The Vilest Criminals Work In Corporate Suites

    Here's a novel idea.

    After the crash of TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island back in 1996, the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security recommended 31 steps that it stated must be achieved in order for the airlines and airports to provide a multilayered security system. For the last five years, the airlines and the FAA have basically ignored those steps, mostly because they impacted the airline's profits.

    There is little doubt that even the airlines acknowledge that their inaction and delaying tactics led directly to the ease with which the terrorists were able to board and commandeer the four flights on Sept. 11. Carol Hallett, the president of the Air Transport Assn., admitted as much on Oct. 6 in a speech in Atlanta when she stated, "In our hearts, everyone must realize that failure to use the [profiling] techniques that are available today may be directly responsible for the events of Sept. 11."

    So, in as much as the FAA and the airline's lobbyists fought nearly every single effort to modernize and improve the safety and security at airports and on the planes, why don't we do this? We'll subpoena all records pertaining to the airline's executives and FAA department official's decisions to block these recommendations. We will then ascertain whom, among them, were in the position to make the final judgment to either refuse to obey or attempted to water down the regulations. Finally, once those responsible have been determined, we charge them with 5,000 to 6,000 counts of criminal negligence resulting in death or injuries.

    I believe that these criminals should, when convicted, be given the longest and harshest sentences that the law allows. In fact, those subordinates who were involved but did not speak out against these criminal acts should also receive a level of punishment equal to their active participation in making those decisions.

    As for the FAA, on Sept. 16 the White House received a report from them on the status of the implementation of those 31 steps. The FAA replied that 25 of the 31 steps had been "completed", although the rest of the report revealed that the FAA had a different definition of "completed" than that found in dictionaries. Few, very few, of the measures were in place and the vast majority of those were either not working or not working as planned.

    When asked why the proposals had not been implemented, the agency blamed "often conflicting and time-consuming" federal rule making and efforts to protect civil liberties.

    So, after five years, what are the problems that the FAA is still hung up on?

    According to the LA Times, the agency claimed the following.

    "The agency was still collecting research on how to keep intruders from slipping past airport perimeter fences and into restricted areas."

    "The FAA had not launched an effort to assess the vulnerability of the nation's 450 commercial airports to terrorism. Instead, the agency was conducting studies to determine the best way to spot security weaknesses."

    "Various measures to improve detection of explosives in baggage were bouncing from agency to agency. Two commission's recommended regulations regarding mail shipments on passenger planes had met with resistance from the U.S. Postal Service, which worried that security-related delays would drive away customers."

    "The FBI was still working on a plan to protect civilian planes from surface-to-air missiles."

    "The FAA was negotiating with intelligence agencies to give airline officials access to confidential information about potential terrorists and plots."

    Another obstacle that the airlines and the FAA placed between profits and the lives of the 5,000 people on Sept. 11 were their objections to fingerprinting and security checks for airline employees with access to secure areas.

    Even one small victory for human beings, the use of a device that can screen over 225 bags an hour for many types of contraband, is being used, when at all, to screen less than 225 bags a day.

    A minimal requirement of simply matching every bag loaded onto an airplane with a specific passenger has been resisted and the airlines have been able to alter the regulation down to being required to only spot check luggage with specific passengers.

    Unbelievably, even when the airlines do follow a recommendation it screws it up completely. When Congress finally mandated background checks for security screeners, investigators have caught the security companies falsifying background checks.

    So, gentle readers, exactly what have we now learned about the dangers of flying, dangers that your government and the airline industry have been very adept at concealing from you, at least until now?

    First, as is always the case, profits are far more important than the lives of passengers or people on the ground. Of course, you and I both know that the greed of Corporate America will always rule out any process that might save lives but, as is said, negatively impacts the bottom line.

    Next, even your government has completely sold itself out to Corporate America. Rather than placing your best interests as its primary reason for being, the government works with great effort to insure that the very industries it is meant to regulate is allowed to simply ignore any regulation or policy that it doesn't wish to acknowledge.

    Folks, after five years the FAA hasn't figured out how to keep unauthorized personnel out of restricted areas nor has it even been able to create a policy on how to check for security vulnerabilities at the nation's airports. After five years, the FAA has been unable to create a consistent policy on the use of the newest technology to check for explosives in all baggage that is loaded on the same plane that you're flying on. And, in what I find to be the most telling testimony to the idiocy of the Reagan Administration's arming of the Taliban with Stinger missiles in the 1980's, the FBI is still trying to figure out some way to protect civilian airplanes from those same surface-to-air missiles.

    It is far past the time when the people in industry and in government must be held directly responsible for their actions (or criminal lack of action) and their effects on the safety and health of the American people and the environment of the planet.

    If you behaved in the same despicable manner as the airlines and the FAA have, you would be immediately charged with criminal negligence. Your life and your fortunes would be taken from you without doubt or hesitation. To allow the executives of corporations to be held blameless for the damages and deaths that their decisions occasion must not be allowed to continue. Murder is murder, whether the weapon is a gun or a lobbyist in a thousand-dollar suit bribing the relevant government officials under the guise of "campaign contributions". ( 1 )

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Copyright 11/18/01