Court prevents release of most September 11 emergency calls
CNN) -- The emergency phone calls made by people trapped inside the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, need not be released to the public, a
New York court ruled Thursday.
The New York State Court of Appeals declined to grant the wish of September 11 families who joined in a lawsuit seeking release of all tapes and
transcripts of calls made from inside the Twin Towers to 9-1-1 operators.
"We are not persuaded that such disclosure is required by the public interest," the judges said in their ruling.
Instead, it agreed only to the release of calls from any relatives of the eight families who joined a lawsuit, originally filed by The New York Times
as part of a request under the freedom of information law.
The families sought release of the 9-1-1 calls possessed by the Fire Department of New York, along with department dispatcher calls and interviews
with firefighters who participated in the September 11 rescue effort.
The court did order the release of 511 interviews with September 11 firefighters.
It ordered that the oral histories be disclosed except for "specifically identified portions that can be shown likely to cause serious pain or
embarrassment to an interviewee."
The fire department also will be required to release some internal communications between dispatchers and other employees -- those with "factual
statements or instructions affecting the public" but none disclosing "opinions and recommendations."
The FDNY had resisted the disclosures, citing privacy concerns.
The appeals court disagreed with families whose attorneys argued in a hearing last month in Albany that public interest outweighed privacy protection
of those who died in the attacks.
Although 9-1-1 calls might contain previously undisclosed factual information about what was happening inside the towers, the judges wrote, "it is
normal to be appalled if intimate moments in the life of one's deceased child, wife, husband, or other close relative become publicly known, and an
object of idle curiosity or a source of titillation."
Referring to the calls, they said, "Those words are likely to include expression of the terror and agony the callers felt and of their deepest
feelings about what their lives and their families meant to them. The grieving family of such a caller -- or the caller, if he or she survived --
might reasonably be deeply offended at the idea that these words could be heard on television or read in The New York Times."
No families came forward to oppose the release.
Norm Siegel, an attorney for the eight families who sought full disclosure, said they will seek affidavits from other families authorizing the release
of additional 9-1-1 calls.
"We won a lot, but there are things we didn't get," Siegel said.
The FDNY also sought to block the release of six unidentified tapes and transcripts selected by federal prosecutors as evidence in the prosecution of
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person facing trial in the United States for the September 11 attacks.
The court rejected the concern, saying the release of these calls would not affect the ability to seat an impartial jury.
The 9/11 commission, which had access to the FDNY tapes, found significant flaws in the city's 9-1-1 system and recommended improvements.
I post this article because I just do not understand why this information would NOT be made public. We can hear the 911 tapes of a person who gets hot
coffee spilled on them at a drive through or hear the 911 tapes about how a 3 year old can call 911 when grandpa is ill. That's cool! All tapes
should be made public unless the subject matter is part of an on going investigation. Oh I think I just answered my own questions. BUT STILL, the
events that happened on Sept. 11, 2001 is like the most important thing that has happened in most of our lives and they won't let us listen to the
actual tapes. I think we should be able to hear them. They are important! Being from California and in California on the day of the supposed attacks,
I would love to hear on the tapes the perspective of people whom were there watching it in front of them. Maybe if we ALL had more information about
what happened on 911 we could maybe help understand and get to the bottom of what really happened? I have to admit I am one of those individuals that
do not believe the official story/explanation of what really happened on the day Sept. 11, 2001.