REPORT OF THE JOINT INQUIRY INTO THE TERRORIST ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
[T]here were no contacts with anybody we were looking at inside the United States . . . quite honestly, with zero contact in the United States of any of our known people with the 19 persons coming here that we had no information about, intelligence-wise, before, through no one's fault, that's how they did it.
However, the Joint Inquiry review of documents and interviews of FBI personnel indicate that the six hijackers who served as the leaders and facilitators of the September 11 attacks were not isolated in the United States, but instead maintained a number of contacts in the United States before September 11. Although the extent to which the persons with whom they were in contact in the United States were aware of the September 11 plot is unknown, it is clear that those persons provided some of the hijackers with substantial assistance while they prepared for the attacks. These contacts in the United States helped hijackers find housing, open bank accounts, obtain drivers licenses, locate flight schools, and facilitate transactions.
The record of the Joint Inquiry demonstrates that some persons known to the FBI through prior or then-current FBI counterterrorism inquiries and investigations may have had contact with the hijackers, for example;
o [Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar had numerous contacts with a long-term FBI counterterrorism informant while they were living in San Diego, California. There are several indications that hijacker Hani Hanjour may have had more limited contact with this individual in December 2000].
o Before September 11, hijackers al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Hanjour, Muhammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and possibly others had contact with people who had come to the FBI's attention during counterterrorism or counterintelligence inquiries or investigations. In all, some of the hijackers were in various degrees of contact with at least fourteen such persons; four of whom were the focus of active FBI investigations, while the hijackers were in the United States.
o Before September 11, al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, Hanjour, Atta, al-Shehhi, and possibly other hijackers attended at least seven mosques in California, Florida, Virginia, Arizona, and [page 178] Maryland, some of which were also attended by persons of interest to the FBI.
The fact that so many persons known to the FBI may have been in contact with the hijackers raises questions as to how much the FBI knew about the activities of Islamic extremist groups in the United States before September 11 and whether the FBI was well-positioned to thwart the attack. Moreover, the extent to which the hijackers interacted with and relied on other persons in the United States is vitally important in understanding the modus operandi of the hijackers and al-Qa'ida and in preventing future attacks.
At a Joint Inquiry hearing in October 2002, FBI Director Mueller commented on his earlier testimony about the hijackers' conduct in the United States:
[When] I say that the hijackers did "nothing that exposed them to domestic coverage" . . . [and when I say that] the hijackers "contacted no known terrorist sympathizers in the United States," [I] meant in the context of the hijackers not contacting - before 9/11 - terrorist sympathizers on whom we had technical or other form of coverage. The point being that had they done so, we might have been able to identify them as a result of that coverage. When making that statement, I did not have in mind what may have been known to the Bureau about persons such as al-Bayoumi [a Saudi living in California, who may have assisted hijackers, al-Hazmi and al-Midhar]. I can see, however, how the statement could be subject to an alternate interpretation that even as of June 18 we had uncovered no persons who had had contact with the hijackers and were "terrorist sympathizers." I can assure the Committee that I had no intent to mislead.
In a written response to the Joint Inquiry, the FBI explained that, "while [the hijackers] lived their day-to-day lives in an open manner, [they] pursued their inimical objectives in a cloistered, secretive and highly covert manner that kept them on the periphery of the FBI's counterterrorism coverage." The FBI acknowledged that:
. . . the hijackers 'may have had contact' with subjects of prior or current [counterterrorism] investigations in San Diego. Such contact occurred principally through the hijackers' attendance of religious services at various mosques in San Diego, some frequented by subjects of FBI [counterterrorism] investigations.
[Page 179] However, the FBI argued that there is "a significant difference between 'having contact' and 'making contact'" and contends that "[t]he record does not suggest that the hijackers unilaterally or affirmatively sought out or initiated contact with the 14 persons named."
Nonetheless, at least one FBI document prepared shortly after the September 11 attacks concluded that the hijackers, rather than operating in isolation, were assisted by "a web of
contacts " in the United States. In an undated draft analysis based on information available as of November 2001, the FBI's Investigative Services Division concluded:
Initial reporting from observers cast the hijackers as loners who stayed aloof from those around them. While these characterizations remain an accurate appraisal of the hijackers' general orientations toward most persons they came into contact with in the United States, more intensive scrutiny reveals that the hijackers - in particular, the six leaders/facilitators - were involved with a much greater number of associates than was originally suspected. In addition to frequent and sustained interaction between and among the hijackers of the various flights before September 11, the group maintained a web of contacts both in the United States and abroad. These associates, ranging in degrees of closeness, include friends and associates from universities and flight schools, former roommates, people they knew through mosques and religious activities, and employment contacts. Other contacts provided legal, logistical, or financial assistance, facilitated U.S. entry and flight school enrollment, or were known from UBL-related activities or training.
The Intelligence Community had information before September 11 suggesting the existence of a radical Islamic network in the United States that could support al-Qa'ida and other terrorist operatives. The FBI had focused sources and investigative work to some degree on radical Islamic extremists within the United States before September 11. However, according to former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, the Bureau believed that "al-Qa'ida had limited capacity to operate in the United States and [that] any presence here was under [FBI] surveillance."
An August 2001 Senior Executive Intelligence Brief, provided to senior U.S. Government officials at the time, noted that al-Qa'ida members, including some U.S. citizens, resided in or traveled [page 180] to the United States for years and apparently maintained a support structure here. According to CIA documents, [ ] in June 2001 [ ] al-Qa'ida operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was recruiting persons to travel to the United States and engage in planning terrorist-related activity here. [ ], these persons would be "expected to establish contact with colleagues already living there." In short, before September 11, the Intelligence Community recognized that a radical Islamic network that could provide support to al-Qa'ida operatives probably existed in the United States.
The FBI Phoenix field office agent who wrote the "Phoenix communication" testified that he believed this type of support network existed in Arizona before September 11:
I cannot sit here and testify today that [Wadi] al-Haj established a network there. However, looking at things historically in Arizona we have seen persons go to school at the University of Arizona in Tucson who subsequently went on to become rather important figures in the al-Qa'ida organization . . . prior to al- Qa'ida even coming into existence these people were living and going to school in Arizona. As al-Qa'ida formed and took off and became operational, we've seen these people travel back into the State of Arizona. We've seen Usama bin Ladin send people to Tucson to purchase an airplane for him [and] it's my opinion that's not a coincidence. These people don't continue to come back to Arizona because they like the sunshine or they like the state. I believe that something was established there and I think it's been there for a long time. We're working very hard to try to identify that structure. So I cannot say with a degree of certainty that one is in place there. But . . . that's my investigative theory. . . .
