What Is Your HOP Level? Scenarios of What May Have Happened on 9/11

I hope readers will find that this old piece of mine remains relevant as a guide today.

By Nicholas Levis

(Original April 1, 2004 - revised May 2006)

Of the attempts to categorize 9/11 theories I've seen, some beg questions or unfairly characterize what people think. Most are simply vague in their terms. I have tried to do better with the following list of nine graduated options, which I believe fairly describe the differing opinions people actually have (short of those who believe in divine or extraterrestrial intervention). This remains a mental exercise, but I hope it helps sharpen our logic.


Nineteen hijackers planned 9/11 and carried it out using knives and mace to hijack the flights, without requiring any help from outside the Bin Ladin/al-Qaeda terror-cell networks. Despite the indirect warnings and predictions from investigators and counterterrorism experts, the U.S. government prior to Sept. 11th did not acquire or synthesize any intelligence useful enough to prevent the attacks. In fact, it makes sense that the attacks were not prevented, since the terrorists took advantage of our free society and weaknesses in the system. In other words, the opposition should stop trying to use 9/11 against Bush or anyone else. 9/11 skeptics merely discredit themselves.


Accepting the official story, this option adds the likelihood that the failures to prevent or defend against 9/11 were due to incompetence, or even criminal negligence on the part of the White House, FBI, CIA, NSA and/or other intelligence and law enforcement agencies. It is unthinkable that US government operatives intended to allow the attacks, or would have consciously failed to act on specific foreknowledge. Those who suggest this are either crazy or outrageously beyond the pale. Nevertheless 9/11 is still worth investigating to clear up where the failures lie, especially so that the government can provide better protection in the future and wage a more effective War on Terrorism.

This was the tacit line of the Kean Commission, although The 9/11 Commission Report found failures only at the middle and lower levels of civilian agencies like the FBI and FAA. During their tenure, the commissioners repeatedly emphasized that they were not looking to assign blame. Wesley Clark, Carolyn Maloney and a few other Democratic Party politicians have voiced a more controversial variant of this hypothesis, suggesting that the failures were at a high level and ultimately lead back to Bush and his incompetent leadership. This approach is usually coupled with an emphatic promotion of the "War on Terrorism," calls for stricter "Homeland Security," and a tactical critique of the Iraq war as a distraction from the real mission of destroying al-Qaeda.


As in choice 1, the U.S. was blindsided. But a far greater and more active role than until now admitted was played by influential Saudi fundamentalists, at least in financing and lending support to al-Qaeda. The Bushies don't want that to get out, because it will make them look bad given their long history of doing personal business with Arab oil interests. That is why Bush and Co. obstructed the 9/11 inquiries, and the administration may have also called off FBI terror investigations prior to Sept. 11 as a favor to their Saudi clients. Although they may have recklessly facilitated the attacks, the Bushies would have acted to prevent them - that is, if they had been smart enough to figure out what was coming in advance.

This is more or less the view of Greg Palast in his book, "The Best Government Money Can Buy," and of Michael Moore in the film "Fahrenheit 9/11." It is also the underlying philosophy of the lawsuits brought against Saudi interests by lawyers representing September 11th families. Senator Bob Graham, who co-directed the congressional 9/11 investigation of 2002, has since identified Saudi Arabia as home to the financial interests supporting al-Qaeda; although he has steadfastly failed to mention the far more explosive Pakistani connection.


In early 2001, Bush & Co. looked away from the possibility of a terrorist attack, lowered the intensity of Bin Laden investigations, and sent aid to Afghanistan. All this was done to facilitate back-channel diplomacy with the Taliban. But when the Taliban refused to accept a unity government and a pipeline deal, the US told them that they had a choice between "a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs." Al-Qaeda ended up striking the United States just before Bush would have struck at the Taliban. This is the line of Dasquie and Brisard's best-selling book, "The Forbidden Truth."

Many researchers, such as Paul Thompson of the Complete 9/11 Timeline, focus more closely on the role of the Pakistani military and in particular the intelligence agency ISI, which fathered the Taliban in the 1990s and until 2001 maintained close ties to al-Qaeda as well as to the CIA. Even according to the official story, Pakistan was the geographic center of planning and logistics for the 9/11 plot. Furthermore, the ISI appears to have financed the alleged hijackers directly. Researchers who focus on the Pakistani Connection hypothesize that the ISI carried out a double cross, or else served as a sub-contractor to another intelligence agency (possibly the CIA) in organizing the hijackers for the attacks.

