Washington, D.C., December 9, 2005 - More than three
years before the 9/11 attack on the United States, U.S. officials
Arabia that Osama bin Laden "might take the course
of least resistance and turn to a civilian [aircraft] target,"
according to a declassified
cable released by the National Security Archive today.
The warning was made by the U.S. regional security officer and a
civil aviation official in Riyadh based on a public threat bin Laden
made against "military passenger aircraft" and his statement
that "we do not differentiate between those dressed in military
uniforms and civilians."
The State Department cable was not mentioned in the report of the
9/11 Commission, which investigated how U.S. intelligence failed
to detect planning for the terrorist attacks, using civilian airliners,
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was obtained under
the Freedom of Information Act by Archive analyst Barbara Elias.
The National Security Archive released the cable, and a CIA
memorandum, "We're at War," written by then
director George Tenet, as it prepared to commemorate
its 20th anniversary on Friday. Obtaining the declassification
of these documents on the war on terrorism epitomized two decades
of work to bring transparency and accountability to relevant issues
in U.S. foreign policy, said Archive Executive Director Thomas Blanton.
"American citizens not only have a right to know, they have
a need to know."
In his urgent "We're
at War" memo written five days after the 9/11
attacks to his top deputies, CIA Director George Tenet demanded
an urgent and "unrelenting focus" on "bringing all
of our operational, analytical, and technical capabilities to bear-not
only to protect the US both here and abroad from additional terrorist
attacks-but also, and more importantly, to neutralize and destroy
al-Qa'ida and its partners."
The confidential memo called for "absolute and total dedication
as a leadership team" and stated that he and his deputies would
"translate the urgency of the difficult tasks ahead to the
men and women we lead by our behavior and actions." In waging
the war on terrorism, Tenet wrote, "we must lead…. Never
has our professionalism and discipline been at a greater premium."
The memo was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by
National Security Archive senior fellow, Jeffrey Richelson. It was
first identified in Bob Woodward's bestselling book, Bush At