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About Joan Swirsky
Joan Swirsky, is a Featured Writer for The New Media Journal. A New York-based author and journalist, she was formerly a longtime health-and-science and feature writer for The New York Times Long Island section. She is the recipient of seven Long Island Press Awards...


Joan Swirsky

Why is Jane Garvey on Obama’s Radar Screen?
February 6, 200
9
 

It’s no surprise that President Obama and his crack vetting team are considering Randy Babbitt as the next head of the Federal Aviation Administration. After all, Mr. Babbitt is former head of the country’s largest union representing airline pilots, and we know how near and dear to Mr. Obama’s heart unions are.

 

"The choice, if it goes through as anticipated,” writes the Wall St. Journal’s Andy Paszfor (who reports on the FAA), "would satisfy labor leaders who have been urging the appointment of someone to the FAA sympathetic to their views. Babbitt has labor connections going back to the labor-management struggles at Eastern Airlines before the carrier folded decades ago,”

 

Who suggested Babbitt to the Obama administration? Why none other than Jane Garvey, the former chief of the FAA, who, Mr. Paszfor said, is now likely "to get the No. 2 job at the Department of Transportation.”

 

To understand what a horrible – indeed, dangerous – choice Ms. Garvey would be in the sensitive position of insuring the safety of Americans’ land and air travel, a little history is in order.

 

Four months before Sept. 11, 2001, recently retired Brian Sullivan, a former risk-management specialist (for over 10 years) in charge of physical security of air-traffic control towers and air-route traffic control facilities in New England, was so concerned about the lax security at Logan Airport that he wrote a letter to Sen. Kerry (D-MA), warning him of the potential for a terrorist disaster at the airport.

 

His letter held these prophetic words: "With the concept of jihad, do you think it would be difficult for a determined terrorist to get on a plane and destroy himself and all other passengers? Think what the result would be of a coordinated attack that took down several domestic flights on the same day. With our current screening, this is more than possible. It is almost likely.”

 

Sullivan followed up by sending Kerry a videotape that showed the ease with which undercover reporters had successfully penetrated Logan’s security screening 10 times with potentially deadly weapons.

 

For three months, Kerry did nothing with the information, finally sending it to the one agency – the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General: DOT OIG – that Sullivan had specifically told him had been consistently remiss in taking action after such warnings.

 

Two of the four planes that attacked our nation on September 11th took off from Logan Airport and 80 of Kerry’s constituents died. Yet Kerry, who held evidence in his hands of Logan’s vulnerabilities, took no action – when his action may well have prevented the horrors of that fateful day.

 

Significantly, Sullivan also filed a complaint with the Hotline of the Federal Aviation Administration’s chief administrator Jane Garvey (a Clinton holdover) and had the incriminating videotape delivered to her office.

 

Who Is Jane Garvey?

In the mid-‘90s, Garvey was the former top administrator at Logan Airport, where it was no secret that the airport’s security system was riddled with problems. Strangely, however, the unremarkable job she did at Logan was thought worthy of reward by the Clinton administration.
 

In a gesture that served to affirm the validity of the Peter Principle – in which people are promoted until they reach their ultimate level of incompetence – Clinton appointed Garvey to be director of the FAA in 1997.

 

During her tenure, Sullivan said, "FAA security personnel were placed in key management positions despite their limited experience in air security and their apparent ideological aversion to prescreen high-suspect people”: i.e., Arab males from the Middle East between the ages of 20-40.

 

Two years after Garvey took the helm, the FAA fined the Massachusetts Port Authority $178,000 for 136 security violations at Logan that included failure to screen baggage properly and allowing easy access to restricted areas and parked planes. On one occasion, a 17-year-old man cut the razor wire on a perimeter fence surrounding Logan and walked for two miles across restricted areas, finally stowing away on a British Airways Boeing 747.

 

Did Garvey’s FAA follow up on those fines? No. In the criminal indictment she never received, surely Exhibit A would have been September 11!

 

It is public knowledge that during the spring and summer of 2001, Garvey’s FAA sent out a CD-ROM of potential terrorist threats prepared by her security chief, Mike Canavan, to 700 airlines and airport executives. The FAA also had extensive data about Al Qaida and bin Laden in its Criminal Acts Against Civil Aviation Reports for 1999 and 2000. For instance:

 

▪ In a May 1998 interview, Bin Ladin suggested that he could use a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile to shoot down a military passenger aircraft transporting U.S. military personnel, adding that his attacks would not distinguish between U.S. civilians and military personnel... an exiled Islamic leader in the United Kingdom proclaimed in August 1998 that Bin Ladin would "bring down an airliner or hijack an airliner to humiliate the United States.”

 

▪ Ramzi Yousef masterminded the 1994 conspiracy to place explosive devices on as many as 12 U.S. airliners flying out of the Far East. In September 1996, Yousef was convicted for this plan and for placing a device on a Philippine Airlines plane in December 1994 as a test for his more elaborate scheme. Although Yousef is currently in prison, at least one other accused participant in the conspiracy remains at large. There are concerns that this individual or others of Yousef’s ilk who may possess similar skills pose a continuing threat to civil aviation interests.

 

▪ The terrorist threat remains. The most recent significant aviation-related terrorist action was the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane by members of a Kashmiri separatist group. There continues to be concern that the hijacking may either be copied or spur others to commit acts because this incident succeeded in gaining the release of prisoners and the hijackers have never been caught. Another threat is attributed to terrorist financier Usama Bin Laden...[who] has both the motivation and the wherewithal to do so.

 

But when I-don’t-know-nuthin’ Garvey testified before the 9/11 Commission, she claimed ignorance of any threats – saying that she hadn’t seen the CD-ROM until after September 11!

