A small but vocal and intractable group of dissenters has long believed the 9/11 attacks did not happen as the U.S. government says they did. Truthers, as they are known, suggest the role of al-Qaeda has been overstated or invented. They point fingers at shadowy state forces being involved in a massive cover-up – or complicit in the attacks themselves.
As the 10th anniversary approaches, more than 100 truthers from around the world are holding a four-day "inquest" at Toronto's Ryerson University, beginning Thursday. Speakers who suggest the official 9/11 record is incorrect will aim to sway a panel that includes an Italian judge, an anthropologist from the University of Toronto, a psychologist from McMaster University and an urban planner from the University of Tennessee.
The Globe spoke to event organizer Graeme MacQueen, a religious studies professor retired from McMaster.
What's the point in holding a 9/11 truth conference on the 10th anniversary?
I believe there was a massive deception. Some of us thought it was important to have a skeptical voice on the 10th anniversary, saying, "Are you sure you know what happened on that day?"
There is a group called al-Qaeda. They had 19 hijackers. They commandeered planes. They smashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
No. There was never strong evidence for what you just said.
How is this even questionable? The 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed says, "I did this."
Khalid Sheik Mohammed was suffocated by water over 180 times. What do we know about what he really said?
Al-Jazeera had him on TV a year before his capture, saying, "I'm very happy about this operation."
Well, I would have to see the interview.
You don't accept al-Qaeda did it?
Who is al-Qaeda? The term wasn't used very much before 9/11. There are a lot of questions about who al-Qaeda is and who they work for.
Do you accept that planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?
Large planes obviously hit the World Trade Center. We have them on video. We have many eyewitnesses. The Pentagon is very complicated – let's not even go there right now.
If not al-Qaeda, then who?
A very good question. We're not going to try to solve that in these hearings.
Wouldn't that be the obvious question?
Of course. Obviously 9/11 was the result of a conspiracy – by somebody. You think it was al-Qaeda that conspired. I think it was one or more states, or state agencies, involved in this.
What government would kill its own citizens?
Oh, come on – there's governments all over the world that kill their own citizens all the time.
People are going to have this perception it's a bunch of whackos convening in Toronto. Are you a bunch of whackos?
You have a lot of PhDs here. The panel includes the honorary president of the Supreme Court of Italy. This man doesn't fly off from Italy because of some whackos. He thinks it's important.
Don't you get accused of being insensitive to the victims?
Yes, we get criticized. But we reject that completely. It was a horrific crime. That's why we want to solve it. We also have the support of some 9/11 families.
What was your reaction when U.S. Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden?
If it happened the way they said it did, it was a political assassination and probably unnecessary. The other possibility is that it didn't happen at all the way they said it did. I'm very skeptical of intelligence agencies.
Stephen Harper told CBC the No. 1 threat to Canada is "Islamicism." Do you accept this?
The idea that "Islamicism" is the greatest threat to the West – that shows where Canada is stuck right now.
We're facing ecological catastrophe, a financial meltdown … and this man thinks the Islamic threat is something we should be worried about?
This interview has been condensed and edited.