NYT: Judge in 9/11 Suits Feels No Regret That None Ever Went to Trial


After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, scores of victims’ family members decided to pursue lawsuits in federal court, bypassing a dedicated compensation fund in order to seek not only millions of dollars in damages, but also answers and accountability.

Many had wanted to compel a public soul-searching, and to have the airlines and others reveal in court how their policies and actions might have allowed 19 armed hijackers to pass through airport security, board planes and carry out the attacks.

The families had amassed a trove of internal documents and depositions. But none of the material was ever aired before a jury: Each of the 96 victims’ cases filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan was settled confidentially under the direction of Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, who oversaw all the cases.

Although that meant there would be no Sept. 11 civil trial, Judge Hellerstein, in his first public interviews about the wrongful death cases and settlements, said that he had no regrets over the outcome.

Settlements had become more important for the plaintiffs than “getting information and promoting accountability of airlines,” he said.

“They decided they’d take money rather than get information,” Judge Hellerstein said. “And it’s a debatable question,” he added, “if a trial would have produced greater accountability of the airlines.”

The judge acknowledged the criticism of those who sought to place the aviation industry on trial; one family accused him of trying to squelch a trial so that the truth about the attacks would never be made public. And he also acknowledged that by not holding a trial, there was a “loss of information” to the public.

“But it pales in my mind,” he said, “with the fact that the people who were suing for money got their money.”

It is rare for a sitting judge to discuss his cases, perhaps even more so when they carry the significance and emotional import of the Sept. 11 attacks. But after the last of the 96 wrongful death and injury lawsuits was settled in 2011, Judge Hellerstein agreed to a series of interviews with The New York Times about his handling of the cases. He spoke in two interviews a few years ago and a third on Sept. 2 in his chambers.

In the interviews, he said that he had been ready to hold a trial if the plaintiffs had ultimately wanted one, but he remained skeptical they “would get their accounting in the end,” nor was he certain they would win.

“There was great risk in these cases,” he said, adding that he encouraged families to apply to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for a quicker recovery.

The vast majority of victims’ families did just that, receiving money through the fund that wound up paying more than $7 billion.

Other suits related to the Sept. 11 attacks were filed, including by ground zero workers citing health injuries and other plaintiffs claiming property damages. All went before Judge Hellerstein; only one, a property damage case, remains unsettled.

The judge, 82, a Bronx native, was nominated to the bench in 1998 by President Bill Clinton, after a career spent mostly in private practice.

Like so many people, Judge Hellerstein was personally acquainted with victims of the attacks. As a lawyer, he had represented the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 of its almost 1,000 employees in New York when the World Trade Center’s north tower was hit. He had worked closely with several Cantor executives and eaten in the company’s dining room.

Some months later, the first Sept. 11 lawsuit was filed, and was randomly assigned to Judge Hellerstein. Other related lawsuits came in, and were sent to the judge, including one from Cantor.

“I was reading the affidavits,” he recalled. “I had to stop reading because they were people I knew.” He said he alerted the lawyers; none asked for his recusal. (Cantor eventually settled for $135 million.)

Judge Hellerstein has long believed that courts were not the best venue for civil litigants to seek answers. In a 2004 hearing, for example, he said lawsuits were “not good tools for investigation.”

Kenneth R. Feinberg, the lawyer who administered the special victim fund, said that Judge Hellerstein “knew from the very beginning that the cases had to settle — and he got there.”

“The idea of a trial made very little sense,” Mr. Feinberg said, adding that he met with families who sued. “I told them, ‘If you’re going to trial to find out what happened, you are wasting your time. A courtroom is not where you will get answers.’”

Not everyone has agreed with that position.

The family of Mark Bavis, a 31-year-old hockey scout who was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center, had long resolved to push for a trial; a settlement, Mr. Bavis’s twin brother, Michael, said in 2010, “has not been in our vocabulary.”

A year later, a trial seemed near. But in a late ruling, Judge Hellerstein shifted the focus of the case in a way that the plaintiffs believed favored the defendants, United and a security firm that ran the checkpoint at Logan International Airport in Boston, where Mr. Bavis had boarded the plane.

The plaintiffs, in a 2011 brief, argued that the airline had a history of security breakdowns and of not heeding warnings from a company executive about inadequate staffing and training; that many screeners on duty on Sept. 11 could not speak English; and that some had never heard of Al Qaeda or knew what Mace was.

United and the security firm argued that they could not be found liable for not stopping an attack that “the entire federal government was unable to predict, plan against or prevent.”

The Bavis family settled, but also issued a blistering statement, saying the judge had “essentially gutted the case so that the truth about what led to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, would never be told at trial.”

“We put ourselves through great strain to try to do what we considered the right thing,” Michael Bavis said, “and eventually threw the towel in.”

Donald A. Migliori, a lawyer whose firm, Motley Rice, of Mount Pleasant, S.C., represented the Bavises and more than 50 other wrongful death and injury plaintiffs, said the judge was “absolutely wrong” about the litigation’s value, especially because other investigations focused largely on government failures.

The plaintiffs used “the legal system to gather real information about what happened at those checkpoints,” Mr. Migliori said. “We obtained it; we just couldn’t tell the public the whole story.”

The settlements were for undisclosed amounts that were coupled with broad secrecy orders that cloaked the discovery materials that the plaintiffs obtained.

Owen Fiss, a professor emeritus at Yale Law School, who has written critically about settlements, said he understood why the Sept. 11 plaintiffs might have felt they had to settle their cases.

“But let’s not celebrate it as an occasion of justice being done,” he said. “It’s not the notoriety that they were seeking. The discovery of what the airlines did and failed to do was a precondition to seeing that the airlines were being held accountable.”

Thane Rosenbaum, a legal scholar at New York University’s School of Law, said, “This was a case that was screaming for a larger sense of moral relief: How did this happen?”

Mike Low, whose daughter Sara Low, 28, was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to strike the World Trade Center, had long been vocal about wanting to “find some answers,” as he said in 2007. The Lows settled in 2010.

“There was so little accountability or justice,” Mr. Low said. “As a father, my daughter was murdered. It still hurts me today that I couldn’t achieve that.”

At his request, the Motley law firm has donated public court documents from the case to the National September 11 Memorial Museum in Sara Low’s memory. Mr. Low said he hoped someday the museum could receive a full archive of discovery materials from the litigation.

As the litigation progressed, Judge Hellerstein said that he met with individual families, often accompanied by Sheila L. Birnbaum, a lawyer he had appointed as a mediator. They would gather in his robing room, where he listened and commiserated with the family members as they expressed their grief.

“They wanted to tell me about their case,” he said. “They asked me, ‘Judge, is it fair if I take such and such an amount?’”

Judge Hellerstein recalled that he said what he thought. “That’s typically not a judge’s role,” he noted. “But I thought it was very important that there be a sense of equity, that people be satisfied as best they could be satisfied in such tragic circumstances.”

“Do you live the case and allow it to dominate your life?” he added. “I think we all have unfortunate events in our lives and we have to learn to absorb them and go on.”

Judge Hellerstein, who has written about the experience of being Jewish and a judge, paraphrased what he called one of the most powerful statements in the Bible: “I set before you good and bad, life and death. Choose life.”

“It affected me,” Judge Hellerstein recalled. “So I say to these people, choose life.”

Doris Burke contributed research.

A version of this article appears in print on September 10, 2016, on page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: Judge in 9/11 Suits Feels No Regret That None Ever Went to Trial.

CNN : Obama vetoes 9/11 lawsuit bill

Friday, September 23, 2016

Obama vetoes 9/11 lawsuit bill

By Kevin Liptak | CNN White House Producer | September 23, 2016

- President Barack Obama vetoed legislation allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia
- The administration warns of unintended consequences
- Congress may override it next week

Washington (CNN)Barack Obama vetoed Friday a bill that would allow family members of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. The White House claimed it could expose US diplomats and servicemen to litigation in other countries.

Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress say they'll override Obama's veto next week.

Obama has now issued 12 vetoes. If successful, Congress' override would be the first of Obama's presidency.

Support for the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" ran high among lawmakers, who overwhelmingly passed the bill earlier this year after pressure from victims' groups. The bill would end foreign countries' immunity in the United States from lawsuits, allowing federal civil suits to go forward if the country is determined to have had a hand in a US terror attack.

In his veto message, Obama wrote he had "deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, who have suffered grievously."

But he maintained the legislation would seriously hurt US national security interests and cause harm to important alliances, saying it "would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks."

He warned that the law would hurt the effectiveness of the administration's action against terrorism by taking questions of foreign states' involvement in terrorism "out of the hands of national security and foreign policy professionals and placing them in the hands of private litigants and courts."

Obama also said the move would open Americans abroad, especially those serving in the military, to prosecutions by foreign countries, since this would remove the reciprocal agreements that now protect both sides from such lawsuits.

He also pointed to complaints that allied nations have made about the measure. This legislation, he said, "threatens to limit their cooperation on key national security issues, including counterterrorism initiatives, at a crucial time when we are trying to build coalitions, not create divisions."

Demonstrating the difficult political position the White House is in, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, expressed her support for the legislation Friday.

"Clinton continues to support the efforts by Sen. (Chuck) Schumer and his colleagues in Congress to secure the ability of 9/11 families and other victims of terror to hold accountable those responsible," said Jesse Lehrich, a Clinton spokesman. "She would sign this legislation if it came to her desk."

Schumer called the veto "a disappointing decision that will be swiftly and soundly overturned in Congress."

Co-sponsor Sen. John Cornyn said, "I look forward to the opportunity for Congress to override the President's veto, provide these families with the chance to seek the justice they deserve and send a clear message that we will not tolerate those who finance terrorism in the United States."

White House lobbying effort

In recent days, some of the measure's supporters in Congress have expressed misgivings about the legislation, prompting a new effort by the administration to lobby against the bill.

The lobbying effort on Capitol Hill against the legislation has involved the administration but also representatives for the Saudi government, which denies any involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks. The alliance puts Obama in the unlikely position of defending the same position as the Kingdom, with which he's had longstanding disputes over counterterrorism strategies and human rights.

It also puts the President at odds with family members of 9/11 victims, who protested outside the White House this week and spoke alongside lawmakers from New York and Connecticut on Capitol Hill. They, along with other proponents of the bill, say the language is written narrowly to prevent the types of repercussions the administration predicts.

"The president's rationales to veto JASTA don't hold weight. They are 100% wrong," said Terry Strada, whose husband Tom Strada died in World Trade Center collapse. "For us, the 9/11 families and survivors, all we are asking for is an opportunity to have our case heard in a courtroom. Denying us justice is un-American."

Strada said the lobbying efforts from representatives of Saudi Arabia amounted to an intimidation effort from a country the US still relies on heavily in the fight against terror groups like ISIS.

"Neither the President nor Congress nor lobbyists for foreign kingdoms should be permitted to make us wait another day to pass JASTA," she said.

Veto override plans

Administration officials had been eying a Friday afternoon veto with the hopes of submitting it to lawmakers after Congress adjourned until November's election contests. But prolonged negotiations over a government funding bill and a package to combat Zika virus have delayed the recess, meaning lawmakers are still likely to be in Washington next week to cast an override vote.

"Our assumption is that the veto will be overridden," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan followed suit Wednesday, saying, "I do think the votes are there for the override." But the Wisconsin Republican also voiced his own doubts about the legislation, saying the implications for lawsuits against Americans worried him.

"I worry about legal matters," Ryan said. "I worry about trial lawyers trying to get rich off of this. And I do worry about the precedence. At the same time, these victims do need to have their day in court."

He was one of several prominent lawmakers who have expressed buyers' remorse for the proposed law. A pair of Republican senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have pushed for changes to make it more difficult for the families to pursue lawsuits but could also make it harder for the US to be sued for alleged wrongdoing.

Opponents of the bill gained support Wednesday both from the European Union, which issued its opposition in the form of a "demarche" statement to the US Department of State, and from a bipartisan group of former national security officials, who penned an open letter to Obama.

"The harm this legislation will cause the United States will be both dramatic and long-lasting," the letter read, citing arguments over weakening sovereign immunity. Its signatories included veterans of Republican and Democratic administrations, including Stephen Hadley, a national security adviser to President George W. Bush; Michael Mukasey, a US attorney general under Bush; William Cohen, a secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton; and Richard Clarke, a national security aide to Bush and Clinton.

The letter also noted the law, if enacted, "will most certainly undermine our relationship with one of our most important allies, Saudi Arabia, and damage our relationship with the entire Middle East."

CNN's Dan Merica and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

Stars and Stripes : Is terrorism justice legislation backed by 9/11 families dangerous to military?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Is terrorism justice legislation backed by 9/11 families dangerous to military?

By DIANNA CAHN | STARS AND STRIPES | September 23, 2016

WASHINGTON — Legislation that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in American courts was headed for a showdown Friday as President Barack Obama prepared to veto the bill and the families pressed for its full passage.

Caught in the middle: The question of whether the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, would imperil American diplomats and military servicemembers abroad.

The bill sailed unopposed through both houses of Congress after intense pressure from the families to pass the law on their behalf. If passed, it would remove sovereign immunity from foreign government officials, allowing U.S. citizens to sue them in U.S. courts for alleged acts of terrorism.

Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell off its U.S. assets should the bill become law and close allies France and Holland have warned they will pass reciprocal laws. Obama promised to veto the bill by Friday’s deadline, warning it could open the door to lawsuits against U.S. personnel in other countries.

The families say concerns of global repercussions are alarmist, but in recent days, a group of senior national security, defense and diplomatic officials and a separate group of former military generals, admirals and colonels wrote letters to legislators urging against the law’s passage.

Even as some lawmakers acknowledge newfound concerns, pressure to support the 9/11 families loomed large and Congress appeared primed to override the veto.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a co-sponsor of the bill, upset families when he voiced concerns. He told Stars and Stripes Thursday by email that he was disappointed that the choice had come down to supporting Saudi Arabia or supporting the families, when such serious considerations fell in the middle.

“ ‘Either or’ politics is not where I want to go, but it may wind up that if nobody’s trying to accommodate this problem, we’re just going to vote,” he said. “And if I have to vote, I’m going to vote to override the veto.”

Families of those killed and hurt in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have argued that the law is narrow and limited to acts of terrorism, not acts of war. Objectors warned that while U.S. law might differentiate between the two, it would not prevent less limited laws from being enacted in other countries. The White House also argued the classification of terrorism should remain an executive authority, not become a question for the courts.

“The safety and security of our diplomats, intelligence officers, military and other senior officials of the U.S. government and their ability to perform their duties without foreign influence or intervention would be seriously imperiled,” according to an open letter written this week by former Defense Secretary William Cohen, former acting CIA director Michael Morell and seven other former national security, intelligence and judicial leaders including advisers to Obama and President George W. Bush.

“The perpetrators of terrorism should and will continue to be pursued through our vast military, law enforcement and intelligence capabilities,” it said. But dismantling sovereign immunity “will put our government officials and military personnel at extreme risk and impede the ability of the community of nations to work together at a time when global cooperation in the war on terrorism is essential.”

On Tuesday, 9/11 families protested in front of the White House, calling on Obama to pass the act and making clear they saw his promise to veto as a direct affront.

“I am frustrated, angry and tired of the mistruths being carelessly spewed about this legislation,” Terry Strada, the chair of the 9/11 families and survivors group, said in a news conference near the Capitol after Tuesday’s protest.

Strada said JASTA was “carefully, narrowly crafted” over years by top lawmakers, and concerns about reciprocal laws were flawed. Diplomats are protected by the Vienna Conventions, she said, while the military is protected by wording in the legislation excluding acts of war.

“To equate what we do to protect ourselves from terrorism with what others do in support of terrorism completely misreads the bill,” Strada said. “Denying us justice is un-American.”

Lt. Col. Pat Testerman, a retired Air Force commander, said he strongly supported justice for the 9/11 families yet worries that the law would allow other countries to define things differently.

He could imagine a scenario in which a young Air Force lieutenant makes an error in an act of war – say, an erroneous target of a drone attack that kills civilians – and is tried in a foreign court for an act of terror, he said.

“What we define as acts of terrorism or acts of war is up to interpretation,” Testerman said. “And we open ourselves up to significant danger with this.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Sept. 12 that the law could “have an impact on our relationship with every country around the world in a way that has negative consequences for the United States, for our national security and for our men and women in uniform.”

Recent reports suggest some lawmakers might be wavering in their support for overriding the veto. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said this week that she was having second thoughts about the bill “because I think it launches a number of unforeseen happenings.”

On Friday, a group of retired military leaders signed a letter being passed around on Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to reconsider an override.

“Congress must take great care to ensure that soldiers must be able to do their jobs without threat of foreign influence or repercussion,” it said. “We must do all we can to protect them from possible legal action in faraway lands.”

Earnest said the president would continue to lobby lawmakers to let his veto stand. But he recognized that despite warnings about possible consequences, the 9/11 families held strong sway.

“There’s no denying the political potency of this issue,” he said. “But the president believes that it’s important to look out for our country and to look out for our servicemembers.”

Twitter: @DiannaCahn

News Observer : Distorting the study of 9/11 at UNC

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Distorting the study of 9/11 at UNC

-- The Sept. 11, 2001 images bring back memories of foreign places
-- Representing 9/11 has led to controversy in academic community
-- We must move on from the atrocity to better understand 9/11

By Neel Ahuja | September 19, 2015

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a college student in Illinois. Like most Americans, I was stunned to witness the 9/11 attacks on television. Like many individuals with relatives who had survived atrocities, the images of destruction evoked for me connections to faraway places.

When I was a child, my father told me stories of his experience of resettlement as an 11-year-old refugee in India’s 1947 war of partition, recounting the loss of his home as he was driven out of the new land of Pakistan. The most vivid memory from these stories was the moment he traced a coin-sized circle on the palm of his hand to indicate the size of his daily ration of rice in the refugee camp.

Today, as refugees from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and elsewhere journey toward northwestern Europe, the knowledge that thousands are dying along the way provokes anger and frustration. “No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark,” writes poet Warsan Shire. And yet knowledge of the world’s shared exposure to violence revealed in the ruins of 9/11 or war-torn Syria might also be a resource for building a future in which one’s identity or birthplace will no longer mandate unequal vulnerability to premature death.

As this year’s anniversary of 9/11 approached, I had just convened my fall classes at UNC-Chapel Hill. I was teaching a course I designed called “Literature of 9/11,” which explores poetry, novels, films, comics, essays, journalism and documentary materials related to the public memory and legacies of the 9/11 attacks.

The course quickly became a topic of public debate. A first-year student who was not enrolled in my course declared that “Literature of 9/11” did not adequately represent victims. Based on a list of the assigned texts published by the campus bookstore, the student wrote on a national website that “the readings mostly focus on justifying the actions of terrorists – painting them as fighting against an American regime, or mistaken idealists, or good people.” The story went viral and was aired on one national cable news channel, reaching an audience of millions. A deluge of hateful email swamped my inbox; meanwhile, the university was flooded with calls to fire me and cut humanities funding.

There have been heated debates over how to ethically represent 9/11. Theodor Adorno famously wrote, “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” After 9/11, the sentiment was instead to publish photographs after 9/11 is barbaric.

On Aug. 26, my students read Tom Junod’s article on the famous “Falling Man” image depicting a man in mid-air as he jumped from the burning towers. We explored the controversies over this image and similar ones, like sculptor Eric Fischl’s Tumbling Woman, which was removed from Rockefeller Center after complaints about its graphic content. As we examined laments from relatives of the dead, we also viewed Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu’s film about the victims who jumped from the towers.

The director blacks out the spectacle of the burning buildings and forces the viewer to zoom in on each falling individual, to hear the last phone calls of the victims on the planes and finally to listen to the sound of these human beings hitting the pavement at the moment of death. Disturbing as these scenes are, they attempt to individualize the dead, helping the filmmaker ask a question that on first glance seems to denounce religious extremism and on second seems more critical of the media’s obsessive repetition of the images of the falling towers: “Does God’s light guide us or blind us?”

Two days later, the story about our course began circulating online. It was disorienting to spend our class discussing the ethics of mourning and the application of Holocaust, postcolonial and trauma theories to 9/11, only to return to my office to find dozens of emails accusing me of sympathizing with terrorists, calling for the deportation or extermination of all Muslims or telling me to “go back where I came from.” (I was born in Nashville and grew up in Topeka, Kansas.)

One reason critics attacked me is that I teach three texts – “Poems from Guantánamo” and the novels “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid and “The Sirens of Baghdad” by Yasmina Khadra – that are easy to caricature as representing the viewpoints of terrorists. None of these texts is actually so one-dimensional. Khadra, for example, was an Algerian army officer who fought in that country’s civil war against Islamists, and his publisher brags that his books have been taught at West Point. Yet the book titles and authors’ names – along with the assumptions readers made about my own identity – left my course an easy target.

The student who criticized my course later admitted that he had never read any of the assigned texts. He just lifted impressions from Amazon.com reviews. Had, for him, reading itself become barbaric after 9/11?

This was a cynical attack on learning and an attempt to censor writing exploring the fraught histories of U.S. overseas military interventions. Yet reflecting on such topics is exactly the task that the memory of 9/11 and all other mass atrocities urgently requires of us.

Admirably, students at UNC have consistently opposed attempts to stifle public education and critical thought. This includes strong resistance to smear campaigns against UNC orchestrated by the John William Pope Center that aim to justify university budget cuts in order to advance the program of tax cuts being pushed by North Carolina’s state legislature.

It is time to end the hijacking of the public trauma of 9/11 for the service of such narrow political agendas. To ask critical questions about the legacies of mass atrocity is our collective responsibility. If we don’t answer that call, there will be no possibility of moving beyond the acts of retribution, hatred and fear that continue to remake today’s world in the image of Manhattan’s rubble.

Neel Ahuja is associate professor of English, comparative literature and geography at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is the author of “Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species,” forthcoming from Duke University Press. He teaches the courses “Literature of 9/11” and “The New Wars” at UNC.

The controversy

Find a news article about Neel Ahuja’s class at nando.com/911class and the original blog post at nando.com/911blogpost

NOTE: uh ... not! these are the links provided in the final note:

UNC’s ‘Literature of 9/11’ course sympathizes with terrorists, paints U.S. as imperialistic
Alec Dent | UNC Chapel Hill | August 28, 2015

UNC course on 9/11 criticized in conservative publications
By Jane Stancill | September 1, 2015


another link from the original:

Fox News Fooled By College Freshman Blogger In Attack On 9/11 Literature Course

and from this there are many others, including:

Newsweek : Florida Man Charged With Planning to Explode 9/11 Memorial

Friday, September 11, 2015

Florida Man Charged With Planning to Explode 9/11 Memorial

By Polly Mosendz | September 11, 2015

A 20-year-old Florida man made plans to destroy a September 11 memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Middle District of Florida.

Joshua Ryne Goldberg allegedly planned to have an accomplice carry out his plan on September 13, using a bomb.

He is charged with illegal distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction. On social media, Goldberg posed as an extremist based in Perth, Australia who planned to carry out attacks in that nation. An FBI official who was posing as a fellow jihadist spoke online with Goldberg regularly. Authorities were able to trace Goldberg’s IP address to his mother’s house in Florida.

“Have you decided what kind of attack to carry on 9/11, akhi? I was thinking a bombing. We could make pipe bombs and detonate them at a large public event,” Goldberg wrote, according to the criminal complaint. Using the pseudonym AusWitness, Goldberg provided instructions on how to make a pressure cooker bomb and selected the Kansas City 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb as the location for the attack. Rather than carry out the attack himself, Goldberg convinced the informant to bomb the memorial, the complaint says.

In messages to the informant, Goldberg advised him to purchase the bomb-making materials separately so as not to alert authorities to his plans. “When you go [to the memorial] to place the bomb, make sure the bomb is VERY well hidden.... Put the backpack near the crowd,” Goldberg wrote, according to the complaint.

In order to cause the most damage possible, Goldberg suggested filling the bomb with nails, glass and metal. “If you can, dip the screws and other shrapnel in rat poison before putting them in. that way, the kuffar who get hit by them will be more likely to die,” he wrote, the complaint says.

A search warrant was issued for Goldberg’s home on September 9 and it was then that he was detained. In conversations with authorities, Goldberg allegedly admitted to providing instructions on how to make a bomb and planning the Kansas City attack. “Goldberg stated he believed that the individual did intend to create functioning bombs and would actually attempt to use them to kill and injure persons,” the complaint reads.

Goldberg claims he planned to tell law enforcement about the bombing plan in advance so he would “receive credit for stopping the attack.”

Guardian : Frederick Forsyth: I was an MI6 agent

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Frederick Forsyth: I was an MI6 agent

Day of the Jackal author reveals in autobiography that he worked for the intelligence service for more than two decades

Alison Flood | September 1, 2015

Frederick Forsyth will admit in his forthcoming autobiography that he worked as an agent for MI6 for more than 20 years.

The bestselling thriller author, who was an RAF pilot and a journalist before turning to fiction with The Day of the Jackal, is due to release The Outsider next week. Forsyth has previously denied claims that he worked for MI6 – “Some said that I was a spook, but I just knew a few,” he told the Guardian in 2001 – but an extract from his memoir in the Sunday Times reveals how in late 1968 a “member of the Firm” - MI6 – called Ronnie sought him out.

The Nigeria-Biafra conflict had been ongoing for 15 months, and Ronnie needed “an asset deep inside the Biafran enclave, what he termed ‘someone in on the ground’”. Forsyth had been reporting from Biafra as a freelancer, and writes that “when I left for the return to the rainforest, he had one”.
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Forsyth says that he was simultaneously working as a stringer for various newspapers and magazines reporting on the conflict and the humanitarian disaster, and keeping Ronnie “informed of things that could not, for various reasons, emerge in the media”.

He told the BBC that he was not paid for the work he did. “There was a lot of volunteer assistance that was not charged for. The zeitgeist was different … the cold war was very much on,” he said. “If someone asked: ‘Can you see your way clear to do us a favour?’, it was very hard to say no.”

Forsyth’s reporting from Biafra provided the material for his first book, The Biafra Story, a non-fiction account of the breakaway state’s war with Nigeria. He also undertook fact-finding missions to Rhodesia and South Africa, and in 1973, two years after the publication of his debut novel The Day of the Jackal, went into East Germany to retrieve a package from an asset. He played the part of a British tourist visiting the Albertinum museum. “Graeco-Roman treasures were my new enthusiasm and there were books to study as if for an exam,” the author told the Sunday Times, which said that Forsyth was handed the files under a toilet door at the museum.

Forsyth said this weekend that he was making the revelation now because “it is 55, 60 years later. There have been memoirs written, highly secret minutes have been published. There’s no East Germany, no Stasi, no KGB, no Soviet Union, so where’s the harm?”

He also revealed that he had consulted MI6 over passages in his novels, which are known for their authenticity. “I had a number to ring,” he told the Sunday Times. “I would have a lunch at the club, I’d ask is it OK? They would check with their superiors, and then they would say yes, you can use that, with one proviso, that sheets must be provided for vetting – just in case I went too far.” Usually, he told the BBC, “the response was: ‘OK, Freddie!’”

The 77-year-old Forsyth is the author of 13 bestselling novels, including The Odessa File, The Dogs of War, The Devil’s Alternative and The Fourth Protocol. The Outsider will be published on 10 September, described by its publisher as “a candid look at an extraordinary life lived to the full, a life whose unique experiences have provided rich inspiration for 13 internationally bestselling thrillers”.

Phys dot Org : Why do people believe 9/11 was an inside job?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Why do people believe 9/11 was an inside job?

July 31, 2015

The reasons why some people believe bizarre conspiracy theories are set to be explored in a new project by a philosopher from the University of Warwick.

Professor Quassim Cassam has been awarded £250,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to study what he calls 'intellectual vices'. The title of his project is 'Vice Epistemology'.

He believes his research could help to explain how certain claims -- for example that 9/11 was masterminded by the US government -- are able to gain so much traction.

His findings may also shed light on why some people are susceptible to becoming radicalised in ways that make them potential recruits for extremist organisations such as Islamic State.

Prof Cassam said: "In 2008, a global poll of over 16,000 people found fewer than half believed that al-Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, with a significant number attributing the collapse of the World Trade Centre towers to a controlled demolition by the US government.

"We live in a world where strange conspiracy theories such as this abound, often with dire social and political consequences. But how are such beliefs to be explained?

"My project as an AHRC Leadership Fellow is about the possible role of intellectual vices in fuelling these beliefs. By intellectual vices I mean intellectual character traits such as gullibility, closed-mindedness, prejudice and dogmatism. What I call vice epistemology is the philosophical study of the nature and significance of such character traits."

He added: "There are some true conspiracy theories, such as Watergate, but the philosophically interesting ones are those that are clearly false and refuted by best available evidence. Why is it that some people continue to believe such theories?

"One way of answering is to ask the person and they will give you their reasons, but the thing that's striking is that these reasons will often be bad reasons. They have access to the evidence, but continue to subscribe to their theories. If you simply answer the question 'why do they believe these things?' by reference to the reasons they give you will have an incomplete account -- you need to go deeper.

"The thing is that these people aren't necessarily crazy or irrational but, as Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein points out, crazy thoughts are often held by people who are not crazy at all. But if these people aren't irrational, why is it and how is it they believe the things they believe? We need an alternative explanation."

Prof Cassam's study will also consider whether intellectual vices may explain why there is sometimes a gap between the results of scientific research and the implementation of those findings by practitioners on the ground. "This gap is a major challenge facing clinical and other human services, identified by the World Health Organization," he said.

The research is due to begin in April 2016.

Independent : What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

New study will look at why some people are more suspectible to extremist views

Caroline Mortimer | July 30, 2015

Conspiracy theorists aren’t "mad" they just have certain “intellectual character traits” that make them believe certain things, a professor has said.

Quassim Cassam, a professor of philosophy at the University of Warwick, has launched a new study into what makes people believe in certain theories – and why such theories could push people to extremes such as joining Isis.

He believes that some people are more vulnerable to “intellectual vices” such as dogmatism, gullibility and close mindedness and this in turn makes them more likely to listen to extreme "alternative" sources of information.

He told The Independent: “The other explanation is that that these people are literally mad or mentally ill but I don’t really go for that theory.

“For example take 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Why do they hold onto their conspiracy theory despite the fact that there seems to be overwhelming evidence that it wasn’t an American government conspiracy to bring down the towers?

“The answer is they are overwhelmingly receptive to certain kinds of evidence for instance of website and they are overly dismissive of other types of evidence such as engineers’ reports on the towers.”

Professor Cassam explains that psychologists have developed a theory of a “conspiracy mentality” which explains why people are more likely to be taken in by certain types of rhetoric or information that go against received wisdom.

Now he is trying to explore that idea in more depth and study the generic character traits which underpin that mentality.

In the case of terrorism and Isis, he questioned why is it that some 18 or 19 year olds can be convinced by Isis recruiters to believe their interpretation of Islam despite the people around them telling them differently.

He explained: “For example, I don’t know much about Islam but I do know that there is an absolute clear bar in Islam on suicide. So people who are told it is acceptable to be suicide bombers are ending up believing something which on the face has no foundation at all.”

He said he was not trying to prove that these character traits were the sole reason for people believing these things but they are “part of the package”.

Professor Cassam’s study, which is funded by the Arts and Humanity Research Council, will start in April 2016 and run for 18 months.

He hopes that his findings will help understand the irrational decisions made by some and be a step forward towards combating and challenging them.

Aeon: Bad thinkers

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bad thinkers

by Quassim Cassam | March 13, 2015
Edited by Ed Lake | @ejklake

Why do some people believe conspiracy theories? It’s not just who or what they know. It’s a matter of intellectual character

Quassim Cassam is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick in Coventry. His latest books are Berkeley’s Puzzle: What Does Experience Teach Us? (2014) and Self-Knowledge for Humans (2014).

Meet Oliver. Like many of his friends, Oliver thinks he is an expert on 9/11. He spends much of his spare time looking at conspiracist websites and his research has convinced him that the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, of 11 September 2001 were an inside job. The aircraft impacts and resulting fires couldn’t have caused the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center to collapse. The only viable explanation, he maintains, is that government agents planted explosives in advance. He realises, of course, that the government blames Al-Qaeda for 9/11 but his predictable response is pure Mandy Rice-Davies: they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Polling evidence suggests that Oliver’s views about 9/11 are by no means unusual. Indeed, peculiar theories about all manner of things are now widespread. There are conspiracy theories about the spread of AIDS, the 1969 Moon landings, UFOs, and the assassination of JFK. Sometimes, conspiracy theories turn out to be right – Watergate really was a conspiracy – but mostly they are bunkum. They are in fact vivid illustrations of a striking truth about human beings: however intelligent and knowledgeable we might be in other ways, many of us still believe the strangest things. You can find people who believe they were abducted by aliens, that the Holocaust never happened, and that cancer can be cured by positive thinking. A 2009 Harris Poll found that between one‑fifth and one‑quarter of Americans believe in reincarnation, astrology and the existence of witches. You name it, and there is probably someone out there who believes it.

You realise, of course, that Oliver’s theory about 9/11 has little going for it, and this might make you wonder why he believes it. The question ‘Why does Oliver believe that 9/11 was an inside job?’ is just a version of a more general question posed by the US skeptic Michael Shermer: why do people believe weird things? The weirder the belief, the stranger it seems that someone can have it. Asking why people believe weird things isn’t like asking why they believe it’s raining as they look out of the window and see the rain pouring down. It’s obvious why people believe it’s raining when they have compelling evidence, but it’s far from obvious why Oliver believes that 9/11 was an inside job when he has access to compelling evidence that it wasn’t an inside job.

I want to argue for something which is controversial, although I believe that it is also intuitive and commonsensical. My claim is this: Oliver believes what he does because that is the kind of thinker he is or, to put it more bluntly, because there is something wrong with how he thinks. The problem with conspiracy theorists is not, as the US legal scholar Cass Sunstein argues, that they have little relevant information. The key to what they end up believing is how they interpret and respond to the vast quantities of relevant information at their disposal. I want to suggest that this is fundamentally a question of the way they are. Oliver isn’t mad (or at least, he needn’t be). Nevertheless, his beliefs about 9/11 are the result of the peculiarities of his intellectual constitution – in a word, of his intellectual character.

Usually, when philosophers try to explain why someone believes things (weird or otherwise), they focus on that person’s reasons rather than their character traits. On this view, the way to explain why Oliver believes that 9/11 was an inside job is to identify his reasons for believing this, and the person who is in the best position to tell you his reasons is Oliver. When you explain Oliver’s belief by giving his reasons, you are giving a ‘rationalising explanation’ of his belief.

The problem with this is that rationalising explanations take you only so far. If you ask Oliver why he believes 9/11 was an inside job he will, of course, be only too pleased to give you his reasons: it had to be an inside job, he insists, because aircraft impacts couldn’t have brought down the towers. He is wrong about that, but at any rate that’s his story and he is sticking to it. What he has done, in effect, is to explain one of his questionable beliefs by reference to another no less questionable belief. Unfortunately, this doesn’t tell us why he has any of these beliefs. There is a clear sense in which we still don’t know what is really going on with him.

Now let’s flesh out Oliver’s story a little: suppose it turns out that he believes lots of other conspiracy theories apart from the one about 9/11. He believes the Moon landings were faked, that Diana, Princess of Wales, was murdered by MI6, and that the Ebola virus is an escaped bioweapon. Those who know him well say that he is easily duped, and you have independent evidence that he is careless in his thinking, with little understanding of the difference between genuine evidence and unsubstantiated speculation. Suddenly it all begins to make sense, but only because the focus has shifted from Oliver’s reasons to his character. You can now see his views about 9/11 in the context of his intellectual conduct generally, and this opens up the possibility of a different and deeper explanation of his belief than the one he gives: he thinks that 9/11 was an inside job because he is gullible in a certain way. He has what social psychologists call a ‘conspiracy mentality’.

Notice that the proposed character explanation isn’t a rationalising explanation. After all, being gullible isn’t a reason for believing anything, though it might still be why Oliver believes 9/11 was an inside job. And while Oliver might be expected to know his reasons for believing that 9/11 was an inside job, he is the last person to recognise that he believes what he believes about 9/11 because he is gullible. It is in the nature of many intellectual character traits that you don’t realise you have them, and so aren’t aware of the true extent to which your thinking is influenced by them. The gullible rarely believe they are gullible and the closed-minded don’t believe they are closed-minded. The only hope of overcoming self-ignorance in such cases is to accept that other people – your co-workers, your spouse, your friends – probably know your intellectual character better than you do. But even that won’t necessarily help. After all, it might be that refusing to listen to what other people say about you is one of your intellectual character traits. Some defects are incurable.

Gullibility, carelessness and closed-mindedness are examples of what the US philosopher Linda Zagzebski, in her book Virtues of the Mind (1996), has called ‘intellectual vices’. Others include negligence, idleness, rigidity, obtuseness, prejudice, lack of thoroughness, and insensitivity to detail. Intellectual character traits are habits or styles of thinking. To describe Oliver as gullible or careless is to say something about his intellectual style or mind-set – for example, about how he goes about trying to find out things about events such as 9/11. Intellectual character traits that aid effective and responsible enquiry are intellectual virtues, whereas intellectual vices are intellectual character traits that impede effective and responsible inquiry. Humility, caution and carefulness are among the intellectual virtues Oliver plainly lacks, and that is why his attempts to get to the bottom of 9/11 are so flawed.

Oliver is fictional, but real-world examples of intellectual vices in action are not hard to find. Consider the case of the ‘underwear bomber’ Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009. Abdulmutallab was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to affluent and educated parents, and graduated from University College London with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was radicalised by the online sermons of the Islamic militant Anwar al-Awlaki, who was subsequently killed by an American drone strike. It’s hard not to see the fact that Abdulmutallab was taken in by Awlaki’s sermons as at least partly a reflection of his intellectual character. If Abdulmutallab had the intellectual character not to be duped by Awlaki, then perhaps he wouldn’t have ended up on a transatlantic airliner with explosives in his underpants.

Intellectual character explanations of questionable beliefs are more controversial than one might imagine. For example, it has been suggested that explaining peoples’ bad behaviour or weird beliefs by reference to their character makes us more intolerant of them and less empathetic. Yet such explanations might still be correct, even if they have deleterious consequences. In any case, it’s not obvious that character explanations should make us less tolerant of other peoples’ foibles. Suppose that Oliver can’t help being the kind of person who falls for conspiracy theories. Shouldn’t that make us more rather than less tolerant of him and his weird beliefs?

A different objection to character-based explanations is that it’s just not true that people have questionable beliefs because they are stupid or gullible. In How We Know What Isn’t So (1991), the US social psychologist Thomas Gilovich argues that many such beliefs have ‘purely cognitive origins’, by which he means that they are caused by imperfections in our capacities to process information and draw conclusions. Yet the example he gives of a cognitive explanation takes us right back to character explanations. His example is the ‘hot hand’ in basketball. The idea is that when a player makes a couple of shots he is more likely to make subsequent shots. Success breeds success.

Gilovich used detailed statistical analysis to demonstrate that the hot hand doesn’t exist – performance on a given shot is independent of performance on previous shots. The question is, why do so many basketball coaches, players and fans believe in it anyway? Gilovich’s cognitive explanation is that belief in the hot hand is due to our faulty intuitions about chance sequences; as a species, we’re bad at recognising what genuinely random sequences look like.

And yet when Gilovich sent his results to a bunch of basketball coaches, what happened next is extremely revealing. One responded: ‘Who is this guy? So he makes a study. I couldn’t care less.’ This seems like a perfect illustration of intellectual vices in operation. The dismissive reaction manifested a range of vices, including closed-mindedness and prejudice. It’s hard not to conclude that the coach reacted as he did because he was closed-minded or prejudiced. In such cases as this, as with the case of Oliver, it’s just not credible that character traits aren’t doing significant explanatory work. A less closed-minded coach might well have reacted completely differently to evidence that the hot hand doesn’t exist.

Could we explain the dismissiveness of the coach without referring to his personality in general? ‘Situationists’, as they are called, argue that our behaviour is generally better explained by situational factors than by our supposed character traits. Some see this as a good reason to be skeptical about the existence of character. In one experiment, students at a theological seminary were asked to give a talk elsewhere on campus. One group was asked to talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan, while the rest were assigned a different topic. Some were told they had plenty to time to reach the venue for the lecture, while others were told to hurry. On their way to the venue, all the students came across a person (an actor) apparently in need of help. In the event, the only variable that made a difference to whether they stopped to help was how much of a hurry they were in; students who thought they were running late were much less likely to stop and help than those who thought they had time. According to the Princeton philosopher Gilbert Harman, the lesson of such experiments is that ‘we need to convince people to look at situational factors and to stop trying to explain things in terms of character traits’.

The character traits that Harman had in mind are moral virtues such as kindness and generosity, but some situationists also object to the idea of intellectual virtues and vices. For example, they point to evidence that people perform much better in problem-solving tasks when they are in a good mood. If trivial situational factors such as mood or hunger are better at explaining your intellectual conduct than your so-called intellectual character, then what is the justification for believing in the existence of intellectual character traits? If such traits exist, then shouldn’t they explain one’s intellectual conduct? Absolutely, but examples such as Oliver and Gilovich’s basketball coach suggest that intellectual character traits do explain a person’s intellectual conduct in an important range of cases. People don’t believe weird things because they are hungry or in a bad (or good) mood. The view that people don’t have character traits such as gullibility, carelessness or prejudice, or that people don’t differ in intellectual character, deprives us of seemingly compelling explanations of the intellectual conduct of both Oliver and the basketball coach.

Suppose it turns out that Oliver lives in a region where conspiracy theories are rife or that he is under the influence of friends who are committed conspiracy theorists. Wouldn’t these be perfectly viable situational, non-character explanations of his beliefs about 9/11? Only up to a point. The fact that Oliver is easily influenced by his friends itself tells us something about his intellectual character. Where Oliver lives might help to explain his beliefs, but even if conspiracy theories are widespread in his neck of the woods we still need to understand why some people in his region believe them, while others don’t.

Differences in intellectual character help to explain why people in the same situation end up believing such different things. In order to think that intellectual character traits are relevant to a person’s intellectual conduct, you don’t have to think that other factors, including situational factors, are irrelevant. Intellectual character explains intellectual conduct only in conjunction with a lot of other things, including your situation and the way your brain processes information. Situationism certainly would be a problem for the view that character traits explain our conduct regardless of situational factors, but that is not a view of character anyone has ever wanted to defend.

In practical terms, one of the hardest things about dealing with people such as Oliver is that they are more than likely to accuse you of the same intellectual vices that you detect in them. You say that Oliver is gullible for believing his 9/11 conspiracy theory; he retorts that you are gullible for believing the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission. You say that he dismisses the official account of 9/11 because he is closed-minded; he accuses you of closed-mindedness for refusing to take conspiracy theories seriously. If we are often blind to our own intellectual vices then who are we to accuse Oliver of failing to realise that he believes his theories only because he is gullible?

These are all legitimate questions, but it’s important not to be too disconcerted by this attempt to turn the tables on you. True, no one is immune to self-ignorance. That doesn’t excuse Oliver. The fact is that his theory is no good, whereas there is every reason to believe that aircraft impacts did bring down the Twin Towers. Just because you believe the official account of what happened in 9/11 doesn’t make you gullible if there are good reasons to believe that account. Equally, being skeptical about the wilder claims of 9/11 conspiracy theorists doesn’t make you closed-minded if there are good reasons to be skeptical. Oliver is gullible because he believes things for which he has no good evidence, and he is closed-minded because he dismisses claims for which there is excellent evidence. It’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking that what counts as good evidence is a subjective matter. To say that Oliver lacks good evidence is to draw attention to the absence of eye-witness or forensic support for his theory about 9/11, and to the fact that his theory has been refuted by experts. Oliver might not accept any of this but that is, again, a reflection of his intellectual character.

Once you get past the idea that Oliver has somehow managed to turn the tables on you, there remains the problem of what to do about such people as him. If he is genuinely closed-minded then his mind will presumably be closed to the idea that he is closed-minded. Closed-mindedness is one of the toughest intellectual vices to tackle because it is in its nature to be concealed from those who have it. And even if you somehow get the Olivers of this world to acknowledge their own vices, that won’t necessarily make things any better. Tackling one’s intellectual vices requires more than self-knowledge. You also need to be motivated to do something about them, and actually be able to do something about them.

Should Oliver be condemned for his weaknesses? Philosophers like to think of virtues as having good motives and vices as having bad motives but Oliver’s motives needn’t be bad. He might have exactly the same motivation for knowledge as the intellectually virtuous person, yet be led astray by his gullibility and conspiracy mentality. So, both in respect of his motives and his responsibility for his intellectual vices, Oliver might not be strictly blameworthy. That doesn’t mean that nothing should be done about them or about him. If we care about the truth then we should care about equipping people with the intellectual means to arrive at the truth and avoid falsehood.

Education is the best way of doing that. Intellectual vices are only tendencies to think in certain ways, and tendencies can be countered. Our intellectual vices are balanced by our intellectual virtues, by intellectual character traits such as open-mindedness, curiosity and rigour. The intellectual character is a mixture of intellectual virtues and vices, and the aims of education should include cultivating intellectual virtues and curtailing intellectual vices. The philosopher Jason Baehr talks about ‘educating for intellectual virtues’, and that is in principle the best way to deal with people such as Oliver. A 2010 report to the University College London Council about the Abdulmutallab case came to a similar conclusion. It recommended the ‘development of academic training for students to encourage and equip them not only to think critically but to challenge unacceptable views’. The challenge is to work out how to do that.

What if Oliver is too far gone and can’t change his ways even if he wanted to? Like other bad habits, intellectual bad habits can be too deeply entrenched to change. This means living with their consequences. Trying to reason with people who are obstinately closed-minded, dogmatic or prejudiced is unlikely to be effective. The only remedy in such cases is to try to mitigate the harm their vices do to themselves and to others.

Meanwhile, those who have the gall to deliver homilies about other peoples’ intellectual vices – that includes me – need to accept that they too are likely very far from perfect. In this context, as in most others, a little bit of humility goes a long way. It’s one thing not to cave in to Oliver’s attempt to turn the tables on you, but he has a point at least to this extent: none of us can deny that intellectual vices of one sort or another are at play in at least some of our thinking. Being alive to this possibility is the mark of a healthy mind.

NYT : Know Thy Self — Really

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Know Thy Self — Really

By Quassim Cassam | December 7, 2014

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

Most people wonder at some point in their lives how well they know themselves. Self-knowledge seems a good thing to have, but hard to attain. To know yourself would be to know such things as your deepest thoughts, desires and emotions, your character traits, your values, what makes you happy and why you think and do the things you think and do. These are all examples of what might be called “substantial” self-knowledge, and there was a time when it would have been safe to assume that philosophy had plenty to say about the sources, extent and importance of self-knowledge in this sense.

Not any more. With few exceptions, philosophers of self-knowledge nowadays have other concerns. Here’s an example of the sort of thing philosophers worry about: suppose you are wearing socks and believe you are wearing socks. How do you know that that’s what you believe? Notice that the question isn’t: “How do you know you are wearing socks?” but rather “How do you know you believe you are wearing socks?” Knowledge of such beliefs is seen as a form of self-knowledge. Other popular examples of self-knowledge in the philosophical literature include knowing that you are in pain and knowing that you are thinking that water is wet. For many philosophers the challenge is explain how these types of self-knowledge are possible.

This is usually news to non-philosophers. Most certainly imagine that philosophy tries to answer the Big Questions, and “How do you know you believe you are wearing socks?” doesn’t sound much like one of them. If knowing that you believe you are wearing socks qualifies as self-knowledge at all — and even that isn’t obvious — it is self-knowledge of the most trivial kind. Non-philosophers find it hard to figure out why philosophers would be more interested in trivial than in substantial self-knowledge.

One common reaction to the focus on trivial self-knowledge is to ask, “Why on earth would you be interested in that?” — or, more pointedly, “Why on earth would anyone pay you to think about that?” Philosophers of self-knowledge aren’t deterred. It isn’t unusual for them to start their learned articles and books on self-knowledge by declaring that they aren’t going to be discussing substantial self-knowledge because that isn’t where the philosophical action is.

How can that be? It all depends on your starting point. For example, to know that you are wearing socks requires effort, even if it’s only the minimal effort of looking down at your feet. When you look down and see the socks on your feet you have evidence — the evidence of your senses — that you are wearing socks, and this illustrates what seems a general point about knowledge: knowledge is based on evidence, and our beliefs about the world around us can be wrong. Evidence can be misleading and conclusions from evidence unwarranted. Trivial self-knowledge seems different. On the face of it, you don’t need evidence to know that you believe you are wearing socks, and there is a strong presumption that your beliefs about your own beliefs and other states of mind aren’t mistaken. Trivial self-knowledge is direct (not based on evidence) and privileged (normally immune to error). Given these two background assumptions, it looks like there is something here that needs explaining: How is trivial self-knowledge, with all its peculiarities, possible?

From this perspective, trivial self-knowledge is philosophically interesting because it is special. “Special” in this context means special from the standpoint of epistemology or the philosophy of knowledge. Substantial self-knowledge is much less interesting from this point of view because it is like any other knowledge. You need evidence to know your own character and values, and your beliefs about your own character and values can be mistaken. For example, you think you are generous but your friends know you better. You think you are committed to racial equality but your behaviour suggests otherwise. Once you think of substantial self-knowledge as neither direct nor privileged why would you still regard it as philosophically interesting?

What is missing from this picture is any real sense of the human importance of self-knowledge. Self-knowledge matters to us as human beings, and the self-knowledge which matters to us as human beings is substantial rather than trivial self-knowledge. We assume that on the whole our lives go better with substantial self-knowledge than without it, and what is puzzling is how hard it can be to know ourselves in this sense.

The assumption that self-knowledge matters is controversial and philosophy might be expected to have something to say about the importance of self-knowledge, as well as its scope and extent. The interesting questions in this context include “Why is substantial self-knowledge hard to attain?” and “To what extent is substantial self-knowledge possible?”

Such questions are addressed by some philosophers — Eric Schwitzgebel, who teaches at the University of California, Riverside, comes to mind, and I often attempt to do so in my own work — but most have little to say about self-knowledge as a human concern. Self-knowledge in this sense has become an issue for psychologists and novelists rather than academic philosophers. By neglecting substantial self-knowledge philosophy is missing a trick. Questions about the sources, scope, and value of substantial self-knowledge are at least partly philosophical and philosophers of self-knowledge should be prepared to tackle them.

It wasn’t always the case that the philosophy of self-knowledge was so narrow in scope. The ancients certainly recognized the human importance of self-knowledge, and the injunction to “Know thyself” presumably wasn’t intended as the injunction to know that you are thinking that water is wet. So how and why did professional philosophy become so seemingly unconcerned with the questions about self-knowledge which non-philosophers find interesting?

The professionalization of the subject has made philosophers of self-knowledge far too comfortable with the idea that their job is to discover technical solutions to technical problems generated by background philosophical assumptions about the nature of knowledge and mind. They may insist that what is philosophically worthwhile can’t be decided by what non-philosophers think is worthwhile, and that it is of no consequence if their questions strike the uninitiated as odd. Philosophy has its own concerns, and all that matters is whether their concerns have a philosophical rationale. If it turns out that trivial self-knowledge isn’t special then that really would be a reason for downplaying its significance, but that is an entirely different matter.

This is just the kind of attitude that gives academic philosophy a bad name. Of course there are topics in philosophy where engaging with the concerns of the philosophically uninitiated wouldn’t be feasible but self-knowledge is not one of them. There has to come a point at which philosophy has to address wider concerns, and if self-knowledge is not the kind of thing which philosophers can think about in ways that resonate with the world at large then one fears for the future of the subject. It’s easy for professional philosophers to sneer at popular accounts of self-knowledge in self-help books, but philosophically curious readers of such books are entitled to ask what philosophy has to offer instead. The answer had better not be “Nothing.”

