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2001Edit

(Between 8:46 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Bush’s Motorcade Quickly Hears of Flight 11 Crash, but Bush Reportedly Still UnawareEdit

Bush’s travels in the Sarasota, Florida, region, with key locations marked. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion/ MagicGraphix.com] When Flight 11 hits the WTC at 8:46 a.m., President Bush’s motorcade is crossing the John Ringling Causeway on the way to Booker Elementary School from the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/8/2002] White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is riding in a motorcade van, along with adviser Karl Rove and Mike Morell, the CIA’s White House briefer. Shortly after the attack, Fleischer is talking on his cell phone, when he blurts out: “Oh, my God, I don’t believe it. A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” (The person with whom he is speaking remains unknown.) Fleischer is told he will be needed on arrival at the school to discuss reports of the crash. [CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, 9/17/2001; ALBUQUERQUE TRIBUNE, 9/10/2002; TENET, 2007, PP. 165-166] This call takes place “just minutes” after the first news reports of the attack according to one account, or “just before 9:00 a.m.” according to another. [MSNBC, 10/29/2002; KESSLER, 2004, PP. 138] Fleischer asks Morell if he knows anything about a small plane hitting the World Trade Center. Morell doesn’t, and immediately calls the CIA Operations Center. He is informed that the plane that hit the WTC wasn’t small. [KESSLER, 2003, PP. 193; TENET, 2007, PP. 165-166] Congressman Dan Miller also says he is told about the crash just before meeting Bush at Booker Elementary School at 8:55 a.m. [SARASOTA MAGAZINE, 9/19/2001] Some reporters waiting for Bush to arrive also learn of the crash just minutes after it happens. [CBS NEWS, 9/11/2002] It would make sense that the president would be told about the crash immediately, at the same time that others hear about it. His limousine has “Five small black antennae sprouted from the lid of the trunk in order to give Bush the best mobile communications money could buy.” [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 38] Sarasota Magazine in fact claims that Bush is on Highway 301, just north of Main Street, on his way to the school, when he receives a phone call informing him a plane has crashed in New York City. [SARASOTA MAGAZINE, 9/19/2001] Yet the official story remains that he is not told about the crash until he arrives at the school (see (Between 8:55 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Author James Bamford comments, “Despite having a secure STU-III phone next to him in the presidential limousine and an entire national security staff at the White House, it appears that the president of the United States knew less than tens of millions of other people in every part of the country who were watching the attack as it unfolded.” [BAMFORD, 2004, PP. 17] Entity Tags: Michael J. Morell, Dan Miller, George W. Bush, James Bamford, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, World Trade Center Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(Between 8:46 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Key Administration Officials Allegedly Think First Crash Is an Accident A number of key White House officials later claim that, when they learn of the first crash at the World Trade Center, they initially think it is just an accident:

President Bush says that, when he learns of the crash while in Sarasota, Florida, “my first reaction was—as an old pilot—how could the guy have gotten so off course to hit the towers? What a terrible accident that is” (see (Between 8:55 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 42] 
White House chief of staff Andrew Card, who is with the president, says, “It was first reported to me… that it looked like it was a, a twin-engine pro—prop plane, and so the natural reaction was—‘What a horrible accident. The pilot must have had a heart attack.’” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] 
Adviser Karl Rove, who is also with the president in Florida, is later questioned about his feelings after the first crash. When it is suggested, “I guess at that point, everyone is still thinking it is an accident,” Rove concurs, “Yes, absolutely.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] 
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, also traveling with the president on this day, says, “[W]hen only the first tower had been hit, it was all of our thoughts that this had been some type of terrible accident.” [CNN, 9/11/2006] 
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is in her White House office, is informed of the crash by her executive assistant (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She later recalls, “I thought, what a strange accident.” [O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE, 2/1/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] 
White House counselor Karen Hughes receives a phone call informing her of the first crash as she is about to leave her Washington, DC home. She later recalls, “they thought it was a small plane at the time… so, of course, my immediate thought was what a terrible accident.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; CNN, 4/6/2004] She adds, “We all assumed it was some kind of weird accident; at that point terrorism didn’t occur to us.” [HUGHES, 2004, PP. 234]

The 9/11 Commission later describes, “In the absence of information that the crash was anything other than an accident, the White House staff monitored the news as they went ahead with their regular schedules.” It will only be when they learn of the second tower being hit at 9:03 that “nearly everyone in the White House… immediately knew it was not an accident.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 35] However, when couterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is called some time after the first crash but before the second by Lisa Gordon-Hagerty—a member of his staff who is at the White House (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—she tells him, “Until we know what this is, Dick, we should assume the worst.” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 1] And when CIA Director George Tenet learns of the first crash, reportedly he is told specifically, “The World Trade tower has been attacked,” and his initial reaction is, “This has bin Laden all over it” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 4] Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Richard A. Clarke, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Condoleezza Rice, Karen Hughes, George J. Tenet, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(9:06 a.m.-9:16 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Reads Pet Goat Story for Nearly Ten Minutes; Warned Not to Talk

