9-11 AND THE NEW PEARL HARBOR

Aw Shut Up Already, Will Ya?

by Bill Weinberg, WW4 REPORT

After the 1898 explosion of the battleship Maine, the 1933 Reichstag Fire, the 1939 bogus Polish "invasion" of Germany, and the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, it is irresponsible not to consider the possibility that elements of the CIA and/or Bush administration had a hand in the events of September 11, 2001. The inconvenient facts and unanswered questions surrounding the attacks are legion and deeply disturbing—making an examination of official complicity (or outright responsibility) all the more imperative.

However, it is equally irresponsible to accept official complicity in the attacks as a foregone conclusion, and twist every fact to fit it. The mini-industry which has sprung up around 9-11 "conspiracy theory"—as well as the activist campaign that serves as its unpaid advertising department—has merely replicated the dogmatism of the "official version." Worse, the endemic sloppiness of the self-styled "researchers" is delegitimizing the entire project of critiquing the "official version." The ostentatiously named "Truth movement" is not clearing the air, but muddying the water.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

The approaching fifth anniversary of 9-11 will almost certainly be exploited by the White House to rekindle lagging war fever. Equally certainly, it will be exploited by the conspiracists for their own propaganda purposes. The evident glee with which these supposed antagonists greet the grim remembrance is almost equally unbecoming.

Last September 11, a gaggle of conspiracists attempted to crash the official commemoration ceremony at Ground Zero—doing more to alienate them from the very people they purportedly seek to reach out to than if they'd planned it that way. A larger group of some 200 protesters, organized by NY 9-11 Truth, gathered outside the offices of the New York Times to condemn the failure of the media to examine their claims. But their favored chant was: "Figure it out, It's not hard, 9-11 was an inside job!" Apart from not rhyming, the slogan sums up exactly why it is so easy for the mainstream press to dismiss them: it asserts a dogma and dismisses dissenters as idiots. It replicates what it ostensibly opposes.

The literature being distributed at the demo was even more revealing. One cluster of activists sold a book entitled 9-11, the Great Illusion: Endgame of the Illuminati. The organizers can't be held responsible for all the lit given out at their event. But this was a small protest, and such titles give the New York Times a damn good excuse not to take them seriously.

This year, NY 9-11 Truth is distributing a four-page flyer in anticipation of the anniversary, grandiosely entitled "The Essential Truth About 9-11." The rhetoric builds on the "Truth" movement's demand that their agenda be placed front and center in the anti-war movement. It reads: "If you're ready to get to the root causes of war and injustice rather than forever dealing with the symptoms, understanding the reality of 9-11 will expose the forces that have hijacked our country and our lives." Again, it does not call for vigorous inquiry, but acceptance of a particular version of "reality"—and dismisses those who don't buy it as unserious.

This would be appalling enough even if the "Truth" movement (never trust that word when it is rendered with a capital T) were not pretending to know more than it does or can. But, as is usually the case, arrogant condescension is linked to intellectual hubris.

FORENSICS, SCHMORENSICS

The collapse of the Twin Towers was a source of controversy from the beginning, and it is not surprising that it has been seized upon as an anomaly. An editorial in the January 2002 edition of Fire Engineering, a respected fire-fighting trade magazine with ties to the FDNY, called the investigation of the World Trade Center collapse "a half-baked farce" and called for a "full-throttle, fully resourced" effort. The piece by Bill Manning, editor of the 125-year-old monthly, especially protested that steel from the site was not preserved for study. The editorial also stated that a growing number of fire engineers were theorizing that "the structural damage from the planes and the explosive ignition of jet fuel in themselves were not hot enough to bring down the towers."

Manning's claim is cited in several conspiracist tracts, including the most prominent, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9-11 by David Ray Griffin. The explanation proffered is that the collapse was a "controlled demolition" affected through pre-planted explosives.

But by the time Griffin's book was published in 2004, the study of the collapse had been taken out of the hands of the Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA), which was widely accused of bungling it, and handed over to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which released its findings last year. In the years since Manning's editorial, a consensus has emerged among engineering and forensic experts as to what the actual mechanics of the collapse were.

The current editor-in-chief of Fire Engineering is Bobby Halton, the Bronx-born retired fire chief of Coppell, Tex., who served as deputy fire chief in Albuquerque for 23 years. Reached for comment through the magazine's offices in Tulsa, he says this about the claims of pre-planted explosives: "In light of the investigations conducted by NIST and others, this is absolute conjecture and not based on any empirical evidence or fact. The finest scientists available have been over every inch of that event and they know how it came down. The conspiracy theorists are an insult to the memory of the public servants who died trying to protect our fellow citizens. Fire Engineering does not question the findings of NIST."

It is both a tactical and intellectual error for the "Truth" movement to zero in on the collapse as a key anomaly—as the "Essential Truth" flyer does, pushing the theory that pre-planted explosives brought the buildings down. This theory necessarily assumes that nearly every structural engineer and forensic scientist in the country (the planet, for that matter) is bought off by The Conspiracy. Otherwise there would be a clamor from the entire profession. The "Truth" movement asks us to trust lurid conspiracy-industry videos and websites rather than peer-reviewed findings from NIST, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and even the Skyscraper Safety Campaign (led by 9-11 survivors).

The notion that fire is insufficient to bring down a steel building was already dealt a blow by the February 2005 fire at Madrid's landmark Windsor office tower. The fire, apparently caused by a short-circuit, resulted in only seven injuries, none serious—but caused several of the top floors to collapse, and sparked fears that the entire 30-story tower could implode unless it was quickly demolished. There was nothing to indicate that the Windsor tower suffered from anything approaching the notoriously fragile, unorthodox construction practices at New York's late World Trade Center. Yet this development predictably did nothing to slow the relentless carping of the conspiracists that fires never cause steel buildings to collapse.

In April 2005, few media outlets took note of the release of NIST's long-awaited study on the collapse. The report noted that the WTC's unusual lack of internal support walls (a measure to increase office space) contributed to the collapse, and that lives were lost due to building occupants scrambling to find seemingly inadequate stairwells. Yet, as one account put it: "The report however did not blame the designers or builders for the WTC collapse..."

This cat was already well out of the bag. Retired New York deputy fire chief Vincent Dunn, author of The Collapse Of Burning Buildings: A Guide To Fireground Safety, told the New York Times Oct. 17, 2002: "There is no other high-rise office building in New York City that would have pancaked down in 10 seconds. This was a fragile, unorthodox construction that should have never been allowed. It was a disaster waiting to happen."

Sadly, the "Truth" activists are thoroughly complicit in NIST's whitewash, by letting the Port Authority and the Rockefellers (who oversaw construction of the towers) off the hook for their criminal irresponsibility in risking human life in favor of office space.

In March 2005, Popular Mechanics magazine published a lengthy article (recently expanded as a book), "Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts." Drawing on analyses from structural engineers, a professor of metallurgy and explosives experts, the article found: "Jet fuel burns at 800° to 1500°F, not hot enough to melt steel (2750°F). However, experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn't need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength—and that required exposure to much less heat."

The article also quoted retired deputy fire chief Dunn. "I have never seen melted steel in a building fire," Dunn said. "But I've seen a lot of twisted, warped, bent and sagging steel. What happens is that the steel tries to expand at both ends, but when it can no longer expand, it sags and the surrounding concrete cracks."

The response, of course, was vociferous. Jim Hoffman of the website 9-11 Research charged Popular Mechanics with ignoring other claims of anomalies, such as challenges to the probability of the towers imploding into their own footprint—but the writers had to choose the most prominent conspiracy arguments. To respond to them all would require an encyclopedic effort, especially given the conspiracist tactic of constantly moving the goal post. Hoffman also blasts Popular Mechanics for debunking the claim that the planes that hit the Twin Towers were fitted with mysterious "pods," indicating they were secret military craft and not hijacked airliners. Hoffman writes: "The article mentions the site LetsRoll911.org and the video In Plane Site, implying they are representative of the skeptics. Of course it makes no reference to skeptics' sites debunking these productions and the pod-plane idea they feature, such as this page on OilEmpire.us, or this page on QuestionsQuestions.net." (Links not included here.) But it is not Popular Mechanics' job to keep track of internecine factionalism in the conspiracy milieu. The "pod" claim is a sufficiently widespread one within the milieu to be "representative."

Chistopher Bollyn of the right-wing American Free Press takes an ad hominem tack, pointing out that one of Popular Mechanics' lead researchers in the story was Benjamin Chertoff—apparently a cousin of Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary. If this is true, it is an egregious faux pas on the part of Popular Mechanics, rendering them vulnerable to dismissal by the very people they seek to reach. But, in the absence of logical or forensic refutation, it does nothing to weaken the article's analysis.

Another particularly far-fetched claim is that the Pentagon was not hit by a hijacked jet, but by a missile—popularized by French conspiracy writer Thierry Meyssan's book The Pentagate.

For five years now, the "Truth" movement has pointed to the fact that the Pentagon refused to release the images of the impact picked up by the surveillance cameras. Then, in May 2006, the public watchdog group Judicial Watch prevailed in a Freedom of Information Act suit, winning release of the videotapes. The Pentagon had argued it could not release the images because they were part of an ongoing investigation against accused al-Qaeda plotter Zacarias Moussaoui—an argument which collapsed after Moussaoui was convicted. The released images proved anti-climactic: they were captured on cameras designed to record license plates of cars entering the Pentagon, and the plane (or missile) appears only as a brief white blur as it slams into the building. So the videos themselves settle nothing—but their very inconclusiveness undermines the notion that the Pentagon's refusal to release them was evidence of a cover-up. Yet, predictably, the conspiracists have not backed off from their claims. Many of them appear not to have got the word that the videos were finally released. States "The Essential Truth About 9-11": "Despite 84 surveillance cameras, the Pentagon has still not released videos which clearly show Flight 77 striking the building." Or perhaps the writers exclude the released videos because they don't "clearly show" the impact—which is a very cynical distortion.

Conspiracy theorists also allege that the flight that went down in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11 was actually shot out of the sky by a military plane which was tailing the Boeing 757. The idea is that the military had to destroy the plane in order to prevent the passengers from seizing control of it from the hijackers—which would have exposed the conspiracy.

New Jersey's Bergen Record reported Sept. 14, 2001 on numerous local witnesses who claimed to have seen a second plane. A staff writer reported from the Allegheny Mountains hamlet of Shanksville with five separate interviews with residents who lived and worked near the crash site. All said they saw a second plane flying erratically within minutes of the crash of United Flight 93, which took off from Newark two hours earlier. One resident said a small white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings swooped low over her minivan and disappeared over a hilltop, nearly clipping the tops of trees lining the ridge. Another described the plane as an unmarked white Lear-type jet, with engines mounted near the tail. Conspiracy websites and videos tout these claims—while failing to question why sightings of a presumably civilian "unmarked Lear-type jet" points to Flight 93 being shot down by the military.

The Moussaoui case also opened a window into this question. In addition to Fl. 93 cockpit recordings, jurors heard recordings from the cockpit of a private executive jet that tracked the doomed Fl. 93 over Pennsylvania. An official for NetJets, a company that sells shares in private business aircraft, confirmed to the AP Aug. 9, 2002 that the plane tracking Fl. 93 belonged to the company. The official, who asked not to be named, said the company was asked not to comment on the Sept. 11 flight. The government's pressure on the official not to talk is again typical of the elite culture of secrecy, but revelation of the civilian flight explains the sightings noted by the Bergen Record—a fact neatly, and predictably, ignored by the conspiracy industry.

ROGUE'S GALLERY

As noted before, ad hominem attacks say nothing about the legitimacy of claims. But given that the conspiracy industry's leading lights set themselves against the entire establishments of media, forensics and structural engineering, it is worth checking out their credentials.

Dylan Avery's video Loose Change is one of the most popular of the genre. It argues both the pre-planted explosives and Pentagon missile theses. For Flight 93, it takes a different tack—while other theorists have pointed to widely scattered debris to argue that the plane was shot down, Loose Change sees insufficient debris, arguing that the plane was actually commandeered by presumed government agents and diverted to an unused NASA research center.

In June 2006, the website Screw Loose Change, established by critics to debunk the video, reported happily that Gedeon and Jules Naudet, the French film-makers who captured images of the first plane striking the World Trade Center on 9-11, had sent a "cease and desist" letter to Avery, taking him to task for appropriating their footage to advance irresponsible theories, and threatening litigation if he didn't back down. For the moment, the video has been removed from the Loose Change website. Using footage without permission is not the mark of journalistic integrity.

Far worse is the dirt on Eric Hufschmidt, producer of the video Painful Deceptions, which again argues the pre-planted explosives and Pentagon missile theories (although in his "take," it was a drone rather than Loose Change's favored Cruise missile). Hufschmid's website (modestly named EricHufschmid.net) is chock full of anti-immigrant and Holocaust-denial propaganda. One page, touchingly entitled "The USA: A Sinking Ship of Wretched Refuse and Huddled Masses," rails against "illegal immigrants" who steal jobs from "good, decent Americans." Surprisingly, he finally opts for misanthropy rather than conspiracism as an explanation for society's perceived ills: "Stop Blaming Individuals; The Majority of People are the Enemy... Most people should not vote! The majority of voters are ignorant, conceited people who are easily manipulated... Also, they ignore or become angry at people such as myself when we try to help them understand these issues. Their ridiculing of us as 'conspiracy nuts' is suppressing discussions of our problems." There are also the requisite photos of the Auschwitz ovens and mounds of unearthed corpses, both of which he argues were too small for there to really have been a Final Solution—which he charmingly calls the "HoloHoax."

