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FAA says it cautioned airlines of hijack threat before attacks

FAA says it cautioned airlines of hijack threat before attacks


From Patty Davis and Beth Lewandowski
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration last summer alerted airlines of the potential threat of al Qaeda hijackings, a government official told CNN Thursday.

The official, who works closely in transportation issues, said the FAA told airlines the situation in the Middle East was tense and terrorists might attack U.S. interests.

The FAA mentioned Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda in alerts the agency sent to domestic airlines. "These people had been trained to do hijacking," said the official, quoting the FAA's message to the airlines.

A spokesman for United Airlines, which had two planes hijacked in September, confirmed the airline had received "alerts or cautions" regarding possible terrorist attacks. But United spokesman Joe Hopkins said they were "always general in nature."

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A spokesman for the Air Transport Association, a trade group representing domestic carriers, said he never received FAA warnings mentioning suicide hijackings before the attacks.

"I am not aware of any warnings or notifications in advance of September 11 concerning specific security threats to any of our airlines," spokesman Michael Wascom said Thursday.

In an earlier news briefing, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice outlined several of the FAA alert bulletins:

  • June 22 -- the FAA issued a bulletin to airlines it has concerns about terrorism
  • July 2 -- FAA told airlines the man involved in the millennium plot had the intention of using explosives in an airport terminal
  • July 18 -- the FAA issued a bulletin saying there are ongoing terrorist threats overseas, and that although there are no specific threats directed at civil aviation, the FAA told the airlines, "We urge you to use the highest level of caution."
  • July 31 -- the FAA issued another bulletin telling airlines there is no specific target, no credible information of attack to U.S. civil aviation interests, but terror groups are known to be planning and training for hijackings. It asked that airlines "use caution."
  • August 16 -- the FAA issued a bulletin on disguised weapons. The FAA was concerned terrorists had made breakthroughs in cell phones, key chains and pens as weapons


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