In light of the British success at foiling the trans-Atlantic bomb plot it’s worth revisiting some of the missed clues that could have helped foil the 9/11 plot of five years ago.
I’m still amazed at how close U.S. officials were to disrupting that plot. All of the necessary intel was in the system: Zacharias Moussaoui had been picked up for seeking to learn how to fly, but not land, jumbo jets.
The “Phoenix Memo” from an FBI agent urged higherups to investigate bin Laden’s deployment of students to flight school:
The purpose of this communication is to advise the Bureau and New York of the possibility of a coordinated effort by USAMA BIN LADEN (UBL) to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation universities and colleges. Phoenix has obesrved an inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest who are attending or who have attended civil aviation universities and colleges in the State of Arizona… These individuals will be in a position in the future to conduct terror activity against the civil aviation targets.
And then, of course there was the infamous Presidential Daily Brief delivered to Bush on August 6, 2001:
…FBI information indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
It’s painful isn’t it?
Poking around this afternoon I stumbled across something even more painful. An interview with Dick Cheney and Tony Snow, then of FoxNews, after word of the presidential daily brief, had been leaked, but not the wording. This is how our Vice President — evidently assuming the explosive title of the PDB would ever be made public — characterized its contents:
And I’ve gone back and looked at that particular issue of August 6, and… there wasn’t anything really new in it…. It didn’t really give us anything new or anything precise or specific. It did not talk about hitting buildings. It did not talk about time, location or anything like that. It was one more sort of rehash, if you will, of the material that was out there.
So there you have it, straight from Dick’s mouth: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” and “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings” just “one more rehash” of nothing new.