Trento's Column: Families of Air Disaster Victims Decry Cover-ups

(Gold9472: I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I love Ray McGovern. To see the smile on his face, holding a copy of the 9/11 Report with holes in it, is priceless.)

Written by Joe Trento
Wednesday, 28 March 2007

It has been gratifying to see the focus on terrorism and airline security since the publication of Unsafe At Any Altitude last October. Congress, which created the bipartisan disaster that is TSA, is finally asking a few hard questions about how TSA is so inferior to the tens of thousands of private screeners who were sacked after 9/11 in exchange for the nearly 50,000 feds we now have.

In tests the old private screeners detected more threats by a huge factor compared to TSA's screeners. More disturbing are the incidences of gun running on planes and theft among the federal TSA employees.

The creation of this mess can be laid at the feet of Senator John McCain and the Democrats who seem to always believe more federal employees is always better. Well they got them and this year the plan in Congress is to allow this unsuccessful force to unionize. We have all seem to have forgotten why we were trying to fix airline security.

Last month, my co-author, Susan Trento and I attended a conference where the membership will never forget the threat to aviation security. In one of the most moving experiences I have ever had I met some the survivors of those who died in the 9/11 terrorist's attacks as well as other air related tragedies at the The National Air Disaster Foundation and Alliance annual meeting.

From left, Joe Trento, Susan Trento, Coleen Rowley, and Ray McGovern, chair a terrorism discussion panel at The National Air Disaster Foundation and Alliance annual meeting.

This organization is made up of folks who have lost family and friends in airline disasters. Many of the people who attended the conference were family members of loved ones still searching for answers. They wanted to know what the government was still covering up about its role in the world that may have made their family members and friends the targets of terrorists.

We entered the room as a session was underway with Charlotte Bryan, the General Manager for Airports at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It was clear that Ms. Bryan had not really studied her audience. She spoke of TSA as it was a perfectly running machine. She ignored an audience member who prefaced her question by referring to TSA as "thousands standing around." It was surreal. Audience members included a group from a recent Kentucky crash where it was discovered that the government had repeatedly lied about the circumstance of the crash and the National Transportation Safety Board was going to close out the investigation with one year of the crash.

Watching Ms. Bryant speak was like watching high ranking members of this administration talk about Iraq: everything is great, everything is improving. During a lunch break I learned just how much the people in the room had come to hate reassuring bureaucrats.

Because of our book deals with terrorism the NADFA invited Susan Trento and I to appear on a panel on terrorism with FBI heroine Coleen Rowley and former CIA Officer Ray McGovern.

Ray McGovern held up a copy of the 9.11 Commission Report with large holes in it. I had never met Ray. He was President's George H. W. Bush's CIA briefing officer. It was sad to me that the report these families had relied on to get to the truth was little more then a political compromise monitored closely by a staff director who was formerly under the supervision of Ms. Rice.

Coleen Rowley was a wonderful illustration of what happens when a great public servant dares to speak out. She was the lone 9/11 highlight at the FBI. She was the reason people can still have faith in government: There are people like her that this administration has done its best to scare and silence. Rowley is the perfect example of grace under pressure.

We pointed out that as of last Fall the head of TSA or his deputy for counterintelligence had never even seen the "No-Fly list." Kip Hawley, who runs TSA, reassured the new Congress that 20,000 names would be chopped from the "No-Fly List" by last month. Well he didn't do it. The list is very little different then the one we shared with 60 Minutes last October.

One man who lost his daughter on 9/11 wanted some answers as to how and why this happened this happened. No of us on the panel had a good answer, just examples. Ours answer to him was that the our government covered-up our cooperation with Saudi GID and their mistaken recruitment of two of the hijackers who would end up flying a plane into the Pentagon. The truth was Al Qaeda had planted their moles in Saudi GID and the CIA relied on the Saudi's for what it knew about Al Qaeda. It should be pointed out that by 1997 the Clinton Administration had called Saudi GID a hostile intelligence service. That changed when George Bush took office and ordered the DIA to end MONARCH PASSAGE , the secret DIA program to monitor the Saudi Royal Family.

Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, left, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, right, are critics of 9/11 Comission Report.

Why George Bush felt it was necessary to protect the Saudi's is the real question. Now there are strong hints that the US was warned about these two terrorists and that is why the CIA notified INS that these Saudi agents were here illegally. Sadly, INS never found them nor did the CIA share a picture it had of the men until after the attacks.

Our panel was somber. I felt like we could not help these people who had lost so much understand how our government failed them. Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband on 9/11, presented Susan and I with an award. It was given in memory of an Atlantic Airways flight for those who had done worthwhile work in passenger safety and security. We were both surprised and humbled. Monica Gabrielle lost her husband Richard, just two years from their 30 th wedding anniversary.

These folks want no other survivors of air terrorism to join their ranks.

The awards and honors should go to those family members who made George Bush and Congress appoint the 9.11 Commission. To these families that was a start, but just a start. What was revealed in Unsafe At Any Altitude came from a lot of courageous people at airlines, airports and yes, in our government.

What I did not see that day at the conference were very many reporters. The media has largely left the biggest story of the last twenty years slip away. It's too bad they return only when more lives are lost and more blood is shed.