“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
– Arthur Conan Doyle
It was not until 2006 that I began to research in earnest the facts surrounding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. By then, I had become familiar with The 9/11 Commission Report, released in 2004, as well as many of the accusations that “conspiracy theorists” had publicized refuting the conclusions of the Commission. The 9/11 Commission’s report was intended to explain what had happened on September 11, 2001, while making recommendations on how to avoid a similar catastrophe in the future.
During 2006, the war in Iraq was constantly in the news and I had not intended to pursue the story of the 9/11 attacks beyond what I already knew. Then I came across a story published by the Washington Post, on Wednesday August 2, 2006, entitled, “9/11 Panel suspected deception by Pentagon”.
According to the Post’s story, for more than two years after the attacks officials from NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] and the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] had provided “inaccurate information” regarding their response to the hijackings. Some staff members and commissioners “concluded that the Pentagon’s initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public.”
This revelation did not become clear until the 9/11 Commission obtained audiotapes from NORAD and the FAA that were recorded on September 11. In fact, the commission was “forced to use subpoenas” in order to secure the tapes due to “the agencies’ reluctance to release the tapes.”
“I was shocked at how different the truth was,” said John Farmer, a former New Jersey attorney general who led the staff inquiry into the events of September 11. “The tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years.”
It was thought that the available evidence “provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and the commission.” In a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in the summer of 2004, the 10-member commission debated whether or not to refer the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. They decided not to. “We to this day don’t know why NORAD told us what they told us,” said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. “It was just so far from the truth…It’s one of the loose ends that never got tied.” According to “sources involved in the debate”, it was assumed that false statements were made “hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings.”
I found it hard to believe what I was reading. Investigators of the most heinous attack ever perpetrated against American citizens had discovered in the course of their inquiry that employees of the federal government and the military, material witnesses in the crime’s investigation, had lied to them and withheld evidence, yet no effort was made to find out why. The Commission Chairman, Thomas Kean, dismissed this fact as “one of the loose ends that never got tied.”
This was not revealed to the public until two years after the 9/11 Commission had concluded its investigation.
I asked myself the obvious question – why did they not investigate further? If I had been a member of the 9/11 Commission, I would want to know why I was being lied to and why senior administrators were shielding the liars. What did they have to hide?
People who conceal evidence and falsify statements during a criminal investigation have something to hide.
In the 9/11 Commission’s final report of 2004, it was stated: “Our aim has not been to assign individual blame. Our aim has been to provide the fullest possible account of the events surrounding 9/11 and to identify lessons learned.” (Preface, xvi)
How could the commission provide the “fullest possible account” of what had happened without investigating all available leads? How could they make recommendations for reforms without possessing all of the facts, knowing as they did that people within their own government had misled them and that additional information may have been withheld?
If bureaucratic incompetence was the explanation for a “bungled response” to the 9/11 hijackings, as suggested by a commission insider, how could the incompetent bunglers at NORAD and in the FAA be identified then weeded out of these agencies if the commission was not going to “assign individual blame”?
Under no circumstances could I imagine myself leaving any “loose ends” during an investigation into the murder of more than three thousand human beings.
In 2006, Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chair Lee H. Hamilton co-authored a book entitled, “Without precedent: the inside story of the 9/11 Commission”, in which this obstruction of justice by government officials is discussed:
“Fog of war could explain why some people were confused on the day of 9/11, but it could not explain why all of the after-action reports, accident investigations, and public testimony by FAA and NORAD officials advanced an account of 9/11 that was untrue.” (261)
Despite this knowledge, no action was taken. Kean explains that “the issue was presented to the commission in May 2004” and that they had a “reporting date” of July 22. “At that point, we did not have time to launch a separate investigation into why the FAA and NORAD had presented inaccurate information in public, nor was that question clearly under the commission’s mandate.” (262)
I did not find this explanation at all convincing, particularly since Kean himself stated earlier in the book, “We had an exceedingly broad mandate.” (14) He went on to explain, “our inquiry would stretch across the entire U.S. government, and even into the private sector, in an attempt to understand an event that was unprecedented in the destruction it had wrought on the American homeland, and appalling even within the catalogue of human brutality.” (15)
Yet despite the unprecedented nature of this appalling crime, and the commission’s exceedingly broad mandate allowing it to pursue lines of inquiry across the entire U.S. government and even into the private sector to understand what had happened, the commission chose not to take the time to try and find out why they had been lied to by members of the FAA and NORAD, and why these same agencies had withheld physical evidence from the investigation.
By this time I no longer considered The 9/11 Commission Report a credible source of information for explaining the events of September 11, 2001. The commissioners had abrogated their responsibility to the American public and the world by not conducting a thorough investigation. There must have been a compelling reason to explain why they failed to do so. Unlike the Commission Chairman, however, I would not be content to leave this question as just one of the loose ends that never got tied.