From April to Sept. 10, 2001 top FAA officials received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch that specifically mentioned bin Laden or Al Qaeda, representing half of all the intelligence summaries received during that period of time. So says a report that was prepared for release in August but witheld by the Bush assministration.
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” to the terrorists.
The report takes the FAA to task for failing to pursue measures that could have altered the events of Sept. 11, such as tougher screening or more air marshals. The report, completed in August, said officials appeared more concerned with reducing congestion, cutting delays and easing airlines’ financial woes.
The Bush administration has blocked the public release of the full classified version of the report for more than five months, officials said.
The administration provided both the classified report and a declassified version to the National Archives two weeks ago and, even with heavy redactions in some areas, the declassified version provides the firmest evidence to date about the warnings that aviation officials received concerning the threat of an attack on airliners and the failure to take steps to deter it.