9 - 1 1 R e s e a r c h essays
NOTE: This critique served as a mockup for an print article that appeared in Issue 10 of Global Outlook magazine.
It examines the feature article in the March 2005 issue of Popular Mechanics: 'DEBUNKING 9/11 LIES'. The Global Outlook article based on this is more detailed than this early version. See these related documents:

Popular Mechanics' Assault on 9/11 Truth

by Jim Hoffman

created 4/12/05; published 6/15/05

The eye-catching headline on the issue's cover is "9/11 LIES", with "DEBUNKING" and "Conspiracy Theorists" being much smaller. Is this a subconscious appeal to peoples' suspicions that the official story is a lie?
The Hearst-owned Popular Mechanics targeted the 9/11 Truth Movement (without ever acknowledging it by that name) with a cover story in its March 2005 edition. [1] Sandwiched between ads and features for monster trucks, NASCAR paraphernalia, and off-road racing are twelve dense and brilliantly designed pages purporting to debunk the myths of 9/11.

The article's approach is to identify and attack a series of claims which it asserts represent the whole of 9/11 skepticism. It gives the false impression that these claims, several of which are clearly absurd, represent the breadth of challenges to the official account of the flights, the World Trade Center attack, and the Pentagon attack. Thus it purports to debunk conspiracy theorists' physical-evidence-based claims, without even acknowledging that there are other grounds on which to question the official story. Indeed many 9/11 researchers don't even address the physical evidence, preferring instead to focus on who had the the means, motive, and opportunity to carry out the attack. I summarize some of this evidence at the end of this article.

While ignoring these and many other facts belying the official story, PM attacks a mere 16 claims of its choosing, which it asserts are the most prevalent among conspiracy theorists. PM groups these claims into four topics, each of which is given a richly illustrated two- or four-page spread. Since nearly all the physical-evidence-based challenges to the official story fall within one or another of these topics, the article gives the impression that it addresses the breadth of these challenges. However, for each topic, the article presents specious claims to divert the reader from understanding the issue. For example, the three pages devoted to attacking the Twin Towers' demolition present three red-herring claims and avoid the dozens of points I feature in my presentations, such as The Twin Towers' Demolition [2]

The article brackets its distortion of the issues highlighted by 9/11 skeptics with smears against the skeptics themselves, whom it dehumanizes and accuses of disgracing the memories of the victims, and repeatedly accuses of harassing individuals who responded to the attack. More important, it misrepresents skeptics' views by implying that the skeptics' community is an undifferentiated army that wholly embraces the article's sixteen poisonous claims, which it asserts are at the root of virtually every 9/11 alternative scenario. In fact much of the 9/11 truth community has been working to expose many of these claims as disinformation.

The Lies Are Out There

James Meigs, appointed editor of Popular Mechanics in May 2004, trashes skeptics of the official story of 9/11/01 as irresponsible disgracers of the memories of victims, apart from "we as a society."
This article has a page of Editor's Notes, The Lies Are Out There, written by James Meigs, whose previous columns have praised military technology (such as the UAVs used in Fallujah). Meigs places outside of society anyone who questions the official version of events of 9/11/01:
We as a society accept the basic premise that a group of Islamist terrorists hijacked four airplanes and turned them into weapons against us. ... Sadly, the noble search for truth is now being hijacked by a growing army of conspiracy theorists.
Meigs throws a series of insults at the conspiracy theorists, saying they ignore the facts and engage in elaborate, shadowy theorizing, and concludes his diatribe by saying:
Those who peddle fantasies that this country encouraged, permitted or actually carried out the attacks are libeling the truth -- and disgracing the memories of the thousands who died that day.
Besides trashing the skeptics, and conflating this country with its corrupt leaders, Meig's attempts to legitimate PM's investigation, saying:
We assembled a team of reporters and researchers, including professional fact checkers and the editors of PM, and methodically analyzed all 16 conspiracy claims. We interviewed scores of engineers, aviation experts, military officials, eyewitnesses and members of the investigative teams who have held the wreckage of the attacks in their own hands. We pored over photography, maps, blueprints, aviation logs and transcripts. In every single instance, we found that the facts used by the conspiracy theorists to support their fantasies were mistaken, misunderstood, or deliberately falsified.
This sounds impressive, but the article provides no evidence to back up these claims. It provides no footnotes to source its many assertions, and despite the scores of experts listed in its final section the article cites only a handful of them, and mostly to refute its straw-man claims.

Moreover, bold unsubstantiated claims in the article -- such as PM's assertion that there was only a single interception in the decade before 9/11/01 -- don't inspire confidence in PM's professional fact checkers. It echoes the discredited assertions of official reports such as FEMA's World Trade Center Building Performance Study and the 9/11 Commission Report. It provides no evidence PM investigated the attack -- only evidence that it investigated the 9/11 Truth movement in order to determine how best to discredit it through misrepresentation.


PM devotes an entire page to this dramatic photograph by Rob Howard showing Flight 175 approaching the South Tower. Unsupported claims that the plane was not a jetliner have been the staple of efforts to discredit the 9/11 Truth movement for over a year. The selection of this as the centerpiece image is one of an array of techniques Popular Mechanics uses to falsely identify the 9/11 Truth movement with a campaign cleverly used to discredit it through associating it with claims for which there is no evidence, such as the claim that this plane carried a missile-firing pod.
The main article consists of an introduction and four sections, each devoted to a topic, spanning six two-page spreads. The topics contain a total of sixteen poisonous claims, which PM purports to refute while it identifies them as the beliefs of all in the growing army of conspiracy theorists. The four sections are:
  • THE PLANES, in which PM uses nonsensical claims about the jet that crashed into the South Tower to bury the incredible lack of military response to the attack.
  • THE WORLD TRADE CENTER, in which PM pretends to debunk the controlled demolition of the Twin Towers and Building 7 by advancing a series of red-herring claims and misrepresenting the case for demolition.
  • THE PENTAGON, in which PM attacks the claim of conspiracy advocates that the Pentagon was hit by an object other than a jetliner, while hiding the position of respected 9/11 Truth activists that this claim is a hoax.
  • FLIGHT 93, in which PM attacks the claim that Flight 93 was shot down with transparently specious arguments.
Superficially, the four topics appear to address the major physical evidence issues brought up by the skeptics (while ignoring the mountains of evidence of foreknowledge, motive, and unique means possessed by insiders). However, the sixteen most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists which it attacks are mostly specious claims, many of which were probably invented to discredit skepticism of the official story in the first place. The article debunks the more specious claims, and uses distortion and falsehoods to counter serious claims.

