When the towers of the World Trade Center fell on September 11, 2001, one American was not on the planet.
Astronaut Frank Culbertson had been aboard the International Space Station for a month when the 9/11 attacks occurred, joined only by two Russian cosmonaut crew mates. He could only monitor the events of the day from 300 miles above the Earth.
On Friday, NASA released letters Culbertson wrote and images he took as the space station passed over the New York City area after the 9/11 attacks.
Culbertson wrote that he first heard of the attack via radio from a NASA flight surgeon.
"I was flabbergasted, then horrified. My first thought was that this wasn't a real conversation, that I was still listening to one of my Tom Clancy tapes," Culbertson wrote. "It just didn't seem possible on this scale in our country. I couldn't even imagine the particulars, even before the news of further destruction began coming in."
And he closed his letter on that first day:
"Other than the emotional impact of our country being attacked and thousands of our citizens and maybe some friends being killed, the most overwhelming feeling being where I am is one of isolation."
Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the events commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Today's programming highlights...
8:00 am ET - Panetta honors 9/11 first responders - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta attends a breakfast with a group of 9/11 first responders from Northern Virginia.
Romania insisted Wednesday there was no evidence it had hosted secret CIA prisons as part of the United States' war on terror after September 11, 2001. The country "has no information whatsoever showing that there existed secret CIA detention centers on its territory," the Foreign Ministry told CNN. (See CNN's extensive coverage of America's war prisons.)
Two investigations also failed to find any evidence that the CIA used Romanian airports for "rendition," the process in which detainees in American custody are transported for questioning to other countries where prohibitions on torture are not as strict and American laws don't apply.
The Romanian denial comes in response to a plea from the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe that countries that have hosted secret CIA prisons come clean. Thomas Hammarberg said Romania, Poland and Lithuania were among at least seven countries that hosted "black sites" for "enhanced interrogation" during the "war on terror."
"Darkness still enshrouds those who authorized and ran the black sites on European territories," he said. "The full truth must now be established and guarantees given that such forms of cooperation will never be repeated."
CIA officials have acknowledged the rendition program but have refused to discuss details and denied violating any laws. Efforts to challenge the agency and get details about it in U.S. courts have been turned aside. Hammarberg said the CIA held "high-value detainees," including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in Poland between 2002 and 2003.
Congress is back in session, and CNN.com Live is there with all the debate and discussion from Capitol Hill.
Today's programming highlights...
10:00 am ET - 'Defending the Nation Since 9/11' hearing - The Senate Homeland Security Committee looks at the progress and shortcomings of the Department of Homeland Security since its founding.
The summer break is over in Washington, as Senate and House lawmakers return to Capitol Hill and get back to work. CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest from Congress.
Today's programming highlights...
8:30 am ET - Bloomberg talks post-9/11 New York - NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg discusses the city's response to the 9/11 attacks and its years of rebuilding and renewal.
The Pakistani intelligence service has arrested a senior al Qaeda leader who sought to attack targets in the United States, Europe and Australia, the Pakistani military said Monday.
The intelligence service arrested Younis al-Mauretani and two al Qaeda associates in the suburbs of Quetta, Pakistan, the military said in a statement.
Osama bin Laden had asked al-Mauretani "to focus on hitting targets of economic importance in United States of America, Europe and Australia," with U.S. targets including gas and oil pipelines, dams and oil tankers, the statement said.
Al-Mauretani was also involved in planning multiple attacks on European countries similar to those in Mumbai, India, in 2008, European intelligence officials told CNN last year. The man at the center of the alleged al Qaeda plot, Afghan German Ahmed Sidiqui, was detained in July 2010 and told interrogators that al-Mauretani helped with planning and coordination.
News of the arrest comes six days before the 10th anniversary of al Qaeda's attack on the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people. It also comes as the United States and its allies have made major strides in its fight against al Qaeda.FULL STORY
Former President George W. Bush says he experienced no pleasure when he heard about the death of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader responsible for orchestrating the deadly terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"He was sitting in a restaurant in Dallas when the Secret Service told him that President (Barack) Obama wanted to speak to him. He then learned about the assassination," documentarian Peter Schnall told CNN in an interview set to air Monday.
Bush "said to us certainly there was no sense of jubilation (and) certainly no sense of happiness," Schnall stressed. "If anything, he felt that finally there was a sense of closure."FULL STORY
The Pentagon will announce Tuesday that charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged co-conspirators in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are being refiled to allow prosecution before a military tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, a defense official confirmed.
The move comes after the Obama administration dropped plans to prosecute the suspects in federal court in New York.
