Except for the reported security video image of Mohamed Atta and Abdul al-Omari at the Portland (Maine) airport, which was released to the press soon after 9/11 (see Point Video-1), the only photographic evidence showing any of the 19 hijackers at airports was allegedly taken at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. – from which American Airlines 77 departed – and was presented by the Associated Press the day before The 9/11 Commission Report was released in July, 2004.
This video, which was endorsed by the 9/11 Commission,can – along with the video images of Atta and al-Omari, which were endorsed by the FBI as well as the 9/11 Commission – be considered the official photographic evidence that members of al-Qaeda were preparing to board the 9/11 planes.
The Official Account
At 8:20 AM on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 took off from Dulles International Airport heading for Los Angeles. The flight was then hijacked by five members of al-Qaeda, who crashed it into the Pentagon at 9:37:46 AM.1 A closed-circuit television camera, as the 9/11 Commission reported,2captured images of these five hijackers – Hani Hanjour, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar, and Majed Moqed – passing through the security checkpoint at Dulles airport before boarding AA Flight 77.3
The Best Evidence
First, there were over 300 security cameras at Dulles International Airport on September 11, 2001,5 which retained their images for 30 days, and which were painstakingly examined by information systems technicians and monitored by federal agents.6 The US government did not release a single time-stamped video or any of the images from these 300 security cameras.
Second, no supposed images of any of the alleged hijackers of AA 77 were released until the day before The 9/11 Commission Report was published (in July 2004), when the Associated Press released a video allegedly portraying the five reported hijackers passing through the Dulles security checkpoint.
There are serious problems with the authenticity of this video.
- Although the 9/11 Commission reported that (alleged) hijackers al-Mihdhar and Moqed passed the Dulles security checkpoint and were recorded on closed circuit television (CCTV) at 7:18 AM, and that Hani Hanjour was recorded on the same CCTV at 7:35 AM,7 two researchers have pointed out that “a normal security video has time and date burned into the integral video image by proprietary equipment according to an authenticated pattern, along with camera identification and the location that the camera covered. The video released in 2004 contained no such data.”8
- An analysis from a top scientific publisher confirms that, although security videos typically record such information, neither the date, time, nor camera number was present9
- Whereas most 24-hour surveillance cameras use time-lapse photography with 1-second intervals (in order to meet data storage limitations), the videotape with images of al-Mihdhar and Moqed was shot at 30 frames per second (30fps), the norm in continuous consumer video-camera taping (i.e., many times the normal speed of security cameras), which suggests that this videotape was not taken by a Dulles airport security camera.
This suspicion is further supported by the fact that the video, instead of being released by the FBI, was released to the Associated Press by a law firm “representing victims’ families, who are suing airlines and the security industry for failing to avert the terror attack,”10 and as such could not be assumed to be disinterested.
Conclusion from the First Two Types of Evidence
The Dulles airport video – which was never officially released and shows only a few people passing an unidentified security checkpoint at an unknown time – contains no information to link its images to AA 77.
The third type of evidence is that there were no positive identifications of the alleged hijackers by Dulles airport staff.
- The 9/11 Commission Report stated that four of the (alleged) hijackers on Flight AA 7711 had been selected by the automated CAPPS (The Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System)system for additional screening. (“Hani Hanjour, Khalid al Midhar and Majed Moqed were flagged by CAPPS. The Hazmi brothers were selected for extra scrutiny by the airline’s customer service representative at the check-in counter. He did so because one of the brothers did not have photo identification nor could he understand English.”12)However:
2. The check-in agents did not mention CAPPS flaggings – which would have been memorable events — in their FBI interviews:
■According to a recently available FBI interview (September 26, 2001) with Dulles check-in agent Allex Vaughn, who processed the al-Hazmi brothers, Vaughn did not mention that they had been selected by the CAPPS system for additional screening.14
- The 9/11 Commission Report stated that Hani Hanjour and the al-Hazmi brothers were seated in first class.17 Ticket agent Brenda Brown, who checked in first-class ticketed AA 77 passengers that morning, was interviewed by the FBI on September 17, 2001, and remembered clearly checking in several passengers on “a light travel day,” but she did not recall any Arab males.18
According to the 9/11 Commission, there was photographic evidence of the five (alleged) hijackers of AA 77 passing through the security checkpoint at Dulles International Airport. However:
- This claim was not supported by positive identifications of any of these men by Dulles airport staff.
- The Commission’s claim that a surveillance video captured images of the men is undermined by four facts:
- Although Dulles International Airport had over 300 surveillance cameras, the FBI did not release images from any of these.
- The one and only video reportedly showing 9/11 hijackers was provided by a law firm representing families of victims planning to sue the airlines and security industry, which as such could not be assumed to be disinterested.
- The unstamped images from this video do not provide the kinds of data normally present on security videos.
- The video was far faster than the normal speed of security camera videos.
There is, therefore, no credible photographic (or witness) evidence that any of the alleged 9/11 hijackers were preparing to board AA 77, which allegedly crashed into the Pentagon.
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References for Point Video-2
1. The 9/11 Commission Report(2004), 8-9.
3.See The 9/11 Commission Report, 2-4; also 452, nn. 11, 14, 15, and the Associated Press, July 22, 2004. The security checkpoint video was never made public by the government, but was reportedly released by a law firm representing victims’ families in 2004, and is now available on You Tube.
4.According to the above-citedAssociated Pressstory about the release of the Dulles video, the video showed only four, not five, of the alleged hijackers. (Nick Grimm, “Commission Report Finali[z]ed as 9/11 Airport Video Released,” ABC Radio [Australia], July 22, 2004.
5.David Brent, a technical information engineer for IT systems, has stated: “In 2001, I worked for a manufacturer that at the time had its CCTV system in the Washington Dulles International Airport and the Pentagon. After the 9/11 attacks, I was part of a team that had the laborious task of reviewing all the video from the airport with several federal agents looking over our shoulders. Did you notice I said all the video? That’s every frame from over 300 cameras with 30 days of retention time. The task took three weeks of 15-hour days.” David Brent. “The CSI Effect: How TV is Changing Video Surveillance,” Security InfoWatch, February 15, 2011.
7.The 9/11 Commission Report, 452, n. 11.
14.FBI, “T7 B17Screeners 9-11 and Check-In Fdr- FBI 302s- Screener and Check-In Interviews”, Allex Vaughn Interview, September 26, 2001.
16.Ibid., Allex Vaughn Interview, September 26, 2001.
18. FBI, “T7 B17 Screeners 9-11 and Check-In Fdr- FBI 302s- Screener and Check-In Interviews,” Brenda Brown Interview, September 17, 2001