Aviation Thriller Novel Predicted Plane Hitting WTC and Other Aspects of 9/11

'Blackout' by John J. Nance
A thriller novel published in February 2000 predicted the possibility of a commercial aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center in a terrorist attack, and described other scenarios closely resembling aspects of the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, the similarity between these scenarios and events in the United States 19 months after the book's release suggests that someone--perhaps an individual working in the U.S. military or intelligence community--might have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and passed on some of what they knew to the book's author as storyline ideas, maybe as an attempt at warning people of the impending catastrophe.

The novel, Blackout, was written by New York Times best-selling author John J. Nance, who is "arguably the king of the modern-day aviation thriller," according to Publishers Weekly. [1] The book's plot revolves around the two main characters, Washington Post reporter Robert MacCabe and FBI agent Kat Bronsky, investigating what has caused two American jumbo jets to crash. It appears that terrorists are using a special ray gun stolen from the government to blind or kill pilots in flight, thereby leading to their planes crashing. [2]

At one point in the story, Bronsky describes a scenario chillingly similar to what happened in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when two Boeing 767s were crashed into the World Trade Center. She is explaining to MacCabe her fear that the terrorists will cause another plane crash. She says: "They're going to shoot down another airliner somewhere. You know that, don't you?" She continues: "So who's next? Are we going to get a seven-forty-seven impacting the World Trade Center in New York because the two pilots were neutralized on takeoff from Newark [Airport] or Kennedy [Airport]?" [3]

What is more, one of the terrorists responsible for causing the plane crashes in Blackout is called "Ben Laren"--a name similar to that of (Osama) bin Laden, who, according to the official story, ordered the 9/11 attacks. [4]

In the weeks after 9/11, evidence was revealed indicating that some people may have had advance knowledge of the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, and had therefore been able to profit by trading in companies whose stock plummeted after the attacks. This was another scenario predicted, with remarkable accuracy, in Blackout.

After a third aircraft crashes, Bronsky and MacCabe are considering what the terrorists' motivation might be. Bronsky suggests, "What if the chaos [caused by the terrorist attacks] itself is their objective?" She elaborates, saying: "How can you make lots of money from seriously undermining the airlines? How about selling their stock short or softening up the industry for financial takeovers?" She suggests that the terrorists "may already be getting precisely what they want from collapsing airline market prices." MacCabe asks, "Are the stock prices down today?" to which Bronsky replies: "Big-time. As much as a 10 percent drop. If this continues, they'll go into free fall." MacCabe then suggests, "We should be looking for someone buying a lot of airline stock at the bottom, or selling them short." [5]

This could almost be a description of what happened around the time of 9/11. The San Francisco Chronicle reported, shortly after September 11, that an "international investigation in the United States and several other countries" was "trying to determine whether people with advance knowledge of the attacks sought to profit from the trading" in particular airline stocks. [6]

According to the Associated Press: "In the days before the attacks, unusually high numbers of put options were purchased for the stocks of AMR Corp. and UAL Corp., the parent companies of American Airlines and United Airlines, which each had two planes hijacked. There was no such trend involving other carriers." [7] (Put options are investments that only pay off when a stock drops in price.) There was also a significant jump in short selling of the stocks of AMR Corp. and UAL Corp. during the month before the attacks, with increases of 20 percent and 40 percent, respectively. (A short sale is effectively a financial market bet that a particular stock will drop in value.) [8]

Similar to the "collapsing airline market prices" caused by the attacks on U.S. aircraft in Blackout, shares in the parent companies of the two airlines whose planes were targeted on 9/11 fell by 39 percent and 42 percent on the first day of trading after September 11. [9]

Nance's book even suggests that rogue employees working inside the government might be involved in perpetrating terrorist attacks against their own people, to help them achieve their political or military goals. A character in Blackout, scientist Dr. Thomas Maverick, asks Robert MacCabe if he is familiar with something called "the Sputnik Syndrome." Maverick explains what this is, saying: "There are many versions of the principle. Pearl Harbor is another. In other words, in order to spark a unified determination to develop a weapon or a military capability, there has to be a substantial threat." He adds, "If the threat doesn't already exist and you're the national leader who knows it's needed, you may have to invent it."

Maverick says, "That's what I'm convinced Franklin Roosevelt did by sacrificing Pearl Harbor to get us in the war in time to win it." [10] (This is presumably a reference to the contention that President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew in advance of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, but chose to do nothing about it, because he wanted some kind of national shock to get the reluctant U.S. into the Second World War. [11]) Maverick adds, "That was also what Sputnik did for our space program and our military abilities in space."

