Homeland Security & the Exclusion of Evidence
by Christopher Bollyn
The families of the victims of 9-11 have been, and continue to be, abused by the corrupt judicial process that is clearly more concerned about covering up for those responsible than delivering justice and accountability through discovery.
The manner in which the grieving relatives of 9-11 have been treated is nothing short of scandalous. The people who are obstructing the relatives' quest for justice through discovery are complicit in a high-level cover-up and are violating the human rights of the people affected by the terror attacks of 9-11. The people who are part of the 9-11 cover-up have names and faces and need to be held accountable.
Just a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, in the new Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in lower Manhattan, a pre-trial conference for the 41 remaining wrongful death and personal injury cases brought by the families of those killed and injured on 9-11 was scheduled for the afternoon of September 11, 2007.
Who in their right mind would schedule a pre-trial conference for the relatives of 9-11 on the anniversary of the day they lost their loved ones? To a sensible person, this would seem most insensitive and inconsiderate of the feelings of the victims' families. For the families seeking accountability after 6 years, it might feel more like insult added to injury.
The person who scheduled the conference is Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, the U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Hellerstein presides over all the lawsuits for the victims of 9-11 involving claims related to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. All cases naming an airline, an airport security company, and/or the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have been consolidated for discovery and other pre-trial proceedings with Judge Hellerstein.
Hellerstein also oversees the lawsuits brought by Ground Zero workers against the city. Congress allocated New York $1 billion because the city could not find sufficient insurance against negligence suits. Gravely ill first responders and workers from the smoking pile of rubble have yet to receive any compensation.
"It was our intent that the money be used to protect injured workers and not swallowed up by lawyers and legal fees," said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY). "I never could have imagined we would end up where we are now, without one single worker compensated."
The disgraceful lack of progress in the proceedings of the 9-11 litigation is a subject that the controlled media avoids, leaving the public unaware of the judicial abuse the relatives of the victims of 9-11 have endured at the hands of a corrupt legal system that is more interested in settling the remaining cases out of court than delivering what the remaining families want most of all - accountability and justice through discovery.
Judge Hellerstein has long been urging the plaintiffs and their lawyers to settle out of court. In comments he made in a pre-trial conference on June 25, which he admitted could be seen as "very crass," Hellerstein said "money is the universal lubricant." The presiding judge urged the lawyers and the remaining 41 families to take the "most efficient" way, meaning settle for the money and "get on" with their lives:
It is very crass and it probably will come back to be critical of me, but there is an expression that is sometimes very useful, "Money is the universal lubricant." It makes it easier to go on with one's life.
"TAKE THE MONEY AND GO AWAY"
In a move that is seen as very unusual, Hellerstein has scheduled trials to begin September 24 to determine the size of payments the families could receive before holding liability trials to establish who is legally responsible for the security breakdowns. This is seen as a move to hasten out of court settlements.
"It bothers me a great deal that someone in charge of this trial has become so cynical," Mike Low, the father of Sara, a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11, said about the judge's comments.
"He can't understand our loss. He sees the solution in a very cold and pragmatic way - in dollars and cents. He thinks everybody should take the money and go away."
"Sara was murdered on 9-11," Low said. "Her voice is silent, so I must speak for my daughter."
JUSTICE THROUGH DISCOVERY
Brian Sullivan, a former FAA security official at Boston's Logan Airport, said: "We are a country founded on principles. The remaining 9-11 plaintiffs seek justice through discovery and a trial. To assume that compensation can dissipate their principles, and ease their pain, is an assumption the judge shouldn't make."
Hellerstein's "cold and pragmatic" approach is not new. Abusing the relatives' human rights by denying them the justice and trials that they deserve has happened before in similar cases in which government officials are involved in high-level cover-ups. I have personally been involved in a similar case that is now nearly 11 years old.
The litigation concerning the 1994 Estonia catastrophe, the largest martime disaster in Europe since World War II, has been stuck in a legal quagmire in a French court since September 1996. Thirteen years after the sinking of Estonia, the relatives of the 852 souls lost still have not had their day in court and it doesn't look like they will ever get it. There has been no discovery in the French court and there is no hope that there will ever be a trial to determine who was responsible for the catastrophe.
