World News

U.N. expert denies endorsing 9/11 "conspiracy theory"

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N. expert on Palestinian human rights on Friday denied supporting the idea that the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11 attacks and accused a “pro-Israel group” of distorting his words.

A man holds a U.S. flag while others pause for a moment of silence to pay their respects at the site of the former Twin Towers on the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York September 11, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. academic Richard Falk wrote in a blog this month that there had been an “apparent cover-up” by U.S. authorities over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in which hijackers flew airliners into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, killing more than 3,000 people.

Falk’s blog was condemned by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Falk should be fired from his position as the U.N. Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories.

“I wish to be absolutely clear,” Falk said in a statement. “I do not endorse the theory that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.”

“What I did do, in my personal blog ... was argue that investigations must be, and must be seen to be, transparent, exhaustive and honest,” he said, adding that he did not intend to show disrespect for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Falk blamed UN Watch, a Geneva-based advocacy group affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, for igniting the controversy. The group was the first to report on Falk’s blog and called on Ban to “strongly condemn Mr. Falk’s offensive remarks -- and ... immediately remove him from his post.”

“The pro-Israel group, UN Watch, that created this mess deliberately distorted comments I made, in my personal capacity, on my blog,” Falk said.

UN Watch frequently criticizes the Human Rights Council, saying it often berates Israel while ignoring rights violations by developing countries. It has targeted Falk in the past.

But Falk’s Jan. 11 blog post unequivocally refers to a cover-up regarding the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“What may be more distressing than the apparent cover up is the eerie silence of the mainstream media, unwilling to acknowledge the well-evidenced doubts about the official version of the events: an al Qaeda operation with no foreknowledge by government officials,” Falk wrote.

Ban’s chief of staff Vijay Nambiar said on Monday that it was not up to Ban to fire Falk, since he was appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, a 47-nation body created by the U.N. General Assembly in 2006.