The contortions of all involved not to leave a paper trail in the form of phone bills proves it.
by: Rowland Morgan on: 2nd Dec, 2004
Most of the 25 male passengers on Flight 77 were well-connected military-industrialists. Three of them were with Boeing aerospace. It seems likely that these individuals would have possessed mobile phones in their pockets, if not the others. Although mobile calls are illegal during flights, passengers would certainly have tried to make a connection in such an emergency, as they are supposed to have on Flight 175 and Flight 93. Canadian tests have shown that over 8,000 ft altitude, the likelihood of making a connection is remote. Moreover, American Airlines (which operated Flight 77), announced an experimental innovation in 2004 that would enable in-flight mobile calls. Alternatively, the passengers might have used an in-flight satellite telephone, if the 757 was so equipped. But, after knife- and boxcutter- wielding hijackers supposedly herded passengers to the rear of the “plane, only one passenger is supposed to have made a call. She was Barbara Olson, a notoriously hawkish right-winger and CNN TV pundit, third wife of an even more hawkish right-winger, Ted Olson, whom the President had appointed Solicitor-General after Olson persuaded the Supreme Court to appoint his election-losing client to the Presidency by a margin of one vote.
The Olson phone call story is a central load-bearing beam in the whole 9/11 official construction. It was crucial in establishing the existence of marauders on a civilian flight and their possession of dangerous weapons. Later, the identity of the plane that hit the Pentagon hinged on it, too. This vital, founding element of the narrative originated in the Department of Justice and was carried by CNN, part of $38 billion-a-year AOL-Time-Warner (as it was then). It was issued on 12th September at 2:06 AM Eastern Daylight Time—just 16 hours after Olson’s bereavement. It went as follows:
This was the first eye-witness account of hijackers to reach the public. A TV celebrity had seen them, and filed the story with CNN by means of her second husband making an unsubstantiated verbal report. They were men brandishing knives and cardboard cutters who herded passengers to the rear of the plane. No hint of their appearance or origin, but living, breathing hijackers. The story at no point quotes Ted Olson directly and nor does it say by what method his lawyer wife telephoned. All subsequent mass-media reports of the Olson call were derived from this original, freely citing it as a mobile phone call.
It is the only ostensible passenger story coming from all the rogue aircraft that establishes the use of “cardboard cutters? or box-cutters, the permitted weapons that would get American Airlines off the hook and not implicate the FAA—and it emanates from the Department of Justice (seat of the FBI), issuing at 2:00 AM next morning. It makes that inscrutable reference to Mrs Olson feeling that “nobody was in charge”. And she is supposed to have asked her husband “to tell the pilot what to do”, as if Capt. Burlingame were not lying on the cockpit floor with his throat cut, but had allowed himself to be “herded? to the back of the plane with everyone else and could still make a move. Perhaps the man at the controls had thrown up his hands, bewildered that the controls no longer worked. Burlingame was a decorated war veteran and long-time Pentagon liaison officer. What advice could Ted Olson possibly offer him? What did his wife think Ted Olson might know about a hijacking? That is, if she ever called at all.
The Kean Commission, perhaps aware of the swell of scepticism around it, addresses the question of this notorious call, introducing a new evasion. Apparently all calls from Flight 11 were all made to an unknown number! Their footnote states:
(Kean Commission report Note 57.)
So, we are left with a situation that is hazy, perplexing and confusing.
2 Perplexing, because the Commission says that flight attendant Renee May called her parents on a mobile phone at about 9:15, when Flight 77 was lost. But I am not convinced that successful mobile phone connections can be made from an airliner at cruising altitude. Professor Dewdnex’s experiments in Canada persuasively showed that mobile handsets? efficacy diminished with altitude until at over 8,000 feet they were extremely unreliable. Why would American Airlines pay for an experimental system to try enabling them in 2004, if they already worked? Also, Flight 77 at 9:15 was supposed to be over the Alleghenies, an under-populated area only sparsely served by mobile networks. The only evidence the Commission seems to have for this call is an FBI file. Renee Max’s authenticated Verizon bill would be more convincing, and easily enough obtained and reproduced in the report.
3 Confusing, because the Commission seems to be relying for the Olson call on an FBI investigation of, and interview with, Ted Olson that was conducted on the day of the call, when America was believed to be under attack.
The FBI interviewed Helen Voss, who was Ted Olson’s P.A., on September 14th, three days before Tony Mauro of American Lawyer Media, published an account of the call that supposedly arrived in the middle of total chaos at the Department of Justice:
This contemporary story, probably gathered from the DOJ press office and a phone-call to Voss, fails to name the person who took the original call and does not imply that Helen Voss handled the call, except to say that Olson’s third wife “sounded panicked”, which the “someone? who took the call might plausibly have told her, to make her hurry. So Helen Voss is in the clear, and an unidentified person took the call (although we learn later that Olson’s office is “tight-knit?). No witness there, anyway. The account also differs on key points from the official story. Mrs Olson “called on her cell phone from aboard the jet”. So, what of American’s phone records? And what of Olson’s garbled account six months later, when he told the Daily Telegraph that Mrs Olson had wasted a lot of time trying to call collect because she had no credit card to use on the Airfone? The only obvious explanation for this confusion would be if Mr Olson were striving to evade the telephone records that might exist for a normal call, either cellphone or Airfone. But since he is the USA?s chief law officer in the Supreme Court, this is obviously unthinkable. Instead, we hear three years later, all calls from Flight 77 (that were not mobile calls) went to “unknown number”.
