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The most overlooked element of these attacks

By danazar in Op-Ed
Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 06:07:31 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

Frankly, I'm shocked. Somehow, everyone has managed to not figure this out, not say it loud and clear on the mainstream press, not make the point of how brilliant these attacks on the United States were.

I don't mean brilliant in their accomplishment or in their execution, but in their timing. Their timing is extremely overlooked, and I think that this is a mistake that is hindering our ability to plan a proper defense.

I ask you all to look closely, look analytically, at a timeline of Sept. 11's events. Consider the spacing between each attack. From the first to the second: 18 minutes. From the second to the third: 40 minutes. The fourth plane crashed less than a half-hour later, and had it not, it would likely have been over Washington D.C. in another few minutes, ready to strike as well.

Also, consider the targets that were struck. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon are both extraordinarily large structures. The WTC only was insured for the loss of one tower, because it was considered inconceiveable that a catastrophe could destroy both. These are both structures that it would take two hits to destroy.

And that is what I believe was intended. I believe that the fourth plane was headed not for the Capitol or the White House, but the Pentagon. The terrorists were intentionally selecting targets of this magnitude, so that they could leave enough undamaged for the news crews to catch the second plane destroying.

That's right, I believe that the news coverage was a planned part of all of this. Think about it. Terrorism does what? It is designed to strike terror into people. And we have seen that this was a multi-year effort, requiring the people involved to wait patiently as they went through flight school and learned the proper flight protocols to guide the planes into their targets. These people had time to plan out every detail, and they did. Including making sure that the American public would see the actual events that were taking place, instead of mere photos of the aftermath.

I believe that the terrorists figured that news crews would respond, as they always do, to an event at the World Trade Center, and have cameras rolling on it, within 20 minutes. And it did happen--every news organization in the world had either photographs or videotape of the second plane crashing into its designated tower. UAL 93 would have hit the Pentagon 30-40 minutes after it was first struck, which would have meant cameras catching that strike as well, to show to an already-horrified nation. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, these would have to be excessively large targets which would not be devastated by the first crash--otherwise there would be nothing left to destroy for the cameras. This is why they would not choose other symbolic structures like the White House or the Capitol.

When Bin Laden bombed the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, he bombed those simultaneously to send a message that he could strike more than one target at the same time. Tuesday, a different message was sent, and a different synchronicity was used--one that maximized the amount of terror inflicted on the American people, by ensuring that they would see the most horrific part of these attacks and have those images to hold onto for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps we can learn from this and make it part of our preparations, for defense against their further attacks--it should be noted that, under this theory, their attacks come in spaced pairs, and we should automatically trigger a nationwide alarm system should a single plane be hijacked, because a second would surely follow within a half-hour. Perhaps by implementing such a system, we could limit the success rate of future attacks.

I would like to end on a particular note, in this case: If I am right, then UAL 93 was headed for an undamaged section of the Pentagon. As has been commented on repeatedly in the news, the section of the Pentagon actually hit was being restored and had a minimal staff on it, which allowed for light casualties. Had UAL 93 made its mark, it would have hit a much more densely-populated section of the Pentagon, and the casualties there could have risen from the hundreds to the thousands. If the flight was stopped by passengers who nobly ended their lives taking it down, then thousands of Pentagon workers might owe their lives to their sacrifice--and an entire nation owes them for being saved from a more horrific image, that of firsthand footage of an aircraft plunging into the very symbol of our nation's security, which surely would have demoralized us much more than the images we have seen.


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The most overlooked element of these attacks | 36 comments (32 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
Fourth plane -> Capitol? (2.50 / 2) (#3)
by happynut on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 03:25:11 AM EST

BBC2 TV had a long recap of the hijacking last
night (16 Sep). In it they had a theory that I
hadn't heard before.

They said the fourth plane (that crashed in PA)
was heading to the Capitol building that houses
the Congress.

The theory that I've heard most often was that
it was heading to Camp David.

Perhaps the duffel bag of maps that the found
in Florida will shed light on this.

Was Bush the target?? (none / 0) (#5)
by neier on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 07:12:00 AM EST

The most interesting conjecture I have seen regarding plane #4 was that it was timed to be over DC just as a frantic GW Bush was rushing back from Florida after hearing about the first attack, and Air Force 1 was landing at AFB. You have to think that they would have had to figured on the F16 escorts; but still.....

