Category Archives: History

Occupy the Justice System: Jury Nullification

Woman pepper-sprayed. Photo from BagNewsNotes.com

“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
Thomas Jefferson

The Occupy movement has been instrumental in not only changing our national conversation on issues such as poverty and massive income inequality, but on shedding an unwavering light on the corporate criminal class too. The movement has these moneyed thugs shaking, and one need look no further for evidence of this than in the violent, disproportionate use of force on occupations across America. Perhaps just as importantly, Occupy has inspired a new generation of activists, as well as formerly apathetic ones (mine included) to shake off despair and fear, and join the struggle.

These past few months have been a crash course in what an oligarchic police state looks like, as well as what it truly means to exercise peaceable assembly for a redress of political grievances. At its most fundamental level, the movement has been a wild civics lesson in what it truly means to be a citizen, and how to fight for a better country.

The next civics lesson? Teaching our fellow citizens about another subversive tool that, if Occupy can manage, will change the way Americans participate in our dysfunctional criminal justice system: jury nullification.

Consider the fact that the United States jails more people per capita than any other country in the world: 2.3 million Americans are currently behind bars, and a staggering 25% of those cases are for nonviolent drug offenses. Not only that, but the majority of those incarcerated for these offenses are predominantly African American. This is taking an unimaginable toll on their community. Empowering jurors with the knowledge of jury nullification might be a tremendous first step in correcting an out-of-control criminal “justice” system, and would have the added effect of boldly challenging a monstrous prison-industrial-complex.

Secondly, the power of jury nullification could have far-reaching effects for sustaining and even emboldening the Occupy movement. This is not hard to imagine. Consider this hypothetical:

A group of protesters are on trial for a peaceful sit-in at an empty school or financial institution, in which they were arrested for, say, defiant trespassing. The protesters make the case that they engaged in civil disobedience in order to shed light on an injustice done to the community, such as a school closure due to unfair austerity measures, or predatory lending practices which result in community members getting kicked out of their homes. Now imagine a jury informed of their right to base their verdict on conscience, instead of a modern legal system which is often incapable of flexibility when it comes to cases involving civil disobedience. The jury would not be bound to issue a verdict within the confines a judge (who would not inform them of the right to nullify) has set for them, but instead weigh the merits of a statute in which no one was physically harmed and the “crime” itself was done out of an educated, moral concern for society. They refuse to convict the defendants, despite the fact that the protesters clearly broke a trespassing law. They would have based their verdict on the belief that the law, as applied to this particular circumstance, is unjust – and not on reasonable doubt.

Now take this a step further and imagine if juries across the country began voting this way. It would have the effect of nullifying laws considered unjust. This has already happened in Montana:

In Montana last year, a group of five prospective-jurors said they had a problem with someone receiving a felony for a small amount of marijuana. The prosecutors were freaked out about the “Mutiny in Montana” and were afraid they were not going to be able convince12 jurors in Montana to convict. The judge said, in a major New York Times article, “I’ve never seen this large a number of people express this large a number of reservations” and “it does raise a question about the next case.”

It may have also played a significant role in ending alcohol prohibition and the criminalization of gay sex.

There is a storied precedent for this right of juries, dating back to the year 1215 with the inception of the Magna Carta. Another “high profile” example of this can be found in the story of Pennsylvania’s own William Penn. A more notable instance of the use of jury nullification can be found in the history of the Fugitive Slave Act during the 1850s.

Indeed, the right of juries to nullify is embedded in our very own Bill of Rights.

How exactly to go about informing juries can be dicey, as the example of a retired chemistry professor named Julian P. Heicklen shows:

Earlier this year, prosecutors charged Julian P. Heicklen, a retired chemistry professor, with jury tampering because he stood outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan providing information about jury nullification to passers-by.

Despite the obvious resistance from authorities this effort will create, it’s certainly a new front that the Occupy movement should – and must – open, as it already has with other facets of the American criminal justice system.

Editor’s note: The Project is heading to Washington, D.C. to cover the #J17 events this month. We cannot do it without your generosity, so if you enjoy the coverage and celebration of protest culture that we provide, please consider a small donation of just $10. Thanks so much for your continued support!

