Government Responds to Flight 77 FOIA Request
Scott Bingham’s website: www.flight77.info
August 2005. Scott Bingham of Washington DC sued the Justice Department earlier this year after it refused his Freedom of Information Act request to release suppressed video of the Pentagon attack. In a defense brief filed this month, the government says it must continue to withhold the videos because prosecutors may decide to use them in persuading a jury to pass the death sentence on Zacarias Moussaoui.
Few issues have raised as much controversy and acrimony among 9/11 researchers as their conflicting views on the Pentagon attack. While many argue honestly that a passenger plane never could have caused the damage there (see our Pentagon photo archive), others are just as certain that the idea prompted originally by "Hunt the Boeing" is a red herring that benefits the US government’s official story. It is also the only "9/11 conspiracy theory" that ever received a direct denial from the government (See "French Conspiracy Theorist Claims No Plane Hit the Pentagon," State Department press release, June 2005)
Opinions are also split among the 911Truth.org stalwarts, and we all know many sincere people on either side of this divide. Our site’s consensus position until now, "On Alternate Scenarios of the Pentagon Attack" (part 2 of the article here), takes a lateral approach:
a) Other, less controversial aspects of the Flight 77 story are sufficient to demonstrate official deception. For example, as Scott Bingham points out, the failed Cessna pilot the government alleges flew Flight 77 into the Pentagon, Hani Hanjour, could not fly at all.
b) Why should we guess what happened based on partial evidence, when we know the government is in possession both of the crash site debris and multiple video records of the event itself?
We know that videos of the Pentagon attack were taken by security cameras on the roof of a nearby Sheraton Hotel and a gas station, both of which had a clear sight-line to the side of the Pentagon that was hit. These tapes were confiscated by the FBI within minutes of the attack.
According to a Washington Times news report that has been removed from the Web (still available on the "Wayback Machine" search engine), hotel employees had time enough to watch "the film in shock and horror several times before the FBI confiscated the video as part of its investigation."
As for the gas station, which is "open only to Defense Department personnel," it is "the last structure between the Pentagon and the hillside that, hours later, would become a wailing knoll." Its owner was interviewed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in December 2001:
Velasquez says the gas station’s security cameras are close enough to the Pentagon to have recorded the moment of impact. "I’ve never seen what the pictures looked like," he said. "The FBI was here within minutes and took the film." (Article archived at nationalgeographic.com)
The swift confiscations are suspicious; the agents were obviously dispatched to grab the videos immediately after the Pentagon was struck.
Bizarrely, the only purported live record of the attack ever released seems to support the "No-Boeing" hypothesis. An unknown source at the Pentagon provided CNN with five video stills said to be from a Pentagon parking-lot camera. The images show a blurry white object, impossible to define, moving in the background before the explosion; a video-timestamp of "9/12/01" indicates a second-generation copy and possible tampering.
When CNN first broadcast these frames in March 2002, its reporter once again noted the existence of the hotel video:
MCINTYRE: Well, the claim – we have filed a freedom of information request for it. They claim that it might provide some intelligence to somebody else who might want to do harm to the United States. But officials I talked to here at the Pentagon say they don’t see any national security or criminal value to that tape. The FBI tends to hold on to things.
Enter Scott Bingham. He filed his own FOIA request with the FBI last year, cleverly saying he hoped a release would put "outrageous conspiracy theories" to rest. The Bureau’s first response was a flat denial that any such evidence existed. Bingham followed up with an administrative appeal to the Justice Department, which admitted in March 2005 that the FBI has "records that are responsive" to his request. But the Justice lawyers claim these records are "protected from disclosure," because their release could "reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings."
Bingham subsequently took the Justice Department to court, hoping to reverse their decision. The defendant’s response to his suit for the first time specifies the "law enforcement proceeding" that the Justice Department wants to protect:
"Release of the document responsive to plaintiff’s FOIA request would threaten to interfere with the criminal prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to be brought to trial in the United States for the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The process of selecting prospective jurors for the penalty phase of Moussaoui’s trial is expected to begin in late 2005. Therefore, the FBI withheld the responsive record, a CD-ROM of time lapse images from Pentagon security cameras, pursuant to Exemption 7(A) because its release could reasonably be expected to interfere with that law enforcement proceeding. Federal prosecutors may ask the Court to impose the death penalty. Widespread dissemination of this record could present significant harm to the government’s criminal case."
Note that this passage mentions only Pentagon security-camera footage, once again leaving the tapes from the private hotel and gas station in an administrative limbo.
In the four years since his August 2001 arrest, the government has kept French national Zacarias Moussaoui in strict solitary confinement. Long alleged to have been the missing "20th hijacker," he finally accepted a guilty plea in federal court earlier this year on conspiracy charges relating both to his membership in al-Qaeda and conspiracy to commit the September 11th attacks. Yet in a court statement immediately after his plea, Moussaoui denied any connection with the 9/11 plot. (A similarly self-exonerating statement delivered on behalf of Abu Ghraib guard Lynndie England, after she copped a plea-bargain in her torture case, caused a military judge to immediately void her plea and re-open that case; but the Moussaoui verdict was allowed to stand.)
All that remains of the Moussaoui case is the penalty phase, in which a jury will decide on whether he receives the death sentence. As Bingham puts it on his site, which documents his FOIA case to date:
"it made me upset to learn that the base reason these images of 9/11 have been withheld is because the government is trying to kill some guy – and they think the virgin images of flight 77 crashing into the pentagon will help ‘shock & awe’ a jury into delivering a death sentence."
In truth, there is little reason to expect the government’s prosecutors will release the Pentagon videos to the Moussaoui court. Far likelier is that a further pretext for withholding these tapes will be found after the Moussaoui case is over. And if the videos show anything other than a passenger plane hitting the Pentagon, it is obvious why that is the case.
But what if they do show Flight 77? The government says Flight 77 swooped down from a turning maneuver worthy of a fighter plane to keep level, just above the ground, with its nose down for several hundred feet before striking the Pentagon first floor (in a section that was mostly empty, having just been renovated to reinforce it against a terrorist attack).
The video of that amazing maneuver may make people wonder whether any human being was capable of it, let alone Hani Hanjour.
Scott Bingham’s website: www.flight77.info