Leaked 9/11 Text Messages

Wikileaks has published pager intercepts from New York on 9/11:

WikiLeaks released half a million US national text pager intercepts. The intercepts cover a 24 hour period surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

[...]

Text pagers are usualy carried by persons operating in an official capacity. Messages in the archive range from Pentagon, FBI, FEMA and New York Police Department exchanges, to computers reporting faults at investment banks inside the World Trade Center.

Near as I can tell, these messages are from the commercial pager networks of Arch Wireless, Metrocall, Skytel, and Weblink Wireless, and include all customers of that service: government, corporate, and personal.

There are lots of nuggets in the data about the government response to 9/11:

One string of messages hints at how federal agencies scrambled to evacuate to Mount Weather, the government's sort-of secret bunker buried under the Virginia mountains west of Washington, D.C. One message says, "Jim: DEPLOY TO MT. WEATHER NOW!," and another says "CALL OFICE (sic) AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. 4145 URGENT." That's the phone number for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Continuity Programs Directorate -- which is charged with "the preservation of our constitutional form of government at all times," even during a nuclear war. (A 2006 article in the U.K. Guardian newspaper mentioned a "a traffic jam of limos carrying Washington and government license plates" heading to Mount Weather that day.)

FEMA's response seemed less than organized. One message at 12:37 p.m., four hours after the attacks, says: "We have no mission statements yet." Bill Prusch, FEMA's project officer for the National Emergency Management Information System at the time, apparently announced at 2 p.m. that the Continuity of Operations plan was activated and that certain employees should report to Mt. Weather; a few minutes later he sent out another note saying the activation was cancelled.

Historians will certainly spend a lot of time poring over the messages, but I'm more interested in where they came from in the first place:

It's not clear how they were obtained in the first place. One possibility is that they were illegally compiled from the records of archived messages maintained by pager companies, and then eventually forwarded to WikiLeaks.

The second possibility is more likely: Over-the-air interception. Each digital pager is assigned a unique Channel Access Protocol code, or capcode, that tells it to pay attention to what immediately follows. In what amounts to a gentlemen's agreement, no encryption is used, and properly-designed pagers politely ignore what's not addressed to them.

But an electronic snoop lacking that same sense of etiquette might hook up a sufficiently sophisticated scanner to a Windows computer with lots of disk space -- and record, without much effort, gobs and gobs of over-the-air conversations.

Existing products do precisely this. Australia's WiPath Communications offers Interceptor 3.0 (there's even a free download). Maryland-based SWS Security Products sells something called a "Beeper Buster" that it says let police "watch up to 2500 targets at the same time." And if you're frugal, there's a video showing you how to take a $10 pager and modify it to capture everything on that network.

It's disturbing to realize that someone, possibly not even a government, was routinely intercepting most (all?) of the pager data in lower Manhattan as far back as 2001. Who was doing it? For that purpose? That, we don't know.

Posted on November 26, 2009 at 7:11 AM • 85 Comments

Comments

Alan EdwardsNovember 26, 2009 7:40 AM

This takes me back; my Pro-26, 3.5mm cable and POCSAG, twiddling the volume & sound card gain to see the most inane rubbish scrolling by...

I agree with them, over-the-air interception is the most likely, as it's very easy to do. I wonder why it took so long to be released?

Alan.

ViktorNovember 26, 2009 7:50 AM

I don't know how the US system is organized, but in Sweden the pagers do not talk to the network, they only listen.

This means that the network does not have location information for the nodes, and that all messages are sent from all transmitters within the coverage area. This works because it is relatively low traffic.

Clive RobinsonNovember 26, 2009 8:13 AM

@ Viktor,

"I don't know how the US system is organized, but in Sweden the pagers do not talk to the network, they only listen."

Thats true of all pager systems (a lot of which work not to far from the 145Mhz amature band) on fixed frequencies.

Because there is a limited number of frequencies they are arranged in a form of cell system to prevent adjacent transmitters blocking each other (which is why you might pick the same message up multiple times in short succession).

But overall the effect is as you describe that is a "general broadcast" system which has no encryption.

Adding encryption of message content is trivial and can be done by ordinary users. However importantly the pager address is not currently encryptable.

This is a significant issue as not only does it allow traffic analysis it is not difficult to tie the pager address to an individual and the number to use to send a message to it.

Thus spoofing attacks etc are possible etc etc etc.

Leigh HoneywellNovember 26, 2009 8:30 AM

It's disturbing to realize that someone, possibly not even a government, was routinely intercepting most (all?) of the pager data in lower Manhattan as far back as 2001.

Isn't it all the more disturbing that this data was still being sent in plaintext?

KTCNovember 26, 2009 8:33 AM

I'm not actually surprised that the data exist in the first place. It could be compiled from archive as suggested because post 9/11, or intercepted either by individual or government. NSA certainly have the resource to, and one honestly have to expect them to track all pagers messages with automated systems to flag up messages with certain keyword for later review. And because of 9/11, all the messages from around that time would have been saved.

If that's the case. I'll love to be a fly on the wall when NSA or FBI learned that data have leaked onto the public domain.

KNovember 26, 2009 8:55 AM

About 10 years ago in my IRC days, there was a 16 year old guy me and some mates had befriended who had written some software that pulled pager messages out of the air, decoded them and passed them onto an IRC bot which pasted them into a predefined channel.

He was in country NSW,Australia and it was quite amazing the number of messages that were coming through (thousands an hour at peak times) and the variety of the message content, from SES (State Emergency Services), IT Call outs, Suspect drug deals and the odd Law enforcement alert.

I could only imagine the kind of data that was being intercepted in a city like New York using the same methods with better equipment.

K

chuckNovember 26, 2009 9:45 AM

In 1999-2000 we routinely purchased and analyzed pager intercepts from Russia (Moscow and St.Petersburg) for a government agency. The messages for realtors, doctors and drug dealers really stood out ;)

Gal ShpantzerNovember 26, 2009 9:54 AM

Bruce, what is your opinion regarding the propriety of WikiLeaks' decision to release these pager intercepts with so much private data? Is that decision advancing WikiLeaks' oh-so-lofty stated mission?

Clive RobinsonNovember 26, 2009 10:10 AM

For those interested.

All you need to know are the pager frequencies and these are a matter of public knowledge as is the data format (ITU spec etc).

You then need a narrow band receiver (Icom do several that work well under computer control) and a lead from the receiver "audio" out to your sound card.

You then need an appropriate piece of software. If you cannot find the exact thing there are plenty of public domain source code projects for SWL/HAM/Amatur Radio operators that will do the job.

Configure the software to dump in CSV format with min:sec time info and make hourly files. Fill your hard disk... Then run the files through a de-dup filter and dump them into a DB to do your data searching.

As I said to spoof all you need is to know the number to call.

Alternativly if you want no record and you know where your victim is (ie you have them under watch) all you do using the same software is generate the appropriate audio tones and put them into a low power transmitter close to the victim.

In some parts of the world there are pager gateways where your computer sends the message to the gateway and it is transmitted automatically (just like an SMS Gateway).

For those that are now worried about security simply encrypt the message text to be sent convert back to pager text char range and send. The user puts the RXed message into an app on their PDA/phone/netbook/etc. To get the plain text.

Just remember to use a block cipher with chaining and put a message CRC as the first part of the message (generaly makes spoofing very obvious as the message will be garbage).

Trichinosis USANovember 26, 2009 10:12 AM

I guarantee you before even reading the collection of messages that there will be nothing about the "pulling" of WTC 7 or the explosions caused by the nanothermitic controlled demolition of towers 1 and 2.

That's not because those events didn't happen. It's because the people who were collecting these messages in the first place WERE the US federal government, and this is a continuance of the coverup attempt, deliberately timed to keep the official fairytale in the public eye as the 9/11 circus trial in NYC approaches.

Hackers in their momma's basement were not the ones collecting 9/11 pager messages - if they were, this information would have been released to the public a lot sooner. This is a leak of federally collected information.

Consider both the timing and the source.

BovieeNovember 26, 2009 10:27 AM

It would seem to me that there are considerably more then two places the data could have come from.

uk visaNovember 26, 2009 11:27 AM

Apologies but this isn't about the tech; it's about the people...
So many lives so tragically, criminally lost.
Such a terrible day.

