FAA 'RED TEAM' FAULTS SECURITY AT U.S. AIRPORTS
by Margie Burns
American Reporter Correspondent
WASHINGTON -- The four officials chiefly responsible for aviation security at the airports where planes were hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, are still in important and very public positions in aviation security, The American Reporter has learned, despite substantive questions about their role in that day's historic disasters.
Several former members of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) "red team" of security experts who tracked security breaches at the nation's airports and airlines have now begun speaking publicly about ongoing problems with aviation security across the country.
"No accountability, no progress," is how these airport security professionals sum up the situation at the nation's airports.
Two Boeing 767s, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were hijacked and crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center after being hijacked at Boston's Logan International Airport.
Logan had security problems, according to specialists in the aviation security field, notably Brian F. Sullivan, who was not a member of the FAA's "red team."
Sullivan, who retired as an FAA Special Agent and Risk Management Specialist for the FAA's New England Region Security Division in January 2001, is emphatic on several points. One is that security problems prevalent before the skyjackers' attacks still persist. The other is that the administration's bureaucratic self-protection has thwarted accountability.
Sullivan particularly faults the inertia of management when it comes to making needed personnel changes or to holding public officials accountable by firing them. Little has changed, according to the "red team," and Sullivan says the Logan Airport record is an exemplar of the situation in airports across the cvountry. Before September 11, 2001, the Manager of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) New England Region Security Division was Willie J. Gripper, Jr. The Manager of the FAA's Civil Aviation Security Field Office at Logan Airport was Mary Carol Turano. These two officials were chiefly responsible for security at Logan.
On September 29, 2001, the Boston Globe reported that "The Federal Aviation Administration has removed its director of security at Logan Airport - the first in an expected wave of shakeups at the airport in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."
Turano, whose experience aviation security was questioned even at the time of her hiring in 1998, originally received her appointment when her superior, Willie J. Gripper, Jr., promised to mentor and tutor her. Shortly after 9-11, she was reassigned to the FAA New England regional office in Burlington.
Security at Logan had been criticized for at least ten years before 2001, as reported in the Globe and even in undergraduate newspapers at Harvard and Boston University. According to Sullivan, the FAA's Civil Aviation Security Field Office (CASFO) at Logan already had an Enforcement Investigative Report (EIR) case backlog between 1998 and 2001 that has not been given national exposure. News reports after 9-11 indicated that letting the security violations pile up to create a backlog had created problems for agents reporting the violations. Because of the delays, airline lawyers were able to fight the cases easily. Cases involving security breaches reportedly languished in the Logan office for more than two years, at which point the FAA's legal department can refuse to prosecute them. While administration officials continues to decline comment on Turano's reassignment, citing privacy issues, there are two points to note: First, it was not followed by a "wave of shakeups," and she was not actually fired but instead was assigned to another post in aviation security.
As Sullivan points out, "Mrs. Turano is a Transportation Security Specialist with the TSA's Office of Training and Quality Performance at TSA Headquarters, Pentagon City, Arlington, Va. ... now we have Mrs. Turano involved in training and quality performance for the TSA when she was relieved of her CASFO manager's duties after 9/11!"
Her superior, Willie Gripper, was in effect promoted after 9-11. As Sullivan puts it, "Willie is now the Director of Operations in the FAA's Office of Security and Hazardous Materials at FAA HQs ... To think of Gripper dealing with security of FAA facilities in support of the National Airspace System (NAS) and Hazardous Material shipments should send a shudder down the spine of anyone familiar with his role in creating the prevailing environment at Logan pre 9/11." "The Office of Security & Hazardous Materials deals with Facility Security, ID Media, Industrial Security, Personnel Security, the Drug Investigative Support Program, Investigations and Airman DUI/DWI. To have Mary Carol Turano involved with training for the TSA after her performance in Boston is incredible. To have Willie Gripper involved with programs in support of the National Airspace System (NAS) after his performance in Boston, particularly vis-a-vis Turano, is also hard to imagine." Calls to Gripper's office for comment were referred to Public Relations in the FAA. That office, however, says that "all questions about security are now handled by the TSA." A question left by phone message for the FAA, asking whether anyone in aviation has been fired or demoted as a result of 9-11, was not answered. A spokesman for the department who returned the call declined to answer, citing privacy concerns for personnel matters. Turano's office does not return calls for comment. Gripper had moved to FAA headquarters a few months prior to 9/11. Afterward, he was shifted to the new TSA, in the new Department of Homeland Security, for a short time before returning to the FAA as Director of Operations for the new Office of Security and Hazardous Materials. Turano was transferred from Boston to the New England Region Security Division, also for a short time, also before returning to the TSA in Training and Quality Performance.
The reassignments of these two officials may represent a pattern of inertia following 9/11, the experts suggest. In what Sullivan and other former red team members freely characterize as administrative inertia and a cult of in-crowd self-protection at best, and a cover-up at worst, almost every individual public official in a position of responsibility before 9-11 is still in one afterward, two years later.
Marcus Arroyo, for instance, was manager of the FAA's Eastern Region Security Division, which provided regulatory oversight of airports and airlines including Dulles and Newark, where the other two jumbo jets were hijacked. Arroyo is now the new Transportation Security Administration's Federal Security Director at Newark Airport.
Also, the FAA Security official in charge of Dulles Airport on 9/11, Mark Randol, was transferred out of Dulles shortly thereafter. Randol is now the TSA's Federal Security Director at Missoula International Airport, Mont. Arroyo's duties as Division Manager also included supervising Randol as Security Manager at Dulles.
"This is an interesting tale of not only a lack of accountability, but of rewarding failure," Sullivan sums up.
The story goes well beyond the East Coast, he says. However, Sullivan's focus is on the Logan, Newark and Dulles airports because they were the sites of the skyjacking of four jumbo jets used in the attacks. As he points out, none of the four people chiefly responsible for aviation security at these most sensitive sites have been held accountable. He is dismissive of claims that the personnel information is particularly sensitive.
"The purpose of sensitive security information, of keeping security information secret, is to protect national security," Sullivan said. "The purpose of secrecy is not, should not be, to protect FAA or other agency incompetence or to protect government incompetence."
There may be another factor besides bureaucratic self-protection in the agencies' failure to turn over information or to hold officials accountable, the experts suggest. More than 1,700 families of people killed in the attacks have so far not chosen to accept money from the designated fund established for the September 11 victims and survivors. Their legal deadline for deciding whether to accept the fund or to pursue litigation is Dec. 22, 2003.
Sullivan suggests that the aviation litigation being filed by attorney Mary Schiavo on behalf of some families is a factor in the agencies' reticence. The aviation agencies are working with the airlines themselves, to prevent release of information that might be used by plaintiffs suing the airlines.
Margie Burns is Chief Washington Correspondent for the American Reporter.