Hearings about the intelligence failure began on Capitol Hill several months after 9/11. A Congressional Committee was formed to investigate just what happened and why. The focus was to be on what U.S. intelligence agencies knew - or should have known - prior to the bombings.
The much anticipated 800 page report was released in the summer of 2003. (go to the web site for the report)
THE MISSING PAGES
Most of the attention has been focused on 28 pages that have been ordered classified and blacked-out to the public.
People familiar with the missing pages claim that they deal with the Saudi government's relationship with the 9/11 hijackers.
Eleanor Hill could not confirm what is in the 'missing' section of the report.
In an interview with the fifth estate, Eleanor Hill, chief investigator for the Committee, would only confirm that those files dealt with sources of foreign support for the hijackers.
"Because they're classified I can't tell you what's in those pages. I can tell you that the chapter deals with some information that our committee found in the FBI and CIA files that was very disturbing. It had to do with sources of foreign support for the hijackers."
This summer, U.S. Senators held a hearing on the financial support of terrorism.
The Bush Administration had refused to place Saudi several charities and individuals on the terror watch list. The senators asked the U.S. government to release the names of Saudi charities and individuals who were being investigated for funding Al-Qaeda.
By the next day, the names were classified by the Bush Adminstration and could not be made public.
But other sections of the Congressional Report reveal more about what the Bush administration would prefer the public didn't know about 9/11.
THE AL-BAYOUMI CONNECTION
According to the report one of the FBI's best sources in San Diego suggested that Omar Al-Bayoumi, a Saudi government employee based there, helped and assisted two of the hijackers, Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Al-Hasmi. They were among the first of the 19 hijackers to enter the U.S.
Bayoumi put them up in an apartment, held a party for them, enrolled them in flight school and gave them money.
The report talks about the two 9/11 hijackers that the U.S. government should have captured.
The report also details how much American intelligence
knew about these two hijackers well before September 11th. They'd been under surveillance at a high-level Al Qaeda meeting abroad where U.S. agents suspected future terror attacks were being planned. (see more below)
The CIA knew their names, birth dates, passport numbers – even that Khalid Almihdhar had a visa to enter the United States, which indicated they'd likely be traveling to the U.S.
But despite it all, the CIA neglected to warn Washington about them. So Almihdhar and al-Hasmi were not only able to enter the U.S. with no problem – but they also could renew their U.S. visas and stay in the country legally.
They were finally put on a watch list in August 2001, but only three weeks later they participated in the destruction of the World Trade Center.
THE PHOENIX MEMO
The report also outlines that prior to 9/11, the CIA and FBI were well aware that the idea of using planes as a weapon was being contemplated by al Qaeda. As early as 1995, when the "Bojinka plot" was uncovered in the Philippines it was discovered al Qaeda was planning to hijack airliners and crash them into important US sites like the CIA headquarters. (more on this below)
The report proves that several U.S. intelligence agencies had adequate warning of terrorist activity.
On July 10/01, Kenneth Williams, an FBI counter-terrorism
agent in a field office in Phoenix, AZ, sent an e-mail memo FBI offices in Washington and New York.
The memo raised concerns about Osama bin Laden sending students to train at civil aircraft training schools and universities. (see the memo online)
The memo said Williams had observed an inordinate amount of activity of individuals taking such courses in Arizona. "These individuals will be in a position in the future to conduct terror activity against civil aviation targets," writes the FBI agent.
One of the people named in the memo was later to be discovered as an associate of Hani Hanjour, pilot of Flight 77, the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11. FBI showed that on five occasions this individual and Hanjour were at the flight school on the same day and they might have carpooled together. In 1999, logs showed they used the same plane together.
Another individual mentioned in the Phoenix memo is also connected to the al Qaeda network. He was apparently arrested in Pakistan at a safe house in 2002. The names of both of these people were deleted from the report.
The FBI personnel failed to act.
THE "BRAIN" BEHIND THE ATTACK
Also known as "Mukhtar" (The Brain), Khalid Shaykh Mohammad (KSM) was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attack.
He first comes to the attention of the U.S. intelligence community in early 1995 when he is linked to Ramzi Yousef's "Bojinka Plot" in the Philippines. (Yousef was responsible for carrying out the World Trade Center bombing in 1993) The Philippine police discover Yousef's bomb-making factory and his plan was to kill the Pope, bomb the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Manila, blow up 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean, and crash a plane into CIA headquarters.
In 1995, investigations connect KSM to the first WTC bombing. Federal prosecutors gave CIA a copy of a wire transaction for $660 (US) between Qatar and the U.S., dated several days before the blast, sent by KSM.
In January of 2000, KSM attended the high-level meeting al Qaeda in Malaysia to plot a number of terrorist attacks. He is photographed and videotaped there by the Malaysian secret police, who pass the photos and video onto the CIA.
KSM begins to travel to and from the U.S. In June 2001, a U.S. intelligence operative disseminates a report to all intelligence agencies, military commanders and the Treasury and Justice department saying that KSM was recruiting people to travel from Afghanistan to the U.S., and that these persons would be "expected to establish contacts with colleagues already living there". The report says KSM was traveling to the States as late as May of 2001.
Both the CIA and FBI received this report but it was ignored and not seen as entirely credible.