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Profile: Janet Riffe

Janet Riffe was a participant or observer in the following events:

Janet Riffe.Janet Riffe. [Source: FAA]Janet Riffe, the FAA’s principal security inspector for American Airlines, reportedly talks over the phone with Suzanne Clark, a manager of corporate security at American Airlines, and is told that a passenger on Flight 11 was shot dead by another passenger. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003] Riffe went to the aviation command center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, after being alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 by a colleague sometime between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., she will later recall. Since then, she has been making notes about the calls she has received providing information about the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004]
Airline Manager Says a Hijacker Shot a Passenger - She now calls the American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, for a status update and talks to Clark. [General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002] Clark is not her usual point of contact at the headquarters. She usually talks to Chris Bidwell, another manager of corporate security, but he is currently out of his office. After Riffe tries unsuccessfully to reach him, her call is passed on to Clark. [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003 pdf file] During the call, Clark tells her about the alleged shooting on Flight 11. She says one of the plane’s flight attendants contacted the American Airlines System Operations Control center and reported that the passenger in seat 9B had been shot and killed by the passenger in seat 10B. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] 9B is the seat of Daniel Lewin, a 31-year-old Internet entrepreneur, and 10B is the seat of alleged hijacker Satam Al Suqami. [Tablet, 9/11/2013; Slate, 9/11/2015] Just one bullet was fired, Clark says. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] She also says the plane is heading back to JFK International Airport in New York. This is the only conversation between the two women today, according to Riffe. [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004]
Alleged Shooting Will Be Mentioned in an FAA Memo - After the call ends, Riffe will fill out an event sheet, describing what was said. The event sheet will subsequently be seen by Riffe’s manager, Fran Lozito, who in turn will show it to Lee Longmire, the director of civil aviation security operations at the FAA. The details in it will later be entered into a log and the information in the log will be included in a memo that the FAA prepares this evening (see 5:13 p.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 5/11/2004]
Airline Manager Will Claim the Call Likely Never Occurred - Riffe will confirm to the 9/11 Commission that a conversation in which Clark told her about a shooting on Flight 11 took place. [9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file] Clark, though, will dispute this, claiming that the conversation probably never occurred. She will tell the 9/11 Commission that she “doesn’t remember talking to Janet Riffe” today. But “if the conversation ever took place,” she will comment, “[i]t was brief” and she “can’t remember what she said.” Furthermore, she will claim she only learned the names and seat numbers of the Flight 11 hijackers on the day after 9/11, and she doesn’t recall receiving any information about the weapons or tactics used on the hijacked flights, thereby implying she would have been unable to provide the information she was supposed to have given to Riffe. [9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003 pdf file] But Steve Jenkins, the FAA’s principal security inspector for United Airlines who is with Riffe in the aviation command center today, will corroborate Riffe’s account. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that he recalls Riffe commenting “on a report she said she received from American’s corporate offices about a gun being used on Flight 11, just after she received the report.” [9/11 Commission, 2/24/2004 pdf file]
Officials Will Dismiss the Claim of a Shooting - Other people besides Riffe have been told about a shooting on Flight 11. At 8:44 a.m., the operations center at FAA headquarters was told that a passenger on the plane had been shot over a conference call with the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002] However, FAA and FBI officials will say the report of a gun on Flight 11 was a mistake, and the 9/11 Commission will determine that a shooting on Flight 11 was unlikely to have occurred. Officials will say Lewin was probably killed with a knife. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 452-453] Most evidence will indicate he had his throat slashed by Al Suqami, apparently at around 8:14 a.m. when the hijackers took over Flight 11 (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17; Raskin, 2013, pp. 218]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Chris Bidwell, Daniel Lewin, Suzanne Clark, Janet Riffe, Satam Al Suqami, Federal Aviation Administration, Steve Jenkins

