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UFPPC ( Digging Deeper LII: July 28, 2008, 7:00 p.m.

David Ray Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics

and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory, revised and
updated edition (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press/Interlink, 2007).

Acknowledgments. Twenty-five “member[s] of Paradigmatic Thinking, Wishful-and-

the 9/11 truth movement,” two professional air Fearful Thinking, and the Betrayal of
controllers, editors, wife (viii). Empiricism. Many hold a priori that the U.S.
Introduction: Conspiracy Theories and government could not be guilty of seeking or
Evidence. “The evidence that 9/11 was an allowing the death of thousands of
inside job is overwhelming,” but certain Americans, a belief influenced by American
beliefs keep people from examining the exceptionalism; but the evidence does not
evidence with an open mind (1, cf. 114). My support this paradigm (15-17). That many
Own Story. Griffin dismissed as implausible prefer to believe in incompetence or that
revisionist accounts of 9/11 until spring someone would have talked by now or that
2003, when he encountered Paul Thompson’s the evidence inculpating al-Qaeda is
“massive 9/11 timeline” (2). Reporting and overwhelming shows wishful thinking (17-
Evaluating the Evidence. Griffin then 20). In addition, many are fearful of
wrote The New Pearl Harbor, arguing for a unattractive labels (21-22). Scientists and
prima facie case for official complicity” (2). Scientific Explanation. Many (including
Failure of the 9/11 Commission to try to rebut Matthew Rothschild of the Progressive)
the prima facie case against the Bush wrongly assume that the FEMA and NIST
administration made it “conclusive”; Griffin reports are scientific in character because
wrote two more books (2-3). A Former CIA they were produced by scientists (23-26).
Analyst Examines the Evidence. In 2006, Ch. 1: 9/11 Live or Distorted: Do the
former CIA analyst Bill Christison confessed NORAD Tapes Verify The 9/11
he had been wrong not to consider Commission Report? Michael Bronmer’s
conspiracy theories (3). Polling the Vanity Fair article made a “stir” in August
American Public. In May 2006 a Zogby poll 2006 by calling attention to a fact apparent
showed that 42% of the American people in The 9/11 Commission Report, but largely
believed “the US government and its 9/11 unnoticed till then: that from 2001 to 2004,
Commission concealed . . . critical evidence” the military’s account of its response to the
(3). A Flurry of Debunking Publications. 9/11 hijackings was false, according to the
Four quasi-official publications have NORAD tapes (27). Conflicts between the
appeared attempting to debunk conspiracy NORAD Tapes and the Military’s
theories; Popular Mechanic’s Debunking 9/11 Previous Testimony. The effect of the
Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can’t Stand NORAD tapes is to relieve the military of
Up to the Facts, an expansion of a March failure to intercept the hijacked flights
2005 article, is the most “ambitious” (4-6). because they were allegedly unaware of
The Present Book. Each chapter is “a them, though it raises the question of why
response to one of these publications” (6-7). the military propounded a false version and
Debunking Stories in the Press. Many why no one corrected it (27-30). Would the
more debunking stories appeared in the 9/11 Commission Engage in Deceit? The
summer of 2006, including in left 9/11 Commission staff was directed and
publications (7). Conspiracy Theories: research and writing were controlled by
Generic, Rational, and Irrational. The Philip Zelikow, a Bush administration official
rejection of conspiracy theories per se is (31). An example of “an outright lie” The
untenable (8-9). Mainstream and many left 9/11 Commission Report told is the alteration
publications refuse to acknowledge that the of the time when Vice President Cheney
official theory is a conspiracy theory, are arrived in the Presidential Emergency
rhetorically slanted, rely on ad hominem Operations Center (PEOC) and omission of
arguments, fail to examine the evidence (9- conflicting evidence (31-33). Another
12). Specific responses to Robert Baer’s and example: suppression of impious behavior
Alexander Cockburn’s criticisms (12-15). from the account of Mohamed Atta’s actions
(33-34). Is the 9/11 Commission’s Tapes- version, and fails to see that the military is
Based Portrayal of the FAA Believable? now discredited as a source of information
FAA procedure requires controllers contact (92-94).
the military whenever something suggests
Ch. 2: The Real 9/11 Conspiracy Theory:
an aircraft is in trouble (34). AA Flight 11.
