Number 82 October 12, 2001

Original Link:

Maybe you like puzzles. I hope so. I don't like
them. I regard them as a challenge, not a game. I avoid
them because, when I cannot find a solution, my mind won't
stop working on them. Then I get very frustrated. So, I
avoid magic shows, crossword puzzles, and similar brain-

Yet I am also a historian with a Ph.D. Historians are
trained to solve puzzles with insufficient pieces.
Historians never have all of the evidence that they would
like in order to come up with a coherent explanation of
what happened. They always want another piece in the
puzzle before they go into print. (Of course, once they go
into print, they will tend to reject any newly discovered
piece that messes up their version of the completed
puzzle.) At some point, they are supposed to come to a
conclusion. They are supposed to make a judgment about
what happened.

I am presently stuck. So, I am sending out this
report. Maybe there is someone my list who can get me

Years ago, I saw a movie, "My Cousin Vinnie." Vinnie
was studying to be a lawyer. He wasn't a good classroom
student, but he had a unique ability. He could figure out
how things fit together. Show him a magic trick, and he
could tell you how the magician did it. Tell him a story
with a missing link, and he could identify where the
missing link was, and maybe what it was. He could solve

I am trying to locate Vinnie.

This puzzle is no game. The United States has gone to
war on the basis of one solution to this puzzle. We have
not yet been told what this solution is.

The puzzle begins with the crash of four airliners.
We must work our way backward from this.

To do this, I decided to begin with official
information that was published 16 days after the attack.
To work my way backwards, I first leaped forward.


On September 27, the Associated Press released a story
about the hijackers. The version that I read, published in
the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, referred to these men as
alleged hijackers. I shall do the same.

I located this article by using
Daypop is the most complete archive of recent news stories
on the Web. Daypop allows you to search for stories that
are up to four weeks old.

I searched for "passenger list" and "hijackers."
Daypop produced three pages of links -- not that many.
Almost all of these links were to the same AP story, which
was published by numerous on-line news sources. Here is
the version I used.

The headline reads: "FBI releases updated list of
alleged hijackers." Above the headline is a link that
says, "Click here to see 19 suspected hijackers." I
clicked it. A large box popped up. It took a while for
the photos to appear. There are 19 photos, along with
names. The names appear to be Middle Eastern -- Arabs.
Most of the men look like Arabs, although a few might pass
as Mexicans. Only one of them looked vaguely like a

They are divided into four lists, according to which
flight they are said to have boarded. There were five men
on American Airlines Flight 77, five on AA Flight 11, five
on United Airlines Flight 175, and four on UA Flight 93 --
the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.

Let's return to the AP story itself. We read the

As Attorney General John Ashcroft launched a
"national neighborhood watch" with the release of
the photos, FBI Director Robert Mueller
acknowledged that questions remained about
whether an accompanying list contained the true
names of the 19.

"What we are currently doing is determining
whether, when these individuals came to the
United States, these were their real names or
they changed their names for use with false
identification in the United States," Mueller

The FBI director said there was evidence that one
or more of the hijackers had had contacts with
al-Qaida, the network associated with Osama bin
Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire who is the
Bush administration's top suspect in the attacks.

This story indicates that, as of September 27, the FBI
was not certain whether these suspects had used their real
names. The remainder of the story listed each of their
names, along with possible aliases. The aliases all look
like Arab names.

I have discovered no additional information released
to the general public regarding these suspects.

I now backtrack to the morning of September 11. The
issue that I am trying to deal with is airline security.
To draw rational conclusions about how the alleged
hijackers accomplished their acts of terrorism, we must
begin with airline security.

The United States has now gone to war because of a
breakdown somewhere in airline security procedures. Yet
nobody in government is blaming the specific airlines.
They are blaming the procedures. This is why I want you
mentally to go through the procedures with me. I have hit
a brick wall. I am asking you to help me knock it down. I
will show you how I went through the procedures mentally.
See if you can figure out which step I missed.

Step One is check-in.


On September 11, airline check-in counters were the
only places in the United States that required travellers
to present a photo ID in order to travel. A photo ID meant
(and still means) a card issued by some branch of civil
government. Years ago, the United States government took
the first step toward a national ID card when it mandated
the requirement that all passengers present a photo ID card
before being allowed to get on a commercial airplane.

This means that the tightest security that the typical
American ever confronts is airport security. This is the
model for all other security systems governing the general

Let's go through the check-in routine together.
Pretend that it's September 11, and you are a check-in
agent at either a United Airlines counter or an American
Airlines counter. It is your job to ask the standard
questions. "Did you pack your own luggage? Have you had
it in your possession at all times?" Then you ask for a
photo ID. The name on the ID must match the name on the
ticket. The photo must match the person presenting the

I began with American Airlines, Flight 11. This was
the plane that crashed into the north tower of the World
Trade Center. I began with the list of passengers. This
was not difficult. The passenger lists for all four planes
are posted on CNN's Website.

Click on the link. This is a long link for the
formatting of my newsletter. If it is broken on your
screen, you will have to paste it into your Web browser's
address box. This will take two steps.

The CNN page says that there were 92 people on board.
I suggest that you print out the list. Part of my exercise
was to count the names of the passengers. Besides, you
never know when a Web page will disappear.

Do you have the print-out in front of you? Count the
names. I get 86 names, including the crew. But the CNN
page says 92 people were on board.

None of the 86 names is an Arab name. This is very,
very strange. First, how did the CNN list-compiler know
that there were 92 people on board? Five of them are not
listed. Second, how did anyone get on board who was not on
the list of ticketed passengers?

To get onto the flight legally, each passenger had to
have a ticket with his or her name on it. Each passenger
had to present a photo ID to the check-in agent. The
check-in agent was supposed to look at the picture and the
person, and then make a judgment. Was it the same person?
If the mandated procedure was followed, the check-in agent
decided that the ticket's name, the photo ID's name, the
photo, and the ID-holder's face all matched. If there was
any doubt, the check-in agent was supposed to ask for some
other form of identification. If there was none, the
person was not allowed to board the plane.

We are told by the United States government that five
Arabs somehow got through this initial screening procedure.
How did they do this? This is puzzle number one regarding
Flight 11. Puzzle number two has to do with the incomplete
passenger list.
Airlines keep a list of passengers on board. This is
for insurance purposes, should there be a crash. It is
also for the purpose of notifying relatives after a crash.
It is also for the purpose of in-cabin screening. "Has
everyone paid who is on the plane?" And, finally, is there
a hijacker on board?

On American Airlines Flight 11, there were no Arab
names on the passenger list. So, how does the government
know who the hijackers were?

Why does CNN's Web page list 92 dead, when there are
only 86 name listed? Who was the non-Arab?

I have seen nothing about government accusations
against American Airlines for substandard check-in security
procedures. In fact, I have seen nothing about the
discrepancy between the published names and the published
numbers regarding how many people were on board.

Let's go to American Airlines Flight 77. This plane
crashed into the Pentagon.

We are told that 64 people were on board. I count 56,
including 6 crew members. There is no explanation offered
for the absence of 8 names. There is no Arab name on this

Something is definitely wrong here.

What about United Airlines? Did the company's
employees follow the same check-in procedure? Presumably,
they did. I checked Flight 175, which crashed into the
south tower.

There were 56 people on board, according to CNN's
summation. I printed out the list. I counted the names.
Once again, they don't add up. The summation says there
were 2 pilots, 7 flight attendants, and 56 passengers. I
counted the names. The total is 56 -- the number
attributed to the passengers. Nine names are missing.
None of the listed names is Arab.

This leaves United Flight 93, which crashed in
Pennsylvania. It had 45 people on board, according to the

Again, there is a discrepancy. Only 33 names appear
on the list. A dozen names are missing. Among the missing
names are the four Arabs who allegedly hijacked the plane.

So, the published names in no instance match the total
listed for the number of people on board. CNN really
should offer an explanation for this discrepancy.

In no case does an Arab name appear on a list, let
alone one of the alleged hijackers.

How did CNN fail to count the names accurately? Did
the airlines not provide the full list of each flight's
names? Perhaps so.

This raises the next question. How did the airlines
know how many people were on each of these flights? The
airlines must have had a list for each flight. What
possible reason could they have had for not releasing the
full lists? Finally, why are there no Arabs listed on any
of these lists, let alone the specific Arabs identified by
the Attorney General and the head of the FBI in an
Associated Press story?

I do not understand how 19 Arabs could have evaded the
check-in procedures. I also do not understand why every
passenger's name is not on the published lists.

I have seen no other source of the passenger lists.
(Another search word: "manifests.") It has now been over a
month since the attack. Where is a complete list? I don't
know. Where is a complete list of all four flights that
has the alleged hijackers' names on it? I don't know.

Finally, where is some enterprising reporter who is
trying to get answers? I don't know.

What about Step Two?


There were multiple terrorists in the cabin of each
plane when the plane left the ground. They did not get
there through the ticket-screening system. Or did they?
If they did, then how?

I assume here -- again, maybe I am wrong -- that they
got there through another entrance. Maybe they were part
of the food service team.

These were all cross-country flights. The planes were
loaded with lots of fuel, which is why they were selected:
flying bombs. On cross-country flights, passengers still
are given meals, not just pretzels and soft drinks. The
number of meals is supposed to match the number of people
on board, or at least come close.

Flight attendants have a list of passengers and their
assigned seats. This is to enable them to identify
passengers who have requested special meals, such as kosher
meals. It is also to enable them to identify people who
have not bought a ticket. Flight attendants are supposed
to know who has been assigned to which seat.

It is September 11. Here is the situation: there are
an extra five men on three flights, and four extra men on
Flight 93.

You have already seen the photos of these men. If I
had been a flight attendant, and I saw five extra men who
looked like they did -- young, Arabic, and without tickets
-- I would have asked them to explain why they were on
board. I would not have assumed that they belonged there.
Are we to assume that on four separate flights, none
of the flight attendants noticed that something was wrong?
Are we to believe that they failed to notice that five or
four extra passengers were on board who were not on the
passenger list? Furthermore, these men looked as though
they were of one ethnic group. They all had Arabic
accents, I presume.

Why did the flight attendants ignore all this? There
is no indication from the government that these men took
over all four planes while the planes were still on the
ground. Even if they had, the pilots would not have taken
off if there were hijackers on board. They would have
waited to hear the demands, and the demand to "take off
now" would have been refused by at least one flight crew --
and I believe all four.

We need a theory of the co-ordinated hijacking that
rests on a plausible cause-and-effect sequence that does
not assume the complete failure of both the check-in
procedures and the on-board seating procedures on four
separate flights on two separate airlines. If the
explanation does rely on a theory of check-in procedural
breakdown, where is the evidence?

I have heard no such theory from the government. I
have heard no such theory from the news media. In fact, I
have heard neither the government nor the mainstream media
even mention these perplexing problems. Perhaps you have.
If so, I would like to see the Web link or a reference to
the newspaper or other source where these matters have been

I don't mean this or that discussion forum devoted to
conspiracy theories. I mean the mainstream press. It is
very peculiar that the mainstream media and the government
have not offered a detailed theory of how the hijackers
evaded both the check-in procedures and the pre-takeoff
seating procedures.

Perhaps some airline industry publication has dealt
with this. If so, I would like to see the document.

I would also like to see passenger lists that include
every passenger's name. I want to see 19 Arab names on
these complete lists.

If these updated lists are ever released, I want to
see that they match the original lists that were not
released immediately. I want to know that any new names
have not been added retroactively. I want evidence -- from
travel agencies' records and credit card records -- that
everyone on each plane's updated passenger list actually
bought a ticket.

Is this to much to ask? So far, apparently it is.


Conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen. Well, not all
of them. We have gone to war based on one of them. But I
don't see how anyone can make an accurate judgment about
who was behind the attacks until he has a plausible
explanation of how the hijackers got onto the planes and
were not removed.

I am not interested in any theory about who did it
until I have a plausible explanation for how he did it.

The key to discovering who planned this attack is
inescapably tied to the procedures used by his agents to do

I don't see how they did it, yet I know that three
planes crashed into highly visible targets. A fourth plane
had veered off course, and it seems plausible that it was
part of a co-ordinated attack. This has yet to be proven,
but it seems plausible.

We keep hearing about plastic knives and box cutters.
But we hear nothing about how these 19 men took plastic
knives and box cutters onto four planes, and no one noticed
that anything was amiss until the planes were in the air.

So, you tell me. How did 19 Arabs get onto these
planes and then remain inconspicuous until the planes were


I have no conclusion. I told you this at the
beginning. I am stuck.

I am looking for Vinnie. Maybe you're Vinnie. After
you have drawn your own conclusion, and it seems
reasonable, let me know.

But before you do, please run your theory by someone
whose judgment you trust. See if that person thinks your
theory is plausible. See if he or she can pick holes in
it. Don't make me your first guinea pig. I want to be at
least second. Third would be even better.

We need to get the division of intellectual labor
working here. As the Bible says, "Two are better than one;
because they have a good reward for their labour. For if
they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him
that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to
help him up" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).