Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Response to 9/11 Press For Truth 'debunking'

Below is an attempt by the blog, "Screw Loose Change," to dubunk the documentary 9/11 Press For Truth, followed by my response.
This is the hot new video in the 9-11 Denial Movement, although that seems a bit odd as the film does not (according to those who've seen it all) include any mention of the popular conspiracy theories, like the Bumble Planes or the missile into the Pentagon, or the controlled demolition at the World Trade Center. I am going to analyze the film in short bits; today I'll look at the first 10 minutes.

The film starts with a brief intro of clips from 9-11, including the initial CNN report and the crash of Flight 175 into the South Tower. It then jumps to President Bush. The music at this point is rather harsh and jarring in the background as the president gives his speech that evening. The image splits into two, then four then 9 and so on, distancing us from him.

We are introduced to three of the four Jersey Girls, 9-11 widows from the Garden State. Note particularly the soft music as they are introduced. The voice over notes that these widows had questions. At the top of their list is the question of "Why had the US military defenses failed to stop any of the four hijacked planes?"

Here the film engages in a little casual dishonesty. First we are shown a clip that the first hijacking was reported to the military at 8:38 AM (true). Then the announcer intones, "The last plane was reported to have crashed in Pennsylvania just after 10:00 AM (true enough, but the screen says 10:06, which is false; the 9-11 Commission concluded that the plane crashed at 10:03). One of the Jersey girls laughs and says, "That's almost two hours, that planes were flying around the skies of the United States with no military response."

And that is a lot of crap. First, even if we use their times, that's not even an hour and a half. And anyway, the question is not how long the air defenses had to react to all the hijackings, it's how long they had to react to each individual hijacking. As we know, that's not a very long time.

Flight 11: NEADS notified at 8:38. Crashed at 8:45.
Flight 175: NEADS notified at 9:03. Crashed at 9:03.
Flight 77: NEADS notified at 9:34. Crashed at 9:37.
Flight 93: NEADS notified at 10:07. Crashed at 10:03.

As you can see most advance warning that NEADS (Northeast Air Defense Sector, a unit of NORAD) had for any of the hijacked planes was seven minutes for Flight 11. The notion that our air defenses could have intercepted any of these planes with that little warning is completely unrealistic.

The movie then goes on to contrast this supposedly slow response by the military to the 1999 incident where air traffic controllers lost radio contact with Payne Stewart's plane. But in that incident air traffic control (PDF) got no response at 9:33 AM EDT. A Cubana Air flight tried to raise the plane at 9:38. According to the NTSB report on the plane crash the a military plane intecepted Stewart's jet at 9:54 CDT. That may sound like 21 minutes, but note the Time Zone change--it's actually an hour and 21 minutes. So the notion that the military did a crackerjack job with Payne Stewart, but was sluggish in response to 9-11 is just not borne out by the facts.

Next we comes a question about Bush's personal response on 9-11. Once again we get the creepy music; this documentary makes no bones about who's the villain of the piece, and it ain't Osama. We're shown a clip of Cheney talking about the Secret Service yanking him from the White House, and this is contrasted with Bush sitting in the classroom reading to the children, with I guess the implication being that the Secret Service screwed up by not pulling the President from the room. One of the Jersey girls helpfully asks, "If people fell down on the job, by not informing those who were in leadership positions, who had the power to do something, why were we not looking at our protocols so we could fix it going forward."

Of course, one assumes that the standing order since 9-12 is that if there is a terrorist attack again, the President is immediately to be pulled away from what he's doing. And as for that "power to do something", what exactly does she think he could do, run outside and shoot down the hijacked planes with a SAM?

So now we're two "questions" into the movie and they're asking about procedure changes in the event of a terrorist attack?
I actually agree with some of your overall views regarding the various sects of the so-called “9/11 Truth Movement”, but much of your own research is equally flawed and, more importantly, your approach is counterproductive.

There is absolutely no reason or justification for ridiculing members of the Family Steering Committee. They are simply searching for answers regarding the deaths of their loved ones, and they have presented several legitimate questions.

Trying to ‘shut them up’ with personal and poorly researched counterpoints is futile, and, dare I say, wrong.

Instead of wasting your efforts portraying the Jersey girls and other American citizens as brainwashed conspiracy theorists, why not spend some of your time actually analyzing the origins and motivations of the Family Steering Committee and the ‘9/11 Truth Movement’ as a whole?

If you take the time, you will discover that many so-called ‘conspiracy theorists’ are actually highly respectable and well-researched individuals that, in many cases, have uncovered explosive information.

By solely concentrating on any given social movement’s flaws and fringe elements, it is easy to convince oneself that the social movement is delusional and wrong, which is apparently your specialty.

This, of course, accomplishes nothing…except to provide a slight boost to your own self-confidence.

You want my advice?

Instead of blindly attempting to refute every conspiracy you come across, try objectively analyzing the evidence and picking out the ‘gold from the garbage’. Instead of stomping the Jersey girls into the ground, offer constructive criticism that could be used to improve and refine their cause.

Fight for the people, not for the institution.

Now for the facts…

"Why had the US military defenses failed to stop any of the four hijacked planes?"

Contrary to your viewpoint, this is a perfectly legitimate question.

You have the audacity to label Lorie Van Auken’s statement as a “lot of crap,” but you blatantly misinterpret her comments. As you yourself state, Van Auken said, "That's almost two hours that planes were flying around the skies of the United States with no military response."

From the first hijacking (about 8:13) to the downing of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania (10:03-10:06) is indeed nearly two hours.

Your contrasting viewpoint is based on inaccurate military notification times, along with the omission of ATC and FAA notification times, and the subsequent delayed responses to those notifications, all of which have yet to be explained by any government investigation.

You write, “The notion that our air defenses could have intercepted any of these planes with that little warning is completely unrealistic.”

But even General Ralph Eberhart testified before the 9/11 Commission that the Air Force could have intercepted and shot down all of the planes, that is, if the FAA had immediately alerted the military as standard procedures require. Eberhart was asked by the Commission…
“…would it have been physically possible, if everything had gone right in terms of communication of information and communication of orders -- would it still physically have been possible for the military pilots to have shot down either the plane that hit the first World Trade tower, or the plane that hit the second World Trade tower, or the plane that hit the Pentagon?

GEN. EBERHART: …if that is the case, yes, we could shoot down the airplanes. …”
So what exactly interfered with “communication of information and communication of orders”?

For one, all of STRATCOM, in coordination with several military and civilian branches of government, including the FAA, were participating in a massive military exercise, which included the use of an alternative communication/command system, a fact the 9/11 Commission avoided completely.

The exercise, known as Global Guardian, was conducted in conjunction with several related exercises, such as NORAD’s Vigilant Guardian, which included at least one hijacking scenario roughly scheduled for the same time as the attacks.

As for the military notification times you have listed, they are all in dispute, and some have been proven wrong, which is exactly why a new and independent investigation is warranted.

If you wish, I can elaborate further on any of these issues. I also welcome your criticism, but please refrain from name-calling and personal attacks.

As for your bit on Payne Stewart, standard scramble and interception procedures were and are executed on a regular basis, as documented in 9/11 Press For Truth and omitted from your review. Payne Stewart is just one example.

NORAD maintained 14 ‘alert sites’ in the United States, each with two fighters that could be scrambled within five minutes notice, but standard procedures were not followed on 9/11 and, consequently, not one of the hijacked flights was intercepted.

More to the point, you neglect to mention the fact that the information presented in 9/11 Press For Truth regarding the Payne Stewart incident is provided by an ABC news clip, which states, "just 25 minutes into the flight, controllers lost radio contact with the pilot and an Air Force F-16 on a training mission was sent to take a look.”

You claim to refute ABC’s above statement, citing an NTSB report and an apparent time zone discrepancy.

The fighters referred to in the ABC report, however, were from Tyndall Air Force Base, while the fighters you are referring to (and referred to in the NTSB report) were scrambled from Eglin Air Force Base.

As Knight-Ridder reported, “according to an Air Force timeline, a series of military planes provided an emergency escort to the stricken Lear, beginning with a pair of F-16 Falcons from the Air National Guard at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., about 20 minutes after ground controllers lost contact.”

This is corroborated by a separate ABC report, which states, “According to an Air Force summary, after contact was initially lost, two F-15s from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., were sent to track the Learjet.”

The AP timeline confirms the Tyndall scramble order at 10:08, Eastern Time, “Two F-16s from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., were airborne on routine mission when diverted to provide the initial escort.”

Further confirmation comes from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which reported, “At 10:08, Eastern time, at the FAA's request, two F-16 Air Force fighter jets scrambled from Tyndall Air Force Base to overtake and visually inspect the unresponsive Learjet.”

Note that some reports place the loss of contact at 9:34, while others place the time at 9:44. Regardless, your analysis is, to barrow a phrase, ‘a lot of crap’.

I do not know why the NTSP report does not mention the Tyndall fighters, but a measure of time and distance makes clear that the scramble order was indeed placed much earlier than you claim.

Furthermore, loss of contact with a commercial passenger airliner is considered far more serious than loss of contact with a private Learjet, and there are and were standard procedures for dealing with such a situation—procedures that, for whatever reason, were apparently not followed and/or obstructed on 9/11.

This issue certainly deserves further scrutiny.

Your third point regarding President Bush is nothing but a half-witted shot in the dark, so I won’t even waste time going into detail regarding the Secret Service’s and Bush’s lack of action, but there is one point worth mentioning.

You say, “And as for that "power to do something", what exactly does she think he (the President) could do, run outside and shoot down the hijacked planes with a SAM?”

If you dedicated just a fraction of your time to research instead of crafting sarcasm you would have quickly discovered that the only person with the authority to order a commercial aircraft shot down is the President. That is his “power to do something”.


Blogger Lois Walsh said...

As clarification, A F-16 from the 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin AFB was diverted to intercept the Learjet. He met the aircraft over Memphis, TN and shadowed the aircraft for approximately 20 minutes and 100 miles before disengaging near St. Louis. He was part of a two-ship training mission before directing the pilot to refuel before flying with the jet. Initially two F-15s from Tyndall were dispatched; however, controllers determined Eglin's F-16 was in a better position to respond. I was the Public Affairs officer when this happened and was in many interviews with the F-16 pilot after the event.

9:11 AM  
Blogger BuckDevlin said...

The timing of the scramble order, 10:08am EDT, is the point I was trying to get across.

Can you confirm this time? And if so, can you confirm your identity?

Also, can you explain why the NTSB report omits the original scramble order?

And if you don't mind me asking, how did you come across this site?

2:47 PM  

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