The United States Government was aware that a terrorist attack on America was imminent, at least four hours and 37 minutes before the first plane hit the World Trade Center Towers.
A warning of a threat to the President was delivered to the Secret Service in Sarasota, Florida during the middle of the night before the 9/11 attack, followed several hours later by an attempt by four Arab men posing as journalists to gain access to President George W. Bush at the Colony Beach Resort on Longboat Key in Sarasota, for the purpose of ending his life.
In “Welcome to Terrorland” we reported the discovery of news stories from local outlets in Sarasota which seem to describe separate angles of this much larger story.
We have since learned new details reported in Newsweek and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune during the aftermath of the attack. And more recently, a front page story in the St. Petersburg Times attempts to debunk evidence for an assassination attempt on Bush so ham-handedly and with such gross factual inaccuracy that it evokes the specter of a deliberate cover-up.
4 Hours and 38 min before a plane hit the World Trade Center
First, a brief recap of the intrigue in Sarasota FL on the night before the 9/11 attack… The drama began when Zainlabdeen Omer, a Sudanese national residing in Sarasota, contacted Sarasota police in the middle of the night with a chilling story.
A friend of his named "Gandi," or "Ghandi" he said, who had made violent threats against President Bush in the past, had just unexpectedly showed up in Sarasota.
"Ghandi" reportedly told Omer he was in town to get a friend out of jail. But since the President was staying in Sarasota too, Omer feared that there was a connection.
“The warning of imminent danger was delivered in the middle of the night to Secret Service agents in Sarasota guarding the President,” reported Monica Yadov on the Sarasota ABC affiliate’s evening newscast.
“The warning, “Yadov noted, “came exactly four hours and thirty-eight minutes before Mohamed Atta flew an airliner into the World Trade Center.”
The Pentagon brass got the word. Did you?
The Sarasota police immediately called in Secret Service agents guarding the President, who was spending the night at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, a pricey complex of muted grey-blue, low-height, woodsy-looking hotel rooms nestled among thick palm trees and lush gardens on Longboat Key, a long narrow island just off Sarasota.
Within hours Secret Service agents were searching an apartment in Sarasota, where they took a number of Sudanese men into custody.
Later, the Secret Service dismissed the warning as "just coincidental" to Sept 11, which seems odd, given the following report from the Sept 13, 2001 Newsweek:
“On the night before the 9/11 attack,” the newsmagazine reported, “A particularly-urgent warning may have been received which caused top Pentagon brass to cancel their scheduled flights on the morning of September 11th.”
Then, revealing that even savvy inside-the-beltway newsmagazine journalists had no idea of just how massive the impending government cover-up would become, Newsweek reports:
“Why that same information was not available to the 266 people who died aboard the four hijacked aircraft may become a hot topic on the Hill.”
"The Secret Service is a really secret service"
The middle of the night warning proved accurate several hours later. A local fire captain, Longboat Key Fire Marshall Carroll Mooneyhan, was at the front desk of the Colony Beach Resort that morning waiting to accompany President Bush on his morning jog.
Mooneyhan later told reporter Shay Sullivan of the Longboat Observer that he witnessed a van carrying Middle Eastern men tried to gain entry to the Colony Beach Resort, identifying themselves as a television news crew.
They claimed they had a "poolside" interview scheduled with the President, and asked for a Secret Service agent by name, Mooneyhan said. However, the van was turned back by Secret Service agents at the guard station, who told the men to contact the President’s public relations office in Washington D.C.
An identical ruse had been used--just two days earlier!-– to successfully assassinate Osama bin Laden’s biggest foe, Afghan Northern Alliance leader Shah Massoud. Massoud granted an interview to an Arab TV crew whose camera exploded when it was turned on, killing him and two suicide bombers disguised as journalists.
Carrying Stingers in Air Force One's overhead bins
There was an extraordinary level of security surrounding President George W. Bush in Sarasota, we learned recently, including the deployment of surface-to-air missiles, according to a Sarasota Herald-Tribune story on Sept 10, 2002.
While Coast Guard vessels patrolled offshore, snipers prowled the grounds, and surface-to-air missiles bristled atop the roof of the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, reported the paper.
We learned of this report, and that of Newsweek, through the efforts of Paul Thompson of cooperativeresearch.com, as reported in the documentary "9/11: Press for Truth," which features the women known as “The Jersey girls,” widows of men who perished in the attack on the World Trade Center.
“On the night before the attack President Bush may have slept more soundly,” the documentary reports, “knowing that snipers surface-to-air missiles had been placed on the roof of the resort where he was staying, which was not a typical security procedure at the time.”
Was Bush carting batteries of surface to air missiles around with him on Air Force One before the 9/11 attack? Not as a general rule… Experts told us that the level of security was extraordinary, and it has since been neither acknowledged or explained.
Still, its safe to assume somebody was expecting something out of the ordinary.
“In light of the attacks, Mooneyhan wonders if what he witnessed is related to the events of September 11,” reported Shay Sullivan in the Longboat Observer.
