Critique of David Ray Griffin’s Fake Calls Theory
Beginning with his book New Pearl Harbor (2004) David Ray Griffin raised questions concerning the veracity of reports of phone calls from the 9/11 hijacked airliners, specifically, Ted Olson’s account. Since at least 2006, he has promoted a theory that the 9/11 plane passenger phone calls were faked, and has speculated this was done with ‘voice-morphing’ technology. He’s done this in many different articles, in books, in speaking appearances, in interviews on radio and television, and in a debate with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine. In his 1/12/10 essay, Phone Calls from the 9/11 Airliners: Response to Questions Evoked by My Fifth Estate Interview, David Ray Griffin gives the most comprehensive overview of this theory to date, as well as a response to critics, which include people who support a new 9/11 investigation. A Professor Emeritus and skilled rhetorician, Griffin makes a case that is seemingly compelling. However, as I show in this essay, there is no actual evidence the phone calls were faked, while there is a substantial body of evidence demonstrating the calls were not only possible, but did happen. There are many credible reasons to doubt the official 9/11 story and support a full investigation, but the cause of compelling a new 9/11 investigation is undermined by the promotion of theories that are flawed, and not based on hard evidence. In addition, the claim that the phone calls were faked is obviously offensive to those family members who spoke with passengers before they died, and it has the potential to drive a wedge between truth and justice activists and potential allies among the family members, many of whom support a full investigation.
Besides these shortcomings, Griffin himself pointed out in 2008 that promoting theories is not only unnecessary, but can work to the advantage of ‘debunkers’:
I made a big point of not developing such a theory, and even encouraging members of the movement not to do this … No, you don’t have to have a theory. When you develop a theory, that’s what the debunkers love, they want to say, that’s nonsense and take attention away from all the evidence we have marshaled to show the official story is false.
Certainly, ‘debunker’ websites such as 9/11 Myths have easily exposed flaws in the voice morphing theory: For instance, though the technology existed at the time, the inventor, George Papcun, has commented that voice-morphing a conversation in near real time would be more complex than fabricating a simple recorded statement, and would require an extensive recording as a sample. It would be even more difficult to fool the subject’s family members, who, in addition to being familiar with the person’s voice, would be familiar with their unique communication style and intimate details of their lives. One victim, Linda Gronlund, even left the combination to her safe on her sister’s voice mail. None of the family members who spoke with the passengers, or heard the messages they left, had any doubts it was their loved ones who called. Finally, some of those who made calls hadn’t booked their flights until the day before 9/11, meaning it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get an adequate voice sample, even assuming the perpetrators could tap anyone’s phone at anytime: Jeremy Glick, Mark Bingham, Honor Elizabeth Wainio and possibly Ed Felt. Some, including Griffin in previous essays, have suggested that Mark Bingham’s use of his full name when speaking to his mother is suspicious. First, it would be very unlikely that persons faking phone calls would introduce an element that would be a red flag to their family and outside observers. Second, Bingham’s mother (who has a different last name: Hoglan) has said that he did this on occasion; is it realistic to think voice-morphing perps learned this idiosyncrasy at the last minute and exploited it, let alone base accusations on it?
In his Response to Questions essay, Griffin doesn’t use the term voice morphing, and makes one brief claim related to this particular theory: “… what alternative is there except to conclude that someone fabricated at least one, and probably both, of these calls, a device that, besides replicating the impersonated persons’ voices, also caused their cell phone numbers to appear?” Instead, throughout the essay, he focuses on making a case that the reports of cell phone calls were accurate, that cell phone calls from the 9/11 planes weren’t possible and, therefore, were faked, and that this implies the air phone calls were also faked. However, this is still a theory, and one that isn’t supported by evidence, as I will show. In addition, this theory is just as offensive to the victims’ family members as the voice morphing theory, as it means that either the phone calls were faked by voice morphing, or that passengers – and/or their family members – participated in a deception.
In the introduction to his Response to Questions essay, Griffin explains it was prompted by discussion following a 911Blogger post of a Youtube clip from his appearance on the CBC program Fifth Estate, and that he is addressing “the most important” “claims contradicting [his] position”:
1. “The FBI has not admitted that cell phone calls from high-altitude airliners on 9/11 were impossible.”
2. “There is no evidence that some of the reported 9/11 phone calls were faked.”
3. “American Airlines’ [AAL] Boeing 757s, and hence its Flight 77, had onboard phones.”
4. “The FBI’s report on phone calls from the 9/11 airliners did not undermine Ted Olson’s report about receiving phone calls from his wife.”
I’ve followed the same outline in this examination of Griffin’s essay, his fake calls theory in general, and related evidence. The 911Blogger post of Griffin’s CBC interview is here: David Ray Griffin on the 9/11 Cell Phone Calls: Exclusive CBC Interview. In his essay, Griffin also quotes from and responds to an essay written by jimd3100 in response to the CBC interview, ‘Fake’ Phone Calls? What The Evidence Shows.
1. “The FBI has not admitted that cell phone calls from high-altitude airliners on 9/11 were impossible.”
In the introduction to Part 1 of his essay, Griffin acknowledges, “It is true that the FBI has never explicitly stated that such calls are impossible, or at least too improbable to affirm.” However, he goes on to argue that, as the FBI took the public position at the Moussaoui trial that, “13 of the terrified passengers and crew members made 35 air phone calls and two cell phone calls,” that it was the FBI’s implicit position cell phone calls were not possible from the 9/11 flights. This does not logically follow; it may be the FBI found there were 35 air phone and two cell phone calls. Also, the FBI’s statement reveals nothing about FBI’s position on the ability to make cell phone calls from planes on September 11, 2001.
In a subsection of Part 1 titled, “The FBI’s Revised Public Position,” Griffin alleges that at one time the FBI took the position that a greater number of cell phone calls had been made, and that this changed. Griffin states, “Previously, the FBI had supported the idea – at least by not contradicting press reports spreading it – that there were over ten cell phone calls from Flight 93.” But, the FBI’s failure to state a public position or correct press reports is not the same as the FBI having a public position on an issue. The FBI is not in the business of correcting misinformation circulated by the media or general public, and commonly refuses to comment publicly on investigations in progress. If the FBI has a “public position” on an issue, it is made known through a spokesperson, their website, and/or at a trial or some other legal proceeding.
2. “There is no evidence that some of the reported 9/11 phone calls were faked.”
In this section Griffin does not present evidence of faked calls. Instead, he cites a number of media reports and witness statements to the FBI regarding passengers and crew using cell phones, and argues, based on other reports, that cell phone calls from planes were impossible in 2001. From this, he argues the reported calls from the flights must have been faked, and the FBI and 9/11 Commission have covered this up. However, some of the reports of cell phones being used are contradicted by reports of air phones being used, as well as call records that show air phones being used. There’s also evidence that cell phone calls from planes were possible before 2001. In addition, Griffin doesn’t consider the possibility that cell phone repeaters could have been placed on the 9/11 flights.
In Part 1 of his Response to Questions essay, Griffin listed five people on United Airlines (UAL) 93, two on UAL 175, one on American Airlines (AAL) 11 and one on AAL 77 who had made “approximately 15 … phone calls [which] were described at the time as cell phone calls.” According to this UAL call record (pp. 25-26), between UAL 175 and UAL 93, at least 18 different people made a total of 46 different air phone calls, including all seven of the UAL passengers for whom Griffin cites media reports of cell phone calls (additional GTE records here). (Disclosure: the preceding 9/11 Commission records and the others cited in this essay, as well as the ones cited by Griffin in his Response to Questions essay, were scanned at the National Archives and uploaded to Scribd.com/911DocumentArchive by me. The entire set can be downloaded for free from 911DataSets.org). For some reason, two UAL 93 cell phone calls – the ones made by CeeCee Lyles and Ed Felt at 9:58 am – are also listed on the a UAL call record (p. 25). Most likely, these were added later, either by UAL or FBI personnel, probably as an aid in sorting out the phone call information; explanatory notes in underlined type were added to the Claircom/AT&T records for American Airlines (AAL) (pp. 2-24).
Griffin acknowledges that, “People do, of course, make mistakes, especially in stressful situations. They may misunderstand, or misremember, what they were told.” He then asks, “But is it plausible that so many people would have made the same mistake, wrongly thinking that they had been told by the people calling them that they were using cell phones?” In some cases, the person called may simply have assumed the person was talking to them on a cell phone, or just didn’t consider the distinction between an air phone and a cell phone to be significant. Or, as Griffin said, some may have misunderstood or misremembered what the caller told them.
It may also be that some of the media reports were simply wrong. In addition to sources sometimes being incorrect, reporters are human and have made mistakes – media have reported misinformation as fact on many occasions. Jeremy Glick and Honor Elizabeth Wanio are two people for whom Griffin cites media reports of them making calls on cell phones. However, these reports are contradicted by this10/28/01 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article that has them using Airfones:
Jeremy Glick picked up a GTE Airfone just before 9:30 a.m. and called his in-laws in the Catskills. … Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, 38, phoned her husband Jack in San Rafael, Calif … Then she passed the Airfone to the woman seated next to her. “Now you call your people,” Grandcolas told her. Honor Elizabeth Wainio, 27, took the phone from Grandcolas and dialed her stepmother, Esther Heymann, in Baltimore.
“Cell Phone Numbers Recognized on Caller ID”
Three of the calls on the UAL call record (pp. 25-26) are from Tom Burnett. Per author Jere Longman, who interviewed Tom’s wife Deena Burnett in 2002, Deena took notes, and wrote down the time of the first call as 6:27 am (PST); 9:27 am (EST). According to a 9/11/01 FBI 302 interview of Deena (pp. 10-11), “Starting at approximately 6:30 a.m. (PST) BURNETT received a series of three to five cellular phone calls from her husband, THOMAS EDWARD BURNETT, JR”. The 302 recounts pieces of conversations from four calls. Though the 302 refers to all of these calls as cell phone calls, it is not clear from this 302 if Deena recognized Tom’s cell phone on Caller ID in more than one of the calls; caller ID is only referenced in the context of the third call received; “Approximately five minutes later she received another cell phone call from her husband. BURNETT was able to determine that her husband was using his own cellular telephone because the caller identification showed his number, (925) 980-3360. Only one of the calls did not show on the caller identification as she was on the line with another call.”
The 9/11 Commission’s 4/26/04 interview with Deena says, “Call #1: … She also thinks this was the one call he placed to her from his cell phone, because she recognized the number on the caller ID.” Two and a half years after 9/11, Deena Burnett was still sure she’d seen Tom’s cell phone number on her caller ID, but that only one call was from his cell phone, and it was the first call. The 9/11 Commission interview also says, “The call Burnett made from the cell phone did not show up on the cell phone bill, neither did the one he placed to his secretary before take-off. Burnett spoke with his friend Charles from England before take-off. He mentioned the flight was delayed but did not give a reason.”
The first two calls on the UAL call record (pp. 25-26) list the time zone as “INT” and the times are 8:30:32 am (Tom Burnett: 28 seconds duration) and 8:32:39 am (Flight Attendant); the other calls all list “ET” as the time zone, and fit EST time frames for the reported events. I was unable to determine the meaning or purpose of “INT” as a time zone signifier. At the Moussaoui trial, Tom Burnett’s first call is listed as occurring at 9:30:32 am for 28 seconds, matching the first call except for the time, unless the INT time zone is one hour ahead of EST. The next calls from Tom Burnett on the UAL and Moussaoui trial records are at 9:37:53 am, and the last is at 9:44:23 am; a total of three air phone calls from Tom Burnett are listed.
Cell phone calls from planes were possible on 9/11; would the FBI lie, and why?
Various FBI agents, supervisors and policy makers have been involved in crimes, corruption and cover ups during the FBI’s history. And, the FBI has a great deal to answer for regarding 9/11 and many other events, including their handling of the investigation into the 2001 Anthrax attacks. FBI statements and records should not be accepted at face value, but this doesn’t mean that any particular FBI statement or record is false. Not all FBI agents, supervisors and policy makers are dishonest or disloyal to the US. For instance, FBI whistleblowers Sibel Edmonds, Coleen Rowley, Robert Wright, John Cole and others have demonstrated integrity and courage by their efforts within the system to address corruption, and finally by going public after being ignored, obstructed and intimidated by people with greater authority.
It may be that cell phones were used in more than the two cases cited by the FBI: CeeCee Lyles and Ed Felt. Regarding Deena Burnett’s account, Griffin says in his Response to Questions essay,
If [Tom Burnett] had actually called from an onboard phone, as the FBI now says, how could his home phone’s Caller ID have possibly indicated that the calls came from his cell phone? Some people reject as “unwarranted speculation” the suggestion that this shows that the calls were faked. But until someone comes up with an alternative explanation, this is the only hypothesis that accounts for the facts.
There is another hypothesis that accounts for the facts, which is that cell phones were used. First, the claim that cell phone calls from planes were impossible is contradicted by evidence. In making his case that cell phone calls weren’t possible, Griffin cites a study by A. K. Dewdney. This study is not relevant to the 9/11 flights, as it was done in Canada, and no evidence was provided that conditions were similar, such as proximity to cell phone towers or power/quality of transmission equipment. Griffin also says that, “[cell phone] calls would become possible … on commercial flights in March 2008.” In support of this statement, he cites journalist Alan Cabal’s reporting on ‘picocell’ technology, including Cabal’s contention that, “Before this new ‘Pico cell,’ it was nigh on impossible to make a call from a passenger aircraft in flight. Connection is impossible at altitudes over 8000 feet or speeds in excess of 230 mph.” However, myriad credible sources indicate cell phone calls from airplanes were possible prior to 2001; see this collection of reports, studies and anecdotal evidence from media reports compiled by 9/11 Myths, and this collection of reports compiled by jimd3100.
Second, self-powered cell phone repeaters may have been placed on board the planes to ensure that calls would reliably connect. A repeater is “sufficiently powerful to establish reliable connections with ground stations for several minutes at a time, and forwards all the communications between the cell phones aboard the plane and ground stations.” Cell phone calls from planes were possible before 2001, but it’s obvious that reception quality and the ability to connect and maintain a quality connection would decrease at higher altitudes and speeds. Some of the reported cell phone calls did take place at lower altitudes, but other reported calls, including Tom Burnett’s, were at higher altitudes.
It could easily have been anticipated by insiders arranging for planes to be successfully hijacked and hit their targets on 9/11, that passengers, once aware of the hijackings, would attempt to use their cell phones and report hijackings by Middle-Eastern-looking men. It would have been obvious that news reports of these calls would be emotionally-charged, and could be used to convince the public that Islamic radicals were responsible for 9/11, as well as channel the public’s fear and anger into support for a ‘war on terror’. Certainly, the calls were used in exactly this way. If repeaters were involved (no direct evidence has surfaced), this would create a different set of problems for the official 9/11 conspiracy theory, and the need to cover this up could explain why the FBI has denied that certain calls were made by cell phone.
“[David Ray Griffin’s] Amazing Treatment of Amy Sweeney’s Calls”
The title of this subsection is an ironic rephrasing of the related subtitle in Griffin’s Response to Questions essay. According to Griffin, “What appears to be the FBI’s most elaborate effort to change a story occurred in relation to the phone calls reportedly made by flight attendant Amy Sweeney from American Flight 11. As we saw earlier, an FBI affidavit, dated September 11, said that AA employee Michael Woodward, who reportedly talked to Sweeney for 12 minutes, said she had been using ‘a cellular telephone.’” This is ironic because the appearance of an “elaborate effort” by the FBI to “change a story” is created by Griffin’s omissions, errors and misinterpretations of the records he cites. Griffin says:
Strangely, the summary of an FBI interview with AA Vice President for Flight Services Jane Allen, who reported that she had conducted a “flight service system conference call” involving Woodward the day after the 9/11 attacks, indicated that she said: “According to Woodward, Sweeny’s [sic] call came from either a cell telephone or an airphone on the aircraft.” Surely, however, Lechner’s affidavit, according to which Woodward said simply that Sweeney used a “cellular telephone,” must be considered more authoritative than this indirect quotation of Jane Allen, for four reasons: First, Lechner would have been trained to be precise about such matters when writing affidavits, whereas Allen’s focus during the conference call would have been on flight services; second, Lechner had a one-on-one interview with Woodward, whereas Allen talked to him during a conference call involving other people; third, Lechner’s interview took place on 9/11 itself, whereas Allen’s conference call occurred the following day; and fourth, Lechner received his information directly from Woodward himself, whereas the FBI summary was reporting a second-hand statement of what Woodward had said. The FBI’s summary of Allen’s summary of Woodward’s statement provides, therefore, no reason to question FBI Special Agent James Lechner’s affidavit, according to which Woodward said that Amy Sweeney had been “using a cellular telephone.”
FBI Special Agent (SA) James K. Lechner’s affidavit was filed 9/12/01 in a federal court in Maine in order to obtain a search warrant in connection with the 9/11 investigation. Regarding Griffin’s first point, one may presume FBI agents are trained to be precise. However, FBI agents are human and make mistakes (FBI 302s frequently have typos, and come with the disclaimer, “This document contains neither recommendations nor conclusions of the FBI”). Mistakes may increase under pressure, or when distinctions and meanings are misunderstood or considered trivial, as the cell phone/air phone distinction may have seemed in the case of this affidavit, which was citing the Woodward/Sweeney conversation as evidence, and wasn’t related to an investigation of that conversation (or it’s alleged ‘impossibility’). And, given the bigger picture of determining who was responsible for the worst attack on the US since Pearl Harbor, the cell phone/air phone distinction may not have registered with Lechner at all.
