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Last Updated : Sep 11, 2018 06:51 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

9/11 attacks: Unanswered questions from the biggest intelligence failure in US history

It is 17 years since one of the most brutal terrorist attacks on US soil. The unprecedented provocation by Al-Qaeda sparked debates with more than half of Americans saying that the government was concealing information about the attacks. Here are some questions that remain unanswered to this day.

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The engineers who designed the Twin Towers claimed that it could withstand the impact of a commercial aircraft. They would never have envisioned a scenario where the structural stability of one of New York’s landmark buildings would have been tested in the way it was on September 11, 2001. However, this incongruity sparked a slew of theories, with some claiming that it was an inside job, and that the towers were rigged with explosives prior to the planes ramming into the towers. A study by The European Scientific Journal claims that the sudden collapse of the Twin Towers was the result of a "controlled demolition", but others blame the ignition of jet fuel as the cause. The mystery remains largely unsolved. (Image: US Department of Defence)
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The engineers who designed the Twin Towers claimed that it could withstand the impact of a commercial aircraft. They would never have envisioned a scenario where the structural stability of one of New York’s landmark buildings would have been tested in the way it was on September 11, 2001. However, this incongruity sparked a slew of theories, with some claiming that it was an inside job, and that the towers were rigged with explosives prior to the planes ramming into the towers. A study by The European Scientific Journal claims that the sudden collapse of the Twin Towers was the result of a "controlled demolition", but others blame the ignition of jet fuel as the cause. The mystery remains largely unsolved. (Image: US Department of Defence)

Over the years, a number of theories have popped up regarding the sudden collapse of the towers. One of the more tenable theory is the "molten aluminum" theory. Two scientists independently said that at extremely high temperatures (over 540°C), aluminum melts and if it comes in contact with water it could become a powerful explosive. It made perfect sense as the burning towers might have acted as a furnace, melting the aluminum, which is the primary material used in the construction of airplanes. The water from sprinklers could have propelled the explosion. However, apart from discarding the molten-aluminum theory, the official investigation report doesn't mention plane wreckage in the towers. Why did they not buy the theory and run with it? Do they know something we don't? (Image: Reuters)
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Over the years, a number of theories have popped up regarding the sudden collapse of the towers. One of the more tenable theory is the "molten aluminum" theory. Two scientists independently said that at extremely high temperatures (over 540°C), aluminum melts and if it comes in contact with water it could become a powerful explosive. It made perfect sense as the burning towers might have acted as a furnace, melting the aluminum, which is the primary material used in the construction of airplanes. The water from sprinklers could have propelled the explosion. However, apart from discarding the molten-aluminum theory, the official investigation report doesn't mention plane wreckage in the towers. Why did they not buy the theory and run with it? Do they know something we don't? (Image: Reuters)

The news channel CNN had reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted two communications from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia. While one said, "Tomorrow is zero hour", the other said, "The match begins tomorrow". Why did the government ignore warning signs? In hindsight, these are pretty ominous signs suggestive of a credible threat. The messages were not translated until the next day. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been on high alert since August 23 following a tip off that an attack by the Al-Qaeda was imminent. (Image: Reuters)
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The news channel CNN had reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted two communications from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia. While one said, "Tomorrow is zero hour", the other said, "The match begins tomorrow". Why did the government ignore warning signs? In hindsight, these are pretty ominous signs suggestive of a credible threat. The messages were not translated until the next day. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been on high alert since August 23 following a tip off that an attack by the Al-Qaeda was imminent. (Image: Reuters)

If the government’s premier intelligence agency was forewarned of the plot, why did it not act? The US received indications of a possible threat more than a month before the 9/11 attacks, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on July 31, 2001, issued a warning to airlines that "terror groups are known to be planning and training for hijackings." However, this was not the first time the CIA had received intelligence reports regarding terrorist attacks involving airplanes. In 1998, in response to threats by Osama bin Laden, the FAA warned airlines and airports to maintain a “high degree of alertness.” (Image: US Navy)
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If the government’s premier intelligence agency was forewarned of the plot, why did it not act? The US received indications of a possible threat more than a month before the 9/11 attacks, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on July 31, 2001, issued a warning to airlines that "terror groups are known to be planning and training for hijackings." However, this was not the first time the CIA had received intelligence reports regarding terrorist attacks involving airplanes. In 1998, in response to threats by Osama bin Laden, the FAA warned airlines and airports to maintain a “high degree of alertness.” (Image: US Navy)

Was the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the loop? Inter-agency turf war could potentially have thwarted counter-terrorism operations. One of the strongest arguments by conspiracy theorists is that the CIA did not share the tip off regarding an impending terrorist attack with the FBI. In the aftermath of 9/11, Newsweek spoke to one of FBI’s lead counter-terrorism agents, who said, “It’s horrible. We still don’t know what happened”. Given the scale of the devastation, the question of whether the attack could have been averted had the two intelligence agencies been on the same page, remains unanswered. (Image: Reuters)
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Was the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the loop? Inter-agency turf war could potentially have thwarted counter-terrorism operations. One of the strongest arguments by conspiracy theorists is that the CIA did not share the tip off regarding an impending terrorist attack with the FBI. In the aftermath of 9/11, Newsweek spoke to one of FBI’s lead counter-terrorism agents, who said, “It’s horrible. We still don’t know what happened”. Given the scale of the devastation, the question of whether the attack could have been averted had the two intelligence agencies been on the same page, remains unanswered. (Image: Reuters)

Was the US government colluding with Saudi Arabia? In their latest book, “The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark: The CIA, NSA, and the Crimes of the War on Terror”, authors John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski explain how the two countries hushed up the intelligence failures behind the 9/11 attacks. The periodical, Newsweek said, "The authors assemble a compelling case of a government-wide cover-up of Saudi complicity in the affair, but if we’re still asking these questions 17 years later, is there any hope of ever knowing for sure?." The very idea that the US government was in in the know brings back memories of the attack on Pearl Harbour. (Image: Air Force Reserve Command)
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Was the US government colluding with Saudi Arabia? In their latest book, “The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark: The CIA, NSA, and the Crimes of the War on Terror”, authors John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski explain how the two countries hushed up the intelligence failures behind the 9/11 attacks. The periodical, Newsweek said, "The authors assemble a compelling case of a government-wide cover-up of Saudi complicity in the affair, but if we’re still asking these questions 17 years later, is there any hope of ever knowing for sure?." The very idea that the US government was in in the know brings back memories of the attack on Pearl Harbour. (Image: Air Force Reserve Command)

CNN had reported that the CIA had on August 6, 2001, warned then-President George Bush that the Al-Qaeda was planning airline hijackings. Reports suggest that the information was passed on to embassies and other overseas outposts of the US government. The authorities may have decided against making the information public knowledge over fears of nationwide chaos. Were the threats not serious enough to be brought to the notice of the general public? (Image: Reuters)
7/7

CNN had reported that the CIA had on August 6, 2001, warned then-President George Bush that the Al-Qaeda was planning airline hijackings. Reports suggest that the information was passed on to embassies and other overseas outposts of the US government. The authorities may have decided against making the information public knowledge over fears of nationwide chaos. Were the threats not serious enough to be brought to the notice of the general public? (Image: Reuters)

First Published on Sep 11, 2018 06:51 pm
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