Part 1 of 6PART ONE-FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
I. THE JOINT INQUIRY
In February 2002, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence agreed to conduct a Joint Inquiry into the activities of the U.S. Intelligence Community in connection with the terrorist attacks perpetrated against our nation on September 11, 2001. Reflecting the magnitude of the events of that day, the Committees' decision was unprecedented in Congressional history: for the first time, two permanent committees, one from the House and one from the Senate, would join together to conduct a single, unified inquiry.
The three principal goals of this Joint Inquiry were to:
conduct a factual review of what the Intelligence Community knew or should have known prior to September 11, 2001, regarding the international terrorist threat to the United States, to include the scope and nature of any possible international terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests;
identify and examine any systemic problems that may have impeded the Intelligence Community in learning of or preventing these attacks in advance; and
make recommendations to improve the Intelligence Community's ability to identify and prevent future international terrorist attacks.
It should be noted that this Joint Inquiry had the specific charter to review the activities of the Intelligence Community and was limited to approximately one year's duration. It is recognized that there are many other issues relating to the events of September 11, 2001 that are outside the limits of the Intelligence Community, and that additional new [page 2] information may be developed within the Intelligence Community that was not reviewed by the Inquiry within the allotted time. With that in
mind, we look forward to cooperating with the new National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States and the continuing oversight efforts of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
During the course of this Inquiry, these Committees have held nine public hearings as well as thirteen closed sessions in which classified information has been considered. In addition, the Joint Inquiry Staff has reviewed almost 500,000 pages of relevant documents from the Intelligence Community agencies and other sources, of which about 100,000 pages have been selected for incorporation into the Joint Inquiry's records. The Staff also has conducted approximately 300 interviews, and has participated in numerous briefings and panel discussions, that have involved almost 600 individuals from the Intelligence Community agencies, other U.S. Government organizations, state and local entities, and representatives of the private sector and foreign governments.
Thus, the Inquiry has sought and considered information from agencies throughout the Intelligence Community and other parts of the federal government; from relevant state and local authorities; and from private sector and foreign government individuals and organizations. This report is based on information gathered by the Committees throughout this Inquiry as well as testimony and exhibits received during the course of both the closed and open hearings. Consistent with the need to protect the national security, [page 2] the Committees will also subsequently issue an unclassified version of this report for public release.*
The statement of the Committees' findings and recommendations in Part I of this report includes only a brief summary of the nature of the terrorist threat that faced the United States, and the Intelligence Community, in the years that preceded the vicious attacks of September 11, 2001. Given the scope of the information and issues considered during the course of this Inquiry, these findings and recommendations can only be completely understood against the background of the full hearing and investigative record. To provide that context, a detailed description of the hearings and investigative work of the Joint Inquiry is contained in Part II of this report.1
* This is the unclassified version of the original classified report that was approved by the Joint Inquiry.
2II. THE CONTEXT
September 11, 2001, while indelible in our collective memory, was by no means America's first confrontation with international terrorism. Although the nature of the threat had evolved considerably over time, the United States and its interests have long been prime terrorist targets. For example, the bombings of the Marine barracks and the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983 should have served as a clear warning that terrorist groups were not reluctant to attack U.S. interests when they believed such attacks would further their ends.
The Intelligence Community also had considerable evidence before September 11 that international terrorists were capable of, and had planned, major terrorist strikes within the United States. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center confirmed this point, as did the 1993 plots to bomb New York City landmarks and the 1999 arrest at the U.S.-Canadian border of Ahmad Ressam, who intended to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport. [Page 4]
Usama Bin Ladin's role in international terrorism had also been well known for some time before September 11. He initially came to the attention of the Intelligence Community in the early 1990s as a financier of terrorism. However, Bin Ladin's own words soon provided evidence of the steadily escalating threat to the United States he and his organization posed. In August 1996, he issued a fatwa -- or religious decree -- authorizing attacks on Western military targets in the rabian Peninsula. In February 1998, Bin Ladin issued a second fatwa authorizing attacks on U.S. civilians and military personnel anywhere in the world. Bin Ladin's fatwas cited the U.S. military presence in
1 Anthrax attacks in October 2001 eventually killed five Americans, contaminated the Senate Hart Office building in Washington, D.C. as well as U.S. Postal Service facilities in Maryland, and significantly affected the U.S. economy. The statement of Initial Scope of this Joint Inquiry made specific reference to the anthrax attacks. In pursuing that matter, the Inquiry received briefings from the FBI and the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) regarding their investigations of the anthrax attacks. It also requested that GAO's Center for Technology and Engineering review the attacks; current knowledge regarding the use of anthrax as a weapon; technologies available to detect anthrax; and the law enforcement community's ability to combat chemical and biological terrorist attacks, including the FBI's resources and analytical capabilities to investigate such attacks. The GAO report has been completed. It is summarized in Part Three of this report and is included in its entirety as an appendix. To date, no connection has been established between the anthrax attacks and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, the Palestinian issue, and U.S. support for Israel as justification for ordering these attacks.
