A wakeup call for non-violent
New Blog! www.crookedshepherds.wordpress.com
New pentagon overflight evidence: www.thepentacon.com
Jerry Russell, v. 2.0 (3/19/05)
In a review of an earlier version of this article, Brian Salter expressed his concern that this analysis:
Brian, that was certainly not my intention. But I agree, this issue needs to be treated with sobriety and sensitivity. So I've edited this article, and eyewitness commentaries. I haven't heard from any eyewitnesses, but if any of them did take offense, I most sincerely apologize. I specifically feel sorry about my remarks about Skarlet, which were completely uncalled for. I also agree that I failed to prove my earlier contention that Frank Probst and James Robbins were lying, although their accounts certainly contain problematic details.
I myself have undergone, if not a change of heart, at least a process of realization that the Pentagon explosion remains an unsolved mystery. While the no-757 camp has demonstrated a long list of anomalies, there is nothing that constitutes a smoking-gun proof in my opinion. Conspiracy specialists may be researching the issue for years to come, but in the American political realm, the "no 757" argument will always be viewed as an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence. Meanwhile, activists who pursue "9-11 truth" with the goal of causing political change need to have arguments and evidence that are straightforward, rock-solid and indisputable. The "no-757" evidence simply is not substantial enough to meet this requirement. While the no-757 camp has demonstrated a long list of anomalies, there is nothing that constitutes a smoking-gun proof.
However, this is no reason to drop the investigation -- as long as there are questions left unanswered, and avenues of inquiry that have not been fully explored. This investigation is conducted under the assumption that 9/11 was an "inside job" carried out by a highly powerful elite conspiracy. Within this framework, there's no obvious a priori reason to assume that a 757 either did or did not strike the Pentagon -- especially given the many suspicious circumstances that have been uncovered. Before this debate can be closed down, the "pro-757" advocates share an equal burden of proof on their own behalf.
If indeed the "757" at the Pentagon was a hoax, then the extent and depth of corruption which must have been necessary to pull off this deceit are absolutely breathtaking. As Rick Stanley and I wrote in our introduction to our "Five Sided Fantasy Island" series -- IF our theory is correct, it follows that "US intelligence agencies have developed an extraordinary capability to create elaborate magic shows on the world stage, generate false testimony and false evidence, and control and manipulate not only the 'official story' but also its dialectical opposition among the critics." This new, more detailed survey of the 'eyewitness' evidence shows just how extensively the government and media would have needed to cooperate, to create this false testimony.
On the other hand, given the ambiguity of the physical evidence picture, "no 757" advocates should probably try to stay humble. It seems to me that there's a very real possibility that the perpetrators of 9/11 did indeed use a 757 to strike the Pentagon. (Whether this 757 was in fact American Airlines flight 77, is an issue I can't even begin to address.)
Advocates of "no 757" theories who would like to continue to contest the eyewitness issue, need to understand how high the barrier that has been raised. As Salter noted, it's not sufficient to defeat or incriminate just one or two witnesses. The entire spectrum of testimony across the board needs to be evaluated. Yet for those who claim that the "eyewitness testimony" is some sort of slam-dunk proof that a 757 did indeed strike the Pentagon, we hope we can offer an antidote for that simplistic notion. Certainly eyewitness testimony can be valid under the right circumstances -- but that doesn't mean that everything appearing in the corporate media should be accepted at face value.
I am particularly offended by charges that the "no-plane" theories represent intentional disinformation, and that all investigation of the Pentagon should be dropped immediately because of the attacks that have been posted in mainstream outlets like Popular Mechanics and Snopes. On the contrary, the anomalous circumstances surrounding the Pentagon explosion are compelling enough that I find myself more troubled by attacks within the 911 community against well-meaning Pentagon explosion investigators. But I also must acknowledge that the "no-757" case is not clear-cut enough to be useful to political activists, and that highly biased and sensationalistic attempts to pretend otherwise, are not especially helpful to the cause.
