|The New Pearl Harbor (Cont). -- Chap. 2 - 6|
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FLIGHT 77: WAS IT REALLY THE AIRCRAFT THAT STRUCK THE PENTAGON?
At 9:25, which was 29 minutes after Flight 77 disappeared, air controllers at Dulles Airport reported seeing a fast-moving plane, which, they warned, appeared to be heading toward the White House.>3 At 9:27, Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice were reportedly told, while in the bunker below the White House, that an airplane, being tracked by radar, was 50 miles outside Washington and headed toward it.>4 Beginning at 9:33, radar data reportedly showed the aircraft crossing the Capitol Beltway and heading toward the Pentagon, which it flew over at 9:35.>5 Then, starting from about 7,000 feet above the ground, the aircraft made a difficult "downward spiral, turning almost a complete circle and dropping the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes.">6 At this time, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, according to the official account, had not been informed of the approaching aircraft and was still with Representative Cox. While they together watched the television coverage of the WTC, Rumsfeld reportedly demonstrated his predictive powers again, saving: "Believe me, this isn't over yet. There's going to be another attack, and it could be us." Moments later, at about 9:38, the Pentagon was hit.>7 As a result of the crash and the ensuing fire, 125 workers in the Pentagon, primarily civilians, were killed.
Although later that day the aircraft that struck the Pentagon was said to be Flight 77, which was a Boeing 757, this equation was evidently not immediately obvious. Danielle O'Brien, one of the air traffic controllers at Dulles who reported seeing the aircraft at 9:25, said: "The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane.">8 Another witness, seeing the plane from a 14th floor apartment in Pentagon City, said that it "seemed to be able to hold eight or twelve persons" and "made a shrill noise like a fighter plane.">9 Lon Rains, editor at Space News, said: "I was convinced it was a missile. It came in so fast it sounded nothing like an airplane.">10 Still another witness, who saw it from his automobile, was reported as saying that it "was like a cruise missile with wings.">11 The official account, however, would be that it was a much bigger aircraft, a Boeing 757--indeed, Flight 77 itself.
On that day, that connection was, however, only gradually made. At 10:32, ABC News reported that Flight 77 had been hijacked, but there was no suggestion that it had returned to Washington and hit the Pentagon. Indeed, Fox TV shortly thereafter said that the Pentagon had been hit by a US Air Force flight.>12 Only sometime in the afternoon did it become generally accepted that the aircraft that hit the Pentagon was Flight 77.
Some critics of the official account reject this identification. The chief critic of the official account of the strike on the Pentagon is the aforementioned French researcher Thierry Meyssan, president of the Voltaire Network, which the Guardian in April of 2002 described as a respected independent think tank whose left-leaning research projects have until now been considered models of reasonableness and objectivity.">13
Officials at the Pentagon have, to be sure, denounced Meyssan's theory. At a Department of Defense news briefing on June 25, 2002, spokesperson Victoria Clarke, when asked about Meyssan's theory, said: "There is no question, there is no doubt what happened that day. And I think it's appaling that anyone might try to put out that kind of myth. I think it's alsoappalling for anyone to continue to give those sorts of people any kind of publicity.">14 It is understandable, whatever the truth of the matter is, that the Pentagon would want to discourage reporters and other people from examining Meyssans theory by calling it "appalling." Meyssan himself uses the same term for the official theory, calling it "the appalling fraud.">15
But, of course, name-calling by either side of the issue should not be allowed to settle anything. The question should be which of the competing theories is best supported by evidence. And Meyssans arguments, combined with those of other critics, do provide many reasons for concluding that it was not Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon. I will discuss five such reasons, then point out some further difficulties for the official theory about the strike on the Pentagon.
Were the Sources for the Identification Credible?
Meyssan, in addition to noting that the identification between AA Flight 77 and the aircraft that struck the Pentagon was made only gradually, argues that the original sources for this identification are dubious. In particular, he suggests, all but one of the statements on which this identification was based came from military personnel.>16 The first move toward the identification was made by a statement on the website of the Pentagon announcing that it had been hit by a "commercial airliner, possibly hijacked.">17 Then that afternoon the story that this airliner was Flight 77 spread quickly through the media. The source of this story, the Los Angeles Times reported, was some military officials speaking on condition of anonymity.>18 The media also started reporting that Flight 77, just before it disappeared from view, had made a U-turn and headed back toward Washington." But, argues Meyssan, since the civilian air controllers were, according to the official account, no longer receiving information from either radar or the transponder, this "information must also have come from military sources.>20
The one other statement used to connect Flight 77 with the strike on the Pentagon was made by Theodore ("Ted") Olson, the US Justice Department's Solicitor General. He said that his wife, Barbara Olson - the well-known author and television commentator--had made two phone calls to him from Flight 77 at about 9:25 and 9:30. These conversations, as reported, said nothing about where the plane was or in what direction it was headed, but they did indicate that Flight 77 had not already crashed or exploded but had been hijacked. Flight 77, therefore at least might have been die aircraft that hit the Pentagon.
Skeptics about this identification suggest that there arc at least four reasons to doubt Ted Olson's testimony. First, he is very close to the Bush administration. Besides having pleaded George W. Bush's cause before the Supreme Court in the 2000 election dispute, he more recently has defended Vice President Cheney's attempt to prevent the release of papers from his energy task force to the committee investigating the Enron scandal. Second, Olson has stated that there are many situations in which "government officials might quite legitimatetly have reasons to give false information out.">21 Third, Olsons reports about the conversations with his wife are both vague and selfcontradictory.>22 Fourth, on the other flights, telephone calls were reportedly made by several passengers and flight attendants, but Ted Olson is the only person who reported receiving a call from Flight 77. This latter fact is especially strange in light of a later report that at about 9:30 the hijackers told the passengers that they were all going to die and so should call their families. Thompson asks: "Given this announcement, why are there no phone calls from this flight except for Barbara Olson's?">23 Thompson's question, in other words, is whether there really was a call from her. This question could presumably be answered by subpoenaing the telephone records of her cell phone company, American Airlines, and the Justice Department. Any of the alternative scenarios consistent with this question would need to explain, of course, what became of Barbara Olson, and also whether it is plausible that Ted Olson would have participated in a plan with that outcome. This issue is one of the problems mentioned in Chapter 9 that would face any complicity theory about "what really happened."
Physical Evidence That the Pentagon Was Not Hit by a Boeing 757
In addition to the argument that all the information originally connecting Flight 77 with the aircraft that struck the Pentagon evidently came from dubious sources, a second argument, provided by Meyssan, consists of physical evidence that the Pentagon was not hit by a Boeing 757, which is what AA Flight 77 was.
Most important is the evidence provided by photographs that were taken immediately after the crash. One crucial photo was taken by Tom Horan of the Associated Press just after the firetrucks had arrived but before the firemen had been deployed. (This photo is reproduced in Meyssans Pentagate and on the cover of his 9/11: The Big Lie and is also available on the Internet.>24) When this photograph was taken, the west wing's facade had not collapsed. Another photo taken at this time shows that the hole in the facade was between 15 and 18 feet in diameter, contradicting a newspaper report that it was "five stories high and 200 feet wide.">25 This photo also shows no damage above the hole or on either side of it. And neither photo shows any sign of an airplane--no fuselage, no tail, no wings, no engines >26--or any evidence that the lawn had been scraped.>27 Whatever struck the Pentagon made a clean hit from the air and went completely inside.
Just how far the aircraft went into the Pentagon is shown by a photograph that was taken later and published by the Pentagon (and on the cover of Meyssans Pentagate). This photo shows that the inside wall of the third of the Pentagons five rings, known as the C-ring, was penetrated, resulting in a hole about seven feet in diameter. This means that the aircraft had the power to penetrate six reinforced walls.
This photographic evidence creates enormous problems for the official account, according to which the damage was caused by an aircraft as large as a Boeing 757. The most obvious problem is that since the aircraft penetrated only the first three rings of the Pentagon, only the nose of a Boeing 757 would have gone inside. (This can be seen in a picture, provided by Meyssan, in which the outline of a Boeing 757 is superimposed upon an aerial photograph, provided by the Department of Defense, of the Pentagons west wing.>28) The rest of the airplane would have remained outside. As Meyssan comments: "We should thus be able to see the wings and the fuselage outside, and on the lawn in fact." In response, one might suggest that perhaps the plane burned up before any photographs could be taken. But, Meyssan says:
While the planes nose is made of carbon and the wings, containing the fuel, can burn, the Boeings fuselage is aluminum and the jet engines are built out of steel. At the end of the fire, it would necessarily have left a burnt-out wreck.>29But not the slightest sign of a burnt-out wreck is shown in the photograph taken by Tom Horan or any of the other photographs.
The official story, to be sure, takes account of this problem by saying that not simply the nose but the entire airplane went inside the Pentagon. This is why it does not appear in the photographs. >30 Other features of the photographic evidence, however, create isuperable difficulties for this theory. One of these features is the fact that the orifice created by the impact, as mentioned above, was at most 18 feet in diameter. Is it not absurd to suggest that a Boeing 757 created and then disappeared into such a small hole? As Meyssan points out, the hole was bis enough for the passenger cabin, which is less than twelve feet in width. But the plane's wings give it a breadth of 125 feet. Can anyone seriously believe that a 125-foot-wide airplane created and then went inside a hole less than 20-feet wide?
Evidently so. Some defenders of the official account claim that the wings, upon hitting the strongly reinforced facade of the west wing, would have folded back, allowing the entire plane to disappear within the building. According to one such defense:
As the front of the Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon, the outer portions of the wings likely snapped during the initial impact, then were pushed inward towards the fuselage and carried into the buildings interior; the inner portions of the wings probably penetrated the Pentagon walls with the rest of the plane. Any sizable portions of the wings were destroyed in the explosion or the subsequent fire. >31One problem with this explanation, of course, is that after the plane's forward morion was suddenly reduced when the nose hit the Pentagon, the wings would not have folded back Unless the laws of kinetic energy were momentarily suspended, Meyssan points out, "the wings would have been propelled forwards rather than backwards." >32
On a Boeing 757, furthermore, the jet engines, made of steel, are attached to the wings, so the wings would have hit the facade with great force. And yet prior to the facade's collapse, as we have seen, the photosreveal no visible damage to the facade on either side of the orifice, even where the engines would have hit the building. And if that problem is not considered decisive enough, the fact that the photographs clearly show that the facade above the opening is completely intact and even unmarked - creates a still more insuperable problem, given Boeing 757's big tail. As Meyssan says, when its tail is taken into account, the Boeing is about 40 feet high. So, unless one is going to claim chat the tail obligingly ducked before entering, the fact that the facade above the opening is completely intact proves that it was not a Boeing 757 that went inside the Pentagon's west wing. For support, Meyssan quotes French accident investigator Francois Grangier, who said: "What is certain when one looks at the photo of this facade that remains intact is that it's obvious the plane did not go through there." >33
The more general problem is that whatever did hit the Pentagon simply did not cause nearly enough destruction for the official story to be true. A Boeing 757, besides being so tall and having such a wide wingspan, weighs over 100 tons. Traveling at a speed of 250 to 440 miles per hour, it would have caused tremendous devastation. And yet, as a photograph supplied by the Department of Defense itself shows, "the plane only destroyed the first ring of the building." >34 The second and third rings were merely penetrated by an aircraft small enough to create a hole only seven feet in diameter.
Furthermore, if the aircraft that hit the Pentagon did too little to have been a Boeing 757, this last-mentioned fact, about the hole in the inside wall of the C-ring, shows that it also did too much. That is, Meyssan points out, the nose of a Boeing, which contains the electronic navigation system, is made of carbon fibers rather than metal. Being "extremely fragile,'' such a nose could not have gone through three rings of the Pentagon, creating a seven-foot exit hole in the inside wall of the third ring. The Boeing's nose would have been "crushed rather than piercing through." What could create such a hole is the head of a missile.
Certain missiles are specially conceived to have a piercing effect. These missiles are weighted with depleted uranium, an extremely dense metal that heats with slightest friction and renders piercing easier. These missiles are notably used to pierce bunkers. An airplane crashes and smashes. A missile of this type pierces. >35And this is what the photographs show -- that the Pentagon was pierced rather than smashed.
The notion that the Pentagon was hit by a missile rather than an airplane is supported by still another feature of the photographic evidence -- the kind of fire it documented. Photos of hydrocarbon fires, such as the fires produced in the Twin Towers by the burning of the jet fuel, show yellow flames mixed with black smoke. But photographs of the Pentagon fire show a red flame, indicating the kind of fire produced by the type of missile described above -- a much hotter and more instantaneous fire. >36 Suggesting that the Pentagon was hit by "one of the latest generation of AGM-type missiles, armed with a hollow charge and a depleted uranium BLU tip," Meyssan says that a missile of this type can cause "an instantaneous fire, giving off heatin excess of 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit." And that corresponds with the fire started in the Pentagon:
In traversing the Pentagon's first ring, the aircraft started a fire, as gigantic as it was sudden. Immense flames issued from the building, licking at the facades. They withdrew just as quickly, leaving behind them a cloud of black soot. >37The photographic evidence, in sum, provides several reasons to conclude that the Pentagon was not hit by a Boeing passenger plane but was instead hit by a military missile.