President Bush and Sandra Kay Daniels read the goat story while the media watches. [Source: White House/ Eric Draper<] President Bush, having just been told of the second WTC crash, stays in the Booker Elementary School Classroom, and listens as 16 Booker Elementary School second-graders take turns reading “The Pet Goat.” It’s a simple story about a girl’s pet goat. [AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 9/7/2002; EDITOR & PUBLISHER, 7/2/2004] They are just about to begin reading when Bush is told of the attack. One account says that the classroom is then silent for about 30 seconds, maybe more. Bush then picks up the book and reads with the children “for eight or nine minutes.” [TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/1/2002] In unison, the children read aloud, “The—Pet—Goat. A—girl—got—a—pet—goat. But—the—goat—did—some—things—that—made—the—girl’s—dad—mad.” And so on. Bush mostly listens, but does ask the children a few questions to encourage them. [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002] At one point he says, “Really good readers, whew!… These must be sixth-graders!” [TIME, 9/12/2001] In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer catches Bush’s eye and holds up a pad of paper for him to read, with “DON’ T SAY ANYTHING YET” written on it in big block letters. [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002] (Note that three articles claim that Bush leaves the classroom at 9:12 a.m.) [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/16/2001; DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001; DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002] However, a videotape of the event lasts for “at least seven additional minutes” and ends before Bush leaves. [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/22/2004 ] (The timing of this entry is a rough approximation based mostly on the Tampa Tribune estimate. Much of this video footage is shown in Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.) [NEW YORK TIMES, 6/18/2004] Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Works on Speech with Staff; Makes No Decisions

Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. [Source: White House] After leaving the Booker Elementary School classroom, President Bush returns to an adjacent holding room where he is briefed by his staff, and gets his first look at the footage of the burning World Trade Center on a television that has been set up there. He instructs his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, to take notes to create an accurate accounting of events. According to some accounts, he speaks on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney who is at the White House, and they both agree that terrorists are probably behind the attacks. [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 92-93; DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39] But White House adviser Karl Rove, who is also in the holding room, later tells NBC News that Bush is unable to reach Cheney because the vice president is being moved from his office to the White House bunker at this time. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The president speaks with New York Governor George Pataki and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Bush learns from Mueller that the planes that hit the WTC were commercial American aircraft, and at least one of them had apparently been hijacked after leaving Boston. According to some accounts, Bush also speaks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time. However, Rice herself will later suggest otherwise (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 93-94; DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002; ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/8/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39] Fleischer and White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett quickly draft a statement for the president to deliver in the school’s library, which Bush rewords, scribbling three sheets of notes. Bush will deliver this at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). While he works on the statement, Bush briefly glances at the unfolding horror on the television. Turning to his aides in the room, he declares, “We’re at war.” [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 94; ALBUQUERQUE TRIBUNE, 9/10/2002] According to the 9/11 Commission, the focus at the present time is on the president’s statement to the nation, and the only decision made by Bush’s traveling party is to return to Washington. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39] Bush later claims he makes no major decisions in response to the crisis until after Air Force One takes off at around 9:55 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WASHINGTON POST, 1/27/2002] Entity Tags: George E. Pataki, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Robert S. Mueller III, George W. Bush, Dan Bartlett, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, Condoleezza Rice Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(9:33 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Smooth Flight Path Indicates No Loss of Control on Flight 77 Based on an analysis of radar data for Flight 77 as it approaches the Pentagon and makes a 330 degree loop (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), experts will later say that the plane is being flown so smoothly that “it’s clear there [is] no fight for control going on.” [CBS NEWS, 9/21/2001; BOSTON GLOBE, 11/23/2001] The plane gets near the White House during this turn. “Sources say the hijacked jet… [flies] several miles south of the restricted airspace around the White House.” [CBS NEWS, 9/21/2001] The Daily Telegraph will later write: “If the airliner had approached much nearer to the White House it might have been shot down by the Secret Service, who are believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the president’s home. The Pentagon is not similarly defended.” [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 9/16/2001] White House spokesman Ari Fleischer will suggest the plane goes even closer to the White House, saying, “That is not the radar data that we have seen. The plane was headed toward the White House.” [CBS NEWS, 9/21/2001 SOURCES: ARI FLEISCHER] Entity Tags: Pentagon, Secret Service Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Vice President Cheney Tells President Bush to Stay Away from Washington Shortly after boarding Air Force One, President Bush speaks by phone with Vice President Dick Cheney for approximately ten minutes. [HAYES, 2007, PP. 335-336] According to the 9/11 Commission, Cheney had reached the underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House at 9:37. He and the Secret Service agents escorting him had paused in an area of the tunnel with a secure phone and a television. He’d then asked to speak to the president, but it had taken a while for his call to be connected. However, elsewhere in its final report, the Commission will indicate that Bush, not Cheney, makes this phone call, saying that after he’d boarded Air Force One, the president “called the vice president.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39-40] Cheney later recalls making “one phone call [to the president] from the tunnel. And basically I called to let him know that we [at the White House] were a target and I strongly urged him not to return to Washington right away, that he delay his return until we could find out what the hell was going on.” [NEWSWEEK, 12/31/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 464] He recalls, “What I was immediately thinking about was sort of continuity of government.” [HAYES, 2007, PP. 335-336] According to notes made by White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is with the president on Air Force One, at about 9:45 Bush tells Cheney: “Sounds like we have a minor war going on here, I heard about the Pentagon. We’re at war… somebody’s going to pay.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39 AND 463; FLEISCHER, 2005, PP. 141] Bush instructs Cheney to call the congressional leadership and give them a briefing. [NEW YORKER, 9/25/2001] (However, around this time, Capitol Hill is being evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001).) The 9/11 Commission states that, according to “contemporaneous notes,” at 9:55 “the vice president [is] still on the phone with the president advising that three planes [are] missing and one had hit the Pentagon.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 40] In his book Against All Enemies, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke indicates that it is around the time this call occurs that he is informed that the president has authorized the military to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 8] Yet various accounts of Bush and Cheney’s call make no mention of the president and vice president discussing any orders or making any decisions. [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 101; WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 16; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39-40; HAYES, 2007, PP. 335-336] Their call apparently ends around 9:56-9:57, as, according to the 9/11 Commission, Cheney enters the PEOC “shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 40] (However, some accounts indicate that he first enters the PEOC significantly earlier than this (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) After hanging up, Bush turns to the men who are with him at his desk: his chief of staff Andrew Card, his senior adviser Karl Rove, military aide Lt. Col. Tom Gould, and Fleischer. He tells them: “That’s what we’re paid for, boys. We’re gonna take care of this. When we find out who did this, they’re not gonna like me as president. Somebody’s going to pay.” [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 101; WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 17] According to some accounts, shortly after finishing this call, the president and vice president will be back on the phone with each other (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001: Cheney Calls Bush; Receives Shootdown Authorization, According to 9/11 Commission In a phone call with Vice President Dick Cheney, President Bush authorizes the military to shoot down hostile aircraft. Minutes earlier, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, a military aide had asked Cheney for the authority to engage what appeared to be an inbound aircraft, and Cheney had promptly given it (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). During a subsequent quiet moment, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, who is also in the PEOC, suggested to Cheney that he contact the president to confirm the engage order. Therefore at 10:18 a.m., according to White House logs, Cheney calls Bush, who is on board Air Force One, and speaks with him for two minutes. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer notes that at 10:20 a.m., Bush informs him that he has authorized the shootdown of aircraft, if necessary. According to the 9/11 Commission, “Fleischer’s 10:20 note is the first mention of shootdown authority.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 41 AND 465] Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, who is also on Air Force One, gives a similar account, later telling NBC News that “at about 10:20,” Bush goes from his office into the private cabin in front of it, “and took a phone call, and came back in and said that he had talked to the vice president and to the secretary of defense and gave the authorization that [the] military could shoot down any planes not under control of their crews that were gearing critical targets.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] But other accounts indicate the president gives the shootdown authorization earlier than this. Bush and Cheney will claim that Bush gives the authorization during a call estimated to occur between about 10:00 and 10:15 (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 40] Similarly, according to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, Bush gives it in a call with Cheney soon after 9:56, when Air Force One takes off (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 102; WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 17-18; WASHINGTON POST, 1/27/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke says it is given even earlier. He states that, at some point between about 9:38 and 9:56, he is instructed to tell the Pentagon it has authorization from the president to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC NEWS, 11/29/2003; CLARKE, 2004, PP. 8] Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Ari Fleischer Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(1:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Air Force One Leaves Louisiana; Flies to Nebraska President Bush leaves Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on Air Force One, and flies to Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base, where the US Strategic Command is located. He travels with chief of staff Andrew Card, senior adviser Karl Rove, communications staffers Dan Bartlett, Ari Fleischer, and Gordon Johndroe, and a small group of reporters. [SALON, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later reveals that the president’s decision to head to Offutt instead of returning to Washington is due to a plan called “Continuity of Government” (COG). This program, which dates back to the Reagan administration, originally planned to set up a new leadership for the US in the event of a nuclear war. It was activated for the first time shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WASHINGTON POST, 4/7/2004; ABC NEWS, 4/25/2004] Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Richard A. Clarke, Dan Bartlett, Karl Rove, Gordon Johndroe, Ari Fleischer, Andrew Card Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

