After the FAA removed the transcript of the first public meeting about the Washington, D.C. air defense identification zone (ADIZ) from the Web, AOPA filed a Freedom of Information Act request to have it returned to public view.
FAA officials told AOPA that they were ordered to remove the transcript of the meeting from public record so that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department of Defense officials could scrub it clean of any security-sensitive information. The FAA never posted the transcript of the second meeting.
The flap apparently centered on a comment made by Navy Lt. Cdr. Tom Bush, who emphasized that he was speaking as a Mooney pilot and not as a combat-experienced F/A-18 Super Hornet aviator. He said that a pilot could comply with all of the ADIZ procedures, get set up for an approach to Dulles International Airport (IAD) and at the last minute make a turn and be over downtown Washington within four minutes.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) thinks he might have said more than he should have. “There was some time and distance information, avenues of approach that might have been too detailed,” Norad media relations chief Michael Kuchaerk told AOPA. While Norad had no problem with the pilot speaking as a private citizen, “He knows things because of his job with the military, and we want to make sure he didn’t reveal any operational security information.”
Maj. Gen. M. Scott Mayes, commander of the Continental Norad region, sent a memo to FAA security requesting that the pilot’s statement be removed from the public record until the agency had a chance to complete a security and policy review. “We may or may not redact it in part or in whole,” said Kuchaerk.
“How ridiculous can you get?” asked AOPA president Phil Boyer. “These were public meetings covered by the news media. Nothing was said that wasn’t already in the more than 21,000 written comments. Do they honestly think security information was disclosed during the public meetings?”
“Freedom and security are polar opposites, and I am not willing to give up my freedom for the sake of terrorists,” Bush said. He also described the 89- by 70-mile Washington ADIZ as “eminent domain in the third dimension.”
“We can’t speak to the pilot’s obligations as a military officer, but as a citizen and civilian aviator, he had every right to say what he did–and it was nothing more than what had already been pointed out by thousands of Americans, including many active-duty military officers, in their written comments,” said Boyer. “Anyone with a sectional chart and E6B can figure out how long it would take a Mooney to fly from Dulles to downtown Washington,” he added.
The FAA told AOPA that the transcripts could be restored to public view as soon as the TSA had completed its security-sensitive information review. The TSA told AOPA that it had completed its review and found nothing sensitive. At press time the transcript had not been reposted, AOPA confirmed.
“Public law requires that the transcripts of these two meetings be available to the public, unsanitized,” said Boyer. “There was nothing said that would help a terrorist, but there was certainly plenty said about operational problems, the economic impact and general criticism of what most pilots view as bad public policy. What an absurd waste of security resources to try to unring the bell and edit what was said in a public meeting in front of tv cameras.”