It is indisputable that many eyewitness accounts argue very passionately in favor of a 757 crash. Similarly the physical (photographic) evidence has many features which seem designed to comport very closely with a 757 impact: for example, the 5 downed light poles whose distribution implies they were hit by something with the correct wingspan for a 757 (although no one has explained why they were displaced laterally to the forward motion of the 757); the "engine fingerprints" (damage to the concrete ventilation structure and generator trailer at the correct spacing for a pair of 757 engines, although the alignment of the gash on the trailer is debatable); the hole in the building, 20 feet high and 20 feet wide for the fuselage, with broader damage extending about 90 feet along the first floor, which seems about right for a 757 (if you are willing to buy into the argument that the tail and wingtips might have shattered into confetti on impact, without even breaking the nearby windows); and the "fuselage fragment" photographed by Mark Faram, with the letters, colors and even the rivets all looking pretty much like an American Airlines 757 (if you can explain how it came to rest where it supposedly did, and why it isn't scorched or burned, and why it isn't on display at the Smithsonian now.) In this context, it is very difficult for skeptics to present a case which is simultaneously brief, convincing, accurate, comprehensive and fully forthright about the many confusing and seemingly contradictory factors.
As for the reasons that we continue to believe that there are credible arguments that no 757 struck the Pentagon, we would mention several unsolved aspects. The first is the lack of sufficient debris, and the total lack of any identifiable debris that has been presented for independent verification. There are eyewitness claims of aircraft debris (confetti) in specific locations where high-resolution photographs fail to show any of the alleged debris. And other early eyewitnesses (including Arlington County Fire Chief Ed Plaugher and Pentagon audio-visual media specialist Terry Mitchell) made comments indicating that there was little aircraft debris found inside the Pentagon, where the bulk of the fuselage should have been found. Yet in response to queries following Thierry Meyssan's objections to the implausibility of this scenario, FBI spokesman Chris Murray told the French paper Liberation that "The pieces of the plane are stocked in a warehouse and they are marked with the serial numbers of flight 77." If that is the case, then when will this warehouse be opened for international and domestic verification by independent observers? And will there be a bona-fide evidential chain of custody?
It's ironic that our "Five Sided Fantasy Island" article has been widely quoted by the pro-757 camp (either with or without attribution) because of our analysis of the Sugano F-4 Phantom "confetti" experiment, and because of our presentation of engine drawings from Boeing maintenance manuals (provided by Joe Hryczyk) showing that the engine wreckage photographs from Sarah Roberts are compatible with a 757. However, our "missing confetti" argument has been universally ignored. The Sugano experiment is not necessarily directly applicable to the Pentagon incident, because the speed and energy of the 757 would have been significantly less than the F-4; and the problems of buffeting, stall, ground effect and maneuverability indicate that the "actual" airspeed may have been much lower than claimed in the ASCE report. The slower the impact speed, the larger the debris. Yet the high-resolution photographs show no confetti at all, at any distances much beyond the helipad.
While in our view there is a lack of sufficient evidence that a 757 was responsible for the Pentagon explosion, on the other hand there is substantial evidence that shaped-charge explosive devices were involved. This includes the eyewitness accounts of multiple explosions and shock waves; the eyewitness accounts of cordite smells; the fact that the columns of the Pentagon facade were bent outwards as if by some explosive force from within the building; and the explosive destruction and reportedly intense fires from "construction trailers" in front of the Pentagon.
Finally, there is the massive accumulation of circumstantial conditions that produce what appears to be a perfect staging venue, and the circumstances to cleanup afterwards, which we addressed in The Five Sided Fantasy Island.
Reconsidering James Robbins, Frank Probst and Jet Blast
Our earlier approach to the eyewitnesses was to focus on the ones who have been presented in semi-official reports such as the ASCE report, and / or widely quoted individuals with detailed testimony available. We noted James Robbins' National Review testimony that he saw a 757 making an unrecoverable DIVE into the Pentagon. If Robbins really saw the 757 make a straight and level approach at treetop level, why didn't he say so? However, in retrospect I must admit the possibility that Robbins simply failed to write precisely.
