On September 10, Iran’s state owned media outlet Press TV published an article headlined: “Fire did not destroy World Trade Center Building 7 on Sept. 11, scientific study reveals.” The article claimed that a “comprehensive study conducted by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in association with Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth found that fire was not the cause of the collapse of the Building 7 of the World Trade Center (WTC).”
The article failed to mention that the group, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, is a project of San Francisco area architect Richard Gage promoting a conspiracy theory that suggests the U.S. government carried out the attacks.
Press TV quotes the organization as saying: “Despite calls for the evidence to be preserved, New York City officials had the building’s debris removed and destroyed in the ensuing weeks and months, preventing a proper forensic investigation from ever taking place.” The article also quotes Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth as claiming: “Seven years later, federal investigators concluded that WTC 7 was the first steel-framed high-rise ever to have collapsed solely as a result of normal office fires.”
The first sentence is contradicted by claims made later in the Press TV article about “research” conducted in 2009 that supposedly found “thermitic” compounds in the WTC debris (more on this later). The second sentence misstates the “official” conclusions about WTC 7’s collapse (the building suffered structural damage from falling debris, not just “normal office fires”).
The second paragraph of the article primes readers to accept the conspiracy theory by stating: “The official theory established that the 47-story colossus collapsed on its base after the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, at 5:20 p.m., when it was affected by the fire coming from the Twin Towers—Buildings 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center. The building was completely destroyed in just seven seconds.”
In reality, WTC 7 wasn’t “affected by the fire coming from the Twin Towers;” rather, it was hit by falling debris from the collapse of the North Tower, which fell at 10:28 a.m. That ignited fires in the building, which burned up to its collapse later that afternoon. The wording of this paragraph omits anything about WTC 7’s structural damage and strongly implies that the building collapsed shortly after the collapse of the Twin Towers, which would strongly suggest something suspicious. In addition, the claim that WTC 7 “collapsed on its base” is similar to conspiracy theorists’ claims that WTC 7 fell “into its own footprint.” This, too, is incorrect: WTC 7’s collapse damaged several adjacent buildings across the streets to the west and northeast.
The article subsequently refers to “research conducted by a team of international scientists,” who allegedly discovered evidence of “thermitic material” in the ruins of the towers. That, of course, contradicts the article’s earlier claims that authorities removed debris and destroyed evidence. In any case, that “research” was also debunked years ago.
The research in question refers to a paper written by Steven Jones, a former professor at Brigham Young University in the United States (now retired), and Danish chemist Niels Harrit. While some have claimed this paper was “peer-reviewed,” critics say it fails to make the case that thermite or thermate (a variant of thermite) was found in the debris at Ground Zero.
In fact, Jones and Harrit reported that iron oxide (rust) and aluminum were found in the WTC debris. While these are two of the basic ingredients in ordinary thermite, they are also, of course, common in building materials. Moreover, neither thermite nor nano-thermite (as Harrit has claimed) are used -- or can be used -- for the controlled demolition of buildings, as conspiracy theorists have alleged. Actual experiments carried out by advocates of such conspiracy theories have failed.
Why bring up thermite in the first place? The answer is that advocates of the theory that the WTC towers were brought down by explosives needed a way to explain the absence of explosions in footage of the collapsing structures. High explosives, like those used to demolish buildings, are extremely loud and would be audible on any video footage of the collapse. Thermite is a compound that burns at an extremely high temperature. While unsuited for bringing a skyscraper down in a controlled manner, it is at least much quieter than actual controlled demolition. Essentially, it is an ad hoc hypothesis that would explain away the lack of loud explosions just before the collapse.
The Press TV article concludes with a reference to a professor, David Ray Griffin, and alleged “omissions” from the 9/11 Commission Report that Griffin documented in his work, “The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions.” While Griffin is indeed a retired professor, his fields were philosophy and religion, not engineering or anything else that would make him an authority on scientific aspects of the WTC’s destruction on 9/11. Among the “questions” raised by Griffin and included in his article are many erroneous claims that were debunked, in some cases, over a decade ago. Below are some of those claims and the facts that refute them.
From Press TV: “The omission of evidence that at least six of the alleged hijackers—including Waleed al-Shehri, said by the Commission probably to have stabbed a flight attendant on Flight 11 before it crashed into the North Tower of the WTC—are still alive (pages 19-20).”
No hijacker was ever found alive. On September 23, 2001, less than two weeks after the attacks, some news outlets reported on problems the FBI had identifying the 19 hijackers. There had been several cases of mistaken identity due to people sharing the same name. By early October 2001, the FBI had already identified the hijackers. Despite this, conspiracy theorists have continued making this erroneous claim to this day, nearly 20 years later.
From Press TV: “The omission of the fact that [then] President [George W.] Bush’s brother Marvin and his cousin Wirt Walker III were both principals in the company in charge of security for the WTC (pages 31-32).”
Marvin Bush was on the board of a company called SECURACOM, which did have a contract for security at the WTC. Multiple media sources list Bush as heading the company’s audit and compensation committee. And Marvin Bush left the company in June 2000. Wirt Walker III is a distant relative of George W. Bush, not a cousin,
From Press TV: “The omission of the fact that The Project for the New American Century, many members of which became key figures in the Bush administration, published a document in 2000 saying that ‘a new Pearl Harbor’ would aid its goal of obtaining funding for a rapid technological transformation of the US military (pages 117-18).”
This paper, titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” makes policy recommendations on various topics, including the following (on page 51):
“The United States cannot simply declare a ‘strategic pause’ while experimenting with new technologies and operational concepts. Nor can it choose to pursue a transformation strategy that would decouple American and allied interests. A transformation strategy that solely pursued capabilities for projecting force from the United States, for example, and sacrificed forward basing and presence, would be at odds with larger American policy goals and would trouble American allies. Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”
Immediately after that passage, we see what kind of transformation the authors were recommending -- global missile defense, increased control over space and cyberspace, and transformation of America’s conventional military forces. Of those, only control of cyberspace would have proved useful in the “War on Terror” that followed 9/11. The word “terrorist” appears twice in the Project for the New American Century document -- once in reference to an unsuccessful cruise missile strike against Osama bin Laden in 1998. The word “terrorism” does not appear in the document.
From Press TV: “The omission of the report that at a meeting in July 2001, US representatives said that because the Taliban refused to agree to a US proposal that would allow the pipeline project to go forward, a war against them would begin by October (pages 125-26).”
The U.S. did threaten military strikes against the Taliban in July 2001, but it had nothing to do with a pipeline. The American company UNOCAL shelved that project back in 1997. The 2001 U.S. threat was a result of its growing frustration with Taliban refusals to hand over Osama bin Laden, who had become a target after the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Early in his administration, President George W. Bush worked with the CIA on a plan to openly support Ahmad Shah Massoud, then leader of the Northern Alliance, the Taliban’s enemy. That plan was aimed at pressuring the Taliban to give up bin Laden.
From Press TV: “The failure to discuss the possible relevance of Operation Northwoods to the attacks of 9/11 (pages 269-71).”
Operation Northwoods had no relevance to the 9/11 Commission: the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed it to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. It called for the use of “false flag” style actions in order to justify a war with Cuba. Kennedy promptly rejected the proposal and fired the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff following its presentation. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara also rejected the plan.