This conclusion from the photographic evidence is given additional support by the fact that the aircraft that headed toward the Pentagon was not shot down by on-site missiles. Although some news reports have said that the Pentagon, unlike the "White House, has no such missiles, the Pentagon is in fact, Meyssan points out, protected by "[f]ive extremely sophisticated antimissile batteries." >38 And, although Pentagon officials claim that they had no idea that an aircraft was coming their way, an unidentified aircraft was, as we saw earlier, reported at 9:25 to be speeding in that direction. Meyssan says:
Contrary to the Pentagons claims, the military thus knew perfectly well that an unidentified vehicle was headed straight for the capitol. Yet the military did not react and the Pentagons anti-missile batteries did not function. Why? The close-range anti-aircraft defenses at the Pentagon are conceived to destroy missiles that attempt to approach. A missile should normally be unable to pass. As for a big Boeing 757-200, it would have strictly no chance. Whether an airliner or a missile, an explanation needs to be found.Meyssan then suggests a hypothesis that could account for this anomaly:
Each military aircraft in fact possesses a transponder which...permit[s] it to declare itself in the eyes of its possessor as friendly or hostile.. An antimissile battery will not...react to the passage of a friendly missile. It is not impossible that was what happened at the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. >39Meyssan's hypothesis could also answer a question raised by reports that when the aircraft was making its circular approach to the Pentagon, it came very near to the White House -- namely, why the White House's missile system did not shoot it down. >40
In light of these considerations, the very fact that the aircraft that hit the Pentagon was not shot down by the Pentagons (and the White House's) missiles can be considered physical evidence against the claim that it was a passenger plane.
Further physical evidence is provided by the simple fact that there were evidently no remains of a Boeing 757 at the crash site. As we have seen, the explanation why no such remains were visible in the photographs is that the entire plane went inside the Pentagon. If that is what happened (ignoring now the question of whether it is even remotely plausible), there should have been a burnt-out wreck, or at least some identifiable remnants of the plane, found inside the Pentagon after the fire was put out. But that was evidently not the case.
At a Pentagon briefing on the day after 9/11, Ed Plaugher, the county fire chief who was in charge of putting out the fire in the Pentagon, was asked whether anything was left of the airplane. He said that there were "some small pieces...but not large sections.... [T]here's no fuselage sections and that sort of thing." >41 According to Plaugher's eyewitness testimony the day after the fire, therefore, there was no fuselage or any other large pieces, such as jet engines. His testimony was, furthermore, implicidy confirmed by the Department of Defense insofar as the only parts of Flight 77 that it announced finding, other than unidentifiable fragments (which, as Meyssan points out, "could have been from something quite different"), were a beacon and the two black boxes. The black boxes were said, furthermore, to have been found at a time -- 4:00 AM -- that makes critics of the official story suspicious. >42 Plaugher's testimony was further confirmed at a Pentagon press conference on September 15. When Terry Mitchell was asked about evidence of the plane, he said that one could see only "small pieces." Lee Evey, head of the renovation project, said that the evidence of the aircraft is "not very visible.... None of those parts are very large.... You don't see big pieces of the airplane sitting there extending up into the air." >43
How is this testimony consistent with the idea that the Pentagon was hit by a Boeing 757? That airplanes fuselage is made of aluminum, which does not melt in an ordinary hydrocarbon fire. Its engines are made of tempered steel, which also does not normally melt. And yet the more-or-less official story was that the fire was so hot that all this metal not only melted but was vaporized. >44 Is this believable? In the first place, if the fire was that hot, how did the upper floors of the Pentagon survive? In the second place, why would the fire have been so hot if it were a hydrocarbon fire? In the third place, even if there was something about the crash that made this hydrocarbon fire extra hot -- hot enough to produce the red flames and other effects shown in the photographs -- would even fire this hot vaporize aluminum and steel? If the official story rests on this account of the laws of physics, it is important enough to run an experiment to test this hypothesis. And this could be done easily enough, using some worn-out Boeing 757.
Even if one believed that there was a chance that such a test might be successful, however, there would be one more condition that would have to be passed. According to at least one version of the official story, authorities were able to identify victims of the crash by their fingerprints. >45 To provide support for the official account, therefore, the fire would have to be hot enough to vaporize aluminum and steel and cool enough to leave human flesh intact. This would, of course, be impossible, so Meyssan is amazed that the Pentagon could evidendy make both of these claims without fear of ridicule. >46
In any case, such a test is no longer necessary because, as with other features of the official account of 9/11, this one evolved into a second version. As Meyssan reports, six months later, in April of 2002, the FBI claimed that enough of the Boeing 757 had been recovered to make possible its almost complete reconstitution. An FBI spokesman, Chris Murray, was quoted as saying: "The pieces of the plane are stocked in a warehouse and they are marked with the serial numbers of flight77" >47 The following month, furthermore, this new version of the official account was supported by Ed Plaugher, who now remembered that when he arrived on the scene he had seen, he said, "pieces of the fuselage, the wings, the landing gear, pieces of the engine, seats," adding: "I can swear to you, it was a plane." He even -- inadvertendy contradicting the Pentagon's statement that the black boxes were not found until 4:00 AM three days later-claimed to have seen one of them. >48
It might seem that US officials could confirm this new version of the fate of Flight 77 by simply showing the warehouse full of recovered pieces to reporters and members of the 9/11 Independent Commission. At most, however, this evidence would show only that much of the airplane had been recovered. It would not tell us that it had been recovered from the Pentagon -- as opposed to Ohio, Kentucky, or somewhere else. It is not possible, therefore, to confirm this theory by pointing to this physical evidence in combination with Ed Plaugher's improved memory. Moreover, this new version, besides being in conflict with Plaugher's statements on September 12, is also in conflict with the statements of Timothy Mitchell and Lee Evey on September 15. If big pieces of the airplane, such as the engines, the fuselage, and the tail, were in the Pentagon, why did these men not see them? Why did Evey not see any "big pieces of the airplane sitting there extending up into the air"? And why have our reporters not asked such obvious questions?
Meyssan's claim that what hit the Pentagon was something other than Flight 77, we have seen, is supported by considerable physical evidence. This claim gathers a little additional support from two more facts reported by Paul Thompson. For one thing, when the flight control transcripts for the 9/11 planes were finally released on October 16, "Flight 77's ends at least 20 minutes before it crashes." >49 Although there is more than one possible explanation for this fact, one of these explanations is that government officials did not want the press and the public to hear what actually occurred during the final 20 minutes of Flight 77. The second fact is the existence of a news story according to which
an employee at a gas station across the street from the Pentagon that services only military personnel says the gas station's security cameras should have recorded the moment of impact. However, he says, "I've never seen what the pictures looked like. The FBI was here within minutes and took the film." >50This report, if true -- and someone could presumably interview the employee, Jose Velasquez -- suggests that the FBI had known that an aircraft was going to crash into the Pentagon. How else can we explain that they got there "within minutes"? And, more directly germane to our present topic, it also suggests that FBI officials feared that the gas station's security cameras might have captured something about the crash scene that they did not want the press or the public to see, and this could have been the fact that the Pentagon was struck by a military missile rather than a commercial airliner. If, by contrast, the camera's pictures supported the governments claims, we would expect the government to have made these pictures public. So these two stories, while not constituting physical evidence as such, do suggest that there is (or at least was) physical evidence that would further undermine the official account.
What about the Reported Sightings of an American Airliner?
Whereas the physical evidence strongly counts against the official theory and instead supports the missile theory, proponents of the official theory have relied primarily upon reports that several eyewitnesses saw an American Airliner hit the Pentagon. For example, one debunker of the view that the Pentagon was not really struck by a Boeing 757 wrote in the Sunday Times that "the killer blow to this conspiracy is that several witnesses saw the plane hit the building." >51 How can critics of the official account reconcile their revisionist view with the fact that these reports exist? There seem to be four main approaches.
One approach builds on the standard forensic point that when there is a conflict between physical evidence and eyewitness testimony, the physical evidence is usually, once its authenticity is confirmed, given more weight. If the prosecuting attorney in a criminal trial has presented a strong case based on physical evidence, the defense attorney can seldom hope to render a "killer blow" to this case simply by presenting eyewitness testimony to the contrary. This is because the human testimony might be wrong for all sorts of reasons, such as misperception, faulty memory, or outright lying (perhaps because of bribery or intimidation). Accordingly, any allegedly eyewitness testimony that contradicts the physical evidence is explained away.
Meyssan employs this approach. The claims by witnesses to have seen an American Airlines plane could be explained, he suggests, in terms of the dynamics of the social psychology of perception and memory, which often leads people to "see" what they expect to see, or to "remember" having seen what they are expected to have seen Given the fact that these witnesses had seen images or heard reports of airliners hitting the WTC and later heard that it was an American Airlines Boeing 757 that hit the Pentagon, it is not at all surprising that several people would report having seen such an airplane headed for the Pentagon, even if the actual aircraft was something quite different. >52
Meyssan combines this approach with a second, which is to point out that there were also several reports of eyewitnesses who said that the aircraft looked and/or sounded like a missile or a military plane. Recall the testimony of, for example, Dulles air traffic controller Danielle O'Brien, who said that all the experienced air traffic controllers in the room thought that it was a military plane and the witness who said that it "seemed to be able to hold eight or twelve persons" and "made a shrill noise like a fighter plane" (see page 26). Meyssan, in addition to quoting the statements of these eyewitnesses and others, points out that an AGM-type missile "does look like a small civilian airplane" and "produces a whistling noise similar to that of a fighter aircraft." On this basis, he counts those who reported seeing a military plane as witnesses on behalf of the missile theory. >53
Finally, having shown that the eyewitnesses supportive of the official theory are at least partly balanced by eyewitnesses supportive of the missile theory, Meyssan can assume that we should take these latter witnesses more seriously. That is, if what hit the Pentagon was a missile, the fact that several people said that they saw a commercial airliner hit the Pentagon is not surprising, given the dynamics of the psychology of perception and memory. But if what hit the Pentagon had been a Boeing 757, it would be very surprising to have reports of people -- especially people with trained eyes and ears -- claiming to have seen a missile or small military plane. These reports of having seen a missile or a small military plane must, accordingly, be given more weight. Properly interpreted, then, the eyewitness testimony does not contradict, but instead supports, the missile theory.
There is, however, a third way to reconcile the physical evidence and the reports of eyewitness testimony supporting the official theory. Rather than explaining away these reports by appealing to the psychology of perception and memory, one could examine the reports themselves more carefully to see if the people actually said what they were reported to have said. This approach is taken by Gerard Holmgren. Beginning with 19 accounts said by the Urban Legends website to be eyewitness testimony that an American airliner hit the Pentagon, >54 Holmgren found, for starters, that a majority of the people cited did not actually claim to have seen the Pentagon hit by a commercial airplane. Instead, "[w]hat they claimed was to have seen a plane flying way too low. and then immediately afterwards to have seen smoke or an explosion coming from the direction of the Pentagon which was out of sight at the time of the collision." (Although this distinction might at first glance seem too picayune, these reports would be compatible with the two-aircraft thesis, to be discussed below.) With regard to the other cases, Holmgren found one or more of the following problems: the alleged witness could not be identified; the claim that the witness had seen an American Airlines plane was added by the reporter or the witness who initially claimed to have seen the American airplane hit the Pentagon withdrew the claim under questioning -- which was the case with Mike Walter of USA Today when he was interviewed on CBS by Bryant Gumbel. >55 "What appeared at first reading to be 19 eyewitness accounts," Holmgren concludes, "actually turned out to be none."
Then, finding ten other reports that initially appeared to provide eyewitness testimony, he found that they all suffered from similar problems. Holmgren's efforts led him to the following conclusion:
My conclusion is that there is no eyewitness evidence to support the theory that F77 hit the Pentagon, unless my search has missed something very significant. Given the strength of the photographic evidence that whatever hit the Pentagon could not possibly have been F77, I can see no reason for not stating this conclusion with a lot of confidence, unless and until contrary evidence emerges. >56There is, finally, a fourth way to reconcile the physical evidence and the eyewitness testimony -- a way that allows an even less skeptical approach to testimony that seems to support the official theory. This approach involves the hypothesis that there were two aircraft heading toward the Pentagon. According to this two-aircraft thesis, both sets of eyewitnesses -- those who reported seeing a missile (which they may have called a small military plane) and those who reported seeing a passenger jet (which they may have specifically identified as an American airliner) -- were correct. Dick Eastman, who develops this both/and position, says that eyewitnesses divide up into three sets: (1) those who reported seeing "an airliner, shiny, red and blue markings, with two engines, in a dive, and flying 'low' in terms of one or two hundred feet, and silent"; (2) those who reported seeing an aircraft coming in "at tree-top level, at '20 feet' all the way, hitting lamp posts in perfect low level flight...engines roaring pouring on speed; smaller than a mid-sized airliner"; and (3) those such as Kelly Knowles, in an apartment two miles away, who "saw two planes moving toward the Pentagon, one veering away as the other crashed." Eastman's analysis can also explain the testimony of those witnesses who combine features of the first two categories by supposing that they saw the American airliner while hearing the missile. Eastmans main point, in any case, is that at least most of the testimony of most of the witnesses can be accepted as accurate, but that the only witnesses who stated the full truth were those in the third category - those who reported seeing two aircraft.
