Zero Hour: A History of 9/11

By David de Sola

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A narrative nonfiction podcast chronicling the people and events leading up to the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Episode Date
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. 

Aug 22, 2021
Ramzi and Khalid

1990 – 1997

The assassination of a right-wing rabbi in a New York City hotel offers a hint of the larger threat to come, though its significance is not fully understood at the time.  The assassin has ties to a Brooklyn-based cell of jihadists preparing for war, which culminates with the bombing of the World Trade Center.  

The lives of Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are examined for the events and forces that drove them to lives of international terrorism, from Kuwait to the United States, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Qatar and the Philippines. For a time, Yousef is the most wanted terrorist in the world, while his uncle KSM is barely on law enforcement’s radar.  

Together, they would develop a terrorist plot so ambitious, it would have killed thousands if it had been realized. The two of them would set the bar for Islamic terrorism for the next two decades.  

Aug 02, 2021
The Sudan Years

1989 – 1996 

Battle-hardened Osama bin Laden is a war hero back in Saudi Arabia when Saddam Hussein threatens the peace and stability of the Middle East by invading and occupying Kuwait. He offers the services of his Afghan mujahedeen to the Saudi royal family to force the Iraqi army out of Kuwait.   

Much to his dismay and growing anger, the royal family declines his offer and invites the United States and its coalition allies to base their troops in the kingdom in preparation for the conflict ahead.     

In 1991, bin Laden and his family leave Saudi Arabia for Sudan, a country that at the time was the Wild West for international terrorism. Bin Laden forms ties with the regime, and establishes a network of businesses, charities, and NGOs with legitimate and illegitimate purposes to keep his fighters employed and his organization ready and capable to carry out its plans.    

He continues to develop the Al Qaeda organization in Sudan over the next five years, as it attempts its first attacks against the United States in Yemen and Somalia.  After coming under international pressure, Sudan forces bin Laden to leave. He chooses to go to the one place he knew well and where he was still considered a hero.   

Jul 19, 2021

1957 - 1989
 How and where does the story of 9/11 begin? The answer is a tale of two countries: Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. 
This first episode looks into Osama bin Laden's family history and formative years, his education, and the bin Laden family's long and highly profitable relationship with the Saudi royal family.
The scene shifts after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 outrages Muslims around the world, including a young Osama bin Laden.  He was one of many who were inspired to raise money or travel to Pakistan to help the Afghans fight against the Russian occupiers. 
The episode looks at how Afghanistan fit into American foreign policy interests during the Cold War, why the Soviets ultimately withdrew, and definitively answers the question to the widely speculated rumor: did the CIA have any connections with Osama bin Laden during the war? 

Jul 12, 2021

It's considered one of the defining events of the 21st Century, whose consequences are still being felt and are playing out two decades later. If we are to understand how we got to that terrible day, it is necessary to understand the people and the geopolitical events that set the stage for 9/11, sometimes decades in advance. 

Based on an extensive review of the historical record, combined with original interviews with experts and insiders, this series will show how people and events - sometimes separated by time and distance - are connected and resulted in the worst terrorist attack in history.  The series covers everything from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to Seal Team Six's mission in Abbottabad, and everything in between. 

Zero Hour: A History of 9/11, coming in July of 2021. 

Jul 06, 2021