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Profile: Argenbright Security
Argenbright Security was a participant or observer in the following events:
Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport. [Source: FBI]Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, go through a security screening checkpoint at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. They are screened at the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. Screening passengers is the responsibility of United Airlines, but it contracts the work to Argenbright Security.
Hijackers Set Off the Metal Detector Alarms - After entering the checkpoint, Almihdhar and Moqed place their carry-on bags on the X-ray machine belt and then pass through the first walk-through metal detector. Both men set off the alarm. They are therefore directed to go through a second metal detector. Almihdhar passes through this without any problems but Moqed again sets off the alarm. This leads to him being screened by a security officer with a handheld metal detector wand. No problems are found and so he is allowed to proceed on his way. None of the men’s carry-on bags are inspected by checkpoint personnel. As Moqed is leaving the checkpoint area, he appears to intentionally look down at the floor as he passes a security camera, thereby preventing the camera from capturing a close-up of his face. The other three Flight 77 hijackers will go through the west checkpoint 17 or 18 minutes later (see (Shortly Before 7:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27]
Screeners Will Recall No Suspicious Activity - Immediately after today’s terrorist attacks, the FAA’s Washington Civil Aviation Security Field Office will investigate the security screening at Dulles Airport. It will interview 43 of the 44 screeners who were on duty today, and these employees will all report having encountered no suspicious activity and nothing out of the ordinary this morning. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 93] However, lawyer Ron Motley, whose firm will represent some families of victims of today’s attacks, will later criticize the screeners at Dulles Airport, commenting, “Even after setting off these alarms, the airlines and security screeners failed to examine the hijackers’ baggage, as required by federal regulations and industry-mandated standards, or discover the weapons [the hijackers] would use in their attack.” [Associated Press, 7/22/2004]
Steve Wragg. [Source: Steve Wragg]Investigators at Washington’s Dulles International Airport sternly refuse to let Steve Wragg, a manager, get involved with interviews of his employees, even just to help as a translator for workers with limited English-speaking skills. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 128-129] 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] Wragg works as the district manager in charge of the airport for Argenbright Security, which handles the passenger security checkpoints, baggage, and other services there for American Airlines and United Airlines. [Atlanta Business Chronicle, 10/12/2001; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 125] Having just returned from a trip to Boston, he was away from work when the crashes at the World Trade Center took place. [Brighton Argus, 9/26/2001] But after learning of the attacks, he headed to Dulles Airport to check on Ed Nelson, a security manager who works for him, and the airport’s screeners. He arrived at around 11:00 a.m. and found the place in chaos, filled with people dressed in suits who were wearing earpieces and carrying guns. He found Nelson and the two men headed to the airport’s security checkpoints where they saw personnel standing around, being interviewed by men in suits with clipboards.
Manager Is Told that the Investigation Is None of His Business - Wragg now heads to his office, where screeners are being questioned by investigators, and sees people who belong to numerous agencies, including the FBI, the CIA, airport police, the Department of Transportation, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. However, he is unable to find anyone who can tell him who is in charge, what is going on, or who he is meant to talk to. Instead, an agent orders him to get out. “Anybody I spoke to said, ‘We need you to stay out of this, we’re taking over, this is none of your business right now,’” he will later recall.
Manager's Offer of Help with Translation Is Rejected - Wragg calls Argenbright Security’s headquarters, and is told to “secure the records” and “make sure no one touches anything.” He explains to his bosses what the situation is like at the airport and asks what they want him to do. He is instructed to try and get involved if investigators are speaking to Argenbright employees. He then attempts to do this but the investigators refuse to let him participate. “You’re not going to be a part of this,” they tell him. Wragg thinks the investigators will need him to help translate, since many of his company’s employees are immigrants with limited English-speaking skills. Some of them are saying yes to investigators when they don’t know the answer to a question, just to pacify their interrogators, and some of the investigators are getting frustrated at the situation. Wragg wants to assist. “I’m not here for any other reason but to help,” he tells the investigators, but they still order him to “get out.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 128-129]
Federal agents ask managers Steve Wragg and Ed Cox to help identify the screeners who worked at the checkpoint at Washington’s Dulles International Airport that the alleged hijackers of Flight 77 passed through this morning, and suggest these screeners could be guilty of collusion with the hijackers. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 129] 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] Wragg works as the district manager in charge of the airport for Argenbright Security, which handles the passenger security checkpoints, baggage, and other services there for American Airlines and United Airlines. [Atlanta Business Chronicle, 10/12/2001; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 125] Cox is the airport security coordinator at Dulles Airport. [9/11 Commission, 10/16/2003 ] Wragg was away from work when the crashes at the World Trade Center took place but promptly headed to Dulles Airport when he learned of them (see After 11:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 128] Cox, meanwhile, was at work in the airport operations office when they occurred. [9/11 Commission, 10/16/2003 ]
Agents Say They Are 'Looking for Collusion' - At some point this afternoon, CIA and FBI agents who have come to the airport to look into the hijacking of Flight 77 ask the two men to help identify the screeners who were working at a security checkpoint at the airport when the hijackers passed through it. The agents apparently believe that some of the screeners may be complicit in this morning’s attacks. “We want you to identify the screeners and quite frankly we’re looking for collusion here,” they say. They show Wragg and Cox video on which the alleged hijackers can be seen passing through the checkpoint (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001, 7:35 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (It is unclear whether Wragg and Cox are shown footage of all the hijackers going through the checkpoint or just some of them.)
Agents Seem Desperate to Find Incriminating Evidence - Wragg gets the impression that the federal agents are desperate to find something incriminating on the video. As one of the hijackers is shown walking through a metal detector, an agent asks, “Is he looking at your agent there?” Presumably referring to hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, an FBI agent asks: “Can you zoom in on that guy’s back pocket? Zoom in. Is that a box cutter? Zoom in on that.” Wragg just laughs at this, which strikes him as “absolutely just a stupid comment.” “You could not identify what it was” in the pocket and the screener “had done everything perfectly,” he will remark. A screener is shown randomly selecting Alhazmi to have his carry-on luggage traced with the explosive detection system. “It was perfect procedure,” Wragg will opine. The fact that the hijacker was chosen for this procedure at random “just shows that we were doing everything we were supposed to,” he will add.
Agents Copy All the Files with Details of the Screeners - The federal agents want details of all the screeners who were working at Dulles Airport this morning and so they go to Argenbright Security’s office at the airport and copy all of the files with information about them. “Anything we had on them was copied, and we copied and copied and copied,” Wragg will recall. He will add that the agents “came back on more than one occasion and asked for the same copies they had already taken earlier.” However, Wragg notices nothing incriminating in the evidence he reviews with the federal agents. He sees no evidence “that any of the hijackers had gone through security at Dulles with any weapon, legal or illegal,” according to investigative journalists Joseph Trento and Susan Trento. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 129-130]
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