Thus the approach of the article is to set up and attack a straw man of claims that it pretends represent the entirety of the skeptics' movement. The list includes many of the same claims that were debunked in 2004 by the websites 911review.com, oilempire.us, and questionsquestions.net.
PM provides no evidence for its assertion that the claims it attacks are representative of the army of conspiracy theorists. It cites at least one website for each of its claims, but the websites are not representative of the 9/11 Truth Movement. It makes no mention of 911Research.wtc7.net, the highest-ranking 9/11 Truth website returned by a Google search using "9/11". Several references are anonymous posts to sites that don't exercise editorial control. To my mind, the 17 websites PM mentions fall into four categories:

  • Sites with a high profile in the 9/11 Truth Movement that maintain a high standard of factual accuracy: emperors-clothes.com, OilEmpire.us, and StandDown.net.
  • Sites with a high profile in the 9/11 Truth Movement that post a wide range of articles or endorse positions without carefully vetting their accuracy: Prisonplanet.com, Rense.com, WhatReallyHappened.com, reopen911.org, and AttackOnAmerica.net.
  • Sites that I've never heard of or don't focus on 9/11: sandiego.indymedia.org, BlogD.com, ThinkAndAsk.com, ForbiddenKnowledge.com, and WorldNetDaily.com.
  • Sites that have actively promoted hoaxes: 911inplanesite.com, LetsRoll911.org, 911review.org, and PentagonStrike.co.uk.

  • While entirely avoiding the most prominent 9/11 Truth sites, PM repeatedly mentions the least credible. For example, it repeats LetsRoll911.org three times.

    Before proceeding to its 16 points, the article's introduction levels more insults at the skeptics -- extremists, some of whose theories are byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. It begins by asking you to type "World Trade Center conspiracy" into Google.com, and claims that More than 3000 books on 9/11 have been published -- an incredible claim.

    The sixteen "claims" attacked by the article are described here under the headings taken from the article, which indicate either the claim, the counter-claim, or a broader issue.

    In this section PM attacks four claims, two of which are valid points about the lack of military response, and two of which are hoaxes about the the plane that crashed into the South Tower. The hoaxes bracket the valid claims, which PM dismisses with 9/11-Commission-like denials.
    This image, which appears in the article, is found (with the same red oval) on a pod-debunking page of QuestionsQuestions.net, yet the article contains no mention of the site.

    Where's The Pod

    CLAIM: Photographs and video footage show ... an object underneath the fuselage at the base of the right wing. ...
    The pod-plane idea has been used for over a year to discredit skepticism of the official story. It's not surprising that it leads the 16 claims. The article mentions the site LetsRoll911.org and the video In Plane Site, both of which feature the pod theory. It is absent any mention of sites debunking the pod claims, such as OilEmpire.us, QuestionsQuestions.net, and 911Review.com.

    No Stand-Down Order

    CLAIM: No fighter jets were scrambled from any of the 28 Air Force bases within close range of the four hijacked flights. ... Our Air Force was ordered to Stand Down on 9/11.
    Here, the article falsely implies that emperors-clothes.com and StandDown.net both claim that no jets were scrambled to pursue any of the four commandeered jets. It then attacks this straw man by relating some details of the Commission's timeline (without sourcing the Commission's Report) to suggest that interceptors were scrambled, but that ATC couldn't find the hijacked flights because there were too many radar blips. The article makes no mention of the many problems with NORAD's account of the failed intercepts, but relates the following incredible assertion by NORAD public affairs officer Maj. Douglas Martin that there was a hole in NORAD's radar coverage:
    It was like a doughnut. There was no coverage in the middle.
    This absurd idea that NORAD had no radar coverage over much of the continental US is distilled from the 9/11 Commission Report. Predictably, the article makes no mention of evidence that war games were being conducted on 9/11/01 and that false radar blips were deliberately inserted onto FAA radar screens.

    Intercepts Not Routine

    CLAIM: It has been standard operating procedures for decades to immediately intercept off-course planes that do not respond to communications from air traffic controllers. ...
    PM dismisses this "claim," excerpted from OilEmpire.us with the following sweeping 'fact':
    In the decade before 9/11 NORAD intercepted only one civilian plane over North America: golfer Payne Stewart's Learjet, in October 1999.
    This bold assertion flies in the face of an Associated Press report of scramble frequencies that quotes the same Maj. Douglas Martin that is one of PM's cited experts, Maj. Douglas Martin, [3]
    From Sept. 11 to June, NORAD scrambled jets or diverted combat air patrols 462 times, almost seven times as often as the 67 scrambles from September 2000 to June 2001, Martin said.
    It is safe to assume that a significant fraction of scrambles lead to intercepts, so the fact that there were 67 scrambles in a 9-month period before 9/11/01 suggests that there are dozens of intercepts per year. To its assertion that there was only one intercept in a decade, the article adds, without evidence, that rules in effect ... prohibited supersonic flight on intercepts and the suggestion that there were no hotlines between ATCs and NORAD.

    Flight 175's Windows

    CLAIM: ... [Flight 175] definitely did not look like a commercial plane ... I didn't see any windows on the sides.
    That the South Tower plane had no windows is one of several ludicrous claims made by the In Plane Site video, and, like the pod-planes claim, is dismissed by the simplest analysis.
    Like the other image in the article's pages on the flights, this one can be found on of QuestionsQuestions.net. PM needed look no further than the analysis long available on the websites of "conspiracy theorists" to attack the straw man claims it dishonestly associates with the same researchers.


