In the weeks ahead of the September 11 attacks in 2001, Egypt warned the Bush administration repeatedly about an imminent large-scale terror attack to be carried out by al-Qaeda operatives on US soil, but the message was ignored, a former high-ranking Egyptian government official said.
Habib al-Adly, who served from 1997 to 2011 as minister of the interior for the Mubarak government, said in court testimony that Egypt received intelligence “from inside the al-Qaeda den” that “America would be subject to a huge terror attack.” In testimony last month that was translated and posted online Tuesday by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Adly said the intelligence was verified and analyzed, and then president Hosni Mubarak gave the order to pass it on to the US in May of 2001.
The information was passed to both the CIA and FBI several times, Adly said, as Egyptian intelligence received word that the terror attack was moving from the planning to operation stage.
“In May 2001, we received information about a huge terror attack to be perpetrated against the US. This information came from inside the al-Qaeda den. Such information does not come from just any collaborator,” said Adly. “We were told that America would be subject to a huge terror attack. We conducted an analysis and tried to verify this, and ultimately, we were convinced that an attack was being prepared. I said to President (Mubarak): ‘I have information that a huge terror attack will be carried out in the US.’
“He asked me: ‘What should we do?’
“I said: ‘I think we should tell them.’
“He said okay. We invited the CIA and FBI, and told them we had information that this was going to take place. They thanked us. In August of that year, we received information that the attack had entered the operational phase. Preparing an operation of such magnitude requires time. We were told that the attack had entered the operational phase. We had a recording of our conversation with our source. I told the president that the information had been verified, and that we should notify the Americans. He agreed, and we invited them again, and told them that the attack had entered the operational phase. They said: ‘Okay, thank you.’ Then the attack on the World Trade Center took place. That was the attack,” Adly testified.
Later, in 2002, Mubarak met with president Bush and asked why the US hadn’t heeded Egypt’s warnings, but Bush said he had no knowledge of the intelligence.
Adly testified: “In 2002, when President Mubarak traveled to America, he asked President Bush why they did not heed our warning about the attack. Bush asked: ‘What attack?’ Mubarak answered: ‘Against the WTC.’ Bush said ‘We didn’t get it.’ Mubarak answered: ‘Yes, you did.’ When Bush said that this never happened, Mubarak said to me: ‘Habib, did we warn them or not?’ And I said we did. I told him that we had warned the CIA, and he said that he would tell them. The CIA told Bush that they had received no warning about the attack, but Mubarak insisted that we had warned them.”
Eventually, al-Adly said, the CIA admitted it had received a warning, but “said the warning hadn’t been in writing” and evidently wasn’t passed on.
After the 2011 Arab Spring revolution in Egypt, Adly was convicted, along with several other high-ranking officials, of conspiring to kill protesters during the uprising, but later his conviction and life sentence were overturned and he is now being retried. He was previously sentenced to 12 years in prison on additional corruption charges.
Mubarak in 2002 told The New York Times that Egypt had passed on intelligence to the US, but said that Egyptian intelligence was unaware of the “unbelievable” magnitude of the 9/11 attacks.
“We didn’t know that such a thing could take place. We thought it was an embassy, an airplane, something, the usual thing,” the former president said, according to a June 4, 2002 article.
In the same article, an unnamed US intelligence official was quoted as saying, “The Egyptians gave us some threat information, earlier in 2001, of possible attacks against US.or Egyptian interests. There was nothing about hijackings, nothing about an attack inside the US. It did not come in the days before 9/11.”