Flight 93

by JASON | 1:35 PM in |

The alleged terrorist pilot...

GREIFSWALD, Germany -- Nearly every weekend of his childhood and adolescence, Ziad Samir Jarrah's doting parents drove him from war-ravaged Beirut to the Bekaa Valley oasis of Al-Marj so he could play with his cousin Salim.

Born just 40 days apart to two brothers of a close-knit and prosperous family, Ziad and Salim learned how to ride bikes together, how to drive and how to dodge their parents' plans for their future. More like twins than cousins, the two left Lebanon together April 4, 1996, at the age of 20, heading to the eastern German town of Greifswald in pursuit of both an education and a good time.

Just down the road from Dekkers is the Florida Flight Training Center, where Ziad Samir Jarrah trained. Jarrah died aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Ziad Jarrah, the alleged pilot of Flight 93, arrives in the US, flying from Munich to Atlanta, Georgia (or Newark, according to the 9/11 Commission). He enters on a tourist visa, issued in Berlin on May 25, 2000. He then flies to Venice, Florida, where he has already arranged to take full-time lessons at the Florida Flight Training Center (FFTC). However, he never files an application to change his status from tourist to student. According to the 9/11 Commission, “This failure to maintain a legal immigration status provided a solid legal basis to deny him entry on each of the six subsequent occasions in which he reentered the United States. But because there was no student tracking system in place and because neither Jarrah nor the school complied with the law’s notification requirements, immigration inspectors could not know he was out of status.” Jarrah begins the private pilot program at FFTC on June 28, aiming to get a multi-engine license. His training will cost $16,000, which his parents wire to him.

After entering the United States (see June 27-28, 2000), Ziad Jarrah lives in Venice, Florida, while taking flying lessons (see (June 28-December 2000)). According to the 9/11 Commission, he stays with some of his flight school’s instructors. pp224

No explanation is ever given as to why they have two separate residences at the same time. However, a private consumer database will later reveal that Atta had 12 addresses, including two places where he lived and ten safe houses, so the Nokomis address could possibly be one of these safe houses (see Mid-September 2001). Interestingly, another of the alleged hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, also has a second residence he never stays at while he attends flight school in Venice (see (June 28-December 2000)).

9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah arrives in the US for the fifth time and is admitted at Newark as a business visitor, receiving a six-month stay. This is unusual, as inspectors usually give business visitors one to three months, depending on the port of entry, and six months only when the visitor can document the purpose of the stay, which Jarrah apparently does not do. Jarrah actually should not be admitted at all because he is out of status—he breached immigration rules by taking a flight training course despite entering the US as a tourist—but this is apparently not noticed (see June 27-28, 2000).

Someone also has to be accountable for making sure that we modernize information technology. Before we go round up all these people and profile them because they're Muslims or Arabs or wear turbans, it'd be good to know that the government has the same information, checked it on a weekly basis, that's already in the computers of every mass mailing company in the country on the rest of us. We're all in somebody's computer. They know where we live, they know where we pay our utility bills, they know how many credit cards we have. They know what our debt is. The biggest of these companies is in Arkansas. My best childhood friend works there. He called me a couple of days after September 11th and said, we have four FBI agents here and we've already found five of these terrorists in our computers. Well you say, that's fine, but could they have known before September 11th? You tell me. One of the men who flew an airplane into the World Trade Center had 30 credit cards, a quarter of a million of dollars in debt, and a consolidated payout schedule of $9,800 a month. Now, since this information is already available on all of us, you could scan that once a week. If somebody if has been in this country for two years or less and already has 30 credit cards and a quarter a million dollars in debt, they're either really rich or up to no good and it shouldn't be that hard to figure out which.

Mohammed Atta, the ring leader, had 12 addresses, two places he lived and 10 safe houses, under the names Mohammed Atta, Mohammed J. Atta, J. Atta, and his middle initial spelled out. So if somebody has been here a couple years or less and has 12 homes, he's either really rich or up to no good. It shouldn't be that hard to figure out which. That's more important than all that reorganization. That's what we ought to advocate. We ought to drive it home, as part of our homeland security position.

