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TBR News, August 5, 2020

Aug 05 2020

 

The Voice of the White House

Comments for August 5, 2020:”It is fairly well known in DC that Trump is frantic to stay in office. Given this, no matter how the vote comes out in November, he will challenge anything and everything in the hopes he might eventually win. The nation is under enough stress what with the way over rated virus and the gross incompetence of the President and a huge scene in November would do no one any good but a few lunatic supporters. And, of course, Fat Donald the Grope

The Table of Contents

  • Thou, God, seeist me
  • Trump’s stream of subconsciousness becomes a torrent in car-crash interview
  • Majority of registered voters oppose U.S. election delay: Reuters/Ipsos poll
  • Trump and the Republicans Are Risking an All-Out Depression
  • The Media Needs to Prepare Now for a Very Different Kind of Election Night
  • The Control of the American News Media
  • 9/11: Debunking The Myths

Thou, God, seest me

by Christian Juers

The government intelligence agencies and their allied private contractors now regularly accesses all emails, chats, searches, events, locations, videos, photos, log-ins and any information people post online with a warrant, which the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court always  grants secretly and without being ever made public.

And the revelation of Prism, a secret government program for mining major Internet companies, states that the government now has direct access to Internet companies’ data without a warrant.

Every company impacted – Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype, PalTalk and AOL – publicly deny knowing about the program or giving any direct access to their servers. These denials are intended to bolster public confidence in their services because in reality, all of these entities cooperate fully with requests for customer information.

Google is the supplier of the customized core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secure online system where 37,000 U.S. domestic and foreign area spies and related personnel share information and collaborate on investigative missions.

And there is absolutely nothing one can commit to the Internet that is private in any sense of the word

In addition, Google is linked to the U.S. spy and military systems through its Google Earth software venture. The technology behind this software was originally developed by Keyhole Inc., a company funded by Q-Tel http://www.iqt.org/ , a venture capital firm which is in turn openly funded and operated on behalf of the CIA.

Google acquired Keyhole Inc. in 2004. The same base technology is currently employed by U.S. military and intelligence systems in their quest, in their own words, for “full-spectrum dominance” of the American, and foreign, political, social and economic spheres.

However, Internet Service Providers and the entertainment industry are now taking Internet monitoring to a whole new level….

If someone download copyrighted software, videos or music, all Internet service providers (ISP)  have the ability to detect this downloading.

The vast majority of computer surveillance involves the monitoring of data and traffic on the Internet. In the United States for example, under the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, all phone calls and broadband Internet traffic (emails, web traffic, instant messaging, etc.) are required to be available for unimpeded real-time monitoring by Federal law enforcement agencies., to include the FBI, NSA, the CIA and the DHS.

There is far too much data on the Internet for human investigators to manually search through all of it and so automated Internet surveillance computers sift through the vast amount of intercepted Internet traffic and identify and report to human investigators traffic considered interesting by using certain “trigger” words or phrases, visiting certain types of web sites, or communicating via email or chat with suspicious individuals or groups. Billions of dollars per year are spent, by agencies such as the Information Awareness Office, NSA, and the FBI, to develop, purchase, implement, and operate systems such as Carnivore, NarusInsight, and ECHELON to intercept and analyze all of this data, and extract only the information which is useful to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. One flaw with NSA claims that the government needs to be able to suck up Internet data from services such as Skype and Gmail to fight terrorists: Studies show that would-be terrorists don’t use those services. The NSA has to collect the metadata from all of our phone calls because terrorists, right? And the spy agency absolutely must intercept Skypes you conduct with folks out-of-state, or else terrorism. It must sift through your iCloud data and Facebook status updates too, because Al Qaeda. Terrorists are everywhere, they are legion, they are dangerous, and, unfortunately, they don’t really do any of the stuff described above.

Even though the still-growing surveillance state that sprung up in the wake of 9/11 was enacted almost entirely to “fight terrorism,” reports show that the modes of communication that agencies like the NSA are targeting are scarcely used by terrorists at all.

 

Trump’s stream of subconsciousness becomes a torrent in car-crash interview

The president’s incoherence and unchecked narcissism were given full rein for 40 long minutes in a TV evisceration

August 4, 2020

by John Crace

The Guardian

I take it all back. I regularly mock British politicians for their lies and hypocrisy, not least Boris Johnson, the UK’s Donald Trump-lite, who only last Friday had hit a new low for cronyism, corruption and nepotism with his appointments to the House of Lords.

But all this was amateur hour compared with Donald Trump’s interview with Axios’s political correspondent, Jonathan Swan, that was broadcast on HBO on Monday evening.

Here we had the US president in not just a stream but a full torrent of subconsciousness. Incoherent, deluded, out of his depth. An object lesson in unchecked, X-rated narcissism. The only wonder was that Swan managed to keep a reasonably straight face throughout the best part of 40 minutes.

Swan began by asking whether the president’s positive thinking had necessarily been the right approach to the coronavirus when the US death toll was now past 150,000 – and rising.

Cue a long rant from Trump about how there had been nothing like this since the 1917 flu pandemic – actually it was 1918 – how he wouldn’t forget that China had brought the virus to the US – in reality it also arrived from Europe – and how there had been 12,000 people at his rally in Tulsa and not the 6,000 that the Fake News media had reported. All the more people to hear his positive message that the virus was near enough under control and that face masks were for lefty wimps.

“We’ve tested more people than anyone had thought of,” Trump continued. “Sixty million. There are some people who are saying we have tested too much.”

“Who?” Swan asked reasonably.

“Read the manuals. Read the books.”

“What books?”

Trump ignored that question and Swan didn’t press him for an answer. The lie spoke for itself. No scientist has yet advocated less testing as a solution; still less has anyone written a book about it.

Things rapidly became even more surreal. First Trump insisted that children with runny noses were now testing positive and that the only reason the US was showing more cases was because of its level of testing. Brilliant. Obviously the way to beat the virus is to do no tests whatsoever. That way no one would ever die of it.

“When I took over, we didn’t have a test,” Trump said. Swan’s logic that the reason there was no test a year or so ago was because the virus did not yet exist rather passed the president by. Trump then tried to claim the virus was under control.

“How? A thousand Americans are dying a day,” Swan insisted, trying to keep the interview more or less on track.

“They are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is.” You win some, you lose some.

At this point, Swan tried to wrap up this part of the interview, more than happy he already had ratings gold, only for Trump to reach over to the table for a few sheets of paper. “Let’s look at some charts,” the president said. Be my guest, thought Swan, fairly certain it was odds on that The Donald would be holding them the wrong way up.

“Right here, we’re lower in various categories. The world.” Trump had started, so he’d finish.

“The world?” Swan thought it wise to check that the president knew that the USA was actually part of the world and not some parallel universe.

“Europe.”

Now Swan got it. The president was trying to measure deaths by number of cases diagnosed rather than per capita of population.

“You can’t do that,” Trump insisted.

“Why not?” Swan asked. Almost every other country had.

