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What Did They Know Page

What else did our government know about possible terrorist attacks?

Most of the links below no longer work, but there is enough
information in each excerpt to find the article
at the Internet archive's WayBack Machine or in LexisNexis.


Commission warned Bush, Jake Tapper,, September 12, 2001

Bin Laden: the former CIA 'client' obsessed with training pilots, Giles Foden, The Guardian of London, September 13, 2001

Alleged Hijackers May Have Trained at U.S. Bases, George Wehrfritz, Catharine Skipp and John Barry, Newsweek, September 15, 2001:

U.S. military sources have given the FBI information that suggests five of the alleged hijackers of the planes that were used in Tuesday’s terror attacks received training at secure U.S. military installations in the 1990s.”

U.S. warned in 1995 of plot to hijack planes, attack buildings, Maria Ressa,, September 18, 2001

“The FBI was warned six years ago of a terrorist plot to hijack commercial planes and slam them into the Pentagon, the CIA headquarters and other buildings, Philippine investigators told CNN."

U.S. Identified Some Elements of Hijack Plot in Advance, Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times, September 21, 2001

FBI Knew Terrorists Were Using Flight Schools , Steve Fainaru and James V. Grimaldi, Washington Post, September 23, 2001  

Tom Ridge's challenge, Robert Novak,, September  27, 2001:

"The FBI had advance indications of plans to hijack U.S. airliners and use them as weapons, but neither acted on them nor distributed the intelligence to local police agencies. From the moment of the Sept. 11 attacks, high-ranking federal officials insisted that the terrorists' method of operation surprised them. Many stick to that story. Actually, elements of the hijacking plan were known to the FBI as early as 1995 and, if coupled with current information, might have uncovered the plot."

Italy Tells of Threat at Genoa Summit, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2001:

“U.S. and Italian officials were warned in July that Islamic terrorists might attempt to kill President Bush and other leaders by crashing an airliner into the Genoa summit of industrialized nations, officials said Wednesday.”  

Earlier Hijackings Offered Signals That Were Missed, Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times, October 3, 2001

The failure of government, Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily, October 19, 2001

The Case for Smart Intelligence, Dan Pulcrano,, October 23, 2001

Bust and Boom, Matthew Brzezinski, Washington Post, January 6, 2002:

“Six years before the September 11 attacks, Philippine police took down an al Qaeda cell that had been plotting, among other things, to fly explosives-laden planes into the Pentagon”

FBI MAN'S CHILLING 9/11 ‘PREDICTION', Brian Blomquist, New York Post, May 9, 2002:

“FBI headquarters ignored its own agent's red-flag warning a month before 9/11 that Zacarias Moussaoui was the kind of person who might ‘fly something into the World Trade Center,’ FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted yesterday.

“It was previously known that instructors at a Minnesota flight school warned local FBI agents that Moussaoui - later described as the ‘20th hijacker’ - might try to fly a plane loaded with fuel into a building.”

FBI Cites Inadequacies Over Terrorist Warning, Josh Meyer, Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2002:

“The FBI's failure to follow up on an agent's pre-Sept. 11 warning about Islamic militants attending U.S. flight schools highlights inadequacies in the bureau's counter-terrorism efforts, senior bureau officials said Wednesday.

“The agent was investigating what he described as several highly suspicious Middle Easterners who were training at an aviation school in Arizona and warned that the FBI should launch a full-scale investigation and contact flight schools nationwide.”

Summer FBI Memo Cites Flight Schools, Bin Laden, Reuters, May 15, 2002:

“A memo by an FBI agent last summer urged the bureau's headquarters to investigate Middle Eastern men enrolled in American flight schools and named Osama bin Laden, suggesting followers could use the schools for terror operations, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.”

Attacks Timeline,   Associated Press, May 16, 2002

Attack Memo Named Two Linked to Al Qaeda – Report, Reuters, May 17, 2002:

“ABC said the [July 10, 2001 ‘Phoenix’] memo claimed ‘the purpose of this communication is to advise the bureau and New York of the possibility of a coordinated effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation universities and colleges.’”

