“There is nothing wrong with this paper that a trip through a shredder and a sincere apology to CIT and the 9/11 Truth community could not cure.” — Shelton Lankford on the 2011 David Chandler/Frank Legge paper “The Pentagon Attack on 9/11: A Refutation of the ‘Flyover Hypothesis’”
December 8, 2019
By Craig McKee
The 9/11 Truth Movement has lost a major figure and a truth seeker of real integrity. And we don’t have either to spare these days.
Lt. Col. Shelton F. Lankford passed away a few days ago of esophageal cancer. I can’t tell you much about his 77 years of life, just about the time when our lives intersected over the past decade or so. It was my privilege to have known Shelton, and I can tell you that he was a highly principled person and a passionate advocate of truth.
Before becoming a commercial pilot, he flew for the Marine Corps, experiencing war first hand. In flying more than 300 combat missions over Vietnam, he came to see through the lies of that war and many since. He cared very much about 9/11 and was an important part of the fight for 9/11 truth long before I arrived.
In particular, Shelton spoke out about the Pentagon evidence. He was a core member of Pilots for 9/11 Truth and a major supporter of the work of Citizen Investigation Team. Through their primary research in Washington, D.C., CIT was able to find a number of very credible witnesses who described an almost identical flight path for the plane that approached the Pentagon — well to the north of the official path and irreconcilable with the “damage.”
Shelton was part of the JFK research community for many years and wrote a piece for Truth and Shadows on how JFK’s assassination and 9/11 are related. That piece can be read here. In 2014, he summed up in an email to me why the truth about JFK and 9/11 are so important and what he hoped would be revealed during his lifetime:
“I, for one don’t want to die without better answers to the questions around [JFK’s] death. I remain convinced that the criminal conspiracy that caused his death is a multi-generational one and that 9/11 was a further development in the continuing effort to destroy the American vision of a democratic free society, or what remains of it. The core of what we have inherited from Dallas and 9/11 is a national security state that is only one more major upheaval from collapse.”
Shelton and I were invited to make a presentation together on the Pentagon at the 2013 “9/11: Advancing the Truth” conference in Washington, D.C. We chose not to attend for reasons that are too involved to get into here. Earlier that same year, we had collaborated with researchers Dennis McMahon and Paul Zarembka on a proposal for a presentation on the Pentagon that was intended for a conference in France. Barrie Zwicker had also made a proposal. Unfortunately, the event was canceled for reasons we never learned of.
On Jan. 11, 2012, I published a piece on Truth and Shadows titled, “When did they know? 36 truthers on how they awakened to the 9/11 lie.” In Shelton’s contribution, he wrote:
“David Ray Griffin’s The New Pearl Harbor took me past the point of no return. I joined Pilots for 9/11 Truth in 2006. I have devoted several hours a day for the past eight years or so keeping up with newly discovered facts and conversations about the 9/11 events. The actions of the FBI regarding the Moussaoui case, pre-9/11, the unconvincing official story of Flight 77, and finally the CIT evidence of a deliberate murderous deception at the Pentagon removed the last shreds of doubt from my mind.”
Shelton was a member of Griffin’s and Elizabeth Woodworth’s 9/11 Consensus Panel until 2012 when he joined Barrie Zwicker in resigning to protest the expulsion of fellow member Zarembka and the suppression of CIT’s game-changing evidence.
The three departing members said they could not continue to participate in the panel because they felt that too much of its decision-making power rested with Griffin and Woodworth. Despite his opposition to how the panel works, Shelton did allow it to continue using this powerful statement from him on its website:
“September 11, 2001 seems destined to be the watershed event of our lives and the greatest test for our democracy in our lifetimes. The evidence of government complicity in the lead-up to the events, the failure to respond during the event, and the astounding lack of any meaningful investigation afterwards, as well as the ignoring of evidence turned up by others that renders the official explanation impossible, may signal the end of the American experiment. It has been used to justify all manner of measures to legalize repression at home and as a pretext for behaving as an aggressive empire abroad. Until we demand an independent, honest, and thorough investigation and accountability for those whose action and inaction led to those events and the cover-up, our republic and our Constitution remain in the gravest danger.”
One of the ways that Shelton explained how the Truth Movement was being undermined was in his criticism of some of its “leaders,” who he faulted for not leading at all. He was one of the few who understood this and was willing to say so publicly.
