Newly Released CIA Documents on 9/11

J. M. Berger over at has successfully FOIAed agency records relating to the 9/11 attacks. Scanning through, I don’t see any major revelations, but some of the documents are still interesting. Here are some of the more important excerpts I found and my comments:

“Sketch of a South Asia-Based Terrorist Training and Logistic Network”, December 1995

One Peshawar-based nongovernmental organization (NGO)—the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), or Service Organization—appears to play a key role in facilitating the training and travel of Islamic extremists.


World Trade Center and Manila-Based Plots. Many of the individuals convicted of bombing the World Trade Center in New York in 1993 were recruited through the al-Kifah center in Brooklyn—a branch of the MAK—according to press reports. The alleged mastermind of the plot, Ramzi Yousef, left Peshawar for New York six months before the bombing.


The MAK may be sponsoring one of the mujahidin units in Bosnia.

The MAK was the precursor to al Qaeda, with Osama bin Laden as one of its leaders. The “Blind Sheik” who was the spiritual head of the terrorist cell responsible for the 1993 WTC bombing was apparently a CIA asset, with CIA agents having approved his visa to enter the U.S. on at least six different occasions. It appears the agency may have been facilitating the mujahidin operations in Bosnia the same way the CIA operated alongside bin Laden’s organization in Peshawar during the Soviet-Afghan War. One of the individuals involved in the ’93 plot and was Ali Mohammed, who was also in the Army special forces, was an FBI informant, and was a CIA asset. The FBI knew of the plot in advance and had worked with another informant on a plan to replace an ingredient in the bomb so that it would not explode. But that sting operation was called off by a superior and the plot was allowed to go forward with a real bomb, which was blown up in the basement of the WTC.

“Bin Ladin Determined To Strik in US”, Presidential Daily Brief, August 6, 2001

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America.”

After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [————————–] service.

An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an [——–] service at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative’s access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Ladin’s first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that Bin Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own US attack.

Ressam says Bin Ladin was aware of the Los Angeles operation.

Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Al-Qa’ida members—including some who are US citizens—have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintain a support structure that could aid attacks. Two al-Qa’ida members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our Embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [—————————–] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shayk” ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.

This PDB was already declassified, but it’s always useful to review how the initial claims that they had no idea an attack was coming was a lie. Then they admitted they had warnings of an attack, but not within the U.S. Then they had to admit that was a lie, too, but claimed they didn’t know any information on the time or place. Of course, the WTC was perhaps the most obvious target imaginable.

“Terrorism: Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in the US [——]”, Senior Executive Intelligence Brief, August 7, 2001

p. 1

[———————————————————————————-] indicate Usama Bin Ladin since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America.”

 A SEIB repeating what Bush was told in the PDB.

“Terrorism: Discovery That 11 September 2001 Hijacker Mohamed Atta Did Not Travel to the Czech Republic on 31 May 2000”, August 12, 2001


Subsequent investigation of the travel to the Czech Republic of terrorist Mohammed ((Atta)) revealed that the individual who attempted to enter the Czech Republic on 31 May 2000 at [—————–] airport was not the Atta who attacked the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. [————————————————————————-] it was Pakistani national [excised]

Remember Dick Cheney’s claim that it had been “pretty well verified” that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague? Yeah, well, that was a lie, too.

Re: Khalid Al-Mihdhar, August 21, 2001

[————] as I was reviewing all the cables on Khalid Al-Mihdhar, I noticed he had a U.S. Visa in his passport. I asked INS to check and they just came back and said he entered the U.S. on 15 January 2000 and listed the Los Angeles [———-] as his destination. He departed the U.S. on 10 June 2000. I looked through traffic and could not find anything else.

I’ll be sending [——] to FBI to pass what we know of Khalid Al-Mihdhar and that he entered the U.S. on 15 January. Maybe there is something they can do—perhaps run his name by Ressam?

The CIA knew that al-Mihdhar, one of the 9/11 hijackers, was a member of al-Qaeda, knew he was involved in a terrorist plot, and knew he had a visa to enter the U.S. Yet a decision was made in the CIA not to follow proper procedures and notify the State Department, the Immigration department, and the FBI to put him on a watchlist to prevent him from entering the country or track him down if he made it in. No one in the CIA has been held accountable for this breach of protocol that otherwise could potentially have been the key to stopping the 9/11 attacks before they occurred.

DCI Update: Terrorist Threat Review: Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly, August 23, 2001

  • Islamic fundamentalist travels to US to learn to fly a 747 in Minnesota
  • Pays for training in cash
  • Interested to learn that 747 doors don’t open in flight
  • Wanted training on London-JFK flights
  • FBI arrested him based on the fact that he overstayed his 90 day visa

Again, despite all the lies to the contrary, the government had threat information that there was going to be an attack on U.S. soil, that it might involve hijackings, and that the WTC could potentially be a target.

