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America Under Attack: Pentagon Holds Conference Concering Black Box

Aired September 14, 2001 - 06:33   ET


JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going live to the Pentagon now where we're hearing a briefing. Let's listen in.


MR. BRIDGES, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: I don't think it was any surprise where they were found. They were found right where the plane came into the building, right where the data recorder and the voice recorder should have been. They were right at the crash scene.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) deep into the building, or shallow? I mean give us a sense of exactly where.

BRIDGES: I don't know where they were on the airplane, but they probably were very, very close to that particular part if you look at what an airplane image might be inside the building. They were found -- they were pretty much knew where they were by a virtue of where the aircraft came in.

QUESTION: Were they found it in the same location where you were getting a signal from since yesterday?

BRIDGES: We were not ever getting a signal from the black box since yesterday. That was an erroneous report.

QUESTION: Mr. Bridges (ph), how significant is this to all of the fire and recovery crews that are operating on this. Is this a big deal to them?

BRIDGES: Well I think it's just another measure of success. It's another step forward as opposed to stasis. It's a significant development, and it's -- you know we're moving ahead.

QUESTION: And how difficult was it to actually get the black boxes out what with the surrounding debris around it?

BRIDGES: Well all I can tell you about that is that particular part of the building is extremely fragile. It's unstable. We've been spending quite a bit of time trying to shore up that area. The columns down in the bottom floors are basically gone. And they've been trying to shore it up with wooden beams.

It is dangerous working in there but we are trying to maximize the safety of those personnel in the building when they are working on this stuff.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the remains and how that's going? What kind of numbers you're looking as far as bodies pulled out? And is that ongoing at this hour?

BRIDGES: I'm not going to get into numbers. I'm going to let that -- leave that to the Pentagon. I mean those are their people and I think they'd like that responsibility. We have, however, continued the search and rescue operations, search and recovery operations through the night. We are actually conducting the search and recovery operations when the spot fire flared up last night. We suspended those. But they were back working in the building about have an hour after the fire was contained once again.

QUESTION: Let me follow-up. About that fire, are there more concerns about flair ups or what's the situation with the hot spots?

BRIDGES: Yes, if you recall when I think Chief Plauger (ph) was down here before. We declared the fire under control. That does not mean it is out. There are still spot fires that have sprung up. The one last night was the most visible one. We expect that there will be more. It is not unusual in this circumstance especially when we're not removing the rubble.

QUESTION: How much of a factor could the weather be today Mr. Bridges, the wind and rain?

BRIDGES: Actually I was thinking about that on the way in. I really don't know. The fire is really out. I'm not sure that any moisture is going to get in to the bowels of the building. So I mean where the roof is still in tact, it's not -- the rain isn't going to help us.

QUESTION: The wind and the shoring up though?

BRIDGES: We'll have to see.

QUESTION: Did the person who told you that boxes could be damaged but could still yield information give you any kind of idea about when we might find some information or find out how much they might yield.

BRIDGES: Well I think that's probably going to come from the FBI or the NTSB. I mean we've -- the boxes are now in federal hands and part of the federal investigation. Arlington Country, it does no longer have a role in that.

QUESTION: Were the black boxes, though, were they removed immediately with -- from the FBI taken from this location to the NTSB right across the river? I mean is it possible that the sophisticated equipment they have over there is already being used to try to analyze.

BRIDGES: I'm not going to speculate. I frankly don't know.

QUESTION: And we don't know what sort of boxes they were, whether they're analog or digital. So we know..

BRIDGES: There are a voice recorder and there was a data recorder.

QUESTION: They were removed from the scene already?

BRIDGES: Well they've been removed from the crash scene. I do not know where precisely they are other than the fact that they are in the federal authorities hands and they are now apart of a federal investigation.

QUESTION: Is this the first of the four crash sites where they have managed to recover both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder?

BRIDGES: I believe that is the case. But I'm here for this particular site.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: What time were the boxes found again?

BRIDGES: Three forty a.m. OK. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. And we'll be back at 10 a.m, somewhere between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. for our regular update.

MANN: And so a little less than three hours ago to the minute, the black boxes were found in the darkness and rubble at the Pentagon. We were just hearing form a spokesman for Arlington County who said they are damaged but may still yield useful information. We don't know what's in them. He didn't in fact know exactly where they are right now except to say that they are in the hands of federal authorities who will be examining them I would imagine in haste.

One more note there was a fire that burned briefly overnight. We had been told that the fire was out at the Pentagon. Some contradictory information there. Both a remark that the fire is out and then a remark that the fire is under control but not entirely out. But they're still hot spots in a damaged portion of the building that represent a real threat to the people who are working there. But the recovery work continues.

Bob Franken has been watching all of this unfold and he joins us now. Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In some other contradictory information, Jonathon, officials had said that they briefed yesterday and told that there had been some of the pings coming from those boxes that had been detected for a couple of days previous. Some people were denying that, but we were told by Pentagon sources today that in fact there had been some tell tale things and it was just a matter of trying to locate them and more importantly trying to get through all of the rubble and getting to the area where they might be found. And as we heard, they were found shortly before four a.m. today, about 3:40 as we heard. Now there's an interesting dynamic that goes on here. Here at the Pentagon you get the federal perspective, the military perspective. Out about a mile away where that news conference was held, that is where the local officials who have been so important to this recovery effort that is where they have their briefings and their announcements. And sometimes there's a race to get this material out from one perspective or the other.

But in any case, the location of the boxes we're told that they are now in the hands of a national transportation safety board in Washington which was doing, what it has done so many times in the past, analyzing the data, giving a listen to the one box that has the voice data, the voice material on it.

We, of course, have a little bit a preview of what might be found. Barbara Olson who is a commentator, was a commentator and the wife of the U.S. Solicitor General had called her husband as the plane was being diverted. And had said that in face hijackers had taken over the control of the plane. She talked to Ted Olson, her husband before the plane actually crashed into this building.

But now, the all important data boxes have been recovered. They're in the hands of the national transportation board, under of course the control of the federal bureau of investigation. It is an important step potentially into the investigation into what exactly happened on that American Airlines flight. Jonathan.

MANN: Bob Franken at the Pentagon where they have two jobs on this day, assuring the nation's defense and also still getting to the bottom of what is a mysterious attack after all.



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