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Holes in the Official Story:

The 9/11 Cell Phone Calls

by Michel Chossudovsky

www.globalresearch.ca 10 August 2004

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/UAL408A.html


From the hijacked aircraft on the morning of September 11, 2001, the Report gives the reader a picture of the Arab hijackers. It depicts in minute detail events occurring inside the plane cabin. In the absence of surviving passengers, a large part of "the evidence"  on what happened inside the planes, is based on cell phone conversations to family and friends.

Focusing on the personal drama of the passengers, the Commission has built an entire narrative around the phone calls. The Arabs are portrayed with their with knives and box cutters, scheming in the name of Allah, to bring down the planes down and turn them "into large guided missiles, loaded with up to 11,400 gallons of jet fuel." (Report, Chapter 1, http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch1.pdf )

At first, Chapter 1 entitled  "We have Some Planes" reads like the script of a Hollywood movie. Selected quotes of cell phone conversations are highlighted. 

The Technology of Wireless Transmission

The Commission's account suggests that wireless communication between the aircraft and the ground was of reasonably good quality. It would appear that there was no major difficulty or obstruction in the transmission. Moreover, the Arab hijackers, while plotting to bring the planes down, did not appear in the least bit bothered by the passengers' cell phone conversations.

Yet, what this carefully drafted script fails to mention is that, given the prevailing technology in September 2001, it was almost impossible to make a cell call from an aircraft traveling at high speed above 8000 feet.

The official 9/11 story on the cell phones was never questioned by the Telecom giants, which are unbending supporters of the Republican party. There was, nonetheless, an aura of skepticism, as far as expert opinion within the wireless telecom community is concerned, which casts serious doubt on "the findings" of the 9/11 Commission: 

"Wireless 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, and that they lasted as long as they did. 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 ( http://www.elliott.org/technology/2001/cellpermit.htm

According to Alexa Graf, a spokesman of AT&T, commenting in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks:

"it was almost a fluke that the [9/11] calls reached their destinations... From high altitudes, the call quality is not very good, and most callers will experience drops. Although calls are not reliable, callers can pick up and hold calls for a little while below a certain altitude" ( http://wirelessreview.com/ar/wireless_final_contact/

New Wireless Technology

Within days of the release of the 9/11 Commission report, American Airlines and Qualcomm, announced that the wireless technology --which would have allowed airline passengers on the morning of September 11, 2001 to contact family and friends -- was being developed and will be available on aircrafts as early as 2006:

"Travelers could be talking on their personal cellphones as early as 2006. Earlier this month [July 2004], American Airlines conducted a trial run on a modified aircraft that permitted cell phone calls." (WP, July 27, 2004)

Aviation Week (07/20/04) outlined the new technology in a comprehensive and authoritative report:

"Qualcomm and American Airlines are exploring [July 2004] ways for passengers to use commercial cell phones inflight for air-to-ground communication. In a recent 2-hr. proof-of-concept flight, representatives from government and the media used commercial Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) third-generation cell phones to place and receive calls and text messages from friends on the ground.

For the test flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, the aircraft was equipped with an antenna in the front and rear of the cabin to transmit cell phone calls to a small in-cabin CDMA cellular base station. This "pico cell" transmitted cell phone calls from the aircraft via a Globalstar satellite to the worldwide terrestrial phone network"

Needless to say, neither the service, nor the "third generation" hardware, nor the "Picco cell"  and the CDMA base station inside the cabin, were available on the morning of September 11, 2001. (Hopefully in two years down the road, passengers will be able to make calls on their cell phones, no doubt paying a hefty fee for from a commercial aircraft).

In substance, the implication of the Aviation Week report is:  "no way" those calls could  have been placed (from high altitude) using a cell phone by the passengers of the hijacked flights on September 11, 2001.

The untimely July American Airlines / Qualcomm announcement acted as a "cold shower". Barely acknowledged in press reports, it suggested that the Bush administration had embroidered the cell phone narrative (similar to what they did with WMDs) and that the 9/11 Commission's account was either flawed or grossly exaggerated.   

Altitude

According to industry experts, the crucial link in wireless transmission from an aircraft is altitude. Beyond a certain altitude which is usually reached a few minutes after takeoff, wireless transmission by cell phone is no longer possible.

