What do they have to hide? Believe it or not, the FAA has yanked the transcript of the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) public meeting off the Web. The FAA told AOPA they were ordered to do so by the Department of Defense and security officials.
So AOPA has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get the information back in public view.
"How ridiculous can you get?" said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "These were public meetings covered by the news media. Nothing was said that wasn't already in the more than 21,000 written comments. Do they honestly think security information was disclosed during the public meetings?"
Apparently they do.
FAA officials told AOPA that they were ordered to remove the transcript of the first meeting from public record so that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Defense Department officials could scrub it clean of any security sensitive information (SSI). The FAA never posted the transcript of the second meeting.
"There were no operational details presented at the meeting that any competent private pilot couldn't figure out," said Boyer. "And the official representatives certainly didn't spill any security beans; they kept their mouths clamped tighter than a rusted head bolt."
However a Navy F-18 and light aircraft pilot spoke as a private citizen at the hearing. He said that a pilot could comply with all of the ADIZ procedures, get set up for an approach to Dulles International Airport, and at the last minute make a turn and be over downtown Washington within four minutes. Administrative procedures do not ensure security, he said.
"Freedom and security are polar opposites, and I am not willing to give up my freedom for the sake of terrorists," said the combat-experienced pilot.
But the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) thinks he might have said more than he should have.
"There was some time and distance information, avenues of approach that may have been too detailed," NORAD media relations chief Michael Kuchaerk told AOPA. While NORAD had no problem with the pilot speaking as a private citizen, "He knows things because of his job with the military, and we want to make sure he didn't reveal any operational security information."
Maj. Gen. M. Scott Mayes, commander of the Continental NORAD region, sent a memo to FAA security requesting that the pilot's statement be removed from the public record until they had a chance to go over it for a security and policy review. "We may or may not redact it in part or in whole," said Kuchaerk.
Said Boyer, "We can't speak to the pilot's obligations as a military officer, but as a citizen and civilian aviator, he had every right to say what he did - and it was nothing more than what had already been pointed out by literally thousands of Americans, including many active-duty military officers, in their written comments.
"Anyone with a sectional chart and E6B can figure out how long it would take a Mooney to fly from Dulles to downtown Washington."
Meanwhile, the FAA told AOPA Friday that the transcripts could be restored to public view as soon as the TSA had completed its security sensitive information review.
TSA tells AOPA that its SSI review is done and that it found nothing sensitive. The FAA can repost the transcript, as far as the TSA is concerned.
"Public law requires that the transcripts of these two meetings be available to the public, unsanitized," said Boyer. "There was nothing said that would help a terrorist, but there was certainly plenty said about operational problems, the economic impact, and general criticism of what most pilots view as bad public policy.
"What an absurd waste of security resources to try to unring the bell and edit what was said in a public meeting in front of TV cameras."
March 10, 2006