9/11: Debunking The Myths
February 16, 2005 6:09 AM   Subscribe

9/11: Debunking The Myths is a study from the March issue of Popular Mechanics in which the 16 most prevalent 9/11 conspiracy theories are scrutinized by aviation experts, engineers and military analysts. "In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense."
posted by jenleigh (84 comments total)

 
INSTAPUNDIT, AUSTIN BAY AND TIM BLAIR READERS-filter.
posted by gsb at 6:13 AM on February 16, 2005


This is a good, sensible, well-written article. However, I hate the way they repeatedly use the phrase "conspiracy theorists" in such a perjorative way. Yes, some of these folks are the tinfoil-hat crowd. But there was a time in America when Woodward & Bernstein were called "conspiracy theorists" and their theories turned out to be perfectly true.

A good read, though.
posted by anastasiav at 6:23 AM on February 16, 2005


Not to mention how they start the article with one of the more out-there claims, planting the idea that everything to follow is complete wacko nonsense..
posted by Luke Pski at 6:35 AM on February 16, 2005


Rules in effect back then, and on 9/11, prohibited supersonic flight on intercepts.

Anyone here have the aviatory knowledge to say why such a prohibition was in place?
posted by grabbingsand at 6:44 AM on February 16, 2005


re: the charges that Flight 93 was shot down instead of crashed by the passengers:

Saying he was reluctant to fuel debate by responding to unsubstantiated charges, Gibney (a lieutenant colonel, not a major) declined to comment.

We know what "no comment" means. The early stuff seems well-reasoned, but I'm never going to believe that "heroic suicide mission" stuff. If the passengers took control of the cockpit well enough to crash the plane, they would have tried to bring it down safely. And the cockpit voice recorder (which was recovered) would at least featured someone saying "What do we do now?"

Shooting down the plane seems like a reasonable course of action. Too bad it had to be turned into a Reader's Digest-style story of Incredible Heroism.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:48 AM on February 16, 2005


grabbingsand, its because sonic booms annoy people and break windows, etc.
posted by stupidcomputernickname at 6:49 AM on February 16, 2005


Hmm. But what's a busted window and some ringing ears compared to an imminent threat or danger?
posted by grabbingsand at 6:57 AM on February 16, 2005


Via Linkfilter, btw. (What are the rules at MeFi for attributing such a link--should I have referenced it in the FPP?)

Looks like Rense has posted a response, Debunking the Debunkers, and The Progressive Mind has also weighed in, deeming it a "deceptive hit piece against 9/11 truth".
posted by jenleigh at 6:58 AM on February 16, 2005


should I have referenced it in the FPP? yeah, just a (small) via Xlink (/small) does nicely. :)
posted by dabitch at 7:04 AM on February 16, 2005


No mention of the insidious Wingdings plot? Who knew that its true purpose was for covert terrorist communications?
posted by unsupervised at 7:09 AM on February 16, 2005


I agree with Mayor Curley about the Flight 93 charges. The "facts" in this article get pretty thin on the ground when it comes to this section, which they conveniently placed last after some real, actual whackjob conspiracies to get everyone in the mood. How is "some high-up military official says he's sure it's not true" supposed to be proof?
posted by hazyjane at 7:18 AM on February 16, 2005


20 Questions Still Unanswered About 9/11.

1. What did National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice tell President Bush about al Qaeda threats against the United States in a still-secret briefing on Aug. 6, 2001?

2. Why did Attorney General John Ashcroft and some Pentagon officials cancel commercial-airline trips before Sept. 11?

3. Who made a small fortune "shorting" airline and insurance stocks before Sept. 11?

4. Are all 19 people identified by the government as participants in the Sept. 11 attacks really the hijackers?

5. Did any of the hijackers smuggle guns on board as reported in calls from both Flight 11 and Flight 93?

6. Why did the NORAD air defense network fail to intercept the four hijacked jets?

7. Why did President Bush continue reading a story to Florida grade-schoolers for nearly a half-hour during the worst attack on America in its history?

8. How did Flight 93 crash in western Pennsylvania?

9. Was Zacarias Moussaoui really "the 20th hijacker"?

10. Where are the planes' "black boxes"?

11. Why were Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials so quick to link Saddam Hussein to the attacks?

12.Why did 7 World Trade Center collapse?

13. Why did the Bush administration lie about dangerously high levels of toxins and hazardous particles after the WTC collapse?

14. Where is Dick Cheney's undisclosed location?

15. What happened to the more than $1 billion that Americans donated after the attack?

16. What was the role of Pakistan's spy agency in the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl?

17. Who killed five Americans with anthrax?

18. What happened to the probe into C-4 explosives found in a Philadelphia bus terminal in fall 2001?

19. What is in the 28 blacked-out pages of the congressional Sept. 11 report?

20. Where is Osama bin Laden?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:26 AM on February 16, 2005


And can Popular Mechanics explain why Satam al-Sugami's and
Mohamed Atta's pristine passports were found by the FBI in the wreckage of the World Trade Center site?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:32 AM on February 16, 2005


>14. Where is Dick Cheney's undisclosed location?

Uh.. if the answer was known then it wouldn't be undisclosed.
posted by PenDevil at 7:35 AM on February 16, 2005


And did you read the article because 6 and 12 are pretty much explained (and the majority of those questions don't have much to do with the actual attack in the first place).
posted by PenDevil at 7:37 AM on February 16, 2005


jenleigh: suberb link! Interesting to see how much of the allegations are just complete nonsense spouted in an authoritative voice.


