It may take a long time for a thorough history of the events leading up to 9-11 to be written, but since the attacks on Manhattan and D.C.,
some intriguing information has dribbled out of governments around the world. Much of it has been reported in mainstream news outlets, but rarely has it been collated and categorized and chronologized in the way Paul Thompson has done it. More importantly, not all of it can be dismissed as Monday-morning quarterbacking. Some examples, again from Thompson’s timelines:
- In 1999, British intelligence gave a secret report to the U.S. embassy stating that Al Qaeda had plans to use “commercial aircraft” in “unconventional ways . . . possibly as flying bombs.” Thompson’s timeline pins this to a June 9, 2002, Sunday Times (U.K.) story. And in July and August of 2001, the Brits sent two more warnings, telling the U.S. to expect multiple airline hijackings from Al Qaeda.
- In June 2001, German intelligence warned the U.S., Britain, and Israel that Middle Eastern terrorists were planning to hijack commercial aircraft and use them as weapons to attack “American and Israeli symbols which stand out.” That was according to the September 13, 2001, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the September 14, 2001, Washington Post.
- In late July 2001, Egyptian intelligence received a report from an undercover agent in Afghanistan that “20 al Qaeda members had slipped into the U.S., and four of them had received flight training on Cessnas.” To the Egyptians, pilots of small planes didn’t sound terribly alarming, but they passed on the message to the CIA anyway, fully expecting Washington to request information. “The request never came,” according to a CBS News story of October 9, 2002.
- In late summer 2001, Jordanian intelligence intercepted a message stating that a major attack was being planned inside the U.S. and that aircraft would be used. The code name of the operation was Big Wedding, which did in fact turn out to be the code name of the 9-11 plot. The message was passed to U.S. intelligence through several channels. Is the report of this warning just nutcase rambling? Hardly. This nugget was reported in the May 21, 2002, International Herald Tribune and in the May 23, 2002, Christian Science Monitor.
- Russian president Vladimir Putin publicly stated that he ordered his intelligence agencies to alert the U.S. in the summer of 2001 that suicide pilots were training for attacks on U.S. targets. (Don’t think that this is a piece of liberal bias, either. Fox News reported it on May 17, 2002.) Agence France-Presse had reported only five days after 9-11 that the head of Russian intelligence said of the alerts given to the U.S., “We had clearly warned them” on several occasions, but they “did not pay the necessary attention.”
- Five days before 9-11, a priest named Jean-Marie Benjamin was told by a Muslim at an Italian wedding of a plot to attack the U.S. and Britain, using hijacked airplanes as weapons. He wasn’t told the specifics of time or place, but he immediately passed what he knew on to a judge and several politicians in Italy. Presumably this Muslim confided in him because Benjamin has done considerable charity work in Muslim countries and is considered “one of the West’s most knowledgeable experts on the Muslim world,” according to a September 16, 2001, article on the Italian site zenit.org.
This information may have come from the Milan Al Qaeda cell, which forged documents for the organization’s operations. Wiretaps indicated that its members were aware of a plot very much like 9-11—a year before the attacks. For instance, in August 2000, one terrorist in Milan was recorded as saying to another, “I’m studying airplanes. I hope, God willing, that I can bring you a window or a piece of an airplane the next time we see each other.” The comment was followed by laughter, according to a Los Angeles Times account on May 29, 2002.
Other startling details of events in Italy emerged last May. In January 2001, a terrorist asked if certain forged documents were for “the brothers going to the United States”—and was angrily rebuked by another, who told him not to talk about that “very, very secret” plan. (The Los Angeles Times reported that on May 29, 2002.) And in March 2001, the Italian government gave the U.S. a warning based on these wiretaps, Fox News reported on May 17, 2002.
Additional reporting: Alicia Ng