Editor’s Note: At the end of this article are two appendices containing 169 video clips of news coverage from the day of 9/11. An immense debt of gratitude is owed to AE911Truth Operations Manager Andy Steele for the time and care he put into preparing these video clips.
A PDF of the article with video links is available here.
This article is the second installment of a two-part research project we began in July 2020 with the article “How 36 Reporters Brought Us the Twin Towers’ Explosive Demolition on 9/11.”
In that article, our goal was to determine the prevalence, among television reporters on 9/11, of the hypothesis that explosions had brought down the Twin Towers. Through careful review of approximately 70 hours of news coverage on 11 different channels, we found that the explosion hypothesis was not only common among reporters but was, in fact, the dominant hypothesis.
Our second question, which we set aside for the present article, was to determine how, despite its prevalence, the explosion hypothesis was supplanted by the hypothesis of fire-induced collapse.
In this article, we shall concentrate not on reporters in the field, as in Part 1, but on the news anchors and their guests who were tasked with discovering and making sense of what was happening. As we trace the supplanting of the explosion hypothesis with the fire-induced collapse hypothesis, we witness the great shift toward what quickly became the Official Narrative.
We do not see our task as trying to discover whether the Official Narrative of 9/11 is true or false. In the 21 years since the attacks took place, it has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt, we believe, that the Official Narrative is false.
While we support and participate in the further accumulation of evidence for this position, as well as the presentation of this evidence to the public, we believe it is also important to look into how the triumph of the Official Narrative was accomplished. If we are able to discover this, we will greatly advance our understanding of the psychological operation conducted on September 11, 2001 — and, thus, our understanding of how other psychological operations are perpetrated on the public.
Our argument is that two strategies were employed to accomplish the triumph of the Official Narrative:
(a) Where news anchors were sincerely dedicated to discovering the facts of the situation, Strategy One was employed. This strategy involved directly confronting the news anchor of the relevant network with an “expert” who would explain that the destruction of the Twin Towers was caused by structural failure induced by the airplane impact and the ensuing fires. This would allay concerns about reports of explosions in the towers and would domesticate the news anchor so that he or she would stop raising problematic questions. Of course, as we can see clearly today, these experts could not possibly have known what they so confidently proclaimed. In fact, we can now see that their explanations were simply wrong. But their interviews seem to have accomplished their goals on 9/11. To illustrate this strategy, we shall choose as our chief examples CNBC and CNN, whose anchors showed the most interest in the explosion hypothesis, and we will also look at CBS and NBC.
(b) Strategy Two was used on all networks, regardless of the stance of the news anchors. This strategy involved developing two related narratives — two engaging, emotionally charged stories — that appeared to explain the day’s horrors and offered viewers a set of active responses. They were not scientific hypotheses and were not directly related to the destruction of the Twin Towers, but indirectly they appeared to favor the fire-induced collapse hypothesis more than the explosion hypothesis. By the end of the day, they had silenced the explosion hypothesis.
The first of these two stories is what we shall call the War on Terror narrative. This grand narrative, resonant with older storied events, explained how the righteous, the civilized, the United States had been subjected to an act of war from the evil, the uncivilized, the terrorists supported by nations in the Middle East and Central Asia; and how American leaders must respond to this aggression with an initiative that was warlike on many levels. This narrative was articulated early (before noon on 9/11) and was repeated throughout the day. It established the foundations of the Global War on Terror.
The second story is the Bin Laden narrative, which nested within the wider War on Terror narrative and was used to transform myth into plausible history. According to this narrative, an evil Saudi national based in Afghanistan had masterminded the attacks.
It is extremely important to grasp the relationship between these two narratives and what may seem as detailed — even esoteric — facts about the destruction of the Twin Towers. If the buildings were destroyed by pre-planted explosives — as we believe has been demonstrated through years of research — the two narratives, however rational and moral they appeared to be to many television viewers, are profoundly misleading in their political analysis and profoundly immoral in their prescriptions.
To understand how the explosion hypothesis was supplanted by the fire-induced collapse hypothesis, it is first important to establish whether, and to what degree, the explosion hypothesis was considered by news anchors, their guests, and others at the television networks.
As we showed in Part 1, the great majority of reporters who witnessed the destruction of the Twin Towers either perceived an explosion or perceived the towers as exploding. This hypothesis of how the Twin Towers were destroyed then continued to be prevalent among reporters on the ground, who essentially viewed the destruction of the towers as an explosion-based attack subsequent to the airplane strikes.
Given what the reporters were communicating to the rest of the world, how did their colleagues in the studios absorb this information and make sense of what had happened for the viewing public?
As in Part 1, to answer this question, we reviewed approximately 70 hours of continuous news coverage from 11 different networks, cable news channels, and local network affiliates.
Table 1 below shows the news coverage we compiled and reviewed. (For further description of our data collection, see Part 1 of the series.) Table 2 lists the mentions of the explosion hypothesis by network. Table 3 lists the mentions of the explosion hypothesis by the time they occurred.
Videos and transcripts of every mention of the explosion hypothesis are shown in Appendix A.
In total, when we include seven ambiguous mentions of the explosion hypothesis — which we defined as an anchor describing the occurrence of an explosion in conjunction with the collapse of either tower but not implying that the explosion necessarily caused the collapse — we found that the explosion hypothesis was mentioned 70 times across all 11 channels.
To our great interest, we found that news anchors or guest experts on every channel, with the exception of Fox News, at some point in the day believed, considered, or at least articulated the possibility that explosions had caused the Twin Towers’ destruction. In addition, several channels, including Fox News, displayed banners or captions or crawls in their lower thirds stating that explosions had caused the Twin Towers’ destruction.
