Category Archives: Destruction of evidence

Mohammed Atta was known to Pentagon in 2000

"An active-duty Navy captain has become the second military officer to come forward publicly to say that a secret defense intelligence program tagged the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks as a possible terrorist more than a year before the attacks."

Navy Officer Affirms Assertions About Pre-9/11 Data on Atta

Published: August 22, 2005
New York Times

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 – An active-duty Navy captain has become the second military officer to come forward publicly to say that a secret defense intelligence program tagged the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks as a possible terrorist more than a year before the attacks.

The officer, Scott J. Phillpott, said in a statement today that he could not discuss details of the military program, which was called Able Danger, but confirmed that its analysts had identified the Sept. 11 ringleader, Mohamed Atta, by name by early 2000. "My story is consistent," said Captain Phillpott, who managed the program for the Pentagon's Special Operations Command. "Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000."

His comments came on the same day that the Pentagon's chief spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, told reporters that the Defense Department had been unable to validate the assertions made by an Army intelligence veteran, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, and now backed up by Captain Phillpott, about the early identification of Mr. Atta.

Colonel Shaffer went public with his assertions last week, saying that analysts in the intelligence project had been overruled by military lawyers when they tried to share the program's findings with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2000 in hope of tracking down terror suspects tied to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Di Rita said in an interview that while the department continued to investigate the assertions, there was no evidence so far that the intelligence unit had come up with such specific information about Mr. Atta and any of the other hijackers.

He said that while Colonel Shaffer and Captain Phillpott were respected military officers whose accounts were taken seriously, "thus far we've not been able to uncover what these people said they saw – memory is a complicated thing."

The statement from Captain Phillpott , a 1983 Naval Academy graduate, who has served in the Navy for 22 years, was provided to The New York Times and Fox News through the office of Representative Curt Weldon, Republican of Pennsylvania, who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a longtime proponent of so-called data-mining programs like Able Danger.

Asked if the Defense Department had interviewed Captain Phillpott in its two-week-old investigation of Able Danger, another Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Paul Swiergosz, said he did not know.

Representative Weldon also arranged an interview with a former employee of a defense contractor who said he had helped create a chart in 2000 for the intelligence program that included Mr. Atta's photograph and name.

The former contractor, James D. Smith, said that Mr. Atta's name and photograph were obtained through a private researcher in California who was paid to gather the information from contacts in the Middle East. Mr. Smith said that he had retained a copy of the chart for some time and that it had been posted on his office wall at Andrews Air Force Base. He said it had become stuck to the wall and was impossible to remove when he switched jobs.

In its final report last year, the Sept. 11 commission said that American intelligence agencies were unaware of Mr. Atta until the day of the attacks.

Commission members did acknowledge in a statement on Aug. 12 that their staff met with a Navy officer last July, only 10 days before releasing the panel's final report, who had asserted that Able Danger, a highly classified intelligence operation, had identified "Mohamed Atta to be a member of an Al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn."

But the statement, which did not identify the officer by name, said that the commission's staff had determined that "the officer's account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation" and that the intelligence operation "did not turn out to be historically significant."

With his comments today, Captain Phillpott acknowledged that he was the officer who had briefed the commission last year. "I will not discuss the issues outside of my chain of command and the Department of Defense," he said. "But my story is consistent. Atta was identified by Able Danger in January-February of 2000. I have nothing else to say."

Pentagon Employee Ordered to Destroy Mohammed Atta Papers on Order

Weldon: Atta Papers Destroyed on Orders
AP
16 September 2005

by Donna De

URL:

Sep. 16, 2005 – A Pentagon employee was ordered to destroy documents that identified Mohamed Atta as a terrorist two years before the 2001 attacks, a congressman said Thursday.

The employee is prepared to testify next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was expected to identify the person who ordered him to destroy the large volume of documents, said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa.

Weldon declined to identify the employee, citing confidentiality matters. Weldon described the documents as "2.5 terabytes" as much as one-fourth of all the printed materials in the Library of Congress, he added.

A Senate Judiciary Committee aide said the witnesses for Wednesday hearing had not been finalized and could not confirm Weldon's comments.

