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Loads of advance intelligence


The administration was all "wow, we never could have imagined this, jeez, we just didn't have the actionable intelligence." But it turns out there was quite a bit of pretty specific intelligence.
  • A June 28, 2001, intelligence summary for Condi Rice by George Tenet said that "It is highly likely that a significant Al Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks." That should have raised the general level of alertness.

  • Late July: Taliban's foreign minister informs the US that a "huge attack" that would kill thousands within the US was imminent. (Same month, John Ashcroft stops using commercial aircraft because of the threat assessment. He later walks out of his office rather than answer questions about it.)

  • August 2001: A Moroccan agent brought to the US to discuss his report that bin Laden was planning "large scale operations in New York in the summer or fall of 2001."

  • September 2001: Former CIA agent Robert Baer tells the CIA that he has learned through a military associate from the Persian Gulf that a "spectacular terrorist operation" was about to take place.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says he warned the US that 25 terrorists were getting ready to strike the US, including important buildings like the Pentagon.

  • Jordan, Egypt, and Israel all provided warnings of an imminent "big operation" within the United States

  • Here's the big one: The August 6 presidential briefing included a memo from British intelligence that Al Qaeda was planning an attack in the United States involving multiple airplane hijackings. The White House kept the warning secret while the president repeatedly claimed he had no warnings of any kind. When it came out, Condi Rice dismissed it as "fuzzy and thin" and only a page and a half, but news sources like Newsweek and Die Ziet reported it was 11 pages, and the Guardian reported that the memo was quite specific about hijacked airplanes being used as missiles within the US.

  • Highly specific messages were intercepted by the FBI and intelligence agencies just prior to 9/11: September 9, from bin Laden to his mother warning of "big news" in two days; September 10, al Qaeda members saying "tomorrow will be a great day for us"

US officials claim not to have translated these latter intercepts until after September 11. But Senator Orrin Hatch said that US officials had overheard bin Laden aides celebrating, and Rumsfeld was pissed off at a September 12 news conference that Hatch had let it slip that we were monitoring the conversations in real time. Also, Newsweek reports that on September 10 a bunch of top Pentagon officials "suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns."

One other thing worth noting in this context is the sudden extremely high volume of "put options" purchased in the days before September 11 on United and American stock, as well as on Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, which occupied 22 floors of the WTC. Intelligence agencies routinely monitor the stock market for clues of impending terrorist attacks. "Put options" are bets that a stock will drop. This trading anomaly, discussed in more detail separately, should have been another good clue that something was going down imminently, and could have been put together with the other intelligence to make the alert level very very high in fairly specific ways in the days leading up to September 11.

Source: Griffin, p. 69-73


People screw up. I'm willing to believe that there is a high volume of warnings about all manner of things on a daily basis, and that it's slightly unfair to use 20/20 hindsight to say what they should have caught in advance. During real time, perhaps it's not so unreasonable to believe the warnings could have been lost in a sea of intelligence noise about terrorist activities.

On the other hand, what the hell good are these guys if this amount and quality of intelligence fails to get any sort of useful reaction out of our defense system? We pay a lot of money for these jokers! I'm making a big concession to human failure and incompetence by saying it's only somewhat suspicious.

Bottom line, me, I give it:

somewhat suspicioussomewhat suspicious


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