At what altitude were the planes traveling, when the calls were placed? The information provided by the Commission is hazy to say the least. The entire cell phone narrative relies on the planes flying at very low altitude.

Once the plane transponder is turned off, it is impossible for air traffic controllers to know the precise altitude of the plane. The news reports hinted that the planes were flying low to avoid detection, which of course would support the 9/11 Commission's cell phone narrative.

The black box, if recovered, will record very precisely the altitude of the aircraft up until the time of the crash or impact on the ground.

On flight AA 77, which allegedly crashed into the Pentagon, the Transponder was turned off at 8:56am; the altitude was not known. Cell calls started 16 minutes later, according to the Commission's Report at 9:12am, (while the plane was at high altitude?). This was twenty minutes before it crashed into the Pentagon at 9.32am:

" [at 9.12] Renee May called her mother, Nancy May, in Las Vegas. She said her flight was being hijacked by six individuals who had moved them to the rear of the plane."

UAL flight 93 was the only one of the four planes that did not crash into a building, because the passengers, (according to the official version of events) "alerted through phone calls, attempted to subdue the hijackers. and the hijackers crashed the plane to prevent the passengers gaining control." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Airlines_flight_93 ). Another version of events, was that UAL 93 was shot down.

On UAL flight 93, the 9/11 Commission confirms that passengers started placing calls with cell phones shortly after 9.32am, in other words some 10 minutes before the transponder was turned off at 9.42am, and more than 30 minutes before the crash at 10.06 am. This suggests that the plane was still at high altitude and that the cell calls could not have been made as outlined in the report. The flight data recorder, which apparently was recovered, was not released. CHECK

With regard to Flight 77, the Report confirms that:

 "at 9:29am, the autopilot on American 77 was disengaged; the aircraft was at 7,000 feet and approximately 38 miles west of the Pentagon." 

Yet most of the calls on Flight 77 were placed between 9.12am and 9.26am while the aircraft, prior to the disengagement of automatic piloting at 7000 feet.

Timeline of Cell Calls

According to the Report (Chapter 1):

[Flight UAL 175] "At 8:52, in Easton, Connecticut, a man named Lee Hanson received a phone call from his son Peter, a passenger on United 175. His son told him: “I think they’ve taken over the cockpit—An attendant has been stabbed— and someone else up front may have been killed. The plane is making strange moves. Call United Airlines—Tell them it’s Flight 175, Boston to LA.

Also at 8:52, a male flight attendant called a United office in San Francisco, reaching Marc Policastro. The flight attendant reported that the flight had been hijacked, both pilots had been killed, a flight attendant had been stabbed, and the hijackers were probably flying the plane. The call lasted about two minutes, after which Policastro and a colleague tried unsuccessfully to contact the flight.

....

[AA 77] At 9:12, Renee May called her mother, Nancy May, in Las Vegas. She said her flight was being hijacked by six individuals who had moved them to the rear of the plane. She asked her mother to alert American Airlines. Nancy May and her husband promptly did so.

At some point between 9:16 and 9:26, Barbara Olson called her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States. She reported that the flight had been hijacked, and the hijackers had knives and box cutters. She further indicated that the hijackers were not aware of her phone call, and that they had put all the passengers in the back of the plane.

About a minute into the conversation, the call was cut off. Solicitor General Olson tried unsuccessfully to reach Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Shortly after the first call, Barbara Olson reached her husband again. She reported that the pilot had announced that the flight had been hijacked, and she asked her husband what she should tell the captain to do.

Ted Olson asked for her location and she replied that the aircraft was then flying over houses. Another passenger told her they were traveling northeast. The Solicitor General then informed his wife of the two previous hijackings and crashes.

She did not display signs of panic and did not indicate any awareness of an impending crash. At that point, the second call was cut off.58 At 9:29, the autopilot on American 77 was disengaged; the aircraft was at 7,000 feet and approximately 38 miles west of the Pentagon.  At 9:32, controllers at the Dulles Terminal Radar Approach Control “observed a primary radar target tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed.” This was later determined to have been Flight 77."

  (Report p 7, see http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch1.pdf )

[UAL Flight 93] At 9:32, a hijacker, probably Jarrah, made or attempted to make the following announcement to the passengers of Flight 93:“Ladies and Gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining sitting.

