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9.11 investigation

David Corn Defies Logic!

The nation publishes five letters to the Editor and David Corn responds.
Debating September 11

David Corn's May 30, 2002, "Capital Games" article, "The 9/11 X-Files," debunking what he saw as the numerous conspiracy theories that have sprung up purporting to explain what happened on September 11, generated numerous letters. We've printed five of them below along with a response from Corn.


David Corn alleges that our book makes a "theory" of the events leading up to the September 11 attacks, distorts reality and shows little or no evidence to confirm our assertions.

For the author, the world seems divided between those gallant fellows pursuing the truth (David Corn, I guess) and those running conspiracy theories. This simplistic and Manichean view does not reflect the nature of our work and would usually deserve no comment from me, except when such an irrelevant article emanates from such a well-known organization.

I don't know the author, nor his credentials to write on these issues. The fact is that most of the issues he raises are currently under scrutiny of the Special Investigation Committee of the US Congress and they've been investigated by the United Nations several weeks ago. I have too much respect for the work of these authorities to think they may investigate "conspiracy theories."

Regarding the handling of investigations involving Saudi Arabian individuals and entities, I spent five years working on these networks and tracking Al Qaeda assets. I was the first to write an extensive report on Al Qaeda financial networks for the intelligence community. This study was given by the French President Jacques Chirac to President George W. Bush in September 2001 and has been responsible for the closing of several so-called Islamic charities that happened to financially support Osama bin Laden and his cohorts. My experience and the high level contacts I had with the FBI disqualifies the doubts and snide comments made by a nonprofessional on these issues.

For your information, I'll try to establish the reality of what we wrote.

Since 1996, and despite the Taliban's murderous regime and its obscene abuse of human rights, several US oil companies including Unocal have been pushing for a political stabilization in Afghanistan in order to implement an oil/gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea region to Pakistan and the Persian Gulf through Afghanistan. For that purpose, a memorandum of understanding between the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan was signed in March 1995 and a consortium of international companies was formed in October 1997.

Their officials had publicly stated that to achieve this goal was in both the interest of the United States and the Afghan people. In 1996, Chris Taggart, vice president of Unocal Corporation, described the Taliban takeover of Kabul as a "very positive step" and urged the United States to extend recognition to the new rulers in Kabul and thus "lead the way to international lending agencies coming in."

Just ten days after the Taliban seized power in Kabul in 1996 Zalmay Khalilzad, former National Security Council official, Unocal consultant and current US special envoy to Afghanistan, argued in a Washington Post opinion article that the United States should try to work with the mullahs and form a broad-based government that included other factions, adding that "the Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran--it is closer to the Saudi model...." And his conclusion was that "we should use as a positive incentive the benefits that will accrue to Afghanistan from the construction of oil and gas pipelines across its territory." He added, "These projects will only go forward if Afghanistan has a single authoritative government."

Soon after, the State Department spokesman said the United States wanted "to send diplomats to Afghanistan to meet with the Taliban and held out the possibility of re-establishing full diplomatic ties with the country."

During a House of Representatives meeting, John J. Maresca, vice president of international relations for Unocal Corporation, stated that "the pipeline would benefit Afghanistan, which would receive revenues from transport tariffs, and would promote stability and encourage trade and economic development." Emphasizing that "the proposed Central Asia Oil Pipeline (CentGas) cannot begin construction until an internationally recognized Afghanistan government is in place," he urged the Administration and the Congress "to give strong support to the United Nations-led peace process in Afghanistan."

In November 1997 Unocal invited a Taliban delegation to the United States in Texas, and in early December the company opened a training center at the University of Omaha, Nebraska, to instruct 137 Afghans in pipeline construction technology. The company also donated $900,000 to the Center for Afghanistan Studies of the University of Omaha, Nebraska, for a humanitarian project controlled by the Taliban. As recalled John Imle, CEO of Unocal, the company spent between $15 million and $20 million to make the CentGas Project go through to promote the project and finance the regime.

After the African embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, the US Administration engaged in talks with Taliban representatives to obtain the extradition of Osama bin Laden in exchange for international recognition of the Taliban regime. At the international level, pressure was building up through a forum known as the "6 + 2" initiative (six regional states plus the United States and Russia). A United Nations resolution called for international sanctions against the Taliban regime. In parallel, secret negotiations were held in Rome, Cyprus and Berlin under the authority of Kofi Annan's personal representative and head of the Special Mission to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell.

From February to August 2001, the US Administration accelerated the negotiations by reactivating the idea of an economic bargain with the Taliban regime. In March 2001, several Taliban officials, including Sayed Rahmattulah Hashimi, Mullah Omar's personal adviser, were invited to Washington, DC, by their representative in the United States, former CIA Director Richard Helms's niece, Leila Helms, to discuss extradition of bin Laden and access to oil reserves in Central Asia. The delegation met with representatives of the Directorate of Central Intelligence (DCI) and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the State Department (including Marvin Weinbaum).

This visit provoked "extreme puzzlement" over how Hashimi obtained a visa, a plane ticket, security and access to American institutions, and to the State Department and the National Security Council, despite the severe travel restrictions based on sanctions imposed by UN Resolution 1333; after all, the Taliban offices in New York were closed down by the US State Department. (The official version was that Hashimi was a low-level official.)

During informal talks that took place in Berlin between July 17 and July 20, 2001, with representatives from the United States, Pakistan (who were relaying messages back to the Taliban, who were not in attendance), Russia and Iran, the Taliban were invited to extradite Osama bin Laden and form a broad-based national government in exchange for economic subsidies from the construction of a pipeline.

The delegates included Robert Oakley, former US ambassador and Unocal lobbyist; Niaz Naik, former foreign minister of Pakistan; Tom Simons, former US ambassador to Pakistan; a former Russian special envoy to Afghanistan, Nikolai Kozyrev; and Saeed Rajai Khorassani, formerly the Iranian representative to the UN.

The US delegation at the Berlin meeting also included Karl "Rick" Inderfurth, former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, and Lee Coldren, head of the Office of Pakistan, Afghan and Bangladesh Affairs in the State Department until 1997.

According to Niaz Naik, the idea was that "we would try to convey to them that if they did certain things, then, gradually, they could win the jackpot, get something in return from the international community." It might, he said, "be possible to persuade the Taliban that once a broader-based government was in place and the oil pipeline under way, there would be billions of dollars in commission, and the Taliban would have their own resources." The fact is, the United States approached the former king in February 2001 in order to form a broad-based government.

According to Naik, at this point US ambassador Tom Simons referred to an open-ended military option against Afghanistan from bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. "Ambassador Simons stated that if the Taliban wouldn't agree with the plan, and if Pakistan was unable to persuade them, the United States might use an overt action against Afghanistan. The words used were 'a military operation.'"

Asked by the French daily newspaper Le Monde to comment on the allegations contained in the French edition of our book, Ben Laden: La vérité interdite ("Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth"), Ambassador Simons answered, "It is true that it was requested from the Taliban to deliver bin Laden and to form a government of union."

About the threat itself, he recognized that "we said in July to the [Pakistanis, who passed on messages to the Taliban] delegates that we were investigating the attack against the USS Cole on October 12, 2000, in Yemen, and that if there was solid evidence of bin Laden's involvement, one had to expect a military answer. Now, one can always inflate such a declaration to see this as a global threat against the Taliban. But the American declaration related only to the USS Cole investigation. As for carpets of gold and carpet bombs, we actually discussed the need for a plan to rebuild Afghanistan, which would follow a political agreement." Simons added: "It is possible that an American participant, acting mischievously, after some glasses, evoked the gold carpets and the carpet bombs. Even Americans don't avoid the temptation to act mischievously."

Whether we rely on Niaz Naik's testimony or on the US ambassador's comments, which don't contradict or deny the former, one has to focus on the Pakistani and Taliban representatives' knowledge regarding that statement. It is clear that at the beginning of July 2001, a US representative, speaking at an informal meeting, but mandated by his government to do so, did, in specific or general terms, whether mischievously or not, whether drunk or not, evoke the option of a military operation against Afghanistan. And I would rather rely on Simons's version in Le Monde than on the paraphrased one Simons offers to David Corn.

Lee Coldren, a member of the US delegation, also confirmed the broad outline of the American position at the Berlin meeting. "I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action."

I wouldn't speculate on whether the Taliban regime and its Al Qaeda supporter may have tried to anticipate a military action against them by launching a devastating attack on US soil on September 11, 2001. Neither would I suggest a gross miscalculation from Ambassador Simons by making such hazardous statements. However, the US representative's statement is acknowledged by several reliable sources and participants at the Berlin negotiations at the end of July 2001. For this reason, and because it may have been interpreted as a tug of war, this threat is an important aspect for our understanding of the months leading to September 11, which may have had a significant if not essential impact on the intelligence analysis process prior to that date.

One may ask the simple question, Would the US intelligence agencies have evaluated the fragmented raw intelligence and signals differently if the US government had informed them that the United States had threatened military action if the Taliban were to refuse US diplomatic and business concessions five weeks before the attacks?