Besides Mohammed, the other suspects to face charges of participating in the 9/11 plot are Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. All five are at Guantanamo.
Editor's Note: CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Rose Marie Arce were given rare access last week to the entire complex under construction at ground zero for an upcoming CNN documentary, "Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11." Here are their impressions after touring the site:
New York (CNN) - You have to walk downhill to get into ground zero, which is an odd feeling because the World Trade Center complex was all about looking up.
It looks like a noisy, massive construction zone from the outside, but inside you can see how much progress has been made as the 10th anniversary of September 11 approaches.
The public has gotten few glimpses of what's unfolding here, mostly during ceremonies or when dignitaries have visited or the waterfalls were tested.
Filmmakers, photographers and historians duck in to gather material they will unveil in the future. Architect Michael Arad, survivor of a bruising process to design a 9/11 memorial, says he gives occasional interviews alongside the memorial. The folks who work here are very protective of this site.
But last week, Arad gave us a rare tour of the entire complex.
Fleet Week: New York's City annual salute to the nation's military begins Wednesday. Thousands of military personnel will be in the Big Apple for the Fleet Week event, which was first held in 1984.
Highlighting this year's event will be a visit by the USS New York. The amphibious transport ship, which was constructed with 7 1/2 tons of steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center destroyed in the September 2001 terrorist attacks, returns to New York City for the first time since being commissioned there on November 7, 2009.
The ship will be open for public visits during Fleet Week, which concludes June 1.
Obama address: President Barack Obama will address both houses of the British Parliament on Wednesday.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, told reporters on Tuesday that Obama would reaffirm that the U.S.-British alliance and NATO are "the cornerstone of global security and the extension of the democratic values that we share."
"The United States and the United Kingdom, along with our allies, are the ones who shoulder particular burdens for global security," Rhodes said. "We see that in Afghanistan. We see that in our efforts against al Qaeda. We see that of course today in Libya."
CNN television coverage begins at 10 a.m. ET. The president’s speech will be live-streamed on CNN.com and on the CNN Apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. CNNPolitics.com will feature in-depth reporting on what to expect and The Political Ticker will incorporate live blogging during the speech.
On Twitter, follow CNN anchors for additional live commentary during the address: @wolfblitzercnn, @suzannemalveaux, @richardquest and @zainverjeecnn.
Extreme weather: The National Weather Service says Wednesday could bring more severe storms in parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The weather pattern that brought Tuesday's tornado outbreak in the Plains is moving into those states Wednesday, forecasters said.
"Conditions will once again be favorable for the development of long-lived rotating thunderstorms that could produce strong, fast-moving tornadoes," the weather service said.
Al Qaeda released a statement on jihadist forums confirming the death of its leader, Osama bin Laden, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant messages.
The statement was issued by the al Qaeda organization - General Command on Tuesday May 3, 2011. Read in Arabic here (PDF) or the translation below:
Al-Qaeda statement calls the day " a historic day of the days of the great Islamic umma (nation) and in a noble stand of one of its great men and heroes across its blessed age and on the path taken by the will of all the mighty predecessors and those who will follow them, the Sheikh, the Mujahid & the Commander, the pious migrant fighter, Abu Abdullah Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden, may God have mercy on him was killed in a place where truth shines and where sincerity for good deeds and the call for truthfulness exist. Bin Laden was killed so he can follow the mighty caravan of the umma (the nation) with the great leaders, the loyal soldiers, and the honest knights who refused to abandon their faith for the mundane lives and to hand over the command to those who will be humiliate them and be humiliated and that's why they confronted the weaponry with weaponry, force with force and accepted to challenge the arrogant masses that came out to fight with their killing machines, equipments, aircrafts and forces boastfully so they can be seen as men, and still this didn’t weaken their resolve and didn’t drain their strength, but instead he stood up for them face to face, a mighty mountain, a proud mountain and he was still in the midst of the battle that many got used to and his eyes were used to its sceneries but after that, he was yet to be excused and delivered his message and then he was shot bullets of betrayal and blasphemy delivering his soul to its maker while repeating: 'Who sacrifice the blessed soul for his Lord to fight off the falsehood CANNOT ever be blamed'."
"Congratulations to the Islamic Nation on the martyrdom of their devoted son Osama,
Even when the Americans managed to kill Osama, they managed to do ONLY that by disgrace and betrayal. Men and heroes only should be confronted in the battlefields but at the end, that’s God’s fate. Still we ask, will the Americans be able thru their media outlets, their agents, their instruments, soldiers, intelligence services and their might be able to kill what Sheikh Osama lived for and was killed for? How far! How impossible! Sheikh Osama didn’t build an organization that will vanish with his death or fades away with his departure.
