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The FBI Finally Emailed Field Agents—12 Minutes Before Flight 11 Hit the Tower

In this series, Newsweek maps the road to 9/11 as it happened 20 years ago, day by day.

The FBI sent a report to and briefed the local FAA office in Minneapolis of a potential threat of hijacking of large airliners (specifically Boeing 747's) based upon the information gleaned from Zacarias Moussaoui. The briefing and report, based upon the latest facts of the investigation, was sent on September 5.

The previous day, FBI lawyers in Washington had sent a comprehensive report to various offices within the FBI, to six overseas FBI legal attaché offices, the CIA, Department of State, Secret Service, Customs Service, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service giving details of the Moussaoui investigation. The report stated that though he had paid for training in cash, the type of training he sought was not normally given to airline pilots, and that Moussaoui had no prior experience. French authorities, the report said, stated that Moussaoui had radical Islamic fundamentalist beliefs and he had recruited a person to join the jihad against Russia in Chechnya. It said the French described him as "full of hatred and intolerance and ... [that he was] considered to be potentially very dangerous because of his beliefs and the nature of his character." It also stated that Moussaoui had traveled to Pakistan for two months prior to his arrival in the United States and that "it is noted that Islamic extremists often use Pakistan as a transit point enroute to receiving training at terrorist camps in Afghanistan." The report did not contain a threat assessment or state that the Minneapolis FBI believed that Moussaoui or others not yet known were engaged in preparing to seize an airplane in commission of a terrorist act.

The FBI finally reached out--12 minutes before a plane struck the WTC. Ezrea Shaw/Getty Images

There was practically no reaction from outside the Bureau. The current plan was to turn Moussaoui over to the INS and deport him to France but Minneapolis agents feared he might be released before then. There was an email exchange on September 10th between two FBI employees, one at headquarters and other in Minnesota. "Very sorry that this matter was handled the way it was," the Washington agent said to her colleague, "but you fought the good fight. God Help [sic] us all if the next terrorist incident involves the same type of plane."

On the morning of September 11th, at 8:34 a.m. (just 12 minutes before American Airlines Flight 11 would hit the North Tower), FBI headquarters sent an e-mail to the Minneapolis field office finalizing plans for Moussaoui's deportation, which the FBI believed would occur within several days.

Follow the Newsweek live tweet of September 11, 2001 (based upon the new book On That Day) starting at 4:45 a.m. EST @Roadto911.

Newsweek is reconstructing the road to 9/11 as it was constructed 20 years ago, day by day. Each day a new story will be published here. On September 11 we'll live tweet the events of the day, minute by minute, starting at 4:45 a.m. EST, @RoadTo911.