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Context of 'September 10, 2001: One or Two Flight 77 Hijackers Are Caught on Video at Dulles Airport'

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The CIA cable watchlisting Alhazmi, Almihdhar, and two others (the sections mentioning Shakir and bin Attash are blacked out).The CIA cable watchlisting Alhazmi, Almihdhar, and two others (the sections mentioning Shakir and bin Attash are blacked out). [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)Thanks to the request of Margaret Gillespie, an FBI analyst assigned to the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, the CIA sends a cable to the State Department, INS, Customs Service, and FBI requesting that “bin Laden-related individuals” Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, and Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf (an alias for Khallad bin Attash) be put on the terrorism watch list. All four individuals had attended the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). The cable mostly focuses on Almihdhar, briefly outlining his attendance at the Malaysia summit and his subsequent travel to the US in January 2000 and July 2001. Since March 2000, if not earlier, the CIA has had good reason to believe Alhazmi and Almihdhar were al-Qaeda operatives living in the US, but apparently did nothing and told no other agency about it until now. The hijackers are not located in time, and both die in the 9/11 attacks. FBI agents later state that if they been told about Alhazmi and Almihdhar sooner, “There’s no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together” given the frequent contact between these two and the other hijackers. [Newsweek, 6/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 538; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 32-36, 302] However, in what the Washington Post calls a “critical omission,” the FAA, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and the FBI’s Financial Review Group are not notified. The two latter organizations have the power to tap into private credit card and bank data, and claim they could have readily found Alhazmi and Almihdhar, given the frequency the two used credit cards. [Washington Post, 7/25/2003] Furthermore, counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and his Counterterrorism Security Group are not told about these two operatives before 9/11 either. [Newsweek, 3/24/2004] The CIA later claims the request was labeled “immediate,” the second most urgent category (the highest is reserved for things like declarations of war). [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/2001] The FBI denies that it was marked “immediate” and other agencies treated the request as a routine matter. [Los Angeles Times, 10/18/2001; US Congress, 9/20/2002] The State Department places all four men on the watch list the next day. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] However, this watch list, named TIPOFF, checks their names only if they use international flights. There is another watch list barring suspected terrorists from flying domestically. On 9/11, it contains only 12 names, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other al-Qaeda figures, and some names are added as late as August 28, 2001. But none of these four men are added to this domestic list before 9/11.(see April 24, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Margaret Gillespie, Khallad bin Attash, TIPOFF, Richard A. Clarke, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, US Department of State, US Customs Service, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, US Immigration and Naturalization Service, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Aviation Administration, Counterterrorism and Security Group

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

One or two of the future hijackers of Flight 77 are recorded on video in a terminal at Washington’s Dulles International Airport—the airport from which Flight 77 will take off on September 11. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 10/16/2003 pdf file] The video captures Khalid Almihdhar and “possibly” Salem Alhazmi visiting the airport, according to an FBI chronology. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 11/14/2003 pdf file] They appear to be lost and are paying special attention to the emergency exits in the terminal. [9/11 Commission, 10/16/2003 pdf file] They are captured on video at an unspecified time this evening. Whether any other men are with them is unclear. They are in Terminal B at the airport. Flight 77 will depart from Terminal D. However, Edward Faggen, vice president and general counsel for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles Airport, will later note that the mobile lounges for departures from Terminal B and Terminal D are located next to each other. [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file] A group of five Middle Eastern men is witnessed by two employees at the airport this evening, behaving suspiciously and trying to go through a door that leads to the airport’s secure areas (see (Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.) September 10, 2001). Two of these men will be identified as Flight 77 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi and Flight 175 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2002; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 2-6, 43-44]