A Critique of Kean and Hamilton’s
“[E]ven if we ignore the evidence that the
Without Precedent. The 9/11
military was contacted at around 8:20 and
commissioners’ book appeared “almost
the evidence that it was contacted around
simultaneously” with Bronner’s essay (95).
8:28, we have strong evidence that it was
Trying to Debunk the Stand-Down
contacted at 8:34—four minutes earlier than
Theory. Kean and Hamilton argue “that we
Bronner and the 9/11 Commission claim”
must declare, on the basis of the tapes, that
(45; 35-45). The 9/11 Commission’s
all these things that all these people
“portrayal of FAA incompetence is so
reportedly thought they remembered did not
extreme as to be incredible” (52; 45-52).
really happen [and] that we must believe
The tapes also conflict with previously
that something that evidently no one in the
reported fact (52-54). UA Flight 175. Many
military remembered [phantom Flight 11]
sources contradict the claim the military did
actually did happen” (97; 95-98). What
not know of the flight until 9:03, after it had
about Other Conspiracy Theories? Kean
crashed (55-58). The official account of
and Hamilton do not resolve any problematic
where the fighters from Otis were is lame,
points in the official theory’s favor (99-101).
problematic; there were at least 16 fighters
The Real “Conspiracy Theory.” They
at the military’s disposal (58-63). AA Flight
rhetorically misuse the term “conspiracy
77. Accounts of FAA failure to report Flight
theory” for “irrational conspiracy theory” and
77’s problems are not credible (63-66). UA
while correctly identifying five characteristics
Flight 93. “[T]he claim that no one except
of an irrational conspiracy theory, fail to
the FAA knew about the errant airliners is
acknowledge that it is the official theory that
absurd” (69; 66-74). Phantom Flight 11.
has all five of these characteristics (101-02).
This explanation for the scrambling of jets is
They are: (1) Beginning with the
implausible and was mentioned in no earlier
Conclusion. Al-Qaeda was assumed by the
official account (74-79). FAA Competence
9/11 Commission to be responsible for the
and Incompetence. Despite incredible
attacks (102-04). Excluded Evidence.
levels of claimed incompetence, we are
They excluded evidence that the Bush-
asked to believe the FAA executed perfectly
Cheney administration had more means and
the unprecedented grounding of all planes
a powerful motive for carrying out the
(79-80). Is the Alleged Motive to Lie
attacks (104-06). Zelikow as Executive
Credible? Suggested motives for the
Director. Philip Zelikow, a Bush partisan
military’s giving false accounts earlier are
and Rice intimate, was a most inappropriate
not credible (80-82). How Could False
choice (106-12). (2) Adherence to
Tapes Have Been Produced? Adequate
Theories Disproved by Facts. In relation
motivation existed (82-83). Cherry Picking
to Bush’s behavior on the morning of 9/11,
and Time Alteration. Not all tapes were
the strike on the Pentagon, and the collapse
made available (83-84). Inserting Scripted
of the towers and of WTC 7, the official
Statements. A possible technique (84).
