Accuracy in Media

At the recent AIM conference on whistleblowers, former FAA air traffic controller James Bergquist not only disputed the government’s theory on TWA 800 but insisted that the government was hiding the truth about other major aviation disasters, including the Value Jet crash in 1996. But what really got the attention of the audience was his litany of disasters involving air traffic controllers. He spoke at length about air traffic controllers using booze and drugs on the job over a period of years. In one case, he said an air traffic controller overdosed on heroin on the job and his work records were doctored to make it appear he was off-duty.

Bergquist, who also served as the National Air Traffic Controller Association union representative for San Diego county, said the last facility where he worked was given advance word when drug tests were scheduled. “The controller who told us about it was dealing all the drugs,” he said. Bergquist is now a member of a group known by the acronym CRASH, which stands for Coalition Revealing the Aviation Safety Hoax. He not only interviews people but tape records their responses, especially those from official government bodies. He admits these are conducted without the knowledge or permission of those he tapes. But he says he does so in order to document criminal behavior.

He compared himself to Linda Tripp, who tape-recorded Monica Lewinsky’s revelations of her affair with President Clinton. Tripp is currently the target of a Maryland grand jury investigation into whether she broke state law in making those tapes. Bergquist said he hopes he is sued over his own tape-recordings because that would be one way more publicity can be drawn to the aviation problem.

Here’s a taste of what Bergquist said: “I taped two other air traffic controllers confirming knowledge of alcohol and drug use on the job over a period of years. I taped investigators at the GAO [General Accounting Office] hot line telling me that they would investigate my allegations if requested by a congressman. Later, the GAO told [a] Congressman1/4that they were a small organization and unable to investigate my allegations. I taped the FBI telling me that drug use on the job, a felony, was a civil matter. I taped the White House hanging up on me. I taped the Aviation Subcommittee [of the House of Representatives] telling me they were unable to investigate my allegations.”

In rapid fire manner, Bergquist went through even more cases of official neglect of, or indifference to, his allegations of criminal wrong-doing. One government attorney, asked to examine his charges, told him that if he had ten witnesses to prove wrong-doing, he would need twenty. Then he said he was sorry and had done all he could.

We are dealing with what the AIM conference called an “epidemic of corruption.” Rather than rock the boat by highlighting and trying to solve a problem, various people in positions of responsibility and authority ignore it and pass the buck. And the media remain mostly silent throughout all of this. Bergquist put it this way: “You can’t have a corrupt government without a corrupt press.”

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