Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Mysterious Collapse of WTC Seven

Why NIST’s Final 9/11 Report is Unscientific and False

by Prof. David Ray Griffin

At 5:21 in the afternoon of 9/11, almost seven hours after the Twin Towers had come down, Building 7 of the World Trade Center also came down. The collapse of this building was from the beginning considered a mystery. [1]

The same should have been true, to be sure, of the collapse of the Twin Towers. But they had been hit by planes, which had ignited big fires in them, and many people assumed this combination of causes to be sufficient to explain why they came down.

But WTC 7 had not been hit by a plane, so it was apparently the first steel-framed high-rise building in the known universe to have collapsed because of fire alone. New York Times writer James Glanz quoted a structural engineer as saying: “[W]ithin the structural engineering community, [WTC 7] is considered to be much more important to understand [than the Twin Towers],” because engineers had no answer to the question, “why did 7 come down?” [2]

From a purely scientific perspective, of course, there would have been an obvious answer. Scientists, presupposing the regularity of nature, operate on the principle that like effects generally imply like causes. Scientists are, therefore, loathe to posit unprecedented causes for common phenomena. By 9/11, the collapse of steel-framed high-rises had become a rather common phenomenon, which most Americans had seen on television. And in every one of these cases, the building had been brought down by explosives in the process known as controlled demolition. From a scientific perspective, therefore, the obvious assumption would have been that WTC 7 came down because explosives had been used to remove its steel supports.

However, the public discussion of the destruction of the World Trade Center did not occur in a scientific context, but in a highly charged political context. America had just been attacked, it was almost universally believed, by foreign terrorists who had flown hijacked planes into the Twin Towers, and in response the Bush administration had launched a “war on terror.” The idea that even one of the buildings had been brought down by explosives would have implied that the attacks had not been a surprise, so this idea could not be entertained by many minds in private, let alone in public.

This meant that people had to believe, or at least pretend to believe, that Building 7 had been brought down by fire, even though, as Glanz wrote: “[E]xperts said no building like it, a modern, steel-reinforced high-rise, had ever collapsed because of an uncontrolled fire.” [3] And so, this building’s collapse had to be considered a mystery – insofar as it was considered at all.

But this was not much. Although WTC 7 was a 47-story building, which in most places would have been the tallest building in the city, if not the state, it was dwarfed by the 110-story Twin Towers. It was also dwarfed by them in the ensuing media coverage. And so, Glanz wrote, the collapse of Building 7 was “a mystery that . . . would probably have captured the attention of the city and the world,” if the Twin Towers had not also come down. [4] As it was, however, the mystery of Building 7’s collapse was seldom discussed.

For those few people who were paying attention, the mysteriousness of this collapse was not lessened by the first official report about it, which was issued by FEMA in 2002. This report put forward what it called its “best hypothesis” as to why the building collapsed, but then added that this hypothesis had “only a low probability of occurrence.” [5]

This FEMA report, in fact, increased the mystery, thanks to an appendix written by three professors at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. This appendix reported that a piece of steel from WTC 7 had melted so severely that it had gaping holes in it, making it look like a piece of Swiss cheese. [6] James Glanz, pointing out that the fires in the building could not have been hot enough to melt steel, referred to this discovery as “the deepest mystery uncovered in the investigation.”[7]

The task of providing the definitive explanation of the collapse of WTC 7 was given to NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Although NIST had been expected to issue its report on this building along with its report on the Twin Towers, which came out in 2005, it did not. NIST then continued to delay this report until August of 2008, at which time it issued a Draft for Public Comment.

1. NIST’s Denial of Evidence for Explosives

At a press briefing, Shyam Sunder, NIST’s lead investigator, declared that “the reason for the collapse of World Trade Center 7 is no longer a mystery.” Also, announcing that NIST “did not find any evidence that explosives were used to bring the building down,” [8] he said: “[S]cience is really behind what we have said.” [9] In the remainder of this lecture, I will show that both of those statements were false.

NIST and Scientific Fraud

With regard to the question of science: Far from being supported by good science, NIST’s report repeatedly makes its case by resorting to scientific fraud.

Before going into details, let me point out that, if NIST did engage in fraudulent science, this would not be particularly surprising. NIST is an agency of the US Department of Commerce. During the years it was writing its World Trade Center reports, therefore, it was an agency of the Bush-Cheney administration. In 2004, the Union of Concerned Scientists put out a document charging this administration with “distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends.” By the end of the Bush administration, this document had been signed by over 15,000 scientists, including 52 Nobel Laureates and 63 recipients of the National Medal of Science. [10]

Moreover, a scientist who formerly worked for NIST has reported that it has been “fully hijacked from the scientific into the political realm,” with the result that scientists working for NIST “lost [their] scientific independence, and became little more than ‘hired guns.’”11 Referring in particular to NIST’s work on the World Trade Center, he said everything had to be approved by the Department of Commerce, the National Security Agency, and the Office of Management and Budget—“an arm of the Executive Office of the President,” which “had a policy person specifically delegated to provide oversight on [NIST’s] work.” [12]

One of the general principles of scientific work is that its conclusions must not be dictated by nonscientific concerns – in other words, by any concern other than that of discovering the truth. This former NIST employee’s statement gives us reason to suspect that NIST, while preparing its report on WTC 7, would have been functioning as a political, not a scientific, agency. The amount of fraud in this report suggests that this was indeed the case.

According to the National Science Foundation, the major types of scientific fraud are fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. There is no sign that NIST is guilty of plagiarism, but it is certainly guilty of fabrication, which can be defined as “making up results,” and falsification, which means either “changing or omitting data.” [13]

The omission of evidence by NIST is so massive, in fact, that I treat it as a distinct type of scientific fraud. As philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said in his 1925 book, Science and the Modern World: “It is easy enough to find a [self-consistent] theory . . . , provided that you are content to disregard half your evidence.” The “moral temper required for the pursuit of truth,” he added, includes “[a]n unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account.” [14]

NIST, however, seemed to manifest an unflinching determination to disregard half of the relevant evidence.

Physical Evidence of Explosives

Some of the evidence ignored by NIST is physical evidence that explosives were used to bring down WTC 7.

Swiss-Cheese Steel: I will begin with the piece of steel from WTC 7 that had been melted so severely that it looked like Swiss cheese. Explaining why it called this “the deepest mystery uncovered in the investigation,” James Glanz wrote: “The steel apparently melted away, but no fire in any of the buildings was believed to be hot enough to melt steel outright.” [15] Glanz’s statement was, in fact, quite an understatement. The full truth is that the fires in the building could not have brought the steel anywhere close to the temperature – about 1,482°C (2,700°F) – needed for it to melt. [16]

The professors who reported this piece of steel in the appendix to the FEMA report said: “A detailed study into the mechanisms [that caused] this phenomenon is needed.”[17] Arden Bement, who was the director of NIST when it took on the WTC project, said that NIST’s report would address “all major recommendations contained in the [FEMA] report.” [18]

But when NIST issued its report on WTC 7, it did not mention this piece of steel with the Swiss-cheese appearance. Indeed, NIST even claimed that not a single piece of steel from WTC 7 had been recovered. [19]

This piece of steel, moreover, was only a small portion of the evidence, ignored by NIST, that steel had melted.

Particles of Metal in the Dust: The Deutsche Bank building, which was right next to the Twin Towers, was heavily contaminated by dust produced by their destruction. But Deutsche Bank’s insurance company refused to pay for the clean-up, claiming that this dust had not resulted from the destruction of the WTC. So Deutsche Bank hired the RJ Lee Group to do a study, which showed that the dust in the Deutsche Bank was WTC dust, which had a unique signature. Part of this signature was “Spherical iron . . . particles.” [20] This meant, the RJ Lee Group said, that iron had “melted during the WTC Event, producing spherical metallic particles.” [21] The study even showed that, whereas iron particles constitute only 0.04 percent of normal building dust, they constituted almost 6 percent of WTC Dust – meaning almost 150 times as much as normal. [22]

The RJ Lee study also found that temperatures had been reached “at which lead would have undergone vaporization” [23] – meaning 1,749°C (3,180°F). [24]

Another study was carried out by the US Geological Survey, the purpose of which was to aid the “identification of WTC dust components.” Besides also finding iron particles, the scientists involved in this study found that molybdenum had been melted. This finding was especially significant, because this metal does not melt until it reaches 2,623°C (4,753°F). [25]

NIST, however, did not mention either of these studies, even though the latter one was carried out by another US government agency.

NIST could not mention these studies because it was committed to the theory that the WTC buildings were brought down by fire, while these studies clearly showed that something other than fire was going on in those buildings.

Nanothermite Residue: What was that? A report by several scientists, including chemist Niels Harrit of the University of Copenhagen, showed that the WTC dust contained unreacted nanothermite, which – unlike ordinary thermite, which is an incendiary – is a high explosive. This report by Harrit and his colleagues, who included Steven Jones and Kevin Ryan, did not appear until 2009, [26] several months after the publication of NIST’s final report in November 2008.

