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This article is a subsection of The new Pearl Harbor full text

CHAPTER ONE:Flights 11 and 175: How could the Hijacker's Missions have succeded?Edit

Main article: The new Pearl Harbor:Part 1 Chapter 1



AA Flight 77 left Dulles airport in Washington, DC, at 8:20. At 8:46, it went significantly off course for several minutes, but reportedly no fighter jets were scrambled. At 8:50, the plane got back on course, but radio contact was lost, and at 8:56 the planes transponder went off and the plane disappeared from the air traffic controllers radar screen in Indianapolis. But no jet fighters were scrambled to find it. At 9:09, this air traffic controller warned that the plane may have crashed in Ohio.[1] USA Today, furthermore, later printed a story with this statement: "Another plane disappears from radar and might have crashed in Kentucky. The reports are so serious that [FAA head Jane] Garvey notifies the White House that there has been another crash."[2] In any case, Flight 77 is not heard from again—or at least, according to the official account, not until 9:25.

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 Wikipedia, 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[who?], 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?], 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?Edit

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 Wikipedia 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.[19]

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 the 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 Wikipedia, 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 Wikipedia. Second, Olson has stated that there are many situations in which "government officials might quite legitimatetly have reasons to give false information out."[20] Third, Olsons reports about the conversations with his wife are both vague and selfcontradictory.[21] 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.[citation needed] 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?"[22] 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 Wikipedia, 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 757Edit

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 Wikipedia, 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.[23]) 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."[24] 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 [25]—or any evidence that the lawn had been scraped.[26] 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.[27]) 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.[28] But 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. [29] 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. [30]

One 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." [31]

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 photos reveal 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." [32]

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." [33] 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. [34]

And 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. [35] 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° 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. [36]

The 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." [37] 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. [38]

Meyssan'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. [39]

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." [40] 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. [41] 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." [42]

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. [43] 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. [44] 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. [45]

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" [46] 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. [47]

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." [48] 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." [49]

This report, if true — and someone could presumably interview the employee, José 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?Edit

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[who?] 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." [50] 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 hear 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. [51]

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 Wikipedia, 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. [52]

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, [53] 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 Wikipedia of USA Today when he was interviewed on CBS by Bryant Gumbel. [54] "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. [55]

There 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. [56]

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. [57]

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?Edit

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. >60 One 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. >65 This 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. >66 How 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?Edit

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. >81 Given 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?Edit

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 TheoryEdit

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.>89 Meyssan 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.>91 Gore 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,>92 Both 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 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.xx94 Do 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:Edit

