Al-Qaeda from 1988 to September 11: 9/11 Early Signs and Aftermath
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In August , Bin Ladin's group, al Qaeda, carried out near-simultaneous truck bomb attacks on the U. The attacks killed people, including 12 Americans, and wounded thousands more. In December , Jordanian police foiled a plot to bomb hotels and other sites frequented by American tourists, and a U. Customs agent arrested Ahmed Ressam at the U. Canadian border as he was smuggling in explosives intended for an attack on Los Angeles International Airport. In October , an al Qaeda team in Aden, Yemen, used a motorboat filled with explosives to blow a hole in the side of a destroyer, the USS Cole , almost sinking the vessel and killing 17 American sailors.
But by September , the executive branch of the U. Who Is the Enemy? Who is this enemy that created an organization capable of inflicting such horrific damage on the United States? We now know that these attacks were carried out by various groups of Islamist extremists.
In the s, young Muslims from around the world went to Afghanistan to join as volunteers in a jihad or holy struggle against the Soviet Union. A wealthy Saudi, Usama Bin Ladin, was one of them. Following the defeat of the Soviets in the late s, Bin Ladin and others formed al Qaeda to mobilize jihads elsewhere. The history, culture, and body of beliefs from which Bin Ladin shapes and spreads his message are largely unknown to many Americans. Seizing on symbols of Islam's past greatness, he promises to restore pride to people who consider themselves the victims of successive foreign masters.
He uses cultural and religious allusions to the holy Qur'an and some of its interpreters. He appeals to people disoriented by cyclonic change as they confront modernity and globalization. His rhetoric selectively draws from multiple sources-Islam, history, and the region's political and economic malaise. Bin Ladin also stresses grievances against the United States widely shared in the Muslim world.
He inveighed against the presence of U. Upon this political and ideological foundation, Bin Ladin built over the course of a decade a dynamic and lethal organization. He built an infrastructure and organization in Afghanistan that could attract, train, and use recruits against ever more ambitious targets. He rallied new zealots and new money with each demonstration of al Qaeda's capability. He had forged a close alliance with the Taliban, a regime providing sanctuary for al Qaeda. By September 11, , al Qaeda possessed leaders able to evaluate, approve, and supervise the planning and direction of a major operation; a personnel system that could recruit candidates, indoctrinate them, vet them, and give them the necessary training; communications sufficient to enable planning and direction of operatives and those who would be helping them; an intelligence effort to gather required information and form assessments of enemy strengths and weaknesses; the ability to move people great distances; and the ability to raise and move the money necessary to finance an attack.
After launching cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation for the embassy bombings, the Clinton administration applied diplomatic pressure to try to persuade the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to expel Bin Ladin. The administration also devised covert operations to use CIA-paid foreign agents to capture or kill Bin Ladin and his chief lieutenants. These actions did not stop Bin Ladin or dislodge al Qaeda from its sanctuary. By late or early , Bin Ladin and his advisers had agreed on an idea brought to them by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed KSM called the "planes operation.
Bin Ladin and his chief of operations, Mohammed Atef, occupied undisputed leadership positions atop al Qaeda. Within al Qaeda, they relied heavily on the ideas and enterprise of strong-willed field commanders, such as KSM, to carry out worldwide terrorist operations. Bin Ladin provided KSM with four initial operatives for suicide plane attacks within the United States, and in the fall of training for the attacks began. New recruits included four from a cell of expatriate Muslim extremists who had clustered together in Hamburg, Germany.
One became the tactical commander of the operation in the United States: Working with foreign security services, the CIA broke up some al Qaeda cells. The core of Bin Ladin's organization nevertheless remained intact. In December , news about the arrests of the terrorist cell in Jordan and the arrest of a terrorist at the U. In January , the intense intelligence effort glimpsed and then lost sight of two operatives destined for the "planes operation.
On January 15, , they arrived in Los Angeles. Because these two al Qaeda operatives had spent little time in the West and spoke little, if any, English, it is plausible that they or KSM would have tried to identify, in advance, a friendly contact in the United States. We explored suspicions about whether these two operatives had a support network of accomplices in the United States.
The evidence is thin-simply not there for some cases, more worrisome in others. We do know that soon after arriving in California, the two al Qaeda operatives sought out and found a group of ideologically like-minded Muslims with roots in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, individuals mainly associated with a young Yemeni and others who attended a mosque in San Diego.
After a brief stay in Los Angeles about which we know little, the al Qaeda operatives lived openly in San Diego under their true names. They managed to avoid attracting much attention. By the summer of , three of the four Hamburg cell members had arrived on the East Coast of the United States and had begun pilot training. In early , a fourth future hijacker pilot, Hani Hanjour, journeyed to Arizona with another operative, Nawaf al Hazmi, and conducted his refresher pilot training there.
