Al Qaeda had training camps in Pakistan and its operatives had successfully evaded security at a New York airport in a test-run for Osama bin Laden's plan to hijack a US airplane five years later, according to declassified CIA documents released on Wednesday.
Nearly 100 top CIA documents recently declassified, which were released by the National Security Archive today, provide the first of its kind insight and information into the documents related to Al Qaeda and 9/11.
According to these documents, Al Qaeda had training camps in Pakistan and it planned to hit the plane of the then US President, Bill Clinton, when he visited the country in February 2000.
A previously undisclosed raw intelligence report that became the basis for the December 4, 1998, President's Daily Brief notes, five years before the actual attack, said that Al Qaeda operatives had successfully evaded security at a New York airport in a test-run for bin Laden's plan to hijack a US airplane.
CIA analytical reports also provide interesting insights into Al Qaeda's evolving political strategies.
"In our view, the hijackers were carefully selected with an eye to their operational and political value. For instance, the large number of Saudi nationals was most likely chosen not only because of the ease with which Saudi nationals could get US visas but also because Bin Ladin could send a message to the Saudi Royal family," the report said.
These reports on early attempts to apprehend bin Laden detail the beginning of the US Predator drone programme in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"First Predator mission over Afghanistan, September 7, 2000." "Twice in the fall of 2000, the Predator observed an individual most likely to be Bin Ladin; however we had no way at the time to react to this information," the report said.
American UAVs did not have sufficient weapons capabilities at the time the CIA likely spotted bin Laden in 2000 to fire on the suspect using the UAV, it said.