American Airlines Flight 11 Passengers

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In an article called "Media published fake passenger lists for American Airlines flight 11" Gerard Holgren points to inconsistencies between passenger lists for American Airlines Flight 11, claiming this shows they are "fabrications". And while not everyone supports him entirely, it's true that various lists have been produced, and this remains an occasional topic of 9/11-related conversation. So why aren't the passenger lists consistent and complete? Perhaps a closer look at the evidence will reveal some clues.

American Airlines Flight 11

On September 11, Flight 11 "carried 81 passengers (including the 5 terrorists) with 2 pilots and 9 flight attendants, for a total of 92 people on board" (Source). American Airlines list was as follows (names were only included where the family gave their permission):

All the flight crew and flight attendants have been named. There are 64 passengers here. Add the 5 hijackers and we have 69: that's twelve missing names. Thanks to information published later, we know these were the passengers omitted:

Of course the media wasn't going to wait until almost noon on September 12 to get a partial manifest. And so the Associated Press seems to have been assembling its own list of passengers. If these are archived somewhere then we couldn't locate it, but fortunately at least some of the lists were reproduced on the newsgroups. Here's the earliest we could find:

As this list precedes the airlines', it's no surprise to find it so short. However it's worth looking at the key differences.

The AP list rearranges some names. Bernthia Perkins (the widow of Anthony Perkins) on the official list becomes Berry Berensen (her maiden name) here, for instance. Page Hackel Farley becomes Paige Farley Hackel, and Edward Hennessey becomes Ted Hennessey. Not too difficult to figure out, but a point to keep in mind if you're looking into this yourself. Or if you're trying to identify passengers in the Social Security Death Index or other databases: make sure you're using all possible names.

Carolyn Beug is the one accurate new name on the list. She was a video producer, so perhaps her name was given to the press by an agent or some other professional colleague, while American Airlines were still holding back waiting for family permission to release it.

What we do also get in the list, unfortunately, are some mistakes.

"Robin Caplin" of "Natick" is the first. This actually referred to a passenger called Robin Kaplan, from Westborough. Her grandparents were from Natick, though, so it looks to us like this is just a slightly jumbled report on an exceptionally busy news day.

The second mistake relates to Jude and Natalie Larson, two names that shouldn't be there at all. Here's why.

The AP was hoaxed, then, and for a few days the Larsons appeared on victims lists everywhere. But in reality they were never on the flight.

The final problem comes in the inclusion of Timothy Ward and Bill Weems, who were both passengers on Flight 175, not 11. It looks like they've got chopped off the end of one list, then added to the wrong one: a clerical error, clumsy but hardly evidence of anything significant.

(Incidentally, we sometimes encounter the assertion that "there's no way" the press would have made such an error, so it must have been suspect. But the reality is, unless you believe this was an intentional act, someone made a mistake. Either the press accidentally transferred two passengers from the end of one list, to another, or (if you believe the lists are fake) the conspirators did. Why is it more likely that the conspirators would get this wrong, when they presumably had so much more time to prepare?)

Now, by comparison, we checked the CNN Flight 11 list as it stands on September 14th 2007. How does this differ from the final list?

That particular page includes both Jude and Natalie Larson from the hoax we've just discussed. This suggests to us that it's not been properly updated since the first week or so after 9/11. It could be that CNN spent their time collecting details about the passengers for their memorial section, instead, and indeed checking under the L's shows no sign of the Larsons.

The list also names both Robin Caplin and Robin Kaplan as passengers on Flight 11. We've already seen that the first AP list named Robin Caplin, not Kaplan, we believe in error; the official American Airlines list named Kaplan, not Caplin. Presumably CNN took both lists, added them together, and ended up with two names for one person. Just conjecture, but it seems the most plausible explanation. And supported by the fact that the CNN Memorial section has no entry for Caplin, while Kaplan is correctly named.

The CNN Flight 11 list is also missing three passengers: Kelly Ann Booms, Waleed Iskandar and Pendyala Vamsikrishna. We know already that the official American Airlines list was missing twelve names, so this shouldn't be a surprise. Perhaps the families were difficult to contact, or didn't want their names published initially, and we've already seen that the CNN pages don't include later clarifications made by the AP (such as the need to remove the Larson's names). Whatever the reason, CNN's memorial section lists Kelly Ann Booms, Waleed Iskandar and Pendyala Vamsikrishna as passengers of Flight 11, so it doesn't appear they have any doubt that all three were on board.

