In the fall of 2007, for my freshman writing seminar at Stanford University, I wrote a paper dealing with conspiracy theories and the relationship between the U.S. government and conspiracy theorists. I decided to look at the credibility of both the government and the conspiracy theorists, and found some things that are somewhat startling. The paper dealt with TWA Flight 800, American Airlines Flight 587, and September 11th. Here are the relevant parts of the paper, as it pertains to the government and September 11th.
Government Accounts of Disasters
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: The 9/11 Commission Report
After the attacks, the United States Congress assembled a Commission to create a report on September 11th. This commission, named the “National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,” began convening in 2002 and finally released their report, “The 9/11 Commission Report” in 2004. This 585 page document details what happened on September 11th, and where governmental powers went wrong. A biased and weak document, The 9/11 Commission Report made as much of an effort as possible to spread blame thinly over everything, and to try to encourage American interference in the Middle East.
Hijackings of the Flights
The first section of the report is dedicated to providing a time line of the hijackings of each flight, and focuses special attention on United Flight 93, the flight that they claim was liberated by the passengers on the plane. This section focuses on what they suppose happened on the planes, and the actions that we know occurred on the parts of Air Traffic Control, the FAA, and NORAD.
In reading the paper, what one immediately notices to be strange is that the Commission chooses to use hearsay testimony, yet ignores testimony it was given by presumably reliable sources. When discussing the hijackings of all four airplanes, it routinely refers to cell phone conversations as being evidence as to the occurrences on the planes, and cites the transcripts of these cell phone calls, but it does not say whether the calls were recorded or not, and does not provide the transcripts of these calls in the paper. In many sections, it appears that the quotes used in the paper were reported. For example:
At some point between 9:16 and 9:26, Barbara Olson called her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States. She reported that the flight had been hijacked, and the hijackers had knives and box cutters. She further indicated that the hijackers were not aware of her phone call, and that they had put all the passengers in the back of the plane. About a minute into the conversation, the call was cut off. Solicitor General Olson tried unsuccessfully to reach Attorney General John Ashcroft. Page 9, 9/11 Commission Report
Since this passage is extremely vague in the sense that it does not provide an exact time the call was placed, nor provides any actual quotes, it is a fairly safe assumption that the phone call was not taped and therefore may have been inaccurately reported. If hearsay testimony is inadmissible in a court of law, why is it admissible in figuring the causes of a terrorist attack?
FAA and NORAD Responses
In section 1.2, entitled “Improvising a Homeland Defense,” they talk about the FAA and NORAD responses. Overall, they attributed many problems to the fact that it was assumed that hijacked airplanes would squawk the transponder code 7500 (Hijacked Airplane) (Page 18), however, on these flights, the hijackers turned the transponders on the airplanes off (Pages 18, 21, 24), causing significant problems for the Air Traffic Controllers. They also attributed problems in the NORAD ]intercept]ions of the planes to delayed notification of NORAD, and the lack of a well-planned interception procedure.
On page 18, the report mentions a section of FAA Order 7610.4J: Special Military Operations, as assuming “the fighter escort would be discreet, 'vectored to a position five miles directly behind the hijacked aircraft,' (Quote from FAA Order 7610.4J) where it could perform its mission to monitor the aircraft’s flight path.” Upon looking at FAA Order 7610.4J, the order seems to imply that the intercepting airplanes would be vectored to 5 miles behind the hijacked airplanes in order to allow them to “avoid the possibility of being observed” before receiving further information about their duties (FAA Order 7610.4J).
What is also bizarre and mystifying, especially after the use of hearsay evidence earlier in the book is the discounting of statements from NORAD personnel that was received in testimony to the committee. On page 34, almost an entire page is used to declare the statements presented to them by NORAD as null and void:
In public testimony before this Commission in May 2003, NORAD officials stated that at 9:16, NEADS received hijack notification of United 93 from the FAA. This statement was incorrect. There was no hijack to report at 9:16. United 93 was proceeding normally at that time.
In this same public testimony, NORAD officials stated that at 9:24, NEADS received notification of the hijacking of American 77. This statement was also incorrect. The notice NEADS received at 9:24 was that American 11 had not hit the World Trade Center and was heading for Washington, D.C.
In their testimony and in other public accounts, NORAD officials also stated that the Langley fighters were scrambled to respond to the notifications about American 77, United 93, or both. These statements were incorrect as well. The fighters were scrambled because of the report that American 11 was heading south, as is clear not just from taped conversations at NEADS but also from taped conversations at FAA centers; contemporaneous logs compiled at NEADS, Continental Region headquarters, and NORAD; and other records. Yet this response to a phantom aircraft was not recounted in a single public timeline or statement issued by the FAA or Department of Defense. The inaccurate accounts created the impression that the Langley scramble was a logical response to an actual hijacked aircraft.