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges visits Liberty Plaza, NYC

Chris Hedges sits down with New York City Revolution Media via Livestream to discuss the need for American nonviolent radicalism, capitalism in its death throes, the challenges that lie ahead, and essential titles to read.

“Acts of violence are exactly how The State wants us to react, they know what to do with that. They don’t really know what to do with this.”

Day 10 of the occupation.

Chris Hedges Interview at Occupy Wall Street (Part 1 of 2)

Chris Hedges Interview at Occupy Wall Street (Part 2 of 2)


To Liberty Plaza’s Patriots: “Change the Hearts of the Oppressed” (with video)

Photograph: John Stuttle/guardian.co.uk

“…but far more important was the effort to change the hearts of the oppressed. They needed to become unwilling to continue accepting their oppression, and to become determined to build a better society.”
— “Tapping the Roots of Power” from Waging Nonviolent Struggle, Gene Sharp

Something important is happening at Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan. The encampment that began there on Saturday, September 17th, is a vocal and stark reminder of growing American youth discontent. Banks and other corporations are sitting on record profits and CEO salaries continue to climb at an unprecedented rate, while students and the average American worker face an anemic job market and growing economic disparity. The occupation in Lower Manhattan may be the start of a sea-change in so-called American democracy. But if it is a true change (and other organizing efforts in cities like Chicago and Atlanta, including an ongoing one in San Francisco suggest that it may be), certain things must change in order for this nonviolent revolution to be sustained and really have an effect. More on that in a moment.

I was fortunate enough to spend four days at the camp. In many ways, the camp is a world unto itself: very self-sustaining, with its own media center, food area, trash committees, etc. It’s a shining example of a cooperative community. The protesters are very open to pedestrians, quite willing to engage them in conversation, and often invite the homeless to eat the seemingly-endless supply of pizza that continues to flow in from supporters across the country. The sense that the camp’s inhabitants are making history, and that they’re fighting for a fairer, more equitable system is palpable and infectious. The NYPD is increasingly using tactical intimidation in the form of brutal harassment to quell the spirit of the protesters, as this video below shows:

There have also been unconfirmed reports of alleged agent provocateurs (not uncommon considering increased counter-terrorism activity with the help of the CIA) and ordering tents and tarps be taken down during rain storms. The resolve and courage of the protesters only seems to strengthen, however: Immediately after a police raid, for instance, a march is organized as a show of strength. The marches to “the belly of the beast,” as many protesters call Wall Street, are dismissed by outlets like CNBC, who just this morning said that the occupation will fizzle out by week’s end. Presumptions like this come off as naive because they underestimate the passion, energy and commitment these young people have for their mission.

But this begs the question: what exactly IS the mission? What exactly are the demands that Liberty Plaza wants met?

Since getting back to Philadelphia last night, I’ve been able to catch up on media stories about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some outlets capture the youth energy and thirst for change accurately, while some it seems go out of their way to downplay the significance of what’s happening in Lower Manhattan. Almost none can really zero-in on one specific demand, however. As friends and family (many of whom share this anger towards Wall Street) have told me: “I still don’t know what they want.” And that may be the most accurate part of this story thus far. Watching news reports and reading eyewitness accounts, we see brave young people marching and facing ramped-up police intimidation, but the average American watching these reports can’t latch on to one specific message.

Photograph: John Stuttle/guardian.co.uk

Growing a movement means bringing others from different segments of society together. It quite often starts with the radical left (intellectuals and the youth), as the Egyptian revolution this year and the student-started revolution in Poland that eventually brought down the Soviet Union show us. But in order to sustain these movements, one demand or even a short list of demands must be crafted to appeal to larger segments of society. While the people in Tahrir square had a long list of grievances, from high food prices to political oppression, eventually one solid demand emerged: oust Mubarak.

As the picture above illustrates, there are a whole host of grievances at Liberty Plaza, and nearly all of them are legitimate. There is great anger at Wall Street, hence the reason for camping out mere blocks away from the New York Stock Exchange. But the connection between grievances such as “Forgive student loan debt,” or “End the wars,” or even “End corporate personhood,” is lost because there is no coherent narrative to connect those demands. A sustained campaign of civil disobedience and highly-visible public marches on Wall Street is crucial and is coalescing well at the moment. If these demonstrations get bigger, however (and there is currently great momentum) one loud and clear demand to feed to the media–and to broadcast as an invitation to Americans of all stripes to join the demonstrations–can only strengthen the movement, because when whole sections of society refuse to participate or be complicit in a corrupt system, they take away the ability of rulers to exercise their power. Hence the power of a general strike, for instance.

“The internal stability of rulers can be measured by the ratio of the strength of the social forces that they control and the strength of the social forces that oppose them.”
–“Tapping the Roots of Power” from Waging Nonviolent Struggle, Gene Sharp

So, permit me to make a suggestion: “One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” Getting special interest money out of politics changes the whole game, and addresses a myriad of concerns expressed by not just the Liberty Plaza occupiers, but an overwhelming majority of Americans. For example:

1) Student loan debt is astronomically high in large part because of special interest money (i.e. Wall Street banks) influencing political decisions in Washington, D.C. It’s so powerful, in fact, that chronic gamblers can discharge their debt, but graduates are unable to discharge their debt. Period.

2) Our country is in a perpetual state of war due largely to the military-industrial complex (Wall Street) occupying the halls of power.

3) Corporations are allowed to pour unaccountable and unlimited amounts of money into elections because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Clarence Thomas and the Koch Brothers, anybody?

4) The state-by-state campaign to break the backs of public sector workers’ right to collectively bargain, or to disenfranchise Democratic voters? Big-moneyed (Wall Street) interests under ALEC have literally been crafting legislation in every state to perpetuate such injustices.

Monsanto at the FDA. Oil companies and climate change legislation. The list goes on and on.

“One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” It’s a demand that speaks to all Americans. My libertarian father, myself (a democratic socialist) and my Republican friends firmly agree on the need to get money out of politics. Special interest corruption of our democratic processes IS our Mubarak. And Wall Street is a clear-cut example of the power of special interests. It’s a perfect focal point for popular rage and misery at our broken economy.

It’s time to start organizing nonviolent civil disobedience, petitions, and other efforts in order to galvanize our country into a concerted effort to make “One citizen, one dollar, one vote” not just a slogan, but a mainstay of our democracy. Some suggest legislation. Some suggest a Constitutional amendment. Whatever the solution, we need to start that conversation. Liberty Plaza, with the world watching them and support growing, is in a perfect position to push the national conversation on corruption in our government into the spotlight. I hope they do so. To learn more about how to organize this campaign in your community, visit US Day of Rage.

If you want to help those at Liberty Plaza, you can donate here.

For the latest news and analysis on what’s happening with the protests and life at the camp, visit the excellent Waging Nonviolence.


Civil OBEDIENCE Will Kill Us If We Let It.

Photo by Ariel Shearer

By Ariel Shearer

Editor’s Note: The Project is proud to introduce our latest contributor, Ariel Shearer (@arielshearer). Ariel is studying journalism and political science at Emerson College, and is the web producer at The Boston Phoenix (@BostonPhoenix). This editorial is cross-posted on Ariel’s blog, Wait, What is the Internet?

After reading this article in the New York Times’ 9/11 supplement: “Civil Liberties Today” by Adam Liptak — I’ve been thinking a lot about our currently wayward democracy and the widespread youth apathy epidemic.

After reading an article from 1970, titled “The Problem is Civil Obedience” by Howard Zinn — similarities between now and then are scary.

I was inspired to write this essay in response to a prof question.

What are the implications of Zinn’s argument regarding the law and its relationship to powerless groups?

Zinn is quite clear in his message – those rendered “powerless” by the political system itself are in fact well-endowed with the power of opposition. As we read last week, “America is a country founded on dissent” (Haynes). The power of opposition is the power that wrote the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. Just plain power – as the government would have us believe in these times – is something that comes from money, clout, and peer support. That means someone like a politician. This is a convenient and self-establishing definition.

