Saturday, January 03, 2009

More on the Hijacker Remains

There continues to be a controversy regarding the remains of the hijackers. More evidence for the troofers to ignore.

In the first two weeks after 9/11, Miller and his team identified 16 of the 44 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93 through fingerprint and dental records. For others, he turned to DNA testing. Hairbrushes and razors collected from the families of the victims provided DNA to match up with human fragments pulled from the wrecked plane.

Like Shaler in New York, Miller met with families of the victims, and they, too, wanted to know if the remains of the hijackers were being sifted out. Miller explained to them that it wasn't as simple as that. There were still some 300 pounds of unidentified remains. Much of it had been damaged beyond recognition by exposure to air and 11,000 gallons of jet fuel. "I told them there would likely be terrorist remains interspersed with them," says Miller. "There were varying degrees of angst and anger about that."

Still, he did what he could to honor the request. Miller and his team sent fragments from the Pennsylvania crash site for testing at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md. "Our priority was not the hijackers, it was getting the victims back to their families," says Brion Smith, the lab's director. But the remains of the terrorists stood out. Four of the DNA profiles from the Pennsylvania crash site didn't match material provided by the families of passengers and crew. By simple process of elimination, Smith knew these were the hijackers. He sent the samples back to Miller along with the genetic codes.

It was just what Miller was hoping for. With those four profiles in hand, he could weed out the terrorists' remains. He went to the freezers, which were filled with thousands of painstakingly bagged and tagged human fragments retrieved from the crash. Miller scanned the icy plastic bags, looking for genetic profiles that matched Smith's data. He pulled out four bags and laid them on a large table. "All that remained of the four men was less than 10 pounds" of fragments, Miller says. "I had about 48 samples that were associated with the terrorists, mostly bony tissue and I think maybe some scalp with hair on it." He also couldn't tell which set of remains belonged to which terrorist. "Obviously none of the terrorists' families came forward with any information—they were like four John Does," says Miller. "So I just referred to them as Terrorist A, B, C and D."


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