By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - They wore T-shirts asking "What Really Happened?," snapped up DVDs titled "9/11; The Great Illusion," and cheered as physicists, philosophers and terrorism experts decried the official version of the Sept. 11 attacks that shook America to its core.
Some 1,200 people gathered at a Los Angeles hotel on the weekend for what organizers billed as the largest conference on the plethora of conspiracy theories that see the 2001 attacks on Washington and New York as, at best, official negligence, and at worst an orchestrated U.S. attempt to incite world war.
"There are so many prominent people who are incredibly well-respected who have stated that the evidence is overwhelming that 9/11 was an inside job," syndicated radio talk show host Alex Jones told a news conference.
"There are hundreds of smoking guns that people need to be made aware of," said Jones, calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and charging that mainstream media had been slow to cover the growing movement of 9/11 skeptics.
The "9/11 and the Neo-Con Agenda" conference comprised two days of seminars, video presentations and talks by groups including "Scholars for 9/11 Truth," www.infowars.com and an appearance by actor Charlie Sheen.
Most are convinced the U.S. military command "stood down" on the day of the attack, that the hijackers were trained at American military bases, and that the World Trade Center towers collapsed because of a series of controlled explosions set before they were hit by two hijacked planes.
Suggested motives range from expected benefits for U.S. arms and oil conglomerates to revolutionary plans for a new world order headed by the United States.
The theories, derided by critics as wild and far-fetched, have mostly been confined to the Internet, talk radio and the alternative press.
But an August 2004 Zogby opinion poll revealed 49 percent of New York City residents believed U.S. leaders knew in advance of the attacks and failed to act.
The official 9/11 Commission, set up in 2002, cited government intelligence lapses in the failure to prevent the attacks by al Qaeda that killed about 3,000 people.
A 10,000-page investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology held that jet-fuel fires weakened the structure of the Twin Towers and led to their collapse.
'BAD THINGS HAPPENING'
Sheen, star of the TV sitcom "Two and a Half Men," provoked a media storm in March by calling in interviews for an independent investigation.
Sheen "brings the movement some legitimacy. He gives it a face," said a Los Angeles student attending the conference who gave his name as Rico.
"Rational, well-educated people are starting to take a look at all this and are seeing there are some pretty bad things happening," Rico added.
Webster Tarpley, author of "911 Synthetic Terror; Made in USA," said the Sept. 11 attacks were an example of "state-sponsored, false-flag terrorism" designed by rogue CIA elements "to start the war of civilizations."
Tarpley said Washington was "gripped by war psychosis" and had used terror as a pretext to turn the United States into a police state.
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