9/11 and the Mainstream Press

by Dr. David Ray Griffin

Friday, Jul 29, 2005

Address given at the National Press Club
July 22, 2005

After the attacks of 9/11, I accepted the blowback thesis, according to which the attacks were payback for US foreign policy. About a year later, a colleague suggested that the attacks were orchestrated by our own government. My response was that I didn’t think the Bush administration—even the Bush administration—would do such a thing. A few months later, another colleague suggested that I look at a website containing the massive 9/11 timeline created by Paul Thompson. This timeline, I found, contained an enormous number of reports, all from mainstream sources, that contradicted the official account. This started a process that led me to publish The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11, which summarized much of the evidence that had been discovered by previous researchers—evidence, I concluded, that provided a “strong prima facie case for official complicity.”

In a criminal trial, once the prosecution has presented its initial case, the defense asks the judge for a dismissal on the grounds that a prima facie case for guilt has not been presented. However, if the judge declares that such a case has been made, then the defense must rebut the various elements in the prosecution’s case. The defense cannot simply ignore the prosecution’s case by stating that it is “too outrageous to be dignified by a response.” If the defense fails to offer a convincing rebuttal, the prima facie case is presumed to be conclusive.

The Bush administration responded to the charges against it as a defense attorney would, declaring them too outrageous to be taken seriously. President Bush himself advised people, perhaps especially reporters, not to tolerate “outrageous conspiracy theories.” What the president really meant is that people should not tolerate any outrageous conspiracy theories except his own, according to which 19 Arab Muslims defeated the most powerful and sophisticated defense system in history and also defeated the laws of physics, bringing down three steel-frame building in a way that perfectly mimicked controlled demolition.

In any case, what was needed at that stage was someone to play the role of the judge, determining, from an impartial perspective, whether a prima facie case for the guilt of the Bush administration had been made.

This role should have been played by the press. But the mainstream press instead offered itself as a mouthpiece for the administration’s conspiracy theory.

The role of the impartial judge has, nevertheless, been played by civil society, in which tens of millions of people in this country and around the world now accept the 9/11 truth movement’s contention that the Bush administration was complicit in the attacks.

The fact that the president was finally forced to appoint a 9/11 commission provided an opportunity for the Bush administration to rebut the allegations made against it. You might assume that the 9/11 Commission would have played the role of an impartial jury, simply evaluating the evidence for the competing conspiracy theories and deciding which one was more strongly supported.

The Commission’s investigative work, however, was carried out by its staff, and this staff was directed by the White House’s man inside the Commission, Philip Zelikow, a fact that the mainstream press has not emphasized. Under Zelikow’s leadership, the Commission took the role of the prosecution for the Bush administration’s brief against al-Qaeda. In doing so, it implicitly took the role of the defense for the Bush administration. Accordingly, an important question to ask about The 9/11 Commission Report, especially since we know that the Commission had many copies of The New Pearl Harbor, is how well the Commission rebutted the prima facie case against the Bush-Cheney administration, which was summarized in that book.

In a second book, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, I showed that the Commission simply ignored most of that evidence and distorted the rest. I will summarize a few of the 115 sins of omission and distortion that I identified.

The New Pearl Harbor reported evidence that at least six of the alleged hijackers are still alive. David Harrison of the Telegraph interviewed two of the men who supposedly died on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, one of whom said that he “had never even heard of Pennsylvania,” let alone died there. The Associated Press reported that Waleed al-Shehri, supposedly on Flight 11, contacted the U.S. embassy in Morocco about two weeks after 9/11. The 9/11 Commission Report, nevertheless, suggested that al-Shehri was responsible for stabbing one of the flight attendants shortly before Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower.

The New Pearl Harbor cited reports that although Mohamed Atta, the supposed ringleader, had been portrayed as a devout Muslim ready to meet his maker, he actually loved alcohol, pork, and lap dances. Zelikow’s commission, however, said that Atta had become “fanatically” religious. They also claimed that they could find no credible explanation as to why Atta and the other hijackers went to Las Vegas. The mainstream press has let the Commission get away with these obvious contradictions.

People who have seen Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 know that President Bush was in a classroom in Sarasota when he was told that a second plane had struck the World Trade Center, a sign that the country was suffering an unprecedented terrorist attack. And yet the president just sat there. Many critics have asked why he did not immediately assume the role of commander-in-chief, but the more important question is why the highly trained Secret Service agents did not immediately rush him to safety. Bush’s location had been highly publicized. They should have worried that a hijacked airliner was bearing down on them at that very moment. And yet they allowed the president to remain at the school another half hour, thereby implying that they knew the president was not a target.

The 9/11 Commission’s only response was to report that “[t]he Secret Service told us they . . . did not think it imperative for [the President] to run out the door.” The Commissioners evidently accepted the implied suggestion that maintaining presidential decorum was more important than protecting the president’s life. The mainstream press has had no comment on this remarkable response to that remarkable incident.

Another big question created by the official story is how the hijackers, by crashing planes into the Twin Towers, caused them and Building 7 to collapse. One problem is that Building 7 was not struck by an airplane, and steel-frame buildings had never before been caused to collapse by fire alone, even when the fires had been much bigger, hotter, and longer-lasting. The Commission avoided this problem by simply not mentioning this fact or even, incredibly, that Building 7 collapsed.

Another problem, which I mentioned earlier, is that the collapses had all the standard features of controlled demolitions. For example, all three buildings came down at virtually free-fall speed. The Commission even alluded to this feature, saying that the “South Tower collapsed in 10 seconds.” But it never explained how fire plus the impact of an airplane could have produced such a collapse.

Controlled demolition was also suggested by the fact that the collapses were total, with the 110-story Twin Towers collapsing into a pile of rubble only a few stories high. The core of each tower had consisted of 47 massive steel columns, which extended from the basements through the roofs. Even if we ignore all the other problems in the official “pancake” theory of the collapses, those massive steel columns should have still been sticking up a thousand feet in the air. Zelikow’s commission handled this problem with the audacious claim that “[t]he interior core of the buildings was a hollow steel shaft.”

James Glanz, a science writer for the New York Times, co-authored a book in 2003 entitled The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center. This book contains an extensive discussion of the construction of the towers around the 47 interior columns. And yet when the Commission in 2004 published its incredible denial that these columns existed, the Times did not protest.

Another example: Breaking those massive steel columns would have required very powerful explosives. Many survivors of the towers have reported hearing and feeling explosions. But the 9/11 Commission failed to mention any of these reports. William Rodriguez told the 9/11 Commission behind closed doors about feeling and hearing a huge explosion in the sub-basement of the North Tower, then rescuing people from its effects, but neither his name nor any of his testimony is found in Zelikow’s final report.

The mainstream press has also refused to report Rodriguez’s story, even though NBC News spent a day at his home taping it.

The Commission also failed to address the many reasons to conclude that the Pentagon was not struck by Flight 77. The Commission in particular failed to subpoena the film from the video cameras, confiscated by the FBI immediately after the attacks, which could at least clear up one of the questions—whether the attacking aircraft was a Boeing 757.

The Commission did allude to one problem—the fact that Hani Hanjour, the alleged pilot, was known to be completely incompetent, incapable of flying a Boeing 757, let alone performing the remarkable maneuver reportedly executed by the aircraft that hit the Pentagon. The Commission handled this problem simply by saying in one place that Hanjour was considered a “terrible pilot” while saying elsewhere that he was given the assignment to hit the Pentagon because he was “the operation’s most experienced pilot.” The mainstream press has not pointed out this contradiction.

The Commission also failed to discuss the considerable evidence that Flight 93 was shot down by the US military, perhaps when passengers were about to wrest control of it. The Commission dealt with this problem only indirectly, by claiming that Vice President Cheney did not give the shoot-down order until 10:10, which was at least four minutes after Flight 93 crashed. In support of this claim, the Commission said that Cheney did not enter the Operations Center under the White House until almost 10:00 that morning. To make this claim, however, the Commission had to contradict all prior reports. It also had to delete Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta’s testimony, given during the Commission’s public hearings, that when he got down there at 9:20, Cheney was already in charge. Even such an obvious lie, supported by such blatant suppression of evidence, has elicited no murmur from our mainstream press.

There are dozens of other omissions and distortions the press has allowed the Commission to get away with. For example, the Commission’s endorsement of the claim by General Richard Myers that he was on Capitol Hill that morning ignores Richard Clarke’s report, in Against All Enemies, that Myers was in the Pentagon, participating in Clarke’s videoconference. Also, the Commission’s account of why the hijacked airliners were not intercepted contradicts the account that had been told since shortly after 9/11 not only by the U.S. military but also by the press, in thousands of stories. But the press now, like Gilda Radnor, says “Never Mind.”

In any case, as these illustrations show, the 9/11 Commission, which had the opportunity to rebut the prima facie case against the Bush administration, failed to do so. This means that the publication of The 9/11 Commission Report needs to be recognized as a decisive event, because it was the moment at which the prima facie case against the Bush administration became a conclusive case.

What we need now is a press that will let the American people in on this development—which is most important, given the fact that the official story about 9/11 has provided the pretext for virtually every other horrible thing this administration has done.