Interview with Mike Williams of 9/11 Myths


 

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Release date: November 27, 2007

 

First of all, could you briefly introduce yourself. 

I’m Mike Williams.  I worked as a software engineer for many years, but didn’t have much luck in my choice of employer: both were successful, but bought out by competitors and closed down!  I’d started doing freelance writing a year or two before my second redundancy, so decided to see if I could make a living at that, instead.  I’m not always as disciplined or as good at time management as I should be, but I don’t miss the commuting or the pointless business meetings, and overall it’s been a good decision. 

 

What’s your motivation for running 911myths? 

There’s no single reason for doing this.  It’s a real mix of things. I suppose it starts with the blindingly obvious: 9/11 was important.  It’s had worldwide consequences.  And so when I see people making false claims about what happened, distorting the truth, editing quotes, occasionally just making things up, then I think it’s important to speak out.

 

I also see very little critical thinking around 9/11, and am trying to point out that it doesn’t have to be that way.  The site isn’t saying you should rule out any particular source, just don’t believe them without question.  Look instead at the detail, spot the unsourced and unsupported claims, follow up references and links on the others to check that they’re representing them properly.  (And that includes my site just as much as anyone else.)  It’s easy, and the results can be very informative. 

 

Sometimes I’m also motivated by anger: if I get a run of emails spewing abusive nonsense then that can act as an incentive to show how wrong those individuals are.  I’m not proud of that, but hey, I’m only human. 

 

This isn’t just about what others are saying, though.  Although I began by pointing out claims that are dubious or entirely false, now I’m also interested in uncovering details for myself, for example by FOIA requests.  It can be slow and frustrating, and maybe will never get anywhere at all, but the process does occasionally turn up interesting documents so it has to be worth a try. 

 

 

9/11 Myths

 

You have said it all (the debunking) started on a message board, where someone was saying the WTC collapsed through demolition, and quoted the story of Kim White as partial evidence. Was this the first time you encountered a 9/11 conspiracy theory, and when did you open the site 911myths.com? 

That was my first encounter with the “inside job” theory, yes, I think back in 2003.  At the time I was surprised, but discovered that some of the evidence they’d put forward didn’t stand up, and posted a reply saying why.  I naively thought that might be helpful!  But of course it was ignored.  I carried on debating there and on other forums for maybe 18 months, but eventually realised I was seeing the same pattern happen over, and over, and over again: debunked points were never acknowledged, just dropped for a while, only to be reintroduced a month or two later, presumably in the hope no-one would notice.  I was achieving nothing at all, and so decided to drop the regular, lengthy debates. 

 

My 18 months had been productive ones, though, and I’d amassed plenty of useful notes and links.  It seemed to me I’d achieve more by putting them on a web site, so I registered 911myths.com back in January 2005, began adding pages, and by the summer was getting a good flow of visitors. 

 

 

You have recently opened a new site, which will eventually replace the old site. Could you talk about the main differences between the old and new sites, and is there going to be much additional material in the new site one can't find from the old site? 

The old site had some serious problems. I decided on the navigation categories in about 30 seconds when building the first pages, for instance.  There was no great thought behind it.  But they weren’t always clear and didn’t cover everything, which made it difficult to find some information.  Especially as there was no Search function. 

 

The variable nature of the content was another issue.  As I mentioned above, the original pages were mostly just responses I’d given to 9/11 issues that were commonly raised on the forums I frequented.  This didn’t mean they were common elsewhere, though.  And while some of the sections were lengthy, detailed and useful, I felt others were limited and extremely basic. 

 

I lived with all this for a while, but eventually decided things had to change, and hopefully the new site will improve things in several ways.

 

It’s going to be much easier to find your way around, for instance, and you’ll be able to access information from a variety of different directions.  So if you wondering who really did appear on the 9/11 plane manifests, then you can go to any of the hijackers pages, or the section for a specific flight, or the page covering all the flights, or the specific page addressing the claim that the hijackers weren’t listed.  And if you still can’t find something, at least there’s now a Search tool to help track it down. 

 

The content should also improve, as I take the chance to rewrite pages, or group common pages to make a more substantial or clearer argument. 

 

There will also be plenty of new material, though initially a large part of this will be about collecting together existing evidence.  And this is all about making that evidence more apparent: timelines, videos, photos and so on.  Anyone who visits the page for Waleed al-Shehri, say, can find a clip from his video will, a picture from a separate al-Qaeda video, an interview with his father, and his name on a Flight 11 passenger list.  They won’t have to read a specific page on why the hijackers most probably aren’t “still alive” to learn this – they can discover it for themselves.

 

That’s the idea, anyway.  The complication is I’m still learning how the underlying MediaWiki software works, and figuring out the best way to present all this information.  But I’m hoping to have the new site fully up and running, with all worthwhile content transferred by next Spring, so we’ll see how it looks then. 