Fuzzy Monster: Point 6 is answered on page 3 of the article, point 12 is answered on page 5.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:42 AM on February 16, 2005


Oh, to speak on one's feet
To beat on one's brain
The Popular Mechanics are at it again
A tenement filled with sideshow freaks
Assembled to downgrade
An immpeccable arrangement by the soft rock renegades
And give me time to light
A sentimental torch tonight
I'm a big fan of the pigpen

Sharper than most
Cut with exacto
Gone is all good
Ex post facto
posted by breezeway at 7:48 AM on February 16, 2005


"Intercepts Not Routine"

"Snyder, the NORAD spokesman, said its fighters routinely intercept aircraft. When planes are intercepted, they typically are handled with a graduated response. The approaching fighter may rock its wingtips to attract the pilot's attention, or make a pass in front of the aircraft. Eventually, it can fire tracer rounds in the airplane's path, or, under certain circumstances, down it with a missile."

So, PM is a bullshit factory in addition to being uninteresting. Good to know.
posted by queen zixi at 7:49 AM on February 16, 2005


But I'm never going to believe that "heroic suicide mission" stuff. If the passengers took control of the cockpit well enough to crash the plane, they would have tried to bring it down safely. And the cockpit voice recorder (which was recovered) would at least featured someone saying "What do we do now?" Shooting down the plane seems like a reasonable course of action. Too bad it had to be turned into a Reader's Digest-style story of Incredible Heroism.

I think you and others might be missing the point on this one. The passengers tried to take back the plane. This much isn't in doubt (the phone call with the GTE operator, the sounds of a struggle on the voice recorders.) Now, whether the terrorists flew the plane into the ground, the passengers took the plane over but couldn't regain control, or even if the passengers flew it into the ground intentionally (the least likely of all options, in my opinion) they're regarded as heroes because they tried. That what they did might have coincided with a missile strike on the plane doesn't in any way diminish their efforts.
posted by Cyrano at 7:50 AM on February 16, 2005


How is "some high-up military official says he's sure it's not true" supposed to be proof?

That's not a remotely accurate description of that portion of the article. The main evidence comes from Ed Jacoby, the director of the New York State Emergency Management who was travelling in Gibney's F-16 when it flew from Montana to Albany. It's fine to criticize, but your criticism should at least be based on an accurate description of the article.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:56 AM on February 16, 2005


Saying he was reluctant to fuel debate by responding to unsubstantiated charges, Gibney (a lieutenant colonel, not a major) declined to comment.

Mayor Curley: We know what "no comment" means.

That might be a moderately convincing argument if all he had said was "no comment." Odd that you ignore ithe part where he said he was reluctant to fuel debate by responding to unsubstantialted charges.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:59 AM on February 16, 2005


grabbingsand, its because sonic booms annoy people and break windows, etc.
posted by stupidcomputernickname

"Linkbot flyer, this is Newark (or Bradley or Logan or Langley or Ft. Meade) and we may have a couple of commercial bogies in the air headed for NYC, DC and Western PA - we'd like to clear you for intercept, over."

"Intercept? I'm over Nantucket at the moment, and I won't be able to get there in under 10 minutes without supersonic. Gotta think of the family china, sir... , over."

"Darn it, you're right. Belay that order. There may be some terrorists trying to tear down the financial and governmental centers of this great nation, but Aunt Sue's nerves and the family heirlooms need to take precedence. Sorry, Linkbot for the interruption. As you were. Proceed, over."

Right. And WTF is that about that there were 'only 14 aircraft in the air' that day? There are no fewer than 40 Military Air Bases in the contiguous states surrounding the 9/11 targets. And guess what, many of the aircraft there - fighters and not - would have been capable of a scramble to intercept the hijacked planes before they reached their targets, even if some (Military) pilot had to give up his or her own life in some stupid Jerry Bruckheimer-type move.

When I saw that '14' figure, I stopped reading, since my brain has a tendency to itch when I encounter illogic in so-called 'journalistic' contexts.

('itch' - That's 'bullshit-meter' for the euphemistically-impaired.)
posted by vhsiv at 8:02 AM on February 16, 2005


PenDevil: I did read most of the article, including their attempt to anwer #6.

from the Popular Mechanics article: 'And NORAD's sophisticated radar? It ringed the continent, looking outward for threats, not inward. "It was like a doughnut," Martin says. "There was no coverage in the middle."'

Did you read the article I linked? The Popular Mechanics article doesn't really answer #6 at all:

6. Why did the NORAD air defense network fail to intercept the four hijacked jets?

"During the depths of the Cold War, Americans went to bed with the somewhat reassuring belief that jet fighters would intercept anyone launching a first strike against the United States. That myth was shattered on 9/11, when four hijacked-jetliners-turned-into-deadly-missiles cruised the American skies with impunity for nearly two hours.

Why did the North American Aerospace Defense Command seem unaware of literally dozens of warnings that hijacked jetliners could be used as weapons? Why does NORAD claim it did not learn that Flight 11 - the first jet to strike the World Trade Center about 8:45 a.m. - had been hijacked until 8:40 a.m., some 25 minutes after the transponder was shut off and an astounding 15 minutes after flight controllers heard a hijacker say, "We have some planes..."?

Why didn't the fighters that were finally scrambled at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia fly at top, supersonic speeds? Why didn't fighters immediately take off from Andrews Air Force Base, just
outside Washington, D.C.? Why was nothing done to intercept American Airlines Flight 77, which struck the Pentagon, when officials knew it had been had been hijacked some 47 minutes earlier?

And why has no one been disciplined for the worst breakdown in national defense since Pearl Harbor?"
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:22 AM on February 16, 2005


There were a lot of screwups that day because everyone was unprepared and because such a threat was unthinkable until it happened.

