TIMELINE ENTRIES ABOUT "WOULD-BE
HIJACKER" ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI
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Part 1: 1979 - 2000
Part 2: Jan. 2001 - 9/11
Part 3: Day of 9/11
Part 4: 9/11 - Dec. 2001
Part 5: Jan. 2002 - present
|Day of 9/11
Bush on 9/11
1999: Zacarias Moussaoui, living in London, is observed by French intelligence making several trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan. French investigators later claim the British spy agency MI5 was alerted and requested to place Moussaoui under surveillance. The request appears to have been ignored. [Independent, 12/11/01]
September-October 2000: Zacarias Moussaoui visits Malaysia twice, and stays at the very same condominium where the January al-Qaeda meeting was held (see January 5-8, 2000). [CNN, 8/30/02, Los Angeles Times, 2/2/02, Washington Post, 2/3/02] After that meeting, Malaysian intelligence keeps watch on the condominium at the request of the CIA. But the CIA stops the surveillance before Moussaoui arrives, spoiling a chance to expose the 9/11 plot by monitoring Moussaoui's later travels. The Malaysians later say they were surprised by the CIA's lack of interest. "We couldn't fathom it, really," Rais Yatim, Malaysia’s Legal Affairs minister, told Newsweek. "There was no show of concern." [Newsweek, 6/2/02] While Moussaoui is in Malaysia, Yazid Sufaat, the owner of the condominium, signs letters falsely identifying Moussaoui as a representative of his wife's company. [Reuters, 9/20/02, Washington Post, 2/3/02] When Moussaoui is later arrested in the US about one month before the 9/11 attacks, this letter in his possession could have led investigators back to the condominium and the connections with the January 2000 meeting attended by two of the hijackers (see January 5-8, 2000). [USA Today, 1/30/02] Moussaoui's belongings also contained phone numbers that could have linked him to Ramzi bin al-Shibh (and his roommate Atta), another participant in the Malaysian meeting. [Associated Press, 12/12/01] But the papers aren't examined until after the 9/11 attack (see September 11, 2001).
February 23, 2001: Zacarias Moussaoui flies to the US. He starts flight training in Norman, Oklahoma three days later. He trains there until May, but doesn't do well and drops out before getting a pilot's license. His visa expires on May 22, but he doesn't attempt to renew it or get another by briefly leaving the country. He stays in Norman, making arrangements to change flight schools and frequently exercising in a gym. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, MSNBC, 12/11/01] According to US investigators, would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see November 20, 2002) said he met Moussaoui in Karachi (Pakistan) in June 2001. [Washington Post, 11/20/02] Moussaoui moves to a flight school in Minnesota in August (see August 13-15, 2001) and is arrested by the FBI a short time later (see August 15, 2001). [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, MSNBC, 12/11/01]
August 1, 2001 (C): A motel owner in Oklahoma City later claims that Zacarias Moussaoui and hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi all come to his motel on this day. Although the FBI has investigated this lead, they have not commented on it, and prosecutors have not attempted to use the incident as evidence in their case against Moussaoui. It is widely admitted the case against Moussaoui is not strong (for instance, Newsweek states: "there's nothing that shows Moussaoui ever had contact with any of the 9/11 hijackers" [Newsweek, 8/5/02]). The LA Weekly speculates the FBI may want to ignore this lead because it "could force the FBI to reopen its investigation of Middle Eastern connections to the 1995 Oklahoma City blast, because convicted bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols reportedly stayed at the same motel, interacting with a group of Iraqis during the weeks before the bombing." [LA Weekly, 8/2/02]
August 13-15, 2001:
Zacarias Moussaoui trains at the Pan Am International Flight School in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, where he pays $8,300 ($1500 by credit card and the remainder
in cash) to use a Boeing 474 Model 400 aircraft simulator. After just one day
of training most of the staff is suspicious that he's a terrorist. They discuss
"how much fuel [is] on board a 747-400 and how much damage that could cause
if it hit[s] anything." They call the FBI
with their concerns later that day. [New
York Times, 2/8/02, Senate
Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] They are
1) In contrast to all the other students at this high-level flight school, he has no aviation background, little previous training and no pilot's license. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02]
2) He wants to fly a 747 not because he plans to be a pilot, but as an "ego boosting thing." [New York Times, 10/18/02] Yet within hours of his arrival, it is clear he "was not some affluent joy-rider." [New York Times, 2/8/02]
3) He is "extremely" interested in the operation of the plane's doors and control panel. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] He also is very keen on learning the protocol for communicating with the flight tower despite having no plans to actually become a pilot. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
