Al-Qaeda had training camps in Pakistan and its operatives had successfully
evaded security at a New York airport in a test-run for Osama bin Laden's plan
to hijack a US airplane five years later, according to declassified CIA
documents released today.
Nearly 100 top CIA documents recently declassified, which were released by the
National Security Archive today, provide the first of its kind insight and
information into the documents related to al-Qaeda and 9/11.
According to these documents, al-Qaeda had training camps in Pakistan and it
planned to hit the plane of the then US President, Bill Clinton, when he visited
the country in February 2000.
A previously undisclosed raw intelligence report that became the basis for the
December 4, 1998, President's Daily Brief notes, five years before the actual
attack, said that al-Qaeda operatives had successfully evaded security at a New
York airport in a test-run for bin Laden's plan to hijack a US airplane.
CIA analytical reports also provide interesting insights into al-Qaeda's
evolving political strategies.
"In our view, the hijackers were carefully selected with an eye to their
operational and political value. For instance, the large number of Saudi
nationals was most likely chosen not only because of the ease with which Saudi
nationals could get US visas but also because Bin Ladin could send a message to
the Saudi Royal family," the report said.
These reports on early attempts to apprehend bin Laden detail the beginning of
the US Predator drone programme in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"First Predator mission over Afghanistan, September 7, 2000."
"Twice in the fall of 2000, the Predator observed an individual most likely to
be Bin Ladin; however we had no way at the time to react to this information,"
the report said.
American UAVs did not have sufficient weapons capabilities at the time the CIA
likely spotted bin Laden in 2000 to fire on the suspect using the UAV, it said.
Several of these documents also note al-Qaeda's ties to Pakistan before
"Osama (Bin Ladin)'s Islamic Army considered the Pakistan/Afghanistan area one
region. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan serve as a regional base and training
centre for Islamic Army activities supporting Islamic insurgencies in
Tajikistan, the Kashmir region and Chechnya," the report said.
"The Islamic Army had a camp in Pakistan...Purpose of the camp was to train and
recruit new members, mostly from Pakistan," it added.
While, "UBL elements in Pakistan reportedly plan to attack POTUS (US President
Clinton's) plane with missiles if he visits Pakistan."
The document collection details repeated CIA warnings of the bin Laden terrorist
threat prior to September 11, NSA said in a statement.
According to a January 7, 2000, Top Secret briefing to the Director of Central
Intelligence, disruption operations against the Millennium plot "bought time
.... Weeks... months....But no more than one year" before al-Qaeda would strike.
"A UBL attack against US interests could occur at any time or any place. It is
unlikely that the CIA will have prior warning about the time or place." the
document dated August 3, 1999, said.
By September 2001, CIA counter terrorism officials knew a plot was developing
but couldn't provide policymakers with details.
© Copyright PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of any PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.