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Tape of 9/11 Controllers Was Destroyed
May 6, 3:53 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - Air traffic controllers who handled two of the hijacked flights on Sept. 11, 2001, recorded their experiences shortly after the planes crashed, but a supervisor destroyed the tape, the government said Thursday.

A report by Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead said the manager for the New York air traffic control center asked the controllers to record their experiences a few hours after the crashes, believing they would be important for law enforcement.

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.

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 weren't in the right frame of mind to have consented to the taping, 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, R-Ariz., who asked the inspector general to look into how well the FAA was cooperating with the independent panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.

That panel learned of the tape during interviews with New York air traffic control center personnel between September and October.

Mead said his office referred the case to federal prosecutors in New York, but they declined to prosecute because of lack of criminal intent.

The report did not characterize the tape's destruction as an attempted cover-up but said it could have been valuable in providing the public with a full explanation of what happened on Sept. 11.

"What those six controllers recounted in a group setting on Sept. 11, in their own voices, about what transpired that morning, are no longer available to assist any investigation or inform the public," the letter said.