Loose Marbles III

Shanksville / Flight 93

The last of the four planes hijacked on 9/11 was Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after the passengers apparently attempted to storm the cockpit and regain control of the plane. Here it is somewhat difficult to tell what the filmmakers’ hypothesis is, other than their certainty that Flight 93 did not crash in Pennsylvania as reported.

The film extensively cites a video clip from 9/11 where a reporter from a local Fox affiliate at the Shanksville crash site said that there was no smoke, fire or large pieces, and “nothing you could distinguish” as part of a plane. The local coroner, Wally Miller, is quoted as saying, “It looked like someone took a scrap truck, dug a 10-foot ditch and dumped trash into it… there were no bodies there.” The film’s narrator claims that “an entire plane, along with its passengers, disappeared on impact”.

In contrast to these selectively chosen reports, witnesses on the scene in Shanksville saw large, recognizable pieces of Flight 93, and there are photographs of airplane debris and passengers’ personal effects recovered from the crash site (source, photos). The black box was also found (source). So were human remains (source), although not intact bodies, as might have been expected owing to the violence of the crash. If the filmmakers think this evidence is not what should be expected, it is up to them to argue that, not merely to present sinister-sounding out-of-context quotes and leave them hanging in the air.

“At 11:43 on September 11, WCPO, a local TV station in Cincinnati, Ohio, reported that two planes landed at Cleveland Hopkins Airport due to a bomb threat. United Airlines identified one of the planes as Flight 93.”

This is the claim upon which most of this section rests, and it is incredible what an elaborate structure the filmmakers build up out of such flimsy evidence. This entire detailed assertion is based on one single AP news report that was acknowledged to be mistaken and withdrawn the same morning (source) – hardly an improbable event, given the chaos and confusion that reigned at the time. It was Delta Flight 1989, not United 93, that landed in Ohio. The filmmakers go on to list the original and the corrected report side by side as if they referred to two separate planes, not one and the same event. The amount of actual evidence they present to shore up this truly bizarre claim is nil.

This is a tactic that was also used in the previous part. As before, most of the film’s conspiracy allegations are supported by news reports from the morning of September 11 – the exact time period when confusion was most rampant and mistakes and errors were most likely. From this chaos of erroneous and confused reports, the filmmakers have selectively extracted a few unrelated pieces and woven them together into a vast and sinister web of conspiracy. Essentially, they are attempting to find signal in noise.

“We can assume that the passengers from Delta 1989 are safe somewhere. The question remains, what happened to the 200 or so passengers from Flight 93?”

A very good question, which, again, the film never attempts to answer. Taking the conspiracy mindset, it is safe to assume that these people, if their plane did not crash in Shanksville, would have to be killed in cold blood by government agents to prevent them from appearing alive at a later time and ruining the entire conspiracy. But why would a conspiracy so ruthless not just actually put them on a plane and actually crash that plane? What would be the point of… doing whatever it was they did in Shanksville? (Something happened there. Do the conspiracy-mongers seriously believe that the conspirators literally dug a ditch at the site and dumped in a pile of scrap metal, while at the same time going to enormous effort and secrecy to dispose of the real plane some other way? For truth’s sake, why?) As with Part I, the claims put forth in this section of the film are examples of the unexplained sinister assertion on a truly grand scale.

Other Issues

The film challenges the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion that the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center were not found, although the passport of one of the hijackers, Satan al-Suqami, was found on the streets of Manhattan. “So, four different black boxes, made from the most resilient materials known to man, were destroyed. Yet a passport, made from… paper, managed to survive? Who writes this stuff?”

A moment’s thought would reveal why this is not surprising. The black boxes on these two planes, being heavy and massive, were carried straight into the heart of the crash and the subsequent utter collapse of the towers. On the other hand, a flimsy paper passport could easily have been blown clear by the initial explosion and fluttered safely down to the streets. (Of course, if no personal effects of the hijackers were found, the filmmakers would no doubt be crowing about that fact as surefire proof of a cover-up. One cannot win against conspiracy logic.) Other fragile items such as seat cushions were likewise thrown clear of the collapse (photos).