A number of al Qaeda operatives had spent time in Arizona during the s and early s. During , President Bill Clinton and his advisers renewed diplomatic efforts to get Bin Ladin expelled from Afghanistan. They also renewed secret efforts with some of the Taliban's opponents-the Northern Alliance-to get enough intelligence to attack Bin Ladin directly. Diplomatic efforts centered on the new military government in Pakistan, and they did not succeed.
The efforts with the Northern Alliance revived an inconclusive and secret debate about whether the United States should take sides in Afghanistan's civil war and support the Taliban's enemies. The CIA also produced a plan to improve intelligence collection on al Qaeda, including the use of a small, unmanned airplane with a video camera, known as the Predator. After the October attack on the USS Cole , evidence accumulated that it had been launched by al Qaeda operatives, but without confirmation that Bin Ladin had given the order. The Taliban had earlier been warned that it would be held responsible for another Bin Ladin attack on the United States.
The CIA described its findings as a "preliminary judgment"; President Clinton and his chief advisers told us they were waiting for a conclusion before deciding whether to take military action. The military alternatives remained unappealing to them. The transition to the new Bush administration in late and early took place with the Cole issue still pending. Bush and his chief advisers accepted that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack on the Cole , but did not like the options available for a response.
Bin Ladin's inference may well have been that attacks, at least at the level of the Cole , were risk free. The Bush administration began developing a new strategy with the stated goal of eliminating the al Qaeda threat within three to five years. During the spring and summer of , U. Numerous precautions were taken overseas. Domestic agencies were not effectively mobilized. The threat did not receive national media attention comparable to the millennium alert. While the United States continued disruption efforts around the world, its emerging strategy to eliminate the al Qaeda threat was to include an enlarged covert action program in Afghanistan, as well as diplomatic strategies for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The process culminated during the summer of in a draft presidential directive and arguments about the Predator aircraft, which was soon to be deployed with a missile of its own, so that it might be used to attempt to kill Bin Ladin or his chief lieutenants. At a September 4 meeting, President Bush's chief advisers approved the draft directive of the strategy and endorsed the concept of arming the Predator. This directive on the al Qaeda strategy was awaiting President Bush's signature on September 11, Though the "planes operation" was progressing, the plotters had problems of their own in Several possible participants dropped out; others could not gain entry into the United States including one denial at a port of entry and visa denials not related to terrorism.
One of the eventual pilots may have considered abandoning the planes operation. Zacarias Moussaoui, who showed up at a flight training school in Minnesota, may have been a candidate to replace him. Some of the vulnerabilities of the plotters become clear in retrospect. Moussaoui aroused suspicion for seeking fast-track training on how to pilot large jet airliners. He was arrested on August 16, , for violations of immigration regulations. In late August, officials in the intelligence community realized that the terrorists spotted in Southeast Asia in January had arrived in the United States.
These cases did not prompt urgent action. No one working on these late leads in the summer of connected them to the high level of threat reporting. In the words of one official, no analytic work foresaw the lightning that could connect the thundercloud to the ground. As final preparations were under way during the summer of , dissent emerged among al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan over whether to proceed. Although facing opposition from many of his senior lieutenants, Bin Ladin effectively overruled their objections, and the attacks went forward.
September 11, The day began with the 19 hijackers getting through a security checkpoint system that they had evidently analyzed and knew how to defeat. Their success rate in penetrating the system was 19 for They took over the four flights, taking advantage of air crews and cockpits that were not prepared for the contingency of a suicide hijacking.
September 11 attacks advance-knowledge conspiracy theories
What ensued was a hurried attempt to improvise a defense by civilians who had never handled a hijacked aircraft that attempted to disappear, and by a military unprepared for the transformation of commercial aircraft into weapons of mass destruction. A shootdown authorization was not communicated to the NORAD air defense sector until 28 minutes after United 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania. Planes were scrambled, but ineffectively, as they did not know where to go or what targets they were to intercept.
And once the shootdown order was given, it was not communicated to the pilots. In short, while leaders in Washington believed that the fighters circling above them had been instructed to "take out" hostile aircraft, the only orders actually conveyed to the pilots were to "ID type and tail. Casualties were nearly percent at and above the impact zones and were very high among first responders who stayed in danger as they tried to save lives.
Despite weaknesses in preparations for disaster, failure to achieve unified incident command, and inadequate communications among responding agencies, all but approximately one hundred of the thousands of civilians who worked below the impact zone escaped, often with help from the emergency responders.
At the Pentagon, while there were also problems of command and control, the emergency response was generally effective. The Incident Command System, a formalized management structure for emergency response in place in the National Capital Region, overcame the inherent complications of a response across local, state, and federal jurisdictions. Operational Opportunities We write with the benefit and handicap of hindsight.
We are mindful of the danger of being unjust to men and women who made choices in conditions of uncertainty and in circumstances over which they often had little control. Nonetheless, there were specific points of vulnerability in the plot and opportunities to disrupt it. Operational failures-opportunities that were not or could not be exploited by the organizations and systems of that time-included not watchlisting future hijackers Hazmi and Mihdhar, not trailing them after they traveled to Bangkok, and not informing the FBI about one future hijacker's U. What we can say with confidence is that none of the measures adopted by the U.
Across the government, there were failures of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management. Imagination The most important failure was one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat.
September 11 attacks
The terrorist danger from Bin Ladin and al Qaeda was not a major topic for policy debate among the public, the media, or in the Congress. Indeed, it barely came up during the presidential campaign. Al Qaeda's new brand of terrorism presented challenges to U. Though top officials all told us that they understood the danger, we believe there was uncertainty among them as to whether this was just a new and especially venomous version of the ordinary terrorist threat the United States had lived with for decades, or it was indeed radically new, posing a threat beyond any yet experienced.
As late as September 4, , Richard Clarke, the White House staffer long responsible for counterterrorism policy coordination, asserted that the government had not yet made up its mind how to answer the question: Policy Terrorism was not the overriding national security concern for the U. The policy challenges were linked to this failure of imagination. Officials in both the Clinton and Bush administrations regarded a full U.
These capabilities were insufficient. Keep in mind that America has invaded more than one country and has killed a significantly larger number of people, who are just as innocent as the citizens who lost their lives in the towers. There is more sides to the story than one. Thomas September 16, at Analyses of mr Berger is comprehensive but alittle diffused because seems unable to nerrowing down on tthe most likely causes for this tragedy.
John Ellis October 6, at Riaz December 10, at Eastern or western, Christian, Muslim, Jew or atheist, any sane person will quite naturally loath terror by anyone on anyone. Your article is very much like the five blind men who went to see an elephant. The one who felt the tail thought the elephant was like a broom. The second who felt the leg thought the elephant was like a pillar. The third who felt the trunk thought the elephant was like a rather large fleshy hose pipe.
The fourth felt the tusk, thought the elephant was like a curved wooden rod a bit rounded at the end. The last one felt the ear, he thought the elephant was a big fleshy leaf. The western perception of Al-Qiada and its motivation is no different to blind mans perception of an elephant. You are looking for answers in the Islamic east, but the answer lies in the Christian west. Does the tyranny of hegemonic western actions in the Islamic east make any sense.
Obviously not; that is one direction you absolutely refuse to consider.
THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
George Bush on the television asked the question, why do they hate us? That question can only be answered by those that hate; instead George lied through his teeth by providing the answer; they hate us because the hate our freedom. Andrew January 9, at It took 50 years since jet engines , there was a plane before that hit the empire state building accidentally but did not kill so many as modern jets can.
I don't think the cause is so important to examine, it is sadly inevitable.. John Doe June 29, at December 20, at John Doe January 27, at How the hell can you say that it was not caused by a century of American intervention in the Middle East. It is so incredibly ignorant and ironically typical of America to blame it on the Quran and Islam. Yes this was an awful event and there is no real excuse for it, but just to put into perspective, we are responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq alone. The US needs to wake up and realize that their arrogant policy of "It works for us so it has to work for them" is not working and is only fueling the growing hatred of Western society.
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T January 28, at For the sake of world peace and order in the galaxy, don't make any more generalisations that cannot be substantiated. Khallie March 2, at I still dont understand why they needed to do this. America should probably stay in their own business.
September 11 attacks - Wikipedia
I am doing a report on Pearl Harbor and the similarties between the two attacks are undescribable. Because something so similar happened once sont you thing the country should've learned? Emily September 9, at Wendy Orange September 20, at I tend to avoid most, not all, conspiracy theories. War made them even richer. I don't have any certainty one way or another. The rest comes from watching videos of how the three building all fell.
I'd love someone to respond. Because I simply do not know what is in the category of haphazard or what might be us criminal actions. Khalid October 18, at The day west would realise the cause and rectify it, ninety nine percent of the terrorism in the world would disappear overnight. But thanks to Zioist and Neocons partnership, western world will continue to blame everything and everybody other than addressing the the root cause of the problem.
Joe January 11, at I couldn't read anymore after the first paragraph. A bunch of muslims planning the attack out of a cave is just as nutty as the US government doing a false flag operation. Book March 27, at No I don't believe in terrorism. But the news should at least show the way of us seeing for ourselves. Cambridge Student March 27, at I like the section on credible explanations, actually. But I think you are reducing your own credibility, by not giving the "nutty" theories a proper rebuttal and historical context.
For example, it is striking that numerous American wars have had one trigger event - and several of those have been shown to be instigated Vietnam, WWI or provoked first Iraq war. And while I'm not at all convinced by them, I think ignoring these consipracy-ish theories that so, SO many people believe in makes your article very weak indeed. Regards from Cambridge University. Scott March 28, at If you think the US was complicit or allowed the mass murder of its own citizens in any way, shape or form your parents should choose another avenue through which to waste their money other than tossing it away on your studies.
KC April 27, at Cambridge has a very good point! It seems history keeps repeating itself when it comes to America declaring wars. Because the American constitution does not allow the US to wage a pre-emptive war and reserves for congress the power to declare war on another nation, the US has to create secretly create a reason for an excuse to enter or declare a war. Spain was immediately accused of the attack even though they sternly denied any responsibility. Pictures of the sinking ship were shown in movie theaters of the nation, thus generating a strong nation that allowed the military to start a war that had already been prepared to the smallest detail.
In the mean time, the entire Spanish Armada had been wiped out. America had become a new maritime power with strategic positions going from the Caribbean to the Philippine islands. Bush, allowing him to establish military bases in Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait and declare war in Iraq after providing fake information to the world through the mass media. It is interesting to note how the mass media can be easily manipulated since it is owned by a people that can be manipulated as well.
Simply put, if Philip I. Kent the CEO of CNN is controlled by a powerful person, whether he is a member of a Government or an oligarchic ruling elite class, Kent, has the power to choose to broadcast only what he is told to broadcast and not broadcast what he is told to hide. Alyson May 28, at Recently came across this interesting book which looks at the way outcomes were planned at the outset and then changed as things developed in unanticipated ways.
Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad's Green Zone, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, does a good job of evidencing the intentions and effectiveness, or otherwise, of policies and practices on the ground at the time. Withaak July 6, at I hope Americans and their allies sleep well at night as they willfully ignore their complicity in the murder of innocents in their millions.
To the west these dead are not people they are the 'other'.
An externalisation of the west's own self-contamination. Afterwards they can feel cleansed and reborn, justified by their self-aggrandisement and power. The causes of the wars fought by America and the west are for internal reasons, mainly delusional and neurotic. Les September 13, at I'm American and I've never murdered or supported murdering anyone April 23, at We're quick to flag up the Sword Verses in the Quran, and imply that Islam therefore condones violence against infidels.
What too many Christians don't know is that the Bible says pretty much the same thing. Take a quick look at Deuteronomy, Chapters 13 and 17 if you need convincing. Muslims may well sumise that this explains the inherent violence of the de facto Christian USA, UK and other western powers. ZZK May 17, at If anyone thinks otherwise, I won't insult by calling names, that's what starts these types of things in the first place Let's just say, those that believe this government had nothing to do with it, you're experiencing patriotic blindness.
Jeremy Keen May 21, at This article completely ignores the copious amounts of evidence that the attacks were in fact engineered from within the intelligence services of the USA and Israel. Such a shame that supposedly learned sources like Prospect refuse to acknowledge the mountain of factual info. To do so would be to rock your world-view, wouldn't it?
Mustn't allow that to happen. Keep serving the lie, chaps. If this were you'd be blaming the Communists for the Reischstag Fire. Much easier to follow the orthodoxy than risk thinking for yourselves and speaking out for truth. That way lies danger. I am in favour of Huntington's theory.
The author is wrong by concluding that is the cause of Western-Muslim clash. What are they doing? And was it the United States? If it was, when did that occur, and what were we doing about it? The federal government works kind of the same way. President Bill Clinton bows his head in a moment of silence during a memorial service for victims of the explosion on the USS Cole, 18 October, The attack in Yemen left 17 US sailors dead and 39 injured.
HISTORY asked our sources what they learned during their time chasing al Qaeda in the s that they would pass on to their present-day counterparts: You need subject-matter experts whose job is only to look at the information—not to collect it, not to go to meetings, not to play politics. If you want to work with terrorism, stay with terrorism. There is no substitute for experience, sticking with a certain subject and becoming an expert in it, because it is so apparent to your adversaries—your competency when you talk to them. The importance of sharing information with each other, but also the importance of focusing on the ideology and focusing on the narrative, and not just getting blinded with names: Is it Ansar al-Sharia?
Every bit of information, as small as it gets, might be important one day, and might be the piece that you need in order to put a big plot together.
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