- July: The CIA hears a statement from an individual who had recently been in Afghanistan, which includes the quote, "Everyone is talking about an impending attack." The idea of an attack on a skyscraper was widely discussed among bin Laden's supporters in Kabul." At some unspecified point before 9/11, a neighbor in Kabul saw diagrams showing a skyscraper attack in a house known as a "nerve center" for al-Qaeda activity. (CCR)
US officials tell Pakistan that US military operations against Taliban to begin in October
- July: Senior U.S. officials (Tom Simmons, former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Karl Inderfurth, former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs, and Lee Coldren, former State Department expert on South Asia) tell the Pakistani Foreign Secretary that that military actions against Afghanistan would begin by October 2001. This threat, which was triggered in part by the Taliban's refusal to accept the Bush administration's terms for a trans-Afghan oil pipeline, is made directly to the Taliban during a meeting in Berlin, attended by the Taliban, officials of Russia, Iran, Pakistan and the Northern Alliance. New memos reveal that Bush had an Afghanistan war plan on his desk on September 9. (BBC/Killtown)
- July: The FAA rescinds its rule about allowing pilots of airliners to be armed, a rule that had been in place since 1961. Allegedly the rescind order was mandated by the White House, but no one in the media can get any information from the FAA as to who issued the order or why, after 40 years and during a rash of severe terrorist alerts, it was suddenly issued. (CCR)
Intelligence briefing warns of terrorist attack
- Early July: A briefing prepared for senior US government officials states, "Based on a review of all-source reporting over the last five months, we believe that [bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning." As the weeks go by, intelligence information given to senior officials show that al-Qaeda continues to plan an imminent attack on US interests. None of this information is made public until September 2002, when the Senate investigative committee releases it. The White House refuses to allow the committee to tell whether or not this warning ever reached the President's ear. David Corn writes, "Here was a warning of a spectacular al-Qaeda attack two months before that dreadful day. The obvious question was: Did Bush get this information and, if so, how did he respond? But the Bush administration refused to let the intelligence committees tell the public whether this intelligence warning had been provided to the president. The reason given: doing so would compromise national security. Think about that one. The administration was saying it was okay to reveal the existence of this warning but that the country could be endangered if people knew this warning had reached the person it should have reached: the president. Committee sources told reporters that the warning had indeed been presented to Bush. But the intelligence committees were unable to declare so in their report. Thus, misusing the classification system permitted the Bush administration, two months before the congressional elections, from having to deal with discomfiting questions and a round of criticism and bad press." (CNN/Killtown, TomPaine)
- July 1: Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Shelby, both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, appear on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," and warn of potential attacks by bin Laden. Says Feinstein: "One of the things that has begun to concern me very much as to whether we really have our house in order, intelligence staff have told me that there is a major probability of a terrorist incident within the next three months." (CCR)
- July 2: The FBI issues a warning of terrorist threats overseas; domestic attacks are not ruled out. (CCR)
- July 3: CIA Director Tenet sends a special request to 30 foreign intelligence agencies asking that they arrest al-Qaeda figures. (CCR)
- July 3: James Hatfield, author of an unflattering book on Bush called Fortunate Son, claims he has evidence al-Qaeda will try to assassinate Bush at the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, possibly through a suicidal plane crash. This is the first public mention of the plot. Intelligence reports later confirm that such an attack was planned but aborted due to high security. Hatfield adds, "German intelligence services have stated that bin Laden is covertly financing neo-Nazi skinhead groups throughout Europe to launch another terrorist attack at a high-profile American target." Two weeks later, Hatfield apparently commits suicide. However, there is widespread speculation that his death was payback for his revelation of Bush's cocaine use in the 1970s. (CCR)
- July 4-14: Bin Laden, who has a $5 million bounty on his head, receives lifesaving treatment for renal failure from American surgeon specialist Dr. Terry Callaway at the American hospital in Dubai. Callaway supposedly treated bin Laden in 1996 and 1998, also in Dubai. Callaway later refuses to answer any questions on this matter. During his stay, bin Laden is visited by "several members of his family and Saudi personalities," including Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence, as well as two CIA officers. Amazingly, the American media almost completely ignores the story. One of the CIA officers who apparently met with bin Laden is Larry Mitchell, who lives in Dubai under the cover of being a consular agent. Mitchell, the CIA, the American hospital in Dubai, and even bin Laden deny the meeting ever took place, but the sources (Le Figaro and Radio France International,) stand by their stories, apparently received from elements in French intelligence who wish to point up the CIA's duplicity in its handling of bin Laden. Dubai is a known gathering place for terrorists and their rich backers, with