[This book review has not been published elsewhere, but is instead being published directly to Dwight Murphey’s collected writings website in August 2013.]
The 9/11 Toronto Report: International Hearings on the Events of September 11, 2001
James Gourley, editor
International Center for 9/11 Studies, 2013
There are a number of pivotal events and personalities about which a thick crust of disinformation prevails, obscuring our understanding of the history of our time. It is improbable that anything even remotely resembling the complete truth will ever come out about them. This is a predicament with the most profound implications.
One of these is the events of September 11, 2001. Much that has happened in world affairs since that date has been justified or brought into play because of its trauma. As time goes by, it may continue to be the turning point of the twenty-first century, just as World War I arguably was for the twentieth.
Since that fateful day more than a decade ago, an official account has held by far the dominant position, reinforced by government, the major media, and a trusting and unquestioning public. This sets forth a conspiracy theory centered around nineteen airplane hijackers affiliated with al-Qaeda. What is less well known is that there has been a substantial number of highly intelligent and (almost without exception) objectively-minded observers, many of them with advanced technical training and experience, who have found the conventional account impossible to believe. Only a few of them presume to have an alternative explanation of what really happened, but what they do believe is that a monstrous falsehood, with all its damaging consequences, has been cemented in place.
This review cannot undertake, of course, to present the case for their skepticism, although we will necessarily touch on some of its elements in discussing this book. The details of their analysis can easily be found on the Internet, where a search for “9/11 Truth” will lead to a remarkable collection of information and analysis accumulated by such groups as “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth,” “Scientists for 9/11 Truth,” “Fire Fighters for 9/11 Truth,” “Pilots for 9/11 Truth,” and “Scholars for 9/11 Truth.” It isn’t too much to say that no one should presume to have a fixed opinion about what happened on 9/11 without seriously studying that material.
The attacks’ tenth anniversary in 2011 offered an occasion for a large gathering of the skeptics at Ryerson University in Toronto to hold what they called “International Hearings on the Events of September 11, 2001” and to issue the Report that is the subject of this review. The charge they gave to the Hearings was to “bring to light the most substantial evidence… demonstrating that there is the need for a new, independent and international investigation….” A number of “witnesses” (really analysts and commentators) presented varied aspects of the material. We won’t list them all, but it is worth noting that their credentials are of the sort to command attention: a professional engineer with 28 years of experience; a retired chemistry professor who was “lead author of the peer-reviewed scientific paper titled ‘Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 WTC Catastrophe’”; a “former scientist at Underwriter Laboratories… fired by UL in 2004 for publicly asking questions about the WTC investigation being conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology”; more than one professor of economics; former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel; -- and others of like standing.
Four impressive individuals served as a panel of “jurors” who provide evaluations at the end of the Report. These were Ferdinando Imposimato, a jurist who is the Honorary President of the Supreme Court of Italy and who has presided over major terrorism or Mafia-related cases such as the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II; Herbert Jenkins, a psychology professor emeritus at McMaster University; Richard B. Lee, an anthropology professor emeritus at the University of Toronto; and David Johnson, a professor emeritus of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Tennessee. Each of these has a record of scholarly achievement recounted in the Report but which we will pass over here. The bulk of the Report consists of 14 chapters containing, respectively, the contributions of the Hearings’ participants.
The Report assembles an impressive amount of information, but those who planned the Toronto event knew that it would have been much more valuable intellectually if it had been able to provide a venue for a direct clash of opposing points of view. To lay out the skeptics’ evidence and analysis, then to see how that would be confuted by experts defending the official account, and then to have them cross-examine each other until each point reached its conclusion, would be a priceless give-and-take on a matter of enormous importance. However, this was not to be. The editor of the Report, James Gourley, writes that “NIST [the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which conducted investigations of the collapse of the three WTC buildings] and the 9/11 Commission members had been invited several times to participate in the Hearings, but they declined to do so.”
This give-and-take can take place, of course, outside a conference such as that in Toronto. It’s possible that those who declined to present support for the official account of 9/11 thought they would be “walking into a lion’s den,” and had no inclination to take on what they might have anticipated was a hostile environment. If so, one would hope they would provide their refutation in convincing detail in separate books, articles, governmental reports, or other media. One of the things that makes the skepticism about 9/11 compelling is that this refutation has never been given. It needs to be, because simply to ignore the skeptics’ case is untenable. The reason it is untenable is that the case amasses evidence on a number of points that build a strong prima facie case that the official account is false. Popular Mechanics magazine is one source that has ventured a refutation, but our review of its book found that it rather obviously fails to come to grips with the issues.
It is, of course, incumbent primarily upon the U.S. federal government to make a coherent and credible accounting. This has not occurred, and there has been little inclination in Congress and in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations to remove the grounds for doubt. From the very beginning, there was considerable reluctance to investigate at all. We are told that Vice President Cheney opposed an inquiry, that initially only $3 million was allocated to the 9/11 Commission (as compared to $50 million for the earlier investigation of the Challenger explosion), and that Henry Kissinger was appointed chairman of the Commission but resigned when asked if he had “any Saudi clients by the name of bin Laden.” The Commission report that eventually emerged ignored vitally important evidence, as witness that “the Commission did not even mention the fact that World Trade Center 7 [a 47-story skyscraper], which was not hit by a plane, also collapsed….” The NIST did address the WTC7 issue, but based its analysis entirely on a computer model, without any physical testing, and ignored the eyewitness accounts of explosions in that and the other two WTC buildings. The computer model is subject to serious question, since it “does not match what is seen in WTC7 collapse videos.” In an attempt to resolve these difficulties, “structural engineer Ron Brookman made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to NIST in 2009 asking for the calculations and analysis… NIST’s official response was that release of that information might jeopardize public safety.” (NIST didn’t deal with the Pentagon attack, where there was a parallel situation; the Hearings say there were witnesses to, and other proof of, explosions at the Pentagon both before and after the building was hit.) The Toronto Hearings are replete with other accounts of on-going obfuscation and of the destruction or disappearance of evidence.
