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Context of 'September 27, 2001: Photos of All 19 9/11 Hijackers Released for First Time'

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Several of the 9/11 hijackers make trips to Las Vegas and the west coast over the summer:
bullet May 24-27: Marwan Alshehhi flies to Vegas (see May 24-27, 2001);
bullet June 7-10: Ziad Jarrah takes a trip to Vegas (see June 7-10, 2001);
bullet June 28-July 1: Mohamed Atta takes his first trip to Vegas, flying from Fort Lauderdale to Boston and then, the next day, to Las Vegas via San Francisco with United Airlines. He stays there three nights, then returns to Boston via Denver, and flies to New York the next day;
bullet July 31-August 1: Waleed Alshehri flies from Fort Lauderdale to Boston and then takes American Airlines flight 195 to San Francisco the next day. After spending a night at the La Quinta Inn, he returns to Miami via Las Vegas; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 1-2, 16, 18 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 55-7 pdf file]
bullet August 1: Actor James Woods sees four people he will later suspect are hijackers, including individuals he believes to be Khalid Almihdhar and Hamza Alghamdi, on a transcontinental flight (see August 1, 2001). Abdulaziz Alomari is reported to try to get into the cockpit on a different flight from Vegas on the same day (see August 1, 2001);
bullet August 13-14: Atta, Hani Hanjour, and Nawaf Alhazmi all fly to Vegas, possibly meeting some other hijackers there (see August 13-14, 2001).
Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar also made frequent car trips to Las Vegas from San Diego, where they lived in 2000. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; McDermott, 2005, pp. 192] The reason for these trips is never definitively determined, although there will be speculation the hijackers are casing aircraft similar to those they will hijack on 9/11. The 9/11 Commission will comment, “Beyond Las Vegas’s reputation for welcoming tourists, we have seen no credible evidence explaining why… the operatives flew to or met in Law Vegas.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 242, 248] After 9/11, it will be reported that the hijackers may use these cross-country flights to take pictures of airline cockpits and check out security at boarding gates. During the flights, the hijackers apparently take notes, watch the crews, and even videotape them. There are some reports that two, or perhaps more, of the hijackers sit in “jumpseats” in the pilot’s cabin, a courtesy extended by airlines to other pilots, during the surveillance flights (see Summer 2001) and on the day of 9/11 itself (see November 23, 2001). [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; Associated Press, 5/29/2002] There are reports that the hijackers drink alcohol, gamble, and frequent strip clubs while they are in Las Vegas. For example, according to a dancer named “Samantha,” Marwan Alshehhi stares up at her blankly while she “undulate[s] her hips inches from his face” and only gives her $20, although he is a “light drinker.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/4/2001; Newsweek, 10/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Waleed Alshehri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Abdulaziz Alomari.Abdulaziz Alomari. [Source: FBI]9/11 hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari tests airline security while flying across the US. He boards USAir flight 608 from Las Vegas to New York City. Before the flight takes off, he tells a flight attendant that he is a pilot and wants to sit in the jumpseat (a spare seat in the cockpit) to observe the pilots for the whole flight. When asked for his pilot credentials, he says he is just a student pilot. Alomari is allowed in the cockpit, but only for a short while before take-off. The pilots get the impression he doesn’t know much about flying. Half way through the flight, he tries to get back into the cockpit by claiming that he’d lost a valuable pen while in there earlier, but he is not allowed back in. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 296-297] Although this story is not confirmed by other sources, several of the hijackers do fly to and from Las Vegas at this time (see May 24-August 14, 2001 and August 1, 2001). Apparently the hijackers repeatedly attempt to ride on jumpseats in the summer of 2001 and are sometimes successful, sometimes not (see Summer 2001). Some news stories after 9/11 will allege that the hijackers did use jumpseats on 9/11 (see November 23, 2001).

