Sept. 11 Families Want Confidential Files Released

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Families of three victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are asking a judge to release secret documents about the plane hijackings.

The aviation industry provided close to a million pages of information to lawyers for a pending lawsuit but marked them all confidential. The families got the documents in pre-trial discovery motions but went to federal court Wednesday for the right to make them public.

They say the documents contain more information about who is to blame for letting the 19 terrorists on the planes.

"This is the sole repository of information about what happened on Sept. 11 with respect to aviation checkpoint security," said Don Migliori, a lawyer for the families.

He said it includes the depositions of the security screeners: how they were trained, who hired them and the calibrations of the X-ray machines.

It answers what Migliori says is the biggest mystery of that day: "How did items that screeners were trained to detect get on board airplanes such that four planes can take 3,000 people out in the United States?"

This isn't information from the 9/11 Commission Report or anything uncovered by investigators. It's the result of the few families still waging a legal fight with the airlines.

Most of the relatives of the victims never sued. Instead, they opted for money from the federal compensation fund. Ninety-two families filed lawsuits but then settled with the airlines. Just three families are still in court.

Mike Low lost his daughter Sara, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11. He has rejected settlement offers in an attempt to get this information out.

"I want to find out everything that we can about what led up to the failures of 9-11. ... I think I owe that to my daughter," he said.

A lawyer for the aviation companies argued that it isn't fair to release the confidential documents. The companies provided the pages with the understanding that they were for lawyers eyes only.

Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein seemed to agree. Although he didn't rule immediately, he said he was inclined to wait until a trial and see which documents get introduced into evidence.

Lawyers for the airlines declined to be interviewed. But outside the courthouse, Low said if the judge does rule to keep the information secret, he'll have to keep pushing for a trial.

"It's all going to be locked away, sealed away and put away from the public if some of us don't keep trying," he said.

The trial date is still more than a year away.

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