On November 24, 2007, September 11th widow Lorie Van Auken whose husband Kenneth W. Van Auken had died in the North Tower spoke before an audience at the Episcopal Church-in-the-Bowery. In support of a campaign for the City of New York to investigate the ‘attacks,’ she remarked:
“It turns out almost everything about 9/11 was out of the ordinary, including the fact that it was never properly investigated…. The reason that we need an investigation into 9/11 is because we never actually had one. The 9/11 Commission was not a real investigation. It was political theatre. The family members who were involved with the commission actually had more questions after the 9/11 independent commission was completed than we had before it was begun” .
Lorie Van Auken was one of a dozen members of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, families went to memorial services for their loved ones and grieved in private. Many waited for the Bush White House to announce an investigation into why the FBI, CIA, and America’s 750-billion-dollar defense establishment failed to prevent the attacks. Instead, Vice-President Dick Cheney said the nation couldn’t afford to divert funds on an investigation while fighting the War on Terror. In May 2002, U.S. Senate leader Tom Daschle told reporters he was concerned that on “several occasions” Cheney has asked that Congress not launch any investigation at all .
Families Press For Truth
Families rallied on June 11, 2002, at the Capitol buildings in Washington D.C. to press for the government to look into the attacks . Lorie Van Auken, along with Mindy Kleinberg, Patty Casazza and Kristen Breitweiser each lost their husbands on September 11th. They became known as “The Jersey Girls” and appeared in a PBS special hosted by Gail Sheehy, news stories in the New York Observer, Chris Matthews’ Hardball, and more . On September 18, 2002, Kristen Breitweiser testified before the Joint Inquiry of the U.S. Senate and Congress . One staff member with the White House said of the victims’ family lobby, “There was a freight train coming down the tracks.” Bowing to pressure, in November 2002 President George W. Bush appointed Dr. Henry Kissinger to head a 9/11 Commission the White House never wanted. After a meeting with members of the Family Steering Committee (FSC) over concerns about conflicts of interest – such as having bin Laden family business clients – Kissinger abruptly resigned instead of disclosing his client list .
Kissinger was replaced by former Republican Governor Thomas Kean, a director of the oil consortium company Amerada Hess which was eager to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. As well, Kean had business ties with Khalid bin Mahfouz, a billionaire suspected of funneling money to al Qaeda.  Kean’s co-chair was Lee Hamilton, a longtime best friend of Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Hamilton was a former chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran and in 1992 the House October Surprise Task Force. Both were viewed by critics as part of a coverup . At first, only $3 million was allotted to investigate events surrounding the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. This contrasts with $50 million to investigate the January 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle crash  and the $80 million devoted to investigating the Lewinsky-Clinton scandal in the 1990s.
Enter Executive Director Philip Zelikow
On March 2, 2003, newly appointed Executive Director of the inquiry, Philip Zelikow, sent a five-page memo to the eighty new 9/11 Commission staff. The memo was entitled “What Do I Do Now?” In his book The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission, author Philip Shenon details how Zelikow instructed staff members on how to go about their jobs on the Commission. The memo prescribed this controversial protocol. “If you are contacted by a commissioner, please contact [deputy executive director] Chris [Kojm] or me. We will be sure that the appropriate members of the Commission’s staff are responsive.” This disturbed experienced staff members who had worked on other federal commissions. Zelikow was shutting down any lines of communication that didn’t go through him or his deputy. Zelikow didn’t want the staff to speak directly with the 9/11 commissioners who they were responsible to .
It was Zelikow who decided who would testify before the 9/11 Commission, and seldom under oath. Zelikow made sure the dubious scholarship of Laure Mylroie – who asserted that Iraq attacked America on 9/11 (a contention echoed in President George W. Bush’s Authorization For Use Of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of October 2002) – was given ample air time before the 9/11 Commission . As were other “Iraq attacked America on 9/11” witnesses. Zelikow had authored the paper that advanced the doctrine of pre-emptive war to bolster President Bush’s case to attack Iraq . But whistleblowers like Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who wanted to testify about the DIA data mining project Able Danger, were among those passed over by the 9/11 Commission .
