Monday, December 25, 2006

911 Conspiracy Conspiracies

I have a lot of problem with conspiracy theories, not the least of which is that some people are unwilling to give any of them a sliver of credence. When an event such as an auto accident takes place, within moments two witnesses can give completely different descriptions of what they actually saw. Imagine what hundreds or thousands of eyewitnesses would describe in the case of a presidential assassination, or planes hitting the World Trade Center in person and on TV.

History proves conspiracy theories are never neat, for instance in the case of the attempt to kill several members of Lincoln's cabinet along with Lincoln himself, we may never know the complete details of all those involved, yet we know there was a conspiracy beyond one man, John Wilkes Booth.

Another problem with conspiracy theories is that despite known inconsistencies with some official version of what happened, the conclusions sometimes drawn are outlandish and tend to negate the plausibility of the original theory. There are many instances of evidence, scrutinized by experts and even an official committee of congress, through the years, which point to more than one gunman from one direction having shot President Kennedy. The conclusion that it was a government plot by the CIA carries a simple caveat: when more than one person is involved in a covert action, someone is bound to spill the beans. If many people all know a secret, chances are that secret will be leaked at some point.

The lack of information leakage does not rule out a conspiracy; it only means we shouldn't jump to certain finite conclusions about the perpetrators. In the case of the events of 911, there are inconsistencies all over the place, many of which have been communicated through the marvel of the Internet, including on this blog, and many of which are overstated or false. One such mistake is that the passport of Muhammad Atta, the purported ringleader of the 911 hijackers, was found intact on the street below WTC after the collapse of the buildings. This comes from a hodge-podge of confusing misinformation, but conspiracy lovers latch onto it as fact.

Then there is my first hand information from a flight attendant who knew of box cutters found hidden on several planes other than the ones used in the hijacking subsequent to September 11, 2001. I will fore go the jump to an ultimate conclusion, other than to point out that if one ponders who planted the items without being caught, it had to be employees of, or contractors working for, the airlines.

A lead story in today's Los Angeles Times, "Alarming 9/11 claim is found baseless," claims that a number of items from military and congressional analysts that indicate prior knowledge of Atta's involvement in 911 plotting is not factual. This story caught my eye because it has a troublesome aspect--for conspiracy believers it smacks of a cover up by the government. For an objective observer, at least it carries the wonder of why it's so important to quash further investigation into inconsistencies rather than to keep the files open.

In particular, Weldon and other officials have repeatedly claimed that the military analysts' effort, known as Able Danger, produced a chart that included a picture of Atta and identified him as being tied to an Al Qaeda cell in Brooklyn, N.Y. Weldon has also said that the chart was shared with White House officials, including Stephen J. Hadley, then deputy national security advisor.But after a 16-month investigation, the Intelligence Committee has concluded that those assertions are unfounded.

"Able Danger did not identify Mohammed Atta or any other 9/11 hijacker at any time prior to Sept. 11, 2001," the committee determined, according to an eight-page letter sent last week to panel members by the top Republican and Democrat on the committee.

Do the powers that be, as usual, consider us little average citizens too paranoid-prone to be able to deal with the possibility that the intelligence services in charge of protection against further domestic terrorist mayhem are incompetent? Isn't that what Able Danger really signifies, short of any full-blown conspiracy within the CIA or FBI to actually perpetrate the events of 911, isn't the real problem one of basic lack of capability to perform one's job?

That is the real danger of over weaning conspiracy theories--they lose focus on the truth underlying all the dangling unexplained facts of an event--that through human error, terrible things could happen again if changes aren't made. And the attempts by Bush, Cheney and others surrounding them, to impede and stall the report of the 911 commission, most assuredly comes from that inside knowledge of how much they really knew, and could have done--and didn't-- to prevent disaster, which they don't want us to know.

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