But NIST, as a matter of routine, should have tested the WTC dust for residue of explosives, such as nanothermite. The Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations put out by the National Fire Protection Association says that a search for evidence for explosives should be undertaken whenever there has been “high-order damage.” Leaving no doubt about the meaning of this term, the Guide says:

High-order damage is characterized by shattering of the structure, producing small, pulverized debris. Walls, roofs, and structural members are splintered or shattered, with the building completely demolished. [27]

That description applied to the destruction of the Twin Towers and WTC 7. The next sentence – “Debris is thrown great distances, possibly hundreds of feet” – applied to the destruction of the Twin Towers, a fact that NIST had to admit in order to explain how fires were started in WTC 7. [28] So NIST should have looked for signs of explosives, such as nanothermite.

But when asked whether it had, NIST said No. A reporter asked Michael Newman, a NIST spokesman, about this failure, saying: “[W]hat about that letter where NIST said it didn’t look for evidence of explosives?” Newman replied: “Right, because there was no evidence of that.” “But,” asked the reporter “how can you know there’s no evidence if you don’t look for it first?” Newman replied: “If you’re looking for something that isn’t there, you’re wasting your time . . . and the taxpayers’ money.” [29] (You couldn’t make this stuff up.)

When Shyam Sunder, who headed up NIST’s investigation of the WTC buildings, gave his press conference in August of 2008 – at which he announced that “the reason for the collapse of World Trade Center 7 is no longer a mystery” – he began by saying:

Before I tell you what we found, I’d like to tell you what we did not find. We did not find any evidence that explosives were used to bring the building down. [30]

By making this point first, Sunder indicated that this was NIST’s most important conclusion – just as it had been NIST’s most important conclusion about the Twin Towers. However, although Sunder claimed that this conclusion was based on good science, a conclusion has no scientific validity if it can be reached only by ignoring half the evidence.

Molten Metal: In addition to the ignored evidence already pointed out, NIST also, in its investigation of the WTC, ignored reports that the rubble contained lots of molten metal – which most people described as molten steel. For example, firefighter Philip Ruvolo, speaking of the Twin Towers, said: “You’d get down below and you’d see molten steel, molten steel, running down the channel rails, like you’re in a foundry, like lava.” [31]

Peter Tully, president of Tully Construction, which was involved in the clean-up operation, said that he saw pools of “literally molten steel.” [32]

However, when John Gross, one of the main authors of NIST’s reports, was asked about the molten steel, he said to the questioner: I challenge your “basic premise that there was a pool of molten steel,” adding: “I know of absolutely no . . . eyewitness who has said so.”[33]

However, in addition to Ruvolo and Tully, the eyewitnesses who said so included:

• Leslie Robertson, a member of the engineering firm that designed the Twin Towers. [34]

• Dr. Ronald Burger of the National Center for Environmental Health. [35]

• Dr. Alison Geyh of The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, who headed up a scientific team that went to the site shortly after 9/11 at the request of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. [36]

• Finally, the fact that “molten steel was also found at WTC 7” was added by Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition, Inc., which was involved in the clean-up. [37]

And yet John Gross suggested that no credible witnesses had reported molten steel. That appears to have been a gross lie.

Testimonial Evidence for Explosives

Besides ignoring physical evidence that explosives had been used, NIST also ignored testimonial evidence.

NIST’s Twin Towers Report: In its 2005 report on the Twin Towers, NIST ignored dozens of testimonies provided by reporters, police officers, and WTC employees, along with 118 testimonies provided by members of the Fire Department of New York. [38] NIST even explicitly denied the existence of these reports, saying that there “was no evidence (collected by . . . the Fire Department of New York) of any blast or explosions” that would have suggested that explosives were going off. [39]

However, when a group of scholars including scientists and a lawyer called NIST on this false statement, NIST refined its meaning, saying:

NIST reviewed all of the interviews conducted by the FDNY of firefighters (500 interviews). . . . Taken as a whole, the interviews did not support the contention that explosives played a role in the collapse of the WTC Towers. [40]

So, although NIST had said in its report that there was no testimonial evidence for explosives, it now seemed to be saying that, because only 118 out of 500 reported explosions, the testimonies, “taken as a whole,” do not support the idea that explosions were going off, so that NIST had been justified in claiming that there was no testimonial evidence to support the idea that explosives had been used.

Imagine an investigation of a murder on the streets of San Francisco. Of the 100 people who were at the scene at the time, 25 of them reported seeing Pete Smith shoot the victim. But the police release Pete Smith, saying that, taken as a whole, the testimonies did not point to his guilt. That would be NIST-style forensic science.

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