Pentagon to brief 9/11 victims’ families about mishandled remains

The Pentagon is working to give information to the families of Sept. 11 victims about incinerated partial remains that were dumped in a landfill, Defense officials said Wednesday.

An independent report released Tuesday by the Defense Department found that cremated partial remains tossed into a landfill at a Dover Air Force Base, Del. mortuary included victims of the Sept. 11 attacks at the Pentagon and the Shanksville, Pa., site. Remains from victims at the World Trade Center in New York were not involved.

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Tuesday’s report added a new dimension to the scandal at the Dover mortuary, after it was first revealed last year that the partial remains of military personnel were disposed of in a landfill through 2008.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said Wednesday in a news release that the Pentagon is continuing to assemble records about the disposal of the remains, and that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has directed officials to give a briefing to the Sept. 11 families in the next few weeks.

“We fully understand and want to address the questions families might have about the previous disposition policy that ended in 2008,” Little said. “We intend to make the facts about that past policy known to the loved ones of those who died.”

Tuesday’s report stemmed from an Air Force Office of Special Counsel investigation in November that found “gross mismanagement” allowed for the process of cremating and incinerating the unidentified remains of soldiers before they were dumped in a landfill.

The policy at Dover was halted in 2008, and the remains are now buried at sea.

The independent panel could not determine how many Sept. 11 victims were included in the remains disposed of in the landfill, said retired Gen. John Abizaid, who led the investigation. He said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday that he does not know whether there is a way to determine the number of victims.

Abizaid said the landfill policy was allowed to occur in part because of a “dysfunctional, isolated chain of command” at Dover.