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). 2USA Today, August 13, 2002, quoted in Ahmed, 44. 3Meyssan, Pentagate, 96. 4ABC News, September 11, 2002; see also Pentagate, 94. 5Boston Globe, November 23, cited in Thompson, "September 11" (9:33-9:38 AM). 6CBS News, September 21, 2001, quoted in Thompson (9:33-9:38 AM). 7Telegraph, December 16, 2001, quoted in Thompson (9:38 AM). 8ABC News, October 24, 2001, quoted in Pentagate, 96-97. 9"Extensive Casualties in Wake of Pentagon Attack," Washington Post, September 11, 2001, quoted in Pentagate, 38-39. 10Quoted under "What about All the Witnesses?" in Killtowns "Did Flight 77 Really Crash into the Pentagon?" ( 11CNN, September 12, 2001, quoted in Pentagate, 48. The person to whom this statement about "a cruise missile with wings" was attributed was Mike Walter of USA Today. But he has also been quoted as saying that it was "an American Airlines plane." Walter's testimony is discussed further in note 55. 12"Minute by Minute with the Broadcast News," PoynterOnline, September 11, 2001, cited in Pentagate, 88. 13Guardian, April 1, 2002, quoted in Thompson, "Timeline," early March 2002. Thompson reports—citing the European version of Time, May 20, 2002—that Meyssan's first book on this subject, I'Effroyable imposture (Paris: Les Editions Carnot, 2002), while being widely denounced by the French media, set a French publishing record for first-month sales. (This is, as mentioned earlier, the book translated as 9/11: The Big Lie.) 14Victoria Clarke, Department of Defense News Briefing, June 25, 2002, quoted on Thierry Meyssan's website ( or www. 15This would be one possible translation of the title of Meyssan's first book on the issue, mentioned in note 13, I'Effioyable imposture. 16Meyssan, Pentagate, 92. 17Gerry J. Gilmore, "Alleged Terrorist Airliner Attack Targets Pentagon," American forces Infirmation Service, Defense Link, DoD, September 11, 2001 (, quoted in Pentagate, 96. 18"Hijacked Jets Fly into Trade Center, Pentagon," Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2001, quoted in Pentagate, 96. 19Washington Post, September 12, and Newsday, September 23, 2001, cited in Thompson (Between 8:55-9:00 AM). 20Pentagate, 89. 21Pentagate, 98-99, citing Sydney Morning Herald, March 20, 2002 Olson's statement, made before the Supreme Court, was also quoted in Jim Hoagland, "The Limit of Lying," Washington Post, March 21, 2002. 22Thompson (9:25 AM) and (After 9:30 AM). 23Thompson (9:30 AM), citing stories from Scotland Sunday Herald, September 16 and CoxNews,.October 21, 2001. Anyone who questions the reality of the reported call' from Barbara Olson, of course, would probably also question the reported statement by the hijackers, but that does not undermine the validity of Thompsons question. His question merely points out that although these two elements are crucial to the official account, because they reputedly provide evidence that Flight 77 was still aloft, there is a tension between these two elements. 24See "Hunt the Boeing. Test Your Perceptions" 25This photograph, taken by Jason Ingersoll of the US Marine Corps, is available in Meyssan's Pentagate and on the "Hunt the Boeing" website. The quotation is from Marc Fisher and Don Phillips, "On Flight 77: 'Our Plane is Being Hijacked,'" Washington Post, September 12, 2001. In an e-mail letter, I asked Mr. Fisher is he knew where he got that information and also if he had "seen any reason in the intervening time to question whether the hole was this big." On January 16, 2004, he replied, saying: "I don't know where that detail came from and I don't know the size of the hole in the building, but that information could be obtained from the Pentagon easily enough." 26A photograph by Mark Faram and distributed by the Associated Press shows a little piece of twisted sheet metal colored red and white. Although this photo has been widely published as evidence of debris from Flight 77, the piece of metal it shows does not, points out Meyssan, correspond with any part of a Boeing 757 and was not included by the Department of Defense in the material said to have come from Flight 77 (Pentagate, page XVI of the photo section). 