Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Experts can't verify key 9/11 experiment

Draft 5

Important information in this post was provided by Michael Ravnitzky,* a Freedom of Information Act advocate.

Citing public safety and other concerns, the federal agency responsible for investigating the World Trade Center collapses is preventing outside experts from reviewing an important computer simulation.

Ala Tabiei, a professor at Cincinnati University with advanced degrees in aeronautical and aerospace engineering, asked the National Institute for Standards and Technology for a copy of the LS-DYNA input file for the airplane models used in the twin tower computer simulation.

NIST denied the request of Tabiei, a specialist in impact simulations, on the basis that publication of NIST's mathematical model could jeopardize public safety. NIST staff members had also opposed release of the data because their method was said to incorporate proprietary information. However, Tabiei wasn't given the option of asking the cooperation of whatever firm might have supplied a proprietary algorithm.

The NIST transferred the six files to a secure location under control of its Building and Fire Research Laboratory.

No response has been received to an email query sent to Tabiei.

The NIST has also made it difficult for other FOIA requesters to obtain data. One tack is to require fees that most people are unlikely to be able to meet and to refuse fee waivers. Another obstruction is to decline to release photographic or other data concerning World Trade Center 7 on the ground that that investigation is continuing.

Whether justified or not, the NIST's decision to withhold experiment protocols means that its study lacks merit in the scientific community. Important NIST conclusions are simply unsubstantiated.

Another researcher, Chris Sarns, was denied access to photos of the east half of the south side of World Trade Center 7, the 47-story building housing the CIA's New York station which collapsed suddenly and swiftly at 5:20 p.m. Sept. 11. His request was denied on the ground that the WTC7 investigation hasn't been completed.

But the government had released photos taken on Sept. 11 of three-and-a-half sides of the still-standing building, Sarns noted. "How can they justify" releasing those photos while withholding "photos of the initiating event?"

Sarns, who is not an academic, wanted to see the evidence for a claimed "10-story gouge" of WTC7, as mentioned in an interim NIST report found at

The claim that the "middle 1/4 to 1/3 width of the south face was gouged out from floor 10 to ground" would go a long way toward substantiating the government's provisional conjecture that the building had been so badly weakened that fire damage could have been "the last straw" that initiated collapse. But that report is noncommital about structural damage, saying the area of the supposed gouge had been obscured by smoke and posits fire as the key to the collapse.

At any rate, in 2005 the NIST decoupled the WTC7 probe from the probes of the twin tower collapses because the WTC7 probe ran into very tricky problems in explaining collapse.

Sarns believes that the evidence for the "10-story gouge" was a misinterpretation of the actual damage, noting that in official accounts witnesses observed "no heavy damage in the lobby area as the building was exited" and that primarily white dust and loose wires were observed in WTC7's lobby following the twin tower collapses. Another account found that the atrium glass between ground level and the fifth floor was intact.

Such light damage seems inconsistent with a 10-story gouge, Sarns believes.

Sarns cites these statements in the Federal Emergency Management Agency report on WTC7:

According to the account of a firefighter who walked the 9th floor along the south side following the collapse of WTC1, the only damage to the ninth-floor facade occurred at the southwest corner.

When it fell, it ripped steel out from between the third and sixth floors...

How could the fireman have failed to notice or mention a 10-story gouge that affected between a third and a fourth of the width of the face? asks Sarns.

Photos purporting to show the gouge have shown up on the internet but their authenticity cannot be established. The NIST has said photographic evidence was lacking.

Evasive NIST press release
In June 2007 the NIST issued a press release saying a draft report on WTC7's collapse is due by year's end. The statement said the investigation was focused on structural failure at a low height but omitted mention of the fact that the contractor doing the computer modeling had been granted permission to check for the possibility that collapse was induced by explosives.

Boeing, feds clash over 9/11 secrets
Boeing Co., which built the planes hijacked on 9/11; a group of airlines; and two airport operators are battling the FBI and CIA for the right to depose FBI whistleblower Colleen M. Rowley and other officials about the events of 9/11.

In lawsuits against the two agencies, the plaintiffs seek to compel the agencies to permit the officials to be questioned in connection with negligence litigation, according to Chad Bray of the Wall Street Journal. The CIA and FBI have refused to permit the depositions.

Airline plaintiffs include American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, Delta Air Lines, Continental Airlines and AirTran Holdings, the Journal said.

Other plaintiffs in the federal suits filed in Manhattan are the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan International Airport in Boston, and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, which operates Dulles International and Reagan National airports in Washington. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operated the World Trade Center and which operates Newark International Airport, was not mentioned as a party to the lawsuits in the Journal's Aug. 8 story.

Hijacked planes left airports at Washington, Boston and Newark.

The FBI suit seeks to depose Rowley; Scott Billings, an FBI agent formerly with the Joint Terrorism Task Force; former FBI agent Erik T. Rigler; Michael Rolince, a former chief of the FBI's Terrorism Operations Section; and Harry Samit, an agent assigned to the terrorism task force on 9/11.

The CIA suit seeks to question "John," a former deputy chief of the CIA's since-disbanded Osama bin Laden unit, and "Mary," an FBI agent assigned to that unit on 9/11.

Previously, the National Transportation Safety Board has resisted release of official records concerning the hijackings. Victim families thought they had won access only to see a federal judge reseal virtually all records.

*Ravnitzky, who has a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law, has testified before Congress concerning release of Nazi war criminal records by the federal government.

For further background on Ravnitzky, see

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