September 12, 2001: Threat to Air Force One? Stories Conflict White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer explains that President Bush went to Nebraska because “[t]here was real and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were targets.” The next day, William Safire of the New York Times writes, and Bush’s political strategist, Karl Rove, confirms, that the Secret Service believed “‘Air Force One may be next,’ and there was an ‘inside’ threat which ‘may have broken the secret codes [i.e., showing a knowledge of presidential procedures].’” [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/13/2001 ] By September 27, Fleischer begins to backpedal on the claim that there were specific threats against Air Force One and/or the president, and news stories flatly contradict it. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/27/2001] A well-informed, anonymous Washington official says, “It did two things for [Cheney]. It reinforced his argument that the president should stay out of town, and it gave George W. an excellent reason for doing so.” [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] By 2004, a Bush spokesperson says there was no threat, but Cheney continues to maintain that there may have been. Cheney also claims the Secret Service passed him word of the threat, but two Secret Service agents working that day deny their agency played any role in receiving or passing on such a threat. The threat was allegedly based on the use of the word “Angel,” the code word for Air Force One, but Secret Service agents later note that the code word was not an official secret, but a radio shorthand designation that had been made public well before 2001. [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/22/2004 ] Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Secret Service, Karl Rove Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

September 18, 2001-April 2007: Claims of an Atta-Iraqi Spy Meeting Are Repeatedly Asserted and Denied in Media

William Safire’s New York Times editorial published November 12, 2001, in which he calls the alleged meeting between Atta and an Iraqi agent an “undisputed fact.” [Source: PBS] Media coverage relating to an alleged meeting between hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi spy named Ahmed al-Ani took place in Prague, Czech Republic, has changed repeatedly over time:

September 18, 2001: It is first reported that 9/11 plotter Mohamed Atta met in Prague, Czech Republic, with an Iraqi diplomat in April 2001. The name of the diplomat, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, is mentioned in follow up articles. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/18/2001; LOS ANGELES TIMES, 9/19/2001; CNN, 10/11/2001; NEW YORK TIMES, 11/19/2003] 
October 20, 2001: The story is denied by some Czech officials (see October 16, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/20/2001] 
October 26, 2001: The story is confirmed by the Czech interior minister (see October 26, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/27/2001] 
October 27, 2001: It is claimed Atta met with Iraqi agents four times in Prague, and was given a vial of antrax. Atta is alleged to have had further meetings with Iraqi agents in Germany, Spain, and Italy (see October 27, 2001). [LONDON TIMES, 10/27/2001] 
November 12, 2001: Conservative columnist William Safire calls the meeting an “undisputed fact” in a New York Times editorial (see November 12, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 11/12/2001] 
December 9, 2001: Vice President Cheney asserts that the existence of the meeting is “pretty well confirmed” (see December 9, 2001). [WASHINGTON POST, 12/9/2001] 
December 16, 2001: The identities of both al-Ani and Atta, alleged to have been at the meetings, are disputed by a Czech police chief (see December 16, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/16/2001; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12/16/2001] 
January 12, 2002: It is claimed at least two meetings took place, including one a year earlier. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 1/12/2002] 
February 6, 2002: It is reported that senior US intelligence officials believe the meeting took place, but they believe it is not enough evidence to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks (see February 6, 2002). [NEW YORK TIMES, 2/6/2002] 
March 15, 2002: Evidence that the meeting took place is considered between “slim” and “none.” [WASHINGTON POST, 3/15/2002] 
March 18, 2002: William Safire again strongly asserts that the meeting took place. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/18/2002] 
April 28-May 2, 2002: The meeting is largely discredited. For example, the Washington Post quotes FBI Director Mueller stating that, “We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts,” yet no evidence that Atta left the country was found. According to the Post, “[a]fter months of investigation, the Czechs [say] they [are] no longer certain that Atta was the person who met al-Ani, saying ‘he may be different from Atta.’” [WASHINGTON POST, 5/1/2002] Newsweek cites a US official who contends that, “Neither we nor the Czechs nor anybody else has any information [Atta] was coming or going [to Prague] at that time” (see April 28, 2002). [NEWSWEEK, 4/28/2002; WASHINGTON POST, 5/1/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 5/2/2002] 
May 8, 2002: Some Czech officials continue to affirm the meeting took place. [PRAGUE POST, 5/8/2002] 
May 9, 2002: William Safire refuses to give up the story, claiming a “protect-Saddam cabal” in the high levels of the US government is burying the evidence. [NEW YORK TIMES, 5/9/2002] 
July 15, 2002: The head of Czech foreign intelligence states that reports of the meeting are unproved and implausible. [PRAGUE POST, 7/15/2002] 
August 2, 2002: With a war against Iraq growing more likely, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer suggests the meeting did happen, “despite deep doubts by the CIA and FBI.” [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 8/2/2002] 
August 19, 2002: Newsweek states: “The sole evidence for the alleged meeting is the uncorroborated claim of a Czech informant.” According to Newsweek, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is nonetheless pushing the FBI to have the meeting accepted as fact. [NEWSWEEK, 8/19/2002] 
September 10, 2002: The Bush administration is no longer actively asserting that the meeting took place. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/10/2002] 
September 17, 2002: Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld “accept reports from Czech diplomats” that the meeting took place. [USA TODAY, 9/17/2002] 
September 23, 2002: Newsweek reports that the CIA is resisting Pentagon demands to obtain pictures of the alleged meeting from Iraqi exiles. One official says, “We do not shy away from evidence. But we also don’t make it up.” [NEWSWEEK, 9/23/2002] 
October 10, 2002: British officials deny the meeting ever took place (see October 4-10, 2002). [FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/4/2002; GUARDIAN, 10/10/2002] 
October 20, 2002: Czech officials, including President Vaclav Havel, emphatically deny that the meeting ever took place. It now appears Atta was not even in the Czech Republic during the month the meeting was supposed to have taken place. President Havel told Bush “quietly some time earlier this year” that the meeting did not happen (see Early 2002, probably May or later). [UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, 10/20/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 10/21/2002] 
December 8, 2002: Bush adviser Richard Perle continues to push the story, stating, “To the best of my knowledge that meeting took place.” [CBS NEWS, 9/5/2002] He says this despite the fact that in October 2002, Czech officials told Perle in person that the meeting did not take place (see October 20, 2002). 
July 9, 2003: Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmed al-Ani is captured by US forces in Iraq. [WASHINGTON POST, 7/9/2003] 
July 10, 2003: In a story confirming al-Ani’s capture, ABC News cites US and British intelligence officials who have seen surveillance photos of al-Ani’s meetings in Prague, and who say that there is a man who looks somewhat like Atta, but is not Atta. [ABC NEWS, 7/10/2003] 
September 14, 2003: Vice President Cheney repeats the claims that Atta met with al-Ani in Prague on NBC’s Meet the Press. He says “we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting” the meeting, but he also cites the when making the claim that Iraq officially supported al-Qaeda (see September 14, 2003 and September 14, 2003). [WASHINGTON POST, 9/15/2003] 
July 25, 2003: The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry makes public its conclusion that the meeting never took place (see January-July 2003). 
December 13, 2003: It is reported that al-Ani told interrogators he did not meet Atta in Prague. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/29/2003; REUTERS, 12/13/2003] 
February 24, 2004: CIA Director George Tenet says of the meeting: “We can’t prove that one way or another.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 7/9/2004] 
June 16, 2004: The 9/11 Commission concludes that the meeting never happened. They claim cell phone records and other records show Atta never left Florida during the time in question (see June 16, 2004). [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/16/2004] 
June 17, 2004: Vice President Cheney says no one has “been able to confirm” the Atta meeting in Prague or to “to knock it down” He calls reports suggesting that the 9/11 Commission has reached a contradictory conclusion “irresponsible,” even though the 9/11 Commission did conclude just that the day before (see June 17, 2004). [CNN, 6/18/2004] 
July 1, 2004: CIA Director Tenet says that the CIA is “increasingly skeptical” the meeting ever took place (see July 1, 2004). [NEW YORK TIMES, 7/9/2004] 
July 12, 2004: The 9/11 Commission publicly concludes the meeting never took place (see July 12, 2004). 
March 29, 2006: Cheney says of the meeting: “And that reporting waxed and waned where the degree of confidence in it, and so forth, has been pretty well knocked down now at this stage, that that meeting ever took place” (see March 29, 2006). 
September 8, 2006: A bipartisan Senate report confirms that the meeting never took place (see September 8-10, 2006). [US SENATE AND INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, 9/8/2006 ] 
September 10, 2006: Cheney still breathes life into reports of the meeting, reversing position and refusing to deny that the meeting took place (see September 10, 2006). [MEET THE PRESS, 9/10/2006] 
April 2007: In a new book, former CIA Director Tenet claims, “It is my understanding that in 2006, new intelligence was obtained that proved beyond any doubt that the man seen meeting with [a] member of the Iraqi intelligence service in Prague in 2001 was not Mohamed Atta” (see 2006). [TENET, 2007, PP. 355]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, 9/11 Commission, Mohamed Atta, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Vaclav Havel, William Safire, Robert S. Mueller III Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