Eastmans theory, in other words, is that an American Airlines plane was putting on an attention-getting exhibition to draw all eyes to itself. Then it flew towards the Pentagon while the missile was heading in the same direction -- too close to the ground for most witnesses to see it even if they had not been distracted by the airliner. Then the airliner veered off at the last second, disappearing behind the immense cloud of smoke produced by the crash. It then landed unnoticed at Reagan National Airport, which was only a mile away in the direction it was headed. >57
These four approaches are not mutually exclusive. Although Eastman and Holmgren take different approaches, they can actually be viewed as mutually supportive. That is, Holmgren's main point is that most of the eyewitnesses who seemed to claim that they saw an American Airlines passenger plane hit the Pentagon actually claimed only that they saw it come very close to the Pentagon just before the explosion. Eastman's two-aircraft hypothesis explains why this distinction may be important and also provides a reconciliation of all the testimony about an American airplane with the physical evidence that the Pentagon was not struck by any such airplane. Also, Meyssan's two approaches can be strengthened by combining them with Eastman's approach, Holmgren's approach, or an Eastman-Holmgren approach. >58
For our present purposes, it is not necessary to decide what the truth of the matter is. The purpose of this discussion has been simply to show that the easy assumption that Meyssan's missile theory is disproved by eyewitness testimony is far from the truth. Having made this point, I now return to the list of reasons for believing that the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon was not Flight 77. The first two reasons, to recall, were that the identification was based on dubious sources and that the physical evidence was incompatible with this identification.
Why Would Terrorists Have Struck the West Wing?
A third fact about the Pentagon crash suggesting that it was not caused by hijackers on Flight 77 was the location of the crash. Assuming that terrorists in control of a Boeing 757 would want to be certain of hitting their target, why would they aim at one of the facades, which are only 80 feet high, when they could have simply dived into the roof, which covers 29 acres? More important, one would assume that they would have wanted to cause as much damage to the Pentagon and kill as many of its employees as possible, and these aims would also have made the roof the logical target. >59 Furthermore, even if there were an answer to that question, why would they hit the west wing, which was the one part of the Pentagon that was being renovated? As the Los Angeles Times reported:
It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars [and blast-resistant windows] to withstand bomb blasts.... While perhaps 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas because of the renovation work only about 800 were there. >60One would also assume that terrorists would be especially interested in killing the Pentagons top civilian and military leaders, but the attack on the west wing killed none of them. >61 Most of the casualties were civilians, many of whom were working on the renovation, "and only one general was to be found among the military victims." >152 If the Pentagon was struck by terrorists flying a Boeing 757, why would they target the west wing, where the crash would have the least rather than the greatest impact? The force of this question is increased by the fact that according to the reported radar data, the aircraft, given its trajectory, was able to hit the west wing only by executing a very difficult downward spiral. >63 In other words, it was actually technically difficult to do as little damage to the Pentagon as was done.
Could an Inexperienced Pilot Have Flown the Aircraft?
This downward spiral was so difficult and so perfectly executed, in fact that it raises a fourth argument against the official account. This argument is that no pilot with the minimal training the hijackers evidently had could have executed this maneuver. >64 On this issue, Ahmed quotes the military expert Stan Goff's description of what he considers "the real kicker" in the official account:
A pilot they want us to believe was trained at a Florida puddle-jumper school for Piper Cubs and Cessnas, conducts a well-controlled downward spiral, descending the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes, brings the plane in so low and flat that it clips the electrical wires across the street from the Pentagon, and flies it with pinpoint accuracy into the side of this building at 460 nauts.... When the theory about learning to fly this well at the puddle-jumper school began to lose ground, it was added that they received further training on a flight simulator. This is like saying you prepared your teenager for her first drive on I-40 at rush hour by buying her a video driving game. >65This argument is made even stronger by the fact that the man who was supposed to be the pilot, Hani Hanjour, was reportedly not just an amateur but also an especially incompetent one. According to a story in the New York Times:
Staff members characterized Mr. Hanjour as polite, meek and very quiet. But most of all, [a] former employee said, they considered him a very bad pilot. "I'm still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon," the former employee said. "He could not fly at all."And according to a report on CBS News:
Months before Hani Hanjour is believed to have flown an American Airlines jet into the Pentagon, managers at an Arizona flight school reported him at least five times to the FAA. They reported him not because they feared he was a terrorist, but because his English and flying skills were so bad.... [T]hey didn't think he should keep his pilots license. "I couldn't believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had," said Peggy Chevrette, Arizona flight school manager. >66How could anyone believe that this pilot could have handled the perfect maneuver executed by the aircraft that hit the Pentagon?
Could Flight 77 Really Have Been Lost for Half an Hour?
A fifth problem that has been raised for the official account is that it entails Flight 77 having flown toward Washington for 29 minutes without being detected by any radar system. A Pentagon spokesman reportedly said: "The Pentagon was simply not aware that this aircraft was coming our way." >67 Thompson asks, rhetorically: "Is it conceivable that an airplane could be lost inside US air space for [that long]?" >68 Even if the
local air controllers did not have the kind of radar system that can track a plane with its transponder off, as claimed. >69 the FAA system certainly would have been able to track the flight path back to Washington. >70 Even more, Meyssan argues, the Pentagon possesses "several very sophisticated radar monitoring systems, incomparable with the civilian systems." The PAVE PAWS system, for example, "does not miss anything occurring in North American airspace." According to its website, it is "capable of detecting and monitoring a great number of targets that would be consistent with a massive SLBM [Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile] attack" Are we to believe that it can do all this, Meyssan wonders, while not being able to detect a single giant airliner headed toward the Pentagon itself? >71
Why Was the Strike Not Prevented by Standard Operating Procedures?
Besides all these questions, which are specific to the strike on the Pentagon, the official account of the Pentagon strike is faced by the generic question: Assuming that the strike was made by Flight 77 under the control of hijackers, why was it not prevented by standard operating procedures? To critics, this question seems even more powerful in relation to this strike because it occurred over a half hour after the second WTC tower was hit, so that the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon should have been in the highest possible state of alert, and also because the Pentagon is probably the most well-defended building on the face of the planet. >72 How does the official account explain the fact that in this case it was not defended at all?
According to the first version, as we have seen, fighter jets were not even ordered until after the Pentagon had been struck. However, since US officials quickly gave up this story, we will move directly to criticisms of the second version. According to this account, given by NORAD, the FAA did not notify it that Flight 77 had been hijacked and was heading toward Washington until 9:24 >73 - which would be 34 minutes after the FAA had, according to the official account, lost radio contact with the plane and 28 minutes after the plane disappeared from its radar. Then at 9:27, NORAD ordered planes scrambled from Langley Air Force Base. These planes are said not to have arrived until about 15 minutes after the Pentagon was struck at 9:38. >74
Critics ask several questions about this account. Why was not the NMCC and hence NORAD, with its superior radar system, independently monitoring the flight path? Even if we ignore this question, how could the FAA have been so leisurely, especially given the fact that shortly after 9:03 everyone in the system would have known that two hijacked airplanes had been flown into the WTC? "Is such a long delay believable," Thompson asks, "or has that information been doctored to cover the lack of any scrambling of fighters?" >75 Also, why would it take NORAD, after finally hearing from the FAA, another three minutes to order planes scrambled? And why would it order those planes from Langley, which is 130 miles from Washington, rather than from Andrews Air Force Base, which is only 10 miles away and has the assignment to protect Washington?
In relation to this last question, USA Today reported that it was told by Pentagon sources that Andrews "had no fighters assigned to it." Another story in that newspaper the same day reported that Andrews did have fighters present "but those planes were not on alert." >76 Bykov and Israel argue that both stories, besides being inherently implausible, are contradicted by the US military information website. According to it, Andrews houses the 121st Fighter Squadron of the 113th Fighter Wing, which is equipped with F-16 fighters and "provides capable and ready response forces for the District of Columbia in the event of natural disaster or civil emergency." Andrews also has the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 321, which "flies the sophisticated F/A-18 Hornet" and is supported by a reserve squadron that "provides maintenance and supply functions necessary to maintain a force in readiness." >77 Andrews also has the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG), which said on its website that its "mission" was "to provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness." >78 In addition to this evidence, the falsity of the claim that Andrews had no fighters on alert, say critics, is shown by the fact that, as widely reported, immediately after the attack on the Pentagon, F-l6s from Andrews were flying over Washington. >79 One of the disturbing questions, therefore, is why the Pentagon would have put out disinformation.
Another question is why some of the websites were changed after 9/11. Thompson reports, for example, that the DCANG website was changed to say merely that it had a "vision" to "provide peacetime command and control and administrative mission oversight to support customers, DCANG units, and NGB in achieving the highest state of readiness." >80 In any case, it remains a puzzle, these critics say, why officials NORAD -- or NMCC -- would have ordered planes to come from Langley, unless they were simply inventing a story to explain why no planes appeared in time to stop the attack If so, the critics add, even this story is inadequate. Thompson writes (from within the framework of the official account) that if F-l6s from Langley were airborne by 9:30, as alleged, they
would have to travel slightly over 700 mph to reach Washington before Flight 77 does. The maximum speed of an F-16 is 1,500 mph. Even at traveling 1,300 mph, these planes could have reached Washington in six minutes -- well before any claim of when Flight 77 crashed. >81Given the fact that the planes were said to arrive 15 minutes too late, critics find this story absurd. As George Szamuely puts it: "If it took the F-l6s half an hour to cover 150 miles, they could not have been traveling at more than 300 mph -- at 20 percent capability." >82 In any case, had the jet fighters been ordered from Andrews, as they should have been, they would have had even more time.
A still deeper problem is why the fighters were not flying over Washington long before that. Captain Michael Jellinek, the command director of NORAD, reportedly said that at some point not long after the first attack on the WTC, telephone links were established with the NMCC, Strategic Command, theater commanders, and federal emergency-response agencies in order to have an Air Threat Conference Call. At one time or another, it was reported, the voices of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, key military officers, FAA and NORAD leaders, the White House, and Air Force One were heard on the open line. Brigadier General Montague Winfield, head of the NMCC, reportedly said: "All of the governmental agencies there that, that were involved in any activity that was going on in the United States at that point, were in that conference." The call reportedly continued right through the Pentagon explosion. >83 One implication of this admitted fact is that all of these individuals and agencies would have known since 8:56 that Flight 77 was presumed to be hijacked and also that all airplane takeoffs from Washington were stopped shortly after the crash of Flight 175 at 9:03. Thompson asks: "Why is the emergency considered important enough to stop all takeoffs from Washington at this time, but not important enough to scramble even a single plane to defend Washington?" >84
Why Was the Pentagon Not Evacuated?
One of the disturbing questions raised by the crash of Flight 175 into the second tower of the WTC, as we saw, was why there was a public announcement telling people that the building was secure so they should return to their offices. A similar question is raised by the attack on the Pentagon, even if the official account is accepted. According to this account, Flight 77 was lost at 8:56, just after the radar allegedly showed it making a U-turn back towards Washington. Given the fact that the Pentagon was called by its staff "Ground Zero," even having a snack bar of that name, >85 why would its officials, knowing of the attacks on the WTC, not have ordered its immediate evacuation? Furthermore, even if they did not do so shortly after 8:56, why did they not do so immediately upon learning that the air traffic controllers had spotted an unidentified fast-flying aircraft heading in the direction of the Pentagon and the White House at 9:25? In the 13 minutes remaining before the Pentagon was hit, virtually everyone, presumably, could have been evacuated.
In explaining why this was not done, a Pentagon spokesman said: "The Pentagon was simply not aware that this aircraft was coming our way." Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his top aides, in particular, were said to be unaware of any danger up to the moment of impact. >86 However, since the crash of the first plane into the WTC at 8:46, according to the New York Times, "military officials in [the National Military Command Center] on the east side of the [Pentagon] were urgendy talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do." And, according to the official story, the FAA had notified NORAD at 9:24 that Flight 77 appeared to be headed back towards Washington. >87 Having cited these reports, Thompson asks: "Is it believable that everyone in the Pentagon outside of that command center, even the Secretary of Defense, would remain uninformed?" >88 And if it is not believable, then why were those people in the west wing allowed to be killed?
Official Reaction to Meyssan's Theory
When Meyssan's theory was published, it was immediately denounced by U.S. officials. On April 2, 2002, the FBI issued a statement saying:
To even suggest that AA77 did not crash into the Pentagon on September 11 is the ultimate insult to the memory of the 59 men, women and children on AA77 and the 125 dedicated military and civilian workers in the Pentagon who were ruthlessly murdered by terrorists on September 11.A similar statement was made later that month on behalf of the Department of Defense by Victoria Clarice, who said:
I think even the suggestion of it is ludicrous. And finally, it is just an incredible, incredible insult to the friends and the relatives and the family members of the almost 200 people that got killed here on September 11th and the thousands who were killed in New York.>89Meyssan agrees, of course, that the 125 Pentagon workers were ruthlessly murdered by terrorists. He simply disagrees with the official theory as to the identity of these ruthless terrorists. He also agrees that it would be an insult to the victims and their families and friends for anyone knowingly to perpetrate a false account of who was responsible. He simply disagrees on the question of who is guilty of this insult. These mutual recriminations, of course, settle nothing. What we need is a full investigation into the strike on the Pentagon, in conjunction with such an investigation into the attacks on the World Trade Center, in which all the disturbing questions raised by Meyssan and other critics of the official accounts can be thoroughly examined.
