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April 18, 2007 1:11 AM   Subscribe

Word is that the DGSE - the French secret intelligence service - knew in January 2001 that al Queda was planning to hijack a US aircraft and may have given warning. (The original article that appeared in Le Monde 2 days ago)
posted by pwedza (49 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
And reports are that the DGSE isn't happy about the leak.
posted by pwedza at 1:11 AM on April 18, 2007


but…but…but…Clinton!
posted by pruner at 1:23 AM on April 18, 2007


Because knowing something might happen is the same as being able to prevent it happening.
posted by public at 1:37 AM on April 18, 2007


Cue misinterpreting this in order to blame the French in 3...
posted by gignomai at 1:43 AM on April 18, 2007


2... 1...

But the French warning hinted at a plot in Europe, not the United States, and there was no suggestion of suicide attacks or multiple planes. One former official said al-Qaida may have leaked misinformation to divert intelligence agencies from the bigger, deadlier plot to come on Sept. 11, 2001.

Just a tool of Uncle Al, you see.
posted by dreamsign at 1:46 AM on April 18, 2007


Dreamsign, interesting how much your FoxNews clip turns around everything M. Dasquié wrote in his Monde article.

Dasquié's article is based on his access to a leaked 328 pages of DGSE documents. The article specifically cites a memo dated January 5, 2001 specifying information about an airplane being hijacked from Frankfort to the US. True, not exactly what happened, but this was about 9 months before Sept. 11.

The al Queda information regarding the attack is to have come from DGSE contacts with Ouzbek intelligence operatives.

In interviews with highly DGSE agents, the journalist assures that this is exactly the type of information that would have been transmitted to the CIA through the DGSE liason office. It is not like they don't work together.

Though I do find it interesting that Fax is picking it up, turning it around, and dropping it. But if that is your source, go with it.
posted by pwedza at 1:59 AM on April 18, 2007


Shit, sorry Dreamsign, I misread you.
posted by pwedza at 2:01 AM on April 18, 2007


With all due respect to the importance of this information getting out -

Why are finding out about this now? (wasn't there some "Al-Quaeda determined to strike inside US" memo from our end that was also ignored?)

Just askin
posted by From Bklyn at 2:10 AM on April 18, 2007


Bklyn: I think the idea is that this wasn't supposed to have been published. The journalist had access to leaked documents and then questioned people in the DGSE and CIA about it. The DGSE people validated it and suggested that it is the sort of info that would have been passed on the US.

The journalist states that he attempted to contact Bill Murray - the ex-Paris CIA head - who did not want to discuss the matter.

Granted, this news came out the same day of the VT shootings.

Still, it does show that we are a long way from 2001. The commissions are long over and not much will come of it unless there is a leak on the US side confirming the reception of this memo. Something tells me that is unlikely.
posted by pwedza at 2:20 AM on April 18, 2007


pwedza: no worries.

I know FOX is an easy target, but it is the all-spin zone.
posted by dreamsign at 2:31 AM on April 18, 2007


Well, I can't read any of the links here that look interesting, what with them being in French or just flat not working (the Khaleej Times link just come up blank) but I'll say this.... I'm sure we get news of hijack plots all the goddamn time. There's a huge amount of noise in intelligence.

Now, if they had said something like "... and they're going to use the planes as a flying bomb", THAT would be interesting. But claiming a hijack plot is a lot like forecasting rain. It's eventually going to come true.

How many warnings were there about, say, sarin gas in New York subways, or anthrax in Atlanta?

Figuring out the actual signal in all the noise is tough. They're not always going to get it right. And even if they HAD paid attention to this, it doesn't sound like there was any useful information in it anyway. Yet Another Hijack Plot, while certainly worth attention, isn't going to go to the highest levels of the government and produce a giant response. If it did that, every single time, we'd be even more paralyzed than we already are.

And remember when they do stupid stuff like say you can't bring shampoo on aircraft? It's that kind of pure dumbshit crap that's forced by hysterical whining like this. "But they knewwwww and didn't protect usssss!"
posted by Malor at 2:38 AM on April 18, 2007


Malor -

the frenchy-Mcfrench article goes on at length about how the DGSE back up their info. (they get lots of sources, compare it with what everyone else is saying, then get some more sources. You know, the opposite of our administration.)