In this context, we in al Qaeda Jihad organization promise God Almighty and we ask Him for help, support and steadfastness to continue on the path of jihad that our leaders, led by Sheikh Osama chose, and that we will not be reluctant, and will not deviate from that honorable path until God be the final judge between us and our enemy.
Flooding in Midwest, South – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it intends to continue a controversial plan to breach a levee on the Mississippi River to help stop catastrophic floods in several states. The group wants to open the final crevasse in the Birds Point-New Madrid levee, moving ahead with a plan to blast holes in it to ease unprecedented flood pressure. The Corps started the blasting Monday.
Some who live where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet said it has helped. The Ohio River level at Cairo, Illinois, has dropped nearly 2 feet since Monday afternoon. Officials said they believe the levels would be up to 3 feet higher now if the levee had not been detonated.
Despite the plan, many areas were inundated as the Mississippi River spilled out across huge swaths of farmland, creating massive flooding from Minnesota to Louisiana. Part of westbound Interstate 40 was shut down in eastern Arkansas on Thursday due to flooding, state police said.
President Obama heads to the World Trade Center site in New York today to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Watch CNN.com Live for coverage on this story.
Today's programming highlights...
9:45 am ET - Exiting Afghanistan briefing - Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, what does this mean for the U.S. military's presence in Afghanistan? Two House lawmakers will unveil legislation calling for the president to submit a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from the country.
Last June an American construction worker was picked up in Pakistan on a one-man mission to capture Osama bin Laden.
Gary Faulkner was armed with a dagger, some biblical literature, a pistol, night-vision goggles and a sword, news reports said.
What's more, the man was even on dialysis, CNN reported at the time. And yet somehow he managed to end up in Chitral, a mountainous district in the northern tip of the country.
Chitral was as logical a place as any to hunt for the most wanted terrorist in the world. News reports in the years since the 9/11 attacks had put bin Laden in fortress-like environs along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Chitral fit the bill. It was connected to the rest of the country by a strip of land so treacherous that it is often closed because of weather conditions.
On Sunday night, Americans received news that bin Laden was killed in his compound in Abbottabad, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
How far off was Faulkner, whose across-the-world trek still remains shrouded in mystery?
Chitral to Abbottabad is roughly about 300 miles, according to Google Maps technology, indicating about a "7-hour" drive. Yeah right. To put the distance in perspective, according to Google, the two places are about the same distance as Atlanta, Georgia, to the Florida Panhandle.
Of course, much of the Pakistan route is undriveable because of foothills and mountains. The area is also said to be inhabited by fiercely independent tribes.
While Faulkner has talked to CNN in depth much of the details about his trip remain secret. What we do know is that he wants some of the $25 million reward money that was offered for bin Laden's kill or capture.
"I scared the squirrel out of his hole, he popped his head up and he got capped," Faulkner told ABC News this week, referring to bin Laden's death. "[U.S. officials] were handed this opportunity on a platter from myself," he was quoted as saying.
Faulkner also told ABC that assertions that bin Laden had been holed up in his compound in Abbottabad for more than half a decade were not true.
"He hadn't been living there for no damn six years," he told ABC. "I absolutely flushed him out."
Should Faulkner get a portion of the reward?
The Pittsburgh Steelers running back is in hot water after he made some controversial statements about Osama bin Laden's death via Twitter.
"What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side..." Mendenhall tweeted Monday, referencing bin Laden.
Steelers President Art Rooney II released a statement Tuesday, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, condemning Mendenhall's remarks, ESPN reports.
"I have not spoken with Rashard so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments," Rooney said. "The entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon."
The 12-year-old from Abbottabad, Pakistan, was Osama bin Laden’s neighbor and regularly visited the al Qaeda leader’s family, reports the London Evening Standard. Zarar described the security of the compound, as well as the family members he met, in an interview with Sky News. Bin Laden’s family included two wives: one who spoke Arabic and one who spoke Urdu. There were three children, a girl and two boys, Ahmed said. The family gave him two rabbits, he added.
The man who killed Osama bin Laden
He’s the most iconic person you will never know, according to the Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia. This week, the Post offered a composite of the "humble warrior" who killed the world’s most-wanted terrorist.
He is a "tactical athlete." Ripped, with a lot of upper-body strength, gnarled hands, long arms and a flat tummy, said Richard Marcinko, a Navy SEAL veteran and a founder of the elite Team 6, which reportedly led the attack. One minute, the professional is mowing his lawn. The next, he is on assignment — and there’s no crew cut. “He’s bearded, rough-looking,” Marcinko said. “You don’t want to stick out.”
