4/12/2012

september 11, 2001

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Repeated warnings about alarming security breaches at the nations airports, made by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) whistleblower, have been confirmed by federal government report citing gross mismanagement by the agency that resulted in a substantial and specific danger to public safety. Yet despite claims by the Department of Transportation (DOT) that airports are now safer than they were before September 11, 001, failure to force airlines to disrupt their business-as-usual routines means that inconvenienced passengers still are at risk.


The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today publicly released findings upholding allegations made by former FAA security expert Bogdan Dzakovic that the FAAs division of Civil Aviation Security (CAS) had deliberately covered up an elite security units pre-/11 findings that reflected poorly on the airline industry. The OSC concluded that DOTs report appears reasonable about strengthening air safety, but is unreasonable about the personal accountability of FAA officials responsible for the airport security breakdown. That means the report flunks minimum statutory standards.


Dzakovic was a member of the FAAs Red Team, which traveled to major U.S. and foreign airports to covertly test airport security systems, was considered the lynchpin of FAA aviation security efforts. Since making his disclosures, Dzakovics job at the new Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has been limited almost entirely to clerks duties and answering the graveyard shift special emergency telephone where he must wake up someone else if anything goes wrong. Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan pledged to continue investigating the on-going retaliation against him.


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The OSCs findings vindicate Bogdan Dzakovics pre-September 11 warnings that this countrys airports were sitting ducks for terrorists, said Tom Devine, Dzakovics attorney and legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm. His early warnings about what could happen were tragically confirmed, at an enormous human and economic cost to this country.


Personal vindication is welcome, but we are not so reassured by recent developments, Devine continued. Both government agencies skipped the bottom line reaffirmed by every whistleblower and witness GAP has interviewed; a year and a half after the /11 tragedy, the airports are not safer. The TSAs changes have made passengers miserable but carefully avoided disrupting lax airline routines. With our nation on the brink of war, this is inexcusable. The OSC conclusion that promised reforms appear reasonable doesnt cut it. The Department of Transportation perfected the art of maintaining false appearances before /11. Hopefully, the Homeland Security Department will get serious.


Devine added Fortunately, Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan is dissatisfied that this valued senior member of the FAA Red Team was not given a role in the TSAs new covert testing program.


Ms. Kaplan correctly rejected the assurances of Admiral James M. Loy, then undersecretary of transportation for security, that Mr. Dzakovic had been assigned to a new position where he would be able to make full use of his talents. Those promises were as empty as the FAAs claims that it was protecting the American people, Devine noted. Bogdan Dzakovics current job shows that, despite the much-ballyhooed changes in airport security, the more things change the more they stay the same.


After finding a substantial likelihood Dzakovics allegations were correct, the OSC, the federal agency charged with protecting the employment rights of whistleblowers, in February 00 ordered Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta to investigate Dzakovics charges that Red Team reports were suppressed.


Although Loy told the OSC that the days of the old FAA Red Team are gone, a vigorous efforts to replace the failed system are in place, Kaplan noted several serious deficiencies in the OIGs report. For example, she said, Loys letter did not address what has been done with respect to those individuals at higher levels within FAA CAS who mismanaged the Red Team and failed to take effective action to improve airport security.


Admiral Loy is right when he says the bad old days of the Red Team are over, said Dzakovic. It has been replaced by a Pink Team that now concentrates on audits handicapped to novice screeners skill levels, instead of mock terrorist raids. It means that my colleagues are gagged from talking with me and picking up six years of lessons learned.


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