We have long argued that Frank Probst's reported testimony is self-contradictory and implausible. An early report stated that Probst was on the sidewalk near the highway, and yet that the airplane's engine passed only six feet away from his head, while trimming the antenna of a passing automobile. However, this is incompatible with the lamp-pole evidence. The lamp poles appear to be roughly 30 to 40 feet long, and were shorn near the top. Also, our study of the flight path indicated that it would be difficult enough for a 757 to achieve even an altitude of 40 feet over the overpass (after crossing over the Naval Annex), much less only 10 feet over traffic.
The ASCE report contains language that we interpreted to mean that Probst was located near the helipad. The text even refers to a figure which clearly shows the helipad and the construction trailer, but completely omits the sidewalk which is located far off the figure. Salter seems to be bending over backwards with his argument that the ASCE report is compatible with locating Probst on the sidewalk. However, I must admit the possibility that the ASCE report was written in a confusing manner, yet without any provable intent to misrepresent Probst's true location.
Supposing that Probst was on the sidewalk and the 757 passed 20 or 30 feet over his head, then the only remaining problem is to explain why he said it was only six feet away. This might be only a matter of inaccurate depth perception, which would be understandable considering that he would have little experience in making judgments about jetliners passing at high speed.
If the aircraft did pass six feet away from Probst, and ten feet over the highway, we believe that there should have been serious damage caused by jet blast and wake turbulence. If the distances were more like 30 feet, then this issue is much more imponderable.
Eyewitness accounts -- survey and commentary
In the years since 9/11/2001, we have been treated to the spectacle of the United States launching an unprovoked war of aggression, based on a long series of outrageously, demonstrably false statements from the Bush administration about "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq. So why should we be surprised if "eyewitness" sources strongly linked to the US corporate and media elite, might also provide false testimony about the events of September 11? This may even be a sort of test case for the perpetrators, who may be experimenting to determine whether they can rely on planted eyewitnesses to win out over conflicting physical evidence -- even among skeptics. If all the perpetrators need to do is produce sufficient lying eyewitnesses on behalf of any sort of nonsense, what hope is there for the truth? Shouldn't we insist that actual 'testimony' concerning substantive controversial affairs must be examined within a proper open forum, rather than allowing media assertions to substitute under a nonexistent standard for verification, e.g. cross examination, determination of conflicts of interests, etc?
There are indeed a fair number of alleged eyewitnesses, but like the writers of the Gospels, how many of them have you met or seen on the television? How many of these so-called witnesses had words put in their mouths, or their statements taken out of context, as has been seen frequently before with unscrupulous reporters or FBI agents? How many of them don't even exist at all other than as fictional constructs? How many of them confabulated disparate aspects into a synthesis that was intended by the perpetrators of the magic show, knowing that people tend to bend themselves towards the consensus reality for tribal approval sake? Isn't that just standard fare for stage magicians?
Compared to the opportunity for an actual cross-examination, the review of cursory eyewitness statements risks the appearance of being flippant or over-critical. I can only examine the words that have been provided by the reporters, who are often quite scanty with specifics -- and point out the problems. I have no way of knowing the things that have been left unsaid.
There is also the fact that this is recent history -- so most of these eyewitnesses are still potentially available for further questioning. There is a clear opportunity to do real oral history and/or true gumshoe journalism, to get the full story from these people who were at the scene, and to further separate truth from fiction. While I may not always agree with the conclusions, I have tremendous respect for the kind of on-the-ground journalistic interviews pursued by researchers like Christopher Bollyn. I have not taken on this task, but have restricted myself to reviewing the published statements.
I undertook a review of the entire body of witness accounts, as collected by Eric Bart and organized on Hoffman's site. In order to provide some structure to this analysis, I divided the (approximately 150) eyewitness accounts into categories according to the predominant character of the testimony.