The SEAL is probably between 26 and 33 years old, Marcinko said: young enough to be meet the physical demands but highly experienced in counterterrorism. He is a man; there are no female SEALS. He is also probably white, though the SEALs have diversified recently, Marcinko added.
The shooter also keeps tabs on his actions, said Stew Smith, another SEAL interviewed. Smith recently met with five other SEALs who could account for 250 terrorist kills between them. Still, this is THE kill, and his colleagues know it. “This is playing the Super Bowl and getting the Oscar in one breath,” Marcinko said. “He wants credit — but only among his peers.”
The CIA’s former counterterrorism czar told Time magazine that the intelligence that led authorities to Osama bin Laden's compound was obtained by using "enhanced interrogation techniques" on both Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Abu Faraj al Libbi. The tactics included waterboarding, sleep deprivation and "other techniques," said Rodriguez, who is writing a book. Abu Faraj was not waterboarded, Rodriguez told Time in his first public interview.
An Obama administration official has denied Rodriguez's assertion that "enhanced interrogation techniques" were used.
“There is no way that information obtained by (enhanced interrogation techniques) was the decisive intelligence that led us directly to bin Laden,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said. “It took years of collection and analysis from many different sources to develop the case that enabled us to identify this compound and reach a judgment that bin Laden was likely to be living there.”
If the impetus for the U.S. war in Afghanistan was the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by al Qaeda and pursuit of its leader Osama bin Laden, then what does his death mean for the war in Afghanistan and against global terrorism? That's the question being raised by politicians, world leaders and security experts.
What happens next?
Osama bin Laden's death may have little impact on the continuing course of the war or on the continuing threat of terrorism, analysts said.
But the big question is what's next for al Qaeda operations and U.S. operations in Afghanistan.
After news of bin Laden's death, Sen. Dick Lugar questioned whether the United States needs to change course in Afghanistan, saying the country doesn't pose as big of a threat anymore given the reason it was there in the first place was to hunt down bin Laden.
And with the big man at the top out of the picture, Time magazine's Mark Thompson writes, "pressure will increase to speed up the withdrawal of some of the 100,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan."
Lisa Curtis, former CIA analyst and former state department adviser, told CNN she believes "now is not the time" to announce large-scale changes for the U.S. timeline in Afghanistan.
"If [the U.S.] were to hasten the plans for withdrawal just because we captured bin Laden, it would send the wrong signal," she said.
The decision is also a matter of message, versus money and strategy.
"The war in Afghanistan was never solely about killing or capturing bin Laden. The United States sought to overthrow the Taliban because it had allowed bin Laden to operate inside Afghanistan," Nora Bensahel, deputy director of studies and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, wrote in an opinion piece for CNN.
"Even those who recently supported the war may now believe that the war’s main goals have been achieved and it is time for U.S. forces to come home," Bensahel wrote. "Obama will face an uphill battle convincing Americans – and some members of Congress – that U.S. strategic interests still require spending billions of dollars a month on military operations in Afghanistan."
As the world seeks more information about the operation that brought down the globe's top terrorist, President Obama prepares to make his first visit Thursday to the World Trade Center site since the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death.
Obama extended an invitation to former President George W. Bush to join him at the site of bin Laden's most infamous attack. But Bush, who began the hunt for bin Laden, declined, saying he'd rather stay out of the spotlight. In today's Gotta Watch, we chronicle the aftermath of bin Laden's attacks and death.
[Updated at 10:33 p.m.] Vice President Joe Biden commended the team responsible for taking down Osama bin Laden in a stealth operation that showed "there's no place you can hide" from the United States.
"It was a staggering undertaking and there was no one else, I believe, other than an American group of military warriors who could do it. And the world is a safer place today, not only for the American people but for all people," Biden said in a speech at the 2011 Atlantic Council Awards Dinner in Washington.
He also said he was a little surprised by the overwhelming global reaction and offered prayers to victims of terror worldwide.
"They remain in our thoughts and our prayers. But I think one clear message has gone out to the world – there’s no place to hide, no place you can hide. The United States decides, from one administration to the next, that we will in fact reach a goal, we are determined and we will relentlessly without any hesitation follow on that commitment. Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter."
[Updated at 7:08 p.m.] CIA Director Leon Panetta said Tuesday he thinks a photograph of Osama bin Laden's body will be released at some point, but that it is up to the White House to make the final call.
[Updated at 6:39 p.m.] A few U.S. congressional staffers who received a briefing Tuesday about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan were shown photos of bin Laden's body, a congressional source familiar with the briefing said, according to CNN congressional producer Deirdre Walsh.
One staffer who reviewed the photos suggested they might be too graphic for public release, according to the source.