Prominent conspiracist Alex Jones also flirts with xenophobia, if far less blatantly. His websites PrisonPlanet and InfoWars have both run favorable material on the Minutemen anti-immigrant vigilante group and their self-appointed patrols of the Mexican border.

On the subject of genocide denial, another star of the conspiracy circuit is Michel Chossudovsky, editor of the Global Research website and (alarmingly) a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa. In his post-9-11 piece "Osamagate," he argues not merely that because Osama bin Laden was a CIA asset in the '80s he therefore still is today, but also that this necessarily implies that he is completely controlled by the US government: "The 'blowback' thesis is a fabrication. The evidence amply confirms that the CIA never severed its ties to the 'Islamic Militant Network'. Since the end of the Cold War, these covert intelligence links have not only been maintained, they have in become increasingly sophisticated. New undercover initiatives financed by the Golden Crescent drug trade were set in motion in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans. Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus (controlled by the CIA) essentially 'served as a catalyst for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of six new Muslim republics in Central Asia.'"

Note the disingenuous leap of logic: If the "Islamic Militant Network" (why upper case?) continued to be of use to the CIA after the Cold War, then it was incapable of independent action and the "blowback" thesis must be a "fabrication." And the thesis of continued CIA-jihad collaboration is exaggerated at best. Chossudovsky's post-Soviet "Muslim republics" are actually secular regimes, such as that of Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov—whose harsh dictatorship the US has propped up precisely to keep down Islamic militants. This is the clearest evidence that the spread of radical Islam in Central Asia is indeed "blowback" from the CIA's Afghanistan campaign of the 1980s.

Chossudovsky's real obsession, it becomes quickly obvious, is the former Yugoslavia, where he is similarly incapable of conceiving that the Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians were independent actors, instead neatly conflating their national aspirations with al-Qaeda's (presumably CIA-directed) conspiracies. His unwillingness to concede the possibility of free will to Osama bin Laden is even more perverse given his blithe lack of concern with Serb war crimes. A master of distortion-by-omission, Chossudovsky's writings on the Balkans admirably avoid even much mention of Europe's greatest acts of mass murder since World War II. Chossudovsky will not even allow that the genocide in Bosnia and the threat thereof in Kosova served as convenient justifications for US intervention. Instead, he focuses solely on Slobodan Milosevic's supposed efforts to preserve Yugoslav socialism—a case he makes through an extremely selective assemblage of facts. With Srebrenica and Omarska safely invisible, he waxes histrionic about the supposed jihadi threat to the Serbs. It is appalling that progressives supposedly concerned with post-9-11 persecution of American Muslims would afford any legitimacy to this profoundly racist malarky.

Perhaps nobody has milked 9-11 for self-aggrandizement more successfully than LAPD-cop-turned-conspiracy-guru Michael Ruppert—who similarly plays fast and loose with the facts. On a 2002 speaking tour, Ruppert publicly offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove any of his sources were "misrepresented or inauthentic." Yet when his bluff was called by this writer that March, he refused to admit it, much less pay up.

The Nov. 2, 2001 edition of Ruppert's newsletter From the Wilderness opened: "On Oct. 31, the French daily Le Figaro dropped a bombshell. While in a Dubai hospital receiving treatment for a chronic kidney infection last July, Osama bin Laden met with a top CIA official—presumably the Chief of Station... Even though Le Figaro reported that it had confirmed with hospital staff that bin Laden had been there as reported, stories printed on Nov. 1 contained quotes from hospital staff that these reports were untrue." Le Figaro's allegation was actually cited to the "claims" of unnamed "sources," and nowhere did the paper say it had independently "confirmed" that Osama visited the hospital.

In another example, the Sept. 18, 2001 From The Wilderness repeated the common but inaccurate claim that in the spring before the 9-11 attacks the US gave "a gift of $43 million to the Taliban as a purported reward for its eradication of Afghanistan's opium crop." The source for this claim was a Robert Scheer column in the May 22, 2001 Los Angeles Times. But Scheer got it wrong. The $43 million was broken down in a May 18, 2001 AP account, and it was mostly drought-relief, to be distributed through NGOs working in Afghanistan—not the Taliban. Only some $10 million was for "crop-substitution programs," which the Taliban was allowing as part of their anti-opium campaign—but this too was to be administrated by NGOs, not the Taliban. Whatever covert CIA aid to the Taliban may or may not have existed, the US had no diplomatic ties with the regime—therefore, no bureaucratic channels even existed for overt development aid.

Called out on these misrepresentations by WW4 REPORT, Ruppert responded via e-mail: "I am amazed at the unfounded and personal nature of this attack. I will presently prove that it is meritless. I am also amazed that you did not have a journalist's standard code of ethics at your fingertips to contact me and ask for a response before you unilaterally made the statement that I had been 'caught in misrepresentations.' ... No, I will not pay you $1,000 because I did not do what you allege. My sources are authentic and they are accurately quoted by any standard." He then cited an English translation of the Figaro story with the word "confirms." But the word in the original French was "affirmer"—"to maintain" or "assert." The correct translation for "confirm" is "confirmer"—which appeared nowhere in Le Figaro's story. The logical conclusion is that Le Figaro was reporting unconfirmed assertions, not confirmed fact.

As for the supposed $43 million in aid to the Taliban, Ruppert merely reiterated "I can list a number of sources which indicate that the payment was a reward that was given at a time at a time when the Taliban had shown signs of cooperation by destroying their opium crop," and "at a time when the US gov't knew that terrorist attacks were likely it gave $43 million to its so-called enemy." In other words, he remained intransigently oblivious to the fact that none of the money reached the Taliban.

Most ironic, given these distortions, is his accusation that WW4 REPORT violated journalistic ethics. Ruppert's challenge was public, and it was entirely legitimate to answer it publicly.

Lesser figures in the conspiracy milieu smell similarly suspicious. Many of them are former government figures, and usually from the conservative end of the spectrum. Ironically, given that their entire world view is predicated on the assumption of a monolithic and omnipotent Conspiracy, nothing makes the 9-11 "skeptics" giddier than a whiff of vindication from The Establishment.

One case in point is retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bowman, a veteran of the space-based weapons program under Carter and Ford, who has also made much of the Defense Department's failure to release the videotapes of the Pentagon attack. His website indicates he is a follower of the so-called United Catholic Church, part of the generally reactionary "Traditionalist" schism made famous by Mel Gibson. This doesn't necessarily delegitimize what he has to say about 9-11. Many Traditionalists are merely nostalgic for the Latin mass, but the movement has also served as a rallying point for neo-fascists of the clerical variety, especially in Europe. Bowman keeps similar company on this side of the Atlantic. In 2000, he campaigned nationwide for the presidential nomination of the Reform Party—the perennial vehicle of Pat Buchanan, who ultimately won the nomination.

