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Context of '(12:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Agents Arrive at Dulles Airport and Start Investigating the Flight 77 Hijacking'

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Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport near Washington, ten minutes after its 8:10 scheduled departure time. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Arthur Eberhart.Arthur Eberhart. [Source: Spc. Edgar R. Gonzalez]In a government report analyzing the effectiveness of rescue worker response to the Pentagon crash, it is mentioned that, “At about 9:20 a.m., the WFO [FBI Washington Field Office] Command Center [is] notified that American Airlines Flight 77 had been hijacked shortly after takeoff from Washington Dulles International Airport. [Special Agent in Charge Arthur] Eberhart dispatche[s] a team of 50 agents to investigate the Dulles hijacking and provide additional security to prevent another. He sen[ds] a second team to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as a precautionary step. At the WFO Command Center, Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Jim Rice [is] on the telephone with the Pentagon when Flight 77 crashe[s] into the building.” [US Department of Health & Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-55] Yet according to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD is not told that Flight 77 had been hijacked at this time or any time before it crashes. However, the FAA has claimed they officially warned NORAD at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and informally warned them even earlier (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Arthur Eberhart, US Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, Albert T. Church III, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, FBI Washington Field Office

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Pentagon explodes. 
The Pentagon explodes. [Source: Donley/ Sipa]Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. All 64 people on the plane are killed. A hundred-and-twenty-four people working in the building are killed, and a further victim will die in hospital several days later. Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi presumably are killed instantly. (Typically, they are not included in the death counts.) [CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Washington Post, 11/21/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; CBS, 9/11/2002] Flight 77 hits the first floor of the Pentagon’s west wall. The impact and the resulting explosion heavily damage the building’s three outer rings. The path of destruction cuts through Army accounting offices on the outer E Ring, the Navy Command Center on the D Ring, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office on the C Ring. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 431 and 449] Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” [US Department of Defense, 9/15/2001] “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there.” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/2001] Furthermore, the plane hits an area that has no basement. As journalist Steve Vogel later points out, “If there had been one under the first floor, its occupants could easily have been trapped by fire and killed when the upper floors collapsed.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 450]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, US Department of Defense, Salem Alhazmi, Majed Moqed, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 departed earlier this morning (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), is locked down on the orders of the FAA. Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001) and within two hours, the FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and other authorities lock down Dulles Airport. This means no one is allowed to enter or leave, according to investigative journalists Joseph Trento and Susan Trento. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 36; Priska Neely, 10/21/2010] However, the airport’s terminals are evacuated at around 10:00 a.m., according to Edward Cox, the airport security coordinator. The evacuation is coordinated by the FAA and airport operations. [9/11 Commission, 10/16/2003 pdf file] The goal within the system is to get passengers out of the terminals as quickly as possible, according to Frank Dunn, deputy chief of police with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Once the terminals have been evacuated, they are closed. [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Edward T. Cox, Washington Dulles International Airport, US Immigration and Naturalization Service, Frank Dunn, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FBI arrives at Washington’s Dulles International Airport and begins its investigation of the hijacking of Flight 77, which departed from the airport this morning. [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] Flight 77 took off from Dulles Airport at 8:20 a.m. (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8, 10] The FBI’s Washington Field Office (WFO) was reportedly notified of the hijacking of Flight 77 at around 9:20 a.m. (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-45 pdf file] Dulles Airport has now been locked down, preventing people from entering or leaving it, and the terminals have been evacuated (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 11:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/16/2003 pdf file; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 36; Priska Neely, 10/21/2010]
Fifty FBI Agents Arrive at Dulles Airport - The FBI is responsible for investigating the hijacking of Flight 77, and so Special Agent in Charge Arthur Eberhart has sent a team of 50 agents to the airport to look into it and provide additional security to prevent another hijacking. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-23, C-45 pdf file] However, the agents only arrive there at around 12:40 p.m., according to a 9/11 Commission memorandum. [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file] The first thing they do there is seize the security tape at the main terminal’s west checkpoint, according to Ed Nelson, a security manager at the airport. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 36] They also interview ticket agents, security personnel, baggage and food handlers, and other personnel, and collect evidence. [US Naval Historical Center, 1/15/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] They order the confiscation of the 52 computer hard drives that record all electronic television and security information at the airport. The hard drives contain all of the video recorded by the airport’s surveillance cameras and all records of electronic badges used to gain access to secure areas. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 34]
Agents Assess the Passengers on Grounded Planes - Airport officials have received no guidance regarding how passengers on planes that have been grounded in response to the terrorist attacks this morning should be processed. But the FBI agents at the airport now take the lead in reviewing the passengers who have deboarded from planes. [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file] The FBI will set up a command post and a substantial operation at Dulles Airport to carry out its investigation of the hijacking of Flight 77. Van Harp, head of the WFO, will assume responsibility for its response at the airport. [US Naval Historical Center, 12/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Ed Nelson, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ed Nelson.Ed Nelson. [Source: DC Bureau]FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agents at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 departed earlier this morning (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), are apparently uninterested in the alleged hijackers of Flight 77 when they interview airport personnel. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 36] The FBI arrived at Dulles Airport at around 12:40 p.m. (see (12:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 pdf file] FBI agents and INS agents then interview screeners there. However, nothing they are asking the screeners makes sense to Ed Nelson, a security manager at the airport, and he feels that “something [isn’t] adding up.” “They were not asking about the hijackers—they were focusing on what my screeners might have done wrong,” he will later comment. “It was as if they were working off a script,” he will add. FBI agents assigned to Dulles Airport will indicate that their actions are based on instructions they received from their superiors. One FBI supervisor will recall: “The orders came from headquarters through the local Washington-area FBI field offices and the Joint Task Force on Terrorism. The teams of agents were told to ‘get the screeners to admit they had violated FAA recommended procedures.’” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 36]