“FBI Director Robert Mueller said that Flight 77′s… [cockpit] voice recorder contained nothing useful.”

What would count as “useful” in this context? There is not a shadow of reasonable doubt that Flight 77 was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. It is unclear what other information the cockpit voice data recorder would provide that would be of help. (Again, one cannot win against conspiracy logic. If the FBI had said that the cockpit voice recorder contained detailed transcripts of the hijackers discussing their suicide mission, would the filmmakers not just sarcastically ask, “Who writes this stuff?”)

The film acknowledges that Flight 93′s cockpit voice recorder was recovered from the crash site, while declining to speculate on how this affects their hypothesis that the plane did not crash but rather landed safely in Ohio. “For some reason, the last three minutes of the tape was unaccounted for.”

Again, the unexplained sinister assertion is brought into play. If LC is correct, this record has to be a fake, so what would be the point of manufacturing a fake and leaving out the last three minutes? (Again we see how conspiracy logic is unfalsifiable. When evidence favoring the standard explanation is found, as with the passport, that supports the conspiracy theory; when evidence is not found, as with the cockpit recorder, that supports the conspiracy theory as well.)

“It’s an interesting postscript that Flight 93 was spotted on April 10, 2003 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport by David Friedman, a United Airlines employee… The tail number, N591UA, was spotted on Flight 1111, a United Airlines 757.”

It is unclear why we should not consider this report a simple mistake, or the reuse of a number – unless we are to believe that the conspiracy decided to reuse the plane it tried to pass off as destroyed (evidently, this is a very budget-conscious conspiracy), and then neglected to repaint the tail number.

“According to the FAA, both N591UA and N612UA, Flights 93 and 175, are still valid, but Flights 11 and 77 are listed as destroyed.”

Are we really supposed to see sinister significance in a bureaucratic error? Or are the filmmakers now claiming that Flight 175 did not crash into the south tower of the World Trade Center, as they previously acknowledged, and that the massive conspiracy behind this whole affair gave the game away by neglecting to alter the public records in this most trivial and obvious of ways?

We next move to the cell-phone calls made from the hijacked planes. The film asserts that these calls are “extremely peculiar”, most consisting of only a few sentences, as if passengers on a plane hijacked by terrorists would have time for a lengthy chat.

Flight attendant Betty Ong placed a call from Flight 11. The film asserts that Betty Ong’s call seemed unusually calm, considering the circumstances. “Does Ms. Ong sound like a woman on a hijacked plane…? Why is nobody in the background screaming?”

As one can plainly see from listening to the transcript the film presents, the likely reason for Ong’s calm is that she did not know what had happened yet. She states that a person had been stabbed, that first-class passengers were having trouble breathing possibly because of Mace or some chemical agent, and that the pilots were not responding and they could not get the cockpit door open. She does not seem to have witnessed these events, and she does not say that the plane had been hijacked.

Another flight attendant, Madeline Sweeney, claimed in a phone call that there were four hijackers, whereas the FBI says there were five. She says the hijackers were in rows 9 and 10, while the FAA says they were all in row 8.

Is it so unusual that in the panic and confusion of the moment, a person on the plane might have gotten some details wrong? Or did the conspirators neglect to get their facts straight before placing fake phone calls?

Near the end of Sweeney’s call, she cries, “I see water and buildings. Oh my God! Oh my God!” The film says, “Madeline was a flight attendant out of Boston for 12 years. I think she would have recognized Manhattan.”

There is nothing about this call that indicates Sweeney did not recognize Manhattan. Rather, she cried out because she realized what the hijackers were about to do. And again, why is this something a conspiracy-affiliated imitator would say?

“A man claiming to be Mark Bingham called his mother, Alice… The caller says, ‘Mom, this is Mark Bingham.’ When was the last time you called your mother and used your full name? …And then, ‘You believe me, don’t you, Mom?’”

