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Context of 'April 27, 2000: FAA Advisory Warns of Increased Risk of Terrorist Hijacking'

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Steve Elson.Steve Elson. [Source: 911Report LLC]A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) internal memo warns that small knives have been used in hijackings. The memo states, “Small knives (blade length of four inches or less), the most frequently employed weapon to hijack aircraft (in the US), were used in three incidents.” Details of the memo will later be provided to the 9/11 Commission by Steve Elson, an FAA special agent for security. According to Elson, the memo is widely distributed to agency security officials. Elson will quit the FAA 1999 in frustration over lax security. [New York Magazine, 9/24/2001; Elson, 9/4/2003; Salon, 8/3/2004; Linda Ellman, 2005; Village Voice, 2/8/2005] By 9/11 it will still be legal to bring small knives onto planes (see July 8-August 30, 2001).

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Steve Elson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The FAA issues an advisory to airports and air carriers, setting forth its views on the hijacking threat. The advisory states that while conditions for hijackings of airliners had been less favorable in the 1980s and 1990s, “We believe that the situation has changed. We assess that the prospect for terrorist hijacking has increased and that US airliners could be targeted in an attempt to obtain the release of indicted or convicted terrorists imprisoned in the United States.” However, “the terrorist hijacking of a US airliner is more probable outside the United States due to access to safe havens.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 59; New York Times, 9/14/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

US Army Lieutenant General Michael A. Canavan is appointed associate administrator for civil aviation security at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a position that includes being the “hijack coordinator” (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 11/2000] In early 1998, Canavan participated in reviewing a CIA plan to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. He was then the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees the military’s counterterrorism operations and covert missions. He objected to the plan, saying it was too complicated for the CIA and “out of their league.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 113] The plan was later canceled (see 1997-May 29, 1998). It is not known if Canavan’s appointment at the FAA is related to his prior involvement in counterterrorism or to any intelligence that al-Qaeda might target civil aviation. He will leave the post in October 2001, after only 10 months, reportedly after clashing with other FAA officials. [Los Angeles Times, 10/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Mike Canavan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tells the 9/11 Commission it has already given the Commission all the documents it asked the FAA for. John Farmer, head of the Commission team investigating what happened on the day of 9/11, finds this hard to believe, as the boxes of material the FAA has provided do not contain many tapes or transcripts of FAA communications on the day of the attacks. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 201] Later interviews of FAA staff will reveal there is a mountain of evidence the FAA is withholding from the Commission (see September 2003).

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Federal Aviation Administration, John Farmer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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