Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Militarization of Emergency Aid to Haiti: Is it a Humanitarian Operation or an Invasion?

The Militarization of Emergency Aid to Haiti: Is it a Humanitarian Operation or an Invasion?

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Haiti has a longstanding history of US military intervention and occupation going back to the beginning of the 20th Century. US interventionism has contributed to the destruction of Haiti's national economy and the impoverishment of its population.

The devastating earthquake is presented to World public opinion as the sole cause of the country's predicament.

A country has been destroyed, its infrastructure demolished. Its people precipitated into abysmal poverty and despair.

Haiti's history, its colonial past have been erased.

The US military has come to the rescue of an impoverished Nation. What is its Mandate?

Is it Humanitarian Operation or an Invasion?

The main actors in America's "humanitarian operation" are the Department of Defense, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). (See USAID Speeches: On-The-Record Briefing on the Situation in Haiti, 01/13/10). USAID has also been entrusted in channelling food aid to Haiti, which is distributed by the World Food Program. (See USAID Press Release: USAID to Provide Emergency Food Aid for Haiti Earthquake Victims, January 13, 2010)

The military component of the US mission, however, tends to overshadow the civilian functions of rescuing a desperate and impoverished population. The overall humanitarian operation is not being led by civilian governmental agencies such as FEMA or USAID, but by the Pentagon.

The dominant decision making role has been entrusted to US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

A massive deployment of military hardware personnel is contemplated. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has confirmed that the US will be sending nine to ten thousand troops to Haiti, including 2000 marines. (American Forces Press Service, January 14, 2010)

Aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson and its complement of supporting ships has already arrived in Port au Prince. (January 15, 2010). The 2,000-member Marine Amphibious Unit as well as and soldiers from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne division "are trained in a wide variety of missions including security and riot-control in addition to humanitarian tasks."

In contrast to rescue and relief teams dispatched by various civilian teams and organizations, the humanitarian mandate of the US military is not clearly defined:

“Marines are definitely warriors first, and that is what the world knows the Marines for,... [but] we’re equally as compassionate when we need to be, and this is a role that we’d like to show -- that compassionate warrior, reaching out with a helping hand for those who need it. We are very excited about this.” (Marines' Spokesman, Marines Embark on Haiti Response Mission, Army Forces Press Services, January 14, 2010)

While presidents Obama and Préval spoke on the phone, there was no discussions between the two governments, regarding the entry and deployment of US troops on Haitian soil. The decision was taken and imposed unilaterally by Washington. The total lack of a functioning government in Haiti was used to legitimize, on humanitarian grounds, the sending in of a powerful military force, which has de facto taken over several governmental functions.


US Military Assets to be Sent to Haiti. (according to official announcements)

The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and amphibious dock landing ships USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and USS Carter Hall (LSD 50).

A 2,000-member Marine Amphibious Unit from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and soldiers from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne division. 900 soldiers are slated to arrive in Haiti by January 15th.

Aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson and its complement of supporting ships. (arrived in Port au Prince on January 15, 2010): USS Carl Vinson CVN 70

The hospital ship USNS Comfort

Several U.S. Coast Guard vessels and helicopters

USS Carl Vinson

The three amphibious ships will join aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy and guided-missile frigate USS Underwood.

USS Normandy

Leading Role of US Southern Command

US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Miami is the "lead agency" in Haiti. Its mandate as a regional military command is to carry out modern warfare. Its stated mission in Latin America and the Caribbean is "to conduct military operations and promote security cooperation to achieve U.S. strategic objectives." (Our Mission - U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) The commanding officers are trained to oversee theater operations, military policing as well "counterinsurgency" in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the recent establishment of new US military bases in Colombia, within proximity of the Venezuelan border.

General Douglas Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command has defined the Haiti emergency operation as a Command, Control, Communications operation (C3). US Southern Command is to oversee a massive deployment of military hardware, including several warships, an aircraft carrier, airborne combat divisions, etc:

"So we're focused on getting command and control and communications there so that we can really get a better understanding of what's going on. MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], as their headquarters partially collapsed, lost a lot of their communication, and so we're looking to robust that communication, also.

We're also sending in assessment teams in conjunction with USAID, supporting their efforts, as well as putting in some of our own to support their efforts.

We're moving various ships that we had in the region -- they're small ships, Coast Guard cutters, destroyers -- in that direction, to provide whatever immediate assistance that we can on the ground.

We also have a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, moving in that direction. It was at sea off of Norfolk, and so it's going to take a couple of days for it to get there. We need to also just resupply it and give it the provisions it needs to support the effort as we look at Haiti. And then we're looking across the international agencies to figure out how we support their efforts as well as our efforts.

We also are looking at a large-deck amphibious ship with an embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit on it that will be a couple of days behind the USS Vinson.

And that gives us a broader range of capability to move supplies around, to have lift capability to help support the effort there also.

So bottom line to it is, we don't have a clear assessment right now of what the situation on the ground is, what the needs within Port-au-Prince are, how extensive the situation is.

We also, finally, have a team that's headed in to the airport. From my understanding -- because my deputy commander just happened to be in Haiti when this situation happened, on a previously scheduled visit. He has been to the airport. He says the runway is functional but the tower doesn't have communications capability. The passenger terminal -- has structural damage to it, so we don't know what the status of it is.

So we have a group going in to make sure we can gain and secure the airfield and operate from it, because that's one of those locations we think we're going to have a lot of the immediate effort from an international basis going into.

And then we're out conducting all the other assessments that you would consider appropriate as we go in and work this effort.

We're also coordinating on the ground with MINUSTAH, with the folks who are there. The commander for MINUSTAH happened to be in Miami when this situation happened, so he's right now traveling back through and should be arriving in Port-au-Prince any time now. So that will help us coordinate our efforts there also, because again, obviously the United Nations suffered a significant loss there with the collapse -- at least partial collapse of their headquarters.

So that's -- those are the initial efforts that we have ongoing And as we get the assessments of what's coming next, then we'll adjust as required.

The secretary of Defense, the president, have all stipulated that this is a significant effort, and we're corralling all the resources within the Department of Defense to support this effort." ( News Transcript: DOD News Briefing with Gen. Fraser from the Pentagon, January 13, 2010)

A Heritage Foundation report summarizes the substance of America's mission in Haiti: "The earthquake has both humanitarian and U.S. national security implications [requiring] a rapid response that is not only bold but decisive, mobilizing U.S. military, governmental, and civilian capabilities for both a short-term rescue and relief effort and a longer-term recovery and reform program in Haiti." (James M. Roberts and Ray Walser, American Leadership Necessary to Assist Haiti After Devastating Earthquake, Heritage Foundation, January 14, 2010).

At the outset, the military mission will be involved in first aid and emergency as well as public security and police activities.

US Air Force Controls the Airport

The US Air Force has taken over air traffic control functions as well as the management of Port au Prince airport. In other words, the US military regulates the flow of emergency aid and relief supplies which are being brought into the country in civilian planes. The US Air Force is not working under the instructions of Haitian Airport officials. These officials have been displaced. The airport is run by the US Military (Interview with Haitian Ambassador to the US R. Joseph, PBS News, January 15, 2010)

"The FAA's team is working with DOD combat controllers to improve the flow of air traffic moving in and out of the airport. The US Air Force reopened the airport on 14 January, and on 15 January its contingency response group was granted senior airfield authority ... Senior airfield authority enables the Air Force to prioritise, schedule and control the airspace at the airport, ..." (, January 16, 2010, emphasis added)

The 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, which includes more than 1,000 medical and support personnel has been sent to Haiti under the jurisdiction of Southern Command. (See Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds readies for Haiti quake relief, Digital Journal, January 14, 2010). There were, at the time of the Earthquake, some 7100 military personnel and over 2000 police, namely a foreign force of over 9000. In contrast, the international civilian personnel of MINUSTAH is less than 500. MINUSTAH Facts and Figures - United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti


United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)

Current strength (30 November 2009)

9,065 total uniformed personnel

Estimated combined SOUTHCOM and MINUSTAH forces; 19,095*

*Excluding commitments by France (unconfirmed) and Canada (confirmed 800 troops), the US, France and Canada were "partners" in the February 29, 2004 Coup d'État.

Haiti has been under foreign military occupation since the US instigated February 2004 Coup d'Etat. The contingent of US forces under SOUTHCOM combined with those of MINUSTAH brings foreign military presence in Haiti to close to 20,000 in a country of 9 million people. In comparison in Afghanistan, prior to Obama's military surge, combined US and NATO forces were of the order of 70,000 for a population of 28 million. In other words, on a per capita basis there will be more troops in Haiti than in Afghanistan.

Recent US Military Interventions in Haiti

There have been several US sponsored military interventions in recent history. In 1994, following three years of military rule, a force of 20,000 occupation troops and "peace-keepers" was sent to Haiti. The 1994 US military intervention "was not intended to restore democracy. Quite the contrary: it was carried out to prevent a popular insurrection against the military Junta and its neoliberal cohorts." (Michel Chossudovsky, The Destabilization of Haiti, Global Research, February 29, 2004)

US and allied troops remained in the country until 1999. The Haitian armed forces were disbanded and the US State Department hired a mercenary company DynCorp to provide "technical advice" in restructuring the Haitian National Police (HNP). (Ibid).

The February 2004 Coup d'État

In the months leading up to the 2004 Coup d'Etat, US special forces and the CIA were training death squadrons composed of the former tonton macoute of the Duvalier era. The Rebel paramilitary army crossed the border from the Dominican Republic in early February 2004. "It was a well armed, trained and equipped paramilitary unit integrated by former members of Le Front pour l'avancement et le progrès d'Haiti (FRAPH), the "plain clothes" death squadrons, involved in mass killings of civilians and political assassinations during the CIA sponsored 1991 military coup, which led to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide." (see Michel Chossudovsky, The Destabilization of Haiti: Global Research. February 29, 2004)

Foreign troops were sent into Haiti. MINUSTAH was set up in the wake of the US sponsored coup d'Etat in February 2004 and the kidnapping and deportation of the democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide. The coup was instigated by the US with the support of France and Canada.

The FRAPH units subsequently integrated the country's police force, which was under the supervision of MINUSTAH. In the political and social disarray triggered by the earthquake, the former armed militia and Ton Ton macoute will be playing a new role.

Hidden Agenda

The unspoken mission of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Miami and US military installations throughout Latin America is to ensure the maintenance of subservient national regimes, namely US proxy governments, committed to the Washington Consensus and the neoliberal policy agenda. While US military personnel will at the outset be actively involved in emergency and disaster relief, this renewed US military presence in Haiti will be used to establish a foothold in the country as well pursue America's strategic and geopolitical objectives in the Caribbean basin, which are largely directed against Cuba and Venezuela.

The objective is not to work towards the rehabilitation of the national government, the presidency, the parliament, all of which has been decimated by the earthquake. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, America's design has been to gradually dismantle the Haitian State, restore colonial patterns and obstruct the functioning of a democratic government. In the present context, the objective is not only to do away with the government but also to revamp the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), of which the headquarters have been destroyed.

"The role of heading the relief effort and managing the crisis quickly fell to the United States, for lack -- in the short term, at least -- of any other capable entity." ( US Takes Charge in Haiti _ With Troops, Rescue Aid -, January 14, 2009)

Prior to the earthquake, there were, according to US military sources, some 60 US military personnel in Haiti. From one day to the next, an outright military surge has occurred: 10,000 troops, marines, special forces, intelligence operatives, etc., not to mention private mercenary forces on contract to the Pentagon.

In all likelihood the humanitarian operation will be used as a pretext and justification to establish a more permanent US military presence in Haiti.

We are dealing with a massive deployment, a "surge" of military personnel assigned to emergency relief.

The first mission of SOUTHCOM will be to take control of what remains of the country's communications, transport and energy infrastructure. Already, the airport is under de facto US control. In all likelihood, the activities of MINUSTAH which from the outset in 2004 have served US foreign policy interests, will be coordinated with those of SOUTHCOM, namely the UN mission will be put under de facto control of the US military.

The Militarization of Civil Society Relief Organizations

The US military in Haiti seeks to oversee the activities of approved humanitarian organizations. It also purports to encroach upon the humanitarian activities of Venezuela and Cuba:

"The government under President René Préval is weak and literally now in shambles. Cuba and Venezuela, already intent on minimizing U.S. influence in the region, are likely to seize this opportunity to raise their profile and influence..." (James M. Roberts and Ray Walser, American Leadership Necessary to Assist Haiti After Devastating Earthquake, Heritage Foundation, January 14, 2010).

In the US, The militarization of emergency relief operations was established during the Katrina crisis, when the US military was called in to play a lead role.

The model of emergency intervention for SOUTHCOM is patterned on the role of NORTHCOM, which was granted a mandate as "the lead agency" in US domestic emergency procedures. During Hurricane Rita in 2005, the groundwork for the "militarization of emergency relief" involving a leading role for the US military was established. In this regard, Bush had hinted to the central role of the military in emergency relief: "Is there a natural disaster--of a certain size--that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort? That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about." (Statement of President Bush at a press conference, Bush Urges Shift in Relief Responsibilities -, September 26, 2005).

"The response to the national disaster is not being coordinated by the civilian government out of Texas, but from a remote location and in accordance with military criteria. US Northern Command Headquarters will directly control the movement of military personnel and hardware in the Gulf of Mexico. As in the case of Katrina, it will override the actions of civilian bodies. Yet in this case, the entire operation is under the jurisdiction of the military rather than under that of FEMA." (Michel Chossudovsky, US Northern Command and Hurricane Rita, Global Research, September 24, 2005)

Concluding Remarks

Haiti is a country under military occupation since the US instigated Coup d'Etat of February 2004.

The entry of ten thousand heavily armed US troops, coupled with the activities of local militia could potentially precipitate the country into social chaos.

These foreign forces have entered to country to reinforce MINUSTAH "peacekeepers" and Haitian police forces (integrated by former Tonton Macoute), which since 2004, have been responsible for war crimes directed against the Haitian people, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians.

These troups reinforce the existing occupation forces under UN mandate.

Twenty thousand foreign troops under SOUTHCOM and MINUSTAH commands will be present in the country. In all likelihood, there will be an integration or coordination of the command structures of SOUTHCOM and MINUSTAH.

The Haitian people have exhibited a high degree of solidarity, courage and social commitment.

Helping one another and acting with consciousness: under very difficult conditions, in the immediate wake of the disaster, citizens rescue teams were set up spontaneously.

The militarization of relief operations will break the organizational capabilities of Haitians to rebuild and reinstate the institutions of civilian government which have been destroyed. It will also encroach upon the efforts of the international medical teams and civilian relief organisations.

It is absolutely essential that the Haitian people continue to forcefully oppose the presence of foreign troops in their country, particularly in public security operations.

It is essential that Americans across the land forcefully oppose the decision of the Obama adminstration to send US combat troops to Haiti.

There can be no real reconstruction or development under foreign military occupation.

Three Holy Wars

Why is the American press silent on the Israeli role in NW Flight 253?

Why is the American press silent on the Israeli role in NW Flight 253?

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Nearly a week ago, on January 10, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz carried a news article by correspondent Yossi Melman pointing out the role of an Israeli security firm, International Consultants on Targeted Security (ICTS), in the failed attempt to detonate a bomb on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

ICTS subsidiaries I-SEC and PI are responsible for security screening of passengers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, where accused suicide bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded the Detroit-bound jet. The company uses screening technology to profile passengers and identify security risks, based on the experience of the Israeli intelligence services. Former El Al Airlines and Shin Bet security personnel established ICTS in 1982 to market their expertise, and many US airlines use their services or technology.

According to Ha’aretz, Abdulmutallab was screened by ICTS, but the security agents failed to identify him as a threat, despite ample evidence.

“Even if US intelligence failed and the name of the Nigerian passenger was not pinpointed as a suspect for the airline, he should have stirred the suspicion of the security officers,” the newspaper wrote. “His age, name, illogical travel route, high-priced ticket purchased at the last minute, his boarding without luggage (only a carry on) and many other signs should have been sufficient to alert the security officers and warrant further examination of the suspect. However, the security supervisor representing I-SEC and PI allowed him to get on the flight.”

The Israeli connection has been widely reported in the Israeli and European press. In addition to Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post noted the role of ICTS in Amsterdam in an article December 27, and Israeli television interviewed a company director, who confirmed that Abdulmutallab had been given a security screening.

Reports subsequently appeared in newspapers and Web news sources in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy. But there has been nothing in the main American media outlets—nothing in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal or any other major daily newspaper, and nothing on any of the television or cable news networks.

