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9/11 and President Trump’s false memory

News-Herald Guest View

September 21, 2018
By Dennis Lamb , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Then presidential candidate Donald Trump's insistence in November 2015 that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in Jersey City was subsequently widely debunked in the media and properly so. Trump almost certainly believed what he claimed he saw, however, as did others who tweeted support for his claim. It appears likely, however, that what Trump and the others recalled was a false memory not unusual after 14 years based on a closely verifiable incident reported by mainstream media at the time but which quickly vanished from the news.

It was not about Muslims but about the arrest of five Israeli employees of a moving company - Urban Moving Systems after witnesses reported to have seen them acting in a strange manner while watching and filming the Twin Towers fall from Weehawken, NJ. As reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz by Yossi Melman on September 17, 2001, "They are said to have had been caught videotaping the disaster and shouting in what was interpreted as cries of joy and mockery."

An eyewitness who observed them was so concerned as to take their license number and call the police. They were detained and interrogated for 10 weeks. Two were subjected to as many as seven polygraphs during which apparent deception about affiliation with Israeli intelligence agencies was indicated. The owner of Urban Moving Systems abandoned his business and fled to Israel after being questioned once.

But Trump was right in stating: "It was well covered at the time. I know they don't like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time."

The arrest of the five Israelis was indeed well covered at the time. In addition to other media coverage, Fox News had a stunning four-part series about it that discussed not only the five recently detained Israelis but also what was before 9/11 an already ongoing investigation by various U.S. security agencies of a suspect massive Israeli intelligence collection operation in the U.S. The series included concern about possible Israeli compromise of every normal telephone in the U.S. and the alleged arrest and/or detention of 200 suspect Israeli agents and their deportation for alleged "invalid visas," as well as whether the Israelis might have had advance knowledge of the attack but didn't share it.

The good news is that the Israelis may have been surveilling the 9/11 attackers. The bad news is that if they were, they apparently did not share all they knew with U.S. security officials. When queried by Fox anchor Brit Hume in Part I of this series whether it was possible the Israelis might have had advance knowledge of 9/11, Carl Cameron notes that a better question might be "How could they not have known?"

Why might the five young men have appeared happy about what they were witnessing? Other countries have other interests and see things differently.

The New York Times reported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying about 9/11: "It's very good.. Well, it's not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy (for Israel)"

The internet is now full of postings offering various 9/11 conspiracy theories. Many seem well researched and appear to have plenty of detailed documentation to prove their claims. The same can be said of sites debunking them.

One can view the Fox News Series by Googling "Israel spies on the USA part 1 - YouTube" or using the


A good, seemingly objective and unbiased in-depth study of the incident that provides theories and possible explanations, including why the story disappeared, can be obtained by Googling Christopher Ketcham's "High-Fivers and Art Student Spies".

The incident, like Moby Dick suddenly surfacing, briefly leaped high into media attention for a few days and then just as quickly disappeared into the media abyss leaving only bloggers obsessed with hunting it down and exposing its secrets. That it appeared to have been 'hushed up' served only to spawn many far out "Israel-did-it" urban legends.

It is still an intriguing case if you are willing to scratch around the official version of what happened on 9/11, but you risk wrapping yourself around your own axle without being able to find satisfactory answers. Too much time has passed, records destroyed, muddied by disinformation or classified. The five Israelis detained are out of reach and cannot be questioned. Washington is not going to reopen such a case involving Israelis and it is not going to do anything that might embarrass Israel or itself. So a lot of questions will remain unanswered. It's interesting that not even Fox News pointed out its reporting after 9/11 as the likely basis for what Trump claimed to have seen.

But it happened. It's not a legend or fake news. And almost certainly it was five Israelis in New Jersey - not thousands of Muslims - that Trump remembered.

Dennis Lamb, from Chelsea, retired from the CIA in 2002 after serving 30 years in its Directorate of Operations as a case officer and intelligence analyst. The thoughts outlined above represent his personal views and not those of his former employer.



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