Steve KNovember 26, 2009 2:30 PM

Some people still do carry pagers. Because they are receive only and don't have cameras, they're sometimes allowed into secure places that cellphones aren't. That way a message can still be delivered.

Question for you all: Are cellular SMS messages also plain text and covered by the same "gentlemen's agreement"?

DNovember 26, 2009 2:40 PM

@uk_visa:

I believe we are all well aware of the personal effects of the tragedy itself. But this posting isn't about the tech or about the tragic loss of life. It is about data obtained in a questionable manner and released to the public. The fact that the data encompasses such a tragic event makes it interesting for history's sake. This is a data security blog after all - not indifferent to the humanities but certainly not focused on them either.

KTCNovember 26, 2009 2:44 PM

It's been known that SMS messages are monitored automatically with keywords flagging for later review in the UK. Newspaper reported a guy getting visited by the police a while after sending the lyrics of a song out of context that seemed a possible threat. Must be similar in the US.

JoelNovember 26, 2009 4:14 PM

Steve K:
No, SMS messages don't have the same level of vulnerability. That is, the message will only be transmitted to the specific handset indended as a recipient. The encryption built into GSM is supposed to take care of message secrecy.
Of course, there are all kinds of ways for the operator to capture and log messages, and they do when the authorities demand it.

SteveLNovember 26, 2009 4:39 PM

Promiscuous mode pagers have always been easy to do, a mixture of the dull and the fascinating. Its amusing how thoughts turn from deliveries to sex after 4pm.

This log of the events is profound though, a glimpse into how the US reacted. I think from a historical perspective, it will be of value in years to come. Good dataset for an introduction to datamining too.

Arturo BatesNovember 26, 2009 6:23 PM

@ Clive Robinson,

"Adding encryption of message content is trivial and can be done by ordinary users. However importantly the pager address is not currently encryptable."

The pager address could be hidden -- since pagers are a broadcast medium, one could just send a message to any random number in the correct city (and the target pager, listening in promiscuous mode, would filter out messages that aren't properly encrypted and/or signed).

networkdNovember 26, 2009 7:13 PM

I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories but when you are in the middle of some 'brain storming' session in order to gain insight or at least gather some ideas from which to move on, it's not wise to just 'ignore' anybody's (e.g. Trichinosis USA) statements perhaps because it doesn't agree with your views. You might as well just ignore wikileaks altogether. JonS ?

Clive RobinsonNovember 26, 2009 8:23 PM

@ Arturo Bates,

"The pager address could be hidden -- since pagers are a broadcast medium, one could just send a message to any random number in the correct city"

Yes it could and I designed a broadcast model to do exactly that for a broadcast data network.

The problem is that for Joe Avarage it's not currently possible because of your assumption of,

"the target pager, listening in promiscuous mode"

Although pagers do decode all messages and are thus already in promiscuous mode, the firmware/software in the pager ignores incorect ID messages. So Joe Average does not get to see what are effectivly "random" ID messages.

Although technicaly it is not an overly onerous problem to resolve (use one ID in the same way as the IP subnet broadcast address) you run smack into "backwards compatability" issues using random ID's.

JonSNovember 26, 2009 9:50 PM

Networkd,
a fair point, to which I would respond thusly: There are many, many information sources available to anyone and everyone now. It is not, however, possible to pay attention to - or even be *aware* of - them all. We must all chose and discriminate and decide.

Inevitably, that means some info sources will be rejected. Maybe because they are shallow, or wrong, or irrelevant. maybe not in all things, but in all the things that matter to you, or me, or whoever.

I've had encounters with troofers before. They are among *the* most misguided, uninformed, and flat out wrong people I've ever met. Not just about 9/11 either. The kind of thinking that allows people to look at a video collapsing due to structural failure after being struck by an a/c and somehow interpret that as "OMFG, the gubmint did it!!1!" ... meh. My brainstorming sessions are going to be just fine without their input.

T_US isn't brainstorming. He's bending facts to fit a preconceived position. If that's the kind of person you want at your brainstorming sessions, well, good luck to you.

Regards
Jon

Trichinosis USANovember 26, 2009 10:23 PM

Over 900 architects and engineers are willing to testify to the inaccuracies and logical holes in the official 9/11 story. Most of them focus on the obvious lie that "debris" took down WTC 7.

http://www.ae911truth.org

A team of eight chemistry professors released a paper in April that showed evidence of military grade nanothermitic material in four samples of dust from the WTC. NIST and the FBI both failed to test for the presence of this material, no explanations were given.

Explosions are clearly visible on slow motion versions of the video. Over 200 people who were in and around the buildings just prior to their collapse have testified about hearing regular, repetitive explosions. Their testimony was redacted from the 9/11 Commission report and otherwise ignored.

People who seek the truth of a matter are not conspiracy theorists or wild-eyed agitators. I would very much welcome a calm, rational, analytical, fact-based scientific inquiry into the events surrounding 9/11.

I would welcome it especially because it hasn't happened yet. Even the people who were running the 9/11 Commission are on record as saying that it was, and I quote, "set up to fail".

KSA crewNovember 27, 2009 1:18 AM

You can go to the bank on the fact that the end is very nigh for 911 liars, stalkers, slanderers.

As for those who say that it's not appropriate to release personal messages that were texted on 911.... People deserve the truth... What is not right [much less appropriate] is the continual lies and slander that has gone on for years.

Karma can be a b!tch. Justice is coming and those who deserve their "just desserts" will be finally getting them.

Clive RobinsonNovember 27, 2009 5:07 AM

@ JonS, Trichinosis USA,

Irrespective of what you guys feel, the "truth" of 9/11 will probably not ever be known (and probably cannot).

All that can be known is verifiable facts, the rest is "perspective" and "interpretation".

Even verifiable facts have issues.

For instance, take a fact such as a visable effect of a fireball/flash. In many cases all you can say is the "burn rate" being above or below the speed of sound due to visable shock wave and colour of the residual smoke.

If however the fireball/flash is recorded by a camera of one form or another It is (sometimes) possible using more elabarate tests and having the original camera etc to build an aproximation of the light spectrum and thus work out some of the chemicals that where producing the fireball/flash.

However that does not always tell you much (see design of FAE/FAX using petro products).

For instance if I take a bag of ordinary fine partical cooking flour (such as cornflour) and fill the "air" in a room with it and supply a spark from touching two mains wires together you will get a fireball/flash.

You will be able to identify aproximately the fuel (flour but not which type), but you will not be able to tell how it mixed with the air in the room (ie by accident or design).

You could make some assumptions based on the locality such as in a "cake shop storeroom" or "office meeting room". But at the end of the day they are not facts just interpretaions of the available facts.

Thus although some of the facts of 9/11 are known, the circumstances will always be subject to perspective and interpretation...

uk visaNovember 27, 2009 9:48 AM

@D
Yes, I understand; my comment was not a criticism.
It was a genuine apology for not adding anything to the conversation...

Annie NomousNovember 27, 2009 10:58 AM

I'm not a conspiracy nut. I have, however, watched from about 500' as a building was destroyed by controlled demolition. My impression on seeing the towers fall on live TV was that it looked *exactly* like the controlled demolition I'd witnessed. Watch the damn video and try to convince yourself that it's collapsing from the top down. Especially consider how it could drop straight down with intact structure underneath. I think it's most likely that the towers were dropped after the plane hits precisely because of fear that they would fall into adjacent buildings. No fabricated terrorist plot, just a disaster team doing its job. But since there were still people in the building who might theoretically have been rescued, the gvt. can never own up to demolishing the buildings.

Clive RobinsonNovember 27, 2009 12:38 PM

@ Annie Nomous,

"My impression on seeing the towers fall on live TV was that it looked *exactly* like the controlled demolition I'd witnessed. Watch the damn video and try to convince yourself that it's collapsing from the top down."

Unfortunatly most people do not know a few things about the Twin Towers.

It was a new and radical design, not just for the lifts but the overall design.

Put overly simpley unlike previous hi rise it did not use a latice of girders. It used a simple lighter design of a strong central core and an an outer skin that used the floors to provide the rigidity.

