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Report to Senator McCain into Alleged Destruction of Audiotape of Air-Traffic-Controller Witness Statements from 9-11

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In response to a request from Senator John McCain, chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, we issued a letter regarding our investigation into allegations that FAA officials destroyed an audiotape of air-traffic-controller witness statements created the morning of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. We found that five air traffic controllers who communicated with two of the hijacked aircraft on 9-11 made a previously undisclosed audiotape account of their actions that morning. The tape, made at the direction of a manager at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, was supposed to provide law enforcement with information until the controllers could write statements. No one outside the center was told the tape existed, and it was destroyed by another center manager.

We questioned the decision to destroy the tape, but we did not ascribe motivations to the managers of attempted to cover-up, and we have no indication there was anything on the tape that the managers were hiding or that the controllers did not properly carry out their duties on 9-11. We recommended that FAA implement procedures establishing an evidence-custody system for aircraft accidents and incidents and review the conduct of the two managers in question and take appropriate administrative action.

We also investigated whether FAA officials intentionally withheld records from the 9-11 commission, and we found no such indication.