The plot by America’s military bosses was devilish in both design and
intent – to fabricate an outrage against innocent civilians, fool the
world and provide a pretext for war.
In the pentagon, a top secret team drew up a plan to simultaneously
send up two airliners painted and numbered exactly the same, one from a
civil airport in America, the other from a secret military airbase nearby.
from the airport would have military personnel on board who had checked in
as ordinary passengers under false names.
The one from the airbase would be an empty drone, a
remote-controlled unmanned aircraft.
along their joint flight paths, the passenger-carrying plane would drop
below radar height, and disappear, landing back at the airbase and
unloading its occupants in secret.
the drone would have taken up the other plane’s designated course.
High over the island of Cuba, it would be exploded in mid-air after
broadcasting an international distress call that it was under attack from
would be told that a plane load of blameless American holidaymakers had
been deliberately shot down by Fidel Castro’s Communists – and that
the US had no choice but to declare war and topple his regime.
‘agent provocateur’ plan – code named OPERATION NORTHWOODS and
revealed in official archives – dates from 1962 when the Cold War was at
decades later, there are a growing number of people who look back at this
proto-conspiracy and then to the events of 9/11 and see uncanny and
frightening modern parallels.
read Iraq, say these skeptics. For
the dummy airliner, read the Twin Towers in New York.
Northwoods plan is crucial to the argument presented in a hugely
provocative – many would say fantastical – yet, at times, genuinely
disturbing new analysis of 9/11 by two radical British based journalists,
Ian Henshall and Rowland Morgan.
the CIA actively help the hijackers?
they examine various conspiracy theories that suggest the Bush
administration connived in the devastating aerial attacks on New York and
Washington four years ago.
reason? To give Bush the
excuse he wanted to push ahead with his secret, long-held plane to invade
Iraq and capture its oilfields.
shall see. Many of the theories they raise are outlandish in the extreme.
It would be easy to dismiss them as hokum, the invention of
over-active imaginations among those whose instinct is always to find some
way to blame America for the world’s ills.
really supposed to believe that the CIA actively helped the hijackers
succeed – or even that the US government staged the whole attack and
itself murdered thousands of its own citizens?
would say that even in discussing suck notions, we are lending comfort to
terrorists and doing a disservice to the dead.
much of evidence the authors present is undeniably compelling – and
their arguments sound rather less preposterous in the light of OPERATION
NORTHWOODS all those years ago. That
plan was proposed in all seriousness by America’s Joint Chiefs of Staff
in a memo to the Secretary of Defence.
It got as far as the Attorney General – Robert Kennedy, brother
of the president, John Kennedy, before being vetoed.
proof, says Henshall and Morgan, that forces at the top of the US
Government are capable of conceiving a deadly, devious and fraudulent plan
to further their own secret ends – even under such a supposedly ‘nice
guy’ president as JFK.
case, can the idea of a 9/11 plot by those who serve the deeply mistrusted
Bush really be ruled out with total certainty, without at least
considering the arguments?
course, the official explanation for 9/11 is that Al Qaeda just got lucky
that sunny morning in September 2001.
terrorists conducted their attacks without outside help, by this account,
and intelligence and other blunders by the US authorities that contributed
to their terrible success – for example, ignored warnings that an attack
involving aeroplanes was likely, or issuing US entry visas to 19 Islamic
fanatics set on murder – were just that: blunders.
the White House’s version and it was endorsed by a Washington commission
of inquiry under Thomas Kean published last year.
according to Henshall and Morgan, the story is full of gaping holes and
unanswered questions. And the
most startling question, which remains unresolved, they say, is why the
hijackers’ principal target, the two 110-storey towers at the World
Trade Centre in New York crumbled so easily.
who watched each building suddenly cascade into dust and debris in just 20
seconds will ever forget the slow-motion horror.
But now the question is asked: was it all too pat, too neat?
years old, the towers had expressly been built to survive the impact of a
Boeing 707, a plane the same size and carrying as much fuel as the ones
that struck. That they
collapsed after being hit and fell at such speed was unprecedented in the
history of architecture. It
astonished many engineers.
official explanation is known as the Pancake Effect – steel supports
melting in the intense fireball, causing the floors to tumble down on each
problem here is that the heat from the explosions was probably not nearly
as great as people tend to assume.
indeed a lot of kerosene from the aircraft fuel tanks when flight 11 from
Boston hit the North Tower between the 94th and the 98th
floors but pictures show that most of this fireballed outwards.
