Hijackers 'trailed by CIA before attacks'
Matthew Engel in Washington
Monday June 3, 2002
Two of the hijackers who crashed American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon were spotted as potential terrorists by the CIA more than 18 months before September 11, Newsweek reported yesterday. It called this "the most puzzling, and devastating,intelligence failure" in the period before attacks.
The magazine reports in its new issue, out yesterday, that US intelligence spotted both men at an al-Qaida summit in January 2000, tracked at least one of them as he flew to Los Angeles - and then did nothing with the information.
The agency did not tell either immigration officials or the FBI. The movements of the men, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, could have been monitored easily as they lived openly in the US, apparently under their real names.
The two reportedly took flying lessons in San Diego, where their instructor later said they were only interested in flying big jets.
Meanwhile, the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat yesterday published what it said was a warning by an al-Qaida spokesman, Sulaman bu Ghaith, that the US should prepare for another attack. "What is coming to the Americans will not, by the will of God, be less than what has come," he was quoted as saying. "So beware, America. Get ready. Get prepared. Put on the safety belt."
Mr bu Ghaith, a cleric who has been quoted as an al-Qaida spokesman before, said the attacks would continue to hit their targets, either "individuals or institutions."
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