Bush Gives New Details of 2002 Qaeda Plot to Attack Los Angeles

topic posted Thu, February 9, 2006 - 6:40 PM by  Alan
"Mr. Bush and White House officials gave no reason for releasing details of a plot that they first disclosed last October."


WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — President Bush offered new information on Thursday about what he said was a foiled plot by Al Qaeda in 2002 to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building west of the Mississippi, the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, as he sought to make the case for his record on national security.

Although the administration made public the Los Angeles plot in general terms four months ago, Mr. Bush, in a speech to the National Guard Association, disclosed more specific details, including what he said was the planned use of a "shoe bomb" by hijackers to breach the airplane's cockpit door and take over the controls.

In addition, Mr. Bush and one of his counterterrorism advisers said that four extremists were recruited from Southeast Asia to carry out the plan, that their leader received training in shoe bombs and that all four had traveled to an undisclosed place after the Sept. 11 attacks to meet with Osama bin Laden and pledge their loyalty to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Bush and White House officials gave no reason for releasing details of a plot that they first disclosed last October. But Mr. Bush's speech came at a time when Republicans are intent on establishing their record on national security as the pre-eminent issue in the 2006 midterm elections, and when the president is facing questions from members of both parties about a secret eavesdropping program that he describes as pivotal to the war on terrorism.

In his speech, Mr. Bush said the plot had been "derailed in early 2002, when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key Al Qaeda operative." He added that "subsequent debriefings and other intelligence operations made clear the intended target and how Al Qaeda hoped to execute it."

Mr. Bush and his counterterrorism adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, made no claim on Thursday that the eavesdropping program, conducted by the National Security Agency, had helped to foil the 2002 plot. But in a conference call with reporters, Ms. Townsend did not rule out the program as a factor in discovering the plan.

"We use all available sources and methods in the intelligence community, but we have to protect them," Ms. Townsend said. "So I'm not going to talk about what ones we did or didn't use in this particular case."

She added that the Los Angeles plot had grown out of the Sept. 11 attacks. As described in the staff report by the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is said to be the mastermind behind them, had originally envisioned an elaborate plan with 10 planes that would attack the East and West Coasts simultaneously on Sept. 11, 2001. But Mr. bin Laden rejected the plan, the report said, because of its difficulty.

"It was bin Laden who decided that it should just focus on the East Coast, and the West Coast should be held in abeyance until there was a follow-on attack," Ms. Townsend told reporters. "It's our understanding now that it was too difficult to get enough operatives for both the East and West Coast plots at the same time."

Weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Ms. Townsend said, Mr. Mohammed turned his attention to the West Coast and to recruits from Southeast Asia affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah, a Qaeda offshoot with roots in Indonesia.

Working with another terror figure, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, Mr. Mohammed recruited a cell leader and three other men in October 2001, Ms. Townsend said. Mr. Mohammed trained the leader of the group in building a shoe bomb, similar to the device recovered from Richard Reid, who had tried to set off a bomb in his shoe on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001.

Significantly, each of the four men, whom Ms. Townsend would not identify, were found to have traveled to Afghanistan to meet with Mr. bin Laden in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks. Each pledged loyalty to him, she said. Such pledges were a significant gesture in the bin Laden network and usually a prerequisite to carrying out an attack.

Ms. Townsend said that American counterterrorism officials, working with four other regional governments, which she would not identify, arrested the cell leader and three others in February 2002. The plot was effectively extinguished.

Several American counterterrorism officials said Thursday that, at the time the plot was broken up in early 2002, the authorities believed that they had disrupted an active terrorist planning effort, but that they possessed only fragmentary evidence and were unsure whether the threat was significant.

Only later did they conclude that the plot was genuine and potentially serious. The outline of the plot became clear, the officials said, primarily through the interrogations of captured Qaeda figures like Mr. Mohammed, who was apprehended in March 2003, and Hambali, captured in August 2003.

In Los Angeles, the office of Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa said that the White House on Wednesday had given them a heads up about the president's disclosure but said that the mayor was not personally informed.

"I would have expected a direct call from the White House," the mayor said at an afternoon news conference.

