Former Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul does not change his mind often. Nor is he shy about saying exactly what he thinks.
So it was surprising to see some imply recently that he was a “9/11 Truther.”
9/11 Truthers believe the United States government carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, not Islamic terrorists. Conspiracy theorists who believe this have often latched onto the ‘liberty movement’ Paul inspired, which has led to the former presidential candidate being asked about it on occasion.
Paul has always rejected it.
During a 2008 Republican presidential debate, Fox News’ Carl Cameron asked Ron Paul: “Many of your supporters call themselves ‘9/11 truthers.’ Are you prepared to either embrace that rhetoric or ask those supporters to abandon it?.. Paul replied, “I don’t believe that, and that’s the only thing that is important…”
In a Fox News interview in August 2007, host Julie Banderas asked Paul, “Do you believe that the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center was an inside job?” Paul replied, “Well, the answer is no if they mean by ‘inside job’ that our government made it happen. No, I don’t believe that.”
In 2011, an internet interviewer asked Paul about this belief “that 9/11 was orchestrated by the government, you do not support that theory.” “Absolutely not,” Paul said sternly.
Time and time again, Ron Paul has said that he doesn’t believe that the government carried out the 9/11 attacks. In fact, Paul’s long held belief that 9/11 was “blowback,” a CIA term used to describe the unintended negative consequences of U.S. foreign policy, runs counter to what 9/11 Truthers believe.
Similarly, Paul’s proposal to use the constitutional mechanism of “letters of marque and reprisal,” in which Congress would authorize a small group to go after al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked the U.S., assumes that there are terrorists that attacked the U.S, the exact opposite of what 9/11 Truth conspiracy theorists believe.
This has not stopped different outlets on the left and right from trying to attribute Truther beliefs to the former congressman. Recent stories have attempted to do the same: “Ron Paul Dons 9/11 Truther Tin Foil” read a Daily Beast headline. “Ron Paul: Government Had Foreknowledge of 9/11 Terror Attacks,” said The Washington Free Beacon, a headline that could imply the congressman was sympathetic to the 9/11 conspiracy theory. There were other similar headlines.
Despite the fact that Ron Paul has stated on numerous occasions that he does not believe or identify with 9/11 “truth” conspiracies, Rare reached out to the former congressman for another clarification of his stance in light of this most recent controversy.
Paul said in an email to Rare:
I have never changed my position on 9/11, and I do not accuse the government of planning or knowing about 9/11 beforehand. I think what you will find is that government commissions tend to protect government incompetence, and that perhaps the government should have been able to put the intelligence pieces together prior to the attack. I have always advocated for transparency in government, which is why I believe the full 9/11 Commission Report should be declassified so the American people can read it for themselves.
The most recent stories came from a podcast with radio host Charles Goyette, where Goyette said it was “shocking that the American people are prohibited from knowing the whole truth about 9/11,” Paul added: “Boy, that’s for sure. It’s shocking, but then, when you stop and think about it, shouldn’t we expect this from our government? Which is really sad.”
Their conversation was about Congressman Thomas Massie’s (R-Ky.) recent push to get 28 classified pages of an intelligence report on the 9/11 attacks released to the public.
Said Massie, “As I read it, we all had our own experience. I had to stop every couple of pages and absorb and try to rearrange my understanding of history for the past 13 years and the years leading up to that. It challenges you to rethink everything.”
Massie’s statement is similar to Paul’s in questioning how much the government has withheld information or what kind of intelligence failures might have happened.
Paul said in his interview with Goyette, “I’ve come to the conclusion that all government commissions are designed to protect the government… I believe that if we ever get the full truth [about 9/11], we’ll find out that our government had it in the records exactly what the plans were, or at least close to it.”
This might have been poor wording by Paul, considering the lingering misperceptions about what he believes about 9/11. Paul has also been tolerant on occasion of those in his network who have expressed these views.
But there have also been multiple stories about what kind of intelligence failures led to 9/11 that reinforce Paul’s basic assumption, including how much the government knew, might have ignored and are now withholding from the public.
Former CIA and NSA analyst Thomas Drake, described as “a brilliant intelligence analyst, software engineer, and IT management consultant, worked at the CIA in the 1980s, then as a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), and ultimately as an NSA senior executive in 2001,” according to the Huffington Post, said “he saw the failure to act on intelligence that might have prevented the 9/11 attacks.”
Said Drake to The Huffington Post’s Barbara Koeppel in 2012:
Barbara Koeppel: What did you tell the Saxby Chambliss Congressional subcommittee and the Congressional Joint Inquiry?
Thomas Drake: I can’t say fully, because it’s classified. But I showed that NSA knew a great deal about the 9/11 threats and Al Qaeda, electronically tracking various people and organizations for years — since its role is to collect intelligence. The problem is, it wasn’t sharing all of the data. If it had, other parts of government could have acted on it, and more than likely, NSA could have stopped, I say stopped 9/11. Later, it could have located Al Qaeda — at the very time the U.S. was scouring Afghanistan.
It’s true that there were systemic failures throughout the intelligence system, but NSA was a critical piece of it. I gave both committees prima facie evidence, with documents. One was an early 2001 NSA internal, detailed multi-year study of Al Qaeda and sympathetic groups’ movements that revealed what NSA knew, could have done, and should have done. It was astonishingly well-analyzed current intelligence. Soon after 9/11, some NSA analysts called me about it. Why? Because they were pulling their hair out, knowing they had this information and they couldn’t get NSA leadership to share the report with the rest of the intelligence community — even though it’s mandatory! It was actionable information. Remember the time period–we were in the early part of the war in Afghanistan. People needed to act on it, to unravel Al Qaeda networks.
But NSA leaders deliberately decided not to disseminate it. So the analysis — about what it knew before and after 9/11 — got buried very deeply, because it would really have made them look bad.
Drake’s observation that the government knew more than the public is aware about the threats before the 9/11 attacks is similar to Paul’s speculation and also speaks to Massie’s push to have this information declassified.
Massie’s co-sponsors are Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.).