Pressing for truth
Comprehensive 9/11 documentary still leaves unanswered questions


"There's been no answers, no accountability. I feel like I've wasted four years of my life," says Monica Gabrielle, co-chair of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign and member of the September 11th Advocates, near the end of the documentary 9/11: Press For Truth. Her husband, an insurance broker, died in the collapse of the World Trade Center. Like the other wives and parents interviewed in the film, which screened at the EP Foster Library in Ventura on Sept. 9, Gabrielle's grief led to her politicization. She, along with the famed "Jersey Girls," lobbied vehemently for an independent investigation into the terror attacks. More than 400 days later, they finally received one. Based on those facts, one would assume that this is a tale of triumph, about a small group of ordinary people overcoming the Goliath of government and their own individual pain to bring justice to those who lost their lives on Sep. 11, 2001.

As Gabrielle and everyone else make clear, however, it is most assuredly not.

It is, instead, a story of never-ending frustration. While their efforts did help force the formation of the 9/11 Commission, the proceeding inquiry was, from the families' perspective, a massive charade: no one was placed under oath; George Bush and Dick Cheney were allowed to testify together behind closed doors; and Philip Zelikow, the commission's executive director, had ties to the administration. Altogether, more money was spent investigating President Clinton's extramarital affair than on looking into the largest act of terrorism ever committed on American soil. When the final report on the attacks was issued in Aug. 2004, those who hoped it would give them some semblance of closure found only a trail of unanswered questions. Who funded the operation? What role did Pakistan play? Why was an Aug. 6, 2001, White House memo titled "Bin Laden determined to attack inside US" virtually ignored? Worst of all, no blame was laid at anyone's feet. It was not, according to the authors, incompetence that allowed the tragedy to occur; it was simply "a failure of imagination."

Director Ray Nowosielski recounts the struggle and ongoing disappointment experienced by the victims' families in an unflashy journalistic style that, straightforward as it is, still manages to shake with anger. But the movie is only half about them; the other half is about the work of Paul Thompson, a researcher who stepped up to become the closest thing 9/11 has yet had to a Woodward and Bernstein. His Terror Timeline, stitched together using nothing more than mainstream news reports, traces the events preceding Sept. 11 through the aftermath to create a historical record some consider far more valuable than the commission's version. Using the same methodology, Nowosielski culls footage from various high-profile television news programs to prove, if anything, that it did not take much imagination to think terrorists might use hijacked airliners as weapons to strike U.S. interests. He presents clips from an unaired segment on NBC in which a man allegedly instructed to do exactly that claims he backed out at the last minute, told officials of the plot and was merely deported. He cites an article revealing surface-to-air missiles were installed on the roof of the hotel where Bush was staying in Florida the night before the attacks €” not a standard security measure. Most chillingly, in a piece from another major network, an FBI operative recalls having dinner in New York with a representative of the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency, who later pointed toward the then-standing World Trade Center and said "those towers are coming down." The implication is not that the media isn't doing its job, but that they are not doing it well enough to have any impact. As one interviewee laments, "They've failed to connect the dots."

In Ventura, Press For Truth was shown amid videotaped lectures by some of the leading figures of the so-called "9/11 Truth Movement," a loose conglomerate of scholars, journalists and amateur Internet researchers who are convinced the attacks were an "inside job" orchestrated by forces within the United States government to justify the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else the "War on Terror" happens to lead next. Although the film does offhandedly mention some of the main tenets of that theory (the unexplained implosion of a third building, World Trade Center 7, hours after the fall of the Twin Towers; the fact that no fighter jets were scrambled after the first plane hit), and while he augments images of Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice with ominous music suggesting barely disguised evil, Nowosielski avoids making any kind of grand pronouncements about what really happened on Sept. 11. He reaches no conclusions, and that's entirely the point. Five years, two wars and one "comprehensive" report later, there are still gaping holes left in the official narrative of 9/11, and no one €” in the mainstream media or the White House, at least €” seems interested in trying to fill them. And until they are, it is impossible for anyone paying attention to honestly say, "case closed."

For more information on 9/11: Press for Truth, visit