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Gold9472
02-18-2005, 01:14 PM
Whistle-blowers say the FAA ignored a decade of pre–9-11 warnings

by James Ridgeway
February 15th, 2005 3:22 PM

The staff report from the 9-11 Commission, declassified last week, raises the curtain on a Federal Aviation Administration whose disregard for security is downright ludicrous. Employees of the FAA had been warning for years of the disaster waiting to happen. The FAA's top management not only ignored the warnings, but took steps to make sure the people issuing them shut up.

According to the staff report, in 2001 the agency's security division prepared 105 intelligence summaries for the top brass between April 1 and September 10. Nearly half these mentioned Osama bin Laden by name, but for the most part the summaries said the threats were aimed at targets overseas. Of the 52 notices that mentioned Bin Laden, five discussed terrorists either training for hijackings or already having the capability to carry them out. Two talked about suicide operations, but not having to do with planes. One summary discussed defensive measures being undertaken at Genoa for the G8 summit.

The response of the FAA pooh-bahs to the commission staff's inquiries is mystifying. "[FAA] Administrator [Jane] Garvey told the Commission that she was aware of the heightened threat during the summer of 2001," says the staff report. "However, both FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger and his assistant told us in separate interviews that they were unaware of the threat posed by Usama bin Ladin and al Qaeda prior to September 11, 2001." Is this just another case of high government officials botching the job, or is someone lying?

Long before the latest report was released, the FAA had been considered among the weakest of the "independent" regulatory agencies. After the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the feds sought to improve security, but the major carriers opposed most measures on the grounds that they were unnecessary, cost too much, and discomfited passengers. Time and again over the last decade, efforts were made to persuade the airlines to reinforce cockpit doors, but to no avail. In an ominous warning of things to come, an internal report from the early 1990s said, "Small knives (blade length of four inches or less), the most frequently employed weapon to hijack aircraft (in the U.S.), were used in three incidents." Yet they remained legal to bring onboard, and were used by the 9-11 hijackers.

Another 1993 report showed that in a test, people without authorization broke through the San Francisco airport security system three out of five times—a failure rate of 60 percent. By 1998, out of 450 attempts by the so-called Red Team to breach security at the same airport, 446 succeeded—a failure rate of 99.11 percent. Testers in 1996 at the Frankfurt airport, where the bomb was placed on Pan Am Flight 103, broke through security in 13 out of 13 tries. The situation was so embarrassing that the FAA security chief ordered the group to end its mission, leaving the job of improving security in the hands of the airlines.

In exasperation, Red Team leader Bogdan Dzakovic went over his supervisors and, citing the numerous failures in the system, pleaded with Administrator Jane Garvey. "The U.S. faces a potential tidal wave of terrorist attacks," he wrote. Garvey never replied.

One internal airline memo accurately described the results investigators had been getting: "They managed to get by passenger X-ray screening repeatedly (7 times), having on them a gun sealed under their belt-buckle. Also, having an automatic Mac machine gun under their jacket on their back." The team "repeatedly" succeeded in getting a laptop with a gun inside through screening. They readily entered airline private lounges and put dummy bombs in passengers' carry-on luggage. They snuck with ease onto Skychef food trucks and put bombs in the food containers, receiving only a cheery "hello" from the drivers—if one happened to be awake.

The Red Team renegades wanted people at the FAA or the Department of Transportation, its parent, to pay attention to what was going on, meeting with the chief criminal investigator for DOT. According to fellow Red Team leader Steve Elson, that man would say only, "The whole FAA is so corrupt, I don't know where to begin."

Dzakovic and Elson took the case to the media, with one TV station after another carrying the story. In April 2001, Deborah Sherman of Boston's Fox News conducted her own investigation of Boston's Logan Airport and repeatedly broke through security. Her probe apparently coincided with a similar one by Mohammed Atta, who at the time was conducting surveillance of Logan in planning the 9-11 attack. A tape of the program was hand-delivered to the office of Senator John Kerry. There was no response.

After 9-11, the Red Team was disbanded. Dzakovic got whistle-blower status and continues to speak out on the issue. Elson quit in disgust and went back to school.

The 9-11 gun
The serious government interest in 9-11 now is not who is to be held responsible but how to make sure the airlines get off the hook. Shortly after the attack, the companies turned to Capitol Hill for a bailout. Now they are faced with lawsuits from victims' families, and a key question will be whether any of the hijackers had smuggled a gun aboard one of the planes. It's one thing to move through security with a legal box cutter in a pocket—quite another to make it through with a firearm. The presence of a gun would clearly illustrate a lack of security. And if a gun had been planted aboard a plane, it could be an indication that Al Qaeda had breached our security system even further than previously supposed.