We have a bomb on board. So, sit.” The flight data recorder (also recovered) indicates that Jarrah then instructed the plane’s autopilot to turn the aircraft around and head east. The cockpit voice recorder data indicate that a woman, most likely a flight attendant, was being held captive in the cockpit. She struggled with one of the hijackers who killed or otherwise silenced her.

Shortly thereafter, the passengers and flight crew began a series of calls from GTE airphones and cellular phones. These calls between family, friends, and colleagues took place until the end of the flight and provided those on the ground with firsthand accounts.They enabled the passengers to gain critical information, including the news that two aircraft had slammed into the World Trade Center.77...At least two callers from the flight reported that the hijackers knew that passengers were making calls but did not seem to care.

At least ten passengers and two crew members shared vital information with family, friends, colleagues, or others on the ground. All understood the plane had been hijacked. They said the hijackers wielded knives and claimed to have a bomb.

The hijackers were wearing red bandanas, and they forced the passengers to the back of the aircraft.80 Callers reported that a passenger had been stabbed and that two people were lying on the floor of the cabin, injured or dead—possibly the captain and first officer. One caller reported that a flight attendant had been killed.81 One of the callers from United 93 also reported that he thought the hijackers might possess a gun. But none of the other callers reported the presence of a firearm. One recipient of a call from the aircraft recounted specifically asking her caller whether the hijackers had guns.

The passenger replied that he did not see one. No evidence of firearms or of their identifiable remains was found at the aircraft’s crash site, and the cockpit voice recorder gives no indication of a gun being fired or mentioned at any time.

We believe that if the hijackers had possessed a gun, they would have used it in the flight’s last minutes as the passengers fought back.82 Passengers on three flights reported the hijackers’ claim of having a bomb. The FBI told us they found no trace of explosives at the crash sites. One of the passengers who mentioned a bomb expressed his belief that it was not real. Lacking any evidence that the hijackers attempted to smuggle such illegal items past the security screening checkpoints, we believe the bombs were probably fake.83 During at least five of the passengers’ phone calls, information was shared about the attacks that had occurred earlier that morning at the World Trade Center. Five calls described the intent of passengers and surviving crew members to revolt against the hijackers. According to one call, they voted on whether to rush the terrorists in an attempt to retake the plane. They decided, and acted.84 At 9:57, the passenger assault began. Several passengers had terminated phone calls with loved ones in order to join the revolt. One of the callers ended her message as follows:

“Everyone’s running up to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.” The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door. Some family members who listened to the recording report that they can hear the voice of a loved one among the din.

We cannot identify whose voices can be heard. But the assault was sustained. 86 In response, Jarrah immediately began to roll the airplane to the left and right, attempting to knock the passengers off balance. At 9:58:57, Jarrah told another hijacker in the cockpit to block the door. Jarrah continued to roll the airplane sharply left and right, but the assault continued. At 9:59, Jarrah changed tactics and pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt the assault. The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts, and breaking glasses and plates.

At 10:00:03, Jarrah stabilized the airplane. Five seconds later, Jarrah asked, “Is that it? Shall we finish it off?” A hijacker responded, “No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off.” The sounds of fighting continued outside the cockpit. Again, Jarrah pitched the nose of the aircraft up and down.At 10:00:26, a passenger in the background said, “In the cockpit. If we don’t we’ll die!” Sixteen seconds later, a passenger yelled,“Roll it!” Jarrah stopped the violent maneuvers at about 10:01:00 and said, “Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!” He then asked another hijacker in the cockpit,“ Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?” to which the other replied, “Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.” The passengers continued their assault and at 10:02:23, a hijacker said, “Pull it down! Pull it down!” The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them. The airplane headed down; the control wheel was turned hard to the right.

The airplane rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting “Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. ”With the sounds of the passenger counterattack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes’ flying time from Washington,D.C. Jarrah’s objective was to crash his airliner into symbols of the American Republic, the Capitol or the White House. He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United

The Mysterious Call of Edward Felt from UAL 93

Earlier coverage of the fate of UAL 93 was based in part on a reported cell call from a passenger named Edward Felt, who managed to reach an emergency official in Pennsylvania. How he got the emergency supervisor's number and managed to reach him remains unclear.

