Bush Was Warned Bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes
Subject: Bush Warned Bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes-NY Times
Date: Thu, 16 May 2002 08:19:41 -0400
From: "Robert Lederman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Let's just review a few facts that have recently come out shall we? The FBI
knew Bin Laden's people were studying how to fly (but not land) jumbo jets
in various US flight schools. The FBI the CIA and even GW knew they planned
to hijack jumbo jets. Every security service in the world knew the WTC was
the world's #1 target for Islamic terrorists. Yet, they did nothing, ignored
all intelligence, issued no warnings, increased no security. Bush announces,
"We hit the trifecta!" after hearing of the attacks. No conspiracy, right?
Bush Was Warned Bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes
By DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON, May 15 - The White House said tonight that President Bush had
been warned by American intelligence agencies in early August that Osama bin
Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft but that the warnings did not
contemplate the possibility that the hijackers would turn the planes into
guided missiles for a terrorist attack.
"It is widely known that we had information that bin Laden wanted to attack
the United States or United States interests abroad," Ari Fleischer, the
president's press secretary, said this evening. "The president was also
provided information about bin Laden wanting to engage in hijacking in the
traditional pre-9/11 sense, not for the use of suicide bombing, not for the
use of an airplane as a missile."
Nonetheless the revelation by the White House, made in response to a report
about the intelligence warning this evening on CBS News, is bound to fuel
Congressional demands for a deeper investigation into why American
intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had failed to
put together individual pieces of evidence that, in retrospect, now seem to
suggest what was coming.
In the past few days, government officials have acknowledged for the first
time that an F.B.I. agent in Phoenix had urged the F.B.I. headquarters to
investigate Middle Eastern men enrolled in American flight schools. That
memorandum also cited Mr. bin Laden by name and suggested that his followers
could use the schools to train for terror operations, officials who have
seen the memorandum said.
Administration officials reached this evening said the warning given to Mr.
Bush did not come from the F.B.I. or from the information developed by the
Phoenix agent. Instead, it was provided as part of the C.I.A. briefing he is
given each morning, suggesting that it was probably based on evidence
The C.I.A. had been listening intently over the July 4 holiday last year,
after what one investigator called "a lot of static in the system suggesting
something was coming." But then the evidence disappeared as quickly as it
had arisen, and by August, officials have said, little was heard from Al
The warning of the hijacking was given to the president at his ranch in
Crawford, Tex., where he was on vacation.
Taken together, the news of the C.I.A. warning and the information developed
separately by the F.B.I. explains Mr. Bush's anger after Sept. 11 that
intelligence gathered on American soil and abroad was not being centrally
analyzed and that the agencies were not working well together.
Several times he has told audiences that he is working on solving that
problem, and these days he is briefed jointly by the F.B.I and the C.I.A.,
ensuring that each hears information from the other agency.
It was not clear this evening why the White House waited eight months after
the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington to reveal what Mr. Bush had
But Mr. Fleischer noted that in the daily flow of intelligence information
the president receives, the warning of what appeared to be the threat of a
conventional hijacking was not as serious as it appears in retrospect. "We
were a peacetime society, and the F.B.I. had a different mission," he said.
Mr. Fleischer said the information given to the president in Texas had
prompted the administration to put law enforcement agencies on alert. But
there was no public announcement.
Nonetheless, a senior administration official said tonight that there was
speculation within the government that heightened security - if it truly
existed in August and September - might have prompted the hijackers to use
box cutters and plastic knives to avoid detection.
The C.I.A. warning might also explain why Mr. Bush's aides were so certain
that Mr. bin Laden was behind the attacks almost as soon as they happened.
"We never had any real doubt," one senior official involved in the crucial
decisions at the White House on Sept. 11 said several months ago.
Until recently, Mr. Bush has deflected demands for a lengthy and detailed
investigation into the intelligence failures surrounding the Sept. 11
attacks. White House officials were concerned that the investigation would
feed into demands by Senator Richard C. Shelby, the Alabama Republican who
is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, for the
replacement of George J. Tenet as director of central intelligence.
But the news that the hijacking warning was in the president's brief, which
Mr. Tenet sees and approves, and that it was linked to Mr. bin Laden is
almost certain to widen the scope of the investigation.
Already, several lawmakers who have read the Phoenix memorandum written by
the F.B.I. agent have described it as the most significant document to
emerge in Congressional inquiries into whether the government might have
been warned about possible hijackings.
Now those investigators are almost certain to demand the details of the
president's August briefing by the C.I.A. and may ask to hear about how that
evidence was developed.
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