Archive for the ‘House Science Committee Hearings’ Category

‘Phony Science’ revealed in NIST’s WTC 1 & 2 report by House Science probes of 2002, 2005: Part 3 of 3

July 13, 2010

The WTC investigation by NIST falls short of expectations by not definitively finding cause….Why were not alternative collapse hypotheses investigated and discussed as NIST had stated repeatedly that they would do? Their current explanation for the collapse of the towers is critically based on an assumption that the insulation was removed from the steel in the path of the aircraft, particularly the core columns. NIST does not show calculations or experiments to satisfactorily confirm that the insulation was removed in the core.” [1]

James G. Quintiere, Ph.D.

Professor, Fire Protection Engineering, University of Maryland

(1971-1989, NIST chief of Fire Science and Engineering Division)

Fear of the truth about 9/11 in New York City may have explained why three U.S. House hearings about the attack—March 6 and May 1, 2002 and October 2005—caused most of the members of the Science Committee either to be absent or fail to ask some key questions that could have begun solving the decade-old mystery of what really destroyed the World Trade Center’s seven buildings on September 11, 2001. At least they should have demanded an independent science/technology investigation by renown national and international experts instead of accepting reports rendered by two seemingly politicized or fear-based federal agencies. [2]

The first two hearings were a precursor to the 9/11 Commission investigation launched in late 2002 and completed in 2004. The third had to be influenced by the Commission’s Report as a controlled investigation with politicized research efforts. The Report was immediately and heavily criticized as near-worthless by its chair, co-chair, one of its commissioners, experts in science and engineering as well as influential figures in other fields and survivor groups such as the Jersey Girls and the Skyscraper Safety Committee. But such adverse views didn’t seem to have provoked most House panelists’ actions in any of those three hearings. [3]

It was if most were fleeing some gray, insidious plague threatening to entangle and destroy any who dared question the Administration’s first-day story. Which is exactly what those who planned that event intended.

Members had an opportunity to speak up the moment they suspected their chair, Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY-24th), might have been ordered—along with those agencies—to provide window-dressing for what now appears to be equally worthless science/engineering investigations. But that would have required each of the 47 members either to be science and engineering professionals current in their fields, or to have legislative aides who were. [4]

From all appearances, that fear seemed based on political repercussions involving the Committee Chair, or U.S. House political leadership, or party leadership. Other fears might have been not seen as patriotic in a time when the attack had cost nearly 3,000 lives, or daring to question the “official” explanation that 19 Arab hijackers with box-cutters destroyed the WTC. With others on that panel, it might have been resignation that they had no more power to stave off pre-destined action than previous House members driven by the pro-war juggernaut of President Lyndon B. Johnson into voting 416-0 for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution August 7, 1964 which launched the eight-year pyrrhic Vietnam War. Or the German parliament in 1933 voting Hitler into power after the February Reichstag fire. [5]

The two agencies concerned were the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its science and engineering assessment subsidiary, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Up to November 2000, FEMA had established a highly credible reputation in the mandate that it

intervenes at all stages of disaster management including preparation, response, recovery, mitigation, risk reduction, and prevention. [6]

But even the day after the attacks, millions around the globe doubted two commercial airliners crashing into the Twin Towers (WTC 1 and 2) could shake them into oblivion. After all, a fog-enveloped B-25 bomber struck the still iconic Empire State Building in 1945 between the 78th and 79th floors and it wasn’t destroyed. That may explain why the attack’s planners chose fire and not explosives to be broadcast to the world as the causal agent that ultimately destroyed all seven buildings in the WTC complex. [7]

Fire would be a plausible explanation for a public they regarded as gullible simpletons with short attention spans who would believe anything, especially from those agencies. Trying to control independent authorities in those fields would be too complicated—and revealing. Television coverage had been a superb ally with constant repetition of a jet-fuel fireball dropping outside WTC 2 and flames flickering out of WTC 1. But for many skeptics, all those erupting clouds of black and white smoke suggested mid-1940s A-bomb testing in South Sea Islands. Or advanced forms of thermobaric bombs used in the Vietnam War. [8]

The planners knew such a public had to be assured from the outset that a extraordinary, meticulous forensic investigation was being conducted around-the-clock on a no-stone-unturned basis by FEMA investigators. That a report would be issued by Christmas (or at least by early Spring 2002 if controversies arose). They also knew how to force agency officials to render a fire verdict.

FEMA was on the job minutes after the aircraft hits, fielding its Urban Search and Rescue Team and summoning one of its ad hoc groups of experts investigating building failures, the Building Performance Assessment Teams (BPAT). These were on-call world-class retainers available on a moment’s notice to assess major structural disasters, whether natural or man-made. It would be prohibitively expensive to keep such expertise on the payroll, and, by their not working in a civil-service culture, guaranteed independent work. [9]

This particular 25-member BPAT was from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The perpetrators discovered too late perhaps that the team included a blast-effects expert as well as seven fire authorities, including a Canadian specializing in fire effects on materials and a senior fire investigator from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This could spell catastrophe because even rookie firefighters—and FEMA’s director—knew fire had never collapsed a steel-framed building in recorded history. [10]

Another challenge was knowing that Congress and the Administration also would be bombarded with a tsunami of public demands for a major investigation about the attack on the Pentagon building. The loudest lobbyists and the most annoying to the 9/11 planners undoubtedly were from survivors’ groups like the Skyscraper Safety Campaign and “Jersey Girls.” But two birds could be killed with one stone by utilizing a low-profile House committee for a pseudo-investigation. The panel had to be one rarely drawing media coverage or public attention, unlike those involving the military, the budget, or ethics. [11]

The obvious choice was the House Science Committee. The Chair’s actions in the first two hearings in March and May 2002 strongly indicate his assignment was to downgrade the BPAT report as “preliminary,” issued by a disorganized group working in chaotic conditions from October 7-14. The second assignment was to publicize that a new and supposedly thorough investigation was about to be launched by NIST, the government’s science/technology center. The third hearing was to trumpet the results, mostly emphasizing its 30 recommendations—and to close forever the chapter on 9/11 permitting the U.S. to unilaterally launch two wars supposedly for revenge that have caused millions of deaths, injuries, destruction, and starvation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, now, Pakistan. [12]

Chairman Boehlert may have been as honored, eager—and initially deceived—as the BPAT group was, to be asked to have his committee play a key role in what at first appeared to be a monumental and substantive investigation of the WTC destruction. The perpetrators seemed to know that the Science Committee has rarely contained many experts in either science or engineering—or advanced weaponry. Boehlert himself had a BS, but used it professionally for only three years after college doing public relations for a chemical firm. [13]

Judging from the significant absenteeism of panelists in the subsequent three hearings—especially the high turnover between 2002 and 2005 (43%)— many obviously did not share his view even if their feelings about a legitimate 9/11 investigation were strong. Outside of the basic fears listed above, some may have refused to rubberstamp what was rumored to be a questionable report. Others may have wondered why such an important investigation merited only three hours of Wednesday afternoons. Still others, by March and May’s hearings, may have bridled at the erroneous titles Boehlert had approved for the first session (Learning From 9/11—Understanding the Collapse of the World Trade Center) and the next two (The Investigation of the World Trade Center Collapse: Findings, Recommendations, and the Next Steps). [14]

Two factors were outright errors, either deliberate or unintentional ignorance if the reports could be considered valid.

For one thing, only one of the Center’s seven buildings definitely collapsed, the 47-story WTC 7—in 6.5 seconds almost in its own footprint at 5:20 p.m. on 9/11. Three structures under nine stories (WTC 4, 5, 6) were gutted by fires, but steel framing remained intact. The Marriott Hotel (WTC 3) had been turned into a “V” by debris from the South Tower (WTC 2) beating down its center, yet the outer beams were still firmly in place. And, as later photographs showed, the top two-thirds of the 110-story WTC 1 turned into dust, but the steel framing of the bottom third survived—including interior beams. The assumption has been that the same destructive process involved WTC 2. [15]

For another, instead of the word “collapse,” the word “destruction” was the most accurate. By the committee’s March and May hearings in 2002, many free-lance photographs began circulating on the Internet showing the top two-thirds of WTC 1 and 2—even WTC 1’s flagpole—turning into dust instead of collapsing. And six months prior to the October 2005 hearing, thousands began viewing the documentary film Loose Change that strongly suggested high-yield explosives, augmented perhaps by the steel-cutting thermite powder, destroyed WTC 7, as well as WTC 1 and 2. [16]

Such theories were fed by New York City‘s Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s strange decision to bar BPAT investigators access to Ground Zero until September 29 and his failure to store at some nearby military installation all the Ground Zero evidence—beams, columns, trusses, concrete dust/rubble, etc.—his staff had ordered removed in the interim. As a successful U.S. attorney, he knew removal of evidence from a crime scene was a felony carrying 10 to 20 years imprisonment.

Giuliani’s deed might “ultimately compromise any investigation of the collapses,” The New York Times pointed out even in December 2001. It quoted one fire-engineering professor at the University of Maryland, who said: “I find the speed with which potentially important evidence has been removed and recycled to be appalling.” Giuliani had also ordered sealed the 503 statements by First Responders and building survivors about their observations. [17]

A major problem was that the BPAT lacked subpoena power, a major roadblock. So the WTC’s owners, the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey refused to give them any of the Center’s documents—even blueprints—until January 8, 2002. Nor could the team interview key witnesses or obtain access to recordings of calls to fire and police. Added to all this, was BPAT’s inability initially to pry “video footage from the various television networks,” its mystified leader revealed. Some, however, had to be aware of Internet posts accusing media executives of ordering films of the aircraft hits to be doctored before they appeared on TV; editing does take but seconds, as film amateurs know. [18]

Too, the mainstream media seems to have fallen in line with the orders to barely mention WTC 7, much less WTC 3, 4, 5, and 7. That most people are still unaware this third skyscraper existed indicates a near-successful blackout. The rationales given to network decision makers had to be either that the American people could only stand so much shock in one day or that showing unedited film would give aid and comfort to terrorists. [19]

The greatest mystery for BPAT members had to have been FEMA’s failure to intervene in most of those blockages. Hadn’t the agency brought them to New York City at $600,000 at taxpayer expense (plus ASCE’s $500,000 donation) to do an investigation? If national security was the reason, why not just announce it and save mobilizing all their expensive expertise? [20]

That was just the start of difficulties with FEMA.

The agency cut BPAT’s funding, demanded they sign confidentiality agreements, and threatened to fire anyone who spoke to the press. But these were renown experts in their field who had sacrificed time, expertise, and ASCE reserve funds to serve their country. That kind of treatment fostered fury and the quiet retaliation of a leak to the Times about FEMA’s betrayals:

This is almost the dream team of engineers in the country working on this, and our hands are tied. FEMA is controlling everything. It sounds funny, but just give us the money and let us do it, and get the politics out of it. [21]

How then could they produce an accurate, definitive report for the agency? Their frustrations and suspicions were cited in the opening session of the March hearings, but used against them in the rationale for launching a new, major, “approved” investigation. Nevertheless, reading about BPAT difficulties prior to the hearings should have raised questions by Science Committee members—not about what Giuliani, the Port Authority, or FEMA had done, but why. In fairness, Boehlert did lay out the problems encountered prior to the session:

[We have] Uncertainty as a result of the confidential nature of the BPAT study: The confidential nature of the BPAT study may prevent the timely discovery of potential gaps in the investigation, which may never be filled if important, but ephemeral evidence, such as memories or home videotapes, are lost.

The confidentiality agreement that FEMA requires its BPAT members to sign has frustrated the efforts of independent researchers to understand the collapse, who are unsure if their work is complementary to, or duplicative of, that of the BPAT team. In addition, the agreement has prevented the sharing of research results and the ordinary scientific give-and-take that otherwise allows scientists and engineers to winnow ideas and strengthen results.

[We have] Uncertainty as to the strategy for completing the investigation and applying the lessons learned: The BPAT team does not plan, nor does it have sufficient funding, to fully analyze the structural data it collected to determine the reasons for the collapse of the WTC buildings. (Its report is expected to rely largely on audio and video tapes of the event.) Nor does it plan to examine other important issues, such as building evacuation mechanisms. [22]

Then came either the strongest hint—or outright order—that it was “in the national interest” for BPAT’s report to declare fire as the causal agent that destroyed WTC 1, 2, and 7 and, thereby, the other four WTC buildings. That findings were to be falsified and used as a cover-up vehicle seems to have been the last straw for some members. It was as if they were Soviet scientists/engineers in the dock during Stalin’s “show-trials” of the disobedient. [23]

Unlike the Science Committee, they stood up to whatever powers were controlling FEMA—and must have set off near apoplexy to the 9/11 planners for the trouble, time and expense they would have to invest in quelling the suspicion that 9/11 might not have been the work of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. BPAT declared that perhaps what destroyed WTC 1 and 2 might have been fire, but absolutely refused to bring in that verdict on WTC 7. As they were to put it:

The specifics of the fires in WTC7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time. Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence. Further research, investigation, and analyses are needed to resolve this issue. [24]

Rumors that a mutiny might be brewing obviously reached the ears of those directing FEMA by October’s end. Reaction was swift. Though the report could scarcely be cancelled after all of the publicity expended on it by FEMA, it could be discredited as a “preliminary” report that had been conducted for only a week by “volunteers.” Interestingly, five BPAT members, including one NIST staffer, apparently refused to disobey orders. They pointed up in the report’s introduction the disorganization of daily changes in procedures, disputes with local authorities, and having to resort to films and videotapes evidence. They justified Giuliani’s Ground Zero ban as a crime scene requiring IDs for access, though admitting no ID system was in place. [25]

They also subordinated BPAT’s role to the Structural Engineers Association of New York in the report’s introduction. They noted SEAoNY’s five teams seemed to have done all the heavy-lifting of locating remaining steel in recycling yards and collecting “hundreds of hours of video and thousands of still photographs.” [26]

The report’s release would be stalled until FEMA could announce the launch of a new, supposedly far more substantive report. As a NIST news release explained, the BPAT report’s only purpose was to

provide preliminary assessments and serve as the foundation for a more extensive technical and scientific investigation….for improved guidance and tools for building design and performance evaluation. [27]

The job was abruptly handed off to FEMA’s science and engineering agency, NIST. A new director was whisked into place by December 7, and NIST officials undoubtedly were informed that Boehlert would be drafting a bill instituting a new ad hoc group of supposedly experts, the “National Construction Safety Teams” (NCST) and, as the name suggested, focus chiefly on recommendations for remedying building weaknesses, not investigating causes of what set off those weaknesses. But NCST would have subpoena power. [28]

