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  • Saturday, August 12, 2006


    9/11 Commission Neither Exhaustive Nor Independent

    The co-chairmen of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, popularly known as the 9/11 Commission, hoped to avoid "the kinds of conspiracy theories that have followed in the wake of other inquiries."

    The proliferation on the internet of so-called "conspiracy theories" concerning 9/11 demonstrate that they failed to achieve this goal.

    The August 12, 2006 edition of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) contains a review of a book entited Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission written by co-chairmen Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton. The WSJ review was written by Edward Jay Epstein, the author of a book about the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy. Epstein is currently writing a book about the 9/11 Commission.

    Some salient points from the WSJ's review:

    1. In reality, the 9/11 Commission was neither exhaustive nor independent. If the investigation had truly been as exhaustive as advertised, it would have made a genuine effort to weigh evidence that ran counter to its thesis. But it did not.

    A. For example, Capt. Scott Phillpott, a high-ranking naval intelligence officer asserted that through data-mining his military intelligence unit, code-named Able Danger, had identified Mohamed Atta as a potential terrorist in 2000 and even had his photograph on a chart.
    B. Since the 9/11 Commission staff could not find any such chart in the documents it had obtained from the Pentagon, and because Capt. Phillpott's account "failed to match up" with the staff's conclusion that Atta was unknown to U.S. intelligence prior to 9/11, this putative identification of Atta was omitted from the commission's report (and a number of commissioners were not informed about it).
    C. Later, the Pentagon said that at least four other intelligence officers in the unit had confirmed that they had seen the photograph of Atta or recalled hearing Atta's name prior to 9/11. The Pentagon also explained one possible reason the chart with Atta's photo was missing: The military had destroyed many Able Danger records in 2001.
    D. An exhaustive investigation would have at least heard these eyewitness accounts.

    2. The 9/11 Commission was not able to independently evaluate or verify crucial information it received from intelligence agencies.

    A. The CIA refused to give the commission access to seven imprisoned al Qaeda conspirators who had planned, directed, and co-ordinated the 9/11 attack. The commission was not even allowed to question the prisoners' CIA interrogators.
    B. The co-chairmen admit they "had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information."
    C. The 9/11 Commission accepted, at face-value, information from the prisoners delivered via a CIA "project manager," if it would fill in gaps in the commission's investigation.
    D. The 9/11 Commission relied on this information, giving it the benefit of the doubt when conflicting information surfaced.
    E. As a result, the 9/11 Commission discarded and ignored evidence found in CIA documents of Iran and Hezbollah's involvement with and aid to the 9/11 hijackers, allowing the commission to conclude that al Qaeda carried out 9/11 with no help from any outside party or government.

    The jumping off point for most 9/11 conspiracy theories is that the "official" story embodied in the 9/11 Commission Report is questionable. The WSJ's review certainly does not validate or endorse claims made by 9/11 conspiracy theorists, such as the "controlled demolition" theory. However, the WSJ's review shows that the starting point for 9/11 conspiracy theories is valid, i.e., there is a rational basis for questioning the findings and conclusions of the 9/11 Commission Report.

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