NTSB Elaborates On Absent Records Pertaining To Positively Identified 9/11 Aircraft Wreckage, Including 2 Flight Data Recorders
Within a August 11, 2008 Freedom of Information Act appeal reply from the National Transportation Safety Board, the NTSB affirms that it possesses no records pertaining to positively identified wreckage recovered from the 4 aircraft involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Such wreckage includes the Flight Data Recorders attributed by the NTSB in Factual Reports to American Airlines flight 77 and United Airlines flight 93.
Dear Mr. Monaghan:
I write in response to your letter, which the Safety Board received on July 31, 2008, in which you appealed the response of the National Transportation Safety Board's FOIA Officer to your FOIA request for "copies of records revealing the process by which wreckage recovered from the aircraft used during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was positively identified as belonging to: American Airlines [flights 11 and 77], and United Airlines [flights 175 and 93]." Your request opined that the Safety Board must have utilized unique serial numbers of components from each of the four aircraft in order to identify the wreckage from each aircraft. The Safety Board's FOIA Officer responded to your original request on July 18, 2008, in which the FOIA Officer indicated that the Board did not have any records within the scope of your request.
Your appeal asserts that the Safety Board's response was erroneous. In particular, your appeal states that Safety Board records mention the four aircraft "within numerous public NTSB records," and that Safety Board employees participated in the identification, collection, and examination of the wreckage of the aircraft, such as the flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders. In addition, you assert that, "physical examination of the wreckage in question alone, cannot provide for a satisfactory basis for the affirmative determination made by the NTSB regarding the identities of the wreckage described herein," and that you believe that identification of the wreckage must have been based on "some tangible record provided to the NTSB, as allowed for by the NTSB's Quality of Information Disseminated by the National Transportation Safety Board: Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality of Information." With regard to your last assertion, you quote from the Safety Board's statement concerning information quality, which is available on the Board's website.
I have carefully reviewed your appeal of the Safety Board's response to your FOIA request, and determined that the Board must deny your appeal. The Safety Board performed an adequate, reasonable search for any records within the scope of your request, in accordance with the provisions of the FOIA, and did not locate any records within the scope of your request. Oglesby v. Dep't of the Army, 920 F.2d 57, 68 (D.C. Cir. 1990); see also Campbell v. Dep't of Justice, 164 F.3d 20, 27 (D.c. Cir. 1998). The Safety Board does not have any records that "[reveal] the process by which wreckage was recovered from the aircraft used during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001." As you probably know, the Safety Board assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as the FBI investigated the circumstances under which the four aircraft crashed, pursuant to Congress's direction requiring the Board to relinquish its investigative priority to the FBI when the Safety Board and FBI determine that an intentional criminal act likely caused the accident at issue. 49 U.s.c. § 113 1(a)(2)(B). As such, the Safety Board did not ensure that the owners of the aircraft completed wreckage release forms, as the Board typically does in investigations in which the Board has priority. See 49 C.F.R. § 831. 12(b). Overall, the Safety Board does not have any records that describe the "process" by which the Board or the FBI identified wreckage.
To the extent that you seek to inform the Safety Board of an error in its reports under Section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Public Law 106-554; H.R. 5658), and pursuant to government-wide guidelines issued by the Office of Management and Budget to assure the quality of information that Federal Agencies disseminate, as described at 67 Fed. Reg. 8,452 (Feb. 22, 2002), submitting a FOIA appeal is not the appropriate mechanism. As described in the Board's Information Quality Guidelines, which, as you know, are listed on the Board's website at http://www.ntsb.gov/info/quality.htm. you must submit a request to Executive Secretariat/Information Quality, and include the following information:
1. Your name, telephone number, address and/or e-mail address;
2. Description and documentation as to how information is to be corrected, revised, or reviewed;
3. Explanation of how person submitting the request is affected by any information error;
4. Explanation of how the disseminated information failed the quality standards; and
5. Any pertinent attachments.
Based on the foregoing, I have determined that your appeal must be denied. This response constitutes the final action from the National Transportation Safety Board on your appeal. The Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, provides for judicial review of this determination.