Possibly the most important subset of witnesses consists of those who provide explicit, realistic and detailed claims that a 757 crashed into the Pentagon after executing a high velocity, low altitude approach. In these statements, I found a high level of disagreement among the eyewitnesses, about the detailed physical description of the actual collision, as well as disagreements with the "official story" of the 757 impact as determined by the ASCE report. Out of 31 witness accounts which were classified as "explicit", I was able to identify substantial errors or contradictions in 21 accounts, or 68%. There would naturally be some discrepancies and variability expected in the witness accounts, and I have no way of judging whether the Pentagon testimony is within acceptable bounds. However, it is natural for skeptics to ask if these witnesses could be so wrong about so many things, and yet be trusted to correctly report the difference between a true aircraft impact, and a "magic show" or overflight.
Operating within the hypothesis that there might have been a conspiracy within the Pentagon and the renovation staff, I created a category of "elite insiders" who were either highly placed military officers, government officials, media officials, or employees of the Pentagon renovation team and security staff. This is admittedly a circularly defined category, since if there is no conspiracy, then these witnesses would be no different than any other witnesses. I found a very high prevalence of elite insider connections among the witnesses who claimed to see the 757 hit the Pentagon, compared to other witnesses whose perceptions were more indeterminate. Out of the 31 explicit witnesses, 13 had what I would consider "deep" insider connections, while 24 of 31 worked for either the Federal Government or the mainstream media. It is possible that the high incidence of insiders among the highly explicit witnesses, is simply a result of the location of the incident.
However, in my view, the combination of a very high incidence of severely contradictory reports, and the high level of "insider" connections, should be sufficient to cast a shadow of doubt over these eyewitnesses. After these witnesses are taken out, there are surprisingly few remaining to support the 757 story.
In the case of the 15 witnesses who reported seeing debris from the aircraft, I wasn't exactly sure how to score for contradictory accounts, since it isn't clear what the facts are. However, I certainly noted serious difficulties reconciling witness statements with each other, and the photographic record.
I was very intrigued with the eyewitnesses whose testimony had a surreal, movie-like or slow-motion quality. Six accounts fell into that category. Several more witnesses incidentally mentioned this surreal aspect, but these six accounts clearly describe an altered state of consciousness. In some cases, time slowed down or perception became exceptionally acute; in other cases, auditory and somato-sensory perception were completely suppressed. Is this simply a result of an adrenaline rush? Are these accounts fictionalized? Or could these be instances of CIA mind control, MK-ULTRA style? I simply don't know, but I find it troubling to reach any firm conclusions based on this type of testimony.
Among the less well-connected, there is a surprising amount of reason to question the official story. Sixteen eyewitnesses provided evidence of explosives at the Pentagon, or supporting the "quantum flight path" anomaly, although none explicitly support the overflight theory. And, of those 16, only one is a deeply connected insider.
This survey of the witnesses was rounded out by two categories that were not highly relevant to the controversy. Forty-six accounts were from Pentagon workers caught inside the building, or eyewitnesses who only saw an explosion, and whose testimony could not distinguish whether bombs or an aircraft impact (or both) were responsible. And twenty-nine accounts were not sufficiently detailed to determine whether an overflight could be a possible explanation, or the witnesses were not in a position to be able to distinguish the difference between an overflight and a collision. The incidence of insiders, government and media employees among these less definitive eyewitnesses, is far lower than among the highly explicit eyewitnesses, indicating that they might represent a somewhat more random sampling of the population near the Washington beltway.
While I cannot agree with statements that the eyewitness reports represent an ironclad proof of a 757 at the Pentagon, this investigation of the eyewitness reports did not turn up any "smoking gun" evidence of a conspiracy among the eyewitnesses.
And even if there is ever a trial or investigation, if the eyewitness statements to the jury are similar to the statements quoted in the press, the weight of this eyewitness testimony in favor of a 757 impact will be extremely difficult to overcome -- unless some conclusive physical evidence emerges against the 757 theory.
Critique of the general Plane Bomb theories
While I appreciate the creativity and sincerity of this Plane Bomb approach to the Pentagon explosion, I would argue that the Plane Bomb advocates are a long way from achieving their stated objectives of conforming with the physical evidence as well as the eyewitness accounts.