private planes routinely flying in and out, and rich Gulf princes often coming in to indulge in "hunting trips" that are actually meetings with terrorist operatives. The money that will finance the 9/11 attacks will be laundered in Dubai. In denying bin Laden's visit to the hospital, an Arab diplomat says bin Laden would have never run the risks of prolonged medical treatment in Dubai, a free-wheeling Gulf city-state with an underworld of smugglers and mercenaries easily recruitable to assassinate the man listed as US public enemy No. 1. "If he had needed treatment, he would have chosen a place where he could count on draconian security like Baghdad or Damascus," he said. But French terrorism expert Antoine Sfeir says the story of this meeting has been verified and is not surprising: It "is nothing extraordinary. Bin Laden maintained contacts with the CIA up to 1998. These contacts have not ceased since bin Laden settled in Afghanistan. Up to the last moment, CIA agents hoped that bin Laden would return to the fold of the US, as was the case before 1989." (Guardian, Asia Times/Killtown, International Herald Tribune, CCR, From the Wilderness)
- July 5: Richard Clarke leads a meeting of the Counterterrorism Security Group, attended by officials from a dozen federal agencies, to discuss intelligence regarding terrorism threats and potential attacks on US installations overseas. He states, "something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon." Clarke directs every counter-terrorist office to cancel vacations, defer nonvital travel, put off scheduled exercises and place domestic rapid-response teams on much shorter alert. By early August, all of these emergency measures are no longer in effect. A group of senators is briefed on the meeting from a memo written by Clarke, and input from CIA Director Tenet, NSC director Condoleezza Rice, and Bush chief of staff Andrew Card. Rice and press secretary Ari Fleischer originally tried to say that the attack warnings were specifically directed against overseas targets, but were forced to admit that the warnings were actually against domestic targets when the facts came out. Interestingly, while this group of senators were briefed in July, the President claims he heard nothing about the possibility of an impending terrorist attack until August 6. Perhaps his month-long vacation in Texas during August had something to do with getting him out of danger, just as Cheney spent the month "lost" in the wilds of Wyoming. (CCR)
FBI office in Phoenix urges investigation of Middle Easterners getting flight training
- July 5: A memo from the Phoenix FBI office urges the agency to investigate Middle Eastern men attending flight schools. The memo specifically suggests that bin Laden's followers might be trying to infiltrate the civil-aviation system as pilots, security guards or other personnel, and recommends a national program to track suspicious flight-school students. The memo is sent to the counterterrorism division at FBI headquarters in Washington and to two field offices, including the counterterrorism section in New York, which has had extensive experience in al-Qaeda investigations. The memo is ignored in all three places, even after intelligence from German and Russian sources had been received confirming that Arabic terrorists were training for suicide flights against American and Israeli targets; the FBI dismisses the report as "speculative and not particularly significant." Subsequent reports indicate that the "Phoenix memo," as it is now being termed, was a great deal more specific than first characterized by the White House. The author, veteran field agent Kenneth Williams, reported that at least eight Middle Eastern men were interested in airplane engineering and airport security, and warns of a possible "effort by Usama bin Laden to send students to the U.S. to attend civil aviation universities and colleges." According to an L.A. Times report, "[h]is review also determined that one of the Arizona flight school students appeared to have communicated through a middleman with one of Bin Laden's top aides, Abu Zubeida, and that several of the students under suspicion had links to a radical group called Al-Muhajiroun. The Britain-based group is dedicated to the establishment of a global Muslim state and has vocally supported Bin Laden and other terrorists. ...The memo 'was very specific. It named names,' [a Congressional source] said." According to a New York Times article, "The White House has refused to produce the document, and administration officials have said that the information was too vague to act on." Vice President Cheney states in May 2002 that the memo should never be released to the media or the public. Note: One source dates the Williams memo as being delivered to FBI headquarters on July 10. (The Smoking Gun [actual memo reproduction], From the Wilderness, AP/Softcom)
- July 6: The CSG learns that attacks are imminent in Paris, Rome, and/or Turkey. (CCR)
Tenet, Black meet to give Rice urgent warning of imminent al-Qaeda attack; Rice ignores warnings
- July 10: CIA director George Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, meet with national security advisor Condoleezza Rice to warn her of what they believe is an imminent attack by al-Qaeda on US soil. The case for the warning is compiled from a mass of fragments and items that, put together, make a compelling argument for immediate preparations. Rice refuses to heed the warnings. This meeting is not made public knowledge until late September 2006, when Bob Woodward writes of it in his book State of Denial. Rice and the White House initially deny that the meeting ever took place, but after documentation proves the meeting actually happened, they begin spinning the meeting to mislead the public into believing it was far less serious than it actually was -- a spin that is hard to credit, considering Tenet is Woodward's prime source for the information.
