PBS Nova’s “The Spy Factory” tells the story of of the super-secret NSA (“no such agency”) was right on the trail of Al Queda. But like John O’Neill, they were also thwarted by higher ups (who were either screwing up or deliberately protecting bad guys) before they could do anything with the information. Author James Bamford dug up a “chilling tale of terrorists, living in San Diego, communicating with bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen, moving freely about, and all the while, NSA is listening in”.
Asian Parent Tip: the NSA has a nifty Stokes full-ride scholarship program for math wiz kids like the service academies, except you can to go any college, and you don’t have to shoot anybody
While it is not as complete as some other sources such as History Commons, it is nevertheless the best single the best outline I have seen of how imam Anwar al-Awlaki’s San Diego cell prepared to take American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon: Hani Hanjour, Nawaf al-Hazmi, and Khalid al-Midhar. The NSA was tipped off when Al Queda purchased a satellite phone, and even figured out the house in Yemen that was communications hub between the plotters and “that guy in a cave in Afghanistan that couldn’t possibly have directed 9/11″. Midhar even took a short “vacation to visit his wife and baby” that just happened to be at that SAME HOUSE about the time people are pretty sure he helped organize the plot to blow up the USS Cole which was anchored at the harbor of the “military ally”. The bunch eventually stayed in a cheap hotel practically within sight of NSA headquarters in Maryland.
Nova skips over some key characters such as formerly-moderate Anwar al-Awalki who only attracted wide notice after blessing the 2009 Fort Hood Massacre and leaving his calling card on the underwear and printer toner bombing plots. Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi received the terrorists in Los Angeles before delivering them to the mosque of FBI informant Abdussattar Shaikh, co-founder of San Diego’s largest mosque, as well as Awlaki. Shaikh is known today as founder of the Masjid Usman Center for Religious Tolerance. Of course, he was cleared, like Awlaki, of “any relationship with the 9/11 plot”. After meeting Awlaki in San Diego, the cell closed up shop and the FBI records that they forwarded their bills to the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church Virginia. After a long cross-continent road trip, they once again met Awlaki who just happened to leave San Diego at about the same time and become the new imam at the Dar al-Hijrah after returning from a vacation “overseas” to nations unknown (hey, it was probably sunny Yemen or Afghanistan, why should we care?)
Full episode on Hulu:
PBS Show page here
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/hill-911-attacks.html investigating 9/11 problems
Fox: The American Terrorist
Fox News did a special that nicely complements what these guys were doing with the background of Anwar al-Awlaki who almost certainly was the man in spiritual charge of the plotters, and how the first 2 hijackers were dropped off at a house across the street from San Diego’s largest mosque, and would later stay at the house of the imam in charge there. In general the theme continues of a guy who over and over again raises alarms and just as often higher authorities hit the snooze button and say there’s nothing to see here, he’s good.