The problem with the design was as the floors softend due to buring av-gas dropped and dropped this had a cascade effect.

The crossbracing went and fell down the inside of the building and pulled the outer facia in behind it.

You can make a model of this with a cardoard tube, paper disks and an outer thin card facia. If you get the distance between the disks right they are in tension and brace the facia against the core and your model will support a reasonable weight on the top of the outer facia. Remove the paper cross bracing disks and the facia will colapse under the same weight.

DCNovember 27, 2009 1:26 PM

Clive,

Thanks for saving a lot of words here.
One, I've seen precisely this kind of collapse where there was no demolition, no plane, and no reason for it other than the contractor building the building went just a little too fast moving molds and pouring the floors, and this collapse looked precisely like the trade towers. People were killed, and no one gained anything whatever -- the contractor, the insurance company, the customer all lost, and some guys were killed in the attempt to go a little too fast building it.

Many armchair theorists are evidently unaware of the principle of the hammer, never having used one, too tough to get out of the chair and actually learn something first hand, I guess.

I invite them to lay a hand on a table, and drop a 1 lb weight on it from say 2 feet -- it was only one pound and sitting on the back or your hand, no pain. Now try dropping it -- say even a one floor distance and tell me how your hand that easily supports that static weight, eevn as a compact lead block, and with a big safety factor, survives it.

The architect of the building was near suicidal because HE KNEW the risk of this, and never questioned some sort of magic "military grade nano thermite" which would have to be magic stuff indeed to make a dent in what otherwise was a 33,000 caliber bullet loaded with all that av gas in effect. I mean, really. I've used thermite, and made it from scratch, various types, no big deal, that is one major tipoff the poster is clueless.
What exactly would "nano thermite" be, anyway, those of us who know what's possible with chemistry could always use some entertainment.

See "hammer" for how a building goes down under deliberate demolition, and go watch some of those reality shows that describe how those guys work, and you'll know enough to really comment. They use the hammer (and other) principles of course, explosives are expensive, and tend to throw things, and when they do this, they want low expense and low danger to things around, so yes -- work it out on your own why it would look about the same as cutting out one floor and letting the rest fall on the floors beneath -- that's how they do it in the pro world, this time they just used a hot airplane fire, much more expensive than what anyone paying for it would have used, and very wasteful energetically compared to what it acually takes to bring down a building.

Why theorize needing anything more than a zillion times the energy a pro blaster would need?

A mark of ignorance and some oddball other agenda.

Having worked in the "intelligence" community, I can say that while strange/fantasty things are sometimes BS'd about over lunch, no way this was government -- they're not that good at keeping that big a secret, honest -- too many losers working there, and that's the truth.

SkepticNovember 27, 2009 1:37 PM

@DC
Although the government consipracy theory can always be glossed over with "they aren't smart enough or can;t keep a secret", they *government) only need to keep the secret long enough for people to start to forget or for when it does come out for people to be conditioned to it being called BS. Seems to me that th US government ahs on a few occasions kept secrets -- remember the "Maine"? Or more recently all the secret wiretapping and arrangements with AT&T...

NimityNovember 27, 2009 1:59 PM

That's nice, Clive, but I'm afraid I have to agree with the conspiracy geeks on this one. One only has to look at a few of those "facts" you mentioned. FBI and DIA agents testified they were ordered not to arrest the hijackers. Multiple wargames were scheduled at same time on 9/11, including one with two big aircraft, that effectively paralyzed air force. The put options by CIA contacts showed foreknowledge. Let's not forget how the Pentagon rammer did ace maneuvering to hit the recently reinforced (nearly empty) side. Paraphrasing one interviewee, "If he had hit *anywhere else*, it would have been catastrophic." Yeah, I bet...

As for demolition, one just needs to look at eyewitness reports and WTC 7. Most eye witnesses reported groundlevel explosions just before towers fell. Other witnesses said the area with the supposed inferno melting the building was just office fires. That WTC 7 fell the same way with the same thermal imaging results supports a demolition theory. The official theory of the time was some flaming debris hit it and took it out totally. LOL.

So, Clive, the verifiable facts create several premises: extensive foreknowledge; government actively stopping arrests of terrorists about to attack; demolition of WTC 7 and maybe 1 or 2; Pentagon attacker worked hard to do least damage; more wargames than ever scheduled all on that day; extensive emergency drills and placement of responders just before attack. Any one of these might seem like coincidence or incompetence or whatever. All together, they paint a clear case for conspiracy. These barely scratch the surface of the "verifiable facts" and I don't think it takes much interpretation to support the "government assisted" perspective.

I've played this game too long to buy into their BS. And they gained plenty. If you doubt the US would try something like this, look up Operation Northwoods. It was mysteriously declassified a year or two before the attacks. A warning? You decide.

Annie NomousNovember 27, 2009 3:35 PM

@DC: I don't think the collapse of an uncured concrete building has much application to WTC. Also, I'm theorizing needing *exactly* the amount of explosive energy a pro blaster would need.

@Clive: You have it backwards. In the WTC design the strength is in the outer wall trusses, which is what makes it so hard to explain it dropping straight down from fire damage. Change your model to a dinner plate supported by candle sticks around the edge (and at the center if you like), and try to devise a way to heat the supports such that the plate drops straight down instead of falling over.

DHNovember 27, 2009 3:42 PM

Wow, a lot of these conspiracy theorists need to view the video The History Channel put together. They also need to review the Sep 10 mindset left over from Janet Reno's Justice Department where terrorism was viewed as criminal activity rather than an act of war.

Of course FBI agents were told not to arrest personnel who had not yet engaged in provable acts of terrorism, hadn't purchased large quantities of explosives, etc. Janet Reno and Jamie Gorelick spent 8 years building groupthink that viewed anti-abortion and tax protesters as more dangerous than Islamic terrorists.

DC and Clive have it right: the collapse of the WTC towers was perfectly in line with the structural engineering and catastrophic events seen. In fact, it would have much harder to pull off the tight synchronization required to induce the events seen live by tens of thousands of people.

These "truthers" conveniently ignore the simple element of explaining how and when such demolition charges could or would have been placed. Annie Nomous's "benign" explanation is even worse as the demolition crew would have needed to plant these explosives in the midst of the flames and chaos induced by the aircraft impacts.

It takes a LOT of interpretation (or intentional ignorance or misuse of pharmaceuticals) to support the "government assisted" perspective Nimity advocates.

JonSNovember 27, 2009 4:49 PM

@ Anonie Mouse: "Especially consider how it could drop straight down with intact structure underneath."

Sure. Straight down. Where *else* were they going to go? I mean, seriously - where else?

Gravity is straight down, and that was the major force acting on the buildings. The buildings were overwhelmingly hollow, and therefore highly compressible. Compressible along the axis of the major force. Which was gravity. Which was - and remains - acting straight down. These buildings were not trees, or some other kind of solid structure. When a tree is cut down, it must fall sideways because it is - for practical purposes - incompressible. But a tree is an extremely poor model or proxy for a 100+ storey building.

Regards
Jon

JonSNovember 27, 2009 4:51 PM

@ Annie - oops, I completely numptied your name, sorry. That was laziness on my part (not copy-pasting), rather than intentional.

Regards
Jon

Annie NomousNovember 27, 2009 4:55 PM

@DH: I have a perscription for those pharmaceuticals. I concede that the scenario I proposed would require a level of competence not normally associated with either federal or local government. Don't forget the 1993 bombing, though. The gov. had good reason to have plans in place to safely demolish a tower if it was in danger of imminent collapse.

JonSNovember 27, 2009 5:11 PM

@ Clive
"Irrespective of what you guys feel, the "truth" of 9/11 will probably not ever be known (and probably cannot)."

Sure. But that's about as useful as saying we don't know the true value of pi.

JBNovember 27, 2009 6:58 PM

+1 for government complicity.
They're far more capable than a small group of hijackers and have gained far more. And they know that most people will be far too terrorized into even consider anything that would rock their world view. As always they ignore details and revert to name calling and sarcasm.

RogerNovember 27, 2009 9:44 PM

Who uses pagers? Lots of people -- it's still a multi-billion dollar per year industry -- and especially people with important responsibilities.

