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Dead on Arrival: The NIST Report Part I
by Mark H. Gaffney – December 15, 2006
Note to the reader: The following is a critique of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) report on the World Trade Center (WTC) collapse. The 43 volume NIST report was the result of a 3 year investigation, and was released in September 2005. It remains the official US government explanation for why the WTC collapsed on 9/11. As you are about to discover, the report itself collapses under scrutiny. There is no doubt that the NIST investigation was politically controlled by limiting its scope. This is one way to kill an investigation.
* * *
Fires raged at ground zero for many weeks after 9/11. In fact, it was not until December 19, 2001 that the NYC fire marshall declared the fires extinguished.
The fires burned long into the cleanup. The removal of steel beams and debris from the top of the pile allowed oxygen to reach the fires smoldering below. As a result, the flames often flared up, hampering worker on site. Joel Meyerowitz, a photographer, made note of this in his 2006 retrospective book, AFTERMATH. Armed with his trusty camera Meyerowitz roamed ground zero for months following the attack. Police repeatedly ejected him, but he kept returning in order to document what had happened. Eventually Meyerowitz amassed an impressive photographic record. In his fine book he remarks that the ground in places was so hot it melted the workmen’s rubber boots.
But Meyerowitz was hardly the first to comment on the pile’s incredible residual heat. The first accounts of molten steel came just hours after the attack: from the search and rescue teams who were among the first on the scene. Sarah Atlas, a member of New Jersey Task Force One Search and Rescue, was one of these emergency responders. Sarah reported seeing molten steel in the pile even as she searched in vain for survivors.
Many have denied the existence of molten steel at ground zero. But there are too many eyewitness accounts to dismiss, including the testimony of engineers, city officials and other competent professionals who toured the ruin. One of these, Dr Keith Eaton, Chief Executive of the London-based Institution of Structural Engineers, later wrote in The Structural Engineer about what he had seen, namely: “molten metal which was still red-hot weeks after the event,” as well as “four-inch thick steel plates sheered and bent in the disaster.”
A similar account came from Leslie E. Robertson, an engineer who helped design the WTC. He is currently a partner at Leslie E. Robertson Associates, a structural consulting firm that was under contract to the WTC at the time of the tragedy. In a keynote address Robertson reportedly told the Structural Engineers Association of Utah that: “...as of 21 days after the attack the fires were still burning and molten steel still running.” Public health officials/experts also toured the scene of destruction. Alison Geyh Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at Johns Hopkins, was with one of these teams. She wrote that “In some pockets now being uncovered they are finding molten steel.” The fact was even reported to the 9/11 Commission by Kenneth Holden, Commissioner of the city of New York. He told the panel about seeing “molten metal” during a walkthrough.
The evidence accumulated even as the cleanup progressed. Work crews removing the mountain of debris, piece by piece, discovered pools of molten steel beneath the pile, where the towers had stood. One pool was found at the bottom of the elevator shafts. Some of the pools were not found until 3, 4, even 5 weeks after 9/11.
Contractors working on site confirmed these discoveries. Such as Peter Tully, president of Tully Construction of Flushing New York, who was one of four contractors engaged by New York City to handle the cleanup. During an August 2002 interview Tully told the American Free Press that indeed workmen had seen the molten pools. The same interview included a statement by Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition, Inc., who, years before, ramrodded the cleanup of the bombed Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Loizeaux was called in by Tully to draft the cleanup plan for the WTC site. Loizeaux said, “Yes, hot spots of molten steel were seen in the basements.” Molten steel was also found under WTC 7.
These pools of molten metal have never been explained. Loizeaux told the American Free Press that the continuing fires were fueled by “paper, carpet and other combustibles packed down the elevator shafts by the tower floors as they ‘pancaked’ into the basement.” Manuel Garcia, a physicist, has suggested that cars left in parking garages under the WTC contained gasoline that may have fueled the fires. Both are probably correct. But none of these fires were hot enough to melt steel. Indeed, none of the combustibles in the wreckage burned anywhere near the melting point of construction grade steel beams (2800 °F). As noted, the smoldering fires for the most part were oxygen-starved.
