The senior researcher on Popular Mechanics March 2005 "911: Debunking the Myths" story, Ben Chertoff, is a cousin of Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. Chris Bollyn wrote:
This means that Hearst paid Benjamin Chertoff to write an article supporting the seriously flawed explanation that is based on a practically non-existent investigation of the terror event that directly led to the creation of the massive national security department his "cousin" now heads. This is exactly the kind of "journalism" one would expect to find in a dictatorship like that of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Because the manager of public relations for Popular Mechanics didn't respond to repeated calls from American Free Press, I called Benjamin Chertoff, the magazine's "senior researcher," directly.
Chertoff said he was the "senior researcher" of the piece. When asked if he was related to Michael Chertoff, he said, "I don't know." Clearly uncomfortable about discussing the matter further, he told me that all questions about the article should be put to the publicist ? the one who never answers the phone.
Benjamin's mother in Pelham, New York, however, was more willing to talk. Asked if Benjamin was related to the new Secretary of Homeland Security, Judy said, "Yes, of course, he is a cousin."
We never actually thought to doubt this claim, simply believing it irrelevant. The piece needs to be judged on its contents, not the surname of one of those involved. But then we heard a suggestion that Benjamin Chertoff denied the story altogether, so decided to email him to hear what he had to say. Was he really related to Michael Chertoff? And if he wasn't, then how could he explain the quote from his mother?
This is what he had to say.
Here's the story, as best as I know: I'm not related to Michael Chertoff, at least in any way I can figure out. We might be distant relatives, 15 times removed, but then again, so might you and I. Bottom line is I've never met him, never communicated with him, and nobody I know in my family has ever met or communicated with him.
As for what my mom said: When Chertoff was nominated to be head of homeland security it was the first I'd heard of him, and the same for my family (and, FYI, we'd already sent the 9/11 issue to the press by then!). My dad and I thought there might be some distant relation. When Chris Bollyn called and asked my mom if there was a relation (introducing himself as only "Chris"), she said "they might be distant cousins." Like much in the conspiracy world, this was taken WAY out of context. (Another case in point: Bollyn called me earlier and asked "Were you the senior researcher on the story?" I said, "I guess so," -- that's not a title I have ever used, nor is it at all common in magazine journalism, but I was the research editor at the time, so it kinda made sense.) Nonetheless, I was one of 9 reporters on the story, not counting editors, photo researchers, photo editors, copy editors, layout designers, production managers, fact-checkers, etc., etc., etc. who worked on this story.
Chertoff paints a very different picture from the original story. Some will say he’s lying, of course, but in that case it shouldn’t be too difficult to prove: go to it. And in the meantime, this acts as a useful reminder to everyone, including us: don’t take any 9/11-related claims for granted, whether they come from someone on your “side” of the argument or not.