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Blogs - Clock - An Open Letter to a 9/11 Truther. (UPDATED!)

Author: Clock (Show other entries)
Date: Jun 28, 2013 at 14:21

This blog, originally posted February 1, 2012, was updated February 3. Scroll to the end for the update.

Dear Visibility911: (old user on his blog)

This blog is in response to a debate we had on Twitter shortly before Christmas. In exchange for looking at a scientific peer-reviewed paper,">by Zdenek P. Bazant, Jia-Liang Le, Frank R. Greening and David B. Benson entitled What Did and Did Not Cause Collapse of WTC Twin Towers in New York, I agreed to answer ten questions put to me by you regarding the September 11 attacks. In this blog, I present my answers.

First, before I get into the answers, I'd like to explain a few things, including my rationale both for responding to you and for presenting 9/11 debunking material on Twitter in the first place. I have been debunking conspiracy theories for over 6 years now, and I've come to realize that, for the most part, arguing with 9/11 Truthers is a waste of time. Not only is there not a shred of evidence that 9/11 was an "inside job," but to believe that it was a government conspiracy-whether of the MIHOP or LIHOP persuasion-requires an abrogation of logic and critical thinking so total that it becomes quite clear that "9/11 inside job" is essentially a faith-based proposition, like religion. I have no realistic hope of convincing you to abandon a basically religious belief. Therefore, I am not answering these questions in an attempt to convince you that 9/11 was not an "inside job." I cannot do that. Only you can decide that you want to abandon conspiracism, and it's clear you're not there yet.

Why, then, do I occasionally post factual material debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories on Twitter under the hashtag "#911Truth"-the activity which seems to have angered you? It is because I don't want conspiracy theorists to monopolize the subject. You may not believe what I'm about to say, but 9/11 Truth, as a movement, is dying. Far fewer people believe that "9/11 was an inside job" than they did in 2005-06, the high water mark of this conspiracy theory. People simply don't care about it anymore. They ignore it, because Truthers are a fringe community with nothing relevant to offer. As a result, the high-commitment conspiracy theorists-the activists who still firmly believe that 9/11 was an "inside job" and want to "wake up" the world to it-have a virtual monopoly on the subject, which the rest of the world considers closed. Almost everyone who uses the hashtag "#911Truth" is a conspiracy theorist. I use it to make sure that a person who is just now beginning their investigation of these issues doesn't see a wall of conspiracy links, unadulterated by truth and fact, which might convince them that there is no credible anti-conspiracy information out there about 9/11. But if they do a search for "#911Truth" and find 9 links to ridiculous Prison Planet articles and one link to, at least they'll know that factual information about 9/11 does exist, and maybe-just maybe-they'll be motivated to click that link. Since I cannot realistically hope to "convert" Truthers, which I readily concede, this is the best I can hope to do.

Does this approach work? Surprisingly, yes, it does. You and your fellow conspiracy theorists' eyes may glaze over when they see links from me to 911myths, debunking911 or ScrewLooseChange. You may (and I suspect do) think I am some sort of "government agent" simply "shilling" the "official story," either because I'm paid to or because I'm too stupid to have "done my research" and realized that 9/11 was an "inside job," which seems self-evident to you. (Incidentally, I have been accused of being a "disinformation agent" on many occasions). But presenting the real facts does help people recover from conspiratorial thinking.

Why did I engage you in debate?

My main goal in engaging you in debate was to get you to look-at least look-at peer-reviewed science that demonstrates that 9/11 could not have been an "inside job." Despite the fact that you were extremely resistant to even glancing at this material-hiding behind the fiction that downloading a .PDF of this paper was somehow dangerous, as if I could go into the web servers of the places that host the Bazant paper and plant viruses as a means of guerilla warfare against 9/11 Truthers. Contrary to the vast majority of Truthers, however, you did at least look at some credible peer-reviewed material challenging the conspiracy viewpoint. Accepting it is another matter-and I know you won't accept it under any circumstances-but at least you've seen it, which is more than the vast majority of Truthers can say, almost all of whom are so intellectually lazy that they simply refuse to acknowledge the existence of any relevant information that's not on YouTube or which pops up after a perfunctory Google search.

