LA VANGUARDIA SUNDAY, 7 SEPTEMBER 2003
BY OMBUDSMAN: JOSEP M. CASASÙS
Photo: CARMEN TAYLOR / CNN
One of the photographs analysed
One morning last February a young reader came into the head offices
of LaVanguardia.es with an idea in his head that had occurred to him as he
was looking attentively at the videos and photos on 9/11.
There are reader/discoverers. They're readers who get a chance to bring news out—provide their newspapers with an exclusive story. It is initiative which is gratefully received. These readers are efficient spontaneous reporters. That's what's happened in the case of the mystery of the plane which crashed into the WTC in new York on 11 September 2001.
The reader who walked into the editing room of LaVanguardia.es that winter's morning with photos under his arm was attended to by Josep Maria Calvet. The reader, who has asked to remain anonymously as R.R., asked the journalist to look hard at some of the details in the photos: two strange shapes which appeared below the aircraft.
This is how the reporters' work started off the results of which were published in articles in "La Vanguardia" on 22 June and 13 July 2003, and as I commented at the request of a reader, in the last article before the summer holiday season, published on 27 July 2003.
One function of the readers' ombudsman explained in La Vanguardia statutes is to describe the procedure the journalist follows in preparing, elaborating and publishing the story he takes up. The circumstances of this case beg telling the inside story of these reports.
Did "La Vanguardia" come up with this? How did the reporters find out about the mystery of the plane?
Two days after R.R.'s visit, the editorial office contacted Eduardo Martín de Pozuelo to ask him have a look and give his opinion on the shapes or bumps to be seen in the images of the plane seconds before it crashed into the skyscaper.
The office checked that the photos had not been manipulated in any way and that they coincided with the ones held in the newspaper's archives. It was true. There were strange "shapes" or "bumps".
Martín de Pozuelo set to work. He had a meeting with R.R. and Calvet at La Vanguardia.es head office. They spent two long afternoons poring over the photos, videos and all the visual material they could get together on the attack on the twin towers in New York. What conclusion did they come to?
They noticed evidence of shapes present on the fuselage of the plane. They couldn't tell what on earth it was.
Martín de Pozeulo has told the ombudsman that he did not think it was opportune to publish anything as yet on the subject. Data and reliable sources were missing. He says about these "shapes":
"It looked like an optical effect but as that was a totally subjective opinion I showed the photos to fellow photographers and asked them to give their opinion as image experts. They swung between the hypothesis of an optical effect or an added object, as I did. The reporters persevered.
They consulted another expert, Amparo Sacristán, an image and microelectronics specialist at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. Her first appraisal encouraged them to go on in their investigation. Doctor Sacristán performed a digital analysis of the photos and concluded that they were shapes not reflections brilliance. The results of this new stage were surprising and disconcerting.
Xavier Mas de Xaxàs, who was working as a correspondent for the "La Vanguardia" in the United States on the 11 September 2001, searched for news, published or unpublished, which could throw some light on the matter. He was gathering information on the poor security at Logan airport (Washington).
Meanwhile Martín de Pozuelo consulted aviation experts—among them an aeronautical engineer who asked not to be identified, due to his rank. He spent all one morning analising the photos in the "La Vanguardia". His pronouncement reinforced the hypothesis of something added to the fuselage.
The two reporters conducting the investigation were not convinced, of course. They were sceptical. They decided to take it one step further to dispel all doubt. They turned to US sources. The Boeing company in Seattle agreed to have a look at the photos and give their conclusions. The photographs were sent electronically from "La Vanguardia".
For ten days, by telephone and electronic mail, the company responded whenever called by the two "La Vanguardia" newsmen, as the photos were studied by various departments at the company. Finally, from Seattle, back came a surprising, enigmatic reply: "We are not able to tell you what it is. Security reasons."
It was then that the newsmen decided there was enough to report to "La Vanguardia" readers. The text and photos were handed in to the newspaper's editorial office to assess whether to publish a first report. It was released in the June 22 issue. It caused an impact, even in the United States, where the translation of the "La Vanguardia" article was hung on a web site dedicated to 9/11.
The two reporters then asked Boeing once more: "Is there any further news?" Answer: "No answer for security reasons". A negative reply which does not clear up the mystery. And so they continue to investigate.