COLUMN NINETY-FOUR, JULY 1, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
QUESTIONS LINGER OVER THE WTC COLLAPSE
This is the story of how at
least one engineering expert was impeded in his attempt to understand the
all-too-easy collapse of the World Trade Center Towers.
In the national outpouring
of generous responses after September 11, 2001, the National Science Foundation
awarded eight Quick Response Research Awards to study the attack sites:
data will be used in engineering studies to help improve the structural
integrity of the nation's buildings, utilities and other infrastructure during
fires, earthquakes, explosions and other hazards. They will also be used to
improve the nation's response to such threats." (http://www.nsf.gov/search97cgi/vtopic)
Any scholar who has wended
the labyrinth of academic grant-making can appreciate the speed with which these
NSF grants were awarded, within days of the attacks.
One highly qualified awardee is Professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California. Astaneh's engineering credentials
The steel debris from the WTC
was recycled before it could be studied
aside from degrees and
certifications include 150 publications, memberships in the chief professional
associations, and twenty years of university/professional teaching.
It probably helps to have the West Coast's ample opportunities for
The research goal for
Astaneh's team was to save as much "perishable data? from debris at the
World Trade Center as possible, and to inspect as much of the steel structure
and as many pieces as possible.
got in the way, and it wasn't further attacks.
Under orders from authorities, tons of debris were removed from the
Center and recycled too swiftly to permit study, a move that still has not been
In a congressional hearing
on March 6, 2002, Astaneh testified that the engineering research was also
impeded in other ways. In response
to a question from the House Committee on Science, Astaneh stated that he was
not given copies of the engineering, design and construction documents for the
Center, and he was not given copies of photographs and videotapes taken by
government agencies immediately after the buildings? collapse.
'such data," he said, "are already available to ASCE Building
Performance Assessment Team. If
those are also available to us, we will be able to proceed further with our
work is something of a rebuke to simplistic conspiracy theories about the WTC
collapse. As he says in response to
emailed questions, "Obviously no one knows what the terrorists had in mind . .
. we need some data to form a hypothesis."
However, Astaneh continues,
"I felt that most likely [the skyjackers] did not know much about the unique
structural system used in WTC towers which was [an] outside tube made of
numerous columns made of thin plate which resulted in the planes cutting through
them easily and entering the building."
The professor surmises,
'since they most likely did not know about this, their attempt was to hit the
building with the inertia force of large jetliner to topple it laterally which
could fall on the surrounding financial area buildings including [the] Stock
Exchange. I did not then and I do not now believe that anyone could have come up
with a plan to destroy the towers the way it happened: the planes entering the
building easily, destroying the core elevator/stair shafts, trapping upper floor
occupants, starting a fire throughout the large floor area, weakening the
columns and floor joists and collapsing the towers completely."
Given some ludicrous
"demolitions? notions floating around that unnamed culprits planted
explosives inside the WTC buildings, Astaneh's genuine investigations would
seem highly valuable. Professor
Astaneh has already worked off his obligation to the taxpayer by giving at least
fifteen public and professional presentations on the WTC.
By any respectable criterion, the research deserves recognition.
On the broader topics,
engineering has to be buttressed by history.
(A good history of hijackings is provided at www.saag.org/papers2/paper3.html.)
If research suggests that the skyjackers were trying to hit the stock
market, a reasonable assumption is that the fourth plane was headed to hit the
Pentagon. No surprise there:
the attack symmetry of two planes for the Pentagon, two planes for the
Stock Exchange fits in with recent strikes in other countries.
It has been apparent since
September 2001 that these criminally-instigated young males were technologically
proficient in some ways but had only a primitive understanding of their targets.
Only further investigation can reveal whether the fiends who financed the attack were equally unaware. Perhaps the attackers thought they actually had a shot at taking out the Pentagon and the US stock market, while the people who paid their way knew they couldn't. ##
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