The primary stated objective of the Toronto 9/11 hearings was to marshal and assess the strongest evidence against the official account of September 11, 2001. In fact, however, the hearings attempted to do a lot more than that. Several witnesses argued that Washington is a secretive, deceptive war machine bent on global domination through preemptive wars of conquest. The largest set of witnesses presented evidence-based arguments to show that powerful people within this war machine either let the attacks go forward or manufactured them by their own hand. Many presenters supported the more radical alternative: the government engineered 9/11. The key to making that case was presented in papers that argued that controlled demolition destroyed the World Trade Center Twin Towers and Building 7 under the cover of the impacts of the jetliners and the ensuing fires. All of these matters go beyond presenting purely negative evidence that the official account is false.
The central purpose of the hearings was to advance the case for a new investigation of 9/11. To fulfill that purpose, the hearings would have to change the perceptions of many Americans who have accepted the official account. The official account holds that the events of 9/11 were caused by a surprise attack from 19 Islamic terrorists who hijacked four jet liners and managed to fly two of them into the WTC and a third into the Pentagon. I believe that to change perceptions the hearings had to succeed at several levels. First, they needed to present convincing evidence against the official account. Second, they needed to make a credible case that the government had both a motive for making 9/11 happen through controlled demolition and the possibility of carrying out that plan.
It would be unreasonable to expect the hearings to go beyond circumstantial evidence of the government’s hand. Not enough is known about what actually transpired on 9/11 to make an evidence-based argument about who did it and how they did it. But in the long run, only direct evidence of this kind, not just circumstantial evidence, may be needed to turn the tide of public perceptions.
In the discussion below, I try to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case for Washington D.C. as a war machine, and the claim that on 9/11 controlled demolition was used to accomplish its ends. I also offer my views on whether it is likely that these arguments would be sufficiently persuasive to succeed in its central purpose of a new investigation. I raise a further question: would such an investigation be likely to succeed in unraveling the mysteries of 9/11? Finally, I suggest a way forward that does not rely on a new state-sponsored investigation.
Obstacles to changing perceptions of 9/11
I do not have sure knowledge of what is in the mind of most Americans when they think about 9/11. The six points that follow are educated guesses. If they are about right, they mean that changing perceptions of 9/11 will be an uphill battle.
1. They find the official account to be simple and coherent. The intent of Al Qaeda-sponsored terrorists, to kill Americans and destroy their property, is accepted as common knowledge. Their ability to penetrate American defenses appears to have been amply demonstrated by, among other instances, the 1993 basement truck bombing of the North Tower of the WTC, the concurrent 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. The events of 9/11 are seen as another chapter in that history.
2. They see no rival theory of how 9/11 was brought about which answers the questions of who, why, and how it was done.
3. They do not believe that a number of highly placed government officials would have the depth of moral depravity required to deliberately cause the horrific deaths of so many Americans.
4. They believe that many people would have to be involved in orchestrating a government conspiracy on the order of 9/11. They do not think the perpetrators would risk eventual detection by whistle blowers or confessors.
5. They find it improbable that government perpetrators would have the detailed foreknowledge of what transpired on 9/11 in order to create credible false evidence that the attack was perpetrated by Al Qaeda terrorists, and to cover up their own treasonous actions or inactions.
6. They are aware of the enormous consequences for Americans’ image of their nation’s place in history should it turn out that the government had a hand in 9/11, which makes it especially hard to accept that proposition.
The hearings can be viewed as an attempt to overcome these obstacles to changing public perceptions.
The case for Washington as a secretive, deceptive war machine
This theme was pursued in papers given by Lance deHaven-Smith, “9/11 and State Crimes against Democracy,” and by Peter Dale Scott, “9/11 and Deep State Politics.” I include Laurie Manwell’s paper, “In Denial of Democracy,” with this set because it argues that the failure of many to examine with an open mind the evidence for state crimes against democracy can be understood in terms of cognitive processes which protect prior beliefs from being challenged by a rational evaluation of the evidence. Michel Chossudovsky gave a presentation at the hearings titled, “Global Consequences of 9/11,” which also developed the theme of Washington as a war machine but which was not included in this volume.
These papers seek to develop a broad view of how we are governed that would make a government hand in 9/11 believable. They argue that the Washington war machine is fueled by the military-industrial complex famously cited by Eisenhower, together with increasingly powerful intelligence agencies, by the acquiescence, perhaps the leadership, of the highest elected government officials, and a Congress inclined to show more deference than vigilance in its oversight of a huge security apparatus. It is seen as a machine designed to bring about a world order advocated by the authors of the “Project for the New American Century.” That project was to achieve American global dominance through overwhelming military power and pre-emptive wars. Among the tools used by the war machine are the control of information, undercover armed operations, and the suppression of dissent.