“Phoenix” memo, the only part that has been made public as of 5/17/02, advises that FBI headquarters investigate flight schools.

Unheeded Warnings, Michael Isikoff , Newsweek, May 20, 2002 issue:

“ONE FBI MEMO, written by a Phoenix agent in July 2001, warned about suspicious activities by Middle Eastern men at an Arizona flight school. Last week, in little-noticed testimony before a Senate panel, FBI Director Robert Mueller referred to another internal document that may prove more explosive: notes by a Minneapolis agent worrying that French Moroccan flight student Zacarias Moussaoui might be planning to ‘fly something into the World Trade Center.’”  

Ashcroft Learned of Agent's Alert Just After 9/11 but Bush Was Not Told, David Johnston and Don Van Natta Jr., The New York Times, May 21, 2002:

“The [Phoenix] memorandum remains classified, and much of its contents are unknown. But officials have confirmed that it expressed concern that Mr. bin Laden and other groups could be using the flight schools to prepare for terror attacks. It urged F.B.I. officials to check the visas of foreigners at American aviation academies. But no action was taken before Sept. 11.

“The memorandum was sent to counterterrorism offices in two cities — one copy went to John O'Neill, then the top counterterrorism agent in the F.B.I.'s New York office. Mr. O'Neill retired from the F.B.I. in late August. He had just begun a job as the security chief of the World Trade Center when he was killed in the attacks.”

FBI's 'Phoenix' Memo Unmasked, Richard Behar, Fortune, May 22, 2002:

“On July 10, 2001, an FBI agent in Phoenix wrote a memo raising serious concerns about Middle Eastern men attending U.S. flight schools. The memo never made its way up the chain of command, and no action was taken... The memo raises questions about what federal law enforcement officers knew and what they did or didn't do to protect the U.S. from terror attacks in the months before Sept. 11. After reviewing the memo, one cannot help but conclude that the FBI dropped the ball -- perhaps ignoring the alert altogether.”

Terrorist Ties Cited in Memo,  Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2002:

“A Phoenix FBI agent who wrote a memo last year warning about suspicious Middle Easterners at flight schools had developed detailed information before Sept. 11 linking Arizona students to Osama bin Laden and to a radical British Islamic group, and he shared some of his concerns with the CIA, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.”

U.S. was warned that Moussaoui had close ties to al-Qaida, analyst says, Damien Cave,, May 23, 2002:

“The Bush administration decided to engage in commercial negotiations with the Taliban regime as soon as it took office, to ensure a stable political environment in Afghanistan that would fit the oil industry projects. The negotiations, as we reveal in our book [Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth], broke off in early August 2001, five weeks before Sept. 11 and about the time of the warning memo received by the White House. And the reason was the U.S. representative to those negotiations, Tom Simmons, threatened the Taliban regime with a military operation if it refused to make concessions to the U.S. The message was, either you accept the carpet of gold, or you'll have a carpet of bombs.”

Agent Complaints Lead F.B.I. Director to Ask for Inquiry, James Risen and David Johnston, The New York Times, May 24, 2002:

“The [FBI] agent, Coleen Rowley, general counsel in the Minneapolis office, … said in a detailed 13-page letter to the Congressional committee that is investigating the government's preparedness for the Sept. 11 attacks that Mr. Mueller had misrepresented the bureau's handling of Mr. Moussaoui's case after his arrest on immigration charges three weeks before the hijackings, according to officials who have reviewed her letter.”

Agent: FBI Rewrote Moussaoui Request, John J. Lumpkin, Associated Press, May 24, 2002:

“An FBI whistle-blower alleges FBI headquarters rewrote Minnesota agents' pre-Sept. 11 request for surveillance and search warrants for terrorism defendant Zacarias Moussaoui and removed important information before rejecting them, government officials said Friday.

“Agent Coleen Rowley wrote that the Minnesota agents became so frustrated by roadblocks erected by terrorism supervisors in Washington that they began to joke that FBI headquarters was becoming an ‘unwitting accomplice’ to Osama bin Laden's efforts to attack the United States, the officials said.”

