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Sept. 11 Cockpit Recording to Play at Moussaoui Trial

April 06, 2006|From the Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The cockpit recording from the hijacked jetliner that passengers tried to retake on Sept. 11 will be played in public for the first time at the sentencing trial of Al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, the judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said the jury considering whether to execute Moussaoui could hear the recording from United Airlines Flight 93 and see a transcript of it.

One passenger's now-well-known comment, "Let's roll" -- thought to be a rallying cry to other passengers -- was overheard on a cellphone connection between a passenger and a family member on the ground.

The cockpit tape was played privately April 18, 2002, for the families of Flight 93 victims, but it has never been played in public. Family members told reporters they heard "yelling and screaming" and muffled voices that were hard to identify.

"Listening to the tape confirmed for me that there was a heroic teamwork effort," said Alice Hoglan of Los Gatos, Calif., whose son, Mark Bingham, called from the air before the plane crashed into a field. It was the only one of four jets hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, that did not kill anyone on the ground.

There has been debate over whether the hijackers intended to crash it into the U.S. Capitol or the White House. But last week, the Moussaoui jury heard a government-approved summary of statements made during interrogation of the captured mastermind of Sept. 11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who said it was to hit the Capitol.

Prosecutors asked the judge to order the tape and transcript kept sealed from the general public after it is played in open court, but Brinkema did not decide that immediately.

Noting that the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered trial evidence made public, she said relatives of Flight 93 victims would have until Tuesday to advise her whether they objected to general release of the material.

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