Black Boxes

found at Pentagon, WTC, Pennsylvania

their data would be MUCH more interesting than the videos of Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon - they would refute or confirm the remote control theory

note: in mid-2007 a website called "Pilots for 9/11 Truth" claimed to analyze the raw data of the Flight 77 black box and "prove" that the data showed the plane could not possibly have hit the Pentagon. The press release promoting this alleged determination was floated to the media (and internet websites) by a conspiracy theorist who also claims the moon landings were faked and gives serious credence to debates about nuclear weapons that supposedly destroyed the World Trade Center. Since the evidence that the plane really hit the Pentagon is overwhelming -- the physical evidence and eyewitnesses debunk the various "no plane" and "other plane" claims -- this press release is not evidence. It would be helpful to have a serious effort independently analyze all four black boxes, but the odds that the data integrity has not been tampered with since 2001 is extremely low.


Pentagon black boxes

'Black Boxes' Found at Pentagon Crash Site By Rudi Williams American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2001 -- Searchers found the flight data and cockpit voice recorders about 4 a.m. today in the wreckage of the hijacked plane that slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, Defense Department officials said. The two "black boxes" will help investigators put together the puzzle of what happened during the doomed flight, said DoD spokesman Army Lt. Col. George H. Rhynedance. "The voice recorder will tell what was going on in the cockpit," he said. The data box, he said, will tell what was happening with the aircraft as it headed toward the Pentagon, such as its rate of turn. Information from the two boxes will help determine what actually happened during the flight, he said. The recorders were turned over the FBI. The recorders are now at the National Transportation Safety Board laboratory in Washington, where technicians are working to recover data on the recorders.
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Web Exclusive: Washington Heroes
On the ground at the Pentagon on Sept. 11

Sept. 28 (2001)

Early Friday morning, shortly before 4 a.m., Burkhammer and another firefighter, Brian Moravitz, were combing through debris near the impact site. Peering at the wreckage with their helmet lights, the two spotted an intact seat from the plane’s cockpit with a chunk of the floor still attached. Then they saw two odd-shaped dark boxes, about 1.5 by 2 feet long. They’d been told the plane’s “black boxes” would in fact be bright orange, but these were charred black. The boxes had handles on one end and one was torn open. They cordoned off the area and called for an FBI agent, who in turn called for someone from the National Transportation Safety Board who confirmed the find: the black boxes from American Airlines Flight 77. “We wanted to find live victims,” says Burkhammer. But this was a consolation prize. “Finding the black box gave us a little boost,” he says.
-- Debra Rosenberg


World Trade Center black boxes

Black Boxes
Contents of Flight Data and Cockpit Voice Recorders Are Missing
All jetliners are equipped with flight data recorders (FDRs) and cockpit voice recorders (CVRs) contained in "black boxes" designed to survive the most severe crashes. To date, none of the contents of any of the black boxes have been released to the public. Authorities have claimed that all but the recorders on Flight 93 were either not recovered or too damaged to yield data. The black boxes of Flight 77 were allegedly found on September 14th, but yielded "nothing useful" according to FBI director Robert Mueller. 1 2

This book, written by Gail Swanson, and published in 2003, includes accounts of firefighters Mike Bellone, Robert Barrat, and Nicholas DeMasi.
According to the federal authorities controlling Ground Zero, the black boxes from the two crashed 767s, Flight 11 and Flight 175, failed to turn up in the rubble taken from the site. 3 However, two men who worked in the cleanup operation at Ground Zero claim that they helped authorities find three of the four black boxes in October of 2001. One of the workers, New York City firefighter Nicholas DeMasi, has self-published a book with other Ground Zero workers in which he describes the recovery of the devices. 4 The book, Behind the Scenes: GROUND ZERO, A Collection of Personal Accounts, can be ordered through
The account of the Ground Zero workers contradicts the 9/11 Commission Report which states: "The CVRs and FDRs from American 11 and United 175 were not found."
Survivability Requirements
Events that would damage the recorders sufficiently to make them unreadable are extremely rare. The recorders are designed to survive the kinds of impacts that happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The FAA has placed durability requirements on the recorders and their casings to survive severe impact and fire
The storage medium of each recorder is located in a protective capsule, which must be able to withstand an impact of 3,400 Gs (3,400 times the force of gravity). Additionally, each must also survive flames at 2,000 F for up to 30 minutes, and submersion in 20,000 feet of saltwater for 30 days. Typically, to increase their chances of survival, the recorders are located in the tail section of the aircraft, which usually sustains the least impact in a crash. 5

