Court Could Drop Massport From 9/11 Lawsuit

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A federal judge in New York is set to hear arguments over whether Massport should be dropped as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a Massachusetts family in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Bavis family is suing United Airlines and Massport for the death of Mark Bavis, a hockey scout for the NHL's Los Angeles Kings who was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston to LA when terrorists crashed his plane into New York's World Trade Center.

The Bavis family is the only family to have refused to settle their 9/11 lawsuit against the airlines. They want to use the courts to reveal what they say is negligence on the part of the airlines and Massport that allowed the hijackers to board planes at Logan.

In court documents, an American Airlines technician alleges he saw a 9/11 hijacker planning the attack.

The thrust of Massport's argument is that the federal government and the airlines were in charge of the checkpoints, so Massport should bear no responsibility for hijackers boarding the planes at Logan on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Bavis family argues that Massport at times took measures to implement additional security at Logan and, at others, pressured the airlines to reduce security at the checkpoints by speeding up the lines. They say Massport obviously thought it had some responsibility for the checkpoints and it shouldn't be allowed to say that it was powerless.

The most explosive revelations in the case have to do with developments WBUR first reported in 2002.

At the time, WBUR reported that in May 2001, four months before 9/11, an American Airlines technician had intercepted one of the eventual hijackers, Mohammed Atta, at Logan Airport.

Now, we have a lot more detail.

In a court deposition, American Airlines technician Steve Wallace said that he saw Atta and another man taking pictures and videotaping one of the American Airlines checkpoints in Terminal B.

He watched them for about 45 minutes and asked them what they were doing. At that point, the men walked away from him toward another checkpoint and called Wallace a nasty name in Arabic.

Wallace followed them and says he told a state trooper, "These two clowns are up to something." Wallace says he then moved to the back of the X-ray machine and told the operator to let him know if the men had any prohibited items in their carry-on bags.

After he and the trooper watched Atta's carry-on bag go through the screening machine, Wallace says he was called away to the bag room. He left thinking that the trooper would stop Atta, and at least take his name down.


The Bavis family says that if the state trooper had done that, Atta could have been placed on a no-fly list, and 9/11 might never have happened.

The 9/11 Commission did not uncover much of this because they never asked the questions that the Bavis family lawyers are asking now.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein will have to decide after oral arguments whether Massport continues to be a defendant in the case, which goes to trial in November.


This program aired on July 26, 2011.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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