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Privacy Sought on 9/11 Tapes

Terrorism: Pilots request a closed courtroom if recordings are played at Moussaoui trial.

October 10, 2002|From Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — An airline pilots union requested Wednesday that the courtroom be closed to protect victims' privacy if cockpit recordings are played at the trial of accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

The Air Line Pilots Assn. told a judge that public release of the tapes and transcripts would violate a federal law designed to protect privacy in airline disasters. Moussaoui's twice-postponed trial is set for June 30.

Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema for permission to play recordings from United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pa., and a private jet that picked up the cockpit radio transmissions. Passengers on the United jet are credited with attacking the hijackers and preventing an attack on the U.S. Capitol or the White House.

During the struggle, the plane crashed, killing all aboard.

Brinkema said last month that she probably would reject the government's plan to play the recordings unless prosecutors could show that they represented essential evidence.

The government has not asked that the trial be closed to the public while any tapes are played, but it noted that federal law would prevent releasing the recordings outside the court.

Any public release "would be contrary to the statutory protections

The recorder from Flight 93 was the only one recovered from the Sept. 11 attacks. The government has allowed relatives of the 40 passengers and crew who died to listen to the tapes in private sessions.

Normally, tapes from the cockpit voice recorder, which runs continuously in 30-minute increments and therefore records the period leading up to a crash, are not played in public. Transcripts usually are made public by the National Transportation Safety Board as part of crash investigations.

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