Never Heard Of Acxiom? Chances Are It's Heard Of You. How a little-known Little Rock company--the world's largest processor of consumer data--found itself at the center of a very big national security debate.
(FORTUNE Magazine)
By Richard Behar
February 23, 2004

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Last summer a sheriff in Cincinnati stumbled onto what may have been the biggest security breach of consumer data ever. Searching the home of Daniel Baas, a 24-year-old computer-systems administrator at a data-marketing firm, detectives found dozens of compact discs containing the personal data of millions of Americans. The information, it turned out, had been hacked by Baas over a period of two years from a giant server in Arkansas belonging to a company called Acxiom.

Never heard of Acxiom? The publicly traded, politically connected Little Rock company is the world's largest processor of consumer data, collecting and massaging more than a billion records a day. Its customers include nine of the country's top ten credit-card issuers, as well as nearly all the major retail banks, insurers, and automakers. It's a business that generates $1 billion in sales annually and, after a few bumpy years, is expected to produce $60 million in profits. Analysts project earnings to grow 15% annually over the next five years.

Since 9/11, the company has been campaigning for crucial federal contracts in homeland security. Retired general and presidential candidate Wesley Clark and the Clintons have helped.

Since 2001, Acxiom has engaged in research with the Pentagon and other agencies to find ways to consolidate, link, and share data. The federal Transportation Security Administration recently announced that this summer it will roll out its controversial second-generation Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPS II--a scheme that color-codes airline passengers in terms of their likelihood to be terrorists. The project will rely heavily on Acxiom's data and its identity-matching logarithms.

In a little-noticed exchange at the commission’s hearings this spring between commission member John Lehman and former F.B.I. official Thomas Pickard, the bureau’s acting director in the summer before the attacks, Mr. Lehman asked Mr. Pickard (according to the official transcript): "As you know, very shortly after the September 11th attack, some of the commercial databases like Axion, ICSO (ph), ChoicePoint, so forth were queried and nearly all of the 19 hijackers were very prominently covered, with addresses, credit cards, locations et cetera. Why did not the F.B.I. make use of those commercial databases before 9/11?"

"We were prohibited from utilizing a lot of those commercial databases by statutes and things like that," Mr. Pickard replied. "That was one of the benefits of the Patriot Act, as I understand it."

In this exchange, Mr. Pickard maintained that an F.B.I. agent capable of querying the databases for the names of the hijackers prior to 9/11 would have found them—their addresses and credit cards, at any rate—because the hijackers had lived openly in the U.S. and had used their real names to accumulate a string of ID’s like drivers’ licenses. But by law, Mr. Pickard maintained, this trove of information was off-limits to the F.B.I.

But the F.B.I., then as now, is a client of the largest U.S. database containing public records about individuals: ChoicePoint, the bĂȘte noir of civil libertarians, and a company that made $796 million in 2003. Sources there and at the F.B.I. confirmed that the agency regularly taps this service for key information on people it seeks for criminal and intelligence investigations. In a mouse click, the database retrieves information like current phone numbers, for instance, through the F.B.I.’s secure ChoicePoint access. And in late August 2001, the F.B.I. had an investigation underway into two of the men who turned up on 9/11 as hijackers—Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi. The F.B.I. wanted to question them about the U.S.S. Cole bombing; the task of finding them was given to a counterterrorism agent in New York.

Both were on the State Department’s TIPOFF terrorist watch list.

"Searches of readily available databases," the 9/11 commission report notes, "could have unearthed" al Mihdhar’s and al Hazmi’s California drivers’ licenses, car registrations and telephone listings. A search on al Hazmi’s car registration "would have unearthed a license check" by the police in South Hackensack, N.J., that "would have led to information placing Hazmi in the area and placing Mihdhar at a local hotel for a week in early July, 2001." ChoicePoint also had up-to-date telephone listings for both men.

From there, it might have been possible to turn up al Hazmi and al Mihdhar in Paterson, where they’d been living with a group of the other hijackers. Al Hazmi was spending some time flying cross-country on the type of plane he would later hijack on 9/11.

"There was information about the people who turned out to be hijackers in the ChoicePoint databases prior to 9/11, that’s a true statement," ChoicePoint chairman and chief executive Derek Smith confirmed.

How does he know? The F.B.I. got a court subpoena for ChoicePoint to go through its records and pull out what it had on al Hazmi and al Mihdhar after the Twin Towers fell. Why the F.B.I. didn’t do this before 9/11, Mr. Smith can’t say, but he confirmed that the F.B.I. didn’t seek this information before 9/11. With 20 days left before the attacks, would questioning these two men have been enough to prevent them? And why would Mr. Pickard tell the commission that he wasn’t allowed to do before Sept. 11 what his agency did do immediately after—but before the signing of the Patriot Act?

