Skip to comments.9/11 Inquiry Reveals WTC Threat in 1998
Posted on 09/18/2002 4:01:21 PM PDT by B-bone
9/11 Inquiry Reveals WTC Threat in 1998
Wed Sep 18, 6:49 PM ET
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional hearing was told on Wednesday that three years before the Sept. 11 attacks intelligence agencies had information about a group that planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center.
The information obtained in August 1998 about the group of "unidentified Arabs" was passed to the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration, but "the FAA found the plot highly unlikely given the state of that foreign country's aviation program," said Eleanor Hill, staff director of the joint Sept. 11 inquiry of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
This was one of many details revealed at the first public hearing into intelligence failures by America's spy agencies to detect plans by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network to conduct the Sept. 11 strike.
While most of the rising volume of threat reports about an impending attack during spring and summer of 2001 pointed to a strike overseas, some of it suggested targets inside the United States, Hill told the hearing.
But none of the threats provided a specific time, date, and place of the attack. "My own view is ... no one will ever really know whether 9/11 could have been prevented," she said.
On Sept. 11, four hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon ( news - web sites) near Washington and a Pennsylvania field, killing about 3,000 people. The United States blames bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.
Despite concerns about bin Laden and al Qaeda, intelligence agencies had not directed adequate resources to analyzing them, Hill said.
Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the CIA's Counterterrorist Center had only five analysts assigned full-time to bin Laden's network worldwide, and the FBI's terrorism analytic unit had only one analyst looking at al Qaeda long-term, she said.
In March 2001 an intelligence source claimed a group of bin Laden's operatives were planning an attack in the United States in April 2001. That April, information was obtained that "unspecified terrorist operatives" in California and New York were planning terrorist attacks in those states, Hill said.
In May 2001 intelligence agencies had information that bin Laden supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States through Canada to conduct an attack using explosives.
In that same month, the Defense Department acquired information that it shared with other intelligence agencies indicating that seven bin Laden associates had departed various locations for Canada, Britain and the United States.
In June 2001, Hill said, CIA's counterterrorist center had information that key operatives in bin Laden's organization "were disappearing while others were preparing for martyrdom."
The National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on global communications, reported at least 33 communications between May and July 2001 indicating a "possible, imminent terrorist attack," she said.
There were also threat reports that terrorists were considering using airplanes as weapons as a method of attack.
In August 2001, a month before the attacks, intelligence agencies had information about a plot to either bomb the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi from an airplane or crash an airplane into it, Hill said.
In April 2001, a source said that bin laden would be interested in commercial pilots as potential terrorists.
A year earlier, in April 2000, a source walked into the FBI's Newark office and claimed he had been to an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan where he learned hijacking techniques and received arms training and was supposed to meet five to six others in the United States to hijack a jumbo jet.
"They were instructed to use all necessary force to take over the plane because there would be pilots among the hijacking team," Hill said. The source passed a polygraph but the FBI was not able to verify his story, she said.
Before Sept. 11, the Counterterrorist Center had 40 analysts to analyze terrorism issues worldwide, and the only terrorist tactic it analyzed in-depth was the use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, Hill said.
"We now know that our inability to detect and prevent the Sept. 11 attacks was an intelligence failure of unprecedented magnitude," Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. "Some people who couldn't seem to utter the words 'intelligence failure' are now convinced of it."
"In the days before Sept. 11, many were quick to blame the success of the terrorists' diabolical plot on failures of intelligence or preparedness," Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat and chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said. But he said there was no smoking gun at this point.
Take all day for a meeting about the obvious. That's why they won't call me to testify. "Hello, McFly..." as I walked up behind each one and rubbed my knuckles across their heads.
.... but was it passed on to the then president? or his staff? That would make the Clintons the most culpable.
The last time I checked, our government still allowed Saudi Arabia Airlines to fly into Washington Dulles Airport.
While they are strip-searching Bob Dole and Al Gore....
By the way, does Egyptair also fly into Dulles?
I don't recall seeing that one listed on the Dulles website. But don't they still fly into JFK airport?
Yours and mine both...