Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Osama bin Laden - Evil Supergenius?

Osama bin Laden is an evil supergenius, so we have been told by the Bush administration (but most people now understand that the Bushies lie about everything). Only a supergenius could have come up with such a plan and carried it out, they say.

If that's the case, why was the plan that was executed on 9-11 so completely fucking crap? The plan should not have worked. The plan was guaranteed to fail, and you didn't have to be even a genius, let alone a supergenius, to know it would fail. The best that plan could have possibly achieved was to force the USAF to shoot down four passenger aircraft carrying US civilians. Indeed, it was a very good plan for forcing the USAF to shoot down passenger aircraft, but that was not the intention of the plan. Why do I insist the plan that was carried out on 9-11 was totally unworkable?

For several decades before 9-11, NORAD (the North American Air Defense Command), ATC (US Air Traffic Control) and the USAF had a set of standard operating procedures. If an aircraft did not make a scheduled contact with ATC, or if an aircraft failed to respond to a contact initiated by ATC, or if an aircract deviated from charted course, or if an aircraft switched off its transponder (which sends out an idenfication code and the altitude of the aircraft), then NORAD and the USAF were immediately alerted. The USAF would scramble one or more jet fighters to intercept the aircraft, and the fighters are expected to be alongside the aircraft within fifteen minutes of being alerted.

The fighter pilot would assess the situation. If he saw structural damage that had caused depressurization and no sign of movement of crew or passengers he'd know they were probably all dead and the plane was travelling on auto-pilot (this was precisely what had happened to the Learjet carrying golfer Payne Stewart). If the (uniformed) crew were in the cockpit and moving, the fighter pilot would try to contact them by radio. If that didn't work, the fighter pilot and passenger pilot would exchange signals by (in daylight) manœuvres such as rocking wings or (at night) by flashing navigation lights. These signals are pre-defined by the USAF and are taught to all pilots who fly in US airspace.

Until a few months after Bush stole the 2000 election, if all on the passenger plane were dead, or if it appeared that the passenger plane's crew were out of action (possibly through food poisoning or illness) and passengers were struggling to control the plane, or if it appeared that the plane had been hijacked, then the fighter pilot was authorized to shoot down the passenger plane if it appeared to pose a threat to life or property. The fighter pilot didn't have to ask up the chain of command because the delays that would entail could mean an answer came too late. It makes sense that it should be that way: if the passenger plane is about to crash into a populated area then all on board will be killed whether it is shot down or crashes, but if it is shot down then people on the ground will be saved.

After Bush stole the election, Rumsfeld (for reasons never explained) decided that the fighter pilot would need to obtain presidential authority for a shoot-down. A life-or-death situation with possibly only minutes to make a decision. Yet the pilot would have to go through his chain of command until reaching somebody with sufficient rank to wake up President Chimp in the middle of the night, or in the middle of a nap (and we all now know how ratty he is if his sleep is interrupted because of the atrocious impoliteness of his in South America because they kept him up past his bedtime).

Anyone who knows how the military chain of command works knows what would really happen. If there was sufficient time the pilot would work his way up through the chain of command and would very shortly hit somebody who would say "I'll try to reach the President but if time runs out then shoot the bastard down and I'll take the blame by saying I lied to you about Presidential authority." If there wasn't even time for that then the pilot would shoot down the passenger plane anyway. Whether the pilot made the decision or one of his superiors did, there would be an expectation that an honourable President (i.e., one who does not have the surname "Bush") would check on what happened, figure out that the right action had been taken, and claim to have given Presidential authorization (one of the few lies I could condone a President for telling).

Would Osama have known about this standard operating procedure? Until 9-11 it was documented on various USAF websites and on the ATC website. The highjackers would have been told about it during the knowledge part of their training. Very early on in their training, because it's one of the things you really need to know about: being shot down because your radio isn't working and you don't know what a USAF fighter rocking his wings in front of you means can really ruin your day. One way or another, Osama would have learned of it and would have adjusted his plans accordingly.

