The six-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is upon us. Here are a half-dozen unsolved mysteries still on my mind:
What really happened on United Airlines Flight 93? As the Philadelphia Daily News reported back in November, many folks in Shanksville, Pa., where the hijacked Boeing 757 crashed, believe the plane was shot down. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a small, unmarked jet flying overhead immediately after impact; others are convinced they heard the piercing sound of a missile. A federal flight controller told The Telegraph of Nashua, N.H., that an F-16 had indeed been in "hot pursuit" of Flight 93 until it hit the ground. One of the 911 calls from a passenger on the flight indicated that there was an explosion aboard the plane. The FBI immediately confiscated the tape.
The eight-mile-wide debris field seems to bolster claims of an on-board explosion. So did the discovery of a one-ton chunk of the plane's engine far from the rest of the crash site -- which some say points to evidence that a heat-seeking missile targeted the flight. Then there's the eight-minute gap from the time all cell-phone calls from the plane ceased and the time it crashed.
Although both the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were recovered, not a single scrap about what was on the black boxes has been officially released. This despite the government's otherwise routine release of such information. (Recall that after American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in New York last November, the feds released detailed information from one of the black boxes within less than two days.)
The feds insist on keeping all the Flight 93 data secret because disclosing such information might "interfere with enforcement proceedings." Against whom? All the hijack culprits are dead.
What really happened on American Airlines Flight 11? Did one of the hijackers have a gun on board? Was it planted before the flight took off, or was it smuggled on? Either way, shouldn't someone be held accountable if such an egregious security breach did in fact take place? Investigative reporter Paul Sperry, formerly of Investor's Business Daily and now with WorldNetDaily.com, scooped the mainstream press by exposing a high-level, internal report from the Federal Aviation Administration. It detailed the alleged shooting of Flight 11 passenger Daniel Lewin by hijacker Satam Al Suqami.
According to the document, which was later obtained by The Washington Post, USA Today and others, an onboard flight attendant reported in a phone call that "one bullet was reported to have been fired" during the flight, killing Lewin before the plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. FAA officials dismissed the leaked memo as a draft and claimed that the very specific report of gunfire -- including the names of the victim, shooter, and their precise seat numbers -- was an editing error.
Just a typo, huh?
Who murdered Katherine Smith, and why? Smith was the Tennessee state license examiner who had been implicated last month in a phony ID scam involving a group of shady Middle Eastern men from New York City. Investigators say there are "connections" between the ring and the Sept. 11 terrorists; one of them had a repair pass in his possession that gave him access to the lower levels of the World Trade Center basement. It was dated Sept. 5.
A day before Smith was to appear in court over the matter, she died in a bizarre and fiery crash inside a car registered to one of her Middle Eastern co-defendants. Smith was burned beyond recognition; her arms and legs disintegrated in the flames. Yet, her car was traveling barely over 20 mph when it hit a utility pole, and damage to the vehicle was minimal. This week, the Tennessee Highway Patrol concluded definitively that her "death was not the result of the crash itself. Her death was by other means." Is this the vengeful work of al Qaeda killers still on the loose?
Finally: Why does Norm Mineta still have a job? Who's responsible for the anthrax attacks?
And the most nagging question of all:
So where the hell is Osama bin Laden, anyway?