9/11 families: Don’t let airlines off the hook

9/11 families: Don’t let airlines off the hook
By Joe Dwinell
Monday, July 7, 2008
Senior Executive City Editor / Web

Joe Dwinell is an online and print editor assigned to the Herald's City Desk.

Families suing Massport and airlines over the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks say blaming the hijackings on a collapse of national intelligence and not a failure of airport security is a legal slap in the face to victims.

A federal judge must rule this month whether airline companies can grill FBI and CIA agents over the 19 al-Qaeda hijackers, pushing the blame away from duped airport screeners.

Family members who lost loved ones argue the fault has always been on airport security, including at Logan International Airport, from where two of the hijacked jets took off. “I can’t imagine the court allowing the blame to be shifted,” said Mike Low, whose 28-year-old daughter, Sara Elizabeth Low of Boston, was a flight attendant on American Airlines [AMR] Flight 11 out of Logan.

Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan must decide if national security will now take a front seat in the last lawsuits remaining in the attacks.

Lawyers for five remaining families yet to settle argue the case has always been about letting Saudi men with box cutters, pepper spray and all-in-one knives on board. “It doesn’t take any information on terrorist activities to keep those weapons off planes,” said attorney Don Migliori.

Migliori, whose firm Motley-Rice represents five families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and World Trade Center property owners who lost $20 billion in holdings, said the case is heading to court in the spring.

A Massport spokesman declined comment, saying the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Migliori said allowing the airlines to focus on al-Qaeda is a “smokescreen” to avoid millions in liability.