Loose Marbles I: Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

It seems to be part of human nature that any event of great scale or significance will inevitably engender conspiracy theories. The Kennedy assassination and the moon landing are two recent events that have spawned some of the most durable and complex examples, but there are many more, swirling around nearly every major world event and ranging from the nearly plausible to the outright ridiculous. (An example of the latter category would be the assertion that Hurricane Katrina was caused by secret weather-control technology.)

But no recent world event has been more iconic or more horrifying than the September 11, 2001 attack on America. As such, it is no surprise that the events of 9/11 have given rise to a slew of conspiracy theories alleging that the attacks were not, as they appeared, the handiwork of radical Islamists working for the terror group al-Qaeda, but rather a plot orchestrated by the U.S. government. This charge is leveled most prominently by a variety of conspiracy documentaries circulating on the Internet, one of which is titled Loose Change. Created by the filmmakers Dylan Avery, Korey Rowe and Jason Bermas, LC alleges that the 9/11 attacks occurred primarily as a cover-up for a plan to steal billions of dollars in gold (hence the title), and secondarily as an excuse to enact elements of a neoconservative political agenda.

Before going any further, I should stress that I fully support efforts to roll back the regressive laws and stop the bellicose and disastrous foreign policy which were both defended by the Bush administration by endless appeals to 9/11. However, I also believe that we on the left should be, as the saying goes, in the reality-based community. Our opposition to these programs should be based on the facts, not on paranoid fantasies, and in this respect LC and other 9/11 conspiracy theories must be met on their own terms and debunked. This documentary in particular was characterized by corruptions of logic, appeals to missing or dubious evidence, wild speculation blended with selectively presented fact, and other hallmarks of the irrationality that pervades most conspiratorial thinking. It will be the purpose of this post series to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt by analyzing its claims and showing that they do not hold up.

I will not be arguing against hypotheses that the Bush administration had advance knowledge of the attacks and deliberately failed to prevent them. Although I believe this idea is also false, it is not the purpose of this series to address it. Rather, I will focus on debunking the idea that the Bush administration, or any other government or entity, carried out a plan whose purpose was to make Americans believe that we had been attacked by Islamic terrorists when we had not been. As I will argue, the conventional explanation for 9/11 – that the attacks were planned and carried out by members of al-Qaeda, smuggling weapons on board four commercial airliners to hijack them and use them as kamikaze missiles – is the only reasonable explanation for the events of that terrible day.

We begin with the section of LC concerning Flight 77 and the attack on the Pentagon. Claims from the documentary will be presented, along with the time indexes of the film at which they are made. (For purposes of comparison, the documentary itself can be viewed at Google Video).

The Pentagon and Flight 77

The documentary begins with historical material intended to establish that 9/11-like ideas were being discussed secretly by the government for decades before 2001. For example, we have this:

00:02:50
“August, 1997. The cover of FEMA’s Emergency Response to Terrorism [manual] depicts the World Trade Center in crosshairs.”

There is one rather obvious reason for this that the filmmakers overlook: by this point, the World Trade Center had already been the target of a terrorist attack, the 1993 truck bombing, for which Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and four other conspirators were tried and convicted. Terrorist plotter Ramzi Yousef allegedly claimed that his group would try again to destroy the Twin Towers (source). It was only rational for the government to suspect the towers might be targets of a further terrorist attack, given this evidence. Or are we to believe that that attack was part of the conspiracy as well?

The scope of any plausible 9/11 conspiracy would be enormous, spanning hundreds or thousands of people: the government officials who actually conceived of the attack, the military personnel who set it up and carried it out, the pathologists who faked autopsy and genetic data, the intelligence agencies that would have concocted false evidence of al-Qaeda involvement, the disaster-response teams on the scene immediately after the attacks, the airline employees and air-traffic controllers who would have to have cooperated, and more. Are we now to double this scope by postulating a conspiracy that spans two presidential administrations from different political parties?

00:03:55
“October 24, 2000. The Pentagon conducts the first of two training exercises called MASCAL, which simulate a Boeing 757 crashing into the building. Charles Burlingame, an ex-Navy F-4 pilot who worked in the Pentagon, participates in this exercise before retiring to take a job at American Airlines, where, less than a year later, his Boeing 757 allegedly crashes into the building.”