The explosion hypothesis was first mentioned by several anchors on several different channels within minutes of the South Tower’s destruction at 9:59 AM and — within our pool of television coverage — was mentioned for the final time by NBC’s Tom Brokaw at 4:48 PM. It is noteworthy that more than half of the mentions of the explosion hypothesis occurred in the first 31 minutes after the South Tower’s destruction. As we shall discuss below, on some channels the explosion hypothesis was eventually explicitly discarded while on other channels it simply stopped being mentioned.
In some cases, discussion of the explosion hypothesis was driven by the anchors’ own observation and intuition while in other cases it was driven by information provided by reporters on the ground (and, in some cases, both). In a few cases, especially in the lower third captions, mention of the explosion hypothesis appears to have been driven by information circulated on the newswire.
Altogether, the data reflect that the explosion hypothesis was broadly, though in most cases fleetingly, considered by news anchors, their guests, and others at the networks.
The one notable exception was on Fox News, where the anchor, Jon Scott, assertively pushed the fire-induced collapse hypothesis while fabricating the War on Terror and Bin Laden narratives before our eyes. All the while, he seemed uniquely unsurprised and unbothered by the events, as compared to other anchors who exhibited varying degrees of shock, disbelief, and horror. Although Fox News reporters on the ground, like those of other networks, were describing explosions, Scott went out of his way to correct their impressions of what they had witnessed and make the fire-induced collapse hypothesis seem credible to viewers. Because of Scott, no experts were needed to establish the Official Narrative on Fox News. There was only one hypothesis in the foreground, and this hypothesis was so quickly solidified that by noon on 9/11, all of the major elements of the coming Global War on Terror had been set forth.
However, for the anchors who were sincerely dedicated to discovering the facts, Strategy One was employed.
In discussing Strategy One we shall use CNBC and CNN as our chief examples and also look briefly at CBS and NBC.
CNBC saw, perhaps, the most notable rise and fall of the explosion hypothesis.
CNBC’s consideration of the explosion hypothesis started at 10:01 AM with news anchor Mark Haines hearing from witnesses on the street that a third airplane had crashed into the South Tower. He surmised that this third airplane impact was responsible for the South Tower’s total destruction.
In a discussion with CNBC reporter Maria Bartiromo, who was on the ground at the New York Stock Exchange, Haines’ suspicion of a third airplane causing the South Tower’s destruction was reinforced by Bartiromo’s repeated reference to “the explosion,” which Bartiromo deduced was “just the actual collapse of the building” but that Haines suggested was a third airplane impact.
After about 15 minutes, Haines was informed that the Associated Press was reporting only two airplane strikes. As Haines began to accept that there was no third airplane strike, he and another anchor (we were unable to determine this person’s name) agreed that some sort of explosion must have caused the South Tower’s destruction. At around 10:21 AM, Haines looked closely at footage of the South Tower’s destruction and began to analyze it with an accuracy and clarity that was unique among news anchors:
Minutes later, Haines reacted in horror as he watched the destruction of the North Tower in real time, exclaiming:
Haines then went on to analyze the destruction as he had done before with the following series of comments:
“There you see — I don’t understand, and I would be very anxious to hear in the future some, the forensics of this situation.”“This is — there you see the building imploding. It, it — do you see what’s happening? Now, what would cause that I don’t know.”
In response to Haines’ comments, his co-anchor, Bill Griffeth, acknowledged the possibility of what Haines was suggesting, stating:
Haines responded with his opinion that the destruction of both towers could not have been accidental:
A few minutes later, at around 10:34 AM, Haines left the studio, apparently in shock, and did not return for the day. We can only wonder how aggressively Haines might have continued to pursue the explosion hypothesis had he remained in the newsroom. (Sadly, Haines died of congestive heart failure in 2011.)
At 11:07 AM, co-anchor Griffeth brought structural engineer Eric Gass into the studio for an interview, asking him “whether it would be necessary for a further attack upon the buildings before they would collapse.” Gass happened to be working on the construction of a nearby building for CNBC at the time.
Over the course of his interview, Gass extinguished any remaining suspicion Griffeth and others may have had, making a number of unfounded assertions about the inability of the buildings to withstand the airplane impacts and fires.
Eric Gass: “Well, I think you’ve a got a couple of issues that are going on here. One is, these are concrete reinforced structures. And concrete is a compressive material. So as you can see, especially from the second attack, as it comes in, it appears to shear into the side of the building.”
Herrera: “The plane.”
Gass: “Absolutely. So you have a couple of issues. One, it probably has taken all the concrete away from the steel.”
Herrera: “And now you’re seeing that second plane.”
Gass: “Absolutely. So this structure, and I think as you see as it will collapse later on, it begins to tilt to that side. It has taken all of the concrete and put it into tensile property.”
Herrera: “And these are large planes.”
Gass: “Absolutely. If we’re dealing with a Boeing 767, you’re not just dealing with a large plane, you’re dealing with a large plane that’s coming in at over 500 mph. So you have all of the impact going in to those members. There is no building that I’m aware of that can take this kind of impact.”
Griffeth: “So as we watch the first of the towers collapsing there, it was enough from the initial attack by the jet to bring the tower down eventually. Is that your understanding?”
Gass: “I would say so. Especially the second thing you would have going on, of course, is the airplane’s going to have a great deal of fuel, and the fire is going to be working against that structural steel, which of course is why the fire codes are so stringent in this country. So then you’re going to have a problem with once the fire takes place it’s going to work against the structural strength of that steel and begin to collapse.”
Griffeth: “So you’re not surprised that these would go down just based on the jet crashing into the buildings here, Eric?
Gass: “No. As a matter of act, as we were seeing the explosion the first time, that was the first thing that occurred to us, is that there would be an immediate weakening on that side of the building. I think if you look at the second tower that collapsed, you will see that it begins to collapse straight down, which as it appears from what happened in the impact, it impacted much more into the center of the building. Again, you would have gotten rid of all of the ability for fire protection to have gotten rid of some of the fire and the flames, which apparently is why it took longer. The other point too is that you have 15 floors of extremely heavy material bearing down on this situation. It would be impossible to see why it would be able to hold up.”
