On Ungrounded Theories & Disinformation


1. Pod Theory, “whatzits”, disinformation and other curious physical-evidence claims

Those who would expose 9/11 truth face daunting obstacles: A government shrouding the evidence in secrecy. A near-blackout in the mass media about the anomalies associated with Sept. 11. Widespread denial and resistance to even imagining hypotheses that deviate from the official story.

(911Truth.org Editorial – August 20, 2004)

Frustrated 9/11 researchers may naturally wish for an instant smoking gun, a killer clue like the one invariably discovered by detectives on the TV show CSI, something to finish off the official story in a single blow. Unfortunately, this impulse invites a lot of misinformation, spurious theories, and e-mail reports from fabricated whistleblowers. Many of these notions are packaged as bombshell revelations in the area of physical evidence.

These “discoveries” typically misinterpret some sliver of evidence, often building an edifice on little more than a few low-resolution stills from video. An early player in this game was the “Webfairy,” who claims that the video of the first tower attack (as taken by the Naudet Brothers on 9/11) does not show an airliner but rather a missile or mystery object. For a complete dismantling of this fallacy, along with a professional’s introduction to standards for assessing video evidence, we recommend the articles by Eric Salter at questionsquestions.net/WTC/767orwhatzit.html and his recent follow-up at questionsquestions.net/WTC/webfairy.html . Salter explains why it is important for 9/11 truth activists to confront the spread of false evidence head-on in his discussion of Gerard Holmgren, a writer who has argued that the absence of two of the 9/11 flights from a government database proves these flights never existed. “Many of the most important 9/11 sites rely on Holmgren’s analysis of the Pentagon anomalies. If he persists in pushing this baseless theory [that two of the flights never even took off -Ed.], large portions of the 9/11 truth movement stand to be tainted through this association. The debunkers would approach it like this: ‘Within the community of 9/11 conspiracy theorists, broad support is given to a man that believes that no 767s hit the World Trade Center.’ Guilt by association may not be an honorable debating tactic, but the other side is anything but honorable.”

One claim that has found surprising currency is the “pod theory” propagated by the film “In Plane Site” and by the website Letsroll911 (webmaster Phil Jayhan). Once again relying on low-resolution video stills, the authors of these say images of Flight 175 just before it hits the second tower (South Tower, WTC 2) show a missile launcher or some other device attached to the bottom of the plane. When this feature is first pointed out to people, they do tend to wonder just what it is. On closer examination, the fuzzy shadow in question turns out to be the fairing, a normal bulge in the plane’s design. The only high-resolution photo presented by Letsroll911 in defense of pod theory clearly shows the undercarriage of a 767 airliner, exactly as it should look. Researcher Mark Robinowitz appeared to effectively repudiate Pod Theory, simply by placing the picture of a standard 767 next to the image of the plane striking WTC 2 as used by Letsroll911. They correspond in every detail. (See www.oilempire.us/bogus.html#newproof . Letsroll911 makes a game effort to find a pod anyway, attaching labels that read “missile pod” and “explosive device” to standard 767 features.) Robinowitz offers reasoned refutations of a number of other popular hypotheses and speculations at his research-dense website oilempire.us . Like Salter, he points out why it is incumbent upon us to resist weak or suspect evidence: easily refutable claims tend to obscure the larger pattern of verified facts already substantiating U.S. government foreknowledge and/or complicity in 9/11. They present an easy target for would-be defenders of the official story who would like to smear the entire 9/11 truth movement by exploiting its most implausible peripheral notions. Furthermore, unless absolutely substantiated, claims that there were no passenger planes (or no cell-phone calls) tend to provoke anger or repugnance among Sept. 11 family members and residents of the attacked cities, constituencies who should be our natural allies in the fight for 9/11 truth. However, Robinowitz overstepped the bounds when he announced with certainty that the works of “Webfairy” and Letsroll911 are “operations” in the style of COINTELPRO, i.e. covert programs consciously designed to undermine the 9/11 movement. While government has been known to sabotage its critics by muddying the waters with confusing disinformation, calling anyone’s work an “operation” is inexcusable without irrefutable documentation. (Robinowitz has apparently reflected on this and backed away from these accusations.)

