Report: 9/11 Hijacker Bypassed FAA
D A L L A S, June 13 — A suspected Saudi terrorist believed to have piloted the plane that crashed into the Pentagon bypassed the Federal Aviation Administration for his flight licenses, according to a published report today.
Sources and agency records cited by The Dallas Morning News showed that Hani Saleh Hanjour obtained certification by using private examiners who independently contract with the FAA. That certification allowed him to begin passenger jet training at an Arizona flight school despite having what instructors later described as limited flying skills and an even more limited command of English.
The jet training enabled the 30-year-old Hanjour to take the controls of American Airlines Flight 77 on the morning of Sept. 11 and crash it into the Pentagon, killing 188 people including all passengers aboard.
Certification of Hanjour illustrates a flaw in the federal system, one official said.
An FAA inspector in California who spoke on condition of anonymity told the newspaper a pilot now "could go all the way through to become a 747 captain, if you will, having never gone before the FAA."
Agency records show that Hanjour was certified as an "Airplane Multi-Engine Land/Commercial Pilot" on April 15, 1999, by Daryl Strong, a designated pilot examiner in Tempe, Ariz. It was the last of three certifications Hanjour obtained from private examiners.
Strong, 71, said his flight logs confirm that he conducted a check ride with Mr. Hanjour in 1999 in a twin-engine Piper Apache but that he remembers nothing remarkable about him. Strong, with more than 50 years of flying experience that included a commercial crop duster, said until recently he conducted about 200 such check rides each year, at $200 per flight.
FAA officials confirm one of their inspectors, John Anthony, was contacted by Pan Am International Flight Academy in Miami in January and February about Hanjour and, at the request of the school, checked Hanjour's commercial pilot's license to ensure it was valid.
"There should have been a stop right then and there," said Michael Gonzales, an FAA inspector speaking as president of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists chapter in Scottsdale that represents FAA field inspectors. He said Hanjour should have been re-examined as a commercial pilot, as required by federal law.
—The Associated Press
Organizations Fined for Not Securing Radioactive Materials
W A S H I N G T O N, June 13 — Security lapses involving radioactive materials have led to scores of enforcement actions against universities, construction companies, hospitals and even the U.S. Army in recent years, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission records.
In at least 16 cases violators were fined thousands of dollars.
But NRC officials said that the breaches either did not lead to a loss of radioactive material, or involved amounts so small they could not have been useful to terrorists seeking to craft a "dirty bomb."
NRC officials acknowledge they cannot say for certain that no radioactive material has been diverted. Tracking of most of these industrial-use materials is left largely to private industry. With 2 million radioactive sources in commerce, there is no certainty all of it can be accounted for, the officials say.
"The reality is it's a very large volume of material that's out in the community and I can't give you any assurance that [some] material might not have been diverted by now," said Richard Meserve, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in an interview Wednesday.
Meserve said he was reasonably certain that no large radiation sources — such as the foot-long "pencils" of cobalt-60 used to irradiate food, or larger amounts of cesium-137 used in medicine — have been stolen. None has been reported missing, although the NRC gets on average 300 reports of small amounts of radioactive materials — usually material in gauges or other equipment — missing each year. About half eventually is recovered.
As for the larger sources, the materials are highly radioactive and must be heavily shielded. "It is a very difficult [material] for a terrorist to handle without receiving a lethal dose himself," said Meserve. Nevertheless, he said, transporters and users of these materials have been told to boost security.
NRC enforcement records show more than 54 cases requiring "elevated enforcement actions" over the last five years because of security violations involving industrial nuclear materials. Violators facing fines from $2,500 to $15,000 included government agencies, universities, hospitals, military facilities and construction and engineering companies.
Three days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a New Jersey dentistry school was fined $3,000 for "failure to ... maintain constant surveillance" on its nuclear material. Three months later the University of Wisconsin-Madison was fined $3,000 for not securing radioactive material.
The Army was fined $8,000 for not properly securing nuclear materials at its Rock Island Arsenal. In 1997, an employee at the Defense Logistics Agency in Pennsylvania was found to have stolen an item containing radioactive material; in 1999, the Interior Department was cited by the NRC for security lapses. Neither of those cases involved fines.
Construction and engineering firms in a number of states were cited for not keeping track of moisture gauges that contain small amounts of cesium-137. Last November alone, three companies were fined $3,000 each for not properly securing portable moisture gauges.
John Hickey, of the NRC office dealing with industrial nuclear materials, said the enforcement actions — as well as virtually all the missing material reports — involved extremely small amounts of material.
For example, according to the NRC, between 1996 and 2001 a total of 11.3 curies of cesium-137 was reported missing. Most — perhaps all — of that material reflects thefts of gauges used in construction and medicine, each of which would contain a small fraction of a curie of cesium.
While the NRC must license all users of these materials, it does not keep track of the radioactive material, relying largely on self-regulation. Hickey said users are required to inventory the material every six months and report if anything is missing.
MDS Nordion, a supplier of medical isotopes that ships radioactive material to 80 countries, says it keeps constant check on where its material is located across the globe.
Referring to its shipments of cobalt-60, company spokeswoman Paula Burchat said, "We know where every `pencil' is. We recycle the cobalt and it comes back to us.
"We have very tight security."
—The Associated Press
DNA Missing From 9/11 Remains
N E W Y O R K, June 13 — As many as half of the nearly 20,000 pieces of human remains recovered in the World Trade Center ruins have not yielded DNA and are being preserved for future testing, according to the city medical examiner.
Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, would not elaborate on why some tissue has not yielded DNA, which scientists can use to link remains to people killed in the Sept. 11 attack.
Borakove said advances in technology might allow for successful testing in the future.
DNA expert Victor Weedn, the founder of the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, N.Y., said many of the body parts may never yield usable DNA. The DNA could have been damaged, he said, by decomposition enzymes, bacteria or the extreme heat of the fires in the trade center.
Weedn said remains that have a better chance in the future are those that initially did not yield DNA because a substance — such as dust from concrete — inhibited the process.
"If we have DNA that's degraded down into very small fragments, there is not going to be a future remedy for that," Weedn said. "But certain problems may be undone, and therefore, what can't be typed today could in the future be typed."
Of the 2,823 people lost at the trade center Sept. 11, city officials say 1,109 have been identified — about 350 through DNA alone, Borakove said.
Remains that arrive from the trade center have been shipped to labs for processing if technicians determine that a DNA extraction can be made. DNA fingerprints are then sent back to New York for comparison with DNA submitted by victims' families.
The remains that don't produce enough DNA — or any at all — are being dried for preservation, Borakove said.
Victims' remains are being kept in 18 refrigerated trailers inside a tent at a lot in Manhattan, bordered by overgrown weeds on one side and the FDR Drive on the other. Families have dubbed it "Memorial Park," and have placed photographs, mementos, newspaper clippings, candles and flowers along the north side.
—The Associated Press
WTC Day Care Workers Honored
A L B A N Y, N.Y., June 13— Shortly before 9 a.m. nine months ago, more than two dozen children arrived for a day of play and learning at the Discovery Center day care.
This day, though, would be different. The center was inside Five World Trade Center and it was Sept. 11.
Charlene Melville, the day care center's executive director, had just finished making her rounds of the classrooms when the first plane hit Tower One.
She immediately instructed teachers to gather the 28 children, emergency phone numbers and first aid bags. The staff led the children out the rear of the building about a block away near St. Paul's Church.
"We were trying to sing songs and keep the children calm and not let them know what was going on," Melville said. "Honestly, I never really thought about the events until that night because I needed to remain calm and focused."
The building later collapsed, but all the children and staff escaped unharmed.
On Wednesday, Melville along with representatives of nine other day care centers near the World Trade Center were honored with awards from the governor's office for their actions on Sept. 11. In all, more than 500 children were evacuated without any injuries.
"I'm aware now of the critical role that child care workers played in ensuring the safety of those children," said Carol Saginaw, executive director of the New York State Child Care Coordinating Council, which also handed out "Excellence in Leadership" awards to the workers.
The Discovery Center never reopened because like most of the area day care centers, more than half of its enrollment were children whose parents worked in the World Trade Center or in the financial district.
Awards also were presented to the five New York City Child Care Resources and Referral Centers that provided information to city officials and emergency staff during the disaster. They also helped families with child care needs in the immediate aftermath and aided child care providers in securing resources.
Many honorees don't feel like heroes — they said they were just doing their jobs that day.
Nadene Geyer-Rosenberg, former director of Trinity Parish Preschool Nursery, said she was driving to the center with her 1-year-old daughter when she heard a loud explosion and saw fire enveloping the upper floors of Tower One.
Rubble started hitting the roof of her car. She ran with her child into the street and reached the center just as the second plane hit Tower Two.
She entered the building and quickly ordered parents, teachers and students to move to the basement. After the first tower collapsed, smoke and debris forced everyone to flee to the street with wet cloths over their faces.
Geyer-Rosenberg said she gave her daughter to her sister, a teacher at the school, while she stayed to assist others still in the building.
"Imagine having a parent call, saying, 'We have one of your children, but we don't know where the other one is,"' she said.
Several hours later, Geyer-Rosenberg got word from her sister that she and her daughter were at a church in Brooklyn, along with three other staff members and three children. By 7 p.m., all the children from the center were reunited with their parents.
"If it wasn't for the children, I think many of us would have fallen apart. But our focus was those kids," she said. "You realize you've got to be there for them."
—The Associated Press