The Joint Inquiry identified a number of individuals known to the FBI through prior or then-current inquiries or investigations who had some degree of contact with some of the hijackers and are described below.
On January 15, 2000, following an important meeting of al-Qa'ida operatives in Malaysia, hijackers al-Hazmi and al-Midhar arrived in Los Angeles, where they remained for approximately two-and-a-half weeks. At one point, they met Omar al-Bayoumi. A person the FBI interviewed after September 11 says that he was with al-Bayoumi when the latter met al- Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. This person says that al-Bayoumi invited him to travel to Los Angeles, explaining that he had business at the Saudi Consulate. When they arrived at the consulate, al- Bayoumi met with someone behind closed doors. Al-Bayoumi and the person with whom he had traveled to Los Angeles went to a restaurant, where they met al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. Al- Bayoumi struck up a conversation with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar after he heard them speaking Arabic, and he invited them to move to San Diego. Al-Bayoumi returned to San Diego after leaving the restaurant, and al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar arrived in San Diego shortly thereafter.
According to several FBI agents, the meeting at the restaurant may not have been accidental. In fact, the FBI's written response to the Joint Inquiry refers to the restaurant encounter as a "somewhat suspicious meeting with the hijackers." According to another person the FBI interviewed after September 11, al-Bayoumi said before his trip that he was going to Los Angeles to pick up visitors.
When al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar moved to San Diego, al-Bayoumi gave them considerable assistance. They stayed at al-Bayoumi's apartment for several days, until he was able to find them an apartment. Al-Bayoumi co-signed their lease and paid their first month's rent and security deposit. The FBI noted in a written response to the Joint Inquiry that "financial records indicate a cash deposit of the same amount as the cashier's check into al-Bayoumi's bank account on the same day, which suggests that the hijackers reimbursed him." However, another FBI document appears to reach a different conclusion: "a review of Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi's bank records indicate [sic] there is no bank documentation that supports the reimbursement of [the rent money], or any monies to Omar al- Bayoumi from al-Hazmi or al-Midhar."
After the hijackers moved into their own apartment, al-Bayoumi organized and hosted a party to welcome them to the San Diego community. He also tasked [ ],* another member of the Islamic Center of San Diego, to help them become acclimated to the United States. [ ], whose [page 182] brother is the subject of an [ ] counterterrorism investigation, served as their translator, answered their questions about obtaining driver's licenses, and called a flight school in Florida for them.
[Since September 11, the FBI has learned that al-Bayoumi has connections to terrorist elements. He has been tied to an imam abroad who has connections to al-Qa'ida. Further, the FBI's Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence described in testimony before the Joint Inquiry FBI contacts "with the [ ] government about collection on a person named [ ], who has ties to al- Qa'ida, who has ties to al-
* The identities of several individuals whose activities are discussed in this report have been deleted by the Joint Inquiry. While the FBI has provided the Joint Inquiry with these names and those names are contained in the classified version of this Final Report, the Joint Inquiry has decided to delete them from this unclassified version due to the as yet unresolved nature of much of the information regarding their activities.
Bayoumi." According to FBI documents,  was also in the Phoenix and San[ Diego areas in 2000 and 2001].
An FBI report after a search of Bayoumi's residence asserted that an "exhaustive translation of his documents made it clear that . . . he is providing guidance to young Muslims and some of his writings can be interpreted as jihadist." According to an individual interviewed by the FBI, al-Bayoumi's salary from his employer, the Saudi Civil Aviation authority, was approved by Hamid al-Rashid. Hamid is the father of Saud al-Rashid, whose photo was found in a raid of an al-Qa'ida safehouse in Karachi and who has admitted to being in Afghanistan between May 2000 and May 2001. The FBI noted, however, that there is no direct evidence that the money al-Rashid authorized for al-Bayoumi was used for terrorist purposes].
[In September 1998, the FBI opened a counterterrorism inquiry on al-Bayoumi based on a report .
[During the counterterrorism inquiry, the FBI discovered that al-Bayoumi had been in contact with several persons who were under FBI investigation .
Despite the fact that he was a student, al-Bayoumi had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia. For example, an FBI source identified al-Bayoumi as the person who delivered $400,000 from Saudi Arabia for the Kurdish mosque in San Diego. One of the FBI's best sources in San Diego informed the FBI that he thought that al-Bayoumi must be an intelligence officer for Saudi Arabia or another foreign power.
[The Bureau closed its inquiry on al-Bayoumi in July 1999 for reasons that remain unclear. The responsible FBI agent said that she closed the inquiry because the original complaint [ ] turned out to be false and she had developed no other information of such significance as to justify continuing the investigation. [
[Although the FBI has not developed definitive evidence that Osama Bassnan, another Saudi national living in San Diego, had ties to al- azmi and al-Mihdhar, the following information obtained by the Joint Inquiry suggests such a connection:
o Bassnan was a close associate of al-Bayoumi, [ ]. Bassnan also had close ties to a number of other persons connected to the hijackers, including [ ].
o [ ].
o Bassnan lived in the apartment complex in San Diego across the street from al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar.
o [ ].
o [ ].
o [ ].
o [ ].
[The FBI did not investigate Bassnan before September 11, but had been made aware of him on several occasions. In May 1992, the State Department provided the FBI with a box of documents recovered from an abandoned car. The documents were in Arabic, and one, a newsletter to supporters of the Eritrean Islamic Jihad (EIJ) Movement, provided updates on the EIJ's council and was marked "confidential." The box contained letters addressed to Bassnan that discussed plans to import used cars to the United States. The FBI opened a counterterrorism inquiry on the EIJ, but, having failed to develop information that would predicate further investigation, closed the investigation in December 1992. In 1993, the FBI received reports that
Bassnan had hosted a party for the "Blind Sheikh" in Washington, D.C. in 1992. However, the FBI did not open an investigation].
The Intelligence Community had information connecting Bin Ladin to the EIJ as of 1996. [ ]. In addition, FBI documents note that a high-level member of the EIJ was on Bin Ladin's Shura Council. A May 2000 FBI document indicates that FBI Headquarters personnel were not handling EIJ matters due to resource constraints.
After September 11, the FBI developed information clearly indicating that Bassnan is an extremist and a Bin Ladin supporter. [ [page 186]].
In early December 2002, the FBI orally advised the Joint Inquiry that it would be amending its written response to reflect the comments [ ]. According to the FBI, the amended response will note that there is some evidence that Bassnan had contact with the hijackers, but the FBI does not believe this evidence to be credible and has not been able to corroborate this reporting through subsequent investigation.