This would indeed be a sinister-seeming coincidence, if true, although the filmmakers never quite explain how such a fact would fit into their conspiracy theory. (Are we to believe that a military veteran with 25 years of distinguished service would agree to participate in an attack against his own country?) However, there appears to be evidence that it is untrue: although Burlingame did work at the Pentagon, he left well before 2000 and thus could not have participated in these exercises as the film claims. See this article from the 9/11 Myths website.

00:06:10
“Newsweek reports that a number of top Pentagon brass canceled their flight plans for [September 11].”

Again, this is a sinister-sounding fact whose relevance is not explained. In fact, it is hard to see how this fits into the conspiracy theory. If, as the filmmakers believe, September 11 was planned in advance, then why would any top Pentagon officials cancel their travel plans? They would have known they were in no danger.

LC now moves on to the attack on the Pentagon. The hypothesis put forward by the filmmakers, as well as numerous other conspiracy sites, is that on September 11 the Pentagon was struck not by a hijacked airliner, but by a cruise missile.

00:12:30
The filmmakers quote an October 12, 2001 Parade interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in which Rumsfeld says, “Here we’re talking about plastic knives, and using an American Airlines flight filled with our citizens, and the missile to damage this building…”

I am not sure what the point is of citing this simple slip of the tongue, unless the filmmakers mean to imply that one of the chief plotters of the most extensive, diabolical and secret conspiracies in the history of the human race accidentally gave the whole thing away in a quote to Parade magazine.

00:12:55
“Hani Hanjour [one of the hijackers of Flight 77] allegedly executes a 330-degree turn at 530 miles per hour, descending 7000 feet in two and a half minutes to crash… into the ground floor of the Pentagon.” The documentary cites a pilot named Russ Wittenberg who claims that a Boeing 757 “could not possibly have flown at those speeds… without going into a high speed stall… The airplane won’t go that fast when you start pulling those high G maneuvers”.

The maneuvers described are well within the capabilities of a Boeing 757, which is rated for much higher G-forces than such a turn would produce (see here; be aware that this site claims the plane was remotely controlled, a conspiracy hypothesis to which I do not subscribe).

00:15:15
The film quotes Danielle O’Brien, an air traffic controller on duty on 9/11, who says of Flight 77, “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought… that it was a military plane.”

Although other factual errors in the film can be explained as simple mistakes or oversights, this is the first one that cannot be. This is an example of the flatly dishonest tactic called “quote-mining”, often employed by creationists, in which a person’s words are made to seem to be saying something other than they are by removing relevant context. As the full quote shows, the air traffic controllers thought Flight 77 was a military plane not because it displayed any unusual speed or maneuverability, but because it was flying in a fashion that would have been highly dangerous for any commercial airliner. Obviously, the hijackers were not concerned about the safety of the passengers.

00:15:25
The film discusses the damage to light poles near the Pentagon, which were ripped out of the ground by collisions with Flight 77′s wings as the hijacked plane made its final approach. “Flight 77 managed to tear five light poles completely out of the ground without damaging either the wings or the light poles themselves.”

At first glance, this might seem like an anomaly. But as previously mentioned, the filmmakers’ proposed explanation is that the Pentagon was damaged by a cruise missile. The Tomahawk cruise missile, which they mention specifically, has a wingspan that is all of eight feet. How could such a missile possibly have knocked down the light poles? This is a question the filmmakers ignore.

This is yet another example of the conspiracy tactic which I call “the unexplained sinister assertion”: some apparently anomalous piece of evidence which the filmmakers state in deeply sinister tones, implying that it is an insurmountable problem for the ordinary explanation. But then they never explain how their conspiracy hypothesis accounts for it any better. In fact, in some cases (such as this one), the ordinary explanation accounts for it much better than the conspiracy hypothesis.

Why assume, in any case, that this impact did not damage the plane’s wings? They might well have been disintegrating already by the time the plane impacted the building. Significant amounts of debris were found on the Pentagon’s lawn (photos). Additionally, the claim that the knocked-down light poles were undamaged is false. In reality, they were severely bent and even sheared off at the top by the force of the impact. See photos here and here.

00:16:25
“Why is there absolutely no trace of Flight 77? … The official explanation is that the intense heat from the jet fuel vaporized the entire plane.”

