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9.11 investigation



A Two-Part Series

William Thomas

Senior reporter
June 13, 2002

Part 1.

See No Evil

In the weeks leading up to the aerial attacks of Sept. 11, international flight crews used to heightened precautions abroad expressed dismay over relaxed security at all major US airports. As one veteran flight attendant told this reporter: "Airport metal detectors have three sensitivity settings: green, yellow and red. When anything sets it off, you know an alert has been issued, and that it's set to red. But on the morning of Sept. 11, airport metal detectors on the East coast were set on green."


For the next eight months, chanting "We Didn't Know" like a mantra, White House officials categorically denied receiving any advance warnings of attackers whose effortless evasion of airport and air force defenses left obvious questions unasked by flag-waving media celebrities.

None dared call it complicity.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it alerted NORAD to the first hijackings at 8:38, less than 10 minutes before the first tower was hit.
The general in charge of North American Air Defense neglected to explain why 18 minutes later a pair of F-15s were scrambled from Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod - 179 miles from the fray - when other armed "ready alert" aircraft were much closer. [Miami Herald Sept. 14, 2001]

Ordered to keep their speed down to an airliner's crawl, Otis' Mach 2 fighters were 70 miles from New York City when the South Tower was struck at 9:03 a.m. Two F-16s from Langley, Virginia arrived overhead 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit. [Cape Cod Times Sept. 16, 2001]

Myers never mentioned that just 10 miles away, someone held two armed "ready- alert" fighters on the ground at Andrews Air Force Base until early evening. [Andrews AFB website]

I would like to interview those two pilots:

q Who overrode their repeated appeals to launch?

q How did they feel as they listened to airline pilots reporting the attacks they were trained and pledged to prevent?

q Who ordered their ready-to-fly, round-the-clock, "anti-terrorist" 121st and 321st fighter squadrons erased from the Andrews website on Sept. 12?

q And who shot down Flight 93, which came down in two widely separated sections after a heat-seeking missile fired by a pursuing fighter flying under "weapons free" orders blew off a wing over Pennsylvania? ["Shoot down over Pennsylvania" New York Times Sept. 15, 2001]

Everywhere in this strange and sickening story, contradictions feed conundrums.

How did the Federal Emergency Management Agency know what was coming? Before being cured of his "memory lapse" by emergency spin doctors, FEMA Urban Rescue team leader Tom Kennedy told a nationwide CBS audience on Sept. 12: "We're currently one of the first teams that was deployed to support the City of New York in this disaster. We arrived on late Monday night and went right into action on Tuesday morning."
CBS anchor Dan Rather never asked what FEMA was doing deploying the night before the WTC attacks. Or how a President could claim that $30 billion worth of silicon and security specialists never considered that the previously bombed World Trade Center might still be a prime terrorist target - when the WTC is depicted in a terrorist's crosshairs on the cover of FEMA's ant-terrorist manual.

But in mid-May, Rather and other highly paid readers and transcribers of official press releases were prodded into actually committing journalism when a three-month old Congressional inquiry learned of a flurry of high-level Washington warnings long-discussed in the British and European press.

Attempting damage control, Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer contradicted earlier denials, saying that the White House had received repeated "heads up!" calls from foreign leaders and security agencies of impending aerial attacks by al Qaeda hijackers.

Fleischer first insisted the warnings dealt solely with US interests outside the United States. Reversing himself without hesitancy or shame, the presidential spokesman then admitted that the administration had been warned of "domestic US targets" as early as the previous May.

Fleischer assured Americans that the White House immediately "notified the appropriate agencies" of the terrorist hijacking threat they had previously insisted they knew nothing about.

If so, it is compellingly curious that airport check-in and security personnel were never sent from "green" complacency to "red" alert.

US intelligence experts now say that if airline ticket agents and low-paid gate security personnel had been ordered to pay close attention to the "Terrorist Profile" card at their elbows, young Middle Eastern men paying for tickets with cash would have been stopped for questioning before being allowed to board transcontinental flights. It is unlikely that men bent on bloody business would have been seated in Business Class after being asked to produce luggage "salted" with flight manuals, hijack exhortations and suicide notes, and left as convenient clues in the trunks of their rental cars.