[ Parent ]
Re:Was Bush the target?? (none / 0) (#15)
by truth versus death on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 01:50:08 PM EST

You can discount that conjecture due to the planning of these attacks. They were planned for years while Bush's schedule of appearance is only known in advance by days if at most weeks. His being in Florida to tout education (and distract attention away from the flailing economy) is not something the terrorists - who obviously planned the timing of these attacks very carefully - could have counted on. I doubt very much the President was a target. If anything, for terrorists who want to see the U.S. isolated from the rest of the world, Bush's foreign policy has been better than any objective they might have in killing him.

Btw, a friend of mine of Middle Eastern descent has said that all of the names of the hijackers released to the public so far have been Iraqi in origin (just based on the names). I wonder if that means anything?

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
Coordinated Aiming at Bush (none / 0) (#18)
by SEWilco on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 09:34:44 AM EST

TV coverage mentioned that the Pennsylvania plane turned around and headed toward at about the same time that Bush's plane took off. Media reported shortly after the attack that there was some sort of electronic communication intercepted by the government which indicated Bush was a target.

Perhaps the government heard a terrorist outside the airport in Florida saying "Air Force One just took off" in a cell phone call to the terrorists on the Pennsylvania plane. Or maybe the government was able to quickly check the call records on the onboard phones to find a call from a Florida airport pay phone.

The investigation reports will be interesting, particularly when everything is declassified eventually.

[ Parent ]

Bush's schedule (none / 0) (#19)
by wiredog on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 10:07:45 AM EST

When a disaster happens the first thing the President is head for DC. Doesn't take much planning to know that AF1 is going to be heading for the city immediately. In fact, that's what happened. They didn't turn west until they found out about the fourth plane.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]
They were not Iraqi (none / 0) (#31)
by uweber on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 08:40:12 PM EST

At least those 2 hijackers who were sleepers in Germany were from Dubai and the Emirates.

[ Parent ]
Re:They were not (all) Iraqi (none / 0) (#33)
by truth versus death on Thu Sep 20, 2001 at 02:24:22 AM EST

Well, it was just based on the name. It is possible they were from other places but the family originally came from Iraq. At any rate, I thought it was an interesting anecdotal detail -- possibly not true, but interesting if it is.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
Hm... (none / 0) (#36)
by truth versus death on Fri Sep 21, 2001 at 12:49:24 AM EST

There may be a stronger connection than I had first supposed.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
Good theory (4.00 / 6) (#6)
by bil on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 08:53:02 AM EST

The fourth plane would have got there after the F-16's were in the air, but then you have either the prospect of watching a plane crash into the Pentagon live on camera (while the military look on powerless), or probably worse, the sight of a civilian airliner being shot down by the military that were meant to protect it (again live on camera). Either way a HUGE propaganda blow for the terrorists cause.

The image of the second plane flying into (almost through) the WTC is one that will go down in history, and will be rerun for decades to come. In an attack this well thought out, I would be suprised if this hadn't been thought about by the attackers beforehand.


Where you stand depends on where you sit...

No, it would give them something to think about (none / 0) (#27)
by SnowBlind on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 12:11:57 PM EST

Remember, we supposed to be the massive, weak, sloppy, undisciplined country that is just waiting to be kicked, because we won't respond. Quite frankly, I can see why, as our media talks about touchy feelie "healing" and "remembering" and theirs talks about making us "pay" for our sins.
I personally think the fact that that last plane was most likely stopped stopped by American Patriots (yep, let's revive the term) may make them realize they "bought the hype" and America is really capable of the same level of dedication and resolve that they see as their personal territory.
If we would have shot down our plane, that would have been just as effective, if not more so.
I think that is why the Taliban is even considering haggling over details on giving up bin Laden shows that their world view has just been given a real shakeup.
To paraphrase Japanese General Yamamoto "We have woken the sleeping giant."

There is but One Kernel, and root is His Prophet.
[ Parent ]
Poetic license (none / 0) (#34)
by warpeightbot on Thu Sep 20, 2001 at 01:31:26 PM EST

I have learned something today. The bit always attributed to Admiral (not General) Yamamoto was a bit of historical poetic license. The quote is actually from the movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!", and is as follows:
I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.
This wasn't what he actually said. According to the Pearl Harbor History Associates, quoted here, he really said,
"Nekubi o kaite was ikenai"

["It does not do to slit the throat of a sleeping man."]

This is an old Samurai quote that refers to their rule to awaken their enemy prior to killing him. (From what I know of bushido, it was probably considered cowardly and therefore dishonorable.)

