9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings About Hijackings, Bush Blocked Release
In the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, Federal Aviation Administration officials “reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations, according to a previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission,” the New York Times reports. The report concludes that the F.A.A. did not see a need to increase air marshal ranks “because hijackings were seen as an overseas threat, and one aviation official told the commission said that airlines did not want to give up revenues by providing free seats to marshals.”
In 2001 the FAA distributed a CD-ROM presentation to airlines and airports that cited the possibility of a suicide hijacking, the report said. Previous commission documents have quoted the CD’s reassurance that “fortunately, we have no indication that any group is currently thinking in that direction.” The Bush administration has blocked full public release of the classified version of the report for more than five months. Though the administration did provided a declassified, 120-page version to the National Archives two weeks ago, it was heavily redacted in some areas.
It's rather interesting that this information- which until recently had been classified - was only released after the election and after the confirmation of Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State. During her 9/11 testimony Dr. Rice claimed that "no one could have predicted" the use of American Airplanes as suicide missles, yet here we have proof that 52 reports of possible hijackings by Bin Laden had been circulated by the intellegence division of the FAA.
The original version of the 9/11 Commission report states the following:
The FAA ’s policy was to use intelligence to identify both specific plots and
general threats to civil aviation security,so that the agency could develop and
deploy appropriate countermeasures.The FAA ’s 40-person intelligence unit
was supposed to receive a broad range of intelligence data from the FBI,CIA,
and other agencies so that it could make assessments about the threat to avia
tion.But the large volume of data contained little pertaining to the presence
and activities of terrorists in the United States.For example,information on
the FBI ’s effort in 1998 to assess the potential use of flight training by terror
ists and the Phoenix electronic communication of 2001 warning of radical
Middle Easterners attending flight school were not passed to FAA headquarters. Several top FAA intelligence officials called the domestic threat picture a
serious blind spot.52
Moreover,the FAA ’s intelligence unit did not receive much attention from
the agency ’s leadership.Neither Administrator Jane Garvey nor her deputy routinely reviewed daily intelligence,and what they did see was screened for them.
She was unaware of a great amount of hijacking threat information from her
own intelligence unit,which,in turn,was not deeply involved in the agency ’s
policymaking process.Historically,decisive security action took place only after
a disaster had occurred or a specific plot had been discovered.53
It would seem on the surface fair to point out that in her position as National Security Advisor, Dr Rice should have been aware of these reports seeing as the source for the information gathered by the FAA intelligence unit was essentially a "roll-up" of data gathered by the CIA, FBI and other agencies such as the NSA. She clearly should have paid attention to Richard Clarke as it now seems very clear indeed that "The System was Blinking Red", even though FAA Administrator Garvey was not paying very close attention.
Furthermore, during her confirmation hearing she most certainly should have been aware of these reports, which remained classified until recently, with her level of security clearance. Timing the declassification of these documents was most fortuitous, for dodging the bullet on one single PDB and a vague "feeling of doom" that had been reported to pervade the summer of 01 is one thing - dodging 52 bullets is quite another and would have made her confirmation performance even more strained and torturous than it was. The Adminstration certainly "scored" on this one.
Once again, Bush :1 - America : 0.
In further support of this report, were 9/11 commission excerpts played today on the Randi Rhodes show of former FAA Hijack Coordinator Ben Sliney, whose first day of work in this sensitive post was on that fateful September morning of the 11th, 2001. On discovering the approach of an unidentified plane toward New York, Mr Sliney testified that rather than follow procedure and contact Norad himself - he instead contacted the Air Route Traffic Control Center, which in turn contacted Norad, who then called him to ask if he was requesting an intercept. He stated "I'm not asking for anything, just advising you of the situation". After further pressuring from Norad asking if he wanted to authorize an intercept, Sliney then stated he would call them back, conferred with some collegues to confirm that he indeed had the authority to request a military intercept and eventually, received this confirmation in order to have an intercept was dispatched.
Randi intimated that this delay - with took some minutes, possibly a dozen - in authorizing the fighters from NEADS was a crucial loss of time, but in fact the 9/11 Reports continues.
Military Notification and Response.
Boston Center did not follow the protocol in seeking military assistance through the prescribed chain of com mand.In addition to notifications within the FAA,Boston Center took the initiative,at 8:34,to contact the military through the FAA ’s Cape Cod facility. The center also tried to contact a former alert site in Atlantic City,unaware it
had been phased out.At 8:37:52,Boston Center reached NEADS.This was
the first notification received by the military —at any level —that American 11
had been hijacked:115
FAA:Hi.Boston Center TMU [Traffic Management Unit ],we have a
problem here.We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York,
and we need you guys to,we need someone to scramble some F-16s
or something up there,help us out.
NEADS:Is this real-world or exercise?
FAA:No,this is not an exercise,not a test.
NEADS ordered to battle stations the two F-15 alert aircraft at Otis Air
Force Base in Falmouth,Massachusetts,153 miles away from NewYork City.
The air defense of America began with this call.
At NEADS,the report of the hijacking was relayed immediately to Battle
Commander Colonel Robert Marr.After ordering the Otis fighters to battle
stations,Colonel Marr phoned Major General Larry Arnold,commanding
general of the First Air Force and NORAD ’s Continental Region.Marr sought
authorization to scramble the Otis fighters.General Arnold later recalled
instructing Marr to “go ahead and scramble them,and we ’ll get authorities
later.”General Arnold then called NORAD headquarters to report.118
F-15 fighters were scrambled at 8:46 from Otis Air Force Base.But NEADS
did not know where to send the alert fighter aircraft,and the officer directing
the fighters pressed for more information:“I don ’t know where I ’m scrambling
these guys to.I need a direction,a destination.”Because the hijackers had
turned off the plane ’s transponder,NEADS personnel spent the next minutes
searching their radar scopes for the primary radar return.American 11 struck
the NorthTower at 8:46.Shortly after 8:50,while NEADS personnel were still
trying to locate the flight,word reached them that a plane had hit the World
According the Sen Mark Dayton's statements during the Condoleeza Rice confirmation there were 62 successful intercepts of the "normal" type (where fighter planes are scambled to shadow and follow a no responsive aircraft), during 2001 prior to the 9/11 hijacking and over 100 such intercepts during 2000. "I'm tired of the lies" he stated in exasperation.
Under these circumstances, I can understand his frustration - but although Condoleeza may indeed be a liar and even a purjeror guilty of Contempt of Congress, it's not clear that the delay caused by Sliney's inexperience alone was the major factor in allowing American 11 or any of other flights to reach their targets, notwithstanding the alert actions of other FAA members at the Boston Center TMU.