Canadian 9/11 Terrorist Myth Resurfaces. Again.
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…
…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.”