9/11, Climate Change, and Why Facts Matter

September 11, 2012

This is a post I did not expect to write. I saw no reason to, until I read this morning’s piece by Kurt Eichenwald in the NYTimes.

Why is a post about the 9/11 attack relevant to the story of climate change? Because its the clearest, most hideous, and most instructive example of how groupthink among a cadre of key policy makers is much more serious than merely a political game of  point/counterpoint.

In the months leading up to the 9/11 attack, according to new documents that have come to light in recent years, as well as long-documented and agreed upon historical fact, cold warriors in the Bush administration chose to ignore a powerful body of ominous warnings about terrorist activity in the United States, because it conflicted with their preconceptions about what reality was and how the world works.

An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.

this, in spite of vehement protests by the very intelligence professionals most closely in touch with the facts.

 Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name. Going on for more than a page, the document recited much of the evidence, including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya.

Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.

That same day in Chechnya, according to intelligence I reviewed, Ibn Al-Khattab, an extremist who was known for his brutality and his links to Al Qaeda, told his followers that there would soon be very big news. Within 48 hours, an intelligence official told me, that information was conveyed to the White House, providing more data supporting the C.I.A.’s warnings. Still, the alarm bells didn’t sound.

We already knew, as of 2006,  about CIA director George Tenet’s desperate attempt to get Condoleeza Rice’s attention in July of 2001.

On July 10, 2001, two months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet met with his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, at CIA headquarters to review the latest on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Black laid out the case, consisting of communications intercepts and other top-secret intelligence showing the increasing likelihood that al-Qaeda would soon attack the United States. It was a mass of fragments and dots that nonetheless made a compelling case, so compelling to Tenet that he decided he and Black should go to the White House immediately.

Tenet called Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, from the car and said he needed to see her right away. There was no practical way she could refuse such a request from the CIA director.

For months, Tenet had been pressing Rice to set a clear counterterrorism policy, including specific presidential orders called “findings” that would give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden. Perhaps a dramatic appearance — Black called it an “out of cycle” session, beyond Tenet’s regular weekly meeting with Rice — would get her attention.

Tenet had been losing sleep over the recent intelligence he’d seen. There was no conclusive, smoking-gun intelligence, but there was such a huge volume of data that an intelligence officer’s instinct strongly suggested that something was coming. He and Black hoped to convey the depth of their anxiety and get Rice to kick-start the government into immediate action.

The rest is history. In the face of alarm bells and warning lights blinking, Mr Bush decided to take a month off.

Two years later, almost  80 percent of the American people had been convinced, completely at odds with the evidence, that Saddam Hussien was responsible for the attack, and that he had to be taken down, in light, again, of shaky circumstantial evidence of shadowy weapons of mass destruction. Terrorists had again been demoted to bit roles, as tools in the hands of malefic nation states just coincidentally ruling over one of the greatest pools of hydrocarbons on the planet.

I’m not aware that anyone, in any major media outlet, has ever been questioned, disciplined, or God knows, fired, for the gross negligence, incompetence or venality  that allowed this story to be spun out of control – a body of misinformation and invective untethered to reality became the driving rationale of the world’s oldest democracy and most powerful nation. I’m not aware that anyone in the media, or in those leadership positions, has expressed regret, or apologized,  given evidence of any learning process – or even lost a moment’s sleep, about the greatest foreign policy disaster in American History.

In the Fox News/talk radio alternative universe, painstakingly created over 20 years, climate science is – at best, merely the opinion of a small number of scientists, overactive in their zealotry and activism – at worst, a hoax and a plot to distort and cripple the world economy in service of a utopian collectivist worldview.
Just coincidentally again, the story line plays to the best interests of a small and powerful group of super wealthy individuals and corporations.

It is a tragic bookend to the 9/11 story is that, in the early days of the Bush administration, after a campaign where candidate Bush expressed concern about climate change, and the need to begin to deal with it – the new president asked the National Academy of Science, once again,  to re-examine the issues of climate change, including

• Are greenhouse gases causing climate change?
• Is climate change occurring? If so, how?
• Is human activity the cause of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and other emissions that contribute to climate change?