On 9-11, in the hours after the attacks, the FAA issued an executive summary of what went on aboard Flight 11, which hit the World Trade Center. "At approximately 9:18 a.m., it was reported that the two crew members in the cockpit were stabbed. The flight then descended with no communication from the flight crew members," the report read. "The American Airlines FAA Principal Security Inspector (PSI) was notified by Suzanne Clark of American Airlines Corporate Headquarters that an onboard flight attendant contacted American Airlines Operations Center and informed them that a passenger in seat 10B had shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B at 9:20 a.m. The passenger killed was Daniel Lewin, shot by passenger Satam al Suqami. One bullet was reported to have been fired."

That afternoon, say Dzakovic and Elson, an FAA security officer in Washington saw the word "gun" on a bulletin board set up to keep staff members abreast of what was going on in the agency's command center. The FAA subsequently changed its report, removing the reference to a gun, and the 9-11 Commission concluded there had never been one.

However, on Flight 93, passenger Tom Burnett, a medical executive, had called his wife, Deena, and, in one version of the call, said, "They've already knifed a guy. There is a bomb on board. Call the FBI." Deena immediately called emergency officials. Another version of the call had Burnett saying, "One of them has a gun." Tom's call to Deena was not recorded, but Deena's call for help was; on the tape, she says Tom told her: "They just knifed a passenger and there are guns on the plane." Deena later told the London Times, "He told me one of the hijackers had a gun. He wouldn't have made it up. Tom grew up around guns. He was an avid hunter and we have guns in our home. If he said there was a gun on board, there was."

The Rushdie connection
The FAA maintains it had no foreknowledge of an attack by Al Qaeda within the U.S., but there is a continuing series of suggestions that the federal authorities, including the FAA, did in fact know something was about to happen.

One little noticed example concerned novelist Salman Rushdie, who told the London Times after 9-11 that he believed U.S. authorities had known of an imminent terrorist strike when they banned him from taking domestic flights in Canada and the U.S. shortly before the attacks. According to the Times account, the FAA made an emergency ruling on September 3, 2001, to prevent Rushdie from flying unless the airline adopted new and costly security measures. The airline refused. The author's publisher said it was told by the FAA that U.S. intelligence had given a warning of "something out there," but gave no details. The FAA confirmed it had stepped up security measures around Rushdie, but would not say why.

Gold9472
06-12-2007, 07:50 PM
bump

dMole
12-03-2007, 06:06 PM
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2002/2002-11-11-box-cutters.htm

Pre-9/11 rules barred box cutters

WASHINGTON (AP) — Airlines failed to enforce existing security guidelines on Sept. 11 that required airport screeners to confiscate box cutters from passengers, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Government rules did not specifically bar the objects before last year's the attacks, but the airlines were in charge of security then, with the Federal Aviation Administration overseeing their performance. The airlines issued a manual in 1994 that listed for screeners items passengers could not carry past airport checkpoints.

The AP obtained a copy of the document, which included box cutters such as those purportedly used by the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers.

"If they knew these were problems, why weren't they more responsible in protecting the public?" asked former FAA security chief Billie Vincent.

The Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines, and the Regional Airline Association, the trade group for smaller carriers, issued the Checkpoint Operations Guide to implement Federal Aviation Administration security regulations.

ATA spokesman Michael Wascom said only: "Box cutters were not prohibited by the FAA on 9-11-01," and refused to comment further. Officials of the regional airlines' group would not comment.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said keeping box cutters off planes was an industry requirement, not a government order. She said the FAA allowed airline passengers to carry blades less than four inches long before Sept. 11. Government rules now prohibit such items.

The manual for security screeners was issued by the airlines' trade groups to comply with FAA regulations and was in effect at the time of the terror attacks. The document lists box cutters and pepper spray as items not allowed past security checkpoints. Screeners were told to call supervisors if either item were to be found.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has said some of the hijackers used box cutters to take over the planes, and the indictment of alleged hijacking co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui charged that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the hijackers, had pepper spray.

Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University and co-author of an annual study on airline quality, said airlines didn't want to invest the time or money before Sept. 11 to check passengers thoroughly.

