$1M Suit Filed Over Security Breach

A "dastardly" lawsuit is brought against a man accused of breaching an airport's security, a Ground Zero flag will fly in Afghanistan and the Coast Guard begins training "sea marshals."

AirTran Sues Georgia Man Over Security Breach

ATLANTA, Nov. 27 — AirTran Airways has sued the man accused of breaching security at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, leading to a temporary shutdown of the nation's busiest airport.

AirTran, which operates an Atlanta hub, filed the federal complaint Monday against Michael Shane Lasseter of Gainesville, Ga. The airline, which said the Nov. 16 cancellations and diversions of flights cost it more than $1 million, will seek at least $100,000 in damages, general counsel Richard Magurno said.

"We think people have to be responsible for what they do," Magurno said.

Lasseter, 32, was charged with disorderly conduct for running past security guards and down an up escalator. He said he did not see any guards and was not aware that he had caused the security alert.

Lasseter's lawyer, Richard Lipman, called the lawsuit a "dastardly, exploitive, irresponsible and senseless action."

"They don't have the facts," Lipman said.

— The Associated Press

Ground Zero Flag Sent to Afghanistan

N E W Y O R K, Nov. 27 — Scrawled with messages of anguish, vengeance and patriotic fervor, an American flag that flew at Ground Zero is being sent to U.S. troops in Afghanistan as a reminder of what they are fighting for.

"For my sons," "God bless and be safe" and "Pay back time," say messages written on the red and white stripes by victims' relatives and Ground Zero workers. The stars are reserved for names of the dead.

The 12-by-18-foot flag is being sent this week to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Members of the unit, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., helped seize an airstrip in southern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Monday. President Bush said the troops will help hunt down terrorists linked to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Maj. David C. Andersen, a Marine Corps spokesman in New York, said he believes the troops will treasure the flag.

"I think it's going to bring a little piece of lower Manhattan, of Ground Zero, to Marines who have never been here," he said.

The flag's story began two weeks after the terrorist attacks when it was draped over a building near the World Trade Center under a giant banner reading "United We Stand." About a month later, it was taken to a command center occupied by the police department's emergency services unit.

That is where the flag became a memorial cloth. No one knows who wrote the first message. But the banner is now covered with names, statements, prayers and poems, most of them written in black marker by victims' relatives, police, federal investigators and Red Cross workers.

Some of the messages are patriotic: "United we stand, united we fight." "These colors don't run."

Others focus on the victims: "I will always miss my son Rodney." "For my sons … Joe and John Vigiano. They gave their lives doing what they loved — helping others."

Some of the messages are directed at the troops: "Unleash hell boys." "Be safe and do us proud."

Others are aimed at the terrorists themselves: "May the last breath you take be spent looking at this flag." "Sleep with one eye open."

The 50 stars contain the names of the 23 New York police officers lost in the attacks, plus the 17 U.S. sailors who died in the October 2000 bombing in Yemen of the USS Cole — an attack blamed on Osama bin Laden.

The flag is being given to the Marines because three members of the emergency services unit who died on Sept. 11 were former Marines.

— The Associated Press

Coast Guard Keeps Close Tabs on Busy Ports

L O S A N G E L E S, Nov. 27 — The Coast Guard has a new security program at the nation's largest ports — Los Angeles and Long Beach.

It's training reservists as "sea marshals" to board cruise ships and commercial vessels in search of terrorists.

Teams are also working in San Diego and San Francisco, and may be created elsewhere.

Since the terrorist attacks, the Coast Guard has begun sending armed teams aboard cruise ships several miles off the coast to ensure the proper crew is in control and to check passenger lists.

The marshals also check on what are considered "high interest vessels," from nations such as Libya and Iran.

— The Associated Press

Customs Demands Passenger Lists From International Airlines

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — International airlines that don't immediately turn over advance lists of passengers to be screened for possible terrorists face more intensive inspections starting this week.

In a letter to 58 carriers, Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner warned of heightened inspections for those that haven't complied by Thursday, even though a new law gives the airlines until next year to start providing the information.

Many international airlines already offer the information to Customs. But Bonner is urging immediate compliance with the Advance Passenger Information System, which was signed into law last week and gives carriers 60 days to comply.

If not, Bonner said that on Thursday the service "will begin heightened inspections of international flight that pose a national security risk because they do not transmit APIS data."

The letter was sent to 58 airlines that as of Nov. 21 were not providing Customs with advance passenger information. Those airlines include: Saudi Arabian Airlines, Aeroflot Russian Airlines, Air China, Pakistan International Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines.

A spokesman for Royal Jordanian, which also received the letter, said the airline is preparing software to help comply with the new law.

"We are also preparing the required system which will be applicable in the near future which includes the passenger's name, family name, date of birth, passport number, date of issue and expiry," said Ghassan Ali, deputy director general. The airline also has asked all travel agents to have such information available after a flight is booked.

Customs has received information voluntarily from participating airlines since 1988 on international air passengers, including names, birth dates, nationality and travel document numbers. The information is collected at the time of departure and transmitted to Customs while flights are en route to the United States. Information also is transmitted to Customs about crew members as well.

Under the voluntary program with the airlines, Customs currently has access to about 85 percent of international flight passenger information. It has no information on domestic flights, and the new law wouldn't change that. The four hijackings on Sept. 11 involved domestic flights.

— The Associated Press