Saturday, 21 July 2012

New York's Terrorism Task Force Predicted Terrorists Crashing Planes Into the World Trade Center Before 9/11

Flight 175 about to crash into the World Trade Center

"I was told about the attack on the World Trade Center
on 9/11 about a year and a half before it happened."

- Best-selling author Nelson DeMille [1]

Members of New York's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) were predicting, almost two years before 9/11, that terrorists would fly planes into the World Trade Center. JTTF members described their prediction to best-selling thriller writer Nelson DeMille while he was interviewing them as part of the research for his novel The Lion's Game.

The Lion's Game, written in 1999 and published in January 2000, is about a ruthless Libyan terrorist, known as "The Lion," who comes to the United States and goes on a killing spree. In an introduction to the paperback reissue of the book in 2010, DeMille explained that when he interviewed members of the New York JTTF during his research for the book, he kept hearing about "the next attack." Nearly two years before 9/11, the JTTF members told him that the "World Trade Center would again be targeted, and the attack would be carried out by suicide pilots, flying small private jets loaded with fuel and explosives, which would be flown into the North and South Towers of the Trade Center." [2]

DeMille has, in various interviews, given additional details of what the JTTF members told him.

The New York JTTF was established in 1980, to improve coordination between the FBI and the New York Police Department in the fight against terrorism. [3] The task force, which had exclusive jurisdiction over local terrorism investigations, began with 11 FBI investigators and 11 members of the NYPD. But by 1999 it had grown to more than 140 members and included personnel from numerous other agencies, including the Port Authority Police Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Secret Service. [4] It also included more than a dozen CIA officers. [5] The New York JTTF was, according to the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, "on the forefront of the war against terrorism." [6]

DeMille told talk radio host Glenn Beck that while conducting research for The Lion's Game, he had been at 26 Federal Plaza, where the New York JTTF was located, and, he recalled, "Just in passing we were talking about the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center." DeMille had asked the JTTF members: "What do you think the next attack would be? Will there be another attack?" They replied that the target of the next terrorist attack in the United States would be the World Trade Center again. They said, "Look, they missed and they're gonna do it next time." [7]

(Presumably, when the JTTF members said "they missed," they meant that the terrorists had failed to cause the Twin Towers to collapse when they bombed the WTC in 1993. After all, the bomb the terrorists used had been placed at the correct location, in the parking garage beneath the WTC, so it had not missed its target. But the terrorists supposedly intended for the explosion to topple one of the towers, causing it to crash into the other tower and bringing them both down. [8])

DeMille pointed out to the JTTF members, "Well, you know, this car bomb in the basement [used in the 1993 attack] really didn't do much." They replied: "No, no, no. It's gonna be Learjets." [9] (Learjets are small private aircraft.) They said there would be "two or three or four Learjets" used in the attack. [10] These planes, they said, would be "full of explosives and full of gasoline." The JTTF members, according to DeMille, were "positive" that that next terrorist attack in the U.S. "was gonna be Learjets full of explosives." The Learjets would be flown by "suicide pilots" into "both towers" of the World Trade Center. [11] And the pilots would be "guys who know how to fly and not [how] to land." [12]

The JTTF members also said they "knew" the target of the attack "was gonna be the World Trade Center. They were pretty definite about that." DeMille asked: "Why not any other iconic landmark? Why not the Empire State Building?" The JTTF members replied that the terrorists would be "looking for maximum death." DeMille pointed out to talk radio host John Gambling, "The Empire State Building doesn't have as many people, obviously, as the Twin Towers." DeMille then asked the JTTF members, "How about something like the Statue of Liberty?" but they told him that the terrorists were "not after symbols or icons. They're after maximum death." [13]

DeMille told the New York Times that the members of the JTTF "were all obsessed with the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, and they were convinced we'd be attacked again." [14] He similarly told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that he "interviewed many people in the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and a few people in the CIA," and they "all knew the World Trade Center would be attacked again." [15] Furthermore, DeMille said, the JTTF members "knew that Arabs were training in the United States to fly small planes." [16]

Glenn Beck commented to DeMille that what the New York JTTF members told him "shows that [the U.S. government] really, they knew specifically" what the 9/11 attacks would involve. DeMille responded, "Yeah, they knew." [17] DeMille told another interviewer that when planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, he found it "just chilling to think that [the JTTF] had some, if not foreknowledge, at least some forethought of this." [18]