The persistence of molten steel under the WTC for many weeks is extraordinary–––and anomalous. Evidently, the hot spots under the wreckage were not in the least fazed by heavy rain on September 12, nor by the millions of gallons of water that firemen and cleanup crews sprayed on the smoking ruins. Five days after the attack the US Geological Survey (USGS) found dozens of “hot spots” in the wreckage via remote sensing, i.e., an infrared spectrometer (AVIRIS). The two hottest spots were under WTC 2 and WTC 7. The USGS recorded surface temperatures as high as 1020°K (1376°F)). The molten pools below the pile were at least twice that hot––––hot enough to evaporate the rain and water sprayed on the pile long before it ever reached the bottom.
The Official Reports
In its official report the 9/11 Commission never once mentions the molten pools–––despite the testimony of the New York city commissioner.
In its 43-volume report about the WTC collapse released in September 2005, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) does indeed mention the molten pools, but only in passing, to dismiss them. The NIST report not only fails to identify the energy source that melted steel beams and piers under the WTC, it states categorically that NIST inspectors found no evidence of any molten steel at ground zero–––a dismissal that is directly contradicted by the eyewitness accounts of the emergency responders, engineers, officials, and health experts already cited, not to mention the lead contractors who accomplished the cleanup. After brushing aside the issue as irrelevant to the WTC collapse, the NIST report then suggests that:
Under certain circumstances it is conceivable for some of the steel in the wreckage to have melted after the buildings collapsed. Any molten steel in the wreckage was more likely due to the high temperature resulting from long exposure to combustion within the pile than to short exposure to fires or explosions while the buildings were standing. [my emphasis] 
The NIST never clarifies what the “certain circumstances” might be that produced molten steel after the collapse. Its statement about “long exposure to combustion” is absurd on its face, given that there was no energy source in the pile of wreckage remotely capable of melting steel. In fact, the NIST’s above statement is an affront to our intelligence, since the hot spots identified by the US Geological Survey immediately after 9/11 and the molten pools were surely one and the same. There is no way to avoid the conclusion that the molten materials under the wreckage, as well as the smoldering fires, were a residual product of whatever caused the collapse of the WTC. Something on September 11, 2001 burned hot enough to melt steel in the basement of both towers. But such a deduction is too simple, evidently, or too provocative for the NIST, which made a decision not to go there.
When asked about what caused the molten pools Peter Tully suggested that perhaps jet fuel was responsible. But on this point, at least, the NIST report is surely correct. It’s easy to show that jet fuel was not the causative agent. There were reports that burning jet fuel leaked into the WTC elevators moments after the first impact. A descending fireball possibly caused explosions many floors below. Witnesses saw critically burned people emerging from elevators. Something ripped through the WTC 1 concourse lobby at about the time of the impact, blowing out windows and crumpling steel doors like they were paper. The same blast knocked marble slabs off the walls in the lobby. Custodians also heard explosions in the WTC 1 basement. A machine shop was wrecked, as well as a car garage.
But as serious as these explosions and fires were, jet fuel simply does not burn with sufficient energy to melt steel–––not even close. Many of the early reports by the US and world press erred in this respect. Indeed, in the emotional aftermath of the 9/11 attack the press often mangled the science as badly as the twisted steel beams of the WTC. One report posted by the BBC on September 13, 2001 quoted experts who stated matter-of-factly that the burning jet fuel actually melted the central columns, leading to the collapse. Another report on The History Channel, The Anatomy of September 11th, claimed that the inferno turned the steel piers in the WTC to “licorice.” A 2002 PBS NOVA special “Why the Towers Fell” showcased a similar theory, and suggested that the fires reached 2000°F, which caused the steel columns to lose 80% of their strength.
Even trained professionals jumped on the bandwagon–––and got it wrong. The day after the attack the Sunday Times interviewed Hyman Brown, a civil engineering professor at the University of Colorado: “Steel melts,” Brown said, “90,850 liters of aviation fluid melted the steel. Nothing is designed....to withstand that fire.” Years before, Brown hadbeen involved in the construction of the WTC as a project engineer. (He was later shown to be wrong about the amount of jet fuel. The NIST determined that the planes actually carried no more than 10,000 gallons–––about 40,000 liters).
The same day NewScientist.com asserted that “raging fires melted the
supporting steel struts.” On September 13, 2001 BBC radio interviewed Chris Wise, an engineer who explained that...
"It was the fire that killed the buildings. There’s nothing on earth that could survive those temperatures with that amount of fuel burning. The columns would have melted, the floors would have melted, and eventually they would have collapsed one on top of the other."