Remarkably, in March 2003, Philip Zelikow had already co-authored an outline of the 9/11 Commission Report. Though the inquiry had yet to hold its first public hearing, the outline offered a narrative. It happened that the 9/11 Commission Report released in July 2004 mirrored most of the chapter headings and sub-headings of the outline. The outline, according to Senior Counsel Ernest May, was “treated as if it were the most classified document the commission possessed.” Zelikow had the outline stamped “Commission Sensitive” on the top and bottom of each page. When the outline was leaked in the spring of 2004, many staff were shocked . Did the outline establish in advance what the 9/11 Commission Report would conclude? For Bob McIlvaine, whose son Bobby died on 9/11, the existence of an outline for the official story before the first public hearings were even held was scandalous. He said, “That’s monumental news. The outline of the investigation of my son’s murder was out before the first day they started the investigation” . At the first public hearing 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean stated “our fundamental purpose will not be to point fingers.” The inquiry was not going to “assign blame.” Kean said, “In the parlance of Congress this is not an investigative hearing, but an informal one” .
A National Scandal
One 9/11 Commissioner who was judged by the families to be the most dedicated to getting to the bottom of what happened was Max Cleland. He was appointed to the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and resigned in December 2003. Before he left the Commission, Cleland told reporters that the inquiry was “a national scandal.” He told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! that “the White House had played cover-up and a slow walk to this game from the beginning” . Cleland pointed to the lack of access to government documents. He was also upset others on the 9/11 Commission didn’t want to probe into the Iraq War. Was it just a coincidence that a President who wanted a war in Iraq happened to have a political event unfold that gave him cause to preemptively go to war? Cleland also compared the 9/11 Commission to the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. When Max Cleland resigned, the Family Steering Committee and other Sept 11 families lobbied for a replacement they could trust. The replacement of Democrat Cleland was up to Democrat Senate minority leader Tom Daschle.
The families wanted 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser on the panel. Other suggestions the families offered were former Pentagon Inspector General Eleanor Hill and former Senator Gary Hart. Instead, Daschle appointed Vietnam Veteran and probable war criminal Bob Kerrey. Vietnamese and military witnesses claimed Kerrey ordered the slaughter of 21 unarmed women and children in a raid on the tiny hamlet of Thanh Phong in February of 1969 . Kerrey was also a member of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) dominated Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Kerrey’s appointment contributed to the commission’s continued focus on Iraq as being complicit in the attacks. The dozen members of the Family Steering Committee presented over a thousand questions, and subsets of questions, to the 9/11 Commission in March 2003. Commissioner Jamie Gorelick told the press that the families’ questions would provide the inquiry with “a road map” to proceed with their task . However, few public hearings took place. And 70% of the FSC questions were ignored.
September 11 Families Issue Report Card
In September 2003 the Family Steering Committee issued a Report Card on the progress of the 9/11 Commission.  They gave the inquiry a “D” for Investigative, Informative Open Hearings. The FSC noted only three public hearings had taken place in nine months. Kean and Hamilton had initially committed to holding monthly public hearings. Additionally, while the Joint Inquiry (Senate and Congress) had issued regular Interim Reports, none were being released by the 9/11 Commission. The FSC gave the inquiry a “D” for Staff Director Interim Reports. Without interim reports, it was hard for the public to verify that the 9/11 Commission was on track with their task. The FSC gave the inquiry a “D” for Structure and Conduct of Open Hearings. The families were “shocked” with the use of “minders” when witnesses came forward to testify from different government agencies.
The FSC wrote, “despite the Commissioner’s similar objection to minders, as stated at the last press conference, minders continue to be present during witness examination and questioning. The FSC does not want minders present during any witness examination and questioning; it is a form of intimidation and it does not yield the unfettered truth. Also (we are concerned about) the failure of this Commission to swear witnesses in prior to their testimony. Without sworn testimony, witnesses cannot be held accountable for what they testify about before the Commission” .