    The Hijacker Evidence Void

    There is no known evidence placing the alleged hijackers on the planes:
    • Six of the alleged suicide hijackers turned up alive after the attack -- a fact that the 9/11 Commission failed to even acknowledge. [4] [5] [6] [7]
    • There is no public evidence that the remains of any of the alleged hijackers was recovered.
    • None of the flight crews on the targeted aircraft reported hijackings to Air Traffic Control, either by radio or the 4-digit hijacking codes.
    • None of the contents of recovered voice data recorder black boxes has been made public, even though the 9/11 Commission has closed its doors.
    The FBI released its list of hijacking suspects within three days of the attack. Five of the named suspects proclaimed their aliveness and innocence after seeing their mug shots on news reports. Yet the 9/11 Commission repeated the same list of suspects without even acknowledging that there were any problems with their identities.

    Chain of Miracles

    The hijacking scenario alleged by the official story is virtually impossible:
    • Several of the alleged hijackers frequented strip bars, consumed alcohol and pork, were rude in public, and left copies of the Koran behind; yet they supposedly committed suicide out of fanatical devotion to Allah. [8]
    • The takeovers of the four jetliners were staggered over a one-hour period; yet any rational planner would have executed the takeovers simultaneously. [9]
    • The hijackers supposedly enjoyed 100% success in taking over the flights with "box cutters" in spite of the crews of the remaining flights having knowledge of the first takeover.
    • None of the alleged hijackers had flown jets before.
    Each of the four flights commandeered for the attack either originated from airports far from their targets or flew hundreds of miles west before turning around.

    Failures in Depth

    The official timeline of the military response to the attack went through several revisions, all of which are unbelievable. According to both the 2001 NORAD timeline and the 2004 9/11 Commission's timeline:
    • NORAD learned of the hijackings only after long and inexplicable delays. For example, NORAD's timeline blames the FAA for 18 and 39-minute delays in reporting the deviations and transponder shut-offs of Flights 11 and 77.
    • Once it learned that Flights 11 and 175 were headed to New York City, NORAD failed to scramble interceptors from nearby Fort Dix or Laguardia, choosing instead the distant Otis base in Falmouth, MA.
    • Once it learned that Flights 77 and 175 were headed to the Captial NORAD failed to scramble interceptors from Andrews Air Force base (just 11 miles from the Pentagon), choosing instead the distant base in Langley, VA.
    • Fighters already in the air were not redeployed to pursue the jetliners. For example, two F-15s flying off the coast of Long Island were not ordered to fly cover over Manhattan until after the second tower was hit. [10] The F-15s from Otis supposedly reached Manhattan a few minutes after the second tower hit, but were not redeployed to pursue Flight 77, which was headed toward the capital.
    • F-15s and F-16s scrambled to intercept the attack jetliners were flown at less than one-third of their top speeds.

    Stand-Down Implementation

    PM's rehashing of the 9/11 Commission's incompetence theory is absent any mention of the two methods likely used to freeze the air defenses:
    • A June 1st order consolidated intercept authority in the Secretary of Defense, requiring its approval for any intercepts that might involve deadly force. This order stripped commanders in the field of autonomy in responding to crises such as 9/11/01. [11]
    • Multiple war games were conducted on the day of 9/11/01. While one exercise, Northern Vigilance, involved the redeployment of interceptors far from the northeast corridor, other exercises, Vigilant Guardian and Vigilant Warrier likely confused the coordination of response to the attack.
      The site OilEmpire.us provides evidence of five war games right after the passage quoted by PM, so the omission of this information is likely intentional. [12]

    Investigation Prevention

    The crashes were not seriously investigated:
    • The NTSB was not allowed to study the crashes. [13]
    • Recordings of interviews with air traffic controllers were destroyed. [14]
    • The 9/11 Commission repeated the FBI's original list of suicide hijackers, without even acknowledging that six of them reported themselves alive after the attack. [15]
    In this section, PM attacks five claims of which only two are valid: that the Twin Tower collapses ejected clouds of concrete dust, and that Building 7 was destroyed through controlled demolition. The other three claims are red herrings and are used to overshadow the valid claims. PM dismisses the valid claims -- which are only the tip of the iceberg of evidence of controlled demolition -- with misdirection, omissions, and hand-waving.

    Widespread Damage

    CLAIM: ... OTHER EXPLOSIVES (... such as concussion bombs) HAD ALREADY BEEN DETONATED in the lower levels of tower one at the same time as the plane crash.
    The article's lead point in the World Trade Center topic is an obscure idea that explosives in the basements of the towers damaged the lobbies at about the time the planes hit. This claim is difficult to find in 9/11 skeptics' literature, and is entirely distinct -- in both the support that exists for it, and the support that it provides for "conspiracy theories" -- from the contention that explosives brought down the towers (56 and 102 minutes after the plane crashes).

    Puffs Of Dust

    CLAIM: ... The concrete clouds shooting out of the buildings are not possible from a mere collapse. They do occur from explosions. ...
    Here PM takes its claim -- the only valid one among the four relating to the Twin Tower collapses -- from an advertisement in the New York Times for the book Painful Questions. By titling this section Puffs Of Dust rather than "Explosions of Concrete", and by showing only a photograph of the early part of a collapse, the article minimizes the explosiveness of the event.
    The article features this image of the South Tower's collapse, taken about 2.5 seconds after the top started to plunge. It was taken by Gulnara Samoilova, who risked her life to take the photograph from a vantage point that would be engulfed by thick toxic dust in under 20 seconds.
    At about seven seconds after the South Tower's top stated to plunge, the event has become quite explosive. The red arrow points to puffs of dust emerging from the mechanical floor, about ten floors below the zone of total destruction. If those puffs are due to the floors pancaking, then what is producing all of the dust in the explosion above, the floors containing the only concrete in the tower?
    PM goes to lengths to explain the "puffs". It quotes NIST lead investigator Shyam Sunder saying When you have a significant portion of of a floor collapsing it's going to shoot air and concrete dust out the window without explaining where the concrete dust came from, or even attempting to quantify the amount of dust that should be expected in the absence of explosives.

