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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Pentagon Video

What Do the Five Video Frames Show?

The five frames from the Pentagon security camera have played a critical role in the development of no-jetliner theories of the Pentagon attack. The frames are reproduced on hundreds of websites that promote theories that the Pentagon was hit, not by Flight 77, but by a missile, drone, or something else.

Several minutes footage from two Pentagon security cameras released in May of 2006 include the five frames in circulation since 2002. The videos corroborate the five frames.


The Video Frames as Bait

A common interpretation of why the frames were released and what they show about the attack is exemplified in the video Painful Deceptions . It suggests that the frames were released in order to quell a growing chorus among skeptics that no plane hit the Pentagon. The images became public not long after French researcher Thierry Meyssan published his book, L'effroyable Imposture (The frightening Fraud), explaining his theory that the damage to the Pentagon resulted from a truck bomb rather than a plane crash. These theorists were quick to point out that, rather than supporting the official story, the frames show three things:

  • The apparent plane mostly obscured by the foreground structure in the first frame is much too small to be a Boeing 757.
  • The apparent vapor trail behind the apparent plane could not have been produced by the turbofan engines of a jetliner. It is consistent with the exhaust plume of a missile.
  • The white color of the explosion in the second frame cannot be explained as the combustion of jet fuel. It indicates the use of explosives.
Ignoring or misrepresenting the physical and eyewitness evidence that a jetliner hit the Pentagon, theorists who seized on the video frames as evidence for the small plane and missile theories. The failure of officials to release additional frames, ones that might show the plane clearly and reveal the first moments of the explosion, seemed to validate the five frames. Although peculiarities in the timecodes on the bottom of the cropped versions of the frames were widely noted, few bothered to ask whether the imagery in the frames had been edited.

Painful Deceptions suggests that the Pentagon officials responsible for releasing the frames were simply too stupid to anticipate that skeptics would use them to attack the official story that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. But were the people covering up such a meticulously planned crime really so careless? We will revisit this question after examining the images for tampering.


Evidence the Images Were Edited

There are many peculiar features of the video images. Some have possible explanations, such as the red glow in front of the helicopter control tower being the result of ionized air from the explosion. In this section we note several other features that appear anomalous and prompted us to suggest theat the images were forged. The release of two videos in May of 2006 -- one video being the source of the five frames -- prompted us to re-evaluate our analysis of the apparent anomalies, and we no longer find the case for forgery as compelling as we once did. With that caveat, we present our earlier analysis of the five frames.

In the following we refer to the individual frames using the captions in the cropped set: plane, impact, #2 impact, #3 impact, and #4 impact.

  • impact has an elevated brightness throughout the image, not just in areas that would be illuminated by the explosion.
  • impact has peculiar patches of color on the pavement.
  • #2 explosion shows a roughly conical explosion whose vertical axis lies deep within the building.
  • #3-#5 explosion show sunlight-illuminated lawn that should be darkened by shadows from the explosion.
Several of these points were originally raised in the analysis of Guardian, mirrored here. Guardian's analysis, though meticulous, suffers from some errors, such as the contention that enhanced edges in shadows are evidence of fabrication. In fact such features are common artifacts of digital cameras.

Uniformly Elevated Brightness

The image in impact is much brighter than any of the other 4 images. The brightness is higher throughout the image, not just in regions that would be illuminated by the bright explosion. Also, the sky in this frame is a slightly different hue than in the other frames.

It is possible that light from the explosion interacted with the recording medium to elevate the brightness throughout the image, but that would not explain the explosion's failure to produce shadows. We see no shadows from the explosion anywhere in the image. Note the setback in the facade in the middle of the images to the right. The setback is considerably closer than the explosion, yet it casts no shadow on the portion of the facade just in front of it. We cannot see even faint shadows from other objects, such as the structures in the vicinity of the camera. While the explosion might not be expected to produce visible shadows on regions of the ground illuminated by sunlight, its failure to generate one on the Pentagon's shaded west facade seems peculiar.

Peculiar Patches of Color

The Guardian article has the following about the impact image:

Notice that, the "impact" picture has clearly been touched up. Notice that, the green tinge on the left has been partly (and amateurishly) erased and that the top left corner has probably been erased. These areas have been outlined in blue. It is possible that the effect in the top left corner is due to over exposure, caused by the sun, but then, why is this effect not visible in the photos taken just before and just after this one.

It is possible that the patches are artifacts of the camera caused by the explosion.

Shape of Explosion Relative to Building

The last three frames show an explosion with a shape that is roughly axially symmetric around a vertical axis. The center of the impact zone lies approximately behind the center of the helicopter control tower as seen by the camera. That places the central axis of the explosion well inside of the building -- easily 100 feet behind the facade. But the part of the building above the impact hole did not collapse until well after the impact and explosion. How could an explosion evolve in such a symmetrical manner around the obstacle of the building without reflecting the shape of the building?

It is possible that the explosion only appears to be radially symmetrical from the camera's vantage point, and that the left side growing over the top of the building is closer to the camera than the right side. However, the manner in which the right side of the rising fireball hugs the roof of the building looks peculiar.

Missing Shadow From Explosion

By the last of the five frames, the explosion, which appears to extend to at least four times the building's height, has become dark with soot. Yet the huge explosion casts no apparent shadow from the sun on the lawn directly below it. Shadows of other objects show that the sun is low in the southeast, as one would expect at 9:38 AM in September. The Pentagon's wall, which faces almost due west, casts long shadows extending to the left and toward the camera. But there appears to be sunlight-illuminated lawn directly left of the huge explosion. The uppermost swath of white in the enlargement to the right appears to be part of the heliport, which was directly under portions of the explosion. Yet it is illuminated by direct sunlight.

It is possible that our analysis of the features in the image is mistaken. The lawn in the area of the explosion is highly foreshortened, making it difficult to interpret the geometry of the objects and shadows.


Motive for Fabrication

This evidence that the video frames were manipulated, though not conclusive, further discredits the idea that the release of these images was just a miscalculation on the part of people involved in the cover-up. The source of these images must have known that they show a vapor trail, an obscured aircraft that is clearly not a 757, and an explosion that could not have resulted from jet fuel combustion alone. It is unreasonable to think that this set of five frames is anything other than a planned part of the cover-up. They fueled theories that the Pentagon crash involved a small plane and a missile, rather than a jetliner such as Flight 77. The perpetrators have correctly predicted that controversy between people rejecting and insisting that Flight 77 crashed at the Pentagon would divide skeptics.

page last modified: 2013-03-20