On June 4, 2006,
delivered a one-hour talk in Chicago
examining the official investigations and explanations
of the total collapses of the World Trade Center skyscrapers.
SnowshoeFilms later created a
DVD containing Ryan's presentation
along with one by Professor Steven Jones.
The DVD is available at
This review describes the content of Ryan's talk
in chronological order and in some detail,
and presents extensive text excerpts of Ryan's slides.
However, it is by no means complete,
and is not nearly as enjoyable to read
as it is to watch the DVD of the original talk.
Sources for Ryan's citations in this talk can be found his
articles and letters.
Excerpts from the talk contain the times at which they start and are coded by color:
In an information-packed presentation of 58 minutes Kevin Ryan delivers a damning indictment of the official investigations of the total collapses of the Twin Towers and Building 7. Contrary to Ryan's introductory comment that his lecture will be "very detailed and unfortunately a little bit dry," I found his sober, professional, just-the-facts approach riveting and easy to follow despite its richness of technical detail.
Having created most of the 9-11 Research website, including its extensive reviews of the official investigations (such as my critique of NIST's Report) I was surprised to learn so many things from Ryan's talk. He provides an abundance of revealing details about the history and conduct of those investigations, complementing the more summary approach of 9-11 Research.
Apologists for the official story have attempted to redirect attention away from Ryan's critique by suggesting that since Ryan isn't a structural engineer he has nothing worthwhile to say. One need only listen to Ryan to see that this claim is disingenuous. Ryan's solid scholarship and application of the scientific method stands in stark contrast to the official investigations, whose dishonesty and corrupt anti-scientific methods Ryan exposes in abundance.
Ryan unquestionably qualifies as a whistleblower. Having been promoted to the top manager of Underwriters Laboratories' water testing division, Ryan was dismissed on November of 2004 after an e-mail from him to Dr Frank Gayle of NIST became public.
00:55So I'm not an engineer, I'm a chemist. I got involved with this because of communications made to me both verbally and in writing about UL's involvement in testing the materials related to the World Trade Center buildings.
Ryan begins by describing "Bush Science" -- a corruption of allegedly scientific investigations by the Bush administration policy goals, citing condemnations by prominent scientists and Nobel laureates, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the House Committee on Government Reform. Ryan notes that the NIST and the Department of Commerce to which it reports are both headed by Bush appointees.
Ryan provides some context for the official investigation, noting that 99.7 percent of the steel was recycled, and that the first full investigation -- NIST's -- did not start for more than a year after the attack.
As David Griffin has pointed out in definitive detail, the destruction of the WTC towers showed numerous characteristic features of controlled demolition. Ryan quotes Griffin:
03:05No building exhibiting all the characteristics of controlled demolition has ever not been a controlled demolition.
Ryan signifies this argument with a slide of Demo, the elephant that remembers.
Among the many interesting quotes in the presentation are two by individuals later involved in the investigation -- Mike Taylor and Ronald Hamburger -- saying that the falls of the Twin Towers looked like demolitions.
Ryan begins his examination of the official investigations by showing the source of the claim that jet fuel melted structural steel: a number of "experts" including:
- BBC (Chris Wise, etc.)
- Scientific American (Eduardo Kausel)
- NOVA video (Matthys Levy)
- Henry Koffman from USC
- Tom Mackin from Univ. of Illinois
- The New Scientist
Ryan also notes that National Geographic Today and the History Channel asserted fire temperatures of 2,900 and 2,700 F.
Since jet fuel fires burn at a maximum of around 1,500 F (unless in a special combustion chamber) and the melting point of steel is around 2,800 F, the claim that jet fuel fires melted structural steel is absurd. Although the official reports do not hold that the WTC fires melted steel, the origins of this idea is important, since it has been used as a straw-man attack by official story defenders such as Popular Mechanics.
Ryan notes that steel temperatures lag behind gas temperatures in both time and magnitude, and that none of the official reports have performed thermodynamic calculations about the probable steel temperatures. Ryan's own calculations show that steel temperatures in the impact zones probably did not exceed 600 F.
