Top 10 Mysteries About the 9/11 Terror Attack
If you feel like falling into a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, blurry home videos, and mystery, if you feel like questioning everything you thought you knew about 9/11, all you have to do is get online. The number of questions people have and the number of theories they’ve come up with to answer them is enormous. There are numerous 45-minute plus documentaries to examine the attacks. Sifting through such information could take years, and who knows what’s true? It took the 9/11 Commission months of pushing for investigation, and then years of work, to uncover what had really gone down. And they didn’t uncover all they set out to uncover by any means.
You can’t necessarily trust the media. Videos could be edited. And people, good and bad people, get caught in lies. What’s true? What’s false? What’s for real? And what’s myth? That’s for you to decide for yourself. The phrase “cover-up” is strong, but it looks like some people did “cover their asses.”
The truth is, mistakes were made in the midst of massive chaos. Misinformation was spread, and confusion reigned supreme. Hindsight is 20/20.
Here are the top 10 mysteries about the 9/11 terror attacks. Many have varying degrees of explanation, whereas others remain relatively unsolved.
10. What Really Happened to Flight 77?
There’s a theory floating around that it was not American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon, but a missile. This is because the holes found in the side of the building were remarkably smaller than the plane’s wingspan. Some believe rather than a plane, a satellite-guided missile burst through the building.
Here’s the response: The hole was smaller because one wing fell off and the other was damaged. Also, there was DNA from passengers as well as the airplane’s black box found in the rubble.
Other theories assert that Flight 77 was, for some mysterious reason, not saved or intercepted when it could have been. The 9/11 Commission Report found that the military was not contacted until forty minutes after the hijacking had been confirmed, and fifty after the first plane’s impact.
Norman Mineta’s testimony is almost terrifying. The transportation secretary witnessed a young man entering the room to tell the President the plane is 50, 30, and so on miles out. Here’s a direct quote:
When it got down to the plane is ten miles out, the young man also said to the Vice President, “Do the orders still stand?” And the Vice President turned and whipped his neck around and said, “Of course the order still stands! Have you heard anything to the contrary?”
He was referring to the flight that came into the Pentagon, though at the time Mineta did not understand what the significance of this conversation was. The meaning of his words becomes increasingly convoluted as Mineta continues to testify and questions move away from Flight 77.
9. Why Was Osama bin Laden’s Family Evacuated After the Attacks?
According to CBS News, 24 bin Laden family members were hidden, protected, then evacuated out of the U.S. three days after the 9/11 attacks. Most were in the U.S. for high school and college. One of bin Laden’s brothers called the Saudi Arabian Embassy asking for protection. The family was terrified of being killed or attacked after the tragedy. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia urged the embassy to “Take measures to protect the innocents.”
The bin Ladens left the United States on a private charter plane three days after the attacks, as soon as airports were reopened. The F.B.I. escorted them.
Upon hearing this with little information, you may feel outraged or confused. This one-liner is often used on conspiracy sites looking to prove that the U.S. somehow worked with terrorists to set up what only looked like a terror attack. At the time, though, it’s important to know that bin Laden was estranged from his family and from Saudi Arabia, who had already revoked his citizenship in the face of smuggling charges.
One family member commented, “I understand now that when you are innocent, in the face of emotion nothing, not even common sense, can help argue your case.”
Still, it can be argued and is argued by many that these family members and Saudi royals should not have been allowed to leave the country and should have instead been detained for questioning. The White House worried of “retribution” on the family members and deemed this enough of a reason to let them go, with little to no interviewing done beforehand.
8. Why Did So Many People Get to Flub and then Keep Their Jobs?
Presumably, some people messed up and let 9/11 happen. While certain events may have never been halted, even with the most preparation and control, it seems like some people may have dropped the ball somewhere along the line. Of course, in the face of tragedy, a common response is to look for someone to blame.
Richard Myers, Vice-Chairman to Harry Shelton, the highest-ranking U.S. military official, was in charge as Shelton was on a plane across the Atlantic. Myers was, then, in charge of running the Pentagon and in turn intercepting four jets that had veered off from their commercial paths. Not one fighter jet made it. Three days after 9/11, Myers was promoted to Chairman.
U.S. Air Force General Ralph Eberhart is also held responsible by many, as he was in charge of NORAD at the time, meaning he was in charge of air defense in North America. Every one of the planes should have been intercepted as soon as radio contact was lost, they turned off course, or they turned off their transponders. Interception procedures were automatic and in place. NORAD has changed its story as to why it failed numerous times. It also took years to provide documents to investigators with the 9/11 Commission. The truth is muddy in the case, and the mystery of how this could have happened remains today.
7. Why was the Bush Administration so Hesitant to Conduct an Investigation?
This isn’t just some hair-brained conspiracy theory. There are plenty of prominent magazines and people who have expressed concern with the way the Bush administration handled (or, uh, didn’t handle) the investigations surrounding the 9/11 attacks.
Salon’s article takes the cake. A dozen family members had to lobby Congress for an independent 9/11 commission to investigate. They were concerned with plenty of things—like how a plane hundreds of miles off course could hit the Pentagon an hour after the World Trade Center had been attacked, or how so many terrorists had been in the U.S. undetected for so long—but what was more concerning was this: Why was the Bush administration “so reluctant to find answers to any of the obvious questions about what went wrong that day, why so little has been fixed, and why virtually nobody has accepted any responsibility for the glaring failures”? One family member didn’t mince words: “Bush has done everything in his power to squelch this commission and prevent it from happening.”
Other points of frustration included that FBI special agents had warned that suspected al-Qaida operatives were training at U.S. flight schools. Another that Bush hadn’t even met with family members of those arguing for the commission before using 9/11 as a talking point for entering into war. One woman called it “disgusting,” claiming Bush used “victims to justify his agenda.” The media moved from 9/11 coverage to wartime coverage pretty fast. Does anyone smell a rat? A cover-up?
6. How Could the World Trade Center 7 Complex Just Collapse?
This one’s a doozy. Is your head spinning yet? The 47-story World Trade Center 7 complex collapsed after having never been hit by an airplane. It was only the third steel-framed building in history, behind the North and South Towers, to collapse due to fire, and only a few fires at that. Immediately, upon reading just a few of these sentences, your internal alarm should be going off.
The WTC 7 collapse is one of the strongest arguments conspiracy theorists have in defense of controlled demolition. The building collapsed eight hours after the first two structures in nearly free-fall speed, which some architects and engineers say is indicative that the understructure of the building must have been destroyed, because lower floors were collapsing.
Here’s an explanation theorists must be ignoring: sure the building wasn’t hit by an aircraft, but it was hit by very large columns when the Tower collapsed, as it was only 400 feet away.
Turns out, though, it wasn’t this damage that caused the collapse—it was the fires. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology they investigated the collapse and found the fires caused floor beans to expand to push a girder off its seat, triggering floors to fall. With no more lateral support on nine floors, a column fell and pulled down nearby columns with it. The rest of the building fell down as a single unit.
WTC 7 was the home of the Department of Defense, the CIA, the Secret Service, the IRS, and the Security and Exchange Commission. And again, only three steel framed buildings in the history of human construction have collapsed due to fire.
5. Where was the U.S. Air Force when we needed it?
Pre-9/11, there were everyday plans in place for the Federal Aviation Administration and NORAD to “scramble” jet fighters in case an aircraft wandered off its designated course or loses contact with traffic controllers. They would be sent up to debilitate or shoot down the aircraft. In one year, interceptors were up in the skies over 100 times. Yet on 9/11, zero fighter jets engaged with four off-course commercial jets in an hour and a half period. The Pentagon was hit a full hour and twenty minutes after the beginning of the attacks.
It turns out, the answer to this mystery isn’t exactly unclear: there are tape recordings of everything that went down. Vanity Fair describes them in depth:
The recordings are fascinating and chilling. A mix of staccato bursts of military code; urgent, overlapping voices; the tense crackle of radio traffic from fighter pilots in the air; commanders’ orders piercing through a mounting din; and candid moments of emotion as the breadth of the attacks becomes clearer.
This is not an exercise, not a test, a voice can be heard saying.
The shock of the situation and the fact that a test-mission was scheduled for that day explain the surprise upon hearing this. Here was one problem: the radar system was so old it couldn’t find the jets in time. American Airlines didn’t immediately confirm it was their plane that had crashed into the WTC, delaying military action. They chased a phantom plane rather than the correct plane, heading in the wrong direction. They couldn’t decide whether to shoot down a passenger plane. Suspected hijackings piled on each other. Information lagged. Worries built about more planes crashing in New York City, or into the White House. And then the Pentagon was hit.
Our people were there, and they were trying, but they just couldn’t get their information and a plan of action ready in time when bombarded with such mixed, chaotic, and back-to-back messages.
4. The President and Vice President Were Allowed to Testify Together and Behind Closed Doors.
Bush and Cheney were allowed to give their testimonies to the 9/11 Commission in private. Bush described the meeting: “It was wide-ranging, it was important, it was just a good discussion.” The meeting lasted over three hours. While Bush and Cheney dismissed the rumor that they had chosen to testify in private together to coordinate their stories, the temptation to doubt this is one conspiracy theorists buy into.
“If we had something to hide, we wouldn’t have met with them in the first place. We answered all their questions,” Bush insisted. This was, though, after much pressure. They had avoided this process for a long time.
The Commission claimed that both the president and vice president were “forthcoming and candid”; if this is so, why did they avoid a public forum that was required for so many others? Perhaps for national security, as Bush insisted we were still very “vulnerable.”
They weren’t under oath. There was no recording. No stenographer, only handwritten notes. Those notes have not been released to the public, and they may never be released.
3. Traders Seemed to Know the Attacks were Coming.
According to Allen M. Poteshman of The Journal of Business, there is evidence of unusual option market activity in the days leading up to September 11 that is consistent with investors trading on advance knowledge of the attacks.
Sounds fishy, doesn’t it? United Airlines and American Airlines, airlines hijacked, had an “extraordinary” amount of put options placed on them. Did traders get tipped off about the attacks and profit from tragedy?
Insurance companies looked strange, too. Citigroup, Inc.’s Travelers Insurance would have had to pay $50 million in claims from the WTC attack; it had 45 times the normal volume three trading days before the attack.
The 9/11 Commission looked into the rumors and decided these hops in trading were mere coincidence:
Some unusual trading did in fact occur, but each such trade proved to have an innocuous explanation… A single U.S.-based institutional investor with no conceivable ties to al Qaeda purchased 95% of the UAL puts on September 6 as part of a trading strategy that also included buying 115,000 shares of American on September 10.
There you go. On its face, the trading anomaly seems really questionable, but when you do a little digging, is there evidence of something truly conspiratorial?
2. Key Members of the 9/11 Commission Believe the Government Sabotaged Them.
The 9/11 Commission was disappointed in the results it came up with, to say the least. Chairman, former Republican Governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean, said, “If you want something to fail, you take a controversial topic and appoint five people from each party. You make sure they are appointed by the most partisan people from each party—the leaders of the party. And, just to be sure, let’s ask the commission to finish the report during the most partisan period of time—the presidential election season.” Not to mention, Kean did not receive clearance to view 9/11 documents until mid-March 2003.
Co-chair Lee Hamilton admitted, “I don’t believe for a minute that we got everything right. We wrote a first draft of history. We wrote it under a lot of time pressure, and we sorted through the evidence as best we could.” While Hamilton believed they did the best they could, he did admit they could have done better. Both Kean and Hamilton also claimed that the C.I.A. and White House likely “obstructed our investigation” by providing limited information and vague answers to specific questions.
Others were not so easygoing in their responses. Commissioner Max Cleland didn’t even make it to the end of the investigation, resigning. He remarked, “If this decision stands, I, as a member of the commission, cannot look any American in the eye, especially family members of victims, and say the commission had full access. This investigation is now compromised.” When asked if there should be another commission, he asserted, “There should be about fifteen 9/11 commissions.”
Max Roemer, another commissioner, said, “”We were extremely frustrated with the false statements we were getting. We were not sure of the intent, whether it was to deceive the commission or merely part of the fumbling bureaucracy.”
In short, the 9/11 Commission was a failure, and the U.S. government was probably very happy about that.
1. William Cooper May Have Predicted 9/11… And Died Shortly Afterwards.
William “Bill” Cooper was an American conspiracy theorist, and because of this, you’re not going to find his words on a prominent site like CNN or the Washington Post. Here’s an excerpt from a broadcast of his on June 28, 2001:
The largest intelligence apparatus in the world with the biggest budget in the history of the world has been looking for Osama bin Laden for years and years and years and can’t find him… Either everyone in the intelligence community… are blithering idiots and incompetent fools… or they’re lying to us. They’re not looking for him at all. And the second is the truth: you see, the CIA created Osama bin Laden. They recruited him. They trained him… Whatever’s gonna happen, they’re gonna blame Osama bin Laden, don’t you believe it…
On 9/11/01, Osama bin Laden was blamed for the WTC tragedy. On 11/5/01, William Cooper was shot dead. He’d been convinced he was personally targeted by Bill Clinton as well as the IRS. Due to tax evasion, he was deemed a “major fugitive.” When Apache County sheriff’s deputies attempted to arrest Cooper for charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, he and the deputies shot at each other, resulting in Cooper’s death. Many believe Cooper straight-up predicted 9/11 and the use of Osama bin Laden as a scapegoat by the government. Decide for yourself.
It is simply unclear what really happened when it comes to 9/11. While it’s inconceivable for most American citizens that the United States set up the 9/11 attacks, there are some conspiracy theorists who believe this is exactly what happened, and some of their findings are uncanny or at the very least suspicious. It is not only conspiracy theorists who question what happened, though. The 9/11 Commission itself has admitted that it was unable to conduct a thorough investigation, and Max Cleland was so frustrated he resigned.
Regardless of what the real truth is, it’s hard to deny that there were cover-ups. The president and vice president were allowed to testify in private, together, without any recordings. The 9/11 Commission claimed it was blocked from gathering numerous pieces of evidence or only given vague answers to their hard-hitting questions.
Like any questionable situation, 9/11 is left up to the individual to figure out, and the answers may never be totally revealed. 9/11 remains a mysterious imprint on American and world history.