As a drunk diplomat makes bad diplomacy, political editors make bad international affairs analysts when they simply ignore the facts and try to view the world through their Manichean eyes.

I hope, at least, to have repaired this.



Los Angeles

I am truly honored to join the ranks of Peter Dale Scott, PhD, Alfred McCoy, PhD and Pulitzer Prize-winner Gary Webb as someone who has been attacked by The Nation.

Your latest missive is surprising for its weakness. It deserves only the briefest of responses because, as an avalanche of information continues to demonstrate, the US government did have foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks and there was an orchestrated effort to allow the attacks to occur. FBI Special Agent Robert Wright's recent press conference is but another brick in a wall that grows sturdier by the day. Time is on my side here.

I'll quickly pass over many of the erroneous points in your story to get to just a couple that warrant two or three sentences. Allen Dulles's old quip that "the American people don't read" has changed with the Internet and it will afford you no cover.

It's OK that you misrepresented my LAPD record by taking items completely out of context. My full LAPD record has been on my website for months at www.fromthewilderness.com for the world to look at and see what you have done. I expect that from you.

It's OK that you misrepresent and state that I have hung the entirety of my credibility on the Delmart "Mike" Vreeland case. I have published fifty-six stories since September 11, 2001, and only six of them have been about Mike Vreeland. I expect that as well.

It's OK that you state that I am not a reporter when you fail to mention stories like my investigative report of horrendous conflicts of interest regarding Attorney General John Ashcroft and two sitting federal grand juries where I conducted many interviews. It's OK also that you ignore all of the other reportage I have done since September 11. I expect that too.

It's really not OK, however, that you state that I have misrepresented stories like a February 13, 2001, story by UPI correspondent Richard Sale, wherein I reported that court records indicated that the National Security Agency had broken Osama bin Laden's secure encrypted communications. You wrote, "But in several instances, he [Ruppert] misrepresents his source material.... [T]he actual story noted not that the US government had gained the capacity to eavesdrop on bin Laden at will but that it had 'gone into foreign bank accounts...and deleted or transferred funds, and jammed or blocked the group's cell or satellite phones.' "

Here is a direct quote from Sale's story which proves that your accusation is false: "The US case unfolding against him [bin Laden] in United States District court in Manhattan is based mainly on National Security Agency intercepts of phone calls between bin Laden and his operatives around the world--Afghanistan to London, from Kenya to the United States.... Fawwaz also provided satellite phones for other members of the bin Laden group, 'to facilitate communications,' the indictment said.... On August 11, two days after the bombings were completed, bin Laden's satellite number phone was used to contact network operatives in Yemen, at a number frequently called by perpetrators of the bombing from their safe house in Nairobi. Since 1995, bin Laden has tried to protect his communications with 'a full suite of tools,' according to Ben Venzke, director of intelligence, special projects for iDefense.... Since bin Laden started to encrypt certain calls in 1995, why would they now be part of a court record? 'Codes were broken,' US officials said...."

Is this the best that The Nation can do? With that in mind I'll conclude by saying that it is becoming increasingly clear to news consumers around the world that The Nation is serving and defending the interests of a corrupt and illegitimate government while my publication, "From the Wilderness," is truly concerned with the safety, well-being and empowerment of its growing readership. The marketplace is operating in a healthy capacity. It is also apparent that your actual knowledge of how covert operations work is as limited as your forensic abilities. For more than twenty years I have investigated many intelligence cases and I have dealt directly with principals in cases involving Edwin Wilson, Albert Carone, Dois "Chip" Tatum, William Tyree, "Bo" Gritz, Scott Weekly, Scott Barnes, Al Martin and, yes, even your beloved Ted Shackley.

In the fall of 1999 two investigators from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence traveled to Los Angeles and copied 6,000 pages of my records. In the fall of 2000 two members of the RCMP National Security Staff--Sean McDade and Randy Buffam--came to Los Angeles, visited me and copied several hundred pages of files in my possession regarding Promis software.

If, at any time, you would like instruction on how easy it would have been for the Bush Administration and the intelligence community to have allowed the attacks of September 11 to occur, without involving massive numbers of people being consciously aware of it, I will make the time. That is of course, if it really is your desire to arm the American people with the truth. As to integrity, let's see if The Nation has enough to publish my response. "By their fruits ye shall know them."

Publisher/Editor, "From The Wilderness"


Portland, Ore.

The Nation's David Corn spends too much time bashing Michael Ruppert in his article "The September 11 X-Files" instead of objectively investigating the content of Ruppert's contentions on www.copvcia.com. We as a nation spent countless hours witnessing analysis and investigation after investigation regarding Clinton and Lewinsky. Now as people raise legitimate questions about pre-September 11 foreknowledge and the potential interests that may have encouraged collusion to do nothing, they are quickly labeled conspiracists, nut cases and the like.

At one time, those who questioned Hoover's FBI's tactics were labeled conspiracists. Post-September 11, we are quickly becoming a highly monitored society with highly controlled information about our own government and with limited civil rights. As a result, we need to be careful not to simply dismiss alternative views, but instead be sure and keep objective criticism




David Corn belittled conspiracy theorists and wondered how such an unwieldy, undisciplined government could get away with encouraging or staging attacks on this country.

Well, for part of the answer, get thee to the George Washington University website and download the file at this address: www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20010430/doc1.pdf.

It's a National Security Archive document from 1962 describing Operation Northwoods, a Joint Chiefs of Staff proposal to stage phony attacks on US soil and citizens in order to set up a rationale for invading Cuba. Can anyone say "conspiracy"? Can anyone say "at the highest levels of government"? Arguably, men of such ilk whose plans ultimately were shunned by a young, bemused President could also have engaged in other, later plots. Say it with me: Lee Harvey Oswald.

So how can Corn assume that, forty years later, our government is not at least as well equipped to twist facts, finger the wrong people or take advantage of wag-the-dog scenarios? That's what intelligence entities are professionally qualified to do! Is it not understood that this government has in the not-very-distant past sent out agents provocateurs? We know from declassified documents that the FBI used to infiltrate domestic radical groups and encourage violence, not to mention smear the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. Why assume this modus operandi disappeared in the 1970s just because Congress ordered it? Say it with me: Bill Casey.

I'm not saying the US government staged the September 11 attacks. But it strikes me as being within the bounds of rationality to consider such theories with care. After all, our intelligence agencies--not to mention certain political parties--also appear adept at marginalizing presumed nutballs, fringe groups, liberals and, for that matter, anyone who could be called a doubter.




I've read Corn's article twice. I still don't understand why he's just dismissing all these analyses that have been made as conspiracy theories. Especially knowing what has happened since all of the information about prior knowledge has been released. People like Mike Ruppert or Representative McKinney have been talking about this long before the mainstream media picked it up. I think that he's acting in the same totalitarian way that he's denouncing. He could have done a better job by exposing his own opinion and trying to give his own interpretation of the numerous and astonishing security failures. A few years ago, there were some terrorist attacks in Russia. It was just before Putin's election. A lot of people, and not only crazy conspiracy theorists, said that it was probably managed by Putin's circle. This idea appeared, for example, in your September 6/13, 1999 issue (selected editorial): "Among the measures widely discussed in Moscow are using the war in Dagestan as a pretext for imposing emergency rule." I wonder if the guy who wrote this was a member of Putin's inner circle or just a conspiracy theorist? By Corn's criteria, he shouldn't have said this. Did he say it because Russia is just a quasi Third World country? In the same way, I'm also wondering if the biggest shortcoming with the actual theories isn't the fact that they're giving a really bad image of the "best democracy in the word," and in this way a negative image of those who have to live there. In other words, these kinds of "this cannot happen in Washington" assertions should only be understood as a patriotic reaction to the tragedy of September 11. God bless America.





I. The French Connection

Let's start with Jean-Charles Brisard. I am going to resist the urge to match his ad hominen repartee. The only issue in play is the credibility of Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, the book he co-wrote with Guillaume Dasquié. When I began work on a piece about September 11 conspiracy theories, an editor at The Nation requested I include in my survey the Brisard/Dasquié book, which was first published in France (in their native French) and which had prompted a rash of have-you-heard-about-this e-mails among Americans and others questioning the official accounts of September 11. From the e-mails and from English-language web accounts of the book--several of which were based on interviews with the authors--it was hard to determine the precise details of their claims regarding the horrific attacks of September 11. Then I discovered that a publishing house in the United States was bringing out an English version of the book, and I was able to obtain a copy of the translated manuscript. That meant I could evaluate the work and not rely on secondhand accounts.

Upon receiving the English translation of the short book, I eagerly began reading. Within a matter of pages, I was stunned. The book was almost entirely unsourced. It contained multiple factual mistakes. (It claimed George Bush was once "in charge" of Harken Energy; he was not. It maintained George Bush I was a "leading investor" in the Carlyle Group, an investment firm. No, he was a paid advisor. It described Tom Simons as US ambassador to Pakistan in 2000. He had left the post two years previously.) More important, it presented suggestive innuendo rather than clear and irrefutable evidence. It referred to "policy-makers" and "officials" without naming them; it depicted policy decisions in vague terms, without supplying specifics. The authors conveyed no sense that they had interviewed any single player in their tale. (There were not even anonymous sources. After a while, I prayed to encounter "a State Department official who asked not to be named" or a "Western diplomat who requested anonymity.") This will sound like hyperbole, but I have rarely seen such shoddy and lazy journalism.

The book sidestepped toward its highly provocative assertion. But here is the essence of their argument about September 11:

"From February 5 to August 2, 2001, the United States engaged in private and risky discussions with the Taliban concerning geostrategic oil interests.... The suicide attacks of September 11 were the outcome of this initiative."

Ponder that statement. The authors are saying that negotiations--which they portray as secret talks between Washington and Kabul--led to the strikes of September 11. That would mean US Administration officials-- mainly from the Bush White House but also, it seems, from the Clinton White House--share blame for the attacks, that the United States, via these talks, needlessly provoked Osama bin Laden and his crew. This is hot stuff: The Bush Administration, driven by its fealty to Big Oil, causing the deaths of thousands of Americans.

Such an unsettling challenge to the traditional view requires a heavy amount of persuasion and proof. But the authors commit two fundamental errors. They make an utterly illogical case and in those few instances when they bother to cite sources, they misrepresent the material. Much of the book cannot be evaluated, because the authors assert, rather than document--and they supply little reason why a reader should trust them. Brisard and Dasquié never establish the foundations of their argument--in particular, that there were secret negotiations between the United States and the Taliban. They refer to various international and bilateral conversations--many of which were public matters--and cast all of that as under-the-table diplomacy. The "secret negotiations" held under the authority of Kofi Annan's representative (that Brisard mentions in his letter above) could be read about in reports found on the United Nations website. And when Brisard darkly refers to conversations between Washington and the Taliban regarding the extradition of bin Laden--conversations that he and his co-author do not fully describe--the question for him is, So what? After the bombing of two US embassies in Africa, shouldn't Washington have pressed the Taliban to turn over bin Laden? After all, in other sections of the book, the authors claim Washington was not sufficiently forceful in its pursuit of bin Laden.

A careful reader might discern that Brisard does not directly confront the case I made against his book. In the translation I read, he and Dasquié claim that the United States and its allies, as part of their secret machinations, plotted to return the exiled king of Afghanistan to power and that the "secret talks" culminated with the United States in July 2001 threatening the Taliban with a military strike. To prove the first of these two points, the authors cite a UN report. But that nonsecret report only says that Annan's special representative on Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, met with the former king to discuss bringing together in-country and exiled Afghans for an effort to settle peacefully the political and military strife within Afghanistan. There is no indication that either the UN or the United States were arranging the king's restoration. The authors, with little evidence in hand, defame a laudable UN initiative and grossly misrepresent one of its documents.

By the way, in the same part of the book, the authors report that on June 1, 2001, "a secret meeting took place on the subject of Afghanistan. It was attended by Condoleezza Rice, Christina Rocca [a US State Department official], and Francesc Vendrell, as well as British observers." The source for this? The aforementioned UN report. But if you download this report from the web--as I did--you will find that the document (a routine report submitted by Annan) clearly notes that Vendrell met with Rocca "as well as other senior officials in the State Department and in the National Security Council" on this day. That is, there was nothing "secret" about the session. The authors, though, go out of their way to render a meeting acknowledged by the UN as something clandestine--and without revealing what horrible things were supposedly said during the gathering. This is their MO. Turn public meetings into secret plot-fests. Hint, nod and wink. Assert, rather than confirm. Characterize, instead of quote directly. They weave a web of deceit out of thin (at best) material.

Back to the business of the US threat against the Taliban. The authors claim this threat was issued during what Brisard calls "informal talks" in July 2001. These talks actually were a series of conferences organized by the UN in 2000 and 2001 to bolster its Special Mission to Afghanistan. The UN had asked former officials from the United States, Pakistan, Russia and other nations to gather every few months to discuss what could be done about the troubles in Afghanistan--a situation most of the world was ignoring at that time.

The authors (citing Niaz Naik, a participant from Pakistan) report that at the July meeting, which was held in Berlin, "the small American delegation mentioned using a 'military option' against the Taliban if they did not agree to change their position, especially concerning Osama bin Laden. Naik recounted that a US official had threatened, 'Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.' " But this "American delegation" was made up of past US officials, not present ones. Brisard and Dasquie assume--without proving-- that the ex-officials were speaking for the Bush Administration. But there is no reason to believe that.

Moreover, what was said--and why it was said--is a subject of debate. Tom Simons, a former US ambassador to Pakistan and thirty-five-year career diplomat, was one of three Americans at that meeting. He doesn't recall any threat of the type Naik remembers. Instead, he says, the Americans noted that if the Bush Administration established that bin Laden had masterminded the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, then the Taliban and everyone else could expect a US strike against bin Laden in Afghanistan. In his reply to my article, Brisard kindly quotes Simons on this subject. But he and Dasquié were not so courteous in their book, and Simons says that neither sought to contact him. (That is in keeping with the rest of the book, for in their account of the "secret talks" there is precious little journalism of the we-interview-the-players type--perhaps none.)

Brisard tries to slip by, noting that it does not matter whether Naik or Simons is correct in their recollection. In either event, he says, what is important is that "a US representative...evoked the option of a military operation against Afghanistan." This is ludicrous. The two authors have failed to show that the Americans at this meeting were in league with the Bush Administration. And had the American ex-officials said what Simons claims was stated, this could hardly have come as a shock to bin Laden or the Taliban. Surely, the Taliban and bin Laden realized that if bin Laden was firmly linked to the USS Cole operation, the United States was likely to bomb. This is, after all, how Clinton responded to bin Laden's attacks on the US embassies in Africa.

Brisard disingenuously writes in his letter, "I wouldn't speculate on whether the Taliban regime and its Al Qaeda supporter [bin Laden] may have tried to anticipate a military action against them by launching a devastating attack on US soil on September 11, 2001." But that is indeed what he and his partner suggest in their book. Go back and read the sentence I quoted above in which the authors maintain September 11 was "the outcome of this initiative." And in his letter, Brisard says "this threat is an important aspect for our understanding of the months leading to September 11."

Brisard and Dasquié, though, did not bother to ascertain whether this so-called threat actually affected the actions of the Taliban and bin Laden. They merely maintain that it did. There are so many weak links in their argument. They do not prove there were "secret talks." They do not prove Washington was behind this supposed threat. They do not prove the threat had any impact.

Beyond matters of evidence, their theory makes no sense. Suppose--and it's a large stretch--that their "facts" are true. The "threat" came in July 2001. Would they argue that bin Laden, in response to the threat, quickly began developing the September 11 plan? That would be an absurd assertion. Obviously, bin Laden's scheme was long in the works before July 2001. So what's the other option? That bin Laden, who already was preparing the September 11 strikes, was somehow provoked into greenlighting the attacks by this July 2001 threat? This is equally absurd. Bin Laden had mounted assaults against the USS Cole and the US embassies in Africa; he was connected to the 1993 strike against the World Trade Center. He had declared a holy war against America. He did not require provocation--in the form of a threat from ex-officials--to proceed with his mass murder. Are Brisard and Dasquié claiming that bin Laden was not dedicated to moving ahead with the September 11 mission once planning had begun? This proposition seems indefensible on its face--especially when the authors do not present any evidence as to the thinking and motivations of bin Laden and the Taliban.

To further explore their illogic: In this scenario, what would be the purpose of the September 11 attacks, from the vantage of bin Laden and the Taliban? The operation could not be pre-emptive in the military sense of diminishing the US capacity to hit Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. And if the Taliban and bin Laden were indeed concerned at this point about the threat of US military action, hitting the United States on September 11 would only guarantee that Washington would bomb the hell out of them. It is unbelievable--and unproven in the manuscript--that bin Laden concluded in July 2001 that since the United States was about to attack, he had to strike first with an assault he otherwise would not have launched but that (conveniently) had been in development for a year or two.

As for all the oil business Brisard mentions in the first half of his letter, it is mostly inconsequential. It's no secret that Unocal and other companies were interested in oil and gas in Central Asia and a pipeline in Afghanistan. But note that his examples are pre-1998. That year, Unocal--the company that was pushing the most on this front--gave up on a pipeline in Afghanistan. Were the Clinton and Bush administrations in their "secret talks" with the Taliban pimping for a company no longer looking for a deal? More to the point, at the end of May, the interim government in Kabul announced the revival of the trans-Afghanistan pipeline, but Unocal--the presumed beneficiary of the "secret talks" that supposedly led to September 11--stated it was no longer interested and would not be participating in the project.

There is no denying the Bush crowd wants to help its pals (and contributors) in Big Oil. But did the Bush Administration--and its predecessor--threaten the Taliban and bin Laden on behalf of them and place thousands of Americans at risk? Brisard and Dasquié neither establish their facts nor support their reasoning.

