Vital Signs

Who Was Watching the Watchers?

One cannot reasonably assume that the attacks of September 11, 2001, were a seamless conspiracy.  Even a successful plot is not a well-oiled machine, and, whatever the plotting behind the scenes, as Shakespeareans say about Romeo and Juliet, the skyjackings of September 11 were, in some ways, tragedy snatched from the jaws of comedy.

Take, for example, the suspects’ numerous plane and road trips before they convened aboard the vessels they used for their attacks.  Alleged ringleader Muhammad Atta and Abdulaziz Al-Omari arrived at Boston’s Logan International Airport, where two of the jumbo jets were hijacked, on a flight from Portland, Maine, the morning of September 11.  For reasons unknown, Atta had driven from Boston to Portland the previous afternoon, before flying back, cutting his connection so close that his baggage missed the flight.

The skyjackers had already shuttled between Florida and Baltimore, California and Baltimore, Maryland and Florida, New Jersey and Maryland, Florida and New Jersey, etc., within the previous 18 days.  Why?  As any old OSS hand would anticipate, their moving around made them visible.

Every move, every stop, increased their chances of being seen or accosted.  According to the FBI, during their one evening in Portland, Atta and Al-Omari registered at a Comfort Inn; were seen at a Pizza Hut, a gas station, and a Wal-Mart;...

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