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August 4, 2001: Nothing New in Letter from President Bush to Pakistani President Musharraf Edit
President Bush sends a letter to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, warning him about supporting the Taliban. However, the tone is similar to past requests dating to the Clinton administration. There had been some discussion that US policy toward Pakistan should change. For instance, at the end of June, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke “urged that the United States [should] think about what it would do after the next attack, and then take that position with Pakistan now, before the attack.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004] Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage later acknowledges that a new approach to Pakistan is not yet implemented by 9/11 (see January-September 10, 2001 and Early June 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004 SOURCES: RICHARD ARMITAGE] Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Clinton administration, Taliban, George W. Bush, Pervez Musharraf Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI
August 4, 2001: Possible 20th Hijacker Denied Entry to US
Customs agent Jose Melendez-Perez. [Source: US Senate] A Saudi named Mohamed al-Khatani is stopped at the Orlando, Florida, airport and denied entry to the US. Jose Melendez-Perez, the customs official who stops him, later says he was suspicious of al-Khatani because he had arrived with no return ticket, no hotel reservations, spoke little English, behaved menacingly, and offered conflicting information on the purpose of his travel. At one point, al-Khatani said that someone was waiting for him elsewhere at the airport. After 9/11, surveillance cameras show that Mohamed Atta was at the Orlando airport that day. 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste says: “It is extremely possible and perhaps probable that [al-Khatani] was to be the 20th hijacker.” al-Khatani boards a return flight to Saudi Arabia. He is later captured in Afghanistan and sent to a US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (see December 2001). Melendez-Perez says that before 9/11, customs officials were discouraged by their superiors from hassling Saudi travelers, who were seen as big spenders. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 1/27/2004; TIME, 6/12/2005] Al-Khatani will later confess to being sent to the US by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) (see July 2002), and in June 2001 US intelligence was warned that KSM was sending operatives to the US to meet up with those already there (see June 12, 2001). Entity Tags: Mohamed al-Khatani, Richard Ben-Veniste, Mohamed Atta, Jose Melendez-Perez, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Mohamed Atta
August 4-30, 2001: Bush Nearly Sets Record for Longest Presidential Vacation President Bush spends most of August 2001 at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, nearly setting a record for the longest presidential vacation. While it is billed a “working vacation,” news organizations report that Bush is doing “nothing much” aside from his regular daily intelligence briefings. [ABC NEWS, 8/3/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 8/7/2001; SALON, 8/29/2001] One such unusually long briefing at the start of his trip is a warning that bin Laden is planning to attack in the US (see August 6, 2001), but Bush spends the rest of that day fishing. By the end of his trip, Bush has spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route. [WASHINGTON POST, 8/7/2001] At the time, a poll shows that 55 percent of Americans say Bush is taking too much time off. [USA TODAY, 8/7/2001] Vice President Cheney also spends the entire month in a remote location in Wyoming. [JACKSON HOLE NEWS AND GUIDE, 8/15/2001] Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB
(August 4-5, 2001): Phoenix Memo Agent Vets Bush PDB, Fails to Add Relevant Information, Does Not Contact Phoenix Office The CIA officers who draft a presidential daily briefing (PDB) item given to George Bush on August 6 (see August 6, 2001) ask an FBI agent for additional information and also to review a draft of the memo, but she does not provide all the additional information she could. The 9/11 Commission will refer to the FBI agent as “Jen M,” so she is presumably Jennifer Maitner, an agent with the Osama bin Laden unit at FBI headquarters. The purpose of the memo is to communicate to the president the intelligence community’s view that the threat of attacks by bin Laden is both current and serious. But Maitner fails to add some important information that she has: around the end of July, she was informed of the Phoenix memo, which suggests that an inordinate number of bin Laden-related Arabs are taking flying lessons in the US (see July 10, 2001). She does not link this to the portion of the memo discussing aircraft hijackings. Responsibility for dealing with the Phoenix memo is formally transferred to her on August 7, when she reads the full text. The finished PDB item discusses the possibility bin Laden operatives may hijack an airliner and says that there are “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings.” It is unclear whether the draft PDB item Maitner reviews contains this information. However, if it does, it apparently does not inspire her to take any significant action on the memo before 9/11, such as contacting the agents in Phoenix to notify them of the preparations for hijackings (see July 27, 2001 and after). The PDB will contain an error, saying that the FBI was conducting 70 full field investigations of bin Laden-related individuals (see August 6, 2001), but this error is added after Maitner reviews the draft, so she does not have the opportunity to remove it. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 260-2, 535; US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 11/2004, PP. 69-77 ] Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, FBI Headquarters, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Usama bin Laden Unit (FBI), Jennifer Maitner Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB, Phoenix Memo