POLITICAL EDUCATION, CONSERVATIVE ANALYSIS
POLITICS, SOCIETY, & THE SOVEREIGN STATE
Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.
ISLAMIC INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM AT WORK:
ISLAMIC TERRORIST ATTACKS AGAINST
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
TESTINONY BEFORE THE JOINT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE INQUIRY
INTO TERRORIST ATTACKS AGAINST THE U.S.A.
George J. Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence (DCI)
Central Intelligence Agency
June 18, 2002
Before we focus on the 9/11 plot, I would like to begin with some remarks on the context in which the attacks occurred. There are two key points:
- First, we had followed Osama bin Laden for many years and had no
doubt that he intended a major attack.
- Second, the eighteen months prior to 9/11 were a period of intense
CIA/FBI efforts to thwart dramatically heightened UBL operational
We first locked onto Osama bin Laden in the period from 1991 to 1996, when he was in Sudan.
- During those years, he was principally a financier of terrorist
attacks and our efforts against him competed with other deadly threats,
such as those posed by Hizbollah which at that point was responsible
for the deaths of more Americans than any other terrorist organization.
- Bin Laden jumped right to the top of our list with his move to Afghanistan
in 1996 and his drive to build the sanctuary that subsequently enabled
his most spectacular attacks. This focus resulted in the establishment
within the DCI Counterterrorist Center (CTC) of a Bin Ladin-dedicated Issue
Station staffed by Central Intelli- gence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation,
Department of Defense, and National Security Agency officers.
- Bin Laden showed his hand clearly that year when he said that the
June bombing of Khobar towers marked the beginning of the war between
Muslims and the United States.
- Two years later, he issued a fatwa stating that all Muslims have
a religious duty "to kill Americans and their allies, both civilian
and military worldwide".
- He then attacked our East African embassies in 1998 and said that
an attack in the U.S. was his highest priority.
- We took this as his unequivocal declaration of war, and we in turn
declared war on him, inaugurating an intensive period of counterterrorist
activity that filled the months running up to 9/11.
There were three broad phases in that struggle before 9/11 and I want
to set the stage for the 9/11 plot by telling you about them:
- First, the pre-Millennium Period in late 1999. UBL operatives
planned a series of attacks against U.S. and allied targets designed
to exploit the millennium celebra- tions planned around the world.
The CIA and FBI worked closely and successfully to defeat these terrorist
plans. We acquired information that enabled us to break up a large
terrorist cell in Jordan that had been planning to blow up the Radisson
Hotel, holy sites, and Israeli tour buses, and that had plans to use
chemical weap- ons. The arrest of Ahmad Ressam coming across the Canadian
border into the U.S. was the single most compelling piece of evidence
we had that UBL was intending to strike at us in the United States.
During this period, we identified numerous terrorist suspects around
the world and carried out disruption activities against more than
half of these individuals including arrests, renditions, detentions,
- Second, the Ramadan Period. In November and December, 2000,
we had an in- crease in Ramadan-related threat reporting. Working with
a number of foreign governments, we were able to successfully preempt
attacks including a planned attack against U.S. interests. Overall,
these operations disrupted several al-Qa'- ida plans and captured hundreds
of pounds of explosives, as well as weapons, in- cluding anti-aircraft
missiles. You will recall that the attack on the USS Cole
had just occurred in October. 2000, a serious defeat.
- And finally, the Pre-9/11 Period. Starting in the spring
and continuing through the summer of 2001 we saw a significant increase
in the level of threat reporting. Again, working with the FBI and
foreign liaison services, we thwarted attacks against U.S. facilities
and persons in Europe and in the Middle East.
Thus, even before September, 2001, we knew that we faced a foe that
is committed, resilient and has operational depth. The Intelligence
Community was already at war with al-Qaida.
- Few wars are a series of unbroken victories or defeats. We had
had some suc- cesses and suffered some defeatsand we are finding
things we could have done better.
- But we were already in action.
We had, in fact, considered ourselves at war with al-Qa'ida since 1998.
By 1998, key elements of the CIA's strategy were emphatically offensive
rather than defensive. And in the spring of 1999, we put in place a
new strategic operational plan whose central focus was to gain
intelligence on Bin Ladin through penetrations of his organization.
This strategy structured our counterterrorist activity for the years
leading up to the events of September 11.
- This strategywhich we called simply "the Plan"as it
evolved in conjunction with increased covert action authorities, was
a multifaceted campaign against Bin Ladin and al-Qa'ida.
- The campaign involved a multifaceted program to capture and render
Bin Ladin and his principal lieutenants. The range of operational
initiatives employed in- cluded a strong and focused FI collection program
using all means at our disposal to monitor Bin Ladin and his network
around the world, and to disrupt al-Qa'ida operations.
- I do not plan to go into great detail on this campaign now. This
hearing is about 9/11.