4 WISHING FOR PEARL HARBOR ("Letting It Happen")

Bush & Co. intentionally looked the other way in early 2001, expecting and hoping an attack would happen so that they could push through the otherwise infeasible world-domination plans they themselves laid out in their "Project for a New American Century." The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were prepared well in advance of September 11th. Administration members knew vaguely that an al-Qaeda attack was coming; they may have even provoked it (as in choice 3a), and they made sure that it would not be prevented. But they did not directly assist the attacks, or do anything to incriminate themselves. (Adherents of this view often surmise that administration members were surprised at how horrible the actual attacks were, and shocked by the collapses of the WTC towers.)

This position is popular at "Democratic Underground," as a default for those who suspect LIHOP but who think the evidence is too thin.

LIHOP = "Letting It Happen On Purpose"

As in the official story, hijackers were dispatched by "al-Qaeda" (the Bin Laden-inspired cell networks) to carry out the 9/11 plan. However, Bush & Co. and/or other elements within the U.S. government, secret services or establishment knew about the attacks in advance and worked to ensure they would happen, with the intent of exploiting a New Pearl Harbor. This insider help may have included protection of the alleged hijackers, obstruction of FBI investigations, a standdown of air defense, an intentional leadership AWOL during the attacks, and possible construction of other excuses for inaction, such as "we were only holding a wargame and it was subverted by evildoers." This is the minimum position of Michael Ruppert, David Ray Griffin, and the mainstream of the 9/11 truth movement.

VARIANT 5a, LIHOP PLUS: The insiders took additional steps to guarantee that the 9/11 plot would succeed (why leave something so important in the hands of amateurs?), for example by infiltrating and helping out the hijackers, possibly even replacing them with loyal doubles or steering the planes (or drones) by remote control, or doing whatever else was thought necessary.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I think the likeliest hypothesis is of an inside job that exploited a "genuine" terrorist plot. Sometime between the Bojinka Plot of 1996 and 9/11 itself, the original Islamic-extremist dream of crashbombing planes into American targets was subverted and then steered to fruition by masterminds within the US power elite. This is the logical way to leave a robust trail of evidence pointing to the patsies. The perfect plot would produce a patsy who sincerely believed he had himself committed the crime - like Marinus van der Lubbe, the man who went proudly to his execution for burning down the German Reichstag (parliament) in 1933, although there is no realistic doubt the Nazis themselves set the fire.

MIHOP = "Making It Happen On Purpose"

There were no hijackers. The whole thing was planned long before 2001 and finally executed as an inside job by elements within the US intel apparatus and/or the Bush mob. They created the false-flag excuses, using patsies or a completely fake list of perpetrators. The planes were likely flown by remote control, or were replaced in mid-flight by drones. Wargames mimicking the actual attacks were held on Sept. 11 so as to confuse the majority of the military and provide a back-up cover story. The whole thing might as well have been Made in Hollywood, and was in fact pre-figured in Hollywood productions such as "The Lone Gunmen" pilot episode of March 2001, "The Siege" (1998), "The Long Kiss Goodnight" (1996) and other films. In fact, such movies may have been used consciously as propaganda preparation. This is the conclusion of author Mamadou Chinyelu, Webster Tarpley, John Leonard and others.

NWO = "New World Order"

Same as Northwoods 2001, but the master plotters are not just "elements within the US" but the global ruling elite - a hardcore faction of which decided, as a group, to orchestrate an incident allowing them to gain greater control of the world Zeitgeist. 9/11 allows their proxies to seize key resources, reshape the world, drop the democratic facades and transition to open corporate feudalism. Planetary depopulation is one of the likely ultimate goals. The Bush mob are lower-order handmaidens, who may not have been privy to the details of 9/11 in advance. The real players steered the propaganda before and after 9/11 to make it work. This is the approach of Chaim Kupferberg, Michel Chossudovsky and Don Paul.


Bush & Co. themselves were blindsided by super right-wing elements within the U.S. mil/intel complex, who effectively attempted or even succeeded in staging a coup. This is how I interpret the views of LaRouche and his followers, Thierry Miessan, and others; Tarpley also tends in this direction.

NOTE ON DEMOLITIONS: Scenarios 5a to 8, all of which qualify as "Inside Job Theories," may or may not include the idea that the WTC buildings were brought down by pre-planted explosives. While the demolition theory (for those who believe in it) is considered to prove that 9/11 was an inside job, one can easily believe in an inside job without requiring demolitions. Those who make the case for inside job with demolition generally focus on two possible sets of motives. One is based in the theory of psychological operations ("psyops"): the downright biblical vision of collapsing towers generates an even greater shock than the plane hits. It traumatizes the hundreds of millions who see it live or on television, making them far more susceptible to the mental programming of a new enemy image and a perpetual "War on Terror." The other set of motives draws from the pedestrian world of material gains: the buildings were obsolete and full of asbestos, and an orderly disposal would have cost billions; the owners made a killing on the insurance; the destruction stimulates a later re-development of Manhattan; the damaging records stored in WTC 7 were destroyed; etc.


Various theories, usually pushed by lone crusaders, have mixed and matched to lay the primary blame on China, Russia, German Nazis, or other, sometimes bizarre combinations, in one case even suggesting the Canadian government was directly involved in circumventing North American air defenses. The most important of the third-state theories so far was the one pushed by Cheney and many of his neoconservative allies, who posited a direct Iraqi connection. Although they have mostly ceased promoting this idea, it had a fateful impact as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Opinion surveys still show consistently that many Americans think the Saddam Hussein regime was involved in the September 11th events.

Otherwise the most common third-state theory lays the primary blame with Israel or, more vaguely, "the Zionists" who are purported to run the US government. Eric Hufschmid and Christopher Bollyn have advanced the view that Israel was not merely complicit in a larger US-run plot, but provided the actual origination in blind-siding the US government so as to engender a world war between Islam and the West, and orchestrate the destruction of Israel's Arab enemies. This idea of "Israel MIHOP" appears to be widespread in the Arab world.

If you still think the primary locus of the plot was within the U.S. military-intelligence apparatus, go to choices 5 to 7. For Saudi Arabia or Taliban, go to choice 3. For al-Qaeda as a network acting alone without support from any state, go to choices 1 or 2.


I am leaving it out of this post because it's got editorial content. The above nine are sincere attempts to fairly summarize the various positions, without employing strawman tactics.

This is....


"So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."

Richard Cheney - Chief Executive Of Halliburton

Now is that a criticism?

"This is a thought, as old as it's true
Not all that is worth is clever or new"

"Truth is not measured in mass appeal."

Not a legitimate one...

But I remember when you first wrote it.

"So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."

Richard Cheney - Chief Executive Of Halliburton

I remember it too.

Reasonably well. Just pass the Maker's.

Anyway, I hope to encourage some clarity in the definitions...

"Truth is not measured in mass appeal."

To comment on this...

Legitimately... after reading through this, again, instead of reading like different points of view, from my experience, it reads more like a progression. I can relate to every one of those points (except for the latter ones, not including 10) at one time or another in my studies of 9/11 Truth.

"So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."

Richard Cheney - Chief Executive Of Halliburton


More than four years after the attacks, the 9/11 research community still has yet to establish genuine peer review and a common data base, and seems incapable of resisting a number of persistent, long-ago discredited errors and exaggerations. (To cite just a few representative examples of the apocrypha cluttering the writings of many a 9/11 skeptic: The Magic Passport of an alleged hijacker, reportedly found by a policeman at the WTC during the actual attacks, was attributed to Satam al-Suqami, not Mohamed Atta. Tom Kenney's FEMA team, firefighters from Massachussetts, were sent to New York on Tuesday, and not on "Monday" (Sept. 10) as he misspoke on CBS. The only evidence that Condoleezza Rice delivered the Sept. 10th "no-fly" warning to Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco was an anonymous caller to a radio show. Marvin Bush did not direct or oversee the security system at the World Trade Center; he was a shareholder in a relatively minor security contractor.)

Some have rushed to describe complete scenarios of given events that seem to incorporate all facts, but are still unlikely and unprovable. Researchers, citizens and even lawmakers lack the power to subpoena records, or to call up witnesses who could answer the relevant questions. The government has destroyed and suppressed evidence and intimidated whistleblowers, and appears all too happy to see 9/11 shrouded in layers of fog and dust. Many actors have their own reasons to pump out misinformation, including: agencies of the U.S. and other countries; officials looking to cover themselves or score points; the corporate and many within the grassroots media; opportunist authors; and, possibly, phony whistleblowers and witnesses. The worst impulse is to declare the case closed for one's favorite scenario, in advance of actually having the evidence in hand.

As genuine skeptics we must keep probing and correcting and we must, obviously, keep fighting for independent investigation and disclosure - even as we work on larger political strategies to deal with the reality that the US government will never disclose the full truth of 9/11, until the people force the issue.

I don't necessarily agree with the idea that we "don't know". We definitely have enough circumstantial evidence to list suspects. We definitely know who lied to us about certain things. We definitely know enough about who has benefitted the most from the attacks.

"So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."

Richard Cheney - Chief Executive Of Halliburton