9/11 conspiracy theories


It may be 10 years since the attacks in the US on 11 September, but conspiracy theories have not faded over time, says Mike Rudin.

Numerous official reports have been published since the Twin Towers fell, but just when a piece of evidence casts doubt on one theory, the focus then shifts to the next "unanswered question".

Here are five of the most prominent 9/11 conspiracy theories circulating in online communities.

1. Failure to intercept the hijacked planes

The question: Why did the world's most powerful air force fail to intercept any of the four hijacked planes?

Conspiracy theorists say: The then US Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the military to stand down and not to intercept the planes.

File photo of a F-15 fighter Fighter jets failed to intercept the hijacked planes

Official reports say: This was a highly unusual multiple hijacking with violence on board, and where the transponder, which identifies the plane, was turned off or changed.

What is more, a routine military training exercise happened to be taking place that day at US air defence command.

Air traffic controller Colin Scoggins was in constant contact with the military and did not see any lack of response. There was confusion and a lack of communication between the civilian air traffic control (FAA) and the military.

The military's equipment was also outdated and designed to look out over the ocean to deal with a Cold War threat.

2. Collapse of the Twin Towers

The question: Why did the Twin Towers collapse so quickly, within their own footprint, after fires on a few floors that lasted only for an hour or two?

Conspiracy theorists say: The Twin Towers were destroyed by controlled demolitions. Theories relate to the rapid collapse (about 10 seconds), the relatively short-lived fires (56 minutes in World Trade Center 2 or 102 minutes in World Trade Center 1), reports of the sounds of explosions shortly before the collapse, and the violent ejections that could be seen at some windows many floors below the collapse.

Remains of World Trade Center buildings after the attacks on 11 September 2001 Five new skyscrapers are being built on the World Trade Center site

Official reports say: An extensive inquiry by the National Institute of Standards and Technology concluded that the planes severed and damaged support columns and dislodged fire-proofing.

Around 10,000 gallons of jet fuel were spewed over many floors starting widespread fires. Temperatures of up to 1,000C caused the floors to sag and the perimeter columns to bend, causing the sounds of "explosions".

The massive weight of the floors dropped, creating a dynamic load far in excess of what the columns were designed for. Debris was forced out of the windows as the floors above collapsed.

Controlled demolition is nearly always carried out from the bottom floors up, yet this collapse started at the top.

No evidence has ever been found of explosive charges despite the extensive hand searches and there is no evidence of any pre-cutting of columns or walls, which is routinely carried out in a controlled demolition.

3. Attack on the Pentagon

The question: How could an amateur pilot fly a commercial plane in a complicated manoeuvre and crash it into the headquarters of the world's most powerful military, 78 minutes after the first report of a possible hijack and leave no trace?

Part of the outer wall of the Pentagon collapsed after Flight 77 crashed into it A memorial in the grounds of the Pentagon marks the deaths of those who died when Flight 77 crashed

Conspiracy theorists say: A commercial Boeing 757 did not hit the building but instead a missile, a small aircraft or an unmanned drone was used. But since evidence has increasingly shown that the American Airlines Flight 77 did hit the building, the emphasis has shifted to questioning the difficult approach manoeuvre. It is argued it was not under the control of al-Qaeda but the Pentagon itself.

Official reports say: Airplane wreckage, including the black boxes, were recovered from the scene and they were catalogued by the FBI.

Although some early video did not show much wreckage, there is a good deal of video and still photography which shows plane wreckage and evidence of the flight path, such as broken lamp posts.

The remains of crew and passengers on the plane were found and positively identified by DNA. Witnesses also saw the plane strike the Pentagon.

4. The fourth plane - United Airlines flight 93

The question: Why was the crash site at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, so small and why was the aircraft debris not visible?

Conspiracy theorists argue: United Airlines flight 93 was shot down by a missile and disintegrated in mid air, scattering the wreckage over a large area.

The crash site of Flight 93 at Shanksville, Pennsylvania Forty-four people died when Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Official reports say: There are clear photographs showing aircraft wreckage and the cockpit voice recorder, which showed there had been a passenger revolt and the hijackers had deliberately crashed the plane.

Initial theories that heavy debris was scattered many miles from the main crash site turned out to be false. In fact the wind had blown light debris such as paper and insulation just over a mile.

Another theory was based on a misquote from the local coroner, Wally Miller, who said he stopped being a coroner after about 20 minutes because there were no bodies. What he also said was that he quickly realised it was a plane crash and there would have to be a large funeral service for the many victims.

In addition, the military never gave orders to the air force to shoot the commercial airliner down.

5. Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7

The question: How could a skyscraper, which was not hit by a plane, collapse so quickly and symmetrically, when no other steel-framed skyscraper has collapsed because of fire?

The remains of World Trade Center Building 7 Offices for civil emergencies, the CIA and the Secret Service were based in World Trade Center Building 7

Conspiracy theorists say: The World Trade Center Building 7 was destroyed by a controlled demolition using both explosives and incendiaries.

Initially the focus was on the phrase "pull it" used by the owner, Larry Silverstein, in a TV interview. But in fact he was talking about pulling firefighters back. (Demolition experts do not use the term "pull it" as slang for setting off explosives.)

Now the focus has shifted to the speed of the collapse which reached near free fall for 2.25 seconds. It is argued only explosives could make it collapse so quickly and symmetrically.

Some scientists, who are sceptical of the official account, have examined four dust samples from Ground Zero and claim to have found thermitic material which reacts violently when heated up. They claim tonnes of thermite and conventional explosives were rigged inside, not just WTC7, but also the Twin Towers.

Find out more

  • The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 - Ten Years On will be broadcast on Monday 29 August 2011 at 21:00 BST on BBC Two

Official reports say: A three-year investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology concluded that the building collapsed because of uncontrolled fires, started by the collapse of the nearby North Tower, and which burnt for seven hours.

The mains water feeding the emergency sprinkler system was severed. No evidence has ever been found of explosive charges and there are no recordings of a series of very loud explosions that would have been expected with controlled demolition.

Furthermore, there is an alternative explanation for the "thermitic material" the sceptical scientists found in the dust - it is just a type of primer paint. It's calculated 1,200,000 tonnes of building materials were pulverised at the World Trade Center and most minerals are present in the dust (not necessarily in a large quantity). More extensive sampling of the dust has not found any evidence of thermite or explosives, says a report from the US Geological Survey and another from RJ Lee.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    I was taught that if I didn`t understand something, then I should ask questions.
    That`s all over 1500 highly qualified scientists, architects and engineers are doing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Lets have some more crazy conspiracy ideas -

    The Titanic was sunk when it ran into a spaceship
    Archduke Ferdinand was shot by CIA agents
    Prince Philip is head of a secret organisation planning to make the USA to make it a colony again

    No matter what proof of the stupidity of some conspiracies is put forward, all that does is convince the nutters that there is a continuing conspiracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    offline wrote - "People don't like conspiracy theories because they are scarey"

    Actually, it's because they are idiotic and backed by fantasy, not fact.

    People should check out abovetopsecret dot com. It's a conspiracy website populated mostly by the IQ challenged. It's a funny read at times, otherwise quite sad...

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    The official explanation stinks. Loose Change seems somewhat sensationalist and inaccurate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQgVCj7q49o seems to show evidence presented by rational people (not conspiracy theorists) using the scientific method. I want to believe the 'official truth' but there is too much real scientific evidence to the contrary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    All I can suggest to anyone who believes in the conspiracy theories is to grab a copy of 'Believeing Bulls**t: How not to get sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole' by Stephen Law. Then read it carefully and do a quick check on the conspiracy 'evidence'. I think you will find most of it falls under 'piling on the anecdotes', 'pseudoprofundity', 'playing the mystery card' and 'blunderbuss'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.


    the math is simple GSE!:- you just have to want to take a look and be bothered to do it yourself YOU DONT EVEN HAVE TO TRUST THE SO CALLED EXPERTS from whatever side.


