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Context of 'October 2001-February 2002: Union Official Concerned Whether Anyone Has Heard Controllers’ Recorded Statements from 9/11'

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Mike McCormick.Mike McCormick. [Source: CNN]Managers at the FAA’s New York Center fail to inform their higher-ups of an audio tape that was made on September 11, on which several air traffic controllers recalled their experiences with two of the hijacked aircraft. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Washington Post, 5/6/2004] New York Center manager Mike McCormick had directed Kevin Delaney, the quality assurance manager, to record statements from the six controllers at the center that had been involved in handling or tracking Flights 11 and 175 (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 pdf file; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
FAA Superiors Not Informed - However, neither of the two managers subsequently notifies authorities at the FAA’s regional office or Washington headquarters of the existence of the tape with the recorded statements on. Among others, Delaney and McCormick fail to notify the air traffic evaluations and investigations staff at headquarters, which is the FAA’s policy authority on aircraft accident and incident investigations. They also fail to inform FAA authorities of agreements they made with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to destroy the tape at a future date (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and October 2001-February 2002). Additionally, they do not inform the FBI of the tape’s existence (see September 12, 2001).
Investigations Staff Could Have Prevented Tape's Destruction - Delaney deliberately destroys the tape of the controllers’ statements at some point between December 2001 and February 2002 (see Between December 2001 and February 2002). But had he or McCormick consulted with the FAA’s air traffic evaluations and investigations staff, they would have been “instructed that the tape—as an original record—be retained, for five years, in accordance with agency retention requirements,” according to a 2004 report by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (see May 6, 2004).
Tape Learned of in Late 2003 - This report will also state, “When we interviewed officials from outside of New York Center, including the then-FAA administrator, deputy administrator, and director of air traffic services, they told us they were unaware that controller statements had been taped until the issue arose following the 9/11 Commission interviews of center personnel in September and October 2003.” [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Mike McCormick, Kevin Delaney, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The local vice president of the air traffic controllers’ union checks with a manager at the FAA’s New York Center whether anyone has listened to an audio tape that was recorded on September 11, on which several controllers recalled their experiences of the attacks, and is assured that the tape is going to be destroyed. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 pdf file]
Union Vice President Asks about Tape - Within a few hours of the 9/11 attacks, Kevin Delaney, the New York Center’s quality assurance manager, tape-recorded witness statements from six controllers at the center that had been involved in handling or tracking two of the hijacked aircraft (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/6/2004; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004] On at least two occasions over the following few months, the local vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA)—the controllers’ union—asks Delaney whether anyone has listened to the tape of those statements. (Delaney will later recall that he speaks with the union vice president about the tape in October 2001 and again in February 2002.)
Delaney Says He Will Destroy Tape - Delaney, who is the custodian of the tape, assures the union vice president that no one has listened to the tape, and it is not going to be provided to anyone. He also says he will “get rid of it” once the center’s formal accident package, which will include the controllers’ written statements about the 9/11 attacks, has been completed (see November 2001-May 2002). [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 pdf file]
Center Manager Gave Similar Assurance - Before the taping of the six controllers commenced on September 11, New York Center manager Mike McCormick had given similar assurances to Mark DiPalmo, the local NATCA president. DiPalmo agreed to the recording going ahead on the condition that the tape would only be a temporary record until written statements were obtained, after which it would be destroyed (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 pdf file; New York Times, 5/6/2004]
Tape-Recording Statements Not Standard Procedure - The Washington Post will report that, according to union officials representing air traffic controllers, the tape-recording of controllers’ accounts of an accident is almost unheard of, and the normal procedure is for controllers to provide written statements after reviewing radar and other data. [Washington Post, 5/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Kevin Delaney, National Air Traffic Controllers Association

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A manager at the FAA’s New York Center deliberately destroys an audio tape that was made on September 11, on which several of the center’s air traffic controllers recounted their interactions with the hijacked aircraft. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Washington Post, 5/7/2004] Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, Kevin Delaney, the New York Center’s quality assurance manager, was instructed to make the tape recording, on which six controllers at the center involved in handling or tracking two of the hijacked aircraft recalled their experiences of what happened (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/6/2004; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
Crushes Cassette, Cuts Tape into Small Pieces - But a few months later, some time between December 2001 and February 2002, Delaney destroys the tape. He will later recall that he does so by “crushing the cassette case in his hand, cutting the tape into small pieces, and depositing the pieces in trash cans throughout the center.” A Department of Transportation (DOT) report in 2004 will point out, “It is clear [Delaney] went to great lengths to destroy the tape so that it would never leave the center intact.”
Superiors Not Consulted - Delaney disposes of the tape of his own volition, and without consulting his superiors. However, Mike McCormick, the New York Center manager, will later say that, had Delaney asked for his permission to destroy the tape, he would have given it, since he viewed the tape as only a temporary record.
Two Reasons for Destroying Tape - Delaney will later tell DOT investigators that he destroys the tape for two reasons. Firstly, he considers the creation of the tape to have been contrary to FAA policy for aircraft accidents and incidents, which requires that handwritten statements be made after controllers are able to review certain materials, such as radio transmissions and radar data. (The DOT investigators will dispute this conclusion (see May 6, 2004).) He therefore feels the tape is of limited value relative to the controllers’ written statements (see (Between September 11 and October 2, 2001)). Secondly, Delaney feels the controllers were distressed on 9/11, and therefore not in the correct frame of mind to properly consent to the taping. He bases this assessment partly on what he has seen on television crime shows, about due process and legal rights associated with investigations. But the 2004 DOT report will state, “Under FAA policy, and as supported by air traffic policy experts at FAA headquarters, the tape should have been considered an original record and retained for five years.” A former criminal investigator will comment, “Ray Charles [the blind musician] could see that this was a cover-up.”
Others Not Notified - Delaney destroys the tape without anyone having listened to, copied, or transcribed it. He will not inform the New York Center’s management that he has destroyed the tape until he is asked about it in September 2003, following inquiries by the 9/11 Commission. Materials the New York Center prepares for submission to the Commission will even include a chain-of-custody index that mistakenly indicates the tape still exists. And prior to an investigation by the DOT’s Office of Inspector General in late 2003 and early 2004, apparently no one outside the New York Center will be aware of the existence of the tape, or of its destruction.
Union Told Tape Would Be Destroyed - Delaney previously assured the local vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) that he would “get rid of” the tape once the center’s formal accident package had been completed (see October 2001-February 2002). (This package has now been submitted to FAA headquarters (see November 2001-May 2002).) But Delaney will tell DOT investigators that he did not feel under any pressure from NATCA to destroy the tape. McCormick made a similar agreement with the local NATCA president, that the tape would be destroyed after written statements had been obtained from the controllers (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but Delaney is unaware of this.
No Regrets - Delaney apparently has no subsequent regrets about destroying the tape. He will later say that, under similar circumstances, he would again follow the same course of action. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 pdf file; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Kevin Delaney, Mike McCormick

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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