People often do misspeak and say strange things in times of extreme stress, and of course passengers on the plane would want to convince their loved ones that their account of the hijacking was real and not a hoax or a prank. Why is this more likely under a conspiracy explanation? Why would an agent of the conspiracy imitating Mr. Bingham not just say, “Mom, it’s me, your son Mark”?

“To date, none of these calls, except Betty Ong’s call to American Airlines, has been released to the public.”

Perhaps the government and the 9/11 families decided that the doomed passengers’ final, highly private calls to their loved ones should not be released for mass public consumption. Why does this matter to the conspiracists, anyway, since they are already convinced that the calls we do know about were faked? (See below.)

The film discusses a conspiracy-theorist experiment called “Project Achilles” which allegedly found that cell-phone calls from a plane in the air are extremely unlikely to succeed. “At 8000 feet… [there was] a 0.1% success rate. For 32,000 feet – cruising altitude for a commercial airliner – he calculated a 0.006 success rate”.

For something as unlikely as the filmmakers portray it, cell-phone use on commercial airlines happens with surprising frequency (source). And this is not to mention the fact that the hijacked planes had their own built-in Airfone systems specifically designed to allow passengers to call parties on the ground. We know for a fact that many of the successful 9/11 calls were made through Airfones; the film never so much as mentions the existence of this technology in this context.

“So how is it possible to fake a person’s voice?” The film discusses “voice-morphing” technology developed by the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico that allegedly would have made this possible.

Strictly speaking, one cannot disprove this hypothesis, any more than one can disprove the hypothesis that what crashed into the Twin Towers were not planes but missiles disguised by advanced holographic technology. However, circumstantial evidence makes it highly unlikely. A great number of passengers on the hijacked planes had switched flights at the last minute, which would have made it extraordinarily difficult if not impossible for a conspiracy to do the intensive last-minute research required not just to gather enough voice data to imitate the person, but to find out enough personal detail about them to fool their friends and family. For example, one passenger told her sister the combination of her safe (source).

“On September 23, the BBC reported that Waleed al-Shehri was alive and well in Casablanca, Morocco. They also tracked down Abdul Aziz al-Omari… So how many hijackers turned up alive? At least nine of them.”

What we have here is a simple case of mistaken identity. There are about one billion Muslims in the world, and no surprise, some of them share names. Why we should be shocked by this is unclear, unless we are to believe in a conspiracy so incompetent it tried to frame living, easily tracked-down Muslims for this crime.

“On September 20 and 27, [FBI Director] Mueller admitted on CNN that there is no legal proof to prove the identities of the hijackers.”

And I have no doubt that this was an accurate summation of the FBI’s knowledge – a week or two after the attacks. However, given the amount of time that has since elapsed, there has been plenty of time to confirm these conclusions, and by November 2001, the FBI pronounced itself satisfied (source). It is dishonest to present this initial quote as if it accurately represented the state of affairs months or years later.

The film next presents a famous video in which Osama bin Laden claims credit for the 9/11 attacks. The filmmakers claim that this video is a fake, and that the person depicted is not really Bin Laden.

“According to the FBI’s website, Osama is left-handed, yet in this video, he’s writing a note with his right hand.”

This is one of the very few genuinely interesting claims made by this film, but there are other ways to explain it besides the extraordinary claim that the video is a fake. As the 9/11 Myths website points out, there is another video of Bin Laden from 2002 that shows him distinctly favoring his right side. It is plausible that he was injured at some point, and is now favoring his right side because his left is handicapped.

“Not to mention he’s wearing a gold ring, which is forbidden by Islamic law.”

This is like saying that Jesus commanded Christians to sell their possessions and give the money to the poor (Luke 18:22), and therefore videos claimed to be of prominent Christians, such as Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts, that show them living in opulence must be fakes. In fact, many other photos of Bin Laden, including some presented elsewhere in this same film, also show him wearing a ring, and many Islamic authorities have been known to wear jewelry (see this brief rebuttal video).

