Category Archives: Academic prostitution

Book Review of Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden”

Book Review of Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001” (Penguin Books) (Paperback)

By Elias Davidsson, 18 October 2014

Unreliable author or disinformation agent?

While hailed by the New York Times as the “finest historical narrative so far on the origins of al-Qaeda” and by Washington Post as “authoritative”, I beg to differ. Here is a random sample from the book, manifesting the vagueness of the author’s claims and their unverifiable nature:

“Within the morass of intelligence lay ominous patterns. One was an interest by bin Laden’s operatives in the use of aircraft. A classified September 1998 threat report warned that in bin Laden’s next strike his operatives might fly an explosive-laden airplane into an American airport and blow it up. Another report that fall, unavailable to the public, highlighted a plot involving aircraft in New York and Washington.”(p. 420)

“A second pattern in the threats that fall did galvanize attention: It seemed increasingly obvious that bin Laden planned to attack inside the United States…[T]he CIA picked up reports that bin Laden had authorized $9 million bounties for the assassination of each of four top CIA officers. Many of the intelligence reports were vague. Still, the pattern was unmistakable. (p. 420-1)

Note (1) the author’s use of classified sources that readers cannot verify; (2) the vagueness of the claims; (3) the anonymity of the actors allegedly involved.

While the above manifests only lousy journalism, the following falls already into the category of plain deception:

“By late 1999, [Mohamed] Atta and others in the Al Quds group had committed themselves to martyrdom through jihad….Bin Laden and his senior planners had already seized on the idea of using airplanes to attack the United States.” (p. 476)

“After Atta was selected as the mission’s leader he met with bin Laden personally to discuss targets. The Hamburg group already knew how to operate comfortably in Western societies, but before returning to Europe some of them spent time with Mohammed in Karachi, studying airline schedules and discussing life in the United States” (p. 477-8)

“Among the [9/11] plotters there were tensions, accusations, and apparent changes of heart as the launch date approached. Jarrah and Atta clashed as the former operated on his own and spent time with his girlfriend…Atta selected early September after determining Congress would be in session. Although bin Laden continued to lobby for the White House as a target, Atta still favored the Capitol.” (p. 570-1)

Now, for the facts:

(a) There is no evidence that Atta (and others) “had committed themselves to martyrdom.”
(b) There is no evidence that Bin Laden and his senior planners had ever “seized on the idea of using airplanes to attack the United States”
(c) There is no evidence that Atta “was selected as the [9/11] mission’s leader” by anyone, let alone by bin Laden
(d) There is no evidence that members of the Hamburg group “spent time with Mohammed in Karachi studying airline schedules”
(e) There is no evidence that “Jarrah and Atta clashed,” let alone about the attacks.
(f) There is no evidence that Atta “selected early September after determining Congress would be in session.”
(g) There is no evidence that bin Laden “continued to lobby for the White House as a target” nor that Atta “favored the Capitol.”
(h) The author implies throughout that Mohamed Atta and his friends participated in the 9/11 attacks. This insinuation is unsubstantiated and represents a gross defamation of innocent people. Those who find my statement puzzling are invited to see it substantiated in my book “Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11.”

The author’s claim that Osama bin Laden selected Atta and his friends as suicide pilots is not endorsed by the FBI. The FBI admitted in June 2006 to journalist Ed Haas that the agency possesses no evidence linking bin Laden to 9/11. Steve Coll could have spared himself ridicule, had he first consulted with the FBI before making his claims.

An author who offers readers unsubstantiated legends must either be incompetent or act as a purveyor of disinformation. As a Pulizer-prize winner, the author can hardly be regarded as incompetent. This leaves us with the alternative.

Book Review: Adrian Levy and Ms. Scott-Clark: “The Siege: 68 hours inside the Taj Hotel”

Adrian Levy and Ms. Scott-Clark: “The Siege: 68 hours inside the Taj Hotel”

By Elias Davidsson, March 25, 2014

Disturbing omissions and opaque motives

Let me first acknowledge the eminently readable and vivid style of the book. The dramatic composition of the chapters puts it at the threshold of fiction, which – depending upon the perspective – could be considered an asset or a liability.

I missed in the introduction a few statements explaining the motives of the authors to write a book about this particular theme. Were they hired to do so? Did they select the theme by themselves, and if so, why? The substantial investigatory work required for writing such a book, certainly required financial resources. Did any institution help finance that work and if so, who?

The authors do not provide a timeline for the events at the Taj. Was this omission deliberate? The fact that no such timeline has been released by Indian authorities is disturbing, as it suggests an intent to suppress knowledge about the events. The authors do not that fact, which is rather surprising and reeks of a deliberate obfuscation.

I note with dismay some important omissions. The authors fail to mention a number of witnesses who reported highly significant facts. Among those are Mr. Prakash Bhoite, who testified about bombs he discovered outside the Taj; NSG commando Rajbir Singh Lamba, who participated in the encounter at room 472; Mr. A. Vaidyanathan, an eminent economic and member of the Central Board of Directors of the Reserve Bank of India, who reported multiple large explosions from his room; Bruce Hanna, President and CEO of InterGlobe Technology Quotient in New Delhi, who was confined to room no. 527, and compiled a detailed account of his text messages with exact times (he revealed surprising facts); Myles Curtis and Hugh Brown from Australia, who claimed that two terrorists hid among the guests; as well as Yasmin Wong, William Hsu, Sonali Chatterjee and Andrew Stevens from CNN, who stayed at the Taj during the crisis and provided real-time coverage from the building.

The author rely heavily on Michael Pollack, a U.S.-based businessman turned academic. Yet, his personal account, published by Forbes, contains at least five dubious statements, suggesting that his testimony is not credible. He wrote that the terrorists “had stormed the lobby and were firing indiscriminately,” implying thereby that numerous guests had been hit in the lobby. Yet, according to the authors’ RIP, included in the book, only one of the 33 fatalities of the Taj (Sadanand Patil) was shot in the lobby and he was apparently not shot initially when the terrorists entered the hotel but a later stage. Pollack also wrote, without qualifying his statement: “We later learned that minutes after we climbed the stairs, terrorists came into the Harbour Bar, shot everyone who was there and executed those next door at the Golden Dragon.”  Yet, according to the authors’ RIP, not a single person was killed in the Harbour Bar or at the Golden Dragon. Pollack also wrote: “[T]he terrorists managed to break through and lob in grenades that killed everyone in the basement.”  Yet, according to The Siege, four persons were killed in the basement (cellars): Gunjan Narang, Nilam Narang, Vishu Narang and Chef Boris Rego, although far more persons had sought refuge there. Pollack wrote: “It was terrorism in its purest form. No one was spared.” Yet, according to the authors, the terrorists did not kill all hostages: K.R. Ramamoorthy and four other hostages the terrorists held in room 632 were left to their own devices by the terrorists. There are other testimonies demonstrating that the terrorists did not target everyone.   It is, therefore, surprising that the authors should rely on such an unreliable witness.

