Monday, 10 April 2006 04:39
On 9/11: Was the Asbestos-Laced World Trade Center "Disposable"?
Un-American – Portland Indymedia April 4, 2006
(Note: This article is written with empathy for all who were injured or who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001 or in the wars that followed, and with deep respect for the memory of all who have died. It is also written out of the conviction that important facts about the 9/11 events have been "officially" covered up and that the truth must be brought to light. Though the subject matter is profoundly troubling, the writer hopes this article will offer some new perspectives, raise new questions, and assist others who are seeking truth in the interest of preventing future troubles.)
Thanks to volunteers in the grassroots "9/11 Truth" movement, wise and dedicated researchers, and a growing number of whistleblowers, many millions in the U.S. and worldwide now know there is evidence that 9/11 was an "inside job"; an example of "false-flag," state-sponsored terrorism to provide a pretext for a premeditated war.* But in exposing this evidence, the 9/11 Truth effort is also shedding light on a significant story-within-the-story: that the World Trade Center (WTC) was obsolete and asbestos-laced, and that its destruction on 9/11 may, for certain interests in the U.S., have been both desirable and profitable--independent of any interest in war.
(Heresy, you say? Please read on.)
Thanks to the 9/11 Truth movement, millions worldwide know that the "independent" 9/11 Commission included key members with uncomfortably close ties to the current and former White House administrations, and that the Commission's official report obscures, twists, or even ignores many crucial facts and much of the known evidence.
Millions worldwide have learned that WTC Building 7's collapse was NOT due to fire; the owner of Building 7--a 47-story, steel-framed, late 1980s-era skyscraper which was NOT hit by an airplane on 9/11--personally stated in a 2002 Public Broadcasting System documentary that he ordered that Building 7 be "pulled" (i.e., demolished, via controlled demolition using explosive charges) on the afternoon of 9/11.  (The 9/11 Commission's report makes no mention of Building 7.) Millions worldwide are also convinced the World Trade Center's twin towers were intentionally destroyed (pulverized, actually) via controlled demolition; they did not "collapse" from the heat of burning jet fuel, which burns far too coolly to "melt" structural steel--not to mention steel coated with asbestos fireproofing.
(If you haven't seen the stunning video of the speedy, sudden, vertical demise-by-demolition of Building 7, you can view it right now, at http://wtc7.net )
But as more eyewitness and expert reports surface regarding the controlled demolition, reports are also revealing that the buildings--in particular, the twin towers--were functionally obsolete and plagued with problems, including asbestos-related problems which would have been extremely expensive to solve. And just a few months before 9/11 (and just weeks before transferring the WTC into privatized ownership), the Port Authority of New York lost its ten-year legal battle with insurers over the cost of needed asbestos-abatement work in the WTC.
It's becoming clear that the World Trade Center buildings were, in a word, "disposable."
It's also becoming clear that disposing of the World Trade Center may have been highly profitable for certain parties, separate and apart from the military/industrial/political profits being reaped in the so-called "War on Terrorism" which 9/11 made possible and which apparently will never end (perhaps because a "War on Terrorism" is, by definition, unwinnable).
(And it's totally clear that the "attack" on the Pentagon, by destroying a mostly unoccupied section of the building, hit the Pentagon where it was most "disposable.")
Here are the topics explored in the rest of this article:
> The World Trade Center: obsolete and plagued with problems
> A lengthy, pre-9/11 legal battle over the WTC's asbestos problems
> Cheney, Halliburton, the Bush family, and asbestos
> The WTC's change to private ownership--just weeks before 9/11
> Have private profits been realized in the wake of 9/11?
> How "controlled demolition" might have been orchestrated
> Was "9/11" actually orchestrated to MINIMIZE loss of life?
> The American public's growing awareness of a 9/11 coverup
> Final thoughts: on 9/11, the prospect of "another 9/11," FEMA, and Hurricane Katrina
> References cited
> Other resources: books, articles, video, and audio
> The Miami Herald's February 1, 2006 column on 9/11 questions
It's uncomfortable to think about these things. But the more we face discomfort and demand justice and accountability now, the better our chance of preventing future discomfort, future cover-ups, future losses of life, and a future of endless worldwide war.
* (If you're unfamiliar with the concept of "false-flag" terrorism, see Webster Tarpley's book listed below in Other Resources, in which Tarpley makes his case that "The orchestration of the terror attacks...was the handiwork of [a] rogue network inside the U.S. government, and not a product of an Afghan cave..." Also, read about Operation Northwoods in Tarpley's or Michael Ruppert's books, and read about GLADIO and the "strategy of tension" in Tarpley's book--or in Michael Parenti's 1997 book, "Blackshirts & Reds," from City Lights Books.)
THE WORLD TRADE CENTER: OBSOLETE AND PLAGUED WITH PROBLEMS
Those who thought the World Trade Center comprised some of New York's most desirable office space may have been mistaken.
In "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," author John Perkins reflects on a walk he took through lower Manhattan shortly after 9/11:
"I recalled reading that the World Trade Center was a project started by David Rockefeller in 1960, and that in recent years the complex had been considered an ALBATROSS. It had the reputation of being A FINANCIAL MISFIT, unsuited to modern fiber-optic and Internet technologies, and burdened with an inefficient and costly elevator system. Those two towers once had been nicknamed David and Nelson. Now the albatross was gone."  [with emphasis added]
More detail comes from Rowland Morgan and Ian Henshall in their new book, "9/11 Revealed":
"The WTC began in disaster, just as it ended. A grossly misconceived Soviet-style land-development catastrophe...[it] was OBSOLETE LONG BEFORE IT WAS FINISHED. ...The oversized...site destroyed swathes of human-scale streetscape...the towers...stole light from buildings all across Manhattan. Their exterior-frame structure maximized interior space while minimizing views and making office workers depressed [the windows were barely wider than the 16"-wide steel exterior columns]. Space-saving on elevators that involved two changes up and down made for lengthy journey times. ...It would take a full two hours to evacuate everybody in a fire."  [with emphasis added]
Morgan and Henshall go on to note that BY 2001, MUCH OF THE TOWERS' OFFICE SPACE WAS EMPTY. The towers were due for a "mid-life rehab," but building codes would have REQUIRED REMOVAL OF THE ASBESTOS FIREPROOFING lining the towers' ceilings and steel framework. According to Morgan and Henshall, "Such a job would have been unrealistically expensive and physically impractical, with no gain in [rental] revenues."  [with emphasis added]
(In spite of these problems, it's worth remembering that given the proximity of major airports, the towers were DESIGNED TO WITHSTAND THE CRASH OF A FULLY LOADED, FUEL-FILLED BOEING 707--a large, four-engine airliner. This has been reported in numerous books and articles.)
A LENGTHY, PRE-9/11 LEGAL BATTLE OVER THE WTC'S ASBESTOS PROBLEMS
The WTC's original owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had been concerned about asbestos-abatement issues for many years prior to 9/11.
According to Karl Schwarz  and other writers, the Port Authority in 1991 filed suit in U.S. District Court against insurers in the hope of recovering funds to help pay for needed asbestos-abatement work at the WTC and one of the region's airports. In the suit, "Port Authority of NY vs. Affiliated FM Insurance Co.," the Port Authority sought between 500 million and 1 billion dollars from the insurers.
Note that this suit was filed TWO YEARS BEFORE the first so-called "terrorist attack" on the WTC; the truck-bomb explosion in the Center's underground parking garage in 1993.
Schwarz reports that the U.S. District Court judge ruled against the Port Authority as of May 14, 2001.
Less than three months later, the Port Authority transferred ownership of the WTC buildings to private investors.
CHENEY, HALLIBURTON, THE BUSH FAMILY, AND ASBESTOS
Dick Cheney, Halliburton, Inc., and, reportedly, the Bush family are surprisingly well acquainted with asbestos-related concerns. 
