Despite a congressional panel investigating potential intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks releasing a report today that points to mistakes made by the CIA and FBI, an aviation security consultant says it is the Federal Aviation Administration that should take most of the blame for the tragedy.

Hijacked airliner strikes one of the World Trade Center towers Sept. 11, 2001.

“Simply because Osama Bin Laden wished to kill thousands of Americans and topple the World Trade Center Towers did not make them foregone conclusions,” says Andrew R. Thomas, managing director of Global Market Strategies Ltd., which specializes in the development of customized programs for the global business and security sectors.

“Exploitable vulnerabilities had to exist in order to turn the idea into a reality.”

Many of those vulnerabilities were made possible by the FAA, Thomas argues. And while he agrees the joint panel’s report “justifiably” points out CIA and FBI intelligence shortcomings in detecting the attacks, “the country has still mostly missed the real culprit that literally and figuratively opened the door for the terrorists.”

“The nexus of the 9-11 tragedy is not centered at the FBI or CIA. Instead, it sits squarely on the shoulders of the FAA. The focal point of the attacks was a long-standing vulnerability – lax in-cabin security,” Thomas said.

The consultant and airline-security author said al-Qaida operatives who planned and conducted the attacks were aware of “non-existent cockpit door protection, inadequate flight-crew training and porous screening protocols,” which were all under the purview of the FAA.

Had the agency “secured the in-cabin environment – as many were calling for years prior – 9-11 simply could not have happened,” Thomas said. “To fail to understand the contribution of bad FAA policy to the 9-11 tragedy misses the real story behind the federal government’s role in enabling the hijackers to accomplish their objective.”

An FAA official told WorldNetDaily the agency would not comment on questions about whether it should have beefed up cockpit door and in-flight security prior to 9-11.

But Thomas insisted the agency should be held accountable.

“The FAA was a compromised agency that bent in favor of market forces over the public good at every turn for decades,” said Thomas, who says in a book he “documented several of the more than 30 cockpit intrusions committed by disruptive passengers that occurred in the 24 months prior to 9-11.”

He also described as “cursory at best” terrorist training for flight attendants prior to the attacks. Training essentially “involved showing flight attendants cheesy videos of hijackings from the 1970s when the Cubans were front and center,” Thomas said.

Since the attacks, Congress has managed to pass legislation supporters hope will make it more difficult for terrorists to gain control of airliners in the future.

One step, as WorldNetDaily reported extensively, was to authorize commercial airline pilots to carry firearms, after receiving the appropriate federally mandated training.

Ironically, the FAA had adopted a rule allowing pilots to be armed, but rescinded it just two months before the 9-11 attacks.

According to FAA officials, the rule required airlines to apply to the agency for their pilots to carry guns in cockpits and for the airlines to put pilots through an agency-approved firearms training course. The agency said, however, that throughout the life of the rule not a single U.S. air carrier took advantage of it, effectively rendering it “moot,” according to one agency official.

“In the past, FAA regulations permitted pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit provided they completed an FAA-approved training program and were trained properly by the airlines,” FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto told WorldNetDaily last year. “That was never put into effect because no requests for those training programs were ever made.”

Other analysts have noted the FAA accepted no public responsibility for the 9-11 attacks.

In a piece calling for the dismantling of the agency, Phil Trent, writing in the Intellectual Conservative in December, criticized the FAA’s July 2001 decision to ban firearms in cockpits as “unusually bad timing,” noting, “it is clear that pilots and passengers had no means of defending [themselves] that would not have violated an FAA policy.”

“For decades, all commercial pilots were required by the federal government to carry firearms to prevent possible hijackings of the U.S. mail. The precursor to the FAA was created in the ’20s simply to promote commercial airlines. The actual FAA was created in 1958 to regulate them,” he said.

“When elected officials make mistakes, they are held responsible. When independent agencies make mistakes, it is difficult to place blame because no one knows where the responsibility lies,” said Trent. “The FAA did not accept any blame for Sept. 11. It did not apologize for leaving people on the plane defenseless.

“On the contrary, the FAA was belligerent. Shortly after the attack, the head of the FAA has the audacity to say that she wouldn’t have even considered allowing pilots to carry firearms prior to 9-11,” he said.

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