Why Were the 9/11 Pentagon Tapes Seized by the FBI?

Critics wonder why the FBI has withheld 84 Pentagon tapes so far.
... Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

The FBI to date has released only two videos recording the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, a fact that has led to numerous conspiracy theories about the source of destruction as an inside job. One query is why the FBI seized eyewitness tapes of the Pentagon's partial destruction in the first place. The speed and completeness of the seizures, and the scarcity of actual footage, are among the more puzzling aspects of the investigation. However, the FBI says it has released all relevant videos of the incident.

1 Videos from Nearby Businesses

The FBI's speedy retrieval of the tapes is corroborated by several witnesses, among them Jose Velasquez, a gas-station supervisor whose security cameras allegedly recorded the moment of impact when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. "Within minutes, the FBI was there and took the film," Velasquez told the "Richmond Times Dispatch." In addition, according to Gertz and Scarborough's "Inside the Ring," a hotel near the Pentagon may have captured footage on its security camera. This footage was seized by the FBI, who said the tapes didn't record the attack.

2 FBI Claims Little Internal Footage

The lack of footage available from the Pentagon's own security cameras has also raised questions. In 2002, the FBI released clips from two security cameras, both located north of the crash site. These show only a bloom of flame -- the impact and explosion -- and are set too far away from the impact site to provide any details for significant evidence. The bureau says that there were no other security cameras recording footage.

3 Theorists Question Pentagon Damage

A third piece of the puzzle is the testimony of theorists who believe that the damage done to the Pentagon was insufficient in breadth or depth to be the impact of a Boeing 757 aircraft. They maintain that a wide-bodied aircraft would have done considerably greater damage. According to the 9/11 Review website, this theory can be proved inaccurate considering the bullet-like shape of the aircraft, the soundness of the structure and the blast-hardened facade that resulted from the crash. Furthermore, the 9/11 Review site notes that such theories are often "based on erroneous descriptions of the impact damage."

4 Testimony of Jacqueline McGuire

In a freedom of information lawsuit filed by Scott Bingham, FBI special agent Jacqueline McGuire testified that she inspected 85 videotapes to find evidence for 9/11 investigators. Eighty-four of these tapes remain withheld. However, McGuire's testimony notes that only 13 of these tapes gave views of the crash site, and 12 of those showed the crash site only after the impact of the plane. Therefore, only one of the tapes she reviewed shows the impact of Flight 77, she said. The FBI directs inquirers to its vault, an electronic reading room with documents available to the public. The vault includes many videos and images of the Pentagon incident, including debris from the plane, but most of the images are of the aftermath of the attack.

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.