- Gary North's REALITY CHECK Number 82
- October 12, 2001
- Maybe you like puzzles. I hope so. I don't like them.
I regard them as a challenge, not a game. I avoid them because, when
I cannot find a solution, my mind won't stop working on them. Then I get
very frustrated. So, I avoid magic shows, crossword puzzles, and similar
- Yet I am also a historian with a Ph.D. Historians are
trained to solve puzzles with insufficient pieces. Historians never have
all of the evidence that they would like in order to come up with a
explanation of what happened. They always want another piece in the puzzle
before they go into print. (Of course, once they go into print, they will
tend to reject any newly discovered piece that messes up their version
of the completed puzzle.) At some point, they are supposed to come to
a conclusion. They are supposed to make a judgment about what
- I am presently stuck. So, I am sending out this report.
Maybe there is someone my list who can get me unstuck.
- Years ago, I saw a movie, "My Cousin Vinnie."
Vinnie was studying to be a lawyer. He wasn't a good classroom student,
but he had a unique ability. He could figure out how things fit together.
Show him a magic trick, and he could tell you how the magician did it.
Tell him a story with a missing link, and he could identify where the
missing link was, and maybe what it was. He could solve puzzles.
- I am trying to locate Vinnie.
- This puzzle is no game. The United States has gone to
war on the basis of one solution to this puzzle. We have not yet been
told what this solution is.
- The puzzle begins with the crash of four airliners. We
must work our way backward from this.
- To do this, I decided to begin with official information
that was published 16 days after the attack. To work my way backwards,
I first leaped forward.
- ALLEGED HIJACKERS
- On September 27, the Associated Press released a story
about the hijackers. The version that I read, published in the ATLANTA
JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, referred to these men as alleged hijackers. I shall
do the same.
- I located this article by using www.daypop.com. Daypop
is the most complete archive of recent news stories on the Web. Daypop
allows you to search for stories that are up to four weeks old.
- I searched for "passenger list" and
Daypop produced three pages of links -- not that many. Almost all of these
links were to the same AP story, which was published by numerous on-line
news sources. Here is the version I used.
- The headline reads: "FBI releases updated list of
alleged hijackers." Above the headline is a link that says,
here to see 19 suspected hijackers." I clicked it. A large box
up. It took a while for the photos to appear. There are 19 photos, along
with names. The names appear to be Middle Eastern -- Arabs. Most of the
men look like Arabs, although a few might pass as Mexicans. Only one of
them looked vaguely like a European.
- They are divided into four lists, according to which
flight they are said to have boarded. There were five men on American
Airlines Flight 77, five on AA Flight 11, five on United Airlines Flight
175, and four on UA Flight 93 -- the flight that crashed in
- Let's return to the AP story itself. We read the
- As Attorney General John Ashcroft launched a
neighborhood watch" with the release of the photos, FBI Director
Mueller acknowledged that questions remained about whether an accompanying
list contained the true names of the 19.
- "What we are currently doing is determining whether,
when these individuals came to the United States, these were their real
names or they changed their names for use with false identification in
the United States," Mueller said.
- The FBI director said there was evidence that one or
more of the hijackers had had contacts with al-Qaida, the network
with Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire who is the Bush
top suspect in the attacks.
- This story indicates that, as of September 27, the FBI
was not certain whether these suspects had used their real names. The
remainder of the story listed each of their names, along with possible
aliases. The aliases all look like Arab names.
- I have discovered no additional information released
to the general public regarding these suspects.
- I now backtrack to the morning of September 11. The
issue that I am trying to deal with is airline security. To draw rational
conclusions about how the alleged hijackers accomplished their acts of
terrorism, we must begin with airline security.
- The United States has now gone to war because of a
somewhere in airline security procedures. Yet nobody in government is
blaming the specific airlines. They are blaming the procedures. This is
why I want you mentally to go through the procedures with me. I have hit
a brick wall. I am asking you to help me knock it down. I will show you
how I went through the procedures mentally. See if you can figure out which
step I missed.
- Step One is check-in.
- STEP ONE: CHECK-IN
- On September 11, airline check-in counters were the only
places in the United States that required travellers to present a photo
ID in order to travel. A photo ID meant (and still means) a card issued
by some branch of civil government. Years ago, the United States
took the first step toward a national ID card when it mandated the
that all passengers present a photo ID card before being allowed to get
on a commercial airplane.
- This means that the tightest security that the typical
American ever confronts is airport security. This is the model for all
other security systems governing the general public.
- Let's go through the check-in routine together. Pretend
that it's September 11, and you are a check-in agent at either a United
Airlines counter or an American Airlines counter. It is your job to ask
the standard questions. "Did you pack your own luggage? Have you
had it in your possession at all times?" Then you ask for a photo
ID. The name on the ID must match the name on the ticket. The photo must
match the person presenting the card.
