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F.A.A. Official Scrapped Tape of 9/11 Controllers' Statements
Times ^ | 050604 | By MATTHEW L. WALD

Posted on 05/06/2004 11:15:22 AM PDT by Archangelsk

ASHINGTON, 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 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 today.

The taping began before noon on Sept. 11 at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, in Ronkonkoma, on Long Island, but it was later destroyed by an F.A.A. quality-assurance manager, who crushed the cassette in his hand, cut the tape into little pieces and dropped them in different trash cans around the building, according to a report made public today by the inspector general of the Transportation Department.

The inspector general had been asked by Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, to look into how well the Federal Aviation Administration had cooperated with the 9/11 Commission.

The quality-assurance manager told investigators that he had destroyed the tape because he thought making it was contrary to F.A.A. 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.

Another official, the center's manager, asked the controllers to make the tape because "he wanted a contemporaneous recordation of controller accounts to be immediately available for law enforcement," according to the report, and was concerned that the controllers would take a leave of absence immediately, which is standard procedure after a crash.

On the tape, the controllers, some of whom had spoken by radio to people on the planes and some who had tracked the aircraft on radar, gave statements of 5 to 10 minutes each, according to the report.

The center manager had agreed with the president of the local union chapter that the tapes would be destroyed once the standard written statements were obtained, the report said.

Neither the center manager nor the quality-assurance manager disclosed the tape's existence to their superiors at the F.A.A. region that covers New York, or to the agency's Washington headquarters, according to the report.

None of the officials or controllers were identified in the report.

Other tapes were preserved, including conversations on the radio frequencies used by the planes that day, and the radar tapes. In addition, the controllers later made written statements to the F.A.A., per standard procedure, and in this case, to the F.B.I. as well.

But when one of the controllers asked if she could review her portion of the audiotape to refresh her memory before giving her witness statement, she was told she could not, according to the report.

The quality-assurance manager destroyed the tape despite an e-mail message sent by 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."

"The destruction of evidence in the government's possession, in this case an audiotape particularly during times of a national crisis, has the effect of fostering an appearance that information is being withheld from the public," the inspector general's report said. "We do not ascribe motivations to the mangers in this case of attempting to cover up, and we have no indication that there was anything on the tape that would lead anyone to conclude that they had something to hide or that the controllers did not carry out their duties."

But 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," the report said.

The report also noted that the official who destroyed the tape had no regrets or second thoughts: "The quality-assurance manager told us that if presented with similar circumstances, he would again take the same course of action."

The inspector general wrote that this attitude was "especially troubling" and that supervisors should take "appropriate administrative action."

Although the matter had been referred to the Justice Department, the report added, prosecutors said they had found no basis for criminal charges.

An F.A.A. spokesman, Greg Martin, said that his agency had cooperated with the 9/11 commission and that that was how the tape's existence had become known at the agency's headquarters.

"We believe it would not have added in any way to the information contained in all of the other materials that have already been provided to the investigators and the members of the 9/11 commission," he said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Martin said that "we have taken appropriate disciplinary action against the employees involved." For privacy reasons, he said, he could not say what those actions were or identify the employees.



TOPICS: Government
KEYWORDS: 911; faa; tape
Oh, gawd.
1 posted on 05/06/2004 11:15:26 AM PDT by Archangelsk
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To: Archangelsk
In Libya this would get him an instant death sentence!
2 posted on 05/06/2004 11:17:36 AM PDT by George from New England
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To: Archangelsk
Fuel for the fires.

Yes. What is the real story of, and events leading up to that day.
3 posted on 05/06/2004 11:17:42 AM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: swarthyguy
if there is one agency that screwed up on 9/11 - its the FAA. I always wondered what they were doing watching those planes deviate so far from their flight plans.
4 posted on 05/06/2004 11:19:56 AM PDT by oceanview
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To: oceanview
Before you start pointing a finger of blame recognize the following: ATC was able to put more than 6000 planes on the ground in 30 minutes. Considering the circumstances, that is beyond extraordinary.
5 posted on 05/06/2004 11:21:58 AM PDT by Archangelsk
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To: Archangelsk
Appropriate disciplinary action would include formal beheading!

So why are they now claiming this dead person has some sort of right to privacy?

~ Oh! You mean we aren't done yet ~ we still have to investigate why the higher-ups haven't yet carried out the sentence.

6 posted on 05/06/2004 11:22:40 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: oceanview
Thinking they were part of the NORAD exercise that day, Operation Vigilant Guardian?

