The Eleventh Day

By Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan

Much has been written, and a lot more will no doubt continue to be written, about the events of September 11, 2001. The reasons for this are obvious: it was a moment of historical importance, with a complicated back story and fallout that is still being registered today. To claim to present the “full story” is therefore a bit presumptuous. Published to mark the tenth anniversary of the spectacular 9/11 terrorist attacks, this new book does, however, at least offer the most thorough and up-to-date account of what happened, drawing on some 300,000 pages of previously classified documents as well as other new material that has recently come to light.

And yet, “so copious is the material, so labyrinthine the twists and turns it reflects, that a lengthy treatise would barely do it justice.” And that’s even if we were in possession of all the facts. That this is not the case (and in all likelihood never will be the case) is evidenced by the number of times veteran investigators Summers and Swan admit being unable to penetrate the murkiness and fog, and that’s before they get to the book’s final section, which tries to deal with some of the leftover “Unanswered Questions.”

The more extreme conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 can be, and are, easily dismissed. But there are still many disturbing revelations in store. In particular, the authors focus in on two areas where they feel the 9/11 Commission “fudged or dodged”: “the full truth about U.S. and Western intelligence before the attack; and whether the terrorist operation ten years ago had the support of other nation-states or of powerful individuals within those nation-states.”

With regard to American intelligence, there has obviously been a great deal of buck-passing, not to mention a mad scramble to cover exposed backsides. There are few surprises here, from the predictable bureaucratic infighting to the general cluelessness of George W. Bush (someone who, true to form, rarely seems to have had any idea, or sometimes even interest in, what was going on). With regard to the question of whether the hijackers had the support and cooperation of other nation-states, however, things get more interesting. A dark cloud hangs over Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in particular, but they aren’t the only suspicious actors in this twisted tale. (If, however, you’re wondering about the group of Israelis linked to Mossad seen filming the attacks – a “puzzling incident” the authors feel deserves “serious public examination” and investigation – you’ll find the only mention of it buried in the endnotes.)

We will never know the “full story” of 9/11, or hear the last word, but by reading between the lines of redacted and censored documents and engaging in some informed speculation Summers and Swan have provided an outline for further investigation of some of the major outstanding issues. They have also met the challenge of turning an incredibly complex and wide-ranging series of events into a fascinating story, one made all the more compelling for finally being, at least in part, an unsolved mystery.

Review first published September 24, 2011.

%d bloggers like this: