Six people were killed and more than one thousand were injured when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center.
This pre-9/11 attack was supposed to be every bit as devastating as the one that occurred in 2001, possibly more so.
By detonating a bomb in the understructure of the building, their intent was to topple one tower into the other. In addition to the World Trade Center, additional attacks were also planned for the UN Building, the federal office building housing the FBI, the Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel, and the George Washington Bridge.
This attack meant the terrorists had declared war. The Clinton Administration chose to use the legal and law enforcement communities to fight terrorism, rather than extending the full reach of U.S. capabilities.
In the 9/11 Commission hearings, former counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke testified saying, "My impression was that fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration -- certainly no higher priority. There were priorities probably of equal importance such as the Middle East peace process, but I certainly don't know of one that was any higher in the priority of that administration."
This statement is puzzling considering that two weeks after the '93 WTC attack, President Clinton was at a defense plant talking about cutting defense spending.
The effects of this attack went deeper than anyone realized at the time. According to the 9/11 Report:
First, the bombing signaled a new terrorist challenge, one whose rage and malice had no limit.Ramzi Yousef, the Sunni extremist who planted the bomb, said later that he had hoped to kill 250,000 people.That last statement is unfortunately true. To this day, most people think al-Qaeda was solely responsible for the 1993 attack. They likely do not realize that other groups were involved as well. They may be unaware that one of these groups owns a couple dozen compounds in the U.S. even today and continues to operate. They might be troubled to learn that just last month, the Asia Times linked this group's leader to al-Qaeda's Pakistan operations chief.
Second, the FBI and the Justice Department did excellent work investigating the bombing. Within days, the FBI identified a truck remnant as part of a Ryder rental van reported stolen in Jersey City the day before the bombing.
An unfortunate consequence of this superb investigative and prosecutorial effort was that it created an impression that the law enforcement system was well-equipped to cope with terrorism. Neither President Clinton, his principal advisers,the Congress, nor the news media felt prompted,until later, to press the question of whether the procedures that put the Blind Sheikh and Ramzi Yousef behind bars would really protect Americans against the new virus of which these individuals were just the first symptoms.
Third, the successful use of the legal system to address the first World Trade Center bombing had the side effect of obscuring the need to examine the character and extent of the new threat facing the United States. The trials did not bring the Bin Ladin network to the attention of the public and policymakers.
Consider this excerpt from the Terrorism Knowledge Base legal case profile:
The investigation following the explosions linked several distinct groups to the bombing and revealed a conspiracy to target other New York City landmarks such as the United Nations building. One of these groups included five defendants who were arrested during a raid at a New York City garage in which law enforcement officials found the five mixing chemicals that were to be used in bombs. The men were charged with conspiring to bomb a building in the United Nations headquarters, the federal office building housing the FBI, and two tunnels under the Hudson River linking New York and New Jersey.We also learn from the 9/11 Report that the 1993 attack inspired the 9/11 attack: "According to KSM, he started to think about attacking the United States after Yousef returned to Pakistan following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing."
From this group, members of Fuqra, the FBI found links to 10 additional suspects and a federal grand jury indicted all 15 on charges that they plotted to bomb the United Nations and other New York City landmarks, and plotted to assassinate Egyptian leaders. Across the board, bail was denied. Fuqra is a radical Islamic sect whose followers are believed to be responsible for a string of crimes in the United States.
As I said, this was an opening shot in a long war. It is a war we must not lose.
Let us never forget...and, as we go forward, let's roll.
BBC report, including video, from Feb. 26, 1993
An eerie quote in the story from an eywitness: "It felt like an airplane hit the building."
Also check out material from my independent investigation of Fuqra.
Northeast Intelligence Network
The Counterterrorism Blog