This past Feb. 26 marked 30 years since the first World Trade Center attack, which killed six people and injured thousands. I happened to be in Manhattan that day and remember the smoke rising from the North Tower.
It was a frightening moment and ominously foreshadowed of the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people on September 11, 2001, when the Towers were attacked for the second time and destroyed.
Many questions were raised after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Unfortunately, America’s leaders failed to learn valuable lessons from this act of Islamic terrorism on American soil.
The main question is how a second attack could have been allowed to take place at the very same location. I have never gotten a good answer to this question. The mistakes and failures occurred on many levels and America paid the price.
It is a credit to law enforcement that acts of terrorism on the scale of 9/11 have not occurred in America since. Valuable lessons were finally learned, but they could have been learned from the first attack and the second attack prevented.
These failures, however, began before the first World Trade Center bombing. On Nov. 5, 1990, Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated by El Sayyid Nosair at the New York Marriott East Side Hotel.
Following the murder, police searched Nosair’s home and carted off 47 boxes of documents, paramilitary manuals, maps and diagrams of buildings—including the World Trade Center. This evidence overwhelmingly indicated that a network of Muslim radicals connected to Osama bin Laden was at work in the United States. Unfortunately, this was swept under the rug.
Had due diligence been done in 1990, not only could 9/11 been prevented, but the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center as well.
The FBI had placed an informant by the name of Emad Salem in the New York cell aligned with Nosair. Salem later became the personal bodyguard for Sheikh Abdel Rahman, known as “the blind Sheikh,” who was later convicted of “seditious conspiracy” in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing case. In 1992, Salem had warned the FBI more than once that radical Muslims were planning a large bombing in New York City. The FBI disregarded the information.
Had the assassination of Rabbi Kahane been taken more seriously and investigated properly, Salem’s warnings about a serious bomb threat in New York City would have been heeded rather than dismissed. Had the proper lessons been learned from the Kahane assassination and the first World Trade Center attack, 9/11 almost certainly could have been prevented. I hope that 30 years later, we have learned the lessons of these catastrophes.
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.