- I began with American Airlines, Flight 11. This was
the plane that crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
I began with the list of passengers. This was not difficult. The
lists for all four planes are posted on CNN's Website.
- Click on the link. This is a long link for the
of my newsletter. If it is broken on your screen, you will have to paste
it into your Web browser's address box. This will take two steps.
- The CNN page says that there were 92 people on board.
I suggest that you print out the list. Part of my exercise was to count
the names of the passengers. Besides, you never know when a Web page will
- Do you have the print-out in front of you? Count the
names. I get 86 names, including the crew. But the CNN page says 92
were on board.
- None of the 86 names is an Arab name. This is very,
very strange. First, how did the CNN list-compiler know that there were
92 people on board? Five of them are not listed. Second, how did anyone
get on board who was not on the list of ticketed passengers?
- To get onto the flight legally, each passenger had to
have a ticket with his or her name on it. Each passenger had to present
a photo ID to the check-in agent. The check-in agent was supposed to look
at the picture and the person, and then make a judgment. Was it the same
person? If the mandated procedure was followed, the check-in agent decided
that the ticket's name, the photo ID's name, the photo, and the ID-holder's
face all matched. If there was any doubt, the check-in agent was supposed
to ask for some other form of identification. If there was none, the
was not allowed to board the plane.
- We are told by the United States government that five
Arabs somehow got through this initial screening procedure. How did they
do this? This is puzzle number one regarding Flight 11. Puzzle number
two has to do with the incomplete passenger list.
- Airlines keep a list of passengers on board. This is
for insurance purposes, should there be a crash. It is also for the
of notifying relatives after a crash. It is also for the purpose of
screening. "Has everyone paid who is on the plane?" And,
is there a hijacker on board?
- On American Airlines Flight 11, there were no Arab names
on the passenger list. So, how does the government know who the hijackers
- Why does CNN's Web page list 92 dead, when there are
only 86 name listed? Who was the non-Arab?
- I have seen nothing about government accusations against
American Airlines for substandard check-in security procedures. In fact,
I have seen nothing about the discrepancy between the published names and
the published numbers regarding how many people were on board.
- Let's go to American Airlines Flight 77. This plane
crashed into the Pentagon.
- We are told that 64 people were on board. I count 56,
including 6 crew members. There is no explanation offered for the absence
of 8 names. There is no Arab name on this list.
- Something is definitely wrong here.
- What about United Airlines? Did the company's employees
follow the same check-in procedure? Presumably, they did. I checked
175, which crashed into the south tower.
- There were 56 people on board, according to CNN's
I printed out the list. I counted the names. Once again, they don't add
up. The summation says there were 2 pilots, 7 flight attendants, and 56
passengers. I counted the names. The total is 56 -- the number attributed
to the passengers. Nine names are missing. None of the listed names is
- This leaves United Flight 93, which crashed in
It had 45 people on board, according to the summation.
- Again, there is a discrepancy. Only 33 names appear
on the list. A dozen names are missing. Among the missing names are the
four Arabs who allegedly hijacked the plane.
- So, the published names in no instance match the total
listed for the number of people on board. CNN really should offer an
for this discrepancy.
- In no case does an Arab name appear on a list, let alone
one of the alleged hijackers.
- How did CNN fail to count the names accurately? Did
the airlines not provide the full list of each flight's names? Perhaps
- This raises the next question. How did the airlines
know how many people were on each of these flights? The airlines must
have had a list for each flight. What possible reason could they have
had for not releasing the full lists? Finally, why are there no Arabs
listed on any of these lists, let alone the specific Arabs identified by
the Attorney General and the head of the FBI in an Associated Press
- I do not understand how 19 Arabs could have evaded the
check-in procedures. I also do not understand why every passenger's name
is not on the published lists.
- I have seen no other source of the passenger lists.
search word: "manifests.") It has now been over a month since
the attack. Where is a complete list? I don't know. Where is a complete
list of all four flights that has the alleged hijackers' names on it?
I don't know.
- Finally, where is some enterprising reporter who is
to get answers? I don't know.
- What about Step Two?
- STEP TWO: ON-BOARD SEATING
- There were multiple terrorists in the cabin of each plane
when the plane left the ground. They did not get there through the
system. Or did they? If they did, then how?
- I assume here -- again, maybe I am wrong -- that they
got there through another entrance. Maybe they were part of the food
- These were all cross-country flights. The planes were
loaded with lots of fuel, which is why they were selected: flying bombs.
On cross-country flights, passengers still are given meals, not just
and soft drinks. The number of meals is supposed to match the number of
people on board, or at least come close.
- Flight attendants have a list of passengers and their
assigned seats. This is to enable them to identify passengers who have
requested special meals, such as kosher meals. It is also to enable them
to identify people who have not bought a ticket. Flight attendants are
supposed to know who has been assigned to which seat.
- It is September 11. Here is the situation: there are
an extra five men on three flights, and four extra men on Flight 93.
- You have already seen the photos of these men. If I
had been a flight attendant, and I saw five extra men who looked like they
did -- young, Arabic, and without tickets -- I would have asked them to
explain why they were on board. I would not have assumed that they
- Are we to assume that on four separate flights, none
of the flight attendants noticed that something was wrong? Are we to
that they failed to notice that five or four extra passengers were on board
who were not on the passenger list? Furthermore, these men looked as
they were of one ethnic group. They all had Arabic accents, I
- Why did the flight attendants ignore all this? There
is no indication from the government that these men took over all four
planes while the planes were still on the ground. Even if they had, the
pilots would not have taken off if there were hijackers on board. They
would have waited to hear the demands, and the demand to "take off
now" would have been refused by at least one flight crew -- and I
believe all four.
- We need a theory of the co-ordinated hijacking that rests
on a plausible cause-and-effect sequence that does not assume the complete
failure of both the check-in procedures and the on-board seating procedures
on four separate flights on two separate airlines. If the explanation
does rely on a theory of check-in procedural breakdown, where is the
- I have heard no such theory from the government. I have
heard no such theory from the news media. In fact, I have heard neither
the government nor the mainstream media even mention these perplexing
Perhaps you have. If so, I would like to see the Web link or a reference
to the newspaper or other source where these matters have been
- I don't mean this or that discussion forum devoted to
conspiracy theories. I mean the mainstream press. It is very peculiar
that the mainstream media and the government have not offered a detailed
theory of how the hijackers evaded both the check-in procedures and the
pre-takeoff seating procedures.
- Perhaps some airline industry publication has dealt with
this. If so, I would like to see the document.
- I would also like to see passenger lists that include
every passenger's name. I want to see 19 Arab names on these complete
- If these updated lists are ever released, I want to see
that they match the original lists that were not released immediately.
I want to know that any new names have not been added retroactively.
I want evidence -- from travel agencies' records and credit card records
-- that everyone on each plane's updated passenger list actually bought
- Is this to much to ask? So far, apparently it is.
- CONSPIRACY THEORIES
- Conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen. Well, not all
of them. We have gone to war based on one of them. But I don't see how
anyone can make an accurate judgment about who was behind the attacks until
he has a plausible explanation of how the hijackers got onto the planes
and were not removed.
- I am not interested in any theory about who did it until
I have a plausible explanation for how he did it.
- The key to discovering who planned this attack is
tied to the procedures used by his agents to do it.
- I don't see how they did it, yet I know that three planes
crashed into highly visible targets. A fourth plane had veered off course,
and it seems plausible that it was part of a co-ordinated attack. This
has yet to be proven, but it seems plausible.
- We keep hearing about plastic knives and box cutters.
But we hear nothing about how these 19 men took plastic knives and box
cutters onto four planes, and no one noticed that anything was amiss until
the planes were in the air.
- So, you tell me. How did 19 Arabs get onto these planes
and then remain inconspicuous until the planes were aloft?
- I have no conclusion. I told you this at the beginning.
I am stuck.
- I am looking for Vinnie. Maybe you're Vinnie. After
you have drawn your own conclusion, and it seems reasonable, let me
- But before you do, please run your theory by someone
whose judgment you trust. See if that person thinks your theory is
See if he or she can pick holes in it. Don't make me your first guinea
pig. I want to be at least second. Third would be even better.
- We need to get the division of intellectual labor working
here. As the Bible says, "Two are better than one; because they have
a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up
his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not
another to help him up" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
- If you have no logical explanation, join the club. Maybe
you know a potential Vinnie. Use your FORWARD button to send him or her
a copy of this report. Ask for feedback.
- Notice to all would-be Vinnies: with each forwarding,
e-mail software adds either a carrot -- this is a carrot: -- or a vertical
line. This pushes the text to the right. If you have received this after
several forwardings, the text may be difficult to read. You can get a
fresh copy by sending an e-mail to email@example.com, or click this link
and then click SEND:
- Somewhere out there is a person who can solve this
There has to be a solution. I just don't know what it is.
- In future issues of this newsletter, I will report on
any conclusions that look plausible to me.
- If you're not yet a subscriber, and you want to read
what some of these conclusions are, you can subscribe for free. Send an
e-mail to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org, or click on the link and then
click the SEND button:
- You will receive a welcome letter from me within a few
seconds. It will explain what my newsletter is all about.
- P.S. Send your proposed solution to email@example.com
You will receive a short autoresponder-generated letter telling you that
I have received it. This way, you will know that your solution got through
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