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  • John Farmer's "The Ground Truth": A Deeply Flawed Book
    John Farmer's "The Ground Truth": A Deeply Flawed Book

    By:David R. Griffin

    Although John Farmer's "The Ground Truth" has attracted a lot of favorable attention, it is a deeply flawed book, containing misleading claims and providing an extremely one-sided account of 9/11.

    Much of the attention received by the book has been prompted by misleading claims made by Farmer and his publisher. The book's dust-jacket calls it the "definitive account" of 9/11, but it actually deals almost entirely with only one question about that day: why the airliners were not intercepted.

    Also, the book's subtitle calls it "the untold story" of 9/11 and its dust-jacket says that it "breathtakingly revises" our understanding of that day. In reality, however, it simply provides new support for the story told about the planes in "The 9/11 Commission Report," which appeared in 2004, and in two publications that appeared in 2006: Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton's book "Without Precedent," and Michael Bronner's essay in "Vanity Fair."

    Most provocatively, Farmer presents his book as a rejection of the "official" account of 9/11, which was given by "the government," by which he means primarily the FAA and the Pentagon. But this rhetoric is misleading for three reasons.

    First, Farmer's book is a defense of the 9/11 Commission's report, which he calls "accurate, and true" (2), and the Commission was itself a governmental body: its chairman, Thomas Kean, was appointed by Bush; the other members were appointed by Congress; and the executive director, Philip Zelikow, was essentially a member of the Bush White House.

    Second, the "official account of 9/11," as generally understood, is the Bush-Cheney administration's conspiracy theory, according to which the 9/11 attacks resulted from a conspiracy between Osama bin Laden and some members of al-Qaeda, and Farmer supports this theory.

    Third, in rejecting the "official version," Farmer is referring only to the first version of the official account. It was replaced in 2004 by the 9/11 Commission's version, which since then has been the official version of the official account. In spite of his rhetoric, therefore, Farmer is defending the official account of 9/11 produced by the government in 2004, so the book is far less radical than it has been promoted as being.

    Even more serious than the book's misleading rhetoric is its one-sidedness. Rather than containing an impartial examination of various types of relevant evidence, this book by Farmer - a former prosecuting attorney - reads like a lawyer's brief: Besides citing a large number of facts that appear to support the Bush-Cheney conspiracy theory and trying to undermine some of the contrary evidence (which supports the alternative theory, according to which 9/11 was an inside job), it seeks to suppress, by simply ignoring, the enormous bulk of this contrary evidence.

    This one-sided approach is acceptable within an adversarial law court, given the presence of an opposing lawyer, but it does not result in a book that is acceptable by scholarly standards.

    The one-sidedness of Farmer's book is manifest in his endnotes, which include no reference to any writings aimed at exposing serious problems with the 9/11 Commission: Besides not referring to any of my own books, one of which is entitled "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions," Farmer does not even mention "The Commission" by former New York Times writer Philip Shenon - who pointed out, among other things, that Zelikow had secretly written a detailed outline of the Commission's report before his research staff had even begun its work.

    This bibliographic one-sidedness is important because it is reflected in substantive one-sidedness, one form of which is the ignoring of a great number of relevant facts. I will mention 15.

    1. Claiming that the military did not have information about AA 77 in time to prevent it from striking the Pentagon, Farmer strongly attacks the claim (in the first version of the official account) that the FAA had notified the military about this flight at 9:24 AM. In doing so, he ignores a memo - even though it was discussed and read into the Commission's record in May 2003 - that was sent by the FAA's Laura Brown, explaining that 9:24 was only the time of the "formal notification" - that the FAA had set up phone bridges with the Pentagon and that "real-time information . . . about . . . Flight 77 . . . was conveyed continuously during the phone bridges before the formal notification" (Griffin, "The New Pearl Harbor Revisited" [NPHR] Chs. 1 & 2).

    2. Simply assuming that Osama bin Laden authorized the 9/11 attacks, Farmer fails to mention that the FBI has admitted that "no hard evidence" supports this assumption (Griffin, "9/11 Contradictions" [9/11Contra] Ch. 18).

    3. While mentioning that some of the alleged hijackers spent time in Las Vegas (62), Farmer fails to point out that, while there and in other places, they drank, went to strip clubs, and did other things that contradicted the Commission's portrayal of them as devout Muslims ready to die for their faith (9/11Contra Ch. 15).

