Measure up your theories against this clever write-up.

Shooting down the best of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

Updated Sun. Sep. 10 2006 1:49 PM ET

Michael Stittle, News

The first strike was a surprise, but when the second jetliner struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, dozens of cameras recorded the explosion. The world's major news organizations, alerted after the first plane hit, watched carefully. But in the chaos it was difficult to make sense of the attack, or even know that an attack had occurred.

Details emerged slowly. Structural engineers and other experts started investigating how the towers fell, until conjecture became fact: fuel heated the buildings' steel support columns, weakening the beams until the floors sagged and collapsed.

Yet five years after the terrible event, some believe there is more to the story -- that the official version of events is wrong. Just days before the anniversary, Steven Jones, a professor of physics at Brigham Young University in Utah, was suspended on paid leave because he argued explosives brought down the towers.

Conspiracy theories, many accusing the United States government of orchestrating the attacks, grew in popularity. A documentary called Loose Change, collecting these theories and stating them as the truth, became a underground hit on Google's online video website and

A message on the documentary's official website declares: "IT IS EVERYONE'S DUTY TO VIEW THIS FILM!"

According to a July survey conducted by the Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, 36 per cent of Americans felt it was "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either knew of the attacks and did nothing -- or even helped in the attacks -- because they wanted to start a war in the Middle East.

9/11 conspiracy theorists purport to use eyewitness accounts, expert analysis and photographic evidence to back their claims. Generally, they examine mysterious inconsistencies in the official version of events - specifically, how the Pentagon and World Trade Center were damaged and destroyed.

Here is an analysis of the major theories, and how they are proven wrong:

World Trade Center: Explosives, not planes, destroyed the towers

Conspiracy theorists like Jones, the Utah physical professor, argue the towers collapsed at about a free-fall speed -- the same time it would take an apple to hit the ground after being dropped from the top floor.

Footage of the event shows it took nine seconds for the north tower to fall, and 11 seconds for the south tower.

The argument is that the towers should have slowly fallen down, instead of quickly collapsing like a building destroyed by an expert demolitions team. Therefore, explosives were placed inside the building beforehand and detonated. In fact, moments before each floor collapsed, a flash of light could be seen, likely from a blast.

Even stranger, American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower first, more than 15 minutes before United Airlines flight 175 exploded into the south tower. Both planes were Boeing 767s, with the same mass and presumably the same speed and force of impact. And yet, the south tower fell first.

Further evidence the planes did not bring down the towers is that their burning jet fuel would have had little effect on the buildings' integrity. Steel melts at an extremely high temperature of about 1,500 degrees Celsius, but jet fuel has a maximum temperature of 1,100 degrees Celsius.

Why this is wrong:

The idea that the planes did not destroy the towers is so prevalent that the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a detailed scientific explanation to refute the claim.

NIST studied the collapse for three years, using 200 technical experts -- from the institute itself, the private sector and the academic world. Together, they surveyed a massive amount of data, including videos of the collapse, eyewitnesses accounts and 236 steel fragments.

According to the institute's findings, the towers collapsed for two reasons:

First, the impact of the planes damaged the buildings' structural integrity. The south tower was hit second but was the first to collapse, because Flight 175 hit the building's corner, creating a major imbalance. Flight 11 hit the middle of the north tower, leaving the corners in far better shape.

Second, in some areas of the towers, the temperature of the spilled jet fuel was as hot as 1,000 degrees Celsius. The intense heat added stress to already weakened floors, which sagged inward and added weight to the support columns.

When conspiracy theorists argue the jet fuel was not hot enough to melt the towers' steel columns, they are correct. But the towers did not collapse because the steel melted, they collapsed because the columns, already damaged by the jetliners' collision, softened and warped under the heat, until they buckled and the floors collapsed.

The planes also broke water pipes connecting the emergency water sprinkler systems. But even if the sprinklers had worked after the planes hit, they would have done little to lessen the severity of so much inflamed jet fuel, spread over an estimated 40,000 square feet.

As for why the buildings fell so quickly, the answer is simple: when the top floors collapsed, they carried so much weight that the lower floors had absolutely no resistance to the force.

As Thomas Eager, a professor of materials science at MIT, told the Washington Post: "At first, I thought it was amazing that the buildings would come down in their own footprints. Then I realized that it wasn't that amazing -- it's the only way a building that weighs a million tons and is 95 percent air can come down."

When eyewitnesses claim to have heard explosions prior to the collapse, these just the sounds of a massive building contorting and crushing anything inside. And flashes of light that seemed to indicate bombs detonating were not explosions. They were pockets of airs being forced out of windows as the sagging floors pushed downward.

The Pentagon: A missile, not a plane

Still images captured after the Pentagon was struck show a small hole in the side of the outer ring wall - too small for a Boeing 757 to have crashed through the wall.

There were also seemingly no large aircraft parts recovered from the wreckage of American Airlines Flight 77. In fact, photographs of the scene show very few aircraft parts anywhere.

And what about the wings? Shouldn't the impact from a jetliner leave not just a narrow hole, but heavy damage on either?

Instead, conspiracy theorists claim missile blew through the Pentagon, or perhaps a smaller plane, like a jet. Either one could have knocked a neat hole through several walls of concrete and steel, but not a massive jetliner.

The U.S. government has not helped its case: it was only until 2006 that the justice department released two videos, recorded on Pentagon security cameras, that show Flight 77 hitting the building. The videos were only released after a group called Judicial Watch requested the footage using the Freedom of Information Act.

Both videos can be seen here.

But the videos are a poor document of the attack. The actual collision only appears in two frames, because the plane was traveling at 530 miles per hour (853 kilometres per hour) when it hit.

Worse, with the angle of the videos, all sense of scale is lost. In the foreground, a passing car takes up most of the screen. The object hitting the Pentagon occurs in the background, and it's difficult to determine how large the object is in relation to the five-story building.

Why this is wrong:

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) examined the Pentagon damage between September 2001 and April 2002. When the group's investigators arrived at the scene, much of the material and wreckage had already been removed as workers struggled to keep the outer ring from collapsing. This is why photographs show very little wreckage.

But ASCE still had access to crucial evidence like eyewitness accounts, original architectural plans and subsequent renovation designs, and information on what materials were used in the building.

The group was able to determine the actual size of the hole before the building collapsed, by simply looking at which support columns were broken after the plane hit. ASCE measured the hole at 27.5 metres in diameter.

According to Boeing, the measurements of a Boeing 757's wingspan is about 38 metres, while the body's exterior width is 3.7 metres.

According to the ASCE report, neither wing actually penetrated the building, because they were damaged before the plane hit the outer facade. Flight 77 hit the ground before the Pentagon, and much of its left wing likely ripped off or was badly damaged. When it crashed into the building, the other wing shattered on impact, along with the front of the plane.

It was actually the rear body of the plane that passed through the building, after the front opened up a hole. What continued into the Pentagon after the impact were the end sections of the fuselage and the landing-gear -- heavy equipment that must necessarily be durable enough to carry tons of steel as the plane touches down on a runway. The black box, also located near the back of the plane, was recovered from deep inside the building.

The plane also hit a section of the Pentagon that had recently undergone renovations, to make the walls even more blast resistant, along with the windows.

But stronger proof is the forensic evidence that identified 64 people aboard Flight 77, linking DNA of the victims' remains to DNA samples given by family members. Even the hijackers' remains were found, close to where the plane hit the outer wall because they were presumably near the front.

Secrecy or cover-up?

Conspiracy theories surrounding Flight 77 and the Pentagon are fueled by a lack of video footage of the event, and the military's slow response to the attacks. After all, how could the United States possibly allow a jetliner so close to the Defence Department's headquarters?

For some, it may be easier to believe the government planned the attack to gain support for a war in the Middle East, rather than the fact it failed to use the most powerful military in the world to effectively respond to four hijacked planes.

The 9/11 Commission Report, prepared by the National Commission on the Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, shows that various agencies were unable to properly communicate information about the jetliners, especially Flight 77.

The sector of NORAD responsible for monitoring the area of the Pentagon is the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), based in Rome, New York.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, NEADS had access to just four immediately available fighter jets that could take off in a moment's notice: two from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and two from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia.

The Otis jets were first scrambled during the attacks in New York, while the Langely jets were sent just moments before the Pentagon was hit.

Flight 77 lost contact with Federal Flight Administration (FAA) controllers at 8:56 a.m., after hijackers took control and turned off the transponder - a device that tracks the plane through radio signals. The Indianapolis Center was monitoring the flight and had noticed it veer off course, but also lost radar contact. Later investigations found the radar had a software problem, and there was poor radar coverage where Flight 77 was heading.

The radar signal was only restored at 9:05 a.m., just before the hijackers turned Flight 77 east toward the Pentagon. But officials never saw the plane change direction, and lost track of its path. FAA Officials at the Command Center never asked other centers to look for the plane, so it continued unnoticed toward the Pentagon.

It was not until 9:20 a.m. that the Indianapolis Center discovered other planes had been hijacked.

At 9:24, Langely jets were scrambled but mistakenly told that Flight 11 - already a burning wreck inside the World Trade Center - was the plane heading to the Washington, D.C. area. Officials ordered them to find a ghost.

The FAA never mentioned Flight 11 to the military until 9:34 a.m. But by that time it was too late. The Langley jets had earlier been given no real target, so they had followed protocol and were heading due east from Virginia to get out of local airspace traffic, instead of north to the capital.

It was impossible for the pilots to find Flight 77 in time. At 9:37 a.m., the jetliner tore a hole into the Pentagon. The Langely jets were 240 kilometres away.

As the report concludes:

"(The military) had at most one or two minutes to react to the unidentified plane approaching Washington, and the fighters were in the wrong place to be able to help. They had been responding to a report about an aircraft that did not exist."

No matter how much perfume

No matter how much perfume you try to spray on the official story it still ends up smelling like a pile of sh*t ?.
Wonder why that is?


I think that the best way to fight terrorism is to look at why all this has happened. What did we as Americans or rather, our government do to provoke this? Why does everyone hate us so much? Why are we in Iraq? We need to look at how it is that we handle world affairs. We can't bend the rules that we help set up within certain global organizations. We need to change, but in those weeks following the attacks we told the world that we will not change. We need to stop imposing our way of life on others. We need to make a better effort to try to accomodate to the language and customs of the countries that we visit.

What's with the tiny font?

It wrecks the rest of the blog posts.

close the html next time

k? thanks

I sent this to feedback

Did Mr. Stittle overlook something here? In order to shoot down the
first conspiracy theory he non-chalantly broke some fundamental laws
of physics. An hour long diffuse fire of well less than 1000 degrees
celcius would not even begin to weaken the 4 inch thick girders of
this building . Hence, how does the weight alone of the upper floors
simply crash through these extremely strong supports as if they were
not even there?????

Incredible that Mr. Stittle is attempting to sweep this strikingly
obvious fact under the carpet. I've noted that the I.Q. of major
media journalists reporting on this issue is excessively low for some

The fact that these towers fell at free-fall speed cannot be changed,
nor will the laws of physics budge as the result of double talking
lies. I suggest you reconsider your argument, before you are made a