5 years later, 9/11 skeptics feel theyre close to truth
By David Spett
Every Sunday evening at 6:30, about 100 people file into a meeting room at St. Marks Church in-the-Bowery. But they dont go to pray, to take a class or to talk about religion.
They go for the weekly meeting of 9/11 Truth.
Ever giggled, or become enraged, at stickers and signs claiming 9/11 was an inside job? Thats the argument of 9/11 Truth activists.
Were talking fact, were talking hardcore analysis and research, said Les Jamieson, a Web and graphic designer who calls himself kind of the main organizer of 9/11 Truth in New York City. The movement has chapters around the country.
To varying degrees, the members of 9/11 Truth are convinced that the Bush administration perpetrated the attacks of Sept. 11. Bushs purpose, the activists argue, was to gather support for war in the Middle East and restrictions on civil liberties.
While this argument may seem ridiculous, much of America has embraced, or at least seriously considered, this logic.
A Scripps Howard poll, conducted earlier this month, indicated that 36 percent of Americans think it is very likely or somewhat likely that federal officials participated in or had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks. Another 16 percent say explosives, not just airplanes, brought down the Twin Towers.
A conspiracy documentary entitled Loose Change, created by three men in their early 20s with $6,000, has circulated around the Internet. It has been downloaded 20 million times and, for much of this year, was first on Google Videos most downloaded list.
When it comes to the finer details of the conspiracy, though, 9/11 Truth activists disagree, or admit they simply dont know. Some believe the conspiracy involves not just the government, but corporations, the media, the airline industry and others. At the 9/11 Truth meeting on Aug. 6, one activist said he could prove that missiles, not planes, hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11.
At 9/11 Truth meetings, Jamieson shares the microphone with Frank Morales, a radical priest at St. Marks Church. A former leader of the squatter movement in the East Village, Morales has increased the churchs presence as a center of the citys activist community.
Jamieson and Morales have no doubt that a government conspiracy was behind 9/11, as well as the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. Jamieson disdains being called a conspiracy theorist, saying his views should be recognized as part of the mainstream.
If people dont believe there are actual conspiracies, I guess you cant talk about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, you cant talk about the secret wars throughout Central and South America, you cant talk about the assassination of the two Kennedys, you cant talk about Iran-Contra, Watergate, the lies of Iraq, two stolen elections, Jamieson said at the Aug. 6 meeting. Its all a conspiracy. Its massive, folks, so can you get on board with that talking point? Very important.
Later, in a telephone interview, he added that 9/11 Truth is not some fringe conspiracy-theorist movement.
The Sunday 9/11 Truth meetings begin with a welcome and announcements from Jamieson and Morales.
Its been quite a news week, Jamieson said, detailing a New York Post article on the Scripps Howard survey, a Washington Post article on the 9/11 Commission suspecting lies by government officials and a recent C-SPAN show featuring a panel of 9/11 Truth leaders and scientists.
Once announcements are complete around 7:30, Jamieson and Morales show a movie. On Aug. 6, it was a speech by David Ray Griffin, a leading researcher in the 9/11 Truth movement. Everyone in the audience appeared to admire Griffin, and many took notes on his arguments and research. But just as many dozed off in the middle of his speech.
Other weeks, the films are more entertaining. On Sept. 3, the group will be among the first to view excerpts from a new release of Loose Change.
After the movie, Jamieson and Morales open the floor to discussion, which lasted an hour and a half on Aug. 6. The activists recap the movie and talk about the latest news, preparations for 9/11 06 and how to convince opponents. After the discussion ends and Jamieson removes the microphone, about 30 members remain in the church, chatting about Sept. 11 into the night.
Besides the popular Sunday meetings, about 10 9/11 Truth activists regularly gather at the World Trade Center on Saturdays to protest, Jamieson said, and on Wednesdays they hold an organizing meeting.
A diversity of viewpoints
Nearly all the 9/11 Truth members agree that secretly planted bombs, not airplanes, caused the collapse of the Twin Towers and 7 World Trade Center. The activists say they have a tremendous amount of evidence to support their argument.
For example: the W.T.C. towers could not have come down so quickly simply because of burning jet fuel, the activists say. They also point to W.T.C. owner Larry Silverstein, who said in a 2002 P.B.S. interview that he told the Fire Department on 9/11 to pull it, referring to 7 World Trade Center. But Silverstein insists he meant that firefighters should give up trying to salvage the burning building not blow it up.
With the plane crashes in Shanksville, Penn., and at the Pentagon, 9/11 Truth members only agree that something is very wrong with the official story. Some say a missile shot down United 93 over Pennsylvania; others think the plane landed safely in Cleveland, and perhaps the government killed the passengers.
One 9/11 Truth member, Nico Haupt, believes the conspiracy behind 9/11 extends beyond the government. At the Aug. 6 St. Marks meeting, Haupt criticized the mainstream 9/11 Truth movement, saying it has oppressed his questions and research.
I created a science group in 2002, which were working for four years, hard, 24/7, opposed by leaders close to the 9/11 Truth movement, Haupt told the audience, adding that his science group consists of nine researchers and 600 members.
The groups findings were surprising.
I believe that Cleveland is the final smoking gun for the passengers [of United 93]. I believe the conspiracy theory that the F.B.I. and the NASA together killed these passengers, either there or they got already killed on board, Haupt said, waving several crumpled sheets of paper as evidence. I dont need to prove anymore what happens to passengers. I dont need to prove anymore what happens to planes. All I can bring is fact.
Missiles, not planes, hit the Twin Towers, Haupt added, and all the footage on television and in newspapers has been edited.
After Haupts speech, one man, who declined to give his name, said Haupt represented the fringe of our movement. Its irresponsible to say missiles hit the W.T.C., the man said, but parts of that argument have merit.
Still, we should lead with our strongest arguments, the man added.
Morales, echoing that statement, said he didnt believe Haupt yet but would listen to a full presentation of Haupts research and keep an open mind.
In a telephone interview, Morales defended Haupts opinion: What he thinks is his opinion, but he also makes it clear that he separates opinion from conclusion. Hes not prepared to make a scientific conclusion or at least a quasiscientific conclusion. His strong point, which I tend more to agree with, is that the footage, the various mainstream media footage, seems to have been doctored.
Disagreements within the Truth movement only reflect differing opinions of which arguments are strongest, Morales said.
People differ not so much in terms of their general sense that theres government complicity, but to what extent we highlight certain areas to be looked at, Morales said. Theres just differing opinions as to what constitutes the best stuff. Suffice it to say, theres a lot of stuff.
Convincing the country
In the discussion on Aug. 6, the speakers were civil and respectful, but one member stood out as upset with the activists in the room.
You people sit around here and you talk about what our best evidence is, said Alex, who declined to give his last name for obvious reasons. I think what needs to be done is, people who are in here need to go out there and convince people that the official story is not the true story. The goal is not to get these 33 percent together and further agree. The goal should be to get together the 33 percent, and get the 66 percent to agree with us.
The other members cheered raucously, and Morales called Alex a good spirit.
Jamieson, on the other hand, is optimistic about convincing the rest of the country 9/11 was an inside job.
Here we go, folks, were on a roll. We have one-third of the population, Jamieson said. Thats pretty impressive given that its been five years and theres been no major media coverage of this in terms of analysis. So, pretty, pretty impressive.
Morales said he believes 9/11 Truth will be able to crack the case by Sept. 11 this year.
We just got to stay on it, he said.
Still, Jamieson and Morales acknowledge they arent scientists and dont have all the answers. The next step, they say, is for a complete investigation, independent of the government, into the crimes of 9/11.
With a federally commissioned, federally paid-for investigation, Jamieson said, criticizing the 9/11 Commission, of course theyre not going to look at the evidence, and of course theyre going to obstruct evidence, and of course theyre going to selectively choose which evidence to consider and which not.
Morales said: None of us are professional investigators, nor are we scientists. What the movement has demonstrated clearly is the need for a real investigation.
Jamieson said there are scholars and scientists in the movement who form an organization called Scholars for 9/11 Truth.
To encourage a real investigation, New Yorks 9/11 Truth is planning major events around the fifth anniversary of 9/11. The events include speeches, panel discussions, a massive parade at ground zero and a showing of Loose Change, Morales and Jamieson said. Members of 9/11 Truth chapters around the country are being invited to New York City to participate. Morales is dubbing the weekend Five Years of Lies, Four Days of Truth. The highlight will be a large forum at Cooper Unions Great Hall the Sunday afternoon on the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11. The complete schedule is available online at ny911truth.org.
Some members still seemed frustrated that more of the public hasnt embraced 9/11 Truths message.
Im sort of amazed at what the C.I.A. has done, with that many people who are not saying anything, one
woman said on Aug. 6. Where are the whistle-blowers? I cant quite believe the silence of so many of us Americans.
With 9/11 Truths hard work, the silence will soon end, Jamieson said.
The key thing is that we need to make a showing where this movement cant be denied, he said.