Philip Shenon's Commission Lays A Few 9/11 Conspiracy Theories To Rest

Here's the comment I left for Elizabeth on - Jon

So basically Elizabeth, you're saying that everybody's lying, but it's ok because they're only covering up incompetence. First of all, without a REAL investigation that follows every path wherever it may lead, and actually holds people accountable for either incompetence OR criminality, we'll never truly know which it was. Personally, after seeing everything this Administration, and their friends in Congress have been capable of, I wouldn't put criminality with regard to the 9/11 attacks past ANY of them. Secondly, lying under oath, and obstruction of justice are ALSO punishable offenses, and both were committed several times during the time of the 9/11 Commission. Shouldn't people be held accountable for that? Finally, Shenon's book reiterated already known information for the most part. Just elaborations. There is so much more like that mentioned on's 911 Timeline. You mention the fact that he mentions "the Jersey Girls But-For-Whom-the-Commission-Would-Never-Have-Been, to Henry Kissinger, who, in a meeting with them, spilled hot coffee and nearly fell off his seat when one of them asked if he had any clients whose last named is Bin Laden", but you fail to mention that those same individuals are STILL looking for truth, accountability, and justice for the 9/11 attacks. The bottom line is, we need a REAL investigation, and we need accountability. Without that, the 9/11 issue will never die.

Philip Shenon's Commission Lays a Few 9/11 Conspiracy Theories to Rest


Elizabeth Benedict
Posted March 7, 2008 | 05:58 PM (EST)

A few years ago, I stumbled on a very colorful article from New York magazine about 9/11 conspiracy theories, "The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll." It included the work of one of the theorists, Nick Levis, who categorized our beliefs about why the attacks happened using what he called "HOP" levels. As Mark Jacobson explained it in New York, Levis promoted the idea that what people believed could be broken down into four theories:

"(A) The Official Story (a.k.a. "The Official Conspiracy Theory"). The received Bushian line: Osama, 19 freedom-haters with box cutters, etc. As White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, there was "no warning."

"(B) The Incompetence Theory (also the Stupidity, Arrogance, "Reno Wall" Theory). Accepts the Official Story, adds failure by the White House, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. to heed ample warnings. This line was advanced, with much ass-covering compensation, in The 9/11 Commission Report.

"(C) LIHOP (or "Let It Happen on Purpose"). Many variations, but primarily that elements of the U.S. government and the private sector were aware of the hijackers' plans and, recognizing that 9/11 suited their policy goals, did nothing to stop it.

"(D) MIHOP ("Made It Happen on Purpose"). The U.S. government or private forces planned and executed the attacks."

Before reading Philip Shenon's spellbinding new book, The Commission, The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission, my own theories about 9/11 straddled the fence between B and C. I certainly believed in the government's incompetence at every level. But I was also willing to believe that those at the top were vile enough to have Let it Happen on Purpose, since, for instance, they proved to be vile enough to take us to war by knowingly promoting false justifications that have resulted in the slaughter and displacement of millions of people -- a clear case of MIHOP. I never attended any conspiracy theory meetings, but I was a soft LIHOP -- unashamed but also willing to be convinced that our leaders were not as vile in this case as so many other policies have shown them to be.

After reading The Commission, which peels back much of the "ass-covering" that the actual Commission did in pursuit of its congressional mandate, I've given up my LIHOP-hood. I'm fully on board with the Incompetence Theorists. Shenon doesn't attack government ineptitude head-on. He reveals the terrifying extent of it -- from the FAA to the CIA -- through a series of gripping vignettes, through the stories and relationships of dozens of people affected by 9/11, from the Jersey Girls But-For-Whom-the-Commission-Would-Never-Have-Been, to Henry Kissinger, who, in a meeting with them, spilled hot coffee and nearly fell off his seat when one of them asked if he had any clients whose last named is Bin Laden.

According to Shenon's blog on the book's website, the conspiracy theorists are mad at him for not promoting their views more fully in his book. But the rest of us (especially us former LIHOPs) should be dazzled by this surprisingly vibrant exposé of the government commission of our time.

Shenon, who came to write the book because he was the New York Times reporter who covered the 9/11 Commission from the time of its establishment, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book and his work in our recent email exchange.

1. For a book about a government commission, your book is a particular gripping read. It has the pace and drama of a thriller, including short chapters and stark Law and Order-like chapter titles. Did you realize it had that potential when you started writing it or did you begin to write the book in another way and eventually arrive at this story-telling device?

I worried at first about the short chapters -- that a chapter of less than 20 or 30 pages wouldn't be taken seriously as good book-writing, dare I say literature. But I didn't see any other way to do this. I had to juggle a big cast of characters across several cities and several years. I knew the book's structure was going to be mostly chronological, not thematic, and I didn't want artificial transitions to force anecdotes and people into the same chapter when they really didn't belong together.