The gradual emergence of Bin Ladin and others like him marked a change from the type of terrorist threat that had traditionally confronted the Intelligence Community. Throughout the Cold War, radical left and ethno-nationalist groups had carried out most terrorist acts. Many of these groups were state-sponsored. The first bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993, however, led to a growing recognition in the Intelligence Community of a new type of terrorism that did not conform to the Cold War model: violent radical Islamic cells, not linked to any specific country, but united in anti- American zeal. A July 1995 National Intelligence Estimate noted the danger of this "new breed". By 1996, agencies within the Intelligence Community were aware that Bin Ladin was organizing these kinds of cells, and they began to collect intelligence on him actively.
In January 1996, the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) - which had been established at CIA in 1986 -- created a special unit that was dedicated to focusing on Bin Ladin and his associates. The unit quickly determined that he was more than a terrorist financier, and it soon became a hub for expertise on Bin Ladin and for operations directed against his terrorist network, al Qa'ida. Officials from the unit, which started with about 16 CIA officers and grew to about 40 officers from throughout the Intelligence Community prior to September 11, 2001, had unprecedented access to senior agency officials and White House policymakers.
[At the FBI, the Radical Fundamentalist Unit was created in March 1994 to handle responsibilities related to international radical fundamentalist terrorists, including Usama Bin Ladin. This Unit also handled other counterintelligence matters, and was
responsible for the coordination of extraterritorial intelligence operations and criminal investigations targeted at radical fundamentalist terrorists. In 1999, the FBI recognized the increased threat to the United States posed by Bin Ladin and created the Usama Bin Ladin Unit to handle al-Qa'ida- elated counterterrorism matters].
[As al-Qa'ida grew, both CIA and FBI officials recognized that the foreign intelligence, security, and law enforcement agencies of foreign governments, collectively referred to as "foreign liaison," could be of great value in penetrating and countering the organization. They understood that foreign liaison could act as a tremendous force multiplier against terrorism and, with that in mind, tried to coordinate and streamline what had been ad hoc relationships. As a result, as former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger testified, al-Qa'ida cells were disrupted in a number of countries after 1997. CTC also stepped up its efforts to enhance the capabilities of some foreign liaison services to work against joint terrorist targets. These efforts had mixed results].
The FBI also increased its focus on counterterrorism, establishing its own Counterterrorism Center at FBI Headquarters in 1996. Recognizing the importance of good relationships with foreign liaison services, the FBI expanded the permanent stationing of agents, known as Legal Attaches, or "Legats," in principal cities across the globe. In addition to improving relations with foreign services, the FBI engaged in an aggressive program with the CIA to arrest terrorists outside the United States. Finally, the FBI established Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) in thirty-five field offices before September 11. These task forces were designed to bring together a range of federal, state and local agencies that could provide valuable assistance in counterterrorism investigations.
The August 1998 bombing of two American embassies in East Africa definitively put the U.S. Intelligence Community on notice of the danger that Bin Ladin and his network, al-Qa'ida, posed. The attacks showed that Bin Ladin's network was capable of carrying out very bloody, simultaneous attacks and inflicting mass casualties. In December 1998, George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, gave a chilling direction to his deputies at the CIA:
5We must now enter a new phase in our effort against Bin Ladin. . . . We are at war. . . . I want no resources or people spared in this effort, either inside the CIA or the Community.
Discovering and disrupting al-Qa'ida's plans proved exceptionally difficult, however. Details of major terrorist plots were not widely shared within the al-Qa'ida organization, making it hard to develop the intelligence necessary to preempt or disrupt attacks. Senior al-Qa'ida officials were sensitive to operational security, and many al- Qa'ida members enjoyed sanctuary in Afghanistan, where they could safely plan and train for their missions. Finally, senior members of al-Qa'ida were skilled and purposeful: they learned from their mistakes and were flexible in organization and planning.
Nonetheless, particularly after the bombings in East Africa, the Intelligence Community amassed a body of information detailing Bin Ladin's ties to terrorist activities against U.S. interests around the world. Armed with that information, prior to September 11, 2001, U.S. Government counterterrorist efforts to identify and disrupt terrorist operations focused to a substantial degree on Bin Ladin and his network. The Intelligence Community achieved some successes - in some cases, major successes - in these operations. In other cases, little came of the Intelligence Community's efforts.