But where do these politicians really come by their power? The doctrine meant to limit government powers (Bill of Rights) is where they take their authoritative roles from, written both implicitly and explicitly and further defined/assigned by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is supposed to be a detached body – and historically is seated by fogies far older than popular opinion. Due process seems to flow at the same speed as it did when the Bill of Rights was written. The Internet generation can’t even comprehend such ineffectiveness in their video games, so watching the snail’s pace of politics has left most of them a bit bored.

What I wish I could tell the rest of my generation to try and wake them up, to demand a government that reflects the speed at which they think and grow: The same words used to tell the government what they cannot do to us (and therefore what they can do to us) are the same words used to defend and protect all that we can do as citizens – we all share the same source of power. And we’re all promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And as a society it’s obvious we settle for 1 out of 3.

How does the government exercise power? They influence our lives oppressively with taxes and policing, and positively by providing socialized services like public transportation and fire stations. It’s important to remember, however, when the government tries to use social works as a bargaining chip –that they are humans too. Politicians have families and homes they wouldn’t want to see burn to the ground because they couldn’t afford to hire fire fighters.

Politicians are citizens that directly benefit from the same services they demand praise and votes for providing to society.

This game of ideological tug-of-war between who knows best, the people or the government, has existed as long as politics itself. Somehow, over hundreds of years, societies managed to evolve and progress, to demand better qualities of life and better government… The existence of social democracies like France and the United States, the most progressive form of governance to date, proves the effectiveness of rebellion, opposition to government, and social revolution.

Tracing history from Hellenic Greek times proves that it isn’t the state leaders who enable progress within a society –but rather it is the opposition to political leadership, the People, who fuel progress. The People have consistently reformed government just as consistently as state leaders have overstepped their totalitarian roles throughout history.

One of the most hard-hitting points Zinn makes in The Problem is Civil Obedience, is the mass devastation caused by civil obedience, by following the demands of government without opposition. His example is Hitler – and I think that says everything that needs to be said about that.

When we adhere, and obey, it’s much like settling into a cubicle knowing you’ll never take a greater role within that company. We must constantly push our government, and encourage our fellow citizens, to demand progress — because despite apathy being “the new black,” history has taught that it’s up to us, the “powerless,” to improve society for all living humans, and for all future generations to come.

Please subscribe to the Project for more editorials and reporting by Ariel, delivered straight to your email.


Activist Spotlight: 9/11 Researcher Jon Gold

Jon Gold engaged in civil disobedience at the White House, January 31st 2011

I first began following Jon Gold’s (@911JusticeNow) work in late 2003. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq galvanized me from apathy to a newfound political consciousness, and I soon discovered his work on one of the first websites questioning the official theory of 9/11. What impressed me about his research was that he was deeply committed to using verifiable facts found in mainstream news articles and reports. But perhaps what stands out most about his activism is his unwavering support for the first responders. He was made “Honorary Director” of the FealGood Foundation. He describes himself as “an American trying to make a difference.”

What was the first discrepancy, or discrepancies, that moved you to begin researching the hidden history of 9/11, and how long have you been involved with it ever since?

The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that Dick Cheney and George Bush went to Tom Daschle’s office, and asked him to “limit the scope” of the Congressional Inquiry into 9/11. At the time I thought, “why would the President and Vice President, of all people, not want to know exactly how and why this happened, so as to make sure it could never happen again?” After 9/11, we were told repeatedly that there were no warnings, that no one had any idea that anything like that could happen. Then in May 2002, news of the August 6th, 2001 PDB entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike In US” was reported on. That was a “warning.” Once I saw that we were being lied to, I was “off to the races.”

If there were just three facts that discredit the official theory that you feel people must know, what would be those facts?

There were a multitude of warnings, and a lot more known about the hijackers by our Government, prior to 9/11, than the public has been led to believe. The investigations we got into 9/11, in my view, were compromised and corrupt. Especially the 9/11 Commission, which was led by Philip Zelikow. We were told that the source of the funding was “ultimately of little practical significance.” There are indications that some of the money was connected to Prince Bandar’s [of Saudi Arabia] wife. That’s significant. There are indications that some of the money came from Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh at the behest of Lt. General Mahmood Ahmed of the Pakistani ISI. That is significant.

