, Cognitive Infiltration, and Obama appointee Cass Sunstein

I first became aware of Cass Sunstein’s ideas for controlling conspiracy theories after seeing several ads for a web site called run by the State Department. It’s a complex, well-funded site with more avenues than I’ve cared to examine, but what caught my attention was the section under International Relations: Peace and Security called “Conspiracy Theories and Misinformation” with the astounding caption: “Conspiracy theories exist in the realm of myth, where imaginations run wild, fears trump facts and evidence is ignored.”

Article Here:



A Noble Lie: a review of David Ray Griffin’s book “Cognitive Infiltration”

I had great fun reading David Ray Griffin’s Cognitive Infiltration: An Obama  Appointee’s Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory. Brilliant and funny, this artful explication of Constitutional law scholar Cass Sunstein’s essay, “Conspiracy Theories,” conveys important legal points while treating readers to enjoyable satire. As several talented reviewers have noted, many public figures, including Associate Justice Elena Kagan and President Barack Obama, consider Cass Sunstein, the current Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, to be the preeminent, most widely cited Constitutional law scholar in the country.  Consequently, we who feel concern for civil rights naturally feel perplexed that the nation’s leading expert on the Constitution would propose such profoundly unconstitutional policy. That Sunstein appears intent on resurrecting COINTELPRO—the FBI’s counterintelligence program of the 60s and 70s that targeted citizens and activist groups—should concern everyone regardless of political ideology.

File:Cass Sunstein.jpg

Cass Sunstein

COINTELPRO mainly attempted to discredit antipoverty resistance movements such as the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam along with Vietnam War resistors and activists. Agents would routinely go undercover as “agents provocateurs” who would infiltrate groups, incite trouble, and then blame the groups. Naturally they got lots of help from the ever eager-to-please McMedia. COINTELPRO was an illegitimate method of discrediting legitimate political and social activities. Activists who were harassed, surveilled, or killed because of FBI COINTELPRO activities include antiwar activist Father Phillip Berrigan, John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark (shot and killed about 4:40 AM in the presence of their lawyer, Charles Garry), and others we will never hear about.

Griffin cites former ABC correspondent, John Stossel, who brilliantly criticized Sunstein’s plan in a FOX business blog entitled, “Stealth Propaganda.” Stossel  commented, “This reads like an Onion article: Powerful government official proposes to combat paranoid conspiracy groups that believe the government is out to get them…by proving that they really are out to get them.” Yet this is what Sunstein wants to reestablish in America. “Conspiracy Theories,” which appeared on January 15, 2008 (Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday), makes it clear that he specifically intends to discredit the “9/11 Truth Movement,” which appears to be quickly growing in popularity as did COINTELPRO ‘s original targets.

Sunstein proposes several ideas for dealing with such organizations although he never really explains why these people are so threatening. The idea that “Truthers” as a group will become violent is a figment of creative imaginations. He’s evidently given this issue a lot of thought, yet he seems to resist facts that threaten the inflexible paradigm he’s chosen to adopt. Sunstein operates from the notion that nearly everyone suffers from a “crippled epistemology,” which apparently means that anyone who suggests there are problems with the official government version of 9/11 events simply lacks good information, while the Sunsteins and similar elitists possess it. If that’s true, they should disclose it. The 9/11 Commission thought so too. Commission vice-chair Lee Hamilton and senior counsel John Farmer both admitted the Bush Administration had delayed, stymied, and underfunded their investigation. Apparently, many of the government officials with the epistemologically superior knowledge weren’t all that willing to share it.

Griffin’s refined humor had me for a few brief moments hoping that Sunstein really is a clever ally of civil rights and the truth. Using political philosopher Leo Strauss as his model, Griffin proposes that Sunstein’s writing, like that of Strauss, can be interpreted on two levels—a more obvious exoteric level meant for a broad general audience and an esoteric one meant only for those few sufficiently astute or connected to accurately interpret the clues. As Griffin presents Sunstein’s esoteric message, it sounds a lot like the claims of the 9/11 Truth Movement. He portrays the Bush Administration’s version of 9/11 events as too ridiculous to be true and suggests, comically, that Sunstein is only pretending to agree with the official conspiracy theory involving 19 Arabs, a few of whom turned up alive. As Griffin demonstrates, the accusations Sunstein levels at the Truth Movement more easily and convincingly apply to the official conspiracy theory, which is largely nonsense. Sunstein’s esoteric message then, Griffin tells us, confirms that the Truth Movement is right.