Because you couldn’t. That’s why. Swan pointed out that South Korea had a death toll of just 300 out of a population of 52 million. Donald gave him one of his “Fake News” death stares. The Koreans couldn’t be trusted, he said, but he wasn’t going to say that because the US was friends with them.

The rest of the interview was every bit as much a car crash. The president hadn’t seen any intelligence that the Russians were paying the Taliban to kill US military in Afghanistan. Even though it had been covered by virtually every media outlet. “Why can’t we talk about China?” He couldn’t even do the maths to work out that there were as many US personnel in Afghanistan now as in 2016.

Asked why he had said that he might not accept the results of this November’s presidential election, Trump said that Hillary Clinton had not accepted the 2016 result.

“Er … she conceded on the night,” Swan interrupted.

Yeah but no but yeah but she had grumbled. Besides, it was different this time round, as there was a newfangled phenomenon of postal voting that was wide open to corruption.

“But postal votes have been used since the civil war,” Swan observed. Trump merely blanked him.

Swan changed the subject. Ghislaine Maxwell. “I wish her well,” Trump said.

“You wish an alleged child sex trafficker well?”

Donald nodded. He was feeling benevolent as her boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein, had either killed himself or been killed in prison. He wasn’t that bothered which.

Nor was he too concerned about the veteran civil rights activist John Lewis, who had recently died. Mainly because he had snubbed an invitation to his presidential inauguration. No slight, however small, ever gets forgotten by this president.

Swan dabbed his brow and brought the interview to a close. Though in reality it had been less an interview and more an on-screen breakdown.

A collector’s item. But not for those of a nervous disposition.

 

Majority of registered voters oppose U.S. election delay: Reuters/Ipsos poll

August 5, 2020

by Chris Kahn

Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two thirds of registered American voters oppose delaying the Nov. 3 presidential election due to the coronavirus pandemic, and more than half think President Donald Trump floated the idea of postponing it last week to help himself politically, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling released on Wednesday.

The national public opinion poll was conducted from July 31 to Aug. 4, shortly after Trump said without providing evidence that a surge in mail-in voting would lead to widespread voter fraud and suggested the election be delayed. The idea was immediately rejected by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who have sole authority to change the election date.

Most Americans also rejected the suggestion. The poll showed 66% of registered voters oppose postponing the November vote, including 8 out of 10 Democrats and 5 in 10 Republicans.

Another 23% of registered voters – mostly Republicans – supported an election delay and 11% said they were not sure.

A separate Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Aug. 3-4 found that Democratic candidate Joe Biden leads Trump by 10 percentage points in support among registered voters, less than 100 days before the presidential election. A plurality, 44%, believe Biden would be better than Trump at steering the nation’s response to the pandemic.

Asked why they thought Trump wanted to postpone the election, 54% of registered voters suggested they thought Trump was trying to help himself get re-elected. Some 42% said Trump “thinks he will have a better chance of winning if the election is postponed” and 12% said the president “wants to distract the country from the pandemic and the economy.”

Another 21% said they thought Trump was concerned about voter fraud, and 10% said Trump “wants to protect Americans from the spread of coronavirus at polling locations.”

Americans were split along party lines over Trump’s intentions, with Democrats largely suspecting the president of trying to benefit himself politically and Republicans largely agreeing with Trump’s rationale of protecting the integrity of American elections.

Some legal experts warned that Trump’s repeated attacks could undermine his supporters’ faith in the election process and could make it harder for them to accept the results should he lose.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected millions of Americans and killed more than 155,000, has dramatically transformed the U.S. political landscape.

Concerns about the virus have rattled many voters who had planned on casting their ballots in person and have led to an unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots during the presidential nominating contests this year. Criticism of his pandemic response has also cut into Trump’s popularity with the American people.

About 57% of Americans said they disapproved of the way Trump was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, while 38% approved, according to the Aug. 3-4 poll.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. The July 31-Aug. 3 poll gathered responses from 882 registered voters, while another 964 registered voters responded in a separate Aug. 3-4 poll. The surveys have a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Reporting by Chris Kahn, Editing by Soyoung Kim and David Gregorio

 

Trump and the Republicans Are Risking an All-Out Depression

They are currently making the same failed choices that led to the last one.

August 5, 2020

by Robert J. Shapiro

Washington Monthly

The headline from last Thursday’s report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) on second quarter GDP was horrific: The economy contracted 9.5 percent from April through June. On an annual basis, GDP fell at an astounding rate of nearly 33 percent. Still, there’s another ominous aspect to the agency’s findings that has gone largely unnoted: The pandemic-driven collapse in GDP occurred even with trillions of dollars of government aid dispensed through emergency checks to households, expanded jobless benefits, and payroll grants.

Now, as the pandemic worsens again—infections are surging across much of the South, Southwest and Midwest—we may well need to face another period of largescale shutdowns, like those that stalled out the economy in April and May. But the White House and congressional Republicans are balking at a second, comparable round of emergency assistance. The data suggest that their quibbling and stalling risks a national depression.

The BEA’s latest report on personal incomes, released the day after its latest GDP report, can give us a rough measure of what might happen if President Trump and GOP leaders block another round of federal supports at least as large as the first one.

Over the second quarter of 2020, personal income from salaries and wages fell 7.1 percent even as total personal income grew 7.3 percent. That gaping difference was bridged mainly by the emergency checks and expanded jobless benefits from the federal government.

The report also shows that personal consumption fell 10.5 percent even as the emergency checks and extended jobless benefits provided $1,420 billion in income support. That’s because people spend a lot less when unemployment sets new records. Instead, they cut out most non-essential spending and save a lot more to tide themselves for even worse times: The personal saving rate, which averaged 7.5 percent in 2019, soared to 25.7 percent in the second quarter.

Worse times may be right on the horizon if Trump and his allies continue to delay and diminish a second round of emergency assistance.  We can estimate what would happen to personal incomes, consumption spending, and GDP if this second spike of infections produces shutdowns and unemployment in August and September akin to the first spike in April and May, although without the emergency aid from the government. Personal income would fall 7.0 percent below the depressed levels in the second quarter, or more than $1,424 billion. Personal consumption, which declined at an annual rate of $1,528 billion from March through May, would be further depressed by the absence of another $1,055 billion (the $1,420 billion in emergency aid minus  the 25.7 percent saved).  From July through September—the months leading up to the election—Americans would spend nearly 18 percent less than they did from January through March.

That means the GDP would not begin to recover at all. The overall economy would be nearly as depressed in the third quarter as it was in the disastrous second quarter, and possibly worse. This is the fire that the Trump administration and Congress are playing with, and it could burn down a good part of the U.S. economy.

In a week or two, the White House and congressional Republicans will likely try to avoid this dire scenario—or at least the responsibility for it—by pushing a sharply pared down version of the emergency package passed more than two months ago by House Democrats. .

The version offered by GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell would provide $1 trillion in assistance, i.e. one-third the support in the Democratic package. The GOP plan would cut the $600 expanded jobless benefit to $200, eliminate pay supplements for essential workers in hazardous jobs, and provide little aid to state and local governments.  The plan does include another round of $1,200 checks for most people, with the funds paid over several months and without the additional support for children in the Democrats’ bill.