Airline insiders insist that razor-sharp Exacto knives would have also triggered metal detectors set to the highest sensitivity. But on May 16, a spokesman for security at Boston Logan Airport where the WTC kamikazes originated, told the Boston Globe: "The Federal government never handed down any intelligence regarding hijackings."

Not to Logan airport security, anyway.

When San Francisco mayor Willie Brown called on Sept.10 to check the status of a flight he was planning to take into New York the following day, a return call from a person Brown described to the San Francisco Chronicle as an "airport security man", told him to be "extra cautious about air travel" into Gotham on Sept. 11.

By then, a Sept. 7 "worldwide warning" from the State Department had alerted other US government agencies that Americans "may be the target of a terrorist threat [from] extremist groups with links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization."

According to German BND Intelligence, an Echelon ear in England had overheard conversations regarding the coming attacks. Listening in on phone calls, faxes and emails, Echelon also automatically monitors international financial transactions and airline travel for signs of unusual activity.

Sudden spikes in Wall Street trading are closely checked by PROMIS software. On Sept.10, as a Brooklyn high school student of Middle Eastern descent warned classmates not to venture into Manhattan, automatic stock-trading alarms would have been triggered when 4,516 "put" options were suddenly purchased against American Airlines.

Essentially leveraged bets that American's stocks were about to "crash", the day's trading volume was 600% higher than the usual level of trading in AA shares. A similar sudden spike in UAL "put" purchases represented a 1,200% jump in the usual number of daily stock "bets" placed against United the day before that airline also lost two planes.

The WTC's biggest tenant, Morgan Stanley saw a daily average of 27 "put" contracts. On Sept. 8, 9 and 10, someone with inside knowledge of the Twin Towers takedown bought 2,157 of Morgan Stanley options. Merrill Lynch, another big brokerage house occupying 22 floors of the WTC, saw 12,215 put options purchased in the four trading days leading up to the attacks. The average trading volume in Merrill Lynch shares is 252 contracts per day. [The Independent Oct. 14, 2001]

Was there a CIA connection?

It turns out that the investment bank used to place "put options" on United Airlines stock was managed until 1998 by "Buzzy" Krongard. Currently executive director of the CIA, Krongard helmed the Alex Brown bank when it was acquired by Banker's Trust in 1997. Accused of laundering drug-money, Banker's Trust was then absorbed into Deutsche Bank. Europe's biggest blockbuster bank next made the news by being named the hub of insider trades involving the insurance company Munich Re. European regulators are now examining unusually heavy trades in Munich Re, Swiss Re, Cigna and Axa of France. Each of these underwriters was exposed to heavy losses from the destruction of the Trade Center. Like Alex Brown, Axa and Cigna insurers have close links to the international drug trade and its handmaiden, the CIA. [AFD]

Osama bin Laden's family banks at Deutsche Bank. On Sept. 15, as German investigators probed Deutsche Bank's short-selling of sensitive Sept. 11 stocks, Alex Brown head Mayo Shattuck abruptly resigned.

So did Lt-Gen. Mahmud Ahmad. Instead of being tried by an American military tribunal, the ISI director-general quietly left his post as head of Pakistan intelligence at the insistence of US authorities, after FBI agents recorded Mahmud's cell phone calls ordering a sheikh to wire $100,000 to Sept. 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta. [The Times Of India Oct. 12, 2001]

Since, like Osama bin Laden himself, the ISI is a creation of the CIA, did the feds at Foggy Bottom know what its director was manifesting for Manhattan? Fleischer fulminated that the President was "provided information about bin Laden wanting to engage in hijacking in the traditional pre-9/11 sense - not for the use of suicide bombing, not for the use of an airplane as a missile."

Apparently, repeated threats of conventional hijackings by Islamic fanatics keen on killing Americans were deemed unworthy of public mention by a junta the New York Times accused of "Seizing Dictatorial Power". [Nov. 15, 2001] But an unfazed Fleischer fantasized that Bush administrators would have hit alarm buttons if they'd dared dream that al Qaeda hijackers might turn commercial airliners into flying bombs.

