— -- Flight School Had Concerns About 9/11 Hijacker
W A S H I N G T O N, May 10 — Federal aviation authorities were alerted inearly 2001 that an Arizona flight school believed one of theeventual Sept. 11 hijackers lacked the English and flying skillsnecessary for the commercial pilot's license he already held,flight school and government officials say. A Federal Aviation Administration inspector even sat next to thehijacker, Hani Hanjour, in one of the Arizona classes, checkedrecords to ensure Hanjour's 1999 pilot's license was legitimate butconcluded no other action was warranted, FAA officials told TheAssociated Press. Hanjour is believed to have piloted the plane that crashed intothe Pentagon on Sept. 11. The Arizona flight school manager told authorities the FAAinspector called her when Hanjour's name became public after thehijackings and declared "your worst nightmare has just beenrealized," officials said. The operations manager for the now-defunct JetTech flight schoolin Phoenix said she called the FAA inspector that oversaw herschool three times in January and February 2001 to express herconcerns about Hanjour. "I couldn't believe he had a commercial license of any kindwith the skills that he had," said Peggy Chevrette, the JetTechmanager. She also has been interviewed by the FBI. Marilyn Ladner, a vice president for the Pan Am InternationalFlight Academy that owned JetTech before it closed in the aftermathof Sept. 11, said the flight school expressed its concerns andbelieves the FAA official observed Hanjour's weaknesses firsthand. "We did have skill level concerns and a bit of language fluencyconcern and we did mention it to our FAA training centerofficial," Ladner said. The FAA official "did observe Hani's limited knowledge offlying" and "did check his flight credentials. He did tell usthey were valid, so he did follow up on our concern," she said.Hanjour did not finish his studies at JetTech and left the school. FAA officials confirm their inspector, John Anthony, wascontacted by Pan Am in January and February about Hanjour and, atthe request of the school, checked Hanjour's commercial pilot'slicense to ensure it was valid. But they said he observed nothing that warranted further actionor suggested Hanjour would eventually hijack a plane. The inspectorconsidered Hanjour just one of many students that schools routinelyseek FAA reviews on, officials said. "There was nothing about the pilot's actions to signal criminalintent at the time or that would have caused us to alert lawenforcement," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said. A few months later, another Pan Am school in Minnesota contactedthe FBI about concerns about a different Arab student who alsoraised concerns by seeking jetliner training. That student,Zacarias Moussaoui, was immediately arrested in August and hasemerged as the lone defendant charged with conspiring with thehijackers. The Arizona school's alert is the latest revelation about theextent of information the government possessed before Sept. 11about the hijackers or concerns about a terrorist strike. Lastweek, AP reported the FBI in Arizona raised concerns in July 2001that a large number of Arab students were training at a U.S. flightschool and urged FBI headquarters to check all schools nationwidefor such students — advice that wasn't followed until after Sept.11. The FAA's Brown said Anthony was taking some of his own trainingat JetTech in January 2001 and coincidentally sat in the sameclassroom with Hanjour for one course. But she said Anthony didn'tnote any major language problems. Chevrette, the flight school manager, said she told Anthony shebelieved Hanjour could not write or speak English fluently asrequired to get a U.S. commercial pilot's license. "The thing that really concerned me was that John had aconversation in the hallway with Hani and realized what his skillswere at that point and his ability to speak English," Chevrettesaid. Chevrette said she was surprised when the FAA official suggestedthe school might consider getting a translator to help Hanjour. "He offered a translator," Chevrette said. "Of course, Ibrought up the fact that went against the rules that require apilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before theyeven get their license." Chevrette said Hanjour's English was so poor that it took himfive hours to complete a section of a mock pilot oral exam thatis supposed to last just a couple of hours. There was no answer this week at Anthony's home phone and FAAofficials said he was out of town and unavailable to beinterviewed. But Brown, the FAA spokeswoman, said Anthony did notobserve any serious language problems and did not suggest atranslator for Hanjour. Chevrette said she contacted Anthony twice more when Hanjourbegan ground training for Boeing 737 jetliners and it became clearhe didn't have the skills for the commercial pilot's license. "I don't truly believe he should have had it and I questionedthat. I questioned that all along," she said. Chevrette reported to federal authorities and her own bosses atPan Am that in September, when Hanjour's name became public as oneof the hijackers, the FAA inspector called her and said "yourworst nightmare has been realized," officials said. The FBI has reconstructed Hanjour's path through the UnitedStates in painstaking detail. Agents have questioned and administered a lie detector test toone of Hanjour's instructors in Arizona who was an Arab Americanand had signed off on Hanjour's flight instruction credentialsbefore he got his pilot's license. That instructor, who also is a pilot for a U.S. airline, told APthat he told authorities that Hanjour was "a very average pilot,maybe struggling a little bit." The instructor added, "Maybe hisEnglish wasn't very good." The instructor said he has passed an FBI polygraph exam and isnot under investigation.