What have been some of the biggest or most intriguing revelations to surface within the past couple of years?

That the 9/11 Commission considered referring NORAD to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation because of the lies they told to the 9/11 Commission. That 9/11 Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds said Osama Bin Laden had “intimate relations” with the U.S. up until 9/11. The multitude of whistleblowers that were ignored and censored by the 9/11 Commission. There were “Government Minders” that intimidated witnesses before the 9/11 Commission, and in some cases, answered questions for witnesses. That a complete outline of the final report of the 9/11 Commission was written by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow before the 9/11 Commission’s investigation even began. That Philip Zelikow may have been taking direction from Karl Rove. That’s really off the top of my head, but there is so much more.

We’ve both talked about our respect for the film 9/11: Press for Truth. Can you talk about why that film is such an important document about the hidden history of 9/11? Would you recommend it as an introduction to people just starting to question the official theory?

When Kyle Hence told me he was working on the film, I was extremely excited. It was going to tell the story of my heroes, the Jersey Girls, and it was going to be based on the work of someone that greatly influenced me, Paul Thompson. Nothing could be better in my opinion. When Kyle told me he needed money to finish the film, within a few minutes after he told me, I asked my father to loan me the money so they could finish the film. I didn’t hesitate for a second because I knew this was going to be an important documentary. The film is clearly one of the most important documentaries of our generation. It tells the story of the cover-up from the perspective of those who lost the most that day. It completely obliterates the legitimacy of the 9/11 Commission in the first 30 minutes. It shows the basic inconsistencies in the “official account.” I have always thought this documentary was the best tool for activists. In my opinion, 9/11 activists should show this film to people before anything else if they want to be taken seriously.

Will you talk about why (if you agree with this assertion, of course) the movement to question the official theory and uncover the truth hasn’t gained more traction in America, and why it seems to have made more headway in other parts of the world?

Well, the “9/11 Truth Movement” did gain some momentum in 2005-2006. But the “media” decided to focus on the fringiest of the fringe. As a result, we weren’t taken seriously. The “media” overall, has done its best over the years to paint us as conspiracy theorists, as crazy, as unpatriotic, as terrorist sympathizers, as terrorists, as holocaust denying murderers, etc… and so on. No one wants to associate with us. The media’s campaign to tarnish anyone that questions the official account of 9/11 has been extremely successful. People are dying in the Middle East, so it would make sense for people in the Middle East to question the official account of 9/11. As far as parts of the world outside the United States that question the official account, that aren’t directly affected by America’s occupations… they probably have better media than the U.S.

We now know from various news reports that the U.S. security state has turned its attention inward to spy on American activists as well as potential foreign enemies living in the country. Homeland Security was seen monitoring a peaceful BART protest in San Francisco the other night, and they’re also likely monitoring organizers and participants involved with US Day of Rage’s upcoming occupation of Wall Street, based on a bulletin released recently. Can you talk about how 9/11 has eroded the freedoms America used to cherish, and do you think we’ve allowed the 9/11 tragedy to get the best of us? Is there hope of beating the security state and regaining our civil liberties?

Expose the 9/11 Cover-Up, and I believe that everything that happened as a result of that day, will stop, or be reversed. The occupations will end, and the majority of legislation written that takes away our civil liberties will be reversed. Peace of the Action, the group Cindy Sheehan founded that I am apart of, was spied on by the Institute Of Terrorism Research And Response. I was spied on before I committed civil disobedience at the White House for 9/11 Justice. I assume I was spied on because when I got there, a cop asked me “are you Jon Gold? Are you still planning on chaining yourself to the White House fence?” There are many examples of liberties lost since 9/11. Look at the TSA, look at the wiretapping of phones, look at free speech zones, etc… Again, expose the damn 9/11 Cover-Up.

Would you care to offer any sort of narrative regarding what you think happened on 9/11, based on the extensive research you’ve conducted over all these years?

