Sunday, April 1, 2007



Remote controlled airliners as weapons of an inside job seemed plausible enough to the writers of a TV program aired, strangely, just six months before September 11. Stranger still, it was aired on Rupert Murdoch’s FOX network, widely suspected of being an appendage of the Republican Party. On March 4, the pilot episode of the short-lived X-Files spin-off The Lone Gunmen aired. It had been filmed a year prior, and was apparently late getting on-screen just weeks after Bush’s inauguration.

John Byers, one of the Lone Gunnmen (a geeky crew of three conspiracy nuts who foil all kinds of top-secret crimes) found out his father, a CIA agent, was killed when his car ran off the road. After the funeral, a senior Air Force officer named Ray Helm told Byers that his father was murdered, “which is exactly the way these people manage things. People your father and I worked for […] He was a good man. He had a conscience. Sometimes that's a problem in our line of work.

Byers found that his father’s car was crashed by remote control because he knew about something he wasn’t supposed to. He suspected it had something to do with a trace on his dad’s wiped computer of a DoD file labeled “Scenario 12-D.” Helm gave Byers the password for the Pentagon’s computer network – “Overlord.” The Gunmen hacked in and located 12-D on “some government think-tank's upload directory,” but the download failed.

Byers then returned to his father’s house, suspecting the old man was actually alive. Indeed, Bert was alive, and he was there at his house. Reunited, Byers immediately asked about the mystery scenario:

Byers: “We know it’s a war game scenario – it has to do with airline counter-terrorism. But why was it important enough to kill for?”
Byers Snr: “Because it’s no longer a game.”
Byers: “If some terrorist group wants to act out this scenario, why target you for assassination?”
Byers Snr: “Depends on who your terrorists are.”
Byers: “…The men who conceived of it in the first place. You’re saying our government plans to commit a terrorist act against a domestic airliner?”
Byers Snr: “There you go, blaming the entire government as usual. It’s a faction, a small faction.”
Byers: “For what possible gain?”
Byers Snr: “The Cold War’s over, John. But with no clear enemy to stockpile against, the arms market’s flat. But bring down a fully loaded 727 into the middle of New York City, and you’ll find a dozen tin pot dictators all over the world just clamoring to take responsibility, and begging to be smart bombed.”

“Bring down a fully loaded 727 into the middle of New York City” – hmmm… It was a 727 that Raytheon would soon prove that JPALS remote control worked on. Somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if Rumsfeld, “General Star Wars,” watches FOX and digs the X-Files. I can visualize the old goat muttering something to himself when he saw this, crossing-out “12-D” and replacing it with “12-E… 757, 767,777? Go massive. Hit self as well.”

Left: Bert Byers gaze from the cockpit as his doomed airliner speeds toward the WTC. Right: The Pilot's view. (stills from the Lone Gunmen)

Anyway, father and son then boarded the plane slated for destruction that very night, hoping to foil the plot. When Byers found no bomb on board, he asked his dad “How are they going to bring it down?” Bert replied “the same way a dead man can drive a car.” Byers’ cohorts on the ground tracked the flight path with their computers and informed him the plane was under “remote access, someone on the ground’s flying your plane.” They warned him “you’ll be making an unexpected stop” in 22 minutes, at the “Corner of Liberty and Washington, lower Manhattan.” Byers was stunned, whispering to his dad “they’re going to crash the plane into the World Trade Center.”

The pilots couldn’t gain control of the plane, having been locked-out by the remote control system, just as Home Run is supposed to do, just as JPALS, at least in the (dubious) Der Spiegel version, is supposed to do. The captain informed the passengers of technical difficulties and asked them to return to their seats, with Bert muttering “and kiss your asses goodbye.”

Of course the gunmen finally broke the code, using their trusty computers and anagram skills as always, and foiled the plot. The pilots were finally given the ability to manually override the doomed flight plan just in time for the plane to veer sharply upward, zipping past the windows of the WTC and barely clearing the top. It seemed silly at the time, but many would prefer this to the similar but more depressing script that unfolded six months later in the real world…

This is one of the weirdest things I’ve seen in my research, deserving of an X-File of its own. I still cannot believe the timing of this was an accident, but I also have no great insights into what sort of conscious design would have had this released in the months before Shadow 9-11 may have brought it to life on a larger scale. Was this a warning from a disgruntled insider, an experiment in pre-conditioning, or just a very bizarre coincidence?

This prediction was written, remember, at least a year before it was aired, so probably in early 2000. The episode’s writers were Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban (who work together so often, in fact, that they often compress their names into the singular “John Gilnitz,” as I will in referring to them collectively. Spotnitz later told reporters in mid-2002, when people finally noticed the parallel and asked him about it:

“I woke up on Sept. 11th and saw it on TV, and the first thing I thought of was The Lone Gunmen. But then in the weeks and months that followed, almost no one noticed the connection [or wanted to – ed]. What's disturbing about it to me is, you think as a fiction writer that if you can imagine this scenario, then the people in power in the government who are there to imagine disaster scenarios can imagine it, too.”

And the people who propose special distribution documents can imagine it as well. The fact that it took months for anyone to notice the parallel, as TV Guide reported in June 2002, “seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order.”

Actor Dean Haglund, who played Gunman Richard “Ringo” Langley on the show, was freaked out by the comparison too. He didn’t indicate any knowledge of how the script was arrived at, but had doubts about the script played out on 9-11. With the advantage of three years hindsight, Haglund told the amazing and annoying Alex Jones in a 2004 interview “I think it was staged, and uh… it’s America’s Reichstag Fire.” [3]

But no matter the views of those involved, this evidence of the conceivability of a plane being used as a remote-controlled weapon of empire was shown on the fringe venue of prime time network television, and a virtual outline of Shadow 9-11 was somehow branded an X-Files conspiracy theory six months before the attack that cast that shadow even came to be. All thanks to John Gilnitz and the folks at FOX.

The episode’s closing dialog is also, I believe, relevant here. If this was indeed a warning from an insider, they wanted us to know that now we’re on our own:

“Byers: “If we can't get the FBI we'll go public. With your testimony, we can break this conspiracy wide open. Bring Overlord down. The whole operation.
Byers Snr: God, I see myself in you. The same youthful enthusiasm, idealism. I was so angry at you for so long because I didn't want you to waste your life tilting at windmills. But I can see now, you've got something I never had. You're a brave man, John.
Byers: You're not going to testify. You're going to let them cover this up.
Byers Snr: They almost killed me twice. They won't fail a third time. My silence will keep me alive. (he puts his hand on BYERS' shoulder) And you. I know you and your friends are fighting for the American dream. (Pause) Just don't expect to win. (the elder Byers walks away in silence).

The Lone Gunmen, pilot episode. Aired on FOX TV March 4 2001. Info available at:
“Gunmen Foreshadowed 9/11.” SciFi Wire. June 21, 2002.
Paul Thompson and the Center for Cooperative Research. The Terror Timeline. Page 31.
Alex Jones interviews Dean Haglund. Prison Planet. January 2005. Video viewable at:

1 comment:

Jim B. said...

Oh wow. I have to admit, I haven't watched much TV in over 15 years, but I know about the X-Files and have caught a few episodes. THIS is sooooo strange. To pretty much predict the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil - and air it on TV six months in advance!