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9/11 Villains Appear Before Tribunal


GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — Five Guantanamo prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attacks returned before a military tribunal Monday, forgoing the protest that turned their last appearance into an unruly 13-hour spectacle.

But the apparent cooperation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has said he masterminded the worst terror attack on U.S. soil, and four codefendants did little to speed up proceedings that have stuck in a legal and political morass for years.

Prosecutors and lawyers spent hours arguing the most preliminary of issues, including whether the defendants have to be in court at all, with one attorney saying the hearings may dredge up bad memories of their harsh treatment in CIA detention.

“Our clients may believe that … I don’t want to be subjected to this procedure that transports me here, brings up memories, brings up emotions of things that happened to me,” said Jim Harrington, who represents Ramzi Binalshibh, accused of helping to provide support to the hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.

The five men sat quietly at the defense tables under the watchful eyes of military guards and several 9/11 family members at the U.S. base in Cuba. Mohammed, his beard dyed a rust color with henna, serenely read legal papers. Two others responded politely to the judge when asked.

All seemed to cooperate with their attorneys in a specially designed high-tech courtroom that allows the government to muffle sounds so spectators behind a glass wall cannot hear classified information.

The orderly scene was in stark contrast to their arraignment in May on charges that include terrorism and murder. At that session, one prisoner was briefly restrained for acting out, Binalshibh launched into an incoherent rant, the men generally ignored the judge and refused to use the court translation system, and two stood up to pray at one point.

Harrington told the court that the defendants may want to boycott future court sessions because they don’t recognize the U.S. government’s authority, or because their transportation from their high-security cells may remind them of the harsh treatment they endured when confined in the CIA’s overseas network of secret prisons before they came to Guantanamo in September 2006.

Prosecutors want the men to be required to attend court sessions. The military judge, Army Col. James Pohl, is weighing several options, including allowing them to skip months of pretrial sessions but requiring their presence at the trial. He had not ruled on the issue before the court adjourned Monday for lunch and a prayer break.

Pohl is presiding over a weeklong hearing to consider about two dozen preliminary legal issues. An eventual trial is likely at least a year away.

The focus of the week’s hearings include broad security rules for the prisoners, including measures to prevent the accused from publicly revealing what happened to them in the CIA prisons.

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Washington Post – World Trade Center is back on top in NYC as it breaks above Empire State Building


By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, April 30, 4:29 PM

NEW YORK — One World Trade Center, the monolith being built to replace the twin towers destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, claimed the title of New York City’s tallest skyscraper on Monday, as workers erected steel columns that made its unfinished skeleton a little over 1,250 feet high, just enough to peek over the roof of the observation deck on the Empire State Building.

The milestone is a preliminary one. Workers are still adding floors to the building once called the Freedom Tower. It isn’t expected to reach its full height for at least another year, at which point it is likely to be declared the tallest building in the U.S., and third tallest in the world.

Those bragging rights, though, will carry an asterisk.

Crowning the world’s tallest buildings is a little like picking the heavyweight champion in boxing. There is often disagreement about who deserves the belt.

In this case, the issue involves the 408-foot-tall needle that will sit on the tower’s roof.

Count it, and the World Trade Center is back on top. Otherwise, it will have to settle for No. 2, after the Willis Tower in Chicago.

“Height is complicated,” said Nathaniel Hollister, a spokesman for The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats, a Chicago-based organization considered an authority on such records.

Experts and architects have long disagreed about where to stop measuring super-tall buildings outfitted with masts, spires and antennas that extend far above the roof.

Consider the case of the Empire State Building: Measured from the sidewalk to the tip of its needle-like antenna, the granddaddy of all skyscrapers actually stands 1,454 feet high, well above the mark reached by One World Trade Center on Monday.

Purists, though, say antennas shouldn’t count when determining building height.

An antenna, they say, is more like furniture than a piece of architecture. Like a chair sitting on a rooftop, an antenna can be attached or removed. The Empire State Building didn’t even get its distinctive antenna until 1952. The record books, as the argument goes, shouldn’t change every time someone installs a new satellite dish.

Excluding the antenna brings the Empire State Building’s total height to 1,250 feet. That was still high enough to make the skyscraper the world’s tallest from 1931 until 1972.

From that height, the Empire State seems to tower over the second tallest completed building in New York, the Bank of America Tower.

