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FAA managers destroyed 9/11 tape

Inspector's report criticizes pair's actions

WASHINGTON -- 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 yesterday.

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 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."

The report was conducted at the request of Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, after the panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, officially known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, said that the FAA was not forthcoming in turning over documents and issued a subpoena to the agency for more information. The FAA said that it had taken disciplinary action against the two employees and that it was cooperating fully with the Sept. 11 panel.

Hours after the hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field, an FAA manager at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center gathered six controllers who communicated with or tracked two of the hijacked planes and recorded in a one-hour interview their personal accounts of what occurred, the report said.

The manager, who is not named in the report, said 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. 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 manager said he destroyed the tape because he felt it violated FAA policy calling for written statements from controllers who have handled a plane involved in an accident or other serious incident. He also said he felt the controllers were not in the right frame of mind to consent to the taping, the report said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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