By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
WASHINGTON, D.C.A group of 25 former federal employees directly involved in the government's counterintelligence and counterterrorism programs held a press conference here this morning to lambaste both the 9-11 Commission and the Bush administration for failing to hold government officials accountable for failures leading up to 9-11.
The ex-employees, from the FBI, CIA, FAA, Customs, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, had firsthand knowledge of their agencies' activities in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. Bogdan Dzakovic, a former special agent at the FAA, said he repeatedly sought to warn his superiors of mismanagement and the dangers of terrorism, but to no avail. He was a leader of a "Red Team" at FAA, engaged in preparing for terrorist attacks. But he said the security measures in his agency were "little more than window dressing," and quoted one frustrated colleague as saying, "The FAA is so screwed up I don't know where to begin."
Diane Kleiman, a former Customs agent at JFK who was fired in 1999, scoffed at the idea that airport security has been improved. Emphasis on checking passengers coming into the airport hides the real problems in the back of the airport, she said, where literally anybody can board a parked plane. She outlined a scenario, for instance, in which, say, 10 terrorists could apply to be cargo handlers (a job with high turnover), get hired and work, but then quit, retaining their passes, which give them access to ramps and the unlocked aircraft. They then could enter the airports with backpacks full of explosives, get on the planes, stash the bags in the cargo holds, and leave. In this way, 10 planes with all their passengers could be blown up.
Holding up a special government security-clearance pass, she described how lax airport security remains. Her pass gave her entrance to every nook and cranny of the airport, from ramps to runways to planes to cargo-handling entrances. Such a pass is worth thousands of dollars to any would-be terrorist. When she was fired, nobody took this valuable passport from her. "The leadership and management at JFK are terrible," she said.
The 25 signed a letter to Congressorganized by Sibel Edmonds, the former FBI whistleblower who is blocked from telling what she knows by a Justice Department gag orderciting "intentional actions or inaction by individuals responsible for our national security, actions or inaction dictated by motives other than the security of the people of the United States."
The 9-11 Commission's final report, the letter added, "deliberately ignores officials and civil servants who were, and still are, clearly negligent and/or derelict in their duties to the nation. If these individuals are protected, rather than held accountable, the mindset that enabled 9-11 will persist, no matter how many layers of bureaucracy are added, and no matter how much money is poured into the agencies. Character counts. Personal integrity, courage, and professionalism make the difference. Only a commission bent on holding no one responsible and reaching unanimity could have missed that."