So did the FBI. Well, sort of, anyway…
Since the Apalachin Summit, Always the Last to Know
“That’s very strange,” an unnamed agent with the Sarasota field office of the FBI said, when informed what happened. “He said he would direct agents to look into the matter.”
For reasons unknown, news of the suspected assassination attempt on Bush has until now been consigned to the realm of “secret history,” a term which can be loosely defined as “the news they’re able to keep out of the newspapers.”
And if the story splashed across the front page of the July 4, 2004 St. Petersburg Times with the provocative headline “Of fact, fiction: Bush on 9/11”offers any indication, that’s exactly where somebody wants it to stay.
Before setting out to debunk talk of an assassination attempt, St. Petersburg Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin at least makes an effort at journalistic even-handedness.
But it doesn't last long.
Posthumous warnings can be safely discounted
“Was the president ever in danger while in Florida on 9/11?" she asks.
“In the days and weeks after the terror attacks, news organizations in the Sarasota area reported several incidents suggesting he was. But like so many things that day, rumor often superceded reality.”
Actually its “superseded,” but we don’t mean to quibble about spelling, especially when there’s such dishonest reporting still to come…
Martin dismisses the warning of a threat to the President this way:
“A Sarasota TV station reported another incident: Omer Zainelabden called Sarasota police on Sept. 10 to say that a friend named "Gandi," who had made threatening remarks against the president in the past, had just arrived in town. Zainelabden, a Sudanese, then disappeared — perhaps nabbed by immigration authorities in a post 9/11 sweep of Muslim men”
“But records show Zainelabden called police Sept. 11, hours after Bush left town. And Zainelabden, who had a history of heavy drinking, was still in Sarasota months later, other records show.”
First, a small matter in the “Who What When Where Why” category: The name of the man who tried to warn the Secret Service isn’t “Omer Zaineladden.”
Its “Zainelabdeen Ibrahim Omer.”
"The pool reporter was at the pool"
A much more important factual error--an outright lie-– is this assertion:
“But records show Zainelabden called police Sept. 11, hours after Bush left town.”
The St. Petersburg Times would be correct in insinuating that a warning delivered hours after the threat has passed is not as significant as one delivered several hours before an assassination attempt on the President of the United States. But its not germane to this discussion.
Because several hours before the alleged assassination attempt took place is when Zainlabdeen Omer delivered his warning. Its right there in black and white in the police report, which was taken at 4.07 AM on the morning of September 11.
Or, as ABC reporter Yadov correctly, and succinctly, put it, “Exactly four hours and thirty-eight minutes before Mohamed Atta flew an airliner into the World Trade Center.”
"Conspiracy buffs: Model train enthusiasts, but not as nice."
Not realizing (or maybe not caring) that she has completely shredded whatever credibility accrues to a senior correspondent for a national newspaper, Martin then continues in the same vein.
“But while many reports were questionable at best it soon became known that some of the 9/11 hijackers had spent time on the west coast of Florida and taken flight lessons there.
“Some of the hijackers had spent time on the west coast of Florida and taken flight lessons there” appears to be the level of specificity at which the St. Petersburg Times feels comfortable.
We are, after all, dealing with important matters better left to the minions of our national security state, and we wouldn't want to commit journalism now, would we?
Martin deals with the story of the van filled with Middle Eastern men in similarly cavalier fashion…
"As related by Mooneyhan, a van occupied by men of Middle Eastern descent had pulled up to the Colony about 6 a.m. on Sept. 11 and said they had a "pool side" interview with the president. The Secret Service said it had no record of an interview and turned them away.”
“To conspiracy buffs, the incident bore an eerie resemblance to a successful ruse used 8,000 miles away in Afghanistan. On Sept. 9 – two days before the U.S. attacks – Ahmed Massoud, the pro-American leader of the Northern Alliance, had been assassinated by two men posing as journalists and carrying a bomb disguised as a TV camera.”
To conspiracy buffs, sure. And also to prosecuting attorney’s, anyone with common sense, a decent grade school education, or the ability to reason.
Keller-izing witnesses with inconvenient knowledge
Susan Taylor Martin then delivers the coup de grace, and Carroll Mooneyhan pulls an Amanda Keller. He recants his testimony.
She Keller-izes him.
There. That wasn't so hard, was it?
“Were the men on Longboat Key planning to kill Bush in similar fashion? The problem with this theory is that Mooneyhan denies he ever told the Observer about any men in a van seeking an interview.
"How did they get that information from me if I didn't know it?" Mooneyhan asks.
Well now. We’ve seen this sort of thing before, haven't we? And on a personal level, I'm just thankful its not my reporting that's currently being victimized.
If there were a cover-up in progress, there would be signs of witness intimidation, of authorities actively discouraging people with firsthand knowledge from talking.
When we spoke with Mooneyhan it was already several years after the events in question. Yet he did nothing to take advantage of the opportunity to say he’d been mis-quoted.
