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9/11 conspiracy theories: the alternative accounts of September 11

No planes, controlled demolitions, holograms and missiles – just some of the theories surrounding 9/11.

Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade Centre on 9/11.
Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade Centre on 9/11.
Image: AP Photo/Chao Soi Cheong/FILE/PA

FOR TEN YEARS, a growing number of conspiracy theorists have been calling for new investigations into the 9/11 attacks and for certain information to be reconsidered – or considered at all – in a review of the official account of the day’s events.

Groups such as the 911 Truth Movement question why the Twin Towers collapsed, why Tower 7 of the World Trade Centre collapsed, what struck the Pentagon building in Virginia, and whether any planes were actually involved in the attacks at all.

Here is an overview of the main theories concerning the events of 9/11 – each category has several variations. (Note: TheJournal.ie cannot support nor dismiss any of the proposals listed below).

Controlled demolitions

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) account of the destruction of the Twin Towers says that steel support structures within the buildings likely melted and buckled under the intense heat caused by the fires within the buildings.

It says that most of the buildings’ weight was being borne by the exterior walls, while the interior core was a hollow steel shaft containing the elevators and stairwells, and that the events of that day went beyond what the builders could have controlled.

The top-down collapse was described as a ‘pancake’ collapse, meaning that one floor came down onto the next from the top of the building towards the ground. According to the 9/11 Commission report, ”No one anticipated the possibility of a total collapse”.

The South Tower, which was the second building struck, collapsed in ten seconds at 9.59am local time and the North Tower went down a half-hour later. World Trade Centre 7 collapsed later that evening.

People challenging the official account claim that the collapse theory it outlines does not explain why the central columns of the building did not stay standing after the floors collapsed and the outer parts of the building fell. There are also accusations that it was US intelligence services who planted the explosives in the base of the buildings.

Physicist Professor Steve Jones has published numerous articles claiming that the only logical cause of the Towers’ collapse was controlled demotion. His research cites eyewitness testimony, studies the formation of dust clouds from the buildings and the speed of the buildings’ collapse. He also notes that no modern high-rise building had ever collapsed because of a fire.

Jones says physics ‘doesn’t allow’ for a building like the 7 World Trade Centre building to fall as it did that day (in a ‘pancake’ collapse), folding down onto itself without the roof buckling or showing it was striking anything on the way down.

No planes, but holograms and missiles

The theory that no planes were actually used in the 9/11 attacks found its greatest proponent in David Shayler, a man who claimed to have worked for MI5. Shayler has also been involved in the 7/7 conspiracy movement which claims that the London bombings were actually a power surge that was covered up by the government, police and intelligence service.

In 2005, Shayler claimed that the 9/11 attacks were not carried out using planes, but that holograms were set up to make it look as though planes were involved. He says that without a forensic investigation of all of the rubble, it is impossible to determine what really happened that day, but he believes that controlled demolition or missiles were used.

Shayler says that although he initially thought the attacks were down to ‘incompetence’ by US intelligence, he later began to think that the CIA, State Department and FBI saw an opportunity to use Islamic terrorism as a front to carry out an attack that would lead to the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, critics of the accounts of planes striking the Pentagon question how the civilian plane passed through the Pentagon’s security system and claim that there is no concrete evidence of a plane having struck the building. Instead, a missile is believed to have struck the building.

According to the official account of the crash, the impact of the plane and resulting fire led to the destruction of much of the aircraft itself, and eyewitnesses report seeing the plane over the Pentagon and of seeing the bodies killed in the incident.

For more information on groups challenging the official accounts of 9/11, see WTC7, 911 Truth and Scholars for 911 Truth. The 9/11 Commission Report can be found online here and FEMA’s report can be downloaded here.

Column: Why conspiracy theories are still alive, ten years after 9/11 >

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