 

 

What about the future. Do you have any unfinished projects in the making, other than the new site? Some FOIA requests perhaps? 

The new site is consuming all the free time I can throw at it, but there are a few things going on in the background.  Most I don’t want to talk about, just to avoid them being sabotaged, but I do have several outstanding FOIA requests.  The most interesting two, if they came off, ought to shed a little more light on Norman Mineta’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission: but as ever with FOIA requests, don’t hold your breath.  When I contacted the SEC recently to see why they hadn’t acknowledged an FOIA email, I found it was because they were so busy trying to clear 2005 requests, and they have a relatively light workload…  If a document hasn’t already been cleared for release (as the NTSB did with their reports) then obtaining it can take what seems like forever.   

 

 

Have you ever thought of opening a site or section that would discuss conspiracy theories other than 9/11? 

I did wonder about that initially, but really have no time to take on anything else.

 

 

Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories 

 

There have been less and less new conspiracy claims, while the old ones keep getting recycled. However, once in a while we still see a new claim that raises some interest. How do you approach the new claims you haven't heard before, what methods do you use? 

There’s no magic technique, and I expect I do exactly the same as everyone else.  So, for example, I’ll start by checking see if the evidence really matches up with the headline.  Just because they’ve used very large print to say “Thermite found on WTC steel”, for instance, doesn’t actually mean it’s true.

 

Sometimes the evidence looks like it supports the claim, but only because it’s been edited or taken out of context.  So it pays to follow links, read footnotes, and see if there’s something you’re not being told.

 

Occasionally there are big stories about “new” witnesses to something, who turn out not to be so new after all.  As you say, these are recycled just like everyone else, so I’ll check how their new story compares to the old, and whether it’s mysteriously got better with age. 

 

From time to time I’ll try contacting people directly to see if they can verify some details.  I often won’t get any reply, though, presumably either because they don’t want to get involved, or they’re drowning in emails from several hundred other people who’ve had the same idea. 

 

 

If a newcomer asked you to briefly present the strongest arguments against certain 9/11 conspiracy theories, what would they be in the following cases? 

a) WTC 1 & 2 demolition 

If someone asked me that then I’d say there is no shortcut, no magic-bullet, killer argument against any particular theory.  However, if they persisted then I’d say you can always just ask: “why”?  Why bother demolishing the towers?  The usual explanation that it was necessary for “psychological impact”, as though the deaths of hundreds and the threat of more attacks wasn’t enough, is frankly absurd.  And the idea that this would somehow good news for the Port Authority because the towers were asbestos-ridden “white elephants” is no better. 

 

An alternative approach might be to point out how many of the supposed WTC signs of “controlled demolition” are really nothing of the kind.  So, for instance, we’re told the towers collapsed at virtually free-fall speeds (they didn’t, and that’s not a characteristic of controlled demolition anyway); almost all the concrete was pulverised to fine dust (unproven, and not a characteristic of controlled demolition); the collapses produced molten steel (not a characteristic of controlled demolition).  See more in gumboot’s excellent post at http://forums.randi.org/showpost.php?p=2680508&postcount=37 

 

b) WTC 7 demolition 

Again, “why?” proves to be a small but powerful word.  “To destroy evidence”? Please…One short argument against is the absence of any sound of explosives, along with the lack of windows breaking until after the collapse process has begun. Although, as I said, I don’t think individual arguments help here, you really need to address more than that.

 

c) Something other than flight 77 hit the Pentagon 

Why use anything else? The combination of witness testimony, wreckage and DNA evidence makes for a powerful argument, I think. 

 

d) Flight 93 did not crash at Shanksville 

Then why say it did? The wreckage, phone calls, witness testimony, recovered personal effects all say otherwise. 

 

e) NORAD Stand-down 

I would point out the Payne Stewart intercept time of over 70 minutes, and the pre-9/11 confirmation that NORAD only had 14 fighters on alert at one time, none of which were at Andrews Air Force Base.   

 

It’s also worth mentioning how misleading quotes about a speedy response can be.  In particular, David Ray Griffin uses a quote about NORAD intercept time after 9/11 to imply that’s how it should have worked on the day itself, and his quote of a “10 or so minute” intercept turns out to be taken from the documentation for a PC air traffic control simulation game (http://911myths.com/html/intercepts__norad_and_the_faa.html).  If the case were strong, then why is it necessary to be quite so deceptive? 

 

f) The US government must be somehow involved, it must. Al Qaida couldn't have done it all by themselves. 