- But my message is that a full understanding of the events of 9/11
requires an understanding of this war in its entirety, and I hope
subsequent hearings will develop the details of that story.
Now, with that as a backdrop, let me begin by characterizing the 9/11
plot in broad terms.
- First, the plot was professionally conceived and executed. It
showed patience, thoughtfulness, and expertise.
- Second, it was tightly compartmented. We would have had
to penetrate a very small circle of zealots to have learned the precise
details of this plot ahead of time.
- Third, the plot was resilient. Several blows to the operation
occurred without derailing it.
- I'll amplify each of these points.
Start with what we know today of the professionalism of the plot.
The September 11 operation was conducted carefully, patiently, and with
evident understanding of how to operate in the United States.
- The hijackersboth pilots and othersentered the U.S. at
staggered intervals, from different countries, and through different
- We now know that al-Qa'ida leaders deliberately chose young men
who had not carried out previous terrorist attacks and therefore would
not have attracted the attention of intelligence services. Seventeen
of the nineteen hijackers were in fact "clean," and the
two hijackers who had an extensive record of al-Qa'ida involve- mentNawaf
al-Hazmi (#14) and Khalid al-Mihdhar (#12)may have been added
to the plot after it was launched. I'll return to this possibility
later in my remarks.
- They also selected men from countries whose citizens traditionally
have little trouble obtaining U.S. entry visas and instructed them to
travel under true name using genuine passports.
- The most important individuals in the plotthe pilotshad
lived for some years in the West, making it even easier for them to
operate in the United States.
- Once in the U.S., the hijackers were careful, with the exception of
minor traffic violations, to avoid drawing law enforcement attention
and even general notice that might identify them as extremists. They
dressed in Western clothes, most shaved their beards before entering
the U.S., and they largely avoided mosques.
- They received the money needed to finance their flight training
and living ex- penses through ordinary wire transfers, generally in
small enough amounts that they did not attract attention among the
millions of financial transactions that occur in the U.S. every day.
I mentioned the plot was tightly compartmented. For
intelligence work, breaking into the compartment is key to gaining the
precise details of a plot. We never achieved this success for the 9/11
plot. We now have several indications of this compartmentation.
- Bin Ladin himselfin a candid videotape found in Afghanistan
after the attacks said even some members of his inner circle
were unaware of the plot.
- He also indicated that some of the hijackers themselves never knew
- Based on what we know today, the investigation of the 9/11 attacks
has revealed no major slip in the conspirators' operational security.
My third characterization of the plot was to call it resilient.
This was not a fragile plot that would have collapsed had the US government
been able to achieve a few successes. In fact, the plot went forward
despite several real blows.
- Flight 77 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi (#14) and Khalid al-Mihdhar (#12)
tried to learn to fly in May, 2000, and quickly had to abandon their
efforts because of their poor technical and English-language skills.
But by the end of 2000, a replacement pilot for Flight 77, Hani Hanjur
(#11), was in the U.S..
- In probably the most notable example of the plot's resilience, two
members of Mohammad Atta's (#1) Hamburg cellRamzi Bin al-Shibh
and Zakaria Essabar appear to have intended to join the hijackings
but were denied visas multiple times. Bin al-Shibh ended up supporting
the hijacking logistically from abroad.
- Muhammad Atta (#1) himself, the pilot of the first plane to hit
the World Trade Center, was stopped upon re-entering the U.S. from Spain
in January 2001 because of questions regarding his application for
a change in visa status and was issued a court summons for driving
without a license in April, but was not panicked by either incident.
- Most important, even after the August 16, 2001, arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui currently
under indictment for conspiracy to commit terrorism and aircraft piracy,
among other chargesthe plan was not aborted. In fact, the hijackers
began buying their tickets for September 11 just over a week after
Keep these characterizations in mind as I walk
you through the details of the plot. Also keep in mind that the 9/11
investigation is ongoing, and we expect to know even more in the future
than we present to you here today.
Let me start with what we knew before the 9/11 attacks:
- We knew, and warned, that Usama Bin Ladin and his al-Qa'ida organization
were "the most immediate and serious" terrorist threat to the
U.S. We said that in several ways, including in my statement to the
SSCI in February, 2001.
- In the months prior to September 11, we alerted policymakers that
operations that al-Qa'ida had in motion were likely to cause large-scale
loss of life and be spectac- ular in nature.
- Beginning in June, 2001, we received a barrage of intelligence indicating
that al-Qa'ida associates in Afghanistan and abroad expected imminent
attacks against unspecified U.S. interests.
- Over the summer of 2001, it became evident that multiple attacks
were in the works, especially abroad. Some of these were interdicted,
such as planned attacks against U.S. targets in Europe and the Middle
Eastsuccesses for U.S. intelligence.
