Saturday, 4 March 2017

Why Did the Secret Service Leave the President and a School Full of Children in Danger in the Middle of the 9/11 Attacks?


President Bush at the Booker Elementary School

President George W. Bush was allowed to continue with a routine visit to a school when the terrorist attacks occurred on September 11, 2001. Remarkably, members of the Secret Service and other personnel responsible for protecting the president failed to evacuate him from the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, after they learned that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and it became clear that America was under attack.

As the nation's leader, Bush should have been considered a likely target for terrorists. Furthermore, his schedule had been publicized in advance and so terrorists could have found out where he would be on September 11.

And yet, after arriving there shortly before 9:00 a.m. on September 11, Bush was allowed to stay at the Booker Elementary School until around 9:35 a.m.--almost 50 minutes after the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center and over 30 minutes after the second hijacked plane hit the Trade Center. He left the school just two or three minutes before a third attack occurred, when the Pentagon was struck.

The Secret Service's failure to promptly evacuate Bush from the school is particularly baffling in light of the accounts of some key officials who were with the president that morning, in which these men recalled being worried that the school would be attacked. There were even concerns that terrorists might crash a plane into it. The failure to evacuate the school is also alarming in that it left hundreds of people there--not just the president--potentially in danger.

It would be wrong to attribute the inaction of the Secret Service to incompetence. Agents who were in Sarasota for Bush's visit to the city were highly skilled individuals. They arranged extensive security measures for the visit, and they acted with great urgency and professionalism as they protected Bush after he left the school. They appear to have only failed to adequately protect the president for a period of about 40 minutes in the middle of the 9/11 attacks, after he arrived at the school.

We need to consider, therefore, whether the inaction of the Secret Service at this critical time is evidence of something sinister. Could efforts have been made to somehow put the agents in Sarasota into a state of paralysis? They might, for example, have been tricked into thinking the reports they received about the terrorist attacks in New York were simulated, as part of a training exercise.

The inaction of the Secret Service could in fact be evidence that, in contradiction to the official narrative of 9/11, rogue individuals in the U.S. government were involved in planning and perpetrating the terrorist attacks on September 11.

NO ONE CALLED THE PRESIDENT ABOUT THE FIRST CRASH DURING THE DRIVE TO THE SCHOOL
On the morning of September 11, 2001, President Bush was scheduled to visit the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he planned to take part in a reading demonstration, and then talk to parents and teachers about his education policies. [1]

His motorcade left the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, where he'd spent the previous night, at around 8:39 a.m. on September 11 and headed to the school. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. [2] Numerous people in the motorcade, including White House officials, military officers, and journalists, learned about the crash as they were being driven to the school. [3] But no one called the president to tell him what had happened.

Bush was first informed about the crash at around 8:55 a.m., when he arrived at the school. Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, ran up to him and said, "Mr. President, the Situation Room is reporting that one of the World Trade Center towers has been hit by a plane." "This is all we know," she added. [4]

Bush was told about the crash again by Karl Rove, his senior adviser, as he was shaking hands with members of the official greeting party outside the school. [5] He has recalled thinking at the time that the incident must have been "a terrible accident." [6]

He then talked on the phone with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who was at the White House. She told him the plane that struck the World Trade Center was a commercial jetliner, not a light aircraft. But Bush still thought the crash was an accident and went ahead with the scheduled event. [7] At 9:02 a.m., he entered the second-grade classroom of teacher Sandra Kay Daniels to listen to the students reading. [8]

BUSH CONTINUED WITH THE READING EVENT AFTER BEING TOLD, 'AMERICA IS UNDER ATTACK'
A minute later, United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Bush was alerted to what had happened at around 9:05 a.m. to 9:07 a.m., when Andrew Card, his chief of staff, approached him and whispered in his ear: "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack." [9]

Despite receiving this devastating news, Bush carried on as if nothing was wrong. "In the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor," author James Bamford commented, "he simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day's photo op." [10] Significantly, author Philip Melanson pointed out, "no [Secret Service] agents were there to surround the president and remove him instantly." [11]

Bush listened to the children reading for five minutes, and then spent at least two minutes asking them questions and telling the school's principal about the second crash. [12] He left the classroom shortly before 9:15 a.m. [13] He was still sticking closely to his schedule, which specified that he would conclude his participation in the reading demonstration at 9:15 a.m. [14]

BUSH GAVE A SPEECH THAT WAS SHOWN LIVE ON TV
Even then, with the demonstration over, no effort was made to get the president away from the school. Instead, Bush spent the next 15 minutes in the "staff hold," a room adjacent to Daniels' classroom, where he talked on the phone with officials in Washington, DC, and worked on a statement he wanted to give before leaving the school. [15]

He entered the school library to deliver the statement at 9:30 a.m. This was the same time as he was originally set to address parents and teachers at the school. So, 44 minutes after the first attack on the World Trade Center and 27 minutes after the second, it was still apparently considered unnecessary to alter the president's schedule. The only change was that instead of discussing his education policies, Bush talked about the attacks in New York and announced that he would be heading back to Washington. [16]

The short speech was broadcast live on television and watched by millions of Americans. [17] If any terrorists had been unaware of the president's location before then, if they were watching TV, they knew now.

Bush only started to deviate from his schedule after he finished the speech. He was originally set to head out of the school at 9:55 a.m., with his limousine leaving there 10 minutes later and heading to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [18] But due to the extraordinary circumstances, his motorcade left the school and speeded toward the airport at around 9:35 a.m.

During the journey to the airport, Bush talked on the phone with Condoleezza Rice and she told him the Pentagon had been attacked. [19] (The attack on the Pentagon took place at 9:37 a.m.) The motorcade reached the airport sometime between 9:42 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. Air Force One, the president's plane, took off without a fixed destination at around 9:55 a.m. [20]

BUSH'S LOCATION WAS PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE
The fact that the president was allowed to stick to his schedule and stay at the Booker Elementary School for 40 minutes while America was under attack is particularly alarming since Bush's plans for September 11 were publicly announced four days in advance and had then been reported in the media. If terrorists had wanted to kill the president as part of the 9/11 attacks, therefore, they could have found out where he would be on September 11 and tried to attack him while he was there.

On September 7, 2001, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer revealed in a press briefing that on the morning of September 11, Bush was going to be in Sarasota, where he would "continue his focus on reading and education." A transcript of the briefing would presumably have been published promptly on the White House website. [21] The president's plan to visit Sarasota was reported that day in newspapers such as the Washington Post and the Florida Times-Union. [22]

The most informative reports, unsurprisingly, appeared in a newspaper for Sarasota, where the planned visit was "big news," according to journalist and author Mark Bowden. [23] The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported on September 7 that Bush would "probably speak at a local school" when he visited Sarasota on September 11. [24] The following day, the newspaper revealed where the president would go during his visit. He planned to deliver "an education speech Tuesday morning at Emma E. Booker Elementary School," it reported. [25]

Some people who were at the Booker Elementary School on September 11 recognized the danger that existed because Bush's plans for the day had been publicized in advance. "The fact that the president would be at Booker Elementary at this hour, on this day, had been public knowledge for days," Mike Morell, Bush's CIA briefer, wrote. [26] Therefore, he commented, "anyone could have known about it." [27]

Karl Rove similarly stated: "The president's whereabouts were obviously known. Everybody knew exactly where he was, if you wanted to know." [28] Colonel Steve Burns of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office remarked, "The [president's] itinerary was known at least for several days prior to his visit to Sarasota, so it was a real concern that maybe there was additional targets, even being the school or something." [29]

MEMBERS OF BUSH'S ENTOURAGE WERE WORRIED THAT THE SCHOOL MIGHT BE ATTACKED
The failure of the Secret Service to promptly evacuate Bush from the Booker Elementary School in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center is also baffling considering that some members of his entourage believed at the time that the school might be attacked because of his presence there.

Members of Bush's Secret Service detail were worried that the president could be a target, according to Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division. They were asking each other, "Is there any direction of interest towards the president ... or is this just an attack on New York?" he recalled. [30]

Rove confirmed that the Secret Service thought the president could be a target while he was at the school. Bush's agents determined that the attacks "might be an effort to decapitate the government," he said. [31] This meant the terrorists wanted to "take all the leading officials and kill them." [32]

Mike Morell recalled "growing increasingly concerned about [the president's] safety" while Bush was in the staff hold, after the reading demonstration ended. [33] Among the president's staff there was a "fear of the unknown," according to Brian Montgomery, the White House's director of advance. "We didn't know if someone had put a biological agent or chemical agent at the school," he said. [34]

Some people were worried that terrorists would fly an aircraft into the school. Bush's Secret Service agents were concerned "that someone might fly an airplane into the Emma Booker Elementary School or there might be a ... suicide bomber nearby," Rove said. [35] Morell recalled that he was "really worried that someone was going to fly a plane into that school." [36] He contemplated telling Edward Marinzel, the head of Bush's Secret Service detail, about his concern, but decided not to after determining that Marinzel had probably already considered this scenario. [37]

Even some teachers, students, and parents recognized the potential danger to the school. There was "a fear by many parents that Booker Elementary was now a target by terrorists because of the president's visit," Clesha Henry, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, recalled. [38] Derek Jenkins, another teacher, stated that after Bush left the school, "One of my thoughts shifted to the fact that Emma E. Booker is located only a few miles from the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and we could have very easily been a target as well." [39] Henry recalled a boy in her class saying: "I'm scared, Ms. Henry. Are we going to die?" [40]

SOME OFFICIALS WANTED TO EVACUATE BUSH AFTER THE SECOND ATTACK OCCURRED
Not only were some members of Bush's entourage concerned that the Booker Elementary School might be attacked, at least two key officials--Major Paul Montanus and Edward Marinzel--wanted the president to be evacuated from the place immediately after they learned of the second crash in New York.

Montanus, the military aide who accompanied Bush to the school, apparently called for an evacuation after seeing Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center on television, at 9:03 a.m. Just after 9:00 a.m., according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill was approached at the school by "a Marine responsible for carrying Bush's phone." This person was presumably Montanus, a Marine Corps officer. Montanus had heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, but little else about the incident in New York. He asked Balkwill, "Can you get me to a television?"