    PM fails to acknowledge any of the global collapse features that researchers often cite as proving demolition, such as verticallity, explosiveness, pulverization and rapidity -- features abundantly documented in the extensive body of surviving photographs and videos. [16] [17] Instead it implies that conspiracy theorists rely on the opinion of expert Van Romero:
    Numerous conspiracy theorists cite Van Romero, an explosives expert and vice president of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, who was quoted on 9/11 by the Albuquerque Journal as saying "there were some explosive devices inside the buildings that caused the towers to collapse."
    "I was misquoted in saying that I thought it was explosives that brought down the building," he tells PM. "I only said that that's what it looked like."
    The following excerpts from the Albuquerque Journal article make it difficult to accept the explanation that Romero was misquoted.
    The collapse of the buildings appears "too methodical" to be a chance result of airplanes colliding with the structures. ... "My opinion is, based on the videotapes, that after the airplanes hit the World Trade Center there were some explosive devices inside the buildings that caused the towers to collapse." ... "It would be difficult for something from the plane to trigger an event like that." [18]
    PM quotes Romero denying that his retraction was bought:
    "Conspiracy theorists came out saying that the government got to me. That is the farthest thing from the truth. This has been an albatross around my neck for three years."
    PM fails to mention that Van Romero was named chairman of the Domestic Preparedness Consortium in January 2001, that his Institute received $15 million for an anti-terrorism program in 2002, or that Influence Magazine tapped him as one of six top lobbyists in 2003, having secured $56 million for New Mexico Tech. [19] [20] [21] [22]

    "Melted Steel"

    CLAIM: ... The first lie was that the load of fuel from the aircraft was the cause of structural failure. No kerosene fire can burn hot enough to melt steel. ...
    The article implies that skeptics' criticism of the official account that fires weakened the towers' structures is based on the erroneous assumption that the official story requires that the fires melted the steel.

    In fact, the fire-melts-steel claim was first introduced by apologists for the official story within days of the attack. On September 13, the BBC quoted "structural engineer" Chris Wise as saying:
    It was the fire that killed the buildings. There's nothing on earth that could survive those temperatures with that amount of fuel burning. The columns would have melted, the floors would have melted and eventually they would have collapsed one on top of each other. [23]
    The more sophisticated column failure and truss failure theories, advanced in subsequent days and weeks, are the subject of detailed analysis and debunking in my talk The World Trade Center Demolition. [24]

    Even in attacking this straw-man claim, PM misrepresents the physics of fires, claiming Jet fuel burns at 800º to 1500ºF ... Steel loses about 50 percent of its strength at 1100ºF ... And at 1800º it is probably at less than 10 percent. Here the article implies that flame temperatures and steel temperatures are synonymous, ignoring the thermal conductivity and thermal mass of steel, which wicks away heat. In actual tests of uninsulated steel structures subjected to prolonged hydrocarbon-fueled fires conducted by Corus Construction Co. the highest recorded steel temperatures were 680ºF. [25]

    Seismic Spikes

    CLAIM: ... The strongest jolts were all registered at the beginning of the collapses, well before falling debris struck the earth. ...
    This claim -- widespread among websites attacking the official story -- was refuted in 2003 by 911Research.wtc7.net. [26] Instead of simply refuting this straw-man claim, PM makes its own specious claim that the seismic records prove that the towers were not destroyed with explosives:
    The seismic waves--blue for the South Tower, red for the North Tower--start small and then escalate as the buildings rumble to the ground. Translation: no bombs.
    That the strongest spikes recorded the rubble hitting the ground proves nothing about the presence or absence of explosives, whose seismic signature would be minimal.

    The collapse of each of the Twin Towers on 9/11/01 generated small earthquakes which were observed by seismologists up to 265 miles away from Lower Manhattan, and recorded by half a dozen seismic recording stations within 25 miles. The most widely referenced seismic charts were produced by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Palisades.
    PM reproduced two sets of charts from the Palisades station with different time scales, falsely accusing revisionists of misleading by showing only the charts with the compressed time scales:
    On that graph, the 8- and 10-second collapses appear--misleadingly--as a pair of sudden spikes. Lamont-Doherty's 40-second plot of the same data (Graph 2, above) gives a much more detailed picture: ...
    Incidentally, the claim that that the towers collapsed in 8 and 10 seconds is contradicted by video recordings, which show that both collapses took between 14 and 16 seconds. [27]
    PM reproduces these two different charts of the same events. The graph on the left represents 30-minute time spans, whereas the graph on the right represents 40-second time spans. PM accuses WhatReallyHappened.com of selectively displaying only the chart on the left to falsely imply that the seismic signals were sudden spikes. In fact, that website reproduced the following graphic from Lamont-Doherty that combined charts with both time scales.
    [28] PM fraudulently accuses WhatReallyHappened.com of misleadingly displaying a chart that it does not. However, that site is nonetheless incorrect in asserting that the strongest signals were at the beginning of the collapses. If one magnifies the amplitude scales of the charts, as in the graphics below, it becomes apparent that a signal several times the magnitude of the baseline signal begins about ten seconds before the large spikes in each case.
    Here are zoomed-up portions of the Palisades charts for the South and North Tower collapses, showing 20-second intervals during which the collapses started.

