Posts falsely claim no airplane debris found at Pentagon on 9/11
CLAIM: No airplane debris was found at the site of the Pentagon attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Security camera footage from the Pentagon shows American Airlines Flight 77 hitting the building, and photos from that day document an array of debris from the plane at the crash site.
THE FACTS: As the 21st anniversary of 9/11 was observed on Sunday, an old, false claim reemerged on social media saying no airplane debris was found at the Pentagon after the building was attacked.
“Never forget no plane debris was found at the Pentagon,” one Instagram post reads. “There is no CCTV footage & trillions went missing from the budget.”
“I know 0 intelligent people who believe a high jacked plane flew into the side of the pentagon leaving no plane debris or video evidence. Only sheep,” stated a Twitter post using three sheep emoji instead of the word sheep.
Footage from two Pentagon security cameras outside the building shows the American Airlines flight crashing into the Pentagon. The footage was released by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2006 after conservative government watchdog Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request two years earlier, the Associated Press reported.
In describing the footage, the AP stated: “The aeroplane is a thin white blur on the video as it hits the Pentagon at ground level. Almost instantly, a white flash and a huge orange fireball appear on the video, followed by a tower of grey-black smoke.”
There are also multiple photographs of debris from the aircraft found at the Pentagon crash site, including images released by the FBI.
Jamie McIntyre, CNN’s military affairs correspondent on 9/11, featured photos he took of airplane debris at the Pentagon in a 2010 post for his “Line of Departure” blog on news site Military.com. One shows what McIntyre captions as “a piece of wreckage that appears to be a cockpit window.” Another includes a piece of metal from what looks like the outside of the plane, while a third McIntyre describes as showing “thousands of tiny shards of airplane wreckage.”
Deceptively edited footage of a report McIntyre did for CNN on 9/11, which makes it appear he was saying no airplane debris could be seen at the site of the Pentagon attack, also reemerged amid this year’s 9/11 anniversary.
The phrase “trillions went missing from the budget” in the Instagram post above appears to refer to a speech then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave on Sept. 10, 2001, at an opening ceremony for the Department of Defense’s Acquisition and Logistics Excellence Week.
“The technology revolution has transformed organizations across the private sector,” Rumsfeld said. “But not ours, not fully, not yet. We are, as they say, tangled in our anchor chain. Our financial systems are decades old. According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.
But Rumsfeld was not saying that the Department of Defense was missing $2.3 trillion. He was using the number to illustrate that the Department of Defense was having trouble keeping track of its finances because of outdated technology.
On July 20, 2000, Robert J. Lieberman, who was then the assistant inspector general for the Department of Defense, cited the $2.3 trillion number during testimony before a House of Representatives task force in which he discussed “how difficult it has been for DoD to emulate private sector financial reporting practices.”
He stated: “The magnitude of the problem is further demonstrated by the fact that, of $5.8 trillion of those adjustments that we audited this year, $2.3 trillion were unsupported by reliable explanatory information and audit trails or were made to invalid general ledger accounts.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers crashed the American Airlines plane into the southwest side of the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. after two other hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center towers and a third crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The Pentagon attack killed 125 people in the building and the 59 passengers and crew on board the airplane.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.