September 11, 2003

On the second anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks in this country's history, we still know almost nothing about what happened. Using Xymphora's June 21, 2003 post as a jumping-off point:

1. We don't know the real names of any of the 19 hijackers. At least eight of them used the names, photographs and/or dates of birth of people we know are alive (see entry for September 16-23, 2001 here). The FBI continues to insist that its initial information is correct.

2. We know very little about the fact that at least 7 hijackers were trained at US military bases. Three hijackers listed the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida as their address on drivers' licenses; a 4th hijacker was also connected to the Pensacola Station; another hijacker attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California; Atta graduated from the US International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama; and Alomari attended Brooks Air Force Base Aerospace Medical School in San Antonio, Texas.

3. We don't know why two hijackers went to Portland, Maine the day before the attacks. 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser asked how the FBI had known which Portland ATM machine would contain videotape of Mohammed Atta. The agent got some facts confused, then changed his story. He asked: "What are you getting at?" Breitweiser said: "I think you had open investigations before September 11 on some of the people responsible for the terrorist attacks." "We did not," insisted the agent. Yet that is exactly what the evidence uncovered by Congressional investigators points to.

4. We don't know how the FBI came up with the names and photographs of the hijackers (initial reports said there were anywhere from 12-24, then 18, then 19). We have no explanation how the FBI arrived at the Florida flight schools the hijackers trained at by about 2:00 pm on 9/11. At a recent meeting between senior FBI agents and relatives of victims, Kristen Breitweiser asked: "How is it that a few hours after the attacks, FBI agents showed up at Embry-Riddle flight school in Florida where some of the terrorists trained?" The answer? "We got lucky."

5. We don't know if any of the 19 hijackers were actually on the planes. We've never seen the official passenger lists or any security video from the airports the hijackers took off from. Within two days, the FBI was examining "footage from dozens of cameras at the three airports," but two weeks later, the Boston Herald reported that Logan Airport had no cameras at any of its gates, terminals or concourses. It may be the only airport in the US with no security cameras.

6. We know very little about when the FAA and NORAD were notified of the hijackings. Although NORAD was on a heightened state of alert on 9/11, the official version of its response has changed to make its inaction more benign. There was no mention of any military fighter response until the evening of September 14. One day before that, Richard Myers, in his confirmation hearings to be named Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate that no planes were scrambled until after the Pentagon was hit -- almost 90 minutes after air traffic controllers knew of the first hijacking. After the news report of September 14, NORAD updated its website to reflect the new information. All four flights flew over or very near military bases while under control of the hijackers.

7. We don't know what happened to the 40-50 people identified as supporters of the hijackers. On September 13, 2001, 40 men had been accounted for, with 10 still at large. No one has yet been charged with assisting the hijackers -- in fact, not one of these 50 men has been publicly identified. Why not?

8. We don't know why top Pentagon officials suddenly cancelled flights scheduled for the morning of September 11. Newsweek reported there had been a high state of alert for two weeks and a "particularly urgent warning the night before the attacks." The only follow-up to this report was in the next issue of Newsweek which again mentioned that these officials had "suddenly changed travel plans."

9. We don't know what weapons the hijackers used, how they got them on the planes, and how they actually took control of the planes. Guns were reported on two flights (by the FBI and a passenger), the FBI said pepper spray was used on Flight 11, and a bomb was described on Flight 93. More than half of the hijackers were pulled aside for extra screening before boarding -- six for baggage examination, two for irregularities in identification and one because he was traveling with a person with irregular identification. It was later reported that contrary to earlier statements, box cutters were illegal on all US flights on September 11.

10. We have no idea what happened to Flight 93. Was it shot down? Did it crash as a result of a struggle in the cockpit? As a result of a bomb on the plane? On September 13, Pentagon officals still could not deny the flight may have been shot down.

11. We know very little about other flights on 9/11 which may have been targeted. The FBI said six planes were scheduled to be hijacked; other investigators said eight; the White House thought up to eleven planes were involved. Knives and box cutters were found in about half-dozen grounded planes, some taped to the backs of fold-down trays or hidden in seats (see September 19, 2001 entry here).

12. We do not know what was in the briefing materials given to George W. Bush on August 6. We do know that the government lied when it said the title of the briefing was "Bin Laden to Strike US"; it actually said "Bin Laden to Strike In US." Dick Cheney has downplayed the briefing as a "rehash" and nothing out of the ordinary, but when asked by Congress to release the papers, Cheney said he could not because "it contains the most sensitive sources and methods. It's the family jewels."

13. We do not know why bin Laden family members were allowed to leave the US without being questioned. This was reported in the New York Times and Tampa Tribune, but soon came to be regarded as an urban legend. The current issue of Vanity Fair has extensive information on these flights (also here) and Colin Powell confirmed their existence on a recent Meet the Press.

14. We don't know what has been learned about the stock trading on and before September 11. This information (easily available to investigators) would answer many questions, including the names of people who had foreknowledge of the attacks.

15. We have no idea what was going on with George W. Bush in Florida. We don't know when Bush knew of the hijackings. We don't know why he continued reading a children's story for up to 15 minutes after being told the country was under attack. He has never explaned why he has claimed twice to have seen the first crash on live television. We have no explanation for why he spent the day flying around the southeastern and midwestern United States (the excuse that Air Force One was in danger was bogus, as the White House admitted by the end of September 2001). We also have no explanation for why Air Force One was given no fighter protection for almost two hours (when it was allegedly a target).

(The Philadelphia Daily News is asking similar questions.)

Xymphora concludes: "Within this many months of all the major American conspiracies of the last forty years we were still confused, but we had some idea as to what was going on. ... You would think there might be the slightest effort to answer some of these questions. The Bush Administration is stonewalling on even the most basic documents ... The most striking thing is that most if not all of these issues could easily be resolved if the right people were forced to answer some rather simple questions."

In this morning's New York Times, Bush promises that on this anniversary, "we will never forget those who rejoiced at our grief." Would it be rejoicing if someone laughingly referred to the deaths of more than 3,000 people as winning the trifecta at the horse track? I think so. Bush has done this many times (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here (all from the White House website, by the way)).

On the Diamond: Pedro threw 8 magnificent innings and Boston rolled to a 5-0 victory in Baltimore. The Yankees also won, as did Seattle and Oakland. Boston is off today and hosts the White Sox Friday. ... Only 3 teams have better odds of making the playoffs than Boston. ... Nixon's strained left calf will likely keep him out of action until next week. ... Jayson Stark and Thomas Boswell jump on the Red Sox Bandwagon.

85 Years Ago Today: Carl Mays threw a 3-hitter to lead Boston to a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. That Game 6 victory gave the Red Sox the 1918 World Series championship.

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