It is often claimed that bin Laden's guilt is proved by a video, reportedly found by US intelligence officers in Afghanistan in November 2001, in which bin Laden appears to report having planned the attacks. But critics, pointing out various problems with this "confession video," have called it a fake.17 General Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan's ISI, said: "I think there is an Osama Bin Laden look-alike."18 Actually, the man in the video is not even much of a look-alike, being heavier and darker than bin Laden, having a broader nose, wearing jewelry, and writing with his right hand.19 The FBI, in any case, obviously does not consider this video hard evidence of bin Laden's responsibility for 9/11.
What about the 9/11 Commission? I mentioned earlier that it gave the impression of having had solid evidence of bin Laden's guilt. But Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the Commission's co-chairs, undermined this impression in their follow-up book subtitled "the inside story of the 9/11 Commission."20
Whenever the Commission had cited evidence for bin Ladin's responsibility, the note in the back of the book always referred to CIA-provided information that had (presumably) been elicited during interrogations of al-Qaeda operatives. By far the most important of these operatives was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), described as the "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks. The Commission, for example, wrote:
Bin Ladin . . . finally decided to give the green light for the 9/11 operation sometime in late 1998 or early 1999. . . . Bin Ladin also soon selected four individuals to serve as suicide operatives. . . . Atta---whom Bin Ladin chose to lead the group---met with Bin Ladin several times to receive additional instructions, including a preliminary list of approved targets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Capitol.21
The note for each of these statements says "interrogation of KSM."22
Kean and Hamilton, however, reported that they had no success in "obtaining access to star witnesses in custody . . . , most notably Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."23 Besides not being allowed to interview these witnesses, they were not permitted to observe the interrogations through one-way glass or even to talk to the interrogators.24 Therefore, they complained: "We . . . had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information. How could we tell if someone such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed . . . was telling us the truth?"25
An NBC "deep background" report in 2008 pointed out an additional problem: KSM and the other al-Qaeda leaders had been subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture, and it is now widely acknowledged that statements elicited by torture lack credibility. "At least four of the operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report," this NBC report pointed out, "have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being "-tortured.'" NBC then quoted Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, as saying: "Most people look at the 9/11 Commission Report as a trusted historical document. If their conclusions were supported by information gained from torture, . . . their conclusions are suspect."26
Accordingly, neither the White House, the British government, the FBI, nor the 9/11 Commission has provided solid evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11.
3. Was Evidence of Muslim Hijackers Provided by Phone Calls from the Airliners?
Nevertheless, many readers may respond, there can be no doubt that the airplanes were taken over by al-Qaeda hijackers, because their presence and actions on the planes were reported on phone calls by passengers and flight attendants, with cell phone calls playing an especially prominent role.
The most famous of the reported calls were from CNN commentator Barbara Olson to her husband, US Solicitor General Ted Olson. According to CNN, he reported that his wife had "called him twice on a cell phone from American Airlines Flight 77," saying that "all passengers and flight personnel, including the pilots, were herded to the back of the plane by . . . hijackers [armed with] knives and cardboard cutters."27
Although these reported calls, as summarized by Ted Olson, did not describe the hijackers so as to suggest that they were members of al-Qaeda, such descriptions were supplied by calls from other flights, especially United 93, from which about a dozen cell phone calls were reportedly received before it crashed in Pennsylvania. According to a Washington Post story of September 13,
[P]assenger Jeremy Glick used a cell phone to tell his wife, Lyzbeth, . . . that the Boeing 757's cockpit had been taken over by three Middle Eastern-looking men. . . . The terrorists, wearing red headbands, had ordered the pilots, flight attendants and passengers to the rear of the plane.28
A story about a "cellular phone conversation" between flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw and her husband gave this report:
She said the plane had been taken over by three men with knives. She had gotten a close look at one of the hijackers. . . . "He had an Islamic look," she told her husband.29