By late 2000 and 2001, the Intelligence Community was engaged in an extensive, shadowy struggle against al-Qa'ida. Despite such efforts, Bin Ladin carried out successful and devastating attacks against Americans and citizens of other nations, including the bombing of USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000 and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.III. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
A. Factual Findings
In reviewing the documents, interview reports, and witness testimony gathered during this Inquiry, the Joint Inquiry has sought to determine what information was available to the Intelligence Community prior to September 11, 2001 that was relevant to
the attacks that occurred on that day. The record that has been established through this Inquiry leads to the following factual findings and conclusions.
1. Finding: While the Intelligence Community had amassed a great deal of valuable intelligence regarding Usama Bin Ladin and his terrorist activities, none of it identified the time, place, and specific nature of the attacks that were planned for September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, the Community did have information that was clearly relevant to the September 11 attacks, particularly when considered for its collective significance.
Discussion: This Inquiry has uncovered no intelligence information in the possession of the Intelligence Community prior to the attacks of September 11 that, if fully considered, would have provided specific, advance warning of the details of those attacks. The task of the Inquiry was not, however, limited to a search for the legendary, and often absent, "smoking gun." The facts surrounding the September 11 attacks demonstrate the importance of strengthening the Intelligence Community's ability to detect and prevent terrorist attacks in what appears to be the more common, but also far more difficult, scenario. Within the huge volume of intelligence reporting that was available prior to September 11, there were various threads and pieces of information that, at least in retrospect, are both relevant and significant. The degree to which the Community was or was not able to build on that information to discern the bigger picture [page 8] successfully is a critical part of the context for the September 11 attacks and is addressed in the findings that follow.
2. Finding: During the spring and summer of 2001, the Intelligence Community experienced a significant increase in information indicating that Bin Ladin and al- Qa'ida intended to strike against U.S. interests in the very near future.
Discussion: The National Security Agency (NSA), for example, reported at least 33 communications indicating a possible, imminent terrorist attack in 2001. Senior U.S. Government officials were advised by the Intelligence Community on June 28 and July 10, 2001, that the attacks were expected, among other things, to "have dramatic consequences on governments or cause major casualties" and that "[a]ttack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning."
Some Community personnel described the increase in threat reporting as unprecedented, at least in their own experience. The Intelligence Community advised senior policymakers of the likelihood of an attack but, given the non-specific nature of the reporting, could not identify when, where, and how an attack would take place. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, in his testimony, described his recollection of the threat and the U.S. Government's response:
We issued between January and September nine warnings, five of them global, because of the threat information we were receiving from the intelligence agencies in the summer, when [DCI] George Tenet was around town literally pounding on desks saying, something is happening, this is an unprecedented level of threat information. He didn't know where it was going to happen, but he knew that it was coming.
3. Finding: Beginning in 1998 and continuing into the summer of 2001, the Intelligence Community received a modest, but relatively steady, stream of intelligence reporting that indicated the possibility of terrorist attacks within the United States. Nonetheless, testimony and interviews confirm that it was the general view of the Intelligence Community, in the spring and summer of 2001, that the threatened Bin Ladin attacks would most likely occur against U.S. interests overseas, despite indications of plans and intentions to attack in the domestic United States.
Discussion: Communications intercepts, the arrests of suspected terrorists in the Middle East and Europe, and a credible report of a plan to attack a U.S. Embassy in the Middle East shaped the Community's thinking about where an attack was likely to occur. While former FBI Director Louis Freeh testified that the FBI was "intensely focused" on terrorist targets within the United States, the FBI's Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism testified that in 2001 he thought there was a high probability - "98 percent" - that the attack would be overseas. The latter was the clear majority view, despite the fact that the Intelligence Community had information suggesting that Bin Ladin had planned, and was capable of, conducting attacks within the domestic United States.
This stream of reporting began as early as 1998 and continued during the time of heightened threat levels in 2001. For example, the Community received reporting in May 2001 that Bin Ladin supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States to conduct terrorist operations and, in late summer 2001, that an al-Qa'ida associate was considering mounting terrorist attacks within the United States.
[Of particular interest to the Joint Inquiry was whether and to what extent the President received threat-specific warnings during this period. The Joint Inquiry was advised by a representative of the Intelligence Community that, in August 2001, a closely held intelligence report for senior government officials included information that Bin Ladin had wanted to conduct attacks in the United States since 1997. The information included discussion of the arrest of Ahmed Ressam in December 1999 at the U.S.-Canadian border and the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. It mentioned that members of al-Qa'ida, including some U.S. citizens, had resided in or traveled to the United States for years and that the group apparently maintained a support structure here. The report cited uncorroborated information obtained and disseminated in 1998 that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack airplanes to gain the release of U.S.-held extremists; FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks; as well as information acquired in May 2001 that indicated a group of Bin Ladin supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives].*
4. Finding: From at least 1994, and continuing into the summer of 2001, the Intelligence Community received information indicating that terrorists were contemplating, among other means of attack, the use of aircraft as weapons. This information did not stimulate any specific Intelligence Community assessment of, or collective U.S. Government reaction to, this form of threat.
