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The Disbelievers

David Ray Griffin, whose book
David Ray Griffin, whose book "The New Pearl Harbor" is a foundation of the "9/11 Truth Movement." (Helayne Seidman - For The Washington Post)

Such as:

Former transporation secretary Norman Mineta told the commission he arrived in the presidential operations center -- under the White House -- at 9:20 a.m. on Sept. 11 and found Vice President Cheney. When an aide asked Cheney about the hijacked plane fast approaching the Pentagon, Mineta says the vice president snapped that the "orders still stand." Mineta assumed the orders were to shoot the plane down. Conspiracy theorists interpret this to mean: Don't shoot it down.

Cheney later said he was not in the operations center until after the plane hit. The commission never mentioned Mineta's contradictory version.

In September 2001, NORAD generals said they learned of the hijackings in time to scramble fighter jets. But the government recently released tapes claiming to show the FAA did not tell the military about the hijackings until three of the four planes had crashed.

That would mean the FAA repeatedly lied. It would also mean, as Griffin points out, that the entire military chain of command stayed quiet about huge inaccuracies for four years "even though . . . the true story would put the military in a better light."

More mysteries pile up. The 9/11 Commission says Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37. But Honegger says clocks stopped at the Pentagon at 9:32. Then there's the collapse of the twin towers, which Jones, the physics professor, timed at just short of free fall. Griffin cites firefighters, including a captain, who said in hearings and on tapes from that day that they saw flashes and heard the sound of explosions before the collapse.

"It's like the Nazi-facilitated Reichstag fire," Honegger says from her home in California. "They guided and secretly protected it to justify their global agenda."

Let's put aside the could-anyone-do-something-that-spectacularly-twisted? question and touch on practicalities. Isn't the problem with big ugly conspiracies -- from the Gulf of Tonkin to My Lai to the 1961 Pentagon plan to provoke a war by attacking Americans and blaming it on Castro -- that they are too big and ugly to keep secret?

Griffin shrugs. History is littered with government black-bag jobs. "How do you know they can't keep big secrets? Can you be sure you know what you don't know?"

* * *

There is a "morning after" quality to the conspiratorial romance. One moment you groove on the epiphanies and the next moment you're lost in a dull haze of "this cannot be a coincidence," "perhaps significantly" and "if so . . ."

What of incompetence? Or the raw absurdity of life? The truth movement makes much of a 2001 BBC report that a half-dozen of the hijackers were still alive. They mention Waleed al Shehri, a pilot who still flies commercial runs in Morocco. But the BBC retracted that.

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