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Aviation companies blame FBI, CIA and terrorists for 9/11

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The Associated Press
Thursday, May 1, 2008

NEW YORK: Aviation companies sued by the families of Sept. 11 victims for failing
to safeguard air travel are in turn blaming federal investigators — arguing
the Federal Aviation Administration was not alerted that al-Qaida was poised
to launch terrorist attacks.

In court documents filed this week in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, aviation
companies are seeking to force five FBI employees to provide testimony that
may help defend against claims the companies share blame in the attacks.

"The aviation parties anticipate that the FBI witnesses’ testimony will
demonstrate that the FBI had information before Sept. 11 indicating that al-Qaida
may have been about to launch terrorist attacks on civil aviation, which it
did not timely pass along to the Federal Aviation Administration," lawyers
wrote.

The airlines and aviation companies are defending themselves against lawsuits
seeking billions of dollars in damages for injuries, fatalities, property damage
and business losses related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

The companies in turn filed separate lawsuits against the CIA and the FBI last
August to force terrorism investigators to tell whether the aviation industry
was to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks.

The latest documents filed by the airlines, airport authorities, security companies
and an aircraft manufacturer argue that if the FAA had known about an FBI investigation
of Zacarias Moussaoui weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, it could have amended
security measures to guard against the type of terrorist attack Moussaoui was
planning.

The aviation defendants said the FBI has refused to permit even a single deposition,
although the agency does not deny that five potential witnesses in the case
have already testified and made other public statements before the 9/11 Commission,
the Moussaoui trial jury and the media.

In the lawsuit against the CIA, companies including American Airlines Inc.,
United Airlines Inc., US Airways Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Continental
Airlines Inc. and The Boeing Co. are seeking to interview the deputy chief of
the CIA’s bin Laden unit in 2001, and an FBI special agent assigned to the unit
at that time. The names of both are secret.

The lawyers said testimony from both agencies was critical to their defense.

"After weighing this evidence together with the criminal acts of the terrorists,
the jury would be entitled to conclude that any act or omission by the aviation
parties was so dwarfed by the other causal factors of the attacks that the aviation
parties’ conduct was not a substantial cause of the plaintiffs’ injuries,"
the lawyers wrote.

U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said last year that the request for depositions
with FBI agents was rejected because the aviation companies didn’t explain how
FBI information before the attacks would relate to their defense efforts.

Garcia said much of the information was protected from disclosure, "because
it involves classified national security information or matters protected by
the law enforcement investigative privilege."

He also said it would be "extremely difficult and burdensome" to
separate the classified information from the non-classified information and
risk that some classified materials may be inadvertently disclosed.

Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for government lawyers in the case, said there
was no comment Wednesday.

Source URL: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/04/30/america/Sept-11-Lawsuits.php