Discussion: [While the credibility of the sources was sometimes questionable and the information often sketchy, the Inquiry confirmed that the Intelligence Community did receive intelligence reporting concerning the potential use of aircraft as weapons. For example, the Community received information in 1998 about a Bin Ladin operation that would involve flying an explosive- laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and, in summer 2001, about a plot to bomb a U.S. embassy from an airplane or crash an airplane into it. The FBI and CIA were also aware that convicted terrorist Abdul Hakim Murad and several others had discussed the possibility of crashing an airplane into CIA Headquarters as part of "the Bojinka Plot" in the Philippines, discussed later in this report. Some, but
* National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice stated in a May 16, 2002 press briefing that, on August 6, 2001, the President's Daily Brief (PDB) included information about Bin Ladin's methods of operation from a historical perspective dating back to 1997. One of the methods was that Bin Ladin might choose to highjack an airliner in order to hold passengers hostage to gain release of one of their operatives. She stated, however, that the report did not contain specific warning information, but only a generalized warning, and did not contain information that al-Qa'ida was discussing a particular planned attack against a specific target at any specific time, place, or by any specific method.
apparently not all, of these reports were disseminated within the Intelligence Community and to other agencies].
The Transportation Security Administration, for example, advised the Committees that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had not received three of these reports, that two others were received by the FAA but through State Department cables, and that one report was received by the FAA, but only after September 11, 2001. Many policymakers and U.S. Government officials apparently remained unaware of this kind of potential threat and the Intelligence Community did not produce any specific assessments of the likelihood that terrorists would in fact use airplanes as weapons. For example, former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger testified before these Committees that:
I don't recall being presented with any specific threat information about an attack of this nature [the use of aircraft as weapons] or any alert highlighting this threat or indicating it was any more likely than any other.
That testimony is consistent with the views publicly expressed by the current National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, shortly after the September 11 attacks. [Page 11] Similarly, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz testified that he had not been made aware of this type of potential threat:
I don't recall any warning of the possibility of a mass casualty attack using civilian airliners or any information that would have led us to contemplate the possibility of our shooting down a civilian airliner.
Even within the Intelligence Community, the possibility of using aircraft as weapons was apparently not widely known. At the FBI, for instance, the FBI Phoenix field office agent who wrote the so-called "Phoenix memo" testified that he was aware of the plot to crash a plane into CIA Headquarters, but not the other reports of terrorist groups considering the use of aircraft as weapons. The Chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit in the FBI's Counterterrorism Division also confirmed, in an Joint Inquiry interview, that he was not aware of such reports.
5. Finding: Although relevant information that is significant in retrospect regarding the attacks was available to the Intelligence Community prior to September 11, 2001, the Community too often failed to focus on that information and consider and appreciate its collective significance in terms of a probable terrorist attack. Neither did the Intelligence Community demonstrate sufficient initiative in coming to grips
with the new transnational threats. Some significant pieces of information in the vast stream of data being collected were overlooked, some were not recognized as potentially significant at the time and therefore not disseminated, and some required additional action on the part of foreign governments before a direct connection to the hijackers could have been established. For all those reasons, the Intelligence Community failed to capitalize fully on available, and potentially important, information. The sub-findings below identify each category of this information.[Terrorist Communications in 1999}
5.a. [During 1999, the National Security Agency obtained a number of communications - none of which included specific detail regarding the time, place or nature of the September 11 attacks -- connecting individuals to terrorism who were identified, after September 11, 2001, as participants in the attacks that occurred on that day].
Discussion: [In early 1999, the National Security Agency (NSA) analyzed communications involving a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East that had previously been linked to al- a'ida activities directed against U.S. interests. Information obtained [ ] included, among other things, the full name of future hijacker Nawaf al- Hazmi. Beyond the fact that the communications involved a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East, the communications did not, in NSA's view at the time, feature any other terrorist-related information. The information was not published because the individuals mentioned in the communications were unknown to NSA, and, according to NSA, the information did not meet NSA's reporting thresholds. NSA has explained that these thresholds are flexible, sometimes changing daily, and consist of several factors, including: the priority of the intelligence requirement; the apparent intelligence value of the information; the level of customer interest in the topic; the current situation; and the volume of intercept to be analyzed and reported].