U.S. officials are weighing whether to release an image of bin Laden's corpse.
[Updated at 6:18 p.m.] A widely distributed photo of a dead Osama bin Laden is fake. A photographer consulted by CNN said the gruesome photograph is most definitely not real, and the Guardian newspaper in Britain reported the picture is actually a combination of two photographs.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials are weighing whether to release an actual image of bin Laden's corpse.
"I'll be candid that there are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs of Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of this firefight," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday. "We're making an evaluation about the need to do that."
[Updated at 5:03 p.m.] U.S. commandos shot Osama bin Laden when he made a threatening move during the Americans' raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a U.S. official said, according to CNN's Pam Benson.
Earlier today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said bin Laden was not armed when U.S. forces shot and killed him.
When Benson asked the first U.S. official whether bin Laden tried to grab a weapon or physically attack a commando, the official said only, "He didn't hold up his hands and surrender."
Recapping the five compound occupants who U.S. officials say were killed in the assault: Bin Laden; two al Qaeda couriers; one woman; and a son of bin Laden. A second woman - one of bin Laden's wives - was shot in the leg, but not killed, after she rushed the commandos, Carney said earlier today.
The woman who was killed was shot "in crossfire" on the first floor where the couriers were killed, and it's not clear whether anyone was using her as a human shield, Carney told reporters today.
The official who spoke to Benson said no other person - dead or alive - besides bin Laden was taken from the compound.
At 5 a.m. Monday, Michael Tuohey turned on his television and saw video of President Obama announcing that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
He pumped his fist in the air and shouted "Yes!" like many Americans had upon hearing the news. Like his countrymen, it took him back to September 11, 2001 - but not to the images of the twin towers or the Pentagon. Instead, he recalled the glaring eyes of Mohamed Atta, the leader of the group of hijackers, staring back at him at the US Airways counter at Portland (Maine) International Jetport before a flight to Boston about 5 a.m. September 11.
"I see his eyes all too often," Tuohey told CNN. "And of course I pictured them again (Monday). Unfortunately, I still get flashbacks."
Despite a gut feeling about Atta and traveling companion Abdulaziz Alomari, the ticket agent checked in the two men who would help bring al Qaeda international infamy on September 11. Tuohey said there was nothing the pair did that could elevate his concerns to the point where he wouldn't be able to issue a ticket: There wasn't a one-way ticket bought in cash or anything else actionable.
"They didn't walk up there green and try and pull this off," Tuohey told CNN affiliate WCSH. "They knew what I would be looking for. They knew what they wanted to hear. This was not a fly-by-night, 'let's walk up and see if we can do this.' "
So nearly 10 years later, the death of the man who indirectly sent the hijackers to his counter was met with happiness and a "sense of satisfaction."
"I was fist-pumping at 5 in the morning," Tuohey told CNN. "It brought me great joy."
Tuohey said that though he tries not to let the past get to him, he couldn't help but have strong emotions.
"I got a little choked up, because just knowing, you can't help but reflect back," he told CNN. "I thought about things that happened; it ran through my mind again: those people on the roof of the building, the terror and the horror that was in their mind at the time." FULL POST
While the White House and the CIA deliberate whether to release a photo of Osama bin Laden's body, there's debate outside the White House on what impact such graphic images might have.
A key counterterrorism adviser to President Barack Obama said that if the White House does decide to release images, it wants to do it in a "thoughtful manner."
"We also want to anticipate what the reaction might be on the part of al Qaeda or others to the release of certain information so that we can take the appropriate steps beforehand," John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security, said on CNN's "American Morning" on Tuesday. "So any other material, whether it be photos or videos or whatever else, we are looking at it and will make the appropriate decisions."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan, said he was conflicted over whether the administration should release an image of bin Laden.
"It's something that we're gonna have to work through," Rogers said. "We want to make sure that we maintain dignity, if there was any, in Osama bin Laden, so that we don't inflame problems other places in the world, and still provide enough evidence that people are confident that it was Osama bin Laden."
A senior government official involved in the discussions told CNN's John King that the photo release "could" come Tuesday by the CIA, adding that no decision has been made at the White House.
A government official familiar with intelligence matters says deliberations are leaning toward release and said that there is "growing consensus" to release the photo but emphasizes, "it isn't unanimous and everyone has understandable hesitation."
A senior U.S. official told CNN's Jessica Yellin that the photos were taken at a hangar in Afghanistan. The official described it as a clear picture of bin Laden's face, but he has a massive open head wound across both eyes.
Emad El-Din Shahin, a professor of religion at the University of Notre Dame, said the administration is in a "tough situation."FULL STORY