The two men, along with a SWAT team member and three Secret Service agents, went to an office at the school where there was a TV. There, they saw the coverage of Flight 175 hitting the South Tower. Presumably realizing that America was under attack, Montanus exclaimed, "We're out of here!" and asked, "Can you get everyone ready?" according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. According to his own recollection, he said: "What in God's name? We gotta get out of here!" [41]

Montanus's words should presumably have led to the president and his entourage being evacuated from the school immediately. "While the Secret Service is charged with protecting the president's actual body," Marist magazine explained, "it is the president's military aide ... who directs any evacuation" and the White House Military Office, which oversees the president's military aides, "that executes [the president's] safe passage." [42] And yet no evacuation took place at this time.

Marinzel appears to have been equally determined to get Bush away from the school after he learned about the second attack on the World Trade Center. After he was told about the second crash, he recalled: "Right then and there, things completely changed. We needed to figure out what we were going to do with the president." [43] Marinzel "wanted to get the hell out of [the school] as fast as possible," Mike Morell said. [44] He "was eager to get the president out of the school, to Air Force One, and airborne," Karl Rove described, and "immediately began making arrangements to beef up the motorcade and get it ready to move." [45]

Even Bush appears to have realized that he needed to be evacuated from the school promptly. Describing the situation while he was in the staff hold after the reading demonstration ended, he commented, "One thing for certain: I needed to get out of where I was." [46] And yet, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, while the Secret Service was "anxious to move the president to a safer location" at this time, it "did not think it imperative for him to run out the door." [47]

SOME PEOPLE DELAYED BUSH'S DEPARTURE FROM THE SCHOOL
Why Bush was allowed to stay at the school after the second crash at the World Trade Center occurred, especially in light of the desire of Montanus and Marinzel to get him away from there, is unknown. A few accounts, though, describe people delaying his departure.

Andrew Card apparently persuaded Secret Service agents to put off getting Bush away from the school until after the president had given his 9:30 a.m. speech from the library, according to Dave Wilkinson. After Marinzel told Bush, "We need to get you to Air Force One and get you airborne," Wilkinson recalled, the president's Secret Service agents "ended up with a compromise." This was because Card had said, "We have a whole auditorium full, waiting for the next event [i.e. Bush's speech]" and "there was no imminent threat there in Sarasota." It was therefore agreed that Bush could give his speech before leaving the school. [48]

The president's departure from the school was delayed by Bush himself, according to Frank Brogan, lieutenant governor of Florida. Brogan recalled that when he was with Bush in the staff hold, after the reading demonstration, "The Secret Service tried to get the president to return to Air Force One immediately, but he refused, saying he was committed to staying on the ground long enough to write a statement about what was happening, read it to the nation, and lead a moment of silence for the victims." [49] Bush "was courageously insistent about remaining on the ground to make a statement to the people of America," Brogan commented. [50]

Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, who was with the president at the school, indicated that Bush may have been allowed to stay at the school for such a long time because some people actually thought he was safe there. When asked in an interview, "In those early moments, there isn't a sense that the president could be in danger, is there?" he replied, "Not initially, the way we perceived it." The White House Military Office is "very conservative with the Secret Service," he added. [51]

THE SECRET SERVICE'S MISSION WAS TO KEEP THE PRESIDENT SAFE
The Secret Service is responsible for the protection of the president. [52] Various accounts have indicated that this agency, more than any other, should have ensured that Bush was promptly evacuated from the Booker Elementary School when it became clear that the U.S. was under terrorist attack on September 11.

The Secret Service is "responsible for protection of high-visibility officials and facilities that terrorists might target," a report by the Office of Management and Budget pointed out. [53] And in a "state of emergency"--like when America came under attack on September 11--its plan is "to get every protectee to a secure site," according to a National Geographic Channel documentary about the agency. [54]

The agency should decide what actions to take to protect the president, regardless of the president's demands, according to Dave Wilkinson. "By federal law, the Secret Service has to protect the president," he said. "The wishes of that person that day are secondary to what the law expects of us. Theoretically it's not his call, it's our call." [55]

The Secret Service should have evacuated Bush from the school immediately after the second attack took place, according to Philip Melanson, an expert on the agency. "With an unfolding terrorist attack, the procedure should have been to get the president to the closest secure location as quickly as possible, which clearly is not a school," Melanson stated. Bush would have been "safer in that presidential limo, which is bombproof and blastproof and bulletproof," he added. [56]

Melanson contrasted the inaction of Bush's agents at the school to the procedure that would normally have been followed if the president was considered to be in danger. "When there is a threat or intrusion at the White House," he wrote, "agents rush into the Oval Office, the family quarters, or wherever the president is, and immediately surround him and shut down the comings or goings of anyone--thus 'crashing' the Oval Office or the entire West Wing." [57]

GREAT CARE WAS TAKEN WITH THE PREPARATIONS FOR BUSH'S TRIP
The inaction of the Secret Service while Bush was at the Booker Elementary School in the middle of the 9/11 attacks stands out when we contrast it to the care with which the agency prepared for the president's visit to the school.

Major Robert Darling, the White House airlift operations liaison officer who organized Bush's trip to Sarasota, described the preparations he initiated for the trip. He arranged to have "five hardened Secret Service cars, numerous pallets of communication gear, and more than 200 support personnel" flown to Sarasota "a full four days prior to the president's scheduled arrival."

Secret Service agents and White House Military Office personnel consequently had "plenty of time to rehearse every aspect of the event, to include traveling the primary and alternate motorcade routes, practice landing in and taking off from the predetermined helicopter landing zones, as well as knowing the locations of all the local hospitals and their level of trauma capability so that when the president arrived on Air Force One, everyone was fully trained and prepared to safely transport and protect him as he executed his political agenda." [58]

The Secret Service clearly prepared well for Bush's visit to the Booker Elementary School. Agents "took over" the school's campus five days before September 11, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. [59] There were "men in dark suits scurrying around and through our campus, commandeering rooms, erecting funny antennas, conducting briefs and meetings, and tapping our phones," teacher Derek Jenkins described. [60]

Care was even taken when deciding which room Bush would go to when he visited the school. The classroom of Sandra Kay Daniels was selected as the location for the reading demonstration because it was "situated next to the school's north door, making it easier to organize elaborate security," according to the Tampa Tribune. [61]

BUSH WAS WELL PROTECTED THE NIGHT BEFORE 9/11
Bush was certainly well protected the night before September 11, while he stayed at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort. Journalist and author Bill Sammon described: "Snipers kept watch over the president from the roofs of the Colony and adjacent structures. The Coast Guard and the Longboat Key Police Department manned boats that patrolled the surf in front of the resort all night. Security trucks with enough men and arms to stop a small army parked right on the beach. An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane circled high overhead in the clear night sky." [62]

The high level of care that usually went into protecting the president was evident at the Booker Elementary School when Bush arrived there on the morning of September 11. "School buses were lined up in front of the school to form a barricade," the Sarasota Herald-Tribune described. "Agents on horseback patrolled the campus. ... Snipers were on the roof. All the phone lines were tapped and one was linked directly to the White House." [63]

The Secret Service, though, acted as if it was in a state of paralysis after the president arrived at the school. It allowed him to stay there for 40 minutes and stick to his schedule as if nothing unusual had happened in the middle of a major terrorist attack.

But then, at around 9:35 a.m., the behavior of the president's protective detail suddenly changed and Bush's agents finally acted with the kind of urgency we would reasonably expect under the circumstances. Their skill and professionalism were evident as Bush was taken from the school to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, and onto Air Force One.

THE SECRET SERVICE ACTED WITH URGENCY AFTER BUSH LEFT THE SCHOOL
A Secret Service agent "ran out from the school and said, 'We're under terrorist attack, we have to go now,'" Officer Kevin Dowd of the Sarasota Police Department recalled. Bush's motorcade then traveled to the airport at about twice its normal speed. Whereas the vehicles were usually driven at around 40 to 45 miles per hour, they now moved at 80 to 85 miles per hour. Furthermore, during the journey, "the Secret Service agents all had weapon barrels that were visible and they were pointing up at the ready position in case they needed to be used," according to Dowd. [64]

Bush's limousine was surrounded by police cars, positioned about a foot away from it on all four sides. [65] This was because Edward Marinzel had arranged for the Sarasota Police Department to mobilize every available patrol car. [66] The Secret Service was concerned that a suicide bomber might try to ram the limousine with a truck bomb or a car bomb, Marinzel later explained, and so it had the vehicle surrounded in the hope that the patrol cars would block any attack. [67]

The Secret Service also "asked for double-motorcade blocks at the intersection, double and triple blocks," Dave Wilkinson recalled. This meant "not just motorcycle officers standing there with their arms up, but vehicles actually blocking the road." And for the entire journey to the airport, Wilkinson said, the Secret Service was "using the limos as a shell game, to keep the president safe." [68]

PASSENGERS WERE CAREFULLY CHECKED BEFORE GETTING ON THE PRESIDENT'S PLANE
After the motorcade arrived at the airport, journalists, White House staffers, and others were subjected to unusually rigorous security checks before being allowed onto Air Force One. Getting on the plane was "different than it ever had been," White House education adviser Sandy Kress commented. Much attention was paid to the credentials of those boarding the aircraft. "We had to show ID and our badge, not just the badge," Kress said. "And this even though the crew knew most of us." [69]

Secret Service agents and bomb-sniffing dogs checked every bag that was going onto the plane. [70] "Although everyone in the presidential motorcade had already been swept back at the school, the Secret Service was taking no chances," Bill Sammon described. "Even staffers who wore special lapel pins denoting their status as White House employees had their belongings checked by bomb-sniffing dogs," he wrote. [71] Agents even searched briefcases belonging to senior officials such as Andrew Card and Mike Morell. [72]

Agents also shoved people onto Air Force One as quickly as possible. [73] They yelled, "Move it, move it, move it!" as people made their way onto the aircraft. [74] A military aide standing at the foot of the rear entrance to the plane snapped, "We gotta hurry up and get out of here!" [75]

Air Force One took off at around 9:55 a.m., just 10 minutes after the motorcade reached the airport. [76] It took off unusually quickly. "I start hauling down the runway," Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot, described. "Pull back, went up at about 8,000 feet per minute, and just put the plane on its tail, rolled it off towards the Gulf of Mexico," he said. [77]

The plane took off "like a rocket," according to White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe. [78] It "shot down the runway with a force I had never experienced," Karl Rove described. [79] "The objective," according to the 9/11 Commission Report, "was to get up in the air--as fast and as high as possible--and then decide where to go." [80]

The fact that the Secret Service was able to act with such care and skill in its preparations for Bush's visit to the Booker Elementary School, and in its efforts to protect the president after he left the school, rules out the possibility that its inaction while Bush was at the school was due to incompetence. Agents with the president for his visit to Sarasota were clearly highly capable professionals.

