Skip to main content /LAW /LAW

find law dictionary

FAA didn't warn airlines about Moussaoui

Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui  

From Beth Lewandowski and Kelli Arena

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration was notified about the arrest of a student pilot, Zacarias Moussaoui, in the days leading up to the September 11 attacks. But an official said the agency decided not to warn the airlines about the possible threat because Moussaoui was already in jail.

Moussaoui, who had aroused suspicions at a Minnesota flight school was arrested on an immigration charge in August. He was later indicted for his alleged role in the deadly September 11 hijackings.

"Our view was that you have a suspicious guy there, and he's in jail so as a result we thought we had no threat," FAA spokesman Scott Brenner said Monday.

Attack on America
 CNN NewsPass Video 
Agencies reportedly got hijack tips in 1998
Intelligence intercept led to Buffalo suspects
Report cites warnings before 9/11
Timeline: Who Knew What and When?
Interactive: Terror Investigation
Terror Warnings System
Most wanted terrorists
What looks suspicious?
In-Depth: America Remembers
In-Depth: Terror on Tape
In-Depth: How prepared is your city?
On the Scene: Barbara Starr: Al Qaeda hunt expands?
On the Scene: Peter Bergen: Getting al Qaeda to talk

"We got no information that he was working with others, that's why we took no action," he added.

Government sources familiar with what the FBI told the FAA essentially agree with the account.

The sources say there was general concern about hijacking and that while the information they had about Moussaoui was sketchy, there was enough concern to pass suspicions on to the FAA.

Brenner said the FAA was never advised about a memo from the Phoenix, Arizona, FBI office warning that some Arab men who enrolled in U.S. flight schools might be al Qaeda terrorists.

According to Brenner, the FBI told their FAA liaison, Jack Salata, that Moussaoui "was being held on immigration charges, that they were suspicious of him, and that they were conducting an investigation."

Brenner said Salata wrote a note to his superiors that said the FBI was not specific on what kind of terrorist threat the arrested student pilot posed. "The note said he made strange comments at flight school, and they were going to watch him," according to Brenner.

Brenner also said the FAA would not have changed its security policy on how to handle hijacking threats -- namely to cooperate with hijackers -- based on the little knowledge it had about Moussaoui's plans. Nor was it in a position to change security policy.

"We rely on the intelligence community to provide us with information and guidance," he said.

Moussaoui was arrested in Minnesota on immigration charges a month before the attacks after he aroused suspicion by trying to buy time on a jumbo jet flight simulator at a flight school.

Moussaoui faces six conspiracy charges, including to commit an act of terrorism, to pirate and destroy aircraft, to use weapons of mass destruction, to destroy property and to murder Americans.

Prosecutors allege he underwent flight training in the United States and weapons training in an al Qaeda camp inside Afghanistan, like some of the 19 hijackers, and received money from the same terrorist financier in Germany that the hijackers did.




Back to the top