Alarm at the slow progress of the 9/11 Commission was reflected in an FSC press release on September 10, 2003:
“Since no substantive information about the investigation has been released, we are being asked to take on faith that an in-depth investigation is taking place and that it will not be a whitewash. But trust began to die when President Bush opposed an independent investigation for more than a year. We should not have had to fight our government for an independent Commission. Each subsequent misrepresentation or manipulation of facts by government officials has caused further erosion of trust. Lingering questions, and those that have been answered with half-truths or omissions, do not promote trust. Instead, they lead to conjecture and discontent” .
“Terrorism is Theater” ~ Brian Jenkins
At the first hearing on March 31, 2003, Mary Fetchet and Mindy Kleinberg of the FSC were among four victims’ family members speaking before the inquiry. Among others appearing before the 9/11 Commission was Brian Jenkins of the RAND Corporation. Jenkins told the inquiry that fighting the terrorists “is a war fought largely in the shadows…. Our efforts to destroy al Qaeda and its successors will take years.” 
Brian Jenkins’ bio told 9/11 Commissioners that he “served as a captain in the Green Berets in the Dominican Republic and later in Vietnam (1966-1970).” But the bio didn’t apprise commissioners of his Special Forces roles. In his book, Another Nineteen: Investigating Legitimate 9/11 Suspects, Kevin Ryan points out that as a Special Forces soldier Brian Jenkins was in Guatemala in 1965. Coincidentally, this was when the death squad Operation Cleanup was launched that “effected kidnappings and assassinations that killed leaders of Guatemala’s labor unions and peasant federations.” Jenkins biographical note from his book Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? states he was with the “Seventh Special Forces Group in the Dominican Republic during the 1965 American intervention” Operation Power Back. From 1966 in Vietnam, Jenkins states he was with the Fifth Special Forces Group in Vietnam, where he later told the Los Angeles Times he was trying to recruit villagers to join a “pro-U.S. counter-guerrilla force.” 
Jenkins bio provided for the commissioners stated that “From 1989 to 1998, [Jenkins] was the deputy Chairman of Kroll Associates.” However, the bio didn’t note that in that capacity, Brian Jenkins was key to conducting the security analysis for the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the 1993 truck bombing in the North Tower. Kevin Ryan points out that Jenkins was positioned to “design and implement the new security system for the WTC complex” which could have included “installation of ‘backdoor’ access systems” . Jenkins’ bio for the March 31, 2003 public hearing states that before working with Kroll Associates he “served as chairman of RAND’s Political Science Department and directed RAND’s research on political violence.” What Jenkins’ bio failed to include was that at the age of thirty, he initiated the RAND Corporation’s Terrorism Research Program. In 1974, Jenkins wrote a paper for RAND explaining that with “government terror” a nation state could employ “terrorists as surrogates” (proxies, substitute agents, deputy). Importantly, Jenkins articulated a philosophy of terrorism when employed by a government. “Terrorism is aimed at the people watching, not at the actual victims. Terrorism is theater (whose aim was) to enforce obedience and cooperation. This is the normal objective of state or official terrorism” and that “success demands the creation of an atmosphere of fear and seeming omnipresence of the internal security apparatus” .
The bio for the public hearing also said of Brian Jenkins, “In 1996, was appointed by President Clinton to be a member of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.” It should have been of interest to the 9/11 Commissioners, the Sept 11 victims’ family members and surviving first responders that Jenkins also coincidentally “reviewed the possibility of airliners crashing into the Twin Towers.” In 2008, he told the Los Angeles Times “We knew there was no realistic way to protect the skyscrapers from a suicide mission.” 
Finally, terrorism expert Brian Jenkins’ bio noted that he “served as an advisor to the National Commission on Terrorism (1999-2000).” This commission was nicknamed the “Bremer Commission” after its chairman Paul Bremer. Author Kevin Ryan comments that the key roles both Jenkins and Bremer played in shaping the nations conversation about terrorism begs this question. “Could Bremer and Jenkins have been front men for a program that was hyping the threat of terrorism while at the same time manufacturing terrorist events for political purposes?” 
