WTC 7 report: end of the line for 9/11 conspiracy theories?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology just-released final report on the collapse of World Trade Center 7 in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attack concludes that fire, not controlled demolition, was the cause of 47-story building’s destruction.

At an August 21st news conference, Shyam Sunder, the lead investigator for the federal building and fire safety investigation of the WTC disaster, explained: “Our take-home message today is that the reason for the collapse of World Trade Center 7 is no longer a mystery. WTC 7 collapsed because of fires fueled by office furnishings. It did not collapse from explosives or from diesel fuel fires. It collapsed because fires—similar to those experienced in other tall buildings—burned in the absence of water supply to operate the sprinklers, and burned beyond the ability of firefighters to control fires. It fell because thermal expansion, a phenomenon not considered in current building design practice, caused a fire-induced progressive collapse.”

Sunder directly addressed the question of whether controlled demolition had brought down WTC 7, a favorite theory of the “9/11 Truth Movement” and its celebrity hanger-ons, like Jesse Ventura, Charlie Sheen, and Rosie O’Donnell, noting that the investigative team had considered that possibility and rejected it. NIST concluded that “blast events inside the building did not occur” and “found no evidence supporting the existence of a blast event.” A NIST WTC 7 fact sheet summarized the case against controlled demolition:

In addition, no blast sounds were heard on the audio tracks of video recordings during the collapse of WTC 7 or reported by witnesses. According to calculations by the investigation team, the smallest blast capable of failing the building’s critical column would have resulted in a sound level of 130 decibels (dB) to 140 dB at a distance of at least half a mile, if unobstructed by surrounding buildings. This sound level is consistent with a gunshot blast, standing next to a jet plane engine, and more than 10 times louder than being in front of the speakers at a rock concert.

For the building to have been prepared for intentional demolition, walls and/or column enclosures and fireproofing would have to be removed and replaced without being detected. Preparing a column includes steps such as cutting sections with torches, which produces noxious and odorous fumes. Intentional demolition usually requires applying explosive charges to most, if not all, interior columns, not just one or a limited set of columns in a building.

The NIST WTC 7 team also found another popular 9/11 conspiracy theory, that thermite/thermate was used to sever columns was highly unlikely: “To apply thermite to a large steel column, approximately 0.13 lb of thermite would be needed to heat and melt each pound of steel. For a steel column that weighs approximately 1,000 lbs. per foot, at least 100 lbs. of thermite would need to be placed around the column, ignited, and remain in contact with the vertical steel surface as the thermite reaction took place. This is for one column … presumably, more than one column would have been prepared with thermite, if this approach were to be used.” NIST concluded that it was “unlikely that 100 lbs. of thermite, or more, could have been carried into WTC 7 and placed around columns without being detected, either prior to Sept. 11 or during that day.”

A blow to the 9/11 conspiracy theorists

The final NIST WTC 7 report represents a major blow to the promoters of 9/11 conspiracy theories. They began by claiming that the Twin Towers (WTC 1 and 2) had been felled by controlled demolition as part of a government “false flag operation.” Their argument had obvious flaws—it wasn’t hard to imagine that two large airliners loaded with jet fuel smashing into skyscrapers could inflict massive damage—and that was what the first NIST report concluded.

Their focus then turned to WTC 7, with many conspiracy theorists seizing on the fact that the building was not hit directly by the planes and “mysteriously” collapsed hours later. Again, they argued for controlled demolition, forcefully enough that NIST included explosions as a possible cause for the collapse in its investigation.

With the demolition theory for WTC 7 having been considered and rejected, the 9/11 conspiracy theorists are in a bind. The final NIST report offers what Sunder called a “simple and straightforward and elegant” explanation for the collapse of the building. The simplicity of the theory—that unchecked fires led to a chain of failures and then progressive collapse—and the extensive computer modeling of the hypothesis place it squarely in the best traditions of the scientific method.

The alternative theory advanced by the so-called 9/11 Truthers is far-fetched and requires a complete suspension of disbelief. Professional demolition experts have repeatedly explained that it takes weeks of work to prepare a building for a controlled demolition. And how could such a massive conspiracy, involving hundreds if not thousands of people, be kept silent? And what of the lack of any evidence of an explosion, as pointed out by the NIST team?

Despite the “on-the-record” scientific studies now explaining the WTC disaster, it’s unlikely that all members of the “9/11 Truth Movement” will go away quietly. Some make considerable amounts of money hawking 9/11 conspiracy DVDs and books. Others cling to the notion for deep-seated psychological reasons. Some are deluded. Yet the weight of the evidence is clear: the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings was directly caused by the actions of the 9/11 terrorists. To believe otherwise is to not only embrace an alternative theory, but to accept an alternative reality.


An extended commentary on the 9/11 “Truth Movement” can be found at “Exposing the 9/11 conspiracy fantasies.”

