CIA Warned Bush Administration of Massive Terrorist Attack Prior to 9/11

by Mickey Huff
Published: Last Updated on

In 2001, the terrorist attacks of September 11 killed close to 3,000 Americans and started a war against several countries not responsible for the attacks. The post 9/11 US wars that ensued have taken the lives of thousands of American soldiers and countless civilians abroad. Little do people know, that the CIA was trying to warn the White House and President George W. Bush that suspected Al Qaeda terrorists were planning an attack on the United States. Some Americans may recall the more widely reported Presidential Daily Brief of August 6, 2001 titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US.” The 9/11 Commission hearings addressed the report as it was getting testimony from Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who delivered the brief to President Bush while he vacationed at his Texas ranch. Despite the title of the report, Rice told the Commission the attacks were a complete surprise. Most Americans are still unaware that this was only one in a string of significant and specific warnings regarding the pending attacks that Rice and other Bush officials were aware of prior to 9/11.

In May of 2001, the chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, Cofer Black, gave word that it was evident that there would be an attack and many Americans could die. Black and one of his colleagues pitched a plan called “the Blue Sky paper” to Bush’s national security team that called for a covert CIA and military campaign designed to deflect and prevent the Al Qaeda threats.  They got word back from the administration saying that they were not quite ready to consider such a plan; in other words, according to Chris Whipple at Politico, they didn’t want to leave a paper trail leading back to them actually being warned about the threats.

Warnings about the threats were made again by Black later that year on July 10th but were never mentioned in the Committee’s final report about the 9/11 Commission. The head of the Al Qaeda unit at the CIA, Richard Blee, blurted out in the July 10 meeting in Black’s office that not only were plans for an attack being made, but he said that, “the attacks will be spectacular.” With all of the warnings that the CIA, and others, gave the White House about impending attacks on the United States, why was there so little done to try to address the threats or prevent the attacks? Why was it swept under the rug and why did the people of the White House act as if they didn’t want to have a paper trail leading back to prove that they knew about the warnings and the threats made by Al Qaeda according to the CIA?

These unanswered questions raise huge ethical and potential legal concerns because of how much has been done in the name of 9/11– the attacks on civil liberties, the rise of Islamophobia, the advent of drone warfare, and expansion of US empire, to name just a few. Further, and most importantly, many American lives could have been saved, civilians as well as the American soldiers, not to mention the lives of other people in countries invaded in the subsequent so-called “war on terror.”


Chris Whipple, “The Attacks Will Be Spectacular,” Politico, November 12th, 2015,

Student Researcher: Austin Hamilton, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluators: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College; and Mickey Huff, Diablo Valley College