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Airlines Want to Depose FBI Agent Who|Wrote Crucial Memo Before Sept. 11 Attacks

MANHATTAN (CN) - The major defendants in the World Trade Centers liability claims asked a federal judge to overrule FBI Director Robert Mueller's refusal to allow the deposition of an FBI agent who wrote and circulated a memo in July 2001, warning that members of al Qaeda "were training at civil aviation schools" and "potentially preparing for terrorist attacks on civil aviation."

The Aviation Parties seek "derivative immunity from liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act."

FBI agent Kenneth Williams wrote the so-called "Phoenix Memo." He was stationed at the Bureau's Phoenix office in 2000 and 2001.

"During this time period, he conducted an investigation of persons known to have ties to al Qaeda and Usama Bin Laden who were training at civil aviation schools in Arizona," the aviation plaintiffs say. "Special Agent Williams concluded that foreign students, operating under the sponsorship of al Qaeda, were in the United States potentially preparing for terrorist attacks on civil aviation. He documented these factual findings and conclusions in the so-called 'Phoenix Memo,' which he disseminated within the FBI in July 2001.

"Special Agent Williams has firsthand knowledge of facts that are probative of critical issues in the September 11 Litigation, including causation, the foreseeability of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and whether the Aviation Parties should have derivative immunity from liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act (the 'FTCA').

"Yet, in a boilerplate letter dated October 15, 2008, the FBI refused to permit the Aviation Parties to depose Special Agent Williams."

The 24-page lawsuit contains 41 pages of attachments that include a heavily redacted copy of the "Phoenix Memo," and the FBI's Oct. 15, 2008 boilerplate refusal to release it, on national security grounds.

Lead counsel for the plaintiffs is Desmond Barry with Condon & Forsyth.

The plaintiff Aviation Parties are American Airlines Inc.; AMR Corp.; United Air Lines Inc.; UAL Corp.; US Airways Group Inc.; US Airways Inc.; Delta Air Lines Inc.; Continental Airlines Inc.; Colgan Air Inc.; Globe Aviation Services Corp.; Globe Airport Security Services Inc.; Huntleigh USA Corp.; ICTS International NV; The Boeing Co.; The Massachusetts Port Authority; and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority.

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