In August 2006, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg registered the Estonia case in which relatives of the deceased are suing the governments of Sweden and France for violating their human rights by denying them the fair and open trial they deserve.
The relatives accuse the two countries, the judges, the defendants, and the insurance companies with having conspired to block the legal process that should deliver discovery and accountability for the catastrophe.
The 9-11 relatives are in a very similar predicament. Rather than pushing for discovery and liability trials, Judge Hellerstein wants the relatives to "get past" 9-11 and "get on with the rest" of their lives.
"Somehow we need to get past September 11, 2001 as a country and individually for all clients," he said, "and I would like to bring about that possibility as best I can, as efficiently as I can in a short a period of time as I can."
The right to a fair trial is a universally recognized human right. Thinking I could get a fair trial is why I chose a jury trial when I was falsely charged with assaulting and resisting three heavily-armed and armor-clad men who were prowling around my house in August 2006. The men were an undercover tactical unit who had been watching me for several days.
As I prepared for my trial, a supporter warned me that the side that wins in a trial is the side that gets the most evidence excluded. When I went to trial, I had made more than a dozen exhibits with documented evidence of a police conspiracy, but the judge, Hyman I. Riebman, wouldn't allow most of the evidence to be admitted and simply refused to let my expert witness testify about police procedures.
As I had been warned, the side that gets the most evidence excluded wins. So it is. This is exactly what is happening with the 9-11 cases as well. Crucial evidence and key witnesses are being excluded from the process long before any trial begins.
The first person one might expect to see in a U.S. criminal court would be Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the "mastermind" of the terror attacks. Why is Mohammed, who reportedly confessed to being the mastermind behind 9-11 sitting in a U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba?
SENSITIVE SECURITY INFORMATION
Besides Mr. Mohammed, there are a host of witnesses and piles of evidence, documents, and depositions that have been excluded from the 9-11 tort litigation cases through the use of a little-known but wide-ranging censorship mechanism known as Sensitive Security Information (SSI).
On November 16, 2001, Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), which the President signed into law on November 19, 2001. Under ATSA, Congress created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and authorized the agency to make improvements in the country’s transportation security. Based on this authority, the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security transferred authority for the existing Federal Aviation Administration regulations, which include SSI, to the TSA on February 22, 2002.
The SSI is part of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and is spelled out in 49 C.F.R. 1520.7, which is summarized below. The CFR is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. It is important to note that these are not laws or executive orders, but regulations.
The Federal Register notice on the regulations describes SSI as including “information about security programs, vulnerability assessments, technical specifications of certain screening equipment and objects used to test screening equipment ... and other information.” Clearly the SSI have everything to do with the passenger screening procedures that were in employed by the three foreign-owned airline security firms involved on 9-11. The failure of these firms to stop the hijackers is seen by the relatives as a key reason for the catastrophe.
These are some of the key SSI restrictions:
Section 1520.7(a) protects any security program “that relates to United States mail to be transported by air.”
Section 1520.7(b) through (d) covers security directives and information circulars, selection criteria used in the security screening process, and security contingency plans and/or instructions pertaining to those plans.
Section 1520.7(e) through (g) relates to any technical specification of any device or equipment used for security communications, screening, or “detecting deadly or dangerous weapons,” including an “explosive, incendiary, or destructive substance.”
Section 1520.7(h) covers the release of information that TSA “has determined may reveal a systemic vulnerability of the aviation system, or a vulnerability of aviation facilities, to attack.”
Section 1520.7(i) protects “information [released by TSA] concerning threats against transportation.”
Section 1520.7(j) protects “details of aviation security measures.”
Section 1520.7(k) and (l) relates to any “information” TSA has prohibited from disclosure under the criteria of 49 U.S.C. 40119, or any draft, proposed, or recommended change to the information or records identified in this section.