Cui Bono?

Finally, the film moves on to the question of who staged 9/11 and why. The filmmakers do not seem entirely clear on this themselves, as they present assertions about how several different parties might have benefited from the attacks.

“First we have Larry Silverstein, the man who purchased the World Trade Center in July 2001. After September 11, Silverstein demanded $7.2 billion from his insurers, claiming that each plane counted as a separate act of terrorism… the courts only reward[ed] him with $2.2 billion.”

Yes, and? That is the purpose of insurance: to compensate the property owner for disasters. If I buy fire insurance and my home burns to the ground, following which I attempt to collect the insurance I paid for, does that constitute evidence that I deliberately set my house on fire?

A damaging fact which the filmmakers fail to mention is that Silverstein originally only wanted to purchase $1.5 billion in insurance on the WTC. He only raised that amount to $3.5 billion after his lenders required it to protect their investment (source). If he had known in advance that the Twin Towers were going to collapse, why would he have sought to have them underinsured?

“Next we have the put options that were placed on United Airlines, American Airlines, and Boeing. [NB: Put options are in essence a bet that a stock's price will fall. An unusually large number of them were placed on airline stocks prior to September 11.] According to the San Francisco Chronicle, more than $2.5 million has remained unclaimed.”

This assertion is even more bizarre than the last. Apparently, LC claims that September 11 was a grand conspiracy to steal the total sum of – wait for it – two million dollars!

For any organization capable of faking an attack on the scale of 9/11, $2.5 million would be, so to speak, loose change. To assert that this conspiracy would have been carried out to steal such a pittance, probably spending at least a hundred times as much in the process, crosses the bounds of the absurd into the laughable. And having gone to all that effort, why would the conspirators not even collect that sum? This conspiracy claim reminds me of the scene from the movie Austin Powers where the villainous Dr. Evil, recently awoken from decades of cryogenic sleep and unaware of the amount of inflation that has occurred in the interim, threatens to wreak havoc upon the world’s leaders unless they pay him the exorbitant sum of “one million dollars!” (9/11 Myths has more on the put options.)

“Reuters reported that Convar, a German computer company, is responsible for helping companies… restore their data from over 400 hard drives that were recovered from the World Trade Center’s rubble. Convar recovered information from 32 different computers that suggested that insider trading took place on 9/11.”

I have little doubt that insider trading happens on the stock market every day. However, the filmmakers have not shown that this has any conceivable connection to their conspiracy hypothesis.

“Rumor has it that over $160 billion in gold was stored in the World Trade Center.” The film later refines this figure to $167 billion.

Now we’re finally getting somewhere. The theft of such an enormous sum might indeed justify a conspiracy on the staggeringly large scale of 9/11. It will now be instructive to do some basic math in order to see whether this figure is actually plausible.

In 2001, gold was about $300 per troy ounce (source; see here for more detailed charts). At this price, $160 billion in gold would require 160,000,000,000/300 = 556,666,666 troy ounces, or in other words, approximately 19,085 tons (see math). Needless to say, this is not an amount that can be carried off in one or two flatbed trucks. It would require a convoy of hundreds of heavily loaded vehicles over a period of several days, which would be easily noticed and would render moot any question of subsequently hiding the theft by destroying the Twin Towers. And why would that destruction be expected to hide this loss, anyway? 19,000 tons of gold would not just disappear, not even in the rubble of the entire World Trade Center.

But it gets better than that. Gold has a density of 19.3 grams per cubic centimeter. 556,666,666 troy ounces is equivalent to about 1.73 x 1010 grams (see math). At 19.3 grams to the cubic centimeter, that weight of gold would occupy approximately 897 million cc. At 1 million cc to the cubic meter, we are looking about 897 cubic meters of solid gold that was allegedly stored in the WTC.

