The country is united politically right now, so I’m sure I’ll be accused of divisiveness, partisan sniping, maybe even being unpatriotic by raising this issue.
But, heck, I’ve been accused of worse. Last week the Wall Street Journal called me a “purveyor of obscenity.” I’ll let you be the judge of whether that description suits me.
I never let those criticisms bother me – especially not from uptight, corporate media establishment mouthpieces and spoiled, little, ivory-tower reactionaries.
So, today I’m going to tell you how Al Gore may have contributed, in his own politically ambitious, selfish way, to the deaths of some of the victims of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.
Following the downing of TWA Flight 800 in 1996, Gore was entrusted by President Clinton to investigate airline safety. He was named chairman of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety.
The Gore commission produced what most observers considered to be a tough preliminary report unveiled Sept. 9 of that year – one that included tough counter-terrorism procedures.
But within days, according to an insider on the commission, the airline industry jumped all over Gore. 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 revenue.
In what can only be seen as a pure political payoff, 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.
But the money trail didn’t stop there. 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 put $53,000 more into the kitty.
Following the election, in January, Gore floated a draft final report that eliminated all security measures from the commission’s findings, according to the insider. 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 some money, but, perhaps, save some lives in the future.
The report’s requirements included:
- high-tech bomb detectors;
- more training for airport security;
- criminal background checks for security personnel;
- increased canine patrols.
Only one thing was lacking from the report, said the whistleblower – there was no deadline by which those requirements would have to be met. It was open-ended. In other words, it wasn’t worth the paper on which it was written.
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. But within minutes, Gore was announcing to the president and the public that the report was the work of a unanimous commission. In other words, he lied – again.
In Washington, that might have been the end of the story. Scandals like this often go unnoticed. But one courageous lady, the dissenting member of the commission, Victoria Cummock, filed suit to gain access to files she was denied and for the right to file her dissent.
Who is Mrs. Cummock? She was appointed to the commission by Clinton because her husband was killed in the terrorist downing of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland. She’s the insider. She’s the whistleblower. She’s the heroine of this story.
All this was chronicled in a Tony Blankley column a year ago – a year and five days before the latest terrorist attack that killed all passengers and all the crew on four airliners as well as thousands on the ground at the World Trade Center and Pentagon Sept. 11.
Would any of that death and destruction have been prevented had Gore not crawled into bed with the airline industry thinking only in the short term about potential financial losses, not realizing it might be saving itself from much bigger losses in the future?
I guess we’ll never know for sure. But remember this story the next time Al Gore rears his opportunistic political head on the national scene.