I completely disagree with Hoffman's assertion that the jetliner could have been completely shredded, and yet still created the sharply defined pattern of damage exhibited by the Pentagon facade, as well as generating a predictably contained debris field to enable Hoffman's reverse psy-op, post-impact, extensively photographed operations in, sans said debris. The ability to puncture walls and shatter reinforced concrete columns depends critically on the average density of the aircraft, which would have been dramatically reduced by any explosive decomposition prior to impact. The size and shape of the hole in the building was (perhaps by design?) an excellent match for the size and shape of an intact jetliner, not an exploded and decomposing ball of wreckage. So perhaps Hoffman's recently revised version of Bart's theory needs to be revised yet again to allow for shredding just the wingtips and tail. Bart himself argues that some sort of complex shaped charge, augmented by the "mach effect", was designed to produce the extended lateral pattern of damage to the facade.
But if a 757 or other similar sized plane was used, why not just depend upon
whatever effects that would or would not be produced by the actual plane?
Contrary to the claims of many about the incredible strength of the Pentagon
walls, the only structural strength elements were the columns. The infill walls
as originally built consisted of two thicknesses of standard red brick and 5
inches of limestone facade. The additional reinforcements were only
significantly structural in the vertical (collapse) dimension, depending upon
the shear strength of the attachment bolts in the lateral axis. As admitted by
the designers of the reinforcement project, the reinforcements were to address
only relatively minor attack events, not anything as dramatic as that of a 100
ton airliner impacting, aluminum or not.
In a somewhat different plane-bomb model proposed by Jean-Pierre Desmoulins (at his "The Scenarios" page), one problem above is solved by stating that the shaped charge explosives and depleted uranium projectile did their work after they were carried inside the building by the 757. Desmoulins is still left with the problem of accounting for the strange lack of debris inside the building. At one point, Desmoulins suggested that perhaps the aluminum was consumed in an oxidizing reaction with water from the Pentagon fire extinguishers, but we don't believe that this is a reasonable theory -- because this reaction normally only occurs when pools of molten aluminum are suddenly quenched with water, and is normally self-limiting as evaporation and explosive forces disperse the reactants.
Eric Bart does an excellent job of reviewing the evidence for a series of explosions inside the Pentagon but we think this evidence tends to support the concept that the 757 (if there was one) must have been largely intact (rather than fully shredded before impact) in order to carry those bombs safely into the Pentagon. Or perhaps (as Brian Salter suggests) the explosives were simply planted in the Pentagon beforehand.
Reverse deception psy-op? Spy vs. Spy?
In the evaluation of intelligence "black ops" I am always intrigued by the questions of motivation behind the machinations. Jim Hoffman addresses this problem for the Plane Bomb theory as follows:
While I certainly would not put that manner of layered
Machiavellian thinking beyond the perpetrators of 9/11, perhaps
the goal of confusing and dividing the skeptics could be accomplished
using much simpler, less expensive and more reliable mechanisms. It is one
thing to imagine the agents sitting around a table, laughing like Mephistopheles
as they hatch this devious and complicated Plane Bomb psy-op. It is quite
another thing to claim that they would attempt to pull it off, given the risk of
exposure from possible failure to execute properly. This is another 100% mission
critical function, something which the military has been notoriously famous for
not flawlessly producing in the field. And we are not just talking about the
extremely precise timing of exploding the hypothetical plane bomb or bombs, no,
they needed to be placed precisely such that they would either shred the wing
extremities and tail assembly completely, or to allow the wings to fold in. This
is truly incredulous, but maybe this is where all of our tax dollars have been
going, i.e. to practice pulling off such stunts perfectly.
