Craig Whitlock Washington Post February 28, 2012:
Some small portions of unidentified human remains recovered from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., were incinerated and ultimately dumped in a landfill, the Defense Department acknowledged Tuesday.
It was the first time that the Pentagon has said that some remains of Sept. 11 victims taken to the Dover Air Force Base mortuary later ended up in a landfill.
In November, The Washington Post first disclosed that the Dover mortuary for years had disposed of incinerated portions of remains of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in a Virginia land.... The practice involved unidentified or unclaimed body parts; it was not made known to troops’ family members.
The Air Force later admitted that it had dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 service members in the landfill between 2003 and 2008, when the practice ended. At the time, Air Force officials said their records only went back to 2003 and that they did not know when the landfill dumping began.
On Tuesday, a new Defense Department review of the mortuary operations at Dover revealed that “several portions of remains” recovered from the Sept. 11 attacks at the Pentagon and at Shanksville also ended up in a landfill.
The review, led by retired Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, did not quantify how many human remains from Sept. 11 were disposed of in this manner. It said the remains “could not be tested or identified,” apparently because they were too small or charred to allow for DNA analysis.
Those remains were cremated first, but then handed over to a “biomedical waste disposal contractor,” according to Abizaid’s report. Under an arrangement with the Air Force, the contractor transported bags of the medical waste for incineration.
Dover mortuary officials assumed at the time that “after final incineration, nothing remained,” Abizaid’s report stated. In fact, there was still residual material left over from the incineration, which the contractor then took to a landfill.
The mortuary changed its policy in 2008 and since then has buried unclaimed or unidentified cremated remains at sea.
At a news conference, Abizaid said he could not quantify how many remains of Sept. 11 victims were disposed of in a landfill. He said his panel was directed to examine current operations at the Dover mortuary and make recommendations for improvements, not investigate past problems.
“You’ll have to ask the question elsewhere,” he said when reporters pressed him to elaborate on how the remains of Sept. 11 victims were handled, as well as other incidents of malfeasance at Dover that were flagged in his report. “What we didn’t do was go back and take a detailed look at the records to see what went on.”
Still, an appendix to Abizaid’s report lists several previously undisclosed incidents of mismanagement, mishandled body parts and other botched cases at the Dover mortuary, dating back for a decade.
In January 2008, the Air Force paid a $25,000 settlement to the unidentified widow of a Marine “for mental anguish and medical costs due to loss of personal effects” that were “inadvertently destroyed” along with the Marine’s remains. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/portions-of-911-victims-rema...