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I want to write about the very interesting topic of 'what really happened' on 9/11. How close can I possibly get to real characters and facts without getting sued?

Facts I might include in my work:

  1. Transponder switching of planes over areas with little radar coverage.
  2. Long delays in interceptor flights.
  3. Possible presence of thermite in the Twin Tower rubble dust.

All this would implicitly put blame on somebody. Would that mean I would be sued the hell out of my pants? Is there a way to keep clear of getting sued if you want to write about that fateful day?

The plot of my work does not follow what happened that day. But I need to mention those characters to make it interesting. What should I do?

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An important clarification - are you presenting these details as fiction or fact? Or, put another way - are you asking if you can get sued by portraying your real-life controversial interpretation, or if you can get sued by writing fiction in which a controversial interpretation (which you do not, in real life, share) is taken as fact? –  Standback Apr 19 '12 at 3:47
    
I intend to only include bits of fact and couple them with fiction.. there is no denying that there were no inceptor flights to stop 9/11 planes. I wouldn't be including something like 'a 757 couldn't possibly fit inside that little hole on the Pentagon' type of accusations. Only the facts acknowledged by the US administration themselves. –  user3533 Apr 19 '12 at 4:40
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The Central Intelligence Agency doesn't sue. It arrests. If you are not a U.S. native, you may need to do more research anyway so that you can write intelligently about the subject, regardless of what facts you weave into your fiction. –  Lauren Ipsum Apr 19 '12 at 13:01
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possible duplicate of Disclaimer when writing about governmental entities –  John Smithers Apr 20 '12 at 13:37
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So what, @NeilFein? Does that make the answers of the two questions different? Is it a detail that is relevant for the question? I don't think so. –  John Smithers Apr 21 '12 at 20:28

1 Answer 1

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Suggestion - stick to publically acessible facts, and express them as factual only in terms of the characters in your story. Then you are writing fiction using possibilities, and you cannot be sued for that, AFAIK. If so, I am in trouble.

You would only be in trouble legally if you were to present information as factual, and specifically make this blame people or organisations, in a book clearly intended as factual.

Think of Dan Brown. He presented wacky ideas as fact, but in a fictional context. You cannot sue him for defamation or whatever, because his story is purely fictional.

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9/11 is still a touchy subject. I personally would consult a lawyer on this. –  Neil Fein Apr 19 '12 at 13:50
    
Given that Capex has said he is only going to use "facts acknowledged by the US Administration", and incorporating them into a fiction story, I think it is probably safe. That is important. Yes 9/11 is still touchy, but I think writing fiction around it is OK. An expose of why the CIA caused it, that would be a different matter. –  Schroedingers Cat Apr 19 '12 at 15:50
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@NeilFein: I was thinking something similar but not sure how to phrase it. "Touchy" is an understatement. –  Lauren Ipsum Apr 20 '12 at 10:19
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The question was about legality. It does not mean that Capex will not then be watched day and night, and be sent to Guantanamo for jay walking. –  Schroedingers Cat Apr 20 '12 at 10:38
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@SchroedingersCat Honestly, that's a very real possibility even if there is no mention of CIA or any hint of a blame. Of course they won't sue me, that would be free advertising for me. But random cars crashing into me would suddenly become much more likely than winning a lottery ticket. Actually the other parties involved are much more ruthless I guess. On being a touchy topic, I can't agree more. And I have no intention to act as a reminder about a painful history. Maybe the topic is best left to be written about in another decade. –  user3533 Apr 21 '12 at 7:22

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