So, therefore, my main goal in our interaction has already been accomplished. I do not expect the Bazant paper to convince you. In fact, I'm virtually certain you'll find some basis on which to discredit it; you've already tried to claim, falsely, that it is not peer-reviewed. Barring that, you've probably spent the last 40 days in a daze of crunching physics equations in an attempt to find one that you think is incorrect so you can denounce the paper as a fraud. I expected that. But at least you've seen it. My job is essentially done.

A New Approach to Thinking About 9/11?

At the end of this blog I'll answer your questions. Before I do, however, let me state that I find them all disappointing. All of your questions are points that were brought up by Truthers years ago, and which have been answered and debunked many, many times before. If you are still asking, in 2012, why NORAD supposedly "stood down," that tells me that your investigation of the subject of 9/11 has been shockingly superficial. It is not hard to find answers to these questions. The only way you could pretend to not already know the answers to these questions is if you have seen them answered, but you just rejected them and pretended as if they hadn't been addressed. This is what I suspect has happened.

Your questions also miss the basic point. They illustrate why your approach to the subject of 9/11 doesn't work. Like most conspiracy theorists, you focus your attention on perceived discrepancies or "unanswered questions" that you think impeaches the "official story." However, all you are doing is nibbling around the edges. Some of your questions-for example, "who wrote the PATRIOT Act"-have no relevance to the question of whether 9/11 was or was not an "inside job." By that I mean, whatever the answer to that question is, it cannot affect the basic analysis of what happened on 9/11. You ask it as a means to raise speculations that you think will eventually lead people to jump to the conclusion that 9/11 was an "inside job," but this is not a very effective means of getting to the finish line. Thus, at the risk of helping you become a "better Truther," let me suggest that you take a different approach to thinking about 9/11.

If you think you disagree with the "official story," first, make sure you know what the "official story" actually is. A surprising number of 9/11 Truthers do not, or they get key aspects of it wrong. For example, a common Truther claim is, "Jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel!" But the "official story" is not that the steel in the World Trade Center towers melted. It never was. What happened was that the impacts of the planes knocked loose a great deal of fireproofing insulation on key support beams in the towers. The fires caused by the plane strikes-which involved a lot of things burning, not just jet fuel, but things like wood, paper, carpet, etc.-structurally weakened the steel, which is quite different than "melting." First of all, it occurs at a much lower temperature. Secondly, the fact that the plane strikes tore loose much of the insulation in the buildings is important, because it explains why the 9/11 fires were different than, say, the 1975 World Trade Center fire, which did not involve significant structural damage. So the "official story" has nothing to do with melted steel. That means that the Truther argument, "Jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel!" is simply irrelevant.

Secondly, and more importantly, instead of trying to poke holes in the "official story" with "unanswered questions" or perceived discrepancies, instead try reconstructing the problem from the ground up. Once you understand what the "official story" is, ask yourself: if this were true, what is the minimum amount of evidence that would be required to prove it? For example, we can agree that the "official story" involves Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacking planes. Okay. Is there evidence that this actually happened? Yes, clearly there is-we have their boarding passes, proving they were on the plane, we have recordings of their voices talking to the control tower, etc. We can agree that the "official story" involves these hijacked planes striking the towers. Okay. Is there evidence that this actually happened? Yes, there is-eyewitness reports, pieces of wreckage being found from the planes, etc., etc. Make a list of all these key links, and decide whether evidence supports them. Then determine if the questions you want to ask-about stand-downs, about Bush's behavior at the Sarasota elementary school, etc.-can reasonably impact these key links.

This is how to go about evaluating the "official story."

About a year and a half ago I wrote an article that attempts to put together what happened on 9/11 with the minimum amount of evidence necessary to reach logical conclusions. Here is the article You will see it has very little to do with the PATRIOT Act, Bush at Booker Elementary, secret plans for Afghan wars, etc. You will also see within it no citations to the 9/11 Commission Report or the NIST Report. Instead, the article focuses on what really happened, and how we know what really happened, constructed from sources not derived from official investigations (and the sources that are used are each carefully scrutinized to determine how credible they are, and if there is any evidence out there that they're faked). Again-I do not expect this article to convince you, but I present it in the hopes that its methodology might be of use to you.

You do not have to take "the government's" word for it.

This is one of the hardest things for 9/11 conspiracy theorists to understand, and the statement I often make that engenders the most criticism from Truthers. You do not have to take the government's word for it! We know what we know about 9/11 not because the government told us so, but because objective facts from non-official sources amply support the basic narrative of 9/11.

This is why it's pointless for Truthers to attack the 9/11 Commission Report, as I have seen you do. The 9/11 Commission Report is a handy compendium of facts, but it is hardly the definitive source, or even in the top 10 most important sources, that explain what happened that day. It is not true that Commission members have recanted or impugned its basic conclusions-the statements you've seen to that effect are cherry-picked and taken out of context, and refer to disputes that do not involve the basic narrative of 9/11-but even if it was true, it wouldn't matter. The basic facts of 9/11 speak for themselves.

Example: the confessions of Al-Qaeda terrorists Khalid Shiekh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh to planning and carrying out 9/11. Most Truthers dismiss Al-Qaeda confessions as untrue because they were supposedly extracted by torture. But did you know that both Mohammed and Binalshibh confessed to planning 9/11, on international television no less, a year before they were ever in U.S. custody? They boasted about it on a program created by Al-Jazeera in 2002, which obviously the U.S. government, or whoever you think was behind 9/11, could not control. Most Truthers do not know this, and they persist in stating that the Al-Qaeda terrorists confessed only under U.S. torture. They didn't. Thus, you don't need to take the government's word for it that Khalid Shiekh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh did it. They told the world they did it totally independently of anything the government did. The government is simply not the source of this information.

Answers To Your 10 Questions

And now, your questions. You will notice I don't spend much time on them. The other things I had to say to you in this article are, in my view, much more important. But, since I pledged to answer your questions in exchange for your perusal of the Bazant article, here we go.

"1) Apparent Military stand-down"

I take it from this that you question why the U.S. air defenses did not intercept the hijacked airplanes before three of them reached their targets. The simple answer is, they had no idea what was really happening, because it had never happened before. There was no military stand-down. The judgment that the failure to intercept the planes before reaching their targets points to some sort of "inside job" is based on two faulty assumptions: (1) that you understand what NORAD's procedures were in the event of plane hijackings, and (2) that such procedures would and should have been carried out flawlessly, to the letter, when the situation presented itself. Neither assumption is tenable.

9/11 myths deals with this issue at length,and I refer you to their analysis.

"2) Why no SS move Bush?"

From this I assume you mean, why was President Bush, when informed of the attacks while reading a book to children at Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, FL, not immediately moved out of the place by Secret Service agents? This is another "unanswered question" that is entirely irrelevant to the issue of conspiracy, because, if you review the facts concerning Bush's presence at Booker School, you will see that they are all completely consistent with a surprise attack about which nobody knew anything beforehand. Assume just for the sake of argument that Bush didn't know the attack was coming. Is it possible or likely that he and the Secret Service would have acted the way they did? Yes, clearly it is; this means that this question is not relevant to whether 9/11 was an "inside job" or not.

"3) Excessive Stock Trading + CIA connection"

I presume this question refers to the "put options" placed on the stock of various airlines prior to 9/11. This is indeed a mystery, and a question that remains unanswered. However, before you seize upon this as "evidence" of a conspiracy, consider this: again, just assuming for the sake of argument that 9/11 was not an "inside job," how unlikely is this?

Answer: not unlikely at all. The U.S. economy had already slipped into recession by the time of the 9/11 attacks. Financial traders were often betting that various stocks would go down (and that is what a put option is-a hedge that a particular stock will decline rather than rise). The only reason these sorts of trades would have seemed suspicious is in hindsight-that is, if the attacks had not happened, they would have appeared completely normal.

Take this hypothetical. Assume that I'm a day trader of stock. On Friday, just on a whim, I decide to sell a bunch of shares of Acme Corp. that I happen to own. On Sunday, a huge industrial accident occurs at an Acme Corp. plant. When the market opens Monday, Acme Corp. stock starts plummeting. Does the fact that I sold Acme on Friday indicate that I must have known the industrial accident would occur? No. If the accident hadn't occurred, the fact that I sold Acme on Friday would be meaningless.

As for the "CIA connection," that is spin from conspiracy theorists. Visit the link highlighted above and you'll see discussion of that issue.

"4) Wash meeting ...with ISI who gave Atta 100 Grand"

The "fact" that Mohammed Atta was given $100,000 by an official of the Pakistani ISI is by no means href=" ">a fact. If you investigate that issue you'll see that there is considerable controversy over whether the meeting took place, and if so, when it took place. Again, assume just for the sake of argument that 9/11 was not an inside job. We know from subsequent events that the Pakistani ISI supported Al-Qaeda in the past. They were protecting Bin Laden up until the very day (May 1, 2011) that U.S. forces assassinated him-in Pakistan. How strange would it have been that a pro-Al-Qaeda agency might have wanted to fund an active member of Al-Qaeda plotting a terrorist attack against the United States? Could this have happened exactly the way you claim it happened even if 9/11 was not an "inside job"? Answer: yes, quite easily.

This is another question that does not help you advance your case that 9/11 was an "inside job," because, whatever the answer is, it doesn't make that conclusion any more (or less) likely to be the truth.

"5) why Aphgan war plan on Bush's desk on 9/10/2001″

There is no evidence that the United States was planning to attack Afghanistan prior to 9/11. What possible strategic interest would the United States have had at stake in Afghanistan prior to September 11? If you think 9/11 was a pretext to attain some other objective, what was that objective, and why is it so hard to find? Furthermore, if it was planned, why wait until October 7 to put the plan into action-and then, why rely on the Northern Alliance to do the heavy lifting?

We have been at war in Afghanistan for 10 years now. To my knowledge, with the exception of the assassination of Bin Laden, the United States has achieved no significant strategic objective in the entire 10 years we've been at war there. Afghanistan is the poorest country in the world. It has no oil. It has no wealth. It has no resources. It is not a strategic location for bases. It's a bunch of rocks and inhospitable mountains. Great place for terrorist camps, but little else. The "pipeline" stuff was debunked in 2002, but even if it wasn't, how come, after 10 years of war there, this supposed "objective" has not yet been accomplished?

"6) when/why was PATRIOT act written "

This question is completely irrelevant to whether 9/11 was or was not an "inside job." Technically, the answer is, it was written by Congressional staffers, who write the vast majority of bills. The question is irrelevant, though, because, like many of your questions, whatever the answer is makes it no more or less likely that 9/11 was an "inside job." By asking the question you want to invite the conclusion that it must have been written beforehand and 9/11 was some sort of "pretext" to pass it. But you have no actual evidence that this occurred; you're just hoping someone connects the dots and reaches the conclusion you want.

For the record I think the PATRIOT Act is a terrible law that should be repealed. It should never have been passed, and I believe many of its key parts are unconstitutional. It may surprise you that this is my opinion of the PATRIOT Act. Truthers often have a difficult time reconciling statements such as this with their religious belief that because I don't believe 9/11 was an "inside job" that I must therefore unthinkingly accept everything the government does.

"8) why did Military lie (see Keane's book)"

Former 9/11 Commission member Thomas Keane does not, and never did, make the claim that anybody was covering up anything that could have altered the basic narrative of 9/11. Yes, he claimed military aides lied about certain things. But how do you get to the conclusion that what he thinks they were lying about must have been a conspiracy to "do" 9/11? There is no evidence of that. What were they lying about? Things much more petty than the underlying truth that Al-Qaeda did 9/11, I'm afraid. Bureaucracies don't like investigations showing up their incompetence, and there was a great deal of incompetence in the government regarding 9/11. This is what military officials were lying about-not whether Osama did or did not do it.

Furthermore, as I stated above, the propriety of the 9/11 Commission investigation is not very relevant to what we know about what happened on September 11. This question is a red herring.

By the way, you skipped number 7, but you have two question 9′s.

"9) why was evac proc not followed at Pentagon"

This is another silly question, irrelevant to the key facts of 9/11. I cannot confirm that it is even true-which leads me to suspect it's not-but even if it is, it falls in the same category as the imaginary "NORAD stand-down," insofar as, it can only point to something suspicious if (1) you understand correctly what the Pentagon's evacuation procedures were, and (2) you can trust, that in the confusion and chaos of the day, the only way those procedures could not have been followed is by a deliberate decision to impede them. If you want some more specific info on Pentagon responses that day, try this, about NORAD's scrambling of fighters to protect the Pentagon or this about the activities of Pentagon officials.

"9) why Able Danger destroyed?"

Another wasted question whose answer, regardless of what it is, does not and cannot affect the key pieces of evidence upon which our conclusions of 9/11 rest. The counterintelligence "Able Danger" project most likely did not, as many conspiracists believe, identify 9/11 hijackers before the disaster.yMore importantly, anything involving "Able Danger" is a rabbit hole-like your other questions, it's not very relevant. In order for it to be relevant, the same two untenable assumptions you've made in questions 1, 2 and your first question 9-that you understand what procedures should have been followed, and your certainty that the only reason they would not have been followed in this case was because of deliberate orders-must again support the weight of all the malfeasance you are trying to heap upon them. This is simply faulty reasoning.

I don't really care why Able Danger files were destroyed, if they were. How can that affect what happened on 9/11?

"10) why FBI never charge bin Laden w/ 911 or update poster even after death."

The answer to this question is so easy to find that I'm not even going to type it out. Go here ( for a full explanation of this issue. This is another faulty question because it's a "sacred list" argument. ( It's silly to pin your hopes that 9/11 was a conspiracy on this flimsy reasoning, when you could be investigating the actual facts and conclusions upon which the narrative of 9/11 relies.


As I stated earlier in this article, my point in engaging you in this open letter is not to convince you that 9/11 was not an "inside job." I don't believe I can do that. I'm quite certain that you'll latch on to something in the Bazant article that you can trumpet as indicia of its unreliability, or perhaps you'll just claim that Bazant and the other authors are just government shills. However, I did get you to at least engage with a piece of scholarly peer-reviewed evidence that challenges the conspiracy claims-and in doing so, you've done more than most Truthers will ever do. I also explained why I present 9/11 material on Twitter and what I hope to accomplish by doing so. Most likely you'll disagree, or perhaps holler about this blog being some form of trickery or other evidence of my depravity, but that's fine-I get that a lot. As I've said on this blog before, debating 9/11 Truthers is largely a waste of time. The marginal benefits that may come as an indirect result of these debates, however, do have value.

You may be surprised to learn that I am myself a former conspiracy theorist. Virtually all "high-commitment" debunkers-meaning, people who, like me, expend considerable effort in refuting conspiracy theories-are former conspiracy theorists who realized how silly their beliefs were. I guess underlying all these words is a hope, distant and speculative to be sure, that maybe someday as priorities in your life change you will realize that some of the positions you once held are untenable. Maybe then you'll remember you once read a scientific article refuting controlled demolition, and you'll do a search for it to look it up again. It only takes one piece of factual information, one logical or incisive question, to crack the facade of conspiracist thinking.

To that end I will leave you with a video that I think encapsulates this phenomenon. Made by a former conspiracy theorist, it explains cogently and emotionally how and why he left the snake pit of "9/11 Truth." Again, you may not see much in this video now, but perhaps someday you will.