Entity Tags: Abdulaziz Alomari

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Future 9/11 hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad attempts to get into an airplane cockpit on a test flight across the US, according to flight attendant Gregory McAleer. McAleer is employed by United Airlines. He will later claim to the 9/11 Commission that on August 30, 2001, he is working on Flight 514, a Boeing 737-300 flying from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to Logan Airport in Boston.
Strange Encounter - Early in the boarding process a Middle Eastern male enters the airplane with a “jump seat” pass. This pass allows the person to sit in the jump seat, an extra seat in the airplane’s cockpit. Typically, only licensed pilots employed by US domestic airlines are given these passes. The man is not dressed in a pilot’s uniform, but wears casual clothes and carries a suitcase. McAleer sees this man entering the cockpit and talking to the pilot and copilot. After a few moments, the man leaves the cockpit and takes a seat in the coach section. McAleer is curious and asks the pilot about the man. The pilot says the man can’t use the jump seat since he doesn’t have the proper ID. Later in the flight, McAleer has a chance to question the man while both of them are waiting to use the lavatory. The man claims to be a pilot for a regional airline, but when McAleer, who has a pilot’s license, asks him questions about his job and his knowledge of flying, the answers don’t add up and the man also asks him some suspicious questions. McAleer finds the man’s behavior so suspicious that he wonders at the time if he could be a terrorist.
FBI and United Airlines Not that Interested - Several days after 9/11, McAleer will contact the FBI’s Chicago field office about the incident. An FBI agent takes his information, but does not seem very interested or even comprehending about the jump seat idea. Several days after that, McAleer describes the incident to a United Airlines flight attendant supervisor. After conferring with a manager, the supervisor tells him: “Do not talk to the FBI again. I went to [United Airlines assistant station manager] Mitch Gross and he told me to tell you not to talk to the FBI again. If you have any concerns you can call the [United Airlines] Crisis Center. The FBI agents are working on the case.” McAleer gives the information by phone to the Crisis Center, but he still is unsatisfied. He later tells the story to Gross, and Gross tells him, “You are not to talk to anyone about this.” On September 27, 2001, McAleer will read a local newspaper article that shows the pictures of all of the 9/11 hijackers for the first time (see September 27, 2001), and he quickly concludes that hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad was the suspicious man who had flown on Flight 514. McAleer continues to try to raise the issue, for instance with United Airlines corporate security, but without much success.
FBI Stops Media Coverage - Eventually, McAleer will come in contact with a USA Today reporter named Blake Morrison. After checking with the FBI, Morrison decides to write a story about McAleer’s experience. However, at the last minute, the FBI contacts Morrison and asks him not to run the article. As a result, the article only runs in the international edition of USA Today, on June 12, 2002. Morrison later tells McAleer that an FBI source told him that Banihammad’s name was not on the flight manifest. This does not surprise McAleer, since people using jump seat passes or companion passes are not usually on the manifest. The 9/11 Commission will not mention McAleer’s story at all, and will dismiss the jumpseating issue in general. [9/11 Commission, 8/12/2003 pdf file]
Legal Implications - There will be reports that other 9/11 hijackers used test flights to try to get into cockpits, and some tried to sit in jump seats (see November 23, 2001 and November 23, 2001). There will also be reports that jump seats were used by the hijackers in the 9/11 attacks (see September 24, 2001 and November 23, 2001). Jumpseating will become a contentious issue, because if it could be shown that the 9/11 hijackers were able to get into cockpits using jump seats, American Airlines and United Airlines could be sued for significant damages. In fact, McAleer’s account will later be used in a 9/11 negligence lawsuit against United Airlines. In 2011, it will be reported that attorneys in the lawsuit are attempting to depose the agents who interviewed McAleer, but the Justice Department is refusing to let the agents testify. [WBUR NPR Boston, 1/31/2011]

Entity Tags: Mitch Gross, United Airlines, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Blake Morrison, 9/11 Commission, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Gregory McAleer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Fox News claims that up to 12 other Middle Eastern men dressed in pilot uniforms were on other flights scheduled to take off on the morning of 9/11. Hijackings on all these flights were foiled when an unexpected ban on new flights prevented them from taking off. An FBI source says they had been invited into the cockpits under the impression that they were guest pilots from other airlines. It is standard practice to give guest pilots the spare seat in the cockpit known as the jump seat. [Fox News, 9/24/2001] Flight 93’s cockpit voice recording has apparently shown that “one of the four hijackers had been invited into the cockpit area before the flight took off.” Many pilot uniforms had gone missing prior to 9/11. It is claimed that Mohamed Atta was given a guided tour of Boston’s Logan Airport the week before 9/11 when he turned up in a pilot uniform saying he was with Saudi Airlines. [Herald Sun (Melbourne), 9/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A newspaper front page announcing the release of the hijacker photos.A newspaper front page announcing the release of the hijacker photos. [Source: History Channel]The photos of all 19 of the 9/11 hijackers are released by the FBI for the first time. Some photos have been released by the media already; for instance, a photo of Mohammed Atta became very well known a couple of days after the 9/11 attacks. But this is the first time all of the hijackers are seen. The FBI also gives out some details about the hijackers, but these details are scanty. For instance, the only detail mentioned for Ahmed Alhaznawi is, “Possibly lived in Delray Beach, Florida.” Interestingly, one detail mentioned for Khalid Almihdhar is, “May be an assumed name; there are reports he is still alive.” It also is noted that the identities of Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, Mohand Alshehri, Salem Alhazmi, and Saeed Alghamdi are in dispute, and some of the information about them may be confused with other people with similar names. [CNN, 9/27/2001]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Alnami, Salem Alhazmi, Satam Al Suqami, Wail Alshehri, Waleed Alshehri, Ziad Jarrah, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, Mohamed Atta, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, Khalid Almihdhar, Marwan Alshehhi, Ahmed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, Hani Hanjour

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Boston Globe reports information strongly suggesting that at least one hijacker was inside each of the cockpits when the hijackings began. An airplane captain theorizes how they took control: “The most likely scenarios are something that was swift, where the pilots couldn’t have changed their transponder code and called the controllers. You think four times in one morning one of those crews would have done that. That means they had to be upon them before they could react.” On practice flights before 9/11, the hijackers repeatedly obtained access to cockpits by various methods. Perhaps the most important method was jumpseating, which allows certified airline pilots to use a spare seat in the cockpit when none is available in the passenger cabin. Airlines reciprocate to help pilots get home or to the city of their originating flight. Officials say they do not believe any of the hijackers were jumpseating on 9/11 despite media reports to the contrary. However, since 9/11 the FAA has banned the practice unless a pilot works for the airline in whose cockpit that person wants to ride. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the hijackers didn’t use jumpseating because they couldn’t find any paperwork relating to jumpseat requests.

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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