View Full Version : Why U.S. Airline Security Failed

I. M. Esperto
11th Oct 2001, 01:45
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Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Why airline security failed
Gore commission study material still classified

2001 WorldNetDaily.com

MIAMI The classified reports used by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety, chaired by Vice
President Al Gore and appointed by President Clinton in the wake of the TWA Flight 800 disaster, are still
being withheld from a dissenting member of the panel despite a lawsuit to obtain copies, WorldNetDaily
has learned.

The Gore commission produced what most observers considered to be a tough preliminary report unveiled
Sept. 9, 1996 one that included extensive counter-terrorism procedures.

But within days, according to Victoria Cummock, a whistleblower commission member, the airline
industry jumped all over Gore with concerns about costs. As a result, 10 days later, Gore sent a letter to
airline lobbyist Carol Hallett promising that the commission's findings would not result in any loss of

The Democratic National Committee received $40,000 from TWA the next day.
Within two weeks, Northwest, United and American Airlines ponied up another
$55,000 for the 1996 campaign. In the next two months leading up to the
November elections, American Airlines donated $250,000 to the Democrats. United
donated $100,000 to the DNC. Northwestern contributed $53,000. Other reports
suggest even more airline money was poured into the election campaign that year.

Following the election, in January, Gore floated a draft final report that eliminated
all security measures from the commission's findings, according to Cummock. Two
commission members balked, as did CIA Director John Deutch.

Fearing more political heat, Gore pulled back the draft report. A month later, the final report was issued
one that included requirements that would cost the airlines money for new security measures.

The report's requirements included:

high-tech bomb detectors;
more training for airport security;
criminal background checks for security personnel; and,
increased canine patrols.

But there were two things missing from the report, said Cummock there was no deadline by which those
requirements would have to be implemented and no funding mechanism for ensuring that they were. In
the 1970s, for instance, when security checkpoints at airports were first implemented, the government
provided tax credits as a funding mechanism. No such measures were mandated or offered as part of the
Gore commission recommendations.

Thus, the requirements were not in place Sept. 11 of this year when terrorists hijacked four airliners,
crashing two into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon and crashing a fourth in
Pennsylvania. In fact, they are still not in place.

In a meeting with other commission members Feb. 12, 1997, Gore said he would leave room for a dissent
by those who opposed the report. Cummock expressed her strong dissent. But within minutes, she says,
Gore was announcing to the president and the public that the report was the work of a unanimous

Cummock filed suit to gain access to files she and the public were denied. She won the case, but the
material still has not been made available to her.

Cummock was appointed to the commission by Clinton because her husband was killed in the terrorist
downing of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland, and because of her work in counseling victims of
such disasters.

Hallett now also agrees that the original 31 recommendations of that commission might have prevented
the Sept. 11 attacks.

"In our hearts, everyone must realize that failure to use the (profiling) techniques that are available today
may be directly responsible for the events of Sept. 11," she said in a speech to the Travel Industries
Association in Atlanta.

The FAA issued a statement saying the security improvements mandated by the report were slowed by
"often conflicting and time-consuming" federal rule-making procedures and by efforts to protect civil

As of last month, days after the terrorist attack, according to a Los Angeles Times report, the agency was
still collecting research on how to keep intruders from slipping past airport perimeter fences and into
restricted areas. The FAA had not launched an effort to assess the vulnerability to terrorists of the nation's
450 commercial airports. Measures to improve detection of explosives in baggage were still being
considered by various agencies. The FBI was still working on a plan to protect civilian airliners from
surface-to-air missiles. The FAA was negotiating with intelligence agencies for access to confidential
information about potential terrorists and plots.

Before Sept. 11, the FBI knew that at least two men with ties to Osama bin Laden had entered the
country. But authorities did not notify the airlines, despite bin Laden's threats to bring down U.S. airliners.

The commission report, despite its lack of teeth, acknowledged the threat of terrorism.

"People and places in the United States have joined the list of targets," it said. "It is becoming more
common to find terrorists working alone or in ad hoc groups, some of whom are not afraid to die in
carrying out their designs."

Even Gerald Kauvar, staff director of the Gore commission, admits the government had more than enough
information and time to act.

"It's a government failure," he told the Los Angeles Times. "We specifically said the FAA had to change,
and they've proved resistant to change."

But Cummock insists that the change would have taken place if the Gore commission had simply
provided deadlines for action. She believes Gore sold out airline security for campaign cash.

"They buried it," she says. "And it's disgraceful that Gerry Kauvar would blame government failure. If
anyone has blood on his hands, it's Gerry Kauvar. He was an impediment to getting to the truth."

Unlike most Americans, Cummock says she was not surprised by the terrorism of Sept. 11.

"We were briefed that it would happen," she says. "These scenarios of terrorists using our assets was part
of the fact-finding process we looked at. It was inevitable with such lax security procedures."

Related column:

How Gore aborted air safety