Which is to say, they were pretty damn positive this was not 'noise.'
posted by From Bklyn at 2:46 AM on April 18, 2007


Whether or not this intelligence could have prevented the attacks, a question that we really can't answer at from this vantage point, a better question is why wasn't this information contained in the 9/11 commission reports? There seems like a lot of known information that wasn't contained in though reports. Was that on purpose or was the commission just half-assed?
posted by bhouston at 2:46 AM on April 18, 2007


oops: this phrase "contained in though reports" should have read "contained in those reports."
posted by bhouston at 2:47 AM on April 18, 2007


Now, if they had said something like "... and they're going to use the planes as a flying bomb", THAT would be interesting. But claiming a hijack plot is a lot like forecasting rain. It's eventually going to come true.

I always thought the info about flight school should have been the tipoff. What traditional hijacker flies the plane himself? Why would they need to?
posted by dreamsign at 2:56 AM on April 18, 2007


Right, but no matter how well-sourced it is, it's just a hijack plot, right? Was there anything about it that would have merited unusually intense attention? Anything about airplanes as bombs?
posted by Malor at 2:57 AM on April 18, 2007


It's just a hijack plot, right?

Right, but a hijack plot that was sourced back to Afghanistan. Also, there were 9 detailed DGSE reports between 2000 and 2001 regarding al Queda plans against the US.

A DGSE agent does say in the article that hijacking was considered differently pre-2001. Still, both the US and France had closely followed al Queda since the mid-90s.

Of course, its not like the CIA is going to come out and say to the American public "oh yeah, there is this note we forgot to tell y'all about."


Interestingly, the author of the Le Monde articlem Guillaume Dasquié, is said to have a website-www.geopolitique.com- that I can't get to come up.
posted by pwedza at 3:10 AM on April 18, 2007


Special attention: I say yes, that's well outside the norm. However, I probably would have thought that the intention was to be prepared to execute the crew for non-compliance. Even if I had managed to guess that the real reason was that they were going to do something that they couldn't order a pilot to do (crash the plane) I wonder if anyone could have foreseen the damage. "Everything" didn't change after 9/11, but the way we look at hijackings certainly did.
posted by dreamsign at 3:15 AM on April 18, 2007


Everyone always knew everything ahead of time after the fact.
posted by Bokononist at 3:29 AM on April 18, 2007


Bokononist: I don't think that is really the issue. What this article shows is that western intelligence was quite on top of a lot of things, but not enought to stop what happened.

The article says that Gary Berntsen and Michael Scheuer of the CIA deny ever having seen such a piece of info, but Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi of the DGSE states that it would be a 'professional error' not to have transmitted it.

It would be quite interesting to know if the document was actually transfered and, if it was, what was done about it.

It isn't about 'everybody should have known everything.' The one thing the 9/11 commissions underlined was that there was poor communication between services. If the DGSE did transmit this info, then we could look to who was privy to it and where the communication breakdown was?
posted by pwedza at 3:50 AM on April 18, 2007


Of course, the French telling the CIA something they already know about, and that they have decided to let go ahead, is not going to provoke the CIA to action.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:50 AM on April 18, 2007


If only they hadn't secretly installed a clone of inspector Clouseau as their stooge puppet in the White House a few years earlier.

The French secret service. LOL. Of course we fucking knew "it" was going to happen. Not to start up the usual argument, but could it have gone any more Bush's way if it *had* been planned in advance with our knowledge?

Years from now, we'll find out how badly we were all had.
posted by spitbull at 4:54 AM on April 18, 2007


> I don't think that is really the issue. What this article shows is that western intelligence was quite
> on top of a lot of things, but not enought to stop what happened.

Word is the US Army War College has detailed plans to invade Canada. Are the Mounties prepared?
posted by jfuller at 5:06 AM on April 18, 2007


The wording of the FPP is very misleading.
posted by empath at 5:45 AM on April 18, 2007


It wasn't just the French--a bunch of other foreign intelligence services warned us too. Of course, Bush did nothing to stop it or even to warn the airlines, nor did they act on the flight training warnings.
posted by amberglow at 6:49 AM on April 18, 2007


Because knowing something might happen is the same as being able to prevent it happening.