Lance deHaven-Smith’s paper, “9/11 and State Crimes Against Democracy,” argues that it is more appropriate to treat the possibility of a government hand in 9/11 as an example of a state crime against democracy (SCAD) than as a conspiracy theory. I agree. The significant feature of the case against the government is not that officials conspired in secret to do this thing. Rather, it is what they are suspected of conspiring to do. In deHaven-Smith’s words, they were engaged in an example of concerted actions or inactions by government insiders intended to manipulate democratic processes and undermine popular sovereignty. One hopes that this new language might displace the brilliant sound bite used to dismiss out-of-hand the evidence-based arguments of 9/11 researchers: “They’re conspiracy theories.”
However that turns out, deHaven-Smith’s term sets the stage for a comparative examination of 9/11 in the context of other suspected or generally accepted examples of SCADs in US history. In Table 1 of his essay, deHaven-Smith places the events of 9/11 among 19 other possible examples of SCADs. He rates the level of confirmation of state involvement in these examples from low to high. 9/11 gets a “medium” as do the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the attempted assassination of George Wallace.
I see a downside in the approach exemplified in Table 1. If one is not prepared to believe that the government had a hand in one or more of these other events, the case for government complicity in 9/11 may suffer collateral damage. The damage would take the form of deciding that the author is prone to see government criminality everywhere and thus his judgments on 9/11 complicity can’t be trusted. The fact that deHaven-Smith does not claim a high degree of confirmation for many of his examples might reduce the collateral damage. I hope so because I see the approach taken in Table 1 as worthy of careful consideration when trying to come to a reasoned position on the case for Washington as a war machine.
Another downside is that the generalization from other SCADs to 9/11 is questionable. The scale of death and destruction on 9/11 was far greater, and the alleged role of the government agents much more heinous, than in the other examples. Moreover, only a few of the examples included by deHaven-Smith involve false flag attacks of the kind alleged to have occurred on 9/11. For these reasons one has to question the strength of the implication he wishes to draw from his analysis: if they could do those other things, they could do 9/11 as well.
Table 3 in deHaven-Smith’s essay is entitled “The Coincidence Theory of 9/11.” Contained in it are collected events (referred to as factors) pointing to the possibility that elements of the US government intended to allow, or to bring about, the death and destruction of 9/11. It provides a compact and, on its face, persuasive tabulation of the observations that support his thesis. The rival explanation to account for this entire set of events, he argues, is that they are, like the tosses of a fair coin, independent of one another. Their joint occurrence is no more than coincidence. If so, the probability of their joint occurrence is given by the product of their individual probabilities. Since there are some 50 events identified in Table 3, the probability of their joint occurrence as independent events, he rightly concludes, is astronomically small.
The opposition of the “intentional hypothesis” with a “coincidence hypothesis” is commonly made by 9/11 skeptics of the official account. But coincidence is not the only alternative explanation. Sets of 9/11 events could be related (not independent) for reasons other than an intention to allow them to happen or to make them happen. For example, the repeated failures of the air defense system to intercept hijacked jet liners could reflect systemic failures in the design of that system and/or in the training of operators to deal with this form of attack. To take another example, the repeated failures of various intelligence agencies to share their information on suspected terrorists operating in the US might be traced to their mutual distrust, their proprietary cultures, and their aggressive competition for power. These alternatives to coincidence theory also need to be assessed.
The general point is that the serious rival to the hypothesis of government intention behind the events surrounding 9/11 is not coincidence. The critical argument has to show that intention is a better hypothesis than others which also claim the events are related, but for other reasons. That has not been done in deHaven-Smith’s paper. Yet, it remains an important paper because it leads one to think about the possible role of government on 9/11 in an historical context of other known or suspected crimes against democracy. It invites one to connect the dots.
Michel Chossudovsky claimed in his presentation that Al Qaeda is a CIA asset, not an enemy bent on a jihad against America and the West. Al Qaeda, he said, has been co-opted by the CIA, to provide fabricated terrorist incidents as pretexts for US military interventions. An evidence-based argument for that claim would have to show that each of the successful and thwarted attacks which have in the past been traced to Al Qaeda were actually perpetrated by US intelligence agencies. To overturn the entire historical record on Al Qaeda would be a major undertaking. It is not surprising that in the absence of such an undertaking this view rests on assertions rather than evidence.
Peter Dale Scott in his paper, “9/11 and Deep State Politics,” presents a narrative of complex relations among the FBI, the CIA with its special forces, and the Department of Defense with its own intelligence and special forces branches. Moreover, he points out, within the CIA, agents with special clearances develop liaison arrangements with foreign intelligence agents of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt. Only some CIA agents are cleared to be in on these arrangements.
Much of Scott’s paper is based on Kevin Fenton’s detective work reported in his book, Disconnecting the Dots. Using open sources, the book constructs an account of how intelligence agencies failed to protect the American people from mass murder on 9/11. Fenton concludes that the failures of US intelligence to share and act on information held by some of its agents on plans to hijack jetliners and use them as weapons was motivated by the intention of those agents to allow the 9/11 attacks to go forward. Scott, on the other hand, favors “a more benign” interpretation. The desire to maintain liaison with foreign intelligence agents, and to protect informants with inside knowledge of Al Qaeda’s plans, could explain, he believes, the otherwise incredible dysfunctionality of US intelligence. Perhaps, he adds, as those terrorist plans matured, some agents with the more sinister motive of allowing the attacks to go forward, exploited this dysfunctionality.
