9 - 1 1 R e s e a r c h essays
NOTE: This document is the prototype for the feature article in Issue 10 of Global Outlook Magazine.
It is the synthesis of the following two reviews of the Popular mechanics attacks its '9/11 Lies' Straw Man and Popular Mechanics' Deceptive Smear Against 9/11 Truth.
The final article in the print edition of Global Outlook, available at GlobalOutlook.ca has a number of additions to and improvements over this prototype.

Popular Mechanics' Assault on 9/11 Truth

by Jim Hoffman

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 (PM) 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, which it proclaims can't stand up to the hard facts.

The article's approach is to identify and attack a series of claims which it asserts represent the whole of 9/11 skepticism. In each case PM describes a conspiracy theorist claim in a paragraph labeled CLAIM and follows it with several paragraphs of debunking labeled FACT. In this critique we examine each of PM's claims in three parts: PM'S PURPORTED CLAIM:, which excerpts the key elements of PM's CLAIM paragraph; PM'S COUNTER CLAIM, which summarizes PM's debunking of that claim; and OUR REBUTTAL, which provides our analysis of PM's argument.

PM 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. Some of this evidence is summarized at the end of this critique. 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 persistent conspiracy theories of September 11. 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 topic devoted to attacking the Twin Towers' demolition presents three red-herring claims and carefully avoids the most compelling arguments that we (so-called conspiracy theorists) advance to prove that the towers collapsed due to controlled demolitions. [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 importantly, 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 (or straw men).

(WHAT IS A STRAW MAN ARGUMENT?) According to Wikipedia, a free on-line encyclopedia, in the rhetorical context, straw man describes a point of view or creates a bogus claim that can be easily defeated in an argument. The straw man technique does not debate the facts head on, but rather detours around them in order to make the opposing view unbelievable.

The Popular Mechanics article repeatedly uses the straw man technique by setting up, then disproving, false claims which it asserts are accepted by most or all 9/11 skeptics. In doing so, PM conceals the painstaking work of the 9/11 Truth Movement, replacing it with a lurid caricature.

The article is perhaps the best example of how the straw man technique has been used to target the 9/11 Truth Movement, but the strategy is not new. We believe that some "researchers" have (wittingly or unwittingly) set up certain claims that are easily knocked down by our critics.

For example, the idea that holograms, not airplanes, were used to attack the World Trade Center towers, is clearly a bogus claim that 99.9% of all people would call absurd, preposterous and/or outrageous, thereby, turning off the inquisitive neophyte truth seeker from further investigation into what really happened. Persons who surreptitiously set up dummy targets, which can then be knocked down, are guilty of using this straw man tactic. The increasing use of this technique in attacking the 911 Truth Movement is, we believe, an indication of our success in assembling a compelling and meticulously documented case disproving the Official Story. The Popular Mechanics article is a case study in how this deceptive technique is used.

The Lies Are Out There

The March Issue of Popular Mechanics has a one-page editorial, The Lies Are Out There, who was appointed editor of Popular Mechanics in May 2004. Meigs, whose previous columns have praised military technology (such as the UAVs used in Fallujah), 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 all 9/11 conspiracy theorists, saying they ignore the facts and engage in elaborate, shadowy theorizing, and concludes his diatribe by saying:
[T]hose 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 legitimize 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, glaring errors in the article -- such as the assertion that there was only a single interception of an off-course plane 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 the World Trade Center Building Performance Study by the U.S. government's own Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the 9/11 Commission Report. It provides no evidence that 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 many critics' 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 Flight 175 carried a missile-firing pod under its wings.
The main article consists of an introduction and four sections, each devoted to a topic, spanning six two-page spreads uninterrupted by advertising. The topics contain a total of sixteen poisonous claims, which PM purports to refute while it identifies them as the common 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 so as to discredit the valid claims pertaining to the incredible lack of military response to the attack.
    claimPM's titlePM-cited sources
    #1Where's The Pod?In Plane Site, LetsRoll911.org
    #2No Stand-Down Orderemperors-clothes.com, StandDown.net
    #3Intercepts Not RoutineOilEmpire.us
    #4Flight 175's Windows911InPlaneSite.com

  • 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.
    claimPM's titlePM-cited sources
    #5Widespread Damagesandiego.indymedia.org
    #6"Melted" SteelAttackOnAmerica.net
    #7Puffs Of Dustad for Painful Questions
    #8Seismic SpikesWhatReallyHappened.com, Prisonplanet.com
    #9WTC 7 Collapse911review.org

  • THE PENTAGON, in which PM attacks the much debated claim of conspiracy advocates that the Pentagon was hit by an object other than a jetliner, while hiding the other equally held position of 9/11 Truth activists that this claim is a hoax.
    claimPM's titlePM-cited sources
    #10Big Plane, Small Holesreopen911.org
    #11Intact WindowsPentagonstrike.co.uk
    #12Flight 77 Debrispentagonstrike.co.uk

  • FLIGHT 93, in which PM attacks the claim that Flight 93 was shot down (by the U.S. Air Force) with transparently specious arguments.
    claimPM's titlePM-cited sources
    #13The White JetBlogD.com, WorldNetDaily.com
    #14Roving EngineRense.com
    #15Indian LakeThink AndAsk.com, TheForbiddenKnowledge.com
    #16F-16 PilotThe Alex Jones Show, LetsRoll911.org

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 deceptive 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 hand-picked series of claims that it pretends represent the entirety of the skeptics' movement. The list includes many of the same claims that were already debunked in 2004 by some of our better 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". In several cases the references are to anonymous posts on sites that don't exercise editorial control. The 17 websites PM mentions can be categorized into four types:

  • 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 most in our movement have 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 9/11 skeptics, calling us extremists, some of whose theories are byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. PM reminds the reader, lest they have forgotten Meig's sermon, than any questioning of the basic premise of the official story is beyond the pale.