The call was apparently received at 9.58 am, eight minutes before the reported time of the crash at 10.06 am in Pennsylvania:

"Local emergency officials said they received a cell phone call at 9.58 am from a man who said he was a passenger aboard the flight. The man said he had locked himself in the bathroom and told emergency dispatchers that the plane had been hijacked. "We are being hijacked! We are being hijacked!" he was quoted as saying. A California man identified as Tom Burnett reportedly called his wife and told her that somebody on the plane had been stabbed. "We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something," he told her. "I love you honey."

The alleged call by Edward Felt from the toilet of the aircraft of UAL 93 was answered by Glenn Cramer, the emergency supervisor in Pennsylvania who took the call.

It is worth noting that Glenn Cramer was subsequently gagged by the FBI." (See Robert Wallace`s incisive analysis published in Sept 2002 by the Daily Mirror, (http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/WAL403A.html ).

Ironically, this high profile cell call by Ed Felt, which would have provided crucial evidence to the 9/11 Commission is, for some reason, not mentioned in the report.

Concluding Remarks

The "war on terrorism" underlying the National Security doctrine relies on real time "evidence" concerning the Arab hijackers. The latter personify, so to speak, this illusive "outside enemy", which is threatening the homeland.

Embodied into the Commission's "script" of 911, the narrative of what happened on the plane with the Arab hijackers is therefore crucial.

A large part of the description, regarding the 19 hijackers relies on the cell phone conversations between passengers and family and friends.

In the eyes of public opinion, "this evidence" is needed to sustain the "war on terrorism" doctrine. It is part of the propaganda ploy.


Presented below are a number of press excerpts, on UAL flight 93. First in the hours following the attacks, a report which points to the emergency landing of  flight 93.

This report which quotes UAL, may however have been mistaken. For the historical record, however, it is important that it be acknowledged and further investigated

First Morning Reports on UAL Flight 93 on September 11.

UAL Flight landed Safely At Cleveland Hopkins Airport Plane Lands In Cleveland - Bomb Feared Aboard 8-7-4

Reported by 9News Staff Web produced by: Liz Foreman 9/11/01 11:43:57 AM

Rense.com,  8/7/04

A Boeing 767 out of Boston made an emergency landing Tuesday at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport due to concerns that it may have a bomb aboard, said Mayor Michael R. White.

White said the plane had been moved to a secure area of the airport, and was evacuated.

United identified the plane as Flight 93. The airline did not say how many people were aboard the flight.

United said it was also "deeply concerned" about another flight, Flight 175, a Boeing 767, which was bound from Boston to Los Angeles.

On behalf of the airline CEO James Goodwin said: "The thoughts of everyone at United are with the passengers and crew of these flights. Our prayers are also with everyone on the ground who may have been involved.

"United is working with all the relevant authorities, including the FBI, to obtain further information on these flights," he said.

http://www.wcpo.com/specials/2001/americaattacked/news_local/story14.html


ABC News, 11 September 2001, 11 am. 

Peter Jennings

....

JENNINGS: Thank you, Don, very much.

Now, just to deal with the possibility of the missing United Airlines flight, the mayor of Cleveland, Michael White, says that a Boeing 767 out of Boston has made an emergency landing at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport because of concerns that it may have a bomb aboard. There is some possibility that may be the missing United flight, but we do not know. But anybody who's in an aircraft this morning and made an emergency landing safely is probably one hugely relieved person at the moment.

....


Next day reports

September 12 2001,

The Report on the Cell phone Call from UAL 93

Excerpts from the official story

AFX European Focus, 12 September 2004

The Official Story

United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757, was among four planes hijacked early Tuesday by terrorists. Two other planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, destroying the twin towers, and a third slammed into the Pentagon. This plane, which left Newark, New Jersey, for San Francisco, went down at 10.06 am yesterday in a wooded area some 100 kilometers southeast of Pittsburgh, killing all 45 people aboard, officials said. The plane hit the ground at high speed, exploded in a fireball and created a crater some 30 feet long and 15 feet deep. Local emergency officials said they received a cell phone call at 9.58 am from a man who said he was a passenger aboard the flight. The man said he had locked himself in the bathroom and told emergency dispatchers that the plane had been hijacked. "We are being hijacked! We are being hijacked!" he was quoted as saying. A California man identified as Tom Burnett reportedly called his wife and told her that somebody on the plane had been stabbed. "We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something," he told her. "I love you honey." Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were leading the probe, assisted by the Pennsylvania state police, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration. Investigators have cordoned off the crash site to keep onlookers out and facilitate the recovery of the two flight recorders. The FBI has said nothing so far on the investigation, but has scheduled a press conference for noon today near the crash site.


Aviation News, 17 September 2001

Excerpt from Timeline

9:58 a.m. A passenger who locked himself in a lavatory aboard UAL Flight 93 called 911 and advises that the airplane has been hijacked, and that his call is not a hoax. Passenger Mark Bingham also used a cell phone to contact his mother in San Francisco, saying that the plane had been commandeered by three terrorists claiming to have a bomb. At some point in the flight, air traffic control received a radio call from the cockpit asserting the airplane was going to Washington, DC. Apparently the captain or first officer had the presence of mind to leave the microphone keyed open. At 35,000 feet over Cleveland, Ohio, the sound of shots and commands to "get out of here" were transmitted. During the course of events, passenger Tom Burnette called his wife four times by cell phone, saying that he and two others were going to try to overpower the hijackers.

10:06 a.m. UAL Flight 93, having reversed its Westward course over Cleveland, Ohio, crashes in a field 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh (and 85 miles northwest of the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.). Crash occurs 8 min. after cell phone call from passenger in lavatory. Crash site is described by one official as "nothing but a big gouge in the earth and some broken trees." It is possible that the airplane's near-90? plunge to the earth resulted from a struggle between passengers and hijackers in the cockpit. Elapsed time of flight from takeoff at Newark: about 2 hours and 5 min.


Miracles and Wonders

by Alan Cabal, New York Press, July 27, 2004

Last week, USA Today reported a joint effort between Qualcomm and American Airlines' to allow passengers to make cellphone calls from aircraft in flight. According to the story, the satellite-based system employs a "Pico cell" to act as a small cellular tower.

"It worked great," gushed Monte Ford, American Airline's chief information officer. "I called the office. I called my wife. I called a friend in Paris. They all heard me great, and I could hear them loud and clear."

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, Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick and Edward Felt all managed to place calls from Flight 93 on the morning of September 11. Peter Hanson, en route to Disneyland with his wife and daughter, phoned his dad from Flight 175. Madeline Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant, made a very dramatic call from Flight 11 as it sped to the North Tower. Barbara Olson made two calls, collect, to her husband at his government office from Flight 77 as it made its way to the Pentagon.

Each call was initially reported as coming from a cellphone. 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. Olson was an easy candidate for Airfone (one doesn't call collect from a cell), but as the stories developed, Olson—and Felt—were said to have called from inside locked lavatories. No Airfone there.

In the very near future, numerous technological miracles and wonders will rise up out of the ashes of that terrible day, much the way the space program supposedly gave us Tang and Velcro. 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.

Likewise, professional bowlers could benefit from inquiries into whatever physical force brought about the collapse of WTC 7. And as a frequent flyer who finds long-term parking difficult and expensive, I'd like to know by what mechanism Mohammed Atta got to Portland, ME, where he was videotaped boarding a flight to Logan Airport in Boston. His rental car was found at Logan.

And last but not least, every suburban homeowner will want the miraculous PentaGrass. Whatever that lawn at the Pentagon is made out of, it sure is amazing stuff—it resists and repels fire, explosion, skid marks, aircraft debris, jet fuel, luggage and body parts. Shit from your neighbor's dog won't stand a chance!

Who would've thought there'd be a silver lining even in the debris cloud made that Tuesday morning? o

Volume 17, Issue 30

Copyright 2004 New York Press


Reply to email commenting on Flight 93 using link

No Body Parts Found At Flt 93 Crash Scene

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Dulce Decorum

Dulce still points out, that something is odd with the serial numbers of Flight93 and Flight 175. The serial numbers of the ORIGINAL planes are SAME serial numbers of the planes that ARE STILL FLYING. 591UA and 612UA.

Dulce argues, that though N-number can be transferred, the manufacturer serial number CANNOT be transferred.

According to some spot-witnesses, Boeing 757-222 SERIAL NUMBER 28142 is flying around Chicago under the alias 594UA.

According to the FAA, N594UA Boeing 757-222 flies now with a DIFFERENT serial number, namely 28145.

Something is fishy.


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