There is no economic justification for a half loaf here and the GOP’s cuts in emergency funding will exact appalling costs on millions of households. Based on all of our economic and epidemiological information, the right course for anyone not seized by love or fear of Donald Trump is to press for a new round of assistance as least as large as the measures enacted last time.

Major aid disbursements to America’s families is also the only equitable course. The crisis has already ended, kaput, for large investors—the top 10 percent of Americans who own 91 percent of all financial assets—because the Federal Reserve’s aggressive operations have virtually restored the stock and bond markets.

From February 20 to March 23, the S&P 500 tumbled almost 34 percent from its historic high of 3,372 to 2,237.  Yet, as the economy has continued to tank from March 23 onward, $2.8 trillion in new Fed purchases pushed the S&P 500 back to 3,296 on August 3, just two percent from its historic high. The Fed’s operations have had the same impact on corporate bond markets, with both investment grade paper and junk bonds reversing virtually all of their recent losses even as GDP cratered.

Nevertheless, President Trump and GOP leaders have dismissed their obligation to provide large-scale support for everyone else and take the steps needed to break the pandemic.In a plummeting economy, they apparently have chosen Hebert Hoover as their role model, another Republican president with a GOP-controlled Congress who rejected calls for wide-ranging  government assistance for an economic crisis. The result, of course, was the Great Depression.

 

The Media Needs to Prepare Now for a Very Different Kind of Election Night

With a surge in mailed-in ballots, all of the votes won’t be counted for days—perhaps even weeks.

August 5, 2020

by Nancy LeTourneau

Washington Monthly

Donald Trump is causing massive headaches for Republican officials with his lies about fraudulent mail-in ballots.

President Trump’s unfounded attacks on mail balloting are discouraging his own supporters from embracing the practice, according to polls and Republican leaders across the country, prompting growing alarm that one of the central strategies of his campaign is threatening GOP prospects in November.

No matter how hard they try to thread the needle and suggest that there is a difference between absentee ballots (which they claim are fine) and mail-in ballots, the president’s followers have been trained to swallow anything he utters and are buying his lies.

A Monmouth University poll of registered voters in Georgia taken late last month found that 60 percent of Democrats are at least somewhat likely to vote by mail this fall, compared with 28 percent of Republicans…

“Please don’t confuse North Carolina’s absentee system with other states’ all-mail elections,” read the message from Darryl Mitchell, chairman of the Johnson County GOP. “NCGOP and JoCo GOP agrees with the President that our current absentee ballot request system is safe and secure.”

The assurance was met with skepticism from many commenters. “Burned it! I will go in person to vote straight Republican,” wrote one.

“Why is the GOP sending this out,” wrote another, adding: “You know damn well that we are arguing against this, and here it is our own damn party sending this horse dung out?!!! Whoever is in charge of this should be fired. I am going to the polls. Don’t send me one.”

As a result, what is likely to happen on election day is that tallies of those who vote in person will be reported first and, as we have seen during the primaries, final results will be delayed for days or even weeks as mail-in ballots are counted. That means that it is very possible that Trump will be in the lead initially, which is why he recently tweeted this:

Donald J. Trump

          @realDonaldTrump

          “Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!”

          4:22 PM · Jul 30, 2020

In other words, Trump will claim victory on election night and then challenge the results once all of the ballots are counted.

It is important for Democrats to get the message out about what is likely to happen. But ultimately it will be up to news media to make a dramatic change in how they report the results on the night of November 3rd. For example, exit polls will be useless since they only report on those who show up to vote in person. Media outlets should scrap them altogether this time around.

Rather than all of the breathless election reporting, news outlets should spend their time informing the public about why things will be different this time and then provide daily updates on the results. Any Trump victory laps should come with a caution that he’s jumping the gun.

One can only hope that in news rooms all over the country discussions will take place over the next few months about how they need to change their election coverage dramatically in order to keep the public informed. Given their obsession with always being first to report on major developments, I’m not terribly hopeful that they will do so. That failure would play right into Trump’s hands and offer him a platform to sow chaos with the integrity of our elections. In other words, it would make them complicit in undermining our democracy.

 

The Control of the American News Media

by James Kelso

A covert policy, formulated by Ronald Reagan in conjunction with the CIA, was termed “perception management” and was formalized on January 14, 1983 when President Reagan signed the National Security Decision Directive No. 77.  The Reagan White House and the CIA felt that a resurrection of anti-war activism in the United States as had occurred during the prolonged and futile Vietnamese war could curtail or halt the Reagan/CIA policy of  “aggressive containment,” specifically in Central America.

This project was also called ‘public diplomacy’ and while it was ostensibly created to develop American public support for Reagan’s foreign policy, it also was constructed to effect control over the opinions of the American public through control of the American media, both TV and press reportage.

Under the “perception management/public diplomacy” program, the CIA was instructed to take a number of steps to bring the American public’s perceptions into line with an official U.S. governmental policy.

The first step in this program was to fully analyze the cultural, ethnic, political and religious backgrounds of the general population and attempt to discover what themes resonate best with the greatest number of Americans. When this was been achieved, the next step was to create specific themes to address these cultural weak spots, or “points of public concern.”

The second step was to gain control over organs of public information such as existing media outlets, so-called “think tanks” ( the Rand Corporation}, political opinion polling agencies, national news wire services, and the creation and promotion of media news personalities entirely in the pay of the government and obedient to their demands.

Although the Central Intelligence Agency is not mandated to operate within the United States, nevertheless, it has been heavily involved in influencing domestic American public opinion almost since its inception in 1948. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hoover long had a friendly and very effective relationship with the media but the CIA siezed upon Hoover’s idea and made it their very own.

Through their efforts, many major American newspapers, and early television stations, were developed as CIA-responsive entities. In return for valuable news information, the media was expected to support international policies of the CIA, protect its interests by not reporting certain matters and, most especially, to attack individuals and organizations that were felt to either be hostile or potential impediments to CIA policies. These policies were initially foreign in nature but later, under the Nixon administration, expanded to cover domestic issues as well.

The Cold War was, in essence, not an ideological war between capitalism as represented by the United States and communism as represented by Soviet Russia. It was in reality a trade war between the two countries and in America, the CIA was in close connection with, and heavily influenced by, American commercial interests. Many top CIA officials had the closest economic and social connections with the business leadership of the United States and more often than not, acted as their enforcing arm in international matters. Governments hostile to American business interests were undermined and overthrown by CIA operatives by misrepresenting the aims of these foreign governments to the President and Congress.

While one element of the CIA had put Fidel Castro in power in Cuba (because Batista was considered unacceptable to several major American business concerns) another branch sought to remove him because he had, among other acts, nationalized the nickel industry (owned by American interests) and the lucrative casinos. The latter were owned and operated by the American Mafia who also had strong connections with the CIA. When Guzman in Guatemala tried to nationalize United Fruit holdings in that country, the CIA forced his ouster and replacement by a CIA informant, Arbanez.