Last year, when Paul Craig Roberts, a supply-side wonk from the Reagan Treasury Department, started expressing doubts about the 9-11 "official story," his claims were picked up by conspiracy writer Greg Szymanski. Morgan Reynolds, a former top economist in the George HW Bush administration was also hailed by Szymanski as "the highest-ranking public official so far to step forward and criticize the government account of 9-11, calling the government story 'bogus' and saying the WTC most likely fell from a controlled demolition." Yet while the conspiracists tout such figures to give themselves a sense of mainstream legitimacy, one of the primary websites to pick up Szymanski's piece was Arctic Beacon—which states on its homepage that among the topics it seeks to explore is "the Alien Presence on Earth and UFO Phenomena."

GRIFFIN'S ECHO-CHAMBER

David Ray Griffin's The New Pearl Harbor has emerged as the bible of the "Truth" movement, and his appearances in New York City last October were standing-room-only. Yet the book merely assembles the "research" of other conspiracy "researchers." It contains no original research, but cites a number of previous conspiracy works—which also overwhelmingly relied on secondary sources. Chossudovsky, Ruppert and Meyssan are here, as well as Barrie Zwicker, producer of The Great Deception video; Paul Thompson, compiler of the "Was 9-11 Allowed to Happen?" timeline; and Nafeez Ahmed, author of The War on Freedom: How and Why America Was Attacked September 11, 2001. Ahmed's work similarly compiles the collected anomalies and theories of other conspiracists. Thompson's timeline is based entirely on mainstream media sources, while Zwicker's video eschews research almost entirely, merely offering his own interpretation of the well-known events. One of the few researchers cited by Griffin who has done any independent follow-up work at all on claims from secondary sources is Daniel Hopsicker (later author of his own tome, Welcome to Terrorland: Mohammed Atta and the 9-11 Coverup in Florida). But Griffin doesn't even cite Hopsicker directly, but rather cites Ahmed's citations of Hopsicker.

Even where Griffin sees the need for follow-up research on the claims of those he cites, he does not rise to the occasion. For instance, he cites Thompson's citation of a Dec. 11 Richmond Times-Dispatch report quoting the claims of an employee at a gas station near the Pentagon that the FBI showed up "within minutes" and confiscated the station's video surveillance film that caught images of the impact. Writes Griffin: "This report, if true—and someone could presumably interview the employee, Jose Velasquez—suggests that the FBI had known that an aircraft was going to crash into the Pentagon." If "someone" could presumably interview the employee, what was stopping Griffin himself?

When Griffin's credibility is questioned, his defenders resort to the same methodology as their hero: dropping the names of the prominent men who have praised him, including Howard Zinn (who offers a jacket blurb for The New Pearl Harbor), Richard Falk (who wrote the book's forward) and Gore Vidal. But why should these endorsements legitimize Griffin as opposed to delegitimizing Zinn, Falk and Vidal?

9-11 and 7-7: HOUSE OF MIRRORS

This incestuous recycling of secondary sources is practically emblematic of the conspiracy milieu. A particular case in point is Justin Raimondo of AntiWar.com—who seems to have a particular Jewish obsession. After last July's London bombings, Raimondo "argued" (implicitly rather than explicitly, to avoid taking responsibility for his words) that the attacks were an Israeli black propaganda job. He cited the claims of "the respected national security-intelligence analysts" Stratfor (respected by whom?) that Israel tipped off the UK which then failed to act—reversing the claims of a July 7, 2005 AP report quoting an anonymous Israeli embassy official that embassy staff had been tipped off before the attack by British police. Raimondo's apparent assumption is that Israel was behind the whole thing. This raises the question of why Mossad would tip their hand by blabbing to the Brits, making the citation of Stratfor wholly nonsensical. "We report — you decide," Raimondo disingenuously writes, even as he condescendingly instructs his readers in the proper interpretation: "This isn't the first time that Israeli foreknowledge of a terrorist attack against the West has been raised by a reputable source. One has to wonder: why is it that these reports of Israeli foreknowledge come up with such metronomic regularity? With all that smoke, is there really no fire?" This is apparently a reference to claims, more dubious than reputable, of "Israeli foreknoweldge" of 9-11 (about which more below).

And so the conspiracy machine grinds on: one website cites another (praising it as "reputable" or "respected"), each adding its own "spin." Then the mere abundance of images in this house of mirrors is pointed to as evidence of the Conspiracy. Anyone who dissents is accused of being a Zionist (read: Jewish) dupe. Raimondo: "According to Israel's Amen Corner, to even refer to the AP article is evidence of 'anti-Semitism'—equivalent to citing 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.' They obviously believe the Associated Press is run by neo-Nazis..."

No, examining possible Israeli intelligence intrigues isn't necessarily anti-Semitic. But this rhetoric smacks of Hamlet's "methinks he doth protest too much."

In the wake of the London attacks, the conspiracy website Prison Planet jumped on a little-noted report on BBC News that a private (presumably government-contracted) firm called Visor Consultants had been carrying out a test simulating a terror attack on the London Underground July 7—the same day the real attacks occurred. It is a genuinely challenging anomaly. But of course, Prison Planet cannot refrain from telling the readers what to think: "The exercise fulfils several different goals. It acts as a cover for the small compartamentalized government terrorists to carry out their operation without the larger security services becoming aware of what they're doing... This is precisely what happened on the morning of 9/11/2001. The CIA was conducting drills of flying hijacked planes into the WTC and Pentagon at 8:30 in the morning."

But this last claim is not verified. In fact, PP's own embedded link on the drills goes to its page delineating several Pentagon (not CIA) exercises scheduled for the morning of 9-11, including one ("Vigilant Guardian") that concerned a multiple hijacking scenario—but none concerning "drills of flying hijacked planes into the WTC and Pentagon." The only one which came close to "drills of flying hijacked planes into the WTC and Pentagon" actually concerned such a scenario at the Chantilly, Va., offices of the DoD's National Reconnaissance Office.

The apparent fact of the Vigilant Guardian exercise is used by numerous conspiracy websites (such as the modestly named WhatReallyHappened.com) as evidence of an Air Force "stand-down" on 9-11. It is well-established (and not actually contested by PP or What Really Happened) that fighter jets were, in fact, scrambled from Langely Air Force Base in Virginia and Falmouth AFB in Massachusetts on the morning of 9-11. Why they failed to find the hijacked planes is a legitimate question, and it may have to do with confusion arising from Vigilant Guardian. But this is not the same as a "stand-down," which the American Heritage dictionary defines as "a relaxation from a state of readiness or alert." Yet "Truth" activists continue to espouse the "stand-down" as dogma.

Prison Planet spells out how the 7-7 conspiracy supposedly worked in an article entitled "How the Government Staged the London Bombings in Ten Easy Steps": "1) Hire a Crisis Management firm to set up an exercise that parallels the terrorist attack you are going to carry out. Have them run the exercise at the precise locations and at the very same time as the attack. If at any stage of the attack your Arabs get caught, tell the police it was part of an exercise." Et cetera. Three of the purported London bombers were of Pakistani background, and one was a Jamaican convert to Islam. None were Arab. The conspiracy theory also assumes that Arabs or Pakistanis or whatever are pretty damn gullible.