- Fearing the worst, Tenet calls Rice from his car phone and says he needs to see her immediately. Tenet has been after Rice for months to set a clear counterterrorism policy, writes Woodward, including specific presidential orders called "findings" that would give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden. Woodward writes, "Perhaps a dramatic appearance -- Black called it an 'out of cycle' session, beyond Tenet's regular weekly meeting with Rice -- would get her attention. Tenet had been losing sleep over the recent intelligence he'd seen. There was no conclusive, smoking-gun intelligence, but there was such a huge volume of data that an intelligence officer's instinct strongly suggested that something was coming. He and Black hoped to convey the depth of their anxiety and get Rice to kick-start the government into immediate action. ...Two weeks earlier, he had told Richard A. Clarke, the National Security Council's counterterrorism director: 'It's my sixth sense, but I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one.'" But Tenet was having a hard time getting anyone to listen in the highest echelons of power in Washington. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld openly doubted that the NSA intercepts and other intelligence were anything more than misdirection and deception. And Rice wasn't listening, period.
- Both Tenet and the NSA felt the intelligence they were gathering was valid; on June 30, a top-secret senior executive intelligence brief contained an article headlined "Bin Laden Threats Are Real." Tenet hoped that he could shake Rice into paying some attention. He and Black would make two main points. One, al-Qaeda was going to attack American interests, perhaps on American soil. Black would emphasize that this amounted to a strategic warning, meaning the problem was so serious that it required an overall plan and strategy. Two, this was a major foreign policy problem that needed to be addressed immediately. They needed to take action that moment -- covert, military, whatever -- to thwart bin Laden. But Rice doesn't listen to their presentation with anything but polite, distant interest. Both Tenet and Black feel that they receive, in their words, "the brush-off." A plan for dealing with al-Qaeda covertly was in the pipeline, but wouldn't be ready for a while. As with the Clinton administration, a debate was raging over the use of the Predator drone that could be used to kill bin Laden or other top al-Qaeda officials; the CIA and Pentagon were fighting over who would pay for it and who would have authority to fire. And Rice is far more interested in selling the ballistic defense missile system to Congress and the American populace. Woodward writes, "She [is] in a different place."
- Tenet leaves the meeting frustrated; Black terms the decision to just stick with the ongoing planning is a sustained policy failure. Rice and the entire Bush administration are stuck in denial. "Adults should not have a system like this," Black says later.
- The meeting goes unreported and unacknowledged in the various reports of investigations into the 9/11 attacks, but it stands out in the minds of Tenet and Black as the starkest warning they had given the White House on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Though the investigators have access to all the paperwork on the meeting, Black feels there are things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about. Tenet looks back on the meeting with Rice as tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt the attacks. Rice could have gotten through to Bush on the threat, Tenet feels, but she just didn't get it in time. He feels that he had done his job and had been very direct about the threat, but that Rice had not moved quickly. He feels she was not organized and did not push people, as he tried to do at the CIA. As Black later says, "The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head." (Washington Post)
Bin Laden meets with CIA agent in Dubai
- July 12: Osama bin Laden, in a Dubai hospital for kidney treatment, meets with a top CIA official, Larry Mitchell. Later, he is allowed to leave Dubai on a private jet without being bothered by US security. Bin Laden was and is considered an enemy of this country, subject to immediate arrest and/or execution if apprehended by American authorities. Why he was allowed to meet with a CIA representative and leave unmolested is a serious question as yet unanswered. (CCR)
- Mid-July: US intelligence reports another spike in warnings related to the July 20-22 G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy. The reports include specific threats discovered by the head of Russia's Federal Bodyguard Service that al-Qaeda will try to kill Bush and/or other world leaders as they attend the summit. The reports are taken so seriously that Bush stays overnight on an aircraft carrier offshore, and other world leaders stay on a luxury ship. Two days before the summit begins, the BBC reports: "The huge force of officers and equipment which has been assembled to deal with unrest has been spurred on by a warning that supporters of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden might attempt an air attack on some of the world leaders present." The proceedings are guarded by a ring of anti-aircraft missiles mounted around the city. (CCR. Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Senior FBI terror expert claims White House is obstructing efforts to investigate bin Laden
- Mid-July: John O'Neill, FBI counter-terrorism expert, privately discusses White House obstruction in his bin Laden investigation. O'Neill says: "The main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it." He adds: "All the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden's organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia." O'Neill also believes the White House is obstructing his investigation of bin Laden because they are still keeping the idea of a pipeline deal with the Taliban open. (Project Censored)
- Mid-July: The CIA successfully disrupts terrorist attacks in Paris, Rome, and Turkey. (CCR)
- July 16: British spy agencies send a report to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other top officials warning that al-Qaeda is in "the final stages" of preparing a terrorist attack in the West. The prediction is "based on intelligence gleaned not just from MI6 and GCHQ but also from US agencies, including the CIA and the National Security Agency," which cooperate with the British. The report states there is "an acute awareness" that the attack is "a very serious threat." (CCR)
