"We now know in October 2001, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, had already set in motion a plan to have terrorist operatives hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door," Mr. Bush said Thursday.
And just like the World Trade Center attack, the West Coast plot would have used hijacked commercial airliners to strike a building, this time the tallest building in Los Angeles, then known as Library Tower, and now called U.S. Bank Tower.
Rather than use Arab hijackers as he had on Sept. 11, Mohammad sought out young men from southeast Asia, whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion. The president said this plot was broken up by intelligence from a southeast Asian nation he wouldn't identify, CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.
But Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he was blindsided by Mr. Bush's Thursday announcement of new details on the purported hijacking plot. He described communication with the White House as "nonexistent."
"I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the mayor told The Associated Press. "I don't expect a call from the president — but somebody."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said rumors of those attacks in Los Angeles had been known to officials for some time.
"What he spoke about was, what was a rumored second wave attack which would include attacks on the West Coast."
In his remarks, Mr. Bush inadvertently referred to the site as "Liberty Tower," and immediately afterward, the White House corrected him.
"The plot was foiled in early 2002 when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al Qaeda operative," Mr. Bush said in a speech at the National Guard Memorial Building.
Mr. Bush credited multinational cooperation with heading off the attack.
"It took the combined efforts of several countries to break up this plot," the president said. "By working together, we took dangerous terrorists off the streets. By working together, we stopped a catastrophic attack on our homeland."
CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart reports that Osama bin Laden had personally set aside $50,000 of his dwindling fortune to bankroll the attack, and one of the men recruited to carry it out was already a professionally trained pilot.
Still, whether this was a plot close to fruition or just a bin Laden pipe dream isn't clear, Stewart reports.