Sears Tower 'genuine target' of Sept. 11 terrorists

November 11, 2010 (CHICAGO)

On numerous occasions over the past nine years, when the I-Team and ABC News have reported information about the Sears Tower being on al Qaeda's target list, federal authorities have insisted that the stories were false.

So, Thursday in Chicago, when the former two-term president said that the Sears Tower was on al Qaeda's target list on Sept. 11 it came from someone who was in office on Sept. 11, 2001, and had access to full counter-terror intelligence.

Still on tour promoting his new book, Decision Points, Bush spoke to crowd at the Union League Club along with his friend Mayor Daley.

Three minutes into his book pitch, the media were asked to leave, but WLS radio managed to capture this statement by the 43rd president:

"And people forget that the Sears Tower was a target, a genuine target, and the mayor responded and his people responded brilliantly to the threats, so this is an interesting example of federal, state and local cooperation."

There was no opportunity to ask Bush what he meant by "genuine target." He flew directly to Ohio for a Veterans Day tribute, and the mayor would take no questions from the media.

However, late Thursday afternoon, an FBI spokesman in Chicago provided the I-Team with this statement:

"We would not disagree with President Bush's comment; although we think it is important to note that the Sears Tower was not a final target of the 9/11 terrorists. Rather, AQ (sic) may have included the Sears Tower as part of a list of possible targets for the 9/11 attack. Fortunately, we (the Sears Tower) didn't make the final cut."

Even that differs from previous FBI statements. In October, 2001, after ABC News reported that the FBI learned of a potential attack on America's tallest building, Chicago's FBI office said ABC's account was unfounded.

Two years later, the New York Times reported a senior al-Qaeda member told U.S. interrogators that the tower was on a list of possible Sept. 11 targets. At that time Chicago Police discredited the report.

After President Bush said Thursday that the Sears Tower was a target, ABC 7's Paul Meincke spoke with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.

"I will tell you, his briefing materials are much deeper and better than mine," Durbin said.

Two weeks ago, the I-Team reported that al-Qaeda on the Arabian peninsula featured a photo of Chicago's skyline in its current magazine, with an article calling for pick-up truck attacks on pedestrians. FBI officials at the time said they had no evidence of any current terror plot against Chicago.

A few days later, authorities in London and Dubai intercepted package bombs addressed to Chicago synagogues--and al-Qaeda in Yemen has since claimed responsibility.

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