By comparison, the total amount of gold ever mined by the human species is estimated at 410 cubic meters (source). Loose Change asks us to believe that the World Trade Center, at the time of 9/11, stored an amount of gold that is more than twice the amount the human race has mined throughout its entire history.

Perhaps conspiracists should not use “rumors” as the basis for their future conspiracy hypotheses. Indeed, the claim that the WTC contained so much gold is probably the least-documented assertion in the entire film. The filmmakers never present any evidence whatsoever for it, other than anonymous “rumors”. I would be interested to know where they obtained this figure, if indeed it was not just pulled out of thin air. What banks and holding companies reported such a staggeringly large loss?

“After September 11, President Bush had and continues to have permission to do and say whatever he wants, all under the pretext of 9/11: the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, Afghanistan, Iraq.”

This is one point where I agree with the creators of Loose Change. George W. Bush did indeed seize on 9/11 as an excuse for the sweeping rollbacks of constitutional rights and dictatorial assertions of unchecked, limitless presidential power that have been presented to the public since then. But we need not assume that he staged 9/11 in order to benefit from it.

To name just one counterargument, there is a serious problem with the claim that the Bush administration staged 9/11 for political benefit. Out of the 19 hijackers, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, one was from Egypt, one from Lebanon, and two from the United Arab Emirates. None were from Iraq; none were from Afghanistan. This is a severe difficulty for any claims that 9/11 was concocted as an excuse for war. Assuming the evidence of the hijackers’ identities was planted as a casus belli, why would the people behind it not concoct hijackers who actually came from the countries that they wanted to attack? Why would they instead embarrass themselves by concocting hijackers from countries that are close allies of the U.S.?

Amusingly, there now seem to be rifts developing within the 9/11-conspiracy-theory community. Various conspiracy groups are now accusing each other of being part of the conspiracy, of being government agents deliberately planting disinformation so as to cast doubt on the entire conspiracy movement. Here are two such conspiracy sites: [1, 2], one of which directly refers to Loose Change and the other of which refers to several claims made by LC. These sites use many of the same arguments made in this post series, although they seem unwilling to similarly apply rational thinking to the entire conspiracy hypothesis.

There is another question, one never touched on by LC, that applies to 9/11 conspiracy buffs of all varieties, as well as to most conspiracy theorists in general. Namely, if what you say is true, why are you still alive? Are we really to suppose that a conspiracy with the resources and the will to mastermind the most spectacularly devastating terrorist attack ever conducted on American soil would have the slightest compunction about killing three amateur filmmakers, or at least blackmailing them into silence? The mere fact that the conspiracy-mongers have been able to promote their claims in peace very strongly suggests that those claims are false.

Some may wonder why I have spent so much time and effort debunking these claims. My answer is that 9/11 conspiracy theories anger me for a very real reason. September 11 was the most horrifying and evil attack ever waged against the United States of America, and instead of focusing our efforts on tracking down the perpetrators and bringing them to justice – something, I note, that the Bush administration has lost interest in doing – the conspiracists would have us waste our time chasing shadows. In a very real sense, the makers of this movie are dishonoring the dead of 9/11 by standing in the way of the quest to capture and punish those who are truly responsible. I as much as anyone desire to see George W. Bush and his cronies held to account for their failure to protect our nation from the terrorist threat, but they have done enough evil without us inventing fictitious crimes to pin on them.

Other posts in this series:

A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 11
Prayer Can’t Fight Ebola
TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 13
Atlas Shrugged: The Rapture of the Capitalists
About Adam Lee

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

  • http://perrylogan.org/ Perry Logan

    The 9/11 Truth Movement people are mostly angry white guys with IQ’s in the mid-80′s who think they’re geniuses. They are creepy elitists who like to call normal people “sheeple.” As you’ve amply demonstrated, their claims cannot withstand even a moment’s criticism.

    The Truth Movement guys also seem blissfully unaware that what they are really doing is making false accusations of mass murder against their fellow Americans.

