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Two faa executives lied to 911 commission { September 2 2006 }

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September 2, 2006
Report Urges F.A.A. to Act Regarding False 9/11 Testimony

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 — The Transportation Department’s inspector general urged the Federal Aviation
Administration on Friday to consider disciplinary action against two executives who failed to correct false information provided to the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The acting inspector general, Todd J. Zinser, whose office acts as the department’s internal watchdog, found in a new report that the F.A.A. executives, as well as a third official who is now retired, learned after the fact that false information was given to the commission in May 2003 about the F.A.A.’s contacts with the Air Force on the morning of Sept. 11.

The false information suggested that the aviation agency had established contact with its Air Force liaison immediately after the first of the four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.

In fact, the commission’s investigators found, the Air Force’s liaison did not join a conference call with the F.A.A. until after the third plane crashed, at 9:37 a.m. The 51-minute gap is significant because it helps undermine an initial claim by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is responsible for domestic air defense, that it scrambled quickly on Sept. 11 and had a chance to shoot down the last of the hijacked planes still in the air, United Airlines Flight 93.

The inspector general’s report, prepared in response to complaints from the independent Sept. 11 commission, found that the three F.A.A. executives failed to act on an “obligation” to correct the false information provided to the commission, which found widespread confusion within the aviation agency and the military on the morning of the attacks.

The F.A.A., part of the Transportation Department, declined to identify the three executives, whose names and titles were not revealed in the inspector general’s report. Nor did the agency say whether it would consider disciplinary action.

The inspector general’s office found that while false information was given to the Sept. 11 commission, there was no evidence that F.A.A. executives had done it knowingly or had intentionally withheld accurate information about the agency’s actions on the morning of the attacks.

That finding was welcomed by the F.A.A., which said in a statement that the “inspector general’s investigation has clarified the record and found no evidence that F.A.A. officials knowingly made false statements.” The Pentagon’s inspector general issued a similar finding last month about military officers who provided inaccurate testimony to the commission, saying their inaccurate statements could be attributed largely to poor record-keeping.

Richard Ben Veniste, a commission member, said in an interview on Friday that he was troubled that it had taken the inspector general two years to complete his investigation — “more time than it took the 9/11 commission to complete all of its work’’ — and that he released the report “on the Friday afternoon before the Labor Day weekend.”

Mr. Ben Veniste said he was convinced that the failure of the aviation agency and the North American Aerospace Defense Command to provide early, accurate information about their performance had “contributed to a growing industry of conspiratorialists who question the fundamental facts relating to 9/11.’’

Mr. Zinser, the acting inspector general, said in an interview that the investigation had taken so long because of “the very complicated issues” his office reviewed.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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