2. The Commission

Authored by Christian theologian David Ray Griffin, I really wasn’t sure what I was expecting to find as I first turned over the pages. What I didn’t expect was such a complex and varied assortment of pieces. A welter of detailed and well-reasoned criticisms and questions. Griffin’s assault picking at every strand of the official story, and revealing how it was compromised by more than a hundred serious inconsistencies, retractions, and distortions.

Why, I wondered as I read on, were the mainstream media not interested in the same questions that Griffin was asking. Of the reports of prior warnings, the curtailment of investigations that might have closed the net on Mohammed Atta and other hijackers, and most significantly the total failure of air defences to intercept the planes when such emergency interceptions are regularly accomplished under standard and mandatory procedures.

All this was startling enough, but Griffin’s questions didn’t end there. His book, which correlates the findings of many researchers, was certainly not afraid to venture down stranger avenues and into darker corridors. For instance, aside from disappearance of Flight 93, there was, he points out, no substantial aircraft wreckage found at the site of Flight 77 into the Pentagon. So why, he asks, is the material evidence for these two plane crashes so inconclusive?

But even all the bizarre questions surrounding Flights 77 and 93 represented only a fraction of Griffin’s questions. And as if vanishing aircraft wasn’t already enough to be thinking about, Griffin was also claiming that the World Trade Center towers themselves may have been intentionally brought down using explosive charges. Now obviously that’s just going too far. It was time, I decided, to put the book down and come back to planet Earth.

*

Then, no sooner than I’d finished reading Griffin’s book, or at least as much of it as my reason would then permit, there happened to be a Channel 4 documentary called The 9/11 Conspiracies.1 It was the first extended mainstream analysis of the subject – and it claimed to have taken Griffin’s book as its template. Obviously I was interested. Principally, I wondered what light it might shed on the ineffectiveness of US air defences. Why had the well-established procedures failed? And what should we make of the evidence that Cheney actually ordered a stand-down?2 (Questions that plainly deserved closer scrutiny.)

But, to my surprise (and at the time I genuinely had higher expectations of the media) the programme offered nothing in the way of fresh insights. Systems failure and incompetence supposedly explained everything away, whilst the glaring fact that in the wake of such multiple and egregious incompetence not a single individual had been so much as reprimanded (let alone prosecuted) wasn’t deemed important enough by the programme makers to even warrant mentioning. In fact, as I quickly realised, the programme makers had no real interest in testing any of the challenges raised by Griffin’s book, preferring instead just to challenge the book itself.

Griffin must be wrong. This was the place from where their own ‘investigation’ started – not necessarily wrong in every detail but, more importantly, wrong in his suspicions. The approach then involved a kind of inverse investigative journalism; setting off with the officially sanctioned story, which was assumed implicitly to be true, and then seeking to discredit just as many claims made in the book as time would permit – and given just fifty minutes of airtime, just how deep could any serious investigation have delved into such a complex issue?

So it was the book and not the official story that was on trial, which is rather odd when you think about it? For one thing, it obviously presupposes that the official investigations had been thorough-going. Or why else begin from the official story? Which is where we come back to the primary objection made by Griffin in the first place. For the Kean-Hamilton commission inquiry on which the official story is based was, as Griffin is constantly at pains to point out, a total sham. So why have I still never seen any mainstream documentary that challenges the 9/11 inquiry?

*

Now it’s important to remind ourselves how the inquiry first came about. It was not the US administration, and certainly not the embarrassed Pentagon, who had sought to get to the bottom of whatever failures had occurred that day. Instead it had been William Rodriguez, the former caretaker of the World Trade Center, who having helped so many others escape from the smoke and flames inside twin towers was briefly recognised as a national hero. It was Rodriguez along with another brave group of four called “the Jersey girls”, each of whom had suffered the loss of their husband in the attack3, who had pushed so hard for an inquiry in the first place; the White House showing no immediate or even later concern for finding out the truth. As members of the Family Steering Committee they were also in attendance throughout the commission’s hearings.

