From: Rebecca Morrison ? Staff Vice President, Transportation Security Policy Department, AAAE
Re: Attempted Security Breach at GA Facility
Date: August 11, 2004
The following is a description of an incident that occurred today at the St. Louis Downtown Airport, a large GA facility. We are sharing this story with you as there are indications that it might be repeated throughout the country. We would like to thank Bob McDaniel, the Director at the St. Louis Downtown Airport, for sharing the details of the incident outlined below. Earlier today two Middle Eastern men attempted to penetrate our security. They telephoned one of my helicopter FBOs and asked about a charter flight. After discussion of price and directions to the business, they arrived an hour later. When the office agent asked how they were going to pay for the flight they produced cash. When asked for ID, they produced driver?s licenses from two different states and they were driving a car licensed in a third state.
Things didn?t smell right so the mechanic took them into the hangar to see the aircraft while the office person called the FBI and local police. The helicopter they were going to fly was blocked in by other aircraft so the mechanic was able to stall them by having to slowly shuffle the blocking planes. Meanwhile the two men got their backpacks and odd-shaped luggage out of their car. Soon the local police arrived and they were hauled off to jail in handcuffs.
After a little time behind bars, the FBI verified that the two men were employed by NBC New York and were on assignment to get a story of how easy it is to charter a helicopter for a terrorist attack. The men had stayed in a local hotel and purchased box cutters, leather-man knives, and other potential weapons at the local Wal-Mart using a credit card. The box cutters had been hidden in the lining at the bottom of the back packs and the other weapons were hidden throughout their baggage. They had audiotaped the telephone conversation with Arlene and were going to use it as part of a national news story about how easy it is to get information and directions to the location of the helicopter and then hijack it to commit a terrorist attack.
I doubt they will be back at our airport soon and this is a story that will never be seen since they were caught. A very ?well-done? to my FBO and staff and the local FBI and police response forces. We have since learned that we were the first airport where this had been attempted and NBC planned to attempt similar penetration stories around the country. Please help me spread the word to other airports.