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A newly released inspector general report backs eyewitness accounts of suspicious behavior by 13 Middle Eastern men on a Northwest Airlines flight in 2004 and reveals several missteps by government officials, including failure to file an incident report until a month after the matter became public.
Agency management was not only covering up numerous probes and dry-run encounters from Congress and other federal law-enforcement agencies, it was also hiding these incidents from their own flying air marshals," said P. Jeffrey Black, an air marshal stationed in Las Vegas.
The inspector general's two-year investigation was originally released in April 2006 but was then wholly redacted except for two sentences. The re-release stems from a Freedom of Information request by The Times on April 25, 2006, which was answered Friday.
Portions of the report remain redacted. However, current and former air marshals who reviewed a copy provided by The Times say the activities of the men details a dry run for a terrorist attack.
"This report is evidence of Homeland Security executives attempting to downplay and cover up an unmistakable dry run that forced flight attendants to reveal the air marshals and compel the pilots to open the flight deck door," said Robert MacLean, a former air marshal who was fired last year for revealing that the service planned to cut back on protection for long-distance flights to save money.