Except he didn't. All four hijacked planes stopped communicating with ATC. All four planes turned off their transponders. They arrived at their targets at different times, with over an hour's gap in some cases, giving ATC plenty to be suspicious about after WTC1 was hit. And all four planes went wildly off-course: take a look at the map below (there are bigger maps which show that flight 11 even had a small semicircular deviation in its course). And they all did so at least 30 minutes' flying time away from their targets, so there was plenty of time to realize something was wrong and scramble a fighter to intercept.



As I said, a good plan for forcing the US to shoot down passenger planes. Of course, if Osama had just wanted to kill the passengers the highjackers could have flown the planes into the ground. But I suppose there is some added benefit in terms of humiliating the US in having the USAF have to shoot down the planes. But as a way of achieving the events of 9-11 it is a totally fucking crap plan. It could not possibly have worked. I'm no supergenius, but even I can figure out a better plan than that. If I were a supergenius I could figure out the answer without needing intermediate steps, so bear with me as I work my way through the alternatives.

All the known targets, and the hypothesised target of flight 77 (Washington, DC) had nearby airports. So why not hijack planes which were destined for the airports near the targets and divert at the last moment? No suspicious gallivanting all over the sky. No suspicious diversion when so far from the target that an interception was possible. Before ATC even had chance to alert the USAF the plane would have struck its target. Perfect! Except for one thing.

It's hard to be sure what Osama did intend with the twin towers. There is a videotape of dubious provenance of somebody who looks a little like Osama saying that he thought the towers might collapse but he wasn't sure. I wouldn't have been sure either because those towers had been designed to withstand an impact from a fully-fuelled 707 (which has almost the same kinetic energy, mass and fuel load as the 767s which actually hit). I'd have been even less sure since no tower of similar construction has ever collapsed as a result of fire, not even fires that were far more intense, were burning on more floors, and which burned for far longer. But whether Osama merely thought there would be a "Towering Inferno" or hoped there was a chance the towers would collapse, he'd want as much fuel as possible. He'd also want as much fuel as possible in case one of his novice pilots hit a tower at an angle and a lot of fuel slooshed out the adjacent side of the building (as happened with WTC2, causing a spectacular fireball).

Planes generally do not start their journies with full tanks. The more weight a plane carries, the more fuel it has burn to carry that weight. So carrying fuel in excess of what is required is just burning money carrying fuel you didn't need (by the same token your car's fuel economy will improve a lot if you don't fill the tank more than half full except when you have a journey with a hell of a long way between gas stations). Planes carry the minimum amount of fuel needed to get the payload to the destination, plus a little extra as a safety margin in case there are unexpected headwinds or the plane is forced to divert to an alternative airport. So there wouldn't be enough fuel for what Osama wanted to do. Can we improve upon the plan and somehow minimize suspicion while maximizing fuel? We can indeed.

Hijack planes departing from airports near their targets. Once you've taken control, report a problem to ATC that requires a return to the airport. There are a good many reasons why this may be required. As long as you take control before the plane is closer to a different airport than the one you departed from, it's going to work. Maximum fuel load because you're near the start of the journey. In fact you can get a lot more fuel for the twin towers if you hijack a transatlantic flight instead of an internal flight. Although ATC might be a little suspicious about you turning back, particularly if they recognize that the voice making the request wasn't the one they originally talked to, they won't be too suspicious. You could say you were a passenger with no experience in that type of aircraft because the flight crew had come down with food poisoning. You could even say you were a hijacker and wanted to hold the passengers hostage until some terrorist prisoners were released and you wanted to be sure there was enough fuel on board that you could use that plane to get those prisoners out of the US. You could even persuade a radical muslim who speaks English with a US accent to join your hijack team. Your plane, with as much fuel as possible, is on its way back to the airport it took off from. At the last minute you divert to your target. Perfect! Well, almost.

