Humint Events Online: 9/11 Passenger Manifests

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

9/11 Passenger Manifests

I talked to Greg Szymanski last night about investigating the passenger manifests for the 9/11 planes. He basically said it was a mess and too difficult to get involved with. He expressed interested in talking to the Shanksville coroner, Wallace Miller, though.

The interesting thing about the passenger manifests is how each media outlet has a slightly different manifest. I always assumed that this was because each media outlet had relatives contact them separately to keep names off the list. But Szymanski said that the media outlets published original manifests obtained from the airlines, and that the original manifests obtained from the airlines by different media outlets were each different.

Now, how on earth could this be, right? The airline must have had a final manifest of who was on the flight. That has to be standard procedure. So why would they have different final lists?

Conceivably, the airlines did have final lists, but wanted to contact relatives themselves before they released the names to the media, and so crossed out some names on lists that they released to the media. Thus, the media outlets might have gotten different lists depending on when exactly they got the list from the airlines. This makes some sense, however--
1) it is not as though some media lists have short lists with lots of names missing (as if they got the list early) and other media lists have longer lists as the airlines notified more relatives. Rather, the lists are generally the same size, with most passengers the same, but with some unique passengers on one list and other unique passengers on another list.
2) why wasn't a final list ever published? For instance, the flight 11 USA Today list hasn't been updated since 9/25/01 and is still missing two names from the flight 11 CNN list -- Jude Larson and Natalie Larson.

Even more oddly, CNN has Robin Caplin while USA Today has Robin Kaplan, which makes no sense if real lists were obtained from the airlines. Moreover, the USA Today list, as pointed out by Gerard Holmgren:
the following statement by "USA Today" in relation to its published passenger lists is of some concern.

"Partial lists of passengers and crew killed in Tuesday's terrorist attacks, according to family members, friends, co-workers and local law enforcement."

This is a very strange way to source such information. Why not get it from American Airlines or the FBI? If neither of these were consulted, how did USAT know who's "family members, friends, co-workers" to go looking for? Or if AA and the FBI were the first source of inquiry, why a partial list from hearsay sources?
Why "local law enforcement" rather than the feds, who would surely have any complete database of the victims? This statement appears to make no sense at all, except to confirm that the obvious sources where any media outlet should be looking - American Airlines and the FBI - seem to have been left out of the process. And it gets more ridiculous.
USAT gives the following bio of one of the alleged victims.

"Tom McGuinness, of Portsmouth, N.H., was co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, an official at his church confirmed...He said church pastors were with his wife when she was notified Tuesday morning. "

Surely American Airlines, the FAA or the FBI would be the most reliable sources of who was co-piloting the plane. A family member, who's ID can be verified would be a reasonably good unofficial source, but first one needs to find out which family one is looking for. In the process of ascertaining that, one should have already received official confirmation. This source is someone who claims to know such a family member - a second hand attribution to a source which is not official anyway, and should be subject to confirmation from AA, The FAA or the FBI.

Why does USAT cite the church administrator as the source, indeed the confirmation of the information, when they can't have found out anything about how to find the church administrator without first consulting the official source, which could comfirm it far more authoritively ? The indications are that the church administrator contacted USAT with this claim, and USAT accepted this hearsay at face value. If so, this is very poor journalism.

So none of this makes a lot of sense.

The only thing I can figure is that the airlines DIDN'T HAVE real final manifests. This would be a strong indication the flights were bogus. Possibly, the lists were obtained by the airlines from the federal government, since they were government flights of some sort (terror drill flights?), and the government was confused over who they should say were on the flights, and simply made up the list as it went along-- perhaps reading the names to the airlines over the phone?

CONCEIVABLY, one explanation is that each media got the real final passenger manifests from the airlines, but were told they could only publish names after the each media outlet contacted the relatives, but this would be an extremely inefficient way of dealing with the situation that would put the relatives through much unneeded trauma and thus makes no sense. This scenario also doesn't explain:
1) typos in the names
2) Szymanski's contention that each media outlet got different official manifests from the airlines (i.e. NOT the same one)

So I have to conclude the flight lists were bogus, manufactured by the government, and the airlines were given different manifests as the government edited the list over time (checked out aliases perhaps?).

Government control over the manifests also explains the curious feature of how none of the lists ever mention the supposed hijacker names. This would indicate the government was holding back this info and perhaps deciding exactly who would be the right patsy for a particular flight.


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