[ Parent ]
of course! (4.00 / 7) (#7)
by core10k on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 08:59:22 AM EST

Did you see when that second plane struct the WTC? That second plane wasn't terrorism, it was art.

disclaimer (none / 0) (#8)
by core10k on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 09:00:45 AM EST

Yes, it's awful what happened. But the deaths resulting from the second plane almost certainly pale in comparison to the deaths from the first plane; both towers were being evacuated, after all.

[ Parent ]
Sadly enough I have to agree (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by uweber on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 10:57:15 AM EST

I think by now you all have the the amateur footage of the first plane hit - straight line, nothing spectacular. But the second plane pulled a manouver right out of TopGun and I am sure the terrorists chose the pilots accordingly. But now enough of the cynicism!

[ Parent ]
Planes (2.00 / 3) (#10)
by Nyarlathotep on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 10:42:12 AM EST

I don't think we will see any more hijackings. That wil be easy enough to stop. Next time it will be chem, bio, or nuclear. Remember, they hit in pairs.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
come in pairs (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by dr k on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 02:19:49 PM EST

Always two there are: a master and an apprentice.

We've been attacked by Darth Maul!
Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

Not overlooked (3.50 / 4) (#12)
by theR on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 12:57:48 PM EST

This facet of the attacks has not been overlooked at all by the media. I don't know why you haven't seen anybody mention it, but I certainly have. I don't think the time between the two Towers being hit could have been planned that perfectly, however. I think it probably turned out to be more effective than the terrorists had planned. The bottom line is, the terrorists were attacking New York City, which has the highest concentration of media and people in the U.S. Of course they knew it would be captured on film and shown all over. I mean, even the first plane hitting was captured on home video.

I have seen the media note that the terrorists planned this well by choosing flights that left first thing in the morning. Flights leaving early in the morning are much less likely to depart behind schedule, and they obviously wanted to synchronize their attacks. No, this doesn't seem overlooked to me.

You believe that the news coverage was a planned part of the attacks? Imagine that! Oh, wait. I've heard tons of people say the exact same thing. I guess they got the idea from you, though. Good job!

Excuse my sarcasm, but this aspect of the attacks has not been overlooked.

The best way to prevent this from happening... (3.20 / 5) (#13)
by jd on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 01:19:52 PM EST

...is to ensure that aircraft are secure. There are more forms of non-lethal weaponry than there are trolls on Slashdot. (Well, almost. :) It is absurd that 114+ people cannot protect themselves adequately against less than half a dozen.

Yeah, yeah, I've heard a lot about "Sky Marshals", and the use of lethal force. But think about this - an aircraft's fuselage is little more than aluminium film, stretched over a very minimal skeleton. On the inside, you've a bit of plastic to prevent anyone accidently putting their arm into the stratosphere, and incidently cause explosive decompression.

On the other hand, your average bullet doesn't stop when it hits plastic. Arms inside an aircraft are extremely limited, because you have to use only those things which cannot destroy the plane. (DUH!)

That limits you to non-lethal weaponry (eg: laughing gas, pepper sprays, rubber bullets, tasers, those new microwave guns the military have, etc.)

In which case, the use of Sky Mashals is somewhat redundant. The passangers and/or crew could subdue any malicious person or group, without any risk.

The use of the USAF is also questionable. They WERE alerted, in Tuesday's attack, but launched late. Reason unknown. They missed the hijackers by about the same length of time as their delay. If I were a cynic, I'd ask if they waited deliberately, so that they could get a financial boost from the Government, afterwards.

In fact, I am EXTREMELY cynical, about the entire event. Too many key people were out of place, including an entire FBI rescue team, and too many things took FAR too long. You've got to realise, and this is true for all air forces, crews are ready to scramble at a moment's notice. They have to be. You can't exactly ask your enemy to wait, until you've finished your coffee.

Interceptors of the kind used are not exactly slow, either. To get from the nearest airbase to the Pentagon, at maximum speed, is not going to take tens of minutes. These are supersonic aircraft, not model kites!

Would the US air force -really- delay a response for money? When you're talking tens of billions, to a cash-strapped organization where it's top-line fighter-bomber is almost three decades old, and where the only product under development (the Osprey) is spending more time crashing than Windows, I could certainly see the possibility of someone "taking their time".

Is that likely, though? The only ones who know are those in the USAF, and there's no way in hell they'd say if it was. The only way you could really find out is by seeing how hard they lobby for money in the next budget, and also by any correlation between accidents and opportunity for budget improvements.