    WTC 7 Collapse

    CLAIM: ... the video clearly shows that it was not a collapse subsequent to fire, but rather a controlled demolition. ...
    PM excerpts this claim from 911review.org, a website that promoted pod-plane and other no-plane hoaxes before vanishing about the time the PM article was published. The article simply repeats the site's claim without directing the reader to where they can see videos, such as on wtc7.net. [29] "progressive collapse" of Building 7:
    What our preliminary analysis has shown is that if you take out just one column on one of the lower floors, it could cause a vertical progression of collapse so that the entire section comes down.
    Note the guarded language Sunder uses to describe the extent of the collapse. The reader is led to believe that the collapse of a "section" could lead to the total collapse of the building, when in fact there are no examples of total progressive collapse of steel-framed buildings outside of the alleged cases of the Twin Towers and Building 7. [30]


    The (Short) History of Fires Downing Steel-Frame Buildings

    This photo shows the First Interstate Bank Building fire in Los Angeles.
    Fires have never caused the total collapse of a steel-framed high-rise building. There are a number of examples of severe fires in high-rise buildings, and none caused total collapses. Several of these fires were apparently more severe than the fires in the three World Trade Center buildings on 9/11/01, exhibiting ongoing window-breakage, large emergent flames, light smoke, and spreading areas of fire. In contrast the fires in the South Tower did not spread, and showed diminishing flames and black smoke. The fires in Building Seven remained limited to small portions of single floors.

    The following table gives a rundown on the extent and duration of other high-rise fires compared to the 9/11/01 fires.

    buildingyear durationfloors burned
    One Meridian Plaza1991 18 hours8
    First Interstate Bank1988 4 hours4
    Caracas Tower2004 17 hours26
    North Tower2001 1.8 hours~6
    South Tower2001 0.9 hours~3
    Building 72001 3 hours?

    Features of the Twin Towers' Collapses Beyond
    Puffs of Dust

    The collapses of the Twin Towers exhibited many features that can be explained only by controlled demolition:
    • The towers fell straight down through themselves maintaining radial symmetry,
    • The towers' tops mushroomed into vast clouds of pulverized concrete and shattered steel.
    • The collapses exhibited demolition squibs shooting out of the towers well below the zones of total destruction.
    • The collapses generated vast dust clouds that expanded to many times the towers' volumes -- more than occurs in typical controlled demolitions.
    • The towers came down suddenly and completely, at a rate only slightly slower than free fall in a vacuum. The flat top of the North Tower's rubble cloud revealed in the above photo show the rubble falling at the same speed inside and outside the former building's profile, an impossibility unless demolition charges were removing the building's structure ahead of the falling rubble.
    • The explosions of the towers were characterized by intense blast waves that shattered windows in buildings 400 feet away.
    • The steel skeletons were consistently shredded into short pieces which could be carried easily by the equipment used to dispose of the evidence.
    • Eyewitnesses reported explosions before and at the outset of the collapses.

    Features of WTC 7's Collapse Avoided by PM

    PM mentions none of the physical features of WTC7's collapse that are signatures of controlled demolition:
    • The building collapsed in a precisely vertical fashion.
    • The building collapsed at almost the rate of free-fall.
    • The building collapsed into a tidy pile of rubble.
    These photos show the verticality of Building 7's collapse -- a signature feature of controlled demolition. The skyscraper was transformed from an erect structure to a tidy pile of rubble in about 6.2 seconds -- only a fraction of a second slower than the speed of free-fall in a vacuum.

    Who Controlled the World Trade Center?

    Facts about the ownership, insurance, and security of the World Trade Center show that insiders had the means, motive, and opportunity to demolish the buildings:
    • The World Trade Center passed into private control on July 24, 2001 via a 99-year lease to a consortium headed by Silverstein Properties. [31]
    • Silverstein promptly secured an insurance policy covering "terrorist attacks". [32]
    • In the wake of the attack, Silverstein sued the insurance companies to obtain twice the value of the policies, based on the two jet impacts being "two occurrences", and eventually won. [33]
    • Security for the WTC was provided by Securacom, a company with ties to the Bush family. [34]
    • Bomb-sniffing dogs were pulled from the WTC the week before the attack. [35]
    In this section, PM attacks three often-repeated claims by proponents of the theory that no jetliner crashed into the Pentagon. Like other mainstream media attacks on 9/11 Truth, the article gives no hint that many skeptics consider this theory a hoax, and avoids the persuasive arguments against it. [36] Instead, PM backhandedly promotes the theory thorough sloppy and implausible refutations of the three claims. Meanwhile, PM totally ignores the many facts about the Pentagon attack that point to an inside job.

    Big Plane, Small Holes

    CLAIM: ... How does a plane 125 ft. wide and 155 ft. long fit into a hole which is only 16 ft. across? ...
    Here the article cites the claim on reopen911.org that the hole in the Pentagon was "only 16ft. across", and mentions French author Thierry Meyssan, who asserted that a truck bomb or missile -- not an aircraft -- hit the Pentagon. The article again implies that this idea is gospel among 9/11 skeptics, giving no clue that there is controversy about the issue in 9/11 skeptics' circles. [37] The errors section of 911review.com and pages on other 9/11 skeptics' sites have long debunked Meyssan's wildly inaccurate description of a 16-foot-diameter entry hole. [38]

    PM cites the ACSE's estimate of the entry hole's width as 75 ft based on analysis of column damage, while avoiding the more accessible photographic evidence that a 90-foot expanse of the facade was breached. [39]

    Intact Windows

    CLAIM: ... photographs showing "intact windows" directly above the crash site prove "a missile" or "a craft much smaller than a 757" struck the Pentagon.
    Here the article misrepresents an argument by skeptics of the official account of Flight 77's crash by stating that the issue is intact windows "near the impact area," when the skeptics point to unbroken windows in the trajectory of portions of the Boeing 757.

    PM uses this part to backhandedly promote the Pentagon Strike flash animation, which appears to serve the same function as this article: discrediting skepticism by associating it with sloppy research and easily disproven ideas.

    Flight 77 Debris

    CLAIM: ... In reality, a Boeing 757 was never found ...
    Here the article drops a URL for Pentagon Strike a second time, in case the reader missed the first one. The lack of aircraft debris following the Pentagon crash has been noted by many people as suspicious, but it is not surprising, considering the nature of the crash. In 1988 Sandia National Laboratories conducted a crash test in which an F-4 Phantom was crashed into a concrete barrier at 480 mph -- similar to the estimated speed of the Pentagon attack plane. The test impact resulted the entire aircraft being reduced to small pieces no more than a few inches long. PM avoids any evidence as compelling as the Sandia crash test to explain the lack of large debris, but cites the incredible statement of blast expert Allyn E. Kilsheimer that "I held in my hand the tail section of the plane, and I found the black box."
    It is counterintuitive to think that an aircraft could be reduced to confetti by an impact with a reinforced barrier, but that is exactly what this crash test demonstrated.

