Here’s an interesting story from the San Francisco Chronicle on the day after 9/11/2001:
Willie Brown got low-key early warning about air travel
Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross Published 4:00 am PDT, Wednesday, September 12, 2001
For Mayor Willie Brown, the first signs that something was amiss came late Monday when he got a call from what he described as his airport security – – a full eight hours before yesterday’s string of terrorist attacks — advising him that Americans should be cautious about their air travel.
The mayor, who was booked to fly to New York yesterday morning from San Francisco International Airport, said the call “didn’t come in any alarming fashion, which is why I’m hesitant to make an alarming statement.”
In fact, at the time, he didn’t pay it much mind.
“It was not an abnormal call. I’m always concerned if my flight is going to be on time, and they always alert me when I ought to be careful.”
Exactly where the call came from is a bit of a mystery. The mayor would say only that it came from “my security people at the airport.”
Mike McCarron, assistant deputy director at SFO, said the Federal Aviation Administration “routinely” issues security notices about possible threats. He said two or three such notices have been received in the past couple of months, but none in recent days.
Whatever the case, Brown didn’t think about it again until he was up, dressed and waiting for his ride to the airport for an 8 a.m. flight to New York, where he was to attend a state retirement board meeting. That was when he turned on the TV, and like millions of other Americans, saw the twin towers of the World Trade Center crumble and the Pentagon go up in smoke.
Nothing much has emerged since on this story.
It could be Willie just made the story up to have something to say, but it doesn’t strike me as implausible. Or it could be some unrelated chatter that Mayor Willie’s boys were hearing about.
But … I wouldn’t be surprised if people involved in airport security were noticing hints here and there that something was up by late 9/10. We know, for example, that just several hours after this phone call, an airport counter clerk checking in Mohammed Atta in Portland, Maine noticed that Atta looked more in looks and demeanor like an Arab terrorist than anybody he’d ever seen in his life, but then gave himself “a political correct slap” and decided not to notify security about it.
A big aspect to 9/11 that has been memoryholed was that the Bush Administration, under transportation secretary Norman Mineta, was crusading against security profiling potential terrorists for “flying while Arab.” George W. Bush had introduced into his second presidential debate with Al Gore on 10/11/2000 that his administration would go to war against ethnic profiling of Arabs at airports. Bush said in front of a huge national audience:
Secondly, there is other forms of racial profiling that goes on in America. Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what is called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we have to do something about that. My friend, Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan, is pushing a law to make sure that Arab-Americans are treated with respect. So racial profiling isn’t just an issue at local police forces. It’s an issue throughout our society. And as we become a diverse society, we’re going to have to deal with it more and more. I believe, though — I believe, as sure as I’m sitting here, that most Americans really care. They’re tolerant people. They’re good, tolerant people. It’s the very few that create most of the crises, and we just have to find them and deal with them.
See 47:08 in this C-SPAN video of the debate.
And Bush's transportation secretary had therefore launched a campaign to crack down on being suspicious of people like Mohammed Atta earlier in 2001.
So the possibility that people in air security here and there around the country had noticed bits and pieces of evidence that ought to have alarmed them by the evening before 9/10, just passing them around to trusted colleagues, but were keeping them on the QT to avoid setting off the Transportation Department’s jihad against profiling Arabs would not be implausible.
What’s particularly striking is that the Bush Administration’s public campaign against the profiling Arab terrorists has utterly vanished from virtually all consciousness.