|Kurt Sonnenfeld (right) at Ground Zero
As a contract employee for FEMA's Colorado regional branch, 35 year old Kurt Sonnenfeld was dispatched to videotape and photograph the rescue and recovery effort at ground zero in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks. There was no restriction on what Sonnenfeld could film and no documents were signed by him that passed ownership of the footage to FEMA. According to the TVtechnology website, Sonnenfeld was FEMA's Denver-based Region 8 Public Affairs Officer and he worked the site as one of only four FEMA photographers along with FEMA's Denver-based Region 8 Deputy Public Affairs officer Jim Chestnutt.
Sonnenfeld's accomplishments include:
-- Produced and directed videotape and broadcast productions for KDTV-8 Denver,
-- TCI Cable, KDVR-Denver, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S.
-- Department of Energy, Army, Air Force, and the National Parks Service
-- Footage has been carried on ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC (including NBC Nightly News), the Discovery Channel, BBC, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation -- Head of Broadcast Operations for FEMA's National Emergency Response Advance Team; set up and oversaw operations of FEMA's Recovery Channel
-- Lead Public Affairs Officer for FEMA on several disasters; interviewed by radio, television, and print media Design and administrate FEMA Region VIII's web site
-- Writer and researcher for World Book Encyclopedia, senior analyst and managing editor for the Ross Economic Report, editor and writer of Guestinformant Travel Guides, published author of short fiction
-- Literary manager for Chicago's Body Politic Theatre
-- Researcher with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Higher Education and with the Colorado Literacy Project
Police found Sonnenfeld's wife, Nancy Sonnenfeld, on a chaise lounge in an upstairs bedroom with a bullet wound behind her right ear. She was still alive but unconscious and breathing heavily. She died six hours later. Dr. Amy Martin of the Denver coroner's office found numerous bruises on Nancy Sonnenfeld's body, which she said indicated the woman had been involved in a struggle. There were bruises under Nancy Sonnenfeld's chin, and on her left kneecap, right elbow, right foot and both hands. Sonnenfeld asked detectives to perform tests that would show his wife killed herself. He asked that Nancy's hands be tested for gunpowder residue, which he said would show she fired the gun. He also asked that he be given a polygraph test. Tests showed there was a very small amount of gunpowder residue on Nancy's right hand, and none on Kurt Sonnenfeld's hands, which were covered with blood. Also, the only fingerprint found on the gun belonged to Nancy and was found on the gun's magazine.
Friends and family attested to a failing marriage and Kurt Sonnenfeld's drug habit (heroin) as the cause, and police claimed that they knew that Nancy Sonnenfeld planned to leave her husband because she had found him using heroin and sleeping with other women during a trip to Thailand in November 2001. "It's hard to believe," said Nancy's Sonnenfeld's father, Bill Campbell. "We don't hate Kurt. He was a wonderful guy and they had a wonderful marriage for 10 years. I know he loved our Nancy. We knew they were beginning to have problems, but we absolutely don't know what happened that night." Nancy Sonnenfeld's mother however said she never believed that her daughter killed herself: "I'm glad I've had the time to get over all of this because now I can face it," Eleanor Campbell said. "We loved Kurt. But he was not the same Kurt we used to know. Denver police were naturally disinclined to believe that they were dealing with a case of suicide and took Sonnenfeld into custody where he remained for several months awaiting trial.
On June 14th 2002, one day before the trial date, Deputy District Attorney Michelle Ann Amico dismissed first-degree murder charges against Sonnenfeld apparently on the basis of a suicide note written by Nancy Sonnenfeld which police had not taken into evidence. Public defender Carrie Thompson stated: "Our investigators found a letter written in Nancy's own hand consistent with a suicide letter, although it was very cryptic," The letter said, "What is more beautiful than love and death?" with the word "love" scratched out. "Kurt, please get help." The letter was found behind a framed photograph of Kurt Sonnenfeld. Nancy Sonnenfeld's sister, Amy Leek, said the family knew this was coming but would have no comment on the news.
According to Sonnenfeld, police abused him during his stay in prison. "Police beat me and at the precinct, one of them suffocated me and another forced me to inhale something I think may have been pepper. I was kept in solitary confinement with no water and no windows. The toilet was a hole in the middle of the floor. It had to be flushed from outside. They flushed it often for fun, as that flooded the room." Sonnenfeld also claimed that police hid and tampered with evidence, ignored the suicide note and dismissed his request for a polygraph test. "Police started lying to hide my injuries suffered during three beatings in jail. They said my wife was shot in the back of the head or in her chest. There is clear evidence that she shot herself behind the temple. Paraffin tests showed residue of gunpowder in her hand and none on mine and the gun had her fingerprints and not mine" stated Sonnenfeld. He accused one named Denver detective of seeking to destroy his reputation and feeding the press false information, adding that the detective had contradicted assertions that he made during an earlier court hearing.
After his release in 2002, Sonnenfeld filed a law suit against the police for $20 million for false arrest, false imprisonment, deprivation of civil rights, and brutality. On arriving home from prison Sonnenfeld claims that his computer was missing and he began to be harassed in various ways; light bulbs at his home would be found unscrewed, locks unlocked, and he would be followed and photographed despite taking refuge at friends' homes in other cities and states.
During the period after his release in June 2002, Sonnenfeld claims that federal authorities asked a co-worker (at ground zero) about the tapes he had made of the wreckage of the WTC site and that the co-worker stated that he believed that Sonnenfeld had handed them over to the authorities in New York. In reality, Sonnenfeld claims that he had stored them in a make-up box in a closet.
In February 2003, Sonnenfeld traveled to the Argentine coastal city of San Bernardo staying in the apartment of the uncle of a friend, where he met his current wife Paula who he married three months later in April 2003. Since then Sonnenfeld has claimed that the harassment continued in Argentina. In an October 2005 article in the Buenos Aires Herald, Sonnenfeld stated that he and his wife were being followed and photographed. To support these assertions, Sonnenfeld provided pictures showing a man allegedly taking pictures of him in Puerto Madero. He also provided a picture of a message sent to his cell phone that read, "Watch what you are doing" and signed "any," which his wife Paula takes for "anybody."
After moving to Argentina, Sonnenfeld had the make-up box containing video evidence from ground zero shipped to him along with other possessions. At the end of July 2004, he and his wife went to the American embassy in Buenos Aires to enquire about a visa for his wife to travel to the US. Sonnenfeld and his wife claim that Paula was treated "cruelly" by embassy staff. Since moving to Argentina, Sonnenfeld has worked as a TV producer and participated as an actor in a Burger King TV advertisement that was aired in the US. Sonnenfeld claims that he offered Twin Towers footage to several local Argentine TV programs for the third anniversary of the attack, but nothing that he had not shown to other media before.
In September 2004, US prosecutors filed new charges against Sonnenfeld over his first wife's death stating that new information had come to light based mainly on the testimony of two men who had shared the same cell as Sonnenfeld in 2002. According to reports, one month after Sonnenfeld was released, former cell-mate Robert Dryer said that Sonnenfeld had told him how he shot his wife behind the ear and put her finger on the gun's trigger as he pulled it himself. Another former inmate, Damian Whitehead, said he and Sonnenfeld met after they were released from jail. According to him, Sonnenfeld said he killed his wife and that he couldn't bear to have her leave him.
Sonnenfeld told the Buenos Aires Herald: "In August 2004, I delivered some demo to a TV producer. A week later, on August 31, Interpol arrested me. I find that extremely coincidental. A month before, I had gone to the embassy.
Sonnenfeld spent seven months in Villa Devoto prison in Buenos Aires pending a US extradition request after the refiling of charges of first-degree murder by the US government that he dismisses as groundless. He shows a copy of a US Embassy extradition request dated August 13, 2004, that reads, "The ensuing investigation has established that Mr Sonnenfeld killed her." But Sonnenfeld argues, "That is prejudging and reviving the same lies that had been already dismissed. The Argentine judge dealing with the extradition request, Daniel Rafecas, finally rejected it on the grounds that Sonnenfeld has sought asylum in Argentina and that the US government has not provided sufficient guarantees that Sonnenfeld will not face the death penalty if extradited.
In response, the US government appealed the ruling and the decision now rests in the hands of the Argentine Supreme Court. Sonnenfeld has appealed to various humanitarian organisations including the Human Rights Commission of the Argentine parliament where, on Tuesday 12th September 2006, discussions began on whether or not to provide Sonnenfeld with political asylum. Part of the discussions will include proposals to deal with limiting the scope of the actions on Argentine soil of agents of the intelligence agencies of other nations, a point which was raised as a result of Sonnenfeld's testimony about his harassment since arriving in Argentina.
In an interview with Argentine daily newspaper el Pais on September 10th 2006, Sonnenfeld, now 41, stated that the fact that he continued to be harassed even after he moved to Argentina led him to begin to understand that the core of the problem was the tapes he had made at ground zero: "At that point I realised that they were after something else: the tapes of ground zero in my possession."