[During the summer of 1999, NSA analyzed additional communications involving a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East that included the name of Khaled. At about the same time, the name Khallad also came to NSA's attention. This information did not meet NSA's reporting thresholds and thus was not disseminated].
[In late 1999, NSA analyzed communications involving a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East that included the names of Khaled and Nawaf. At this time, NSA did not associate the latter individual with the Nawaf al-Hazmi it had learned about in early 1999. Later, the two individuals  were determined to be Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, now known to be two of the September 11 hijackers. [ ]. This information was passed to the CIA as well as the FBI in late 1999. In early 2000, NSA also [ ] passed additional information about Khalid to the CIA, FBI, FAA, the Departments of State, Treasury, Transportation, and Justice, and others in the U.S. Government].
[Page 13]Malaysia Meeting and Travel of al-Qa'ida Operatives to the United States
5.b. The Intelligence Community acquired additional, and highly significant, information regarding Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi in early 2000. Critical parts of the information concerning al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi lay dormant within the Intelligence Community for as long as eighteen months, at the very time when plans for the September 11 attacks were proceeding. The CIA missed repeated opportunities to act based on the information in its possession that these two Bin Ladin-associated terrorists were traveling to the United States, and to add their names to watchlists.
Discussion: [By early January 2000, CIA knew al-Mihdhar's full name and that it was likely Nawaf's last name was al-Hazmi, knew that they had attended what was believed to be a gathering of al-Qa'ida associates in Malaysia, was aware that they had been traveling together, and had documents indicating that al-Mihdhar held a U.S. B-1B- 2 multiple entry visa that would allow him to travel to and from the United States until April 6, 2000. CIA arranged surveillance of the meeting and the DCI was kept informed as the operation progressed].
Despite having all this information, and despite the republication of CTC guidance regarding watchlisting procedures in December 1999 (see Appendix, "CTC Watchlisting Guidance - December 1999"), CIA did not add the names of these two individuals to the State Department, INS, and U.S. Customs Service watchlists that are used to deny individuals entry into the United States. The weight of the record also
suggests that, despite providing the FBI with other, less critical, information about the Malaysia meeting, the CIA did not advise the FBI about al-Mihdhar's U.S. visa and the very real possibility that he would travel to the United States. The CIA stated its belief that the visa information was sent to the FBI and produced a cable indicating that this had been done.*
The FBI, for its part, had no record the visa information was received. Although the facts of the Malaysia meeting were included in several briefings for senior FBI officials, including FBI Director Louis Freeh, no record could be found that the visa information was part of these briefings.
[On March 5, 2000, CIA Headquarters received a cable from an overseas CIA station indicating that Nawaf al-Hazmi had traveled to Los Angeles, California on January 15, 2000. The following day, March 6, CIA Headquarters received a message from another CIA station noting its "interest" in the first cable's "information that a member of this group had traveled to the U.S." The CIA did not act on either message, again did not watchlist al-Hazmi or al-Mihdhar, and, again, did not advise the FBI of their possible presence in the United States. In 2000, these same two individuals had numerous contacts with an active FBI counterterrorism informant while they were living in San Diego, California].
On January 4, 2001, CIA acquired information that Khallad, a principal planner in the bombing of USS Cole, had, along with al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, attended the January 2000 meeting in Malaysia. Again, the CIA did not watchlist these two individuals. At the time, al-Mihdhar was abroad, but al-Hazmi was still in the United States. FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to the Joint Inquiry that: "al-Mihdhar's role in the September 11 plot . . . before his re-entry into the United States may well have been that of the coordinator and organizer of . . . the non-pilot hijackers."
In May 2001, the CIA provided FBI Headquarters with photographs taken in Malaysia, including one of al-Mihdhar, for purposes of identifying another Cole bombing
* In interviews, CIA personnel could not confirm that the visa information had in fact been provided to the FBI.
suspect. Although the CIA told FBI Headquarters about the Malaysia meeting and about al- Mihdhar's travel in Southeast Asia at that time, the CIA did not advise the FBI about al-Mihdhar's or al-Hazmi's possible travel to the United States. Again, the CIA did not watchlist the two individuals. While CIA personnel were working closely with the FBI in support of the USS Cole bombing investigation, the importance and urgency of information tying suspected terrorists to the domestic United States apparently never registered with them. CIA Director Tenet testified that CIA personnel:
. . . in their focus on the [USS Cole] investigation, did not recognize the implications of the information about al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar that [page 15] they had in their files.
On June 11, 2001, FBI Headquarters and CIA personnel met with the New York FBI field office agents who were handling the USS Cole investigation. The New York agents were shown the Malaysia photographs, but were not given copies. Although al- Mihdhar's name was mentioned, the New York agents' requests for more information about al-Mihdhar and the circumstances surrounding the photographs were refused, according to one of the field office agents. The FBI Headquarters analyst recalls that she said at the meeting that she would try to get the information the agents had requested.