On December 18, 2002, CBS News reported that Halliburton "has agreed to pay about $4 billion in cash and stock to settle hundreds of thousands of asbestos claims against it." Reportedly, Halliburton inherited its asbestos liability from Harbison-Walker, a unit of Halliburton's subsidiary Dresser Industries, and from Halliburton's Kellog Brown & Root subsidiary.
On December 13, 2001, the World Socialist Web Site reported that "During the 2000 election campaign critics noted that in the last several years Cheney and Halliburton had contributed $157,500 to congressional candidates who had co-sponsored legislation to cut off victims' rights to a fair recovery when injured or killed as a result of asbestos exposure."
And on August 11, 2002, The Olympian (from Olympia, WA), carried a Washington Post article noting that:
"Dresser had close ties to a family Cheney knew well: the Bushes. Cheney's boss while he served as Secretary of Defense, President George H.W. Bush, was once being groomed to run Dresser, a company that Bush's father and grandfather had reshaped decades earlier.
When Dresser went public in the 1920s, it turned to W.A. Harriman & Co., whose president was George Herbert Walker, grandfather and namesake to former president Bush. Prescott Bush, the former president's father, helped organize Dresser and select its new president, H. Neil Mallon. Prescott Bush eventually sat on the board and by 1941, still held 1,900 shares of Dresser stock. Mallon was so close to former president Bush that he described him in his autobiography as "surrogate uncle and father-confessor." One of his sons, Neil Mallon Bush, is named after him. After World War II, Mallon employed George H.W. Bush and Dresser executives expected him to take over the company, according to journalist Darwin Payne, who wrote a history of Dresser. Instead, the former president left to prospect for oil.
While Cheney saw sound business reasons for acquiring Dresser, there was a problem in its past - the use of asbestos in Harbison-Walker division products."
THE WTC'S CHANGE TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP--JUST WEEKS BEFORE 9/11
On July 24, 2001, private investors (Silverstein Properties, with minority partner Westfield America, Inc.) took control of the WTC under a 99-year lease.
In "Waking Up From Our Nightmare," Paul and Hoffman note that the WTC's estimated value at the time was 8 billion dollars. 
According to professor of economics Michel Chossudovsky, the lease called for payments to the Port Authority "amounting to 3.2 billion dollars in installments" payable over 99 years. With several hundred million dollars being provided by mortgage holders, Mr. Silverstein put just 14 million dollars of his own money into the deal. 
Quoting from a May 20, 2002 article in The New Yorker, Chossudovsky notes that "Explicity included in the [lease] agreement was that Silverstein and Westfield 'WERE GIVEN THE RIGHT TO REBUILD THE STRUCTURES IF THEY WERE DESTROYED.' "  [with emphasis added]
Paul and Hoffman add that "Quoting the British Financial Times of September 14, 2001, the American Reporter wrote that 'THE LEASE HAS AN ALL-IMPORTANT ESCAPE CLAUSE: IF THE BUILDINGS ARE STRUCK BY "AN ACT OF TERRORISM," THE NEW OWNERS' OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE LEASE ARE VOID. As a result, the new owners are not required to make any payments under their lease, but they will be able to collect on the loss of the buildings...destroyed and damaged in the attacks.' " (The American Reporter's article was titled "No Fraud, but Huge Profits Seen in World Trade Center Attacks.")  [with emphasis added]
It's also reported that Mr. Silverstein is "a large contributor to Democrat and Republican office-holders." 
HAVE PRIVATE PROFITS BEEN REALIZED IN THE WAKE OF 9/11?
Many writers have addressed this question--and the question of whether insurance companies (and courts) would regard the 9/11 events at the WTC as a single incident or would regard each "attack" on a WTC tower as a separate incident for insurance purposes.
Paul and Hoffman report that as of 2004, "Silverstein Properties [was] still contesting the amount of [insurance] pay-out due for destruction of the Twin Towers--$3.55 billion for one 'occurrence' or $7.1 billion for two 'occurrences.' " 
A March 28, 2006 "Reader Rant" posting at www.capitolhillblue.com offers the following update, quoting from press reports: "In late 2004, [Mr. Silverstein was] tentatively awarded $2.2 billion, double what insurance companies offered to pay him. (UPI, 12/6/04) A judge also [made] a ruling that keeps open the possibility [Silverstein] could eventually receive as much as $6.4 billion. (Associated Press, 12/7/04)." 
As for Building 7, Paul and Hoffman note that unlike the rest of the WTC, this building was originally developed by Silverstein Properties, and Silverstein Properties was its leaseholder as of 9/11. They write that "About $386 million had been invested in WTC7 before its destruction," and that Silverstein Properties and Building 7's mortgage holders "received a court-awarded amount of $861 million dollars from Industrial Risk Insurers in February 2002." 
HOW "CONTROLLED DEMOLITION' MIGHT HAVE BEEN ORCHESTRATED
If the WTC buildings were brought down using conventional demolition techniques, teams of demolition engineers or contractors would have required ample advance (pre-9/11) access to place explosive charges throughout the buildings' steel structures.
How could anyone have gained this access--and bypassed the buildings' security guards and systems?
One clue came from New York's Newsday on September 12, 2001: "The WTC was DESTROYED JUST DAYS AFTER A HEIGHTENED SECURITY ALERT WAS LIFTED AT THE LANDMARK 110-STORY TOWERS... The security detail had been working 12-hour shifts...because of numerous phone threats. But ON THURSDAY [September 6], BOMB-SNIFFING DOGS WERE ABRUPTLY REMOVED."  [with emphasis added]
Other reports stated that the WTC's south tower underwent a pre-announced (three weeks in advance) "power-down" on the weekend before 9/11, ostensibly for a cabling upgrade to improve the WTC's computer bandwith. With power off on floors 48-110, security cameras and electronic security locks on doors were inoperative, giving teams of "engineers" free access throughout at least the upper floors. (It also seems conceivable that vacant office space in either tower may have afforded an opportunity for demolition personnel--posing, perhaps, as remodeling contractors--to do preparatory tasks in the days or weeks before 9/11.)
Another report, quoting from the Utne Reader, noted that as of 9/11, Marvin Bush, brother of George W. Bush, was a "principal" with Securacom (aka Stratesec), the company "that provided security for the WTC, United Airlines, and Dulles International Airport."  Other reports identify Bush family relative Wirt Walker as a top executive of Securacom.
(Some 9/11 researchers and authors have addressed the possibility that the twin towers' demolition may have involved the use of non-conventional demolition techniques and/or sophisticated technologies that would be available only within the military/defense establishment. Certain news reports from Iraq and Afghanistan suggest that the U.S. military possesses high-tech weapon technologies that are highly destructive in an urban setting, but further discussion of this is beyond the scope of this article.)
WAS "9/11" ACTUALLY ORCHESTRATED TO MINIMIZE LOSS OF LIFE?
At least two books offer relevant insights:
From Morgan and Henshall:
"The presumed hijackers were bloodthirsty religious fanatics, but in this macabre sense the 9/11 events were spectacularly unsuccessful: about 54,000 people worked in the Twin Towers or were visiting during office hours, and fewer than 2,600 were killed or disappeared. At the Pentagon there were over 20,000 staff, of whom 125 were killed or reported missing. If the hijackers had flown into the World Trade Center an hour or two later, or crashed into the roof of the Pentagon, instead of into the reinforced wall of an almost unoccupied segment, they could have killed thousands more... For believers in the official [9/11] story, if they noticed it at all, this was chance. For many 9/11 skeptics it was an indication the attacks had somehow been engineered." 