Experts have questioned whether the fire ever got hot enough to
melt the buildings’ steel frames.
too, original estimates by firefighters after the second plane, Flight
175, hit the South Tower, were that the blaze was containable.
firefighters actually reached the crash zone on the 78th floor
and a tape exists of them radioing down that just two hoses would be
enough to get the fire under control – in which ca\se the situation
should have been little different from a ‘normal’ office fire, and no
steel tower ever collapsed as the result of such a blaze.
wasn’t hot enough to cause a collapse’
Ryan, laboratory director at a US underwriting firm specializing in
product safety, was sacked from his job last year after questioning the
buildings should have easily withstood the thermal stress caused by the
burning jet fuel”, he said. “If
steel did soften or melt, this was certainly not due to jet fuel fires of
any kind, let alone the briefly burning fires in those towers.
That fact should be of great concern to all Americans.”
Ryan claimed that his firm had checked and approved the steel used in the
towers when they were built. This
was later vehemently denied by the bosses who sacked him.
To add to
the mystery, the tape of the two firemen was kept secret and when
relatives were finally allowed to listen to it, they had to sign strict
Pancake Effect theory is wrong, there’s one obvious alternative: that
the towers were brought down by the sheer impact of the planes hitting
them. But this, according to
the skeptics, ignores basic physics.
initial hit on the North Tower, for example, destroyed 33 of the 59
columns in its north face. This meant the damage was asymmetrical, so any resulting
collapse would surely have been lopsided.
the building fell evenly. The
TV aerial on the summit sank vertically, in a straight line.
were other strange anomalies. According
to the Kean Commission, when the first plane struck: ‘A jet fuel
fireball erupted and shot down a bank of elevators, bursting into numerous
lower floors, including the lobby level, and the basement four storeys
say Henshall and Morgan. A
firm by a French documentary crew, who by chance were following a New York
firefighting team that day, shows the first men arriving.
The lobby was covered in fine debris and the windows were shattered
but there was none of the soot or oily residue that burning jet fuel would
have left behind.
down in the basement, a 50-ton hydraulic press was reduced to rubble and a
steel and concrete fire door demolished.
Witnesses there said the destruction was less like that from a
fireball flash and more like that from a bomb.
firefighters told reporters that day that they thought there had been
bombs in the building – before apparently being silenced by their
chiefs. So had Al Qaeda
cleverly placed explosives inside the rowers as well as attacking them
from the air?
conspiracy theorists would have it, had some homegrown agency mined the
towers to make sure they fell – but neatly without collapsing over the
rest of Manhattan, America’s financial and business heartland?
authors quote an expert demolition contractor from Pennsylvania, Michael
Taylor, who said the fall of the buildings ‘looked like a controlled
expert, Van Romero, vice-president for research at the New Mexico
Institute of Mining and Technology, reached the same opinion after
studying videos of the disaster, and concluded that ‘explosive devices
inside the buildings’ caused them to collapse.
and without explanation, he recanted that view just ten days after going
public with it. Might he
possibly have been leaned on?
stranger, say Henshall and Morgan, was the collapse of a third building on
the World Trade Centre site, a smaller 47-storey block known as WTC7,
which was largely ignored by the world’s media.
not been hit by a plane yet it, too, mysteriously fell many hours after
the Towers had gone.
official explanation for this was that fuel stores caught fire as a result
of debris from the burning towers, the building began to bulge in one
corner, and after that it was unsalvageable.
remember that, according to Henshall and Morgan, a steel-framed building
had never collapsed as a result of a fire before this day.
And, again according to the authors, WTC7 appears almost untouched
by fire in photographs taken at the time.
landlord of the World Trade Centre site, Larry Silverstein, explicitly
suggested at one point that WTC7 was deliberately demolished.
