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Profile: Portland International Jetport
Portland International Jetport was a participant or observer in the following events:
Chris Lyons, a newspaper delivery driver, sees four or five Middle Eastern men near the entrance of Portland airport, from where alleged hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari will later take a plane to Boston (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The men are speaking Arabic among themselves and hauling about ten suitcases into the airport. Lyons later says they “stuck out because usually no one is around at that hour.” After 9/11, local police will say they don’t think the men are connected to the attacks. However, Lyons is concerned that they might have been “support people,” because, he says, “It’s just too much of a coincidence that this group of businessmen was leaving Portland the morning of the terrorist attacks.” [Portland Press Herald, 9/22/2001; Portland Press Herald, 10/21/2001]
Abdulaziz Alomari (a passport stamp overlaps part of his face). [Source: FBI]Having spent the previous night at the Comfort Inn in Portland, Maine (see September 10, 2001), hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari check out at 5:33 a.m. and drive their rented Nissan to the nearby Portland International Jetport Airport, entering its parking lot at 5:40 a.m. The FBI will later seize their car there. [Observer, 9/16/2001; Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/5/2001; Newsday, 4/17/2006] Their flight is due to take off for Boston at 6:00 a.m. (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Boston Globe points out, “Any significant delay would foil [Atta’s] big plans for the day.” [Boston Globe, 9/16/2001] The 9/11 Commission later concludes: “The Portland detour almost prevented Atta and Omari from making Flight 11 out of Boston.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
Michael Tuohey. [Source: CNN]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari check in at the US Airways counter at Portland International Jetport. [Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/5/2001] They are wearing ties and jackets. Atta checks in two bags, Alomari none. Atta is randomly selected for additional security scrutiny by the FAA’s Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the only consequence is that his checked bags will be held off the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2; CNN, 3/3/2006] Noting that their flight is soon due to leave, the ticket agent who checks them in, Michael Tuohey, says, “You’re cutting it close.” [Portland Press Herald, 3/6/2005] Tuohey thinks the pair seems unusual. He notices they both have $2,500 first-class, one-way tickets. He later comments, “You don’t see many of those.” Atta looks “like a walking corpse. He looked so angry.” In contrast, Tuohey will say, Alomari can barely speak English and has “a goofy smile, I can’t believe he knew he was going to die that day.” Tuohey will later recount, “I thought they looked like two Arab terrorists but then I berated myself for the stereotype and did nothing.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 2/24/2005; Mirror, 9/11/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006] Atta becomes angry when Tuohey informs him he will have to check in again in Boston. He complains that he was assured he would have a “one-step check-in.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2; Associated Press, 3/7/2005] Tuohey will be recalled to work later in the day to speak to an FBI agent about his encounter with Atta and Alomari. He is shown video footage of them passing through the airport’s security checkpoint upstairs (see (Between 5:45 a.m. and 5:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although recognizing the two men, he notices that in the video they are no longer wearing the jackets and ties they’d had on when checking in just minutes before. He assumes they must have taken these off and tucked them into their carry-on baggage. He is also informed that the security camera behind his own desk, which should have captured the two hijackers, has in fact been out of order for some time. [Portland Press Herald, 3/6/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006]
Abdulaziz Alomari, right, and Mohamed Atta, left (in dark shirt), passing through security in the Portland, Maine, airport. Note the different times on the two time stamps, one in the middle, one at the bottom. [Source: FBI]Minutes after arriving at the Portland airport, hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari pass through the airport’s single security checkpoint, on the way to boarding their 6 a.m. flight to Boston. The checkpoint has a surveillance camera pointing at it, which captures them as they go through. [Time, 9/24/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2-3] Some reports say the pair passes through at 5:53 a.m. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Other reports put it earlier, at 5:45 a.m. [Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 3] Strangely, when stills from the surveillance camera are later publicly released, they show two time stamps, one of 5:45 and another of 5:53. [Guardian, 9/21/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/4/2001] When they’d checked in just minutes earlier, Atta and Alomari were observed wearing ties and jackets (see 5:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). But in the security video footage, they have just open-necked shirts, with no jackets or ties. [Philadelphia Daily News, 2/24/2005; Portland Press Herald, 3/6/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006]
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