By Nick Pope

As somebody who writes and commentates in the media on conspiracy theories, Nick Pope is frequently asked for his views on the idea that 9/11 was an ‘inside job’ or that it was allowed to happen.

Nick Pope is sceptical of these conspiracy theories and has debated the issue several times on various TV and radio shows. His position statement is as follows.

I worked for the Ministry of Defence for 21 years. My last posting was in a security-related job and because of this, when I left the Department, I was asked by some people to look into the various conspiracy theories surrounding the tragic events of 9/11.

I did this in an even-handed way. I watched the film Loose Change, looked at various websites and attended lectures by Calum Douglas and Gordon Ross. I met and discussed the issue with Tim Sparke, Ian Henshall and former MI5 officer Annie Machon. I then read the 9/11 Commission Report from cover to cover (something very few people in the so-called 9/11 truth movement have done). I also read the March 2005 Popular Mechanics article and the material on the State Department website, both of which summarise and respond to the main conspiracy theories. I concluded that the conspiracy theories were unfounded and that 9/11 was a terrorist attack, not an 'inside job' and not an attack that was "allowed to happen".

Many of the conspiracy theories about 9/11 arise because of fundamental misunderstandings of the way in which governments, the military and intelligence agencies act. Others arise because facts and comments have been misunderstood or, in some cases, deliberately misrepresented.

Notwithstanding the above, there were clear failures in the US intelligence community (e.g. in areas such as information-sharing between various agencies), which could have done more to prevent the attacks. There were also failures in the US response on the day. These points have been acknowledged in the 9/11 Commission Report and the authorities have done their best to learn lessons from the terrible events of 9/11.

There are also legitimate issues surrounding the health of rescuers, survivors and others in the vicinity. There is medical evidence to support the idea that they have health problems (mainly lung ailments) resulting from inhalation of toxic dust after the towers came down. But it is quite wrong to link this issue – as some have tried to do – to the conspiracy theories.

Much has been made of the fact that some of the 9/11 Commission Report authors have subsequently been critical of certain aspects of the inquiry. While this is true, it is important to stress that none of them have supported the idea that the attacks were an inside job. One of the things that most irritated the Commissioners was NORAD's insistence that they would have intercepted and shot down United 93 had the aircraft not crashed, following the intervention of the passengers. The Commissioners were not convinced by this argument. It may be that this was wishful thinking on the part of NORAD officials, or it may be the case that some officials were trying to downplay NORAD's lack of preparedness and the mistakes that were made on the day.

9/11 was a tragedy. If the US authorities could have prevented it, they would have done so. The attack succeeded because the terrorists responsible had a combination of good planning and good luck. It also succeeded because FAA and NORAD protocols understandably assumed that the hijackings would follow the pattern of previous hijackings, with the terrorists forcing the pilots to land at an airport and then making demands. But as a NORAD official observed as the events unfolded, this was “a new type of war”.

The 9/11 Commission Report rightly describes al Qaeda as “sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal”. There is no doubt in my mind that al Qaeda planned and executed these attacks, with no inside help.

A TV show in which Nick Pope debated 9/11 with conspiracy theorists