If the evidence related to the strike on the Pentagon is added, the third of the possible views discussed in the Introduction would seem to be ruled out. According to that view, no US officials participated in the planning for the attacks. But the evidence about the Pentagon strike presented by the critics of the official account, especially Meyssan, seems to require active planning by members of the US military, at least in this incident (because only an aircraft belonging to the US military would have had a transponder that signaled friendly to the Pentagons antimissile batteries and thereby avoided being shot down). Although the evidence from this flight itself might allow these members to belong to some rogue outfit within the military, the evidence from the previous flights has already shown that the conspirators must have included NMCC officials in the Pentagon itself Also, if the stories about Rumsfeld's prediction of the strike on the Pentagon as well as the strike on one of the WTC towers is true, the civilian head of the Pentagon would seem to have known when the attacks were to occur.
To summarize where we are with regard to the first three flights: From the point of view of the critics, a scrutiny of the official account of 9/11 in light of the actual facts leaves us only two possible conclusions: our government and military leaders were either incredibly incompetent or criminally complicit. And the problem with the incompetence theory, says Canada's award-winning journalist Barrie Zwicker, is that "[i]ncompetence usually earns reprimands" and yet "there have been no reports, to my knowledge, of reprimands." He then adds: "This causes me to ask--and other media need to ask--if there were 'stand down' orders." >90 Answering his own question, he says:
In the almost two hours of the total drama not a single US Air Force interceptor turns a wheel until it's too late. Why? Was it total incompetence on the part of aircrews trained and equipped to scramble in minutes?... Simply to ask these few questions is to find the official narrative frankly implausible. The more questions you pursue, it becomes more plausible that there's a different explanation: Namely, that elements within the top US military, intelligence and political leadership...are complicit in what happened on September the 11th.>91Gore Vidal reaches the same conclusion. Reflecting on the official rejection of any inquiry "not limited to the assumption that the administrations inaction was solely a consequence of 'breakdowns among federal agencies,'" he concludes:
So for reasons that we must never know, those "breakdowns" are to be the goat. That they were more likely to be not break but "stand-downs" is not for us to pry. Certainly the hour-twenty-minute failure to put fighter planes in the air could not have been due to a breakdown throughout the entire Air Force along the East Coast. Mandatory standard operating procedure had been told to cease and desist,>92Both Zwicker and Vidal conclude that complicity rather than incompetence--"stand down" rather than "break down"--is the more plausible explanation of how the attacks on the WTC could have succeeded.
Relevant to this discussion is Michael Parentis observation that political leaders sometimes "seize upon incompetence as a cover"--that is, as a way to deny their active involvement in some illegal operation.
This admission of incompetence is then "eagerly embraced by various commentators," because they prefer to see their leaders as suffering from incompetence "rather than to sec deliberate deception." Is that what is going on here? Ahmed, reflecting on Jared Israel's discussion, says that if there was as much incompetence on 9/11 as the official account irnplies "then evidence of institutional incompetence within these emergency response services should have frequently surfaced during previous responses to routine emergencies, possible hijackings, and so on. There is no such evidence" xx93 Must not this question be pressed? How could a system that normally works flawlessly, according to all available evidence, suddenly, on the day that these attacks were scheduled to occur, suffer so many inexplicable breakdowns?
This question has not gone unasked by family members of the victims of 9/11. For example, Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband died in the WTC, said on Phil Donahue's television show:
I don't understand how a plane could hit our Defense Department... an hour after the first plane hit the first tower. I don't understand how that is possible. I'm a reasonable person. But when you look at the fact that we spend a half trillion dollars on national defense and you're telling me that a plane is able to hit our Pentagon...an hour after the first tower is hit? There are procedures and protocols in place in this nation that are to be followed when transponders are disconnected, and they were not followed on September 11th.xx94Do we not owe her an answer?
An interesting footnote to this chapter: While correcting page proofs, I learned of an interview with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld in the Pentagon on October 12, 2001, in which he, in speaking of the various kinds of weapons used by the terrorists, referred to "the missile [used] to damage this building."xx95 Was this a revealing slip?
FOOTNOTES for chapter 2:hint: press the BACK-button on your browser to jump back to the original text-location
1Meyssan. Pentagate. 88. That there was concern in the Bush administration to squelch this rumor is suggested by the fact that Vice President Chcney, in his appearance on "Meet the Press" on September 16, took time to refute it even though he had not been asked about it. In response to a simple comment about Flight 77, Cheney said that the terrorists, after capturing this plane, "turned off the transponder, which led to a later report that a plane had gone down over Ohio, but it really hadn't. Of course, then they turned back and headed back towards Washington" (quoted in Meyssan, 9/11: The Big Lie, 165).
FLIGHT 93: WAS IT THE ONE FLIGHT THAT WAS SHOT DOWN?
The crucial items in the first part of this timeline are the following: Flight 93 departed from Newark 41 minutes late, at 8:42 AM. At 9:27, one passenger, Tom Burnett, called his wife, telling her that the plane had been hijacked and that she should call the FBI, which she did. At 9:28, ground flight controllers heard sounds of screaming and scuffling. At 9:34, Tom Burnett again called his wife, who told him about the attacks on the WTC, leading him to realize that his own plane was on "a suicide mission." At 9:36, the plane turned toward Washington. At 9:37, Jeremy Glick and two other passengers learned about the WTC attacks.>1 At 9:45, Tom Burnett told his wife that he did not think, contrary to the hijackers' claim, that they had a bomb, and that he and others were making a plan. By this time, which was 19 minutes before the plane went down, the FBI was monitoring these calls. At 9:45, with the FBI listening in, passenger Todd Beamer began a long phone conversation with a Verizon representative, describing the situation on board.>2 Shortly after 9:47, Jeremy Click told his wife that all the men had voted to attack the hijackers, adding that the latter had only knives, no guns (which would, in combination with the conviction that the hijackers did not really have a bomb, have increased the passengers' belief that they could be successful).>3 At 9:54, Tom Burnett called his wife again. According to early reports, he said: "I know we're all going to die. There's three of uswho are going to do something about it.">4 However, according to a later more complete account, he sounded more optimistic, saying: "It's up to us. I think we can do it," adding that they were planning to gain control of the plane over a rural area.>5
The following incidents in Thompson's timeline suggest to him that the plane was shot down after it became evident that the passengers -- among whom were a professional pilot and a flight controller >6 -- might gain control of the plane. At 9:57, one of the hijackers was heard saying that there was fighting outside the cockpit. A voice from outside said: "Let's get them." At 9:58, Todd Beamer ended his phone call by saying that the passengers planned "to jump" the hijacker in the back of the plane, then uttered his famous words: "Are you ready guys? Let's roll.">7 At 9:58, a passenger talking on the phone to her husband said: "I think they're going to do it. They're forcing their way into the cockpit." A little later, she exclaimed: "They're doing it! They're doing it! They're doing it!" But her husband then heard screaming in the background followed by a "whooshing sound, a sound like wind," then more screaming, after which he lost contact.>8 Another passenger, calling from a restroom, reportedly said just before contact was lost that he heard "some sort of explosion" and saw "white smoke coming from the plane.">9 (Months later, the FBI denied that the recording of this call contained any mention of smoke or an explosion, but the person who took this call was not allowed to speak to the media.>10) The person listening to Jeremy Click's open phone line reportedly said: "The silence lasted two minutes and then there was a mechanical sound, followed by more screams. Finally, there was a mechanical sound, followed by nothing.">11 According to one newspaper report, moreover: "Sources claim the last thing heard on the cockpit voice recorder is the sound of wind -- suggesting the plane had been holed.">12 Thompson believes that this record shows that the plane was indeed "holed" -- shot down by a missile or two -- after it seemed that the passengers were gaining control of it.
Thompson is also suspicious about the tape of the cockpit recording and the official crash time. Relatives of victims have been allowed to listen to this tape. It begins at 9:31 and runs for 31 minutes, so that it ends at 10:02. This would be close to the time of the crash -- if the crash occurred at 10:03, as the US government claims. However, a seismic study concluded that the crash occurred slightly after 10:06, leading the Philadelphia Daily News to print an article entitled "Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape." Thompson asks: "What happened to the last three or four minutes of this tape?">13 And this was not, Thompson reports, the only record of this flight that was missing. On October 16, the government released flight control transcripts of the airplanes -- except for Flight 93.>14
With regard to the suspicion that the plane was shot down, it is significant that according to news reports, it was shortly after 9:56 that fighter jets were finally given orders to intercept and shoot down any airplanes under the control of hijackers.>15 Shortly thereafter, a military aide reportedly said to Vice President Cheney: "There is a plane 80 miles out. There is a fighter in the area. Should we engage?", to which Cheney responded "Yes," after which an F-16 went in pursuit of Flight 93.>16 It was also reported that as the fighter got nearer to Flight 93, Cheney was asked two more times to confirm that the fighter should engage, which Cheney did.>17 Also, Brigadier General Winfield of the NMCC later said: "At some point, the closure time came and went, and nothing happened, so you can imagine everything was very tense at the NMCC.">18 Furthermore, when President Bush was told of the crash of Flyght 93 at 10:08, he reportedly asked: "Did we shoot it town or did it crash?">19 These reports, which are contained in Thompsons timeline, suggest to him that the intention to shoot down Flight 93 was in several minds.
Reports of fighter jets in the area add to his suspicion that Flight 93 was indeed shot down. Shortly before the crash, CBS television reported that two F-16 fighters were tailing the flight. And a flight controller, ignoring an order to controllers not to talk to the media, reportedly said that "an F-16 fighter closely pursued Flight 93.... [T]he F-16 made 360-degree turns to remain close to the commercial jet.">20 The existence of a fighter plane in the area is supported, furthermore, by many witnesses on the ground. Accorting to a story in the Independent, "At least half a dozen named individuals...have reported seeing a second plane flying low...over the crash site within minutes of the United flight crashing. They describe the plane as a small, white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings.">21 The FBI claimed that the plane was a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet.>22 But, said one woman:
It was white with no markings but it was definitely military... It had two rear engines, a big fin on the back like a spoiler.... It definitely wasn't one of those executive jets. The FBI came and talked to me andsaid there was no plane around.... But I saw it and it was there before the crash and it was 40 feet above my head. They did not want story.>23Her assertion, which is supported by the consensus reported by the Independent, is further supported by statements quoted by Thompson in which several other people say that they had seen a white plane, with some of them adding the details about rear engines and the lack of discernible markings.
Even stronger evidence that the plane was shot down is provided by witnesses who heard sounds. One witness said that after she heard the planes engine, she heard "a loud thump" and then "two more loud thumps and didn't hear the plane's engine anymore." Another witness heard "a loud bang." Another heard "two loud bangs" before watching the plane take a downward turn. Another heard a sound that "wasn't quite right," after which the plane "dropped all of a sudden, like a stone." Another heard a "loud bang" and then saw the plane's right wing dip, after which the plane plunged into the earth. And the mayor of Shanksville (Ernie Stull, see the german Wisnewski video Aktenzeichen 911) reportedly said that he knew of two people who "heard a missile," adding that one of them "served in Vietnam and he says he's heard them." Thompson concludes that while some of the accounts have conflicting elements, they "virtually all support a missile strike.">24
This conclusion is undergirded still further by reports about the location of remnants from the plane. For one thing, a half-ton piece or one of the engines was reportedly found over a mile away. One newspaper story called this fact "intriguing" because "the heat-seeking, air-to-air Sidewinder missiles aboard an F-16 would likely target one of the Boeing 757's two large engines.">25 Also consistent with one or more missile strikes, Thompson points out, is the fact that witnesses reported seeing burning debris fall from the plane as far as eight miles away, with workers at Indian Lake Marina saying that they saw "a cloud of confetti-like debris descend on the lake and nearby farms minutes after hearing the explosion.">26 And debris, including what appeared to be human remains, was indeed reportedly found as far as eight miles from the crash site.>27
The inference that Flight 93 was shot down is additionally supported by subsequent statements made by military and government officials. One F-15 pilot reportedly said that after returning from his assignment to patrol the skies over NYC in the early afternoon, he was told that a military F-16 had shot down a fourth airliner in Pennsylvania.>28 This rumor was sufficiently widespread that when General Myers was being interviewed by the Armed Services Committee on September 13, Senator Carl Levin, asking Myers whether the Defense Department took action against any aircraft, mentioned that "there have been statements that the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania was shot down," adding: "Those stories continue to exist." Although Myers declared that "the armed forces did not shoot down any aircraft,">29 Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, reportedly said that "the Air Force was tracking the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania...and had been in a position to bring it down if necessary.">30
Thompson believes that the government decided that it was necessary -- but not because the hijackers' mission was going to succeed. Thompson asks why fighter pilots were given authorization to shoot down hijacked airplanes only after Flight 93 was the only one left in the sky.>31 This is, of course, the disturbing question raised by the evidence Thompson presents about this flight. His implicit answer, given the evidence that the passengers were successfully wresting control of the plane away from the hijackers, is that this was the one plane that was likely to be landed safely -- which would, among other things, mean that there might be live hijackers to be interrogated. Thus interpreted, the evidence about Flight 93 provides further reason to conclude that the failure to shoot down the previous three flights was not due to incompetence. This evidence suggests that when the authorities wanted a flight shot down, they were not hindered by lack of either competence or coordination.