The bill’s journey through both Houses to the President’s signature certainly would make Congress aware that the WTC investigation would be in capable hands—and inform survivors’ groups that their clamor for an investigation was being addressed. [29]

By the May hearing of 2002, Boehlert talked the outspoken young panelist Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9th) into co-authoring it. They lobbied the Committee to be co-sponsors, but only 11 signed on. Even so, the NCST Act’s birth was breathtakingly fast, considering the usual lengthy journey from the hopper to President’s pen: The House passed it two months later (338-23), the Senate by unanimous vote in September. It wa law October 1, 2002. [30]

By October 26, 2005 when the third Science Committee hearing opened, much had happened, including the issuance of the new, improved $16,000,000 NIST report in September after three years of toil. But it covered only WTC 1 and 2. The 9/11 planners were to stall the report on the troublesome WTC 7 for three years, sufficient time for NIST’s creative staff to justify a fire verdict. They reasoned that by then, public interest either would be riveted elsewhere or non-existent. After all, it took the U.S. Navy 78 years to overturn a similar White House mandated verdict in two investigations (1898, 1911) that Spain set off a mine under the USS Maine. That event served as the catalyst (aka “false-flag” operation) for the 1898 Spanish-American War and the decades-long occupation/colonization of the Philippine Islands. [31]

In the interim, those 9/11 planners also had been doing damage control from the BPAT “preliminary” report. To “repair” it, they had:

• Ensured the NIST report would also contain code recommendations involving a possible federal role. That would guarantee an explosion from the building trades and owners and submerge the probe aspect of the WTC’s destruction. Such a controversy would also continue to emphasize the word “fire” in the mainstream media and public mind. [32]

• Created the 9/11 Commission “show-trial” from its March 31, 2003 inception to its controlled report on July 22, 2004. The planners ensured the report also would be loaded with fire/code recommendations for preventing future disasters. The subsequent outcry by building trades and owners caused sufficient controversy to mask what happened on 9/11 in New York City, Washington D. C. and Pennsylvania. Outcries that sessions were an Administration-controlled “cover-up” were ignored. So far as the 9/11planners were concerned, the public had been given a blue-ribbon inquiry for a “full and complete accounting” of events—and at ruinous expense of time (20 months), money ($15,000,000), and stress to participants and staff. [33]

• Ensured that the NIST director hired in late 2002 would be shifted in February 2004 to the National Science Foundation as acting director (presumably with the promise of becoming its director). He, thus, would escape blame if the NCST investigation and report on WTC 1 and 2 went badly off script. [34]

• Ensured a new NIST director would be hired just a few months before the report’s September release, meaning he would escape blame if the NCST investigation and report on WTC 1 and 2 drew controversy—and leave a year before the fall 2008 release of the bothersome WTC 7 report. [35]

The 9/11 planners could now concentrate on seizing and controlling oil reserves abroad and leave WTC mop-up to NIST’s supposedly permanent, world-class science and engineering experts in the NCST—and to Boehlert. [36]

Unfortunately, NCST’s trial run in early 2003 did not inspire confidence about its abilities to tackle something as colossal as the WTC destruction. The event took place on the evening of February 20, 2003 at a one-story, wood-framed nightclub in Rhode Island, packed with more than 400 people attracted by the famous Great White band. To enhance music and highlight the band, its manager shot off three gerb fireworks that sprayed sparks surrounding the bandstand. They ignited the soundproofing foam behind the drummer. In minutes, 100 lives were lost and 200 injured in one of the nation’s four worst nightclub fires. [37]

Within a few hours, the Rhode Island authorities had veteran investigators on the scene from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a non-government, non-profit organization. NFPA quickly issued a report, replete with illustrations, on the fire’s cause and future recommendations on codes. It was based on witness interviews, a thorough examination of the premises, materials and documents, and a video shot by a local free-lancer who’d been present to do a broadcast film on nightclub safety. Four of its recommendations were on the state’s code books six months later. [38]

Though NCST was mandated by law to be on the scene within 48 hours, investigators didn’t arrive for a week. Their report on cause and seven recommendations—among them relying on computer modeling at NIST—was not issued until June 2005, more than two years later. Results seemed rooted principally on computer-model simulations of the nightclub fire. [39]

That performance drew an exoriation of NIST from one of NCST’s advisory board who revealed what kind of investigation took place:

NIST should have used its subpoena power, especially in the case of the Station Nightclub. NIST relied almost exclusively on newspaper accounts of club survivors for its ”investigation” rather than actual interviews—totally unacceptable. [40]

The whistleblower was Glenn P. Corbett, Ph.D, a fire-science academic and outspoken expert witness at the two previous hearings. He also indicated doubts about the fire verdict destroying the WTC. Perhaps to either to silence him or to demonstrate NCST had a “fair-and-balanced” board, NIST officials had approved Corbett’s application to be one of the handful of advisors guiding the fledgling team. Boehlert had listed him once again as a witness for the October hearing perhaps to satisfy those angry about the 9/11 Commission’s “non-findings.” [41]

However, as NIST’s probe of the WTC destruction unfolded, Corbett had quickly discovered that instead of overseeing a strong investigative team with subpoena power—and stomachs to exercise forensic skills amid horrendous tragedies—that the Boehlert-Weiner bill seemed to have hatched a batch of squeamish “gumshoes” lacking the driving curiosity, energy, dedication to scientific truth, and defiant spirit of the BPAT experts. After three years of increasing frustration about the NCST’s seeming incompetence and lassitude in dealing with a series of major catastrophes, Corbett wrote the Science Committee:

NIST has not made a substantial effort to implement the NCST and have shown little interest in it. While NIST has worked to develop response criteria to establish when teams will be organized, they have done little else. For example, they have not established an NCST office within NIST and have not developed a detailed investigation protocol manual for actual investigations. To my knowledge, they have not published a list of actual potential team members (including individuals from the private sector).

NIST should have responded to the Chicago E2 nightclub disaster of 2003, the Florida hurricanes and California wildfires of 2004, and most certainly hurricane Katrina in 2005. These were all substantial incidents where the NCST should have been deployed. [42]

The 9/11 planners’ subsequent actions indicated belief that public interest in 9/11 investigations was essentially dead. Attention was on al-Qaida, catching Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, as well as U.S. troops invading/occupying Iraq and killing its president Saddam Hussein. They rightly guessed few would bother ordering the NIST reports on the WTC 1 and 2 destruction from the U.S. Government Printing Office. Or bother checking/downloading WTC material on government websites. For the thousands of activists forming hundreds of 9/11 Truth groups, operatives were assigned to infiltrate, co-opt, and steer them into controlled opposition. This has been achieved either by killing interest altogether, or, mostly, by diversionary tactics of intriguing “bunny trails,” all leading away from a legitimate science/engineering investigation of the WTC destruction.

As for the October hearing, Boehlert knew the drill and scheduled accordingly: Play up the 30 recommendations in the just-released NIST/NCST report. Play down the destruction’s cause. His work was essentially done once he and his staff had sent all witnesses the key questions govern their statements. They were an open invitation to verbosity:

1. What are the most important findings and recommendations of the World Trade Center Investigation report?

2. Are the NIST recommendations framed appropriately so that they can be adopted into national model building codes?

3. What are the prospects for the adoption of the recommendations by the code organizations? What is NIST doing to promote this process? What are the possible impediments to their adoption?

4. What lessons were learned from this investigation that could be applied to improve future investigations of building failures? [43]

The agenda was traditional: Panelists’ applause first to the agency, including a stop-by from his NCST bill’s co-author Anthony Weiner. Emotional witnesses such as Skyscraper founder Sally Regenhard would be second. Rational, dry-eyed types, third. The first of those would be William A. Jeffrey, Ph.D, the latest NIST director, doing an expected paean to agency staff about the WTC 1 and 2 report—and issuing a promissory note for one on WTC 7. He had already submitted an extensive summation (4,263 words) to the panel in responding to instructions to explain the agency’s efforts in producing the report. Considering he had only been in place for three months, it marked him either as a quick-study in briefings or inheriting a capable set of aides and ghostwriter. [43]

The four other featured witnesses were either in the building trades or fire-science field. They could be counted on to run out the clock with a “quiet hullabaloo” concerning the recommended changes in fire/building codes. Beyond directing traffic, Boehlert could relax and say what he pleased. [45]

NIST officials had to have warned Boehlert not to include a nationally renown and respected University of Maryland fire-science professor—James G. Quintiere, Ph.D—as a witness. That he had not been the prime fire-science expert witness in all three hearings had to be an astonishing omission to the trades and professions: author of internationally recognized books about fire and buildings, and a NIST fire-science expert for 19 years. When he volunteered to assist NIST’s investigation in 2002 for the report, he found himself relegated to rendering opinions on New York Times photographs and videos instead of being assigned to examine WTC steel stored at the agency. The planners couldn’t have that. [46]

Media coverage was doubtful even with Regenhard at the witness table. The Press and broadcasters had been given a mid-April preview about the report’s findings from NIST’s lead investigator who said:

While the buildings were able to withstand the initial impact of the aircraft, the resulting fires that spread through the Towers weakened support columns and floors that had fireproofing dislodged by the impacts. This eventually led to collapse as the perimeter columns were pulled inward by the sagging floors and buckled. [47]

However, it would appear that when Boehlert booked Rayburn Committee Room 2318 from 11 to 2 for the hearing, his mind may well have been on other serious political concerns for his career.

For one thing, his House seat of 22 years had become uncertain because his upstate New York district was rapidly turning Democratic. The 2004 election indicated he could no longer count on getting 74% of the primary vote and running unopposed in the general election. He sensed a fast-rising, charismatic, youngish Democratic star probably would trounce him in the 2006 midterms. The days of flying in Air Force One with the President might be over. He could either retire before the 2006 election and show-off fishing gear to the media, or make another expensive and exhausting run for nothing. [48]

Another blow to the ego had to be that 20 of the 47 Committee members from 2002 had departed (10 from each party), and the panel had been trimmed to 45. A few had been defeated in the 2004 elections, but seven of the 10 Democrats and three Republicans appeared to have quit the Science panel by choice. Two Republican seats were still unfilled after nearly a year, strongly indicating the Committee was unappealing. Moreover, the change meant others could advance in seniority, but four Democrats chose to drop a rank. And the most vocal in the 2002 hearings were among the 20 defectors, including Christopher Shays (R-CT-4th) and, unkindest cut of all, Weiner.

Added to Boehlert’s discomfort was the unsettling need to convince the No. 2 Republican panelist to move down a rank so his hard-earned spot could be given to the panel’s 80-year-old ranking Democrat who had just turned Republican to survive redistricting in the 2004 Texas election. [49]

At this point, the Chair probably could have identified with Willy Loman, the theatre’s archetype of a man facing the end of his career.

Judging from the results of the October hearing, new members were just as fearful as past and present panelists of appearing unpatriotic if they veered from the “official story” about 9/11—or political retribution from their party or constituents. Yet if they were on the Science Committee, the assumption was that they were well aware of the scientific method, the bedrock of all credible research: that all hypotheses must be tested before arriving at a theory (verdict). Because NIST’s report on WTC 1 and 2 had been available for a month when they or their science/technology aides could have examined it carefully, an obvious question for Jeffrey (or his aide) was: Why weren’t other alternative hypotheses beside fire given as thorough an investigation as that that invested in fire?

Red flags should gone up in the hearing asking how NIST researchers could possibly have failed to use the scientific method to rule in/rule out at least a dozen theories besides fire, suggested by reputable sources—especially high-yield explosives because fire has never destroyed a steel-framed building. Even laymen comparing photographs of the under-11 second destruction of the Towers and any of the seven Las Vegas hotels’ planned implosions from 1993 to 2001 would have seen significant similarities worthy of a definitive investigation beyond the fire verdict. More damning for NIST’s credibility was the report’s brief paragraph about ruling out all hypotheses explaining that the decision rested on the flimsiest and least viable evidence—given the ease of tampering every PhotoShop user recognizes: photographs and videos. [50]

Nevertheless, despite the report’s prohibitive expense, and three years in production with a cast of 200 NIST staffers, the startling paragraph indicating the low levels to which the institution had fallen, said:

NIST found no corroborating evidence for alternative hypotheses suggesting that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition using explosives planted prior to September 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 showed 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. [51]

That failure destroyed the validity of the report in the eyes of experts and, thanks to those controlling FEMA/NIST, damaged their reputations as trustworthy scientific/technological institutions. Equally, because most Americans and Congress are largely ignorant in these areas, they are unlikely to question the results. That seems to be why none of these questions were likely to be raised in the October hearing. [52]

If Boehlert had been half the scientist he purported to be, he had to have had an inkling of the report’s glaring deficiencies. But like participants in the Navy’s second investigation of the USS Maine’s destruction, the truth apparently was too monstrous to report in view of the casualties and those killed and wounded in the Spanish-American war.

As a political veteran, Boehlert knew he must persevere. He opened that October 26 hearing with verve and a vow he may have honestly believed:

I want to promise and perhaps warn everyone at the outset that this committee will be closely monitoring the follow-up to the National Institute of Standards and Technology report on the events of September 11. That means we will be watching what NIST does, what other federal agencies do, and what the code writing organizations do.

We are obviously not technical experts, but we will be making sure that their recommendations are considered fully and thoroughly, that NIST is doing everything necessary to back up those recommendations, and that any decisions are fully justified by the facts.

.This is just another hearing. This is not the final chapter in a drama about a horrific incident. We are determined to follow through, as is Dr. Jeffrey and the people at NIST working with the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). This is, by no means, the final chapter. This is another chapter, but we are determined to go forward working together. [53]

Committee members knew their lines whether present, or sending prepared statements, as three did. And that involved indicating they (or a staff member) had read the report carefully. As planned, the recommendations overshadowed the questionable verdict of fire. Most panelists Boehlert selected to speak fixated on vagueness or how they were to be implemented. Were they already in place? Were they necessary? Were they ruinously expensive? [54]

Those were strong, lead-in cues to the four witnesses prepared to wage an afternoon war over the recommendations: the president of the International Code Council originating most fire/building codes in the nation; a leader representing the American Society of Engineers; a director from the National Fire Protection Association—and Corbett the whistleblower. [55]

But first came Weiner‘s brief “guest appearance.” He was explained away by Boehlert as a former panelist who had “strayed from the fold…and has gone onto other pursuits.” Because of earlier strong remarks about the crime of removing vital evidence at Ground Zero and co-authorship of Boehlert’s NCST bill, the least Weiner could do was show up to boost the Chair and NCST. He also gave a boost to Sally Regenhard, sitting alone at the witness table (“the [bill] should have been the Boehlert-Weiner-Regenhard Bill”), but stayed on message of recommendations, not how NIST researched the fire verdict:

the study doesn’t go far enough. The study doesn’t include the level of specificity that would truly make the report a handbook for those seeking to come up with building codes in the future. …. Is there a standard in this report? And the answer is no. If they want to follow up on the NIST recommendation that fire protection and suppression redundancy be built into buildings, is there a specific standard that they can take from this report? The answer is no. So, I think that we have fallen short, NIST has fallen short of making this a true reference manual for future protection of big buildings.

.This [study] took too long. It took too long for NIST to produce a report that really doesn’t get us anywhere past the 50 yard line here. We are not in the Red Zone. We are not getting close to the place that we need to be. … let us take the next step. Let us produce a document that truly has some fairly specific standards. Let us incentivize, but not require—I don’t believe we should have a Federal Buildings Department—that incentivizes cities, states, and localities to adopt these things… [56]

That opened the door for other witnesses to pound on the recommendations for vagueness, after first lauding NIST/NCST joint efforts. The NFPA director tossed an unbelievable bouquet (“They have provided a convincing amount of evidence, rigorous analyses, hypotheses, and confirmation”). Though several recommendations were already implemented in NFPA’s codes, she said, her organization had changed its codes and standards for high-rise buildings because of others. That involved wider staircases, stair-descent devices for the disabled—and automatic sprinkler systems. [57]

The brickbats came wrapped in a structural-engineer diplomacy.

The ASCE’s spokesman had been one of the BPAT investigators producing FEMA’s discredited “preliminary” report. He did the obligatory courtesies that could have been interpreted as cynical remarks about NIST/NCST’s replicating BPAT efforts (“thorough study,” “thought-provoking findings”). All recommendations were being scrutinized by colleagues, etc., etc. [58]

The chill began when he noted that ASCE wasn’t “close-minded” about new technologies. Then, whether intended or not as a hint that explosives might have destroyed the WTC, he said that the organization was working on “a new standard for blast-loading on structures” whether explosives were set internally or externally. [59]

The ICC president emphasized that his organization had a history of cooperating with federal agencies and it, too, was studying NIST’s recommendations. Unfortunately, most were already in place through its customary three-year span between suggestions and passage. He warned that NIST-imposed codes would be ignored by the building industry, noting

.there are some certainties associated with [ICC’s] process. Changes that are not enforceable, and require specific products or materials by name, are not likely to be accepted. [60]

If NIST director Jeffrey expected Glenn Corbett, a member of NCST’s advisory board to be laudatory to the agency, he was rudely awakened. Corbett took NIST to task for spending three years and $16,000,000 to produce the report—shuddering at the time and taxpayer dollars to be spent on its future report on WTC 7. He dismissed half of the recommendations and said the other half would require hiring an “outside organization” to put them in construction terms. [61]

He pulled no punches in lambasting NCST’s investigative skills not only for poor efforts on the WTC disaster, but the nightclub fire as well:

Overall, I have been disappointed by the lack of aggressiveness that has characterized not only the World Trade Center investigation, but the Rhode Island Station Nightclub investigation as well. Instead of a gumshoe inquiry that has left no stone unturned, I believe the investigations were treated more like research projects, in which they waited for information to flow to them. In both investigations, they were reluctant to use the subpoena given to them under the NCST Act. To some extent, this lack of assertiveness was likely the result of legal opinions given to NIST by staff attorneys. [62]

He seemed the angriest at whoever sabotaged what dedicated professionals thought was to have been a legitimate investigation of the WTC destruction. After being on the Advisory board of what he now regarded as the toothless and useless NCST, he suggested it be put to a quick death:

When I look to the future of the NCST Act, sadly, I find it necessary to recommend that serious consideration be given to finding a new agency to implement the Act. I don’t think that NIST is the right place for the NCST. Their nonaggressiveness, their absence of investigative instinct, and the palatable lack of interest they have shown in the Act has brought me to this conclusion. NIST is an organization of exceptional scientists and engineers, not detectives.

Short of creating an entirely new Construction Safety Team Board, I would recommend that serious consideration be given to moving the NCST to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. They are a close fit. They investigate explosions and chemical disasters in and around structures. They deal with many of the same code writing bodies that NIST deals with, including some of the organizations represented on this panel today. More importantly, they are solely an investigative agency that issues recommendations. Perhaps their purview could be expanded to include the NCST Act. [63]

Perhaps it was Jeffrey’s weapons background that made him seemingly impervious to all the shot and shell at the recommendation set-up. Or the usual contempt that those in the military and science fields have for civilian ignorance about those subjects. Too, he wasn’t responsible for a monumental project produced on the watch of two previous NIST directors. The job added another star to his glistering résumé and was a temporary, disagreeable stepping-stone to greater things. As a scientist, he might have secretly agreed with the criticisms, especially the slipshod and unscientific methods employed for a fire verdict. A report dolled up with schematics, biased photographs and mathematical equations might fool the public, but not those versed in those tools. The job’s two-year duration assured him also that he would be gone by the time the WTC 7 report was released. [64]

As he waited his turn at the witness table, he knew the main focus of the project was to be “fact-finding to improve the safety and structural integrity of buildings.” The NIST official stance on cause was now set in stone by the report: fire enhanced by “widely” dislodged, inch-thick, spray-on fireproofing. Boehlert’s pre-hearing data for panelists and witnesses also helped because it made clear NIST had a no-blame protective clause in its charter:

NIST does not have the statutory authority to make findings of fault or negligence by individuals or organizations. [65]

He quietly dispensed with the vagueness criticism concerning the recommendations by saying the report called for specific actions, but leaves the “specific systems, materials, or technologies” up to vendors. That left little for panelists to question beyond the performance of the subpoena-powered NCST groups, blue-sky plans for the WTC 7 project—and breaking the bad news about NIST’s precarious financial situation. [66]

Asked by Vernon Ehlers (R-MI-3rd) why NCST had not been sent to investigate other major tragedies such as Katrina that Corbett, Jeffrey’s answer may have shocked him and his panel colleagues, but probably not Boehlert and Corbett. NIST had “more “appropriate” and “broader authorities” than the squad created just for major disasters. Moreover, somehow the NCST Act didn’t cover “key infrastructure facilities”—everything from electricity and water to roads and pipelines—or damage to building systems. [67]

Then, came the revealing information about NCST’s funding.

Corbett and colleagues on NCST’s Advisory Board had requested $4 million from NIST, its parent agency—$2 million for investigation operations, $2 million for future emergencies. Jeffrey was blunt. The President’s Fiscal Year 2006 budget contained only $2 million for those operations, and that the final appropriations “does not contain funding for this request.” [68]

Originally, the Administration funded NIST via FEMA’s appropriation. But directly after the 2002 hearings, NIST officials set up an “appropriation transfer” by which the agency’s funding could bypass FEMA and get money directly from the U.S. Treasury. Boehlert’s bill and the act that followed lacked an appropriation figure that would have bypassed NIST, indicating the WTC project had top-priority status. That it left funding to NIST had to have been a red flag to any top-flight, outside expert familiar with grant guarantees, not to apply. It would prevent another BPAT mutiny. Jeffrey’s predecessor, an acting-director, apparently had been instructed to end or curtail NCST funding except for its Advisory Board. [69]

NIST had already disregarded the NCST law’s main purpose about drawing the best outside experts available for the WTC investigation. That law specified “at least one” NIST staffer could be on that investigative team, but all other experts were to be drawn from experts outside the agency. Yet 12 of the 13 NCST were NIST staffers and highly unlikely to disobey a mandated verdict. That probably explained why, unlike BPAT, NCST did not get billing on the report’s cover. [70]

That NCST was mostly staffed by NIST personnel rather than a team of world-class experts from science and engineering, as Boehlert’s bill stipulated might explain why the committee’s six Republicans and Democrat failed to vote for the Boehlert-Weiner bill when it sped unaltered to a House vote within 64 days. It also may explain that NIST’s reputation may have begun to be adversely viewed by renown experts in the science and technology world. [71]

Though none of this was mentioned in that October hearing, criticism of the NCST’s investigation into the 2003 nightclub fire was a harbinger of professional judgment about NIST’s scientific/engineering standards, methods, and especially the heavy reliance on unproved computer programs as major testing tools used both by that field team and NIST in the Rhode Island event. If computer models were questionable tools in that night-club fire, they certainly would be weak reeds upon which to rest a verdict about what caused the WTC destruction.

Though use of computer modeling as a reliable research tool was in its infancy, one of the expert witnesses from the University of California/Berkeley in the March 2002 hearing had touted it as the best testing tool to determine the destruction’s cause. The NIST director at that time had requested $10 million to build a “large-scale” fire-testing facility, but computer modeling won out. And six years later, that fledgling tool’s inconclusive results was to destroy the credibility of NIST’s WTC 7 report in the eyes of thousands of structural engineers, scientists, and fire-science experts. [72]

Now, NIST had a large fire-test facility (90’ x 120’) to simulate conditions at conflagrations such as the nightclub fire. Jeffrey told the panel it had been used for 400 fire experiments per year. But no panelist asked him why it wasn’t used instead of computer simulations and newspaper clippings. Testimony sent from the American Institute of Architects indicated strong reservations about heavy reliance on computer-modeling programs, especially on that particular fire. They allowed that such programs

may [one day] become an important tool for designing safer buildings, although their ability to integrate known conditions into the modeling currently used in the marketplaces was a major problem even for NIST when it evaluated the 2003 fire at the Station nightclub in Rhode Island. [73]

The AIA document noted that far larger-scale facilities were unavailable in the United States, but existed elsewhere to test fire effects on buildings the size of the Twin Towers. That may have come as a surprise to panelists who in 2002 listened to the expansive testimony from the sitting NIST director and assumed it had been acquired and used for the 2005 report. He had told them NIST had applied for $10 million to expand the agency’s fire-testing facility. If it were not completed in time for WTC testing, he indicated investigators would be using one either in Britain or Canada. In the end, NIST evidently used none. Almost total dependence for the fire verdict was based on computer modeling. Considering the budget constraints after 2002, that may have been all NIST could afford. [74]

All this being so, not one panelist, nor Boehlert nor Corbett raised questions about results for the NIST’s fire verdict being based on the use of computers. The time to have raised this major objection, of course, was back in the May hearing before the project was launched. Yet perhaps raising major objections to computer tools to determine results in October—despite the issuance that month of the WTC 1 and 2 report—could have prevented its use as the prime tool for investigating the cause of WTC 7’s collapse—and the significant excoriation by outside science/engineering professionals that report has had since it was issued in August 2008.

One witness did speak up, however.

Sally Regenhard had had enough apparently in that October hearing. She was among thousands who lost family members on 9/11. For her, it was a son in the New York City Fire Department. She was one of the founders of a major survivors’ group and was infuriated by the 9/11 Commission’s empty results and all the signs of a 9/11 cover-up. And now by the NIST report on WTC 1 and 2, supposedly based on the most substantive science/technological investigation by the best forensic experts in the country. She told the Committee and witnesses:

In totality…while some very valuable results were achieved, the overall mode and findings of the investigation was not what I had hoped for. I had certain hopes regarding NIST in the investigation, but I and others were somewhat disillusioned regarding what NIST was willing and able to do. …

I have been married to an NYPD detective sergeant for over 30 years, and I can recognize an investigation when I see one. I feel the inherent character of the NIST as a research rather than an investigative agency was a factor in this situation.….the relative secrecy of the investigation and the withholding of all materials and documents used by NIST to arrive at the study’s conclusions is very disturbing. These materials should be made available to professionals to further study and to analyze, and to question and verify the findings according to the scientific method. And they should not be locked away in the National Archives or anywhere else. [75]

If either the BPAT or NCST investigators had not been so engrossed on gaining access only to Ground Zero and had climbed to the roof of the Deutsche Bank building across from WTC 2, they might well have found 766 cremated human fragments blown down from WTC 2. Cremation requires 1400ºF-2100ºF heat from one to four hours, but NIST’s estimated maximum heat for WTC 1 and 2 was 1800ºF during the hour before their demise. That knowledge would have forced them to report that some other causal agent(s) hotter than fire destroyed the Towers—and should be investigated. [76]

It took Dr. Quintiere, the distinguished NIST alumni with 19 years experience in its fire-science facilities—his last as a division chief—to sum up the low state to which NIST’s world-class reputation had sunk to participate in an obviously politicized investigation. He seemed to have little hope for any improvement with the WTC 7 project’s results. Yet something,—possibly fairness or guilt or defiance of being ordered around—led Boehlert to include in the record Quintiere’s written statement about the significant scientific/engineering flaws he detected in the crucially important WTC investigation.

The document’s tenor suggested NIST’s reputation as a reliable, world-class “facility for research in building design and safety” and science, as one panelist had said, had so politicized those involved that it was headed downward in the direction of Soviet-controlled science. He had become sufficiently alarmed by NIST officials ignoring his correspondence on “issues of concern” about the report’s conclusions—and assumptions of fire in the three hearings—that he wrote Boehlert and panelists about four major errors in the fire verdict that undermined its scientific and engineering credibility. His primary focus was on how NIST determined the disaster’s cause:

[The] WTC investigation by NIST falls short of expectations by not definitively finding cause, by not sufficiently linking recommendations of specificity to cause, by not fully invoking all of their authority to seek facts in the investigation, and by the guidance of government lawyers to deter rather than develop fact finding….I had wished for clear and complete analyses and evidence to determine the full cause of the factors behind and the reasons for the collapse of the WTC buildings, as they bear on the fire safety design of current and future buildings….

1. Why is not the design process of assigning fire protection to the WTC towers fully called out for fault? The insulation thickness of the truss members varied from 0.5 inches at its construction, changed to a specification of 1.5 inches in 1995, and was taken on its face as 2.5 inches for the North tower fire floors based on a PA report. This extraordinary range of thicknesses bears an in depth investigation. Why were no hearings held or witness testimonies heard on this critical design process?