And from Eliot Weinberger's remarkable little book, "9/12":
"Because the attack happened early in the morning, the nearly 3,000 people who died were generally of three types: first, poor people--most of them black, Hispanic, or recent immigrants--who worked as janitors, handymen, food deliverers, and so on, in the towers and the adjoining buildings; second, low-ranking white collar workers: the secretaries and junior managers who had to be in the office before the bosses arrived; and third, firemen, policemen, and other rescue workers. VERY FEW TITANS OF CAPITALISM OR PEOPLE IN POWER DIED THAT DAY."  [with emphasis added]
After elaborating on the Bush administration's use of 9/11 to advance an aggressive, premeditated military agenda, Weinberger concludes:
"For the White House Team, the hijacked planes were a blessing from the sky." 
Is it possible the events of 9/11 were designed to cause "only enough" deaths to mobilize the American people to support a war--and to win the sympathy and support of other nations?
The neoconservative Project For The New American Century's report "Rebuilding America's Defenses," published in September, 2000, suggests that Americans (and Congress?) would be reluctant to support a rapid, costly "transformation" of the military--to aggressively establish and enforce the neocon's planned global "Pax Americana"--in the absence of "some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor." And as of 2002, PNAC's website identified the lead author of this report, Thomas Donnelly, as a "top official" of military contractor Lockheed-Martin.
Is it merely a coincidence that the number of deaths on 9/11 was so close to the number who died in Pearl Harbor?
THE AMERICAN PUBLIC'S GROWING AWARENESS OF A 9/11 COVERUP
Even two years ago--before many of the most comprehensive "9/11 Truth" books, articles, and videos were available--polls indicated that most Americans suspected a government cover-up of key facts about 9/11.
In "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions," prominent theologian Dr. David Ray Griffin cites an April, 2004 CBS/New York Times poll in which "56% of the American public believed that the Bush administration was 'mostly telling the truth but hiding something' regarding its pre-9/11 foreknowledge, "while 16% believed that it was 'mostly lying.' " As Dr. Griffin notes, "This means that...AN ASTONISHING 72%...BELIEVED THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TO BE GUILTY OF A COVER-UP, AT LEAST TO SOME DEGREE, OF RELEVANT INFORMATION IT HAD PRIOR TO THE ATTACKS OF 9/11."  [with emphasis added]
Since April, 2004, much more information has become available, including most of the books and videos listed below and the many articles available at websites including:
In the past year, a growing number of scholars, former U.S. government officials and employees, New Yorkers (including firefighters) with firsthand knowledge, and, most recently, actor Charlie Sheen and (Lt. Col.) Dr. Robert M. Bowman--former head of the Star Wars missile defense program under Presidents Ford and Carter--have publicly stepped forward to expose lies and to demand truth and accountability.
Several hosts on Air America Radio are asking piercing questions about 9/11, host Mike Malloy has featured in-depth live interviews of 9/11 researchers Dr. David Ray Griffin and Michael Ruppert, and other media outlets--including some in the "mainstream"--are beginning to wake up and ask intelligent questions. [See the Miami Herald column at the end of this article.]
FINAL THOUGHTS: ON 9/11, THE PROSPECT OF "ANOTHER 9/11," FEMA, AND HURRICANE KATRINA
Three months after 9/11--on December 12, 2001--George W. Bush said this about his first year in office:
"But all in all, it's been a fabulous year for Laura and me." 
Since then, administration officials and others have suggested it's virtually certain that the United States will suffer another so-called "terrorist attack," one that may be far worse than the events of 9/11.
Considering what we now know, would it be merely coincidental if another "attack" also targeted and destroyed something that was already obsolete, problem-plagued, closed for remodeling (a la the Pentagon on 9/11), earmarked for "redevelopment," or otherwise "disposable"?
Would it be merely coincidental if another "attack" appeared to create vast opportunities for private profit?
What can we conclude in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina other than that certain government officials or agencies (or their private contractors) considered a large number of New Orleans residents to be "disposable"? Many questions need to be asked about FEMA's activities in New Orleans. Did FEMA "fail" to assist needy residents, or did it actually "succeed" by scattering tens of thousands of residents, branded as refugees, to some forty-one states and far from their homes, so their former neighborhoods could become profitable redevelopment projects?
