The government isn't going to warn airline passengers about terrorist bomb threats unless President-elect Bush or a member of his administration orders a major policy change, the FAA said Tuesday.
"We're looking at the possibilities of alerting the public against terrorist threats, but given that 99.9 percent of the threats we get are phony, we don't think it's the thing to do," said FAA spokesman Fred Farrar. "Serious terrorists don't make threats," he added. "They blow you out of the sky and take credit for it later."
Meanwhile, Finnish police said Wednesday they closed their investigation of telephone bomb threats to the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki after finding no link between the calls and the Pan Am tragedy.
Security Police chief Seppo Tiitinen was quoted as saying the outcome of a probe by Britain police of a possible suitcase bomb would in "no way change the results of our investigations."
"Although two cases of bomb threats had similar traits to what happened in Scotland, we have found no connection between these calls and (the Dec. 21) crash," Tiitinen said.
The bomb threat uproar began when the State Department revealed an anonymous caller predicted the Pan Am catastrophe during a Dec. 5 phone call to the American embassy in Helsinki.
State Department officials passed the caller's warning to the FAA on Dec. 7, and the agency alerted Pan Am and all other American airlines. Pan Am tightened security at Frankfurt and Heathrow, but neither the FAA nor Pan Am told the flying public about the bomb threat. In contrast, the State Department took the threat seriously and issued warnings to all its European embassies.
No member of the administration has criticized the lack of public warning. President Reagan has said that publicizing every terrorist threat against an airline might "shut down the world's air traffic." Bush has said the public should be warned "only when there's hard evidence against a specific airline flight."