|Eleven enduring mysteries of 9/11|
by: Robert Bridge
Today, as the world pauses to remember the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, it is also important to remember the inexplicable things that happened – and didn’t happen – that tragic day.
After all, 9/11 is responsible for diminishing hard-fought US civil rights, as well as triggering wars around the world.
Without wandering into the deep grass of conspiracy theory, here are 11 well documented mysteries of 9/11 that warrant a real investigation into the two hours that changed the course of world history.
First, it is important to remember that the events of 9/11 were foremost criminal acts, albeit on a massive, almost unfathomable scale. Thus, the authorities should have followed all of the normal procedures that usually accompany any normal criminal investigation. Yet, practically every step of the investigation was severely flawed as if a ‘terrorist attack’ was somehow different from “a criminal attack” and therefore did not qualify for a formal investigation.
Example number one: Why were so many relatives of Osama bin Laden given a free pass out of Dodge after 9/11?
As clearly outlined in the 9/11 Commission Report, “After the airspace reopened, six chartered flights with 142 people, mostly Saudi Arabian nationals, departed from the United States between September 14 and 24. One flight, the so-called Bin Ladin flight, departed the United States on September 20 with 26 passengers, most of them relatives of Usama Bin Ladin.”
The glaring question remains: Why did we allow the people who had the most to tell us about Osama bin Laden to acquire yet more frequent flier mileage? There remains the possibility that the terror mastermind communicated with at least one family member before the attacks. After all, we were told he was a tech-savvy guy.
Jack Cloonan, a former senior agent on the joint FBI-CIA Al-Qaeda task force (who is interviewed in Michael Moore’s documentary film,Fahrenheit 9/11), asks why the bin Laden family “was allowed to leave the country…without anyone getting their statements on record in any kind of formal proceeding, and with little more than a brief interview.”
Meanwhile, two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with most of the nation’s aircraft still grounded, a Learjet 35 landed at Tampa International Airport (TIA), picked up three young Saudi men and left to an undetermined location. TIA officials, as quoted by local media sources, have already confirmed that the flight did take place.
According to The St. Petersburg Times (Florida): “The odyssey of the small LearJet 35 is part of a larger controversy over the hasty exodus from the United States in the days immediately after 9/11 of members of the Saudi royal family and relatives of Osama bin Laden.”
Richard Clarke, who ran the White House crisis team after the attacks, said the White House feared that the Saudis could face domestic ‘‘retribution” for the hijackings if they remained in the United States. Is that a good reason to allow these people to escape the clutches of an ongoing investigation?
By allowing members of the bin Laden family to leave the country violates the most basic element of any criminal investigation: talk to the family members; if anybody has valuable information about the suspect, it is them. Furthermore, not wanting to inconvenience the bin Ladens is a slap in the face to the American people. Think about it: The family members of America’s most wanted terrorist were permitted to flee the country – on airplanes – following the hijackings of 9/11, yet American travelers are the ones who must succumb to “virtual strip searches” and other intrusive security measures at US airports. Where is the logic?
Judging by the behavior of the stock market in the days leading up to the morning of 9/11, it seems that some individuals knew something very big was looming on the horizon.
One week after 9/11, The Chicago Board Options Exchange, the world’s largest options market, said it was investigating reports of unusual trading activity before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
In the days before the attacks, unusually high numbers of ‘put options’ (put options allow an investor to make money in the event that the price of the stock decreases) were placed on American Airlines and United Airlines, which each had two planes hijacked. Investigators said there was no such trend involving put options on other airline stock.
On September 6-7, when there was no significant news involving United Airlines (UAL), the Chicago exchange handled 4,744 put options for UAL stock, compared with just 396 ‘call options’ (as opposed to put options, call option are bets that the stock price will rise). Later, on September 10, American Airlines received just 748 call options and 4,516 put options, based on option trading records. CBS News reported that this type of trade activity was, respectively, 90 percent and 60 percent above normal.
On Sept. 17, 2001, the first day of trading following the 9/11 attacks, shares of AMR fell 39 percent, and UAL stock plunged 42 percent, thus making some individuals a lot of money.
“I saw put-call numbers higher than I’ve ever seen in 10 years of following the markets, particularly the options markets,” John Kinnucan, a principal of Broadband Research, a telecommunications research firm, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “When one sees this type of activity, the first thing one does is ask oneself, ‘What is the explanation? What are people worried about?’ “
Eleven years after the events of 9/11, the identity of the individuals who profited on American and United Airline stocks nosediving remains a mystery. Some suggest that Osama bin Laden himself was responsible for placing stock market bets from his cave in Afghanistan. If this scenario were true, who purchased the stocks on behalf of al-Qaeda? Why have the identities of these individuals not been made public? Furthermore, would bin Laden have risked exposing his operation by buying massive amounts of put options on the very aircraft he planned to hijack? Such suspicious stock market activity would have (should have) tipped off regulators, not to mention the FBI.
This suspicious stock market activity (other industries seriously affected by the terrorist attacks, including the insurance and investment sectors, also experienced higher-than-normal activity in the days preceding 9/11) makes it almost certain that some individuals knew beforehand that something involving airplanes was about to occur.
Had the Bush administration not permitted the bin Laden family from leaving the country without questioning, this mystery may have been further explored.
Since when has incompetence become a prerequisite for a job promotion? In the weeks and months following 9/11, not a single person in charge with protecting America from an attack suffered any sort of disciplinary action. In fact, they got just the opposite: promotions.
Here is a short list of the Bush overachievers:
Richard Myers. At the time of the 9/11 attacks, Harry Shelton, the highest-ranking US military official, was exactly where he should not have been: on a plane over the Atlantic heading to a NATO meeting. This unfortunate case of bad timing meant that Richard Myers, his Vice-Chairman, was in charge of running the Pentagon. This put Myers in the position of overseeing the interception of the four pirated commercial jets that were veering wildly out of their flight paths. Although NORAD carried out dozens of interceptions in the months prior to 9/11, not a single fighter jet took to the skies to defend the two juiciest pieces of American real estate: New York and Washington. Just three days after 9/11, following the stunning failure to guard American skies, Myers was promoted from Vice-Chairman to Chairman.
Montague Winfield. Winfield was originally scheduled to be at his command post on the morning of Sept. 11. One day before, however, he arranged for his deputy, Captain Charles Leidig, to relieve him on Sept. 11 at exactly 8:30 am. This turned out to be just eight minutes before the military was alerted to the strange behavior of the first flight (at 8:38 am according to the timeline in The 9/11 Commission Report). Winfield’s absence proved disastrous because the National Military Command Center (NMCC) was responsible for coordinating information on the 9/11 attack. In May of 2003, Winfield was promoted to the two-star rank of major general.
Ralph Eberhart, in charge of NORAD on 9/11. On a day in which basic procedures should have prevented the attacks of 9/11, the attacks were being mirrored in military drills hundreds of miles away. When asked by the 9/11 Commission if the war games “helped” the response to the 9/11 attacks, Eberhart responded, “Sir, my belief is that it helped because of the manning, because of the focus, because the crews – they have to be airborne in 15 minutes and that morning, because of the exercise, they were airborne in six or eight minutes. And so I believe that focus helped.” It is difficult to see how the war games helped since it is obvious none of the hijacked commercial aircraft were intercepted by fighter jets during the attacks. Leidig was promoted in 2004 to Admiral.
Did the conduct of these men on 9/11 warrant promotions?
If it had been up to the Bush administration, there would have been no government commission devoted to understanding what went so horribly wrong on 9/11. This is crucial for obvious reasons, like ensuring that such an attack never occur again. Yet, only after intense pressure from the families of 9/11 victims did the Bush administration finally agree to authorizing a commission hearing. And who did Bush want to put in charge of the commission? None other than Henry Kissinger himself. After Kissinger would resign from the commission on Dec. 12, 2002, after he declined to disclose the client list of his consulting firm, the post was awarded to another Washington insider, Philip Zelikow.
For those wondering why the 9/11 Commission had so many gaping holes in its story, consider the following: The US government forked over $175 million investigating the Challenger space shuttle disaster and $30 million digging up the dirt in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Yet the Bush administration could only spare $15 million pocket change for the 9/11 Commission. Although 9/11 represented the deadliest attack on US soil, the Bush administration apparently thought it had nothing to learn from the experience. Isn’t this severely shortchanging future administrations in their own efforts to guard America from outside attack?
For many people, the collapse of the 47-story World Trade Center 7 complex remains the most inexplicable event of 9/11. Building 7 was never hit by an airplane, yet it became the third steel-framed building in history, behind the North and South Towers, to collapse due to fire in a single day. Some eight hours after the free-fall collapse of the first two structures, Building 7 collapsed to the ground in almost free-fall speed, which some architects and engineers say is suggestive that the massive under-structure of the buildings was somehow being destroyed as the much smaller upper floors were descending. And just like the North and South towers, WTC 7 fell precisely into its own footprint, which is pretty remarkable considering that demolition experts are paid a lot of money to make sure that that is exactly what happens when they bring down structures. Should we just do away with demolition experts and fly commercial jets into skyscrapers that we want to get rid of?
But the real mystery of the collapse of Building 7 is that it is never mentioned once in the final 9/11 Commission Report. This is all the more strange considering that WTC 7 housed an Emergency Command Center for the City of New York that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had built in the mid-1990’s. On the morning of September 11th, however, Giuliani did not head to his Command Center, with its open view of the Twin Towers, but rather to a makeshift, street-level headquarters away from the action. WTC 7 also held the offices of numerous government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the CIA, the Secret Service, the IRS, and the Security and Exchange Commission. Was WTC 7 considered too top secret to mention in a public commission report?
Before 9/11, it has always been standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Federal Aviation Administration, in cooperation with NORAD, to scramble jet fighters whenever an aircraft wanders off course or loses radio contact with air traffic controllers. In fact, it has been estimated that between September 2000 and June 2001, interceptors were scrambled 67 times. In the year 2000, fighter jets were scrambled 129 times. So how did it happen that on 9/11 that not a single fighter jet engaged four commercial jets over a 90-minute period? How was it possible that the Pentagon, the headquarters of the biggest national military in the world, was hit a full 1 hour and 20 minutes after the attacks began? Why was there no response from Andrews Air Force Base, just 10 miles away and home to Air National Guard units charged with defending the skies above the nation’s capital? Why has there been no disciplinary action for this appalling case of negligence?
As anyone who has ever watched a detective movie understands, witnesses and suspects are best questioned alone to expose any inconsistencies in their stories. Yet Bush and Cheney violated this first rule by testifying behind closed doors to the 9/11 Commission and without being placed under oath. Meanwhile, their testimony has never been made public. New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, joked about the tag-team appearance featuring the president. “We’re happy just to have him talk to us,” Kean told CBS News.
By now, most people are familiar with what an airplane crash site looks like. The area is strewn with debris that usually includes everything from the tail section to the engines. Yet the crash sites on 9/11 did not resemble anything like this. In fact, practically nothing resembling a plane crash was visible. This transcript was from a CNN reporter live at the scene on the ground minutes after Flight 77 reportedly crashed into the Pentagon: ”From my close-up inspection, there’s no evidence of a plane having crashed anywhere near the Pentagon. The only sign is the actual side of the building that is crashed and as I said the only pieces left that you can see are small enough that you could pick up in your hand. There are no large tail sections, wing sections, a fuselage, nothing like that anywhere around which would indicate that an entire plane crashed into the side of the Pentagon…”
The official explanation is that the intense heat from the crash vaporized the entire plane, even the engines, despite the fact that these are made of steel and titanium alloy, are 9 feet in diameter, 12 feet long and weigh six tons each. Was it possible for these engines to disintegrate upon impact?
Meanwhile, Flight 93, which crashed just outside of Pittsburgh, was not the first aircraft in history to plummet to earth. Yet it may very well be the first such crash that showed no sign of a plane. Here is Fox News discussing the crash site live, minutes after Flight 93 came down in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Fox News: Chris, I’ve seen the pictures, it looks like there’s nothing there except for a hole in the ground.
Chris Kinicky: Basically, that’s right. The only things you could see from where we were was a big gouge in the earth and some broken trees. We could see some people working walking around in the area.
