The book in question is History of the 20th Century in Flash Cards by Jean-Pierre Rocher, a teacher of history and geography and a graduate of the Sciences Po university in Paris. The book is aimed at college undergraduates, particularly where Rocher teaches, but also for French students at-large who are preparing for France's elite "grandes écoles" ("great schools").
The book purports to teach about the history of the last 100 years, particular in its relation to France and Europe.
The book had been out since November 2019, but only recently did someone -- specifically, the daughter of a schoolteacher who had purchased a copy of the book - notice that the tome contains four words that are likely to raise eyebrows. Those four words follow a discussion of the events of September 11, 2001, and claim that those events were "orchestrated by the CIA."
"This global event - without doubt orchestrated by the CIA (secret services) to impose American influence on the Middle East? - hit the symbols of American power on its own territory."
The teacher who found the claim then went to a teachers' Facebook group to complain. Some commenters noted that they might expect to hear such an unsubstantiated claim from students but not from someone who is supposed to be teaching them.
Eventually, the complaints got back to the book's publisher, Ellipses. The company has since issued a statement distancing itself from the author's claims and promised that the allegation that the CIA was responsible for the attacks will be removed from future editions.
"This phrase which echoes conspiracy theories devoid of any factual basis should never have been used in this work. It doesn't reflect the editorial position either of Ellipses publications or the author," the publisher said.
The conspiracy theory that the CIA was somehow involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has been propagated almost since the first plane struck the North Tower that morning. The conspiracy theory has been "thoroughly debunked," BBC News claims.
Meanwhile, the French website Conspiracy Watch, which has itself picked up on the story about the controversial book, notes that a recent survey showed that some 21 percent of people under the age of 35 believe that the U.S. government was involved in one way or another with the September 11 terrorist attacks. The intended age group of the book would include people under 35.