Langewiesche's WTC Looting Charges: Fact-Checked
I. Langewiesche's general factual claim.
II. A specific factual claim: Ladder 4 looting of Gap Jeans "before the towers fell...."
III. Langewiesche and Atlantic Monthly (Nov. 18th 2002) concede that the details in Ladder 4 Looting Claim were never fact-checked.
IV. Langewiesche claims his readers understand The Gap Jean Looting story was "not about what actually happened"
-- yet other journalists consistantly report this "looting" as fact.
V. Fact-Checking Standards of "gossip columnist"
VI. FEMA Film and Film Crew don't lie: Why didn't Langewiesche seek out the objective evidence available?
I. Langewiesche's general factual claim
Langewiesche, in American Ground, confidently makes ten similar statements referring to the "knowledge" or known factual reality of looting by firefighters, police, and construction workers during both the 1993 and 2001 WTC emergency operations, as if common knowledge of this thievery by these three groups is well known. Since this factual reality of looting is not well known, we looked for rigorously checked, specific facts in Langewiesche's text that he presented to support his generality.
In American Ground, Langewiesche provides no objective evidence about looters, or victims of looting to substantiate either general or specific claims of commercial or residential looting by police, firefighters or construction workers at the site. No newspaper accounts; no New York City Police or Port Authority Police arrest records; no court records enumerating convictions or sentences; and no insurance figures indicating any general scale or frequency of victim's reports are cited by Langewiesche. It is impossible to believe that both victims and perpetrators of looting would conspire to keep silent. Yet, Langewiesche puts forward his claims of both widespread and three specific cases of looting as if it were fact, which is his right. However, the onus now becomes his to provide proof of his personal discovery. Due to the seriousness of his change, Langewiesche is duty-bound to make transparent measurable evidence that supports the truth of both his general and specific 1993 and 2002 WTC looting claims. Langewiesche, clearly does not give the public this information, in either his American Ground, or later, in press interviews.
Searching the historical record, our research group has found few anecdotal accounts from alleged victims of looting or official reports of looting. The most dramatic case was reported by Reuters. The WTC Tourneau store was robbed of 1.3 million dollars of watches, cash and other goods by a civilian impersonating a firefighter. This factual case is the likely source for a rumor Langewiesche reported that suggested firefighters "prefer" stealing Tourneau watches.
|"As rumor had it, the tribalism at the site extended even to the choice of goods. Firemen were said to prefer watches from the Torneau store, policemen opt for kitchen appliances, and construction workers (who were at a disadvantage here) to enjoy picking through whatever leftovers they came upon." page 159, American Ground
Why didn't Langewiesche mention anywhere in American Ground that civilians were looting? Why does Langewiesche continue to name only three discrete groups--fire, police and construction workers--as the looters of ground zero? Evidence we found indicates that civilians are the only group convicted of WTC theft so far, a fact that Langewiesche's research could have easily established. Yet without hard facts, and based upon only three second-hand, and unattributed stories, Langewiesche cites fire, police and construction workers as committing "wide-spread" theft during both the 1993 and 2001 WTC incidents.