A major training exercise based upon a simulated terrorist attack is held in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, which neighbors Somerset County where Flight 93 crashes on 9/11. The exercise, called Mall Strike 2001, is conducted in Greengate Mall, Hempfield, and involves over 600 emergency first responders and emergency managers responding to the simulated release of a toxic chemical agent and the simulated release of radiation and radiological contamination.



Regarding Flight 93, personal financial records do not reflect weapons being purchased by any of the hijackers. However, the FBI will reportedly recover “14 knives or portions of knives, including a box cutter,” at the crash site.

August 27: Saeed Alghamdi uses his debit card to purchase tickets for United Airlines flight 93 for himself and Ahmed Alnami from the UA.com website. The tickets are not paid for until September 5, 2001, due to a problem with the debit card.

The four hijackers of flight 93 apparently arrive in Newark from Florida on this day, although there is much confusion over this. Two of them, Ahmed Alnami and Saeed Alghamdi, take Spirit Airlines flight 1460 via Atlanta, leaving around 6:30 p.m. and arriving three hours later.

Of the 33 passengers (excluding the four hijackers) who are on board Flight 93 on September 11, at least 16 are not originally booked on this flight, but arrange to be on it very shortly before 9/11, or—in some cases—on the morning of 9/11 itself:

Their baggage is to be screened for explosives or held off the plane until they have boarded. Supposedly, the thinking behind this is that someone smuggling a bomb onto a plane won’t get onto that same flight. According to the 9/11 Commission, nine of the 19 hijackers are flagged by the CAPPS system before boarding Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93.

About an hour before boarding Flight 93, Ziad Jarrah phones his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen, who is currently recovering from a minor operation in a hospital in Germany, where she lives. [Los Angeles Times, 10/23/2001; Observer, 8/22/2004] Senguen will later recount, “[H]e was very brief. He said he loved me three times. I asked what was up. He hung up shortly afterwards.… It was so short and rather strange him saying that repeatedly.” [Reuters, 11/19/2002; Guardian, 11/20/2002]

Only Ahmad Alhaznawi is selected from Flight 93. His bag is screened for explosives, but he is not stopped. The 9/11 Commission later concludes that Alhaznawi and Ahmed Alnami, also headed to Flight 93, have suspicious indicators and that they could have been linked to al-Qaeda upon inspection, but it has not been explained why or how.

On their way to boarding the plane, all four would pass through a security checkpoint, which has three walk-through metal detectors, two X-ray machines, and explosive trace detection equipment. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 97 pdf file] The 9/11 Commission later claims Newark Airport has no video cameras monitoring its security checkpoints, so there is no documentary evidence showing when the hijackers passed through the checkpoint or what alarms may have been triggered. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 35 pdf file] However, Michael Taylor, the president of a security company, who has done consulting work for the New York Port Authority (which operates the airport), claims that Newark does use security cameras at the time of 9/11. [Boston Herald, 9/29/2001]

Two passengers leave Flight 93 after hearing an announcement that there will be a five-minute delay in the plane pushing back from the gate. This is according to Terry Tyksinski, a longtime flight attendant with United Airlines, who says a customer service supervisor who witnessed the incident told her about it six months after 9/11. The two first-class passengers are reportedly of dark complexion, “kind of black, not black.” According to Tyksinski, the supervisor notes their names and is subsequently twice interviewed by the FBI. [Longman, 2002, pp. xiii-xiv] No other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, mention this incident. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] And while Flight 93 is delayed on the ground until 8:42 a.m., reports state that it pushes back from the gate just one minute later than its scheduled departure, rather than there being a five-minute delay as Tyksinski suggests. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2006] There will only be 37 passengers on Flight 93, including the four hijackers. This is 20 percent of the plane’s passenger capacity of 182 and, according to the 9/11 Commission, “is considerably below the 52 percent average load factor for Flight 93 for Tuesdays in the three-month period prior to September 11.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 36 pdf file]