Having demonstrated the blatant disregard for facts by supposed experts, Ryan asks, where are the real experts? There are no experts who can explain the events of 9/11/01, Ryan explains, because the attack involved such a long string of unique events. Since no tall steel building has ever collapsed from fire, or a combination of fire and other damage, there are clearly no experts who can explain how it happened three times in one day.
Yet, as Ryan notes, there is always an official explanation for terrorist events. Ryan reviews anomalies in the official account of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and notes that in that case, as in the case of the World Trade Center, a small group of engineers produced reports supporting the official story.
Ryan shows that the same principals headed the various government investigations of the WTC collapses, the Pentagon crash, and Oklahoma City bombing, despite the fact that the investigations involved assessments of entirely different kinds of structures inflicted with different kinds of damage. Why do the same five or so individuals turn up in investigations relating to terrorist attack, when, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), there are 1.5 million engineers in the US? The authors of the official report on the Murrah Federal Building -- Gene Corley, Charles Thornton, Paul Mlaker, and Mete Sozen -- were all among the initial team of the ASCE WTC investigation. Several of these individuals have strong connections to industries that benefited from the attack, such as armaments makers and oil and gas producers.
The guiding of an investigation by pre-determined conclusions is antithetical to good science. Ryan uses the words of the investigations themselves to show that they started with the conclusion that the collapses of the three skyscrapers were entirely the result of the plane crashes and subsequent fires. Gene Corley stated that he knew that the towers were going to collapse before they did, which is interesting because no tall steel-framed building had ever collapsed from fires. Charles Thornton stated to Karl Koch, "Karl, we all know what caused the collapse." Shankar Nair, a contributor to the NIST investigation, stated on September 19, 2001, "Already there is near-consensus as to the sequence of events that led to the collapse of the World Trade Center." Ryan, surmises with wry irony:
09:42So these guys knew apparently what happened, and I don't doubt it.
New York City officials put Thornton-Tomasetti in charge of the site, and Charles Thornton's partner, Richard Tomasetti cleared the decision to recycle the steel. Ryan lists a series of debilitating restrictions on the ASCE investigation that can best be understood as efforts to subvert and sabotage the investigation.
- No access to blueprints
- Not allowed to ask for help from public
- Team members threatened with dismissal for speaking with press
- No access to steel until first week in October
- FEMA obstruction
One way to solve that is to allow FEMA to take over the investigation.
FEMA took over the ASCE investigation and expanded it, adding John Gross, Therese McAllister, and other contractors. By December 2001, only $100,000 had been spent on the investigation.
11:52We had spent, by the end of the year, 30,000 times more on the wars than we had spent finding why we were fighting the wars.
Ryan shows statements by official investigators suggesting that the building designers had forgotten to consider jet fuel fires in their considerations of jet crashes.
- Eduardo Kausel - "never designed for the massive explosions nor the intense jet fuel fires that came next -- a key design omission."
- Loring Knoblauch (CEO of UL) - the jet fuel fires
were not "reasonably foreseeable."
- What? How would the planes get to the buildings?
So who would do this -- who would design these buildings for aircraft impacts but no jet fuel fires? ... Well, the answer is not the World Trade Center's design engineer.
Ryan shows that the design engineers had contemplated jetliner crashes and the fires that would result. Lead engineer John Skilling said in 1993, five years before his death:
13:50"our analysis indicated the biggest problem would be the fact that all the fuel would dump into the building. [But] the building structure would still be there."
--City in the Sky
These statements are not disclosed by a number of post-9/11 documentaries that feature Leslie Robertson, (a junior partner to Skilling at the time the Towers were designed) implying that considering the effects of fires were someone else's job.
Ryan provides an illustrated tour of the Tower's construction, describing the huge core structures, and noting that steel used in the perimeter columns was super-strong steel: much of it rated to 1,000,000 PSI.
Ryan briefly reviews the April 2002 NOVA documentary, which featured commentators Corley and Thornton, and the floor pancaking theory. The same theory is endorsed in the May 2002 FEMA report as a "a pancake-type of collapse of successive floors"
In June of 2002 NIST drafted its plans, and its first "public meeting" meeting included comments by Corley, Tomasetti, Nair, and other contributors to the official reports.