II. A specific factual claim: Ladder 4 looting of Gap Jeans "before the towers fell...."
After a fast start with a dramatic promise early in Part I, that police, firefighters and construction workers' looting "started before the towers fell," only three particular cases are found throughout Langewiesche's entire Atlantic Monthly articles or Farrar Straus Book. The first is the construction workers attempted looting of the Bank of Nova Scotia's gold vault in October 2001, Part I. The second is the three groups' (fire, police, construction workers) "brazen theft" of office computers from the Deutsche Bank in December 2001. Also in Part I. The third, and final example is the now infamous tale of "wild" construction workers jeering firefighters while a crew cab full of Gap jeans was unearthed, in the "fall" Part III. The latter story turns out to be Langewiesche's only evidence to support his large and shocking claim at the beginning of Part I that looting had "begun even before the first tower fell" on September 11, 2001. (Read here excerpts of all Langewiesche's references to looting in full context). None of Langewiesche's three cases name sources. Our rigorous research has found no objective factual basis for supporting Langewiesche's three stories of looting and, moreover, that no fact-checking of details--beyond several nameless eyewitness accounts--was done by Langewiesche, Atlantic Monthly or Farrar Straus. This is a complete contradiction to their numerous statements to the press that "every word" was fact-checked, and that Langewiesche's "sourcing is impeccable." (Publishers Weekly article and The New York Observer article). In many instances, Langewiesche unambiguously states that the looting by firefighters, police, and construction workers is factual and that he, himself, believes it, as quotes from interviews illustrate:
|6 June, 2002 on NPR's "All Things Considered" with Robert Siegel:
SIEGEL: You mentioned the stories of heroism that were being told all around New York and all around the country at that time. There were other sides to this. You saw the evidence, for example, of pretty wide-scale looting that went on right after the World Trade Center attack.
LANGEWIESCHE: "Yeah. I mean, we need to be - I think the time has come for sort of honesty, and I think that we can understand it's difficult to talk about this stuff without appearing to be accusing people of things, which I don't want to do. In truth, of course, there was looting. There was looting by everybody involved in the World Trade Center site-I mean, all the main parties, not every individual, obviously. I mean by the firemen, the police and the civilian construction workers. That looting began, in fact, before the south tower fell, before the first of the collapses, and it continued for months afterward.It wasn't all necessarily that heavy. It wasn't that was-you know, people were not running through the streets carrying televisions. They were sort of sneaking out the back door carrying computers."
4 November, 2002 on NPR's "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross:
GROSS: "You write about some looting near the site of the World Trade Center. What did you learn about that?"
LANGEWIESCHE: "There was filching going on --I've learned to be very careful of the word `looting.' I think it's an overly -- it arouses all kinds of emotions. And, you know, the word `looting' brings to mind some sort of riot with people running through the streets proudly holding televisions as they run away. That's not at all what happened. But there was extensive filching, and it started early and it continued for quite a long time till finally guards were posted at any building with anything of value in it. And it was pervasive. I mean, it was done by all groups, and no one had sort of a lock on doing that. It was part of life at the site. And I actually was not particularly shocked by it.
I mean, my job as a writer is to go in there with clear eyes and to write, as I saw it, history in the present tense, to try to get away from some of the excess of emotionalism surrounding the subject, and to talk to my readers clearly about what was going on there. But I never had a sense of outrage about this at all. In fact, it was perfectly understandable, I thought it was, because on the inside of that perimeter, in the secret world of the World Trade Center, away from public view, it was a lot like a war zone. It was a difference place. It was no longer New York City. These buildings were no longer normal buildings. The filching that went on there psychologically, and I think even also morally and ethically, was very different from, say, walking into a standing building out in the normal city and taking things away. This was a very special place. All the rules had changed. And the sense of ownership had changed. When people were walking away, for instance, with a computer, taking a computer off a desk, well, who did that computer belong to? I mean, obviously everyone knew that the computer belonged to the original owner, probably some company, but the entire building had been condemned, the insurance company probably technically owned it. What was the insurance company going to do with it? I mean, all these things were very muddy, and in the chaos of that environment and the total breakdown of normalcy, it just was not shocking that this was going on.
I don't think the people who did it were bad people, actually, and I think also it needs to be said that very, very few people actually did it. It doesn't take very many people to have a large effect doing that.
GROSS: You were saying that some of the people who did do it included people in uniform.
LANGEWIESCHE: "Of course. Yeah, sure. Let's be realistic. Of course it did. Of course. And -- yes. Enough said."
20 November, 2002 on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" with Neal Conan:
CONAN: That is Battalion Chief Joseph Nardone, speaking about the men of Ladder 4 who died in the collapse of the building. William Langewiesche, your response?
LANGEWIESCHE: "This has obviously been a very difficult thing. It is-I'll tell you how-let me put it this way. I think I'm going to reverse this. The problem here is the way this is being repeated, basically. It's become kind of a tabloid thing. You notice that he gentleman in question had not read the piece, apparently. He was talking about reading it in some other paper. This is a long piece of writing, and it is a detailed and in-depth piece, a complex piece of writing, and it required to be reading context. As far as looting goes in general at the site, every time I mention it-now I think no one is arguing that there was widespread looting at the site-I think that would be too silly-and that many different kinds of people were involved, although few of them. It's not by any means, you know, the majority. It's small, small groups.
Every time I talk about that - and I have to talk about it because I'm trying to write frankly, as I always do-I point out that this was a battlefield, that - I'm not pointing moralistic fingers and finger wagging in any way. That's number one. I understand it. I have never seen a battlefield in which things weren't being stolen or filched, OK? It's just part of human nature. It's the breakdown of normalcy that goes with an extreme situation.
Second, I never identified anybody in my effort not to point fingers, because, for one thing, I also am not a muckraker, you know? It's not the kind of writing I do. So I have no-what ever ladder company or not ladder company-I have not the slightest intention of ever identifying, and I did not. I mean, I specifically didn't talk about what kind of truck or where it was. It was the vaguest, vaguest description. The reason for it was that my subject was the pile. I was not writing about what happened on 9/11. I was writing about the culture that was emerging on the pile, and part of that culture were extreme divisions between the groups, OK? Those divisions were, in fact, as much the fault of, for instance, the construction workers as of any other group."
|2 July, 2002 on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" with Neal Conan:
TERRY (Caller): Yes, Mr. Langewiesche, I was really intrigued by your article. Congratulations on a truly remarkable piece of journalism. There were two items in your article that are somewhat troubling beyond the fact that the whole event itself, of course, is troubling. And one of them is the statement that I believe that you made for the sake of honest, straightforward journalism. You discovered a sign that said, `Kill all Muslims.' And that must have been a very difficult decision to even put that entry in your article, and I wonder if you might comment on that.
And the second thing that I found particularly troubling was the amount of thievery and theft that took place, and the obvious fact that it apparently was perpetrated by Fire Department or rescue workers or Police Department personnel. And I wonder if you were able to research that issue any further, and whether you were able to determine with any great specific whether that, in fact, was conducted by rescue personnel or did the companies that, for instance, own the leases go in and remove their items? ...(Unintelligible).
LANGEWIESCHE: "... The other one, yeah, the question of looting-look, there was looting going on. It was widely spread. It was not, you know, heavy. And I think the better word for it than looting might be filching. And I actually don't really-it didn't bother me at all. It didn't surprise me that people in the Fire Department were doing this, or the Police Department or the construction workers. I mean, everybody was-every group-not everybody-but every group was to some degree involved in-I mean, there were individuals in those groups. Does that reflect on those groups as a whole? No, it does not. Does it reflect on the actual effectiveness or the meaning of the response, or does it characterize what went on in the private world of the World Trade Center? No, it does not.
It is, again, my job to call it like it is. And I don't participate in, you know, public relations blather about, you know, heroism and such things when there's no call for it. I mean, this is a straightforward piece of writing about a straightforward subject, and so this did occur. As I say in the piece itself, I don't think it was very important. And it didn't disturb me at all, because I never bought into the sort of the heroic thing and I think very few people at the World Trade Center site did. In fact, I doubt whether many Americans actually did either. I think a lot of that's just a facade; you know, you have to say this stuff.
Nov. 19, 2002 Excerpts from "A firestorm over hallowed ground; Writer's account of the cleanup of the World Trade Center and his implications about firefighters, others are a source of outrage." The Los Angeles Times by J. Michael Kennedy:
"The story of the folded blue jeans won't go away.