    The Undefended Pentagon

    The Pentagon is the headquarters of the most powerful military machine in world history:
    • The Pentagon was hit at around 9:40 AM, over an hour into the attack and over a half hour after the second tower was hit. [40]
    • The Pentagon is surrounded by restricted airspace, and presumably has missile batteries that would fire on any approaching aircraft failing to identify itself as friendly.
    • The Pentagon is 11 miles from Andrews Air Force Base, which housed two combat-ready fighter wings. The website of the D.C. Air National Guard had boasted that its mission was "To provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness." Despite scramble times of under five minutes, we are told no interceptors made it into the air before the attack. [41]

    If You Have to Hit Us ...

    The attack targeted the nearly empty portion of the Pentagon:
    • The west wing of the Pentagon was undergoing renovation, and was sparsely occupied. [42]
    • Most of those killed in the attack were in the Naval Operations Center, which housed the Office of Naval intelligence, a rival of the CIA. [43]
    • The attack killed only one general and no admirals. The top brass, including Donald Rumsfeld, occupied the opposite side of the sprawling building.

    Top-Gun Piloting by an Incompetent

    The attack plane executed extreme maneuvers to attack the west wing:
    • The plane made a spiral dive, turning 270 degrees and losing 7000 feet in two minutes, to crash into the west wing.
    • The plane flew in at such a shallow angle that it clipped lamp posts on the highway over 500 feet from the building, and plowed into the first floor of the facade.
    • The alleged pilot of Flight 77, Hani Hanjour, was so incompetent that he was refused rental of a single-engine Cessna, yet he supposedly executed maneuvers that many pilots think are beyond the skill of any human pilot. [44]
    In this section, PM attacks four claims pointing to the shoot-down of Flight 93. In contrast to the previous section, most of these claims are valid, yet PM's refutations are once again unconvincing. Why does Chertoff backhandedly validate the skeptics on this issue when he demonstrates such masterful use of the straw-man technique in the first two sections? Perhaps because this section is designed as a distraction from the core facts that prove that the attack was an inside job: the shoot-down of Flight 93 is entirely consistent with the rest of the official story, and is thus a safe "limited hangout".

    The White Jet

    CLAIM: ... [Flight 93] was downed by "either a missile fired from an Air Force jet, or via an electronic assault made by a U.S. Customs airplane reported to have been seen near the site minutes after Flight 93 crashed. ...
    Here the article counters the idea that a small white jet reported by eyewitnesses had anything to do with the crash by relating a detailed account by the aviation director of the company that owned the business jet, David Newell. According to Newell, the co-pilot of the jet, Yates Gladwell, was contacted by FAA's Cleveland Center to investigate the crash immediately after it happened. According to PM:
    Gladwell confirmed the account but, concerned about ongoing harassment by conspiracy theorists, asked not to be quoted directly.

    Roving Engine

    CLAIM ... The main body of the engine ... was found miles away from the main wreckage site with damage comparable to that which a heat-seeking missile would do to an airliner.
    Here PM cites an exaggeration found in a story on Rense.com, a site that specializes in UFOs. The far-flung debris field of the Flight 93 crash site along with the eyewitness accounts make a strong case that the plane was shot down. PM argues that engine parts being found 300 yards from the main site is reasonable for a simple crash, because airline accident expert Michael K. Hynes, who investigated the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996, states parts could bounce that far "when you have high velocities, 500 mph or more." This theory is at odds with the eyewitness reports that the plane plummeted almost straight down.

    Indian Lake

    CLAIM ... [Residents] reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly 6 miles from the immediate crash scene. ...
    The article devotes this point to the confetti seen over Indian Lake, which it asserts is less than 1.5 miles southeast of the impact crater , explaining that this distance is easily within range of debris blasted skyward by the heat of the explosion from the blast .
    Whereas PM displays a map showing only a corner of Indian Lake to claim it is less than 1.5 miles from the crash site, this map shows the entire lake, which is up to three miles away.
    This explanation for the far-flung debris has the same problem as PM's explanation for the roving engine: a jetliner flying straight into the ground fast enough to bury itself in a large impact crater would not be likely to fling debris skyward. Even if it did, a light breeze would have to transport the debris through the air two miles to Indian Lake Marina, and more than six miles to New Baltimore, where eyewitnesses reported descending confetti, according to the Post-Gazette. [45]

    F-16 Pilot

    CLAIM ... Major Rick Gibney fired two Sidewinder missiles at the aircraft and destroyed it in midflight at precisely 0958
    In the final point, the article takes on the allegation by retired Army Col. Donn de Grand-Pre that the pilot who shot down Flight 93 was Major Rick Gibney. The article states that Gibney was flying an F-16 that day, but it was not on an intercept mission; rather it was to pick up Ed Jacoby Jr., the director of the New York State's Emergency Management Office, and fly him from Montana to Albany, NY.

    PM delivers its closing ad hominem attack on skeptics in the voice of Ed Jacoby:
    I summarily dismiss [allegations that Gibney shot down Flight 93] because Lt. Col. Gibney was with me at the time. It disgusts me to see this because the public is being misled. More than anything else it disgusts me because it brings up fears. It brings up hopes -- it brings up all sorts of feelings, not only to the victims' families but to all individuals throughout the country, and the world for that matter. I get angry at the misinformation out there.

