In an unusual follow-up to a public event, the Defense Department has
ordered that a transcript of an open hearing on aviation restrictions be yanked
from the Web.
Maj. Gen. M. Scott Mayes, the head of the North American air defense command,
ordered the internal review that flagged the hearing's transcript as problematic
and led to its deletion from a government Web site, CNET News.com has learned.
hearing was held Jan. 18 at the Airport Marriott in Dulles, Va., and was
discussed in local
news reports. Its purpose was to ask for public opinions about recent airspace
security restrictions near the nation's capital, which have cost local businesses
some $45 million a year in lost revenue and have even prompted some general
aviation pilots to move elsewhere.
One of the pilots who testified was Lt. Cmdr. Tom Bush, a U.S. Navy F-18 Hornet
pilot who also flies a small civilian plane and said he was speaking as a private
"Freedom and security are polar opposites, and I am not willing to give
up my freedom for the sake of terrorists," Bush said during the hearing,
according to a report
The report also said Bush suggested the airspace restrictions were irrational
because a terrorist could pretend to fly through the Air Defense Identification
Zone (ADIZ) to nearby Dulles airport, make a right-hand turn at the last minute,
and be over downtown Washington, D.C., in four minutes. The ADIZ
is a ring stretching almost 40 miles around Washington, D.C.
"There may be some operational security concerns with the time line he laid
out," Michael Kucharek, the chief of media relations for the North American
Aerospace Defense Command, said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Kucharek said that "there were some operational security concerns revealed
by this person who had knowledge but appeared as a public citizen, which we
think was out of line. The disclosure of that information could go directly
to national security concerns."
Maj. Gen. M. Scott Mayes
The Bush administration has been criticized in the past by open government
advocates for its aggressive efforts to avoid the disclosure of information
that historically has been public. In 2003, the U.S. Army surreptitiously
pulled the plug on one of its more popular Web sites after a report embarrassing
to the military appeared on it. In another example, the names of the members
of the Defense Science Board--an obscure but influential advisory body that
influences military policy and had a budget of $3.6 million a year--have vanished
from the group's public
A representative for the Transportation Security Administration said Friday
that the agency received a letter from the Defense Department requesting a review
of the transcript and that process is continuing.
The 369-page transcript of the event (part
1 and part
2), previously posted on the Federal Aviation Administration's Web site,
has been replaced with a notice saying it is "presently unavailable."
Lt. Cmdr. Bush could not be reached for comment. One pilot who was at the hearing
reported that Bush said that Americans kicked out the British, tamed the West,
won two World Wars, put a man on the moon--and should start acting like it.
Some pilots expressed skepticism that Bush disclosed anything sensitive and
suggested that the deletion was because he criticized the government's security
apparatus. Representatives from NORAD, TSA, FAA, the Department of Homeland
Security, the Secret Service, and Customs and Border Protection were on the
panel hearing testimony and remained silent during Bush's testimony.
"The fact that TSA is an out of control dysfunctional agency is a given,
so it may be just another example of their ongoing buffoonery," Lee Schiek,
the manager of Maryland's College
Park Airport, wrote in an e-mail message on Thursday. "On the other
hand, this could be an attempt to rewrite history to minimize the public record
sentiment regarding the ADIZ. In any event, since its inception, TSA has consistently
demonstrated their inability to do the right thing, and this latest example
should not go unchallenged."
Amy von Walter, a representative for the TSA, said Friday that the review of
Bush's comments for so-called Sensitive
Security Information was complete. "We did a review of the testimony
to make sure there was no SSI contained," von Walter said. "We did
not find any."
Von Walter said TSA had not demanded the removal of the information, and that
the Defense Department had. After TSA completes its review of the remainder
of the transcript, she said, all or some of it will be reposted.
The ADIZ is opposed by general aviation pilots--that is, pilots who fly smaller
aircraft such as a Cessna, Mooney or Piper--because it imposes strict security
rules that increase bureaucracy and can overload air traffic controllers.
It was created as a supposedly temporary measure after Sept. 11, 2001, but
the Bush administration has suggested that it become permanent. More than 21,300
comments, almost entirely critical of the ADIZ, were filed in the FAA proceeding
that led to January's public hearing in Virginia.
Many comments said that a terrorist could easily defeat
the purpose of the ADIZ by filing the paperwork, talking to air traffic
controllers, and then turning toward Washington, D.C., at the last moment. Others
said it was odd to worry about general aviation aircraft that typically have
two to six seats and can carry less than most SUVs.
The FAA said Thursday the transcript might be restored soon. It is being reviewed
"and no final decisions have been made," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown
said. "I think that you'll see virtually all of that reposted fairly quickly."