Thursday, December 27, 2007

Scientist questions 9/11 probe's professionalism

Znewz1, Dec. 27, 2007

Problems of professionalism dog the official account of the collapses of the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, according to a fire scientist who once served as a division chief for the investigating agency.

James G. Quintiere, a fire science professor at the University of Maryland, charges that the National Institute of Standards and Technology failed to use subpoena power in order to obtain all evidence, issued a murky report that "defies reading and analysis," failed to do relevant experiments, and failed to give a "clear account of the logic they used in explaining collapse mechanisms."

Quintiere, in a published paper provided to this writer, said each NIST investigator wrote a separate analysis, which was then cobbled into the main report and "there was not a full integration of the work as each passed their work on to the other."

Quintiere charged that the NIST had failed to examine alternative hypotheses and said the investigation's fire physics was shaky. He challenged the agency's conclusion that collapse was initiated after blazing hot core columns buckled, having been shorn of fireproofing when the planes struck. He offered an alternative hypothesis: collapse was triggered when fires heated trusses (triangular supports), which then brought down the floors.

Quintiere buttressed his hypothesis with a scale model fire test, a type of experiment not reported by the NIST.

Quintiere, careful to avoid being labeled a conspiracy theorist, sticks with fire issues and his paper says nothing about the plausibility of rapid and total collapse.

In remarks before the 2007 World Fire Safety Conference, Quintiere, a fire science textbook author, said he favored a peer review of the NIST's 9/11 analysis and urged fellow experts to re-examine the trade center collapses.

Where is the timeline? asks Quintiere in his remarks, as reported by Alan Miller for OpEd News [Google: Quintiere, 911blogger for the article and to a link for a for-fee videotape of Quintiere's presentation.] "In every investigation I've taken part in, the key has been to establish a timeline. And the timeline is established by witness accounts, by information from alarm systems, by any video that you might have of the event, and then by calculations. And if your calculations are consistent with some of these hard facts, then perhaps you can have some comfort in your calculations. I have not seen a timeline placed in the NIST report."

Quintiere, Miller reports, was skeptical of the notion that smoke erupting from one of the towers implied explosives, saying that rather a collapsing floor might have ejected dust. However, the lack of a timeline, and the fact that internet collapse videos may not be reliable, makes it difficult for independent investigators to check this hypothesis.

Quintiere believes that government lawyers hindered the professionalism of the NIST investigation. Lawyers, rather than assisting in an aggressive probe, "blocked everything," Quintiere told colleagues.

The scientist, who, along with fire science professor Glenn P. Corbett, sounded the alarm on the destruction of trade center steel -- important evidence -- told colleagues that "spoliation of a fire scene is a basis for destroying a legal case in an investigation."

In his paper, Quintiere blames the NIST for the proliferation of suspicion. "It is one thing to state the cause and imply their computation by computer codes; it is another to clearly illustrate the physics behind the collapse mechanisms. Perhaps that is the reason for so many conspiracy theories."

Znewz1 has reported previously that the NIST has refused to permit computer scientists to see the codes.

Quintiere poses a number of criticisms of the NIST's professional conduct:

. The agency's experimental evidence concerning blast-induced stripping of fireproofing is inadequate and more supporting evidence is needed.

. Why didn't the NIST explore why nearly all the trade center steel was sold before it could be properly examined? Each steel piece was stamped with a code number that identified its place in the structure. This would have proved a forensic treasure trove.

. The agency's "fuel load" figures appear to be in error. Data that might have helped provide a better figure for the amount of combustibles on the fire floors was overlooked.

. The NIST's insulation-thickness figures are dubious. "It is striking" that some figures are missing. His work showed that stripping of insulation from the trusses was unlikely because, had that occurred, floor failure would have occurred much earlier than was the case. Loss of insulation on core columns yields greater times before collapse than was the case.

. The agency was evasive about accountability. There was no focus on why the steel evidence was not preserved, information on the towers' fire resistance was spotty, and the fire radio communication problems lacked proper focus.

. During the probe, the NIST said it would examine several possible collapse sequences and then give a probability for each, but that instead only one scenario is given. "What happened to their original plan?"

In his remarks to colleagues, Quintiere expressed frustration at the NIST's failure to conclude its investigation of the collapse of the 47-story World Trade Center 7, an investigation "decoupled" from the twin tower probe and now slated for completion in August 2008. A government contract permits researchers to do computer simulations on whether explosives brought down that building, though the NIST did not check that hypothesis for the twin tower collapses.