17:22FEMA authors became NIST authors
- FEMA Chapter 1 authors:
- Therese McAllister: co-write NIST report 1-6 and 1-7
- John Gross: co-wrote NIST report 1-6 and 1-7
- Ronald Hamburger: NIST contributor
- FEMA Chapter 2 authors:
- Ronald Hamburger: see above
- William Baker: NIST contributor, Freedom Tower
- Harold Nelson: co-wrote NIST report 1-5 and 1-7
- FEMA Chapter 5 authors (WTC7):
- Ramon Gilsanz: co-wrote NIST report 1-6F
- Harold Nelson: see above
Although the authors of the official reports are very similar, the collapse explanations offered by the reports are quite different. Corley and Thornton-Tomasetti were also involved in the Weidlinger study, released in October, 2002, just five months after FEMA's. That study, commissioned by Silverstein for his insurance claim, exclusively blames column failure for the collapses. It thus stands in stark contrast to the FEMA Report, whose pancake theory blames floor truss failures. Why would the same individuals endorse two contradictory theories in their different roles? Apparently for political and economic reasons. Ryan ventures that failures of truss supports could indicate a design fault, and therefore fail to support the "two occurrences" claimed by Silverstein. I suggest that clearly implausible aspects of the column failure theory required the invention of the more sophisticated truss-failure theory.
Ryan summarizes the "official" theories to date:
19:02They know from the start what happened?
- "experts" Towering Inferno
- Steel melted
- Floor failure: "A pancake-type collapse of successive floors"
- Column failure only
- External column failure from sagging floors and softened core columns, etc ... leading to pile driver collapse
(TNRAT - They'll Never Read All This theory)
I describe NIST's Report as a mountain of distracting detail. Ryan more succinctly describes their theory as a 'tin rat' -- They'll Never Read All This -- theory. The Report on the Twin Towers is 42 sub-reports totaling more than 10,000 pages.
Here Ryan starts his detailed analysis of NIST's final report released in September 2005, which he calls "Part 2 of the official conspiracy theory" because of its departure from the first theory -- the pancake theory. Ryan asks whether NIST used the national standard for fire investigation: NFPA 921. He shows that NIST violated at least two of the standard's guidelines:
- Sec 6-5: Important to remember that conflict of interest should be avoided
- NIST used specialists/contractors who were dependent on government contracts or on the official story itself
- Sec 12-4: Unusual residues ...could arise from thermite, magnesium or other pyrotechnic materials
- NIST report does not mention FEMA's puzzling sulfur residue
Ryan enumerates the five methods used by NIST,
and proceeds to examine NIST's performance on each one,
using two of NIST's own stated goals:
Goal 1 - Why and How three buildings collapsed Goal 3 - What design factors should have prevented this?
A. Review of documents
B. Interviews with eyewitnesses
C. Analysis of steel
D. Laboratory tests
E. Computer simulations
The review of documents was important because the building designers made claims about their performance in jetliner crashes that were highly relevant to NIST's investigation. NIST avoided mentioning the historic claims, and claimed that documents supporting them -- such as the UL fire resistance test data and Skilling's fire resistance analysis -- were missing. The design claims by Skilling's team included the following:
22:52Original design claims
-- All quotes from Engineering News-Record, 1964
- "... inherent capacity to resist unforeseen calamities."
- For the perimeter columns ... "live loads on these columns can be increased more than 2,000% before failure occurs."
- One "could cut away all the first story columns on one side of the building, and partway from the corners of the perpendicular sides, and the building could still withstand design live loads and a 100 mph wind from any direction."
NIST states that it found no documents about fire resistance testing, yet it also states that the buildings were rated as Class 1B, which requires such testing. If the assemblies were tested they would have been using the standard ASTM E119. A floor assembly is tested to that standard by placing a furnace under it and measuring the time it takes a certain temperature to be reached on its top side.
Evidence that the steel was tested include:
24:50A. UL's comments on testing WTC steel
- September 2001
- Loring Knoblauch, UL's CEO, told staff that UL had certified the steel used in the WTC
- November 2003
- I asked Knoblauch in writing about UL's involvement, and he responded in December confirming details.