  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Many years ago, the Empire State was hit by a USAAC bomber (a B25, I think) and didn't collapse. Maybe modern skyscrapers should be built that way too :-)
    The main thing that bothers me is the Pentagon crash. I've never seen any footage of the engine cores of the aeroplane. Look at any crash of a modern jet airliner and the engine cores seem to be indestructible, no matter how violent the crash

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    This story is shocking. Mike Rudin has not done his home work. All you would really need to do is look on YouTube to see any of the real conspiracy theories. This articular is laughably from the first report. It was not a "routine military training exercise". It was ordered to be performed by Dick. And they had warning of the hijack at leas 6 months in advance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    Its amazing how many clever people there are on this site who have their eyes closed, and want to stay oblivious to any other point of veiw.

    Look at the physics, it cant lie.

    Plenty of engineers and scientists dont agree with the official story.

    Wake up people, and be scared, very scared.

    Its all happened before, false flag is not new, The Vietnam war was started on the back of a lie,

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    I actually blame the 24hour news stations for the rise of conspiracy theories. With any incident you need time to assess what is actually happening but the rush to be "On the scene" as quickly as possible means a lot of the "news" becomes hearsay or speculation which people hear and then when it isn't repeated they think there is a conspiracy. The truth is out there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    @318. This Is England
    Thank you! It's hard work this reality malarkey!

    Oh! You were trying to say that earthquakes don't cause buildings to collapse which is proof that the collapses that happened on 9/11 were caused by explosives? Sorry my tin foil hat wasn't on correctly. I couldn't make the 'mental' connection needed to see the 'truth'. Quakes do a different type of damage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Although, I think that the planning and execution of such an attack by the US government was simply too complicated to be carried out without leaving traces, I am quite convinced that the Bush administration simply allowed it to happen, as indeed, it has been very helpful in the pursuit of their agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    Over 1,500 architects and engineers have studied the collapses and are convinced that the official story is wrong (www.ae911truth.org) You are free to hold any opinion you choose, but unless you have studied the data your opinion is no more secure than that of a creationist. The evidence points supports one view, faith and name-calling supports another.

    Official believer = fundamentalist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    force94 - post 308. Governments are bad at keeping secrets? What about the 30 year rule we have here in the UK? On the eve of the Freedom of Information Act a few years ago, it was highlighted on the news, that government departments were up all night shredding documents!!!! You might peer through rose coloured spectacles, but I don't. The Iraq war was based on lies and most of us knew it then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    1/ The 'routine' drill that was taking place was an exact simulation of hijacked planes being flown into the twin towers...Every high military official who would have been involved have died in accidents since the event. Some in train crashes, some in plane crashes etc.
    What about building 7?...google wtc7
    The truth will come out eventually, and the world will change again. for the better!

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.



    its about seeing the bigger picture! if you see goverments as fronts and PMs and presidents as puppets then the fog lifts.

    the question then is who is CONTROLING THINGS or trying to?


  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    gravelrash - balderdash more like. The FACT that terrorists orchestrated & performed these atrocities may have been a conspiracy on their part but facts are not mere theories. Nice try though.

    I barely believe a word that politicians say but the facts here far outweigh the conspiracy theories. The theories themselves are flimsy, wishful & akin to holocaust denial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    ...I wish the BBC would explain why they reported the collapse of building 7 23 minutes before it actually did. And why they reporters involved 'can't remember' what happened. Reporters not remembering what happened on September 11 2001???

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    With elastomeric (rubber) joints between the outer ends of the floor joists and the outer support panels, the steel does not need to fracture for those joints for fail in the heat of that fire, all that is necessary is that the rubber melts or burns and the thermally induced distortion of the steel structure does the rest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Nixon couldn't cover up Watergate and some of you people think Bush could have pulled this off? I am surprised that you think the US Military and Intelligence Services could have done this and such an amazingly effective cover up. Have we ever seen evidence of them being anywhere near that good? "Mess up" theory of history much more likely as we have seen many times before.


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