4) He is evasive and belligerent when asked about his background. When an instructor, who notes from his records that Moussaoui is from France, attempts to greet him in French, Moussaoui appears not to understand, saying that he had spent very little time in France and that he is from the Middle East. The instructor considers it odd that Moussaoui did not specify the Middle Eastern country. [Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune, 12/21/01; Washington Post, 1/2/02]
5) He tells a flight instructor he is not a Muslim, but the instructor senses he is lying, badly, about it. [New Yorker, 9/30/02]
6) He says he would "love" to fly a simulated flight from London to New York, raising fears he has plans to hijack such a flight. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] His original e-mail to the flight school similarly stated he wanted to be good enough to fly from London to New York. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
7) He pays for thousands of dollars in expenses from a large wad of cash. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
8) He seemed to be trying to pack a large amount of training in a short period of time for no apparent reason. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
9) He mostly practices flying in the air, not taking off or landing (although note that reports claiming he didn't want to take off or land at all appear to be an exaggeration). [New York Times, 2/8/02, Slate, 5/21/02, Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune, 12/21/01, New York Times, 5/22/02]
Failing to get much initial interest from the FBI, the flight instructor tells the FBI agents, "Do you realize how serious this is? This man wants training on a 747. A 747 fully loaded with fuel could be used as a weapon!" [New York Times, 2/8/02]
August 15, 2001: Based on the concerns of flight school staff (see August 13-15, 2001), Zacarias Moussaoui is arrested and detained in Minnesota on the excuse of an immigration violation. [Time, 5/27/02, some reports say the 16th because the arrest happened late at night] The FBI confiscates his possessions, including a computer laptop, but don't have a search warrant to search through them. But when arresting him they note he possesses two knives, fighting gloves and shin guards, and had prepared "through physical training for violent confrontation." An FBI interview of him adds more concerns. For example, he is supposedly in the US working as a "marketing consultant" for a computer company, but is unable to provide any details of his employment. Nor can he convincingly explain his $32,000 bank balance. [MSNBC, 12/11/01, Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] An FBI report states that when asked about his trips to Pakistan, the gateway to Afghanistan, "the questioning caused him to become extremely agitated, and he refused to discuss the matter further." The report also notes "Moussaoui was extremely evasive in many of his answers." [CNN, 9/28/02] His roommate is interviewed on the same day, and tells agents that Moussaoui believes it is "acceptable to kill civilians who harm Muslims," that Moussaoui approves of Muslims who die as "martyrs", and says Moussaoui might be willing to act on his beliefs. [Washington Post, 5/24/02] But Minnesota FBI agents quickly become frustrated at the lack of interest in the case from higher ups. [New York Times, 2/8/02] For instance, on August 21 they e-mail FBI headquarters saying it's "imperative" that the Secret Service be warned of the danger a plot involving Moussaoui might pose to the President's safety. But no such warning is ever sent. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, New York Times, 10/18/02] (Also note that there is another report [Boston Herald, 9/14/01] of a terrorist arrest that sounds almost the same as the Moussaoui story. The only differences are that this unnamed man was arrested in Boston, not Minnesota, and was called Algerian instead of French, though it notes he had a French passport. It is very possible this is a slightly garbled, early version of the same Moussaoui case.)
August 20, 2001: Roughly around this day, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, supporting the 9/11 attacks from Germany, receives a coded e-mail about the 9/11 plot from Atta. It reads, "The first term starts in three weeks ... There are 19 certificates for private studies and four exams." Bin al-Shibh learns the exact day of the attack on August 29 (see August 29, 2001 (C)). Apparently bin al-Shibh communicates the date, via messenger, to bin Laden a few days after leaving Hamburg on September 5 (see September 4-5, 2001). [Guardian, 9/9/02] Hijacker Hani Hanjour also makes surveillance test flights near the Pentagon and WTC around this time, showing the targets have been confirmed as well. [CBS, 10/9/02] Information in a notebook later found in Afghanistan suggests the 9/11 attack was planned for later, but was moved up at the last minute. [MSNBC, 1/30/02] The FBI has noticed spikes in cell phone use between the hijackers just after the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui and just before the men began to buy tickets for the flights they would hijack. [New York Times, 9/10/02] CIA Director Tenet has hinted that Zacarias Moussaoui's arrest a few days earlier (see August 15, 2001) may be connected to when the date of the attack was picked. [CIA, 6/18/02] Could there be such a connection?
