Critique of David Ray Griffin regarding Calls from 9-11 Planes
by Paul Zarembka, Professor of Economics, SUNY at Buffalo
David Ray Griffin’s response to this article is posted below.
— “The present essay provides various types of evidence that the calls [from 9/11 planes] were, indeed, faked. ” (Griffin, 2011, p. 101)
Watching and participating for almost ten years in the movement to expose the truth about what happened on September 11, 2001, I have come to feel that some are trying too hard to prove that the government is lying. A population can be manipulated not only by lies but also by sprinklings of truths, half truths, and distortions. Indeed, offering some truths is an effective means of undermining critics who argue for lies everywhere.
A self-confident movement does not need to be exposing just lies and only lies. It can examine evidence and draw disparate conclusions about differing accuracies of the huge amount of material to work with. I have felt that the work of David Ray Griffin, a leading commentator on September 11, is an example of turning up stones everywhere with the word “lie” written on them. He seems called upon to write about everything having to do with September 11 in order to turn over stones everywhere. Why?
I hadn’t thought to put this worry to paper until I carefully read Griffin’s Chapter 5 “Phone Calls from the 9/11 Planes: How They Fooled America” that appears in his just published 9/11 Ten Years Later (2011, Northampton, MA: Olive Branch).
CeeCee Lyles’ Call
To set the stage, I offer an initial example that a critique of Griffin’s chapter is necessary. This is for what he considers “the most direct evidence of fakery” in the phone calls. Griffin offers the tape recording of the phone call from UA 93 flight attendant CeeCee Lyles to her husband Lorne Lyles at 9:47 a.m. on September 11, 2001. He reproduces the text of what CeeCee says on Lorne’s answering machine. After CeeCee completes her message, a female voice is heard in the background, “You did great” ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUrxsrTKHN4 ). Griffin then asks, “How could anyone not take this whispered comment as clear evidence that the ‘CeeCee Lyles’ message was a fake?” He goes on to write a paragraph by way of explanation:
- To call it a “fake” means that the message was not what it purports to be. It could have been a fake produced by voice morphing. Or it could have been CeeCee Lyles reading a script she was forced to read — in which case, the whispered message might have been by a person coaching her. But in either case, the message was not authentic.
Noting also that the government itself provided this tape at the 2006 Moussaoui trial, Griffin concludes that “this whispered comment undermines the official story about 9/11″ (for this material, see pp. 115-16).
There is an alternative simple explanation that Griffin fails to even mention: Flight assistant CeeCee Lyles was sitting next to another woman and CeeCee had discussed with her an intention to call her husband. The other woman simply supported CeeCee in how she handled herself with that phone message.
This possible explanation is ignored altogether by Griffin. It cannot be ignored and thus rendered so improbable as not worth being put to paper. (I asked five persons — none of whom support the official story about September 11th — to interpret who likely said, “You did great”. Four said that this woman would likely be on the plane. One of them added that if that woman were a government agent, the government would have cut off that “You did great” in the recording when presented as evidence at the Moussaoui trial. Two offered that a quick claim of a fake would be “ridiculous”.)
This article will analyze the remaining significant points of Griffin’s chapter on phone calls from 9-11 planes. On occasion, we will also cite evidence presented in Rowland Morgan’s Voices , available at http://radiodujour.com/pdf/voices-book.pdf . Ultimately, my purpose is to advance analysis of the calls.
Griffin’s chapter centers considerably around voice morphing, although he does consider but dismisses another possibility, namely, ‘repeaters’. He leads into this discussion by considering the Tom Burnett calls from UA 93, a topic we will address later. Griffin relies on morphing because he needs a mechanism to explain the documented calls as faked, yet has no other alternative to offer to explain the calls as faked. Morphing is discussed on pp. 109-114, noting therein that some ten minutes of the real person’s voice is needed to achieve a reliable imitation (p. 110).
An article by Aidan Monaghan is cited by Griffin that advance passenger reservations for the flights could provide the basis for knowing who would be on the planes and thus provide knowledge to perpetrators as to whom to voice morph (p. 111). Morgan in Voices , p. 84, provides much more elaboration of the requirements:
- Foreknowledge of the terror events; – Foreknowledge of the targeted names on the airline passenger manifest; – Foreknowledge of ID information about the passengers, e.g. their families’ forenames; – Previous access to their phone lines and recorded samples of their telephone voices; – Foreknowledge of their home telephone numbers; – Knowledge of their credit card data and ready access to the billing systems; – Ready access to seatback telephone billing systems.
Griffin knows quite well that many of the persons who were major figures for the UA 93 story were passengers late to the flight. He knows this because he and I had communicated about this fact and he has my own research to this effect in my chapter “Initiation of the 9-11 Operation, with Evidence of Insider Trading Beforehand” (in The Hidden History of 9-11 , P. Zarembka, ed., 2008, New York: Seven Stories Press, pp. 51 and 309).