2. Why were not alternative collapse hypotheses investigated and discussed as NIST had stated repeatedly that they would do? Their current explanation for the collapse of the towers is critically based on an assumption that the insulation was removed from the steel in the path of the aircraft, particularly the core columns. NIST does not show calculations or experiments to satisfactorily confirm that the insulation was removed in the core. As some large aircraft components went directly through the buildings, and NIST indicates the others were splintered on impact, can they explain why these small splinters could still denude the steel?

3. Spoliation of a fire scene is a basis for destroying a legal case in an investigation. Most of the steel was discarded, although the key elements of the core steel were demographically labeled. A careful reading of the NIST report shows that they have no evidence that the temperatures they predict as necessary for failure are corroborated by findings of the little steel debris they have. Why hasn’t NIST declared that this spoliation of the steel was a gross error?

4. NIST used computer models that they said have never been used in such an application before and are the state of the art. For this they should be commended for their skill. But the validation of these modeling results is in question. Others have computed aspects with different conclusions on the cause mechanism of the collapse. Moreover, it is common in fire investigation to compute a time-line and compare it to known events. NIST has not done that.

5. Testing by NIST has been inconclusive. Although they have done fire tests of the scale of several work stations, a replicate test of at least and of a WTC floor would have been of considerable value. Why was this not done? Especially, as we have pointed out to NIST that they may have underestimated the weight of the furnishings in the North Tower by a factor of 3. As fire effects on structure depend on temperature and time, this likely longer burning time is significant in the NIST analyses. Other tests of the trusses in the UL furnaces show that the steel attains critical temperatures in short times, and these temperatures correspond to NIST’s own computation of truss failure for a single truss. Why have these findings seemingly been ignored in the NIST analyses?

6. The critical collapse of WTC 7 is relegated to a secondary role, as its findings will not be complete for yet another year. It was clear at the last NIST Advisory Panel meeting in September that this date may not be realistic, as NIST has not demonstrated progress here. Why has NIST dragged on this important investigation? [77]

Though Boehlert promised witnesses and the public that the Science Committee would continue to pursue what happened at the WTC on 9/11, that pledge vanished when he decided not to run for re-election in 2006. But based on the three hearings he chaired from 2002-2005, legions of scientists and engineers probably were aghast at such a pledge. Hundreds of them were to be either incredulous or outraged at the 2008 NIST report on what destroyed WTC 7—not only on the verdict of fire, but on the failure to perform fundamental scientific methods for that conclusion: in-depth research of nearly a dozen other major hypotheses about the destruction’s possible causes beside fire. For instance, of all the varieties of high-yield explosives that could have been used, only RDX was tested—and only on the computer. Indeed, almost total reliance for NIST’s verdict seemed to rest on computer modeling as a testing tool. [78]

As this third hearing and the two previous ones have demonstrated, irreparable harm was done to the reputation of the House Science committee and its able research staff by the Chair’s operational and expensive decisions. Those turned a once prestigious and honorable panel into a frightened, policized, rubberstamping, public-relations tool for the travesty of FEMA/NIST’s reports on the WTC destruction. Small wonder that several panelists either chose absence from the sessions or asked for reassignment to other committees.

The evidence is clear of how the House Science Committee in these three hearings was directed away by its chairman from its purpose of carefully examining scientific/technological legislation and/or events on the basis of the high standards of recognized science and technology procedures. Instead, without a single objection the panel degenerated into a policized unit rubberstamping preordained unscientific verdicts and becoming a public relations vehicle for the obviously policized agencies producing them. Among his actions were:

Bringing the House Science Committee into disrepute by failing to apply the high standards of scientific/technological examination to the FEMA/NIST reports on the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Failure to conduct hearings before both FEMA and NIST investigations were launched to determine whether they had scientific validity at the outset.

Staging hearings of monumental importance for only three hours—and during a time period usually reserved for lunch by those concerned.

Expecting panelists to accept unquestioningly materials sent them prior to the hearing, as well as a prescribed agenda and witnesses.

Failure to encourage panelists with scientific/engineering research background to be present and to ask hard questions.

Failure to subpoena New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the chair of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey to determine who instructed them to obstruct justice in the matters denying BPAT access to Ground Zero until September 29, of removing evidence from Ground Zero, sealing statements of 503 First Responders, and refusal to turn over WTC documents until January 8.

Failure to include as a witness the lead investigator of the WTC 1 and 2 project, instead of new NIST directors, so that questions could be asked about application of the scientific method on all possible hypotheses of destructive agents involved at WTC.

Failure to include expert witnesses to challenge FEMA/NIST’s preordained verdict of fire as the WTC’s destructive causal agent.

Failure to ask the BPAT witness about why FEMA brought them to New York City at a cost of $1 million to conduct a WTC investigation and then failed to support them or their findings.

Failure to ask the BPAT witness about why the group refused to issue a verdict of fire as the destructive agent on WTC 7.

Failure to ask the NIST witness about why it took three years to investigate and report the findings of WTC 1 and 2.

Failure to ask the NIST witness about why it did not include WTC 7 in the first report. And to question the timeline, the methods of investigation, and cost of the separate WTC 7 report.

Inclusion of more than one witness on the Report’s recommendations with the intent of monopolizing most sessions about their regulatory changes at the expense determining the destruction’s cause(s).

Failure to respond to Sally Regenhard’s statements about the hearings’ validity.

Failure to respond to Glenn Corbett’s statements about NCST’s failings and/or his suggestion the WTC investigation should have been turned over to the

U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

Authoring and lobbying a bill into law instituting a replica of BPAT—NCST—to be added to NIST despite the agency’s reservations concerning financial support, its mission of research instead of investigation, and available staff—and eventual disuse.

Intimidating panelists to co-sponsor the Boehlert-Weiner NCST bill.

Fortunately, better days have come for the House Science Committee in the last few years. If asked to critique the NIST reports today, hard questions undoubtedly would be asked about the research methods employed. The lesson from that experience is to ask hard questions prior to the launch of million-dollar projects—with a tableful of expert witnesses that include Devil’s advocate(s) and those neither employed nor contracted by the government.

Fortunately also, is that it certainly is not too late to undo what was done in 2002 and 2005 and to settle the issue once and for all of what happened that day in September at the World Trade Center. Airplane impact did not destroy WTC 1, 2. Nor did fire for the three skyscrapers. What did destroy the WTC requires an independent, science/engineering investigation of the dozen other main hypotheses about the causal agent(s) of the destruction, a probe conducted by a panel of 25 renown national and international experts in those disciplines.

A bill has been drafted to that end [SEE link at right] and recently presented to more than a dozen U.S. House members. The House Science committee and its research department have also seen it. What needs to be done is for readers to urge House members to support it.

The nearly 3,000 who died at WTC that day—and their survivors—are owed that much.

Barbara G. Ellis, Ph.D

Senior Researcher, Legislative Division

WTC Research Alliance



[1] U.S. Congress, House Committee on Science. Hearing: The Investigation of the World Trade Center Collapse: Findings, Recommendations, and Next Steps , 109th Cong., 1st sess., 26 October 2005,, 258.

[2] U.S. Congress, House Committee on Science. Hearing: Learning From 9/11—Understanding the Collapse of the World Trade Center , 107th Cong., 2nd sess., 6 March 2002,, passim.

U.S. Congress, House Committee on Science. Hearing: The Investigation of the World Trade Center Collapse: Findings, Recommendations, and Next Steps, 107th Cong., 2nd sess., 1 May 2002, passim.

House, 26 October 2005, passim.

[3] Richard A. Posner, “The 9/11 Report: A Dissent, New York Times, 29 August 2004. “Criticism of the 9/11 Commission,”Wikipedia, December 2009,

Alan Miller “9/11 Commission Report Questioned by
 Senior Military, Intelligence, and Government Officials,”, ND, “Professors Question the 
9/11 Commission Report.” ND,Patriotsquestion9/,

[4] House 26 October 2005, passim.

[5] Ibid. “Gulf of Tonkin Incident,” United States History, American Public University,

The Reichstag fire was on February 27, 1933. The Enabling Act for “Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich” was passed March 23 by a 441-84 vote of the German parliament, thanks to the efforts of Adolf Hitler and his co-horts (William L. Hosch, “The Reichstag Fire and the Enabling Act of March 23, 1933,” Encyclopaedia Britannica blog, March 23, 2007,, 1).

[6] House, 6 March 2002, 12.

[7] Frank Adams, “Bomber Hits Empire State Building, Setting It Afire at the 79th Floor; 13 Dead, 26 Hurt; Wide Area Rocked,” New York Times, 29 July 1945.

[8] North Tower: CBS News: South Tower: Chao Soi Cheong, Associated Press, Atomic bomb-like photo: Greg Semendinger, New York Police Department,

Described as “more powerful than conventional high-explosive munitions,” thermobaric explosives (TBs] were first used by the Pentagon in the Vietnam war to clear Viet Cong tunnels and mine fields, and trees for helicopter landing sites. The Soviets made them portable for Afghan caves, and today TBs are stocked by China, Israel and other countries.

A TB’s chief use is in underground areas such as basements, bunkers, and tunnels. They can be dropped from the air and skipped into targets or ignited with long fuses inside a structure. The one-two punch involves a canister of fuel: particles of two or more elements (boron, silicon, titanium, zirconium, carbon, or hydrocarbons, plus either aluminum or magnesium)—with a fluorine additive to vaporize remaining debris—including humans. The U.S. Geological Survey’s dust samplings around the complex six days after 9/11 found traces of both titanium and magnesium ingredients.

The canister’s driver first expels the particles as an explosive vapor which then ignites a second charge to transform them into a fireball (4500-5400ºF) incinerating all objects as it travels at 10,000 feet per second. A shock wave follows, sucking up remaining oxygen in the enclosure.

TB theorists claim that this agent might explain the six-foot pile of blackened corpses expelled from WTC 1 elevators that firefighters encountered in the lobby, as well as bodies strewn in WTC 7’s lobby, and a still-ambulatory victim, burned flesh hanging loose from limbs, tottering toward custodian Willy Rodriquez in one of WTC 1’s basements. A parking garage and a machine shop vanished in that building.

Additionally, TB might explain the vapor upwellings from street grates some blocks distant from the WTC, as seen in one aerial photograph (“DOD Readies ‘Thermobaric,’ Cave-clearing Bomb for Enduring Freedom,” Inside the Air Force, 4 January 2002, Vo. 13: 1, Inside Washington Publishers,, 1-3. “Thermobaric weapon,”, ND,“Thermobaric Explosive,”, 25 November 2005,

[9] House, 6 March 2002, 10, 12.

[10] Ibid., 12-13, 69. Though BPAT leader W. Gene Corley, Ph.D, asked that the list of team members be included in the hearing’s record, the list was not included in the transcript. Someone may have wanted to leave the impression that the team was composed of engineers and, thus, incapable of rendering a verdict of fire for WTC 7. That nearly 30% of the team were fire experts strongly suggests that they may have been pressured to the fire verdict for WTC 1 and 2, but they balked at doing the same for WTC 7. However, the names and qualifications appeared in an ASCE special report. Among the seven fire experts were two from FEMA—a hurricane program manager, the BPAT manager—and a structural design expert from NIST’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory.

Corley was also the team’s building-collapse expert. He was the principal investigator in the Oklahoma City Murrah building bombing and, in 2001, a senior vice president for Construction Technologies Labor in Skokie IL (“ASCE/FEMA WTC Building Performance Assessment Study Team Members, Testimony of Dr. W. Gene Corley Before the Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards & Subcommittee on Research, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives, March 6, 2002,” American Society of Civil Engineers, 9. House, 1 May 2002, 62, 76, 103, 133, 168.

[11] James Glanz and Eric Lipton, “A Nation Challenged: The Towers; Experts Urging Broader Inquiry In Towers’ Fall,” New York Times, 25 December 2001. Other survivor groups included Families of September 11 (Families of September 11th, http?, Voices of September 11 (“In Memory of Beverly Eckert,” 13 February 2009,

[12] World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations (Washington D.C.: Federal Emergency Management Agency, May 2002), I: 2.

[13] “Eugene Romano ’49 and Sherwood Boehlert Among Four to Receive Honorary Degrees,” Hamilton College News, 23 April 2007,

[14] House, 1 May 2002, 3-4. By October 2005, the Republican-controlled committee had dropped to 44 members, counting two unfilled vacancies. That may have indicated either controversy within Republican panelists on choosing new members, or that no Republican wanted to serve on Boehlert’s committee (Ibid., 26 October 2005, 2-3). Ibid., 6 March 2002, 1. Ibid., 1 May 2002, 1. Ibid., 26 October 2005, 1.

[15] James Glanz, ”Engineers Suspect Diesel Fuel in Collapse of 7 World Trade Center, New York Times, 29 November 2001. WTC 4: “WTC 4 Damage: Photos of WTC 4 After Tower Collapses,” 9-11 Research, n.d.

WTC-5: By visibility911. Photobucket,

WTC-6: 9-11,

WTC-3: Wood, Ph.D., “Molecular Dissociation: From Dust to Dirt.” Biggart, WTC 3,

Judy Wood and Morgan Reynolds, “The Star Wars Beam Weapons and Star Wars Directed-Energy Weapons (DEW),”, 25 June 2007.

A photograph taken of WTC 1—with the roof of WTC 7 in the bottom right of the frame—shows the transformation of concrete/steel into dust, but also that the inner core of steel columns is still standing (

[16] Bill Biggart Photo, Biggart Collection. Wood, “Molecular Dissociation,”, 3 July 2007,

Get Involved,” Loosechange 911, Steven E. Jones, “Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?”, 22 November, 2005,

[17] House, 6 March 2002, 72-74. Though staffers in Mayor Giuliani’s administration actually handled the removal/distribution of Ground Zero evidence—and serving as gatekeeper to the media—the responsibility still lay with him. Glanz and Lipton, “A Nation Challenged. “WTC 7,” World Trade Center Building Performance Study, 1:14. “A Biography of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani,” ND, City of New York,, 1. Ralph Lopez, “911 Prosecution Plan: Start with Rudy Giuliani,’ Daily Paul, 17 April 2010, Glanz and Lipton, “A Nation Challenged. Jim Dwyer, “City to Release Thousands of Oral Histories of 9/11 Today,” New York Times, 12 August 2008.

