David Ray Griffin's Response to Cell Phone Criticism
David Ray Griffin wrote the following response to a criticism of his writings and arguments about cell phones.
Was Deena Burnett Really Not Duped? A Reply to Andrew Kornkven’s Suggestion about Alleged Cell Phone Calls
David Ray Griffin
"It is the truth movement that has been duped, not Deena Burnett.” So claims Andrew Kornkven in the headline of an essay arguing against my view, which I articulated in Debunking 9/11 Debunking (henceforth D9D), that the cell phone calls from the airliners were faked. He has then suggested an alternative scenario, which he regards as more plausible. Kornkven and I agree that ascertaining the validity of these purported calls is of utmost importance, because they form one of the pillars of the official story about 9/11. But there are several problems with his argument, some of which appear to result from his having relied upon a brief announcement about the revised version of D9D, rather than having consulted the book itself.
In the first edition of D9D, I said that the FBI, by stating---in evidence presented to the Moussaoui trial in 2006---that the only cell phone calls made from UA 93 were two calls reportedly made when it was down to 5,000 feet, “has covertly admitted that most of the alleged cell phone calls on Flight 93 could not have occurred.” Mr. Kornkven attempts to refute this statement by saying: “No, David, the government has not covertly admitted that the calls could not have occurred; it has only admitted that they did not occur using cell phones, and that they were thus made by airphones.” I was, however, specifically addressing the question of whether cell phone calls were made. To admit that the calls “did not occur using cell phones” is to agree with the point I was making.
But this logical error is a minor point. Another minor point is the fact that the statement that Kornkven attempts to refute---that the government “has covertly admitted that most of the alleged cell phone calls on Flight 93 could not have occurred”---is not even contained in the revised edition of D9D, because the argument that high-altitude cell phone calls could not occur is now less important, given the FBI’s statement that such calls did not occur. In any case, I move now to more important problems.
Feasibility of Voice Morphing
Deena Burnett reported that she received four cell phone calls from her husband, Tom Burnett, while he was on United 93. In order to emphasize that I do not believe that she was lying, I have suggested that she was duped---that she received calls from someone using voice-morphing technology. Kornkven, incredulously describing my scenario, writes: “The perpetrators . . . are able to voice-morph Tom Burnett’s voice so masterfully that they are able to fool his wife not once, not twice, but on at least three and maybe four calls.” He thereby seems to be suggesting that the idea that the voice-morphing could have been good enough to fool Deena Burnet is implausible.
In D9D, however, I pointed out that already in 1999, Washington Times journalist William Arkin reported witnessing a demonstration in which the voices of Generals Carl Steiner and Colin Powell were perfectly duplicated. I also reported an advertisement for a voice changer said to be good enough for people to fool their spouses. I am not sure, therefore, why Kornkven considers implausible the suggestion that Deena Burnett was fooled four times.
Casting Doubt on Deena Burnett’s Statement
Kornkven next says: “Griffin believes the calls were made by cell phones because Deena supposedly said she looked at the caller ID.” But I do not believe the calls were “made by cell phones.” The issue is what Deena Burnett believed and why she believed it. She said the calls were made from her husband’s cell phone because she recognized his cell phone number on her phone’s caller ID. Kornkven seeks to cast doubt on this by saying: “Deena supposedly said she looked at the caller ID.” Why “supposedly”? As I have pointed out in the revised edition of D9D, she has been quoted as saying this. Also, as I pointed out in a recent article, she has stated this in a book that she published in 2006 (“I looked at the caller ID and indeed it was Tom’s cell phone number”).
Faking the Caller ID
Kornkven, continuing to imply that my scenario is implausible, next says: “So the perpetrators . . . were able to make the call seem to come from Tom’s own cell phone–-did they pickpocket his cell phone before the flight, and the phones of various others?”
Had Kornkven consulted my D9D, he would have seen that I had reported an advertisement for a device called “FoneFaker.” After the description, which says, “Call Recorder and Voice Changer Service with Caller ID Spoofing,” the ad states: “Record any call you make, fake your Caller ID and change your voice, all with one service you can use from any phone.” No pickpocketing would have been necessary.
Kornkven then, believing he has shown my scenario to be implausible---indeed “preposterous”---suggests a scenario that he considers more plausible.