AGENTS WERE NOT IMMEDIATELY ALERTED TO THE CRASHES AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
Another thing to consider when examining the Secret Service's inadequate protection of the president on September 11 is the apparent failure of agents in Washington to alert their colleagues in Sarasota to the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Edward Marinzel, as head of Bush's Secret Service detail, should surely have been notified about the attacks as a matter of priority, so he could initiate actions to protect the president in response to them. And yet Secret Service agents in Washington apparently failed to contact him about both crashes at the World Trade Center.

Marinzel heard about the first crash when Karl Rove told Bush about it after the president's motorcade arrived at the Booker Elementary School, at around 8:55 a.m. "As we were walking in, Karl Rove actually mentioned to the president that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers," he recalled. [81]

If this was the first time Marinzel heard about the crash, it means he only learned about the incident inadvertently, rather than being contacted about it by a colleague. And it means he learned about the crash at least nine minutes after it occurred and at least six minutes after it was first reported on television.

Certainly, evidence suggests that no one contacted him about the crash while he was being driven to the school. It appears that Marinzel would have been with the president in his limousine for the journey to the school, although this has not been stated explicitly: Rove recalled that Marinzel rode in Bush's limousine when it left the school, at 9:35 a.m., so presumably Marinzel accompanied Bush in his limousine as a matter of course during the visit to Florida. [82]

If Marinzel was alerted to the crash during the journey to the school, he therefore would surely have passed on the news to the president. But Bush was reportedly unaware of the crash when he arrived at the school, with the notification he received from Deborah Loewer being the first time he heard what had happened. It seems reasonable to assume, then, that no one contacted Marinzel and told him about the crash during the drive to the school.

LEAD AGENT LEARNED OF THE SECOND CRASH FROM BUSH'S CHIEF OF STAFF
Subsequently, instead of being immediately alerted to the second attack, Marinzel only learned about Flight 175 hitting the World Trade Center minutes after the crash occurred. And rather than being informed about the attack by his colleagues in Washington, as presumably should have happened, he learned about it from Andrew Card.

After Card walked across Sandra Kay Daniels' classroom and told Bush a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, Marinzel recalled, he "came over and whispered the same thing into my ear, and that was that we were under an attack." [83] Since Card told Bush about the second crash at around 9:05 a.m. to 9:07 a.m., Marinzel must have only heard about it several minutes after it happened.

Secret Service agents in Washington apparently also failed to promptly inform other agents in Sarasota, besides Marinzel, about the attacks. Kevin Kenney of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office recalled that after he saw the "breaking news coverage" of the first crash at the World Trade Center on television, he "immediately made contact with detectives that were co-located with the Secret Service detail and informed them of the news coverage."

"Remarkably," Kenney continued, the detectives told him "that they were not aware of the incident at that point." [84] Members of the president's Secret Service detail would surely have immediately passed on the important news to the detectives with them if they had heard about the crash. The fact that they failed to do so presumably means they had not been contacted by their colleagues in Washington about it at the time when Kenney called the detectives.

It is unclear whether Secret Service agents in Washington failed to contact their colleagues in Sarasota, besides Marinzel, about the second crash after it occurred. Certainly, accounts that are currently available make no mention of such contact being made.

AGENT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PRESIDENT'S SECURITY DID NOT CALL HIS COLLEAGUES IN SARASOTA
In light of the apparent failure of Secret Service agents in Washington to contact their colleagues in Sarasota about the attacks on the World Trade Center, it is worth examining in particular the actions of Carl Truscott, a key Secret Service official who was in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, when the attacks occurred. As special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, Truscott was responsible for the overall security of the president. [85] And yet there is no evidence that he made any attempt to contact Bush's detail while the president was at the Booker Elementary School.

Truscott said in an interview shortly after 9/11 that he learned about the crisis on September 11 when he "observed the CNN broadcast of the aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center." (It is unclear from the report of the interview whether he was referring to the coverage of the first crash or the second crash.) But he made no mention of contacting Bush's detail in response to seeing the television coverage of the crashes.

The only thing Truscott described doing at the time was calling several senior Secret Service agents to his office for a meeting "to discuss security enhancements at the White House." The meeting began at around 9:18 a.m. and the safety of the president was apparently not talked about. After he left the meeting, Truscott went to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House. [86]

His first contact with Bush's detail that morning, according to currently available accounts, occurred sometime after 9:55 a.m., when Air Force One took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. At that time, according to a Secret Service document, one of Bush's agents was "successful in contacting" him and informed him of the president's situation. [87]

SCHOOL WAS NOT EVACUATED, DESPITE BEING A POTENTIAL TERRORIST TARGET
While it is alarming that the president was allowed to stay at the Booker Elementary School for 40 minutes while the U.S. was in the middle of a major terrorist attack, it is also chilling that no effort was made to evacuate anyone else from the school on September 11. If terrorists had attacked the place, hundreds of people there could have been killed or seriously injured.

Mike Morell certainly recognized the potential danger. On top of his concern for Bush, he recalled, he grew "increasingly concerned" about "the safety of others at the school," since "it had been public information for days that the president would be at Booker Elementary on 11 September." [88]

But even after Bush left, no attempt was made to get people safely away from the school. Instead, "after learning of the tragedies, teachers tried to initiate 'teachable moments,'" the Tampa Tribune reported. "They pulled down maps, discussed terrorism, and talked about fears [with the pupils]." The school's administration permitted parents to pick up their children early if they wanted to, but according to the Tribune, "very few did." [89]

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer, along with some Secret Service agents and a military aide, initially remained in Sarasota after Bush and his entourage left. [90] Surely one of these professionals should have recognized the possible danger and evacuated the school. And yet even White House personnel who stayed at the Booker Elementary School after the president was driven away were left vulnerable. These staffers were allowed to remain at the school for hours, and only headed back to the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort late that afternoon. [91]

It is also strange that no one else, besides those who had come to Sarasota from Washington for the president's visit, ordered that the Booker Elementary School be evacuated. Remarkably, Wilma Hamilton, the superintendent of Sarasota County schools, refused to evacuate the school after being advised to do so.

"Because the well-publicized event at the school assured Bush's location that day was no secret, the dense White House security urged school officials to send students home," the Arlington Heights Daily Herald reported. Hamilton, however, rejected the advice. "I couldn't see sending the children home," she recalled. "There'd be no one there. All they would have to look at were those images on television." [92]

THE SECRET SERVICE FAILED TO KEEP THE PRESIDENT SAFE
By allowing Bush to follow his schedule and attend the reading demonstration at the Booker Elementary School while America was under attack, the Secret Service left the president in potentially life-threatening danger. What went wrong? Why did agents perform so poorly in the middle of the worst attack on American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941? Evidence described in this article gives rise to important questions about the actions of the Secret Service on September 11 that need to be addressed.

Why, for example, did the president's protective detail wait for more than 30 minutes after the second crash at the World Trade Center occurred and it became clear that America was under attack before getting Bush away from the school? Why did the concerns of some personnel that the school might be attacked not lead to an immediate evacuation? And why did the Secret Service allow Bush to give a speech from the school that was broadcast live on television, thereby revealing his location to any terrorists who might be watching TV?

Questions about the actions of other agencies and individuals who were with Bush in Sarasota need to be addressed too. For example, could someone other than a member of the Secret Service have ordered the evacuation of the president from the Booker Elementary School? The president's military aide was the person who would direct any evacuation of the president and the White House Military Office would implement the president's "safe passage," according to Marist magazine. [93] Could Paul Montanus, Bush's military aide at the school, or a White House Military Office official such as Mark Rosenker therefore have ordered an evacuation? If they could, why did they apparently fail to do so after the second attack on the World Trade Center took place?

Also, who was responsible for evacuating the other people at the school, such as the students and teachers? Why didn't that person order an evacuation? Why, in particular, did Wilma Hamilton refuse to send the children at the school home after being urged by White House security personnel to do so?

Additionally, were any decisions made to evacuate the president that were overruled? No evacuation occurred after a U.S. Marine, presumably Paul Montanus, announced, "We're out of here" and asked, "Can you get everyone ready?" when he saw the second crash on television. Did someone overrule the Marine's apparent instruction to evacuate the president? If so, who was this person and why did they do so?

Events described in this article also give rise to questions about the actions of some Secret Service agents who were in Washington at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Why, for example, did agents in Washington apparently fail to contact their colleagues in Sarasota about the crashes at the World Trade Center, to let them know what had happened and discuss what to do in response? Why did Carl Truscott, in particular, as the agent responsible for the overall security of the president, apparently fail to contact members of Bush's detail? Why did he only communicate with them after Air Force One left Sarasota?

WAS THE SECRET SERVICE'S RESPONSE TO THE ATTACKS SABOTAGED?
The Secret Service agents with the president in Sarasota appear to have been exceptionally skilled professionals, based on descriptions of their actions before and after Bush was at the Booker Elementary School. We consequently need to consider whether their inaction during the 40 minutes that Bush was at the school on September 11 was caused by someone, or some people, sabotaging their ability to respond to the 9/11 attacks.

Might rogue individuals in the U.S. military and government have taken measures that prevented these agents from operating with the level of urgency they would usually exhibit in a situation where the president could be in danger? For example, could the agents have been tricked into mistakenly thinking that reports they received about the attacks on the World Trade Center were simulated, as part of a training exercise, and this was why they failed to react appropriately to them?

