America had 12 warnings of aircraft attack

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The Independent US

American intelligence received many more clues before the 11 September attacks than previously disclosed, that terrorists might hijack planes and turn them into weapons, a joint congressional committee was told yesterday.

American intelligence received many more clues before the 11 September attacks than previously disclosed, that terrorists might hijack planes and turn them into weapons, a joint congressional committee was told yesterday.

In a 30-page report, Eleanor Hill, staff director of the joint House and Senate intelligence committee investigating the terrorist strikes, cited no less than 12 examples of intelligence information on the possible use of airliners as weapons. They stretch from 1994 to August 2001, when word came of a plot by Osama bin Laden to fly a plane into the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

Other information, in autumn 1998, warned that "a group of unidentified Arabs" planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Centre. That report was given to the Federal Aviation Administration and FBI.

The report disclosed that the National Security Agency, which specialises in electronic eavesdropping, had intercepted no less than 33 messages between May and July 2001, warning of a "possible imminent terrorist attack". US intelligence also received word from a source just back from Afghanistan in summer 2001, that "everyone is talking about an impending attack".

Perhaps most frustrating of all in hindsight, a briefing for senior government officials just two months before the attacks concluded that on the basis of a review of intelligence over five months, "we believe that he [Mr bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks". It would be "spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. The attack will occur with little or no warning."

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