September 21, 2001: US Denies Plans for Afghanistan Regime Change A secret report to NATO allies says the US privately wants to hear allied views on “post-Taliban Afghanistan after the liberation of the country.” However, the US is publicly claiming it has no intentions to overthrow the Taliban. [GUARDIAN, 9/21/2001] For instance, four days later, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer denies that military actions there are “designed to replace one regime with another.” [US DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 12/26/2001] Entity Tags: Taliban, Bush administration, Ari Fleischer Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

September 23-24, 2001: Secretary of State Powell Says White House Will Provide Evidence of Al-Qaeda Role in 9/11, but He Is Contradicted by White House Secretary of State Colin Powell is asked in a television interview, “Will you release publicly a white paper which links [bin Laden] and his organization to this attack to put people at ease?” Powell responds, “We are hard at work bringing all the information together, intelligence information, law enforcement information. And I think in the near future we will be able to put out a paper, a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him to this attack.” [MSNBC, 9/23/2001] The next day, the New York Times reports that this report is expected to be published “within days… Officials say they are still arguing over how much information to release…” [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/24/2001] But later that day, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “I think that there was just a misinterpretation of the exact words the secretary used on the Sunday shows.… I’m not aware of anybody who said white paper, and the secretary didn’t say anything about a white paper yesterday.” [WHITE HOUSE, 9/24/2001] The New Yorker will report a short time later that, according to a senior CIA official, US intelligence had not yet developed enough information about the hijackers. “One day we’ll know, but at the moment we don’t know” (see Late September 2001). [NEW YORKER, 10/8/2001] But no such paper is ever released. Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