I don’t know what happened on 9/11, or who was ultimately responsible. That’s the problem. I have an idea, but I don’t know. Everyone has theories about what happened that day. Some are ridiculous and far-fetched, and others aren’t. However, without a real criminal investigation, we just don’t know. I believe 9/11 was a crime as opposed to an act of war, and as with every crime, there are suspects for that crime. In my opinion, elements within our Government and others have MORE THAN EARNED the title of suspect for the crime of 9/11.

How do you suggest people get involved in the struggle for 9/11 accountability?

By telling the next person until we have a majority of people. We can’t do shit with the system we have.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Since today is 9/11, I’d just like to say that I hope the families that lost someone that day have the easiest day possible. I hope the responders that were down there are honored, and that the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act is made to include cancer for the coverage it gives.

Jon Gold (@911JusticeNow) is a prolific contributor to sites such as 9/11 Truth News, History Commons, Peace of the Action, Secrecy Kills and helped fund the film 9/11: Press for Truth.

http://www.peaceoftheaction.net


No Missiles, Holograms or Demolitions: “9/11: Press for Truth” Asks Legitimate Questions

New York, 11 September 2001. Photograph: Hubert Michael Boesl/EPA

“This is a scandal of tremendous proportions. It makes Watergate look small. There’s a strange lack of interest from people both on the left, and the right. Nobody seems to want to uncover leads and follow them where ever they may go, because I think it goes to a lot of very damaging places.”Paul Thompson, author of The Terror Timeline

People who question the official narrative of September 11th, 2001 are often chastised as being “Bush-bashers” or utter lunatics. I’ve suffered all of these accusations at one time or another while spending nearly six years pursuing my own line of inquiry. And while I haven’t arrived at many, if any, answers, I do know that the official line is simply not possible, and is insulting. I hasten to add that blaming Bush for orchestrating the attacks is incredibly shortsighted and naive, because it fails to take into account the vast military-industrial-intelligence complex that has built up rapidly since the days of President Eisenhower. I doubt I’ll know the full story within my lifetime. But with each year that passes, more and more comes to light. And as far as lunacy, there is certainly plenty of unfounded and downright ridiculous theories out there regarding what happened that fateful September morning. What is sadly (and dangerously) overlooked are very real and very substantiated facts that have been overlooked and never tied together.

Ray Nowosielski’s documentary 9/11: Press for Truth helps people who have always had lingering doubts about America’s greatest tragedy consider an alternate story, one that encourages the thinker to truly question why our government has lied to us and led us into bloody, tragic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and created an increasingly alarming security state that, ostensibly, was for protecting Americans from terrorists but now monitors activists involved in Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) protests and nonviolent demonstrations planned on Wall Street for September 17th. It’s not about red herrings like controlled demolitions, a missile hitting the Pentagon, or holograms. It’s about actual documented evidence from mainstream news sources that have often been overlooked or ignored altogether.

Consider just three of the many points that this film raises (via 911Truth.org):

Pakistani Connection – Congressional Connection
a. The Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, creator of the Taliban and close ally to both the CIA and “al-Qaeda,” allegedly wired $100,000 to Mohamed Atta [the alleged lead hijacker] just prior to September 11th, reportedly through the ISI asset Omar Saeed Sheikh (later arrested for the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was investigating ISI connections to “al-Qaeda.”)
b. This was ignored by the congressional 9/11 investigation, although the senator and congressman who ran the probe (Bob Graham and Porter Goss) were meeting with the ISI chief, Mahmud Ahmed, on Capitol Hill on the morning of September 11th.
c. About 25 percent of the report of the Congressional Joint Inquiry was redacted, including long passages regarding how the attack (or the network allegedly behind it) was financed. Graham later said foreign allies were involved in financing the alleged terror network, but that this would only come out in 30 years.

What did officials know? How did they know it?
a. Multiple allied foreign agencies informed the US government of a coming attack in detail, including the manner and likely targets of the attack, the name of the operation (the “Big Wedding”), and the names of certain men later identified as being among the perpetrators.
b. Various individuals came into possession of specific advance knowledge, and some of them tried to warn the US prior to September 11th.
c. Certain prominent persons received warnings not to fly on the week or on the day of September 11th.