The challenge is to develop a philosophy of self-knowledge for humans, that is, a philosophy of self-knowledge that both engages with some of the questions about self-knowledge which human beings outside academia actually care about, and operates with a realistic picture of what real human beings are like. Few philosophers have risen to this challenge, but when they do they are likely to find that substantial self-knowledge is of greater philosophical interest than many of them suppose. In any event, the challenge of addressing a wider audience is one that academic philosophy can’t and shouldn’t try to duck indefinitely.

Quassim Cassam is professor of philosophy at the University of Warwick, UK. His most recent book is “Self-Knowledge for Humans.”

Cynthia McKinney: Dr. Peter Dale Scott writes about the ties that bind November 1963 and September 2001

Monday, October 13, 2014

[via email]

From Cynthia McKinney | October 13, 2014

I am proud to write that Dr. Peter Dale Scott is on my Dissertation Committee. What he has written here is extremely important, tying the tragedies of November 1963 to subsequent tragedies and actions of the U.S. Deep State: Iran/Contra, September 11, 2001 by naming names.

Here are two quotes to ponder:

"The point is that a very small group had access to a high-level secret network outside government review, in order to implement a program in opposition to government policy."


"The Pentagon official’s description of COG planners as a “secret government-in-waiting” under Clinton (which still included both Cheney and Rumsfeld) is very close to the standard definition of a cabal, as a group of persons secretly united to bring about a change or overthrow of government."

Read the entire lecture below or here with illustrations: http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/10/05/the-hidden-government-group-linking-jfk-watergate-iran-contra-and-911/#sthash.pYX3miMH.dpuf

The Hidden Government Group Linking JFK, Watergate, Iran-Contra and 9/11

By Peter Dale Scott on Oct 5, 2014

Peter Dale Scott is considered the father of “Deep Politics”— the study of hidden permanent institutions and interests whose influence on the political realm transcends the elected, appointed and career officials who come and go.

A Professor of English at Berkeley and a former Canadian diplomat, he is the author of several critically acclaimed books on the pivotal events of our country’s recent past, including Deep Politics and the Death of JFK ; Drugs, Oil, and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina (War and Peace Library); The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America and American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (War and Peace Library). He is also a poet, whose long work, Coming to Jakarta: A Poem about Terror, was hailed as “the most important political poem to appear in the English language in a very long time,” by Robert Hass, Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997.

Daniel Ellsberg said of his book Drugs, Oil and War, “It makes most academic and journalistic explanations of our past and current interventions read like government propaganda written for children.”

What follows is based on a recent Scott lecture entitled “The JFK Assassination and Other Deep Events”, and will be expanded on further in his next book, The American Deep State, due out in November.


For some time now, I have been analyzing American history in the light of what I have called structural deep events: events, like the JFK assassination, the Watergate break-in, Iran-Contra, or 9/11, which repeatedly involve law-breaking or violence, are mysterious to begin with, are embedded in ongoing covert processes, have political consequences that enlarge covert government, and are subsequently covered up by systematic falsifications in the mainstream media and internal government records.

The more I study these deep events, the more I see suggestive similarities between them, increasing the possibility that they are not unrelated external intrusions on American history, but parts of an endemic process, sharing to some degree or other a common source.

For example, one factor linking Dallas, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and 9/11, has been the involvement in all four deep events of personnel involved in America’s highest-level emergency planning, known since the 1950s as Continuity of Government (COG) planning, or more colloquially inside the Pentagon as “the Doomsday Project.” A few of these actors may have been located at the top, as overseers of the secret COG system. Others – including some I shall talk about today – were located further down in its secret communications network.

I see this planning group as one among many in what I have chosen to call the American deep state, along with agencies like the CIA and NSA, the private groups like Booz Allen Hamilton to which more than half of the US intelligence budget is outsourced, and finally the powerful banks and corporations whose views are well represented in the CIA and NSA. But if only one group among many, the COG planning group is also special, because of its control of and access to a communications channel, not under government control, that can reach deeply into the US social structure. I discuss these matters at some length in my next book, The American Deep State, due out in November.

COG planning was originally authorized by Truman and Eisenhower as planning for a response to a crippling atomic attack that had decapitated government. In consequence its planning group contemplated extreme measures, including what Alfonso Chardy in 1987 called “suspension of the Constitution.” And yet in Iran-Contra its asset of a secret communications network, developed for the catastrophe of decapitation, was used instead to evade an official embargo on arms sales to Iran that dated back to 1979. My question today is whether the network could have been similarly misused in November 1963.

The Iran-contra misuse has been well-documented. Oliver North supervised the sale of arms to Iran by using his resources as the National Security Council action officer for COG planning, under cover of a “National Program Office” that was overseen by then Vice-President George H. W. Bush. North and his superiors could thus use the COG emergency network, known then as Flashboard, for the arms sales to Iran that had to be concealed from other parts of the Washington bureaucracy as well as the public. So when North had to send emergency instructions for arms delivery to the US Embassy in Lisbon, instructions that directly contravened the embargo prohibiting such sales, he used the Flashboard network to avoid alerting the Ambassador and other unwitting personnel.

The documented example of Iran-Contra allows me to explain what I am saying about the users of the COG network, and also what I am not saying. To begin with, I am not saying that a single “Secret Team” has for decades been using the COG network to manipulate the US Government from outside it. There is no evidence to suggest that North’s actions in Iran-Contra were known to any of his superiors other than CIA chief William Casey and probably George Bush. The point is that a very small group had access to a high-level secret network outside government review, in order to implement a program in opposition to government policy. They succumbed to the temptation to use this secure network that had been designed for other purposes. I have argued elsewhere that this secure network was used again on 9/11, to implement key orders for which the 9/11 Commission could find no records. Whether it was also used for illicit purposes is not known.

It is certain that the COG emergency network program survived North’s demise, and continued to be secretly developed for decades, at a cost of billions, and overseen by a team including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. It is relevant that the two men’s presence on the committee spanned three administrations – those of Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton — even though at one point under Clinton neither man held a position inside the U.S. government. Such continuity was essential for a group so secret that few records existed of its activities. And on 9/11 COG plans were officially implemented for the first time, by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the two men who had planned them for so many years.

Whether or not they knew about Iran-Contra, Cheney and Rumsfeld were on the COG planning committee at the time of Iran-Contra. There is no such obvious link between COG planning and Watergate, but the involvement of COG personnel in Watergate is nonetheless striking. James McCord, one of the Watergate burglars, was a member of a small Air Force Reserve unit in Washington attached to the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) that was assigned “to draw up lists of radicals and to develop contingency plans for censorship of the news media and U.S. mail in time of war.” His unit was part of the Wartime Information Security Program (WISP), which had responsibility for activating “contingency plans for imposing censorship on the press, the mails and all telecommunications (including government communications) [and] preventive detention of civilian ‘security risks,’ who would be placed in military ‘camps.’” In addition, John Dean, perhaps the central Watergate figure, had overseen secret COG activities when serving as the associate deputy attorney general.

In the case of the JFK assassination, I wish to focus on two men who functioned as part of the communications network of the Office of Emergency Planning (OEP), the agency renamed in 1968 as the Office of Emergency Preparedness (to which McCord was attached), and renamed again in 1982 as the National Program Office (for which Oliver North was the action officer).

These two men (there are others) are Winston Lawson, the Secret Service advance man who from the lead car of the motorcade was in charge of the Secret Service radio channels operating in the motorcade; and Jack Crichton, the army intelligence reserve officer who with Deputy Dallas Police Chief George Lumpkin selected the Russian interpreter for Marina Oswald’s first (and falsified) FBI interview.

Lawson has drawn the critical attention of JFK researchers, both for dubious actions he took before and during the assassination, and also for false statements he made after it (some of them under oath). For example, Lawson reported after the assassination that motorcycles were deployed on “the right and left flanks of the President’s car” (17 WH 605). On the morning of November 22, however, the orders had been changed (3 WH 244), so that the motorcycles rode instead, as Lawson himself testified to the Warren Commission, “just back of the President’s car” (4 WH 338; cf. 21 WH 768-70). Captain Lawrence of the Dallas Police testified that that the proposed side escorts were redeployed to the rear on Lawson’s own instructions (7 WH 580-81; cf. 18 WH 809, 21 WH 571). This would appear to have left the President more vulnerable to a possible crossfire.

Early on November 22, at Love Field, Lawson installed, in what would become the lead car, the base radio whose frequencies were used by all Secret Service agents on the motorcade. This radio channel, operated by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), was used for some key decisions before and after the assassination, yet its records, unlike those of the Dallas Police Department (DPD) Channels One and Two, were never made available to the Warren Commission, or any subsequent investigation. The tape was not withheld because it was irrelevant; on the contrary, it contained very significant information.

The WHCA actually reports to this day on its website that the agency was “a key player in documenting the assassination of President Kennedy.” However it is not clear for whom this documentation was conducted, or why it was not made available to the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, or the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). It should have been.

For one thing, the WHCA tape, as Vincent Palamara has written, contains the “key” to the unresolved mystery of who, after the shooting, redirected the motorcade to Parkland hospital. The significance of this apparently straightforward command, about which there was much conflicting testimony, is heightened when we read repeated orders on the Dallas Police radio transcript to “cut all traffic for the ambulance going to Parkland code 3” (17 WH 395) – the ambulance in question having nothing to do with the president (whose shooting had not yet been announced on the DPD radio). In fact the ambulance had been dispatched about ten minutes before the assassination to pick someone from in front of the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD), who was wrongly suspected of having suffered an epileptic seizure.

Lawson later reported to the Secret Service that he heard on his radio “that we should proceed to the nearest hospital.” He wrote also that he “requested Chief Curry to have the hospital contacted,” and then that “Our Lead Car assisted the motorcycles in escorting the President’s vehicle to Parkland Hospital” (17 WH 632), cf. 21 WH 580). In other words, after hearing something on the WHCA radio, Lawson helped ensure that the President’s limousine would follow the route already set up by the motorcycles for the epileptic. (In his very detailed Warren Commission testimony, Lawson said nothing about the route having already been cleared. On the contrary he testified that “we had to do some stopping of cars and holding our hands out the windows and blowing the sirens and horns to get through” (4 WH 354).