[After the September 11 attacks, the FBI developed information that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar were closely affiliated with an Imam in San Diego who reportedly served as their spiritual advisor during their time in San Diego. [ ]. Several persons informed the FBI after September 11 that this imam had closed-door meetings in San Diego with al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, and another individual, whom al- Bayoumi had asked to help the hijackers].
[This imam moved to Falls Church, Virginia in 2001 [ ]. In 2001, hijackers al-Hazmi and Hanjour also moved to Falls Church and began to attend the mosque with which the imam was associated. One of members of the mosque helped them find an apartment in the area and, after approximately a month, this person drove Hanjour and al-Hazmi, along with two other hijackers, to Connecticut and then to Paterson, New Jersey. From the hotel in Connecticut where they stayed for two nights, a total of 75 calls were made to locate apartment, flight schools, and car rental agencies for the hijackers. The hijackers then returned to Paterson on their own. During a search of Ramzi Binalshibh's residence in Germany, police found the phone number for the imam's mosque. The FBI agent responsible for the September 11 investigation informed Joint Inquiry staff that "there's a lot of smoke there" with regard to the imam's connection to the hijackers].
[The FBI originally opened a counterterrorism inquiry into the imam's activities in June 1999 [ ]. During the counterterrorism inquiry, the FBI discovered that the imam was in contact with a number of other persons of investigative interest, including [ ].
* The identities of several individuals whose activities are discussed in this report have been deleted by the Joint Inquiry. While the FBI has provided the Joint Inquiry with these names and those names are contained in the classified version of this Final Report, the Joint Inquiry has decided to delete them from this unclassified version due to the as yet unresolved nature of much of the information regarding their activities.
[In early 2000, the imam was visited by a subject of a Los Angeles investigation closely associated with Blind Sheikh al-Rahman. .
[The FBI closed its inquiry into the activities of the imam in March 2000, approximately two months after al-Hazmi and al-Midhar arrived in San Diego. [ ]. In the case closing memorandum, the agent asserted that the imam had been "fully identified and does not meet the criterion for [further] investigation." The investigation was closed despite the imam's contacts with other subjects of counterterrorism investigations and reports concerning the imam's connection to suspect [page 188] organizations. The Bureau's written response to the Joint Inquiry asserts that "the imam was a 'spiritual leader' to many in the community" and that hundreds of Muslims associated with him].
[In 2000, al-Hazmi briefly worked at a San Diego business. The manager of the business, told the FBI that he hired al-Hazmi after receiving a call from "mutual friends" at the Saranac Street Mosque. The FBI does not know how much al-Hazmi was paid or whether he received financial support from the business manager or the business owner because the business manager often paid employees in cash].
[In January 2000, before al-Hazmi's employment at the business, the FBI Los Angeles field office initiated a counterterrorism investigation of the business manager after a person whom the FBI was surveilling entered the business manager's car in a mosque parking lot. That person was [ ], the brother of a known Bin Ladin operative [ ]. The business manager was under FBI investigation when he hired al-Hazmi].
[The FBI agent handling the business manager's investigation interviewed him by phone. The business manager told the agent that he did not want to meet in person because it would be a
strain to travel to Los Angeles. The business manager informed the agent that he had lived in San Diego for two and a half years and did not want to give his home address. The business manager said that he worked at the local business. The agent concluded that the business manager did not pose a threat to national security, and the investigation was closed in December 2000].
[The business owner, a Palestinian by birth and a U.S. citizen, owns a number of businesses in the San Diego area, including the business where al-Hazmi worked for several weeks. A number of the hijackers' associates, including [ ] and [ ], also worked at this business. FBI records show that both al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi spent time socializing at the business].
[Before September 11, the business owner was in contact with an individual who told the FBI after September 11 that he was al-Hazmi's best friend and that the individual had contact with an FBI informant who also had contacts with the hijackers. The FBI also learned that the business owner had been associating with other persons with possible ties to the hijackers, including Osama Bassnan, and it received reports that the business owner cheered upon learning of the September 11 attacks].
[The FBI conducted several investigations of the business owner prior to September 11. The first was opened in August 1991 upon receipt of reports from the San Diego Police Department that, during a traffic stop, he had stated that the United States needed another Pan Am 103 attack and that he could be the one to carry it out. The business owner also said that all Americans should be killed for what they did to Iraqis].
[During the investigation, the FBI developed information that the business owner was associated with members of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a known terrorist organization, in San Diego and Chicago. In 1994, San Diego police also received an anonymous call stating that the business owner was a PFLP member. The FBI received information in 1994 that he had threatened to kill a former Israeli intelligence officer
who resided in San Diego. The business owner informed the Israeli that he was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization and that the orders to kill him had come from the PLO].
[The FBI closed its investigation of the business owner, but reopened it in 1997 when it received information tying him to a possible terrorist plot based in North Carolina. In February 2001, a stockbroker called the FBI to say that the business owner had closed his account, explaining that he was sending the money to freedom fighters in Afghanistan. During its post- September 11 investigation, the FBI discovered that the business owner was associating with Osama Bassnan and [ ], two other possible hijacker associates in San Diego].
[According to information obtained by the FBI after September 11, hijacker Marwan al- Shehhi was in contact with an individual (referred to as "the first individual" below) on the East Coast. .
. Intelligence reporting has confirmed that a second individual, reportedly connected to the first individual, was an associate of Atta's in college and that information in the first individual's possession connected the first individual to Mohammed Atta's sister].
[The first individual has been the subject of an FBI investigation since July 1999 and has ties to important al-Qa'ida figures and several organizations linked to al-Qa'ida. The FBI is concerned that this individual is in contact with several persons with expertise in nuclear
In a written response to the Joint Inquiry, the FBI stated .
[An individual may have assisted hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour. This individual was known to the FBI and is discussed in the Phoenix Communication. The FBI believes that, beginning in 1997, Hanjour and this individual trained together at a flight school in Arizona. Several instructors at the school told the FBI that the two were associates and one instructor thought they might have carpooled together].
[The FBI has confirmed five occasions when this individual and Hanjour were at the school on the same day. On one occasion in 1999, logs show that Hanjour and this individual used the same plane. According to a flight instructor, the individual was an observer and school rules require that Hanjour approve the individual's presence in the aircraft. Another person informed the FBI after September 11 that the individual and Hanjour knew each other from flight training and through a religious center in Arizona].