In fact, not only was the scramble prompted by the mistaken information about American 11, but NEADS never received notice that American 77 was hijacked. It was notified at 9:34 that American 77 was lost. Then, minutes later, NEADS was told that an unknown plane was 6 miles southwest of the White House. Only then did the already scrambled airplanes start moving directly toward Washington, D.C.
Thus the military did not have 14 minutes to respond to American 77, as testimony to the Commission in May 2003 suggested. It had at most one or two minutes to react to the unidentified plane approaching Washington, and the fighters were in the wrong place to be able to help. They had been responding to a report about an aircraft that did not exist.
Nor did the military have 47 minutes to respond to United 93, as would be implied by the account that it received notice of the flight’s hijacking at 9:16. By the time the military learned about the flight, it had crashed.
It is upsetting to see a group that has used hearsay testimony earlier in their publication discount official testimony so easily. Granted, they discount the testimony based on testimony they have received earlier, but when one is given two facts that are in conflict with each other, generally the appropriate response is to evaluate them in comparison to each other, instead of deciding to accept one set of facts and invalidate the other set of facts.
Planes Used as Weapons
On page 18 of the 9/11 Commission Report, it is said that NORAD and the FAA had assumed that in an airplane hijacking, “the hijacking would take the traditional form: that is, it would not be a suicide
hijacking designed to convert the aircraft into a guided missile.” In the 2nd public hearing conducted by the commission that wrote this report, Norman Mineta, Transportation Secretary of the United States was quoted as saying “I don’t think we ever thought of an aircraft being used as a missile
. We had no information of that nature at all” (Thompson).
To the contrary, September 11th was not even the first time that an airplane was hijacked with the purpose of being flown into a building (Thompson). In 1994, disgruntled Federal Express worker Auburn Calloway hijacked Federal Express flight 705 using hammers and a harpoon gun. Auburn Calloway was under investigation from Federal Express for lying on his resume and was soon to be fired. He took out $2.5 million in insurance money, and was planning to hijack a Federal Express DC-10 and crash the plane into Federal Express headquarters in Memphis, TN (Thompson). Auburn Calloway was stopped by the Federal Express pilots, who even after being attacked with hammers, used evasive maneuvers, including a barrel roll and quick changes of direction in the plane, to prevent Auburn Calloway from taking over the plane (CVR Database).
Something alarming about the report was how it was written. The report used many phrases that were obviously slanted, such as naming chapter 9 which was about the emergency services response to the World Trade Center attacks “Heroism and Horror” (Page 278), and titles the section about the passenger revolt on United flight 93 “The Battle for United 93” (Page 10). Benjamin DeMott of Harpers Magazine described the writing style of the report as “a series of evasive maneuvers that infantilize the audience, transform candor into iniquity, and conceal realities that demand immediate inspection and confrontation.” This report, which was supposed to provide answers to our questions is instead useless because of bias, and as Mr. Demott says:
In the course of blaming everybody a little, the Commission blames nobody—blurs the reasons for the actions and hesitations of successive administrations, masks choices that, fearlessly defined, might actually have vitalized our public political discourse.
FEMA: World Trade Center Building Performance Center
In May 2002, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released their study of the collapses of the World Trade Center buildings 1, 2, and 7, and studies of damage to other buildings in the area. Entitled the “World Trade Center Building Performance Study,” this document posited the truss failure progressive collapse theory, which would later be described as “pancaking of floors” (9-11 Research: Truss Failure Theory).
Buildings 1 and 2: Truss Failure Theory
In the FEMA report, the collapses of buildings 1 and 2 (the Twin Towers) were attributed to the failure of trusses holding up the floors due to heating of the metal in the supports due to the fires started by the jet fuel after the crash of the planes (FEMA 2-25). Due to the fires, FEMA proposed that the floors started sagging and collapsed onto the floors under them, which overloaded those floors, causing a progressive collapse of the structure (FEMA 2-27).
NIST: Final Reports of the Federal Building and Fire Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published their major, 43 volume report on the World Trade Center Disaster several years after September 11th. In the large report, which can be accessed online, the NIST establishes their vertical column failure theory, which basically states that the collapse of the towers was due to the loss of strength in the central and side columns which collectively held the towers up due to unconstrained fires and the loss of fireproofing materials (NIST FAQ, Point 7). Although some people said that the fire should have been contained by the sprinkler system, NIST asserts that the sprinkler lines were severed by the crash of the planes (NIST FAQ, Point 8). The NIST tested the theory of the FEMA group and found that it could not happen when tested; some people were annoyed that NIST did not also test a controlled detonation theory (NIST FAQ, Point 2).