DCI Report: The Rise of UBL and Al-Qa’ida And the Intelligence Community Response [———-], March 19, 2004

p. 43

Many of these steps contributed to our analysts’ warning during the summer of 2001 that Bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida were engaged in intensive operational planning and preparations against US interests. We documented the increased threat in current intelligence products such as the President’s Daily Brief (PDF) and the SEIB, citing plots in the Arabian Peninsula and Europe. Four current intelligence pieces particularly stand out.

  • On June 29, 2001, our analysts published a piece in the SEIB entitled “Terrorism: Bin Ladin Threats are Real” which concluded that recent indications of near-term attacks were not part of a disinformation campaign, but were consistent with other reporting and public statements by Bin Ladin.
  • A June 30 SEIB article entitled “Bin Ladin Plans High Profile Attacks,’ [——————————————] al-Qa’ida operatives expected their next round of attacks to have dramatic consequences.
  • Another SEIB article, on July 25, noted that, although one Bin Ladin attack had been delayed for a few months, preparations for other, near-term attacks were still underway.
  • A SEIB article on August 7, 2001, “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US,” underscored Bin Ladin’s desire to conduct terrorist attacks in the US homeland. It noted that the Millenium plot to bomb the Los Angeles airport might have been Bin Ladin’s first serious attempt to strike in the United States. It pointed out that al-Qa’ida members—including some who are US citizens—have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks.

p. 44

By 1998, the IC knew that in Bin Ladin we were dealing with more than a “terrorist financier” and that in al-Qa’ida we were dealing with a sophisticated and determined global terrorist organization that represented a serious threat to the security of Americans at home and abroad.

Again, the Bush administration’s claims of ignorance were all lies. But check this out:

p. 52-53

The Kuala Lumpur Meeting

[———-] It was during the December 1999-January 2000 pre- and post-Millennium period that two of the September 11 hijackers—Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi—came across our screen, which has raised the question of how we were able to identify them but not uncover the plot they were part of. CIA, in fact, did some things on this case superbly while others revealed flaws in our approach that we subsequently addressed.

[———-] Turning first to how we were able to identify al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, [———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–] SIGINT from [—————————————-] about the travel of possible Bin Ladin operatives to Malaysia. As a consequence [—————————-] surveillance [—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-] concerned that the suspects were traveling to Malaysia to support regional terrorist plans or operations.

[————–] The results of these efforts meant that we knew Khalid al-Mihdhar’s true name by early January 2000 and Nawaf al-Hazmi’s by early March 2000. These two dates, respectively, were our first opportunities to watch list them. We had another opportunity to do so in December 2000, when we were able to link one of the Cole bombing suspects as a participant in the Kuala Lumpur meeting. In August 2001, as a result of increasing concern about an al Qa’ida attack in the US, we reviewed our holdings and on August 23, 2001, sent [——] to the Department of State, FBI, INS, and other US Government agencies requesting that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar be entered into [—————–] TIPOFF [————————————————————–] be watch listed immediately and denied entry into the US.

[———-] The fact that we did not recommend either of them for watch listing in March or December 2000 is not attributable to a single point failure. Rather, it demonstrated that a whole new system was needed, not just a fix at a single point.

Notice how this CIA document attempts to blame the failure to notify other agencies of al-Mihdhar’s intention to enter the U.S. on the “system” rather than “a single point failure”. In other words, the “system” didn’t work, and no individual was responsible. Bullshit. Somebody made the decision not to follow protocol that allowed the 9/11 plot to move forward, whereas had the CIA notified other agencies, it could potentially have led to the unraveling of the whole plot and prevented the attacks from ever taking place.

p. 63-64

Continued Warning

[———] The leadership of the Agency repeatedly warned the policy community in the Executive Branch and the Congress of the seriousness of the threat.

  • During the Millennium threat in late 1999, we told the President to expect between 5 to 15 terrorist attacks against American interests both here and overseas.
  • In spring and summer of 2001, we sought every opportunity to vehemently express our concern about the high level of threat, and we launched the massive program of disruption described above.
  • We placed the Bin Ladin threat prominently in every single annual testimony to the appropriate Congressional Committees on the Worldwide Threat since 1998. In the 1999 testimony, for example, the DCI stated that, “There is not the slightest doubt that Bin Ladin is planning attacks against us. He will strike anywhere in the world he thinks we are vulnerable…and I must tell you we are concerned [these strikes] can occur at any time.” We also warned about the growing likelihood of an unconventional CBRN attack in the United States homeland and elsewhere.
  • [—————————————————————————————————————————————————————-] threat from al-Qai’da was “an immediate and pressing concern.” And that, “Despite [our] successes, there are limits to what we can do. We will generally not have specific time and place warning of terrorist attacks…The result…is that I consider it likely that over the next year or so that there will be an attempted terrorist attack against US interests.”

Known al-Qaeda operatives entering the U.S. Threat of attack on U.S. soil. Involving hijackings. WTC as potential target.  This was all pretty specific threat information.

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