Yet, in many record books, the two skyscrapers are separated by just 50 feet.

That’s because the tall, thin mast on top of the Bank of America building isn’t an antenna but a decorative spire.

Unlike antennas, record-keepers like spires. It’s a tradition that harkens back to a time when the tallest buildings in many European cities were cathedrals. Groups like the Council on Tall Buildings, and Emporis, a building data provider in Germany, both count spires when measuring the total height of a building, even if that spire happens to look exactly like an antenna.

This quirk in the record books has benefited buildings like Chicago’s recently opened Trump International Hotel and Tower. It is routinely listed as being between 119 to 139 feet taller than the Empire State Building, thanks to the antenna-like mast that sits on its roof, even though the average person, looking at the two buildings side by side, would probably judge the New York skyscraper to be taller.

The same factors apply to measuring the height of One World Trade Center.

Designs call for the tower’s roof to stand at 1,368 feet — the same height as the north tower of the original World Trade Center. The building’s roof will be topped with a 408-foot, cable-stayed mast, making the total height of the structure a symbolic 1,776 feet.

So is that needle an antenna or a spire?

“Not sure,” wrote Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the building.

The needle will, indeed, function as a broadcast antenna. It is described on the Port Authority’s website as an antenna. On the other hand, the structure will have more meat to it than your average antenna, with external cladding encasing the broadcast mast.

Without that spire, One World Trade Center would still be smaller than the Willis Tower in Chicago, formerly known as the Sears Tower, which tops out at 1,451 feet (not including its own antennas).

Debate over which of those buildings can truly claim to be the tallest in the U.S. has been raging for years on Internet message boards frequented by skyscraper enthusiasts.

As for the Council on Tall Buildings, it is leaning toward giving One World Trade the benefit of the doubt.

“This is something we have discussed with the architect,” Hollister said. “As we understand it, the needle is an architectural spire which happens to enclose an antenna. We would thus count it as part of the architectural height.”

But, he noted, the organization has also chosen to sidestep these types of disputes, somewhat, by recognizing three types of height records: tallest occupied floor, architectural top and height to the tip.

Hollister also pointed out that, technically speaking, One World Trade Center isn’t a record-holder in any category yet, as it is still unfinished.

“A project is not considered a building until it is topped out, fully clad, and open for business or at least occupiable,” he said.

The debate doesn’t quite end there.

Neither the Willis Tower nor One World Trade are as high as the CN Tower, in Toronto, which stands at 1,815 feet. That structure, however, isn’t considered a building at all by most record-keepers, because it is predominantly a television broadcast antenna and observation platform with very little interior space. The tallest manmade structure in the Western Hemisphere will continue to be the 2,063-foot-tall KVLY-TV antenna in Blanchard, N.D.

As for the world’s tallest building, the undisputed champion is the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, which opened in 2010 and reaches 2,717 feet.

Not counting about 5 feet of aircraft lights and other equipment perched on top, of course.

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A Great Rebuke for the Truther Crowd

A 9/11 conspiracy virus is sweeping the world, but it has no basis in fact

George Monbiot

There is a virus sweeping the world. It infects opponents of the Bush government, sucks their brains out through their eyes and turns them into gibbering idiots. First cultivated in a laboratory in the US, the strain reached these shores a few months ago. In the past fortnight, it has become an epidemic. Scarcely a day now passes without someone possessed by this sickness, eyes rolling, lips flecked with foam, trying to infect me.

The disease is called Loose Change. It is a film made by three young men that airs most of the standard conspiracy theories about the attacks of September 11 2001. Unlike the other 9/11 conspiracy films, Loose Change is sharp and swift, with a thumping soundtrack, slick graphics and a calm and authoritative voiceover. Its makers claim that it has now been watched by 100 million people.

The Pentagon, the film maintains, was not hit by a commercial airliner. There was “no discernible trace” of a plane found in the wreckage, and the entrance and exit holes in the building were far too small. It was hit by a cruise missile. The twin towers were brought down by means of “a carefully planned controlled demolition”. You can see the small puffs of smoke caused by explosives just below the cascading sections. All other hypotheses are implausible: the fire was not hot enough to melt steel and the towers fell too quickly. Building 7 was destroyed by the same means a few hours later.

Flight 93 did not crash, but was redirected to Cleveland airport, where the passengers were taken into a Nasa building and never seen again. Their voices had been cloned by the Los Alamos laboratories and used to make fake calls to their relatives. The footage of Osama bin Laden, claiming responsibility for the attacks, was faked. The US government carried out this great crime for four reasons: to help Larry Silverstein, who leased the towers, to collect his insurance money; to assist insider traders betting on falling airline stocks; to steal the gold in the basement; and to grant George Bush new executive powers, so that he could carry out his plans for world domination.

Even if you have seen or read no other accounts of 9/11, and your brain has not yet been liquidised, a few problems must occur to you. The first is the complete absence of scientific advice. At one point, the presenter asks: “So what brought down the twin towers? Let’s ask the experts.” But they don’t ask the experts. The film-makers take some old quotes, edit them to remove any contradictions, then denounce all subsequent retractions as further evidence of conspiracy.

The only people they interview are a janitor, a group of firemen, and a flight instructor. They let the janitor speak at length, but cut the firemen off in mid-sentence. The flight instructor speaks in short clips, which give the impression that his pupil, the hijacker Hani Hanjour, was incapable of hitting the Pentagon. Elsewhere he has said the opposite: he had “no doubt” that Hanjour could have done it.

Where are the structural engineers, the materials scientists, the specialists in ballistics, explosives or fire? The film-makers now say that the third edition of the film will be fact-checked by an expert, but he turns out to be “a theology professor”. They don’t name him, but I would bet that it’s David Ray Griffin, who also happens to be the high priest of the 9/11 conspiracists.

The next evident flaw is that the plot they propose must have involved tens of thousands of people. It could not have been executed without the help of demolition experts, the security firms guarding the World Trade Centre, Mayor Giuliani (who hastily disposed of the remains), much of the US air force, the Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defence Command, the relatives of the people “killed” in the plane crashes, the rest of the Pentagon’s staff, the Los Alamos laboratories, the FBI, the CIA, and the investigators who picked through the rubble.

If there is one universal American characteristic, it is a confessional culture that permits no one with a good story to keep his mouth shut. People appear on the Jerry Springer Show to admit to carnal relations with their tractors. Yet none of the participants in this monumental crime has sought to blow the whistle – before, during or after the attacks. No one has volunteered to tell the greatest story ever told.

Read some conflicting accounts, and Loose Change’s case crumbles faster than the twin towers. Hundreds of people saw a plane hit the Pentagon. Because it collided with one of the world’s best-defended buildings at full speed, the plane was pulverised – even so, plane parts and body parts were in fact recovered. The wings and tail disintegrated when they hit the wall, which is why the holes weren’t bigger.

The failure of the twin towers has been exhaustively documented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Far from being impossible, the collapse turns out to have been inevitable. The planes cut some of the support columns and ignited fires sufficient to weaken (but not melt) the remaining steel structures. As the perimeter columns buckled, the weight of the collapsing top stories generated a momentum the rest of the building could not arrest. Puffs of smoke were blown out of the structure by compression as the building fell.

Counterpunch, the radical leftwing magazine, commissioned its own expert – an aerospace and mechanical engineer – to test the official findings. He shows that the institute must have been right. He also demonstrates how Building 7 collapsed. Burning debris falling from the twin towers ruptured the oil pipes feeding its emergency generators. The reduction in pressure triggered the automatic pumping system, which poured thousands of gallons of diesel on to the fire. The support trusses weakened and buckled, and the building imploded. Popular Mechanics magazine polled 300 experts and came to the same conclusions.

So the critics – even Counterpunch – are labelled co-conspirators, and the plot expands until it comes to involve a substantial part of the world’s population. There is no reasoning with this madness. People believe Loose Change because it proposes a closed world: comprehensible, controllable, small. Despite the great evil that runs it, it is more companionable than the chaos that really governs our lives, a world without destination or purpose. This neat story draws campaigners away from real issues – global warming, the Iraq war, nuclear weapons, privatisation, inequality – while permanently wrecking their credibility. Bush did capitalise on the attacks, and he did follow a pre-existing agenda, spelt out, as Loose Change says, by the Project for the New American Century. But by drowning this truth in an ocean of nonsense, the conspiracists ensure that it can never again be taken seriously.

