Although the use of the term "conspiracy theory" (in the pejorative sense) may be traced back to the US historian Richard Hofstadter (so suggests James F. Tracy*), its ubiquitous presence in the media and upon the lips of those who uncritically internalise its propaganda, may be credited to the CIA of the late 1960s. Concerned to quell the growing public (and international) scepticism towards the Warren Commission's findings on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA issued a directive to its assets in the media entitled "Countering Criticism of the Warren Report", in which guidance was given on how best to discredit and undermine the arguments of "conspiracy theorists" who presumed to question the findings. Ever since, the term has served as a psychological weapon to be wielded against anyone who suspects government of secret wrongdoing, and continues to function as a powerful thought-stopper in the collective consciousness - an instance of Orwellian "crimestop".
In considering an event such as 9/11, and asking the question as to whether or not it is conceivable in principle that conspirators within the U.S. Government could have organised the events of that day as a false-flag attack (in order, among other things, to generate public support for the so-called 'War on Terror'), it is worth bearing in mind an important historical precedent: Operation Northwoods.
In April 1974, US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger issued a classified memorandum to various top officials in the Nixon administration calling for "a study of the impact of world population growth on US security and overseas interests." Commissioned by President Nixon on the recommendation of John D. Rockefeller III, the study was carried out by the United States National Security Council under Kissinger's direction and was completed on 10 December 1974. Later, in November 1975, it became official US policy under President Ford.
For many years, the global monitoring system ECHELON was widely considered to exist only in the imaginations of "conspiracy theorists." Today, in an age in which many a former "conspiracy theory" has since been revealed as a conspiracy reality, we draw attention to the European Parliament's "Report on the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications" 2001.
The Report, which identifies the system (in whole or part) as "code-named ECHELON", describes it as "a global system" for "intercept[ing] private and commercial communications", "operating by means of cooperation... among the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand", and insists that its existence is "no longer in doubt." Though judging its capabilities to be "probably not nearly as extensive as some sections of the media had assumed", the Report nevertheless finds it "worrying that many senior Community figures, in particular European Commissioners... claimed to be unaware of this phenomenon."