- "We tested the steel with all the required fireproofing on, and it did beautifully."
- "As we did not do follow-up service on this kind of product, we can given an opinion only on the test sample which was indeed properly coated."
- "We test the code requirements, and the steel clearly met [the NYC code] requirements and exceeded them."
In August of 2004, UL performed tests of WTC floor models, but the floors were barely affected and didn't collapse. Loring Knoblauch resigned suddenly.
In October of 2004, a NIST report update showed contradictions.
In November of 2004 Ryan's letter to Frank Gayle went public, causing UL to quickly backtrack, saying there was "no evidence" that any firm tested the steel, and that they played a "limited" role in the investigation.
27:30B. NIST's performance on interviews
- NIST started planning for eyewitness interviews in April 2003 (7 months after start of investigation, 19 after 9/11)
- By October, still no NIST interviews and on NIST access to NYC interviews
- NYC finally agreed to allow NIST access to original interviews by December 2003
... but only in NYC offices
NIST's limited access to the interviews is reminiscent of testimony given the 9/11 Commission, in which notes or recordings were prohibited. Ryan presents a few excerpts of the interviews released to the public in mid-2005 -- excerpts such as these that reflect perceptions of explosive demolition.
The eyewitness interviews were not used in the final report.
29:40C. Analysis of steel
- Most of the steel evidence destroyed
- Tomasetti decision (Thornton's partner)
- 236 samples saved for testing (0.3%)
- NIST tests
- Paint tests indicated low steel temps (480 F) "despite pre-collapse exposure to fire"
- Microstructure tests showed no steel reached critical (half-strength) values (600 C)
Having failed to find any samples that showed exposures to temperatures that would have produced critical weakening of steel, NIST stated "None of the samples were from zones where [high] heating was predicted"
Laboratory tests conducted by NIST included:
The floor assemblies tests were important because they were supposed to prove the pancake theory. Yet, despite NIST using less fireproofing on the assemblies than was known to be on the steel in the Twin Towers, and despite their loading the floors with double the weight known to have been on the actual floors, it could not get an assembly to collapse. The tests showed:
- Minimal floor sagging
- No floor collapse
- "The results established that this type of assembly was capable of sustaining a large gravity load, without collapsing for a substantial period of time relative to the duration of the fires in any given location on September 11th."
- Input parameters could be tweaked
- "Realistic" parameters tossed in favor of "More severe" parameters
- Animations generated to "compare with observed events"
In my essay on NIST's Report, I point out that NIST created animations of events such as the fires and plane crashes, but has not published any animations of the falls of the Towers -- the events it was supposed to investigate. Ryan makes essentially the same point in his characteristic understated manner, showing some images from NIST computer animations and asking:
35:30Does your future depend on these pictures?
35:35NIST's investigative practices were deceptive and unscientific
- Documents needed just happened to be missing
- Eyewitnesses to demolition characteristics were ignored
- Physical tests that disproved pre-determined conclusions were downplayed or ignored
- Entire theory is built on fudged, inaccessible computer simulations
Having exposed the blatantly unscientific conduct of NIST's investigation, Ryan proceeds to dismantle their theory, which consists of seven steps:
36.06What is their story?
1. The aircraft severed "a number of columns"
2. Loads were redistributed (from -20% to +25%)
3. Insulation (fireproofing) was widely dislodged
4. High temperatures softened columns and floors
5. Some floors began to sag
6. Sagging floors pulled exterior columns inward causing them to buckle
7. Instability spread around entire building
Ryan examines these steps in detail, showing that each either makes drastically unrealistic assumptions or otherwise fails to support the collapse theory.
NIST admits that only a small percentage of columns were severed: 14% in WTC 1 and 15% WTC 2. This is nowhere near the number of columns that the designers claimed could have been removed without causing a problem.
NIST admits that the web of steel formed by interlocking perimeter columns and spandrel plates were efficient at redistributing loads around the impact punctures. It estimates that loads on some columns increased by up to 35% while loads on other columns decreased by 20%. The increased loads are nowhere near those the designers claimed the columns could handle: increases of 2000% above the design live loads.
