In the days immediately after Sept. 11, while most of the country was reeling from shock, some people out there were wondering what really happened.
When the government said evidence pointed to Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, other voices wondered why investigators weren't looking in other directions.
Couldn't those supposed Arabs seen on airport security videos checking onto flights just as easily have been Israelis? Couldn't it all have been a Jewish plot to trick the United States into a war against Israel's enemies?
In the months since, more and more evidence has been produced by investigators in the United States and around the world linking Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network to the attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington and western Pennsylvania.
But it hasn't put an end to the conspiracy theories — they have just changed direction — and new ones keep popping up. And these are not the usual voices of doubt and dissent calling on the government to reconsider its foreign policy, or pick its allies more carefully, or even those who say the U.S. government bears a kind of moral responsibility for what happened on Sept. 11 because of the mistakes of the past.
There are voices popping up on Internet Web sites, in chatrooms and making the rounds in e-mail chains — even some conspiracy theorists who are packing hundreds of people into lecture halls — saying that evidence points to some direct level of involvement in the attacks by the U.S. government. And this at a time when an unprecedented numbers of Americans have rallied behind the government.
Where’s the Plane?
There is no smoking gun in any of the theories, but plenty of innuendo in schemes that run the gamut. Here is just a small sampling:
Bush's decision to go ahead with an announced public appearance on the morning of Sept. 11, after he must have been informed that planes had been crashed into the World Trade Center, shows he knew of the attack plans before that morning and knew he would not be a target for the hijackers.
Photographs of the Pentagon that morning and of the cleanup afterwards show that no plane crashed into the building because there was no debris from a jet and the damaged area of the building was too small — it had to have been a bomb planted inside to destroy the Office of Naval Intelligence, which would never have accepted the administration's story about who was behind the attacks in New York.
Or maybe an unmanned fighter jet, radio controlled and flying at a low angle, crashed into the Pentagon. (In these scenarios it's never clear what happened to American Airlines Flight 77 and the 64 people on board.)
The reason the tapes from the cockpit recorders of the four hijacked planes have not been released is because the voices they record are not human, but the voices of aliens.
Even a congresswoman seems bitten by the bug, and wants an investigation into what President Bush knew and when he knew it — because so many of his friends have profited so handsomely from the resulting U.S. actions.
The National Character
Though at first glance it may seem strange that there should still be people looking for Sept. 11 villains besides bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, people who have studied conspiracy theories over the years say it is perfectly natural, and even a fundamental part of the American character.