Skip to main content /US /US


Senator: U.S. didn't connect 'dots' before 9/11

Graham: "The information was not placed in the right hands."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. authorities failed to recognize clues before September 11 about a potential terrorist attack, including an internal FBI memo that questioned whether Osama bin Laden was behind Arab students taking aviation lessons in the United States, a key Senate leader said Wednesday.

In an interview with CNN, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, D-Florida, said the House and Senate intelligence panels will hold hearings soon about various memos and reports, including one dubbed the Phoenix document, written by an FBI agent last summer.

Attack on America
 CNN NewsPass Video 
Agencies reportedly got hijack tips in 1998
Intelligence intercept led to Buffalo suspects
Report cites warnings before 9/11
Timeline: Who Knew What and When?
Interactive: Terror Investigation
Terror Warnings System
Most wanted terrorists
What looks suspicious?
In-Depth: America Remembers
In-Depth: Terror on Tape
In-Depth: How prepared is your city?
On the Scene: Barbara Starr: Al Qaeda hunt expands?
On the Scene: Peter Bergen: Getting al Qaeda to talk

A key question, Graham said, would be "why these dots weren't seen and connected."

The Phoenix document was the subject of a briefing for lawmakers last week, he said.

The memo, he said, cited "an unusual number of Arab students" taking flight lessons in Arizona and raised "the suspicion that they had been sent there in a coordinated plot by Osama bin Laden in order to learn the U.S. civil aviation procedures."

Asked whether the September 11 attacks might have been averted had the Phoenix document raised more red flags, Graham replied, "Well, it might have been if this had been seen in the context of other information, which indicated that there was a potential conspiracy to use commercial airliners as weapons of mass destruction."

Graham continued, "That could have started a chain of events, which would have disrupted September 11, but unfortunately because the information was not placed in the right hands or was distributed to too many places, there wasn't a single point of contact for analysis and reporting of what was going on.

"We failed to put the puzzle together before the horrific event."

Lawmakers, Graham added, "did not get a satisfactory answer" about why the memo did not prompt more FBI action and investigation.




Back to the top