He told a US TV documentary that a decision was taken to ‘pull’
the building rather than risk loss of life, though this was later denied.
according to Henshall and Morgan, the building’s fall in seven seconds
was just as textbook-tidy and suspicious as the collapse of the Twin
Towers. Given that it also
housed offices of the US Secret Service, the CIA and the Defence
Department, this has led conspiracy theorists to give it a key role in the
supposed 9/11 plot – as we will see shortly.
the whole problem, according to Henshall and Morgan, is that vital
evidence about what happened was destroyed or muddied in the wake of the
One expert said
there were bombs inside the towers
Zero, the base of the towers, was fiercely protected by the authorities
– understandably so because it not only contained human remains but a
cache of seized drugs held in an FBI office and more than $1 billion of
gold from bank vaults in the Buildings.
went on behind all the heavy security?
most air disasters, the wreckage of the planes is meticulously gathered up
and pieced together in search of clues.
in the course of removing the rubble from the Twin Towers to a nearby
landfill site, the 9/11 salvage operation seems to have ‘lost’ four
six-ton aircraft engines, besides failing to find the ‘black box’
flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders from either of the
data boxes – which could have revealed exactly what happened in the
doomed jets – are deliberately designed to withstand heavy impacts and
exceptionally high temperatures. It
is, according to experts, very rare for them not to be recovered after an
according Henshall and Morgan, there was a singular lack of official zeal
even to establish the very basic fact that the aircraft that hit the Twin
Towers were the same as those that took off from Boston.
with almost the entire world watching the attacks on TV, it hardly seemed
necessary to prove the glaringly obvious.
But this failure to follow standard procedures for accident
investigation once again gave encouragement to the conspiracy theorists.
there was the oddity of the single passport.
The black boxes may have been destroyed and steel girders melted
– yet somehow one of the hijackers’ passports avoided this inferno and
was found intact in a nearby street by ‘a passer-by’.
Henshall and Morgan, that seems absurd, as does the almost instant
identification of this person as a hijacker rather than a passenger or a
Twin Towers office worker. Conspiracy
theorists suspect the passport was planted to help establish the official
story in the first, critical hours after the disaster.
didn't fighter planes intercept the hijackers?
more unanswered questions surround what happened at the Pentagon in
Washington, in the third successful terrorist attack that day.
taking off from Dulles Airport, Washington, American Airlines Flight 77
dropped off the radar screens for 36 minutes when its transponders sending
signals back to air traffic control were switched off.
blip reappeared, it was closing on the city but where precisely the
aircraft had been for the past half an hour was a mystery.
Nor could anyone in air traffic control figure out what it was.
officials apparently watched its speed and maneuverability and thought it
must be a military plane. Conspiracy
theorists maintain this is precisely what it was.
repeat of New York, no evidence has ever been produced from the wreckage
to prove that it was Flight 77 that hurtled into the side of the Pentagon
show that the hole it made was large enough for the fuselage of a Boeing
757 but not for the wings and the tail, though these supposedly
disappeared through the gap and then vapourised.
conspiracy theorists, this points to a conclusion that what hit was not
Flight 77, and not even a jetliner.
witnesses claim the plane they say hit the Pentagon was a small one, an
eight – or 12-seater, and that it did not have the roar of an airliner
but the shrill whine of a fighter plane,
One witness is convinced it was a missile.
authors say the matter could be cleared up by CCTV footage of the crash
from a nearby filling station, a hotel and traffic surveillance cameras.
Unfortunately, the FBI seized all three videos within minutes of
the crash and they have never been released.
The hole in the
Pentagon was too small for a Boeing
were produced, they might lay to rest the theory that what hit the
Pentagon was a military drone painted in airline livery and that just
before impact it fired a missile to enable a clean entry which would
explain the lack of debris. But
until they are, the skeptics will continue to have a field day.
essence, to the extreme conspiracy theorists, what took place on 9/11 was
a repeat of the aborted OPERATION NORTHWOODS.
being an attack by Islamic terrorists, they say, the events were a
complete hoax, a conjuring trick by the US government in just the same way
that Kennedy’s generals wanted to fool the world over Cuba.
were swapped, ‘drones’ slammed into the World Trade Centre (which was
mined with explosives as well) and the Pentagon, and the identities of
alleged hijackers from the Middle East were stolen or invented to put the
blame on Al Qaeda.
with the ‘passengers’ who apparently boarded the planes, the
‘suicide hijackers’ are now either dead or living under different
identities, just as the pentagon planned fro the military personnel it was
going to use back in 1962.
theory seizes on the fact that, like the plane that apparently hit the
Pentagon, both Flight 11 and Flight 175 switched off their transponders on
their way to the Twin Towers and disappeared from Radar screens.