The main reason is that message delivery is far, far more reliable, especially in a crisis. (Particularly relevant here, of course, since large parts of the cell network stopped working during 9/11.) If you look at your service provider's contract for SMS delivery (assuming you even have a written one!), you will generally see a disclaimer that makes no promises whatsoever to deliver messages. Yep, the service providers officially regard SMS as a toy for teenagers.

Pager message delivery also tends to take a more reliable amount of time, whereas SMS delivery time can fluctuate considerably, becoming very slow indeed during emergencies.

There are a few other advantages, though:
* vastly superior better battery life: typically they take ordinary AAA batteries, and a fresh battery lasts more than a month, in some cases more than 3 months.
* receive-only models (the usual type) can be taken into and used in many areas where radio transmitters are prohibited for safety or security reasons (this is the main reason doctors in hospitals have pagers instead of cellphones.) This is also applicable in work areas where a potentially explosive atmosphere may be present.
* cheaper messaging: depends on the contract of course, but somewhere around 4p (7c) is typical for a short message (up to 220 characters, which would take 2 messages on SMS.)
* generally superior reception coverage. This applies not only in the countryside, but also inside heavily constructed buildings.
* a $50 pager is smaller and lighter than even the priciest cell phones
* some models designed for industrial use are very tough. In fact some can even be safely sterilised, another plus for doctors. Try sterilising your cellphone and see what happens.
* pager messages can be genuine multi-receiver broadcasts. SMS simulates this by sequentially sending the message to each item on an address list, which is much slower and quickly becomes prohibitively expense for a large group.
* privacy, 1: most pagers are receive-only, so they can't be tracked like cellphones
* privacy, 2: when you're busy, it's much easier to ignore a pager.

Seth BreidbartNovember 27, 2009 11:06 PM

Bruce, for years somebody was routinely intercepting all of the pager communication around Wall St. Now do you have any suspicions at least as to why?

I wouldn't be surprised if the SEC were one of the entities doing it, looking for evidence of insider trading or stock fraud. I also wouldn't be surprised if someone were doing it in order to get inside information.

NimityNovember 28, 2009 12:08 AM

@ DH

I never claimed to know specifics. Thermite and controlled demolition are a possibility. The problem is the focus of the doubters: you are all focusing on why WTC1/2 would fall, while we are focusing on why WTC7 falls same way w/out airplane strike on same day. We are also focusing on motives (Larry Silverstein; patriot act), prior history (operation northwoods), avoidance of serious damage to Pentagon by "sophisticated" attackers, etc. Forensic evidence almost always goes against official theory, unless gov.'t themselves produce it. That they destroyed much of the evidence shortly afterward didn't help...

The point is that plenty of the "verifiable facts" Clive allured to, esp. forensic and eyewitness claims, directly oppose the official explanation. If a theory contradicts reliable and objective observations, then it must be replaced with a better one. If you add CIA-connected bets against airline stock during September (put options), plenty of motive, insider activity like the war games, & government preventing arrest of hijackers when DIA/FBI *had evidence* against them, you get the word "malice." Malicious individuals + tragedy + many holes in their explanation = (usually) conspiracy. Seeing so much evidence contradict their explanation, it's hard to believe them. Seeing how it benefited them so much, esp. the anthrax attacks against representitives coincidentally leading Patriot Act opposition, it's hard to believe their "incompetence" wasn't intentional.

It doesn't take any pharmaceuticals to read Operation Northwoods and then think an imperialist regime (see Project for New American Century) would do something like this if it met their ends. They've already proven they will consistently lie and sacrifice others for personal gain. If PNAC wanted "a new Pearl Harbor" to act as a "catalyst" promoting their military deployment in Middle East and "Iraq," then why wouldn't they kill some more people to do it. If the verifiable facts point toward them doing it, I'd doubt the imperialists' benign reassurances before I'd doubt the hundreds of sources for those facts. But, hey, maybe I should be trusting the guys who were caught many times committing propaganda and earlier election fraud. They would probably never hurt us and lie about it. Really. Keep trusting them, DH. Like they said, they really aren't analyzing your calling patterns and have no interest in building an oil pipeline in Afghanistan. Among other proven and damaging lies...

Stefan W.November 28, 2009 12:45 AM

If you assume explosives - why does the government need the planes? Can't terrorists handle explosives?

It doesn't even make sense.

wkwillisNovember 28, 2009 5:06 AM

If I wanted to take down the WTC I would have rented some rooms or an entire floor, hired a company to move in my fuel and oxidiser source, and been basking on a beach in Bermuda before the checks bounced.
What happened on 9/11 was very Hollywood. It was an operation run by a bunch of clowns. This does not rule out the White House, but it does rule out the CIA.

Nicholas SherlockNovember 28, 2009 7:22 AM

I can't understand what people on both sides of the 9/11 "debate" think that they will be able to divine from this pager message dump. It could have been filtered, altered, or fabricated by anybody. The presence or absence of messages in the dump is meaningless.

watermelonpunchNovember 28, 2009 9:38 AM

The fact that this is coming out over 8 yrs later, and in bulk from various carriers, simultaneously, are the 2 things that stand out to me, and seem to raise the most disconcerting questions. I can think of no easy, simple, straight-forward reason to explain both of those aspects of this, and that's troubling. It's a situation rife with the possibilities of all sorts of wild theories, from probable, to possible, to unlikely, to downright ridiculous. Which is problematic for many reasons.

I, for one, will await the relentless fact-checker obsessed people to pick through the messages and find the at least one or two that, for whatever reason, couldn't possibly have been sent that day, revealing that at least some of the messages posted are fake. And the whole episode collapses like a house of cards. haha.

I guess I'm with Nicholas Sherlock, in the long run, the information is moot, or if not completely meaningless, so close to meaningless as to make it at least irrelevant.

As interesting as I find this topic, IN THEORY... I realized pretty quickly that it's not actually that interesting when I think of the txt msg exchanges I have with people. And wow, what a waste of hard drive space & time to save & read a bunch of old dumb messages in bulk, containing, probably, the most mundane conversations people have, for no other reason than the continued need for the warmth of human contact & interaction even in our modern isolationist culture.

Or maybe I'm completely wrong & missing something very very important.

Don't forget milk, a loaf of bread, & a stick of butter, honey.

Nick PNovember 28, 2009 1:43 PM

I agree in general that the information is no better than hearsay but hearsay can occasionally be pretty good. However, I'm really wondering why the messages exist. Speculation about financial fraud is interesting, but it could just as easily have been done just for fun or whatnot. Hackers are sometimes known to intercept messages just to look at them. Voyeurism.

Another thought that comes to my mind is that this could be government surveillance and a tipoff by someone in the government. The Echelon system and NSA calling analysis were scrutinized partially from leaked material. Maybe one of them didn't agree with what was going on and leaked some archives. Just a possibility.

RogerNovember 28, 2009 5:42 PM

@watermelonpunch:
> And wow, what a waste of hard drive space

Dude, the complete (zipped) archive is only 13 MB. That's the trouble with text messages: so compact (and compressible), even a casual interceptor may say "not very interesting to me, but what the hey, I'll keep them 'just in case' ".

BWNovember 29, 2009 7:15 PM

I'm thinking this is amature.

1) Timestamps don't include millisecond

2) CapCode vary in length without detailing why. This suggests that the software generating the log is decoding different versions of the protocol, each version having its own CapCode serializer. The NSA wouldn't discard/hide this information. It might be useful.

3) The log contains corrupted pages (search for "......"). Message corruption could be caused by a number of things but I'm thinking amature hardware.

4) Corrupted characters are represented as ".". The NSA would never throw away data so early in the game.

Mike RileyNovember 30, 2009 4:11 AM

I think the most unsettling aspect of this whole ordeal is that nobody has done anything to try and rectify the privacy issues with pagers, and that very few people who use pages understand the implications of doing so.

It makes you wonder how many other avenues of communication are also vulnerable.

BF SkinnerNovember 30, 2009 7:42 AM

@Bruce. Sorry you asked now?

I've been going through the intercepts but they really need thorough analysis to sequence the data against events. Some of that work is going on now and they could use assistance of the devious minds on this blog. I feel real sorry for all those servers calling out into the void for their no longer existing data inputs and system admins.

