3. The Pentagon
Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:38, 36 minutes after Flight 175 hit WTC 2.
A curious thing about Flight 77 is that, even though it was off course for about 44 minutes, and despite the fact that, by 09:02, NORAD and the President himself were in no doubt that a deliberate hostile action using hijacked planes had taken place, no fighters intercepted it. As the 9/11 Commission Report clearly states: 'American 77 travelled undetected for 36 minutes on a course heading due east for Washington D.C' (p.25). Apparently, Flight 77 disappeared into a radar hole, and by the time the plane came out of the radar hole it was too late to stop the attack. Osama was lucky.
Another curious fact about the Pentagon attack is that Hani Hanjour, the hijacker who piloted flight 77, executed a very tricky aerobatic manoever which resulted in the plane hitting the Pentagon on the opposite side from the aircraft's original approach path.
At 9:33 the plane crossed the Capitol Beltway and took aim on its military target. But the jet, flying at more than 400 mph, was too fast and too high when it neared the Pentagon at 9:35. The hijacker-pilots were then forced to execute a difficult high-speed descending turn.
Radar shows Flight 77 did a downward spiral, turning almost a complete circle and dropping the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes. (CBS)
The picture below is a GoogleEarth image of the environs of the Pentagon from an altitude of 5024 feet as it might have appeared from the airplane cockpit. Can you spot the Pentagon?
This time, Osama was not so lucky: this particular wing of the building was had recently been reinforced to make it blast proof (ASCE Report p.4, architectureweek.com).
On his final approach, Hanjour was flying the 757 barely two feet above the ground at over 400 mph, before the plane exploded into a fireball on impact with the building. Curiously, the photos which have been released to the public show an entry hole which seems way too small for a plane the size of a 757, and there seems to be no obvious scarring of the facade from the impact of the wings, and the grass in front of the Pentagon doesn't seem to be blackened at all. In many ways, the Pentagon crash site resembles the kind of damage that you get from a low yield missile strike such as the one which struck the home of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in 1999.
The 9/11 Commission is certain that Flight 77 did hit the Pentagon, because they interviewed witnesses who saw it all, but looking at the pictures above and below, you could be forgiven for having doubts.
In 2002 a conspiracy theorist from France, Thierry Meyssan, wrote a book, L'Effroyable imposture (The Big Lie) which questions the Official Story about the Pentagon attack. According to the BBC, French media reports have mocked Mr Meyssan, and compared his book with the Roswell alien cover-up theory. According to James S. Robbins of the National Review, 'Meyssan's theory fits neatly with those of the Holocaust deniers'.
Since Meyssan's book and related website were launched, many thousands of websites have sprung up questioning the Official Story. At the time of writing, the search phrase '9/11 pentagon cover-up' yields 561,000 web pages in the Google search engine. The search phrase 'pentagon 9/11 conspiracy' yields 1,550,000 entries. A Flash animation, titled Pentagon Strike, which raises similar questions, swept the world in 2004. This animation can be downloaded in 11 different languages.
In March 2002 CNN published 5 security camera still frames leaked from a Pentagon source. Unfortunately the image quality is too poor to allow us to identify any details of the alleged airplane in these images. Other detailed video footage of the approaching plane from the Pentagon, the Gas station across the road or a nearby hotel has not been released.
Later, the Pentagon denied releasing the 5 blurry images which prove nothing, but the American Society of Civil Engineers went ahead and used them in their Pentagon Performance Report anyway. An interesting critique of this report can be found at this website. If you take the trouble to read the report you will see that the use of unauthorised images is the least of its deficiencies.
For example, on pages 35/36 it states:
The size and position of the actual opening in the facade of the building (from column line 8 to column line 18) indicate that no portion of the outer two-thirds of the right wing and no portion of the outer one-third of the left wing actually entered the building.
It is possible that less of the right wing than the left wing entered the building because the right wing struck the facade crossing the level of the second-floor slab.The strength of the second-floor slab in its own plane would have severed the right wing approximately at the location of the right engine. The left wing did not encounter a slab, so it penetrated more easily. (p.35)
The height of the damage to the facade of the building was much less than the height of the aircraft's tail. At approximately 45 ft, the tail height was nearly as tall as the first four floors of the building. Obvious visible damage extended only over the lowest two floors, to approximately 25 ft above grade. (p.36).
Unfortunately the Report provides no satisfactory explanation for the lack of damage to the facade as evidenced in photographs. It is strange that a professional organisation like the ASCE would produce such a partial analysis.
In May 2006, under pressure from a right-wing pressure group "Judicial Watch", the U.S. Justice Department released a series of still video image frames which appear to be from the same camera as the unofficially released video frames leaked in 2002. This was announced by CNN as a breakthrough which would end conspiracy therories (CNN article). Unfortunately, however, the new video frames contain no substantive information other than a white blurr which was already evident in the leaked video.
Despite the wild proliferation of dissenting views on the Official Story of the Pentagon attack, Philip D. Zelikow, the 9/11 commission's executive director, is adamant:
The question of whether American 77 hit the Pentagon is indisputable ... One reason you tend to doubt conspiracy theories when you've worked in government is because you know government is not nearly competent enough to carry off elaborate theories. It's a banal explanation, but imagine how efficient it would need to be.
We can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the government is way too incompetent to organise a conspiracy!