The WHCA radio channel used by Lawson and others communicated almost directly to the WHCA base at Mount Weather in Virginia, the base facility of the COG network. From there, Secret Service communications were relayed to the White House, via the
batteries of communications equipment connecting Mount Weather with the White House and “Raven Rock” — the underground Pentagon sixty miles north of Washington — as well as with almost every US military unit stationed around the globe.
Jack Crichton, head of the 488th Army Intelligence Reserve unit of Dallas, was also part of this Mount Weather COG network. This was in his capacity as chief of intelligence for Dallas Civil Defense, which worked out of an underground Emergency Operating Center. As Russ Baker reports, “Because it was intended for ‘continuity of government’ operations during an attack, [the Center] was fully equipped with communications equipment.” In retrospect the Civil Defense Program is remembered derisively, for having advised schoolchildren, in the event of an atomic attack, to hide their heads under their desks.But in 1963 civil defense was one of the urgent responsibilities assigned to the Office of Emergency Planning, which is why Crichton, as much as Secret Service agent Lawson, could be in direct touch with the OEP’s emergency communications network at Mount Weather.

Jack Crichton is of interest because he, along with DPD Deputy Chief George Lumpkin of the 488th Army Intelligence Reserve unit, was responsible for choosing a Russian interpreter for Marina Oswald from the right-wing Russian community. This man was Ilya Mamantov, who translated for Marina Oswald at her first DPD interview on November 22. What she allegedly said in Russian at this interview was later used to bolster what I have called the “phase one” story, still promoted from some CIA sources, that Russia and/or Cuba were behind the assassination.

As summarized by the FBI, Mamantov’s account of Marina’s Russian testimony was as follows:
MARINA OSWALD advised that LEE HARVEY OSWALD owned a rifle which he used in Russia about two years ago. She observed what she presumed to be the same rifle in a blanket in the garage at [Ruth Paine’s residence]…. MARINA OSWALD stated that on November 22, she had been shown a rifle in the Dallas Police Department…. She stated that it was a dark color like the one that she had seen, but she did not recall the sight.
These specific details – that Marina said she had seen a rifle that was dark and scopeless – were confirmed in an affidavit (signed by Marina and Mamantov, 24 WH 219) that was taken by DPD officer B.L. Senkel (24 WH 249). They were confirmed again by Ruth Paine, who witnessed the Mamantov interview, (3 WH 82). They were confirmed again the next night in an interview of Marina by the Secret Service, translated by Mamantov’s close friend Peter Gregory. But a Secret Service transcript of the interview reveals that the source of these details was Gregory, not Marina:
(Q) This gun, was it a rifle or a pistol or just what kind of a gun? Can she answer that?

(A) It was a gun

Mr. Gregory asked: Can you describe it?

NOTE: Subject said: I cannot describe it because a rifle to me like all rifles.

Gregory translation: She said she cannot describe it. It was sort of a dark rifle just like any other common rifle…

Subject in Russian: It was a hump (or elevation) but I never saw through the scope….

Gregory translation: She says there was an elevation on the rifle but there was no scope – no telescope.
We have to conclude not just that Gregory had falsified Marina’s testimony (“a rifle to me like all rifles”); but so probably had his friend Mamantov, who later testified no less than seven times to the Warren Commission that Marina had used the word “dark” to describe the gun. There were others in Dallas who claimed that Oswald’s gun indeed had been scopeless, until Oswald had a scope installed on it by Dallas gunsmith Dial Ryder. The Warren Report elaborately refuted this corroborated claim, and concluded that “the authenticity of the repair tag” used to support it was “subject to grave doubts.” (WR 317).

We can see here, what the Warren Commission did not wish to see, signs of a conspiracy to misrepresent Marina’s testimony, and possibly to link Oswald’s gun to a dark and scopeless rifle he had in the Soviet Union. Our concerns that Mamantov misrepresented her lead us to concerns about why two Army Intelligence Reserve officers from the 488th unit (Jack Crichton and Deputy DPD Chief George Lumpkin) selected Mamantov as her interpreter. Our concerns are increased when we see that B.L. Senkel, the DPD officer who took Marina’s suspect affidavit, was the partner of F.P. Turner, who collected the dubious rifle repair tag (24 WH 328), and that both men spent most of November 22 with DPD Deputy Chief Lumpkin. For example, they were with Lumpkin in the pilot car of the motorcade when Lumpkin was communicating with Winston Lawson in the lead car behind them.

I conclude that when we look at the conduct of the two men we know to have been parts of the COG emergency communications network in Dallas, we see patterns of sinister behavior that also involved others, or what we may call conspiratorial behavior. These concatenated efforts to implicate Oswald in a phase-one conspiracy narrative lead me to propose a hypothesis for which I have neither evidence nor an alternative explanation: namely, that someone on the WHCA network may have been the source for the important unexplained description on the Dallas Police tapes of a suspect who had exactly the false height and weight (5 feet 10 inches, 165 pounds) recorded for Oswald in his FBI and CIA files.

Note that there are no other known sources ascribing this specific height and weight to Oswald. For example, when he was arrested and charged in Dallas that same day, Oswald was recorded as having a height of 5’9 ½ inches, and a weight of 131 pounds. The first reference to Oswald as 5’10”, 165 pounds, was that offered by Oswald’s mother Marguerite to FBI Agent Fain in May 1960, when Oswald himself was absent in Russia.

The DPD officer contributing the description on the Police Channel was Inspector Herbert Sawyer, who allegedly had heard it from someone outside the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) whom he could not identify or describe. The Warren Report said categorically that his source was Howard Brennan (WR 5), and that on the evening of November 22, Brennan “identified Oswald as the person in the lineup who bore the closest resemblance to the man in the window but he said that he was unable to make a positive identification” (WR 145). But there are many reasons to doubt this, starting with conflicts in Brennan’s own testimony (as Anthony Summers reported in Conspiracy, pp. 109-10) . And Ian Griggs has made a strong case that Brennan never saw Oswald in a line-up that evening. (There are police records placing Oswald in three line-ups that day, and corroborating witness reports of them; but there is no evidence whatever that Brennan attended any of the three.)

There is another strong reason to doubt that the source was Brennan. Brennan testified later to the Warren Commission that he saw his suspect in a window of the Texas School Book Depository, “standing up and leaning against the left window sill.” Pressed to describe how much of the suspect he saw, Brennan answered, “I could see probably his whole body, from his hips up. But at the time that he was firing the gun, a possibility from his belt up” (3 WH 144).

The awkwardness of Brennan’s language draws attention to the fundamental problem about the description. It is hard to imagine anyone giving a full height and weight estimate from seeing someone who was only partially visible in a window. So there are intrinsic grounds for believing the description must have come from another source. And when we see that the same description is found in Oswald’s FBI and CIA files — and nowhere else – there are reasons to suspect the source was from government secret files.

We have seen that there was interaction in Dallas between the WHCA and DPD radio channels, thanks to the WHCA portable radio that Lawson had installed in the lead car of the presidential motorcade. This radio in turn was in contact by police radio with the pilot car ahead of it, carrying Dallas Police Department (DPD) Deputy Chief Lumpkin of the 488th Army Intelligence Reserve unit. At the same time, as noted above, it was in contact with the COG nerve center at Mount Weather, Virginia. And Mount Weather had the requisite secret communications to receive information from classified intelligence files, without other parts of the government being alerted.

Permit me at this moment an instructive digression. It is by now well established that Kennedy in 1963 was concerned enough by “the threat of far-right treason” that he urgently persuaded Hollywood director John Frankenheimer “to turn [the novel] Seven Days in May into a movie.” In this book, to quote Wikipedia, a
charismatic superior officer, Air Force General James Mattoon Scott, intend[s] to stage a coup d’état …. According to the plan, an undisclosed Army combat unit known as ECOMCON (Emergency COMmunications CONtrol) will seize control of the country’s telephone, radio, and television networks, while the conspiracy directs the military and its allies in Congress and the media from “Mount Thunder” (a continuity of government base based on Mount Weather).
It is no secret also that in 1963 Kennedy had aroused major right-wing dissatisfaction, largely because of signs of his increasing rapprochement with the Soviet Union. The plot of the book and movie reflects the concern of liberals at the time about generals like General Edwin Walker, who had resigned in 1961 after Kennedy criticized his political activities in the Army. (Walker had given his troops John Birch Society literature, along with the names of right-wing candidates to vote for.) We can assume however that Kennedy had no firm evidence of a Mount Weather conspiracy: if he had, it is unlikely his response would have just been to sponsor a fictionalized movie.

It is important at this stage to point out that, although COG elements like Mount Weather were considered part of the Pentagon, the COG “government in waiting” was at no time under military control. On the contrary, President Eisenhower had ensured that it was broadly based at the top, so its planners included some of the nation’s top corporate leaders, like Frank Stanton of CBS. By all accounts of COG leadership in the decades after Reagan took office in 1981, this so-called “shadow government” still included CEOs of private corporations, like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, as well as three former CIA directors: Richard Helms, James Schlesinger, and George Bush.

Alfonso Chardy wrote in 1987 that the “virtual parallel government” empowering North to run Iran-Contra had also developed “a secret contingency plan that called for suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to FEMA.” Subsequently North was questioned in the Iran-Contra Hearings about this charge, but was prevented by the Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Inouye, from answering in a public session.

Later, investigating the powerful COG planning group, CNN called it “a hidden government [in the USA] about which you know nothing.” James Mann emphasized its hawkish continuity, unaffected by changes of presidency in the White House:
Cheney and Rumsfeld were, in a sense, a part of the permanent, though hidden, national security apparatus of the United States, inhabitants of a world in which Presidents come and go, but America always keeps on fighting.”
Going one step further, Andrew Cockburn quoted a Pentagon source to support a claim that a COG planning group under Clinton was now for the first time staffed “almost exclusively with Republican hawks.” In the words of his source, “You could say this was a secret government-in-waiting. The Clinton administration was extraordinarily inattentive, [they had] no idea what was going on.”

The Pentagon official’s description of COG planners as a “secret government-in-waiting” under Clinton (which still included both Cheney and Rumsfeld) is very close to the standard definition of a cabal, as a group of persons secretly united to bring about a change or overthrow of government. A very similar situation existed under Jimmy Carter, when some of those who would later figure in Iran-Contra (notably George H.W. Bush and Theodore Shackley) worked with chiefs of foreign intelligence services (the so-called Safari Club) “to start working with [former DCI Richard] Helms [then U.S. Ambassador to Iran] and his most trusted operatives outside of Congressional and even Agency purview.” This group began by backing guerrilla forces in Africa (notably UNITA of Jonas Savimbi in Angola), which they knew would not be backed by the CIA under William Colby or Stansfield Turner.

But some of these figures, notably Alexandre de Marenches of the French spy agency SDECE, became involved with Casey, Bush, Shackley, and others in a 1980 plot – the so-called Republican “October Surprise” – to prevent the reelection of Jimmy Carter. The essence of this plot was to frustrate Carter’s efforts to repatriate the hostages seized in the U.S. Tehran Embassy, by negotiating a Republican deal with the Iranians that would be more to their liking. (The hostages in fact were returned hours after Reagan took office in 1981.)

