|While America Slept: The True Story of 9/11|
|By BRIAN ROSS (@brianross)||Jul 29, 2011, 4:44 PM|
Ten years ago this month, America was more concerned about summer vacation than terror attacks. The big movie at the mall was "American Pie II," which had just taken over the box office lead from "Rush Hour II," and Beyonce was thinking about ditching her band for a solo career.
The big stories in the news were about shark attacks, wildfires and a missing Congressional intern named Chandra. A teenage baseball player became a hero, and then a villain, after he pitched a perfect game at the Little League World Series. There were also inklings that something might be amiss at an energy company called Enron. By the summer of 2001, Americans had become all too familiar with "hanging chads," but few had ever heard of al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.
While the nation drifted through the dog days, however, a group of terrorists was in the final stages of planning a series of attacks that would kill 3,000 people on September 11. Much of the federal government seemed to have been in a summer daze as well, missing the warning signs of what would become the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil. While some in the intelligence community raised red flags, the White House had brushed off warnings of an impending attack and the CIA was failing to share information with the FBI about the terrorists' travels.
On the following pages, the ABC News Investigative Team's 9/11 timeline details what America was doing and what the hijackers were doing, day-by-day, in August and September 2001. In daily updates, we track the hijackers as they go to flight school. We shadow them as they buy blue blazers -- and airline tickets and knives. We also watch as CIA analysts and FBI agents try to sound the alarm about the rising threat, and are ignored. With fresh entries each day from Aug. 11 to Sept. 10, "While America Slept" provides a maddening chronology of the steps and missteps that would change America forever. Click on the link at August 11, 2001 (below and to the right) to start following the trail.
Matthew Cole, Lindsay Lamont, Randy Kreider and Jordan Mazza contributed to this report.
President Bush is on vacation in Crawford, Texas, where five days earlier he had been warned by the CIA of a possible attack in a paper titled: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." The document said al Qaeda members were believed to be in the U.S., and that a caller to the U.S. embassy in the United Arab Emirates said "a group of bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives." According to "The One Percent Doctrine" by Ron Suskind, the president told the CIA briefing officer, "All right. You've covered your ass now."
All 19 hijackers are, in fact, already in the U.S. on visas obtained under their actual names.
On August 11, Hamza al-Ghamdi, who will be one of the hijackers in the second plane to hit the World Trade Center, buys a blue blazer at a Florida men's store.
Osama bin Laden has approved the targets and is only awaiting final word on which day the attack will occur.
The major stories of the summer involve shark attacks and a missing intern in Washington, D.C., named Chandra Levy.
"Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child is the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100.
"American Pie II" is the top movie in box office receipts.
Al Qaeda recruit Zacarias Moussaoui has just arrived in Eagan, Minnesota, where he has moved to attend flight training school.
Some 70 FBI "full field investigations" related to Osama bin Laden are underway across the United States. None of them involve any of the 19 men who will commandeer passenger planes on September 11.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrives in Moscow for talks with Russian leaders on missile defense issues.
The space shuttle Discovery docks with the Alpha International Space Station, delivering several tons of food, clothes and other supplies, as well as a new crew of three men.
Hijack team leader Mohamed Atta and two other hijack pilots fly to Las Vegas for an apparent planning session.
Marwan al-Shehhi, who will take control of United Airlines flight 175 on September 11, purchases two black four-inch pocket knives -- the maximum allowable knife length under FAA rules at the time -- from a Sports Authority store in Florida.
Al Qaeda recruit Zacarias Moussaoui begins flight training on a flight simulator at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, Minnesota. He raises suspicions when he tells instructors that while he wants to learn how to fly a 747 jet, he does not intend to earn a pilot's license.
The top story on network newscasts is wildfires on the West Coast.
Future hijackers Mohamed Atta, Nawaf al-Hamzi and Hani Hanjour leave Las Vegas after an apparent planning session.
Fayez Banihammad and Marwan al-Shehhi, who will hijack United Airlines flight 175, withdraw $2,000 from a Bank of America ATM in Lantana, Florida.
President Bush interrupts his Crawford, Texas vacation for a two-day trip to Colorado and New Mexico, where he attends a major league baseball game and a Republican fundraiser.
President Bush's national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, continues to fail to take action on warnings from counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke of an al Qaeda threat.
