America watched in horror as the events of September 11, 2001, unfolded before our eyes. Now, eight years have passed and no stone has been left unturned in the painstaking process of piecing together what happened on that fateful day. Yet according to a 2006 poll, 33 percent of us still do not accept the U.S. government's account. Were the attacks really the work of just al-Qaida terrorists, or is it possible something even more sinister was at work?
On Monday, August 31, 2009, at 9pm ET, National Geographic Channel's "9/11: Science and Conspiracy" conducts a forensic investigation to test the tenets of some of the most common conspiracy theories. Did the Twin Towers really collapse from the fires, or did explosives inside cause the buildings to implode? Was the Pentagon hit by a missile, and not a commercial airliner? And why do so many people believe theories like these?
The government's official version of the events has been consistent: Hijackers commandeered commercial jetliners in a highly coordinated attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that took the lives of some 3,000 Americans. Now we hear from a group of theorists, dubbed the "9/11 Truth Movement," who believe the official version is not only inconsistent with reality, it is impossible. Some even go so far as to suggest that the U.S. military plotted a colossal scheme to replace hijacked plans with remotely piloted rogue planes. And their seeds of doubt have spread widely around the world and across the internet.
"Our country, our government and our mind-set as a whole would not be where it is today without 9/11. And I don't think it's by accident, I think it's by design, " says Dylan Avery, theorist and director of the popular 2005 Internet-based documentary "Loose Change."
Using high-tech forensic experiments, CGI re-creations, eyewitness footage and in-depth analysis by experts and theorists on all sides of the story, "9/11: Science and Conspiracy" examines the alleged conspiracies and available evidence.
Many theories exist that contradict the official findings, covering many aspects of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. Of these, a handful have been persistent: The fires never got hot enough to deform the steel in the WTC towers and cause their collapse; there was an insiders' conspiracy to bring down the towers with a controlled demolition made to look like an attack; the Pentagon was really damaged by an explosive missile or a bomb instead of a jetliner.
Architect and "Truther" Richard Gage: "We're not conspiracy theorists. We're looking at the science-based, rational facts found at the crime scene and otherwise available to us...It's up to the American people to demand a real investigation with subpoena power that may reveal who may have done it, how they did it, what are all the surrounding circumstances."
Finally we look at how and why conspiracy theories persist in our culture despite the official government reports, as we recall American suspicion around other national tragedies such as Pearl Harbor and JFK's assassination.
Journalist and author David Aaronovitch: "I think there are very common threads to conspiracy theories, both in the desire the people have to tell them, the feeling they get at the point when they say then, and duplicate them...the desire that there is to have a story which is better than reality, than messy reality. I think these things are almost eternal."
You Tube playlist in 10 parts.