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Facing a subpoena, New York City’s administration has agreed to give the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks unrestricted access to audio tapes of 911 emergency phone calls — as long as the commission comes to the city to listen. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States will be allowed to hear the tapes at city offices seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., but it will not be able to keep its own copies. The commission will also have access to full transcripts at the city offices and will be allowed to take unlimited notes, as well as quote callers in future reports upon receiving permission from the person or family members. The city agreed to send copies of redacted tapes and transcripts to the commission, and said it would respond to all outstanding requests by Dec. 31. The settlement ends a squabble between the commission and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who said he would not turn over the tapes because they contained emotional and personal words — and sometimes final words — of victims and firefighters. Giving up the tapes, he said, would violate the privacy of victims and their families. The settlement, the mayor said in a statement, will allow the commission to conduct its investigation “without making public the intensely emotional statements of those involved in this terrible tragedy.” Thomas H. Kean, chair of the Washington, D.C.-based commission, said in a statement: “This agreement will afford Commission staff access to everything it needs to do its job. While we are certain that the Commission would have prevailed in court, this agreement avoids protracted litigation.” The commission, which has until May 2004 to conclude its investigation and submit a report, made its fight with the mayor public two weeks ago when it issued a subpoena for the materials. In a statement at the time, the commission said the city’s lack of cooperation had “significantly impeded” the investigation into the attacks. “Both parties got what they needed out of this agreement,” said Lawrence S. Kahn, chief litigating assistant under Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo and the city’s lead attorney on the negotiations. Kahn said the agreement would not affect litigation between the city and The New York Times and other news organizations, which have requested access to the tapes. “This is a very narrow production subject to very strict confidentiality understandings,” he said. The suit by the Times is scheduled for oral argument this month at the Appellate Division, 1st Department. Earlier this year, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Richard F. Braun ordered the city to release numerous Sept. 11-related documents, but he said the 911 emergency calls should remain confidential because of privacy concerns. The judge did, however, order the city to release portions of the tapes containing conversations involving relatives of nine families who joined the news organizations’ suit. David E. McCraw, counsel at the Times, agreed that the settlement would not have a large impact on the litigation, but he added, “I think it makes it harder for the city to claim that there is a need for this level of secrecy.”

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