Letsroll911 and sympathizers have responded to the critiques with cries of censorship. This is disingenuous. Censorship involves a force and authority possessed by no one in this discussion. Letsroll911 operates freely, with many thousands of hits. We just hope these charges are not simply demands for “pod theory” critics to censor themselves, rather than honestly discuss the flaws they see in this evidence. David von Kleist, the narrator of “In Plane Site,” has been more forthcoming, in person admitting to a major error in the film. The film shows images of a “plume” of dust rising up against the facade of World Trade Center Building 7, attributing this to a large explosion at World Trade Center Building 6, in advance of the Twin Tower collapses. However, the images of the plume do not show “both towers standing,” as the film claims. The South Tower has already collapsed, and the plume is actually part of the resulting dust cloud. While the web page for “In Plane Site” has yet to acknowledge this mistake, we expect it will, since von Kleist was open about it in talks with many people during his recent visit to New York (9/11/04). We do not question whether his heart is in the right place; our doubts pertain to the quality of his video forensics. (For now, Brian Salter provides an analysis of the plume at questionsquestions.net/WTC/hoax.html . He and Eric Salter take on a variety of other fallacies from “In Plane Site” and “Letsroll911” at questionsquestions.net/WTC/pod.html .)

As a group, 911Truth.org takes no sides in the bitter personal exchanges that have accompanied too much of this discussion. What is far more important for our purposes is that in the absence of much stronger evidence, debates over “pod theory” and other moot propositions should not overshadow the massive amount of prima facie evidence we now have for “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the inner circles of our government. Until that material is brought into popular awareness and legally actionable form, the 9/11 movement could drift for years into darkness and futility. Besides the “pod theory” work, the ongoing series of new books, videos, CDs and online resources should bring the still unanswered questions of 9/11 to life in hundreds of thousands of new minds. We are broadly grateful for all these efforts and effects, and in some sense believe that when you are trying to expose treachery in a censored slumbering land, there may be no such thing as bad publicity. But whatever theory happens to wake people up to the Great 9/11 Lie, we pray that they be very, very careful when setting out to act. There is much evidence we can cogently use in a grand jury, an impeachment hearing or a court of law, and much evidence that we can’t. Once such a case is underway and we command subpoena and discovery powers, we can explore the furthest reaches of our fondest theories, but we have to get there first . Incredible facts may be unearthed in these proceedings, but only our simplest, most irrefutable proof will get us in the door. Those of us who are accused of being over-cautious, always have this thought in mind: to take back our land, courts and streets, our evidentiary vanguard must be bulletproof.

If you know of other useful pages or meditations on this subject, please email the URLs to our webmaster (with [Hypotheses] in the Subject line) and we shall share them here.

2. On alternate scenarios of the Pentagon attack

The original physical-evidence debates about the events of Sept. 11 began on the day of the attacks, with the near-immediate circulation of claims that the Twin Tower and WTC 7 collapses must have resulted from intentional explosive demolitions, and that the fourth flight, UA93, was shot down over Pennsylvania . Among those who first put forward the idea of a demolition was an expert in demolitions and Pentagon contractor, Van Romero, who retracted his statements about 10 days later. Questions about what really happened in these two cases remain very much open, and will be the subject of future treatments in this space.

The next major physical evidence issue to arise was identified by French writer Thierry Meyssan a few weeks later, and published soon after in an English-language site called “Hunt the Boeing.” Meyssan claimed that the damage to the Pentagon could not have been caused by a 767 airliner.

The speculation about what happened at the Pentagon arose because of the size of the hole made by the attack in the outside wall, as seen in immediate post-attack photos (i.e., photos taken in the 30 minutes before the roof and floors above the point of attack collapsed). The hole seems to be too small for an airliner to have gone through. There is an apparent lack of damage from the wings and engines. The lawn in front of the wall looks immaculate. (See the growing collection of post-attack photos from the Pentagon .) In the government’s defense: in an earlier experiment, a decommissioned fighter jet flown into a solid stone wall (comparable to the Pentagon structure) also effectively disintegrated, leaving only tiny fragments of debris. As for the lawn, it was not hit directly and is further from the wall than evident in most pictures. A bit of metal debris claimed to be from the airliner fuselage is visible in photos by passers-by. The debris is mangled, hard to identify, and there is precious little there, so some have termed it suspicious. Others have claimed photos of a turbine in the wreckage are not actually parts of a Boeing 757.

Videos of the Pentagon attack were taken by security cameras at the Sheraton Hotel and a gas station, both of which had a clear sight-line to the side of the Pentagon that was hit. These tapes were confiscated by the FBI within minutes of the attack. According to one news report, Sheraton employees watched the hotel video repeatedly before the FBI arrived and took it. Why doesn’t the government release these videos? Soon after “Hunt the Boeing” turned into an online magnet, CNN obtained five video stills showing the attack, allegedly from a Pentagon parking-lot camera. The source of the leak is unknown. The images have a Sept. 12 timestamp, and it is difficult to make out the shape or size of the object supposedly moving in the background and causing the explosion. It looks smaller than a 757, but the frames themselves are dubious. This did not prevent the rise of a cottage industry among those who hope to coax some meaning out of them. Comprehensive photos of the post-attack scene have never been released, nor have any photos of bodies. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by an author at Sierra Times , the government provided a list of persons from the flight on whom autopsies were conducted, which did not include the alleged hijackers ( Sierra Times , 7/6/03). The government has said it is still holding in storage the bodies or parts of bodies of five claimed to be the hijackers of AA77 (as well as of the four alleged hijackers of UA93; CNN, 8/16/02). While the FBI claims all hijacker identity questions are resolved, these bodies are still identified as “John Doe.”

Witness claims vary. Most say they saw the airliner actually hit the building, while only a few mention a smaller plane, or speak metaphorically (“like a cruise missile with wings”). At least one source (John Judge) says a stewardess friend who would have normally taken Flight 77 was asked to view the rubble and identify body parts of a person who was on the flight. By contrast, a Pentagon officer caught in the attack area (April Gallop) has said she saw no evidence of an airliner. The official story of the flight itself, said to have disappeared over Ohio and only tracked again as it entered Washington airspace, is very suspicious. Why wasn’t it intercepted on entering what is supposedly the world’s best-protected airspace, more than an hour and 10 minutes after the attacks began and 45 minutes after it was diverted? Why weren’t interceptors scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base, ten miles from the Pentagon? We know fighters of the 113th Air National Guard wing were stationed at Andrews and charged with defending DC airspace (as the website of 113th ANG wing claimed until Sept. 12, when it was suddenly changed). The fighters at Andrews were deployed over Washington airspace on Sept. 11, but only after the Pentagon was hit. How did AA77 hit a target known to be defended by anti-aircraft missile batteries? The flight executed a maneuver pilots have characterized as extremely difficult, descending from several thousand feet while making a 280° turn, banking at the last second and flying level with the ground to strike the first floor. The alleged hijacker flying the plane (Hani Hanjour) flunked out of flight school. The side of the Pentagon hit, opposite from the command center, had just been renovated to reinforce it against terrorist attack. The offices there were mostly empty; initial expectations of 850 dead were quickly revised to 130.

Was the Pentagon indeed hit by Flight 77, hijacked by terrorists? Then the government by suppressing available evidence has effectively encouraged suspicions that the attack object was in fact something else: a small plane, a missile or a bomb. As long as the government suppresses evidence, people will speculate about what really happened to the flight and its passengers. The government could move to release the evidence, though at this late stage many people will no longer believe anything it produces.

– Nicholas Levis

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