 

The 9/11 Commission didn’t believe her. On page 83, its report states: "... the FAA's intelligence unit did not receive much attention from the agency's leadership. Neither Administrator Jane Garvey nor her deputy routinely reviewed daily intelligence, and what they did see was screened for them. She was unaware of a great amount of hijacking threat information from her own intelligence unit, which, in turn, was not deeply involved in the agency's policymaking process. Historically, decisive security action took place only after (my emphasis) a disaster had occurred or a specific plot had been discovered."

 

Further, according to Kevin Berger of Salon.com, commenting on reaction to the 9/11 Commission’s Report: "But all of the international intrigue, not to mention partisan sniping over what president or government agency was at fault, has deflected attention from the one culprit that gets a universal thrashing in the 9/11 report: the Federal Aviation Administration.” Translation: Jane Garvey!.

 

Berger documented the 9/11 Commission’s findings of the grievous failings of the FAA under Garvey:

 

▪ Each layer of the FAA that was relevant to hijackings – intelligence, passenger prescreening, checkpoint screening, and onboard security – was seriously flawed.

 

▪ Although government watch lists contained the names of tens of thousands of known terrorists, including a State Department TIP-OFF list with 60,000 names, the FAA's own "no-fly" list contained names of just 12 terrorist suspects.

 

▪ At Logan’s check-in counters, airline clerks tagged four of the five hijackers on American Flight 11 (the first jet to hit the World Trade Center) as suspect, yet they were allowed to board the plane.

 

▪ Two of the hijackers on American Flight 77 from Dulles, which crashed into the Pentagon, set off the security gate alarm but the screeners didn't bother to investigate further and, again, allowed the hijackers to board the plane.

 

▪ And most damning, Jane Garvey did not review daily intelligence and so was "unaware of a great amount of hijacking threat information from her own intelligence unit."

 

It was also under Garvey that the then-Computer Assisted Passenger Profiling System, or CAPPS I was neutered. After 9/11, the program was renamed the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPs II, because, according to Sullivan, "of overzealous liberals, the American Civil Liberties Union and the diversity crowd who are hell-bent on insuring that political correctness is always implemented at the expense of our basic security.”

 

And Sullivan cites additional flaws in Garvey’s FAA, all of them omitted from the 9/11 Commission’s report. For instance:

 

▪ A memo dated April 2001 from Joe Lawless, director of security at the Massachusetts Port Authority, citing terrorist ties to Logan Airport and the need to address the airport’s known vulnerabilities.

 

▪ The rejection of another Lawless memo by the Logan Airline Managers Council (LAMCO) and the FAA's federal security manager at Logan, proposing that the Mass. State Police begin undercover testing of screening checkpoints in July '01.

 

▪ 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.

 

Incompetence Incarnate

Yet all this is not where Garvey’s egregious mismanagement of the FAA ends. According to NY Times reporter Matthew L. Wald, Garvey ignored both past incidents and those under her watch, including:

 

▪ 1994: The hijacking of two jetliners (one by an Islamic "militant” group) with the intent of "crashing them into buildings.”

 

▪ 1994: A man stormed the cockpit of a domestic flight with the intention, according to his fellow employees, of crashing the plane into a building in Memphis.

 

▪ 1994: A lone pilot crashed a stolen single-engine Cessna into a tree on the White House grounds near the president's bedroom.

 

▪ 1996: The crash of T.W.A. Flight 800, which to this day many people believe was a terrorist attack.

 

▪ 1999: A report of an exiled Islamic leader in Britain who said in August 1998 that bin Laden would ''bring down an airliner or hijack an airliner to humiliate the United States.''

 

▪ 2000: The FAA’s annual report saying that although Osama bin Laden ''is not known to have attacked civil aviation, he has both the motivation and the wherewithal to do so...bin Laden's anti-Western and anti-American attitudes make him and his followers a significant threat to civil aviation, particularly to U.S. civil aviation.”

 

"But aviation security officials,” Wald said, "never extrapolated any sort of pattern from those incidents.” That includes the top official – the FAA’s Jane Garvey.

 

Yet in spite of mountains of evidence pointing to Garvey’s complete incompetence, and in spite of the all the security experts in the United States – which include former or active police chiefs, retired FBI and CIA operatives and private companies that spend 24/7/365 assessing threats and formulating "coping” strategies – Kerry chose Garvey as an "expert” consultant in charge of security for the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

 

That’s right, Jane Garvey, who was singled out by the "we won’t point fingers” 9/11 Commission as taking action "only after a disaster had occurred ...” and whose FAA got "a universal thrashing” in the report.

 

A commentary in Aviation Insight & Perspectives said that: "Appointing Garvey head of convention security is like making John Gotti the head of the FBI.”

 

Sadly, according to Brian Sullivan, "one single recommendation from the Gore Commission in 1997 to harden cockpit doors and enforce rules to keep them closed would have stopped the 9/11 attack cold. If the FAA’s Garvey and DOT’s chief Norman Mineta hadn’t been asleep at the wheel, 9/11 wouldn't have happened, plain and simple.”

 

But it did happen and now we’re left to ponder how on earth the Obama administration could be considering Garvey for the No. 2 spot at the FAA.
 

After less than three weeks in office, the woefully inexperienced Mr. Obama has offered our country the services of three tax cheats (Geithner, Daschle, and Killefer), a man under criminal investigation (Richardson), and a host of leftist policymakers that would do the Marxist-Leninist Politburo proud.

 

The possible appointment of the incompetent Jane Garvey to the deputy’s job at the DOT – which has oversight of the FAA – should be the last straw for Americans of every political stripe, or at least those who care about the still-looming terrorist threat and their own safety on our roads and rails, and in the skies.

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