It took 11 years, but Judicial Watch recently received a response to a 2002 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that revealed another major missed opportunity by the Clinton administration to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, which is part of perhaps the most catastrophic failure in the history of U.S. intelligence.
The new document reads like a Robert Ludlum spy novel, replete with exotic locales and sinister plots. Its pages explode with intricate twists and international intrigue. The villains are palpably evil; their plans, pernicious and deadly. But the good guys seemed largely oblivious to their machinations.
The chilling details come from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which finally handed over an intelligence information report titled “Letters Detailing Osama bin Laden and Terrorists’ Plans to Hijack an Aircraft Flying Out of Frankfurt, Germany, in 2000.” The report is dated Sept. 27, 2001.
In early 2000, the documents informed America’s top intelligence analysts that al Qaeda had devised a sophisticated plan to hijack a commercial airliner departing Frankfurt International Airport between March and August 2000. The terrorist team was to consist of an Arab, a Pakistani and a Chechen, and their targets were U.S. Airlines, Lufthansa and Air France. The document pieces together an intricate plot directed by a 40-year-old Saudi, Sheik Dzabir, from a prominent family with ties to the House of Saud. It revealed that al Qaeda had actually penetrated the consular section of the German Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, relying on a contact referred to as “Mrs. Wagner” to provide European Union visas for use in forged Pakistani passports for the terrorists.
These revelations came from an unidentified source that provided U.S. authorities with copies of Arabic letters containing precise information about the al Qaeda plot. It was all laid out in minute detail.
So, how did the Clinton administration respond? In the incriminating words of the intelligence information report, advanced warning of the plot “was disregarded because nobody believed that Osama bin Laden or the Taliban could carry out such an operation.” Perhaps that explains why, for 13 years, the report was classified “secret” and hidden from public view until Judicial Watch forced its release in August of this year.
The report revealed that al Qaeda, the Taliban and Chechen Islamic militants all had substantial operating support bases in Hamburg and Frankfurt, Germany. It included the name, address and telephone numbers of an al Qaeda passport forger in Hamburg for the Taliban and other Afghan terrorists and their support personnel during January and February 2000. The report showed that the terrorists had established a secure, reliable transport route to Chechnya from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan. It also revealed that in January 2000, bin Laden and Taliban officials held a two-day hijack planning meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan.
In short, nearly two full years before the horrific attack on the World Trade Center, the international Islamic terrorist cabal revealed its insidious hand for all the world to see. The details of names, addresses and other information from this report should have provided “actionable intelligence” for any number of U.S. anti-terrorist operations. Instead, every scintilla of the information “was disregarded because nobody believed that Osama bin Laden or the Taliban could carry out such an operation.”
This isn’t the first time the Clinton gang dropped the anti-terrorism ball. Judicial Watch previously obtained documents from the Department of State (“Terrorism/Osama bin Laden: Who’s Chasing Whom?” showing that as far back as 1996, the Clinton administration knew of and ignored bin Laden’s terrorist plans against the United States.
The New York Times, reporting on Judicial Watch’s find in 2005, noted: “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.”
You can be sure the Clinton machine would prefer these revelations to go down the memory hole. But it is clear that both the failure to prevent the Sept. 11 attack and the Benghazi scandal can be added to the list of questions posed as that machine rolls on.
Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch.