Thursday, December 22, 2005

The "black boxes" that did not bark, and the need for a 9/11 probe

Like many bloggers, we started to get involved in this whole crazy world after 9/11. The weird thing about our case is it wasn't so much 9/11/01 as 9/11/03. On that day, the second anniversary of the terrorist attack on America, we published an article called "Why Don't We Have Answers to These 9/11 Questions."

Truth be told, we didn't think the piece was that big a deal; we'd been covering 9/11 and the aftermath with an investigative reporter's mindset from Day One, and we naively thought at the time that many Americans, if not most, knew about things like President Bush reading "The Pet Goat" after both towers had been been struck with two more hijacked jets in the air. A couple thousand reader emails later, we realized that raising questions about 9/11 was a big deal after all.

Then, in October 2004, we followed that up with a very tiny piece of the puzzle. Two men who'd worked in the rubble of the World Trade Center claimed that they'd help find three of the four "black boxes" from the jetliners -- even though the FBI and the independent 9/11 Commission insisted they'd never been recovered. (One footnote: Even though we correctly surmised that the story wouldn't cause much of a stir, we worked hard to make sure it was printed before the presidential election; maybe that's the reason we don't work at the New York Times.)

That story was pretty much forgotten until this week, when another Philadelphia-based investigative reporter, Dave Lindorff, added yet another tiny puzzle piece. An official with the National Transportation Safety Board, who didn't want to be named for understandable reasons, confirmed to Lindorff that the FBI had indeed recovered the flight recorders from the World Trade Center site:

"Off the record, we had the boxes," the source says. "You'd have to get the official word from the FBI as to where they are, but we worked on them here."

His NTSB source didn't have a lot more to say, and so his piece raises more questions than it answers. After all, both New York crashes were captured on videotape. What would be the motivation for concealing the flight data and voice recordings, when both crashes have already been seen by the entire world. And we think most 9/11 "conspiracy" chatter, about no planes or mysterious "pods," is ridiculous bunk.

But we can also assure you of this: You won't see any followups on Lindorff's work in the mainstream media. They're too scared -- scared that by even questioning one small aspect of the official story of 9/11, they're be forever tarred as "conspiracy nuts" and forever ruined. This even after the official story of the invasion of Iraq and so much else coming out of Washington these last five years have crumbled like a Sara Lee coffee cake.

But there is a land somewhere in between Mt. Official Version and the Valley of the Tin-Foil Hat Wearers -- call it the River of Unanswered Questions. That's where we reside. We don't pretend to know everything that happened on 9/11, such as why Flight 93 went down or what happened to all eight black boxes. And you shouldn't pretend to know, either.

Questions like the ones raised by Dave Lindorf's article, and by the revelations from Republican Pennsylvania congressman Curt Weldon about "Able Danger" tracking some of the 9/11 hijackers, make only one thing crystal clear:

It's time to do a real investigation of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, and to get it right this time. We'll never know everything about that day, but we need to know a lot more than we do now. After all, our president says that we're in a perpetual state of war because of 9/11.

But after his handling of the "Iraq phase" of that war, and after his unlawful domestic spying, can we really trust him about anything that's happened since Jan. 20, 2001?



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