    PM completely ignores eyewitness accounts that describe the trajectory of the plane into the ground.
    • unnamed witness: Says he hears two loud bangs before watching the plane take a downward turn of nearly 90 degrees. [46]
    • Terry Butler: "It dropped out of the clouds." The plane rose slightly, trying to gain altitude, then "it just went flip to the right and then straight down." [47]
    • unnamed witness: It makes a high-pitched, screeching sound. The plane then makes a sharp, 90-degree downward turn and crashes. [48]
    • Tim Thornsberg "It came in low over the trees and started wobbling. Then it just rolled over and was flying upside down for a few seconds ... and then it kind of stalled and did a nose dive over the trees." [49]
    • Tom Fritz: He hears a sound that "wasn't quite right" and looks up in the sky. "It dropped all of a sudden, like a stone." [50]


    Having slain the conspiracy theory army's poison-spewing 16-headed dragon of 9/11 LIES -- PM declares the enemy vanquished, titling its final section 9/11 MYTHS DEBUNKED. On page 128, PM reveals its suit of armor -- a list of over 70 experts that it found particularly helpful. The titles and names on this page are supposed to back the many assertions the article makes in the main section, but the article gives no indication of what experts or reports back up many of its key assertions. In fact, only two of PM's experts attempt to directly refute claims I consider valid:
    • Maj. Douglas Martin defends the incompetence theory of the failure of military response.
    • Shyam Sunder attempts to explain the "puffs of dust" shooting out of the South Tower as the result of floor "pancaking", and attempts to explain the collapse of Building 7 by likening it like a house of cards.
    PM cites other experts to counter valid claims without it being clear that they are addressing the issue at hand. For example PM cites airline accident expert Michael K. Hynes as asserting that aircraft parts can bounce over 300 yards in high-speed crashes, without clarifying whether he is addressing the crash of Flight 93: a vertical plunge into soft ground.



    A privileged group acted as if they had foreknowledge of the attack.
    • Several people received warnings not to fly canceled plans to fly on 9/11/01, including John Ashcroft then-San-Francisco-mayor Willie Brown, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, author Salman Rushdie, and a group of top Pentagon officials.
    • Over tenfold increases in put options on the stocks of the two airlines used in the attack -- American Airlines and United Airlines -- were recorded in the week before the attack. [51]
    • CEOs from the World Trade Center attended a breakfast meeting hosted by billionaire Warren Buffett at Ofutt Air Force Base in Nebraska on the day of the attack.
    • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld disclosed on the eve of the attack that $2.3 trillion in transactions was unaccounted for, burying the scandal in the shadow of 9/11.

    Complicit Behavior

    Top officials behaved in a complicit manner during the attack.
    • President Bush remained seated in a televised, known location (reading "My Pet Goat" with second-graders) long after being informed that the country was under attack.
    • Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers remained in a meeting with Max Cleland as the attack unfolded. [52]
    • Brig. Gen. Montague Winfield reported that "For 30 minutes we couldn't find" Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [53]
    • Montague Winfield, National Military Command Center commander, arranged for Capt. Leidig, a rookie on the job, to relieve him of duty at 8:30 AM on 9/11/01. Winfield returned to his command post after the attack was over.

    Investigation Obstruction

    The Bush administration thwarted any genuine investigation of the attack.
    • Not a single official was demoted or reprimanded for the failure of the military to defend New York City and Washington DC on 9/11/01.
    • NORAD head Richard Eberhart and JCS Chairman Myers were promoted after the attack.
    • The Bush administration stalled the creation of a special commission for over 400 days. [54]
    • George W. Bush initially named as head of the commission coup and cover-up architect Henry Kissinger, but he declined to serve to maintain the secrecy of his client list. [55] The figurehead chairs of the commission would be Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, both with ties to the Dept. of Homeland Security, but the actual work of the Commission was directed by Philip Zelikow, a Bush administration insider.

    No Evidence Against Suspects

    Officials have produced no evidence linking the supposed perpetrators to the attack.
    • The December 2001 bin Laden confession video is an obvious fraud. [56]
    • Not a single suspect has been convicted for involvement in the attack either in the United States or abroad. [57] FBI director Mueller admitted that "not a single piece of paper" linked the officially named suspects to the attack. [58]
    The Osama in the video released on 12/7/01 by the Pentagon (left) has a different facial structure that the Osama pictured in earlier media reports (right).


    Others have pointed out that the Popular Mechanics article is full of errors and sloppy analysis. While I agree, I believe that the article's shoddiness is engineered to achieve certain ends -- such as drawing attention toward red-herring issues. For example, PM is unpersuasive in debunking the Pentagon no-jetliner theories and the Flight 93 shoot-down claim. The sloppiness is apparently part of PM's strategy of setting up and attacking straw-man arguments: It leaves some its straw men relatively unmolested, presumably because they have value in distracting from the facts that conclusively refute the official story.

    Popular Mechanics may have elevated the straw-man argument to a sophistication never before seen, wherein specious arguments are nested within specious claims. The entire article is a kind of straw man because it addresses only physical evidence topics while ignoring other bodies of evidence. Of the four topics, one is a likely a hoax, and the other is incidential to the falsity of the official story. The other two topics contain a mix of valid and specious claims, and the valid claims are attacked with false, deceptive, and straw-man arguments.