—The Associated Press
Monitoring System for Foreign Students
W A S H I N G T O N, May 10 — The Immigration and Naturalization Service hasdeveloped a Web-based system to track hundreds of thousands offoreign students. The system will link every U.S. consulate with every INS port ofentry and all 74,000 educational institutions eligible to hostforeign students, Terry Hartle, senior vice president of theAmerican Council on Education, said today. The institutionsinclude colleges, universities, technical schools and high schools. Hartle has met with INS and educational officials to discuss theplan, which Attorney General John Ashcroft planned to announcetoday. INS officials say a version of the system will be available July1 and all schools should be participating by Jan. 30. "What INS is trying to do on a very compressed timetable isorders of magnitude harder than any federal agency has attempted todo before with colleges and universities and other schools," saidHartle, whose organization represents 1,800 private and publiccolleges and universities. The INS has acknowledged major gaps in tracking foreignstudents. Last month it imposed new restrictions on student visas,requiring any foreigner wishing to study in the United States tohave an approved student visa before taking courses. Studentspreviously could begin classes while waiting for visa applicationsto be approved. The INS for three decades has required colleges and universitiesto compile information on international students. But because ofthe volume of paper it received, INS told schools in 1988 to keepthe files on campus. The INS has been under pressure from Congress since the Sept. 11attacks to get the computerized system running. Three of the 19hijackers were in the country on student visas — one had entered onsuch a visa, while two others, including alleged ringleaderMohammed Atta, entered on travel visas and switched to studentvisas. Hartle said that when the new system is operational, foreignstudents accepted by a U.S. school will be sent an INS form I-20.The school will enter the student's information into the INStracking system. The student then will have to pay a $95registration fee and will be given a paper receipt. The student must show that receipt and a completed I-20 form toapply for a visa at a consulate. If the visa is granted, theconsulate will note it in the INS tracking system. When the studentarrives in America, INS will note that in the database, which willnotify the school to expect the student on campus within 30 days.If the student doesn't show, the campus must contact INS within 24hours.
Engineers Learn from WTC Collapse
C H A R L O T T E, N.C., May 10 — While many view the Sept. 11 attack andcollapse of the World Trade Center towers as a total disaster, aleading architectural engineer sees a silver lining. "The twin towers performed marvelously that day," TodRittenhouse told more than 250 architects, engineers and buildersThursday at the annual meeting of the American Institute ofArchitects. Rittenhouse and colleague Peter DiMaggio, who work for NewYork-based Weidlinger Associates, both noted that while some 3,000people died in the terror attacks in lower Manhattan, about 25,000escaped before the towers collapsed after being struck byairplanes. Much of the men's presentation, "Fighting Terrorism ThroughArchitecture," focused on balancing the desire for security withthe need to keep buildings accessible to the public. Weidlinger hasworked closely with the federal government on so-called"protective designs" for courthouses, federal buildings and U.S.embassies in such high-risk countries as Russia, Kenya, Tanzaniaand Croatia. Since Sept. 11, Rittenhouse said, the company is increasingly indemand as a consultant to owners of commercial buildings looking totighten security. "You don't have to be an icon building" to be affected byterrorism, Rittenhouse said. "You can be across the street fromthe Empire State Building. You can be across the street from theWhite House." Rittenhouse said two decades of terrorist attacks prior to Sept.11 — from Beirut to Oklahoma City to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — havetaught valuable lessons about designing buildings to minimizebombing losses. Architects should use vehicle barriers and restricted access toparking garages and loading docks to keep large-sized bombs as faraway from the building as possible, he said. Security against smaller, parcel-sized explosives comes fromseparating unsecured public places — like atriums and lobbies,loading docks and mail rooms — from occupied parts of the building,he said. Extensive use of glass in modern architecture poses a problem,Rittenhouse said. "You want a place that people feel comfortable. You want tobring in a lot of glazing and openness, so you can feel yourfreedom," he said. "We like atriums, we like curtain walls" — large glass walls that let in natural light. The problem, Rittenhouse said, is that 80 percent of deaths andinjuries in bomb attacks are caused by blunt trauma from flyingglass and debris. Financial damage also can be severe: When an IRAtruck bomb went off in London's Bishopsgate area in 1993, shatteredglass was sucked into one building's air system and spewedthroughout, forcing owners to gut the building to its skeleton andrebuild. The solution, Rittenhouse said, is laminated glass. Like a carwindshield, laminated windows absorb blast impact and fracture, butstay intact and do not spray a building's interior with glassparticles. Super-strong fabric liners, made of materials such as Kevlar,also can be attached to the interior of masonry block walls,keeping shattered walls from blowing inward under a blast's force,DiMaggio said. Ultimately, DiMaggio said, making buildings secure in thepost-Sept. 11 world is a balancing act. "You want the largest benefit for occupants, while having theleast-detrimental effect on cost and aesthetics," he said. DiMaggio said the lesson of Sept. 11 is not to stop buildingskyscrapers, but to build them stronger and smarter. "I don't think we should go into a shell here in the UnitedStates and stop designing high-rise buildings," he said. "We'renever going to design them such that the airplane hits and there'sno damage. … But maybe we do it so that it stands up for three orfour hours, instead of one hour."
Feds Give Guidelines to Guard Building Ventilation
W A S H I N G T O N, May 10 — Prompted by warnings from experts that an attacker could make thousands of people sick by dumping anthrax spores into a building's air conditioning system, the government issued new guidelines today for preventing it from happening.
Chemical and biological weapons experts have for years been saying the United States is spectacularly unprepared for a chemical or biological weapons attack, and the series of anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and made 13 others sick in October put the entire country on edge.
Letter attacks were always a possibility, but terrorism experts such as Michael Osterholm, now an adviser to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had also sketched out scenarios in which toxic agents were put into the ventilation systems of buildings.
He has warned in the past that an attack on Minnesota's Mall of America, visited by people from all over the country and the world, could infect 350,000 people in a single day.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidelines for building managers aimed at making sure that does not happen.
The advisory, available on the Internet at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh, starts out with advice on what not to do.
"Do not permanently seal outdoor air intakes," it says. "Buildings require a steady supply of outdoor air appropriate to their occupancy and function."
—The Associated Press