N E W Y O R K, Oct. 3, 2001 -- Beyond the haunting presence of thousands presumed dead, the rubble at ground zero is rich with treasure, art, secrets, drugs and guns.
Six World Trade Center housed several law enforcement agencies including U.S. Customs and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Somewhere in the rubble are safes containing guns, heroine, cocaine and ecstasy. Specifically, the ATF office had two gun vaults filled with not only ATF tactical weapons but also guns that were evidence in crimes.
The vaults may have been crushed with the evidence inside. If the evidence is not found intact, many of the cases may have to be dismissed.
"There's been very little that's identifiable that's been pulled out," said Howard Leadbetter, the FBI agent in charge of the bureau's massive evidence recovery effort at the sight.
Investigators for the Internal Revenue Service also had offices in Six World Trade Center and may have lost countless tax returns and more confidential documents.
Seven World Trade Center was also the New York office of the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA ordered the building surrounded by FBI agents shortly after it collapsed. Since then, they have been searching for computers and a safe filled with classified documents. Government agents watch the construction workers through binoculars as they search.
Rescue workers have been finding weapons belonging to the Secret Service whose New York office was also in that building. Still buried are detailed contingency plans for presidential motorcades in New York and files on investigations that include the closely guarded names of informants in organized crime and terrorism.
The Securities and Exchange Commission's offices were also destroyed in Seven World Trade Center, as were their files containing depositions, trading records and other documents for several hundred cases, including investigations into initial public offerings insured by major brokerage firms like Credit Suisse First Boston.
Carefully Recovering Remnants of Evidence
Several firms have been hired to help financial companies recover hard drives with critical data from destroyed computers. Phil Stern of FTI Consulting, a company that specializes in disaster recovery, says the CIA will have to go through the same process. "To the extent there's any sensitive info there, to make sure that it remains sensitive or gets destroyed in the appropriate manner," Stern said.
Investigators know there are few things that could have survived the collapse intact, but they do believe at some point, they will recover half a billion dollars in gold and silver bars from a vault buried under the twin towers.