The New York Times reports that the FAA was aware in 1998 and ’99 that Al Qaeda might “seek to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark[.]”
The revelation comes from a previously redacted section of a “heavily redacted” version of the September 11 Commission’s report on “aviation failures.”
…in 1998 and 1999, the commission report said, the F.A.A.’s intelligence unit produced reports about the hijacking threat posed by Al Qaeda, “including the possibility that the terrorist group might try to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark.”
The unit considered this prospect “unlikely” and a “last resort,” with a greater threat of a hijacking overseas, the commission found.
Still, in 2000, the commission said, the F.A.A. warned carriers and airports that while political conditions in the 1990’s had made a terrorist seizure of an airliner less likely, “we believe that the situation has changed.”
“We assess that the prospect for terrorist hijacking has increased and that U.S. airliners could be targeted in an attempt to obtain the release of indicted or convicted terrorists imprisoned in the United States.”
It concluded, however, that such a hijacking was more likely outside the United States.
Hindsight tells us what we should have done to mitigate such a threat. Not knowing what we know now, though, what would a reasonable response to this threat have been? And, did we do it?