It rankles the firefighters who read about it and say it just could not have happened, not in all the chaos of the collapsing twin towers of the World Trade Center, not with people jumping to their deaths from offices.
Yet there it is, vividly described in William Langewiesche's much- lauded "American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center." As Langewiesche describes the event, a fire truck is pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center. Inside the cab are dozens of folded jeans from the Gap, a store located in the center complex.
His take on the scene: "It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the looting had begun even before the first tower fell, and that while hundreds of doomed firemen had climbed through the wounded buildings, this particular crew had engaged in something else entirely, of course without the slightest suspicion that the South Tower was about to hammer down."
The book, a compilation of a three-part series that first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, is among the most extensive looks at what happened at ground zero in the aftermath of Sept. 11. But the accusation of looting by firefighters has taken on a life of its own. Just last week, New York Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta fired off a lengthy letter to the Atlantic Monthly. In it, Scoppetta characterized the book as containing "foolish, unfounded and absurd accusations." (Read letter to Atlantic Monthly from FDNY Commissioner Link not in original article)
"Such absurdity degrades men who valiantly died trying to save lives," he wrote. "Such absurdity insults countless others who devoted months to the dignified and respectful recovery of all victims of the attacks. Such absurdity insults the truth."
Langewiesche is adamant that he painted an accurate and fair portrait of what happened that day: "I know it happened," he said recently at a Pasadena restaurant, adding that the articles had been fact-checked by meticulous researchers before they were published.
click image to see video
Langewiesche states he is "entirely unsure"
of any part of the GAP Jeans Story.
Nov.18, 2002. Press Conference
after South St. Seaport Book Tour Talk
III. Langewiesche and Atlantic Monthly (Nov. 18th 2002) concede that the details in Ladder 4 Looting Claim were never fact-checked.
Despite, Langwiesche's public factual claims for the truth of his looting allegations, more recent interviews with Langewiesche and Toby Lester, Atlantic Monthly editor, reveal that they now claim no interest in confirming specific facts or descriptions Langewiesche wrote regarding looting at Ground Zero. For example, Langewiesche himself says--post hoc--that he doesn't know if any of the details that he wrote about looting by Ladder 4 members were true or not. His larger point, he suggests, was that construction workers started rumors, such as firefighters looting, as part of group infighting at Ground Zero.(See American Journalism Review)
As shown in the above quotations, Langewiesche also contradicts his earlier statements in American Ground, and in interviews, that characterize the WTC looting as widespread ("The question of looting-look, there was looting going on. It was widely spread"). Langewiesche now mocks the notion as if he never said it. ("As far as looting at the site.now I think no one is arguing that there was widespread looting at the site-I think that would be too silly.")
According to Atlantic Monthly editor, Toby Lester, they were not fact-checking details but only confirming the story about the looting by Ladder 4 company members was "circulating" at the WTC site. And yet, Lester contradicts himself. In an official press statement released earlier in November, 2002, Lester writes, "the specifics and details contained in American Ground were vigorously fact-checked, as all material contained within Atlantic Monthly is. The fact-checking took five months of full-time work, by an experienced team of two, who sought to trace every detail to its source.they tracked down every detail through independent channels...while there is speculation contained within American Ground, it is open speculation, and in most case it was included because it was the speculation that was active at the site and therefore was part of the emerging culture that is the subject of American Ground." (See Atlantic Monthly's press release). In light of Langewiesche's and his editor's above statements, and the absence of other evidence, any basis of truth regarding looting by fire, police and construction workers evaporates into the mist of unfounded speculation and urban legend.
According to New York Newsday, Langewiesche conceded that "he never checked out many of the stories." Rather than admit incorrect facts are mistakes, and to accept the obvious implications, that if the details are all wrong then the story itself is, most likely, false, and that fact-checkers did not do their job, Atlantic Monthly editors and Langewiesche would now rather claim that the details were never intended to be true and therefore, never needed to be checked. (Read American Journalism Review.)