Elmer Obermeyer, the president of an Ohio engineering firm, also endorsed the meltdown theory in a story in the Cincinnati Business Courier. The paper noted that Obermeyer was a “guru in his field.” In October 2001 Scientific American.com posted an article summarizing the results of a 9/11 panel of MIT experts, one of whom, Eduardo Kausel, stated “that the intense heat softened or melted the structural elements—–floor trusses and columns–—so that they became like chewing gum, and that was enough to trigger the collapse.
This is but a small sampling of many such reports that appeared in those first days. All of them were wrong. As Frank Gayle, one of the NIST’s lead scientists, later pointed out: “Your gut reaction would be [that] the jet fuel is what made the [WTC] fire so very intense. A lot of people figured that’s what melted the steel. Indeed, it did not, the steel did not melt.” Gayle was seconded by Thomas Eagar, a professor of materials engineering at MIT:
"The Fire is the most misunderstood part of the WTC collapse. Even today the media report (and many scientists believe) that the steel melted. It is argued that the jet fuel burns very hot, especially with so much fuel present. This is not true....The temperatures of the fire at the WTC were not unusual, and it was most definitely not capable of melting steel."
When trained professionals get it wrong we should not be surprised by the mistakes of journalists, few of whom are trained in physics. The fact is that jet fuel, which is essentially kerosene, will not burn in air in excess of about 1,000°C (1,832°F)–––nowhere near the 2,800°F melting point of steel. Even this 1,000°C upper limit is very difficult to achieve, since, as Thomas Eagar pointed out, it requires the optimal mixing of fuel with oxygen during combustion, which can only be achieved in a laboratory. In fact, the clouds of black smoke that poured out of the twin towers on 9/11 were an obvious sign that the WTC fire burned at much lower temperatures, probably around 650°C (1,202°F) range, or even lower. This was due to the inefficient mixing of oxygen. It’s why most building fires burn no hotter than around 500-650°C. (932 -1,202°F)
To date, no one, including the NIST, has identified an energy source in the WTC–––or in the Boeing 767s–––capable of melting steel.
The NIST Report
Since the primary stated objective of the NIST 9/11 investigation was to determine the cause of the WTC collapse, the NIST should have conducted a forensic examination of the full spectrum of evidence. Ground zero was a crime scene, was it not? Yes, and because many credible eyewitnesses, including firemen who were on duty that fateful day, reported that they heard and/or saw explosions, the NIST should have investigated this without bias. It should have viewed this testimony as hard evidence: a starting point in its investigation. Instead, the NIST did a gloss. It posted a statement on its web site asserting that it had considered a number of hypotheses, including a planned demolition, but had found no corroborating evidence. This disclaimer was no more than a last-minute attempt to deflect criticism, since a close reading of the NIST report shows that the agency never entertained other alternatives. It certainly never investigated the eyewitness accounts of explosions.
The NIST report assumes, start to finish, that the Boeing 767s were responsible for the collapse of the twin towers. The agency took it for granted that the impacts set in motion a chain of events leading to catastrophic structural failure. The assumption is even stated explicitly in the Executive Summary:
The tragic consequences of the September 11, 2001 attacks were directly attributable to the fact that terrorists flew large jet-fuel laden commercial airliners into the WTC towers. Buildings for use by the general population are not designed to withstand attacks of such severity; building codes do not require building designs to consider aircraft impact.
The 43 volume NIST report confines itself to the sequence of eventsfrom the first plane impacts to the onset of collapse; and is governed throughout by ipso facto reasoning. Because the agency never entertained the possibility of a planned demolition, it never bothered to look for evidence of same. For example, it never tested steel samples recovered from ground zero for telltale traces of explosives. These omissions were irresponsible and smack of political interference, since in addition to the eyewitness accounts two scientific papers, one published in 2001, and another by FEMA in May 2002, had already detected sulfur residues on samples of WTC steel. As Dr. Steven Jones, a physics professor at BYU, has pointed out, sulfidation of steel can be an indicator of the use of thermate (or other closely related compounds) developed by the military and commonly used to cut steel in demolitions work. The possibility needed to be checked, if only to rule it out; but the agency, again, chose not to go there.
Let us now examine the NIST report in detail.
Why the WTC Survived the 767 Impacts
Everyone, including the NIST, agrees that the twin towers survived the initial Boeing 767 impacts on September 11, 2001–––despite serious damage. The buildings survived because the WTC was hugely overbuilt: redundant by design. The towers simply transferred the load from the severed/damaged members to other undamaged columns.
