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)