Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 05:26 pm
I was thinking about the Range of Positions I had posted earlier, and realized it would work much better as a series of non-interdependent questions. By answering each of these questions, we can quantify our positions on this topic in such a way as to prevent both mindreading (having one's beliefs mistakenly assumed) and position-dancing (changing one's unspoken premises as needed to support one's point).

Here are the questions I have come up with so far. Feel free to post your answers as a comment, or put them elsewhere and post a link as a comment.

My answers are here.
Sunday, July 19th, 2009 12:37 pm
I'm starting this page as a holder for this link, which is a wiki page showing the argument so far -- plus my latest responses -- in a hierarchical form.

Past experience suggests that people will be more comfortable commenting on a journal-style page than on the talkpage for a wiki -- so feel free to comment as if that page's contents were posted here. (I tried just posting the HTML here, but DW plaintexts most of the tags.)

I may add more discursive explanations here later on, if it seems like a good idea.
Sunday, July 19th, 2009 11:46 am

The "Inside Job" Position

...can be summarized thusly: the hijackers enjoyed substantial assistance, at least in the form of passive failure to take steps to stop them or actively taking steps to prevent others from stopping them (and possibly much, much worse).

Not all "Truthers" agree on all of these points, but the general consensus seems to be that:

  • WTC1, WTC2, and WTC7 were not brought down by the heat of the jet-fuel fires, which had largely burned out by the time the collapses occurred, but by what appears to have been controlled demolition (a nonstandard variant thereof in the case of WTC1 and 2, but almost textbook for WTC7).
  • The inability of the military to intercept in time is a huge anomaly (the lack of transponders is only a mild hinderance -- the interceptor jets never even got close to the planes due to a series of apparent "miscommunications" and other snafus), and one that has never been officially explained in any believable way -- but evidence appears to point to several deliberate delaying tactics on the part of top Bush administration officials; Rumsfeld and Cheney are heavily implicated. At the very least, someone should have lost their job -- but as I understand it, there have not even been any reprimands.
  • The fact that the hijackers performed terribly in flight school and yet accomplished (on a first try!) what experienced pilots have described as a very difficult maneuver in one case -- a steep hairpin turnabout to hit the newly-reinforced side of the Pentagon, without accidentally hitting the ground -- is another huge anomaly.
  • The fact that Bush deliberately ignored many warnings about an imminent attack (including a top-level briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US", and another showing WTC1 and WTC2 in crosshairs) -- while later claiming that "nobody could possibly have foreseen this" -- is another huge anomaly pointing at inside assistance, one of many smaller bits of circumstantial evidence (Why did Bush did not immediately evacuate from a widely-known location almost directly under the flight path of a major airport as soon as he was told of the first impact? Why did Bush and Cheney refuse -- in violation of both law and investigational procedure -- to testify on the record and separately? Why is there a pattern of orders from the White House which served to stop or hinder investigations into individuals who later became the 9/11 hijackers? There are pages and pages of such questions which I have not yet had time to catalogue.)
  • The fact that evidence of this huge crime was rapidly hauled off (removed from a crime scene) and destroyed without proper investigation indicates that someone should have been indicted for obstructing investigation of a crime -- yet there have been no such indictments. Whether you agree or disagree with the official view, such obstruction is itself a crime -- and if the official view is true, proper investigation could have prevented the whole "9/11 conspiracy" meme from taking off in the first place. (It's not just the rubble from the towers that was destroyed, either; there has been extensive destruction of tape recordings and other valuable evidence which might have settled many questions definitively.)
  • Circumstantial, but suspicious (and why wasn't it investigated?): There were reports of security guards entering the building over a weekend not long before 9/11, when the security cameras were off due to "maintenance" -- so the normal security records of their activities (some of which might have survived the towers' destruction, possibly confirming official explanations of their activities) did not exist. Why were the security employees not interviewed about their activities?

About the Media

To be thorough, because it will probably come up, it is necessary to mention the ongoing mainstream media subserviency to the government. This doesn't prove anything, but helps explain why the media has been so faithful to the official story when they should have been asking questions (and, therefore, why most people aren't even aware of the questions) -- and makes it much easier to understand how most people came to accept that story even though it does not hang together.
Sunday, July 19th, 2009 10:45 am
2009-12-08 update: I've rethought the idea behind this post and rewritten it as a quiz consisting of a set of independent questions. See this entry.

There is a range of positions to take on 9/11 and the official explanation thereof; here is a sampling, ranging from "conformist" to "not credible":

The List

A. The official story is essentially correct and complete. Our leaders, whatever their flaws, acted in the best interests of our country and of civilization in a tremendous crisis and did the best they could to investigate this horrendous crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.

B. The official story is essentially correct, though investigation could have been less sloppy and more thorough. There was some political infighting which hampered investigation unnecessarily. There are probably a number of details we will never know, but knowing them would not significantly affect our understanding of the events of that horrible day. Further investigation is not needed, and would only be a waste of time and money.

C. The official story is sufficiently incomplete and/or self-contradictory that there really should be a new investigation, if only to get those conspiracy nuts to take a stress pill and get on with their lives.

D. The official story is not only incomplete and self-contradictory, but it is also pretty clear that the investigation was actively obstructed. The fact that nobody has been charged with obstruction of justice is highly suspicious, and is an indication of a large cover-up of some kind (though this does not necessarily implicate the cover-uppers in the original crime, nor does it necessarily indicate the involvement of high-level government officials in the cover-up). There should be a new investigation, and it must be set up in a way to prevent the same cover-ups and obfuscations from occurring again.

E. The official story is not only incomplete and self-contradictory, but it is also pretty clear that the investigation was actively obstructed with the cooperation and knowledge of top-level officials. This is highly suspicious, and leads one to wonder what they are protecting, but it is probably nothing worse than a realization that they screwed up badly in allowing the attacks to happen, and not wanting that fact to come to light.

F. Although there is no "smoking gun" and most of the relevant evidence is circumstantial, the overwhelming body of that evidence points clearly to top-level deliberate enablement of the terrorist attacks. It may have been passive rather than active -- opportunistic rather than planned -- but the truth remains that given the choice of taking action to prevent the (then-hypothetical) attacks or leaving the door open, there is strong evidence that multiple doors were left open.

G. There is evidence of active collusion by top-level Bush Administration officials in the events of 9/11. This collusion includes: hampering and shutting down investigations of those who later became the 9/11 hijackers, hampering and shutting down US translations of tapped terrorist communications, deployment of most of the air interception force to a distant location and other changes intended to slow down the interception response, Cheney apparently refusing to authorize some sort of fire on one of the planes, and numerous other actions.

H. There is a large body of evidence that the towers were not brought down by the planes but by internal explosions of some kind. The nature of these explosions is unclear, but there is considerable resemblance to controlled demolition. It is not known who could have planted the explosives, or how they could have gotten past security to do so, but the fact that the official investigation has casually brushed off the very idea of explosions (and failed to follow up on several strong leads, including the involvement of GWB's brother Marvin in the company providing security for the WTC and odd security activity in the twin towers just a few weeks before 9/11), despite the evidence, is beyond suspicious.

I. A cabal of top US officials (including Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld) conspired to engineer 9/11. The planes were all rigged with remote-control autopilot devices, security officers planted the explosives on the twin towers (and WTC7) during the weekend when security cameras were off due to a maintenance-related power failure.

X. For thoroughness, some theories which Just Don't Fit or make any kind of sense: There were no planes; TV videos were faked using live CGI, witnesses who saw planes are suffering from "suggested memory" syndrome... or they weren't planes, but missiles... or the planes weren't normal civilian airliners, but special planes with blacked-out windows, and some sort of weird devices strapped to the fuselage; the real flights were swapped for these planes at an undisclosed location, and the fate of the passengers is unknown. The towers were brought down by antimatter beams, or "micro-nukes", or Muppets from outer space*.

(*yes, this is guilt-by-association and argument-by-ridicule; my point is that I don't believe these assertions anymore than you do. If I had seen an even slightly compelling argument for any of them, I wouldn't be dismissing them.)


I would call [F] (and up) "contrarian", but I'm not sure it's fair to call [F] and [G] "conspiracy theories", since all they are asserting is that (a) the official explanation is unsatisfactory, and (b) there is evidence of shenanigans which needs to be investigated.

[H] seems to be firmly defined by the public as a "conspiracy theory" -- I suppose the "theory" is that the towers were deliberately brought down rather than falling as the natural consequence of the aircraft collision, but the theory doesn't say anything about a conspiracy. [H] doesn't know how it happened or who did it, just that the public and official explanations don't fit the data. The phrase "conspiracy theory is nonetheless used as a brush to tar [H] as no better (no saner, no more plausible, no more reasonable or measured) than [I] or even [X].

[I] is definitely a conspiracy theory.

My Views

The Truther phrase "9/11 was an inside job" obviously refers to [I], but it also fits [D]-[H] -- and it is on that basis that I agree with and support it.

[D] seems to me the minimum defensible position, and [H] the maximum. [I] is credible as a theory, but the emphasis at this point should be on following the evidence wherever it may lead -- not presupposing a conclusion and looking for evidence that fits it. (Not scientific. Nekulturny. Bad.)

I started from the position that the towers collapsed due to mechanical damage and overwhelming heat, but found myself unable to dismiss the evidence of explosives. (I can remember at least one reversal, where I had initially bought into explosives but then convinced myself that pyro-mechanical collapse, and the unusualness of the circumstances, were sufficient to explain the evidence... but then I saw more evidence, and more evidence...) Hence my classification of [H] as "defensible" while [I] is "just a theory".

Obviously, though, I am willing to defend any of the contrarian points up through [H], and will even defend the proposition that [I] fits the available evidence (though it is certainly far from conclusive).
Sunday, July 19th, 2009 10:05 am
The following is how I understand the popular stance, a.k.a. "what most people believe", a.k.a. "what anyone except a wild-eyed conspiracy nut knows to be true"; please do correct me if I am misrepresenting it in any way. (I have also posted it as a page on Issuepedia.)

The Story

On the morning of September 11, 2001, terrorists working for Al Qaeda and on the orders of Osama bin Laden boarded four airliners as passengers. Soon after take-off and using only boxcutters as weapons, they overcame the crew and pilots, took over the controls, and succeeded in directing three of the planes into their intended targets -- WTC1, WTC2, and the Pentagon. On the one remaining aircraft, passengers heard via cellphone about one or more of the other incidents, and decided to fight back, resulting in the plane crashing into an uninhabited field in Pennsylvania, thereby probably saving many lives.

The military jets which are normally deployed within minutes to intercept troubled aircraft were unable to intercept the planes before they reached their targets, in part because the commercial jets' transponders had been turned off, making them difficult to track.

Overcome by the intense heat from the burning jet-fuel and having had their insulation partly stripped away by the impact, critical structural elements in WTC1 and WTC2 became sufficiently soft that the block of stories above the impact collapsed one or more floors in the impact area; the momentum built up from this initial collapse was sufficient to collapse the less-damaged floor below that and ultimately the rest of the building (one floor at a time in a downward progression). The mostly-intact upper floors presumably collapsed on themselves when the accumulating pile of rubble ran into non-compactable soil or bedrock below street level.

(The damaged Pentagon also burned out of control for some time, resulting in collapse of its upper floors over the impact area.)

Fires and debris from the collapsing WTC1 and WTC2 heavily damaged or destroyed several other buildings, starting fires throughout the World Trade Center complex which burned out of control for the rest of the day and eventually caused WTC7 to collapse that evening.