FAA Managers Destroyed 9/11 Tape
FAA Managers Destroyed 9/11 Tape
Recording Contained Accounts of
Communications With Hijacked Planes
By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2004; 6:16 PM
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.
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.
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."
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.
FAA said it was cooperating fully with the 9/11 panel. The agency said it
took disciplinary action against the employee who destroyed the tape but
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
2004 The Washington Post Company
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