Report: No Knowingly False Info by FAA

Friday, September 01, 2006

By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — There is no evidence Federal Aviation Administration officials intentionally misled the Sept. 11 commission when they gave false accounts about how quickly they responded to the terror attacks, the agency's watchdog said.

Members of the panel had asked the Transportation Department inspector general to look into inaccurate statements made by FAA officials.

"We did not find evidence to conclude that FAA officials knowingly made false statements,"said the report, signed by Acting Inspector General Todd Zinser.

The FAA said in a statement that it had provided more than 6,000 documents and materials to the commission.

"The investigation also recognized the significant steps taken by the FAA since 9/11 to improve its capability to notify federal agencies and to respond to such incidents,"the statement said.

The Sept. 11 commission's chairmen, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, said in their recently published book that the commission found it mind-boggling that authorities claimed that their air defenses had reacted quickly.

In the book,"Without Precedent,"Kean and Hamilton said the panel was so frustrated with repeated misstatements by the Pentagon and FAA about their response to the 2001 terror attacks that it considered an investigation into possible deception.

In the end, they settled on referring the matter to the inspectors general of the Transportation Department and the Pentagon.

At issue was when the FAA notified the Defense Department of the suspected hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77, which left from Washington's Dulles airport and crashed into the Pentagon.

The FAA had claimed _ on both its public Web site and in response to the commission _ that it told the Pentagon at 9:24 a.m. that it suspected Flight 77 was hijacked.

"In fact, no such notification was made,"the inspector general report said. It said the mistake was due to an FAA's executive's inattention to detail when preparing a summary of events shortly after the attacks.

The FAA had also claimed that an Air Force liaison joined its teleconference and established contact with the North American Aerospace Command immediately after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the twin towers at 8:46 a.m.

"In fact, the liaison did not join the phone-bridge until after the third hijacked aircraft (American Flight 77) struck the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.,"the report said.

The report did not say what caused that error. It did say that FAA executives learned of the mistake but didn't take steps to correct it because they thought someone else was doing it.

None of the executives were named, and one retired.

The inspector general recommended that appropriate administrative action be considered against the two executives who didn't correct the record.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon's watchdog agency said there is no evidence defense officials intentionally misled the Sept. 11 commission when they gave mistaken accounts about the Defense Department's response to the terrorist attacks.

Poor investigating and record keeping contributed to the inaccuracies, according to a summary from the inspector general's office of the Pentagon.

A Pentagon spokesman said the question of whether military commanders intentionally were misleading will be addressed in the full report.


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