- Finally, we knewand warnedof Bin Ladin's desire to strike
inside the U.S.
A major question surrounding the 9/11 investigation is how the United
States government was able to identify two of the hijackers as al-Qa'ida
but not uncover the plot they were part of. To explain how the intelligence
case against Nawaf al-Hazmi (#14) and Khalid al-Mihdhar (#12) developed,
I'll walk you through the case.
- We had learned in late 1999 that two suspect Bin Ladin operatives,
"Nawaf" and "Khaled," were planning to travel to Malaysia. At that
point we only knew of their first names, and only suspected that they
might be Bin Ladin operatives because of a link between them and a
facility known to be connected to Al-Qa'ida and Egyptian Islamic Jihad
- Based solely on this tenuous link, the CIA initiated an operation to
place "Kha- led" under surveillance. Recall that we did not know either
Khaled's or Nawaf's true identities at this time. The subsequent
operation to learn more involved eight stations and bases and a half-dozen
- Our interest in monitoring the meeting was based on our suspicion
that Khaled's travel to Malaysia was associated with supporting regional
terrorist plans or operations. We believed that the meeting was likely
for discussion of regrouping from extensive disruptions around the
world that the CIA had engaged in.
- In early 2000, just before he arrived in Malaysia, we acquired a
copy of "Kha- led's" passport, which showed a U.S. multiple entry visa
issued in Jeddah in April, 1999, and expiring on April 6, 2000.
- It is at this point that we learned that "Khaled's" name was Khalid
bin Muham- mad bin `Abdallah al-Mihdhar (#12). This was the first point
at which the CIA had complete biographic information on al-Mihdhar.
- On January 5, 2000, the U.S. intelligence community widely disseminated
an infor- mation report advising that "Khaled", identified as
an individual with ties to mem- bers of the Bin Ladin organization,
had arrived in Malaysia.
- It was not until March 5, 2000, that we obtained information from
one of our over- seas stations that enabled us to identify "Nawaf" as
Nawaf al-Hazmi (#14). This was the earliest time that the CIA had full
biographic information on al-Hazmi (#14). By that time, both al-Hazmi
(#14) and al-Mihdhar (#12) had entered the U.S., arriving on January 15,
2000. in Los Angeles.
The Malaysia meeting took on greater significance in December, 2000,
when the investi- gation of the October, 2000, USS Cole bombing linked some
of Kahlid al-Mihdhar's Malaysia connections with Cole bombing suspects.
We further confirmed the suspected link between al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi
and an individual thought to be one of the chief planners of the Cole
attack, via a joint FBI-CIA HUMINT asset. This was the first time that the
CIA could definitively place al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar with a known al-Qa'ida
In August, 2001, because the CIA had become increasingly concerned about
a major attack in the United States, we reviewed all of our relevant
holdings. During that review, it was determined that al-Mihdhar (#12)
and al-Hazmi (#14) had entered the U.S. on January 15, 2000, that al-Mihdhar
had left the U.S. on June 10, 2000, and returned on July 4, 2001, and that
there was no record of al-Hazmi leaving the country. On August 23, 2001, the
CIA sent a Central Intelligence Report to the Department of State, the FBI,
the INS, and other U.S. Government agencies requesting that al-Hazmi and al- Mihdhar
be entered into VISA/VIPER, TIPOFF, and TECS [Treasury Enforcement Communication
System]. The message said that CIA recommends that the two men be watchlisted
immediately and denied entry into the US.
The fact that earlier we did not recommend al-Hazmi (#14) and al-Mihdhar
(#12) for watchlisting is not attributable to a single point
of failure. There were opportunities, both in the field and at Headquarters,
to act on developing information. The fact that this did not happenaside
from questions of CTC workload, particularly around the period of the
disrupted Millennium plotspointed out that a whole new
system, rather than a fix at a single point in the system, was needed.
What we know of the plot now
We have assembled a body of details that give a pretty clear picture
of the plot. Several things allowed us to assemble large amounts
of information after the attacks that were not available before the
- First of all, the investigation quickly established the hijackers'
identities. Some hijackers were identified by air crews and passengers
who made phone calls from the hijacked planes, while analysis of the
flight manifests, which the airlines provided immediately, revealed
patterns among certain Arab nationals in first or business class:
they had purchased one-way tickets and some had used the same telephone
numbers or addresses when making their reservations.
- Second, some of the hijackers left behind both identifying and incriminating
evi- dence. Muhammad Atta's (#1) luggage, for instance, had not made
it onto Flight 11 from a connecting flight and contained the guidance
on preparing for an oper- ation that was found both at the site of the
Flight 93 crash in Pennsylvania and in a Flight 77 hijacker's car
at Dulles Airport.
