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Context of '(6:20 a.m.-7:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 175 Hijackers Check In at Airport and Board Plane; None Selected for Additional Security Scrutiny'

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Virginia BuckinghamVirginia Buckingham [Source: Publicity photo]Data compiled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shows that over this period Boston’s Logan Airport has one of the worst records for security among major US airports. Flight 11 and Flight 175 depart from Logan on 9/11. While it is only America’s eighteenth busiest airport, it has the fifth highest number of security violations. FAA agents testing its passenger screening are able to get 234 guns and inert hand grenades and bombs past its checkpoint guards or through its X-ray machines. Though it is possible that the high number of violations is because the FAA tests more frequently at Logan than elsewhere, an official later quoted by the Boston Globe says lax security is the only explanation, as all checkpoints at every major airport are meant to be tested monthly. In contrast, Newark Airport, from where Flight 93 departs on 9/11, has an above average security record. Washington’s Dulles Airport, from where Flight 77 takes off, is below average, though not as bad as Logan. Officials familiar with security at Logan will, after 9/11, point to various flaws. For example, the State Police office has no video surveillance of the airport’s security checkpoints, boarding gates, ramp areas, or perimeter entrances. [Boston Globe, 9/26/2001] Security cameras had been put into use at most US airports in the mid-1980s. When Virginia Buckingham takes over as executive director of Massachusetts Port Authority in 1999, she is surprised at the lack of cameras at Logan, and orders them that year. Yet by 9/11, they still will not have been installed. [Boston Herald, 9/29/2001; Boston Globe, 9/30/2001] In spite of Logan’s poor security record, after 9/11 the Boston Globe will report, “[A]viation specialists have said it is unlikely that more rigorous attention to existing rules would have thwarted the 10 hijackers who boarded two jets at Logan on Sept. 11.” [Boston Globe, 10/17/2001]

Entity Tags: Newark International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Virginia Buckingham, Federal Aviation Administration, Logan International Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finds at least 136 security violations at Boston’s Logan Airport between 1997 and early 1999. Flights 11 and 175 will depart from Logan on 9/11. Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the airport, is fined $178,000 for these breaches, which include failing to screen baggage properly and easy access to parked planes. In summer 1999, a teenager is able to climb over the airport’s security fence, walk two miles across the tarmac, board a 747, and fly on it to London. In September 1999, the Boston Globe finds that doors are often left open at the airport, making it possible for potentially anyone to gain access to planes on the ground. [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] After 9/11, an analysis by the Boston Globe will conclude that Logan’s security record is “dismal” (see 1991-2000). [Boston Globe, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Massachusetts Port Authority, Logan International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mary Carol Turano is appointed director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Boston Civil Aviation Security Field Office (CASFO). This is the office that oversees security at Logan Airport, from where Flights 11 and 175 depart on 9/11. Yet Turano has little experience in airport security, and has not even begun the basic training that all FAA special agents must undergo. During her tenure, according to an agent who is assigned to Logan, staff that document security violations become frustrated, as she allows violations to accumulate without taking appropriate action. After 9/11, it will be revealed that she lacks the identification badge necessary for unescorted access to secure areas. An official familiar with airport security procedures will comment, “An organization does well what a commander checks, and how can you check what they do if you don’t have a ramp access badge?” Turano is subsequently reassigned. [Associated Press, 9/29/2001; Boston Globe, 9/29/2001; WBUR (Boston), 10/4/2001; Thomas, 2003, pp. 61; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 pdf file] Logan Airport’s poor record for security continues while she heads CASFO (see 1991-2000 and 1997-September 1999).

