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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Pentagon Strike Forensics

Supported Conclusions about the Pentagon Strike

Given the complexity of evaluating the evidence of the Pentagon strike, a number of competing theories have emerged, purporting to explain how the attack occurred. In order to better evaluate those theories we attempt to separate conclusions clearly supported by credible evidence from those theories, in order to avoid prejudicing the evaluation of the evidence.

The evidence of the Pentagon attack can be divided into three categories:

  • Photographs taken after the attack, showing debris inside and outside the building, and damage to the building and its surroundings
  • Eyewitness accounts of the moments before, during, and after the attack
  • Statements and artifacts from government sources

Evidence in the first two categories is far more extensive than evidence in the third category, and is more credible, given the possible role of high-level government actors in executing the attack. One of the few examples of evidence in the third category is the set of five frames of Pentagon video apparently leaked by the Pentagon, which shows evidence of forgery.

Superficially, the photographic and eyewitness evidence seem to support two conflicting conclusions:

  • Eyewitness evidence: A jetliner with a shape and color matching an American Airliners Boeing 757 crashed at the Pentagon.
  • Post-crash photographs: Whatever object collided with the building was not a Boeing 757, but something much smaller.

The incompatibility between these conclusions has engendered a long-standing controversy within the 9/11 Truth Movement between those persuaded by the eyewitness reports that the attack plane was a jetliner and likely Flight 77, and those convinced by analysis of the photographic evidence that the attack plane was something else entirely.

Proponents of the no-757-impact theories have argued that photographic evidence, being physical evidence, is more objective than eyewitness evidence and therefore outweighs it. The fundamental problem with applying this reasoning to the Pentagon crash is that it ignores the inferences required to conclude that no 757 hit the Pentagon based on the photographs. The eyewitness evidence is direct, with many witnesses claiming to have seen a twin-engine jetliner fly into the Pentagon and explode. Scores of other witnesses corroborate that account. In contrast, there is no credible photographic evidence showing the Pentagon being hit by something other than a jetliner -- only photographs of building damage and surroundings that many believe is inconsistent with the crash of a 757 based on a series of inferences. Errors in many of those inferences are exposed here.

We believe that the above conflict is largely a result of a lack of care in drawing inferences from the evidence. The eyewitness evidence does not prove that the attack plane was Flight 77, but only that it had the appearances of the type of plane that Flight 77 was. Conversely, the photographs do not prove that the attack plane was not Flight 77, but only that the damage to the building does not have the appearance that most people would expect such a crash to produce. Indeed, several of the eyewitnesses who were convinced that they saw a large jetliner swoop towards the building and explode, expressed confusion about what had become of the aircraft when the smoke cleared.

A scientific approach to resolving questions about the attack is to draw conclusions directly supported by all of the credible evidence and then formulating hypotheses that fit those conclusions. We believe that that a careful examination of the photographic and eyewitness evidence strongly supports the first of the following three conclusions, and weakly supports the second two.

page last modified: 2011-09-08