WASHINGTON – Conspiracy theorists may or may not be disappointed Tuesday when they see footage released from the Pentagon showing two angles of American Flight 77 hitting the western wall of the building on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Department of Justice released the videotape after a Freedom of Information Act request by Judicial Watch, a government watchdog. The request was made to quiet claims by some that pictures from that day never showed an airplane, only the "alleged" impact of the plane. Those claims spawned theories that the U.S. government faked the crash at the Pentagon.
"We fought hard to obtain this video because we felt that it was very important to complete the public record with respect to the terrorist attacks of September 11," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "Finally, we hope that this video will put to rest the conspiracy theories involving American Airlines Flight 77. As always, our prayers remain with all those who suffered as a result of those murderous attacks."
One of the tapes is from a security camera that was used to produce five still shots on that day. That video, which takes pictures in half-second increments, shows the nose cone of the plane clearly entering the picture, then a blur and then a fireball.
The other camera shot that hasn't been seen before shows more of the plane before the fireball.
Several other cameras throughout the years supposedly caught part of the attack on tape, but none of these leads have panned out.
Tom Bortner, a Pentagon attack survivor, said he thinks the speed of the plane is what prevented the attack from being captured on more surveillance cameras on the premises.
"I think it's conclusive that plane hit the Pentagon and I don't think the tape really adds or detracts from that," Bortner said.
American Airlines Flight 77 left Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., around 8:51 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. On its way to Los Angeles, the plane was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. EDT; 184 people died in that attack.
Three other planes were hijacked that day. Two hit the North and South towers of the World Trade Center and one — United Flight 93 — believed to be headed to Washington, D.C., was stopped by passengers who fought the hijackers. The plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa. Nearly 3,000 people died that day as a result of the attacks.
"I think it's appropriate that the American people be reminded from time to time about the horror of that day, be reminded about the fact we need to remain vigilant, we need to take the rest of the steps the commission recommended," James Thompson, the former Illinois governor who sat on the Sept. 11 commission, told FOX News.
A dramatic film, "United 93," is currently in wide release depicting that day. The film borrows heavily from taped phone conversations that passengers and crew had with their families and air traffic controllers before the fight for control of the plane.
Judicial Watch first filed the FOIA request in February 2004. It received a letter from the Pentagon in January 2005 that it possessed a videotape responsive to the request but wouldn't release it since it was "part of an ongoing investigation involving Zacarias Moussaoui." Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in February 2006, arguing that the Defense Department had "no legal basis" to withhold the tape.
Moussaoui, the only person formally charged with his role in the attacks, was recently sentenced to six consecutive life terms in prison.