What we learned from the Report of the 911 Commission XIX.

The “planes operation” called for a large group of “muscle hijackers” to seize the cockpits of airliners in flight, then bar to door to any rebellious passengers while the smaller number of pilots flew the planes into buildings.

The “muscle hijackers” all obtained new passports in their home countries, then during September, October, and November 2000, obtained visas to enter the United States. (p. 340.) The muscle hijackers were back in Afghanistan from late 2000/early 2001 until Spring 2001. In Afghanistan they were given advanced training on terrorism, much—but not all–of which dealt with seizing control of an airplane in flight. (pp. 341-342.)

In April, May, and June 2001 the muscle hijackers began being moved toward the United States. (pp. 341-342.) In early July 2001 Midhar, the original hijacker who had bailed out for a time, returned to the United States. (p. 344.) Upon arrival in the United States, most of the muscle hijackers were brought to Florida. They seem to have spent their time going to gyms to work out. Thus, the muscle hijackers were in the United States from April through August 2001 at the longest. Three to five months for something to go wrong for al Qaeda; three to five months for the US government to notice something odd about twenty foreigners.

During Spring and Summer 2001 the pilots made several reconnaissance flights. Some of these were across the United States in the same type of planes they would command during the final attack; others were in small aircraft along the “Hudson Corridor” air route that passes Manhattan. (pp. 352-353.) They also did a lot of practice flying in small planes.

In June 2001 UBL pressed KSM to attack in June or July 2001, possibly to coincide with a visit to Washington by Ariel Sharon, but KSM resisted this pressure. (p. 360.) Instead, in July 2001 the “planes operation” had to be postponed until September 2001 because of another glitch (probably the uncertainty over one of the pilits, Zaid Jarrah). (p. 360.) Jarrah differed from the other hijackers in a number of ways and he also resented the domineering Atta; by July 2001 the conflict between the two men aroused concern that Jarrah might back out of the operation. (pp. 352-353.) In late July 2001 Jarrah returned to Germany with a one-way ticket purchased by his girl-friend in Germany.

In early July 2001 Mohammad Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh met in Spain to confer on last details. Atta was trying to co-ordinate four transcontinental air flights that would be departing almost simultaneously from East Coast cities. Moreover, Atta was aware that national leaders were usually on vacation in August and therefore out of Washington, DC. He wanted to delay the attack until early September. (p. 356.) NB: Atta wanted to kill a lot of members of Congress.

On 10 July 2001 Zacarias Moussaoui arranged to take renewed flight training in Egan, Minnesota, with the course scheduled to run from 13 to 20 August 2001. In late July 2001 Binalshibh wire transferred $15,000 to Moussaoui. (p. 354.) On 10 August 2001 Moussaoui left Oklahoma for Minnesota; on 13 August 2001 he began his simulator training, but aroused the suspicion of his instructors; several days later he was arrested by the INS. (pp. 354-355.)

Then things began to move forward for the operation. In the first half of August 2001 Jarrah returned to the United States to assume his place as one of the pilots. Moussaoui was now irrelevant. Between 29 June and 17 September 2000 Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, another nephew of KSM wire-transferred $114,500 in five tranches. (p. 324.) Between 25 August and 5 September 2001 all the plane tickets were purchased. (p. 357.) The attack would come on 11 September 2001.


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