Stock Adviser Knew About 9/11 Attacks, U.S. Suggests, Alex Berenson, The New York Times, May 25, 2002:

“San Diego stock adviser who is accused of bribing an F.B.I. agent to give him confidential government information may have had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal prosecutor said yesterday. But a judge disregarded that contention and the adviser's lawyer called the allegation ludicrous.”

How the FBI Blew the Case, Romesh Ratnesar and Michael Weisskopf, Time, June 3, 2002 Issue:

“[F]riends and colleagues of [Colleen] Rowley were impressed but not altogether surprised when she put her career on the line last week to blow the whistle on the terrible failings of her beloved FBI. ‘She is the kind of person who always does what is right when nobody's watching,’ says one friend. ‘That is why she came out.’”  

Agent Alleges FBI Ignored Hamas Activities, James V. Grimaldi and John Mintz, Washington Post, May 11, 2002:

“‘FBI management failed to take seriously the threat of terrorism in the United States,’ [Agent Robert G.] Wright [Jr.]'s lawsuit claims. ‘FBI management intentionally and repeatedly thwarted and obstructed Wright's attempts to launch a more comprehensive investigation that would identify terrorists, their sources and methods of funding before they attacked additional U.S.

F.B.I. Chief Admits 9/11 Might Have Been Detectable, Neil A. Lewis, The New York Times, May 30, 2002:

“The director of the F.B.I., Robert S. Mueller III, acknowledged today for the first time that the attacks of Sept. 11 might have been preventable if officials in his agency had responded differently to all the pieces of information that were available.”

MORE PRE-ATTACK WARNING MEMOS TURN UP, Brian Blomquist, New York Post, May 30, 2002:

“The FBI yesterday acknowledged two more pre-9/11 memos that hinted at terror attacks - one about a Middle Eastern country seeking a flight simulator, and another about Middle Easterners in Oklahoma flight classes.

“‘There may be others out there,’ said FBI Director Robert Mueller.”

Official: Many Signs Pointed to 9/11, Wayne Parry, Associated Press, June 1, 2002:

“The Bush administration's top anti-terrorism prosecutor said the United States had ample evidence that a devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil was likely long before Sept. 11…

“‘We knew the World Trade Center was a target,’ said [Assistant Attorney General Michael] Chertoff, who was the U.S. attorney for New Jersey when the trade center was attacked in 1993. ‘We knew an airplane could be used as a weapon.’”

The Hijackers We Let Escape , Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman , Newsweek, June 10, 2002:

“[T]he CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—base camp for the agency’s war on bin Laden—was sitting on information that could have led federal agents right to the terrorists’ doorstep. Almihdhar and Alhazmi, parading across America in plain sight, could not have been easier to find. NEWSWEEK has learned that when Almihdhar’s visa expired, the State Department, not knowing any better, simply issued him a new one in June 2001—even though by then the CIA had linked him to one of the suspected bombers of the USS Cole in October 2000. The two terrorists’ frequent meetings with the other September 11 perpetrators could have provided federal agents with a road map to the entire cast of 9-11 hijackers.”

Missed Chance, U.S. News, June 10, 2002:

“The FBI had a chance to infiltrate an al Qaeda training camp in the months before the September 11 attacks–and possibly learn about the coming strike–but the proposal was rejected by top officials, U.S. News has learned.”

Al-Qaida monitored U.S. negotiations with Taliban over oil pipeline, Jean-Charles Brisard,, June 5, 2002:

“A 1998 memo written by al-Qaida military chief Mohammed Atef reveals that Osama bin Laden's group had detailed knowledge of negotiations that were taking place between Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and American government and business leaders over plans for a U.S. oil and gas pipeline across that Central Asian country.”

Exclusive: The Informant Who Lived With the Hijackers , Michael Isikoff , Newsweek, September 16, 2002 issue:

“NEWSWEEK has learned that one of the bureau’s informants had a close relationship with two of the hijackers: he was their roommate.

What Did They Know Page

Last changed: December 13, 2009