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Canadian 9/11 Terrorist Myth Resurfaces. Again.

April 22, 2009

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

By now I suspect everyone’s heard of U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s gaffe Monday when she perpetuated the oft-repeated yet completely incorrect notion that 9/11 terrorists entered the U.S. from Canada.  This story has been repeated so often that apparently our embassy there has a chart of incidents and issues a stock refutation to the media every time it happens.

What made the incident especially newsworthy this time may just be  that it happened in the post-Bush era – and the fact that it came from someone who really, really should have known better.

The fascinating history of the “Terrorists From Canada!” legend was detailed in this Washington Post story from 2005:

The account was born in the first days after the attacks, when reporters and government investigators were scrambling to figure out how the conspirators had carried out the plot. Bernard Etzinger, a Canadian Embassy spokesman, says the “big bang” that started the legend can be traced to two Boston newspapers.

A Boston Globe story on Sept. 13 said investigators were “seeking evidence” that the hijackers came through Canada. The Boston Herald reported the same day that federal investigators believed “the terrorist suspects may have traveled . . . by boat” from Canada.

On Sept. 14, The Washington Post reported that an unnamed U.S. official had said two suspects “crossed the border from Canada with no known difficulty at a small border entry in Coburn Gore, Maine,” and that others may have come through other Maine ports. On Sept. 16, that report was repeated by the New York Post, which also declared that “terrorists bent on wreaking havoc in the United States” had found Canada “the path of least resistance.” On Sept. 19, the Christian Science Monitor referred to Canada as “a haven for terrorists.”

“It was just one of those things where everybody says, ‘We all knew that,’ and it becomes irrefutable,” Etzinger said.

Among those who have had their hands slapped for repeated this story are Sen. Conrad Burns, Newt Gingrich, then Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, who claimed that “as we all know, terrorists entered the U.S. from Canada on Sept. 11, 2001, using passports that the Canadians accepted as valid despite the fact that the documents were doctored.”

Let’s hope this is the last time the Canadian Embassy has to send out that press release.

UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long…

McCain Repeats False Claim That Sept. 11 Hijackers Entered U.S. From Canada

…when asked about the gaffe on FOX News Friday, McCain said: “Well, some of the 9/11 hijackers did come through Canada, as you know.”


4 Comments leave one →
  1. canworldjon permalink*
    April 25, 2009 1:15 pm

    Who is briefing McCain? How is it possible that he keeps repeating a mistake that everyone acknowledges is a gaffe? Not surprising that Fox News doesn’t call out McCain on this…

  2. April 24, 2009 7:30 am

    Oddly, there doesn’t appear to be any mention of the story in the U.S. media at all – except for Fox News. They have jumped all over it, condemning Napolitano as an incompetent Obama appointee and demanding her resignation.

    Funny how they seem to have forgotten all those Republicans who were telling the same lies all those years. Including the people at Fox News.

  3. marakardasnelson permalink*
    April 24, 2009 6:50 am

    To be honest, I hadn’t heard of this comment until now–apparently living outside of North America means that I am largely disengaged from all North American news. My immediate reaction to this is utter disgust and disappointment, if not surprise. When Napolitano was first nominated for this position, pro-immigration rights advocates recoiled, given Napolitano’s anti-immigration stance as governor of Arizona. It seems that despite a change in administration, the US still likes to understand all things evil within the country as originating either from the North or South. Such statements and sentiment absolves the U.S. of discussing the root causes of terrorism, and instead simply looks at how those pesky terrorists can be kept out of pristine borders. It completely baffles me that such intelligent leaders of such complex and powerful states continue to focus on what really is such a minute issue. Regardless of one’s thoughts on immigration policy, surely making these comments that effectively blame Canada will do little to make the borders “safer” and “more secure”?


  1. Cdn MP’s voting records, Ont driver’s cell phone ban, B of C interest rate cut, US protectionism, and the Cdn 9/11 Terrorist Myth « Vancouver Moose

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