Griffeth: “The terrorist bombing of some years ago against the World Trade Center, which occurred essentially in the parking structure below the building, why didn’t that bring that down at the time?”Gass: “Well, I think you’re dealing with a different issue. One, you’re dealing with a static explosion, where someone pulls a small truck underneath so you have all of the concrete not only keeping both of the floors above and below. But you’re dealing with the biggest structural strength of that building is sitting underground. Of course, New York is pure bedrock. So that would have been the worst place to attack it. Clearly it did not do that much damage, enough structurally to make major structural problems with the design, as I understand it. Here, you have a much larger vehicle, with much more speed, and literally shearing any of its structural capacity in those particular areas.”
Hours later, at around 2:25 PM, Griffeth repeated Gass’s unfounded assertions.
To summarize, engineer Eric Gass, the “expert,” was able to put a stop to the legitimate questioning of Mark Haines and Bill Griffeth. Although we know now that Gass’s hypothesis is false, it would have seemed plausible at the time both to news anchors and the viewing public.
Shortly after 9:59 AM, news anchor Aaron Brown was standing on a roof in New York City about 30 blocks from the World Trade Center. He was looking directly at the South Tower as it was destroyed. He was, therefore, not just a journalist and not just a news anchor: He was an eyewitness.
He immediately interrupted a journalist who was reporting live on the Pentagon:
Having reported honestly what he saw with his own eyes, Brown next did exactly what he should have done as a responsible news anchor. He let his audience know that, while he did not know what had happened, it was clear that there were two hypotheses in play, the explosion hypothesis and the fire-induced collapse hypothesis. And then he went to his reporters on the scene, as well as to authorities, to try and sort out which hypothesis was correct.
Here are examples of his setting forth — after the first building was destroyed and again after the second was destroyed — the rival hypotheses:
Brown’s honest reporting of his perceptions was balanced repeatedly by his caution. Here is an example:
His next move, having set forth the two hypotheses, was to ask his reporters on the scene, who were choking on pulverized debris and witnessing gruesome scenes, what they perceived.
Reporter Brian Palmer said honestly that he was not in a position to resolve the issue.
Brown at 10:41 AM: “Was there...Brian, did it sound like there was an explosion before the second collapse, or was the noise the collapse itself?”
Palmer: “Well, from our distance...I was not able to distinguish between an explosion and the collapse. We were several hundred yards away. But we clearly saw the building come down. I heard your report of a fourth explosion: I can’t confirm that. But we heard some ‘boom’ and then the building fold in on itself.”
Two other reporters were more definite about what they perceived.
Brown at 10:29 AM: “Rose, whadya got?”
Rose Arce: “I’m about a block away. And there were several people that were hanging out the windows right below where the plane crashed, when suddenly you saw the top of the building start to shake, and people began leaping from the windows in the north side of the building. You saw two people at first plummet and then a third one, and then the entire top of the building just blew up...”
Brown at 10:57 AM: “Who do we have on the phone, guys? Just help me out here. Patty, are you there?”
Patty Sabga: “Yes, I am here.”
Brown: “Whaddya got?”
Sabga: “About an hour ago I was on the corner of Broadway and Park Place — that’s about a thousand yards from the World Trade Center — when the first tower collapsed. It was a massive explosion. At the time the police were trying desperately to evacuate people from the area. When that explosion occurred, it was like a scene out of a horror film.”
Clearly, the explosion hypothesis was flourishing on CNN. In what is striking to read today, even the news caption at the bottom of the screen at 10:03 AM, shortly after the destruction of the South Tower, was dramatically articulating the explosion hypothesis:
“THIRD EXPLOSION SHATTERS WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NEW YORK”
After checking with his reporters, Brown continued to explore his two hypotheses, this time by consulting authorities.
First Brown consulted a political authority. He got the mayor of New York City on the line.
Later in the afternoon, Giuliani had more confidence in his script. At a press conference that aired on nearly every channel, he ruled out the explosion hypothesis when a reporter asked him, “Do you know anything about the cause of the explosions that brought down the two buildings yet?”
Finally, at 4:20 PM, Brown was visited by an engineer, Jim DeStefano, who we were told was with the National Council of Structural Engineers (the actual name of DeStefano’s organization is the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations). His brief comments put an end to Brown’s explosion hypothesis and rendered CNN’s news coverage safe for public consumption.
DeStefano, surely, had a right to make a guess, but he had no right to claim that he knew what had happened. He did not say, “Here is one hypothesis.” He said, in effect, “This is what happened.” But there had been no photographic or video analysis of the buildings’ destruction, no analysis of the physical remains, no cataloguing of eyewitnesses, no examination of seismic or thermal evidence, and so on. He was shooting in the dark, and he was silencing a journalist who was sincerely trying to discover the truth.
As we have discovered since that day, DeStefano's confidence was misplaced and his hypothesis was wrong. But his explanation appears to have succeeded in ending Aaron Brown’s interest in the explosion hypothesis.
The deployment of Strategy One was not unique to CNBC and CNN. Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, the evening news anchors for CBS, ABC and NBC, respectively, all considered the explosion hypothesis at various points during the course of the day. Two of them, Rather and Jennings, were met with experts who apparently put an end to their curiosity.
In Rather’s case, he was visited by a government official named Jerome Hauer. On 9/11, Hauer was director of the federal Office of Public Health Preparedness and was senior advisor to the Secretary for National Security and Emergency Management. In January 2001, Hauer had been hired to run a new crisis management group at Kroll Associates, the security consulting firm that had designed the security system for the World Trade Center complex in response to the 1993 bombing. And before that, from 1996 to 2000, he was director of the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), where he was chiefly — and controversially — responsible for installing the OEM’s Emergency Operations Center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7, which would also collapse later that day.
A little after 12:00 PM on 9/11, Rather and Hauer had this exchange:
One would expect a national security official, especially one working for a company responsible for security at the World Trade Center, to be pursuing all possibilities. Indeed, we know that officials at the FDNY, the NYPD, and the FBI suspected that explosives had brought down the towers. Hauer’s confidence that explosives had nothing to do with the towers’ destruction, less than two hours after it had happened, is at best grossly irresponsible.
In the case of Jennings, he interviewed a structural engineer by the name of Jon Magnusson, who on 9/11 was a partner at the structural engineering firm that had designed the Twin Towers. Magnusson would go on to be a member of the FEMA Building Performance Study, the first official investigation into the Twin Towers’ and Building 7’s destruction.
Earlier that morning, upon learning that the South Tower had completely collapsed, Jennings remarked:
“We have no idea what caused this. If you wish to bring — anybody who’s ever watched a building being demolished on purpose knows that if you’re going to do this you have to get at the under infrastructure of a building and bring it down.”
Twenty minutes later, apparently having trouble accepting NBC reporter Don Dahler’s interpretation that the building had simply collapsed from the airplane impact and fires, Jennings said:
“I’m still desperately confused, John, about what may have caused the building to collapse.”
To our knowledge, Jennings did not articulate the explosion hypothesis after that point. Nevertheless, later in the day, Magnusson was brought on to explain to Jennings and millions of viewers why the buildings had collapsed. Magnusson’s interview on ABC was preceded by a pre-recorded piece that put forth the fire-induced collapse hypothesis, basing its claims on advice from engineers at Magnusson’s firm. Once the piece ended, Jennings began his interview with Magnusson.
“I think we have with us, on the phone or in person, from Seattle, Jon Magnusson, who is an engineer — Jon, are you there? — Jon Mangusson, who is with the company that actually built the World Trade Center towers. Jon, have you heard our two laymen explanations tonight of what it was we think collapsed the building? And do you agree or disagree?”
Magnusson: “I agree.... The description of the fact that steel, when it gets up to 1,500, 1600°F, that it loses its strength is accurate. The buildings actually survived the impact of both the planes. And it was really the fire that created the disaster.”
Jennings: “And the upper floor fell on the next floor down, which fell on the next floor, and the sheer accumulation of weight just forced the whole building to collapse on itself?”Magnusson: “Right. From the videotape — and I can only go from what I’ve seen on television — but the videotape showed that several of the upper floors fell onto the next lower floor that was still intact. And once that happens, there’s going to be an instant overload situation. And then it will fail. And then that will drop down to the next floor, into another instant overload situation. And so the floors just progressively collapsed down all the way to the bottom.”
Magnusson was somewhat more cautious in his explanation than Gass, DeStefano and Hauer. At the same time, he was arguably the most equipped to recognize that the towers had possibly been destroyed with explosives, yet he advocated solely for the fire-induced collapse hypothesis. As a partner at the very firm that had designed the Twin Towers, his early endorsement of the fire-induced collapse hypothesis was essential in supplanting the explosion hypothesis.
Was it chance that led a series of “experts” to disarm these independent-minded news anchors with one false hypothesis after another? We think that is unlikely.
Consider that many building professionals and technical experts are known to have immediately suspected that explosives were responsible for the Twin Towers’ destruction. Notable examples of experts who first suspected explosives but then quickly changed their position include Van Romero, an explosives expert from New Mexico Tech, and Ronald Hamburger, a structural engineer who went on to work on the FEMA Building Performance Study and later on the NIST World Trade Center investigation. On 9/11, Romero told the Albuquerque Journal:
“The collapse of the buildings was ‘too methodical’ to be the chance result of airplanes colliding with the structures.... ‘My opinion is, based on the videotapes, that after the airplanes hit the World Trade Center there were some explosive devices inside the buildings that caused the towers to collapse.’”
On September 19, 2001, Hamburger told the Wall Street Journal:
“‘It appeared to me that charges had been placed in the building,’...Upon learning that no bombs had been detonated, ‘I was very surprised.’”
Much like these experts, Dr. Leroy Hulsey, a professor emeritus of civil engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who conducted a four-year computer modeling of Building 7’s collapse, has said that he told his students the week after 9/11 that the Twin Towers could not have collapsed in the way they did due to the airplane impacts and ensuing fires. Similarly, Dr. Fadil Al-Kazily, a civil engineering professor from Sacramento State, once commented to this author (Ted Walter) that he was not aware of a single colleague of his who believed the fire-induced collapse hypothesis.
So, how is it that every “expert” who appeared on national television that day advocated the fire-induced collapse hypothesis when there were so many who favored the explosion hypothesis?
Although it cannot be proven, we suspect that intentionality, coordination, and deception are on display in these interviews. We shall see even more of this in the deployment of Strategy Two.
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live, or to justify taking lives...tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are the quicksand in which we thrash and the well in which we drown.” — Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
On 9/11, the power of narrative to evoke horror, anger and a call-to-arms was drawn on by one prominent television guest after another. Genuine evidence, such as was produced early in the day by eyewitnesses, was pushed aside by the two narratives outlined below — the quasi-metaphysical War on Terror narrative and the Bin Laden narrative, which nested within the wider War on Terror narrative.
To the extent that these narratives were convincingly conveyed to viewers, no further argument against the explosion hypothesis was necessary. The foreign evildoers had crashed airplanes into the buildings and the buildings had come down, and that was all one needed to know.
The process of sowing these two narratives relied in part on a propaganda technique visible throughout the day’s coverage. It may be called “normalizing the abnormal.”
A good example of this technique can be seen later in the day. Both before and after World Trade Center Building 7 came down, the television audience was led to believe that such an event was normal. After all, the building was on fire, so of course it might come down! This was exemplified by the captions that began running on CNN around 4:10 PM — “BUILDING 7 AT WORLD TRADE CTR. ON FIRE, MAY COLLAPSE” — and on Fox News around 4:13 PM — “TRADE CENTER BLDG 7 ON FIRE, MAY COLLAPSE” — both more than an hour before the building came down. Of course, no such building had ever come down from fire in a way remotely similar to Building 7. Nevertheless, the television networks portrayed this event as perfectly normal, to the point of being utterly predictable.