- Third, the sheer magnitude of the attacks prompted both intelligence
services and journalistic organizations worldwide to put a major and
immediate effort into the investigation. Friends, associates, and
family members of the hijackers were interviewed by liaison services
and often by reporters, which allowed us to build up a picture of
the men involved.
The operation fell into three general stages: conceptualization,
preparation, and execution.
We now believe that a common thread runs between the first attack on
the World Trade Center in February 1993 and the September 11 attacks.
We also know that a high- ranking al-Qa'ida member was either the mastermind
or one of the key planners of the September 11 operation.
- Mukhtar is the uncle of Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the 1993
bombing plot against the World Trade Center.
- Following the 1993 attack, Yousef and Mukhtar plotted in 1995 to
blow up US planes flying East Asian routesfor which Mukhtar
was indicted in 1996. Phil- ippine authorities uncovered the plot in
January, 1995, and Yousef was appre- hended the following month, but Mukhtar
- Yousef also considered flying a plane into the CIA headquarters, according
to one of his co-conspirators [Murad], who was interrogated by Philippine
authorities in 1995.
Mukhtar was not the only Bin Ladin associate to consider how to use
commercial air- liners in terrorist attacks.
- After September 11, 2001, we learned that in 1996, Bin Ladin's second-in-com- mand,
Muhammad Atif, drew up a study on the feasibility of hijacking U.S.
planes and destroying them in flight, possibly influenced by Yousef's
and Mukhtar's unrealized plans.
Bin Ladin's determination to strike America at home increased with
the issuance of the February, 1998, fatwa targeting all Americans, both
military and civilian. The ideas about destroying commercial airliners
that had been circulating in al-Qa'ida leadership circles for several
years appear to have been revived after that fatwa.
- Although we lack details on exactly when the plan was formulated
and received Bin Ladin's approval, we know that the planning for the
attacks began three years before September 11, 2001.
- We understand that when one of Bin Ladin's associates proposed that
the World Trade Center be targeted by small aircraft packed with explosives,
Bin Ladin reportedly suggested using even larger planes.
- We also believe that outside events also shaped al-Qa'ida leaders'
thinking about an airliner attack. The October, 1999, crash of Egypt
Air Flight 990, attributed in the media to a suicidal pilot, may have
encouraged al-Qa'ida's growing impression that air travel was a vulnerability
for the U.S.
In December, 1999, the plot moved from conceptualization to preparation,
with the arrival in Afghanistan of three young Arab men from Hamburg,
Germany, who would become pilot-hijackers on September 11, 2001.
The men selected to carry out the September 11 attacks largely fall
into three overall categories:
- The three pilots from Hamburg I just mentioned;
- Al-Qa'ida veterans;
- And young Saudis.
The Hamburg Cell
The men from Hamburg were Muhammad Atta (#1), Marwan al-Shehhi (#6),
and Ziad Jarrah (#16), on whom the US held no derogatory information
prior to 11 September 2001.
- They were part of a group of young Muslim men in Hamburg, Germany
who came from different countries and backgrounds, but attended the
same mosques, shared common acquaintances, and were drawn together
by their increasingly extreme Islamist views and disenchantment with
- They were intelligent, English-speaking, and familiar with
Western societytraits crucial to carrying out the September 11
- They were well suitededucated, including in technical
subjects, and proficient in several languagesto mastering the
skills they would need to pilot three of the four planes on September
Muhammad Atta (#1), an educated middle-class Egyptian, arrived
in Hamburg in 1992.
- Atta did not exhibit any signs of extremism before leaving for Germany, but
Atta was open with his German acquaintances about his dissatisfaction
with Egypt's increasing Westernization, what he perceived as the Egyptian
government's corruption and persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood,
and his antipathy toward Israel.
- Atta became increasingly devout during his time in Germany and friends
have also reported that Atta became increasingly pessimistic about
his prospects for employ- ment and expression of his religious and political
beliefs back in Egypt. By 1997, Atta appears to have lost contact
with most of his German friends and was associ- ating almost exclusively
with other Muslims.
- Atta may have traveled to Afghanistan for the first time in early
1998 when he told his roommate he was gone for two months on a pilgrimage. During
a trip to Egypt in June, Atta applied for a new passport, even though
his old one had not yet expired, suggesting that he might have been
trying to hide evidence of travel to Afghanistan.
Future hijacker-pilot Marwan al-Shehhi (#6), came to Germany
from the United Arab Emirates in April 1996 on a UAE military scholarship.
- We believe he lived in Bonn through early 1999, when he passed
a German proficiency exam, but apparently was a visitor to Hamburg
- Al-Shehhi gave power of attorney in July, 1998, to Mounir Motassadeq,
a Moroc- can living in Hamburg who in 1996 was one of two witnesses
to Atta's will and is currently being detained by German authorities.
- Marwan Al-Shehhi moved to Hamburg in 1999 and enrolled at the Hamburg- Harburg
Technical University where Atta studied.
