WASHINGTON – An internal Federal Aviation Administration memo detailing a shooting aboard hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 is not likely a mistake, as claimed, and the government and the airline may be denying the existence of a gun aboard the plane out of fear of being sued by Sept. 11 victims’ families, charges a former veteran FAA special agent familiar with the memo and its source.
As it happens, a nonprofit group representing Sept. 11 victims and their families has already reviewed the memo, a copy of which was obtained by WorldNetDaily.com. And yesterday it demanded that Congress examine what it sees as possible evidence that terrorists used a gun – a banned FAA item, unlike box cutters at the time – to hijack at least one of the four planes that crashed that day.
Citing complaints lodged Monday by whisteblower Bogdan Dzakovic [JOCK-o-vich], a leader of the FAA’s Red Team of undercover airport-security inspectors, the group – called Families of September 11 – says the FAA has a history of suppressing information about security problems and therefore does not trust it to police itself in this case.
“These matters are too important to be left to an internal Department of Transportation investigation,” said Families of September 11 President Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy Larocque, died on Flight 11, which hit the first World Trade Center tower not long after departing Boston. Larocque, 50, was founder and CEO of Market Perspectives in Framingham, Mass.
The FAA memo, as first reported yesterday by WorldNetDaily, reports in detail a shooting incident aboard Flight 11 in which one of the hijackers allegedly killed a passenger seated in business class with a single bullet. The document was written on Sept. 11 and sent to top FAA officials.
But Steve Elson, a former FAA airport-security inspector and Red Team member, doubts it was written in error.
He says the memo was generated late afternoon on Sept. 11 by the FAA Emergency Operations Center and “hand-delivered” to FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. He claims to know the author, and trusts its accuracy.
“The specificity of the wording – passenger seat numbers, who shot whom and the firing of a single bullet – makes an error unlikely,” he said in an interview with WorldNetDaily.com.
Elson – who quit the FAA in frustration in 1999, after he says management here repeatedly ignored his and other agents’ airport-security warnings – says Washington may be continuing a “cover-up of the known lack of security” in denying the gun report.
American Airlines also denies the report, telling WorldNetDaily.com it never relayed information to the FAA about a gun on Flight 11.
Why would both lie? “Lawsuits,” Elson said.
“Immediately after the hijacking, the issue of the box cutters surfaced,” he explained. “Per the regulations, there was nothing illegal about short-bladed knives being carried aboard. So both the FAA and the airlines said that there was no violation and that neither the FAA nor the airlines had done anything wrong. From a strict legal perspective, that is true.”
“However, a gun aboard aircraft is very explicitly prohibited,” said Elson, a former Navy SEAL trained in both counter- and anti-terrorism. “Thus, a gun aboard the plane would mean an airline failure, and open that airline up to huge lawsuits.”
Such a lawsuit, if successful, “could mean the end of American Airlines,” he contended, giving American motive to “lie about this issue.”
“Of course,” he added, “Congress quickly passed legislation (shortly after Sept. 11) limiting the airlines’ liability and discouraging families from suing.”
The $15 billion airline bailout bill that President Bush signed just 11 days after the attacks could relieve the airlines of substantial liability by setting up a special federal fund to pay out claims to families and victims of the disasters.
Those who file claims – an attractive option, given the government is guaranteeing speedy payment – surrender their right to sue American Airlines and United Airlines. The law does not prevent families and victims from suing the companies, however.
American spokesman John Hotard angrily denied any truth to the gun account in the memo, saying he has no idea where the FAA got the information. He also noted that other things in the Flight 11 summary, such as times, are wildly inaccurate.
Families of September 11 also wants Congress to
investigate reports that another FAA-banned item,
pepper spray, was used on Flight 11.
“The U.S. government conspiracy indictment against Zacarias Moussaoui says that Mohamed Atta, the hijacker believed to have flown Flight 11 into the World Trade Center, had pepper spray in his possession on Sept. 11,” said Stephen Push, a group spokesman.