Upon its completion in 1970 the World Trade Center was not only the world’s tallest twin-skyscraper (1,368 feet), it was also a state-of-the-art achievement of modern construction. Although the WTC’s soaring lines gave the impression of a relatively light frame, in fact, the towers were extremely rugged, engineered to withstand hurricane-force winds and to survive a direct hit by a Boeing 707, the largest commercial jetliner of the day. In a 1993 interview the WTC’s principal structural engineer, John Skilling, stated that prior to construction he performed an impact analysis of a 600 mph Boeing 707 impact, and concluded “that the building structure would still be there.” The architectural firm that worked with Skilling described his 1,200 page structural analysis as “the most complete and detailed ever made for any building structure.” Frank A. Demartini, onsite manager during the construction of the WTC, seconded this view during a January 25, 2001 interview, in which he noted that the study involved “a fully loaded 707.” Demartini even declared that “the building probably could sustain multiple impacts of jetliners because this structure is like the mosquito netting on your screen door, this intense grid, and the jet plane is just a pencil puncturing that screen netting.” Demartini kept an office in the North Tower and was last seen on 9/11 assisting evacuees on the 78th floor.
The original WTC design, the work of architect Minoru Yamasaki, was one of the first architectural plans to call for open space within a steel-frame building. This meant doing away with the forest of columns so typical of the steel high-rise buildings of former years. Chief engineer Skilling achieved the objective with a double support system: a dense array of 236 columns around the perimeter, and a network of 47 massive piers at the core. The creation of large expanses of unobstructed floor space within the WTC was a novel idea in the 1960s, but is commonplace today.
The weight of each building was distributed about equally between the two sets of columns. The outer wall shielded the building from high winds, and was reinforced with broad steel plates known as “spandrels,” which girdled the building, like ribs, at every floor. The core contained the elevators, stairwells, and utility shafts. Both sets of columns were joined together by an innovative system of lightweight steel trusses. Each story was supported by a truss assembly covered with a corrugated steel deck–––the bed for a poured slab of lightweight concrete. Probably Skilling’s greatest innovation was to extend the truss diagonals up into the concrete floor, which added stiffness and strength. Each truss assembly/concrete floor behaved as a single unit.
Prefabrication and the overall modular design were other innovations that allowed for speedy construction–––and kept costs down. The advent of new high-strength steels made it all possible. In fact, the WTC had tremendous reserve capacity. An early article about the project in the Engineering News-Record declared that “live loads on these [perimeter] columns can be increased more than 2,000 percent before failure occurs.”
After a three-year investigation the NIST concluded that the World Trade Center would have survived on 9/11 if the impacts had not dislodged the buildings’ protective fireproofing–––installed at the time of construction to protect the steel columns from fire-generated heat. Construction-grade steel begins to lose its tensile strength at 425°C (~800°F), and is only about half as strong at 650°C (1,202°F). The lightweight truss assemblies were especially vulnerable, since they consisted of rather thin steel members. During construction they were coated with spray-applied insulation. The much larger steel piers and columns had a fire-barrier of gypsum wallboard.
NIST’s Official Explanation
The NIST concluded that the impact of the jetliners damaged or dislodged 100% of the protective insulation within the impact zone, while also spilling many thousands of gallons of jet fuel over multiple floors. The resulting 800-1,000°C (1,440-1,800°F ) blaze seriously weakened the now-exposed steel trusses. The trusses and floors sagged–––they argued–––which pulled the perimeter columns inward, causing them to buckle. The fires also weakened the central piers. The combination of these effects destabilized the structures and at a critical point the towers simply collapsed. The NIST concluded that the WTC would have survived the fires if the Boeing 767 impacts had no dislodged/damaged the fireproofing material, which, therefore, according to the NIST, was the critical factor on 9/11.
There are a number of serious problems, however, with this official narrative. In the first place, it is sharply at odds with the video record, which plainly shows that during each collapse perimeter columns and other structural members didn’t simply fall to the ground. In many cases they were ejected up and out of the disintegrating structure at nearly a 45 degree angle: a cascade that hurled steel beams weighing 20 tons or more as much as 600 feet from the base of the buildings. One remarkable photo of ground zero taken from above shows that entire sections of WTC 1’s western perimeter wall were thrown 500+ feet toward the Winter Garden. Could a gravitational collapse do this?
