By Paul Zarembka (Special to Truth and Shadows)
Rebekah Roth’s 9-11 novel Methodical Illusion is getting a lot of attention. It claims to provide proof that all four 9-11 planes took off, but did not go to targets and instead were landed in Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts where cell phone calls were set-up to implicate Muslims [sentence added, May 13, 2015. P.Z.].
The author has done many interviews since the book was published in November 2014, with almost all interviewers receiving her novel enthusiastically. Many of the 230+ reviews of the book on Amazon have four- and five-star ratings, and even those who give the book a lower rating rarely contest the substance regarding 9-11.
While Roth’s claims about what may have happened on September 11, 2001 give us a lot to absorb, there are problems with some of them, which I address below. In her interviews, Roth explains how her experience as a flight attendant for almost 30 years gave her the ability to contrast what would happen in a real hijacking to what we have been told for 9-11. The behavior of attendants is particularly important as Roth knows how they are trained for a hijacking eventuality. She also examines how the conversations of attendants and passengers don’t make sense, something that has often been addressed by researchers, including by Elias Davidsson in his book Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11: Counterfeiting Evidence (Algora Publishing, New York, 2013, pp. 123-271).
Roth says that the calls that were supposed to have come from the planes really took place … but on the ground, not in the air. Her position is that while all the planes did take off, they were substituted for along the way by drones, and that the AA and UA flights landed at Westover Air Reserve Base in western Massachusetts. She notes that Westover has the runway length needed to accommodate Boeing 757s and 767s, an important ingredient to any determination as to where the planes landed. Roth then claims that each of the four planes could have arrived in time for the calls to be made as reported, but from the ground. This conclusion is in both her novel and her interviews. She doesn’t accept any radar tracking that has been officially reported, scrapping it as evidence.
Roth is quite opposed, even violently so, to David Ray Griffin’s claim that calls could have been faked using voice morphing. Listen to her interview at Quantum Matrix Radio at around 23:30 and 53:10 until right after 1:05:03 when she threatens to leave the interview. In 2011, I also opposed Griffin on voice morphing, but never with her dogmatic tone (“Critique of David Ray Griffin regarding Calls from 9-11 Planes”; an error of mine regarding the Boeing 767 for AA 11 was corrected in a day, but the correction no longer appears on-line). In my case, I did not consider whether the calls came from the ground.
Roth argues that passengers left on planes in Westover were gassed to death and that the Westover military airport had been evacuated beforehand. She claims that a reservist who was to be at the airport confirmed the closure to her. But Roth has not named the person who reported this, and so, in an evidentiary sense, it is simply hearsay. Even if it were fully confirmed, the question of establishing which planes went there would surface.
Before I get into an analysis of Roth’s claims, I want to point out that there is no bio at all in the book. Her Facebook page contains no information. Her publisher has only one other book. The two pilot endorsements for the Kindle second edition are anonymous (initials only). Roth says hundreds of pilots and attendants are behind her, but they are never named (unlike Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth). As far as anyone studying September 11th is concerned, she came out of nowhere, and we have no choice but to await more concrete information about her.
In addition to listening to many interviews, I did have the opportunity to talk to Roth by phone for two and a half hours, and I have messaged her and received responses. When I raised concerns about some of her claims regarding the timing of the calls (particularly in the case of American Airlines Flight 11), she wouldn’t address them but replied that I don’t understand the airline industry. Yet, she allows herself to talk freely about financial factors surrounding September 11th without being in the financial industry. Anyway, I am prepared to be mistaken if my analysis is addressed with an explanation as to any problems.
Call from flight attendant on AA 11, Betty Ong
As a former flight attendant, Roth is naturally drawn to the calls of the attendants on that day. In interviews, but not in her book, Roth reports Betty Ong as saying, “We’re the first” (interview by Susan Lindauer, 49:03; another example is with Quantum Matrix Radio at 32:45).