Fighters Went Supersonic, and Plane Skin Not Film. (4.50 / 8) (#20)
by SEWilco on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 10:14:45 AM EST

The fighters did go supersonic on their way to Washington -- this was not a training flight under subsonic restrictions, this was treated as a military mission. See the 9:49 AM entry in this timeline.

But there were no fighters on standby closer than Langley. I won't be surprised if soon there will be some at Andrews or Reagan (we'll have to see if Reagan reopens, becomes a military base, or becomes a helicopter/vertiport facility). I also expect to hear media reports of Patriot missile installations being noticed.

Incidentally, unless you're in a pedal-powered plane an aircraft's skin is not a film that you can stick an arm through. The skin is a structural element, it's thick enough that rivets can be used, and a hailstorm dents rather than destroys it.

If you shoot a bullet through an aircraft's skin you make a small hole and get SLOW decompression. A passenger window is made of acrylic similar to old bulletproof glass, and a bullet will try to mush its way through -- it's not simply going to shatter.

And there is no "knockout gas". Gases like nitrous oxide require near-lethal doses to make someone stop moving -- and stopping the adult passengers will kill the child passengers.

The reason that passengers and aircrew have been so passive is that it merely meant a travel delay and a landing at the wrong airport. Now the sheep know that there's a threat of death, they will be less passive. Reports from the Pennsylvania plane are that the passengers got aggressive when they heard about the WTC crashes. Many pilots are now saying they'll be more aggressive -- both with actions inside the plane and in the actions they'll take with the plane itself (ie, rattling loose passengers around the inside of their aluminum can).

[ Parent ]

Thank you! (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by CyberRonin on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 11:06:11 AM EST

As you noted, the skin of an aircraft is a structural element. Because things like rivets are not 100% sealed, the interior of the craft is sealed with a rubberized bladder. I'm not sure if this bladder is self sealing, but it would slow down the rate of decompression in any event. Planes would suffer explosive decompression if a door or window blew out...but that would require an explosion..at which point a bladder would be useless anyway. There are oxygen masks that deploy automatically in the event of decompression and pilots are instructed to immediately make for lower altitude where they are not required. These procedure already exist.

While I find little compelling evidence to believe our airforce would delay the a launch of interceptors for more funding, I would have to wonder about the airlines themselves. Within days, they citing the massive reduction of personnel and there are talks of an airline "bailout". Such a bailout will only line the pockets of the senior executives while I forecast few, if any any jobs will be restored.

Aircraft can be made more secure through reinforcement of the cockpit with man-traps, armour plating and gun ports in the man-trap area. Under no circumstance should the piloting team be placed in a compromising situation. Training the flight crew in martial arts may help as will the addition of the sky marshalls. But, bottom line is that these terrorist and their implements of death should never make onto a plane in the first place. Making ground crews responsible for their actions may have an impact as well. Perhaps if the baggage handlers had to fly with the planes they loaded, they might make a little more effort to check bags prior to loading.

Augmenting our airports security forces with trained soldiers may also have a deterring effect. Coupled with explosive sniffers or dogs and the latest scanners, we can almost rule out weapons getting onto the plane. But we still have the human "weapon" to contend with. Only skilled soldiers and sky martials can defuse that threat...and they need to be on the plane to be effective.

[ Parent ]

USAF "Delay" (3.40 / 5) (#21)
by davidduncanscott on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 12:58:59 PM EST

Of course they responded slowly. Inasmuch as New Jersey has generally been friendly toward the rest of the US, the planning of air defense has assumed that an attack would not be launched from Newark, and shooting down American Airlines flights has been considered a Bad Thing. How fast would you react if you were told that angry Venezulan midgets were disguising themselves as children and killing people? Would you run down to the closest elementary school and start shooting?

If terrorists released a herd of angry bulls in the streets of Akron, I'd expect it to take a while for cowboys to arrive. I wouldn't worry too much that they rode slowly in the hopes of getting Gunsmoke back on the air.

[ Parent ]

Excellent! (3.50 / 2) (#14)
by Vs on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 01:39:02 PM EST

If the flight was stopped by passengers who nobly ended their lives taking it down, then thousands of Pentagon workers might owe their lives to their sacrifice.

The crooks being saved by average John Doe -- that would indeed be a point. Maybe we need this argument when we are required to be tied up on intercontinental flights next month.
Where are the immoderate submissions?

