- 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
- 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."
- Government officials, politicians and those touched directly
by the September 11 attacks spent spent Thursday assigning blame for what
one senator termed their failure to "connect the dots" in the
days leading up to the attacks.
- 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