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August 23, 2001: FBI Headquarters Gives New York Field Office Heads Up Over[]

Hijacker Almihdhar, but Investigation Is Not Considered Urgent FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi, who has discovered hijacker Khalid Almihdhar is in the country (see August 21-22, 2001), contacts the FBI’s New York field office to give it a heads up that information about Almihdhar will soon be passed to it, and it will be asked to search for him. Corsi does not usually call in advance of sending notification, but she thinks that the situation is urgent in this case, as they need to locate Almihdhar, who is watchlisted at this time (see August 23, 2001), before he leaves the US. However, when she sends written notification (see August 28, 2001), it only has “routine” precedence, the lowest level. When asked about the discrepancy after 9/11, Corsi will say that this case was “no bigger” than any other case. I-49 squad supervisor Jack Cloonan and another FBI supervisor will later also say they recognized there was some urgency to the Almihdhar investigation, but the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General will comment: “Yet, the FBI in New York did not treat it like an urgent matter.” [US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 11/2004, PP. 303-5, 354 ] Entity Tags: I-49, Dina Corsi, FBI New York Field Office, Jack Cloonan, FBI Headquarters, Khalid Almihdhar, Usama bin Laden Unit (FBI) Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US August 23, 2001: FBI Manager Informed of Hunt for Almihdhar, Realizes Seriousness of Situation Dina Corsi, an FBI agent in the bureau’s bin Laden unit, informs her boss, bin Laden unit supervisor Rodney Middleton, that 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar is in the US. [US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 11/2004, PP. 303 ] Middleton will later recall his reaction to the news as an “‘Oh sh_t’ moment.” [US DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DIVISION, 7/31/2006, PP. 52 ] He reviews the information Corsi presents to him and agrees with her that an intelligence investigation should be opened in New York to find Almihdhar. [US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 11/2004, PP. 303 ] Entity Tags: Dina Corsi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Rod Middleton, Usama bin Laden Unit (FBI), FBI Headquarters Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US

August 23, 2001: Mossad Reportedly Gives CIA List of Terrorists Living in US; at Least Four 9/11 Hijackers Named According to German newspapers, the Mossad gives the CIA a list of 19 terrorists living in the US and say that they appear to be planning to carry out an attack in the near future. It is unknown if these are the 19 9/11 hijackers or if the number is a coincidence. However, four names on the list are known, and these four will be 9/11 hijackers: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Marwan Alshehhi, and Mohamed Atta. [DIE ZEIT (HAMBURG), 10/1/2002; DER SPIEGEL (HAMBURG), 10/1/2002; BBC, 10/2/2002; HA'ARETZ, 10/3/2002] The Mossad appears to have learned about this through its “art student spy ring.” Yet apparently, this warning and list are not treated as particularly urgent by the CIA and the information is not passed on to the FBI. It is unclear whether this warning influenced the decision to add Alhazmi and Almihdhar to a terrorism watch list on this same day, and if so, why only those two. [DER SPIEGEL (HAMBURG), 10/1/2002] Israel has denied that there were any Mossad agents in the US. [HA'ARETZ, 10/3/2002] Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, “Israeli art students”, Khalid Almihdhar, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad) Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Israel, Warning Signs, Foreign Intelligence Warnings, Key Warnings, CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar, Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US

August 23, 2001: FBI Field Agent Tells FBI Headquarters Search for Almihdhar Should Be Criminal, Not Intelligence Investigation After being alerted to the fact hijacker Khalid Almihdhar is in the US, FBI agent Craig Donnachie says that the FBI should look for him under a criminal investigation, not an intelligence investigation. Donnachie, an intelligence agent at the FBI’s New York field office, is contacted by headquarters agent Dina Corsi, who says that the search for Almihdhar should be an intelligence investigation because the case is partially based on information from the NSA. Donnachie, however, tells her that the attempt to locate Almihdhar is related to the criminal investigation into the bombing of the USS Cole and would normally be handled as a sub-file of the main investigation, not a separate investigation. The case will later be opened as an intelligence investigation, meaning fewer resources can be devoted to it (see August 29, 2001). [US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 11/2004, PP. 304 ] Entity Tags: Khalid Almihdhar, Usama bin Laden Unit (FBI), I-49, FBI Headquarters, FBI New York Field Office, Dina Corsi, Craig Donnachie Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: 2000 USS Cole Bombing, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US