1. Flight Data and Voice Recorders Found at Pentagon, PBS, 9/14/01 [cached]
2. Feds Would Have Shot Down Pa. Jet,, 9/16/01
3. Speed Likely Factor In WTC Collapse,, 2/23/02 [cached]
4. 9/11 'black box' cover-up at Ground Zero?, Philadelphia Daily News, 10/26/04
5. And I alone survived,, [cached]

Firefighter Said Black Boxes
Were Found at Ground Zero
By Bryan Sacks and Nicholas Levis
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004

Pulitzer Prize winner William Bunch uses an account from the book to the left, "Behind-the-Scenes: Ground Zero," as one source for the claim that three black boxes from the aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center were discovered by authorities during the recovery efforts in 2001-2002. This is contrary to the official story. (Philadelphia Daily News, Thursday, 10/28/04 - a longer version was published on his "Campaign Extra" weblog.)
We hope other newspapers - and broadcasters - will follow this important lead and endeavor to investigate other potential cover-ups relevant to the 9/11 investigation.
Therefore we are offering a limited number of copies of the book gratis to print and broadcast journalists, and to the general public at cover price with free shipping. (For ordering information, see left.)
Update, Oct. 29: This breakthrough story has been picked up at OpEd News, Scoop Media, Yahoo PR Newswire and many other outlets.
Amid the enormous detail of loss, sorrow and recovery conveyed in "Behind-the-Scenes: Ground Zero," a New York City firefighter reveals that at least three of the four black boxes from Flights 11 and 175 were found by "Federal Agents" at the former World Trade Center site, during the clean-up efforts from September 2001 to March 2002.
At the time of the disaster, Nicholas DeMasi was a firefighter at Engine Company 261 in Queens. (The firehouse was shut down in 2003, after a century of operation.)
In the weeks that followed 9/11, he joined an all-terrain vehicle crew (ATV Unit) at Ground Zero. In "Behind-the-Scenes," he describes his experience as follows: "If you needed anything, go ask the ATV Guy, they're the gopher guys."
On page 108 comes the revelation:
"At one point I was assigned to take Federal Agents around the site to search for the black boxes from the planes. We were getting ready to go out. My ATV was parked at the top of the stairs at the Brooks Brothers entrance area. We loaded up about a million dollars worth of equipment and strapped it into the ATV. When we got into the ATV to take off, the agent accidentally pushed me forward. The ATV was already in reverse, and my foot went down on the gas pedal. We went down the stairs in reverse. Fortunately, everything was okay. There were a total of four black boxes. We found three."
DeMasi's statement was committed to print in August 2003 and concerns an event that likely happened before January 2002. It has gone unnoticed by the media until now, and is flatly contradicted by the Kean Commission's supposedly exhaustive findings.
The only statement on the status of the Ground Zero black boxes in the 9/11 Commission Report is buried in footnote 76 to Chapter 1, but it is definitive: "The CVRs and FDRs from American 11 and United 175 were not found..." As if to leave no doubt about what is meant - that not even a trace of the total of four cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders from the two aircraft remained - the same sentence adds: "...and the CVR from American Flight 77 was badly burned and not recoverable."
DeMasi did not return phone messages to a number of investigators who reached out to him, and has not spoken out beyond his comments in "Behind-the-Scenes." He is obviously not seeking attention - why else drop his bombshell in this off-hand way, in a passage that almost no one has noticed? - and we have no interest in putting him on the spot. Given his commitment to the recovery effort at Ground Zero and the detail he provides, his account has an immediate, prima facie credibility.

The collapses of the Twin Towers on 9/11 were devastating, but black boxes almost always withstand explosions, high-speed crashes into mountainsides, even missile strikes; they have been retrieved in working condition from the bottom of the ocean floor and from sites where planes were almost completely destroyed (as in the case of Flight 93 at Shanksville).