Scott and Chossudovsky have conflicting interpretations of the CIA’s relation to Al Qaeda. Scott treats Al Qaeda as an enemy, although one that is sometimes protected and often mismanaged by the CIA. He writes, for example, “The behavior of these two eventual hijackers (Khalid Al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi) was so unprofessional that, without this CIA protection from the “Alec Station Group,” they would almost certainly have been detected and detained or deported, long before they boarded Flight 77 in Washington.”
Scott’s interpretation also differs from that of Kolar’s in the matter of the hijackers. As shown by the above quote, Scott treats Al Qaeda hijackers as real — they boarded the jets. On the other hand, Jay Kolar in his presentation “The Alleged 9/11 Hijackers,” concluded that “no evidence exists that any of the so-called ‘hijackers’ ever boarded planes that crashed on 9/11.”
It is not surprising that conflicting interpretations emerge from efforts to penetrate the work of secret agencies by investigators who are forced to rely on third party reports that are often unverifiable. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate, in my view, that the hearings did not address these conflicts more directly.
Only time will tell whether efforts like this will succeed in persuading American citizens that they should seriously consider the possibility that their government has allowed elements of its intelligence, military, political and corporate sectors to orchestrate mass murder in order to further a policy of global domination through pre-emptive wars. I do, however, strongly endorse Scott’s broad conclusion, which deHaven- Smith’s paper also supports: “the history of espionage tells us that secret power, when operating in the sphere of illegal activities, becomes, time after time, antithetical to public democratic power.”
Laurie Maxwell in her paper, “In Denial of Democracy,” makes an extended argument that unconscious, irrational, thought processes help to explain the resistance of the American public to evidence that state crimes against democracy were committed on 9/11. Among such processes studied in the literature of cognitive psychology are dissonance reduction, and confirmation bias. When confronted with evidence that threatens a strongly held belief, we suffer cognitive dissonance. That leads us to protect the prior belief by dismissing the contradictory evidence, or selectively attending to just confirming evidence for our belief (confirmation bias), or by denigrating the source of the conflicting evidence. Cognitive processes of the kind she discusses distort, short circuit, or otherwise corrupt the more deliberate process of critical reasoning. Daniel Kahneman in his recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, identifies failures to think critically (a slow and effortful kind of thinking) as the tendency to believe that, what you see (or hear) is all there is (the fast and easy kind of thinking). In other words, we fail by not looking for, or seriously weighing, evidence that would go against what we believe from the outset.
The psychological literature treats these irrational tendencies as universal. They would afflict anyone who tries to reason their way to an understanding of 9/11 whether their initial belief was in the criminal acts of government, or those of Al Qaeda. These tendencies can only be held at bay by deliberately applying the art of critical thinking, as our best scientists have learned to do. The issue then becomes, is there a reason to think that those who question the official account of 9/11 are more likely to dig for other explanations than are those who believe in the official account? I think there may well be. If you accept the simple, coherent, and dominant official account of 9/11, there is little reason to look for or credit other explanations. But if you are a 9/11 skeptic, you have to dig for evidence that both challenges the official account and supports a rival account. You can hardly escape confronting opposing explanations. In my view, the work of the 9/11 skeptics who argued at these hearings that only controlled demolition could have brought down the WTC buildings exemplifies critical thinking.
On the other hand I have to say that the hearings as a whole would not get high marks for seeking out other explanations. None of the presenters tried to support the official account, nor sought to debunk the entire case against it. Although panelists were tasked with questioning the evidence presented, they were not in a position to make extended counter arguments. While one sidedness should not, in my view, discredit the arguments presented at the hearings, those arguments might have more impact if direct confrontations with those who hold opposing views had been part of the hearings.
Is the evidence for planted explosives sufficient to change public perceptions?
Forensic autopsies of the destruction of WTC buildings: The two papers by Ryan, and those of Gage, MacQueen, Chandler, and Cole present many lines of converging evidence that the twin towers and building 7 were brought to the ground through controlled demolition. Griffin’s paper on the inadequacies of the 9/11 Commission prefaces this core area of the hearings by recounting the many omissions and distortions in The 9/11 Commission Report on the subject of what caused the twin towers to collapse.
These papers present the strongest evidence against the official account, and the strongest circumstantial evidence for believing the US government had a hand in 9/11. Nothing would be gained by my rehearsing all of this evidence. Instead I will indicate in a summary fashion what I think has been accomplished and then go on to raise questions about what those accomplishments might portend for the long-term goal of mounting a real investigation.
The first accomplishment has been to present a convincing case that the previous investigations of 9/11 — those by FEMA, the 9/11 Commission, and by NIST — all failed to confront important facts that challenge the official account. I think it was demonstrated that those investigations were designed not to understand what actually happened, but rather to defend the official account, which they did by selective omissions and distortions of the evidence.