Ziad Jarrah (#16), like Atta, came from a middle-class family.
- Having dreamed of becoming a pilot since childhood, Jarrah traveled
from his home in Lebanon to Germany to study in 1996.
- At some point during the time he spent in Greifswald from 1996 to
1997, Jarrah appears to have come in contact with Abdulrahman al-Makhadi,
an imam at a Greifswald mosque suspected of having terrorist connections.
- Jarrah moved to Hamburg in August, 1997, where he began studies in
aircraft construction at Hamburg's School of Applied Sciences.
- Fellow students have told the press that while he was devout and
prayed five times a day, he never struck them as an extremist.
A common acquaintance of members of Atta's circle was German-Syrian
Muhammad Heydar Zammar, a known al-Qa'ida associate in Hamburg who was
detained after September 11.
- Zammar has been active in Islamic extremist circles since the 1980s
and first trained and fought in Afghanistan in 1991. He trained and
fought in Bosnia in and made many return trips to Afghanistan.
- Zammar met Atta (#1), al-Shehhi (#6), and Jarrah (#16) (along with
others of the Hamburg cell) in the late 1990s at the Hamburg al-Qods
mosque and persuaded them to travel to Afghanistan to join the jihad.
Atta's (#1) relationship with his roommate, Yemeni Ramzi Bin al-Shibh,
may also have been crucial in focusing the Islamist beliefs of the Hamburg
circle on al-Qa'ida. Since 11 September, we have received a variety
of reports identifying Bin al-Shibh as an impor- tant al-Qa'ida operative
and we suspect that, unlike the three Hamburg pilots, he may have been
associated with al-Qa'ida even before moving to Germany in 1995.
The al-Qa'ida Veterans
We now know that two of the hijackers had been involved with al-Qa'ida
for several years before September 11, 2001.
- They were Saudis Nawaf al-Hazmi (#14) and Khalid al-Mihdhar (#12),
who on September 11 would help to hijack American Airlines Flight
77 that crashed into the Pentagon. We have learned a great deal about
these men since September 11.
- The two men grew up together in Mecca.
- In the mid-90s, al-Hazmi (#14) and al-Mihdhar (#12) traveled to
- Afterward, their involvement with al-Qa'ida strengthened. Al-Hazmi
traveled to Afghanistan sometime before 1998 and swore loyalty to
Bin Ladin. Later, Al- Mihdhar (#12) also traveled to Afghanistan and
swore his allegiance to Bin Ladin.
- Al-Hazmi (#14) and Al-Mihdhar (#12) returned to Saudi Arabia
in early 1999. In April, both men obtained visas from the US consulate
The Young Saudis
The young Saudi men who made up the bulk of the support hijackers became
involved with al-Qa'ida in the late 1990s, we have learned since
- Many, like veterans al-Hazmi (#14) and al-Mihdhar (#12), knew each
other before they traveled to Afghanistan and became involved in the
September 11 operation.
- Investigative efforts have uncovered two sets of brothersthe
al-Hazmis (#14 and #15) and al-Shehris (#4 and #5)as well as
small networks of friends and ac- quaintances among the young Saudi
hijackers, many of whom came from south- west Saudi Arabia.
- They came from a variety of backgroundstheir families came
from different parts of the socioeconomic spectrum, and a few had
higher education while others had little at all. Some had struggled
with depression or alcohol abuse, or simply seemed to be drifting
in search of purpose.
- Some of these young men had reportedly never exhibited much religious
fervor, before apparent exposure to extremist ideasthrough family
members, friends, or clericsled to an abrupt radicalization
and separation from their families.
As part of their commitment to militant Islam, these young Saudis traveled
to Afghani- stan to train in the camps of their exiled countryman Usama
- An analysis of travel data acquired since September 11 suggests
that most went to Afghanistan for the first time in 1999 or 2000,
traveling through one or more other countries before entering Afghanistan
to disguise their destination.
- Only for Fayiz Banihammad (#8) of the United Arab Emirates has no
information emerged suggesting travel to Afghanistan, although it
is reasonable to assume that he was there at some point before entering
- Although their early travel to Afghanistan added these young men
to the ranks of operatives that al-Qa'ida could call upon to carry
out future missions, we do not believe that they became involved in
the September 11 plot until late 2000 [we don't believe the al-Qa'ida
leadership would have wanted them knowing about a plot in the U.S. any
sooner than necessary given the conspiracy's compartmenta- tion]. Even
then, they probably were told little more than that they were headed
for a suicide mission inside the United States.
Saudi Hani Hanjur (#11), the fourth pilot, is similar to the
other young Saudi hijackers in some ways, yet stands out because of:
- His prolonged and frequent presence in the U.S. prior to September 11.
- His lack of known ties to other Saudi hijackers prior to becoming
involved in the conspiracy.
- His probable role as a pilot on September 11, given that he had
far greater flying experience than Flight 77 co-hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi
and Khalid al-Mihdhar.
Hani Hanjur (#11) expressed an early wish to participate in a jihad
conflict, but did not appear to experience a sudden increase in his
religious fervor until 1992. That year, he returned to Saudi Arabia
after four-and-a-half months in the US "a different man,"
according to one of his brothers who spoke to the Western media. Hanjur
reportedly now wore a full beard, cut his past social ties, and spent
most of his time reading books on religion and airplanes. In April
1996, Hanjur returned to the U.S.
The Hamburg pilots traveled to Afghanistan in late 1999 at which
time they were likely selected for and briefed on the September 11 plot.
- Atta (#1) flew from Hamburg to Istanbul in late 1999, then on to
Karachi, Pakistan. After that, he evidently traveled into Afghanistan.
- According to information acquired after the September 11 attacks,
Atta (#1) and al-Shehhi (#6) were both present at Bin Ladin facilities
in Afghanistan in late 1999; Atta's presence has been corroborated
by a separate source.
- Al-Shehhi (#6) likely left Hamburg at roughly the same time as Atta
(#1) since he granted power of attorney over his German bank account
to another member of the Hamburg cell beginning November, 1999.
- Jarrah's (#16) travel at this time mirrored Atta's, flying from
Hamburg to Istanbul and then on to Karachi in late 1999.
Since 11 September we have also obtained information on which al-Qa'ida
leaders were involved in planning the attacks during this crucial
late-1999 period in Afghanistan.
- We know that Bin Ladin deputy Muhammad Atif deliberately chose the
hijackers from young Arab men who had no previous terrorist activities.
- The hijackers were also chosen on the basis of nationality so that
they would not have trouble obtaining U.S. visas. Another senior Bin
Ladin lieutenant then arranged for them to get pilot training.
- A key planner of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole was also
in Afghanistan at this time.
- We also now believe that Bin Ladin's security chief, Sayf
al-Adl, played a key role in the September 11 plot, and Abu
Zubaydah was supportive and aware of the operation and its
When they left Afghanistan at the end of 1999 and early 2000, the
Hamburg hijackers immediately began to prepare for their mission.
- They began by acquiring new passports that would show no sign of
travel to Afghanistan when they applied for U.S. visas.
- Al-Shehhi (#6) obtained a new passport and a U.S. visa in the UAE
in January, 2000.
- Jarrah (#16) returned to Hamburg in January and on February 9, 2000,
reported that his passport had been lost. He received a visa from
the US Embassy in Berlin in May, 2000.
- Atta returned to Hamburg in February, 2000. In March, he sent
e-mails to flight schools in Florida and Oklahoma asking about pilot
training. Atta received a new Egyptian passport from the Egyptian
consulate in Hamburg on May 8, 2000. On the 18th, he was issued a visa
by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.
Al-Shehhi (#6), Atta (#1), and Jarrah (#16) entered the U.S. on different
dates in May and June, 2000, from three different European cities, possibly
to mislead authorities as to their common purpose.
- Al-Shehhi (#6) flew from Brussels to Newark on May 29, 2000.
- Atta (#1) traveled by bus to Prague, entering the city on June 2,
2000, and flew to Newark the next day.
- Jarrah (#16) flew from Dusseldorf to Newark, and then on to Venice,
Florida, on June 27, 2000.
While the Hamburg pilots were wrapping up their training in Afghanistan
and returning to Germany in late 1999 and early 2000, halfway around
the world the al-Qa'ida veter- ans, Nawaf al-Hazmi (#14) and Khalid al-Mihdhar
(#12), prepared to enter the U.S.
- After receiving U.S. visas in April 1999, both men had traveled to
Afghanistan and participated in special training in the latter half
of 1999. This training may have been facilitated by a key Al-Qa'ida
- After the January, 2000, Malaysia meeting outlined earlier, they entered
the U.S. on January 15.
As you may have already noticed, the inclusion of al-Hazmi (#14) and
al-Mihdhar (#12) in the plot seems to violate one of the conspiracy's
most successful tactics: the use of untainted operatives. Unlike the
other hijackers, al-Hazmi (#14) and al-Mihdhar (#12) had years of involvement
with al-Qa'idato such an extent that they had already come to
our attention before September 11. Without the inclusion of al-Hazmi
(#14) and al-Mihdhar (#12) in the plot, we would have had none of the
hijackers who died on September 11 in our sights prior to the attacks.
We speculate that this difference may be explained by the possibility
that the two men originally entered the U.S. to carry out a different
terrorist operation prior to being folded into the 9/11 plot. I'll
briefly outline the factors, other than their long track record with
al-Qa'ida, that have led us to consider this possibility.