Or was it the NRO exercise. Questions, questions.

http://www.dvmx.com/911crashexercise.html
7 posted on 05/06/2004 11:22:43 AM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: Aeronaut; Criminal Number 18F
Ping to the list and hopefully you have the opportunity to see it where you are.
8 posted on 05/06/2004 11:23:14 AM PDT by Archangelsk
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To: Archangelsk
Well. And this guy's name is not being released two and a half years after the incident because . . . ?
9 posted on 05/06/2004 11:23:16 AM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Archangelsk
"I'm from the FAA and I'm here to help you".

Just another bureau-drone.

10 posted on 05/06/2004 11:23:39 AM PDT by grobdriver
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To: Archangelsk
we are talking about what happened before the attacks, not after.
11 posted on 05/06/2004 11:23:56 AM PDT by oceanview
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To: Archangelsk
For privacy reasons, he said, he could not say what those actions were or identify the employees.

Off topic, I know, but we in the DoD have no problem releasing that information regarding the abusers at Abu Ghraib. Sheesh!

Back on topic...I have worked with sensitive taped material and have been on destruction detail more than once. We would pass a huge (5 pound) magnet over the audio tape, then pull it off the reel into a burn bag. The burn bag was then taken downstairs and the tape was machine shredded.

To me, what the QA Manager did - putting the cut segments in different waste baskets - was overkill. It is my gut feeling that he wasn't so much protecting the privacy of controllers as he was hiding something he overheard that he had no intention of letting out of the control center.

Just my 2 cents, as it were...

12 posted on 05/06/2004 11:24:22 AM PDT by HiJinx ("Occupation is too important to be left entirely to the diplomats." wretchard 5-5-04)
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To: Admin Moderator
Source should be "NY Times", not "Times".

Excerpt?
13 posted on 05/06/2004 11:24:32 AM PDT by Atlas Sneezed (Your Friendly Freeper Patent Attorney)
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To: Archangelsk
And nothing will happen. Nobody will be fired. Nobody will resign. Nobody will be held accountable.

It's the government.

14 posted on 05/06/2004 11:24:41 AM PDT by Hank Rearden (Is Fallujah gone yet?)
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To: Archangelsk
Reading the previous replies, I am moved to comment that there are two questions here. The conduct of the FAA in general and the conduct of this particular guy. I'd be inclined to say that the FAA did very well, but this guy deserves to be strung up unless he has a very good excuse for his conduct.
15 posted on 05/06/2004 11:24:46 AM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: grobdriver
"I'm from the FAA and I'm here to help you".

Almost, "I'm from the FAA and I'm not happy until you're not happy."

16 posted on 05/06/2004 11:24:49 AM PDT by Archangelsk
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To: Archangelsk
Why am I not surprised that McCain's surfaces in this story.
17 posted on 05/06/2004 11:24:50 AM PDT by OldFriend (LOSERS quit when they are tired/WINNERS quit when they have won)
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To: Archangelsk
"destroyed by an F.A.A. quality-assurance manager"...maybe the tapes themselves were of poor quality. I am positive it has nothing to do with the conspiracy notion that what was on the tape might not coincide with the official version.
18 posted on 05/06/2004 11:25:08 AM PDT by isom35
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To: oceanview
Why is it that there is no ability to override an airplane from the flight tower in cases such as these? If they can invent auto pilot, then surely they can invent "tower override" - ....
19 posted on 05/06/2004 11:25:41 AM PDT by princess leah
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To: Archangelsk; Tijeras_Slim; FireTrack; Pukin Dog; citabria; B Knotts; kilowhskey; cyphergirl; ...

20 posted on 05/06/2004 11:26:28 AM PDT by Aeronaut (I have seen gross intolerance shown in support of tolerance.)
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To: Archangelsk
Simple question. Why destroy it if you don't have something to hide.

Question is, was he ordered to, and if so, by whom.

Expect no answers.
21 posted on 05/06/2004 11:27:26 AM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: Cicero
Because as usual there is yet another cover-up.
22 posted on 05/06/2004 11:27:59 AM PDT by keysguy (Give the rats enough rope....)
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To: Archangelsk
The taping began before noon on Sept. 11 at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

the planes had already crashed by this time and other where being grounded so what is the point of recording anything now?
23 posted on 05/06/2004 11:28:34 AM PDT by boxerblues
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To: Archangelsk
The center manager had agreed with the president of the local union chapter, that the tapes would be destroyed once the standard written statements were obtained, the report said.

These union goons will be the death of us all...
24 posted on 05/06/2004 11:28:39 AM PDT by motzman (Kerry's Haircut: Operation Shear Shrek)
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To: Archangelsk
it was later destroyed by an F.A.A. quality-assurance manager, who crushed the cassette in his hand, cut the tape into little pieces and dropped them in different trash cans around the building,

The quality-assurance manager told investigators that he had destroyed the tape because he thought making it was contrary to F.A.A. 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.

