The Federal Aviation Administration received repeated warnings in the months before Sept. 11, 2001, that al Qaeda hoped to attack airlines, according to a previously undisclosed report by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks.
The report detailed 52 such warnings to FAA leaders between April 1 and Sept. 10, 2001, about the terrorist organization and its leader, Osama bin Laden.
The commission report, written last August, said five security warnings mentioned al Qaeda's training for hijackings and two reports concerned suicide operations not connected to aviation. None of the warnings specified what would happen on Sept. 11.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency received intelligence from other agencies, which it passed on to airlines and airports. But "we had no specific information about means or methods that would have enabled us to tailor any countermeasures," she said.
Brown also said the FAA was in the process of tightening security at the time of the attacks. "We were spending $100 million a year to deploy explosive-detection equipment at the airports," she said. The agency was also close to issuing a regulation that would have set higher standards for screeners and given it direct control over the screening workforce.
Many similar problems with aviation security were detailed in the Sept. 11 report released last summer. Al Felzenberg, former spokesman for the commission, said the government only recently completed a declassification review of the 120 pages of additional material, parts of which have been redacted.
The unclassified version, which was reported by the New York Times, was made available by the National Archives yesterday.
According to the report:
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."
Of the FAA's 105 daily intelligence summaries between April 1 and Sept. 10, 2001, 52 mentioned bin Laden, al Qaeda or both, "mostly in regard to overseas threats."
The FAA did not expand the use of air marshals or tighten airport screening for weapons. It said FAA officials were more concerned with reducing airline congestion, lessening delays and easing air carriers' financial problems than thwarting a terrorist attack.
Information in this report was available to members of the Sept. 11 commission when they issued their public report last summer. That report also criticized FAA operations.