NIST is also working on a report about the collapse of WTC building 7 which it hopes to release for public comment by the end of 2007 (NIST Status Update on World Trade Center 7 Investigation). Delays have been attributed to the NIST's allocation of its limited personnel to work mainly on the study of the collapses of the Twin Towers, instead of World Trade Center 7.
Causes of Conspiracy Theories
Unusual Physical Circumstances
One of the major oddities surrounding the September 11th collapse, was the actual collapse of the Twin Towers. Attributed mainly to weakening of the structural steel due to fires inside the towers sparked by the impact of the planes, WTC buildings 1, 2, and 7 became the first steel structures to collapse due to fire in engineering history (9-11 Research, Other Skyscraper Fires). It is also useful to note that other skyscrapers have endured fires that were vastly more extensive, including one of the towers of the World Trade Center, which endured a major fire in 1975, which led to the installation of sprinkler systems in the towers (New York Times). Additionally, when built, the towers were engineered to withstand the impact of a Boeing 707, the largest airplane at the time, which would carry over 24000 gallons of fuel, and travel at speeds over 500 miles per hour; when the Boeing 767 airliners used in the attacks impacted the towers, they contained less then 10000 gallons of fuel each, and were traveling at approximately the same speeds that a Boeing 707 could attain (FEMA 1-17) .
Many remarks have also been made about the similarities between the collapses of the Twin Towers and WTC 7 to the collapses of buildings that were being demolished, as in controlled demolition. Reasons for these remarks include the distribution of the rubble of building 7, which fell straight downwards on itself, the complete pulverization of the concrete in the collapses of WTC 1 and 2, which created a cloud of dust which was several times the volume of the World Trade Centers and covered downtown Manhattan, and the time which each building took to collapse, which was around free-fall for each building (9-11 Research: Speed of Fall, Vast Volumes of Dust). Many of these are characteristics of planned demolitions, especially the near free-fall collapses, and the fact that building 7 collapsed straight down on itself.
Among the oddities surrounding September 11th, was the non-response of intercepting aircraft. In the months from July to September in 2001, NORAD responded to many airplanes that left course or lost communication with air traffic control (9-11 Research, Air Defense). On September 11th, the response of NORAD to the hijackings was embarrassing, with NORAD not responding to any of the attacks in time, according to the 9/11 Commission Report.
Disregarded Eyewitness Reports
Loose Change, a documentary made about September 11th, relies heavily on eyewitness testimony, not of people who saw the planes hit the Twin Towers or Pentagon, but from people who were inside the Twin Towers who witnessed strange events on September 11th. In the movie, a janitor who worked in the World Trade Center, William Rodriguez, was quoted as having said:
I was on B1 level, talking to my supervisor, when we suddenly heard a massive explosion ... It was so strong the walls began to crumble and the false ceiling fell on top of us ... Then, seconds later, there was another explosion way above, which made the building sway from side to side. And this, we later discovered, was the first plane hitting the North Tower on the 90th floor.
He also speaks about a man who came into the room he was in with his supervisor moments later, covered in burns and talking about an explosion in the basement.
Loose Change also uses testimony from New York City firefighters who were in the Twin Towers who encountered explosions in the tower. These extremely vivid testimonials make one wonder why we have not looked into explosions in the Twin Towers and how they related to collapses of the Towers. The NIST specifically said that it did not find it prudent to model the collapses of the WTC buildings as collapses due to explosions, even though they tested the FEMA collapse theory (NIST FAQ, Point 2).
“The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
A major question to go along with these instances is: are these conspiracy theorists and their theories plausible? Although the NIST said in their Frequently Asked Questions about the World Trade Center that it was unlikely beyond the need to research conspiracy theories, can we trust them? In the end, the question becomes, can we trust our government? Given the judgment that our government has extended in the past with incidents such as the Bay of Pigs and the Iran-Contra Scandal, and the fact that they have obviously ignored eyewitness accounts towards all of these events makes many of these conspiracy theories plausible, and shows that it may be necessary for us to look deeper into these events.
Context Of Attacks
September 11th and Congressional Actions
“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Benjamin Franklin
As for September 11th, how does it fit into the scheme of current events? After the largest terrorist attack in history, the U.S. Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, the Homeland Security Act, and the Military Commissions Act, which gave the military the ability to deny rights granted in the Geneva Convention to “unlawful alien enemy combatants.” The United States has since then entered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq due to supposed links between those countries and the September 11th attacks.
