Menu

Report: Sept. 11 Attacks Could Have Happened Earlier

The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reportedly found evidence that the attacks were delayed, according to a newspaper report.

The Washington Post said in its Tuesday edition that the evidence indicated the attacks were planned for May or June of 2001, but were postponed for several months because of organizational problems, chiefly that presumed lead hijacker Mohamed Atta (search) was not ready.

The paper cited unnamed sources close to the Sept. 11 commission's findings. The possible date postponement is included in a report expected to be discussed during a panel hearing this week.

The Post said a draft of the report had been circulated in recent days among government and commission officials.

Meanwhile, relatives of Sept. 11 victims suspect government and military leaders were too lethargic during critical moments of the catastrophe and said Monday they hope the Sept. 11 panel will find out the truth.

The Sept. 11 commission holds its 12th and last hearing Wednesday and Thursday. Its focus: the genesis of the plot from the perspective of the hijackers, and the national emergency response by the Federal Aviation Administration (search) and U.S. air defenses on the day of the attacks.

"I want to see a clear timeline. What time did the FAA officially know a hijacking was taking place? What time did the president understand this was a hijacking? Why was there a delay in scrambling fighter jets?" said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband, Alan, was killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

"I'm hoping at the end of this two-day hearing, we will have a picture of the defensive posture on Sept. 11," she said.

Some commissioners have said this week's hearings could be among the panel's most politically sensitive because they will explore communication gaps and decision-making by the nation's top leaders on the day of the 2001 attacks.

In particular, families of Sept. 11 victims have wondered whether military jets could have intercepted American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon and killed 184 people, since that attack came more than 50 minutes after the first hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center.

In addition, the relatives want to know why the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers (search), was not notified of the attacks until after the Pentagon was hit, and why President Bush didn't appear to take immediate action when he was notified. Bush was visiting with schoolchildren in Florida and was told of the attacks during a program.

As to the Sept. 11 plot, the relatives hope the commission will ask whether U.S. officials were justified in refusing to provide German authorities access to suspected Sept. 11 conspirator Ramzi Binalshibh, the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 independent commission said in a statement.

In February, a German court, citing lack of evidence, acquitted Abdelghani Mzoudi, a longtime acquaintance of Mohamed Atta. The Justice Department had barred sworn testimony from Binalshibh and other Al Qaeda prisoners on national security grounds.

Matthias Krauss, the German prosecutor who headed the investigation into the Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, will testify Wednesday.

The commission, which faces a July 26 deadline for its final report, is winding down its 1½-year investigation in which it interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, including Bush, and reviewed more than 2 million documents.