Already we have an issue. Davidsson’s book reports two FBI renditions of the same call. The portion that is recorded and offered to the public in a four-minute audio version, labeled Version B, is an agent’s transcript dated September 12, 2001. The version Roth must be referring to – nothing comparable to “We’re the first” appears in Version B – is the prior version dated September 11, 2001 and labeled Version A by Davidsson. Davidsson reports the sentence quite differently, namely, as “On, on number one” (p. 134 and 138).
The very next sentence that is reported by Roth is “He stood upstairs” and only appears in Version A.
Both sentences are important for Roth. “We’re the first” causes Roth to ask how Ong would know she is on the first hijacked plane of 9-11. But Roth doesn’t report it correctly, and, at least for me, it is hard to come up with a convincing reading of “On, on number one” that isn’t tailored to an interpretation.
The “He stood upstairs” in Version A indicates to Roth that Ong is calling from an airport hangar because hangars do indeed have stairs, while interiors of Boeing 757s and 767s do not. I’m not so sure, as the wording “stood upstairs” is strange when compared to the common phrases such as “went upstairs”, “ran upstairs”, etc. But it led her to the idea that all calls were made in hangar offices upstairs in one location: Westover. Let’s not worry about “stood upstairs” and see how she gets there.
The following is both the heart of her contribution and the area where some serious independent research is needed to confirm or disconfirm Roth’s certainty that she knows what happened on September 11th. It is going to get a bit technical.
Claim of all planes landing in Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts
Roth is convinced that all the calls took place, that they are “real” calls to “real” people. Furthermore, they must be from the ground because cell phone usage is unavailable above 1800 feet (unavailability of cell calling is non-controversial now – indeed, by the time of the Moussaoui trial, the government was careful not to claim otherwise). The main claim of her book is that, starting from the times of these calls, we are able to calculate that each plane had time to arrive in Westover, and that those persons who were to make calls had time to do so after disembarking. Accepted are the official departure times of each of the planes and the reported timings for the calls. And she claims to be able to prove this possibility for Westover for each plane.
Since her book itself is a novel, she does say in interviews that everything in the book about 9-11 is the truth. It is merely presented in a novel format. Indeed, I haven’t heard any interview that corrected even a word about what is in the book regarding 9-11.
The “wheels off” timings for each of the planes leaving the ground are reported by the 9/11 Commission as follows:
AA 11 from Logan, Boston: 7:59 a.m.
UA 175 from Logan, Boston: 8:14 (or 8:23 according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics datum)
AA 77 from Dulles, Washington, D.C.: 8:20
UA 93 from Newark, New Jersey: 8:42
The timings of the first calls for each plane (neatly laid out by Davidsson, pp. 124-127) are as follows:
AA 11, by flight attendant Betty Ong, 8:18:47 to American Airlines reservations in Cary, North Carolina
UA 175, by the Hanson family to C. Lee Hanson, 8:52:00, an unidentified male flight attendant to United Airlines maintenance in San Francisco, 8:52:01, and Garnet “Ace” Bailey claimed to be to his wife but who has failed to confirm ( Davidsson, pp. 171-172), 8:52:07
AA 77, by flight attendant Renee May, 9:12:18 to her parents (while previously unsuccessful at 9:11:24)
UA 93, from passenger Tom Burnett, 9:30:32 to his wife Deena (who has written that it was 9:27), and by flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw to United Airlines StarFix desk in San Francisco, 9:35:40
Roth does not contest these call times in any interview I have heard, and she often says 8:18 or 8:20 for the Ong call, and 9:12 or 9:13 for the May call. Indeed, in her book, a protagonist who is discovering what happened on September 11 says, “‘At this point, about all we have to go on is the time the cell phone calls were made. It’s the only information we can trust,’ Jim added.” [Roth, Rebekah (2014-11-17). Methodical Illusion (Kindle Locations 4045-4049). KTYS media. Kindle Edition.]
Let us observe what she does with the departure times of the planes and these first calls.
Let us see exactly how she arrives at her claim. The novel reads:
“Holy, moly! That base was on lock down on 9/11, much like all the other bases, but I recall reading that the Reserves at Westover were not just locked down, they were locked out from even entering that base for days. Now it’s starting to all make sense. Vera, get on your laptop and go to airplane manager dot com.”
“I’m there,” Vera reported.
“Now click on the flight calculator tab,” Jim instructed.
“Gotcha,” Vera replied.
“Type in for aircraft type: heavy jet, winds: type in none, in the departure airport put in B O S and for your arrival C E F.”
“CEF, I don’t know that airport code,” Vera replied.
“CEF is Westover Air Force Base,” Jim informed her just as the results appeared on her screen.
“Twenty-one,” Vera reported.
“Twenty-one minutes, that’s pushback to gate in. Flight time could have been under nineteen minutes easily and this runway would have been a straight in shot. With no traffic on the ground, they could have been taxied into one of these five super-large hangers right here.” Jim pointed to the satellite photo on his computer screen. “See, these planes parked here? They dwarf a 767. These hangars could easily accommodate more than one commercial jet.”
Ibid. (Kindle Locations 3842-3857).
Go to http://airplanemanager.com/FlightCalculator.aspx and do what is described above, namely, enter for a flight from BOS (Logan) to CEF (Westover Air Base), heavy jet, and “none” for winds. Voila. It does report 21 minutes!
However, it is not exactly what is stated in the novel. Airplanemanager.com is not “pushback to gate in”, but rather “wheels off” in Boston to “wheels on” at Westover. It could not be otherwise, because there are many gates at Logan and a generic calculation could not take account of the differing taxi times from different gates. A reader could check this claim of mine by entering a very short route, such as Newark to JFK or La Guardia and see the result (6 minutes to go 18 nautical miles from Newark (EWR) to JFK, or 5 minutes to go 14 NM to LaGuardia (LGA): while accelerating from takeoff and slowing for landing, the average speed is about 3 NM per minute or 180 NM per hour – incidentally, a NM is about 15% longer than a statute mile).
If AA 11 takes 21 minutes after wheels off at Logan to touch down at Westover, it would be 8:20 and still it would be necessary for the plane to taxi and arrive at the hangar, have Ong get off the plane, go to a hangar office and make a call, presumably having received some instructions. Yet, Ong’s call is reported to begin at 8:18:47, re-stated by Roth herself, sometimes mentioning 8:18, sometimes, 8:20.
Could the flight time have been faster? Wind at Boston (BOS) on that day was 12 NW, i.e., somewhat of a headwind for a flight going west (see www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KBOS/2001/9/11/DailyHistory.html?req_city=Boston&req_state=MA&req_statename=Massachusetts&reqdb.zip=02101&reqdb.magic=1&reqdb.wmo=99999). This suggests that 21 minutes to CEF could be somewhat of an underestimate. Further, the loss of radio contact with AA 11 was at 8:13 a.m., 24 HM from Westover, which implies a speed of some 250 NM per hour average speed, including descending and slowing down for landing at Westover. This is just for touch down, but no taxiing, etc. In sum, it doesn’t compute. Something has to give, most likely the timing of Ong’s call, if the operation is to be correctly described.
The evidence for AA 77 is at least as problematic. Wheels off is at 8:20 and airplanemanager.com reports that it takes 57 minutes to touchdown at Westover, no taxiing, etc. Let us examine Roth’s rendition:
Jim ignored her, “That might take care of the two flights out of Logan, but the other two flights came out of Dulles and Newark. Could it be possible that they were also taken over remotely and flown to this same base? Get back on that flight calculator, Vera, and punch in I A D as the departure and C E F as the arrival. Let’s see if this theory holds true from Dulles. That was Flight 77 that supposedly went into the Pentagon, wasn’t it?”
“According to this flight calculator, that flight would have taken roughly fifty-two minutes,” she announced.
