Time for another installment in the series of book reviews which I call "Books That are not Worth Reviewing". This time, it's not a book, but it does have plenty of fiction – it's the "9/11 Investigator", a 'broadsheet' newspaper put out by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth.
AE911 (as I'm going to call it in this review), was formed fairly late in the 9/11 conspiracy game. Architect Richard Gage founded the org in 2006, after hearing another truther on the radio – David Ray Griffin, who is a theologian by trade. Griffin, who was a professor of theology in 2001, decided to write a book about 9/11 after the attack, and in 2003, after reading some conspiracy theories on the web, was converted to a truther himself. Most of those conspiracy theorists were inspired by the movie Loose Change, which was wonderfully destroyed by Cracked magazine of all places. Anyway, once you start rooting around, it gets obvious real quick that that NOTHING in the world of "9/11 truth" is straightforward. It's all built on half-truths and outright lies.
So, Gage formed AE911 in 2006, and it became an official non-profit in 2007. In four years, they've gotten about 1500 architects and engineers to sign some version of the following petition:
On Behalf of the People of the United States of America, the undersigned Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth and affiliates hereby petition for, and demand, a truly independent investigation with subpoena power in order to uncover the full truth surrounding the events of 9/11/01 - specifically the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers and Building 7. We believe that there is sufficient doubt about the official story and therefore that the 9/11 investigation must be re-opened and must include a full inquiry into the possible use of explosives that may have been the actual cause behind the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers and WTC Building 7. Sincerely, The Undersigned
Just for reference, there are about 233,000 architects in the US, and 1.5 million engineers. So, they've gotten just about 0.01% of their expert audience – less if you think globally – to sign onto this petition. And, the text of the petition has changed over the years. And, as pointed out by this guide to 9/11 websites, you need to sign the petition to view a bunch of the content on their website.
Everyone who wishes to join AE911Truth website, has to sign the petition. One cannot even view their discussion board without joining and thus also signing their petition.
This year, on the anniversary of 9/11, they put out this broadsheet. It's a slim volume, just 4 pages long, newspaper-sized, with maybe a dozen articles total. I came across it in a couple local establishments – yeah, that's where I live. Eventually I decided to snag one. The broadsheet is so flimsy that I picked up four by mistake.
The articles frequently cross-reference each other in mind-numbing fashion. For example, several articles cover Building 7 – which collapsed a couple hours after the two towers, even though it wasn't hit by a plane. Truthers are convinced that this was a deliberate demolition. The main article about WTC7 covers several areas - first, the story of a physics teacher who disputes some issues about the speed at which the building fell. Second, some evidence that traces of thermite were found in the debris of WTC7. Conveniently, both of these topics have their own articles in the broadsheet.
Other than this self-referencing, and references to the AE911 website itself, the articles are fairly light on citations.
They focus on several areas of concern. I don't want to spend a lot of time debunking the facts, since people who are a lot smarter than me, and more devoted to the task, have done that very thoroughly. I will link where it's worth doing, and mention some general absurdity.
1,000 Architects and Engineers Challenge the Official Version:
It's not particularly clear that this is true or not. Over 1,000 of them signed a petition anyway, although the text of the petition clearly changed over time. Also, there has been enough of a spam issue here that they introduced an involved validation process. What is clear is that being an architect or an engineer does not explicitly qualify you to be an expert on building collapse, or really even to have an informed opinion. But the broadsheet proudly declares "we are technical professionals representing more than 25,000 years of collective experience."
Hmmm. I'm a technical professional. If I sign the petition, are my 10+ years of experience added to that tally?
Using phrases like "technical professional" is a pretty shallow appeal to someone's superior expertise, especially if it doesn't exist, or isn't pertinent. It's also something that truthers themselves tend to fight against. If you surf enough 9/11 truth sites, you'll see them attacking the lack of expertise of people trying to debunk their theories.
In fact, the only architect really featured in the broadsheet is Gage himself. But if you try and do research on his actual experience, and filter out the 9/11 noise, there's almost nothing to find. It seems like he has built some gymnasiums and a couple malls, and been the project manager on a couple projects. Is that experience make him an expert qualified to comment on the WTC crashes? The other main 'experts' in the broadsheet are a physics teacher, and one professor. More about them later, but the list of experts in this broadsheet is slim. And you have to assume this is the best they've got.
We have some evidence that suggests the use of explosives and/or that a plane crashes couldn't take down the WTC buildings:
There's this great sentence in one of these articles:
Aside from the fact that no steel-frame high rise building has ever collapsed due to fire prior to or since 9/11, the manner in which the buildings came down is itself a substantial cause for reinvestigation.
Is this even a valid sentence? Aside from that question, this is such an terrible logical argument – It's never happened before, therefore it couldn't have happened this time either. Firstly, we're talking about less than 100 years of data here, and in a continuously developing field. Secondly, there are relatively few examples of planes crashing into buildings, and even fewer examples of large planes being crashed deliberately. In fact, I only know of two examples of large jumbo jets with full loads of fuel being deliberately crashed at high speed into large buildings – the two in question here. So, the data set is small. To add some weight to this argument, there's some quotes from firefighters and first responders saying they have never seen something like this before – well, no kidding!
Also, the fires were basically unfought. In other high-rise building fires, people were actively working to stop the fires.
There's a bunch of talk about how the building fell in a way which implies it must've been a controlled demolition – a theory which has been well-debunked. Incidentally, although AE911 cannot possibly conceive how a couple of planes took down the towers, they want you to believe the towers were felled by controlled demolition, even though WTC 1 and 2 were three times taller than the tallest building taken down by CD.
There's also talk of "pyroclastic-like flows… similar to those observed and filmed during the explosion of the Mt. St. Helens volcano" – this is a deliberate mis-comparison, which ties into the claims of molten steel and metal. Pyroclastic flow refers to a mixture of superhot gas and rock being expelled from a volcano. But there's no indications of superhot gas in the WTC. No one was boiled or poached, and although there was a lot of dust in the air, no one complained about the heat of it. This is a deliberate mis-usage of the word, to make it seem like some sort of explosion was involved. Speaking of which…
Building 7 Couldn't Possibly Have Collapsed -- Nothing Hit it!
WTC7 fell because it caught on fire, and not only was the fire unfought, but the sprinkler system didn't work. It burned all day long, and at the end of the day, it collapsed, after fires reduced the strength of a couple important parts of the structure. Furthermore, the broadsheet claims that the building was too far away from the other buildings to be hit by debris, but even just in Wikipedia you can find a pile of information about all the damage suffered by WTC7 when the other towers fell. Certainly enough to start a fire anyway.
Building 7 is at the heart of AE911's argument. They believe that there's no plausible way that the building could've come down without some help, like a controlled demolition. This is called an Argument from incredulity – since AE911 cannot possibly conceive of the building coming down via fire, debris damage, it must not have happened!
We Corrected the NIST!
The NIST did an study extensive study of why the towers fell. This occurred a couple years after the original FEMA study, because a lot of people wanted to really understand what happened – mostly people who care about keeping tall buildings from falling down. Anyway, they released a draft report in August 2008. David Chandler, a high school physics teacher and supporter of AE911, raised some issues with the analysis of the rate of fall of the buildings. He actually confronted them publicly about it. When the final report came out in November 2008, it somewhat reflected the issues that he had raised. The broadsheet is marking this as a huge victory, but it's not. Also, a lot of Chandler's conclusions have been roundly debunked.
There's a choice sentence in the article Building 7 Implosion: The Smoking Gun of 9/11:
After an embarrassing series of questions from AE911Truth petition signers, NIST’s top engineers ultimately acknowledged some of the key facts surrounding the building's destruction.
Conveniently, 'embarrassing' isn't really quantified. Nor are the acknowledgements, or any list of actual changes/corrections made by the NIST, or how those changes mark a victory for AE911.
