The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Wednesday published answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about its investigation of the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings on September 11, 2001 (post terrorist attack). This represents a very positive development, because while there are no new revelations—NIST has simply summarized the results of its massive scientific investigation—the answers debunk some of the more prevalent 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Decision-makers at NIST now realize that it must publicly counter the paranoid fantasies and pseudo-science of the conspiracy theorists with a clearer, and more focused, statement of the facts.
It’s an approach all government agencies should take about 9/11. The more transparent and open they are, the easier it is to refute the idea that 9/11 was an “inside job.” There is significant work to be done on this front: a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll in early August found that “more than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East.”
NIST’s response to the argument that the Twin Towers (WTC 1 and WTC 2) were brought down through “controlled demolition” can not be repeated often enough:
Video evidence also showed unambiguously that the collapse progressed from the top to the bottom, and there was no evidence (collected by NIST, or by the New York Police Department, the Port Authority Police Department or the Fire Department of New York) of any blast or explosions in the region below the impact and fire floors as the top building sections (including and above the 98th floor in WTC 1 and the 82nd floor in WTC 2) began their downward movement upon collapse initiation.
In summary, NIST found no corroborating evidence for alternative hypotheses suggesting that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition using explosives planted prior to Sept. 11, 2001. NIST also did not find any evidence that missiles were fired at or hit the towers. Instead, photographs and videos from several angles clearly show that the collapse initiated at the fire and impact floors and that the collapse progressed from the initiating floors downward until the dust clouds obscured the view.
The NIST FAQs also deal with some other common misunderstandings and/or distortions:
- To the argument that “no steel-frame, high-rise buildings have ever before or since been brought down due to fires,” NIST points out that it concluded that
the Twin Towers fell because:
(1) the impact of the planes severed and damaged support columns, dislodged fireproofing insulation coating the steel floor trusses and steel columns, and widely dispersed jet fuel over multiple floors; and (2) the subsequent unusually large, jet-fuel ignited multi-floor fires weakened the now susceptible structural steel.
Further, NIST notes, no U.S. building “has ever been subjected to the massive structural damage and concurrent multi-floor fires” of 9/11.
- The “puffs of smoke” coming from the WTC buildings during their collapse, cited as evidence of demolition by 9/11 conspiracy theorists, instead occurred because “the falling mass of the building compressed the air ahead of it—much like the action of a piston—forcing smoke and debris out the windows as the stories below failed sequentially.”
- The automatic sprinkler systems in the Twin Towers never could have handled the severity and extend of the jet-fuel induced fires—even if the sprinklers been operating on the “principal fire floors,” which they were not.
- What about the melted steel in the wreckage (cited by the conspiracy theorists as proof that something other than fire was responsible for the collapses)? NIST’s response: “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. “
It is disappointing that NIST announced in this FAQ answer sheet that the report on the collapse of World Trade Center 7 (which was not directly hit by the airliners but damaged by debris) will not be released until early 2007 (a fall 2006 release had been planned). NIST repeated its working hypothesis that WTC 7 fell because of structural damage to the lower floors which triggered a “vertical failure,” and led to “a disproportionate collapse of the entire structure.” The good news is that the controlled demolition hypothesis for WTC 7 will be dealt with directly.