For late arrivals, Griffin could also read Jere Longman ( Among the Heroes , New York: Harper Collins, 2002). There we find that Tom Burnett switched from flight 91 (p. 8), Jeremy Glick’s prior day flight had been canceled (p. 20), Mark Bingham was using a “companion pass” (p. 28), and Lauren Grandcolas switched from flight 91 (pp. 12 and 128). Also, Elizabeth Wainio switched at the last minute from a flight to Denver ( www.ebroadcast.com.au/lookup/encyclopedia/ho/Honor_Elizabeth_Wainio.html ). Todd Beamer had delayed a September 10 departure ( www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=todd_beamer ) although it is unclear how late he booked UA 93. For its convenience, I can recommend “Last-Minute Pilots, Passengers, and Flight Attendants: The Unexplained Oddity of 9/11” (at http://shoestring911.blogspot.com/2008/03/last-minute-pilots-passengers-and.html ).
Regarding UA 93 passengers who called, Griffin devotes seven pages to Burnett, while Beamer receives four pages, Glick has an equivalent of a page, and Bingham, Grandcolas and Wainio are three more for two short paragraphs each. All of these six were late, stand-by, or transfers from flight 91, making voice morphing of them quite unlikely. Another late person is UA 93 flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw who spoke to her husband (Longman, p. 175). On AA 77, flight attendant Renee May was also late and will be addressed below.
The importance of late arrivals onto the UA 93 flight must be introduced in order to sustain the voice morphing proposal. Griffin does not. The same objection applies to Morgan’s work. Only Todd Beamer’s would not be much of a problem because he did not speak to someone who knew him personally.
Calmness on the Planes
Griffin focuses attention on calmness on the planes, suggesting its consistency with voice morphing actors. “Not only individuals, but also the passengers in general, seem to have been calm and quiet” which “would border on the miraculous” (p. 118). However, Lorne Lyles says of the call he received from his wife minutes before the end of UA 93 that he “could hear other people in the background. It sounded as if they were crying…. Lorne could hear screaming in the background. CeeCee screamed … and people were screaming and then the call broke off” (p. 180). On p. 120, Griffin himself cites a report that Jeremy Glick’s father-in-law heard “screaming” after being handed the phone from Jeremy’s wife. Why does Griffin fail to even consider such evidence (even if to discredit it somehow)?
Five passengers are cited by Griffin (pp. 117-18) for a claimed lack of emotion, suggesting imposters behind the calls. They are Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick, Lauren Grandcolas, and Elizabeth Wainio. Yet all five were late passengers for which voice morphing is most problematic (although Beamer’s call was not to someone who knew him). Griffin reports from Longman that Lauren Grancolas’ voice was so calm “as if she were driving home from the grocery store or ordering a pizza”, yet Griffin leaves out the very next sentence, “Still, there was urgency in her voice”. We could go on, or simply skim through Longman’s book to read of emotions described for each of these passengers (p. 200 for Beamer, p. 132 for Bingham, pp. 146-47 for Glick, p. 128 for Grancolas, and pp. 171-72 for Wainio). Griffin himself says, in a passage a few pages after reporting calmness, that Beamer “expressed fear” (p. 123).
Of course, we don’t have to accept Longman’s renderings, but Griffin is not entitled to cite only that which might sustain his argument about emotions, while ignoring contrary pieces of evidence.
Calmness of Flight Attendants
Issues concerning flight attendants focus on their calmness. Calmness on the part of professionals is what they are trained to do. While they could not be criticized for becoming emotional, they should not be subject to suspicion for doing what is expected of them. In any case, Betty Ong from AA 11 is described by Griffin as mysterious because she was calm in frightening circumstances. 1 Amy Sweeney on AA 11 is also described as calm and so considered implausible were the real Amy Sweeney the caller. But at the end of her call she definitely was not calm but fearful: “Oh my God, we are way too low”. One listener reported that she “started screaming and saying something’s wrong.” — www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=madeline_%28_amy_%29_sweeney ).
Regarding UA 93, flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw calling her husband has been described as having “surprising composure, but tumult, too” (Longman, p. 176). Attendant CeeCee Lyles did not maintain calm, although she had previously been a police officer who “knew how to remain calm under duress” (Longman, p. 178): At the end of her first call to her husband Lorne CeeCee broke into a cry (Longman, p. 177, or listen to the tape previously cited). On CeeCee’s second call, Lorne heard her scream (Longman, p. 180).
Passengers on UA 93 who Called
Three years ago I reviewed the differences between Deena Burnett’s statements that her husband Tom Burnett called her via a cell phone — she said he called four times — against the government’s claim at the Moussaoui trial that there were only three calls at different times from her listing and using air phones (Zarembka, pp. 307-08). Since then Deena’s statement that Tom called from his cell phone has been revealed to be unsupported by phone company records: “The call Burnett made from the cell phone did not show up on the cell phone bill, neither did the one he placed to his secretary before take-off. Burnett spoke with his friend Charles from England before take-off. He mentioned the flight was delayed but did not give a reason.” — interview with Deena Burnett at http://media.nara.gov/9-11/MFR/t-0148-911MFR-00260.pdf ).