theory is disproved by facts (112-15). (3)
Voice Morphing. Technology developed at
Ignoring Evidence Contradicting One’s
Los Alamos makes it possible to fabricate
Theory. Griffin lists 19 major omissions;
convincing voice recordings (84-86). United
other evidence was excluded on a basis that
93 Telephone Calls: A Prior Example?
was illogical (115-20). (4) Uncritical
Many problems exist with respect to the
Acceptance of Dubious Evidence. In
alleged calls from Flight 93, suggesting they
addition to the dubious evidence of the
were fabricated (86-81). But Would All
tapes, the evidence of al-Qaeda’s
Those People Participate in a Lie? This
responsibility, Mohamed Atta’s fanaticism,
question seems to make the voice morphing
Flight 93 phone calls, the identity of the
hypothesis preferable, but an investigation
hijackers, and Osama bin Laden’s
can settle this (91-92). Conclusion. On
responsibility was accepted uncritically. In
Aug. 13, 2006, the New York Times published
fact, the available evidence is more
an editorial accepting uncritically the official
compatible with the theory that 9/11 was a Help Induce Collapse? “Steel is an
false-flag operation (121-30). “This false-flag excellent conductor of heat” (152). Were
hypothesis, by being able to explain all this the Fires Hot Enough? NIST’s claims
evidence in a way that is consistent with all about the fires’ temperature are
the other evidence about 9/11 that can unconvincing and deceptive (152-58). Were
survive scrutiny, is clearly far more adequate the Fires Sufficiently Big and Long-
than the official hypothesis” (130, my Lasting? The fires were neither big enough
emphasis). Reliance on Third-Hand nor long enough to produced the absurd and
Evidence. The commission’s reliance on preposterous effects claimed (especially with
third-hand accounts exemplifies its respect to the South Tower, which collapsed
acceptance of dubious evidence (130-32). 56 minutes after impact) (158-63). Who
(5) Disdain for Open and Informed Actually Caused the Towers to Collapse?
Debate. “[M]embers of the Bush NIST’s account of the progressive collapse is
administration, the 9/11 Commission, and deceptive and absurd: “a candidate for the
other official agencies have shown disdain most absurd idea ever articulated in modern
for such debate. They will never meet us in times in a supposedly scientific document”
a public forum, such as an auditorium or a (167; 163-70). Tweaked Computer
radio or TV talk show, where we could have Models. NIST’s computer simulations are
back-and-forth debate. For a long time, they even less convincing (170-72). A
simply ignored our evidence and arguments. Thoroughly Unscientific Hypothesis.
More recently, they have taken to issuing ex NIST’s theory does not qualify as scientific
cathedra statements in books and magazines (172-73). What About Controlled
and on websites” (132-33; 132-34). Demolition? NIST’s produced a threefold
Conclusion. “I personally know of no one justification for not investigating this
whose mind was changed by The 9/11 possibility (173). (1) Other Hypotheses
Commission Report” (135). “The fact that all Obviated by NIST’s Account? Not so
of the conversions about 9/11 go in only one (173-74). (2) Must Controlled
direction, away from the official story, is an Demolitions Be Bottom-Up Affairs? NIST
important test of truth” (136). Appendix: implies this, but it is not true (174-75). (3)
My Ersatz Interview of Lee Hamilton. In No Evidence of Explosions? NIST said
2006, a CBC interviewer, Evan Solomon, there is “no evidence,” but in fact there is “a
asked Lee Hamilton many of the questions huge body of evidence” (175, 179; 175-79).
raised by Griffin’s research; Hamilton’s No Other Evidence of Controlled
responses were evasive and patently Demolitions? These include puffs of smoke,
mendacious; they also revealed that staff molten metal in the WTC basement, the
“filtered” evidence, so that there was utterly implausible collapse of the several
evidence no commissioner saw (136-42). dozen core columns, each about 1,400 feet
long, into transportable segments, the
Ch. 3: The Disintegration of the World
symmetrical nature of the collapse,
Trade Center: Has NIST Debunked the
pulverization and dust clouds to produce
Theory of Controlled Demolition? The
which gravitational energy is insufficient and
National Institute of Standards and
unsuitable, the horizontal ejection of pieces
Technology (NIST), all of whose directors are
of steel, the sulfidation of steel according to
Bush appointees, issued a draft of its final
a report published by the Worcester
report on the Twin Towers in June 2005, its
Polytechnic Institute, the fact that the North
Final Report on the Collapse of the World
Tower antenna began to descend before the
Trade Center Towers in September 2005, and
exterior walls began to collapse, the tipping
“Answers to Frequently Asked Questions” on
and then righting of the South Tower as it
Aug. 30, 2006 (143-44). Why Did the
collapsed, the rapid and highly supervised
Airplanes Cause So Much Damage?
disposition of the WTC steel, and the control
NIST’s discussion of damage from aircraft
of WTC security by Bush family members
collisions is deceptive and ignores
(179-94). What about WTC 7? Reasons
authoritative evidence (145-47). How Did
given for the delay of the report on WTC 7
Impact Damage Help Induce Collapse?
are implausible (194-95). Prior
NIST’s methods of calculating damage are
Recognition of WTC 7’s Special
unconvincing (147-52). How Did the Fires
Difficulty. There are many indications of
awareness of a special problem here (195- The Planes. Rhetorically, PM often
97). Challenges WTC 7 Presents to NIST. highlights unrepresentative positions and
No aircraft collision, collapse started at the implies guilt by association (215-16). The
bottom in classic controlled-demolition style, [Alleged] Hijackers’ Flying Skills. Fails to
total and symmetrical collapse at virtually explain how Hani Hanjour could have flown
free-fall speed (6.6 seconds), molten metal in Flight 77 into the Pentagon; indeed, it
basement, and reports of the sounds of ignores the problem (216-20). Peripheral
explosions (197-200). The Very Issues. By focusing on peripheral issues, PM
Appearance of This Collapse. WTC 7 creates the false impression that there are
looks to observers like a standard controlled good answers to all the questions that have
demolition (200-01). Two More Unique been raised about the official account (220-
Features of This Collapse. Widespread 22). No Stand-Down Order. PM does not
foreknowledge and rapid removal of steel acknowledge Griffin’s critique of The 9/11
despite the absence of victims (201-02). Commission Report (Omissions and
What Will NIST Say about WTC 7? Distortions, 2005) (222-23). PM says fighter
Speculation on possible findings and their jets were scrambled, showing it hasn’t
improbable nature; Griffin anticpates that the understood the 9/11 Commission’s new
media will “probably let them get away with story; in any case, its account of fighter
it,” an attitude he finds “truly remarkable” readiness is implausible and neglects well-
given the “wild, empirically baseless” nature known facts (224-26). PM’s account of
of the hypothesis “that WTC 7 was brought alleged communications breakdowns merely
down by something other than explosives” repeats the commission report’s claims (226-
(205; 202-06). Conclusion. NIST failed to 29). Norman Mineta’s testimony is ignored
consider the most likely hypothesis: (229-31). PM’s account of how planes are
controlled demolition (206). tracked on radar is wrong (231-33). PM
ignores the FAA’s standard operating
Ch. 4: Debunking 9/11 Myths: A Failed
procedure (233). NORAD radar does not look
Attempt by Popular Mechanics. Hearst-
only “outward” (233-35). NORAD was not
owned Popular Mechanics (PM) published a
“unprepared” for this scenario; in fact, it was
“spectacularly bad article” entitled “9/11:
anticipated and trained for (235-37).
Debunking the Myths” in March 2005, then
Military Intercepts. PM fails to debunk the
expanded it into a book entitled Debunking
idea that military intercepts are routine over
9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can’t
the continental U.S. (237-40). PM fails to
Stand Up to the Facts in 2006, which is “no
rebut the notion that routine procedures
better,” but which is important because its
bring about intercepts within minutes (240-
ideas have been propagated by the BBC
41). PM falsely implies that U.S. does not
documentary “The Conspiracy Files: 9/11”
maintain armed fighters on alert (241-42).
(207). Senator John McCain’s Foreword.
