By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Around the same time, Dylan Avery was completing a job as a helper on the construction of a new restaurant for James Gandolfini. He tended bar at the opening party, and when he got a few minutes alone with the Sopranos actor, he said he'd thought he might like to direct films. "James said, 'If you want to be a successful director, you've got to have something you want to say to the whole world,' " Avery remembers. He set out to write a fictional story about discovering that 9-11 was an inside job. "Upon researching the movie, I began to think maybe it was true," he says.
The movement's momentum picked up in 2004 as George W. Bush sought re-election, the 9-11 Commission finished its work, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued preliminary findings on the building collapses. Members petitioned New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer to convene a grand jury on the attacks. New figures emerged, like Kevin Ryan, a scientist at the testing firm that certified the steel used in the twin towers, who was fired after he wrote a letter to NIST faulting its findings, and William Rodriguez, a janitor at the twin towers credited with saving lives on 9-11.
Rodriguez has filed a federal RICO suit against Bush, the president's father and three brothers, the Republican National Committee, Alan Greenspan, Halliburton, several voting-machine companies, and others. He claims that the president and his administration participated in "approval and sponsorship of the 9-11 attacks, kidnapping, arson, murder, treason" in order to "obtain a 'blank check' to conduct wars of aggression, to consolidate economic and political power."
"The guilt of the defendants," the suit alleges, "is compellingly suggested by their myriad lies, their thwarting of any proper investigation, and their stonewalling and failure to truly cooperate even with the . . . Commission 'investigation.' "
It is a matter of public record that the government did not always voluntarily tell the whole truth about 9-11. In the first days after the tragedy, the EPA said the air was safe (see "Truth Out," page 32). The Bush administration claimed there had been no warnings of the attacks. A congressional inquiry was prevented from discussing information the intelligence community provided to the White House. The White House resisted forming an independent commission, stalled on releasing documents, delayed in allowing Condoleezza Rice to testify in public, and agreed to let the president meet with the commission only on the conditions that there be no oath administered, no formal transcript made, and that Vice President Dick Cheney be at his side. Several members of the commission had to recuse themselves from parts of the probe because their government or private-sector careers posed conflicts. And in its final report, the commission punted on such questions as where the money for the attacks originated, dubbing that issue "of little practical significance."
The long list of obfuscations and obstructions has helped the Truth movement attract sympathizers who don't buy the idea that the attacks were planned by the government. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia has taken up some of the movement's themes. Actor Ed Begley Jr. co-hosted a September 11, 2004, Truth event in New York because of his environmental concerns. "As to the other more fantastic theories about the events of 9-11, I don't care to comment, other than to say that they have raised some very interesting questions that I would love to see answered," Begley tells the Voice in an e-mail.
Another environmental activist, Jenna Orkin, also admires aspects of the movement but distances herself from others. "I think it's terribly important," she says, "to distinguish between the legitimate questions and the wackinessand the wackiness has contaminated the legitimate questions in a very destructive way."
Drawing that line has split the movement. Many Truth activists now dismiss the "pod theory" and its cousin "the flash," which contend that the planes that struck the towers had unusual shapes on their undersides that may have fired missiles. More maligned is the idea that no planes hit the towersthat what we saw were drones or holograms. Even the no-planes-at-the- Pentagon theory divides Truth-ers.
Some alternative theorists avoid events involving the American Free Press, which has reported several of the vital pieces of the Truth story but has links to the neo-Nazi Barnes Review. And almost no one wants to talk about Jimmy Walter, whose money (he offered $1 million for proof that the towers fell because of the fires) helps but whose advocacy of a "no-punishment" society doesn't. The disputes aren't always friendly. VonKleist, a chief proponent of the pod theory, says the movement "has been heavily infiltrated." And Hufschmid labels most of the movement "part of the criminal movement that did the attack in the first place."
Internecine feuds are not uncommon among people who believe in conspiracies. Yet dubbing Truth movement members "conspiracy theorists" is inaccurate for two reasons. First, there's no doubt that 9-11 was a conspiracythe question is whether it was among Muslim terrorists or others. Second, many Truth-ers deny having any theory at all. They resist efforts to construct an alternative story of the crime.