Entity Tags: Ed Nelson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Immigration and Naturalization Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

FBI agents are apparently unwilling to look into the account of Eric Gill, an employee at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 took off this morning, regarding a confrontation he had at the airport yesterday evening with five suspicious Middle Eastern men. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 38-39] The confrontation occurred sometime between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. on September 10 while Gill was supervising the west checkpoint in Dulles Airport’s main terminal. Gill became suspicious of the men as they tried to get to a secure area of the airport (see (Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.) September 10, 2001).
Employee Reported the Suspicious Incident to His Supervisor - He reported the incident after coming into work at around 1:00 p.m. today and hearing about the hijacking of Flight 77. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/19/2004 pdf file; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 1-6] Thinking the men he’d confronted might be involved, he went to his supervisor, Chandresh Patel, and let him know what happened. He also let Patel know that his colleague, Nicholas DeSilva, was at the checkpoint when the incident occurred. Patel therefore arranged for him and DeSilva to be interviewed immediately by FBI agents who had come to the airport to investigate the hijacking (see (12:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Employee Isn't Shown Video of the Hijackers - Gill is interviewed for about two hours by two agents. The agents seem to consider his confrontation with the Middle Eastern men to be significant. DeSilva, meanwhile, is able to confirm in his interview with the FBI that the confrontation took place. However, the two agents never show Gill video the FBI has taken possession of that shows the alleged hijackers passing through the west checkpoint on their way to boarding Flight 77 this morning, to determine if any of the hijackers were among the men he encountered. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 38-39] And yet the FBI shows the video to every employee who works on the security checkpoints at Dulles Airport apart from Gill and DeSilva, according to Ed Nelson, a security manager at the airport. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 43]
Employee Will Be Visited at Home by the FBI - The FBI will subsequently visit Gill at his home to show him some photos and ask if any of the Middle Eastern men he encountered are on them. Gill will later give conflicting accounts of this visit. In 2004, he will tell the 9/11 Commission that a young female agent visited him at his home a few days after the attacks and showed him about five photos, but he did not recognize the men he’d encountered in them. 9/11 Commission staffers will determine, however, that the men in the photos did not include any of the alleged 9/11 hijackers. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/19/2004 pdf file] A couple of years later, Gill will tell investigative journalists Joseph Trento and Susan Trento that FBI agents visited him and showed him some photos a couple of days after the attacks. The agents said they were in a hurry to find out what actually happened, and so the images they had were just photocopies and of poor quality. All the same, he recognized two of the men he’d encountered in them. “The picture was bad… but I told them [one of the men in the pictures] looked like he could be the one who had been dressed in a ramp uniform with the ID card on the night of the 10th,” he will tell the Trentos.
Employee Will Identify Two Men He Encountered as Hijackers - Gill will never hear from the FBI again after this visit. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 39-40] However, a superior will subsequently show him the photos of the alleged hijackers that are published on the FBI website, and from looking at these he will identify two of the men he confronted as Flight 77 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi and Flight 175 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. A source in the FBI will say one reason the bureau did not take Gill’s account seriously was that it had trouble understanding how and why one of the Flight 175 hijackers could have been at Dulles Airport on the evening before he took an early morning flight from Boston. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 43-44]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Eric Gill, Nicholas DeSilva, Chandresh Patel, Ed Nelson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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