by Erik Larson
February 10, 2011
Beginning with his book New Pearl Harbor (2004) David Ray Griffin raised questions concerning the veracity of reports of phone calls from the 9/11 hijacked airliners, specifically, Ted Olson’s account. Since at least 2006, he has promoted a theory that the 9/11 plane passenger phone calls were faked, and has speculated this was done with ‘voice-morphing’ technology. He’s done this in many different articles, in books, in speaking appearances, in interviews on radio and television, and in a debate with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine. In his 1/12/10 essay, Phone Calls from the 9/11 Airliners: Response to Questions Evoked by My Fifth Estate Interview, David Ray Griffin gives the most comprehensive overview of this theory to date, as well as a response to critics, which include people who support a new 9/11 investigation. A Professor Emeritus and skilled rhetorician, Griffin makes a case that is seemingly compelling. However, as I show in this essay, there is no actual evidence the phone calls were faked, while there is a substantial body of evidence demonstrating the calls were not only possible, but did happen. There are many credible reasons to doubt the official 9/11 story and support a full investigation, but the cause of compelling a new 9/11 investigation is undermined by the promotion of theories that are flawed, and not based on hard evidence. In addition, the claim that the phone calls were faked is obviously offensive to those family members who spoke with passengers before they died, and it has the potential to drive a wedge between truth and justice activists and potential allies among the family members, many of whom support a full investigation.
Besides these shortcomings, Griffin himself pointed out in 2008 that promoting theories is not only unnecessary, but can work to the advantage of ‘debunkers’:
I made a big point of not developing such a theory, and even encouraging members of the movement not to do this … No, you don’t have to have a theory. When you develop a theory, that’s what the debunkers love, they want to say, that’s nonsense and take attention away from all the evidence we have marshaled to show the official story is false.
Certainly, ‘debunker’ websites such as 9/11 Myths have easily exposed flaws in the voice morphing theory: For instance, though the technology existed at the time, the inventor, George Papcun, has commented that voice-morphing a conversation in near real time would be more complex than fabricating a simple recorded statement, and would require an extensive recording as a sample. It would be even more difficult to fool the subject’s family members, who, in addition to being familiar with the person’s voice, would be familiar with their unique communication style and intimate details of their lives. One victim, Linda Gronlund, even left the combination to her safe on her sister’s voice mail. None of the family members who spoke with the passengers, or heard the messages they left, had any doubts it was their loved ones who called. Finally, some of those who made calls hadn’t booked their flights until the day before 9/11, meaning it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get an adequate voice sample, even assuming the perpetrators could tap anyone’s phone at anytime: Jeremy Glick, Mark Bingham, Honor Elizabeth Wainio and possibly Ed Felt. Some, including Griffin in previous essays, have suggested that Mark Bingham’s use of his full name when speaking to his mother is suspicious. First, it would be very unlikely that persons faking phone calls would introduce an element that would be a red flag to their family and outside observers. Second, Bingham’s mother (who has a different last name: Hoglan) has said that he did this on occasion; is it realistic to think voice-morphing perps learned this idiosyncrasy at the last minute and exploited it, let alone base accusations on it?