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During the Spain meeting,Atta also mentioned that he had considered tar-
geting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New
York--a target they referred to as "electrical engineering."According to Binal-
shibh, the other pilots did not like the idea.They thought a nuclear target would
be difficult because the airspace around it was restricted, making reconnaissance
flights impossible and increasing the likelihood that any plane would be shot
down before impact. Moreover, unlike the approved targets, this alternative had
not been discussed with senior al Qaeda leaders and therefore did not have the
requisite blessing. Nor would a nuclear facility have particular symbolic value.
Atta did not ask Binalshibh to pass this idea on to Bin Ladin, Atef, or KSM,
and Binalshibh says he did not mention it to them until after September 11.
148
Binalshibh claims that during their time in Spain, he and Atta also discussed
how the hijackings would be executed. Atta said he, Shehhi, and Jarrah had
encountered no problems carrying box cutters on cross-country surveillance
flights.The best time to storm the cockpit would be about 1015 minutes after
takeoff, when the cockpit doors typically were opened for the first time. Atta
did not believe they would need any other weapons. He had no firm contin-
gency plan in case the cockpit door was locked.While he mentioned general
ideas such as using a hostage or claiming to have a bomb, he was confident the
cockpit doors would be opened and did not consider breaking them down a
viable idea. Atta told Binalshibh he wanted to select planes departing on long
flights because they would be full of fuel, and that he wanted to hijack Boeing
aircraft because he believed them easier to fly than Airbus aircraft, which he
understood had an autopilot feature that did not allow them to be crashed into
the ground.
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Finally, Atta confirmed that the muscle hijackers had arrived in the United
States without incident.They would be divided into teams according to their
English-speaking ability.That way they could assist each other before the oper-
ation and each team would be able to command the passengers in English.
According to Binalshibh,Atta complained that some of the hijackers wanted to
contact their families to say goodbye, something he had forbidden.Atta, more-
over, was nervous about his future communications with Binalshibh, whom he
instructed to obtain new telephones upon returning to Germany. Before Binal-
shibh left Spain, he gave Atta eight necklaces and eight bracelets that Atta had
asked him to buy when he was recently in Bangkok, believing that if the hijack-
ers were clean shaven and well dressed, others would think them wealthy Saudis
and give them less notice.
150
As directed, upon returning from Spain, Binalshibh obtained two new
phones, one to communicate with Atta and another to communicate with
KSM and others, such as Zacarias Moussaoui. Binalshibh soon contacted KSM
and, using code words, reported the results of his meeting with Atta. This
important exchange occurred in mid-July.
151
The conversation covered various topics. For example, Jarrah was to send
Binalshibh certain personal materials from the hijackers,including copies of their
THE ATTACK LOOMS
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