In Joint Inquiry hearing testimony, one of the New York FBI agents who was present described his recollection of the meeting:
When these photos were shown to us, we had information at the time that one of the suspects had actually traveled to the same region of the world that this might have taken place, so we pressed the individuals there for more information regarding the meeting. So we pressed them for information. [A]t the end of the meeting - some of them say it was because I was able to get the name out of the analyst, but at the end of that day we knew the name Khalid al-Mihdhar but nothing else. The context of the meeting was that we continued to press them two or three times on information regarding, "Why were you looking at this guy? You couldn't have been following everybody around the Millennium. What was the reason behind this?
And we were told that that information - as I recall, we were told that that information could not be passed and that they would try to do it in the days and weeks to come. That meeting - I wouldn't say it was very contentious, but we were not very happy, the New York agents at the time were not very happy that certain information couldn't be shared with us.
Again, in that meeting, the CIA had missed yet another opportunity to advise the FBI about al- Mihdhar's visa and possible travel to the United States and, again, the CIA took no action to watchlist these individuals. Just two days later, al-Mihdhar obtained a new U.S. visa and, on July 4, 2001, he re-entered the United States.
It was not until mid July 2001, that a concerned CIA officer assigned to the FBI triggered a CIA review of its cables regarding the Malaysia meeting, a task that, [page 16] ironically, fell to an FBI analyst assigned to the CTC. Working with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the FBI analyst determined that both al-Mihdhar and al- Hazmi had entered the United States. As a result of that effort, on August 23, 2001, the CIA finally notified the FBI and requested of the State Department that the two individuals should be watchlisted.
Even then, there was less than an all-out effort to locate what amounted to two Bin Ladin- associated terrorists in the United States during a period when the terrorist threat level had escalated to a peak level. For example, neither CIA, FBI, nor State Department informed the FAA. On August 21, 2001, coincidentally, FAA had issued a Security Directive, entitled "Threat to U.S. Aircraft Operators." That Directive alerted commercial airlines that nine named terrorism- ssociated individuals - none of whom were connected to the 19 hijackers -- were planning commercial air travel and should receive additional security scrutiny if they attempted to board an aircraft. The Directive was updated on August 24 and August 28, 2001. Had FAA been advised of the presence of al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar in the United States, a similar directive could have been issued, subjecting the two, their luggage and any carry-on items to detailed, FAA directed searches.
Further, only the FBI's New York field office received a request from FBI Headquarters to conduct a search for the two prior to September 11, 2001. The Headquarters written instruction to the New York field office only identified al-Mihdhar in its subject line. Nawaf al-Hazmi was mentioned in the text, and it is not clear whether it was intended that he be a subject of the search as well. It was not until September 11, 2001 that the Los Angeles FBI field office was asked to conduct a search. Other FBI
offices with potentially useful informants, such as San Diego, were not notified prior to September 11.
A New York FBI field office agent testified that he urged FBI Headquarters on August 28, 2001 to allow New York field office criminal agents to participate in the search with FBI intelligence agents, given the limited resources that are often applied to [page 17] intelligence investigations. The request was refused by FBI Headquarters because of concerns about the perceived "wall" between criminal and intelligence matters. Looking back, the New York FBI agent testified about his hope that the Intelligence Community would overcome this kind of restriction in the future:
…after everything happened and we had ramped up where thousands of FBI agents all over the world were trying to find somebody, I thought to myself - and I don't necessarily know how to do it, but we've got to be able to get there - when we find out a Khalid al-Mihdhar is in the country, intelligence, criminal, or whatever, we've got to be able to get to the level we were at September 12, the afternoon of September 11. We've got to be able to get there before September 11, not September 12.
Joint Inquiry witnesses testified that other federal agencies with potentially valuable information databases were never asked to assist in FBI's search.[Terrorist Communications in Spring 2000]
5.c. [In January 2000, after the meeting of al-Qa'ida operatives in Malaysia, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi entered the United States [ ]. Thereafter, the Intelligence Community obtained information indicating that an individual named "Khaled" at an unknown location had contacted a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East. The Intelligence Community reported some of this information, but did not report all of it. Some of it was not reported because it was deemed not terrorist-related. It was not until after September 11, 2001 that the Intelligence Community determined that these contacts had been made from future hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar while he was living within the domestic United States].