Griffin does not cite this important report, but focuses on Deena’s affirmations as to Tom’s cell phone number having been displayed on her screen. Meantime, the government claims a record for Tom using an air phone (at www.911myths.com/images/c/c3/Team7_AirfoneRecords.pdf ), showing a “CS” credit card being used and approved three times. The government doesn’t provide the credit card company records (as far as I know). In any case, Griffin reports that Tom Burnett declines to talk to his children and finds this “difficult to believe” (pp. 114-15). Given that Tom had three very young daughters and was in an emergency situation, I find this easy to believe.
Calls by Todd Beamer and Jeremy Glick are noted by Griffin to have stayed connected after the UA 93 crash (pp. 120-21). This is a puzzle. Griffin also notes that Beamer passed up a chance to talk to his wife (pp. 122-123). On its own, this is unpersuasive as one has to speculate for a reason differing from the stated one of Todd’s wife’s pregnancy. (Generally, I think speculation as to why someone says this, and not that, in an emergency does not get us very far on its own as such speculation seems judgmental designed to get the reader’s agreement.) Morgan’s discussion of the alleged Beamer calls ( Voices , pp. 199-234) is more convincing and recommended for those interested.
The government for the Moussaoui trial prosecution reports that only the last two calls from UA 93 by Edward Felt and Lyles were from cell phones. Even these two were “very unlikely”, according to Griffin, unlikely because of a 5000 foot altitude and the problem of cell-tower handshaking of a call from a plane going at a reported 580 miles per hour (p. 114). Regarding altitude, Griffin neglects noting that the ground level near Shanksville is itself at 2230 feet (“Shanksville has the seventh-highest elevation of towns in Pennsylvania, at 2,230 feet” — Wikipedia for Shanksville, PA) and the nearby cell towers would likely be higher on a hill. I had suggested the towers to be around 3000 feet (Zarembka, p. 307). Regarding tower handshaking, both calls were short.
AA 77 Passenger Barbara Olson
Griffin reports (pp. 126-27) several pieces of evidence that air phones were unavailable to passengers on American Airlines Boeing 757s by September 2001. Claiming this lack of access, Barbara Olson using an air phone is then ruled out. Griffin is unsatisfied with leaving it there and provides some other abnormalities.
Morgan’s 2010 extensive discussion of the alleged Olson calls is recommended for those interested ( Voices , pp. 12-40). Incidentally, it has been widely noted that Olson had been originally scheduled to fly on September 10.
Not More Passenger Calls?
Surprise is expressed by Griffin that no more passenger calls were made from the 9-11 planes. But in the process of listing each of the four planes on pp. 130-32, he seems to forget that a few pages earlier he had made a full argument that air phones were unavailable for flights AA 11 and AA 77 as they were using Boeing 757s, and elsewhere in the chapter had also argued that cell phones were unavailable except at very low altitudes. In a later chapter, Griffin refers again to the absence of calls from AA 77 (p. 185), continuing to forget what he wrote on pp. 126-27 about those American 757s.
In other words, Griffin had argued that passengers on the American flights could not call. Is he not himself convinced about his own proffered evidence?
Call by AA 77 Flight Attendant Renee May
While Griffin doesn’t discuss her much, Morgan in Voices , pp. 78-84, calls into question the evidence about the call by AA 77 flight attendant Renee May . Hers was initially described as from a cell phone at 25,000 feet, but then the Moussaoui trial documents indicated that her call was from an air phone. In any case, voice morphing of her call to her parents would have been quite difficult: “
- Renee May was only assigned to Flight 77 during the morning of 9/11. American Airlines had earlier called another attendant, Lena Brown, and asked her to take the flight, but Brown said she would be unable to get to the airport in time. ‘Renee May, the next flight attendant on American Airlines’ list, accepted.’.” [http://shoestring911.blogspot.com/2008/03/last-minute-pilots-passengers-and.html, accessed October 9, 2011]
Both Griffin and Morgan need to address this difficulty.
The internal logic of Griffin’s chapter rather surprised me for its weakness. It isn’t that a case cannot be made. It isn’t that certain elements of a good case aren’t mentioned. Rather, problems in the argumentation are significant and supporters of the official story are offered a target. Trying to defend such work reduces our credibility.
1 Griffin reports Ong spoke at length with a small flight reservations office in Cary, North Carolina, rather than a security office in Boston or Dallas (p. 119). Regarding this call, I have no information to add, but wonder what punching the number 8 meant in this report: “Ong punched the number 8 on a seatback GTE Airfone and got through to an American reservations agent” [www.boston.com/news/packages/underattack/news/planes_reconstruction.htm, accessed October 9, 2011]. Staying on the call may have made some sense as, within two minutes, a supervisor was brought into the call.
Ed: Paul Zarembka posted this correction in the comments at ITHP.org: Under “Not More Passenger Calls?”, I reported that AA 11 was using a Boeing 757, but in fact it was using a 767. Thus, passengers should have had air phones available. So, Griffin is correct to ask why are there no reports that any passengers made calls from AA 11?