Consider this CBS News story from February 2002:
The effort to better understand the events of the day isn’t being made easier by the fact that the voice and data recorders aboard the two hijacked jetliners that hit the twin towers haven't been recovered. The four devices - and all the clues they would hold - have failed to turn up in the 1.25 million tons of steel, concrete and other material taken from ground zero.
"It's extremely rare that we don't get the recorders back. I can't recall another domestic case in which we did not recover the recorders," said Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

The sense of surprise conveyed by an NTSB spokesperson makes clear that the government's claim, that the devices where not recovered, is the one which needs further explanation, and which deserves scrutiny.
If DeMasi's story is true, then there will be others at Ground Zero who heard about or may have even witnessed the recovery of the black boxes, such as the "Federal Agents" he mentions.
As DeMasi describes it, the search for the black boxes was not undertaken in secret; presumably word of the discovery spread quickly among the rescue workers on the site, and the news was only later suppressed. A trail demonstrating the truth of his statements would almost certainly exist. There may even be pictures or video of the successful recovery of the boxes, and documents confirming it. Recall that FEMA and OSHA continuously monitored the entire site with fixed and mobile video cameras, and that firefighters at Ground Zero were often in real-time radio contact with their headquarters to provide continuing updates of the recovery effort. Were these conversations recorded or transcribed?
It is also possible, of course, that someone may have taken footage of the recovery with their own minicam.
The 9/11 Commission had a staff of more than 60 persons, a budget of $15 million, and 20 months in which to explore every possible avenue of research into the events and aftermath of September 11. "Behind-the-Scenes" is one of a handful of books containing first-hand accounts by Ground Zero rescue workers. Yet the Commission seems to have entirely missed DeMasi's revelation.
Since September 11 the government has extended its power to suppress information it believes may jeopardize national security. The Administration has claimed great latitude in the use of this power, as in the case of its bizarre "retroactive classification" of facts that FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds had already revealed (and after her most serious charges had received independent confirmation). Now as well, we can find no plausible argument that merely revealing the discovery of black boxes at Ground Zero could present a security threat worthy of classification and providing false accounts to the public.
For the moment, then, we are left with questions:
Will enough journalists and public officials be willing to pursue this story, wherever it leads, until the full truth is revealed?
If the black boxes were recovered, was this information made available to the 9/11 Commission? Was the data on the black boxes retrieved?
Back to black

In his defense of the end of the pretense of constitutional rule, Dick Cheney says "you know, it's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years." Of course he's right. And since Cheney warned Americans last year that a vote for Kerry was inviting another 9/11, maybe that's how he means it to be heard this time, too: the veiled threat of a protection artist.
Remember the claims of Ground Zero firefighters, contradicting the official account, that they had actually recovered the black boxes of Flights 11 and 175? Mike Bellone and Nicholas DeMasi said the boxes were seized by federal agents, who then told them to keep quiet about it. They didn't, though their story never even rippled the mainstream's consensus fabrication. (But I wonder what the world would sound like if everyone bullied into silence by one method or another found their voice at the same time.)
Now comes corroboration from Dave Lindorff, a Counterpunch fixture who has perhaps the best insight over there on the darkness and the weirdness of America's present condition. (Alexander Cockburn, Whiteout aside, has a awful Chomskyite blindspot when it comes to deep politics, let alone high weirdness.)
Lindorff writes:

A source at the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that has the task of deciphering the date from the black boxes retrieved from crash sites-including those that are being handled as crimes and fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI-says the boxes were in fact recovered and were analyzed by the NTSB.
"Off the record, we had the boxes," the source says. "You'd have to get the official word from the FBI as to where they are, but we worked on them here."

That federal authorities, across agencies, perpetuate a lie regarding the recovery of the World Trade Center black boxes strongly suggests that both the voice and the flight data recorders contained information that would seriously damage, if not outright deflate, the Great Myth to Make War By. (I say "contained" because I expect they were effectively destroyed shortly after falling into federal hands.) As Lindorff writes, the data could prove "whether [the hijackers] were getting outside help in guiding them to their targets."
Will we ever know what was on the recorders? Probably not. But as I've said before, we already know enough. We haven't answered the how, and likely never will, but I think we have the who and the why.
Ironically, tragically, it's the how - the popular mechanics of the stage magician's craft - that consumes most of the fuel of the "9/11 movement." As it was meant to, so the perpetrators could grandfather their innocence with the passage of time and opportunity for justice.