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America's New War: Terrorists Planned for Years

Aired September 19, 2001 - 05:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HARRIS: We turn now to the latest in the investigation.

CNN has learned that there have been clues for years that terrorists were plotting these kinds of attacks.

CNN national correspondent Eileen O'Connor has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: FBI Director Robert Mueller contends the agency had no knowledge that the dead hijackers -- some suspected already by U.S. intelligence to have ties to bin Laden -- were receiving flight training.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: The fact that there were a number of individuals that happened to receive training at flight schools here is news, quite obviously. If we had understood that to be the case, we would have -- perhaps one could have averted this.

O'CONNOR (on camera): But that knowledge was available to the FBI. Court documents, computer records and police information from abroad obtained by CNN clearly indicates that authorities knew years ago that bin Laden and associates from other terrorist organizations were planning to hijack a commercial airliner and crash it into U.S. landmarks.

(voice-over): In 1995, police in the Philippines discovered a hideout used by Ramsey Yousef -- later convicted for bombing the World Trade Center in 1993. Testimony from an associate revealed a chilling plot.

RIGOBERTO TIGLAO, PHILIPPINE PRES. SPOKESMAN: Their plan was to hijack airlines from Asia, and secondly, to outrightly use it as weapons, which is what happened on September 11.

In fact, the targets they listed were CIA headquarters, Pentagon, Trans America, Sears, and the World Trade Center.

O'CONNOR: Despite those warning, people like Mohamed Atta -- suspected by German authorities of being associated with terrorist groups -- got flight training at several Florida aviation schools.

Others known to have links to terrorist activity against the United States were still able to practice flying in San Diego and Arizona.

In addition, CNN confirmed the FBI visited this flight school in Norman, Oklahoma, several times in the weeks leading up to the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Why? Because they discovered this man -- Zacharias Moussaoui (ph) -- had been training there, and was using false documents, sources say.

Coincidentally, it's the same place an alleged associated of bin Laden had trained years earlier.

Moussaoui (ph) is now in custody, being questioned.

The Admissions Director says he was a poor student.

BRENDA KEEN, AIRMAN FLIGHT SCHOOL: He had 57 hours of flight training with us. Normally it takes at least 40 hours for a private pilot to obtain a license. He never even at this point solo-ed.

O'CONNOR: After the attacks on the World Trade Center, the FBI came back and discovered something else: Atta and another of the dead hijackers had also looked at this school for training.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just took the tour, yes. That's all they did.

O'CONNOR: The two decided to go to Florida instead, where they joined some of the other hijackers to practice their flying.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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