The idea that fireproofing was removed from most of the structural steel surfaces of the impact zones is essential to NIST's theory. NIST sought to "prove" that the plane crashes could do this by shooting shotguns at surfaces coated with spray-on foam insulation. Contrary to the popular notion that the jolts of the plane crashes could knocked off large amounts of spray-on insulation from steel not directly in the line of fire, the tests showed that it took being sprayed with shotgun pellets to remove the insulation. In addition to the fact that there is no evidence that a crashing Boeing 757 could have been transformed into the equivalent of the thousands of shotgun blasts it would take to blast the 6,000 square meters of surface area of structural steel in the fire areas, Ryan makes another argument based on the available energy.
- NIST says 2500 MJ of kinetic energy from plane that hit WTC1
* Calculations by Tomasz Wierzbicki of MIT
- Calculations show that all this energy was consumed in crushing aircraft and breaking columns and floors *
- Shotgun tests found that 1 MJ per sq meter was needed to dislodge fireproofing
- For the areas in question, intact floors and columns had 6000 sq meters of surface area
Here Ryan fills in another gap in NIST's theory by doing a calculation they neglected to, that to determine how much heat energy was available and how much it could have raised steel temperatures. Ryan and others have done the calculation using only assumptions favorable to the collapse theory:
- NIST now says about 4,500 gallons of jet fuel were available to feed fires -- 590,000 MJ of energy
- Office furnishings in the impact zone would have provided 490,000 MJ of energy
- Using masses and specific heats for materials heated, a maximum temp in the impact zone can be calculated.
- The result is less than 600 degrees F
- Assuming fuel burned with perfect efficiency, that no hot gases left the impact zone, no heat escaped by conduction, steel and concrete had unlimited amount of time to absorb all the heat
Thus, the maximum temperatures that could have been attained by the steel were much too low to soften it.
Step five in NIST's collapse theory is that floors began to sag. The idea that fires could have caused floors to sag is not unreasonable, since it has been observed in fire tests and in cases of severe fires in steel-framed buildings, such as the One Meridian Plaza fire.
What is not reasonable is the degree of sagging NIST used in its computer models compared with the amounts its physical tests showed. Whereas the 35-foot floor model sagged only a few inches in the middle after two hours in a high-temperature furnace, NIST's computer model showed a sagging of 54 inches.
Ryan dubs NIST's use of a computer model to support its theory of floor-sag-induced inward bowing of perimeter columns the "triple double bare steel computer result." He is referring to the fact that NIST's computer model doubled the height of the unsupported wall sections, doubled the temperatures, doubled the duration of the stress, and ignored the effect of insulation.
- "An exterior wall section (9 columns wide and 9 floors high) was found to bow inward when floor connections applied an inward force." (computer result for one case out of nine)
- Same report says sagging area only 5 floors high!
- NIST had to exaggerate temperatures (1300 F), apply these temperatures for 90 minutes, strip all the fireproofing, and then double the height of the inward pull zone to produce even a hint of bowing from fire
NIST claims that "column instability" spread from core columns to the perimeter columns and vice-versa, leading to "global collapse" in the case of both Towers. This vague claim occupies only a few paragraphs of NIST's Final Report, despite its being critical to the collapse theory.
Ryan asks how fast the "instability spread" would have to propagate to produce the sudden-onset telescoping collapses. Noting that the perimeter of each Tower measured 832 feet, for "column instability" to spread to all the perimeter columns in half a second would require a supersonic rate of propagation. This idea is entirely contrary to all experience with steel structures, and pre-9/11 literature on the subject.
47:00"A steel structure, generally speaking, does not collapse suddenly when attacked by fire. There are unmistakable warning signs, namely, large deformations"
--Hart, Multi-storey Buildings in Steel
48:40What would objective scientists have found?
1 Relatively few columns lost on impact
2 Remaining columns had considerable extra capacity
3 Fireproofing could not have been widely dislodged
4 Steel could not have softened at the temps found
5 Even higher temps and longer periods tests showed minimal sagging
6 Forces were not sufficient to pull columns inward
7 "instability spread" would have taken longer
50:47NIST WTC report is false because ..