[18] House, 6 March 2002, 10, 28. The New York City Council has 51 members and nothing in the print medium indicates Giuliani called for an emergency vote before taking unitary action (House, 1 May 2002, 71). Both Boehlert and guest panelist Joseph Crowley (D-NY-7th) agreed about the illegality of Giuliani’s action. Crowley called it “borderline criminal “ (Ibid., 6 March 2002, 185). Ibid., 72-74.

[19] Glanz, ”Engineers Suspect Diesel Fuel.”

[20] House, 6 March 2002, 13. Ramon Gilsanz, Edward M. DePaola, Christopher Marrion, Harold “Bud” Nelson, “WTC 7,” World Trade Center Building Performance Study, 5:31. ASCE members Gilsanz and DePaola were experts in structural engineering; Marrion and Nelson in fire engineering (Testimony of Dr. W. Gene Corley Before the Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards & Subcommittee on Research, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives, March 6, 2002,” American Society of Civil Engineers, 90.

[21] Glanz and Lipton, “A Nation Challenged.”

[22] House, 6 March 2002, 11-12.

[23] “Russia and the Soviet Union, History of,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed. (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979) 16: 77. Alexei B. Kojevnikov, Stalin’s Great Science: The Times and Adventures of Soviet Physicists (London: Imperial College Press, 2004), Abstract.

[24] Gilsanz, et al., “WTC 7,” World Trade Center Building Performance Study, 5: 31.

[25] Therese McAllister, Jonathan Barnett, John Gross, Ronald Hamburger, Jon Magnusson, “WTC 7,” World Trade Center Building Performance Study, I: 14. It’s notable that Gross, McAllister, and Nelson were also on NIST’s investigative squad for the WTC 1 and 2 final report (Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers: Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster [Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce September 2005], NIST NCSTAR 1, WTC Investigation, iii).

[26] McAllister, et al., I: 14.

[27] “NIST’s World Trade Center Investigation,” Fact Sheets from NIST, National Institute of Standards and Technology, updated 14 December 2007, 2,, 1-2.

[28] New director Arden L. Bement, Ph.D., was in place by December 7, 2001 (“Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., “ Biography, National Science Foundation, 1 June 2010 update, H.R. 4687/S 2496: National Construction Safety Team Act ( HR04687:@@@P). “NIST’s Responsibilities Under the National Construction Safety Team Act,” Fact Sheet, NIST news release, updated 4 May 2010,

[29] Glanz and Lipton, “A Nation Challenged.” H.R. 4687/S 2496, Section 5.

[30] House, 1 May 2002, 10, 34. Item 418 of 923 (

[31] “NIST’s World Trade Center Investigation.”

The first board of inquiry on the USS Maine explosion was held by the U.S. Navy for four-weeks immediately after the Maine’s sinking, but lack of divers and “lack of technical expertise—and poisonous relationships between Spain and the U.S. ensured belief a mine had been set off.“ The verdict was underpinned by Senate hearings, again with no technical expert witnesses and only documentation of Spain’s “misdeeds,” especially in Cuba. The second inquiry in 1911 rendered the same verdict. Its investigators had access to the ship’s remains for examination, but called no technical expert witnesses despite indications of an internal explosion.

Rickover’s intensive investigation found the explosion was internal, caused by spontaneous combustion in coal located near five tons of black ammunition powder (Naval History & Heritage, U.S. Department of the Navy, Adm. Hyman Rickover, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed (Washington: Department of the Navy, Naval History Division, 1976), 94-97-104-06.

[32] Recommendations usually closed each chapter of the report (Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, passim. Reports of the Federal Building and Fire 
Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster ,” NIST and the World Trade Center WTC.NIST.GOV,

[33] “Frequently Asked Questions About the 9-11 Commission,” National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,, 1, 3.

[34] Arden L. Bement, Ph.D., became director of the National Science Foundation on November 24, 2004 (“Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., “ Biography, National Science Foundation, updated 1 June 2010,

[35] Ever since 1969, the NIST directorship has been mostly a two-year stepping-stone position, scarcely indicative to staffs of command consistency or dedication (“From NBS to NIST,” NIST at 100: Foundations for Progress, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 20 November 2009, . The latest director by the October 2005 hearing was William A. Jeffrey, Ph.D., who resigned in September 2007 for a year’s stint at the Institute for Defense Analyses and then became the president/CEO of Hughes Research Laboratories in California.

Prior to NIST, Jeffrey had been a weapon’s specialist with White House access from the Homeland Security Department and, previously, a scientist with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) (Bill McGovern, “Dr. William A. Jeffrey Named New President and CEO of HRL Laboratories, LLC,” HRL Laboratories news release,

[36] The Administration had strongly urged Congress and most Americans to focus on their attack and occupation of Iraq because of 9/11 so the world’s energy barons apparently could seize its huge oil fields, judging from the oil contracts forced from the fledgling Iraqi government. The attack/occupation of Afghanistan would enable them extend the four-year-old BTC pipeline from the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, Turkey to and through the Caspian Sea to the planned TAPI pipeline. Plans call for it to cross southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province through southern Pakistan and India to an Indian Ocean port for delivery and market domination in the Pacific Rim (Sebnem Arsu, “World Briefing|Europe: Turkey: Caspian Oil Pipeline Opens,” New York Times, 13 July 2006.

NA, “Ashgabat revisits TAPI gas pipeline,” United Press International, 15 February 2010, NA, “Oil, the Taliban, and the Political Balance of Central Asia: Central Asian Oil and Gas Pipelines,” World Press, 7 May, 2006,, 1-2. Pepe Escobar, “Pipelineistan goes Af-Pak,” Asia Times, 14 May 2009, http://www.atimes/Central_Asia/KE14.4g0l.html).

[37] Robert F. Duval, NFPA Case Study: Nightclub Fires (Quincy MA: National Fire Prevention Association, 2006) 3. 18.

[38] Duval, 14, 19, 20, 27, 29-34.

[39] W. L. Grosshandler, Nelson P. Bryner, Daniel Madrzykowski, K. Kuntz, Report of the Technical Investigation of the Station Nightclub Fire (Washington, DC: National Institute of Standards and Technology, 30 June 2005), abstract. Daniel Madrzykowski, Nelson Bryner, and Stephen I. Kerber, “The NIST Station Nightclub Fire Investigation: Physical Simulation of the Fire,” National Institute of Standards and Technology, ND,

The article by Madrzykowski, Bryner, and Kerber claim that “Engineers from NIST’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory arrived at the fire scene within 48 hours to provide a reconnaissance report to the NIST director” who subsequently dispatched a NCST team to Rhode Island. The NCST law mandates a team on the scene within 48 hours. But story in a professional fire-services publication noted NCST didn’t arrive until February 27, 2003, seven days after the fire (“NIST Issues Final Report on R.I. Nightclub Fire,” Fire Chief, 30 June 2005, Duval, 36-37.

[40] House, 26 October 2005, 215.

[41] Applications for the handful (5-10) of NCST Advisory Committee members opened November 12 and closed 15 days later (“in addition to nominations already received”) with no mention of salary range. Both factors strongly indicated positions would go only to those adhering to NIST policy, those enhancing résumés, or to a single well-qualified critic like Corbett who would be outvoted by the others and quickly depart. Corbett obviously refused to quit (“Commerce’s NIST Seeks Members for National Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee,” NIST Public Affairs news release, 12 November 2002,

[42] House, 26 October 2005, 214.

[43] Ibid., 11-12.

[44] Amanda Little, “The Elephant in the Green Room: An interview with retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a GOP leader on environmental protection,” Grist, 28 April 2006, House, 26 October 2005, 5-6, 57-72.

[45] Ibid., 5-6.

[46] Ibid., 258-59.

[47] “Latest Findings From NIST World Trade Center Investigation Released,” Science Daily, 11 April 2005,

[48] Boehlert boasted in a 2006 interview he flew in Air Force One and munched sandwiches with President Bush and his adviser Karl Rove (Amanda Little, “The Elephant in the Green Room: An interview with retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a GOP leader on environmental protection,” grist, 28 April 2006,, 4).

[49] “All Over But the Shoutin’,” Texas Weekly, 12 January 2004,

[50] The imploded hotels were: The Dunes towers, Landmark, Sands, Hacienda, Aladdin, El Rancho, and Desert Inn. Their demolitions were watched by thousands on-site or by television; 600,000 gathered to watch the demise of the Hacienda. YouTube was not prevalent in 2005, but the demolition of each and the half-dozen since then are on that medium and in this citation: “Vegas Implosions,”, updated 2010,

Four of those hotels (Dunes Towers, Landmark, Sands, and Hacienda) were destroyed by Controlled Demolition, Inc., whose president Mark Loizeaux was listed as a NIST contractor in NIST’s 2008 report on the WTC 7 destruction (Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Building 7, vi).

Almost a year later, the questions about alternative hypotheses became so intense and frequent from experts that NIST’s website department apparently was compelled to post a “Fact Sheet” defending its fire verdict for WTC 1 and 2 and “rule-outs.” One exchange was:

Q 12: Did the NIST investigation look for evidence of the WTC towers being brought down by controlled demolition/ Was the steel tested for explosives or thermite residues?

A: NIST did not test for the residue of these compounds in the steel.

Another question posed involved the distinct seismic spikes recorded by Columbia University’s seismic station across the Hudson River from the towers, one for each tower before destruction. Despite the fact that seismographs record only underground movements of significance, not anything impacting the ground above, NIST’s response was:

A 5: The seismic spikes for the collapse of the WTC Towers are the result of debris from the collapsing towers impacting the ground” (“Answers to Frequently Asked Questions,” Fact Sheets, 30 August 2006, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 5, 3).

[51] Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, Executive Summary, xxxviii.

[52] In failing to question the 2002 hearings designed to discredit the BPAT’s report on the WTC destruction, Science Committee members were no braver than Soviet MPs in 1930/1936-38 in failing to challenge the Soviet show-trials of scientists/engineers.

That failure ended the country’s reputation for stellar science and engineering for more than 30 years. It allowed pseudo-scientists such as Trofim D. Lysenko and his co-horts in engineering to thrive (“Lysenkoism”) and dictate scientific policies to national institutes and programs (Loren R. Graham, Science in Russia and the Soviet Union: A Short History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 156-65. “Lysenko, Trofim Denisovich,” “Lysenkoism,” Micropaedia/Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Ed., Vol. VI [Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979], 420).

[53] House, 26 October 2005, 28, 36.

[54] Ibid., 40-45.

[55] Ibid., 5-6.

[56] Ibid., 6 March 2005, 26, 35-36.

[57] Ibid., 87, 9-94.

[58] Ibid., 26 October 2005, 96-97.

[59] Ibid., 98.

[60] House, 6 March 2002, 126.

[61] Ibid., 114, 116, 115.

[62] Ibid., 115.

[63] Ibid., 117.

[64] Whether Jeffrey’s career received a boost from the White House as NIST’s director is not known, but he resigned in September 2007, a year before the first edition of the WTC 7 report drew greater criticism than the 2005 WTC 1 and 2 report from hundreds of scientists, engineers, architects, and builders (James R. Gourley, et al., “Scientists, Scholars, Architects & Engineers respond to NIST,” STJ911.Blog, 15 September 2008,, 1-22. F. R. Greening, “Withering Critique of the new WTC7 report,” The 9/11 Forum, 21 August 2008, Richard Gage, “Undisputed Facts Point to the Controlled Demolition of WTC 7,’ 31 December 2007, e-mail response to NIST,

For the next year, Jeffrey served as a director of science/technology in one of the three research-and-development divisions of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a non-profit vendor for the federal government. The following year he moved from Northern Virginia to California to become the president and chief executive officer for the [Howard] Hughes Research Laboratories, owned by the Boeing Co. and General Motors whose specialties include artificial intelligence and lasers (“IDA’s History and Mission,” Institute for Defense Analyses, httops://; “Board of Directors,” HRL Laboratories, LLC, “Dr. William A. Jeffrey Named New President and CEO of HRL Laboratories, LLC,” 12 August 2008,

[65] The amendment to the NCST law rounded out that section governing NIST operations:

The purposes of NIST investigations are to improve the safety and structural integrity of buildings in the United States and the focus is on fact finding. NIST investigative teams are required to assess building performance and emergency response and evacuation procedures in the wake of any building failure that has resulted in substantial loss of life or that posed significant potential of substantial loss of life. NIST does not have the statutory authority to make findings of fault or negligence by individuals or organizations. Further, no part of any report resulting from a NIST investigation into a building failure or from an investigation under the National Construction Safety Team Act may be used in any suit or action for damages arising out of any matter mentioned in such report ([15 USC 281a, as amended by P.L. 107–231] House, 6 March 2002, 291).

[66] Ibid., 26 October 2005, 56.

[67] Ibid., 172, 192.

[68] Ibid., 191.

[69] Ibid., 1 May 2002, 158-161.

[70] List of NIST directors 1901-2009, NIST at 100: Foundations for Progress, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 10 November 2009, The 13th NCST member was BRAT alumni Harold E. (“Bud”) Nelson, a fie-protection engineering consultant (Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, iii. The law’s text said:

Team members shall include at least 1 employee of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and shall include other experts who are not employees of the NIST, who may include private sector experts, university experts, representatives of professional organizations with appropriate expertise, and appropriate Federal, State, or local officials. Team members who are not Federal employees shall e considered Federal Government contactors (Public Law 107-231/107th Congress, Sec: 3)

[71] House, 26 October 2005, passim. Final Vote Results for Roll Call 295 (HR 4687, National Construction Safety Team Act, 12 July 2002, THOMAS system,

It wasn’t until October 15, 2010 that the NCST’s impotence was addressed. Science Committee member David Wu (D-OR-1st) hoppered a bill (HR 3820, the Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2010) that amended the NCST Act: “to authorize safety teams to be established for deployment after events causing the failure of infrastructure, as well as buildings, leading to a substantial loss of life.” It passed the House 335-50 on March 2, 2010, and now lingers in the Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee (THOMAS system,

In the committee’s significant changes in membership from the 2002 hearings to the 2005 session, Wu’s seniority rank had been risen dramatically from 14h out of 22 Democrats to 7th out of 20 (House, 6 March 2002, 3; ibid., 26 October 2005, 3).

[72] He was Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, Ph.D, the University of California/Berkeley professor championing computer modeling to test building destruction—and featured as an NSF investigator in the early days after 9/11 (Mathew Purdy, “Despite First Impressions, Kean May be a Good Second Choice,” New York Times, 22 December 2002). He had such credibility with Boehlert that he was a witness at both 2002 Science Committee hearings (House, 6 March 2002, 19. Ibid., 1 May 2002, 155). Gourley, et al., “Scientists, Scholars, Architects & Engineers respond to NIST,” STJ911.Blog, 15 September 2008,, 1-22.