The report was released in June of 2001, concurrent with the cascade of blinking warnings on terror. According to the New York Times

“Greenhouse gases are accumulating in earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise,” the report said. “Temperatures are, in fact, rising.”

The report was requested by the White House last month in anticipation of an international meeting on global warming in Bonn in July but arrived just before President Bush leaves next week for Europe, a trip that includes talks on global warming with leaders of the 15 European Union countries in Goteborg, Sweden.

European leaders expressed outrage in March when Mr. Bush rejected the global warming pact known as the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, and the subject has been building as an important test of the administration’s foreign policy.

In the White House’s first official acknowledgment of the academy’s conclusions, Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, told reporters today, “This is a president who takes extremely seriously what we do know about climate change, which is essentially that there is warming taking place.”

Although the report, once again, sounded the gravest warning from the nation’s most prestigious body of experts, once again, those experts were ignored. They were unwelcome, inconvenient, for powerful groups whose voices carried much greater weight in the new administration.

More than a decade later, the mechanisms of power in Washington remain paralyzed with inaction on the issue, and the media shows only an occasional and fleeting sign of waking out of a torpor in the face of a grave and gathering threat. ABC news Bill Blakemore writes about the disconnect in a piece just published

A number of the world’s professional climate scientists are perplexed by — and in some cases furious with — American news directors.

“Malpractice!” is typical of the charges this reporter has heard highly respected climate experts level — privately, off the record — at my professional colleagues over the past few years.

Complaints include what seems to the scientists a willful omission of overwhelming evidence the new droughts and floods are worsened by man made global warming, and unquestioning repetition, gullible at best, of transparent anti-science propaganda credibly reported to be funded by fossil fuel interests and anti-regulation allies.

As scientific reports about the speedy advance and devastating impacts of man made global warming have grown steadily more alarming, surveys have shown most mainstream American news organizations covering it less and less over the past two years.

Even during this hot summer, when inescapable bad news about the warming climate from around the United States and the world has forced its way into main stream media coverage, it has usually been reported only in a reactive and literal event-coverage sort of way.

There’s been little of the persistent probing analysis and regular coverage scientists say is urgently needed for a grave planet-wide crisis — reporting of the kind surveys show there was much more of in mainstream coverage up until two years ago.

Why this decline in persistent coverage?

In response to another danger, in another era, Winston Churchill famously expressed the agony of watching the tragedy of denial in the face of oncoming darkness.

“They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent”  Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger.  The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close.  In its place we are entering a period of consequences.  We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now”

I began this series and this blog because I could not wait for a blinkered and hobbled professional class of journalists to come to their senses and begin reporting the facts as they are, in language that common people can understand. I could no longer tolerate the polite indulgence given not just to ignorance, but to a class of paid disinformation specialists, operating to further the interests of a few, against the very life support system of the planet.

Ironically, in today’s edition of the Times, concurrent with Eichenwald’s piece, another story is running, detailing the slow and inadequate response to rising sea levels in the New York City and East Coastal areas.

But even as city officials earn high marks for environmental awareness, critics say New York is moving too slowly to address the potential for flooding that could paralyze transportation, cripple the low-lying financial district and temporarily drive hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Only a year ago, they point out, the city shut down the subway system and ordered the evacuation of 370,000 people as Hurricane Irene barreled up the Atlantic coast. Ultimately, the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm and spared the city, but it exposed how New York is years away from — and billions of dollars short of — armoring itself.

“They lack a sense of urgency about this,” said Douglas Hill, an engineer with the Storm Surge Research Group at Stony Brook University, on Long Island.

If we’ve learned nothing else from the 911 attacks, maybe its that we never learn anything. But facts do matter. Every opinion is not equally valid. It is not ok to tolerate disagreements that are not in good faith. The consequences are more than intellectual – they go beyond merely scoring talking points or one-upmanship at the water cooler – it is important that we understand where we are and what we are doing.

