An Intelligence Primer on September 11, 2001: Some Analysis about those Horrible Events.

Quotes from Powershift by Alvin Toffler, Bantam Books, New York, ISBN 0-553-05776-6, 1990

The most important powershift of all, therefore, is not from one person, party, institution, or nation to another. It is the hidden shift in the relationships between violence, wealth, and knowledge as societies speed toward their collision with tomorrow. (p. 467)

Spying, to a greater extent than at any time in the past century, will be pressed into service in support of not only of government objectives, but of corporate strategy as well, on the assumption that corporate power will necessarily contribute to national power. (p 307)

What is not compatible are those religions that combine totalitarianism and universalism. Such movements are at war with any possible definition of democracy. ... They are the agents of the new Dark Age. (p 376)

If intelligence operations, already difficult for parliaments and even Presidents to control, become so intertwined  ...[with private interests] ... as to make effective control control impossible, democracy will be in mortal peril. ... Conversely, so long as some nations are led by aggressive terrorists, torturers, and totalitarians, or by fanatics armed with even more lethal weaponry, democracies cannot survive without secrets - and secret services. (p. 318)


1. Overt propaganda missions are essentially "media" missions designed to create helplessness and panic within the target population. The media images of the attack upon and collapse of the World Trade Center towers are the most powerful ever disseminated in world history. The engineering feat of causing that collapse cannot be underestimated. Even a subsequent letter containing some terror sent to the source that will generate media attention is a successful intelligence mission.

2. Symbols, identified by popular US media, are more important than command and control target realities. Symbols of national power and media distribution would be targeted in lieu of more important strategic targets. Publicity is more important than damage.

3. Violence would be directed mainly towards those who can generate media attention. The World Trade Center (WTC) towers had remained a high priority target for almost a decade.

4. The identities of the operational personnel would be masked as much as possible with fake identities or assumed names. An even greater goal would be for the operational personnel to assume the identity of an innocent person.

5. As many unwitting personnel as possible would be included in peripheral tasks such as drivers, errand persons, landlords, etc. so that retaliation would be directed towards the unwitting persons involved.

6. Already identified and known villains would be "leaked" to mask the reality of any state sponsorship. Such a tactic would give the US military simpler targets (of media value) to attack without disruption of continued operations.

7. The handlers would have prepared for US "counterintelligence" propaganda implying that the operatives drank alcohol and visited adult businesses - an effort to discredit the operatives in the Islamic world.


1. Cell members would not have known of other cells or other missions.

2. The "pilot" of the aircraft that struck the North WTC tower would not have known of the mission to strike the other tower.

3. Some cell members may not have known of the exact missions. They would only have known of their "mission" within the aircraft.

4. Cell members would not have known the details of missions assigned to support personnel such as those who had access to aircraft to "cache" the weapons used (assuming box cutters were planted on aircraft before the mission by ground support operatives).

5. Cash for the operation would have been kept to a minimum and would have been disbursed through "cutout" tradescraft as needed.

6. Bank transactions would be avoided (Although a NY Bank allegedly failed to notice year 2000 transactions totaling 5 billion dollars within a few months used by the Russian mafia -- some banks will actively cooperate with terrorists for the profits involved).

7. Operational members would have worked to earn some money to give an appearance of self sufficiency and normal lifestyle.


1. "Cutout" communications would have used between "handlers" and "operational" personnel. Operational personnel would not know the identity of handlers. The only face-to-face meetings would be between the recruiter and the operative. All subsequent communication after recruitment would be through cutout communications.

2. Actual identities of the operational personnel would not be revealed - even within the cell. Cover names would have been assumed.

3. E-mail would be avoided as a form of communication since it is so traceable.

4. Only stolen cellular phones would be used for secondary communications. Cellular phones used by operational personnel would be avoided - even for personal reasons. (Press reports indicate that the operatives routinely used cellular phones.)

5. Dead drops with secret writing in encoded Arabic (or a similar secure system) would have been used for communications. Email and cellular phone calls may have been used for "load" and "unload" signals. The operatives would have known that FBI agent Richard Hanssen (convicted of spying for Russia) used the same dead drop location over and over in such an amateurish fashion that the FBI placed surveillance at his drop location.

6. Communications from ground to aircraft after the aircraft were hijacked could have been made using simple "family" or "business" frequency bands. These radios are available in any electronic or discount store for a few hundred dollars. Licenses are not required. The signals are limited to only a few miles so interception would be difficult. There seemed to be no effort by the operatives to collect passengers' cellular phones or to use them for the operatives' communications.


1. Failure to follow the above techniques would be intelligence breaches of security - and would lead to possible compromise or disclosure of the operational history.

2. The weakest "link" in the operation seems to be finding or training pilots while still maintaining security compartmentatization. Even the widespread use of many flight schools in the US gives an appearance of inability to recruit already trained pilots or to adequately train the operatives used as pilots.

3. If there was no communication to the operatives after aircraft were hijacked, the operatives would have been limited to one major pre-assigned target due to limited pilot experience and lack of communications.

4. For the sake of the nation, US intelligence personnel (and the rest of us) can hope and pray that the September 11, 2001 operatives (and their successors) failed to follow this primer.

Posted solely as public information routinely reported in the media and as an possible intelligence evaluation of the events of September 11, 2001.