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From: "Robert Lederman" firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "Robert Lederman" email@example.com
Subject: FAA Managers Destroyed 9/11 Tape
Date: Fri, 7 May 2004 13:22:59
Here's a classic gem of understatement....... "The destruction of evidence in the Government's possession, in this case an audiotape -- particularly during times of national crisis -- has the effect of fostering an appearance that information is being withheld from the public."
By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington PostStaff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2004; 6:16 PM
Six air traffic controllers provided accounts of their communications with hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001, on a tape recording that was later destroyed by Federal Aviation Administration managers, according to a government investigative report issued today.
It is unclear what information was on the tape because no one ever listened to, transcribed or duplicated it, the report by the Department of Transportation inspector general said.
The report concluded that the FAA generally cooperated with the independent panel investigating the terrorist attacks by providing documents about its activities on Sept. 11, but the actions of two FAA managers "did not, in our view, serve the interests of the FAA, the Department [of Transportation] or the public."
The report was conducted at the request of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) after the panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, officially known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, complained that the FAA had been less than forthcoming in turning over documents and issued a subpoena to the agency for more information.
The FAA said it was cooperating fully with the 9/11 panel. The
it took disciplinary action against the employee who destroyed the tape
declined to elaborate on what kind of action they took. [Earlier, an FAA
official incorrectly stated that the agency took action against two
employees in the case.]
"We believe the audiotape in question appears to be consistent with written statements and other materials provided to FBI investigators and would not have added in any significant way to the information contained in what has already been provided to investigators and members of the 9/11 commission," said FAA spokesman Greg Martin.
Hours after the hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, an FAA manager at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center gathered six controllers who communicated or tracked two of the hijacked planes and recorded in a one-hour interview their personal accounts of what occurred, the report stated.
The manager, who is not named in the report, said that his intentions were to provide quick information to federal officials investigating the attack before the air traffic controllers involved took sick leave for the stress of their experiences, as is common practice.
According to the report, a second manager at the New York center promised a union official representing the controllers that he would "get rid of" the tape after controllers used it to provide written statements to federal officials about the events of the day.
Instead, the second manager said he destroyed the tape between December 2001 and January 2002 by crushing the tape with his hand, cutting it into small pieces and depositing the pieces into trash cans around the building, the report said.
The tape's existence was never made known to federal officials investigating the attack, nor to FAA officials in Washington. Staff members of the 9/11 panel found out about the tape during interviews with some controllers who participated in the recording.
One controller said she asked to listen to the tape in order
to prepare her written account of her experience, but one of the managers denied her
The New York managers acknowledged that they received an e-mail from FAA officials instructing them to retain all materials related to the Sept. 11 attacks. "If a question arises whether or not you should retain the data, RETAIN IT," the report quoted the e-mail as saying.
But the managers decided not to include the tape in a November 2001 "Formal Accident Package" report the office prepared because one manager said he did not want to break his word to the union official and he did not think the tape should ever have been made.
The inspector general concluded today that the managers'
actions resulted in the loss of potential evidence that would allow the 9/11 commission to
compare controllers' recollection of the events immediately after the attacks with the written statements prepared three weeks later.
;"The destruction of evidence in the Government's possession,
in this case an audiotape -- particularly during times of national crisis -- has the
effect of fostering an appearance that information is being withheld from the
copyright 2004 The Washington Post Company
Tape of Air Traffic Controllers Made on 9/11 Was Destroyed
By MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: May 7, 2004
WASHINGTON, May 6 - At least six air traffic controllers who dealt with two of the hijacked airliners on Sept. 11, 2001, made a tape recording a few hours later describing the events, but the tape was destroyed by a supervisor without anyone making a transcript or even listening to it, the Transportation Department said Thursday.
The taping began before noon on Sept. 11 at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., where about 16 people met in a basement conference room known as the Bat Cave and passed around a microphone, each recalling his or her version of the events of a few hours earlier. The recording included statements of 5 or 10 minutes each by controllers who had spoken by radio to people on the planes or who had tracked the aircraft on radar, the report said.
Officials at the center never told higher-ups of the tape's existence, according to a report made public on Thursday by the inspector general of the Transportation Department.
A quality-assurance manager at the center destroyed the tape several months after it was made, crushing the cassette in his hand, cutting the tape into little pieces and dropping them in different trash cans around the building, according to the report. The tape had been made under an agreement with the union that it would be destroyed after it was superseded by written statements from the controllers, the report said.
The quality-assurance manager told investigators that he had destroyed the tape because he thought making it was contrary to Federal Aviation Administration policy, which calls for written statements, and because he felt that the controllers "were not in the correct frame of mind to have properly consented to the taping" because of the stress of the day.
None of the officials or controllers were identified in the report. The inspector general, Kenneth M. Mead, said that keeping the tape's existence a secret, and then destroying it, did not "serve the interests of the F.A.A., the department, or the public," and would raise suspicions at a time of national crisis.
The value of the tape was not clear, Mr. Mead said, because no one was sure what was on it, although the written statements given later by five of the controllers were broadly consistent with "sketchy" notes taken by people in the Bat Cave. (The sixth controller did not give a statement, apparently because that controller did not speak to either of the planes or observe them on radar.)
Mr. Mead had been asked by Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, to look into how well the aviation agency had cooperated with the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. McCain said in a statement that he looked forward to "appropriate disciplinary actions" and that he might investigate this matter further.
A spokesman for the 9/11 commission, Al Felzenberg, said Mr.
Mead's report was "meticulous" and "came through the efforts of a very conscientious
senator." Mr. Felzenberg said that the commission would not comment now on the content of the report, but that it "does speak to some of the issues
we're interested in."
The quality-assurance manager destroyed the tape sometime in December 2001, January 2002 or February 2002. By that time he and the center manager had received an e-mail message from the F.A.A. instructing officials to safeguard all records and adding, "If a question arises whether or not you should retain data, RETAIN IT."
The inspector general ascribed the destruction to "poor judgment."
An F.A.A. spokesman, Greg Martin, said that "we have taken appropriate disciplinary action" against the quality-assurance managers.
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