In the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal aviation officials reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations, according to a previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission.
But aviation officials were “lulled into a false sense of security,” and “intelligence that indicated a real and growing threat leading up to 9/11 did not stimulate significant increases in security procedures,” the commission report concluded.
* * *
The report discloses that the Federal Aviation Administration, despite being focused on risks of hijackings overseas, warned airports in the spring of 2001 that if “the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable.”
* * *
The F.A.A. “had indeed considered the possibility that terrorists would hijack a plane and use it as a weapon,” and in 2001 it distributed a CD-ROM presentation to airlines and airports that cited the possibility of a suicide hijacking, the report said. Previous commission documents have quoted the CD’s reassurance that “fortunately, we have no indication that any group is currently thinking in that direction.”
Aviation officials amassed so much information about the growing threat posed by terrorists that they conducted classified briefings in mid-2001 for security officials at 19 of the nation’s busiest airports to warn of the threat posed in particular by Mr. bin Laden, the report said.