Entity Tags: Salem Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Edward S. Faggen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A group of five Middle Eastern men, which includes two men who will later be identified as alleged 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, get into a confrontation with Eric Gill, an employee at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 will take off on September 11, after they try to get to a secure area of the airport. Gill, who works for Argenbright Security, which handles the passenger security checkpoints at Dulles Airport, notices the men while supervising the west checkpoint on the upper level of the airport’s main terminal. He initially sees just two of them as they try to go through a side door next to the checkpoint that only a few people are permitted to use. People can use this door to bypass the checkpoint, but they need to swipe a card and enter a code on a keypad to pass through it. Going through the door enables a person to reach the airport’s secure, employee-only areas, including the area where planes are parked.
Men Try to Go through a Door Used by Security Personnel - One of the men trying to go through the door is wearing a green ID badge with a red “A” on it, of the kind typically worn by the airport’s baggage, ramp, and services personnel. However, use of the door is restricted to police, security personnel, and government officials. Gill then notices the other three Middle Eastern men following the first two. Two of these men are also wearing green ID badges with red As on them. Gill will describe one of the five men as Arabic or Palestinian and the other four as Middle Eastern. He will say the men appear to be aged between 30 and 35, and between 5 feet 7 and 5 feet 9 in height. The three men with ID badges are wearing dull grey striped shirts and blue pants, like the uniform worn by United Airlines ramp workers. None of the men are carrying anything and Gill does not recognize any of them.
Men Appear to Be Examining Security Procedures - As the men are approaching the side door, they stop and look around for a few moments, as if they are examining security procedures at the checkpoint. Gill finds this unusual. “Normally, people who had legitimate business would just keep walking because they knew where they were going and what they were doing,” he will comment. One of the men swipes his ID card and enters a code into a keypad in order to open the side door and allow the group to go through it. But Gill is suspicious and goes up to the men. After asking if he can help, he refuses to let them proceed through the door. The men who have ID cards show them to him. But he then notices that the other two men are not wearing uniforms and have no airport identification, and so he tells these men they cannot enter the secure area unless they have their own IDs with them.
Men Don't Say Who They Are - Gill asks the men who they are and why they are trying to go through the side door, but they give no answer. He tells the two men without IDs that they have to come back through the door, but they say they have IDs and are going to continue on their way. Around this time, Gill is joined by his colleague Nicholas DeSilva, who subsequently witnesses the rest of the incident. Gill then notices that the uniforms worn by three of the men are very dirty, which strikes him as odd, since United Airlines managers would not usually tolerate this. He refuses to let the men in uniforms escort the other two men through the side door and says the men without IDs will have to go through the main security checkpoint.
Men Become Abusive - At this point, the men get angry and become abusive. One of them tells Gill to “f_ck off” and says they are important people he doesn’t know. Next, however, instead of the men without IDs simply passing through the security checkpoint as requested, all of the men retreat, which surprises Gill. They then head off and go down the stairs that lead to the lower level of the main terminal. Gill will never see them again. However, Ed Nelson, his supervisor, will note that if they’d wanted to access a plane at the airport, perhaps to plant weapons on it, they could have returned after 10:00 p.m., when Gill’s shift ended, and used their ID cards to activate the electronic lock and pass through the side door next to the west checkpoint.
Incident Will Be Reported the Next Day - The exact time when Gill’s confrontation with the five men occurs is unclear. Gill will tell the FBI that it occurs “[d]uring the approximate time period of 8:10 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.” But he will tell the 9/11 Commission that it occurs at around 8:00 p.m. And he will tell investigative journalists Joseph Trento and Susan Trento that it occurs at 8:15 p.m. The incident is not unusual enough to necessitate a report and so Gill will take no further action this evening. But he will report it after he comes into work at 1:00 p.m. the following day and hears about the hijacking of Flight 77.
Two of the Men Will Be Identified as Hijackers - Gill will subsequently identify two of the men he confronted as 9/11 hijackers. A week or two after 9/11, his wife will show him a story in the National Enquirer magazine that includes photos of the alleged hijackers and he will recognize two of the hijackers as having been among the group he encountered. And, at some point after this, he will be shown the photos of the alleged hijackers that are published on the FBI website by Steve Wragg, the district manager in charge of Dulles Airport for Argenbright Security. From looking at these, he will identify two of the men he confronted as Flight 77 hijacker Alhazmi and Flight 175 hijacker Alshehhi. He will say these two hijackers were among the men wearing uniforms and ID badges. He will also recognize Alshehhi as the first man to have shown him his ID and Alhazmi as the man who verbally abused him. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/19/2004 pdf file; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 1-6, 43-44; Priska Neely, 10/21/2010] However, in 2004, when the 9/11 Commission shows Gill photos of numerous individuals, including Alshehhi, Alhazmi, and other 9/11 hijackers, he will say he does not recognize any of these individuals as having been among the men he confronted at Dulles Airport. [9/11 Commission, 2/10/2004 pdf file] The FBI will not take Gill’s account seriously because it has difficulty understanding how and why one of the Flight 175 hijackers would have been at Dulles Airport on the evening before he took an early morning flight from Boston, according to a source with the bureau. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 44] Khalid Almihdhar and “possibly” Salem Alhazmi—two of the alleged hijackers of Flight 77—are recorded on video at Dulles Airport at an unspecified time this evening (see September 10, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 11/14/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Eric Gill, Ed Nelson, Marwan Alshehhi, Nicholas DeSilva

