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Comments on the Pentagon Strike

Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Flight 77 took off at 8:20 a.m.


The pilot had his last routine communication with the control tower at 8:50 a.m. "At 9:09 a.m., being unable to reach the plane by radar, the Indianapolis air controllers warned of a possible crash," the Washington Post reported. Vice-President Dick Cheney would later explain that the terrorists had "turned off the transponder, which led to a later report that a plane had gone down over Ohio, but it really hadn't." [Meet the Press, NBC, 16 Sept 2001]

On 12 September it was learned that the transponder had been cut off at about 8:55 a.m., rendering the plane invisible to civilian air controllers. During this period of invisibility, the plane was said to have made a U turn back to Washington. This is, of course, an assumption. The information that the plane turned around has no known source.

The problem is: turning off the transponder, under the conditions that prevailed that day, would have been the best way of raising an alert.

The procedures are very strict in the case of a problem with a transponder, both on civilian and military aircraft. The FAA regulations describe exactly how to proceed when a transponder is not functioning properly: the control tower should enter into radio contact at once with the pilot and, if it fails, immediately warn the military who would then send fighters to establish visual contact with the crew. [see FAA regulations:]

The interruption of a transponder also directly sets off an alert with the military body responsible for air defenses of the United States and Canada, NORAD.

The transponder is the plane's identity card. An aircraft that disposes of this identity card is IMMEDIATELY monitored, AUTOMATICALLY.

"If an object has not been identified in less than two minutes or appears suspect, it is considered to be an eventual threat. Unidentified planes, planes in distress and planes we suspect are being used for illegal activities can then be intercepted by a fighter from NORAD. [NORAD spokesman:]

See also Facing Terror Attack's Aftermath, Boston Globe, where you will read: "Snyder, the NORAD spokesman, said its fighters routinely intercept aircraft."]

Thus, according to the official version, considering the conditions that prevailed on September 11, 2001, the "terrorists" actually gave the alert that SHOULD have led to almost instant interception FORTY minutes before the plane struck the Pentagon.

In certain regions, ari traffic controllers do have radars, called "primaries," that are able to detect movement in the air. But, the radars they normally use are called "secondaries" and are limited to recording signals emitted by the transponders of airplanes which tell them the registration, altitude, etc. Turning off the transponder permits an aircraft to vanish from these "secondary" radars. Such an aircraft will only appear on "primary" radars. According to the FAA, the air traffic controllers did not have access to primary radars in Ohio.

See: Pentagon Crash Highlights a Radar Gap, where you will read: "The airliner that slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11 disappeared from controllers' radar screens for at least 30 minutes -- in part because it was hijacked in an area of limited radar coverage. [...]

The aircraft, traveling from Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles, was hijacked sometime between 8:50 a.m. -- when air traffic controllers made their last routine contact with the pilot -- and 8:56, when hijackers turned off the transponder, which reports the plane's identity, altitude and speed to controllers' radar screens.

The airliner crashed into the Pentagon at 9:41 a.m., about 12 minutes after controllers at Dulles sounded an alert that an unidentified aircraft was headed toward Washington at high speed.

The answers to the mystery of the aircraft's disappearance begin with the fact that the hijacking took place in an area served by only one type of radar, FAA officials confirmed. Although this radar is called a "secondary" system, it is the type used almost exclusively today in air traffic control. It takes an aircraft's identification, destination, speed and altitude from the plane's transponder and displays it on a controller's radar screen.

"Primary" radar is an older system. It bounces a beam off an aircraft and tells a controller only that a plane is aloft -- but does not display its type or altitude. The two systems are usually mounted on the same tower. Primary radar is normally used only as a backup, and is usually turned off by controllers handling aircraft at altitudes above 18,000 feet because it clutters their screens.

All aircraft flying above 18,000 feet are required to have working transponders. If a plane simply disappears from radar screens, most controllers can quickly switch on the primary system, which should display a small plus sign at the plane's location, even if the aircraft's transponder is not working.

But the radar installation near Parkersburg, W. Va., was built with only secondary radar -- called "beacon-only" radar. That left the controller monitoring Flight 77 at the Indianapolis center blind when the hijackers apparently switched off the aircraft's transponder, sources said. "

The only effect, then, of turning off the transponder at that precise point was to make the plane invisible to only CIVILIAN aviation authorities. One wonders how the "terrorists" knew that this act would make them invisible to the civilian air traffic controllers. Again, under the conditions prevailing that day, and as a general routine, turning off the transponder SHOULD have brought the aircraft to the direct attention and scrutiny of the Military Defense Systems of the United States AUTOMATICALLY. It is therefore a near certainty that, at all times, it was visible and monitored by the Military.


According to the statement of General Myers, the military waited three quarters of an hour before ordering fighters to take off. [Senate hearing, 13 Sept. 2001]

Two days later, on 15 September, NORAD issued a contradictory press release. It said that it hadn't been informed of the hijacking of flight 77 until 9:24 a.m. and had then immediately given orders to two F-16s to take off from Langley, 105 miles from the Pentagon, instead of Saint Andrews, only 10 miles from the Pentagon. They were in the air by 9:30, much too late... the object that impacted the Pentagon arrived at 9:37.

This version puts all the blame on the FAA for waiting.

But this is implausible due to the established procedures that were automatic.

The question that needs to be asked, considering all that WAS known at that claimed "late moment" of awareness is: why were fighter jets sent instead of a missile?