“You have your opinion and I have mine” does not cut it. Reality matters. In 2001 we may have been near the edge of an abyss. In 2012, we may already be stepping on to empty air.

It is well past time for politicians, citizens, and the professional media class to wake up and begin telling the truth.

81 Responses to “9/11, Climate Change, and Why Facts Matter”


    1. Pick bad thing X that happened (it doesn’t matter what or when).

    2. Postulate a conspiracy was behind it* (it doesn’t matter who or why). This is all you need to get going, but there are a few techniques you can use to fill in the blanks about what really happened during X.

    3. Cherry pick factoids, take details out of context, mine quotes from public figures, elevate obscure minor incidents to center stage, juxtapose unrelated events, obsess over coincidence, point to suspicious lack of evidence that (if it existed) would support your theory, and always, always have pictures with big red arrows pointing to nothing in particular. The general rule is: stitch together everything that vaguely supports your theory or calls into question the mainstream explanation, and ignore or deny everything that does not fit.

    4. In later stages, once your campaign to uncover the truth is well-developed, create a really poorly-produced internet “documentary, ” set it to scary music, and have your college roommate narrate it.

    5. Denounce skeptics and scientists who debunk your claims as tools of the conspiracy, and make it clear that anyone who doubts your theory is a Moreaun human-sheep hybrid creature afflicted with narcolepsy. Tell them they need to, “Wake UP, SHEEPLE! ”

    6. Compile a list of a tiny number of “experts” that support some of your claims, and use it to lend a veneer of scientific credibility to your theory. Wherever possible, use misattributed, unsourced, and quotes taken out of context from experts who do not support your theory to imply they do.

    7. Create lists of “unanswered questions” that, regardless of how well-answered, will always remain “unanswered. ”


    • Daniel LaLiberte Says:

      You provide a very good rundown of how the Official Conspiracy Theory of 9/11 (i.e. 19 arabs etc) was probably created and supported.

      This is, however, NOT what scientists and rational skeptics are doing and saying when we question the Official Conspiracy Theory. We are not picking a conspiracy and then supporting it. We are FIRST questioning the official conspiracy theory, showing why it does not make sense, and therefore, we are demanding a legitimate investigation of what really happened. We don’t know what did happen, in many of the details, nor are we claiming we do, but do know that the official conspiracy theory is chock full of holes.

      You can probably find cases of so-called truth efforts that support your argument, but they are largely not legitimate, and perhaps even attempts at subterfuge. I mean, why would anyone seriously argue that the planes hitting the WTC towers were really holograms, unless they are trying to *appear* out of touch with reality?

      The way you have, in your many replies here, denounced skeptics who debunk the official conspiracy theory is exactly what you ascribe to us: label us as tools of a conspiracy of moronic sheeple, and claim we are doing exactly what you are doing, cherry-picking factoids, misattributing, denigrating, etc. I’ve seen this pattern repeated everywhere, especially at garbage dumps like JREF.

      In contrast to what you say we are doing, I would not claim you are part of a moronic sheeple conspiracy (genuine sheeple are not in evidence here), but rather, you are trying hard to be very witty in your slander of real honest truth efforts. Trying, but not succeeding.

      • rayduray Says:

        Thank you Daniel,

        It’s lovely to read a voice of reason again. We’ve been drowning in run-on paragraphs of bafflegab on this thread to the extent I felt it counterproductive to continue.

        You bring a fresh perspective and much needed sanity to this discussion.

        Like you, I was struck by the “hologram” argument.

        To a more general audience I’ll address the following:

        One thing that is clear to anyone who has studied government covert operations over time is that one technique used in COINTELPRO type infiltrations of dissident groups is to create internal dissension among those campaigning against government frauds, illegal wars and other dysfunctions.

        In the particular case of the 9/11 Truth movement, the obviously bizarre and speculative theoretical discussion of holograms, energy beams and the constant association of 9/11 Truthers with silly stuff like no-moon landing, Princess Diana’s death, UFOs, etc. all seems designed to give the legitimate campaign for truth a “guilt by association” effect.

        In particular regard to the politically-motivated and totally unscientific NIST and 9/11 Commission reports, I will strongly encourage those with an open mind to seek out the works of terrific scholarship such as David Ray Griffin’s “The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions And Distortions” and more http://tinyurl.com/9rmh3et

        And David Chandler of the Architects & Engineers For 9/11 Truth has an outstanding series of videos debunking the NIST nonsense: http://911speakout.org/

      • Daniel,

        First, let me thank you for making the effort to give some thoughtful criticism. In terms of those who question the “official story” of what happened on 9/11, you are the first I’ve interacted with here that has made some effort to state his views *provisionally* and in terms of a skepticism based on what you understand as the science and forensics. I can respect that, and we can agree to disagree.

        What I cannot respect, and do not respect, are those who from the get-go deride and dismiss any reference I make to scientific journals and reports as ipso facto “bogus” and “unscientific” and that conclude their dismissal by personal attack that questions my credentials, scientific background, and even my personal integrity.
        When a person does that right off the bat, my ten years of discussing and debating 9/11 have shown me that there’s simply no common ground for rational and intelligent discussion―and this has been true when talking with true believers on *both* sides of the argument. (For what it’s worth, I initially started out as a big *skeptic* of the “official story,” which itself took time to evolve, even as conspiracies theories did.)

        So when someone just sneers at my sources and my initial arguments, without asking questions, without finding out who I am, or what scientific reasons I might have for not believing the conspiracy theories, I just don’t waste my time. Or, as in these threads, if some condescending know-it-all feels like knocking heads with me, I’m not above having some verbal fun and retorting and replying *in kind.*

        In such a case, since we are not having a rational discussion, but just giving our memes a chance to have a pissing contest, I can enjoy the fireworks of matching wits and trading insults. And as the back-and-forth get more and more personal, it’s so cathartic to express your ever-increasing incredulity at the sheer, massive (and obvious, of course!) *stupidity* of the other person. lol!

        Initially, I did try to give arguments and refer to reports and studies that, *from my point of view,* are worth considering, and yes, scientific, as I understand the term. When this is just rejected out of hand, from the start, with scorn, well, let the games begin! Most of what you seem to be criticizing and objecting to as my lumping all skeptics into one simplistic conspiracy pot was simply me having fun with an apparent truther fundamentalist who *from the start* basically indicated he would not accept *any* of my sources or *any* of my arguments. I was immediately characterized as a naive fool even to believe that any of the NIST reports were anything but laughable pseudo-science that merely proved what they were meant to prove by the “politicians.”

        You criticize me for lumping all skeptics into steps #1 and #2 of “Build Your Own Conspiracy”―which you and I both know is clearly satire. I do not believe the whole 9/11 thing began as described in the satire, because *I* started out with questions many truth-seeking people had, and may still have.

        But, in my interactions here at the Climate Crock, it didn’t take long before many of the main elements of steps #5, #6, and #7 were clearly evident, if not in the exaggerated forms of the satire, then in the basic approach and argument. Yes, I even got the #7, the long list of “unanswered questions”―and of course, *nothing* I could say, argue, or quote―no scientific source of authority, no data, no amount of reasoning, no prior rebuttals or answers of these very questions―would in the least have made any difference at all.

        Of course, as you said in your comment, you think that that’s just the same with *me!* lol! And so, what’s the point of even talking here? What the point of anyone talking with *anyone,* if both sides assume from the start that the other will inevitably be doing some form of #5, #6, and #7? There is no point, is the point, if that’s the case! But at least I *knew* that. And at least I knew I was playing around in a useless “who’s the alpha dog?” pissing contest and that I was merely echoing back the #5, #6, and #7 charges being thrown at me.

        After gratuitously trashing JREF (see #5), you charge that I “slander” real honest truth efforts. No, I *honor* real, honest truth efforts, because that’s how I came to my own conclusions about 9/11. I respect people who do as I did and relentlessly examine and question *all* the arguments and evidence. In my case, every “Is that so?” came from the basis of a life-time of science writing and editing and a profound love and respect for science. As I said, initially I was a big-time skeptic. Coming to the conclusions I did was at odds with my life-long political views, my Zinn-Chomsky-ish reading of history, and yes, my memes, as a liberal political progressive.

        You assume that because I answered some yahoo in kind, and engaged in some school-yard “nyah, nyah, nyah” with a blustering, bombastic bully (love that alliteration!) that you know me, or my ability to support my views with science and data, argument, and reason. But you don’t know me, anymore than I really know you from your brief comments to me. And I will even admit that I don’t really know the fellow I traded insults with, nor he me, because we were instant adversaries.

        But at least, in some of what *you* said, I sensed someone I might actually respect truth and that was trying to distance himself and his quest for truth from the terrible, rampant woo-woo that, in my opinion, poisons the great majority the so-called “9/11 truth” discourse. Of course, I probably should have just held my tongue. Because once you raise issues, or object, on whatever “side” one may be on 9/11, does one really have the time to once again spend hours and hours doing endless posts to thoroughly examine and debate this incredibly difficult forensic science case and its evidence and scientific analysis? I used to, but I don’t any more, and mostly, it’s a waste of time.

        Anyway, my hats off to you, Daniel, in your ongoing honest quest for truth. I know you are not alone. And I believe you when you say that a truth seeker is who you are. I can make room for that in my mind and heart. Can you make room in your mind and heart for the fact that a lot of honest seekers for truth, many of them bit as intelligent and well-informed as you or me, if not more so in some cases, have come to exactly opposite conclusions as you have, so far? Or is it always going to be #5 for those who disagree? I won’t lump you and honest truth seekers in number 5, if you wont’ lump me and honest “9/11 truth” skeptics in #5.

        As every scientist knows, it’s only by going through the data with the rigorous scientific analysis, by using the scientific method, testing, peer review, and building scientific consensus that one can have any surety that one isn’t just “cherry picking” facts, creating factoids, manufacturing “false knowledge,” and basically engaging in epic confirmation bias.

        (Apologies for my long response―I felt your thoughtful comment should be replied in kind; and also, I know this long response will strain the patience and ability to concentrate of my foil “Virgil”—who no doubt toils somewhere in the inner circles of alliterative hell). 😉




    The opening video is priceless!

    • Martin Lack Says:

      Hi Steven. I am hoping that site is a parody of a conspiracy theorist website. If not, one has to wonder if the “kid” behind it was inspired by seekers of alternative truths regarding 9/11, Obama’s nationality, or what? The answer to all these sad and irrational people is of course two simple words: “Sh1t happens!”… and I think they really need to deal with it.

      • Oh, yeah, the site is *totally* parody and satire.

        And yes, when it comes to bad things happening, whether in the world, or in ourselves, we have to be *real* about it, and not displace and project the sh*t we haven’t dealt with in ourselves “out there” on the world in big ego-defense and fear.

        • Martin Lack Says:

          The picture of an iceberg from the cover of Roy Spencer’s The Great Global Warming Blunder was a dead giveaway. 🙂

  3. Bryce Kuchik Says:

    None of the comments that I have read make sense. You really fracking care about conspiracy theories? What theory are you questioning? The fact is: Global Warming is a juggernaut that is speeding at us. Sure, the carbon burners are going to try to save their big buck subsidies. They want to keep getting their multibillion dollar windfall profits each year. Who do you think that they are paying off to get this? A few hundred million bucks for an eventual payoff of billions!? Don’t tell me about theories, this is reality people!!!

  4. […] Sinclair posted an excellent summary on his Climate Denial Crock of the Week website, entitled ’9/11, Climate Change, and Why Facts Matter’.  I have written much on this blog about cognitive dissonance and Leon Festinger (see category […]

  5. […] demonstrably, factually, objectively false. That Saddam Hussien had attacked us on 9/11. As I pointed out in a post last week, when the news media goes about systematically misinforming or disinforming the public in a […]

  6. Jhon Smith Says:

    I have come to the conclusion that we all have a little blame global warming and its consequences and guilt even more politicians who do not slow down.


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