Perhaps the goal of dividing the 911 skeptic's movement was accomplished when the perpetrators intentionally planted some evidence suggesting that a small plane or missile hit the Pentagon. This planted evidence probably includes several eyewitness accounts, the turbine of a single engine, and the punch-out hole through the "C" ring, as well as the famous 5 frames of the "security video". The "missile theory," at least as it was expressed by early advocates such as Thierry Meyssan and Lyndon Larouche, may have had some political significance as a "fall back" position for the Pentagon. The argument was that some small clique within the government was attempting to carry out a coup and overthrow or blackmail the Bush administration, by hijacking this missile and using it to bomb the Pentagon. And even now, discussions of 911 "conspiracy theory" within the mainstream media tend to focus on the highly dubious nature of the (planted) evidence of a small plane attack, as the focal point for their efforts to debunk the entire 911 skeptic case. Given the highly complex and emotionally charged nature of this particular topic, perhaps it is inevitable that this is the achilles heel for the skeptics.
As Hoffman points out, many of the "small plane" theorists have been putting an inappropriate emphasis on the "hole is too small" issue. This is one of the biggest hammers the debunkers have. Many skeptics continue to focus only on the 'upper fuselage' gap in the second floor, completely ignoring the much broader extent of the ground floor damage -- while even the more careful sites fail to deal adequately with the possibility that the alleged wingtips and tail might have been shattered and shredded on impact (ostensibly by the convenient presence of the contractor's trailers and the electrical generator.) Then the extent of the lower lateral damage is conveniently turned into a speculative free for all by the damage to the concrete vent, the contractor's trailers and the electrical generator. No one can be positively certain what the true damage from an event like this because no other 757 has ever hit the Pentagon in this manner or any other to use as a comparison. When the discussion inevitably veers off in this direction, the issue doesn't really play out well. This is no playground for casual beginners. But, just because the issue is difficult and complex, the situation is not improved by adopting yet another controversial theory.
Hoffman asserts that the no-757 camp is being cleverly duped by the 9/11 perpetrators as part of a very sophisticated psy-op campaign to discredit and marginalize the skeptic's community, as this is the standard modus operandi fare for any such operation of deception. But it can just as easily, even more so, be claimed that any evidence of a "Plane Bomb" (as well as evidence of a small attack plane or missile) has been planted as a psy-op. Most likely, Hoffman proposed his own variant of the "plane bomb" as a straw man, rather than as a serious proposal.
Jim Hoffman, "The Pentagon No-757-Crash Theory: Booby Trap for 911 Skeptics"
Hoffman's alphabetized collection of eyewitness testimony, originally compiled by Eric Bart:
Brian Salter blog, http://www.questionsquestions.net/blog/041116pentagon.html
Victor Thorn critique of Hoffman article http://188.8.131.52/thornarticles/hoffman.html
Hoffman reply to Thorn http://911review.com/wingtv/markup/hoffman.html
Eric Bart plane bomb site http://eric-bart.net/iwpb/index.html
Jean-Pierre Desmoulins plane bomb site http://perso.wanadoo.fr/jpdesm/pentagon/english.html
"The Scenarios": http://perso.wanadoo.fr/jpdesm/pentagon/pages-en/cen-scnpl.html
Aluminum oxidation theory http://perso.wanadoo.fr/jpdesm/pentagon/pages-en/dam-alum.html
Critique of "Jet Blast": http://www.earth-citizens.net/pages-en/trj-blow.html
757 jet wake data from Boeing: http://www.boeing.com/assocproducts/aircompat/acaps/753sec6.pdf
First posted 12/2/04;
Version 1.1, 12/5/04: removed an erroneous claim that Hoffman and Salter were providing unambiguous support for the Plane Bomb theories; clarified reasons we still support "No 757" arguments; added discussion of Hoffman rebuttal to Thorn; added clarifying comments about Jet Blast in accordance with Desmoulins rebuttal; added reference section with URL's to Plane Bomb sites, and Desmoulins critique of Jet Blast.
Version 1.2, 12/5/04: miscellaneous clarifications and additional detail added.
Version 1.3, 2/27/05: edited to remove possibly flippant or ad hominem remarks; added response to Salter blog.
Version 2.0, 3/20/05: Further responses to Salter blog, including a re-evaluation of the conclusions, and revisiting the scoring of the witness testimony, and the statistics. Rick Stanley asked to be removed from the author list, although it must be acknowledged that many of the words in this article are from his keyboard. Rick will be preparing his own remarks shortly.