In addition to foreign policy matters, the public resistance to the war in Vietnam was of great concern to not only the Johnson White House but also to the CIA. The US had initially entered that area at the request of the withdrawing French because the vast and very profitable rubber plantations in Vietnam were being threatened with seizure. CIA units under William Colby were brought into Vietnam for the express purpose of removing any anti-American elements from South Vietnam while American military units were detailed to put down the guerrilla activities of the North Vietnamese Viet Cong.

This “civil pacification” program was called “Operation Phoenix,” and was run by Colby with the aid of South Vietnamese police and security forces, supported by US Special Forces. This program, which failed in its goals, unleashed a bloody terror that surpassed anything the Third Reich’s SS Combat Groups ever did in Eastern Europe.

The eventual failure of the Vietnam campaign and the resultant collapse of the liberal Johnson administration brought a very conservative Republican Nixon into power. This president was clearly determined to halt the growing anti-war, and by definition liberal, movement in the United States and to fully prosecute the policies of “aggressive containment” throughout the world.

Nixon and his administration viewed the American media as liberal and anti-conservative and during both his first and into his second terms, Nixon sought by every means, legal and otherwise, to break up anti government groups by using the FBI against them, to destroy their leadership by any means available and to bring the American media under control.

The CIA was involved in much of this, opening first class mail, electronically spying on many Americans in direct competition with the FBI and both agencies engaged in ferocious territorial wars. Too much of this manipulation became public, again through the medium of the press, and Nixon was eventually forced from office, the FBI and CIA publicly discredited and much of their power greatly curtailed.

As American conservatives regrouped after their defeat, they became firmly determined to both regain power and prevent the media from its perceived anti-governmental policies during the Vietnam struggle.

Out of the political ruins, Richard Nixon’s former Treasury Secretary William Simon  was one of the leaders of a powerful movement to not only establish better control of what they viewed as a far left media but to set up various support organizations like think tanks and supportive private economic organizations that would fully support government policies, whatever they might be. From many wealthy individuals and corporations, millions of dollars were raised. In addition to open sources, even more money was obtained from dubious sources, such as the Reverend Moon and a number of Asian groups whose names never appear on any donors list, although a number of them are known to international law enforcement agencies involved with the interdiction of narcotics. The CIA first got into the drug business when they inherited a complete system from a former KMT General operating against the Communists in Burma. When the CIA discovered the incredible amounts of off-the-books money they could make running, and later refining, opium products, they took to the business like a duck takes to water. Much of this illegal money went back into the political coffers of whatever political organization that could best  keep secure the CIA’s official position in whatever administration chanced to be in power.

As George H.W. Bush had been DCI in 1976, his elevation to Vice President under Reagan and later, to the Presidency itself was considered to be of great importance to the Republican/CIA axis of power and many ultra-conservative CIA agents were brought into both the Reagan and, especially, into the following Bush administration..Chief among these émigrés were Donald Gregg and Walter Raymond, Jr. who left the CIA and moved into the White House. After the promulgation of the National Security Decision Directive No. 77.Raymond, who had conducted what was euphemistically called “public awareness” for the CIA took over the duties of the Reagan “public diplomacy” section of the White House. A small army of professional “psywar” (or psychological warfare) experts from the CIA, the DIA and the NSA flooded into the White House to develop and firmly cement a strong, coordinated policy of complete media control. Their agents, acting under the highest authority, developed working relationships with mainstream book and newspaper publishers and the rapidly-amalgamating television industry.

Blandishments were tried, followed by veiled threats and eventually, a strong network of massive American print and television media cooperation was secured.

During the Reagan-Bush administrations, powerful media controls were developed and successful tactics for the destruction of any opposition and the media support of any and all ultra-conservative ventures solidified.

With the unexpected loss of the White House to the liberal Clinton, the fury of the dispossessed Republicans knew no bounds and they renewed their plans for the discrediting of any liberal elements in American politics and the strengthening of the machinery needed to remain in what they hoped would be permanent power.

Determined to regain the White House and hopefully, control of both the Senate and the House, the Republicans, allied with fanatical Neocons and the equally fanatical Christian Right, launched a long and thoroughly vicious campaign against the liberal Democrat Clinton. This did not result in his being removed from office as his enemies devoutly prayed but gave the political very far right the foundation for the next campaign. George W. Bush, a political cipher, was chosen as their candidate because it was well known that he was easily controlled and with his nomination, the state was set for an unprecedented campaign of savagery and massive vote fraud. In all of this, the American media, attempting to avoid the stigma of liberalism, joined in the attacks and often spearheaded them.

In the 2000 Presidential campaign, an obedient media turned from savaging the liberal Clintons to an ugly campaign against Al Gore and this pattern of  conservative viciousness started again in the 2004 campaign but as public perception of Bush’s gross and growing failures both in Iraq and the field of domestic economics grew, the media began to alter its stance. Presidents come and Presidents go but the media wishes to abide so allegiances shift. The business community, seeing Bush’s growing and deep unpopularity with a significant part of American consumers, now hedges its bets. No one likes to back a loser and CEOs are not idealists.

The Republican “informational message” machine, taking a leaf from the activities of Hitler’s brilliant Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels, became unrivaled in its ability to shape how a majority of Americans perceived events. All media is dependent for income from advertising revenues. With their unrivalled and powerful business connections, the Republicans have been easily able to use economic pressure against media entities that they viewed as uncertain. Also, most of the news in the United States does not come from local reporters but from the wire services. Firm control of the few remaining American news services guarantees that a newspaper in Keokuk, Iowa and Alviso, California receive the same news copy at the same time as the major papers and television stations. De facto Republican  control of the wire services guarantees that a small paper without correspondents in Washington or Moscow are forced to take what is called “boilerplate” (fully controlled)  news for their local papers and other media outlets. .

It is interesting to note that the public Internet has made great inroads into the once-exclusive domains of the American media and the public, obviously disbelieving and disillusioned about the accuracy and fairness of the media are turning more and more to the Internet as a source of news. There exists a great body of highly accurate, non-controlled and very informative news information available to the American public. This consists of hundreds of very reputable news sites but unfortunately, they are only available on the Internet. Among these are: The British Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, the French AFP, the Toronto Globe and Mail and many mid-East, Russian and Asian English-language daily news sites. Much of this uncensored and objective news is culled by various American news website operators and given to a public on a daily basis. Anyone who does not believe that the American media is a fully controlled entity need only look at foreign news sites to see what may be known by but is never reported in the American press. This growing trend is frightening to both the Republicans and their allies in the mainline media  because it is free and the Internet sites are not responsive to pressure from any governmental agency or corporate advertising entity.

It is a sad commentary on the decline of the American media’s  reportage when 65% of Americans between 18 and 25 openly acknowledge getting all of their news from the satiric John Stewart’s program, “The Daily Show” and not from the major networks.

 

9/11: Debunking The Myths

PM examines the evidence and consults the experts to refute the most persistent conspiracy theories of September 11.