A Fairfax, Virginia company that makes computer software that tracks and records the flight paths of planes helps media companies and airlines to reconstruct the paths of all four of the hijacked aircraft. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/13/2001] Flight Explorer sells an Internet-accessible application that provides constantly updated information on the positions of aircraft in flight. It uses radar feeds that the FAA collects from control centers across the US. [Business Wire, 6/16/2000; St. Petersburg Times, 8/12/2001] All of Flight Explorer’s employees begin sorting through its data “after the first crash [of Flight 11] was reported,” so presumably this is at around 8:50 a.m. Whether any particular agency, such as the FAA, requests this or they do it of their own initiative is unknown. Although there are some 4,000 planes in the air above the US at the time of the attacks, the company is quickly able to pinpoint the paths of all four hijacked aircraft. It then creates charts and animated videos of the four flights’ actual and intended routes. About 12 news agencies, including all the major networks, request these animated illustrations. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/13/2001] Flight Explorer is apparently unhindered by the fact that flights 11 and 93 have their transponders turned off during the hijackings. Its reconstruction of Flight 77’s path ends, however, at 8:57, around the time that aircraft’s transponder goes off and it disappears from controllers’ radar screens (see (8:56 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Yet the 9/11 Commission will later say that, despite this disappearance, “Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked the flight from the moment its transponder was turned off.” Why the Flight Explorer illustration does not therefore show the rest of Flight 77’s journey is not clear. [AVweb, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Until a few years back, Flight Explorer was the only company that recorded flight paths. Since the 1999 death of golfer Payne Stewart (see October 25, 1999) the FAA has also been recording these paths. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001] The final report of the 9/11 Commission will make no mention of the Flight Explorer flight path recordings. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222]

A NORAD training exercise that is taking place this morning, presumably Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), is reportedly canceled shortly after 9:03, when the second World Trade Center tower is hit. [Airman, 3/2002] NORAD Commander Larry Arnold later says that after Flight 175 hits the South Tower, “I thought it might be prudent to pull out of the exercise, which we did.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 59] According to author Lynn Spencer: “The phone calls start flying between the various NORAD command centers. General Arnold calls Maj. Gen. Rick Findley” at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, “to give him the latest information and have him withdraw all forces from the simulated exercise.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 86] Arnold will recall, “As we pulled out of the exercise we were getting calls about United Flight 93 and we were worried about that.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 59] Some early accounts say the military receives notification of the possible hijacking of Flight 93 at around 9:16 a.m. (see 9:16 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) first receives a call about Flight 93 at 10:07 a.m. (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Arnold will add, “Then we had another call from Boston Center about a possible hijacking, but that turned out to be the airplane that had already hit the South Tower but we didn’t know that at the time.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 59]

According to some accounts, Vice President Dick Cheney is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House by this time, along with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and others. Mineta will recall that, while a suspicious plane is heading toward Washington, an unidentified young man comes in and says to Cheney, “The plane is 50 miles out.” Mineta confers with acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger, who is at the FAA’s Washington headquarters. Belger says to him: “We’re watching this target on the radar, but the transponder’s been turned off. So we have no identification.” According to Mineta, the young man continues updating the vice president, saying, “The plane is 30 miles out,” and when he gets down to “The plane is 10 miles out,” asks, “Do the orders still stand?” In response, Cheney “whipped his neck around and said, ‘Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?’” Mineta will say that, “just by the nature of all the events going on,” he infers that the order being referred to is a shootdown order. Nevertheless, Flight 77 continues on and hits the Pentagon. [BBC, 9/1/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]

Around the vice president, Rice, deputy White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, tensed as the military aide repeated the question, this time with even more urgency. The plane was now 60 miles out.

"Should we engage?" Cheney was asked.

"Yes," he replied again.

As the plane came closer, the aide repeated the question. Does the order still stand?

"Of course it does," Cheney snapped.

The vice president said later that it had seemed "painful, but nonetheless clear-cut. And I didn't agonize over it."

It was, "obviously, a very significant action," Cheney said in an interview. "You're asking American pilots to fire on a commercial airliner full of civilians. On the other hand, you had directly in front of me what had happened to the World Trade Center, and a clear understanding that once the plane was hijacked, it was a weapon."

Within minutes, there was a report that a plane had crashed in southwestern Pennsylvania -- what turned out to be United Flight 93, a Boeing 757 that had been hijacked after leaving Newark International Airport. Many of those in the PEOC feared that Cheney's order had brought down a civilian aircraft. Rice demanded that someone check with the Pentagon.