There are constant intercept operations going on in and around Manhattan (DC, Atlanta, LA, Miami Seattle etc etc etc). The usual players national and foreign intel agencies, criminals, competative intell collectors, hobbists, nosey parkers and busy bodies.

@Clive observed "Irrespective of what you guys feel, the "truth" of 9/11 will probably not ever be known (and probably cannot)." As so often before--he's right you know.

The trouble with conspiracy theorists is not that there is or is not a conspiracy (there often are and there are not). The problem is instead the behavior of theorist who takes all facts and events shaped them to fit the conspiracy templates. Facts that don't fit are used as supporting evidence of the conspiracy's ability to protect itself with mis-information. Facts that are not relevent are incorporated anyway (anyone want to hazard what Tiger Wood's accident has to do with NWO?)

Ever look at the clouds and see duckies and horsies? This is pattern making by the brain. It has no basis of fact in the phenomenal world.

Conspiracy theorists will froth at the mouth to be called a conspiracy theorist because to them the truth is obvious, supported by observation. They can see the truth! Why can't we? Mostly because we are blind or part of the conspiracy. This is the problem--their method is observation of fact coupled with inference, interpretation and supposition. What's wrong with that? Isn't it the basis of the scientific method? Not as I understand it. Science tries to disprove hypothesis. Conspiracy theory ties up all observations in one neat package. The physical world isn't neat. The world of human activity much less so.

Take the Oklahoma City bombing. When we looked at McVey (one reason DoJ was so "focused on tax evaders, anti abortion activists" and militias these people were killing us here. Terrorists were only blowing things up overseas--basic risk analysis)...When we look at McVey we saw a guy with some military training who had a grudge and blew up a major federal building. That's the narrative. Did you know the conspiracy links him to Al Qaieda? Well, There are facts around him that are odd and coincidental. He couldn't make his bombs explode for the longest time, he was married to a Filipino, he did travel to the Philippines, there was terrorist influence his wife's region. When he came back his bombs blew up. Obviously he "recieved training in bomb making for his attack by Al Qaida operating in his wife's village." Maybe. Only maybe. And this allegation was investigated by people I trust within the NSC. It is plausible, but ultimately remains "unproved".

Conspiracy theory is insufficient for fact finding because it's internal error testing is faulty. It starts with a theory and picks up facts as it goes and isn't based on repeatable experimentation. It doesn't have an "unproved, unprovable" category.

Occam's razor suggests that when presented with the competing hypothesis's "a big-assed jet filled with thousands of gallons of kerosene caused catastrophic structural failure due to heat" and "tens of hundreds of highly trusted people distributed across the US conspired to ensure that 23 people were able to commadeere jets and be at the same place so the explosively pre-wired buildings in NY and DC could be detonated." that the simpler one that fits the facts is closer to the truth. Sagan and Huxley both also say that extreme claims require extreme proofs.

The "9/11 truth" is a hypothesis that points to some interesting facts. But are it's claims testable? Can you make predictions based on it? (for instance if all the buildings are prewired then shouldn't the capitol building or white house also have been pre-wired? Shouldn't there be residual evidence of that?) If not all you have is another string theory.

BF SkinnerNovember 30, 2009 7:49 AM

@Mike Riley "It makes you wonder how many other avenues of communication are also vulnerable."

Lots, most, all? Cell phones, email, wiFi, WAPs, conversations within buildings, voice mail boxes, facebook photos, gps tracking, RFIDS, easy passes...pretty much anything that emits or recieves a signal is subject to intercept and exploit.

JPinNCRNovember 30, 2009 10:17 AM

First, Bruce shame on you "It's disturbing to realize that someone, possibly not even a government, was routinely intercepting most (all?) of the pager data in lower Manhattan as far back as 2001. Who was doing it? For that purpose? That, we don't know."

Are you reduced to trying to get web hits by exciting conspiracy theory loonies?

Why do we think these are intercepted in Manhattan. You are ignoring the fact the pages are redistributed over the entire contracted service area. So national pagers could literally get intercepted anywhere in the country. Odds are that most Federal persons would have been carrying national service. Big shot stock brokers would have had national service because it was the most expensive.

This could have been done by a smart 6th grader in Iowa.

Why would you encrypt pagers? Frankly, unless you are engaged in criminal behavior your pager traffic isn't that interesting to me. It wouldn't prevent traffic analysis anyway, you'd still have to address the thing...

So put your aluminum foil beanies away lads and go back to watching Threes company reruns.

cheers
JP

Annie NomousNovember 30, 2009 1:39 PM

@Stefan W: I don't think the gvt. had anything to do with the planes. I think they dealt with a badly damaged, unstable skyscraper according to long-standing plans. I think this fits quite well with with the facts.

@BF Skinner:
I think the towers may have had wiring in place as part of a disaster plan. Just unused wires. There would be no need for this in buildings like the Pentagon or White House.

One thing I agree with is we'll probably never know.

@BW There's many reasons there could be errors in the data. Local interference is a big one. If you've tapped into a Motorola pager, the hardware that's pulling messages out of the ether is quite reliable. It's reasonable that there could be multiple systems capturing data, since there are a number of frequencies you'd want to monitor and a PC would typically only have 1 or 2 serial ports.

I doubt the pager messages will reveal anything. I'd be much more interested in audio from the 450-512 MHz and 700 MHz bands. Unfortunately, the people who collect that sort of thing on a wholesale basis are a decidedly tight-lipped bunch.

DOTDOT DASH DOTNovember 30, 2009 4:12 PM

If you take all the Wikis 9 /11 text messages from the 9/11 leak open in excel and cross referring from all intel / gov numbers you get CIA pager numbers SO ARE WE TO ASSUME the CIA has unencrypted text messages that can be intercepted?? That would be a huge INFOSEC ISSUE

Example one of the number found (703) 482-1729

Charles E. Allen
Assistant Director of Central Intelligence
for Collection

Office of the Director of
Central Intelligence
Washington, DC 20505 (703) 482-1729
FAX: (703) 482-0684
Stu-III: (703) 482-4189
Home: (703) 471-7137
Charsal@odci.gov
Callen.aol.com

NimityNovember 30, 2009 4:23 PM

@ BF Skinner

Interesting points on conspiracy theory angles. They don't apply to my points though because you're attacking a strawman. Here's the process I was using: make observations, inc. of official theory; if observations strongly contradict official line, it's probably wrong; figure out why and find sensible alternatives. You say conspiracy theorists create a theory and then ignore everything that doesn't support it. 9/11 truth movement claims that this is exactly what government did. I'm doing the opposite of that.

A Few Government Claims Contradicted by Evidence

1. There was no foreknowledge or way to prevent this.
- Many [very specific] warnings by foreign governments, warnings by US government to airlines, people warned not to fly, investigators pulled off trail of hijackers by higherups and bets by CIA-affiliated organizations that stock would go down in September. Did they really not know?

2. WTC's taken down by terrorists planes.
- Plausible. Sure as hell doesn't explain WTC7, which fell same way same day and wasn't hit by a plane. Original explanation was debris and fire from WT2 hit it. lol. Circumstantial evidence includes outward & ground explosions, numerous eyewitness testimony supporting them including firemen, testimony against raging inferno where experts say it was, and presence of military thermite in dust samples. WTC7 is best proof of demolition, while the rest are "interesting."

3. A particular guy hit Pentagon intending tons of damage.
- Dude couldn't fly a Cessna 1 month before and bought a cardboard cutout of the cockpit of airline. One month later he was an ace. Bullshit. Additionally, he pulled a hell of a turn to hit the only spot on the pentagon that wouldn't really hurt. This doesn't fit with "they wanted to devastate the pentagon." He was already lined up for that, then took great risk to prevent it. Why? If its just Al-queda, makes no sense. If U.S. was involved, they would definitely avoid catastrophic damage & merely do the kind that looks bad on TV.

4. U.S. government would never do a false flag against Americans.
- Operation Northwoods was exactly that. Terrorism against US civillians and troops, planted evidence that someone else did it, so they could invade that country. All Joint Chiefs supported it, but JFK opposed it. Reichstag fire and Canned Goods are foreign examples. PNAC wanted a catalyzing catastrophe, so their complicity or cooperation is a possibility.

