Massport CEO Virginia Buckingham's 9/11 quote: "I had no aviation experience when I was appointed to head the Massachusetts Port Authority in September 1999. What I had were political connections, the right gender, and a governor's faith in my abilities."
Friday, September 14, 2001: Swift says shakeup at Logan is in cards
When Buckingham, press secretary, campaign manager and chief of staff to former Gov. Paul Cellucci, took over at a salary of $150,000 a year, she was criticized for her lack of aviation experience by powerful U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley, who died in May. But Buckingham was not the only political appointee sent to lead Massport with no previous experience in running an airport, or any comparable facility.
In 1993, former Gov. William F. Weld appointed Stephen P. Tocco to lead the agency. At the time, Tocco was his economic affairs security adviser and later became a lobbyist criticized for the mixing of his business with the state government.
Former U.S. Rep. Peter Blute was given the job by Weld after he lost a re-election bid in 1996 but was later ousted by Cellucci after running a taxpayer-funded ``booze cruise in August 1999. He went on to become a radio talk show host.
But Swift may be open to criticism for overhauling the agency. She herself spent time at Massport, landing softly there as the $78,000-a-year director of regional airports after her failed bid for Congress in 1996.
Other possible targets if a house cleaning is ordered is Massport security chief Joe Lawless, a former state police driver for Weld.
Lawless took heat this week for rebuffing offers of security help from the U.S. Marshal's office. Buckingham later apologized to the marshal's office on orders from Swift, according to reports.
9/14/2001: Political ties strong at airport Lack of aviation experience cited
As Logan Airport scrambled yesterday to implement new security procedures, the focus is now on the leadership of the Massachusetts Port Authority, an agency long run by political appointees without aviation or security backgrounds.
At Massport, not only is the executive director, Virginia Buckingham, a former campaign aide and adviser to two governors, but the public safety director - often a security professional at other airports - is Joseph Lawless, a former state trooper and driver for former Governor William F. Weld.
The practice of appointing people with political ties to leadership positions is not the case at all airports around the country, according to port authority specialists. Some authorities, such as the New York-New Jersey Port Authority, are led by political figures without prior experience. But others, such as Chicago's O'Hare Airport and Baltimore-Washington Airport, are run by transportation professionals.
Still, Leigh Boske, professor of public affairs at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, who focuses on transportation policy, said he knows of no airport other than Logan that has political appointees, with no aviation expertise, in such sensitive positions.
9/18/2001: Massport needs leadership, not patronage
WELCOME TO Logan Airport: Ramp passes and control tower tours available to terrorists. That is harsh but apparently true, or was, just one short week ago. Then, two planes hijacked from Boston seared their way through the World Trade Center. Now, there is a new line of defense at Logan. Authorities are removing plastic knives from bagel stands.
First, they should remove the politics and patronage that permeate Massport, from chairman of the board to executive director, from head of security to mail room employee.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy, Massport public safety director Joseph Lawless emerges as the perfect illustration of the professionalism you don't get when you hire a man whose distinguishing characteristic is his former job as Governor William F. Weld's chauffeur. But the problem is bigger and deeper than the holes in Lawless's resume or his pitiful response to last week's calamity. It reflects a long-term political culture in the Commonwealth that not only accepts patronage, but begins with this hiring premise for public employees: It's not what you know, it's who you know.
As the ruling party for years, the Democrats wrote the patronage handbook for this state. The past decade of Republican governors embraced it with unbridled exuberance, putting an ex-pharmacist, an ex-congressman, and an ex-press aide in charge of Massport - and, ultimately, in charge of the life of every passenger who flies out of Logan. As a result, Massport's politically connected payroll is as much a part of the Weld-Cellucci legacy as tax-cutting. Today, that is especially ironic for someone like Weld, who began his career as a crimefighter for the US Justice Department.
Mark Robinson, Weld's underling in the US attorney's office and chairman of the Massport board, sent out a memo yesterday to 1,200 employees, telling them that outside scrutiny should be embraced. Nothing is sacred, everything is on the table, said Robinson in an interview. As Robinson acknowledged yesterday, Gate security is the last link in the chain. That suggests security gaps before the terrorists ever got to the gates.
Yet the day after the attack, Weld's ex-driver continued to insist, We are as secure, if not more secure, than any other airport in the US.
After years of state attempts, Massport has bought the airport satellite parking lot for $75 million from a partnership that includes convicted felon Richard Goldberg. In the past, Goldberg took elaborate - read: illegal - measures to drag every nickel from the government that he could.
Tuesday, May 22, 2001: Feds eye Cashman's Massport expenses
Federal investigators probing alleged racketeering by local Teamster boss George W. Cashman have subpoenaed his expense records from Massport, where he sits on the board of directors, and are eyeing connections the agency has with two of his associates, according to sources.
