In the evening of 9/11, Dan Rather delivered a brief but alarming report:
Two suspects are in FBI custody after a truckload of explosives were discovered around the George Washington Bridge. That bridge links New York to New Jersey over the Hudson River. Whether the discovery of those explosives had anything to do with other events today is unclear, but the FBI, has two suspects in hand, said the truckload of explosives, enough explosives were in the truck to do great damage to the George Washington Bridge... CBS, 9/11 (see Videos)
CNN posted a similar report around the same time:
BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you. Again, our apologies to our viewers about five minutes ago, but we do have an established connection now with CNN's Deborah Feverick. The reports we're getting now, two or three men arrested on the New Jersey Parkway. Deborah, can you hear me now?
DEBORAH FEVERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I can. That is the information that I am getting from two sources, that there was a van either on the New Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway, and that it was near the George Washington Bridge.
There were two or three men who were in the van that was pulled over. It is not clear why the van was pulled over, but when it was, law enforcers found tons of explosives inside of the van.
That is, right now, all I am hearing. But again, two to three people in custody, and we are trying to get more information on that right now.
HEMMER: Deborah, I don't mean to put you on the spot here. Do you know where on the Jersey Turnpike this was? How far from New York City?
FEVERICK: We do not know that. We are looking into that. There is one report that it was on the New Jersey Turnpike. There is another report that it was very close to the bridge, if not on the bridge. So again, these details are emerging. We're trying to piece them together. But that's what we have so far, two to three people in custody, found with a van filled with explosives.
HEMMER: And Deborah, quickly here, you're waiting for a briefing, I gather based on your previous statement?
FEVERICK: Yes, we are hoping to get some more details right now. I can tell you that every couple of minutes were hear sirens, and it's either police cars or fire trucks. They're the only cars truly that are on the streets.
A delivery truck carrying about 60,000 papers bound for Manhattan from the South Brunswick printing plant got caught in a roadblock at the George Washington Bridge. A van suspected of carrying explosives had been stopped and the entire inbound bridge lanes were closed, trapping the Journal delivery truck for several hours. [http://web.archive.org/web/20020923054645/http://www.asne.org/index.cfm?id=3562 (Source)
However, it's not clear how independent this confirmation might be. The delivery truck driver may not have seen of this, and could simply be repeating an explanation heard on the radio, itself an echo of one of the original stories.
In any event, the story is now to be found all over the web, usually in conjunction with the Dan Rather video.
What Really Happened were a high profile example, attempting to tie the story in with an Israeli truck bombing plot (exactly why this would be necessary is never clearly explained).
Prison Planet mention the Rather report amongst others, and complain that "multiple reports of truck bombs were made on 9/11 yet none of them were seriously considered during the 9/11 Commission investigation".
And the idea that this was an important story that's been forgotten is repeated across countless blogs, forum posts, and video-sharing sites.
And yet, virtually all these accounts leave out some very relevant details.
Many 9/11 sites are happy to give you links and videos repeating the "truckload of explosives" story, yet mysteriously few point out that these were questioned or retracted later.
In the CNN report above, for instance, the reporter said she was waiting for a briefing that would provide more information. Here's the transcript:
QUESTION: Mayor, do you know anything about the report about the possible resources that they found in New Jersey?
GIULIANI: Yes. I think the Police Commissioner was able to get information about that.
BERNARD KERIK, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: I just got a confirmation from the Chief of Detectives, he's reach out to the FBI. They have confirmed that someone has been stopped in New Jersey, three men in a van. However, there was no explosives in the van. All right. They're being held for questioning.
QUESTION: Where in New Jersey, do you know?
KERIK: I can't say yet.
QUESTION: Why were they stopped and why do you think they're connected with this?
GIULIANI: We can't tell at this point. It's between the FBI and the Port Authority. We just got the confirmation by phone after I left the last briefing.
QUESTION: Were they on the George Washington Bridge as they were heading to New Jersey?
GIULIANI: No, they weren't.
QUESTION: Were they in the Meadow Land?
QUESTION: There were rumors that there were explosives, where did those rumors come from or why did that begin to circulate?
KERIK: I can't tell you.
QUESTION: Were they in the Meadow Land, Police Commissioner?
KERIK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Were they in the Meadow Land?
KERIK: It's my understanding, but I -- we haven't confirmed that.
The Chief of Detectives has told Kerik that there were arrests, but the van contained no explosives. Amusingly, I've seen this supposedly explained away by talking of Kerik's later history, saying he's a liar and therefore we can't believe what he says. Which, as per usual for supposed "debunkings" of this site, sidesteps the real issue completely, which is the one-sided cherry-picking of the record, where 9/11 truth reports only the items it wants you to hear and buries everything else.
As another example (only now available at the Web Archive), What Really Happened reported this story as evidence that the Israelis’ van contained explosives:
Three arrested with van full of explosives
Reports from New York are saying three people have been arrested with a van of explosives.
The van was stopped along the New Jersey turn-pike near the George Washington Bridge.
This gaffe did not prevent Rather from reporting a new "scoop" later that evening:
"Now this just in from New York City. Marcia Kramer, former newspaper woman, now working at WCBS-TV, in New York, says that sources have told her that two people have been arrested with explosives under the George Washington Bridge. The George Washington Bridge, for those of you unfamiliar with the city, connects a part of New Jersey with Manhattan. So two people arrested on the GW Bridge in a truck with explosives. As this report—now, whether it was connected with the events of the day, we do not know. But an interesting report."
Rather repeatedly reported this as well: "Now WCBS-TV news in New York is reporting two people arrested by the FBI in a truck with explosives under the George Washington Bridge.... Whether this arrest by the FBI is connected with other events in the day, one can only question."
Later, he prefaced the story with "it may not be over yet," and added that "authorities say there were enough explosives in the truck to bring down the bridge." Yet another repetition of the story stated as fact that "the FBI has two suspects in hand," and that "enough explosives were in the truck to do great damage to the George Washington Bridge."
As with the State Department car-bombing, Rather had to backtrack on this story as well: "Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV, our CBS-owned and -operated station in New York, reported some time ago that the FBI had in custody two suspects caught with a pickup truck of explosives around the George Washington Bridge; now further checking on that story [reveals] that other law enforcement officials in New York said they knew nothing about it, and now Jim Stewart is saying that FBI headquarters in Washington knows nothing about it. We'll have to put that in a long line of things that's under the 'Well, we're skeptical now.' Maybe it's true and maybe it isn't." There is no record in the Nexis database of Rather telling his audience that it actually wasn't true.
Rather accompanied the backtracking with another self-justification: "I repeat for emphasis, we'd rather be last than be wrong, but in reporting of this kind, we're bound to make some mistakes." But is it really inevitable that anchors will pass on uncorroborated stories to the public—and portray them as fact, not rumor? For days, New Yorkers expressed surprise that the George Washington Bridge story was not true—victims of a needless panic that Dan Rather had helped to spread. http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1090
And the "truckload of explosives" was mentioned in other accounts of the many false stories that appeared on 9/11, from sources like the New York Times and New York Daily News:
On CBS Tuesday night there was a report -- originated by its New York station, WCBS -- that a van filled with explosives had been found on the George Washington Bridge. Though men in a van were detained, the vehicle did not contain explosives. Still, CBS said the report was based on trusted sources and the station corrected it when it learned that the report was in dispute. (New York Times)
During first-day coverage Tuesday, CBS anchor Dan Rather trumpeted an exclusive by WCBS-TV reporter Marcia Kramer, who told viewers that police had stopped a car carrying explosives under the George Washington Bridge. Rather said there were enough explosives "to do great damage" to the span.
But Tuesday night, Rather announced that "further checking on that story" showed other authorities knew nothing about it. "Maybe it's true and maybe it isn't," he added.
Though no explosives were involved after all, Kramer noted in an update that the vehicle's occupants were detained. (New York Daily News)
There's a very good reason why this particular report wasn't investigated by the 9/11 Commission, then: it was retracted within hours, and long before they started work.
Still, there will be those who say the retraction was false. We've yet to see any evidence for that, so this seems to be wishful thinking more than anything else, but there is the question of how the report originated in the first place.
The "dancing Israelis"
Some researcher connect the explosives report to the so-called "dancing Israelis" story. This is separately summarised by Nafeez Ahmed here, in The War on Freedom:
News reports about these leads are sketchy, but the inexplicable facts they contain are suspicious enough to be addressed in any public inquiry into 9/11. The Washington Post reported, “On Sept. 11, five young Israeli army veterans who worked for a moving company were observed at a park on the Hudson River in New Jersey, snapping photographs of the burning World Trade Center and seemingly clowning around. To complicate matters, when authorities arrested them they had box-cutters in their moving van, the types of weapons used by the terrorist hijackers.” The Bergen Record provided further insight into the event, reporting that:
Eight hours after terrorists struck Manhattan’s tallest skyscrapers, police in Bergen County detained five men who they said were found carrying maps linking them to the blasts... sources close to the investigation said they found other evidence linking the men to the bombing plot. ‘There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted,’ the source said. ‘It looked like they’re hooked in with this. It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park.’ Sources also said that bomb-sniffing dogs reacted as if they had detected explosives. The FBI seized the van for further testing, authorities said... Sources close to the investigation said the men said they were Israeli tourists... ‘We got an alert to be on the lookout for a white Chevrolet van with New Jersey registration and writing on the side,’ said Bergen County Police Chief John Schmidig. ‘Three individuals were seen celebrating in Liberty State Park after the impact. They said three people were jumping up and down.’ Nafeez Ahmed, The War On Freedom
This is an incomplete version of the story, though. Here's the full article, with some of the missing text emphasised:
Five men detained as suspected conspirators
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
By PAULO LIMA Staff Writer
About eight hours after terrorists struck Manhattan's tallest skyscrapers, police in Bergen County detained five men who they said were found carrying maps linking them to the blasts.
The five men, who were in a van stopped on Route 3 in East Rutherford around 4:30 p.m., were beingquestioned by police but had not been charged with any crime late Tuesday. The Bergen CountyPolice bomb squad X-rayed packages found inside the van but did not find any explosives,authorities said.
