Skip to comments.Hearings will reveal some secrets of 9/11
Posted on 09/17/2002 7:09:44 PM PDT by Rumierules
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A veil of secrecy will begin to rise Wednesday when a congressional committee reveals some of the information that U.S. spy agencies knew about suspected terrorist activity before the September 11 attacks -- including the disclosure that analysts knew al Qaeda had previously plotted to use aircraft as terrorist weapons.
The recently declassified documents will be made public for the first time during an open hearing of the joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee.
One of the main questions investigators are probing: Could the September 11 attacks have been prevented?
Joint Senate House Intelligence hearings CNN plans coverage of the hearings which begin at 10 a.m.
The hearing is to begin with testimony from two family members of September 11 victims, followed by top committee investigator Eleanor Hill, who will present a detailed 30-page staff statement on what the intelligence community knew about the threat level.
Hill, a former inspector general at the Pentagon who has a thorough understanding of the intelligence community who also headed up several criminal investigations while working at the Defense Department, was picked in May to lead the House-Senate investigation.
Until now, the only direct clues about terrorists activity made public were two electronic intercepts by the National Security Agency that were recorded -- but not translated -- the day before the attacks on New York and Washington.
"The match begins tomorrow," one person in Afghanistan said to another person in Saudi Arabia. "Tomorrow is zero hour," said another person.
At that time, U.S. intelligence agencies were preoccupied with threats against U.S. sites and properties overseas -- the attacks on the USS Cole in Yemen and on two U.S. embassies in Africa, among others.
The committee is also expected to address apparent failures of U.S. agencies to share information or discern connections between various reports.
For example, it was revealed last week that a former landlord of two of the September 11 hijackers was an FBI informant who supplied information about the Islamic terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
U.S. intelligence officials also said that in January of 2000, the hijackers, Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, attended a meeting of known terrorists in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- a fact that the CIA communicated to the FBI. Yet it was not until August 23, 2001, that the CIA warned the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to watch for the two men, and that they might try to enter the United States. By that time, Almidhar and Alhazmi had been in the U.S. for more than 11 months.
That disclosure rankled Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"There was no single source that was looking at all that information to try to see if there was a pattern, a picture, a plot," Graham said a few weeks ago. "Had that happened, then I think another series of questions would have been asked, more information would have been collected, and with luck, it might have occurred early enough to have disrupted the hijackers before the horrific events of September 11."
Aircraft as weapons Tuesday, a source close to the congressional investigation said intelligence following the bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors in October 2000, indicated there was an increasing threat to the U.S. homeland. Investigators also learned there was evidence that al Qaeda considered using aircraft as a terror tool, the source said.
Since September 11, a special staff has sifted through over 400,000 documents looking for other clues the CIA and other intelligence agencies may have missed, including specifics on what the terrorists said to each other.
A congressional source close to the investigation described the classified data, collected by surveillance satellites, eavesdropping equipment and spies before September 11, as "sobering" because so much of it indicates the depth of the hatred of the United States by overseas extremists.
So far, said the source, investigators have found no smoking gun -- no piece of evidence that proves U.S. intelligence should been able to prevent the attacks -- but evidence does suggest the government knew a lot more about the seriousness of the threat from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda than it told the American people.
There is no doubt that the United States remains at risk, Tom Ridge, director of Homeland Security, said Tuesday.
"There are no discussions or debates going on within al Qaeda cells around the country that America is the No. 1 target," Ridge said. "We have been, we are, and we will be."
The congressional source said a schedule for additional public hearings will be announced soon. It has been held up because there has been a behind-the-scenes battle between committee members and some senior Bush administration officials who have balked at testifying in public before the joint committee.
Lawmakers on the committee said they have also run into resistance from the agencies they are investigating. With the joint committee's funding expiring in February, there is an effort under way to create an independent commission to investigate why .
-- CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.
It's unlikely that the exact technique used by al Qaeda on 9/11 will ever be used again. It worked three times in one day, but only because the pilots never in their wildest dreams suspected what the intentions of the hijackers were, and that once they took over the cockpits they would kill the pilots and fly the planes themselves.
That trick is unlikely to work again. Perhaps it would not have worked on 911, if the intelligence services had given prior warning to the pilots.
This seems fairly elementary. Hasn't it occurred to the Senate, or to the media? Or did it happen on clinton's watch?
That is pure spin, The goal for these hearings were made clear from the start. They said they were being held so we could learn from the mistakes made and to help prevent future attacks.
CNN is just playing the "Bush Knew Card"
I can agree after we arm our pilots.
Perhaps it would not have worked on 911, if the intelligence services had given prior warning to the pilots.
What would they have done? Poked them in the eyes?
I doubt it. It might have hurt the terrorists feelings to accuse them of such a plot. The RATs would have objected.
I'd like to see that again.
Does anyone know what Sen. Graham's position is on the Homeland Security Bill, which would accomplish the shortcoming he is mentioning here ..... and whether he is trying to persuade other members of his party to pass the bill!
Btw, love your screen name .... and agree with you! ....... :-)
I recall some security rules proposed for the airline industry near the end of the Clitton era and I believe Al Bore nixed it for some reason. Do you recall this ?
Geez....That's akin to the $2 million study to find out why toddlers fall off of tricycles.
We don't need an independent commission to investigate why congress is running into resistance from the agencies they are investigating. Congress is made up of political animals whose only agenda is political survival. Right and wrong, truth and justice, honesty and leadership never figure into their actions.
Sure. They've known it since 1995. I believe the article was in the Washington Post? Anyway, there's a FR thread on it somewhere in the archives.
The problem was when and where. It's like knowing where the next lightning will strike, and getting people away from the area.
Clinton did nothing attack after attack on Americans, but at least Bush was trying to stop it. Gotta hand it to him for at least doing something.
This is Clintonian news. Old, and worn out already.
Many RATs want absolutely perfect defense and little to no offense.
Rumsfeld has repeatedly said we must take the fight to the terrorists.
Who wouldn't expect hijackings and hostage taking based on prior terrorist history? But, who ever anticipated the crashing of the airplanes into buildings?
These hearings are nothing but a platform for political rhetoric prior to the November elections.
Oh, by the way, they also show lack of national unity and resolve and open the window for the next unanticipated attack.
Could it have been the fact that this intelligence committee plans to call as its first witness FAMILY MEMBERS who could not possibly have ONE THING to add to that discussion, other than "setting the tone" of touchy, feely crap????
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