    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 plane that crashed into the South Tower not being a commercial jetliner. The hoaxes bracket the valid claims, which PM dismisses with 9/11-Commission-like denials.

    PM asserts that theorists claim [the lack of military intervention] proves the U.S. government instigated the assault or allowed it to occur in order to advance oil interest or a war agenda. This falsely implies that skeptics base their case on a single anomaly in the official theory, attribute a single motive to the perpetrators, and identify the perpetrators as the entire of the US government.
    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

    PM'S PURPORTED CLAIM: According to the film 911 In Plane Site and the website LetsRoll911.org, photos taken just before Flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) show an object underneath the fuselage at the base of the right wing. ... no such object is found on a stock Boeing 767. They speculate that this "military pod" is a missile, a bomb or a piece of equipment on an air-refueling tanker... evidence that the attacks were an "inside job" sanctioned by "President George Bush, who planned and engineered 9/11."

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: Ronald Greeley, Director of the Space Photography Laboratory at Arizona State University, is PM's first witness. He is an expert at analyzing the shape and features of geological formations, based on light and shadow effects. He apparently dismissed the notion that the much touted photo by Rob Howard (published in New York magazine) reveals a "pod" or pronounced bulge. The photo, he claims, reveals the Boeing's right fairing, which contains the landing gear. Sunlight reflected off the fairing gave it an exaggerated look.

    OUR REBUTTAL: Exactly! We don't believe the pod theory either. That theory 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 LetsRoll911.org and In Plane Site, both of which feature the pod theory. The article lacks any mention of websites debunking the pod claims, such as OilEmpire.us, QuestionsQuestions.net, and 911Review.com.

    No Stand-Down Order

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: According to Emperors-Clothes.com, "On 11 September Andrews had two squadrons of fighter jets with the job of protecting the skies over Washington D.C. ...They failed to do their job." "There is only one explanation for this," writes Mark R. Elsis of StandDown.net. "Our Air Force was ordered to Stand Down on 9/11."

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: On 9/11 there were only 14 fighter jets on alert in the contiguous 48 states. According to PM's second witness, Maj. Douglas Martin, Public Affairs Officer for NORAD (North American Defense Command), there is no computer network or alarm system that goes off when planes go off course or are missing. It took three calls from Boston Center Air Traffic Control (ATC) (at 8:37 a.m, 9:21 a.m. and 9:41 a.m.) to alert NORAD of the hijackers. New York's ATC also called at 9:03 to report Flight 175 had been hijacked just as it slammed into the South Tower. Within minutes of the first call from Boston Center, the North East Air Defense Sector (NEADS) scrambled two F-15s from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Mass., and three F-16s from Langley Air National Guard Base in Hampton, Va. None of the fighters got anywhere near the pirated planes. When the hijackers turned off the planes' transponders, which broadcast identifying signals, ATC had to search 4500 identical radar blips crisscrossing some of the country's busiest air corridors. According to the Major, NORAD's sophisticated radar ringed the continent, looking outward for threats, not inward. It was like a doughnut," Martin says. "There was no coverage in the middle." According to PM, pre-9/11, flights originating in the States were not seen as threats and NORAD wasn't prepared to track them.

    OUR REBUTTAL: PM's defense of the U.S. military is distilled from the 9/11 Commission Report, which PM fails to mention is the third of three mutually contradictory official accounts of the air response. This defense can be summarized as five claims:
    1. There were too few fighters on alert.
    2. There is no system in place for the FAA to notify NORAD of suspected hijackings.
    3. The FAA couldn't find the hijacked planes because there were too many blips.
    4. NORAD couldn't see the planes because its radar "looked outward".
    5. Fighters that were scrambled from Otis and Langley couldn't reach the targets in time.
    Claim 1 is irrelevant since we know there were fighters on alert at bases close enough to easily intercept the jetliners, such as at Andrews Air Force Base, 11 miles from the Pentagon. Moreover, not being on alert didn't stop Toledo Air Force Base from getting two F-16s in the air within 16 minutes of receiving an order. PM makes no mention of evidence that four or five war games were in play that very day -- September 11, 2001, which may have been instrumental in paralyzing NORAD's jet interceptors. This is well documented in Mike Ruppert's book Crossing The Rubicon.

    Claim 2 is implausible given the ever-present danger of hijackings, and, in any case, fails to explain the long delays in the FAA communicating with NORAD.

    Claim 3 is contradicted by press reports stating that FAA officials continuously tracked all of the hijacked planes except for Flight 77. It also begs the question of how the FAA could be incompetent and yet flawlessly land the 4000 airborne jetliners, mostly at airports far from their scheduled destinations.

    Claim 4 is absurd given that NORAD's radar system was designed to track thousands of airborne objects in a massive Soviet attack to their targets deep within the continental U.S. It's also irrelevant since the attack unfolded along the northeast corridor, which would be over the solid part of Major Martin's doughnut.

    Claim 5 requires us to believe that the scrambled fighters could fly at only a fraction of their top speeds of over 1700 mph.

    Intercepts Not Routine

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: Citing OilEmpire.us, PM quotes: "It has been standard operating procedures for decades to immediately intercept off-course planes that do not respond to communications from air traffic controllers. ... When the Air Force 'scrambles' a fighter plane to intercept, they usually reach the plane in question in minutes."

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: PM dismisses this "claim" 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.
    According to PM, intercept rules prior to and on 9/11 prohibited supersonic flights. Not only that, but all NORAD interceptions, prior to 9/11, were limited to what are called offshore Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ). PM's third witness, Bill Schumann of the FAA, states until 9/11 there was no domestic ADIZ.

    OUR REBUTTAL: According to an Associated Press report on scramble frequencies, the same Maj. Douglas Martin is quoted as saying:
    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. [3]
    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. Whether or not they occurred over North America, or out at sea, chasing down drug planes wasn't differentiated by Maj. Martin. But clearly, PM's spin would have us believe that a jet fighter intercept is a rare event that caught NORAD completely off guard.

    PM fails to acknowledge that the intercept time for Stewart's Learjet is disputed, with press reports putting the time at only 22 minutes. [4] PM provides no evidence that [r]ules in effect ... prohibited supersonic flight on intercepts , and doesn't ask why any such rules would continue to be observed after 9 am, when news of the North Tower crash was being broadcast nationwide, and there were obvious signs of three hijackings in progress.

    Flight 175's Windows

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: InPlaneSite.com is quoted as saying: "On Sept. 11, FOX News broadcast a live phone interview with FOX employee Marc Birnbach who said he saw the plane 'crash into the South Tower.' 'It definitely did not look like a commercial plane,' Birnbach said on air. 'I didn't see any windows on the sides.'" This interview and some photos that lack resolution to show any windows, have apparently fueled the debate that a military cargo plane or fuel tanker hit the South Tower.

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: Birnbach apparently told PM that he was at least two miles southeast of the WTC when he briefly saw a plane fly overhead. He claimed he didn't see the plane strike the second Tower. A fifth expert witness, W. Gene Corley of Construction Technology Laboratories, photographed the debris on the roof of WTC5, which included a chunk of fuselage that had passenger windows.

    OUR REBUTTAL: 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-under-the-plane 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 QuestionsQuestions.net. PM needed to 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.
    PM avoids many facts undermining the official story that Arab hijackers piloted the jetliners and many problems with the official explanations of the failures to intercept them.

    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. [5] [6] [7] [8]
    • There is no public evidence that the remains of any of the alleged hijackers were recovered.
    • None of the flight crews on the targeted aircraft reported hijackings to Air Traffic Control, either by radio or the 4-key hijacking codes.
    • None of the contents of recovered voice data recorder black boxes have been made public, even though the 9/11 Commission has closed its doors. Also, given that two Ground Zero recovery workers reported leading the FBI to black boxes in the rubble, why didn't the Commission call them as witnesses?
    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, who would surely frown on such sacrilegious behavior. [9]
    • The takeovers of the four jetliners were staggered over a one-hour period; yet any rational planner would have executed the takeovers simultaneously. [10]
    • The hijackers supposedly enjoyed 100% success in taking over the flights with knives and "box cutters" despite the fact that the crews of the remaining flights had knowledge of the first takeover, and several pilots had military commando-style training.
    • None of the alleged hijackers had flown jets before; they had only experience flying small airplanes like Piper Cubs and Cessnas and flight simulators.
    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.

    Conspiracy of Failures

    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 alleged 18- and 39-minute delays in reporting the deviations and transponder shut-offs of Flights 11 and 77, respectively.
    • 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 93 were headed to the Capitol, 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. [11] 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 missing 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, Donald Rumsfeld, requiring his approval for any intercepts that might involve deadly force. This order stripped commanders in the field of autonomy in responding to crises such as happened on 9/11/01. [12]
    • Multiple war games were scheduled for 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 Warrior likely confused the coordination of response to the attack.
      The site OilEmpire.us provides evidence of five war games right after its passage quoted by PM, so the omission of this information was likely intentional. [13]

    Investigation Prevention

    The crashes were not seriously investigated:
    • The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Bureau), the agency that normally investigates aviation disasters, was not allowed to study the crashes. [14]
    • Recordings of interviews with air traffic controllers were destroyed. [15]
    • The 9/11 Commission repeated the FBI's original list of suicide hijackers, without acknowledging that six of them reported themselves alive after the attack. [16]
    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

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: Quoting the San Diego Independent Media Center Web site (sandiego.indymedia.org) "There is NO WAY the impact of the jet caused such widespread damage 80 stories below. ... It is OBVIOUS and irrefutable that 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." ... 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.

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: PM states that the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) initial investigation found that plane debris sliced through the utility shafts and elevators creating a conduit for burning jet fuel which seeped down to the lower floors. When ignited, it caused extensive damage to the lobbies. PM quotes James Quintiere (an NIST adviser) and the Naudet brothers (who filmed the first crash into the North Tower) as saying they saw victims on fire in the lobby. According to PM, before the Towers came down, windows in the North Tower lobby were shattered by the impact of the jetliner crashing 94 floors above, not by bombs in the building.

    OUR REBUTTAL: 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 from the contention that the towers were brought down by controlled demolition (56 and 102 minutes after the plane crashes). PM's inclusion of this claim seems calculated to muddle the core issue of what induced the towers' collapse.

    Puffs Of Dust

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: Here PM quotes from an advertisement in the New York Times for the book Painful Questions: "The concrete clouds shooting out of the buildings are not possible from a mere collapse. They do occur from explosions." PM then implies that the basis for this claim is a statement by explosives expert and vice president of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Van Romero, 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." The article continues, "Romero said the collapse of the structures resembled those of controlled implosions used to demolish old structures."

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: PM claims that Romero was misquoted and that what he said was "that's what it looked like." PM goes on to explain how the buildings fell using the famous "pancake effect": Once each tower began to collapse, the weight of all the floors above the collapsed zone bore down with pulverizing force on the highest intact floor. Unable to absorb the massive energy, that floor would fail, transmitting the forces to the floor below, allowing the collapse to progress downward through the building in a chain reaction ... according to David Biggs, a structural engineer at Ryan-Biggs Associates and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) team that worked on the FEMA report.

    OUR REBUTTAL: With the possible exception of the Widespread Damage claim, this is the only valid one relating to the Twin Tower collapses -- By titling this claim 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 great lengths to explain the "puffs". It quotes NIST lead investigator Shyam Sunder saying "When you have a significant portion of a floor collapsing it's going to shoot air and concrete dust out the window." This doesn't explain where the concrete dust came from, or even attempt 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 most often cite as proving demolition, such as their verticality, explosiveness, pulverization and rapidity -- features abundantly documented in the extensive body of surviving photographs and videos. [17] [18] Instead it implies that conspiracy theorists rely only on the opinion of demolition expert Van Romero, who has reversed his story and now claims that fire triggered the collapses:
    "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." [19]
    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. [20] [21] [22] [23]

    "Melted Steel"

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: "We have been lied to," announces the Web site AttackOnAmerica.net. "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 posting is entitled "Proof Of Controlled Demolition At The WTC."

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: PM agrees that jet fuel, which burns at 800º to 1500ºF, is not hot enough to melt steel (2750ºF), but implies that skeptics' claims of demolition ignore the experts' explanation. PM states: experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn't need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength -- and that required exposure to much less heat. PM goes on to claim that, according to another witness -- a Professor of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego -- while the jet fuel was the catalyst for the WTC fires, the resulting inferno was intensified by the combustible material inside the buildings, including rugs, curtains, furniture and paper. NIST reported that the jet fuel burned for maybe 10 minutes. It was the rest of the stuff burning afterward that was responsible for the heat transfer than eventually brought them down.

    OUR REBUTTAL: The article implies that the skeptics' debunking of the fire-melts-steel claim is a straw-man argument, since the official story only requires that fire weakened 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. [24]
    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. [25]

    Even in attacking this straw-man claim, PM misrepresents the physics of building 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 PM's counter claim 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. [26]

    Seismic Spikes

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: The towers' collapses were recorded by seismographs at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, 21 miles away from the World Trade Center. PM cites WhatReallyHappened.com as reporting, "The strongest jolts were all registered at the beginning of the collapses, well before falling debris struck the earth," and cites PrisonPlanet.com run by talk show host Alex Jones as asserting that the seismic spikes (boxed area on Graph 1, below) are "indisputable proof that massive explosions brought down" the towers. The site claims that this is supported by two seismologists at the observatory, Won-Young Kim and Arthur Lerner-Lam.

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: PM quotes Lerner-Lam, mentioned above, saying that the above interpretation is "categorically incorrect and not in context." The report issued by Lamont-Doherty includes various graphs showing the seismic readings produced by the planes crashing into the two towers as well as the collapses of both buildings. According to PM, WhatReallyHappened.com displayed only one graph (Graph 1) to make this point, while omitting the graph with the expanded time scale (Graph 2).

    PM goes beyond Lerner-Lam's renouncement of the claim that the seismic records prove that explosions brought down the towers, to 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.

    OUR REBUTTAL: PM's translation of the charts is as unscientific as the claim it cites. 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.

    PM fails to note that its cited claim was refuted in 2003 by us at 911Research.wtc7.net. [27] Apparently not content with simply debunking this erroneous claim, PM falsely accuses its purveyors of deception. PM reproduces two sets of charts from the Palisades station with different time scales (Graphs 1 and 2), and accuses 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: ...
    PM makes two errors here. First, it accuses WhatReallyHappened.com of misleadingly displaying a single chart, when if fact there are two (one embedded within the other -- see Graph 3). So, contrary to PM's allegation, the site does display the more detailed graph, at least of the South Tower's collapse.

    Graph 1

    Graph 2
    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.

