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Mass Media Avoids Questions about 9-11

June 12, 2002

Two events in Washington involving relatives of last fall's terror attacks have demanded an independent non-partisan investigation into the events of 9-11.

Nine months after the worst terrorist attack in American history, grass-roots organizations convened in Washington asking questions and calling for an independent investigation. Although the two events were both well publicized and held in high profile venues, the mass media stayed away – avoiding the serious questions being asked about the attacks.

A network of independent 9-11 researchers "seeking answers and accountability" held a three-hour press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on June 10 to bring attention to the many unanswered questions surrounding the attacks. The group has recently launched a web site dedicated to raising public awareness of these issues: UnansweredQuestions.org. On June 12, the question that ranked highest among voters on the web site was: "Why did C-SPAN suddenly decide not to air your press conference scheduled to be held on June 10, 2002, in lieu of coverage of Homeland Security?"

The high-powered press conference presented two panels of experts, which included researchers, former government officials, relatives of the victims, and lawyers representing the families. Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the Department of Transportation and author of Flying Blind, Flying Safe, spoke as a lawyer representing 32 passengers' families from the hijacked planes of Sept.11. The government is using a special fund "to silence the families of the victims," she said. Acceptance of the government compensation requires signing a no-fault agreement preventing the family from joining any future lawsuits.

The fund, which was established by Congress, is "unlimited" and although there are more than 3,000 victims from 9-11, only 10 families have received compensation, Schiavo told this reporter. The amount of compensation should be about $1.6 million per family although only one family received that amount, she said.

"We knew something was afoot," Schiavo said as she described numerous specific warnings of Middle Eastern terrorist threats against civilian aircraft received by the government and the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the months before September 2001. Schiavo recalled the simultaneous hijacking and blowing up of four planes in Jordan by a group known as Islamic Jihad on Sept. 12, 1970. Schiavo presented a statistical analysis of the number of hijackings since 1972 showing that there had been 682 planes hijacked during the past 30 years. She is preparing a lawsuit to bring against the FAA and the airlines for failing to provide the security required in the face of repeated and specific warnings of precisely such a hijacking event.

"There are a lot of people who should have known," said Lorna Brett of the Nolan Law Group, which is representing 9-11 families from the hijacked United Airlines planes. "It's about accountability." The lack of an independent non-partisan investigative commission means that it falls upon journalists to investigate the questions surrounding the attacks. "It's the most patriotic thing we can do to demand answers to these unanswered questions," Brett said.

One such investigative journalist, Michael Ruppert, spoke of the prior warnings from various foreign intelligence agencies to President Bush. Russian president Vladimir Putin warned Bush of such an attack weeks before Sept.11, according to Ruppert. Claims of ignorance of these warnings by officials of the Bush administration are "absolutely false," Ruppert said.

Tom Flocco, an investigative journalist who has written extensively about the unusual insider trading prior to 9-11, raised questions about the real-time monitoring of trading by the CIA and other intelligence agencies around the world. Flocco discussed the unusual trades placed by a company tied to Buzzy Krongaard, the executive director of the CIA. He said that Enron had 20 active CIA agents on its payroll before its demise. Flocco added that the anti-anthrax drug Cipro was made available at the White House on Sept.11, before any anthrax incident occurred.

A 20-year veteran of the foreign service, J. Michael Springmann, described the strange events that he noticed during his two years spent in the visa section of the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 alleged terrorists obtained their U.S. visas at the consulate in Jeddah, according to Springmann. He recalled having repeatedly turned down visa requests from suspicious individuals only to see his denials inexplicably reversed by highly-placed officials from the CIA claiming "national security" reasons.

The link between weaknesses in the immigration system and terrorism was discussed by Dr. Steve Camarota of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies. Camarota pointed to "sloppy administration," lax standards, and lack of enforcement as contributing factors which make "life a lot easier for terrorists." Of 48 suspected al Qaeda terrorists arrested inside the United states, 22 had violated immigration laws prior to 9-11, Camarota said.

VICTIMS RALLY

On June 11, 300 relatives of victims of Sept.11 rallied in front of the Capitol in Washington to demand an independent non-partisan investigation. The rally was organized by three organizations of victims' relatives and The Skyscraper Safety Campaign. Several members of Congress including House Minority leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) addressed the rally, the first of its kind in Washington, in support of the families' demand for an independent commission. The organizations say that only an independent commission can conduct a proper and comprehensive investigation free from political pressure." The relatives want an independent commission to examine the role of Congress and to complement any congressional investigations.

I asked Gephardt why it had taken nine months to call for an independent and non-partisan investigation of the terrorist attack and if he agreed that the wholesale of destruction of the evidence from the World Trade Center would hinder any future investigation. Gephardt said he was optimistic that Congress would commission an investigation before next Sept.11.

MEDIA IGNORES QUESTIONS

Many Americans remain unaware of the questions surrounding the attacks and the reluctance of Congress and the administration to commission an independent investigation. The mass media has done little to bring these issues to the attention of the public. Despite the fact that the two 9-11 events were unprecedented and of great national and historical importance, the cable network C-SPAN failed to cover either of them.

I spoke with Terry Murphy, vice president for programming at C-SPAN and head of the editorial board. Murphy said he was responsible for the decision not to cover the 9-11 press conference or rally. While C-SPAN had considered covering the events and can field more than 10 crews in Washington, Murphy said the network 'can't do it all with its limited resources." His decision not to cover the events was "totally independent" of any political pressure and he did not regret it, he said.

I asked Robin Scullin, C-SPAN's media relations spokesperson, if the network considered the concerns of the families of the "seminal event" behind the war of terrorism to be less newsworthy than the events the network had covered on June 10 and 11. Scullin said that considering the attacks of Sept.11 as the "seminal event" was an opinion and abruptly terminated the call.


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