Their book is a crass exploitation of a tragic event. It violates the most modest of journalistic standards. The authors manipulate an awful event into a story to serve a political end--or, perhaps, only to make money for themselves. The book practically justifies the attacks. Which is foul. It says the September 11 assaults were prompted by these "secret negotiations," not bin Laden's jihad or the geopolitical conditions and conflicts that may have fed that jihad. No doubt, anti-Bush partisans and individuals who tend to disbelieve conventional accounts will be drawn to the book. And they will soon have the opportunity to read the English-language version, for it is being published this summer by Thunder's Mouth Press and NationBooks.

II. The World According to Ruppert

What is most notable about Michael Ruppert's response is what he does not address. As Ruppert has asserted that the CIA had "foreknowledge" of the September 11 attacks and that the US government was probably "complicit" in their execution, he has championed the case of Delmart "Mike" Vreeland, an American who was jailed in Canada and who is now fighting extradition to Michigan, where he is wanted on several criminal counts. Vreeland claims he is a US intelligence operative who learned of the attacks months in advance and who, while in prison, wrote a note in mid-August 2001 indicating September 11 was coming. (Actually, Vreeland's tale is far more elaborate and bizarre than this. To get the full flavor, see my original piece.) By combing law enforcement, prison and court records in several states and through interviews with cops across the country and Vreeland's family, I discovered that Vreeland had a long history of con-man activity and had been in and out of jail for years. He was no spy, he was a flim-flammer. Ruppert, tellingly, does not respond to this aspect of the article. I wonder if he still believes Vreeland is a key to solving the September 11 mystery.

Instead of dealing with the revelations about his chief witness, Ruppert refers to my article's "weakness." But he fails to point out specific flaws, except one: my reference to a UPI story written by correspondent Richard Sale. I confess I am slightly baffled by Ruppert's reply. He has drafted a timeline that supposedly proves the CIA knew of September 11 in advance. The chronology is composed of citations to articles written by others. For one item, Ruppert lists a February 13, 2001, UPI article that he says reported "the National Security Agency has broken bin Laden's encrypted communications." My assistant and I searched Lexis-Nexis for this story and found nothing from that date. Instead, we found a February 8 article by Richard Sale reporting that "US hackers have gone into foreign banks accounts and deleted or transferred funds, and jammed or blocked [Al Qaeda's] cell or satellite phones, intelligence officials said." This piece did not seem to indicate that bin Laden's communications had been broken in a manner indicating the United States had been able to gather information about the September 11 plot.

I've looked again--and still cannot find that February 13 article. But, more important, on June 2, 2002, the Washington Post published a piece by James Bamford, a damn-good investigative reporter and author of Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. Bamford writes, "For about two years, until August 1998, NSA was able to eavesdrop on senior al Qaeda communications by monitoring bin Laden's personal satellite phone." Even so, the NSA and the intelligence community did not collect conversations in which bin Laden "discussed specific terrorist activities." In any event, Bamford says the NSA's ability to intercept bin Laden's communications ceased, sadly, in 1998. If there is a Sale story dated February 13 that claims the NSA had broken bin Laden's encrypted communications--and Ruppert seemingly offers quotes from such an article in his letter--it seems to be referring to the pre-1998 period. What, then, is the relevance of this factoid to understanding September 11? If the NSA had eavesdropped back then--and if, as Bamford reports, it picked up few, if any, details--what does that tell us about US intelligence foreknowledge of September 11? Nothing.

I am not defending the US intelligence community. As I have written several times, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the CIA, the FBI and others missed important indications that bin Laden and Al Qaeda were interested in a September 11-type attack. But this is quite different from claiming US intelligence picked up warnings and purposely ignored them. If Ruppert wants to argue that the CIA and the US government were aware in advance that this particular strike was coming, he needs much better evidence than what he offers in his timeline.

Since Ruppert raised the subject of "integrity," allow me to take this opportunity to note that he has countered my criticism of his work by saying, "I have an opinion that David Corn is one of the establishment CIA/FBI operatives who has long been planted within so-called progressive circles." His proof of this? "The primary argument I use for that," Ruppert said in an interview, "is that he was chosen by one of the most venal characters in American history, Ted Shackley--who ran the CIA station in Laos, who overthrew Salvador Allende--to be his chosen biographer." Such a remark ordinarily would deserve no more than a hearty guffaw. But since Ruppert has his followers on the web and within Pacifica radio circles, it is probably worth addressing it in a direct fashion: This is as nutty a charge as I have ever faced. Anyone who read my 1994 book, Blond Ghost, which was highly critical of Shackley and the CIA, would learn that Shackley did not select me to be his biographer and that, to the contrary, he considered me a hostile biographer and for years refused to cooperate. And since I know how Ruppert and some of his believers operate--hey, they would say, Corn never flat-out denied he was a CIA/FBI plant--I will go through this stupid exercise: I am not now nor have I ever been associated with any intelligence service in any capacity whatsoever. And Shackley is hardly my beloved. Only a fool could suggest otherwise.

Ruppert resorts to a scoundrel's tactic--hurling an outlandish but easy-to-disprove allegation. And here's another indication Ruppert's credibility and judgment deserve to be questioned. On June 1, Ruppert posted an e-mail on a private discussion list in which he reported that Vreeland--the con man claiming to be a US intelligence officer--had been poisoned. Here's what Ruppert wrote:

"Vreeland received two bottles of wine from Allan [sic] Greenspan. Vreeland stated that he had spoken to Greenspan on the phone and knew the wine was coming. I was on the phone with Vreeland yesterday right after he had about two glasses of the wine. Upon answering the phone Vreeland immediately stated that he had been vomiting blood.... I could hear sounds of the toilet flushing and water running. Vreeland was obviously ill.... In a frenzy he went to a stash of previously prepared syringes and took five successive injections of medications. I have a list of what he took but am not disclosing it now. I listened as the caps came off the syringes, hit the floor, and as he injected.... He didn't sound like he was faking at all."

So the Fed chairman sent a fugitive in Canada--who claims to be a supersecret agent with foreknowledge of September 11 but who has a criminal record stretching almost twenty years--two bottles of poisoned wine? Ruppert takes Vreeland's I-was-poisoned-by-Greenspan claim seriously. That says much about Ruppert.

III. The Rest of It

Jason Thorne is right: "We need to be careful not to simply dismiss alternative views." But those who claim they know the alternative truth have an obligation to present a rock-solid case--especially when they accuse people of permitting or planning the mass murder of their fellow citizens. Ruppert is the one who claims he has proven the CIA knew of September 11 in advance and allowed it to happen. He is the one who says it is likely the US government had a hand in executing the attacks. He is not raising questions. He is making explosive accusations. And anyone who casts such allegations should expect scrutiny. A close look at Ruppert's work shows that he does not evaluate evidence but draws connection between selectively chosen pieces of information (which he does not bother to confirm). This is not investigation. This is data manipulation.

Ronald Legro, as a public service, directs my attention to Operation Northwoods, a plan with which I am already familiar. Many Ruppertoids have made a similar argument. Yes, forty years ago, the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up an outrageous plan. But, of course, it was not implemented. Lots of crazy schemes in the cold war were drafted and-- thankfully--not implemented, such as a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. And, yes, in the past decades, the CIA and its clandestine cousins have engaged in horrendous actions--some of which I have chronicled in Blond Ghost and the pages of The Nation. Yet none of this proves anything about September 11. I return to a simple point: Let doubters pursue questions, nothing is wrong with that. In fact, it's healthy. But allegations of this variety demand proof. Skeptics are not free of responsibility.

Totalitarian? Jean Santerre accuses me of that. This e-mailer is in desperate need of perspective. Stalin was a totalitarian. I, on the other hand, am concerned that conspiracy theorizing distracts people from the actual malfeasance, mistakes and misdeeds of the US government and the intelligence community. My criterion is rather basic, and I am sorry it has eluded Santerre: One should assert what one can prove as accurate and truthful.

September 11 was a day of unprecedented horror. It is not surprising that many people seek a deeper understanding of the attack and what led to it. Official answers ought not to be absorbed automatically without questions. But the purveyors of contrary explanations have a high bar to clear--particularly when they claim to possess an unseen truth--for, in the end, the only alternatives that should matter are those that are demonstrably true.


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© 2002 The Nation Company, L.P. Permissions | Letters to the Editor

Unprecedented horror? 16.Jul.2002 22:47


what easychair has david corn been hiding under?

David Corn 16.Jul.2002 22:52


David Corn is a Stupid White Man

His head is up his ass and he is far more interested in playing his intelectual games, than in seeking truth.

David Corn is an idiot 16.Jul.2002 23:00


David Corn asserts that it is up to people questioning Sept 11th to present a rock solid case, yet he continues to be a blind syncophant for George Bush and the Intelligence Community, and refuses to admit that the official story is a pile of bullshit.

Nobody needs to have the answers, to know that the governments story is bullshit.

David Corn flat out refuses to look at the truth, and continues to spend his time defending the CIA. The CIA who endorsed his biography. Anyone who writes an authorized biography for CIA personel, has no place writing for a progressive magazine.

David Corn also writes a column called "The Loyal Opposition".

This title says everything that needs to be said. David Corn is loyal to Bush, to the U.S. power structure and to the Intelligence Community. You can only serve one master, and he serves the oppressive powers and not truth.

David Corn - Oppressor 16.Jul.2002 23:03


David Corn is a priveledged white man who is unconscious to the level of priveledge he enjoys, and the biased and ugly attitudes he embodies.

Unprecedented Horror? Try living as a black woman in this society

Corn is a jerk!!! 16.Jul.2002 23:04


This guy is a jerk. A pompous white jerk!!!

ahhh geez 16.Jul.2002 23:08

weary of corn and his ilk

David Corn is just another white upper-class over-educated pompous brie-eating wine-tasting New-York-Times-reading close-minded defensive bought-and-paid-for not-in-my-left-wing limousine liberal such as the so-called "progressive" media is filled with these days. And therein lies the problem. The slick moneyed publications are all too beholden to the powers-that-be to ask any real questions.

forget him.

let the voices of the people and the truth-seekers ring forth instead. viva indymedia !!

corn refuses to face the truth 16.Jul.2002 23:12


corn refuses to face the truth.

he continues to attack people for questioning Sept 11th - yet he himself blindly defends the official story - never once acknowledging the glaring holes and inconsistencies in it.

Rather than make some intelligent response like 'I don't adhere to any of the alternate theories presented by various people, but I can see that the official story is full of falsehood and should be examined with the full resources of the society', he blindly defends Bush and his criminal administration.

He is the problem, not part of the solution.

Sucks to be Corn 16.Jul.2002 23:13

comment reader

to all y'all who've written so far: you forgot to call him a 'big fat wussie'

Canceled my Nation subscription 16.Jul.2002 23:15


Any publication that would give paper space to this idiot is not worth reading

David Corn is a fool. 16.Jul.2002 23:24


This fellow writes and writes, but it is all avoidance.

He is desparate to avoid the real questions that need to be asked. The fact that the Nation continues to print his material reflects poorly upon them.







There are literally millions of people now asking these questions, but David Corn in his supreme arrogance has determined that they are all 'conspiracy nuts' and that he knows the CIA well and that they would not do it.

Gee thanks - glad you put that one to rest Dave

David Corn is a fool.

Some questions for ya Davy 16.Jul.2002 23:27


Some questions for ya Davy

* why are there no Arab names on the flight lists?
* why when numerous names on the FBI list of 19 alleged hijackers are proven false, has no subsequent list been released by the FBI?
* why has no action been taken on the insider stock trades which prove exact foreknowledge? You cannot make anonymous stock trades. . .the identities of those who placed the put options must be known.
* why is the FBI dragging its feet in the anthrax case and acting like there are no legitimate suspects when there clearly are?
* why is the discrepancy between the quotes from the flight instructors indicating poor piloting skills, and the quotes from civil and miliatry authorities indicating that the pilots of the hijacked planes had to be skilled, never addressed? This one point invalidates the entire FBI scenario
* why were the alleged hijackers waltzing around using their own names, when we are being told that it was super secret cells of terrorists who did this?
* what were the false names they used? when did they switch from using their real names, to using false names? (remember they were supposed to have used fake names)
* who killed the woman the day before she was supposed to testify on her connections to obtaining fake drivers licenses? why was she killed?
* Why did the US fake the video of Osama? (not one single person who was shown side by side photos of Osama and the person in the video said they were the same. . .the nose is not even close)


Naturally he will never address these, cause that would implicate his CIA buddies! This guy is no progressive.

open letter to david corn 17.Jul.2002 00:42

the real pc

Here's my letter to David Corn. A bit long, but I hope you don't mind.
Mr. Corn.

I appreciate that you're spending the energy to debate with the 9/11 conspiracy folks. I'm one of them. Your reply to those five letters was quite lengthy, and involved a bit of research; I can't emphasize enough that I appreciate it. But then, you already know I'm not writing soley to compliment your work. Aside from the character assassination, which I just ignore, and aside from the debate of facts, which quite frankly would be just too time consuming for an armchair enthusiast such as yours truly, there is one point you made that I think should be debunked INSTANTLY!!!!!!

"in the end, the only alternatives that should matter are those that are demonstrably true."

Come on now! You know better than that! The end is not here, and there is much evidence still to be uncovered. If 9/11 *really were* some sinister plot, and Ruppert and his ilk stopped digging today, *that* would mark the end. And government conspiracy would not be proven. Further, many a criminal investigation ends with a person behind bars based upon the evidence amounting to more than a REASONABLE DOUBT, which I'd say falls short of demostrable truth. Irrefutable proof would be great to have any time a charge is made, but surely you're not so feeble-minded as to think that it's wrong to pursue justice without having absolute proof (don't start one without strong evidence, but don't wait for absolute proof). ****By your own logic, you should be decrying our hunt for Osama/Al Qaeda since it began well before we had enough evidence to state that his/their involvement was "demonstrably true".****

Don't hang yourself on your own flimsy logic. Come back with another article and be a "real" man; search for the truth about 9/11 and point out the merit to the "conspiracy" viewpoint as well as the many blatant flaws in the official story. If you've half a head on your shoulders, you should know that BOTH versions of reality have problems. You know that our government has rammed some nasty shit down our throats by using the official (and bogus) 9/11 story as the justification (the USA PATRIOT Act, the Homeland Security, the detained citizens, and much more) And you KNOW that it's a greater wrong to simply accept the official narrative than it is to search for truth and justice with a few stumbles along the way.

And since you doubtless know all that, you should also know this; your articles suck because they serve only to demotivate. If you want to make a positive difference--which is why you're a journalist, right?--then you should motivate people to act for their country. Point out what's wrong with the 9/11 conspiracy picture, but more importantly point out what's wrong with the government's picture. Spur people to action, not lethargy! Be positive! What bad happens if a bunch of Americans think "the government did it" and research, and refine that research by debate, and then protest against the lies of the government? Nothing bad. That's what democracy is all about. But what bad happens if nobody takes the government to task for their lies and everybody goes along with whatever the government wants? Well, multiply the USA PATRIOT Act by three (as it was before it was re-written, which was only politically possible because people DON'T accept the official narrative that the government won't abuse the power we give it--and please remember that it's not demonstrably true that the government would have abused those powers that were scratched from the original PATRIOT Act--but it was changed anyway).

PS, don't forget to apply the same lens to the official version that you do to the "conspiracy" version.

PPS, feel free to use this letter in the Nation, and know that other people will be reading it regardless of your actions.

Corn on the Cob 17.Jul.2002 01:34


"for, in the end, the only alternatives that should matter are those that are demonstrably true."

What a bullshit artist! The governments 'story' is demonstrably false, but this nitwit completely ignores this point.

The Nation and much of the leftist media is bankrupt. There is no real quest for justice. They are just playing the part of the good opposition but only sit back in comfortable lives. They are not willing to actually risk themselves in the name of justice. They are an integral part of the oppressive system.

Ya Basta!

Smug intellectual male pundits 17.Jul.2002 01:42

flower petal

Smug white intellectual male pundits like Corn sit on a high horse, thinking they know what's up. Corn doesn't know anything important, and doesn't know he doesn't know anything important. He strings lots of words together, but does not have a clue.

Time to shut up dear.



david corn is further proof that emma goldwoman is right. its time for the men in leftist publications to step aside and let the women have a voice. corn's intellectual bullshit needs to be smashed with some intuitive non-oppressive perspective. he's just sitting on top of his fucking privilidge and needs to be removed. let him wash diapers for awhile and get a taste of what life is like for the non-white non-male majority in this country that he supports: like shit.

Pissed as Hell 17.Jul.2002 01:52

None of your Business

I am pissed as hell that blowhards such as Corn and what are presented as progressive publications like the Nation have worked so hard to prevent people from asking questions.

Who the fuck do these people think they are?!?!?!

They are no different from any of the mainstream press and big power brokers. Always trying to tell people what to do, and working to shut them up when they have their own mind.

Toss them out on their ass. They are no more interested in peoples democracy than George Bush is.

People Not Pundits 17.Jul.2002 12:02


Corn is just another roadblock to a democratic peoples assembly. He just offers another doorway into the existing power system

Ignore these elitists sitting in their ivory towers. Create a viable non-corporate alternative.

Priveledged white folk, if they want to have a part in the forming of a new world, need to voluntarily step down from their priveledge. Otherwise they talk some cool talk, but are still acting like the oppressors.

Corn, unedited 17.Jul.2002 14:27


Good lord. Corn is "stupid," "white," "privleged," and "has his head up his ass." And then you attack him for supposedly taking personal swipes at Ruppert/Vreeland? Regardless of what the real 911 story is, Corn is right: a list of events culled from various media sources and slapped into chronological order is not, in and of itself, evidence. Further, Corn is right when describes the hundreds if not thousands of people who would have to be "in" on a coverup such as the one described by Ruppert. Even at the highest levels of business and government, most people do have some sense of decency and right & wrong. Anyhow, read the Corn story that started it all and judge for yourself: March 25, during a Pacifica radio interview, Representative Cynthia McKinney, a Georgia Democrat, said, "We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11.... What did this Administration know, and when did it know it about the events of September 11? Who else knew and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly mur-dered?" McKinney was not merely asking if there had been an intelligence failure. She was suggesting--though not asserting--that the US government had foreknowledge of the specific attacks and either did not do enough to prevent them or, much worse, permitted them to occur for some foul reason. Senator Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat from her state, called her comments "loony." House minority leader Dick Gephardt noted that he disagreed with her. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer quipped, "The congress-woman must be running for the Hall of Fame of the Grassy Knoll Society." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called her a "nut." Two months later, after it was revealed that George W. Bush had received an intelligence briefing a month before September 11 in which he informed told Osama bin Laden was interested in both hijacking airplanes and striking directly at the United States, McKinney claimed vindication. But that new piece of information did not support the explosive notion she had unfurled earlier--that the Bush Administration and/or other unnamed parties had been in a position to warn New Yorkers and had elected not to do so.

With her radio interview, McKinney became something of a spokesperson for people who question the official story of September 11. As the Constitution's editorial page blasted her, its website ran an unscientific poll and found that 46 percent said, "I think officials knew it was coming." Out there--beyond newspaper conference rooms and Congressional offices--alternative scenarios and conspir-acy theories have been zapping across the Internet for months. George W. Bush did it. The Mossad did it. The CIA did it. Or they purposely did not thwart the assault--either to have an excuse for war, to increase the military budget or to replace the Taliban with a government sympathetic to the West and the oil industry. The theories claim that secret agendas either caused the attacks or drove the post-9/11 response, and these dark accounts have found an audience of passionate devotees.

I learned this after I wrote a column dismissing various 9/11 conspiracy theories. I expressed doubt that the Bush Administration would kill or allow the murder of thousands of American citizens to achieve a political or economic aim. (How could Karl Rove spin that, if a leak ever occurred?) Having covered the national security community for years, I didn't believe any government agency could execute a plot requiring the coordination of the FBI, the CIA, the INS, the FAA, the NTSB, the Pentagon and others. And--no small matter--there was no direct evidence that anything of such a diabolical nature had transpired. Hundreds of angry e-mails poured in. Some accused me of being a sophisticated CIA disinformation agent. Others claimed I was hopelessly naive. (Could I be both?) Much of it concerned two men, Michael Ruppert and Delmart "Mike" Vreeland. Ruppert, a former Los Angeles cop, runs a website that has cornered a large piece of the alternative-9/11 market. An American who was jailed in Canada, Vreeland claims to be a US naval intelligence officer who tried to warn the authorities before the attacks. Ruppert cites Vreeland to back up his allegation that the CIA had "foreknowledge" of the 9/11 attacks and that there is a strong case for "criminal complicity on the part of the U.S. government in their execution." My article discounted their claims. But, I discovered, the two men had a loyal--and vocal--following. They were being booked on Pacifica stations. Ruppert was selling a video and giving speeches around the world. (In February, he filled a theater in Sacramento.) I decided to take a second--and deeper--look at the pair and key pieces of the 9/11 conspiracy movement.

The Ex-Cop Who Connects the Dot

By his own account, Ruppert has long been a purveyor of amazing tales. In 1981 he told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner a bizarre story about himself: While a cop in the 1970s, he fell in love with a mysterious woman who, he came to believe, was working with the mob and US intelligence. Only after she left him, Ruppert said, did he figure out that his girlfriend had been a CIA officer coordi-nating a deal in which organized crime thugs were transporting weapons to Kurdish counterrevolutionaries in Iran in exchange for heroin. In an interview with the newspaper, the woman denied Ruppert's account and questioned his mental stability. Whatever the truth of his encounter with this woman, the relationship apparently extracted a toll on Ruppert. In 1978 he resigned from the force, claiming that the department had not protected him when his life was threatened. According to records posted on Ruppert's site, his commanding officer called his service "for the most part, outstanding." But the CO also said Ruppert was hampered by an "over-concern with organized crime activity and a feeling that his life was endangered by individuals connected to organized crime. This problem resulted in Officer Ruppert voluntarily committing himself to psychiatric care last year.... any attempts to rejoin the Depart-ment by Officer Ruppert should be approved only after a thorough psychiatric examination."

In 1996 Ruppert showed up at a community meeting in Los Angeles concerning charges that the CIA had been in league with crack cocaine dealers in the United States. There Ruppert claimed the agency had tried to recruit him in the 1970s to "protect CIA drug operations" in South Central Los Angeles--an allegation that was missing from the guns-and-drugs story published in 1981. In 1998 he launched his From the Wilderness alternative newsletter, which examines what he considers to be the hidden currents of international economics and national security untouched by other media. On March 31 of last year, for instance, he published a report on an economic conference in Moscow where the opening speaker was a fellow who works for Lyndon LaRouche, the conspiracy-theorist/political cult leader. "I share a near universal respect of the LaRouche organization's detailed and precise research," Ruppert wrote. "I have not, however, always agreed with [its] conclusions." Ruppert claims that twenty members of Congress subscribe to his newsletter.

Ruppert is not a reporter. He mostly assembles facts--or purported facts--from various news sources and then makes connections. The proof is not in any one piece--say, a White House memo detailing an arms-for-hostages trade. The proof is in the line drawn between the dots. His masterwork is a timeline of fifty-one events (at last count) that, he believes, demonstrate that the CIA knew of the attacks in advance and that the US government probably had a hand in them. Ruppert titled his timeline "Oh Lucy!--You Gotta Lotta 'Splaining To Do."

In the timeline he notes that transnational oil companies invested billions of dollars to gain access to the oil reserves of Central America and that they expressed interest in a trans-Afghanistan pipeline between 1991 and 1998. He lists trips made to Saudi Arabia in 1998 and 2000 by former President George Bush on behalf of the Carlyle Group investment firm. On September 7, 2001, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed an order restructuring the state's response to acts of terrorism. There's a German online news agency report from September 14 claiming that an Iranian man had called US law enforcement to warn of the attack earlier that summer. The list cries out, "Don't you see?" Oil companies wanted a stable and pro-Western regime in Afghanistan. Warnings were not heeded. Daddy Bush had dealings in Saudi Arabia. Brother Jeb was getting ready for a terrible event. It can only mean one thing: The US government designed the attacks or let them happen so it could go to war on behalf of oil interests.

Space prevents a complete dissection of all Ruppert's dots. But in several instances, he misrepresents his source material. Item number 8 says that in February 2001, UPI reported that the National Security Agency had "broken bin Laden's encrypted communications." That would suggest the US government could have picked up word of the coming assault. But the actual story noted not that the US government had gained the capacity to eavesdrop on bin Laden at will but that it had "gone into foreign bank accounts [of bin Laden's organization] and deleted or transferred funds, and jammed or blocked the group's cell or satellite phones." Item number 9, based on a Los Angeles Times story, says the Bush Administration gave $43 million in aid to the Taliban in May 2001, "purportedly" to assist farmers starving since the destruction of their opium crop. Purportedly? Was the administration paying off the Taliban for something else? That is what Ruppert is hinting. The newspaper, though, reported that all US funds "are channeled through the United Nations and international agencies," not handed to the Taliban. Unless Ruppert can show that was not the case, this dot has no particular sig-nificance. What if Washington funded international programs assisting Afghan farmers? With his timeline, Ruppert implies far more than he proves. It is a document for those already predisposed to believe that world events are determined by secret, mind-boggling conspiracies of the powerful, by people too influential and wily to be caught but who leave a trail that can be decoded by a few brave outsiders who know where and how to look.

The "Spy" Who Tried To Warn Us?

Ruppert can claim one truly original find: Delmart "Mike" Vreeland. He is the flesh on the bones of Ruppert's the-dots-show-all time-line. On December 6, 2000, Vreeland, then 34, was arrested in Canada and charged with fraud, forgery, threatening death or bodily harm, and obstructing a peace officer. At the time, he was wanted on multiple warrants in the United States--for forgery, counterfeit-ing, larceny, unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, narcotics, reckless endangerment, arson, and grand theft. Months earlier, the Detroit News, citing law enforcement authorities, had reported that Vreeland was an experienced identity thief. While Vreeland was in jail in Toronto, law enforcement officials in Michigan began extradition proceedings.

On October 7, 2001, Vreeland, who was fighting extradition, submitted an exhibit in a Canadian court that he says shows he knew 9/11 was coming. And, Ruppert argues, this is proof that US intelligence was aware of the coming attacks. The document is a page of handwritten notes. There is a list that includes the World Trade Center, the Sears Tower and the White House. Below that a sentence reads, "Let one happen--stop the rest." Elsewhere is a hard-to -decipher collection of phrases and names. Vreeland claims he wrote this in mid-August 2001, while in prison, and had it placed in a locked storage box by prison guards. He says the note was opened on September 14 in front of prison officials. Immediately, his lawyers were summoned to the prison, according to one of them, Rocco Galati, and the jail officials dispatched the note to Ottawa.

Vreeland's believers, including Ruppert, refer to this note as a "warning letter." It is no such thing and, though tantalizing, holds no specific information related to the 9/11 assaults. There is no date mentioned, no obvious reference to a set of perpetrators. In a telephone interview with me, Vreeland said this document was not written as an alert. He claimed that throughout the summer of 2001, he was composing a thirty-seven-page memo to Adm. Vernon Clark, Chief of Naval Operations, and that this page contains the notes he kept during this process. What of the memo to Clark? Vreeland won't share it, maintaining that he wrote in such a manner that only its intended recipient would truly understand what it said. Who can confirm the note was indeed what he had placed in storage prior to September 11? Is it possible some sort of switch was pulled? Vreeland maintains that during court proceedings, five officials of the Canadian jail affirmed that he had passed this document to the guards prior to September 11. When I asked for their names, Vreeland said the judge had sealed those records. Kevin Wilson, a Canadian federal prosecutor handling the extradition case, and Galati, Vree-land's lawyer, say no seal has been ordered.

The note is one small piece of Vreeland's very big Alias-like story. He claims he was a US naval intelligence officer sent to Russia in September 2000 on a sensitive mission: to obtain design documents related to a Russian weapon system that could defeat a US missile defense system. He swiped copies of the documents and altered the originals so the Russian system wouldn't work. As one court decision states, "According to [Vreeland], he was sent to Russia to authenticate these documents because he had originally conceived of the theory behind this [anti-Star Wars] technology, when working for the US Navy in 1986." While in Moscow, he also snagged other top-secret documents that, he claims, foretold the September 11 attacks. And now the US government, the Russian secret police, organized crime and corrupt law enforcement officials are after him. As one Canadian judge noted, "No summary of the complex allegations of multiple concurrent conspiracies...can do justice to [Vreeland's] own description."

Ruppert and Vreeland assert that Canadian court records back up Vreeland. But court decisions in his case have questioned his credibility. In one, Judge Archie Campbell observed, "There is not even a threshold showing of any air of reality to the vast conspiracy alleged by the applicant." Judge John Macdonald wrote, "I find that the Applicant is an imaginative and manipulative person who has little regard for the truth.... the testimony that he developed the theory for anti-Star Wars technology in 1986, based on high school courses, personal interest and perhaps a law clerk's course and a 'Bachelor of Political Science' degree is simply incredible." Nor did he he believe Vreeland was a spy or that he had smuggled documents out of Russia. Macdonald, though, did state that the US records submitted in court regarding Vreeland's criminal record were "terse, incomplete and confusing," and he noted that the sloppiness of the filing might suggest the Michigan criminal charges were "trumped up." But he was not convinced of that, explaining "I see no reasonable basis in the evidence for inferring that the Michigan charges are 'trumped up.'"

It's not surprising those records might be a mess. After I first wrote about Vreeland, I received an e-mail from Terry Weems, who identified himself as Vreeland's half-brother. He claimed Vreeland was a longtime con man who had preyed on his own family. Weems sent copies of police reports his wife had filed in Alabama accusing Vreeland of falsely using her name to buy office supplies and cell phones in August 2000. Weems provided me a list of law enforcement officers who were pursuing Vreeland in several states. I began calling these people and examining state and county records. There was much to check.

According to Michigan Department of Corrections records, Vreeland was in and out of prison several times from 1988 to 1999, having been convicted of assorted crimes, including breaking and entering, receiving stolen property, forgery and writing bad checks. In 1997 he was arrested in Virginia for conspiring to bribe a police officer and intimidating a witness, court records say. He failed to show up in court there. In Florida he was arrested in 1998 on two felony counts of grand theft. In one instance he had purchased a yacht with a check written on a nonexistent account. He was sentenced to three years of probation. The Florida Department of Cor-rections currently lists him as an absconder. In 1998 he was pursued by the Sheffield, Alabama, police force for stealing about $20,000 in music equipment. Charges were eventually dismissed after some of the property was recovered and Vreeland agreed to pay restitution. In the course of his investigation, Sheffield Detective Greg Ray pulled Vreeland's criminal file; it was twenty pages long. "He had to really try to be a criminal to get such a history," Ray says. A 1999 report filed by a Michigan probation agent said of Vreeland, "The defendant has 9 known felony convictions and 5 more felony charges are now pending in various Courts. However, the full extent of his criminal record may never be known because he has more than a dozen identified Aliases and arrests or police contacts in 5 different states."

Michigan state police records (sent to me by Weems, Vreeland's half-brother) show that in 1997, while Vreeland was in jail after being arrested on a bad-check charge, he wrote a letter to the St. Clair Shores Police Department warning that his brother-in-law was going to burn down his own restaurant. The letter was dated five days prior to a fire that occurred at the restaurant, but it was post-marked three days after the fire. "Do you see a pattern here?" Weems asks.

Judge Campbell called Vreeland a "man who appears on this evidentiary record to be nothing more than a petty fraudsman with a vivid imagination." But Ruppert dismisses Vreeland's past, noting he has "a very confusing criminal arrest record--some of it very contradictory and apparently fabricated." When I interviewed Vreeland, he said, "I have never legally been convicted of anything in the United States of America." And, he added, he has never been in prison.

There are two odd bounces in this case. Vreeland claims that in Moscow he worked with a Canadian Embassy employee named Marc Bastien. Unfortunately, this cannot be confirmed by Bastien. He was found dead in Moscow on December, 12, 2000--while Vreeland was in jail in Toronto. At the time of his death, Canadian authorities announced Bastien died of natural causes, but Vreeland later claimed Bastien had been murdered. Then, this past January, the Quebec coroner said Bastein died after drinking a mixture of alcohol and clopazine, an antidepressant, and he noted that Bastien may have been poisoned--or may have been offered the medication to fight a hangover. Had Vreeland really known something about this death, or had he made a good guess about a fellow whose death was covered in the Canadian media? And during a courtroom proceeding, at Vreeland's insistence, the judge allowed his counsel to place a call to the Pentagon. The operator who answered confirmed that a Lieutenant D. Vreeland was listed in the phone directory. Afterward, Canadian prosecutors claimed that information from the US government indicated that a person purporting to be Lieuten-ant D. Vreeland had earlier sent an e-mail to a telephone operator at the Pentagon, saying he would temporarily be occupying a Penta-gon office and requesting that this be reflected in the listings. Could a fellow in a Toronto jail have scammed the Pentagon telephone system?

In March the Canadian criminal charges against Vreeland were dropped, and he was allowed to post bail. Explaining why charges were removed, Paul McDermott, a provincial prosecutor, says his office considered the pending extradition matter the priority. Vree-land's extradition hearing is scheduled for September.

To believe Vreeland's scribbles mean anything, one must believe his claim to be a veteran intelligence operative sent to Moscow on an improbable top-secret, high-tech mission (change design documents to neutralize an entire technology) during which he stumbled upon documents (which he has not revealed) showing that 9/11 was going to happen. To believe that, one must believe he is a victim of a massive disinformation campaign, involving his family, law enforcement officers and defense lawyers across the country, two state corrections departments, county clerk offices in ten or so counties, the Canadian justice system and various parts of the US gov-ernment. And one must believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of detailed court, county, prison and state records have been forged. It is easier to believe that a well-versed con man got lucky with the Bastien death/murder, was able to arrange a stunt with the Pentagon switchboard and either wrote a sketchy note before September 11 that could be interpreted afterward as relevant or penned the note following the disaster and convinced prison guards he had written it previously. Michigan detective John Meiers, who's been chasing Vreeland for two years, says, "The bottom line: Delmart Vreeland is a con man. He's conned everyone he comes into contact with. That's why he's wanted.... He keeps going back into court for hearings because he doesn't want to come back here. He knows he's going to prison, and he's fighting. In the interim, he's coming up with a variety of stories."

The Rest of It

The Vreeland case--despite the attention it has drawn--is not the centerpiece of all 9/11 conspiracy theories. There is much more: A CIA officer supposedly met with bin Laden in July 2001 in Dubai. Before September 11, parties unknown engaged in a frenzy of short-selling involving the stock of American Airlines, United Airlines and dozens of other companies affected by the attacks. The Pentagon was not actually hit by an airliner. Flight 93--the fourth plane--did not crash in Pennsylvania; it was shot down. The Bush Administration, in talks with the Taliban, warned that war was coming. And that's not a complete run-down.

Some of the lingering questions or peculiar facts warrant more attention than others. There was a boost in short-selling. But does that suggest the US government ignored a clear warning? Or might the more obvious explanation be true--that people close to Osama bin Laden were tipped off and took advantage of that inside information? Ronald Blekicki, who publishes Microcap Analyst, an online investment publication, says most of the short-selling occurred overseas--and escaped notice in the United States. If that type of trad-ing had happened in the US markets, he explains, it would have stirred rumors about the companies involved. "Everyone on the ex-changes would have known about it," he explains. "My best guess is that the people who profited were reasonably wealthy individuals in the inner circle of bin Laden and the Taliban." What is curious, though, is that news of the investigations into the short-selling has taken a quick-fade. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor the Chicago Board Options Exchange will say whether they are still investigating trading practices prior to September 11. And there has been no word from Congress or the Bush Administration on this topic. Suspicious minds, no doubt, can view the public absence of government interest as evidence of something amiss. In this instance, the lack of a credible official investigation creates much space for the disciples of conspiracy theories.

No airliner at the Pentagon? You can find websites devoted to that thesis. Another site, called www.flight93crash.com, offers a sober look at the anomalies that have led people to wonder if that last plane, the one in Pennsylvania, was blasted out of the sky.

The alleged CIA-bin Laden meeting in Dubai has attracted intense notice in alternative-9/11 circles. The story first appeared In Le Figaro, a French newspaper, on October 31, 2001, in an article by freelancer Alexandra Richard. Citing an unnamed "partner of the administration of the American Hospital in Dubai," she maintained that bin Laden was treated at the hospital for ten days. Her story also asserted that "the local CIA agent...was seen taking the main elevator of the hospital to go to bin Laden's hospital room" and "bragged to a few friends about having visited bin Laden," but she provided no source for these details. The hospital categorically denies bin Laden was there. Even if a meeting occurred, that would not necessarily indicate the CIA was aware of bin Laden's plot. Such news, though, would be a huge embarrassment and prompt many awkward questions. But the meeting's existence--unattached to a single identifiable source--can only be regarded as iffy.

Two French authors, Jean-Charles Brisard, a former intelligence employee, and Guillaume Dasquie, a journalist, have written a book, Bin Laden; the Forbidden Truth, in which they maintain that the 9/11 attacks were the "outcome" of "private and risky discussions" between the United States and the Taliban "concerning geostrategic oil interests." As they see it, Washington, driven by fealty to Big Oil, threatened the Taliban with military action and replacement, as it was pursuing Osama bin Laden and seeking a regime in Af-ghanistan that would cooperate with oil firms. In response to Washington's heavy-handed tactics, the two suggest, bin Laden and the Taliban decided to strike first. This double theory--it's-all-about-oil and Washington provoked the attack--has resonated on anti-Bush websites.

To prove their case, the French men attach sinister motives to a United Nations initiative to settle the political and military strife in Afghanistan. Citing a UN report, they depict this effort as "negotiations" between the Taliban and the United States, in which the Americans aimed to replace the Taliban with the former King. Yet a fair reading of the UN report shows that the endeavor--conducted by the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan--was a multilateral attempt to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan that involved discussions with the various sides in that country. It was not geared toward reinstalling ex-King Mohammad Zahir Shah.

Brisard and Dasquie's most dramatic charge is that former Pakistani foreign minister Niaz Naik, who attended one of a series of inter-national conferences held by the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan, says that at the July 2001 meeting a "US official" threatened the Taliban, "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs." (This portion of the book is similar to an earlier article in the British Guardian, in which Naik additionally noted that the Pakistani government relayed Naik's impression of this US threat to the Taliban.) The Taliban, though, were not present at the session, which was held in Berlin, and the three Ameri-can representatives there were former US officials. One of the reps, Tom Simons, a past US Ambassador to Pakistan who spent thirty-five years in the foreign service, recalls no such threat but acknowledges that the Americans did note that if Washington determined bin Laden was behind the USS Cole bombing in Yemen, the Afghans obviously could expect the Bush Administration to strike bin Laden. That would hardly have been a remark to cause bin Laden to arrange quickly a pre-emptive assault. Simons--who says he was not interviewed by the French authors--believes Naik misheard the Americans on this point. Whether Naik did or not, the French authors, at best, suggest a line of inquiry rather than come close to validating their contention. (Brisard and Dasquie also argue--without offering an abundance of evidence--that the United States, by design, did not vigorously pursue bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network because doing so clashed with other diplomatic priorities, most notably, cozying up to the oil autocrats of Saudi Arabia.)

Official accounts ought not to be absorbed without scrutiny. Clandestine agendas and unacknowledged geostrategic factors--such as oil--may well shape George W. Bush's war on terrorism. And there are questions that have gone unaswered. For example, on Septem-ber 12, 2001, a brief story in Izvestia, the Moscow-based newspaper, citing unnamed sources, reported that Moscow had warned Washington of the 9/11 attacks weeks earlier. Was such a warning actually transmitted? If so, who issued the warning and who re-ceived it? But questions are not equivalent to proof. As of now, there is not confirmable evidence to argue that the conventional take on September 11--bin Laden surprise-attacked America as part of a jihad, and a caught-off-guard United States struck back--is actu-ally a cover story. Without conspiracy theories, there is much to wonder about September 11. The CIA and the FBI had indications, if not specific clues, that something was coming and did not piece them together. Government agencies tasked to protect the United States failed. US air defenses performed extraordinarily poorly--even though there had been signs for at least five years that Al Qaeda was considering a 9/11-type scheme. Afterward, neither the Bush Administration nor Congress rushed to investigate. In fact, Senate majority leader Tom Daschle maintains that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both told him in January they opposed any Congressional investigation of 9/11. (The White House denies this.) Congress finally greenlighted an inquiry, but the investigation bogged down as the Congres-sional investigators complained that the CIA and the Justice Department were impeding their efforts.

One problem with conspiracy theorizing is that it can distract from the true and (sometimes mundane) misdeeds and mistakes of government. But when the government is reluctant to probe its own errors, it opens the door wider for those who would turn anoma-lies into theories or spin curious fact--or speculation--into outlandish explanation. Not that all who do so need much encouragement. September 11 was so traumatic, so large, that there will always be people who look to color it--or exploit it--by adding more drama and intrigue, who seek to discern hidden meanings, who desire to make more sense of the awful act. And there will be people who want to believe them.

Corndog 17.Jul.2002 16:33

Rat's ass

You can post Corn's writing all you want. It does not change the fact that he avoids all discussion or investigation into the gross inconsistencies in the official story.

He is a coward, and is no ally of people who seek to create a better world. He is a defender of George Bush and the oppressive imperialist empire called the U.S.A.

All his effort is for the agenda of detering questioning of what actually happened on Sept. 11th.

When Gary Webb wrote his expose of the CIA and linked the CIA to drug smuggling, David 'CIA' Corn also was a leader of the leftist pundit charge to shut Webb up. Corn has a history of defending the oppressors and criminals in power.

Indeed he is a priveledged white guy, whose job is to deter real change in the social structure.

dear xyz 17.Jul.2002 20:55

the real pc

True, slapping together a list of events in chronological order is not, in and of itself, evidence. On the other hand, a list of events which indicate government complicity and/or coverup IS evidence of SOME kind of wrongdoing. And it is for this reason that we, the "conspiracy theorists", are asking the tough questions that ivory tower intellectual masturbators like Corn are unwilling to ask.

Just what is it about Corn's line of debate that you think makes his argument sooooo very rock solid? Is it his character assassination? Is it that he "disproves" a few assertions? Is it that he agrees with your world view and that's all that matters? Well guess what? None of those things, taken separately or as a whole, disproves the 9/11 conspiracy theorist argument.

Regardless, criticism is easy. If you're really soooo very smart, and we conspiracy theorist folks are just crazy in our beliefs, then why don't you come forth with a plausible-sounding defense of the official version of events? Here--let me answer for you--it's because you can't. Even though you know (I hope you're not so green that you actually don't know) the government has put forth many a lie about this whole 9/11 thing, you post on Portland Indymedia without being critical of the government. Instead, you're critical of some legitimate questions.

Think about your actions and ask yourself if you're helping or hurting the world. I've thought about it and I'm happy being on the conspiracy theorist team. I don't know that the government let it happen, but I'm supremely confident that they are covering their tracks. And I want to do what I can to bring forth the truth, no matter how benign or ugly it is.

With "the team" 14.Oct.2002 12:08


Now I dont fully beleive the gov new prior but not ruling it out, But you have to look at the history of what happend and did not happen on 911, look at the standard operating procedures of the fed aviation admin & nationl defense admin, if any plane is to go of any flight plan it is considerd to be a real catistrofic emergeny, and there are measures in place, for this to happen there would be military jets scrambled to do an inspection, now there don't even need to be a real emergncy to enact theese procedures, but there was knowledge this was hijaking and they did nothing, 4 times in about an hour!?... now this scenario happens 100's of times a year, no hijaking but planes off of fixed flight plans and jets are scrambled, I listend to KBoo90.7radio the other day and there was something on about some military pilots questioned say they were orderd up then told to delay and to go slow when airborn like 300mph when they could go 2000mph, now even without this posible military witness you have to look at this colapse or failure of basic and rutein- standard operating procedures, or was it a conspiracy by our gov the secret gov the corp's the new world order, all one in the same, but some may not know the other exist, like the the saying the left hand dose'nt know the right exist's,




Theorie I think not, conspiracy definitley...

The truth is out there...

Find it at democracynow.org
and many others.............

Ohhh look at "thenewamericancentury.com
our gov is realy going to rule the world!!!!!

Thankyou indymedia!...

Fight the fuckedup power!...