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The military's equipment was also outdated and designed to look out over the ocean to deal with a Cold War threat.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 675.

    Check out the lowest rated comments .... interesting ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.

    9/11 was carried out by Pakistan's ISI Inter-Services Intelligence to force US Government to fight the Taliban with their money and resources.

  • rate this

    Comment number 673.

    # 589.Some other person with a comment

    Conspiracy theorists - lazy thinking fools, who sheepishly follow others on the lunatic fringe

    The lazy thinking fools are the ones who believe everything the Gov spouts without question.

    Do you still believe the Gov when they say the economy is in a recovery. While you had your head in the sand I piled into Gold & Silver.

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    Now this cute Utube clip throws a spanner in the works 'cos it talks about "molten steel at 'ground zero' bubbling hot 21 days AFTER the attack! And then clips of grey suits masquerading as scientist, first acknowledging then denying there eye witness account!


  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    Shift That Paradigm
    6 Minutes ago

    It is said that 2.3 TRILLION dollars went missing from the Pentagon just prior to 9-11. Google.

    Another misrepresentation of facts in evidence : please research the subject fully, to get the real story that a few people in US Government had stated that trillions was wasted in the budget, not "missing".

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    its fairly obvious who it wasnt, in much the same way its its fairly obivous who didnt assinate JFK,so rule out the magic bullet notion,i doubt the "planes would have had any magic properties either,simply examine the evidence found around the building,look at the way the buildings ruins imploded outwards,the answer lies within the building,thats where all this began on the ground.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    Experts: Perhaps you should climb down out of your ivory towers and stop acting all hoighty-toighty like, then people might be more willing to accept your pesky evidence and facts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    Can anyone explain the weirdly burnt cars near the base of the towers?
    The lack of rubble?
    Molten steel days/weeks after the event?

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    Sadly he died last month when his car hit a tree."

    It is sad he has died, and I'm sure he was very good at demolition, but a company website bigging up a business is not the same thing as being independently recognised as an expert in a given field. Doubtless you will disagree, but there we go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    The BBC is simply supporting the results of the USA Official Non-investigation. There was explosive residue found ! And who actually profited by the fiasco ? Larry Silverstein , that's who.

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    Truthers: Be sure to include lots of links to "evidence" your "facts". Everyone knows the internet is heavily regulated and it's almost impossible to set up a web site saying any old nonsense you want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    641. Some other person with a comment
    Lots of nutters in here today...
    Going through the old "see this link, it has proof" diatribe.

    So sad to see how stupid humanity has become. The net was supposed to liberate and educate, instead people use it as a tool to keep bad ideas alive, and destroy their own minds.

    Signing off. Have fun!!!

    Nothing more to say, except ditto.

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    Drones will try to mix in aliens, snake people and tin foil hats with anyone who doesn't agree with the official report. This is standard propaganda the drones cant help it. Some people just cant think for themselves. Where would any country be without drones? It wouldn't be pretty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    5 Hours ago

    ".......There is video footage of pre collapse explosions comming from the base of WTC 1&2."

    No there isn't. If there was then we would all have seen it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    aske ten witnesses of an event for a version of the event and you can get ten different answers .The fact is that a large number of people lost their lives and it seems to me to be wrong to glorify this by self serving fake stories . The steel structure does not need to melt it only needs to be soften to lose it's strength steel can fail at relatively low temperatures .

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    Divide and rule is what terrororists; extremists of all politics and religions thrive upon to feed their egos for power/money - and of course those soldier ants behind the scenes?

    Yes, I am deeply cynical of politics/religions = corruption as they are both run by people. What I do believe, is that too many good people are under-estimated and unrepresented, globally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    The problem with the 9/11 conspiracy theories is that they distract from far more fundamental issues such as the fact that the once US armed the very Islamic extremists who ended up attacking them.

    It's as if people need a convenient fairy story to avoid having to confront the much bigger political and cultural flaws that allowed this to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    It is said that 2.3 TRILLION dollars went missing from the Pentagon just prior to 9-11. Google.

    That might be able to buy an awful amount of silence...

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    I wonder how many who deride "conspiracy theorists" are religious. Because that is the biggest conspiracy of all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    There are those who take incomplete facts and create narratives. These are called conspiracy theorists and lazy 'official report' writers. Both deserve our contempt.

    If you say there is no conspiracy without being able to explain the holes in the official versions, you're just as bad as the conspiracy theorists.

    You earn the right to dismiss the conspiracy theorists only when you know all facts.


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