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With Carl Limbacher and Staff
For the story behind the story...

Thursday, May 16, 2002 10:48 a.m. EDT

Clinton Warned on Bin Laden Hijack-Kamikaze Plot

If you don't recall seeing the blaring post-Sept. 11 headline "Clinton Warned on Bin Laden Hijack-Kamikaze Plot," it's not because your memory is failing.

In fact, the big media mostly ignored the story - in marked contrast to today's wall-to-wall coverage of news that President Bush received a pre-Sept. 11 CIA briefing on a possible bin Laden hijack plot.

And while the warning transmitted to Bush gave no inkling that bin Laden planned to transform U.S. airliners into flying bombs and slam them into American office buildings, Clinton administration intelligence officials were in fact in possession of detailed information on an al Qaeda conspiracy to hijack several U.S. airliners - including a plan to crash one of the planes into the Pentagon or CIA.

It was called "Operation Bojinka," a 1995 plot hatched by an al Qaeda cell in the Philippines with an eye toward blowing up 12 American airliners. Some would be booby-trapped with bombs, like Pan Am 103, others hijacked like the four U.S. jets commandeered on 9-11 and crashed into buildings.

Though the mainstream press never demonstrated much enthusiasm for the story, Accuracy in Media's Reed Irvine detailed what the Clinton administration knew - and when it knew it - for last October.

Citing a Sept. 13 Agence France-Presse report, Irvine noted that Philippine Police Chief Superintendent Avelino Razon had uncovered the plot to "plant bombs in U.S. airliners and hijack others to crash them into buildings like the CIA headquarters."

"Razon said [the plot] was found on the computer of Ramzi Yousef, the organizer of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center," Irvine reported. "He had fled to Pakistan, but his laptop was found in the apartment he shared with his accomplice, Abdul Hakim Murad. Razon said both were agents of Osama bin Laden."

A later Agence France-Press report noted:

"Among targets mentioned [in Yousef's computer files] was the World Trade Center in New York ... CIA offices in Virginia and the Sears Tower in Chicago."

Picking up where Irvine left off, the Washington Post quoted a Filipino investigator who said that as he watched the attack on the World Trade Center on television, he exclaimed in horror, "It's Bojinka. We told the Americans everything about Bojinka. Why didn't they pay attention?"

Razon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that after the the Philippine intelligence report was compiled in 1995, it was passed on to the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Joint Task Force on Terrorism.

But, he complained, "It was not given credibility. Otherwise, it could have prevented the destruction of the World Trade Center."

The Clinton FBI was in full possession of all the frightening facts on Bojinka, but did nothing. Instead, as Reed Irvine revealed, the bureau assured Congress that everything was under control.

"In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on terrorism in February 1998, 'Bojinka' - which means 'big bang' - was described by Dale L. Watson, chief of the International Terrorism Operations Section of the FBI, only as a plot to blow up 'numerous U.S. air carriers.'

"He said that the FBI had identified 'a significant and growing organizational presence' of foreign terrorists in the United States. He swore the bureau had them under control."

The Clinton FBI counterintelligence chief told the Senate that as a result of the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the FBI had developed an 'enhanced capability' to track terrorist activities.

Is it likely that U.S. intelligence possessed this much information on al-Qaeda plans to slam planes into U.S. buildings - and didn't tell President Clinton?

Actually it is, if you believe the account of his former CIA Director James Woolsey, who said Clinton never bothered to meet with him during his stint as the nation's intelligence chief.

What about other administration officials, like Attorney General Janet Reno, who certainly should have known about Bojinka?

There Clinton may also have an alibi.

During all of 1998 - the same year FBI counterintelligence briefed Congress on the al-Qaeda hijack plot - Clinton met with his Cabinet exactly twice: once in January to lie to them about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and again in August to come clean about the affair.

Learn more about why U.S intelligence missed the 9-11 clues during the Clinton years. Get your copy of's "Off the Record" interview with FBI whistleblower Gary Aldrich.

Read more on this subject in related Hot Topics:
Bush Administration
Clinton Scandals
War on Terrorism

A product that might interest you:
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News

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