What was FEMA's role on 9/11, given that FEMA HAD ON THE NIGHT BEFORE SEPTEMBER 11 SET UP OPERATIONS IN A NEW YORK PIER NOT FAR FROM THE WTC, in preparation for a "bioterrorism exercise" which was scheduled to take place on 9/11. Was it mere coincidence, then, that when Mayor Giuliani's fortified emergency command center (in WTC Building 7) was destroyed, the Mayor could use FEMA's nearby setup as his command center?
And what can we all do now to prevent any more "disposals," needless deaths, cover-ups, "FEMA failures," made-for-TV skyscraper demolition derbies, and immoral premeditated wars?
The references and resources below will help us find some answers.
 Don Paul and Jim Hoffman, "Waking Up From Our Nightmare: The 9/11/01 Crimes in New York City," 2004, page 19 (available via http://wtc7.net and www.wireonfire.com/donpaul)
 http://wtc7.net (also available elsewhere online)
 John Perkins, "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," 2004, page 194
 Rowland Morgan and Ian Henshall, "9/11 Revealed: The Unanswered Questions," 2005, pages 61-64
 Morgan and Henshall, op. cit., page 63
 Karl Schwarz, "PANY & NJ," February 7, 2006, at www.theperfectsystem.net/guest_articles/karlschwarz/ks_20706.htm
 CBS News, "Halliburton OKs $4B Asbestos Payment," December 18, 2002.
David Walsh, World Socialist Web Site, "US: shares of Cheney's former company hit hard," December 13, 200.
James V. Grimaldi, Washington Post, "Halliburton's quagmire becomes Cheney's liability: Purchase of rival mired company in asbestos woes," August 11, 2002 (available at Google's cache from The Olympian newspaper, at link to 18.104.22.168)
 Paul and Hoffman, op. cit., page 17
 Michel Chossudovsky, "Who Are the Financial Actors Behind the WTC?", March 12, 2004, at www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO403B.html [See also "The WTC Towers Collapse: An Enormous Insurance Scam" at www.globalresearch.ca/articles/WTC312A.html]
 link to readerrant.capitolhillblue.com
 Curtis L. Taylor and Sean Gardiner, "Heightened Security Alert Had Just Been Lifted," New York Newsday, September 12, 2001, www.NYnewsday.com
 Utne Reader article excerpts presented as "9/11 Security Courtesy of Marvin Bush" at www.whatreallyhappened.com/911security.html
 Morgan and Henshall, op. cit., page 13
 Eliot Weinberger, "9/12," 2003, pages 65-67 (info at www.prickly-paradigm.com)
 Dr. David Ray Griffin, "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions," 2005, page 3
 Mark Crispin Miller, "The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder," 2002 paperback edition, page 349
> OTHER RESOURCES: BOOKS, ARTICLES, VIDEO and AUDIO
BOOK: Webster G. Tarpley, "9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA," 2004 (info at www.tarpley.net)
BOOK: Dr. David Ray Griffin, "The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11," 2003
BOOK: Michael Ruppert, "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil," 2004
BOOK: Jim Marrs, "Inside Job: Unmasking the 9/11 Conspiracies," 2003
ARTICLE: (Re: Lt. Col. Robert Bowman) Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones, "Former Head Of Star Wars Program Says Cheney Main 9/11 Suspect: Official version of events a conspiracy theory, says drills were cover for attacks," at link to www.prisonplanet.com
ARTICLE: Dr. David Ray Griffin, "The 9/11 Commission Report: A 571-Page Lie," at www.911truth.org
ARTICLE: Dr. David Ray Griffin, "The Destruction of the World Trade Center: Why the Official Account Cannot Be True," at www.globalresearch.ca
ARTICLE: Dr. David Ray Griffin, "9/11: Possible Motives Of The Bush Administration," at www.globalresearch.ca
VIDEO: "The Great Conspiracy" (info at www.oilempire.us/movies.html)
LOTS OF AUDIO (at no charge): www.takingaim.info (click on "Archive"; see also the many links at www.911truth.org)
(And don't forget www.911truth.org, , http://911research.wtc7.net, www.globalresearch.ca, www.arcticbeacon.com, www.prisonplanet.com, and www.fromthewilderness.com)
> THE MIAMI HERALD'S FEBRUARY 1, 2006 COLUMN ON 9/11 QUESTIONS
(Originally published on Wednesday, February 1, 2006 by the Miami Herald; presented here as posted at http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0201-28.htm)
"9/11 Attacks: Avoiding the Hard Questions"
by Robert Steinback
I was 8 years old when President John Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas in 1963. If grace favors me, I'll be 62 when documents related to the assassination are released to the public, and 84 when the Warren Commission's investigative files into the tragedy are finally opened.