They were intelligent, with University-educated leaders, strongly motivated, and with enough funding to give them the time they needed to carry out the attacks.  And although I’ve read quotes saying how they couldn’t pull off such a “sophisticated” operation, it’s never really seemed that advanced to me.  Train four pilots, come up with a plan for entering the cockpit, pick four targets, book seats on planes flying long-distance that leave at around the same time: it doesn’t seem to me any of that is beyond their capabilities, or required special assistance to complete. 

 

 

The MIHOP (the U.S. government Made It Happen On Purpose) aspect of the 9/11 conspiracy theories has been pretty thoroughly debunked. I have noticed that some MIHOP people are beginning to lean more and more towards the LIHOP (the U.S. government Let It Happen On Purpose) scenario. I've received requests wanting more attention to the LIHOP side. Do you think the debunkers should start giving more attention to the LIHOP theories, and do you think there is enough material out there to address all these LIHOP claims? 

 

I think describing LIHOP in a little more detail will help. 

As in the official story, hijackers were dispatched by "al-Qaeda" (the Bin Laden-inspired cell networks) to carry out the 9/11 plan. However, Bush & Co. and/or other elements within the U.S. government, secret services or establishment knew about the attacks in advance and worked to ensure they would happen, with the intent of exploiting a New Pearl Harbor. This insider help may have included protection of the alleged hijackers, obstruction of FBI investigations, a standdown of air defense, an intentional leadership AWOL during the attacks, and possible construction of other excuses for inaction, such as "we were only holding a wargame and it was subverted by evildoers." This is the minimum position of Michael Ruppert, David Ray Griffin, and the mainstream of the 9/11 truth movement.

http://summeroftruth.org/lihopmihopnohop.html 

 

There are elements of this that are already commonly addressed, like the supposed “stand down”, the war games, and the need for a “New Pearl Harbor” in the first place.  But how is any private individual going to prove or disprove the claim of “obstruction of FBI investigations”?  The 9/11 Commission tell us that the Phoenix Memo, warning about al-Qaeda-linked students being sent to civil aviation universities and colleges, wasn’t forwarded to FBI managers or the CIA, for instance.  Does this show obstruction?  Suppose it could be proved that it had been received by a manager, and he’d done nothing about it, then covered the fact up post the attacks.  Does this show obstruction, or an effort to protect the hijackers?  Or could it be someone just covering up his own failure?  And how would I (or anyone else, really) distinguish between the two?  I’m really not sure. 

 

None of this means it isn’t worth looking into the issues, of course.  It’s certainly more interesting than reading yet again that Wirt Walker III was a “Bush cousin” who “was in charge of WTC security on 9/11”, and the more people who put their mind to this, the more information we’re likely to get.  I just don’t think there’s ever going to be a definitive answer.

 

 

9/11 conspiracy theories vs. debunking. How, in your opinion, has the conspiracy theory/debunking scene evolved in the last couple of years and where do you see them a couple of years further down the road? 

The “inside job” scene has got much noisier, I think.  Back in 2003 there were relatively few “big names”, now there are plenty, all trying to carve out their own territory.  In part this is because there are more people listening, but also I think it’s a lot to do with online video and the Internet in general: YouTube and faster connections means it’s much easier to get your message out.  Of course this also means they have to compete over theories, specialise in one area, outdo everyone else in another.  Ideas have tended to become more bizarre, and there’s plenty of infighting as people call each other “disinfo” or an “agent”.

 

What you’re calling the “debunking scene” has also seen significant growth.  I believe 911myths.com was the only active site dedicated to the topic when I opened it in 2005 (although a few older sites and blogs did have pages addressing some issues), but now there are plenty of others, several of whom probably get more attention, and that’s just fine with me.  My approach isn’t going to appeal to everyone, so it’s great that there are blogs, and videos, and short summaries of the arguments, just to help fill in the gaps.

 

What happens next?  Presumably we’re going to see truther actions ramped up as they try to make something happen before Bush leaves office.  That will fail, be followed by angry recriminations, then a tailing off of active support in the year after the 2008 elections.  The decline might be arrested for a while, if new information can be uncovered, but otherwise I see both sides of the argument getting tired, archiving their web sites and moving on.

 

 

What books and/or films would you recommend on the topic of 9/11? 

  • The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright is packed with interesting background material 
  • Masterminds of Terror by Yosri Fouda and Nick Fielding covers al Qaeda admitting to the attacks in 2002.
  • Among the Heroes by Jere Longman still has more detail on the experiences of Flight 93 families than anyone else
  • 102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn is packed with the stories of those who survived the collapse of the WTC (and some who did not) 
  • Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden and The Osama bin Laden I Know are a couple of useful bin Laden books by Peter Bergen 
  • Perfect Soldiers by Terry McDermott has plenty of original research on the hijackers 
  • And of course Popular Mechanics “Debunking 9/11 Myths” has to be worth a look, despite having a title that always makes me look twice.

 

Thanks for the interview, Mike!