Cleveland flight controller Stacey Taylor has been warned to watch transcontinental flights heading west for anything suspicious. She later recalls, “I hear one of the controllers behind me go, ‘Oh, my God, oh my God,’ and he starts yelling for the supervisor. He goes, ‘What is this plane doing? What is this plane doing?’ I wasn’t that busy at the time, and I pulled it up on my screen and he was climbing and descending and climbing and descending, but very gradually. He’d go up 300 feet, he’d go down 300 feet. And it turned out to be United 93.” (Note the time of this incident is not specified, but presumably it is prior to when Cleveland controllers note Flight 93 descends 700 feet at 9:29 a.m.

A small jet plane—ExecuJet 956—tracks Flight 93 for what is described as “a substantial period of time” before it crashes, and picks up some of the radio transmissions from it, as both planes are operating on the same frequency. [Government's motion for protective order regarding cockpit voice recorder pursuant to 49 USC 1154. United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui, 8/8/2002 pdf file; Washington Post, 8/9/2002] The exact period over which ExecuJet 956 follows Flight 93 is unclear. But as early as 9:31 it calls the FAA’s Cleveland Center and, referring to Flight 93, reports: “[W]e’re just answering your call. We did hear that, uh, yelling too.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 461] At 9:40, after being asked, “did you understand that transmission [from Flight 93]?” ExecuJet 956 tells Cleveland Center: “Affirmative. He said that there was a bomb on board.” [Associated Press, 4/12/2006] Cleveland Center then asks the ExecuJet pilot if he can change course and try to spot Flight 93. He sees it, loses it, and then sees it again. He then has to make an evasive turn, as Flight 93 is heading directly for him. [Longman, 2002, pp. 104]


Transcript from 'Meet the Press':

Washington Post article on the shoot down order:

Rumsfeld says Flight 93 was "shot down":

9/11 Flight 93 Rare Footage

Listen to what they say at 2 minutes and 41 seconds on this video:

Scar in earth already existed:

Puff of black smoke:


APRIL 12--This the transcript of the final moments of United Airlines Flight 93, as captured by the plane's cockpit voice recorder on September 11, 2001. While the actual 31-minute audiotape was played this morning for jurors in the federal death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, Judge Leonie Brinkema refused to publicly release the tape, opting instead to provide only a transcript, a copy of which you'll find below. The tape begins with a hijacker's announcement that, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain...we have a bomb on board, so sit." As the recording continues, the hijackers can be heard praying to Allah and warning passengers to "Shut up" and "Don't move." Transcript excerpts in bold were translated from Arabic by government officials.

Government to condemn land for Flight 93 memorial

PITTSBURGH – One man inherited property that his grandfather bought during the Depression. A Lutheran pastor owns a cottage where he planned to retire with his wife. Two others own businesses.

But they and other property owners in rural southwestern Pennsylvania knew things would change in the aftermath of United Flight 93's crash on Sept. 11, 2001, which killed 40 passengers and crew and four terrorist hijackers. Plans were soon in the works for a memorial to honor the victims. Property owners say they realized that and were willing to cooperate and help make it happen.

But now that the government intends to take their land by eminent domain so the Flight 93 memorial can be built by the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, property owners say they're disappointed and surprised by the plan.

They also disputed that negotiations have taken place and said they've either not been made offers, or were only provided offers within the past week.

The park service "apologized about the way it's come together, but what's sad is they had all these years to put this together and they haven't," said Randall Musser, who owns about 62 acres that the park service wants to acquire.

"They haven't ever really gotten officially started with negotiations," he said Thursday. Appraisers were just at his land on Tuesday.

Musser served on the committee that helped establish the park's boundaries and said landowners were promised in 2002 that eminent domain would not be used.

While landowner Tim Lambert knew that eminent domain, or condemnation, was a possibility, he thought it was unlikely and that the park service and a victim's family group working to acquire land wanted to buy larger parcels before dealing with owners of smaller properties.

"It's absolutely a surprise. I'm shocked by it. I'm disappointed by it," said Lambert, who owns nearly 164 acres that his grandfather bought in the 1930s. The park service plans to condemn two parcels totaling about five acres — land he said he had always intended to donate for the memorial.

"To the best of my knowledge and my lawyer, absolutely no negotiations have taken place with the park service where we've sat down and discussed this," Lambert said.