From 1995 to 2001, Bogdan Dzakovic served as a team leader on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Red Team. Set up by Congress to help the FAA think like terrorists, the elite squad tested airport security systems.
|Bodgan Dzakovic (USA Today Photo)|
In the years leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Dzakovic says, the team was able to breach security about 90% of the time, sneaking bombs and submachine guns past airport screeners. Expensive new bomb detection machines consistently failed, he says.
The team repeatedly warned the FAA of the potential for security breaches and hijackings but was told to cover up its findings, Dzakovic says.
Eventually, the FAA began notifying airports in advance when the Red Team would be doing its undercover testing, Dzakovic says. He and other Red Team members approached the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General, the General Accounting Office and members of Congress about the FAA’s alleged misconduct regarding the Red Team’s aviation security tests. No one did anything, he says.
Then came 9/11.
"Immediately (after 9/11), numerous government officials from FAA as well as other government agencies made defensive statements such as, ‘How could we have known this was going to happen?’ " Dzakovic testified later before the 9/11 Commission. "The truth is, they did know."
About a month after 9/11, he filed a complaint with the Office of the Special Counsel, the government agency that investigates whistle-blower cases. It alleged that the FAA had covered up Red Team findings. A subsequent Department of Transportation Inspector General’s report, ordered by the OSC in response to Dzakovic’s complaint, concluded that the "Red Team program was grossly mismanaged and that the result was a serious compromise of public safety."
After filing his complaint, Dzakovic was removed from his Red Team leadership position. He now works for the Transportation Security Administration, which has responsibility for airport security. His primary assignments include tasks such as hole-punching, updating agency phonebooks and "thumb-twiddling," he says. At least he hasn’t received a pay cut, he says. He makes about $110,000 a year for what he describes as "entry-level idiot work."
TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser would not comment on Dzakovic’s allegations that he was retaliated against for being a whistle-blower. He said in an e-mail, "While TSA transitioned functions out of FAA, many employees were doing work outside of their pre-9/11 duties. Once TSA was established, Mr. Dzakovic did find a productive position within the agency and has been a valued contributor in our efforts to provide the highest level of security in all modes of transportation."