September 11th and Financial Oddities
In early September 2001, both American Airlines and United Airlines, the two airlines that would be involved in September 11th, saw major surges in their put-call option ratios (Cooperative Research History Commons: Stock Options go Unclaimed). On September 10th, United Airlines saw trading activity that was 25 times greater then it normally sees at the Pacific Exchange (CRHC: Stock Options). On September 11th, 2001, computers in the basement of the Twin Towers processed an unusual amount of transactions shortly before the towers are hit (9-11 Research: Hidden Transactions). A German company, Convar, has been brought in to attempt to read the heavily damaged hard drives of these computers, that were found in the rubble of the World Trade Center (Perera).
"7 April 1994 - Fedex 705." Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) Database. 11 Nov. 2007 http://www.tailstrike.com/070494.htm.
"Air Defense." 9-11 Research. 27 Aug. 2007. 28 Oct. 2007 http://911research.com/planes/defense/index.html.
"An Independant Investigation of the 9-11-2001 Attack." 9-11 Research. 12 Oct. 2007. 21 Oct. 2007 http://www.911research.wtc7.net.
"Context of 'September 29, 2001: $2.5 Million in Airline Options Go Unclaimed'" Cooperative History Research Commons. 20 Nov. 2007 ttp://www.cooperativeresearch.org/context.jsp?item=a092901putoptions.
DeMott, Benjamin. "Whitewash as Public Service: How the 9/11 Commission Report Defrauds the Nation." Harpers Magazine Oct. 2004. 11 Nov. 2007 http://www.harpers.org/archive/2004/10/0080234.
"Frequently Asked Questions: Conspiracy." 9-11 Research. 6 Dec. 2006. 21 Oct. 2007 http://www.911research.wtc7.net/faq/conspiracy.html.
"Frequently Asked Questions." NIST's Investigation of the Sept. 11th World Trade Center Disaster. 5 Oct. 2007. NIST. 10 Nov. 2007 http://wtc.nist.gov/pubs/factsheets/faqs_8_2006.htm.
"Hidden Transactions." 9-11 Research. 14 Jan. 2007. 20 Nov. 2007 http://911research.wtc7.net/sept11/transactions.html.
Keen, Thomas H., Lee H. Hamilton, Richard Ben-Veniste, Bob Kerrey, Fred F. Fielding, John F. Lehman, Jamie S. Gorelick, Timothy J. Roemer, Slade Gorton, and James R. Thompson. 9/11 Comission Report, The. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2004. 1-585. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911/.
Loose Change. Dir. Louder Than Words. 2005. Loose Change | Loose Change 2nd Edition Recut. 11 Nov. 2007 http://www.loosechange911.com/lc2.shtml
McAllister, Therese, ed. World Trade Center Building Performance Study. Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2002. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.fema.gov/rebuild/mat/wtcstudy.shtm
"Other Skyscraper Fires." 9-11 Research. 27 Mar. 2007. 28 Oct. 2007 http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/analysis/compare/fires.html
"NIST Status Update on World Trade Center 7 Investigation." NIST. 29 June 2007. NIST. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/wtc_062907.html
Perera, Rick. "Computer Disk Drives From WTC Could Yield Clues." CNN.Com 20 Dec. 2001. 20 Nov. 2007 http://archives.cnn.com/2001/TECH/industry/12/20/wtc.harddrives.idg/
"Speed of Fall." 9-11 Research. 18 Dec. 2006. 20 Nov. 2007 http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/analysis/collapses/freefall.html
"The Truss Failure Theory." 9-11 Research. 18 Dec. 2006. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.911research.wtc7.net/wtc/analysis/official/trusses.html
Thompson, Paul. "The Failure to Defend the Skies on 9/11." Cooperative History Research Commons. The Center for Grassroots Oversight. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/essay.jsp?article=essayairdefense
"TRADE CENTER HIT BY 6-FLOOR FIRE; Blaze Starts on the 11th 16 Men are Injured." New York Times 14 Feb. 1975: 41. ProQuest. Stanford University Library, Williamsburg, VA. 19 Nov. 2007. Keyword: World Trade Center fire.
United States of America. Federal Aviation Administration. FAA Order 7610.4J. 12 July 2001. 10 Nov. 2007 http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/terrorism/chp7.html
"Vast Volumes of Dust." 9-11 Research. 18 Dec. 2006. 20 Nov. 2007 http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/analysis/collapses/dust.html
Worden, Patrick. "The Bloody Ordeal of FedEx Flight 705." Suite101.Com. 7 Sept. 2001. 11 Nov. 2007 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/history_of_flight/79391/3
So, what did I learn in the course of writing my paper? There's a lot of stuff to deal with September 11th that is more then meets the eye. Does the government have ulterior motives, or are some of us just skeptics? It's up to you to decide, but I do very strongly thing that there should be a deeper investigation conducted sometime.