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9/11 Widow Speaks at Intelligence Hearing

Aired September 18, 2002 - 10:44   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: At the Joint Intelligence Committee, Kristen Breitweiser is talking now. She lost her husband in the World Trade Center attacks. Let's listen in.

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, WIDOW OF 9/11 VICTIM: ... examination of the intelligence agencies by this committee does not detract, discount, or dismantle the need for a more thorough examination of all of these other culpable parties. An independent, blue ribbon panel would be the most appropriate means to achieve such a thorough and expansive examination, in large part because it would not be limited in scope or hindered by time limits. An independent blue ribbon panel would provide a comprehensive, unbiased, and definitive report that the devastation of September 11th demands.

Soon after the attacks, President Bush stated that there would come a time to look back and examine our nation's failures, but that such an undertaking was inappropriate while the nation was still in shock. I would respectfully suggest to President Bush and to our Congress that now, a full year later, it is time to look back and investigate our failures as a nation.

A hallmark of democratic government is a willingness to admit to, analyze and learn from mistakes, and it is now time for our nation to triumph as the great democracy that it is. The families of the victims of September 11th have waited long enough. We need to have answers. We need to have accountability. We need to feel safe living and working in this great nation.

On May 17th, 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice stated, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile -- a hijacked airplane as a missile." Unquote. The historical facts illustrate differently. In 1993, a $150,000 study was commissioned by the Pentagon to investigate the possibility of an airplane being used to bomb national landmarks.

A draft document of this was circulated throughout the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and to FEMA. In 1994, a disgruntled FedEx employee invaded the cockpit of a DC10 with plans to crash it into a company building. Again, in 1994, a lone pilot crashed a small plane into a tree on the White House grounds. Again, in 1994, an Air France flight was hijacked by members of the Armed Islamic Group with the intent to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower. In January, 1995, Philippine authorities investigating Abdul Murad, an Islamic terrorist, unearthed Project Bojinka (ph). Project Bojinka's (ph) primary objective was to blow up 11 airliners over the Pacific. In the alternative, several planes were to be hijacked and flown into civilian targets in the United States. Among the targets mentioned were CIA headquarters, the World Trade Center, the Sears Tower, and the White House.

Murad told U.S. intelligence officials that he would board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger and that he would then hijack the aircraft, control its cockpit, and dive it at CIA headquarters. In 1997, this plot resurfaced during the trial of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 bombings of the World Trade Center. During the trial, FBI agents testified that, quote, "The plan targeted not only the CIA, but other U.S. government buildings in Washington, including the Pentagon," unquote. In September 1999, a report, "The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism," was prepared for U.S. intelligence by the Federal Research Division, an arm of the Library of Congress.

It stated, quote, "Suicide bombers belonging to al Qaeda's martyrdom battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House." Again, that was in September, 1999. This laundry list of historical indicators, in no way exhaustive, illustrates that long before September 11th, the American intelligence community had a significant amount of information about specific terrorist threats to commercial airline travel in America, including the possibility that a plane would be used as a weapon.

On March 11th, 2002, Director of the CIA George Tenet stated, quote, "In broad terms last summer that terrorists might be planning major operations in the United States, but we never had the texture, meaning enough information to stop what happened," unquote. On May 8th, 2002, Director of the FBI Robert Mueller stated, quote, "There was nothing the agency could have done to anticipate or prevent the attacks," unquote.

Once again, the historical facts indicate differently. Throughout the spring and early summer of 2001, intelligence agencies flooded the government with warnings of possible terrorist attacks against American targets, including commercial aircraft, by al Qaeda and other groups. The warnings were vague, but sufficiently alarming to prompt the FAA to issue four information circulars to the commercial airline industry between June 22nd and July 31st warning of possible terrorism.

On June 22nd, the military's second and European commands...

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You have been listening to Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband when the second tower collapsed of the World Trade Center, and she has got quite a powerful presentation there.


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