American Intelligence Failure


In the years prior to 9/11 al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Centers in 1993, bombed embassies in Kenya and Nairobi in 1997, and attacked the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were determined to strike the United States because of Bin Laden’s anger about the United States supporting Israel and maintaining American troops In Saudi Arabia, which contained the two holiest sites in Islam.  These previous attacks and other information yielded multiple warning signs that an attack against the United States was imminent according to both CIA and FBI intelligence memos. 

Essential Questions:

  1. Did the intelligence failures and lack of communication between the FBI, CIA, and other government agencies lead to 9/11? If so, how? If not, why not? 
  2. What other terrorist attacks preceded 9/11, and how did they inform/not inform government agencies and their policies towards terrorism? 


  1. Spy Museum information
  2. CIA/FBI memos warning of the attacks
    1. FBI memo warning of UBL attack pre 9/11:
      1. An FBI memo dated five months prior to the 9/11 attack outlines an advisory that there is a heightened chance of a terrorist attack by a terrorist organization or extremists associated with Osama bin Laden.
      2. EQ: 1
    2. Increased Threat Awareness:
      1. An FBI memo dated two months before the 9/11 attacks mentioned increased levels of threat and the possibility of an attack, but the FBI has no information indicating a credible threat.
      2. EQ: 1
    3. News clips after the first WTC bombings, embassy attacks, USS Cole
    4. (Survivor of USS Cole)
      1. This is an interview with a survivor of the al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole, in the Gulf of Amen In 2000. The interview explains the sailor’s experience surviving the attack and what happened on that day.
      2. EQ: 2
    5. (WTC 1 aftermath) 
      1. This is a YouTube clip highlighting the chaos and what happened in Downtown Manhattan in the aftermath of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
      2. EQ: 2
  3. The capture of the 12th Hijacker in Minnesota 
    1. (273)
      1. This is an excerpt from the 9/11 Commission report that highlights how one of the potential hijackers was attempting to receive flight training and engaging in another suspicious activity near the Minnesota airport, which eventually led to his arrest by FBI agents.
      2. EQ: 1 and 2
    1. A graphic novel that illustrates the final report on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. This adaptation includes text features and illustrations to help the public, and students specifically, understand complicated governmental reports on 9/11. 
    2. EQs: 1

Types of Sources:

  • CIA/FBI Memos
  • CIA/FBI Reports
  • TV News Clips
  • News Article 
  • Graphic novel