[Some evidence links Hanjour and the individual in the summer of 2001. The FBI has located records from a Phoenix flight school showing that one day in June Hanjour and several other persons signed up to use a Cessna simulator. The next day, two persons who signed up with Hanjour the previous day came to the facility with the individual. An employee of the flight school told the FBI that he recalls a fourth person had been with Hanjour the day before. Another employee placed Hanjour and this person together during that time frame, although she was not completely confident in her identification].
[The FBI attempted to investigate the individual in May 2001, but decided not to open a formal investigation after determining that the individual was out of the country. Because the FBI did not place the individual's name on a watchlist, it was unaware that the individual returned to the United States soon after and may have associated with Hanjour and several other Islamic extremists. In a Joint Inquiry hearing, a Phoenix [page 192] FBI agent conceded that the individual might have returned to the United States to screen pilots for the September 11 attacks].
According to the FBI, "much of what took place on September 11, 2001 originated during the mid-1990s when [presumed hijacker pilots] Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah moved to Germany, eventually settling in Hamburg, and began to associate with Islamic extremists."
An FBI agent asserted in a Joint Inquiry interview that the three future hijackers were not radicals when they came to Germany, but became so during their time there. While in Hamburg, Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah attended the al Quds mosque where they met a group of radical Islamists, including Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mamoun Darkazanli, Zakariya Essabar, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, and Munir Mottasadeq. The hijackers prayed, worked, lived, socialized, and attended university classes with this group, which has become known as the "Hamburg Cell."
Zammar and Darkazanli were known to U.S. [ ] before September 11. Zammar was born in Syria in 1961, moved to Germany, and obtained German citizenship. According to an FBI summary of its September 11 investigation, Zammar is believed to have recruited Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah into al-Qa'ida and encouraged their participation in the September 11 attacks.
Darkazanli is a Syrian national, born in 1958. He entered Germany in 1983 and became a naturalized German citizen in 1990, though he retained his Syrian citizenship. While Darkazanli's relationship to the future hijackers is less clear, he is a close associate of Zammar.
According to the FBI, Bin al-Shibh and Essabar were to have participated in the conspiracies that carried out the September 11 attacks. A martyr video was discovered in Bin al- Shibh's possessions in Afghanistan, and [ ] reportedly discovered information about flight training on Essabar's computer. [Page 193] However, neither was able to obtain a U.S. entry visa. Before the attacks, Bin al-Shibh and Bahaji left for Pakistan where Bin al-Shibh was eventually captured [ ].
Mottasadeq lived with Atta and signed his will, and also had power of attorney for al- Shehhi. He is now being held in Germany on charges related to September 11.*
[ ] Darkazanli was in contact with a number of Islamic extremists, including .
After September 11, the FBI discovered that Darkazanli traveled to Spain in the summer of 2001 at approximately the same time that Atta was there. It is possible that Darkazanli and Atta met with Yarkas, who may have had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks.
* Motassadeq was convicted on February 19, 2003 in Germany of membership in a terrorist organization and accessory to over 3,000 murders in New York and Washington.
Spanish authorities intercepted a call to Yarkas on August 27, in which he was told, "we have entered the field of aviation and we have even slit the throat of the bird." The FBI speculates that the "bird" represented the bald eagle, symbol of the United States. Yarkas, who was arrested by the Spanish on November 13, 2001, has met at least twice with Bin Ladin. A Spanish indictment alleges that he had contacts with Mohammed Atta and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh. .
According to CIA documents, the U.S. Intelligence Community first became aware of Darkazanli in 1993 when a person arrested in Africa carrying false passports and counterfeit money was found with Darkazanli's telephone number. A CIA report notes that, despite careful scrutiny of Darkazanli and his business dealings, authorities were not able to make a case against him.
The FBI became interested in Darkazanli in 1998 after the arrests of Wadi El-Hage and Abu Hajer, operatives in Bin Ladin's network. According to FBI documents, Darkazanli's fax and telephone numbers were listed in El-Hage's address book. El-Hage has been convicted for his role in the 1998 Embassy bombings and is in U.S. custody. The FBI also discovered that Darkazanli had power of attorney over a bank account belonging to Hajer, a high-ranking al- Qa'ida member who has served on its Shura Council. Hajer is currently in U.S. custody.
[Zammar had come to the CIA and FBI's attention on numerous occasions before the September 11 attacks. CIA documents refers to Zammar as an Islamic extremist and note that his name has turned up in the possession of several extremists questioned or detained. Of particular importance, [ ] in mid-1999 that Zammar was in direct contact with one of Bin Ladin's senior operational coordinators].
[In March 1999, CIA received intelligence about a person named "Marwan" who had been in contact with Zammar and Darkazanli. Marwan was described as a student who had spent time in Germany [ ]. The CIA speculated at the time that this was a Bin Ladin associate who lived in the United Arab Emirates, but now believes that Marwan was Marwan al-Shehhi, one of the presumed hijacker pilots. After September 11, the FBI received information about additional connections before the attacks between Zammar and persons who participated in the attacks].
[Considerable pressure was placed on foreign authorities in the years leading up to the September 11 attacks to target Darkazanli, Zammar, and other radicals [ ]. A senior U.S. Government officer told [page 195] the Joint Inquiry that significant information concerning al- Qa'ida members had been shared with foreign authorities, but that it became apparent only after September 11, 2001 that the foreign authorities had been watching some of those persons before that date].
[The Joint Inquiry reviewed numerous documents describing efforts to pressure [ ] authorities to act. [ ]. In the end, these efforts were largely unsuccessful. In most cases, the [ ] did not take actions that were suggested].
Significant legal barriers restricted Germany's ability to target Islamic fundamentalism. Before September 11, it was not illegal in Germany to be a member of a foreign terrorist organization, to raise funds for terrorists, or plan a terrorist act outside German territory. This law has since been changed. A legal privilege also dramatically restricted the government's ability to investigate religious groups. In fact, due to the difficulty in investigating terrorist cases, the German government would often attempt to investigate terrorist subjects for money laundering. Unfortunately, laundering laws were difficult to enforce. For example, over the past several years, out of three to four hundred money laundering investigations, only one person has been convicted. [ ]. The German government apparently did not consider Islamic groups a threat and were unwilling to devote significant investigative resources to this target.
U.S. efforts [ ] also provide a window into CIA and FBI coordination and information sharing. Both agencies were interested in radical Islamists [ ]. However, on several occasions the FBI and CIA unknowingly operated against the same targets. The FBI legal attaché in Germany did [page 196] not recall getting information about Darkazanli and Zammar from the German government or the CIA before September 11. He was unaware that Darkazanli and Zammar had been the subject of government investigations before the attacks.