Photos of the mountain of wreckage taken by Joel Meyerowitz and others also show very few, if any, large chunks of concrete. The rubble pile almost exclusively consisted of twisted steel beams, pipes, aluminum, etc. Concrete was conspicuous in its absence. This is remarkable when you consider that the 500,000 ton towers were made up largely of concrete. Each floor of the 110-story WTC, roughly one acre in size, consisted of a 4-inch thick slab of poured concrete on a deck of 22-gauge steel. During the collapse something–––some force–––pulverized nearly all of this concrete into fine dust. Many have attributed this to the brute hammer of gravity, but the videos clearly dispute this. The buildings weren’t pulverized as they hit the ground, but rather, in midair as the buildings disintegrated. Much of the dust settled a foot or more deep on the 16-acre WTC site. The rest was deposited across lower Manhattan. Nor was this pulverization limited to concrete. Many other materials also disappeared without a trace on 9/11; such as office furniture and thousands of computers, not to mention the many victims who died in the collapse. It’s a fact that less than 300 corpses were recovered in the wreckage. Yet, strangely, many months later, during the demolition of the Deutsch Bank–––badly damaged in the 9/11 attack–––workers found more than 700 body parts, e.g., slivers of bone, on the roof and within the doomed structure. The question is: why? This bizarre report remains a mystery.
The videos of the collapse also reveal another anomaly, one that I find personally disturbing. The towers did not pancake in the usual fashion of concrete buildings. When large buildings drop during powerful earthquakes each story tends to fall more or less intact upon the floors beneath. The building itself serves to brake the fall from above. Photographs taken after earthquakes typically show a succession of concrete slabs piled one on top of another, each plainly discernible in the rubble. But nothing like this happened on 9/11. The collapse of WTC 1 and WTC 2 were nearly a free-fall. If the towers had pancaked from above the inertial mass of the lower floors would have resisted and slowed the fall considerably–––even arrested it. But this didn’t happen. The towers plummeted as if there were no resistance whatsoever. From start to finish they fell in only about 12 seconds, just 2 seconds longer than the time for a billiard ball to drop from the WTC roof to the plaza below. The question is why?
The NIST report failed to address any of these anomalies. In fact, it didn’t even try. The NIST sidestepped the ejection of material, the vast pulverization of concrete, the many testimonials and other evidence of explosions, and the near-free fall by limiting its investigation to the sequence of events from the Boeing 767 impacts to the onset of the collapse. Incredibly, the NIST chose not to examine the collapse itself. The report makes reference to the “global collapse” of the WTC, but we never learn what this means because the NIST report never tells us. Once again, the agency decided not to go there. Evidently we are supposed to assume that gravity alone was responsible. But could gravity transform enormous slabs of concrete, hundreds of thousands of tons of material, into fine dust, in midair? Extremely doubtful. The NIST’s decision not to investigate these important questions add up to more grave omissions.
But we haven’t yet examined the NIST report itself. Let’s do that, now.
The Special Projects
The NIST investigation incorporated eight separate projects, all of which, together, produced 42 volumes of supporting documentation; all told, some 10,000 pages. The projects included an impact analysis, metallurgical studies, a reconstruction of the fires, and a computer model of the probable sequence of events leading up to collapse of each tower. Some of the agency’s investigative work was of excellent quality–––some wasn’t–––but very little of it lends credence to the NIST’s final, and official, explanation of the cause of the WTC collapse.
One of the most serious and persistent problems NIST investigators faced was the admitted lack of information about conditions at the core of the towers. To be sure, thousands of photographs and hundreds of hours of videotape made it possible to study in detail the damage to the WTC exterior, and to gain a reasonable understanding about conditions in the outer offices. Fires were often visible through the windows, despite dense smoke, and sagging floors and other structural damage was discernible through gaping holes in the damaged exterior. However, as the NIST report states, “Fires deeper than a few meters inside the building could not be seen because of the smoke obscuration [sic] and the steep viewing angle of nearly all the photographs.” Thus, except for steel samples gathered after the fact the NIST had almost no other information about the dynamic conditions at the core of the WTC on 9/11.
The agency sought to overcome this shortfall of information with computer simulations. This was problematic from the outset, since computer models are no better than the quality of input and the accuracy of the programmer’s assumptions. As architect and critic Eric Douglas points out in his 2006 analysis of the NIST report: “a fundamental problem with....computer simulation is the overwhelming temptation to manipulate the input data until one achieves the desired results.” Did the NIST investigators fall prey to this insidious tendency? And did this lead them to overestimate the impact damage to the WTC interior? Let us now consider this question.