With this in mind, here's what Gerard Holmgren said of the CNN list in his "Media published fake passenger lists for American Airlines Flight 11" article.

As we've seen, they did leave out the hijackers names. And American Airlines did release a "partial list" - we've revealed it above. Holmgren is right to be suspicious about the Kaplan/ Caplin issue, of course, but hasn't spotted the Larsons hoax.

He then says this about another list:

I then checked the passenger list provided by USA Today.

The USA Today list is indeed correctly missing the Larson's, dropping the passenger total by two. These are replaced by correctly including Kelly Booms and Pendyala Vamsikrishna, but it ends up one short overall by including just Robin Kaplan, not Robin Kaplin. The missing passenger turns out to be Waleed Iskandar. This list fixes most of the earlier problems, then, and shows no sign of being "fake" to us.

Holmgren's option 2) is correct, then, only he can't see this as he hasn't picked up on the Larsons hoax. But once you take that into account, the two lists match up.

Holmgren now moves to another list:

The two new people named here, Robert Jalbert and James Roux, were both passengers on Flight 175, not 11. If Holmgren were covering all the flights in his article, you would see the figures added up: it's only because he focuses solely on Flight 11 that this becomes a source of confusion.

The list also includes the Larsons (as it was posted on the 12th, before the hoax was exposed), and both Robin Caplin and Robin Kaplan, making the list another three passengers longer than it should be. And Heather Smith is indeed named as Heath Smith here.

The final error, that Holmgren hasn't noticed, is the inclusion of both Berry Berensen and Bernthia Perkins: another example of two names for the same person. We'd guess that as this list was published on the 12th, they'd been relying on AP reports first, then added American Airlines own list, and not noticed the duplication.

The 79 passengers on this list actually falls to 73 when you remove the errors, then. As Holgren points out, it's also missing Vamsikrishna and Booms, bringing the total to 75. And it doesn't have Waleed Iskandar, either, bringing us up to the required 76. Add 5 for the hijackers, and the 11 crew, and we're back to the correct figure of 92.

Holmgren has another list:

Holmgren is essentially complaining about a list that is now correct. His combined total is five too many because he's counting multiple errors: Natalie Larson, Jude Larson, Robin Caplin, Robert Jalbert and James Roux. However, we can see that these weren't exactly assembled with care just by the example of Berry Berensen appearing twice, for instance. The fact that the AP and various papers made mistakes that they corrected later isn't evidence of anything at all.

Another list:

The total of 92 is a headache for Holgren only. Five of the names are indeed incorrect, and as Holgren wrote about this in 2004 he should have been able to figure this out for himself.

But he has another complaint:

There were two lists: an official American Airlines list, and an AP list that changed over time. If you make mistakes and include the same person twice, you can bump up the total still further, but that proves nothing beyond the fact that the newspapers didn't have the time to check this as carefully as they should.

Holmgren then mentions a couple of lists with which he doesn't have particular issues, and decides to review the problems so far:

The less interesting reality, as we keep saying, is that these various lists erroneously included five people: two of them as a hoax (the Larsens), two of them who should have been on Flight 175, and one (Kaplan/ Caplin) who was counted twice.

The next list:

This list erroneously includes Caplin (+1), the Larsons (+2), Berry Berensen and Bernthia Perkins (+1), and James Roux (+1), taking us down to 84 people. It's missing Iskander and Vamsikrihna (though not Jalbert, he was on Flight 175), and, though he doesn't mention it here, Kelly Booms. That takes us to 87 names, for a total of 92 including the hijackers - the correct number.

Fox News are next to feel the heat of Holmgren's insight:

As we've seen, the airlines were only releasing names when familes gave permission. There is no deadline on this.

Nor is there any reason to explain why people released more names earlier. They did so by adding the AP list to American Airlines own release, which is how most of these errors came about.

Another list:

If you look at the top of the page you'll see the official American Airlines list didn't include Judy Laroque or Carlos Montoya. We would assume, then, that NewsMax used a different AP source to the Guardian. It's just conjecture, but really, what does the method used by one site to assemble a Flight 11 passenger list tell us about the truth behind 9/11?