The Joint Inquiry reviewed passport and visa histories of the nineteen hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks to determine whether they entered the United States legally. It also sought to determine whether there were anomalies in the visa process that might have alerted U.S. Government officials to the hijackers in some way.
Over ten million applications for visas to enter the United States are received each year at approximately two hundred fifty consular locations. Consular officers at posts abroad review all applications and interview selected applicants to determine whether they are likely to return to countries of origin in accordance with the visa or are suspected of criminal or terrorist activities. Consular officers must certify in writing that they have checked applicant names against the State Department's watchlist.
Although there were anomalies and mistakes on some of the hijackers' visa applications, consular-affairs experts at the State Department contended in Joint Inquiry interviews that these errors were "routine." By contrast, an October 2002 review by the General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that the omissions and inconsistencies in the hijacker's applications should have raised concerns about why they wanted visas to come to the United States.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals who received visas in Saudi Arabia. Before September 11, the United States had not established heightened screening for illegal immigration or terrorism by visitors from Saudi Arabia. In a Joint Inquiry hearing, DCI Tenet described a less than rigorous review of visa applicants in Saudi Arabia before September 11:
Most of the young Saudis [hijackers] obtained their U.S. visas in the fall of 2000. The State Department did not have a policy to stringently examine Saudis seeking visas [page 197] before 11 September because there was virtually no risk that Saudis would attempt to reside or work illegally in the U.S. after their visas expired. U.S. Embassy and consular officials do cursory searches on Saudis who apply for visas, but if they do not appear on criminal or terrorist watchlists they are granted a visa. Thousands of Saudis every year are granted visas, as a routine; the majority are not even interviewed. The vast majority of Saudis study, vacation, or do business in the U.S. and return to the kingdom.
Consistent with this description of the situation, the Joint Inquiry's review confirmed that, prior to September 11, 2001, only a small percentage of visa applicants in Saudi Arabia were interviewed by consular affairs officers; travel agencies were used to deliver visa applications to consular offices in Saudi Arabia; and a relatively low standard was applied in scrutinizing visa applications for accuracy and completeness in Saudi Arabia.
The 19 hijackers received visas at consular offices abroad in accordance with routine procedures. The majority of the hijackers sought new passports shortly before applying for visas. Requests for new passports can stem from theft, loss, or accidental destruction. However, terrorists also often try to hide travel to countries that provide terrorist training by acquiring new passports.
Multiple-entry visas were issued to the hijackers for periods ranging from two to ten years. Eighteen of the nineteen received B-1/B-2 visas for tourist and business purposes. The nineteenth hijacker, Hani Hanjour, was issued a B-1/B-2 visa in error. He should have been issued an F-1 visa for study in the United States because he had expressed a desire to study English here. Recognizing the error, the INS issued Hanjour an F-1 visa when he arrived in the United States.
At their ports-of-entry, the hijackers were issued "stay visas" valid for six months. Some hijackers, Atta, Hanjour, al-Shehhi, al-Mihdhar, and Jarrah, entered and re-entered the United States for several six-month periods before September 11. They stayed for five or six months,
went abroad for weeks or months, re-entered the United States, and received additional six month stays.
Since the majority of the hijackers were Saudi nationals who received their visas in Saudi Arabia, questions have been raised about the "Visa Express" program, a process in many countries that encourages visa applicants to submit non-immigrant applications to designated travel agencies or other collection points for forwarding to U.S. embassies. In Joint Inquiry interviews, State Department [page 198] officials described Visa Express as simply an application collection process and not a visa adjudication, issuance, or determination system. Visa Express is merely a way of "dropping the application off." Travel agencies assist by giving applicants correct forms, helping non-English speakers fill out the forms, and collecting fees. Approximately sixty embassies and consulates throughout the world use travel agencies or other businesses in this manner.
The Visa Express program in Saudi Arabia began in May 2001. Five of the 19 hijackers applied for visas in Saudi Arabia in June, so it is likely that they used travel agencies to acquire application forms and deliver them to the embassy. None of the five, including al- ihdhar, was on a watchlist at the time. Thus, when name checks were performed, the system showed no derogatory information. If derogatory information did exist in the system, as was the case with a suspected terrorist who applied for a visa in Saudi Arabia in August 2001 under the Visa Express program, the watchlist system should block issuance of a visa.
State Department officials informed the Joint Inquiry that the Visa Express program was terminated in Saudi Arabia in July 2002 because news reports suggested that the program allowed Saudi applicants to skirt the normal process. According to State Department officials, the program did not affect the number of Saudis interviewed because applicants are selected for interviews when their applications present signs of an intention to immigrate. These officials said that all applications, including those delivered to consular officers under the Visa Express program in Saudi Arabia, were checked against the watchlist.
The Joint Inquiry also received information from the Immigration and Naturalization Service about the 19 hijackers, two of whom, including Nawaf al-Hazmi, had overstayed their visas. In addition, Hani Hanjour had been issued an F-1 visa to study English, but did not
register for classes and, therefore, became "a non-immigrant status violator." The INS was not aware of these violations until after September 11.
A basic question before the Joint Inquiry was whether the Intelligence Community adequately recognized the threat international terrorist groups posed to the United States. The Inquiry therefore examined the evolution of the terrorist threat to this country, the Community's response since the creation of the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) in 1986, and what the Community has or should have learned from all sources, including previous terrorist attacks, about the threat to the United States.
[Understanding the September 11 attacks requires an historical perspective broader than the details of those attacks. Consequently, the Joint Inquiry took note of major acts of terrorism directed against the United States in the 1980s and early 1990s, including:
o The 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut by Islamic Jihad
o The March 1984 kidnapping and murder of William Buckley, a CIA official in Beirut, and subsequent kidnapping of other U.S. citizens in Lebanon
o The April 1984 bombing of a restaurant frequented by members of the U.S. armed forces near Torrejon Airbase in Spain by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hizbollah
o The September 1984 bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut
o The June 1985 hijacking of TransWorld Airways Flight 847
o The October 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro
o The November 1985 hijacking of an EgyptAir flight from Athens and
o The December 1985 attack on the Rome and Vienna airports by the Abu Nidal organization.
Before the emergence of al-Qa'ida in the early 1990s, attacks like these shaped the U.S. Government's conception of how terrorist groups behaved. In general, those groups were viewed as instruments of the nation states that sponsored them and they were not interested in mass casualties. The lessons learned at that time were reflected in Joint Inquiry testimony by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft:
[In the late 1980s], terrorism was primarily a phenomenon which was state sponsored or state-assisted or tolerated. And therefore, it was natural for us to think of deterring or dealing with terrorism primarily through the sponsor than through the terrorist organizations directly where things like deterrence and so on would have some impact.…A further point, none of the terrorist organizations at that time so far as we knew had global reach. This meant that while U.S. persons, U.S. interests, and U.S. assets were not immune from terrorist attack, the United States homeland, in effect, was. And that certainly colored how terrorism was viewed. Terrorist organizations appeared to be either regionally or issue related. And even though Hizbollah was thought to be behind many of the terrorist acts that occurred during the Reagan Administration, the acts themselves seemed to be relatively independent and uncoordinated events rather than part of an overall strategy.
Terrorism aimed at the United States began to take on a different set of characteristics in the 1990s as Bin Ladin and al-Qa'ida emerged as a threat to the United States. Bin Ladin was intent on striking inside the United States, and the Intelligence Community detected numerous signs of a pending terrorist attack by al-Qa'ida in the spring and summer of 2001.
International terrorism struck directly in the United States in February 1993, when a truck bomb exploded in the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City. A second alarm sounded in June 1993 when the FBI arrested eight persons for plotting to bomb New York City landmarks, including the United Nations and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. The central figures in these plots were Ramzi Yousef and Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman, who was the
spiritual leader of both Gama'at al- [page 201] Islamiya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Although the Intelligence Community has not established that Bin Ladin had a role in either plot, both Yousef and Rahman were later determined to have ties to Bin Ladin. Both 1993 plots featured the deliberate intent to kill thousands of innocents by a group composed of different nationalities without a state sponsor, characteristics previously absent from terrorist schemes.
The new trend in terrorism became more apparent in January 1995 when Philippine National Police discovered Ramzi Yousef's bomb- aking laboratory in Manila and arrested his accomplice, Abdul Hakim Murad. Captured material and interrogations of Murad revealed Yousef's plot to kill the Pope, bomb the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Manila, blow up twelve U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean, and crash a plane into CIA Headquarters. These plans were known collectively as the "Bojinka Plot." Murad was eventually convicted for his role in the plot and is currently incarcerated in the United States.
It is worth noting that Murad was charged only for his involvement in the scheme to blow up the airliners over the Pacific and not for the other aspects of the Bojinka Plot. Because the plans to crash a plane into CIA Headquarters and to assassinate the Pope were only at the "discussion" stage, prosecutors decided not to include those plots in the indictment. FBI agents who were interviewed by the Joint Inquiry about the Bojinka Plot confirmed this tight focus on the elements of the crime investigated and charged, explaining that the case was about a plan to blow up twelve airliners and, therefore, other aspects of the plot were not relevant to the prosecution. As a result, the Joint Inquiry was able to locate almost no references to the plan to crash a plane into CIA Headquarters in the FBI's investigatory files on the case.
The first World Trade Center bombing, the New York City landmarks plot, and the Bojinka Plot pointed to a new form of terrorism. The plots revealed a growing threat from persons who ascribed to a radical interpretation of Sunni Islam; they involved infliction of mass casualties; and they confirmed that international terrorists were interested in attacking symbolic targets within the United States, such as the World Trade Center.
The increasing development of religious-based terrorist organizations in the 1990s contributed directly to the emergence of this new form. As Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert
with the RAND Corporation noted in a statement for the Joint Inquiry record: "[f]or the religious terrorist, violence first and foremost is a sacramental act or a divine duty."
The new breed also focused on America. In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger noted that the new terrorists were "hardened by battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the '80s and energized against the United States by the military presence we left in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War."
The first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, five years before Bin Ladin openly called on his followers to bring jihad to America, was a clear signal that Sunni extremists sought to kill Americans on American soil. Seven years later, the arrest of Ahmed Ressam and the seizure of bomb-making materials in his car at the U.S./Canada border should have dispelled all doubt that al-Qa'ida and its sympathizers sought to operate on U.S. soil, even though most of the terrorist masterminds remained overseas.
Emphasis on mass casualties was another important change from the terrorism the United States witnessed in the 1980s. Although attacks in the 1980s sometimes were intended to kill hundreds of official or military personnel, for example, the bombings of the Marine barracks and the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, no major terrorist group attempted to kill thousands of civilians. Brian Jenkins, an expert on terrorism, wrote in 1975: "[T]errorists want a lot of people watching and a lot of people listening and not a lot of people dead." Twenty years later, Director of Central Intelligence James Woolsey contended that: "[T]oday's terrorists don't want a seat at the table; they want to destroy the table and everyone sitting at it." The 1999 edition of the FBI's Terrorism in the United States pointed out that the number of terrorist attacks had decreased in the 1990s, but the number of casualties had increased. Terrorism had evolved from a frightening episodic danger that could kill hundreds to an ominous menace that directly threatened the lives of tens of thousands of Americans.
It took some time for the Intelligence Community to recognize the emergence of this new form of terrorism. In Joint Inquiry interviews, FBI personnel who were involved in the investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing suggest that the Intelligence Community was initially confused about the new adversary. This form of terrorism featured Arabs from countries hostile to one another working together without a state sponsor. Counterterrorism
experts eventually recognized the shift and incorporated it into their analyses. A July 1995 National Intelligence Estimate, for example, identified a "new breed" of terrorist, who did not have a state sponsor, was loosely organized, favored an Islamic agenda, and had an extreme penchant for violence.
Usama Bin Ladin's connection to international terrorism first came to the attention of the Intelligence Community in the early 1990s. According to a former CTC Chief in testimony before the Joint Inquiry, Bin Ladin was first seen as "a rich Saudi supporting Islamic extremist causes." He founded the al-Qa'ida organization in 1989 and moved to Sudan in 1991 or 1992. During his time in Sudan, Bin Ladin built a network of international Islamic extremists and allied himself with other Sunni terrorist groups.
Bin Ladin drew on a broad network of Islamic radicals fighting in the Balkans, Chechnya, and Kashmir in an attempt - in their eyes - to defend Islam against its persecutors. Fighters from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and many other countries took up arms to aid their co- religionists, while Muslims from around the world contributed money. Although the specific actions of al-Qa'ida often did not enjoy widespread support, the causes it championed were viewed as legitimate, indeed laudable, in much of the Muslim world.
[In December 1992, as U.S. military forces were deploying to Somalia as part of a United Nations operation to provide humanitarian assistance to a starving population, Islamic extremists attacked a hotel in Aden, Yemen housing U.S. service members supporting that operation. An Intelligence Community paper from April 1993 concluded that "[Bin Ladin's] group almost certainly played a role" in that attack. An article from an April 1993 National Intelligence Daily also took note that three to four hundred Islamic militants had [page 204] received training the previous year at military camps in Afghanistan funded by Persian Gulf Arabs. One camp was run by an Egyptian and funded by Bin Ladin].
In Joint Inquiry testimony, former CTC Chief Cofer Black reported that the CIA learned in 1993 that "Bin Ladin was channeling funds to Egyptian extremists" and in 1994 that "al- Qa'ida was financing at least three terrorist training camps in northern Sudan." He also noted
Bin Ladin's connection to the 1995 assassination attempt against Egyptian President Mubarak and explained that "an al-Qa'ida defector [had] laid out for us Bin Ladin's role as a head of a global terrorist network."
[In November 1995, five Americans were killed when the Office of Program Management at a Saudi National Guard facility in Riyadh was bombed. According to the Intelligence Community, the cumulative body of evidence eventually suggested that Bin Ladin and a group he supported were responsible. .
In May or June 1996, Bin Ladin moved from Sudan to Afghanistan, where he was treated as an honored guest of the Taliban, then the dominant political and military group. According to DCI Tenet's testimony before the Joint Inquiry, "[o]nce Bin Ladin found his safehaven in Afghanistan, he defined himself publicly as a threat to the United States. In a series of declarations, he made clear his hatred for Americans and all we represent."
In August 1996, Bin Ladin issued a public fatwa or religious decree, authorizing attacks by his followers against Western military targets on the Arabian Peninsula. In February 1998, Bin Ladin and four other extremists issued another public fatwa expanding the 1996 fatwa to include U.S. military and civilian targets anywhere in the world. In a May 1998 press conference, Bin Ladin publicly discussed "bringing the war home to America."
On August 7, 1998, two truck bombs destroyed U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Two hundred twenty four people, including twelve Americans, were killed in the attacks and 5,000 were injured. The Intelligence Community confirmed very quickly that these attacks [page 205] had been carried out by Bin Ladin's terrorist network. The attacks showed that the group was capable of carrying out simultaneous attacks and inflicting mass casualties.
In early December 1999, the Jordanian government arrested members of a terrorist cell that planned to attack religious sites and tourist hotels in connection with the Millennium celebrations. About a week later, in mid-December 1999, Algerian extremist Ahmed Ressam tried to enter the United States from Canada with bomb making chemicals and detonator
equipment. He was arrested after an alert Customs agent asked to search his car and he attempted to flee. Investigation revealed that his target was Los Angeles International Airport and that he was an operative with ties to Bin Ladin's network.
In describing what the U.S. Government might have done differently before September 11, DCI Tenet testified:
[T]he one thing that strikes me that we all just let pass from the scene after the Millennium threat was this fellow who tried to cross the border from Canada into the United States. There were no attacks. There were no Americans killed. We didn't have any hearings. We didn't talk about failures. We didn't talk about accountability. We just assumed the system would keep working because it prevented the last attack. He tried to cross the border; and I think one of the things that everybody should have done is say, "what does this mean?," more carefully, rather than just moving from this threat to the next. Assuming that it had been disrupted, what does it mean for the homeland? Should we have taken more proactive measure sooner? Hindsight is perfect, but it is the one event that sticks in my mind.
In October 2000, Bin Ladin operatives carried out an attack by boat on USS Cole, as it was refueling in Aden, Yemen. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed. An investigation revealed that USS The Sullivans had been the original target of the Cole attack in January 2000, but the terrorists' boat had sunk from the weight of the explosives loaded on it.
As the 1990s progressed, it became clear that Bin Ladin's terrorist network was unusual, although not unique, in its skill, dedication, and ability to evolve. The 1998 embassy attacks, the [page 206] planned attack in Jordan around the Millennium, and the attack on USS Cole suggested a highly capable adversary. Operations carried out by Bin Ladin's network before September 11 suggested several worrisome traits:
o Long-range planning. The 1998 attack on two U.S. embassies in East Africa took five years from its inception. The planning for the attack on USS Cole took several years.
o Simultaneous operations. The 1998 attack on the two embassies and the Millennium plots demonstrated that al-Qa'ida was able to conduct simultaneous attacks, suggesting sophisticated overall planning. In a statement for the Joint Inquiry record, RAND's Bruce Hoffman noted that simultaneous terrorist attacks are rare, as few groups have enough skilled operators, logisticians, and planners to conduct such operations.
o Operational security. Terrorist manuals and training emphasize that operations should be kept secret and details compartmented. Communications security is also stressed. Thus, disrupting these operations is difficult, even if low-level foot soldiers make mistakes and are arrested. Several attacks carried out by Bin Ladin's operatives occurred with little warning. Even the successful disruption of part of a plot, as occurred during the Millennium, does not necessarily reveal other planned attacks, such as an attack on a U.S. warship planned for around the same time.
o Flexible command structure. Bin Ladin's network uses at least four different operational styles: a top-down approach employing highly- killed radicals; training amateurs like Richard Reid, the so-called "shoebomber," to conduct simple, but lethal attacks; helping local groups with their own plans, as with Jordanian plotters during the Millennium; and fostering like-minded insurgencies. Tactics that can stop one type of attack do not necessarily work against others.
o Imagination. Most terrorists are conservative in their methods, relying on small arms or simple explosives. The attack on USS Cole, however, was a clear indication of the Bin [page 207] Ladin network's tactical flexibility and willingness to go beyond traditional delivery means and targets.
Size also distinguishes Bin Ladin's network from many terrorist groups. The recently disrupted Greek radical group, November 17, for example, contained fewer than fifty people. According to Hoffman, the Japanese Red Army and the Red Brigades both had fewer than one hundred dedicated members. Even the Irish Republican Army, one of the most formidable terrorist organizations in the 1970s and 1980s, had no more than four hundred activists.
Arresting and prosecuting members of these groups was an effective way to end or lessen the threat they posed.
Although the number of highly skilled and dedicated persons who have sworn fealty to Bin Ladin was probably in the low hundreds before September 11, the organization as a whole is much larger, with tens of thousands having gone through the training camps in Afghanistan. Its organizational and command structures, which employ many activists who are not formal members of the organization, make it difficult to determine where al-Qa'ida ends and other radical groups begin. Media reports indicate that al-Qa'ida has trained thousands of activists in Sudan and Afghanistan, and interviews of intelligence officials indicate that al-Qa'ida can draw on thousands of supporters when raising funds, planning, and executing attacks.
Central to the September 11 plot was Bin Ladin's determination to carry out a terrorist operation inside the United States. The Joint Inquiry therefore reviewed information the Intelligence Community held before September 11 that suggested that an attack within the United States was a possibility. Our review confirmed that, shortly after Bin Ladin's May 1998 press conference, the Community began to acquire intelligence that Bin Ladin's network intended to strike within the United States. Many of these reports were disseminated throughout the Community and to senior U.S. policy-makers.
These intelligence reports should be understood in their proper context. First, they generally did not contain specific information as to where, when, and how a terrorist attack might occur, and, [page 208] generally, they were not corroborated. Second, these reports represented a small percentage of the threat information that the Intelligence Community obtained during this period, most of which pointed to the possibility of attacks against U.S. interests overseas. Nonetheless, there was a modest, but relatively steady stream of intelligence indicating the possibility of terrorist attacks inside the United States. Third, the credibility of the sources providing this information was sometimes questionable. While one could not, as a result, give too much credence to some of the individual reports, the totality of the information in this body of reporting clearly reiterated a consistent and critically important theme: Bin Ladin's intent to launch terrorist attacks within the United States.
The Joint Inquiry reviewed many intelligence reports, including:
o In June 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information from several sources that Bin Ladin was considering attacks in the United States, including Washington, D.C., and New York. This information was provided to [ ] senior government officials in July 1998.
o In August 1998, the Intelligence Community obtained information that a group of unidentified Arabs planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center. The information was passed to the FBI and the FAA. The latter found the plot to be highly unlikely, given the state of the foreign country's aviation program. Moreover, the agencies believed that a flight originating outside the United States would be detected before it reached its intended target inside the United States. The FBI's New York office took no action on the information, filing the communication in the office's bombing file. The Intelligence Community acquired additional information since then suggesting links between this group and other terrorist groups, including al-Qa'ida
o In September 1998, the Community prepared a memorandum detailing al-Qa'ida infrastructure in the United States, including the use of fronts for terrorist activities. [page 209] This information was provided to [ ] senior government officials in September 1998.
o In September 1998, the Community obtained information that Bin Ladin's next operation might involve flying an explosives-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and detonating it. This information was provided to [ ] senior government officials in late 1998.
o In October 1998, the Community obtained information that al-Qa'ida was trying to establish an operative cell within the United States. This information suggested an
effort to recruit U.S. citizen Islamists and U.S.-based expatriates from the Middle East and North Africa.
o In the fall of 1998, the Community received information concerning a Bin Ladin plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas.
o In November 1998, the Community obtained information that a Bin Ladin terrorist cell was attempting to recruit a group of five to seven men from the United States to travel to the Middle East for training, in conjunction with a plan to strike U.S. domestic targets.
o In November 1998, the Community received information that Bin Ladin and senior associates had agreed to allocate rewards for the assassination of four "top" intelligence agency officers. The bounty for each assassination was $9 million. The bounty was in response to the U.S. announcement of an increase in the reward for information leading to Bin Ladin's arrest.
o In the spring of 1999, the Community obtained information about a planned Bin Ladin attack on a government facility in Washington, D.C.
o In August 1999, the Community obtained information that Bin Ladin's organization had decided to target the U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and DCI. "Target" was interpreted by Community analysts to mean "assassinate."
o In September 1999, the Community obtained information that Bin Ladin and others were planning a terrorist act in the United States, possibly against specific landmarks in California and New York City.
o In late 1999, the Community obtained information regarding possible Bin Ladin network plans to attack targets in Washington, D.C. and New York City during the Millennium celebrations.
o On December 14, 1999, Ahmed Ressam was arrested as he attempted to enter the United States from Canada, and chemicals and detonator materials were found in his car. Ressam's intended target was Los Angeles International Airport. Ressam was later determined to have links to Bin Ladin's terrorist network.
o In February 2000, the Community obtained information that Bin Ladin was making plans to assassinate U.S. intelligence officials, including the Director of the FBI.
o In March 2000, the Community obtained information regarding the types of targets that operatives in Bin Ladin's network might strike. The Statue of Liberty was specifically mentioned, as were skyscrapers, ports, airports, and nuclear power plants.
o In March 2000, the Intelligence Community obtained information suggesting that Bin Ladin was planning attacks in specific West Coast areas, possibly involving the assassination of several public officials.
o In April 2001, the Community obtained information from a source with terrorist connections who speculated that Bin Ladin was interested in commercial pilots as [page 211] potential terrorists. The source warned that the United States should not focus only on embassy bombings, that terrorists sought "spectacular and traumatic" attacks and that the first World Trade Center bombing would be the type of attack that would be appealing. The source did not mention a timeframe for an attack. Because the source was offering personal speculation and not hard information, the information was not disseminated within the Intelligence Community.
The Joint Inquiry did not find any comprehensive Intelligence Community list of Bin Ladin-related threats to the United States that was prepared and presented to policymakers before September 11. Such a compilation might have highlighted the volume of information the Community had acquired about Bin Ladin's intention to strike inside the United States.
[Nonetheless, the Intelligence Community did not leave unnoticed Bin Ladin's February 1998 declaration of war and intelligence reports indicating possible terrorist attacks inside the
United States. The Community advised senior officials, including [ ] the Congress, of the serious nature of the threat. The Joint Inquiry also reviewed documents, other than intelligence reports, that demonstrate that the Intelligence Community, at least at senior levels, understood the threat Bin Ladin posed to the domestic United States, for example:
o A December 1998 Intelligence Community assessment that Bin Ladin "is actively planning against U.S. targets. . . . Multiple reports indicate UBL is keenly interested in striking the U.S. on its own soil . . . . [A]l-Qa'ida is recruiting operatives for attacks in the U.S. but has not yet identified potential targets."
o The December 1998 declaration of war memorandum from the DCI to his deputies at the CIA:
We must now enter a new phase in our effort against Bin Ladin . . . we all acknowledge that retaliation is inevitable and that its scope may be far larger than we have previously experienced. . . . We are at war. . . . I want no resources or people spared in this effort, either inside CIA or the [Intelligence] Community.
o A document prepared by the CIA and signed by the President in December 1998: "The Intelligence Community has strong indications that Bin Ladin intends to conduct or sponsor attacks inside the United States."
o June 1999 testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by the CTC Chief and a July 1999 briefing to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staff members describing reports that Bin Ladin and his associates were planning attacks inside the United States.
o A document prepared by the CIA and signed by the President in July 1999 characterizing Bin Ladin's February 1998 statement as a "de facto declaration of war" on the United States.
In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, however, former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger put this information in context: