Terrorism warnings issued by the Federal Aviation Administration before the bombing of Pan American Flight 103 over Scotland were largely ineffective and sometimes “dangerously inaccurate,” the head of a House subcommittee said Sunday.
Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the House Government Operations subcommittee on government activities and transportation, voiced the criticism in releasing an analysis of 33 FAA security bulletins issued between Jan. 1, 1988, and Feb. 16 of this year.
The panel found that at least six of the security bulletins contained information that may be linked to the Dec. 21, 1988 bombing of the Pan Am plane, which killed 270 people. Investigators have concluded that the jet was blown up by plastic explosive hidden inside a radio-cassette player.
“Regrettably, these and other FAA bulletins were sometimes untimely, sometimes dangerously inaccurate and almost completely devoid of effective and specific instructions for countering possible threats,” Collins said. “Some bulletins recommended actions that were pointless or even absurd.”
West German Arrests
The subcommittee focused particular attention on a warning written on Nov. 17, after the arrest in West Germany three weeks earlier of members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.
The bulletin described a bomb found in the raids--plastic explosive secreted inside a radio-cassette player, with a barometric-pressure detonator designed to explode the device at a preset altitude.
According to the subcommittee, that bulletin mistakenly advised that the PFLP-GC “has not been known to undertake terrorist attacks in Europe.”
A recent Defense Department study said the Palestinian group had machine-gunned an airliner in Zurich, hijacked two other airliners bound for European cities and warned in 1986 that “there will be no safety for any traveler” on a U.S. airliner.