MI6 warned the
American intelligence services about a plot to hijack
aircraft and crash them into buildings two years before
the September 11 attacks.
Liaison staff at the American embassy in Grosvenor
Square in London were passed a secret report by MI6 in
1999 after the intelligence service picked up
indications from human intelligence sources (Humint)
that Osama Bin Laden’s followers were planning attacks
in which civilian aircraft could be used in
Information did not specify targets and would not
necessarily have enabled US agencies to prevent attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, intelligence
Details of the MI6 warning, expected to emerge during
secret Congressional hearings this week in Washington
into alleged intelligence failings, will increase
pressure on the Bush administration for a radical
shake-up of America’s counterterrorism efforts.
President George W Bush has already announced plans
for a new “homeland defence department” with a £25
billion annual budget to combat terrorism. “We need to
know when warnings were missed or signs unheeded — not
to point the finger of blame, but to make sure we
correct any problems,” he said last week.
MI6 had information as early as 1998 that Al-Qaeda
was plotting fresh attacks. A series of warnings was
passed to Washington, some concerning threats to
American interests in Europe, including the US embassy
in Paris. One message detailed heightened activity by
suspected Al-Qaeda terror cells.
“The Americans knew of plans to use commercial
aircraft in unconventional ways, possibly as flying
bombs,” said a senior Foreign Office source.
A US government spokesman declined to comment.
oPolice in London last week deployed for the first time
on the British mainland new anti-suicide attack steps
after Scotland Yard sent a delegation to meet security
experts in Israel.
Israeli-style barriers consisting of articulated
lorries loaded with concrete were placed across Waterloo
bridge to prevent a would-be terrorist from driving into
the state coach as the Queen travelled to a jubilee
service at St Paul’s cathedral.