- Al-Hazmi (#14) and al-Mihdhar (#12) obtained U.S. visas far earlier
than the other hijackersin April 1999, while the Hamburg pilots
didn't begin getting U.S. visas until early 2000.
- As noted above, al-Hazmi (#14) and al-Mihdhar (#12) received special
training in Afghanistan in the latter half of 1999, along with
USS Cole suicide bomber al- Nibras and a key planner of the
Cole attack. None of the other hijackers are known to have
received this training and the Hamburg pilots visited Afghanistan
after al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar had apparently departed.
- Al-Hazmi (#14) and al-Mihdhar (#12) interacted far more with
the local Arab population when they settled in the US than did
the other hijackers.
- Pilots Atta (#1), al-Shehhi (#6), Jarrah (#16), and later Hanjur
(#11) all began flight training quite soon after arriving in the US,
while al-Hazmi (#14) and al-Mihdhar (#12) did not engage in flight
training activity until April, 2000,approximately three months
after coming to this country.
As mentioned earlier, it appears that at least one other member of
the Hamburg cell and possibly twointended to participate
in the September 11 attacks as a pilot.
- Yemeni Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a close associate and roommate of Atta
(#1) in Ger- many, failed on multiple occasions in 2000 to obtain a
U.S. visa and even sent a deposit to the flight school where Jarrah
(#16) was training.
- After Bin al-Shibh's efforts failed, another cell member, Moroccan
Zakaria Essa- bar, tried and failed to obtain a visa in January 2001;
he was also trying to travel to Florida.
- Both men displayed the same tradecraft that characterized the other
hijackers: persistence in the face of obstacles, an evident decision
to enter the country legally and under true name, and flexibility
regarding their roles in the plot. Bin al-Shibh, for instance, transferred
money to Marwan al-Shehhi (#6) in 2000 while still attempting to acquire
a US visa.
The entry of the future pilots into the U.S. also launched the financing
of the plot in earnest. The financial transactions that supported the
attacks in many ways reflected the overall nature of the operation,
relying on ostensibly legitimate activities carried out inside the U.S.
over the course of nearly two years. Key characteristics of the financial
support operation included:
- Longterm planning. Transfers of significant funds related
to the operation began nearly two years before the attacks and appear
to have been calculated to cover specific training and travel needs.
- Division of labor. Each hijacker appears to have been responsible
for maintaining his own account and personal transactions, while three
hijackersAtta (#1), al- Shehhi (#6), and Banihammad (#8)generally
assumed responsibility for commu- nicating with financial facilitators,
receiving and returning funds, and distributing money to other hijackers.
- Pervasive use of cash. The plotters used cash to open accounts
and effectively concealed their day-to-day activities through cash
withdrawals rather than check or credit transactions.
- Trickle-down through intermediaries. The plotters obscured
the operation's ultimate funding sources by sending funds through
various individuals before reaching the final recipient.
- Exploitation of open economies. The operation's principal
financial hubs were the UAE, Germany, and the U.S., partly because of
the relative ease and anonymity with which financial transactions
can be conducted in these countries.
- External funding. Virtually all of the financial support
for the attacks came from abroad.
As training for the pilot-hijackers proceeded in the U.S. through
the latter half of 2000, al-Qa'ida leaders turned their attention to
bringing into the plot the young men who would support the pilots.
- Most of the young Saudis obtained their U.S. visas in the fall of
2000. The State Department did not have a policy to stringently examine
Saudis seeking visas prior to September 11 because there was virtually
no risk that Saudis would at- tempt to reside or work illegally in the
US after their visas expired. U.S. Embassy and consular officials do
cursory searches on Saudis who apply for visas, but if they do not
appear on criminal or terrorist watchlists they are granted a visa.
Thousands of Saudis every year are granted visas as a routinemost
of whom are not even interviewed. The vast majority of Saudis study,
vacation, or do business in the U.S. and return to the kingdom.
- Reporting suggests that all of thempossibly including pilot
Hani Hanjur (#11) then traveled to Afghanistan at some point
in late 2000 or early 2001.
On 3 January 2001, Atta (#1) flew from Tampa, Florida to Madrid,
Spain. No details have yet emerged on the week he spent in Spain, although
it may have been to meet with another al-Qa'ida operative to pass along
an update on the pilots' training progress and receive information on
the supporting hijackers who would begin arriving in the U.S. in the spring.
On January 10, Atta returned to the U.S., flying from Madrid to Miami.
Atta (#1) was not the only pilot to travel outside the U.S. during the
period when he was attaining and honing his flying skills.
- Jarrah (#16) left the U.S. six times, apparently spending
most of his time outside the U.S. visiting either family in Lebanon
or his girlfriend in Germany.
