EmailPrintDiggTwitterFacebookStumbleUponSharein a perplexing, no-win ethical dilemma as time ticked away. Their bosses issued continual warningsagainst "talking to the media" and frowned on whistle-blowing, yet the agents felt a strong need toprotect the public.The other one of us writing this piece, Federal Air Marshal Bogdan Dzakovic, once co-led theFederal Aviation Administration's Red Team to probe for vulnerabilities in airport security. He alsohas a story of how warnings were ignored in the run-up to Sept. 11. In repeated tests of security, histeam found weaknesses nine out of 10 times that would make it possible for hijackers to smuggle weapons aboard and seize control of airplanes. But the team's reports were ignored and suppressed,and the team was shut down entirely after 9/11.In testimony to the 9/11 Commission, Dzakovic summed up his experience this way: "The RedTeam was extraordinarily successful in killing large numbers of innocent people in the simulatedattacks …[and yet] we were ordered not to write up our reports and not to retest airports where wefound particularly egregious vulnerabilities.... Finally, the FAA started providing advancenotification of when we would be conducting our 'undercover' tests and what we would bechecking."
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The commission included none of Dzakovic's testimony in its report.Looking back, Dzakovic believes that if WikiLeaks had existed at the time, he would have gone to it asa last resort to highlight what he knew were serious vulnerabilities that were being ignored.The 9/11 Commission concluded, correctly in our opinion, that the failure to share information within and between government agencies — and with the media and the public — led to an overallfailure to "connect the dots."Many government careerists are risk-averse. They avoid making waves and, when calamity strikes,are more concerned with protecting themselves than with figuring out what went wrong andcorrecting it.Decisions to speak out inside or outside one's chain of command — let alone to be seen as a whistle- blower or leaker of information — is fraught with ethical and legal questions and can never beundertaken lightly. But there are times when it must be considered. Official channels for whistle- blower protections have long proved illusory. In the past, some government employees have gone tothe media, but that can't be done fully anonymously, and it also puts reporters at risk of being sent to jail for refusing to reveal their sources. For all of these reasons, WikiLeaks provides a crucial safety valve.Coleen Rowley, a FBI special agent for more than 20 years, was legal counsel to the FBI field office inMinneapolis from 1990 to 2003. Bogdan Dzakovic was a special agent for the FAA's security division.He filed a formal whistle-blower disclosure against the FAA for ignoring the vulnerabilitiesdocumented by the Red Team. For the past nine years he has been relegated to entry-level staff work for the Transportation Security Administration.
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