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For Chicago Lawyer Bob Clifford, 9/11 Case Could Be His Biggest Yet

SHOWDOWN ON GROUND ZERO: At the center of a huge 9/11 lawsuit—a $1.2 billion property damage case—is the Chicagoan Robert Clifford, one of the top aviation lawyers in the nation

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A still from the security footage of the 9/11 hijackers
Clifford compared airport surveillance video of the 9/11 hijackers (above) with a training video showing proper screening procedures. If you were to watch the two videos side by side, he says, “you’d puke.”
The lawsuit proceeded—slowly. For years, Clifford’s team was stymied because the defendants—and the government—were unwilling to turn over documents as part of discovery, saying that the material was “security-sensitive information,” or SSI. “The airlines had even argued that some of the 9/11 Commission report was SSI, even though it had been translated into six, seven languages and published all around the world,” recalls Jim Warden, of the Kansas City firm Warden Grier, another lead lawyer on the case.

Clifford was denied a copy of surveillance footage taken at the security checkpoint at Dulles Airport on the morning of September 11th that showed one of the terrorists being screened with a hand-held metal detector. In fact, the video had already been shown on TV news programs. No matter, the Justice Department said, the tape was SSI. Clifford had wanted to show the clip on a split screen with footage from a security company’s training video that demonstrated the proper slow, deliberate process for screening passengers with hand-held wands. In the Dulles footage, according to Clifford, the security agents used hurried, herky-jerky motions. “If you saw the training film and put it next to the [footage of the] terrorists being wanded at Dulles, you’d puke,” he says.

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