  • TheLastChance

    I was walking around New York yesterday and I actually got a pamphlet stating these arguments (and a card telling me to go buy Dianetics, which had me laughing for an hour). I hate have to pull up 1984 again, it seems that 99% of the time someone tries to pull a trick like this, they’ve done something the Party has. Maybe it’s because they are the ultimate in propaganda, but in this case the conspirators are trying to make 2+2=5, and in their own world they are succeeding.

    And that’s what scares me.

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

    Maybe it’s because they are the ultimate in propaganda, but in this case the conspirators are trying to make 2+2=5, and in their own world they are succeeding.

    And that’s what scares me.

    I know just how you feel. After the Screw Loose Change blog very kindly linked to this series, I received an offer to debate from a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. I was ready to take him up on it, until I found out that he was far more extreme in his paranoia than the makers of Loose Change. He actually stated a belief that no planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11. It boggles my mind to think how much of reality you’d have to rewrite before that started sounding plausible.

    After finding this out, I informed this individual that I would not be debating him. There’s just no way to argue productively with someone so far out there on the credulity scale; we don’t agree on enough to even begin talking, and it would be a waste of my time. As an analogy, I’ll debate creationists any time, but I will not debate flat-earthers.

    Incidentally, do you mean that the Scientologists themselves were distributing 9/11 conspiracy material, or was that two separate pieces of literature you received?

  • Azkyroth

    Or perhaps that a shill for the scientologists is also a shill for another wing of the tinfoil hat crowd?

  • TheLastChance

    Two separate ones.

  • Simon

    Your overall approach – that the simplest explanation of the available facts – is an excellent maxim. The more baroque conspiracy theories seem almost to have been constructed deliberately to undermine all alternatives to the official story.

    However, as far as I can see you don’t address the simplest (but perhaps hardest to prove) conspiracy theory – that what we all saw on 9/11 was exactly as it seemed (three passenger planes crashed into buildings causing them to collapse, another brought down through the intervention of its passengers before it reached its target, without any need for missiles or bombs or fighters or mysteriously vanishing passengers) but that elements within the US government were aware to some degree of what was going to happen and allowed it to go ahead.

    It’s not nearly as exciting (or unlikely) as the Bush administration actually planning and carrying out the hopelessly complicated operations suggested by the more extravagant conspiracy theories. It would though be much easier.

    The official view is that, although a great deal of information was available, it was either disregarded or not properly understood. A combination of widespread incompetence and poor communications is blamed. There’s a spectrum of involvement from complete ignorance via accidentally looking the other way on to wilfully looking the other way and through to complete control. You’ve obviously examined a lot of the evidence. On your current view, where on the spectrum would you put the government (or rather, some elements within government)?

  • http://stevegloor.typepad.com Ender

    Again I am not the worst conspiracy theory person my main thing is that the planes should have been intercepted. If you read the NTSB (http://www.ntsb.gov/Publictn/2000/AAB0001.pdf) accounts of the interception of Payne Stewarts aircraft, less than 20 minutes elapsed between a missed radio call and a fighter on the wing of his aircraft. The first missed radio call from Flight 11 at 08:13 should have prompted the normal response of an interception to see why the plane was not reponding at about 08:33. Even increasing the response time to 30 minutes still puts a fighter on the wing of the plane 3 minutes before it hit the Tower at 8:46. Even if this was too late for Flight 11 the fighters defineatly could have stopped Flight 175 at 09:02. In truth the response time should have been shorter as Payne Stewart’s plane went off course in a fairly remote area. Even if the Air Force had failed to intercept Flight 11 the attackers intentions should have been clear at this point. With fighters in the air over New York at 8:50 all subsequent flights that the FAA knew were in trouble could easily have been intercepted in time and if necessary shot down.

    If the coordination between NORAD and the FAA had worked as it had on countless other occasions there would have been fighters in formation with Flight 11, and the others, 20 or 30 minutes before their respective impacts. You do not need foreknowledge of the event to prompt a routine response to a missed radio call – something that happens all the time in aviation. Radios fail for many reasons and there are clear published and promulgated procedures known to airline and military pilots the world over to cope with this eventuality.

