Dulles 9/11 Screening Surveillance Tapes Released

This story has been splashed across all of the news services as the major story of the evening, but after a careful read I’ve yet to see any thing particularly news worthy.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Surveillance video from Washington Dulles International Airport the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, shows four of the five hijackers being pulled aside to undergo additional scrutiny after setting off metal detectors but then permitted to board the fateful flight that crashed into the Pentagon.

The video shows an airport screener hand-checking the baggage of one hijacker, Nawaf al-Hazmi, for traces of explosives before letting him continue onto American Airlines Flight 77 with his brother, Salem, a fellow hijacker.

The disclosure of the video comes one day before the release of the final report by the Sept. 11 commission, which is expected to include a detailed accounting of the events that day.For anyone who traveled often in those days the procedure, as documented, sounds like the standard operating procedures of pre-9/11air travel. If you set off the metal detector twice you got a wand screening. It was a fairly common occurrence.

Some of the hijackers set off the metal detector and were given wand screening, in the same manner as they would be today. The difference is that now their carry-on luggage would be subject to additional screening. The X-Ray screening of carry-on luggage is not mentioned, an omission of fact from the story that surely indicates it did occur – as that would be the lead headline if their luggage was not screened. The story later notes that small pocket knifes were not prohibited items at the time, so a Swiss Army knife (or similar item) could have been seen by the luggage screener (conjecture on my part) and allowed to pass. Certainly these items were unlikely to have been carried on their person as the would have been discovered during the wand screening.

All in all, the process appears to have been conducted just like other security checkpoints screenings in pre-9/11 days. The difference in this case was these were not ordinary passengers.

Update: From the 9-11 Commision Final Report:

We asked a screening expert to review the videotape of the hand-wanding, and he found the quality of the screener’s work to have been “marginal at best.” The screener should have “resolved” what set off the alarm; and in the case of both Moqed and Hazmi, it was clear that he did not.

That is the extent of the screening “failures” for ALL of the hijackers. Note that it’s not even classified as a screening failure.

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  1. Debra July 22, 2004
  2. kate_q July 22, 2004