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9/11 Victims' Kin to Hear Tapes of Calls

Two closed-door meetings are planned for families of the passengers and crew of the four aircraft used in the Sept. 11 attacks so they can hear tapes of phone calls from the planes and see other government evidence of what happened during the hijackings.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two closed-door meetings are planned for families of the passengers and crew of the four aircraft used in the Sept. 11 attacks so they can hear tapes of phone calls from the planes and see other government evidence of what happened during the hijackings.

The invitation-only briefings will be held next Friday in Princeton, N.J., and July 14 in Boston, Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said. The Boston session also will be broadcast via closed-circuit hookup to sites for family members in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Tom Roger, whose daughter was aboard American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center, said the family members had requested access to the flight attendants' phone calls and other evidence after some of it was revealed during recent hearings of the independent commission investigating the attacks.

Roger, of Longmeadow, Mass., said many family members want to know as many details as possible about their loved one's final minutes.

"We've all sort of got our own version of what happened that day," he said. "It's important for people to get the facts."

Justice Department letters about the meetings, sent to family members, say they will be able to listen to tapes of phone calls from the flights, including those by Flight 11 flight attendants Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney. It was not immediately clear what other taped phone calls investigators possess, or if the family members would hear all of the tapes the government has.

In addition, Roger said the letter he received indicated that prosecutors also would discuss other evidence related to what happened aboard the four aircraft. The evidence is being prepared for the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States as part of the Sept. 11 conspiracy.

The hijacked aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a rural Pennsylvania field killed about 3,000 people. Not counting the 19 hijackers, 246 passengers and crew members died aboard those planes.

The letters to family members are from northern Virginia U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty, whose office if prosecuting Moussaoui. The trial has been on hold for months in a legal dispute over Moussaoui's access to classified material from al-Qaida leaders in U.S. custody.

Nicky Stern, executive director of Families of Sept. 11, said some family members believe the government is withholding information from them and want a chance to judge for themselves if investigators have learned all they can from the tapes.

"A lot of family members feel that there might be a clue in these tapes as to what could have been done," said Stern, whose husband died in the World Trade Center. "You have to try to go further. Sometimes they are not right."

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On the Net:

Justice Department: www.usdoj.gov

Families of Sept. 11: http://www.familiesofseptember11.org