The American Lawyer Media story says the third Mrs Olson called back, whereas according to Olson’s later account, she struggled to get through the first time. Nor does this story refer to any lengthy call lasting until just microseconds before the crash, as the American Airlines data implies. It seems Olson had time to report the call to the Dept. of Justice command centre. (But that would leave a call record, so there is another divergence, since the Kean report said he tried to call his boss, John Ashcroft, but was “unsuccessful”. So, no call record there, either.) Olson then switched on his TV and started watching the crisis coverage as the department was hurriedly evacuated. Who, then, was making a call from Flight 77 until microseconds before it crashed into the Pentagon? American Airlines? records make no sense, and anyway, why don’t they come from the telecoms company that supplied the airphones?
American Lawyer Media says that among those who gathered at Olson’s house later to commiserate with the widower were CNN correspondent Tim O’Brien and his wife, Petie, who were longtime friends. “There was no choice. You just go, even though there is nothing you can really say. Your presence is what counts,” said O’Brien. Did O”Brien plant the phone-call story with CNN?
The report was real enough, and its effect was enormous, but the contortions officialdom went through to avoid a phone-call record seem to prove that the Olson telephone call never happened. In his Daily Telegraph interview six months later, (apparently unpublished in the USA), Olson claimed his wife reversed the charges on a call to his office at the department of Justice, using an in-flight satellite phone located on the back of a seat at the rear of the jetliner. Her mobile was in her handbag stowed away, and she did not have her credit card available, Olson said. So his wife, (who was “panicky”, remember) reversed the charges, which understandably caused a big hold-up at Justice’s switchboard. However, a credit card was at the time required for any outgoing call on such a phone, so we presume she is supposed to have borrowed one and reversed the charges to save the cardholder the $10 per minute call charges. Under the circumstances, such a concern seems absurd, and with the big delay, why was no one else demanding to make a call on her phone? Or even using another in-flight phone to make a call to a loved one? Yet all other passengers are silent. The Kean Report says that Olson’s phone-call to Ashcroft was “unsuccessful”. Ashcroft, like his President, was visiting a primary school at the time, apparently beyond the limits for an urgent call from his number two back at the Department. So that’s another untraceable call, leaving no records.
Ted Olson could give his adherents closure, and shut his critics up, by simply producing the Department of Justice’s telephone accounts, showing a couple of hefty reverse-charges entries charged from Flight 77?s Airfone number at around about 9:20 AM on 11th September, 2001. It is probably impossible, because American Airlines Boeing 757s do not appear to be equipped with in-flight satellite phones at all. Perhaps in error, perhaps not, American’s official website currently states:
Turn flight time into quality time by arranging meetings, calling your broker or calling home. Worldwide satellite communications are available on American Airlines’ Boeing 777 and Boeing 767 aircraft almost anytime while flying over North America and worldwide.
Furthermore, even if there were in-flight phones on board this particular 757, why would half-crazed “box-cutter wielding? hijackers on a suicide mission possibly allow them to be used—particularly by only one of the 56 passengers and six crew?
If Mrs Olson instead used her mobile phone to call her husband, as numerous mass media reports assumed from the single, very brief, very early, very unsubstantiated CNN report, possibly to call twice, then why did no passenger on the aircraft call—just the once?
Everything in the 9/11 narrative traces back to this one report from Ted Olson, and his “investigation, interview” by the FBI on the very same day, a day when America thought it was being invaded and at least 13,500 were believed to have perished. In the small hours of the night after the attacks, CNN launched the legend of the terrorist hijackers threatening innocent Americans with blades and driving them out of their paid-for seats to cower in the back of the plane. The corporate networks megaphoned it world-wide. Barbara Olson’s tragic glamour and TV cred gave it extra pep. Even if he did throw his grief aside that night, Ted Olson had to evade or expedite the restrictive provisions of the National Security Agency. If he did leak the call to CNN?s Tim O”Brien in the midst of his grief that day, Ted Olson’s word is already compromised out of his own mouth. Addressing the Supreme Court of the United States of America while defending the government in a widow’s suit to sue CIA death-squad leaders, the US Solicitor General said: “It is easy to imagine an infinite number of situations . . . where government officials might quite legitimately have reasons to give false information out. It’s an unfortunate reality that the issuance of incomplete information and even misinformation by government may sometimes be perceived as necessary to protect vital interests.”
(Columbia Journalism Review May/June 2003)