911 Blogger

A number of senior officials in the United States government and military gave warnings in the week before September 11, 2001, or early on the morning of September 11, that seem to have predicted the 9/11 attacks with chilling accuracy.

These men–as is described below–voiced concerns that Osama bin Laden would carry out an attack in the U.S. in the near future; warned that an al-Qaeda attack that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Americans could happen “at any time”; expressed concern that terrorists would attack the World Trade Center; warned about a “seminal event” occurring in the U.S. in which “hundreds, if not thousands” of Americans would be killed; said that “someone [is] going to attack us in a fashion we did not anticipate”; warned that “something big” was about to happen; and suggested the possibility of an attack taking place that would be equivalent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, in which over 2,400 Americans died.

The six officials who issued these warnings were Charles Nemfakos, deputy under secretary of the Navy; Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command; John O’Neill, head of security at the World Trade Center who had previously been a senior FBI agent; Richard Clarke, the White House counterterrorism chief; Kirk Lippold, commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked by terrorists in October 2000; and Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense.

The accuracy of these men’s warnings and the fact that the warnings were given so soon before 9/11 certainly appears suspicious. We need to consider, therefore, if the content and timing of the warnings, in relation to the 9/11 attacks, was just a coincidence or the result of something more sinister. Were the men who gave the warnings perhaps just very perceptive? Or did at least some of them know that a major attack was about to take place?

If any of these officials knew in advance that a terrorist attack was going to take place in the U.S. on September 11, the imminent catastrophe would surely have been on their minds in the days leading up to it. They may therefore have been inclined to–perhaps inadvertently–make indirect references to what they knew was about to happen and this could be why they gave warnings that appear to have been prescient of the 9/11 attacks.


The day before 9/11, Charles Nemfakos, deputy under secretary of the Navy, said that before it addressed the weaknesses in its defense policy, the United States would need to suffer an attack equivalent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941 that led America to enter World War II.

On September 10, 2001, Nemfakos–the “number three official in the Navy,” according to Defense Week magazine–gave a briefing to a group of civilian employees of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Crane, Indiana. The NSWC employees had come to Washington, DC, to interact with some of the Navy’s top officials and complete a program for a certificate in public management.

During the briefing, one of the NSWC employees has recalled, someone asked Nemfakos “what it would take for America’s defense policy to be clear and concise in the 21st century.” In response, Nemfakos said that “he felt an event equivalent to Pearl Harbor, either terrorist or military, would be the only event that would awaken the United States from the complacency and security they have had since the end of the Vietnam [War] era.” [1]

The fact that Nemfakos made this comment on September 10 is quite chilling, since the attack on the U.S. the following day was immediately likened to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were, for example, described as “another Pearl Harbor,” “the second Pearl Harbor,” “the Pearl Harbor of American terrorism,” and an event that “rivals if not exceeds the attack on Pearl Harbor.” [2] An Internet search by the San Francisco Chronicle two days after 9/11 found “747 stories in newspapers and other publications mentioning both the World Trade Center and Pearl Harbor.” [3] Among the similarities between the two events, the death tolls were relatively close. In the attack on Pearl Harbor, 2,403 Americans and 64 Japanese died. [4] In the 9/11 attacks, 2,996 people died. [5]


Nemfakos was a powerful man. He “exerted more day-to-day influence than anyone else in the Navy during the latter half of the 1990s,” Defense Week reported. Betty Welch, then-deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for civilian personnel and equal employment opportunity, said in 2000, “It’s Charlie Nemfakos who controls the Navy probably more than anybody else.” [6]

Interestingly, in the 12 months before September 11, Nemfakos attended some “high-powered war games” that took place at the World Trade Center and seem to have helped prepare the American financial and national security communities for the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The war games were part of an initiative called the “New Rule Sets Project.”

The New Rule Sets Project was a research partnership between Wall Street bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald and the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. [7] It brought together “divergent groups of experts” in order to “assess global issues that will affect U.S. national security in coming decades,” Defense News reported. [8] Thomas Barnett, the project’s director, said it “explored the future of globalization and what could threaten globalization, and what would be new definitions of international instability and crisis.”

The project involved the running of a number of sophisticated war game workshops. Three of these were held at Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. [9] Each workshop was attended by about 30 participants, including “Wall Street CEOs, subject matter experts from academia and think tanks, and national security heavyweights from the White House and from the Pentagon,” according to Barnett. Nemfakos was listed as a participant at the second and third of the workshops at Windows on the World, held in October 2000 and June 2001 respectively. [10]

The New Rule Sets Project apparently served as good preparation for the challenges of the post-9/11 world. Barnett has commented that the shock of the 9/11 attacks effectively told the U.S. political system and national security community, “Hey, here’s a new way of thinking about crisis and instability and threats in the world, and we have got to have new rules for dealing with this.” [11] He said that after 9/11, his research with the New Rule Sets Project “immediately shifted from grand theory to grand strategy.” [12]


Three days before Charles Nemfakos talked about the need for “an event equivalent to Pearl Harbor,” Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), made equally prophetic remarks. Specifically, he said his biggest fear was that there would be a terrorist attack against the World Trade Center.

On September 7, 2001, Franks talked to his intelligence staff at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, about what he considered to be the major threats facing America throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. After he finished his presentation, a young sergeant asked him, “General, what keeps you up at night?”

Franks replied, “The thought of one tower of the World Trade Center collapsing into the other tower, killing thousands of people,” according to Computerworld magazine. In his memoir, Franks described giving a slightly different answer. He wrote that he replied, “A terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York.” [13] As Canada’s Globe and Mail noted, “Four days later, that’s exactly what happened.” [14]

What is more, Franks had made other remarks that were apparently prescient of 9/11 a few months earlier. In a speech to the Operations Security Professionals Society in late June 2001, he warned, “The asymmetric threat is serious, and deserves our focused thought and preparation.” (“Asymmetric warfare threats,” according to the Washington Times, “include efforts by weaker powers to defeat stronger ones using attacks that can include weapons of mass destruction, the use of computer-based information warfare, and terrorism.”) Franks continued, “The point is to avoid another Pearl Harbor-like event by recognizing the threat and preparing to meet this growing challenge.” [15]

Less than three months after Franks made these comments, the U.S. suffered an attack that, according to the official account, was an example of “asymmetric warfare” and was immediately compared to the attack on Pearl Harbor. On the evening of September 11, according to his own recollections, Franks actually thought to himself, “Today is like Pearl Harbor.” [16]

After 9/11, Franks became “one of three men running the Bush administration’s military campaign against Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization,” ABC News reported. [17] He led the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. [18]


One man, John O’Neill, gave two separate warnings on the day before 9/11 that were chillingly prophetic of what happened on September 11.

O’Neill had, since August 23, 2001, been director of security at the World Trade Center. Prior to that, he spent 25 years as an FBI agent and, from January 1997, had been special agent in charge of the national security division of the FBI’s New York office. While at the FBI, according to the New Yorker, he “became the bureau’s most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists.” He was at the World Trade Center on September 11 and, unfortunately, was killed when the Twin Towers collapsed. [19]

On the morning of September 10, 2001, O’Neill met Raymond Powers, the director of security at the Rockefeller Center, to discuss various security issues. The two men’s conversation eventually turned to the subject of Osama bin Laden. According to journalist and author Murray Weiss, O’Neill told Powers that “he was sure bin Laden would attack on American soil and expected him to target the Twin Towers again.” “It’s going to happen,” he said. “And it looks like something big is brewing.” [20]

O’Neill again expressed his fear of an imminent al-Qaeda attack that evening, when he went out with a couple of his friends: Robert Tucker, a security company executive, and Jerome Hauer, the former director of New York’s Office of Emergency Management.

At one point in the evening, the three men talked about bin Laden. According to Hauer, O’Neill said: “We’re due. And we’re due for something big.” He added: “Some things have happened in Afghanistan. I don’t like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan.” He then said, “I sense a shift and I think things are going to happen.” Asked when they would happen, he replied, “I don’t know, but soon.” [21]

O’Neill had made similar predictions on earlier occasions. In October 2000, for example, while he was in Yemen, he talked several times with FBI agent Pat Patterson about what bin Laden’s next target might be. He said he believed the World Trade Center–which was bombed by terrorists in 1993–would be attacked again. “John was convinced of it,” Patterson has recalled. He’d said, “They definitely want to bring that building down.” [22]

O’Neill voiced his concerns again around August 2001, when he talked with his friend Chris Isham. When O’Neill said he had just got the job as head of security at the World Trade Center, Isham joked: “That will be an easy job. They’re not going to bomb that place again.” But O’Neill retorted: “Actually, they’ve always wanted to finish that job. I think they’re going to try again.” [23]


Strangely, despite his apparent concern about al-Qaeda carrying out an attack in the United States, O’Neill told Congressional staffers there was no threat to aviation. Cathal Flynn recalled that at some unstated time between 1993 and 2000, when he was head of security for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the FAA, the FBI, and the director of central intelligence about threats to civil aviation. O’Neill went to the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, to respond on behalf of the FBI. But when Senate Intelligence Committee staffers asked, “What are the threats to aviation?” according to Flynn, “John O’Neill said there are none.”

Flynn was surprised at O’Neill’s answer, because there had been a “few indications the FBI had received,” such as information about a suspicious individual who had tried to get “a job with airport access” at Los Angeles International Airport. Flynn wrote O’Neill a note asking about this incident. But, Flynn recalled, O’Neill “looked at the note” and “still didn’t say anything, didn’t change what he had said.” As the two men left the meeting, Flynn again asked O’Neill about the incident and O’Neill told him there was “nothing to it.” [24]

Bruce Butterworth, the FAA’s director of civil aviation security operations from 1995 to 2000, has described the same event. He said he remembered O’Neill’s “testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee wherein he was unwilling to corroborate FAA claims about credible threats to civil aviation.” [25]

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