PROVO — Stung by what he said are false accusations of anti-Semitism, Brigham Young University physics professor Steven Jones said Wednesday he has decided to stop talking about who might have been behind what he has alleged was government involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"That's what I've resolved for the future, even when pushed," Jones told the Deseret Morning News. "I'll stick with the science, thank you."
Jones began last year to research the physics behind the way the World Trade Center towers fell. Disturbed by the remarkable speed with which they fell and emboldened by his own experiments on ground zero materials, he developed a hypothesis that the collapse of the towers was aided by pre-positioned demolition charges. He later began to say the charges must have been set by a group inside the U.S. government.
BYU placed Jones on paid leave last week, in part for what it called "the increasingly speculative and accusatory nature of these statements by Dr. Jones."
The action came two days after Jones appeared on KUER-FM 90.1's respected news talk show "Radio West." On the show, he said it appeared responsibility for the attacks rested with Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and an "international banking cartel."
The statement drew immediate response from Jews who said they were offended because references to international banking have for decades been used by anti-Semitic groups as codespeak to blame Jews for various problems. Hitler often blamed "international financiers" for Germany's debt after World War I.
A spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League said he will recommend in a committee meeting tomorrow that the ADL send a letter to BYU complaining about the comments and expressing concern that such comments might be made by Jones in his classes. BYU relieved Jones of his teaching load this semester while it conducts a formal review of his research and statements.
"Wow, I don't know if he could be any clearer," said Jonathan Bernstein, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League for California, Utah and Hawaii. "This is the language we hear from David Duke and other hatemongers who want to scapegoat Jews."
Jones was flummoxed by the accusation, saying he was "startled" when told the phrase carried anti-Semitic overtones. He wasn't sure where he got the phrase because he was referring to the work of Webster Tarpley, a historian and member of the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, a group co-founded by Jones. Tarpley refers only to a shadowy, rogue network, not to international bankers.
"I'll name them as Tarpley names them," Jones said on KUER. "Wolfowitz and Perle, in particular — they do happen to be neocons — but there is a much larger group behind these (attacks) which is the international banking cartel which controls trillions of dollars and which has an interest in controlling countries in the Middle East which are not under their control."
Jones said his reference to international banking might have been influenced by Cleon Skousen, a former BYU instructor and author who claimed international bankers were behind the rise of communism and fascism. Jones shared his research on 9/11 at Skousen's home in the fall of 2005 before Skousen died.
Jones said he regrets talking about who might have been behind the attacks and from now on will leave that investigation to Tarpley and other members of the self-named "9/11 truth movement." "In the past, numerous times I deferred to those experts," Jones said. "This time I said, in my opinion, (Tarpley's) right. But I also think that's way outside the research I specialize in. I think it's smarter to leave the tasks of who should be investigated to those who specialize in those things."
Instead, he'll concentrate on his research about evidence from ground zero and the intriguing, unsettled questions about why the third World Trade Center building, Building Seven, fell later on Sept. 11 without being struck by a plane. A report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology is due early next year.
Jones contends measurements he took of a sample of the molten metal found under all three buildings show it is not aluminum from the planes nor structural steel.
"I can be proven wrong," Jones said. "I accept that. But whoever does it will have to explain this molten metal to me, and especially all the barium found. That's nasty stuff that's not going to be used in a building."
Jones said he doesn't blame Jews for the attacks.
"I had no idea this would be some sort of codespeak for anti-Semitism," Jones said. "It is not right to link such a group to Jews."
Salt Lake Valley resident Scott Klepper said Jones' statements were hurtful. "As a Jew, I view Jones' unsubstantiated conclusion as an affront to the Jewish community, to BYU and to real researchers and academics."