Lying piece of crap. He deliberately destroyed them because for some reason he wanted to make damned sure NO ONE would EVER listen to them.

25 posted on 05/06/2004 11:32:08 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Even if the government took all your earnings, you wouldn't be, in its eyes, a slave.)
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To: boxerblues
To get it while it was fresh on their minds.
26 posted on 05/06/2004 11:32:48 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Even if the government took all your earnings, you wouldn't be, in its eyes, a slave.)
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To: Archangelsk
The FAA fat-asses cover their butts yet again.
27 posted on 05/06/2004 11:40:53 AM PDT by pabianice
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To: Archangelsk
"contemporaneous recordation"... only from guvmint people!
28 posted on 05/06/2004 11:52:00 AM PDT by BillyCrockett
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To: Archangelsk
"Nonetheless, Mr. Martin said that "we have taken appropriate disciplinary action against the employees involved." For privacy reasons, he said, he could not say what those actions were or identify the employees. "

Who's privacy? You mean the person paid by US Taxpayers dollars? This is not their medical records or history of beating their wife. This person was on the US Taxpayer's payroll at the time.

Screw the people is the governments motto.

29 posted on 05/06/2004 11:53:07 AM PDT by Wurlitzer (I have the biggest organ in my town {;o))
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To: swarthyguy
The existence of this tape and its subsequent destruction proves beyond all possible doubt that Bush knew about 9/11 in advance and orchestrated those events that day. Clearly, because that tape was destroyed, Rumsfeld and Cheney were coordinating the eventual invasion and occupation of Iraq and the theft of all that oil so that they and their rich friends could make even more money. blah blah blah

You're right. Fuel for the fire. Websites will be devoted to conspiracies about the implications of that tape and its possible content.
30 posted on 05/06/2004 11:55:19 AM PDT by SittinYonder (I am a believer)
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To: Archangelsk
Good for him! He made a moral judgement. About time people began making more of those.
31 posted on 05/06/2004 11:55:32 AM PDT by bvw
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To: Archangelsk
The quality-assurance manager told investigators that he had destroyed the tape because he thought making it was contrary to F.A.A. 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....The center manager had agreed with the president of the local union chapter that the tapes would be destroyed once the standard written statements were obtained, the report said.

With so many questions unanswered, it is premature to jump to conclusions, but it certainly sounds like this may have been a holdover. There seems to be all the hallmarks of a Gorelick legalistic mindset at work.

32 posted on 05/06/2004 11:59:22 AM PDT by Diddle E. Squat
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To: SittinYonder
Personally I blame the wildeyed conspiracy theories on many many unanswered questions about 911 and the perpetrators, and why the Govt, has given some of them, like the Saudis, such a huge pass in the war on a tactic. This leads to some real farout speculation.

Too many questions still.

33 posted on 05/06/2004 12:02:26 PM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: Diddle E. Squat
To clarify, this is more likely is a result of a legalistic/bereaucratic/butt-covering pattern of response, rather than an express attempt to cover up something damning.
34 posted on 05/06/2004 12:02:59 PM PDT by Diddle E. Squat
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To: Archangelsk
If you want to put this in the proper context, consider this list of "facts" about 9/11 that aren't really facts at all -- they are based entirely on what our government and media have told us:

1. The number of hijackers on 9/11.
2. The method or methods they used to hijack the aircraft (the boxcutters were only identified on one of the aircraft).
3. The agenda of these hijackers.
4. Zacarias Moussaoui was supposed to be the 20th hijacker.

35 posted on 05/06/2004 12:05:35 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("Ego numquam pronunciare mendacium . . . sed ego sum homo indomitus" -- William Wallace (Mel Gibson))
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To: Alberta's Child
>>(the boxcutters were only identified on one of the aircraft).

Remember the discredited FBI/FAA memo about the gun?
36 posted on 05/06/2004 12:08:00 PM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: swarthyguy
Too many questions still.

Like who bought all the "puts" on United and American Airlines stock a few days prior. The feds never did answer that one.

37 posted on 05/06/2004 12:16:11 PM PDT by snopercod (I used to be disgusted. Then I became amused. Now I'm disgusted again.)
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To: snopercod
I remember the FBI agents saying, once we track the money trail we'll know exactly where it leads, to the perps and we'll nail 'em.

Well, I'm sure we found out and because it leads to the Saudi Royals, among others, for political reasons, we, the people who were attacked were deigned too unimportant to be told.
38 posted on 05/06/2004 12:18:31 PM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: Archangelsk
I'm not an FAA expert, but doing this puts an empty pit in my stomach.