27This point is important in light of the claim of some defenders of the official account that the reason the plane did not cause much damage to the Pentagon is that it hit the ground first, thereby being greatly slowed down before it hit the Pentagons facade. That claim co-exists rather uncomfortably, incidentally, with another claim meant to support the official account, which is that the reason the jet engines were not spotted by anyone is that they were pulverized when they hit the facade (see Pentagate, 14-17). 28This photograph, with the superimposition, is provided in 9/11: The Big Lie, 22. A clearer version is included among the photos provided on the "Hunt the Boeing" website. 299/11: The Big Lie, 22. 30This answer is given on a debunking website, Urban Legends which seeks to provide answers to the various questions posed in the "Hunt the Boeing" website, cited above. This answer is provided in response to the third question it lists. 31Urban Legends website, in response to the fifth question it lists. 32Pentagate, 33-34. 33Ibid., 54-55, 36. 349/11: The Big Lie, 19. 35Pentagate,53,55, 60, 62. 36For these photos, which were provided by the Associated Press, see Pentagate, pages II and III of the photo section. 379/11: The Big Lie, 27-28, 27 38Pentagate, 112. 39Ibid., 116, referring to the presentation of the AN/APX-100(V) transponder at 40This question is raised, for example, in Thompson (9:33-9:38 AM). 41DoD News Briefing," Defense Link, Department of Defense, September 12, 2001 (, quoted in Pentagate, 17. 42Pentagate, 19. 43"DoD News Briefing on Pentagon Renovation," Defense Link, Department of Defense, September 15, 2001, quoted in Pentagate, 18. 44NFPA Journal, November 1, 2001, cited in Thompson, "Timeline," November 21, 2001 (C). As Meyssan points out (Pentagate, 14-17), this argument has been articulated by many defenders of the official account. 45Washington Post, November 21, 2001, and Mercury, January 11, 2002, cited in Thompson, "Timeline," November 21, 2001 (C). An alternative version of the official account has the passengers identified by their DNA, but this version would face a similar difficulty. 46Pentagate, 175. 47"Pourquoi la demonstration de Meyssan est cousue de très gros fils blancs' blancs,'" Liberation, March 30, 2001, quoted inPentagate, 20. 48Pentagate, 20-21. 49Thompson, "Timeline," October 16, 2001, citing New York Times, October 16, 2001. 50Thompson, "Timeline," September 21, 2001, quoting the Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 11, 2001. It should be added that the reporter who wrote this story, Bill McKelway, accepted the official account, according to which it was Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon. He raised no questions as to why the FBI would have confiscated the video or how they could have gotten there "within minutes." We have no reason, therefore, to suspect that he fabricated this story. 51Jon Ungoed-Thomas, "Conspiracy Theories about 9/11 are Growing and Getting More Bizarre," Sunday Times, September 14, 2003. 52Pentagate, 42-46. 53Meyssan, 9/11: The Big Lie, 27-28. One website carries photographs of cruise missiles that show how similar they can look to small military planes. 54See 55As mentioned in note 11, Walter at first said that it was like "a cruise missile with wings." He also made conflicting statements about whether he saw the aircraft (whatever ,t was) hit the Pentagon. The first quotations from him indicate that he did not—that the aircraft disappeared from his view behind a hill, after which he heard the explosion and saw the ball of fire. When he was interviewed by Bryant Gumbel on CBS September 12, he first said that he saw an American Airlines jet and saw it hit the Pentagon. Under questioning from Gumbel, however, he said that his view was obstructed. An hour later on NEC, he repeated this latter affirmation, saying: "It kind of disappeared over this embankment here for a moment and then a huge explosion." All these statements are quoted in Gerard Holmgren, "Did F77 Hit the Pentagon? Eyewitness Accounts Examined," NYC IndyMediaCenter . 56Holmgren, "Did F77 Hit the Pentagon? Eyewitness Accounts Examined." 57Dick Eastman, "What Convinced Me that Flight 77 Was Not the Killer Jet," Part 1, American Patriot Friends Network Incidentally, although Eastman supposes that the American airplane was Flight 77, his thesis would be consistent with its having been a different airplane. In any case, Eastman also discusses five frames from the Pentagons security camera video that were released shortly after Thierry Meyssan's missile theory was published. Although the Pentagon meant for these frames to prove that a plane rather than a missile really was involved in the attack, Eastman reports that it was his scrutiny of these frames that first convinced him that the official story was false, because the aircraft on the video was much too short to have been a Boeing 757. 58Holmgren has said (personal correspondence on November 29, 2003) that he has tentatively accepted Eastman's two-aircraft hypothesis. 599/11: The Big Lie, 19. 60Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2001, quoted in Thompson, 9:38 AM. 61Ahmed, 299-300. 629/11: The Big Lie, 20. 63Thompson (9:33-9:38 AM). 64"Ibid. 65Ahmed, 161-62, quoting Stan Goff, "The So-Called Evidence is a Farce," Narco News #14: October 10, 2001 66New York Trnies, May 4, 2002, and CBS News, May 10, 2002, quoted under "Was Hani Hanjour Even on Flight 77 and Could He Have Really Flown It to Its Doom?" in Killtowns "Did Flight 77 Really Crash into the Pentagon?" (, October 19, 2003. 67"Air Attack on Pentagon Indicates Weaknesses," Newsday, September 23, 2001, quoted in Pentagate, 112. 68Thompson, 9:33 AM. 69Pentagate, 91. 70Ahmed, 153. 71Pentagate, 115 (see also 174), quoting "PAVE PAWS, Watching North America's Skies, 24 Hours a day" ( "PAWS" stands for Phased Array Warning 72Ahmed, 153. 73Washington Post, September 12, NORAD, September 18, and Associated Press, September 19, 2001, cited in Thompson, 9:24 AM. 74Ahmed, 153-54. 75Thompson, 9:24 AM. 76USA Today, September 17, 2001, cited by Ahmed, 154, and Bykov and Israel, "Guilty for 9-11" (see note 9 of Ch. 1). General Larry Arnold said: "We [didn't] have any aircraft on alert at Andrews," MSNBC, September 23, 2001, quoted in Thompson (After 9:38 AM). 77Bykov and Israel, "Guilty for 9-11," and Ahmed, 154-55, citing DC Military ( Bykov and Israel report that, having found this website on September 24, 2001, they discovered a month later that the address had been changed, that the information about Andrews had been put in the smallest possible type, and that the official Andrews AFB website was "down" (although, they add, it could still be accessed through by entering Bykov and Israel report that they maintain backups of the DC Military web pages for September and November at and 78Thompson (After 9:03 AM). 79Ahmed, 155-56. 80Thompson (After 9:03 AM). This change is also reported by Bykov and Israel, "Update to Guilty for 9-11: Bush, Rumsfeld, Myers: Section 1," The Emperors New Clothes ( 81Thompson, 9:30 AM. Thompson's statement about the earliest "claim" as to when the crash occurred reflects the fact that the time has been placed variously between 9:37 and 9:45, with NORAD listing the earliest possible time, which would have given the fighter jets less time to get there. Thompson's own time, 9:38, differs little from NORAD's time, so his calculations would not be seriously changed by adopting NORAD's time. 82George Szamuely, "Nothing Urgent," New York Press, 15/2 quoted in Ahmed, 152. 83Aviation Week and Space Technology, June 3, CNN, September 4, and ABC News, September 11, 2002, cited in Thompson (After 8:46 AM). 84Thompson (9:03-9:08 AM), citing USA Today, September 12 and 13, 2002. 85Telegraph, September, 16, 2001, cited in Thompson, "Timeline," October 24-26, 2000. 86Newsday, September 23, 2001, cited in Thompson, 9:24 AM. 87Washington Post, September 12, 2001, Guardian, October 17, 2001, and Associated Press, August 19, 2002, cited in Thompson, 9:24 AM. 88Thompson, citing New York Times, September 15, 2001. 89The FBI statement was issued April 2, 2002. Victoria Clarke's statement was made at a Department of Defense News Briefing on April 24, 2002. Both statements are printed on Meyssan's website 90Barrie Zwicker, "The Great Deception: What Really Happened on September 11th Part 2," MediaFile, Vision TV Insight, January 28, 2002 (, quoted in Ahmed, 169. 91Zwicker, "The Great Deception: What Really Happened on September 11th Part l,"January 21, 2002, quoted in Ahmed, 169-70. 92Gore Vidal, Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (New York; Thunder's Mouth/Marion Books, 2002;, 32. 93Parenti, http://www.michaelparenti.orgThe Terrorism Trap: September 11 and Beyond (San Francisco: City Lights, 2002), 93-94; Ahmed, 168 (emphasis original). 94Kristen Breitweiser appeared on Phil Donahue's show on August 13, 2002. 95The interview, conducted by Parade magazine, is available at