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An internal FAA memorandum is written, which mentions that Daniel Lewin, a passenger on Flight 11, was shot dead by hijacker Satam Al Suqami, but various agencies and investigations will later determine that the alleged shooting never happened. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17] The memo, titled “Executive Summary,” is prepared by civil aviation security personnel officials in the aviation command center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, and intended for distribution to the office of FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. It is based on information received in the command center from numerous sources throughout the day that was recorded in an official log. [USA Today, 2/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file] The details of the alleged shooting on Flight 11 come from information entered into the log based on notes made by Janet Riffe, the FAA’s principal security inspector for American Airlines, in which she described a phone conversation she had this morning with Suzanne Clark, a manager of corporate security at American Airlines (see 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file]
Memo States that a Flight Attendant Reported a Shooting - The memo states that it is “a summary of the events which have occurred” today and includes brief descriptions of the four hijackings that took place this morning. In its description of the hijacking of Flight 11, it states that at 9:20 a.m., Riffe “was notified by Suzanne Clark of American Airlines corporate headquarters that an onboard flight attendant contacted American Airlines operations center and informed that a passenger located in seat 10B shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B.” The memo names Lewin as the passenger who was killed and Al Suqami as the passenger who shot him. Just one bullet was reported to have been fired, it states. It also states incorrectly that Flight 11 crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center at 9:25 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] (Flight 11 actually crashed into the North Tower of the WTC at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7] )
Agencies Will Dismiss the Allegation of a Shooting - Various agencies and investigations will determine that the reported shooting on Flight 11 never occurred. After the memo is leaked to the press in 2002, FAA and FBI officials will say the report of a gun on the plane was a mistake. The FAA will say the memo is just a “first draft” and the final draft omits any claim of a gun being fired. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown will say the mistaken information was due to “a miscommunication” and add that the memo “was corrected that very evening.” [USA Today, 2/27/2002; Washington Post, 3/2/2002; United Press International, 3/6/2002]
GAO Will Find No Corroboration for the Allegation - The General Accounting Office (GAO) will conduct a comprehensive investigation of the alleged shooting in which it interviews FAA personnel and senior managers, and American Airlines personnel. Based on these interviews, it will subsequently state, “American Airlines personnel deny ever reporting a shooting on any of the hijacked flights on September 11, 2001.” The GAO will conclude that “there is no information to corroborate a shooting on American Airlines Flight 11.” [General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002]
Accounts of Calls from Flight 11 Will Not Support the Allegation - The 9/11 Commission will subsequently also investigate whether there was a shooting on Flight 11 and determine, “The evidence derived from eyewitness accounts of the events that unfolded on [Flight 11] does not support a conclusion that a shooting on the flight is likely to have occurred.” [9/11 Commission, 2003] In explaining how it reached its conclusion, the Commission will point out that “authoritative information about whether a shooting occurred on Flight 11 could have come only from individuals on the aircraft who were reporting events to contacts on the ground.” It will note that two flight attendants on Flight 11—Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney—“placed calls to ground contacts to report what was happening on the aircraft.” But, it will state, in none of the tape recordings of these calls and accounts of witnesses to them “is the presence of a gun or the occurrence of a shooting reported.” In contrast, witnesses to the calls stated that the two flight attendants were “quite specific about the presence of knives, and the stabbing or slashing of two crew members and a passenger.” Furthermore, the victim of the alleged shooting is said in the memo to have been in seat 9B, which was the same seat that “according to several of the witness accounts from the aircraft, was assigned to the passenger who was stabbed.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17] (9B was Lewin’s seat. [Tablet, 9/11/2013] )
FAA and the FBI Will Find No Evidence of a Gun on Flight 11 - Additionally, the Commission will state that the “FAA has no information which confirms the presence of a gun on… Flight 11” and the FBI has similarly advised that it has “no evidence of a gun being used onboard the aircraft.” [9/11 Commission, 2003] The Commission will point out that “while investigators have uncovered evidence of numerous knife purchases by the 19 hijackers leading up to September 11, 2001, there was no evidence that they purchased or possessed firearms.” Furthermore, while the four hijacking teams generally used similar tactics, “No evidence has been uncovered to suggest that the hijackers on any of the other flights [besides Flight 11] used firearms.” The Commission will comment that it “seems unlikely that one of the teams would depart from the tactical discipline of the plotters’ mutual strategy.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 17]
American Airlines Manager Will Deny that a Shooting Occurred - The Commission will state that in interviews it conducted, while Riffe said the information in the memo was accurate, Clark denied having reported a shooting. The Commission will also mention that around the time the memo was written, someone in the aviation command center contacted American Airlines to verify the account of a shooting and was informed that it was incorrect. American Airlines “reported that it had no information about anyone being shot,” the Commission will state. [9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003 pdf file] Most evidence will indicate that, rather than being shot, Lewin had his throat slashed by Al Suqami (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17; Raskin, 2013, pp. 218] However, one other incident supports the allegation in the memo of a shooting on Flight 11. At 8:44 a.m., the operations center at FAA headquarters was told that a passenger on the plane had been shot over a conference call with the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Daniel Lewin, American Airlines, 9/11 Commission, Satam Al Suqami, Suzanne Clark, Janet Riffe, Federal Bureau of Investigation, General Accounting Office, Laura Brown, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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