The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating the sources of a pre-recorded message broadcast to air traffic controllers in New York on Monday this week. The message, spoken by a robotic voice, threatened to fly a plane into the US Capitol on Wednesday in revenge for the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
9/11 style threats
Air traffic controllers in the New York area received a chilling message on Monday this week. A pre-recorded announcement, broadcast on dedicated air traffic control frequencies, made a threat to fly a plane into the Capitol in a 9/11 style attack. The message, obtained exclusively by CBS News, contains a robotic voice saying,
“We are flying a plane into the Capitol on Wednesday. Soleimani will be avenged.”
The threat came one year to the day since Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed by a drone strike ordered by President Trump. Iranian officials have long vowed revenge for the attack.
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FBI, TSA, FAA, and NTSC investigate
Since the broadcast, Newsweek has reported that the FBI, FAA, and TSA are working alongside the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to investigate the situation. According to their reports, as well as the announcement being heard on ATC frequencies, it was also received in the cockpit of a passenger plane traveling from San Juan to New York JFK.
As well as this, a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security said that the identical message was heard on JetBlue’s flight 2304. We’ve reached out to JetBlue for confirmation of this and will add their statement once it is received.
Overall, feedback from officials suggests that they are not taking the threat overly seriously. There is definite skepticism that Iran would undertake any sort of attack on the US, and investigations are instead targeting domestic groups. So far, the investigation has identified that the broadcast was made from a location in the United States, with the DHS report stating,
“It is assessed that the technician responsible has radio modifying experience and is transmitting somewhere within 20NM of the radio tower in North Sea, NY.”
The timing of the threat couldn’t be worse, as today is the day Joe Biden’s electoral college win will be certified during a joint session of Congress. The Washington DC area was already bracing for a certain level of controlled chaos, with a protest rally expected to be held at The Ellipse.
While the threat of an attack is largely thought to be fake, the news won’t come as much solace to New Yorkers who remember the events of 2001. The FBI told CBS that it takes all threats to public safety seriously. Air traffic controllers have been instructed to report any further threats or any aircraft deviating from its planned flight path.