Had Ari Fleischer forgotten President Putin's warnings to Washington "in the strongest possible terms" of imminent attacks on prominent symbols of American business and military might? Repeated throughout the month of August, Moscow's urgent messages specified that 25 terrorist pilots had been specifically trained for suicide missions. [Interview with President Putin MS-NBC Sept. 15, 2001]

In this, Putin proved precise. Boxcutters found on two airliners diverted to Canada subsequently raised the number of targeted suicide planes to six, and the estimated number of hijackers to 25.

A leading Germany daily newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that at least three months before Sept. 11, US intelligence agencies learned that "Middle Eastern terrorists were planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture." [Sept. 14, 2001]

This could not have been news to American alphabet agencies. In the months leading up to Sept. 11, the CIA was actively tracking as many as six bin Laden cells, whose members were making homes and learning news skills in the USA.

q According to ex-CIA chief Stansfield Turner, every phone line, cell phone call and email was intercepted.

q Vanity Fair's Henry Porter reveals that "hundreds" of Sept. 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta's cell phone calls were intercepted and traced by the CIA. [Dec. 2001]

q Documents obtained by the Baltimore Sun boasted that National Security Agency officials "sometimes played tapes of bin Laden talking to his mother to impress members of Congress." [April 24, 2001]
FBI agent Robert Wright wonders why no one intervened. On May 11, his lawsuit made the Washington Post after the agent alleged that senior intelligence officials had blocked investigations that could have led to the apprehension of the terrorists before Sept. 11.

Wright confirmed that Minneapolis FBI agents were yanked off the case after arresting a suspicious Middle Eastern flight student named Moussaoui - and finding Boeing fight manuals and several passports in the trunk of his car.

When the French Directorate of Territorial Security (DST) flagged the feds that Moussaoui was a known al Qaeda terrorist, FBI counterterror specialists were ordered not to probe Moussaoui's activities and associations.

Angry agents beseeched David Schippers to intercede on their behalf. The prominent Clinton-impeachment attorney asked Attorney General Ashcroft to allow intensified investigation of a known al Qaeda operative, who wanted to learn how to turn and bank heavy aircraft - without landing or taking off.

After schlepping with Schippers, Ashcroft immediately ordered a halt to all investigations into the man now regarded as a prime accomplice in the Sept. 11 hijackings.

Why were Wright's worries ignored by the same superiors who refused permission to mess with Moussaoui? As Newsweek noted on May 16: "When agents learned, from French intelligence, that he had radical Islamic ties, they sought a national-security warrant to search his computer - and got turned down. From his e-mail traffic they found he wanted to learn to fly a 747."

Just days before the Sept. 11 attack, as a crack counterterror team frantically mused over Moussaoui's motives, the FBI agents were "in a frenzy," recalls a senior official, "absolutely convinced he was planning to do something with a plane."

In his memo to superiors, Wright wrote that "one possibility" was that Moussaoui might be planning to hijack an airliner and crash it into the World Trade Center.

The FBI failed to broadcast Wright's prophecy. They also neglected to correlate this experienced agent's threat-assessment with agent Kenneth Williams' "Phoenix memo", which warned of similarly suspicious Middle Eastern flight students two months before the airborne attacks on the World Trade Center..

On May 30th, Wright appeared at a televised press conference to say that "as a direct result of the incompetence, and at times intentional obstruction of justice by FBI management to prevent me from bringing terrorists to justice, Americans have unknowingly been exposed to potential terrorist attacks for years." [C-SPAN]

A whistle-blowing Wright further claims that his FBI employers prevented him from interdicting the financiers of Osama bin Laden's terror network, after Washington ordered agents to avoid offending the bin Laden and Royal Saudi families.

Long-suspected as heavy donors to "charities" that help terrorists kill Americans, the King of the Saudi Kingdom, who holds to the same strict, anti-modern brand of fundamentalist Wahhabism embraced by Osama bin Laden - and the ultra wealthy bin Laden family who spawned him - are "must not offend" gateways to strategic US interests in the oil-rich Middle East.

Their privileged status is impressive.

(to be continued)