But the fact that some people want to assert blame or intentionality/complicity to the people in our government is what suggests that these people with dark souls need some serious professional psychological help.
posted by dios at 8:27 AM on February 16, 2005


Why has no one explained what happened at Roswell all those years ago? Why has no one accounted for the strange circles I see in the sky at night? Why are there no presidential press conferences detailing the reasons why my shirts exude a strange odor after only a day of wearing them?
posted by koeselitz at 8:36 AM on February 16, 2005


(You know, I'm willing to believe that people were unprepared and there were screw-ups, but why does everyone insist that such a threat was unthinkable? Planes have been used as flying missiles for over sixty years now, and I know offhand of at least two previous attempts to crash planes into the White House. I mean, I was horrified when I heard what happened, but I wasn't in the least surprised.)
posted by kyrademon at 8:38 AM on February 16, 2005


unthinkable until it happened

obviously it was quite "thinkable" for many.
posted by quonsar at 8:42 AM on February 16, 2005


everyone was unprepared and because such a threat was unthinkable until it happened.

Uh, NO! Not according to FAA warnings, 52 of which were issued in 2001 previous to this tragedy. You're such an asswipe apologist. Surely you know better than that. Welcome to the Defenders of All Things Dubya club!

posted by nofundy at 8:44 AM on February 16, 2005


dios - I fail to see how such a threat could be considered unthinkable when a crackhead crashed a cessna into the white house lawn just seven years prior to 9/11 (almost to the day).


On September 12, 1994, at 1:49 a.m., a Cessna 150L airplane crashed onto the South Lawn of the White House, killing the pilot, Frank Eugene Corder, but injuring no one else. The plane came to a halt against the south wall of the Executive Mansion, causing minimal damage. President Clinton and his family were not in residence at the time; hence, they were never in any danger.

posted by b1tr0t at 8:45 AM on February 16, 2005


Oh, breezeway. Thank you.

Also: I'm very glad I read this article. I was starting to lean looney.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 8:48 AM on February 16, 2005


Nothing will convince otherwise those who truly and sincerely believe that 9/11 was an inside job, that the towers were demolished by explosives experts, and that the Pentagon and Flight 93 were hit by guided missiles and not aircraft, or, for that matter, vice versa.

Nobody has direct personal experience of everything that happened that day - it's not possible - so all that any of us can base our beliefs upon is mediated or second-hand accounts of the truth.

Ultimately, then, this all comes down to a matter of faith - faith in one's own ability to sort truth from fiction, fact from fantasy, and, if you like, healthy skepticism from paranoia.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my tinfoil hat needs some repairs.
posted by kcds at 8:50 AM on February 16, 2005


dios, do you believe the FBI found Mohammed Atta's unburned passport in the rubble of The World Trade Center?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:53 AM on February 16, 2005


You're such an asswipe apologist.
posted by nofundy at 8:44 AM PST on February 16


Hmm.

I'd love to know why our almighty editors continually allow nofundy be abusive to people merely because he disagrees with them.


BOne and q: Good points. I suppose it was thinkable. But I wonder what level of security we could have been at that would have prevented it? I doubt we could have been at any level that would have stopped it and would have been accepted by the civil liberty-conscious citizens of this country when no major attack had yet been done. I would agree that some people should have lost their jobs over it. But I disagree that there is blame here on our government's part---the blame is all on the attackers. And I highly disagree with the insane people who think our government was complicit with the attacks. But there were somethings, had we had to do over, that we could have done differently. But I have hard time holding anyone culpable for the incremental decisions that were made.
posted by dios at 8:56 AM on February 16, 2005


I'd always thought the thing about Atta's passport was another myth. I tried googling it, but all I could find was....more conspiracy sites. Anyone have a credible news link?
posted by dhoyt at 9:05 AM on February 16, 2005


The most plausible conspiracy theory wasn't even mentioned, by popular mechanics. This had to do with messages from some one claiming to be an Israeli operative, that all the planes involved had remote control capacity, and that they were guided to their targets, that they flew beyond their pilot controlled capacities. He also stated that the black box info was wiped once remote control started, and reverted to the control equipment of the controlling entity.****** If someone wants to clear that up for me, then I will feel better all around. ****** No one mentioned the air traffic controller who on TV described how flight 93 flew straight up to 40,000 feet before it augured in to the country side. I saw this flight controller describe this, on national television. It seemed to me that this was a description of the anaesthetizing of the people on board by hypoxia, prior to destruction of the aircraft. I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person. I then imagined the high altitude flight to be a solution to individuals that had heard pilots, or hijackers describe, that the craft was remote controlled. This was all heinous activity let me be clear on this, thinking though the unthinkable is not a crime, nor is it unkind or unpatriotic to do so, since our government was paid big bucks to make sure that this kind of stuff doesn't' happen. They failed in this arena, and it is good common sense to think this whole thing out, outside the loops that made it and let it happen.

The Web is a huge mind, it has great potential to keep us all in the loop. It also has the potential to keep this world and its disparate populations, unified.

Don't forget that this nation is full of individuals that want to bring on Armageddon and the end times, by any means possible. They work for the military in great numbers, and in high places. I also think that this is the reason that the Anthrax would be mass murderer hasn't been caught. They aren't looking into fundamentalist christian microbiologists, they are just tracing weaponized anthrax stocks. The conspiracy to bring on Armageddon, isn't even a secret. The way to look for links to happenings, is to read in Fundamentalist sites, on how it is going, this time before Armageddon. Look to see what they say about things that have already happened, and logically look to see if they seem to have created their own mythology by acts in real time. What do the Twin Towers, mean in Fundamentalist, or Dominionist symbology? Have they been put into place in some end time scenario? If that is the case, then what is next? Do they have to extend the battle fields described in John's vision of Armageddon, into Iran, or into Syria, to set up the fulfillment of prophecy? If that is the case, then look to it happening. I just think that the crazies have taken the stage. I read today that the crazies want 2 billion dollars to start up nukalar testing again. Prior to 9/11 I would have thought this kind of stupidity impossible. The current power brokers have set the bar at the lowest it has been, since the onset of WW11.
posted by Oyéah at 9:10 AM on February 16, 2005


dios - for the most part, I agree with you about that. However:

There were some sane and sensible precautions which had been suggested and could have been taken, which would not have bothered anyone, such as reinforced cockpit doors. Many of them were ignored as being too costly to business. Therefore, I'm nervous about such things as the loopholes that are currently being allowed for chemical plant security in order to lower costs to the companies in question.

