QUR'AN SURA 4:78
This is an interactive branded content campaign for “The Looming Tower,” a Hulu Original Series. It was created in partnership with CNN's branded content studio, Courageous. No Editorial Staff was involved in the production of this work.
Nineteen Al‑Qaeda terrorists hijack four commercial airplanes. It is the deadliest terror attack in modern history.
In an interview with CNN, Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi national once supported by the CIA, publicizes his call for jihad against the United States. He operates inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan with his terrorist group, Al‑Qaeda.
The CIA and FBI create competing departments. A legal “wall” between the agencies prevents the open sharing of information. Both teams struggle for adequate attention and resources.
The CIA creates the
Their major focus is foreign intelligence and disruption of Al‑Qaeda threats abroad.
The FBI creates the “I‑49” division in their New York office.
Their major focus is domestic investigation and criminal prosecution of Al‑Qaeda operatives.
President Clinton orders missile strikes on suspected Al‑Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and a chemical plant in Sudan.
Weight: 1,000 lbs
Speed: 550 mph
Range: 1,550 miles
No senior Al‑Qaeda leadership is killed in Afghanistan and the chemical plant in Sudan is a pharmaceutical factory for the local population.
Foreign recruits, including several future 9/11 hijackers, begin to flood into newly rebuilt training camps in Afghanistan.
The CIA draws up new plans to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. The Clinton Administration declines to execute the missions.
“We are providing the military with the locations of the residences Bin Ladin is shuffling among.”
“A simultaneous cruise missile attack on each would increase the likelihood of catching Bin Ladin at one of them.”
The FBI places Osama Bin Laden on their Most Wanted List. A reward for $5 million is offered for information leading to his arrest.
Al‑Qaeda finalizes plans for their next attacks at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Two future 9/11 hijackers attend the summit.
CIA identifies Al‑Qaeda operatives at the summit and discovers that two members have US visas and plan to travel to Los Angeles. The CIA does not share this information with the FBI.
Desperate for information connected to Al‑Qaeda plans for “terrorist violence,” the FBI's I‑49 team asks bureau offices across the country for any new intel on possible Al‑Qaeda plans.
“FBIHQ is currently not in receipt of any specific information to indicate that a UBL/Al‑Qaeda terrorist attack is imminent.”
Former Clinton officials warn the incoming Bush administration to focus on the rising threat from Al‑Qaeda.
“We urgently need such a Principals level review on the al Qida network. […]”
“al Qida is not some narrow, little terrorist issue […]”
“al Qida is the active, organized, major force that is using a distorted version of Islam […]”
Agents in Phoenix send an alert to FBI headquarters that Al‑Qaeda operatives may be training at US flight schools for an upcoming terrorist attack. The memo lacks intel about who the operatives are.
“Details: [S] The purpose of this communication is to advise the Bureau and New York of the possibility of a coordinated effort by USAMA BIN LADEN (UBL) to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation universities and colleges.”
The CIA warns President Bush that Osama Bin Laden is determined to strike the US. The intelligence, however, lacks actionable evidence of what is going to happen.
“Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US”
President George W. Bush declares war against Al‑Qaeda and their sponsors around the world. The “gloves are off” as the CIA and FBI begin an era of global conflict.
“Operation Enduring Freedom” begins with a bombing campaign against Al‑Qaeda and the Taliban, their Afghan sponsors. CIA operators and Special Forces sweep across the country alongside international and Afghan allies.
The CIA and US military, alongside Afghan militia, quickly close in on Osama Bin Laden's position.
The Bush administration does not want to “repeat the mistakes of the Soviets,” who lost a nine-year war in Afghanistan using several hundred thousand troops. Instead, only a small number of US ground forces are made available for the battle.
Without enough troops blocking Osama Bin Laden's retreat, the US Forces lose track of him. He likely slips into Pakistan through one of several mountain passes along the border.
Desperate to catch Bin Laden and prevent the next attack, the CIA begins using previously forbidden interrogation techniques, including torture, on captured detainees.
The FBI withdraws from participating in the enhanced interrogations. The bureau cites both moral concerns and the likelihood that the information gained will be inaccurate.
“FBI Director Mueller decided that FBI agents would not participate in interrogations involving techniques the FBI did not normally use in the United States[.]”
Operating partially on intelligence gathered through the CIA's torture program, the United States and allied Coalition forces declare war on Iraq.
The justification for the war focuses on the CIA's “slam dunk” evidence for Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction program and its connection to Al‑Qaeda. Both are later found to be false.
In Washington, a bipartisan commission investigates the failures that led to the 9/11 attacks. The “9/11 Commission” reviews more than two million documents and interviews over 1,000 people.
This is the first public reckoning for the CIA, FBI, and members of the Clinton and Bush administrations who failed to share information that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks.
The 9/11 Commission Report calls on the FBI and CIA to openly share information. This begins a new era of collaboration as the “wall” that once separated the agencies is torn down.
“A ‘smart’ government would integrate all sources of information to see the enemy as a whole.”
With American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Al‑Qaeda expands its attacks across the globe.
Bin Laden is found living in a private residence near Pakistan's national military school. He is killed during an overnight raid led by Navy SEALs.
Born in the chaos of post-invasion Iraq, the Islamic State (ISIS) overtakes Al‑Qaeda with a terror campaign that spreads around the world.
The Taliban has regained control of large parts of Afghanistan while the Islamic State has begun to launch a wave of terror attacks.
Newly elected President Donald Trump sends additional troops to Afghanistan, continuing the war into its sixteenth year.