Discussion: [While the Intelligence Community had information regarding these communications, it did not determine the location from which they had been made [ ]
[ ]. After September 11, the FBI determined from domestic toll records that it was in fact the hijacker Khalid al- Mihdhar who had made these communications and that he had done so from within the United States. The Intelligence Community did not identify what was critically important [page 18] information in terms of the domestic threat to the United States: the fact that the communications were between individuals within the United States and suspected terrorist facilities overseas. That kind of information could have provided crucial investigative leads to law enforcement agencies engaged in domestic counterterrorist efforts].[Two Hijackers Had Numerous Contacts with an Active FBI Informant]
5.d. [This Joint Inquiry confirmed that these same two future hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, had numerous contacts with a long time FBI counterterrorism informant in California and that a third future hijacker, Hani Hanjour, apparently had more limited contact with the same informant. In mid- to late-2000, the CIA already had information indicating that al- ihdhar had a multiple entry U.S. visa and that al-Hazmi had in fact traveled to Los Angeles, but the two had not been watchlisted and information suggesting that two suspected terrorists could well be in the United States had not yet been given to the FBI. The San Diego FBI field office, which handled the informant in question, did not receive that information or any of the other intelligence information pertaining to al- Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, prior to September 11, 2001. As a result, the FBI missed the opportunity to task a uniquely well-positioned informant -- who denies having any advance knowledge of the plot --- to collect information about the hijackers and their plans within the United States.]
Discussion: [Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar had numerous contacts with a long-time FBI counterterrorism informant while they were living in San Diego, California. There are several indications that hijacker Hani Hanjour may have had more limited contact with the same informant in December 2000.]
[During the summer of 2000, the informant advised the FBI handling agent that the informant had contacts with two individuals named "Nawaf" and "Khalid". The informant described meeting these individuals. The informant described the two to the FBI agent as Saudi Muslim youths who were legally in the United States to visit and attend school. The FBI agent did not, at the time, consider these individuals to be of
interest to the [page 19] FBI. While the agent says he asked the informant for the individuals' last names, the informant never provided that information and the FBI agent did not press for the names because he had no reason to think they were significant until after September 11, 2001.]
[ ] [During one of their last contacts, al-Hazmi advised the informant that he was moving to Arizona to attend flight training, but the informant did not advise the FBI of this information until after the September 11 attacks].
[When the FBI's San Diego field office determined after the attacks that a longtime FBI counterterrorism informant had had numerous contacts in 2000 with two of the September 11 hijackers, personnel there were immediately suspicious about whether the informant was involved in the plot. Subsequently, however, all of the field office personnel, including senior managers and various case agents, concluded that the informant was unwitting of, and had no role in, the September 11 plot].
[Several questions remain, however, with regard to the informant's credibility. First, while there are several indications suggesting that future hijacker Hani Hanjour had contact with the informant in December 2000, the informant has repeatedly advised the FBI that the informant does not recognize photos of Hanjour. Second, the informant told the FBI that the hijackers did nothing to arouse the informant's suspicion, but the informant also acknowledged that al-Hazmi had contacts with at least four individuals the informant knew were of interest to the FBI and about whom the informant had previously reported to the FBI. Third, the informant has made numerous inconsistent statements to the FBI during the course of interviews after September 11, 2001. Fourth, the informant's responses during an FBI polygraph examination to very specific questions about the informant's advance knowledge of the September 11 plot were judged by the FBI to be "inconclusive," although the FBI asserts that this type of result is not unusual for such individuals in such circumstances].
[Finally, there is also information which conflicts with the information provided by the informant concerning the dates of contacts with the hijackers. The Joint Inquiry, for example, brought to the FBI's attention information that is inconsistent with the date of initial contact as provided by the informant. In its November 18, 2002 written response to the Joint Inquiry, the FBI has acknowledged that there are "significant inconsistencies" in the informant's statements about these contacts. The FBI investigation regarding this issue is continuing].
[The Administration has to date objected to the Inquiry's efforts to interview the informant in order to attempt to resolve those inconsistencies. The Administration also would not agree to allow the FBI to serve a Committee subpoena and deposition notice on the informant. Instead, written interrogatories from the Joint Inquiry were, at the suggestion of the FBI, provided to the informant. Through an attorney, the informant has declined to respond to those interrogatories and has indicated that, if subpoenaed, the informant would request a grant of immunity prior to testifying].
[The FBI agent who was responsible for the informant testified before the Joint Inquiry that, had he had access to the intelligence information on al-Mihdhar's and al- Hazmi's significance at the time they were in San Diego:
It would have made a huge difference. We would have immediately opened [ ] investigations. We had the predicate for a [ ] investigation if we had that information.…[W]e would immediately go out and canvas the sources and try to find out where these people were. If we locate them, which we probably would have since they were very close - they were nearby - we would have initiated investigations immediately.…We would have done everything. We would have used all available investigative techniques. We would have given them the full court press. [Page 21] We would…have done everything - physical surveillance, technical surveillance and other assets.
