Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Some claim to have predicted the threat of Muslim terrorists with hijacked airliners even before Bojinka was discovered, and here is where we enter the possible cross-over of think tank and real world. First the real world, in the second half of 1994, provided some concerns for air security. These started with Frank Eugene Corder, a 38-year-old unemployed truck driver, Army veteran, and depressions-plagued alcoholic and cocaine user whose estranged wife had just died of cancer. For what it’s worth, one anagrams of his name is “DRUNK GONE CAREFREE.”
Another anagram of Corder’s name, for what it’s worth, is “NRO RENEGADE FUCKER.” The CIA-connected National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) runs the nation’s spy satellites and aircraft reconnaissance. They dabble at least in automated flight and drones, and are closely connected with the Air Force. In yet another inexplicable curiosity, on the seven year anniversary of Corder’s little escapade, the NRO was running a simulation of a small plane-related accident on their own headquarters near both the Pentagon and Dulles Airport, from which American Airlines 77 had just taken off. The drill was reportedly cancelled once the attacks in New York became known. [1]

Late on the night of September 11, Corder apparently decided to say “goodbye, cruel world,” in a big way. He allegedly stole a Cessna airplane from a Maryland airport, drunk as a skunk, and flew out towards Washington D.C. At about 2:00 am on the 12th, his plane finally came into the restricted, supposedly well-defended airspace around the White House. No defenses showed themselves, and the plane crashed into the South Lawn unopposed, taking out part of a porch and an old tree, killing only Corder. President Clinton and his family were staying elsewhere while the executive mansion was being renovated. [2]

And then a few months later, another event on a much larger scale cast the danger from the sky in a more ominous light. On Christmas Eve, an Air France jetliner was hijacked on the ground in Algiers. After killing three passengers, the hijackers were cleared to take off, and flew their missile towards Paris. Investigators later found that the men, part of the al Qaeda-linked Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA), planned to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower in protest of French control in Algeria. The hijackers were killed during a re-fueling stop in Marseilles and their plot was stopped before it could make the front page with grisly Christmas fireworks over Paris. [3]

But it was not ignored by those whose job it is to scour the news for new ideas and new dangers. In early 2002, ABC News interviewed Marvin Cetron, a “terrorism expert” with military and engineering credentials who had written a report for the Pentagon in 1994. Cetron is a noted “futurist” thinker, President of Forecasting International, and a regular guest on CNN talk shows predicting trends in everything from education to science and engineering to business and global economics. Along with Robert McNamara, (who has also served as World Bank President since his Defense Secretary days), Cetron is a Director at the World Future Society, a Bethesda-based “neutral clearinghouse for ideas about the future,” including “forecasts, recommendations, and alternative scenarios.” The website explains “when people can visualize a better future, then they can begin to create it.” [4]

So what alternative scenario did he help the Pentagon visualize with his 1994 report? Cetron was concerned with the danger of an airborne suicide attack on the Capital, including such a warning in his report. Cetron told ABC:

“We saw Osama bin Laden. We spelled it out and we said the United States was very vulnerable. You could make a left turn at the Washington Monument and take out the White House. And you could make a right turn and take out the Pentagon.” [5]

ABC reported that the Pentagon brass wanted that particular warning deleted from his report. “It's unclassified, everything is available,” Cetron recalled his response. But they told him, as he summed up, “we don't want it released because you can't handle a crisis before it becomes a crisis, and no one is going to believe it anyhow.” Even after he deleted the kamikaze warning, the report was scrapped and not released to the public. [6]

ABC explained that the 1994 report had cited two events “earlier that year” as precedents to ponder: “the crash-landing of a small airplane at the White House by an apparently unstable man” (Corder, September 11-12), and “French authorities’ storming of a hijacked airliner that Algerian terrorists had planned to fly into the Eiffel Tower” Thus he was aware these attack planes could be airliners. But the timeline here is odd; the GIA’s failed attack was on Christmas Eve. Is it normal for Cetron to compose an entire report in less than a week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve?

This felt like a seam to me, so I though about it a minute. At that very time but half a world away, Yousef and Murad were just days away from getting busted for Bojinka on January 6. Within a couple of weeks, interrogators in the Philippines would be extracting from Murad, via torture, something remarkably like Cetron’s double-deleted warning. Was there a mix-up somewhere? And just as Cetron’s Corder/GIA-inspired scenario was cut from the wider report before it too was deleted, Murad’s similar phase two has been largely erased from the wider Bojinka story. This alleged prediction perhaps helped the Pentagon visualize the world they wanted and now have, but Cetron apparently wasn’t allowed to talk about it until after it came true.

[1] “Agency planned drill for plane crash last Sept. 11” Associated Press. August 22, 2002. Accessed December 8, 2005 at:
[2] CNN. “Past security incidents at the White House.” February 7, 2001. Accessed May 4, 2003 at:
[3] Gunaratna, Rohan. “Terror from the Sky.” Jane’s Intelligence Review. September 24, 2001. Accessed at:
[4] World Future Society. Frequently Asked Questions. 2005. Accessed November 16, 2005 at:
[5] “Early Warnings: Pre Sept. 11 Cautions Went Unheeded.” ABC News. February 18 2002.
[6] See [5].

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