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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Thursday, March 13, 2008

9/12/2001: FBI Chicago, timeline of investigation, Sept. 11-12, 2001

This fascinating eight-page document outlines the FBI Chicago field office's first impression of what constituted "significant" developments in the first 30 hours after the 9/11 attacks. starting at 8:45 a.m. on September 11, when the first hijacking was reported to the FBI.

A meeting of federal, state and local agencies was held out of the FBI's Chicago command post at 11:45 a.m., including representatives from the U.S. Marshals, Secret Service, ATF, INS, Customs, the post office and the Defense Department.

The FBI in Chicago obtained the flight manifests for United Flight 175 and Flight 93 at 10:59 a.m. The investigators noted: "5 Muslim names on UA fL 93 manifest, 6 Muslim
names on UA FL 175 manifest."

Much of the document describes a flurry of calls from Americans panicked over what they believed to be suspicious activity regarding Muslims, including some that are clearly meritless. Nevertheless, the document illustrates the difficulty faced by investigators in the first few hours, when information was flooding in and leads had to be processed in the midst of a crisis. Some examples:

  • At 9:30 a.m. (half an hour after the second plan hit the World Trade Center), a woman on a flight from Atlanta to Chicago "found a diary in [a] garbage can in Atlanta Airport. Last entry in diary stated 'Allah Will Be Served.'
  • An unidentified person reported at 10:44 a.m. that she had been "on a Yahoo chat from Sunday 9/9/2001, called Jewish Room" when someone with "a Muslim screen name typed "In next 48 hours, you Jews will be brought to your knees."
  • Someone "advised Chicago Police Department (CPD) that several Arabs were at U-Store-I, 4995 Elston, Chicago, with a converted school bus and a truck and were either loading or unloading boxes approximately 10 inches X 5 inches."
  • Someone called the FBI to report that her niece was a convert to Islam and that the niece's husband "attended a week long meeting last week in NYC of 'Brothers.' According to the caller, the husband "fought in Afghan War and is an extremist,
    unemployed, US citizen, from [Virginia]."
  • A caller reported finding more than 250 calls he did not make to Saudi Arabia on his phone bill, which had arrived Sept. 10.
  • A truck driver "overheard two individuals with turbans" talking about "driving a truck downtown."
  • A Hilton Towers hotel employee reported that a hotel guest "who looked Iranian" had told his boss one week earlier that "something bad is going to happen."
  • A "Portugese speaking male of Jewish descent" with a "limited command of English" had reported to Chicago Police on Sept. 7 that "an Iraqi gentleman" he worked with "was in possession of many forms of bombs and explosives" and was planning to "place destruction devices in different public places" after his retirement.
  • An Internet claiming credit for the attack was posted by a group called "Freedom Club" on a usenet list consisting of fans of the Unabomber.
  • According to another caller, "Vin-American Israeli Shipping Co. moved out
    of the WTC on 9/1/01. She believes the timing of the move lends suspicion that the company may have had prior knowledge of terrorist incidents." A lead on this report was sent to the New York field office.

    Full document:

    9/12/2001: FBI Chicago, timeline of investigation, Sept. 11-12, 2001


    Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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    INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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