Jeffrey Skilling announces his resignation as CEO of Enron, a Houston-based energy company, after having been in the position for only six months. He cites personal reasons.
FBI agents initiate an "intelligence investigation" into Zacarias Moussaoui after flight school instructors report concerns that he might be a terrorist.
CIA counter-terrorism chief Cofer Black tells a Defense Department convention, "We are going to be struck soon, many Americans are going to die, and it could be in the U.S."
Future hijack pilot Marwan al-Shehhi purchases a one-week gym membership in Lantana, Florida. He and most of the other hijackers-in-training carry out physical fitness routines.
The Pentagon announces that U.S. warplanes have bombed a radar site in Iraq in an attempt to disable the nation's increasingly effective air defenses, the second such attack in a week.
The crew of hijackers that will take control of American Airlines flight 77 and crash it into the Pentagon check in at the Valencia Motel in Laurel, Maryland, a few miles from the headquarters of the National Security Administration, where operations are underway to detect suspected terrorists.
Using his FAA flight certificate, Hani Hanjour, who will act as pilot of the hijacked American Airlines flight 77, takes 1.3 hours of flight training at Freeway Airport in Mitchellsville, Maryland.
Zacarias Moussaoui is arrested on immigration charges as FBI agents in Minneapolis grow increasingly suspicious of why he enrolled in 747 flight training.
Ziad Jarrah completes a "check ride," a test of his piloting skills, with a flight instructor at Airborne Systems Flight School in Ft. Lauderdale. On September 11, he will act as hijack pilot of United Airlines flight 93, which the hijackers will attempt to redirect to Washington. It will crash in a Pennsylvania field after passengers revolt against the hijackers.
CIA director George Tenet visits President Bush in Crawford, Texas but later says he does not recall any mention of the domestic terror threat.
A deportation order is signed for Zacarias Moussaoui while FBI agents begin an effort to obtain a court order to search his computer.
Bad weather forces American balloonist Steve Fossett to land on a cattle ranch in Brazil, ending his fifth attempt to become the first man to circumnavigate the globe solo in a balloon.
The FBI requests evidence of al Qaeda recruit Zacarias Moussaoui's terror connections from a U.S. legal attaché in Paris to obtain a search warrant for Moussaoui's lap-top computer.
Minneapolis FBI agent Harry Samit (seen in suit at right) sends a memo to headquarters in Washington that Zacarias Moussaoui is "conspiring to commit a terrorist act." The memo goes unread by FBI counter-terrorism chief Michael Rolince.
Danny Almonte of the Bronx in New York City becomes the first pitcher in 44 years to throw a perfect game in the Little League World Series. Two weeks later, reporters proved that Almonte was actually 14 years old, two years older than the legal limit for Little League play.
"Fallin'" by Alicia Keys takes over the top single spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
The New York Times publishes a story about a misplaced briefcase that forces FBI lead al Qaeda expert John O'Neill to resign.
A flight instructor at the Palm Beach, Florida county airport overhears Mohamed Atta on a plane radio shout in Arabic, "God is Great!" Atta's name can be seen at right in an airport log for August 19.
Three separate shark attacks in Florida dominate television newscasts, as the season is dubbed "The Summer of the Shark."
American golfer David Toms wins the PGA championship, breaking the record for a major tournament with a score of 265.
Hani Hanjour, future hijack pilot of American Airlines flight 77, takes a flight lesson from an instructor who thinks Hanjour must have been trained by the military because he is able to navigate a plane without radar, using its terrain recognition system.
Hanjour shops Travelocity for flights on September 5, 2001 from Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles.
Attorneys at FBI headquarters turn down a request by FBI agents in Minnesota for a warrant to search the computer of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.
Rehearsals begin on Broadway for "Mamma Mia."
Nearly $5,000 is deposited in the United Arab Emirates checking account of hijacker Fayez Banihammad. The account is later used to buy tickets for Banihammad and another hijacker for United Airlines flight 175 on September 11.
A Jordanian in prison for suspected terrorist ties tells FBI agents of an impending attack against buildings in New York and Washington, D.C., saying, "Something big is going to happen." His credibility is questioned as he cannot provide details of time and place.
FBI agent Margaret Gillespie learns for the first time that two known al Qaeda operatives have been tracked to the United States from Malaysia by the CIA, which kept the information secret from domestic law enforcement agencies.
FBI agents at the "Alec Station," a joint FBI-CIA operation established to hunt Osama bin Laden, demand to know why the FBI was not notified by the CIA of the arrival in the U.S. of two known al Qaeda operatives, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, in January 2000.
United Airlines flight 93 hijack pilot Ziad Jarrah purchases a large color diagram of a 757 cockpit control system and a Garmin III Pilot GPS system for use on September 11.
President George W. Bush, on vacation in Texas, receives a 57 percent job approval rating in a Gallup poll.
Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, a leading conservative, announces that he will retire at the end of his term in 2003.
Anchor Connie Chung's interview with Congressman Gary Condit of California, who had been romantically linked to missing intern Chandra Levy, airs on ABC's "Primetime" to an estimated audience of 24 million people, making it the most-watched show of the summer.
CIA director George Tenet receives a briefing about Zacarias Moussaoui titled "Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly," but no connection is made with the threat of an al Qaeda attack in the U.S.
The FBI begins an "unhurried search" for two al Qaeda operatives reported to be the U.S., Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
Florida suspends the driver's license of hijack leader Mohamed Atta for failure to appear in traffic court.
Hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi are finally put on the FBI's terror watchlist, 19 months after the CIA first tracked them to the United States.
The attack date is set as the first 9/11 airplane tickets are purchased by hijacker Fayez Banihammad for United Airlines flight 175 from Boston to San Francisco.
A CIA cable describes Zacarias Moussaoui as a potential "suicide hijacker" involved in "suspicious 747 flight training."
Mormon fundamentalist Tom Green of Utah is sentenced to five years in prison for bigamy and failure to pay child support.
Hijack team leader Mohamed Atta establishes an American Airlines profile and an Advantage frequent flier program number.
One day after his name is added to the FBI's terror watchlist, hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar uses his Yahoo email account to book a seat on American Airlines flight 77 for September11.
Pop singer Aaliyah dies in a plane crash at the age of 22.
American Airlines flight 77 hijack pilot Hani Hanjour practices flight patterns with a rental plane from Congressional Air Charters in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Hijacker Waleed al-Shehri uses his VISA debit card to book a first-class seat on American Airlines flight 11 for September 11.
Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa hits his 50th home run of the season, becoming the third player in major league baseball history to have four 50-home-run seasons; the other two are Babe Ruth and Mark McGwire.
American Airlines flight 77 hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi purchases a Leatherman Wave folding tool knife at a Target store in Maryland.
Hijack leader Mohamed Atta has a final planning session with the soon-to-be American Airlines flight 77 hijack team in room 343 of the Valencia Motel in Laurel, Maryland.
Following the FBI's inquiry, the Immigration and Naturalization Service revokes the visa of future hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, but no request is made on an "urgent, emergency basis" to run the names of al-Mihdhar and fellow hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi through INS databases, which officials say "might have been able to locate them."
Samsung announces that it will begin selling flat-screen plasma TVs later in the year.
Mohamed Atta buys tickets online for himself and another hijacker, Abdulaziz al-Omari, on American Airlines flight 11, which will be the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Marwan al-Shehhi, the hijacker of United Airlines flight 175, buys his ticket for 9/11 from the United ticket counter at Miami International Airport.
Intelligence information leads the FAA in Washington to issue a warning about possible violence against U.S. air carriers, but only those flying in and out of Israel -- nothing domestic.
1991 police beating victim Rodney King is arrested in Claremont, California on drug charges.
United Airlines flight 93 hijacker Ahmed al-Haznawi reserves his ticket for September 11 on Travelocity.com, while brothers Hamza and Ahmed al-Ghamdi reserve their tickets for United flight 175.
United flight 93 hijacker Ziad Jarrah obtains a Virginia driver's license from the DMV in Springfield, Virginia, using the address of illegal immigrant Luis Martinez-Flores. Flores had already allowed two other hijackers to claim they lived at his address.
It is the last full day of President George W. Bush's nearly month-long vacation in Crawford, Texas.
Sen. John McCain undergoes minor prostate surgery at the Mayo Clinic center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Hijacker Ziad Jarrah books his ticket for United Airlines flight 93. He also attends kickboxing and street-fighting classes at a gym in Hollywood, Florida -- skills he will later use to storm the flight's cockpit.
Mohamed Atta purchases a utility tool kit containing a large knife from Lowe's. On September 11, Atta and the other hijackers will slit the throats of passengers and cabin crew members on American Airlines flight 11.
Rookie FBI agent Rob Fuller is assigned to the bin Laden unit. It is his first intelligence investigation.
The State Department announces that American embassies in Bulgaria and Romania will be temporarily closed because of an unspecified terror threat.
The NFL locks out its referees and replaces them with alternate crews after talks break down between the league and the NFL Referees Association over their pay.
American Airlines flight 77 hijacker Hani Hanjour makes his reservation for 9/11, the last of the hijackers to do so. He pays in cash since the ticket costs $1,842 -- too much to charge on his debit card.
Hanjour and Nawaf al-Hazmi close each of their Hudson United Bank accounts, while Hamza al-Ghamdi (right) and Ziad Jarrah end their leases in Florida. The hijackers will spend their remaining nights in hotels and motels.
The last-ever new episode of the series "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" airs on PBS.
Waleed Al-Shehri purchases a silk shirt and khaki pants at Burdines department store in Pompano Beach, Florida. The hijackers will all be dressed in Western clothing on September 11.
Hani Hanjour moves out of his Paterson, New Jersey apartment. His landlord returns the full deposit in cash without inspecting for damage, because, as he later tells the New York Times, Hanjour "was a gentleman."
American Airlines issues an internal memo warning that some crew members had had their uniforms stolen in Rome, Italy in April 2001, and to beware of imposters.
Millions line up to see "Jeepers Creepers," helping it make a record debut for a film opening over Labor Day weekend.
Hani Hanjour returns to Laurel, Maryland, where he and the other American Airlines flight 77 hijackers will remain until the day of the attack.
Three of those American flight 77 hijackers obtain weekly guest passes at Gold's Gym in Greenbelt, Maryland, paying in cash.
The Saudi Interior Ministry announces that three Chechen rebels who hijacked a Russian Jet with 174 passengers aboard in March 2001 will be tried in Saudi Arabia, under Sharia law.
Ten-year-old David Peltier dies after being attacked by a shark in four-foot-deep water off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Ten years ago today, it's Labor Day 2001. The hijackings are eight days away, and the hijackers remain undetected.
The four hijackers who will actually fly the planes have, by this day, finished a full round of test flights at small airports and all have FAA pilots' licenses.
In Germany, Mohamed Atta's fellow hijack planner and roommate Ramzi bin al-Shibh receives $1,500 via wire from an al Qaeda bank account in the Mideast. He apparently uses the money to evacuate Germany, but is later arrested in Pakistan.
Intelligence officials in Egypt say they warned the U.S. on this day of impending al Qaeda attack. President Hosni Mubarak says the warning involved an airplane or an Embassy.
Hewlett-Packard announces that it has reached an agreement with Compaq to merge the two companies.
A U.S. delegation storms out of the U.N. Conference on Racism after, as Congressman Tom Lantos says, it is "hijacked" by those hostile to Israel.
Hijack leader Mohamed Atta sends a Federal Express package to an accomplice in the United Arab Emirates, returning several thousand dollars in unused cash.
Senior security officials at the Federal Aviation Administration are finally told by the FBI that a suspected terrorist by the name of Zacarias Moussaoui may have been training to hijack a 747 aircraft at Kennedy airport in New York. The FAA does not issue any additional security alerts.
After requesting an immediate meeting months earlier, Richard Clarke finally meets with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and other administration officials to discuss the al Qaeda threat against the United States. That same day, Clarke issues a memo urging officials to imagine hundreds dying because of the government's reluctance to pursue al Qaeda.
After resigning from the FBI, al Qaeda expert John O'Neill begins his new job at the World Trade Center. He will die on 9/11.
Disney opens its ninth theme park, Tokyo DisneySea, an aquatic park at the Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan.
Google is awarded a U.S. patent for the PageRank search algorithm used in its search engine.
American Airlines flight 77 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Majed Moqed are photographed using an ATM at the First Union National Bank in Laurel, Maryland.
At the Sun Trust Bank in Florida, where several of the hijackers have accounts, Fayez Banihammad wires more than $8,000 to an al-Qaeda account in the Middle East, returning money he no longer needs.