NIST’s Global Impact/Collapse Analyses
In one of its most important projects (NCSTAR 1-2), NIST scientists developed a global impact analysis: to estimate the structural damage to the WTC caused by the Boeing 767s. In this study the NIST considered three different scenarios. These ranged from less damage to extreme damage, with a moderate alternative (described as “the base”) in the middle. As it happened, all three scenarios accurately predicted the impact damage to the WTC exterior at the point of entry; although with regard to WTC 1 the moderate case was a slightly better match. The three differed greatly, however, in predicting the number of severed columns at the WTC core, a datum obviously of great importance. In the case of WTC 1 the lesser alternative predicted only one severed core column, the moderate alternative predicted three, while the extreme alternative predicted five to six. In the case of WTC 2 the disparity was even greater: The lesser alternative predicted three severed columns, the moderate five, and the extreme case no less than ten.
Although the NIST never satisfactorily resolved these differences, it immediately threw out the less severe alternatives, citing two reasons in the Executive Summary report: first, because they failed to predict observable damage to the far exterior walls; and second, because they did not lead to a global collapse.
On 9/11 the first tower sustained visible damage to its opposite. i.e., south wall, caused by an errant landing gear and by a piece of the fuselage, which were later recovered from below. Also, at the time of the second impact a jet engine was seen exiting WTC 2’s opposite wall at high speed, after passing through the building. It was later found on Murray Street, several blocks northeast of the WTC. In its summary report the NIST leads us to believe that it used the observable damage to the far walls caused by these ejected jet plane parts to validate its simulations. Yet, in one of its supplementary documents the NIST admits that “because of [computer] model size constraints, the panels on the south side of WTC 1 were modeled with a coarse resolution...[and for this reason] The model....underestimates the damage to the tower on this face.” But–––notice–––this means that none of the alternatives accurately predicted the exit damage.
This admission, deeply buried in the 43 volume report, is fatal to the NIST’s first rationale for rejecting the lesser alternative, since it was no less accurate than the moderate and extreme cases. (Or, put differently: It was no more inaccurate.) Which, of course, means that the NIST rejected the lesser alternative for only one reason: because it failed to predict a global collapse. The simulations for WTC 2 suffered from the same modeling defect. As the supplementary documentation states, “None of the three WTC 2 global impact simulations resulted in a large engine fragment exiting the tower.” Yet, here again, the NIST rejected the lesser alternative. We can thank researcher Eric Douglas for digging deeper than the summary report. Otherwise, this flaw, tantamount to the devil lurking in the fine print, might never have come to light.
But biased reasoning did not deter the NIST. Later, it also tossed out the moderate (base) alternatives, ultimately adopting the most extreme scenarios in its subsequent global collapse analysis–––even though, as noted, the moderate alternatives were no less accurate, from a predictive standpoint, than the extreme cases. In fact, with regard to predicting the entry damage to WTC 1, as noted, the moderate alternative was actually a better match.
The NIST report offers no scientific rationale for this decision, only the pithy comment that the moderate alternatives “were discarded after the structural response analysis of major subsystems were compared with observed events.” And what, pray tell, were these “observed events”? The report explains that “structural models....indicated that....the buildings would have continued to stand indefinitely.” Here, at least, the NIST is more forthright than in the case of the lesser alternatives.
Things only get worse.
As it happened, even the extreme alternatives required further tinkering to be acceptable. The report informs us that “Complete sets of simulations were then performed for cases B and D [the extreme alternatives]. To the extent that the simulations deviated from the photographic evidence or eyewitness reports, the investigators adjusted the input, but only within the range of physical reality.”[my emphasis] In other words, NIST scientists worked backwards from the collapse, tweaking the extreme alternatives until their computer model finally spat out the desired result consistent with their assumption, which never wavered, that the 767 impacts ultimately were at the root of everything on 9/11. Of course, the NIST report never tells us what the “additional inputs” were.
That the NIST’s impact study and subsequent global collapse analysis were biased, hence, unscientific, ought to be obvious. But I will go even further: The impact simulations were very nearly a waste of time, since by its own admission the NIST had almost no information about actual conditions at the WTC core. The NIST had no sound basis for rejecting the lesser and moderate impact alternatives; both were at least as plausible as the extreme alternative. Why were they not given equal weight? The reason is obvious: That would have compelled NIST investigators to entertain the unthinkable, i.e., the possibility that some other causative agent was responsible for the WTC collapse. Still, one has to admire, in a perverse sort of way, the NIST’s triumph of circular reasoning..
