Fifteen years after the deadliest terror attacks on American soil, skeptical family members, architects, engineers, and researchers continue their search for the truth about the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
NEW YORK — For the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, members of the 9/11 Truth movement gathered in New York to protest and rally in the streets and host the Justice In Focus: 9/11 Symposium.
The 9/11 Truth movement includes victims, their families, and experts in a range of fields that are skeptical of the government’s official line on 9/11. Some of the groups include Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Firefighters for 9/11 Truth & Unity, Pilots for 9/11 Truth, 9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism, Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice, and other local activist groups and individuals from around the globe.
It’s a loose-knit movement without an official position, and the opinions, theories and ideas held among its members sometimes conflict with one another. However, those working within the broader movement are bound by the belief that the official narrative promoted by the U.S. government is full of holes.
The events of Sept. 11, 2001 “influenced my life a lot and when the ‘public’ responded with hate and mockery towards the ideas and theories [of the 9/11 Truth movement], it also created a bond between similar-minded people which I’ve loved throughout my 13-year involvement,” Brian Gideon, a Danish activist who has attended the 9/11 Truth movement’s annual events in New York for the past six years, told MintPress after the symposium concluded.
At the symposium, organized by the Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, the Lawyers Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, and other co-sponsors, there was a heavy emphasis on the possibility of a civil or criminal trial as a means of exposing the truth about the 9/11 attacks. With panels such as “The Existence of Indisputable Evidence and the Courts” and “Legal Standards Applied to Evidence,” it is clear that the movement is working to establish a legitimate legal inquiry into the attacks.
The legal professionals present at the symposium included high-profile attorneys such as William Pepper and Daniel Sheehan. Pepper is the current lawyer for Sirhan Sirhan, the gunman convicted in the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968. He also represented Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s family during the infamous civil trial which found that King’s death was likely the result of a conspiracy.
Sheehan is a public interest and constitutional attorney widely known for his work on the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate Case, and the Iran-Contra Affair. Sheehan gave a presentation titled “Landmark Cases Applied to Prosecuting 9/11,” using his past experience as a guide to litigating the crimes of 9/11.
Speaking to MintPress on the sidelines of the symposium, Sheehan said the Lawyers Committee for 9/11 Inquiry invited him to the symposium with a request for counsel. “They are going to be asking me questions and I will be explaining to them how they should go about doing this,” he added.
He said it’s possible that a civil or criminal trial could eventually emerge, but cautioned that it would cost millions of dollars. “You have to be thinking in terms of $8 to 10 million,” he said, “but I do think there is a very distinct possibility, unto a probability, of them being able to do an effective case.”
On Saturday, the first day of the symposium, Michael Springmann, an attorney and former second secretary and vice consul at the State Department, spoke as part of the “Creating Our Enemies: From the Mujahedeen to ISIS” panel. Springmann is the author of “Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World,” which explores his role in the State Department during the 1980s. At that time the mujahedeen were guerilla fighters battling Soviet troops under the leadership of Osama bin Laden. Springmann claims that he denied several visas to unqualified applicants, but high-level officials within the State Department demanded that he approve them.
“The visas I had refused, and then been ordered to issue (in violation of the Immigration
& Nationality Act and State Department regulations), were going to mujahedeen recruits for the war against the USSR in Afghanistan,” Springmann told MintPress via email ahead of the event. “They were going to the U.S. for training, debriefing, rewards, and so forth.”
Springmann was fired when he attempted to challenge the visa approvals, although he says the reason for his termination remains sealed as a threat to national security. After 9/11, Springmann recognized that 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers received their visas to the U.S. from Shayna Steinger, a consular officer in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the same location where Springmann had attempted to deny visas to unqualified, and possibly dangerous, applicants.
“There was no real investigation, and the government will not or can not address the issue of how 15 of the alleged hijackers got visas to the U.S. from the U.S. Mission to Saudi Arabia,” he told MintPress.
Examining the collapse of World Trade Center 7
Although questions remain about how the two planes that hit the twin towers could cause the total collapse of the high-rise buildings, some 9/11 researchers are turning their focus to the mysterious collapse of World Trade Center 7.
WTC7 was not hit by a plane, yet it collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001 According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the collapse was caused by office fires. However, questioning that theory, a growing number of people within the 9/11 Truth movement are launching new investigations into WTC7.
In May 2015, a team of researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks embarked on just such an investigation.
Dr. J. Leroy Hulsey and two Ph.D. research assistants are partnering with the nonprofit Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth on “World Trade Center Building 7 Evaluation,” a two-year engineering study using finite element modeling to evaluate the possible causes of the collapse of WTC7.
The head of the Department of Civil Engineering and a structural engineering professor, with a focus on buildings, bridges, and other complex structures, Hulsey said he was approached by a 9/11 researcher in Anchorage, Alaska, who encouraged him to put forth a proposal to study the collapse of WTC7. He described some initial hesitation and lack of interest, but Hulsey came around to the idea and the study eventually became a reality.
“We will investigate the collapse. We probably will not be able to tell them what caused it, but I could tell them what did not,” Hulsey told MintPress, adding:
“I am approaching it like most forensic engineers would. We’re looking at the structure itself, trying to put together all of the details of what was available, and in this case very little was available. Because most of it has been destroyed or it’s locked in vaults somewhere. So I have very little to work with.”
Hulsey explained that he addresses issues raised by NIST, but will not be reading anything about NIST or other previous studies. “I have to maintain an open scientific mind. I don’t want to be lead down a path that others have gone down,” he said. “I will read about it once we reach our final conclusions and then cross-check to make sure we don’t have any issues with respect to the science.”
Hulsey said that the team has already investigated the theory that fire caused the building’s collapse. “It is our preliminary conclusions, based upon our work to date, that fire did not produce the failure at this particular building.”
When their study concludes in April 2017, Hulsey and his team will allow a panel of experts to analyze the data and submit the study to peer-reviewed journals.
The relevance of 9/11 Truth
On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a controversial resolution which would allow victims of terrorism and their families to sue nations suspected of financing or otherwise sponsoring terrorism.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, unanimously passed the Senate in May after a hard-fought battle by the families of the victims of 9/11. However, President Barack Obama is expected to veto the bill once it reaches his desk.
Still, if JASTA does become law, it would open the door to lawsuits from the victims of 9/11 and their families against Saudi Arabia, as well as allow for thorough judicial examination of the Gulf kingdom’s role in 9/11. A coalition of activists, researchers, and family members have long questioned Saudi links to the attacks on 9/11. They believed the 28 redacted pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 would implicate Saudi nationals or even the Saudi government in financing, executing, or planning the terrorist attacks.
However, when those pages were finally released in July, Saudi government officials hailed the declassified content as proof that the kingdom had no role in the attacks. Former Sen. Bob Graham, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee who had been extensively involved in the fight to release the pages, disagreed.
“The information in the 28 pages reinforces the belief that the 19 hijackers — most of whom spoke little English, had limited education and had never before visited the United States — did not act alone in perpetrating the sophisticated 9/11 plot,” Graham told CNN when the pages were released.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Friday, Graham wrote that questions surrounding the Saudi government’s assistance of terrorists remain unanswered.
The release of the 28 pages suggested “new trails of inquiry worth following, including why a Qaeda operative had the unlisted phone number for the company that managed the Colorado estate of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the Saudi ambassador.” He called for the declassification of more findings of the 9/11 Commission and details of parallel investigations conducted by the FBI and CIA to answer questions like: “How much did they look into whether Prince Bandar or other Saudis aided the hijackers?”
These leads must be pursued, Graham urges, and the survivors of 9/11 and the families of those who didn’t survive must be allowed to seek answers about the alleged Saudi role in the attacks via legal channels. He writes:
“Some might ask, 15 years later, what difference does all this make?
In fact, a lot. It can mean justice for the families that have suffered so grievously. It can also mean improving our national security, which has been compromised by the extreme form of Islam that has been promoted by Saudi Arabia.
But the most important reason is to avoid the corrosive effect that government secrecy can have on a democracy. The nation that denies its people information about what it is doing in their name is a nation slogging down a dark alley of public suspicion toward decline and mediocrity.”
Like Graham, the 9/11 Truth movement doesn’t perceive the release of those 28 pages as reason to stop questioning the government narrative and digging deeper into what really happened on 9/11 and in the days, months, and years leading up to it. Like any movement, though, it is bound to change over the years, as new information is uncovered, people leave the movement, and new people enter it.
“As the movement changes, so will my involvement,” Brian Gideon, the Danish activist, said.
“I think we always should try new and different approaches, and after four or five years doing the same things, I think I’ll try and find some new ways to support the movement and spread awareness.”