The fact is, independently of the interception of flight 77, the crisis situation that existed that day demanded maximum air defense protection over Washington. This activity would have fallen to Saint Andrews Air Force Base, just as General Eberhart, CO of NORAD had already activated the SCATANA plan and had taken control of the New York airspace in order to position fighters there.

For the military, from the moment they were alerted of flight 77s disappearance, which was, indeed, the moment the transponders were turned off, and NOT when the FAA supposedly got around to calling them, it was not a question of speculating that they were dealing with a mechanical failure. The Facts on the Ground were rather precise: shortly after two airliners were flown into the WTC towers, the transponder of another plane was cut off and the pilot failed to respond to radio contact. The job of the military could not have been clearer: shoot down the plane that was claimed to have been headed for Washington.

These facts show clearly that the U.S. Military had NO INTENTION of shooting down whatever was heading for the Pentagon despite the menace it represented.

On 16 September 2001, Dick Cheney tried to justify the military's failure by claiming that the shooting down of a civilian airplane would be a "decision left up to the president." He played on the sympathy of the American people, saying that the president just couldn't take such a decision hastily because "the lives of American citizens were at stake."

However, Cheney's claims are disingenuous. He equated the interception of the aircraft with the decision to shoot it down.

Interception is merely establishing visual contact, giving orders with light signals, and being ready to take action. A shoot down means that the fighters are already positioned to receive the order.

Further, it is incorrect that this decision can only be made by the President. The interception of a suspect civilian aircraft by fighters is automatic and does not require any kind of political decision making. It should have taken place on 11 September when the transponder was cut off. The fighters should have taken off immediately - unless they were ordered to "stand down."

Again, let me reiterate the fact that the flight 77 was invisible ONLY to CIVILIAN aviation authorities. The fact that the transponders were turned off automatically alerts military air defense.

Next problem: There are five extremely sophisticated anti-missile batteries in place to protect the Pentagon from an airborne attack. These anti-missile batteries operate automatically.

Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Vic Warzinski claimed the military had not been expecting such an attack. This is not credible. Because the transponder had been turned off, the Pentagon knew full well where that aircraft was. Communications between civilian air traffic controllers and the various federal authorities functioned perfectly.

At 9:25 a.m., the control tower at Dulles airport observed an unidentified vehicle speeding towards the restricted airspace that surrounds the capital. [Washington Post, 12 September, 2001] The craft was heading toward the White House. "All of a sudden, the plane turned away. ...This must be a fighter. This must be one of our guys sent in, scrambled to patrol our capital and to protect our president... We lost radar contact with that aircraft. And we waited. ... And then the Washington National controllers came over our speakers in our room and said, "Dulles, hold all of our inbound traffic. The Pentagon's been hit." [Danielle O'Brien, ABC News, 24 October 2001]

The Army possesses several very sophisticated radar monitoring systems. the PAVE PAWS system is used to detect and track objects difficult to pick up such as missiles flying at very low altitudes. PAVE PAWS misses NOTHING occurring in North American airspace. "The radar system is capable of detecting and monitoring a great number of targets that would be consistent with a massive SLBM [Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile] attack. The system is capable of rapidly discriminating between vehicle types, calculating their launch and impact points. [http://www/ and paws.htm]

Thus, contrary to the Pentagon's claims, the military knew very well that an unidentified vehicle was headed straight for the capital. Yet, the military did not react, and the Pentagon's anti-missile batteries did not function.


Military aircraft and missiles possess transponders which are much more sophisticated than those of civilian planes. These transponders enable the craft to declare itself to the electronic eyes watching American airspace as either friendly or hostile. An anti-missile battery will not, for example, react to the passage of a "friendly missile," so that, in battlefield conditions, it is ensured that only enemy armaments and vehicles are destroyed.

Thus, it seems that whatever hit the Pentagon MUST have had a military transponder signalling that it was "friendly" - i.e. it would take an American Military craft to penetrate the defenses of the Pentagon - or the anti-missile batteries would have been automatically activated.

Strangely, the entire responsibility for air defense is attributed to NORAD, and that is simply not the truth.

The National Military Command Center, located IN the Pentagon centralizes all information concerning plane hijackings and directs military operations. The NMCC was in a state of maximum alert on the morning of 11 September. The highest military authority of NMCC is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On 11 September, General Henry Shelton fulfilled this role. However, Shelton was en route for Europe, somewhere over the Atlantic. Thus, his job fell to his deputy, General Richard Myers who was hobnobbing with Senator Max Cleland at the time of the attacks.

In short, the answers to what happened on that day devolve to claimed technical failures, coordination problems, temporary incapacity, absence of commanders, transfer of responsibility, and so on.

That, of course, does not answer the question as to why the automatic systems in place did not work. Mike Ruppert has written that there were "military exercises" taking place that day suggesting that the automatic systems were temporarily turned off. If that is the case, then it is either the greatest coincidence in history that the same day was the day some crazy terrorists, planning from a cave in Afghanistan decided to attack America, or there is someone in the U.S. government who told them.

In short, the Greatest Military machine on earth is obliged to declare itself the Most Incompetent. And because of its incompetence, thousands of American lives were lost and no one has been held accountable. At the same time, Draconian laws curtainling American freedoms have been passed to "make American Safe." The fact is, if the systems already in place had been online, there would not have been an attack on the second WTC Tower, much less the Pentagon.

Considering all aspects of the problem suggests that the systems WERE operational... and the object that hit the Pentagon was "read" by the anti-missile batteries as "OURS."

See also: Evidence That a Frozen Fish Didn't Impact the Pentagon on 9/11 and Neither Did a Boeing 757 by Joe Quinn