    Graph 3 [28]
    Second, PM makes the same error as the websites it attacks by claiming that the largest spikes correspond to the 8- and 10-second collapses. In fact, as video recordings clearly show, both collapses took about 15 seconds. [29] 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 background noise begins about ten seconds before the large spikes in each case. Apparently, that signal represents the building breaking up, and the large spikes represent the rubble hitting the ground.
    Here are zoomed-up portions of the Palisades charts for the South and North Tower collapses, spanning 20-second intervals during which the collapses started. Each interval shows a signal lasting about ten seconds before being eclipsed by the large spikes, corresponding to the ten-second interval between the onset of collapse and the onset of rubble impacting the ground.

    WTC 7 Collapse

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: Seven hours after the two towers fell, the 47-story WTC 7 collapsed. According to 911Review.org: "The video clearly shows that it was not a collapse subsequent to a fire, but rather a controlled demolition."

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: PM points out that NIST now supports the idea that WTC 7 was far more susceptible to falling debris than the initial FEMA report indicated. "The most important thing we found was that there was, in fact, physical damage to the south face of building 7," NIST's Sunder tells PM. "On about a third of the face to the center and to the bottom -- approximately 10 stories -- about 25 percent of the depth of the building was scooped out." Therefore, NIST investigators believe that a combination of intense fire and severe structural damage contributed to the collapse. According to PM, NIST's analysis suggests the fall of WTC 7 was an example of "progressive collapse," a process in which the failure of parts of a structure ultimately creates strains that cause the entire building to come down. "What our preliminary analysis has shown is that if you take out just one column on one of the lower floors," Sunder notes, "it would cause a vertical progression of collapse so that the entire section comes down." Due to the building's unusual construction, a chain-reaction collapse was caused by the combined factors of the physical damage WTC received and the fires that burned for hours.

    OUR REBUTTAL: PM excerpts this claim from 911review.org, a website that has 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. [30]

    Note the guarded language NIST's 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. [31]

    Facts conspicuously absent from the article show that the official account of the collapses of the Twin Towers and Building 7 ignores history, that the collapses can only be explained through controlled demolition, and that only insiders had the motive and means to destroy the buildings.

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

    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 collapse events. Several of these 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 7 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.

    BuildingDate/YearStories DurationFloors Burnedcollapse
    North TowerFeb 1975110 3 hours7None
    First Interstate BankMay 198862 4 hours4None
    One Meridian PlazaFeb 199138 18 hours8None
    Caracas TowerOct 200456 17 hours262 floors
    North TowerSept 2001110 1.8 hours~6Total
    South TowerSept 2001110 0.9 hours~3Total
    Building 7Sept 200147 3 hours?Total
    This photo shows the First Interstate Bank Building fire in Los Angeles. Iklim Ltd. described the damage as follows: "In spite of the total burnout of four and a half floors, there was no damage to the main structural members and only minor damage to one secondary beam and a small number of floor pans." [32]

    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 -- much more than occurs in typical controlled demolitions. This indicates that far more explosives were used to destroy the towers than are used in typical 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 photo below shows 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, common in sophisticated demolitions, so they could easily be carried away by the equipment used to dispose of debris.
    • Eyewitnesses reported explosions before and at the outset of the collapses. [33] One example was the video-taped interview with some NY Fire Department firefighters:
      fireman1: Floor by floor it started poppin' out .. ; fireman2: It was as if as if they had detonated, det.. ; fireman1: yea detonated yea ; fireman2: as if they had planned to take down a building, boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom ... ; fireman1: All the way down,
    This photo shows the North Tower at about 8.5 seconds into its collapse.

    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 Site?

    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. [34]
    • Silverstein promptly secured an insurance policy covering "terrorist attacks". [35]
    • 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. [36]
    • Security for the WTC was provided by Securacom, a company with ties to the Bush family. [37]
    • Bomb-sniffing dogs were pulled from the WTC the week before the attack. [38]
    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 there isn't a consensus among 9/11 skeptics as to whether Flight 77 -- a Boeing 757 -- crashed into the Pentagon or not. PM would have its readers believe that all skeptics claim that no jetliner crashed into the Pentagon, and it proceeds to offer evidence to the contrary, ignoring the controversy around this issue. PM avoids pointing out the many persuasive arguments against this theory. While hiding the contentiousness of the question of what hit the Pentagon, PM also hides the consensus within the 9/11 Truth Movement that the targeting of the west wing points to an inside job. [39] [40] 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. [41]

    Citing the ACSE's estimate of the entry hole's extent based on analysis of column damage, PM avoids the more accessible photographic evidence that a 90-foot expanse of the first-floor facade was breached. [42]

    Intact Windows

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: PentagonStrike.co.uk, an online animation widely circulated in the United States and Europe, claims that photographs showing "intact windows" directly above the crash site prove "a missile" or "a craft much smaller than a 757" struck the Pentagon.

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: PM concedes that some windows near the impact area survived the crash because that's what they were supposed to do, being blast resistant -- that, according to Ken Hays, Executive Vice President of Masonry Arts, the Bessemer, AL company that designed, manufactured and installed the Pentagon windows.

    OUR REBUTTAL: 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 directly in the path of portions of a Boeing 757, such as the vertical stabilizer.

    PM uses this claim to backhandedly promote the Pentagon Strike flash animation, which appears to serve the same function as this article: discrediting 9/11 skepticism by associating it with sloppy research and easily disproved ideas.

    Flight 77 Debris

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: Conspiracy theorists insist there was no plane wreckage at the Pentagon. "In reality, a Boeing 757 was never found," claims PentagonStrike.co.uk, which asks the question, "What hit the Pentagon on 9/11?"

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: PM refers us to blast expert Allyn Kilsheimer, CEO of KCE Structural Engineers PC, Washington, DC, whom it quotes as saying, It was absolutely a plane, and I'll tell you why, I saw the marks of the plane wing on the face of the building. I picked up parts of the plane with the airline markings on them. I held in my hand the tail section of the plane, and I found the black box. PM claims his account is backed up by photos of plane wreckage inside and outside the building.

    OUR REBUTTAL: 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 Kilsheimer's incredible statement that "I held in my hand the tail section of the plane."
    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.
    Facts avoided by PM show that the official account of the Pentagon is untenable, and point to an inside job.

    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 a.m., over an hour into the attack and over a half hour after the second tower was hit. [43]
    • 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. [44]

    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. [45]
    • 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. [46]
    • The attack killed only one general and no admirals. The top brass, including Donald Rumsfeld, occupied the opposite side of the sprawling building -- the side that the plane was originally heading for.

    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. [47]
    • Immediately after the crash, Pentagon employees were seen picking up all the debris, prematurely removing forensic evidence from a crime scene, thereby breaking the law.
    In this section, PM attacks four claims pointing to the widely-held theory among 9/11 skeptics that Flight 93 was shot down, rather than forced down by a passenger revolt. In contrast to the previous section, most of these claims are valid, yet PM's refutations are once again unconvincing. Why does PM's lead reporter Benjamin 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 idea of the shoot-down of Flight 93 is entirely consistent with the rest of the official story, and is thus a safe "limited hangout" -- (ie: something they would be willing to admit that is far short of the whole truth.)

    The White Jet

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM: According to BlogD.com at least six eyewitnesses say they saw a small white jet flying low over the crash area almost immediately after Flight 93 went down. ... [It] 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. ... [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. ...

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: PM explains that the white jet was a Dassault Falcon 20 business jet which was on its way to the Johnstown-Cambria airport nearby. According to the company's Director of Aviation and Travel, the FAA asked them to investigate and they did. They got down within 1500 ft. of the ground when they circled. They saw a hole in the ground with smoke coming out of it. They pinpointed the location and then continued on.

    OUR REBUTTAL: There are several problems with this explanation of the white jet.
    • By 10:06 a.m. all civilian aircraft had received orders more than a half hour earlier to land at the nearest airport.
    • Given the number of phone calls by people who observed the crash there was no need to make a special request to a civilian aircraft to pinpoint the location.
    • There were F-16s in the area, according to the official story, which could have been tasked with locating the crash.
    PM concludes its explanation of the white jet with this:
    Gladwell confirmed the account but, concerned about ongoing harassment by conspiracy theorists, asked not to be quoted directly.
    PM's paraphrasing of Gladwell would seem to make it more likely -- rather than less -- that conspiracy theorists would want to contact him, to find out what he really said.

    Roving Engine

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM One of Flight 93's engines was found "at a considerable distance from the crash site," according to Lyle Szupinka, a state police officer on the scene who was quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Offering no evidence, a posting on Rense.com claimed: "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."

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: According to Jeff Reinbold of the National Park Service, a fan from an engine was found 300 yards away in the direction the jet was traveling. "It's not unusual for an engine to move or tumble across the ground," says Michael K. Hynes, an airline accident expert who investigated the crash of TWA Flight 800 out of New York City in 1996. "When you have very high velocities, 500 mph or more, you are talking about 700 to 800 ft. per second. For something to hit the ground with that kind of energy, it would take a few seconds to bounce up and travel 300 yards."

    OUR REBUTTAL: 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. (See Eyewitnesses Saw the Plane Plunge Vertically, below.)

    Indian Lake

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article dated Sept. 13, 2001, some people "reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly 6 miles from the immediate crash scene." The significance of widespread debris? Theorists claim the plane was breaking up before it crashed. TheForbiddenKnowledge.com states bluntly: "Without a doubt, Flight 93 was shot down."

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: According to PM's expert witness Wallace Miller, human remains were only found within a 70-acre area directly surrounding the crash site. It was conceded that paper and tiny scraps of sheet metal could have landed in the lake. "Very light debris will fly into the air, because of the concussion", says former National Transportation Safety Board investigator Matthew McCormick. PM claims Indian Lake is less than 1.5 miles southeast of the crash site -- not 6 miles.

    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.
    OUR REBUTTAL: PM's assertion that Indian Lake was easily within range of debris blasted skyward by the heat of the explosion from the blast 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. [48]

    F-16 Pilot

    PM's PURPORTED CLAIM In February 2004, a retired Army officer is quoted on "The Alex Jones Show," as saying Flight 93 "was taken out by the North Dakota Air Guard. I know the pilot who fired those two missiles to take down 93." LetsRoll911.org identifies the pilot: "Major Rick Gibney fired two Sidewinder missiles at the aircraft and destroyed it in mid-flight at precisely 0958."

    PM'S COUNTER CLAIM: In their final claim, PM 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 New York State's Emergency Management Office, and fly him from Montana to Albany, NY to coordinate the 9/11 rescue operation in Albany.

    OUR REBUTTAL: Regarding the question of Gibney's involvement in the shoot-down, we have the word of LetsRoll911.org against that of an Air National Guard spokesman -- hardly solid evidence on which to judge the claim and counter-claim.

    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 avoids a number of facts about Flight 93's crash that belie its explanation for the far-flung debris, such as eyewitness reports.

    Eyewitnesses Saw the Plane Plunge Vertically

    Eyewitnesses to the crash describe the trajectory of the plane into the ground as nearly vertical.
    • unnamed witness: Says he hears two loud bangs before watching the plane take a downward turn of nearly 90 degrees. [49]
    • 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." [50]
    • unnamed witness: It makes a high-pitched, screeching sound. The plane then makes a sharp, 90-degree downward turn and crashes. [51]
    • 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." [52]
    • 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." [53]


    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 that we do not identify as probable straw-man claims:
    • 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 to 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.

    In its exclusive focus on a handful of physical-evidence-based issues, PM completely ignores large bodies of facts that indicate the innocence of the official suspects and the guilt of Bush Administration insiders.


    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. [54]
    • CEOs from the World Trade Center attended a breakfast meeting hosted by billionaire Warren Buffett at Offutt 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. 34 of the 65 staff of Resource Services Washington, an army office of civilian accountants, was killed in the attack on the west wing of the Pentagon. [55]

    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 Head Richard Myers remained in a meeting with Max Cleland as the attack unfolded. [56]
    • Brig. Gen. Montague Winfield reported that "For 30 minutes we couldn't find" Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [57]
    • National Military Command Center commander Montague Winfield arranged for Capt. Leidig, a rookie on the job, to relieve him of duty at 8:30 a.m. 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 was promoted to head the new NORTHCOM, and General Myers were promoted from acting head to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the attack.
    • The Bush Administration stalled the creation of a special commission for 441 days. [58]
    • George W. Bush named as head of the commission coup and cover-up architect Henry Kissinger, the architect of the September 11, 1973 coup in Chile, but he declined when asked to reveal his secret client list. [59] The figurehead chairs of the commission would be Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, both with ties to the Homeland Security Office, 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. [60] [61]
    • Not a single suspect has been convicted for involvement in the attack either in the United States or abroad. [62] The one alleged exception, Moussaoui, awaits sentencing for involvement in crimes other than the 9/11 attack. FBI director Mueller admitted that "not a single piece of paper" linked the officially named suspects to the attack. [63]
    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 of 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 level of 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. Within each of the four topics, substantial claims are surrounded by easily debunked straw man claims. Within the few valid claims PM uses fallacious, deceptive, and straw man arguments.

    PM's unconvincing arguments against claims in the PENTAGON and FLIGHT 93 topics are noteworthy. Why does the article fail to use available evidence to counter the supposed lack of plane debris at the Pentagon, and why does it highlight the Flight 93's far-flung debris only to provide far-fetched explanations? In the case of the Pentagon, PM appears to be surreptitiously promoting the no-plane theory, perhaps hoping that the reader will question that part of the official story and ignore other more productive lines of inquiry. In the case of Flight 93, PM seems to amplify the case that the plane was shot down. Its shoot-down contradicts an element of the official account, but one that is incidental to whether the attack was an inside job.

    PM's article is a carefully crafted deception. It skillfully employs a range of techniques to misrepresent and slander the 9/11 Truth Movement. These include:

    • Mischaracterizing the movement as an undifferentiated army of conspiracy theorists that uniformly and uncritically embraces a body of easily-debunked claims.
    • Maligning 9/11 Truth activists as sociopaths, harassing the heroes of the tragedy at every turn.
    • Misrepresenting the range of issues addressed by 9/11 skeptics, avoiding all but a few topics.
    • Bracketing valid claims with specious (straw man) claims, thereby contextualizing key ideas as nonsense.
    • Misrepresenting central arguments of 9/11 skeptics, such as those for demolition, and avoiding mentions of compelling evidence.
    • Directing readers to websites and videos that discredit 9/11 Truth with hoaxes.
    This attack -- which appropriated the Popular Mechanics brand, employed sophisticated disinformation techniques, and was promoted by a 4-hour segment on the Art Bell Show and a column in Scientific American -- is evidence of our success. It also highlights the need for the 9/11 Truth Movement to distance itself from the unscientific claims that PM so conveniently employs in its straw-man arguments.

    [1]9/11: Debunking the Myths, Popular Mechanics, http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/defense/1227842.html
    [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]Loss of Oxygen Cited as Possible Cause of Jet's Wayward Flight, Crash, Dallas Morning News, http://www.wanttoknow.info/991026dallasmorningnews
    [5]Revealed: the men with stolen identities, telegraph.co.uk, 9/23/01
    [6]Hijack 'suspects' alive and well, BBC, 9/23/01, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1559151.stm
    [7]Dead Saudi Hijack Suspect Resurfaces, Denies Involvement, AllAfrica.com, 9/24/01, http://allafrica.com/stories/200109240325.html
    [8]'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
    [9]Manager: Men spewed anti-American sentiments, AP, 9/14/01, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2001/09/14/miami-club.htm
    [10]Timeline in Terrorist Attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Washington Post, 9/12/01, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/articles/timeline.html
    [11]'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
    [12]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
    [13]The 9/11 Stand-Down Why there was NOT a 'stand down' order, OilEmpire.us, http://www.oilempire.us/standdown.html
    [14]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
    [15]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
    [16]The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, Olive Branch Press, 2004, p 20
    [17]Photographic Evidence of the Twin Tower Collapses, 911Research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/evidence/photos/index.html
    [18]Video Evidence of the Twin Tower Collapses, 911Research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/evidence/videos/index.html
    [19]Explosives Planted In Towers, N.M. Tech Expert Says, 9/11/01, http://www.911truth.org/readingroom/whole_document.php?article_id
    [20]VP Van Romero Named Chairman of Domestic Preparedness Consortium, NMT, http://infohost.nmt.edu/mainpage/news/2002/11jan05.html
    [21]Wall Street Journal Names Tech 'Hot School', NMT, http://infohost.nmt.edu/mainpage/news/2001/wsj.html
    [22]New Mexico Tech Vice President Romero Named a Top Lobbyist, NMT, http://infohost.nmt.edu/mainpage/news/2003/18dec01.html
    [23]Tech Receives $15 M for Anti-Terrorism Program, NMT, http://infohost.nmt.edu/mainpage/news/2002/25sept03.html
    [24]How the World Trade Center fell, BBC, 9/13/01, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1540044.stm
    [25]The World Trade Center Demolition, 911research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/talks/wtc/index.html
    [26]Fire Resistance of Steel Framed Car Parks, corusconstruction.com, http://www.corusconstruction.com/carparks/cp006.htm
    [27]Speed of Fall:Meaning of the Seismic Records, 911Research.wtc7.net, http://911Research.wtc7.net/wtc/analysis/collapses/freefall.html#seismic
    [28]Video Evidence of an Explosion at the Base of WTC 1, WhatReallyHappened.com, http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/shake.html
    [29]North Tower Collapse Video Frames, 911Research.wtc7.net, http://911Research.wtc7.net/wtc/evidence/videos/ntc_frames.html
    [30]Videos Show Building 7's Vertical Collapse, wtc7.net, http://www.wtc7.net/videos.html
    [31]Progressive Collapse, 911research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/disinfo/collapse/progressive.html
    [32]First Interstate Bank Fire, lafire.com, p www.lafire.com, http://www.lafire.com/famous_fires/880504_1stInterstateFire/050488_InterstateFire.htm
    [33]Eyewitness Accounts, http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/evidence/eyewitnesses.html
    [34]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
    [35]Reinsurance Companies Wait to Sort Out Cost of Damage, New York Times, 9/12/01, p C6
    [36]Double Indemnity, law.com, 9/3/02, http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id
    [37]Secrecy surrounds a Bush brother's role in 9/11 security, SmirkingChimp.com, 1/20/03, http://www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid
    [38]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
    [39]The Pentagon attack, OilEmpire.us, http://oilempire.us/pentagon.html/
    [40]The Pentagon No-757-Crash Theory: Booby Trap for 9/11 Skeptics, 911research.wtc7.net, http://911research.wtc7.net/essays/pentagontrap.html
    [41]Pentagon Attack Errors, 911review.com, http://911review.com/errors/pentagon/index.html
    [42]Pentagon Plane Crash Photos, GeofMetcalf.com, http://www.geoffmetcalf.com/pentagon/pentagon_20020316.html
    [43]Timeline in Terrorist Attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Washington Post, 9/12/01, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/articles/timeline.html
    [44]DCANG Yanks its Mission Statement, http://911review.com/coverup/dcang.html
    [45]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
    [46]Navy Command Center, The Washington Post
    [47]A Trainee Noted for Incompetence, New York Times, p 10, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res
    [48]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
    [49]Cleveland Newschannel 5, 9/11/01
    [50]Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 9/12/01
    [51]Cleveland Newschannel 5, 9/11/01
    [52]WPXI Channel 11, 9/13/01
    [53]St. Petersberg Times, 9/12/01
    [54]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
    [55]Army unit piecing together accounts of Pentagon attack, SouthCoast Today, http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/12-01/12-20-01/a02wn018.htm
    [56]US Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, 10/17/01, http://www.dtic.mil/jcs/chairman/AFRTS_Interview.htm
    [57]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
    [58]The Great Conspiracy, DVD, 2004
    [59]Thomas Kean named to 9/11 panel, 12/16/2002, http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2002-12-16-kean_x.htm
    [60]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/
    [61]Bin Laden says he wasn't behind attacks, CNN.com, 9/17/01, http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/16/inv.binladen.denial/
    [62]9/11 suspect in Germany released, MSNBC.com, 4/7/04, ttp://msnbc.msn.com/id/4683144/
    [63]Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI, Commonwealth Club of California, FBI.gov, http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/speeches/speech041902.htm

    Copyright 2005, Jim Hofman and GlobalOutlook.ca