According to the skeptics, this gave them time and opportunity to
land at the handily located Griffiss Air Force Base, a Pentagon command
center which also houses research laboratories into advanced computers and
radar. There, they were
supposedly replaced by remote-controlled substitutes.
technical terms, this is not as far fetched as it sounds.
The US military experimented with unmanned aircraft as far back as
World War II and there have been successful jet models since.
Well-connected conspirators, so the theory goes, would have little
difficulty getting their hands on a system to fit in an airliner.
switch would supposedly be foolproof because, as we have seen, the
aircraft in the ruins would not be properly identified.
there was the smaller building known as WTC7.
It was the obvious point from which to run the New York end of the
scam, guiding the planes into their target.
Afterwards, of course, the evidence had to be destroyed, hence its
a rush, and without looking at the detail this might seem vaguely
plausible. But could we
really have been so totally and utterly conned?
sense says no. An operation of such intricacy and complexity would require
the co-operation – and the silence until death – of thousands of
people. Everything we have
read about the victims on the planes, and their heartbroken relatives,
would be a carefully constructed sham.
just be possible in a totalitarian society but surely not in a flawed yet
robust democracy like America. And
with four missions (the hijackers of the fourth plane, Flight 93, were
overthrown by its passengers), not just one as in OPERATION NORTHWOODS?
fair to Henshall and Morgan, they make it clear that they themselves are
not advocating such an extreme theory of empty planes and hoax attacks.
admit the Pentagon’s radar reconstructions suggest the planes were not
switched, and that alleged Al Qaeda ringleaders are said by their
interrogators to have confirmed the official account.
of retreating into fantasy, they simply insist that something is being
held back – that we have not been told the full story.
And it’s hard to discount all their arguments.
ask, were air traffic controllers so slow to report suspected hijackings
to the military that day in breach of standard procedures, with the result
that fighter planes arrived too late to intercept?
controllers in four separate incidents were unaccountably slow to realize
that something was wrong and alert the military authorities.
Even after one plane was definitely known to have been hijacked,
they failed to respond promptly when others went missing.
The air force
scrambled from the wrong base
reason, too, when fighter planes eventually were scrambled to New York,
they were from an airbase 150 miles away, rather than the much closer one
in New Jersey. The Twin Towers were ablaze before they got there.
while the local TV channels were smoothly getting eye-in-the-sky
helicopters into the air over the World Trade Centre.
In the words of the authors: “Their
routine mobilizations stand in stark contrast to the apparent impotence
and indecisiveness of the $350-billion-a-year US military.
all the shortcomings of the Federal Aviation Authority and the US Air
Force that day, no-one was ever fired or reprimanded.
explanation for this paralysis is that there was, as fate would have it,
an air defence exercise going on in US airspace that same day, codenamed
Vigilant Guardian. The air
traffic controllers were confused by this, thinking the planes
disappearing from their screens might be part of the exercise.
No say the 9/11 sceptics. This
was exactly the sort of smokescreen operation that anyone wanting to make
life easier for the hijackers would launch to paralyse any authorities
that might get in the way.
first evidence came that hijackings were taking place, traffic control
officials wasted valuable time wondering whether or not this was part of
the Vigilant Guardian exercise.
smokescreen fits well with two types of government-inspired plot
postulated by 9/11 sceptics – popularly known as ‘LIHOP’ and ‘MIHOP’.
– ‘Let It Happen On Purpose’ – holds that since the turn of the
new century, radical right-wingers in Washington (the so-called new-cons)
had been keen to get a US military presence in the Middle East oilfields
and were also desperate to do something about Al Qaeda, which had been
targeting US interests overseas.
evidence came in of an impending terrorist attack, they decided to ignore
it. They intended that it
should succeed. It would act
at the very least as a ‘wake-up’ call to their apathetic fellow
countrymen and at best as an excuse for war.
the much the same way, some historians believe, President Roosevelt knew
in advance from broken codes about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in
1941 – but let it happen, at the cost of 2,400 lives, because he wanted
an excuse to join World War II.
takes a step on from this – ‘Make it Happen On Purpose’.
