In the months before the Sept. 11
attacks, the Bush administration received intelligence that
Osama bin Laden could be plotting to hijack U.S. aircraft,
prompting it to put security agencies on alert, the White House
said on Wednesday.
"The information the president got dealt with hijackings in
the traditional sense, not suicide bombers, not using planes as
missiles," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said of the
intelligence, which was presented to President Bush last
Fleischer said the information prompted the administration
to put domestic law enforcement agencies on alert, though it
was not announced publicly.
"The administration, based on hijackings, notified the
appropriate agencies and, I think, that's one of the reasons
that you saw that the people who committed the 9/11 attacks
used box cutters and plastic knives to get around America's
system of protecting against hijackings," Fleischer said.
The disclosure followed reports that an FBI agent urged the
bureau to investigate Middle Eastern men enrolled in U.S.
flight schools several months before Sept. 11, even naming bin
Laden, who Washington later accused of masterminding the
When four hijacked airliners plowed into the World Trade
Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11,
Middle Eastern men trained at U.S. flight schools were at the
controls. The attacks killed more than 3,000 people and
destroyed the World Trade Center.
Fleischer said Bush had been given general information
about the threat of hijackings by bin Laden. "That was
information that has been known and the president was informed
of it," he said.
But Fleischer would not discuss specific information Bush
received during his daily intelligence briefings. "We don't
discuss the president's morning briefings as a matter of
policy," Fleischer said.
"I will say that there has been long-standing speculation,
which was shared with the president, about the potential of
hijackings in the traditional sense ... I've also indicated
that we've had threatens involving bin Laden around the world,
and including in the United States," Fleischer said.
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