Experts, including a senior US military commander, that have reviewed the "9/11 Tapes" released into the public domain this weekend, have described the authorities' planning and organisation as having been "better than we had been told".

Fashion and lifestyle magazine Vanity Fair has published a full transcript of the air traffic controller exchanges on 11 September 2001 pertaining to the hijacked aircraft that hit New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and the aircraft than crashed in a Pennsylvania field. The complete set of recordings (also available as audio downloads at the site) was released to the magazine and public domain in the wake of the controversy created by the film United 93.

An anonymous source within the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) charged with protecting the USA and Canada from missile attack was asked to review the tapes for Vanity Fair. His first conclusion is that authorities did a better job than the media has initially portrayed. "The real story is actually better than the one we've been told," he says.

Partial excerpts of recordings had been made public when they aired as part of the of the 9/11 Commission, and painted a picture of confusion and ineptitude. However, once the entire set of events is pieced together by United 93's executive editor Michael Bronner, who was sent 6.5h of audio recordings seven months after making an initial Freedom of Information request, the picture becomes clearer and the military planners come out looking better than they had done.

Snap decisions more often than not turn out to be the right ones as commanders kick-started the military machine that was designed to ward off Soviet missile strike, Bronner says. While there was confusion and miscommunication within the ranks of the military top brass and the administration of US president George Bush, which had led to delay in the release, rank and file air traffic controllers and military planners performed their roles well, faced with a well-planned and novel method of attack, he adds.

External link:
Visit to read Michael Bronner's full account of the 9/11 Tapes release process, his narrative and the entire transcript as well as access the audio files.

Source: Flight International