“And the first phone call that was made, who made it and what time was it made?” Jim asked.
“The first phone call was made, oh my, this is really odd. There were two calls made at exactly 9: 12 — one from a flight attendant who phoned her parents and the other from a passenger. And those calls were made exactly fifty-two minutes after their departure from Washington! It was reported that the flight attendant called her parents using her cell phone….
Ibid. (Kindle Locations 3920-3932).
Note carefully. The text reads “fifty-two minutes”, five minutes earlier than I wrote above. How is that possible? There is a sleight of hand occurring in the novel. Without telling the reader, Roth has changed the wind from “none” to “seasonal” and the change provides the required 52 minutes and therefore 9:12. What is seasonal? The prevailing wind is from the southwest. Thus, a gain of five minutes is possible for touchdown. However, on that day the wind was not a tail wind, but a cross wind or very slight headwind, again using www.wunderground.com/history/airport but now for Dulles or Westover.
Renee May’s call to her family is reported to be at 9:12 and is accepted by Roth. Indeed, there are three FBI interviews of her parents who consistently reported to the FBI that the call was 9:12 to 9:13. This is five minutes before touchdown. So, again, Roth’s description does not compute.
This conclusion does not even account for the scenario that AA 77 is to be heading west so that any travel in that direction before drone substitution lengthens the claimed arrival at Westover, as it is north by northeast from Dulles.
UA 175 and UA 93
Both of these flights, from Boston and Newark, respectively, could arrive at Westover in easy time for their first call, as long as the drone substitution is appropriate.
Calls from other flight attendants: 1) AA 11, Madeline Sweeney, 2) UA 175, unidentified, 3) AA 77, Renee May, and 4) UA 93, Sandra Bradshaw and CeeCee Lyles
There are many aspects and problems with all of the calls, which could be an entire study. As we have said Davidson reports extensively on them, while Roth reports for some from a different viewpoint.
Regarding Renee May’s call from AA 77 to her parents, Roth says that an
attendant would never call parents as that does not follow protocol and, further, would freak out any mother. Yet she goes ahead with the timing of the call to the parents as if it truly took place.
For CeeCee Lyles’ message left on her husband’s voice mail, I agree that it clearly has an emotional ending. As a former police officer, she may have been the most sensitive of any of the callers as to the possibility (certainty?) of a setup. In any case, the whispered comment after the main call has ended has received a lot of attention. Like Griffin, Roth hears, “You did great!” saying that it comes from a female handler on the ground. I myself had thought it could be a fellow passenger sitting next to her on the plane and soothing her. However, many others believe Lyles is saying, “It’s a frame.” This version is represented in Massimo Mazzucco’s five-hour documentary September 11: The New Pearl Harbor (trailer here); in fact, it is even offered in the trailer for that documentary!
Roth considers the whispered, “You did great!” to be non-debatable and also does not realize, in her attack on voice morphing, that she agrees with Griffin as to the content of the whisper! In her interview with Quantum Matrix Radio we hear her struggling with her interviewers over the whisper, from 21 minutes.
On the novel as a novel
I do not want to conclude without a comment about the context in the novel for her presenting her conclusions about September 11th. Basically, it centers on the arrival into the U.S. Presidency of the head of the Tea Party, who is never described in anything but the best of terms, after the former Democratic Vice-President and President are impeached and convicted in that order – the new President having been Speaker of the House. Toward the end of the book this new President makes a speech to a Joint Session of Congress which sounds like it could have been written by Robert C. Welch, now-deceased founder of the John Birch Society..
Why does she use such a Tea Party President (not an imaginary Eugene Debs, or a MLK, Jr) when she constantly claims she has no political agenda? I asked her about her imaginary President, saying to her that, “You could have made the new President as CIA as Obama is (Wayne Madsen’s book)” — referring to his The Manufacturing of a President: The CIA’s Insertion of Barack H. Obama, Jr. into the White House. She replied, “Paul, it’s a novel! LOL.”