No Prior Warning At WTC On 911?
WTC Corporate Casualties Correction Reopens
Question of Conspiracy or Complacency
By William Thomas

With special thanks to J. Beck, Boudewijn Wegerif and Lowell Manning
Did US intelligence agencies allow the attacks on the World Trade Center to proceed through criminal conspiracy, inexcusable complacency, or White House orders to look the other way to avoid embarrassing influential Saudis?
Corrected casualty assessments now indicate that the only major tenant of the World Trade Center to suffer suspiciously light losses on the morning of Sept. 11 was the FBI.
In pre-hardcover editions of All Fall Down: The Politics of Terror and Mass Persuasion I quoted a very reliable source indicating that the Twin Towers two biggest corporate tenants went nearly unscathed by the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Recent emails from a Morgan Stanley survivor and others resulted in a cross check of casualty lists showing that this big investment firm suffered hundreds of fatalities in the Sept. 11 attacks. Goldman Sachs apparently did suffer light casualties but its offices are located in a nearby complex and not in the Twin Towers themselves.
My original source citation reads:
"Morgan Stanley, the largest tenant of the WTC complex lost none of its 3500 employees occupying some 50 floors according to the Washington Post. Neither did Oppenheimer Funds. [It was] also verified that at least one Goldman Sachs Vice President had taken the day off to go surfing. This may or may not be a lucky coincidence?"
At the speed of networked news additions and corrections, it was not my source's responsibility to update me. I should have checked. I checked now. A quick response to my query late last week has explained that the stories I had referenced were based on early reports by mainstream media [including the Washington Post] who later corrected themselves just as CBS amended its initial report that no jet interceptors were based at Andrews Air Force Base.
Removing Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs from the low casualties equation removes the contention that these corporate giants located on a Sept. 7 State Department worldwide warning that Americans may be the target of a terrorist threat [from] extremist groups with links to Osama bin Laden s al Qaeda organization.
Could a fully occupied WTC have been evacuated in time to account for the current casualty figures?
Civil engineer Lowell Manning takes issue with Eamonn O'Brien who in a recent interview calculated there should have been 38,500 people in both Trade Towers by 8:30 that morning plus at least 10 percent additional visitors for a total occupancy, so around 41,000 people altogether.
A Canadian evacuation expert who has run unannounced drills in government office buildings, O'Brien figures that the World Trade Center must have been less than 30 percent occupied" to account for fatality figures now placed at 2,940 dead..
Manning has conservatively assumed the tower population at 100 per floor on average, to give a figure of 20,000 all told, because there were at least 4 plant floors in each building and some unoccupied floors undergoing refit/renovation. Press reports generally put the population at around 25,000. There is absolutely no evidence that the buildings were substantially empty.
Besides noting that Goldman Sachs was located nearby not actually in the twin towers - Manning observes that Morgan Stanley was spread over 21 floors (not 50 as claimed in the original quote).
The New Zealander adds, I do not for one moment believe Eamonn O'Brien's figures of about 30 percent. occupancy. Is he taking into account that the South tower evacuation will have started before UA 175 hit it at 9.04 am? I think the order to evacuate would have been given as a matter of routine disaster response pretty soon after the north tower was hit at about 8.48 am.
But it does not appear that an orderly evacuation began in the South Tower until a second jetliner hit its upper floors. Survivors report that security announcements in the South Tower instructed employees to return to their desks after the North Tower suffered a massive explosion. We appear to be all right, said security. Office workers quoted in All Fall Down say they were nervously discussing the word appear when the South Tower was struck.
Since the South Tower collapsed before the North Tower, could it have been evacuated in time to account for an estimated 660 casualties? Here is Manning s view:
March 2002
At the time of impact, there was nobody in the part of the WTC South tower that UA Flight 175 crashed into. Most of the losses in the South tower were caused when the building collapsed some 55 minutes after impact.
Of an estimated 620 deaths in the south tower2, about 590 were people who were working above level 80 and only 30 or so below level 803. The plane crashed into the building between levels 43 and 74, occupied mainly by Morgan Stanley. Morgan Stanley was by far the largest firm in either of the twin towers, occupying 21 floors and employing at least 2000 staff. Of the nine staff there who lost their lives, 5 were security guards.
A general evacuation of the South tower must have been ordered soon after Flight AA 11 struck the North tower at about 8.48 am, giving enough time for people to get into the stairwells before UA Flight 175 hit the South tower at about 9.04am. (Given the devastation caused by AA Flight 11 to people in the North tower, the only other explanation would be that Morgan Stanley was forewarned of the attack.)
