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How a CIA officer and a suspected terrorist came to agree about al-Qaida plot

How a CIA officer and a suspected terrorist came to agree about al-Qaida plot
Among the findings in a 500-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's torture program, which was declassified in December, was a plot to make the Brooklyn Bridge fall down (JAMES F. QUINN / CHICAGO TRIBUNE)

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the CIA and other intelligence agencies worked to track down potential al-Qaida plotters around the world as the plotters tried to come up with fresh ways to sow panic in the United States.

Many of those plots were detailed in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's torture program, parts of which were declassified in December.

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Much of the report remains secret, but the 500-page executive summary is a useful source on the early years of the war on terror, and contains several surprising stories.

Take, for example, the plot to make the Brooklyn Bridge fall down.

That was one idea allegedly dreamed up by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and a group connected to Majid Khan, an Owings Mills High School graduate who has pleaded guilty to murder and other charges in a series of al-Qaida plots.

Mohammed hoped to destroy the suspension bridge either by cutting the cables or somehow dismantling it.

The Senate report records the dim view that both a top counterterrorism official and one of the men involved in the plot took of it.

"If these are the types of attacks [Mohammed] was planning, [he] was more of a nuisnace [sic] than a threat and you have to wonder how he ever thought of anything as imaginative as the 11 sept attacks," a senior CIA official wrote.

"KSM wants to get 'machine tools' to loosen the bolts on bridges so they collapse?" the official wrote in another email. "Did he think no one would see or hear these yahoos trying to unscrew the bridge? That everyone would drive by and just ignore the effort to unbolt a roadway?"

Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver convicted for his part in the plot and sentenced to 20 years in prison, apparently shared some of the official's skepticism.

During an interview with the FBI and local police, Senate investigators wrote, "Faris detailed how KSM had a plan 'to cut the suspension cables on the Brooklyn Bridge to cause its collapse using gas cutters.'"

"Faris maintained that he 'thought that the task to take down the bridge was impossible' and did not take further action."

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