This doesn't suprise me a bit... some may find it interesting... some SHOULD realize that what the Government "feeds" us (information) is, at best, spin politics.
Tuesday March 5 9:52 AM ET
Authorities Warned of Hijack Risks
By JIM GOMEZ and JOHN SOLOMON,
U.S. authorities were alerted as early as 1995 that several Middle Eastern pilots were training at American flight schools and at least one had proposed hijacking a plane to crash into federal buildings, according to documents and interviews with Filipino and U.S. authorities.
The information came from police interrogations with Abdul Hakim Murad and a computer seized from Ramzi Yousef, two men arrested after an accidental chemical fire at a Manila apartment tipped authorities to a major terrorist plot linked to Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al-Qaida network.
Murad and Yousef eventually were convicted in the United States and sentenced to life in prison in a plot to blow up 12 U.S.-bound airliners flying out of Asia.
Filipino police and intelligence officers, along with several secret police reports reviewed by The Associated Press, say Murad's intentions were much broader and included suicide hijackings like those that occurred on Sept. 11.
``Murad's idea is that he will board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger, then he will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit and dive it at the CIA (news - web sites) headquarters,'' one Filipino police report from 1995 said.
``There will be no bomb or any explosive that he will use in its execution. It is a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute,'' it said.
Filipino authorities told AP they shared the information immediately with FBI (news - web sites) agents in Manila in 1995, and ultimately concluded that U.S. authorities focused too much on the bombing plot and not enough on the possibility of suicide hijackings.
``We shared that with the FBI,'' said Robert Delfin, chief of intelligence command for the Philippine National Police. ``They may have mislooked (sic) and didn't appreciate the info coming from the Philippine police.''
Murad, who later claimed he was tortured during his interrogations, detailed to Filipino authorities how he and a Pakistani friend crisscrossed the United States, attending flight schools in New York, Texas, California and North Carolina on his way to earning a commercial pilot's license.
He also identified to Filipino police approximately 10 other Middle Eastern men who met him at the flight schools or were getting similar training.
One was a Middle Eastern flight instructor who came to the United States for more training; another a former soldier in the United Arab Emirates. Others came from Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
None of the pilots match the names of the 19 hijackers from Sept. 11, but Filipino police's investigation of Murad and Yousef uncovered information pointing to a Muslim cleric from Malaysia who has emerged in the past few months as a key figure in the investigation of last year's suicide hijackings.
Authorities in Malaysia have said they believe the cleric, who goes by the name Hambali, met with two of the Sept. 11 hijackers in 2000 and may be a central figure in terrorist groups with links to bin Laden that have emerged in southeast Asia. Authorities are seeking Hambali's arrest.
FBI and other law enforcement officials involved in the Murad investigation, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said American authorities were focused mostly on the plot to detonate bombs on airliners because it was developed and imminent when the men were arrested.
The officials said the government had very general information from Murad about an idea, not a complete plan, for flying a plane into the CIA headquarters near Washington, but believed he was considering a small single engine plane and not a commercial airliner.
The officials said the FBI interviewed people at the flight schools highlighted by Filipino police but did not develop evidence that any of the other Middle Easterners other than Murad were directly plotting terrorism. With no other evidence of a threat, they took no further action, the officials said.
FBI agents descended upon the flying schools in 1995, and returned to some of those locations immediately after Sept. 11.
``There were several of them (Middle Eastern pilot students) here. At one point three or four were here,'' said Laura Flynn, an assistant manager at Richmore Flight School in Schenectady, N.Y., where Murad and a friend attended in the mid-1990s.
``Supposedly they didn't know each other before, they just happened to show up here at the same time. But they all obviously knew each other,'' she said.
Flynn said FBI agents mentioned Murad was suspected in a bombing plot but did not say anything about a suicide hijacking. She said agents returned to the school after Sept. 11 ``and asked about any of the foreign people, pulled some records.''
Delfin said when he saw the Sept. 11 attacks on television, Murad's disclosures immediately came to mind.
``This is it, this was what Murad was saying,'' Delfin said he remarked to other intelligence officials.
Rodolfo Mendoza, the former police intelligence official who oversaw Murad's interrogations, had the same reaction. ``It's exactly as what Murad said before, 'I will hijack a commercial plane and dive crash it,''' Mendoza said.
Murad told authorities he discussed the suicide hijacking idea with Yousef just a few months before their arrest and had not yet developed a specific plan, although they discussed targets like the CIA building and the Pentagon (news - web sites) in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. The Pentagon was struck Sept. 11.
``I am telling you that I told Basit (Yousef) that there is a planning, what about we dive to CIA building,'' Murad is quoted in one transcript as telling police interrogators. ``He told me OK, we will think about it.''
Filipino police questioned his willingness to die. ``You are willing to die for Allah or for Islamic?,'' one asked.
``Yes,'' Murad replied.
``Really?'' the interrogator asked.
Later Murad offered some insight. ``All my thinking was,'' he said, ``that I should fight the Americans. I should do something to show them that we are, we could stay in their face.''