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, check in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2-3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27] They are recorded by one of the airport’s security cameras approaching the ticket counter, with Moqed pulling a large, dark, roller-type suitcase and Almihdhar pulling a smaller, dark, roller-type suitcase. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/19/2001] They are checked in by a female ticketing agent for American Airlines whose name is unstated. The ticketing agent will later recall Moqed giving her a small, old, leather suitcase to check in. Almihdhar, meanwhile, has a carry-on bag with him, she will say in one interview with the FBI. However, a week later she will tell the FBI he had no bags with him.
One Hijacker Seems Unable to Understand the Agent's Questions - Almihdhar and Moqed appear to be in a very good mood and are polite as they are checked in. They provide Virginia identification. One of them seems to be in charge and answers all of the ticketing agent’s questions. He hesitates, though, before responding to the question, “Has anyone given you anything to carry on the flight?” The other man appears unable to understand the security questions he is asked. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/19/2001] After being checked in, the two men proceed to a security screening checkpoint (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27] Almihdhar is pulling along his suitcase but Moqed does not have his suitcase with him at this point. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/19/2001] As they leave the ticket counter, they wave and smile at the ticketing agent. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/19/2001]
Hijackers Are Flagged by a Computerized Prescreening System - Almihdhar and Moqed are both flagged by CAPPS (the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System) when they check in. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3] CAPPS is an FAA-approved automated system administered by commercial airlines that aims to identify passengers whose profile suggests they may pose more than a minimal risk to aircraft. Passengers selected by CAPPS have their baggage screened for explosives or held off the plane until they have boarded. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 84; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 12] Almihdar’s name was recently added to a terrorism watch list (see August 23, 2001). [Associated Press, 7/22/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 270] Almihdhar was recorded on video in a terminal at Dulles Airport at some time the previous evening, possibly accompanied by Salem Alhazmi, another one of the alleged Flight 77 hijackers (see September 10, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 11/14/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Khalid Almihdhar, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Majed Moqed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport.Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport. [Source: FBI]Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, go through a security screening checkpoint at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. They are screened at the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. Screening passengers is the responsibility of United Airlines, but it contracts the work to Argenbright Security.
Hijackers Set Off the Metal Detector Alarms - After entering the checkpoint, Almihdhar and Moqed place their carry-on bags on the X-ray machine belt and then pass through the first walk-through metal detector. Both men set off the alarm. They are therefore directed to go through a second metal detector. Almihdhar passes through this without any problems but Moqed again sets off the alarm. This leads to him being screened by a security officer with a handheld metal detector wand. No problems are found and so he is allowed to proceed on his way. None of the men’s carry-on bags are inspected by checkpoint personnel. As Moqed is leaving the checkpoint area, he appears to intentionally look down at the floor as he passes a security camera, thereby preventing the camera from capturing a close-up of his face. The other three Flight 77 hijackers will go through the west checkpoint 17 or 18 minutes later (see (Shortly Before 7:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27]
Screeners Will Recall No Suspicious Activity - Immediately after today’s terrorist attacks, the FAA’s Washington Civil Aviation Security Field Office will investigate the security screening at Dulles Airport. It will interview 43 of the 44 screeners who were on duty today, and these employees will all report having encountered no suspicious activity and nothing out of the ordinary this morning. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 93] However, lawyer Ron Motley, whose firm will represent some families of victims of today’s attacks, will later criticize the screeners at Dulles Airport, commenting, “Even after setting off these alarms, the airlines and security screeners failed to examine the hijackers’ baggage, as required by federal regulations and industry-mandated standards, or discover the weapons [the hijackers] would use in their attack.” [Associated Press, 7/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Majed Moqed, Ron Motley, Khalid Almihdhar, Argenbright Security

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vaughn Allex.Vaughn Allex. [Source: USA Today]Brothers Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, check in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3, 452; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27] They are running late. They “come running in the front door, looking around, and didn’t know which way to go,” Vaughn Allex, an employee at the ticket counter, will later describe. [CNN, 9/8/2012; ABC 7, 9/10/2016] They are captured on security video pulling large, dark, roller-type suitcases as they approach the counter. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/19/2001] They are allowed to check in despite having missed the official deadline for doing so by a few minutes. [CNN, 9/8/2012; ABC 7, 9/10/2016]
Trainee Checks in the Hijackers - Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi are checked in by Inga Hill, a trainee who is overseen by Allex. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/19/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/25/2001] Today is only her second day working at Dulles Airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001] Allex looks on while she confirms the brothers’ tickets. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/25/2001] The Alhazmis check in two dark-colored bags, one of them a hard plastic suitcase, the other a soft bag, Hill will recall. One of the brothers has a carry-on bag, she will say. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001] Allex will recall the brothers having only one bag, which he considers to be “totally inappropriate for a trip to Los Angeles.” The bag is “almost like a satchel” with straps across the top but which doesn’t seal, he will say. [CNN, 9/8/2012]
Hijackers Have Difficulty Answering Questions - Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi show passports for their photo identification but are unable to recall the country from which these were issued. They also have trouble answering the security questions that all passengers must answer. Allex therefore has to get involved and take over the task of questioning them, Hill will recall. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001] However, Allex will say he takes on the task of checking them in from the outset because they are running late. [CNN, 9/8/2012] Nawaf Alhazmi is the only one of the brothers who speaks during the check-in, but his English is poor. Salem Alhazmi, meanwhile, acts “very anxious or excited,” according to Allex. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/25/2001] “He was grinning, he was smiling, and he was dancing back and forth,” Allex will say. [CNN, 9/8/2012]
Hijackers Are Selected for Extra Scrutiny - Allex selects the two brothers for extra security scrutiny. He does this because he finds them suspicious, and one of them—probably Salem Alhazmi, according to the 9/11 Commission—has no photo identification and cannot understand English. However, the only consequence of the extra scrutiny will be that their bags are held off Flight 77 until it is confirmed that they have boarded it.
Employee Is Suspicious and Follows the Hijackers - After being checked in, Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi proceed to a security screening checkpoint (see 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28; USA Today, 9/12/2016] They no longer have their suitcases with them when they leave the ticket counter. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/19/2001] Allex is still uncomfortable with the two men and follows them for a few steps. He stops himself, though, as he is concerned that his suspicion may be racially motivated. [CNN, 9/8/2012] The name of Nawaf Alhazmi was recently added to a terrorism watch list (see August 23, 2001). [Associated Press, 7/22/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 270] An employee at Dulles Airport will recall encountering him and four other Middle Eastern men as they tried to get to a secure area of the airport the previous evening (see (Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.) September 10, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/19/2004 pdf file; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 2-6, 43-44]