Entity Tags: Boston Civil Aviation Security Field Office, Mary Carol Turano, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi checks out of his hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. It is unclear where he spends the night before 9/11, but at 11:57 a.m. on this day he wires some money to a co-conspirator in the Middle East from the Greyhound bus station in Boston. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 pdf file] One eyewitness will claim to see him at Dulles Airport in Washington later this evening (see Around 8:15 p.m. September 10, 2001), but apparently he is back in Boston by the next morning (see (6:20 a.m.-7:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A group of five Arabs attempts to penetrate a secure area leading to parked aircraft at Washington’s Dulles Airport. However, they are seen by two security guards, Eric Gill and Nicolas de Silva. Gill, who will later identify two of the men as 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, notices they approach a door to the secure area in a suspicious manner and that only three of them are dressed as United Airlines ramp workers and have the correct passes. Gill, a Pakistani, prevents the two without passes from entering the secure area, and realizes that he does not recognize the other three, and that their uniforms are unusually dirty for United employees. The men tell Gill to “f_ck off” and say that they are “important people,” but Gill still refuses to let the two without passes enter, and eventually all five men retreat. Gill goes off duty at 10:00 p.m. and his supervisor will comment after 9/11, “If someone wanted access to the aircraft, say to plant weapons, it would have been easy for the group Eric saw to come back after he got off duty and simply use the ID cards they had to activate the electronic lock and slip through.” Reporters Joe and Susan Trento, who break this story, will be unable to interview another security guard, Khalid Mahmoud, who was guarding the next door, as he will be immediately taken by the INS after 9/11 and presumably deported. De Silva has a poor memory for faces and will recall the incident happening, but will not be able to identify any of the Arabs. The FBI and 9/11 Commission will apparently not place much weight on Gill’s identification of the hijackers, as Alshehhi is believed to be in Boston at this time (see Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 2-6, 44-5] However, Alshehhi checks out of his hotel on this date and his last recorded action in Boston is before noon, so he may have flown to Dulles in the afternoon and could return by the following morning (see September 10, 2001). An INS employee will tell journalist Seymour Hersh that guns were placed on the planes on 9/11 (see After 11:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Security cameras record two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and possibly Salem Alhazmi, at Dulles this same day, but it is unclear whether their presence is related to this incident. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 281 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Salem Alhazmi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Nicolas De Silva, Khalid Almihdhar, Marwan Alshehhi, Eric Gill

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

All five Flight 175 hijackers reportedly check in at Boston’s Logan Airport, pass through a security checkpoint, and board their plane during this period. The five hijackers are Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Hamza Alghamdi, Ahmed Alghamdi, and Mohand Alshehri. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 89] The FAA has a program in place called CAPPS, which selects passengers for more thorough security screening based on suspicious behavior such as buying a one-way ticket or paying with cash (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although reports claim that between two and five of the Flight 175 hijackers have one-way tickets, none are selected by CAPPS. [WorldNetDaily, 4/24/2002; US Congress, 9/26/2002; US Congress, 9/26/2002; Washington Post, 1/28/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 18] Two of them have problems answering security questions at the ticket counter (see (6:20 a.m.-6:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At the security checkpoint, all five would pass through a walk-through metal detector, and an X-ray machine would screen their carry-on luggage. But Logan Airport has no video surveillance of its checkpoints (see 1991-2000), so there is no documentary evidence of exactly when they go through, or how they are processed. Jennifer Gore, the young supervisor overseeing the checkpoint, is later unable to recall seeing any of them. The Globe and Mail will explain, “[S]he was trained to look for metal bits in bags and in clothes, not people.” [Globe and Mail, 9/7/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 18]

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Logan International Airport, Ahmed Alghamdi, Jennifer Gore, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, Federal Aviation Administration, Hamza Alghamdi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

During this period, all five Flight 11 hijackers check in at Boston’s Logan Airport and board their plane, bound for Los Angeles. The FAA has a program in place called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS), which is designed to identify those passengers most likely requiring additional scrutiny by airport security (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Ticket records will show that CAPPS selects three of the Flight 11 hijackers at Logan: Since Waleed Alshehri checks no bags his selection has no consequences; Wail Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami have their bags scanned for explosives, but are not stopped. All five hijackers would need to pass through a security checkpoint to reach the departure gate for their flight. Each would have been screened as they walked through a metal detector calibrated to detect items with at least the metal content of a small-caliber handgun. If they’d set this off, they would have been screened with a handheld metal detector. An X-ray machine would have screened their carry-on luggage. However, Logan Airport has no video surveillance of its security checkpoints (see 1991-2000), so there is no documentary evidence of exactly when they pass through them, or if alarms are triggered. According to the 9/11 Commission, none of the checkpoint supervisors later recall seeing any of the Flights 11 hijackers, or report anything suspicious having occurred. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 5-6] However, a WorldNetDaily article will claim that some Logan staff members recall seeing Mohamed Atta (see (6:50 a.m.-7:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WorldNetDaily, 9/21/2001] The Boston Globe will later comment, “aviation specialists have said it is unlikely that more rigorous attention to existing rules would have thwarted the 10 hijackers who boarded two jets at Logan on Sept. 11. At the time, the knives and box-cutters they were carrying were permitted.” [Boston Globe, 10/17/2001]

Entity Tags: Satam Al Suqami, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Wail Alshehri, Federal Aviation Administration, Logan International Airport, Waleed Alshehri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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