By JOHN SOLOMON
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Exactly two years before the Sept.
11 attacks, a federal report warned the executive branch that
Osama bin Laden's terrorists might hijack an airliner and dive
bomb it into the Pentagon or other government building.
``Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida's
Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with
high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the
headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the
White House,'' the September 1999 report said.
The report, entitled the ``Sociology and
Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?,''
described the suicide hijacking as one of several possible
retribution attacks al-Qaida might seek for the 1998 U.S.
airstrike against bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan. 1999
The report noted that an al-Qaida-linked
terrorist first arrested in the Philippines in 1995 and later
convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing had suggested
such a suicide jetliner mission.
``Ramzi Yousef had planned to do this against
the CIA headquarters,'' author Rex Hudson wrote in a report
prepared for the National Intelligence Council and shared with
other federal agencies.
The intelligence council is attached to the CIA
and is made up of a dozen senior intelligence officers who
assist the U.S. intelligence community in analysis of threats
The report contrasts with Bush administration
officials' assertions that none in government had imagined an
attack like Sept. 11 before that time.
``I don't think anybody could have predicted
that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the
World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the
Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile,
a hijacked airplane as a missile,'' national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice said Thursday.
The report was written by the Federal Research
Division, an arm of the Library of Congress that provides
research for various federal agencies under contracts.
The report was based solely on open-source
information that the federal researchers gathered about the
likely threats of terrorists, according to Robert L. Worden,
the division's chief he federal research division.
``This information was out there, certainly to
those who study the in-depth subject of terrorism and
al-Qaida,'' Worden said.
``We knew it was an insightful report,'' he
said. ``Then after Sept. 11 we said, 'My gosh, that (suicide
hijacking) was in there.'''
Asked about the report at his daily press
briefing, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer described it as
a psychological, sociological evaluation of terrorism.
``I don't think it's a surprise to anybody that
terrorists think in evil ways,'' he said.
``It is not a piece of intelligence information
suggesting that we had information about a specific plan.''
Former CIA Deputy Director John Gannon, who was
chairman of the National Intelligence Council when the report
was written, said U.S. intelligence long has known a suicide
hijacker was a possible threat.
``If you ask anybody could terrorists convert a
plane into a missile, nobody would have ruled that out,'' he
said. He called the 1999 report part of a broader effort by
his council to identify for U.S. intelligence the full range
of attack options for terrorists and U.S. enemies.
``It became such a rich threat environment that
it was almost too much for Congress and the administration to
absorb,'' he said. ``They couldn't prioritize what was the
most significant threat.''
Gannon, who served both Democratic and
Republican presidents, said Americans need to make a
distinction between knowing the type of vulnerabilities
terrorist could exploit and knowing the attacks were imminent.
He said criticism that President Bush's
August briefing should have alerted the administration to the
attacks was ``egregiously unfair. The president wasn't given
actionable intelligence,'' he said.