War on Terror

by John Gibson, Amy Kellogg, Wendell Goler, and Rita Cosby
Fox News
September 24, 2001


JOHN GIBSON: Lots of new developments in the investigation to bring the terrorists to justice and prevent new attacks like two weeks ago on Tuesday. Fox News senior correspondent Rita Cosby is on top of the story and joins us now live with new details -- Rita.

RITA COSBY, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. The hijackers aboard the doomed flights may not have had to force their way into the cockpits after all. Fox News has learned that investigators believe that on at least one flight, one of the hijackers was already inside the cockpit before takeoff.

Law enforcement sources tell Fox News there is evidence gathered from cockpit voice recordings suggesting that at least one of the hijackers was posing as a pilot and was thereby extended the typical airline courtesy of allowing any pilot from any airline to join a flight by sitting in the jump seat, the folder over extra seat, located inside the cockpit.

In addition, law enforcement sources tell Fox News that after interviewing pilots on flights that were grounded September 11th, they've determined there were about a dozen Middle Eastern men on numerous flights sitting in the jump seats, leading authorities to believe that many other attacks may have been thwarted. The men in those jump seats have not yet been identified.

Law enforcement sources say the leads continue to pile in as well as hard evidence from things such as intercepts of phone calls and also bank records. And they're also working around the clock trying to prevent any future attacks since they believe many of the terrorists have not been located.

They expect a future attack to be done by a much more crude mechanism, in other words, probably not a coordinated hijacking, possibly a suicide bombing or a suicide bomber.

Now, another concern is the use of cropdusting planes to spread deadly chemicals from the air. The FAA has grounded until at least midnight this evening all cropdusting planes, not because of a specific threat but as an extra safety measure because of some indications law enforcement has received.

Now, one of the hijackers, Mohamed Atta, went to a small flight school in Florida. And law enforcement sources say that he was asking lot of questions on how to fly a small cropdusting plane and how much chemical that it can hold. Found in his suitcase in a car left at Boston's Logan Airport was what is being viewed as a suicide note, or a prayer, which he says, quote: "Be prepared to meet your God. Be ready for this moment."

Now, today on Capitol Hill, Attorney General John Ashcroft commented about the reasons for concern behind cropdusters.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The FBI has confirmed that Mohamed Atta, one of the suspected hijackers, was acquiring knowledge of cropdusting aircraft prior to the attacks on September 11th. A search of computers, computer disks, and personal baggage of another individual whom we have in custody revealed a significant amount of information downloaded from the Internet about aerial application of pesticides, cropdusting. At our request, the Federal Aviation Administration has grounded such aircraft until midnight tonight.


COSBY: What Ashcroft is referring to is that some documents about cropdusting were also located when authorities searched the belongings of a French Algerian man who was arrested as a material witness, Zacarias Moussauoi, the man you see here. He was taken into custody in August on immigration violations and believed to be part of the hijacking.

Now, authorities found manuals on operating cropdusting equipment and specifically how to spray fast-killing toxins in the air. Meantime, the FBI has filed a criminal complaint against a man by the name of Herbert Villalobos for allegedly aiding one of the hijackers in obtaining false identification, including a Virginia state driver's license.

Attorney General John Ashcroft says the FBI is now interested in talking to 392 people who he says still remain at large. And so far, 352 people have been arrested or detained by them or by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. John, back to you. A lot of developments today.

GIBSON: I have got a quick couple of questions, Rita.

COSBY: Sure.

GIBSON: Hopefully, there's a quick answer. Why weren't there more hijackings if there were 12 others in jump seats in various cockpits? What happened?

COSBY: Well, authorities are suspecting because many of these flights never actually got off the ground. Some of them were grounded almost immediately. And remember, a lot of these individuals only really knew how to fly the planes in level flight. If you believe what Zacarias Moussauoi, according to one of his flight instructors, said, "I only need to know how to fly horizontal." Many of them maybe were not able to take over the planes at that level of flight. Many of them were just taxiing on the runway, never took off.


COSBY: So, it's possible because of that that that's what happened.

GIBSON: Next thing. Grounded all cropdusters until midnight tonight. What then?

COSBY: After that, there may be an extension. In fact, I talked to some at the FAA. And they're saying that it could go well beyond that. They do not know if they can ground it beyond that point because there is no specific threat. But they are saying that there will be some extra security measures in place when they lift this grounding.

GIBSON: Rita Cosby in Washington. Rita, as always, thanks a lot.

Copyright 2001 Fox News Network, Inc.

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