The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Thursday, July 22, 2004

9/11 Timeline -- What follows is a timeline I made after reading chapter eight of the 9/11 Commission report, "The System was Blinking Red." One of the most obvious conclusions you draw after reading this is that Mr Cheney's remark to Rush Limbaugh that Richard Clarke was "not in the loop" of counter-terror planning was an obvious lie. Read on...

January 2001 -- Clarke forwards paper to Rice warning that al Qaeda was in U.S.

March 23, 2001 -- Clarke warns NSA Rice that terrorists might use a truck bomb to destroy the White House and that he believed terrorist cells, including Al Qaeda, to be present in the United States.

Late March, 2001 -- Intelligence community disseminates terror threat advisory, indicating heightened threat of Sunni terror attacks on U.S.

Late March, Early April, 2001 -- Rice briefed on activities of Abu Zubaydah and on CIA efforts to locate him. Warnings of Zubaydah terror activities continued for several weeks.

April 13, 2001 -- FBI alerts all field offices about terror reports to date. Requests all offices to use all resources to obtain information about "current operational activities relating to Sunni extremism." No suggestion of domestic threat was included.

April 19, 2001 -- Clarke's Counterterrorism Security Group [CSG] discusses Abu Zubaydah terror reports.

April 20, 2001 -- Briefing to top officials reports UBL "planning multiple operations."

April 30, 2001 -- CSG deputies discuss 4/20/01 report.

Early May, 2001 -- Walk-in to FBI claims attacks against London, NYC, Boston are planned.

May 2001 -- CIA CTC Cofer Black tells Rice the current threat level was a seven out of 10, compared to eight during the Millenium.

May 15, 2001 -- AG Ashcroft briefed about Al Qaeda and current threat reporting.

May 16, 2001 -- Phone call to a U.S. embassy warns of UBL supporters planning attack on U.S. using "high explosives." Top cannot be corroborated.

May 17, 2001 -- First item on CSG's agenda: "UBL: Operation Planned in U.S."

Late May, 2001 -- Reports of possible hostage plots to force release of radical Islamic prisoners, such as Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. Reports included possibilities of hijacked airliners or storming U.S. embassies. FAA warns airlines of possible hijacking plot. Other reports mentioned Zubaydah plots, perhaps against Israel.

May 24, 2001 -- Reports allege plots in Yemen, Italy, Canada against America.

May 29, 2001 -- Clarke writes to Rice and Stephen Hadley, suggesting they ask DCI Tenet about stopping Zubaydah from launching terror attacks on U.S.

June 2001 -- Visa Express program in Saudi Arabia began by State Dept. as security measure, to keep long lines of foreigners away from embassy. Program permitted visa applications to be made through travel agencies.

June 12, 2001 -- CIA report on bio information on several terrorists mentioned Khalid Sheikh Muhammad recruiting people to travel to the U.S. and launch terror attacks with others on behalf of UBL.

June 21, 2001 -- CENTCOM raises force protection level for U.S. troops in six countries to Delta, highest possible level. Fifth Fleet left Bahrain and Marine Corps exercise in Jordan halted. U.S. embassies in Persian Gulf hold security reviews and embassy in Yemen is closed.

June 22, 2001 -- CIA warns all station chiefs about possible al Qaeda suicide attacks on U.S. in next several days. Tenet asks that all U.S. ambassadors be briefed. State Dept. warns all embassies of terror threats and updated worldwide public warning.

June 25, 2001 -- Clarke warns Rice and Hadley that six intelligence reports show Al Qaeda personnel warning of pending attack. Arabic television station reports UBL pleased with al Qaeda leaders who were saying the next weeks "will witness important surprises" and that U.S. and Israeli interests would be targeted. Clarke warns this is too sophisticated to be a psychological operation, CIA agrees. Warns of multiple attacks which would throw the world into turmoil.

June 28, 2001 -- Clarke writes to Rice that pattern of Al Qaeda activity the past six weeks "had reached a crescendo." Clarke writes that a series of reports convince him that major Al Qaeda attacks were likely in July. One al Qaeda intelligence report warned something "very, very, very, very" big was about to happen.

Late June 2001 -- CIA warns all station chiefs to share Al Qaeda info with host governments and push for immediate disruption of cells.

June 30, 2001 -- Headline of briefing to top officials: "Bin Laden Planning High-Profile Attacks." Bin Laden operatives believed near-term attacks would have catastrophic consequences domestically. Saudi Arabia declares highest level of terror alert.

July 2, 2001 -- FBI Counterterrorism Division alerts federal agencies and state and local law enforcement agencies, summarizing threats from UBL. Warned of increased volume of threat reporting, but also conceded that the "FBI has no information indicating a credible threat of terrorist attack in the United States." Report asked recipients to "exercise extreme vigilance" and "report suspicious activities." No suggestion of specific action to disrupt terror cells was included.

July 2001 -- Disruption activities against terrorist cells launched in 20 countries.

July 5, 2001 -- Cheney contacts Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah for help against Al Qaeda.

INS, Coast Guard, FAA, Secret Service, Customs, CIA, FBI meet with Clarke to discuss terror threat. Attendees told not to disseminate threat info received at meeting. This is interpreted to mean that superiors could be briefed but field officers could not. An NSC official present disputes this, recalling that attendees were told to use the information any way they could, subject to classification and distribution protocols. INS representative who asked for summary of information she could share with field offices never received the summary.

CIA briefs AG Ashcroft on Al Qaeda threat, warning attack was imminent. Briefing addressed only threats outside the U.S.

July 6, 2001 -- CIA told CSG that Al Qaeda believed upcoming attack would be "spectacular" and different from anything previously attempted.

Late July 2001 -- Italy closes airspace over Genoa in response to threats to G-8 Summit.

July 9, 2001 -- 27 U.S. agencies and organizations briefed on current threat level. Attendees told to determine whether their agencies needed enhanced security measures.

Mid-July 2001 -- Reports that UBL plans had been delayed, maybe for months.

July 18, 2001 -- State Dept. warns of possible attacks in Arabian peninsula.

July 19, 2001 -- Acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard has conference call with special agents in charge. Does not ask field offices to determine if any plots were being considered within the U.S. or take any action to disrupt such plots.

July 23, 2001 -- CSG discussion lead item is al Qaeda threat and suspected terrorist travel to U.S. is mentioned.

Late July 2001 -- Tenet believes "the system was blinking red" and could not "get any worse." Not everyone is convinced. Hadley tells Tenet that Wolfowitz questioned the reporting and suggested UBL was trying to study U.S. counter-terror reactions. Tenet replied that the threats were convincing. One CTC official discusses with a colleague the possibility of resigning in order to bring attention to threat concerns.

July 27, 2001 -- Clarke informs Rice and Hadley that spike in intel about near-term Al Qaeda attack had stopped. Urges high readiness during August vacation, warning of a report suggesting attack had been postponed, "but will still happen."

July 30, 2001 -- SEIB contains article entitled "Bin Laden Threats are Real."

July 31, 2001 -- FAA circular warns airline industry of possible terror attacks in Israel or Arabia. No mention of credible or specific plans to attack U.S. civil aviation.

August 1, 2001 -- FBI issues advisory calling for increased security planning.

August 3, 2001 -- Intel community issues advisory warning that al Qaeda attacks would continue indefinitely.

August 6, 2001 -- Responding to questions from Mr Bush about attacks inside U.S., CIA produces PDB entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." It was the 36th PDB referring to UBL that year and first devoted to attack inside U.S. The PDB referred to hijackings and surveillance of a federal building in NYC by Yemenis.

August 17, 2001 -- DCI Tenet visits Mr Bush at Crawford, Texas.

Late August 2001 -- A foreign service [intelligence?] reports Zubaydah considering terror attacks in U.S. after postponing possible actions in Europe. No specific details given by this report.

August 31 - September 10, 2001 -- DCI Tenet participates in PDB with Mr Bush, but does not recall any discussions with Bush of the domestic threat during this period.

September 15, 2001 -- Clarke sends e-mail to Rice, summarizing steps taken by CSG to alert domestic agencies to possible attacks in U.S. Clarke concludes domestic agencies knew the CSG believed a major attack was coming and could be in U.S.