I would very much like to know who proposed this “official explanation”, because it is plainly ludicrous. I suspect it is a straw man of the filmmakers’ invention. To my knowledge, no one has ever suggested that Flight 77 was entirely vaporized by the heat of the explosion; rather, Flight 77 disintegrated because it was crashed at 350 mph into a nine-foot-thick wall of reinforced concrete and steel. (The filmmakers’ comparisons to other plane crashes which left significantly more debris are irrelevant, since the cases they cite concern planes that crashed into the ground, a considerably softer medium.) Such a catastrophic impact would not be expected to leave large pieces of the plane intact. However, that fact notwithstanding, a significant amount of recognizable debris was found – including body parts and even bodies of passengers still strapped into their seats (source, and additional photos; see also here). Additionally, Flight 77′s black box and cockpit voice recorder were both also found (source).

00:18:35
Among the debris found at the Pentagon was a piece of a single turbojet engine, approximately 3 feet in diameter, which some have claimed was part of the plane’s auxiliary power unit (APU). The film quotes spokespeople from Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, the two companies that manufacture 757 engines, both of which claimed it was not a part from their company’s engines.

The claim about this component being part of an APU is apparently untrue, and seems to be a red herring cited by the filmmakers. In reality, experts who have studied the photos have concluded that it was probably part of a compressor or turbine disk from the Rolls-Royce RB211-535 turbofan engine, which American Airlines 757s are equipped with (source).

The Rolls-Royce spokesperson may simply have been mistaken; alternatively, this may be another instance of deliberate quote-mining by the filmmakers. The quote they briefly show says that the spokesperson claimed this was not a part of a Rolls-Royce AE 3007H engine, a different model than that of a 757. The AE 3007H engine is installed on, among other things, the unmanned Global Hawk surveillance craft. Some conspiracy theories, although not LC, claim a Global Hawk struck the Pentagon. This claim therefore refutes, not supports, conspiracy ideas. Confusingly, LC also implies that the part may have come from a U.S. A-3 Skywarrior fighter plane, which would contradict the film’s own explanation if it were true. Consistency does not seem to be a great concern of the filmmakers.

00:21:00
“…Employees at the Pentagon were seen carrying away a large box, shrouded in a blue tarp. Why the mystery?”

The filmmakers have debunked their own claim here, as acknowledged in this post from LC‘s official forum.

00:21:40
“Why is the damage to the Pentagon completely inconsistent with a Boeing 757? …The only damage to the outer wall is a single hole, no more than 16 feet in diameter.” The film claims that a 155-foot-long 757 should have caused more damage, and asks why there is no visible hole from where the wings and engines slammed into the building.

To begin with, the real world is not a Warner Brothers cartoon. A plane crashed at high speed into a solid object will not leave a hole that is an exact silhouette of itself. This is especially true if, as eyewitness reports indicate, the plane crashed and skidded along the ground before striking the Pentagon; in such case, its wings would already have been disintegrating before impacting the building. Nevertheless, there is extensive damage to the Pentagon consistent with the impact of a jumbo jet. See here for a large picture (warning: 2.3 MB image), and here for a gallery of somewhat smaller photos. Clearly, although the plane’s wings did not punch cartoon-like holes into the Pentagon, they did inflict extensive damage to its facade. (As multiple sites have pointed out, airplane wings are designed to be as light as possible, and would have shredded upon impact with the building’s heavily reinforced load-bearing columns.) See here and here for detailed analyses.

The film asks (00:17:55) what happened to the plane’s massive, six-ton main engines, and the answer is that they did indeed punch into the Pentagon. An Army report on the cleanup two weeks after 9/11 (source) says: “On the inside wall of the second ring of the Pentagon, a nearly circular hole, about 12-feet wide, allows light to pour into the building from an internal service alley. An aircraft engine punched the hole out on its last flight after being broken loose from its moorings on the plane.”

00:28:30
“…Why did people keep reporting a second explosion at the Pentagon [after the plane had crashed]?” [The film plays several clips of live news reports from 9/11 citing reports of secondary explosions.]

This is another example of the unexplained sinister assertion. Why would we expect secondary explosions from the impact of a cruise missile but not from the crash of a jumbo jet?

00:29:00
“Surveillance cameras from a gas station, Sheraton hotel, and the Virginia Department of Transportation captured the entire thing. [The film shows vantage points from these places overlooking the Pentagon.] However, the FBI was there within minutes to confiscate the tapes… If the government wishes to prove once and for all that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, all they would have to do is release one of those tapes.”

