When it's okay to believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories

The south tower of the World Trade Center
(Image credit: AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Col. Miles Kara (Ret.), a highly credentialed member of the congressional joint commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks, is one of the most dogged and least ideological of those who believe that the ground truth of what happened that day has not been fully and faithfully disclosed to the public. In that sense, Kara wants the truth. But he is not a 9/11 Truther; he is not, so far as I can tell, an adherent to the discredited theories about who planned the attack, who carried it out, whether the U.S. government "allowed" the attacks to happen deliberately, or whether the attacks were a deliberate "false flag" operation to shock the world out of its post Cold War reverie.

What he does believe is, frankly, what the 9/11 Commission's report concluded: that the government's response to the events of 9/11, to the intelligence they received beforehand, and to the questions they received after, were deeply flawed. Kara believes that if the government had organized its response around two centers of gravity — the NMCC in the Pentagon and the FAA's Command Center — and had feedback loops been in place and rehearsed to allow for inevitable mistakes to be caught and quickly corrected, much of the chaos that delayed critical decisions could have been reduced. In his own words:

"The nation's response was supposed to organize around set structures, two in particular. First, both the FAA and NMCC had procedures in place to 'manage' events that perturbed the equilibrium. Neither was effective, neither could talk to the other; they might as well have been on different planets.

Second, at the national level, things were supposed to organize around the White House Situation Room. The Secret Service removal of the vice president to the surreal world of the PEOC virtually ensured that he would be out of touch and filtered from reality, not that the Situation Room was a much better place to be, information-wise. However, there at least the vice president could have heard, perhaps seen, the Langley fighters overhead at 10:00, as captured on video in real time by a CNN camera crew.

Concerning both the PEOC and the Situation Room, I can't help but recall George Plimpton's classic description of a golf swing. Time.com has it this way: "His mind invents a nightmarish fantasy in which a team of inept Japanese admirals, located somewhere in his brain, shout useless instructions through the imaginary voice tubes of his creaking body machinery in an effort to help him hit the ball correctly."

This, I agree with. Almost entirely.

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Marc Ambinder

Marc Ambinder is TheWeek.com's editor-at-large. He is the author, with D.B. Grady, of The Command and Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry. Marc is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic and GQ. Formerly, he served as White House correspondent for National Journal, chief political consultant for CBS News, and politics editor at The Atlantic. Marc is a 2001 graduate of Harvard. He is married to Michael Park, a corporate strategy consultant, and lives in Los Angeles.