WS>>Could We Have Prevented the Attacks?

carl william spitzer iv cwsiv_2nd at JUNO.COM
Thu May 9 11:12:21 MDT 2002

          Vol.   17, No.  23
          November 5, 2001
          by  William  Norman  Grigg

          During  the 1990s, the FBI uncovered  clues  indicating
     that bin Laden was planning to attack America with  hijacked
     airliners.   This  information was never shared  with  local

          On  April  19th,  police arrested  30-year-old  Leo  V.
     Felton  and 21-year-old Erica Chase after they had tried  to
     pass  counterfeit  $20  bills at a Dunkin'  Donuts  in  East
     Boston.   After the pair was booked and processed  into  the
     Nashua Street Jail, police turned the investigation over  to
     the  Secret Service.  Seven days later, Felton was  free  on
     bail,  despite the fact that federal investigators  knew  he
     belonged  to a terrorist cell planning to bomb the New  Eng-
     land  Holocaust Museum.  The feds, who had not  bothered  to
     clue in the local police about Felton's connections, arrest-
     ed  him in Boston's North End, where Felton and his  co-con-
     spirators had stashed explosives.

          On June 20th, U.S.  Attorney James B.  Farmer announced
     that  Felton and Chase "were white supremacists hellbent  on
     using explosives to spark a holy race war and Boston was  to
     be  ground  zero,"  reported the June  24th  Boston  Herald.
     Federal  investigators,  who had been keeping  Felton  under
     surveillance, conducted a two-month probe into the conspira-
     cy without alerting local police about the plot.

          Although  the  Boston Police  Department  publicly  de-
     scribed  the arrest as an example of  inter-agency  coopera-
     tion,  some police officials anonymously complained  to  the
     press that the feds had endangered the public by refusing to
     share  intelligence with the local police.  "It's  all  luck
     they even got this guy," commented one Boston police officer
     to  the Herald.  "The people over in [Boston's] Area  A  are
     pretty upset about it, too."

          As outrageous as this incident is on its own merits, it
     takes  on an even more sinister aspect in the  aftermath  of
     the  September  11th  attacks, which  involved  the  suicide
     hijacking  of two jets from Boston's Logan  Airport.   Logan
     has a history of mismanagement, and its head of security was
     sacked by Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift in early  Octob-
     er.  But given the recent track record of federal  officials
     in Boston, it is entirely possible that they withheld intel-
     ligence from local security officials and police that  might
     have helped prevent the Black Tuesday attack.

          "The  FBI  had advance indications of plans  to  hijack
     U.S.   airliners and use them as weapons, but neither  acted
     on  them  nor distributed the intelligence to  local  police
     agencies," reported Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak
     on  September 27th.  "From the moment of the September  11th
     attacks,  high-ranking federal officials insisted  that  the
     terrorists' method of operation surprised them.  Many  stick
     to  that  story.  Actually, elements of the  hijacking  plan
     were known to the FBI as early as 1995 and, if coupled  with
     current information, might have uncovered the plot."

          In fact, both the FBI and the Federal Aviation Adminis-
     tration  (FAA) had detailed information about  the  possible
     use  of  hijack/suicide attacks by terrorists  connected  to
     Osama  bin Laden.  "In 1994," reported the October  3rd  New
     York  Times,  "two  jetliners were hijacked  by  people  who
     wanted  to  crash  them into buildings, one of  them  by  an
     Islamic  militant group.  And the 2000 edition of the  FAA's
     annual  report on Criminal Acts Against Aviation,  published
     this year, said that although Osama bin Laden "is not  known
     to have attacked civil aviation, he has both the  motivation
     and  the wherewithal to do so," adding, "Bin  Laden's  anti-
     Western and anti-American attitudes make him and his follow-
     ers a significant threat to civil aviation, particularly  to
     U.S.  civil aviation." Moreover, the 1999 edition of the FAA
     document  reported that a radical Islamic leader  living  in
     British  exile warned in August 1998 that bin  Laden  "would
     bring  down an airliner, or hijack an airliner to  humiliate
     the United States."