My desire to see what went wrong is a desire to prevent the same mistakes from being repeated. In my opinion, this administration has, in order to shift blame away from itself, repeatedly quashed attempts to find out exactly what went wrong and why. To me, that's short-sighted, and bodes ill for the future.
posted by kyrademon at 9:13 AM on February 16, 2005


As far as the idea of someone hijacking a commercial jet and crashing it into a building being unthinkable, It wasn't. It nearly happened in 1994 when A fedEx jet was almost hijacked by an off-duty pilot with a spear gun and a hammer. He was going to crash it into FedEx's headquarters in Memphis, but was overpowered.
posted by Mcable at 9:15 AM on February 16, 2005


I'd love to know why our almighty editors continually allow nofundy be abusive to people merely because he disagrees with them.

Because nofundy isn't really a person. It's simply a script programmed to spit out lefty talking points and "clever" misnomers in seemingly random order. The algorithm is structured to insert "Bu$h" "Shrub" "Annthrax Coulter" and "Asscroft" as frequently as possible.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:18 AM on February 16, 2005


But the fact that some people want to assert blame or intentionality/complicity to the people in our government

They failed. They should have been shitcanned on the spot.

Responsibility? What's that?

posted by trondant at 9:19 AM on February 16, 2005


I'd always thought the thing about Atta's passport was another myth. I tried googling it, but all I could find was....more conspiracy sites. Anyone have a credible news link?
posted by dhoyt at 12:05 PM EST on February 16


That's a good question, dhoyt. I found the same sites.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:24 AM on February 16, 2005


Right. And WTF is that about that there were 'only 14 aircraft in the air' that day?

A clever reader will note that the article did not say that.

It said that there were 14 aircraft on alert.

Frankly, I'm surprised there were even that many.

And guess what, many of the aircraft there - fighters and not - would have been capable of a scramble

You know that how? You're an expert on preflighting F-15's or C-141's?

The 14 that were on alert would maybe have been scramble-able. The rest, no. They'd need to be fueled, armed, checked out, and pre-flighted, all of which takes a long time. Preparing an aircraft for scramble conditions is not easy, is time-consuming, puts wear and tear on the (very expensive) aircraft, and takes away from training time for the (very expensive) pilots, which is why so few planes were on alert.

Why didn't the fighters that were finally scrambled at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia fly at top, supersonic speeds?

One, they weren't allowed to, because supersonic flight over populated areas breaks things and hurts people.

Two, it's not obvious that they could. Fighters are not SST's. They can't go supersonic for extended periods, only for short bursts of speed, because going supersonic means using the afterburner and that means setting the fuel consumption to LUDICROUS. Going supersonic to get there might well have meant not having the range to get there.

Why didn't fighters immediately take off from Andrews Air Force Base

Because none of their fighters were ready to do so.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:24 AM on February 16, 2005


Dios, as a foil for ParisParamus and Witty
posted by Freen at 9:28 AM on February 16, 2005


since the onset of WW11

Have I been sleeping that long? Where is everybody?
posted by sageleaf at 9:44 AM on February 16, 2005


I tend to believe that there is more to this than we will ever know, but what makes the most sense to me is a problem that has dogged George W. Bush in virtually everything he has undertaken in his life - gross incompetence. The warnings were there, the dots were waiting to be connected, and some - including, I believe, Richard Clarke and George Tenet - were doing what they could to try to get people to pay more attention. But thanks to the incompetence of the people setting the agenda, our attention was elsewhere - stem cell research and a month-long vacation. All the pieces were there for a committed intelligence community with a realistic concept of the threats to accurately assess the situation. Our priorities were elsewhere, and we paid the price.

It's fine if George and Condi want to pledge their mountain-moving devotion to our security in the face of specific actions, but what I expect of my government - and what I believe every citizen of this nation has the RIGHT to expect - is that my government will prevent these kinds of events DESPITE the fact that all they have is incomplete information. The current government utterly failed at this.

The rumor that Israelis were warned to steer clear of the World Trade Center that day? I'd believe it, if only 'cuz I'd believe that the Israeli intelligence paid more attention to the warnings that were piling in from all over the world that year. Doesn't mean that the Israelis perpetrated 9/11 - just that they didn't sit on their asses about it.

There's a lot of great info at The Complete 9/11 timeline.

/rant
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:44 AM on February 16, 2005


"Unthinkable", no it wasn't, and here's yet another example. July 28 1945 an airplane flew into New York City and crashed into the then tallest building in the city, the Empire state.
posted by dabitch at 9:45 AM on February 16, 2005


The most interesting thing to me is the fact that there were a few warnings, the most famous of which is to the Odigo company, which happened before the attack. If there were warnings, it means there was prior knowledge by someone outside the terrorist circle. This could also explain the stock shorting that week.

But, I would say this is generally a good article in that it takes on the more scientific aspects of the conspiracy theories (This is a science mag, afterall) and rebuts them. Thanks for the link.
posted by chaz at 9:46 AM on February 16, 2005


Why didn't fighters immediately take off from Andrews Air Force Base

i wonder how much of a role movies and cold war military propoganda played in our apparent misperception that "that jet fighters would intercept anyone launching a first strike against the United States."
posted by quonsar at 9:58 AM on February 16, 2005


Back East, those distances are miniscule. The distance from Washington DC, and NYC to any of those airfields is miniscule. You are telling me that fighter aircraft can't fly a fast 200 mi, a fast 100 mi? Get out your map. I think that whole area would fit into 1/4 of any western state. Fighters play around all over the upper western quadrant of my State, on a daily basis, with their afterburners on, because there is a huge speedway for fighters here. With the computers we had then it could have been easy to track a targeting trajectory on any aircraft in the air. If that is not in place now, as a part of homeland security, I would be surprised. Here is how "it" works. Any target in this nation is set on a grid. Any aircraft flying is measured against proximity and targeting capability. Any aircraft within a 200 mi radius of prime targets, is tracked by computer in relation to targets, power plants, civic centers, major government facilities, prime targets the capitol etc. The prime Washington targets, already have anti missile sites in place. It is time to have those at Nuclear power plants, major dams, and major cities. It is time to get military personnel off of bases and out to sites working for the security of our nation, within our nation. A significant part of the military budget is to protect the military, that is why in war, most casualties are civilian.
posted by Oyéah at 9:59 AM on February 16, 2005


sadly it was a useless article. Sure they blasted away at some absurd ideas, but I have seen much better efforts in that regard. They didn't do anything to address more serious questions.

