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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 April, 2004, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
Bush's 'al-Qaeda memo' released
11 September attack
Commission's key question: Could 9/11 have been stopped?
The White House has made public an intelligence briefing warning of a threat from al-Qaeda, written a month before the 11 September terror attacks.

The commission investigating the 9/11 attacks had pressed for the Bush administration to make the memo public.

"Bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US," said the memo, written in August 2001.

The White House had said that the memo contained historical material about al-Qaeda and was not an imminent warning.

FBI information indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks
Excerpt from memo

The briefing, entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States", came to light during last Thursday's testimony to the 9/11 commission from US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

It was given to President Bush as part of his daily intelligence briefing.

Ms Rice said it was historical information based on old reporting and did not warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.

However, the memo said Bin Laden had been saying for some years that he wanted to bring the fight to America.

The BBC's Jon Leyne says the briefing appears to challenge repeated assertions by the White House that it had no specific information that al-Qaeda was planning to attack within the United States.


After missile strikes against his base in Afghanistan in 1998 by then US President Bill Clinton, Bin Laden told followers he wanted to retaliate, the memo says.

Condoleezza Rice during her testimony to the 9/11 commission

It says the millennium plot in 1999 - when a man crossing from Canada was arrested in Washington in possession of powerful explosives - may have been Bin Laden's first serious attempt to carry out an attack on the US.

At the time of the memo, the FBI was conducting 70 Bin Laden-related investigations throughout the country, it added.

The document also indicates that Bin Laden was meticulous in planning his operations, as demonstrated by his surveillance of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which al-Qaeda attacked in 1998.

"FBI information ... indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York," it says.

It adds that al-Qaeda had personnel in the US who could help facilitate its operations.

"Al-Qaeda members - including some who are US citizens - have resided in or travelled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks," it said.

The memo does not, however, mention the potential use of hijacked planes as weapons.

More questions

In her testimony, Ms Rice said the briefing referred to uncorroborated reports from 1998 that a terrorist might try to hijack a plane but did not raise the possibility that airplanes might be used as missiles.

Democratic members on the 9/11 commission have demanded to know why the document was not seen as a warning of the attacks that took place just over a month later when planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The commission is set to ask further probing questions next week when several senior figures, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, CIA director George Tenet and former FBI head Louis Freeh, testify.

The BBC's Clive Myrie
"The document did reveal some surprises"

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