    4. Farmer calls Hani Hanjour, who allegedly flew AA 77 (a Boeing 757) through an extremely difficult trajectory to crash into the Pentagon, a "trained pilot" (45), failing to mention the much-documented fact that Hanjour could not even safely fly a single-engine plane (9/11Contra Ch. 19).

    5. While claiming that "American 77 crashed into the Pentagon at a speed of 530 miles per hour" (186), Farmer does not point out that, according to the official seismic report, no station, including one only 63 km away, recorded the impact. He also fails to mention that many witnesses at the scene, both inside and outside, reported seeing no crashed airliner (NPHR Ch. 2).

    6. Claiming that the alleged hijackers purchased tickets and boarded planes (62, 106), Farmer fails to mention that none of their names - indeed, no Arab names whatsoever - were on the passenger manifests of the flights released by the airlines or on the Pentagon autopsy report (NPHR Ch. 6).

    7. Repeating the Commission's claim that Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al Omari took an early morning flight from Portland (Maine) to Boston to catch American Flight 11 (103-05), Farmer does not point out that this story was a late invention, created after authorities learned that Adnan and Ameer Bukhari, originally said to have taken that flight, had not died on 9/11 (9/11Contra Ch. 16).

    8. Writing as if the alleged phone calls from the airliners actually happened, Farmer does not point out that, after originally supporting the view that many of the reported calls were made on cell phones, the FBI in 2004 - after members of the 9/11 Truth Movement showed that cell phone calls from high-altitude airliners would have been impossible - quietly withdrew its support for such calls. The FBI thereby contradicted, among others, Deena Burnett, who was positive that she had been called by her husband, Tom Burnett (whom Farmer mentions), because she recognized his cell phone number on her Caller ID (9/11Contra Ch. 17).

    9. Farmer repeats the claim, supported in 2004 by "The 9/11 Commission Report," that CNN commentator Barbara Olson had twice called from AA 77 to talk to her husband, Solicitor General Ted Olson (163, 166). But Farmer fails to point out that in 2006, after members of the 9/11 Truth Movement had reported that American's 757s did not have onboard phones, the FBI - in its report for the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui (the so-called 20th hijacker) - said that Barbara Olson's (one) attempted call did not go through and therefore lasted "0 seconds" (9/11Contra Ch. 8).

    10. Farmer endorses the claim that the hijackers had box-cutters (161, 163), not mentioning the fact that this claim had been made only in the reported calls from Barbara Olson, which the FBI now says never happened (9/11Contra Ch 8).

    11. While repeating the Commission's claim that al-Qaeda hijackers finally succeeded in breaking into UA 93's cockpit 30 seconds after they started trying (189), Farmer fails to ask why, in all that time, the pilots did not use the transponder to squawk the hijack code - a procedure that takes about 2 seconds (NPHR Ch. 6).

    12. While claiming, like the Commission, that "Vice President Cheney learned that the Pentagon had been hit while he was in the tunnel under the White House leading to the shelter" (207), Farmer does not point out that Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told the Commission that Cheney had been in the shelter (the Presidential Emergency Operations Center) at least since 9:20 AM, hence about 40 minutes before the reported time of the Pentagon attack - an observation that was supported by other witnesses, including counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke (9/11Contra Ch. 2).

    13. While acknowledging that Richard Clarke's account of his White House videoconference contradicts the 9/11 Commission's claims about the whereabouts of not only Cheney but also Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, Farmer simply asserts that Clarke's account "does not square in any significant respect with what occurred that morning" (184), failing to point out that the question of who told the truth could be cleared up simply by looking at the videotape.

    14. Suggesting that the Twin Towers came down because each one was "fragile at its core" (28), Farmer implicitly denies the fact that each tower was supported by 47 massive core columns and ignores the question of why several scientific studies, including one by the US Geological Survey, showed that the dust at Ground Zero contained various elements that, unless explosives had been used to bring down the buildings, should not have been there (Griffin, "The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7," Ch. 4).

    15. Although Farmer's entire case for the 9/11 Commission's version of the official account, which involves his accusing a remarkable number of people of lying, rests entirely on logs and audiotapes not examined by the Commission until several years after 9/11, he fails to consider reasons that have been provided for believing that these tapes and logs had been doctored (NPHR Chs 1-3, 10).

    There would be much more to say in a complete review, but the above points suffice to suggest that Farmer's book is deeply flawed, providing an account that is far from the "ground truth" about 9/11.
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