Beyond Boxcutters


Someone sent me a nasty e-mail a couple years ago, after I wrote that on 9/11 "a handful of thugs managed to murder 3,000 people at once with a few boxcutters." Didn't I know, he asked, that they actually had bombs?

I didn't take him as seriously as I should have (note to future correspondents: a crankish tone and personal abuse will not help you sell your case), but I've since read some good reasons to believe that he was onto something. Now Gail Sheehy, writing in the New York Observer, is asking some of the questions that naturally follow:

…The independent commission is in a position to demand such answers, and many more. Have any weapons been recovered from any of the four downed planes? If not, why should the panel assume they were "less-than-four-inch knives," the description repeatedly used in the commission's hearing on aviation security? Remember the airlines' first reports, that the whole job was pulled off with box cutters? In fact, investigators for the commission found that box cutters were reported on only one plane. In any case, box cutters were considered straight razors and were always illegal. Thus the airlines switched their story and produced a snap-open knife of less than four inches at the hearing. This weapon falls conveniently within the aviation-security guidelines pre-9/11.

But bombs? Mace or pepper spray? Gas masks? The F.B.I. dropped the clue that the hijackers had "masks" in a meeting with the Four Moms from New Jersey, the 9/11 widows who rallied for this independent commission.

The Moms want to know if investigators have looked into how the pilots were actually disabled. To think that eight pilots—four of whom were formerly in the military, some with combat experience in Vietnam, and all of whom were in superb physical shape—could have been subdued without a fight or so much as a sound stretches the imagination. Even giving the terrorists credit for a militarily disciplined act of war, it is rare for everything to go right in four separate battles….