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Gov’t says FBI agents can’t testify about 9/11

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The Associated Press
June 19, 2008

NEW YORK: Government lawyers say the ongoing investigation into the Sept.
11 attacks could be compromised if the airline industry is allowed to seek more
information from the FBI to defend itself against lawsuits brought by terrorism

In papers filed late Tuesday, the government urged a judge to block aviation
companies from interviewing five FBI employees who the companies say will help
them prove the government withheld key information before the 2001 attacks.

The lawyers said it would be impossible to interview the employees without
disclosing classified or privileged material that could "cause serious
damage to national security and interfere with pending law enforcement proceedings."

"The harm described is not hypothetical and cannot be lightly dismissed,"
according to the court papers submitted by the office of U.S. Attorney Michael
Garcia. "Investigators continue to seek out those parties responsible for
the 9/11 attacks who remain at large."

The largest investigation in FBI history has resulted in 167,000 interviews
and more than 155,000 pieces of evidence and involved the pursuit of 500,000
investigative leads, the lawyers wrote.

They said the aviation lawyers were unrealistic to think the investigation
would not be compromised if they speak to the FBI employees.

"In fact, it is not possible to disentangle the classified from the unclassified
information in the context of a deposition, where open-ended inquiries may elicit
responses in which classified or privileged material is intertwined," they

So far, the government said, the FBI has turned over more than 33,000 pages
of information to the aviation industry lawyers, including more than 10,000
pages of laboratory pictures and related information, witness interviews and
descriptions of the hijackers’ weapons.

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 attacks.

The companies 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.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the victims of the attacks agreed that the FBI should
not be forced to provide more information. They recounted in court papers numerous
hijackings and attacks aboard planes before Sept. 11 that they said should have
put the airline industry on notice that a disastrous attack could occur.

Victims’ lawyer Donald Migliori said the case was "about one thing and
one thing only — the security failures at three of this country’s largest
airports that morning." Terrorists launched the Sept. 11 attacks by hijacking
planes from Boston’s Logan International Airport, Washington’s Dulles International
Airport and Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

Migliori said the airline industry was "trying to create a smoke screen
by suggesting that if the FBI expressed more to the aviation defendants directly
then it wouldn’t have happened." He said the victims were eager to go to

"We want these families in the courtroom so they can move on with their
lives and get answers," he said.

A lawyer for the airline industry did not immediately return a phone message
for comment Wednesday.

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