Section 1520.7(m) through (p) covers locations, tests, and scores of tests on all screening methods or equipment.
Section 1520.7(q) protects “images and descriptions of threat images for threat projection systems.”
Section 1520.7(r) relates to all Department of Transportation information on “vulnerability assessment ... irrespective of mode of transportation.”
Source: "SSI and Transportation Security: Background and Controversies" by Mitchel A. Sollenberger, Congressional Research Service
CHERTOFF IN CHARGE
When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in November 2002, the TSA became a branch of the new security department. Michael Chertoff, the U.S. Assistant Attorney General with Israeli roots, became DHS secretary on February 15, 2005, when he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and sworn in.
When 9-11 occurred, Asst. Attorney General Chertoff was responsible for the criminal division of the Dept. of Justice. This made him the top official for the law enforcement and investigation process surrounding the terror attacks.
When Chertoff was made secretary of DHS, he became the responsible official for controlling what evidence would be released to the court involved in the 9-11 litigation. This makes Chertoff the person who has been continuously responsible for controlling the investigation and access to the evidence of 9-11.
Many of the 9-11 lawsuits are from families who hold the aviation industry responsible for the security lapses they believe led to the death of their loved ones. "Absolutely there could have been more security," Margaret Ogonowski of Dracut, Mass. told Evan Lehman of the Bennington Banner (N.H.). Ogonowski was an airline attendant whose husband, John, was killed when captaining American Flight 11. "It was just a facade of security," she said.
"It was about pushing for some answers and pushing for accountability," Ogonowski said. "I was on that front line too," she said, but the lawsuit was "painfully slow."
"You get to the point where some people can continue forward and others just have to drop out of the race," Ogonowski said. "It's like any kind of race. You're always going to have some who can see it to the end, and others who can't. I just reached my limit."
"It's six years. We have no accountability. We have more questions that we have answers," another Massachusetts woman, who settled her case and asked that her name not be used, told Lehman. The woman, who lost her husband on American Flight 11 described the Victim Compensation Fund as "government money" that smacked of a payoff.
An airline attorney who spoke on the condition that their name not be used told the Banner that cause-of-guilt trials are at least two or three years away - if they ever come. "I don't think there'll be a trial of wrongful death and personal injuries," the attorney said. "I think at some point they (the families) will settle."
CHERTOFF AND SSI
DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff oversees the TSA and the "responsible official" of the SSI Program Office, a Florida lawyer named Andrew E. Colsky.
Chertoff's mother, Livia Eisen, was an Israeli intelligence operative who was involved in top-secret international missions, such as the operation known as "Magic Carpet," which airlifted thousands of Yemenite Jews to Israel in the late 1940s.
The fact that one of the defendants in the 9-11 tort litigation is the Israeli company ICTS International NV and its wholly owned subsidiary Huntleigh USA Corp. raises obvious conflict of interest questions for the Israeli dual-national Chertoff. ICTS is closely linked with Israeli military intelligence.
Huntleigh USA was involved in airport security and passenger screening operations at Boston and Newark airports on 9-11 and the SSI are clearly designed to protect the secrets and actions of the airport security companies. The SSI effectively prevents important information about Huntleigh and the other two foreign-owned security companies from getting anywhere near the court.
In some places Colsky is called the chief, the director, or the expert on SSI, but what he really does is to act as the TSA's chief gatekeeper, or censor, to prevent information from coming to the court. All the information that the lawyers for the 9-11 litigation request has to pass through the censorship of Andrew Colsky.
"The Sensitive Security Information designator is supposed to be used to protect information in the interests of national security, not as a shield to cloud government and/or airline negligence and incompetence," Sullivan said. "This has complicated and obfuscated the process, as the plaintiffs continue to battle for information in discovery, and has been the main reason liability trials have been delayed for going on six years."
WHO IS ANDREW COLSKY?
Although Colsky is the key person responsible for SSI, the gate-keeping and censoring process that is "the main reason" the 9-11 liability trials have been delayed, there is virtually no mention of him in the U.S. print media. How odd.
