The Center for Grassroots Oversight

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Profile: Jeff Birnbaum

Jeff Birnbaum was a participant or observer in the following events:

Numerous witnesses, including firefighters and other rescue workers, hear explosions at the start of, and during, the collapse of the south WTC tower. Some of them report hearing a single explosion:
bullet Jeff Birnbaum: “There was an explosion and the whole top leaned toward us and started coming down.” (Lucy 2/1/2002)
bullet Battalion Chief John Sudnik: “[W]e heard a loud explosion or what sounded like a loud explosion and looked up and I saw Tower Two start coming down.” (Sudnik 11/7/2001)
bullet Firefighter Edward Kennedy hears “a tremendous boom, explosion… and the top of the building was coming down at us.” (Kennedy 1/17/2002)
bullet Firefighter Edward Sheehey hears “an explosion, looked up, and the building started to collapse.” (Sheehey 12/4/2001)
bullet Battalion Chief Thomas Vallebuona: “I heard ‘boom,’ an exploding sound, a real loud bang. I looked up, and I could see the Trade Center starting to come down.” (Vallebuona 1/2/2002)
bullet EMT Julio Marrero: “I heard a loud bang. We looked up, and we just saw the building starting to collapse.” (Marrero 10/25/2001)
Other witnesses report hearing multiple explosions:
bullet Journalist Pete Hamill: “We heard snapping sounds, pops, little explosions, and then the walls bulged out, and we heard a sound like an avalanche.” (Hamill 9/11/2001)
bullet Police officer Sue Keane, who is an Army veteran, is located in the north WTC tower: “[I]t sounded like bombs going off. That’s when the explosions happened.… It started to get dark, then all of a sudden there was this massive explosion.” (Hagen and Carouba 2002, pp. 65)
bullet Firefighter Keith Murphy, who is in the lobby of the North Tower: “[T]he first thing that happened, which I still think is strange to me, the lights went out.… I had heard right before the lights went out, I had heard a distant boom boom boom, sounded like three explosions.… At the time, I would have said they sounded like bombs, but it was boom boom boom and then the lights all go out.… I would say about 3, 4 seconds, all of a sudden this tremendous roar.” (Murphy 12/5/2001)
bullet Firefighter Craig Carlsen hears “explosions coming from building two, the South Tower. It seemed like it took forever, but there were about ten explosions.… We then realized the building started to come down.” (Carlsen 1/25/2002)
bullet Firefighter Thomas Turilli, who is in the lobby of the North Tower: “[A]ll of a sudden you just heard like it almost actually that day sounded like bombs going off, like boom, boom, boom, like seven or eight, and then just a huge wind gust just came… It just seemed like a huge explosion.” (Turilli 1/17/2002)
bullet Firefighter Stephen Viola: “[T]hat’s when the South Tower collapsed, and it sounded like a bunch of explosions. You heard like loud booms.” (Viola 1/10/2002)
bullet Firefighter Lance Lizzul: “[W]e heard some bangs. That made us look up, and that’s when the first Trade Center came down.” (Lizzul 12/10/2001)
bullet Paramedic Kevin Darnowski: “I heard three explosions, and then we heard like groaning and grinding, and Tower Two started to come down.” (Darnowski 11/9/2001)
However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which conducts a three-year study of the WTC collapses, will subsequently claim it found “no corroborating evidence for alternative hypotheses suggesting that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition using explosives” (see October 26, 2005). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 146)

CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen.CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. [Source: Department of Energy]The CIA analyzes bin Laden’s new speech, which was released four days before the US presidential election (see October 29, 2004), and concludes that it improves George Bush’s reelection chances. According to author Ron Suskind, the CIA, which has “spent years… parsing each word of the al-Qaeda leader,” knows that “bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons—and those reasons are debated with often startling depth inside the organization’s leadership.” The analysts conclude that “bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the president’s reelection.” Deputy Director John McLaughlin says in a meeting analyzing the speech, “Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the president.” CIA deputy associate director Jami Miscik similarly comments, “Certainly, he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.” However, the CIA does not discuss why bin Laden wants Bush to stay. Suskind will write, “But an ocean of hard truths before them—such as what did it say about US policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected—remained untouched.” CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen will later say: “It was sad. We just sat there. We were dispirited.” Several National Security Council members have already reached the conclusion that bin Laden’s presence on the international stage helps Bush (see October 29, 2004). Both presidential candidates condemn bin Laden. John Kerry says, “As Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden.” George Bush says, “Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country.” (Suskind 2006, pp. 335-6) Several commentators believe the intervention will help Bush, for example:
bullet Veteran journalist Walter Cronkite says, “I have a feeling that it could tilt the election a bit. In fact, I’m a little inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing.” (CNN 10/29/2004)
bullet Roger Simon of US News and World Report says, “I don’t have any trouble parsing out who this helps. I think this is an enormous boost for George Bush.” (CNN 10/29/2004)
bullet MSNBC host Chris Matthews says, “The big thing in politics, of course, is picking the right topic… This creates a terrible situation for the challenger, because it seems to me that Karl Rove has his finger on this.” (MSNBC 10/29/2004)
bullet MSNBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell says, “It makes it harder for Kerry, and it shifts the subject matter back to what George Bush is strongest on. So the Bush people may not say that they are happy about this, but I’m sure that they could not be more pleased that this is the subject of the closing days. How do you say October surprise? This is one that could benefit the president.” (MSNBC 10/29/2004)
bullet CNBC co-host Lawrence Kudlow says, “It will play into Bush’s hands.… it falls into Bush’s lap. And unlike 2000, I think it’s the kind of thing that will cause the remaining undecided voters in the next 72 hours or so to break for Bush.” (Luntz et al. 10/29/2004)
bullet Weekly Standard staff writer Stephen Hayes says, “I think that, as most people have indicated, that is likely to help President Bush.” (Luntz et al. 10/29/2004)
Other commentators from across the political spectrum who suggest the speech will help Bush include Fox News correspondent Major Garrett, Boston Herald columnist Mike Barnicle, Time magazine correspondent Karen Tumulty, former plumber G. Gordon Liddy, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, the Cook Political Report editor and publisher Charlie Cook, Washington Post journalist Jeffery Birnhaum, and Roll Call executive editor Morton Kondracke. (Wilson et al. 10/29/2004; Wilson et al. 10/29/2004; CNN 10/29/2004; Luntz et al. 10/29/2004; Buchanan et al. 10/29/2004) Some right wing commentators suggest that the tape will help Kerry, including Fox News political commentator Dick Morris, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and author Peggy Noonan. (Gibson 10/29/2004; Wilson et al. 10/29/2004; Fox News 10/29/2004; Fox News 10/29/2004) A Newsweek poll shows that Bush’s lead increases after the tape is released and, after the election, John Kerry, the losing Democratic candidate, will attribute his failure to bin Laden’s intervention: “We were rising in the polls until the last day the tape appeared. We flat-lined the day the tape appeared, and went down on Monday.” (Sherwell 11/1/2004; MSNBC 1/30/2005) George Bush will also agree that the tape helped, saying, “I thought it was going to help. I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn’t want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush.” (Reuters 3/1/2006)


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