Published in the March, 2005 issue of Popular Mechanics

FROM THE MOMENT the first airplane crashed into the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, the world has asked one simple and compelling question: How could it happen?

Three and a half years later, not everyone is convinced we know the truth. Go to Google.com, type in the search phrase “World Trade Center conspiracy” and you’ll get links to an estimated 628,000 Web sites. More than 3000 books on 9/11 have been published; many of them reject the official consensus that hijackers associated with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda flew passenger planes into U.S. landmarks.

Healthy skepticism, it seems, has curdled into paranoia. Wild conspiracy tales are peddled daily on the Internet, talk radio and in other media. Blurry photos, quotes taken out of context and sketchy eyewitness accounts have inspired a slew of elaborate theories: The Pentagon was struck by a missile; the World Trade Center was razed by demolition-style bombs; Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet. As outlandish as these claims may sound, they are increasingly accepted abroad and among extremists here in the United States.

To investigate 16 of the most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists, POPULAR MECHANICS assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters who, together with PM editors, consulted more than 70 professionals in fields that form the core content of this magazine, including aviation, engineering and the military.

In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. Only by confronting such poisonous claims with irrefutable facts can we understand what really happened on a day that is forever seared into world history.–THE EDITORS

THE PLANES

The widely accepted account that hijackers commandeered and crashed the four 9/11 planes is supported by reams of evidence, from cockpit recordings to forensics to the fact that crews and passengers never returned home. Nonetheless, conspiracy theorists seize on a handful of “facts” to argue a very different scenario: The jets that struck New York and Washington, D.C., weren’t commercial planes, they say, but something else, perhaps refueling tankers or guided missiles. And the lack of military intervention? Theorists claim it proves the U.S. government instigated the assault or allowed it to occur in order to advance oil interests or a war agenda.

Where’s The Pod?

CLAIM: Photographs and video footage shot just before United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) show an object underneath the fuselage at the base of the right wing. The film “911 In Plane Site” and the Web site LetsRoll911.org claim that no such object is found on a stock Boeing 767. They speculate that this “military pod” is a missile, a bomb or a piece of equipment on an air-refueling tanker. LetsRoll911.org points to this as evidence that the attacks were an “inside job” sanctioned by “President George Bush, who planned and engineered 9/11.”

FACT: One of the clearest, most widely seen pictures of the doomed jet’s undercarriage was taken by photographer Rob Howard and published in New York magazine and elsewhere. PM sent a digital scan of the original photo to Ronald Greeley, director of the Space Photography Laboratory at Arizona State University. Greeley is an expert at analyzing images to determine the shape and features of geological formations based on shadow and light effects. After studying the high-resolution image and comparing it to photos of a Boeing 767-200ER’s undercarriage, Greeley dismissed the notion that the Howard photo reveals a “pod.” In fact, the photo reveals only the Boeing’s right fairing, a pronounced bulge that contains the landing gear. He concludes that sunlight glinting off the fairing gave it an exaggerated look. “Such a glint causes a blossoming (enlargement) on film,” he writes in an e-mail to PM, “which tends to be amplified in digital versions of images–the pixels are saturated and tend to ‘spill over’ to adjacent pixels.” When asked about pods attached to civilian aircraft, Fred E. Culick, professor of aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology, gave a blunter response: “That’s bull. They’re really stretching.”

No Stand-Down Order

CLAIM: No fighter jets were scrambled from any of the 28 Air Force bases within close range of the four hijacked flights. “On 11 September Andrews had two squadrons of fighter jets with the job of protecting the skies over Washington D.C.,” says the Web site emperors-clothes.com. “They failed to do their job.” “There is only one explanation for this,” writes Mark R. Elsis of StandDown.net. “Our Air Force was ordered to Stand Down on 9/11.”

FACT: On 9/11 there were only 14 fighter jets on alert in the contiguous 48 states. No computer network or alarm automatically alerted the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) of missing planes. “They [civilian Air Traffic Control, or ATC] had to pick up the phone and literally dial us,” says Maj. Douglas Martin, public affairs officer for NORAD. Boston Center, one of 22 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regional ATC facilities, called NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) three times: at 8:37 am EST to inform NEADS that Flight 11 was hijacked; at 9:21 am to inform the agency, mistakenly, that Flight 11 was headed for Washington (the plane had hit the North Tower 35 minutes earlier); and at 9:41 am to (erroneously) identify Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 from Boston as a possible hijacking. The New York ATC called NEADS at 9:03 am to report that United Flight 175 had been hijacked–the same time the plane slammed into the South Tower. Within minutes of that first call from Boston Center, NEADS scrambled two F-15s from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Mass., and three F-16s from Langley Air National Guard Base in Hampton, Va. None of the fighters got anywhere near the pirated planes.

Why couldn’t ATC find the hijacked flights? When the hijackers turned off the planes’ transponders, which broadcast identifying signals, ATC had to search 4500 identical radar blips crisscrossing some of the country’s busiest air corridors. And NORAD’s sophisticated radar? It ringed the continent, looking outward for threats, not inward. “It was like a doughnut,” Martin says. “There was no coverage in the middle.” Pre-9/11, flights originating in the States were not seen as threats and NORAD wasn’t prepared to track them

Flight 175’s Windows

CLAIM: On Sept. 11, FOX News broadcast a live phone interview with FOX employee Marc Birnbach. 911inplanesite.com states that “Bernback” saw the plane “crash into the South Tower.” “It definitely did not look like a commercial plane,” Birnbach said on air. “I didn’t see any windows on the sides.”

Coupled with photographs and videos of Flight 175 that lack the resolution to show windows, Birnbach’s statement has fueled one of the most widely referenced 9/11 conspiracy theories–specifically, that the South Tower was struck by a military cargo plane or a fuel tanker.

FACT: Birnbach, who was a freelance videographer with FOX News at the time, tells PM that he was more than 2 miles southeast of the WTC, in Brooklyn, when he briefly saw a plane fly over. He says that, in fact, he did not see the plane strike the South Tower; he says he only heard the explosion.

While heading a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) probe into the collapse of the towers, W. Gene Corley studied the airplane wreckage. A licensed structural engineer with Construction Technology Laboratories, a consulting firm based in Skokie, Ill., Corley and his team photographed aircraft debris on the roof of WTC 5, including a chunk of fuselage that clearly had passenger windows. “It’s … from the United Airlines plane that hit Tower 2,” Corley states flatly. In reviewing crash footage taken by an ABC news crew, Corley was able to track the trajectory of the fragments he studied–including a section of the landing gear and part of an engine–as they tore through the South Tower, exited from the building’s north side and fell from the sky

Intercepts Not Routine

CLAIM: “It has been standard operating procedures for decades to immediately intercept off-course planes that do not respond to communications from air traffic controllers,” says the Web site oilempire.us. “When the Air Force ‘scrambles’ a fighter plane to intercept, they usually reach the plane in question in minutes.”

FACT: In the decade before 9/11, NORAD intercepted only one civilian plane over North America: golfer Payne Stewart’s Learjet, in October 1999. With passengers and crew unconscious from cabin decompression, the plane lost radio contact but remained in transponder contact until it crashed. Even so, it took an F-16 1 hour and 22 minutes to reach the stricken jet. Rules in effect back then, and on 9/11, prohibited supersonic flight on intercepts. Prior to 9/11, all other NORAD interceptions were limited to offshore Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ). “Until 9/11 there was no domestic ADIZ,” FAA spokesman Bill Schumann tells PM. After 9/11, NORAD and the FAA increased cooperation, setting up hotlines between ATCs and NORAD command centers, according to officials from both agencies. NORAD has also increased its fighter coverage and has installed radar to monitor airspace over the continent.

THE WORLD TRADE CENTER

The collapse of both World Trade Center towers–and the smaller WTC 7 a few hours later–initially surprised even some experts. But subsequent studies have shown that the WTC’s structural integrity was destroyed by intense fire as well as the severe damage inflicted by the planes. That explanation hasn’t swayed conspiracy theorists, who contend that all three buildings were wired with explosives in advance and razed in a series of controlled demolitions.

Widespread Damage

CLAIM: The first hijacked plane crashed through the 94th to the 98th floors of the World Trade Center’s 110-story North Tower; the second jet slammed into the 78th to the 84th floors of the 110-story South Tower. The impact and ensuing fires disrupted elevator service in both buildings. Plus, the lobbies of both buildings were visibly damaged before the towers collapsed. “There is NO WAY the impact of the jet caused such widespread damage 80 stories below,” claims a posting on the San Diego Independent Media Center Web site (sandiego.indymedia.org). “It is OBVIOUS and irrefutable that OTHER EXPLOSIVES (… such as concussion bombs) HAD ALREADY BEEN DETONATED in the lower levels of tower one at the same time as the plane crash.”

FACT: Following up on a May 2002 preliminary report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a major study will be released in spring 2005 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NIST shared its initial findings with PM and made its lead researcher available to our team of reporters.

The NIST investigation revealed that plane debris sliced through the utility shafts at the North Tower’s core, creating a conduit for burning jet fuel–and fiery destruction throughout the building. “It’s very hard to document where the fuel went,” says Forman Williams, a NIST adviser and a combustion expert, “but if it’s atomized and combustible and gets to an ignition source, it’ll go off.”

Burning fuel traveling down the elevator shafts would have disrupted the elevator systems and caused extensive damage to the lobbies. NIST heard first-person testimony that “some elevators slammed right down” to the ground floor. “The doors cracked open on the lobby floor and flames came out and people died,” says James Quintiere, an engineering professor at the University of Maryland and a NIST adviser. A similar observation was made in the French documentary “9/11,” by Jules and Gedeon Naudet. As Jules Naudet entered the North Tower lobby, minutes after the first aircraft struck, he saw victims on fire, a scene he found too horrific to film

Melted” Steel

CLAIM: “We have been lied to,” announces the Web site AttackOnAmerica.net. “The first lie was that the load of fuel from the aircraft was the cause of structural failure. No kerosene fire can burn hot enough to melt steel.” The posting is entitled “Proof Of Controlled Demolition At The WTC.”

FACT: Jet fuel burns at 800° to 1500°F, not hot enough to melt steel (2750°F). However, experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn’t need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength–and that required exposure to much less heat. “I have never seen melted steel in a building fire,” says retired New York deputy fire chief Vincent Dunn, author of The Collapse Of Burning Buildings: A Guide To Fireground Safety. “But I’ve seen a lot of twisted, warped, bent and sagging steel. What happens is that the steel tries to expand at both ends, but when it can no longer expand, it sags and the surrounding concrete cracks.”

“Steel loses about 50 percent of its strength at 1100°F,” notes senior engineer Farid Alfawak-hiri of the American Institute of Steel Construction. “And at 1800° it is probably at less than 10 percent.” NIST also believes that a great deal of the spray-on fireproofing insulation was likely knocked off the steel beams that were in the path of the crashing jets, leaving the metal more vulnerable to the heat.

But jet fuel wasn’t the only thing burning, notes Forman Williams, a professor of engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and one of seven structural engineers and fire experts that PM consulted. He says that while the jet fuel was the catalyst for the WTC fires, the resulting inferno was intensified by the combustible material inside the buildings, including rugs, curtains, furniture and paper. NIST reports that pockets of fire hit 1832°F.

“The jet fuel was the ignition source,” Williams tells PM. “It burned for maybe 10 minutes, and [the towers] were still standing in 10 minutes. It was the rest of the stuff burning afterward that was responsible for the heat transfer that eventually brought them down.”

Puffs Of Dust

CLAIM: As each tower collapsed, clearly visible puffs of dust and debris were ejected from the sides of the buildings. An advertisement in The New York Times for the book Painful Questions: An Analysis Of The September 11th Attack made this claim: “The concrete clouds shooting out of the buildings are not possible from a mere collapse. They do occur from explosions.” Numerous conspiracy theorists cite Van Romero, an explosives expert and vice president of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, who was quoted on 9/11 by the Albuquerque Journal as saying “there were some explosive devices inside the buildings that caused the towers to collapse.” The article continues, “Romero said the collapse of the structures resembled those of controlled implosions used to demolish old structures.”

FACT: Once each tower began to collapse, the weight of all the floors above the collapsed zone bore down with pulverizing force on the highest intact floor. Unable to absorb the massive energy, that floor would fail, transmitting the forces to the floor below, allowing the collapse to progress downward through the building in a chain reaction. Engineers call the process “pancaking,” and it does not require an explosion to begin, according to David Biggs, a structural engineer at Ryan-Biggs Associates and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) team that worked on the FEMA report

Like all office buildings, the WTC towers contained a huge volume of air. As they pancaked, all that air–along with the concrete and other debris pulverized by the force of the collapse–was ejected with enormous energy. “When you have a significant portion of a floor collapsing, it’s going to shoot air and concrete dust out the window,” NIST lead investigator Shyam Sunder tells PM. Those clouds of dust may create the impression of a controlled demolition, Sunder adds, “but it is the floor pancaking that leads to that perception.”

Demolition expert Romero regrets that his comments to the Albuquerque Journal became fodder for conspiracy theorists. “I was misquoted in saying that I thought it was explosives that brought down the building,” he tells PM. “I only said that that’s what it looked like.”

Romero, who agrees with the scientific conclusion that fire triggered the collapses, demanded a retraction from the Journal. It was printed Sept. 22, 2001. “I felt like my scientific reputation was on the line.” But emperors-clothes.com saw something else: “The paymaster of Romero’s research institute is the Pentagon. Directly or indirectly, pressure was brought to bear, forcing Romero to retract his original statement.” Romero responds: “Conspiracy theorists came out saying that the government got to me. That is the farthest thing from the truth. This has been an albatross around my neck for three years.”

Seismic Spikes

CLAIM: Seismographs at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., 21 miles north of the WTC, recorded the events of 9/11. “The strongest jolts were all registered at the beginning of the collapses, well before falling debris struck the earth,” reports the Web site WhatReallyHappened.com.