What Carroll Mooneyhan said was, “I was visited by the CIA and the Secret Service after 9/11. I have a career to think about. I have to be careful what I say.”
He didn't tell us he'd been "misquoted."
He said, "I have a career to think about."
All Ms. Taylor Martin has accomplished is to raise and answer the question of whether someone has leaned a little on poor local boy Carroll Mooneyhan–an honest man in a world he never made–to clam up.
Prescription for journalistic success: "Do What You're Told."
Susan Taylor Martin's agenda gleams like a sharp knife under a full moon. She knows exactly what Mooneyhan said to us.
That's not egotistical. The entire point of her story–what they pulled her off her no-doubt desperately important Iraqi war beat to do--is discredit reporting of the assassination attempt on Bush.
She knows it. We know it. And we all know that Shay Sullivan reported exactly what his friend Carroll Mooneyhan told him happened–before finding out he'd been out of school to spill that particular can of beans.
Susan Taylor Martin is an experienced reporter. Her bio says she's covered "two wars in Iraq, the war in Kosovo, the war against terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the death and Princess Di, the funeral of Jordan's King Hussein, the handover of Hong Kong to China, and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center."
So here's the Big Question: Is it just an innocent mistake when a senior correspondent for a national newspaper can't read the date on a police report, and bases an entire debunking exercise on… a lie?
We have deliberately not presented any of the other corroborating evidence, preferring to let Ms. Martin hoist herself by her own petard.
But its there… in spades.
- The numerous witnesses who saw Mohamed Atta at the Holiday Inn on Longboat Key on the day Bush's upcoming visit was announced.
- The claims of specific and credible threats on the President's life, to counter claims Bush went AWOL during the critical hours after the attack.
- The Associated Press report that Osama bin Laden personally ordered the assassination of Afghan opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. (So he's already used the phony journalist ruse successfully.)
And the presence of a vicious Hezbollah cell, right in Sarasota, led by the man who supplied Mohamed Atta with his cell phones, Wissam Hammoud, convicted of selling machine guns to Hezbollah, and hiring a hit man to have an ATF agent murdered… by being tied to a tree and having pieces of his body slowly cut off. When the ATF agent had ran out of limbs, he was to be beheaded.
A Modest Proposal: Make phony journalism a crime
Susan Taylor Martin pretends to live in a world that bears little resemblance to the one inhabited by any American who witnessed the rise of the national security state in the last half of the 20th Century.
In her America, there are no “Miami stories,” as Joan Didion calls them, fragments of an underwater narrative familiar to close observers of covert operations in this country since at least the Bay of Pigs.
In her America witnesses are never forced to recant, or discovered, like Johnny Roselli, bobbing up and down in an oil drum in Biscayne Bay the night before testifying to a Congressional Committee about his knowledge of the JFK assassination.
In Susan Taylor Martin's America the address stamped on the “Fair Play for Cuba” leaflets being passed out by "Castro sympathizer" Lee Harvey Oswald is never the same as that of former FBI agent Guy Bannister’s detective agency where CIA pedophile freak David Ferrie hangs out with anti-Castro Cubans.
That address, 544 Camp, has, in any event, been torn down and replaced by a federal courthouse. Today it is just another abandoned historical moment.
Huffman Aviation at the Venice Airport will be like that too, one day soon, just another part of the underwater narrative that is America’s Secret History. Its our true history, its what really happened, and in it there are no lone nut gunmen. But it is goes unmentioned at the St. Petersburg Times, or the Sarasota Herald Tribune, or the New York Times, or Washington Post, which are all today places where questioning too closely is not conducive to becoming a senior correspondent.
Politicians are scum. Journalists are whores. What's new?
We spent three years in Venice Florida tracing the outlines of a massive covert operation which brought hundreds of Arab men to Southwest Florida.
But nothing we wrote summed it up quite as succinctly as a matter-of-fact "From the Archive” feature in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, reprinting a news story which ran in the paper 50 years ago, on March 26,1947:
Two planes were seized by customs officials at the Venice airport, suspected of being involved in a plot to overthrow the governments of Cuba or possibly some countries in Central or South America.
The planes were seized by U.S. authorities, along with a cache of arms in New Orleans. A Honduras chicle grower announced that the equipment, including tanks, planes and guns, had been designated for farm development in Honduras.
The planes were held in Venice under orders from federal court in Tampa until the case was resolved.
Whatever his myriad faults, George W. Bush has never pretended to be anything other than what he is, a fiercely partisan politician with a room temperature IQ.
But Susan Martin Taylor, on the other hand, pretends to be a journalist, and pretends to be working on behalf of what Walter Cronkite used to call “the people’s sacred right to know.”
She, and her ilk, are to real journalism what Dan Rather was to Walter Cronkite. A phony careerist and a pale imitation.
We hope she has the decency to be ashamed of herself. Even better, we hope she decides to rewrite the story to reflect the facts, which we used to imagine was what journalists got paid to do.
But we’re not holding our breath.
NEXT: More Real Questions about 9/1