[Whether, as the agent testified he believes, that kind of investigative work would have occurred and would have then uncovered the hijackers' future plans will necessarily remain speculation. What is clear, however, is that the informant's contacts with the hijackers, had they been capitalized on, would have given the San Diego FBI field office perhaps the Intelligence Community's best chance to unravel the September 11 plot. Given the CIA's failure to disseminate, in a timely manner, intelligence information on
the significance and location of al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, that chance, unfortunately, never materialized].The Phoenix Electronic Communication
5.e. On July 10, 2001, an FBI Phoenix field office agent sent an "Electronic Communication" to four individuals in the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) and two individuals in the Usama Bin Ladin Unit (UBLU) at FBI Headquarters, and to two agents on International Terrorism squads in the FBI New York field office. In the communication, the agent expressed his concerns, based on his first-hand knowledge, that there was a coordinated effort underway by Bin Ladin to send students to the United States for civil aviation-related training. He noted that there was an "inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest" in this type of training in Arizona and expressed his suspicion that this was an effort to establish a cadre of individuals in civil aviation who would conduct future terrorist activity. The Phoenix agent's communication requested that FBI Headquarters consider implementing four recommendations:
o accumulate a list of civil aviation universities/colleges around the country;
o establish liaison with these schools;
o discuss the theories contained in the Phoenix EC with the Intelligence Community; and
o consider seeking authority to obtain visa information concerning individuals seeking to attend flight schools.
However, the FBI Headquarters personnel did not take the action requested by the Phoenix field office agent prior to September 11, 2001. The Phoenix communication generated little or no interest at either FBI Headquarters or the FBI's New York field office.
Discussion: Before the Joint Inquiry, the Phoenix agent who authored the Phoenix communication testified that:
What I wanted was an analytical product. I wanted this discussed with the Intelligence Community. I wanted to see if my hunches were correct.
He noted, however, that he also knew that this type of analytical product took a back seat to operational matters at the FBI:
But, I am also a realist. I understand that the people at FBI Headquarters are terribly overworked and understaffed, and they have been for years. And at the time that I am a sending this in, having worked this stuff for 13 years, and watched the unit in action over the years, I knew that this was going to be at the bottom of the pile, so to speak, because they were
dealing with real-time threats, real-timer issues trying to render fugitives back to the United States from overseas for justice. And again, it is a resource issue.
The Phoenix agent was correct, and his communication did fall to the bottom of the pile.
He sent the communication to four individuals in the Radical Fundamentalist Unit, two individuals in the Usama Bin Ladin Unit, and two agents on International terrorism squads in the New York field office. Only three of the eight addressees recall reading the communication prior to September 11, 2001. Neither of the two Intelligence Operations Specialists who reviewed it at FBI Headquarters undertook a comprehensive national analysis of the theories it set forth. Nor did they send the communication to the FBI's analytic unit or the Intelligence Community, as requested by the Phoenix agent. Instead, it was forwarded to the Portland FBI field office, not primarily because of concerns about flight school theories, but rather because that field office had a possible investigative interest in one of the individuals who were named in the communication.
Similarly, the New York field office personnel who reviewed the communication said they found it to be speculative and not particularly significant. That office had been one of the recipients of a 1999 FBI Headquarters request to track Islamic flight students in its area of jurisdiction.
The Chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit testified that he did not see the communication prior to September 11, 2001. In his testimony before the Joint Inquiry, FBI Director Mueller acknowledged that: "the Phoenix [communication] should have been disseminated to all field offices and to our sister agencies, and it should have triggered a broader analytical approach."
After September 11, the FBI discovered that [ ],* one of the individuals who was identified in the Phoenix communication, was an associate of hijacker Hani
* The identities of several individuals whose activities are discussed in this report have been deleted by the Joint Inquiry. While the FBI has provided the Joint Inquiry with these names and those names are contained in the classified version of this final report, the Joint Inquiry has decided to delete them from this unclassified version due to the as yet unresolved nature of much of the information regarding their activities.
Hanjour. [This individual] left the United States in April 2000 and returned in June 2001, remaining in the United States for approximately one month. The FBI now speculates that [the individual] may have returned to the United States either to evaluate Hanjour's flying skills, or to provide Hanjour with his final training on the flight simulator before the September 11 attacks. [The individual] was an experienced flight instructor who was certified to fly Boeing 737s.
The FBI also has determined since September 11, 2001 that another individual mentioned in the Phoenix communication - [ ] -- is also connected to the al-Qa'ida network. [ ] was arrested at an al- a'ida safehouse in Pakistan in 2002 along with [ ], one of the most prominent al-Qa'ida facilitators.