Originally published here on 22 September 2004.
On September 11, 2001 a group of FAA employees who were directly involved in handling the hijacked aircraft, or at the very least witnessed the actions of those directly involved with those aircraft, gathered to discuss what they had just been through. That meeting was recorded on an audiotape.
One does not have to be a top-notch detective to realize that such a recording could easily be an invaluable piece of evidence in any subsequent investigation. And anyone whose IQ exceeds that of an absolute imbecile would likely realize that the murder of many hundreds of people would not go uninvestigated.
Yet an FAA employee,- whose identity has to this day not been made public,- destroyed this tape,- allegedly, in a very meticulous and thorough manner, making absolutely sure it would never be heard. I have heard about this occurrence before,- and now I have come across this report in Aviation Magazine. This is a professional publication, so it is more likely to be exact on aviation-specific details than a general-purpose news source. Here is how this report relays the story:
...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.Well, for one thing, let us hope that the above-mentioned anonymous man and the rest of us are never again faced with a situation akin to 9/11. Let us also note the fact that the above-mentioned individual was explicitly told,- by his superiors, I would assume,- to keep all records,- which would include that tape,- but chose to disobey their instructions. His concern for his colleagues' current state of mind is certainly touching, however, that would in no way diminish the reality of the situation,- namely, that he had in all likelihood compromised the 9/11 investigation. I ain't no legal expert,- but don't them smart folks call this sort of thing "obstruction of justice"?
The federal officials appear to have taken a rather light view of what had transpired in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. on that fateful day.
Inspector General Mead told the 9/11 commission the employee showed "poor judgment," and in calling for administrative action, said the employee's attitude about the destruction was "especially troubling." The FAA confirms disciplinary action has been taken against the employee, but will not say what that action was, or identify the employee. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) says the matter could be investigated further.This appears to be one of those matters on which I am fully with Senator McCain. I would word it stronger,- I'd say this matter MUST be investigated. The public has every right to know this man's name. And if his actions constitute a criminal offense,- which I am more than sure they do,- he must be properly charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Also to be noted is the 9/11 Commission's timidity in approaching the matter. It appears the Commission has never subpoenaed the "unnamed employee", nor do they even know his identity. Does that sound like an aggressive investigation? I guess I am forgetting that the Commission's objective was not to assign blame...