August 23, 2001: Former FBI Al-Qaeda Expert Begins Job as Head of Security at the WTC John O’Neill begins his new job as head of security at the WTC. O’Neill had been the special agent in charge of the FBI’s National Security Division in New York, and was the bureau’s top expert on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. [NEW YORK MAGAZINE, 12/17/2001; NEW YORKER, 1/14/2002] He’d left his job with the FBI just the day before (see August 22, 2001). His friend Jerome Hauer, who is the former head of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, had found him the job at the World Trade Center. Developer Larry Silverstein, who recently took over the lease of the WTC (see July 24, 2001), had been highly impressed with O’Neill but insisted he start in the post no later than the first week of September, when his firm Silverstein Properties is set to assume control of the buildings. O’Neill had agreed to this. [WEISS, 2003, PP. 336-338, 345-346 AND 349-351] After hearing that O’Neill has got this job, Chris Isham, a senior producer at ABC News who is a close friend, says to him, “Well, that will be an easy job. They’re not going to bomb that place again.” O’Neill replies, “Well actually they’ve always wanted to finish that job. I think they’re going to try again.” [PBS FRONTLINE, 5/31/2002] After a few days as the WTC security director, O’Neill will move into his new office on the 34th floor of the South Tower. [WEISS, 2003, PP. 353-354 AND 366] Entity Tags: John O’Neill, Jerry Hauer, Larry Silverstein, Chris Isham, World Trade Center Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

August 23, 2001: Hijackers Alhazmi and Almihdhar Are Finally Added to Terrorist Watch List

The CIA cable watchlisting Alhazmi, Almihdhar, and two others (the sections mentioning Shakir and bin Attash are blacked out). [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge) Thanks to the request of Margaret Gillespie, an FBI analyst assigned to the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, the CIA sends a cable to the State Department, INS, Customs Service, and FBI requesting that “bin Laden-related individuals” Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, and Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf (an alias for Khallad bin Attash) be put on the terrorism watch list. All four individuals had attended the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia. The cable mostly focuses on Almihdhar, briefly outlining his attendance at the Malaysia summit (see January 5-8, 2000) and his subsequent travel to the US in January 2000 and July 2001. Since March 2000, if not earlier, the CIA has had good reason to believe Alhazmi and Almihdhar were al-Qaeda operatives living in the US, but apparently did nothing and told no other agency about it until now. The hijackers are not located in time, and both die in the 9/11 attacks. FBI agents later state that if they been told about Alhazmi and Almihdhar sooner, “There’s no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together” given the frequent contact between these two and the other hijackers. [NEWSWEEK, 6/2/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 538; US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 11/2004, PP. 32-36, 302] However, in what the Washington Post calls a “critical omission,” the FAA, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and the FBI’s Financial Review Group are not notified. The two latter organizations have the power to tap into private credit card and bank data, and claim they could have readily found Alhazmi and Almihdhar, given the frequency the two used credit cards. [WASHINGTON POST, 7/25/2003] Furthermore, counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and his Counterterrorism Security Group are not told about these two operatives before 9/11 either. [NEWSWEEK, 3/24/2004] The CIA later claims the request was labeled “immediate,” the second most urgent category (the highest is reserved for things like declarations of war). [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 10/28/2001] The FBI denies that it was marked “immediate” and other agencies treated the request as a routine matter. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 10/18/2001; US CONGRESS, 9/20/2002] The State Department places all four men on the watch list the next day. [US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003 ] However, this watch list, named TIPOFF, checks their names only if they use international flights. There is another watch list barring suspected terrorists from flying domestically. On 9/11, it contains only 12 names, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other al-Qaeda figures, and some names are added as late as August 28, 2001. But none of these four men are added to this domestic list before 9/11.(see April 24, 2000). [9/11 COMMISSION, 1/26/2004] Entity Tags: TIPOFF, Khalid Almihdhar, Margaret Gillespie, Richard A. Clarke, Immigration and Naturalization Service, US Department of State, US Customs Service, Tawfiq bin Attash, Nawaf Alhazmi, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Federal Aviation Administration, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, Central Intelligence Agency, Counterterrorism and Security Group, Federal Bureau of Investigation Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Key Hijacker Events, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, US Air Security, Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US

