Sightings from The Catbird Seat
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November 20, 2004
Participants in the Cover-Up of 9/11:
The Case of American and United Airlines
by Elias Davidsson, www.globalresearch.ca
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According to the official account, 19 Arabs hijacked four passenger planes on September 11, 2001 and crashed these planes with passengers and crew onto the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Two of the aircraft belonged to American Airlines and two to United Airlines.
In view of the huge losses incurred by these airlines in terms of human lives and assets, one would have expected them to help shed light on the criminal events.
As will be shown below, the airlines have, on the contrary, refused to disclose crucial evidence to the families of the victims and to the public in general and continue to do so. One of the immediate worries of American Airlines on September 11, 2001, was how to mould information flow to the general public and prevent "rumors" and wrong "theories" to leak out.
A prestigious public-relations agency was put on the scene by AA "minutes after the first crash" to help carry out that communications task. Concurrent to such public-relations efforts, both airlines refused and continue to refuse to disclose the most fundamental data in their possession regarding the murderous events, such as passenger lists and access to eye-witnesses. This evidence suggests airlines’ complicity in covering up the truth on 9/11.
THE OFFICIAL ACCOUNT
While the US administration has not issued any authoritative "official account" (or "white book") of the events of 911, as promised shortly after the events by Secretary of State Colin Powell, the report issued by the bi-partisan Congressional Commission of Inquiry in June 2004 may be regarded as the nearest thing to an "official account".
According to this report, 19 Arab hijackers, whose names and photographs have been posted shortly after the attacks on the FBI website, perpetrated the atrocities on September 11 through a collective suicide operation. Two AA and two UA passenger jets were, according to this account, flown as living missiles into the named targets. The first AA aircraft (flight AA11, tail no. N334AA) is said to have left Logan airport in Boston at 7:59 with 92 people on board (crew, passengers and hijackers) and crashed at 8:46 on the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The second AA aircraft (flight AA77, tail no. N644AA) is said to have left Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. at 8:20 with 64 people on board and crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37. The above departure times, incidentally, are still disputed and in the case of AA11.
As of November 13, 2003, the statistical database of the Department of Transportation (BTS) did not even mention AA11 as a flight scheduled for September 11, 2001 . At a later date the Department added a record for this flight with the departure time set as zero. Checking again the BTS database for this article on November 18, 2004, I discovered that the DoT again amended its database by setting the scheduled departure of AA11 to the "official time" of 7:45. It appears that the DoT had received orders to align its database with the "official account" on the crime of 9/11. Should this have happened, there would be grounds to charge the DoT for falsification of official records and participation in a criminal cover-up.
Hundreds of questions regarding the events of 9/11 remain unaddressed both by the Joint Senate House Committee as well as by the 9/11 Commission of Inquiry. The present article examines only one particular question:
Whether American Airlines (and United Airlines) are participants in the vast cover-up of the crimes committed on September 11, 2001.
WAS THERE PRIOR KNOWLEDGE ?
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the Dallas office of Weber Shandwick, one of world’s largest public relations agencies, mobilized a nationwide network of public relations professionals to assist the American Airlines corporate communications department. The details are reported on Weber Shandwick’s website:
"Within minutes of the first terrorist attack involving American Airlines, Weber Shandwick put in motion a national strategic support network, comprising more than 75 Weber Shandwick professionals, to assist American Airlines during this unprecedented crisis situation. Over the following week, the W.S. team worked around the clock on site at the AA corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as in New York, Washington, D.C., Boston and Los Angeles, providing strategic counsel and tactical support for both internal and external communications. Additionally, the Dallas office of W.S. was staffed 24 hours a day, monitoring breaking national broadcast and online news. Communications specialists in crisis management, consumer relations, internal communications, and government affairs provided support....Externally, AA faced the difficult challenge of controlling what was being said about the airline by unauthorized spokespeople. Flight attendants, pilots – and their unions - along with contracted security firms, airport authorities, government agencies including the FBI, FAA and National Transportation Safety Board, and local government agencies all issued statements regarding the events. Eyewitnesses, stranded passengers and post-September 11 travelers were also of concern. All of these external groups has an impact on American Airlines’ communications strategy, requiring that the W.S. team ensure consistent communications with all audiences."
Timothy Doke was AA Vice President of Corporate Communications at the time of the 9/11 events. He is now Vice President – Corporate Communication at Freescale Semiconductor, Inc.
As a response to the present author’s inquiry, Tim Doke responded by email on October 6, 2004:
"Dear Elias. There seems to be some confusion around the way AA handled the crisis at the time of 9/11. We did not ‘outsource’ all our crisis communications to Weber Shandwick. We managed it from beginning to end in-house. Because of our staffing resources were limited and the air transportation system was shut down, precluding us from getting our staff to key locations around the country, we relied heavily on W.S. professionals to supplement our PR resources at our headquarters in DFW and to provide on-site personnel to support our people in Boston, LA and New York...Nothing in [our crisis] plan contemplated having the FBI move into our offices, declare an incident a criminal investigation and shut-off any of the traditional external media communications we would do in the case of a crash."
Tim Doke added, laconically: "Most of the people who were involved in the crisis on 9/11 have left AA."
According to Sherri Green and Claire Murphy of PR Week USA of November 11, 2001(5), who interviewed Tim Doke, he "immediately called Ken Luce, president of Weber Shandwick Worldwide’s Southwest US office. The agency sent more than 20 people to American’s headquarters and to airports around the U.S. [according to the agency, the figure was 75 professionals, see above – E.D.]..It seemed like every media call raised a new issue". Doke also reportedly said that "spokespeople subtly steered reporters away from false rumors and leaked information. Employees from WSW and American’s other agency, Burson-Marsteller, served as the firm’s eyes and ears in the airports its staff couldn’t reach while planes were grounded".
The above account raises various questions with far-reaching consequences:
(a) Weber Shandwick states on its website that it deployed 75 P/R professionals around the country in support of AA "within minutes" of the crashes. The accuracy of this statement was confirmed to a colleague of the present author by Weber Shandwick’s Ken Luce on October 5th 2004. How could Tim Doke, let alone Ken Luce of Weber Shandwick, know within minutes that AA aircraft were involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when it is publicly claimed that neither the US President, the US military and other security agencies, knew at the time what was going on, let alone could know the identity of the crashed aircraft? Is it plausible that a service agreement, detailing the nature, scope and costs of Weber Shandwick’s P/R services for American Airlines, could have been drafted, finalized and negotiated within minutes of the attacks? Or were AA and Weber Shandwick executives forewarned on the attacks, ready to act on the spur of the moment? If so, by whom were they forewarned?
In an email of November 7, 2004 to the present author, Tim Doke dismisses that AA or Weber Shandwick "had any premonition of the events of 9/11. It was the furthest thing from our minds." Regarding the promptness of Weber Shandwick’s reaction he merely explained that "Weber Shandwick had people ready to respond quickly to this event."
(b) What were the specific interests that prompted AA to engage in a massive P/R efforts on the very day of the attacks? A hint is given in the statement by Weber Shandwick that it was necessary for AA to "ensure consistent communications with all audiences". In his email of November 7, 2004, Tim Doke shed some light on the term "consistent communications" by saying: "Lots of people claimed to have knowledge or theories about what happened that they shared with any reporter who would listen. It was important for us to go ‘off the record’ with certain media who were straying from the facts as we, at AA, uniquely knew them. We did this to prevent inacurate reporting." However, in his email he maintained that "employees who were in contact with the terrorists on the ground were fully interviewed by the FBI, but had no desire to speak to the media. Of course, they could not talk to reporters anyway under the FBI's restrictions."
One may surmise that AA employees were strictly forbidden to talk to media and the public about what they knew so that only "authorized" individuals could describe the events in line with what the corporation wanted the world to know. This required to "subtly steer[...] reporters away from rumors and leaked information". AA was apparently concerned, and seriously so, that some facts regarding the events of 9/11 and AA’s relation to these events, would reach the public.
PARTICIPATING IN THE COVER-UP?
As mentioned already in the previous section, part of the public relations efforts carried out by Weber Shandwick, at the request of American Airlines, was to "subtly steer[.,.] reporters away from rumors and leaked information". What type of "leaked information" was AA concerned with?
It is argued here that the information AA did not want to "leak" to the public was the same information that AA refuses to reveal to the families of the victims and to the public in general since 9/11. Such information includes:
(a) Names of ground personnel who saw off the passengers and crew at the departure gate on 9/11 and could testify on what they saw;
(b) Authentified copies of the flight manifests, which would show the names of the alleged hijackers and of the passengers;
(c) Copies of boarding cards, which would show the names of the alleged hijackers and of the passengers and confirm their seat numbers;
(d) Computer listing of the boarding times of individual passengers and hijackers;
(e) Positive evidence that the aircraft which left the airport was indeed the aircraft which later crashed into the known target (aircraft serial number, tail number, engine serial numbers, black boxes, etc.);
(f) Names and contacts of AA personnel who reportedly communicated by cellphones with crew or passengers on the hijacked aircraft and could publicly testify on these conversations.
The present author asked both American and United Airlines to provide some of the above information. Both airlines declined to provide the information and referred the author to the FBI for all such data. The last attempt to obtain information from American Airlines (a letter to AA spokesman Marty Heires of October 6, 2004) did not elicit any response at all. Neither airline, however, justified in its answer its refusal on a legal restraining order or on the need to protect the privacy of the families of the victims or of its personnel. The author has not come across any Justice Department order, or any legal ruling, that prohibits airlines from releasing the above information and airline personnel to communicate freely with the media on matters relating to 9/11. However, Tim Doke, in his email to the present author claimed that the FBI "limited what we could say publicly through the media" and that "employees who were in contact with the terrorists on the ground... could not talk to reporters... under the FBI's restrictions."
A spokesperson of the FBI, asked why the agency has not publicized the original flight manifests in support of its allegation against 19 named hijackers, did not maintain that the FBI or the airlines were legally prohibited from disclosing the original flight manifest. She simply referred the present author to the airlines for such information.
The airlines’ apparently uncoerced refusal to produce the above information suggests that this refusal is prompted by their interest to prevent their employees, the families of victims and the public from knowing the full truth on the events of 9/11,
DID AA OFFICIALS POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE CRASHED PLANES ?
In order to obtain insurance benefits, owners of a crashed plane must positively identify the plane as theirs. Yet, in the case of the reported crashes of the four planes on September 11, 2001, no evidence could be found in the public domain that airline experts positively identified the crashed planes from the planes’ wreckage. If such expertise did take place beyond public gaze, why would American or United Airlines not announce such positive identification on their website or in a press release? The Report by the Congressional Inquiry Commission does not either, for its part, refer to any positive forensic identification of the aircraft by the airlines or by public agencies.
According to the "official account", the aircrafts were the weapons with which the passengers were killed. In a proper criminal investigation, one of investigators’ first tasks is to identify the owner of the murder weapon and find out how that weapon reached the scene of the crime. Yet, no reference to such an investigation could be found in the allegedly "comprehensive" report by the Congressional Commission of Inquiry.
The lack of positive identification of the aircraft means that the families of the dead or missing passengers cannot know with certainty where and how their beloved ones actually died nor who caused their deaths.
WHAT COULD THE AIRLINES BE COVERING UP ?
It might be argued that the airlines’ secrecy is prompted by their fear of being sued for negligent security measures rather than by charges of criminal complicity. If this were the case, what would explain the refusal of the airlines to release the original flight manifests or allow eyewitnesses to be questioned publicly? It appears, therefore, that the airlines cooperate with US public agencies in covering up the crime of 9/11.
Unless American and United Airlines show readiness to produce the above evidence, duly authenticated, and cooperate fully with the families of the victims and the general public to shed light on the events of 9/11, they must be regarded as suspects in the vast criminal conspiracy to commit a mass murder in America on September 11, 2001.
