Sunday, July 09, 2006

What You Don't Know, You Won't Know 

What ho! Bill Katovsky, author of Patriots Act: Voices of Dissent and the Risk of Speaking Out, wrote the following S.F. Chronicle profile of former counterterrorism expert Bogdan Dzakovic. Mr. Dzakovic offers a few useful career tips for any functionary who is wondering how to get ahead in the Bush adminisistration, and a few words of caution for any jittery citizen who is so credulous as to imagine that his or her personal safety is a matter of any concern whatsoever to Bush administration functionaries:
Dzakovic was in charge of the FAA's Red Team -- a small, elite squad who conducted mock undercover raids as terrorists and hijackers. It probed vulnerable areas inside airports. With surprising ease and frequency during routine tests, members of his team slipped bombs, guns and knives onto aircraft.

Several days after Sept. 11, 2001, the FAA grounded the Red Team, apparently because it didn't want to be embarrassed by the team's findings. Dzakovic disagreed with this cowardly attempt to bury the truth. And so he took the bold step of filing a whistle-blower disclosure in October 2001 with the Office of Special Counsel, an independent government agency. That document -- the first of its kind by an FAA Security Division employee -- set in motion a lengthy and costly investigation by the inspector general.

One finding of that inquiry, according to Dzakovic, was that FAA security operated in a way that created a "substantial and specific danger to public safety."

But instead of rewarding Dzakovic, the newly formed Transportation Security Administration, which had swallowed the FAA, punished him by reassigning him to an entry-level clerical position behind a desk. He spent months punching holes in paper and putting training binders together for new TSA employees. The counter-terrorism expertise of this valuable 14-year FAA veteran was stupidly wasted. He wanted to spend the rest of his career fighting bad guys, but his government bosses thought that wasn't such a good idea after he became a whistle-blower . . . .

"Since 9/11, I learned to have less contempt for the terrorists than I do for the bureaucrats and politicians who could have prevented 9/11 but didn't," he told me. "They served in very pivotal positions of influence but due to gross incompetence or the fear of actually fulfilling their oaths of office to defend this country or possibly even something a bit more sinister, they failed to take any action. After 9/11, they all scurried into their little rat holes and waited for the firestorm to burn itself out. Then they crawled out and suddenly they are experts in aviation security.

"Many of the FAA bureaucrats that actively thwarted improvements in security prior to 9/11 have been promoted by FAA or the Transportation Security Administration. I have never in my life been around more gutless, inept and outright ignorant people than I have at TSA headquarters, most of whom are in management. You combine this atmosphere with absolutely no accountability and it is a very dangerous formula for a repeat of 9/11.

"There are so many obvious holes in the system that are not being closed, it is very scary. And what's worse is that they are not being closed for the exact same reasons that they weren't closed leading up to 9/11. It's the perpetuation of the good old boys' club. Rarely do you see a bureaucrat or politician that actively encourages subordinates to give them bad news. Instead, they prefer to be surrounded by people who constantly present a rosy picture. So the only people that get promoted up the chain are the ones who play the game and don't ruffle any feathers."

Meanwhile, Congress and the courts continue to erode whistle-blower rights . . . .

"The bad guys are smart enough to test the system. In fact, U.S. troops found Arabic language translations of General Accounting Office documents, describing how bad aviation security was, in some of the Afghanistan caves used by the Taliban and al Qaeda. The terrorists do a very thorough job before they undertake an operation."

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