Or were there rogue Secret Service agents involved with protecting the president who knew in advance what was going to happen on September 11? These agents could have known that the president and the Booker Elementary School were not targets, and so it was unnecessary to hurry Bush away from the school once it became clear that America was under attack.

The failure of the Secret Service to adequately protect the president while he was in Sarasota could be strong evidence that rogue individuals in the military and government were involved in perpetrating the 9/11 attacks. Currently, though, only a limited amount of information is available about the actions of the Secret Service on September 11. Official investigations have failed to rigorously examine the suspicious behavior of agents in response to the terrorist attacks. This crucial aspect of 9/11 therefore needs to be thoroughly looked into as part of a new investigation of the attacks.

NOTES
[1] "Bush Presses Education Agenda in Florida." ABC News, September 10, 2001; James Bamford, Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. New York: Anchor Books, 2002, p. 636; "The Visit of the President to Florida, Monday, September 10-Tuesday, September 11, 2001." President of the United States, n.d.
[2] Bill Sammon, "Suddenly, a Time to Lead." Washington Times, October 7, 2002; Susan Taylor Martin, "Of Fact, Fiction: Bush on 9/11." St. Petersburg Times, July 4, 2004.
[3] White House transcript, interview of Director of Communications Dan Bartlett by Howard Rosenberg of ABC. White House, August 12, 2002; Leslie Bates, "Securing the Nation." Marist, Fall 2002; Dave Lance, "Born to Lead." Dayton Daily News, August 17, 2003; Richard Keil, "With the President: A Reporter's Story of 9/11." Rochester Review, Fall 2004.
[4] "Springfield Native Told President of Terrorist Attacks." Associated Press, November 26, 2001; David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents From Kennedy to Obama. New York: PublicAffairs, 2016, p. 240.
[5] Ari Fleischer, Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House. New York: HarperCollins, 2005, pp. 138-139.
[6] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism--From Inside the Bush White House. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2002, p. 42.
[7] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 35; George W. Bush, Decision Points. New York: Crown, 2010, pp. 126-127.
[8] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 43.
[9] Ibid. pp. 50-51, 83; Scot J. Paltrow, "Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies." Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2004; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 38.
[10] James Bamford, Body of Secrets, p. 633.
[11] Philip H. Melanson, The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency. 2nd ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005, pp. 330-331.
[12] Bill Sammon, "Suddenly, a Time to Lead"; Scot J. Paltrow, "Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies."
[13] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[14] "The Visit of the President to Florida, Monday, September 10-Tuesday, September 11, 2001."
[15] Bill Sammon, "Suddenly, a Time to Lead"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[16] "The Visit of the President to Florida, Monday, September 10-Tuesday, September 11, 2001"; "Remarks by the President After Two Planes Crash Into World Trade Center." White House, September 11, 2001; James Bamford, Body of Secrets, p. 636.
[17] Michael K. Bohn, Presidents in Crisis: Tough Decisions Inside the White House From Truman to Obama. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2015, p. 215.
[18] "The Visit of the President to Florida, Monday, September 10-Tuesday, September 11, 2001."
[19] Bill Sammon, "'Right Decision.'" Washington Times, October 8, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39; George W. Bush, Decision Points, p. 128.
[20] Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "America's Chaotic Road to War." Washington Post, January 27, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[21] "Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer." White House, September 7, 2001.
[22] David DeCamp, "President Plans School Visit to Push Reading." Florida Times-Union, September 7, 2001; Mike Allen and Michael A. Fletcher, "Bush Campaign Aims to Put Education Plan on Fast Track." Washington Post, September 7, 2001.
[23] Mark Bowden, The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2012, p. 3.
[24] Chad Binette, "Bush Will Talk Schools in Local Stop." Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 7, 2001.
[25] "The President's Visit." Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 8, 2001.
[26] Michael Morell with Bill Harlow, The Great War of Our Time: The CIA's Fight Against Terrorism From al Qa'ida to ISIS. New York: Twelve, 2015, p. 49.
[27] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'" Politico Magazine, September 9, 2016.
[28] "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove." At Issue, KFDI, December 11, 2012.
[29] John Rogers, "Sarasota County Played a Pivotal Role in 9/11." WFLA-TV, September 11, 2013.
[30] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[31] Ibid.
[32] "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove."
[33] Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President." Studies in Intelligence 50, no. 3 (2006): 23-34.
[34] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[35] "A White House View of 9/11." LBJ Presidential Library, September 3, 2013.
[36] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[37] Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President"; Michael Morell with Bill Harlow, The Great War of Our Time, p. 49.
[38] William Mansell, "Teacher Recounts Being at Booker With Bush on 9/11." Sarasota Patch, September 9, 2011.
[39] Derek Jenkins, "Derek Jenkins, EEB Classroom Teacher." Sarasota County Schools, n.d.
[40] William Mansell, "Teacher Recounts Being at Booker With Bush on 9/11."
[41] Tom Bayles, "The Day Before Everything Changed, President Bush Touched Locals' Lives." Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 10, 2002; Dennis Dodd, "Navy Has a Higher Purpose Heading Into Notre Dame Game." CBS Sports, August 31, 2012.
[42] Leslie Bates, "Securing the Nation."
[43] "'We're Under Attack': Native Pittsburgher Escorted President on 9/11." WPXI-TV, September 7, 2011.
[44] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[45] Karl Rove, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight. New York: Threshold Editions, 2010, p. 251.
[46] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 93.
[47] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[48] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[49] "737 Days After ..." University Press, September 17, 2003.
[50] "Frank Brogan Recounts His Moment in History With President Bush on Sept. 11, 2001." South Florida Sun Sentinel, September 11, 2011.
[51] White House transcript, interview of General Mark V. Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, by CBS. White House, August 29, 2002.
[52] "Mission Statement." United States Secret Service, 2002.
[53] Office of Management and Budget, Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism. Washington, DC: Office of Management and Budget, July 2001, p. 81.
[54] Inside the U.S. Secret Service. National Geographic Channel, October 24, 2004.
[55] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[56] Susan Taylor Martin, "Of Fact, Fiction."
[57] Philip H. Melanson, The Secret Service, pp. 330-331.
[58] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker: 9/11/01 The White House. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2010, p. 35.
[59] Tom Bayles, "The Day Before Everything Changed, President Bush Touched Locals' Lives."
[60] Derek Jenkins, "Derek Jenkins, EEB Classroom Teacher."
[61] Jennifer Barrs, "From a Whisper to a Tear." Tampa Tribune, September 1, 2002.
[62] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 25.
[63] Tom Bayles, "The Day Before Everything Changed, President Bush Touched Locals' Lives."
[64] Clear the Skies. BBC, September 1, 2002; "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove"; "A White House View of 9/11."
[65] "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove"; "A White House View of 9/11."
[66] Karl Rove, Courage and Consequence, p. 251, Karl Rove, Speech at the Reagan Ranch Center, Santa Barbara, CA. Young America's Foundation, April 30, 2010.
[67] "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove"; "A White House View of 9/11."
[68] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[69] Ibid.
[70] Sonya Ross, "Flying With President Bush on a Day Terrorists Hit Hard." Associated Press, September 12, 2001; Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President."
[71] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 99.
[72] Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President"; Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[73] Karl Rove, Courage and Consequence, p. 252.
[74] Clear the Skies.
[75] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 99.
[76] Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "America's Chaotic Road to War"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[77] Mark W. Tillman, "Air Force One: Zero Failure." Speech presented at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, February 29, 2012.
[78] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[79] Karl Rove, Courage and Consequence, p. 252.
[80] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[81] "'We're Under Attack': Native Pittsburgher Escorted President on 9/11."
[82] Karl Rove, Speech at the Reagan Ranch Center, Santa Barbara, CA.
[83] "'We're Under Attack': Native Pittsburgher Escorted President on 9/11."
[84] Kevin Kenney, "... I Could See Air Force One Accelerate Toward Me and ... Takeoff. ..." Sheriff, September/October 2011.
[85] "Assistant Director Carl J. Truscott Announces Plans to Retire From the U.S. Secret Service." United States Secret Service press release, Washington, DC, April 1, 2004.
[86] USSS memo, interview with SAIC Carl Truscott. United States Secret Service, October 1, 2001; "USSS Statements and Interview Reports." 9/11 Commission, July 28, 2003.
[87] Untitled document. United States Secret Service, n.d.
[88] Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President."
[89] Jennifer Barrs, "From a Whisper to a Tear."
[90] Leslie Bates, "Securing the Nation."
[91] Scott McClellan, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. New York: PublicAffairs, 2008, pp. 103-104.
[92] Mike Riopell, "Educator's History Lesson." Arlington Heights Daily Herald, September 11, 2006.
[93] Leslie Bates, "Securing the Nation."

Monday, 31 October 2016

The Million-Dollar Diamond Theft at the World Trade Center on 9/11



Over a million dollars' worth of diamonds and bonds were apparently stolen from an armored truck in the basement of the World Trade Center when the terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, which suggests that someone--or some people--may have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and exploited the chaos they knew the attacks would generate in order to commit their crime at a time when there was minimal risk of getting caught.

Furthermore, there was an attempt to remove an unusually large amount of gold from vaults in the basement of the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks, which indicates that other people may have known in advance about the attacks and, based on their foreknowledge, tried to get the gold out before it became buried in the rubble of the Twin Towers. Whoever was transporting the gold away from the vaults apparently abandoned their vehicle and escaped to safety before the towers collapsed, which suggests they were warned in advance about the collapses and were consequently able to get away before the buildings came down.

Only a limited amount of information has been reported about these incidents, which are described below, and so it is difficult to determine exactly what happened. However, the details that have been reported certainly seem suspicious and so there is surely a need to look into these events closely.

DIAMONDS AND BONDS WERE APPARENTLY STOLEN FROM AN ARMORED TRUCK
The apparent theft of diamonds and bonds appears to have taken place on September 11 sometime between around 9:15 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., when the second of the Twin Towers collapsed. A Brink's armored truck, driven by 68-year-old Joseph Trombino, had arrived at the World Trade Center sometime before 8:46 a.m. that day. Trombino drove his vehicle down to the underground parking garage of the North Tower to drop off $14 million in cash.

He stayed with the vehicle while three colleagues who were with him passed on the cash to some Bank of Nova Scotia guards, who put it into canvas carts to be taken to a vault in the tower. He was in the truck at 8:46 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 11--the first plane to be hijacked that day--crashed into the North Tower, many floors above him. [1]

After the crash, Trombino's colleagues were evacuated from the tower. However, although he was parked just 100 feet from an exit, Trombino stayed with his vehicle. [2] He was in it at 9:03 a.m., when the second hijacked plane--United Airlines Flight 175--crashed into the South Tower. [3] The truck was still in the underground garage when the North Tower came down, at 10:28 a.m. Although Trombino had left the vehicle by then, he was killed in the collapse. [4]

VALUABLES WERE FOUND TO BE MISSING FROM THE TRUCK
Recovery workers found the Brink's armored truck in the rubble of the World Trade Center just over three months later, on December 21, 2001. Lieutenant William Keegan, who was in charge of the Port Authority Police Department's nighttime rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero, was promptly called and told about the discovery.

Keegan immediately called Brink's and passed on the news. He was told during the call that the vehicle's driver, Trombino, was still missing. He was also told that the vehicle should have in it over a million dollars' worth of valuables, comprising $250,000 in diamonds and $750,000 in negotiable bonds. He then headed out to help recover the vehicle.

After Keegan reached the location of the truck, recovery workers cleared away enough rubble to look into the cab, to see if Trombino's dead body was inside. They found that the cab was empty, thus showing that Trombino left the vehicle before the North Tower collapsed on September 11.

Keegan then wanted to get into the back of the truck, to remove the diamonds and bonds. The back of the truck was presumably locked, since recovery workers cut into the roof with a circular saw and created an opening to get inside. A Port Authority Police Department officer went through the opening and into the vehicle to inspect it, and found it was empty. "No bonds. No diamonds. Nothing," Keegan described. [5]

Trombino's body was subsequently found, although it is unclear when it was discovered. Trombino's wife, Jean Trombino, said in January 2002 that she had been told the body had been found but not where it was found. She said the family had asked where it was discovered but, she commented, "I guess we haven't gotten the right person yet." [6] Brink's reported in 2014 that the body was found near the water fountain between the Twin Towers, in the World Trade Center plaza. [7] This indicates that Trombino tried to get away from the North Tower after the South Tower collapsed, presumably fearing the North Tower would come down too, but was killed when the North Tower collapsed.

The $14 million in cash that Trombino dropped off on September 11 was found in the rubble of the World Trade Center in February 2002. However, according to Keegan, the diamonds and bonds that had been in Trombino's truck were never recovered. [8]

DRIVER CALLED HIS COMPANY FROM THE UNDERGROUND GARAGE
Trying to determine when and how the diamonds and bonds might have been taken from Trombino's truck is a difficult task, since Trombino's actions between when he dropped off the $14 million in cash and his death, when the North Tower collapsed, are unclear and accounts sometimes conflict.

Trombino reportedly called the Brink's office in Brooklyn after Flight 11 hit the North Tower, at 8:46 a.m., to find out what was going on. [9] He said to the dispatcher: "Something's happening. What should I do?" [10] He called the company from a pay phone, according to his wife. [11] But his daughter, Bo Kirby, and Brink's have stated that he made the call on his radio. [12]

Trombino made the call at 9:10 a.m., according to the St. Petersburg Times. [13] His daughter, though, said he made it at 9:15 a.m. This was the last time anyone heard from him, she said. [14] But Jack Walter, a friend of Trombino's, said the driver in fact made "several calls" to Brink's that morning. [15]

DRIVER IGNORED THE ADVICE TO LEAVE THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY
It is mysterious that Trombino stayed in the underground parking garage rather than promptly getting away to somewhere safer after Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower. The driver's three colleagues, who offloaded the $14 million in cash at the World Trade Center, were evacuated from the North Tower sometime after the plane hit it and got away unharmed. Trombino, though, remained with his vehicle. [16]

In light of the conditions he described when he called Brink's, he should surely have thought he might be in danger and needed to get away from the North Tower as quickly as possible. He told the dispatcher that "the walls around him were starting to crumble and water was seeping into the garage," according to Walter. [17] Before the line went dead, he said the "building was shaking and water was cascading down," according to his wife. [18]

It seems odder still that Trombino stayed in the underground garage when we take into consideration the advice that other people reportedly gave him. For example, a police officer instructed him to move his truck, he told the dispatcher. [19] The officer told him to do so because the North Tower was unstable, according to his daughter. [20] And the dispatcher advised him to leave his vehicle and get out of the building immediately, Brink's stated. [21]

William Keegan suggested that Trombino may have stayed with his truck because he wanted to protect its cargo or he was unaware that his colleagues had been evacuated from the North Tower and he expected them to return to the vehicle. [22] These were just guesses, though. Certainly, if the truck was locked, it should have been unnecessary for Trombino to stay with it to protect the cargo. Trombino's family in fact said they thought that if the driver stayed with the vehicle, he would have done so not to guard the valuables in it but, instead, simply "because he thought his crew was coming back." [23]

SOMEONE TRIED TO REMOVE GOLD FROM VAULTS UNDER THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
The attempt at removing gold from vaults in the basement of the World Trade Center appears to have taken place around the time the Twin Towers were attacked but before either of the buildings collapsed. The incident came to light weeks after September 11, when recovery workers unearthed millions of dollars' worth of gold bullion that had been abandoned in a tunnel under the World Trade Center. [24]

Large quantities of gold and silver were stored in vaults, owned by the Comex metals trading division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, a few floors below ground at the World Trade Center site. Comex had $100 million worth of gold in the vaults, according to The Times of London. It also held $220 million worth of gold in the vaults on behalf of others and $430 million worth of silver. [25] To reach the vaults, armored trucks would drive through what were once the tunnels for the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad. [26]

The gold unearthed by recovery workers was discovered around the end of October 2001 in a delivery tunnel under World Trade Center Building 5--a building northeast of the Twin Towers that was severely damaged when the towers collapsed. The bullion was found along with a 10-wheel truck, which had presumably been used to transport it away from the vaults, and some crushed cars. There were no dead bodies around, indicating that whoever tried to remove the gold abandoned their effort before the Twin Towers collapsed. The quantity of gold that was being removed is unreported, but it was clearly a large amount, since, after recovery workers found it, two trucks were required to transport it away from the tunnel. [27]

Chicago Board of Trade insider Joyce Selander has explained why she found it suspicious that someone tried to take away so much gold at the time of the 9/11 attacks. She wrote that a person could normally pick up their gold from a vault like those under the World Trade Center by showing up at any time, without prior notification, with their vault receipts. "But so much [gold] that you needed a 10-wheeler?" she asked. In contrast, she noted that at the Chicago Board of Trade, a person would usually pull up their "car or small truck" to take their gold away. "Was someone warned of the imminent collapse of the South Tower, someone who loaded the gold and was ready to spirit it away?" she asked. [28]

The scene that was unearthed in the delivery tunnel clearly looked suspicious. The evidence suggests that someone, or some people, may have known in advance that the World Trade Center was going to be attacked on September 11 and wanted to move the gold before it became buried in the rubble when the Twin Towers collapsed. They may have wanted to get the gold away specifically while the attacks were taking place, because the chaos that was sure to occur at that time would make it less likely that the removal of an unusually large quantity of gold would draw attention.

Additionally, the fact that the gold was abandoned in the delivery tunnel before the Twin Towers came down indicates that whoever was trying to remove it may have been told to get away from the World Trade Center by someone who knew in advance that the buildings were going to collapse. If this was the case, it means the person who issued the warning likely knew that the 9/11 attacks were going to involve bringing down the Twin Towers.

WHO TOOK THE DIAMONDS AND BONDS FROM THE BRINK'S TRUCK?
The information that has been reported about the apparent theft of diamonds and bonds from the Brink's armored truck and the attempted removal of gold from the basement of the World Trade Center on September 11 gives rise to many questions. For example, in his recollection of the discovery of the Brink's truck, William Keegan made no mention of any indications that the vehicle had been broken into. But if it was not broken into, someone must have unlocked it so the diamonds and bonds could be removed. Did the driver, Joseph Trombino, unlock the truck or was someone else involved?

If someone other than Trombino unlocked the truck, who were they and how were they able to unlock the vehicle? If Trombino unlocked the truck, why did he do this? Did someone perhaps threaten him and force him to open the truck so they could steal the valuables from it?

The information currently available, if accurate, suggests that someone other than Trombino took away the valuables from the truck. If Trombino had taken the diamonds and bonds with him when he left his vehicle, these would surely have been on him when his body was found. Instead, the only item found with him, according to Brink's, was his messenger bag. [29]

It is conceivable that Trombino took the diamonds and bonds from his truck, perhaps so they wouldn't be buried in the rubble if the North Tower collapsed, and then these items were surreptitiously stolen by an opportunistic thief when Trombino's body was found. This scenario, however, seems unlikely in light of the tight security at the World Trade Center site in the months after 9/11.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the Port Authority Police Department, New York Police Department, National Guard, and other agencies established a "security perimeter" around the site, according to Charles Vitchers and Robert Gray, two workers involved in the recovery effort at Ground Zero. [30] There were "legions of police officers" preventing members of the public from approaching the site, the Associated Press reported. [31] Pastor C. H. Dyer described the "extremely tight security" he observed when he visited the site a few weeks after 9/11. "No piece of evidence, no body or even body part would leave the scene unexamined," he recalled. [32] Sneaking away a million dollars' worth of diamonds and bonds under these circumstances would surely have been extremely difficult.

THEFT OF THE DIAMONDS AND BONDS MUST HAVE BEEN CAREFULLY PLANNED
If someone, or some people, other than Trombino took the diamonds and bonds from the Brink's truck, they presumably must have known beforehand that the vehicle would be at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This fact would apparently have been quite easy to discover, since Trombino followed a regular routine. He and his co-workers would stop at the Trade Center every day, Brink's stated. [33] Trombino would then "leave his armored truck and deliver millions of dollars in securities on foot to numerous stops around Wall Street," according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger. [34] A person could therefore have learned where the Brink's truck would be on the morning of September 11 simply by surveilling Trombino's daily movements.

If the diamonds and bonds were stolen from Trombino's truck, and those responsible decided specifically to commit their crime on September 11, this person, or persons, presumably had foreknowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center and aimed to exploit the chaos the attacks would cause in order to steal the valuables when there would be minimal risk of getting caught. If this was the case, how did they learn the World Trade Center was going to be attacked on September 11?

TIMING OF THE ATTEMPTED REMOVAL OF GOLD INDICATES FOREKNOWLEDGE OF THE 9/11 ATTACKS
The attempted removal of millions of dollars' worth of gold from vaults under the World Trade Center also needs to be carefully investigated. Discovering who was behind this incident ought to be a fairly straightforward task. Investigators could, for example, determine who owned the truck that was transporting the gold simply on the basis of the vehicle's license plate number.

The fact that the removal of an unusually--and presumably suspiciously--large amount of gold from the vaults was attempted at the same time as the 9/11 attacks occurred seems unlikely to have been a coincidence. Those involved may therefore have known in advance what was going to happen on September 11 and specifically arranged to remove the gold when the attacks were underway. If this was the case, how did they get foreknowledge of the attacks?

Additionally, the fact that the vehicles found in the delivery tunnel with the gold bullion had apparently been abandoned before the Twin Towers collapsed suggests that the drivers were warned in advance that the towers were going to come down. If this was the case, who gave them the warning? And how did that person know the towers were going to come down?

HAVE INVESTIGATORS LOOKED INTO THESE INCIDENTS?
It would be helpful to know if the apparent theft of diamonds and bonds from the Brink's armored truck and the attempted removal of gold from vaults under the World Trade Center have ever been investigated. Has the FBI or any other government agency looked into these incidents? Did Brink's investigate the disappearance of diamonds and bonds from its truck? If these incidents have been investigated, what did the investigators find?

William Keegan wrote that a "noncriminal investigation report--NCIR #05-02--was prepared and filed" sometime after Joseph Trombino's truck was unearthed. However, he gave no details of what was in the report. [35] Did it provide any details of who might have taken the valuables from the truck?

Establishing what exactly happened and who was behind the two suspicious incidents described in this article would surely improve our understanding of the 9/11 attacks. Information already available suggests that these events may have come about as a result of some people having foreknowledge of the attacks, which they tried to use in order to gain financially.

If this was the case, investigating who these people were and who informed them about what was going to happen on September 11 may help determine the identities of some of the people who planned the 9/11 attacks. This is crucial information that needs to be uncovered.

NOTES
[1] "Still Alive in the Hearts of Those Who Loved Them." New York Times, September 17, 2001; "Francis J. Trombino, Survived One Attack to Meet Another." New Jersey Star-Ledger, January 2, 2002; William Keegan Jr. with Bart Davis, Closure: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Recovery Mission. New York: Touchstone, 2006, p. 147.
[2] Susan Taylor Martin, Bill Duryea, Michael Sandler, and Tom Drury, "96 Hours." St. Petersburg Times, September 16, 2001; William Keegan Jr. with Bart Davis, Closure, pp. 147-148.
[3] Sean Gardiner, "Family Prays for Armored Car Driver." Chicago Tribune, September 22, 2001.
[4] William Keegan Jr. with Bart Davis, Closure, pp. 147-148.
[5] Ibid. pp. 148-149.
[6] "Francis J. Trombino, Survived One Attack to Meet Another."
[7] "Brink's Fallen Hero: A 9/11 Tribute." Brink's Blog, September 10, 2014.
[8] William Keegan Jr. with Bart Davis, Closure, p. 149.
[9] "Brink's Fallen Hero: A 9/11 Tribute."
[10] Susan Taylor Martin, Bill Duryea, Michael Sandler, and Tom Drury, "96 Hours."
[11] "Still Alive in the Hearts of Those Who Loved Them."
[12] Sean Gardiner, "Family Prays for Armored Car Driver"; "Brink's Fallen Hero: A 9/11 Tribute."
[13] Susan Taylor Martin, Bill Duryea, Michael Sandler, and Tom Drury, "96 Hours."
[14] Sean Gardiner, "Family Prays for Armored Car Driver."
[15] "Francis J. Trombino, Survived One Attack to Meet Another."
[16] William Keegan Jr. with Bart Davis, Closure, pp. 147-148; "Brink's Fallen Hero: A 9/11 Tribute."
[17] "Francis J. Trombino, Survived One Attack to Meet Another."
[18] "Still Alive in the Hearts of Those Who Loved Them."
[19] Ibid.
[20] Sean Gardiner, "Family Prays for Armored Car Driver."
[21] "Brink's Fallen Hero: A 9/11 Tribute."
[22] William Keegan Jr. with Bart Davis, Closure, pp. 147-148.
[23] Sean Gardiner, "Family Prays for Armored Car Driver."
[24] Greg Gittrich, Thomas Zambito, and Leo Standora, "Cache of Gold Found at WTC." New York Daily News, October 31, 2001; Nicholas Wapshott, "Crushed Towers Give up Cache of Gold Ingots." The Times, November 1, 2001; Geoffrey Gray, "The Towers' Buried Treasure." New York, August 27, 2011.
[25] Len Zehr, Allan Robinson, and Andrew Willis, "Fortune in Bullion Buried in Rubble." Globe and Mail, September 13, 2001; Nicholas Wapshott, "Crushed Towers Give up Cache of Gold Ingots"; Elton Robinson, "Thanksgiving at Ground Zero." Delta Farm Press, November 19, 2001.
[26] Jim Dwyer, "Below Ground Zero, Silver and Gold." New York Times, November 1, 2001.
[27] Greg Gittrich, Thomas Zambito, and Leo Standora, "Cache of Gold Found at WTC."
[28] Joyce Selander, Joyce, Queen of the Mountain: Female Courage and Hand-to-Hand Combat in the World's Largest Money Pit. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2011, p. 134.
[29] "Brink's Fallen Hero: A 9/11 Tribute."
[30] Glenn Stout, Charles Vitchers, and Robert Gray, Nine Months at Ground Zero: The Story of the Brotherhood of Workers Who Took on a Job Like no Other. New York: Scribner, 2006, p. 43.
[31] Alan Clendenning, "$200 Million in Gold, Silver Under the Trade Center." Associated Press, October 6, 2001.
[32] C. H. Dyer, "September 11th: My Night at Ground Zero." C. H. Dyer: Thoughts and Visions From an Extreme Poverty Expert, September 2, 2011.
[33] "Brink's Fallen Hero: A 9/11 Tribute."
[34] "Francis J. Trombino, Survived One Attack to Meet Another."
[35] William Keegan Jr. with Bart Davis, Closure, p. 149.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Recovery Workers Reportedly Found the Black Boxes From the Planes That Hit the World Trade Center on 9/11, but Authorities Covered This Up


A poster depicting a plane's black boxes

The black boxes from the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, were found and retrieved in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, a significant amount of evidence indicates. And yet government officials and the official investigation into the attacks have asserted that these devices were never recovered.

A plane's two black boxes record important information about a flight. The black boxes from American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175--the planes that hit the World Trade Center--could therefore have helped investigators determine what happened on these aircraft before they crashed on September 11.

A number of people who were involved in the recovery effort in the weeks after 9/11 have said they saw or helped recover objects at the World Trade Center site that appeared to be black boxes from a plane. One worker unearthed an object that looked like a black box at Pier 25 on the Hudson River. FBI agents who inspected the object initially said enthusiastically that it appeared to be a black box, but subsequently said they didn't think it was one of these devices. A firefighter has described helping FBI agents retrieve three black boxes at Ground Zero and a colleague of his recalled seeing one of these being recovered.

Additionally, investigators reportedly detected a signal that was being emitted by one of the black boxes from Flight 11 or Flight 175 and recovery workers were sent to search in the location where the signal was coming from.

One government official actually said off the record that all four black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175 were recovered. This was certainly a reasonable assertion. It would in fact have been unusual if the devices were never found, since a plane's black boxes are made to survive extreme conditions, and so the black boxes on Flights 11 and 175 should have withstood the conditions they endured on September 11.

Furthermore, experts have said they knew of no plane crashes, other than those at the World Trade Center, after which the black boxes weren't recovered. Indeed, the black boxes from the two other planes that were hijacked on September 11--American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93--were recovered within a few days of the 9/11 attacks.

If the accounts of the black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 being found are correct, we need to consider why the discoveries went unreported. And why has it been officially claimed that no black boxes were found at the World Trade Center site?

Might it be because the information on the black boxes is inconsistent with the official account of the 9/11 attacks? Perhaps it indicates that rogue individuals in the U.S. government and military were involved in planning and carrying out the attacks. So in order to maintain the official account of 9/11, it has been necessary to prevent the information on the black boxes being made public.

BLACK BOXES CAN HELP INVESTIGATORS DISCOVER WHY A PLANE CRASHED
All commercial aircraft carry two black boxes: a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder. These devices record information while a plane is in flight, which, in the event of the plane crashing, can help investigators reconstruct the events that preceded the crash. The black boxes are each about the size of a shoe box and, despite the name, are colored bright orange, to make them more visible in the wreckage of a crash. They are located in the tail of a plane, since this is the area of an aircraft that usually survives a crash most intact. [1]

The flight data recorder records details of a plane's operation. Sensors collect up to 700 different types of information, such as the plane's airspeed, altitude, cabin pressure, engine performance, direction, and fuel flow. Data that cover up to 25 hours of flight prior to a crash will have been stored. The cockpit voice recorder, meanwhile, records noises in a plane's cockpit, such as conversations and radio transmissions. The audio information is taken by up to four microphones, which are usually located on the pilots' headsets. Sounds from the last 30 minutes of a flight prior to a crash will have been stored. [2]

The black boxes from the planes that were hijacked on September 11 could have provided investigators with invaluable information about these flights. At Ground Zero, finding the black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 was therefore considered a priority in the initial days of the recovery operation. Numerous posters showing what a plane's black boxes look like were put up around the World Trade Center site so people would recognize the devices if they came across one as they searched through the debris. [3] The accounts below strongly suggest that recovery workers did indeed find some or all of the black boxes from Flights 11 and 175.

FBI AGENTS SAID AN OBJECT FOUND IN THE RUBBLE LOOKED LIKE A BLACK BOX, BUT THEN CHANGED THEIR MINDS
On October 12, 2001, an operating engineer unearthed what appeared to be a black box from a plane while he was scraping up a load of debris at Pier 25 on the Hudson River. [4] At Pier 25, a short distance from the World Trade Center site, debris was being loaded onto barges and then transported to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. [5] The operating engineer thought the object was the same shape as a black box. It was too badly burned and blackened, though, for him to tell if it had originally been bright orange, the color of a plane's black boxes. The crane operator at the pier inspected the object and he too thought it looked like a black box.

The operating engineer made a call to report the discovery and got through to Lieutenant Ed Moss of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD). In response to the call, Moss and his colleague, Lieutenant Bill Doubrawski, went to the pier and examined the object. Both men thought it appeared to be one of the black boxes. Excited at the discovery, Moss contacted Lieutenant William Keegan, who was in charge of the PAPD's nighttime rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero, told him what had happened, and described the object that had been unearthed. Wanting to examine the object for himself, Keegan went to Pier 25.

After comparing the object to some photos of the black boxes from a plane, Keegan agreed with his colleagues' assessment. He has recalled that he determined the object "was absolutely close enough to the pictures available to us to notify the FBI without delay." The PAPD officers promptly requested that some FBI agents working at Ground Zero meet them at the PAPD command post, in front of the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Twenty to 30 minutes later, two FBI agents arrived at the command post. They inspected the object and compared it to a diagram of a black box. Like the other people who examined it, they appear to have thought it was one of the black boxes from Flight 11 or Flight 175. They said words to the effect of "Wow, this looks like it!" and "It's the same shape!" according to Keegan. And yet for no obvious reason, after examining the object for a few more minutes, they apparently changed their opinion. They told the PAPD officers, "We don't think it's a black box."

Keegan suggested to the two agents that if the object wasn't one of the black boxes, it could be thrown onto a barge to be taken to the Fresh Kills landfill, along with the other debris. But one of them quickly protested, saying, "No, no, we're going to take it with us." The agents then went away, taking the object with them. Keegan and his colleagues never subsequently received any information about the object and whether it was indeed one of the black boxes. [6]

INVESTIGATORS DETECTED A SIGNAL THAT WAS THOUGHT TO BE FROM A BLACK BOX
Recovery workers searched for one of the black boxes from Flight 11 or Flight 175 after a signal thought to have been coming from the device was detected in the week after 9/11.

A report published by the New York State Emergency Management Office on September 18, 2001, stated that investigators had "identified the signal from one of the black boxes" in the debris at Ground Zero. [7] The New York Times mentioned the discovery, reporting that on September 18, a law enforcement official said a signal from a plane's black box may have been detected. "They are picking up some pinging," the official said. "But," the official added, "there is so much stuff on top of it, including ironwork, that it will take some time for them to get to it." [8]

Recovery workers searched for the black box in locations where the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)--the government agency that is responsible for operating the U.S. air traffic control system--told them the signal had been detected. FAA personnel initially said they thought the signal was coming from the corner of Liberty and Church Streets, which bordered the south and east edges of the World Trade Center site. Recovery workers were therefore sent to dig at this location.

POLICE OFFICERS SEARCHED FOR A BLACK BOX ON THE ROOF OF A WORLD TRADE CENTER BUILDING
But a few days later, the FAA decided the signal originated from a different location. On Friday, September 21, it said the signal was coming from inside or directly below the roof of Building 5 of the World Trade Center. This building was in the northeast corner of the World Trade Center site, a significant distance from where the FAA previously said the signal originated.

Three officers with the New York City Police Department's Emergency Service Unit (ESU) were sent to search the roof of Building 5. Once they made it up there, the officers looked around for a hole or a dent that would have been created if a black box had impacted the roof after being catapulted out of one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. However, they found the roof to be intact, with no signs of any objects landing on it.

One of the ESU officers, Steven Stefanakos, repeatedly tried contacting the FAA employee(s) responsible for finding the black boxes at Ground Zero, to request more details about the location of the black box, but received no response. Eventually, a voice came over his radio and told him: "The FAA aren't here. They went home for the weekend." Since it was only around five o'clock in the afternoon, Stefanakos and his two colleagues were astonished that the FAA employee(s) had left work early at such a critical time, when it was possible that one of the black boxes was about to be found. The three ESU officers then abandoned their search for the day. [9] Whether a black box was later found and retrieved from Building 5 is unknown.

Strangely, the claim that a signal from a plane's black box had been detected at the World Trade Center site was subsequently denied. A report published by the New York City Office of Emergency Management on September 25, 2001, stated that the FAA had been "[u]nable to detect any pinging" from a black box at Ground Zero. [10] And while a team from the Army's Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) that arrived at the World Trade Center site two days after 9/11 identified "some signals that could have emanated from the black boxes" using "radio frequency detectors," CECOM official Toni Quiroz said that "it was never determined" if any of these signals had come from one or more of the black boxes. [11]

FIREFIGHTER SAID HE RETRIEVED THREE BLACK BOXES AT GROUND ZERO
One man who worked extensively at Ground Zero stated that he helped recover three black boxes from the rubble of the World Trade Center. Firefighter Nicholas DeMasi was assigned to take some FBI agents around the World Trade Center site in his all-terrain vehicle to search for the devices. "There were a total of four black boxes," he has commented, adding, "We found three." [12]

Mike Bellone, a volunteer recovery worker at Ground Zero, supported DeMasi's account. He said he personally witnessed one of the black boxes being recovered. He recalled that around late September or early October 2001, he saw DeMasi escorting "these FBI agents into the area" to search for the black boxes. "They had found one [of the black boxes] that I know of, that I actually physically saw," he said. He described this object as "a box that appeared charred but was reddish-orange with two white stripes"--a description that fits a plane's black box.

Bellone recalled that when DeMasi finished escorting the FBI agents around the World Trade Center site, the firefighter told him that "they had found two more" black boxes. "The FBI looked pretty happy about it," Bellone commented. The FBI agents took the three black boxes with them when they left the site, he said. [13]

ALL FOUR BLACK BOXES WERE FOUND, ACCORDING TO ONE OFFICIAL
A government official stated that in fact all four black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 were found at the World Trade Center site.

In an attempt to learn what happened to the black boxes from the planes that hit the Twin Towers, investigative reporter Dave Lindorff talked to someone from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)--the government agency that is responsible for investigating every civil aviation accident that occurs in the United States. Lindorff asked, "How many of these boxes did they actually ever find?" The NTSB official asked Lindorff if he wanted "the real answer or the official answer." Lindorff said he wanted the real answer and was told, "Well then, that has to be off the record." The official then said, "We got all four of them and ... they're now in the possession of the FBI, which took them away from us." [14]

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS CLAIMED NO BLACK BOXES WERE FOUND AT GROUND ZERO
Despite the evidence described above, which indicates that black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 were recovered in the weeks after 9/11, U.S. government officials have claimed that none of the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center were found.

FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak stated: "To the best of my knowledge, the flight recording devices from the World Trade Center crashes were never recovered. At least we never had them." And Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI's New York office, said, after checking with the leader of the bureau's Ground Zero investigation, that no black boxes were recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

Ted Lopatkiewicz, a spokesman for the NTSB, said: "No recorders were recovered from the World Trade Center. At least none were delivered to us by the FBI." And New York City Fire Department spokesman Frank Gribbon said that "no one" in the Fire Department was "aware of the recovery of any of the airline black boxes" at the World Trade Center site. [15]

Additionally, the final report of the 9/11 Commission--the official investigation into the 9/11 attacks--stated that the black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 "were not found." [16]

BLACK BOXES ARE PRACTICALLY INDESTRUCTABLE AND HAD ALWAYS BEEN FOUND AFTER PREVIOUS PLANE CRASHES
It is in fact reasonable to expect that all four black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 would have been recovered after 9/11, for a number of reasons. To begin with, a plane's black boxes are virtually indestructible. They are made to survive extreme conditions. A part of them called the "crash survivable memory unit," in which the data is stored, is housed in a shell made of immensely strong materials and can withstand a crash impact many times the force of gravity, heat of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, and immersion in salt water for at least 30 days. [17]

Furthermore, the black boxes on the planes that were hijacked on September 11 were modern solid-state models, which are more resistant to damage than older magnetic tape recorders. [18] The black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 should therefore have survived the crashes on September 11 and the collapses of the World Trade Center towers.

Additionally, experts have clearly indicated that recovery workers should have been able to find the black boxes in the rubble of the World Trade Center. NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz commented on the alleged failure to find the devices, saying, "I can't recall another domestic case in which we did not recover the recorders." [19]

And veteran air crash investigator Dale Leppard said he was "quite surprised" when he heard the claim that no black boxes were found at the World Trade Center site. He noted that although the site was "a big mess" in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a plane's black boxes are "very distinctive." "They're bright orange color and they're very easy to see," he said. When asked, "Have you ever been to a scene or heard of a scene where the black boxes were not recovered?" Leppard replied: "I have not. ... Never once." He said the odds of going to the scene of a crash and being unable to find the black boxes there were "almost zero." [20]

Leppard has extensive relevant experience and so his opinion on this matter is particularly notable. He has been involved in aviation accident investigation since 1965, and has won several awards for his accident investigation and reconstruction activities. He has assisted the NTSB with over 25 field investigations and helped with the reconstruction of over 100 accidents. He has served as chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association National Accident Investigation Board and chairman of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations Accident Analysis Committee. [21]

It is also worth noting that, in contrast to the alleged failure to find the black boxes from Flights 11 and 175, the black boxes from American Airlines Flight 77--the plane that reportedly crashed into the Pentagon on September 11--and United Airlines Flight 93--which supposedly crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11--were recovered within three days of the 9/11 attacks. [22]

THE FBI TOLD A RECOVERY WORKER HE SHOULDN'T TALK ABOUT THE DISCOVERY OF THE BLACK BOXES
If the black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 were recovered, we need to consider why the discoveries went unreported when they occurred and authorities have, in the years since 9/11, claimed that no black boxes were found at the World Trade Center site.

As well as denying that the black boxes were found, government officials instructed witnesses to keep quiet about the discoveries, according to Mike Bellone. Bellone said he "had a visit from an FBI agent that said I shouldn't discuss the matter" of the recovery of the black boxes. When he asked why he should keep quiet, the agent told him: "It's something that we really shouldn't discuss right now. You really shouldn't talk about it." [23]

And yet this behavior appears to make no sense. Dave Lindorff commented: "Why would the main intelligence and law enforcement arm of the U.S. government want to hide from the public not just the available information about the two hijacked flights that provided the motivation and justification for the nation's 'war on terror,' and for its two wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, but even the fact that it has the devices which could contain that information?" [24] In other words, why would the government suppress information that should have strengthened its case for fighting the "war on terror"?

The accounts of people who said they recovered black boxes at the World Trade Center site or were told that a signal from a black box had been detected at the site give rise to a lot of questions. Why, for example, did FBI agents say the object found at Pier 25 wasn't a black box, especially considering that they initially said it appeared to be a black box and they had no obvious reason to change their assessment?

And if the agents genuinely believed the object wasn't a black box, why did they prevent William Keegan from throwing it onto a barge to be transported to the Fresh Kills landfill and instead take it away with them? A possible explanation for their behavior is that they did indeed think the object was a black box, but they had been told that if any of the black boxes were found, the discovery had to be kept quiet.

THE FAA MADE CONFLICTING CLAIMS ABOUT A POSSIBLE SIGNAL FROM A BLACK BOX
Also, why did the FAA say on September 21, 2001, that a signal from a plane's black box was coming from World Trade Center Building 5 when it previously said the signal was coming from the corner of Liberty and Church Streets, a significant distance away from Building 5? Could the agency really have made such a major error about where the signal was coming from?

And why did the FAA employee(s) responsible for finding the black boxes at Ground Zero leave work so early that day? Surely they would have wanted to be available to assist the recovery workers who were searching for a black box in the new location, especially since the workers may have been on the verge of retrieving one of the crucial devices.

The police officers who searched for a black box on the roof of Building 5 clearly seem to have found this odd. According to author Anthea Appel, they complained to each other, "We've been workin' every day for 16 or 17 hours straight with no days off and here we are, inches away from the black box, and the FAA just get up and leave in the middle of a recovery just because they don't wanna screw up their weekend!" [25]

Furthermore, why was it reported on September 25, 2001, that the FAA had been unable to detect a signal from a black box at Ground Zero, even though the agency previously told recovery workers the locations where a signal had been detected? Might it be because, by that time, the black box that emitted the signal had been recovered, but FAA personnel had been instructed to cover this fact up and act as if no black boxes had been found?

INFORMATION ON THE BLACK BOXES MAY BE INCONSISTENT WITH THE OFFICIAL 9/11 STORY
If the black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 were found, a possible reason why this fact has been concealed is that the information on the devices is inconsistent with what is supposed to have happened on September 11, according to the official account of the 9/11 attacks. But if this is the reason, why were the discoveries of the black boxes from the two other planes that were hijacked on September 11--Flights 77 and 93--openly reported and never officially denied, when the information on these devices might also be inconsistent with the official account of the attacks?

A possible explanation is that the people who planned the 9/11 attacks would ideally have liked to have claimed, after September 11, that none of the black boxes from the four hijacked planes were retrieved, since the information stored on the devices could, if made public, lead some people to question the official account of the attacks. They determined, however, that it would appear incredible and suspicious if it was claimed that no black boxes were found at the Pentagon and in Shanksville. At these crash sites, the devices would endure less severe conditions than would occur at the World Trade Center.

The planners of the attacks could have decided they would at least be able to get away with claiming that no black boxes were found in the rubble of the World Trade Center, since the loss of the black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 would seem plausible, at least to the average member of the public. Considering the massive destruction that would occur when the World Trade Center towers collapsed and the huge amount of debris that would be created, they assumed it could be convincingly suggested that the black boxes were destroyed or lost.

DETAILS OF WHAT IS ON THE BLACK BOXES FROM FLIGHTS 77 AND 93 MAY HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED
It is worth noting that although the recoveries of the black boxes from Flights 77 and 93 were openly reported and never denied, evidence suggests there may have been efforts to cover up the details of what is stored on some of these devices. For example, the cockpit voice recorder from Flight 77 was said to be "badly burned and not recoverable" in the 9/11 Commission Report. [26] And yet, since black boxes are virtually indestructible, this claim seems dubious. Government sources in fact told CBS News something different: that Flight 77's cockpit voice recorder appeared to be "blank or erased." [27]

And while a transcript of the cockpit voice recording from Flight 93 was released in 2006, the audio from Flight 93's cockpit voice recorder has never been made available to the general public, reportedly because "it would be broadcast repeatedly, something family members of those killed [on Flight 93] have objected to." [28]

If there has indeed been a concerted effort to conceal details about the information stored on the black boxes from Flights 77 and 93, a possible reason for the cover-up is that the information is inconsistent with the official account of the 9/11 attacks and so, if it was made public, this could lead people to question that account.

THE NTSB REPORTEDLY EXAMINED THE BLACK BOXES FROM FLIGHTS 11 AND 175
In light of the contradictions between the accounts of black boxes being recovered at the World Trade Center site and the official claim that no black boxes were found at the site, there is clearly a need to investigate what happened to the black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175 more closely.

If these devices were indeed recovered, we need to know what information is stored on them. Dave Lindorff was told by his source at the NTSB, "We worked on them [the black boxes from Flights 11 and 175] here." [29] If this is true, the NTSB presumably has records of what information is on the black boxes, which could be released to the public.

The information on the devices would surely give us a better understanding of what happened on September 11, 2001. And it might indicate that the truth about the terrorist attacks that day is very different from what we were led to believe.

NOTES
[1] "The Tech Behind Black Boxes." TechTV, September 14, 2001; Brian Dakss, "Speed Likely Factor in WTC Collapse." CBS News, February 25, 2002; "Anatomy of a Jetliner." PBS, February 17, 2004.
[2] Jon Hilkevitch, "Flight Recorders Could Answer Key Questions." Chicago Tribune, September 14, 2001; "The Tech Behind Black Boxes"; "FBI Analyzing Voice, Data Recorders From Two Flights." Associated Press, September 15, 2001; "Anatomy of a Jetliner."
[3] William Keegan Jr. with Bart Davis, Closure: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Recovery Mission. New York: Touchstone, 2006, p. 94.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Richard T. Pienciak, "Anguished Search for Traces of the Missing." New York Daily News, January 6, 2002.
[6] William Keegan Jr. with Bart Davis, Closure, pp. 94-96.
[7] "World Trade Center Plane Crash." New York State Emergency Management Office, September 18, 2001, p. 1.
[8] Susan Sachs, "At the Site, Little Hope of Uncovering Survivors." New York Times, September 19, 2001.
[9] Anthea Appel, The First Responders: The Untold Story of the New York City Police Department & September 11th, 2001. InnerCircle Publishing, 2009, pp. 281-282.
[10] "Situation Report #27." New York City Office of Emergency Management, September 25, 2001, pp. 17-18.
[11] Paul J. Kern, "AMC: Accelerating the Pace of Transformation." Army Magazine, February 2002; Dan Caterinicchia, "Lessons Worth Remembering." FCW, September 16, 2002.
[12] Gail Swanson, Behind the Scenes, Ground Zero, World Trade Center, September 11, 2001: A Collection of Personal Accounts. New York: TRAC Team, 2003, p. 108.
[13] Will Bunch, "9/11 'Black Box' Cover-Up at Ground Zero?" Philadelphia Daily News, October 28, 2004; "9/11." Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura, truTV, December 9, 2009.
[14] "9/11."
[15] Will Bunch, "9/11 'Black Box' Cover-Up at Ground Zero?"; Dave Lindorff, "9/11: Missing Black Boxes in World Trade Center Attacks Found by Firefighters, Analyzed by NTSB, Concealed by FBI." CounterPunch, December 19, 2005.
[16] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 456.
[17] "The Tech Behind Black Boxes"; "Setback Over Pittsburgh Black Box." BBC News, September 15, 2001.
[18] Jon Hilkevitch, "Flight Recorders Could Answer Key Questions."
[19] Brian Dakss, "Speed Likely Factor in WTC Collapse."
[20] "9/11."
[21] "Personal Record of Dale L. Leppard." Experts.com, n.d.; "Dale L. Leppard (Leppard Forensic Reconstruction)." JurisPro, n.d.
[22] "'Black Boxes' Found at Pentagon." Washington Times, September 14, 2001; Matthew P. Smith, "Flight 93 Voice Recorder Found in Somerset County Crash Site." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 15, 2001.
[23] "9/11."
[24] Dave Lindorff, "9/11: Missing Black Boxes in World Trade Center Attacks Found by Firefighters, Analyzed by NTSB, Concealed by FBI."
[25] Anthea Appel, The First Responders, p. 282.
[26] Brian Dakss, "Speed Likely Factor in WTC Collapse"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 456.
[27] "Feds Would Have Shot Down Pa. Jet." CBS News, September 12, 2001.
[28] Phil Hirschkorn, "On Tape, Passengers Heard Trying to Retake Cockpit." CNN, April 13, 2006; Neil A. Lewis, "Final Struggles on 9/11 Plane Fill Courtroom." New York Times, April 13, 2006.
[29] Dave Lindorff, "9/11: Missing Black Boxes in World Trade Center Attacks Found by Firefighters, Analyzed by NTSB, Concealed by FBI."