Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Terror Intelligence

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Terror Intelligence

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "The 911 Attacks--A Study of Al Qaeda's Use of Intelligence and Counterintelligence" by Gaetano Joe Ilardi, in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, March 2009.

FOR MANY AMERICANS, AL Qaeda's slaughter of nearly 3,000 innocent people on 9/11 epitomizes irrationality, fanaticism, and madness. But, in fact, the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington in 2001 were slowly and meticulously planned over five or more years, then trained for, practiced, tested, and subjected to modified dry runs, notes Gaetano Joe Ilardi, a police officer and postdoctoral researcher at Monash University in the Australian state of Victoria.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 plot, cultivated expertise in an array of terrorism techniques, from car and aircraft bombing to political assassination and reservoir poisoning. When he briefed Osama bin Laden in mid-1996 on his scheme to crash planes into buildings in the United States, bin Laden was initially noncommittal, apparently because he thought the plan was too complicated. But two years later, he was sold.

Within months, Khalid began collecting intelligence, Ilardi writes. Initially, he scanned aviation magazines and airline timetables, acquired flight simulator software, and watched hijacking movie thrillers. Soon, newly recruited suicide operatives were taking a short course on how to conduct reconnaissance. They cased planes they intended to hijack, sitting in first class to observe the cockpit doors, to see whether the captain entered the cabin during the flights, and to record the movements of the crew. One hijacker tried to hitch a ride in a cockpit jump seat by claiming that he was about to go to work for Egypt Air. He was kicked out when the crew realized he was lying; he failed in a second attempt to get inside the cockpit on the pretext of needing to retrieve a pen he had left behind. …

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