          The  December  1994 hijacking of an Air  France  flight
     from  Algiers was carried out by four members of  the  "Pha-
     lange  of the Signers in Blood," a subsidiary  of  Algeria's
     Armed  Islamic Group.  The terrorists seized control of  the
     plane  and demanded that it fly to Marseilles, where it  was
     to  be  refueled for a trip to Paris.   The  hijackers  also
     demanded that the Airbus A300  a plane of comparable size to
     the  Boeing  767s that were used to attack the  World  Trade
     Center   be  loaded with 27 tons of fuel,  which  was  three
     times what was necessary for the short trip.

          After  debriefing  released hostages and  working  with
     other  sources, French authorities determined that the  ter-
     rorists  intended either to explode the plane over Paris  or
     ram  it into the Eiffel Tower.  Corroborating  evidence,  in
     the  form  of  20 sticks of dynamite, was  found  by  French
     troops who stormed the plane and killed the hijackers.

          Ignored  Clues  In  the October 8th issue  of  The  New
     Yorker, left-wing investigative writer Seymour Hersh reports
     that  FBI investigators insist that "the suicide  teams  [in
     the  Black Tuesday attack] were simply lucky." Hersh  quotes
     an  FBI official as saying, "in your wildest dreams, do  you
     think  they thought they'd be able to pull off four  hijack-
     ings?" For several years, however, the FBI and other federal
     agencies  have been aware that Muslim terrorist groups  have
     been  planning multiple, simultaneous hijackings  and  bomb-

          In  1995, police officials in the Philippines  arrested
     Abdul Hakim Murad, a member of a cell operated by  convicted
     terrorist  Ramzi Yousef as part of Osama bin Laden's  global
     network.   Yousef had masterminded the 1993 bombing  of  the
     World Trade Center.  Murad, who had trained as a  commercial
     pilot  in New Bern, North Carolina, was arrested in  January
     1995 after bomb-making materials he had been mixing caused a
     fire  alarm to go off in his Manila apartment.  Because  the
     building  was near the route that would be followed  a  week
     later  during  Pope John Paul II's visit to  Manila,  police
     decided to investigate.  Murad, spooked by the police  pres-
     ence,  tried to flee, only to trip over a potted plant.   An
     investigation  of  his apartment revealed  a  complete  bomb

          "Arrested  and  tortured  by  Philippine   intelligence

     agents,  Murad told the story of "Bojinka" "loud  bang"  the
     code  name  bin Laden operatives had given to  an  audacious
     plan  to bomb 11 U.S.  airliners simultaneously and  fly  an
     airplane into the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia  all
     after attempting to assassinate Pope John Paul II," recount-
     ed  the September 23rd Washington Post.  Additional  targets
     of  the  conspiracy included the Pentagon,  San  Francisco's
     TransAmerica  Building, the Sears Tower in Chicago  and  the
     World  Trade  Center, which had survived  the  1993  bombing
     relatively unscathed.

          Although  the plan was thwarted in 1995, the bin  Laden
     network  "didn't  give up the  objective,"  comments  former
     General  Renado S.  De Villa, who directed security  efforts
     for  the  papal visit.  "Murad clearly indicated  it  was  a
     large-scale operation.  It was very clear they continued  to
     work  on that plan until someone gave the signal to go."  As
     the  Black  Tuesday attack unfolded, recalls the  Post,  "an
     investigator  [in  Manila] gasped, "It's Bojinka."  He  said
     later: "We told the Americans everything about Bojinka.  Why
     didn't they pay attention?"

          Given its detailed knowledge about the "Bojinka"  plot,
     the FBI should have been able to recognize the  significance
     of other key pieces of intelligence:

     *    "Since  1996," reported the September  24th  Washington
          Post, "the FBI had been developing evidence that inter-
          national terrorists were using flight schools to  learn
          to  fly jumbo jets." This evidence began to  accumulate
          shortly after the FBI learned of "Bojinka" from Philip-
          pine officials.