"In faltering Spanish and with the help of his wife Paula, Kurt answers each question with abundant documentation. He produces papers, signed by the Deputy District Attorney, which show that he was finally cleared as the author of his first wife's murder. He offers copies of American newspaper articles in which the Denver police are denounced for having dismissed evidence that his wife committed "suicide", and the police photos of his bruised face, evidence, he says, of police brutality. Sonnenfeld also makes reference to the testimony of the two prisoners who, in exchange for a reduction in their sentences, swore to the same police that I accused of torture, that I had confessed to the murder of my wife" The testimonies reopened the case and dismissed my suit against the Denver police. Sonnenfeld displays documents to show that he never attempted to hide his identity and even presented himself to the US embassy in an effort to return to the US with his new wife, an act which, two weeks later, led to his arrest and the serving of an extradition warrant.On February 23rd 2006, Sonnenfeld displayed a selection of his photographs from Ground Zero at the La Boheme Salen gallery in Buenos Aires. The Buenos Aires Herald reported:
- What exactly was he able to document at the WTC site?
I was the only person, with camera in hand, with total and absolute access to any area of Ground Zero and the WTC. Any other cameras that were within that area would have been confiscated and the the person carrying them arrested.
- But what exactly are in these images of yours that could contradict the official US government version of events on 9/11?
What I saw at certain moments and in certain places...is very frightening, I don't know how to put it in words, what I saw leads me to the terrible conclusion that there was foreknowledge of what was going to happen. The precautions that were taken to save certain things that the authorities there considered irreplaceable or invaluable. For example, certain things were missing that could only have been removed with a truck, yet after the first plane hit one of the towers, everything in Manhattan collapsed and no one could have gotten near the towers to do that.
- What things were removed?
Several offices of the US intelligence agencies were located in the WTC, including the second most important CIA building in the country. From some of these locations certain documentation that was irreplaceable was removed. I don't want to give too many details because our future, our lives, depend on this. The information of which I speak is already distributed in several places."
A fireman works amid the debris of Ground Zero just hours after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack that razed the Twin Towers in New York, as pictured by US citizen Kurt Sonnenfeld, who claims to be the only videographer given full access by the US government to record rescue works. An exhibit of 28 Ground Zero pictures taken by Sonnenfeld and never shown before opened yesterday for about a month. The United States has requested that Argentina extradite Sonnenfeld on charges that in 2002 he killed his first wife and the case is in the hands of Argentina's Supreme Court of Justice. Sonnenfeld, 43, claims that she took her own life. He was detained for several months in Denver, Colorado, and one day before a trial was due to start a judge dismissed the charges and he was released in June 2002.Case closed? What seems obvious is the fact that, if Sonnenfeld really does have evidence to prove a government conspiracy on 9/11, he knew about it within a few weeks of the attacks themselves. It is also reasonable to suggest that he is (or was on 9/11) an employee of one of the intelligence agencies involved in the perpetration of the attacks since it is unlikely that the one of the only photographers allowed into Ground Zero to document the evidence would have been just an average Joe. The questions that remain then concern the reality of all that has happened since. That Sonnenfeld was in his house on the morning of January 1st 2002 when his first wife died from a gunshot wound seems beyond dispute. That within a year of his somewhat miraculous release from prison in 2002 he moved to Argentina, quickly remarried, and is now the subject of an extradition warrant by the US government is also clear, along with the fact that the Argentine government seems reluctant to hand him over.
He publicly accused US police of torturing and persecuting him. In February 2003, he came for a month's holiday in Argentina, where he married an Argentine citizen Paula. The pictures he is now exhibiting came to Buenos Aires in a make-up box, hidden in his furniture. Asked by the Herald in an interview last October whether he thought that the alleged persecution was linked to his work as a videographer, he simply said, "The US authorities are trying to extradite me under false pretenses."
If we are to believe his claims, we can assume that Sonnenfeld has not yet released all of the evidence in his possession of a government conspiracy on 9/11 and is perhaps waiting on the most opportune moment to do so. If he is guilty of murdering his wife and is using the 'evidence of conspiracy' that he possesses to ensure his continuing liberty, then his 'evidence' may never be released. If, however, he is innocent of the murder and is being harassed with a trumped up charge precisely because he has evidence of a 9/11 government conspiracy, then it would seem sensible for him to release the details at some point in the near future. Whatever the case, the saga of Kurt Sonnenfeld appears to be but one more detail in the sordid tale that has been the US government's continuing attempts to distort and cover up the massive and growing evidence that the 9/11 attacks were undeniably the work of elements of the US government itself.