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FBI lax on terror warning reports say

July 1, 1993

FBI lax on terror warning reports say

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior editor

The FBI ignored warnings of possible terrorist activity by the man later indicted for involvement in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The New York Times and NewsMax.com said several specific, sometimes frantic warnings from a Minneapolis flight instructor were ignored by federal agents before the event of 9/11.

The instructor told the FBI an Arab man might be planning to use a 747 jumbo jet as a flying bomb. He told the bureau about the strange behavior of Zacarias Moussaoui, now under indictment as a member of the al-Qaeda terror network.

The Minnesotan, a flight instructor at the Pan Am International Flight Academy near Minneapolis, was alerted when Moussaoui told him he wanted to learn to fly big jets, but did not need instruction in takeoffs and landings.

The Times said the instructor’s warnings to the FBI were specific and serious. The flight school informed Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., in some detail. Oberstar and other officials said the instructor told the FBI: “Do you realize that a 747 loaded with fuel can be used as a bomb?”

Oberstar said he was told the instructor called the FBI several times in an effort to find someone in authority who would act on his warning that Moussaoui appeared to be involved in terrorist activity.

FBI officials in Washington ignored the warnings and pleas from their agents in Minnesota to let them check Moussaoui’s computer for any information and to begin a full blown investigation of the suspected terrorist.

Agents asked the CIA and French intelligence for any information on Moussaoui, according to NewsMax. The French said their intelligence was that Moussaoui was both an extremist and a man with links to terrorist groups. They said he traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan many times.

Moussaoui was arrested on immigration charges on Aug. 17. It was then the agents asked their superiors for permission to begin an investigation and to examine the hard drive of Moussaoui’s computer. They were turned down.

It was not until after Sept. 11 that Washington gave them permission to proceed. NewsMax said that agents are believed to have found a great deal of information about crop dusting in Moussaoui’s computer: information on crop-dusting aircraft, how wind patterns affect them and other data.

That led the federal government to ground all crop dusters in this country for a time. The Times said it was told by law enforcement sources that had Washington not prevented the investigation earlier, it might have turned up information that would have alerted the government to the coming attacks in New York and Washington.

One officer told Newsweek magazine: “The question being asked here is, if they put two and two together, they could have gotten a lot more information about the guy, if not stopped the hijacking.”

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