What don't we know (but think we know) about the suicide mission on September 11?


1. We do not know who were the actual suicide pilots.

Three planes had 5 hijackers, one plane had 4 hijackers, but no passenger or crew member actually identified any of the pilots that took control of the aircraft. Nor has the FAA investigation forensically determined which of the 19 were at the controls. The FBI speculation about Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shahhi and Ziad Jarrah is being pilots is deduced from the fact they trained in the USA in flight school on light aircraft. But the suicidists who did not train at US flight schools might have been trained in bases abroad, such as Salmon Pak where a mock-up of a Boeing was reported by an Iraqi defectors, or even on Boeing flight simulators. The US-trained pilots might have been back-ups, or beards, for professionally trained pilots among the hijackers.

2. We don't know if all the hijackers knew they were on a suicide mission.

We know the pilots and navigators were suicidists. We know nothing of the briefing of the others (some of whom this would be a conventional hijacking ending in the demand for the release of prisoners).

3. We do not know the weapons that the hijackers used to commandeer the planes.

The story about box-cutters and plastic knives comes from passengers in the back of two of the planes who saw those particular weapons. But those reports do not preclude that other hijackers used more sophisticated weapons they might have possessed and to instantly disable the pilots. The flight attendants in first class were the witnesses to these attacks. Betty Ong, an flight attendant aboard Flight 11, a Boeing 767 wide-body that had left Boston , screamed to a ground controller on a cell phone, that four hijackers had come from first-class seats 2A, 2B, 9A and 9B, killed a passenger in 10B and used "some sort of spray" that made her eyes burn and made it difficult for her to breathe. No box cutters, no plastic knifes, but a chemical aerosol. (Two hijackers had reported visiting local pharmacies prior to the hijacking with reddened hands). So, on at least one plane, Flight 11, a chemical weapon was used. On flight 93 , a flight attendant reported over a cell phone that a hijacker in her plane had a "bomb strapped on." They also reported "knives" and "stabbings," not plastic knives. So, according to first-hand reports, chemical weapons, bomb-devices and stabbing knives were used in the assault, and they could have had other weapons.

4. We do not know how they got their weapons aboard the planes.

It is assumed they used legal items, like plastic knives or small knives that were not banned, but this presupposed that it is known what weapons they had. If they had other weapons, like chemical dispensers, bombs or longer knives, they might have been either disguised as legal items or smuggled onto the planes in advance by accomplices.

5. We do not know how they seized control of the cockpits in planes without any of 8 pilots sounding the alarm.

The 8 airline pilot were not heard from after their ascent from take-off was completed. The silence raises issues since cockpit doors are supposed to kept shut and, if commotion took place in passenger cabin, it would take only seconds for pilots to contact ground control or sound a Mayday signal. Their silence suggests that the attackers had mastered a technique for gaining rapid entry into cockpits, or perhaps knew signal or had keys, and were thus able to disable pilots before they realized what was happening. If so, it again goes to question of weaponry and training.

6. We do not know how the suicide pilots navigated to their targets.

The radar images suggest that at least two suicide pilots were able to make bee-lines for distant targets. They might have had global positioning devices, pre-set to their targets, or they might have used the planes instrumentation. The former requires equipment, the latter, training in Boeing instruments.

7. How did they knew how to turn off the transponders on their planes?

The transponders allow ground controllers to track civilian and military aircraft. Evading these procedures are not taught in the sort of flight training they had in the US. This suggest that had training that has not been uncovered.

8. We do not know the target of Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.

It is pure conjecture that it was the Pentagon. It could have easily been the Three Mile Harbor Nuclear facility (which is also pure conjecture).

9. We do not know the cause of the crash of Flight 93.

The theory that the passengers overpowered the pilot is based on a passenger's cell call that they were planning to take action, which might or might not have occurred, and cockpit sounds of passenger noise, which could have been caused by many things, including the plane beginning to dive or losing control. It has not been established by the FAA whether the door was opened or locked at the time of the crash or who was in cockpit (so far, as we know, at least). The black box and cockpit voice recorder was recovered, but the data it, which might include the suicidists conversations, has not been made public.

10. We don't know if Atta was the ring leader of the suicidists?

It is assumed Mohamed Atta was the ring-leader because he made the most phone calls and computer contacts with others. But he could have been assigned this liaison task. Since all 19 men in the group are presumed dead, the issue of their command structure remains open. Indeed, we do not know if it was a "cell" in a hierarchical of links or a group of men within a polycentric network.

11 We don't know if many of the suicidists were using their own or stolen identities.

In a few cases, such as Atta, there is photographic and other evidence, as to their identity. But in the case of most of the 19 suicidists, all that is known is the identity under which they purchased the tickets. There are no photographs, fingerprints, DNA samples are other forensic evidence to match. So we cannot be sure who got on the planes under these identities or what their affiliations may have been.

12 We don't know why Atta rented a car and went to Portland, Maine on September 10.

It is assumed that it was easier for him to board the plane in Portland rather than Boston, but there is no basis for that assumption since others in the group used Boston as their departure point.

13 We don't know why Atta (and other suicidists), just prior to coming to the US, reported their passports lost and got new ones.

It is assumed that they wanted to hide trips to other countries, but they could have had other reasons, such as using their old passports to forge new identities for associates.

14. We don't know where, other than Florida and California, the suicide pilots and navigators received the training that allowed then to commandeer, operate and guide Boeing airliners.

It is assumed some of the pilots trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan. But that is based on the assumption that Atta and others applied for new passports (point 13) to conceal Afghanistan visas (which they did not need) in their old passports. By the same logic they could have been concealing visas to Syria, Bosnia, Iraq, Iran, Sudan or North Korea.

15. We don't know why Atta went to Prague, twice, en route to the USA on June 2nd 2000.

Atta reportedly met with an Iraq intelligence officer, Ahmad Al-Ani, on June 2,2000 in Prague who was being followed by agents of the Bezpecnostni Informacni Sluzby, the Czech counterintelligence agency. If he did, the Iraqi interest in him raises questions about who sponsored the mission.

16. We don't know who sent Atta $100,000 in June 2000.

After leaving Prague and flying to Florida, Atta received $100,000 from someone using a bank in the United Arab Emirate and the cryptonym "Mustafa Ahmad."

17. We don't know why Atta and others sent $15,000 back to "Mustafa Ahmad" on September 9th, 2001.

Since at least three of the suicidists followed the same routing, they may have been following the same instructions. Who instructed them to ghost this trail, and provide a return address for the attack is not know.

18. We don't know who organized the prior attack on the World Trade Center in 1993?

In most murder investigation, prior attempts are considered relevant. While most of the individual perpetrators of the 1993 attack were killed or caught-- one, Abdul Rahman Yasin-- managed to flee to Iraq. It has never been determined if a state backed the individuals.

19. We do not know where the planning for the September 11 attack took place.

Even though Attorney General Ashcroft said flatly Hamburg "served as a central base of operations," thus turns out to be supposition based on the fact that three hijackers, Atta, al-Shehhi and Jarrah had the opportunity to plan it in Hamburg. All three knew each other in Hamburg, attended the same mosque, had extremist associates and were photographed at a wedding reception. But it is not known where or when the attack was planned. It is also not known when it was plotted. Nor is it known if Atta, al-Shehhi and Jarrah were privy to the planning or recruited by the planners.

20. We do not know if the conspiracy planned to hijack others planes on September 11?

The FAA has said the shut-down of the air system averted other teams of hijackers from seizing other planes on September 11th. This assertion was based on suspicious activities of passengers on these grounded planes, but, so far, no evidence has been found of an addition hijacking attempt.