August 22, 2001: The French give the FBI information requested about Zacarias Moussaoui. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] The French say Moussaoui has ties with radical Islamic groups and recruits men to fight in Chechnya. They believe he spent time in Afghanistan (see 1999). He had been on a French watch list for several years, preventing him from entering France. A French justice official later says "the government gave the FBI 'everything we had" on Moussaoui, "enough to make you want to check this guy out every way you can. Anyone paying attention would have seen he was not only operational in the militant Islamist world but had some autonomy and authority as well." [Time, 5/27/02] A senior French investigator later says "Even a neophyte working in some remote corner of Florida, would have understood the threat based on what was sent." [Time, 8/4/02] The French Interior Minister also emphasizes, "We did not hold back any information." [ABC News, 9/5/02] But senior officials at FBI headquarters still maintain that the information "was too sketchy to justify a search warrant for his computer." [Time, 8/4/02]
August 23, 2001 (E): Two FBI agents in the Oklahoma City Field Office visit Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, to learn about Zacarias Moussaoui's recent training there (see February 23, 2001). One of these agents had visited the same school in September 1999, to learn more about Ihab Ali, who trained there in 1993 and has been identified as bin Laden's personal pilot (see September 1999). Apparently this agent forgets the connection when he visits the school to look into Moussaoui; he later says he should have connected the two cases. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, Boston Globe, 9/18/01] The Oklahoma City office should also have recalled a memo that had come from its office in 1998 warning that "large numbers of Middle Eastern males" were receiving flight training in Oklahoma and could be planning terrorist attacks (see May 18, 1998).
August 23-27, 2001: In the wake of the French intelligence report on Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 22, 2001), FBI agents in Minnesota are "in a frenzy" and "absolutely convinced he [is] planning to do something with a plane." One agent writes notes speculating Moussaoui might "fly something into the World Trade Center." [Newsweek, 5/20/02] Minnesota FBI agents become "desperate to search the computer lap top" and "conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects," especially since Moussaoui acted as if he was hiding something important in the laptop when arrested. [Time, 5/21/02, Time, 5/27/02] FTW They decide to apply for a search warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). "FISA allows the FBI to carry out wiretaps and searches that would otherwise be unconstitutional" because "the goal is to gather intelligence, not evidence." [Washington Post, 11/4/01] Standards to get a warrant through FISA are so low that out of 10,000 requests over more than 20 years, not a single one was turned down. When the FBI didn't have a strong enough case, it appears it simply lied to FISA. In May 2002, the FISA court complained that the FBI had lied in at least 75 warrant cases during the Clinton administration, once even by the FBI Director. [New York Times, 8/27/02] However, as FBI agent Coleen Rowley later puts it, FBI headquarters "almost inexplicably, throw[s] up roadblocks" and undermines their efforts. Headquarters personnel bring up "almost ridiculous questions in their apparent efforts to undermine the probable cause." One Minneapolis agent's e-mail says FBI headquarters is "setting this up for failure." That turns out to be correct (see August 28, 2001). [Time, 5/21/02, Time, 5/27/02]
August 24, 2001: Frustrated with lack of response from FBI headquarters about Zacarias Moussaoui, the Minnesota FBI contact an FBI agent working with the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center, and asks the CIA for help. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] On this day, the CIA sends messages to stations and bases overseas requesting information about Moussaoui. The message says that the FBI is investigating Moussaoui for possible involvement in the planning of a terrorist attack and mentions his efforts to obtain flight training. It also suggests he might be "involved in a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the US." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] It calls him a "suspect 747 airline attacker" and a "suspect airline suicide hijacker" - showing that the form of the 9/11 attack isn't a surprise, at least to the CIA. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] FBI headquarters responds by chastising the Minnesota FBI for notifying the CIA without approval. [Time, 5/21/02]