Departures are frequently delayed. But ideally you want all your hijacked planes to hit their targets within no more than five or ten minutes of each other. After the first aircraft hits ATC might wonder if the other aircraft that turned back are going to do something similar. After the second aircraft hits they'll be damned sure of it. Fighters will be scrambled, so the rest of the hijacked aircraft have to hit their targets before they can be shot down. Can we cope with that? Yes.

All the planes had skyphones. Shortly after takeoff one of the hijackers would phone an accomplice on the ground saying when the aircraft departed. As soon as the hijackers take control, they would again phone the accomplice saying when it happened. When the accomplice is told of the time the final aircraft is hijacked, he works out when each would have to turn around in order to arrive at their targets close together. Every five minutes the hijackers phone the accomplice to ask him when to turn around. It may seem a complex calculation, perhaps even an impossible requirement to meet. But if you hijack transatlantic flights scheduled to depart NW before the others depart DC, they have plenty of extra fuel anyway. If the DC flights are delayed the NY flights still have plenty of fuel. If the NY flights are delayed that just brings their departure time closer to that of the DC flights. The calculations may seem a little complex, but a supergenius would have no difficulty writing a computer program to perform them.

So there you have it. None of the four planes do anything that would cause a USAF fighter to be scrambled until they divert at the very last moment (when no fighter could reach them in time). All of them have as much fuel as possible so as to cause the most damage. All of them arrive so closely together that by the time ATC has figured out what's going on and fighters have been scrambled then the last plane has hit its target. Now that really is perfect.

And you don't have to be a supergenius to figure it out (because I know I'm not even a genius). So that must have been how supergenius Osama planned it, and it must have been how it was carried out. Right? As we all know, wrong. Osama did it in the worst way possible. A way guaranteed to fail. In fact it was such a totally fucking crap plan that Osama makes Inspector Clousseau look like the world's smartest and most competent man.

But wait, I hear you say. On 9-11, Dick Cheney was personally supervising several exercises designed to test the response to a situation exactly like what happened that day (how coincidental) even though "nobody would ever have anticipated aircraft being used as missiles." Maybe Osama got wind of that and figured out he could do it the way he did, burning off valuable fuel, rather than the sensible way that maximized fuel.

That doesn't fly. In the first place, why would Osama trust such information? It could well be that the CIA had learned of his plans and was feeding him disinformation in the hope of luring him into doing it the stupid way so that the USAF would have a bigger safety margin in the amount of time needed to intercept. In the second place, why waste all that fuel doing it the stupid way? In the third place, he had to have figured that the exercise would be a full end-to-end test involving interceptors because the fighters would have no knowledge of the hijacked plane's altitude once it switched its transponder of and, anyway, part of the exercise would be checking that the fighters scrambled and intercepted within the specified time. In the fourth place he had to have figured out that the military top brass would be observing results and be comparing when a plane was intercepted against when it was scheduled to misbehave: as soon as one of Osama's hijacked planes misbehaved the top brass would realize it was a real hijack.

Ah, you say, but it was an exercise so the fighters would have been fitted with dummy weapons to prevent accidents. Maybe, but a sane exercise would plan for the possibility that a real hijack might occur in the middle of the exercise and plan accordingly. But even if not, the fighter pilots had another option.

Air Force pilots of many countries have found themselves in a crippled aircraft. Normally they eject and let the aircraft crash. But in cases where they are near a populated area and there is a chance that the aircraft will kill civilians, they stay with the aircraft right to the end in order to guide it to an unpopulated (or at least less-densely populated) area. They haven't been given orders that they must do that, they do it from a sense of duty. They knew when they signed up that one day they might have to give their lives to protect their fellow countrymen, so they stay with the aircraft until it hits the ground. With that sort of tradition, do you think there is any USAF pilot who would not have willingly rammed a hijacked plane about to hit the World Trade Center?

The only reason that Osama succeeded is that the Bush administration, the intelligence agencies, ATC, NORAD, and the USAF were all apparently even more staggeringly, bumblingly incompetent than Osama was. Apparently, rather than being a battle between the mighty, competent, smart US and supergenius Osama, it was a battle of the clowns. Or maybe not...

It all makes sense if it was an inside job. One in which Dick Cheney's exercises were designed to confuse the hell out of ATC and delay them reporting to NORAD and the USAF. Those four hijacked planes were assumed to be part of the exercise. An exercise that should have been a full end-to-end test of interception times and that should have made provision for a real hijack occurring during the exercise (especially after the August 6th Presidential Daily Brief warning that Osama was determined to hijack planes and attack the United States) but, as events of that day clearly show us, did not do end-to-end tests or allow for the possibility of a real hijacking occuring at the same time.

And that explains why every shred of evidence points to the twin towers and WTC7 being dropped by controlled explosive demolitions. If Osama had been able to plant such charges he wouldn't have needed the hijacks. But the only way Osama would have been able to place the many charges required throughout the building would be if his brother, Jeb bin Laden, were a senior executive for the company which handled World Trade Center security (by contrast, George W Bush's brother, James Ellis "Jeb" Bush, was a senior executive for the company which handled WTC security). The hijacks were a cover for an inside job.

But why, if it was an inside job, do it the wrong way? Why not do it the way it should have been done if Osama really had been behind it? Why do it in a way which made ATC, NORAD and the USAF look like incompetents and fools? Why do it in a way that means that people like me can point out that Osama wouldn't have done it that way? Why do it in a way that the only plausible explanation for how it happened is that it was an inside job?

Simple. It was a made-for-TV reality horror movie. One that kept the audience glued to its seats. A hijacked aircraft has been flown into WTC1. There are three (or, as some reports said, four) more hijacked aircraft. Where will they strike? Will it be the building I, or one of my loved ones, is in? What will happen next? Oh no! Now an aircraft has hit WTC2. How much longer will it take them to find these other hijacked aircraft? Oh my God! WTC2 just collapsed. What about WTC1? Will it collapse too? What about those remaining two (three?) hijacked aircraft? Oh god! Now it's the Pentagon! Where next? They think Washington, again, maybe.

An emotional roller-coaster that kept everyone (in a position to watch it happening) glued to their seats. Just blowing up the buildings would not have had as much effect. Nor would it have permitted the introduction of the draconian, inaptly-named USA PATRIOT Act. And just blowing up the buildings would have led to questions of how Osama had managed to rig up a controlled explosive demolition (a simple bomb, as used in his first attempt, would have caused the tower to topple). So now you know why it happened the way it did, using a plan that could not possibly have worked.

I know what you're going to say. Osama would have liked that emotional roller-coaster too. So maybe he did do it that way after all. Yes, but Osama would have known he'd have only one shot. After that airport security would be tightened up to the extent that he could never do it again anywhere in the world (actually, US airport security hasn't been tightened up enough to stop him). He'd be gambling everything, being almost guaranteed to lose, to get a little extra shock and horror. If he thought there was a reasonable chance he could get away with it then maybe he'd have taken that risk. But as an evil supergenius he'd know he'd blow his one and only chance to cause serious damage to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and wherever that fourth plane was headed. As a supergenius he'd realize that doing it the wrong way in the hope of getting a little extra shock and horror was about as sensible as playing Russian Roulette with a fully-loaded revolver in the hope of impressing people how brave he was.

As mathematicians and philosophers say: "reductio ad absurdum" meaning "reduced to absurdity" or "proof by contradiction." You set out to disprove something (that Osama was an evil supergenius behind the attacks) by assuming, for the sake of argument, that which you wish to disprove is true. You then show that if the thing you wish to disprove were true it leads to logical contradictions (Osama is a supergenius yet he is also a bumbling, incompetent fucktard). That which you wished to disprove must, therefore, be false.

Osama may or may not be a genius. Osama may or may not even have been involved. It was an inside job, and if Osama was involved the reason it happened the way it did was because his masters in the Bush administration told him to do it that way.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a brilliant piece, which I am going to spread far and wide.

GW

Friday, November 25, 2005 5:47:00 PM  
Blogger Brian de Ford said...

Be my guest. It's not like there isn't already enough proof to hang these bastards, but the problem is getting some people to accept it. The more flaws we point out in the official story, the better our chances.

Friday, November 25, 2005 5:51:00 PM  
Blogger SourDove said...

Indeed, it was a very good plan for forcing the USAF to shoot down passenger aircraft,

Almost. You are falling prey to an intentional effort to confuse the public regarding intercept procedure.

It was a very good plan for forcing the USAF to force four landings. Shootdown permission is a last resort, and can only follow a successful interception and failure to force a landing.

Either way, the plan posits a team willing to risk life in prison or death in mid-air in order to send the message that US defenses are impregnable.

You are very close to a key point, and one that was painfully obvious to me when I first read about the plot in late 1997 and early 1998.

The details of the plan, including the list of targets and the presence of the alleged plotters at US flight schools including secure US military bases were all published by Associated Press during the Yousef trial, despite the judge's decision not to include the 9/11 conspiracy among the conspiracy charges in that case.

However, this angle too is a distraction used to justify panicky new laws. If indeed 9/11 was the work of an international team with ties to a shadowy global network, rounding up suspects could never secure the targets. Instead, the Pentagon demonstrated the right approach in Genoa a few weeks before 9/11, when they bragged that defense PR alone prevented all and any planes-into-buildings attacks in that foreign city. What's more, the Genoa warnings were scant compared to the years of detailed alerts that followed the New York Times' coverage of the plot during the Yousef trial. In fact, the key point that made me notice that the plan required inside help was that the stories never surfaced again.

Sure enough, the 9/11 cOmmission began with the false premise that the plan dated to 1998 at the earliest, even though they had collected ample testimony including FBI documents detailing bureau knowledge of the plot as early as 1995. This early detail and the quashing of 9/11 evidence in the Yousef trial may account for the ruse.

It is also likely that honest civil servants saw the same flaws in the plan that you and I do: it was irrational for a bunch of jihadis to assume they would not be intercepted; therefore the plan depended on inside help; therefore a young and uncorrupted field agent might find it unthinkable and chalk it up to fantasy.

Friday, November 25, 2005 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger Brian de Ford said...

It was a very good plan for forcing the USAF to force four landings. Shootdown permission is a last resort, and can only follow a successful interception and failure to force a landing.

And how, pray, does one force a landing? You might try flying very close above, and slightly in front (where the pilot just see your nose) of the passenger plane and try descending slowly. With ordinary hijackers that might work. With hijackers whose plans are to crash the planes into buildings or, at least, force you to shoot them down, it won't. You can't try bumping airframes because eventually one or the other will fail (and if it's the fighter jet it will then likely impact the passenger plane).

Either way, the plan posits a team willing to risk life in prison or death in mid-air in order to send the message that US defenses are impregnable.

Condi claimed these were run-of-the-mill terrorists who wanted to free the "Blind Sheik." That kind of hijacker will choose death rather than be imprisoned along with those he sort to free. And, if at all possible, will try to take the aircraft and passengers with him (i.e., by detonating a grenade and causing catastrophic failure of the airframe). These are the type of people who put their lives on the line every day in Afghanistan and considered they'd done a good job if they'd traded at least one Soviet life for their own.

It is also likely that honest civil servants saw the same flaws in the plan that you and I do: it was irrational for a bunch of jihadis to assume they would not be intercepted; therefore the plan depended on inside help; therefore a young and uncorrupted field agent might find it unthinkable and chalk it up to fantasy.

But those juniors did try to pass that information up the chain. Orders came down from above to suppress it and any further investigation. The FBI, CIA and NSA could have had just about full details had not the juniors been told to drop things.

And even that doesn't matter. That intelligence would have provided advanced warning, but even without it the USAF had far more than enough time to intercept. And Osama had to know that. Therefore if his goal were to cause what happened on 9-11 rather than have the USAF shoot down four passenger jets, things would not have happened the way they did. Not unless it was an inside job.

Saturday, November 26, 2005 3:25:00 AM  
Blogger SourDove said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 1:10:00 AM  
Blogger SourDove said...

And how, pray, does one force a landing?

No need to pray, dear child. All is well. :)

The FAA lists a series of steps to be followed before resorting to a shootdown. Since those steps were not followed, further steps are moot. This is precisely why Cheney changed the subject to the elusive shootdown order on Meet the Press.

A handy list of FAA documents is here. Note that the list includes a link to the June 1, 2001 change by Rummy, which you described this way: Rumsfeld decided that the fighter pilot would need to obtain presidential authority for a shoot-down. This is not quite what it does, but you're right that the change has never been explained. Nor has its effect on 9/11 been examined; the cOmmission couldn't even figure out what became of Rumsfeld for a critical half hour. Its only possible effects were to add Rummy as a potential point of failure in the chain of command and to add an additional delay to the process. (n.b. I don't agree with Elsis' premise that a stand down order was necessary; never have. All that was needed was the effect.)

Cheney's disgraceful Meet the Press interview has been shrubbed.

These analyses of his remarks have aged well:
Guilty For 9-11, Part 1
Guilty For 9-11, Part 2

I haven't seen them refuted, but refuting them would establish a basis for your argument that shootdown authority was implied. Since no one got close enough in time, this is academic, but the reason no one got close enough is that standard procedure was abandoned.

The refusal to examine this point allowed Zelikow to claim that standard procedure was inadequate. This way his gang can demand increased domestic roles for the military, more laws, more spying, more torture, and lower standards of evidence.


You might try flying very close above, and slightly in front

And you might try tracer shots. Death Threats: the Universal Language (tm). Remember the drunken banker who answered nature's call atop a beverage cart a few years back? That Captain of Industry was perfectly capable of interfering with a flight given half a chance.

All the tactical warnings in the world do not tell you who's flying that plane on the day. You don't find out until you get there, and when you do, you still don't know what he's thinking. All that matters then is his behavior, even if he's a dead ringer for the wanted poster on your cockpit wall.

You certainly don't massacre civilians just in case the man in charge is determined to kill them, as some felt the US should do in Iraq. And even if you do, that's not how you'd design standard intercept procedure. Just as Bush promised to use war only as a last resort, interceptors should follow standard procedure before using murder to save lives.


With ordinary hijackers that might work. With hijackers whose plans are to crash the planes into buildings or, at least, force you to shoot them down, it won't.

Supposing they had arrived on time, how would the fighter pilots know that?

Suppose you are a fighter pilot, equipped with a complete set of PDBs and the Able Danger chart with autographed 8x10 glossies of the perps. Suppose that on arrival you recognize noted jetrosexual jihadi Mohamed Atta at the controls.

Do you now abandon procedure because you feel sure that forcing a landing will fail?


Here's another nice summary of the steps required before shootdown: National Security & Interception Procedures


Condi claimed these were run-of-the-mill terrorists who wanted to free the "Blind Sheik."

Was she talking about the 19 suspects? I think she was talking about the August 6 PDB.

She was claiming that no one could ever have imagined 9/11 even after reading the PDB. She certainly wasn't claiming that fighter pilots had access to the PDB; she wasn't claiming it applied to Atta; she wasn't claiming that pilots could have used it to guess what Atta might do under pressure.

We know she is dishonest about the PDB because she misrepresented the gist: the title cited domestic attacks, but she claimed the text only discussed attacks overseas. We don't even know that all the pages have been released; a German paper reported its length at eleven and a half pages.

Regardless, it is unfair to the fighter pilots to think they should have known that the men in control of the planes were the very ones profiled in the PDB. Interception begins with an effort to gather the facts. Skipping that step is indefensible, even if, like me, you claim that you knew the date, time, location and method of the attacks years in advance.

Remember that weapons were found on other planes, too, so we don't know the exact scope of the plot even now.


That kind of hijacker will choose death rather than be imprisoned along with those he sort to free.

If that were a universal law, his pals wouldn't be in jail. If we assume Atta was the same type as the Mooj warriors who beat back the Soviets, shouldn't we assume his pals in prison were the same type as well?


And, if at all possible, will try to take the aircraft and passengers with him (i.e., by detonating a grenade and causing catastrophic failure of the airframe).

That's if you know who he is and what he is thinking. I don't assume the fighter pilots knew that. Do you know who he was or what he was thinking? Do you know it now with enough certainty to justify killing someone?

Even if I accept for the sake of argument that you have evidence placing the nineteen suspects on the planes, evidence that they hijacked the planes, evidence that they intended to crash the planes, evidence that they intended to crash the planes into landmarks, evidence that they were the plotters so many memos warned about, and evidence of what they would have done in a different situation, I wouldn't let you kill my family based on your convictions.

If you are in the air next to Flight 11, and you have tried making contact and forcing a landing, and if all your threats are being ignored, then I would grant you the power to take out that plane right over my home.

Now, if we were to assume that the fighter pilots who did take off in time for an intercept were fully informed as events developed, we'd still find that they abandoned standard procedure. However, the outcome would have been different had interceptor pilots known that Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney had already reported mace, a stabbing, and a bomb on board Flight 11. Then there would have been more debate about the irrelevant shootdown order, and the specious argument that standard procedure was to blame would have been exposed.

This document covers standard procedure when on-board explosives are suspected: 10-2-11. AIRCRAFT BOMB THREATS

Now, if there is a document showing that shootdown permission was implied before 9/11, I will cede the point. I haven't found one, and I haven't found anyone but you making the claim. It's hard to imagine a do-or-die fighter pilot worrying about petty obstacles like courts-martial, though, so it's doubly moot. Unless you find a citation, in which case it's relevant again because I'll owe you a retraction.


These are the type of people who put their lives on the line every day in Afghanistan and considered they'd done a good job if they'd traded at least one Soviet life for their own.

Do a couple weeks in Afghanistan make Atta the same "type of people" he visited? Should such an assumption be part of hijack intercept procedure? His identity, if known, would prove nothing about his behavior in a hypothetical situation. We are following, jailing, and torturing entirely too many people based on assumptions about future crime. Let's not add such vague psychological criteria to standard intercept procedure.


But those juniors did try to pass that information up the chain. Orders came down from above to suppress it and any further investigation. The FBI, CIA and NSA could have had just about full details had not the juniors been told to drop things.

This did happen, and I think it happened long before I read about the plot in 1997 and 1998. I can't think of any other reason for an "intelligence [or] law enforcement official" to tell the press about an ongoing investigation, especially since describing the method risked creating copycats. If you research this angle, you'll find other threats that prove your main point: some variants allowed no time at all for interceptions. For example, one version had a small plane stuffed with explosives crashing into an airport during a landing approach. This warning was published at the same time as the Pentagon/WTC version, and it also assumed inside help during preparation. This proves that you are right; they knew it was an inside job.

However, when you read more about Niaz Khan, you see that there were agents who did dismiss the whole idea as a crazy jihadi fantasy, probably because they knew that the US had adequate intercept procedures. I say this because no practical plan assumes that every civil servant is corrupt; it has to have a way to escape scrutiny by the sincere field agent, just in case such a creature exists.

It's also becoming clear that the key points really did reach the top echelons despite their see-no-evil stance. While FBI managers were protecting Moussaoui, George Tenet was enjoying a personalized slide show about him. They did know enough. I know this because I knew enough.

Protecting the targets was the only viable defense.

Which brings me back to Genoa, where no one from Mossad to Santa Claus could have flown a plane into the G-8 summit meetings, because the Pentagon advised Italian authorities on how to make each and every planes-into-buildings attack impossible. Later they'd tell Time that it was the publicity about their defenses that ruled out an attack in Genoa; in other words, they didn't even need an air guard, just the threat of one. And that would have worked in the US, as long as our perps weren't willing to die for a spectacular failure.

Condi and her husb--, er, boss, took the threat of planes into buildings so seriously that they repaired an aircraft carrier by night. They came home to the August 6 PDB.


And even that doesn't matter. That intelligence would have provided advanced warning, but even without it the USAF had far more than enough time to intercept. And Osama had to know that. Therefore if his goal were to cause what happened on 9-11 rather than have the USAF shoot down four passenger jets, things would not have happened the way they did. Not unless it was an inside job.

I couldn't agree more. This is your main point and only a fool would contest it. You are the only writer I've seen who has tried to explain why an inside job would end up looking so much like an inside job; this question has bothered me since I first read about the plot. Thanks for taking a shot at it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 1:13:00 AM  
Blogger SourDove said...

repaired to an aircraft carrier by night

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 4:08:00 AM  
Blogger plectic said...

"It's not like there isn't already enough proof to hang these bastards, but the problem is getting some people to accept it. The more flaws we point out in the official story, the better our chances."

ditto

Thursday, December 01, 2005 9:41:00 AM  
Blogger Brian de Ford said...

Damn, I missed Sourdove's second comment somehow (I should have got mail notification). His profile doesn't give an e-mail address. I doubt he's still checking this, but...

You missed the point I was making, which is that you cannot force down a plane piloted by somebody who is willing to be shot down rather than be captured, whether you know the motives of the person piloting it or not. You're right that the fighter pilots would not have known who was flying those jets (and I don't think I said, or even implied, that that they would) and that they should have tried tracer shots first.

My point was that given who was actually flying the planes (according to the official stories) that tracer shots would have been ineffective. They'd have been tried, because the fighter pilots could not have known who was at the controls.

But when that doesn't work, what are the options? Following your lead, it's not really feasible to shoot down the plane just because it ignores tracer rounds (might be passengers struggling to figure out how to fly the thing). If they ignore tracer shots there's no physical way to force them to land. So you wait and see what happens. And when it looks like it's going to fly into a building, you shoot it down regardless of who is at the controls and what their motives are.

The blind sheik and his pals are in prison because they were infiltrated. They would not willingly have given themselves up if they could take some of their enemy with them. Take some of the enemy with you and it's 72 virgins in paradise; play silly beggars so they have to kill you and it's just suicide with hell to follow.

Later you again seem to get confused by me accepting, for the purposes of refuting it by reductio ad absurdum that the official story is true. I have no idea whether the planes were piloted by Osama's trainees, by Mossad suicide operatives or by remote control. If the official story is true then these planes were piloted by people who would prefer to be shot down or deliberately crash the aircraft rather than land and surrender, and that is how they would have behaved had they been intercepted. I therefore wrote about what should have happened if the official story were true.

As for the shoot-down orders, I found those on a site a few months after 9-11 (bookmark long since lost in a disk crash) which gave links to USAF and ATC websites confirming the details. That those websites no longer have such details is not surprising. Believe me or not as you wish. But that is why I explained that in the situation where an aircraft is about to fly at low-level into a densely-populated area it's a no-brainer that you have to shoot it down - even if you choose to believe that fighter pilots were never explicitly authorized to shoot down an aircraft based upon their own evaluation of the situation, that's what would happen.

Friday, December 23, 2005 2:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting theories, I think it seems more plausable, that we knew Osama was going to do this, and just decided to help him suceed in order to have the backing of the country in whatever was decided. Too bad we'll prolly never know the truth

Friday, February 03, 2006 10:32:00 AM  

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