Khan told NBC News that for the next few weeks he was trained by al-Qaida to hijack passenger planes, and then sent to the United States. But when he told the FBI, headquarters was skeptical and, after several weeks, senior FBI officials ordered him released to the custody of British intelligence. Khan said, "I told them before the 9/11, about more than year, be...hijacking in America or on America airline."Well, in Page One of this morning's L.A. Times, it seems that Khan wasn't the only one. Tin foil hats off...these are mainstream media, folks. How many more of these are there?
Before 9/11, One Warning Went Unheard
An Australian convicted in a terrorist plot had tried to tell authorities about Al Qaeda in 2000.
PERTH, Australia - When Jack Roche telephoned Australia's intelligence agency in July 2000, he offered a tantalizing story: He had been to Afghanistan and ate lunch with Osama bin Laden. He had received training in explosives and plotted with Al Qaeda leaders to carry out a bombing in Australia.
A Muslim convert, Roche was prepared to become an informant, his attorney says, and provide information about Al Qaeda; its Southeast Asian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiah; and their goal of staging an attack in a Western country.
But at the time - 14 months before the Sept. 11 attacks - no one was interested.
It wasn't until 2 1/2 years later that authorities decided to take Roche seriously and arrested him on terrorism charges. Last week he was sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiring with Al Qaeda leaders to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Canberra.
While many Australians applaud the country's first conviction under new anti-terrorism laws, Roche's case is a tale of intelligence failures that illustrates how poorly Western security officials understood the threat posed by Islamic extremism.
According to evidence presented in court, Australian and U.S. authorities bungled at least six chances to learn what Roche knew, including the whereabouts of alleged terrorist mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who, it is said, was even then plotting the Sept. 11 attacks. U.S. authorities had been trying to catch Mohammed since the mid-1990s.
"He had their phone numbers," said Hylton Quail, Roche's lawyer. "He had their e-mail addresses. He knew where they lived. He knew how they worked. He was like a spy who tried to come in from the cold and found the door was locked."
Roche, now 50, says he first telephoned the U.S. Embassy in Canberra to offer intelligence on Al Qaeda and was told to contact Australian authorities. An embassy official says Roche may have called, but the embassy has no record of it. Roche subsequently called the Australian Security Intelligence Organization three times to give information, but the agency never pursued his offer.
Prime Minister John Howard acknowledged last week that authorities had made a "very serious mistake" in turning Roche away. But he discounted suggestions that Roche's information could have helped prevent the Sept. 11 attacks, or the Bali bombings in 2002 that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.