OSC Filing Challenges Aviation Security

WASHINGTON, DC - May 12 - Today the Government Accountability Project (GAP) filed a whistleblowing disclosure on behalf of Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee and aviation security expert Bodgan Dzakovic, with the United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Dzakovic charges that TSA has reneged on its reform commitments to correct confirmed security breakdowns from his last whistleblowing disclosure, and that further mismanagement has left aviation security weaker than prior to the 9/11 attacks. Before the tragedy, Dzakovic was a senior team leader in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) “Red Team,” a covert operations unit that monitored and tested aviation security.

After 9/11, Dzakovic charged that FAA had refused to act on and suppressed Red Team warnings of vulnerability to hijacking – even going so far as to obstruct covert testing by supplying advance warnings to airlines of surprise tests. After two Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General investigations, in 2003 TSA conceded that gross mismanagement caused a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety contributing to 9/11, and promised wide-ranging corrective action.

In filing his new disclosure, Dzakovic explained, “TSA has systematically reneged on its reform commitments. It has created an appearance of tighter security by inconveniencing passengers, while avoiding the security breaches that matter to terrorists. The Special Counsel needs to hold TSA’s feet to the fire until it makes an honest effort to implement lessons learned from 9/11.”

Dzakovic’s latest disclosure seeks an OSC order for DHS to investigate ten concerns of gross mismanagement, gross waste, abuse of authority, and substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. He charges that in addition to reneging on OSC commitments, TSA has canceled overseas Red Team testing, intensified advance warnings of “unannounced” tests, and replaced surveillance sweeps to find vulnerabilities with contracts to “Tom Clancy style” authors and screen writers who create terrorist scripts as the baseline for terrorist threats. He alleges that TSA has intensified the old FAA “reactive” approach to terrorists instead of adopting proactive strategies, and systematically replaced knowledgeable professionals with unqualified pork barrel hires and lavish spending on duplicative contracts. He criticizes a wide range of agency practices that serve as “terrorist tutoring,” from standardized ticket notations that serve as advance warnings for suspects, to Web site disclosure of government tactics. He challenges a gaping hole in the aviation safety security net, in air taxi transport of public figures such as political leaders, athletes and entertainers. He challenges the agency’s continued reliance on CTX and “trace” methods to catch terrorists, when their empirical track record is less than random. Finally, he challenges an overall lack of accountability, charging that officials responsible for the pre-9/11 security breakdowns have been promoted into more powerful posts where they act as stronger roadblocks to reform.

As part of settling Dzakovic’s last whistleblowing case, TSA assigned Dzakovic to prepare a “Lessons Learned” report and recommendations. It contained many of the themes in today’s disclosure. Within weeks, Dzakovic was removed from his post and reassigned to administrative duties requiring only a high school degree. His attorney, GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, commented, “The only lesson TSA has learned from 9/11 is how to make airports miserable for passengers. In terms of obstructing terrorists, aviation security is weaker now than before 9/11.”

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