Analysis of the Pentagon Attack Eyewitness Accounts
Given the geography of the Pentagon's surroundings, and the traffic jam that brought thousands of cars to a near-standstill on the highways on its west side on the morning of September 11, 2001, hundreds if not thousands of people must have witnessed some aspect of the attack. Accounts of scores of these witnesses were recorded in the form of press interviews and reports on websites.
On this page, we first look at the picture created by the body of eyewitnesses as a whole, and then scrutinize the evidence more critically to address questions of bias and fraud:
Trends in Witness Data
Anyone who reads the collections of Pentagon witness accounts such as Eric Bart's is likely to be impressed by the broad agreement among witnesses on aspects of the event -- the low-angle approach of a large jetliner followed by a huge explosion and billowing smoke. Some proponents of theories excluding a jetliner have amplified inconsistencies and bizarre details in the accounts, while ignoring their agreement.
|about 89||The amount of eye witnesses I gathered who stated they saw an object crash into the Pentagon. The vast majority of the still available ones.|
|at least 45||The amount of eye witnesses who reported seeing a plane and described it with words like: 'airliner', 'big', 'silver', 'roaring', etc.|
|at least 23||The amount of eye witnesses who specifically said they saw an American Airlines jet. In all cases a large jet.|
|at least 22||The amount of witnesses who reported the noise of the plane was very loud to deafening.|
|at least 17||The amount of eye witnesses who stated they saw a plane running down light poles when crossing the highways.|
|at least 12||The amount of eye witnesses who stated they saw and heard the plane increase its throttle at the last seconds.|
|at least 11||The amount of eye witnesses who stated they saw a C-130H flying 30 seconds behind a jetliner.|
|at least 5||The amount of eye witnesses who specifically stated they saw the plane had its gear up.|
|at least 2||The amount of eye witnesses who stated that they saw a small corporate jet, without doing any creative interpretating [sic] of the witness accounts.|
|at least 0||The amount of eye witnesses who stated they saw a missile. What the person thought he heard isn't relevant!|
|at least 0||The amount of eye witnesses who stated they saw a military jet fighter at the time of the crash.|
|at least 0||The amount of eye witnesses who stated they saw a Global Hawk at the time of the crash.|
|at least 3||The amount of witnesses who reported the sound of the plane was quite noiseless. (One of them acknowledged it was the shock)|
|at least 1||The amount of eye witnesses who stated they saw the plane had it's gear down. (Indirect, said a wheel hit a pole)|
|at least 25||The amount of witnesses who have said something that might point to the use of explosives or incendiaries. (White flash, powerful blast waves which blew people through the air, molten glass, burning aluminium, [sic] spreading debris over hundreds of yards back to where the plane came from, including 2 engines, the missing plane itself, etc.)|
A quick look at this summary indicates overwhelming support by the eyewitnesses that a large jetliner crashed into the Pentagon.
Questions of Witness Fraud
One of the most frequent arguments used to dismiss the body of eyewitness evidence in order to deny that a jetliner attacked the Pentagon is that the majority of witnesses have connections to the military or the press, and therefore their accounts are suspect. However, given the proximity of most of the witnesses to the Pentagon and nearby military-related facilities, it's only natural that most of the witnesses would be involved with the military in some capacity. Several reporters for USA TODAY witnessed the event because offices in the USA TODAY building in Arlington, VA had a view of the Pentagon's west side.
Regardless of the number of witnesses with connections to the military or press, there are a substantial number of witnesses with no apparent connections, and the accounts of both groups are substantially in agreement. If one studies the breakdown of witnesses by observation detail, there is no obvious correlation between observation and witness type.
Even if one assumes that scores of witnesses were coached to lie or for some other reason lied to support the official story, one would have to assume the absurdity that all the other people who happened to glimpse the aircraft due to their being slow-moving traffic on the highways west of the Pentagon -- at least hundreds of people -- saw fit to remain silent about having seen something other than a jetliner.
Questions of Witness Contamination
A more compelling question raised in regard to the veracity of witness reports of a jetliner is the observation that witnesses could have either adjusted their accounts to fit later reports regarding the Pentagon attack, or that their first perceptions were biased by prior reports of a jetliner crashing into the South Tower. However, there is a limit to the degree to which perceptions can be biased by context. With the exception of the two accounts of a commuter jet -- both by witnesses distant from the event, every account that mentions the attack plane is either consistent with or describes specific features of a twin-engine jetliner such as a Boeing 757. But the most common types of aircraft mentioned by the non-jetliner theorists are a missile, a cruise missile, a Global Hawk, a fighter jet, or A-30 type military jet. It is not reasonable to suppose that all of these witnesses could have been influenced by reports to re-interpret the sighting of such an entirely different type of aircraft as a jetliner, for a number of reasons:
- No witness reports sighting a military plane or missile, or a plane with features inconsistent with a 757, such as no wings, wings attached to the top or middle of the fuselage, one engine instead of two, or engines attached to the tail section.
- Most broadcast media did not begin reporting that a jetliner crashed into the Pentagon until about two hours after the attack. Several of the accounts may have been collected from witnesses before those reports were broadcast or before witnesses heard reports.
- Of the eyewitnesses who identified the model of the aircraft, as many named a Boeing 737 or Airbus A-320 as named a Boeing 757, the type of plane that AA 77 was. The media-contamination theory does not explain the naming of a plane that is not a 757 but looks like one.
- There is broad agreement among witnesses on specific details of the approach of the aircraft, such as its clipping lampposts, banking to the left, adding power at the last second, and flying with its flaps up. Such a level of observational detail would seem irreconcilable with witnesses grossly altering their recollections about the type of aircraft to fit the official story.
- Some of those details, which are not explained by the much less specific news reports, are inconsistent with the types of aircraft proposed by non-jetliner theorists. For example, missiles, cruise missiles, and Global Hawks do not have flaps.
- No Pentagon witnesses admit to reinterpreting their original impressions to fit the official narrative. This starkly contrasts with numerous examples from oral histories of emergency responders to the WTC attack admitting to retracting their initial conclusions of explosives and demolition to fit the official gravity collapse explanation.