Sunday, August 6, 2006
There is no evidence that Pentagon officials intentionally misled the Sept. 11 commission when they gave inaccurate accounts about actions at the time of the 2001 terrorist attacks, a Defense Department spokesman said yesterday.
A forthcoming report from the Pentagon's inspector general will address the question of whether military commanders intentionally misled the commission, said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Brian Maka.
But "there is nothing that indicates the information provided to the commission was knowingly false," Maka said.
The inspector general's report is the result of a compromise among commissioners, some of whom concluded that the Pentagon may have been deliberately trying to mislead the Sept. 11 panel and the public, sources involved in the debate told The Washington Post last week.
The commission debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation before agreeing to turn the allegations over to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments.
Panel members have said that timelines from audiotapes from the North American Aerospace Defense Command's Northeast headquarters did not match accounts given in testimony by government officials.
Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold and Col. Alan Scott told commissioners that NORAD began tracking United Airlines Flight 93 at 9:16 a.m. on Sept. 11 and intended to intercept it. The commission determined that the jet was not hijacked until 12 minutes later and that the military was not aware of the flight until the jet had crashed in Pennsylvania.
Officials with the Pentagon and the Federal Aviation Administration later corrected some information originally given to the panel, such as the tracking of Flight 93 and the exact times the FAA notified the military of the hijackings.
Poor investigation and record-keeping contributed to the inaccuracies, according to a summary from the Pentagon inspector general's office released last week.
The summary of the report said improvements had been made, but it also called for more steps to improve the Defense Department's ability to investigate "a future significant air event."
Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.