You see my process? Generally, just a few strong facts make the official story very unbelievable. I left out literally hundreds of circumstantial facts, but one has to ignore and interpret much more to believe official story than some alternatives. Particularly for WTC7 thing. I laughed when I first heard their explanation. Very poorly explained conspiracy, but executed well enough to work. Typical of them.

JimFiveDecember 1, 2009 3:22 PM

Re: The timing of the release.

What's the statute of limitations on wire tapping?

kangarooDecember 1, 2009 8:36 PM

@BF Skinner:

You miss the biggest hole in the CT world-view. It can't distinguish coverup -- the desire for folks to not believe in a conspiracy -- from the original conspiracy.

Conspiracy-mongering is destabilizing -- if every one believes that even X is caused by a secret cabal, soon everyone believes that the entire system is a conspiracy. So inevitably, police force Y wants to eliminate any possible conspiracy theorizing -- it's unhelpful in their fight against a given conspiracy and in the long term it's much more systematically damaging than anything your opponents can do; don't ask about the man behind the curtain.

So, the evidence of the conspiracy is destroyed by a second conspiracy. This isn't even considering that multiple cabals are competitively attempting to bend every event to their wills.

So, by the time the Theorist gets to it -- what do they have? Crap. Fantasies produced to cover other fantasies produced to distort older fantasies that are themselves covers for fantasy/reality amalgams.

So, of what value is a conspiracy theory, regardless of the conspiracy, unless you it's extremely prosaic, simple and well documented -- say particularly careless inside traders? Between the Joe Jobs, the Authorities, the X different clubs of crazy rich people, the 187 national interests subdivided into thousands of intelligence networks in collusion with organized crime...

Well, you get my point. Regardless of whether conspiracies are involved in the movement of the world -- CT's are worse than useless. They only help obfuscate reality even further. And given the competitive nature of the world itself -- the conspiracies can't possibly be successful in directly heading to a short-term goal.

Even the case in point -- right off the bat you have how many conspiracies and covers? I can count literally hundreds of well-funded groups interested in the event without even batting an eyelash. How could there possibly be an explanation that is useful -- other than the standard sociological study of the large-scale social forces that constrain and are the manifold within which every last cabal acts -- from the cop covering up the fact that he was off work screwing his boss's wife while he should have been patrolling lower Manhattan to bureaucrats asleep at the wheel in Colorado all the way up to shadowy oil-market manipulations at the end of guns and religious fantasies by the ultra-rich of transforming the world.

Conspiracies Theorists are just so naive.

kangarooDecember 1, 2009 8:39 PM

CT's are like trying to track trajectories of atoms in a fluid to describe the behavior of the fluid.

BF SkinnerDecember 2, 2009 8:51 AM

@kangaroo Thank you! I was looking for your post on this.

Naive? Good term.

"track trajectories of atoms"

This is a point I intended to make. I used to sit in Manhattan (well the harbor anyway) and try to picture all the
communications going back and forth in the city. Going through the pager intercepts the sheer volume of signals implies
the (as you point out) vast number of independent events that surrounded, both related and un-related, the disaster.

Science often doesn't deal in individual events but gives us statistical models instead. Perhaps Theorists could bring
rigor to their field in the same way. It could at least satisfy the prediction requirement.

@Branda "true of all pager systems "
Uh, there are two way pager systems.

ShaneDecember 2, 2009 1:19 PM

@BF Skinner

"Science often doesn't deal in individual events but gives us statistical models instead. Perhaps [conspiracy] Theorists could bring rigor to their field in the same way."

Um, duh?

Which is why most CTs are more appropriately acronym'd as BS.

ShaneDecember 2, 2009 1:28 PM

... although I do agree with the skepticism regarding the timing and content of this 'leak'.

Who was sitting on this for 8 years and why?

HJohnDecember 2, 2009 1:30 PM

@Shane: "Which is why most CTs are more appropriately acronym'd as BS."
____________

I saw an advertisement for a show called "Conspiracy Theory" hosted by Jesse Ventura, I think it is on tonight (but can't be sure because I didn't have much interest). I'm sure I'm not the only one who sees the irony in having a wrestler host such a show.

Clive RobinsonDecember 2, 2009 4:01 PM

@ kangaroo,

"Conspiracies Theorists are just so naive."

Yes but the theories make the beer taste better ;)

NimityDecember 2, 2009 10:23 PM

@ kangaroo and BF Skinner

Your posts do make the beer taste better. Lots of speculation, speaking in general terms, lumping all into one category and ignoring everything stated that doesn't support your view. Why, that sounds just like the CT nuts you describe. Sure plenty of them are nuts, but occasionally one is right about something important. I'm sure you guys bought into the magic bullet theory, too, and probably believe Poland did hit Hitler first, starting World War 2.

In this case, kangaroo, conspiracy theory isn't useless. If we have evidence of foreknowledge, meddling or that one of the towers was demolished (WTC 7), then that opens room for an investigation. We can find out what was really going on. Independent analysis of ground zero, rather than destruction of samples and confiscating black boxes, would have been nice too. We could find out who was complicit or malicious and deal with them. That would have been worth it.

I can see how it is easier ignoring key facts and just making fun of people who pay attention. You guys have collectively done nothing but ad hominem attacks. Never discussed a single piece of worthwhile evidence. No wonder you support the official line: it's easy when you dismiss the entire case and show implicit trust in the US government's claims. Trust they didn't earn.

Clive RobinsonDecember 3, 2009 3:03 AM

@ Nimity,

"Lots of speculation, speaking in general terms,..."

Yes because there is an issue that makes it not possible to speak in specific terms.

You say,

"I can see how it is easier ignoring key facts and... ...Never discussed a single piece of worthwhile evidence."

But first of all are they facts or are they interpretive assumptions. Secondly even if they are supportable facts are they actually evidence or interpretive assumptions.

For instance some people claim there is the chemical basis to show thermite was used.

But thermite is nothing more than aluminium and iron oxide burning together.

You would get the same chemical result when the aluminium of the aircraft frame gets hot enouch to burn in the presence of the rust from construction steel.

You have to seperate effect and cause and show that the effect could have one and only one cause by rational argument and probability.

If you can show there is more than one reasonable way the evidence can be arived at then it is an indicative fact not evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

NimityDecember 3, 2009 1:50 PM

@ Clive Robinson

Some good points, Clive. Finally looking at a piece of evidence, too. For demolition, I said the theory was interesting due to circumstantial and eye witness evidence. But, yeah, the samples could have issues & thats why I dont rely on that. However, WTC 7 just magically falling on 9/11 in same way as WTC 1 & 2 is a pure fact: no interpretation, etc. The official explanation was debris hit it, but initial reports were timed earlier that morning. In other words, that's ignorance or someone in on something. Why did that building fall? If it was a demo, why did they lie about it? Moreover, why would anyone buy that BS explanation of a few pieces of debris causing a fire that dropped it?

This isn't interpretation, Clive. This is a key fact that leads to some obvious premises. Interpretation is built on them. So, one still must interpret. However, the official line is an interpretation built on the wrong data. Additionally, their version of events has changed dozens of times, making me less likely to believe it. Whether incompetent or intentional, they can't be trusted by default. Our timelines don't contradict: we just get more detail overtime as they declassify it. For instance, the black box for the Pentagon plane came out and says it was over 100 ft in the air when it supposedly hit. Most evidence says a plane hit, so I disregard this as bad interpretation. But when a pilot pulls an ace maneuver to hit the strongest point on the Pentagon, it's *really* hard to believe he intended to cause serious damage. Know what I mean?

My rule in this: it's easy to get lost and swamped by imaginary threats, so keep it simple. If official line is good enough, stay with it. (e.g. plane hit pentagon) If facts contradict, use simplest least interpretive alternative. For instance, Flight 93 left a damage pattern and eye witness reports that suggest it partly exploded in midair. Either there was a bomb or it was shot down. I can't prove either specifically. So, official line is BS and the flight had a mid-air explosion by unknown cause. This is how I do it. Minimal intepretation. If you do this with all the most reliable facts in 9/11, you get the overall probable conclusion that they were in on it. Don't know specifics, but it's very likely. And has several precedents, esp. Operation Northwoods, signed by all Joint Chiefs.

The only claim I strongly support is that they had motive, foreknowledge, and did things that could be construed as assisting the bad guys. A ton of lies and hasty confiscating/destroying evidence, reported by many first responders, doesn't help them. I don't claim any specific conspiracy theory is correct: I claim the evidence says the official line is a conspiracy to hide either complicity or direct assistance. Since it required specific people, this is actionable information. They weren't investigated though: they were promoted! They should be fired for incompetence, denied promotion or charged with treason, depending on results of investigation. Is this unreasonable?

BF SkinneDecember 4, 2009 10:39 AM

@Nimity

As I said I would never deny the existence of people who conspire together. But a claim of vast shadowy cabals whose capabilities have global reach and would need 10's of thousands of witting participants...this needs more proof then a self sealing premise based on "that can't be proved 'cause they are shadowy and not prone to self exposure."

The mob is a conspiracy "shadowy and not prone to self exposure" yet the FBI and other LEOs have been able to penetrate, gather evidence sufficent for a court of law, and get convictions.

And I'm less interested in 9/11 than the way people perceive and arrange data. Our brains are hardwired for pattern recognition way down below the threshold of awarness. It has shortcuts useful in ground dwelling primate in a savanna loaded with predators. These shortcuts may make us act odd and do make us misjudge risk.

That's why our process for fact selection and truth finding must be bounded by good error checking. Studies are showing that people who are numerate are better at this.

(duh back @Shane if you don't help people develop better tools for thinking you're part of the problem.)

ShaneDecember 4, 2009 4:20 PM

@BF Skinner

'(duh back @Shane if you don't help people develop better tools for thinking you're part of the problem.)'

'Tools for thinking'? Since when did anyone need a tool for producing a thought?

I'm sorry if it sounds overly obvious to me that theories gain more credence in academia when backed by scientifically sound data/models.

Theories, CTs or not, must shoulder the burden of proof to be given any real credence in academia. Unfortunately, most [conspiracy] theorists act more like defense lawyers than scientists, focusing far less on proving their own theory than on casting doubt on the opposing ones.

As for everything else, theorize all you want as to why some people buy into CTs so feverishly, and some do not. While you're there, try to figure out if it has anything to do with the need for so many humans to throw out all logic and reason, choosing instead to explain the universe with fairy tales and 2k-5k year old op-eds and second-to-tenth-hand adventure stories.

Clive RobinsonDecember 5, 2009 2:08 AM

@ Nimity,

With regards to the pentagon.

I'm just going to use what has been said on Bruce's blog at some point or other.

Again seperate cause from effect.

What has been said is,

1, The (supposed) pilot could not fly a month before.

2, The (supposed) pilot was on a line up that would cause maximal damage.

3, The (supposed) pilot made a last minute change and ended up on the strongest part of the pentagon.

4, There is information that a possible explosion took place on the aircraft before it hit the pentagon.

Right lets have a look at this,

A, It might not have been one pilot.

We know that the pasangers in another aircraft stormed the cockpit, unfortunatly they did not succeed in saving themselves.

So there is a reasonable possability that the passengers on the pentagon plane did storm the cockpit and removed the supposed pilot from control.

Thus the sudden change at the last minute could have been an experianced pilot trying desperatly to avert a disaster.

Unfortunatly there is no available evidence I have yet seen to say if this happened or not.

B, The effect makes the pilot an ace.

Err no.

There is an assumption that the pilot knew which where the strong points and which where the week points of the pentagon.

That is a congecture bassed only on effects there is no evidence of cause there.

It is equally as likley that the (supposed) pilot had no idea as to which was the strong point or weak point of the building.

It is possible that there was an argument in the cockpit that he was going to miss and he or another of his cohort made a last minute correction to not miss.

The fact that the plane was on an approach to the weak part and ended up on the strong part could be nothing other than coincidence.

Thus arguing backwards from that the pilot made an ace manover is not a good idea.

And from that point argue it was a "government agent" willingly giving up his life to support a conspiracy to etc etc...

C, There are reports of an in flight explossion shortly before impact.

There are many explinations that could account for what was seen.

There is to little information presented to make anything of it.

For instance if witnessess say the saw a flash, it might just have been sunlight reflecting of the aircraft as it made a manover.

It could also have been a fuel explosion caused by a cable or other fault induced by the bad piloting and a sudden stressfull manover.

It could also have been a hand held surface to air missile.

I will go with the latter for a moment.

It has been said many times that the White house has people with hand held anti-aircraft missiles to protect the building from just such an aircraft attack.

If true then it is as likley that the same is true for the pentagon.

Any problem with what I have said so far?

Now I will build up a possible theory.

1, the pasangers realised what was likley to happen and stormed the cockpit.

2, One of the passangers was a pilot and took the controls.

3, The passanger tried to pull the aircraft out of it's course towards the pentagon.

This might account for most of the things you have said.

4, a soldier at the pentagon armed with a missile fired to late to stop the aircraft.

5, The pilot failed to pull the aircraft out due to the missile taking out the flight controls.

6, on discovering that their own soldier was actually responsable for the aircraft crashing into the pentagon the authorities decided to cover it up.

Now you might ask why.

Well apart from embarsment there would have been a real public backlash. It would be "Publicaly known" that aircraft aproaching Gove buildings would be shot down.

The question would then arise where would it impact a public outcry would then ensue bassed on the "bleeting of a knowing sacrificial goat".

This would then disunite the American people at a time of national crisis etc etc.

Now I'm not saying this happened but most would think it more likley than a "Government Agent" on a "Suicide Run" to promote some political agenda.

But then there is the question of motivation, what motivates any supposadly sane and rational person to fly an aircraft with a hundred people on it and many more on the ground to certain death...

As I said some time ago the true facts of 9/11 may never be known.

We can only guess at possabilities from the information available.

What we do know is information is not available due to a number of reasons. Arguing back from the effects when humans are involved does not get you back to the cause, as humans are unpredictable and have unknown motivations.

Occam's razor does not work for anything other than inanimate objects (and not always then) when you have animate objects that can react to the environment you get great complexity which makes chaos theory look like 2+2. When the animate objects are sentient and can respond to motivation outside of the immediate time frame or environment then any and all bets are off. Any theory no matter how improbable has a chance (not probability) of being correct but 99.99...% of them will be wrong. The problem is science has no way of deciding.

Clive RobinsonDecember 5, 2009 2:27 AM

@ Shane,

"'Tools for thinking'? Since when did anyone need a tool for producing a thought?"

A good question, as we don't know anything about the process in any reliable way then it is arguable either way (chicken or egg problem).
I viewed BF Skinner's comment,

"(duh back @Shane if you don't help people develop better tools for thinking you're part of the problem.)"

As refering to the whole "Newtonian Scientific method" when dealing with complexity.

I could be wrong but that was my take on it.

Thus any tool that helps manage information applies sound methodology to large bodies of data are "information tools" or "force multipliers" for the thinking process that is part of the Newtonian Scientific method.

Outside of the Scientific and engineering approach to thinking such as story plots etc then information tools will help manage the process as well.

However just for whimsical "that cloud looks like GWB's ears" no you don't need tools to help 8)

MarkHDecember 5, 2009 1:16 PM

@Clive,

The post offering a hypothesis about the damage to the Pentagon, while already rather off-topic, made a point that I think very important!

The post referred to "conjecture based only on effects" and "arguing backwards". This seems to be the foundation of "conspiracy theories" in general: they start from effects, assume that they were the product of intention and logic, and then construct a network of actors, motives and plans that fit these premises.

My experience as a technologist and amateur student of science (nearly 40 years) has led me to believe that to an enormous degree, the events and developments that seem important to us come about by accident, the effects of unexpected influences, unintended consequences of deliberate decisions, etc. etc. What is very difficult for most people psychologically, is we want Big Happenings (things we feel deeply about) to have Big Causes (Major Events, or deliberate acts by Important People). But if you study either natural or human history, you can see that it happens very often, that truly trivial events contribute to enormous effects.

Because of this, reasoning backwards from effects (something I do almost every day in my engineering work) must be done with the most scrupulous care, in order to avoid completely invalid conclusions. I can do it successfully (sometimes) in problems that are severely constrained: closed systems of well-defined components that dependably follow precise laws of behavior.

It seems to me that when this kind of backwards reasoning is applied to complex systems (hint: any system where the outcome may have been determined by a human decision after the process started), it is much more often wrong than correct.

For example, take the supposed last-minute course change of the aircraft that hit the Pentagon. This could be accounted for by very simple hypotheses; to give some examples:
* in a moment of anticipation of imminent death, the pilot's attention shifted from the task of aircraft control
* the pilot may have worried that the flight path was not consistent with the aim point he intended, and made a correction (try flying to or through a particular spot on a flight simulator game: most people who have not developed a high skill level make radical corrections in the final seconds)
* there probably being more than one person in the cockpit, the pilot flying may have been distracted by some behavior of another person
Clive doesn't believe that Occam's razor works for people, but we can still ask ourselves about relative likelihood. If very normal and expectable behavior patterns can account for some action, why conjure up a more elaborate scenario?

It is well established that when presented with highly entropic data, we "see" patterns (the constellations of the night sky are a familiar example). This is how our brains work.

Apart from the unromantic explanation whose outlines were presented in the report of the 9/11 Commission, I have seen not a single hypothesis (and I have wasted many hours reading on this) that has merit other than its fertilizer value. It seems to me that every one of them (as well as many other conspiracy theories popular in my country) is based on fallacious backwards argument.

Clive RobinsonDecember 5, 2009 4:04 PM

@ MarkH,

I see you understand the "cause <- effect" problem quite well which was the point of my comment.

One little thing,

"Clive doesn't believe that Occam's razor works for people"

Hmm I wouldn't quite put it that way, I don't think it can be counted on for anything more than guidence when humans are involved.

So I had better give a bit more of an explaination of my view point and why (though I suspect you broadly agree),

Occam's Razor is the assumption that,

1,"on the available evidence" the
2,"simplest explanation" is
3,"most likley to be correct".

Thus as an engineer I'm used to inanimate things following natural laws so I kind of assume bullet's won't fly around corners unless the hit something first. And I expect to find evidence on the bullet and on what it hit.

Thus if I find a bullet around one side of a corner and the gun around the other I assume the gun not the bullet was moved (unless the bullet is in what was an animate or easily movable object).

I would be unlikley to assume that someone had fired a shot into a water tank put the bullet in their pocket put the gun on the ground walked around the cornner and put the bullet on the ground etc, unless I had good reason (other information) to make it a "reasonable probability".

However when you are dealing with animate objects they follow whatever path they chose for whatever reason and that may not be apparent to an investigator for a number of reasons.

That is you find a rat that died of a heart attack halfway up a drain. It could have been going about it's "normal occasions" and just died, or a cat might have chased it up there and it died of fright.

The cat having not got fed etc moved off. Thus the only evidence at the scene says the rat was about it's normal occasions, because the cat is nolonger there for the investigator to consider. So Occam's Razor will fail due to lack of a particular piece of information, (unless the presence of a/the cat can be shown by some method).

With humans who are not just animate but sentient as well it is not just that the "motivator" (the cat etc) for their actions may no longer be at the scene it may never have been there ever, and the "motivator" may also be from a time frame significantly previous to the events at the scene.

For instance I give a lorry driver an order over the radio to go get something whilst they are on another job.

They crash on the way there, and as there is no paperwork, then there may be no evidence as to why the lorry is where it is at all.

Thus a lack of information available to the investigator prevent's Occams Razor being applied correctly.

However instead of me giving orders to the driver, they may have seen something, which triggered a memory and they decide to act on it (like their wedding aniversary or childs birthday etc etc).
Further even if the investigator is aware of the "motivator" they do not know what weight the human gave to it (unless the human can say but then they may lie).

So the investigator can only give the "motivator" assumed values.

So it's not that I don't think Occam's Razor can be applied to humans, I think it is only likley to work when they follow a statistical model (such as in the case of an emergancy etc) or all the information is available.

When premeditation is involved then all bets are off, as the chances are very high it will not work, as the criminal will use Occam's Razor to give them an alibi etc.

Does that explain my point better?

Oh whilst I'm clarifing things I better say that the senario I posted was just an example to explain information presented nothing more than that. I don't give it as anything other than showing that effects can be argued backwards to a different explaination.

I was also trying to come up with an alternative explanation that included as many of the pieces of the puzzle as had been presented whilst trying to keep within "reasonable probability" of similar events that have been given by others as known/belived to have happened on 9/11 as have been given on this blog.

And yes I can think of a whole load of other near equiprobable senarios and I don't give them any credence either.

Because it's the "reasonable probability" on "ALL information" that makes Occam's Razzor work and we don't know "ALL" the information nor are we likley to.

DupontDecember 15, 2009 10:29 AM

On the "controlled demolition" of the WTC, I never really looked into this, but something I regard as fairly obvious never seems to enter the discussion:
In some european highrisers, due to safety concerns and physical limitations of pumps, a water reservoir is at the top. Due to technical constraints it is easier to have a huge couple of m3 of water using gravity to generate water pressure than using pumps on the ground to pump it up.
Was there such a reservoir integrated into the WTC towers, and if, how much did it weigh, and analogous to the "hammer from 2 feet" example from an above poster, what happens if I knock the legs out from under it with an airplane?

Old Man with whiskers.December 16, 2009 2:56 PM

Knowing and having listened to some of the ae911truth.org individuals in detail I can tell you that they are paranoid wackos. But that is of itself not important.

What is important is that this class of complex failure is not studied. Folks take beams, welds, bolts and heat and stress them to failure. What we do not have data on is the way buildings fail.

Some data may exists from seismic analysis for the case where the bottom of a building fails in an earthquake. But not half way up the way the towers were attacked.

In speaking with this ae911truth engineer, he could not show me an analysis of the energy budget when bolts and welds fail. All he could do is how me how hitting his arm results in slowing. But clearly his arm did not pop off at the elbow.

Learn the trick behind tearing a phone book in half and the conspiracy begins to vanish....

Clive RobinsonDecember 16, 2009 6:58 PM

@ Old Man with whiskers,

"Learn the trick behind tearing a phone book in half and the conspiracy begins to vanish...."

Theres two ways that I know of and both apply.

1, Bake the spine.
2, Fan and tear.

It you pop your directory into an oven at low temprature for an hour or two and let it cool the glue in the spine used (not done it in 20 years) become very brittle.

When you cracked it, it tore the pages in a cascade fail.

This effect can be seen with "metal fatigue" which caused the Commet Aircraft to fall out of the sky. It also caused the leg to come of The Alexander Keland Penta leg platform and one or two other catastrophic failures.

The second way is to "fan tear" you get hold of the directory and "roll bend" it so the pages are faned out like the edge of a pack of cards.

You tear the thin edge and this tear propogates through the rest of the pages with only moderate effort.

This is the "unzipper" effect. It is another form of cascade failure and possibly the one you are thinking of.

It is seen in rivited ships and rivited / stayed boilers. On rivet fails which puts throws it's load onto the next rivit that fails and one by one the two plates "unzip" from each other...

This effect could be seen on one of the WTC towers as the internal floors gave way one after each other and the outer skin pealed of like the skin from a banana.

I agree with you that the fact that "CT" enthusers may be "wack jobs" is neither here nor there. If their theory is supported by science and "proper" evidence then they have a possability of being right.

As an engineer I'm compleatly uninterested in the why or political motivation all I'm interested in doing is how to stop / mitigate against it in future designs.

Personaly I don't subscribe to the "terrorist knows ALL the ways" and "you can't defend against them" theories.

A fire drill saves lives not just for a fire, but other natural and man made events with only a fraction more effort.

That is with broad not specific threat mitigation you can spread the effective cost across many threats not just one threat.

Further if you make them "overlap" then even if they do find out how to defeat one measure the others take up some or all of the slack.

John HolmesDecember 18, 2009 2:19 PM

Way back someone said SMS is not encrypted. It is but it's crippled, as the LSB is zero'd. By inter-governmental agreement.

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