Thursday, August 08, 2002

I think there is reason to believe that the events of September 11 were originally supposed to occur somewhat later, and indeed the actual form of attack may not have been settled until the last moment:

  1. Besides the ticket for the flight on September 11, Atta also bought a ticket for October 13 on a Delta flight from Baltimore to San Francisco. Ahmed Alghamdi bought a plane ticket for September 11, but also bought a ticket to Saudi Arabia leaving from Dulles Airport on September 12. Considering that the hijackers were going to be dead on September 11, it is extremely strange for them to make any arrangements for after September 11. Ahmed Alghamdi may have been unaware that the operation would have resulted in his death, although it seems odd for him to believe he could participate in a hijacking one day and take a normal flight home the next. It is impossible to see how Atta could have thought he'd have a use for a later ticket, unless there was the possibility that the September 11 attack wasn't going to happen. It is possible that September 11 was originally supposed to be a test run, but was elevated to the real thing between late August, when the tickets were purchased, and September 11.

  2. It is possible that many of the hijackers spent the month of August studying cropdusting. Groups of two to three men of Middle Eastern appearance visited a Florida airport almost every weekend for six to eight weeks before September 11 to visit a single-plane cropdusting business at the airport and to ask questions. Atta, who was the only man who was positively identified, visited as late as the Saturday before September 11. This is an odd thing to do if you are planning to be dead a few days later. It seems likely that cropdusting attacks were the most likely form the attacks were to take. While such attacks may not have been as spectacular as the 9-11 attack, they might have been just as deadly, and have the distinct advantage of not wasting all the operatives at the same time.

  3. There appeared to be a rush for last-minute flight training in mid to late August. Particularly Hani Hanjour, the worst of the pilots, was trying to improve his skills (and his skills were so bad that after three test flights the owners of the plane he tried to rent wouldn't let him rent it!). Atta also practiced in mid-August.

  4. The tickets for the flights were bought in late August (Waleed and Wail Alshehri bought the first of them on August 26). I would assume the hijackers bought the tickets as soon as they knew that they would be needed in order to ensure that they all got tickets on the proper planes. You could draw the conclusion that the decision to have at least a practice run on September 11 was made shortly before August 26.

Despite the fact there was much planning both outside the United States (in Spain in July) and inside the United States (in Las Vegas in August), it appears that it was not decided until at least mid to late August, and possibly as late as the last minute, when the attack would occur and what type of attack it would be. The hijackers may have believed right into September that at least the first attacks were to involve cropdusters. The studying of cropdusting up to almost the last minute and the purchasing of tickets for after September 11 seem to be evidence that the September 11 flights, even in early September, were to be test runs. The pilots, particularly Hani Hanjour, weren't ready for a real attack, and the completely unprepared Hani Hanjour may have been used only because the decision to attack on September 11 was made so quickly that they were unable to find anyone else. I'll have more to say about Hani Hanjour later. I am also working on explaining why this timing issue is of potentially critical importance.