FAA Got Qaeda Warnings Before 9/11

An airline passenger, left, is greeted by Transportation Security Administration screeners at Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 1, 2003. CBS/AP

Federal Aviation Administration officials received 52 warnings prior to Sept. 11, 2001, from their own security experts about potential al Qaeda attacks, including some that mentioned airline hijackings or suicide attacks, The New York Times reported.

The Times said in Thursday editions that a previously undisclosed report by the 9/11 commission that investigated the suicide airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon detailed warnings given to FAA leaders from April to Sept. 10, 2001, about the radical Islamic terrorist group and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

The commission report, written last August, said five security warnings mentioned al Qaeda's training for hijackings and two reports concerned suicide operations not connected to aviation.

The Times said that a classified version and a partially declassified version of the 120-page report were given to the National Archives two weeks ago. The Times story cited the declassified version of the document.

Al Felzenberg, former spokesman for the 9/11 commission, which went out of business last summer, said the government had not completed review of the report for declassification purposes until recently. He said the Justice Department delivered the two versions of the document to the Archives.

An Archives spokeswoman said the unclassified version of the document was not yet available Wednesday night.

The Times gave these highlights from the commission report:

Aviation officials were "lulled into a false sense of security" and "intelligence that indicated a real and growing threat leading up to 9/ll did not stimulate significant increases in security procedures."

It takes the FAA to task for not expanding the use of in-flight air marshals or tightening airport screening for weapons. It said FAA officials were more concerned with reducing airline congestion, lessening delays and easing air carriers' financial problems than thwarting a terrorist attack.

Information in this report was available to members of the 9/11 commission when they issued their public report last summer. That report itself contained criticisms of FAA operations.
  • Chris Hawke

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