The United States had a warning in 2000 that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida were hatching a plot for a terror hijacking but it largely ignored, according to new documentation released Monday by officials with Judicial Watch.
The Clinton administration disregarded the information because “nobody believed that Osama bin Laden’s organization or the Taliban could carry out such an operation,” according to Judicial Watch.
It was only months later that al-Qaida operatives, mostly from Saudi Arabia, hijacked four American passenger jets at the same time, crashing one into the Pentagon, two more in the Twin Towers in New York, and losing the fourth when passengers apparently fought back and it crashed into a Pennsylvania field, missing its apparent intended target, the White House.
Nearly 3,000 Americans died in the hijackings.
The report including information about a plot to hijack a jet in Germany, and came from a source who gave U.S. authorities copies of eight Arabic letters containing details of al-Qaida’s strategy.
For 13 years the subject report was classified “SECRET,” until it was finally declassified and released to Judicial Watch on August 29, 2013.
“The details of names, addresses, and such, from this report should have provided ‘actionable intelligence’ for any number of U.S. anti-terrorist operations,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is clear as day that the 9/11 plot could have been derailed if the leads in these documents had been followed.”
Judicial Watch, a Washington watchdog on government corruption, released the details after it obtained a Defense Intelligence Agency Intelligence Information Report.
Christopher J. Farrell, the organization’s director of investigations and research, reviewed the information.
He explained the plot was for al-Qaida to hijack a commercial airliner leaving Frankfurt International Airport, and the terror group penetrated the consular section of the Germany Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, to obtain European Union visas for forged Pakistani passports.
He said the IIR “is extraordinary because it contains names, addresses, meeting locations and telephone numbers of persons involved in the plot.”
The plot never materialized because one of members of the planned team of hijackers withdrew, according to details in the letters from March 1,March 15, March 25, April 4, April 15, April 28, May 20, all from 2000, and one undated letter.
They reveal targets included U.S. carriers, Lufthansa, Air France.
The goal apparently was to demand money and the release of terrorists held in U.S. prisons, the documents reveal.
The report said the letters are “remarkably right in operational details: names, addresses, telephone numbers, operatives’ assignments and duties, as well as conveying the sense of direction and energy of the AQ as they formulated and prepared to carry out the plot.”
“The Frankfurt Hijacking Plot of 2000 is not well known or widely reported – having been overshadowed by AQ’s successful … hijacking of 9/11. Nonetheless,the report documents evidence of an extensive AQ terror and support network in Germany and – once again – deep ties between AQ and the Chechens.”
Judicial Watch said it previously obtained documents from the Department of State (“Terrorism/Usama bin Ladin: Who’s Chasing Whom?”) showing that as far back as 1996, the Clinton administration knew of and ignored bin Laden terrorist plans against the United States. The New York Times, reporting on Judicial Watch’s find in 2005, detailed:
“State Department analysts warned the Clinton administration in July 1996 that Osama bin Laden’s move to Afghanistan would give him an even more dangerous haven as he sought to expand radical Islam ‘well beyond the Middle East,’ but the government chose not to deter the move, newly declassified documents show.”