[73] House, 26 October 2005, 182, 232.

[74] Ibid., 232. Ibid., 1 May 2002, 155.

[75] Ibid., 26 October 2005, 47-49.

[76] James Barron, “Unbuilding a Skyscraper Wounded on Sept. 11,” New York Times, 17 August 2007. “Frequently Asked Questions About The Cremation Process,” Caring Cremations, “We Know: All About Cremation,” ineed2know, “Fact Sheets,” NIST and the World Trade Center, 30 August 2006,

[77] House, 1 May 2002, 48. Ibid., 26 October 2005, 258-61.

[78] No high-yield explosives such as thermobaric bombs, laser or mini-nuclear weaponry or thermite were ever tested although NIST had access to such weaponry from the Department of Defense. The report carries only eight paragraphs about explosives which does not mention field tests. Instead, it was only RDX data that were fed into “SHAMRC, a software program NIST used for analysis of explosive detonations, shock propagation and structure loads due to blast and fragments…” The revealing paragraph about this “in-depth” computer-modeling testing was:

Attention focused on a single hypothetical blast scenario explosive location. This involved preliminary cutting of Column 79 and the use of 4 kg(9 lb) of RDX explosives in linear shaped charges. The other scenarios would have required more explosives, or were considered infeasible to carry out without detection. Calculations were also performed for a lesser charge size of 1 kg (2lb) to evaluate threshold explosive requirements for window fragility (Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Building 7, 3: 22).

“Show-Trial” seen in 2nd WTC hearing of House Science Committee in 2002: Part 2 of 3

June 9, 2010

SHOW TRIAL: “A trial organized by a government to have an effect on public opinion and reduce political opposition, and not because it is interested in matters of justice.”

—Cambridge Dictionary

If THE FIRST U.S. House Science committee hearing March 6, 2002 on the cause of World Trade Center destruction didn’t appear to be a “show trial,” the second swiftly following it (May 1, 2002) certainly did. Given Congressional committee history, significant indicators of any session’s importance to panelists are its length and participation. So despite global attention on this monumental American tragedy and its critically important topic, both meetings were booked for only three hours in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. But particularly telling was the high absenteeism for those Wednesday afternoons: 32/47 in March, 39/47 in May. [1]

True, it was May Day and some members might be at union events. Some at other hearings. Some ailing or out of town. Some lunching late with key constituents or lobbyists. But it’s also likely that many voted with their feet because they suspected such a repeat to be a rigged meeting, one ordered by an alarmed Bush Administration angry that its verdict of fire as the destruction’s cause was being hedged in the first federal report about to be released that month by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It was based on the forensic research from one of its ad-hoc Building Performance Assessment Teams (BPAT), experts in structural engineering, analysis, fire-science academics, and firefighting. A new hearing would blunt most media coverage of this “preliminary” report and leave the impression that the government was working around the clock for a far more substantive and thorough investigation about what happened to the WTC. [2]

The March hearing did seem designed to undermine the report’s credibility and to lay the groundwork for Plan B. Because of all the fanfare, funds expended and expectations depending on it, cancelling publication would raise a hornet’s nest in the scientific community—and arouse massive doubts about the Administration from the public. Panelists learned that Plan B began in January with FEMA handing off a new investigation to its research subsidiary, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST, after all, was a honeycomb of the nation’s top scientists and engineers. [3]

So this newest hearing had all the hallmarks of a show-trial downplaying the FEMA/BPAT report and playing up FEMA/NIST’s plans for a supposedly more thorough investigation—with a verdict of fire as the only cause and recommendations for the future. Given the public’s short attention span, the four-year timeline would be advantageous.

Some panelists had to have suspected the other motive for calling this newest hearing was to punish witnesses in charge of the report. The scene did seem reminiscent of treatment meted out to Galileo and Soviet scientists until they assured authorities of cooperation.

Witnesses subpoenaed were a FEMA acting administrator in the agency’s insurance and risk division (Robert Shea), the BPAT chief (W. Gene Corley, Ph.D) and team member/report writer/fire-science professor (Jonathan Barnett, Ph.D). It seemed plain that treatment over BPAT’s report would underscore what was wanted from another witness, NIST’s latest director (Arden L. Bement, Ph.D) to shape the new WTC probe into findings around the Administration’s desired verdict. Perhaps to keep attention totally focused on fire as the only causal agent of WTC destruction—as well as fire/building codes that would deliberately set off a firestorm from the building industry—was the same expert witness from the March hearing, an outspoken fire-science academic (Glenn P. Corbett, Ph.D). [4]

In the driver’s seat once again was the affable, voluble, and politically astute chair, Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY-24th). A House member for nearly 25 years, he had demonstrated in March how to steer a hearing to desired results. In this hearing, he also would show how to fast-track Administration-ordered bills signed into law. A week later he planned to hopper a bill to provide the upcoming NIST project with the equivalent of FEMA’s BPAT investigators. No ad-hoc group, it was to be called the National Construction Safety Team (NCST) and populated with scientists/engineers likely to be more accommodating to White House demands than BPAT. [5]

Boehlert had been busy even before drafting that bill.

He’d talked the ambitious young panelist Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9th) into becoming its co-author. That was a leg up for someone ranking 15th in seniority among the 22 committee Democrats. That might have explained Weiner’s toned-down blasts in the May hearing against those hobbling BPAT’s investigation and greater emphasis on remedy than blame for future catastrophes. Boehlert had also convinced a dozen members into co-sponsoring the bill and, in advance of the hearing, had requested further input from both witnesses and members. He had even charmed the crusty fire-science expert from the March hearing into becoming chief of NCST’s Advisory Committee, possibly with compliments to him such as:

…you may be the only person on this panel that can pass the objectivity test, in a sense. I don’t say that with any prejudice, but you are an independent operator and you are noted for saying exactly what is on your mind. [6]

Just how skillfully Boehlert maneuvered the hearing away from determining any causal agent of WTC destruction except fire and toward future recommendations was apparent in his opening statement:

…changes in evacuation procedures and emergency response procedures may be, by far, the most important results of this tragedy. [7]

His tactics strongly indicated acute awareness of the committee’s role in solving the Administration’s dilemma concerning the FEMA/BPAT report—and any probe. A global chorus—especially survivors and friends of the 3,000 dead—had been clamoring for answers since 9/12. Women made widows by 9/11 were beginning to “hard-lobby” the President and Congress for an independent commission to investigate the entire event. White House advisers knew few now believed that a pair of airliner hits could shake the Towers into dust and rubble. Not when mainstream media had instantly resurrected the 1945 Empire State Building event in which that iconic skyscraper withstood a hit between the 78th and 79th floors from a B-25 bomber whose pilot was lost in heavy fog. Worse for any fire verdict was the damning fact that the horrific blaze set off by the fuel was fed by several floors of combustibles. [8]

A fast closure to this dangerous and distractive problem was desperately wanted so that global focus would be almost entirely on pursuit of 9/11’s suspected perpetrators. Judging from events immediately following the attacks, White House decision-makers rushed to use federal agencies dealing with buildings that would rubberstamp other causal agents, chiefly fire or faulty design, poor construction or questionable building materials. They chose the two heavily dependent on funding from the President and House: FEMA/BPAT and, to a lesser degree, the National Science Foundation. Among the NSF’s eight WTC projects was a grant to the expert witness for engineering from the March hearings (Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, Ph.D), the University of California/Berkeley professor championing computer modeling to test building destruction. [8]

Strangely, despite White House demands to investigate the destruction’s cause, FEMA’s BPAT vanguard arrived at Ground Zero only to find New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani using city’s legal right to bar them access until September 29. They lacked “authority to investigate.” Access had been granted only to the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Even more curious was FEMA’s failure to use White House clout to overrule such orders. [10]

Giuliani had also sealed statements from 503 First Responders about their 9/11 observations, documents finally forced opened in 2008 by a New York Times freedom-of-information lawsuit. On top of these roadblocks, key officials from the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, owners of six of the seven WTC buildings, refused to relinquish vital documents—even blueprints—about their design, construction, and building materials until January 8, 2002. [11]

By the time BPAT’s full team was assembled October 7 for its six-day probe, all vital physical evidence to determine cause—especially key steel beams from all seven WTC buildings—had been removed under Giuliani orders. Weiner had complained loudly that 80% of the steel was shipped to recyclers before it could be examined. Despite similar outcries soon after 9/11 and today that the law forbade removal of evidence from a crime scene, the Mayor’s position seemed to be that the search for the dead and missing at Ground Zero took precedence over any customary policing powers. [12]

Now, Giuliani assuredly knew all about laws forbidding removal of evidence. He was a magna cum laude law student and, as a tough and thorough U.S. Attorney fighting organized crime in New York, he had won 4,152 convictions (25 reversals). Moreover, the New York Times was reporting on October 9—two days after BPAT began investigating—that each piece of the 308,900 tons of WTC steel was being “tracked at elaborately monitored checkpoints” before leaving Ground Zero. Some steel was set aside and sent to “investigation sites” for “crime evidence” at delivery points like Staten Island’s Fresh Kills landfill. [13]

If the NTSB transports all aircraft-crash evidence to a secure warehouse for world-class forensic experts to determine the cause, surely Giuliani and the Bush Administration could have trucked/barged the beams and other WTC debris to a nearby military installation so that scientific/engineering forensic teams could perform a NTSB-like iminute examination to find what destroyed the WTC? Too expensive to transport, store, hire those experts? Not for this colossal crime.

Even if Giuliani ruled out this action, why did he not at least field such national expert forensic teams—before removal of the evidence—to do onsite examinations? Or fail to have each beam photographed for condition/residue, as well as marking an ID number and logging the location where it was found in the rubble? How could he fail to order beams “of interest” to receive that kind of intensive scientific examination? Careful analysis and sorting of beams certainly was being done at Ground Zero because some stored at a JFK Airport hangar were marked “SAVE” in huge white lettering. The Mayor’s failure to follow police procedures now suggests that suspect steel perhaps was equally marked either for quick recycling or shipped to distant places. [14]

Giuliani had ensured that chasing down the steel for examination at an array of destinations would be inconvenient and beyond the slim budgets of FEMA or NIST: Asian scrap yards, a Louisiana shipyard, the JFK hangar, Fresh Kills, and a pair of nearby recycling shops. Boehlert seems to have unwittingly revealed he was in the White House loop when he said: “…at one time, they were even talking about dumping it into the sea to build a new reef for fish.” [15]

BPAT was left with weak evidence to determine causal agents: 236 piece of metal from unknown locations, “hundreds of hours of video and thousands of still photographs” they knew would be challenged for possible PhotoShop doctoring. They did have interviews with 9/11 witnesses and WTC’s architects, builders, and maintenance people—and, in January, whatever documents the PA deigned to provide. [16]

Even with a tight schedule to produce the May report and, soon, mindful a preordained verdict had been mandated, the BPAT team seemed to balk the way only courageous and ethical Civil Service veterans do when they object to a policy: Give order-givers the truth, but if they find it unacceptable, wrap the truth in half-truths and pray they miss it.

Overwhelming evidence they did have ruled out faulty design, poor construction, and questionable building materials as causal agents for the Towers, (WTC 1 and 2). That left them with the dubious verdict of fire. Yet the team knew that up to 9/11 no fireproofed steel-framed buildings had ever collapsed from fire alone in recorded history. They had to have pointed out this fact to Bush contacts, adding that a verdict of fire would trigger sarcastic rebuttal from every firehouse in the country. It would damage the report’s credibility, and sully FEMA’s reputation. That argument apparently made their contacts uneasy enough to approve the section about the Towers’ destruction, the Empire State Building hit notwithstanding. [17] That passage was to raise more than a decade of scornful howls and skepticism about the White House-driven verdict:

The structural damage sustained by each tower from the [aircrafts’] impact, combined with the ensuing fires, resulted in the total collapse of each building. [18]

What may have been the last straw for the Administration was that the report rendered no fire verdict about what caused the collapse of the 47-story WTC 7. Here was a major challenge—and mystery. The substantially sound building had not been hit by aircraft, and firemen had been pulled by noon despite eruptive small fires begun just after the Tower destruction. Yet it collapsed nearly in its footprint at 5:20 p.m. at a free-fall speed of 6.5 seconds. BPAT’s refusal to render a verdict other than “unknown causes” had to be infuriating to the White House because it would raise doubts, especially among demolition experts, about the 11-second demise of the 110-story Towers. Pressure from high places or not, FEMA/BPAT refused to budge on changing this passage:

The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time. Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence. Further research, investigation, and analyses are needed to resolve this issue. [19]

It’s possible that this verdict came by their threats to include a comparison of the 47-story WTC 7, across from WTC 1, with the 40-story Deutsche Bank Building (née Bankers Trust), across from WTC 2, built in the same era. The bank took a heavier pounding of Tower debris because it was closer to the complex than WTC 7. It also had suffered hotter fires than WTC 7 because oxygen poured through 1,700 broken windows and WTC 7 scarcely had any even at its collapse. Yet the bank remained standing—as it did in a 2007 seven-alarm fire)— with its two main insurers saying it “could be cleaned and reoccupied” for about $170,000,000. [20]

Nor did it help the White House cause when another set of Ground Zero investigators, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), declared that the FEMA/BPAT report:

…may not be able to validate definitively any of a number of hypotheses regarding the collapse….As a result, independent researchers are unsure how they can contribute to the understanding of how the buildings fell without unnecessarily duplicating work. Others fear that the BPAT’s silence on the scope of its report may allow critical aspects of the picture to be missed, and that, by the time the report is released and any such gaps are discovered, the trail of evidence that could provide answers may have grown cold. [21]

Even if FEMA/BPAT stuck to their guns, however, the lack of viable evidence soon became the Administration’s greatest ally in discrediting this first report. They had been aided by Weiner’s taunts in the March hearing:

According to reports that we have heard since, there has been no comprehensive investigation. One expert in fire engineering concluded that there was virtually a non-existent investigation. [22]

FEMA’s administrator had responded with a litany of BPAT’s difficulties from Giuliani and the PA, but seemed contradicted by his frustrated BPAT chief on the importance of checking all the steel. He had testified:

…there is no indication that having access to each piece of steel from the World Trade Center would make a significant difference to understanding the performance of the structures. [23]

This claim rang hollow because metallurgical experts know that steel’s location in a building, the metal’s condition—several WTC beams were twisted, some had turned syrupy—and residue are crucial factors in determining the cause of construction failures. Apparently the White House trusted Boehlert to ensure in the May hearing that such information and any investigation about cause would be outweighed by the report’s recommendation section suggesting federally mandated fire/building codes. Administration contacts had learned it would stir such outrage—from fire professionals, building owners, the construction trade, engineers, architects—that media coverage would emphasize that fire must have destroyed the WTC complex. [24]

Boehlert and they had to be delighted that the fire-science witness he would place on the NCST’s advisory board was inspired to write a five-page exhibit (Proposal for a World Trade Center Disaster Commission) emphasizing fire-prevention recommendations (“Of particular importance are the regulations covering fire protection of high-rise buildings.”). Boehlert thoughtfully attached it as an appendix to the May hearing’s transcript. [25]

[Links to the texts of both March and May hearings are at right.]

Other groundwork for May’s “show trial” that would figure heavily in NIST’s future report was laid at the March hearing by that civil-engineering expert witness with the NSF grant to study the WTC. Though use of computer modeling to explain anything was in its infancy, he had touted it as the best testing tool to determine the destruction’s cause. The NIST director had requested $10 million to build a “large-scale” fire-testing facility, but computer modeling won out. And six years later, that fledgling tool’s inconclusive results was to destroy the credibility of NIST’s WTC 7 report in the eyes of thousands of structural engineers, scientists, and fire-science experts. [26]

Yet another and subliminal tool, one rooted in classic effective propaganda, was at hand in both hearings to bring in the Administration’s demand that fire be the only culprit in the destruction: words embedded by repetition. Because both hearings were subtly designed to exclude any expert witnesses with any other theories except fire, this tool proved to be immensely successful not just to those in Congress but the general public. A content analysis of words used in the March hearings—and transcripts including written attachments were provided to absent panelists—revealed that by the time the handful remaining were ready to question those witnesses, they had heard and read the word “collapse” 72 times, “progressive collapse” 10 times, “fire” 72 times, “fireproofing” 3 times, and “computer modeling,” 5 times. [27]

Neither panelists nor witnesses used words such as “high-yield explosives,” “radiation devices,” or “controlled demolition.” They seemed unaware that many First Responders and eyewitnesses reported experiencing explosions. None knew either that significant levels of strontium and zinc, as well as barium, uranium, and vanadium—all signs of nuclear debris—surrounding Ground Zero were found September 17-18 by the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition, once the WTC 7’s 6.5-second free-fall collapse was exposed, many construction experts, arson specialists, and physicists suspected a pre-set demolition. [28]

That words from the first hearing were successfully embedded seemed to be apparent in May’s hearing. The word “fire” was mentioned 266 times and its accessory “fireproofing” 27 times. Unlike the March hearing, the word “blast” was used 13 times—twice concerning earthquakes and other catastrophes. “Bombs/bombings” were used six times. “Explosives,” however, was never used. Nor did a single participant except for Weiner (“did [fireproofing] fail for other reasons?”) declare that alternative causal agents needed to be explored. [29]

That so few panelists attended—only Boehlert and fellow Republican Christopher Shays (CT, 4th) remained—left the chair free to dominate and constantly direct the May proceedings. He had prodded witnesses by giving advance notice of their expected focus and, considering questions panelists asked, ensured they followed those subtle instructions. He had also listened to input from members of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign—and was well aware they were in the hearings chamber. [30]

Boehlert constantly interjected comments between panelist questionings and witnesses’ answers and, eventually filled in question periods for missing colleagues. Committee protocol permitted the ranking Democrat (Ralph M. Hall, TX-4th) to be the first to make statements. He whipped through 310 words (“…I commend the [BPAT] team for their outstanding commitment and effort, [but] their report highlights that a lot remains to be done, and that is where NIST comes in”). He turned in the written version and seems to have departed, perhaps followed by other members and those in the chamber. The only relief for remaining participants was a 30-minute recess for a House floor vote. [31]

In one respect, the session was highly beneficial for the few panelists because for once were permitted more than one round of interrogations and to show they’d done some WTC homework within the framework Boehlert had orchestrated. Their performances would play well with constituents and perhaps the general public. The scheduled parameters seemed to be 20% for criticism and response about the FEMA/BPAT shortcomings and report; 40% for NIST’s investigation of the WTC destruction; 30% on future recommendations; 5% on the Boehlert-Weiner NCST bill; and 5% on funding the NIST project. [32]

The Administration’s hand governing any WTC probe was finally exposed when the NIST director testified about how the new project would be funded:

The Administration has expressed strong commitment for the NIST response plan and has requested $16 million as part of the FEMA’s fiscal year 2002 supplemental budget request to support the NIST investigation. The President’s fiscal year 2003 budget request also includes $2 million in base funding to support other elements of the NIST response plan. And we have already redirected approximately $2 million of existing base funds within our Building and Fire Research Laboratory to support the response plan. Future resource requirements for the broader research and development and dissemination and technical assistance program will be included in our fiscal year 2004 budget process and beyond. [33]

As to the second condemnation of the FEMA/BPAT effort and praise for NIST’s takeover, FEMA’s director focused on its release. But BPAT’s leader once again had to endure Weiner’s withering rundown of failures:

…for the families of those lost, today’s report offers little consolation and leaves many questions unanswered. And, sadly, because of the early missteps in the investigation, some of the most vexing questions may never be unraveled.

The report is short on conclusions about design decisions that could have contributed to the deaths of so many firefighters and workers on the top floors. Should future buildings avoid the concentration of stairwells that were used in the Twin Towers? Was enough attention given to the communications infrastructure that failed once after the 1993 bombings of these same buildings, and tragically left hundreds of emergency workers climbing stairs up while officials on the ground knew that the buildings were about to come down?

Did the fireproofing separate from the steel because of the intense heat, or was it the design of this post-asbestos treatment that is in place in thousands of buildings…? [34]

Yet once again, the BPAT leader looked up at the House committee and manfully defended the efforts of his 23-member team of experts who’d faced officialdom’s deliberative roadblocks that sabotaged the report. Boehlert’s advanced instructions required listing failures, the “lessons learned,” furnishing recommendations on codes/practices, and providing advice to NIST’s new band of investigators. And so he dutifully set up slides and reeled off BPAT’s difficulties and “lessons” about improved fireproofing, adding redundancies to sprinkler systems and staircases, and shifting of floor weight loads. [35]

BPAT’s recommendations to NIST involved that its investigators work on improving fire-rate testing and installing more efficient data-collection systems. Also that its researchers include human and sociology factors studied in disasters, include no more than 10 experts on an investigation team, and get public input on changing building/fire codes. The BPAT chief wryly noted that NIST would have to explain WTC 7’s mysterious collapse because his team had found “no evidence” that fireproofing was knocked off its beams. [36]

The fire-science professor also appeared to go off-script. It was heartening that NIST planned to leave “no stone unturned” in this new, long-term WTC project, he said, but the Director’s proposal needed substantial revision. For one thing, it lacked specificity—especially on fireproofing. Code-change wording needed language used by the building industry, owners’ organizations, and architects. He tartly noted that state-of-the-art training for First Responders and the building industry was already in place, using NIST books and materials. [37]

Boehlert’s major witness, however, was the quietly firm, dry-humored NIST director, a nuclear engineer with all three degrees in metallurgy. He had only been in place for five months, but 50 years of leadership posts in industry, business, and the Defense Department’s advanced research wing had taught him that being specific on proposals is foolish. It limits flexibility, reveals too many limitations—and makes enemies. Winning critical battles—which growing public doubts about WTC explanation clearly was—meant saying little, extensive reading, prudent listening and, above all, obeying direct orders from a Five-Star superior and his senior officers. That was usually the route to promotion in the military, the government, and industry. [38]

As a witness in March, he rose above the shot and shell aimed at the BPAT effort with a masterly sentence containing a diplomatic nod to them, his mission, and the source of his authority. NIST, after all, was a FEMA subsidiary:

NIST is currently working very closely with FEMA and the Administration on this investigation since an in-depth technical investigation and broader response program would go well beyond the scope of the building performance assessments conducted by FEMA. [39]

In the May hearing, he, too, used graphics and occasionally lifted his eyes from the statement for the session’s main event. Despite Administration demands that NIST’s “proposed response plan” be far different from BPAT’s “preliminary” findings, the Director’s terse preview (1,500 words) indicated the only departure would be its preliminary blue-sky time frame, budget and staff devoted, however, to only three of the seven WTC buildings: WTC 1 and 2, and WTC 7. Estimated startup costs would be a basic $16 million though unexpected add-ons might bring it to $40 million. Funds and oversight monitoring would be done through its parent, FEMA. He announced initial access to at least 3,000 “world class” experts—not counting those already on the NIST payroll. [40]

With consummate skill under questioning, he waffled the inclusion of subpoena powers when dealing with obdurate officials no matter how highly placed. And as for using the crack team of NCST investigators Boehlert and Weiner’s bill instituted, the Director hesitated on using their services though the name was used on the report’s cover. His sharp eye probably detected the double-cross of making official the hobbling of NCST at disaster scenes. BPAT’s chief undoubtedly had seen those passages, too—and shook his head:

An inspection, test, or other action taken by a [NCST] Team under this section shall be conducted in a way that does not interfere unnecessarily with services provided by the owner or operator of the building components, materials, or artifacts, property, records, process, or facility….

A Team shall not impede, and shall coordinate its investigation with, any search-and-rescue efforts being undertaken at the site of the building failure. [41]

The project, he told the panel, would have three elements.

Some 24 months would be spent on investigating the destruction of those three buildings. Though most physical evidence vital to any investigation had been spirited away, he was confident (as he indicated in the March hearing), that the computer modeling tests—based on WTC construction and Port Authority data—would be able to simulate a “progressive collapse” of the three skyscrapers and provide other information to determine the cause. His sizable staff of experts would be checking the quality of construction and materials, as well as “technical conditions.” No mention was made of exploring other alternative theories about causal agents except fire, something clearly at odds with basic scientific methods of any credible investigation. [42]

The second element was designed to cool expected fury on NIST recommendations about re-education and new tools for the building industry and firehouses around the country. Their input would be considered and results dispatched by them to those concerned. [43]

The third and major element of the project was an open-ended study based on the pre-conceived verdict of fire as the destruction’s cause and the buildings’ “progressive collapse.” That progressive collapse was to be explored, however, ignored that the three skyscrapers’ free-fall speed defied Newton’s Law of Momentum involving resistance of successive floors. A minimum of one second’s resistance per floor in the 110-story Towers meant 110 seconds to destruction at minimum instead of the 11 seconds recorded. Equally, the 47-story WTC 7 should have taken 47 seconds instead of 6.5 seconds. Nevertheless, the Director said this phase of the project would institute:

…a multi-year research and development program to provide the technical basis to support improved building and fire codes, standards, and practices. This addresses work in critical areas such as structural fire safety, prevention of progressive collapse, and equipment standards for first responders. It includes BPAT recommendations for World Trade Center Buildings 3, 4, 5, and 6,

Bankers Trust [Deutsche Bank], and peripheral buildings. [44]

Interestingly enough, by February 2004, the NIST director would be gone, rewarded with an appointed by the President to direct the government’s National Science Foundation. Instead of directing NIST’s annual $773 million budget and 3,000 employees, he would in charge of distributing NSF’s $6 billion to 200,000 researchers in science, engineering, and education. He also would escape the fierce criticism from the global science/technology community surrounding NIST’s two reports (WTC 1 and 2, 2005; WTC 7, 2008). Thousands since then have discredited the agency’s 2002-2008 WTC research as significantly flawed, unscientific and inconclusive—especially on WTC 7. That brutal professional criticism would fall on the shoulders of the Director’s hapless successor. [44]

Yet for all the emphasis the Administration wanted placed on the diversion of recommendations for enhancing and improving design, construction, and maintenance, it was left to the BPAT chief to bring reality to the May hearing. Most in the building industry and fire-science world knew his baleful comment near the session’s end was true:

….you might not be able to design a building to resist anything that might happen in the future. [46]

Privately, Boehlert probably knew that by now, too, and may have recognized that the upcoming NIST investigation was a vast waste of time and energy for scientists and engineers—and Science Committee members—and a vast waste of millions of taxpayer dollars. Yet his actions as Science Committee chair so far—and in October 2005 when the first NIST report was issued— demonstrated that obligations laid upon him by the Administration required his follow-through. He told the fire-science professor earlier that day that “you haven’t heard the last of [the committee].” And then turned to the few still in the chamber and vowed:

I want to assure the public in general, but especially the families of the victims, that this panel is committed to following this issue in the months and years ahead. We will not rest until we learn all we need to know to prevent future tragedies and until we implement what we have learned. [47]

Boehlert had to be pleased at receiving accolades—genuine or not—for successful management of the two hearings from his bill’s co-author. Weiner said:

….when this chapter is written, your leadership will be recognized in keeping this issue on the front burner and making sure we, in Congress, act to solve the problems. [48]

—Barbara G. Ellis, Ph.D

Senior Researcher, WTC Research Alliance

[NEXT ON JULY 15: House Science Hearing No. 3, October 26, 2005]



[1] U.S. Congress, House Committee on Science. Hearing: Learning From 9/11—Understanding the Collapse of the World Trade Center , 107th Cong., 2nd sess., 6 March 2002,, passim. Ibid., 9. U.S. Congress, House Committee on Science. Hearing: The Investigation of the World Trade Center Collapse: Findings, Recommendations, and Next Steps, 107th Cong., 2nd sess., 1 May 2002,, passim. The recorded hours were from 12:23-3:27 p.m. in March and 12:13-3:31 p.m., in May. But both were interrupted for a House floor vote, which, given Chairman Boehlert’s estimate of a 20-minute break, included either walking or underground subway. Deductible time, therefore, was probably at least 30 minutes from the session (House, 6 March 2002, 7, 127; ibid., 1 May 2002, 9, 180, 120).

