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Classified Pre-Sept. 11 Memo Released - 2004-04-11

The White House has released a classified presidential briefing from August of 2001 that outlined plans for an al-Qaeda strike inside the United States. The document was released at the request of a commission investigating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The page-and-a-half memo entitled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the United States was delivered to the president one month before the attacks on New York and Washington.

White House officials say it came in response to a question from Mr. Bush about whether Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network could strike at targets in America.

At the time, U.S. intelligence analysts answered that they could not corroborate reports of a 1998 plan to hijack a U.S. aircraft to negotiate the release of those detained for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

But the memo shows that the FBI had detected what it calls patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijackings or other attacks including al-Qaeda surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

It also documents a call made in May of 2001 to the U.S. embassy in the United Arab Emirates saying that bin Laden supports in the United States were planning attacks with explosives.

In a statement accompanying the release of the August 2001 briefing, the White House said there is no information that either of those incidents was related to the attacks of September 11.

The document was released following demands from a bipartisan commission investigating the September 11th attacks. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told that commission Thursday that the August 2001 briefing was mostly a review of previous information and did not warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.

At the time, the document says the FBI was conducting approximately 70 bin-Laden-related field investigations in the United States. It said that since 1997, clandestine, foreign government, and media reports had indicated that bin Laden wanted to conduct attacks inside the United States.

The September 11 commission has raised questions about what the Bush Administration might have been able to do to prevent the attacks. It has become a campaign issue for a president running for re-election largely on his efforts to improve national security and prevent another terrorist attacks.

Asked about the commission's work, Mr. Bush has said that he would have prevented the attacks if he could have.