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The 8 craziest conspiracy theories on Osama bin Laden's bookshelf

Osama bin Laden's compound in 2011.
Osama bin Laden's compound in 2011.
Stringer/Getty Images
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Today, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released new information about the documents found at Osama bin Laden's compound. In addition to the letters, software, magazine articles, and other information found at the compound, the list includes the English-language books bin Laden read. Surprisingly, some embrace conspiracies that include the Illuminati or diminish bin Laden's own role in the 9/11 attacks.

These books were carefully smuggled into bin Laden's compound, but it's impossible to know what influence they had on his thinking, if they were necessarily his — some materials are classified as belonging to other people — or how much of them he read. (In addition to these, there are also some more mainstream books on the list.)

That said, let's run through the conspiracy theories behind the most unusual tomes the government uncovered (the complete list of books is available here):

1) Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier

The Bloodlines of the Illuminati cover.

The theory: The Illuminati are alive and well in the United States and around the world, and Fritz Springmeier walks you through the web of connections in this 1998 book.

This is how it's described in the conspiracy theory site Infowars' online store: "Author Fritz Springmeier discloses mind-boggling facts and never before revealed truths about the top Illuminati dynasties. Discover the amazing role these bloodlines have played, and are now wielding, in human history with family names such as Astor, DuPont, Kennedy, Onassis, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Russell, Van Duyn and Krupp. You will also learn of the secretive Chinese Li family, which operates with impunity in the U.S. and around the world. Along the way you will find out why President John F. Kennedy and actress Grace Kelly were killed, who created the United Nations, who controls the two major U.S. political parties, how the Rothschilds invented and control modern-day Israel, who secretly founded false religions such as the Jehovahs Witnesses and much, much more. "

Key quote: "In recent years, the Illuminati have given permission to publishing houses to print exposes of J.F.K.’s sexual life."

2) The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall

The Secret Teaching of All Ages

The theory: This book, from 1928, describes a conspiracy reaching through the ages that, as listed in its subtitle, is "an encyclopedic outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic, and Rosicrucian symbolical philosophy, being an interpretation of the secret teachings concealed within the rituals, allegories, and mysteries of all ages."

It's probably best understood as less of a polemic than as a mystical, pseudo-philosophical guide to myth and religion.

Key quote: "Only the illuminated reason can teach man to be born well, to live well, to die well, and in perfect measure be born again. Into this band of the elect — those who have chosen the life of knowledge, of virtue, and of utility — the philosophers of the ages invite YOU."

3) The Taking of America 1-2-3 by Richard Sprague

The theory: In this 1976 book, Sprague posits that a Power Control Group had taken over America using assassinations, hypnosis, and control of the media to influence national events.

Key quote: "Thus, the incredibility of such weapons as hypnosis, brainwashing and 'programming' of patsies as assassins became a psychological tool in the bag of techniques of the power control group. The average American has shrugged off the possibility of the takeover with the belief that, 'That’s not possible here.'"

4) Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins

Secrets of the Federal Reserve

The theory: This book, originally published in 1952 as Mullins on the Federal Reserve, claimed that elite financiers, including the Rockefellers and J.P. Morgan controlled the Federal Reserve through secret machinations. The book is notable not only for its conspiratorial view of monetary policy, but because it was inspired by a conversation with poet Ezra Pound.

Key quote: "The Federal Reserve System is not Federal; it has no reserves; and it is not a system, but rather, a criminal syndicate. It is the product of criminal syndicalist activity of an international consortium of dynastic families comprising what the author terms "The World Order."

5) America's "War on Terrorism" by Michel Chossudovsky

The theory: Chossudovsky says 9/11 was a United States government conspiracy to start the Iraq War and enable a "new world order" to help corporate interests. Bin Laden was, at best, a pawn in CIA interests.

Key quote: "Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network is what the CIA calls 'an intelligence asset.'"

6) Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300 by John Coleman

The Committee of 300

The theory: This 1992 book claims that 300 families derived a fortune from opium trade with China, propelling them as a world-dominating power only opposed by Russia and China. Their tentacles reach around the world and seek to build one world government.

Key quote: "A 'master' secret society [is] in control of world events ... controlled by a most powerful group that came to be known as the 'Committee of 300.' Its organization and structure was based on the London Staplers who evolved into the East India Company and became the British East India Company (BEIC). The East India Company was intimately linked to the Black Nobility of Venice and Genoa."

7) Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil by Michael Ruppert

The theory: This 2004 book claims that then–Vice President Dick Cheney used the Secret Service to orchestrate 9/11, motivated by the threat of peak oil production, and that Cheney made sure the Air Force would be unable to stop any attacks on the United States.

Key quote: "To date, the case that 9/11 was perpetrated solely by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda has never been proved, even to the most rudimentary standards. In fact, some 35 months after the attacks there has not been a single successful 9/11 prosecution anywhere in the world. "

8) New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin

New Pearl Harbor

The theory: Griffin claims in this 2004 book that hijacked planes on 9/11 should have been intercepted, and the failure to intercept them indicates that the Bush administration had advance knowledge of the attack. In addition, the collapse of the World Trade Center was caused by explosives, not plane crashes. He says the attacks themselves were allowed as part of Bush and Pakistani intelligence collusion to push a foreign policy agenda.

Key quote: "Ahmed and Thompson provide considerable evidence that although the war in Afghanistan was supposedly to root out al-Qaeda and bin Laden— taking him, in President Bush's language, "dead or alive"— the actual objective must have been something else, since there were several instances in which the government and its military commanders seemed at pains to allow bin Laden and al-Qaeda to escape."