May 4, 2002
<center><font size="5">FBI had advance warning of terrorist flight training Months before Sept. 11</font></center>
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Two months before the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in Arizona alerted Washington headquarters that several Middle Easterners were training at a U.S. aviation school and recommended contacting other schools where Arabs might be studying.
The FBI sent the intelligence to its terrorism experts in Washington and New York for analysis and had begun discussing conducting a U.S.-wide canvass of flight schools when the Sept. 11 tragedies occurred.
At least one leader of the 19 hijackers, Hani Hanjour, received flight training in Arizona in 2001, but his name had not surfaced in the FBI intelligence from Arizona.
None of the Middle Eastern men identified by the Arizona counterterrorism agents or any information contained in their July, 2001, memo pointed to the suicide plot that levelled the World Trade Center and killed thousands in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, officials said.
However, a month after the memo was sent, FBI agents in Minnesota arrested a French citizen of Moroccan descent, Zacarias Moussaoui, after a flight school instructor became suspicious of his desire to learn to fly a commercial jet.
Mr. Moussaoui has since emerged as the single most important defendant in the post-Sept. 11 terrorism investigation, charged with conspiring with the hijackers and Osama bin Laden to kill thousands of Americans. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Law-enforcement officials said in retrospect the FBI believes it should have accelerated the suggested check of U.S. flight schools after Mr. Moussaoui's arrest but does not believe it would have led to the hijackers.
<a href="http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?f=/stories/20020504/121153.html">The National Post</a>