ONE IN 3 AMERICANS SAY U.S. AIDED 9/11
By THOMAS HARGROVE and GUIDO H. STEMPEL III
August 3, 2006 -- More than one-third of Americans suspect federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East, according to a new poll.
The survey also found that 16 percent of Americans speculate that secretly planted explosives, not burning passenger jets, were the real reason the massive Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed.
The national Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll of 1,010 adults also found that anger against the federal government is at record levels, with 54 percent saying they "personally are more angry" at the government than they used to be.
Widespread resentment and alienation toward the national government appears to be fueling a growing acceptance of conspiracy theories about the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Suspicions that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job quickly have become nearly as popular as decades-old conspiracy theories that the federal government was responsible for President John Kennedy's assassination and that it has covered up proof of space aliens.
Seventy percent of people who give credence to these theories also say they've become angrier with the federal government than they used to be.
Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East."
"One out of three sounds high, but that may very well be right," said Lee Hamilton, former vice chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also called the 9/11 commission).
His congressionally appointed investigation concluded that federal officials bungled their attempts to prevent, but did not participate in, the attacks by al Qaeda five years ago.
"A lot of people I've encountered believe the U.S. government was involved," Hamilton said. "Many say the government planned the whole thing. Of course, we don't think the evidence leads that way at all."
University of Florida Law Professor Mark Fenster, author of the book "Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture," said the poll's findings reflect public anger at the unpopular Iraq war, realization that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction and growing doubts of the veracity of the Bush administration.
"What has amazed me is not that there are conspiracy theories, but that they didn't seem to be getting any purchase among the American public until the last year or so," Fenster said.
The survey found that people who regularly use the Internet and not mainstream media are significantly more likely to believe in 9/11 conspiracies.
The survey was conducted by telephone from July 6 through 24 at the Scripps Survey Research Center at the University of Ohio under a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Scripps Howard