The 10,000 or so people in the building could only move down the stairwells as fast as they could physically exit the building and as fast as the stairwells themselves allow. Fire service teams fighting their way up the stairwells against the flow of people moving down would have slowed the evacuation and the initial rescue effort in both towers.
Assuming the buildings were designed to be evacuated in an hour, (any longer, in my view, would be irresponsible) the stairwells would "pass" about 200 people a minute. So if there are about 100 people employed on each floor on average, the crowd in the stairwells moves down about two floors each minute. People from around level 80 would have been near the impact zone when UA Flight 175 crashed into it. Even without severe structural damage to the building, heat and smoke in the stairwells at and above the impact zone would make the descent more difficult. Firms that were relatively slow to evacuate (like Eurobrokers Inc [level 84] who lost about 60 people, AON Corporation [levels 99,100] who lost about 175 people and Sandler O'Neill [level 104] who lost about 50 people) would have been at the top of the queue unable to speed up their exit. Feeding into already choked stairwells would be difficult. Until UA Flight 175 hit the building, there was no obvious need to panic, and many people would have waited in the stairwell lobbies.
Following the South tower attack, some people would be panicking, while others would be injured in the crush on the stairs. An hour does not seem to have been enough to clear the South tower and the end of the queue was trapped when the building collapsed.
The story with the North tower is different. It collapsed at about 10.28am, roughly one hour and forty minutes after impact. AA Flight 11 crashed near level 100 towards the top of the building. Of some 1640 deaths in the north tower, just 50 or so were below level 92, (assuming the 76 deaths among employees of the building owners, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, are distributed in proportion to the deaths elsewhere). Thirteen of those 50 were General Telecom staff (level 84) who may have evacuated very late.
The largest tenant was rumoured to be the FBI (occupying levels 64-76), followed by Marsh USA (levels 94-100). There are just 2 FBI deaths acknowledged in the victim list, including former FBI chief John O'Neill who had recently been appointed WTC head of security.
Windows on the World (levels 106-107) contributed an estimated 450 deaths, made up of roughly 100 staff, all those on the victim list whose firms were not on the list of tenants, and those on the list for whom no employer is given. Cantor Fitzgerald was, like Windows on the World, practically annihilated, suffering 660 casualties (levels 101-105). Marsh US had 300 deaths (levels 94-100). Fred Alger Management had 30 or so deaths at Level 93 and Carr Futures about 70 deaths at Level 92. The remainder are mainly the Port Authority employees who died.
The Nishi-Nippon bank had an office on level 102, losing just 2 staff, and Kidder Peabody & Co an office on level 101 also losing just 2 staff. These offices must have been shielded from the crash impact by the core of the building. This suggests the stairwells were usable up to level 102, even if they were not usable further up.
The Fire Service had to deal with dense billowing smoke, fire, rescue and injuries as well as coordinate evacuation. While the crash no doubt caused many deaths, and smoke inhalation many more, most of the deaths occurred when the building collapsed. Rescuers didn't have enough time to complete their work. The injured could not be quickly evacuated. The top levels were apparently closed off by damage and heat, trapping over 1000 people, preventing the emergency services from getting to them. Given more time, some of them might have been saved.
Fortunately, the South tower behaved better in an engineering sense while it stood. If what happened in the North tower had happened in the South tower, the final September 11th toll would have been more like 6000 instead of 3000 because everyone still in the south tower stairwells above the impact point would probably have been trapped. If AA Flight 11 had struck lower down the North tower at a similar level to UA Flight 175, and caused the same damage it did further up, the toll would have been twice as much again. On balance, given the nature of the attacks and the building design, luck and luck alone kept the casualty figures down.
About 90 percent. of those in the towers at the time of the WTC attacks got out safely. The Fire Service paid dearly for its efforts, losing some 347 men. Given the enormity of the event, some will argue the loss of life was not that bad. My point is that most of the 10 percent. who did lose their lives could have been saved by applying tighter standards for egress from such buildings and by building lower longer buildings instead of such massive towers. The WTC tragedy is a very poor advertisement for skyscrapers.
While the rapid collapse of the South tower, and the chaos of the North tower are both extreme design cases, the events show that providing nominal egress capacity, (as with the South tower) is insufficient for the design of such high rise buildings. Instead, building heights should be chosen so that even in such extreme cases the buildings can be properly evacuated within an hour, maybe less, using completely independent stairwell systems. This includes evacuating injured people. Failure to do this cost up to 2000 innocent lives in the WTC attack. Unless there are design changes, the next time, if there is a next time, is likely to be much worse.
The widespread official overstating of victim numbers long after the number of victims was quite accurately known, suggests the Bush Administration has been more intent upon boosting support for its so-called "war on terror" than engaging in a public debate about what really happened in the WTC towers. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that so little has been publicly acknowledged. In "war", heroes count while the truth often hurts.
* * * End Notes:
1. A victims map was constructed to prepare this article. The information used to create the map is available at, to which I was originally linked from the NY Police Department website.
2. The September 11 casualty list as of 23/3/02, currently stands at 3020, of which 81 are missing and the rest confirmed dead or reported dead, is:
North Tower:............about 1640
South Tower::............about 620
Subtotal WTC::............:.........2629
Planes::............:............:............,, 266
(Nurses and paramedic casualties are included in the tower figures.)
3. The exact location of everyone in the buildings can never be known. For example, some of the 30 deaths below level 80 in the South Tower and the 50 deaths below level 92 in the North Tower may have occurred at Windows on the World, where many died. I could only list them against their given firms. Similarly, some of those whose given firms are not tenants or for whom no firm is given, may have been visiting other areas where casualties occurred. Including them as visitors to Windows on the World, as I have done, is a practical rather than exact analysis. Likewise, I assigned nearly 50 construction and service workers to the empty upper levels of the South Tower, assuming them to be part of the WTC Project Renewal.
So where are we now? If the WTC occupancy on Sept. 11 was closer to 25,000 souls, an evacuation in the time allotted would have left the pattern we see: those caught above the crash sites in each building mostly died; those working below those floors mostly survived. It now appears that early media reports of 40,000 to 50,000 occupancy included the entire WTC complex.
Corrected corporate casualty figures at the World Trade Center do not mean that no prior warnings were given. On the contrary, key questions remain:
1. Despite repeated warnings of imminent attack by European news and intelligence agencies, the CIA, FBI, State Dept., Mossad, Bronx high school students and the FAA in the weeks leading up to Sept. 11 - why weren t airport ticket agents and security personnel put on heightened alert to watch out for fit young men of Middle Eastern extraction attempting to board commercial flights? Two planes diverted to Canada were found with box cutters left onboard. This indicates that some 25 terrorists fitting the standard hijacker profile card posted at every airline registration desk managed to board six target aircraft some waving bright red flags by carrying no luggage and buying last-minute tickets with cash.
2. Why did the terrorists who hijacked Flight 93 fly past an unopposed shot at the White House and hit the Pentagon wing under renovation instead?
3. How could Sept. 11 planners assume they would have up to an hour to fly unopposed to their targets when newspapers reports revealed that air force interceptors routinely swoop alongside off-course planes within 21 minutes of receiving a scramble order?
4. Why were two ready alert fighters routinely launched from Andrews within minutes of receiving FAA requests to intercept errant aircraft kept on the runway for one hour after air traffic controllers alerted NORAD air defenses to a series of hijackings? Why was all mention of its two air defense squadrons stricken from the Andrews AFB website on Sept. 11? If the surprise achieved by the terrorists was the result of catastrophic military incompetence, why wasn t NORAD head Gen. Richard Myers court-martialed like the Pearl Harbor commanders, or at least severely reprimanded for launching distant interceptors too late to fly 129 miles to the Pentagon - while keeping Andrews alert fighters on a runway just 12 miles from this key facility? On Oct. 2, Gen. Myers was promoted to head the entire US military as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
5. Why did extensive FBI offices in the Twin Towers reportedly account for only one casualty on Sept. 11? (John O Neill, who died while serving as security head of the WTC, had resigned from the FBI in protest over blocked probes into the bin Ladens..)
Only a full investigation into US security shortcomings can prevent a repeat attack. But Bush and Cheney intervened to delay scheduled Congressional probes for another year. [ Bush halts inquiry of FBI and stirs up a firestorm Boston Globe Dec. 14, 2001]
Earlier FBI investigations into the Bush s longstanding relationship with the bin Laden family and the bin Laden s many donations to Arab charities known to funnel funds to terrorist organizations were also repeatedly halted by the White House. August probes by FBI agents into known al Qaeda terrorists taking unusual flight training in the United States were blocked by senior FBI officials and the Attorney General. According to Washington bureaucrats, a terrorist assault on the US mainland seemed less risky than offending Saudi royalty and businessmen who control desert oil spigots and military bases vital to US interests. [ Clinton White House axed terror-fund probe The Washington Times April 2, 2002; FBI and US spy agents say Bush spiked bin Laden probes before 11 September The Guardian Nov. 7, 2001; The White House connection: Saudi `agents close Bush friends Boston Herald Dec. 11, 2001]
At least, that s their explanation for actions bordering on treason.
We still have many more questions than answers.
-William Thomas April 8, 2002

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