This Republican hostage plot in 1980 deserves to be counted as a fifth structural deep event in recent US history. Unquestionably the illicit contacts with Iran established by the October Surprise Group in 1980 became, as Alfonso Chardy wrote, the “genesis” of the Iran-Contra arms deals overseen by the COG/ Mount Weather planners in 1984-86.

In an important interview with journalist Robert Parry, the veteran CIA officer Miles Copeland claimed that a “CIA within the CIA” inspired the 1980 plot, having concluded by 1980 that Jimmy Carter (in Copeland’s words) “had to be removed from the presidency for the good of the country.” Copeland made it clear to Parry that he shared this view that Carter “represented a grave threat to the nation,” and former Mossad agent Ari Ben-Menashe told Parry that Copeland himself was in fact “the conceptual father” of the 1980 arms-for-hostages deal, and had “brokered [the] Republican cooperation with Israel.” And Copeland, together with his client Adnan Khashoggi whom he advised, went on with Shackley to help launch the 1984-85 Iranian arms deals as well.

However, just as Knebel in Seven Days may have overestimated the military component in the COG Mount Weather leadership, so Copeland may have dwelt too exclusively on the CIA component behind the October Surprise Group. In The Road to 9/11, I suggested that this CIA network overlapped with a so-called “Project Alpha,” working at the time for David Rockefeller and the Chase Manhattan Bank on Iran issues, which was chaired by the veteran establishment figure John J. McCloy.

I will conclude by again quoting James Mann’s dictum that the Mount Weather COG leadership constitutes a “permanent, though hidden, national security apparatus of the United States, … a world in which Presidents come and go, but America always keeps on fighting.” And I would like this audience to investigate whether elements of this enduring leadership, with its ever-changing mix of CIA veterans and civilian leaders, may have constituted “a secret government-in-waiting,” not just under Clinton in the 1990s, not just under Carter in 1980, but also under Kennedy in November 1963.


[1] Peter Dale Scott, The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S. Democracy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014 [forthcoming]). 1.

[2] For a partial list of anomalies between the JFK assassination and 9/11, see Peter Dale Scott, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War (New York: Skyhorse, 2013), 341-96.

[3] Tim Shorrock, Spies for Hire (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 6.

[4] Alfonso Chardy, “Reagan Aides and the Secret Government,” Miami Herald, July 5, 1987, http://bellaciao.org/en/article.php3?id_article=9877: “Some of President Reagan’s top advisers have operated a virtual parallel government outside the traditional Cabinet departments and agencies almost from the day Reagan took office, congressional investigators and administration officials have concluded.”

[5] Iran-Contra Committee Counsel Arthur Liman, questioning Oliver North, “had North repeat his testimony that the diversion was Casey’s idea” (Arthur Liman, Lawyer: a life of counsel and controversy [New York: Public Affairs, 1998], 341).

[6] James Bamford, A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the abuse of America’s intelligence agencies (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 72.

[7] Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 213-14, 219-29.

[8] Bamford, A Pretext for War, 71-81.

[9] Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, All the President’s Men (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974), 23.

[10] Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda (New York: Random House, 1984), 16. For more on WISP, see David Wise, The Politics of Lying: Government Deception, Secrecy, and Power (New York: Random House, 1973), 134-37.

[11] John Dean, Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush (New York: Little Brown, 2004), 120. In addition Howard Baker, in 1973 the ranking Republican member of the Senate Committee that investigated Watergate, was later part of the COG secret leadership (CNN Special Assignment, November 17, 1991).

[12] James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (New York: Viking, 2004), 142.

[13] Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. 9, p.106 (or 9 WH 106) ; Scott, Deep Politics, 275-76; Russ Baker, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009), 119-22.

[14] “White House Communications Agency,” Signal Corps Regimental History, http://signal150.army.mil/white_house_communications_agency.html.

[15] In the 1990s the WHCA supplied statements to the ARRB concerning communications between Dallas and Washington on November 22 (NARA #172-10001-10002 to NARA #172-10000-10008). The Assassination Records Review Board also attempted to obtain from the WHCA the unedited original tapes of conversations from Air Force One on the return trip from Dallas, November 22, 1963. (Edited and condensed versions of these tapes had been available since the 1970s from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas.) The attempt was unsuccessful: “The Review Board’s repeated written and oral inquiries of the White House Communications Agency did not bear fruit. The WHCA could not produce any records that illuminated the provenance of the edited tapes.” See Assassinations Records Review Board: Final Report, chapter 6, Part 1, 116, http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/review-board/report/chapter-06-part1.pdf.

[16] 17 WH 394-95, 23 WH 841; 17 WH 368, 395; Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, 273-74, 278. The alleged epileptic walked away from the ambulance after it arrived at Highland (Warren Commission Document 1245, 6-10).

[17] Statement of Special Agent Winston E. Lawson [to Secret Service],” 17 WH 632; Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, 278.

[18] Richard Pollock, “The Mysterious Mountain,” The Progressive, March, 1976; cf. “Mount Weather’s ‘Government-in-Waiting,’” http://www.serendipity.li/jsmill/mt_weather.htm.

[19] Russ Baker, Family of Secrets, 121.

[20] Dee Garrison , Bracing for Armageddon: Why Civil Defense Never Worked

(New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 46.

[21] Warren Commission Exhibit 1778, 23 WH 383-84.

[22] Commission Document 344 – SS Howard Tape Copy of 01 Dec 1963, p. 23.

[23] Lee Harvey Oswald fingerprint card, 17 WH 308. The heaviest Oswald actually weighed was 150 pounds, when he left the Marines in 1959 (19 WH 584, 595).

[24] FBI report by Special Agent Fain, dated May 12, 1960, 17 WH 706. In the same report Marguerite named Oswald’s father as “Edward Lee Oswald.” His actual name was Robert Edward Lee Oswald (WR 669-70).

[25] Testimony of Inspector Herbert Sawyer, 6 WH 321-22: “I remember that he was a white man and that he wasn’t young and he wasn’t old.” Cf. Dallas Police Channel Two Tape at 12:25 PM (23 WH 916).

[26] Ian Griggs, “Did Howard Leslie Brennan Really Attend an Identification Lineup?”


[27] Statement of Secret Service Winston Lawson, 17 WH 630: “I checked with Chief Curry as to location of Lead Car [at Love Field] and had WHCA portable radio put in and checked.”

[28] “The lead car was in radio contact with the pilot car by police radio, and with the Presidential limousine by Secret Service portable radios” (Pamela McElwain-Brown, “The Presidential Lincoln Continental SS-100-X,” Dealey Plaza Echo, Volume 3, Issue 2, 23, http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=16241&relPageId=27). Cf. Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, 272-75 (Lumpkin).

[29] David Talbot, Brothers: the hidden history of the Kennedy years (New York: Free Press, 2007), 148.

[30] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Days_in_May.

[31] Jonathan M. Schoenwald, A time for choosing: the rise of modern American conservatism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), .

[32] Hope Yen, “Eisenhower Letters Reveal Doomsday Plan: Citizens Tapped to Take Over in Case of Attack,” AP, Deseret News, March 21, 2004, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/595050502/Eisenhower-letters-reveal-doomsday-plan.html?pg=all.

[33] CNN Special Assignment, November 17, 1991.

[34] Alfonso Chardy, “Reagan Aides and the Secret Government,” Miami Herald, July 5, 1987, http://bellaciao.org/en/article.php3?id_article=9877: “Some of President Reagan’s top advisers have operated a virtual parallel government outside the traditional Cabinet departments and agencies almost from the day Reagan took office, congressional investigators and administration officials have concluded.”

[35] Iran-Contra Committee Counsel Arthur Liman, questioning Oliver North, “had North repeat his testimony that the diversion was Casey’s idea” (Arthur Liman, Lawyer: a life of counsel and controversy [New York: Public Affairs, 1998], 341). Cf. The “October Surprise” allegations and the circumstances surrounding the release of the American hostages held in Iran: report of the Special Counsel to Senator Terry Sanford and Senator James M. Jeffords of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Volume 4, p. 33 (October Surprise Group).

[36] CNN Special Assignment, November 17, 1991.

[37] James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, 145.

[38] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy (New York: Scribner, 2007), 88.

[39] Joseph J. Trento, Prelude to terror: the rogue CIA and the legacy of America’s private intelligence network (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005), 61.

[40] Piero Gleijeses, Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, [2013]), 66-68; Elaine Windrich, “The Laboratory of Hate: The Role of Clandestine Radio in the Angolan War,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 3(2), 2000.

[41] Alfonso Chardy, “Reagan Aides and the Secret Government,” Miami Herald, July 5, 1987, http://bellaciao.org/en/article.php3?id_article=9877: “The group, led by campaign foreign policy adviser Richard Allen, was founded out of concern Carter might pull off an “October surprise” such as a last-minute deal for the release of the hostages before the Nov. 4 election. One of the group’s first acts was a meeting with a man claiming to represent Iran who offered to release the hostages to Reagan.

Allen — Reagan’s first national security adviser— and another campaign aide, Laurence Silberman, told The Herald in April of the meeting. they said McFarlane, then a Senate Armed Services Committee aide, arranged and attended it. McFarlane later became Reagan’s national security adviser and played a key role in the Iran-contra affair. Allen and Silberman said they rejected the offer to release the hostages to Reagan.” [The Iranian was Houshang Lavi, and after Lavi’s death Robert Parry confirmed from Lavi’s diary that the meeting did take place].

[42] Alfonso Chardy, “Reagan Aides and the Secret Government,” Miami Herald, July 5, 1987, http://bellaciao.org/en/article.php3?id_article=9877.

[43] “America’s False History Allows the Powerful to Commit Crimes Without Consequence,” Mark Karlin Interview of Robert Parry, January 15, 2013, Truthout Interview, http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/13904-americas-false-history-allows-the-powerful-to-commit-crimes-without-consequence.

[44] Robert Parry, Trick or Treason, 175.

[45] Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America

(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 81-83, 88. A key figure was CIA veteran and Copeland friend Archibald Roosevelt, in 1980 a Carter foe and also employee of the Chase Manhattan Bank.

[46] Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, 145.

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Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.

"The Bush family has a political dynasty that the Kennedy family was not allowed to have."
Steve Cokely

"Be true to who you are. Don't worry how others may view you. Society is ill, infected with racism, homophobia, and violence. Always remember, it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to such a profoundly sick society." Coretta Scott King

"We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The biggest weapon in the hands of the oppressors is the minds of the oppressed." Steve Biko

"Make your spirit flexible, and nothing will ever bend you out of shape." Wisdom by Taro Gold

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