This theory has the same motivation but the active involvement of
US agents. Planted in Al
Qaeda, they helped organize the plot, or at the very least cleared a path
for the hijackers.
agents may even have tried to keep down casualty figures, which some think
were suspiciously small in the circumstances.
plane that hit the Pentagon was seen to swerve at the last minute and hit
an area of the building that was largely unoccupied – and which had just
been fitted with reinforced external walls and blast-resistant windows.
A crash into the other side would have killed and maimed many
thousands instead of just 125.
New York, too, more than 50,000 inhabitants of the Towers were targeted
but just 2,600 killed – not least because of the orderly way in which
the buildings collapsed, after most of the occupants had been evacuated.
Was this an example of a ‘managed’ atrocity?
most observers, the idea of US involvement in the attacks still strains
credulity beyond breaking point. Yet
that catalogue of unanswered questions remains troubling.
are very basic. How, for
example, did the hijackers manage to slip past airport security with
White House explanation is plastic knives, but there has never been any
independent confirmation of how the men were armed.
Some passengers who made phone calls from the doomed planes said
they witnessed stabbings but others spoke of bombs and even guns being
some, the official recourse to ‘plastic knives’ smacks of a cover-up
to conceal security lapses – or worse, a deliberate turning of blind
So how did the passengers make
those phone calls?
problem here is those very phone calls from the planes.
Experts in Henshall and Morgan’s book say it is all but
impossible to make a mobile phone call above 8,000 feet – let alone four
times that altitude, as the jet passengers are alleged to have done.
how were these calls on which so much of the 9/11 narrative has been built
ever made? Could they possibly have been invented?
authors write: ‘Few issues
cause as much controversy amongst 9/11 sceptics as these, not least
because they were cited – by Tony Blair among others – as eyewitness
reports and proof positive the official narrative was true.’
are even raised over the gung-ho story of Flight 93, the fourth plane in
the attacks, which passengers apparently seized back from the hijackers,
causing it to crash into a field but miss Washington.
legend of the heroic cockpit-storming, launched to cries of ‘Let’s
Roll’, was a product of tapes that have never been authenticated or
released to anyone other than the victims’ relatives, who were sworn to
and Morgan say the matter could be cleared up if recordings or billing
evidence from phone companies were produced but they never have been.
call for transparency is the thrust of their whole argument.
It is time, they say, for a full and truly independent inquiry into
9/11 that will reveal all the facts and silence the rumours.
thing it could consider would be the anthrax attack on America three weeks
after 9/11. Five recipients of contaminated letters died, postal
facilities were closed, as were office buildings on Capitol Hill where
hundreds of lawmakers and staff were tested and given an antibiotic.
the time, this was seized on by the Washington power-brokers pressing for
action against Iraq. ‘Who
but Saddam Hussein could have supplied Arab terrorists with anthrax,’
contrast, skeptics about 9/11 see this as this finishing touch to the
grand plot – an attempt to distract attention from any doubts about the
atrocities and the lessons to be learned from them.
may have a case. The letters
mysteriously stopped and the anthrax spores were identified by scientists
as a particular strain stemming only from the government’s own labs in
by then the scare had shut down congress at a crucial time, when questions
about 9/11 were beginning to surface, and helped deepen the mood of fear
and paranoia among ordinary Americans.
was those fears, say the skeptics, that Bush exploited to get his way on
Iraq. Had he plotted it that
way all along? Henshall and
Morgan raise enough awkward points to make it a thought that cannot simply
be laughed out of court.
all, Bush and Blair, took us to war assuring us that ‘the Iraq regime
continues to possess some of the most lethal weapons ever devised’.
Yet those weapons of mass destruction have not been found and many
doubt they existed.
public trust one of the major casualties of the war, can any of us be
absolutely sure we have not been caught up in a lie and perhaps a bigger
one even than we ever though possible?
their inquiries Henshall and Morgan may have discover no smoking guns –
but they have certainly left a whiff of something sinister in the air.