August 27, 2001 (B): An agent at the FBI headquarters' Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) tells the FBI Minnesota office supervisor that the supervisor is getting people "spun up" over Moussaoui. The supervisor replies that he is trying to get people at FBI headquarters "spun up" because he is trying to make sure that Moussaoui does "not take control of a plane and fly it into the World Trade Center." He later alleges the headquarters agent replies, "[T]hat's not going to happen. We don't know he's a terrorist. You don't have enough to show he is a terrorist. You have a guy interested in this type of aircraft - that is it." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] Three weeks earlier, Dave Frasca, the head of the RFU unit, had received Ken Williams' memo expressing concern about terrorists training in US flight schools (see July 10, 2001) and he also knew all about the Moussaoui case, but he apparently wasn't "spun up" enough to connect the two cases. [Time, 5/27/02] Neither he nor anyone else at FBI headquarters who saw Williams's memo informed anyone at the FBI Minnesota office about it before 9/11. [Time, 5/21/02]
August 28, 2001 (D): A previously mentioned unnamed RFU agent (see August 27, 2001 (B)) edits the Minnesota FBI's request for a FISA search warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui's possessions. Minnesota is trying to prove that Moussaoui is connected to al-Qaeda through a rebel group in Chechnya, but the RFU agent removes information connecting the Chechnya rebels to al-Qaeda. Not surprisingly, the FBI Deputy General Counsel who receives the edited request decides on this day that there isn't enough connection to al-Qaeda to allow an application for a search warrant through FISA, so FISA is never even asked. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] According to a later memo written by Minneapolis FBI legal officer Coleen Rowley (see an edited version of the memo here: Time, 5/21/02), FBI headquarters is to blame for not getting the FISA warrant because of this rewrite of the request. She says "I feel that certain facts ... have, up to now, been omitted, downplayed, glossed over and/or mis-characterized in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI and/or perhaps even for improper political reasons." She asks, "Why would an FBI agent deliberately sabotage a case?" The superiors acted so strangely that some agents in the Minneapolis office openly joked that these higher-ups "had to be spies or moles ... working for Osama bin Laden." Failing to approve the warrant through FISA, FBI headquarters also refuses to contact the Justice Department to try and get a search warrant through ordinary means. Rowley and others are unable to search Moussaoui's computer until after the 9/11 attacks. Rowley later notes that the headquarters agents who blocked the Minnesota FBI were promoted after 9/11 (see December 4, 2002). [Sydney Morning Herald, 5/28/02, Time, 5/21/02] FTW
September 4, 2001 (B): FBI headquarters dispatches a message to the entire US intelligence community about the Zacarias Moussaoui investigation. According to a later Congressional inquiry, the message notes "that Moussaoui was being held in custody but [it doesn't] describe any particular threat that the FBI thought he posed, for example, whether he might be connected to a larger plot. [It also does] not recommend that the addressees take any action or look for any additional indicators of a terrorist attack, nor [does] it provide any analysis of a possible hijacking threat or provide any specific warnings." [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/24/02] The FAA is also given the warning, but the FAA decides not to issue a security alert to the nation's airports. An FAA spokesman says, "He was in jail and there was no evidence he was connected to other people." [New York Post, 5/21/02] This is in sharp contrast to an internal CIA warning sent out earlier based on even less information (see August 24, 2001), which stated Moussaoui might be "involved in a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the US." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] Would the hijackers have been stopped at the airports if the FBI warning was as strong as the CIA warning? It turns out that prior to this point terrorist Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999) had started cooperating with investigators. He had trained with Moussaoui in Afghanistan and willingly shared this information after 9/11. The FBI dispatch, with its notable lack of urgency and details, failed to prompt the agents in Seattle holding Ressam to ask him about Moussaoui. Had the connection between these two been learned before 9/11, presumably the search warrant for Moussaoui would have been approved and the 9/11 plot might have unraveled. [Sunday Times, 2/3/02]
September 5-6, 2001: French and US intelligence officials hold meetings in Paris on combating terrorism. The French newspaper Le Monde claims that the French try again to warn their US counterparts about Moussaoui, "but the American delegation ... paid no attention ... basically concluding that they were going to take no one's advice, and that an attack on American soil was inconceivable." The US participants also say Moussaoui's case is in the hands of the immigration authorities and is not a matter for the FBI. [Independent, 12/11/01, Village Voice, 5/28/02] The FBI arranges to deport Moussaoui to France on September 17, so the French can search his belongings and tell the FBI the results. Due to the 9/11 attacks, the deportation never happens. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02]