September 26, 2001: White House Press Secretary Warns Americans to ‘Watch What They Say’

Bill Maher. [Source: HBO publicity photo] White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer warns, “There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.” [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/26/2001] Fleischer was responding to comments made by Bill Maher, the host of the discussion/comedy show Politically Incorrect. Maher said the hijackers were not cowards but that it was cowardly for the US to launch cruise missiles on targets thousands of miles away. [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/28/2001] Many advertisers and affiliate stations pull their support of the show in response. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/29/2001] ABC cancels Maher’s show at the end of its season because of the controversy. [TORONTO STAR, 6/26/2002] Several journalists are fired around the same time for criticizing Bush. Fleischer’s comments and the general chill on free speech are widely criticized by major newspapers (for instance, [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/29/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 9/29/2001; DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/4/2001] ). Entity Tags: Bill Maher, Ari Fleischer Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

October 7, 2001: Bin Laden Issues Video, Warning the US, but Does Not Claim Responsibility for 9/11

Bin Laden appears on Al Jareeza, in a taped statement broadcast shortly after US-led strikes on Afghanistan begin. [Source: Al Jazeera] In a recorded statement broadcast on television worldwide, Osama bin Laden issues a strongly worded message to the United States, but makes no claim of responsibility for 9/11. The recording is broadcast on the Al Jazeera television network within an hour of the first US strikes on Afghanistan, and is then shown by CNN. There is no date on the tape and no immediate way of determining where it was made. [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/8/2001] Bin Laden is shown sitting in a stone cave. His top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appears at his side. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/8/2001] Referring to the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden says, “What the United States tastes today is a very small thing compared to what we have tasted for tens of years.” He praises those responsible, saying, “I ask God Almighty to elevate their status and grant them paradise.” [BBC, 10/7/2001] It is the first time he has spoken publicly about 9/11. But he makes no claim in his statement of having been responsible for the attacks. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/8/2001] He has previously explicitly denied responsibility for 9/11 (see September 16, 2001 and September 28, 2001). Bin Laden concludes his message warning, “[N]either the United States nor he who lives in the United States will enjoy security before we can see it as a reality in Palestine and before all the infidel armies leave the land of Mohammed.” [BBC, 10/7/2001] The following day, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will tell reporters that, after watching this message, President Bush concluded that bin Laden “virtually took responsibility” for 9/11. [CNN, 10/8/2001] Entity Tags: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

October 10, 2001: White House Wants Newspapers Not to Print Full Transcripts of Terrorist Statements White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tells reporters that they should only print expurgated transcripts of the statements made by Osama bin Laden and other terror leaders, for fear that they might incite anti-American violence or worse, contain coded messages to other terrorists. “At best,” the messages are nothing more than “propaganda inciting people to kill Americans,” Fleischer says of bin Laden’s statements. “At worst, he could be issuing orders to his followers to initiate such attacks.” [BBC, 10/11/2001] The statements, and their presumed coded messages, might wind up “in the hands of people who can read it and see something in it,” Fleischer says. [RICH, 2006, PP. 31] Fleischer’s demand dovetails with a request from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the five major television networks not broadcast complete versions of videotaped statements from bin Laden and others (see October 11, 2001). Most American newspapers follow the lead of the New York Times in refusing to comply with Fleischer’s demand. The Times will write in response: “The White House effort is ill advised. … Even if full statements [from bin Laden] were withheld from networks and newspapers, any bin Laden associate… could easily pick them up from foreign broadcast outlets or webcasts. More important, the American people should have unfettered access to information about the terrorist leader and his views.” [CURRENT EVENTS, 11/9/2001] Entity Tags: New York Times, Condoleezza Rice, Osama bin Laden, Ari Fleischer Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

October 11, 2001: Five American News Networks Agree to Self-Censor Their Broadcasts of Bin Laden Statements Five major US television networks agree to self-censor their news broadcasts of statements by Osama bin Laden and his associates. The agreement, made by ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News, comes after a conference call between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and the heads of the networks; Rice’s call comes after White House press secretary Ari Fleischer warns reporters that statements from suspected terrorists could contain anything from incitement to coded messages, and asks them not to print full transcripts of bin Laden’s messages (see October 10, 2001). [BBC, 10/11/2001; RICH, 2006, PP. 31] Rice asks that, instead of automatically airing bin Laden videotapes, news executives should carefully review the tapes and remove any “inflammatory language” before broadcasting. [CURRENT EVENTS, 11/9/2001] The networks say they will now review them first, and edit or censor them as needed. While the American news networks are willing to comply with Rice’s recommendation, the Arab news network Al Jazeera disagrees: chief editor Ibrahim Halil says, “I don’t think the United States, which taught the world about freedom of expression, should now begin to limit it.” Al Jazeera has been the first to broadcast many of the statements in question, broadcasts which were often picked up by American news networks and shown in their entirety. [BBC, 10/11/2001] 'A Silky Form of Censorship' - According to the New York Times, the five networks have never before consulted one another as a group and made such a collective policy decision about news coverage. The executives deny that they were threatened or pressured by Rice or any other White House officials: “Ms. Rice made no specific request of news organizations, other than that we consider the possible existence of such messages in deciding whether and how to air portions of al-Qaeda statements,” says an ABC spokesman. They also deny that the decision amounts to censorship. CBS says it is committed to “responsible journalism that informs the public without jeopardizing American lives.” CBS president Andrew Heyward says: “The issue… was raised by the transmission of unedited, extended propaganda messages from a terrorist group… with the will to kill thousands of people. No network wants to serve as the platform for that propaganda.” And Fox News chairman Roger Ailes notes that “[Rice] was very, very careful to talk about freedom of the press and not to suggest how we do our job.” Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a media watchdog group, has a different view. He calls the decision “a silky form of censorship.” Network executives say that the likelihood of bin Laden using his statements to send coded messages to “sleeper” agents in the US is unlikely, and if he is, the agents could get the statements from printed transcripts or Internet video. “What sense would it make to keep the tapes off the air if the message could be found transcripted in newspapers or on the Web?” one executive asks. “The videos could also appear on the Internet. They’d get the message anyway.” [BBC, 10/11/2001; CURRENT EVENTS, 11/9/2001] Notion that Censorship Could Disrupt Al-Qaeda Communications Fantastical, Says Media Critic - Author and media critic Frank Rich is fascinated by the assumptions behind Rice’s assertions: in 2006, he will write that the Bush administration “entertain[s] at least a passing fantasy that al-Qaeda, despite its access both to the Internet and to the Arabic superstation Al Jazeera… could be disrupted by having its videos kept off the likes of Fox.” The administration’s “ambitions to manage the news [knows] no bounds.” [RICH, 2006, PP. 31] British Broadcasters Refuse Similar Request - A similar request by the British government is flatly refused; the BBC issues a short statement reading, “Government interference will be resisted.” The Canadian government does not issue such a request, leaving the decision of whether to air unedited broadcasts of the terrorists’ statements up to news executives and editors. [TORONTO STAR, 9/8/2002] Entity Tags: Bush administration, Al Jazeera, Center for Media and Public Affairs, CNN, Andrew Heyward, Ari Fleischer, Al-Qaeda, CBS News, ABC News, New York Times, Roger Ailes, Fox News, Condoleezza Rice, Ibrahim Halil, Frank Rich, Matthew Felling, NBC News, British Broadcasting Corporation Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

October 23, 2001: White House Press Secretary Suggests Anthrax Attacks Could Be Linked to International TerroristsEdit

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer makes a comment about the recent anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). He says: “There is a suspicion that this is connected to international terrorists. Having said that, investigators also do not rule out that it could be something domestic, that it could be a lone person operating doing this, or it could be terrorism. The suspicion is that it is terrorism, but there is no hard evidence yet at this point to lead anybody who is investigating these matters to reach a conclusion on any of these sources.” [VOICE OF AMERICA, 10/23/2001] The same day, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D) echoes Fleisher’s comment and links the attacks to overseas terrorists. He says, “I don’t think there’s a way to prove that, but I think we all suspect that.” [US DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 10/23/2001] In 2004, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen will say that, at the time it was widely believed that the anthrax attacks were somehow connected to the 9/11 attacks several weeks before. He will cite Fleischer and Gephardt’s comments as one reason why so many made the connection. [WASHINGTON POST, 7/22/2004] Entity Tags: Richard Gephardt, Ari Fleischer, Richard Cohen Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2001 Anthrax Attacks