- July 16: A Village Voice reporter is told by a New York taxi driver, "You know, I am leaving the country and going home to Egypt sometime in late August or September. I have gotten e-mails from people I know saying that Osama bin Laden has planned big terrorist attacks for New York and Washington for that time. It will not be safe here then." He does in fact return to Egypt for that time period. The FBI isn't told about this lead until after 9/11. He is later interrogated by the FBI and released. He claims what he knew was known by many. (CCR)
- July 18: The FBI issues another warning to domestic law enforcement agencies about threats stemming from the convictions in the millennium bomb plot trial. The FAA also issues a warning, telling the airlines to "use the highest level of caution." (CCR)
- July 20: Senators Dianne Feinstein and Jon Kyl send a copy of draft legislation on counter-terrorism to Cheney's office along with a memo that, in Feinstein's words, "urge[d] that he restructure our counter-terrorism and homeland defense programs to ensure better accountability and prevent important intelligence information from slipping through the cracks." The response? "Despite repeated efforts by myself and staff, the White House did not address my request. I followed this up last September 2001 before the attacks and was told by [Cheney chief of staff] 'Scooter' Libby that it might be another six months before he would be able to review the material. I told him I did not believe we had six months to wait." (CCR)
Terrorist plans to bomb G8 summit
- July 20-23: During the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini reveals that Egyptian and Italian intelligence sources had uncovered a plot to crash a hijacked commercial airliner into either Air Force One or one of the buildings used for the summit. This jetliner kamikaze plot may have been directed at Bush himself. Security precautions at the summit were extraordinary, and were specifically focused on preventing hijacked planes from striking targets. According to an Los Angeles Times report from September 27, "the reports suggest that Western governments were aware that terrorists might one day use a hijacked airplane as a suicide weapon -- as they did Sept. 11 in attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." Egyptian intelligence provided this information as early as June 13: "On June 13 of this year, we learned of a communique from bin Laden saying he wanted to assassinate Mr Bush and other G8 heads of state during their summit in Italy. It was a well-known piece of information," says Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak adds that the method apparently involved "an aeroplane stuffed with explosives." (From the Wilderness, Guardian)
Further US warnings of military intervention against Taliban
- July 21: Three American officials, Tom Simons (former US Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs) and Lee Coldren (former State Department expert on South Asia) meet with Pakistani and Russian intelligence officers in a Berlin hotel. It is the third of a series of back-channel conferences called "brainstorming on Afghanistan." Taliban representatives sat in on previous meetings, but boycotted this one due to worsening tensions. However, the Pakistani ISI relays information from the meeting to the Taliban. At the meeting, former US State Department official Lee Coldren passes on a message from Bush officials. He later says, "I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action." Accounts vary, but former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik later says he is told by senior American officials at the meeting that military action to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan is planned to "take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest." The goal is to kill or capture both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, topple the Taliban regime and install a transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. Uzbekistan and Russia would also participate.
- Naik also says "it was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban." One specific threat made at this meeting is that the Taliban can choose between "carpets of bombs" -- an invasion -- or "carpets of gold" -- the pipeline. Naik says Tom Simons made the "carpets" statement; Simons claims: "It's possible that a mischievous American participant, after several drinks, may have thought it smart to evoke gold carpets and carpet bombs. Even Americans can't resist the temptation to be mischievous." Naik and the American participants deny that the pipeline was an issue at the meeting. (Albion Monitor/AlterNet, From the Wilderness)
Threat assessments lead to Attorney General refusing to fly on commercial aircraft
- July 26: CBS News reveals that Attorney General Ashcroft has stopped flying on commercial planes, due to a threat assessment, but neither the FBI nor the Justice Department identify what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it. "Ashcroft demonstrated an amazing lack of curiosity when asked if he knew anything about the threat. 'Frankly, I don't,' he told reporters." It is later reported that he stopped flying in July based on threat assessments made on May 8 and June 19. In May 2002 it is claimed the threat assessment had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, but Ashcroft walked out of his office rather than answer questions about it. (From the Wilderness)
- July 31: The FAA issues another warning to airlines that terrorists are actively planning and training for hijackings. (CCR)
- Late July: US intelligence agencies uncover a message sent between al-Qaeda operatives dated December 1998 that reads in part, "Plans to hijack US aircraft proceeding well. Two individuals have successfully evaded checkpoints at dry run at NY airport." (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- Late July/August: An unconfirmed story from veteran foreign correspondant John Cooley reports that a Moroccan secret agent named Hassan Dabou, who had previously infiltrated al-Qaeda, provided his superiors with hard information that bin Laden's group was readying "large-scale operations in New York in the summer or autumn of 2001." If the story is accurate, Moroccan intelligence passed the story on to Washington; Dabou, meanwhile, is currently residing in the US, presumably under protection, and is said to be assisting the US anti-terror efforts. (CCR)