Friday, May 4, 2012

The Conspiracy Theory, 9-11, and Susan Lindauer

Lindauer, Susan
Susan Lindauer
by Nomad
Each of us has a personal limit as to what we are prepared to believe or not. Every religion, every news report and documentary and every conspiracy theory continually probes those limits of our capacity to believe.

The Theory of Conspiracy

The term, conspiracy theory, is nowadays used as a pejorative or dismissive term. 
Without any further discussion, a State Department official or a reporter might say with a smirk, "Well, you know what conspiracy theorists are going to say..."
Because aren't people who believe in conspiracy theories unbalanced or gullible or just plain ignorant? 

But the idea that there could be an alternative version of history is not something that strikes me as strictly incredible. Call it a conspiracy theory, if you will, but giving it that title doesn't make it any more or less invalid. As any scientist will tell you, not all theories are equal but then that's what makes them theories. Each of us has to weigh the evidence in our own minds, to measure it against our own personal sense of reality, and to accept or reject the unconventional hypothesis. 

The fact that the term, conspiracy theory, is used in this way, some would see, is a sign of the closing down of rational thought or the triumph of orthodoxy and dogma. After all, conspiracies do exist and the only way to determine their veracity is, of course, to speculate upon them. 

Those that reject conspiracy theories seem to hold to the principle that if the majority can be convinced, then it is, whether true or false, historical fact. 

In fact, this is never the case. History should be a consensus opinion of the most fully-informed and most impartial. This is why not everybody can be a historian, despite what David Barton and Newt Gingrich may purport.

Research is a process. As evidence is gathered, the theory can be adapted or discarded or improved upon or validated. This is akin to the scientific method, the fundamental basis for all science. 

With historical research, there are three main problems with using this method: one, it requires an unrestricted access to evidence to form a clear picture. Governments are very good at keeping secrets. Two, there needs to be some process of testing when it comes to a historical event. The only test is whether it contradicts any other event and whether it fits in with our sense of reality and that is highly subjective. Finally, it requires an open mind, free as possible from prior bias. That, in this polarized climate, is a tall order and that's why history is best read from a distance of many years.

The Importance of Being Honest

For the average citizen, the necessity of waiting for a definitive view of historical events is frustrating. The best that can be done is to collect and safely store as much available evidence as possible for future historians to sift through. But, then that raises a lot of problems too:
  • How can justice ever be done when the most complete account must be delayed 20, 50 or a century later? 
  • How can we not know whether we are allowing the real criminals to escape?
  • And with no justice, will this only embolden the perpetrators to attempt something even more evil?
  • How can we not allow it happen again? Ten years ago it was Iraq, but what will be the next target?
  • How can we make up for the damages caused by the events? Is that even possible?  
  • Most importantly, how can we not know whether we are putting those same people back into power? 
Humans undoubtedly have an innate sense of justice. It's probably related to a sense of order. Justice means that there is some kind of order and that a collective will has been imposed on chaos. (Some people may be satisfied with an illusion of an orderly universe.) In any case, the desire to learn the full truth behind the attacks on that September day is understandable.

When it comes to the September 11 terror attacks, there are some conspiracy theories that just seem more logical and persuasive. Some theories may seem unimaginative but no less true.
Some might seem extraordinary but possible. And a few that seem not only silly but a conspiracy in an of itself to make the truth harder to find. So yes, not all theories are the same and some deserve a degree of skepticism.

For instance, I have never been partial to the "detonated implosion" theory of the World Trade Center attacks- that is, that certain floors had been rigged prior to, and timed to explode immediately after the airliner impacts. Although there isn't anything particular impossible about the theory, for some reason, my logical brain refuses to take that step.

I am not an explosives or demolition authority and have no special qualifications to judge, but it just seems far-fetched. It also, by itself, doesn't seem necessary to explain what actually happened. (I will add that my mind does remain open on that matter. I simply withhold judgment until more evidence is available.)

Having said all that, I personally hold to the theory that, through some (perhaps illegal) means of surveillance, certain members of the administration had advanced and detailed information about a planned attack and, because it suited their own plans, allowed (and perhaps passively abetted) that plan. After this point, my doubts set in.

The Lindauer Testimony

Well, that is a pretty impressive (tedious?) build-up. Anyway, I stumbled upon a video that I thought would interest you. It is long and I have pared down the first seven minutes of an introduction for a guest speaker. (No offense was meant.) 
So pull up a comfortable chair, with a cup of tea and watch this former CIA asset, Susan Lindauer, relate her story.


 

What do you think? Is she convincing, in your opinion? is she a crackpot or an attention-seeker attempting to peddle her book? 

If the story ended there, it would be a fascinating, somewhat chilling story of one whistleblower's ordeal. But there is another facet that also needs to be examined. 
Back in August of 2004, David Samuels of The New York Times reported the case against Lindauer. While parts of the report seem to corroborate many of the elements from Lindauer's testimony, the piece also certainly calls into question her credibility:
John Lindauer, Susan's younger brother, is used to his sister's unlikely stories -- about dating Arab arms dealers and late-night attempts on her life and her contacts with the C.I.A. A Harvard graduate, and now a successful commercial and music-video director in Los Angeles, he says he thinks that a strain of playacting and deception runs in his family. One of his most powerful childhood memories, he told me, is of watching his father, then 38, grow a mustache and dye his hair gray before being interviewed for the job of chancellor of the University of Alaska at Anchorage. ''Weaving a story to make contact with you, and making you want to be interested in that person, is not a cry for help,'' he said. ''It's just a way of reaching out to say: Remember me. I'm with you. Be interested in me.''
Coming from a relative, that's a pretty harsh indictment. And yet, she managed to shake up his world with her uncanny precognition.
One conversation John had with his sister in the summer of 2001 stuck in his mind for a different reason. ''So she goes, 'Listen, the gulf war isn't over,''' he told me over dinner at a sushi place on the Sunset Strip. '''There are plans in effect right now. They will be raining down on us from the skies.''' His sister told him that Lower Manhattan would be destroyed. ''And I was like, Yeah, whatever,'' he continued. When he woke up six weeks later to the news that two planes had crashed into the twin towers, and watched as ash settled on the window ledge of his sublet in Brooklyn, he had a dislocating sense of having his reality replaced by Susan's strange world -- an experience he would have again when he learned that his sister had been arrested by the F.B.I.
Another damning character reference, this time from an alleged long-time friend, becomes shaded by the fact that what she claimed actually occurred.
Parke Godfrey, a close friend of Lindauer's for the last 15 years, is a professor of computer science at York University in Ontario. He says that Lindauer warned him not to take a job at N.Y.U. the summer before the Sept. 11 attacks. That Lindauer's outlandish predictions actually came true, Godfrey suggests, further encouraged the exalted sense of personal mission that brought her to Washington in the first place.

''Susan is perfectly capable, in certain ways, to live a reasonable life, to take care of herself, to get around, and at any localized time, sitting at dinner, she's completely coherent,'' he said, skirting the blunt layman's question of whether his friend is playing with all her marbles. ''It's in these longer-term views of memory, in what she remembers, in how she's pieced the world together, that she functions unlike the way anyone else does,'' Godfrey concluded. ''It's not the same mental model that you and I use.''
The Times report is a fascinating study and adds another layer of ambiguity to the allegations Lindauer makes in the video. Inevitably, Lindauer's supporters would claim that the article was simply CIA damage-control and an effort at character assassination.
Once again, presented with two equally plausible realities, one conspiracy is eclipsed by yet another possible conspiracy. Once again, we find ourselves at the edge of our limit to believe.

One Assessment

When I listen to Ms. Lindauer, I personally find her a compelling and credible witness about the things to which she herself was privy. I am speaking about her recounting of the events and the information that she herself witnessed as a CIA asset. For example, her testimony about the general expectant atmosphere in the CIA prior to September 2001. 

This ties in with an earlier post about the lies the Bush administration told that "nobody could have predicted the attacks." Not only did they predict them, they were, if her information is correct, expecting them, they appear to have had a great deal of prior knowledge. Moreover, as Lindauer suggests, they seemed to be aware of the full implication of such an attack and how it could be used. 

Another point that Lindauer makes which I find persuasive is the intransigence of the Bush administration to go to war (despite virtual capitulation by the Iraqis). It certainly rings true. The United Nations were also under apparent pressure to give its backing to the invasion despite many of its members being underwhelmed by the US accusations. The French government was also unconvinced by the evidence against Iraq, calling it an Anglo-American plot. 

Meanwhile, Colin Powell was giving speeches about mobile chemical weapons factories, Weaponized Winnebagoes of Death. Even one British scientist David Christopher Kelly, who spoke out against the probability of weapons of mass destruction turned up dead, reportedly by his own hand. (Yet another conspiracy?) Obviously, there existed an agenda to go to war, whether there was sufficient justification or not. 

The accusation by Lindauer tends, then, to fit into the overall version of events. On those points, she presents a convincing case. 
However, I am less convinced about some of her speculations, regarding, for example, the shooting down of the Flight 93 and a few other mostly minor points. (And she herself makes the point that the facts, conclusions based on those facts and speculation must all be kept in separate categories.) 

Reactions are Important Too

Interestingly, the most convincing part of her story is not what she has to say as much as the reaction by the government officials to the claims that she made. The fact that the US government would resort to exactly the same methods as the former Soviet Union- labeling any dissent as a psychological illness, reveals so much about the dangerous mentality at this level of government. 

And we have seen this telling overreaction before, namely with the case of Julian Assange. The cables Wiki-leaks were hardly earth-shattering but the reaction that their release caused suggested something very close dire panic. It seemed as though somebody had something very disturbing that had to be kept hidden. Naturally, overreactions, threats and bullying only feed the fears of conspiracy.

In the end, Lindauer 's testimony- her version of events and her conclusions- make a lot more sense than anything that Bush administration and the government agencies alleged to be true. Unlike Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, Lindauer comes across as spontaneous and genuine. She seems unafraid to confront the record and seems happy to take any question from the audience. Is she evasive? Does she look as if she is hiding anything? Or, does she appear to be motivated by selfish reasons? Or, in a more paranoid vein, is this all just an attempt to "murk" the already murky waters of the terror attacks?

Admittedly I have not read her book and so haven't had any opportunity to look over the documentation. Still, if her accusations are true, if the Bush administration had an opportunity to prevent the attacks and, for personal gain, did not, it would constitute a high crime amounting to treason. And, of course, an accessory to mass murder.

And surely, in all those pages of dark statues of the Patriot Act, there has to be some law against that.
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