Even the 9/11 Commission soft-pedaled the failures of U.S. leaders and the intelligence community.
The terrorist leader phoned his mother in Syria on September 10. "Something big" was going to keep them from meeting for a while, he said.
The news that Ahmad Shah Massoud had been killed "made me feel sick to my stomach," said the CIA officer who led the first team into Afghanistan after 9/11.
"The match is about to begin," said one of the communications. The NSA didn't translate them into English or disseminate them.
September 7 saw the terrorists enroute to their 9/11 departure points. The four hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 were the earliest team in position.
Al Qaeda paid for the hijackers' flight training, travel, and more than a year's residence in the U.S., without triggering banking suspicious activity reports.
The FBI later said that Bureau headquarters hoped other agencies would take action.
The personal warning from terrorism staffer Richard Clarke could not have been stronger. But he was just frustrated by the bureaucracy, Rice thought.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed talked about the men's relationship; it may have reshaped what happened on September 11.
"They said they have a bomb," a passenger told his father. "Don't worry, Dad ... If it happens, it'll be very fast." No traces of explosives were found.
"Smile in the face of doom, young man," Atta instructed the other 9/11 hijackers, "for you are passing to the gardens of eternity."
Bill Clinton-era officials urged his successor to make use of warlord Ahmed Shah Massoud and his anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.
Saudi Prince Turki 's resignation surprised the CIA. He was close to them--and to Osama bin Laden. But the U.S. focused its wrath on Pakistan, not Saudi Arabia.
"If this guy is let go, two years from now he will be talking to a control tower while aiming a 747 at the White House," an agent wrote 12 days before 9/11.
Even al Qaeda leaders didn't know the date of the planned attack. When told, they had objections—but bin Laden overruled them.
Deadly failure on KSM: Multiple reports cited the person recruiting terrorists to attack the U.S—but the CIA and FBI were looking elsewhere.
Zaid Jarrah was a computer program by day, terrorist by night. He bought a poster of the Boeing 757 cockpit to study and to share with other bin Laden members.
Marwan al-Shehhi shared his room with Mohammed Atta. They shopped in Target, Circuit City, Payless Shoes, Lowe's.
Mohammed Atta logged into his Travelocity account to shop for flights from Washington Dulles airport and from Boston, departing around 8:00 am on September 11.
"The time for training is over," al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah said on an intercepted call. After torture, he pointed the CIA to the 9/11 mastermind, KSM.
The special agent noted an "inordinate number" of suspicious flight students; guessed the terrorists' intentions; made four recommendations. FBI HQ did none.
Field office agents were also rebuked for seeking information. "Things work much better when our agencies are communicating HQ to HQ," the CIA said.
The FBI and CIA's a fatal mistake—confusing Khalid al-Mihdhar, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and "Khallad"—allowed 9/11 mastermind KSM to escape attention.
The 9/11 Commission wrote that Said Bahaji had "no personality and limited knowledge of Islam." But three of the 9/11 hijackers attended his wedding.
The men used code. "Architecture" meant the World Trade Center, "arts" was the Pentagon, "law" was the U.S. Capitol building, "politics" was the White House.
Zacarias Moussaoui was flagged as a possible "airline suicide attacker," but the intelligence community failed to connect him to other information they had.
Ziad Jarrah took his 9/11 role seriously. But a delay in takeoff from Newark Airport gave passengers the information they needed to fight back.
The FAA warned that terrorists might use everyday objects modified into weapons. But the team knew—from experience—their box cutters wouldn't cause a problem.
Real pilots like to fly planes. What explains a flight school student who doesn't? FBI agents went to search Zacarias Moussaoui's rooms.
A foreign enemy was "trying his darndest to bring down a coalition aircraft," said a Pentagon spokesman. He didn't mean Osama bin Laden.