The main problem raised by the first three flights—aside from the question of the identity of the aircraft that hit the Pentagon—was the fact that aircraft that should have been shot down were not. The fate of UA Flight 93, say critics, presents us with the opposite problem: A plane that should not have been shot down was. Paul Thompson's timeline provides evidence from which he draws this conclusion. 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.>23 Her 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 3

hint: 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). 2Thompson, 9:45 AM. 3Thompson, 9:47 AM. Thompson says that of the numerous calls, only the first call (9:27 AM) from Tom Burnett mentioned guns—and this only in one of the versions, a fact that suggests that it may have been doctored. 49:54 AM, quoting Toronto Sun, September 16, and Boston Globe, November 23,2001. 59:54 AM, quoting Jere Longman, Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back (New York HarperCollins, 2002), 118. 6(Between 10:00-10:06 AM). 79:58 AM. 89:58 AM, citing Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 28, 2002, and Longman, Among the Heroes, 180. 99:58 AM, quoting ABC News, September 11, and Associated Press, September 12,2001. 109:58 AM, citing Longman, Among the Heroes, 264, and Mirror, September 13, 2002, 11(Between 10:00-10:06 AM), quoting San Francisco Chronicle, September 17, 2001. 12(Between 10:00-10:06 AM), quoting Mirror, September 13, 2002. 1310:03 AM, citing Philadelphia Daify News, September 16, 2002. 14Thompson, Timeline," October 16, 2001 (B), citing New York Times, October 16,2001. 15Thompson (After 9:56 AM), citing USA Today, September 16, 2001, Washington Post, January 27, 2002, and ABC News, September 11, 2002. 16(After 9:56-10:06 AM), citing Pittsburg, Post-Gazette, October 28, 2001, and Washington Post, January 27, 2002. 17(After 9:56-10:06 AM), citing Washington Post, January 27, 2002. 18(After 9:56-10:06 AM), quoting ABC News, September 15, 2002. 19(10:08 AM), quoting Washington Post, January 27, 2002. 20(Before 10:06 AM), quoting Associated Press and Nashua Telegraph, both September 13,2001. 21(Before and After 10:06 AM), quoting Independent, August 13, 2002. 22(Before and After 10:06 AM), citing Indepedent, August 13, 2002. 23(Before and After 10:06 AM), quoting Mirror, September 13, 2002. 24(Before 10:06 AM), citing Philadelphia. Daily News, November 15; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 12; St. Petersburg Times, September 12; and Cleveland Newschannel 5, September 11,2001. 25(Before 10:06 AM), citing Independent, August 13, 2002, and quoting Philadelphia Daily News, November 15, 2001. 26(Before 10:06 AM), citing Reuters, September 13, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and quoting Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 13, 2001. 27(Before 10:06 AM), quoting Reuters, September 13, 2001, and CBS News, May 23, 2002. 28(2:00 PM), citing Aviation Week and Space Technology, June 3, and Cape Cod Times, August 21, 2002. 29This interchange is quoted in 9/11: The Big Lie, 162. 30Ahmed, 160, quoting Boston Herald, September 15, 2001. 31Thompson (After 9:56 AM). 32We do not know about the passengers on Flight 77. Revisionists can speculate that they too tried to gain control of their plane, which could explain its momentary deviation from course as well as its crash in Ohio or Kentucky—if that indeed is what happened to it. 33Thompson, 9:48 AM, citing Associated Press, August 19, 2002. That might have been the case, of course, only if both the Senate and the House were in session so that most senators and representatives would have been in the Capitol Building. 34New York Times, September 16, 2001, and ABC News, September 11 and 14, 2002, cited in Thompson (After 9:03 AM). 35CNN and New York Times, September 12, 2001, and Washington Post, January 27, 2002, cited in Thompson (9:45 AM). 36Scotland Sunday Herald, September 16, and Cox News, October 21, 2001, cited in Thompson (9:30 AM).


