skeptic’s corner

A so-called “9/11 truth activist” sets up in PDX as the anniversary of the terror attacks approaches.
skeptic's cornerfrom willamette week: Portland International Airport’s main terminal may not leap to mind as a likely place to encounter organized 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

Even less likely is the notion that U.S. airport administrators or even – gasp! – airport security wouldn’t oppose efforts to convince PDX’s estimated 38,000 daily air travelers that the government has falsely presented the events behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

But on the eve of 9/11’s sixth anniversary, local “9/11 truth activist” David Morrison has proven these assumptions wrong. (Doubters of 9/11 dislike the term “conspiracy theorists,” saying it conjures images of Oliver Stone movies, UFOs and black helicopters.)

Morrison applied for—and got—a permit this month from the Port of Portland to locate his “coverup” table in the airport’s busy thoroughfare separating gates A, B and C on one side from gates D and E.

For eight hours Aug. 7 he handed out documentary DVDs, including the increasingly popular 9/11 Mysteries, a 90-minute film from 2006 that focuses on the science behind the demolition of the World Trade Center towers.

And he distributed fact sheets and press releases from organizations such as Scholars for 9/11 Truth and a collection of media source lists. All the materials reject the findings of the official 9/11 Commission reports issued in 2004.

The public has been “largely kept ignorant of both the conspiracy arguments and the growing number of public officials behind them,” says Morrison, a 56-year-old rare-book dealer, juvenile diabetes fundraiser and self-described “concerned citizen.”

Airport officials, Morrison and several 9/11 “truth” organizations say they believe Morrison’s table is the first debunking 9/11 at any airport in the nation. (Morrison plans to set up the table again by mid-September.)

The permit issued to Morrison was a “free speech” permit port of portland's rules & regulations (PDF) – one of about 150 such permits issued annually by the Port of Portland for groups ranging from religious organizations to those conducting surveys. The permit, which is free, was good for one week and is renewable indefinitely.

Morrison says there were surprises even as he was setting up to distribute materials demanding a new investigation into 9/11. The materials suggest the attacks were an inside job by government and business interests as a pretext to invade Iraq.

“I expected hassles and a lot of hostility from some passengers and, possibly, from security personnel who, I thought, were just plain wedded to the official report,” Morrison says. “When I arrived… two uniformed airport security officers approached me and asked me to show my permit. Expecting some resistance, I thought to myself, Here it comes.

“But as the officers looked at my materials, one of them pointed to one of the DVDs and said to the other officer, ‘This is the one I was telling you about – you have to see it,’” he recalls. “The two even came back a little later and asked for duplicate copies to give to friends.… We chatted about it. They were great.”

Morrison was also surprised he had obtained permission in the first place to raise one of the most sensitive of all U.S. national security issues in a major U.S. airport.

He expected his belief “that the biggest attack ever on U.S. soil was actually a government-directed inside job would be rejected as too controversial, especially within the broad parameters of the Patriot Act.”

But Port of Portland spokesman Steve Johnson says the Port can only impose “time, place and manner restrictions” on what’s distributed in the airport.

The Port “may not regulate content, except in extraordinary circumstances not applicable in Mr. Morrison’s case,” Johnson says.

Morrison describes getting the permit as “easier than choosing a flavor at Ben & Jerry’s.”

Johnson says the Port got no comments from passengers about the table but that one airline employee said the materials were “offensive.”

A number of passengers refused the material, said Morrison, “not because they disagreed, but because they were already so pissed off at Bush they simply couldn’t take any more.”

And why did Morrison choose the airport to break the cycle of what he calls “public apathy and ignorance to credible questions raised by credible people about 9/11?”

“I thought PDX would be good because it’s a concentration of a cross section of people,” Morrison says. “Perhaps most interesting were my discussions with self-described ‘liberals’ who told me they are always open to alternative politics but just don’t buy into a 9/11 government conspiracy theory—they said it’s too much for them to believe.

“Most of them said, though, they never heard of the specifics behind the objections until now,” Morrison adds. “A few told me they’d watch the DVDs in flight.”

David Morrison says his main goal is to elicit some critical thinking and “open people’s minds so they will examine the evidence about the truth of 9/11.”

“This bunch [the Bush administration] has lied to us about everything, how can anyone believe their story about 9/11?” Morrison says. “Many people are aware there is a 9/11 truth movement, but few know much about the overwhelming evidence that virtually confirms an inside job.”

Morrison wields a huge list of critics who question the 9/11 Commission’s official version of what happened, including dozens of top government and military officials, scientists, pilots, academics and others not normally associated with “fringe” political conspiracy theories. These include former Cabinet secretaries in the Bush administration, a former FBI director, FBI and CIA intelligence officers deeply involved in the 9/11 investigation—even a former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan.

For Morrison, it all “strongly indicates that the official version of 9/11 commission report is, at best, filled with errors and omissions that merit further investigation and suggests a possible coverup.”

“A good half hour with the material will raise a lot of eyebrows,” Morrison says. He says the best place to start is the website

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