Advertisements

July 2008: Nobody asked me, but…

Veeps and Swing States, Che’s dark legacy, the Big Dig and the Big Lift, and other observations

With a tip of the straw boater to legendary New York columnist Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

WHO WOULD JOHN McCAIN AND BARACK OBAMA SELECT FOR THEIR RESPECTIVE RUNNING MATES if they put aside all considerations except winning key swing states? For McCain, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge represents the best choice for the GOP ticket to contest Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and perhaps even New Jersey (more so than McCain-Romney). For Obama, Hillary Clinton as VP would provide the most lift in Ohio, Michigan, and Florida by appealing to ethnic working class Democrats and older women.

Yet it’s unlikely Ridge and Clinton will be the vice presidential choices. Ridge’s pro-choice stance makes him a difficult sell to Republican evangelicals. Obama doesn’t want to share the stage, or spotlight, with the more experienced Clinton. So, it can be argued, the candidates will not let Electoral College math drive their VP-picks and that’s where political decision-making veers from the rational.

IT WAS TELLING THAT COLOMBIAN COMMANDOS DISGUISED THEMSELVES IN Ernesto “Che” Guevara t-shirts to trick Marxist guerrillas into freeing 15 kidnap victims. That the brutal Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, idolized Guevara—the Argentine revolutionary icon—is yet another part of Che’s dark legacy, albeit a predictable one. That an American director, Steven Soderbergh, should seek to glorify this ruthless proponent of a failed Marxist ideology (as he does in his new movie) is less understandable.

THE LAND OF THE BEAN AND THE COD can now proudly lay claim to the world’s greatest public works boondoggle—the mismanaged Big Dig. The Boston Globe reports that the error-plagued project (grandly entitled the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel) “will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a staggering $22 billion…” The debt will not be paid off until 2038, according to the Globe, and the state government’s solution to the crushing debt? Borrowing more! It was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

JEFF JACOBY OF THE BOSTON GLOBE quarreled with Sen. Obama’s oratorical treatment of the Berlin Airlift (in Obama’s July 24th speech), with the often-fiery conservative columnist zinging the Democratic presidential hopeful for failing to mention President Harry Truman’s pivotal role and the courage of the U.S. pilots involved. Jacoby added:

…Obama seemed to go out of his way not to say plainly that what saved Berlin in that dark time was America’s military might. Save for a solitary reference to “the first American plane,” he never described one of the greatest American operations of the postwar period as an American operation at all. He spoke only of “the airlift,” “the planes,” “those pilots.” Perhaps their American identity wasn’t something he cared to stress amid all his “people of the world” salutations and talk of “global citizenship.”

Jacoby’s criticism is partially valid, but the Berlin Airlift was a combined Anglo-American operation, with more British pilots (39) dying than American (31) during the course of the nearly year-long resupply effort. (The 1950 movie “The Big Lift” offers an in-depth look at the harrowing conditions faced by pilots flying into Berlin.)

SPEAKING OF ANGLO INFLUENCES, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE NEW BATMAN MOVIE “THE DARK KNIGHT.” The two stars, Christian Bale (England) and Heath Ledger (Australia), the director (Christopher Nolan, a Brit), and two key supporting actors, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman (both Londoners) prove that Batman isn’t as American a franchise as you might think.

THE LATE DALE DAVIS, PUBLISHER OF THE SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS USED TO JOKE THAT every American man believed he could do three things well: drive a car, make love, and run a newspaper. Of course whether that proverbial guy actually could perform adequately was a completely different question, Davis would add. Sam Zell, the Chicago “turnaround maven” who engineered the takeover of the Tribune Company for $8.5 billion in 2007 has discovered that running newspapers these days isn’t as easy as it looked from the outside, and BusinessWeek calls it “a transaction that’s shaping up to be one of the most disastrous the media world has ever seen.”

As Zell slashes newsroom payrolls, sells many of Tribune’s papers, and belatedly admits he misjudged the financial situation, the question now becomes whether this self-described “grave dancer” will run the company into the ground. Zell’s hand-picked former Clear Channel executives clearly don’t know what they are doing. It adds up to hard times for some of the country’s major metros (like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.)

IT’S A TOSS UP AS TO WHETHER RAPPER LUDACRIS OR ACTOR JON VOIGHT demonstrate better the absurdity of entertainers pontificating about politics. Ludacris embarrassed the Obama campaign by releasing a rap video insulting both Hillary Clinton and John McCain, while Voight contributed a pro-McCain op-ed to the Washington Times warning about Obama’s plans to introduce socialism to the United States. With celebrity friends like these, who needs enemies?

THIS MONTH’S WORDS OF WISDOM FROM JOURNALIST THEODORE “TEDDY” WHITE: “To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.”

Copyright © 2008 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved

Add to Technorati Favorites!