Despite what he was told by the members of the JTTF, DeMille did not include the scenario of terrorists crashing planes into the WTC in The Lion's Game. Curiously, though, the novel begins with The Lion carrying out a terrorist attack on a "Flight 175" that is bound for New York. [19] (The second plane to hit the World Trade Center on September 11 was also a Flight 175--a United Airlines Boeing 767 originally bound from Boston to Los Angeles. [20] Flight 175 in The Lion's Game is slightly different, in that it belongs to "Trans-Continental Airlines," is a Boeing 747, comes from Paris, France, and New York is its original, intended destination. [21])

The Lion carries out his attack on Trans-Continental Flight 175 using poison gas, and causes the deaths of everyone on board--over 300 people--except himself. (He knew the plane was programmed to land at New York's JFK International Airport on autopilot, and so would still land safely if the pilots were killed.) [22]

Is it a coincidence that The Lion's Game includes a terrorist attack on an aircraft with the same flight number as one of the planes used in the 9/11 attacks? Or might one of DeMille's sources--perhaps a member of the New York JTTF--have had foreknowledge of the flight number of one (or more) of the planes that would be hijacked on September 11 and passed on this information to DeMille, who then managed to incorporate the detail into his book?

DeMille told Newsweek that he regretted omitting the scenario of terrorists crashing planes into the World Trade Center from The Lion's Game, because such a storyline would have been "a kind of wake-up call, an alert." [23] However, presumably influenced by what members of the JTTF had told him, he included in the novel numerous mentions of the WTC and the bombing of the North Tower in 1993.

The Lion's Game tells the story of Asad Khalil, also known as "The Lion," coming to the United States to get violent revenge for the American air strikes against Libya on April 15, 1986, which were carried out in retaliation for the terrorist bombing of a West German disco in which two Americans were killed. On Khalil's trail is ex-NYPD detective John Corey, who is attached to the fictional "Anti-Terrorist Task Force," which is based on the New York JTTF. [24]

In one scene, Khalil is being driven through New York and his taxi driver points out the Twin Towers to him. Looking at them, Khalil says, "Maybe next time." [25] (Khalil presumably means that the "next time" there is an attack on the WTC, the towers will be brought down.)

In another scene, DeMille describes how the desk of Jack Koenig, the head of the Anti-Terrorist Task Force, at 26 Federal Plaza "was arranged so that every time [Koenig] looked out the window, he could see these [WTC] towers, and he could contemplate what some Arab gentlemen had prayed for when they had driven an explosive-filled van into the basement parking garage--namely, the collapse of the South Tower and the death of over 50,000 people in the tower and on the ground." When Corey looks out the window of Koenig's office at the Twin Towers, Koenig asks him, "Are they still standing?" [26]

The Lion's Game also mentions the threat posed by Islamic terrorists. Early in the story, FBI agent Kate Mayfield tells Corey that "Islamic groups ... are potentially dangerous to national security." She says, "The whole country is paranoid about a Mideast terrorist biological attack or a nuclear or chemical attack," and so, she says, the "real action" in the Anti-Terrorist Task Force "is in the Mideast section." [27] One review, published in March 2000, even mentioned that the plot of The Lion's Game "reads eerily like recent news stories of the worldwide bin Laden terrorist conspiracy." [28]

What the members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force told Nelson DeMille, regarding what the next terrorist attack in the United States would involve, disproves any claims that the 9/11 attacks were a surprise and were impossible to predict beforehand. As a result of hearing the JTTF's prediction, DeMille wrote: "[W]hen the events of the morning of September 11, 2001, unfolded, I was not taken completely unaware. And neither were the people who had spent years investigating terrorist threats to this country." [29] DeMille has noted that the JTTF members "were close to right" about the nature of the attack. "They knew the target and they knew the method," he said. [30]

This issue, however, needs further examination to see if there is more significance to the JTTF's apparent foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. We need to know, for example, why, in 1999 or early 2000, the JTTF members were so sure that the World Trade Center would be the target of the next terrorist attack in the U.S. Had they received information indicating this would be the case? If so, what was this information and from where did it come? What else did they know about the next attack in the U.S.? And what action did they take as a result of receiving this information?

