Some 570,000 pager messages sent on Sept. 11, 2001, some of them by government officials, were being disclosed Wednesday by a nonprofit activist group.
The group, Wikileaks, says some of the messages were sent by federal and local officials, but most appear to be from regular people, including frantic New Yorkers trying to reach loved ones in and around the World Trade Center.
Wikileaks was posting the messages for most of the day Wednesday and expected to finish early Thursday.
The messages range from "DO NOT GET ON THE PATH TRAIN...THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IS ON FIRE" to "President has been rerouted wont be returning to washington but not sure where he will go."
One says, "THIS IS MYRNA, I WILL NOT REST UNTIL YOU GO HOME, THE SECOND TOWER IS DOWN, I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO KEEP CALLING YOU AFTER EVERY EVENT. PLS JUST GO HOME."
New York City's police and fire departments said they could not confirm that any of the messages were actual department communications. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Administration declined to comment on the messages.
But a pager company, USA Mobility, said it was troubled to learn that some messages on its networks appear to have been intercepted.
Many of the messages are completely unrelated to the Sept. 11 attacks, but others are clearly from people at the scene, responding or trying to contact people at the World Trade Center. Examples include:
8:53:44 AM: "NYPD Ops Div"
9:00:05 AM: 1/1) CONFIRMED PLANE CRASH AT 2 WORLD TRADE CENTER. EMRP, 38ST, HAZMAT RESPONDING.
9:00:42 AM: All - Plane crashed into WTC, our staff at 5 WTC is presently recorded safe details to follow.
9:01:53 AM: Plane crash into World Trade Center. All MTA PD midnight units being held over. MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
9:04:01 AM: AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL HAS NOT GIVEN US ANY CONCRETE INFO.....INDICATED PSBL HI-JACK COM ACFT. JOE TURNER OCC DUTY DIRECTOR
9:10:35 AM: Ellen has tried to get Derek, Brock, & Mark but unable to get through, their floors are at the top
9:10:46 AM: Due to the explosions in the WTC all ATM's are being shutdown
9:11:42 AM: we're under another "terrorist" attack in new york city at the world trade buildings!!! it's horrible. two planes crash into the top floors of each building. phi
9:13:24 AM: airports are closed and command still reports numerous jumpers and numerous others trapped. FDNY is avail via live
In a statement, WikiLeaks said that "the archive is a completely objective record of the defining moment of our time. We hope that its revelation will lead to a more nuanced understanding of the event and its tragic consequences."
Daniel Schmitt, a Wikileaks spokesman, said the pager messages were submitted to the site anonymously several weeks ago.
"From the context information that the source provided we have strong reasons to believe that this is valid data," Schmitt said.
Schmitt said publishing the messages "is one more building block to getting a full picture of what happened on that day." He noted that none of the messages appear to lend credence to conspiracy theories that suggest the U.S. government was behind the attacks or had advance knowledge of them.
Company expects prosecutions
Most of the pages come from three companies, Metrocall, Skytel and Arch.
USA Mobility Inc., which merged Arch and Metrocall systems in 2004, issued a statement Wednesday saying it was "troubled to learn that paging messages, including communications involving government officials, appear to have been intercepted and publicly disclosed in clear violation of federal criminal law."
"We hope and expect that persons who engage in unlawful electronic surveillance will be apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," the statement said.
Skytel did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The messages are being released at 911.wikileaks.org.