A narrative nonfiction podcast chronicling the people and events leading up to the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
On the Run
2001 - 2002
In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States and its allies invade Afghanistan for the beginning of a decades-long stay. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are decisively routed in a matter of weeks, but Osama bin Laden manages to give the U.S. military the slip at Tora Bora.
Meanwhile, the United States and other countries around the world begin to face new security challenges, from the outside as well as within.
The events of September 11, 2001 are explored from almost every possible angle: the hijackers; the flights; inside the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; the first responders who risked their lives to save others in an unprecedented emergency; how the President of the United States and top White House officials reacted to the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.
It is a story of ordinary people forced to do extraordinary things; of the best of humanity responding to the deeds of the worst; and of people making life or death decisions with incomplete and even inaccurate information. But most of all, it is fundamentally a story about how one day literally changed everything, a day whose repercussions we are still living through more than two decades later.
The System Was Blinking Red
2000 - 2001
While planning 9/11 and running Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden somehow finds time to marry a new bride, and his other wives aren't happy about it. As 9/11 approaches, his family life begins to fall apart, and eventually he is forced to make a choice.
In Washington, George W. Bush is sworn in as president several months after a closely contested election. His government is filled with experienced Republican public servants, particularly on the foreign policy and national security side. What did or didn't they do about Al Qaeda during his first eight months in office?
Meanwhile, as the terrorist chatter increases in the months before the attacks, intelligence and law enforcement officials miss crucial warning signs that don't make sense until after the attacks. Two days before 9/11 and half a world away, Ahmed Shah Massoud, a war hero in the fight against the Soviets and leader of the Northern Alliance, is assassinated by two Al Qaeda operatives posing as journalists.
Less than twenty-four hours before the attacks, all nineteen hijackers are in position, wrapping up loose ends, and waiting.
1992 - 2001
This episode is an in-depth look at the nineteen men who carried out the biggest terrorist attack in history. The story begins with four Muslims who go to Germany to pursue graduate studies and discover radical Islam instead. These four men - Mohammed Atta, Ramzi Binalshibh, Marwan al Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah - come from very different backgrounds, but by late 1999, they all want to fight jihad. Within a year, three of them are in the United States taking flying lessons.
The episode also looks into the 15 "muscle hijackers" who were chosen by Al Qaeda to participate in the attacks. Who were they, how did they become radicalized, and how did they get involved in the 9/11 plot? And who was helping them?
This episode also looks at the Al Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur in January of 2000 and asks several questions. How did two known Al Qaeda operatives - both future 9/11 hiijackers - lose the intelligence officers tracking them and make their way to the United States a few days later? Why were they meeting in Los Angeles with a man suspected of being a Saudi intelligence officer? And why was the FBI not notified that they were in the country?
End of the Century
1980 - 2000
This episode is a look at U.S. counterterrorism policy in the intelligence and law enforcement communities during the years leading up to 9/11, culminating with the Millennium Plot. The episode also profiles some of the men and women who were on the terrorism beat, who heard of Osama bin Laden years before he was a household name. The CIA creates a virtual station exclusively dedicated to tracking Osama bin Laden. The episode also looks at contentious issues like whether the wall separating law enforcement from intelligence played a role in the leadup to 9/11, as well as the alleged leak of Osama bin Laden's satellite phone to the media.
Declaration of War
1996 – 2000
Now safely set up in Afghanistan with his family, Osama bin Laden begins a media offensive to promote himself and his message, granting a series of interviews to Arab and Western journalists. The initial reaction among world leaders and the public at large? Crickets.
What does get their attention and puts bin Laden on the global stage is Al Qaeda’s coordinated attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Bill Clinton is forced to respond with military force during a personal and political low point in his presidency.
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda’s attacks continue. Operatives bomb a U.S. Navy vessel during a refueling stop in Yemen, amidst the home stretch of the American presidential election. Why did two administrations fail to retaliate for the USS Cole before 9/11?
This episode includes firsthand accounts from survivors of the Kenya, Tanzania, and USS Cole bombings.
Generally really well researched episodes. It’s not necessarily new info if you’ve read a lot of the source materials, but the interviews with the agents and investigators involved are really cool. Background music is a little too high in the mix at times, but on the whole, really well done and worth a listen—especially in the wake of Afghan withdrawal part two. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, etc.
Nuanced, thorough and entertaining
I’ve never written a review but was revisiting today and it’s insane it only has a 4/5 star average. One of the most interesting and well researched podcasts I’ve ever listened to
Where Are The Episodes?
Really great listen and super informative, in the rare case that there is a new episode. The music and sounds are weird, and seem pretty unnecessary but whatever, the information and story-telling are real good. I just can’t seem to figure out why there are two and now approaching three months sometimes between episodes. I understand research and editing is a factor, but I would imagine a lot of people unsubscribed or just lost interest in the storytelling while waiting.