The second accomplishment is to have confronted directly each of several different versions espoused in these official investigations of why the buildings collapsed and to have shown them to be inadequate to the facts. They did this through a systematic compilation of eye witness accounts of explosions, through the discovery in the rubble of the buildings of the residue of an advanced, thermitic accelerate/explosive, nano-thermite, and through structural and dynamic analyses showing that the observed characteristics of the way the buildings collapsed can only be accommodated on the assumption that at one point the supporting steel columns and girders were blown apart. The case for controlled demolition has also been supported by experimental tests showing that thermite has the capacity to cut steel beams, and that other accounts of how they might have been weakened are not tenable. This effort has produced so many converging lines of evidence, that in my view, controlled demolition is now the strongest hypothesis for how these buildings were brought to the ground.
I know of no effort on the part of those who would support the official account to either refute or explain all the evidence for controlled demolition. They have not to my knowledge refuted the evidence for nano-thermite in the rubble nor offered an explanation of what it was doing there. They have not explained the corroborated evidence of molten steel prior to the collapse and subsequently in the rubble. They have not countered the evidence that although building fires do not melt steel, thermite can. They have not made a serious attempt to construct a single hypothesis that could account both for the destruction of the twin towers after they were hit by the jetliners, and for the destruction of building 7, which was not hit.
Evidence for planted explosions at the Pentagon: Barbara Honegger, in her presentation “Eye Witnesses and Evidence of Explosions at the Pentagon,” covered evidence to show that the damage to the Pentagon was caused by explosives, not the alleged impact of the Boeing 757 on AA’s Flight 77. Three principal lines of evidence were put forth. Photographs were shown of clocks in the Pentagon stopped by the force of these explosions at least 7 minutes before the time of impact on which the official account finally settled. Photographs were also shown purportedly identifying (I cannot interpret them clearly) three separate areas of damage positioned in a way that could not have been caused by the impact of any single aircraft or missile. They also are said to show damage in an area further toward the inside ring of the Pentagon than the Boeing 757 could have reached. Finally, there is the testimony of April Gallop, a witness inside the Pentagon at the time, who described in detail a scene of damage not consistent with extensive jet-fuel fires inside the Pentagon. The official account alleges that such fires contributed to the partial collapse of this wedge of the Pentagon.
If Honegger’s evidence stands up to independent scrutiny, it would go a long way toward establishing the use of explosives inside the Pentagon, thereby implicating the hand of the government.
The relevance of questioning the motivation for and feasibility of controlled demolition: Some will take this evidence from WTC and the Pentagon as conclusive. For them, whether or not one can imagine a believable motivation and a feasible way of carrying out controlled demolition is immaterial. The fact stands, the buildings were demolished by planted explosives. One 9/11 researcher put it to me this way: if you find a dead body with a fatal bullet wound through its head, you don’t have to know what motivated someone to kill the person nor how they did it to know there has been a murder. But these hearings tried to go beyond a fatally wounded body to implicate the government in the murder. If one finds the evidence of that less than completely conclusive, then questions of why it would be done and how it could be done–of motivation and feasibility– are material. In what follows I ask those questions.
The need for specific foreknowledge of where the attacks would hit: Obviously, perpetrators would need foreknowledge of the attacks to set the explosives. Paul Zarembka’s paper, “Evidence of Insider Trading before 9/11” adds to other indications in the 9/11 research literature that some did know the date on which the attacks would occur, the airlines involved, and perhaps even the buildings to be targeted. But the perpetrators would need to know more than that. They would need to know the locus of impacts in order to know where to put explosives in advance. In the case of the Pentagon, that knowledge would have to be quite specific as to the one wedge that was allegedly struck by the hijacked jet. In the case of the twin towers the perpetrators would want to know in advance that the impact locations would be such that damage from them could appear to eventually cause their complete collapse, and through collateral damage, that of building 7. Otherwise, the use of explosives could not be covered up. The hearings did not deal with the question of how alleged perpetrators could acquire reliable advanced information of this more specific kind.
Motivation and feasibility of a plan to use explosives to amplify the effect of anticipated terrorist attacks: One hypothetical motive for planted explosives takes the form of using them to amplify the death and destruction from terrorists attacks which the government perpetrators deliberately allowed to go forward, but did not manufacture. What might motivate perpetrators to carry out such a plan?
They would have to believe that the death and destruction resulting solely from the anticipated attack by jets would not be a sufficiently horrific demonstration of the threat to America from Islamic terrorists to mobilize public opinion and political will to enact legislation for an all-out war on terror. They would also have to think that more deaths and much greater destruction would be needed and could be supplied by detonating explosives under the cover of the jetliner attacks. It seems unlikely to me that sane people would make that bet and risk detection for such an uncertain gain.