Global Research Contributing Editor Elias Davidsson lives in Reykjavik, Iceland. He is a composer, author, human rights activist and a member of the Icelandic chapter of the 911-Truth Movement.
March 31, 2003
American Airlines Avoids Bankruptcy
Strikes Tentative Deal With All Three Of Its Unions
(AP) American Airlines took a huge step toward preventing bankruptcy Monday by reaching tentative cost-cutting agreements with its mechanics and flight attendants. A source familiar with the situation said the world's largest airline has also reached a deal with its pilots.
The airline has said it needs $1.8 billion in concessions from its 99,000 employees to avoid a Chapter 11 filing. Any agreements would require employee approval.
"We've reached an agreement on an economic framework," said George Price, a spokesman for the flight attendants' union. He would not discuss details, but said ratification could begin as early as Tuesday.
American said only that it had reached agreement with its 16,200 mechanics. Neither side would confirm any deal involving the pilots, but it was confirmed by the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The developments came as the company held negotiations with all three unions at its training center in Fort Worth, Texas. Experts said the talks were probably affected by last week's agreement between United Airlines and its pilots' union on $1.1 billion in cuts.
"I think that has helped focus their minds," said Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.
American's parent, AMR Corp., has lost nearly $5.3 billion in the past two years as it has struggles with a slump in travel caused by the weak economy and terrorism. The war in Iraq has further weakened international travel.
American has also suffered as a result of competition from low-fare carriers, which has kept fares down, reducing potential revenue. Other major airlines are also pushing employees to accept wage and benefit cuts.
Even if employees ratify the agreements, analysts said it will still be critical for AMR Corp. to secure additional financing from lenders as well as better deals from suppliers and lessors.
"That will be very important to tide them over through their current, difficult financial circumstances," said Philip Baggaley at Standard & Poor's.
The Allied Pilots Association made a proposal to American Airlines for $660 million in savings by changing work rules and making across-the-board pay cuts. The union said it was confident that would let American compete with United Airlines and US Airways, which have cut costs in bankruptcy, and with low-cost carriers.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants submitted its $340 million cost-cutting proposal Friday.
Last week, talks hit a snag when American said it would not count savings from nearly 1,000 pilot layoffs and retirements expected this year toward the $660 million cost-cutting goal. The union believes the cuts will save American up to $150 million.
A member of the National Mediation Board was called in to help resolve the dispute. Over the weekend, the company reached tentative agreements with six groups of ground workers, totaling 2,500 employees. The company previously reached a tentative deal with 16,300 baggage handlers.
April 9, 2003
Latest Developments in the 9/11 Litigation
The litigation process has already exposed several widely held misconceptions concerning the September 11 hijackings and the legal proceedings available to the families of the airline passenger victims. These misconceptions have been spread by innumerable inaccurate media reports, by governmental, airline and security company spokespersons, by those promoting the Fund, by legal analysts in print and on TV, and by others.
1. Were box cutters permissible carry-on items aboard airlines on September 11, 2001?
Almost immediately we were all told that the carriers and screeners did nothing wrong because box cutters, the most commonly mentioned weapon of the hijackers, were items that were allowed to be carried on board commercial aircraft. Almost every news account emphasized how box cutters were permissible. These accounts were false. We have discovered that the airlines themselves specifically listed box cutters as prohibited items. The airlines failed, therefore, in each instance, to discover, confiscate and bring to the attention of a supervisor, the presence of prohibited box cutters.
2. Will the families who sue be able to recover anything?
This notion has been especially raised with regard to United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 which crashed into the World Trade Center towers. These carriers have been sued by most plaintiffs -- American, United and US Airways -- because they cleared two hijackers through security in Portland, Maine to board a Colgan Air flight to Boston, Logan.
It has been widely reported that each of the hijacked flights had insurance coverage of at least 1½ billion dollars. Each flight had several policies. Part of this insurance is specifically reserved for the passengers’ benefits. For example, US Airways’ insurance policy in effect on 9/11 states "with respect to passengers - $1,500,000,000" and "with respect to other than passengers - $25,000,000."
