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Context of 'February 11, 2004: Hijackers Said to Use Short Knives, Not Box Cutters'

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An adapted 9/11 Commission chart of knives purchased by the hijackers.An adapted 9/11 Commission chart of knives purchased by the hijackers. [Source: 9/11 Commission]Several 9/11 hijackers purchase multi-use tools and small knives that “may actually have been used in the attacks.” according to the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 248-249]
bullet On July 8, Flight 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta buys two Victorinox Swiss Army knives at Zurich Airport, Switzerland, while on his way to Spain (see July 8-19, 2001). He possibly attempts to buy box cutters in Florida on August 27. On August 30, he buys a Leatherman multi-tool in Boynton Beach, Florida. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 530; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 4, 85]
bullet On August 13, Flight 175 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, and Hamza Alghamdi buy knives and multi-tools. Alshehhi buys a Cliphanger Viper and an Imperial Tradesman Dual Edge, both short-bladed knives. Banihammad buys a Stanley two-piece snap knife set, and Alghamdi buys a Leatherman Wave multi-tool. All purchases are made in the same city, though the 9/11 Commission does not say where this is. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 17]
bullet On August 27, Flight 77 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi buys Leatherman multi-tool knives. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27] Although it is unknown whether any of these knives and tools are used on 9/11, the 9/11 Commission will point out, “While FAA rules did not expressly prohibit knives with blades under four inches long, the airlines’ checkpoint operations guide (which was developed in cooperation with the FAA), explicitly permitted them.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 84] Regarding Flight 93, personal financial records do not reflect weapons being purchased by any of the hijackers. However, the FBI will reportedly recover “14 knives or portions of knives, including a box cutter,” at the crash site. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 457; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 35]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Hamza Alghamdi, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A can of pepper spray apparently possessed by one of the hijackers. This can was introduced as evidence in Zacarias Moussaoui’s 2006 trial.A can of pepper spray apparently possessed by one of the hijackers. This can was introduced as evidence in Zacarias Moussaoui’s 2006 trial. [Source: FBI]It is revealed that while the government did not ban box cutters, the airlines’ own rules did. It had been widely reported the hijackers used box cutters because they were legal. It now appears pepper spray was also banned and, like box cutters, should have been confiscated. There is evidence the hijackers used pepper spray as well. It has been reported that nine of the hijackers were given special security screenings on 9/11, and six of those had their bags checked for weapons. [Associated Press, 11/11/2002]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The 9/11 Commission initially pays very little attention to material from the NSA about al-Qaeda, as it is focusing on the CIA, FBI, and other agencies. Colonel Lorry Fenner, a former air force intelligence officer assigned to the commission’s team reviewing the structure of the intelligence community, finds this surprising. Fenner, who had previously worked closely with the NSA, is “dumfounded” when she learns nobody from the commission is making the short trip to the NSA to review its material on 9/11. The NSA tracked al-Qaeda communications for a long time before 9/11, including numerous calls between the hijackers and other al-Qaeda operatives (see Early 2000-Summer 2001), but the 9/11 Commission apparently does not realize or seem to care how important the material is. Author Philip Shenon will comment: “[F]or the Commission’s staff, [the NSA’s Maryland headquarters at] Fort Meade might as well have been Kabul, it seemed so distant.” One reason is that some people at the commission do not really understand what the NSA does, and also, according to Shenon, “[For executive director Philip] Zelikow and other staff on the commission, it was just more interesting—sexier—to concentrate on the CIA.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 87-88, 155-6]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Lorry Fenner, National Security Agency, Philip Shenon, Philip Zelikow

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

It is reported the 9/11 Commission now believes that the hijackers used short knives instead of box cutters. The New York Observer comments, “Remember the airlines’ first reports, that the whole job was pulled off with box cutters? In fact, investigators for the commission found that box cutters were reported on only one plane [Flight 77]. In any case, box cutters were considered straight razors and were always illegal. Thus the airlines switched their story and produced a snap-open knife of less than four inches at the hearing. This weapon falls conveniently within the aviation-security guidelines pre-9/11.” [New York Observer, 2/15/2004] It was publicly revealed in late 2002 that box cutters were illegal on 9/11. [Associated Press, 11/11/2002]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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