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Outrageous Conspiracy Theories: Report on a Conversation with Philip Zelikow

by Thomas Hansen, Ph.D.

Tuesday, Jun 7, 2005
Link to Original

It is nearly a year since the 9/11 Commission report was finished and the investigation of the events of 9/11 officially came to a close. But unofficially, many Americans have unanswered questions, and at least some of this hesitancy to close the book on 9/11 is because of the long-standing connection between the Bush Administration and the man who was the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, Dr. Philip Zelikow.

In a new book by Professor Emeritus David Ray Griffin of the Claremont School of Theology (The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, Olive Branch Press, 2005), the case is made that the staff of the 9/11 Commission acted as gatekeepers who followed the official explanation of events of 9/11, rather than acting as true independent investigators. Griffin gives detailed and abundant evidence that he feels shows Philip Zelikow and his staff did not thoroughly investigate information that was contrary to what the Bush Administration had already accepted as the facts of 9/11.

Last fall I had a conversation with Zelikow, which I feel supports the ideas and evidence of Professor Griffin’s book. But before I go into what Dr. Zelikow told me in person, let us look at the facts of Zelikow’s association with members of the Bush Administration over the past 15 years. The reason I present this “bio” of Dr. Zelikow is that, while we expect any person might receive a job offer based on whom they have worked with and have known in the past, this was not an ordinary job. This job was to oversee the official investigation of a most serious and consequential crime, and it occurred under the watch of President Bush’s Administration. Dr. Philip Zelikow, despite his fine record of integrity and scholarship, was clearly not independent from the Bush Administration. And since Bush, Cheney and Rice were three of the witnesses who testified before the Commission, their relationship with Zelikow is relevant.

Dr. Zelikow was on the National Security Council of President George H.W. Bush in the 1980s, working as an aide to National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. Condoleeza Rice was also an aide, working with Zelikow. In 1997, Zelikow and Rice co-authored a book. Also in the 1990s, Zelikow directed the Aspen Strategy Group, which included Rice, Scowcroft, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and others. Then after President George W. Bush was elected in 2000, Zelikow was appointed to the National Security Council transition team to provide recommendations to Rice as she accepted the position of National Security Advisor to Bush. Shortly after 9/11, Zelikow was appointed to President Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. In 2003, he was appointed Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, and took a leave from his position as Director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

After the 9/11 Commission Report was finished in July 2004, and the Commission was dissolved, Zelikow returned to his previous Miller Center position for a few months. Recently he left the Miller Center job completely and became Counselor of the Department of State, as announced by new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on February 25, 2005. To quote Rice in the U.S. State Department press release of that day, “Philip and I have worked together for years, and I value his counsel and expertise. I appreciate his willingness to take on this assignment.” To quote the State Department press release, “Though the position has been vacant since 2001, the office of the Counselor is not new, having been part of the Department’s organization since 1909. The Counselor is a principal officer of the Department. As Counselor, Dr. Zelikow will serve as a senior policy advisor on a wide range of issues and will undertake special assignments as directed by the Secretary.”

So we see from these facts that Philip Zelikow’s work with members of the Bush Administration preceded his 9/11 Commission work for 15 years, and it has now resumed again, fulltime. Apparently, we are supposed to assume that during 2003-2004, when he was Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, he was NOT “associated with” members of the Bush Administration as he had been before, and is again now. He was somehow able to distance himself from his past relationship with them, oversee the interviews of many witnesses, thoroughly investigate all of the evidence, and supervise the writing of the final 9/11 Commission Report without being influenced by his past association with them. And now he has been able to re-associate with them in good stead and be re-hired by the Bush Administration fulltime in an important position.

Dr. Zelikow gave a lecture at the Miller Center at UVA on September 10, 2004, titled, “The Road to 9/11,” and another on October 14, titled, “The Road From 9/11.” I attended the second of the two lectures and had an opportunity afterwards to have a conversation with him for several minutes. Among other things, I asked him why the Commission did not report more evidence that would answer the specific conspiracy concerns and questions that have been circulating regarding 9/11. I asked him why the Commission would let these concerns go unanswered and cause unnecessary doubt and dissent in the country.

I pointed out to Dr. Zelikow that one of many reasons this conspiracy talk about 9/11 continues is that there have been no photos released of the Boeing 757 wreckage inside the Pentagon, or outside either, as we normally see after a civilian plane crash. I asked if he has seen photos that show the wreckage of the 757. He said, yes, they have photos, and that he has seen them, and he also said that there are eyewitness reports from a dozen or so rescue workers at the Pentagon who confirm seeing those airplane parts in the wreckage. Well, I asked, can I or some other ordinary person see these photos? He said no. I asked if I could see the rescue worker’s statements, and he said no. I told him I had seen photos of the exterior Pentagon wall before it collapsed, and the hole where the plane entered appeared to be only about 20 feet in diameter, with unbroken window frames on either side of it where the wings and engines would have hit. This hole was much too small for a 757 to enter, and no wreckage of the plane is shown on the ground outside. He said those photos might have been “adjusted” in scale by someone to give the wrong impression. I asked if I or anyone else could see the National Transportation Safety Board report about the crash, or even about the 757 being picked up by radar as it approached Washington, and he said no. He said that the air traffic controllers at Dulles saw on their radar that a plane was approaching, without its transponder turned on, but they could not identify it just by radar. It was not one scheduled to come into Dulles, so they assumed it was landing at Reagan National, and when it dropped off their radar at the Pentagon they knew something was wrong. This was 35 minutes after the second World Trade Center Tower had been hit. I told him this explanation defied reason, but he said it is proven in the NTSB Report, which I can’t see.

I told Dr. Zelikow that this secrecy of the 9/11 Commission is still fueling conspiracy theories and distrust throughout the country and around the world. Then I asked him why he and the Commission and the staff don’t simply release photos and other information to the public so that we can rest assured that the Commission has fully investigated and answered these and other persistent questions. His answer was that the staff, including himself of course as Executive Director, made a conscious decision not to dignify these “outrageous conspiracy theories” by investigating them or reporting on them. In my opinion, this statement by Dr. Zelikow lends credence to Professor Griffin’s charge that Zelikow’s staff acted as a filter of what would be investigated and reported. Dr. Zelikow then told me he could see my point about the public wanting to know more, and he said he would go back to the Commission staff and re-visit the question of what to release. We’re still waiting.

Americans are concerned about the unanswered questions of 9/11. The reputable polling firm, Zogby International, conducted a poll of State of New York citizens in August 2004. Results showed that 49.3% of New York City residents and 41% of New York citizens overall said that some of our leaders “Knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act.” Nearly 30% of registered Republicans agreed with this statement, despite the serious legal and political implications. Only 36% of the total respondents believed that the 9/11 Commission had “answered all the important questions about what actually happened on September 11th,” and 66% want another full investigation of the “still unanswered questions.”

CSPAN2 recently broadcast, and rebroadcast, the speech Professor Griffin gave about his book to a standing-room-only crowd at the University of Wisconsin. People are paying attention and learning and speaking up. As the 9/11 Commission Report approaches its 1-year anniversary, many Americans are not celebrating, nor are they letting it all just fade away. We pay the salaries of those who have made conscious decisions to investigate and report only what fits their own version of 9/11 events, and their own vision of what the world should be like for them. It seems that “we the people” are considered by some officials to be just bystanders, without the right to see the evidence that our leaders have seen, and to decide for ourselves what is true. The Bush Administration has demonstrated a pervasive pattern of secrecy, deception, and arrogance, not just related to the 9/11 investigation. They have left the rest of us in the dark, but we can see well enough to fear that the Emperor has no clothes.

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