Most Recent Update, Dec. 19,2005: New Information Emerges
to confirm the account by Nicholas DeMasi
According to a CounterPunch Special Report by Dave Lindorff, a source at the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that has the task of deciphering the data from the black boxes retrieved from crash sites-including those that are being handled as crimes and fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI - says the boxes were in fact recovered and were analyzed by the NTSB.
"Off the record, we had the boxes," the source says. "You'd have to get the official word from the FBI as to where they are, but we worked on them here."
The official word from the NTSB is that the WTC crash site black boxes never turned up. "No recorders were recovered from the World Trade Center," says the NTSB's Lopatkiewicz. "At least none were delivered to us by the FBI." He adds that the agency has "always had a good relationship' with the FBI and that in all prior crime-related crashes or flight incidents, they have brought the boxes to the NTSB for analysis.
For its part, the FBI is still denying everything, though with curious bit of linguistic wiggle room. "To the best of my knowledge, the flight recording devices from the World Trade Center crashes were never recovered. At least we never had them," says FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak.
Firefighter Said Black Boxes Were Found at Ground Zero
By Bryan Sacks and Nicholas Levis
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004
Pulitzer Prize winner William Bunch uses an account from the book to the right, "Behind-the-Scenes: Ground Zero," as one source for the claim that three black boxes from the aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center were discovered by authorities during the recovery efforts late in 2001. This contradicts the official story. (Philadelphia Daily News, Thursday, 10/28/04 - a longer version was published on his "Campaign Extra" weblog.)
Update, Oct. 29, 2004: This breakthrough story has been picked up at OpEd News, Scoop Media, Yahoo PR Newswire and many other outlets.
On page 108 comes the revelation:
"At one point I was assigned to take Federal Agents around the site to search for the black boxes from the planes. We were getting ready to go out. My ATV was parked at the top of the stairs at the Brooks Brothers entrance area. We loaded up about a million dollars worth of equipment and strapped it into the ATV. When we got into the ATV to take off, the agent accidentally pushed me forward. The ATV was already in reverse, and my foot went down on the gas pedal. We went down the stairs in reverse. Fortunately, everything was okay. There were a total of four black boxes. We found three."
DeMasi's statement is flatly contradicted by the Kean Commission's supposedly exhaustive findings.
The only statement on the status of the Ground Zero black boxes in the 9/11 Commission Report is buried in footnote 76 to Chapter 1, but it is definitive: "The CVRs and FDRs from American 11 and United 175 were not found..." As if to leave no doubt about what is meant - that not even a trace of the total of four cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders from the two aircraft remained - the same sentence adds: "...and the CVR from American Flight 77 was badly burned and not recoverable."
DeMasi did not return phone messages and has not spoken out beyond his comments in "Behind-the-Scenes." He is obviously not seeking attention - why else drop his bombshell in this off-hand way, in a passage that almost no one has noticed? Given his commitment to the recovery effort at Ground Zero and the detail he provides, his account has an immediate, prima facie credibility.
The collapses of the Twin Towers on 9/11 were devastating, but black boxes almost always withstand explosions, high-speed crashes into mountainsides, even missile strikes; they have been retrieved from the bottom of the ocean floor and in cases where planes were almost completely destroyed (as in the case of Flight 93 at Shanksville).
Consider this CBS News story from February 2002:
The effort to better understand the events of the day isnít being made easier by the fact that the voice and data recorders aboard the two hijacked jetliners that hit the twin towers haven't been recovered. The four devices - and all the clues they would hold - have failed to turn up in the 1.25 million tons of steel, concrete and other material taken from ground zero.
"It's extremely rare that we don't get the recorders back. I can't recall another domestic case in which we did not recover the recorders," said Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.
The sense of surprise conveyed by an NTSB spokesperson makes clear that the government's claim, that the devices where not recovered, is the one which needs further explanation, and which deserves scrutiny.
Amid the enormous detail of loss, sorrow and recovery conveyed in "Behind-the-Scenes: Ground Zero," a New York City firefighter reveals that at least three of the four black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 were located by "Federal Agents" at the World Trade Center site, during the clean-up efforts from September 2001 to March 2002.
At the time of the disaster, Nicholas DeMasi was a firefighter at Engine Company 261 in Queens. (The firehouse was shut down in 2003, after a century of operation.)
In the weeks that followed 9/11, he formed an all-terrain vehicle crew (ATV Unit) at Ground Zero. In "Behind-the-Scenes," he describes his experience as follows: "If you needed anything, go ask the ATV Guy, they're the gopher guys."