In 2006, nevertheless, the BBC used the same claim to withdraw its support for its own stories. Steve Herrmann, the editor of the BBC News website, claimed that confusion had arisen because "these were common Arabic and Islamic names." Accordingly, he said, the BBC had changed its September 23 story in one respect: "Under the FBI picture of Waleed al Shehri we have added the words "-A man called Waleed Al Shehri...' to make it as clear as possible that there was confusion over the identity."102 But Bamford's BBC story of September 22, which Herrmann failed to mention, had made it "as clear as possible" that there could not have been any confusion.
These attempts by Der Spiegel and the BBC, in which they tried to discredit the reports that Waleed al-Shehri was still alive after 9/11, have been refuted by Jay Kolar, who shows that FBI photographs had been published by Saudi newspapers as early as September 19. Kolar thereby undermines the only argument against Bamford's assertion, according to which there could have been no possibility of mistaken identity because al-Shehri had seen his published photograph prior to September 22, when Bamford's story appeared.103
The fact that al-Shehri, along with several other alleged hijackers,104 was alive after 9/11 shows unambiguously that at least some of the men on the FBI's final list were not on the planes. It would appear that the FBI, after replacing some of its first-round candidates because of their continued existence, decided not to replace any more, in spite of their exhibition of the same defect.
At this point, defenders of the official story might argue: The fact that some of the men labeled hijackers were still alive after 9/11 shows only that the FBI list contained some errors; it does not prove that there were no al-Qaeda hijackers on board. And although the previous points do undermine the evidence for such hijackers, absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.
Evidence of absence, however, is implicit in the prior points in two ways. First, the lack of Arab names on the Pentagon autopsy report and on any of the issued passenger manifests does suggest the absence of al-Qaeda operatives. Second, if al-Qaeda hijackers really were on the flights, why was evidence to prove this fact fabricated?
A similar curious incident occurred on each of the four flights. In the event of a hijacking, pilots are trained to enter the standard hijack code (7500) into their transponders to alert controllers on the ground. Using the transponder to send a code is called "squawking." One of the big puzzles about 9/11 was why none of the pilots squawked the hijack code.
CNN provided a good treatment of this issue, saying with regard to the first flight:
Flight 11 was hijacked apparently by knife-wielding men. Airline pilots are trained to handle such situations by keeping calm, complying with requests, and if possible, dialing in an emergency four digit code on a device called a transponder. . . . The action takes seconds, but it appears no such code was entered.106
The crucial issue was indicated by the phrase "if possible": Would it have been possible for the pilots of Flight 11 to have performed this action? A positive answer was suggested by CNN's next statement:
[I]n the cabin, a frantic flight attendant managed to use a phone to call American Airlines Command Center in Dallas. She reported the trouble. And according to "The Christian Science Monitor," a pilot apparently keyed the microphone, transmitting a cockpit conversation.107
That would have been all the more true of the pilots on United Flight 93, given the (purported) tapes from this flight. A reporter at the Moussaoui trial, where these tapes had been played, wrote:
In those tapes, the pilots shouted as hijackers broke into the cockpit. "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!" a pilot screamed in the first tape. In the second tape, 30 seconds later, a pilot shouted: "Mayday! Get out of here! Get out of here!"108