The World Trade Center. PM misleadingly
A sustained rebuttal to McCain’s rhetorical,
implies that no experts support alternative
uninformed attack on the 9/11 truth
theories (242-43). The Empire State
movement (207-11). The Story Behind
Building Accident. This 1945 incident is
PM’s Treatment of 9/11. A few months
used to rebut a straw-man argument (244-
before the article was published, the
46). Widespread Damage. PM fails to
president of Hearst Magazines, Cathleen P.
counter evidence of explosions in the towers
Black, who is married to a former employee
(246-48). Melted Steel. PM’s arguments
of the CIA, orchestrated a change in
are circular and misleading (248-53). Puffs
management at Popular Mechanics, and the
of Dust. PM cites the “pancaking” theory,
senior researcher was a cousin of Michael
but NIST has abandoned this (253-54). PM’s
Chertoff, secretary of the Dept. of Homeland
Treatment of Baxant, Loizeaux, and
Security (211-13).The Book’s Claims
Romero. The views of experts on
About Itself. The book’s authors claim to
demolition are misrepresented (254-55).
deal with the “most common” or “key”
Seismic Spikes and Other Phenomena.
claims of alternative conspiracy theorists,
Nine other features that PM failed to mention
but in fact examines “only those claims they
(256-57). WTC 7. PM’s approach to this
thought they could appear to debunk in the
problem shows “the extreme difference
eyes of the general public” (214; 214-15).
between its method and the scientific
method” (259; 259-60). Popular account and ignores conflicting evidence
Mechanics on The O’Reilly Factor. Editor- (289-91). The White Jet. PM fails to
in-chief James Meigs made an appearance on debunk that there was a white military plane
“The O’Reilly Factor” on Aug. 7, 2006, near Flight 93 when it went down (291-92).
claiming the scientific nature of PM’s study Cell Phone Calls. PM fails to debunk the
(261). The Pentagon. PM ignores the possibility that these calls were fabricated
strongest arguments against the official (292-97). The Wreckage. PM does not
theory (262-62). Support for the Boeing account for the fact that the place of impact
757 Claim. Claims of witnesses are suspect did not look like a crash site (297-99). When
(262-64). Support for the Flight 77 Did Flight 93 Crash—10:03 or 10:06?
Claim. PM also ignores reasons for doubting The preponderance of the evidence supports
that Flight 77, specifically, hit the Pentagon 10:06 (299-301). Why Would NORAD and
(265-69). Lack of Expected Debris. PM the 9/11 Commission Prefer 10:03? To
fails to explain the absence of debris that account for the end of the recording in the
could be expected from such a crash (269- black box (301-03). The Engine. The
72). Big Plane, Small Hole. The account testimony that an engine was found a mile
of why the Pentagon façade was not more away, something that is compatible with a
widely damaged is unsatisfactory (272-75). shoot-down, is more convincing than PM’s
The Hole in the C-Ring. PM ignores claims this is false (303-04). Debris at
evidence that only an explosive charge could Indian Lake and Elsewhere. PM does not
make the C-Ring hole (275-78). The FBI’s convincingly explain debris six miles from
Refusal to Release Video. PM is the crash site (304-06). Sounds
misleading about videos seized by the FBI Suggestive of a Shootdown. PM ignores
and withheld (279-80). The FBI’s Removal witnesses who heard missile-like sounds or
of Evidence. PM disguises unusual FBI explosions (306). Reports that the Plane
behavior as normal (280). Where’s the Was Shot Down. There were at least two
Fire? PM fails to acknowledge that the fire second-hand accounts of shoot-down reports
at the Pentagon was smaller than what by informed people (306-07).
would have been expected, but implies an
Conclusion. Uncritical acceptance by the
unsatisfactory conclusion (280-81). The
press is chiefly responsible for the
Lack of a Seismic Signal. PM does not
persistence of the official theory (309). Even
mention the problem (281-82). The Claim
journalists in the left press have been too
about Hani Hanjour. This claim being
credulous, e.g. Terry Allen (In These Times),
incredible, “[i]t is astounding . . . that the
Alexander Cockburn (CounterPunch),
perpetrators would have made the aerial
Christopher Hayes (Nation), Jim Dwyer (New
acrobatics of a completely incompetent pilot
York Times), Matthew Rothschild
an essential part of the official story,” a
(Progressive) (309-18). The principal reasons
problem PM does not mention (283). Why
they have for ignoring the 9/11 truth
Strike Wedge 1? Six reasons why striking
movement are that (1) claims are baseless
Wedge 1 was a “completely irrational,”
and (2) they risk distracting citizens from the
improbable target choice (284-86).
administration’s real crimes, though both
Anticipation and Aftermath: Two
assumptions are false (318-19). The official
Additional Problems. PM does not
account of 9/11 serves “as a national
mention that the military did anticipate and
religious Myth” that is being used to
train for such an incident; and the failure of
legitimate war, violate civil rights, increase
the FBI to report on the evidence raises
military spending, and ignore the ecological
suspicions (286-88). Conclusion. PM
crisis and climate change (319-20). Mark
utterly fails to debunk the view “that the
Danner says it is being used “to justify a
Pentagon was an inside job” (288). Flight
‘state of exception’” from the rule of law
93. PM’s account has similar flaws (288).
(320). The profit motive of the corporate
The F-16 Diversion. PM devotes three
press poses an obstacle (320). While
pages to debunking a claim of a shoot-down
exposure of the truth about 9/11 might “by
by an F-16 that almost no one has endorsed
producing a crisis of confidence in the
(288-89). Appealing to the 9/11
institutions of the world’s most powerful
Commission’s Claim about NORAD’s
nation, lead to a global economic meltdown,”
Ignorance. PM simply endorses the official
but this would not be as serious as the Notes. 63 pp.
“global ecological collapse” that is possible if Index. 7 pp.
we continue our present course (320-31).
“Apart from a revelation of the truth about [About the Author. David Ray Griffin was born in 1939
and lives in Santa Barbara, CA. He grew up in the Disciples of
9/11, there is little chance that the present Christ church, but abandoned ambitions for the ministry in
trajectory of US policy, with its threat to the college. He graduated from Northwest Christian College in
Eugene, OR, and has a master’s degree in counseling from the
survival of civilization itself, will change” University of Oregon and a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate
(321). A “large-scale effort, involving letter- University, where he embraced a Whiteheadian version of
writing campaigns, rallies, and a huge march process theology. In 1973, he returned to Claremont and
established the Center for Process Studies with John B. Cobb.
on Washington” is needed to persuade the In 1983 he started the Center for a Postmodern World in Santa
Democratic Party leadership to take up this Barbara, and edited the SUNY Series in Constructive
Postmodern Philosophy from 1987 to 2004. In the spring of
issue (321-22). A “jury composed of 2003 he examined Paul Thompson’s timeline and read Gore
distinguished European citizens,” and juries Vidal’s Dreaming War, which pointed him to Nafeez Ahmed’s
in Canada or other parts of the world, would The War on Freedom: How and Why America Was Attacked
September 11, 2001. Believing they provided a prima facie
also be useful (322). There is reason to case for some level of governmental complicity, he became
hope: “This is the time for the 9/11 involved in the 9/11 Truth Movement by writing a magazine
movement to make its biggest effort. We article that grew into The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing
Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 (Olive
have, after all, a world to save. I hope this Branch Press, 2004). He has also written The 9/11
book will contribute toward that effort” Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (2005),
Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection
(322). Postscript to Revised Version. and Action (2006), and 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to
Griffin was script consultant to the film Congress and the Press (2008), and, with Peter Dale Scott,
“Loose Change: Final Cut” (322). has edited 9/11 and the American Empire: Intellectuals Speak
Out (2006).]

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