1995 plan selected U.S.-bound airliners from E. Asia
Wednesday, September 19, 2001
The use of hijacked airliners as terrorist cruise missiles has been known to be a tactic used by terrorists linked to Osama Bin Laden since 1995. That’s when terrorist Ramsi Youssef was captured by police in the Philippines.
Computer hard drives were recovered during the arrest that laid out plans for spectacular terrorist attacks using aircraft. The data on the hard drives belonging to Youssef was decoded and revealed several key operations of Bin Laden operatives. It was ultimately used to convict the terrorists who carried out the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
According to an intelligence source involved in decoding the hard drives, the first plan was to assassinate Pope John Paul II during a scheduled visit to the Philippines.
The airliner terrorism was outlined as part of a terrorist operation code-named “Project Bojinka.”
The operation called for hijacking U.S.-bound commercial airliners from the Philippines, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. The hijacked aircraft were to be crashed into structures in the United States, including the World Trade Center, the White House, Pentagon, the Transamerica tower in San Francisco and the Sears Tower in Chicago.
"A dry run was even conducted on a Tokyo-bound Philippines Airline flight which fortunately was aborted by our security personnel,” the source said.
The plans also included an outline of the operation that would become the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center. The information was used to convict Youssef, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan for that bombing.
"Obviously, the original Project Bojinka was modified to give it more significant impact on the U.S.A.,” the source said.
Domestic U.S. airline flights were used instead of airlines in Asia with the apparent goal of prompting a stronger reaction from Americans.
Transcontinental flights were chosen so that the aircraft would have maximum fuel for the 3,000-mile flight and increase the blast caused by their deliberate crash. The pilots also banked shortly before impact in order to spread the damage out among as many floors as possible on the target buildings.
The convicted World Trade Center bomber Abdul Hakim Murad admitted that members of the group had taken flying lessons in the Philippines for Project Bojinka. The terrorists who carried out the U.S. bombings last week were trained at several flights schools, according to U.S. officials.
U.S. intelligence and security agencies failed to follow up on the details obtained from that operation. Several members of Congress are investigating what is being termed the United States' worst intelligence failure.