"[This book] embodies the Buddhist wisdom about change, life, and the
world more than anything written after the events of that day."
Robert Stone

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March 18, 2007


As I travel the country, I am stunned by the number of people I meet at appearances and book-signings who tell me that they still believe that the September 11 attacks were, as they call it, “an inside job.”

This shouldn’t shock me, I guess. So-called 9/11 conspiracy theories have actually gained traction in the five years since the attacks. According to a study conducted by the relatively reputable Scripps News Service, roughly a third of all Americans polled responded that they believe “it is ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them ‘because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.’"

In just one example, I am having an e-mail exchange with someone who continues to send me “evidence” that the U.S. government helped orchestrate the attacks. He wishes to remain anonymous; he attended the same college as I did, and he wrote to me after reading about my book.

Here is some of our back-and-forth correspondence, in which he has wondered whether or not I am an independent journalist or, in fact, part of the very conspiracy itself….

March 5 (Writer Who Requests Anonymity):
“Three steel frame buildings fell in NYC at close to the speed of gravity. In all of history, this has only happened with controlled demolition, because that's the only way it CAN happen. Apparently WTC7 fell 20 minutes after the BBC announced that it had fallen - apparently a glitch in the execution of the media script. The official 9-11 report didn't even mention WTC building 7. And there are many other pieces of evidence that can only be reasonably explained by means other than the official story. I invite you to look through the metaphorical telescope to see the metaphorical rings around Saturn and moons around Jupiter. I know it's hard to see past the implanted cover stories. It took me a couple of years before I finally got it.”

March 6 (Writer Who Requests Anonymity):
“Hey, you gotta check out this article, and watch the 13 minute video.
Is the BBC pre-announcing the fall of WTC bldg 7 on 9/11, and now lamely trying to explain it, a smoking gun? Is the official story a house of cards? Fascinating!”

“I've already seen this clip, yes. In my opinion the people spending time concentrating on side-shows -- the fate of Building 7 (7 WTC, which collapsed after 5 pm on September 11); the size of the Pentagon plane’s impact hole and would-be phantom passengers of that plane; the theories of secret demo teams pre-rigging the towers with dynamite in the days before 9/11; and various mis-statements or misperceptions or unsubstantiated accounts by eyewitnesses, journalists and public officials in the hectic hours after the attacks -- are missing what I see as the four main themes of the Bigger Picture.

“1. Al Qaeda took the towers down. They attacked the towers once before, in 1993, and had vowed to do it again. They pre-videotaped the hijackers who intended to do this. They left a paper and video path across the northeast corridor as they planned the mission. They trumpeted it and heralded the martyrs on their Websites. Metallurgists, architects, structural engineers, demolition experts, and an impressive study by a team from Popular Mechanics have stated that this is precisely what buildings would do -- implode -- if hit with such force and with this amount of fuel. If one were to have rigged such structures with dynamite, as has been theorized, then the buildings, as all dynamited buildings, would have been rigged to fall from the bottom first, not from the top. And it would have taken days to do the rigging, with many, many witnesses crying foul in the aftermath of having survived the 1993 attacks. What's more, there is nothing to support the theory that no buildings like this have ever fallen. First, no one has ever smashed jumbo jets into 110-story buildings; so there are no literal precedents upon which so-called experts can make such statements. Second, previously ‘impervious’ buildings actually do fall in wartime. We have only to look at images from WWII. The Titanic, remember, was thought to be indestructible. But its builders had not bargained for an iceberg of that size or an impact of that force.

“2. The Bush administration was too inept to have somehow been in league with or complicit with the terrorists. They were intellectually and systemically incapable of coordinating this -- and keeping it leak-free. Instead, as we've known for ages, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing in an intelligence bureaucracy rife with turf wars and in an administration weakened by the stress fractures of internal power struggles. The Pentagon did not bomb the Pentagon.

“3. Many misguided and unconscionably distracted officials (such as Condoleezza Rice, who repeatedly ignored or mis-prioritized the warnings of her counterterror chief, Richard Clarke) downplayed or misread a threat that was staring them in the face. And because of the weak-kneed 9/11 Commission recommendations, put out by a Republican-controlled Congress and watered down in the spirit of bi-partisanship, no one on the Bush team has ever been reprimanded for his or her roles in these truly tragic lapses. In fact, most of them have been promoted or given presidential medals of honor! This has been a consistent behavior pattern of this so-called C.E.O. president.

“4. Often, people who spend a good portion of their days or nights theorizing on the Internet have too much idle time on their hands. They can sometimes fall into the trap of pondering murky videoclips and digital photographs, coming up with grand theories to explain away complex physical events, even if they're basing their theories on technical flaws or on glitches in the images themselves. They are dancing on the head of pins. This sort of 'stove-pipe' intelligence and this accumulation of 'soda-straw' snapshots of misperceived data, events and motives constitute precisely the same sort of juiced-up bogus-case justification that led us into war in Iraq. In this instance, we are doing it on our laptops and desktops."

March 9 (Writer Who Requests Anonymity):
“I am so grateful that you have taken this much time to write to me in response to my emails. You obviously have thought about these things a lot, and have worked out a viewpoint that explains everything you know, and that makes sense to you. My task, I guess, will be to find one little chink in your story that will not hold, and convince you of it. And of course (shudder) there's also the possibility that you are an insider who knows the truth and is deliberately helping to cover it up. Man, I really hope not!"

The e-mails continue. Yes, I believe that our democracy requires such dialogue, perceptive questioning, government accountability and a free press. But this sort of armchair theorizing about a widespread Bush-sanctioned conspiracy, and about narrow points of metallurgy, divert attention from the fact that (a) no one in the Bush administration has ever been held accountable for intelligence failures, and (b) al-Qaeda did this (and many of its leaders still remain in place because of our diversion of resources and attention to the ill-fated war in Iraq).

September 11 was a national tragedy. Much of the theoretical hyperventilating is a national farce.


That said, one of the few worthwhile 9/11-conspiracy-related stories I've read concerns the arrest of a handful of Israeli intelligence agents, whom eyewitnesses saw watching, videotaping and celebrating the attacks from a promenade in New Jersey on the morning of September 11. (The men were taken into custody, held for several months, then deported to Israel after diplomatic intervention.) The facts behind this under-reported story are clearly and exhaustively synthesized by reporter Christopher Ketcham in this month's issue of CounterPunch. What were these men doing on September 11? How much did they know in advance? Did they arrive after the first plane's assault--or before? Where is their videotape--which could prove to be a conspiratorial "smoking gun" were it ever to see the light of day? What did interrogators learn after months of questioning in FBI custody? If these men did have credible forewarning of the attacks, why didn't they inform U.S. officials more forcefully prior to the attacks? And why have we held an Israeli spy like Jonathan Pollard for years (after he performed acts of espionage on our soil), only to let men like these slip from our grasp in a matter of weeks?


"I too have been flooded with e-mails from the 9/11 [conspiracy theorists], who claim in PROFOUND ALL-CAPS that I, Christopher Ketcham, journalist who lives on $4 a day and works in his underwear, am actually part of the government's cover-up of 9/11, a CIA disinformant executing what's known in conspiracy circles as a 'limited hang-out' -- throwing just enough info out about Israeli activities prior to 9/11, but slanting readers away from the REAL story, which is that the Israelis executed the attacks using programmed Ay-rabs or were vetting the hijackers (providing cover) or were aiding them (providing support) or in fact were the REAL hijackers etc. Worse, the fact that in the piece I accept as gospel the 'discredited notion' -- per the conspiracists -- that 19 Muslim men actually hijacked four planes on Sept. 11 and that Dick Cheney was NOT piloting the death-Boeings with a joy-stick from a remote location....well, it all points to the truth that this Ketcham is twisted and dangerous, expert in the arts of the limited hang-out and in the subterfuge of the freelancer as spy as guy working in underwear BUT PRETENDING OTHERWISE at this very moment."

CLICK HERE for a synopsis of Ketcham's piece.
CLICK HERE for a link to his story.

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