That's a long time to wait for a chance to evaluate the purported truth.
It's a blot on the presumed sophistication of the people of the United States that any aspect of an event so dramatic and shocking should be kept from us. Perhaps it's true, to abuse the line from A Few Good Men yet again, that we can't handle the truth. But there cannot be genuine resolution as long as such critical information remains concealed.
Transformed by 9/11
Since Kennedy's assassination, Americans have lurched between demanding to know and plugging their ears: The Pentagon Papers, My Lai, the King assassination, Watergate, Iran-contra, the savings-and-loan debacle, Monicagate. Lately, however, it would seem the public's verdict is in: Don't tell us. Keep us in the dark. We don't want to know.
This is the worst possible time for probe-ophobia to grip us. Our nation was irretrievably transformed by 9/11 - and yet there remain troubling questions about what really happened before, during and after that day. Rather than demanding a full and fearless vetting to hone in on the truth and silence the conjecture about 9/11, many Americans remain unwilling to peer into the microscope.
An online cottage industry of theorists, theory debunkers and debunker debunkers has flourished since 9/11. Sometimes the flimsy theories are easy to spot - come on, if the four passenger jets didn't crash where it appears they did, where did they go? More often, though, the cases aren't so obvious.
A group of experts and academicians 'devoted to applying the principles of scientific reasoning to the available evidence, `letting the chips fall where they may,' '' last week accused the government of covering up evidence that the three destroyed New York City buildings were brought down that day by controlled demolition rather than structural failure. The group, called Scholars for 9/11 Truth, has a website, www.st911.org.
The reflexive first reaction is incredulity - how, one asks, could anyone even contemplate, never mind actually do such a barbaric thing? But before you shut your mind, check the resum豠- these aren't Generation X geeks subsisting on potato chips and PlayStation. Then look at the case they present.
''I am a professional philosopher who has spent 35 years teaching logic, critical thinking and scientific reasoning,'' group co-founder and University of Minnesota professor James H. Fetzer told me. ``When I come to 9/11, it's not hard for me to determine what is going on. This is a scientific question. And it is so elementary that I don't think you can find a single physicist who could disagree with the idea that this was a controlled demolition.''
The group asks, for example,
• How did a fire fed by jet fuel, which at most burns at 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, cause the collapse of the Twin Towers, built of steel that melts at 2,800 degrees? (Most experts agree that the impact of airliners, made mostly of lightweight aluminum, should not have been enough alone to cause structural failure.) How could a single planeload of burning jet fuel - most of which flared off in the initial fireball - cause the South World Trade Center tower to collapse in just 56 minutes?
• Why did building WTC-7 fall, though no aircraft struck it? Fire alone had never before caused a steel skyscraper to collapse.
• Why did all three buildings collapse largely into their own footprints - in the style of a controlled demolition?
• Why did no U.S. military jet intercept the wayward aircraft?
• Why has there been no investigation of BBC reports that five of the alleged 9/11 hijackers were alive and accounted for after the event?
Our current probe-ophobia is due in part to the political landscape: When one party holds all the cards, any call to investigate an alleged abuse of power or cover-up - no matter how valid - will look like a partisan vendetta. Those in power never want to investigate themselves.
Maybe that's politics; he who holds the hammer drives the nails. But the outrage of 9/11 transcends party affiliation.
We need all the outstanding questions answered - wherever the chips may fall.