"We knew the magnitude of what we were dealing with," Kettell said. "We knew what happened in New York before our involvement became very keen."
Shortly after Delta Flight 1989 checked in with the Cleveland Center while over Syracuse, N.Y., the center's controllers heard two transmissions that sounded like a cockpit struggle.
Meanwhile, Flight 93 had climbed to 41,000 feet over the Cleveland Center, and then over nearby Elyria turned 120 degrees to the southeast, a move that surprised controllers.
"We were finally able to deduce by the airplanes talking back to us which was the airplane not talking to us, and that was Flight 93," Kettell said.
While there was still no confirmed problem with the Delta flight, the center expressed concerns to Delta's headquarters in Atlanta, which instructed the plane to land at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. It was brought in moments before the Cleveland Center received an order to ground all planes.
Meanwhile, two more transmissions came in with a terrorist's voice speaking to passengers. By then, controllers knew for sure that it was the United flight that had been hijacked.
"What we don't know was whether one of the pilots keyed the frequency so we could hear it or if they [terrorists] hit the wrong button not knowing the equipment," Kettell said. "My thoughts are that probably the pilot was trying to help us."
Later that tense day, after most planes had landed, Oberlin police warned the center of a small plane still flying and headed toward the center. That warning resulted in a brief evacuation except for essential employees. Kettell said that plane simply flew past and was never identified.
No other center employee took part on the press briefing Tuesday. An FAA spokesman said the controllers involved still do not want to talk about it.
In June, the center dedicated a memorial on its grounds to recall those who died when the hijacked plane crashed. Etched in stone are the words: "In honor of the men and women of the Cleveland Center and those aboard Flight 93 for their heroic actions on September 11, 2001."
— The Associated Press
Senators Question Justice Dept.’s Cooperation in Probe
W A S H I N G T O N, Aug. 14 — The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a top Republican on the panel expressed concern Tuesday that the Justice Department was not fully cooperating with a probe into alleged security lapses in the FBI's translator program.
The program has played an important role in interpreting interviews and intercepts of Osama bin Laden's network since Sept. 11, including translating such sensitive documents as al Qaeda-related wiretaps, documents recovered in Afghanistan and interrogations of al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
The charges were raised in a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft from committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the crime and drugs subcommittee.
Justice Department officials acknowledged receiving the letter but declined further comment.
The department's inspector general is investigating charges by FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds, a former contract linguist for the bureau, of security problems with another linguist. Edmonds also charged the linguist with translating some innocuous information rather than important, intelligence-related material. Edmonds was fired last spring for performance issues.
"We are troubled that the Department of Justice, including the FBI, may not be acting quickly enough to address the issues raised by Ms. Edmonds' complaints or cooperating fully with the inspector general's office," the senators wrote.
FBI officials have said they believe the program is solid and secure. The Associated Press reported in June that the agency was investigating the charges.
— The Associated Press