Evidence was Ignored, Like This Weird Shit We Found:
Some people claimed they heard explosions on that day. Those accounts are dutifully mentioned here, and generally taken out of context. The article has several quotes from Karin Deshore, who is a firefighter who was there on 9/11. The broadsheet quotes Deshore from an interview with the New York Times:
Somewhere around the middle of the World Trade Center, there was this orange and red flash coming out. Initially it was just one flash. Then this flash just kept popping all the way around the building and that building had started to explode. The popping sound - and with each popping sound it was initially an orange and then a red flash came out of the building and then it would just go all around the building on both sides as far as I could see. These popping sounds and the explosions were getting bigger, going both up and down and then all around the building.
But it leaves out the next few paragraphs, which describe her actions over the next few minutes (if not longer), before the building came down. Truthers want you to believe that the buildings came down via controlled demolition. And they want you to believe that these flashes Deshore claims she saw are evidence of that. But how on earth did someone set of explosive charges, only to have the building come down several minutes later? It just doesn't happen that way.
Incidentally, you should read her complete statement. If you do, you learn that she was covered in dust after the first tower came down, and had tried to clean her eyes out with some sort of caustic water, so she couldn't see very well at all.
Truthers love to use quotes from this woman, if you google her name you'll see them everywhere, but it seems like most of them owe her a pretty big apology for taking what she said out of context.
Another article is devoted to the fact that most of the steel from the buildings was recycled – why didn't we keep all 200,000 tons of it around for evidence! This is a decent fallback plan. That steel is gone, and never coming back. Therefore, it must've had some pretty convincing evidence! Unfortunately for truthers, the NIST did keep a couple hundred tons of steel and did all sorts of analysis.
There's a lot of talk of molten steel, which includes this photo, supposedly of some machines moving around molten steel:
That's a pretty crappy photo, and it isn't sourced, and I'm not even sure that it shows what it claims to show. Anyway, there's a bigger version on 911 Myths:
Also, another similar picture I've seen once or twice on truthy sites:
Not only are these photos poorly sourced, but they don't really show anything! They certainly don't show some giant pile of molten steel. It looks like there might be a little fire there, maybe, but mostly it's a crappy set of photos. From 911 Myths:
Now maybe it’s just us, but we have some problems with that. First, there’s no proof here other than the caption of when and where this was taken. Second, whatever’s glowing red here clearly isn’t isn’t “molten” in the sense of “melted”.There may possibly be something dripping off one end, but we don’t know what that is. Third, there seems an odd lack of conduction amongst the materials being picked up. We can see that the excavator has picked up a considerable amount of nearby material that presumably was very close to the same heat source, and it looks like glowing metal, but it’s completely black. There’s no orange -- bright red -- dull red transition across the materials, it’s just a straight orange to black. Steel isn’t a good conductor of heat, it’s true, but is that enough to explain the photo?
What About the Dust?
There's also a couple articles about the WTC dust. In particular, there's some theories that the since the dust contains a bunch of iron, there must've been thermite used to take down the towers. Never mind the long list of potential sources for iron.
Buried at the end of one article about the dust is the name of the physicist who wrote a couple articles in 2007 and 2008 – Stephen Jones. For some reason, mentions of a paper he wrote are left to another article in 2009 on the same topic. He published "Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe" in the "peer-reviewed" Bentham Open Chemical Physics Journal in 2009. That paper, which explicitly blames thermite for taking down the towers caused the editor of the journal to resign, and has been widely debunked and discredited. (See this for some details)
Jones himself lost a tenured position at BYU over an earlier article on the same topic.
Also, Jones thinks that the US caused the Haiti earthquake.
The best thing about the thermite claims are this - AE911 claims that the buildings fell via controlled demolition – not because of the plane crashes and their effects. There's some talk of "squibs" and flashes and pops here and there, and claims that the buildings came down too quickly. But those are all things that you see from explosives – and thermite is very much not an explosive – it is just something that burns hot enough to melt metal.
The alleged evidence becomes a huge circular loop that goes like this:
- We think we have evidence of a controlled demolition
- Things got very hot -- there was molten steel!
- Hmmm, thermite burns hot
- Therefore, there must've been a controlled demolition
- (Repeat as needed)
The problem is, there's no real evidence of molten steel. The evidence for thermite is non-existent. Even if there was thermite, there would've needed to be tons of the stuff – a lot.
Maybe we should have a international tribunal of some sort to prosecute Bush administration officials
There's one article by Donald Stahl, which discusses several tribunals of the past. It mentions an attempt by Senator Patrick Leahy to start a Bush Truth and Reconciliation Commission – but Leahy wasn't talking about 9/11. He wants to
investigate abuses during the Bush-Cheney Administration -- so they never happen again. These abuses may include the use of torture, warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, and executive override of laws.
I don't see "blow up tall buildings" on that list.
This article also talks about the International Criminal Court, although the Court can only prosecute crimes that happened after 2002. And, the US isn't a signatory. There's a picture of Bertrand Russell and some references to his Vietnam-era War Crimes Tribunal. But this is just sad. First, Bertrand Russell is surely one of the greatest thinkers of the last century. AE911 has no claim to an intellectual of that level. Second, the list of participants in his Tribunal is pretty amazing. AE911 will be lucky to get Ed Asner and Charlie Sheen. Charlie Sheen!!
Third, VIETNAM ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
Also, just to obscure things a little more, this article talks about universal jurisdiction, which, roughly speaking, is the idea that some crimes are so terrible that they can be prosecuted outside of the nation where they happened. This is a fairly controversial legal idea, but it's easy to see why Truthers would be interested in it. But then the article states:
The idea of universal jurisdiction is controversial but is gaining increasing acceptance. It dates back at least to the 1945 Nuremberg Trials.
But the Wikipedia article on Universal Jurisdiction clearly states that
Universal jurisdiction asserted by a state must also be distinguished from the jurisdiction of an international tribunal, such as ... the Nuremberg Trials (1945–49). In these cases criminal jurisdiction is exercised by an international organization, not by a state. The legal jurisdiction of an international tribunal is dependent on powers granted to it by the states that established it. In the case of the Nuremberg Trials, the legal basis for the tribunal was that the Allied powers were exercising German sovereign powers transferred to them by the German Instrument of Surrender.
And since this Wikipedia entry is linked in the online version of this story, we can assume that the author read it, and either missed that paragraph (the only mention of Nuremberg), or is just trying to compare the alleged crimes of 9/11 to some other pretty severe crimes.
There's a really delicious sentence in the first paragraph of this article:
Many, for instance, don't trust that the US Congress (which brought us the omissions and distortions of the 9/11 Commission Report) would have the political will or the simple veracity to expose these incalculable misdeeds and trace them to their roots.
Wow, what an amazing use of language. It's so tied up in excess words and weaseling, and yet somehow it rolls right off the tongue.
This story closes with:
There is no greater calling in these times than that of the patriot who steps forward and risks everything to save his country.
Ah, a call to patriotism. That's good. Especially at the end of an article mostly devoted to workarounds to subverting our legal system.
This whole article is perhaps the weirdest part of the broadsheet. It's one thing to have a bunch of articles about your conspiracy theory. Some of this writing is vaguely scientific (even if it's bad science), and claiming to search for the truth in a venue such as this broadsheet is fine. But putting together your plans to prosecute people? That seems a little premature. It's a pretty flat attempt to draw the conclusion that the 9/11 truth movement is so legitimate, and the crimes it is chasing down are so clearly unacceptable, that they feel confident enough to talk about future prosecutions of people complicit in this giant conspiracy.
Send us money
To help fund their activities, AE911 puts out a couple DVDs, sells t-shirts, asks for donations, etc. Richard Gage made over $75,000 last year while travelling all over the world. Almost every article contains some sort of plea for support, but one article titled "Volunteers and Financial Supporters The Foundation for Mission Success." Volunteering is not actually mentioned specifically - it's all about money:
While it's obvious our efforts are working, our reach always exceeds our grasp. We need additional staffing, publicity, information technology and legal support to meet our objectives in support of our mission.
... please join the family of sustaining supporters now at ae911truth.org and set up a monthly donation that works comfortably -- or perhaps even a bit uncomfortably -- with in [sic] your budget.
you will help us reduce the hidden costs of repeated, ongoing fundraising efforts.
