To capitalize on the strategic importance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the International Center for 9/11 Studies is sponsoring a four-day set of hearings, September 8-11, at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Officially called “The International Hearings on the Events of September 11, 2001”, this historic gathering of panelists, expert witnesses, and numerous key figures in the 9/11 truth movement is being more commonly referred to as the “Toronto Hearings.” Focusing primarily on the scientific forensic and other evidence and eyewitness testimony, with emphasis on the destruction of the three World Trade Center high-rises, the Hearings will identify some of the best evidence regarding the events of 9/11, thus encouraging and enabling national and/or international legal agencies to pursue formal investigations.Planning for the Hearings is currently underway and being coordinated by a Steering Committee, an Advisory Committee and several Working Groups. The Steering Committee is comprised of James Gourley, Laurie Manwell, Graeme MacQueen, Kevin Ryan and Adnan Zuberi. The Hearings will be moderated by Michael Keefer, Professor of English at the University of Guelph, and Matthew Witt, Associate Professor of Public Administration at the University of LaVerne.
I recently caught up with MacQueen, Zuberi and Keefer and talked with each of them about their unique perspectives on the Hearings, what they anticipate will take place, and what they hope will be the outcomes.
MacQueen, who taught Religious Studies at McMaster University for 30 years, believes that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is important for many reasons. Aside from the fact that we normally commemorate anniversaries, he notes that 9/11 has moved into a position of being a crucial myth in US society and history. Referring to his own religious studies, as well as the work of David Ray Griffin and others, he says “If you’ve studied religion as [we] have, you see all the signs – what we sometimes call ‘Civil Religion’. In the case of 9/11, we can see that all of that has been developed.”
MacQueen expects that around the 10th anniversary, we will experience a lot of ‘symbolic revisiting’ – re-telling the story over and over again, even to young people who don’t remember the actual event, leading to a kind of quasi-religious account of 9/11. According to MacQueen, what is needed in this case is a ‘counter-voice’. “What we’re doing that is different is not just telling a different story or promoting a different myth, but actually trying to combat myth with reason, science and research … a whole different way of approaching reality,” he says.
MacQueen echoes the call for a new, independent investigation into what happened on 9/11. “We’re devoted to this enlightenment project of finding out what really happened so that we can base our lives on what’s true,” he says. “After 10 years of research and criticism, we can now show the official story does not hold up, and must be discarded.” The tone and approach being undertaken is also an important characteristic of the Hearings. “Obviously what Richard [Gage] and all the rest of you have done is to help move this questioning right into the heart of social respectability. I see our Hearings as in that same tradition.” Central to the need to make further inroads into the seats of legitimacy in society is bringing credentialed people into the discussion. “We’re going to try and be calm and bring people who know what they’re talking about to give testimony based on evidence and reason,” MacQueen says. Ultimately, one of the objectives of the Hearings is to make it much harder for institutions like the mainstream media, universities and political parties to simply dismiss the evidence, and having the involvement of credible expert witnesses is essential to making that possible.
Adnan Zuberi, another steering committee member, agrees with MacQueen about the importance of the 10th anniversary, which he says “can have the illegitimate effect of solidifying [the official conspiracy theory] … so we feel as responsible and alert citizens that it is important to not only commemorate those who were unfortunately murdered on 9/11, but to also come together in reason and analyze what happened on that day.” According to Zuberi, the idea of citizen hearings means that “We don’t have to wait for government authorities to legitimize the concerns of citizens. We have people as good as the FBI, ex-intelligence experts, and former government officials.”
Zuberi feels that 9/11 is a very rare case, much different than other ‘deep political’ events of the past like Watergate, because those incidents became essentially intelligence affairs. Referring to the work of Kevin Ryan, who clearly demonstrated the implausibility of NIST’s differential thermal expansion argument, among other things, which they claim led to the ‘collapse’ of WTC 7, he says “It’s not often that citizens can challenge major intelligence agencies with that type of power and logic … 9/11 is unique because experts can actually prove that [the official conspiracy theory] is wrong.”
Zuberi also agrees that it will be hard for the media to dismiss these Hearings. “These are distinguished professors … they have historical contributions,” he says, in reference to individuals like panelist Richard B. Lee, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Among his many achievements, it is worth noting that American Scientist holds one of Dr. Lee’s contributions as amongst the hundred greatest scientific works of the 20th century. “The media will have to examine this,” says Zuberi. “They can’t just dismiss it.”
The other panelists are just as impressive. Ferdinando Imposimato, Honorary President of the Supreme Court of Italy, has presided over several terrorism-related cases. He has also been Senior Investigative Judge, a member of the Anti-Mafia Commission in three administrations, and legal consultant to the United Nations.
Herbert Jenkins is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at McMaster University, and is noted for the creation of the university’s interdisciplinary Arts and Science, and Engineering and Society Programs. David Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Tennessee has served on the staffs of the Washington National Capital Planning Commission and the Regional Plan Association of New York.With Toronto being known as a very multicultural and diverse city, often compared to New York in that regard, Zuberi would also like to see a diversity amongst the professionals who are present at the Hearings. “Everyone needs to come out to see this,” he says, adding that this element of professional diversity is crucial to the success of this event.
Dr. Michael Keefer, who will act as one of the moderators, emphasizes the importance of examining the scientific evidence that has become available in the last 10 years since 9/11. He says the Hearings are “trying to bring together the best available evidence, to submit that evidence to rigorous examination, and then to disseminate the results as widely as possible. This kind of inquiry, which is run by an international collectivity of citizens, scholars and researchers, is something that can potentially carry a lot of weight.” Keefer makes clear how necessary it is to prioritize evidence in relation to other arguments. “The primary issue is that questions of human contingency come secondary in any kind of order of explanation to scientifically established physical reality. In other words, if the buildings were destroyed in a certain way, that tells us something that we can’t dismiss by saying ‘oh, it would have been too complex to achieve that.’”Keefer also makes note of the kinds of popular misconceptions encouraged by ideologues like Jonathan Kay, whose book Among the Truthers has, according to Keefer, the clear objective of smearing serious research as flaky. “I think the public presence of a group of very distinguished witnesses and panelists is a clear sign of something that completely escapes the smear tactics of these people,” Keefer says.Keefer believes that the list of people who have already accepted invitations to be witnesses is “stunning … a pretty formidable lineup.” This is in addition to the list of those who are acting as patrons – distinguished individuals who have provided support and encouragement for the Hearings – which includes a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the former President of McMaster University, a recipient of the National Medal of Science, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and others. “It’s another sign of seriousness,” Keefer notes.A tremendous amount of hard work has gone into planning the Hearings, including decisions around which topics to cover and how to present them. Each day of the Hearings will have one or more themes, such as day 3, which will focus on the destruction of the World Trade Center. MacQueen explains, “If you sit down and actually try to design four days of hearings … you realize pretty quickly that you can’t do everything and you have to establish criteria for choosing.” These criteria have been described as follows:
Evidence presented at the Hearings will be chosen according to the following criteria: high degree of certainty; importance; and consensus. High degree of certainty means that the Hearings will concentrate not on speculation but on facts that can firmly be established. Importance means that the Hearings will concentrate on elements of the governmental explanation that are crucial to that explanation. Consensus means that evidence chosen will be that which is least controversial within the movement of dissent that is critical of the official explanation.
MacQueen says “We are trying to produce a high credibility event which will bring us further into persuading those in society that haven’t looked at this yet that we’re right, and that the official story has to be discarded.”At the conclusion of the Hearings, a final report will be produced and edited by attorney James Gourley, Director of the International Center for 9/11 Studies. The panelists will help in creating the final report that will include their conclusions, based on the body of evidence presented at the Hearings. The entire proceedings will be made available online, live via webcast. Private funding to carry out the Toronto Hearings is being provided by citizens from around the world. The International Center for 9/11 Studies is now actively fund-raising to augment donations received to date. Any excess funds will be used to sustain this ongoing project to bring accountability to those responsible for the events of 9/11. According to a recent update issued by the Steering Committee, this project will not stop until “all of the crucial evidence regarding the case is discovered, presented and safeguarded, and the corresponding national and international legal investigations have been successfully triggered to investigate and identify those responsible and to bring them to justice.” Accomplishing this strategic (and costly) international goal will require the generous financial support of thousands of people from around the world. Donations can be made at:http://torontohearings.org/donations.Recently, news of the Toronto Hearings went global through the PR Newswire press service, reaching mainstream media outlets throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. More news and information can be found online attorontohearings.org, on Facebook and Twitter (@TorontoHearings).