“For me the Consensus Panel process was functioning as a gatekeeper, and evidence deemed controversial was not going to be considered,” he said in an interview for my Truth and Shadows article about the resignations.
In his letter of resignation to the panel, he wrote:
“The Consensus process, as it is being administered, seems by design to exclude any evidence that contradicts the framework within which the 911 Commission operated … The removal of Paul Zarembka from the panel would seem to cement the enforcement of an authoritarian view of evidence as being what the co-founders say it is.”
Shelton opposed the disappointing move by Griffin in 2011 to elevate the profile of a small number of researchers — including David Chandler, Frank Legge, Jonathan Cole — who were pushing a 757 impact at the Pentagon. This group has only accelerated these efforts in the years since with destructive consequences for the movement.
In proposing a “consensus approach” in his 2011 book 9/11 Ten Years Later: When State Crimes Against Democracy Succeed, Griffin called on the movement to focus on evidence that al-Qaeda didn’t attack the Pentagon and to leave aside the “relatively unimportant” issue of “what hit the Pentagon.” (It annoyed Shelton that Griffin phrased the question this way and not as “Did anything hit the Pentagon?”) The panel co-founder did not even mention CIT in the book, although he made it explicitly clear that he continues to support their contention that there never was a large plane impact with the building despite years of pressure to reverse himself.
“Dr. Griffin’s shunning of CIT and their well-supported and documented evidence, and embracing their chief critics was a serious mistake,” Lankford said in the interview. “Far from identifying best evidence, it seems likely to further marginalize it.”
On June 4, 2012, Shelton gave this response to a comment on this blog after his decision to resign from the panel:
“… I had to think long and hard about resigning, but decided that it was necessary. Your wish to have Dr. Griffin “enter the fray” is a position in which I find myself in full agreement. I phrased it as wishing that 9/11 Truth Leaders would lead instead of letting food fights break out in the community over distortions of fact and startlingly bad analyses being put forward as peer-reviewed research. Dr. Griffin’s position that “what hit the Pentagon” (which makes an assumption counter to best evidence, in my opinion) being unimportant, is a position which is highly convenient for someone who has his sights on consensus within that community, but which cannot be reconciled.”
If anything, this problem is worse as we move into 2020. People like Chandler, Wayne Coste, and Ken Jenkins are stomping on the truth with a combination of government evidence, speculation, and spin while eliciting virtually no criticism from people like Griffin.
Shelton added: “… there is a sizable, active, and very motivated opposition community to 9/11 Truth whose purpose it appears to be to create controversy. The JFK Assassination research community has labored for almost 50 years under what looks like deliberately created controversy, and, it appears that is the shared destiny of 9/11 Truth.”
In 2011, Australian “researcher” Legge (now deceased) submitted a paper he had written with Chandler called “The Pentagon Attack on 9/11: A Refutation of the “Flyover Hypothesis” to the Journal of 9/11 Studies. Co-editor Kevin Ryan asked Rob Balsamo of Pilots for 9/11 Truth to review it, a task that Balsamo asked Shelton to take on. After reviewing the paper, he came back with this memorable quote:
“There is nothing wrong with this paper that a trip through a shredder and a sincere apology to CIT and the 9/11 Truth community could not cure.”
In a message to Pentagon researcher Adam Syed in August of 2011, Shelton added this about the paper:
“About as dreadful as you can imagine. A hit piece to take its place among their other hit pieces.”
With CIT itself no longer active in the movement, and other voices on this side of the issue more subdued and focused on other things, the loss of someone like Shelton Lankford is all the more keenly felt. His family has suffered a terrible loss and so has the 9/11 Truth Movement. We will miss his leadership and his integrity more than we know.
This is a wonderful letter that Shelton Lankford wrote to Rachel Maddow of MSNBC on April 25, 2013, taking her to task for her refusal to give questions about 9/11 a fair hearing:
I have been an admirer of your work since your Air America days, and we met on the Air America Cruise several years ago. You listened politely when I spoke about the many loose threads and discontinuities in the official story of 9/11, and when I expressed my doubts that we would ever have an honest and transparent accounting for the patently fraudulent cover stories and deceptions around that tragedy, you did not call me a conspiracy nutball. You signed your picture with thanks to me for fighting the “good fight”. Since my version of the “good fight” was to question the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission Report and other laughably inadequate accounts of what happened and why, I mistook your statement to mean that you, too, shared my misgivings. I guess I was wrong about that. You are a creature of the mainstream media.