However, sources close to the investigation said they found other evidence linking the men to the bombing plot.
"There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted," the source said. "It looked like they're hooked in with this. It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park."
Sources also said that bomb-sniffing dogs reacted as if they had detected explosives, although officers were unable to find anything. The FBI seized the van for further testing, authorities said.
Sources said the van was stopped as it headed east on Route 3, between the Hackensack River bridge and the Sheraton hotel. As a precaution, police shut down Route 3 traffic in both directions after the stop and evacuated a small roadside motel near the Sheraton.
Sources close to the investigation said the men said they were Israeli tourists, but police had not been able to confirm their identities. Authorities would not release their names.
East Rutherford officers stopped the van after the FBI's Newark Field Office broadcast an alert asking surrounding police departments to look for a white Chevrolet van, police said.
"We got an alert to be on the lookout for a white Chevrolet van with New Jersey registration and writing on the side," said Bergen County Police Chief John Schmidig. "Three individuals were seen celebrating in Liberty State Park after the impact. They said three people were jumping up and down."
The East Rutherford officers summoned the county police bomb squad, New Jersey state troopers, and FBI agents, who waited alongside the van as prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office tried to obtain a warrant to search the van late Tuesday, Schmidig said.
By 10 p.m., members of the bomb squad were picking through the van and X-raying packages found inside, Schmidig said.
Sources said the FBI alert, known as a BOLO or "Be On Lookout," was sent out at 3:31 p.m.
"Vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack. White, 2000 Chevrolet van with New Jersey registration with 'Urban Moving Systems' sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center.
"Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals."
FBI spokeswoman Sandra Carroll declined to comment on the incident late Tuesday.
State police Lt. Col. Barry W. Roberson confirmed the traffic stop at a late night news briefing at state police headquarters in Trenton. He would not elaborate, however.
Business records show an Urban Moving Systems with offices on West 50th Street in Manhattan and on West 18th Street in Weehawken. Telephone messages left at the businesses Tuesday evening were not immediately returned.
Business records show the owner as Dominik Suter of Fair Lawn. A woman answering the telephone at Suter's home acknowledged he owned the company but refused to comment further. She also declined to identify herself.
It was not clear Tuesday whether the van stopped by police is related to Suter's company.
A business traveler staying at the Homestead Studio Suites Hotel said she watched state troopers drive the suspects away in a procession of state police cars about 5 p.m.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said the people detained appeared to be white men, but she could not give more details. About 5:30 p.m., police evacuated the hotel without offering guests an explanation.
"First, they told us we could hang out in the lobby, but then they told us we had to leave," the traveler said.
At 10 p.m., the hotel guest said she could see at least two police officers searching through the van while a crowd of other officers kept their distance. Except for police vehicles and a tow truck, the service road beside Route 3 was empty, she said.Bergen Record Source
This differs from the original CBS and CNN accounts in the number of arrests, and the location. Also Kerik's denial of explosives talks of a van with three people in it, not five.
However, the initial reports were themselves confused, and this one does match in some areas. The suspects were in a van, and arrested. The bomb-sniffing dogs reacted "as if they had detected explosives", generating an alert that resulted in the road being closed. There was a long delay, while they waited for a warrant to search the van, and the timing could be right. The above report talks of the van being inspected at 10:00 pm; Police Commissioner Kerik said just after 11:30 pm that he'd been told there were no explosives "by phone after I left the last briefing."
It seems at least possible that this story played a part in the "truckload of explosives" claim, then. Police had reason to believe that there were explosives in the van, closed a road and evacuated a building as a result. Could a misunderstanding then lead to a jump from "it might" to "it does" contain explosives, and been mixed with another stopped van to produce the reports we've seen? It's hard to see how that can be ruled out, on what must have been one of the busiest news days ever for all involved.
It's also conceivable that there were two vans, in which case it could be argued that Kerik's denial of explosives referred to the second, at George Washington bridge (and that would explain his mention of three men). However, the Bergen Record piece above makes it clear that the Israeli's van was also free of explosives, so again it looks like nothing more than an understandable false alarm.
There will always be those who claim something else: the van really was part of an "inside job" plot, and the story was covered up. But then this idea has problems of its own.
Why would it have been necessary to have a bomb at all, for instance? What would that have added to 9/11 that had not been achieved by the hijackings themselves?
If the conspirators are in control of the police, then why did the report of explosives ever reach the media? If that was because they don't control all the police, then why are the officers on the scene, who would have known all about this, gone along with a cover-up? Are we really to believe that, if there was any hint of these incidents connecting to 9/11, that officers who had seen so many colleagues killed that day wouldn't have exposed them?
This makes little sense to us. But then, of course, opinion and speculation are of little value here. What really matters are the facts, and they tell us that the reports of finding explosives were denied. If someone wants to show otherwise, then forget the conjecture: let's see some solid evidence.
Dan Rather tells of a "truckload of explosives"; CNN covers the same story; Bernard Kerik reports that the truck didn't contain explosives, after all.