The book’s subtitle is “Three days of Terror inside the Taj.” Officially, the crisis at the Taj lasted 59 hours. The authors devote almost 200 pages of their book to the first 10 hours of the crisis and only 20 pages to the remaining 49 hours. This huge discrepancy could not have been accidental. This discrepancy can also be observed in the Judgment of the Special Court on Kasab, which skipped almost entirely the 49 hours in which the NSG commandos were active in the Taj. What were the NSG doing in these 49 hours, which neither the authors nor the court wished to reveal?.

The authors rely extensively on sources that readers cannot verify. Under “A Note on Sources”, the authors, for example, state: “We obtained audio files and transcripts from the wiretaps placed on the gunmen’s phones from Indian, US and British security sources, the most complete to be assembled, which includes material never published before.” They also mention other unpublished sources, such as court documents and CCTVs. The authors do not explain on what account they obtained privileged access to such sources, to which even the families of the 26/11 victims did not obtain access.

From the above account it appears that the authors of The Siege were cooperating with intelligence agencies in India and the United States in promoting the official legend on 26/11. I have given the authors sufficient formal notice to address the above points. They chose not to answer my enquiry. I think potential buyers should know what they contemplate to buy.

Book Review of Bruce Hoffman’s “Inside Terrorism”

Book Review of Bruce Hoffman’s Inside Terrorism

By Elias Davidsson, March 25, 2014

Presumptuous and devoid of scholarly value

The author was for a long time a director at RAND Corporation in Washington, which he designates in his book as an “independent, objective, nonpartisan research institution” (p. xi).

As an external observer, researcher and author, I have followed with keen interest for many years the debate surrounding the phenomenon of terrorism: Its definition, rationale, execution, effects and legal aspects.

I came initially across Hoffman’s book when I examined the activities of Germany’s Federal Center for Political Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, or BpB), which is not, as it name might suggest, a university institute or a department in the Ministry of Education, but a propaganda institution that belongs to the Ministry of the Interior). The BpB promotes Hoffman’s book (in its German translation) to German schools and universities as a textbook on terrorism. After reading that book, I spent long hours writing a detailed critical review of it in German, which is posted on the internet. I thought I had fulfilled thereby my civic duty.

Then I discovered that Bruce Hoffman was not only an author of junk science, but is periodically invited to comment on CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times and other leading media, as an “expert” on terrorism. This discovery compelled me to share my exposure of Hoffman as a fraud with a larger audience, and particularly with unsuspecting potential buyers of his book. I do not intend, however, to provide a review of all the author’s scholarly sins, as this would require a volume exceeding in size the very book in review. I will limit myself to point to a few elements that demonstrate (a) the deceptive nature of the book; and (b) its utter lack of scholarly value.

(1) The deceptive appearance of erudition

Hoffman’s book (revised and expanded edition) consists of 432 pages. The author devotes no less than 45 pages to a bibliography on terrorism, a whopping 72 pages to footnotes and 18 pages for an index. This extraordinary accumulation of sources creates the outward appearance of erudition and comprehensiveness. Indeed, at first glance, one is led to believe that the author is extremely well informed and that his text is grounded on a comprehensive study of the literature. Yet, one discovers soon that this impression is deceptive, for the bibliography omits major critical works on terrorism.

Thus, the author omits from his bibliography critical works on the events of 9/11, such as those by Prof. David Ray Griffin and Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed. Prof. Griffin’s first book on 9/11 “The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11,” remains a landmark and a must for any student of these events. Dr. Ahmed, a scholar living in Ireland, deals at depth with the covert relationship between Western intelligence agencies and al-Qaeda. The same omission applies to critical studies regarding the London Underground Bombings of July 7, 2005, or to those of the Mumbai 2008 attacks. Any serious student of terrorism cannot avoid coming sooner or later across serious critical works which examine the forensics of various terrorist acts and governmental efforts to cover-up the events.

(2) Junk science

(a) Treatment of facts.

Good scientists are immediately recognized by the way they handle facts: They go to great pains to establish the empirical ground on which they base their theories. Before a theory is proposed, the underlying facts are tested for reliability on the base of credible sources and when doubt about a fact exists, an honest scholar will share that doubt with readers and steer clear from sweeping assertions.

True scholars are also known to treat with circumspection statements by third parties, particularly when these parties do not report their own observations but merely what they have been told or had read. True scholars do not rely on unidentified and unverifiable sources.

There would be no purpose in harping on such commonplace rules of good scholarship, were it not for Mr. Hoffman’s systematic violations of these basic rules. I have stopped counting the unsubstantiated allegations made by him in his book and the number of cases where he relies on obviously dubious sources, such as on statements pronounced by a figure resembling Osama bin Laden on a video recording of dubious provenance.

(b) Disregarding the two most potent types of terrorism

The author is presented by mainstream media as an expert on terrorism, a designation that he does not dispute. Yet, from the three types of terrorism, he ignores completely the two main and most potent types: Overt state terrorism and false-flag terrorism.

Overt state terrorism refers to the overt use or threatened use of force or violence by state governments against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments. Overt state terrorism includes, inter alia, carpet bombing cities, comprehensive economic sanctions, the institutionalization of arbitrary rule and mass surveillance. Actually, the very term terrorism was initially used only for state violence.

False-flag terrorism refers to what is also designated as “false-flag” or “synthetic” terrorism. False-flag operations are carried out secretly by military or police forces with the purpose to incite a population against a particular “villain.” False-flag operations are staged to appear as if they had been carried out by the “villain.” Due to the need to conceal the links between the perpetrators and state agencies, such operations require a high degree of secrecy and compartmentalization and are thus very complex. Substantial efforts are typically invested in the subsequent cover-up of such operations. A classical case of false-flag terrorism was the burning of the Reichstag in Berlin in 1933, which was immediately seized by the new Nazi authorities to arrest communist and socialist leaders and establish a police state. Other well-publicized cases of false-flag terrorism include Operation Northwoods (U.S.), the Lavon Affair (Israel) and the Gladio network (West Europe). False-flag operations are thus a distinct type of terrorism that calls for a completely different analytical approach than traditional or genuine terrorism.

The author not only ignores the very existence of false-flag terrorism but attributes all probable cases of such false-flag operations to al Qaeda and to an alleged corruption of Islam. The author, thereby, not only confuses and misleads his readers, but engages in slander and contributes in his modest way to shield the true criminals of these operations.

(c) No assessment of terror investigations

As terrorism is essentially a violent form of political expression, it follows that states possess vital interests in either elucidating or concealing facts surrounding specific cases of terrorism. Due to the political nature of terrorism, States are never neutral observers of such crimes. For that reason, a serious scholar will meticulously scrutinize the direction, manner and zeal of governments to investigate the crime.

States are actually dutybound under human rights law to investigate cases of killings that occur within their jurisdictions. Such investigations must be carried out in good faith. State investigations into killings can be objectively assessed, using criteria of adequacy developed by the European Court of Human Rights, such as promptness, thoroughness, impartiality, the independence of the investigators and transparency. States who fail to fulfil these criteria of adequacy can be presumed to act in bad faith. They call on themselves suspicion. Such presumption arises, for example, with regard to 9/11, the investigation of which has been grossly inadequate, as demonstrated magistrally by Prof. David Ray Griffin in a book entirely devoted to the 9/11 Commission (“The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions”)

The author’s discussion of terrorism relies almost entirely on either dubious terrorist sources or on allegations made by governments. He does not bother to scrutinize the investigations conducted by governments after terrorist attacks, suggesting that we may trust these investigations. The author does not even hint that some of these investigations may have been rigged, a charge made even by the chairman and vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission after the Commission was disbanded.

(d) Hoffman and the story of Mohamed Atta’s suitcases

The story of Mohamed Atta’s two suitcases found at the Boston Aiport on September 11, 2001, because they were not loaded onto the doomed aircraft, is well known. The story has been reported world-wide and used unsparingly to establish the official legend on 9/11.

Hoffman builds upon this legend to press his point that the 9/11 “hijackers” were motivated by religion. He thus wrote: “It only remains briefly to clarify the role religion played in the motivation of the hijackers. This can be seen very clearly in the ‘spiritual guide’ written for his accomplices by Mohammed Atta, the leader of the operation, and one of four pilots. The guide was found seven (sic) days after the attacks at the Boston Logan Airport because one (sic) of Atta’s suitcases was mistakenly not transferred from the Portland, Maine, flight to American Airlines Flight 11.”

Let us forgive the author for his harmless inaccuracies, such as the claim that the guide was found seven days after the attacks. Less forgiveable is the author’s lack of intellectual curiosity. For one of the persistent questions regarding this episode is: What prompted Atta to drive to Portland on September 10, 2001 and fly from there back to Boston on an early-morning flight? For had his connecting flight from Portland to Boston been delayed, he wouldn’t be able to carry out the first attack on the World Trade Center, meaning that no TV channels would be on the spot to film in real-time the impact of the second plane’s impact. His “life mission” would be a fiasco and would have betrayed the trust Osama bin Laden allegedly placed on him. The puzzling detour to Portland was noted by the 9/11 Commission, which was unable to provide a compelling explanation. But there exists an explanation, one that is ignored by author Hoffman.

Let us briefly describe what was found in Atta’s suitcases: When the police opened these suitcases, it found in them all the constituent elements for building the 9/11 legend: a portable electronic flight computer, a manual for aircraft simulators, a flight computer, a handwritten text in Arabic, a folding knife, pepper spray, three English grammar books, an Arabic- English dictionary, a bottle of perfume, three photographs, letters from the University of Cairo to Mohamed Atta, a picture of a visa, Alomari’s passport and much more. This finding was hailed as incredible luck, or as The Guardian wrote on October 1, 2001, “The finds are certainly very fortunate, though some might think them a little too fortunate.”

Were all these items packed into the suitcase in order be found by investigators? Perhaps. But in that case, the packers could not have been the “terrorists” because they could not have expected their suitcases to be forgotten in Logan “by mistake.” Did the “terrorists”, then, pack these items in order that they be destroyed in the aircraft crash? Perhaps. But in that case, why did they pack a folding knife and pepper spray into the suitcases, instead of taking these tools along on their bodies for use in the hijackings? Neither explanation makes sense.

Bruce Hoffman does not consider the possibility that Atta’s suitcases and their contents might have been planted there to be found. This possibility occurred, however, to may who observed with bewilderment the sheer quantity of incriminating items found almost immediately in the suitcases and in other locations. Hoffman can, however, be forgiven for ignoring what Philip A. DePasquale, a baggage expediter at Logan Airport in Boston, told the staff of the 9/11 Commission staff on February 10, 2004, regarding these suitcases (source: FBI document 302-46163, quoted in MFR04016228 of the 9/11 Commission). DePasquale told the staffers that the suitcases carried a “covert tag from US Airways [in Portland] to warn that Atta and his luggage were a security issue.” That means that someone at US Airways was told of Atta’s alleged “security threat” before the attacks had started. In other words: Someone knew who Atta was, monitored his movements, and ensured that baggage handlers at Logan will retain Atta’s bags.

Readers may reflect upon DePasquale’s testimony and its implications regarding the events of 9/11.

(e) Terrorist “manuals”

On page 251 the author cites “manuals” for the wannabe terrorist, that were allegedly found by unidentified persons on undisclosed dates in unspecified Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan. These “manuals” are cited by the author as a result of al Qaeda absorbing “lessons” from previous experience “in order to help its operatives blend in in Western environments and avoid attracting attention.“ These manuals include advice such as:

• “Don’t wear short pants that show socks when you’re standing up. The pants should cover the socks, because intelligence authorities know that fundamentalists don’t wear long pants…
• Underwear should be the normal type that people wear, not anything that shows you’re a fundamentalist.
• Not long before traveling – especially from Khartoum – the person should always wear socks and shoes to [get] rid of cracks [in the feet that come from extended barefoot walking], which take about a week to cure…
• You should differentiate between men and women’s perfume. If you use women’s perfume, you are in trouble.”

Leaving aside these highly bizarre admonitions, it is interesting that the authors of these “manuals” used the term “fundamentalist” to describe their own movement. Is this how jihadists refer to themselves or were the authors perhaps half-baked orientalists working for RAND Corporation?

If the purpose of the “manuals” had been to help al Qaeda operatives “to avoid attracting attention” in Western environments, as argued by author Hoffman, there is no indication that these “manuals” warned wannabe terrorists to avoid the police in “enemy territory”. For the alleged 9/11 terrorists were repeatedly arrested in the United States for too fast driving and one of them even complained to the local police about being mugged. Mohamed Atta once attracted unusual attention to himself by leaving a small aircraft in the middle of the runway of Miami airport, because he did not know how to restart the engine. This would normally cause him to lose his flight license or trigger an inquiry. But not in his case. He apparently had some protectors at higher places.
Author Hoffman blithely ignores all these widely reported facts, which would have seriously dented the theories he promotes.


My findings above confirm what German intellectual Reinhard Jellen once wrote, namely that “ignorance and pretension [are today ] not obstacles, but on the contrary prerequisites for professional success.” This can be observed in the case of Bruce Hoffman and others in the same league. That such a book was published by Columbia University Press taints seriously the credibility of that publisher.

While utterly useless as a textbook on terrorism, Bruce Hoffman’s book can be profitably used by aspiring academic prostitutes.

The Australian media and terrorism “expert” Dr Rohan Gunaratna

The Australian media and terrorism “expert” Dr Rohan Gunaratna

By Rick Kelly
8 August 2003

Ever since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the “terrorist expert” has become a ubiquitous presence in the international media. Various academics and authors have risen to prominence on the basis of their alleged high-level intelligence connections and access to information about the plans and activities of terrorist organisations.

One of these is Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, routinely described as a “terrorist expert” and “leading authority” on Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism. He has been interviewed and quoted by media outlets around the world, including the BBC, CNN, and the New York Times.

Gunaratna has an especially high profile in Australia, where he is invariably quoted whenever a favourable opinion is sought, or new evidence needed, for the Australian government’s participation in the “war against terror”.

But a review of his background and credentials raises significant questions about his reliability and “expertise”.

Gunaratna, 42, was born and educated in Sri Lanka. Between 1984 and 1994 he worked in the office of the Science Adviser to the Sri Lankan President, whilst also doing research and consultancy work for the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development.

Gunaratna’s term with the Sri Lankan government coincided with its war of repression against the Tamil people. During the 1980s and 90s he wrote six books and numerous articles on the political crisis in that country, drawing extensively on his links with the government and intelligence services. From the outset of his career, he made no secret of his support for the war and his opposition to the Tamil struggle and the LTTE, which he labelled a terrorist group. In the late 1990s he made a series of bizarre allegations against the separatist organisation.

In 1997, Gunaratna claimed that the LTTE had developed a new body suit that was specifically designed for suicide bombings. The new suit, he declared in an article published by the Scotland on Sunday, ensured that the terrorist’s head would survive the explosion, becoming a “lethal projectile—sometimes travelling as far as two hundred yards”. No evidence was provided, and in the ensuing six years nothing more has been heard of the deadly suit.

In 2000, Gunaratna alleged that LTTE ships had been sighted in Australian waters and that Australian Tamils were exporting “mini-helicopters” to Sri Lanka for attacks on government troops. His claims, which again were made without evidence, were condemned at the time and have since been quietly dropped.

These problems did nothing to harm Gunaratna’s academic career. After gaining a masters degree at Notre Dame University, he went on to complete his doctorate at Scotland’s St. Andrews University, and was appointed research fellow at the university’s Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence.

It was in the course of investigating the LTTE’s foreign support base that Gunaratna began to extend his brief to international Islamic terrorism. His first written contribution to the field, entitled “Blowback,” was published by Jane’s Intelligence Review in July 2001. Co-authored with three other academics, the article gave an overview of the development of Al Qaeda in the context of the US embassy bombings in Africa.

Exploiting September 11

Dr. Gunaratna had already made several appearances in the Australian media in connection with Sri Lanka and the LTTE prior to September 11, 2001. But after the terrorist attacks he was immediately elevated to the status of a world authority on Al Qaeda and all aspects of international terrorism. That his credentials rested on a single, co-authored article, following a dubious record on Sri Lankan affairs, was never mentioned.

Just two weeks after the terror attacks, Gunaratna appeared on SBS’s Dateline program, immediately attributing the atrocities to Al Qaeda and bin Laden and lending his full support to the Bush administration’s open-ended “war on terror”. Arguing for an immediate invasion of Afghanistan, he also warned that “excessive” civil liberties would enable terrorists, whom he alleged were residing in Australia, to attack the population.

Gunaratna’s stance was particularly useful for the Australian government, which was using the terror attacks to bolster its position in the 2001 federal election campaign. Prime Minister John Howard was the first government leader to give unconditional support to the Bush administration, and to commit troops to the illegal invasion of Afghanistan. In the name of fighting terrorism, he also announced plans to introduce a vast array of anti-democratic measures.

On September 27, 2001, Gunaratna was quoted in the Australian as saying that there were seven terrorist groups operating in Australia. “These are terrorist groups who have killed many women and children and these groups are functioning here,” he warned, without advancing any evidence.

On the same day, the Melbourne Age reported Gunaratna’s thoughts on democratic rights. “Your laws, the legal system is very weak in responding to this type of terrorist support network”. Elsewhere, he claimed that Germany had become the European base for Al Qaeda because of its “tight limits on how intelligence and police officials can gather evidence against suspects, a strong civil liberties tradition and easy access to education and welfare provisions”.

In October 2001, Gunaratna complained to the Herald-Sun that Howard’s repressive legislation was being delayed because of terrorist influence over Australian politicians. “The reason your politicians are not passing this legislation is because some of these [terrorist] groups are lobbying your MPs and telling them we will give you so many hundred votes from this migrant community and you must help us and raise our concerns in parliament,” he said.

The following month, the Review, journal of the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council, published an interview with Gunaratna in which he stepped up his attacks on opponents of Howard’s anti-terror laws. “I also have a special message for the politicians especially of Australia, some of these terrorist organisations exercise constituent or electoral pressure and you must not succumb to this pressure. A terrorist group can come and tell you, look we will give you 10,000 or 20,000 votes in the next election. You should include this in your manifesto or you should air this in your parliament. It will be highly counterproductive for political leaders to succumb to this kind of pressure because this will damage the security, not only of your country, but international security in general.”

In December 2001, Gunaratna embellished his claims about terrorist groups in Australia by stating that they operated “through front, cover and sympathetic organisations [which] may take the face of human rights and humanitarian groups as well as community organisations”. Again there was no evidence. Nor did he name any of these human rights or humanitarian groups that were allegedly operating as terrorist fronts.

By December 10, 2001, the number of terrorist groups Gunaratna claimed were active in Australia had risen from seven to eight, although he offered no explanation as to how or when the additional, unnamed organisation had set up shop in the three months since September.

Despite the inconsistencies and fantastic character of his allegations, Gunaratna’s musings, which dovetailed neatly with the government’s agenda, continued to be reported uncritically.

Inside Al Qaeda

Gunaratna’s unstinting support for the US, British and Australian governments’ foreign policy objectives was well rewarded. His contacts in US intelligence and counter-terrorist circles grew and his writings were published in several foreign policy and international security journals. But the biggest coup took place in June 2002: the publication of his book Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, by Columbia University Press. Promoted heavily in the media, it went on to become a best seller around the world.

Inside Al Qaeda received universal media acclaim. “A remarkable new study,” enthused the Times (London), “Excellent,” declared Peter Bergen from the Washington Post, while Thomas Powers, in the New York Review of Books, called it “a careful and methodical account” that “does the work of many tomes”.

But it was not long before several of the book’s claims were vigorously challenged. The Malaysian government attacked the book’s assertions of links between the ruling Barisan Nasional party and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the Philippines, and through the MILF to Al Qaeda—and threatened legal action. Interviewed on Singapore television about the controversy, Gunaratna backtracked, changing his allegation to a link “between MILF operatives and a few individuals in the Barisan parties” [emphasis added].

In one of the book’s more sensational accounts, Gunaratna described in detail an Al Qaeda plot to hijack a British Airways plane on September 11, 2001, and crash it into the houses of parliament. Only the grounding of all aircraft after the bombing of the World Trade Centre supposedly prevented the London attack.

The source was an alleged Al Qaeda member, Mohammed Afroz, who had been arrested in Bombay, India in October 2001. Afroz had also allegedly claimed he had planned to fly a plane into Melbourne’s Rialto Towers. After his release by an Indian court in April 2002, New Delhi police declared the claims to be a fabrication by the Bombay police force. An investigation by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation into the alleged Melbourne plan assessed it “to be lacking in credibility.”

Inside Al Qaeda also fudged the record of its author. The book claimed he was “principal investigator of the United Nations’ Terrorism Prevention Branch”, and that after the September 11 attacks, he “was called to address the United Nations, the US Congress and the Australian Parliament”.

After the Sunday Age conducted an investigation into his biographical details, Gunaratna apparently admitted that there was, in fact, no such position as “principal investigator” at the UN’s Terrorism Prevention Branch, and that he simply “worked there in 2001-02 as a research consultant.” According to the July 20 article in the Sunday Age, “He also confirmed that, rather than directly addressing the UN, Congress, and the Australian Parliament, he had actually spoken at a seminar organised by the parliamentary library, given evidence to a congressional hearing on terrorism and delivered a research paper to a conference on terrorism organised by the UN’s Department for Disarmament Affairs.”

So concerned was the British publisher of Inside Al Qaeda about possible legal repercussions arising out of the unreliability of its assertions, that it published an extraordinary disclaimer under the heading “Publisher’s note” advising the reader to treat the book’s contents as mere “suggestions”.

“A wide range of organisations—banks, governmental and non-governmental bodies, financial enterprises, religious and educational institutions, commercial entities, transport companies and charitable bodies are referred to in this book as having had contact or dealings with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Unless such references specifically state otherwise, they should be treated as nothing other than a suggestion that the organisations concerned were the unwitting tools of those who attempted, successfully or otherwise, to infiltrate, use or manipulate them for terrorist purposes.”

The terrorist attack on the Indonesian island of Bali on October 12, 2002, saw the media renew its love affair with Gunaratna. Again lining up directly with the US and Australian governments, Gunaratna immediately declared an alleged Islamic fundamentalist entity, Jemaah Islamiya (JI) to be responsible and went on to make a series of unsubstantiated claims that JI was preparing attacks in Australia and that the organisation had operational cells inside the country.

In the Australian edition of Inside Al Qaeda, Gunaratna claimed that the alleged JI leader and organiser of the Bali bombings, Hambali, had visited Australia a dozen times. Even the Australian government was forced to admit that repeated checks inside Australia and overseas had failed to turn up any evidence of such visits. Nevertheless, Gunaratna’s claims served their intended purpose: to raise public fears and anxiety over possible terrorist attacks and help create the necessary climate for the passage of Howard’s anti-terror laws.

Most recently Gunaratna has backed the Australian government’s support for the illegal incarceration of Australian “enemy combatant” David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and his trial before a military tribunal in the US.

Just months ago, in March, Gunaratna stated unequivocally that David Hicks was “not a member of Al Qaeda.” Hicks “never intended to attack a civilian target and he was not trained to attack a civilian target, and nowhere have we found any information that suggests [otherwise],” he declared.

On July 7 he made a 180-degree turn. Immediately following the US announcement that Hicks would be one of six Guantanamo Bay prisoners to be tried in a secret military court as a terrorist, Gunaratna was on hand to justify the illegal move. Hicks, he now asserted, had been “groomed for terror missions” in Al Qaeda training camps. “The fact he received training should be viewed seriously because a person does not receive that level of training unless both he and his trainers had some special plans for him,” he insisted.

This was, once again, especially helpful for the Howard government, which backed the US action, refusing to accede to widespread demands for Hicks’ repatriation, on the grounds that he had “trained with Al Qaeda.”

So long as Gunaratna’s allegations help legitimise the Australia government’s support for Bush’s “war on terror”—and the illegal and criminal acts being carried out under its auspices—the media appears to be entirely indifferent as to their relationship to reality.

Lack of scientific ethics by editorial board of scientific journal

Lack of scientific ethics by editorial board of scientific journal

by James Gourley, 21 October 2008

The Journal of Engineering Mechanics has recently published a paper I authored. It can be found here, beginning on page 915: (PDF 224kb)

Normally, such a publication would be announced here at 911Blogger to let everyone know we are still making progress publishing criticisms of the official fairy tale in mainstream technical journals, in the hopes of reaching more members of the scientific and engineering community.

While I am excited this paper will be reaching new audiences, and I would like to share that fact with you, I am writing today for a different purpose.

Not much is ever written about what we go through to get these papers published. The publication of this paper is a case study in the struggles we face. I’d like to relate to you exactly what I had to go through to get this paper published, and what influences the substance of it have already had. I hesitate to reveal some of the information below, but as will become clear, the Journal of Engineering Mechanics personnel have demonstrated a complete lack of scientific ethics, and I feel like I have no choice but to publish exactly what occurred in the lead up to my paper’s publication.

Before I begin, let me make it perfectly clear that I do not want anyone to call, email or otherwise harass the editors or staff at the Journal of Engineering Mechanics or the authors of the papers I talk about below. Such behavior is extremely counterproductive, and I do not support or endorse such actions.

The Bazant/Greening Paper

In June 2007, I was sent a link to a paper by Dr. Zdenek Bazant, Dr. Frank Greening, and others, that had been submitted to the Journal of Engineering Mechanics (JEM) for peer review and publication. This paper (the Bazant/Greening Paper) can be found here: (PDF 729kb)

After reading through the Bazant/Greening Paper, I came up with essentially the same criticism that I was eventually able to get published this month at JEM. The Bazant/Greening paper repeated and expanded upon Dr. Bazant’s theory of crush down/crush up collapse progression. This crush down/crush up theory was first developed by Bazant in 2001, and expanded on by Bazant & Zhou in 2002, and Bazant & Verdure in 2007. I find the crush down/crush up theory completely unbelievable for the reasons I stated in my paper.

Back in June 2007, I sent an email to the editor of JEM that basically laid out my criticisms of the Bazant/Greening paper. About three weeks later, one of the Associate Editors of JEM sent me an email that read as follows:

Dear Mr. Gourley:

We recently received your critique on the paper entitled “Collapse of World Trade Center Towers: What Did and Did Not Cause It?” I have attached a standard reviewer form that is filled out by each person as they review an article. If you could please complete this form so that we will have a better understanding of where your comments fall on our standard scale, we would appreciate it very much. When completed, you can e-mail the reviewer form to [redacted] or [redacted]. Thank you for the time and effort that you have already put into the review of this paper, and we look forward to receiving your further comments.



I completed the reviewer forms that evening, and sent it back to JEM the following day. The reviewer forms allowed me to recommend for or against publication of the paper. I, of course, recommended against publication until my concerns were addressed.

I never heard anything back from JEM, so, in late December and early January, I exchanged a few emails with the Associate Editor who had sent me the reviewer forms. I was curious about where the Bazant Paper was in the review process, as it still hadn’t been published 6 months after I reviewed it. The Associate Editor responded to my email inquiry as follows:

Dear James,
I am back at my office and I checked on the paper that you reviewed. The paper was declined and returned to the authors.
Best Regards

You can imagine my surprise when, in late April 2008, I learned that the Bazant/Greening Paper had been accepted for publication at JEM. The published version can be found here: (PDF 1mb)

However, if you look at the version of the Bazant/Greening Paper I previously provided, you will see that it was revised on June 22, 2007, December 15, 2007 and March 31, 2008. It was ultimately published in the October 2008 issue of JEM, along with my paper.

As you can see, my letter to the editor (with comments and peer review) delayed publication of the Bazant/Greening paper for more than a year. I don’t know what happened between the time the Associate Editor of JEM told me the paper had been rejected and sent back to the authors, and the time it was ultimately accepted for publication. What I would come to realize later is that Dr. Bazant has published hundreds of papers at JEM, and seems to have the standing of something like a “favored author” over there. As will become apparent below, the rules at JEM that govern other authors do not apply to Dr. Bazant.

The Bazant/Verdure Paper

Back in June 2007, I also learned that Dr. Bazant had recently published a paper in JEM which also relied on the crush down/crush up theory. The Bazant/Verdure Paper can be found here: (PDF 768kb)

I noticed that a window of time was still open where Discussion papers could still be submitted to JEM for the Bazant/Verdure Paper. So, I put the criticisms from my review of the Bazant/Greening Paper into the proper scientific paper form, in accordance with the ASCE Author Guidelines for submission of Discussion Papers. One of those requirements is that Discussion papers contain less than 2000 words. This word limit was extremely limiting for me, as you can probably tell in reading this essay. I’m an attorney, and spend most of my days reading and writing. Most of the documents I draft have either no page limit, or at worst a 15 or 30 page limit. I like to be very thorough when I am writing about a topic, and I don’t like to even mention things that I can’t spend adequate time discussing.

I did not want to exceed the 2000 word limit, because I already knew it would be difficult to get a paper critical of the official story published in a mainstream scientific journal. In other words, I didn’t want to give JEM any reason to reject it. I had a number of other points I could have raised that were critical of the Bazant/Verdure paper, including its assumption that all movements are vertical. However, when I was writing the Discussion paper, I realized very quickly I would not be able to spend adequate time on all of my points, so I focused on the points you see in the published version of my paper.

The paper I submitted was under the 2000 word limit, and was accepted for publication if I would remove language that the editors thought was too argumentative. My legal writing is typically argumentative, so I suspect some of that leaked into my paper. I went back through the paper, humbled my language, and resubmitted it. It was accepted for publication on November 21, 2007.

Dr. Bazant was then given an opportunity to prepare a response to my Discussion paper, called a Closure paper. Under ASCE guidelines, the Discussion and Closure are published together. This is in fact what you see at the first link I provided above. ASCE Guidelines also limit Closure papers to 2000 words. Seems only fair, right?

In May 2008, I learned that Dr. Bazant had finished his Closure paper and had published it at his NWU faculty website. So, I downloaded it and read it. I was startled by what I saw.

Dr. Bazant was allowed to go on and on for at least 4 to 5 thousand words in response to my Discussion paper. The original version of his Closure repeatedly derided me as a “lay person” and criticized my response as “wordy.” (If I’m a lay person, then a lay person was allowed by JEM to peer review his paper with Dr. Greening, which ultimately held up its publication for more than a year. Not bad for a lay person.) His Closure was also full of misrepresentations about my Discussion paper.

So, I sent a rather heated email to the JEM staff, asking them why Dr. Bazant was allowed to completely ignore the 2000 word limit in criticizing me and my Discussion paper, when I complied with it in good faith. I told them there were three ways to fairly resolve the situation.

First, JEM could pull my Discussion paper and his Closure paper from publication. JEM refused to do this. In hindsight, I’m actually glad they didn’t choose this option. The results of Dr. Bazant’s Closure paper are ludicrous, and demonstrate the utter bankruptcy of his theory. Even though I was treated unfairly, on balance I’m glad both papers were ultimately published.

Second, JEM could allow me to revise my paper free from the 2000 word limit I had originally complied with in good faith. If I was allowed to revise my paper without worrying about the word limit, I could have included all of my criticisms of his paper, and included mathematical equations to support my arguments. JEM refused to do this. This would have been the preferred option, but for some reason, I was not allowed to resubmit a revised paper exceeding the 2000 word limit.

Third, JEM could force Dr. Bazant to revise his paper to comply with the 2000 word limit. This was not preferable, but at least would have leveled the playing field. I would rather everyone have the same opportunity to fully develop their arguments and let the public decide who to believe. Unfortunately, this is not what ended up happening. After several rounds of email correspondence, JEM decided that they would ask Dr. Bazant to revise his paper to comply with the 2000 word limit, and remove the offensive language I had identified.

You can imagine my surprise again when I learned last week that both of our papers had been published in the October issue of JEM. I was never given another opportunity to review Dr. Bazant’s Closure paper before it was published. If you read through it, you can see why. Dr. Bazant was not required to comply with the 2000 word limit, as the JEM staff promised me he would. My rough estimate is that in his Closure’s response to my Discussion is between 4000 and 6000 words in length.

His Closure paper still derides me for not including equations in support of my position, without mentioning that there is no way I could have done that and still complied with the 2000 word limit, and that I was not allowed to revise my paper by JEM staff. Any fair peer review would not have allowed him to say this. JEM knew full well I was required to comply with the 2000 word limit, while Dr. Bazant was not.

In fact, he spends 2000 words responding to the steel temperature portion of my Discussion paper alone. JEM allowed him to use that much text to respond to my one paragraph on his misrepresentations of the steel temperatures reported by NIST. Dr. Bazant is clearly held to a different standard at JEM. How can JEM possibly be seen as a fair and balanced in this situation?

Dr. Bazant’s steel temperature response also raises a serious issue which should have been caught in a fair peer review process. He basically argues that even if he did misrepresent the steel temperatures NIST reported, that doesn’t matter because much lower steel temperatures would still have caused the collapse. However, that is a red herring. Even assuming Dr. Bazant is correct that lower steel temperatures could have caused the collapse, did that give him the right to misrepresent it in the first place? This was apparently never asked, and Dr. Bazant was allowed to mislead JEM readers with voluminous, irrelevant argument.

There are many other problems with Dr. Bazant’s Closure paper that should have been caught during peer review. I plan to write separately on all of them, but do need to mention one more. If you look at the first full sentence on page 919 at the first link above, you see the results of Dr. Bazant’s mathematical equations. He basically claims that when the upper block of floors impacts the lower, intact steel structure, that the upper block suffers a dent of between about 1 inch and 1.5 inches, before completely destroying the lower section of floors. Does that make any sense at all? An inch and a half dent? When the upper section of floors slams into the stationary steel structure below? The absolute absurdity of Dr. Bazant’s results is the main reason I’m happy his Closure was allowed to be published. Dr. Bazant appears to be going to extreme lengths to prop up the gravity-only driven collapse scenario. For clues as to why, I recommend page 4 of Kevin Ryan’s paper on the connections between NIST and nanothermite here: (PDF 82kb)


I hope this story gets across the struggles we face in publishing articles in mainstream technical journals. It is one of many I could have told. I have been a co-author on other published papers with Dr. Steven Jones and Kevin Ryan. After every single one of those is published, someone like Ryan Mackey writes to the editor of the journal criticizing their publication standards. He never addresses the substance of our papers, but instead tries to make the editors regret publishing our papers, basically because he says their journal will be seen as not credible in the scientific community. We are then forced to correspond further with the journal editors, with sometimes humorous exchanges that I won’t share without my co-authors’ consent. It usually ends with the editors recommending that Mackey submit his own response paper for publication (as I did for the Bazant/Verdure Paper) but he never does. It’s a constant battle we face.

I also hope other scientists and engineers out there join the fight, follow our lead, and try to publish papers in mainstream technical journals on this subject. Take my story to heart and don’t let it happen to you. Insist that you be treated fairly from the outset.

James Gourley

Hoffman, Bruce

Bruce Hoffman

Bruce Hoffman is professor at Georgetown University, USA.  He is also a senior fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York and editor of the Columbia University Press series in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare (information gleaned from the cover of his book “Inside Terrorism”).

In his book “Inside Terrorism” (Columbia University Press, New York, 2006), Bruce Hoffman makes numerous unsubstantiated claims whose common goal is to attribute terrorism to Islamic fanatics.

1.  Hoffman endorses wholly the U.S. official allegation that Muslim terrorists committed the attacks of 9/11.  His endorsement appears as an implied assumption throughout his book.  The self-proclaimed expert does not, however, bother to provide any credible sources for this allegation.

2.  Hoffman relies heavily on alleged pronouncements of Osama bin Laden, as if these were both authenticated and true. 

3.  Hoffman alleges that Mohamed Atta was ringleader of the 9/11 operation and a suicide pilot (p. 135), ignoring the fact that there exists no evidence that anyone by the name of Mohamed Atta boarded any of the airplanes that were allegedly hijacked on 9/11.

Hoffman thus engages in deception, slander and incitement.

A German-language review of Hoffman’s book by this author (Elias Davidsson) demonstrates that not only does Hoffman not deserve to be considered as a scholar. He is actually a dangerous propagandist used to promote distrust of Muslims and indirectly wars against Islamic nations.  He deserves to be included prominently in this Register of Shame.

Watson, Richard (U.K.)

Richard Watson

Richard Watson is presented as the terrorism specialist for BBC2’s Newsnight.  He has written numerous articles in which he specifically advocates the alleged threat of Islamic terrorism, regardless of the facts.

An egregious example of Mr. Watson’s propaganda, deception and slander is found in the literary magazine Granta, issue 103 (2008) p. 35.  Mr. Watson’s contribution is entitled “The One True God, Allah: The rise of the British Jihad.”  In that article Mr. Watson affirms that the attacks of 9/11 were a “huge propaganda coup” for al-Qaida, that “American Airlines Flight 11 crashed in the North Tower of the World Trade Center”, that “United Airlines Flight 175 was flown […] into the South Tower” and that “in the Iqra Islamic centre in Beeston, Leeds, Mohammed Sidique Khan organized an unofficial party to celebrate the operation which had claimed 3,000 lives.” None of these allegations were substantiated. There exists no reliable evidence for any of these allegations.  

There is no evidence that Mr. Watson has distanced himself from these racialist myths.

Academic prostitution in the field of terrorism studies

Academic prostitution in the field of terrorism studies

by Elias Davidsson
29 October 2011

The expression “academic prostitution” appears abusive.  It either conveys an apparently arbitrary disrespect to certain academics by comparing them to prostitutes, or conversely appears to equate sexual prostitution, – an honorable, if hazardous, occupation – with intellectual prostitution, a definitely dishonorable one.

There is no dispute that even those who honestly earn their academic titles can produce shoddy scholarship, rely on dubious sources or draw spurious conclusions.  And even the best scholarship can be used or abused by the powerful for improper purposes.  Deficient scholarship or the abuse of good scholarship by third parties do not automatically transform the author into an academic prostitute.

What distinguishes the academic prostitute from the bad scholar are two main characteristics:  He/she must be somehow aware and reckless about the deficient quality of his/her products; and his/her motivation for producing the so-called expertise must be other than the quest for truth. The usual motivation for academic prostitutes is either the quest for fame or for financial gain, or both.  It is not always easy to distinguish the academic prostitute from one who genuinely believes in what he/she writes and unwittingly provides ammunition to powerful interests.  Academic prostitutes are often skillful in hiding their motives or garbing them in commendable clothes.  Yet, clues do exist.

While academic prostitutes are found in all fields of sciences, we submit that some fields virtually teem with such species, particularly those fields that directly serve the interests of powerful social agents: Political science, law, economics and communications. Since the decision was made by the governments of the most powerful states to elevate the myth of Islamic terrorism to the level of a serious threat to international peace and security, producing spin about terrorism has become a flourishing and rewarding industry.  As “Islamic terrorism” is essentially a racist myth, the maintenance of that myth in the minds of populations requires the constant production and dissemination of ideological junk. That’s where the terrorism experts come into the picture.  Their precise role is to produce this junk.

Among the primary clues that give away a terror expert as an academic prostitute are the following:
(a) Did the expert acknowledge or remain oblivious to state terrorism, as the most devastating form of terrorism, including that pursued under the by now innocuous name of war?
(b) Did the expert acknowledge or remain oblivious to the evidence that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were most probably planned and executed under the authority of the U.S. Government?

While ordinary citizens, who do not claim expertise in the field of terrorism, may be genuinely oblivious to the nature of state terrorism and to clues about probable U.S. Government responsibility for 9/11, such presumption of ignorance does not extend to terror “experts”.  It requires a fair amount of cynicism for a person even modestly acquainted with the field of terrorism, to ignore the devastating nature of state terrorism and disregard the mountain of evidence pointing to U.S. Government responsibility for 9/11.   

Further clues that reveal “terror experts” as academic prostitutes can be found in their credentials. Those whose works are regularly published in mainstream newspapers or have been acting as consultants to the most powerful governments, may be presumed academic prostitutes, an admittedly rebuttable presumption.

Classifying a person as an academic prostitute is not an exercise in futility or a method to avoid dealing with an opponent’s arguments. It serves a specific public utility: It constitutes a warning to the consumer to remain particularly vigilant in respect to the alleged expert’s product. More generally, such classification seeks to provide a public warning to those tempted to cut corners in academic research in order to please the powerful.

Law Deans Bring Home The Bacon

Law Deans Bring Home The Bacon
By Mary W Maxwell, PhD
5-17-11 (originally posted on


As recently as 12 years ago, professors from 137 law schools signed a joint letter that blamed the US Supreme Court for wrongly interfering in the 2000 presidential election. (The Court stopped the vote count in Florida, throwing the election to Bush.) Today, the same law professors would probably not think it wise or even ‘feasible’ to take collective action. 

This is a great shame. Citizens need any intellectual help they can get when it comes to defending the Constitution. Today, the great World Government is doing all it can to overthrow that United States, mostly from within, and we should be able to count on members of the professions to help society.

In 2005, when the late Jane Jacobs was in her ninety-first year, she wrote a superb book called “Dark Age Ahead.” She claimed that there are five things we must do quickly if we are to avoid a dark age.

One of the five is to revitalize the ethics of the professions. I believe this can be done both by members of the professions and by onlookers.
This article is about the academic law profession. Its members are not quite the same as ‘the legal profession.’ Most of them don’t argue cases in court and don’t have to worry about billing their clients. To whom then are they answerable? If paid by a public university they are answerable to the public. In general, they are answerable to students, alumni, and the judicial system.

Fortunately, each of the thousands of law professors is unshielded by the kind of off-putting ‘badge of authority’ that keeps us away from DOJ persons or governmental military types, or even our local police. The typical academic is someone you can talk to  and her phone line can be reached through the university switchboard. You can ask a simple question such as “What should we be doing now about the Appeals Court’s outrageous dismissal of Gallop v Cheney, which had the potential to ‘resolve’ 9/11?”

A rather more pugnacious approach would be to write to your Alumni Relations office (used to be called the Alumni office  there’s a big difference there). Inquire about the salaries of the law professors, and particularly the dean of the law school. Naturally, in a public university the salaries are public information. If you find an unnecessarily high pay for deans, you might write back to the Alumni Relations office and ask for the justification.

Why would a law dean get a very high salary? He or she has to hire and fire staff, set standards for admission of students, and determine the curriculum. But there are committees to share those burdens. Granted, the dean may have to take some flack regarding, for example, plagiarism by a student or dissidence by a (low-level) faculty member. But even here the outcome is predictable: the plagiarizing episode will be swept under the rug; the dissident will be quietly ostracized.

Law professor Paul Caron at Cincinnati found in 2006 that deans at the top law schools were receiving an average salary of $460, 000. That’s like being paid a thousand dollars every day at breakfast, and then having ninety-five thousand extra put under the Christmas tree (which can pay the taxes on the $365k). Why are his/her services worth that much? If the school lowered the pay wouldn’t they still get good candidates?

I speculate that the pay is high because it would be dangerous to have a low-paid guy or gal sitting in the wood-paneled, judge-portrait-lined dean’s office. He or she might be tripped up by a reporter into saying something like “The Constitution is our sine qua non,” or “Long live the Founding Fathers!” And we can’t have that, post 9/11, can we?

Universities need people who can be counted on to go with the flow. By go with the flow I mean such things as go with Homeland Security, or go with whatever spin the president of the US is putting on international law at the moment. For persons too young to remember: a quite different approach was normal for universities in the past. Governments rightly worried that academics would spew forth high principle and offer vehement criticism of any unconstitutional moves. It is only lately that anyone would suggest that the university’s mission is to protect the government.

Back to the problem of the high salaries for deans. My training as a political scientist disposes me to skepticism. I hypothesize that the purpose of the million-dollars-every-two-years salary is a way of zipping the lips of the dean. They ain’t gonna sign no protest letters about Gore v Bush, or Kelo v New London, or whatever the latest violation of the Constitution happens to be, right? Would you yourself give up that kind of money?

Additionally, the dean’s pay may create a barrier to constitutional-type action by lower faculty members. They are aware of the dean’s paycheck; this will effectively inhibit them from trying to recruit his assistance. At the same time they will feel more anxious to make statements even as individuals, recognizing that they could thereby jeopardize the dean’s throne.

All I can say is, if you want our Constitution to be protected, don’t just look at what Congresspersons are doing or at what the Supreme Court is doing. Look into the legal profession. As part of revitalizing the ethics of the professions, recognize that it is scandalous that law professors are not speaking out as they should, particularly about judicial corruption.

I hope I have not conveyed that the professors’ personal calculation on a day-to-day basis is a monetary one. No, it is much more subtle; it is emotional. And, as is always the case with the professions, it entails a (kneejerk) closing of ranks. The remedy, it would appear, has to do with changing the carrots and changing the sticks. This article mentioned but one of the carrots.

Mary W Maxwell, PhD, can be reached at


Buy Your Way into College: A New Form of Prostitution

Buy Your Way into College: A New Form of Prostitution

By Richard Vedder

A few years ago, Daniel Golden of the Wall Street Journal, in a stellar example of investigative journalism, revealed how elite private universities sometimes will admit the kids of rich persons who make major contributions to the school. He told the story of Margaret Bass, a Groton School grad with a composite SAT score of 1220 who was admitted to Stanford, while eight of her classmates with higher scores were rejected; Margaret’s father, Robert, had given Stanford $25 million. The term “development admits” has been used to describe this practice. Now Golden has a new book detailing this more extensively. I have ordered it, and soon will eagerly be reading it. I suspect it is a compelling read.

I am less incensed by this practice than some. Most of these schools are private institutions, and money has always been a rationing device for determining who gets into school. Moreover, the financial contributions made by the rich benefactors arguably might serve some broader educational purpose. The fact that persons get a tax break for gifts that actually serve a private goal (getting a child into Elite U) raises some questions, but that is part of a broader issue of whether we should even allow tax deductions for gifts to country club-like elite havens that are today’s top private universities, gifts that widen the divide between the rich and merely moderately affluent public flagship universities. Why should we subsidize colleges who have as a major institutional principle the DENIAL of admission of many generally bright and worthy students?

What does especially irritate me, however, is the hypocrisy of universities regarding this issue. Many schools claim that admission is determined strictly on the basis of merit, except of course, if you have a favored (non-white) skin complexion, or if you have some special talent (e.g., shooting a ball through a hoop). I would be less irritated by “development admits” if schools admit that they engage in some whoring, particularly if the customer will pay top dollar. I am reminded of the story where George Bernard Shaw reputedly offered some very proper lady one million pounds if she would sleep with him. She agreed. He then said something to the effect that he had reconsidered, and would pay her only one shilling (a few dollars in today’s currency). She said, “Mr. Shaw, what to you take me for, a prostitute?” He supposedly replied, “We have already established that; we are merely haggling over the price.” For the right price, even the best of schools will become academic hookers. That is fine, but I question whether the taxpayers should be subsidizing academic prostitution.