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Judge Hellerstein: Airlines can't question FBI in 9/11 suits

Judge: Airlines can't question FBI in 9/11 suits

By HARRY R. WEBER (AP) – 14 hours ago

ATLANTA — A federal judge ruled Thursday that airlines and other companies in the industry that are being sued by families of terrorism victims can't question FBI agents about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The defendants wanted to depose the agents and sought access to other evidence related to the investigation of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in order to show at trial that the government's failure to catch the terrorists and prevent the attacks mitigates and excuses any alleged fault on the aviation companies' part.

The government objected.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York said the defendants have also argued that the terrorists likely would have succeeded even if the defendants had exercised due care.

"The issues to be tried relate to the acts and omissions of the aviation defendants, not the government," Hellerstein wrote in his ruling. "The government's failures to detect and abort the terrorists' plots would not affect the aviation defendants' potential liability."

There was no immediate comment from the defendants or their lawyers. Spokespersons for UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. declined to comment. Lawyers for several airlines did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Other defendants include Delta Air Lines Inc., Continental Airlines Inc., AirTran Airways, Boeing Co. and several airport authorities and security companies.

The judge said he plans to set a trial date for the lawsuits involving three wrongful death cases and 19 property damage cases on July 28.

Many relatives of victims of the attacks received money from a special national fund established to compensate victims' families, though some relatives chose to sue instead.

The lawsuits claim negligence on the part of the defendants and seek to recover damages for injuries and fatalities, property damage and business loss that occurred as a result of the attacks. According to court papers, the plaintiffs have alleged or have indicated they are likely to allege that the aviation companies should have anticipated that terrorists would hijack planes and crash them into buildings in coordinated suicide attacks, and that the defendants should have put in place security procedures to effectively defend against such attacks.

The government urged the judge to block the aviation companies from interviewing six current and former FBI employees who the companies say would be able to testify as to what intelligence the FBI, CIA, Federal Aviation Administration and airlines had before the attacks regarding the terrorists' plans and capabilities, as well as how the entities shared and exploited the intelligence.

The government argued that 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 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 government noted.

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 have said they are defending themselves against lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in damages for injuries, fatalities, property damage and business losses related to the attacks.

The companies filed separate lawsuits against the CIA and the FBI seeking to force terrorism investigators to say whether the aviation industry was to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Lawyers for the victims of the attacks have said the FBI should not be forced to provide more information.

In Thursday's ruling, the judge also denied the aviation defendants' motion for an order that the 9/11 commission's report as a whole, a staff monograph and selected staff statements, are relevant to the lawsuits. He said specific portions of the report may be admissible.

As to a motion by the defendants seeking to have testimony given by FBI agents during the trial of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacharias Moussaoui admitted in the lawsuits case, the judge granted the motion only as to the testimony of two agents in which they recount what they learned in their investigations.

"Testimony as to what their superiors did or did not do is not relevant, and is not admissible," the judge wrote.

Moussaoui, a French citizen, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to helping plan the attacks.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Can "Terrorist" Piloting Be Proven Beyond Reasonable Doubt?

The whole official story seems to be an assumption based on flawed or incomplete circumstantial evidence.

I'm getting a blog together...

On everything I have on Hellerstein.

Edit: Here's a preview... I literally have what seem to be 100's of articles about decisions that he's made.

"A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit charging that the city's Office of Emergency Management helped cause the collapse of Seven World Trade Center on 9-11 by storing diesel fuel for its emergency generators in the 47-story building." [...] "The city Law Department hailed the ruling, which it says is the last property damage claim against the city related to 9-11. A statement from the department says the move by District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein "allows New York City to better plan for events like September 11th without being subject to liability based on hindsight." [Village Voice, 1/12/2006]

"Christie Whitman, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, yesterday rejected as "completely inaccurate" a federal judge's ruling that found she had misled people near the World Trade Center site about the risks of air contamination after the Sept. 11 attack." [...] "In coincidence, another judge in the same courthouse issued a ruling on Thursday in a separate but almost identical case against Mrs. Whitman and the agency — and he reached the opposite conclusion. After a hearing late Thursday, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein dismissed the suit in his court, accepting virtually the same arguments by Justice Department lawyers that Judge Batts had rejected. Judge Hellerstein was convinced that Mrs. Whitman should be immune." [NYTimes, 2/4/2006]

Edit Part II: I think I'm just going to focus on specific decisions he's made over the years. There are just too many articles to go through, and as I've said before, I'm a lazy man. ;)

Edit Part III: Here it is. I think I should put the entries in order, but it's late, and I feel like watching a movie.


Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?

My god

First of all, how do you keep track? Do you use tags on your info? (I do)

Second of all...what is it with this incredible web of people in key positions that seem to be acting in concert to shield the upper echelons?

On the other hand, the ruling that the OEM can't be sued for helping to cause the collapse of WTC 7 is useful in support of NIST's conclusion that diesel fuel had nothing to do with WTC 7's demise:

"However, fuel oil fires did not play a role in the collapse of WTC 7." (NCSTAR 1A, p xxxii)

Edit: On second thought, reading your list shows judge Hellerstein to be a mixed blessing, and his actions are not structurally disadvantuous for the parties seeking justice.

I post...

9/11 related news on my site everyday. Consistently. Then when the mood arises, I pick a topic (like Hellerstein), and I use the search feature on my site to find relevant articles, and put them together like so. He has made some good decisions, and some bad ones in my opinion.


Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?

Your hard work, dedication and focus

is appreciated by many, including me.

Thanks again and keep up the good work!

Cheers!

The ruling may make sense

in relation to the limits of the civil litigation. It seems the judge is stating that the airlines and security companies are subject to liability regarding security issues like baggage check, employee screening (i.e. improper background checks for airline employees) and failure to implement recommended safety improvements (i.e. reinforced cockpit doors). Hellerstein's ruling does seem to ignore the issue of coordination between the intel agencies, the FAA and security companies. After all, one of the security aspects involves preventing known al Qaeda operatives from boarding the planes. Claudio Manno, the head of the FAA Intelligence Division at the time of 9/11, told the JI commission that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar would have been picked up in the reservation process had their names been shared.

In the big picture, the conduct of intel agencies is the key to the truth about 9/11. Thus, this comment is hard to understand:

"Lawyers for the victims of the attacks have said the FBI should not be forced to provide more information."

I've read all the articles about this case. Mike Low (the father of flight attendant Sarah Low) has stated the whole point of pushing for trial is to try to get the truth. Why aren't the lawyers representing their clients' interests?

"The government argued that 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 damage has already been done. Thus it seems the only thing the government is concerned about is preventing the public from learning why intel agencies acted in such a bizarre manner.

Pattern of rhetoric

The government argued that 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 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 government noted.

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.

"Harmful to national security" is the #1 propaganda tool to withhold incriminating evidence. Nixon was particularly fond of it.

As for mentioning large numbers, I recall the 9/11 commission, NIST and Popular Mechanics using this propaganda tactic repeatedly in an attempt to intimidate critics. It's as if they're reading from a script.

It's so easy.

"We have reviewed 146,000 documents and and conducted more than 67,457,190 interviews. Over 150,000,000,001 pieces of evidence were stored and catalogued. Our efforts are therefore completely awesome, and so are our conclusions"

It seems blatantly criminal to me

that Hellerstein get's all the major 9.11 court cases.

Can this control pattern be broken?

I'm assuming

he gets these cases because of where 9/11 happened. It doesn't seem right, though, that one judge can block every single 9/11-related lawsuit.

Of course

not every aspect of 9/11 happened in lower Manhattan, so I wonder why all the lawsuits against the government are tried there? What about Pennsylvania or Washington DC?

I want to know about these

"pending law enforcement proceedings" that could be seriously damaged if certain people were interviewed and certain materials were released.

I trust that there is a statute of limitations of some kind on these invisible "law enforcement proceedings".

What a load of nonsense...

The truth shall set us free. Love is the only way forward.