Tuesday, July 23, 2002

We are now getting a more detailed report of communication between Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11 (which crashed into the WTC on September 11), and American Airlines ground manager Michael Woodward (here is an early account of the conversation which notably misses a key element, and here is a longer recent article). Here's the interesting paragraph:

"Sweeney told Woodward the hijackers seemed to be of Middle Eastern descent and said they had gone into the cockpit with a bomb with yellow wires attached."

A bomb with yellow wires attached. The Mark Bingham phone call to his mother from Flight 93 said that the three men said that they had a bomb (and Tom Burnett in his call said: "They say there's a bomb."), but this revelation from Amy Sweeney is the first evidence released that there actually was a bomb on one of the planes (a story that there was a gun on Flight 11 has been denied). Edward Jay Epstein has already written to demolish the fiction that there was any evidence that the hijackers used only boxcutters and plastic knives in their operation. As he writes, in referring to this lie which he calls a 'fictoid': "Not only does it serve to shield the airlines, airports and airport screeners from massive liability from the victims at the World Trade Center, it protects the Bush Administration by diverting attention away from concern that airport security at three Federally-supervised airports was dangerously lax." It is amazing how successfully this lie has become accepted as part of the Official Story of September 11. It has appeared to me from the outset that these hijackers must have been well armed for their operation. It was simply too risky to rely on boxcutters alone. On top of the liability problem which the boxcutter lie helped to solve, it also neatly dealt with three other problems:

  1. If the hijackers had been heavily armed with guns and explosives, the heroic story of how the passengers managed to fight the hijackers on Flight 93 (the one that crashed into Pennsylvania) would not have made much sense, and the attack by the passengers was needed to explain why the plane crashed without having been shot down by the U. S. military. I think the deep reason the U. S. government doesn't want to admit that it shot down Flight 93 is that it would raise questions in people's minds about why the other planes weren't intercepted. While there may have been more time to shoot down Flight 93 than the other planes, there should have been sufficient time to intercept all of them, and especially Flight 77 (the one that is supposed to have hit the Pentagon, a story I still don't buy).

  2. If the hijackers managed to have weapons on the planes it raises the issue of corruption in the airport security systems. In particular, it raises the issue of whether the hijackers had managed to infiltrate the security systems (there is even an odd report that John Doe No. 2 of Oklahoma City bombing fame went to work at Logan Airport!), or whether they had as accomplices the organized crime elements that regularly corrupt airport security for the purposes of drug smuggling and stealing from baggage. The issue of accomplices raises all kinds of issues that the U. S. government would rather not face (and there are even darker views of the Logan Airport security, although I don't know what to make of this as it hints at some sort of conspiracy without any proof).

  3. The boxcutter story greatly simplifies the official solution to the problems raised by September 11, which is to obviously increase security measures at airports (and ban boxcutters and small knives). By imposing heavy-handed security measures (with the accompanying tales of searching people who obviously are not potential hijackers), the government manages to convey an illusion of security and keeps the airline industry afloat. Of course, if the hijackers didn't need to bring any weapons through security as the weapons were already planted on the planes, it becomes immediately obvious that the new security measures are a sham. The sad thing is that all this inconvenience may just be a method of hiding the real danger from the flying public.