The Citizen Investigation Team claims to have obtained undeniable evidence that what happened at the Pentagon on Sept. 11 was not a terrorist attack by al-Qaida (the official story) or a covert operation by the U.S. military (the widely held conspiracy theory), but in fact—pause for circus music—a magic trick in which a military plane painted to resemble an American Airlines jet flew low over the Pentagon while explosives took down a wall of the structure in a convenient cloud of smoke, thus allowing the plane to fly away and secretly land somewhere, presumably at nearby Reagan National Airport.

Unfortunately, their film, The PentaCon, doesn't provide any evidence of this. What it does show is a series of interviews Ranke and Marquis have filmed over the past few years on location in Arlington, Virginia, usually within a stone's throw of the Pentagon building. They've interviewed Pentagon police officers, journalists, gas-station employees, local residents, a boat captain and several Arlington National Cemetery gravediggers, all of whom believe they witnessed an American Airlines jet crash into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

The fact that all those eyewitnesses and many more believe they saw the jet hit the Pentagon—which happens to be both the official version of what happened that day as well as the accepted truth among most conspiracy theorists—doesn't bother Ranke and Marquis. The "evidence," they say, proves all those witnesses actually saw something else: another jet, flown by an unknown military pilot, soaring just over the roof of the Pentagon, while explosives planted by government operatives at some point before Sept. 11 caused an explosion that allowed the plane to fly away undetected.

Marquis (right, with Ranke): "Ignorance truly is bliss. But bliss isn't your country killing you"
John Gilhooley
Marquis (right, with Ranke): "Ignorance truly is bliss. But bliss isn't your country killing you"

"It was a sleight-of-hand operation with a big jet flying over, and then an explosion scaring everybody, and the jet flying away," Marquis claims. "The damaged area to the Pentagon had been under 'renovation' for years and was conveniently scheduled to be completed only days after the event," Ranke adds. "The renovation is why that section of the building was relatively unoccupied compared to any other part of the building and there were relatively few deaths . . . giving them plenty of controlled unoccupied areas to plant debris."

*   *   *

Many conspiracy theorists—like Avery and Pickering—are no longer on speaking terms with Ranke and Marquis, although they also reject the official story that terrorist hijacker Hani Hanjour flew the plane. Like most in the 9/11 Truth Movement, they believe either the military flew a remotely guided plane into the building or a missile caused the explosion. Still others believe the U.S. government is deliberately trying to lure people into doubting the official version of what happened at the Pentagon—mostly by refusing to release camera footage that would show what really transpired—in order to discredit conspiracy theorists at some point in the future.

"They're wrong, and we're right," Ranke says, pointing at a laptop that he says contains new interviews—and even stronger evidence—proving that no plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. On the laptop is the raw material for their documentary—you can watch it at www.thepentacon.com—and they are about to unveil additional evidence that they promise will blow the lid off the entire conspiracy.

Ranke and Marquis believe that many people they've run across, whether conspiracy theorists such as Pickering or "supposed" eyewitnesses to the Pentagon crash, are actually "deep-cover operatives" or "assets" tasked by the U.S. government to mislead the public and stymie their efforts to reveal the "truth." They say their phones have been tapped and believe that if they weren't able to place all their "research" on the Internet, unspecified government forces would have harmed them by now.

In the process of discovering the "truth" about 9/11, Ranke and Marquis may have alienated many of their former allies in the conspiracy movement, but their relentlessness has won a few converts. "When I first heard of Craig and Aldo's alternate flight path for American Airlines 77, I was very skeptical and tried very hard to prove that their view was in error," says fellow researcher Aidan Monaghan. "However, after carefully viewing all of their witness interviews, I have concluded that the 'official' flight path is arguably in question."

Both members of the Citizen Investigation Team insist their families follow their research and support their efforts. "It has only increased the respect that I get from the people who are closest to me," Ranke says.

Marquis, who divides his research schedule with a full-time job and time with his daughter—never married, he sees her three weekends per month—admits that his Pentagon obsession has caused friction in his life. "Yes, my family supports me, but yes, it has definitely put a strain on my life," he says. "This is something that literally haunts me on a daily basis. Ignorance truly is bliss. But bliss isn't your country killing you or your loved ones in a staged terrorist attack. . . . My daughter is a big reason why I do this. The future and welfare of children in general is a big reason why I do this."

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