Was 9/11 Preventable?: What the Moussaoui Trial Reveals

Information Concerning an Impending Terrorist Threat Known Prior to 9/11 as a Result of ZM Investigation

ZM  was training on a Boeing 747 flight simulator, even though he had minimal flight experience

The flight simulator used by ZM in Minnesota

Minneapolis FBI Agent Harry Samit had this to say about ZM's flight training in his  initial (8/15/01) memo: "His excuse is weak: he just wants to learn how to do it!! That's pretty ominous and obviously suggests some sort of hijacking plan."
French Intelligence (Legat Paris) says ZM was active in the Radical Isalmic Fundamentalist movement

In an 8/30/2001 communication to Minneapolis FBI, French Intelligence reported ZM "was wholly convinced of Jihad."  The memo described ZM's "ardent and emotional preaching in favor of jihad," and quoted a source who described ZM as "extremely cynical, completely devoted to the Wahabite cause and concerned with progressing that cause." 
ZM's Oklahoma friend's (Al Attas's) will:
"Death is approaching"
The FBI identified Hussien Bin Ali Al-Attas becaause he shared a room at the Residence Inn in Minnesota.  Hussien Bin Ali Al-Attas, who drove ZM from Oklahoma to Minnesota in early August, allowed an FBI search of his Norman, Oklahoma residence.  The search turned up a document in Arabic that, when translated, turned out to be Al-Attas's "Last Will and Testament."  In it, Al-Attas (who was young and healthy) says "death is approaching" and "I hope that Allah will award me with paradise and keep me with the prophets, martyrs and pious."  This document led the Minneapolis FBI to conclude that he and ZM were planning to participate in an imminent suicide attack on a U.S. target.
Bin Ali Al-Attas, arrested because of his association with ZM, describes Moussaoui as dangerous

FBI Agent Harry Samit, in an 8/22/2001 memo, quoted Al-Attas as telling the FBI that ZM "believes it is acceptable to kill civilians who harm Muslims and the he approves of martyrs."  Al-Attas said that he might have heard ZM mention that he planned to "become a martyr."  Samit tells Washington in his 8/22 memo, "Minneapolis opines that Moussaoui and Al Attas were, at the time of their arrest,involved in preparing for a terrorist attack involving a Boeing 747-400 aircraft at the direction of an as yet unknown international radical Islamic fundamentalist group."
When arrested on immigration charges, ZM denied authorities consent to search his property

ZM's refusal to allow a search of his property, while not conclusive, suggestst that he had something to hide.  In an 8/24 memo to Washington, Minneapolis agent Samit noted that  ZM's property inclused "a laptop computer, cellular telephone and numerous spiral notebooks and 747 flight manuals."  In the 8/24 memo, Minneapolis requested--but was denied--approval from FBI headquarters in Washington to obtain an emergency search warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that would have revealed the phone number of the Al Qaeda operative in Germany who arranged payments for flight classes for many of the 9/11 hijackers.
Bin Al-Attas, in a call from jail, urgently tells his iman "not to talk now" about the jihad.

Islamic Society in Norman, Oklahoma

In an 8/20/2001 phone call--intercepted by the FBI--from jail in Oklahoma, Bin Al-Attas is asked by his imam in Norman, "I heard you wanted to go to Jihad."  Al-Attas replies urgently, "Sheikh, do not talk about it now.  Do not talk about it now, Sheikh."

ZM paid cash to enroll in his flight training course

According to an 8/18 memo from Minneapolis to Washington, ZM "paid $8,000-$9,000 dollars in cash for training on the Boeing 747 Model 400 aircraft simulator."  If FBI had given approval for a search to "follow the cash," it would have taken them to Germany and, eventually, to Al Qaeda 9/11 planners.
ZM was engaged in
martial arts training

According to the Al Attas, when interviewed by the FBI, he said that ZM "was able to persuade him to begin physical exercise and martial arts training."  He also revealed that Moussaoui purchased "padded gloves and shin guards for training in the martial arts."
ZM was armed with a knife when arrested on immigration charges

According to an 8/24 memo sent from Minneapolis to Washington, "When arrested, Moussaoui was armed with a small sheathed knife in his pocket and admitted that a larger folding blade knife found under the seat of A
Al-Attas' car was his."

