U.S. intelligence intercepted al-Qaida communications referring to a major attack before Sept. 11 and agents had infiltrated the group, but the intercepts and field reports did not specify when or where a strike might occur, USA Today reported on Tuesday.
Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the newspaper reported that the disclosures are buried in 350,000 pages of documents turned over by the CIA for congressional hearings on clues missed before the Sept. 11 hijacked airliner attacks that killed some 3,000 people.
Among the clues are electronic intercepts as late as Sept. 10 of al-Qaida members speaking cryptically of a major attack, the report said.
The newspaper reported that two U.S. intelligence officials paraphrasing the intercepts said they included such remarks as, “Watch the news,” “something big is happening,” and “Tomorrow will be a great day for us.”
The agents who infiltrated al-Qaida and its Taliban allies could not crack the tightly held secret of the Sept. 11 plot, but did collect evidence that the United States was targeted, USA Today said, again citing intelligence officials.
The intercepts of conversations among suspected al-Qaida members in the weeks and days before the attacks are in 13,000 pages of material from the National Security Agency, the newspaper reported, citing U.S. officials.
The sources told the newspaper that some of the intercepts were translated and analyzed before Sept. 11, while others went unread until later because of a shortage of translators.