A database for lawyers has Andrew Evan Colsky working at 8220 S. W. 52nd Ave. in Miami. He is listed as having studied law at the University of Florida and admitted to the bar on June 11, 1990.
The Virginia Directory of Divorce Mediation and Mediators has an Andrew E. Colsky on its website. It lists him as the "senior mediator" of the American Conflict Management Institute, located at 1200 Ridge Road, in Arlington, Va. The phone number it provides, however, is a Miami number with a 305 area code.
It says that Colsky "mediates employment disputes including complex multi-party disputes" and that he is "an ADR [Alternative Dispute Resolution] program/system designer who served as an integral part of developing the world's largest employment mediation program at the U.S. Postal Service.
A search of 810 newspapers in the United States yields only 7 articles or notices in which "Andrew Colsky" is mentioned, and only 6 in which he is mentioned with his middle initial. Not one newspaper even mentions the fact that he directs the SSI program.
Why would the mainstream media have no interest in the person who is controlling and censoring the information that is crucial to the discovery process in the worst terror attacks in U.S. history? Why is Colsky and the SSI obstruction of the discovery process not even discussed in a land that cherishes its "free press."
A Google search for "Andrew E. Colsky" produces only 20 results. Besides a few mentions of SSI related material, the results connect Colsky with dispute resolution for the U.S. Postal Service and as the author of a book on the famous Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida.
CORAL WAY PARTNERS, INC.
There is also an odd business listing indicating that an "Andrew E. Colsky" is, or was, director of a company called Coral Way Partners, Inc. The listing is from a database called Manta at www.manta.com . The information provided on Manta's website comes from Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). Oddly, there are only two listings in Google for Colsky and "Coral Way Partners."
The business listing says that "Andrew E. Colsky" is, or was the Director of Coral Way Partners, Inc., which is, or was located at 8220 SW 52nd Ave. in Miami, Florida. Colsky's business, which is described as providing "business services," is listed with the phone number (305) 669-4724.
"Andrew Colsky" is listed in D&B and Manta as being the President of another company, Mediation Associates, Inc. or American Mediation Institute, at the same address on SW 52nd Ave. in Miami. Mediation Associates, with one employee, and Coral Way Partners, Inc. apparently shared the same office and phone number.
D&B has only one company listed with the name Coral Way Partners, which is listed as having 2 employees with yearly sales of $120,000. The name of Colsky's "partner" in Coral Way Partners is not provided, nor is the year of the listing.
Metrobot, however, has a 2005 listing for Coral Way Partners at the SW 52nd Ave. address. A doctor named Arthur S. Colsky is also listed at the same address along with Andrew Colsky's Mediation Associates. Dr. Colsky's mother, Irene Colsky, is listed as self-employed at the same address.
Coral Way is the historic scenic road that runs East and West between downtown Miami and Coral Gables. It is somewhat odd that Colsky would have a business called Coral Way Partners located in an office nearly 5 miles south of the famous ficus and banyan tree-lined Coral Way.
It is also odd that in March 2007, a Miami business with a very similar name, Salman Coral Way Partners, was designated by the U.S. Treasury as a "front" acting for Colombia’s North Valle Drug Cartel.
Salman Coral Way Partners is listed at 2731 Coral Way, about 6 miles northeast of the Coral Way Partners office at 8220 SW 52nd Ave.
On March 7, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added two U.S. companies, C.W. Salman Partners and Salman Coral Way Partners, to its list of Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNTs) for their ties to Colombia's drug cartel.
While it appears that Salman Coral Way Partners and Coral Way Partners are two separate companies, there is virtually no information about Colsky's company or what it did.
It seems very odd that Colsky, the director of the SSI program for TSA, would be the director of a company with the same name, in the same part of Miami, as a company linked to the Colombian drug cartel. Of course, it may be just a coincidence, but it seems to be quite an odd coincidence.
If, however, the two Coral Way Partners companies in South Miami are connected in some way, it would be a very interesting development in the 9-11 cover-up.