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Context of 'Afternoon September 11, 2001: FBI Fails to Help Security Guard Identify 9/11 Hijackers'

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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

Daniel Lewin.Daniel Lewin. [Source: Akamai Technologies]An FAA memo written on the evening of 9/11, and later leaked, will suggest that a man on Flight 11 is shot and killed by a gun before the plane crashes into the World Trade Center. The “Executive Summary,” based on information relayed by a flight attendant to the American Airlines Operation Center, states “that a passenger located in seat 10B [Satam Al Suqami] shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B [Daniel Lewin] at 9:20 a.m.” (Note that since Flight 11 crashes at 8:46, the time must be a typographical error, probably meaning 8:20). A report in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on September 17 will identify Lewin as a former member of the Israel Defense Force Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s most successful Special Operations unit. [United Press International, 3/6/2002] Sayeret Matkal is a deep penetration unit that has been involved in assassinations, the theft of foreign signals intelligence materials, and the theft and destruction of foreign nuclear weaponry. It is best known for the 1976 rescue of 106 passengers at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. [New Yorker, 10/29/2001] Lewin founded Akamai, a successful computer company, and his connections to Sayeret Matkal will remain hidden until the gun story becomes known. [Guardian, 9/15/2001] FAA and American Airline officials will later deny the gun story and suggest that Lewin is probably stabbed to death instead. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; United Press International, 3/6/2002] Officials assert that the leaked document was a “first draft,” and subsequently corrected, but decline to release the final draft, calling it “protected information.” However, an FAA official present when the memo is drafted will dispute the FAA’s claim, asserting that “[t]he document was reviewed for accuracy by a number of people in the room, including myself and a couple of managers of the operations center.” [WorldNetDaily, 3/7/2002] This unnamed official is probably Bogdan Dzakovic, a leader of the FAA’s “red team” conducting covert security inspections. He will later tell the 9/11 Commission: “There are serious indications that the FAA deceived the public about what happened on 9/11. On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I was working in one of the FAA operations centers collecting information on details of what happened during the hijacking. We received information that a firearm was used on one of the hijacked aircraft.… That evening the administrator of FAA requested an executive summary covering the day’s activities, and this information about a gun was included in the summary. Days later, without any explanation or questioning of the summary’s author, the administrator publicly announced that no guns had been used in the hijacking. Several months passed when the press re-surfaced this issue. FAA’s initial response was that no so such executive summary existed. Later, when confronted with the document, FAA admitted the executive summary existed, but denied its accuracy. Sometime later I learned that another operations center also received a report that a firearm was used.… There were also reports of a possible explosive threatened on a flight.” [CBS News, 2/25/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/22/2003; Village Voice, 2/8/2005]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Bogdan Dzakovic, Satam Al Suqami, Sayeret Matkal, Daniel Lewin, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Tom Burnett.
Tom Burnett. [Source: Family photo]Tom Burnett, a passenger on Flight 93, calls his wife Deena Burnett at their home in San Ramon, California. [Longman, 2002, pp. 106-107] She looks at the caller ID and recognizes the number as being that of his cell phone. She asks him if he is OK, and he replies: “No, I’m not. I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked.” He says, “They just knifed a guy,” and adds that this person was a passenger. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 61] (According to journalist and author Jere Longman, this would likely have been Mark Rothenberg in seat 5B; Burnett was assigned seat 4B. Rothenberg is the only first class passenger who does not make a call from the flight. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] ) Deena asks, “Are you in the air?” She later recalls, “I didn’t understand how he could be calling me on his cell phone from the air.” According to Deena Burnett, Tom continues: “Yes, yes, just listen. Our airplane has been hijacked. It’s United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. We are in the air. The hijackers have already knifed a guy. One of them has a gun. They’re telling us there’s a bomb on board. Please call the authorities.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 61] (However, the 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the hijackers did not possess a gun, as Tom Burnett apparently claims here (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13] ) At the end of the call, which lasts just seconds, Tom says he will call back and then hangs up. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 62] Deena does not have time to tell him about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002] But she writes down everything he tells her. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 62] She notes the call having occurred at 9:27 a.m. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] Yet, the 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the hijacker takeover of Flight 93 does not occur until a minute later, at 9:28 (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38] Deena later wonders if her husband made this call before the hijackers took control of the cockpit, as he’d spoken quietly and quickly, as if he were being watched. He has an ear bud and a mouthpiece attached to a cord that hangs over his shoulder, which may have enabled him to use his phone surreptitiously. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] According to Deena Burnett’s account, this is the first of four calls Tom makes to her from Flight 93, all or most of which he makes using his cell phone. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 75] However, a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussoui trial will state that Burnett makes only three calls from the plane; uses an Airfone, not his cell phone; and makes his frst call at 9:30, not 9:27 (see 9:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 9-10 pdf file] This is the first of over 30 phone calls made by passengers from Flight 93. [MSNBC, 7/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Mark Rothenberg, Deena Burnett, Tom Burnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Cathal Flynn.Cathal Flynn. [Source: PBS]An Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) employee tells journalist Seymour Hersh that the 9/11 hijackings were accomplished with guns put on the planes by airport employees. Hersh then calls Rear Admiral Cathal Flynn, associate administrator of security at the Federal Aviation Administration, and tells him, “The guns were put onto the plane by the ramp workers.” When Flynn argues that there are no reports of this, Hersh replies, “Those ramp workers aren’t even checked,” and insists, “There were pistols and they were put onto the plane by the ramp workers.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 47-8] Although there are some reports of guns being used on the hijacked flights (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), the 9/11 Commission, for example, will not say that guns were used by the hijackers. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Cathal Flynn

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FBI interviews Eric Gill, a security guard at Dulles Airport who may have encountered some of the 9/11 hijackers attempting to access aircraft the night before 9/11 (see Around 8:15 p.m. September 10, 2001). Gill tells the FBI his story, but the FBI fails to show him a video it has found of the hijackers passing through an airport security checkpoint on 9/11, even though it is shown to all his colleagues, except the partner he was on duty with when he saw the hijackers. The FBI also obtains video of two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Salem Alhazmi, at Dulles on the day he says he saw another two of them, Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, but does not show this video to him and this video will not be publicly mentioned until 2008. It is unclear what the FBI does with logs for a door through which Gill says the hijackers would have passed, but they are not shown to Gill. Two days later, the FBI shows him poor quality photocopied pictures of the hijackers and Gill identifies two of them as the people he saw on September 10, but the FBI then loses interest in him, as they think one of the men he identifies hijacked a plane from Boston, not Dulles. Another man who may have seen the hijackers the night before 9/11, Khalid Mahmoud, is taken away by the INS and does not return, presumably because he has been deported. Gill will speak to a 9/11 Commission staffer on the telephone about 18 months later, but nothing will come of this. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 281 pdf file; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 38-40, 43-5]

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Khalid Mahmoud, Eric Gill, US Immigration and Naturalization Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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