Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11: Could We Have Stopped It

McClatchy, on this 6th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, pose the provocative question of whether or not we could have stopped the attacks.

Two numbers scrawled in a notebook that belonged to terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui could have given the FBI a chance to identify several of the Sept. 11 hijackers before they struck six years ago, according to officials who are familiar with the bureau's massive investigation of the attacks.

The notebook entries recorded the control numbers for two Western Union wire transfers in which suspected al Qaida coordinator Ramzi Binalshibh, using an alias, sent Moussaoui $14,000 from Germany in early August 2001, before he went to a Minnesota flight school to learn to fly a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

A check of Western Union records probably would have uncovered other wires in the preceding days for similar sums of money to Binalshibh — who'd been turned away at the U.S. border four times because he was a suspected terrorist — from an al Qaida paymaster in Dubai. On one of those receipts, the paymaster listed a phone number in the United Arab Emirates that several of the hijackers had called from Florida.

While McClatchy does not go as far to say that the attacks could have been completely stopped by acknowledging this notebook, it does suggest that this evidence could have played a role in helping to find out about more about Moussaoui and the people that he was connected to. It saddens me to this information wasn't investigated before the actual attacks. It's an interesting conundrum to ponder, but given a lot of the government's actions before the attack, this lack of diligence is not particularly surprising.