I too would encourage the public release of these tapes, assuming these claims are accurate. However, when evidence does exist contradicting the preferred conspiracy hypothesis – recordings of phone calls made by passengers on the hijacked planes, which will be discussed later – the filmmakers simply appeal, without a shred of embarrassment, to secret government technology that can allegedly be used to imitate people’s voices. If these tapes were produced, what would prevent the conspiracists from claiming they too were forgeries?

00:29:45
“…Why do satellite photos taken four days before 9/11 show a white marking on the front lawn [shows satellite photo of an 'H'-shaped mark on the ground outside the building], marking almost the exact trajectory of whatever hit the Pentagon four days later?”

This is yet another example of the unexplained sinister assertion. Why would a cruise missile need a white mark on the ground to guide it to its target?

In fact, the entire Pentagon conspiracy hypothesis is an example of the unexplained sinister assertion on a grand scale. Assuming that the U.S. government wanted to stage an attack on the Pentagon and went to all the trouble of making a commercial jumbo jet and all its passengers disappear to make it seem as if it had been used as the weapon, why would they not just actually crash the plane into the Pentagon? What on earth would be the point of using a cruise missile instead? This is a massive logical gap which this movie never even attempts to answer.

Many conspiracy theories suffer from this defect, which I call the fallacy of unnecessary complexity. Given the sinister nature of the average conspiracy theory, why would the plotters choose a scheme involving a byzantine, sometimes Rube Goldbergian, amount of superfluous complication – vastly increasing both the risk of failure and the risk of discovery – when a much simpler plan would have achieved their goals just as well? To name one example, if the assassination of President Kennedy was a conspiracy, why would the conspirators adopt the insanely risky scheme of shooting him in broad daylight with thousands of people watching, when they could have poisoned him in some surreptitious manner and attributed his death to a stroke or heart attack?

There is one more problem for 9/11 conspiracy theorists – a big one. Unlike the crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the impact on the Pentagon took place in a heavily populated area. As the film itself notes (00:13:25), “[Flight 77's] final approach took it directly across Interstate 395.” Given this fact, one would expect there to be a great number of people who witnessed the crash, and indeed this is the case. The problem for the conspiracists is that these people, virtually without exception, reported seeing a Boeing 757 – and not a cruise missile – hit the Pentagon. (Read testimonies of eyewitnesses here, here, here and here.)

LC veers away from this devastating evidence, creating an illusion of equivalence by stating only that “some” people saw a commercial airliner while others saw “a small, 8-to-20-passenger commuter plane” (00:24:25). However, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of witnesses saw a jumbo jet crash into the Pentagon; the scattered accounts of a smaller plane can easily be explained as mistakes, considering the brief time people had to witness such a shocking event. By contrast, no one has reported seeing a missile. Even the filmmakers’ star witness, a woman named April Gallop who was injured in the attack and claims she was pressured by mysterious government agents while in the hospital (00:24:55), never claims to have seen a missile. The filmmakers imply that this wild story is sufficient justification to reject the eyewitness accounts. Even if it is true, which seems doubtful, are we to believe that these sinister men in black tracked down every single witness to the impact – all the hundreds of people who were in the Pentagon, in buildings that overlooked the Pentagon, or driving down the road by the Pentagon – before any had a chance to talk to the media, and successfully coerced or blackmailed every single one into lying about what they had seen? This shows clearly what a ludicrously vast scope a putative 9/11 conspiracy would have to have to be successful.

Any scientific theory worth its salt is supported by not just one, but multiple lines of evidence all independently converging on the same conclusion. That is exactly the case here. We have a commercial plane, American Airlines Flight 77, missing along with all of its passengers (and what exactly do conspiracists suppose happened to those people?); we have numerous eyewitness reports of a jumbo jet striking the Pentagon; we have debris consistent with the crash of a Boeing 757, including the black box and cockpit data recorder; we have evidence of phone calls made by passengers on the hijacked flight, including Barbara Olson, the wife of U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson (source); and last but not least, we have forensic data identifying all 64 people aboard the plane through DNA and dental records. (See here for a flight manifest.) There is only one conclusion to be drawn from the weight of this combined evidence, and that is that the hijacked Flight 77, and not a missile, crashed into the Pentagon on September 11. Assertions to the contrary are without grounding in logic or common sense.

