|Attack Foreseen In 1999
||Saturday, May 18,
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- Two
years before the Sept. 11 attacks, an analysis prepared
for U.S. intelligence warned that Osama bin Laden's
terrorists could hijack an airliner and fly it into
government buildings such as the Pentagon.
"Suicide bomber[s] belonging to
al-Qaida's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an
aircraft packed with high explosives [C-4 and semtex]
into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central
Intelligence Agency [CIA], or the White House," the
September 1999 report said.
Bush administration has asserted that no one in
government had envisioned a suicide hijacking before it
White House press
secretary Ari Fleischer said the administration was
aware of the report prepared by the Library of Congress
for the National Intelligence Council, which advises the
president and U.S. intelligence on emerging threats. He
said the document did not contain direct intelligence
pointing toward a specific plot but rather included
assessments about how terrorists might strike.
"What it shows is that this
information that was out there did not raise enough
alarm with anybody," Fleischer acknowledged.
Former President Clinton, golfing
in Hawaii, played down the intelligence value of the
"That has nothing to
do with intelligence," he said. "All that it says is
they used public sources to speculate on what bin Laden
might do. Let me remind you that's why I attacked his
training camp and why I asked the Pakistanis to go get
him, and why we contracted with some people in
Afghanistan to go get him because we thought he was
Also Friday, new
information emerged about a memo from the FBI's Phoenix
office in July warning headquarters that a large number
of Arabs were training at a U.S. flight school. The memo
urged that all flight schools nationwide be checked, but
the FBI failed to act on the idea before Sept. 11.
Government officials said Friday
that two of the more than half dozen names the FBI
Phoenix office identified in the memo were determined by
the CIA after Sept. 11 to have links to bin Laden's
Officials said the CIA
was not shown the memo before Sept. 11 and even if it
had, it did not have the intelligence linking the two
men to al-Qaida until after the attacks. The FBI checked
the names before Sept. 11 but found no bin Laden ties,
the officials added.
Deputy Director John Gannon, who was chairman of the
National Intelligence Council when the 1999 report was
written, said officials long have known a suicide
hijacking was a threat.
ask anybody could terrorists convert a plane into a
missile, nobody would have ruled that out," he said.
Democrats and some Republicans in
Congress raised the volume of their calls to investigate
what the government knew before Sept. 11.
"We're going to learn a lot about
what the government knew," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton,
D-N.Y., said during an appearance in New York. She said
she was unaware of the report created in 1999 during her
transcripts reviewed by The Associated Press show the
govern- ment had other warning signs between 1999 and
2001 that bin Laden was sending members of his network
to be trained as pilots and was considering airlines as
a possible target.
records show the FBI has known since at least 1999 that
Ihab Mohammed Ali, who was arrested in Orlando, Fla.,
and later named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the
1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa, had been sent for
pilot training in Norman, Okla., before working as a
pilot for bin Laden.
eventually crashed a plane owned by bin Laden in Sudan
that prosecutors alleged was used to transport al-Qaida
members and weapons. Ali remains in custody in New York.
In February 2001, federal
prosecutors told a court they gained information in
September 2000 from an associate of Ali's, Moroccan
citizen L'Houssaine Kherchtou, that Kherchtou was
trained as an al-Qaida pilot in Kenya and attended a
meeting in 1993 where an al-Qaida official was briefing
Ali on Western air traffic control procedures.
The September 1999 report,
entitled "Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who
Becomes a Terrorist and Why?" described suicide
hijacking as one of several retribution attacks the
al-Qaida might seek for a 1998 U.S. airstrike against
bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan.
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