The collection includes rarely released CIA emails, raw intelligence cables, analytical summaries, high-level briefing materials, and comprehensive counter-terrorism reports that are usually withheld from the public because of their sensitivity. Today’s posting covers a variety of topics of major public interest, including background to al Qaeda’s planning for the attacks; the origins of the Predator program now in heavy use over Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran; al Qaeda’s relationship with Pakistan; CIA attempts to warn about the impending threat; and the impact of budget constraints on the U.S. government’s hunt for bin Laden.
The documents released by the CIA detail the meticulousness of al Qaeda’s plot against the United States and CIA attempts to counter the rising terrorist threat. A previously undisclosed raw intelligence report that became the basis for the December 4, 1998, President’s Daily Brief, notes that five years before the actual attack, al Qaeda operatives had successfully evaded security at a New York airport in a test-run for bin Laden’s plan to hijack a U.S. airplane. [1998-12-03]. CIA analytical reports also provide interesting insights into al Qaeda’s evolving political strategies. “In our view, the hijackers were carefully selected with an eye to their operational and political value. For instance, the large number of Saudi nationals was most likely chosen not only because of the ease with which Saudi nationals could get US visas but also because Bin Laden could send a message to the Saudi Royal family.” [2003-06-01]
Reports on early attempts to apprehend bin Laden detail the beginning of the U.S. Predator drone program in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “First Predator mission over Afghanistan [excised] September 7, 2000.”  “Twice in the fall of 2000, the Predator observed an individual most likely to be Bin Laden; however we had no way at the time to react to this information.” [2004-03-19] American UAVs did not have sufficient weapons capabilities at the time the CIA likely spotted bin Laden in 2000 to fire on the suspect using the UAV.