Though everyone in a hearing may not be permitted to question witnesses, Boehlert’s constant interjections and questions of witnesses after panelists’ time had expired strongly indicates few were in the members’ pews in either hearing (House, 6 March 2002 and 1 May 2002, passim). The shortage of panelists in the March hearing seemed especially acute when House member Joe Crowley (D-NY-7th), who was not a committee member, was permitted two rounds of hard questioning (House, 6 March 2002, 181-85, 206-10). Moreover, late in the May 1 session, Rep. Christopher Shays revealed all other House members had departed when he said to Boehlert: “…since there are only two of us…” (House, 1 May 2002, 167).

Committee attendance was determined chiefly by those making opening statements and remaining to question witnesses. Two members in March and one in May just turned in prepared statements before the meeting. If attendance is measured by questioning of witnesses, the March hearing had absenteeism of 34/47; May 42/47 (ibid., March/May 2002, passim. One panelist not included in the March calculation was Representative Crowley.

[2] House, 1 May 2002, 62.

[3] House, 6 March 2002, 12, 17, 45.

[4] House, 1 May, 2002, 16-17.

[5] “Sherwood Boehlert,” SourceWatch,, 1.

[6] House, 1 May 2002, 124. The bill was H.R. 4687, “National Construction Safety Team Act,” 2nd Session, 9 May 2002, passed on July 12, 2002 without change 338-23 (73 not voting). Three Republicans on the Science committee voted “nay”; three more and a Democrat were “not votings”. The Senate passed the bill September 9, 2002, and President Bush signed it into PL 107-231 on October 1, 2002, a few weeks before Boehlert called for a third hearing. It was to be chiefly on the results of the NIST/NCST investigation of the WTC destruction and recommendations of changes in building/fire codes and procedures ( House, 1 May 2002, passim, 156,123.

[7] House, 6 March 2002, 121.

[8] Mathew Purdy, “Despite First Impressions, Kean May be a Good Second Choice,” New York Times, 22 December 2002. Frank Adams, “BOMBER HITS EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, SETTING IT AFIRE AT THE 79TH FLOOR; 13 DEAD, 26 HURT; WIDE AREA ROCKED,” New York Times, 29 July 1945.

[9] House, 6 March 2002, 45. Kenneth Chang, “Scarred Steel Holds Clues, And Remedies,” New York Times, 2 October 2001.

[10] House, 6 March 2002, 139. FEMA seems to have been operating under the same laws (15 USC 7301: Sec. 281a) as NIST would later use in its WTC probe (ibid., 115). The New York City application of those statutes permitted Giuliani and the Port Authority to hinder both BPAT and NIST’s investigating squad, the National Construction Safety Team (NCST).

When NCST began its probe in 2002, its operational guidelines said: “NIST, on its own initiative but only after consultation with local authorities may initiate and conduct investigations to determine the causes of structural failure in structures that are used or occupied by the general public.” Part G states: “To ensure that investigations under this chapter do not impede and are coordinated with any search and rescue efforts being undertaken at the site of the building failure. No part of any report resulting from such investigation shall be admitted as evidence or used in any suit of action for damages arising out of any matter mentioned in such report” (“NIST’s Responsibilities Under the National Construction Safety Team Act,” (NIST, 4 May 2010,, 1).

[11] Jim Dwyer, “City to Release Thousands of Oral Histories of 9/11 Today,” New York Times, 12 August 2008. House, 6 March 2002, 188.

[12] House, 6 March 2002, 10, 28. The New York City Council has 51 members and nothing in the print medium indicates Giuliani called for an emergency vote before taking unitary action (House, 1 May 2002, 71). Both Boehlert and guest panelist Crowley agreed about the illegality of Giuliani’s action. Crowley called it “borderline criminal “ (Ibid., 185).

[13] “A Biography of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani,” ND, City of New York,, 1. James Glanz, “From Torn Steel, Cold Data of Salvage,” New York Times, 9 October 2001.

[14] Laurence Kesterson photograph, “Rusted relics of 9/11 come home to Coatesville,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 April 2010,

[15] Of the 175,000 tons of WTC “incinerated” steel beams removed by Giuliani, 60,000 tons was sold to scrap yards in China and South Korea. (“Baosteel Will Recycle World Trade Center Debris,” About China, 24 January 2002, Some Indian yards reportedly refused purchase because of environmental activists complaints the steel was contaminated with asbestos, PCBs, dioxins, mercury, and lead (Rama Lakshmi, “Indian Groups Say Steel From Twin Towers Is Contaminated,” Washington Post, 18 February 2002). However, other Indian scrap yards bought steel from New Jersey recycler Metal Management (About China).

The shipyard at Avondale LA accepted 24 tons of WTC steel as a gift from New York Governor George Pataki to the U.S. Navy. Some 20 tons was used in the bow of an amphibious transport dock ship, the USS New York. The rest will be made into anchor-handling castings (Ed Winter, “Northrop Grumman Melts and Casts World Trade Center Steel for Bow-Stem of New Navy Ship USS New York (LPD 21),” Northrop Grumman, 10 September 2003, “World Trade Center steel shaped into Navy ship: in case you didn’t know,” January 2006, Modern Casting,;col1).

Maryland-based Marcor Environmental received an $11 million contract to screen 1.8 million tons of WTC debris—including beams—barged from Ground Zero to Fresh Kills landfill at Staten Island (“Fresh Kills Landfill 9/11 WTC Attack,” website of Marcor Environmental, ND,

Some 500 tons of the exterior steel “trees” were stored in an unused hangar at New York’s JFK airport until April 12, 2010. Then, the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey donated them to a Coatesville PA iron and steel museum near the foundry where they were cast. Photographs reveal that at least one of the “trees” was marked “SAVE,” indicating sorting of metal was ongoing at Ground Zero. Some 1,000 WTC “objects” were stored in the hangar since Giuliani’s removal orders (Kathy Boccella, “Rusted relics of 9/11 come home to Coatesville,” 14 April 2010, Philadelphia Inquirer).

The two recycling companies were Metal Management of Newark, NJ, and Hugo Neu Schnitzer East of New York. Metal Management reportedly paid $70 per ton for 40,000 tons offered by the City of New York and resold it to China’s Baosteel for $120 per ton (Christopher Bollyn, “Seismic Data: Two Huge Energy Bursts Under WTC Towers,” American Free Press, 13 December 2004,

The 23 members of BPAT spent most of their six-day effort examining the beams and other artifacts either at Fresh Kills or an unnamed New Jersey recycling yard. The owner permitted them to send 236 pieces of steel fragments to be analyzed and then stored at NIST’s headquarters in Gaithersburg MD (House Science Committee hearings, 6 March 2002, 13, 64.)

Boehlert’s offhand remark about dumping WTC beams and other critical artifacts into the Atlantic Ocean does indicate a practical, yet highly suspicious, solution to the disposal of some of the unaccounted-for 75,524 tons of beams (House, 6 March 2002, 187). Just as every piece of a crashed airliner is preserved and investigated by the NTSB for causal factors, the same thing should have been done with the WTC steel and other artifacts despite the expense of transport problems, according to one website contributor. He recently suggested that Giuliani certainly knew removal and destruction of evidence from a crime scene was a capitol felony with 10-20 years imprisonment. He should have shipped every scrap of metal to a military installation in the West where, like aircraft investigations, each piece could have been:

laid out in weatherproof hangars across the desert, and scientists and engineers from around the world invited to apply the best minds to the puzzle of [WTC destruction]…Those buildings would have been guarded around the clock by American soldiers who knew they had a hallowed duty. (Ralph Lopez, “911 Prosecution Plan: Start with Rudy Giuliani,’ Daily Paul, 17 April 2010,

[16] No Author, “Executive Summary,” World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations (Washington, D.C.: Federal Emergency Management Agency, May 2002, I-2).

[17] House, 1 May 2002, 62 (Corbett); 76 (Corley); 133 (Barnett); 103, 168 (Bement).

[18] Authors of the final FEMA/BPAT report buried that fact at the end of a section dealing with temperatures and ventilation and a full page of drawings showing aircraft sizes and high-rises. But the passage said: “Although there have been a number of severe fires in protected steel buildings…the team is unaware of any protected steel structures that have collapsed in a fire prior to September 11. However, none of the other fire events had impact damage to structural and fire-protection systems” (Therese McAllister, et al., “Introduction,” World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations (Washington, D.C.: Federal Emergency Management Agency, May 2002) I-20.

[19] Ibid., 1-8. Ramon Gilsanz, et al., “WTC 7,” ibid., 5-31.

[20] House, 1 May 2002, 62, 170, 102. Dunlap, David W., “9/11 Condemnation Is High at Bank Tower, Study Says,” New York Times, 15 September 2004. Charles V. Ragli., “Bank Tower, 9/11 Survivor, to be Razed in a Deal,” New York Times, 27 February 2004. Dunlap, David W., “A Survivor Faces a Slow Death, Piece by Piece,” New York Times, 16 April 2004.

[21] The hearing was brief—12:11-3:331 p.m.—despite a monumentally important subject (House, 1 May 2002, 9, 180). Ibid., 6 March 2002, 12, 15.

[22] 9/11 Commission Report, 10 May 2010,, 1. House, 6 March 2002, passim. Ibid., 12, 28.

[23] Ibid., 1 May 2002, 24, 27, 43. Ibid., 6 March 2002, 73.

[24] Ibid., 1 May 2002, 22.

[25] House, 6 March 2002, 91-97, 85.

[26] Ibid., 19. Ibid., 1 May 2002, 155. . James R. Gourley, et al., “Scientists, Scholars, Architects & Engineers respond to NIST,” STJ911.Blog, 15 September 2008,, 1-22.

[27] House, 6 March 2002, 103. Barbara G. Ellis, “A Content Analysis of Loaded Words in U.S. House Science Committee Hearings Concerning WTC Destruction,” 26 May 2010, passim.

[28] “Environmental Studies of the World Trade Center Area After the September 11, 2001 Attack,” U.S. Geological Survey, 27 November 2001,,, Table 1.

[29] Ellis, “A Content Analysis,” 27-28 May 2010, passim. House, 1 May 2002, 43.

[30] Ibid., 167.

[31] Ibid., 17, 41, passim, 41, 120.

[32] Ibid., passim.

[33] Ibid., 99.

[34] Ibid., 42-43.

[35] Ibid., 64-66, 122, 151.

[36] Ibid., 17, 64-66, 151-53, 137.

[37] Ibid., 112, 114-15, 113.

[38] Arden L. Bement, “Innovation,” videoed speech, 5 March 2010, University of California/Davis, “Biography: Dr. Arden L. Bement,” updated 1 June 2010, National Science Foundation,, 1-2. Gourley, et al., “Scientists,” 1-22.

[39] House, 6 March 2002, 112.

[40] Ibid., 1 May 2002, 145, 98. When one panelist seemed to indicate a “large facility” to test structures for withstanding fires would be far more scientifically credible than guesswork on computer modeling, Bement replied that $10 million of the project’s budget had been estimated for that purpose (ibid., 155).

[41] Ibid., 135-36. H.R. 4687, “National Construction Safety Team Act,” 2nd Session, 9 May 2002, Sec. 4, b,1, c,1.

[42] House, 6 March 2002, 111-113. Ibid., 1 May 2002, 95, 97.

[43] Ibid., 95.

[44] Ibid.

[45] “Biography: Dr. Arden L. Bement,” 1. Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, NIST NCSTAR 1, September 2005 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, September 2005), passim. World Trade Center Building Performance Study, May 2002, passim.

[46] House, 1 May 2002, 17, 64-66, 151-53, 137.

[47] Ibid., 149, 36.

[48] Ibid., 42.

Part I of 3: House Panelists—Even in 3/02—Demanded Scientific Probe on WTC Event

May 4, 2010

Few in the 9/11 movement may be aware that prior to the 9/11 Commission, the U.S. House’s Committee on Science held an brief “investigation” of the WTC destruction, Text of the first part of that hearing (Vol. 1 of 2) is below. The Republicans controlled Congress at that time, but chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY-24) was motivated about demands that six months had gone by and no investigation had begun by the Administration’s two agencies that handle disasters: FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and its subsidiary NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).

Boehlert and several on the panel were particularly concerned that most of the material evidence of the disaster—especially the Towers’ steel beams—had been removed by the Port Authority of NY/NJ under impoundment and sales orders of Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the City of New York. WTC documents on construction, etc. were sequestered until January 2002 also by Giuliani. Although insurance adjusters had been permitted on Ground Zero the afternoon of 9/11 and the U.S. Geological Survey had picked up and tested 35 grab samples of residue all around the complex on September 17, Giuliani also barred FEMA/NIST from the site until October 6, 2001.

Two chief purposes of the hearings were determining what destroyed the WTC and how the federal agencies tended to investigate major catastrophes such as this complex. The text shows that under strong questioning by Boehlert and two New York City Democrats (Joe Crowley, Anthony Weiner), the heads of FEMA and NIST admitted uncertainty of who was in charge of the overall investigation and that despite the national implications of 9/11, their agencies were ruled by Giuliani and the Port Authority.

Only a half-dozen expert witnesses were called to testify, among them the two agency directors, as well as Abolhassan Astaneh-asl, a professor of civil engineering at the University of California/Berkeley, allied with NIST director Arden L. Bement. Their testimony laid the groundwork for the sole use of a computer model to determine what destroyed the WTC 1 and 2 (the Towers) and WTC 7. Moreover, even before the investigation had begun, they admitted determining that fire was the sole causal agent of the destruction. No questions/answers were raised about explosions or the USGS’s findings of significant levels of strontium and barium, as well as vanadium, uranium, and tritium immediately around the site.

Representative Crowley’s questioning of FEMA/NIST’s heads and Astaneh-asl is notable in getting them to reveal that the beams had been rushed away from this major crime scene. (Parts were sold to Asian scrapyards, two nearby recycling shops; given to a Louisiana shipyard, and stored until April 2010 in a JFK airport hangar.) Crowley also wrung the admission from a FEMA investigator that the only way the WTC documents could be obtained from the City of New York and the Port Authority was by signing an agreement that FEMA would not testify against them.

Also noteworthy in the text is the advocacy of a major investigation by the only expert witness on fire—Glenn P. Corbett, a professor of fire science at NYC’s John Jay College. In it, he urged the immediate appointment of a “World Trade Center Disaster Commission” to analyse 9/11 as a “total event, using an integrated, scientifically rigorous approach.” Several House panellists agreed.

Barbara G. Ellis, Ph.D., senior researcher

Text of 2002 House Science Committee Hearings on the Collapse of the World Trade Center. Part 1 of 3.

NEXT on June 1: House Science Committee Hearing No.2, May 1, 2002