officials promised that “[the] coming weeks will hold important surprises that will target American and Israeli interests in the world” and said “It’s time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts most”.
- June 25th – The White House received a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) entitled, “Bin Laden and Associates Making Near-Term Threats”.
- June 28th – CIA official Richard Blee gave a briefing on the state of the terrorism threat to CIA Director George Tenet and Counterterrorist Center Director Cofer Black, identifying more than ten specific pieces of intelligence about attacks expected within weeks.
- June 30th – A New York Times reporter received information from a Yemeni source via a top White House official that a major attack was imminent.
- July 5th – Counterterrorism tsar Richard Clarke warned several domestic agencies of an urgent terrorist threat, but the response and follow-up was poor.
- July 9th – The CIA believed a major al Qaeda attack was imminent after a Chechen rebel leader promised ‘very big news’ to his fighters.
- July 10th – FBI agent Ken Williams issued a memo noting his concern about the increasing number of middle-eastern ‘individuals of investigative interest’ taking flying lessons in Arizona (though none of the actual hijackers are among the names he lists, despite flight 77 pilot Hani Hanjour attending the school). Very little action was taken in response.
- July 10th – Cofer Black and Richard Blee briefed CIA Director George Tenet again on the imminent threat from al Qaeda. Tenet was so alarmed by the multiple and urgent warnings detailed that he took the information straight to the White House and met with Condoleeza Rice, who was polite but brushed him off and failed to take any action.
- July 16th – British intelligence warned Tony Blair and other British officials that al Qaeda was in the final stages of planning a major attack. The prediction was “based on intelligence gleaned not just from [British intelligence] but also from US agencies, including the CIA and the National Security Agency”. This followed another earlier warning from MI5.
- Late July – Egpytian intelligence offered the CIA information about twenty al Qaeda operatives in the US, four of whom were learning to fly. The CIA did not request the information.
- Late July – Argentina’s Jewish community received warnings of a major attack in America, and passed it on to the US.
- Late July – The Taliban themselves warned the US that bin Laden was planning a huge attack in the US.
- Late July – CIA director George Tenet said that the terrorist threat level was the worst it could be.
- July 31st – The FAA warned airlines of an imminent terrorist threat which may involve hijackings, but the alert expired before 9/11 and pilots and flight attendants said they never heard about it anyway.
- Early August – Government informant Randy Glass warned politicians of a planned attack on the World Trade Center.
- Early August – Britain warned the US specifically about multiple airline hijackings, in a message which reached President Bush.
- August 2nd – A senior Taliban official predicted, to a reporter, that the US would soon attack Afghanistan, probably in response to the expected terror attack.
- August – Lawyer David Schippers, who had links to several FBI agents, received several warnings about a terrorist attack in lower Manhattan and attempted to warn Congress, but was repeatedly brushed off and ignored.
- August – Russian intelligence and President Vladimir Putin warned the US that suicide pilots were training for terrorist attacks on American targets.
- August 6th – President Bush received a detailed presidential briefing memo entitled ‘Bin Laden determined to strike in US”. Bush told the CIA briefer “You’ve covered your ass now,” and spent the rest of the day fishing. The briefing was not acted upon. This is one of forty briefings Bush received about the al Qaeda threat during 2001.
- August – A former CIA agent recieved information from a Saudi military official about a ‘spectacular terrorist attack’ to take place shortly. He passed this on to a senior CIA official, who did nothing.
- August 15th – Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, warned the Department of Defense; “We are going to be struck soon, many Americans are going to die, and it could be in the US.”
- August 16th – The FAA issued a warning to airlines about terrorists who may have disguised weapons.
- August 16th – Zacarias Moussaoui, a French Muslim with North African roots and known terrorist links, was arrested by the FBI in Minnesota after he raised suspicion at his flight school. The FBI failed to inform its own head, or the Counterterrorism and Security Group, though both were standard practice. Minnesota’s FBI office quickly became convinced he was planning an attack with a plane, and warned that he might “fly something into the World Trade Center”. But FBI headquarters blocked warrants to search his laptop and belongings, rejected a plan to place an undercover agent in his cell, and obstructed the investigation time after time. (If Moussaoui’s possessions had been searched before 9/11, links could have been made between him and eleven of the hijackers.) Minnesota’s FBI office also asked headquarters to warn the Secret Service, but no warning was sent. Agent Harry Samit tried to warn his superiors and others about the suspected plot seventy times before 9/11, but was ignored at every level.
- Late August – French intelligence warns the US that many al Qaeda operatives are planning a major assault on large-scale targets.