Accounts of un-Islamic behavior by the purported London bombers also drew analogies to the 9-11 hijackers' partying on the cusp of their attacks. From PP's "Ten Easy Steps": "6) 4th Arab goes out partying in London night before and ends up getting out of bed late. No worries, the 9/11 'hijackers' did the same thing but that didn't cause us a big problem."

No source or link is provided for the claim that the "4th Arab" partied on the eve of the attack. And claims about the 9-11 hijackers' supposed drinking binge may be overstated. Wikipedia (which is at least marginally more reliable than most conspiracy sites) tells us the incident at the Florida sports bar was a week before the attacks (not the "night before") and that Mohammed Atta, at least, was just drinking juice.

PP also jumped on claims that the bodies of the London bombers were conveniently found with lots of ID—again seeing a reflection of 9-11: "Personal documents of all of them found at the scenes framing the patsies, just like paper passports of the hijackers found on 9/11."

PP uses the plural ("passports"), but only one supposed hijacker passport was found in the WTC rubble. It belonged to Satam al-Suqami, and confusion about more than one found passport stems from early erroneous accounts that it was Mohammed Atta's passport that was found. Numerous conspiracy-oriented sites (Newsrake, Rense, KurtNimmo) seem not to have got the word that these early accounts were wrong, and happily go on assuming that both al-Suqami's and Atta's were found. People who take such dogmatic stances should be more careful.

This is how the game works. Conspiracists take an element of truth and distort it in the retelling (hoping nobody will notice), until, as in a game of "telephone," something wholly fantastic is arrived at. This fantasy is then defended dogmatically, and anyone who dissents is attacked as being as a government (or Zionist) dupe.

WHO TOLD 4,000 JEWS TO STAY HOME?

The Internet rumor that 4,000 Jews who worked at the World Trade Center stayed home on Sept. 11, warned in advance of the impending attack, is generally not a part of the "Truth" movement's vaguely-defined conspiracy consensus. But it is still nurtured by a fringe of the movement, and it serves the conspiracy industry by drawing in those who buy it, who can then be plied with (slightly) more plausible theories. It also reveals how irrational belief can prove frighteningly tenacious in spite of easy refutation.

In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the rumor was actually reported as fact by some international media outlets, including Russia's Pravda and Al-Manar TV in Beirut—which cited "Arab sources" quoted in Jordan's Al-Watan newspaper that the Jewish employees had all been tipped off by Israeli intelligence. The urban legends-busters at Snopes.com—while acknowledging the danger of legitimizing such claptrap by answering it—repudiated the rumor, documenting numerous press accounts of Jews who died in the attacks.

The implication, of course, was that Israeli intelligence was really behind the 9-11 attacks, or allowed them to happen, in order to inflame world opinion against the Arabs. In fact, the UK Telegraph reported Sept. 16, 2001 that "Israeli intelligence officials say they warned their counterparts in the United States last month that large-scale terrorist attacks on highly visible targets on the American mainland were imminent."

A year after the attacks, all 15 Orthodox Jewish women whose husbands were killed in 9-11 were officially declared widows by the Rabbinical Council of America, freeing them to re-marry. Eleven of the women had faced the prospect of being agunah—a "chained woman," barred from re-marriage or dating—because their husbands' remains had not been found. The Sept. 11, 2002 Daily News account of the development quoted Orthodox feminist activist Rivka Haut saying "These rabbis are doing the right thing."

The one infinitesimal grain of truth behind the 4,000-Jews-stayed-home claim is the apparent fact that some employees at the Israeli office (in Tel Aviv, not New York) of the instant-messaging firm Odigo received text messages in the hours before 9-11 warning of an imminent attack on the World Trade Center. It is a genuinely curious anomaly, but it is seized upon by those who are obviously disappointed they cannot find similar documentation of the more ambitious claim. If you do a Google search for "text messages israelis," the very first thing that comes up is a reprint of the Sept. 28, 2001 Washington Post story on the Odigo affair—on "Real History and the World Trade Center," a page on the website of notorious Holocaust-denier and Hitler-apologist David Irving.

Another incident seized upon as evidence of an Israeli plot in 9-11 is the detainment of five young Israelis by the FBI on September 11. The men were picked up at 6 PM in a van on the George Washington Bridge after a New Jersey woman called police to report a group of men standing on top of a van near the bridge "speaking in a foreign language and hugging each other." The incident may have been the source of widespread but apparently false New York media reports that evening that a bomb had been found on the bridge. New York's Jewish weekly The Forward reported Oct. 19, 2001 that the men were still being held at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center. The men, aged 20 through 27, worked for a local moving company, and were ostensibly held on visa violations. Their attorney, Steven Gordon, protested that they had been subjected to blindfolding, forced polygraph tests and a blackout of information on their rights. He also said non-Muslim inmates "physically threatened" them after Muslim prisoners pressured them to join in a hunger strike. The paper quoted Ido Aharoni of the Israeli consulate saying they were hugging each other in grief, not jubilation. "Obviously, they have nothing to do with the bombing... I think it was just a tragic combination of miscommunication and awkward coincidence."

This barely qualifies as an anomaly, despite all the attention it has received from the conspiracists. Was Aharoni telling the truth that the men were in grief rather than joy? Or was he just trying to cover for his fellow nationals? Who knows? It doesn't matter. Hugging in joy (or pumping their fists, as other accounts had it) would have been utterly unbecoming behavior if they were Mossad agents (as asserted by What Really Happened, among others). Clueless, testosterone-juiced young Israeli immigrant workers would be far more likely to commit such an indiscretion than hardened secret agents. A more appropriate response from progressives would be outrage that these workers, along with over a thousand Muslim immigrant workers, were detained.

The 4,000-stayed-home calumny retains currency today, even if (by those with at least a modicum of savvy) it is only invoked with enough wiggle room for deniability. One famous example is the poem "Somebody Blew Up America" by the once-admirable Amiri Baraka, which cost him the position of official New Jersey poet laureate in 2003. The campaign in defense of Baraka after the outcry had legitimacy on free-speech grounds—but in activist circles it was virtually verboten to acknowledge that Baraka had written something genuinely atrocious:

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed?
Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day?
Why did Sharon stay away?

Baraka can hide behind the fact that these lines appeared in a poem—not an essay or reportage. But it still legitimizes sinister garbage.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The explanations the conspiracists proffer for the anomalies invariably raise more questions than they answer. But these questions go blithely unexamined. It is a pathetically transparent stance for those who are so dogged in exposing the questions raised by the "official story." This double standard pervades the conspiracy milieu, and undermines its fundamental precepts.

The collapse on Sept. 11, 2001 of World Trade Center 7, a 47-story building across Vesey St. from the Twin Towers, is a case in point. The cause of the implosion has received far less study, and revelations that it had housed a secret CIA office have fueled speculation. World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein, who was also the actual owner of building 7, was quoted on the TV documentary "America Rebuilds" a year after the attacks that he and the NY Fire Department decided to "pull it" to avoid further "loss of life"—leading conspiracists to assume this means WTC 7 was intentionally brought down with explosives (and, by extension, so were the Twin Towers).

Later, Silverstein Properties issued a statement on the quote which was posted to a State Department web page, "Identifying Misinformation." The statement claimed that the word "pull" was used not in reference to WTC 7 but to a contingent of fire-fighters which had been sent inside the building. This may not be a plausible explanation, and it may have been made under government pressure. But it is dishonest for the conspiracists who tout the "pull" quote, such as Prison Planet, to ignore the clarification.

But more to the point, the most sinister explanation raises a plethora of questions that defy logic. If the 9-11 conspiracy was orchestrated from the highest levels of government, why should Silverstein have been in on it? If he decided with the FDNY to take down the building to avoid further "loss of life," why would he later hide it? Would planting explosives in the building really have been any more likely to avoid further fire-fighter deaths? Would it even have been possible, in the chaos of the day? If the explosives were pre-planted, did Silverstein know? Why would he have cooperated in a conspiracy to destroy his own property? If he was involved in a plot to bring down the building, wouldn't it far more likely be an insurance scam than a government conspiracy? If the desire to avoid "loss of life" was disinformation, why should we accept the "pull it" part of the quote? Would the intentional destruction of WTC 7, with Silverstein's complicity, prove anything about the destruction of the Twin Towers? Prison Planet and their ilk ask none of these questions. They just wave the "pull it" quote around like a piece of vindication.

Bobby Halton of Fire Engineering outlines the most accepted theory about WTC 7: that the "fuel load"—that is, the flammable materials in the building—ignited due to "radiant heat" from the Twin Towers. "The fuel load was largely polymer-based, and very susceptible to high heat," Halton says. "Because office furniture is made of polymers rather than wood today, fires are hotter and more intense than ever before. If the building was heavier on top, it was going to pancake in. That's just the way it goes. The waterlines were disrupted, and the FDNY decided not to fight it."

Another anomaly seized upon by the conspiracists is the claim that Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had funded the 9-11 hijackers. The claim originated from a story in the Times of India on Oct. 12, 2001, two days after Gen. Ahmed's resignation. The paper claimed, citing sources in the Indian intelligence services, that "US authorities sought his removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed Atta" on Gen Ahmed's orders. The report is rendered doubly anomalous by the apparent fact that Gen. Ahmed was in Washington for talks at the State Department on September 11.

But if Ahmed had acted at US behest, as the conspiracy theory would demand, why would the US have sought his removal? If he was to serve as a scapegoat, why was the affair hushed up—first reported in the Times of India rather than the New York Times? Most significantly, why is the source not questioned? The Indian intelligence services would have every motive to discredit Ahmed.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, named as the middleman who actually wired the money to Atta, would later be convicted in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. He seems to have been one of ISI's links to the same Islamist underground networks that coordinate the resistance in India-controlled Kashmir. Since 9-11, India's open strategy has been to use Pakistan's ties to the terror network to drive a wedge between Washington and Islamabad. Given how much of the official story about 9-11 is dismissed by the conspiracists as disinformation, why shouldn't the claim about Ahmed be disinformation?

Another favorite anomaly concerns claims that seven of the 19 men identified as the 9-11 hijackers are still alive. On Sept. 23, 2001, BBC reported: "Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Center on 11 September. His photograph was released, and has since appeared in newspapers and on television around the world. Now he is protesting his innocence from Casablanca, Morocco... [T]here are suggestions that another suspect, Khalid Al Midhar, may also be alive."

One Saeed Alghamdi, also bearing the name of an accused 9-11 hijacker, told the UK Telegraph Sept. 23, 2001: "I was completely shocked. For the past 10 months I have been based in Tunis with 22 other pilots learning to fly an Airbus 320. The FBI provided no evidence of my presumed involvement in the attacks." The Telegraph story also stated: "Mr. Salem Al-Hamzi is 26 and had just returned to work at a petrochemical complex in the industrial eastern city of Yanbou after a holiday in Saudi Arabia when the hijackers struck. He was accused of hijacking the American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon."

But are the claims as alarming as they first appear? Identity theft is obviously at work here. Hijacker eponym Ahmed Alnami told the Telegraph he found it "very worrying" that his identity appeared to have been "stolen" and published by the FBI without any checks. According to ABC News on Sept. 17, 2001, "a Saudi man has reported to authorities that he is the real Abdulaziz Alomari, and claims his passport was stolen in 1995 while he studied electrical engineering at the University of Denver. Alomari says he informed police of the theft."

Alnami denied to the Telegraph that his passport had ever been stolen, but certainly accepted the identity theft explanation. And why are their identities any more likely to have been stolen by the CIA (or whoever) than by the hijackers or their accomplices? Why would government agents have appropriated the identities of living individuals, who would then complain to the press? The anomaly, in fact, does not point to government complicity in 9-11. But the conspiracists treat it that way.

The conspiracists' explanations for the anomalies (stated or implicit) almost always fail the test of Occam's Razor—the logical principle that the most likely cause of a given phenomenon is that which requires the least number of assumptions. Is it impossible that the Twin Towers were brought down by pre-planted explosives, or that a missile hit the Pentagon? No. But are these the simplest or most likely explanations? Again, no.

Starting from unlikely assumptions, the conspiracists must build ever more elaborate theories to support them. For instance, if planted explosives brought down the Twin Towers, it was an almost inconceivably intricate deception. The north tower was hit first, but collapsed second, because the south tower was hit lower—with greater weight above the collapsing floors. The impact of the jets would have to be coordinated precisely with the planted explosives to produce this counterintuitive effect. Thus Thierry Meyssan, in his book The Horrifying Fraud, hypothesizes computer-controlled planes. Thus the conspiracy video In Plane Site sees mysterious pods and purports secret military craft were used in the attacks. (It doesn't even bother to ask what happened to the actual hijacked planes, American Flight 11 and United Flight 175.) Thus the theories that the planes were secretly controlled from the CIA office in WTC 7, necessitating the building's destruction to hide the evidence. Et cetera.

The conspiracists deserve credit for catching anomalies before they slip down the Orwellian memory hole. But their approach to the whole project of examining media coverage is inherently disingenuous. The overwhelming majority of coverage is dismissed as lies, but the anomalies which seem to vindicate the conspiracy theory are arbitrarily accepted as truth—the few grains of wheat amid the tsunami of disinformation chaff. The conspiracists are useful in bringing anomalies to light, but they do the truth a big disservice through their sloppiness, treatment of conspiracies as a priori conclusions, and inability to simply let the facts speak for themselves.

CRITICAL INQUIRY VS. CONSPIRANOIA

Conspiracies exist. Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandals were conspiracies. More to the point, history reveals the contrivance of the 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident, the fabrication of Polish incursions against Germany in 1939, and the deception of the Reichstag fire in 1933 as real conspiracies. But the 9-11 buffs too frequently seem to buy into not merely conspiracies but what has been called "the conspiracy theory of history"—the notion that an all-powerful hidden elite constitute the fundamental motor of human events.

This error is evidenced in the "Essential Truth" flyer's depiction of elite conspiratorial designs as "the root causes of war and injustice." This is nearly a reversal of reality. "Root causes" have to do with political economy—the unjust social order which requires war and deception to maintain itself, and breeds terrorism. It is the conspiracies which are mere symptoms.

Reversing the equation leads the conspiracists into a number of logical errors and outright deceptions (if self-deceptions) of their own.

The relationship between the CIA and Islamic militants has long been a deeply incestuous one, as has the relationship between the Bush and bin Laden families. But rather than a web of mutual exploitation and manipulation, the conspiracists see al-Qaeda and bin Laden merely as puppets of Bush and the CIA—or, in the more ambitious theories, as non-existent, mere apparitions. Often they act as if 9-11, and perhaps the London attacks, are the only manifestations of Islamist terrorism the world has witnessed. The carnage in Mumbai, in Amman, in Madrid, in Istanbul, in Casablanca, in Bali (twice now) and Jakarta; the countless attacks in Egypt, from Luxor to the recent atrocities in the Sinai; the Shi'ite mosques blown up in Pakistan; the truck-bomb attack on North Africa's oldest synagogue at Djerba, Tunisia; the East African embassy bombings; the massacres in Algeria; the Chechen insurgency with its outrages at Beslan and Ingushetiya; the long and bloody terror campaign in Kashmir; the bombing wave in Bangladesh; the bombs and hostage-takings on Mindanao; the serial terror in Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, and even Iraq—all are invisible to the conspiracists. If all this is the work of some secret team in the CIA, they've been very busy and have done a damn good job of covering their trail.

The obvious, inescapable reality is that this is the work of a global movement—clusters of autonomous cells, with a wide base of support among interconnected grassroots networks. Thinking this is all the fruit of some elite Secret Team in the government is just as ludicrous as the "official" line (now starting to wear thin even in official circles) that it is all a conspiracy by a small cabal around Osama bin Laden. The conspiracists' "logic" reflects that of Bush.

Yet, bizarrely, the conspiracy milieu overlaps with that of ultra-leftists who cheer on terrorism as the weapon of the oppressed—like Ward Churchill, who hailed the "gallant sacrifices of the combat teams [at] the WTC and Pentagon" and dismissed the victims as "little Eichmanns" in his controversial essay "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." Some conspiracy theorists are savvy enough to dismiss Churchill as part of the conspiracy, a "false flag" operative (again, oblivious to the possibility that he is a mere yahoo). Others seem quite comfortable with doublethink: acknowledging the anti-imperialist rage behind Islamist terrorism, they still act as if the only alternative to the Bush-did-it thesis is the Bush line that the terrorists "hate our freedom."

The basically contradictory terrorism-denial and terrorism-apologist tendencies especially merge in what has become nearly the standard hard-left analysis of Iraq: in desperation to view the Islamist insurgents as today's answer to the Viet Cong, the serial acts of sectarian mass murder are dismissed as Pentagon "black propaganda" ops. Is it possible that Pentagon black-bag jobs are instrumental in some of these attacks? Of course. But to decide that this is predominantly or even uniformly the case in the absence of evidence is simply dishonest propaganda—again, the mirror image of what it ostensibly opposes.

The conspiracists also share the Bush mentality in their ethic of either-you're-with-us-or-with-the-enemy. All who question their theories are dismissed as "sheep" who buy the "official story" and are complicit with the cover-up. Certainly, such charges will be leveled against this writer.

One particularly ironic name the conspiracists have chosen for themselves is "9-11 skeptics." Those who dogmatically assert theories of pre-planted explosives and remote-controlled aircraft are among the most gullible people in the world. They are no more truly skeptical than those who dogmatically cling to the "official story." Single-standard skepticism, of course, is the only genuine kind. If all your skepticism is reserved for one party, you aren't a skeptic at all—you're a dupe.

Conspiracy Theory dogmatism is no more useful to finding the truth than Consensus Reality dogmatism. The problem with the poorly-named "9-11 skeptics" is precisely that they are insufficiently skeptical—about their own version of reality. And the worst of them are just as cynical as Bush, even if (thank goodness!) they have considerably less power to act on their cynicism. While Bush exploits 9-11 to start wars and repeal our freedoms, they exploit 9-11 to sell videos.

What Richard Hofstadter called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" is a phenomenon which has hypertrophied since he wrote the famous essay in 1964. From Catholics to Communists to Jews, the targets of conspiracy paranoia have changed over the years, but the rhetoric has remained fundamentally the same. By way of illustration, Hofstadter opened the essay with a 1951 quote from Sen. Joseph McCarthy:

How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, which it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men.…What can be made of this unbroken series of decisions and acts contributing to the strategy of defeat? They cannot be attributed to incompetence.…The laws of probability would dictate that part of…[the] decisions would serve the country's interest.

Then he turned back fifty years to an 1895 Populist Party manifesto:

As early as 1865-66 a conspiracy was entered into between the gold gamblers of Europe and America.…For nearly thirty years these conspirators have kept the people quarreling over less important matters while they have pursued with unrelenting zeal their one central purpose.… Every device of treachery, every resource of statecraft, and every artifice known to the secret cabals of the international gold ring are being used to deal a blow to the prosperity of the people and the financial and commercial independence of the country.

Next, a Texas newspaper article of 1855:

…It is a notorious fact that the Monarchs of Europe and the Pope of Rome are at this very moment plotting our destruction and threatening the extinction of our political, civil, and religious institutions. We have the best reasons for believing that corruption has found its way into our Executive Chamber, and that our Executive head is tainted with the infectious venom of Catholicism.…The Pope has recently sent his ambassador of state to this country on a secret commission, the effect of which is an extraordinary boldness of the Catholic church throughout the United States.…These minions of the Pope are boldly insulting our Senators; reprimanding our Statesmen; propagating the adulterous union of Church and State; abusing with foul calumny all governments but Catholic, and spewing out the bitterest execrations on all Protestantism. The Catholics in the United States receive from abroad more than $200,000 annually for the propagation of their creed. Add to this the vast revenues collected here.…

Now here's a 2002 sample from one Sean McBride, posted on Rense.com:

Osama bin Laden is a high level agent operated by the Israeli Mossad in cooperation with the CIA. OBL and his inner circle recruited the hijackers for 911, with the naive recruitees having little idea of what they were really getting into or about whom was pulling their strings... The hijacked planes were taken over on 9/11 by remote control... Well-established procedures for handling situations of this kind were deliberately overridden by orders from on high within the Bush administration. The planes were allowed to hit their targets... If this scenario comes close to describing what happened on 911, George W. Bush and many other high-level government officials are probably as much out of the loop as the average American... The media is run by about 50 American and Non-American Jews. Sharon said that America is run by Israel. I believe it... We are going to war against Iraq and others to satisfy them, not for our own nation's security. It could lead to Nuclear war. That may be the idea. Over 2/3's of our population could be destroyed.

The more things change, it seems, the more they stay the same.

WATCH OUT... YOU MIGHT GET WHAT YOU'RE AFTER

The most sinister thing about the conspiracists is how they abet the consolidation of the very police state they claim to oppose. Arguing that Bush and his spies should have been omniscient enough to stop the attacks, they decry how the attacks are being used to expand the government's powers—blissfully unaware of how they give their own adversaries propaganda on a silver platter. With their implicit demands for an omniscient government, they (presumably unwittingly) play into the hands of those who seek a perfectly "secure" world in which privacy and personal liberty have been perfectly eliminated.

Another anomaly seized upon as vindication by the conspiracists was the August 2005 revelation that a secret Pentagon intelligence unit known as Able Danger had identified Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of an al-Qaeda cell more than a year before 9-11. According to media reports, the Able Danger team had prepared a chart that included visa photographs of the four men and recommended to the Pentagon's Special Operations Command that the data be shared with the FBI. This recommendation was rejected—apparently because Atta and the others were in the US on valid entry visas, and were therefore protected from surveillance as a matter of policy.

Now, true freedom-lovers should be comforted by the fact that the Pentagon did not turn the information over to the FBI. The conspiracists claim the failure to do so as evidence of the government's "LIHOP" (let it happen on purpose) strategy. But the concrete result of this relentless recrimination and retrospectivity will only be more visa-holders coming under Big Brother's scrutiny.

The conspiracy milieu suffers from an ambivalent Oedipus complex, torn between rage against the Big Daddy Government which is the source of all evil and a quasi-fascistic longing for a benevolent father figure that will protect us. For instance, if the Air Force really had intercepted and shot down the hijacked planes on September 11, this would have been—appropriately—protested as government murder of its own citizens in the name of preventative action, like the 1993 Waco affair. But this is exactly what the conspiracy theorists are now insisting should have happened. They do not seem aware of, much less disturbed by, this basic contradiction in their moral universe.

The spring of 2002 saw a brief media frenzy over official foreknowledge of 9-11. A senior FBI agent in Minneapolis claimed that headquarters repeatedly roadblocked Twin Cities-based agents who sought to investigate "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui aggressively in the days before 9-11. The agent, Coleen Rowley, said bureaucrats at headquarters had also bungled a warning from an agent in Phoenix who had written that al-Qaeda militants could be using domestic aviation schools to train for terror attacks. It was revealed that in June 2001 then-CIA Director George Tenet had written an intelligence summary for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice warning: "It is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks." In a public address following the revelations, then-Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff cited nearly a decade's worth of hints that foreign terrorists were targeting the US. "As of Sept. 10, each of us knew everything we needed to know to tell us there was a possibility of what happened on Sept. 11," Chertoff said.

The conspiracists were beside themselves with ecstasy, of course, taking the revelations as further evidence of the LIHOP thesis, or its more ambitious alternative, "MIHOP" (make it happen on purpose).

But here's a real alternative conspiracy theory: Were the Justice Department, FBI and CIA leaking or even inventing their own blunders in an effort to intentionally make themselves look incompetent and timid so that their budgets and powers would be increased, their apparatus expanded, and restraints on domestic snooping lifted? Were the conspiracy theorists themselves, who relentlessly touted the revelations, serving as pawns of the government conspiracy?

Maybe, or maybe not. But in any case, that fall the Homeland Security Act passed. The current head of the Homeland Security Department is Michael Chertoff.

RESOURCES:

NY 9-11 Truth
http://ny911truth.org/

"Debunking the 9-11 Myths," Popular Mechanics, March 2005
www.popularmechanics.com/science/defense/1227842.html

9-11 Research reply to Popular Mechanics
http://911research.wtc7.net/essays/pm/

American Free Press reply to Popular Mechanics
http://www.infowars.com/articles/sept11/chertoff_cousin_penned_pop_mech_hit_piece.htm

Vincent Dunn on the WTC collapse, NYT Oct. 17, 2002,
online at Skyscraper Safety Campaign
http://www.skyscrapersafety.org/html/article_10172002.html

Eric Hufschmid's anti-immigrant rant
http://erichufschmid.net/WhatToDoWithTheUSA.html

Eric Hufschmid's Holocaust-denial rant
http://www.erichufschmid.net/Conspiracies12.htm

Prison Planet TV interview with Minutemen leader Chris Simcox
http://prisonplanet.tv/newdesign/audio_archive_1.htm

InfoWars on the Minutemen
http://www.infowars.com/articles/immigration/us_tipping_mexico_to_minutemen_patrols.htm

Michel Chossudovsky's "Osamagate" essay
http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO110A.html

Michel Chossudovsky's "Dismantling Yugoslavia" essay
http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO202G.html

WW4 REPORT calls Michael Ruppert's bluff
http://ww4report.com/static/23.html#6shadows

Michael Ruppert's reply to WW4 REPORT
http://ww4report.com/static/24.html#1shadows

What Really Happened on "The 9-11 USAF Stand Down"
http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/911stand.html

What Really Happened on the George Washington Bridge incident
http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/fiveisraelis.html

"Instant Messages To Israel Warned Of WTC Attack." Washington Post, Sept. 28, 2001,
online at David Irving's "Real History"
http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/01/09/WTC_Odigo.html

Prison Planet on Larry Silverstein statement
http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/june2005/220605silversteinresponds.htm

US State Department's "Identifying Misinformation" page
http://usinfo.state.gov/media/Archive/2005/Sep/16-241966.html

"The Paranoid Style in American Politics," by Richard Hofstadter
karws.gso.uri.edu/JFK/conspiracy_theory/the_paranoid_mentality/The_paranoid_style.html

"911 Was a Mossad False Flag Operation," by Sean McBride, Rense, March 2002
http://www.rense.com/general21/was911mossad.htm

See also:

"French film-makers threaten 9-11 conspiracy vultures,"
WW4 REPORT, June 2, 2006
http://www.ww4report.com/node/2042

"Pentagon releases 9-11 footage; conspiranoiacs appeased?"
WW4 REPORT, May 16, 2006
http://www.ww4report.com/node/1972

"9-11 conspiracists invade Ground Zero,"
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 13, 2005
http://www.ww4report.com/node/1077

"7-7 anomalies emerge,"
WW4 REPORT, July 14, 2005
http://www.ww4report.com/node/775

"Who was behind London attacks?"
WW4 REPORT, July 8, 2005
http://www.ww4report.com/node/736

"Conspiranoiacs get Reaganoid champion,"
WW4 REPORT, June 25, 2005
http://www.ww4report.com/node/679

"NIST releases WTC collapse study,"
WW4 REPORT, April 18, 2005
http://www.ww4report.com/node/401

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Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Sept. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution