Barbara Olsons Alleged Call from AA 77:
A Correction About Onboard Phones
David Ray Griffin
05/07/07 "ICH" -- - In my
recently released book, Debunking 9/11 Debunking, I claimed that
Boeing 757s made for American Airlines did not have seat-back phones or any other onboard
This claim, if true,
would be very important, because one could use it, as I did, to argue that the alleged
telephone call from Barbara Olson to her husband, US Solicitor General Ted Olson, could
not have occurred. It might be thought, to be sure, that the call could have been made
from her cell phone. Ted Olson did, in fact, make this claim at times. As I reported,
however, the evidence indicates that cell phone calls from high-flying airliners would not
have been possible in 2001, given the cell phone technology of the time. In any case, Ted
Olson, after going back and forth between these two claims, finally settled on the claim
that the calls were made on a seat-back phone. If Flight 77, being an AA Boeing 757, had
no onboard phones, we would have to conclude that Olsons claim could not be true. I
myself drew that conclusion (while saying that this would leave open the question of
whether Olson invented the story or was himself a victim, like the relatives of other
passengers, of faked phone calls).
I based my conclusion on conversations that
Ian Henshall and Rowland Morgan had with American Airlines in 2004 while they were
co-authoring book. In this book, 9/11 Revealed, they said: A call by us to
American Airlines London Office produced a definitive statement from Laeti Hyver
that [AAs] 757s do not have Airfones. This was confirmed by an email from AA in the
Although this email
correspondence was not printed in their book, or in Morgans later Flight 93
Revealed, in which it is also reported, they allowed me to
print it in Debunking 9/11 Debunking. In reply to their letter asking whether
757s [are] fitted with phones that passengers can use, an AA spokesman wrote:
American Airlines 757s do not have onboard phones for
passenger use. To check on the possibility that Barbara Olson might have borrowed a
phone intended for crew use, they asked, [A]re there any onboard phones at
all on AA 757s, i.e., that could be used either by passengers or cabin crew? The
response was: AA 757s do not have any onboard phones, either for passenger or crew
use. Crew have other means of communication available.
The conclusion that
Barbara Olson could not have made a call using an onboard phone seemed further confirmed
by a page on the AA website that says, Worldwide satellite communications are
available on American Airlines' Boeing 777 and Boeing 767, with no mention of
AAs Boeing 757.
My mistake, like that
of Henshall and Rowland before me, was to assume that the AA spokesperson and this website
were talking about AA 757s as they had always been, not simply about 757s at the time of
the query, in 2004.
But the latter was
evidently the meaning. Elias Davidsson, an Icelandic member of the 9/11 truth movement,
sent me a news report from February 6, 2002, which said: American Airlines will discontinue its AT&T in-flight phone
service by March 31, a spokesman for the airline said Wednesday.
Davidsson also pointed to a 1998 photograph of the inside of an AA 757 showing that it did
have seat-back phones.
Reasons for Still Doubting the Olson Calls
Does this evidence, that Flight 77 did have
seat-back phones, mean that we must infer that Barbara Olsons alleged call to Ted
Olson really occurred? Of course not. All the reasons that had previously been given for
doubting it still hold.
One problem with the story about this call is that Barbara
Olson was the only person on the plane who allegedly used a seat-back phone to call
someone. There were, in fact, only two people altogether from this flight who allegedly
made any calls, the other one being flight attendant Renee May, who supposedly used a cell
phone to call her parents. Moreover, Barbara Olson reported, according to her husband,
that all the passengers and crew members had been herded to the back of the plane. Yet we
are supposed to believe that none of the other people, seeing Barbara Olson make two phone
calls, grabbed one of the other seat-back phones to make their own calls. We are also
supposed to believe that no one else, while seeing Renee May use her cell phone, decided
to use their own cell phones to call someone. This scenario is extremely implausible.
Another problem with Ted Olsons story is that he has
repeatedly changed his claim about the means his wife used to make the calls. Three days
after 9/11, Olson suggested on one TV show that the call was made on a seat-back phone.
Then, on another show that same day, he suggested that his wife had used her cell phone.
Six months later, he returned to his first story, saying: She wasn't using her
cellphone, she was using the phone in the passengers' seats. . . . [S]he was calling
collect. One would think that
the details of this call---his final conversation with his wife before she died---would
have been burned so indelibly into his memory that he would not have said different things
at different times.
There is, however, an even more serious problem, which was
stated in an essay by Rowland Morgan in 2004: Ted Olson could give his adherents
closure, and shut his critics up, Morgan pointed out, by simply producing the
Department of Justices telephone accounts, showing a couple of hefty reverse-charges
entries charged from Flight 77s Airfone number at around about 9:20 AM on 11th
In this brief essay, I have tried to
exemplify what I have always said people should do when they find that they have made
errors, especially about issues of great importance: Correct them quickly, forthrightly,
and publicly. I assume that now NIST, Popular Mechanics, and the 9/11 Commission
will retract the dozens of errors that have been pointed out in their reports.