Two Memos from Minneapolis
1. Initial Memo (8-15-2001): The Day Before Moussaoui's Arrest
(FBI Agent Harry Samit to W. Jay Abbot)

>>>HARRY SAMIT 08/15/01  08:53 PM>>>

Minneapolis has a short notice check request for info on a French citizen.  We really don't know what we have here, here's the (weird) story:

Our duty agent received a call from a company that does flight simulator training for Boeing 747 Series 400 pilots.  They are now training a student who just showed up to learn to fly the 747.  He has no pilot's license and minimal previous flight experience (in any aircraft type.)  He paid between $6000 and $8000 dollars to essentially learn to take off and land the 747-400.  His exuse is weak: he just wants to learn how to do it!  That's pretty ominous and suggests a hijacking plan.

He's in the U.S. since 02/2001 on a visa waiver from the UK, where he claims to reside.  He's traveling on a French passport, although the flight instructor who has been with him for the last few days believes he's Middle Eastern.  Indices show his last name in Lebanese.  [line blacked out for security reasons.]

I'm not even sure if you can run a check on French citizens, but if so, here he is:
Zacarias Moussaoui, DOB 05/30/1969
French Passport 00AE270016

Can you determine if he is known to [blacked out] or other [blacked out].  I will do an EC to follow up if you need one, but we're working on a fairly short notice since his training is only scheduled to go for a few more days and we don't want him to depart this area.  Our INS guy on the JTTF is pretty sure we can arrest him on a visa overstay, but we want to get all we can on him first.

Thanks in advance for anything you can do.

Harry Samit

1. Last Memo (9-10-2001): The Day Before the September 11 Attacks
(FBI Agent Harry Samit to Catherine Kisar)

>>>HARRY SAMIT 09/10/01  03:38 PM>>>

ITOS/RFU  SSA Maltbie has determined that we do not have enough for either a criminal search warrant or a FISA search warrant of Moussaoui's computer.  We did not pursue this further because they have directed that this is an INS matter and that the "FBI does not have a dog in this fight."  Of course, I strongly disagree.

The current plan is to deport Moussaoui to France.  [Blacked out] has advised that they have the legal authority to hold Moussaoui and search his effects.  This search was a distant third in my list of desired outcomes, but at this point I am desperate to get into his computer.  I'll take anything.

My big fear is that the French will determine that most, if not all of Moussaoui's criminal activity occurred outside France and they have no ability to convict (he's lived in the UK since 1995).  In that case, he walks.  I don't know if they'll have to return his property in this case (including the 747 flight manuals), but it seems possible.

The current wrangle with ITOS/RFU is over whether John W.  (our INS co-case agent) and I can go to France to be present for the search.  LEGAT Paris relayed [blacked out] request for FBI personnel to do just that, but RFU is opposed.

I'll keep you posted, but I am not optimistic.  Thanks for your help and assistance.

Take care,


Selected Memos from the Minneapolis Office of the FBI Warning About Moussaoui's Terrorism Threat
(Documents in HTML)

8-24-01 Memo from Agent Samit in Minneapolis Making Case for Emergency Search Warrant of ZM's Residence

8-24-01 Memo from Oklahoma FBI to Minneapolis FBI Concerning Their Investigation of ZM

8-22-01  Memo From France to Minneapolis FBI Concerning Threat Posed by ZM

Selected Memos from the Minneapolis Office of the FBI Warning About Moussaoui's Terrorism Threat
(Documents are from Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press in PDF Format)

8-17-01 E-mail Between Samit/McGrath, re: 747 Documents

9-6-01 Memo by Samit Concerning "Last Will and Testament" of ZM's Driver/Roomate
(will says "death has approached" and expresses hope "Allah will award him with paradise")

9-10-01 Memo From Samit Bemoaning Lack of Approval for Search Warrant for ZM
(quotes FBI supervisors in DC as saying, "FBI does not have a dog in this fight.")

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