In the case of the War on Terror and Bin Laden narratives that were imposed on the attacks as a whole, viewers received a large dose of “normalizing the abnormal.” This massive, complex operation was almost immediately blamed on a relatively small and poorly funded non-state organization based far away in one of the poorest countries of the world. It would have been far more “normal” for the operation to have been carried out by a well-funded military-intelligence apparatus. To exclude this more normal scenario in favor of a much more abnormal scenario required quickly setting forth the non-state terrorism hypothesis, almost immediately offering Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect, and choreographing the repetition of these ideas by various authorities.
As documented below, many claims were made about Osama bin Laden by the prominent television guests. On 9/11, these would have been seen by many as plausible, much like the statements by the building professionals brought on as experts. Many of us expected at the time that the claims made by these guests would soon be supported by actual, usable evidence. But this did not happen.
As this author (MacQueen) wrote in The 2001 Anthrax Deception (p. 31) of the period when the U.S. was making preparations for the invasion of Afghanistan:
“Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that the U.S. would soon be preparing, for the edification of the world, a document detailing evidence of Bin Laden’s guilt. When no such document was produced, the government of the United Kingdom stepped forward. The British document of October 4  was, however, astonishingly weak. The preamble noted that, ‘this document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama Bin Laden in the court of law’ even as it was purporting to provide something of much greater import: a casus belli. Indeed, the document consisted mainly of unverifiable claims from intelligence agencies, the evidence seldom rising to the level of circumstantial. Anthony Scrivener, Q.C., noted in The Times that, ‘it is a sobering thought that better evidence is required to prosecute a shoplifter than is needed to commence a world war [the War on Terror].’”
When the 9/11 Commission later produced its report in 2004, it was unable to support its central narrative with solid evidence and resorted repeatedly to using statements obtained under torture.
In other words, on 9/11, actual evidence usable in a court of law (eyewitness evidence of explosions) was defeated by claims that, however dramatically appealing, would not be admissible in a court of law.
The story of the War on Terror, as publicly set forth on television on 9/11, is a story of evil and aggression, a story that extends into the future as the righteous take up the sword of justice and vengeance. This very broad narrative, of mythical dimensions, includes the following eight elements. (Not all speakers include all eight elements, but by the end of the day all eight had been articulated.)
Although Bush administration officials gave voice to these principles in various public speeches and policy statements over a period of time after 9/11, the principles were articulated publicly on television on the day of 9/11 itself and in some cases before noon.
Presented below are three examples of the development of this narrative on 9/11: one on Fox News (by Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives), one on BBC (by Ehud Barak, the former prime minister of Israel), and one on CNN (by Richard Holbrooke, a former U.S. diplomat and assistant secretary of state).
Other speakers — whose words can be found in Appendix B, which contains statements setting forth the Bin Laden narrative — also articulated the elements of the War on Terror narrative.
Note: Although elsewhere in this study we have not used BBC footage, by a stroke of fortune Ehud Barak was in London on 9/11 and was able to spend time in the BBC studio. We include his remarks as useful expressions of this narrative by a very prominent political player.
Videos of the Newt Gingrich and Richard Holbrooke interviews are presented below along with their transcripts. Videos of Ehud Barak appearing on BBC can be found in the Internet Archive’s “Understanding 9/11” archive.
“The former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, is joining us now from our Washington bureau. Newt, what’s your reaction and what should be America’s reaction to these developments?”
“Well, first of all, I think, everyone’s reaction has to be that this is a tragedy for the families that are directly involved — the families that were hijacked on those airplanes, the flight attendants, the pilots, the people who have died today in the World Trade Center and the people who have died today in the Pentagon. I think all of us have to reach out in our hearts to them. But beyond that, as a nation, this is a 21st century Pearl Harbor. This is a 21st-century kind of war. I think we need to refer to it as an act of war. This was not a random event by a random terrorist. This was a systematic, complex operation of military proportions undertaken cleverly by people who have state support and who only survive because they have the support of some states that protect them. And I hope that the American government, the President, and the American people will react to this as an act of war. This will be more casualties, I believe, than Pearl Harbor. It is at least as horrifying as Pearl Harbor. And it deserves a complete and total American response to ensure that it never happens again.”
After remarks by Scott, Gingrich continues:
“This is a terrible event, but it will become even more terrible if it isn’t the basis of a deliberate, systematic and total American response.”
“We need to recognize we can only be a free society if we are prepared to relentlessly pursue and eliminate those who would engage in this kind of war against civilians and against a peaceful society.”Scott at 11:36 AM:
Gingrich:“Well, let me just say that we don’t know yet who’s done this, and I don’t think we should rush to judgment, but it is fair to say that bin Laden has claimed credit for having sponsored and financed and structured earlier attacks on the embassies in Africa, for example. It is clear that three weeks ago bin Laden said he would strike the United States in the United States. And the only point I’d make today in the middle of a tragedy — I think we first have to take a deep breath and recognize how big this tragedy is for the American people. That — I don’t think we have to become paranoid, I don’t think we have to go into a bunker mentality — but for eight years we have said publicly that bin Laden is a major threat to the United States. And yet for eight years, while we have launched Tomahawk missiles, we’ve done other things, we haven’t taken him as seriously as he has taken us. And all I’m suggesting is that if we don’t have a decisive response to convince observers that you cannot kill innocent Americans in peace time without retaliation of severe proportions — that other groups and other people will decide that the most open society in the world is also the most vulnerable and they’ll exploit those vulnerabilities. I think this is as decisive a moment for our future as Pearl Harbor was in a different way. As I said earlier, this is a 21st century opponent, not an obvious nation state, but in the Sudan, in Afghanistan, in a number of other places, we know where bin Laden’s assets are, and we’d need to take the risk of going after them.”
Once again, at 1:29 PM, Gingrich has joined anchor Jon Scott. Gingrich says it’s way too early to have sorted out responsibility for the attacks. Then he says:
...“I don’t believe this was done by a relatively small group. I don’t think you could have trained and prepared for this mission; I don’t think without sanctuaries, without people who are protecting them, without safe areas; without training camps. This was not prepared in a couple of mobile homes by a handful of fanatics. This is a well-financed, systematic act, and could not be sustained without the support of some very major states. And we have to make clear that we will not tolerate any nation harboring training grounds, preparation areas, or known fugitives, and that we will exert whatever level of pressure and force is necessary to get those people released. Bin Laden has been a known opponent of the United States for eight years, and we have not exerted the kind of pressure we’re capable of. This is an act of war against the American people, against freedom as the President said, and I think we have to react on behalf as we did in 1941 after Pearl Harbor. We have to react with total effort to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
Immediately after the broadcast of a statement by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, at 11:28 AM Eastern, the anchor for BBC introduces Ehud Barak:
“The world will not be the same from today on. It’s an attack against our whole civilization. I don’t know who’s responsible; I believe we will know in 12 hours. If it is a kind of bin Laden organization, and even if it’s something else, I believe that this is the time to deploy a globally concerted effort led by the United States, the UK, Europe and Russia against all sources of terror — the same kind of struggle that our forefathers launched against the piracy on the high seas.”
“In your position as Prime Minister, Defense Minister, also formerly in the army, were you ever aware of any incident planned like this?”
“Not in the dimensions, but different elements were there. Clearly, there was an attempt on the Twin Towers a few years ago, there was an attempt to explode the Holland Tunnel leading into Manhattan. But of this size and a simultaneous attack — I don’t think that anyone had predicted it in advance.”
“Is it something that security services, intelligence services could ever have got wind of?”
“I’m not sure, but this is not the case. It really happened in front of our eyes, and the question is: What should be done in regard to it in order to avoid it in the future? It’s going to be a tough struggle, there will be many tough and painful moments along the way. But I believe that if we will coordinate diplomatic, operational, intelligence and economic activities that will not let them land at any airport and will isolate automatically any nation that is ready to host terror or support them. By doing this consistently along six or ten years, we will reduce dramatically this challenge to all our way of life.”
“Your words, Mr. Barak, are very similar to the words used to justify missile defense in the United States, which may have taken another 10 or 15 years. Here we’ve seen low-tech, hijacked by those with evil intent.”
“Yeah, I believe that it’s, first of all, missile defense is also something which we’ve clearly needed as long as [Anchor interrupts: “But it doesn’t stop something like this, does it?”] rogue states...It should be done, and it should be deployed maybe not on national level but only on trans-regional level to cover exactly the threat from rogue states like Iran, Iraq, or Libya. But in this area, we will suffer. It will not be so easy to go aboard an airplane in the near future. But we have no way but to stand firm facing terror. Otherwise, all our way of life will be threatened. And to stand firm means to isolate from the world every nation that is hosting them, and calling every terror thug with the accurate name and be ready with all the pains that come with it to act upon our observations.”
“What price might democracy have to pay, given what has happened in the last three hours in the United States, given what you’re experiencing now in Israel in the center of Jerusalem from your own citizens now, with the bombing over the weekend?”
“There is no shortcuts, you know. Our civilization is already highly vulnerable. Look at the entrances to the gates of boarding airplanes. It’s a situation where it’s not easy. Every simple step crossing borders or going on a plane or on a ship will become more complicated. But, at the same time, it’s a time to identify — there are no more than five or six countries in the world which are directly or indirectly responsible for hosting terror. There are no more than ten or 15 terror thugs in the world. All the organizations are well known. The MI6 know all the information; the CIA know; the Mossad know it. And the same, the [inaudible] ... and it’s time for action. Facing such an attack, we cannot but act. And these terror thugs and rogue leaders are highly skillful in identifying the slightest cracks in the will of power, power of will, of the leaders of the Free World.”
“But let me press this point about democracy, and the price democracy may have to pay, because you know very well that many passengers in the United States have long expected to be able to walk into an airport, get on a domestic aircraft unhindered within about ten minutes of the plane taking off—they expect that as a free country.”
“And it’s a part of the problem that we have in a world which is so turbulent that we cannot, we won’t be able to isolate our advanced way of life from what happens around. And it’s a time to launch an operational, concrete war against...em...terror, even it takes certain pains from the routine activities of our normal society.”
“Now, Mr. Barak, you have deep problems, greater tension in the Middle East at the moment, but you’ve used there a war against this kind of terrorism. What can be done, because the great thing that is talked about by people like you—diplomats, politicians, world leaders—is preventing conflict before it happens. When you talk about a war, how do you take a war, or a challenge, or a struggle to those who are determined, through three or four people only today, to hijack four planes—at least, as we know—hit the Pentagon, hit the World Trade Center, try and hit, we believe, somewhere else—how do you take a war to four people?’
“I spent decades struggling terror almost, you know, with my ten fingers together with a lot of colleagues all around the world. I believe that the world intelligence community in a concerted effort can identify within few months the sources of this terror. They can identify the places where they are deployed on earth. Every such a place is within certain country. Bin Laden sits in Afghanistan. There is a source of terror...”
“But who else [audio not clear] would you identify though? Because we’re not saying he’s responsible for this necessarily.”
“No, no. We don’t say that he’s necessarily responsible. We know where other terror thugs are living. We know that [audio unclear] Central Asia is a major route for drugs but at the same time a major route for terror, and I know that President Putin is highly committed to the struggle against terror, and I feel that he should be part of this international effort. I believe that the MI6 is highly capable—you have proven it along decades. Your own skills in standing firm politically, and acting pointedly, operation against terror. And we should cooperate...”