A good question. Yet, the 9/11 Commission began with the presupposition that the one and only suspects were the alleged 19 hijackers and Osama bin Laden. So, there was no scrutiny of Brian Jenkins or others within the United States government plausibly complicit in the attacks.
Catalogue of Unanswered Questions
The Family Steering Committee asked the 9/11 Commission to question SEC and CIA officials to learn “Were individuals with ties to terrorists or states which sponsor terrorism involved in shorting airline and other stocks which were impacted by the terrorist attacks on September 11th?” This included a cousin of President George W. Bush, Wirt Walker III, who coincidentally placed bets that airline stocks would fall after September 11th. And Walker happened to be a board member of the Carlyle Group, along with Osama bin Laden’s brother Shafig bin Laden .
The FSC asked that the FAA explain “Why was the American public told after 9/11 that box-cutters were allowed on planes, when we have since come to find out that they were specifically listed as airline contraband? Who is responsible for this disinformation?” The families asked the inquiry to find out “What role did American think tanks, which make policy recommendations to the administration, play in American foreign policy decisions and the proliferation of al Qaeda?” The FSC wanted Mayor Giuliani to answer the question: “Please detail all contact you had during the summer of 2001 with FEMA. What actions were carried out at the direction of FEMA? Specifically, what was the content of your conversations with Mr. Joe Allbaugh?” The families wanted the inquiry to put the question to President George W. Bush “On the morning of 9/11, who was in charge of our country while you were away from the National Military Command Center?” And to “Please explain your 14-month opposition to the creation of an independent commission to investigate 9/11 and your request to Senator Daschle to quash such an investigation” .
The Family Steering Committee observed, “Three hijackers obtained visas under an accelerated approval program, called Visa Express at travel agencies in Saudi Arabia. Visa Express had only been in place for three months before September 11, 2001.” They wanted the 9/11 Commission to ask Immigration and Naturalization Service senior staff, “Who initiated this process and what was the reason given for instituting the program?” Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Undersecretary of Management Grant Green were intimately involved with the Visa Express program. The dubious process inserted into the express program ensured “The issuing officer has no idea whether the person applying for the visa is actually the person (listed) in the documents and application” . But, that was one of the many stones the 9/11 Commission left unturned. As Commissioner Tim Roemer observed, these and many other questions were treated as “darn good questions.” But at the end of the day only nine percent of the questions were answered satisfactorily. Another twenty-one percent were brushed over. Seventy percent were ignored. In 2006 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer told CNN that Commission members were considering a criminal probe of false statements made by Pentagon officials. “We were extremely frustrated with the false statements we were getting,” Roemer told CNN .
Efforts for a New 9/11 Inquiry
After the 9/11 Commission issued its Report in July 2004, its omissions were glaring. It was a catalyst for a series of efforts to launch another inquiry into the attacks. On November 24, 2007, former Family Steering Committee members Lorie Van Auken and Patty Casazza addressed a gathering pledged to put a ballot initiative before the City of New York. Van Auken showcased some of the questions the families wanted addressed. This included new questions formed since they monitored the 9/11 Commission. Lorie Van Auken asserted:
“A large part of the 9/11 story has been shaped by phone calls made from passengers and flight staff on the hijacked planes. Have you ever tried to make a cell phone call from an airplane? I have tried many times. I have attempted to place a call during take-off, during the flight and upon descending. My calls have been unsuccessful. The closest I ever came to having a conversation with someone from an airplane, was about a month ago when I tried to call Mindy Kleinberg, another 9/11 widow, during take-off in an American Airlines plane – we have developed our own protocols, when she flies, she tries to call me, and when I fly, I try to call her. While on an American Airlines flight on October 16, 2007, upon my third try, the cell phone connection was made, and I spoke to Mindy for a few seconds before we were cut off. All I had time to say was “hi, I’m on the plane”. I could not have imparted any meaningful information to her in our very brief conversation. By the way, the American Airlines plane that I was flying on was a 767, the planes on 9/11 were allegedly 757’s and 767’s, and there were no GTE phones in the seat backs of my plane. How did the people who called out from the doomed planes on 9/11 manage to do it? My little experiments have all been failures. Despite our attempts to find out, we still don’t know which calls were claimed to have been from cell phones, and which were alleged to have been GTE operator calls. This information is a matter of record, easily subpoenaed for. Where are the experts who should have testified before the commission regarding cell phone technology in airplanes? Why is this information still being kept secret? Interestingly, in a little noticed news item released in a BBC news article from 2004, Airbus said that it was planning to put in-flight mobile phone technology on its aircraft by 2006…. Airbus estimated that by 2006 it will be possible to use mobiles during flights. Wouldn’t that suggest that in 2001, the technology for cell phone usage from a plane was non-existent?” 
In September 2012 Lorie Van Auken wrote a letter published in the Journal of 9/11 Studies. She wrote “There are many ever-evolving and unanswered questions with regard to the day of September 11, 2001. The 9/11 Commission did not satisfactorily address the central issues, nor did The National Institute of Standards and Technology in its investigation into the World Trade Center collapses…. A real investigation with evidence and experts is still needed if we are to ever understand what really happened on that tragic day” .
While successive efforts by the families, some first responders and citizen activists have been laudable, the government continues to stonewall any attempts to re-investigate 9/11. Twenty-one years after the attacks, the families, first responders, American citizens and the world still await proper investigation into events surrounding the deaths of nearly 3,000 citizens. September 11 has been used as the political catalyst to launch decades of wars, mass surveillance, and deform democracies. We have to know what really happened.
Were the events of September 11th a psychological operation? Why was CNBC reporting two minutes after the South Tower fell at 9:59 AM “We just heard from them (government sources) just moments before that another jetliner, a 737, crashed into the building way down low. And that, apparently, was enough to take the World Trade Center South Tower out completely. The building is gone. The scope of this attack is mindblowing….This latest plane came almost an hour after the first.”  Were reports like these intended to overwhelm shocked, fearful, traumatized TV viewers and prepare them for the War on Terror? Reports of a second plane hitting the South Tower vanished by the end of the day. Major General Larry Arnold would later tell the 9/11 Commission, “By the end of the day, we had 21 aircraft identified as possible hijackings.”  Col. Robert Marr Jr. recalled, “At one time I was told that across the nation there were some 29 different reports of hijackings.” 
The 9/11 commissioners were deferential to the families questions in public, but behind the scenes ignored most of the “road map” these questions provided. The media has showcased many of the people who died and the loved ones they left. But it has largely ignored delving into the families’ questions. The story of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission is not well known. In 2021, I published Unanswered Questions: What the September Eleventh Families Asked and the 9/11 Commission Ignored to provide a physical record of some of this story.  But in the current political climate even a book chronicling the story of the Family Steering Committee is taboo. In the case of Unanswered Questions readers are not told what to think, but to reach their own conclusions. Still, most book reviewers and libraries ignore any book trying to shine a light on the disturbing questions of the victims’ families that their government ignores to this day.
- “Kyle Hence, Lorie Van Auken and Patty Casazza speak at NY 9/11 Truth forum,” NY 9/11 Truth, November 24, 2007.
- Benjamin, Mark and Horrock, Nicholas M., Daschle ‘gravely concerned’ by 9-11 report, UPI, May 16, 2002.
- “Traces of Terror, Survivors, Trade Center Widows Lobby for Independent Inquiry,” New York Times, June 12, 2002.
- Sheehy, Gail, “Four Moms Battle Bush,” New York Observer, August 25, 2003.
- Matthews, Chris, “Transcript: Kristen Breitweiser on Hardball,” MSNBC, December 18, 2003.
- “Kristen Breitweiser Testimony,” Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11, Washington D.C., September 18, 2002.
- Roberts, Joel, “Kissinger Quits 9/11 Panel,” CBS, December 14, 2002.
- “The Kean Commission: The Official Commission Avoids the Core Issues,” 9/11research.wtc7.net, February 3, 2008.
- Burger, Timothy J., “9-11 Commission Funding Woes,”Time, March 26, 2003.
