Last fall, Brigham Young University physics professor Steven E. Jones made headlines when he charged that the World Trade Center collapsed because of "pre-positioned explosives." Now, along with a group that calls itself "Scholars for 9/11 Truth," he's upping the ante.
"We believe that senior government officials have covered up crucial facts about what really happened on 9/11," the group says in a statement released Friday announcing its formation. "We believe these events may have been orchestrated by the administration in order to manipulate the American people into supporting policies at home and abroad."
Headed by Jones and Jim Fetzer, University of Minnesota Duluth distinguished McKnight professor of philosophy, the group is made up of 50 academicians and others.
They include Robert M. Bowman, former director of the U.S. "Star Wars" space defense program, and Morgan Reynolds, former chief economist for the Department of Labor in President George W. Bush's first term. Most of the members are less well-known.
The group's Web site (www.ST911.org) includes an updated version of Jones's paper about the collapse of the Twin Towers and a paper by Fetzer that looks at conspiracy theories. The government's version of the events of 9/11 that the plane's hijackers were tied to Osama bin Laden is its own conspiracy theory, says Fetzer, who has studied the John F. Kennedy assassination since 1992.
"Did the Bush administration know in advance about the impending attacks that occurred on 9/11, and allow these to happen, to provoke pre-planned wars against Afghanistan and Iraq? These questions demand immediate answers," charges a paper written collectively by Scholars for 9/11 Truth. The group plans to write more papers, and present lectures and conferences.
"We have very limited resources and no subpoena powers," Fetzer said. "What you have is a bunch of serious scholars taking a look at this and discovering it didn't add up. We don't have a political ax to grind."
Fetzer has doctorates in the history and philosophy of science. "One of the roles I can play here," he said, "is to explain why a certain line of argument is correct or not."
In his original message to potential members last month, Fetzer warned that joining the group might make them the subject of government surveillance and might get them on various lists of "potential terrorists."The group's charges include:
Members of the Bush administration knew in advance that the 9/11 attacks would happen but did nothing to stop them.
No Air Force or Air National Guard jets were sent to "scramble" the hijacked planes, which were clearly deviating from their flight plans, although jet fighters had been deployed for scramblings 67 times in the year prior to 9/11. The procedure for issuing orders for scrambling was changed in June 2001, requiring that approval could only come from the Secretary of Defense, but Donald Rumsfeld was not alerted soon enough on 9/11, according to Scholars group.
The video of Osama bin Laden found by American troops in Afghanistan in December 2001, in which bin Laden says he orchestrated the attacks, is not bin Laden. The Scholars for 9/11 Truth compared the video with a photo of the "real" bin Laden and argue that there are discrepancies in the ratio of nose-length to nose-width, as well as distance from tip-of-nose to ear lobe.
The Scholars group hopes that media outlets around the world will ask experts in their areas to examine the group's findings and assertions. If this were done, they argue, "one of the great hoaxes of history would stand naked before the eyes of the world."
The group also asks for an investigation of the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings, following up on points made in Jones's paper, "Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?" That paper, recently updated, has been posted on Jones's BYU Web site since last November.
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