The Metallurgical Studies
The NIST’s metallurgical and fire studies were among the most important projects, and involved testing 236 samples of steel columns, panels, trusses, and other smaller parts recovered from ground zero. Thanks to the original labeling system used during the construction of the WTC, the NIST was able in many cases to identify individual steel members, and thus to determine their exact locations in the WTC. As it happened, some of the samples were from the impact zones and fire-damaged areas. The collection represented only 0.25 - 0.5 % of the 200,000 total tons of structural steel used the two towers. But the NIST believed it had enough samples to determine the quality of the steel and evaluate its performance on 9/11.
The NIST’s findings decisively refuted the pancake theory of collapse that had been widely reported in the media. According to this theory the WTC collapse on 9/11 was due to failure of the WTC truss assemblies. A number of vocal experts had claimed that the weak link was the point of attachment: where the trusses connected with the inner and outer columns. These junctions, often referred to as angle-clips, were made of relatively lightweight steel and were secured by steel bolts. During a 2002 NOVA special–––before the NIST ran its metallurgical/fire tests–––Thomas Eagar, the MIT engineer already cited, summed up the view of many about how and why the trusses failed on 9/11:
"...the steel had plenty of strength, until it reached temperatures of 1,100º to 1,300ºF. In this range, the steel started losing a lot of strength, and the bending became greater. Eventually the steel lost 80 percent of its strength, because of this fire that consumed the whole floor....then you got this domino effect. Once you started to get angle-clips to fail in one area, it put extra load on other angle-clips, and then it unzipped around the building on that floor in a matter of seconds. If you look at the whole structure, they are the smallest piece of steel. As everything begins to distort, the smallest piece is going to become the weak link in the chain. They were plenty strong for holding up one truss, but when you lost several trusses, the trusses adjacent to those had to hold two or three times what they were expected to hold."
1. Penn Arts and Sciences, Summer 2002. www.sas.upenn.edu/sasalum/newsltr/summer2002/k911.html
2. Dr Keith Eaton, The Structural Engineer 3, September 2002, #6.
3. James Williams, “WTC a Structural Success,” SEAU NEWS, The Newsletter of the Structural Engineers Association of Utah, October 2001, #3.
4. Magazine of Johns Hopkins Public Health, late fall, 2001. When I contacted Dr Geyh she confirmed the report. She stated that people involved in the clean up effort told her they had seen molten steel in the debris.
5. Commissioner Holden’s testimony before the 911 Commission is posted at www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/congress/9
6. Christopher Bollyn, “Seismic Evidence Points to Underground Explosions Causing WTC Collapse” American Free Press, August 28, 2002.
7. Manuel Garcia, “The Thermodynamics of 9/11,” November 28, 2006. posted at www.counterpunch.org/thermo11282006.html
8. The results are posted at
9. NIST is a nonregulatory agency of the Department of Commerce. The NIST investigation/report of the WTC collapse was conducted under the authority of the National Construction Safety Team Act, which was signed into law on October 1, 2002.
10. See question 13, Frequently Aasked Questions, posted at http://wtc.nist.gov/pubs/factsheets/faqs_8_2006.htm
11.“We Will Not Forget, A Day of Terror”, The Chief Engineer, October 26, 2006. www.chiefengineer.org/article.cfm?seqnum1=1029
12. Sheila Barter, “How the World Trade Center Fell”, BBC news, September 13, 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1540044.stm
13. A summary of the points presented in the NOVA special are still posted at PBS. www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/wtc/dyk.html
14 Kamikaze attackers may have known twin sisters’ weak spot,” Sundaytimes.com posted at
15. Kamikaze attackers may have known twin sisters’ weak spot,” Sundaytimes.com posted at
17. “Carew Tower couldn't tolerate similar strike”, Business Courier, September 14, 2001.