Furthermore, we need to know if other government agencies expected an attack of the kind the JTTF was predicting. The New York JTTF, after all, included representatives from numerous agencies, including the FBI, CIA, NYPD, and the Secret Service. So did JTTF members share the task force's concerns with the agencies they worked for?

Questions like these surely need to be answered if we are to properly understand what happened on September 11, 2001, and find out who was responsible for the terrorist attacks that day.

[1] "Nelson DeMille: 'The Lion.'" Morning Blend, Fox 4, June 21, 2010.
[2] Nelson DeMille, The Lion's Game. 2000. Reprint, New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010, p. xii.
[3] U.S. Congress. Eleanor Hill. Joint Inquiry Staff. Joint Inquiry Staff Statement: Hearing on the Intelligence Community's Response to Past Terrorist Attacks Against the United States From February 1993 to September 2001. 107th Cong., 2nd Sess., October 8, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 81.
[4] Robert A. Martin, "The Joint Terrorism Task Force: A Concept That Works." FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, March 1999; Heather Mac Donald, "Keeping New York Safe From Terrorists." City Journal, Autumn 2001.
[5] Dana Priest, "CIA is Expanding Domestic Operations." Washington Post, October 23, 2002.
[6] Robert A. Martin, "The Joint Terrorism Task Force."
[7] "Nelson DeMille: The Lion." Glenn Beck Program, Premiere Radio Networks, June 9, 2010; "Glenn Beck: 'Fiction Becomes Reality' With Nelson DeMille and Vince Flynn." Author Confidential, Sirius XM Book Radio, June 16, 2010.
[8] U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Foreign Terrorists in America: Five Years After the World Trade Center. 105th Cong., 2nd Sess., February 24, 1998; "FBI 100: First Strike: Global Terror in America." Federal Bureau of Investigation, February 26, 2008.
[9] "Glenn Beck: 'Fiction Becomes Reality' With Nelson DeMille and Vince Flynn."
[10] "Nelson DeMille, Author: The Lion." John Gambling Show, WOR, June 14, 2010.
[11] "Nelson DeMille: The Lion"; "Glenn Beck: 'Fiction Becomes Reality' With Nelson DeMille and Vince Flynn."
[12] Sherryl Connelly, "9/11 Remembered: For These Authors, September 11 Was Transformative Event." New York Daily News, September 11, 2011.
[13] "Nelson DeMille, Author: The Lion."
[14] Ginia Bellafante, "Dark Plots Conceived in a Tudor Setting." New York Times, November 9, 2006.
[15] Soha ElSaman, "Q&A With Nelson DeMille: All the Lion Games." Al-Masry Al-Youm, April 27, 2010.
[16] Arlene Getz, "Vietnam Redux." Newsweek, January 23, 2002.
[17] "Nelson DeMille: The Lion."
[18] Mark Simone. 77 WABC Radio, May 22, 2010.
[19] Sherryl Connelly, "DeMille's Latest a Compelling Contest of a Cop vs. Master Terrorist." New York Daily News, January 16, 2000; Joe Meyers, "An Oldie but Goodie From a Master Entertainer." Connecticut Post, August 3, 2010.
[20] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 7-8.
[21] Sherryl Connelly, "DeMille's Latest a Compelling Contest of a Cop vs. Master Terrorist"; "Picks and Pans Review: The Lion's Game." People, February 14, 2000.
[22] Sherryl Connelly, "DeMille's Latest a Compelling Contest of a Cop vs. Master Terrorist"; Joe Meyers, "An Oldie but Goodie From a Master Entertainer."
[23] Arlene Getz, "Vietnam Redux."
[24] Linda Richards, "January Interview: Nelson DeMille." January Magazine, July 7, 2000; Joe Meyers, "An Oldie but Goodie From a Master Entertainer."
[25] Nelson DeMille, The Lion's Game, p. 203.
[26] Ibid., pp. 219-220.
[27] Ibid., pp. 14-15.
[28] Elaine Budd, "More Thrills From Westlake, DeMille, Perry." Hartford Courant, March 26, 2000.
[29] Nelson DeMille, The Lion's Game, p. xii.
[30] "Glenn Beck: 'Fiction Becomes Reality' With Nelson DeMille and Vince Flynn."