The complete 9-11 timeline site talks about a 3 minute discrepancy in the time of the crash of flight 93. Anybody have other references on this issue, possible explanations, or whatever?

(the 9-11 timeline site could really use a re-write...)
posted by Chuckles at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2005


With regards to flight 93, does it really matter if it was shot down by one of ours?

I mean, just think about it. Let's say for the moment that the "interception" theory is true. (which I happen to believe myself) The military knows there's a strike going on... other hyjacked planes have caused huge damage... And there's Flight 93, unresponsive, and they don't know what's going on.

So someone makes a judgement call, and orders it splashed.

And only much later do we find out that the passengers had regained control of it and might have landed it safely.

What actual good would it do ANYONE to have that story come out?

The dead are dead, period. Chances are pretty high they would've died in ANY scenario. And after what happened in NYC, one certainly can't blame the military for not wanting to take a risk. But suddenly a group of heroes become helpless victims, killed on accident by their own government. Recriminations fly, the survivors can't get any closure, etc etc.

However the crash occured, knowing the Truth behind it simply will not change anything. No good can come of it, only bad. So let the dead remain Heroes.
posted by InnocentBystander at 10:23 AM on February 16, 2005


People put way too much faith in the idea of a fighter jet intercepting a rogue civilian aircraft. The hijackings occurred during what amounts to rush hour in what is probably the busiest airspace in the world. How the hell would fighter pilots be able to a)identify (without a transponder signal) and b)track the aircrafts involved?

It's not like there aren't plenty of airliners regularly doing the run from Boston to NYC or Washington. Who'd want to take the chance of shooting down the wrong aircraft?

A lot of conspiracy theorists believe in a very, very simple world where everything is easily identifiable. The real world don't work that way.

Oh yeah, and about flight 93 -- it was brought down by the hijackers themselves because they knew that they couldn't keep the passengers out of the cockpit for very long, and probably also because they knew that the first 3 crashes had already happened -- as a consequence they were most likely to be intercepted shortly anyway.
posted by clevershark at 10:25 AM on February 16, 2005


8. How did Flight 93 crash in western Pennsylvania?

According to the 9/11 Commission Report [PDF], the hijackers flew it into the ground after the passengers tried to storm the cockpit:
The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door. Some family members who listened to the recording report that they can hear the voice of a loved one among the din. We cannot identify whose voices can be heard. But the assault was sustained.

In response, [Ziad] Jarrah immediately began to roll the airplane to the left and right, attempting to knock the passengers off balance. At 9:58:57, Jarrah told another hijacker in the cockpit to block the door. Jarrah continued to roll the airplane sharply left and right, but the assault continued. At 9:59:52, Jarrah changed tactics and pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt the assault. The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts, and breaking glasses and plates. At 10:00:03, Jarrah stabilized the airplane.

Five seconds later, Jarrah asked,"Is that it? Shall we finish it off?" A hijacker responded, "No. Not yet.When they all come, we finish it off." The sounds of fighting continued outside the cockpit. Again, Jarrah pitched the nose of the aircraft up and down. At 10:00:26, a passenger in the background said, "In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die!" Sixteen seconds later, a passenger yelled, "Roll it!" Jarrah stopped the violent maneuvers at about 10:01:00 and said, "Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!" He then asked another hijacker in the cockpit, "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" to which the other replied, "Yes, put it in it, and pull it down."

The passengers continued their assault and at 10:02:23,a hijacker said, "Pull it down! Pull it down!" The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them. The airplane headed down; the control wheel was turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting "Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest." With the sounds of the passenger counterattack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes' flying time from Washington, D.C.
According to Wikipedia, the three-minute discrepancy is between the reported time of the crash and seismological records:
A second uncertain area is the precise time of impact. US authorities insist that it was 10:03 AM, and the black box recording supports this. At least one phone call, that of Jeremy Glick, also ended at 10:03 AM. The 9/11 Commission also found that the crash occurred at 10:03. It gave the precise time that the plane dived as 10:02:23.

However, seismological stations reportedly recorded a tremor consistent with a plane crash at 10:06 AM (more precisely, 10:06:05). Nothing was recorded at 10:03 AM. The scientist who prepared the report latter told the 9/11 Commission that "seismic data is not definitive for the impact of UA 93." The 9/11 Commision [sic] has stated in its final report, that the seismic data is ..."far too weak in signal-to-noise ratio and far too speculative..." to be substantial.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:26 AM on February 16, 2005


obviously it was quite "thinkable" for many.

Indeed. It should also be noted that the use of planes as missiles had been foreseen by federal counter-terrorist experts before, when they were planning security operations for the 96 Olympics. So it was clearly not unthinkable.
posted by clevershark at 10:29 AM on February 16, 2005


This is the one I'm really curious about:

3. Who made a small fortune "shorting" airline and insurance stocks before Sept. 11?

Anyone have any info on this?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:34 AM on February 16, 2005


The pentagon issue is interesting to me. First of all, the conspiracy theory does not explain what happened to a 757 full of passengers that dissapeared on that day. Secondly, much of the criticism about the external damage seems to involve comparing the damage done to a 1970s skyscraper made of steel, glass and sheetrock, to a 1940s office complex made out of thousands of tons of concrete and Indiana limestone. It's been known since the Old Kingdom of Egypt that stone can withstand huge amounts of compression stress, and the Romans realized the same thing about concrete.

Images of the pentagon after the attack are too cluttered, and fuzzy to reveal much about the presence or absence of debris, and have problems revealing the scale of the damage.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:35 AM on February 16, 2005


For the record, my father was a career fighter pilot for the Canadian Air Force who spent many years flying NORAD missions on the northern and eastern borders of that air-defence system, and my understanding from him of how NORAD air defence works is pretty much in line with what ROU_Xenophobe said.

My father spent many days and nights in the 1970s and 1980s "on alert," and when (for example) a Russian Bear bomber would enter NORAD air space - usually to test reponse times and such - he would be "scrambled," would fly out to meet the Bear, and would then escort it back out of NORAD air space. He could do all of this relatively quickly and routinely because it was SOP (that's "standard operating procedure" for those of you who enjoy tossing about military lingo) for a NORAD fighter pilot. The system, as a military officer noted in the Popular Mechanics article, is donut-shaped - it was designed to repel attacks that originated outside the defence shield.

Presuming that there was an efficient system in place to notify my father's equivalents on alert at Langley or Andrews or whatever of a civilian aircraft in need of being intercepted - which there was not - there would still be the enormous problems of how to find those civilian aircraft among the thousands in the sky, how to approach them, and what procedures to use to engage, intercept, and/or attack them - none of which had any precedent. In other words, the 14 (or however many the "real" number they're not telling us is) pilots on alert wouldn't have had a clue how to proceed even if they'd been scrambled, and military operations - particularly those involving $20-million fighter aircraft - are all about procedure.

There are all kinds of loose ends surrounding 9/11, but these "questions" about the unscrambled jets are based on a deep ignorance of how the air force operates and fed, as quonsar notes, by Hollywood myths.

And incidentally, when a fighter squadron is ordered to stand down, literally hundreds, even thousands, of personnel (and their families) know about it, from the pilots themselves to ground crew to the civilians who answer the phone and cook meals at the mess. Word of it would definitely have leaked.
posted by gompa at 10:36 AM on February 16, 2005


I'd always thought the thing about Atta's passport was another myth. I tried googling it, but all I could find was....more conspiracy sites. Anyone have a credible news link?
posted by dhoyt at 12:05 PM EST on February 16

That's a good question, dhoyt. I found the same sites.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:24 PM EST on February 16



So I guess my question is: why drive home a point like that twice in the thread when there's clearly no evidence?

Not trying to single you out, but these kinds of things are repeated so often, eventually they make their way into the mouths of conspiracy theorists who state them as Fact. It's poisonous to the debate, and it helps make all healthy skeptics look like loons, unfortunately.
posted by dhoyt at 10:40 AM on February 16, 2005


ROU_Xenophobe and gompa, excellent points.

But I'm still wondering about this:

"Why was nothing done to intercept American Airlines Flight 77, which struck the Pentagon, when officials knew it had been had been hijacked some 47 minutes earlier?"

Is the timeline on this correct? Surely 47 minutes would be enough time to scramble a jet...
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:46 AM on February 16, 2005


It was an honest mistake on my part, dhyot. I thought I remembered reading about Atta's passport in The Mainstream News, so I posted it. Then you asked your question, and I went searching for it, finding only the sites you mentioned. My bad, and I'm sorry. I surely wasn't trying to posion the debate (which is damn good stuff-- there are plenty of questions relating to 9/11 that might have answers, but we'll never know unless we ask them. )
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:50 AM on February 16, 2005


"Why was nothing done to intercept American Airlines Flight 77, which struck the Pentagon, when officials knew it had been had been hijacked some 47 minutes earlier?"

Is the timeline on this correct? Surely 47 minutes would be enough time to scramble a jet...


Well, according to this impressively detailed and precise timeline, it was 9:34 before anyone from the FAA properly notified NORAD that AA 77 was missing, let alone given them some idea of where to look for it or what to do if it (NORAD, that is) found it. I think it also communicates pretty clearly how far outside SOP everyone was working, and how ill-prepared they all were to respond to the chaos of that morning.

Again, the mistake made in many of these "Why did it take so long?" accusations is to assume that once "officials" at the FAA know something vague (a plane has vanished from its radar) the NORAD official responsible for scrambling aircraft would also know this and respond to it with an incredibly precise and efficient action (finding it and ordering it shot down).

Oh, and I stand corrected: looks like fighters were scrambled out of Langley at around 9:23 - though clearly with erroneous info about what they were trying to achieve.
posted by gompa at 11:09 AM on February 16, 2005


Sorry, FM, wasn't trying to browbeat you ;) In fact, there are lots of good speculations in this thread that don't belie tinfoilhattery, so that's good for all, and a good moment for Metafilter. If only the CIA/FBI would investigate some of these issues with transparency, it might help quell the urge to create conspiracies in the first place.
posted by dhoyt at 11:10 AM on February 16, 2005


There was a big news event, wherein the doings at the stock exchange were examined to see who did profit and who did short selling or whatever it is they do. The big buzz started out, "Did terrorists profit on the 9/11 event?"

Here is an article


This article is pretty inflammatory, it is February, so enjoy the free warmth. This is just the first article that googles up, on the subject. I will look for some more.

The stonewalling happened when it was discovered that Bin Laden didn't profit, but individuals much closer to home, did.
posted by Oyéah at 11:10 AM on February 16, 2005


http://tbrnews.org/Archives/a048.htm

Try this url instead.
posted by Oyéah at 11:11 AM on February 16, 2005


Surely 47 minutes would be enough time to scramble a jet...

Not surely. I'm not in the Air Force, nor do I play an AF person on tv. But the process of preparing a cold airplane for flight won't be quick. Dealing with aircraft ain't like putting gas in your car; you do it all correctly and carefully or you, and maybe your ground crew and some people you're flying over, die.

From what I recall of the first gulf war, it took around half an hour to refuel and rearm an already-hot aircraft between flights. It would take substantially longer than that to also find all the ground crew and get them to the flight line, get the airplane preflighted and started, find the pilot and get him ready for flight, brief the pilot, and so on.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:15 AM on February 16, 2005


There was a big news event, wherein the doings at the stock exchange were examined to see who did profit and who did short selling or whatever it is they do. The big buzz started out, "Did terrorists profit on the 9/11 event?"

Here is an article



This article is pretty inflammatory, it is February, so enjoy the free warmth. This is just the first article that goggles up, on the subject. I will look for some more.

The stonewalling that happened when it was discovered that Bin Laden didn't profit, but individuals much closer to home, did.
posted by Oyéah at 11:16 AM on February 16, 2005


I thought it was widely known that Cheney's undisclosed location was/is Site R, a bunker inside Raven Rock Mountain, near the MD-PA state line and less than ten miles from Camp David.
posted by emelenjr at 11:18 AM on February 16, 2005


I note with some satisfaction that they were unable to debunk my theory that Flight 93 was shot down by Lee Harvey Oswald, the CIA, the FBI, the KGB, the teamsters, and Castro.
posted by casu marzu at 11:46 AM on February 16, 2005


My biggest concern is that Condi got her ass promoted after this happened on her watch.

And dios, yr out of yr gourd to say that this was unthinkable.

And I like the fact that someone hear also likes GBV.

And dhoyt, I agree that the internet breeds fallacies. But it's kind of a chicken-or-egg thing--given that this administration is one of the most secretive in history with, at best, a sketchy track record when it comes to truth-telling, and given that Bush rewards failure and incompetence with said promotions, it's pretty clear why so many conspiracies are rampant.
posted by bardic at 12:09 PM on February 16, 2005


Why was nothing done to intercept American Airlines Flight 77, which struck the Pentagon, when officials knew it had been had been hijacked some 47 minutes earlier?

Heh, never attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence, or perhaps in this case, training that does not serve well in the face of a unique problem.

Putting on the psychology hat. The NPR timeline is really interesting. Indianapolis looses contact with Flight 77 before it turns east, and before Indianapolis knows about the first two crashes. So it starts working from the hypothesis that Flight 77 suffered a catastrophic failure and crashed somewhere heading west.

FAA National on the other hand, is working from the hypothesis that terrorists working out of Boston have hijacked two or three planes. Trying to sift through massive quantities of data they come to a bad conclusion. Flight 11 didn't crash in NYC, therefore it must be still airborne. So this is the theory that gets communicated to NORAD. It scrambles fighters that attempt to intercept a rogue flight from the North.

Only 17 minutes pass from the point in time when Indianapolis realizes that other flights have been hijacked, to the pentagon crash. During this period, there seems to be quite a bit of cognitive inertia which is made even more problematic by the fact that the system still has a large volume of legitimate air traffic and is busy re-routing planes away from NYC.

So I'm wondering where the 47 minutes figure comes from? Indianapolis Air Control spent the first 25 minutes after Flight 77 vanished working the most reasonable hypothesis, the hypothesis that they were trained for, catastrophic air disaster.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:15 PM on February 16, 2005


The section of the Pentagon that the plane hit had recently been renovated to add steel beams and columns, reinforced floors, "a special cloth that helps prevent masonry from fragmenting and turning into shrapnel" (and is also used to make bullet-resistant vests), and blast-resistant windows. The improvements, which were intended to add safeguards against terrorist bombings, reduced the damage of the initial impact and delayed the collapse of the damaged floors.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:33 PM on February 16, 2005


b1tr0t,

I am not familiar with the crash you mentioned, but it reminded me about a program on NPR about people that commit suicide by airplane.

dios,

I consider "asswipe" to be on the very low end of the abusive scale and even slightly amusing. Never mind the fact that political threads are areas where emotions tend to run high and therefore, some abuse should be expected and tolerated.
posted by john at 12:38 PM on February 16, 2005


A huge part of the problem here, as others have pointed out, is the lack of an intense and transparent investigation into the events of 9/11. There are many as many unanswered questions as conspiracy theories - it's a smog of data. Its pretty obvious that folks on both sides of the political spectrum are using the inconsistency and confusion to further their own agenda. While politics happen, no matter what, there should be an understanding that some politics move us further away from an honest accounting of the events of 9/11 and the possible solutions we could persue to make our country, and the world, a safer place.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:36 PM on February 16, 2005


I didn't believe in any of the theories "debunked" in this article; but seeing this article, its breezy and cavalier manner, the list of so-called experts, and the so-called news source it comes from, makes me think that I should probably reconsider all the so-called conspiracy theories anew.

Ever wonder why nearly every Popular Mechanics cover features some new piece of futuristic military technology? How do they find out about all this neato new stuff? Do you think that they have investigative journalists who steal documents and sneak into government labs and test sites to find out about the latest developments in ram jets and body armor? When was the last time that they "broke" a story? It seems quite obvious to me that they are fed their articles by the military and related industries because, as purveyors of the neato and wow factors, Popular Mechanics is one of the most effective propagandists for our military that exist. When was the last time you read one of their yearly "The Future of Warfare" articles? Aren't those great! I would kind of prefer a future without war and a present without so many jerkoffs who fetishize war, celebrate warmakers, and run interference for the arms industry. But really, PM seems intent on being a cheerleader

So they get a group of experts collected from retired military officers (in whose employ now?), FEMA employees, University professors dependent on government research funds, no less than three Air Force public affairs (opinion managers) officers, and assorted other military and industry nabobs to address and refute some confusing and senseless rumors on the internet? Come on. The most important questions about governmental and presidential negligence or even involvement are ignored in favor of dumbed-down engineering speak from "experts."

