From: "James Anatidae"
Subject: [NEWS]: Probe: U.S. Knew of Jet Terror Plots
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2002 21:26:53 -0400
Organization: Info Avenue Internet Services, LLC
NNTP-Posting-Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2002 01:27:06 +0000 (UTC)
Probe: U.S. Knew of Jet Terror Plots
Wed Sep 18, 5:23 PM ET
By KEN GUGGENHEIM, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Intelligence agencies failed to anticipate terrorists
flying planes into buildings despite a dozen clues in the years before the
Sept. 11 attacks that Osama bin Laden or others might use aircraft as bombs,
a congressional investigator told lawmakers Wednesday as they began public
hearings into the attacks.
Just a month before the attacks, intelligence agencies were told of a
possible bin Laden plot to hit the U.S. Embassy in Kenya or crash a plane
The preliminary report by Eleanor Hill, staff director of the joint House
and Senate intelligence committee investigation of the terrorist strike,
showed authorities had many more warnings about possible attacks than were
The reports were generally vague and uncorroborated. None specifically
predicted the Sept. 11 attacks. But collectively the reports "reiterated a
consistent and critically important theme: Osama bin Laden's intent to
launch terrorist attacks inside the United States," Hill said.
Despite that, authorities didn't alert the public and did little to "harden
the homeland" against an assault, she said. Agencies believed any attack was
more likely to take place overseas.
Just two months before the attacks, a briefing for senior government
officials said that, based on a review of intelligence over five months, "we
believe that (bin Laden) will launch a significant terrorist attack against
U.S. and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks."
"The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties
against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made.
Attack will occur with little or no warning," it said.
Hill read most of her 30-page report to House and Senate members sitting
together in what is believed to be the first joint investigation by standing
congressional committees. The committees have been meeting behind closed
doors since June to examine intelligence failures leading up to the attacks
and recommend changes.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the report revealed "far too many
breakdowns in the intelligence gathering and processing methods."
"Given the events and signals of the preceding decade, the intelligence
community could have and in my judgment should have anticipated an attack on
U.S. soil on the scale of 9/11," he said.
Pressed by Rep. Ray Lahood, R-Ill., about whether agencies had enough
information to have prevented the attacks, Hill said it was possible, but
there were no guarantees.
Details of intelligence about terrorist use of airplanes could embarrass the
White House. After questions were raised in the spring about what President
Bush knew about terrorist threats before Sept. 11, national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice said the threats were vague and uncorroborated.
"I don't think anybody could have predicted ... that they would try to use
an airplane as a missile," Rice said then. "Had this president known a plane
would be used as a missile, he would have acted on it."
Hill outlined 12 examples of intelligence information on the possible
terrorist use of airplanes as weapons, beginning in 1994 and ending with the
Nairobi plot in August 2001.
In August 1998, U.S. intelligence learned that a "group of unidentified
Arabs planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into
the World Trade Center," says the report. The report was given to the
Federal Aviation Administration and FBI, which took little action. The group
may now be linked to bin Laden, the report says.
Other intelligence suggested that bin Laden supporters might fly an
explosives-laden plane into a U.S. airport, or conduct a plot involving
aircraft at New York and Washington, the report said.
While generally aware of the possibility of these kinds of attacks "the
intelligence community did not produce any specific assessments of the
likelihood that terrorists would use airplanes as weapons," the report said.
Hill also said that between May and July 2001, the National Security Agency
reported at least 33 communications indicating a possible, imminent
terrorist attack. Asked why intelligence agencies didn't do more about the
terrorist threats, Hill said they have complained about a lack of resources
and the massive amount of intelligence they were receiving. "They were
overwhelmed by almost a flood of information," she said.
Senior CIA officials noted Hill's report also recognized their efforts to
report on the immediacy of the threat from bin Laden before Sept. 11 and did
not look to assign blame on U.S. agencies.
Hill stressed the investigation is continuing and a future report will deal
with what was known about the 19 hijackers before the attacks.
She also noted that CIA Director George J. Tenet has declined to declassify
information on two issues looked at by the inquiry: References to
intelligence agencies supplying information to the White House, and details
of an al-Qaida leader involved in the attacks. That leader is believed to be
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind.
Hill said the White House and Tenet believe "the president's knowledge of
intelligence information relevant to this inquiry remains classified" even
when the information itself is declassified.
Also Wednesday, two spouses of Sept. 11 victims urged the committees to fix
intelligence shortcomings that allowed the attacks. "Our loved ones paid the
ultimate price for the worst American intelligence failure since Pearl
Harbor," said Stephen Push, whose wife died aboard the plane that crashed
into the Pentagon.