This guy needs to be on the beach from ARTCC. Unbelievable.
39 posted on 05/06/2004 12:48:33 PM PDT by bootless (Never Forget - And Never Again)
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To: Archangelsk
Before you start pointing a finger of blame recognize the following: ATC was able to put more than 6000 planes on the ground in 30 minutes. Considering the circumstances, that is beyond extraordinary.

I will give credit to the controllers themselves, but like many bureacracies, the problem is not with them, but with management.

40 posted on 05/06/2004 12:58:00 PM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: swarthyguy
I think your scenario is probably correct. Saudis.
41 posted on 05/06/2004 1:50:39 PM PDT by snopercod (I used to be disgusted. Then I became amused. Now I'm disgusted again.)
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To: bootless
At KSC I used to work with a former PATCO controller. He told me that there were two types of controllers when things got hectic: Hair-twisters and ball-grabbers.

Ask PR about that ;-)

42 posted on 05/06/2004 1:53:00 PM PDT by snopercod (I used to be disgusted. Then I became amused. Now I'm disgusted again.)
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To: Archangelsk
The inspector general ascribed the destruction to "poor judgment."

Sounds like he nailed it. Someone was treating this as union/management "business as usual" and the procedure that the top manager came up with -- have everybody put his recollections on tape while they were still as fresh as possible -- is a good one. Human memory is poor evidence, and with each passing minute and hour it gets poorer.

Unfortunately, because that procedure deviated from FAA SOP, the QA manager went into CYA mode. This is normal MO for the line trollers, who often feel that management is "the enemy" and "out to get them." Everybody talks the safety talk but when something happens, the bureaucracy as always responds by trying to cover favoured arses and lop off disfavoured heads....

The QA Manager was too simple to see that this was not a normal "deal" (as the trollers call a loss-of-separation incident or procedural violation) or mishap investigation.

I don't ascribe to conspiracy that which is adequately explained by bungling -- especially when dealing with the Friendly Aviation Agency or any other element of USG. This will no doubt become grist for the gubmint-haters, the Jack Cashills out there. But there's no substance here -- a jackass deleted a primary source record, dumb, and left us with another primary source record from the same people. I believe that the tape would have superior evidentiary value to the written statements, but as other posters here have pointed out, we are not talking about the data tapes, or the audio tapes of the comm frequencies or inter-controller phone network, all of which still exist. We are talking about a contemporaneous "oral history" sort of tape. The controllers as far as I know are all still alive and available to investigators.

The QA manager should have his pee-pee whacked for being too stupid to recognise that a four-plane hijacking and suicidal attack on American cities justified a violation of a bureaucratic rule. However, stupidity does not violate any FAA regulation of which I am aware.

As far as not releasing their names, heck, some of the cranks pushing these conspiracy theories are convicted felons -- would you want them creeping through your begonias and peering in your bedroom window? If the prosecutor had found the QA manager's actions to be criminal, not just stupid, then we would know his name. (And the reason we know the names of many of the Abu Ghraib miscreants is that a classified document leaked). But it was actually the overall center manager who violated FAA regs/policy for ordering the interviews in the first place. (IMHO that was an inspired act and he should be commended for it, it showed considerable nerve for a bureaucratic manager to do that, even if it ultimately was fruitless).

d.o.l.

Criminal Number 18F

43 posted on 05/06/2004 1:58:42 PM PDT by Criminal Number 18F
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To: Archangelsk
The inspector general ascribed the destruction to "poor judgment."

The thought process on our side is sometimes underwhelming!

44 posted on 05/06/2004 2:03:29 PM PDT by patriot_wes (The)
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To: Wurlitzer
There is no "privacy" when it comes to government employee discipline, pay, work location, etc. UNLESS they perform some kind of duties involving security or classified materials.

That means the FAA guy is lieing through his teeth. Time to get Congress on his case and find out who the people were on the tape, who the so-called "quality assurance" guy was, and then demand to know their current salary!

45 posted on 05/06/2004 5:07:30 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: swarthyguy
I blame the wildeyed conspiracy theories on a simple hatred of Bush. I got to listening for a while to Air America radio, particularly Garofalo's show. What struck me was that she and her callers would all readily believe anything no matter how absurd on its face it was. As long as it somehow case Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld specifically or conservatives generally in some kind of crooked light, they were ready and willing to bite.

I have a theory that liberals confuse interesting with compelling. Just because something is interesting doesn't mean it is true or should become a foundation for a belief system.
46 posted on 05/07/2004 6:52:14 AM PDT by SittinYonder (I am a believer)
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To: Archangelsk
ATC was able to put more than 6000 planes on the ground in 30 minutes. Considering the circumstances, that is beyond extraordinary.

As a former army air defense officer [Nike-Hercules], I consider that accomplishment a miracle.

47 posted on 05/07/2004 12:43:19 PM PDT by elbucko
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