Next: Part II of this series will examine conspiracy claims surrounding the airplane impacts with and subsequent collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • SpeirM

    Brings again to mind how wholly misleading that tired old G. K. Chesterton quote is. (“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”) On the contrary, it’s people given to blind belief who are the ones most likely fall for whatever crazy thing happens by. I see no material difference in the kind of gullibility required for religious belief and conspiracy theory belief.

  • Azkyroth

    Reminds me of one idiot (I think the rudeness can be justified in this instance) from Egypt a friend ran into a while ago online who claimed that he couldn’t believe anyone was stupid enough to think Al Qaeda was behind 9/11. When she pressed him, he pushed a few ideas including the “fake tapes” idea, but the one he pushed was that supposedly the Taliban promised to turn Bin Laden over if the U.S. could supply “incontrovertible evidence” that he was responsible, and the Taliban never turned him over, so the U.S. must not have had any evidence. That one still makes me laugh…

  • Azkyroth

    Oh, and to paraphrase my father: “The September 11th attacks were incontrovertibly not planned by the Bush administration, for one simple reason: they succeeded.”

  • andrea

    There may not be any conspiracy but the pure idiocy that the Bush administration has demonstrated in all facets of this case, from “losing” the WMDs that were right there ready to launch, to only being able to find one probably insane man who probably never had anything to do with 9/11 , to their keeping the wraps on evidence for years (leading to more conspiracy theories about how the new tapes were created…), has created the perfect climate for the generation of theories. We can’t trust their word about anything anymore.

    Conspiracy theories do one good thing. They keep people’s eyes open for any possiblity. And, just to play devil’s advocate, just because crazy people think something sinister happened, doesn’t mean that it didn’t.

    BTW, poisoning isn’t as surefire as you may think. And to claim that a daylight shooting is more Rube-Goldbergian than the “magic” bullet, I guess it’s just a matter of opinion.

  • Oz

    What rubbish. Everyone knows it was the Evil Atheist Conspiracy.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Reminds me of one idiot (I think the rudeness can be justified in this instance) from Egypt a friend ran into a while ago online who claimed that he couldn’t believe anyone was stupid enough to think Al Qaeda was behind 9/11.

    Allow me to go out on a limb here: Did said idiot believe that Israel was responsible? (Even Loose Change, fortunately, doesn’t repeat that silly rumor about all the Jewish employees of the Twin Towers not showing up for work that day.)

    Oh, and to paraphrase my father: “The September 11th attacks were incontrovertibly not planned by the Bush administration, for one simple reason: they succeeded.”

    Heh. That’s definitely the best anti-conspiracy argument I’ve heard so far. In fairness to the Bush administration, however, they do seem quite adept at destroying things; it’s what comes after that they’re incompetent to plan.

    BTW, poisoning isn’t as surefire as you may think. And to claim that a daylight shooting is more Rube-Goldbergian than the “magic” bullet, I guess it’s just a matter of opinion.

    No method of causing death is 100% reliable, of course, but there are plenty of quite lethal things you can administer to a person. And even if poison hadn’t killed Kennedy outright, he probably would have been left incapacitated for some time, which might have been just as good depending on one’s preferred perpetrators. On the other hand, a broad-daylight shooting from a distance could easily have missed, not only doing no harm but alerting Kennedy that they were after him.

    I’m not suggesting poisoning was the only other way to kill Kennedy. My point is that, if some powerful and secret conspiracy had had it out for him, there would have been plenty of more reliable and, more importantly, secret methods to do it than shooting him in broad daylight. As far as the “magic bullet”, the wounds sustained by Kennedy and Connally seem improbable from a single bullet only if the two of them were sitting straight and at the same height at the time, neither of which is true.

  • Azkyroth

    It’s been a while since she sent me that log but I think he claimed the Bush administration itself was responsible, and that discrediting Islam was among their motives, if not the sole one…

    Then he started pushing a bunch of retrodictions from the Koran at her and calling them “miracles.” I’ll have to see if I can find the log, or get her to; might be entertaining.

  • Dale

    Like to hear thoughts on how WTC 7 came down in like fashion as the Twin Towers the same day. If any are fishy it’s this one.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The collapse of WTC7 is addressed in Part II.

  • Lucas Salvatore

    The only thing I love more than a good hoax is watching the hoax get torn limb from limb by factual evidence.