Langewiesche defends his stories, such as Ladder 4 members looting "before the towers fell", as only about how people felt and thought, not what actually happened. And moreover, that his regular readers understand this. William Murphy and Pete Bowles in New York Newsday write,
|"Langewiesche, in a telephone interview before the 20-minute protest, defended his work, saying it accurately reflected the emotions of rescue workers at the time. He conceded that he had not checked out many of the stories he heard while he working on the book. 'I'm not a truth squad as far as 9/11 goes,' he said. 'I am a reporter. I was interested about what people really believed. My readers understand that and have understood it for years.'"(New York Newsday Nov. 19, 2002)
But what exactly are readers meant to understand after considering Langewiesche's dizzying set of factual reversals?
Langewiesche's Dizzying Set of Reversals
June 6, 2002, NPR interview
Langewiesche states: "That looting began, in fact, before the south tower fell, before the first of the collapses, and it continued for months afterward." (see above) November 19, 2002, ChannelNewsAsia (from broadcast transcript)
"A reporter asked William Langewiesche: 'You wrote here it was hard to avoid the conclusion that the looting had begun before the first tower fell.' To which Langewiesche replied: 'Some of the construction workers did make that conclusion, that's what I'm writing about.' When pressed whether he himself made the conclusion, Langewiesche said he did not. Langewiesche also denied saying that firefighters stole jeans from the Gap. 'I really am entirely unsure of any part of that, that is not what I am writing about,' Langewiesche added." (see above)
November 19, 2002, Los Angeles Times
"The story of the folded blue jeans won't go away. ... Langewiesche is adamant that he painted an accurate and fair portrait of what happened that day: "I know it happened," he said recently at a Pasadena restaurant." (see above)
IV. Langewiesche claims his readers understand The Gap Jean Looting Story was "not about what actually happened" -- yet other journalists consistantly report this "looting" as fact.
There is no evidence that any journalist or book reviewer has gleaned from Langewiesche's American Ground that the looting by firefighters before the towers fell was only rumor created by construction workers. Instead, New York Times reviewer Jeffrey Goldberg even credits Langewiesche for having "discovered" instances of looting. Read journalists who write about Langewiesche's description of looting, as if it were fact:
| Jeffrey Goldberg, New York Times
"But he also gives us people, including members of New York City's now sacrosanct Fire Department, who succumbed to greed and selfishness and divisiveness. The moral ambiguities of the World Trade Center operation, including the fact that it made a good number of people very rich, and the bad behavior of some of the main actors in the cleanup, are not well known. As Langewiesche notes, to most outsiders the eruption of violence late last year between firefighters and police officers at Ground Zero was inexplicable. But Langewiesche saw it coming. He was allowed to wander the site almost completely unrestricted for an extended period of time, and it seems as if he virtually lived there for more than six months. He certainly saw more than anyone else ...
... He is the definition of a working reporter, and because he has worked so hard he has earned the right, among other things, to chip away at the halo that has hovered over the New York City Fire Department since Sept. 11.
Without flinching, he contrasts ''the elaborate flag-draped ceremonials that the firemen accorded their own dead'' with the "jaded 'bag 'em and tag 'em' approach that they took to civilians." (Link not original: see how this blanket statement does not fit facts as shown in photographs.) And he recounts one episode in which firemen recommended amputating the leg of a dead Port Authority policeman because it was pinned in the wreckage. The Port Authority police officers who arrived at the scene became incensed at the suggestion, Langewiesche writes, pointing out correctly that ''no dead fireman would have had his leg cut off." (Link not original: read result of our fact-checking this often quoted, but incorrect charge.)
Langewiesche is not cruel to the Fire Department; he recognizes its catastrophic loss, but he writes smartly that ''the image of 'heroes' seeped through their ranks like a low-grade narcotic. It did not intoxicate them, but it skewed their view.'' ...
... Despite the many problems Langewiesche discovered in the cleanup operations, including the instances of looting by firemen, policemen and construction workers, the dismantling of the World Trade Center ruins was a great success. It took place at incredible speed."
| Scott Sherman, Columbia Journalism Review
"Some of the best (and most controversial) pages of "American Ground" concern the "tribal" conflicts on the pile between construction workers, cops, and firemen, about whom Langewiesche writes with a cold eye. We read about a "muscular and charismatic" field superintendent for one of the major construction companies who grew weary of the "moralistic airs" of the firemen - who, in their determination to find their own dead, kept shutting down his cleanup efforts. One day, reports Langewiesche, a fire truck was found underneath the ruins - its crew cab "filled with dozens of new pairs of jeans from The Gap, a Trade Center store." Construction workers began to jeer; a fire chief tried to calm them down, arguing that the jeans had been blown into the truck by the force of the collapse. Writes Langewiesche: "The field superintendent, seeming not to hear, asked the fire chief to repeat what he had said. When he did, the construction workers only jeered louder." It's those kinds of details that give the piece its unique tone and texture, its insider's perspective."
| Bob McManus, New York Post
"And then Langeweische really turns up the heat. He writes about the dirty little secret of the firefighting trade: The tendency of material objects to go missing after the fires are out, and the lives have been saved.This phenomenon isn't limited to firefighters, of course. Cops see their opportunities, and take 'em, all too often as well.
So it was on The Pile.
"The looting was shadowy, widespread and unsurprising . . . it started in the shopping complex, with the innocuous filching of cigarettes and soda pop, and expanded into more ambitious acquisitions . . .
"Firemen were said to prefer watches from the Tourneau store [and] policemen to opt for kitchen appliances."
Then came the morning that yet another crushed fire truck was recovered from the South Tower wreckage:
"[When] the hulk of the fire truck appeared, rather than containing bodies . . . its crew cab was filled with dozens of new pairs of jeans from The Gap, a Trade Center store . . .
"It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the looting had begun even before the first tower fell, and that while hundreds of doomed firefighters had climbed through the wounded building, this particular crew had been engaged in something else entirely . . ."
. . . Some of the early reaction to "American Ground" has been venomous; this is not surprising, for good reporting can be painful."
|Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"A lot of paper could have been saved if the writers had used William Langewiesche's no-nonsense account of the attack and its aftermath.Despite its odd subtitle -- "Unbuilding the World Trade Center" -- his book, the collected series of articles he wrote for Atlantic Monthly, reads like a movie script, with heroes and villains, moving dialogue, dramatic scenes and a kicker of an ending.
While much has been made of Langewiesche's wide-ranging and rare access to the devastated site near Wall Street, what distinguishes his account is its pure journalism.
This is the kind of clear-eyed reporting and strong writing that fell out of favor with the "new journalism" excesses of the Tom Wolfe school. It seems fresh and original today because it's so seldom that we encounter reporting at its most elemental.
Occasionally, Langewiesche slips in his own unsolicited views, but mostly he lets the principals do the talking. He understands that the foundation of any good story is the personalities, real human beings, the actors. ..."
... Their role in the project became laden with controversy, a topic Langewiesche handles without sentimentality. He takes no side but provides both the heroism and the venality -- one firetruck pulled from the debris was full of jeans looted from a Gap store. ...
... Extraordinary events demand not only extraordinary responses, which was the case at the WTC site, but also an objective witness who can testify with the facts, not prejudice.
That kind of testimony is Langewiesche's singular accomplishment."
| Patti Thorn, Rocky Mountain News
"Among the many startling images in William Langewiesche's slim new book, American Ground, is that of a firetruck trapped in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, its cab stuffed to the gills with new jeans from The Gap.
Given the truck's location in the rubble, the implication is clear: These firemen had been looting the Trade Center store, even before the first tower fell.
It's not exactly a happy revelation to those prone to hero worship. But Langewiesche simply shrugs at such discovery.
"The world is full of much bigger problems than whether guys making whatever it is they make are stealing little doodads. I just couldn't get exercised about it." ...
... Langewiesche's clear-eyed account of that process, filled with amazing detail and understated insight, is unlike anything you've read about Sept. 11.
American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center initially ran as a three-part series in Atlantic Monthly. Now compiled in one volume, the story is garnering raves (including talk of a Pulitzer or a National Book Award) across the country.
I spoke to the author by phone in advance of his recent book-tour appearance in Denver."
V. Fact-Checking Standards of "gossip columnist"
Worst of all, Atlantic Monthly editors and Langewiesche now state that they did their fact-checking properly; because they confirmed that the Ladder 4 rumor was, well, a rumor that was "circulating" at the site. Their bottom-line claim?--since they accurately reported, and later fact-checked that there was such a rumor, they did their job. Therefore, the dramatic revelation that looting occurred "even before the towers fell" was only what people said. This is far cry from what is now reported by other journalists, as Langewiesche's accurate reporting of fact and what Langewiesche states in interviews is fact. Read American Journalism Review and quotes above in red text. Also see letter from Gary Hill, Chair Ethics Committee, Society of Professional Journalists, Mr. Hill compares the fact-checking standard Atlantic Monthly applies in this case to the standards used by a "gossip columnist "Atlantic Monthly and Langewiesche simply ignore that nowhere in Langewiesche's text is the Ladder 4 story labeled as rumor. They try to claim that the larger context of text reveals that Langewiesche's intention to communicate this story as only rumor. Yet, no specific evidence of this context, or text is cited by them or has been found by us. (See complete excerpts of all Langewiesche's references to looting.) Langewiesche and Atlantic Monthly do not seem to understand the consequences of their reporting ugly and unfounded rumor as fact. They express no remorse regarding the harm done to innocent and dedicated men and women when unsubstantiated charges, such as deriliction of duty during a rescue operation, are unjustly launched into the world and becomes the true insiders' story and WTC history. Langewiesche tries to render as harmless, any stealing by uniform personnel and construction workers at Ground Zero by comparing it with looting during wars. Referring to the WTC site, Langewiesche states on NPR (see above), "I point out that this was a battlefield... I have never seen a battlefield in which things weren't being stolen or filched, OK? It's just part of human nature. It's the breakdown of normalcy that goes with an extreme situation." First of all, Langewiesche never names himself as an eyewitness to looting at Ground Zero. Moreover, Langewiesche's analogy of innocent war-time looting does not logically equate to his description of the Ladder 4 firefighters having looted jeans "even before the first tower fell." The relative innocence of soldiers picking up goods for souvenirs after a battle; profoundly differs, morally, from the callous disregard for human life that firefighters would need to steal blue jeans during a homeland attack, instead of obeying orders to save trapped civilians. Precisely why Bob Hoover, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, refers to the "venality" of firefighters having looted before the towers fell. (see quotes above)
VI. FEMA Film and Film Crew don't lie: Why didn't Langewiesche seek out the objective evidence available?
Our new Phase II research will provide a time-line that documents Ladder 4 members' actions on September 11, based upon official records, film, photographs, maps and named eyewitnesses. Ladder 4 officially acknowledged the 9:14 a.m. alarm from the FDNY Communications Office and responded to the World Trade Center from quarters at 9:19 a.m. From their midtown location, 12 minutes was measured to be the minimal time required to reach the South Tower at Liberty Street where Ladder 4 members parked their apparatus. The South Tower fell at 9:59 a.m. Do the math. During those 24 minutes between 9:35 a.m.- 9:59 a.m., two eyewitnesses, (including a civilian, vice-president of a WTC firm, who was rescued from a South Tower elevator), saw Ladder 4 members with a Hurst tool at the same South Tower elevator, where the firefighters' bodies and "jaws of life" tool would eventually be found. (See Michael Daly's account in New York Daily News). Due to the 24 minutes time-constraint, it was physically impossible for Ladder 4 members to be rescuing people at the South Tower elevators (where we know they were, by eyewitness accounts and their remains), and at the same time, also be looting an underground Gap store 600 yards roundtrip from their truck, climbing stairs both ways (wearing 60 lbs. of full bunker gear, tools and SCBA), in order to load their crew cab with "taged, folded and stacked by size" jeans. As if this were not proof enough of Ladder 4 members' innocence and honor, a FEMA film crew has recently testified that they were there when Ladder 4 truck was found and were eyewitnesses when the crew cab section was unearthed. They are adamant that no blue jeans were in the Ladder 4 crew cab and that no construction workers were jeering. Also read statement from cameraman in FEMA Film Crew, Patrick Drury.
