The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight


August 26, 2006

I’m on an academic IR theory mailing list that frequently receives email about possible 9/11 conspiracies.

Most of the time, I just delete these posts, but every now and then I click a link just to find out what the writers are claiming. One recent link led me to an August 2 Washington Post story that certainly raises interesting questions:

Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon’s initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.

Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, according to several commission sources.

Even the leaders of the 9/11 commission were not satisfied with the final story from NORAD:

“We to this day don’t know why NORAD [the North American Aerospace Command] told us what they told us,” said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. “It was just so far from the truth. . . . It’s one of those loose ends that never got tied.”

According to the Post story, the inspector general’s office of the Department of Transportation is soon going to produce a report addressing whether the story told to the 9/11 commission was “knowingly false.”

Vanity Fair obtained (and ABC News and other media apparently broadcast) military audiotapes tapes from September 11 and they did not match with the stories participants told the 9/11 commission. Michael Bronner wrote:

As the tapes reveal in stark detail, parts of [Colonel] Scott’s and [General] Arnold’s testimony were misleading, and others simply false.”

…[9/11] Commission staff believes that there is significant evidence that the false statements made to the commission were deliberately false,” [Senior counsel John] Farmer wrote to me in an e-mail summarizing the commission’s referral. “The false testimony served a purpose: to obscure mistakes on the part of the F.A.A. and the military, and to overstate the readiness of the military to intercept and, if necessary, shoot down UAL 93.”

Despite the conspiracy theories, this seems to be a case of CYA.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.