    Again your government needs to explain why the system broke down so badly on this one occasion something that it also has failed to do. It also need to release the flight recorder information from all the flights to at least the NTSB. If the FAA are truly this incompetant how do they manage one of the busiest air corridors in the world the North East of the USA as well as they do? If your Air Force is this incompetant how did they co-ordinate the enormous logistics of 100 or 200 strike missions per day involving over 2000 aircraft in Desert Storm?

    There is something terribly wrong that these airliners were not intercepted to see what was going on. The terrible decision then could then have been made to shoot down the aircraft well out from their final destinations. 9/11 could have been prevented or minimised just with normal routine aviation procedures being followed – why wasn’t it?

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

    However, as far as I can see you don’t address the simplest (but perhaps hardest to prove) conspiracy theory – that what we all saw on 9/11 was exactly as it seemed… but that elements within the US government were aware to some degree of what was going to happen and allowed it to go ahead.

    That’s true, I don’t address that. As I said in part I, it wasn’t my purpose to argue against such hypotheses, though I think they’re probably false. As you say, this type of hypothesis is much more difficult to prove or disprove, but I rely on the old adage: “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” I’m no fan of the Bush administration (to put it mildly), but even I have difficulty believing they could see such a horrifying attack coming and deliberately look the other way. Although numerous dispersed elements of law enforcement agencies did detect different hints of the attack in advance, there was a systemic failure to connect the dots.

    Again I am not the worst conspiracy theory person my main thing is that the planes should have been intercepted.

    I agree, they should have been. That does not mean that a conspiracy theory is needed to explain why they were not. As above, simple incompetence is more than sufficient to explain why the hijacked airliners were not shot down. Consider the mass chaos and confusion among the air traffic control agencies on that day, an apparent lack of anything like central coordination, and certainly not least, the understandable reluctance of anyone in authority to order a military plane to fire on a commercial aircraft containing civilians. As it’s been said, hindsight is 20/20, and we shouldn’t forget that the decision that we’ve had months to mull over, with all the relevant information available to us, was a decision that people on that day had only a short time to make with a lot less information.

  • http://stevegloor.typepad.com Ender

    Ebonmuse – “I agree, they should have been. That does not mean that a conspiracy theory is needed to explain why they were not. As above, simple incompetence is more than sufficient to explain why the hijacked airliners were not shot down”

    Simple incompetence is not sufficient to explain why none of the aircraft were INTERCEPTED. The procedures are very clear and are designed to operate in confusing situations. Radio failure happens everyday somewhere in the world as do interceptions. The people involved did not have to make life and death decisions to order an interception as interception does not imply shooting down the aircraft. Something that may have got in the way was an order that all interceptions be approved by the Secretary of Defence instead of local commanders.

    “CJCSI 3610.01A, dated June 1, 2001, required that all requests for asistance in hijackings be approved by the Secretary of Defense. It had an exception for emergencies that would seem to give commanders in the field autonomy in ordering intercepts.”

    The people that got a fighter on the wingtip of Payne Stewart’s plane had similar time and managed to do it. If you turn off the SSR transponder of an airliner to try to conceal it this has no effect on the primary return if the radar is a primary radar with SSR. The aircraft would have stood out on the fighters primary, look down shoot down, radar as a blip without a squawk code and be easily seen if they had been in the air. To conceal the plane properly the SSR transponder should have been left on to merge with the other planes in the corridor.

    Even a totally incompetant controller can pass an intercept order. So where was the incompetance? Was it the FAA that did not contact NORAD or was it NORAD that did not respond quickly enough. Nothing in the reports of the 9/11 commission or anything else answer these questions satisfactorily.