“The perpetrators decide to frame their Arab enemies by allowing real passengers to make real phone calls relaying their false impression of an Arab hijacking. This false impression is created on the planes by having some hijackers disguise themselves as Arabs---with red headbands, dark skin, etc.–-while committing heinous acts like knifing female passengers.”
Presumably the hijackers, besides not really being Arabs, are also not really Muslims. They do not, therefore, fit the 9/11 Commission’s portrait of them as devout Muslims who, being ready to meet their Maker, would have been willing to commit suicide. Does Kornkven mean that, nevertheless, these hijackers were ready to fly into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? Where would such volunteers have been found?
Whispering FBI Agents
However, even if Kornkven has a solution to that problem, his alternative scenario would still be highly implausible. Although he agrees that some of the calls---“such as the one allegedly made by Todd Buemer” (sic)---may have been fabricated, he believes that the hijackers allowed passengers (using onboard phones) to make some calls. But then, he believes, some of these passengers unexpectedly revealed some information that contradicted the official story. So, he suggests:
[T]hose charged with covering up the whole thing commence a campaign of disinformation regarding these phone calls. Led, perhaps, by Mr. Chertoff from his perch in the Justice Department, they utilize friendly contacts within the FBI and media to perpetrate the myth that the phone calls were (impossibly) made by cell phones, not airphones. FBI agents whisper “cell phones” to reporters who dutifully spread the word in innumerable media stories.
Exactly why the cover-up team would do this---put out a story that anyone knowing anything about cell phone technology would know to be false---is not made clear.
But whatever be the supposed motive, the idea is implausible. For one thing, some of the reports of cell phone calls occurred on 9/11 itself. It is unlikely that even Michael Chertoff could have worked that quickly.
Even more problematic is the fact that some of the recipients of the calls themselves reportedly said that their relatives had used cell phones. They believed this, they said, either because they saw the number on their caller ID (e.g., Deena Burnett) or because this is what they were told (e.g., the step-mother of passenger Honor Elizabeth Wainio and the husband of flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw). Kornkven would evidently have us believe that these recipients of calls had not actually said that they had been called on cell phones; rather, the journalists have merely claimed that they had said this.
How would Kornkven explain the fact that although these journalists have been making these false statements over the years, we have heard no protest from the people being falsely quoted? Would he suggest that although the people had been protesting the false statements all this time, not a single local paper had published such a protest? That claim would not work, because some of the people, such as Deena Burnett, have written books and been interviewed on television. So Kornkven would evidently need to suggest that the FBI contacted all the people and got them to go along with the lie that they had been called on cell phones. Kornkven’s scenario would require, moreover, that after getting Deena Burnett and all these other people to lie, the FBI undercut them in its 2006 report at the Moussaoui trial, in which it said that there were only two cell phone calls from all the flights combined (a call from flight attendant CeeCee Lyles and a 911 call from passenger Ed Felt). How is this a more plausible scenario than the idea that the recipients of the calls were duped?
Much of the basis for Kornkven’s alternative scenario is the fact that the person who called Deena Burnett “told [her] one of the hijackers had a gun” and this “contradict[ed] the official story of knife-wielding Arab fanatics.” Kornkven believes this proves that the reported call was authentic, because someone faking the calls would not have done something so stupid. Right after the statement in which he suggested that someone could have made Tom Burnett’s cell phone number show up on Deena Burnett’s caller ID only by using Tom’s stolen cell phone, he wrote: “In addition to the stupidity of making their fake calls from cell phones, the perpetrators inexplicably decide to throw in a report from the fake Tom of the hijackers having guns, which the FBI and media later go through great lengths to cover up and/or ignore.” This scenario, he argues, is too preposterous to believe.
He is right to say that this would have been a stupid thing for the fake Tom to have said. But evidently lots of stupid things were said by those making the calls. For example, the person who called Mark Bingham’s mother reportedly said: “Mom, this is Mark Bingham.” Have any of us, even in the most stressful situations, identified ourselves to our own mothers by using our last name? With regard to the person who was supposedly Tom Burnett: In his fourth call, Deena Burnett tells him that their kids are asking to talk to him, but “Tom” replies: “Tell them I’ll talk to them later.” This was after he had told her that he had realized that the hijackers were on a suicide mission, planning to “crash this plane into the ground,” so that he and others had decided they must try to gain control of the plane as soon as they are “over a rural area.” And the hijackers had already killed one person, “Tom” had reported. So if this was the real Tom Burnett, he knew that there was a good chance that he would die in the next few minutes, one way or the other. And yet, rather than taking this probably last opportunity to speak to his children, he told his wife to say that he would “talk to them later.” The fact that it would have been stupid for a fake Tom to report that the hijackers had a gun is, therefore, not a good reason to believe that the caller must have been the real Tom.
From my perspective, moreover, the incompetence manifested by some of the callers was simply part of the incompetence manifested by the 9/11 operation as a whole.
One of the common a priori arguments against the idea that 9/11 was orchestrated by members of the Bush administration is the claim that this administration is too incompetent to have orchestrated and then covered up such an operation. I have in the past argued against this sweeping claim.
However, after completing the manuscript for my next book, to be called “9/11 Contradictions,” I have come to agree with this objection under a particular formulation, namely: This administration appears to have been too incompetent to have orchestrated and covered up 9/11 well enough to have prevented the truth from being easily discovered if Congress and the press had done an even half-way decent job of raising questions. As “9/11 Contradictions” will show, every part of the official story is riddled with internal contradictions, any one of which could have led investigators to the truth.
Seen in this light, the hypothesis that the phone calls were faked is not undermined by the fact that, if this hypothesis is true, those who made the fake phone calls committed stupid errors. Such errors are exactly what one would expect.
Kornkven asks: “[W]hich scenario is more likely? What is easier to accomplish, voice morphing numerous calls to spouses and loved ones; or a disinfo campaign bamboozling everyone into believing that a handful of airphone calls were actually made by cell phones?” Although he argues that the latter scenario is more likely, he has failed to support this contention. On the one hand, he has provided no reason to believe that the former alternative would have been especially difficult. On the other hand, any attempt to have carried out the latter scenario would have confronted some severe, perhaps insurmountable, difficulties.
 Andrew Kornkven, “David Ray Griffin Burrows Further Down the Rabbit Hole of No-Phone-Calls-From-the-Planes,” 9/11 Blogger, 6 October 2007 (http://911blogger.com/node/11860).
 David Ray Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory, first edition (Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch, 2007), 91.
 Kornkven, “David Ray Griffin Burrows.”
 See David Ray Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory, revised and updated edition (Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch, 2007). Compare pages 90-91 with the same pages in the first edition.
 Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking, both editions, 84-85, 342n234.
 Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking, revised edition, 90.
 David Ray Griffin and Rob Balsamo, “Could Barbara Olson Have Made Those Calls? An Analysis of New Evidence about Onboard Phones,” Pilots for 9/11 Truth, 26 May 2007 (http://pilotsfor911truth.org/amrarticle.html).
 Deena L. Burnett (with Anthony F. Giombetti), Fighting Back: Living Beyond Ourselves (Longwood, Fl.: Advantage Inspirational Books, 2006), 61.
 Debunking 9/11 Debunking (both editions), 297.
 Although Kornkven wrote, “There is no reason that some of the calls, such as the one allegedly made by Todd Beumer [sic] to a complete stranger . . . may have been fabricated,” Kornkven clearly, as the context shows, meant to say: “There is no reason that some of the calls . . . may not have been fabricated.”
 See, for example, Karen Gullo and John Solomon, Associated Press, “Experts, U.S. Suspect Osama bin Laden, Accused Architect of World’s Worst Terrorist Attacks,” 11 September 2001 (http://sfgate.com/today/suspect.shtml), which says, regarding a reported call from Peter Hanson on United Flight 175: “A minister [the Rev. Bonnie Bardot] confirmed the cell phone call to [Peter Hanson’s] father, Lee Hanson.”
 See “The Final Moments of United Flight 93,” Newsweek, 22 September 2001 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3067652) and Kerry Hall, “Flight Attendant Helped Fight Hijackers,” News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.), 21 September 2001 (http://webcache.news-record.com/legacy/photo/tradecenter/bradshaw21.htm).
 For the FBI’s presentation about the phone calls by Felt and Lyles from the Moussaoui trial, see http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov/notablecases/moussaoui/exhibits/prosecution/flights/P200055.html).
 Jere Longman, Among the Heroes: United 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 130.
 “Transcript of Tom’s Last Calls to Deena,” Tom Burnett Family Foundation (http://www.tomburnettfoundation.org/tomburnett_transcript.html).
 Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking (both editions), 18-20.