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Documents outline debate over disposal of 9/11 human remains

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By Jennifer Rizzo, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) – U.S. Defense Department officials debated how to dispose of more than 1,300 unidentified human remains from the September 11 attack on the Pentagon before the remains ended up in a Delaware landfill, according to newly released internal documents.

The internal discussion about what to do with the remains was released Friday as part of an investigation into the workings of the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base.

In a 2002 e-mail discussion among Defense Department officials, one official identified in the redacted documents as a colonel suggests scattering the remains at sea. “I do like the idea of spreading the ashes at sea in that it is a neutral arena; it should represent an area readily agreeable to all parties,” the official wrote.

A civilian official suggests that it might be appropriate to witness the scattering at sea and to have a chaplain present.

Another official, however, expressed concern that an at-sea disposal might “send a message to the next of kin that we are disposing human remains, and that is not the case.”

That official asked that the powder and ashes be disposed of “immediately” and as “normal waste.”

The colonel responded by saying that disposal would be based on that guidance, but reminded the official that the remains were not “normal.”

“My point, as you are aware of, is that Group F is not your normal set of medical waste,” the colonel said. The 9/11 remains are referred to in the documents as “Group F” and “special.”

Dover Port Mortuary has been engulfed in scandal since November, when it was discovered that some remains of deceased U.S. troops were discarded in landfills until 2008.