We believe the policies of United and American contain similar provisions. However, there are several more policies, as stated by the carriers to the U.S. Government.
3. Did the carriers have a duty to protect from terrorism?
Absolutely. By federal law, the carriers were required to protect passengers from hijacking and terrorism. The carriers admitted this in a pleading they filed in these 9/11 cases....
American Airlines, in its Memorandum of Law in Support of the Motion of the Aviation Defendants to Dismiss Ground Damage Claims, filed on January 17, 2003, claim that "the Duty of Air Carriers in the Circumstances of September 11 Extended Only to the Protection of Passengers and Crew." They moved to dismiss all ground claims. This month the judge will rule on their motion.
4. Will lawsuits against the airlines bankrupt them?
The Airline Stabilization Act of 2001 was supposedly passed to protect the airlines from the financial devastation caused by their negligence on September 11. That Act created a "Fund" for victims in addition to, and instead of, the normal litigation remedies.
In point of fact, United Airlines filed for bankruptcy in Chicago on December 9, 2002 without having paid one dime in actual claims to September 11 victims.
US Airways filed for bankruptcy in Alexandria, Virginia on August 11, 2002 without having paid one dime to September 11 victims.
American Airlines (after its smaller insurance policies on Flights 11 and 77 paid out $28,735.63 and $42,372.88, respectively) has also been considering bankruptcy.
These two airlines’ bankruptcies and American’s financial plight, have been brought about, not by any September 11 victim’s lawsuit, but by the arguably excessive salaries and "bonuses" paid to its management for poorly managing the airlines and for helping to bring about the large downturn in air travel by having failed to protect their passengers from hijacking and sabotage as the law required. And this in spite of both United and American having received their share of the 10 billion dollars of taxpayer money paid to airlines in the above "bailout bill." The U.S. Congress is currently considering additional bailout bills.
5. Family members will have an extra six months to file wrongful-death lawsuits under a deal announced recently by New York state leaders.
The two-year statute of limitations for filing wrongful-death actions will be extended to March 11, 2004. However, the New York legislature extended the deadline to file lawsuits in New York, with a very misleading statement. Statements were made in the press that they were doing this so families would not have to file a lawsuit to toll (stop the running of) the statutes of limitations (deadlines by which one must file a lawsuit or be barred) while families decided whether or not to go to the Fund, and then later dismiss the case if they went to the Fund. The Fund language is very, very clear on that point. Any suit on file after March 2002, bars an application to the Fund. The state of New York cannot change federal law and regulation. So, this change does not have any effect on the cases currently moving thought the courts, and federal regulation does not permit filing a case and then dismissing and going to the Fund. The first 10 families who filed cases will recall that last summer they actually had to discuss the decision (either in person or on the phone) with a federal magistrate in New York City. Thereafter the Federal judge suspended that requirement to discuss their reasoning with the magistrate because it was painfully apparent to him after our first 10 cases that families were very much aware of the Fund, and had put careful thought into their decisions.
6. Are there deadlines which will pass within the next month affecting the ability to file suit?
Yes. If you wish to preserve a claim against United, you mush file a proof of claim by May 12 in bankruptcy court. The form from the bankruptcy court is available with their instructions.
If you wish to preserve a claim against US Airways, you must do so by May 15. We named US Airways in our lawsuits concerning American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 because they cleared Mohammed Atta and Abdul Aziz Alomari through security in Portland, Maine. From there the hijackers boarded a Colgan Air flight to Boston and landed behind security at Logan so they did not have to re-clear security. While those hijackers boarded American Airlines Flight 11, they clearly compromised security at Boston Logan and could have affected both flights.
Regardless of the New York legislature extending the deadline to file a lawsuit, in order to file a law suit against United or US Airways, you have to file a proof of claim in the bankrupty courts by the deadlines in May. If you don't, any future claims against them will be barred. After the May deadlines you may be able to file suit against the security companies and other defendants, but not United or US Airways.
I hope this helps clear up misconceptions for NADA members and friends and aids in their search for justice and accountability.
Mary F. Schiavo
Baum Hedlund Aristei Guilford & Schiavo
November 11, 2001
American Airlines braces
for most turbulent journey
PR Week USA , by SHERRI DEATHERAGE GREEN and CLAIRE MURPHY
American Airlines ramped up a newly revised crisis communications plan in late summer. Those charged with imagining worst-case scenarios laid out contingencies for plane crashes and 1978-style hijackings. They never dreamed of terrorists turning two aircrafts into weapons of mass destruction, of coordinating disaster communication with another airline in the same predicament, or of working in the shadows of the FBI.
“This was not going to be a crisis-as-usual situation for us,” says Timothy Doke, VP corporate communications for Texas-based American Airlines.
Driving down a freeway September 11, Doke learned American Flight 11 had crashed into the World Trade Center . By the time he reached AMR’s crisis command center in Fort Worth, he found out the second tower had met the same fate. Word of Flight 77’s dive into the Pentagon soon followed.
A whole new strategy
“In a very odd way, that to me changed the whole dynamic of what we were dealing with,” says Doke. “Strictly from a PR standpoint, it had a bit of a calming effect. It was apparent to me that this was something that could not possibly be the fault of American Airlines.”
American abandoned its freshly minted crisis communications plan almost immediately, not because putting the CEO out front isn’t the best plan of action in a crisis, but because the FBI rushed to American’s command center and made it clear who was in charge. American issued its first press release within a few hours of the attacks, referring all questions to the FBI. In any other crisis, it would have responded much sooner.
Even without the risk of compromising a criminal investigation, Doke doesn’t think turning CEO Don Carty into a spokesman for the tragedy would have been appropriate. “It became increasingly obvious to us that the CEO for this crisis wasn’t Don Carty or Jim Goodwin (former CEO) of United,” Doke says. “The CEO in this instance was George W. Bush.”
Mike Boyd, president of the Boyd Group, an aviation consulting firm in Colorado , thinks American did the right thing. “We didn’t know what the situation was,” he observes. “In an act of war, American’s corporate objective takes a back seat to America ’s objective.”
American couldn’t say much, but its communications office remained staffed 24 hours a day for more than two weeks. “The toughest thing is the first day when everybody comes in and wants to jump immediately into the crisis,” Doke says. “You have to tell a third of them to go home and get some sleep.”
Agencies spring into action
Doke immediately called Ken Luce, president of Weber Shandwick Worldwide’s Southwest US office. The agency sent more than 20 people to American’s headquarters and to airports around the U.S. Unable to get around by public transport that day, two of WSW’s New York employees hitchhiked to La Guardia, Luce says.
“It seemed like every media call raised a new issue,” Doke recalls. While American couldn’t answer many questions, spokespeople subtly steered reporters away from false rumors and leaked information. Employees from WSW and American’s other agency, Burson-Marsteller, served as the firm’s eyes and ears in the airports its staff couldn’t reach while planes were grounded.
American’s attention turned inward to employee communication. Staff bulletins became an important means of communicating to the outside world as well. The airline took the unusual step of putting such messages on its public website, Doke says. These included transcripts of “hotline” voice-mail messages from Carty. The CEO made several special recordings in the days after September 11 to reassure staff. Management received an average of seven e-mails a day in the first few days to keep them updated.
By Sept. 28, the PR staff, like every other department in the cash-strapped airline, had to do more with less. Five of the 20,000 employees laid off by the airline worked in PR, reducing headcount to about 40, including 10 people who work in the company museum. Doke reorganized remaining staff and assigned each employee responsibilities on both a subject-matter and geographic basis.
Tighter budgets also mean less outside help. “We’ve had to cut our professional fee budget substantially,” Doke says. That has cut into the fees paid to both WSW and Burson....
For much more, GO TO > > > Axis of Evil
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MORE TO COME
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