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Former FAA Special Agent Writes To Thomas Kean

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Unanswered Questions : Thinking for ourselves.

An Open Letter To Thomas Kean – Chair 9/11 Commission
From Brian F. Sullivan - FAA Special Agent (Retired)

August 10, 2004

Thomas Kean, Chairman
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
301 7th Street SW
Room 5125
Washington, DC 20407

Dear Chairman Kean:

I recently had an opportunity to review FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmunds’ open letter to you as Chairman of the 9/11 Commission and felt compelled to write in support of her observations. She was spot on when she spoke to failed transparency, the lack of accountability and information provided yet inexplicably left out of your final report. I see the same omissions vis a vis aviation security, as she has cited regarding the FBI and intelligence.

First and foremost is the question of accountability. Not a single FAA manager, responsible for the insecurities of 9/11 has been held accountable for allowing our last line of defense to be so vulnerable on that fateful day. Instead, some of these very same people were transferred into and in some instances promoted into key positions within the Transportation Security Administration.

The end result is that the culture of bureaucracy within federal aviation security didn’t change and we’ve ended up with the expected result. Two examples would be failed leadership in the development of CAPPS II and the GAO’s recent report on how poorly federal screeners are performing. The Seattle Times recently completed a three part series on just how porous our aviation security remains today. The bottom line is that the American taxpayer is not getting what we paid for in terms of enhanced aviation security and the TSA is not all it can be.

Let’s look for a moment at information, which was provided to the Commission, but left out of your report. Perhaps this information will be included in your updated/revised staff statements or even in assessments of the individual airports exploited on 9/11 (Boston’s Logan Airport, Dulles and Newark); but in order to insure some level of transparency and provide the media with some focus for national review, I’ll list just a few here:


1. The Massachusetts Governor’s Carter Commission report, with its findings relative to FAA, airline and Massport security shortcomings in the lead up to 9/11.
2. The April ‘01 memorandum from Massport’s Director of Security, Joe Lawless to his leadership, which cited terrorist ties to Logan Airport and the need to address known vulnerabilities there.
3. The Counter Technology Inc report on Logan’s security, six pages of which were critical of Massport’s leadership vis a vis security, but were removed from the original report after a meeting with Massport’s General Counsel.
4. The Logan Airline Managers Council (LAMCO), in conjunction with the FAA’s Federal Security Manager at Logan, rejecting Joe Lawless’s proposal for the Mass State Police to begin undercover testing of screening checkpoints in July ’01.
5. Jane Garvey, the head of the FAA, failing to react after an FAA Administrator’s Hotline complaint in the summer of ’01 regarding security concerns at Logan, which included a hand delivered tape of the local FOX affiliate’s April ’01 expose’ of security shortcomings, to include the very same screening checkpoints which would be exploited by the terrorists on 9/11.
6. Reported sightings of Mohammed Atta at Logan in May and early September ’01, involved in suspicious activity on the Air Operations Area and surveillance of checkpoints.


These are but a few issues reported to the Commission, but for some reason, left out of the final report. Probably the most significant of all was the Office of Special Counsel’s Report and DOT OIG response, which stated how FAA’s leadership failed to manage its own Red Team and take action on its findings.

The Commission made a couple of generic recommendations regarding aviation security, but in failing to address accountability, left the action in the hands of the TSA. The problem here is that until the Commission recognizes and holds accountable those failed FAA Civil Aviation Security managers, who gave us the insecurities of 9/11, and then were transferred into and in some cases promoted into key positions within the TSA, that organization will remain dysfunctional and unable to enact the Commission’s aviation security recommendations. Accountability must be established first if there is to be any reasonable expectation that those recommendations will be brought to fruition.

The Commissioners must address the TSA’s shortcomings, in order to change the prevailing culture within federal aviation security. Layers of bureaucracy must be eliminated, incompetents replaced by competents and local autonomy granted, in as much as is possible, to the Federal Security Directors at our airports. The TSA, as it stands now, is a bloated bureaucracy made dysfunctional by overcentralization.

Somehow the media euphoria and infatuation with the 9/11 Commission, in the aftermath of its report, must be replaced with some critical analysis regarding accountability and aviation security. Both were given the short shrift in the Commission’s final report.

I am not willing to see the facade of aviation security, as promulgated by the TSA, continue on unabated and I’m hopeful that we can enlist the support of the 9/11 Commissioners to help address the accountability issue, particularly if you are serious about your aviation security recommendations being effectively implemented.

A response, open or closed, would be appreciated.

Respectfully submitted:

Brian F. Sullivan
FAA Special Agent (Retired)
New England Region

*********

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