This article comes from
9/11 Judge Orders Consolidation
Date: Monday, September 27 @ 17:03:36 EDT
Topic: 9-11 Court Cases
9/11 Judge Orders Consolidation But Ignores DOJ Evidence Tampering
by Tom Flocco
July 25, 2002
Discovery In Mariani vs UAL Stayed
A general court order entered in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York was just released by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein subsequent to his July 12 hearing regarding Mariani vs. United Airlines (UAL) et. al., amid indications of evidence tampering by officials at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), represented in Hellersteins court by U.S. Attorneys from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
At the time of the Government contacts with plaintiff-subpoenaed evidence, the TSA and DOJ were not connected in any way to the New Hampshire widows private civil action. And no indications were revealed regarding the extent of the interference in Marianis court evidence, or whether TSA or DOJ still retain any of Marianis subpoenaed documents, as Judge Hellerstein never broached the subject in the courtroom.
As part of the just-filed court document, the Judge also promulgated a, provisional order granting the Governments motion to intervene, for consolidation, and for a stay of discovery, while also ordering that, discovery....is hereby stayed until further order of the Court.
During court proceedings on July 12, the Judge had indicated that he wanted discovery to start right away, saying, Mrs. Mariani has waited patiently since last December for her case to proceed. But later in the proceedings, the Judge said that discovery would commence after the September hearing - nine weeks later, as some heads in the courtroom turned.
John Greaves, Marianis co-counsel, remarked outside the courthouse that: We are ready to go to discovery. Why is discovery delayed? The next hearing, scheduled for late September, will likely preclude any substantial or possibly detrimental evidence revelations via the discovery process until well after the November election.
While consolidating civil actions against any airline or security company for the purpose of pre-trial proceedings, importantly, the Judge left open the possibility that his provisional order in the Consolidated Actions could be, "amended upon application to the court." Further, Hellerstein ordered lawyers for plaintiffs and defendants to file their recommendations regarding the organization of plaintiff committees [for discovery] by September 13.
In a June 20 letter to Judge Hellerstein from the DOJ - obtained by American Free Press,
[ DOJ To Attempt Shutdown of 9/11 Evidence, by Tom Flocco,] Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel S. Alter, TSAs Justice Department counsel, wrote, TSA is also aware that plaintiffs counsel recently issued subpoenas to several non-parties, including Northwest Airlines, seeking information about the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 175, indicating that Marianis attorney had subpoenaed multiple sources to acquire case-connected evidence.
The names of other recipients of Mariani subpoenas - contacted without a court order by TSA - were not revealed by Alter. And the judge never asked him to divulge them in court.
Alter had informed the Judge in the letter, although TSA has notified Northwest Airlines that documents responsive to this subpoena may contain Sensitive Security Information (SSI), and therefore should be submitted to TSA for review prior to any disclosure, plaintiffs uncoordinated discovery activity illustrates a serious problem that must be addressed. This, at a time when neither Alter, DOJ, nor the TSA had any connection to Mariani's private case.
During the hearing, Judge Hellerstein never mentioned anything related to Alters prior revelation in the letter, regarding TSA contacts with Mariani's subpoena recipients; and Alter was not asked to explain TSAs actions - or whether the court should sanction him (as the representative of TSA and DOJ) for evidence tampering.
And Alter was not questioned by Hellerstein about whether he or his superiors at Attorney General Ashcroft's office had employed government officials to contact previously subpoenaed entities related to evidence involving a private civil action to which the Government was not a party.
Other individuals listed as submitting the letter to Hellerstein in addition to Assistant U.S. Attorney Alter, included Robert D. McCallum, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, Douglas Letter and Carolyn A. McKee, U.S. Department of Justice, James B. Comey, U.S. Attorney, and Alters associate, Sarah S. Normand, Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Sensitive Security and National Security
Mary Schiavo, lead counsel for widow Ellen Mariani, whose husband Neils United Airlines flight 175 jet was slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center by terrorist hijackers on September 11, 2001, said that the SSI category is very different than National Security, where we are into top secret areas - a big difference.
Brian Sullivan, former Special Agent for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) New England Region told American Free Press that, the purpose of protecting information should be in the interests of defending national security. SSI should not be used as a shield to hide FAA and TSA negligence and incompetence.
The Judges post-hearing order also ruled that, counsel for the Government shall file with the Court....recommendations regarding proposed security procedures governing discovery involving protected Sensitive Security Information.
American Free Press has obtained an additional post-July 12 hearing letter to Hellerstein dated just five days later on July 17, wherein Alter added a new wrinkle to prior requests made to the Court regarding government intervention in the evidence-gathering process:
Although the Government sought consolidation of the September 11 Tort Litigation solely to address discovery matters relating to SSI, we believe from Your Honors remarks that the Court may wish to consolidate these actions for somewhat broader purposes. The language of the proposed order therefore generally speaks of consolidation for the purpose of pretrial proceedings.
The July 17 letter showed indications that Alter may motion for an amendment to Hellersteins provisional order to request that the judge permit the Government to also consolidate the evidence-gathering via discovery after the pre-trial proceedings, revealing a more pronounced attempt to better control or limit plaintiff access to any evidence that DOJ and TSA deem to be "sensitive" security information.
The second letter also revealed that DOJ was likely planning to litigate discovery requests made by Marianis attorneys, as Paul M. Geier, Assistant General Counsel for Litigation, Department of Transportation (DoT), and Carla J. Martin, Trial Attorney, DoT, were added to the team of previously listed government attorneys from the June 20 letter. And Alter had already said during the July 12 court hearing, that I would hope, Your Honor, that the Government will not have to litigate discovery requests. [found by the Government to be "SSI"]
FAAs Brian Sullivan had previously told AFP that, the intent of the SSI designation was not to hide the ineptitude of the failed FAA civil aviation security apparatus; nor was it intended to preclude legitimate legal inquiry, as government lawyers carry out White House orders to cloak bureaucratic incompetence in a blanket of sensitive security.
Bushs TSA Director Fired
In a closely related story, the Director of the TSA, John McGaw, was just fired on July 18 for incompetence, according to cable news reports and the Denver Rocky Mountain News. (7-19-2002). The Bush-appointed TSA Director lasted only six months on the job before being released from his position.
McGaw had been the highly controversial leader of the investigations into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, the
bombing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and the national church-arson task force. (www.Scoop.co.nz, 7-11-2002)
McGaws recently hired but also controversial TSA Personnel Security Chief John Holmes is still on the job, however. Holmes was reported as having allowed individuals with criminal records and one felon to acquire top-secret security clearances during his recent stint at the Commerce Department. No Member of Congress has thus far questioned why Holmes occupies his current position -- given current national security threats to the country.
And as the person in charge of hiring 30,000 new airline baggage screeners, Holmes was described as the last line of defense against armed hijackers. You do the math. (WorldNetDaily.com, 4-24-2002) Moreover, there were no indications in news reports that Holmes would also be let go, or that the President is aware of Holmes past record in light of the current war against terrorism, and airport security risks in particular.
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