     *    On  August 13th, a flight school in  Eagan,  Minnesota,
          informed  the FBI that a student named  Zacarias  Mous-
          saoui had asked to take 747 flight simulator  training,
          but  that  he  only wanted to learn how  to  steer  the
          aircraft  not take off or land.  Moussaoui, who was  in
          this  country  illegally,  was arrested  and  held  for
          deportation.   But, as Novak notes, "no connection  was
          made  with  the 1995 revelations" about  "Bojinka."  In
          fact, the October 6th New York Times reported that  the
          FBI "held back its own agents" from investigating Mous-

     *    Over the past two years, the CIA made the FBI aware  of
          the names of about 100 suspected members of bin Laden's
          terrorist  network thought to be headed to, or  already
          in,  the United States.  An August 23rd cable  specifi-
          cally  referred to Khalid Al-Midhar and Nawaq  Alhazmi,
          who were aboard the hijacked airplane that crashed into
          the Pentagon.

          Some  might consider these instances as lapses  on  the
     part of the FBI.  Given the record that the Bureau  compiled
     during  the  1990s, however, they  actually  illustrate  the
     agency's  remarkable  consistency in not responding  to  de-
     tailed  warnings of impending terrorist attacks.  The  FBI's
     handling of the 1993 World Trade Center attack offers anoth-
     er case in point.

          FBI informant Emad Salem, a former Egyptian army offic-
     er,  was planted inside the cell that carried out  the  1993
     attack.  According to Salem, the FBI had planned to sabotage
     the  Trade Center bomb by replacing the explosives  with  an
     inert powder.  The October 28, 1993 New York Times  reported

     that  in one conversation Salem recalled assurances from  an
     FBI  supervisor that the agency's plan called for  "building
     the  bomb  with a phony powder and grabbing the  people  who
     [were]  involved in [the plot]." The supervisor, though,  in
     Salems words, "messed it up."

          After  the bombing, Salem attempted to lodge a  protest
     with FBI headquarters, only to be told by special agent John
     Anticev that "the New York people [wouldn't] like the things
     out of the New York office to go to Washington, DC."
          Salem,  who  recorded his conversations  with  Anticev,
     rebuked  the Bureau for its negligence: "You saw  this  bomb
     went off and you  know that we could avoid that....  You get
     paid, guys, to prevent problems like this from happening."

          Two  years  later, the FBI failed to  act  on  detailed
     advance warnings provided by undercover informant Carol Howe
     regarding  the plot to bomb the Murrah Building in  Oklahoma
     City.   Even  now, the "others unknown" in the  OKC  bombing
     conspiracy which include figures connected to the bin  Laden
     network  remain at large.  This reflects the tragic  success
     of a politically motivated cover-up conducted by the Justice
     Department through the FBI.*

          "Same Old FBI"

          The  FBI's  defenders point out,  correctly,  that  the
     Bureau  has neither the manpower nor the material  means  to
     investigate every possible lead on every conceivable terror-
     ist  plot.   But this defense misses the  point:  Under  the
     Constitution, law enforcement is almost entirely a state and
     local affair.  The FBI's proper role is to assist state  and
     local  police  by, among other things, providing  them  with
     intelligence.   Had  the FBI shared its  intelligence  about
     "Bojinka" with state and local authorities before  September
     11th, the terrorist assault might have been prevented.

          "This  is not a federal problem," Johnny Mack Brown,  a
     former  head  of the National  Sheriffs'  Association,  told
     Robert Novak.  "This is an American law enforcement problem.
     The  FBI certainly has to get this information to the  local
     authorities." Unfortunately, Novak observes, the FBI "always
     has  kept  state  and local police in the  dark."  This  led
     another law enforcement expert to lament to Novak: "It's the
     same old FBI." In truth, the FBI had seen better days  under
          Edgar Hoover, but those days have long since past.

          *  For  detailed  information about  the  OKC  tragedy,
     please       see      the      on-line      archive       at

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