18. Steven Ashley, “When the Twin Towers Fell”, October 09, 2001, originally posted at www.Scientific American.com. See the annotated version posted at http://911research.wtc7.net/disinfo/experts/articles/sciam01/
19. Andy Field, “A Look Inside a Radical New Theory of the WTC Collapse,” Fire/Rescue News, February 7, 2004.
20. T.W. Eagar and C. Musso, “Why Did the WTC Collapse? Science, Engineering and Speculation,” Journal of the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, 53/12 (2001): 8-11. This paper is also posted at
21. NIST NCSTAR 1, WTC Investigation, Preface, xxxi.
22. After a FOIA request advanced by the New York Times the City of New York had to release the FDNY testimonials, which are posted as pdf files at
20050812_WTC_GRAPHIC/met_WTC_histories_full_01.html For a convenient
look at some of them go to
23. See the NIST response to question two at http://wtc.nist.gov/pubs/factsheets/faqs_8_2006.htm
24. NIST NCSTAR, Executive Summary, p. xlvii.
25. J.R., Barnett, R.R. Biederman, and R.D. Sisson Jr., “An Initial Microstructural Analysis of A36 Steel from WTC Building 7,” Journal of the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, 53/12 (2001): 18; also see FEMA, “World Trade Center Building Performance Study,” May 2002, Appendix C.
26. Steven E. Jones, “Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?”, in 911 and American Empire, edited by David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, Olive Branch Press, Northhampton, Mass., 2006.
27. In July 1971 the WRC won a national award when the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) named it “the engineering project that demonstrates the greatest engineering skills and represents the greatest contribution to engineering progress and mankind.” in Angus K. Gillespie, Twin Towers: The Life of New York City’s World Trade Center, New Brunswick, Rutger’s University Press, 1999, p. 117.
28. James Glanz and Eric Lipton, City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center, New York, Times Books, 2003, p. 138.
29. City in the Sky, p. 134-136.
30. cited at http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/analysis/design.html
31. Richard Korman and Debra Rubin, “Painful Losses Mount in the Construction ‘Family’”, posted at www.construction.com/NewsCenter/Headlines/ENR/20011001a.asp 32. The WTC was not the first of its kind. A similar design had been used in 43-story DeWitt-Chestnut and the 38-story Brunswick buildings, both in Chicago–––both completed in 1965.
33. “How Columnss Will be Designed for 110-Story Buildings,” Engineering News-Record, April 2, 1964, p. 48-49.
34. The photo is posted at
35. This strange development came to light in July 2006, long after the cleanup of the Deutsche Bank had supposedly been completed. The announcement prompted a sharp letter of protest from the attorney representing the families of the victims. For more details go to
36. NIST NCSTAR 1, WTC Investigation, p. 118; also see NIST NCSTAR 1-2,
WTC Investigation, Executive Summary, p. xli.
37. NIST NCSTAR 1, WTC Investigation, p. 124.
38. The NIST recovered 12 core columns from the WTC, but only one (in two separate pieces) from WTC 2 turned out to be from the area affected by the impacts/fires. A number of flanges from the core were also recovered. See Table 5-2 in NIST NCSTAR 1-3, WTC Investigation, p. 35.
39. Eric Douglas, R.A., “The NIST WTC Investigation -- How Real Was The Simulation?”, A review of NIST NCSTAR 1, October 2006, p. 8. Posted at www.nistreview.org
40. NIST NCSTAR 1-2, WTC Investigation, Executive Sumary, p. lxxxvii. The NIST also admitted this in its global impact study., which states “in terms of structural damage condition in exterior columns, Case Ai and Case Bi and similarly Case Ci and Case Di damage sets were identical.” NIST NCSTAR 1-6D, WTC Investigation, p. 10.
41. NIST NCSTAR 1-2, WTC Investigation, Executive Summary, p. lxxv.
42. NIST NCSTAR 1-2, WTC Investigation, p. lxxv.
43. NIST NCSTAR 1-2B, WTC Investigation, p. 344.
44. NIST NCSTAR 1-2B , WTC Investigation, p. 345.
45. NIST NCSTAR 1-2B, WTC Investigation, p. 353.
46. NIST NCSTAR 1, WTC Investigation, p. 142.
47. NIST NCSTAR 1-6D, WTC Investigation.
48. NIST NCSTAR 1, WTC Investigation, p. 142
49. NIST NCSTAR 1-3, WTC Investigation, p. 39.
50. NIST NCSTAR 1-3, WTC Investigation p. 39.
51. The NOVA special “Why the Towers Fell” aired in 2002. The text of the NOVA interview with Thomas Eagar is posted at http://911research.wtc7.net/disinfo/experts/articles/eagar_nova/ nova_eagar2.html
Dead on Arrival: The NIST Report Part II
Last updated 20/12/2006
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