    [1]9/11: Debunking the Myths, Popular Mechanics, http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/defense/1227842.html?page
    [2]The Twin Towers' Demolition, 911research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/talks/towers/index.html
    [3]Military Now Notified Immediately of Unusual Air Traffic Events, AP, 8/12/02, http://www.wanttoknow.info/020812ap
    [4]Revealed: the men with stolen identities, telegraph.co.uk, 9/23/01
    [5]Hijack 'suspects' alive and well, BBC, 9/23/01, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1559151.stm
    [6]Dead Saudi Hijack Suspect Resurfaces, Denies Involvement, AllAfrica.com, 9/24/01, http://allafrica.com/stories/200109240325.html
    [7]'Suicide hijacker' is an airline pilot alive and well in Jeddah, Independent.co.uk, 9/17/01, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story
    [8]Manager: Men spewed anti-American sentiments, AP, 9/14/01, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2001/09/14/miami-club.htm
    [9]Timeline in Terrorist Attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Washington Post, 9/12/01, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/articles/timeline.html
    [10]'I Thought It Was the Start of World War III', Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02, http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/archives/2002/aug/21/ithought21.htm
    [11]CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF INSTRUCTION, J-3 CJCSI 3610.01A, 6/1/01, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/cjcsd/cjcsi/3610_01a.pdf
    [12]The 9/11 Stand-Down Why there was NOT a 'stand down' order, OilEmpire.us, http://www.oilempire.us/standdown.html
    [13]CITIZENS' COMPLAINT AND PETITION TO ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FOR INDEPENDENT GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION, JusticeFor911/org, 10/28/04, http://www.justicefor911.org/Original_Complaint_10-28-04NY.php
    [14]FAA Managers Destroyed 9/11 Tape, the Washington Post, 5/6/04, p www.washingtonpost.com, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6632-2004May6.html
    [15]The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, Olive Branch Press, 2004, p 20
    [16]Photographic Evidence of the Twin Tower Collapses, 911Research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/evidence/photos/index.html
    [17]Video Evidence of the Twin Tower Collapses, 911Research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/evidence/videos/index.html
    [18]Explosives Planted In Towers, N.M. Tech Expert Says, 9/11/01, http://www.911truth.org/readingroom/whole_document.php?article_id
    [19]VP Van Romero Named Chairman of Domestic Preparedness Consortium, NMT, http://infohost.nmt.edu/mainpage/news/2002/11jan05.html
    [20]Wall Street Journal Names Tech 'Hot School', NMT, http://infohost.nmt.edu/mainpage/news/2001/wsj.html
    [21]New Mexico Tech Vice President Romero Named a Top Lobbyist, NMT, http://infohost.nmt.edu/mainpage/news/2003/18dec01.html
    [22]Tech Receives $15 M for Anti-Terrorism Program, NMT, http://infohost.nmt.edu/mainpage/news/2002/25sept03.html
    [23]How the World Trade Center fell, BBC, 9/13/01, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1540044.stm
    [24]The World Trade Center Demolition, 911research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/talks/wtc/index.html
    [25]Fire Resistance of Steel Framed Car Parks, corusconstruction.com, http://www.corusconstruction.com/file_source/StaticFiles/Construction/Library/Fire%20resistance%20of%20steel%20framed%20buildings.pdf
    [26]Speed of Fall:Meaning of the Seismic Records, 911Research.wtc7.net, http://911Research.wtc7.net/wtc/analysis/collapses/freefall.html#seismic
    [27]North Tower Collapse Video Frames, 911Research.wtc7.net, http://911Research.wtc7.net/wtc/evidence/videos/ntc_frames.html
    [28]Video Evidence of an Explosion at the Base of WTC 1, WhatReallyHappened.com, http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/shake.html
    [29]Videos Show Building 7's Vertical Collapse, wtc7.net, http://www.wtc7.net/videos.html
    [30]Progressive Collapse, 911research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/disinfo/collapse/progressive.html
    [31]Governor Pataki, Acting Governor DiFrancesco Laud Historic Port Authority Agreement to Privatize World Trade Center, Port Authority on NY & NJ, 7/24/01, http://www.panynj.gov/pr/pressrelease.php3?id
    [32]Reinsurance Companies Wait to Sort Out Cost of Damage, New York Times, 9/12/01, p C6
    [33]Double Indemnity, law.com, 9/3/02, http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id
    [34]Secrecy surrounds a Bush brother's role in 9/11 security, SmirkingChimp.com, 1/20/03, http://www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid
    [35]Heightened Security Alert Had Just Been Lifted, NYNewsday.com, 9/12/01, http://www.nynewsday.com/news/local/manhattan/wtc/ny-nyaler122362178sep12,0,6794009.story
    [36]The Pentagon attack, http://oilempire.us/pentagon.html/>
    [37]The Pentagon No-757-Crash Theory: Booby Trap for 9/11 Skeptics, 911research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/essays/pentagontrap.html
    [38]Pentagon Attack Errors, 911review.com, http://911review.com/errors/pentagon/index.html
    [39]Pentagon Plane Crash Photos, GeofMetcalf.com, http://www.geoffmetcalf.com/pentagon/pentagon_20020316.html
    [40]Timeline in Terrorist Attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Washington Post, 9/12/01, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/articles/timeline.html
    [41]DCANG Yanks its Mission Statement, http://911review.com/coverup/dcang.html
    [42]Pentagon, a Vulnerable Building, Was Hit in Least Vulnerable Spot, Los Angeles Times, 9/16/01, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-091601pentagon,0,2818328.story
    [43]Navy Command Center, The Washington Post
    [44]A Trainee Noted for Incompetence, New York Times, p 10, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res
    [45]Investigators locate 'black box' from Flight 93; widen search area in Somerset crash, post-gazette.com, 9/13/01, http://post-gazette.com/headlines/20010913somersetp3.asp
    [46]Cleveland Newschannel 5, 9/11/01
    [47]Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 9/12/01
    [48]Cleveland Newschannel 5, 9/11/01
    [49]WPXI Channel 11, 9/13/01
    [50]St. Petersberg Times, 9/12/01
    [51]Suppressed Details of Criminal Insider Trading Lead Directly Into the CIA's Highest Ranks, FromTheWilderness.com, http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/10_09_01_krongard.html
    [52]US Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, 10/17/01, http://www.dtic.mil/jcs/chairman/AFRTS_Interview.htm
    [53]Rumsfeld and Bush Failed Us on Sept. 11, Los Angeles Times, 8/13/04, http://www.gailsheehy.com/9_11/9_11_art8_13.html
    [54]The Great Conspiracy, 2004
    [55]Thomas Kean named to 9/11 panel, 12/16/2002, http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2002-12-16-kean_x.htm
    [56]Waking Up From Our Nightmare: The 9/11/01 Crimes in New York City, I/R Press, p i, http://www.wtc7.net/store/books/wakingup/
    [57]9/11 suspect in Germany released, MSNBC.com, 4/7/04, ttp://msnbc.msn.com/id/4683144/
    [58]Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI, Commonwealth Club of California, FBI.gov, http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/speeches/speech041902.htm