- Shenon, Philip,The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, Hachette, 2008, pp. 83-86.
- O’ Cathail, Maidhe, “Pentagon Author Exposes Zelikow’s Key Role in 9/11 Cover-Up,” countercurrents.org, October 16, 2010.
- “Authorization For Use of Military Force Against Iraq resolution of 2002,”S. Congress, October 16, 2002.
- Khanna, Satyam, “Shenon: Zelikow Designed Bush Administration’s Pre-Emptive War Doctrine In 2002,” Thinkprogress.org, March 10, 2008.
- Bohn, Kevin, “Officer: 9/11 panel didn’t receive key information,” CNN, August 17, 2005.
- Shenon, Philip,The Commission, 388-389.
- “Thomas Kean Runs Away,” WeAreChange.org, September 6, 2011.
- “Opening Remarks – Thomas Kean,” 9/11 Commission, C-SPAN, March 31, 2003. Especially minutes 9 to 12.
- “The White House Has Played Cover-up” – Former 9/11 Commissioner Max Cleland Blasts Bush,”Democracy Now!, March 23, 2004.
- Kubiak, David, “Daschle PNACkles ‘Commission Incredible’ – Top Dem Mis-Kerrey’s National 9/11 Probe,” Houston Indymedia, December 21, 2003.
- Chaddock, Gail Russell, “A key force behind the 9/11 commission:Family and victims’ groups have provided a ‘road map’ for the probe, asking tough questions,” Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 2004.
- Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission, “Family Steering Committee Report Card for the 9/11 Commission,”September 2003.
- Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission, “Family Steering Committee Press Conference Remarks,” September 10, 2003.
- “Statement of Brian Jenkins to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,” March 31, 2003
- Ryan, Kevin, Another Nineteen: Investigating Legitimate 9/11 Suspects, CreateSpace, 2013, pp. 184-190. According to Brian Jenkins’ own biography he was “Commissioned in the infantry at the age of 19 (1961)… became a paratrooper and…a captain in the Green Berets,” from Jenkins, Brian, Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?, Prometheus, 2008. See also “Guatemalan Civil War,” Wikipedia.org; And Krikorian, Greg, “Calmly Taking Terror’s Measure” in note 29 below for Jenkins’ remarks about what he was doing in Vietnam.
- Ibid, p. 184.
- Ibid, p. 186. Jenkins, Brian M., “International Terrorism: A New Kind of Warfare,” RAND Corporation, 1974.
- Krikorian, Greg, “Calmly Taking Terror’s Measure,”Los Angeles Times, January 31, 2008.
- Ryan, Kevin,Another Nineteen: Investigating Legitimate 9/11 Suspects, p. 179.
- McGinnis, Ray,Unanswered Questions: What the September Eleventh Families Asked and the 9/11 Commission Ignored, NorthernStar, 2021, p. 130.
- Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission, “Part 1: Bush Administration, National Securty Council, Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States,” March 18, 2004.
- Ryan, p. 40.
- Starr, Barbara and Benson, Pam, “9/11 Panel Distrusted Pentagon Testimony: Commissioners Considered Criminal Probe of False Statements,” CNN, August 2, 2006.
- “Kyle Hence, Lorie Van Auken and Patty Casazza speak at NY 9/11 Truth forum,” NY 9/11 Truth, November 24, 2007.
- Van Auken, Lorie, “Letters,”Journal of 9/11 Studies, September 2012.
- “9-11-2001 (8:46 A.M. E.T. – 11:25 A.M. E.T.),” CNBC, September 11, 2001, 74 minutes into live coverage.
- “Conversation With Major General Larry Arnold, Commander, 1st Air Force, Tyndall AFB, Florida,” Code One, January 2, 2002.
- Baker, Robert A., “Commander of 9/11 Air Defenses Retires,” Newhouse News, March 31, 2005.
- McGinnis, Ray,Unanswered Questions: What the September Eleventh Families Asked and the 9/11 Commission Ignored, NorthernStar, 2021.
(Featured Image: Ms. magazine, Winter 2004-2005 issue, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Cropped, filtered.)