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Wikileaks Publishes 500,000 9/11 Pager Messages 309

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hindsight-and-voyeurism dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Wikileaks is preparing to release 500,000 intercepted pager messages from a 24-hour period encompassing the September 11 terrorist attacks. The messages show emergency services springing into action and computer systems sending automated messages as buildings collapse. Wikileaks implies this data came from an organised collection effort."
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Wikileaks Publishes 500,000 9/11 Pager Messages

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  • News to me (Score:1, Interesting)

    by EdZ (755139) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @09:44AM (#30225794)
    Pagers still exist? Granted they never caught on in the UK, but I've never, not even once, seen an actual functioning pager in use. I guess text messaging took over any utility pagers would have over here.
  • Re:News to me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tteddo (543485) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @09:54AM (#30225896) Homepage
    I have one!! I don't have a phone either. And I am in IT. And yes, the young-ins make fun of me.
  • Re:that's nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @10:02AM (#30225976) Journal

    I imagine a whole lot of people are going to be pissed when they learn that the data was intercepted back in 2001.

  • Good Move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by carp3_noct3m (1185697) <slashdot AT warriors-shade DOT net> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @10:04AM (#30225996)
    This seems to be a really good move on the part of Wikileaks. Its one of those things, where in the digital age, that information lasts for a long time, but I think the significance here is that this data was collected within a day of the attacks. What this does is give us a clearer picture of lots of things, including emergency response methods and efficiency, the way people react to catastrophic events, and information that may have previously been unknown, and things like that. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Sep 11. and simple data being released to the public is always a good thing. Yes, there will be both ends of the extremist section, both conspiracy theorists and their counterparts, who may try to find specific data to backup their preconceived theories, but its still a good thing. Just browsing over to the TFA and their shortened excerpt, I found one very interesting message.."WTC HAS BEEN HIT BY AN AIRPLANE AND A BOMB." This does nothing as far as credibility and in situations like that people are known to panic and see and hear things that aren't there, but regardless, it will be interesting to see where this leads. Data by itself sometimes can be useless, but in context can have implications you don't expect. My personal opinions are far to complex to list here, but people should learn how to use logic and think for themselves.
  • Re:Good Move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @10:18AM (#30226186)

    I'd question the ethics of it. The very existence of this database is of huge political and social importance, thus falling under Wikileaks' remit, but by putting it into the public domain they're infringing the privacy of the citizens involved even further. You can bet all the TLAs, not to mention police forces, lawyers, insurance companies, and so on are having fun with it now it's in public view.

  • Re:So much raw data (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PinkyDead (862370) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @10:48AM (#30226570) Journal

    Can't I have both?

  • by csartanis (863147) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @10:49AM (#30226574)


    2001-09-11 10:20:42 Skytel [002840776] C ALPHA were home! I love you! T

    Found the rest.

  • Re:News to me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Courageous (228506) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @10:55AM (#30226646)

    I still see them in use for certain IT folks in the defense industry. The key is that they will permit them into secure facilities, as the old one-way versions cannot transmit.

  • The middle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by copponex (13876) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @10:56AM (#30226666) Homepage

    Read the Project for a New American Century's statement of principles here [newamericancentury.org]. Now read the PNAC letter to Clinton on Iraq here [newamericancentury.org]. Note that Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Jeb are all big supporters. Now read about their plans here [newamericancentury.org].

    The choice quote is: "Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."

    My theory is that they had intelligence stating that the attack was going to happen. Just as many suspect happened at Pearl Harbor, they deliberately stood down defenses in order to get the catalyzing event that they need in order to enact foreign military operations. They may have done this truly believing it was in the best interests of the country, but the truth needs to come out, and those responsible punished.

    I don't think they knew that the towers would collapse. It explains the look on George when he was first told we were under attack, and the look on his face during his address.

  • Re:News to me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:01AM (#30226736) Homepage Journal

    I've never met anyone who had a pager, I've never seen a pager in real life or heard of anyone using one outside the US.

    Your experience must be limited to geographical areas with pervasive cell network coverage.

    I live in an area of NH with moderate coverage, but prefer to head up to the mountains for R&R. But I'm on-call, so I carry a pager, it works nearly everywhere (cell phone start working again well above tree-line).

    I use procmail to duplicate messages to pager + SMS - between the two coverage is nearly 100%.

    Pager is $15mo for alpha paging (longer messages than SMS) and my pager (Motorola design made in China) runs about two months on a AA. It will give me a warning about the battery a few days before it gets really low, and then beep at me annoyingly for a couple days before the battery is dead.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:14AM (#30226902)

    I bought a product for about $50 from and ad in a magazine called "Monitoring Times". It was a little device that plugged into the speaker jack of a scanner that could pick up the pager frequencies. The other end plugged into my sound-card input, and software decoded it. I would read other people's pages all day long.

    Certainly anyone who had one of these and lived in NYC during 9/11 would have monitored pager traffic. It's not that surprising that WikiLeaks was able to get this.

  • Re:Good Move (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:19AM (#30226964) Journal
    All the TLAs almost certainly had access to it already. Putting it in the public domain means that the public now has more of a clue about the amount of information the TLAs have on them. If it leads to more opposition to things like the USAPATRIOT Act then it will have served a beneficial purpose.
  • Re:So much raw data (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:26AM (#30227052)

    If you think we know everything about what happened at 9/11 you're just gullable, maybe those people you so easily call nutters just want some good answers. What about those hijackers that turned up alive afterwards, the investigation that was closed from higher up, the third building that crashed in (seemingly unrelated accident? structural faults exposed by the other buildings crashing? yeah right), the so-called plane debris at the pentagon, the almost immediate insistence to attack Afghanistan before any investigation even had occurred, and so on. There's a big stink around the whole thing which will never be cleared up, just like the JFK assassination, and it probably just is the government covering up again. (But don't tell them I told you this!)

  • Re:Good Move (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc.paradise@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:33AM (#30227128) Homepage Journal

    I'd question the ethics of it. The very existence of this database is of huge political and social importance, thus falling under Wikileaks' remit, but by putting it into the public domain they're infringing the privacy of the citizens involved even further. You can bet all the TLAs, not to mention police forces, lawyers, insurance companies, and so on are having fun with it now it's in public view.

    Exactly- and especially true when you browse through and see messages like " " Andre-are you at work today? Gimme a call - 301-555-5555. Gerry". (number obviously changed in my repost) There's no doubt that these people will be targeted for 9/11-related scams and other obnoxious behavior in short order. You think Gerry's not already getting a call from someone looking to cash in, or who just thinks they're being funny?

    If this list were filtered so that it was just automated systems, non-personal, etc , that's fine -- but doing it in this way is just opening the door for all the abuse and stupidity that we're capable of. As it is - it's a gross breach of privacy, published in a way that ensures that there will be no accountability for any abuse of personal information found in it.

  • 08:58:33 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spacezilla (972723) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:34AM (#30227138)

    2001-09-11 08:58:33 Skytel [002399634] A ALPHA Initial reports indictate that AAL11, B767, after initial hijacking on flight from BOS-LAX, has crashed into the side of the World Trade Center in NY. ATCSCC/bl

    That was an insane amount of detail at a point when everyone else was going: "It's possible something may have happened somewhere."

  • Re:So much raw data (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:47AM (#30227288)

    thats a good point I never thought of. Perhaps some in Government could have allowed the attack to go forward assuming some minor impact, and decent response, that would justify all the domestic spy programs, etc they wanted. But when it was way more successful than anyone (even Bin Ladden) could have imagined, and still wasn't handled well, no choice but cover-up mode.

  • by rapiddescent (572442) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:53AM (#30227362)

    Actually, I was working at Reuters in London at the time and the first we knew of the disaster was an automated alert from our trading system saying that Merrylls and APM had gone fully offline (these types of systems very very rarely go offline). At the same moment, one of the data feeds went DR (DataScope I think) - it had its DR facility in the other tower and so only lasted a short time before going off for good.

  • Re:So much raw data (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stupid McStupidson (1660141) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:14PM (#30227626)
    It's mostly because you have a gross misunderstanding of how the military works. When something gets fucked up, somebody is responsible for the fuck up. While that statement at first makes you say, "Well, duh!" you need to understand how it functions in the military. That statement is an absolute truth. There are no "whoops, nobody's fault" moments in the military. If something fucked up, SOMEBODY fucked up, and therefore, SOMEBODY will pay. Usually an officer is in charge, a relatively minor fuck up might be a slap on the wrist. A moderate fuck up, or a string of minor ones will result in a bad evaluation report which will prevent your promotion, and essentially make you a dead man walking. Major fuck ups are the end of your career. There isn't a chart somewhere delineating all the fuck-up degrees, but I'm sure as they watched iconic building collapsing in flames, they assumed it was pretty major. This results in many waves of ass-covering, as really major fuck ups tend to take out swaths of officers and NCO's. To a third party observer, the ass covering to save yourself from the "SOMEBODY will pay" maxim probably seems sinister..as if they were hiding something. But in reality, they are just trying to hide what they assume to be their vulnerable behinds.
  • Re:News to me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Albanach (527650) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:30PM (#30227838) Homepage

    While you might be used to SMSs arriving instantly, they very often do not.

    This, too, seems to be a peculiarly US problem. I've heard of many many more lost and delayed SMSs in the US than in Europe. Perhaps that's because Europe has been making significant use of text messaging for far longer, so the systems there are now more reliable?

    Perhaps US users just have lower expectations, so cell networks can get away with such things?

  • Re:News to me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:46PM (#30228060)

    Agreed, another side effect of the dead zone with a two way pager is the same page will come to the pager multiple times at random time intervals. It makes it confusing because you don't know if the person paged you again or if it was a repeat. I've been burned both way with that, I've called clients an hour later when they were sleeping and I've ignored what I thought were repeats missing an attempt by a client to contact me. Both times I had to explain myself by comparing my house location on Google maps to the Skytel coverage map to my boss and the client. I thought it was odd that people really thought that a pager just worked everywhere. What made the whole thing even more frustrating was every time I was on call I explained to everyone that it did not work at my house and had the emails to prove I had told them.

  • by Fritz T. Coyote (1087965) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:06PM (#30228284) Homepage
    Yes, I am a New Yorker. Yes, I was in the city that day. My Cellphone was useless, probably due to a combination of losing a major relay point, and everybody in town trying to use their phones at the same time. Landlines were flakey (probably due to losing a major chunk of the infrastructure). My Obsolete and Archaic text pager kept working. (I wonder if the pager "I'm OK, R U OK?"messages I exchanged with my sister are in this archive?)
  • Re:The middle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fluffy99 (870997) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:10PM (#30229182)

    Very similar to Pearl Harbor, no? The administrator knew something was coming, and indirectly wanted it to happen to get public opinion in favor of entering the war. There is even evidence that it was known that Pearl Harbor was the target and the date, as all the high-value ships were conveniently pulled out of port shortly beforehand. All the ships lost were low value ships due to be decommissioned in the near future. There is even evidence that the Japanese coded transmissions had been deciphered so someone knew the plan, and the incoming planes had been spotted on radar (whether this info intentionally not acted on is up for debate).

    I have no doubt our govt something was coming, and likely wanted it to happen to get public opinion behind invading the middle east again. Condolezza Rice published a report that predicted airplanes as the weapons.

  • by Tweezer (83980) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:53PM (#30229734)

    I searched a whole bunch of these for the word "fuck" and couldn't find a single instance. I find it hard to believe that nobody got a page from their girl/boy friend saying why don't you come over and fuck me or a message saying holy fuck a plane just hit the WTC.

  • Re:News to me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tuxicle (996538) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @08:29PM (#30232700)
    Pagers operate at a lower frequency than cell phones, the likelihood of a dead zone is lower.

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