September 11, 2001 (J): Zacarias Moussaoui watches the 9/11 attack on TV inside a prison, where he is being held on immigration charges. He cheers the attacks. [BBC, 12/12/01] Within an hour of the attacks, the Minnesota FBI uses a memo written to FBI headquarters shortly after Moussaoui's arrest to ask permission from a judge for the search warrant they have been desperately seeking. Even after the attacks, FBI headquarters is still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the WTC attacks as a mere coincidence with suspicions about Moussaoui (the person still trying to block the search is later promoted). [Time, 5/21/02] However, a federal judge approves the warrant that afternoon. [New Yorker, 9/30/02] Minnesota FBI agent Coleen Rowley notes that this very memo was previously deemed insufficient by FBI headquarters to get a search warrant, and the fact that they are immediately granted one when finally allowed to ask shows "the missing piece of probable cause was only the [FBI headquarters'] failure to appreciate that such an event could occur." [Time, 5/21/02] The search uncovers information suggesting Moussaoui may have been planning an attack using crop dusters, but it doesn't turn up any direct connection to the 9/11 hijackers. However, they find some German telephone numbers and the name "Ahad Sabet." The numbers allow them to determine the name is an alias for Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Atta's former roommate, and they find he wired Moussaoui money. They also find a document connecting Moussaoui with the Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, a lead that could have led to hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi (see September-October 2000). [New Yorker, 9/30/02, MSNBC, 12/11/01] Rowley later suggests that if they would had received the search warrant sooner, "There is at least some chance that ... may have limited the Sept. 11th attacks and resulting loss of life." [Time, 5/27/02]
September 14, 2001 (F): FBI Director Mueller describes reports that several of the hijackers had received flight training in the US as "news, quite obviously," adding: "If we had understood that to be the case, we would have -- perhaps one could have averted this." It is later discovered that contrary to Mueller's claims, the FBI had interviewed various flight school staffs about Middle Eastern terrorists on numerous occasions, from 1996 until a few weeks before 9/11 (see 1996, May 18, 1998, September 1999 (E), September 2000 (B), July 10, 2001, August 23, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/23/01, Boston Globe, 9/18/01] Three days later he says, "There were no warning signs that I'm aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country." [Department of Justice transcript, 9/17/01] Slate magazine later contrasts this with numerous other contradictory statements and articles, and awards Mueller the "Whopper of the Week." [Slate, 5/17/02]
December 11, 2001: Zacarias Moussaoui is criminally indicted for his role in the 9/11 attacks. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to death. [MSNBC, 12/11/01, AP, 12/12/01] Moussaoui has admitted to being a member of al-Qaeda, but while he has been involved in terrorist activity, many have expressed doubts that he had any involvement in the 9/11 plot (see September 5, 2002 and September 30, 2002).
May 21, 2002: Minnesota FBI agent Coleen Rowley, upset with what she considers lying from FBI Director Mueller and others in the FBI about the handling of the Moussaoui case, makes public a long memo she's written about the topic (previously discussed, see August 28, 2001 (D), and see the memo here: [Time, 5/21/02]). She also applies for whistleblower protection. Time magazine calls the memo a "colossal indictment of our chief law-enforcement agency's neglect" and says it "raises serious doubts about whether the FBI is capable of protecting the public - and whether it still deserves the public's trust." [Time, 5/27/02] After 9/11 Mueller made statements such as "There were no warning signs that I'm aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country" (see September 14, 2001 (F)). Coleen Rowley and other Minnesota FBI agents "immediately sought to reach [Mueller's] office through an assortment of higher-level FBI [headquarters] contacts, in order to quickly make [him] aware of the background of the Moussaoui investigation and forewarn [him] so that [his] public statements could be accordingly modified," yet Mueller continued to make similar comments, including in a Senate hearing on May 8, 2002. [Time, 5/21/02 , New York Times, 5/30/02] Finally, after Rowley's memo becomes public, Mueller states, "I cannot say for sure that there wasn't a possibility we could have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers." He also admits: "I have made mistakes occasionally in my public comments based on information or a lack of information that I subsequently got." [New York Times, 5/30/02] Time magazine later names Rowley one of three "Persons of the Year" for 2002, along with fellow whistleblowers Cynthia Cooper of Worldcom and Sherron Watkins of Enron. [Time, 12/22/02, Time, 12/22/02]
June 3, 2002: Former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy states: "Even in the [Zacarias] Moussaoui case, there's lots of uproar over the fact that the - there was a failure to obtain a warrant to search his computer. Well, the facts now are that warrant was ultimately obtained. The computer was searched and guess what? There was nothing significant on there pertaining to 9/11." [CNN, 6/3/02] Three days later, The Washington Post reports: "Amid the latest revelations about FBI and CIA lapses prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, congressional investigators say it is now clear that the evidence that lay unexamined in Zacarias Moussaoui's possession was even more valuable than previously believed. A notebook and correspondence of Moussaoui's not only appears to link him to the main hijacking cell in Hamburg, Germany, but also to an al-Qaeda associate in Malaysia whose activities were monitored by the CIA more than a year before the terror attacks on New York and Washington." [Washington Post, 6/6/02] Slate magazine later gives Kennedy the "Whopper of the Week" award for his comment. [Slate, 6/7/02]
August 28, 2002: The judge presiding over the Moussaoui trail is puzzled why the FBI claims it couldn't find an e-mail account used by Moussaoui: "We do not understand why an immediate and thorough investigation into the defendant's e-mail and computer activities did not lead investigators to the ... account, if it existed," the judge says. She adds, "A more detailed explanation from the United States is warranted." Moussaoui was carrying a Kinko's receipt when he was arrested in August 2001, and was known to have used Kinko's computers for e-mail. His Hotmail account was erased by Hotmail because it wasn't used for 90 days - the judge doesn't understand why that didn't give the FBI plenty of time to find his e-mails after 9/11. [AP, 8/28/02] Could it be that the FBI did find the account, but didn't like what it saw, and so claimed ignorance?
September 5, 2002: Based on the recent interrogations of terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui's al-Qaeda associates, including his alleged handler, French intelligence believes Moussaoui was not part of the 9/11 attacks, but was being readied for a second wave of attacks. Says one French official: "Moussaoui was going to be a foot soldier in a second wave of attacks that was supposed to culminate in early 2002 with simultaneous bombings against US embassies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as several hijackings in the United States." However, the US has charged him with being the "20th hijacker" who planned to be on Flight 77 in the 9/11 attack. [ABC News, 9/5/02] Other accounts suggest he wasn't meant to the 20th hijacker (for instance, see September 30, 2002). Why doesn't the US prosecute Moussaoui on other charges?
September 24, 2002: Federal prosecutors say a business card found in the wreckage of Flight 93 provides a link between alleged conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and hijacker Ziad Jarrah. Supposedly a business card belonging to Jarrah has a phone number written on it, and Moussaoui had once called that number. It was not explained what the number is, whose phone number it was, when Moussaoui called it, when the card was found, or how investigators know the card belonged to Jarrah. [MSNBC, 9/24/02, Washington Post, 9/25/02] Interestingly, this find comes just as the case against Moussaoui is facing trouble. For instance, one month earlier, USA Today said investigators had found no link between Moussaoui and the other hijackers. [USA Today, 8/29/02] Prosecutors have been trying to get permission to play the Flight 93 cockpit voice recordings to the jury, but on September 13, the judge said, "the recordings appear to have marginal evidentiary value while posing unfair prejudice to the defendant." [Washington Post, 9/25/02] Was it just incredible luck to have found this card a year after 9/11, or could someone have created new evidence by writing a phone number on a card?
September 25, 2002: In an interview with CBS, FBI Director Mueller states, "I can tell you there are things I wish we had done differently. That there are things we should have followed up on. But the bottom line is I do not believe that we would have been able to prevent September 11th." Speaking about the Zacarias Moussaoui case, he says, "That took us several months, to follow that lead, and it also required the full support of the German authorities, and it would have been very, I think impossible to have followed that particular lead in the days between the time in which Moussaoui was detained and September 11th." [CBS, 9/25/02] This negativism is in sharp contrast to a previous statement he made (see May 21, 2002 (C)), as well as the opinion of many rank and file FBI officers, some of whom have made a chart showing how all the hijackers could have been caught if certain leads had been followed. [Newsweek, 6/2/02] Mueller's opinion on the Moussaoui case is contradicted by many, including FBI agents working on that case. [Time, 5/21/02] The media also doesn't agree. For instance the Independent stated information on Moussaoui's computer "might have been enough to expose the Hamburg cell, which investigators believe was the key planning unit for 11 September." [Independent, 12/11/01]
September 30, 2002: Seymour
Hersh of New Yorker magazine reveals that, despite a weak case against Zacarias
Moussaoui, no federal prosecutor has discussed a plea bargain with him since
he was indicted in November 2001. Hersh reports that "Moussaoui's lawyers,
and some FBI officials, remain bewildered at the government's failure to pursue
a plea bargain." Says a federal public defender, "I've never been
in a conspiracy case where the government wasn't interested in knowing if the
defendant had any information - to see if there wasn't more to the conspiracy."
Apparently a plea bargain isn't being considered because Attorney General Ashcroft
wants nothing less than the death penalty for Moussaoui. One former CIA official
claims, "They cast a wide net and [Moussaoui] happened to be a little fish
who got caught up in it. They know it now. And nobody will back off." A
legal expert says, "It appears that Moussaoui is not competent to represent
himself, because he doesn't seem to understand the fundamentals of the charges
against him, but I am starting to feel that the rest of us are crazier ... we
may let this man talk himself to death to soothe our sense of vulnerability."
October 22, 2002: The recent capture of would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see September 11, 2002) is threatening the trials of Zacarias Moussaoui in the US and Atta associate Mounir El Motassadeq in Germany. Bin al-Shibh is connected to both, and would normally be an extremely important witness in both cases. But the US does not want bin al-Shibh to testify. Both Moussaoui and Motassadeq have a good chance to win their trials on the argument that they cannot get a fair trial if they cannot call bin al-Shibh as a witness. As a result, there is talk that the US may have to abandon Moussaoui's civilian court trial, and retry him in a military court. It appears a judge has delayed the Moussaoui trial until June 2003 to give the US time to interrogate bin al-Shibh. But the US wants to secretly interrogate him for a couple years, at least. [New York Times, 10/22/02, Washington Post, 10/23/02] Does bin al-Shibh know secrets about 9/11 that would embarrass the US?
November 20, 2002: The US claims that captured would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh says Zacarias Moussaoui met 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Afghanistan during the winter of 2000-01 and Mohammed gave him names of US contacts. [Washington Post, 11/20/02] Bin al-Shibh and Mohammed agreed Moussaoui should be nothing more than a backup figure in the 9/11 plot because he could not keep a secret and was too volatile and untrustworthy. Supposedly, bin al-Shibh wired Moussaoui money intended for other terrorist activities, not 9/11. [USA Today, 11/20/02] The Washington Post has suggested this may cause Moussaoui to not want to call bin al-Shibh as a witness in his trial, but it appears Moussaoui still wants him as a witness. [Washington Post, 11/20/02] There have been suggestions that the US may move Moussaoui's case from a civilian court to a military tribunal, which would prevent bin al-Shibh from testifying, but the issue remains undecided (see October 22, 2002). [USA Today, 11/20/02]
December 4, 2002: Marion (Spike) Bowman, head of the FBI's National Security Law Unit and the person who refused to seek a special warrant for a search of Zacarias Moussaoui's belongings before the 9/11 attacks (see August 23-27, 2001 and August 28, 2001 (D)) is among nine recipients of bureau awards for "exceptional performance." FBI Director Mueller says the honorees "are strongly linked to our counter-terrorism efforts" and "have gone out on a limb to improve our administrative practices [and] our legal tools." The awards include cash bonuses of up to 35% of each recipient's base salary. The award came shortly after a 9/11 Congressional inquiry report that said Bowman's unit gave Minneapolis FBI agents "inexcusably confused and inaccurate information" that was ''patently false'." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/22/02] Bowman's unit also blocked an urgent request by FBI agents to begin searching for Khalid Almihdhar after his name was put on a watch list (see August 29, 2001). In early 2000, the FBI acknowledged serious blunders in surveillance Bowman's unit conducted during sensitive terrorism and espionage investigations, including agents who illegally videotaped suspects, intercepted e-mails without court permission, and recorded the wrong phone conversations. [AP, 1/10/03] Mueller also promotes Pasquale D'Amuro, the FBI's counter-terrorism chief in New York City before 9/11, to the bureau's top counterterrorism post. A former Justice Department official says Mueller has "promoted the exact same people who have presided over the ... failure." [Time, 12/30/02]