Apparently, the terrorists taped it themselves (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by FuzzyOne on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 10:12:09 PM EST

This story indicates that operatives on the ground may have set up cameras to film the attack, just to make sure there was plenty of good footage for the media.

hmm... (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by Ender Ryan on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 08:07:46 AM EST

I think the reason it has not been mentioned much is because it is so obvious, AND the media doesn't want to be forced to admit that they were used by the terrorists in this manner. It's not their fault, but it must hurt anyway.

As for having a nationwide alarm system should one plane be hijacked, I'm sure that's the plan from now on.

Also, obviously hijackings will be impossible to pull off like this anytime in the near future, as everyone on the plane will immediately risk their lives to, well, save their lives. Now that it's safer to attack the terrorists, it will only be possible to take over planes with very few passengers, and they would need better weapons.

I don't think they plan to do this again, unfortuneately, I think they must have something else up their sleeves. I pray that it's not nuclear or biological in nature...

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Pairs not important (none / 0) (#23)
by malcolm on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 08:57:03 AM EST

It seems obvious to me that they used 4 planes for redundancy, they knew it was risky. I believe there has been been theories that at least 1 other team was stopped. They would have known that a security crackdown would follow, and this was probably their only chance. I was probably also a function of the number of operatives - 12 operatives = 4 planes. Multiple targets were also selected, to increase the chance of success and increase damage if more than one got through. No doubt the pentagon was large enough for 2 planes, but they may have had another taget with so many to choose from.

They're probably extremely happy that 3 out of 4 pulled it off. Although this will give them confidence, it will also confirm to them that more than one attack is necessary.

I believe the lesson is that any attack will have multiple prongs if possible. However, next time they may use different methods (perhaps complementary), or stage attacks in different countries.

what? (none / 0) (#25)
by boxed on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 11:18:24 AM EST

This was ALL the swedish media talked about. On and on and on, but it's still bogus as my brother pointed out. It was terribly bad timing! One hour later and the death toll would almost certainly be twice as high! Timing the two airplanes to the minute once their in the air would be perfectly feasable via radio. They seriously fucked up when it comes to killing people.

Not really (none / 0) (#30)
by uweber on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 08:34:00 PM EST

I do not know if this is correct but I have heard that at the time the planes were hijacked there is little delay in traffic, so it would make sense to have all planes in the air before you act.

[ Parent ]
Idea (none / 0) (#26)
by tripwyre on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 11:32:51 AM EST

Instead of arming the pilot, marshalls, etc. how about making the pilots get in to the cockpit from the outside of the plane and completly remove any door to the rest of the plane. You could also re-enforce the wall that seperates the pilot from the passengers so that only a bomb that would seriosly damage the plane could puncture that wall. Any reason why this wouldn't work?

Jonathan Groth

If the pilots are incapacitated... (2.00 / 2) (#28)
by nstenz on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 01:21:49 PM EST

...everyone will die. Not such a good idea.

[ Parent ]
Air pressure (none / 0) (#29)
by SnowDogAPB on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 01:24:37 PM EST

I don't have any facts to back this up, but I've heard that the necessity of maintaining the same air pressure throughout the plane makes this impossible. Now, you could probably do something with ventilation to ensure the air pressure was equalized, but that would likely mean a substantial redesign of our planes.

[ Parent ]
Already been covered... (none / 0) (#32)
by Kasreyn on Wed Sep 19, 2001 at 09:31:27 PM EST

The K5 discussion is right here:


And discussions of seperating the passengers from the pilots would be (in part) here:



"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
weak doors wasn't the problem (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by darkonc on Thu Sep 20, 2001 at 06:40:25 PM EST

Weak protocol was the problem. The hijackers did not break down the door. They simply created a commotion in the passenger section , waited for a pilot to come out the door, and went in the open door.

barricading the pilots inside the cockpit creates all sorts of logistical problems that makes the idea not worth it. (they'd need some way to piss, eat, etc. It's also pretty stressfull if you can't talk to a real person, now and then, on an 8 hour flight). Besides -- like I said. The Hijackers didn't break the door down.

This is like the old saying -- the only fully secure computer is unplugged, encased in cement, and sitting at the bottom of the ocean. similarly with aircraft. Besides which, Terrorists are unlikely to use this attack method again .. It's too well known, now. They'll find some other method for their next attack.
Killing a person is hard. Killing a dream is murder. : : : ($3.75 hosting)
[ Parent ]

The most overlooked element of these attacks | 36 comments (32 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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