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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

The NIST Investigation

National Institute for Standards and Technology Encounters Resistance, Pretends to Investigate

NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Commerce Department's Technology Administration. In NIST's May 7, 2003 News Release on the progress of its investigation, there is clear evidence that the agency has been hampered in its investigation by a lack of access to evidence.

In contrast to FEMA's investigation, which relied on volunteers from the ASCE, NIST's investigation was funded by Congress. However, NIST's investigation would not even start until virtually all of the steel had been removed from Ground Zero and recycled. On March 5, 2002, W. Gene Corley, leader of FEMA's Building Performance Study, testified to the House Science Committee about the need to further investigate the performance of buildings that were damaged or collapsed on 9/11/2001. With his own study almost finished, Corley stated that it would take $40 million to adequately study the issue.

The $40 million would cover the expense of stockpiling the steel and other debris; examining the steel; physically testing the steel; partial parametric computer modeling of the steel, the fire, the plane and the blast; and the examination of egress issues, says Corley. From the study, tools could be developed to address fire as a structural design load and to understand the behavior of structural connections under fire conditions. Tools also could be developed to look at strategies against progressive collapse. 1  

Corley's call for millions to stockpile and examine the steel appears disingenuous since, by the time of his testimony, nearly all of the steel had been recycled. His ASCE volunteers had saved 156 pieces of steel, most of them small "coupons" cut from larger pieces. NIST would not need special facilities to store the steel, of which it had received 41 pieces by May of 2002. 2  

In 2002, NIST's 'Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation' was funded with a budget of $16 million, and was supplemented with additional multi-million-dollar appropriations in the following two years. 3   4   5   This contrasts with the $600,000 that had been allocated by FEMA to fund the only investigation of the building collapses that was active before the site had been mopped up. The new legislation, named the National Construction Safety Team Act (originally H.R. 4687), was signed into law on October 1, 2002. 6  

It is apparent from reading NIST's website that its investigation was conducted strictly within the confines of the official story -- that the collapses of the Twin Towers and Building 7 resulted from the jetliner impacts. A presentation about NIST's response to the disaster claims there is a "critical and urgent national need" to "establish the probable technical causes of the collapses and derive lessons to be learned", but, prior to the publication of their Final Report on Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers in late 2005, none of the materials on the NIST site even mentioned the possibility that the collapses were caused by controlled demolition. 7  

NIST's Final Report on the Twin Towers

NIST's Final Report, though titled Final Report on the Collapses of the World Trade Center Towers, essentially avoids the subject of the collapses entirely. It is also misleading in that it does not cover the collapse of the third World Trade Center Tower, Building 7, which is handled in a separate report.

On April 5, 2005, NIST held a press conference to release preliminary reports on the result of its nearly three-year investigation. Lead investigator Shyam Sunder made clear the gist of NIST's findings: damaged fireproofing was the chief culprit in the collapses. 8   NIST's web page for the April 5 presentation, whose subtitle proclaims "Probable Collapse Sequences for Both Towers Finalized," makes it clear that modeling the aircraft crashes was a higher priority than examining the collapses. It includes computer simulations of Boeing 767s hitting each tower, but no simulations of the collapses themselves. 9  

In August of 2005, 9-11 Research published Building a Better Mirage: NIST's 3-Year $20,000,000 Cover-Up of the Crime of the Century, Version 0.98, by Jim Hoffman. The essay critiqued the Draft of NIST's Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Towers, which actually only treats the Twin Towers, not WTC 7, the third WTC tower to totally collapse. (The Report's detailed title, Final Report of the National Construction Safety Team on the Collapses of the World Trade Center Towers (Draft), is similarly misleading.) Hoffman's essay noted that NIST went to great lengths to model aspects of the attack that are well understood -- such as the impacts of the jetliners -- while quietly sidestepping the core question of how the Twin Towers totally collapsed. By truncating the timelines of its models before the collapses even began, NIST not only evaded its stated objective of explaining the collapses, it avoided disclosing the many features of controlled demolition exhibited by the collapses. Subsequent to the publication of this essay, NIST altered its website to prevent direct access to its draft report.

In December of 2005, 9-11 Research published an update of the Mirage essay, Building a Better Mirage, Version 1.0, addressing NIST's Final Report on the Twin Towers. The main difference between NIST's Final Report and its Draft is that the final version contains a perfunctory and misleading reply to criticisms that NIST failed to address evidence of controlled demolition. The updated essay dissects NIST's response in the section NIST's Vacuous Response to its Critics.

It is noteworthy that NIST is a non-regulatory agency, and therefore the recommendations of its report do not have the strength of law. Since the key event in its "probable collapse sequence" (a misnomer for its scenario of impact damage and fire progression) is the dislodging of fireproofing by the jetliner impacts, it avoids faulting the tower's construction. 10  

NIST's Final Report on Building 7

On August 21, 2008, NIST held a press conference to release the draft of its Final Report on WTC Building 7. 11   The draft included a half-dozen PDF documents, all of which were locked. Researchers working make NIST's investigation more transparent published unlocked versions of the documents. Bloggers pointed out glaring illogic in in Shyam Sunder's answers to audience questions. 12   New York Times reporter Eric Lipton, who co-authored the anthropomorphism-laden book City in the Sky wrote a review of the press conference that summarized some arguments by "conspiracy theorists" in attendance. 13  

NIST allowed only 30 days for public comments on its report. A group of sixteen researchers, including scientists, architects, and engineers, submitted this letter to NIST's WTC Technical Information Repository before the deadline. The letter points out numerous inconsistencies, unsupported conclusions, and failures of investigation in NIST's Report. NIST's Final Report, entitled "Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building Center", or NIST NCSTAR 1A, was released in November of 2008. 14  

In his review of the Report, whistleblower Kevin Ryan points out, among other things, that:

  • The Final Report shows that NIST avoided physical testing altogether. Instead, it created a computer model that it claims supports their collapse theory, but won't even release that model for inspection by the public.
  • In the new Report, NIST quietly drops the theory promoted by since 2001 by the New York Times and FEMA, that diesel fuel was responsible for the collapse, and minimizes the role of purportedly extensive damage from the fallout of the North Tower.
  • NIST entirely ignores the voluminous evidence of molten metal at the building's base, and steel sulfidation documented by FEMA, despite these issues having been directly raised with NIST in press conferences, and public comment periods for this and the previous report on the Twin Towers. NIST's pointmen act as if they never heard of aluminothermic incendiaries, yet some of the NIST Report authors and other supporters of the collapse theory have been on the forefront of research into advanced energetic materials based on thermite.
  • NIST advances a theory that the entire "collapse" was caused by a beam disconnecting itself from its column supports through thermal expansion -- a behavior that is the opposite of that exhibited by actual building fires and building fire simulations, in which severely heated beams sag downward and stay connected, rather than remaining rigid and breaking their connections.
  • To support its new theory, NIST apparently resorts to fabrication, claiming -- in contradiction to its earlier reports -- that girders lacked shear studs and had only two seat bolts per connection.

NIST's final installment was its December 2008 Questions and Answers about the NIST WTC 7 Investigation. In it, NIST repeated the same sophism that it had used in its FAQ on its Twin Tower report: implying that thermite/thermate would have been unsuitable as a demolition tool because it acts too slowly, would have been too hard keep pressed against the steelwork, and would have required too much preparation and material quantities to go undetected. NIST goes on to repeat its earlier assertion that testing for evidence of explosives "would not necessarily have been conclusive".

NIST's disingenuity is obvious in both its straw-man argument against aluminothermic-based demolition and its excuse not to look for or at evidence of incendiaries. In obligatory formal correspondence involving requests for correction to its Twin Towers report NIST officials were asked to correct erroneous statements about the conclusiveness of testing.


1. $40 Million Needed to Study WTC, ENR.com, 3/18/02 [cached]
2. Appendix D: WTC Steel Data Collection, World Trade Center Building Performance Study, 5/02
3. NIST's Investigation of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center Disaster, NIST.gov, [cached]
4. Testimony of Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr. Director, NIST ..., House.gov, 6/1/02 [cached]
5. Feds To Begin Skyscraper Autopsy, CBSNews.com, 8/21/02
6. First public hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 9-11Commission.gov, 4/1/03
7. NIST Response to the World Trade Center Disaster, 11/12/02
8. Report on Trade Center Collapses Emphasizes Damage to Fireproofing, New York Times, 4/5/05 [cached]
9. Latest Findings from NIST World Trade Center Investigation Released, NIST.gov, 4/5/05 [cached]
10. Study Suggests Design Flaws Didn't Doom Towers, New York Times, 10/20/04 [cached]
11. NIST WTC 7 Investigation Finds Building Fires Caused Collapse, nist.gov,
12. NIST WTC 7 'Fire' Conclusion Blatantly Contradicts FEMA Report, NowPublic.com,
13. Fire, Not Explosives, Felled 3rd Tower on 9/11, Report Says, New York Times, 8/21/2008
14. Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building Center, nist.gov,

page last modified: 2009-09-11