Here then are a catalogue of the key objections which the Family Steering Committee make of the Kean-Hamilton commission and its findings:

i) that the entire investigation was unduly delayed and grossly under-funded.

ii) that every piece of evidence and line of testimony included in the final report had to be sanctioned by Philip Zelikow, a man who was known to have extremely close ties with the White House. Indeed, Zelikow’s appointment had been officially objected to by the Family Steering Committee, having already successfully challenged the appointment of none other than Henry Kissinger.

iii) that the commission had not invoked its powers to subpoena important witnesses, whilst, additionally, a great deal of important testimony was conducted in camera, and never made available to public scrutiny – of the twelve hundred plus witness testimonies, only around one hundred and fifty having been publicly conducted. Rodriguez tells us that the families had wished the commission to hear the testimony of 17 firefighters and 22 survivors, but that none of those selected was ever called. In any case, the vast majority of the testimony that was given then found no inclusion in the final report – by way of an excellent example, the testimony of Rodriguez had itself been conducted behind closed doors and his evidence excluded from the final report.

iv) Bush and Cheney were permitted the quite extraordinary privilege of taking the stand together. Their joint testimony, which was not under oath, being neither recorded nor transcripted, and presented under such secrecy that neither the press nor even the families were invited to attend. One can’t help wondering why Bush or Cheney actually bothered to turn up at all.

These then are the detailed criticisms, but more generally, and as Griffin makes pains to emphasise, the Kean-Hamilton inquiry – or more properly “The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” – had been loaded from the outset. It had set off with the overriding presumption that Al Qaeda had carried out the attacks and acted alone. This being axiomatic, it logically followed that certain avenues of inquiry couldn’t warrant any formal investigation. Questions about unusual stock-market trading, for instance, were not considered on the grounds that there could be no probable connections to Al Qaeda. As for who specifically funded the mission, well, it hardly mattered – after all, US Special Forces would find them cowering in a cave soon enough.

According to Griffin then, the commission’s final report was inevitably incomplete and inaccurate because the commission itself had been obstructed and very deliberately misdirected – points which Kean and Hamilton have since acknowledged, washing their hands of the matter in a jointly authored work called Without Precedent: The inside story of the 9/11 commission.4

Griffin’s main charge is indeed the whole 9/11 Commission inquiry had been flawed by design. This very serious charge is also levelled by other serious 9/11 investigators, and, perhaps most significantly, by many of those who actually attended the hearings. Yet the programme makers at Channel 4 made the decision to ignore all criticism relating to the lack of independence and other inadequacies of inquiry itself, and by doing so they had misrepresented the biggest part of Griffin’s case entirely.

1“The 9/11 Conspiracies” broadcast in September 2004; Polly Morland (Director/Producer)

2At the Kean-Hamilton Commission hearing, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta gave the following testimony regarding Vice President Dick Cheney’s response to the approach of Flight 77 towards the Pentagon: “There was a young man who would come in and say to the Vice President [Dick Cheney], “The plane is 50 miles out. The plane is 30 miles out.” And when it got down to “The plane is 10 miles out”, the young man also said to the Vice President,”Do the orders still stand?” And the Vice President turned and whipped his neck around and said,”Of course the orders still stand – have you heard anything to the contrary?” Are these orders to shoot the plane down? If so, then why was no action taken by the military? And why has no-one ever been reprimanded?

3The Jersey Girls are Lorie Van Auken, Mindy Kleinberg, Patty Casazza, and Kristen Breitweiser. They form a part of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee who attended and criticized the Kean-Hamilton Commission enquiry.

4“Fog of war could explain why some people were confused on the day of 9/11, but it could not explain why all of the after-action reports, accident investigation, and public testimony by FAA officials and NORAD officials advanced an account of 9/11 that was untrue.” Passage from “Without Precedent: The inside story of the 9/11 commission” co-authored by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, 2006.

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