Sources said investigators are looking into public relations contracts Massport has had with the Rendon Group, which is run by Cashman ally Rick Rendon, as well as records regarding Mark E. Robinson, the chairman of the board of directors. Robinson's Boston law firm, Bingham, Dana, represents the New England Teamsters pension fund and has received more than $2.5 million in Fees since 1997.
In addition, sources said investigators will seek records regarding the hiring of temporary workers on dockside jobs governed by the Teamsters at the Black Falcon Terminal in South Boston. According to sources, Local 25 officials allegedly offered part-time Massport jobs to members of several area police departments, including Revere and Chelsea, as a quid pro quo for the rank and file to agree to Teamster representation.
``We were told when details dry up, we could get jobs driving cars off ships, said one Revere police officer who opposed the contract with the Teamsters.
Wednesday, June 13, 2001: Feds probe Massport deal with Teamsters
Federal investigators probing embattled Teamsters boss George W. Cashman have subpoenaed Massport records for a sweetheart deal that allows the local union to operate a profitable truck driver training school rent-free on the authority's prime waterfront property in East Boston, sources said.
As Peter Blute returns to politics, Gidget talks about that fateful day 13 years ago aboard the Nauticus that scuttled his tenure as head of Massport
April 10, 2012
THE STORY WAS tailor-made for a tabloid: A booze cruise on Boston Harbor skippered by the head of Massport; a fun-loving crew of hangers-on, including lobbyists and a woman named Gidget, who struck a “Girls Gone Wild” pose for a photographer as the boat pulled into dock.
The Boston Herald story on that sunny day in August 1999 is legend. The article, and especially the Herald’s accompanying picture of a bare-breasted woman—a black strip inserted by the newspaper across her chest—were so devastating that Massport Director Peter Blute stepped down the very next day. Only now, nearly 13 years later, is Blute making a tentative return to politics serving as the deputy chairman of the state Republican Party.
Over the years, rumors have persisted that there was more to the story than what the Herald reported. Blute in sists he was set up. There was talk of a second non-Herald photographer, a grand jury investigation, and rumors of a conspiracy by Blute’s enemies to bring him down.
A CommonWealth investigation suggests Blute was, in deed, targeted. Sources say a private investigator was checking out Blute weeks before the booze cruise and followed him and his boating entourage around Boston Harbor that day. CommonWealth has also learned details about a grand jury investigation of the cruise, including the fact that Gidget Churchill was called to testify. CommonWealth tracked down Churchill, who reluctantly agreed to provide her version of events for the first time as long as no details of her current life were reported. Through her attorney, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid being inundated with interview requests, Churchill tells the somewhat improbable story that she simply just got carried away that day on the M/V Nauticus.
Churchill was 34 at the time. Her lawyer says it was a spontaneous decision to pull up her tank top and expose her breasts. She was chatting with people on the boat, most of whom she had never met before, when one of them mentioned that a photographer was taking pictures of them. The attorney says Churchill had never exposed herself before, but decided at that moment to turn toward the camera and flash. “It just happened,” says her lawyer, who adds that Churchill told the same story to a grand jury. Blute doesn’t buy it. Noting that Churchill used to work as a stunt actress in films, Blute thinks she was in on what he believes was a conspiracy against him.
“She was a stunt actress pulling a stunt,” he says. “With out the breasts, this is a one-day story.”
About a month before the infamous cruise, Michael Taylor, a private security consultant with a checkered past, walked over to the desk of one of his investigators in Boston and handed him a Post-it note with the words “Peter Blute” written on it, according to a source with knowledge of the investigator’s testimony before the federal grand jury. The investigator was working for Taylor’s firm, American International Security of Boston, and was told to find out everything he could about the Massport boss and former Republican congressman, but given no explanation why.
A few weeks later, the source says the investigator was given the name and registration number of the Nauticus and told to find a comparable boat that could keep pace with the yacht. The source says the investigator was told the date of the cruise and ordered to take pictures “of everybody coming off board.”
Blute says the idea for the booze cruise came originally from George Cashman, who at the time was president of Teamsters Local 25 and a member of the Massport board. It was the second try at a harbor cruise; one had been scheduled a month earlier but was canceled. Interviews with those familiar with the timing indicate the first scheduled cruise was around the time Taylor first asked his investigator to gather information on Blute.
Blute, then 44, says Cashman had been pushing him to organize the cruise to scope out Massport property. He says Cashman also urged him to invite Alexander “Sandy” Tennant, a lobbyist and political advisor to then-Gov. Paul Cellucci, who might be helpful in convincing the governor to support a controversial runway expansion at Logan Airport, which is managed by Massport. “I saw it as an opportunity to placate one of my board members, who was my boss,” Blute says. “When your boss asks you to do something, you do it.”
But Blute haltingly admits he wasn’t averse to taking a summer cruise around Boston Harbor on a work day with a cooler of champagne and beer aboard. “Let me be clear,” he says. “I wasn’t not for it.”
On the morning of the cruise, Cashman begged out, saying he had to attend to some union business on Cape Cod, Blute says. That same morning, Churchill’s lawyer says she was working at the now-defunct Chancellor Transportation Inc. in Boston, a company owned by her father that was trying to land a consulting contract with Mass port. Her father was a neighbor of Tennant’s in Swampscott, which may explain why the firm received an invitation to the booze cruise.
According to Churchill’s lawyer, her immediate boss at the company was planning to go on the cruise but couldn’t make it, so he asked Churchill to stand in for him. Churchill’s lawyer says she went with David McCool, a lobbyist and minor political operative who had been doing work for Cash man’s Local 25. The lawyer says McCool just happened to be in Chan cellor’s office that morning, adding that his client did not know who invited either her boss or McCool on the cruise.
Boarding the Nauticus at Com mercial Wharf, Blute says he recognized Churchill. He says he saw her with McCool about a week earlier at a Cellucci fundraiser organized by Cashman. Churchill’s lawyer confirms she was at the fundraiser with McCool, but adds that she barely knew him. “They weren’t dating or anything like that,” he says.
Blute says he did not know and does not remember others on board, saying Tennant and Cashman invited most of them. Churchill’s attorney says she knew no one except McCool.
As the Nauticus prepared to shove off, according to the source familiar with the testimony of Taylor’s investigator, another similar-size boat carrying three men, two who appeared to be fishermen plus a boat captain, chugged out of the Commercial Wharf area. The source says the two “fishermen” were employees of Taylor and their gear included still and video cameras to record the Nauticus on its voyage.
James P. "Jimmy" Flynn, meanwhile, was a reputed member of The Winter Hill Gang who was acquitted back in the 1980s for a gangland slaying that both Bulger and Connolly apparently played parts in. He has since become a movie crew transportation coordinator for Teamsters Local 25 in Charlestown, Mass.
The Herald has reported that Flynn, along with Teamster Local 25 president George W. Cashman, are "targets of a federal grand jury ... probing allegations that Flynn forced producers to rent equipment from his company, Location Connection, or risk labor problems on the set. ... Flynn also allegedly wanted to kill a rival union member when she refused to turn over her snack concession on the set of What's the Worst That Could Happen? to one of Flynn's lieutenants. That plan, according to sources, was nixed by Cashman and the woman was eventually beaten 'to send her a message.'"
The paper claims "Flynn's relationship with Connolly dates back to the early 1980s ... when Flynn was charged with the murder of would-be FBI informant Brian Halloran, a former member of Local 25's movie crew. Flynn was acquitted in 1986 and Bulger and Flemmi were later indicted for the murder. Sources said over the years, Connolly credited many of Flynn's tips to Bulger and Flemmi in an effort to make his two top informants look good to FBI higher-ups and, in turn, reap his own rewards."
Sources for The Boston Herald also advised the paper that another ex-con turned movie crew member named "William O'Brien ... has also been sitting in on the Winter Hill movie negotiations." The paper recounts that "Billy" O'Brien was named in an indictment for a 1994 armored car robbery in New Hampshire that ended in the execution of two guards but he was never charged for renting the getaway truck used in the heist. Seven other men have been incarcerated for that crime.
In 2001, Massport contracted with Counter Technologies Incorporated (CTI) to conduct a another comprehensive security assessment of Massport facilities. That review was in process when the events of September 11, 2001 occurred.
Five years after the tragedy of 9/11, airport and rail security personnel are rapidly adopting an Israeli method for spotting terrorists
Rafi Ron is the founder and CEO of Maryland-based New Age Security Solutions (NASS) which was established shortly after 9/11 according to their website in order to answer the new emerging security needs of governments and private sector organizations. The SPOT method is buit upon the gold ribbon security standards at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
NASS’s behavior pattern recognition program, which aims at recognizing terrorists through observation of their mannerisms, has caught on big time in an era in which metal detectors aren’t the be all and end all to airport security. The methods include observing small movements of the lips, eyebrows and nose, to detect nervousness and suspiciousness.
The company started its activity with a major security revamp at Boston’s Logan International airport immediately after 9/11, when the TSA began testing a version of SPOT. Ann Davis, the agency’s Boston-based spokeswoman for the Northeast, told the LA Times that the Logan program “is a derivative of a program by the Israelis.”
Ron explained to Chief Security Officer Magazine Security systems that the lessons of 9/11 prompted the increasing popularity of the SPOT method, and insisted that it has nothing to do with racial profiling.
“9/11 led us to the conclusion that it is not enough to look for things, we have to look for malicious intentions.