In order to better understand Strauss and the idea of an esoteric dimension in literary interpretation, I interviewed political philosopher, Dr. Robert Abele, whose book, The Anatomy of a Deception: A Reconstruction and Analysis of the Decision to Invade Iraq, addresses Strauss’ role in neoconservative thought. Abele told me that Strauss never explicitly claimed to be writing anything at an esoteric level but rather maintained that the best philosophy is philosophy like Plato’s: always concealing something ‘between the lines’ to make readers carefully contemplate the meaning.

“This emphasis Strauss placed on ‘true’ philosophy has resulted in his being taken by many to be a writer who was attempting to emulate the best philosophy of esoterica. In short, where other interpreters of the great philosophers saw them contradicting themselves, Strauss saw them as saying something more profound, ‘beneath’ the contradiction that mundane philosophers read,” Abele explained. As an example he cited John Locke who, in his Two Treatises of Government, unequivocally asserts his Christianity and his concern that government take into account Christian virtues. “Because Locke is inconsistent in his argument concerning this use of religion in politics, Strauss takes him to be an atheist, concealing that atheism,” Abele said, adding, “One thing is quite clear in Strauss—and this motivates the likes of the Bush gang: Strauss was no friend of liberalism.”

Abele’s depiction of Strauss helped me to more fully appreciate Cognitive Infiltration since it explains the contradiction of a Constitutional scholar’s willingness to subvert the Constitution. “Strauss emphasizes Plato’s concept of the ‘noble lie’ in The Republic, where the leader must do what is necessary for the proper functioning and the preservation of the state. The Bush neocon Straussians see themselves as the elite enlightened that they ‘read’ in Strauss.” Abele added that whether or not Strauss himself wrote in such a style is open to some debate, but that he recognized it in the great philosophers is beyond question. “It is perhaps this method of seeing the esoteric in the great thinkers that his followers, such as [Paul] Wolfowitz, see in Strauss the hidden message of neoconservative thought,” Abele said.

This explains a lot—about Sunstein particularly and the governing elite generally. Sunstein knows he’s lying, but he’s doing it for our own good.

The neocons’ greatest impediment is the Constitution; it keeps getting in their way. Who is better-suited than a Constitutional scholar to dance around it? Griffin notes, “The FBI’s COINTELPRO was eventually declared illegal because it violated the rights of free speech and association. Given its strong similarities to that program, Sunstein’s proposal would seem to be equally illegal.” Griffin cites Glenn Greenwald who suggested that another reason for such a program’s illegality is “that it appears to violate ‘long-standing statutes prohibiting government propaganda’ within the U.S. aimed at American citizens.”

Media Studies professor Mark Crispin Miller has argued, Griffin tells us, that if Sunstein and his allies cared about the truth, “they’d try to test those dreaded ‘theories’ in the most effective way—not by setting up a covert force of cyber-moles, but by joining all the rest of us in calling for a new commission to look into 9/11, airing all of the evidence that’s been so long ignored and/or suppressed, and entertaining all those questions that the first commission either answered laughably or just shrugged off. That would be the democratic way to deal with it,” Miller said.

Griffin points out that if Sunstein’s goal is to arrest the spread of the 9/11 Truth Movement’s pernicious theory, and if that theory is “demonstrably false” as Sunstein claims, then why would he feel the need to silence 9/11 conspiracy theorists? “The government would only need to discredit their theory so publically and severely that it would win no more converts and would even lose many of its previous converts,” Griffin declares, saying that the government should rely on the power of truth rather than COINTELPRO-like tactics. “An excellent way to do this would be through a new investigation, carried out by credible, independent people, and mandated to answer all the questions that have been raised by the 9/11 Truth Movement,” Griffin says. “If Sunstein is right in saying that this movement’s theories are ‘demonstrably false, then the questions raised by this movement will be easily answered, and the investigation will demonstrate to the American people, and also people around the world, the falsity of the claim that 9/11 was an inside job.”

It makes one wonder what they’re so afraid of.

Shawn Hamilton

 Amazon #40

State Crimes Against Democracy

State Crimes Against Democracy

by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff

New research in the journal American Behavioral Scientist (Sage publications, February 2010) addresses the concept of “State Crimes Against Democracy” (SCAD). Professor Lance deHaven-Smith from Florida State University writes that SCADs involve high-level government officials, often in combination with private interests, that engage in covert activities for political advantages and power. Proven SCADs since World War II include McCarthyism (fabrication of evidence of a communist infiltration), Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (President Johnson and Robert McNamara falsely claimed North Vietnam attacked a US ship), burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in effort to discredit Ellsberg, the Watergate break-in, Iran-Contra, Florida’s 2000 Election (felon disenfranchisement program), and fixed intelligence on WMDs to justify the Iraq War.1

Read entire story here:

Over 1000 architects and engineers have signed petition to reinvestigate 9-11 destruction


The Swill Bucket welcomes visitors referred by Project Censored. I apologize for the circuitous route to the story, “Over 1000 architects and engineers have signed petition to reinvestigate 9-11 destruction,” which is part of story #14, “Increased Tensions with Unresolved 9-11 Issues” in this year’s Censored 2011. The story was originally written as a script for KPFA radio, which aired the story on February 21, 2010. I posted a print version of the story on shortly thereafter, which is the version picked up by Project Censored. Recently, for whatever reason, I lost access to this story (it vanished from my publishing tool) and could not get a straight answer from Examiner explaining why. I have subsequently severed my ties to

Thanks for visiting.

Shawn Hamilton (

KPFA version of story (9:11)

Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips on KPFA’s Gun’s and Butter 15September2010

Over 1000 architects and engineers have signed petition to reinvestigate 9-11 destruction

“At some level of government, at some point in time, there was an agreement not to tell the people the truth about what happened.” John Farmer, Senior Counsel to the 9-11 Commission in his book The Ground Truth (Page 4)
By Shawn Hamilton
Architects and Engineers for 9-11 Truth founder, Richard Gage, AIA,   began the conference quoting Mark Twain who said, “If you don’t read the newspapers you’re uninformed. If you do read them you’re misinformed.” Gage said he hoped the assembled press would help to rectify that statement. “Today I’m quite pleased to announce that now we have more than one thousand architects and engineers signed on to the A&E911Truth petition demanding of Congress a new and truly independent, unimpeachable investigation into the destruction of the three World Trade Center skyscrapers on 9-11,” Gage said to a cheering audience.

(L to R) Shawn Hamilton, Richard Gage AIA, and Fritz Eriksen after the Architects and Engineers for 9-11 Truth conference in San Francisco, February 19, 2010 (Photo: Theodore Wood)

Numerous architects and engineers spontaneously spoke during the event about what had led to their decision to get involved in a movement that could potentially jeopardize their careers. Most agreed that it was the suspicious collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 that first caught their attention. No airplane hit the building and the fires were small. Gage said the fires were unlikely to have disabled the supporting columns all at once in order to quickly and neatly drop the skyscraper. For a hundred feet the building fell at freefall speed.
There was also evidence of foreknowledge regarding World Trade Center 7’s destruction. The BBC reported live that it had fallen twenty minutes before it actually fell; viewers could see the building standing in the background.
Physics professor Dr. Steven Jones along with an international team of scientists, analyzed World Trade Center dust from several sources and claims they found unmistakable traces of nanothermitic composite material–explosives that could be used to demolish the three skyscrapers. He and other architects and engineers say this explains the pools of molten metal found at ground zero weeks after the incident. Jones co-authored a peer-reviewed paper on the subject which led to his being fired from a tenured faculty position at Brigham Young University.
“Dr. Niels Harrit is first author, and he’s doing a wonderful job spreading information about this science. his is a peer-reviewed paper in an established scientific journal,” Jones said. “I want to emphasize that this paper has not yet been challenged in the peer-reviewed literature. In the established protocol of science, we published our findings.”

Professor Steven Jones

As Professor David Ray Griffin and others have pointed out, this paper is receiving a great deal of attention in Europe. the group hopes that it will receive more media attention in the United States as well. Griffin spoke at the conference. Although not an architect or engineer, he is considered one of the most respected members of the 9-11 Truth Movement.
I asked Griffin why media outlets–even alternative ones–are typically so reluctant to even look at the 9-11 evidence.
“They say, ‘We lose our credibility over here, then we can’t do all this other good work,’ overlooking the fact…I would say, as a rabid (laughs) member of the 9-11 Truth Movement, ‘Look this outstrips anything else you could be exposing from the last ten years–or the next ten–unless there’s another one, and if there is another one it will be partly your fault because you didn’t expose this one.”
More information about Architects and Engineers for 9-11 Truth is available at the group’s web site:

Richard Gage introduces Prof. David Ray Griffin at the Architects and Engineers for 9-11 Truth event (Ted Wood)

The KPFA Radio version of this story may be found here. Nine minutes, eleven seconds into broadcast; anchor’s intro begins shortly thereafter).
Hear Richard Gage commenting on the success of the day’s events.
The full video of the event may be found here. Press Conference Question and Answer Session. Press conference luncheon. Press conference epilogue.

David Ray Griffin on Media Resistance to 9-11 issues

I recorded this interview in San Francisco at the Marine’s Memorial Club and Hotel on February 19, 2010. The occasion was the Architects and Engineers for 9-11 Truth press conference announcing the group had surpassed 1000 signatures from licensed building professionals calling for a new investigation into the destruction of the three World Trade Center buildings. Griffin was a keynote speaker.

Richard Gage and David Ray Griffin

Shawn Hamilton (SH): “How do you account for the apparent psychological resistance even among members of the alternative media—who should know better—to even looking at the evidence?”

David Ray Griffin (DRG): “In one sense it’s obviously a big mystery because these are people who’ve been on the forefront of exposing American complicity—you know, if we talk about Howard Zinn, [Noam] Chomsky; we’re talking a long, long time here, so I never criticize these gentlemen because they’re heroes; they’ve done what they’ve done; we wouldn’t be here without them and so on. Some of the younger guys? I don’t know. Some of it is, I think, fear. I’m not talking about fear for their lives although I’ve heard of people who’ve said, ‘yeah, I’m afraid for my life,’ but I don’t think that’s the main thing. It’s more a fear of, well, job loss. That’s a big one for reporters. I talked to a reporter who had done one nine eleven story and so I said, ‘Well, are we going to get another one out of this lecture,” and he said, ‘I don’t think so. I don’t think my job would survive one more story.'”

“Then, more generally, loss of reputation. The effectiveness of this term ‘conspiracy theory,’ ‘conspiracy theorist’ and that no member of the press can be a conspiracy theorist because they’re supposed to be objective, even if objective means parroting everything the government says. In our day that’s what counts for objective. 

But if you parrot what somebody says who’s espousing what is defined as a conspiracy theory, which in the definition that I gave earlier means a theory that contradicts a theory the government has already spoken on, then that a conspiracy theory in the negative sense and very few reporters could survive in their jobs if they explicitly said that.”

SH: “I understand that for the mainstream media, but what about the alternative media? There’s a split even at KPFA. They don’t want to touch this. They don’t even want to look at it. I’m not saying believe it, just look at the evidence.”

DRG: “That’s the next step down. They’ve been so effective with this scare tactic that even to give an open microphone to a conspiracy theorist means give them credibility and that means there’s something wrong with you. So, Shawn, I’m not sure that you’re going to fit in here in our future plans. So, you know how it works; everybody in the media knows how it works: nobody has to be explicitly threatened; they just know the rules. Maybe they tried one story once and they said, ‘Whew,’ that story wouldn’t go, certainly no story about nine eleven is going to go, so they learn not to do it.”

“A third factor is, and some have explicitly said this, ‘we in the left-leaning press spent years building up our credibility, and now you crazy nine eleven conspiracy theorists are destroying our credibility. Well, first of all, a big majority of the 9-11 movement is not on the left; they’re on the right. They’re libertarians and Republicans. Both Steven Jones and Richard Gage were lifelong Republicans, but this is the answer they give. I don’t think that’s just an excuse; I think they really do believe that [we threaten] things they’ve worked for.”

“So from their point of view, it doesn’t matter whether what we’re saying is true or false; it’s not expedient. It’s not helpful to what they consider the larger cause of exposing other high crimes and misdemeanors. So they say, well, we lose our credibility here, then we can’t do all this other good work, overlooking the fact—I would say as a rabid member of the nine eleven truth movement, ‘Look, this is the big story. This outstrips anything you could possibly be exposing from the last ten years or in the next ten—probably unless we have another one, and if we do have another one it will be partly your fault because you didn’t help expose this one.”

“So I just think that’s a very poor answer, and for some people to say—and I regret that Howard Zinn, who showed great courage opposing [Noam] Chomsky on this who would not read my book even though they’re both good friends of Richard Falk. Richard Falk wrote to Chomsky and he said, ‘I think you should read this manuscript. My friend David Griffin has been a great admirer of yours; he’s built on your work. He would love to have a blurb from you. Chomsky wrote back and said Dick, ‘No, I will not read your friend Griffin’s book.’ Howard Zinn read it. He wrote a blurb, and many people said, ‘I never would have read your book except for the blurb by Howard Zinn despite the fact that he got flack from many friends on the left for writing that very innocuous blurb—he was not endorsing my ideas, he was just saying this is a serious book. Even though he got a lot of flack for that, he came back and endorsed a second book, so I praise Howard Zinn for the courage he showed even though—and I regret the fact that towards the end of his life he said,   ‘Well, nine eleven isn’t too important. It doesn’t matter too much what the truth is. I just think he made a terrible misjudgment in that.”

David Ray Griffin Interview (audio) Part 1 

David Ray Griffin Interview (audio) Part 2

“Over 1000 architects and engineers have signed petition to reinvestigate 9-11 destruction”   (Associated with story #14 in Project Censored’s currrent list/book, Censored 2011)