This really makes me think that either

a) this piece is designed to distract us from the real issues of government fore-knowledge, incompetency, or downright complicity, and cover-up and whitewashing of same

or

b) the entertaining goofballs at Rense and similar sites have actually stopped worrying about our seven foot tall reptilian overlords long enough to have stumbled onto some small kernel of truth (i.e., one of the things PM aims to debunk) that necessitated this article with its wide brush.

Of course there is also the possibility that I am wrong and this article represents a new era of truth and responsibility from our military industrial complex and its organs in the press (led by, of course, Popular Mechanics). Surely they will soon convene similar panels to address the popular internet rumors of the day. Under this scenario one can hope to see similar reports made and panels convened to disprove the notions that Bush is actually a seven foot tall flesh-eating and lizard, and that he and Dick Cheney both routinely hunt children for sport and/or sex.
posted by mokujin at 1:41 PM on February 16, 2005


i have a lot of trouble with the notion of the government suppressing some essential truths about F93 in order to protect the public, InnocentBystander. I mean who decides when the truth just isn't worth it anymore. That decision has to fall on somebody or some beurocratic panels shoulders and I can't imagine wanting anyone making that decision for me. Who wants to have the personal policy of wanting their government to always tell them the truth unless it's just too scary.

Sure, this time you agree with this shadowy decision to lie to the public (if that's what this is), but what if next time it's about how They spend your money or fight disease or secure our farms. I, for one, don't want to open that door.
posted by firemouth at 1:50 PM on February 16, 2005


How is the work of the 9/11 Commission not "an intense and transparent investigation?" They held twelve public, televised hearings over fourteen months (transcripts), and the commission's report and staff statements are available on the commission's web site.

Elizabeth Drew's long and detailed review of the commission's report in the New York Review of Books calls the report "a powerful indictment of the Bush administration for its behavior before and after the attacks of September 11."
posted by kirkaracha at 2:01 PM on February 16, 2005


I've been dying to point out, by the way, that I love it when people do this:

FACT: My pants are too small.
FACT: The Martians have landed.
FACT: Starting every sentence with "FACT," as opposed to "CLAIM," imbues my every word with truth and veridity.
FACT: I wanted to get on snopes, but they didn't like my pants.

That's all. I did like the article; it was helpful and useful.

posted by koeselitz at 2:05 PM on February 16, 2005


kirkaracha, you answer your own question. As Elizabeth Drew and others point out, the 9/11 commission report censored itself and refused to actually lay any blame on the administration. The "powerful indictment" is only evident to those of us who are already critical of the administration, thus Bush won reelection and promoted Condoleeza Rice. None of that seems like the expected result of a "powerful indictment."

And, when most of the evidence is secret (e.g., the "smoking gun" memo that Benveniste was not allowed to name or refer to until Rice did so) and Presidential and VicePresidential testimony is taken behind closed doors without any recording devices I have a very very hard time using the term transparent. If it is not transparent it is very difficult to guage its accuracy and its intensity. So maybe the investigation was, if not transparent, at least thorough, but that does not mean that the report was anything other than a laughable whitewash.
posted by mokujin at 2:21 PM on February 16, 2005


During 1999 & 2000 NORAD conducted drills where 747's were used as weapons of mass destruction - including a drill in which the World Trade Center was targeted.
posted by mlis at 2:36 PM on February 16, 2005


How did the pieces of flight 93 get separated by 5 miles? Only a mid-air explosion could explain that. Either it was shot down or blown up by the terrorists. So either the story that that the planes were hijacked with only box knives is wrong or it was shot down.
The first report was that it was shot down.
Cell phones wouldnt work at high speed and altitude.
Rumsfield said it was shot down but then recanted.
posted by Osmanthus at 2:41 PM on February 16, 2005


. . .the process of preparing a cold airplane for flight won't be quick. It would take substantially longer than that to also find all the ground crew and get them to the flight line, get the airplane preflighted and started, find the pilot and get him ready for flight, brief the pilot, and so on.


The Air National Guard F-15's that were scrambled from Otis were airborne and en route in under 15 minutes on September 11, 2001.

That September 11, 2001 was Day II of "Vigilant Guardian," an exercise that would pose an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide did not help when the real thing happened.
posted by mlis at 2:54 PM on February 16, 2005


I'll try this again.

A plane that has been readied for alert status -- that is sitting warm, preflighted, fueled, armed, with the pilot and ground crew nearby, can indeed be airborne in a few minutes.

We had only a very few of those, because we normally need only a very few of them, and because when you leave warm, fueled, armed aircraft lying around, sometimes they go boom, which isn't normally a good way to get rid of expensive airplanes and expensive pilots.

When a plane has not been readied for alert, it is not ready for flight. It must, shockingly, be made ready before it can fly, and especially before it can fly a combat mission.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:03 PM on February 16, 2005


ROU_Xenophobe, I don't have any issue with the technical perspective you bring, but that is an interesting story in itself isn't it? I mean, just as you say, most people don't realize it.

I can remember way back watching Gwynne Dyer's "War" TV series. I was around 14 and studying all those cool jet fighters in every spare second of my life. Here is some guy, apparently as impressed by them as I was. He points out that they are basically useless - that they take too much maintenance, and that nuclear decontamination procedures are absurd, that they would never be useful in any real war. That alone sounds like a conspiracy (not a 9/11 conspiracy, of course, but...).
posted by Chuckles at 6:37 PM on February 16, 2005


I saw a video where a F16 was crashed into a solid concrete pylon thing at near supersonic speed.The plane just completely disintegrated into small bits and explosion.
I have no doubt about the plane pentagon question.
Jeff Wells however,has questions.
posted by hortense at 9:41 PM on February 16, 2005


Speaking of myths, here's a good new german article on global warming. Damn thread closed already but I want to keep track of the link.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:22 PM on February 21, 2005


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