In any case, there’s no evidence that Lechner personally interviewed Michael Woodward, which is the basis for Griffin’s second, third and fourth reasons to prefer Lechner’s affidavit over Jane Allen’s account. The facts outlined in the affidavit were sworn to by Lechner, but the context of the statement referencing the interview implies he didn’t interview Woodward: “On September 11, 2001, FBI agents interviewed … [Woodward].” Lechner could only be as accurate was whatever information he was given by other parties, and any mistake may not have been made by him.
Indeed, a search of the 9/11 Commission’s records at Scribd.com/911DocumentArchive – the same records Griffin used as sources in his Response to Questions essay – turns up only one FBI interview with Woodward on 9/11/01. This was conducted by FBI SA Craig Ring on 9/11/01 at 2pm (p. 86), and he says, “Woodward is the flight service manager for AA. He talked to flight attendant Amy Sweeney via air phone after flight 11 was hijacked (emphasis added).” Unless the Woodward interview was tape recorded, this FBI 302 is the primary source record; Lechner’s affidavit is at best secondary. For whatever reason, Griffin did not cite this 302 in his essay.
Woodward was also interviewed on 9/11/01 at 10:30 am by Massachusetts State Trooper James Masterson (p. 89), who stated that Woodward had “’received a phone call from Flight Attendant Sweeney aboard Flight 11,” that it was hijacked by three men with a bomb, and that three people had been stabbed or cut and one was dying. Masterson doesn’t note whether it was an air or cell phone.
Woodward was also interviewed by the FBI on 9/12, 13 and 14. The 9/12 and 9/14 interviews say nothing about cell v. air phone, but the 9/13 FBI 302 (p. 1) states, “(Woodward was unsure whether Sweeney was on the on-board phones or a cellular telephone).” Griffin didn’t cite this interview, either, even though he cited the 9/12 interview (in the same .pdf file as the 9/13 interview) as the source for this quote: “Woodward took notes while he was talking to Sweeney which he signed and dated and gave to the interviewing Agent.” Woodward’s 9/11/01 notes can be viewed here (pp. 2-3); there’s no mention in his notes of whether it was an air or cell phone. Rather, he made notes about things like hijackers, attendants, passengers, a bomb, a stabbing, a slashed throat, bleeding, and the rapid descent of the plane.
The flight service system conference call involving Jane Allen and Michael Woodward happened on 9/11/01, not “the day after the 9/11 attacks,” as Griffin says. Also, the FBI interviewed Allen ON 9/11/01. The FBI 302, dated 9/11/01, (pp. 25-26) says, “On 09/11/2001, Ms. Allen conducted a flight service system conference call.” The dates of the dictation and transcription are 9/12/01; perhaps this is the source of Griffin’s error in this case, though these are clearly marked, and the date of the 302 is clearly 9/11/01. Griffin is correct that the 302 records that, per Allen, “According to Woodward, Sweeny’s [sic] call came from either a cell telephone or an airphone on the aircraft.” Also, it seems unlikely that on a day when two AAL planes had been hijacked and crashed into buildings, that Allen, an AAL VP, would be focused on “flight services,” as Griffin surmises. Rather, it seems she would have been focused on finding out the facts related to events that constituted potentially very large liabilities for AAL.
It is curious that Lechner’s 9/11/01 affidavit says “cell phone” when the actual 9/11/01 Woodward interview record says “air phone.” It’s also curious because, according to Woodward himself in his 9/13/01 interview, and according to Allen in her 9/11/01 interview, Woodward was unsure if Sweeney was calling from a cell or air phone. However, when speaking to Ring, Woodward may have assumed it was an air phone, then realized later he didn’t know for sure, as in the heat of the moment, focused on the hijacking/bomb/stabbing of three people, etc., Sweeney didn’t think to remark on that, and he didn’t ask.
Additional evidence that Sweeney called Woodward from an air phone is the AT&T/Claircom call record for AAL 11 (pp. 6, 9-10), which lists three connected calls from 904-555-0004 to a number at Boston Logan airport (redacted). The first is at 6:25:20 (8:25:20 am EST) for 107 seconds, the second at 6:29:25 (8:29:25 am EST) for 43 seconds, and the third at 6:32:39 (8:32:39 am EST) for 793 seconds (13” 13’). Griffin doesn’t cite these records, though he cited many other records posted at Scribd.com/911DocumentArchive.
In his Response to Questions essay, Griffin does not directly dispute the air phone call made by AAL 11 Flight Attendant Betty Ong. This also appears in the AT&T/Claircom call record (p. 7): at 6:18:47 (8:18:47 am EST) there’s a call from 904-555-0004 to American Airlines reservations for 1620 seconds (27”).
“Amazing Treatment,” cont.: the AAL tapes produced in 2004
Griffin says the AAL tapes produced in 2004 are the source of the claim that Sweeney had used an air phone, but, regardless of the fact that Woodward had said it may have been an air phone, and an air phone is much more likely than a cell phone to sustain a call for 12 minutes, the FBI would have learned with relative certainty that an air phone had been used once they got the AT&T/Claircom call record for AAL 11 (pp. 2-10). The fax date of these records, which include the AAL 77 calls, is 9/13/01.
Griffin lists six reasons to believe the AAL tape of the conversation involving Sam Howland and Nancy Wyatt (as Michael Woodward talked to Amy Sweeney) is faked (see transcript pp. 34-41). The first two reasons have to do with the existence of the tape being unknown to certain people and the public until some 2 ½ years after 9/11. However, if the FBI and AAL did not perceive a need to tell people – even Assistant US Attorney David Novak – they would not do so. It is surprising Novak was unaware, given that he was working on the Moussaoui trial. However, the failure to inform Novak, and/or the failure of Novak to learn of the tape, may only be evidence of unnecessarily excessive secrecy (something the Bush Administration was well known for), bureaucracy and/or incompetence. And, as I pointed out in Section 1, the FBI commonly does not comment on investigations in progress. It may also be there was an attempt, eventually unsuccessful, to suppress this evidence. AAL, as it was being sued by a large number of people, would have no incentive to widely share any information about what the company and its personnel knew and did or didn’t do on 9/11; in fact, AAL personnel were instructed to not discuss anything with the media.
The transcript shows AAL managers were soliciting and obtaining agreements to keep the news of the hijackings quiet (pp. 10, 23, 39). Griffin, in Note 62, said this “seems to be simply one of the most transparently phony parts of this made-up story,” because AAL officials wouldn’t have “thought they could keep [a hijacking] among themselves.” This is Griffin’s opinion, and has no basis in the evidence. It seems at least as plausible, if not more, that this indicates they realized the seriousness and sensitivity of the matter, and wanted to keep rumors and panic from spreading while they worked to get the situation under control. It could also mean they felt it was important to manage perceptions regarding AAL’s responsibility; clearly, those in management would have recognized the hijacking was a major liability issue for AAL. The 2004 news of this seeming ‘cover up’ (cited by Griffin) contributed to negative perceptions about AAL, and infuriated family members, some of whom were suing AAL. Prior to the tape’s release, it would have been obvious to AAL management that it could make AAL look bad, thus there would be no incentive for AAL to fabricate these statements, and no incentive for the government to do so either, as it had bailed out the airlines and was working to shield them from liability.
Regarding the third reason, Griffin quotes a 9/20/01 LA Times article which actually undermines (not supports) his contention that the tape was fabricated later, and that the FBI didn’t know about the tape at the time:
FBI officials in Dallas [Fort Worth], where American Airlines is based, were able, on the day of the terrorist attacks, to piece together a partial transcript and an account of the phone call. American Airlines officials said such calls are not typically recorded, suggesting that the FBI may have reconstructed the conversation from interviews.
Griffin asks, “Why would FBI officials have needed to ‘piece together a partial transcript’ if officials at AA headquarters had a recording of Wyatt’s virtually verbatim account of Woodward’s virtually word-for-word account of what Sweeney had said?” Transcript of the Howland – Wyatt – Woodward – Sweeney tape (pp. 34-41). (This file also contains taped conversations between a number of other people, which shows that, while calls may not be “typically recorded,” they were in that location on 9/11/01, perhaps because it was clear the situation was a major emergency, and might need to be reconstructed later). As Wyatt had only relayed the last four minutes of the Sweeney-Woodward conversation, this would be a ‘partial transcript’, which, along with their interviews of those involved, could have been used to largely reconstruct the whole conversation.
Griffin: “Fourth, there is no indication that Michael Woodward mentioned the creation of this recording when he was interviewed by FBI agent James Lechner on 9/11.” As I pointed out earlier in this essay, there’s no evidence Lechner interviewed Woodward on 9/11, and he probably didn’t. There’s also no evidence Woodward was aware Wyatt’s call to Howland was recorded.
Griffin: “Fifth, if Woodward had repeated to Nancy Wyatt Sweeney’s statement that she had used ‘an AirFone card, given to her by another flight attendant,’ he surely would not have told Lechner, only a few hours later, that she had been ‘using a cellular telephone.’” As I already pointed out, the 302 of FBI SA Craig Ring’s 9/11/01 interview records that Woodward said Sweeney was on an air phone. There’s no evidence Woodward knew she had used “an AirFone card, given to her by another flight attendant.” The AT&T/Claircom call records for AAL 11 (pp. 6, 9-10) are probably the source of the information that “Sara [Low] had given Ms. Sweeney her father [Mike Low]‘s calling card”; in the card # field is a phone number for Gary M Low, and the card type is NPT. There’s nothing about an AirFone card being used in the transcript of the Wyatt-Howland call (pp. 34-41), or in any of the Woodward interviews.
For the sixth and final reason to believe the tape is a fraud, Griffin asserts the “new story is even internally inconsistent,” because, as “Nancy Wyatt did not start relaying the call to American headquarters in Texas until 8:40 AM,” this could not have “resulted in a virtually verbatim transcript of the entire Sweeney-Woodward call.” However, there’s no evidence AAL or the FBI claimed there was a transcript of the “entire” call.
3. “American Airlines’ Boeing 757s, and hence its Flight 77, had onboard phones.”
In part 3 of his Response to Questions essay, Griffin discusses his “evolving position on whether Flight 77 had onboard phones.” He had retracted certain statements on 5/7/07 (while arguing that other evidence supported the fake calls theory), and subsequently retracted his retraction on 6/26/07 (co-authored with Rob Balsamo of Pilots for 9/11 Truth (PFT)). Griffin’s position in his Response to Questions essay is that AAL 77 did not have working air phones on September 11, 2001. In support of this, he cites four pieces of evidence:
A. Chad Kinder, AAL Customer Service
The first piece of evidence is an exchange between forum user The Paradroid and AAL Customer Service Representative (CSR) Chad Kinder. Paradroid asks, “Hello, on your website . . . there is mentioned that there are no seatback satellite phones on a Boeing 757. Is that info correct? Were there any such seatback satellite phones on any Boeing 757 before or on September 11, 2001 and if so, when were these phones ripped out?” Kinder responds, “That is correct; we do not have phones on our Boeing 757. The passengers on flight 77 used their own personal cellular phones to make out calls during the terrorist attack.”
Kinder doesn’t address the question about whether AAL 757’s had seatback phones on 9/11, or when they were removed. He says, “we do not have phones …” (present tense), and then says the 9/11 passengers used their cell phones. It may be that Kinder gave a quick reply he believed was correct based on his personal knowledge, and didn’t bother to check whether or not AAL 757s had seatback phones on 9/11, let alone working ones; certainly, his present tense statement, “we do not have,” doesn’t logically indicate AAL 757’s didn’t have them on 9/11/01. However, it does appear Kinder is inferring that was the case, hence his statement that passengers used their cell phones on 9/11.
Given the present tense phrasing of Kinder’s response, however, it cannot be assumed this is evidence that Flight 77 didn’t have working air phones on 9/11. Curiously, Kinder’s present tense phrasing doesn’t bother Griffin, even though he said in his 6/26/07 retraction of his 5/7/07 retraction, that the present tense phrasing of AAL’s 2004 communications with Henshall and Morgan was one of the reasons he concluded he was in error in his book Debunking 9/11 Debunking, leading to his 5/7/07 retraction: “… the realization that the letters from AA in 2004 were couched entirely in the present tense, DRG concluded that the claim that AA 77 had not had onboard phones was probably an error.”
The job of a CSR like Chad Kinder is to provide support to many dozens or even hundreds of customers per day; most issues a CSR deals with are routine questions related to AAL’s current services and schedules, not questions about past events and discontinued services. According to Rob Balsamo’s 5/31/07 follow up interview with Kinder, Kinder could not recall having written the 2006 email as he writes “so many,” but said, “That sounds like an accurate statement.” Apparently, Balsamo did not clarify with Kinder whether or not AAL 757’s, and specifically N644AA (Flight 77), had seatback phones on 9/11, but Kinder still believed they didn’t, without looking into it any further. This confirmation doesn’t clarify whether or not Kinder’s original response was well-informed, and provides no additional information useful to understanding whether or not AAL 757s had working air phones on 9/11.
Furthermore, Kinder’s statement as a CSR doesn’t represent AAL’s position on this issue. AAL’s position was represented by John Hotard, a manager in AAL Corporate Communications (public relations), whose statements I address in Section 3C below. In addition, on 8/14/07 JREF user pomeroo reported that he received this statement from Hotard; “Kinder’s response was based on information that an order had been issued to remove Airphones from the 757 fleet. He did not have information on the specific aircraft or the timetable to remove them.” This is yet another indication that Kinder didn’t thoroughly research the issue, and that his response is unreliable as evidence that AAL 757’s didn’t have working air phones on 9/11.
B. The 757 AMM 23-19-00-0 page and AMTMAN
This section concerns a document first posted by PFT, and a set of documents posted shortly afterward by JREF user AMTMAN. AMTMAN first registered at JREF 7/11/07; two weeks after PFT posted their document on 6/26/07 (in conjunction with Griffin’s 6/26/07 retraction of his 5/7/07 retraction). Regarding the relevance of the PFT document, Griffin says in his Response to Questions essay,
The second new piece of information, supplied by Rob Balsamo of Pilots for 9/11 Truth, was [23-19-00-0] a page from the Boeing 757 Aircraft Maintenance Manual (757 AMM), which has the date January 28, 2001 at the bottom of the page. The first sentence of this page states: “The passenger telephone system was deactivated by ECO [Engineering Change Order] FO878.”
To date, ECO FO878 has not been produced, only 23-19-00-0, which refers to it. Griffin, Balsamo, as well as Craig Ranke and Aldo Marquis (the middlemen for the 23-19-00-0 source), have interpreted the 1/28/01 date on 23-19-00-0 as meaning ECO FO 878 was issued before 9/11/01.
However, there are a number of problems with this interpretation. After the first two sentences that discuss deactivation of the “passenger telephone system,” the rest of the text refers to maintenance of the “Claircom Telephone System.” Why the sudden shift in descriptor and context? According to AMTMAN, the “TR” to the left of the first two sentences signifies “Temporary Revision.” AMTMAN challenged Ranke/Balsamo to go on the record stating what TR means, as well as give the date associated with this particular TR. At the time, Balsamo had been banned from JREF (including his alleged sockpuppet, weedwacker. Also see this 12/27/10 JREF thread for a list of other alleged Balsamo socks at JREF, as well as those used at other forums), but Ranke was participating in the 23-19-00-0 thread. Ranke never responded to AMTMAN’s questions or statement regarding the meaning and date of said TR, I could find no record of it being addressed at the CIT or PFT forums, and the comment threads at Screw Loose Change (SCL) in which Ranke, Balsamo and AMTMAN were apparently participating, reportedly were lost, along with many others, when SCL switched comment hosts in 2009.
On 8/9/07, AMTMAN posted this 23-19-00-0 TR Cover Page as evidence ‘TR’ means ‘Temporary Revision’; AMTMAN also said it “proves that first sentence [in 23-19-00-0] did not appear until 4/2007” (the document lists the TR date as 4/19/07, and the TR release date as 4/13/07). Evidence that AMTMAN is correct about the meaning of ‘TR’, and how it affects dates on AAL maintenance records, is this update to 23-19-00-0 posted 3/25/08, which has text identical to the one posted by PFT, but has a different software revision version/date, ‘AAL’ where ‘TR’ once was, and “9/28/07” as the date at the bottom of the page. This was posted at the same image sharing account as ECO FO871XX, discussed next.
It’s most interesting that PfT say they could not locate F0878 yet they have several others dated for 2002. Well there’s ECO F0871 that states that the Claircom system will be switched to the off position and associated circuit breakers pulled and collared. It’s dated March 2002.
On 9/14/07 SCL posted two pages from ECO FO871XX, presumably provided by AMTMAN. The first page is an order for “Telephone circuit breaker and toggle switch deactivation” with dates beginning March 13, 2002. The second page is a list of 18 out of 121 total 757’s, beginning with 5BR, on which this work was completed in April 2002. The first page lists fleet designation series 610-643, 5BR-5ES and 5ET-5FP. AAL 77 had registration number N644AA, and was in fleet 644. According to the database at rzjets.net, N645AA is in fleet 5BR. It seems reasonable to conclude that ECO FO871XX lists the series that would have included N644AA; having been destroyed in the crash at the Pentagon, it would not have been included in work being done in March and April, 2002. A 9/18/07 update on the 23-19-00-0 page at PFT says, “We are currently in the process of analyzing the conflicts and will update this article as more information becomes available,” but I found no further record of ECO FO871 being addressed by PFT, CIT or JREF.
Some at JREF raised questions about the authenticity of the date on the PFT document (23-19-00-0), as well as about AMTMAN. Griffin has said the documents provided by PFT and AMTMAN are contradictory, and given reasons to prefer PFT’s 23-19-00-0 (see Summary of Section 3, below), as well as their interpretation of the 1/28/01 date on it. However, no one has demonstrated that any of the five AAL pages were forged or tampered with, and AMTMAN vouched for the authenticity of the version of 23-19-00-0 posted by PFT. PFT has not posted records specifically related to the deactivation or disconnection of air phones on N644AA (see also John Hotard’s statements, Section 3C, below). ECO FO878 has not been produced, nor hard evidence of the date on it. I didn’t find that PFT/CIT ever said what the ECO FO878 date was; PFT said “ECO FO878 … could not be located.” No evidence has been provided to support the claim ECO FO878 was issued prior to 1/28/01, which is what the release of 23-19-00-0 allegedly shows, according to CIT, Balsamo and Griffin.
C. John Hotard, AAL Corporate Communications
The third piece of evidence cited by Griffin is an account provided by John Hotard, a manager in Corporate Communications (aka Media Relations; public relations) at AAL, meaning he was authorized to publicly represent American Airlines company positions on certain matters. The source Griffin cites for Hotard is a comment posted at JREF by user pomeroo aka Ron, who apparently pasted text from email exchanges he had with Hotard. On 1/19/11, in response to my fourth request for information about Hotard’s statements reported at JREF, I received this reply from AAL Media Relations: “Mr. Hotard retired a year ago last September.” That was the entirety of the reply; no other info was given, even though I had asked for confirmation of American Airlines’ position on the issue of whether or not Flight 77 had working seatback phones on 9/11/01.
In any case, the emails pomeroo posted, as well as one posted by JREF user Panoply Perfect (see quote below), make it clear that Hotard, unlike Chad Kinder, had researched the issue of whether or not there were working seatback phones on AAL 757s on 9/11, and specifically in the case of N644AA. Among other things, Hotard said 6/27/07, “Ron, I am doublechecking with my maintenance folks so I give you accurate data.”
“An Engineering Change Order to deactivate the seatback phone system on the 757 fleet had been issued by that time [9/11/2001].” Following this statement, Hotard emphasized that photographs showing seatback phones in American 757s after 9/11 would not prove anything, for this reason: “We did two things: issued the engineering change orders to disconnect/disable the phones, but then did not physically remove the phones until the aircraft went … in for a complete overhaul.”
Griffin represents Hotard’s account as confirming the idea that the seatback phones weren’t working on AAL 77. However, he neglected to quote the sentence that immediately preceded the first one he quoted, where Hotard says, “Ron, engineers at our primary Maintenance & Engineering base in Tulsa tell me that they cannot find any record that the 757 aircraft flown into the Pentagon on 9/11 had had its seatback phones deactivated by that date.” Griffin also omits mention, even though it was in the same post that he cites, of Hotard’s statement of what was apparently a consensus conclusion at AAL: “It is our contention that the seatback phones on Flight 77 were working because there is no entry in that aircraft’s records to indicate when the phones were disconnected.” Contrary to the way Griffin represented it, Hotard’s account is evidence the air phones on AAL 77 were working.
On 7/19/07, JREF user Panoply Perfect aka SLOB reported receiving a substantially similar reply from Hotard: “Mr (My name excluded), we have checked the records of the Boeing 757 aircraft on Flight 77. While there are records that indicate an Engineering Change Order was issues [sic] prior to 9/11 to remove the phones from the Boeing 757 fleet, there is no documentation in that particular aircraft’s records that indicate the phones had been disabled or removed by 9/11.”
D. Cpt. Ralph Kolstad, retired AAL Pilot
Griffin cites as his fourth piece of evidence, “email letters to Rob Balsamo and David Griffin, December 22, 2009” from PFT member and former (retired 2005) AAL B757/767 pilot Cpt. Ralph Kolstad; “[T]he ‘air phones,’ as they were called, were … deactivated in early or mid 2001. They had been deactivated for quite some time prior to Sep 2001.” In response to a question about this statement, Kolstad added: “I have no proof, but I am absolutely certain that the phones were disconnected on the 757 long before Sep 2001. They were still physically installed in the aircraft, but they were not operational.”
Kolstad’s and Hotard’s statements contradict each other, but in Hotard’s case he cites “[his] maintenance folks” and “that aircraft’s [N644AA] records.” Kolstad admits having no proof, and his statement is based on his recollection. While possible, it seems unlikely that a commercial airline pilot would find the deactivation of seatback phones, which had never been extensively used and were in declining use by passengers, to be such a significant event that they would make a point of knowing when the deactivations were completed on the entire AAL 757 fleet. It seems even less likely that, over eight years later, someone could recall with ‘absolute certainty’ that it was “long before Sep 2001.” In any case, Hotard’s account should be given greater consideration, unless it can be shown there’s reason to believe AAL’s records were tampered with, or that Hotard was misled or misrepresenting the record, or that the Hotard emails posted by pomeroo and Panoply Perfect were fabricated. However, Griffin did not see a reason to question the authenticity of Hotard’s reply to pomeroo (see Section 3C above).
There are other reasons to be skeptical of Kolstad’s credibility. For instance, Kolstad has been listed as a member of Pilots for 9/11 Truth (PFT) since 2007 (the PFT member list says, “Core members listed in the order they joined.” Kolstad is currently listed 4th, but when he was first listed, he was 25th). PFT is an organization that, beginning with its launch in 2006, has actively perpetuated the controversial, erroneous, discredited (pdf), and counter-productive claim that AAL 77 didn’t crash into the Pentagon (PFT insists it only presents evidence that it could not have happened as reported). PFT, based on a miscalculation of g-force (pdf) and incomplete FDR data (pdf), has claimed the FDR from AAL 77 showed the plane could not have hit the Pentagon. PFT has corrected some of its mathematical errors, but as yet has not corrected the major error in its calculations, according to which the g-force far exceeded what the plane could have physically withstood. Now that the final four seconds of FDR data have been decoded and analyzed by Warren Stutt and Frank Legge (pdf), showing AAL 77 to have been on a trajectory ending at the Pentagon, PFT is insisting the FDR can’t be linked to N644AA, in addition to making false claims of mistakes in the Legge-Stutt paper, and leveling insults and innuendo at Legge and Stutt (see the forum thread for more insults and innuendo, link at note 4 in the press release). In November 2009, PFT began promoting the erroneous claim that the speeds achieved by AAL 11 and UAL 175 prior to hitting WTC 1 and 2 were “impossible” Also in November 2009 PFT began claiming that FDR parameter “FLT_DECK_DOOR” only showing “0” for the entire AAL 77 flight proved the cockpit door never opened, and a hijack was therefore “impossible.” However, this parameter apparently was not in use, as a “1” was never recorded for it in the entire 42 hours of FDR data, over a total of 12 flights (scroll down to: reply posted on 27-11-2009 @ 09:53 PM by 911files). Over the years, PFT has worked with Citizen Investigation Team (CIT) on a number of projects; CIT is known for selective quotation, interpretation and inclusion of witness statements in their films, and accusing witnesses and critics of being disinfo agents. Despite listing many pilots and military as members, PFT has contributed essentially no substantive information regarding important issues such as standard FAA/NORAD procedures, military preparedness prior to and on 9/11, Donald Rumsfeld’s June 1, 2001 order changing air defense procedures to require him to be in a loop from which he was absent on 9/11, the air defense failures on 9/11, and the military exercises coinciding with 9/11.
Furthermore, in Kolstad’s August 20, 2007 statement to Patriots Question 9/11, he says, “One of the best books available, published about one year later, is David Icke’s book Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster. It has some tremendous research and analysis in it.” David Icke is perhaps most famous for asserting the world’s powerbrokers are reptilian humanoids from another planet, and that they created the human race. For over 20 years, in more than 20 books and DVDs, on his website, and in interviews and public appearances, Icke has been making these and other nonsensical claims and allegations, while insisting these are his sincere beliefs. Claims about ‘reptilians’ are featured in the book that Kolstad recommends.
Summary of Section 3
Regarding the documents produced (see Section 3B above), Griffin observed correctly that the identity of neither source can be verified. He goes on to say, “Whereas the purported AMM page is consistent with the testimony of Customer Service Representative Chad Kinder, pilot Ralph Kolstad, and Public Relations Representative John Hotard, the purported ECO provided by AMTMAN is contradicted by the testimony of all of these past and present AAL employees.” Griffin concluded his section 3 by saying, “… we cannot yet claim to have proof … [but] The evidence is very strong, therefore, that Barbara Olson could not possibly have made calls from Flight 77.”
The conclusion that the evidence for impossible calls is “very strong” is actually contradicted and/or undermined by Griffin’s own sources:
Section 3A: Kinder’s own statements don’t support the claim that Kinder was well informed about the operational status of the seatback phones on N644AA. Additionally, AAL Corporate Communications manager John Hotard stated that CSR Chad Kinder was misinformed.
Section 3B: The documents posted by AMTMAN and PFT have not been shown to be fabricated or tampered with, and appear to be authentic AAL maintenance records. The 4/19/07 23-19-00-0 TR cover sheet and 9/28/07 final revision of 23-19-00-0 provided by AMTMAN show that PFT’s 23-19-00-0 didn’t contain the first two sentences until April 2007. There’s no legitimate basis for claiming that ECO FO878 was dated on or prior to 1/28/01, based on PFT’s 23-19-00-0. The ECO FO871 provided by AMTMAN supports the claim that deactivation work did not begin on AAL’s 757s until March 2002.
Section 3C: Hotard cited AAL’s records and mechanics, and, in emails to two different people, said there was no record of N644AA’s seatback phones being disabled. He further stated that it is AAL’s position that the seatback phones on N644AA were operational on 9/11. Griffin made it seem that Hotard’s account supports the faked phone calls theory by ignoring Hotard’s statements that explicitly contradict the claim that the seatback phones weren’t operational.
Section D: Ralph Kolstad’s recollection is questionable, as it came over eight years after what would have been a relatively inconsequential event from a pilot’s perspective. His credibility has been undermined by his membership in Pilots for 9/11 Truth, and his endorsement of David Icke’s 9/11 book.
Conclusion: The most authoritative sources available on the issue of whether or not the air phones were operational on N644AA during 9/11 are Hotard and the documents provided by AMTMAN, and these support the conclusion that the air phones were operational. There is no credible evidence that, “Barbara Olson could not possibly have made calls from Flight 77.”
4. “The FBI’s report on phone calls from the 9/11 airliners did not undermine Ted Olson’s report about receiving phone calls from his wife.”
In this section of his Response to Questions essay, Griffin examines the reported calls from Barbara Olson to Ted Olson. Griffin presents and analyzes different scenarios concerning the call records and the number of calls said to have been made. There are some odd elements and missing pieces, but no hard evidence the calls did not happen. There is evidence they did, and it is not correct to say the FBI has “undermine[d] Ted Olson’s report.”
One notable part is where Griffin takes issue with jimd3100′s explanation for why there were connected calls without a record of who called:
jimd3100: If you use a credit card and pay yourself you dial the number yourself and a record from the airphone is then made. She did that once and it didn’t go through … you have the one recorded call, and the number dialed from the airphone. The others were made collect and therefor [sic] the operator dialed the number not the person using the airphone therefor [sic] the number called is unknown (not dialed on the airphone) but the time the airphone was used is known and recorded.
Griffin: There are two problems with this explanation. First, as we already saw, only one of the calls from Barbara Olson reportedly received by her husband’s office came through an operator. The other one, Lori Keyton said, was a direct call. Second, it is simply not the case that collect calls made through operators leave no record. (Without a record, how would the phone company know whom to charge for the calls?) So this explanation is about a [sic] wrong as an explanation can be.
Re: the first problem, the direct call to Ted Olson
AT&T collect call operators, like most other people in the US, were probably well aware of the plane crashes in NYC by the time of Barbara Olson’s calls, and the US was under terrorist attack. Having been told by Olson that her plane had been hijacked, the operator may have simply connected the call for Olson, rather than waste time in a life-or-death situation. AT&T operator Mercy Lorenzo connected at least one of Olson’s calls, and told her co-worker Teresa Gonzalez that Olson said the plane was hijacked; both operators took the claim so seriously that they each called the FBI (see quotes and links below). These FBI 302 interview records don’t say a call was connected directly; the direct call may have been connected by another operator, or Lorenzo/Gonzalez may not have wanted to admit doing this, as it was contrary to standard procedure. However, the idea that a subsequent call from Olson was put through directly is plausible, even probable. There is a lack of evidence that explains the direct call, but there’s no evidence it didn’t happen. This is something that could be verified or disproven by an independent investigation with the necessary resources and authorities. In addition, if the 9/11 plot involved faked phone calls, it seems unlikely that a seemingly contradictory and potentially suspicious element would be introduced into the narrative – but here it is, and Griffin has made an issue out of it. Furthermore, it also seems unlikely a plot involving faked calls would introduce an unnecessary element of complexity; faking a call to an operator, in order for a collect call to be involved.
In the 911Blogger comments thread for Griffin’s CBC Fifth Estate Interview, as well as in the thread for jimd3100’s essay which Griffin quotes from, I had suggested this may have been the reason for the direct call. However, in his Response to Questions essay, Griffin does not address the possibility that AT&T operators connected Olson’s call(s) directly. A review of the endnotes for this essay shows that he did review the comment threads for both 911Blogger posts; in addition to others’ comments, he quotes a number of my own comments, citing my 911Blogger user name, ‘loose nuke’, and pointing out that my comments revealed a lack of awareness that Griffin had retracted his retraction of his claim that AAL 757’s didn’t have seatback phones on 9/11. The CBC Interview comment thread included my quoting from the FBI 302 reports of interviews with Lorenzo and Gonzalez:
FBI 302 9/11/01 (p. 17): Mercy Lorenzo, operator for AT&T Services AT&T, telephonically contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI to report an emergency phone call received by her while on duty at AT&T. After being advised of the identity of the interviewing agent and the nature of the interview, she provided the following information:
A female passenger called from the telephone located on the back of the airplane seat. Passenger requested to be connected with her husband, a sergeant who resides in Washington, D.C. The passenger advised the plane was currently being hi-jacked. The hi-jackers, armed with guns and knives, were ordering the passengers to move to the back of the plane. The passenger wanted to know how to let the pilots know what was happening. It did not appear as if they were aware of the situation.
FBI 302 9/11/01 (p. 36): Teresa Gonzalez, operator for AT&T Services AT&T, telephonically contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI to report an emergency phone call received by AT&T. After being advised of the identity of the interviewing agent and the nature of the interview, she provided the following information:
Mercy Lorenzo, also an operator with AT&T, received a call from a female passenger on flight 77 requesting to be transferred to telephone number [redacted] The female passenger advised the plane was being hi-jacked. Hi-jackers were ordering passengers to move to the back of the plane and were armed with guns and knives. Lorenzo indicated the pilot might not yet be aware of the take over of the plane. Additionally, the number provided was the number of the passenger’s husband. He is a Sergeant and resides in Washington, D.C.
From the context, it’s obvious the “female passenger” is Barbara Olson. Her husband, Ted Olson, was Solicitor General at the Justice Dept (DOJ), not a “Sergeant”, but it seems likely this was just a misunderstanding. In addition, an unredacted version of the Gonzalez FBI 302 obtained by 9/11 Myths shows the number that was called: 202-514-2201. An online search quickly confirms this is a number for the Solicitor General at DOJ. This number is also listed in the Memorandum for the Record (MFR) for a 5/20/04 DOJ briefing to the 9/11 Commission (p. 2).
Guns on all four flights, six hijackers on AAL 77?
Notice from the above 302s that Mercy Lorenzo said Olson reported the hijackers had guns. This is an element that conflicts with the official 9/11 narrative; why is it here, if the phone calls were faked, and why is it FBI records, if these were faked? Guns were also reported on the three other hijacked flights. On 9/11/01, an FAA memo said that AAL 11 passenger Daniel Lewin (of the Israeli Defense Forces) had been shot (HistoryCommons AAL 11); the FAA claimed this was an early report and erroneous. According to some accounts (pp. 13, 23, 54, 57), UAL 175 passenger Peter Hanson reported that a stewardess had been shot: other accounts only mentioned a bomb, mace, knives and stabbing. The 302 record of Deena Burnett’s 9/15/01 FBI interview (p. 12) says, “Call 2 … said subjects in cockpit with guns.” In an interview with the London Times published 8/11/02, Deena said, “He told me one of the hijackers had a gun. He wouldn’t have made it up. Tom grew up around guns. He was an avid hunter and we have guns in our home. If he said there was a gun on board, there was.” According to her 4/26/04 interview with the 9/11 Commission, “Burnett’s exact words to Deena were, ‘I think one of them has a gun.’”
Furthermore, the official 9/11 narrative says there were five hijackers on AAL 77, but Flight Attendant Renee May reported six: “Renee told her mother that the flight she had been hijacked by six 6 hijackers. Renee further explained that the hijackers put ‘us’ in the back of the airplane.” FBI 302 9/12/01 (p. 37)
The 9/11 Commission considered but dismissed the reports of six hijackers on AAL 77, and of guns and shootings, as erroneous. Though guns would explain how the hijackers were so easily able to take over the flights and subdue the crews and passengers, these reports have since been largely ignored by the media and the 9/11 Truth Movement. It’s conceivable that fake bombs could be smuggled on board by passengers, but guns would almost certainly have to have been placed on board prior to the flight, by maintenance crews or others with access to the planes. It may be there is something more here, but it’s also possible the Commission is correct, and these reports were simply mistaken. An investigation not controlled by insiders with conflicts of interest (also see this on Executive Director Philip Zelikow) and a pre-established agenda, such as was the 9/11 Commission, might be able to credibly establish the whole truth regarding these matters and the many other unanswered questions and information in the public record which conflicts with the official 9/11 conspiracy theory.
Re: the second problem, the lack of records
Phone companies have records for phone calls. The FBI obtained call records for all four 9/11 flights (AAL 77 pp. 11-24) as part of its investigation and provided them to the 9/11 Commission. American Airlines phone calls were carried by Claircom. In reviewing these records for AAL 11 and AAL 77, it is seen that all calls from the two AAL flights had 904-555-0004 as the originating number. Two direct calls were attempted, but not connected; one to May’s parents, and one to Ted Olson’s office. One connected call at 7:12:18 (6:12:18 PST) used a Visa card, went to the phone number of Renee May’s parents, and lasted for 158 seconds (AT&T/Claircom p. 13). When interviewed by the FBI, Renee’s mother, Nancy May, said Renee had called about this time, told her the plane was hijacked by six hijackers who had moved them to the back of the plane, and gave her mother three AAL phone numbers to call (9/12/01 FBI 302, p. 37). The other AAL 77 connected calls either went to “0”, or didn’t list a number.
According to a 5/20/04 DOJ briefing given to the 9/11 Commission on Cell and Phone Calls from AA 77 (p. 1), “All of the calls from Flight 77 were made via the onboard airphone system. That system did not provide information about the location of the airphone from which each call was made, and allowed for the identification of the called number for only three of the eight calls.” It does seem strange that the system routing and tracking these calls would not record the number being called, but if the terminating number was the operator, that would be the one number where it would be unimportant if the system does not record a “0,” as, if the field was blank, it could be understood to have been a call to the operator. Certainly, the system used was not entirely up to date; for instance, although the correct date and times for calls are listed under “Start Time,” fields called “Billing Start” and “Answer Supervision” contain the following text for every call; “Wed Dec 31 18:00:00 1969.” A note on this line, apparently added by either AT&T/Claircom or the FBI, explains, “Time is not tracked because OSPS [Operator Services] bills.” Additional support for the idea that these calls went to the operator is that no credit or phone card information was entered for these calls. In any case, a full investigation might be able to settle this question, but it isn’t evidence of faked calls. In addition, if this is a suspicious element, why would it have been introduced as part of a faked calls plot?
Regarding the phone number(s) where the Claircom calls from the AAL flights were redirected to, it seems AT&T should have records; the OSPS billing records, for instance. In addition, DOJ would have phone bills, that, at a minimum, should show a collect call received, if not detailed data on all calls received. Furthermore, DOJ might have its own system for recording, logging and tracking calls received. Among the 9/11 Commission records released to the public, I have not found these records. Apparently the FBI did not receive such records; the 5/20/04 DOJ briefing (p. 2) says, “… there was no direct evidence with respect to the ‘unknown calls’ …” No explanation for this was given in the briefing, and I have not found other records which provide an explanation. The explanation may simply be the FBI didn’t get the billing/other records from OSPS and DOJ, and didn’t ask AT&T/DOJ for an explanation, though it seems they would have, as they were seeking to find out what calls were made, and who made and received them. If anyone wants to investigate this or pressure the DOJ/FBI for answers, fine. However, claiming this absence of evidence is evidence the calls were faked is not warranted, especially in light of the fact that the rest of Griffin’s case for faked calls doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, as I have shown throughout this essay.
Two, four or zero calls from Barbara Olson to Ted Olson?
According to the 5/20/04 DOJ briefing (p. 2), “interviews with recipients (especially Lori Keyton who was answering the phone in Ted Olson’s office on 9/11), plus interviews of family members of other Flight 77 passengers, has led to the conclusion that all of these unknown calls were from Barbara Olson to her husband Ted’s office.” It is puzzling the DOJ/FBI reached this conclusion, given that Solicitor General Ted Olson, his Special Assistant Helen Voss, and his Secretary Lori Keyton all told the FBI there had been two calls from Barbara Olson (9/11/01 FBI 302s, pp. 1-3, 59). Certainly, Ted Olson is an untrustworthy character, but in this instance his account was corroborated by Keyton and Voss, in addition to the statements by AT&T operators Mercy Lorezo and Teresa Gonzalez. Also, the AT&T/Claircom call records showed an attempted call to Ted Olson’s number, as well as the connected unknown calls around the time/duration Ted Olson, Keyton and Voss said the calls were received from Barbara Olson. It would have been reasonable for the FBI to conclude that there were two connected calls from Barbara Olson to Ted Olson. It also would have been reasonable for the FBI to say they were unable to determine who was involved on the other connected calls from and to unknown parties. After all, the call records were missing information or unavailable, and there were 64 people on board AAL 77, each with an unknowable number of relationships; how could the FBI rule out that calls might have been made to persons not interviewed? Instead, the FBI is apparently alleging Ted Olson had more conversations with his wife than he remembers or admits, and that Voss and Keyton suffered from the same lapse of memory/attention, or were also not forthcoming. Bizarre and deserving an explanation, yes. Evidence of faked calls, no.
It’s interesting and possibly significant that, according to Keyton’s 302 (p. 59),
At approximately 9:00am, she received a series of approximately six 6 to eight 8 collect telephone calls. Each of the calls was an automated collect call. There was a recording advising of the collect call and requesting she hold for an operator. A short time later another recording stated that all operators were busy, please hang up and try your call later.
The AAL 77 call record does not show these six to eight calls.
In the Conclusion to his Response to Questions essay, Griffin observes, “Without the widespread assumption that the 9/11 attacks had been planned and carried out by al-Qaeda, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would not have been possible.” This is true; without this assumption, the American people, Congress and allied nations would not have supported the wars. However, Griffin goes on to say, “… when subjected to a detailed analysis, these alleged phone calls, far from supporting the war-justifying story, lead to a very different conclusion: that these alleged calls were faked.” As I’ve shown in this essay, while Griffin has done a masterful job of creating the appearance the faked calls theory is supported by evidence and reason, this appearance rests on a significant amount of speculation, illogical argumentation, and misinterpretation and omission of evidence. There is no credible basis for claiming the 9/11 calls were faked.
Here’s a prime example of a logical fallacy, from Griffin’s Conclusion; “If the official story is false, then we should expect every major dimension of it to be false.” As Richard Falk characterized it 1/11/11, the “official version of the [9/11] events [is] an al Qaeda operation with no foreknowledge by government officials.” Any particular dimension of this story being false does not mean other indirectly related elements will be false, so that should not be expected. Furthermore, inquiry shouldn’t start with conclusions and theories, and then seek to find facts to fit them. The scientific, logical way of conducting an investigation begins with gathering facts and evidence, and seeing what conclusions they support. A hypothesis may be useful in sketching out lines of inquiry, but hypotheses are tools, not proofs; they’re tested against the facts and evidence, and rejected if they fail to fit the facts and evidence. This is not what Griffin has done; instead, he has continually, over a period of several years, marshaled whatever could be used to support the faked calls theory, and used rhetoric to undermine evidence and reason that contradicts this theory. Logical fallacies often seem logical to those employing as well as those hearing or reading them, and they can be persuasive if not examined carefully, or not examined in the context of other evidence and arguments. The presence of logical fallacies in arguments, however, always undermines the credibility of arguments and of the speaker/writer employing them.
Speculation, like hypotheses, can be useful, but it is important to recognize when one is doing it, and to not confuse speculation with fact, evidence or proof. At some points in my essay, I have engaged in speculation; my purpose in doing so is to show that there are other possible – and more probable – explanations for some of the seemingly problematic elements in records related to the 9/11 calls.
Griffin’s conclusion of Part 2 of his Response to Questions essay is worth quoting in its entirety (below), due to its repeated use of speculation and logical fallacies aimed at particular conclusions, while framed with subtle rhetorical qualifiers that make it clear Griffin understands the faked calls theory is speculative and unproven.
In the following passage I have underlined speculation, italicized logical fallacies, and bolded qualifiers, in order to draw the reader’s attention to them. In some cases statements, or parts of statements, fall into the category of both speculation and logical fallacy:
Conclusion: On the one hand, the cell phone number of Tom Burnett and probably that of Renee May showed up on Caller IDs while their planes were in the air. On the other hand, the FBI’s Moussaoui trial report states that Burnett and Renee May did not use cell phones. Unless one is willing to challenge the FBI on this point, what alternative is there except to conclude that someone fabricated at least one, and probably both, of these calls, using a device that, besides replicating the impersonated persons’ voices, also caused their cell phone numbers to appear? That is, to be sure, speculation. But if there is no other plausible way to account for the facts, it cannot be called unwarranted speculation.
Moreover, if we can say with great confidence that the reported calls from Amy Sweeney and Tom Burnett (and probably Renee May) were faked, what about the reported calls from various other people – including Sandy Bradshaw, Marion Britton, Honor Wainio, Jeremy Glick, Peter Hanson, and Brian Sweeney – that were originally said to have been made on cell phones? The only way to avoid the conclusion that they also were faked, it seems, would be to claim that they were based on misunderstanding or faulty memory. However, the accuracy of these reports is supported not only by the fact that so many people gave them, but also by the fact that the Burnett calls, having been registered on the recipient phone’s Caller ID as cell phone calls, cannot be explained with speculations about misunderstanding or faulty memory. The calls to Deena Burnett thereby support the accuracy of the claims of the other people who said they had been called from cell phones. It would seem, therefore, that we have good evidence, with regard to most of the reported calls originally said to have been made on cell phones, that they were faked.
That conclusion leads to the further conclusion that all of the reported calls from the airliners were faked, even those that were from the beginning said to have been made from onboard phones. Why? Because if some of the calls had been genuine, reporting real hijackings, why would several people have been all set up with the equipment and information to fabricate cell phone calls from some of the passengers? If people were ready to fabricate calls from Amy Sweeney, Tom Burnett, and most of the other people who were originally said to have made cell phone calls, then the airliners were not, as the official story has it, hijacked in a surprise operation. If the most fundamental part of the official story is false, then there is no reason to accept the reality of any of the hijack-reporting phone calls from the planes.
In the first and second paragraphs above, Griffin has used logical fallacies to set up a speculative premise – and one unsupported by evidence, as I’ve shown in this essay – on which the rest of his argument is based. The main logical fallacy is the suggestion that there is no “alternative … except to conclude” that the phone calls of Tom Burnett, Amy Sweeney and “probably” Renee May were faked. As I’ve shown, there are other possible, and more probable, explanations, and Griffin’s case for faked calls has been built on errors, selective quotation/interpretation, and omission of evidence that contradicts and undermines it. The speculative premise is his conclusion that these phone calls were faked, and based this premise he argues it then follows that all the calls were faked. As there’s no actual evidence any of the phone calls were faked, there’s no basis for concluding all of the calls were faked. By using qualifiers such as “seems” and “if,” and acknowledging use of a voice-morphing cell phone faking device is “speculation,” Griffin is decidedly not going so far as to claim it’s a fact the calls were faked. However, the vast majority of his rhetoric, if uncritically accepted, leads directly to that conclusion.
In his final conclusion to his Response to Questions essay, Griffin alleges, “The evidence that the alleged phone calls from the airliners were faked is an important part of this cumulative argument [that the official 9/11 story is false].” Again, as there’s no evidence the phone calls were faked, the claim that they were faked (or may have been faked) is not only not “an important part” of the case demonstrating the official 9/11 conspiracy theory is false, this claim is actually destructive to the cause of compelling full disclosure and accountability for 9/11. Speculative theories and false claims regarding the veracity of the official 9/11 story are not only not evidence that the public has been deceived about 9/11, and not useful in educating the public or compelling a full investigation, they discredit those who promote them, and, by extension and association, discredit the 9/11 Truth Movement. In turn, this makes it more difficult for journalists and public officials to support a full investigation of 9/11, as well as less likely that the general public will.
Also in his final conclusion, Griffin says,
If asked which part of the official story can be most definitively shown to be false, I would speak not of the alleged phone calls but of the destruction of the World Trade Center, the official account of which says that the Twin Towers and WTC 7 came down without the aid of pre-set explosives. Given the fact that this theory involves massive violations of basic laws of physics, the evidence against it is so strong as to be properly called proof – as I have recently emphasized in a book-length critique of the official report on WTC 7 in particular.
It’s true the evidence is good that the official account of the Twin Towers destruction is false – this has been demonstrated by Jim Hoffman in his review of the NIST report, Building a Better Mirage, and by Steven Jones et al in their letter Fourteen Points of Agreement with Official Government Reports on the World Trade Center Destruction [pdf], published in the Open Civil Engineering Journal. The official account of the destruction of World Trade Center 7 is also severely flawed, as shown by Kevin Ryan in his review, The NIST WTC 7 Report: Bush Science reaches its peak, and in this review at WTC7.net, NIST’s Explanation of WTC 7′s Collapse. The evidence is also good that some method of controlled demolition was used to bring down all three buildings: see 911Research.WTC7.net, Journalof911Studies.com and 911SpeakOut.org for the best research into this aspect of 9/11.
However, Griffin is in error when he says the destructions of WTC 1, 2 and 7 are the “part of the official story [which] can be most definitively shown to be false.” The truth is that the official 9/11 story quickly falls apart when examined from many different angles. For instance, it’s false that US, Saudi, Pakistani and Israeli intelligence agencies have not exploited terrorist organizations in proxy wars and operations, including Al Qaeda, and that there are no connections between them and the 9/11 plot. It’s false that all of the alleged hijackers were Islamic radicals; some of them drank, used drugs, bought lap dances and prostitutes, and some activities were facilitated by FAA, INS and CIA actions and inactions. It’s false that no one in the US government imagined a planes-as-missiles attack on US cities, that there were no warning signs and intelligence pointing to the 9/11 plot, and that key people at State, NSA, CIA, INS, FBI, FAA, NMCC, NORAD, Secret Service and the White House were unaware of and/or incapable of preventing the 9/11 plot, as the public was originally told. Though it documented some new facts about what was known and not done prior to and on 9/11, the 9/11 Commission Report largely ignored, glossed over or explained away the issues raised by the links above. Things like the Project for the New American Century, PTech, pre-9/11 Afghanistan war planning, pre-9/11 Iraq war planning, unusual financial transactions, coincident military exercises and the 2001 Anthrax attack got similar treatment, as did suspicious behavior, strange decisions and false statements on the part of principals such George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, John Ashcroft, Robert Mueller, Richard Myers, Ralph Eberhart and others. Likewise, the testimony of whistleblowers such as Sibel Edmonds, Coleen Rowley, Robert Wright and Anthony Shaffer. It’s also not true that 9/11 was adequately investigated by the FBI, Congressional Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission (conflicts of Commissioners and key staff – In depth on Philip Zelikow). All of these investigations were controlled or compromised to some degree by insiders with conflicts of interest, as well as frustrated in their inquiries by agencies and persons in the Executive branch, who, in some cases, should have been targets of their investigations. Instead, in many cases, their testimonies were used as sources for the 9/11 Commission’s narrative, which also relied heavily on the testimony of tortured prisoners. In the end, the 9/11 Commission Report held no one responsible; it blamed the ‘failure’ to prevent 9/11 on failures of “imagination, policy, capabilities, and management” (p. 339). Those who bore significant responsibility for the ‘failures’ to prevent 9/11 were rewarded with raises and promotions, or increased budgets, authority and deference from Congress, as well as support from the public, as the Bush Administration rushed to subvert the Constitution, invade Iraq and launch, in the words of Dick Cheney, a ‘war on terror’ that “may never end. At least, not in our lifetimes.”
To learn more about the many other documented problems with the official 9/11 story, many of which point directly to an ‘inside job’ scenario and to specific people and institutions, I suggest exploring The Complete 9/11 Timeline hosted by HistoryCommons.org, and also 911Research.WTC7.net and 911Review.com. For a general overview, with source links, of 50 areas that deserve full investigation, see The Facts Speak for Themselves, compiled and summarized by Jon Gold. If you like reading books, I suggest The Terror Timeline by Paul Thompson (based on the timeline at HistoryCommons.org), The War on Truth by Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed, and The Road to 9/11 by Peter Dale Scott.
Ultimately, the failure to establish truth, justice and good government lies with the American People. At the founding of the United States, Ben Franklin advised us that we had been given, “A republic, if [we] can keep it.” We do not face the kind of obstacles that people in the Middle East do, where we are seeing popular movements and revolutions against tyrannical regimes that have been supported by the Democrats, Republicans and US corporations and elites for decades. The failure of the US government to prevent 9/11, to credibly investigate it once it happened, and to establish truth and justice for responsible parties and victims, is reason enough to withdraw support from the Democrats and Republicans (and/or take back both parties from the monied elites and big business interests that control them). It’s reason enough to boycott the corporate media, faux ‘alternative’ media, and the US banking establishment, and to support independent alternatives. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission will likely be needed to get to the whole truth about 9/11, the crimes and corrupt people and institutions that enabled 9/11, and the subsequent crimes against humanity and the US Constitution that 9/11 enabled. We need to support the internet, independent media and political candidates, election integrity, campaign finance reform, the Article V Convention for Proposing Amendments to the US Constitution that the Constitution peremptorily requires Congress to call, monetary reform, credit unions, alternative energy, resource conservation, local exchange trading systems, local currencies, permatopia, and the abolition of war and corporate rule – “for ourselves and our posterity.”
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