He then describes how this principle might explain the motivation for the attacks on American aircraft. He says, "Up until the past few months, there has been no credible threat out there that anyone was developing anti-eyeball guns for use against military or civilian targets, and thus no reason for the new president to overrule the old ban" on developing such weapons. (Maverick has revealed that a U.S. "black project" to develop antipersonnel laser weapons had been canceled by the president, and work on such projects in the future prohibited, following an accident during testing. But terrorists might have got hold of the laser developed by the project and used it to cause the plane crashes.)

Kat Bronsky asks, "Are you implying that this black project will benefit from having their stolen prototypes used against civilian airliners?" Maverick replies: "Think about the predictable response when these mysterious crashes are revealed as being caused by such lasers. Publicly, there will be a call for an international ban on research. Privately--secretly--we already have advanced technology and can press forward to dominate the science while pretending to adhere to our own international ban. ... We'll order thousands of weapons produced and stockpiled, and more research done, in order to be ready if someone violates the ban."

Therefore, Maverick explains, "If antipersonnel laser weapons were stolen and sold on the black market," the "black project managers" responsible for developing the weapons would know that "it would only be a matter of time before some military or terrorist group used one and created a new Sputnik Syndrome, thus rescuing them from the shadowy netherworld of project shutdown." [12]

Interestingly, considering that the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor is cited by Dr. Maverick as an example of the "Sputnik Syndrome," the 9/11 attacks were immediately compared, by many individuals, to Pearl Harbor. CNN's Wolf Blitzer noted on the evening of September 11, "There's been a lot of comparisons to Pearl Harbor." [13] Senators Chuck Hagel and John Warner both called the attacks America's "second Pearl Harbor." [14] Indeed, before going to the White House residence on the night of September 11, President Bush dictated for the White House daily log, "The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today." [15]

This "second Pearl Harbor" resulted in dramatic political changes. Domestically, it led to increased surveillance and restrictions on civil liberties, with the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act being signed into law in a matter of weeks following the attacks, with overwhelming support. [16]

The U.S. also adopted a preemptive military policy, which was formalized when included in the National Security Strategy published in September 2002. This document stated, "To forestall or prevent ... hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively." This was the first time a U.S. president had set out a formal national strategy doctrine that included preemption. [17]

Furthermore, whereas U.S. defense spending had remained fairly steady during the late 1990s, from 2002 it was climbing by about $50 billion each financial year. [18] Federal funding for defense, military operations, homeland security, and related activities was about 35 percent higher in fiscal year 2005 than it had been just prior to 9/11. [19]

Almost exemplifying the "Sputnik Syndrome" principle described in Blackout, one senior Pentagon official told reporter Rowan Scarborough: "I hate to say this and would never say this in public, but 9/11 had its benefits. We never would have gone into Afghanistan and started this war without it. There just was not the national will." [20] In fact, as early as the evening of September 11, President Bush told his most senior principal national security advisers: "This is a great opportunity. We have to think of this as an opportunity." [21]

What needs to be properly investigated is whether 9/11 was an example of "if the threat doesn't already exist ... you may have to invent it." In other words, was it an "inside job"?

As we can see, Blackout quite accurately predicted several aspects of the 9/11 attacks. And yet this book was released in February 2000, and was therefore likely written about two years before 9/11. How could its author have had such foresight?

Perhaps the similarities between the scenarios in Blackout and what happened around September 11, 2001 were just a remarkable coincidence. But another possibility worth considering is that someone had learned details of the attacks being planned for September 11 and suggested some of what they knew to John Nance as possible storyline ideas for his books. Maybe that person saw this as the only way they could make such information public, or they wanted to warn people of what was being planned. If so, who could this person be, and how did they learn of the plans for 9/11?

As well as being the author of 19 books, John J. Nance is a decorated Air Force pilot and a retired airline captain. He has flown a wide variety of jet aircraft, including Boeing 727s, 737s, and 747s. He is an internationally recognized air safety analyst and works as an aviation consultant for ABC News. [22]

In the acknowledgments section of Blackout, Nance mentions "a cadre of law enforcement, legal, aviation, and communications compatriots" who assisted him with the book. He gives credit to a particular retired FBI agent. And he gives thanks, anonymously, to an "individual inside the U.S. State Department who helped with a myriad of information from Vietnam to the way a secretary of state uses communications," and also to a "source who helped with the capabilities of the National Reconnaissance Office"--the highly secretive U.S. intelligence agency that operates many of the nation's spy satellites. [23] Presumably, with his professional background, Nance has additional contacts in the U.S. military and other government agencies besides those mentioned here.

Might one of these contacts have learned in advance of the 9/11 plot, and suggested some of its details to Nance as possible ideas for his books? If so, this person could potentially be an important whistle-blower on government complicity in 9/11. There are, presumably, numerous other potential whistle-blowers like them.

[1] "Fiction Review: Blackout." Publishers Weekly, January 31, 2000.
[2] Ibid.; Eugen Weber, "LA Confidential." Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2000.
[3] John J. Nance, Blackout. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2000, pp. 319-320.
[4] Ibid. p. 251.
[5] Ibid. pp. 344-345.
[6] Christian Berthelsen, "New Scrutiny of Airlines Options Deals." San Francisco Chronicle, September 19, 2001.
[7] Dave Carpenter, "Exchange Examines Odd Jump." Associated Press, September 18, 2001.
[8] Christian Berthelsen, "Data Shows Heavy Airline-Stock Short Selling." San Francisco Chronicle, September 22, 2001; Christian Berthelsen and Scott Winokur, "Suspicious Profits Sit Uncollected." San Francisco Chronicle, September 29, 2001.
[9] Dave Carpenter, "Exchange Examines Odd Jump."
[10] John J. Nance, Blackout, p. 405.
[11] See, for example, John Hartl, "Videos Examine Pearl Harbor From Different Vantage Points." Seattle Times, December 7, 1991; Richard Bernstein, "'Day of Deceit': On Dec. 7, Did We Know We Knew?" New York Times, December 15, 1999.
[12] John J. Nance, Blackout, pp. 404-406.
[13] "America Under Attack." CNN, September 11, 2001.
[14] Janet Hook and Greg Miller, "Uprooted but Resolute, Congress Vows Justice." Los Angeles Times, September 12, 2001; Joseph Fitchett, "Like the Attack in 1941, Air Terrorism Could Provoke Severe Repercussions." New York Times, September 12, 2001.
[15] David Kohn, "Bush on 9/11: Moment to Moment." CBS News, September 2, 2003.
[16] David Lerman, "Critics Say Patriot Act Could Impose on Civil Liberties." Daily Press, October 28, 2001; George Lardner Jr., "On Left and Right, Concern Over Anti-Terrorism Moves." Washington Post, November 16, 2001.
[17] The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Washington, DC: The White House, September 2002, p. 15; Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 141-142.
[18] "How 9/11 Changed America: In Statistics." BBC News, September 1, 2006.
[19] Steven M. Kosiak, "Funding for Defense, Military Operations, Homeland Security, and Related Activities Since 9/11." Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, October 18, 2004.
[20] Rowan Scarborough, Rumsfeld's War: The Untold Story of America's Anti-Terrorist Commander. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004, pp. iii.
[21] Bob Woodward, Bush at War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002, pp. 31-32.
[22] Waka Tsunoda, "With Latest Thriller, Nance Delivers His Richest Characters Yet." Associated Press, August 24, 2003; "John J. Nance." ABC News, January 6, 2006; "John J. Nance Biographic Information." John Nance Productions, n.d.
[23] John J. Nance, Blackout.

predictive novel/programming


Look at this early 2001 X-Men spinoff called "The Lone Gunman". Similar questions to those raised above are implicit. Where did this idea/info, so close to the 9/11 happening come from? Remote piloting included. Very eery.

And don't forget..

BBC's Panorama about 1 year prior to 7/7.

To comment on the notion that some insider was using this book to "warn" people?.. eehhhh I don't know. That's seems a bit of a stretch to me. It would seem like a very obscure way to warn people especially since less that 10% of people even read books anymore. No, I think it might be more of a method to inform people instead. (think for example Tommy Lee Jones getting information from the tabloids in the film Men in Black) I mean if you wanted warn people, presuming the intent of the warning is to foil the plot, there are far better ways to contact more credible public outlets that would reach the general public say anonymous tips to the press or independent authorities like state or local police maybe? Especially if you can convince them your warning is authentic. Just my two cents. Thanks for posting Shoestring.

peace all

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“I am concerned for the security of our great nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within” – General Douglas MacArthur.
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Full episode of Lone Gunmen pilot

You can watch the full pilot episode of The Lone Gunmen here:

The bit about the plane nearly crashing into the World Trade Center comes toward the end, but the rest of the episode is quite entertaining and worth watching too.

Possible reference to 9/11 attacks in 1998 Nance book

There is also a very curious passage in John J. Nance's previous novel, which appears as if it may be a reference to the 9/11 attacks. The Last Hostage (1998) is about a pilot who pretends that his Boeing 737 has been hijacked, thereby effectively hijacking the plane himself.

Right before the the section of the book where the air traffic controller first notices that this plane has had its transponder switched to "7500"--the code signalling a hijacking--Nance writes: "At least [plane AirBridge] 90 was taken care of now and on his way, leaving her [the air traffic controller] free to deal with a developing conflict between an American jet and a United jet, with one overtaking the other at the same altitude, both bound for Los Angeles. The guy in the lead was being a genuine slug and flying much too slowly." (John J. Nance, The Last Hostage, p. 34.)

Remember that on 9/11, three of the four aircraft that were apparently hijacked were American or United Airlines jets, bound for Los Angeles. (The fourth, United Airlines Flight 93, was bound for San Francisco.)

Interesting, eh?