The film’s greatest flaw is this: the men who made it are still alive. If the US government is running an all-knowing, all-encompassing conspiracy, why did it not snuff them out long ago? There is only one possible explanation. They are in fact agents of the Bush regime, employed to distract people from its real abuses of power. This, if you are inclined to believe such stories, is surely a more plausible theory than the one proposed in Loose Change.


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The Sarasota 9/11 Probe

The agency has not been able to show that it disclosed any information about the investigation to a congressional committee that looked into the terrorist attacks. The FBI investigated possible links between a Saudi family in Sarasota and some of the 9/11

 By Dan Christensen


In September, news about a previously unknown FBI investigation into possible ties between 9/11 hijackers and a Saudi family living near Sarasota led the agency to deny there was any connection and assert that it made all of its files available to congressional investigators a decade ago.

But two months later, the FBI has been unable or unwilling to substantiate that it disclosed any information regarding its Sarasota investigation to Congress, says former Florida U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired Congress’s bipartisan joint inquiry into the terrorist attacks.

“My suspicion is that either, one, the documents don’t exist; two, that if they do exist they can’t find them; or three, they did find them and they did not substantiate the statements that they’ve made and that they are withholding them,” said Graham. He has long contended the FBI stonewalled Congress about what it knows about possible Saudi support for the 9/11 hijackers.

The FBI investigation began shortly after 9/11 when residents of the gated community of Prestancia, south of Sarasota, called to report the abrupt departure from their luxury home of a Saudi family about two weeks before four passenger jets originating in Boston, Newark and Washington were hijacked. The family left for Saudi Arabia, leaving behind cars, clothes in the closet and a refrigerator full of food.

Neighbors said agents searched the house and hauled away bags of belongings. But the most important information came when the FBI examined gatehouse security logs and photographs of license plates, according to then-homeowner’s association administrator Larry Berberich and a counterterrorism agent involved in the investigation.

They said the security records revealed that the home was visited by vehicles used by 9/11 terrorist leader Mohamed Atta and fellow hijacker-pilot Ziad Jarrah. Atta piloted the first plane to strike the World Trade Center. Jarrah was at the controls when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa.

The counterterrorism agent, who asked that his name not be disclosed, said an analysis of phone records found additional links between the residence and other hijackers and terrorist suspects, including Adnan Shukrijumah, a former Miramar resident who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

FBI agents in Tampa and Miami issued separate statements denying that any connection existed between the family and the terrorists.

Graham, a Democrat, has said that he and other members and staff of the joint inquiry were not made aware of the Sarasota investigation by the FBI.

Graham asked the FBI in September to provide him with file numbers about the Sarasota inquiry and the dates those records were provided to congressional investigators, so the records could be located. At one point, Graham said, FBI agents produced 10 file numbers. But intelligence committee personnel deter mined “there was no information in any of the 10 files that was relevant” to the Sarasota investigation, he said.

After failing to meet several subsequent self-imposed deadlines, Graham said, “The FBI asked [that] instead of finding the documents could they brief us instead. I said, ‘No, that would not be acceptable.’”

The FBI has turned down a recent Freedom of Information request The Herald and Broward Bulldog that sought agency records about agents’ findings in Sarasota, saying release of the records would be an invasion of the family’s privacy.

The Saudis who lived in the Prestancia home at 4224 Escondito Circle were Abdulaziz A. Al-Hijji, his wife, Anoud, and their small children. The home was owned by Anoud’s parents, Esam and Deborah Ghazzawi.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/10/2496033/graham-still-no-fbi-records-on.html#ixzz1dKl5XqMt

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Mehanna Called Twin Towers “Legitimate Targets”

A witness in the trial of Tarek Mehanna, the young man from Sudbury accused of supporting terrorists, testified today that Mehanna told him that the World Trade Center towers destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks were “legitimate targets.”

Ali, a young friend of Mehanna, testified, under a grant of immunity, about Internet chats he had in 2006 with Mehanna.

He said Mehanna had praised Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks, and called the hijackers who crashed planes into the building “martyrs.”

Mehanna also said, according to Ali, that the Twin Towers were “legitimate targets because they symbolized the infrastructure of the United States.”

Ali said he was with Mehanna on a trip to Ground Zero in late 2005, or early 2006, when they took a picture in a celebratory pose, with fingers pointing up.

He said the finger pointing up was a sign of faith. “It was something the mujahideen were famous for,” he said.