"Security was mostly a nonstarter for most people," he said. "The airlines, knowing it would cost them a bundle to make a bigger deal out of that, didn't want to spend the money."

After the attacks Congress took responsibility for airline security from the FAA and the airlines and gave it to a new Transportation Security Administration. The TSA has until Nov. 19 to replace private airport screeners with an all-government work force.

Former FAA chief counsel Kenneth Quinn, now a lawyer representing several airport security companies, said that before Sept. 11, the agency, not the industry, had the ultimate responsibility for what got onto planes.

"There's only one way to prohibit items from being carried on board airplanes, and that is through mandatory security directives from the FAA," Quinn said. "Relying on trade association advisory materials is an inherently suspect and deficient way to ensure an important safety and security task."

Former Transportation Department Inspector General Mary Schiavo, now a lawyer suing United Airlines and American Airlines on behalf of families of Sept. 11 victims, said the document shows there were regulations in place that might have thwarted the hijackings.

"What's disappointing to me is a lot of effort has gone into our government and others bending over backward saying no one did anything wrong, but it's clear they didn't follow the guidelines that were in place at the time," Schiavo said.

Brown said that since the manual was not an FAA document, failure to follow its procedures did not violate agency regulations.

Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation subcommittee on aviation, said the FAA should have had more stringent screening standards in place.

"The whole security process was in disarray," said Mica, R-Fla. "When you don't have the personnel with any standards, and you don't have FAA adopting specific rules, you have no one to enforce it."

dMole
12-03-2007, 06:09 PM
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/11/12/attack/main528967.shtml

Boxcutters Weren't Allowed Pre-9/11
WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2002

A manual written by the airline industry years before the Sept. 11 attacks instructed airport screeners to confiscate from passengers boxcutters like those used by the hijackers, documents show.

Though the federal government did not specifically bar the objects before Sept. 11, the airlines were in charge of security and the manual they compiled was the guidebook for determining what items could be brought aboard flights.

The instructions were part of the Checkpoint Operations Guide, a manual issued by the Air Transport Association, which represents the major airlines, and the Regional Airline Association, the trade group for smaller carriers. The groups issued the guide to carry out Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

A copy of the 1994 manual was obtained by The Associated Press.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said keeping boxcutters off planes was an industry requirement, not a government order. She said the FAA allowed airline passengers to carry blades less than four inches long before Sept. 11. Government rules now prohibit such items.

Other items allowed into airplane cabins, according to the manual, included baseball bats, darts, knitting needles, pocket utility knifes less than four inches long and scissors.

ATA spokesman Michael Wascom would say only: "Boxcutters were not prohibited by the FAA on 9-11-01." Officials of the regional airlines group declined comment.

Former FAA chief counsel Kenneth Quinn, now a lawyer representing several security companies, said the agency, not the industry, was responsible for keeping boxcutters off planes. "There's only one way to prohibit items from being carried on board airplanes, and that is through mandatory security directives from the FAA," Quinn said.

Before the terrorist attacks, the industry was responsible for security, under FAA oversight. The $15 billion airline aid bill enacted shortly after Sept. 11 limited the airlines' liability to the amount of their insurance coverage. The House Republican version of legislation creating a Homeland Security Department would give the same liability limits to screening companies.

The fact that a boxcutter got aboard an airplane isn't going to guarantee victory in a lawsuit, said Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University and co-author of an annual study on airline quality.

"I just don't think there is going to be a lot of lawsuits won or lost on that particular item," Headley said. "Other things that were equally or more potentially lethal were allowable and certainly not excluded."

The manual for security screeners was issued by the airlines' trade groups to comply with FAA regulations and was in effect at the time of the terror attacks. The document lists boxcutters and pepper spray as items not allowed past security checkpoints. Screeners were told to call supervisors if they found either item.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said some of the hijackers used boxcutters to take over the planes, and the indictment of alleged hijacking coconspirator Zacarias Moussaoui charged that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the hijackers, had pepper spray.

"We actually had rules and regulations to stop this," said former Transportation Department Inspector General Mary Schiavo, now a lawyer suing United Airlines and American Airlines on behalf of families of Sept. 11 victims.

Paul Hudson, head of the Aviation Consumer Action Project, an advocacy group, said this latest revelation is another reason for an independent commission to investigate Sept. 11.

"The congressional committees, while they did investigate intelligence and law enforcement, really haven't touched on airline security, as was operated by the airlines and regulated by the FAA," said Hudson, who lost his daughter in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.