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The Day Before

On Capitol Hill, various House and Senate committees and news conferences address frauds in the herbal remedy industry, the minimum wage, federal bioterrorism preparedness, the Social Security "lock box" and contraceptive coverage.

The National Press Club features a luncheon program called "U.S. Foreign Policy in the 21st Century: Defining Our Interest in a Changing World." The Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable looks back at John Brown, who led a raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 and is considered by many historians to be an American terrorist. The Congressional Research Service publishes a new report entitled, "Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors."

New York City. (Mario Cabrera -- AP)

The House Rules Committee meets to discuss HR2586, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2002. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld takes to the airwaves to tout his plan to cut $18 billion a year in the defense budget through military reorganization. Skeptics of the plan fear that budget cuts will ultimately fall on the shoulders of U.S. troops.

Then there's the news that doesn't garner mainstream attention.

During the president's daily morning briefing by the CIA, the White House learns that Ahmed Shah Massoud has been assassinated in Afghanistan. The death of this leader in the resistance to the ruling Taliban dampens U.S. hopes of ending fundamentalist Islamic rule in Kabul. All signs immediately point toward Osama bin Laden, the head of a shadowy Islamic terrorist group called al Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.

Second-tier cabinet officials agree to a three-phase strategy, drafted over the summer, for dealing with the Taliban: talks first, then diplomatic pressure and covert funding, and as a last resort, "direct action" to overthrow the Taliban. Their report makes it to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's desk later today. Also on Rice's desk are prepared remarks for a speech she is to deliver tomorrow. The speech will discuss "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday." It does not talk about bin Laden, al Qaeda or radical Islam.

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, informs Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who had sent Cheney a copy of her legislation on counterterrorism and homeland defense in July, that the vice president will be unable to review her legislation for at least six months.

At the Justice Department, Attorney General John Ashcroft rejects the FBI's request for $58 million to fund such counterterrorism initiatives as new field agents, intelligence analysts and translators.

U.S. intelligence agents tape al Qaeda members saying "the match begins tomorrow" and "tomorrow is Zero Day." The tapes won't be translated until tomorrow.

Mohammed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari drive to Portland, Maine, dine at a Pizza Hut and buy a pair of box cutters from Wal-Mart before spending the night at a Comfort Inn. Seventeen colleagues spend the night in hotels in Massachusetts and Virginia. Ziad S. Jarrah writes his girlfriend a farewell letter. "You should be very proud, because it is an honor and in the end you will see that everyone will be happy."

As night falls, clouds roll in across the New York skyline and unleash a downpour. The Yankees-Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium is canceled. The 11 p.m. weather forecasts assure the New York region that the stormy weather will pass and make way for a gorgeous Tuesday.

"Monday Night Football" doesn't end until well past midnight. The Denver Broncos are hosting the New York Giants. Perhaps some diehard Giants fans in New York, having opted to stay up to watch the Broncos win 31-20, opt to sleep in a little in the morning. They set their alarms for a later hour, and settle in for a peaceful night's sleep.

Author's e-mail:pwgavin@yahoo.com

Patrick Gavin, media relations officer for the Brookings Institution, is working on a book about the events of Sept. 10, 2001.

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