Major international news events draw conjecture, debate and conspiracy - the September 11th attacks are no different.
As the immediate aftermath of the fatal attacks began to subside, examination of footage and reports brought with it many who believed there was something more to the 9/11 atrocities. Here is a selection of commonly circulated conspiracy theories that have been analysed and re-analysed for the last decade.
‘Controlled explosions’ destroyed the Twin Towers
Theorists claim that slow motion footage of the Twin Towers collapsing shows discrepancies in blasts emanating from the building. Citing smaller collapses seen from the tower, they believe that multiple explosives ultimately caused the downfall of the Trade Centre buildings - rather than the plane collisions.
This ‘controlled demolition’ was rumoured to have occurred as many doubt that plane fuel could melt the steel frames of the two towers. Government officials debunked the theory by pointing out that demolitions explode from the ground floor up, whereas the Trade Centre collapse occurred from top to bottom.
Claims that debris was seen blowing out of windows was evidence of explosive charges were also proven to be unfounded as experts identified this as air and light office contents being forced out of windows as floors collapsed on top of each other.
Wall Street traders knew about the attacks before they occurred
A number of transactions recorded a week before 9/11 were flagged by conspirers to be unusual - leading them to come to the conclusion that Wall Street traders had forewarning of the impending attacks. These ‘tip offs’ were rumoured to have come from terrorists hitching high stakes on a number of American firms to see their shares fall. Effectively the conspiracy suggests that traders ‘knew’ about the attacks and planned to make a lot of money from the tragedy.
United Airlines had 90 times more ‘put outs’ on the Thursday before the attack than usual, ABC news reported. American Airlines had similar stock movements, both airlines having a plane hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Centre that Monday. ABC claimed that Morgan Stanley and Marsh & Mclennan, firms that had offices in the Twin Towers, also saw a large amount of market betting placed against them the week before the attacks.
Although figures persuaded many that there was something more to Wall Street trading a week before the attacks, official inquests found that the dealings were coincidental and “innocuous”.
US military were told to ‘stand down’
Of the four planes hijacked on September 11, two hit the World Trade Centre, one hit the Pentagon and another crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted the regain control of the airliner. Many have speculated on the inability of the US military to act on these four attacks that killed an estimated 3,000 people.
Most radically, some suggest the Air Force were told to ‘stand down’ either as a mistake or through intent to allow the attacks to occur. The North American Aerospace Defence Command [NORAD) is the entity with the responsibility to safeguard US and Canadian skies, with the power to order a ‘shoot down’ from fighter jets.
Reports following the attacks revealed that NORAD had actually prepared for a similar incident two years before 9/11, simulating airliner ‘shoot downs’ over the Atlantic. So why the failure to act? NORAD said that the short notice they received of the hijacked planes made it impossible to act, blaming the Federal Aviation Agency for a lack of information.
An intentional ‘stand down’ order was dismissed as speculation by the US government, although the theory still remains popular among 9/11 conspiracists.
Crashed airliners were ‘government planes’
A more obscure 9/11 theory asserted that planes that crashed into the Twin Towers were in fact government craft instead of commercial airliners. These claims were founded on the eyewitness report of freelance photojournalist Marc Birnbach who said he did not see any windows on United Airlines Flight 175 – the plane that hit the Trade Centre south tower.
Internet theorists backed this with low resolution images and videos of the crash, intended to prove that the attacks were not the work of terrorists. This assumption was quickly dispelled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] who found wreckage from Flight 175 which proved the fuselage was that of a commercial airliner with passenger windows.
Pentagon damage ‘too small’ for plane crash
Looking at images of the Pentagon following the Flight 77 crash on September 11, some people claimed that damage caused was much less than expected. Though the crash killed 189 people, only one of the Pentagon’s five sides is moderately damaged – the rest of the structure is intact. Many questioned the small hole in the Pentagon’s exterior, pointing out discrepancies between the damage caused and the size of the Boeing 757 jet.
A report issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers [ASCE] revealed that this damage was consistent with the 124ft wingspan of the airliner, as the wings would have not directly blasted through the Pentagon structure. The ASCE found that one of Flight 77’s wings hit the floor before impact while the other was broken off by the Pentagon’s load bearing columns – debunking the theory that the Pentagon was hit by a missile or smaller government jet.