    Thank you.

  • glenn

    I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. However, it is clear Bush, no matter how unintentional, directly benefited from 9/11. Check out his poll ratings at Source..

    His approval ratings climbed from 52% in in August 2001, to 88% in October 2001. Why? Because people rally ’round their presidents, Republican or Democrats, in times of crisis. Without 9/11, the entire Bush agenda would have gone nowhere. And with mid-terms coming up, I’m sure plenty of amoral strategists are hoping for another terrorist attack of 9/11 proportions. Republican conspirators? No. Unintended beneficiaries? God yes.

  • http://stevegloor.typepad.com Ender

    “The maneuvers described are well within the capabilities of a Boeing 757, which is rated for much higher G-forces than such a turn would produce (see here; be aware that this site claims the plane was remotely controlled, a conspiracy hypothesis to which I do not subscribe).”

    It is true that it is within the capabilities of a 757 however 2 questions remain:
    1. The terrorist pilot was refused the hire of a plane because of his alleged poor piloting skills. This turn and the subsequent holding of an airliner at 350 mph 10 feet off the deck to hit the Pentagon would have taxed the skill of an experienced airline pilot. He also only had one go to get it right.

    “Marcel Bernard, the chief flight instructor at the airport, said the man named Hani Hanjour went into the air in a Cessna 172 with instructors from the airport three times beginning the second week of August and had hoped to rent a plane from the airport. … Instructors at the school told Bernard that after three times in the air, they still felt he was unable to fly solo …
    - The Prince George’s Journal (Maryland), 2001-09-18″

    2. Why did he turn anyway? He was already flying toward the Pentagon yet he risked doing incredible diving turn to hit the only part of the Pentagon that was being renovated and reinforced.

    I do not know what happened on that day and I am not saying that there was a conspiracy as eyewitness accounts saw a 757 hit the Pentagon. There are unanswered question here that nobody seems interested in revealing.

    I wrote a small blog post on the videos that were released that spawn more questions than they reveal. I just do not trust that the whole story has been revealed. As I concluded in the end of my post surely ONE of the cameras ringing the area must have captured the moment where the 757 can be clearly seen metres from hitting the wall. Your government only has to release one of these photos to dispose of all these crap conspiracy theories one and for all. Why don’t they do that?
    My post on the subject:
    http://stevegloor.typepad.com/sgloor/2006/05/911_pentagon_vi.html

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The terrorist pilot was refused the hire of a plane because of his alleged poor piloting skills. This turn and the subsequent holding of an airliner at 350 mph 10 feet off the deck to hit the Pentagon would have taxed the skill of an experienced airline pilot. He also only had one go to get it right.

    I believe Patrick Smith of Salon, an airplane pilot himself, says it best in his “Ask the pilot” column (registration required, or watch an ad to view the article for free):

    As I’ve explained in at least one prior column, Hani Hanjour’s flying was hardly the show-quality demonstration often described. It was exceptional only in its recklessness. If anything, his loops and turns and spirals above the nation’s capital revealed him to be exactly the shitty pilot he by all accounts was. To hit the Pentagon squarely he needed only a bit of luck, and he got it, possibly with help from the 757′s autopilot…

    …The perpetrators had purchased manuals and videos describing the flight management systems of the 757/767, and as any desktop simulator enthusiast will tell you, elementary operation of the planes’ navigational units and autopilots is chiefly an exercise in data programming. You can learn it at home. You won’t be good, but you’ll be good enough.

    “They’d done their homework and they had what they needed,” says a United Airlines pilot (name withheld on request), who has flown every model of Boeing from the 737 up. “Rudimentary knowledge and fearlessness.”

    Why did he turn anyway? He was already flying toward the Pentagon yet he risked doing incredible diving turn to hit the only part of the Pentagon that was being renovated and reinforced.

    A good question. I haven’t looked into this in detail, but the answer seems to be that he overshot his target on the first attempt, and had to swing back around to try again.

    I wrote a small blog post on the videos that were released that spawn more questions than they reveal. I just do not trust that the whole story has been revealed. As I concluded in the end of my post surely ONE of the cameras ringing the area must have captured the moment where the 757 can be clearly seen metres from hitting the wall. Your government only has to release one of these photos to dispose of all these crap conspiracy theories one and for all. Why don’t they do that?