Putting aside the question of motive, would such a plan have a reasonable chance for success? As noted above, the perpetrators would of course have to know the targets the terrorists planned to hit well enough in advance to set the explosives. They would have to bet on the success of the hijackers in getting through whatever security and air defense measures had not been co-opted. They would also have to bet on the ability of the hijacker pilots to hit their targets. That bet now seems a long shot especially in the case of the inexperienced and inept hijacker pilot, Hani Hanjour, who is alleged in the official account to have executed a very exacting maneuver to strike the Pentagon at ground level. As I noted previously, to use the impacts as a cover for explosives they would have to know quite precisely the location of the impact on the Pentagon while in the case of the twin towers they would have to bet that the impact locations would be such that the claim that they were sufficient to bring about their complete destruction would not be immediately dismissed by the public as absurd. I believe that most people would find both the motive and feasibility in this scenario doubtful.
Motive and feasibility of using explosives as part a plan to manufacture 9/11. Many 9/11 researchers believe that the government not merely allowed the attacks to go forward, they actually manufactured and controlled those attacks. That view implies that the jets were remotely controlled by the perpetrators. There may or may not have been hijackers aboard. Although the feasibility of such a plan was not the focus of any paper at the hearings, the matter is relevant to the central question I am addressing: is the case for planted explosives likely to be persuasive with the broader public?
The motive for taking over the control of the jets is relatively easy to imagine since, on the hypothesis that government agents made it happen, none of the events of 9/11 would have transpired were it not for the government’s hand. There would be no pretext at all for a greatly enlarged, all-out war on terror. On this scenario there remains, however, the tenuous claim, shared by the previous scenario, that the perpetrators would believe that the horrific destruction and loss of life caused by flying the jets into their targets needed to be amplified by the added death and destruction made possible by the planted explosives.
What can be said about feasibility? Pilots, passengers, and hijackers, if they were actually aboard, could be put down remotely by discharging a nerve gas. The technical capacity to remotely control the flight paths through a GPS to autopilot linkage was apparently in place (see Aidan Monaghan’s paper, “Plausibility of 9/11 Aircraft Attacks Generated by GPS-Guided Aircraft Autopilot Systems.” Journal of 9/11 Studies, vol. 23, 2008). Systems in these aircraft allow a high degree of precision of control, probably within 6 or 7 meters. With it, perpetrators could know the locations of the impacts in advance. They could hardly do that if hijackers were in control.
On the other hand, the feasibility of making it appear that Islamic terrorists, not government agents, were the perpetrators is problematical. It would require faking many lines of evidence. Kolar believes they would have to, and actually did, fake evidence that the hijackers boarded the planes. They would have to fake evidence of intercepted communications from terrorists to passengers. They would have to simulate conversations between certain passengers and their ground-based contacts. To do that it would be necessary to imitate the sounds of their voices (voice morphing). They would also have to know enough about certain passengers to make the content of their conversations pass for the real thing. They would have to put in place black box flight data recorders with faked data so that the evidence of remote control would be eliminated and it would appear that the jets were being flown by hijackers. Although 9/11 researchers have produced evidence suggestive of fakery, to manage all of it is a tall order.
In my view the hypothesis that the motive for using explosions to cause more death and destruction on 9/11 remains tenuous under the scenario that government agents made 9/11 happen. As well, the scenario raises some questions of feasibility that are problematical.
Does the evidence of nano-thermite in the rubble of the WTC buildings destroyed on 9/11 force the conclusion that government perpetrators used explosives? The testimony by Niels Harrit titled “Incendiary/explosive residue in the WTC dust,” reported research by him and his scientific colleagues that identified by means of spectrographic and other analyses the presence of a technically advanced incendiary/explosive, nano-thermite. For the sake of argument let us assume the truth of each of a set of propositions about this discovery. First, that the results of these tests are reliable; if carried out independently by other competent scientists they would be replicated. Second, the results are valid. This assumption is that unlike many medical tests for diseases, his tests do not admit of false positive results. Third, let us assume, as Harrit’s tests have shown, that this chemical could not have been a by-product of the buildings’ collapse from other causes. That leads to the assumption that nano-thermite was in some way applied to the steel framework of the buildings and used, perhaps together with other types of explosives, in the destruction of the buildings.
Even given these assumptions, is the case for the responsibility of US government agents in bringing about the complete demolition of buildings conclusive? Not completely, I think, because one would also have to believe that this substance could not have been procured, placed and detonated by perpetrators other than agents of the US government. It has been reported that in the US this technically advanced agent is only produced in military laboratories and is not commercially available. But that still does not rule out the possibility that it was stolen, or perhaps procured from outside the US, and put in place by perpetrators other than agents of the US.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinarily conclusive evidence. A prudent person might say that 9/11 research on thermitic materials in the rubble has made remarkable progress toward meeting that standard, but it is not yet there.
Access for placing explosives without detection: A frequently cited objection to the hypothesis of planted explosions is the belief that they could not be put in place without being detected by those charged with building security, or by the tenants of the buildings. Although no one has come forward with close estimates of the weight of explosives that would have to be used, it is said to be on the order of tons. Those familiar with demolition say that preparing the buildings would be a huge job requiring the work of many experienced workers over an extended period of time. Escaping detection would not be a simple matter.
Ideas have, however, been put forth on how it could have been done. Richard Gage and others have pointed out that an elevator company undertook a very extensive modernization of the elevators in each of the twin towers requiring a large crew of workers for many months. This project might be used as a cover for demolition workers since access to the steel core columns could be gained from the shafts without detection from outside of them. Doubts have been cast on the legitimacy of the security corporation charged with the responsibility to protect the WTC complex of buildings by connecting its management to the family of George Bush. Although not presented at the hearings, Kevin Ryan has researched the tenants of the towers. He reveals ways they might benefit from a stepped up war on terror. He also traces a surprising network of connections between tenants and other corporations that could provide access to the wherewithal for demolition. He paints a picture of convergence between corporate and government interests to make 9/11 happen. (See the series of four papers by Ryan at: www.911Review.com. Parts one, two, and four appear under the common main title: “Demolition Access to the WTC Towers.” Part three has the title: “Carlyle, Kissinger, SAIC and Halliburton: A 9/11 Convergence”). This strikes me as a line of research that should be pursued.
In the case of building 7, no one to my knowledge has claimed that elevator modernization might have provided access to core columns. It has been suggested, however, that the extensive rebuilding on the 23rd floor required by setting up Mayor Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management might provide a path to cover up access. It has also been suggested that some would benefit from the destruction of records held by such building tenants as the SEC, CIA, FBI, DoD, or the IRS, but no one has explained why it would be in the interest of any one of these agencies to cooperate with the rigging of the building for explosive destruction in order to destroy records. Those agencies appear to have no trouble destroying records without bringing down buildings. I suppose one should add the possibility that Larry Silverstein, the owner of Building 7, who stood to profit through insurance payouts from its destruction, might have been able to cover up such an operation.
I think that identifying several possible ways in which explosives could be placed without the perpetrators being apprehended does do something to counter the objection “they couldn’t get away with it, and they wouldn’t risk it.” But again, we have nothing like direct evidence that one or more of these pathways were actually used. Moreover, each possibility implies a widening circle of people in the know and willing to be part of a criminal conspiracy, or to stand by while they see it being committed.
Baffling aspects of the demolition of WTC 7: The apparent demolition of WTC 7 has been declared the Achilles heel of the official account. It implies that perpetrators had foreknowledge of the attack on the twin towers, and the capability of using explosives to cause their complete destruction. But there are several baffling aspects of the demolition of WTC 7 which until they are resolved should make a prudent person hesitate to conclude that, by itself, the demolition of 7 by explosives is conclusive evidence that the towers were demolished in the same way.
Larry Silverstein, talking to an interviewer on a PBS program about what transpired in the late afternoon of 9/11, well after the north and south towers had collapsed, said: “I remember getting a call from the commander of the fire department telling me that they were not sure they were going to be able to control the fire. I said, we have had such a terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is to pull it, and they made the decision to pull it, and we watched the building come down.” There seems to be little doubt that by “pull it,” said to be a phrase commonly used in the trade to refer to demolition, Silverstein also meant, “demolish it.” He later claimed that he meant by this phrase, “pull the firemen out.” It has been pointed out that since the firemen were known to have been removed already when Silverstein said, “pull it,” his later version makes no sense.
If Silverstein is recommending to the commander that he demolish the building that suggests that both Silverstein and the commander knew that WTC 7 was already rigged with explosives. So, do we conclude that the commander of the NYFD, who has just witnessed the death of many of his first responders in the towers allegedly because of their explosive demolition, was in on the plan to use controlled demolition at the WTC 7? Even more baffling is the question of why no one seems to have interviewed the commander to see what he says for himself about how he understood his telephone conversation with Silverstein and what he did as a result.
The alleged motive for government agents to have caused the twin towers to collapse completely through the use of pre-planted explosions is to create a stronger Pearl Harbor effect. I have commented that this putative motive seems tenuous. However that may be, it could hardly be a motive for demolishing WTC 7 late in the afternoon of 9/11. By that time the complete destruction of the twin towers has already caused almost 3,000 deaths, and two huge iconic buildings have been reduced to dust and rubble. Surely the destruction of a now empty 47 story structure was not needed to amplify a Pearl Harbor effect. Moreover, if that was intended by the perpetrators, why was the collapse of WTC 7 so little publicized that many Americans still do not know it happened? Finally, because building 7 was not hit by a jetliner, using explosives to demolish it runs the risk of exposing their use on the twin towers. The reality of that risk has been demonstrated at these hearings.
Another hypothesis for what the perpetrators planned for WTC 7 has been offered in the 9/11 literature. It was prompted by eye witness accounts of explosions within WTC 7 much earlier in the day, long before its eventual collapse. (See for example, Chandler, “A refutation of the official account.”). Griffin, in his book The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7, Appendix A, has offered the hypothesis that these explosions were part of a failed attempt by the perpetrators to demolish the building earlier in the day, at about the same time that the north tower was made to collapse. He goes on to suggest that people (fire fighters? demolition experts?) went back into the building to repair the demolition system which was then activated at 5:21 PM and finally succeeded in bringing the building down.
In any case, it now appears likely that a somewhat different set of perpetrators, with somewhat different motives, and different opportunities for planting explosions, are implicated in the case of the twin towers and building 7. That makes the argument that, if you accept the controlled demolition of WTC 7 you must also accept controlled demolition of the twin towers, less compelling.
Concluding comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the Toronto 9/11 Hearings in advancing the case for a new investigation
Despite the strength of multiple, converging lines of evidence that explosives were used in the three WTC buildings, and in the Pentagon, I have explained why, in my view, this circumstantial evidence of the government’s hand will probably prove insufficient to bring about a ground swell of public opinion in favor of a real investigation of 9/11. I turn now to some concluding comments about the ability of the kind of material presented at the Toronto Hearings as a whole to achieve that goal.
There are many unknowns, blanks, and loose ends about 9/11 that stand in the way of developing a rival account strong enough to persuade the public and political leaders to make a real effort to uncover the truth. The present lack of consensus even among independent investigators after ten years on whether the damage to the Pentagon was caused from the outside or the inside is a striking example of one of the critical unknowns. We have no direct evidence filling in the blanks on how advanced explosives for demolition might have been procured, and put in place. We have reports that point to criminal acts by highly placed people which are left as loose ends. One of the important loose ends is testimony by Transportation Secretary, Norman Mineta, who said that he overheard an interchange between a young naval lieutenant and Vice President Dick Cheney in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center in the basement of the White House on the morning of 9/11. The lieutenant enters the room several times with reports of the position of an unidentified aircraft headed for the Pentagon. When it is only 10 miles out he asks Cheney: “Do the orders still stand?” To which Cheney abruptly replies: “Of course they still stand, have you heard anything to the contrary?” Mineta interpreted this as a reference to an order to shoot down aircraft entering the prohibited airspace around the Pentagon. But Griffin (“Anomalies of flights 77 and 93”) argues that the only intelligible interpretation in the circumstances is that Cheney’s order was to “stand down,” to do nothing.
Knowing who is right is a critical piece of information for rival accounts of 9/11. The young naval lieutenant has been identified in Paul Rea’s recent book, Mounting Evidence: Why we Need a New Investigation into 9/11, as Douglas F. Cochrane. He certainly knows what he meant by “the orders,” as must a host of other military people. Yet here, as in other seemingly critical revelations about 9/11, the story ends without a resolution.
I am also troubled by the ever widening circle of agencies and individuals implicated as having taken part at some level on the hypothesis that 9/11 was manufactured under the leadership of government agents. Although the core group responsible for conceiving the plan might be small, the number who would have to cooperate in its execution, take an active part in the cover-up, or just keep quiet about what they came to know, is large. Included as suspects by one or more versions of this rival account are, of course, elected government officials in high places, agents within the CIA, the FBI, and the Department of Defense, officials in the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and in the North East Air Defense Command. Also implicated are pilots of interceptors who must have known the orders of engagement on which they were deployed, FAA flight controllers, airport security personnel in two major airports, the Commander of the New York Fire Department, former Mayor Giuliani, and, of course, Larry Silverstein. They include demolition experts who would be needed to rig the buildings, and still others to procure the explosives. Implicated as well are scientists and others at NIST, and on the 9/11 Commission, who knew those reports were unscientific, personnel of United and American Airlines as might be needed to allow or enable the remote control of the Boeing jets, personnel actually operating the remote control system, personnel in the National Transportation Safety Board who were needed to create and put in place flight data recorders with faked data, experts in voice morphing to simulate conversations between passengers and their ground- based contacts, building-security personnel at the WTC buildings, some private tenants of the WTC buildings, corporations under contract to modernize the elevators in the twin towers, and some independent scientists producing analyses in support of the official account of the collapse of WTC buildings which they knew to be erroneous.
The wider the circle, the more difficult it is to accept the feasibility of successfully orchestrating such a complex, multifaceted operation and covering it up. It may even occur to some that a society which harbors so many corrupt influential leaders would be unlikely to conduct an authentic investigation of 9/11.
Former Senator Mike Gravel in his presentation, “An Actionable Plan for a Citizens’ 9/11 Investigation Commission,” believes there is no chance that Congress or the White House would lend their support for a new investigation of 9/11. He reaches that conclusion even though he praises the work of the 9/11 truth movement and believes there is an urgent need for a new investigation. That view is echoed in Representative Cynthia McKinney’s account at the hearings of her failed efforts to get her fellow congressmen to even talk about 9/11.
Gravel, who has long advocated a greater role for direct democracy, is energetically working to use state ballot initiatives to establish a citizens’ committee for a new investigation. I hope that this bold effort to go around the Federal government succeeds, but I have misgivings about how much such a commission might do to advance the uphill battle for public opinion on 9/11.
Gravel suggests that the appointment of committee members should be guided by activists of the 9/11 movement. If so, the work of the committee is likely to be seen by a large segment of the public as serving an ideological, political bias and discounted for that reason. Moreover, we have seen how difficult it is to get an accurate, in-depth reconstruction of what brought about 9/11. Could a commission, even with the power to subpoena and to take testimony under oath, be expected to accomplish what ten years of research on 9/11 has not as yet managed to do? Teams of lawyers would be on hand to protect witnesses from perjury or self incrimination, and government agencies from releasing information that might testify to their criminal actions.
I think that one of the major reasons research has not gone further toward finding the connective tissue for a rival account has been the destruction, confiscation or withholding of information by government agencies. Those efforts have blocked access to information which might break open the mysteries of 9/11.
There are, in fact, some notable examples of destruction or confiscation of evidence. The Defense Intelligence Agency destroyed files on “Able Danger,” a project which tracked the activities of terrorists in the US who became alleged 9/11 hijackers. FAA managers destroyed tapes of FAA controllers recounting their communications with the hijacked jets. The SEC destroyed data on stock trades in the days leading up to 9/11. New York City officials had all but a few traces of the steel frameworks of all three buildings destroyed on 9/11 removed and shipped to China before they could be part of a forensic autopsy. The CIA destroyed records of the interrogation of Guantanamo detainees on whose testimony the 9/11 Commission relied. Tapes from private company video cameras which might contain definitive evidence of what caused the damage to the Pentagon were confiscated shortly after the attack.
Scores of requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) have been turned down. The FOIA law contains nine articles allowing for the exemption of documents on various grounds. One of those grounds exempts classified documents pertaining to national defense. By executive order in 2009, a requested document may be retroactively classified. Documents pertaining to the deliberative processes of the government may be exempt under “executive privilege.” States have codified their own bases for the exempting documents which they hold.
In practice many agencies have interpreted the exemptions broadly to prevent disclosure. They often state without explanation, for example, that public safety would be jeopardized. Another frequent response is that, “No documents relevant to the information requested have been found,” under circumstances which make that hard to believe. Aidan Monaghan, who has been tireless in his pursuit of information under FOIA, has come to believe that the FBI is seeking to exempt all documents relating to 9/11. He has recounted his requests on the Corbett Report (see www.corbettreport.com. Look for interview 211 on 08/16/2010, and for his blogs on www.911blogger.com).
Here are examples of specific FOIA requests denied. NIST has refused to release results for the application of its computer model for the initiation of collapse of WTC 7 on the grounds that to do so might jeopardize public safety. Structural drawings of all WTC buildings destroyed on 9/11 have been withheld on the grounds that they are “sensitive” buildings. Data pertaining to the Turner Construction Company’s contract for repairs and maintenance to the twin towers, including steel columns in elevator shafts, have been denied.
Monaghan’s requests for records pertaining to or establishing in-flight phone calls from United Airlines Flights 175 and 93, and American Flight 77, have been denied. Records of automated radio communications between ground based control centers and the aircraft involved in 9/11 have been withheld. These are potentially highly significant since they might reveal whether this system was used to fly pilotless jets into their targets. Also denied have been requests for data collected from the wreckage of Flights 77 and 93, including human remains, flight data recorders, and an audio copy of the cockpit voice recorder on Flight 93.
The wall of secrecy to which these examples testify is, I believe, one of the most formidable obstacles preventing 9/11 research from breaking through to a clear enough understanding of 9/11 and resolving the deep divide among Americans on how far their government can be trusted.
A way forward
I do not fault the Toronto hearings for not having presented direct evidence of who in the government perpetrated 911, and why and how they did it. Research on 9/11 has not yet made that possible. Given the way we are governed, those who might have been involved would have the power to keep that information secret. Despite the uphill battle to cut through the mysteries of 9/11, a convincing indictment of perpetrators through continued research, rather than a through new commission of investigation, may be the only way to turn the tide of public opinion. In addition to continuing with research which might eventually provide such an indictment, I believe those in the movement for the truth about 9/11 should get strongly behind a movement for open government.
In his campaign for President, Obama spoke often and eloquently of the need for an open government to restore trust. He promised one of the most transparent governments in history — a government that would allow “anyone to ensure that our business is the people’s business.” It was a theme to which many resonated, and for good reason. Those who saw the wars in Vietnam and Iraq as tragic mistakes of American policy know that government deception under the cloak of secrecy allowed these wars to happen. Had we known of the things much later revealed in the Pentagon papers, we might never have gone into Vietnam. Had we known that our intelligence agencies were lying about weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda in Iraq, that disastrous war might never have been pursued. The subversion of democratic process through secrecy has come at an enormous cost in lives lost or broken. I hope that a growing realization of that will motivate deep public support for the kind of sea change in government that Obama’s vision held out, but which has yet to occur.
In common with all other Americans who care about democracy, those who research 9/11 have a vital interest in the success of a political movement for a government that would really strive to make its business the people’s business. Without such a government it may not be possible to learn enough to ever understand the deeply troubling questions surrounding 9/11. Without a more open government, I see no way to repair the profound distrust of government that now cripples democracy in America.