  • http://stevegloor.typepad.com Ender

    BTW I got the Payne Stewarts inteception time wrong. The controller asked for an interception at 9:33EDT. The fighter intercepted the plane at 9:52CDT which is an hour and 22 minutes. Sorry I messed up the timezones

  • Stavros

    There was actually a bit about that in the Flight 93 movie. Not sure if it’s true, but it appears the fighter wings that were sent out went quite a ways on the standard intercept route they were trained on instead of heading directly for the hijacked aircraft.

  • Cobra

    It was not incompetence at all. You have to understand a few facts:
    1)We actually had/have very few interceptor aircraft on alert.
    2)Those aircraft on alert were cocked (and control set up to) to intercept threats from OUTSIDE the US.
    3)There was no direct link to the interceptors from ATC.
    4)There was a hell of a lot of confusion that morning.
    5)Who KNEW before they hit that the hijackings were to be used to hit the buildings. In the past, hijackings were used to go to places and/or ransome money or compatriots out of jail.
    6)The F-15s from Otis BROKE THEIR ORDERS and went supersonic in a vain attempt to intercept flight 77.
    7)The closest fighters to Washington (F-16s at Andrews) were partially deployed and did not sit alert in any case.
    8)Often aircraft already airborne are diverted to intercept aircraft (Probably ocured 4-5 times in my limited flying in the USAF) – this is what occired on the initial intercept of Paine Stewarts aircraft: “‘FAA requested emergency escort.” F-16 from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was airborne on routine mission when diverted to provide the initial escort.” As a side note – F-16s from Eglin would have been TEST aircraft. The only operational fighters at Eglin are the 33rd FW F-15s.

    In summary, there are very logical explanations for the elay in getting aircraft to intercept the 9/11 aircraft.

  • http://eastcoastwisdom.blogspot.com Bic

    Cobra, some very good points.

    I would also put forward that it is probably easier to intercept a single private jet on a relatively uneventful day over the Southern States than to intercept, in the best case scenario, 3 passenger aircraft (assuming interceptions only begin after the initial plane hit the WTC) out of the several hundreds/thousands of aircraft that routinely fly over the North Eastern seaboard on a given day. That’s assuming they could even pinpoint the actual planes in distress from all the dozens (if not more) of potential hijackings from planes that either had minor radio problems or made suspicious (but on a regular day routine) course corrections to take advantage of favourable tailwinds/avoid weather systems/etc.

    And Ebonmuse, I have to congratulate you on what is by far the most clear, concise and detailed debunking of 9/11 conspiarcy theories I have seen thus far. Great work.

  • David Ecklein

    Ebonmuse, I second “Bic” – you have done an excellent job here. Have you considered writing a book (somebody should)? If so, you will undoubtedly also look into the theories of David Griffin (a postmodern California theologian) and Steven Jones (a “cold fusion” Utah physicist). I run into people who are impressed by their many books, articles, and public appearances; the Griffin/Jones theories parallel “Loose Change” to a large extent.

    Meanwhile, I will henceforth provide the link to your site whenever disputing with those under the spell of these theories. Thanks so much for taking on this effort.

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

    Hello David,

    Thank you very much for your kind comments. Should a publisher or literary agent be interested, I’d be happy to write a book, although I must admit I have no particular qualifications on the subject (not that that’s ever stopped conspiracy theorists, of course). Most of my writing on this topic is an attempt to synthesize various points made by others more knowledgeable than I, particularly the structural engineers who have explained in detail how the Twin Towers fell and the sequence of events at the Pentagon. I also have to praise the 9/11 Myths website, whose author I don’t know, for putting together the most thorough refutation of 9/11 conspiracy theories I’ve come across anywhere.

  • adam

    i have just gone over these articles. upon reading them, and related sources, I have had my fiath in the human race depleated by the fact that so many people can believe this CT nonsence. Most beleivers in conspiracy theories can be atributed to ignorance or serious paranoia, but the fact that so many people can believe junk that can be disproven by using basic physics and minor amounts of research astounds me.

    (I shudder to think what i will find if i look into JFK assination theories)