Their theory is that explosives planted throughout the World Trade Center - not the burning fuel from the jetliners that crashed into the buildings - brought the Twin Towers down on Sept. 11, 2001.
That proposition was intriguing enough that about 300 people showed up Sunday, some out of simple curiosity, at the Michigan Union in Ann Arbor to hear three speakers explain why they believe the U.S. government - not fanatical Muslim terrorists - was behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The crowd dwindled considerably during the three-hour panel discussion, "The War on Truth: 9/11 and Our Civil Rights," sponsored by Scholars for 9/11, a national group that says the government's version of the events surrounding the terrorist attacks is "a pack of lies."
The three speakers urged the audience to examine all the evidence and ask for an independent investigation of the events surrounding Sept. 11, 2001.
Before the discussion, about 10 University of Michigan student protesters, carrying signs and wearing tinfoil hats, milled about outside the Michigan ballroom, saying they represented a group called Young Americans for Freedom.
"We're here to make a point," said Ryan Fantuzzi, vice president of the group. "To show just how absurd these claims are."
But others wanted to hear what the speakers had to say.
"I'm here to get a little more information," said Johnny Rennella of Ann Arbor before the discussion began. "I have a couple of friends who were recently deployed to Iraq, so it's hitting closer to home for me."
Inside the ballroom, the three speakers asked people to help them "spread the truth." Scholars for 9/11, and other groups like it, believes the attacks were staged by the government as an excuse to implement various policies, including attacking oil-rich countries. The foundation for their argument is the videos and other evidence that they say show the collapse of the Twin Towers was more like a controlled demolition.
It's not scientifically possible that two planes crashing into the buildings and the ensuing fire could cause these "unprecedented building failures," said Kevin Ryan, a former site manager for Environmental Health Laboratories, a division of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. He said he was fired from his job after questioning the World Trade Center draft report in October 2004.
Dr. Robert Bowman, president of the Institute for Space and Security Studies and an unsuccessful Democratic Congressional candidate from Florida, received rousing support from the crowd when he called for "a truly independent investigation of 9/11 without White House interference ... with no pre-determined conclusions."
The third speaker was Dr. Kevin Barrett, an associate lecturer in Islamic and Arabic Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Matthew Fingerle and Shane Michael drove to Ann Arbor from Ft. Wayne, Ind., to hear the speakers.
"We know what happened, we've heard them speak before, but we wanted to see them in person," Michael said. "We know this will be hard for people to accept."