Entity Tags: Inga Hill, Salem Alhazmi, Vaughn Allex, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

FBI agents are apparently unwilling to look into the account of Eric Gill, an employee at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 took off this morning, regarding a confrontation he had at the airport yesterday evening with five suspicious Middle Eastern men. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 38-39] The confrontation occurred sometime between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. on September 10 while Gill was supervising the west checkpoint in Dulles Airport’s main terminal. Gill became suspicious of the men as they tried to get to a secure area of the airport (see (Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.) September 10, 2001).
Employee Reported the Suspicious Incident to His Supervisor - He reported the incident after coming into work at around 1:00 p.m. today and hearing about the hijacking of Flight 77. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/19/2004 pdf file; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 1-6] Thinking the men he’d confronted might be involved, he went to his supervisor, Chandresh Patel, and let him know what happened. He also let Patel know that his colleague, Nicholas DeSilva, was at the checkpoint when the incident occurred. Patel therefore arranged for him and DeSilva to be interviewed immediately by FBI agents who had come to the airport to investigate the hijacking (see (12:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Employee Isn't Shown Video of the Hijackers - Gill is interviewed for about two hours by two agents. The agents seem to consider his confrontation with the Middle Eastern men to be significant. DeSilva, meanwhile, is able to confirm in his interview with the FBI that the confrontation took place. However, the two agents never show Gill video the FBI has taken possession of that shows the alleged hijackers passing through the west checkpoint on their way to boarding Flight 77 this morning, to determine if any of the hijackers were among the men he encountered. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 38-39] And yet the FBI shows the video to every employee who works on the security checkpoints at Dulles Airport apart from Gill and DeSilva, according to Ed Nelson, a security manager at the airport. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 43]
Employee Will Be Visited at Home by the FBI - The FBI will subsequently visit Gill at his home to show him some photos and ask if any of the Middle Eastern men he encountered are on them. Gill will later give conflicting accounts of this visit. In 2004, he will tell the 9/11 Commission that a young female agent visited him at his home a few days after the attacks and showed him about five photos, but he did not recognize the men he’d encountered in them. 9/11 Commission staffers will determine, however, that the men in the photos did not include any of the alleged 9/11 hijackers. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/19/2004 pdf file] A couple of years later, Gill will tell investigative journalists Joseph Trento and Susan Trento that FBI agents visited him and showed him some photos a couple of days after the attacks. The agents said they were in a hurry to find out what actually happened, and so the images they had were just photocopies and of poor quality. All the same, he recognized two of the men he’d encountered in them. “The picture was bad… but I told them [one of the men in the pictures] looked like he could be the one who had been dressed in a ramp uniform with the ID card on the night of the 10th,” he will tell the Trentos.
Employee Will Identify Two Men He Encountered as Hijackers - Gill will never hear from the FBI again after this visit. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 39-40] However, a superior will subsequently show him the photos of the alleged hijackers that are published on the FBI website, and from looking at these he will identify two of the men he confronted as Flight 77 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi and Flight 175 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. A source in the FBI will say one reason the bureau did not take Gill’s account seriously was that it had trouble understanding how and why one of the Flight 175 hijackers could have been at Dulles Airport on the evening before he took an early morning flight from Boston. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 43-44]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Eric Gill, Nicholas DeSilva, Chandresh Patel, Ed Nelson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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