Readers will find far more in the 9/11 Toronto Report than we have been able to include here. For those new to the subject, it is one of the good places to start. There are, however, shortcomings that keep it from being the perfect source, so that a better place to start, say, may be with David Ray Griffin’s book Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory. The editors of the Journal of 9/11 Studies have a link for “Beginners” on the Journal’s home page, and a list of recommended sources appears there for people who are just starting to study the subject.
Here are limitations, and some problems, we see:
Even though the “charge” given to the Hearings was to “bring to light the most substantial evidence,” the various presentations are not evidence-centered per se, but are rather summary statements of the factual issues that the evidence, when examined in detail, pertains to. For example, we have seen that the Report says there were many eyewitness accounts of explosions in the buildings, pointing to planned demolition. It would take a book in itself to publish the interviews that give those accounts, and so it is too much to expect them to be in the Report. Readers should know that the primary evidence underlying the issues raised in the Report is to be found elsewhere in the now-vast 9/11 literature, including the peer-reviewed articles in the journal just referred to.
The scholarly objectivity of most of the contributors should have a broad appeal to thoughtful people of any ideological persuasion. Certainly there is as much reason for “conservatives” or others who are not on the left to care about the truth as for others to do so. Most of those participating in the Hearings are fully acceptable from that standpoint. The “9/11 Truth” movement was ill-served, then, when a couple of the “witnesses” at the Hearings presented a distinctly leftist perspective, dressed in all the trappings of social science (or we might more accurately say “pseudo-social science”). Their ideology appeared in a number of ways, such as in a highly selective list of “abuses” of democracy (leaving out many that someone on the Left would be inclined not to see) and in insupportable imputations against individuals who are standard villains in the Left’s worldview. Readers who are not “of the Left” will be turned away by such a bias. This is unfortunate for the diverse people who care about the search for truth about 9/11.
Although there is an occasional mention of the Obama administration, the existence of a “cover-up” by the George W. Bush administration is often mentioned. Now that Barack Obama has been president of the United States for five years without his administration overturning the obfuscations and silence, however, one would think there would be growing anger at that fact. Its lack is, again, unfortunate, since political double standards weaken rather than strengthen the ability of the movement to attract support.
To hold out persistently against a dominant consensus, as the “9/11 Truthers” have, in a world where most people prefer to “go along to get along,” speaks well for the character of those who have pressed the issue. Diligence, personal courage, analytical skill, mental independence and refusal to toe the mark of received opinion – all of these have been a part of it. It is important for us to point these out because there is a major remaining criticism: that the Hearings rather conspicuously avoided all mention of certain evidence that points to the possible involvement of the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad. Any complete survey of the evidence must include a consideration of the events surrounding what is known as “the five dancing Israelis.” The involvement of the Mossad is suggested not just by that episode, but by the fact that a collaboration between the United States and Israeli governments would be a compelling explanation for how so much secrecy has been able to be maintained and for why no one in the participating elements has been willing to come forward as a “whistleblower” over all these years. The decades-long suppression of facts about the 1967 Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty illustrates how totally fearful Americans are when it comes to speaking up in any way critical of so powerful an element. That fear might well be paralyzing for anyone who would face the powers behind 9/11. We don’t know whether the Mossad was involved in 9/11 or not, and shouldn’t be taken as asserting that it was; but it does seem clear that those who seek the truth should not indulge any taboo, no matter how powerful, that places potentially important evidence off limits.
The participants in the Hearings, and others among the 9/11 skeptics, sound a hopeful note when they call for a “new, independent and international investigation.” They are not, for the most part, prepared to assert and prove “what really happened,” so what they are left with, if they are optimists, is the hope for a definitive inquiry that will dispel the fog and will command the ascent of most all thoughtful people. Underneath their optimism, however, there must be a nagging suspicion that “it’s not going to happen.” If that suspicion is correct, and we think it is, what the “Truthers” are left with is to do more of what they have been doing all along: to continue to amass evidence and analysis, and to get more and more people to think about it. It is only if and when that succeeds that the “tipping point” will be reached at which “full disclosure” takes the place of cover-up in official circles.
Dwight D. Murphey
 One of the more important implications has to do with which just how much true “democracy” there is if the voting public lives behind a veil of ignorance.
 In referring to world affairs, we are thinking of the more obvious outward events politically and militarily, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war against terror,” and the growth of the “security state” in the United States. Those who are mindful, however, of Leo Tolstoy’s principal message in War and Peace, that there are great subterranean movements that make the outward events pale in importance, will realize that such things as cybernetics, the global market, the seismic shifts in populations, the on-rush of technology, and perhaps much else are also historically definitive factors.
 “WTC” stands for the “World Trade Center” in New York City. Although many people don’t know it, there were three WTC skyscrapers that collapsed on 9/11, not just the two that were hit by airplanes.
 See our review on www.dwightmurphey-collectedwritings.info, where it appears as BR121 (i.e., book review 121). It is a combined review of three books on the 9/11 controversy: The Popular Mechanics book, a David Ray Griffin book responding to Popular Mechanics, and the NIST "Final Report" on the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7. It was published in the Winter 2008 issue of this Journal, pp. 506-512, under the title "9/11 Theories: A Triple Book Review.".
 Pro’s and con’s on this issue can be found by Googling “five dancing Israelis.”
 See our review of James Scott’s The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Attack on a U.S. Spy Ship, which appears as BR135 (i.e. book review 135) on www.dwightmurphey-collectedwritings.info