Rookie FBI Agent Robert Fuller tries contacting Marriott hotels in the New York area, knowing that al Qaeda suspect Khalid al-Mihdhar listed Marriott as his destination in his customs form. His search turns up no records.
In Paris, FBI and CIA officials attend an emergency session at the French Ministry of the Interior. The Americans are given information on the bin Laden ties of Zacarias Moussaoui, but his case remains on the FBI back burner.
In Washington, Congress returns from its summer recess, and the Senate Intelligence Committee holds a hearing about terrorism at which bin Laden is discussed.
Two American Airlines flight 11 hijackers, Abdulaziz al-Omari and Satam al-Suqami, fly from Florida to Boston and check in at the Park Inn.
In Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden receives word the hijackings are scheduled for the following Tuesday, September 11.
United Airlines flight 175 hijacker Mohand al-Shehri calls United Airlines to inform them that his first name was spelled incorrectly on his reservation for 9/11.
The U.S. announces that it will no longer aim to break up Microsoft as part of an antitrust action against the software maker.
Two American Airlines flight 11 hijackers, Abdulaziz al-Omari and Satam al-Suqami, now at the Park Inn in Boston, hire two female escorts.
The hijackers of United Airlines flight 93 fly from Florida to Newark, New Jersey, where they'll spend their remaining nights at the Marriott Hotel at Newark International Airport before boarding their planned flight to San Francisco on the morning of the 11th.
President George W. Bush's now-infamous trip to a Sarasota, Florida elementary school is publicly announced on this day.
The U.S. government reports a rise in the unemployment rate to 4.9 percent, the highest in nearly four years.
Several of the American Airlines flight 77 hijackers empty their bank accounts, giving the money to American Airlines flight 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta.
Atta wires $7,860 to the Wall Street Exchange Center in Dubai from the Giant and Safeway stores in Laurel, Maryland.
Several of the hijack ringleaders, including Ziad Jarrah and Mohamed Atta, go to dinner at one of their favorite restaurants, the Food Factory in Laurel, Maryland.
Venus Williams defeats her younger sister Serena at the U.S. Open women's tennis finals to earn her second consecutive U.S. Open championship.
"I'm Real" by Jennifer Lopez featuring rapper Ja Rule becomes the new top single on the Billboard Hot 100.
Mohamed Atta flies from Baltimore to Boston, where he meets up with United Airlines flight 175 hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi. The two spend the night at the Milner Hotel in downtown Boston.
In the early hours of the morning, after leaving dinner in Laurel, Maryland, United Airlines flight 93 hijacker Ziad Jarrah receives a speeding ticket in Maryland as he heads north on I-95 at 90 miles per hour.
Ahmad Shah Massoud is assassinated by two suspected al Qaeda bombers posing as journalists, who used documents forged by Osama bin Laden's chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri. FBI agent Ali Soufan says, "Bin Laden is appeasing the Taliban. Now the big one is coming."
The five American Airlines flight 77 hijackers cook and eat a meal in the kitchenette of their Laurel, Maryland motel.
The ten-part World War II miniseries "Band of Brothers," written by historian Stephen E. Ambrose and produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, premieres on HBO.
Mohamed Atta, likely trying to stagger the hijackers' arrival to Boston's Logan Airport on the day of the attacks, makes a last-minute decision to drive to Portland, Maine with Abdulaziz al-Omari, where they will catch a connecting flight to Boston at 6 a.m. on September 11. They are captured on a surveillance camera with an inaccurate time and date stamp at a South Portland, Maine gas station (right), and are also seen at a Pizza Hut.
Ziad Jarrah sends a four-page farewell letter in German to his girlfriend Aysel Sengun, with whom he once made plans to marry. He thanks her for sticking with him through five "difficult" years, says he is her prince, and ends with "Aufwiedersehen."
Outside Washington at the headquarters of the National Security Agency, electronic intercepts pick up conversations between two suspected Al Qaeda leaders. One reads, "The match begins tomorrow"; the other, "Tomorrow is zero day." The conversations will not be translated and transcribed until September 12th.
Charles Ingram wins one million pounds on the U.K. version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?," only to have the payout suspended later when he is accused of cheating by having his wife and an accomplice cough each time he read the correct choice aloud.