I'm gratified -- and relieved -- that a lot of people like it this way. People have crazily busy lives, and they're willing to commit themselves to pushing on to the next chapter if they know it means only another eight or 10 pages of reading. A lot of very smart people I know don't have time for much more. I have also spent my career as a newspaper reporter, so bite-size narratives are my life.

2. The 9-11 Commission didn't want to point fingers as to who in government bore the responsibility for the intelligence failures that allowed the attacks to happen, but your reporting points pretty decisively at Condi Rice for consistently, even stubbornly, refusing to pass on the warnings from Richard Clarke and others to the President. It turns out there were dozens of dramatic warnings of attacks, spanning most of 2001. How aware were you of Condi Rice's failings in this regard before you began researching the book? Was it widely known that there were warnings throughout 2001 - in addition to the famous Aug. 6 PDB - that she ignored?

Condoleezza Rice has a lot to answer for about her performance as national security adviser in 2001, and I had no idea how much until I got into the reporting of the book. Like every other reporter covering the 9/11 commission, I focused too much on the infamous Aug. 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," as if it were the one and only clear warning to the White House of catastrophe that summer. The truth is that the Aug. 6 PDB was only the tip of the iceberg -- that the White House, and Rice in particular, were being told virtually every day in the spring and summer of 2001 that the United States faced a dire terrorist threat, and that no one ruled out an attack on American soil.

I was really struck by one CIA report to the White House, dated June 30, 2001, with an incredibly stark headline, "Bin Laden Threats Are Real," which seemed a desperate effort to attract somebody's attention in the West Wing. And yet, the documentary records suggests that Rice just wasn't very interested in the threat and, in fact, demoted her counterterrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, in the early months of 2001. Compare Rice to her predecessor, Sandy Berger, who pressed Clinton to focus on Al Qaeda and gave Clarke instant access to the Oval Office.

3. What were the three or four biggest surprises that turned up when you did the research for the book that you hadn't known when you were reporting on the 9/11 Commission for the Times?

I was startled to learn of the battles within the commission's staff, particularly between some of the teams of investigators and Philip Zelikow, the executive director. I had no sense at all of those struggles while the commission was in business, if only because the staff was barred by Zelikow from talking to reporters. I also had no understanding of just how much control Zelikow had over the commission's day-to-day investigation. Other surprises: That so many of the commissioners and staff questioned George Tenet's truthfulness, to the point where they required him to testify under oath in private interviews; that the commission had missed so much evidence at the National Security Agency, almost certainly the commission's most grievous research failure; that Zelikow had several contacts with Karl Rove and apparently ordered his secretary to stop logging any phone calls with the White House.

4. If your book were a novel, I'd say that it's "character driven" as much as, if not more than, "plot driven." You make a great many players in this complicated drama come to life, including the controversial Director of the 9-11 Commission, Dr. Philip Zelikow, a serious historian with a great many ties to -- also known as "conflicts of interest" with -- the Bush administration. Insiders and outsiders, including the Jersey Girls, had many objections to him in this position. What's been his reaction to the book, if any?

I understand that Dr. Zelikow is not pleased with the book, although I believe it is much, much fairer to him than has been suggested by some of the news reports about the book. There are pages and pages of him in the book responding to the criticism of his performance and explaining his decision-making, and much of that material is drawn from my extended email interview of him. (He preferred to answer my questions by email, not face-to-face.) And there are several instances in which others are quoted in the book defending him, including the commission's top lawyer - a Democrat - and Democratic commissioners Lee Hamilton and Jamie Gorelick. On my website, I have posted the full email exchange, so readers can decide for themselves if I was fair to Dr. Zelikow.

5. Let's talk about conspiracy theories. The magnitude of the attacks and of the failures of the government to stop them are read by some to this day as evidence that they were "an inside job." That's certainly not the story you're telling here, but there were some events or issues that fueled these suspicions. Can you talk about the NORAD problem in this regard?

I have trouble accepting some of the big conspiracy theories about 9/11 if only because, after 20 years in and out of Washington, I just can't imagine the federal government being nearly competent enough to carry out what would have been such a vast, complicated operation in total secrecy. But there are lots of conspiracy theories out there, and NORAD is responsible for many of them. For more than two years after 9/11, NORAD, which should have been policing the skies that morning, could not come up with a coherent timeline for its actions on Sept. 11 -- why its jet fighters could not reach some of the hijacked planes in order to stop them from reaching the targets. The commission's staff believed that NORAD generals knew that any coherent timeline would show that they had bungled their mission that morning and that it was better to lie about it -- often under oath - than to tell the truth.

No one was fired, so there goes the "incompetence" theory

"I have trouble accepting some of the big conspiracy theories about 9/11 if only because, after 20 years in and out of Washington, I just can't imagine the federal government being nearly competent enough to carry out what would have been such a vast, complicated operation in total secrecy."

Bullshit. Answer this simple question: How many people were promoted for the events of 9/11? How many people were reprimanded? The answer is a conspiracy fact--not theory. No one was punished. Even if you "support" the official story, the answer to this question alone shows that the official story is a fraud.
Arabesque: 911 Truth


EVERYTHING this administration has managed to do without being held accountable for ANY of it, indicates to me that... I dunno... maybe they're NOT a bunch of incompetent buffoons, and MAYBE they ARE capable of murdering 2,973+ people, in collaboration with other Governments.

Who Is? Archives

Incompetence doesn't get the job done.

Incompetence can account, in theory, and only in theory, for what "wasn't" done on September 11th, because there's no way to prove "mens rea" with an ommission. So, incompetence, when you're trying to prosecute, is always an irrelevant diversion.

There is no form of incompetence, however, which: plants explosives in buildings; detonates those explosives; gives stand-down orders; buys extraordinary - and statistically aberrational - amounts of put options on targeted stocks; tells a staffer, "Of course, the order still stands!"; destroys and/or carts away all of the evidence from a crime scene prior to its being investigated; nor, finally, as mentioned in the post, cover-ups or give promotions and awards to incompetence.

These latter elements of 9/11 unquestionably provide evidence sufficient enough to show, under the common law, the existence of a premeditated and criminal intent on the part of certain known - Dick Cheney, in particular - and unknown persons (persons other than the alleged hijackers) who unquestionably conspired and collaborated to bring about the events of September 11th, 2001; and most certainly, these facts provide sufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy to warrant grand jury indictments under the, less restrictive and easier to prove than the common law, RICO Act.

MP3 Audio Clip - Jon Stewart & Philip Shenon

Tuesday February 12, 2008
Jon Stewart hosted the New York Times' Philip Shenon on Monday night to discuss his new book, The Commission: An Uncensored history of the 9/11 Commission and credits Philip Zelicow, 9/11 Commission Director, for the 9/11 Commission Report which he says "is in many ways the most definitive account Of 9/11" and "is easily the most beautifully written government document of our lifetimes, and Zelicow is largely responsible for that fact, but there's alot of things they missed . . . .barf ad nauseam."

* source =

More MP3 Audio Clips >

putting conspiracy theories to rest?

While I find this book an enjoyable read, I feel I should throw in a word of caution for those reading this article: "Philip Shenon's Commission Lays A Few 9/11 Conspiracy Theories To Rest." In several places I have seen characterizations that bothered me. Shenon writes an entertaining book, but was it researched with a critical view of the people discussed? I am not so sure. In the chapters i have read I have seen a tendency to tell a story without backing up the assertions with facts. He tries to paint a picture rather than state just the facts. It makes for an interesting read, but I'm afraid it can easily give the wrong picture.

Re #5 - Has Shenon ever

Re #5 - Has Shenon ever heard of the Manhattan Project?

Not that even .1% of those #'s involved (160,000 people) would have to be involved (or even know the whole picture) in 9/11 to make it happen . . .

And people ARE talking . . . they're just gagged or threatened with being fired, or promoted, or rewarded and awarded to keep them quiet . . . If they have nothing to hide, why? They can't be hiding "incompetence", because that's the beard they're claiming already . . .

Dick Cheney, David Addington, Stephen Hadley & Scooter Libby are no dummies. Situations were deliberately created to cause chaos and confusion so that the incompetence theory would hide the truth.

"We" create bad guys and bad groups to later use them as tools for narrow agendas of a few; same with the deliberately planned and created chaos on the day of 9/11. What patriotic American could suspect a thing?

(Only the well-read, methodical and questioning minds of true patriots have a clue . . . Most journalists today don't take the time or have the time to dig deep enough . . . )


"If we don't fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don't really stand for them."
-- Paul Wellstone

Wanting to believe officials act in good faith

In the context of the book Rice wasn't incompetent, rather she was derelict in her duty. This is more along the lines of criminal negligence than some variation of bureaucratic incompetence.

Tenet giving Rice an urgent 'bells and whistles' briefing while concurrently concealing crucial intel (the presence of al Qaeda operatives in the US) is not indicative of incompetence.

Go down the line and the circumstantial evidence does not support the incompetence rationale.

Shenon's book a useful bridge

between 9/11 Truth and mainstream media. Yes, it is limited hangout. However, the book is useful because it allows people at places like DailyKOS to walk across that bridge of ignorance and join us. Shenon's book lets mainstream media be critical of the 9/11 Commission. It doesn't answer many questions, but it allows us to begin a dialogue with people who only know the incompetence version of events.

My comment pending at

My comment pending at Huffpo:

Incompetent? Don't make me laugh:

What Bush and The competent Neocons have accomplished...

Iraq War
Taken Iraqi oil off the market
Kept Iraq from opening non-US dollar bourse
Stacked Supreme Court with Neocons with a cake-walk confirmation
Escaping justice for numerous domestic and International War crimes
Escaping impeachment
Enriched war machine & Military Industrial Complex
Installed 2 Attorney Generals who would block investigations and supeaonas
Gutted Habeas Corpus
Rationalized torture
Conveniently misplaced trillions (Sept 10th, 2001) and later billions of dollars
Reestablished record breaking opium production in Afghanistan
Implemented extraordinary rendition and secret torture camps
Manipulated - Stole 2000 and 2004 elections
Lied about Iraqi WMD's
Lied about Jessica Lynch-Pat Tillman
Working on reigniting Russian-American Cold War (Russian bomber flights, etc)
Gutted independent officer corps
Christianization of the military
Massive expenditures for Chem-Bio, Space Weapons, Internet cybercorps
Intimidation (or cooperation) of Media & Business
Permanent military bases in Iraq
Passed Patriot Act after convenient Anthrax and Manchurian-style Sniper attacks
Passed Military Commissions Act
Massive debt to break government (and public)
Electronic surveillance and massive databases
Illegal warrantless wiretaps
First-rate mercenary force enriched and empowered
Broke Posse Comitatus precedent with Blackwater and US military domestic deployment
Blinding of America to Iranian nuclear program
Decimated New Orleans post-Katrina (dry-run for martial law)
Coopted Justice Department
Turned over regulatory agencies to the foxes of industry (ex. Mining, Forestry)
Freed Scooter Libby with no political cost
Bankruptcy "reform"
No Child Left Behind and other Orwellian named govt initiatives
Garnered cooperation of fellow CFR and Trilateral Democrats to enable agenda
Unending blank checks from Congress
Convenient benefiting from a "New Pearl Harbor"
Pulled a sham Investigation on 9-11 over on the public for a paltry $15 million

Conning the American public that they are incompetent.

What more do you want to qualify them as a success? Most people think they are incompetent because they are operating according to a different game-plan, or paradigm, than the normal person. Normal people wouldn't operate at this level of corruption and genuine evil. These people are expert Machiavellian psychopaths (with a strong dose of Straussian Noble Lie telling) and to attempt to associate normal behaviors to them is an exercise in futility. You absolutely CANNOT continue to believe that the administration is incompetent - they are completely competetent and shocking us into accepting a fascist version of America

Machiavelli - who greatly influenced Strauss - laid out how the elites would/coopt any form of government they wanted:

He who desires or attempts to reform the government of a state, and wishes to have it accepted and capable of maintaining itself to the satisfaction of everybody, must at least retain the semblance of the old forms; so that it may seem to the people that there has been no change in the institutions, even though in fact they are entirely different from the old ones.

Machiavelli. Discourses on Livy

Hell of a Comment!

The only failures it seems is that they are behind schedule and have lost public support.

Bravo Rebel Patriot!

My sentiments exactly.... Last year I wrote a Letter to the Editor on many of these same points called "Bush Huge Success for Neoconservatives" (editor's title) that detailed the very competent hijacking of America by the NeoCons and their new Pearl Harbor.... Your list was even more extensive than mine!

Make this into a Blog. What you said, combined with what Betsy said about The Manhattan Project about sums it up. We CAN an DO keep big secrets. There ARE whistleblowers and officials speaking out. 9/11 was NOT the result of incompetency, but rather precisely planned and executed, along with the follow-up CON about "incompetency."

Excellent post.

I hope you will blog on it.

The CONSTITUTION is NOT going to "collapse" into pulverized dust no matter how much thermate/explosives or planes they throw at it

Posted your comment here

Alvin R is your site?

I love it.

I've read on Buddhism. If asked my religion, I usually respond: "All and none, but probably closest to Buddhism"

I contribute there


The site is not mine but I contribute quite often.

Like many, I am very grateful to the Buddhist tradition as it has taught me so much. Incidentally, I have found that Buddhists, or people who have studied Buddhism seriously, tend to be very quick to see 9/11 Truth. The Dharma removes a good deal of ego and teaches us how to think clearly.

Glad you like the American Buddhist Net. Please feel free to blog 9/11 Truth on it, or anything else you like. We frequently post links to 9/11Blogger and 9/11 related issues and reach a fairly large and thoughtful audience.


JFK on secrecy and the press