A group of 25 former federal employees directly involved in the government's counterintelligence and counterterrorism programs held a press conference here [Washington, DC] 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-feds bring a lots of experience to the table, and the evidence they cite to illustrate the government's incredible incompetence in the area of counter-terrorism is certainly poignant.
Many of the names of those involved in this group are no news to those of us who have followed the recent string of internal disclosures within various bureaucracies in the US government. Those disclosures mostly testify to the fact that many in the government mostly concern themselves with scoring political points and to that end sacrifice and destroy professionalism in the ranks. Secrecy and obfuscation is used to cover one's tracks.
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 Congress—organized by Sibel Edmonds, the former FBI whistleblower who is blocked from telling what she knows by a Justice Department gag order—citing "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."