A columnist on Prisonplanet.com, a Web site run by radio talk show host Alex Jones, claims the seismic spikes are “indisputable proof that massive explosions brought down” the towers. The Web site says its findings are supported by two seismologists at the observatory, Won-Young Kim and Arthur Lerner-Lam. Each “sharp spike of short duration,” says Prisonplanet.com, was consistent with a “demolition-style implosion.”

FACT: “There is no scientific basis for the conclusion that explosions brought down the towers,” Lerner-Lam tells PM. “That representation of our work is categorically incorrect and not in context.”

The report issued by Lamont-Doherty includes various graphs showing the seismic readings produced by the planes crashing into the two towers as well as the later collapse of both buildings. WhatReallyHappened.com chooses to display only one graph which shows the readings over a 30-minute time span.

On that graph, the 8- and 10-second collapses appear–misleadingly–as a pair of sudden spikes. Lamont-Doherty’s 40-second plot of the same data gives a much more detailed picture: The seismic waves–blue for the South Tower, red for the North Tower–start small and then escalate as the buildings rumble to the ground. Translation: no bombs.

WTC 7 Collapse

CLAIM: Seven hours after the two towers fell, the 47-story WTC 7 collapsed. According to 911review.org: “The video clearly shows that it was not a collapse subsequent to a fire, but rather a controlled demolition: amongst the Internet investigators, the jury is in on this one.”

FACT: Many conspiracy theorists point to FEMA’s preliminary report, which said there was relatively light damage to WTC 7 prior to its collapse. With the benefit of more time and resources, NIST researchers now support the working hypothesis that WTC 7 was far more compromised by falling debris than the FEMA report indicated. “The most important thing we found was that there was, in fact, physical damage to the south face of building 7,” NIST’s Sunder tells PM. “On about a third of the face to the center and to the bottom–approximately 10 stories–about 25 percent of the depth of the building was scooped out.” NIST also discovered previously undocumented damage to WTC 7’s upper stories and its southwest corner.

NIST investigators believe a combination of intense fire and severe structural damage contributed to the collapse, though assigning the exact proportion requires more research. But NIST’s analysis suggests the fall of WTC 7 was an example of “progressive collapse,” a process in which the failure of parts of a structure ultimately creates strains that cause the entire building to come down. Videos of the fall of WTC 7 show cracks, or “kinks,” in the building’s facade just before the two penthouses disappeared into the structure, one after the other. The entire building fell in on itself, with the slumping east side of the structure pulling down the west side in a diagonal collapse.

According to NIST, there was one primary reason for the building’s failure: In an unusual design, the columns near the visible kinks were carrying exceptionally large loads, roughly 2000 sq. ft. of floor area for each floor. “What our preliminary analysis has shown is that if you take out just one column on one of the lower floors,” Sunder notes, “it could cause a vertical progression of collapse so that the entire section comes down.”

There are two other possible contributing factors still under investigation: First, trusses on the fifth and seventh floors were designed to transfer loads from one set of columns to another. With columns on the south face apparently damaged, high stresses would likely have been communicated to columns on the building’s other faces, thereby exceeding their load-bearing capacities.

Second, a fifth-floor fire burned for up to 7 hours. “There was no firefighting in WTC 7,” Sunder says. Investigators believe the fire was fed by tanks of diesel fuel that many tenants used to run emergency generators. Most tanks throughout the building were fairly small, but a generator on the fifth floor was connected to a large tank in the basement via a pressurized line. Says Sunder: “Our current working hypothesis is that this pressurized line was supplying fuel [to the fire] for a long period of time.”

WTC 7 might have withstood the physical damage it received, or the fire that burned for hours, but those combined factors–along with the building’s unusual construction–were enough to set off the chain-reaction collapse.

THE PENTAGON

At 9:37 am on 9/11, 51 minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon was similarly attacked. Though dozens of witnesses saw a Boeing 757 hit the building, conspiracy advocates insist there is evidence that a missile or a different type of plane smashed into the Pentagon

Big Plane, Small Holes

CLAIM: Two holes were visible in the Pentagon immediately after the attack: a 75-ft.-wide entry hole in the building’s exterior wall, and a 16-ft.-wide hole in Ring C, the Pentagon’s middle ring. Conspiracy theorists claim both holes are far too small to have been made by a Boeing 757. “How does a plane 125 ft. wide and 155 ft. long fit into a hole which is only 16 ft. across?” asks reopen911.org, a Web site “dedicated to discovering the bottom line truth to what really occurred on September 11, 2001.”

The truth is of even less importance to French author Thierry Meyssan, whose baseless assertions are fodder for even mainstream European and Middle Eastern media. In his book The Big Lie, Meyssan concludes that the Pentagon was struck by a satellite-guided missile–part of an elaborate U.S. military coup. “This attack,” he writes, “could only be committed by United States military personnel against other U.S. military personnel.”

FACT: When American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon’s exterior wall, Ring E, it created a hole approximately 75 ft. wide, according to the ASCE Pentagon Building Performance Report. The exterior facade collapsed about 20 minutes after impact, but ASCE based its measurements of the original hole on the number of first-floor support columns that were destroyed or damaged. Computer simulations confirmed the findings.

Why wasn’t the hole as wide as a 757’s 124-ft.-10-in. wingspan? A crashing jet doesn’t punch a cartoon-like outline of itself into a reinforced concrete building, says ASCE team member Mete Sozen, a professor of structural engineering at Purdue University. In this case, one wing hit the ground; the other was sheared off by the force of the impact with the Pentagon’s load-bearing columns, explains Sozen, who specializes in the behavior of concrete buildings. What was left of the plane flowed into the structure in a state closer to a liquid than a solid mass. “If you expected the entire wing to cut into the building,” Sozen tells PM, “it didn’t happen.”

The tidy hole in Ring C was 12 ft. wide–not 16 ft. ASCE concludes it was made by the jet’s landing gear, not by the fuselage

Intact Windows

CLAIM: Many Pentagon windows remained in one piece–even those just above the point of impact from the Boeing 757 passenger plane. Pentagonstrike.co.uk, an online animation widely circulated in the United States and Europe, claims that photographs showing “intact windows” directly above the crash site prove “a missile” or “a craft much smaller than a 757” struck the Pentagon.

FACT: Some windows near the impact area did indeed survive the crash. But that’s what the windows were supposed to do–they’re blast-resistant.

“A blast-resistant window must be designed to resist a force significantly higher than a hurricane that’s hitting instantaneously,” says Ken Hays, executive vice president of Masonry Arts, the Bessemer, Ala., company that designed, manufactured and installed the Pentagon windows. Some were knocked out of the walls by the crash and the outer ring’s later collapse. “They were not designed to receive wracking seismic force,” Hays notes. “They were designed to take in inward pressure from a blast event, which apparently they did: [Before the collapse] the blinds were still stacked neatly behind the window glass.”

