France knew of and told CIA about al-Qaeda hijack plans prior to 9/11

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reports produced by the French secret services reveal that they knew that al-Qaeda was planning attacks on the United States at least eight months before the 9/11 attacks and that the attack was going to involve U.S. jetliners, the French newspaper Le Monde reports.

Le Monde also says one of the reports was handed to Bill Murray, a CIA agent working at the Paris station at the time, but no record of that handover has been released in the U.S. governments 9/11 commission report in 2004.

"[The French government knew of a] plan to hijack an aircraft by Islamic radicals," said the report, adding the planned attack had been discussed by al-Qaeda, Taliban and Uzbek militants in 2000. However; the Washington Post and The Daily times mistakenly say that the Uzbeck militants were Chechen.

According to the reports, al-Qaeda was planning to launch the 9/11 attack in March or September in 2000, but that the attack was delayed because of "differences of opinion, particularly over the date, objective and participants."

"You have to remember that a plane hijack (in January 2001) did not have the same significance as it did after September 11. At the time, it implied forcing a plane to land at an airport and undertaking negotiations," said Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi.

The CIA said that the report does not show that the U.S. or France had advance knowledge that an attack was going to take place.

"Today's Le Monde article merely repeats what the U.S. government knew and reported before September 11 that al Qaeda was interested in airliner plots, especially hijackings. The article does not suggest that U.S. or foreign officials had advance knowledge of the details surrounding the September 11 plot. Had the details been known, the U.S. government would have acted on them," a spokesman for the CIA, George Little, said.