Or at least lifting a fucking finger to try to stop it from happening, perhaps.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:55 AM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


If only they hadn't secretly installed a clone of inspector Clouseau as their stooge puppet in the White House a few years earlier.

It was Dreyfus. The lunatic Dreyfus.
posted by three blind mice at 6:59 AM on April 18, 2007


According to 9/11 Commission testimony, "there had not been a hijacking of a U.S. carrier since 1991." The FAA was warned in 1998 that al Qaeda might try to hijack a commercial airplane and "slam it into a US landmark." If you prevent a hijacking, it doesn't matter what the hijackers intend to do with the plane.

Also, there were 9 detailed DGSE reports between 2000 and 2001 regarding al Queda plans against the US.

Bush and Clinton got briefings on al Qaeda for years before the September 2001 attacks. "Bush was given briefing papers headlined, 'Bin Laden Planning Multiple Operations,' 'Bin Laden Threats Are Real' and 'Bin Laden's Plans Advancing.'"
posted by kirkaracha at 7:16 AM on April 18, 2007


Again, knowing something is going to happen is not the same as being able to stop it. How precisely would anyone have prevented the hijackings? Interrogate every arab male boarding a plane anywhere in the US and europe? How long are you going to keep that up? We don't even do that now.

Furthermore "hijacking" then didn't mean what it means now. It meant someone taking the plane and forcing a landing somewhere else. It did not mean crashing the plane into a building.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:17 AM on April 18, 2007


Furthermore "hijacking" then didn't mean what it means now. It meant someone taking the plane and forcing a landing somewhere else. It did not mean crashing the plane into a building.

Because stopping a hijacking isn't worth it unless the plane is going to be crashed into a building.

Seriously, they knew quite a bit about the hijackers before it happened. The pieces of knowledge were scattered but, together, they were enough to put the brakes on this.
posted by IronLizard at 7:40 AM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Would have been.
posted by IronLizard at 7:40 AM on April 18, 2007


Seriously, they knew quite a bit about the hijackers before it happened. The pieces of knowledge were scattered but, together, they were enough to put the brakes on this.

If they had wanted to, that is.
posted by amberglow at 7:45 AM on April 18, 2007


How precisely would anyone have prevented the hijackings?

How much desire, at the uppermost levels, WAS there to prevent these blank checks from being issued by these terrorist actions?

I find myself not so charitable as to believe it would not be beyond the present crew in power to let a known hijacking plot (a la the various 1980s hijacking dramas) go down. As Condi herself said, "no one could imagine them crashing into buildings".

We might get our hair mussed, but the upside of receiving the political capital to finally take the fight into the middle east would be beguiling to any black-hearted policy maker.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:07 AM on April 18, 2007


And in the 'nobody ever thought of that" school - does anyone but me remember the pilot of the short-lived X-Files spinoff "the Lone Gunmen"? The one that aired in the Spring of 2001 and featured some villains planning to crash a plane into the WTC using the fuel as the main explosive? Just me? I must have imagined it.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:09 AM on April 18, 2007


Furthermore "hijacking" then didn't mean what it means now.
Actually, the hijacking of Air France Flight 8969 by an islamic terrorist organisation was supposed to end up in a fireball above Paris, so there was at least one previous attempt, and obviously a well-studied one by intelligence services... and by al-Qaeda, who didn't make the same mistakes as the GIA in 1995.
posted by elgilito at 8:19 AM on April 18, 2007


9/11 was the best thing to ever happen to the Bush administration.

Maybe they had a ton of foreknowledge. Maybe it went as they said, where the evidence of the plot was just another handful of blips in a galaxy of potential disaster. And maybe the tinfoil hat crowd is on to something when they claim it was all an orchestrated power grab.

