Friday, September 23, 2011


Ignore experts at own risk


According to multiple sources (see end of file for list/URLs), the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is free of liability for the 1993 bombing of a World Trade Center building.

The reason cited by the court in its split decision was that the Port Authority is immune from suits as a government agency.

A little history.

The Port Authority owned the World Trade center buildings.

According to the New York Times, although "the court’s decision highlighted many of the warnings that had been made to agency officials about the potential risk of a car bomb in the garage, the court made it clear that the agency had also believed it had good reasons to concentrate its security measures elsewhere at the trade center complex." (Emphasis mine.)

Reuters reports that the "February 1993 bombing killed six people and injured close to 1,000. Six men were convicted including Ramzi Yousef, who was tied to al Qaeda."

The Reuter's article continued: "Lower courts had ruled that the Port Authority acted as a private landlord because the World Trade Center was largely a commercial complex. In her dissent, Appeals Court Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick agreed with that position.

"The Port Authority's security decisions regarding the garage were made by civilian managers, not law enforcement or security authorities, and stemmed from commercial concerns," Ciparick wrote.

In the majority opinion the court noted that, "the Port Authority solicited numerous expert opinions on the security risks and measures to be considered before allocating its police resources. While the Port Authority's decision-making could have proceeded along different acceptable paths of action, in this case, it reached a reasoned discretionary conclusion to heighten security in sectors of the WTC considered more susceptible to harmful attack" according to

But, as Judge Ciparick noted in her opinion, the "Port Authority's security decisions regarding the garage were made by civilian managers, not law enforcement or security authorities. (Emphasis mine.)

To be fair to Port Authority management, decisions had to be made based on available resources. That's the unfortunate case for all organizations.

At the time, and despite the warnings from "numerous expert opinions on the security risks and measures to be considered," car bombings, especially car bombings to bring down buildings in the US were almost unknown.

Two truck bombs had gone off outside a military barracks in Beirut in 1983 killing 299 American and other servicemen; Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility But that was overseas; such things didn't happen on U.S. soil. (Actually bombings were common in the U.S., including bombing buildings, but never on the scale of the Trade Center buildings.)

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City wasn't brought down by Timothy McVeigh and friends until April 19, 1995.

The lower court ruling that was appealed to the higher court allocated 68 percent of the fault to the Port Authority for the terrorist attack. The terrorists were ruled to be 32 percent responsible.

Apparently had the Trade Center buildings been owned by a non-government agency, the decision would have been against the Port Authority.

There are lessons to be learned here.


New York Times, Port Authority Not Liable in Bombing, Court Rules

Reuters, Port Authority not liable in 1993 WTC attack, court,, New York court: Port Authority not liable for 1993 World Trade Center bombing,

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