|"Imagine his delight, then, after the hulk of the fire truck appeared, that rather than containing bodies (which would have required decorum),its crew cab was filled with dozens of new pairs of jeans from The Gap, a Trade Center store. When a grappler pulled off the roof, the jeans were revealed for all to see. It was exactly the sort of evidence the field superintendent had been waiting for. While a crowd of initially bewildered firemen looked on, the construction workers went wild. "Jeans! Look at these! Fucking guys! Jeans!" It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the looting had begun even before the first tower fell, and that while hundreds of doomed firemen had climbed through the wounded buildings, this particular crew had been engaged in something else entirely, of course without the slightest suspicion that the South Tower was about to hammer down. Of course, this was not what the firemen wanted to hear. An angry fire chief tried to shut the construction workers up. He offered an explanation-that the jeans (tagged, folded, stacked by size) had been blown into the crew cab by the force of the collapse. The field superintendent, seeming not to hear, asked the fire chief to repeat what he had said. When he did, the construction workers only jeered louder." (Magazine version, Part III page 102. Emphasis in bold not original)
The grappler operator that Langewiesche mentions, but does not name in the above quote, has come forward to testify that no jeans were "revealed" in the crew cab and no jeering construction workers were anywhere on the scene. He was not fact-checked by Langewiesche or Atlantic Monthly. Photographs and film we have collected clearly illustrate that the operator's grappler machine is at the scene, and that police, firefighters and construction workers are respectfully standing by watching a group of firefighters carefully hand-digging Ladder 4 for human remains.
Quid pro quo?
The DDC gave him special access; DDC Ken Holden and Michael Burton later became the heroes in his book. More soon....
Why didn't Langwiesche seek out the FEMA film crew and objective video evidence readily known and available? Reporting of truth involves more than taking testimony from one, biased side in this case--the NY Department of Design and Construction. DDC Ken Holden and Mike Burton were Langewiesche's sponsor getting him special access to the site. They openly hated the Fire Department and anyone else who slowed their "scoop and dump" operation.
As quoted from New York Newsday, (see above) Langewiesche trivialized truth-seeking by journalists, "'I'm not a truth squad as far as 9/11 goes. I'm a reporter. I was interested about what people really believed. My readers understand that and have understood that for years.'" Langewiesche's placement of seeking truth, in logical opposition to reporting, is not a journalistic standard. According to published codes of ethics, "Journalism's first obligation is to truth," and journalists should "Seek Truth and Report It." (See ethical standards for journalists, written by journalists themselves for a larger context in which to view Langewiesche's, Atlantic Monthly's and Farrar Straus'statements and behavior. Read Journalism.org's The Statement of Concern and Citizens Bill of Journalism Rights, and Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics.)
Our ongoing Phase II research efforts include vigorous fact-checking, analysis of various patterns that we see occurring within data, and an examination of a larger data set. New research will include fact-checking Langewiesche's prior writing, and an analysis of Atlantic Monthly's, Farrar Straus' and Langewiesche's statements made while marketing American Ground. Phase II research also compares their initial statements to reporters, with their later responses made after our criticisms of Langewiesche's ethics and methods.