UNITED STATES NEWS

2002 Pentagon memo guided 9/11 remains disposal

Feb 29, 2012, 9:12 PM

AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – The disposal of human remains from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, including the incineration and dumping of some portions in a landfill, was based on high-level Pentagon instructions, the Air Force’s top general said Wednesday.

Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, told reporters that the actions taken by the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware were based on written guidance issued in March 2002 by David Chu, who was the Pentagon personnel chief under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta directed that the families be briefed on past practices of remains disposal.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Wednesday the briefings would be offered “within the next few weeks.”

“We intend to make the facts about that past policy known to the loved ones of those who died,” Little said, noting that in 2008 the practice of disposing of remains in landfills was ended.

Chu did not specifically mention dumping incinerated residue of 9/11 remains in a landfill, but his words might have been interpreted to allow that final step.

The Pentagon released a copy of the Chu memo, which was addressed to Thomas White, the Army’s top civilian official at the time. The Army oversaw the Air Force’s mortuary activities at Dover and elsewhere.

Schwartz said he only became aware on Tuesday that some portions of remains were dumped in a landfill.

“To the best of our knowledge at this moment in time, we followed those disposition instructions” from Chu, Schwartz said. He added that “there is a requirement for us to validate that that is the case.”

The Chu guidance did not mention disposing of any remains in a landfill. It said unidentifiable remains that were mixed with fragments of “non-biological material” from the attack site were to be “treated in the same manner as any biological tissue removed for surgical or diagnostic purposes (i.e. disposition by incineration).”

That appears to leave open the question of whether disposal in a landfill was permitted.

Chu, who is now president of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded think tank, did not return a call seeking comment.

The disposal issue came to light Tuesday when the head of an independent panel, retired Gen. John Abizaid, released a report that assessed management problems at the Dover mortuary. His work was triggered by revelations last fall about the mishandling of remains of American war dead at Dover in 2010.

The Abizaid report mentioned in passing that the practice of dumping of some portions of remains in a landfill began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The report said several portions of unidentifiable remains from the Pentagon attack and the site of the hijacked plane that crashed near Shanksville, Pa., were cremated, incinerated and dumped in a landfill.

Asked about the Abizaid report on Tuesday shortly after its public release, Schwartz and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said it was the first time they had heard of 9/11 remains being disposed of in a landfill.

At a previously scheduled breakfast interview with reporters Wednesday, Schwartz said the Air Force overnight had unearthed the Chu memo. He also said the Air Force determined that no remains from the Shanksville site were handled by the Dover mortuary, “as best we can tell.” He added that the Air Force would endeavor to “nail down” with certainty that Dover dealt only with remains from the Pentagon attack.

Schwartz said it was still unclear how many remains portions from the Pentagon were incinerated and dumped in a landfill.

Chu’s instructions in March 2002 spelled out how to handle three categories of remains from the Pentagon.

It said those remains that could not be positively associated with an individual, and that were known not to be remains of the hijackers, should be cremated and presented to the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery for burial. This category also included portions of remains that were positively identified as being from a person whose remains had already been released to that person’s family, so long as that family did not want to take possession of the additional portions.

Also, Chu directed that remains positively identified as those of the hijackers be transferred to FBI custody.

The final category described by Chu was those mentioned in the Abizaid report as having been incinerated and placed in a landfill. These remains that could not be identified and were mixed with fragments of “non-biological material.”

The dates on which remains in the final category were incinerated and sent to a landfill are unknown thus far.

The Abizaid report included a brief reference to two other memos. One, dated July 25, 2002, appeared to be follow-up correspondence from the acting director of the Army’s office of casualty and mortuary affairs about disposing of unidentifiable remains. The other, from an Air Force outfit, was dated Aug. 7, 2002 appears to be a similar follow-up note.

In June 2008 the Air Force halted the practice of disposing of incinerated unidentified human remains in a landfill. Since then it has put the remnants in an urn and disposed of it at sea from aboard Navy or Coast Guard ships.

___

Robert Burns can be followed on Twitter at
http://www.twitter.com/robertburnsAP

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Associated Press

New Jersey man acquitted in retrial in 2014 beating death of college student from Tennessee

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man has been acquitted in a retrial in the beating death of a college student from Tennessee a decade ago. Jurors in Middlesex County deliberated for five hours before acquitting Timothy Puskas of all charges Wednesday in the 2014 death of 22-year-old former Rutgers student William McCaw […]

3 hours ago

Liam Lazo boards a diesel school bus near his home, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Virginia Beach, Va. D...

Associated Press

Tired of diesel fumes, these moms are pushing for electric school buses

Areli Sanchez’s daughter, Aida, used to be one of 20 million American kids who ride a diesel bus to school each day. Aida has asthma. When she was little, she complained about the smell and cloud of fumes on her twice-daily trip. “When she would come home from school or be on the bus, she […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Warren Buffett tells investors to ignore Wall Street pundits while paying tribute to Charlie Munger

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett credited his longtime partner — the late Charlie Munger — with being the architect of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate he’s received the credit for leading and warned shareholders in his annual letter not to listen to Wall Street pundits or financial advisors who urge them to trade often. Buffett […]

5 hours ago

FILE -Stephen Parlato of Boulder, Colo., holds a sign that reads "Hands Off Roe!!!" as abortion rig...

Associated Press

Alabama IVF ruling puts spotlight on state plans for tax breaks and child support for fetuses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are legally protected children is highlighting how support for the idea that a fetus should have the same rights as a person underpins far less dramatic laws and proposals from abortion foes across the U.S. Lawmakers in at least six states have […]

13 hours ago

This image provided by Tyler Watts shows Florida Man Games competitors, from left, Joshua Barr, Mic...

Associated Press

At the Florida Man Games, tank-topped teams compete at evading police, wrestling over beer

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) — They rose up by the dozens from across Florida, caricatured competitors in tank tops and cutoff shorts, for a showdown that treats evading police and wrestling over beer like Olympic sports. Promoted as “the most insane athletic showdown on Earth,” the Florida Man Games poke fun at the state’s reputation […]

13 hours ago

Andie Nelson, right, embraces Brian Jaskot, both of Virginia, after their race during the 25 meter ...

Associated Press

‘Totally cold’ is not too cold for winter swimmers competing in a frozen Vermont lake

NEWPORT, Vt. (AP) — Plunging into a frozen lake and swimming laps may not be everyone’s good time but for winter swimmers who return year after year to a northern Vermont lake near the Canadian border, there’s nothing better. The 10th annual Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival kicked off Friday with the 200-meter (218-yard) freestyle race […]

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

2002 Pentagon memo guided 9/11 remains disposal