- Late summer – Intelligence in Jordan warned the CIA that planes would be used in a major attack inside the US.
- September 6th – A Pakistani student in New York told his teacher “See those two buildings? They won’t be there next week.” This information was not relayed to the FBI until after 9/11, but the student and his family were found not to have any involvement in the attacks, so it shows what common knowledge the plot was in certain communities.
- September 10th – A Syrian CIA informant told his handlers ‘something big was about to go down’.
With all these warnings flooding in (and the above list is not exhaustive), the failures that rendered America apparently totally unprepared for the attacks are unbelievable. Yet at least seven of the key figures who failed to pass on information or obstructed investigations that would have led to the 9/11 plot were not punished, but promoted.
Able Danger was a secret military intelligence unit set up in late 1998 to indentify and monitor al Qaeda cells around the world. By early 2000 it had identified four of the 9/11 hijackers, including ringleader Mohamed Atta and pilot Marwan Alshehhi, as threats, but attempts to disseminate the information or investigate further were blocked by military lawyers and Generals, and shortly afterwards the unit was closed down and most of its data inexplicably confiscated or destroyed. (It was reopened later in the year and again independently identified the same hijackers.) The 9/11 Commission knew this, but failed to investigate or report on the findings of Able Danger.
Furthermore, three of the hijackers – Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar – were known al Qaeda veterans with links to the 1998 embassy bombings and foiled Millenium plots, were tracked by Saudi officials since at least this date, and were tracked by the CIA to an al Qaeda summit where the 9/11 plot was discussed in December 1999, and into America in the summer of 2001. The hijackers also interacted with fourteen individuals investigated by the FBI before 9/11, including four currently under investigation when the hijackers met with them. Almihdhar was on a NSA (National Security Agency) watch list since January 2000. It is impossible that none of these men were being watched.
Further, and broader, foreknowledge is demonstrated by accounts of those warned to stay off airlines or out of New York around the time of the attacks:
- Dick Gregory, an influential American comic and civil rights activist, was in New York on September 10th, but received a warning from a friend who told him to leave.
- San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown received a warning not to take a flight into New York on the morning of September 11.
- Author Salman Rushdie, promoting a new book in America, was stopped from flying in North America after the FAA insisted on severe security restrictions surrounding him due to a security threat.
- Some Middle Easterners in the New York area were warned ahead of time to stay out of lower Manhattan the morning of the attacks.
- Attorney General John Ashcroft stopped using commercial airliners and flew on private jets only from July 2001, on the instructions of the FBI.
- A group of top Pentagon officials, on September 10th, suddenly cancelled travel plans for the next morning.
- Senior Warner Bros execs declined a funeral service on Sept 11th because “something big” was to happen that day and they’d all be leaving New York – but they didn’t go to the same place, but were doing their own things that day.
At the same time, certain key figures were not at work in the WTC offices that morning:
- Larry Silverstein, leaseholder of the World Trade Center who had taken control of the site just six months earlier, was fortunately at a dermatologist apppointment instead of having his usual breakfast meeting in a restaurant at the top of the north tower. His son and daughter, who worked for him on the 88th floor, were both luckily running late that morning and were not in their office at the time of the attack. Silverstein Properties had a meeting about the danger of terrorist attack planned that morning in the north tower, but cancelled it Monday night because ‘one participant could not attend’.
- Jim Pierce, cousin of President Bush, was scheduled to attend a conference on the 105th floor of the South Tower, where his company’s New York offices were based. But the conference was moved across the street to the Millennium Hotel, because ‘the group was too large’.
- A number of business leaders who would normally have been in the World Trade Center were instead at a meeting at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (the same Air Force base and underground control centre that George Bush flew to later in the day apparently for a teleconference with Cheney and others).
A huge rise in the purchase of ‘put’ options – financial derivatives that increase in value as share prices fall – on companies harmed by the attacks, seems to show that someone was anticipating the upheaval that was about to occur. Put options were 90 times (not 90%!) above the normal level between September 6 and September 10, and 285 times higher than average on the Thursday before the attack, and for American Airlines put options were 60 times (not 60%) above normal on the day before the attacks, while no similar trading occurred on any other airlines. Similar trading occured on other companies affected. The government prevented investigation that could have traced the purchases, and had the records destroyed.
On 9/11, President Bush was visiting Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. The visit had been publicised in advance, and was just a few miles from a major airport. Yet at 9:03, when he was informed that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, the Secret Service, whose primary task is to protect the President, did nothing to remove him to a secure place and he finished the visit as planned, staying at the school for another half hour. This demonstrates either extraordinary incompetence, or absolute confidence of his safety.
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