Flight 77 Debris

CLAIM: Conspiracy theorists insist there was no plane wreckage at the Pentagon. “In reality, a Boeing 757 was never found,” claims pentagonstrike.co.uk, which asks the question, “What hit the Pentagon on 9/11?”

FACT: Blast expert Allyn E. Kilsheimer was the first structural engineer to arrive at the Pentagon after the crash and helped coordinate the emergency response. “It was absolutely a plane, and I’ll tell you why,” says Kilsheimer, CEO of KCE Structural Engineers PC, Washington, D.C. “I saw the marks of the plane wing on the face of the building. I picked up parts of the plane with the airline markings on them. I held in my hand the tail section of the plane, and I found the black box.” Kilsheimer’s eyewitness account is backed up by photos of plane wreckage inside and outside the building. Kilsheimer adds: “I held parts of uniforms from crew members in my hands, including body parts. Okay?”

FLIGHT 93

Cockpit recordings indicate the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 teamed up to attack their hijackers, forcing down the plane near Shanksville, in southwestern Pennsylvania. But conspiracy theorists assert Flight 93 was destroyed by a heat-seeking missile from an F-16 or a mysterious white plane. Some theorists add far-fetched elaborations: No terrorists were aboard, or the passengers were drugged. The wildest is the “bumble planes” theory, which holds that passengers from Flights 11, 175 and 77 were loaded onto Flight 93 so the U.S. government could kill them.

The White Jet

CLAIM: At least six eyewitnesses say they saw a small white jet flying low over the crash area almost immediately after Flight 93 went down. BlogD.com theorizes that the aircraft was downed by “either a missile fired from an Air Force jet, or via an electronic assault made by a U.S. Customs airplane reported to have been seen near the site minutes after Flight 93 crashed.” WorldNetDaily.com weighs in: “Witnesses to this low-flying jet … told their story to journalists. Shortly thereafter, the FBI began to attack the witnesses with perhaps the most inane disinformation ever–alleging the witnesses actually observed a private jet at 34,000 ft. The FBI says the jet was asked to come down to 5000 ft. and try to find the crash site. This would require about 20 minutes to descend.”

FACT: There was such a jet in the vicinity–a Dassault Falcon 20 business jet owned by the VF Corp. of Greensboro, N.C., an apparel company that markets Wrangler jeans and other brands. The VF plane was flying into Johnstown-Cambria airport, 20 miles north of Shanksville. According to David Newell, VF’s director of aviation and travel, the FAA’s Cleveland Center contacted copilot Yates Gladwell when the Falcon was at an altitude “in the neighborhood of 3000 to 4000 ft.”–not 34,000 ft. “They were in a descent already going into Johnstown,” Newell adds. “The FAA asked them to investigate and they did. They got down within 1500 ft. of the ground when they circled. They saw a hole in the ground with smoke coming out of it. They pinpointed the location and then continued on.” Reached by PM, Gladwell confirmed this account but, concerned about ongoing harassment by conspiracy theorists, asked not to be quoted directly.

Roving Engine

CLAIM: One of Flight 93’s engines was found “at a considerable distance from the crash site,” according to Lyle Szupinka, a state police officer on the scene who was quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Offering no evidence, a posting on Rense.com claimed: “The main body of the engine … was found miles away from the main wreckage site with damage comparable to that which a heat-seeking missile would do to an airliner.”

FACT: Experts on the scene tell PM that a fan from one of the engines was recovered in a catchment basin, downhill from the crash site. Jeff Reinbold, the National Park Service representative responsible for the Flight 93 National Memorial, confirms the direction and distance from the crash site to the basin: just over 300 yards south, which means the fan landed in the direction the jet was traveling. “It’s not unusual for an engine to move or tumble across the ground,” says Michael K. Hynes, an airline accident expert who investigated the crash of TWA Flight 800 out of New York City in 1996. “When you have very high velocities, 500 mph or more,” Hynes says, “you are talking about 700 to 800 ft. per second. For something to hit the ground with that kind of energy, it would only take a few seconds to bounce up and travel 300 yards.” Numerous crash analysts contacted by PM concur.

Indian Lake

CLAIM: “Residents and workers at businesses outside Shanksville, Somerset County, reported discovering clothing, books, papers and what appeared to be human remains,” states a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article dated Sept. 13, 2001. “Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly 6 miles from the immediate crash scene.” Commenting on reports that Indian Lake residents collected debris, Think AndAsk.com speculates: “On Sept. 10, 2001, a strong cold front pushed through the area, and behind it–winds blew northerly. Since Flight 93 crashed west-southwest of Indian Lake, it was impossible for debris to fly perpendicular to wind direction. … The FBI lied.” And the significance of widespread debris? Theorists claim the plane was breaking up before it crashed. TheForbiddenKnowledge.com states bluntly: “Without a doubt, Flight 93 was shot down.”

FACT: Wallace Miller, Somerset County coroner, tells PM no body parts were found in Indian Lake. Human remains were confined to a 70-acre area directly surrounding the crash site. Paper and tiny scraps of sheetmetal, however, did land in the lake. “Very light debris will fly into the air, because of the concussion,” says former National Transportation Safety Board investigator Matthew McCormick. Indian Lake is less than 1.5 miles southeast of the impact crater–not 6 miles–easily within range of debris blasted skyward by the heat of the explosion from the crash. And the wind that day was northwesterly, at 9 to 12 mph, which means it was blowing from the northwest–toward Indian Lake

F-16 Pilot

CLAIM: In February 2004, retired Army Col. Donn de Grand-Pre said on “The Alex Jones Show,” a radio talk show broadcast on 42 stations: “It [Flight 93] was taken out by the North Dakota Air Guard. I know the pilot who fired those two missiles to take down 93.” LetsRoll911.org, citing de Grand-Pre, identifies the pilot: “Major Rick Gibney fired two Sidewinder missiles at the aircraft and destroyed it in midflight at precisely 0958.”

FACT: Saying he was reluctant to fuel debate by responding to unsubstantiated charges, Gibney (a lieutenant colonel, not a major) declined to comment. According to Air National Guard spokesman Master Sgt. David Somdahl, Gibney flew an F-16 that morning–but nowhere near Shanksville. He took off from Fargo, N.D., and flew to Bozeman, Mont., to pick up Ed Jacoby Jr., the director of the New York State Emergency Management Office. Gibney then flew Jacoby from Montana to Albany, N.Y., so Jacoby could coordinate 17,000 rescue workers engaged in the state’s response to 9/11. Jacoby confirms the day’s events. “I was in Big Sky for an emergency managers meeting. Someone called to say an F-16 was landing in Bozeman. From there we flew to Albany.” Jacoby is outraged by the claim that Gibney shot down Flight 93. “I summarily dismiss that because Lt. Col. Gibney was with me at that time. It disgusts me to see this because the public is being misled. More than anything else it disgusts me because it brings up fears. It brings up hopes–it brings up all sorts of feelings, not only to the victims’ families but to all the individuals throughout the country, and the world for that matter. I get angry at the misinformation out there.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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