Skip to comments.Linda Daschle's FAA Failed to Heed Pre-9/11 Warnings
Posted on 12/06/2001 7:43:52 AM PST by 1Peter2:16
Former senior Federal Aviation Administration official Linda Hall Daschle, wife of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, was cited in a report on Wednesday for failing to enforce a "zero tolerance" policy she announced in 1996 against violent airline passengers - a pledge that some say could have prevented the 9/11 terrorist hijackings that killed 4,000 Americans had it not been ignored.
With Mrs. Daschle serving, first as Deputy FAA Administrator and then as Acting FAA Administrator from 1993 to 1997, the agency received hundreds of complaints about passengers who had become unruly, assaulted flight crews and threatened fellow passengers while in flight.
In some cases, the worst offenders had even brandished knives, the same technique used by Osama bin Laden's kamikaze hijackers three months ago to subdue the crews of four aircraft.
Only after pilots, flight attendants and independent safety experts repeatedly warned of the potential for dire consequences unless action was taken, did Daschle take notice in 1996.
"We will not tolerate any interference with the vital safety functions performed by crew members," the powerful Democrat's wife pledged.
However, instead of cracking down, "the FAA went easier on unruly passengers during the 4 full years after the 'zero tolerance' advisory was issued," reports USA Today.
"It's beyond amazing. It's criminal," said Pat Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, of the FAA's lethargic performance under Mrs. Daschle and her successors.
"They acted as if they didn't care," Friend told USA Today.
The airline regulatory agency's lapses include:
A failure to investigate the claims of hundreds of victims and witnesses to violent midair altercations that drew airport police once the plane had landed.
A decision to go easy on even the most dangerous offenders - including some who succeeded in breaking into the cockpit in mid-flight armed with knives - sending warning letters and leveling fines in lieu of any serious enforcement. (The percentage of those fined actually dropped after Daschle's "zero tolerance" pledge.)
And the destruction of FAA case files on in-flight violence that now makes it impossible to reconstruct a comprehensive picture of the midair mayhem in the years before the 9/11 attacks.
Even as internal debates raged over the extent of the threat posed by unruly passengers, senior FAA officials dismissed any prospective connection to potential hijackings.
"When we had discussions about hijacking, someone would say, 'Why are we talking about this at all? Hijackings never happen.'"
In a letter to an FAA security official five years after Mrs. Daschle promised to clamp down on air rage, one flight attendant complained about an incident involving a knife wielding passenger who had broken into the cockpit of her Alaska Airlines plane, noting that it showed how easily terrorists might employ the same tactics.
"It could be you or your loved one onboard a flight next time an air rage or even hijacking incident occurs," warned Ginny Cavins, who pleaded with the FAA this spring to ban knives and fortify cockpit doors.
Just two months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, FAA Security Director Michael Canavan told Cavins that decision was up to the airlines.
Linda Hall Daschle is now a lobbyist for Northwest and American Airlines.
The FAA creates problems where none previously existed and they are an abject failure in every way when it comes to solving actual problems that do exist...