Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Odds and ends on September 11:

  1. Some people are convinced that they saw Flight 77 crash into the Pentagon. I note that the nature of our usual viewing of aircraft, seeing them in the air or far away at an airport with nothing to compare them to except similarly sized aircraft, makes it difficult for us to properly gauge the size of an aircraft. Even when we see them land, we don't have anything to compare them with except other aircraft. Loading gates mean that we never really see them up close. If you ever stand beside an aircraft like a Boeing 757, you realize that these planes are much larger than you imagined. On top of that, the Pentagon is a weird building, being relatively short but immensely long on each of its sides. A real Boeing 757, coming down to crash into the Pentagon, would appear to be unnaturally huge. A small missile or jet aircraft, with some appropriate colors painted on the sides, might well resemble what we would imagine a larger plane to look like as it approaches a building like the Pentagon.

  2. This site makes good fun of the absurdity of Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon, leaving the lawn beside the Pentagon completely undisturbed.

  3. Congressional investigators (i. e., not the FBI or the CIA, who are presumably busy with some more pressing task) have uncovered the fact that an FBI informant was living in the same house as Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (this is just coming out now, although it is rather old news). He was a Muslim cleric named Abdussattar Shaikh (it is interesting that the new report does not name the informant), who befriended the men and rented them a room in his house for a few months starting in September 2000 (Almihdhar stayed about six weeks; Alhazmi stayed until December 2000). The FBI case agent was aware that Saudis were renting from the informant, but didn't ask about them. If was only after September 11 that the informant recognized the hijackers' names and informed the FBI. Of course, the two men were on a 'watch list', occasioned by the fact that the CIA had information that they were at a meeting in January 2000 in Kuala Lumpur with a suspected al-Qaeda member. The CIA then tracked at least one of them to Los Angeles, but did nothing more. The CIA only notified the FBI about these men being on the list in August 2001, and the FBI began the manhunt on August 21 but did not request help from its field office in San Diego until a day or two before September 11. Why did the CIA wait so long to tell the FBI about these men (not to mention the State Department, who renewed Almihdhar's visa in June 2001, although by then the CIA had linked Almihdhar to one of the suspected bombers of the USS Cole)? Why did the CIA decide to tell the FBI in August 2001 (although I note that the CIA claims that the FBI already knew that these men were on a watch list)? Even if they only involved the San Diego office of the FBI in the few days before September 11, why did the local office not inform the FBI that there had been two Saudis living in San Diego at the home of an FBI informant?

  4. One of the oddities about Hani Hanjour is that his name does not appear upon the passenger manifest of Flight 77. Some feel that this might be an indication that he was somehow replaced by a hijacker who was a competent pilot, able to have done the flying required to crash Flight 77 into the Pentagon. On the other hand, if he was replaced by someone else, wouldn't that person end up on the manifest? If the manifest itself was corrupted, wouldn't the people corrupting it leave Hanjour's name on it? Not having his name on the list seems to draw unnecessary attention to him. The whole issue of the manifests is still very mysterious (even Moussaoui can't figure it out!). How did the FBI identify the hijackers just from the lists? They claim they had some information from the calls received from the planes, but that does not explain how they identified all the hijackers. It also does not explain how they identified all the hijackers so quickly. As I noted above, two of the hijackers were living with an FBI informant in September 2000, supposedly completely unbeknownst to the FBI. Another FBI informant claims to have notified the FBI about Hani Hanjour, a fact which the FBI denies (but why would the informant lie about this?). Moussaoui seems quite convinced from his court pleadings that both he and the 19 hijackers were being surveilled by the FBI (Moussaoui makes the clever argument that he was arrested, and not Hanjour, as the FBI knew that Hanjour's arrest would tip off the other 18 that they were being watched, while Moussaoui's arrest was safe as he was not part of the group of 19 hijackers). Is it possible that the FBI could so quickly identify the hijackers, and place Hani Hanjour as the pilot of Flight 77 even though his name isn't on the manifest, because the FBI had the whole lot of them under surveillance before September 11? Of course, given what happened, the FBI wouldn't be keen to admit this and admit that they did nothing to stop the tragedy of September 11.

  5. The newest laugh comes from the fact that we now know that even the Foreign Minister for the Taliban attempted to warn the Bush Administration about the imminent attack on the U. S. by al-Qaeda (the warning actually went to the consul general, with another US official present possibly from the intelligence services, but we are supposed to believe these officials kept the great Taliban secret to themselves). He warned them because he was afraid that the American retaliation for this attack would destroy Afghanistan. We're only finding out about this warning now, and I guess we are not supposed to be smart enough to realize the importance of the fact. The whole rationale for the American attack on the Taliban was that they were harboring the terrorist enemies of the U. S., al-Qaeda. How can the U. S. possibly justify attacking the Taliban on that logic if a high Taliban official attempted to warn them of the very attack for which they are retaliating? Even better, and further proof that the Bush Administration realizes that they can make any statement and no one will dare to criticize them for it, they claim that they ignored the Taliban warning because they were suffering from 'warning fatigue'! In other words, they ignored the warning because they were worn out with the immense effort of ignoring all the many other warnings they had received (notice how the commentary on the fatigue is from anonymous 'sources', who are crafting the Administration spin on this potentially embarrassing issue). Isn't this argument based on 'warning fatigue' similar to the argument made by the child who kills both his parents and then wants leniency because he is an orphan? Their fatigue is the fatigue of an Administration that doesn't want to be warned because it will foul up its plans to allow the attacks to happen.