The evidence from this flight suggests, like the previous ones, active involvement of US military leaders in planning the attacks. In this case, they apparendy also had to take remedial action because of an unexpected development. With regard to the possible levels of official complicity listed in the Introduction: Insofar as the revisionary account of Flight 93 (and/or Flight 77) is accepted, all the possible views lower than the fifth one are ruled out.
An intriguing dimension of this story is that Flight 93's fate was evidently due to the fact that it was 41 minutes late departing from the airport. All four flights were scheduled to leave at about the same time and were hence probably intended to hit their respective targets at about the same time. The other three planes were fairly well synchronized departing only between 10 and 16 minutes late. But because Flight 93's departure was 41 minutes late, by the time the hijackers took control of it the two planes headed toward the WTC had already hit their targets Passengers making phone calls from Flight 93 learned, therefore, that their flight was on a suicide mission. Unlike the passengers on the two flights headed for the WTC, accordingly, the passengers on Flight 93, knowing that they were headed for certain death if they remained passive, decided to try to gain control of the plane.>32 Had the plane not been so late leaving, the passengers may not have tried this, so this plane might also have hit its target.
Had it hit its target, furthermore, we might well look back upon Flight 93s mission as in some respects the most devastating one. Evacuation of the US Capitol building did not begin until 9:48, which was 23 minutes after an unidentified aircraft had been spotted flying across Washington and 10 minutes after it had hit the Pentagon. What if Flight 93 had been more nearly on time? Thompson says: "It is later reported that the target for Flight 93 was the Capitol building, so had that flight not been delayed 40 minutes before takeoff, it is possible most senators and congresspeople would have been killed.">33 Thompson is perhaps trying to motivate them to undertake a more far-reaching investigation into the events of 9/11.
Also, given the fact that the other main hypothesis about Flight 93'sintended target is that it was the White House, critics also wonder why it was not evacuated sooner. According to many news reports, both Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice were taken to the White House's underground bunker by the Secret Service at about 9:03. >34 However, it was over 40 minutes later, at 9:45, when a general evacuation of the White House was begun.>35 If it was thought at 9:03 that Cheney and Rice were in danger, why were not the other people told to leave at that time? At the very least, why was the White House not evacuated shortly after 9:25, when the air traffic controllers at Dulles reported a fast-flying plane headed toward the White House? This question is even more pressing insofar as the official account of Flight 77 is accepted, according to which the passengers were told that they were all going to the because the plane was going to crash into the White House.>36 Had that been true, people working in the White House, instead of people working in the Pentagon, would have been killed, since the evacuation of the White House did not begin until seven minutes after the Pentagon was struck. We have, accordingly, still another disturbing question: Was there a plan to have deaths in the White House or the US Capitol Building as well as the Pentagon and the World Trade Center?
FOOTNOTES for Chapter 3hint: press the BACK-button on your browser to jump back to the original text-location
1Thompson, "September 11" (8:42 AM), (9:27 AM), (9:36 AM), and (9:37 AM).
THE PRESIDENT'S BEHAVIOR: WHY DID HE ACT AS HE DID?
The president's schedule that day called for him to visit an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida, where he was to listen to students read as a "photo opportunity." He arrived at the school shortly before 9:00 AM, at which time, according to at least one version of the official account, he was told that a plane had flown into the WTC. Since it was by then known that this plane as well as two others had been hijacked, one would assume, critics point out, that the president would also know this. Allan Wood and Paul Thompson state the problem thus:
The first media reports of Flight 11's crash into the World Trade Center began around 8:48, two minutes after the crash happened. CNN broke into its regular programming at that time.... So within minutes, millions were aware of the story, yet Bush supposedly remained unaware for about another ten minutes.>1Critics find this difficult to believe.
The members of the president s traveling staff, including the Secret Service, argues Barrie Zwicker, "have the best communications equipment in the world." Accordingly, says Zwicker, within a minute after the first airliner hit the World Trade Center, the Secret Service and the president would have known about it.>2 In fact, Thompson points out, Vice President Cheney evidendy let the cat out of the bag. During his interview on "Meet the Press" on September 16, Cheney said: "The Secret Service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was..."--stopping himself, Thompson adds, before finishing the sentence.>3 So, the Secret Service personnel in the presidents motorcade, including the ones in his own car, would have known about the first attack on the WTC before the motorcade arrived at the school at 9:00. Indeed, it is even part of the official account that Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, learned about the first attack on the way. Having cited that story, Thompson adds: "It would make sense that Bush is told about the crash immediately and at the same time that others hear about it. Yet Bush and others claim he isn't told until he arrives at the school." Thompsons implied question, of course, is that if President Bush knew about the crash before arriving at the school, why did he and others pretend otherwise?
The vice presidents inadvertent revelation about the open lines between the Secret Service and the FAA creates an even greater difficulty, critics point out, for another part of the official account. Upon learning that a plane had hit the WTC, President Bush reportedly referred to the crash as a "horrible accident.">4 However, Zwicker's complete statement, only partially summarized above, includes the point that by that time, the Secret Service and the president would have known that several airliners had been hijacked. So how could President Bush have assumed that the first crash into the WTC was an accident? Giving voice to the disturbing question raised by this story, Thompson asks: "[Are] Bush and his aides putting on a charade to pretend he doesn't know there is a national emergency? If so, why?">5
In any case, the president was then reportedly updated on the situation via telephone by his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, who would presumably have made sure that he knew not only about all the hijackings but also that the Director of the CIA, George Tenet, had already concluded that the hijackings were orchestrated by Osama bin Laden to carry out terrorist attacks.>6 But the president reportedly told the school's principal that "a commercial plane has hit the World Trade Center and we're going to go ahead and...do the reading thing anyway.">7
Critics find this incredible. If the hijackings were unanticipated occurrences, as claimed, with one of the hijacked airplanes having already completed its terrorist mission, the country was suffering the worst terrorist attack of its history. And yet the Commander in Chief, rather than making sure that his military was prepared to shoot down all hijacked planes, sticks to his planned schedule. The strangeness of this behavior is brought out well in a summary of the situation by Wood and Thompson:
At approximately 8:48 AM...,the first pictures of the burning World Trade Center were broadcast on live television.... By that time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon, the White House, the Secret Service, and Canada's Strategic Command all knew that three commercial airplanes had been hijacked. They knew that one plane had been flown deliberately into the World Trade Center's North Tower; a second plane was wildly off course and also heading toward Manhattan.... So why, at 9:03 - fifteen minutes after it was clear the United States was under terrorist attack--did President Bush sit down with a classroom of second-graders and begin a 20-minute pre-planned photo op?>8Bush's behavior is made even more astounding by the fact that his Secret Service would have had to assume that he was one of the intended targets. Indeed, one Secret Service agent, seeing the television coverage of the crash of the second airliner into the WTC, reportedly said: "We're out of here.">9 But if one of the agents actually said this, he was obviously overruled. At the same time, by contrast, Cheney and Rice were reportedly being rushed to bunkers under the White House.>10 And yet, "For some reason, Secret Service agents [do] not hustle [Bush] away," comments the Globe and Mail ''Why doesn't this happen to Bush at the same time?" Thompson asks. "Why doesn't the Secret Service move Bush away from his known location?">11 The reason for pressing this question is that, as Wood and Thompson point out: "Hijackers could have crashed a plane into Bush's publicized location and his security would have been completely helpless to stop it.">12
This apparently unconcerned behavior, critics point out, continued for almost an hour. The intelligence expert James Bamford has written:
[H]aving just been told that the country was under attack, the Commander in Chief appeared uninterested in further details. He never asked if there had been any additional threats, where the artacks were coming from, how to best protect me country from further attacks.... Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day's photo op. >13This photo opportunity involved, as indicated above, the president's listening to second graders read a book about a pet goat. After Bush had been in the classroom a few minutes, his chief of staff, Andrew Card came in and whispered in his ear, reportedly telling him about the second attack. But the president, after a brief pause, had the children go ahead with the reading demonstration. To emphasize the strangeness of this behavior, Bamford adds this reflection:
As President Bush continued with his reading lesson, life within the burning towers of the World Trade Center was becoming ever more desperate.... Within minutes, people began jumping, preferring a quick death to burning alive or suffocating.>14While this was going on, the president was listening to the students read: "The-Pet-Goat. A-girl-got-a-pet-goat. But-the-goat-did-some-things-that-made-the-girls-dad-mad." After listening to this for several minutes, President Bush made a joke, saying: "Really good readers, whew! These must be sixth graders!">15
Another person who has found the contrast between the presidents behavior and what was happening in New York troubling is Lorie van Auken, whose husband was one of the victims of the attacks on the towers. Having obtained the video of the presidents session with the children, she watched it over and over, saying later: "I couldn't stop watching the president sitting there, listening to second graders, while my husband was burning in a building." Also, noting that the president had just been told by an advisor that the country was under attack, she wondered how the president could make a joke.>16
Besides joking, the president lingered, not at all acting like a commander in chief with an emergency on his hands. Indeed, according to a book called Fighting Back by the White House correspondent for the Washington Times, Bill Sammon--a book that presents the White House perspective on most issues and generally provides an extremely sympathetic account of the president >17--Bush was "openly stretching out the moment." When the lesson was over, according to Sammon's account, Bush said:
Hoo! These are great readers. Very impressive! Thank you all so much for showing me your reading skills. I bet they practice too. Don't you? Reading more than they watch TV? Anybody do that? Read more than you watch TV? [Hands go up] Oh that's great! Very good. Very important to practice! Thanks for having me. Very impressed. >18Bush then continued to talk, advising the children to stay in school and be good citizens. And in response to a question, he talked about his education policy." Sammon describes Bush as smiling and chatting with the children "as if he didn't have a care in the world" and "in the most relaxed manner imaginable." After a reporter asked if the president had heard about what had happened in New York, Bush said, "I'll talk about it later," then, in Sammons words, "stepped forward and shook hands with [the classroom teacher] Daniels, slipping his left hand behind her in another photo-op pose. He was taking his good old time.... Bush lingered until the press was gone." Sammon, in fact, refers to the president as "the dawdler in chief.">20
Amazingly, perhaps stung by the criticisms of the president's behavior, the White House put out a different account a year later. Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, was quoted as saying that after he told the president about the second attack on the World Trade Center, Bush "excused himself very politely to the teacher and to the students" and left the classroom within "a matter of seconds.">21 In an alternative wording of the new story, Card said, "Not that many seconds later the president excused himself from the classroom.">22 Apparently, say critics, the White House was so confident that none of its lies about 9/11 would be challenged by the media that it felt safe telling this one even though it is flatly contradicted by Sammons pro-Bush book and by the video tape produced that day, which, as Wood and Thompson put it, "shows these statements are lies--unless 'a matter of seconds' means over 700 seconds!"23
In any case, back to real history, the president finally left the classroom at 9:16 to meet with his advisors, reportedly to prepare his television address to the nation, which he delivered at 9:29. Thompson comments: "The talk occurs at exactly the time and place stated in his publicly announced advance schedule--making Bush a possible terrorist target.">24 And not only Bush. When Andrew Card and Karl Rove were later asked why the president had not left the classroom as soon as he had word of the second attack, their answer, Wood and Thompson point out, was that he did not want to upset the children. But, they ask, "why didn't Bush's concern for the children extend to not making them and the rest of the 200 or so people at the school terrorist targets?">25 Might the answer be that Bush knew that there was really no danger?
In any case, the president and his people then went in their scheduled motorcade on their scheduled route to the airport, during which they reportedly learned that the Pentagon had been struck and also heard that the president's plane, Air Force One, was a terrorist target. Nevertheless no military escort was ordered. "Amazingly," says Thompson, "his plane takes off without any fighters protecting it,">26 This seems especially surprising given the feet that there were still over 3,000 planes in the air over the United States and there was no way to know at that time how many airlines had been hijacked. For example, about an hour later, Thompson reports, the FAA had said that there were six missing aircraft-- a figure that Cheney subsequendy mentioned--and at one time eleven flights were suspected of having been hijacked.>27 According to Karl Rove, furthermore, the Secret Service had learned of "a specific threat made to Air Force One.">28 So, why had fighter jets not been ordered from one of the two nearby military bases, which have fighters on 24-hour alert?>29
The strangeness of the president's behavior, given the apparent circumstances, has not gone unnoticed by family members of the victims of the attacks of 9/11. For example, Kristen Breitweiser, whose question about how a plane could have struck the Pentagon was quoted earlier, also said:
It was clear that we were under attack. Why didn't the Secret Service whisk him out of that school? He was on live local television in Florida. The terrorists, you know, had been in Florida.... I want to know why he sat there for 25 minutes.>30Much attention at the time was given to the fact that once Air Force Onebecame airborne at 9:55, President Bush remained away from Washington for a long time, perhaps, speculated some commentators, out of fear. Indeed, some reporters who criticized the president on that score lost their jobs >31--which may account for why the White House could later be confident that the news media would not challenge any of its fabrications. In any case, the real question, the critics suggest, is why there was apparently no fear during the first hour. The implied question is, of course, a disturbing one: Did the president and at least the head of his Secret Service detail know that he was not a target?
The idea that the Bush administiarion had advance knowledge of the attacks is further suggested by a statement later made by Bush himslef: "I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in," he claimed, "and I saw an airplane hit the tower--the TV was obviously on, and I used to fly myself, and I said, There's one terrible pilot.">32 Given the fact that according to the official story, Bush did not have access to a television set until at least 15 minutes later,>33 this statement raised questions. An article in the Boston Herald said:
Think about that. Bush's remark implies he saw the first plane hit the tower. But we all know that video of the first plane hitting did not surface until the next day. Could Bush have meant he saw the second plane hit--which many Americans witnessed? No, because he said that he was in the classroom when Card whispered in his ear that a second plane hit.Pointing out that Bush had told this story several times, the writer asked: "How could the Commander-in-chief have seen the plane fly into the first building--as it happened?">34
This is an excellent question. But it is simply one of many excellent questions mat have been raised by individual reporters and then allowed to die by the rest of the news media. They have not pressed for an answer.
Thierry Meyssan, however, has suggested a possible answer. Pointing out that "according to his own declaration, the President of the United States saw pictures of the first crash before the second had taken place," Meyssan emphasizes the fact that the pictures reportedly seen by Bush could not have been "those accidentally filmed by French documentary-makers Jules and Gedeon Naudet," because "their video was not released until thirteen hours later." On the morning of 9/11, therefore, Bush could not have seen the pictures of the first crash that we have all seen time and time again. Therefore, Meyssan suggests, the pictures must
have been secret images transmitted to him without delay in the secure communications room that was installed in the elementary school in preparation for his visit. But if the US intelligence services could have filmed the first attack, that means they must have been informed beforehand.>35Meyssans suggestion, in other words, is that although the president did not see the plane fly into the first building "as it happened," he did see it, as he claimed, before he went into the classroom.
According to critics of the official account, in sum, the behaviour of President Bush on 9/11 reinforces the conclusion, inferable from the fate of the four crashed airliners, that government and military officials at the highest level had advance knowledge of, and conspired to allow; the traumatic events of that day.>36 With regard to our list of possible views, furthermore, the critical account of the president's behaviour seems to eliminate the first five possible views, according to which the White House had no expectation of any attacks. The behavior of President Bush and his Secret Service seems to imply at least the sixth view, according to which the White House expected some sort of arracks. Furthemore, if we accept Meyssans conjecture about Bush's statement that he saw the first WTC crash on television before entering the classroom, the seventh view--according to which the White House had foreknowledge of the targets and the timing of the attacks--is suggested. That view is also suggested by the evidence that President Bush and his Secret Service seemed to know that they would not be targets of the attack.
For the critics of the official account, this conclusion for some sort of official complicity is made even stronger when the events of 9/11 are seen in me larger context provided by information about relevant events both prior to and after 9/11. This larger context will be the subject of the second part of this book.
FOOTNOTES for Chapter fourhint: press the BACK-button on your browser to jump back to the original text-location
1Allan Wood and Paul Thompson, "An Interesting Day. President Bush's Movements and Actions on 9/11," Center for Cooperative Research (www.cooperativeresearch.org), under "When Did Bush First Learn of the Attacks," citing New York Times, September 15, and CNN, September 11, 2001. (This article will henceforth be cited simply as "Wood and Thompson," followed by the heading under which the material is found.)
THE LARGER CONTEXT
DID US OFFICIALS HAVE ADVANCE INFORMATION ABOUT 9/11?
Many leading officials in the Bush administration have claimed that the events of 9/11 were completely unanticipated. For example, Condoleezza Rice, Bush's National Security Advisor, said in May of 2002: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use...a hijacked airplane as a missile.">1 The next month, President Bush, in an address to the nation, said: "Based on everything I've seen, I do not believe anyone could have prevented the horror of September the 11th.">2 A further claim, endorsed in the summary of the final report of the Joint Inquiry conducted by the intelligence committees of the US Senate and House of Representatives, is that although there were some indications of plans for terrorist attacks within the United States, "it was the general view of the Intelligence Community, in the spring and summer of 2001, that the threatened bin Laden attacks would most likely occur against US interests overseas.">3 These general claims can be divided into two more particular ones, each of which has been challenged by critics of the official account.
Was the Very Possibility of Such Attacks not Envisioned?
One of these claims is that the very possibility that someone would use planes as weapons had not been imagined. For example, a defense official was quoted as saying: "I don't think any of us envisioned an internal air threat by big aircraft. I don't know of anybody that ever thought through that." >4 About a year later, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said: "Until the attack took place, i think it's fair to say that no one envisioned that as a possibility.
Critics say, however, that there is much evidence to the contrary. For example, in 1993 a panel of experts commissioned by the Pentagon suggested that airplanes could be used as missiles to bomb national landmarks. However, this notion was not published in its report, Terror 2000, because, said one of its authors: "We were told by the Department of Defense not to put it in." But in 1994, one of these experts wrote in the Futurist magazine:
Targets such as the World Trade Center not only provide the requisite casualties but, because of their symbolic nature, provide more bang for the buck. In order to maximize their odds for success, terrorist groups will likely consider mounting multiple, simultaneous operations.>6In that same year, there were three airplanes hijacked with the intent to use them as weapons, including a highly publicized plan of a terrorist group linked with al-Qaeda to crash one into the Eiffel Tower. In 1995, Senator Sam Nunn, in Time magazines cover story, described a scenario in which terrorists crash a radio-controlled airplane into the US Capitol building.>7
The year 1995 also brought the most important discovery, which has been widely reported: Philippine police found an al-Qaeda computer with a plan called Project Bojinka, one version of which involved hijacking planes and flying them into targets such as the World Trade Center, the White House, CIA headquarters, and the Pentagon. This plan--which was evidently formulated by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (later to be identified as the mastermind of 9/11) and his relative Ramsi Yousef >8--resurfaced in the 1996 trial of the latter for masterminding the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center (in which Mohammed was also indicted).>5 (Note: Ramsi Youssef was NOT charged with the 1993 attack on the WTC, there is an mp3 of his lawyer talking publicly about it on the web. It is now established that a FBI [double-?]agent instigated that attack.) Yousef's conviction, Ahmed points out, was on September 11, 1996, so that 9/11 was its fifth anniversary.." Furthermore, after the attacks, reports Thompson, a Philippine investigator said: "It's Bojinka... We told the Americans everything about Bojinka. Why didn't they pay attention?">11
In 1999, the National Intelligence Council, which advise the President and US intelligence agencies on emerging threats, said in a special report on terrorism:
Al-Qaeda's expected retaliation for the US cruise missile attack [of 1998]...could take several forms of terrorist attack in the nation's capitol. Suicide bombers belonging to al-Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives...into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House.>12With regard to the Pentagon in particular, officials in October of 2000 carried out an emergency drill to prepare for the possibility that a hijacked airliner might be crashed into the Pentagon.>13
In sum, argue critics, the claim that the possibility of such attacks had not been envisioned is clearly untrue.
Were There No Specific Warnings about the Attacks?
A second, narrower claim is that although there were warnings about the possibility of this kind of attack, there were no specific warnings relating to 9/11. For example, three days afterwards, FBI Director Robert Mueller (six days in office) said: "There were no warning signs that I'm aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country.">14 A year later, he still claimed: "To this day we have found no one in the United States except the actual hijackers who knew of the plot.">15
Acceptance of this claim is reflected in the summary of the final report of the Joint Inquiry conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees. The first "finding" reported in this summary reads:
While the Intelligence Community had amassed a great deal of valuable intelligence regarding Usama Bin Laden and his terrorist activities, none of it identified the time, place, and specific nature of the attack that were planned for September 11, 2001. [Author's note: Spellings of his name shift due to different styles of transliterating the Arabic into English.]Indeed, as we saw earlier, this summary of the Joint Inquiry's final report said that the information led the intelligence community to expect the attacks to be directed "against US interests overseas."
But in fact, critics argue, there were evidently many quite specific warnings in the months leading up to 9/11 and, given the fact that by May of 2001, warnings of an attack against the US were reportedly higher than ever before, US intelligence agencies should have been especially on the alert.>16 This state of alert should have been increased still further, one would assume, given the fact that an intelligence summary for Condoleezza Rice from CIA Director George Tenet on June 28 said: "It is highly likely that a significant al-Qadea attack is in the near future, within several weeks.">17 It was in such a context that the rather specific warnings came. In late July, for example, the Taliban's Foreign Minister informed US officials that Osama ben Laden was planning a "huge attack" inside America that was imminent and would kill thousands.>18 That the information indicated that the attack was to involve commercial airlines is suggested by the fact that on July 26, CBS News reported that Attorney General Ashcroft had decided to quit using this mode of travel because of a threat assessment--although "neither the FBI nor the Justice Department--would identify what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it.">19 In May of 2002, it was claimed that the threat assessment had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, but Ashcroft, according to the Associated Press, walked out of his office rather than answer questions about it. The San Francisco Chronicle complained: "The FBI obviously knew something was in the wind.... The FBI did advise Ashcroft to stay off commercial aircraft. The rest of us just had to take our chances." CBS's Dan Rather later asked, with regard to this warning: "Why wasn't it shared with the public at large?">20
August and September brought more warnings. A Moroccan agent who had penetrated al-Qaeda was evidently brought to the United States to discuss his report that bin Laden, being disappointed that the 1993 bombing had not toppled the "WTC, planned "large scale operations in New York in the summer or fall of 2001.">21 Former CIA agent Robert Baer reportedly told the CIAs Counter-Terrorism Center that he had learned from a military associate of a Persian Gulf prince that a "spectacular terrorist operation" was about to take place.>22 Some warnings, furthermore, were reportedly given by several foreign intelligence agencies. For example, Russian President Putin later stated that in August, "I ordered my intelligence to warn President Bush in the strongest terms that 25 terrorists were getting ready to attack the US, including important government buildings like the Pentagon." The head of Russian intelligence also said: "We had clearly warned them" on several occasions, but they "did not pay the necessary attention.">23 Warnings were also reportedly given by Jordan, Egypt, and Israel,>24 with the latter country warning, a few days before 9/11, that perhaps 200 terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden were "preparing a big operation.">25
One of the official warnings during this period became widely known--a memo provided by Great Britain, which was included in the intelligence briefing for President Bush on August 6. This warning said that al-Qeda had planned an attack in the United States involving multiple airplane hijackings. The White House kept this warning secret, with the president repeatedly claiming after 9/11 that he had received no warning of any kind. But on May 15, 2002, CBS Evening News revealed the existence of this memo from British intelligence. Condoleezza Rice tried to dismiss its significance by saying that it was "fuzzy and thin," consisting of only a page and a half. Newspaper accounts, however, said that it was 11 pages long.>26 Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said in no uncertain terms: "The president did not--not--receive information about the use of airplanes as missiles by suicide bombers.">27 A few days later, however, the Guardian reported that "the [August 6] memo left little doubt that the hijacked airliners were intended for use as missiles and that intended targets were to be inside the US.">28 Doubt about the administrations truthfulness is raised by the fact that it has refused to release the memo while claiming that there is nothing specific in it. As Michael Moore has asked: "If there is nothing specific, then why cant they release it?">29
In any case, if that information is still considered too general to have made the events of 9/11 preventable, even more specific information was provided by the stock market. Intelligence agencies monitor the stock market, critics point out, to watch for clues of impending catastrophes. And the days just before September 11 saw an extremely high volume of "put options" purchased for the stock of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, which occupied 22 stories of the World Trade Center, and for United and American Airlines, the two airlines used in the attacks.>30 For these two airlines, and only these two, "the level of these trades was up by 1,200 percent in the three days prior to the World Trade Center attacks.">31 To buy a put option is to bet that the price of shares is going to go down, and in this case the bet was highly profitable. As the San Francisco Chronicle explained: "When the stock prices...dropped...in response to the terrorist attacks, the options multiplied a hundredfold in value, making millions of dollars in profit." If a single group of speculators purchased most of the thousands of put options for those three stocks, this group would have made over million. This unusual set of purchases "raises suspicions that the investors...had advance knowledge of the strikes.">32
Even more important here is the conclusion that any intelligence officer looking at this development, especially in light of all the warnings, would easily have concluded that someone with inside information knew that in the near future both American and United airplanes were going to be used in attacks, quite likely on the World Trade Center. And there can be no serious doubt, Ahmed adds, that intelligence officers monitor the market looking for such anomalies. He quotes investigative journalist Michael Ruppert, a former detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, who wrote: "It is well documented that the CIA has long monitored such trades - in real time - as potential warnings of terrorist attacks and other economic moves contrary to US interests." Ahmed adds that "[t]he UPI also reported that the US-sponsored ECHELON intelligence network closely monitors stock trading.">33
An intriguing footnote to this story is that A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard, who in March of 2001 was promoted within the CIA by President Bush to become its executive director, had until 1998 been the manager of Deutsche Bank, one of the major banks through which put options on United Airlines were purchased.>34 The implication, of course, is that there might have been insider trading going on that dwarfed Martha Stewart's in size and significance.