[emphasis mine where bolded]
What a weird choice of words! "hidden costs" – what's hidden about it?
AE911 tried to drum up a lot of "excitement" about this broadsheet – they announced it in advance and timed it to be available on 9/11. There's a couple entries in their blog about it, listing all the articles which were going to be included. One thing I noticed right away is a couple changes in the titles of the articles – mostly away from being unbelievably tasteless to being vaguely scientific. It's like they got someone with a sense of right and wrong to look at the proofs right before sending them off to be printed.
The main article went from "Incendiary Forensics Fires up Architects and Engineers – with the word 'Fires' in flamey red – to "1,000 Architects & Engineers Challenge Official Report of WTC Destruction" – a much more official-sounding title.
"Explosive Evidence blows away Fire Theory" was changed to "Twin Tower's Evidence Blows Away Fire Theory." – also less crass.
"Forging a Mystery: Molten Iron found in WTC debris" changed to "High Temperatures, Persistent Heat & 'Molten Steel' at WTC Site Challenge Official Story", and "Finding Truth under the Microscope" went to "Advanced Pyrotechnic or Explosive Material Discovered in WTC Dust." Very Official Sounding!
The most interesting thing is what was removed. One article, which is listed on the blog as part of the broadsheet, but it isn't in my copy, is titled Gross Negligence: DeNISTifying the Destruction of the WTC Skyscrapers. The blog summarizes the story:
This newspaper wouldn’t be complete without directly addressing the culprits of the scientific cover-up – the NIST team. Our exposé dismantles the many fallacies of the NIST Reports and lays the case for why this agency – under the direction of the Department of Commerce itself needs to be investigated.
Why did they chose to not print this? It's right there on the blog. They clearly intended to print it – apparently the broadsheet wouldn't be complete without it! But nonetheless, for some reason it didn't make the cut.
Propaganda and Media
AE911 timed the release of this broadsheet for 9/11, along with several other media events. They rented out the National Press Club to hold a press conference in Washington DC on 9/9. They had a mock debate as well, but no one other than AE911 supporters showed up. You can see on their flickr photostream that they've held a bunch of press conferences in the last few months – there's a lot of tight shots of attendees with claims of "packed rooms."
And since it's so central to their theories, they had a special media event planned for that. Right on the broadsheet is this picture:
With the caption "Should there be a third beam of light? A third building fell on 9/11. WTC7 may be the key to justice for the victms of the Twin Towers' destruction."
On the night of 9/11, AE911 turned on a spotlight to light up the sky next to the two lights for the twin towers. They describe the event on their blog:
Just before 9:11 p.m. on Sept. 11, the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Richard Gage, AIA, founder of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, stood at the corner of Church and Worth Streets in Lower Manhattan with 200 9/11 Truth advocates in eager anticipation of the switch being thrown on what until that moment had been a tightly held secret by the AE911Truth leadership -- a two-billion-candlepower Third Beam of light about to shoot into the NYC skyline representing the controlled-demolition destruction of Building 7 -- the third WTC skyscraper, not hit by any plane, to fall on 9/11. The purpose of the Third Beam -- championed and executed by Barbara Honegger with the enthusiastic support of AE911Truth core team members, NYCCAN and the BuildingWhat? Campaign -- was to break through the media blackout surrounding Building 7’s fall and its censorship by the official 9/11 Commission Report. As Barbara pressed the buttons on the high-power spotlights and the Beam ignited the night sky at exactly 9:11 p.m., an AE911Truth press release was simultaneously issued to the 500 mainstream newspapers, TV networks and stations, and radio in the larger New York City area via PR Newswire’s 'NYC Metro' media distribution list. This press release and the release on AE911Truth’s Washington, DC, press conference of two days earlier ranked second and third "Most Read" on the PR Newswire web page. As part of this planned media blitz, Gage distributed a call list which Honegger prepared for attendees at the concurrent INN World Report conference on "How the World Changed After 9/11" being held nearby, asking each to contact a designated mainstream media company with the question, "Why is there a third Beam of light in the New York City skyline tonight?!"
I think this blog post sums up the problem with AE911 and the "9/11 Investigator" broadsheet very succinctly – they're not actually interested in figuring out what happened here. The media spectacle is everything.
A "two-billion candlepower" searchlight is actually pretty easy to come by. If you search the web for that term, you'll see references to them from the early 1900s. I don't think it's illegal to use on in New York - so why all the secrecy? It seems like if you wanted to get press coverage, you would tell them before you turned on the lights, not after. But instead, they complain about the lack of coverage, in particular attacking Wired magazine of all things:
Wired Magazine, which otherwise covered the 9/11 'Tribute Lights' story, made no mention of the Third Beam, but only of the two official beams. "So far, not one media outlet has reported on the incredible addition of a 3rd beam of light to the memorial on 9/11/10. Can it not be more clear that there is a media narcosis on the matter?" The article further stated, "For a 'science' magazine like Wired to completely ignore the 3rd beam of light, erected by 1,300 architects and engineers to remind and inform people of the destruction of World Trade Center # 7, is absurd."
Anyone who thinks that Wired is a science magazine is an idiot. It's Maxim with less skin.
Judging from AE911's flickr photostream, the reason there wasn't a lot of talk about the third beam is that it was barely visible.
The blog post continues to rant:
Except for the instant success of the Third Beam itself, the most amazing event in NYC on the night of the 11th was the shutting down of the two official beams for the first time in eight years of 'Tribute in Light' memorials, at 11:00 p.m. EDT. Still maintaining the media blackout of the Third Beam, Wired did mention the two official beams and "their interruption at 11 p.m." In that article, "9/11 Memorial Lights Trap Thousands of Birds," the online magazine claimed, "On the evening of the ninth anniversary of 9/11, the twin columns of light projected as a memorial over the World Trade Center site became a source of mystery. The two beams were shut off after migrating birds became trapped and disoriented by the light’s intensity." With the Third Beam now lighting up the skyline alone, the AE911Truth group decided to shut theirs down. The two "official beams" turned back on within an hour, but only after the activists had left the scene and driven the lights back to their storage location.
The Wired article in question pretty clearly documents the birds, both with pictures, video, and commentary. (Other stories about them here here here here). It doesn't seem like much of a mystery at all. Several of these stories state that contrary to AE911's statement, this happened once before, in 2004, it's always been a concern because NYC is in the path of many migratory birds, and that this year, the beams were turned off for 20 minutes five times during the night. Seems like there was a little story tweaking here on the part of AE911.
It sounds like AE911 decided to go ahead and some money on their spotlight rental fee, and as an added benefit, they get to play the "media underdog" card. Boohoo, no one is paying attention to us. This blog post is simultaneously whining about the press, complaining about media blackout of their crusade, and yet calling their 3rd beam an "instant success."
And that pretty much sums up Richard Gage and AE911. I have no idea what he really believes, or what his real goals are, but his methods are exceedingly lame, and so is the "9/11 Investigator" broadsheet. All Gage has done is combined together a bunch of tired 9/11 conspiracy theories, and turned AE911 into a reasonably lucrative salaried job position – something unheard of with small mission-driven non-profits. If AE911 really wanted to accomplish something, Gage and his 'technical expert' supporters would do something - they'd do some hard research, write papers in legitimate peer-reviewed journals, and convince their peers in the scientific/engineering community of the truth of their beliefs. But instead, they play games, peddle DVDs and broadsheets, ask for donations, and spin their wheels on so much nothingness.
- The 911guide has a section devoted to AE911
- AE911Truth.info lists The Top 10 Bonehead Mistakes made by AE911.
- The James Randi Educational Foundation has a busy forum devoted to discussing 9/11 conspiracy theories.
- The Debunking 911 site has all sorts of information. Screw Loose Change is a blog dealing with 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Finally, just for kicks, here's a YouTube video dealing with David Chandler's claims. Reading the comments for this sort of stuff is awesome. People are clearly entitled to question the official report, but then you see statements like "You make a convincing case. Now how about the pentagon? Where is the plane? How can the initial hole only be 20 feet wide? What happened to the wings?" LOL