In his remarks, Mr. Bush referred to the West Coast target as "the Liberty Tower," but White House officials said he had meant to say Library Tower, the name of the U.S. Bank Tower in 2002. The building, completed in 1989, is 1,018 feet tall and was "destroyed" by alien invaders in the 1996 movie "Independence Day."
posted by:
  • You have got to be kidding me, right? As if a terrorist would attempt to detonate a bomb inside a plane, thinking that the fuselage would not be breached immedately, causing the plane to crash? That is a very uncalculable risk, in my estimation, and frankly, I believe it is simply impossible to detonate a bomb that would breach only the barrier door to the cockpit and not the fuselage of the airplane.

  • Intel pros say Bush is lying about foiling 2002 terror attack
    utraged intelligence professionals say President George W. Bush is "cheapening" and "politicizing" their work with claims the United States foiled a planned terrorist attack against Los Angeles in 2002.

    "The President has cheapened the entire intelligence community by dragging us into his fantasy world," says a longtime field operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. "He is basing this absurd claim on the same discredited informant who told us Al Qaeda would attack selected financial institutions in New York and Washington."

    Within hours of the President’s speech Thursday claiming his administration had prevented a major attack, sources who said they were current and retired intelligence pros from the CIA, NSA, FBI and military contacted Capitol Hill Blue with angry comments disputing the President’s remarks.

    “He’s full of shit,” said one sharply-worded email.

    Although none were willing to allow use of their names, saying doing so would place them in legal jeopardy, we were able to confirm that at least four of the 23 who contacted us currently work, or had worked, within the U.S. intelligence community.

    But Los Angeles Mayor Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is willing to go on the record, claiming Bush blind-sided his city with the claims.

    "I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the mayor says. "I don't expect a call from the president — but somebody." Villaraigosa also said he has twice requested meetings with Bush to discuss security issues for Los Angeles and was turned down both times.

    Intelligence pros say much of the information used by Bush in an attempt to justify his increased spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, trampling of civil rights under the USA Patriot Act, and massive buildup of the Department of Homeland Security, now the nation’s largest federal bureaucracy, was “worthless intel that was discarded long ago.”

    “A lot of buzz circulated in the months following the September 11, 2001, attacks,” says an NSA operative. “Snippets here and there were true but most were just random information that could never be confirmed. One thing we do know about al Qaeda is that they seldom use the same technique twice. They tried a car bomb to bring down the World Trade Center and it failed. Then they went to planes. The next time will be something different because we’ve geared up to prevent hijacking planes and using them as flying bombs.”

    In August 2004, just as the Presidential campaign was about to heat up, the Bush White House raised the terror alert, claiming attacks were imminent on major financial institutions. The alert, apparently timed to steal thunder from Democrat John Kerry’s nomination for President, was withdrawn after administration officials admitted it was based on old information from a discredited informant.

    The discredited information dated back to the same period when intelligence agencies began receiving reports of a planned attack against Los Angeles.

    Counterterrorism officials say they are surprised that Bush claimed the plot was "set in motion."

    "There was no definitive plot. It never materialized or got past the thought stage," says a senior counterterrorism official, who has worked at the CIA and the FBI, who talked to Capitol Hill Blue and the New York Daily News.

    FBI Deputy Director John Pistole refused to characterize it as an advanced plot when discussing it in June 2004.

    Former DHS secretary Tom Ridge admits the U.S. raised terror alerts for the wrong reasons and now says he often disagreed with the timing of such alerts but was overruled by the White House.

    "More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge says. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on alert, There were times when the White House was really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' We often lost the argument."

    Ridge left DHS in February 2005 and Bush replaced him with Michael Chertoff who agrees with the “cry wolf” strategy of the White House.

    “Chertoff is a lackey,” says Kevin Riley, a retired New York City Detective who knew Chertoff during his days as a U.S. Attorney in New York. “He’ll do whatever Bush tells him to do.”

    Intelligence pros at established Washington agencies laugh at DHS operatives, calling them “Keystone Kops” and “overpaid rent-a-cops,” saying they lack any real expertise in dealing with terrorism.

    “DHS is a political police force,” says a retired CIA agent. “They exist to enforce the political propaganda program of George W. Bush. That’s all they’re good for and they’re not very good at that.”

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