Ali also said the two would watch videos “to see what was going on over there. To strengthen our faith, sort of. … There was an element to try and gain inspiration from these videos.”

Mehanna, an Egyptian-American with a degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy who was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Sudbury, faces charges that include conspiring to support a terror organization, providing support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, and lying to a federal agent. He faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.

Prosecutors say that after unsuccessfully trying to enlist as a terrorist, Mehanna decided to become the “media wing” of Al Qaeda in Iraq, distributing materials he hoped would incite violence via the Internet.

Defense attorneys say Mehanna was neither a member of Al Qaeda nor a terrorist. He was an American citizen who was critical of US foreign policy and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and simply exercising his constitutional right to free speech.

By Milton J. Valencia and Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

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Christopher Hitchens on Al Qaeda and the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 (Slate)

Simply Evil

By Christopher HitchensUpdated Monday, Sept. 5, 2011

The proper task of the “public intellectual” might be conceived as the responsibility to introduce complexity into the argument: the reminder that things are very infrequently as simple as they can be made to seem. But what I learned in a highly indelible manner from the events and arguments of September 2001 was this: Never, ever ignore the obvious either. To the government and most of the people of the United States, it seemed that the country on 9/11 had been attacked in a particularly odious way (air piracy used to maximize civilian casualties) by a particularly odious group (a secretive and homicidal gang: part multinational corporation, part crime family) that was sworn to a medieval cult of death, a racist hatred of Jews, a religious frenzy against Hindus, Christians, Shia Muslims, and “unbelievers,” and the restoration of a long-vanished and despotic empire. (MORE HERE on SLATE.COM)

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My Latest Piece from the Huffington Post

Extreme Heroism

September 11, 2001, is a day marked by extremes. It is hard to imagine a better example of religious extremism than the actions of the 19 maniacs who took control of the four doomed aircrafts. The devastation they rendered was extreme both in terms of loss of life and property. These were the makings of America’s saddest hour. But the heroism of so many on that day also provides us with examples of the extreme good that man can do.

There are countless stories of firemen climbing dozens of flights of stairs towards the fiery unknown, certain only of their duty. There are the co-workers who refused to flee the inferno without first stopping to try to help their colleagues out of the towers. And then there’s the bravery of the passengers from United Airways Flight 93, strangers who banded together to rush the cockpit, thereby — in all likelihood — saving either the Capitol Building or the White House.

Ten years on, one can still learn about uncommon courage by reading the stories of those who perished on 9/11. The story of Jose J. Morrero is particularly moving.

Jose served as facilities manager and fire warden for EuroBrokers in South Tower of the World Trade Center. Most office workers are familiar with the role of the company’s fire safety officer. Typically, it’s a collateral duty assigned to a facilities or security employee or the rare soul who volunteers for this under-appreciated role. He conducts the fire drills, updates evacuation routes, and ensures that visual and audible alarms are working — the sort of thing most people ignore and few take as seriously as they should.

EuroBrokers was located on the 84th floor, and on 9/11, United Airways Flight 175 struck that tower below that floor and created an abyss that extended all the way down to about the 78th floor. Of course, this was no ordinary fire. Nevertheless, Jose jumped into action. Taking his role as coordinator of evacuation literally, he helped one of his fellow EuroBrokers’ employees down the one remaining functioning staircase to safety. This sort of selflessness was nothing new to Jose. He was there at the World Trade Center in 1993 when Islamic fanatics tried to topple the towers the first time. “In the bombing of ’93 he did the same exact thing,” his wife Jodi told the New York Times. “He helped right until the end.”

On 9/11, Jose was just 32 years old. He had a young wife at home, and three beautiful children. He had just saved a co-worker from having to make the decision that so many others above the impact zone had made that day: jump or burn. In less than an hour, the South Tower would collapse, killing everything around it.

Jose could have walked away from the scene a hero. But he didn’t. Instead, he heard over his radio that someone else at EuroBrokers needed help evacuating. So back into the building he went, passing co-workers and others leaving the building. Back up 84 stories’ worth of stairs to save another person’s life.

This time, Jose wouldn’t make it back out. This time, the evil wrought by the 19 zealots screaming “Allahu Akbar” would claim Jose’s life. But his shining example of courage, self-sacrifice, and resolute sense of duty lives on, even a decade later. And nothing the hijackers did can ever erase that.

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Lest we forget…


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