I wonder if you ever question why certain areas of inquiry are taboo in this “land of the free”. In the early days the tactic used was to shout down Truthers. Now their serious spokespersons are ignored completely or drowned under the type of nonsense conflations that you offered in tonight’s broadcast. Seriously – Popular Mechanics? Really? Did you ever wonder why it was left to them to defend the integrity of the 9/11 Commission Report, which I regard as the Warren Commission of the Second Millennium? Did you ever look at the management history of that publication and the affiliations of the lead defenders of the official story?
I have yet to see on American television any honest debate between serious scholars who challenge the official story of 9/11 and those who are defenders of it, nor do I expect to. Those who want us to believe a Boeing 757 struck the Pentagon and just evaporated, leaving little evidence it ever existed and none of the non-destructable parts bearing serial numbers traceable to that airframe don’t have much upon which to base their case. This is even more complicated when you consider that those who observed the aircraft inbound to the Pentagon on that day, twelve witnesses with a clear view of the route of approach and the landmarks in the area, place it North of the Citgo gas station, a position from which it could not have done the damage alleged, could not have struck the light poles claimed to have been knocked down.
In order to have crashed as claimed by the official story it would have had to approach well South of the gas station, a path that no witnesses support. A documentary film “National Security Alert” available for viewing online at http://www.citizeninvestigationteam.com establish the basis for concluding that the Pentagon crash scene was a staged event that did not involve a 757 crash. Despite a desperate attempt by some claiming to be fellow truthers (see reference to Cass Sunstein, below) to destroy the producers of that film, it remains the key to understanding the Pentagon, and ultimately the 9/11 crime that made it possible to persue the dreams of PNAC with the military might of the nascent American empire.
I had one previous occasion to challenge your adoption of the derisive tone toward those of us who question the official account of what I believe was undeniably a false flag attack. You never responded. I was astonished when on the April 24 broadcast, you made a frontal attack on the 9/11 Truth community in which you lumped us all together with Alex Jones and those who make accusations about the Boston Marathon bombings and deliver a remarkable polemic in which you ridicule the idea that the USA could commit a heinous act in order to create conditions in which a foreign policy initiative would be rendered acceptable to the American public.
There is an entire shelf of books that contain the documentation that the “conspiracy theorists” own the high ground in this debate. You waved the Commission Report, and its comic book version, which has been ably dissected and destroyed by David Ray Griffin in his critique “The 911 Commission Report, Omissions and Distortions” and other works, and, much to the astonishment of any person whose knowledge of the legitimate literature of 911 extends beyond the book covers, the Popular Mechanics alleged debunking tome “911 Myths”, which was itself debunked by Dr. Griffin in “Debunking 9/11 Debunking”
I expect that this is a waste of my time, but I could not let it pass. The final straw for me was the derisive tone and the “flooding the zone” you attempted by pointing to the wild accusations by fringe groups, some of whom I suspect have a common goal – that of discrediting 9/11 Truth by conflation with theories that most will see as absurd. You may remember a person by the name of Cass Sunstein, a member of the Obama Administration who advocated Cognitive Infiltration as a way of penetrating and subverting groups of advocates of 9/11 Truth. In this case, the “truth”(official account) just isn’t strong enough to kill the Truth Movement by presenting the facts, because the facts are not so much on the government side. Instead, as in the ’60’s anti-war movement, agents would fan out and penetrate these communities of citizens and sow discord, false information, confusion, and doubt among the members. Neat idea, eh? Anyone in the Truth Movement can call up a number of instances where these practices were at work.
Can you think of why any honest government would find it necessary to stoop to these tactics?
I went to Vietnam on more than one tour, carrying out orders whose legitimacy stemmed from the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which, itself was rooted in an admitted hoax, a faked attack by “enemy” forces on American warships. Years later “oops!” was not good enough for many of us who left friends in that ravaged country. George Hubler, my fellow Marine who held my daughter for her christening was one such.
You are a smart person, and you showed signs, early on, of having some integrity.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Shelton F. Lankford
LtCol. USMC (Ret.)