Around the world, but particularly in the USA, there are sizeable quantities of people who believe that the full story of the events of September 11, 2001, has yet to be told.
Their views range from suggesting that the Twin Towers were made to collapse by a concealed bomb to arguing that a debt-ridden, failing US government fabricated the whole thing as an excuse for a war.
In amongst them are other people more quietly asking if it was feasible that the 19 plotters didn’t have help from people inside and outside the USA, and asking why, to date, the US government won’t answer all their questions.
Why, for example, did so many of the plotters have links to a small, unremarkable Florida town?
In the years before 9/11 the intelligence community had been fearing that Al Qaeda would carry out a major high-profile attack – the director of the CIA even famously commented, ‘The system was blinking red.’ Mark Rossini had been seconded from the from the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to work for Alec Station – a unit of the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency, gathering foreign intelligence on Al Qaeda.
In December 1999 he and a FBI colleague learned that two Saudis, both known Al Qaeda members, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, travelled to Malaysia to plan further attacks and had US visas in their passports. But Mark says that his CIA bosses wanted to keep the information to themselves. He says: “It’s not for the FBI to know. I said, ‘What do you mean, it’s not for the FBI to know? [And I was told] ‘When and if we want the FBI to know, we will let them know, but you’re not to say anything.’ So, I’m stopped in my tracks.”
Thomas Drake worked as a senior analyst for the National Security Agency, the organisation that monitors communications and intelligence. He recalls discovering that whilst Mihdhar and Al-Hamzi lived in San Diego their phone calls to Al-Qaeda HQ in Yemen had been recorded, but that key intelligence about them – including that the calls came from San Diego – was not analysed and shared with other agencies. He says: “You can imagine my horror finding out critical intelligence inside NSA databases that was undiscovered.”
Two months before 9/11 the CIA admitted they had lost the pair and asked the FBI for help, but by then it was too late. Many relatives of those who died on 9/11 still don’t believe they’ve been told the full story. Kathy Owens lost her husband, Pete, in the Twin Towers, and says: “Isn’t the main job of the government to keep their people safe? I at least expected them to stick up for us, and stand up for us, and get to the bottom of everyone who was responsible and tried to stop it from happening again.”
The US Government says the 9/11 Commission provided a definitive statement about the nature of Al Qaeda support that came from Saudi Arabia and did not determine that the Saudi government had intended to support it, but Senator Bob Graham says he has questions about whether close ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia have meant the real story has been buried.
Skip to the 24 minute mark to get to the part about Florida.