I estimate that we'll have actual answers in about thirty years. Once everyone who could have been held to account is too dead or senile to punish, a raft of documents and recordings will at long last be released. Either by a Federal Government who has waited decades to wash their hands of these dark days; or by a scrappy underground resistance just back from a raid on the compound of Clone Emperor Jeb.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:56 AM on April 18, 2007


Heywood Mogroot, I've never bought in to the "the administration knew about it and let it happen" line, but what you said makes a whole lot of sense. They knew there was going to be a hijacking, let THAT happen, and then were shocked when it turned into the horrific catastrophe it became.
posted by minda25 at 9:03 AM on April 18, 2007


From the AFP article: Le Monde based its report on 328 pages of classified documents leaked by DGSE sources, showing that Osama bin Laden's network had been infiltrated by foreign agents long before the September 2001 attacks.

French counter-terrorism is very good, according to this 2003 Brookings report. I imagine they have more Arabic speakers than US intelligence does.

Malor: Now, if they had said something like "... and they're going to use the planes as a flying bomb", THAT would be interesting. But claiming a hijack plot is a lot like forecasting rain. It's eventually going to come true.

Given that a successful hijacking would have given al-Qaeda hundreds of US hostages, it would still have been a major accomplishment for al-Qaeda.
posted by russilwvong at 9:13 AM on April 18, 2007


Furthermore "hijacking" then didn't mean what it means now. It meant someone taking the plane and forcing a landing somewhere else. It did not mean crashing the plane into a building.

Except that it was known that the people tied to the hijacking were also responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, and that it was clear a subsequent attack would in all likelihood be an attempt to scale up the violence.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:19 AM on April 18, 2007


SPOILER

And in the 'nobody ever thought of that" school - does anyone but me remember the pilot of the short-lived X-Files spinoff "the Lone Gunmen"?

Not to mention Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor, which ended with a plane being crashed into the Capitol Building (during a joint session). Granted the plane wasn't hijacked in the standard sense (the pilot was the only person on board, IIRC).
posted by MikeKD at 9:21 AM on April 18, 2007


As Condi herself said, 'no one could imagine them crashing into buildings'.

Ms. Rice is either incompetent or a perjurer (or a zesty combination of both). I've already linked to a 1998 warning of that exact thing. So did elgilito. In 1974 Samuel Byck tried to hijack a plane and crash it into the White House. In 1994 Auburn Calloway tried to hijack a FedEx plane and crash it into FedEx's headquarters, and terrorists hijacked Air France Flight 8969 intending to fly it into the Eiffel Tower. Al Qaeda's 1995 Bojinka Plot included a plan to crash a plane into CIA headquarters. In July 2001 security measures at the Genoa G-8 conference included surface-to-air missiles to prevent terrorist attacks from the air. In September 1998, "the [Intelligence Community] obtained information that Bin Laden's next operation might involve flying an explosive-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and detonating it." In the two years leading up to the September 2001 attacks, NORAD had drills about hijacked planes being crashed into buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:16 AM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


"...zesty combination of both..."

mmmmmmm.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:24 AM on April 18, 2007


FYI, the way-above link to a FoxNews article that "blames" the French DGSE is, as of the time of this writing, an AP Wire feed and is not original work.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:01 AM on April 18, 2007


If only they hadn't secretly installed a clone of inspector Clouseau

"Al-Kato? This is your employer speaking. I am calling off the attack!"
posted by zippy at 11:38 AM on April 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


And in the 'nobody ever thought of that" school - does anyone but me remember the pilot of the short-lived X-Files spinoff "the Lone Gunmen"?

Here's a clip of the relevant section from that episode.
posted by timelord at 11:38 AM on April 18, 2007


zippy, that is the most unutterably brilliant comparison I've heard since this whole nightmare began.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:09 PM on April 18, 2007


The DGSE and terrorism. Feh.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:23 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have a VHS recording from news broadcast on 9/11. A friend made it for me. There is a segment of Katie Curic speaking to Gen. Norman Swartzkoph (ret), where the general mentions that planes-as-bombs is a known hazard for which there is planning. I am puzzled by all the statements I read about how "no one anticipated the possibility".
posted by Goofyy at 7:23 AM on April 19, 2007


I am puzzled by all the statements I read about how "no one anticipated the possibility".

Don't be. They were lying, as usual.
posted by amberglow at 8:50 AM on April 19, 2007


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