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Barbara Olson
Born Barbara Kay Bracher
December 27, 1955 (1955-12-27)
Houston, Texas
Died September 11, 2001 (aged 45)
Arlington, Virginia
Cause of death Plane crash into the Pentagon, 9/11
Known for Fox News and CNN commentator
Home town Houston
Spouse(s) Theodore Olson

Barbara Olson (December 27, 1955 – September 11, 2001) was a lawyer and conservative American television commentator who worked for CNN, Fox News Channel, and several other outlets. She was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77 en route to a taping of the television show Politically Incorrect when it was flown into the Pentagon in the September 11 attacks.

Early life

Olson was born Barbara Kay Bracher in Houston, Texas. (Her older sister, Toni Bracher-Lawrence, has been a member of the Houston City Council since 2004.) She graduated from Waltrip High School[1] and earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Saint Thomas in Houston.

Olson became a professional dancer, performing with the San Francisco Ballet and the Harkness Ballet in New York City. She switched careers and went to Hollywood to work as an assistant producer for television and movies.


As a newcomer, she achieved a surprising measure of success, working for HBO and Stacey Keach Productions. She earned a Juris Doctor Wikipedia.png degree from Yeshiva University Wikipedia.png 's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Wikipedia.png . In the early 1990s, she worked as an associate at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Wilmer Cutler & Pickering where she did civil litigation for several years before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney. In 1994, she left to work for the United States House of Representatives, becoming chief investigative counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. In that position, she led the Travelgate and Filegate investigations into the Clinton administration. She co-founded the Independent Women's Forum with Rosalie Silberman[2] and Anita K. Blair. She was later a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of the Birmingham, Alabama law firm Balch & Bingham.

She married Theodore Olson in 1996. He went on to successfully represent presidential candidate George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case of Bush v. Gore, which effectively determined the final result of the contested 2000 Presidential election. He subsequently served as United States Solicitor General in the Bush administration.

She was a frequent critic of the Bill Clinton administration and wrote a book about then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton (1999). Olson was working on her second book, The Final Days: The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House (published October 2001) at the time of her death. She was a resident of Great Falls, Virginia.


Olson was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77 on her way to a taping of Politically Incorrect in Los Angeles, when it was flown into the Pentagon in the September 11 attacks.

Flight 77 was hijacked at 8:54. At some point between 9:16 and 9:26, Olson called her husband. She reported that the flight had been hijacked, and the hijackers had knives and boxcutters.[3] She further indicated that the hijackers were not aware of her phone call, and that they had put all the passengers in the rear of the plane.[3] About a minute into the conversation, the call was cut off.[3]

Shortly after, Barbara reached her husband again. She reported that the "pilot" had announced that the flight had been hijacked, and asked her husband what she should tell the captain to do. Ted Olson asked for her location and she replied that the aircraft was then flying over houses. Another passenger told her they were traveling northeast. Ted Olson informed Barbara of the two previous hijackings and crashes. She did not display signs of panic at the time. At that point, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

Politically Incorrect host Bill Maher left a panel seat vacant for a week following her death.


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(9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Barbara Olson Said to Call from Flight 77, but Account Is Full of Contradictions

Barbara Olson. [Source: Richard Eillis/ Getty Images] A passenger on Flight 77, Barbara Olson, calls her husband, Theodore (Ted) Olson, who is solicitor general at the Justice Department. [SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 7/23/2004] Ted Olson is in his Justice Department office watching news of the attacks on the World Trade Center on television when his wife calls. A few days later, he will recall: “She told me that she had been herded to the back of the plane. She mentioned that they had used knives and box cutters to hijack the plane. She mentioned that the pilot had announced that the plane had been hijacked.” [CNN, 9/14/2001] He tells her that two planes have hit the WTC. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/5/2002] Barbara Olson says she feels nobody is taking charge. [CNN, 9/12/2001] Ted Olson doesn’t know if she is near the pilots, but at one point she asks: “What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?” [CNN, 9/14/2001] Then the call is cut off without warning. [NEWSWEEK, 9/29/2001] Ted Olson's Recollections Vague - Ted Olson’s recollection of the call’s timing will be extremely vague. He will say the call “must have been 9:15 [a.m.] or 9:30 [a.m.]. Someone would have to reconstruct the time for me.” [CNN, 9/14/2001] Other accounts place the call around 9:25 a.m. [MIAMI HERALD, 9/14/2001; NEW YORK TIMES, 9/15/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 9/21/2001] The call is said to last about a minute. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/12/2001] By some accounts, Ted Olson’s message to his wife, that planes have hit the WTC, comes later, in a second phone call. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/21/2001] According to one account, Barbara Olson calls her husband from inside a bathroom. [EVENING STANDARD, 9/12/2001] But in another, she is near a pilot, and in yet another she is near two pilots. [BOSTON GLOBE, 11/23/2001] Conflicting Accounts of Type of Phone Used - Ted Olson’s accounts of how his wife makes her calls are also conflicting. Three days after 9/11, he will say: “I found out later that she was having, for some reason, to call collect and was having trouble getting through. You know how it is to get through to a government institution when you’re calling collect.” He says he doesn’t know what kind of phone she uses, but he has “assumed that it must have been on the airplane phone, and that she somehow didn’t have access to her credit cards. Otherwise, she would have used her cell phone and called me.” [HANNITY & COLMES, 9/14/2001] Why Barbara Olson would have needed access to her credit cards to call him on her cell phone is not explained. However, in another interview on the same day, Ted Olson will say his wife uses a cell phone and her call may be cut off “because the signals from cell phones coming from airplanes don’t work that well.” [CNN, 9/14/2001] Six months later, he will claim she calls collect, “using the phone in the passengers’ seats.” [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/5/2002] However, it is not possible to call on seatback phones, collect or otherwise, without a credit card, which would render making a collect call moot. Many other details in Ted Olson’s accounts are conflicting, and he will fault his memory and say he “tends to mix the two [calls from his wife] up because of the emotion of the events.” [CNN, 9/14/2001] Call Supposedly Made through Secretary - According to official reports, Barbara Olson is able to reach her husband through a secretary, Lori Lynn Keyton, twice, at around 9:15 a.m. The first call is collect and comes through a live operator, while the second is direct. [FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, 9/11/2001 ; FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, 9/14/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 5/20/2004] Entity Tags: Barbara Olson, Lori Lynn Keyton, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


  • Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton (November 1999; ISBN 0895262746)
  • The Final Days: The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House (October 2001; ISBN 0895261677)


  1. "Waltrip Trivia Page," Waltrip High School
  2. "Remembering IWF Founder Barbara Olson", Rosalie Silberman, Independent Women's Forum, December 1, 2001
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The 9/11 Commission Report, Official Government Edition, July 22, 2004.

Debunking 9/11 Debunkers - David Ray Griffin [6] The Shadow Factory - James Bamford

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