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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

23 Minutes
That's how long American Airlines Flight Attendant Betty Ong talked to employees at American Airlines operations in North Carolina. She described the situation on the plane--people stabbed, mace or some other choking gas being used, the cockpit locked and inaccessible by intercom. Air traffic controllers knew that the plane had veered off course and that they couldn't communicate with the crew. But no alarms were sounded, and no fighter jets were scrambled in time to protect either WTC tower or the Pentagon. (The heroic "let's roll" scenario with brave passengers struggling with hijackers may not be what actually caused Flight 93 to crash in Pennsylvania.)

When air traffic controllers lost contact with golfer Payne Stewart's plane in 1999, fighter jets were escorting it within 20 minutes, trying to contact the pilot and ready to shoot it down if it appeared like it would crash in a populated area. On 9/11, there were fighters closer to the hijacked planes and their probable targets than in the Stewart case, yet at most one of the four was successfully intercepted. The plane that hit the Pentagon is completely inexplicable. It had been off course and out of radio contact for over an hour, and even Condi Rice could have figured out by then, with both WTC towers on fire, that terrorists might actually use airplanes to attack buildings. And Andrews Air Force Base is ten miles away.

It's no wonder that the Bushies continue to stonewall the 9/11 commission; the political price of obvious stonewalling is clearly much lower than what they'll face if the truth about 9/11 ever gets out. Thanks to Eli at Left I for pointing out the 23 minutes part of the Washington Post article. The Post writers seem to have missed the significance completely.