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Messages intercepted by U.S. on Sept. 10 revealed

The messages were intercepted by the National Security Agency.
The messages were intercepted by the National Security Agency.  

From CNN Capitol Hill Producer Dana Bash and Correspondents David Ensor and Kate Snow

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Messages intercepted by U.S. intelligence one day before the Sept. 11 attacks came from telephone conversations between people in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, sources said Thursday.

The conversations were in Arabic, but officials are not sure who was talking.

One of the intercepts said, "The match begins tomorrow." The other said, "Tomorrow is zero hour." The intercepts however, were not translated and analyzed until Sept. 12 -- one day after the attacks.

Sources said the intercepts were of sufficient interest that they would have been studied within 48 hours, regardless of the attacks.

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The translated messages were provided to CNN by several congressional sources and they were discussed at a joint House-Senate intelligence committee meeting Tuesday.

One lawmaker said the intercepts were "the subject of a lot of discussion" during Tuesday's session with three top U.S. intelligence officials.

NSA Director Michael Hayden, FBI Director Robert Mueller and CIA Director George Tenet have testified before the joint panel investigating September 11 for two days.

According to the lawmaker, Hayden was asked why it took the NSA two days to translate the intercepts. His response was that the agency collects a lot of information every day and it would be nearly impossible to translate all of it in a timely manner.

"They get tons and tons of information," this lawmaker said. "I don't think people realize how much information our government collects."

Some U.S. officials said that the messages lacked specifics -- such as who was behind them or what might happen -- and, as such, there was nothing to act on.

CNN has previously reported that the NSA had intercepted some messages shortly before September 11, but the language has not been revealed until now.




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