The contrast between the press treatment in Europe and in America is an indication that the role of ICTS is not merely an unimportant detail. Clearly, the word is being passed to keep quiet on the subject, either in the form of a direct order from the US security services, or indirectly through the system of media self-censorship that operates no less effectively for being “voluntary.”

What reason could there be to conceal the role of ICTS?

First, some relevant facts: ICTS handled security at the Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris when “shoe bomber” Richard Reid boarded a US-bound plane on December 22, 2001. The company also handled security for London’s bus system during the July 7, 2005, suicide bomb attacks. And ICTS shared security duties on September 11, 2001, at Boston’s Logan Airport, where two of the four suicide hijackings originated.

At the very least, these are curious coincidences, particularly given the supposed expertise of the Israeli security services in identifying and forestalling terrorist attacks. ICTS has had its personnel on the scene in four of the most notorious terrorist attacks of the past decade, and on each occasion, they failed to take action to stop the terrorists.

In its 28 years of operation, ICTS has expanded to 22 countries, servicing airports in France, Britain, Spain, Hungary, Romania and Russia, and employing more than 11,000 security agents. It held contracts at several US airports until after 9/11, when passenger screening was taken out of private hands and assigned to the newly created federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The silence on the role of ICTS is only the most curious aspect of a more general shift by the media away from any reporting on the background to the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253. There was a noticeable turn away from an examination of the Christmas Day incident even before the Haitian earthquake became—legitimately—the main focus of media attention.

The official story of Northwest Flight 253, as presented by the Obama White House and the intelligence agencies, is so incredible that it seems there has been a concerted effort to drop the subject and divert public attention in other directions. In that context, the total silence on the role of the Israeli security company raises even more questions about the role that US and other intelligence agencies played in the period leading up to the Christmas Day incident, which nearly cost the lives of some 300 people.

Record US foreclosures in 2009

Record US foreclosures in 2009

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A record 2.82 million homes faced foreclosure foreclosed in 2009, according to RealtyTrac, a web-based firm that tracks and markets foreclosed homes. It is anticipated that at least 3 million more homes will enter foreclosure in 2010.

Last year saw an increase of 21 percent in the number of homes in foreclosure from 2008, in spite of President Barack Obama’s much-vaunted “housing rescue.” In all, 1 in 45 US homes was subject to at least one foreclosure filing, or 2.21 percent of all homes, compared with 1.84 percent in 2008, 1.03 percent in 2007, and 0.58 percent in 2006, according to RealtyTrac’s “Year-End 2009 Foreclosure Market Report.” The report compiles the number of separate homes that received default notices, faced foreclosure auctions, or were repossessed by banks.

The new year is expected to be worse. “As bad as the 2009 numbers are, they probably would have been worse if not for legislative and industry-related delays in processing delinquent loans,” said James Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac. Saccacio cited a series of factors that contributed to delaying foreclosures in 2009, among them trial loan modifications, state legislation lengthening the foreclosure process, and the sheer volume of inventory “clogging the foreclosure pipeline,” as MarketWatch put it.

“In the long term, a massive supply of delinquent loans continues to loom over the housing market, and many of those delinquencies will end up in the foreclosure process in 2010 and beyond, as lenders gradually work their way through the backlog,” Saccacio said.

The trend for 2010 may have been anticipated by the sudden increase in foreclosure filings in December 2009. Foreclosures that month increased by 14 percent from November 2009 and 15 percent from the previous year.

Banks repossessed a record 918,000 homes last year, a 6.5 percent increase over 2008. This number could increase rapidly, with 1 million more homes in the process of foreclosure and by 5.5 million currently-delinquent mortgages. The consequences for home values—the major source of wealth for most US families—when these properties enter the housing market will be severe. Home prices have already fallen by 30 percent since October 2006, according to the Case-Schiller Index.

“The doomsday prognostications say that gives you 7 million properties that are all going to go back to the banks, that are all going to hit the market at the same time and we’re going to have a smoking crater where there used to be a real estate market,” Sharga said, adding that RealtyTrac expects a less catastrophic, but still bleak, situation. “Because of gradual foreclosure bank sales we’re looking at a long, slow, flat housing market recovery that probably won’t feel much better until about 2013,” he said.

The Sun Belt states of Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and California continued to lead in foreclosure rates. In Nevada, more than 10 percent of all housing units were in the process of foreclosure in 2009; in both Arizona and Florida the figure was about 6 percent. In California, 632,573 homes received a foreclosure filing in 2009, or 4.75 percent of all homes, just under 1 in 20.

A number of other states had foreclosure rates above the national average of 2.2 percent, or more than one in every fifty homes. These include Utah (2.93 percent), Idaho (2.72 percent), Georgia (2.68 percent), Michigan (2.61 percent), Illinois (2.50 percent), and Colorado (2.37 percent).

The latest foreclosure statistics are indisputable proof that President Obama’s “Making Home Affordable Act,” launched in March, has done nothing to lessen the housing crisis. The $75 billion program offered banks rich incentives to renegotiate payment plans, but ruled out reductions in mortgage principal, or outstanding loan balances. The banks refuse to take any loss on these vastly overvalued loans.

“Until the lenders start to get into principal balance reduction you’re going to continue to see high redefault rates,” Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, said. “We haven’t seen any appetite for that on the part of the lenders yet.”

The RealtyTrac data is the latest to suggest the “housing recovery” has fallen flat. The National Association of Realtors reported in early January that future home sales—contracts agreed upon but not finalized—fell by 16 percent in November, more than three times what economists had anticipated.

Driving the foreclosure crisis is the impoverishment of broad sections of the US population through unemployment and pay cuts.

First-time jobless benefit claims rose unexpectedly this week, by 11,000 to 444,000. Some economists took cheer from the fact that the four-week moving average for first-time benefit seekers fell to 440,750, the lowest figure since August 2008. For these statistics to demonstrate a meaningful improvement in the jobs crisis, however, there would have to be evidence of increased hiring or job availability. This is not the case.

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that the number of job openings fell again in November by 100,000 positions, to 2.4 million. With more than 15.3 million people out of work and looking for a job, the ratio of job seekers to open positions was greater than six to one, the largest differential on records dating back to December of 2000. Counting the unemployed and underemployed, the ratio balloons to 11 to 1. The pace of hiring also remained at lows not seen since data collection began ten years ago.

On January 8, the Labor Department announced that the US economy lost 85,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate stayed above 10 percent, while the broader “U-6” measure of unemployment increased to 17.3 percent, as 661,000 workers fell out of the labor force. The same day, United Parcel Service (UPS) and defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced 1,800 and 1,200 job cuts.

In the intervening week, layoff, job cut, and pay reduction announcements continued.

On Friday, Universal Music Group announced 50 layoffs. The bankrupt recycled paper concern, Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., said it would close four more plants and cut 600 jobs this year.

On Thursday, Louisiana State University administrators revealed that they intend to lay off “several hundred” non-tenured instructors over the next year, and Southeast Missouri State University said it will dismiss 24 workers by the end of the school year. The same day Chicago law firm Seyfarth Shaw laid off 40 lawyers and staff.

On Wednesday the submarine manufacturer Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corp., announced that it will lay off between 400 and 600 workers and force as many as 200 furloughs in the coming months. Primarily affected will be waterfront workers at shipyards in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

On Tuesday, the Riverside County (California) Board of Supervisors said that hundreds of county workers will be laid off or forced out over the next two years in order to meet its budget deficit.

On Monday, the internet firm AOL began laying off 1,200 workers as part of 2,300 total job cuts, and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer began sending layoff notices to 680 workers made redundant by its acquisition of rival Wyeth.

Workers who still have jobs are facing declining wages. The Labor Department reported this week that inflation-adjusted weekly earnings fell by 1.6 percent in 2009, while a broad measure of inflation, the consumer price index (CPI), rose by 2.7 percent. Inflation was paced by energy prices, which jumped by 18.2 percent in 2009, the steepest increase since 1979. Gasoline prices recorded a record increase of 53.5 percent.

Amidst layoffs, wage cuts, rising prices, and rapidly deteriorating home values, consumers continue to cut back on spending. The US Commerce Department reported on Thursday that retail sales fell by 0.3 percent in December, startling economists who had widely expected an increase. For the year as whole, retail sales were down 6.2 percent over 2008, the worst decline on record.

The decrease in retail sales is likely to exacerbate the broader crisis. Consumer spending, a substantial proportion of which is retail sales, accounts for approximately two-thirds of US gross domestic product and is a major source of tax revenue for state and local governments.

As JP Morgan reports record compensation: Pay at top Wall Street firms estimated at $145 billion in 2009

Pay at top Wall Street firms estimated at $145 billion in 2009

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The Wall Street Journal published an estimate Thursday that total pay at the largest Wall Street firms reached $145 billion last year. The Journal’s figure, based on preliminary figures, is more than any other year in history.

JP Morgan strengthened this prognosis Friday by announcing that it paid its employees $9.3 billion in 2009, 18 percent more than in 2008. The figure sets a new record for the bank, up from $7.9 billion in 2007 and $8.1 billion in 2006.

The high payouts came with an upsurge in profitability. JP Morgan said its fourth-quarter profits reached $3.3 billion, more than quadrupling over the same period a year ago, when the bank earned $702 million. Year-on-year profits nearly doubled, hitting $11.7 billion for 2009, up from $5.6 billion in 2008.

The Wall Street Journal’s estimate of $145 billion in total compensation at the largest 38 financial companies is 18 percent higher than the 2008 figure of $123.4 billion, and six percent higher than the $137 billion paid out in 2007.

The estimate is larger than the combined yearly output of the world’s 58 poorest countries. It is roughly equivalent to the economy of Egypt and Singapore. It is about 20 times the economic output of Haiti, where a massive earthquake has killed tens of thousands of people living in desperate poverty.

On average, employees at the major finance firms will each earn $149,192, up about $3,000 from 2007. The average, however, obscures the immense disparity between the tens of millions that will be allocated to top traders and executives and many janitors, receptionists, and technicians who face the same economic pressures as other workers.

The Wall Street Journal study expects the institutions to report $450 billion in revenues, up by a quarter from 2007. Pay is expected to amount to 32 percent of revenue, down from 40 percent last year.

In a move to assuage criticism of their compensation practices, the banks have said that they will pay a larger portion of their compensation in stock, as opposed to cash. But this does not alter the fact that they are paying more money than ever.

The banks responded to the study with their characteristic contempt for mounting popular anger. Most of the large banks that the Wall Street Journal contacted did not respond, but a spokesperson for Bank of America said that the study “distorts reality and is a disservice to our associates” because it does not use final data.

The rise in revenue, profits, and compensation was partly the result of the consolidation of the banking system. As numerous firms failed last year, they were bought up by their larger rivals. This gave the remaining companies more leverage to raise prices, extract higher fees, and consequently pay larger bonuses.

This massive payout is the direct product of the policy of the Obama administration, which has rejected any measures to curb executive pay or regulate the banks. Even the most token measures proposed in the wake of the financial crisis are being dropped from discussion. The Wall Street Journal reported that lawmakers are silently considering removing the call for a consumer protection regulator, which, despite its toothless character, was touted as a major safeguard that would help prevent another financial meltdown.

The political establishment sought to prepare the public for the payout announcements this week with a series of phony statements and staged hearings.

On Thursday, Obama gave a sharply worded press conference where he proposed a new tax on the banks that would raise $90 billion over ten years. Obama used the announcement as an opportunity to denounce the “irresponsible” and “outrageous” actions of the banks—actions that he has facilitated.

Even if it were to be passed—which is by no means certain—the new tax would amount to only six percent of the compensation pool that the banks handed out this past year.

Earlier in the week, four bank executives testified before an inquiry commission where they defended their conduct during the financial crisis. The issue of banker pay was raised only a handful of times, and whenever the question was raised, the bankers imperiously changed the subject or avoided answering.

This whole week of stage-managed inquiries and feigned outrage seeks to obscure a fundamental fact: in the midst of widespread social misery, poverty, and mass unemployment, the entire political establishment supports the right of the banks to plunder billions of dollars in social wealth.

Haiti: US troops deployed as popular anger mounts

Haiti: US troops deployed as popular anger mounts

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The first contingents of a US military force expected to reach 10,000 troops arrived in Haiti as anger mounted over the failure of international aid to reach the millions left injured, homeless and destitute by Tuesday’s earthquake.

There were reports of looting and Port-au-Prince residents creating street barricades with the bodies of the dead to protest the lack of assistance. Thousands upon thousands of corpses line streets and are piled up outside hospitals and morgues.

Haitian officials reported Friday that 40,000 bodies have already been buried, many of them in common landfill-style mass graves. They estimate that there are 100,000 corpses still to be recovered. In some areas the number of dead is so overwhelming that bodies have been piled up and burned.

Haitian Health Minister Alex Larsen said the death toll from the January 12 earthquake would climb to half a million, with another 250,000 injured.

More than 300 combat-equipped paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division landed at the Port-au-Prince airport from Fort Bragg, North Carolina Thursday night, and a US naval flotilla led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vincent arrived off the coast on Friday.

The paratroopers, the advance guard of a force of about 3,000, are to be joined by some 2,000 marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Brought in on the amphibious landing ship, the USS Bataan, the Marines will remain at the ready in Port-au-Prince harbor to be called in if needed to deal with social unrest.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mike Mullen said that even more than 10,000 US troops would be deployed in the ravaged Caribbean nation if required.

For the estimated 3 million people affected by the earthquake, conditions are growing increasingly desperate. They are unable to find adequate food or water; medical care is rudimentary or non-existent; and electrical power and telephone communications remain down.

Correspondents in the Haitian capital Friday reported little if any sign that aid had reached the population.

At least 300,000 people have been rendered homeless as structures of every kind collapsed in the magnitude 7.0 quake, which struck Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area with a force equal to 500,000 tons of TNT, or 25 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

While such a catastrophic event would have inflicted enormous damage anywhere, the effects in Haiti are multiplied by the pre-existing conditions of intense poverty and economic backwardness, the product of a century of imperialist oppression primarily at the hands of Washington.

With time running out for many of the earthquake’s victims, both those trapped in the rubble and those who have suffered internal injuries, multiple fractures and severe wounds that are going untreated, the so-called bottle neck impeding the flow of aid amounts to a death sentence.

“People are without water; children are without food and without shelter,” Ian Rodgers, a senior adviser to Save the Children told the CNN cable news network. “What we will see with the lack of water is the possibility of diarrheal diseases and, of course, that can kill children in a matter of hours if not tended to appropriately.”

“It is very possible,” Rodgers added, “that the situation can go from dire to absolutely catastrophic if we don’t get enough food and medicine and work with children and their families to help them.”

In other words, hundreds of thousands more who survived the initial destruction may die from injuries and disease.

The lack of adequate infrastructure in terms of airports, roads and port facilities to bring in supplies, together with the virtual absence of any government presence coordinating rescue operations are the result not just of Tuesday’s natural disaster. Nor are they—as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates described them Friday—merely “facts of life.”

Rather, they are a manifestation of the enforced backwardness to which Haiti has been condemned by the major banks and corporations represented by the US government and the international finance agencies. Their sole interest in Haiti has been a predatory one, based on the ability to make profits off of near-starvation wages. Together they have systematically undermined the Haitian government ever since the 1986 mass upheavals that brought an end to the three decades of US-backed dictatorship by the Duvaliers.

The president first elected in the wake of the dictatorship, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown in US-backed coups not once, but twice—in 1991 and 2004. Meanwhile, Washington and the lending agencies pushed through one round of privatizations after another, stripping the Haitian state of any real power or resources.

Even in the best of times, essential services in Haiti such as health care, housing, transportation, communications, electricity, water and sewerage are grossly inadequate and tenuous.

Rather than developing the country’s infrastructure or ameliorating its desperate poverty, Washington’s principal concerns have been maintaining order and preventing Haitians fleeing the oppressive conditions of their homeland from reaching US shores.

The present intervention being mounted by the Obama administration and the Pentagon is based on similar motives. It is also driven by Washington’s stepped-up efforts to assert its dominance in the hemisphere, expressed in recent months in the right-wing military coup in Honduras and the agreement to set up US military bases in Colombia.

The deployment of troops has taken priority over the distribution of aid. As the Miami Herald reported Friday, “US air-cargo traffic was grounded to give the military airlift priority to bring moving equipment and the first 100 of a planned 900-paratrooper deployment of the 82nd Airborne Division from North Carolina.”

UNICEF, which has massed relief supplies in Panama, sent a plane full of medical kits, blankets and tents, but was denied permission to land and forced to return to Panama.

Initial rescue operations were noticeably focused on aiding US citizens and other foreign nationals. Search and rescue teams brought in from the US and France focused their initial efforts on the flattened four-star Hotel Montana, a watering hole for the Haitian ruling elite and foreign visitors, and the United Nations peacekeeping mission’s headquarters. Haitians were left to dig for their loved-ones and neighbors using their bare hands and pieces of rubble.

The first to be evacuated from the damaged Port-au-Prince airport, which has been taken over by American military controllers, were US citizens.

Haitians are conscious that the lives of foreigners are given more value than their own. “They were furious, though not surprised, that they were left to themselves to dig out the trapped, haul off the dead, beg for help for the dying,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

There are increasing reports of anger among the earthquake’s survivors over the delay in aid. Gunfire has also been reported, along with looting by young men armed with machetes. International officials warn that the longer the situation continues, the greater the chances it will turn into mass revolt.

“Unfortunately, they’re slowly getting more angry and impatient,” said David Wimhurst, spokesman for the Brazilian-led United Nations peacekeeping mission. “I fear we’re all aware that the situation is getting more tense as the poorest people who need so much are waiting for deliveries. I think tempers might be frayed.”

Kim Boldue, the acting chief of the UN Mission, said that “the risk of having social unrest very soon” made it imperative that relief supplies begin arriving.

The real attitude of US imperialism toward the Haitian people found expression in an article posted by Time magazine and entitled, “Will Criminal Gangs Take Control in Haiti’s Chaos?” The article declared, “As Haitian and international officials try to coordinate an effective response to what is probably the worst disaster to ever hit the western hemisphere’s poorest country, they’ll need to be mindful of the human rats that come out of the capital’s woodwork at times like these.”

The article went on to warn that “criminal bands from poor neighborhoods like Cité Soleil and La Saline are almost certain to try to exploit the security void.” It quoted Roberto Perito, described as an expert on Haitian gangs at the Institute of Peace, a government-funded agency with close ties to US intelligence and the Pentagon, saying that the supposed threat is “surely why the US military deployment is adding a security component.”

Time added: “The US military has had its share of experience with Port-au-Prince’s gangs,” noting that they are often “political in nature,” coalescing, as Perito put it, “around charismatic and ruthless Robin Hood figures.”

There is every likelihood that the US military deployment will be turned against the people of Haiti in the suppression of mass unrest. Having occupied the country for 20 years in the first part of the 20th century and intervened twice more in 1994 and 2004, the US military is once again assuming control in what senior commanders say will be a long-term operation.

Yemen: Toward another US quagmire

Yemen: Toward another US quagmire

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All the signs point to Yemen being the next target in the US-led “war on terrorism”. The Obama administration seized on the failed attempt by Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to set off a bomb on a US-bound flight on Christmas Day to dispatch the CIA and military trainers to the impoverished country. Pressure is being exerted on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to intensify military operations against the organisation known as Al Qaeda in South Arabia.

Prominent US Democrat Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, called on Wednesday for the US to consider “a broad range of options” including air strikes, armed drones and clandestine operations in Yemen. General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, has urged a doubling of US military aid to the country.

The new focus on Yemen was prepared well before Abdulmutallab took off for Detroit. Sections of the American foreign policy establishment were critical of President Bush for not taking more decisive action. Obama had already been boosting military and civilian aid to Saleh’s regime. On December 17 and 24, Washington provided the intelligence for Yemeni air strikes against alleged Al Qaeda targets.

Last November the Center for a New American Security, which has close connections to the Obama administration, warned in a policy brief: “Facing an active insurgency in the north, a separatist movement in the south, and a domestic al-Qaeda presence, Yemen rests today on the knife’s edge. The consequences of instability in Yemen reach far beyond this troubled land, and pose serious challenges to vital US interests.”

The report spelt out those vital interests, declaring: “A destabilised Arabian Peninsula would shatter regional security, disrupt trade routes and obstruct access to fossil fuels.” Yemen itself has limited oil reserves, but is strategically positioned adjacent to the vital sea lanes from the Middle East to Europe via the Suez Canal.

Like his predecessor, Obama is recklessly plunging into impoverished Yemen in a bid to shore up US strategic and economic interests in the Middle East. At this stage, the Pentagon has ruled out sending US troops. This reflects concerns that as well as the US military being overstretched by the neo-colonial occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, sending in ground forces would intensify opposition to President Saleh’s autocratic and widely detested rule.

The pretext for the US intervention is to combat Al Qaeda. However, as elsewhere in the Middle East, the presence of radical Islamists in Yemen is a product of previous American intrigues. In the 1980s, thousands of Yemenis flocked to the CIA’s holy war in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation. In 1994, Saleh used many of those who returned in his war to crush a southern secessionist movement and he has continued relations with the Islamists.

Washington’s new ally in its bogus “war on terrorism” exemplifies the venal character of the Yemeni bourgeoisie. A former army major, Saleh came to power in 1978 in what was then North Yemen. For three decades, he has maintained his rule by keeping a firm grip on the security forces, balancing between various tribal groupings, while manoeuvring on the international stage between the various major and regional powers. He runs the government as a family fiefdom, dispensing patronage to the favoured few in the Middle East’s poorest country. Family members hold all key positions in the security apparatus.

The country is in desperate economic straits. Yemen ranks 153 on the UN Human Development Index of 192 nations. Its limited oil reserves, on which the economy and government revenue heavily depend, are predicted to run out by 2017. The global economic crisis has impacted on the Gulf States and therefore on many Yemeni guest workers whose remittances back home are a vital source of revenue. A rapidly expanding population is exacerbating chronic ground water shortages as well as the social gulf between rich and poor. The unemployment rate is around 40 percent and predicted to rise. According to the UN, about 45 percent of the population lives on less than $US2 a day. These worsening social tensions are fuelling anger and opposition which, at present, is being exploited by dissident sections of the ruling elite that have been left out of the regime’s system of patronage.

In the north, the military has been fighting to suppress a rebellion among Shiites tribes that broke out in the Saada governate in 2004. Sections of the Shiite elite felt marginalised and discriminated against by the Saleh regime as a result of its relations with Sunni extremists. The revolt has been further fuelled by the military’s brutal methods, which have resulted in thousands of civilian casualties, the displacement of at least 130,000 people and indiscriminate detention without trial. The rebellion has become entangled with regional rivalries, with neighbouring Saudi Arabia providing funding to Saleh and attacking Shiite rebels inside Yemen’s border areas. Without providing evidence, the Yemeni and Saudi Arabian regimes both accuse Iran of assisting the Shiite revolt, raising the danger that Washington could also seize on the issue in its confrontation with Tehran, further compounding the conflict.

Saleh also confronts a southern secessionist movement. Until 1990, Yemen was divided between north and south—the product of the arbitrary borders between the British colonial protectorate in the south, focussed on the key strategic port of Aden, and the Ottoman Empire that collapsed after World War I. The division remained even after the 1962 overthrow of the Imanate that replaced the Ottomans in the north and the rebellion that ousted the British in 1967. North and south only unified after the former Soviet Union withdrew financial and military support from its client state—the so-called socialist republic in South Yemen—in 1989. Secessionist sentiment in the south led to the brief 1994 war and was further inflamed as Saleh consolidated his position by dismissing southern military officers and state officials. As in the north, Saleh reacted to the re-emergence of a Southern Movement in 2007 by ruthlessly cracking down on public protests, in turn generating a growing armed insurgency.

The Obama administration is now intervening into this seething social and political cauldron in pursuit of Washington’s broader economic and strategic ambitions. The inevitable outcome is already evident in the disasters that the US has created in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as its escalating proxy war in Pakistan. In the final analysis, the impoverished and unstable state of Yemen is the product not only of the corrupt, parasitic Yemeni ruling class but of imperialist oppression stretching back to the seizure of Aden by the British in the nineteenth century. The US intervention now being prepared will only create another catastrophe for the Yemeni people and a potential quagmire for the American military.

US army to double weapons stockpiled in Israel

US army to double weapons stockpiled in Israel

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The US military plans to double the amount of military equipment it has stockpiled in Israel under a recent agreement with Tel Aviv.

"The deal will double the value of military equipment kept on Israeli soil from 400 million to 800 million dollars," a Pentagon spokesman, Major Shawn Turner told AFP.

He ruled out the notion that Iran's nuclear issue was a major factor for the agreement and said that the US Congress initially authorized the expansion in 2007.

"This is not in any way related to Iran or the current situation as the authorization was from 2007," he stated.

Washington's staunch ally Israel could have access to the weaponry in a military emergency.

US missiles, armored vehicles, aerial ammunition and artillery ordnance are already stockpiled in Israel. The United States began by stockpiling $100 million worth of military equipment in Israel in 1990.

In December, US President Barack Obama granted $2.775 billion in security aid to Israel. The aid is accompanied by special additions to the Israeli military industries for the development of technologies, particularly in the missile field.

Obama wants record $708B for military next year

Obama wants record $708B for military next year

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President Barack Obama will ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on top of a record $708 billion for the Defense Department next year, The Associated Press has learned - a request that could be an especially hard sell to some of the administration's Democratic allies.

The extra $33 billion in 2010 would mostly go toward the expansion of the war in Afghanistan. Obama ordered an extra 30,000 troops for that war as part of an overhaul of the war strategy late last year.

Military officials have suggested that the 2011 request would top $700 billion for the first time, but the precise figure has not been made public.

The administration also plans to tell Congress next month that its central military objectives for the next four years will include winning the current wars while preventing new ones and that its core missions will include both counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.

The administration's Quadrennial Defense Review, the main articulation of U.S. military doctrine, is due to Congress on Feb. 1. Top military commanders were briefed on the document at the Pentagon on Monday and Tuesday. They also received a preview of the administration's budget plans through 2015.

The four-year review outlines six key mission areas and spells out capabilities and goals the Pentagon wants to develop. The pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a priority, with the goals of speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013.

U.S. officials outlined the coming requests on condition of anonymity because the budget request will not be sent to Congress until later this month.

Obama's request for more war spending is likely to receive support on Capitol Hill, where Republicans will join moderate Democrats to pass the bill.

But the budget debate is also likely to expose a widening rift between Obama's administration and Democratic leaders, who have watched public opinion turn against the military campaign.

"The president's going to have to make his case," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters last month at her year-end briefing.

The 2010 budget contains about $128 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That figure would rise to $159 billion next year under the proposals prepared for Congress.

The Pentagon projects that war funding would drop sharply in 2012, to $50 billion, and remain there through 2015. That is a calculation that the United States will save money from the withdrawal of forces in Iraq, as well as a prediction that the Afghanistan war will begin to wind down in the middle of 2011.

Obama has promised that U.S. forces will begin to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011, but his defense advisers have set no time limit for the war.

The Pentagon projects that overall defense spending would be $616 billion in 2012; $632 billion in 2013; $648 billion in 2014; and $666 billion in 2015. Congress sets little store by such predictions, which typically have fallen short of actual requests and spending.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are expected to testify to Congress about the budget and the policy review in February.

The four-year policy statement is a more important statement of administration goals. For the current wars, the policy statement focuses on efforts to refocus money and talent on beefing up special operations forces, countering weapons of mass destruction and terrorism threats, and maintaining cybersecurity.

For example, the Pentagon would like to expand special operations aviation by expanding the gunship fleet from 25 to 33.

Phone Calls from the 9/11 Airliners

Phone Calls from the 9/11 Airliners

Response to Questions Evoked by My Fifth Estate Interview

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On November 27, 2009, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Fifth Estate program aired a show entitled “9/11: The Unofficial Story,”1 for which I, along with a few other members of the 9/11 Truth Movement, was interviewed. In the most important part of my interview, I pointed out that, according to the FBI’s report on phone calls from the airliners provided in 2006 for the Moussaoui trial, Barbara Olson’s only call from Flight 77 was “unconnected” and hence lasted “0 seconds.” Although this Fifth Estate program showed only a brief portion of my discussion of alleged phone calls from the 9/11 airliners, its website subsequently made available a 22-minute video containing this discussion.2

Shortly thereafter, a portion of this video, under the title “David Ray Griffin on the 9/11 Cell Phone Calls: Exclusive CBC Interview,” was posted on You Tube,3 after which it was posted on 911 Blogger.4 This latter posting resulted in considerable discussion, during which some claims contradicting my position were made. In this essay, I respond to the most important of these claims, namely:

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’ 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.

The four sections of this essay will respond to these four claims in order.

1. The FBI on the Possibility of High-Altitude Cell Phone Calls in 2001

I have suggested that the FBI’s report to the Moussaoui trial in 2006 implied its acceptance of the argument, made by some members of the 9/11 Truth Movement, that cell phone calls from high-altitude airliners would have been impossible, or at least virtually so. One critic, however, said: “The FBI hasn't admitted anything about the possibility of making cell phone calls at 30,000 feet.”5 It is true that the FBI has never explicitly stated that such calls are impossible, or at least too improbable to affirm. But its report for the Moussaoui trial, I have argued, implies an acceptance of this view.

My argument for this claim involves three points: (1) Immediately after 9/11, the FBI had described, or at least accepted the description of, about 15 of the reported calls from the airliners as cell phone calls. (2) In 2003, a prominent member of the 9/11 Truth Movement argued persuasively that, given the cell phone technology available in 2001, calls from high-altitude airliners would have been impossible. (3) The FBI report for the Moussaoui trial affirmed only two cell phone calls from the airliners, both of which were from United Flight 93 after it had descended to 5,000 feet. I will expand on each of these three points.

Reported Calls Originally Described as Cell Phone Calls

Approximately 15 of the reported phone calls from the four airliners were described at the time as cell phone calls. About 10 of those were from Flight 93. For example:

• A Washington Post story said: “[Passenger Jeremy] Glick's cell phone call from Flight 93 and others like it provide the most dramatic accounts so far of events aboard the four hijacked aircraft during the terrifying hours of Tuesday morning, and they offer clues about how the hijackings occurred.”6

• A Newsweek story about United 93 said: “Elizabeth [Honor] Wainio, 27, was speaking to her stepmother in Maryland. Another passenger, she explains, had loaned her a cell phone and told her to call her family.”7

• According to the FBI’s interview of Fred Fiumano, a close friend of UA 93 passenger Marion Britton, she called to tell him about the hijacking and then gave him the number of the phone she was using. Since this was not the number of her own cell phone, Fiumano assumed that Britton, who was traveling with a colleague from work, “had borrowed a cell phone.”8

• Reporting that UA 93 flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw had called her husband from United 93, the Greensboro News & Record, besides speaking of their “cellular phone conversation,” also reported that she had told her husband that “many passengers were making cell phone calls.”9

• A story about Deena Burnett, who reported receiving three to five calls from her husband, Tom Burnett, said: “Deena Burnett clutched the phone. ... She was at once terrified, yet strangely calmed by her husband's steady voice over his cell phone.”10

Two calls from United Flight 175 were also originally described as cell phone calls:

• A BBC story said: “Businessman Peter Hanson, who was with his wife and baby on the United Airlines flight 175 that hit the World Trade Center, called his father in Connecticut. Despite being cut off twice, he managed to report how men armed with knives were stabbing flight attendants.”11 An Associated Press story said that “a minister confirmed the cell phone call to Lee Hanson.”12

• A Washington Post story said: “Brian Sweeney called his wife Julie: ‘Hi, Jules,’ Brian Sweeney was saying into his cell phone. ‘It's Brian. We've been hijacked, and it doesn't look too good.’”13

It was widely reported, likewise, that two people had made cell phone calls from American Flight 77. One of these was flight attendant Renee May, about whom a story’s headline read: “Flight Attendant Made Call on Cell Phone to Mom in Las Vegas.”14

The other reported cell-phone caller from Flight 77 was CNN commentator Barbara Olson, wife of Theodore “Ted” Olson, the US solicitor general. On the afternoon of 9/11, CNN put out a story stating that, according to Ted Olson, his wife had “called him twice on a cell phone from American Airlines Flight 77.”15 Olson, who reportedly told the FBI the same day that he did not know “if the calls were made from her cell phone or the telephone on the plane,”16 went back and forth between these two positions in his public statements.17 He even endorsed the onboard phone version in what seem to have been his two final public statements on the issue, made to the Federalist Society on November 16, 2001, and to London’s Daily Telegraph on March 5, 2002.18 But these statements of the alternative version went virtually unnoticed in the American press, as shown by the fact that, a year after 9/11, CNN was still reporting, with no public contradiction from the FBI, that Barbara Olson had used a cell phone.19

Finally, there were reportedly two connected cell phone calls from American Flight 11, both made by flight attendant Madeline “Amy” Sweeney. The 9/11 Commission Report later stated:

“[Flight attendant] Amy Sweeney got through to the American flight Services Office in Boston but was cut off after she reported someone was hurt aboard the flight. Three minutes later, Sweeney was reconnected to the office and began relaying updates to the manager, Michael Woodward. . . . The phone call between Sweeney and Woodward lasted about 12 minutes.”20

An affidavit from the FBI agent who interviewed Woodward that same day stated that, according to Woodward, Sweeney had been “using a cellular telephone.”21

It is likely that, except for the Olson case and one or two others, the newspapers got the information for their stories primarily from the FBI, which gave the impression of supporting the people’s claims that they had received calls from cell phones. This was the case, as we have just seen, with regard to the reported calls from Amy Sweeney. With regard to Deena Burnett, the FBI report said:

“Starting at approximately 6:39 a.m. (PST), Burnett received a series of three to five cellular phone calls from her husband. . . . Approximately ten minutes later Deena Burnett received another call from her husband. . . . Approximately five minutes later she received another cell phone call from her husband.”22

With regard to Lee Hanson, the FBI report said: “He believed his son was calling from his cellular telephone.”23

It is clear, therefore, that the FBI was not publicly raising objections to – and even appeared to be endorsing - the notion that there were several cell phone calls from the 9/11 flights, even though these flights were reportedly at quite high altitudes when the calls were received. In the report presented to the Moussaoui trial by the FBI in 2006, however, this apparent endorsement would disappear – probably because of limitations on what cell phones could do.

Cell Phone Limitations

Given the cell phone technology available in 2001, cell phone calls from airliners at altitudes of more than a few thousand feet, especially calls lasting more than a few seconds, were virtually – and perhaps completely – impossible. And yet many of the reported cell phone calls occurred when the planes were above 25,000 or even 40,000 feet24 and also lasted a minute or more – with Amy Sweeney’s reported call even lasting for 12 minutes.25

Three problems have been pointed out: (1) The cell phone in those days had to complete a “handshake” with a cellsite on the ground, which took several seconds, so a cell phone in a high-speed plane would have had trouble staying connected to a cellsite long enough to complete a call. (2) The signals were sent out horizontally, from cellsite to cellsite, not vertically. Although there was some leakage upward, the system was not designed to activate cell phones at high altitudes.26 (3) Receiving a signal was made even more difficult by the insulation provided by the large mass of an airliner.

Well-known Canadian scientist and mathematician A. K. Dewdney, who for many years had written a column for Scientific American, reported early in 2003 on experiments showing that these difficulties would have rendered impossible at least most of the reported cell phone calls from the 911 airliners.27 His experiments involved both single- and double-engine airplanes.

Dewdney found that, in a single-engine plane, successful calls could be counted on only under 2,000 feet. Above that altitude, they became increasingly unlikely. At 20,000 feet,

“the chance of a typical cellphone call making it to ground and engaging a cellsite there is less than one in a hundred.... [T]he probability that two callers will succeed is less than one in ten thousand.”

The likelihood of 13 successful calls, Dewdney added, would be “infinitesimal.”28 In later experiments using a twin-engine plane, which has greater mass and hence provides greater insulation from electronic signals, Dewdney found that the success rate decayed to 0 percent at 7,000 feet.29 A large airliner, having much greater mass, would provide far more insulation – a fact, Dewdney added, that “is very much in harmony with many anecdotal reports ...that in large passenger jets, one loses contact during takeoff, frequently before the plane reaches 1000 feet altitude.”30 Dewdney concluded, therefore, that numerous successful cell phone calls from airliners flying above 30,000 feet would have been “flat out impossible.”31

Such calls would become possible only several years later. In 2004, Qualcomm announced a successful demonstration of a fundamentally new kind of cell phone technology, involving a “picocell,” that would allow passengers “to place and receive calls as if they were on the ground.” American Airlines announced that this new technology was expected to be commercially available in 2006.32 This technology, in fact, first became available on commercial flights in March 2008.33

In light of the fact that the 9/11 attacks occurred many years before this technology was available, the FBI faced a serious problem.

The FBI’s Revised Public Position

As will be shown later, the FBI by 2004 – the year after Dewdney reported his results – had provided an account of the reported calls from the airliners that did not affirm the occurrence of any high-altitude cell phone calls. But this account was not made public.

This account first became publicly visible in 2006 in a report on phone calls from the 9/11 airliners prepared by the FBI for the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui (who was accused of being the “20th-hijacker”). According to the McClatchy reporter at the trial, the spokesman for the FBI said: “13 of the terrified passengers and crew members made 35 air phone calls and two cell phone calls.”34

Implicit in this matter-of-fact statement was a radical change in the FBI’s public position: 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 – three or four from Tom Burnett alone. Indeed, Dewdney, observing that “more alleged cell phone calls were made [from Flight 93] than from the other three flights combined,” dubbed it the "Cell phone Flight."35 But the FBI was now saying that this flight was the source of only two cell phone calls.

This statement by the FBI spokesman accurately reflected the FBI’s report on phone calls from the flights that was placed on the US government website for the Moussaoui trial.36 This form of the FBI’s report consists of graphics that summarize the information about the various reported calls. Only two of the graphics for Flight 93 indicate calls made from cell phones. One of these says: “9:58 AM: Passenger Edward Felt, using his cell phone, (732) 241-XXXX, contacts John Shaw, a 911 Operator from Westmoreland County, PA.”37 The other one, which is for flight attendant CeeCee Lyles, indicates that she made a “cell phone call” to a residential number at 9:58 AM.38 The FBI clearly said, therefore, that these two calls were the only ones from Flight 93 made on cell phones.

Moreover, none of the graphics for the other three flights describe any of the reported calls as cell phone calls. Can we safely infer from this fact that the FBI’s report was indicating that the only cell phone calls from all the 9/11 airliners combined were those by Felt and Lyles? There are several indications that we can.

First, the FBI clearly said this about Flight 93, as the FBI spokesman, in a statement quoted above, said that “13 of the terrified passengers and crew members made 35 air phone calls and two cell phone calls.” In other words, except for the two calls with graphics specifically indicating that they were cell phone calls, all the calls were clearly stated to have been “air phone calls.”

Second, in spite of the fact that two women from American Flight 77 – Barbara Olson and flight attendant Renee May – were generally reported to have made cell phone calls, the graphics for them did not indicate that either of them had used a cell phone. And when we look at a May 2004 FBI report on phone calls from AA Flight 77, which “was conducted in support of the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal case against Zacarias Moussaoui,” we find this statement: “All of the calls from Flight 77 were made via the onboard airphone system.”39

Third, the FBI evidently intended the same with regard to the other two flights. The two people who had been reported as having made cell phone calls on United 175 – Peter Hanson and Brian Sweeney – were said in the FBI’s Moussaoui trial report to have used onboard phones. And the call from AA 11 flight attendant Amy Sweeney to fellow employee Michael Woodward, which according to Woodward as quoted in the FBI affidavit had been made with a “cellular telephone,” was said in the FBI’s Moussaoui trial report to have been made using an onboard phone.40 In light of the fact that we have statements from the FBI about Flights 77 and 93 showing that, unless a call is explicitly designated to have been a cell phone call, it was made from an onboard phone, we can safely assume that the FBI intended the same for Flights 11 and 175.

It seems, therefore, that according to the FBI’s report for the Moussaoui trial, the only cell phone calls from the 9/11 airliners were the aforementioned calls from Edward Felt and CeeCee Lyles.

Did these two calls have something in common that set them apart from the rest of the reported calls that had originally been described as cell phone calls? Yes, they were both, as we saw above, said to have been made from Flight 93 at 9:58, and by that time it had reportedly descended to 5,000 feet.41 In the light of Dewdney’s reports, two successful cell phone calls from a high-speed airliner at 5,000 feet would have still been very improbable, but they would at least have been more likely than such calls from above 25,000 feet, so those two calls could not be so completely ruled out as impossible.

Given the fact that, of the approximately 15 calls from the 9/11 airliners that were originally described as cell phone calls, the FBI accepted this description for only the two that reportedly occurred at a relatively low altitude, it seems reasonable to conclude that the FBI implicitly agreed, in its report to the Moussaoui trial, that calls from high-altitude airliners were impossible – or at least too improbable to affirm.

2. Evidence for Faked Phone Calls

In response to the claim – made in several of my writings and repeated during my Fifth Estate interview – that at least some of the reported phone calls were almost certainly fabricated, one critic wrote: “DRG has no evidence . . . that phone calls were faked.”42 To the contrary, there is considerable evidence for this conclusion.

The Number of People Who Reported Receiving Cell Phone Calls

As we saw, people on the ground reported receiving cell phone calls from UA 93 flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw; UA 93 passengers Marion Britton, Tom Burnett, Jeremy Glick, and Elizabeth “Honor” Wainio; from UA 175 passengers Peter Hanson and Brian Sweeney; from AA 77 flight attendant Renee May; and, according to the best-known version of Ted Olson’s account, AA 77 passenger Barbara Olson. However, the FBI, in its report to the Moussaoui trial, declared that all of those calls were made from onboard phones. If that is true, how would the FBI explain why so many people reported that they had been called from cell phones?

People do, of course, make mistakes, especially in stressful situations. They may misunderstand, or misremember, what they were told. 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? (Ted Olson, as we saw earlier, and Renee May’s parents, as we will see below, both said they were uncertain what kind of phone had been used, so they can be excluded from the list of people who would need to be accused of having made that mistake.) Should we not look for some more plausible explanation?

The FBI’s Amazing Treatment of Amy Sweeney’s Calls

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.”43

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.”44 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.”

It appears, moreover, that this view was almost universally held for the first two years after 9/11. Except for a New York Times editorial in December 2001 saying that Amy Sweeney had called “by air phone,”45 reports that mentioned the kind of phone she used referred to it as a cell phone. For example, former flight attendant Elizabeth Kilkenny wrote in a tribute to Sweeney: “I recognized her name from a newspaper account which said she was on a cell phone with her scheduler in Boston.”46 A memoriam by the Association of Flight Attendants said that Sweeney “relayed information about the hijacking to her supervisor by cell phone.”47 A biography at the Astro Databank said that she “was able to get through on her cell phone.”48

The fact that there was this near-unanimity about her having used a cell phone is not surprising, given the fact that Lechner’s affidavit to this effect was, in October 2001, made known in an Associated Press story entitled “Flight Affidavit: Flight Attendant Made Call to Report Hijacking,” which said:

“An American Airlines employee received a cell phone call from a flight attendant aboard doomed Flight 11 shortly before it crashed into the World Trade Center, according to newly unsealed court documents. . . . The FBI cited its interview with the American Airlines employee in an affidavit.”49

However, in spite of Lechner’s affidavit and the resulting near unanimity of opinion that Sweeney had used a cell phone, the 9/11 Commission’s report, which appeared in July 2004, said that she had used an onboard phone. It did not state this in the text, where it would have been widely noticed, but an endnote said:

“Amy Sweeney attempted by airphone to contact the American Airlines flight services desk at Logan. . . . The phone call between Sweeney and Woodward lasted about 12 minutes (8:32-8:44).”50

What had happened to produce this change in the official story?

In August 2004, shortly after the appearance of the 9/11 Commission’s report, New York Press journalist Alan Cabal, in an article entitled “Miracles and Wonders,” wrote:

“Last week, USA Today reported a joint effort between Qualcomm and American Airlines to allow passengers to make cell phone calls from aircraft in flight. . . . [T]he satellite-based system employs a ‘Pico cell’ to act as a small cellular tower. . . . 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. Yet despite this, passengers Todd Beamer [and] Jeremy Glick . . . managed to place calls from Flight 93 on the morning of September 11. Peter Hanson . . . phoned his dad from Flight 175. Madeline Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant, made a very dramatic call from Flight 11. . . . Each call was initially reported as coming from a cell phone. Later, when skepticism reared its ugly head and the Grassy Knollers arrived, the narrative became fuzzy; it was suggested that $10-a-minute Airfones were involved.”51

As this statement shows, Cabal, having realized by August 2004 that the official story had been changed, suggested that this change had been made in response to doubts about the possibility of the reported cell phone calls raised by members of the 9/11 Truth Movement. (Although his reference to them as “Grassy Knollers” might seem like ridicule, the rest of his story shows that it was the official story that Cabal considered ridiculous.52) Since otherwise the 9/11 Commission’s report did not specify the type of phone used by any of the people who had originally been described as cell phone callers, its endnote statement about Amy Sweeney – that she had used an “airphone”53 – may have been what led Cabal to say that the story had been changed.

In any case, the story had indeed been changed before the 9/11 Commission wrote its final report. In a 9/11 Commission staff report of 2004 that was reflected in the Commission’s final report, only the 9:58 calls by Edward Felt and CeeCee Lyles were referred to as cell phone calls.54 This staff report also indicated that the calls (supposedly) made from AA 11 by Amy Sweeney and from UA Flight 175 by Peter Hanson and Brian Sweeney had employed onboard phones - even though the 9/11 Commission’s report itself would not indicate what kind of phone was supposedly used by these two men.55

With regard the description of the phone used by Amy Sweeney as an onboard phone (“airphone”), the evidence said to support this description appears to have emerged in May 2004. Amy Sweeney’s widowed husband, Mike Sweeney, was evidently informed two weeks prior to June 4 – when there was to be a special presentation for family members of the victims – that a tape existed containing the contents of his wife’s phone calls to Michael Woodward of American Airlines. According to reporter Gail Sheehy, Mike Sweeney said:

"I was shocked that I'm finding out, almost three years later, there was a tape with information given by my wife that was very crucial to the happenings of 9/11. Suddenly it miraculously appears and falls into the hands of FBI? . . . Why did it surface now?”56

The answer to his question may have something to do with the fact that the 9/11 Commission was about to complete its report, combined with the fact that this tape provided a basis for changing the story about the kind of phone used by Amy Sweeney. According to Sheehy’s summary of this part of the tape:

“The young blond mother of two had secreted herself in the next-to-last passenger row and used an AirFone card, given to her by another flight attendant, Sara Low, to call the airline's flight-services office at Boston's Logan airport.”

Accordingly, the information that Amy Sweeney had used an “airphone” – rather than a cell phone, as the FBI’s affidavit had said – was provided by this tape, which had “miraculously appear[ed].” How had it been produced? Here is the story, as summarized by Sheehy:

“Since there was no tape machine in his office, Woodward began repeating the flight attendant's alarming account to a colleague, Nancy Wyatt, the supervisor of pursers at Logan. On another phone, Ms. Wyatt was simultaneously transmitting Ms. Sweeney's words to the airline's Fort Worth headquarters [where Wyatt’s words were recorded]. It was that relayed account that was played for the families.”57

This story is reflected in the aforementioned 9/11 Commission staff report, which said:

“[A]t 8:40 AM, an American Airlines employee in Boston who was standing next to Michael Woodward as he talked to Sweeney contacted an employee in American Airlines' SOC [Systems Operations Control]. She reported the content of the ongoing call between Woodward and Sweeney.”58

This new story is also reflected, albeit very opaquely, in The 9/11 Commission Report itself, which in endnotes repeatedly cited, with no explanation: “AAL transcript, telephone call from Nancy Wyatt to Ray Howland, Sept. 11, 2001.”59 This reference tells us that the SOC person at American Airlines’ headquarters who reportedly received the call from Nancy Wyatt was Ray Howland.

The claim by the FBI and the 9/11 Commission that Sweeney had used an onboard phone is evidently based entirely on this story. But this story is completely unbelievable, for six reasons:

First, it appears that until May 2004, there had been no word of the existence of this tape. Sheehy wrote:

“David Novak, an assistant U.S. attorney involved in prosecuting the Moussaoui case, told Mr. Sweeney [when he notified him about it in May 2004] that the existence of the tape was news to him. . . . ‘We, the prosecution team and the F.B.I. agents that have been assigned to assist us, were not aware of that tape,’ Mr. Novak told me. He says he only learned of it two weeks ago while he was briefing 9/11 commissioners on what he knows about the two hijacked American flights. He believes the commission got the tape from the airline.”60

This widespread ignorance about the tape creates the suspicion that it did not exist.

Second, this suspicion is increased by reflection on the question of why the 9/11 Commission had not received this tape from American Airlines until 2004. If that were true, then presumably someone at American headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, where the recording was made, would have just discovered it. But it is inconceivable that the existence of this tape had been forgotten by Ray Howland and other people at American Headquarters, given the dramatic way in which this tape had been produced - with Nancy Wyatt from Boston relaying to Howland in Texas a virtually verbatim account of one of the first phone calls from the hijacked airliners.

Third, the suspicion that the tape was not made in 2001 is further increased by a Los Angeles Times story of September 20, 2001, which said:

“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.”61

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? Surely, even if these AA officials had somehow forgotten about the existence of this recording over the years, they could not have already forgotten about it later in the day on 9/11 itself. Also, why would AA officials have said “such calls are not typically recorded” if, in this case, they did have a recording – albeit an indirect one – of the call? Finally, it is also inconceivable that the AA officials would, while knowing about this recording, have withheld it from the FBI.62

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. Besides not being mentioned in Lechner’s affidavit, the existence of such a tape is also not mentioned in the summary of the FBI interview with Woodward the following day, which ends by saying: “Woodward took notes while he was talking to Sweeney which he signed and dated and gave to the interviewing Agent.”63 But surely, if Woodward had, only hours earlier, repeated Sweeney’s report to Nancy Wyatt, who had in turn repeated it to Ray Howland down in Texas, Woodward would have said something like: “You don’t need to rely entirely on my notes, because there is a recording of a virtually verbatim repetition of Sweeney’s statements down in Texas at American headquarters.”

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.”

Finally, the new story is even internally inconsistent. The conversation between Sweeney and Woodward, we were told, lasted from 8:32 until 8:44 AM. And yet, according to the aforementioned staff report of the 9/11 Commission, Nancy Wyatt did not start relaying the call to American headquarters in Texas until 8:40 AM.64 If she was on the phone with Ray Howland in Texas for only the final 4 minutes of the 12-minute call, during which she was, as Gail Sheehy reported, “simultaneously transmitting Ms. Sweeney's words to the airline's Fort Worth headquarters,” how could this call have resulted in a virtually verbatim transcript of the entire Sweeney-Woodward call – rather than simply the final four minutes?

To sum up: We have six good reasons to conclude that the alleged recording of Nancy Wyatt’s verbatim repetition of Amy Sweeney’s alleged phone call from American Flight 11 is a late fabrication, which was created in order – perhaps among other reasons – to change the description of this 12-minute call, so that it would no longer be portrayed as a cell phone call. By thus implicitly admitting that the call as portrayed in the FBI’s 2001 affidavit could not have happened, the FBI in 2004 implicitly admitted, it seems to me, that the reported call from Sweeney to Woodward was fabricated.

Cell Phone Numbers Recognized on Caller ID

In spite of what has been said above, some people may be able to accept the idea that everyone who reported receiving cell phone calls from the 9/11 airliners – except perhaps for those who reported the 9:58 calls from Felt and Lyles – had misunderstood what they had been told. But even if so, they face a still more difficult problem: If all the calls (except the two at 9:58) were made from onboard phones, as the FBI’s report for the Moussaoui trial says, why did some of the calls produce the supposed caller’s cell phone number on the recipient’s Caller ID?

Tom Burnett: The best-known case of this type involves the reported calls from Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett to his wife, Deena Burnett. As we saw earlier, she told the FBI agent that she had received three to five calls from her husband that morning. The FBI report then added:

“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.”65

According to the report presented to the Moussaoui trial, however, Tom Burnett completed three calls, all of which were made using a passenger-seat phone (the rows from which he allegedly made the calls are indicated).66

It is instructive to compare the FBI’s treatment of Deena Burnett’s testimony with its treatment of the testimony of Lorne Lyles, the husband of CeeCee Lyles. The FBI’s summary of its interview with him says: “At 9:58 AM, Lorne Lyles received a call at home from her celular [sic] telephone. Lyles was in a deep sleep at the time. . . . Lyles commented that CeCe [sic] Lyles’ telephone number 941-823-2355 was the number on the caller ID.”67 When the FBI turned in its telephone report for the Moussaoui trial, it reflected Lorne Lyles’s testimony that his spouse had used a cell phone. But even though Deena Burnett provided the same evidence – that her spouse’s cell phone number had appeared on her phone’s Caller ID – the FBI’s report for the Moussaoui trial did not reflect her testimony, but instead said that her husband had used a seat-back phone. This contrast provides further evidence that the FBI’s report was tailored to avoid affirming any high-altitude cell phone calls.

In any case, how can anyone say that the FBI’s treatment of the reported calls from Tom Burnett does not provide insuperable evidence against the truth of the official story? If he 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.

One cannot avoid the problem, moreover, by assuming that the FBI agent who wrote the report of the interview misinterpreted her. She repeated her statement about the Caller ID a year later to McClatchy reporter Greg Gordon,68 and five years later she repeated it again in a book, in which she said: “I looked at the caller ID and indeed it was Tom’s cell phone number.” She said, incidentally, that she realized that this was problematic, writing: “I didn't understand how he could be calling me on his cell phone from the air.”69 She, nevertheless, reported what she had seen.

Renee May: There was, furthermore, evidently another phone that registered the cell phone number of a person onboard the 9/11 airliners, namely, AA 77 flight attendant Renee May. According to the FBI summary of its interview with Renee’s mother, Nancy May, she “did not know whether her daughter was utilizing an in-flight telephone or her own personal cellular telephone.”70 But there was another reported call from Renee May, about which the public was not told. The 9/11 Commission Report asserted that “all family members of the Flight 77 passengers and crew were canvassed to see if they had received any phone calls from the hijacked flight, and only Renee May’s parents and Ted Olson indicated that they had received such calls.”71 However, if Renee May’s fiancé should be considered one of her “family members,” then the Commission should have mentioned his testimony.

According to FBI notes dated June 5, 2002, Renee May’s parents “advised that Renee also had made a telephone call to [her fiancé] at his office, on the morning of 09/11/2001, but did not speak to him.” Then, summarizing the testimony of her fiancé (whose name was blocked out), the FBI notes said:

“May had attempted to contact [him] on the morning of 09/11/2001, but did not talk to him. [He] advised that the caller identification (ID) of his business telephone . . . had indicated May had called.”72

We cannot say for certain that we have here a parallel with the Burnett case, because May’s fiancé, according to the FBI’s summary of its interview with him, could not say at what time in the morning the call occurred. One might suppose, therefore, that she had called early, before the flight departed.

However, the flight reportedly pushed back from the gate at 8:09 AM, so if she had called before she was on duty, she would have needed to call pretty early, surely no later than 7:15 AM. Accordingly, the fact that the call leaving her cell phone number came to her fiancé’s office phone, rather than his home phone, means that it was most likely dialed later, after Flight 77 would have been in the air. This seems to be what May’s fiancé and parents assumed. Indeed, it was likely this belief that convinced the Mays that their daughter’s call to them had also been made from her cell phone, leading to the local headline, “Flight Attendant Made Call on Cell Phone to Mom in Las Vegas.”73

In any case, the FBI’s report to the Moussaoui trial, not mentioning the call to Renee May’s fiancé, indicated that her two calls to her parents – only one of which was connected – were made from an onboard phone.74

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?75 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.

3. Questions about Onboard Phones on American Flight 77

Prior to learning about the FBI 2006 report to the Moussaoui trial, which indicated that Barbara Olson had attempted only one call and that it was “unconnected” so that it lasted for “0 seconds,” members of the 9/11 Truth Movement already had reasons for doubting the truth of Ted Olson’s claim that she had made two calls to him from Flight 77, during each of which they had conversations. One of those reasons was that it seemed that the calls could not have been made from either a cell phone or an onboard phone.

The possibility that Barbara Olson might have used a cell phone seemed ruled out by the plane’s reported altitude: According to the 9/11 Commission, her first call reportedly occurred “between 9:16 and 9:26 AM,” when Flight 77, according to the NTSB’s official report, would have been somewhere between 25,000 and 14,000 feet.76 (The FBI later specified that her attempted call occurred at 9:18:58, at which time the NTSB report says that Flight 77 would still have been at about 25,000 feet.77) It was no big surprise to learn, therefore, that the FBI said in a previously quoted 2004 statement - “All of the calls from Flight 77 were made via the onboard airphone system”78 – that there were no cell phone calls from this flight.

That statement did, however, indicate that there were onboard calls from this flight. And, as we have seen, the FBI explicitly said that Renee May, using an onboard phone, completed a call to her parents. But I have cited evidence that neither she nor Barbara Olson could have made such calls, because American Airlines’ 757s did not, in September 2001, have functioning onboard phones.

In response, one critic has written, “FACT: AA 757s had airfones on 9/11,” even adding: “Griffin himself acknowledged as much in 2007 - but has continued to promote the claim about no phone calls,” and other critics have expressed agreement.79 I will address the two parts of this twofold claim – that American’s 757s had onboard phones on 9/11, and that I have claimed otherwise while knowing better – in reverse order.

My Evolving Position on whether Flight 77 Had Onboard Phones

When I published the first edition of Debunking 9/11 Debunking in 2007, I argued that the claim on which Ted Olson had evidently settled – that his wife had called him twice from Flight 77 using a passenger-seat phone – could not be true, because this flight did not have such phones. I made this assertion primarily on the basis of evidence provided by Rowland Morgan and Ian Henshall in their co-authored book 9/11 Revealed that American’s 757s (unlike United’s) did not have onboard phones.80

Morgan and Henshall had based this claim on three facts: First, the American Airlines website, while reporting that passengers could make telephone calls from AA’s Boeing 767s and 777s, did not mention its 757s.81 Second, they had learned from a representative of American Airlines in London that its 757s did not have onboard phones. Third, having asked AA in an email letter, “Are 757s fitted with phones that passengers can use?” they received a reply, signed “Tim Wagner, AA Spokesman,” which said: “American Airlines 757s do not have onboard phones for passenger use.” Then, realizing that Wagner’s reply left open the possibility that American’s 757s might have had phones that, while intended only for use by the crew, Barbara Olson might conceivably have borrowed, Morgan and Henshall sent another letter, asking, “are there any onboard phones at all on AA 757s, i.e., that could be used either by passengers or cabin crew?” Wagner’s response said: “AA 757s do not have any onboard phones, either for passenger or crew use. Crew have other means of communication available.”82

On the basis of these three mutually supporting pieces of evidence, I said in the first edition of Debunking 9/11 Debunking (which appeared early in 2007): “[W]e have very good evidence that the call to Ted Olson, like the call to Renee May’s parents, was fabricated – unless, of course, he simply made up the story.”83

My Retraction of My “Error”: Shortly after the book appeared, however, I had second thoughts, which were provoked by three facts. First, a trusted colleague sent a 1998 photograph of the inside of an AA 757, showing that it had seat-back phones. Second, a CNET News report from February 6, 2002, sent by this same colleague, said:

“American Airlines will discontinue its AT&T in-flight phone service by March 31, a spokesman for the airline said Wednesday. . . . Passengers on Boeing 777 and Boeing 767-300 aircraft, which mainly fly international routes, will continue to offer an in-flight phone service.”84

At that time, I took this statement to mean that all Boeing airliners except the 767s and 777s would have had in-flight phone service until March 31, 2002.

Third, looking back at the statements from AA representatives quoted by Morgan and Henshall, I saw that they were formulated in the present tense, stating only that AA’s 757s “do not” have onboard phones. Those statements left open the possibility that, although they did not have onboard phones at the time these statements were made (2004), they had had have them back in 2001.

Having concluded that I had probably made an error, I wrote a retraction, entitled “Barbara Olson’s Alleged Call from AA 77: A Correction About Onboard Phones,” which was posted May 7, 2007. Having said that my earlier claim that AA 757s did not have onboard phones was “wrong, at least probably,” I concluded this essay by saying:

“In this brief essay, I have tried to exemplify what I have always said people should do when they find that they have made errors, especially about issues of great importance: Correct them quickly, forthrightly, and publicly. I assume that now NIST, Popular Mechanics, and the 9/11 Commission will correct the dozens of errors that have been pointed out in their reports.”85

Retracting the Retraction: Although the second of these two sentences was written with tongue in cheek, I was completely serious about the importance of correcting errors. Six weeks later, that same policy led to retract my retraction because of three new pieces of information: First, I learned of a 2004 news report that said: “Several years ago, American installed seatback phones . . . on many of its planes but ripped them out except in some Boeing 777s and 767s on international routes.”86 The fact that American’s 757s had onboard phones in 1998 did not, therefore, necessarily mean that it still had them in 2001.

The second new piece of information, supplied by Rob Balsamo of Pilots for 9/11 Truth, was a page from the Boeing 757 Aircraft Maintenance Manual (757 AMM), which was dated January 28, 2001. The first sentence of this page states: “The passenger telephone system was deactivated by ECO FO878.” This page indicates, in other words, that by January 28, 2001, the passenger phone system for the AA 757 fleet had already been deactivated.87

This information is relevant to the news report of February 6, 2002, which said that, except for its 767s and 777s, American Airlines would “discontinue its AT&T in-flight phone service by March 31.” There were two things I had not earlier noticed about this report. First, it merely said that this service would be discontinued (except for its 767s and 777s) “by March 31.” To say that it would be discontinued by that date was not necessarily to imply that it would be continued until that time on all of AA’s planes. Second, this report did not mention 757s in particular, so it did not necessarily indicate that AA’s 757s still had any in-flight phone service to be discontinued. This news report, in other words, would be consistent with the idea that, although some AA planes (in addition to the 767s and 777s) might continue in-flight phone service until March 31, the service on its 757s had already been discontinued. And that is precisely what the page from the 757 AAM indicated, namely, that the phones on American’s 757s had already been deactivated by January 2001.

The third new piece of information, which I also learned from Balsamo, was that another AA representative had made a statement about the absence of phones on AA 757s, which, being more precise than the statements that Morgan and Henshall had received, left no room for misinterpretation. This statement, which had appeared on a German political forum, had been evoked by a letter to American Airlines saying:

“[O]n your website . . . there is mentioned that there are no seatback satellite phones on a Boeing 757. Is that info correct? Were there any . . . seatback satellite phones on any Boeing 757 . . . on September 11, 2001?”

The reply, which was signed “Chad W. Kinder, Customer Relations, American Airlines,” said:

“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.”88

After confirming the authenticity of this reported exchange,89 Balsamo and I co-authored an article entitled “Could Barbara Olson Have Made Those Calls? An Analysis of New Evidence about Onboard Phones.” In a section entitled “Correcting an ‘Error,’” we reviewed the reasons that had led me to conclude that my claim about AA 77 – that it would have had no onboard phones – was probably wrong.

That section was followed by one entitled “Correcting the Correction,” in which we laid out the three above-mentioned “new pieces of evidence supporting the contention that AA 77 did not have onboard phones.” We then also reported that our conclusion about Barbara Olson’s alleged calls to her husband – that they did not occur – was supported by the FBI’s report for the Moussaoui trial (although this report did not support our contention that Flight 77 would have had no onboard phones).90 Although we said that “we cannot yet claim to have proof” that American’s 757s did not have functioning onboard phones in September 2001, we called our evidence “very strong.”

This article was posted (on the Pilots for Truth website) on June 26, 2007. So my retraction, in which I stated that Flight 77 probably did have onboard phones, had stood as my public position for only the six weeks between May 7, 2007 – when I posted “Barbara Olson’s Alleged Call from AA 77: A Correction About Onboard Phones” – and June 26, 2007.

The fact that I had retracted that retraction was also stated prominently in the second edition of Debunking 9/11 Debunking, which, labeled “Revised and Updated Edition,” appeared in August 2007. Indeed, the primary reason for putting out this new edition was to update the book’s discussion of the alleged phone calls from the airliners, using the new information contained in the article co-authored with Balsamo. Besides reporting in this updated edition on the FBI’s report for the Moussaoui trial, in which it failed to affirm any high-altitude cell phone calls (including those purportedly made by Tom Burnett),91 I also explained the reasons for my initial retraction of the claim, made in the first edition, that there were no onboard phones on AA 77, and then the reasons for retracting this retraction. Although I did not have enough space to explain these reasons in detail – because the second edition’s overall pagination had to remain the same as the first edition’s – I referred readers to the article co-authored with Balsamo for more detail.92

Finally, in October 2009, I published an article entitled “New Evidence that the Official Story about 9/11 Is Indefensible,” in which I explained that “I was motivated to put out the Revised and Updated Edition [of Debunking 9/11 Debunking] primarily because of new information about the alleged phone calls.”93

In light of all this, I can perhaps be forgiven for being astonished to find people claiming that I have agreed since 2007 that American’s 757s had onboard phones.94

Did American 77 Have Onboard Phones?

Thus far in this section, I have merely discussed the fact of, and the reasons for, the evolution of my own thinking on the question of whether American 77 had onboard phones. The important question, however, is whether the relevant evidence, taken as a whole, supports the view that it probably did or did not. As I see it, the relevant evidence supports the latter conclusion, with the most important evidence consisting of the following four items:

 Statements from various representatives of American Airlines that its Boeing 757s did not have onboard phones, the most important of these being Chad Kinder, who, in response to the question whether it was true that there were no “seatback satellite phones on any [American] Boeing 757 on September 11, 2001,” said: “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.”95

 A page, dated January 28, 2001, purportedly from the Boeing 757 Aircraft Maintenance Manual (757 AMM), which states: “The passenger telephone system was deactivated by ECO [Engineering Change Order] FO878.”96 Although the phones were physically removed from the planes in 2002, this document says that they were deactivated, so that they could not be used, almost eight months before September 11, 2001. The authenticity of this page is vouched for by an American Airlines employee who, although he wishes to remain anonymous, is known to Rob Balsamo of Pilots for 9/11 Truth.

 The following statement of American Airlines Public Relations Representative John Hotard: “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.”97

 The following statement by Captain Ralph Kolstad, who flew Boeing 757s (as well as 767s) as captain from 1993 until he retired in 2005: “[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, he 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.”98

Given the fact that these four mutually supporting pieces of evidence come from completely different sources, they provide very strong evidence for the view that American 757s in 2001, and hence American Flight 77, did not have functioning onboard phones.

The opposite point of view appears to have the following support:

• The claim by the FBI that onboard phone calls were made from Flight 77: an unconnected call by Barbara Olson; a connected (as well as an unconnected) call by Renee May; four connected calls by unknown persons to unknown numbers; and one unconnected call from an unknown person to an unknown number.99

• The aforementioned CNET News report from February 6, 2002, which quoted an AA spokesperson as saying: “American Airlines will discontinue its AT&T in-flight phone service by March 31.”100

• A document, dated March 13, 2002, which was provided by someone using the alias AMTMAN, and which purports to be an American Airlines ECO (Engineering Change Order) for the deactivation of the telephone circuit breaker and toggle switch for B757s.101

None of this evidence, however, is very strong:

• Given the fact that the FBI had the primary responsibility for marshaling evidence to support the official story, the FBI’s own testimony in support of this story cannot simply be assumed to be accurate, especially since this testimony is not supported by any clearly authentic, publicly available, documents.

• The evidence provided by the CNET News report of February 6, 2002, is weak for the reasons pointed out earlier: It merely says that all phone service on American Airliners, except for the 767s and 777s, will be discontinued “by March 31.” It does not say that all phone service will continue until that date, and it says nothing whatsoever about 757s in particular. It is compatible, therefore, with the evidence that the service on American’s 757s was discontinued long before March 31, 2002.

• The document purported to be an American Airlines ECO dated March 13, 2002, was provided by the anonymous person using the alias “AMTMAN” only after the publication of the Griffin-Balsamo article, which included the citation of a page, apparently from the Boeing 757 AMM, stating that the telephone system had been deactivated prior to January 28, 2001. When AMTMAN was challenged by Balsamo to give his real identity, so that his claim to be an AA employee could be verified, he disappeared. This document is, therefore, in the same boat as the purported page from the 757 AMM in one sense, namely, that the authenticity of each is supported only by a person who has remained anonymous. They differ, however, in a very important way: 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 AA employees.

At the end of our joint article, Balsamo and I wrote: “Although we believe our evidence that they did not have [functioning onboard] phones is very strong, we cannot yet claim to have proof; evidence to the contrary might still emerge.” While repeating that statement today, I would add that, given the new statements by John Hotard and Ralph Kolstad, combined with the fact that in the intervening years no proof to the contrary has emerged, the evidence is even stronger now. The evidence is very strong, therefore, that Barbara Olson could not possibly have made calls from Flight 77.

4. Did the FBI’s 2006 Report Confirm Ted Olson’s Testimony?

The question of whether American Flight 77 had onboard phones is important primarily for the question of the reality of the reported calls from Barbara Olson. However, if it should turn out that, contrary to what the presently available evidence indicates, Flight 77 did have onboard phones, that fact by itself would not settle the question about Olson’s reported calls, because there are other reasons to doubt their reality.102 One of these reasons is that Ted Olson’s account – according to which he received two calls from his wife that morning, each of which lasted a minute or more – was undermined by the FBI’s Moussaoui trial report on phone calls from the airliners. Or at least I so claimed in my Fifth Estate interview, as well as in some of my writings. In this section, I respond to challenges that have been made to this claim.

The basic reason for my claim was the stark contrast between Ted Olson’s testimony and the FBI’s report on phone calls from American Flight 77. According to Olson’s testimony, he received two telephone calls from his wife that morning, the first of which, he told the FBI, “lasted about one (1) minute,” after which, a few minutes later, he received another call from her, during which, he later told Larry King, they “spoke for another two or three or four minutes.”103 The FBI’s report to the Moussaoui trial, by contrast, says that Barbara Olson attempted one call, which was “unconnected” and (therefore) lasted “0 seconds.”104 Could anyone possibly think that this report does not undermine Ted Olson’s account?

The answer to this question, surprisingly, turns out to be Yes, because some people suggest that Ted Olson’s account and the FBI report are not mutually contradictory. These suggestions all revolve around the fact that the FBI’s telephone report about American Flight 77, besides indicating that there was an unconnected call from Barbara Olson and two calls from Renee May – one unconnected, the other connected – also indicated that there were five calls from this flight that were doubly unknown: Each was made by an “unknown caller” to an “unknown number.” It also stated that four of these five calls were connected.105

One attempt to reconcile the FBI’s Moussaoui trial phone report with the claim made by Ted Olson, according to which his wife called him twice from Flight 77, has been to suggest that this FBI report was intended to confirm Olson’s account, and successfully did so, by saying that all four of the connected calls to unknown numbers were calls from Barbara Olson to her husband’s office. A second attempt to reconcile the two would be to suggest that two of the four connected calls were from her. I will look first at the four-call hypothesis, then the two-call hypothesis.

Is the Four-Call Hypothesis Plausible?

In order for the four-call hypothesis to be persuasive, two conditions would need to be fulfilled. First, the FBI, in presenting its phone report to the Moussaoui trial, would have needed to be proposing, at least implicitly, the hypothesis that the four connected calls to unknown numbers were made by Barbara Olson. Second, in order for this four-call hypothesis to reconcile the FBI’s 2006 report with Olson’s account, it would need to be plausible. I will look at these two questions in reverse order.

In the first chapter of The 9/11 Commission Report, we find this statement about the reported calls from Barbara Olson:

“At some point between 9:16 and 9:26, Barbara Olson called her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States. . . . About a minute into the conversation, the call was cut off. . . . Shortly after the first call, Barbara Olson reached her husband again. She reported that the pilot had announced that the flight had been hijacked.”106

That discussion suggested that there was no reason to question the reality of these calls. The only hint that there might be something problematic was the evident fact that no one could establish exactly, or even very approximately, when the first call from her came. Surely, one would think, Ted Olson himself and whoever in his office put the call through to him would have had a pretty precise memory of when this shocking, traumatic call was received – more precise, at least, than the 10-minute span of time “between 9:16 and 9:26.” So why could it not be determined with more precision when this reported call came?

Often, of course, puzzles raised by statements in the text of a book can be solved by looking at the relevant notes. When one turns to the endnote for this paragraph, however, one finds the following statement:

“The records available for the phone calls from American 77 do not allow for a determination of which of four ‘connected calls to unknown numbers’ represent the two between Barbara and Ted Olson, although the FBI and DOJ believe that all four represent communications between Barbara Olson and her husband’s office. . . . The four calls were at 9:15:34 for 1 minute, 42 seconds; 9:20:15 for 4 minutes, 34 seconds; 9:25:48 for 2 minutes, 34 seconds; and 9:30:56 for 4 minutes, 20 seconds.”107

So, we learn, there were apparently only two sources of information: purely oral reports from people in the office (not backed up by any notes or logs), which provide the account of two calls from Barbara Olson; and “records available for the phone calls from American 77,” which provide no proof that Barbara Olson made any calls whatsoever. The DOJ and the FBI merely “believe” that two, or perhaps all four, of the connected calls to unknown numbers had been made by her.

The other thing this statement seems to imply is that there were no DOJ phone records showing the reception of any calls from Barbara Olson or from American Flight 77 – and, in fact, no DOJ phone records indicating that any calls were received at times corresponding to the times of any of the connected calls to unknown numbers reportedly made from Flight 77. Does this fact not undermine any attempt to try to correlate the phone calls reported by the two sources?

In any case, the statement about what “the FBI and DOJ believe” did indeed reflect a DOJ briefing (of May 2004), which said:

"While there was no direct evidence with respect to the ‘unknown calls,’ 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 [sic] lead [sic] to the conclusion that all of these unknown calls were from Barbara Olson to her husband Ted's office."108

The question, however, is whether this “conclusion” is even remotely plausible. In answering this question, it will be helpful to look at the FBI reports of its interviews with the two people who reportedly received the calls: Ted Olson and DOJ secretary Lori Keyton.

According to the FBI’s summary of the testimony of Keyton (who was working in Olson’s office that morning to “cover the telephones”), she at approximately 9:00 AM received six to eight automated collect calls, from which nothing resulted. Next she “received a collect call from a live operator,” who had “an emergency collect call from Barbara Olsen [sic] for Ted Olsen [sic].” Keyton accepted the call and then put Barbara Olson’s call through to Ted. The FBI summary next says:

“There was a second telephone call a few to five (5) minutes later. This time Barbara Olsen [sic] was on the line when she answered. She called direct. It was not a collect call. . . . Keyton said, . . . ‘I’ll put you through.’ Keyton advised that there is no caller identification feature on the phone she was using. Keyton didn’t know if Barbara Olson was calling from the phone on the plane or from her cell phone.”109

This summary contains many noteworthy features. One of these is the fact that, whereas Ted Olson had based some confused speculations about what kind of phone his wife had used on the idea that both calls had been made collect (he told Hannity & Colmes [see note 17] that, given the fact that she called collect, she must have used the “airplane phone [because] she somehow didn’t have access to her credit cards”), Lori Keyton, who reportedly received the calls, said that one of them was a direct call. For our present purposes, however, the relevant point is that the summary of Keyton’s testimony concluded with the above-quoted words. There was no hint of any further calls from Barbara Olson.

The same is true of the FBI’s summary of its interview with Ted Olson himself. According to this summary, Olson said that, while he was watching television – which was “rerunning film of the second plane hitting the WTC” – he, after being told that Barbara was on the phone, “picked up the call from his wife and spoke for about one (1) minute,” after which the call “was then cut off.” After reporting this call to the DOJ Command Center, he was told that his wife was on the phone again and, after they discussed several things, “[t]his call was then cut off.” The FBI’s summary of Ted Olson’s testimony concludes by saying:

“Olsen [sic] then went back to the television and learned of the crash at the Pentagon... Olson doesn’t know if the calls were made from her cell phone or the telephone on the plane. She always has her cell phone with her.”110

In the light of these two interview summaries, how could we suppose that the four “connected calls to unknown numbers” could have been “from Barbara Olson to her husband Ted's office”?

We might, to be sure, find it plausible that the two calls reported by Lori Keyton and Ted Olson were the first two of the connected calls to unknown numbers, because their times and durations – 9:15:34 for 1 minute and 42 seconds; 9:20:15 for 4 minutes and 34 seconds – match up decently well with the Keyton-Olson reports.

But what are we to suppose about the third call, which reportedly began at 9:25:48 and lasted for 2 minutes and 34 seconds, and the fourth call, which reportedly began at 9:30:56 and lasted for 4 minutes and 20 seconds? Are we to suppose that Keyton received these calls and transferred them to the solicitor general, but then both of them failed, while being interviewed by the FBI, to mention these two calls, which would have lasted a total of almost 7 minutes? The idea is too ludicrous to consider.

How, then, are we to suppose that these final two calls could have been “from Barbara Olson to her husband Ted's office”? Can we imagine that someone else in that office – perhaps Ted Olson’s personal secretary, Helen Voss, or someone else who took over telephone duty from Lori Keyton – received these two calls and then, instead of transferring them to Ted, stayed on the line with Barbara for almost seven minutes, and then never told him about these calls? Again, the idea is too absurd to entertain.

Accordingly, the hypothesis that all four of the connected calls to unknown numbers were actually calls from Barbara Olson to Ted Olson’s office is completely implausible. As such, it cannot do anything to mitigate the conclusion that the FBI’s report for the Moussaoui trial undermines Ted Olson’s report that he received two calls from her.

Nevertheless, some critics of my views, looking aside from the question of whether the four-call hypothesis is plausible, have argued that it shows the falsity of my claim that the FBI, in issuing its Moussaoui trial report about Flight 77, in effect contradicted Ted Olson’s claim to have received two calls from his wife. This argument depends on the assumption that the FBI, in presenting its telephone call report to the Moussaoui trial in 2006, was proposing the four-call hypothesis.

Did the FBI’s Moussaoui Trial Report Propose the Four-Call Hypothesis, At Least Implicitly?

In a previous article, after quoting the FBI’s Moussaoui trial graphic about Flight 77 – which says of Barbara Olson only that she made one call, which was “unconnected” and (hence) lasted “0 seconds” – I wrote:

“According to the FBI, therefore, Ted Olson did not receive a single call from his wife using either a cell phone or an onboard phone This was an amazing development: The FBI is part of the Department of Justice, and yet its report undermined the well-publicized claim of the DOJ’s former solicitor general that he had received two calls from his wife on 9/11.”111

One critic, having quoted this statement, wrote:

“Yes, the FBI is part of the Department of Justice, and 2 years before the Moussaoui trial all this info[rmation] was known to them, and the Department of Justice confirmed Olson’s story. DRG claims the FBI’s report ‘undermined’ Olson’s claim to have received two calls from his wife.”

Then, referring to the above-quoted DOJ briefing of May 20, 2004 – the work for which, it says, “was conducted in support of the U.S. Justice Department's criminal case against Zacarias Moussaoui" – the critic says that “this document seems to prove otherwise.”112

This critic’s claim is that, in light of the fact that the work for this 2004 briefing was conducted by the FBI to support the DOJ’s case against Moussaoui, plus the fact that this briefing said that interviews had “lead [sic] to the conclusion that all of [the unknown connected] calls were from Barbara Olson to her husband Ted's office,” the FBI’s Moussaoui trial report, far from undermining Ted Olson’s story, had “confirmed” it. There are, however, two problems with this assertion.

First, for that 2004 “conclusion” – namely, that all four connected calls to unknown numbers had been calls from Barbara Olson to her husband’s office – to serve to “confirm” the truth of Olson’s account, that conclusion would need to be plausible. But, as we have seen, it is not, so it cannot confirm anything.

The second problem is that the FBI’s 2006 report to the Moussaoui trial did not repeat the 2004 statement about the DOJ-FBI “conclusion” that the four connected calls to unknown numbers were all made by Barbara Olson. One cannot validly infer, simply from the fact that the 2004 DOJ briefing reflected work that was “conducted in support of the U.S. Justice Department's criminal case against Zacarias Moussaoui," that the FBI in 2006 meant to reaffirm statements in that briefing that were not explicitly reaffirmed.113 A lot can happen in two years. Also, making a patently indefensible statement in a court of law is a much more serious matter than making such a statement in a press briefing.

Therefore, all that we can say about the FBI’s report to the Moussaoui trial, insofar as it bears on Ted Olson’s story, is that it indicates only that Barbara Olson attempted one call, that this attempted call was unconnected, and that it lasted “O seconds.” As such, this report clearly undermined Ted Olson’s account, according to which his wife had called him twice from American Flight 77, sharing information about the hijacking with him in each call. We cannot say that those presenting this report meant to undermine Olson’s testimony, but we also cannot say that they did not mean to do this. What we can say is that, as a matter of fact, the report did undermine his testimony.

The Two-Call Hypothesis As Less Problematic

Some critics, while granting the absurdity of the hypothesis that all four connected calls to unknown numbers were from Barbara Olson to her husband’s office, have suggested a two-call hypothesis. One off them wrote:

“[T]he FBI report on Flight 77 also contains several calls that could not be identified. The FBI if pressured could say that Barbara Olson's calls to Ted were from two of those unidentified calls.”114

This hypothesis, according to which only two of the calls to unconnected numbers were made by Barbara Olson – with these being the two calls reported by Lori Keyton and Ted Olson – is certainly less obviously false than the four-call hypothesis. Indeed, at first glance it seems promising, because the times and durations of the first two unknown calls correspond roughly with Olson’s account of the two calls he received.

As we saw earlier the first of the connected calls to unknown numbers reportedly occurred at 9:15:34, whereas the first call to Olson’s office occurred “between 9:16 and 9:26 AM.” These times apparently create a problem, because the first of the connected calls to unknown numbers occurred 26 seconds before, according to the 9/11 Commission, the first call from Barbara Olson was received at Ted Olson’s office. However, one might argue that, allowing for human error, the times corresponded well enough.

Another apparent problem is that the reported durations might seem too different to be referring to the same calls: the first unknown call reportedly lasted for 102 seconds (one minute and 42 seconds), whereas Ted Olson told the FBI on 9/11 that it “lasted about one (1) minute.” However, when Olson was interviewed by Larry King a few days later, he said of the first call: “We spoke for a minute or two, then the phone was cut off.”115 There is sufficient correspondence, therefore, for a plausible identification of the first of Flight 77’s connected calls to unknown numbers with the first call from Barbara Olson reported by Ted Olson’s office.

The same is true of the second calls reported by these sources. According to AA records, the second call from Flight 77 began at 9:20:15, whereas Lori Keyton reported that the second call from Barbara Olson came “a few to five (5) minutes” after the first one (so if the first one had been at 9:15:34, a second call at 9:20:15 would have been slightly less than five minutes later). Also, whereas the second unknown call lasted for 4 minutes and 34 seconds (274 seconds), Ted Olson told Larry King that he and his wife spoke in the second call for “another two or three or four minutes”116 – so, again, one could argue that this was close enough.

It might seem reasonable, therefore, to identify the first two of the reported calls to unknown numbers with the two calls reportedly received from Barbara Olson. If this is what the 9/11 Commission intended, however, it is puzzling that it specified that the first call came “between 9:16 and 9:26,” thereby seeming to rule out the possibility that the first of the unknown calls, said to have begun at 9:15:34, was the first Olson call.

Could an advocate of that position fix this problem by identifying the Olson calls with the second and third calls to unknown numbers, said to have begun at 9:20:15 and 9:25:48, respectively? The time between them – about 5 and a half minutes – fits the report provided by the Olson office closely enough. But the duration of the second unknown call – over 4 and a half minutes, could not correspond to Olson’s estimate to the FBI of the duration of the first call from his wife – “about one (1) minute” – or even his estimate to Larry King - “a minute or two.” So that attempted fix would not work.

The other possibility would be to equate the two Olson calls with the third and fourth calls from Flight 77 to unknown numbers. But this possibility seems to be ruled out by two facts: The third call lasted too long – over two and a half minutes – for Olson to have estimated to the FBI that it lasted only about one minute. And its beginning time of 9:25:48 seems far too late to fit the timeline suggested by various accounts of the occurrences in Ted Olson’s office that morning. For example, Olson and his secretary, Helen Voss, both reported that, after the first call, he phoned the DOJ Command Center to ask that someone – a security officer, Voss specified - be sent to his office.117 This security officer, Allen Ferber, said that this call came “at approximately 9:00 AM.”118 He surely would not have given this estimate if the call had not come until almost 9:26.

It would seem, then, that the most plausible way to portray the FBI phone report as compatible with Ted Olson’s account would be to equate the reported calls from his wife with the first two connected calls to unknown numbers.

Problems Confronting the Two-Call Hypothesis

However, whereas this version of the two-call hypothesis is not as obviously false as the four-call hypothesis, it is still afflicted with serious problems.

The Time of the First Call: One problem already discussed is that, according to the 9/11 Commission, the first call came at some time after 9:16, whereas the first of Flight 77’s calls to unknown numbers began earlier than that – at 9:15:34. There would need to be some explanation as to why this discrepancy should not rule out the identification of the two reported calls. Such an explanation might well be forthcoming, however, so this first problem is less serious than the following ones.

The Sequence of the Calls: According to Olson’s telephone receptionist, Lori Keyton, the first call from Barbara Olson was a collect call, made through an operator, whereas the second call was different: “This time Barbara Olsen [sic] was on the line when she answered. She called direct. It was not a collect call.”119 If we regard these two reported calls as the first two connected calls to unknown numbers that reportedly originated from Flight 77, and then add the unconnected direct call at 9:18:58 indicated by the Barbara Olson graphic provided in the FBI’s report to the Moussaoui trial, we need to say that Barbara Olson attempted three calls: a successful collect call through an operator at 9:15:34; an unsuccessful (unconnected) direct call at 9:18:58 by means of an onboard phone, which could have been activated only by means of a credit card; and then a successful direct call at 9:20:15.

This sequence raises some questions: In the first place, if Barbara Olson had her credit card (contrary to Ted Olson’s speculation) and also had access to an onboard phone, so that she knew that she could call her husband’s office direct, why did she first use an operator to call collect – a procedure that, besides also requiring a credit card, would have taken extra time? In the second place, having successfully reached the office through an operator, why would she then have tried to dial direct? In the third place, having then found that trying to call direct did not work, why would she have tried that method again, rather than going back to her first method, which had worked?

We cannot say for certain, of course, that she would not have made this sequence of calls. But the seeming impossibility of answering these questions does increase the problematic nature of the two-call hypothesis.

Why Were the Two Connected Calls “Unknown”? Articulating a still more severe problem for the two-call hypothesis, one commentator wrote:

“[I]t is very strange that the FBI did not have any confirmed calls from Barbara Olson to Ted Olson. There were 4 connected calls with unconfirmed numbers and unconfirmed callers. That is odd. If they were able to confirm a call by Barbara Olson that was unconnected to the DOJ and lasted zero seconds, why not calls that were actually connected and lasted several minutes long?”120

This set of claims, correctly called by this writer “very strange,” appears to be so bizarre as to be completely implausible. If the FBI was able to identify the number dialed for a call that failed to connect – so that it did not endure for even a hundredth of a second – could anyone give a plausible explanation as to why the FBI could not identify the number reached by two calls that, besides connecting, endured for over 1.5 and 4.5 minutes, respectively?

This problem becomes even more severe when we focus on the hypothesis that two of the connected calls to unknown numbers were from Barbara Olson to the Department of Justice, which was also reportedly the number reached by an attempted call from her that failed to connect. If the FBI was able to determine that Barbara Olson had at 9:18:58 unsuccessfully attempted to reach the Department of Justice, why would it have been unable to determine that the calls that she – according to the two-call hypothesis – made at 9:15:34 and 9:20:15 had reached that same Department of Justice?

Although to my knowledge no advocate of the hypothesis being considered – that some of the connected calls to unknown numbers were from Barbara Olson to the DOJ – has provided a plausible explanation of these seemingly bizarre consequences of that hypothesis, one advocate has tried. According to this individual:

“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 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.”

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 wrong as an explanation can be.

This doubly false explanation was offered by a critic on behalf of his central thesis, which is: “Evidence shows the calls happened as Olson said, and there’s no evidence they didn’t.” But good evidence is provided by the apparent fact that, as this critic’s failed attempt illustrates, there is no plausible answer to this question: If the system was able to determine that Barbara Olson attempted a call to the DOJ that did not go through, why could this same system not identify either the caller or the recipient of two calls by her that did go through? If there is no plausible answer to that question, then this is good evidence that she did not complete two calls to Ted Olson’s office from Flight 77.

In sum: Although the two-call hypothesis is not as obviously false as the four-call hypothesis, it is still too problematic to be considered a way to reconcile the FBI’s Moussaoui trial telephone report with Ted Olson’s claim that he had received two calls from his wife while she was aboard American Flight 77. As far as I can see, therefore, my claim – that the FBI’s report to the Moussaoui trial undermined Ted Olson’s account of his wife’s having called him twice from aboard Flight 77 – stands.

The conclusion that Ted Olson’s account was false does not necessarily imply that he did not receive two calls, transferred to him from Lori Keyton, that were purportedly from Barbara Olson aboard American Flight 77. It merely implies that Lori Keyton and Ted Olson did not, in fact, receive two calls from Barbara Olson from Flight 77. What really happened is another question, which could probably be answered quite quickly by a genuine investigation into the matter.


Although this essay has focused on details, often minute, in merely one aspect of the official account of 9/11, the implications are enormous. 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. With regard to the war in Afghanistan in particular, Michel Chossudovsky has recently emphasized the fact that NATO’s decision to support this US-led war was based on a briefing by Frank Taylor of the US State Department, in which he provided what was called conclusive evidence of al-Qaeda’s responsibility for the attacks.121 Although the contents of Taylor’s briefing have never been made public, the main evidence provided to the general public has consisted of the hijack-describing phone calls reportedly received from passengers and flight attendants aboard the airliners. But 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. This analysis thereby suggests that the entire 9/11 story used to justify the US-led wars is a lie.

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.122

Nevertheless, the importance of the evidence against the official account provided by analyzing the alleged phone calls should not be minimized. If the official story is false, then we should expect every major dimension of it to be false – which, as I have emphasized in another recent book, can be seen to be the case.123 It is this cumulative argument that provides the strongest disproof of the official, war-justifying account of 9/11. The evidence that the alleged phone calls from the airliners were faked is an important part of this cumulative argument.124

David Ray Griffin is professor emeritus at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of The New Pearl Harbor - Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 , The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions -- A Critique of the Kean-Zelikow Report as well as Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?


1 “9/11: The Unofficial Story,” The Fifth Estate, CBC News, November 27, 2009 ( It is also available on You Tube (

2 “Video Interview: David Ray Griffin,“ The Fifth Estate, CBC News, December 4, 2009
( ).

3 “David Ray Griffin on the 9/11 Cell Phone Calls: Exclusive CBC Interview,” You Tube, December 18, 2009 ( ).

4 “David Ray Griffin on the 9/11 Cell Phone Calls: Exclusive CBC Interview,”, December 19, 2009 ( ).

5 Dean Jackson, “Comments,” ibid.

6 Charles Lane and John Mintz, “Bid to Thwart Hijackers May Have Led to Pa. Crash,” Washington Post, September 13, 2001 ( ).

7 “The Final Moments of United Flight 93,” Newsweek, September 22, 2001 ).

8 FBI, Interview with Fred Fiumano, transcribed September 20, 2001
( ).

9 Kerry Hall, “Flight Attendant Helped Fight Hijackers,” News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.), September 21, 2001
( ).

10 Greg Gordon, “Widow Tells of Poignant Last Calls,” Sacramento Bee, September 11, 2002
( ).

11 “Harrowing Final Phone Calls,” BBC News, September 13, 2001 ( ).

12 Karen Gullo and John Solomon, Associated Press, “Experts, U.S. Suspect Osama bin Laden, Accused Architect of World’s Worst Terrorist Attacks,” September 11, 2001 (

13 David Maraniss, “September 11, 2001,” Washington Post, September 16, 2001

14 See Natalie Patton, “Flight Attendant Made Call on Cell Phone to Mom in Las Vegas,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, September 13, 2001
( ).

15 Tim O’Brien, “Wife of Solicitor General Alerted Him of Hijacking from Plane,” CNN, September 11, 2001 ( ).
16 “Transcription of FBI Interview with Theodore Olson,” September 11, 2001
( ).

17 Three days after 9/11, Olson told Hannity and Colmes (Fox News) that his wife must have used an “airplane phone,” but then on Larry King’s show that same day he went back to the cell phone version: Having reported that the phone suddenly went dead, he said that this must have been “because the signals from cell phones coming from airplanes don’t work that well” (“America’s New War: Recovering from Tragedy,” Larry King Live, CNN, September 14, 2001 [ ]).

18 Theodore B. Olson, “Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture,” November 16, 2001, Federalist Society, 15th Annual National Lawyers Convention
( );
Toby Harnden, “She Asked Me How to Stop the Plane,” Daily Telegraph, March 5, 2002 ( ).

19 See “On September 11, Final Words of Love,” CNN, September 10, 2002 (, which said: “Unbeknown to the hijackers, passenger and political commentator Barbara Olson, 45, was able to call her husband – Solicitor General Ted Olson – on her cellular phone.”

20 The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Authorized Edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004), 6, 453n32. (Henceforth cited as 9/11CR.)

21 Affidavit by FBI Special Agent James K. Lechner, September 11, 2001; available at Four Corners: Investigative TV Journalism
( ), page 9.
Sweeney and Woodward are not identified by name in the affidavit, which refers simply to the former as “a flight attendant on AA11” and to the latter as “an employee of American Airlines at Logan.” But their names were revealed in an “investigative document compiled by the FBI” to which reporter Eric Lichtblau referred in “Aboard Flight 11, a Chilling Voice,” Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2001
Also, the 9/11 Commission’s report indicates that the information about Amy Sweeney’s call was provided by Woodward (9/11CR 453n32).

22 FBI, “Interview with Deena Lynne Burnett,” 9/11 Commission, FBI Source Documents, Chronological, September 11, 2001,, March 14, 2008

23 FBI, “Interview with Lee Hanson” ( ).

24 For example, according to the 9/11 Commission’s report, which reflected official documents, United Flight 93 was at 34,300 feet when passengers and crew members began making calls, and it soon climbed “to 40,700 feet” (9/11CR 11-12, 29).

25 9/11CR 453n32.

26 AT&T spokesperson Alexa Graf said shortly after 9/11: “On land, we have antenna sectors that point in three directions---say north, southwest, and southeast. Those signals are radiating across the land.” Insofar as “those signals do go up,” that is “due to leakage” (quoted in Betsy Harter, “Final Contact,” Telephony’s Wireless Review, November 1, 2001 []). A story in the Travel Technologist, published one week after 9/11, said: “[W]ireless communications networks weren't designed for ground-to-air communication. Cellular experts privately admit that they're surprised the calls were able to be placed from the hijacked planes. . . . They speculate that the only reason that the calls went through in the first place is that the aircraft were flying so close to the ground” (“Will They Allow Cell Phones on Planes?” The Travel Technologist, September 19, 2001 [ ]). But, of course, the planes were not flying close to the ground when most of the cell phone calls were reportedly made. These points were made in 2004 by Michel Chossudovsky, “More Holes in the Official Story: The 9/11 Cell Phone Calls,” Centre for Research on Globalisation, August 10, 2004 ( ). On this basis, Chossudovsky concluded that at least part of the reported cell phone conversations had to have been fabricated.

27 A.K. Dewdney, “Project Achilles Report: Parts One, Two and Three,” Physics 911, April 19, 2003 ( ). He later summarized and extended his conclusions in “The Cell phone and Airfone Calls from Flight UA93” ( phoneflight93.htm ).

28 Dewdney, “Project Achilles Report.

29 The results of Dewdney’s twin-engine experiments are reported in Barrie Zwicker, Towers of Deception: The Media Cover-Up of 9/11 (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2006), 375.

30 E-mail letter from Dewdney, November 21, 2006.

31 Dewdney, “The Cell phone and Airfone Calls from Flight UA93.”

32 QUALCOMM Press Release, “American Airlines and QUALCOMM Complete Test Flight to Evaluate In-Cabin Mobile Phone Use,” July 15, 2004

33 Stephen Castle, “Era of In-Flight Mobile Phone Use Begins in Europe,” International Herald Tribune, April 18, 2008 (

34 Greg Gordon, “Prosecutors Play Flight 93 Cockpit Recording,” McClatchy Newspapers,, April 12, 2006
The quoted statement is Gordon’s paraphrase of the testimony of “a member of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

35 Dewdney, “The Cell phone and Airfone Calls from Flight UA93.”

36 United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui, Exhibit Number P200054
These documents have been made more readily accessible by 9/11 researcher Jim Hoffman in “Detailed Account of Phone Calls from September 11th Flights”

37 Although the most easily accessible graphic about Felt’s call on the government website (see previous note) says only “call placed from bathroom,” the statement quoted in the text is on an expanded graphic. Although getting to it on that site can be difficult, this expanded graphic can easily be seen on Jim Hoffman’s website (see previous note).

38 This graphic for Lyles can easily be accessed on Jim Hoffman’s website (see the previous two notes).

39 “T7 B12 Flight 93 Calls- General Fdr- 5-20-04 DOJ Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA 77 408,” May 20, 2004

40 See the graphics for Flights 11 and 175 at “Detailed Account of Phone Calls from September 11th Flights” (

41 See “UA-93 Altitude Profile,”

42 jimd3100, “‘Fake’ Phone Calls? What The Evidence Shows,”, December 22, 2009 (

43 Affidavit by FBI Special Agent James K. Lechner, September 11, 2001 (see note 21, above).

44 FBI, Interview with Jane Allen, September 12, 2001
( ).

45 “Madeline Amy Sweeney: The Final Call,” New York Times, December 26, 2001

46 Elizabeth L. Kilkenny, “Madeline ‘Amy’ Sweeney,” Irish Tribute
( ).

47 “Madeline Amy Sweeney,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
( ).

48 “Sweeney, Amy,” Biography, Astro Databank (,_Amy ).

49 Jerry Harkavy, “Flight Affidavit: Flight Attendant Made Call to Report Hijacking,” Associated Press, October 5, 2001

50 9/11CR 453n32.

51 Alan Cabal, “Miracles and Wonders,” New York Press, August 10, 2004
( ).

52 Cabal wrote, for example: “[N]umerous technological miracles and wonders will rise up out of the ashes of that terrible day. . . . Satam Al-Suqami's indestructible passport, for one, is currently under the microscope in the Reverse Engineering Department at Area 51. My old passport was falling apart when I finally replaced it last year, just from spending 10 years in my pocket. His survived the destruction of the World Trade Center. I want one of those” (ibid.).

53 The term “airphone” seems to be either a misspelling of “Airfone” (which is the brand name of the onboard phone provided by GTE from 1986 to 2000 and by Verizon after that) or else the use of this alternative spelling as a generic term for onboard phones.

54 Staff Report (for the 9/11 Commission), August 26, 2004 (, 45. Although this report is dated August 26, its contents were obviously available to the Commission before the completion of its final report, which appeared in July. (This report provides no clue as to the reason for its late date.)

55 9/11CR 9, 90n156. The 9/11 Commission Report was written so as to disguise the fact that it was not affirming any cell phone calls other than the reported 9:58 calls from United Flight 93 by Edward Felt and CeeCee Lyles. Writing about this flight, for example, the Commission said: “Shortly [after 9:32], the passengers and flight crew began a series of calls from GTE airphones and cellular phones” (9/11CR 12). Along with many other readers, I was deceived for some years into thinking that the Commission had thereby affirmed the occurrence of high-altitude cell phone calls (as shown by my discussion in 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press [Northampton: Olive Branch, 2008], 173). Only after studying the Commission’s Staff Report of August 2004 (see previous note) did I realize that the only cellular calls in that alleged “series of calls from GTE airphones and cellular phones” were those of Felt and Lyles.

56 Gail Sheehy, “9/11 Tapes Reveal Ground Personnel Muffled Attacks,” New York Observer, June 24, 2004

57 Ibid.

58 Staff Report (for the 9/11 Commission), August 26, 2004: 14.

59 9/11CR 453nn25, 32, 33, 36.

60 Sheehy, “9/11 Tapes Reveal Ground Personnel Muffled Attacks.”

61 Eric Lichtblau, “Aboard Flight 11, a Chilling Voice,” Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2001 [ ).

62 The tape itself, to be sure, does reportedly contain dialogue that may have been intended to prepare for such a claim to be made. According to a former AA employee who heard the tape, Gail Sheehy has reported, it contains the voices of two managers in American Airlines’ SOC who, hearing Nancy Wyatt’s transmission of Amy Sweeney’s words on 9/11, were saying: “Do not pass this along. Let's keep it right here. Keep it among the five of us" (Sheehy, “9/11 Tapes Reveal Ground Personnel Muffled Attacks”). I find it completely beyond belief, however, that any AA officials, upon having learned that one of their airplanes was being hijacked, would have thought they could keep it among themselves. This reported conversation seems to be simply one of the most transparently phony parts of this made-up story.

63 “T7 B10 FBI 302s Olsen Fdr- 302s Re Michael Woodward 372”
( ).

64 Staff Report (for the 9/11 Commission), August 26, 2004: 14.

65 FBI, Interview with Deena Lynne Burnett, September 11, 2001 ( ).

66 See Thomas Burnett, Flight 93, in “Detailed Account of Phone Calls from September 11th Flights”
( ).

67 FBI, Interview with Lorne Lyles, September 12, 2001
( ).

68 Gordon, “Widow Tells of Poignant Last Calls.”

69 Deena L. Burnett (with Anthony F. Giombetti), Fighting Back: Living Life Beyond Ourselves (Longwood, Florida: Advantage Inspirational Books, 2006), 61.

70 FBI Interview with Ronald and Nancy May, September 12, 2001
( ).

71 9/11CR 455n57.

72 “T7 B13 Flight Call Notes and 302s Folder – Entire Contents” ( The summary of the interview with Renee May’s fiancé is the final item in these notes.

73 Natalie Patton, “Flight Attendant Made Call on Cell Phone to Mom in Las Vegas,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, September 13, 2001
( ).

74 Although the graphic for Renee May did not specify the seat from which her call was made, it indicated that the call was made from an onboard phone by default, that is, by not specifying that it was made on a cell phone. Also, as we saw, an FBI report stated: “All of the calls from Flight 77 were made via the onboard airphone system” (see text for note 39, above).

75 Although Brickhouse Security’s advertisement for “Telephone Voice Changers” ( has been modified in recent years, it previously included a device called “FoneFaker,” the ad for which said: “Record any call you make, fake your Caller ID and change your voice, all with one service you can use from any phone.” I had quoted this statement in Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory (Northampton: Olive Branch [Interlink Books], 2007), 297. For more evidence that the calls from the airliners were fabricated, along with informed speculation about the process for creating the faked calls, see Rowland Morgan’s book-length manuscript “Voices: The 9/11 Phone-Call Evidence,” which is available on the Internet (

76 For the times, see 9/11CR 9. The elevations are those indicated for 9:16 and 9:26, respectively, by the National Transportation Safety Board’s flight path study for AA Flight 77, put out February 19, 2002

77 See the NTSB flight path study (previous note) or the NTSB animation
( ).

78 “T7 B12 Flight 93 Calls- General Fdr- 5-20-04 DOJ Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA 77 408,” May 20, 2004
( ).

79 This criticism was made by a member of the 9/11 Truth Movement writing on December 20, 2009, on under the alias “loose nuke”; see the comments under “David Ray Griffin on the 9/11 Cell Phone Calls: Exclusive CBC Interview” ( This twofold claim was seconded by a couple of other commentators, to whom I refer below in note 94.

80 Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking, 1st edition, 266-67, citing Rowland Morgan and Ian Henshall, 9/11 Revealed: The Unanswered Questions (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2005), 128-29.

81 The critic “jimd3100,” while attempting to contradict my position, stated, “American Airlines had AirFones in 2001,” evidently failing to understand that this was never at issue. The only question was whether American’s 757s in particular had them.

82 The letter of inquiry was sent December 6, 2004. The response from Tim Wagner was sent the same day; see Morgan and Henshall, 9/11 Revealed, 128-29. The fact that AA had confirmed the absence of onboard phones on its Boeing 757s is also mentioned in Rowland Morgan, Flight 93 Revealed: What Really Happened on the 9/11 ‘Let’s Roll’ Flight? (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006), 52.

83 Debunking 9/11 Debunking, 1st edition, 267.

84 Sam Ames, “Airline Grounds In-flight Phone Service,” CNET (

85 David Ray Griffin, “Barbara Olson’s Alleged Call from AA 77: A Correction About Onboard Phones,” Information Clearing House, May 7, 2007
( ).

86 “Cell Phones Test Positive on AA Flight,” USA Today, July 16, 2004
( ).

87 This document is available at Pilots for 9/11 Truth
( ).

88 Posted February 17, 2006, by “the Paradroid” on the Politik Forum
( ).

89 As reported in the article cited in the following note, I confirmed the reliability of the person using “the Paradroid” alias, while Balsamo contacted Chad Kinder to ask if he had indeed written that reply. Kinder’s answer was that, although he could not recall that particular letter (which would have been written more than a year earlier), it “sound[ed] like an accurate statement.”

90 David Ray Griffin and Rob Balsamo, “Could Barbara Olson Have Made Those Calls? An Analysis of New Evidence about Onboard Phones,” Pilots for 9/11 Truth, June 26, 2007 ( or ( ).

91 Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory, Revised and Updated Edition (Northampton: Olive Branch, August 2007), 90-91.

92 Ibid., 267.

93 “New Evidence that the Official Story about 9/11 is Indefensible,” The Canadian, October 9, 2007 (; also posted at ( ).

94 The commentator “loose nuke,” who declared it a “fact” that “AA 757s had airfones on 9/11,” added: “and, as SCL [Screw Loose Change] documents, Griffin himself acknowledged as much in 2007 – but has continued to promote the claim about no phone calls.” Then, while stating that “SCL is dishonest and disgusting,” he proceeded to cite five articles posted on this website as support for his twofold claim. Jon Gold, citing for support the comment by “loose nuke,” claimed that it provided an example of my “[p]romoting false claims even after being shown they are false” ( And “jimd3100” - the critic who claimed that I had no evidence that any phone calls were faked - wrote: “American Airlines had AirFones in 2001. . . . DRG knows this, and has for years” ( – by which this critic evidently meant to be referring to American’s 757s in particular. As proof, this person referred to some of the same articles from Screw Loose Change cited by “loose nuke.” None of these articles, however, show that I have continued to express a view that I knew to be false. The first one, dated May 7, 2007 (, is a post by “James B” in which he simply reported my retraction, which had been posted that same day. (And yet it is this article of mine, originally posted on May 7, 2007, at Information Clearing House, that “loose nuke” cites as proof that I have been making a claim I know to be false: After citing this article, “loose nuke” said: “DRG been made [sic] aware that AA 757's had airfones on 9/11; he acknowledged this in writing.” His criticism is, in other words, based on the false assumption that my article of May 7, 2007, was my final writing on the subject – an assumption that has been facilitated by James B, as I point out below.) In the second article, dated September 14, 2007 (, James B, besides trying to take credit for my retraction, said that my next move was “to immediately turn around and decide that this was too big of a concession to reality and start trying to prove they didn't exist again.” This was, of course, his tendentious way of explaining why I retracted the retraction (without mentioning the three new pieces of evidence, which provided the reason). The important point, however, is that he did acknowledge this. So how could anyone point to this article as evidence that I have agreed since 2007 that Boeing 757s had onboard phones on 9/11? The third article, dated October 10, 2007 (, is by Pat of SLC and has a title asking whether I am a “Liar or Just Sloppy?” The basis for this loaded question was a brief article in which I had said that the FBI’s report to the Moussaoui trial said “in effect that the two calls that [Ted Olson] reported had never happened.” Pat replied: “No, that's not what they said,” because they “show five other phone calls for which they don't know who the caller was.” Pat’s point seemed to be that my failure to mention these other five calls (four of which were described as “connected”) implied dishonesty or sloppiness on my part. But if one turns to the article I had co-authored with Balsamo, one will find, in the section headed “United States v. Ted Olson,” our discussion of the fact that the FBI report referred to four “connected calls to unknown numbers,” attributing each one to an “unknown caller.” I also discussed these calls in the updated edition of Debunking 9/11 Debunking (267) and, most fully, in the Olson chapter of my 9/11 Contradictions (76-78). In the fourth article, dated April 3, 2008 (, James B, in an attempt to refute my claim that American 757s had no onboard phones in 2001 (which I had repeated during a radio interview that week), actually quoted, against me, my retraction of May 2007, even though he had previously – in his article of September 14, 2007, and also in an article of June 26, 2007 ( – acknowledged that I had shortly thereafter retracted that retraction. (This continued use of my retraction, even after having acknowledged that I had retracted it long ago, illustrates the dishonesty of the SLC site mentioned by “loose nuke.”) In the fifth article, dated December 20, 2009 (, James B points out – as if I had overlooked or deliberately failed to mention it –the fact that the 9/11 Commission had reported the times of the four “connected calls to unknown numbers,” adding that “the FBI and DOJ believe all four represent communications between Barbara Olson and her husband’s office.” But I quoted the times of these alleged calls in the Olson chapter of my 2008 book, 9/11 Contradictions, and Balsamo and I, in our jointly authored essay, quoted the Commission’s statement about what “the FBI and DOJ believe,” explaining why we found this a very strange belief. In sum: I cannot understand how anyone could cite the SCL articles as evidence that I have acknowledged since 2007 that American Flight 77 had onboard phones. (The other point for which these articles at SLC were said to provide good evidence – the claim that AA 77 did have onboard phones – is discussed next in the text.)

95 “The Paradroid,” Politik Forum, February 17, 2006
( ).

96 This document is available at Pilots for 9/11 Truth ( ).

97 Posted by someone using the alias “Pomeroo,” James Randi Educational Forum, June 29, 2007
( ).

98 Captain Ralph Kolstad, email letters to Rob Balsamo and David Griffin, December 22, 2009.

99 See “American Airlines Flight #77 Telephone Calls: Unknown Caller”
( ).

100 Sam Ames, “Airline Grounds In-flight Phone Service,” CNET
( ).

101 This document is available on the Internet
( ).

102 I discussed some of these reasons in the latter part of “Barbara Olson’s Alleged Call from AA 77: A Correction About Onboard Phones.”

103 “America’s New War: Recovering from Tragedy,” Larry King Live, CNN, September 14, 2001 ( ).

104 The official location for this report is United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui, Exhibit Number P200054 ( But these documents can be more easily viewed in “Detailed Account of Phone Calls From September 11th Flights” ( One can also go directly to the Barbara Olson graphic (

105 See the Flight 77 graphic for “Unknown Callers” ( Some critics of my position have implied that I have deliberately not mentioned this part of the report. For example, after citing a brief essay of mine on the calls reported by Ted Olson, the critic going by “jimd3100” wrote: “[Griffin] doesn't mention that there were 5 other calls from the flight, presented at the same trial. How come?” (“‘Fake’ Phone Calls? What The Evidence Shows” []). Also, in note 94, above, I pointed out that Pat of SCL suggested that, because I have not mentioned these unknown but connected calls, I must be either sloppy or a liar. However, as I pointed out in that note, I have mentioned the four “connected calls to unknown numbers” in some of my writings, including the updated edition of Debunking 9/11 Debunking and the article I co-authored with Rob Balsamo.

106 9/11CR 9.

107 9/11CR 455n57.

108 “Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls from AA Flight 77,” May 20, 2004

109 FBI, summary of interview with Lori Lynn Keyton, September 14, 2001, INTEL ( ).

110 FBI, “Interview with Theodore Olsen [sic],” 9/11 Commission, FBI Source Documents, Chronological, September 11,, March 14, 2008,
( ).

111 “Ted Olson's Report of Phone Calls from Barbara Olson on 9/11: Three Official Denials,” Global Research, April 1, 2008

112 jimd3100, “‘Fake’ Phone Calls?” (

113 Besides being guilty of making this faulty inference, jimd3100 compounds the problem by abbreviating the 2004 statement – that the interviews “lead [sic] to the conclusion that all of these unknown calls were from Barbara Olson to her husband Ted's office” – to “all of these unknown calls were from Barbara Olson to her husband Ted's office,” so that it appears to have been a simple categorical statement, not a speculative inference.

114 Dean Jackson, “Comment,” December 20, 2009, about “David Ray Griffin on the 9/11 Cell Phone Calls: Exclusive CBC Interview,”, December 19, 2009 ( ).

115 “America’s New War: Recovering from Tragedy,” Larry King Live, CNN, September 14, 2001.

116 Ibid.

117 “Transcription of FBI Interview with Theodore Olson,” September 11, 2001; FBI, “Interview of Helen Voss,” transcribed September 14, 2001

118 FBI, “Interview of Allen Ferber,” transcribed September 14, 2001

119 FBI, summary of interview with Lori Lynn Keyton ( ).

120 This statement was made on December 20, 2009, by “DavidS” in comments to “David Ray Griffin on the 9/11 Cell Phone Calls” (

121 Michel Chossudovsky, “September 11, 2001: America and NATO Declare War on Afghanistan: NATO's Doctrine of Collective Security,” Global Research, December 21, 2009 ( ).

122 David Ray Griffin, The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report about 9/11 is Unscientific and False (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2009).

123 David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2008).

124 My thanks to Elizabeth Woodworth and Tod Fletcher for help with this essay.