    You seem to have missed the part of my post where I address this exact claim.

  • http://stevegloor.typepad.com Ender

    Ebonmuse – “You seem to have missed the part of my post where I address this exact claim.”

    You did not exactly address it. You share my hope that one day a proper photo will be released.

    “A good question. I haven’t looked into this in detail, but the answer seems to be that he overshot his target on the first attempt, and had to swing back around to try again.”

    If he overshot a novice pilot would not then be instantly able to decide that a 270 deg diving turn losing 8000ft is the answer – remember that the plane is flying at 3 miles per minute. If he overshot an attack he would have been low and have to pull up, fly out a bit further and then try again. None of it really adds up. The NTSB does not have the data off the flight recorder, it also was confiscated. Just publishing this would answer a lot of questions.

    For me it just does not add up and the data that your government is releasing does not answer the questions.

  • Matthew

    Your attacking the ideas behind the evidence and not the evidence. How do you vaporize 12 tons of titanium in a matter of seconds with kerosene, which cannot even reach the temperatures to melt it, especially in a split second. You are pursuasive, I’ll give you that, but you’re doing nothing but citing words and presenting no counter evidence. If you had a debate with lets say a science professor on the matters of evidence you’d be crushed, less pursausion tactics, more counter evidence.

  • Azkyroth

    Where did tons of titanium come into this? If you’re talking about the plane…I was under the impression they were made mostly of aluminum, which my pocket torch will melt in theory, but I could be mistaken. However, the plane wouldn’t have to be vaporized for the titanium not to be apparent; pulverized would suffice.

    Anyway, what else do you expect him to do other than “cite words,” personally examine every chunk of rubble from the WTC and Pentagon and then dump them all on your doorstep with a wheelbarrow? If you have a more specific objection than just the use of secondhand sources, perhaps you should try phrasing it a little more clearly.

  • Azkyroth

    Should read “secondary sources.”

  • David Ecklein

    Very thoughtful analysis here of various 9/11 theories. The idea that government sappers choreographed controlled demolitions with the plane crashes is particularly sappy (pun?). Why then would they blow up building #7, which was not hit by aircraft?

    9/11 was a gift to the Bush administration; how they interpreted it to the public and used it (even though a poor fit) to justify the Iraq invasion, is the real “conspiracy” here, if anyone can call such transparent bungling a conspiracy.

    Without admitting to a Roosevelt conspiracy (a staple of rightwingers since
    America First), I suspect that US authorities knew something was in the wind before Pearl Harbor. After all, US and Japanese imperialist expansions were on a collision course. But, like the British in Malaysia, they underestimated the scale and sophistication of the Japanese opening gambit, due perhaps to their denigration of non-white capabilities. It could not have been part of their plan that such a significant portion of the fleet was wiped out, and they very well realized that it could have been much worse. It may be possible something roughly parallel happened in developments leading up to 9/11.

    I remain agnostic on the question of a pre-9/11 Bush conspiracy of any kind, but do find it hard to believe that people who could not even put over the Plame affair would be clever enough to pull it off. Most can agree that the administration has conspired to twist all advantage possible for itself from the event once it
    happened.

  • Philip Thomas

    The real conspiracy behind 9/11 is that a bunch of Islamic terrorists trained themselves in flying planes at Western flying schools, and co-ordinated themsleves to get on several planes that were flying on 11th September 2001 and crash them into various buildings causing the death of thousands of people.

  • JOrge

    You make some good points, but nothing that actually debunks the film. He does not claim to know exactly what happened and does indeed offer different pieces of evidence that do not add up according to either his theory, or, the official bullshit government explanation. Kennedy. Watergate. Vietnam. 9/11. Conspiracies have time and again proven to be true, but even if you don’t believe his conclusions in the film, I don’t think it is possible (and this belief is ac tually strengthened by websites like this that don’t really debunk anything) to believe what the Bush Mafia has said.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I find it interesting that both the previous commenter and “Matthew”, above, assert that my conclusions are wrong without giving a single example of where my arguments are in error or anything important I’ve overlooked. I suggest that 9/11 conspiracy theorists, if they want to be taken seriously, make an effort to actually address the evidence.

  • Dave Longo

    Yup, it’s all just one Co Inky Dinky.