- Al-Shehhi (#6) also traveled outside the U.S., flying to the
UAE, Germany, Morocco, and Egypt on three different trips. While
it is known that al-Shehhi visited Atta's (#1) father during his April
2001 trip to Egypt to collect Atta's international driver's license,
nothing else is known of al-Shehhi's activities while traveling outside
As you may have read in the press, Atta (#1) allegedly traveled
outside the U.S. in early April, 2001, to meet with an Iraqi intelligence
officer in Prague, we are still working to confirm or deny this allegation.
- It is possible that Atta (#1) traveled under an unknown alias since
we have been unable to establish that Atta left the U.S. or entered
Europe in April, 2001, under his true name or any known aliases.
Khalid al-Mihdhar (#12) returned to the U.S. on July 4, 2001, after
nearly a year out of the country. He had spent the past year traveling
between Yemen and Afghanistan, with occasional trips to Saudi Arabia.
- Al-Mihdhar (#12) returned to Saudi Arabia in June and on June 13,
obtained a U.S. visa in Jeddah
In July, 2001, Atta (#1) returned to Spain. On July 7,
he flew from Miami to Zurich, then on to Madrid.
- After checking out of a Madrid hotel on the 9th, Atta's (#1) movements
are unknown for several days.
- His next known location is in Tarragona on Spain's east coast on
13 July, when he checked into a local hotel.
- After moving on to two other hotels, Atta (#1) returned to Madrid
and flew back to Florida on 19 July.
- Although nothing specific is known of Atta's (#1) activities while
in Spain, fellow conspirator Ramzi Bin al-Shibh from Hamburg flew
from Germany to Tarragona on July 9, 2001. He checked out of a local
hotel the next day and his whereabouts from July 10 to 16 are unaccounted
for, roughly the same period during which Atta's movements are unknown,
suggesting the two engaged in clandestine meetings on the progress
of the plot.
- We are continuing to investigate Atta's (#1) and Bin al-Shibh's
activities and possible contacts while in Spain.
By August 5, 2001, all of the hijackers are in the United States to
stay. Let me conclude with a few points:
The lessons of September 11 have not just been learned, but acted on.
- In this struggle, we must play offense as well as defense. The
move into the Afghanistan sanctuary was essential. We have disrupted
the terrorists' plans, denied them the comfort of their bases and
training facilities and the confidence that they can mount and remount
attacks without fear of serious retribution.
- The drive into the sanctuary has led to the uncovering of and at
least partially foiling Bin Ladin's plans to develop weapons of mass
destruction. The capture of many high ranking and low-level al-Qa'ida
members has disrupted the al Qa'ida infrastructure and has given us
leads to other cells and networks.
- I have said we have been working closely with the FBI, and our cooperation
has grown even closer since 9/11. Director Mueller and I are working
to deepen that cooperation. Specifically, the CIA is helping to build
an FBI analytic capability. We are also working to extend the good
cooperation we have built between our chiefs of station and legal
attaches overseas to a system of cooperation between CIA and FBI field
offices in the United States.
- We have significantly increased the number of CIA officers analyzing
terrorist patterns and trends. More needs to be done to give our
Counterterrorist Center the people, both in numbers, experience, and
continuity, to make certain that every lead is followed to the utmost
of our capability.
- And our support to watchlisting is being revamped. Standardized
guidance has been distributed to CTC officers on watchlist procedures,
reminding them to err on the side of reporting when sending names
to the Department of State. In addition, language has been established
that can be inserted into intelligence reports that flag information
to review by the State Department for inclusion in the Visa Viper
system. Beyond CIA, a National Watch List Center is being designed
that would be accessible to all relevant federal agencies; a database
has been created so that Department of State, FBI, Department of Defense,
Federal Aviation Administration, Innigration & Naturalization Service,
Bureau of Customs, and Department of the Treasury
representatives who sit in CTC can easily access it; and CTC is creating
a unit within the center that will be dedicated to reviewing names
and ID-related data fragments for watchlisting.
- As important as understanding and learning from the 9/11 plot is,
we need to meet in a subsequent session so you can objectively assess
the full scope of our counterterrorist effort from the early 1990's
through the present.
Ongoing security enhancements and the development of new leads, investigations
and human sources, have made it harder for identical attacks to take
place. However, al-Qa'ida is known for changing its tactics, and a
determined group of terrorists, using a slightly different approach,
could succeed if they used much of the resilient tradecraft employed
by the September 11 hijackers.
- Al-Qa'ida's tradecraft, combined with the enormous volume of travelers
entering the U.S. every year, will make it impossible to guarantee that
no terrorists will enter the country.
- The type of financial transactions and communications used by the
hijackers would still be lost among the millions of others taking
place in the U.S. every day without preexisting information to draw
attention to the initiators.
- Based on what we have learned about the September 11 plot, an attempt
to conduct another attack on U.S. soil is certain.
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