After a couple of other less important list, Holmgren tells us:

The September 12th American Airlines list mentions "Heather" Smith, not "Heath". However, the September 13 AP list in this newsgroup used the name "Heath":

By the 14th of September, though, this had been resolved and the passenger was correctly named Heather Smith again.

So, which version might be included on the list will vary according to the organisation. If they used the American Airlines list only, it would be Heather. If they used the AP list only, before the 14th, it would be Heath if the name was included before. If a media outlet used both lists then the result would depend on how they resolved the discrepancy. Differences are not surprising.

Next Holmgren references another list on a site that no longer exists, however we can figure out the answer from what he says:

You may remember from earlier (although it does seem so very, very long ago) that the CNN page had several errors. It included Jude and Natalie Larson, and the "extra" Robin Caplin, while omitting Kelly Ann Booms, Waleed Iskandar and Pendyala Vamsikrishna. If this list was the same, but added Iskandar, then the result is to add another passenger and create 93 names, instead of 92. No mystery.

Holgren then points us to another Wikipedia source, which apparently added the name Lana Tu. This name does appear on a few similar lists, perhaps copied from the same source, but not in any news media of which I'm aware. And so it's hard to see a demonstration of an error in a Wikipedia article proving anything at all.

Yet another list:

Remember Weems and Ward from the very top of the article? They were included on the first AP list, in error as it turned out they'd been transferred from the Flight 175 list.

After repeating all the previous claims, Holgren sums up:

Holgren's indignation might have more weight if it wasn't for the fact that, just a few days after the attacks, the Boston Globe hadn't obtained the complete list for Flight 11. Hijackers, and all.

Flight 11 Manifest.gif

Yet somehow, mysteriously, that didn't find its way into the article. Instead he prefers to tell us that "we have nothing which could support the existence of any of the alleged passengers on the alleged flight", odd as he's done precisely nothing to debunk the vast amount of material available online.

What we have instead is just an argument from anomalies: "if we look at all the lists published, some differ, therefore they must be lies". Actually that doesn't follow at all. But what actually are these errors? Let's itemise those from the mainstream media:

  • Bernthia Perkins is occasionally counted twice, being also listed under her maiden name, Berry Berensen
  • Robin Kaplan is occasionally counted twice, being first named as Robin Caplin
  • Jude and Natalie Larson appear as the result of a hoax
  • Robert Jalbert, James Roux, Timothy Ward and Bill Weems were on Flight 175, but appear on some Flight 11 lists
  • Heather Smith briefly appeared as Heath Smith
  • Peter Hachem is sometimes named as Peter el-Hachem
  • Antonio Jesus Montoya Valdes is sometimes named as Antonio Montoya
  • Some of the twelve passengers omitted in the American Airlines list fail to appear in other lists

We've seen how the first may have happened. Early on the 12th of September the AP produced a list of passengers names, one of which was Berry Berenson. That wasn't actually her proper name, but is presumably what she was called either by family or the press. So when American Airlines produced a list including the name "Bernthia Perkins", the juniors putting the two lists together didn't realise they were the same person.

It's a similar problem with Caplin/ Kaplan. We don't know how the erroneous Caplin name on the AP list came about, but it's adding that to the Kaplan on the American Airlines list that produced the apparent "extra" passenger.

The Larsons we already know were a hoax; Heather Smith becoming Heath briefly could just be a typo. And we see no reason why Peter Hachem couldn't be referred to as Peter el-Hachem (he was born in Lebanon, perhaps that is the family name and he changed it). Of course that's speculation and can be attacked as such, but really, where's the proof of fabrication in the above list? If the 9/11 conspirators really created fake passenger lists, then why would the airlines go along with it? And even if they did, why would the conspirators keep changing those lists, and giving different ones to different news outlets?

We'd say the Boston Globe manifest indicates what really went on here. They obtained a full list from the airline, one that matches up with the details released years later at the Moussaoui trial. Meanwhile those who relied on the AP lists reproduced the errors they included, and occasionally added new ones of their own. And that's about it. No mystery. No New World Order spin doctors required. Just an acknowledgement that sometimes the press can make mistakes, without there being any sinister double meaning. They're just mistakes.