    The Brits find an infected bird while running a Bird Flu ‘drill’

    Saddam invades another country while we are running a drill of saddam invading another country

    The exact train and car is bombed in London AT THE EXACT MOMENT a drill is being run for that exact scenario

    Planes are high jacked and fly into buildings on 9/11 while the gov is running drills of planes being high jacked and flown into buildings

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    An administrative note:

    Dave Longo’s comment, in addition to what you see above, originally included a long list of links to conspiracy sites, with no additional commentary from him. I’ve approved the comment, but deleted that list of links. The purpose of comment threads is to foster constructive discussion, not so people who disagree can splatter my site with links to other pages; I consider that spam and will treat it as such.

    Just to be absolutely clear, I have no objection to people who disagree with my posts using the comments to make a counterargument. I also have no objection to said people supporting those arguments with judiciously selected links to external evidence (in fact I insist on that). But I do object to people who post long lists of links to other sites in lieu of making an argument in their own words. I trust that my readers can discern the difference.

    As far as the substance of Dave’s post, I consider it another illustrative example of the unexplained sinister assertion, born from the conspiracy-inclined mind’s tendency to seek patterns in noise by grasping at every possible connection, no matter how tenuous or irrelevant. Let’s say Dave’s claims are correct. And? What does that prove? Why is that something that a sinister conspiracy capable of carrying out these attacks would do? (I note that his second assertion would imply that Saddam Hussein was in on the conspiracy, something which strikes me as rather unlikely.)

  • NJ Steve

    Average Americans are so stupid, plain and simple! I can’t believe people actually are stupid enough to believe these ridiculous theories. Aluminum does burn as anyone who’s ever used a blowtorch knows

  • Montu

    Adam, as I’ve stated before in a different part of this series, there are still a lot of questions that surround 9/11 that haven’t been answered which bring the official story into doubt. I’m presenting these not as an argument against your stated position because I don’t have a counter argument for it, I’m simply going to list some questions that I’ve had that haven’t been answered sufficiently by the official 9/11 story (and I noticed that you’re reading the Commission Report, so perhaps you found some of the answers in there).

    1) Flight 77 was a large passenger plane. According to Boeing, a 757 has between 200 and 243 seats depending if it’s a 757-200 or 757-300, and it would have been carrying a good amount of luggage. Sense the photos of the Pentagon crash clearly show office furniture in the building, it’s safe to say that the fire wasn’t hot enough to incinerate all the furniture within close distance of the plane. I would then assume that it would be safe to say that it wasn’t hot enough to completely vaporize all 200-243 seats in the plane. This is made even more apparent by the fact that the fireball from the crash shot out from the hole created by the jet backwards, while the seats would have remained in a forward motion scattering into the building. Why have we not seen what appears to be a large number of passenger airliner seats in the photos taken of the pentagon? Also, why are there no photos of luggage? 200-243 seats is a lot to just disappear into kerosene smoke, especially when wood furniture can be seen to be unburnt.

    2) Why didn’t the Pentagon scramble jets to intersect the two hijacked flights? And then, after these planes hit WTC1&2, why did they still not send jets to attack flight 77 and 93 when it was clear at that point that they were hostile and would probably be used as weapons?

    3) The Pentagon got attacked? The Pentagon went completely unprotected in DC airspace, probably the most guarded airspace known to man. Even if they didn’t have the fighter jets to shoot the plane down are we really to assume that THE PENTAGON doesn’t have other forms of defense that, when necessary, could have prevented a plane from crashing into it? Or at least evacuate people, especially after two planes have been used as weapons in a terrorist attack not moments earlier (yes, that last bit was an exaggeration because off the top of my head I don’t remember what the actual time difference was, and I’m feeling too lazy to find out. Sorry.)?

    These are just a couple of questions that I have about this subject. Again, I’m simply asking, not presenting an argument.

  • Jonathan Jackson

    The mention of no clear motive as the reason for dismissing the theory enhances the effectiveness of the conspiracy. Someone here said something like: Why would there be a white streak across the lawn if a cruise missle was used? They even brought up Kennedy and pointed out how much easier it would have been to just poision him. Well, I will tell you why this type of observation is stupid. The motive for killing kennedy was as much to show it could be done as it was to get rid of him. So, maybe that streak was to scare the hell out of everyone that did not already know about it. Like the Zapruder film scared the hell out of people.

    There is no conspiracy. PERIOD.