Fox: Any large pieces of debris at all?
CK: No, there was nothing. Nothing that you could distinguish that a plane had crashed there.
Fox: Smoke? Fire?
CK: Nothing, It was quiet, actually, it was very quiet. Nothing going on down there. No smoke, no fire. Just a couple of people walking around. They looked like they were part of the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board).
Fox: How big would you say that hole was?
CK: I guess it was probably about 15 to 20 feet long, and 10 feet wide.
The lack of debris at the site has attracted speculation that the aircraft was shot down by US fighter jets as the plane was circling back toward New York and Washington.
Given that it is the main hub of the world’s mightiest military, the Pentagon was monitored 24/7 with dozens of security video cameras from various locations, including from a Citco gas station, Sheraton Hotel and the Virginia Department of Transportation. All of these cameras (estimated to be around 80) would have captured Flight 77 as it hit the Pentagon. Yet. according to witnesses, the FBI arrived at these locations soon after the crash and confiscated all of the tapes. For five years they refused to provide the public with a single viewing, which would have gone far at removing much of the suspicions surrounding this particular event. Then, in 2005, in response to a freedom of information lawsuit, the FBI finally released several videos. Of the tapes released, only one shows what is allegedly Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon. However, no airplane is visible in the video frame, just a wisp of white smoke and an ensuing fireball.
Commercial aircraft carry two black boxes. Each box carries different flight information: a cockpit voice recorder and a flight date recorder. The latter box records at least 20 different flight parameters, such as time, altitude, speed and trajectory. According to an Internet film on the 9/11 attacks, Loose Change, the boxes are made from “the most impervious metals known to man.” The Associated Press reported that“the recorders are built to withstand fire, water and blunt-force impact, and are located in the tail for maximum protection.” Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the NTSB, told CBS News, “It’s extremely rare that we don’t get the recorders back. I can’t recall another domestic case in which we did not recover the recorders.” Yet, the government claimss that none of these boxes have been found. Consider: all four nearly indestructible black boxes from the four commercial aircraft are allegedly destroyed in the crashes, yet the passport of one Satan Suqami, a Saudi national said to have been among the group that hijacked Flight 11, was found lying on a side street of Manhattan near the WTC complex.
Meanwhile, conflicting reports concerning the whereabouts of the black boxes continue to swirl. Nicholas DeMasi, a firefighter who assisted in the WTC search efforts, says in his book “Behind the Scenes: Ground Zero”: “At one point I was assigned to take Federal Agents around the site to search for the black boxes from the planes. There were a total of four. We found three.” Indeed, media reports suggest at times that the boxes were discovered, while at other times denying it.
The Associated Press reported: “The four recorders from the other two hijacked planes – American Airlines Flight 77, which was flown into the Pentagon, and United Flight 93, which crashed near Somerset, Pa. – were recovered within days. FBI Director Robert Mueller said Flight 77’s data recorder provided altitude, speed, headings and other information, but the voice recorder contained nothing useful. He declined to say what was gleaned from recorders on Flight 93, whose passengers evidently fought the hijackers before the Boeing 757 went down in a field, killing all aboard.”
Another mysterious twist in the story of 9/11 concerns the perpetrators of the terror attack, believed to have been 19 members of al-Qaeda, mostly from Saudi Arabia. Yet just days after the attacks, the BBC was already reporting that four of the alleged terrorists were alive and well.
“Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Centre,” according to the BBC. “Now he is protesting his innocence from Casablanca, Morocco.”
The report went on to mention Abdulaziz Al Omari, another of the Flight 11 hijack suspects, who is protesting his association with the attacks. Omari claims he is an engineer with Saudi Telecoms and lost his passport while studying in Denver, Colorado.
Meanwhile, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, a London-based Arabic daily, says it has interviewed Saeed Alghamdi, while another suspect, Khalid Al Midhar, is also alive.
Since the events of 9/11/2001, a total of seven of the alleged hijackers have turned up alive, yet their names continue to appear among those of the individuals who pirated four commercial jets and used them as weapons of mass destruction against prime US targets, killing 3,000 innocent people and changing the course of world history in ways that we can only begin to imagine.
Robert Bridge, RT
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.