Obstruction of FBI Investigations prior to 9/11
A group of FBI officials in New York systematically suppressed field investigations of potential terrorists that might have uncovered the alleged hijackers – as the Moussaoui case once again showed. The stories of Sibel Edmonds, Robert Wright, Coleen Rowley and Harry Samit, the “Phoenix Memo,” David Schippers, the 199i orders restricting investigations, the Bush administration”s order to back off the Bin Ladin family, the reaction to the “Bojinka” plot, and John O”Neil do not, when considered in sum, indicate mere incompetence, but high-level corruption and protection of criminal networks, including the network of the alleged 9/11 conspirators. (Nearly all of these examples were omitted from or relegated to fleeting footnotes in The 9/11 Commission Report.)

The film’s heroines are “The Jersey Girls“, who spearheaded the call for an investigation into 9/11. Had it not been for their persistence and irreverent attitude towards those in power, the 9/11 Commission would never have been formed.

From Michael Collins’ review of 9/11: Press for Truth:

Their demands for a thorough investigation, the many unanswered questions, and the resistance of the information gatekeepers form the narrative that carries the film forward. The twists and turns offer a fascinating and compelling collection of major stories (or dots) that have never been connected.

As the reputable and comprehensive website 9/11 Truth News, an editor (Jon Gold) from which I will be publishing an interview with this coming week, astutely notes:

“…this movement, at it’s most basic, is about people learning for themselves about very solid facts and developing their own curiosity and skepticism.”

And now, the Project is proud to present 9/11: Press for Truth:


Jersey Girls Who Emerged After 9/11 Stay Activists (AP)


In this Aug. 11, 2011, photograph, Lorie Van Auken poses for The Associated Press in her home in East New Brunswick, N.J. Van Auken, who lost her husband Kenneth Warren Van Auken during the Sept. 11 attacks, became an activist as a result of the tragedy. She is one of four New Jersey widows, known as the Jersey Girls, who pressed the government to do deeper digging into the causes of the attacks. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

by Geoff Mulvihill

Note: This Associated Press report was published on August 23, 2011.

“The Jersey Girls were, in my opinion, the reason the [9/11] commission came into being,” Smith said.

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 turned them into widows and the four Jersey Girls, as they became known, turned themselves into activists.

A decade after the attacks, at least two of them are still trying to make change in public policy. In doing so, they’ve broadened their focus from post-attack truth-finding, the cause that brought them together nearly 10 years ago.

Lorie Van Auken is now a beekeeper who is pressing the federal Environmental Protection Agency to ban a pesticide that some blame for Colony Collapse Disorder, which has been killing honeybees.

Kristen Breitweiser blogs on politics and national security. Though those are issues tied to 9/11, she doesn’t write just about the attacks.

“I think a lot of times when people suffer tragedy or go through something in their own life, they feel compelled to turn it into something better,” Breitweiser said.

Many of the spouses, parents and children of those killed in the terrorist attacks did that.
They set up foundations to honor the best traits of their lost loved ones. They lobbied for tax breaks for the victims, fair deals from the Victims’ Compensation Fund and a burial site at ground zero.

The four stay-at-home moms who lived relatively carefree lives in suburban Monmouth County became some of the most visible faces of the families of the dead and their main cause at the time: pushing the federal government to study the attacks — whether there was intelligence that could have prevented them, and whether the response once they began was adequate. They were subjects of scores of articles, multiple books — including a memoir Breitweiser published in 2006 — and a documentary film, “9/11: Press for Truth.”

The fame and the civic engagement, born of tragedy, came fast.
“I had a very complacent life: we voted, we paid taxes, we volunteered. That was it,” Breitweiser said. “That was the extent of our contribution.”

Two of the Jersey Girls, Patty Casazza and Mindy Kleinberg, did not respond to requests for interviews for this article and have not granted any interviews for the last few years.

All four had husbands working in the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

After 9/11, they united over their mounting frustration that the whole story wasn’t being told.
For more than a year, they parked their children with family and drove to Washington in Breitweiser’s SUV — dubbed the “widowmobile.”

Armed with thick binders of documents, they met with members of Congress and held rallies asking for a full government inquiry. They gave interviews by the score. They recognized that journalists were hungry for stories about the real people affected by the attacks. They could offer that, but they also talked about their policy agenda.

Finally, in November 2002 — 14 months after their husbands and nearly 3,000 other people were killed — President George W. Bush signed the law to create the commission.

One of their champions in Congress was U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey. He said they did their research and came prepared in small ways. They knew he had a sweet tooth and were sure to bring him candy when they stopped by.

“The Jersey Girls were, in my opinion, the reason the commission came into being,” Smith said.

For Breitweiser and Van Auken, the result of the main government inquiry and another on intelligence before the attacks were disappointing, leaving them with many unanswered questions.

For one, a section of a report that appeared to deal with al-Qaeda funding was redacted from one government report.

They’re also not satisfied that the planes involved in the attack could not have been intercepted after the first one crashed into the World Trade Center.

“You want to say the first attack was a surprise? OK, the first attack was a surprise,” Van Auken said. “If we have a group of people that are in charge of our defense and they can’t manage to intercept an airplane for two hours?”

Breitweiser, a former Republican who campaigned for John Kerry during his 2004 run for president, said she’s not satisfied that the country is safe enough now. “I wish the billions of dollars we spent on wars overseas could have been used at home,” she said.

The women triggered a backlash from those who thought they were too partisan as they bashed Bush and supported Kerry. The apex came in 2006 when conservative commenter Ann Coulter, in a book, dubbed them the “Witches of East Brunswick.” ”I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much,” Coulter wrote.

Hillary Clinton, then a U.S. senator, was among those who came to their defense.

Smith said the criticism was hard for him to accept. They were grassroots activists, he said, doing what they thought was right.

Both Breitweiser and Van Auken say their activism was the right thing to do, though they’re not happy with the results.

“I only have regrets about the outcome,” Van Auken said. “I have regrets that nobody was held accountable.”

Van Auken, now 56, is in the same home where she lived with her children — now in their 20s — and husband, Kenneth, before he was killed.

Since 9/11 Van Auken has taken up beekeeping. As colonies have died off mysteriously, she’s tried to rally other beekeepers to fight for a federal ban of the pesticide clothianidin.
Unlike a decade ago, she’s now savvy about how government works.

So far, the EPA has not been willing to ban the pesticide. Van Auken says she’s not surprised, “We know from 9/11 that the EPA is not above bending to political will when they said the air was safe to breathe and all those people got sick,” she said.

Breitweiser, now 40 and living in New York, is the Jersey Girl with the highest profile.

A lawyer by training, though she never practiced, she was often the spokeswoman, and she was the one who campaigned extensively for Kerry, wrote a memoir focusing on her political education and now blogs occasionally for the Huffington Post.

She still writes about 9/11 but also about other national security issues. She is particularly concerned that chemical plants are not safe enough.

Her main job, she said, is raising her daughter, Caroline.

Caroline is 12 now and was a toddler when her father, Ron, died. Caroline, she says, doesn’t have a memory of a dad. Breitweiser said that makes raising her alone easier but also sadder. Breitweiser says she knows that her husband would have continued to be a great father.

Breitweiser has been trying to expose Caroline to Muslim people and their beliefs. They’ve traveled to Morocco and are planning to go to Turkey and Egypt in the next year.

It’s all part of a lesson she didn’t imagine needing to teach her daughter 10 years ago. “It’s OK if women have a veil over their face. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad people,” she said. “I don’t want her growing up with any sort of hatred or rage inside of her.”

On Sept. 11, she intends to do what she always does on the anniversary: take a walk with her daughter and their dogs — currently three undisciplined Golden Retrievers — on a beach or in the woods.

She wants to stay far away from the solemn commemorations in New York City and elsewhere.
Van Auken will be in New York, but not at the ground zero ceremony. She’ll be there to see her daughter Sarah, now 22, act in a play.