- They did not explain why and how the buildings collapsed and their investigation was deceptive and unscientific at every step
- They reported findings that were in direct contradiction to their physical testing
- They omitted or distorted many important facts:
- Original design claims and John Skilling's analysis
- Resistance from building structure below
- WTC 1 antenna moving first
- Pools of molten metal lingering for weeks
- Numerous eyewitness testimonies about explosions
- Sulfur residue on steel
Ryan concludes with a brief look at the fall of WTC 7, noting that NIST still hasn't produced their final report on the incident. WTC 7 would have been the tallest building in 33 states and it collapsed in 6.6 seconds. Showing a video of the collapse, Ryan states:
52:34I understand that a representative of MSNBC still needs to see this. And he's also said that if he was faced with the knowledge that all of us have been faced with now that he would leave the country, that he would run far away. But we're here to tell him that not everyone would run.
Ryan's comment refers to the interview of Steven Jones by Tucker Carlson in which the producers apparently refused to play the collapse footage of WTC 7 that Jones had earlier arranged to be played. Addressing feedback on the interview, Carlson said the next day: "If you really thought this - or even considered it a possibility - how could you continue to live here? You couldn't. You'd leave the United States on the next available flight and not come back."
In the question-and-answer session, an audience member asks Ryan and Steven Jones, who is in the audience, to address the question of what hit the Pentagon:
55:20We know that a lot of science has been done on the two towers, but what a lot of us need to know more about is what really happened at the Pentagon.
... the fact that the commercial jet broke through 5 load-bearing walls of solid concrete, and whether it's possible for a jet to break through without the help of a uranium tipped [warhead]. ... My question is, what science going to be done? Are scientists going to be looking at the possibility of a missile hitting the Pentagon.
Implicit in this question is a misunderstanding of the construction of the Pentagon. The attack plane did not break through 5 load-bearing walls, since there were no such walls between the facade and the punctured C-ring wall, only a forest of columns damaged in a pattern consistent with a jetliner crash.
Ryan, whose work has focused on the official investigations of the World Trade Center destruction, does not directly address the questioner's claim, but points out that two of the engineers who gave us the Oklahoma City report also gave us the Pentagon Building Performance Study.
Dr. Steven Jones notes that what happened at the Pentagon has been a divisive issue -- a problem caused by the lack of data -- and that it's important to insist that the government release the data. The fact that the Pentagon released footage that doesn't show Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon is suspicious, he notes, but that doesn't mean they don't have footage that does show it. My 2004 essay suggests that the continuing debate over what hit the Pentagon serves the cover-up by diverting attention from evidence proving official complicity in the attack.
Asked what he thought the next step for this movement is, Ryan mentions David Ray Griffin and Mike Berger, and adds:
57:35My plan is to help get the word that the official story is false. Really I'd like to see that the next steps be the end to the War on Terrorism, first of all, and hopefully prosecution of the people involved in giving us this false story.
Further queried about the nature of such a trial, Ryan states:
58:00if it was up to me I would recommend an international tribunal, because this affects everyone in the world through the impact of the American economic and military force.
Kevin Ryan has made a truly unique contribution to the vital task of exposing the fundamental falsehoods on which the War on Terror is built. Although there must be hundreds of individuals with direct knowledge of the collapse investigations comparable to Ryan's, only Ryan has had the courage, thus far, to put his career on the line to expose the nature of the cover-up. Ryan gives us a who's-who of the very small world of "experts" who have backed the official explanations for policy-justifying terrorist events. He documents NIST's partial, deceptive, and unscientific investigative practices, and takes us through NIST's theory, exposing its blatant contradictions, omissions, and non-sequiturs.
At the end of 2006 Ryan filed a lawsuit against
Underwriters Laboratories (UL), his former employer, for wrongful termination.
This lawsuit could be an important tool for holding this public service
organization accountable for its role in propping up the official account
of the "collapse" of the World Trade Center skyscrapers.
To support this effort, visit the: