“Virtually no one knew that intended target, but the accused knew”

Prosecutor Timothy Stone, an officer in the US Navy, told the six-member jury of officers judging the case of Salim Hamdan, bin Laden’s driver, that Hamdan overheard conversations between bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, about the intended targets in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Congress was the fourth target, which makes sense from a strategic point of view. But listen to how Stone put the matter: “If they hadn’t shot down the fourth plane it would’ve hit the dome” (emphasis mine).

I have seen a lot of pictures of the crash site in Shanksville. In every photo I have ever seen of a plane crash, there is a plane. There are seats, luggage, engines, wings, and bodies. But in pictures of the Shanksville “crash” there is no plane. There’s a relatively small dent in the earth and a relatively small amount of tiny debris (or something). We know that, consistent with a shoot down, debris from Flight 93 was scattered over an eight square mile area and fragments of human body were found as far away as three miles. Witness reports in the immediate aftermath were consistent with a shoot down—planes in the sky, a boom, and then a fireball—and witnesses at the crash site reported that, except for a sole engine, any given piece of debris was small enough to fit in a briefcase.

I told friends shortly after 9-11 that it was likely that that the government shot down Flight 93 and that the “let’s roll” story was a propaganda myth. And now there is a Navy officer who appears to confirm what a lot of people have been thinking: the government shot down Flight 93.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why the government had to shoot down the plane. I wish they had shot down all four planes, to be honest about it. The failure to intercept those planes exposed profound weaknesses in our national defense system. Heads should have rolled after 9-11 and Bush’s should have been the first on the block. Here’s what’s not right: substituting myth for fact. If this is true—if they shot down that plane and covered it or at the very least didn’t come clean about it—then we need another investigation into 9-11. We need to know what happened. The Commission Report is deeply problematic. 

Here’s how Reuters puts it: “United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania. U.S. officials have never stated it was shot down although rumors saying that abound to this day.” Putting it this way, it sounds like lying by omission. “We never said it wasn’t shot down. We just never said it was.” The military has been spinning what Stone said because of the commotion it has caused. The tribunal’s chief prosecutor, Colonel Lawrence Morris, said that Stone was quoting Hamdan in evidence that will be presented at trial. Maybe so. But that’s not what it sounds like. Morris wouldn’t confirm if the “dome” was the US Capitol. How it could is not be?

CNN left out the missile part in their report and followed the quote by saying that the plane crashed in Pennsylvania. The Associated Press did the same. The Washington Post arranged the quote this way: “would have hit the dome…. Virtually no one knew that intended target, but the accused knew.” You should see the Reuters quote for yourself in case they revise it later: Bin Laden driver knew Sept 11 target—prosecutor. They are probably already taking flak for quoting something the rest of the media (at least the several stories I have looked at so far) had the good sense to leave out.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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