Army Maj. Paul Swiergosz, a Pentagon spokesman, said officials have been "fact-finding in earnest for quite some time."

"We've interviewed 80 people involved with Able Danger, combed through hundreds of thousands of documents and millions of e-mails and have still found no documentation of Mohamed Atta," Swiergosz said.

He added that certain data had to be destroyed in accordance with existing regulations regarding "intelligence data on U.S. persons."

Weldon has said that Atta, the mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and three other hijackers were identified in 1999 by a classified military intelligence unit known as "Able Danger," which determined they could be members of an al-Qaida cell.

On Wednesday, former members of the Sept. 11 commission dismissed the "Able Danger" assertions. One commissioner, ex-Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., said, "Bluntly, it just didn't happen and that's the conclusion of all 10 of us."

Weldon responded angrily to Gorton's assertions.

"It's absolutely unbelievable that a commission would say this program just didn't exist," Weldon said Thursday.

Pentagon officials said this month they had found three more people who recall an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Two military officers, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott, have come forward to support Weldon's claims.

 

FAA Manager Destroys Evidence

FAA Manager Destroys Tape

by Matthew L. Wald,
The New York Times, May 6, 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 that same day 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 in a report today.

The taping began before noon on Sept. 11 at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, in Ronkonkoma, on Long Island, 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 a few hours earlier.

But officials at the center never told higher-ups of the tape's existence, and it was later destroyed by an F.A.A. official described in the report as a quality-assurance manager there. That manager crushed the cassette in his hand, shredded the tape and dropped the pieces into different trash cans around the building, according to a report made public today by the inspector general of the Transportation Department.

NY Times

Controllers’ 9/11 tapes wilfully destroyed

FEBRURY 2005

CONTROLLERS’ 9/11 TAPES WILLFULLY DESTROYED

LESLIE MILLER, ASSOCIATED PRESS – Air traffic controllers who handled two of the hijacked flights on Sept. 11, 2001, recorded their experiences shortly after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center but a supervisor destroyed the tape, government investigators said Thursday.

A report by Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead said the manager for the New York-area air traffic control center asked the controllers to make the recordings a few hours after the crashes in belief they would be important for law enforcement.

Investigators never heard it. Sometime between December 2001 and February 2002, an unidentified Federal Aviation Administration quality assurance manager crushed the cassette case in his hand, cut the tape into small pieces and threw them away in multiple trash cans, the report said.

"We were told that nobody ever listened to, transcribed or duplicated the tape," Mead said in the report sent to Sen. John McCain. The Arizona Republican asked the inspector general to look into how well the agency was cooperating with the independent panel investigating the attacks.

Neither manager told anyone outside the center – including their superiors and law enforcement officials – about the tape’s existence, the report said. The Sept. 11 commission learned of the tape during interviews with New York air traffic control center personnel between September and October.

May 6, 2004 – FAA manager mangled, cut, and destroyed 9/11 tapes.

"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 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 agency said it took disciplinary action against the employee who destroyed the tape but declined to elaborate on what kind of action they took.

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 request.

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." – Washington Post (05/06/04)

"Information provided to the commission investigating the U.S. government’s response to terrorist threats prior to September 11, 2001, names an FAA quality manager in the destruction of an audiotape made in the aftermath of the 9/11 hijackings. Each of at least six air traffic controllers and some ten other employees who were on the job at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., during the World Trade Center attacks gathered several hours after to recall their version of events. But that tape, which could have helped determine how the agency responded to clues that four planes had been hijacked, was destroyed before it was ever heard. In fact, officials at the ARTCC were never even told of the tape’s existence. According to the report given to the 9/11 Commission by Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead, the audiotape was crushed in the hand of the unnamed FAA employee, then cut into small pieces and tossed into different trash cans around the ARTCC building. Despite the fact that the quality assurance officer had been told to retain all records pertaining to 9/11, he told inspector general investigators he destroyed the tape because he felt making it was contrary to FAA policy, which calls for written statements. He is also quoted to have said the controllers "were not in the correct frame of mind to have properly consented to the taping" because of the stress of the day, and told investigators that faced with a similar situation, he would repeat his actions." – AV Web (05/10/04)