August 23, 2001: FBI Agents Visit Moussaoui’s Former Flight School; Fail to Make Connections Two agents from the Oklahoma City FBI office visit Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, to learn about Zacarias Moussaoui’s training there earlier in the year. One of these agents had visited the same school in September 1999 to learn more about Ihab Ali, an al-Qaeda agent who trained there in 1993. Apparently, this agent forgets the connection when he visits the school to look into Moussaoui. He later admits he should have connected the two cases. [BOSTON GLOBE, 9/18/2001; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003, PP. 322] The staff director of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry later states, “No one will ever know whether a greater focus on the connection between these events would have led to the unraveling of the September 11 plot.” [NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 9/25/2002] The Oklahoma City office also does not connect Moussaoui to a memo that had come from its office in May 1998 warning that “large numbers of Middle Eastern males” were receiving flight training in Oklahoma and could be planning terrorist attacks (see May 15, 1998). Furthermore, Moussaoui’s Oklahoma roommate Hussein al-Attas is also under suspicion at this time (see August 16, 2001). One of the people who attempted to post bond for al-Attas, William Webb, had previously been the subject of an extensive investigation by the same Oklahoma City FBI office. Webb is a member of the extremist group the Muslim Brotherhood and is also Vice President of Overseas Operations and Recruiting for the Palestinian group Fatah. Further, Webb is connected to Anwar Al Aulaqi, an imam who has frequent ties with some of the 9/11 hijackers and is suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plot (see March 2001 and After). Al Aulaqi was the subject of an FBI counterterrorism inquiry the year before (see June 1999-March 2000). These connections are also not noticed. [US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003, PP. 322; US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 11/2004, PP. 134-5 ; US DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DIVISION, 7/31/2006 ] Entity Tags: William Webb, Ihab Ali, FBI Minnesota field office, FBI Oklahoma City field office, Airman Flight School, Hussein al-Attas, Zacarias Moussaoui Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui

August 23, 2001: CIA Director Tenet Told of Moussaoui, but Does Not Inform White House and Takes No Action CIA Director George Tenet and senior CIA senior staff are briefed repeatedly about the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui. When news of the case first reaches the CIA, Tenet is absent and his deputy John McLaughlin is briefed, probably around August 20, 2001. [9/11 COMMISSION, 4/13/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 541] Series of Briefings - Tenet is informed of Moussaoui on August 23 in a briefing entitled “Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly.” The briefing states that Moussaoui paid for his training in cash, was interested to learn a plane’s doors do not open in flight, and wanted training on London to New York City flights. [US DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DISTRICT, 7/31/2006 ] At the same time Tenet is briefed on a number of other items, including the arrest of one of Moussaoui’s associates, Djamel Beghal (see July 24 or 28, 2001), and a group of Pakistanis arrested in Bolivia during preparations for a hijacking. [TENET, 2007, PP. 200] Tenet and other CIA officials are then kept up to date with developments in the case in a series of at least five briefings. [US DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DIVISION, 7/31/2006 ; US DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DIVISION, 7/31/2006 ; US DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DIVISION, 7/31/2006 ; US DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DIVISION, 7/31/2006 ; US DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DIVISION, 7/31/2006 ] No Discussion with Other Agencies - However, others such as President Bush and the White House Counterterrorism Support Group (CSG) are not told about Moussaoui until after the 9/11 attacks begin (see August 16-September 10, 2001). Even the acting director of the FBI is not told (see August 16-September 10, 2001), despite the fact that lower level FBI officials who made the arrest tried to pass on the information. Tenet later maintains that there was no reason to alert President Bush or to share information about Moussaoui during an early September 2001 Cabinet-level meeting on terrorism, saying, “All I can tell you is, it wasn’t the appropriate place. I just can’t take you any farther than that.” [WASHINGTON POST, 4/17/2004; US DISTRICT COURT OF EASTERN VIRGINIA, 5/4/2006, PP. 6 ] 'Lousy Explanation' - 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer will later come to the conclusion that this is, in author Philip Shenon’s words, a “lousy explanation,” and that Tenet should have called Acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard to talk about the case, because Tenet was well aware that the FBI was “dysfunctional” at terrorism investigations and that it did not have a permanent director at that time. Roemer will ask, “The report about Moussaoui shoots up the chain of command at the CIA like the lit fuse on a bomb, but Director Tenet never picks up the phone to call the FBI about it?” Roemer will conclude that a call from Tenet to Pickard might have prevented 9/11, and will be amazed Tenet does not mention it at the September terrorism meeting, “If the system is blinking red, why don’t you bring it up?” [SHENON, 2008, PP. 361] Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, John E. McLaughlin, Central Intelligence Agency, Zacarias Moussaoui, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui

August 23, 2001: FBI Agent Discusses Opening of Intelligence Investigation with CIA Officer, Notes Almihdhar Has Stronger Link to USS Cole Bombing FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi writes to Tom Wilshire, a CIA manager detailed to the FBI, and tells him that the search for hijacker Khalid Almihdhar will be conducted as an intelligence investigation (see August 23, 2001 and August 29, 2001). She also says that she is surer now that Almihdhar is connected to the bombing of the USS Cole, writing, “I am still looking at intel, but I think we have more of a definitive connection to the Cole here than we thought.” Even though Corsi thinks Almihdhar is tied to the Cole bombing, she will oppose the search for him being conducted as part of the criminal investigation and insist that it be part of an intelligence investigation (see August 28, 2001 and August 28, 2001). [US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 11/2004, PP. 304 ] Entity Tags: Khalid Almihdhar, FBI Headquarters, Tom Wilshire, Dina Corsi, Usama bin Laden Unit (FBI) Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: 2000 USS Cole Bombing, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, C


After August 23, 2001: US Intelligence Again Fails to Connect Al-Qaeda Leader to Alias When the US intelligence community watchlists the alias Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf, which is used by al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash (see August 23, 2001), it fails to realize that “bin Yousaf” is really bin Attash, who is known to be one of the masterminds of the USS Cole bombing (see Late October-Late November 2000 and November 22-December 16, 2000). The CIA knows that both bin Attash and “Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf” were in Malaysia with 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi in January 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000, January 8, 2000, and January 4, 2001). Furthermore, the CIA has a photo of bin Attash provided by the Yemeni government, and surveillance photos and video of bin Attash with Alhazmi and Almihdhar at an al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After and January 5, 2000). And when bin Attash applied for a US visa, he used the “bin Yousaf” alias (see April 3, 1999), so presumably a comparison of his photo from that application with other photos would reveal that “bin Yousaf” and bin Attash are one and the same person. However, apparently no check is made for any US visa of “bin Yousaf,” even after he is watchlisted to prevent him from coming into the US, which would require a visa. Had a check been made, it would have been discovered that he applied for a visa at the same time as both Almihdhar and Alhazmi (see April 3-7, 1999), the very people who have been watchlisted together with him. Presumably, discovering that Alhazmi and Almihdhar had applied for US visas with one of the Cole masterminds would have greatly increased the urgency of finding them. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 538; US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 11/2004, PP. 248, 300-3 ] The US missed other opportunities to learn more about this alias (see After January 8, 2000 and After December 16, 2000). Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tawfiq bin Attash Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: 2000 USS Cole Bombing, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit

(Shortly After August 23, 2001): Top FBI Official Possibly Notified of Search for Hijacker Almihdhar After 9/11, no clear evidence that any of the FBI’s top managers are informed of the search for hijacker Khalid Almihdhar will be uncovered and the 9/11 Commission will comment, “It appears that no one informed higher levels of management in either the FBI or CIA about the case.” However, the Commission will also note that “one witness recalls a discussion with a senior FBI official, that official denies that a discussion took place. The other alleged participant does not recall such a meeting.” The list of sources that follows this passage indicates that the senior official is International Terrorism Operations Section chief Michael Rolince, who is also informed of the Moussaoui case around this time, but will attempt to play down his knowledge of it (see Late August 2001 and March 21, 2006), and the other participants are two of the following: FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi, CIA officer Tom Wilshire, and acting head of the FBI’s bin Laden unit Rod Middleton. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 270, 538] Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dina Corsi, Michael Rolince, Rod Middleton, Tom Wilshire, 9/11 Commission Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Alhazmi and Almihdhar, Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US

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