WASHINGTON – The White House again Friday denied it had advance knowledge that a Sept. 11-style attack was coming, though it acknowledged it knew Usama bin Laden was bent on attacking the United States.
"The president was aware that bin Laden, of course, as previous administrations have well known, that bin Laden was determined to strike the United States. In fact, the label on the president's (presidential daily briefing) was 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike the United States,'" White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Friday.
Indeed, Fox News has reported many examples of "missed leads" that the Bush administration was given prior to Sept. 11.
Among those examples:
– The Italian government shared "general" information of possible attacks in March 2001 based on bugs in apartments in Milan.
– An Iranian in custody in New York City told local police last May of a plot to attack the World Trade Center.
– German intelligence alerted the Central Intelligence Agency, Britain's MI-6 intelligence service, Israel's Mossad in June 2001 that Middle Eastern terrorists were training for hijackings and targeting American and Israeli interests.
– Pakistanis were taken into custody June 4 in the Cayman Islands after they were overheard discussing hijacking attacks in New York City; they were questioned and released, and the information was forwarded to U.S. intelligence.
– Indian intelligence shared "general" information in July 2001.
– In July and August, British intelligence shared "general" information that it had learned through surveillance of Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi Arabian dissident who has publicly acknowledged being a bin Laden operative. Fawwaz, suspected of participating in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Kenya, was arrested after Sept. 11.
– Based on its own intelligence, the Israeli government provided "general" information to the United States in the second week of August that an Al Qaeda attack was imminent.
– French intelligence echoed the "general" information in the final week of August.
– Russian President Vladimir Putin has said publicly that he ordered his intelligence agencies to alert the United States last summer that suicide pilots were training for attacks on U.S. targets.
– Millennium bomber Ahmad Ressam testified in closed and open court trials relating to his Dec. 1999 arrest for trying to bring bomb-making materials across the Canadian border that attack plans, including hijackings and attacks on New York City targets, were ongoing.
– An Islamic terrorist conspiracy was uncovered in 1996 in the Philippines to hijack a dozen airplanes and fly them into CIA headquarters and other buildings. Among the discoveries was a plot for a "bojinka" – a big bang. The information was discovered on a computer and noted in the 1997 trial of Ramzi Yousef, one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers.
– U.S. investigators confirmed in October that a 29-year-old Iranian in custody in Germany's Langenhagen prison last year made phone calls to U.S. police from his deportation cell that an attack on the World Trade Center was imminent in "the days before the attack." The warning was considered the threat of a madman.
– In October, U.S. government officials confirmed that India's intelligence agency had information before the attacks that two Islamist radicals with ties to Usama bin Laden were discussing an attack on the White House. India's information was not provided to U.S. intelligence until Sept. 13.
– In February and April of 2001, the world's most extreme Islamic terror groups held meetings in Beirut and Tehran, respectively, to set aside their differences and unite for jihad (holy war) against Israel and the United States. The two unprecedented meetings had over 400 militants in attendance. They called it "the Jerusalem Conference," aimed at uniting behind the Palestinians and winning total Arab control over Jerusalem. Sources say the group agreed on a document and the creation of an actual organization now known as "the Jerusalem Project." The document included the statement: "The only decisive option to achieve this strategy is the option of jihad in all its forms and resistance … America today is a second Israel."
The participants included leaders of Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror group, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and militants from Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Qatar, Yemen, the Sudan and Algeria. Sources say at least one participant went to the conference from the United States and returned to the country afterward. U.S. intelligence sources have identified two leaders of the Beirut-based Jerusalem Project.
Sources have also told Fox News that the memo from the FBI Phoenix office about Arabs training in U.S. flight schools never reached headquarters because FBI counterterrorism officials were overwhelmed by the bombing of the USS Cole. The memo ended up "sitting on a shelf," according to sources.
The sources also said officials were too overwhelmed with intelligence information to tap Zaccarias Moussaoui, who was taken into custody in August, after a Minnesota flight school reported that the alleged 20th hijacker of Sept.11 was interested in learning how to fly, but not take-off and land.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, experts have predicted that the next worldwide scourge would be terrorism. There are literally dozens of reports, studies and court cases in which hijackings, including those that would end up with crashes into buildings were discussed.
In 1999, the Federal Research Division at the Library of Congress published its own report entitled "The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?" which described that "Suicide bomber(s) belonging to Al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, or the White House."
Former CIA Deputy Director John Gannon, who was chairman of the National Intelligence Council for whom the report was written, said that in 1999, "It became such a rich threat environment that it was almost too much for Congress and the administration to absorb," he said. "They couldn't prioritize what was the most significant threat."
Gannon said it is "egregiously unfair" to blame the president for failing to act to prevent Sept. 11 since there was no "actionable intelligence."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.