October 26-November 1, 2001: ABC News Heavily Pushes False Story Attempting to Link Anthrax Attacks to Iraq On October 26, 2001, Peter Jennings starts ABC News’s World News Tonight evening news broadcast with the comment: “We’re going to begin this evening with what we believe is a meaningful lead in the most sensitive anthrax case so far, despite a very recent denial by the White House. ABC News has learned what made the anthrax so dangerous in the letter to Senator Tom Daschle was a particular additive which only one country, as far as we know, that’s a very important caveat, only one country as far as we know, has used to produce biological weapons.” Bentonite - ABC News reporter Brian Ross then adds: “The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere. [Bentonite is] a substance which helps keep the tiny anthrax particles floating in the air by preventing them from sticking together. It’s possible other countries may be using it, too, but it is a trademark of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program.” Significance - Jennings ends the story by commenting: “This news about bentonite as the additive is being a trademark of the Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant. Partly because there’s been a lot of pressure on the Bush administration inside and out to go after Saddam Hussein. And some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun. There is a battle about Iraq that’s been raging in the administration.” Repeated - The story is repeated by ABC over the next several days, especially by Ross. Qualifications in the initial story are dropped over the next few days as Ross definitely claims that the anthrax “was laced with bentonite” and “the anthrax found in a letter to Senator Daschle is nearly identical to samples they recovered in Iraq in 1994.” On October 28, Ross claims, “[D]espite continued White House denials, four well-placed and separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the anthrax by the US Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have detected trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica.” [ABC NEWS, 10/29/2001; SALON, 4/9/2007; SALON, 8/1/2008] ABC News Keeps Promoting Story despite White House Denial - On October 29, ABC News notes that White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has denied that bentonite was found on the letters. Fleischer says that no test or analysis has shown the presence of bentonite, and “no other finding contradicts or calls into question” that conclusion. But ABC News continues to push the story and quotes former UN weapons inspector Tim Trevan, who says that bentonite “means to me that Iraq becomes the prime suspect as the source of the anthrax used in these letters.” ABC News even brings up the alleged meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi spy in Prague, and quotes former UN weapons inspector Richard Butler: “There are reports that one of the things that may have happened at that meeting was that [Atta] was given by the Iraqi some sample of anthrax.… We do not know if that is true. I believe it is something that should be investigated.” [ABC NEWS, 10/29/2001] Dropped, Sort Of - ABC News finally drops the story on November 1, when Ross reports: “The White House said that despite initial test results which we reported suggesting the presence of a chemical called bentonite, a trademark of the Iraqi weapons program, a further chemical analysis has ruled that out. The White House says there are chemical additives in that anthrax including one called silica.” Yet this account is not entirely correct, because the White House denied the story from the very beginning, as ABC News made clear in their first stories on the subject, and their quoting of White House Press Secretary Fleischer. [TVNEWSER, 8/6/2008] But an ABC News article the same day by Gary Matsumoto continues to push the bentonite theory, despite acknowledging that lab results do not show signs of bentonite. He argues that perhaps a different form of bentonite was used that did not show the usual signs. He also argues that perhaps the anthrax was coated with silica, which would be another sign of high sophistication and possible government involvement in the attacks. This is the theory the White House is pushing (see October 25-29, 2001), although it too will eventually be discredited by the FBI (see August 2006). [ABC NEWS, 11/1/2001] Iraq's Link to Bentonite Questioned - In October 2002, the Washington Post will reveal that early in the anthrax investigation, “US authorities dismissed the possibility that Iraq could have sponsored the attacks because investigators determined that the spores had been coated with silica to make them disperse quickly, rather than the mineral bentonite, regarded by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command as Iraq’s additive of choice.” Furthermore, “Iraq’s alleged preference for bentonite appears to be based on a single sample of a common pesticide collected by UN authorities from Iraq’s Al Hakam biological weapons facility in the mid-1990s.” [WASHINGTON POST, 10/28/2002] Common Clay - Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald will later note: “The very idea that bentonite is ‘a troubling chemical additive,’ let alone that it is some sort of unique Iraqi hallmark, is inane. Bentonite is merely a common clay that is produced all over the world, including from volcanic eruptions.” A geology professor comments: “It is not ‘a chemical additive’ and it is not unique to Iraq. It is widespread and common, and readily available wherever you can get ‘drilling mud.’” [SALON, 4/9/2007] No Correction - But even though it emerges that bentonite was never actually detected in the anthrax samples, ABC News will never correct its story until after it is heavily pressured to do so in late 2008 (see August 6, 2008). Entity Tags: Peter Jennings, Glenn Greenwald, Gary Matsumoto, ABC News, Ari Fleischer, Brian Ross, Tim Trevan, Richard Butler Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda, 2001 Anthrax Attacks

October 28, 2001: Bush Says UN Must Disarm Iraq or US Will Invade Edit

The White House repeats its warning to the UN that the US will act if the UN fails to pass a stronger resolution. Speaking in New Mexico, George Bush says: “Either the United Nations will do its duty to disarm Saddam Hussein, or Saddam Hussein will disarm himself. In either case, if they refuse to act, in the name of peace, in the name of a secure tomorrow, in the name of freedom, the United States will lead a coalition and disarm Saddam Hussein.” [US PRESIDENT, 11/4/2002] And Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Secretary, says, “The United Nations has debated this long enough. The time has come for people to raise their hands and cast their vote.” [WHITE HOUSE, 10/28/2002] Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, United Nations, Saddam Hussein Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

December 17, 2001-January 13, 2002: Government Officials Confirm FBI Believes Domestic Loner Caused the Anthrax Attacks On December 17, 2001, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer speaks of the anthrax attacks investigation and says that it is “increasingly looking like it was a domestic source.” On January 13, 2002, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge similarly states, “the primary direction of the investigation is turned inward.” [SALON, 2/8/2002] This is confirmation of earlier reports that the investigation is focusing on the profile of a disgruntled American scientist acting alone (see November 10, 2001). Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tom Ridge Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Post 2001Edit

Main article: Ari Fleischer:Post 2001

refsEdit

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