In any case, further specific information, critics continue, was evidendy obtained from electronic intercepts. Shordy before 9/11, the FBI reportedly intercepted messages such as "There is a big thing coming" and "They're going to pay the price.">35 On September 9, a foreign intelligence service reportedly passed on to US intelligence an intercepted message from bin Laden to his mother, in which he told her: In two days you're going to hear big news, and you're not going to hear from me for a while.">36 And the next day, September 10, US intelligence reportedly obtained electronic intercepts of conversations in which al Queda members said: "Tomorrow will be a great day for us.">37 One of those intercepts was reportedly made by the National Security Agency (NSA), which had monitored a call during the summer between Mohamed Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, believed to be one of the architects of Project Bojinka, the 1993 bombing of the WTC, and the bombing of the USS Cole. >38 In the intercept of September 10, 2001, Atta reportedly received final approval for the 9/11 attacks from Mohammed. According to the September 15, 2002 story in the Independent that reported this intercept, information as to when the intercept was translated had not been released.>39 But given the fact that US intelligence had learned in June of 2001 that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was interested in "sending terrorists to the United States,">40 one would assume that translating an intercepted message from him would have had the highest priority.
US intelligence agencies, however, would later claim that the highly specific messages received the two days before 9/11 were not translated until afterwards. In relation to this claim, it is significant, as Thompson points out, that Senator Orrin Hatch reported that US officials had overheard two bin Laden aides celebrating the successful terrorist attack At a news briefing on September 12, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld reportedly manifested chagrin at Hatch's breach, which revealed that the US government was, in fact, monitoring these communications electronically in real time.>41 The idea that specific information was not only received but also translated on September 10 is further suggested by Newsweek's report that on that day "a group of top Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns.">42
With this information before us, we can better evaluate the Joint Inquiry's final report, as reflected in its summary, according to which none of the information available to the intelligence community "identified the time, place, and specific nature of the attacks that were planned for September 11, 2001." The Joint Inquiry evidently tried to reconcile this finding with the kind of very specific information reviewed above by saying: "In the period from September 8 to September 10, 2001, NSA intercepted, but did not translate or disseminate until after September 11, some communications that indicated possible impending terrorist activity.">43 It would be interesting to know, however, whether this conclusion was based on any evidence other than testimony by members of the NSA. It would also be interesting to know whether the Joint Inquiry tried to explain why on September 10 "a group of top Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning." And whether they asked why, given the many very specific reports prior to September 8, the NSA was not translating and disseminating the warnings it intercepted from September 8 to 10--in other words, whether the claim that it did not do so is really believable.
In any case, Ahmed, referring to Condoleezza Rice's statement that US officials had no specific information about the attacks in advance, concludes that it is "patendy false.">44 Michel Chossudovsky, referring to the discussion of whether members of the Bush administration knew about the attacks beforehand, says: "Of course they knew!"--adding that "the American people have been consciously and deliberately deceived.">45
Critics of the official account have certainly provided evidence that seems to support these conclusions. The material in this chapter provides, at the very least, further evidence against the first two of the possible views, according to which US intelligence agencies had no specific information about the attacks. Some of this evidence, furthermore, seems to rule out the first six views, according to which at least the White House had no specific knowledge about the impending attacks. All the views except the seventh and the eighth, accordingly, would seem to be ruled out insofar as the evidence summarized in this chapter stands up to further scrutiny.
The cumulative evidence of government complicity becomes even more compelling, critics of the official account of 9/11 believe, when it includes evidence that US officials actively obstructed investigations that might have uncovered the plot.
FOOTNOTES to chapter 5hint: press the BACK-button on your browser to jump back to the original text-location
1This statement was made in Rice's press briefing of May 16, 2002, which was reported in the Washington Post, May 17, 2002. It was quoted by Mary Fetchet, Co-Chair of Voices of 9/11 and a member of the Family Steering Commission for the 9/11 Independent Commission, in testimony to that commission, March 31, 2003 (available at 911citizenswatch.org).
DID US OFFICIALS OBSTRUCT INVESTIGATIONS PRIOR TO 9/11?
The Anti-Hunt for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda
One of the main reasons for doubting the official story about 9/11, say critics, is evidence that, far from doing everything it could to kill or capture bin Laden, US government officials repeatedly failed to do so when they had opportunities. I will summarize a few of the episodes that have been dug up by Ahmed and Thompson.
In December of 1998, CIA Director George Tenet reportedly circulated a memorandum in the intelligence community that said: "We are at war," and added: "I want no resources or people spared in this effort, either inside CIA or the [larger intelligence] community." But the Congressional Joint Inquiry would later learn that there was no significant shift in budget or personnel and that few FBI agents had ever heard of the declaration.>1
On December 20 of 2000 Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism expert, submitted a plan to roll back al-Qaeda in response to the bombing of the USS Cole (which had occurred in October). The main component of Clarke's plan was a dramatic increase in covert action in Afghanistan to "eliminate the sanctuary" for bin Laden. The Clinton administration, on the grounds that the Bush admimstration would be taking over in only a few weeks, passed the plan on to it. In January however, the Bush administration rejected the plan and took no action.>2
In March of 2001, the Russian Permanent Mission at the United Nations secretly submitted "an unprecedentedly detailed report" to the UN Security Council about bin Laden and his whereabouts, including "a listing of all bin Laden's bases, his government contacts and foreign advisors"--enough information, they said, to kill him. But the Bush administration took no action. Alex Standish, the editor of Jane's Intelligence Review, would later conclude that the attacks of 9/11 were not an intelligence failure but the result of "a political decision not to act against bin Laden.">5
By the summer of 2001, Osama bin Laden was America's "most wanted" criminal, for whom it was offering a million bounty, and the US government had supposedly tried to kill him. And yet in July according to reports by several of Europe's most respected news sources, bin Laden spent two weeks in the American hospital in Dubai (of the United Arab Emirates). Besides being treated by an American surgeon, Dr. Terry Callaway, he was also reportedly visited by the head of Saudi intelligence and, on July 12, by the localCIA agent, Larry Mitchell. Although the reports were denied by the CIA, the hospital, and bin Laden himself, Dr. Callaway reportedly simply refused comment, and the news agencies stood by their story.>6
"The explosive story," comments Thompson, was "widely reported in Europe, but barely at all in the US.">7 After this story broke in November Chossudovsky, quoting Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's comment that finding binLaden would be like "searching for a needle in a stack of hay," said: "But the US could have ordered his arrest and extradition in Dubai last July. But then they would not have had a pretext for waging a war.">8
Hidden Connections between Bush, bin Laden, and Saudi Royals
One of the disturbing questions that has been raised by critics of the official account is whether the actual relations between the Bush administration, Osama bin Laden, and the Saudi Royal family are not rather different from the public portrayal of these relations. There are several grounds for suspicion. First, the bin Laden family - one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Saudi Arabia--and the Bush family had business relations for over 20 years.>9 Second, although Osama binLadin has been portrayed as the black sheep of the family who was disowned for his terrorist ways--so that the "good bin Ladens" could be radically distinguished from the "bad bin Laden" - there is much evidence that Osama's close ties with his family continued.>10 Third, there is evidence that Osama bin Laden continued to receive covert aid from America's close ally, Saudi Arabia.>11 A fourth ground for suspicion is the report that immediately after 9/11, the US government, working with the Saudi government, helped many members of the bin Laden family depart from the United States, even allowing their jets to fly before the national air ban was lifted.>12 A fifth cause for suspicion is the fact that when the final report of the Joint Inquiry into 9/11 carried out by the House and Senate intelligence committees was finally released in 2003, the administration had insisted on blocking out some 28 pages, which reportedly dealt primarily with Saudi Arabia. There is, finally, the simple fact that most of the alleged hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.
These grounds for suspicion are, furthermore, supported by reports from credible people about continuing ties between the Saudi government, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda.
On August 22, 2001, John O'Neill, a counter-terrorism expert who was said to be the US governments "most commmed tracker of Osama bin Ladeen and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists," resigned from the FBI, citing repeated obstruction of his investigations into al-Qaeda.>13 The previous month, O'Neill, who held one of the top positions in the FBI had reportedly complained of obstruction by the White House, saying that the main obstacles to investigating al-Qaeda were "US Oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia." He then added: "All the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden's organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia.">14 O'Neill's assessment, Ahmed comments, was given support by Tariq Ali, who wrote: "Bin Laden and his gang are just the tentacles [of the Wahhabi octopus]; the head lies safely in Saudi Arabia, protected by US forces.">15 The idea that any serious investigation would need to focus on Saudi Arabia has, interestingly, been supported more recently by Gerald Posner, an author who on most points supports the official account of 9/11.>16 On the basis of information provided anonymously but independently by two sources in the US government, Possner reports on the US interrogation of the Saudi Arabian Abu Zubaydah, one of al- Qaeda's top operatives, who was captured in Pakistan late in March of 2002. The interrogation, aided by thiopental sodium (Sodium Pentothal), was carried out by two Arab-Americans pretending to be Saudi Arabians. Relieved to be in the presence of men he believed to be fellow countrymen, Zubaydah became very talkative.>17
Hoping to save himself, Zubaydah claimed that he, as a member of al-Qaeda, had been working on behalf of senior Saudi officials. Encouraging his interrogators to confirm his claim, he told them to call one of King Fahd's nephews, Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz (chairman of a huge publishing empire and founder of the Thoroughbred Corporation, which produced Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem). Zubaydah even gave them Prince Ahmed's telephone numbers from memory. When his interrogators said that 9/11 had surely changed everything, so that Prince Ahmed would no longer be supportive of al-Qaeda, Zubaydah told them that it would not have changed anything, because Prince Ahmed had known in advance that America would be attacked on 9/11. Zubaydah also gave from memory the phone numbers of two other relatives of King Fahd's who could confirm his claims: Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud and Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir.
Less than four months later, events occurred that suggested to Posner that Zubaydah's testimony may have been true. Within an eight-day period, all three of the named Saudis died. On July 22, Prince Ahmed, who was 43, reportedly died of a heart attack. The next day, Prince Sultan bin Faisal, who was 41, reportedly died in a single-car accident. And a week later, Prince Fahd bin Turki, who was 21, "died of thirst.">18
Zubaydah also said that he had been present at several meetings between Osama bin Laden and Prince Turki bin Faisal, the chief of Saudi intelligence, including a meeting in Kandahar in 1998 at which Prince Turki promised that Saudis would continue to support the Taliban and would not ask for Osama's extradition as long as al-Qaeda kept its promise not to attack the Saudi kingdom. But Prince Turki--who had been dismissed as head of Saudi intelligence ten days before 9/11, after which he became the Saudi ambassador to Great Britain - survived the testimony about him.>19
In any case, the accounts of these interconnections between Saudi royals, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda suggest that the American failure to capture bin Laden may be connected with the close relations between the Saudi royals, the bin Laden family, and the Bush administration. According to a story by investigative reporters Gregory Palast and David Pallister, US intelligence agents, having long complained that they had been "prevented for political reasons from carrying out full investigations into members of the bin Laden family," said that after the Bush administration took over, things had become worse--that they "had been told to 'back off' from investigations involving other members of the Bin Laden family [and] the Saudi royals.">20 Palast, elaborating on this point in an interview, stated: "There is no question we had what looked like the biggest failure of the intelligence community since Pearl Harbor but what we are learning now is it wasn't a failure, it was a directive.">21 This conclusion is supported by an American intelligence agent, who said: "There were particular investigations [of the bin Laden family] that were effectively killed.">22
It was not, however, only with regard to bin Laden and his family that investigations were reportedly stifled. Ahmed and Thompson point to several cases in which investigations of other promising leads were apparently either obstructed or not even initiated. These cases are especially pertinent to the Joint Inquiry's conclusion that the attacks of 9/11 were due to intelligence failures that were regrettable but understandable. While pointing out that the intelligence agencies had received more warnings than they had admitted, the Joint Inquiry partly let them off the hook by saying that although they had missed some important clues, "They are the kinds of misses that happen when people ... are simply overwhelmed.">23 In some of the following cases, agents in the field were evidently less overwhelmed than overruled.
Ignoring the FBI in Phoenix
On July 10, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams sent a now well-known memorandum to the counterterrorism division at FBI headquarters, warning about suspicious activities involving a group of Middle Eastern men who were taking flight training lessons. Williams had begun investigating them in 2000, but early in 2001 he was reassigned to an arson case--leading a retired agent in Phoenix to write FBI Director Mueller after 9/11, asking: "Why take your best terrorism investigator and put him on an arson case?" Williams had been back on the flight-school case for only a month when he wrote his memo. Suggesting that bin Ladens followers might be taking flying lessons for terrorist purposes, he recommended a national program to track suspicious flight-school students. FBI headquarters, however, did not institute such a program.>24
Blocking the FBI in Minneapolis
In mid-August of 2001, the staff at a flight school in Minneapolis called the local FBI to report their suspicion that Zacarias Moussaoui, who had paid to train on a Boeing 747 simulator, was planning to use a real 747 "as a weapon.">25 After the Minneapolis FBI agents arrested Moussaoui and discovered many suspicious things about him, they asked FBI headquarters for a warrant to search his laptop computer and other possessions. However, even though FBI headquarters received additional information about Moussaoui from France--which according to French officials clearly showed that he posed a threat >26-- senior FBI officials said that the information "was too sketchy to justify a search warrant for his computer.">27 But the Minneapolis agents, having seen the French intelligence report, were "in a frenzy," with one agent speculating that Moussaoui might "fly something into the World Trade Center.">28 Becoming "desperate to search the computer lap top," the Minneapolis agents sent a request through FBI headquarters for a search warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which would be certain to grant it, because in the past its officials had granted virtually all requests.>29
At FBI headquarters, however, the request was given to the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU), one of whose agents criticized the Minneapolis FBI supervisor for getting people "spun up" over Moussaoui--but without telling this supervisor about the memo from Ken Williams in Phoenix, which the head of the RFU had received.>30 The Minneapolis request was then given to RFU agent Marion "Spike" Bowman, who lived up to his nickname by proceeding to remove the evidence that Moussaoui was connected to al-Qaeda through a rebel group in Chechnya. Then the FBI Deputy General Counsel, on the basis of this edited request, said that there was insufficient connection to al-Qaeda for a search warrant and did not even forward the request to FISA.>31 Minneapolis FBI legal officer Coleen Rowley asked: "Why would an FBI agent deliberately sabotage a case?" Other agents in the Minneapolis office joked that those at headquarters who blocked the request "had to be spies or moles...working for Osama bin Laden," while one agent concluded that FBI headquarters was "setting this up for failure.">32
It is interesting to compare this account of what happened with the "finding" in the Joint Inquiry's summary of its final report, which says that "personnel at FBI Headquarters, including the Radical Fundamentalist Unit and the National Security Law Unit, as well as agents in the Minneapolis field office, misunderstood the legal standard for obtaining an order under FISA," having "the perception...that the FISA process was lengthy and fraught with peril." According to this finding, there was no sabotage, just misunderstanding all around, even in Minneapolis. Given the fact that this report was published many months after Coleen Rowley's blistering memo, discussed below, became part of the public record, it is puzzling how the Joint Inquiry could have thought that the agents in Minneapolis were confused.
In any case, the Minneapolis FBI agents were unable to examine Moussaoui's computer and other personal effects until after the 9/11 attacks.>33 Following that search, the former FBI Deputy Director said that the computer contained "nothing significant...pertaining to 9/11," but the Washington Post cited congressional investigators as saying that "the evidence that lay unexamined in Zacarias Moussaouis possession was even more valuable than previously believed," as it connected him "to the main hijacking cell in Hamburg" and to "an al-Qaeda associate in Malaysia whose activities [had been] monitored by the CIA.">34 The New York Times concluded that the Moussaoui case "raised new questions about why the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies did not prevent the hijackings.">35
Three days after 9/11, FBI Director Mueller, who had only recently been appointed to this position, made his previously quoted statement: "There were no warning signs that I'm aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country." Coleen Rowley and other Minneapolis agents tried to reach his office to make him aware of the Moussaoui case so that his "public statements could be accordingly modified," yet Mueller continued to make similar comments, including his testimony in a Senate hearing on May 8, 2002, that "there was nothing the agency could have done to anticipate and prevent the attacks.">36 According to reports of this hearing, however, Mueller finally had to admit that a month before 9/11, one FBI agent had speculated "at a high-level meeting that Moussaoui might have been taking lessons to enable him to crash an aircraft into the World Trade Center in New York.">37 Two weeks later, Rowley released a long memo she had written about the FBI's handling of the Moussaoui case, which Time magazine called a "colossal indictment of our chief law-enforcement agency's neglect.">38 After this memo became publicized, Mueller modified his public stance slightly, saying: "I cannot say for sure that there wasn't a possibility we could have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers.">39
Blocking the FBI in Chicago
In 1998, FBI agent Robert Wright had begun tracking a terrorist cell in Chicago, suspecting that money used for the 1998 bombings of US embassies came from a Saudi multimillionaire living in Chicago. In January of 2001, in spite of his belief that his case was growing stronger, he was told that it was being closed. In June, he wrote an internal memo charging that the FBI, rather than trying to prevent a terrorist attack, "was merely gathering intelligence so they would know who to arrest when a terrorist attack occurred.">40 In May of 2002, Wright announced jhat he was suing the FBI for refusing to allow him to publish a book he had written about the affair. Included in his description of the actions of his superiors in curtailing his investigations were words such as "prevented," "thwarted," "obstructed," "threatened," "intimidated," and "retaliation.">41 In a later interview, reporting that he had been told that his case was being closed because it was "better to let sleeping dogs lie," he said: "Those dogs weren't sleeping, they were training, they were getting ready.... September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit." Chicago federal prosecutor Mark Flessner, who also worked on the case, evidently thought that something other than incompetence was involved, saying that there "were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let [the building of a criminal case] happen.">42
Blocking the FBI in New York
On August 28, 2001, the FBI office in New York, believing Khalid Almihdhar - who would later be named as one of the hijackers - had been involved in the bombing of the USS Cole, tried to convince FBI headquarters to open a criminal investigation. But the New York request was turned down on the grounds that Almilidhar could not be tied to the Cole investigation without the inclusion of sensitive intelligence information. One New York agent expressed his frustration in an e-mail letter, saying, "Whatever has happened to this - someday someone will die - and...the public will not understand why we were not more effective.... Let's hope the [FBI's] National Security Law Unit will stand behind their decisions then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL [Usama bin Laden], is getting the most 'protection.'">43
Justice for a Spy
Sibel Edmonds and Can Dickerson were both hired by the FBI as translators after the 9/11 attacks. Edmonds soon informed her superiors that Dickerson had previously worked for a particular foreign organization, which was being investigated by the FBI, and that Dickerson was mistranslating, or even not translating at all, sensitive information regarding this organization. Edmonds informed her superiors, furthermore, that Dickerson had threatened her for refusing to work as a spy for this organization. But, Edmonds reported, the FBI failed to respond to her complaints, which she had made more than once, so in March she wrote a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, soon after which she was fired. Claiming that she was fired for whistleblowing, she sued. In October, at FBI Director Mueller's request, Attorney General Ashcroft, appealing to the privilege of state secrets "to protect the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States," asked a judge to throw out Edmonds' lawsuit.>44 Critics wonder, of course, why the national security of the United States would be protected by ignoring a claim that a spy for a foreign organization being investigated by the FBI was sabotaging that investigation.
Schippers and FBI Agents Versus the US Government
On September 13, 2001, Attorney David Schippers--who was the Chief Investigative Counsel for the US House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee in 1998 and its chief prosecutor for the impeachment of President Clinton in 1999--publicly stated that he had attempted to warn Attorney General Ashcroft about attacks planned for "lower Manhattan" six weeks beforehand, based on information he had received from FBI agents. In this and subsequent statements, Schippers said that the dates and targets of the attacks as well as the names and funding sources of the hijackers were known by these agents months in advance. Schippers claimed further that the FBI curtailed these investigations, then threatened the agents with prosecution if they went public with their information. At that time, Schippers further stated, the agents asked him to try to use his influence to get the government to take action to prevent the attacks. Having failed in that effort, Schippers agreed to represent some of the agents in a suit against the federal government, during which, if subpoenaed, they would be able to tell their story without fear of prosecution.>45
Because of this suit, Schippers - like the public interest law firm Judicial Watch, which joined forces with him on this case--is not a disinterested witness. But Schippers' allegations have been corroborated, Ahmed points out, in a story by William Norman Grigg in a conservative rnagazine, The New American. Gngg, having interviewed three FBI agents reported that they had confirmed "that the information provided to Schippers was widely known within the Bureau before September 11th." One of them reportedly said that some of the FBI field agents--who were some of the "most experienced guys"--"predicted, almost precisely, what happened on September 11th." He also said that it was widely known "all over the Bureau, how these [warnings] were ignored by Washington.">46
These reports make even more puzzling how the Joint Inquiry could have concluded, as mentioned in the previous chapter, that none of the information available to the intelligence community "identified the time place, and specific nature of the attacks that were planned for September 11, 2001." It seems that at least one US intelligence agency had this kind of very specific advance knowledge.
Visa and Watch List Violations
Immediately after 9/11, a number of irregularities regarding the alleged hijackers became known. It was learned, for example, that Mohamed Atta, considered the ringleader, was allowed back in the United States three times in 2001, in spite of the fact that he had let his visa expire in 2000, had violated his visa by taking flying lessons, was known to have terrorist connections, and was under FBI surveillance. It was reported, furthermore, that evidently over 50 people were involved in planning 9/11. These facts led to this criticism in a review by Accuracy in Media (AIM):
Yet the conspirators proceeded unmolested. What is striking is how safe these people apparently felt, how unthreatened by law enforcement.... They left and entered the country unimpeded. Some were reportedly on the so-called "watch list".... Yet this apparently caused them no problems.>47The critics suspect, of course, that something other than incompetence might account for this pattern.
The Question of the True Identity of the Hijackers
Although this issue does not, strictly speaking, belong in this chapter, I should explain why I have been qualifying "hijackers" with the adjective "alleged." One of the unanswered questions about 9/11 is whether the hijackings were really carried out by any of the men later named.Shortly after the attacks, stories appeared in newspapers suggesting that at leastfive of the men identified by the FBI as 9/11 hijackers were still alive, and these stories were supported by reports of "stolen identities.">48 The Saudiembassy in Washington, reports Meyssan, said that Abdulaziz al-Omari (supposedly the pilot of Flight 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the WTC), Mohand al-Shehri, Salem al-Hazmi, and Saeed al-Bhamdi were all alive and living in Saudi Arabia. Meyssan also says that a fifth alleged hijacker, Waleed M. al-Shehri, "gave an interview to the Arab-language daily, Al-Quds al-Arabi, based in London.">49 One report even said that "investigators are studying the possibility that the entire suicide squad consisted of impostors.">50 FBI Director Mueller, however, later claimed: "We at this point definitely know the 19 hijackers who were responsible.">51 "Yet many of the names and photos are known to be wrong," says Thompson. "Perhaps embarrassing facts would come out if we knew their real names.">52
Another report that creates suspicion regarding the official story, according to which the hijackers were "fundamentalist" Muslims, is that between May and August of 2001, several of the alleged hijackers, including Mohamed Atta, reportedly made at least six visits to Las Vegas, during which they drank alcohol, gambled, and frequented strip clubs, where they had lap dances performed for them.>53 Is this something that true believers would do shortly before going on a suicide mission to meet their maker?
There are also grounds for suspicion that evidence was planted to connect some of the alleged hijackers to the flights. On 9/11, for example, authorities found two of Attas bags, which failed to get loaded onto Flight 11. These bags contained various items, including flight simulation manuals for Boeing airplanes, a copy of the Koran, a religious cassette tape, a note to other hijackers about mental preparation, and Attas will, passport, and international drivers license. A reporter for the New Yorker later wrote:
many of the investigators believe that some of the initial clues that were uncovered about the terrorists' identities and preparations, such as flight manuals, were meant to be found. A former high-level intelligence official told me, "Whatever trail was left was left deliberately--for the FBI to chase."As Thompson asks, why would Atta have planned to bring his will "onto a plane he knew would be destroyed?">54 Also suspicious was the discovery, a few blocks from the WTC on the day after 9/11, of the passport of alleged hijacker Satam al-Suqami.>55 One newspaper-- reflecting the fact that it was widely but mistakenly reported that the passport belonged to Atta--said "the idea that Atta's passport had escaped from that inferno unsinged [strains] credulity.">56
These stories suggest that the truth about what happened on 9/11 may be even further from the official account than suggested by the evidence I have cited prior to this section. Meyssan, for example, proposes that "the FBI invented a list of hijackers from which it drew an identikit portrait of the enemies of the West.">57 I will, however, not pursue this question further.
This chapter obviously provides additional evidence against any position weaker than the third possible view, because it suggests that at least one US agency - the FBI - had specific advance knowledge of the plot and took deliberate steps to prevent this plot from being uncovered.
Tyrone Powers, a former FBI special agent, is quoted by Ahmed as saying that within the intelligence community, "on occasion, [damaging] acts are allowed if in the minds of the decision makers, they will lead to 'greater good.'" One of the FBI agents interviewed by Grigg for The New American said: "There's got to be more to this than we can see.... Obviously, people had to know.... Its terrible to think this, but this must have been allowed to happen as part of some other agenda.">58 The critics of the official account have some suggestions as to what this agenda might have been.
FOOTNOTES to chapter 6hint: press the BACK-button on your browser to jump back to the original text-location
1New York Times, September 18, 2002, cited in Thompson, "Timeline," December 4, 1998.
The 343 Regular and 2 retired, the Chaplain, and one NYC Fire Patrol Firefighters Who Gave Their Lives September Eleventh