Disturbing questions about the official account have been raised not only by the four aircraft crashes of 9/11 but also by President Bush's behavior on that day. Although the questions that critics have raised about that behavior are legion, I will focus on those that seem most disturbing. 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.>1 Critics 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 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 AM—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?>8 Bush'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. >13 This 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.>14 While 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. >18 Bush 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.>30 Much 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 Gédéon 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.>35 Meyssans 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 four

hint: 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 (, 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.) 2Barrie Zwicker, "The Great Deception," Vision TV Insight, MediaFile (, February 18, 2002, cited in Ahmed, 166. 3Thompson, "September 11" (After 8:46 AM), quoting "Meet the Press," NBC News, September 16, 2001. 4CNN, December 4, 2001, Daily Mail, September 8, 2002, and ABC News, September 11, 2002, cited in Thompson (Between 8:55-9:00 AM). 5Thompson (Between 8:55-9:00 AM). 6Time, September 12, and Christian Science Monitor. September 17, 2001, cited in Thompson (Between 8:55-9:00 .AM). A few minutes after 8:46, CIA Director Tenet reportedly learned from a cell phone call that the WTC had been "attacked" by an airplane, after which he said to Senator Boren, with whom he was having breakfast: "You know, this has bin Laden's fingerprints all over it" (ABC News, September 14, 2002, cited in Thompson [After 8:46 AM]). 7Associated Press, August 19, 2002, quoted in Thompson (Between 8:55-9:00 AM). 8Wood and Thompson, introductory discussion. 9Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 10, 2002, quoted in Thompson (9:30 AM). 10New York Times, September 16, 2001, Telegraph, December 16, 2001, ABC News, September 14, 2002, and Washington Post, January 27, 2002, quoted in Thompson (After 9:30 AM). 11Thompson (After 9:30 AM) and (9:06 AM), quoting Globe and Mail September 12, 2001. 12Wood and Thompson, under "Why Stay?" 13James Bamford, Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (New York Anchor Books, 2002), 633, cited in Thompson (9:06 AM). 14Bamford, 633. 15Bamford, 633, and Time, September 9, 2001, cited in Thompson (9:06-9:16 AM). 16Gail Sheehy, "Four 9/11 Moms Battle Bush," New York Observer, August 21, 2002. 17Sammons sympathies are further shown by another book published at about the same rime, At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election (Washington: Regnery, 2002). 18Bill Sammon, Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism: From Inside the Bush White House (Washington: Regnery, 2002), 89-90, quoted in Wood and Thompson, under "When Did Bush Leave the Classroom?" 19Tampa Tribune, September 1; St. Petersburg Times, September 8; and New York Post, September 12, 2002, cited in Wood and Thompson, under "when Did Bush Leave the Classroom?" 20Sammon, Fighting Back 90, quoted in Wood and Thompson, under "When Did Bush Leave the Classroom?" and "Rewriting History." 21San Francisco Chronicle, September 11, 2002, quoted in Wood and Thompson, under "Rewriting History." 22MSNBC, September 9, 2002. 23Wood and Thompson, under "Rewriting History." 24Thompson, 9:29 AM. 25Wood and Thomspon, under "Why Stay?", citing MSNBC, October 29, 2002, and ABC, September 11, 2002. 26Thompson (9:34 AM) and (9:56 AM). Air Force One took off at 9:35 AM. It would be a t least 90 minutes before it had an escort (Wood and Thompson, under "When Does the Fighter Escort Finally Arrive?"). 27Thompson (9:30 AM) and (10:42 AM), citing Time, September 14, Los Angeles Times. September 17, 2001, and USA Today. August 13, 2002. 28New Yorker, October 1, 2001, cited in Wood and Thompson, under "Air Force One Departs Sarasota." As Wood and Thompson also point out (under "Were There Threats to Air Force One?"), a little later in the day, Dick Cheney originated, and then Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer spread, a story that a threat against the White House and Air Force One was received from terrorists who used the secret code for Air Force One, which suggested either that there was a mole in the White House or that terrorists had hacked their way into White House computers. This story, first published by William Safire of the New York Times (September 13, 2001), spread throughout the media, although there was considerable skepticism, based on suspicion that the story was created to dampen down criticism of Bush for remaining away from Washington for so long (St. Petersburg Times, September 13, and Telegraph, December 16, 2001). When Ari Fleischer was pressed for credible evidence on September 15, he replied that that topic had already been exhausted. Finally, on September 26, CBS News laid the story to rest with this explanation: "Sources say White House staffers apparently misunderstood comments made by their security detail." Slate magazine gave its "Whopper of the Week" award to Cheney, Fleischer, and Rove (Slate, September 28, 2001). Unfortunately, Thierry Meyssan, having evidently missed the retraction, based his most speculative theory on this bogus report (9/11: The Big Lie, Ch. 3: "Moles in the White House"). But he can perhaps be forgiven, since CBS, evidently forgetting about its own debunking, revived the story a year later (CBS, September 11, 2002, cited in Wood and Thompson, under "Rewriting History"). 29Wood and Thompson, under "Air Force One Takes OffWithout Fighter Escort." 30Kristen Breitweiser's comments, made on Phil Donahue's television show on August 13, 2002, are quoted in Thompson, "Timeline," August 13, 2002. 31Washington Post, September 29, 2001, cited in Wood and Thompson, introductory discussion. 32CNN December 4, 2001, quoted in Thompson (9:01 AM). 33Washington Times, October 7, 2002, quoted in Thompson (9:01 AM). 34Boston Herald, October 22, 2002, quoted in Thompson (9:01 AM). 35Meyssan, 9/11: The Big Lie, 38-39. Other revisionists have suggested that images of this crash might have been transmitted to the president's limousine, so that he would have seen them before arriving at the school. 36President Bush is not the only high official, furthermore, whose reported behavior that day has raised serious questions. Critics have also found the reported behavior of General Richard Myers, then Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, suspicious. See Israel and Bykov, "Guilty for 9-11: Bush, Rumsfeld, Myers" (, who say that Myers "offered three mutually contradictory cover stories." See also Ahmed, 164-66.

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