The 9/11 commission report, which was released on July 22, 2004, suggests that the plot’s ringleader had considered crashing a commercial airliner into a nuclear power plant in the New York area. The report explains that Mohamed Atta, who piloted one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center, “considered targeting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New York.” The nuclear plant was not identified, but the report says the plotters already had agreed to target the World Trade Center. The Journal News broke the story over the weekend.
Several strong pieces of evidence point to Indian Point. First, the terrorists had rented planes from Teterboro Airport – in northern New Jersey about 30 miles from Indian Point – for their reconnaissance flights. Second, a June 16th 9/11 panel statement noted that the terrorists’ test flights included trips along the Hudson River corridor. Third, the Indian Point nuclear power plants in northwestern Westchester County are about 35 miles from midtown Manhattan. Other area nuclear power plants are more than 100 miles from New York City.
“Located just 35 miles from the world’s financial and media center, with 20 million people living around it, Indian Point presents an obvious target for future terrorist attacks,” said Alex Matthiessen, executive director of Riverkeeper. “According to the 9/11 Commission’s recently released report, Indian Point may already have been in Al Qaeda’s crosshairs. With the Republican convention coming to New York, this is of particular concern.”
According to President Bush and other top security officials, nuclear plants remain high on the list of possible future terrorist targets. Compounding concerns about the threat to Indian Point is the fact that the plant is only a few minutes flying time from several airports that have been plagued by notoriously checkered security records. Furthermore, as the 9/11 investigation has revealed, we have a long way to go to improve our intelligence and military capability to stop future attacks.
When pieced together, various intelligence and media reports suggest that Indian Point was contemplated as a possible target for the 9/11 attacks and remains an attractive target today. The following is a brief list of developments over the past 2 and half years:
• A 9/11 commission panel transcript released in mid-June revealed that the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, originally proposed using hijacked planes to strike 10 targets, including “unidentified nuclear power plants.” That same transcript noted that the terrorists had trained in the Hudson Corridor in preparation for the 9/11 attacks.
• A reporter for Al-Jazeera, the Arab news network, said on a “60 Minutes II” broadcast in April 2003 that Mohammed told him in an interview that al-Qaeda’s first choice of a target was nuclear facilities. They were removed from the list for fear “it might get out of hand,” but future attacks were not ruled out.
• In November 2003, the Department of Homeland Security advised law enforcement officials that al-Qaeda may be planning to fly cargo planes from another country into vital U.S. targets, including nuclear power plants.
• In President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address, he told the nation that diagrams of American nuclear plants had been found in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.
EXCERPT FROM FINAL 9/11 REPORT: “…Atta also mentioned that he had considered targeting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New York – a target the referred to as ‘electrical engineering.'” (P. 245 of 9/11 Commission report) www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/911report/documents/911Report_Ch7.pdf
The following excerpt from Staff Statement No. 16 prepared for the Commission on Terrorist Attacks sheds more light on which plant Atta may have been referring to:
EXCERPT FROM STAFF STATEMENT NO. 16: “In addition to the test flights, some of the operatives obtained additional training. In early June, Jarrah sought to fly the ‘Hudson Corridor,’ a low altitude ‘hallway’ along the Hudson River that passed several New York landmarks, including the World Trade Center.” www.nytimes.com/2004/06/17/politics/17ptext.html