Barak:“Both preemptive and by diplomatic means, namely rogue states. There are five of them: Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea. These kind of states should be treated as rogue states. And the same applies to, even to leaders like Arafat. We’ve heard him just recently condemning this — I praise him for this condemnation, but he personally is responsible for many terror events that happened in the last few years. Same happened in some other capitals in the Middle East.”
The above Barak interview is later repeated in full at least twice. At 12:10 PM Eastern, the anchor tells viewers he had Barak on earlier and that Barak thought this was “an attack on civilization.” We then get a replay of the entirety of the earlier Barak interview. At 1:28 PM Eastern, the same anchor again tells us of his interview with Barak, and he then replays the entire interview again.
At 4:12 PM Eastern, a different newscaster is hosting. He says:
“Mr. Barak, first of all, should we see this as an act designed to draw attention to what is happening in the Middle East, or should we see it as something quite separate from that?”
Barak:“It’s clear that the whole Western civilization is at war with world terror. It might have some kind of indirect relationship to something that happened in Afghanistan or somewhere else in the Middle East, but this is not the case. Once they are ready to hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it means that we are basically at war. And I am fully confident the American people, which is a tough and courageous people, and have tough leadership at the helm, they will know how to fight back, and I believe that leaders all around the world, here in the UK, in Europe, in Russia — the Russians will fully cooperate with this—Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel of course, and others should join hands to defeat terror, period. We cannot afford this kind of threat to our whole way of life.”
At 4:20 PM Eastern, the anchor asks Rosemary Hollis if she agrees with Barak’s position and the equally bellicose positions of others being interviewed. She says:
“I don’t see that the collateral damage is the real issue at stake now. Look at the collateral damage, so to speak, that happened in the United States. We’re dealing with a world effort, not necessarily Osama bin Laden himself. We all know the names of rogue states: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Qaddafi to an extent, maybe one more. We all know the names of rogue leaders and the name of thugs of terror. And their names are known to the MI6, to the CIA, to the [inaudible]. And there is a need for joint effort—diplomatic, economic, intelligence-wise and operation-wise. The same way our ancestors fought against the piracy on the high seas. No airport and no port terrorists should be allowed to land, and whoever host them, directly or indirectly support them, should be automatically isolated from the community and family of nations. This is the only way. Without this clarity of purpose there will be no world order possible, period.”
“Well, we’re talking about declaring war and you’re talking about doing it in protection of democracy and you’re talking about sacrificing some of that democracy in the prosecution of that war...”
Barak (interrupting):“I’m not...weapons these days are accurate enough, it’s not a matter — I don’t want to go into the operational details. Once there is a will, a clear will of world leadership to put an end to it, it will take a lot of painful moments — ups and downs and even tough moments like this one — but we will prevail and democracy will overcome this phenomenon of terrorism in ten years.”
Richard Holbrooke at 1:23 PM:
Jeff Greenfield then asks:
“Ambassador Holbrooke, what — I’d like you to be specific — what does that mean? Are you talking about a retaliatory strike...[Greenfield continues in this vein]?”
“Jeff, let me be very frank—and I don’t want to lapse into bloody-minded verbal excesses at a moment of high emotion. But let’s be very blunt about this. If a country, or regime — the Taliban or some other regime to be determined by the intelligence community — has sheltered people who played a role in this, they cannot hide behind the attributes of ‘they didn’t know it, they had nothing to do with it.’ They must cooperate in the pursuit of the people responsible. And since the Taliban leader has been publicly proclaimed by Osama bin Laden as the present spiritual leader of the Muslim world — I’m referring to bin Laden’s declaration that Mullah Mohammed Omar is the rightful spiritual leader of the Muslim world, something he said on tape, quoted by John Burns in the New York Times two days ago. And if, in fact, these people are in some degree of collusion, I personally believe — and I’m only speaking for myself here — I personally believe that the Taliban should be regarded as co-equally responsible for this, and therefore, if and when we consider military action, it is fully justified and the Taliban should face the same consequences.”
Holbrooke then appears again on CNN at 7:48 PM, about six hours later:
...“Any government which shelters the people who did this has to be held equally responsible for it as an act of war. And we are going to have to mobilize an international coalition for that position as we prepare to take the necessary military responses. [He says he is in agreement with Henry Kissinger on this.].... John King and others on your excellent coverage have suggested that the administration is 90% sure it’s Osama bin Laden. If some countries don’t participate, let them understand that they’re joining a coalition of terrorists who have declared war on the United States.... Osama bin Laden is not a government, but if he is indeed, as the Administration appears to believe, behind this, anyone trafficking with him should be on notice that that is tantamount to an act of war by a government.”
In this narrative, the War on Terror narrative is personified in an evil individual, the Saudi and former U.S. ally Osama bin Laden. Less mythical and more political, this narrative is supported with reasoning and with what appears at first blush to be evidence.
In our view, the simple identification of the perpetrator, which happens early in the day, is key to this propaganda method. Equally simple, and equally important, is the constant repetition of the name of this designated perpetrator — a means of crowding out other possibilities.
Bin Laden's name was repeated on television so many times during the day that we have not attempted to make a list of each mention. We have, however, listed the most important mentions of Bin Laden during the day on two networks, Fox News and CNN. Altogether, our list totals 56 mentions on Fox New between 9:03 AM and 4:32 PM and 69 mentions on CNN between 9:55 AM and 10:50 PM. These are given chronologically, in the order in which they occurred on 9/11, in Appendix B.
Journalists play an important role in keeping the designated perpetrator in front of the public, so we have listed their names below. But the weight of respectability is achieved through dignitaries and experts, so we list them first. The dignitaries and experts who appeared on television on these two networks to lend weight to the Bin Laden narrative are given with their main titles or qualifications as of September 2001.
In total, we counted 13 promoters of the Bin Laden narrative on Fox News and 18 promoters of the Bin Laden narrative on CNN. All of them made strikingly similar claims, none of which could ever be substantiated with evidence capable of being presented in a courtroom.
General, U.S. Army; U.S. Secretary of State; U.S. White House Chief of Staff
U.S. Representative; Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives.
U.S. National Security Advisor
Captain, U.S. Navy; Assistant Secretary of Defense; Member, Council on Foreign Relations ; Co-author, “Integrated Power: A National Security Strategy for the 21st Century”
Secretary of State
Professor Barry Levin
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army; Fox News military analyst
Journalist and News Anchor, Fox News
Journalist, Fox News
Journalist, Fox News
Journalist, Fox News
Journalist and Co-anchor, Fox News
Journalist, Fox News (later White House press secretary)
General, U.S. Army (retired, 2000); Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO (1997-2000)
U.S. Senator, Utah
U.S. Diplomat; Assistant Secretary of State (twice)
U.S. Representative; U.S. Senator; Secretary of Defense (1997-2001)
Secretary of State
Naval Officer; U.S. Senator
L. Paul Bremer
Foreign Service; Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism (appointed 1999)
White House Chief of Staff (twice); Secretary of the Treasury; Secretary of State
U.S. Representative; U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Secretary of Energy
Military analyst, U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, specializing in bin Laden and the Taliban
Journalist and News Anchor, CNN
Journalist, CNN (senior White House correspondent)
Journalist, CNN (national security correspondent)
Journalist and Co-anchor, CNN
Journalist and Co-anchor, CNN
Journalist and Co-anchor, CNN
Journalist and Terrorism Analyst, CNN
Journalist and Senior analyst, CNN; Former Speechwriter for Senator Robert F. Kennedy
As the two stories were spun on television throughout the day of 9/11, both the testimony of eyewitnesses and the explosion hypothesis based on their testimony gradually faded into the void.
The story of the evil attackers appeared to assume, even though this was seldom directly stated, that the buildings were simply knocked down by the airplanes. Precisely how these airplane impacts could have destroyed these buildings in the way witnessed was not explained, beyond the vague and erroneous statements by a few engineers. Essentially, the viewing public was encouraged to feel that it must have happened this way, and they were not encouraged to inquire deeply into the “how” of it. This process was greatly aided both by the emotions encouraged by the stories and by a well-known logical fallacy, the post hoc fallacy.
The post hoc fallacy involves the erroneous conclusion that because x comes after y, y must have caused x. In the present case, the fallacy took the form: Planes crashed into buildings and afterwards the buildings came down; therefore, the plane crashes caused the buildings to come down.
The viewing public, it was assumed, would be easily captured by the gripping stories, and in their infantile mental state would never notice the flawed reasoning or inquire into the details of the matter.
The stories promoted on television on 9/11 fit the American pysche like a glove. One of the most prevalent and deeply cultivated political and moral stories of the 20th century for U.S. citizens is the story of aggression. Germany was found guilty of aggression after both WWI and WWII. Japan was accused of an “unprovoked attack” in the Pearl Harbor event that was used to bring the U.S. into WWII. Since Nuremberg, “Communist aggression” became a widely used phrase and a pillar of the Cold War. The Gulf of Tonkin incident, for example, was in this way made into a pretext for massive U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.
It is not our intention to review each of these events. We believe the aggression claims in the above incidents range from fully justified through weak to fabricated. What matters here is that the U.S. national psyche was programmed to believe readily in external aggression against the U.S. and its allies, whereas aggression issuing from the U.S. or its allies was impossible to conceive, was simply outside the national narrative.
Had a proper investigation been initiated on 9/11, based on the experience and reasoning presented on television that day, every one of the journalists who directly witnessed explosions at the time of the Twin Towers’ destruction would have been able to offer courtroom-worthy evidence. They would have been able to recount what they themselves had perceived with their senses.
By contrast, not one of the journalists or prominent persons on Fox News and CNN promoting the War on Terror and Bin Laden narratives would have been able to offer comparable evidence. They would have fared badly in a courtroom, having nothing to offer but speculation and hearsay.
However gripping their stories, story is not evidence.
We may summarize our findings on the 9/11 psychological operation by listing nine of the major propaganda elements at play that day.
First, however, let us remember a central fact lying beneath and behind the nine elements — namely, that on 9/11 television was used to evoke shock and confusion in U.S. citizens, and in citizens around the world, by transmitting the horrific images of the day. No words, no analysis, can compete with the images of the airplane strikes, the disintegrating towers, and the shocked reactions of people on the scene.
Such shock ensures that critical thinking will be at a low ebb, while old loyalties and a desire to pull together in the face of violence will be very powerful. We have not studied this aspect of the operation in this article, but all nine elements below must be understood in this context.
To study the day’s events as they unfolded on television is to experience in a shockingly direct way how a well-oiled propaganda system — of which television is a central component — can spin grand and lethal yarns that silence the citizens who experience, who witness, who suffer, and who constitute the epistemic backbone of democracy.
The ability of this propaganda system to achieve the triumph of the Official Narrative in a matter of hours suggests to us that while good science is necessary for dispelling the Official Narrative, alone it may not be sufficient.
Oftentimes, researchers (engineers, scientists, academics, etc.) carry on their research as if they were merely studying the natural world — a world that has no interest in the researchers and does not look back at them. But in cases such as 9/11, researchers are working within an intellectual context shaped by an intelligent opponent. This opponent is neither inert nor disinterested, but looks back at the researcher. It has intentionally laid down sets of false claims and dead-end trails and can be expected to continue to do so.
This does not mean that researchers and activists should give up their focus on good science. Rather, it means that those who are dedicated to revealing the truth about 9/11 must think deeply about how to carry out good science and good communication within the specific context of a still-ongoing psychological operation.
Evidence could not stop the Official Narrative from triumphing on 9/11, and evidence alone will not defeat the Official Narrative now.back to the TOP