By Marissa Fox
May 9, 2012
“Although this rendering reflects serious sleuthing, what you’ll find here is less a research treatise than a detective mystery in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes. The inquiry goes where the evidence leads it. And while this book doesn’t solve the crime of our century, it does take us closer to that goal.”
-Author’s Preface, Mounting Evidence, Paul Rea, PhD
Mounting Evidence: Why We Need A New Investigation into 9/11 is billed as “a thorough but readable introduction to the complex issues surrounding 9/11” (ME, pg. 535).
From the first few pages, Dr. Rea sets out a goal – and he stays within that goal over the course of the book. He points out the discrepancies between what he calls the “Official Story” (or the account of 9/11 that was published by the government in the 9/11 Commission report and broadcast to the American people at large) and what evidence has been found surrounding 9/11. Dr. Rea’s goal is to draw attention to the areas where the evidence and the story do not necessarily match, and in many places he offers conflicting data and testimonies that complicate the story most Americans know.
The evidence offered in Mounting Evidence is overwhelmingly reliable. In many instances, Dr. Rea sites news reports or internet-available videos from September 11th that can be viewed by anyone with a computer. Sometimes a more thorough search is required, but even then many of the government documents (such as the 9/11 Commission report itself and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reports of the towers falling) are available freely on the internet. He also draws from a wide variety of texts, interviews, and sometimes even films.
The challenge of this article is to take a critical, objective eye to the theories and evidence provided in Mounting Evidence. I do not necessarily agree or disagree with the information presented by Dr. Paul Rea, but I attempt to examine his argument objectively, identifying both the strengths and weaknesses of his evidence. To present a complete write-up of the validity of his sources would be too lengthy for an article like this (Mounting Evidence is over 500 pages, and his bibliography is quite impressive), but I will address some of the main arguments and issues surrounding 9/11. A great deal of research went into the writing of this review, both in the form of fact checking and dirt digging. Dr. Rea provides a complete bibliography on his website, and I attempt to follow his example by providing a list of my own resources for this article.
The 9-11 Commission Official Report, released in 2004, is freely available for reading in its full form of 585 pages or an Executive Summary of 35 pages. Before being released to the public, the report was edited of potentially classified material. The Official Report can be found here.
The NIST report on the fall of World Trade Centers 1 and 2 published in 2005 is available for reading in its full form of 298 pages here. The NIST report on World Trade Center 7 published in 2008 is available for reading in its full form of 130 pages here.
The Official Story and the Commission Report
Mounting Evidence begins with a few introductory chapters with a sweeping look at American history, particularly its wars. Beginning with the Mexican-American War and continuing through the Gulf of Tonkin, Dr. Rea examines the different ways America becomes involved in war and how America handles the imagery. The overwhelming trend he points out is that America’s wars are always responses to enemy action, but that enemy action may be direct or indirect results from American meddling. While many of the conclusions Dr. Rea draws are undocumented, they are not impossible (and one would imagine retrieving proof from the Mexican-American War would not be readily available). But it does set the stage for the rest of the book.
Much of Mounting Evidence concerns itself with the way the Official Story of 9/11 was created, how information was presented to Americans, and what was conveniently omitted (for example, a chapter dedicated to the truth about Flight 93 and the movies produced after 9/11). Dr. Rea dedicates an entire four chapters to the forming of the 9/11 Commission and the writing of the 9/11 Commission Official Report. The Commission was composed in 2002 to investigate 9/11, and the report was released in 2004. Many of the Commission officials (half selected by Congress and half, including the chair and executive director, chosen by the Bush Administration) had strong connections to the Bush Administration, the neoconservative agenda, and even Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Rea dedicates an entire chapter to exploring the backgrounds of the Commission staffers, all which are very interesting and involve questionable past circumstances. Of particular interest is Phillip Zelikow, who was the Executive Director of the Commission. Zelikow was a former top member of the Bush Administration and was a founding member of the Project for a New American Century (a neoconservative nonprofit promoting American imperialism as ideal formed in 1998 with Dick Cheney and others, discussed later in this article). During the investigation and writing, only Zelikow and one other Commission staffer had full access to classified documents.
Beyond discussion of the Commission staff, Dr. Rea includes three other chapters about the failings associated with the Commission and Commission Report, all incredibly detailed and well-sourced. Most notably, the 9/11 Commission Report does not place blame on any individuals for failing to implement security procedures or protocol on 9/11.
The Twin Towers
Before 9/11, no steel structured building had ever collapsed from fire damage, and as such many alternative theories have been offered for why the 110-story Twin Towers fell. Controlled demolition is the theory of choice in Mounting Evidence. The chapter from Dr. Rea on this topic is quite involved and cites a great deal of scientific evidence from multiple sources, including information from engineering expert Dr. Thomas Eagar from MIT and The National Fire Protection Associations Guide for Fire and Explosion in regards to controlled demolition and many engineering-based 9/11 truth organizations. Rather than going directly to the theories he supports, Dr. Rea explores the different facets of FEMA and NIST’s arguments on why the Towers fell, including false expert witnesses and conflicting stories.
Another important part of the Twin Towers’ story are the “The Sept. 11 Records,” a collection of over 500 eyewitness interviews with firefighters and emergency medical workers from 9/11 that were impounded by Mayor Rudy Giuliani as possible evidence that could be used in federal trials. Three years later, the records were released to the public by order of the New York Court of Appeals.
The NIST report claims that the steel was weakened by the fire and cites structural flaws that aided the collapse. The facts are that steel melts at 2,800°F and jet fuel burns up to 1,200°F. The North Tower was struck at 8:46am between floors 93 and 99, and the South Tower was struck at 9:03am between floors 77 and 85. The South Tower collapsed at 9:58am, 56 minutes after being struck; the North Tower collapsed at 10:28am, 1 hour and 42 minutes after being struck. The buildings collapsed suddenly, at near free-fall speeds, straight down into their own footprints in seconds, creating huge clouds of pulverized dust. These are the six primary characteristics of The National Fire Protection Association’s Guide for Fire and Explosion and explored in depth by Dr. Rea.
A controlled demolition theory requires that explosives must be present to cause sufficient damage to the core structure of the building such that the building will collapse in on itself. Several 9/11 witnesses have asserted hearing sounds of explosions, including NYPD Battalion Chief John Sudnik and FDNY Captain Karin Deshore as well as several bystanders from the streets. Dr. Rea admits that the evidence cannot yet tell how explosives found their way into the Towers, but he does cite elevator renovations occurring up to September 11th.
World Trade Center 7
Of course, the Twin Towers were not the only buildings to fall in New York on 9/11. A third building, World Trade Center 7, also fell that day without being hit by a plane. Also called “the smoking gun of 9/11” or “Building what?” (New York City Judge Edward Lehner’s response to attorney Dennis McMahon when he informed the judge at a hearing in 2009 that Building 7 had come down on 9/11 as well), a national study in 2006 showed that 43 percent of Americans did not know that three buildings came down in New York on 9/11. Many alternative theories of 9/11 point to Building 7 as the cornerstone of debunking the Official Story. Dr. Rea devotes an entire chapter to the mystery of World Trade Center 7, covering topics from Mayor Rudi Giuliani’s crisis command center (which was located in Building 7 despite many warnings against it) to the rental insurance on the building (Larry Silverstein had a 99-year lease on Building 7 for $3.2 billion, but collected $4.6 billion in insurance after the building fell) to another look at controlled demolition.
The fact is that Building 7, a 47-story steel framed skyscraper, collapsed at 5:21pm without having been hit by a plane. The NIST report of World Trade Center 7 released in 2008 cites fires caused by debris from the falling Trade Towers and structural problems. Dr. Rea once again explores theories given by the government (which have similar patterns to those given for the Twin Towers) and looks again at controlled demolition. This time, however, there is much more evidence given to the explosives, since no plane actually hit Building 7. Dr. Rea cites independent research groups who found evidence of “nanothermites” or very small particles of iron and aluminum that burn at very high temperatures. While the researchers involved believe that nanothermite is an answer to some of the questions, both they and Dr. Rea are careful not to discount other, possibly simultaneous, options as well.
The fall of World Trade Center 7 and the Twin Towers are explored in great detail by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. They provide detailed presentations from certified professionals about the mechanics of controlled demolition and the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the three buildings. For more information about Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, you can find their website here. All resources are available free on their website.
One aspect of the WTC7 controversy is the mysterious case of Barry Jennings, who escaped from Building 7 on 9/11. Given only a few paragraphs in Mounting Evidence, Barry Jennings and Michael Hess were trapped in Building 7 for hours after the building had been evacuated. Barry Jennings and Michael Hess originally testified that they heard explosions in Building 7 before the Twin Towers ever fell – the video of their interview with reporters after escaping the building on 9/11 is freely available on the internet. While Michael Hess later changed his testimony to fit with the Official Story, Jennings never did. Jennings gave an interview to filmmaker Dylan Avery in 2007. Jennings died in 2008 two days before the official NIST account of WTC7 was released. His cause of death was not immediately released, but later revealed to be a heart attack. Barry Jennings’s interview is available in full here.
What happened at the Pentagon? This is a huge question with no definite answer. To some, it is not even clear that what struck the building was in fact a plane. Dr. Rea discusses the variety of theories, but stays mostly within the bounds of airplanes (although ideas that it was a missile are also popular among alternative theories).
The flight plan offered in the Commission Report marks American Flight 77 departing from Washington Dulles at 8:20am. The flight is hijacked at 8:56am, performs a U-turn at 9:00am, and remains off the radar until it hits the Pentagon at 9:37am. Dr. Rea offers his own alternative flight plan, and, though largely undocumented, it does have elements of truth. It is true that the flight plan of Flight 77 documented in the Commission Report does not match with the radar data released later, although one would assume that the 9/11 Commission would have had access to the data well before it was released to the public. It is also true that there are a multitude of eyewitness testimonies available about which direction the plane came from, and many of them are inconsistent. However, the Federal Aviation Administration reports sightings of the plane at 9:20am, when it was supposedly “lost” according to the Commission Report.
Another controversy of Flight 77 is why it was allowed to remain in the air for so long. A rogue airplane in Washington D.C. should be cause for alarm, since it is our nation’s capital and there had already been two terrorist attacks that morning. However, there is a good deal of controversy (a lot of it cited in Mounting Evidence) about how much air defense was available to the Pentagon and whether they even knew a plane was in the area.
Other questions regarding Flight 77 include how the hijacker was able to make such an impressive right turn when many former Air Force pilots, Colonel Robert Bowman among them, have come forward saying they themselves would be unable to perform it. There are also reports of a “mystery plane” much smaller than the Boeing 757 of Flight 77 spotted flying low in the area that day.
Mounting Evidence does a good job of providing evidence that is inconsistent with the Official Story, but there are a great deal of questions about the Pentagon that have no answer and can result in a lot of confusion. No footage is available from the plane striking the Pentagon and a great deal of evidence about the event has not been released to the public. However, the goal of Mounting Evidence is to raise questions that need to be answered, and Dr. Rea points out how very little the public knows about this instance.
“No people can be both ignorant and free.”
- Thomas Jefferson
9/11 remains a very emotional topic for Americans. While researching for this article, I have had many discussions with friends and relatives about the topic, and the reactions are always strong. Some are intrigued by the idea but know about as much as I did when I began this, some listen and dismiss it, and some refuse to hear it entirely. But the main question that evolves from these theories is a basic enough question: Why? Why would the government want to hurt its own people? Another way of asking this question is to say: Who? Who benefits from a “government conspiracy”?
Mounting Evidence offers a few answers (in much greater detail than offered here):
The Pentagon (headed by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other neoconservatives) had plans to build an oil pipeline through Afghanistan that would give American companies direct access to resources, but the Taliban would not allow it. Bush invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001, and by December of 2002 Unocal had signed a deal for the Trans-Afghan pipeline. One of the companies to benefit from the Unocal pipeline is Halliburton, which had Dick Cheney as CEO during the time.
Project for a New American Century – This project, headed by Dick Cheney and other neoconservatives, was first introduced in 1997 as an idealistic return to American imperialist values, including support of war with Iraq and Afghanistan years before 9/11. Their goals would require a larger military budget (which would benefit many more than just the Project for the New American Century) and they cited a need for “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”
The connections between the Saudi royal family and the Bush family are quite extensive, going back to George Bush Senior’s CIA days. Islamist groups have been receiving both CIA and Saudi funding to fight since the 1970s, including bin Laden himself. The deals between America and Saudi Arabia, modern weapons for inexpensive oil, struck following World War II and continuing through today are cited by Dr. Rea as reasons for garnering Islamist hate. Mounting Evidence dedicates a whole chapter to the relationship between the Saudi royal family, the Bush family, and Al Qaeda, paying particular attention to the favor given to the Saudi family and even members of the bin Laden family in the weeks following 9/11. Sibel Edmonds, a translator for the FBI, before being hit with the strictest gag order in US history, reported about 9/11 that “you have money-laundering activities, drug-related activities, and terrorist support activities converging at certain points and becoming one.”
Issues of democracy underscore the entire book, but are not given special treatment of their own. Mounting Evidence lays out the reasons for a new investigation into 9/11 but does not always turn its attention to what has happened since 9/11. The passing of legislation such as the Patriot Act (2001) and the National Defense Authorization Act (2012), which restrict civil liberties and give the government increased control over the American people, cannot be overlooked as consequences of 9/11. The Patriot Act allowed the government to conduct searches without cause to assist in terrorism cases and to detain people indefinitely on baseless accusations. The National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Obama only a few months ago, also allows the government to detain people indefinitely based on accusations alone. In this regard, the government benefits by reducing the rights of its citizens.
“The truth about 9/11 is that we still don’t know the truth about 9/11.”
- Col. Robert Bowman, PhD, former fighter pilot and Director of Advanced Space Programs Development, US Air Force
While Dr. Rea compiles endless streams of evidence and points out stark deficiencies and contrasts within the Official Story, he is not actually arguing for a specific alternative theory – and he makes this clear from the beginning. What Mounting Evidence offers is not a concrete timeline or set of proofs to point the finger of blame directly in the face of specific politicians. It is not a “government conspiracy” or a hoax. Mounting Evidence calls attention to the questions that have not yet been answered or have not been answered truthfully. It draws the eye to the small details that have been overlooked and the large facts that have been ignored. It is a wake-up-call more than a call-to-arms, and inspires its readers to take a critical eye to what they are being told. Dr. Rea never discounts the role of the hijackers in the attacks and does not say that the government is never to be believed. As he says in Chapter 3, “Skepticism is healthy; cynicism is toxic.”
9/11 is a complicated issue, and Dr. Rea treats it as such.
Mounting Evidence is well-written, thought-provoking, and accessible – even and especially for someone who has never read up on 9/11 before. It covers a wide variety of issues, not always explored to their depths (the book is already over 500 pages, with three chapters dedicated to the 9/11 Commission and four to Al Qaeda, and there is easily enough information available on 9/11 to double the page count), but to the point of eliciting real thought from a concerned reader. The book is well-organized and easy to follow, though at times it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information offered.
But following Dr. Rea’s encouragement of skepticism, I recommend approaching this book (any book of this sort, really) with a healthy dose. The sources are well documented and available for full viewing on Dr. Rea’s website, and you may be surprised what you can learn if you check them out yourself.
Dr. Rea closes out Mounting Evidence with an outline of four questions that a new investigation should seek to answer:
1. Why didn’t the intelligence agencies identify the growing threats and head off the attacks in the first place?
2. How do we account for the spectacular failures of air defenders to intervene, despite the billions spent on state-of-the-art equipment, supersonic aircraft, and highly trained pilots?
3. What would explain the unprecedented structural failures of not two but three World Trade Center buildings?
4. The FBI has acknowledged that it has “no hard evidence” to hold Osama bin Laden responsible for the attacks; so if bin Laden didn’t do it, then who was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Americans that day?
- pg. 534
In an interview with a professor about this very book, the question was asked: What if we do have a new investigation? What if the facts that emerge are not the facts we were previously told? What happens then? How do we recover?
Dr. Rea does not give this question much attention beyond a few short sentences at the end of book, but it is clear he believes recovery is possible and necessary in order to move forward with a truly democratic body once more. He ends Mounting Evidence by saying, “Restorative truth is out there: a truly independent inquiry will bring it to light."
A footnoted version of this review is available at Gadfly Online.
DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN OLDSPEAK ARE NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF THE RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE.