Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Critique of Some Theories Concerning the Idea of Muslim Leadership

When Iranian students occupied the American embassy on November 4th, 1979 and, in the process, took 52 employees of the embassy hostage – and would continue to do so for the next 444 days – the actions set in motion, among other things, a wide-ranging discussion. Included among the themes of the discussion were such questions as: Why did it happen? Who was responsible? What did the leaders of the event want? Could those leaders have accomplished their purpose(s) in some other way? Were international agreements concerning the sanctity of embassy employees violated? If so, could such violations be justified? Were human rights being trampled upon? Had the United States done anything to provoke the affair? What should leaders in the United States and around the world do in response to the situation?

All of the foregoing questions, and many more, could have been asked 26 years earlier – but, for the most part were not – when Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Teddy Roosevelt and a member of the Central Intelligence Agency, helped orchestrate a coup d’état of Iran’s democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossaddeq and appointed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, as the new ruler of Iran and, in the process, effectively assisted him to take millions of Iranians as hostages – and would continue to do so for the next 26 years. Those who control the media get to frame world events as they please, which is why depriving Iranians of their most basic right of self-determination has been depicted by most American media as being justified in 1953 because it was said, by various leaders, that over-throwing a democratically elected government was in the interests of the United States, whereas what happened in 1979 was described by various leaders as not being in the interests of the United States and, therefore, not justified.

People’s human rights were trampled upon in both cases. People were taken hostage in both cases. International law was flouted in both instances.

There were a few differences in the two cases, however. First, none of the 52 embassy employees were tortured or killed by their Iranian captors (although some of the hostages were treated roughly and kept isolated for a time), whereas thousands of Iranians were tortured and killed by the U.S. supported regime of the Shah and his infamously notorious security force: SAVAK. Secondly, the Iranians voluntarily released their hostages after a little over a year had passed, whereas the United States was not prepared to ever release the hostages it had helped the Shah to take until the United States was forced to do so by the 1979 embassy incident in Tehran.

The foregoing scenario helps to introduce several issues that will figure prominently in the remainder of the present discussion. (1) Trampling on the rights of others and taking hostages, in one form or another, is a common practice of many so-called leaders within the Muslim (and non-Muslim) community; (2) the leaders for a variety of Islamic revival movements believe – incorrectly -- that they are justified in undermining, nullifying, or controlling the God-given sovereignty of both Muslims and non-Muslims to make individual choices concerning matters of spiritual and material welfare; (3) shari’ah and Divine justice are not legal issues but give expression to matters of ontology, metaphysics, morality, identity, essential potential, and spiritual development that are best handled individually and, when necessary (i.e., when problems arise), through seeking social – not legal – consensus or mediation.
The following discussion will briefly explore some of the ideas of a number of individuals who are considered to have played an important role in pioneering various species of social reform within the Muslim world and/or with respect to Islamic revivalism. While this exploration is not meant to be definitive, it is intended to be suggestive in relation to various issues of leadership among Muslims.

Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani was a nineteenth century proponent of employing so-called ‘pan-Islamic unity’ as a strategy for resisting and fighting against British imperialism. While all people have a right to be free from the oppressive tentacles of imperialism – whether this imperialism is: British, American, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other – the character of the tactics that are used to fulfill such an intention tend to reveal a lot about the person using those tactics as well as about the sort of “leader” that individual seeks to be.

For example, although born in Iran and educated through a Shi’a perspective, Afghani often claimed to be a Sunni from Afghanistan. The issue here is not whether he was Sunni or Shi’a – or neither – but, rather, the point is that he was willing to alter his biographical narrative as a tactical means of promoting his overall strategy concerning anti-imperialism.

In fact, there is considerable historical evidence to indicate that Afghani was not much interested in being either a Sunni or Shi’a but was, instead, committed to certain philosophical and political ideas. Religious themes were considered by him to be merely useful tools to bring about the kind of non-spiritual end in which he was interested.

Afghani sought to blaze a path that was neither rooted, on the one hand, in a blind, unthinking commitment to the sort of theological tenets and practices that populated a great deal of the traditional Muslim landscape nor, on the other hand, was he interested in a slavish subjugation to Western values, ideals and practice. Afghani believed that the ‘correct’ use of rationality, political/military strength, and social activism would enable Muslims – both individually and collectively – to reinterpret Islam in a manner that would effectively unite Muslims against the onslaught of British imperialism, in particular, and Western imperialism in general.

Afghani was wrong. Islam doesn’t need to be re-interpreted. Islam was, during the days of Afghani, what it always has been since the time of Adam (peace be upon him), and what it is today, and what it will continue to be in the future. Islam is the Deen or spiritual way given by God to humankind so that the latter may -- with appropriate effort and if God wishes. -- find their way to, and drink from, the water of Divine Truth, wisdom and knowledge in accordance with one’s primordial spiritual capacity, or fitra, to do so.

Islam is not something which needs to be reinterpreted, reformed, or revived. What needs to be refashioned are the human attitudes, practices, and ideas that serve as obstacles to the discovery of Islam’s actual nature.

Discovery is a process of learning, development, spiritual maturation, and, ultimately, of Divine Grace. This process of discovery is a delicate, fragile, challenge-laden struggle.

Such discovery is not something that can be imposed on or forced on someone … either individually or collectively. The Quranic principle that there can be no compulsion in matters of Deen is a reflection of the complex and subtle character of the process of spiritual discovery.

Afghani was also mistaken in other ways. Islam is not something to which one can reason one’s way … although reason does have a role to play during the discovery process. Islam is not something that can be discovered or defended through political and military strength but, rather, Islam is eternally protected by Divinity … although individuals do have the right to resist attempts by Muslims or non-Muslims to undermine one’s ability to engage the discovery process concerning the nature of Islam. Moreover, social and political activism will not, in and of itself, lead to the discovery of Islam … although social activism may be an appropriate means under the right circumstances and conditions to help protect and secure the rights of all human beings to have full sovereignty with respect to choice in relation to the process of spiritual discovery concerning the way or path or Deen which God has provided to humanity through which essential identity and capacity may be realized for purposes of learning how to worship Divinity.

In many ways, most of the foregoing points are moot as far as Afghani is concerned because he was not really interested in Islam per se. Afghani was committed to certain philosophical ideals – especially rationalism.

He believed that truth was capable of being apprehended through the scientific use of reason. However, only an elite was capable of achieving this, while the vast majority of Muslims were limited to – and should be constrained by – a form of religious belief which maintained that misdeeds in this world would be punished in the life to come and, by conforming to such a belief system, would cause no trouble in this world for the elites who would rule over the masses.

For Afghani, the populace should be induced to unify and, thereby, provide the elite with the power and strength the latter needed to pursue philosophical truths in relative freedom. Through social activism, the masses could be shaped and directed by leaders to serve an agenda which entailed something other than the discovery of Islam or the true spiritual welfare of Muslims. Through reason, Afghani hoped to demonstrate that certain aspects of Islam could be organized to form an effective ideological buffer against the encroachment of imperialism … a buffer which would protect the elite and create the public space necessary to enable such an elite to pursue their own ends free from the oppressive intrusion of imperialism and without being bothered by Muslims who would be preoccupied with seeking to attain salvation in the next world by not transgressing in this world.

Afghani was skeptical concerning the potential of religion. He saw it as little more than a way of helping to console people’s anxiety concerning what came after death and/or as a means of comforting people with respect to the problems of this world.

However, although skeptical about the value of Islam – or, really, the value of any spiritual tradition – Afghani felt that such sentiments could be exploited if one could convince Muslims that imperialism was a threat to their way of life. Furthermore, if one enhanced the foregoing threat with the idea that imperialism was the Trojan horse through which Christianity would be forced upon Muslims, then, one might have a very effective tool for manipulating and harnessing Muslim emotions and concerns to serve other political and social ends.

Although Afghani often would paint himself in the colors of an ardent defender of Islam, he was merely camouflaging his true intentions. He considered prophets to be wielders of a craft rather than true emissaries of God. He believed that Islam was antithetical to science even though through the Qur’an’s guidance concerning the importance of empirical observation and critical reflection, the Muslim world had helped transform the face of scientific practice. Moreover, he had a fairly misogynistic view of women that did not reflect the actual esteem with which women were held in the Qur’an.

As noted previously, he felt that religion had little more to offer than as a way of consoling people concerning the difficulties of life and, consequently, as something that had no solutions to the problems of life. According to Afghani, only rationalism, military strength, and social activism could provide solutions to the challenges of life.

Apparently, Afghani was intelligent, charismatic, and had some oratory skills. He used these qualities to attract some followers, but in concrete terms he was able to accomplish very little except to be able to gain access to some of the more influential social and political circles in certain localities and, thereby, have the opportunity to ply his gift of gab.

In fact, Afghani got kicked out of a number of places when, among other reasons, he ended up on the wrong side of a political crisis despite his connections. These localities included: Iran, Istanbul, Afghanistan, and Cairo.

Interestingly enough, although various pronouncements of Afghani were considered to be heretical with respect to Islam, he was never killed for espousing his views. Instead, he was escorted out of the locality.

Afghani sought to be a leader. However, his desire to be a leader was almost entirely self-serving and predicated on a need to exploit others and to control them to serve his ends.

He tried to clothe his intentions in the language of Islam, but, in point of fact he had very little understanding of Islam. To the extent that he did speak some of the language of Islam, this was used as a tactical tool to bring about Muslim unity so that he would have a power base through which to fight against British imperialism and open up the sort of free space that would enable him to pursue his own – and that of others whom he considered to be among the elite – rationalistic approach to truth.

Some people may wish to cite Afghani as a pioneer of Muslim reform and Islamic revivalism. Nevertheless, I believe that anyone who takes a closer look at his life and teachings will see that he has nothing to offer to anyone who is sincerely seeking to discover the truth about Islam.

Unfortunately, there are all too many so-called Muslim leaders who are prepared to use the language of Islam to serve agendas which are not concerned with Islam or the spiritual needs of Muslims. Indeed, Afghani belongs to the lineage of would-be leaders who are willing to exploit, oppress and rule others for the ends of the alleged “leaders”, and, perhaps, that is why some people try to invoke Afghani’s name as a kindred, revolutionary spirit and, in doing so, unintentionally disclose something of their own underlying, self-serving agenda with respect to Muslims and Islam.

When Afghani was in Cairo, one of the individuals who was a part of Afghani’s circle was Muhammad Abduh, a student at al-Azhar University. Afghani purportedly led the circle in discussions of philosophy, law, theology, and mysticism.

Whatever Afghani’s facility with philosophy, law, and theology may have been, he knew next to nothing about mysticism because he had never been a practitioner of the discipline. However, when the people who are being led are relatively ignorant about a given topic, it is amazing how wise and informed someone with the gift of gab can sound to the uninitiated.

There is evidence that Muhammad Abduh had a passing acquaintance with some aspects of the Sufi path because he had spent time in the company of an uncle, Darwish Kadr, who was reportedly a shaykh and sought to teach the young Abduh about the principles, practices, and adab of the Sufi way. Nevertheless, Abduh’s time among the Sufis was fairly short-lived and, in fact, later in life Abduh came to be quite critical of this mystical tradition.

Afghani was an activist. Muhammad Abduh was influenced by Afghani to also be inclined toward political and social activism, but Abduh was more interested in reform than revolution.

At one point, Afghani’s activities became too problematic, and he was expelled from Egypt. Due to Abduh’s association with Afghani, the younger activist also ran into difficulties, but new opportunities arose when Abduh was appointed to be one of the editors for ‘The Egyptian Gazette’, an official newspaper, and later went on to become the chief editor for the publication … a position which permitted him to wield considerable influence in framing public discussion about a variety of issues.

Eventually, Abduh’s criticisms of military and political leaders, as well as his writings concerning nationalism and the British occupation led to a three year period of exile. During this hiatus, Adduh reconnected with Afghani in Paris, and the two of them formed a society and publication whose primary objective was to sound the clarion cry concerning the dangers of European imperialism and interference in the affairs of non-western peoples.

Both the society and publication came to an end. Abduh returned to Beirut where he taught young children and, as well, wrote about a variety of issues.

In time, his exile from Egypt ended, and he was appointed to one of the law courts in Egypt. Subsequently, he became part of an administrative council at al-Azhar, and, then, later on he became the Grand Mufti for Egypt. While Grand Mufti, Abduh issued a number of fatwas for individuals who came to him with a variety of problems involving legal issues and matters of morality.

Abduh was aware of the allure which European civilization had for many Muslims. For instance, Western weapons of war were superior to anything in the Muslim world, and many Muslims felt they needed to acquire Western technology in order to be able to defend their lands against further Western encroachment. In addition, the economic wealth of the West was in stark contrast to the economic impoverishment of large parts of the Muslim world, and, again, many Muslims thought that if they imitated Western approaches to economics, that some of the ‘magic’ might rub off on Muslims.

War, technology, economics and politics were all fed and shaped by ideas. Some Muslims believed – quite incorrectly – that if the Muslim world would incorporate Western ideas into their lives, then perhaps, Muslims might ascend, once again, to the glory days of early Islam.

On the other hand, as much as many Muslims were dazzled and intrigued by the success of the West, it was also apparent that a considerable amount of that success was coming at the expense of Muslims whose lands and resources were being taken – through force, intrigue, or the co-opting and corruption of Muslim leaders – by Western powers. Muhammad Abduh was one of the individuals who understood that there was a basic disconnect between the lofty principles of freedom, democracy, technological progress, and economic growth espoused by the West, and the oppressive manner in which the West sought to induce the non-Western world to subsidize the materially expansive way of life that was being established in the West.

Muhammad Abduh also believed, however, that the West was not necessarily the primary reason for the problems of the Muslim world. In fact, he laid the responsibility for those problems at the feet of Muslims themselves, and he maintained that the wretched condition of Muslims was a punishment from God for having strayed from ‘true’ Islam.

Abduh’s solution was multifaceted. He urged Muslims to be guided by the authority of the salaf or spiritual forbearers of early Islam, but he felt that all such authority should be measured against the teachings of the Qur’an.

He argued that human texts were capable of being critically questioned to determine their degree of authoritativeness. On the other hand, he believed that the Qur’an did not contain any errors and, therefore, must serve as the source of criteria for judging the spiritual authoritativeness of the texts written by human beings – even those of the salaf.

Abduh believed, however, that there could be no disagreement concerning the teachings of the Qur’an. Consequently, the Qur’an would become the means of uniting Muslims and ridding themselves of their sectarian differences, and reason would be the essential tool for ascertaining the principles and values being given expression through the Qur’an.

Through discernment of the true teachings of the Qur’an, one could become spiritually united with the understanding of the followers of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Through the use of reason and, coming to understand the actual nature of the Qur’an, all schools of theology and law, according to Abduh, would come to share a common foundation, and, as a result, the ummah or spiritual community would become united once again.

Reason is something of a will-o’-the-wisp that seems to give off a kind of light but often tends to recede as one tries to approach it and determine its true nature. Oftentimes, one person’s reason is another person’s insanity or nightmare, and although we all make appeals to the importance of reason, we frequently have difficulty clearly stating, or agreeing upon, just what reason is.

Furthermore, trying to use reason in conjunction with understanding the Qur’an is fraught with problems. This is not to say that reason has no place in relation to the Qur’an, but one cannot start – or end -- with reason.

In a number of places in the Qur’an, one is told that if an individual will have taqwa, or piety, then God will teach that individual. So, the starting place is a matter of taqwa, not reason.

Taqwa is more of a spiritual orientation marked by an individual’s openness to, or willingness to, go in whatever direction Divinity wishes to take a person. The use of reason may have played a role in helping to shape the condition of taqwa, but taqwa cannot be reduced down to a rationalistic process since taqwa is also informed by understandings that are fed by other dimensions of human existence … such as faith – which is not a matter of blind belief but of informed, insightful experience that comes through Divine grace – and faith (as do God’s blessings) has many levels and degrees … the faith of a Muslim is not the faith of a Momin, and neither of these is the faith of a Mohsin – that is, one who practices ihsan.

Reason is only one of the mediums through which Divine teaching takes place. Moreover, Divine logic will not necessarily be reflected in what someone considers to be an expression of impeccable reason, and, therefore, although all Divine logic is eminently rational, not all human reason resonates with such rationality.

The mind, heart, sir, kafi, and spirit – all of which are referred to in the Qur’an – do not employ the same modes of understanding, and each of these faculties are taught by Divinity in accordance with the capacity of that faculty. Reason is a function of the mind, and the mind is capable of understanding some things while it is incapable of understanding other dimensions of truth.

Unfortunately, many Muslims erroneously believe that the Qur’an can be penetrated and circumscribed by what they consider to be tools of rationality or reason. As a result, they use reason to interpret the Qur’an instead of waiting for Divinity, if God wishes, to teach them about the principles and nature of the Qur’an. Interpreting the Qur’an is a sign of impatience and lack of humility.

So, Abduh was wrong when he believed that there could be no disagreement about the Qur’an. Many people (both Muslim and non-Muslim) have a tendency to bring their own agendas to the Qur’an and filter the words of the Qur’an through that agenda, and this can lead to nothing but distortion, misunderstanding and sectarian divide. They may use the words of the Qur’an, but the Divine meanings of those words often have been corrupted, sullied, and/or distorted by human ignorance.

The Qur’an gives expression to nothing but truth. However, the interpretational methodologies and disciplines through which the Qur’an may be engaged by human beings lead to nothing but problems since the Qur’an tends to close itself – unless God wishes otherwise -- to whomever seeks to touch the Qur’an in a condition of impurity – not just physical impurity but intentional impurity and emotional impurity and mental impurity as well … and the desire to interpret the Qur’an is but one manifestation of such impurity.

Abduh spent a considerable amount of time writing about how what he considered Islam to be was superior to Christianity. Yet, the very book which he claimed as the ultimate authority – namely, the Qur’an -- indicated that Christians were people of the Book, as were Jews … as were the followers of other Prophets who were alluded to in the Qur’an but were not specified.

He put forth his interpretation of Christianity just as many Christians put forth their interpretations of Islam. But, in the end, all such disputes are mired in the quick-sand of arbitrary speculations and musings in which so-called rational arguments are crafted through the tools of human rather than Divine logic … although everyone involved in the quarrel seeks to claim -- in self-serving ways and, therefore, without reliable proof -- that Divine logic is on their side of the argument.

Rather than get on with the business of life’s actual purpose, Abduh, at times, allowed himself – and in the process sought to induce others to do the same – to become preoccupied with irrelevant issues of which civilization – or spiritual tradition -- was superior and which civilization – or spiritual tradition -- was inferior. The coliseums in which such battles are waged are the playground of nafs, Iblis and fools.

It doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of me, or whether someone else labels me as inferior. All that matters is what God thinks of me, and this is something to which no one else is privy and which no human being can establish.

Unfortunately, when the ego is caught in the vise of pride and self-esteem, Deen, fitra, and Divine assessment tend to be forgotten. Under such circumstances, everything of real importance tends to be relegated to the sideline before the childish concerns of nafs.

In trying to argue about the purported superiority of Islam over Christianity -- or, on another front, the importance of Semitic contributions versus Aryan contributions to the greatness of a given civilization relative to another – one becomes enveloped in a war of interpretations that are entirely man-made, and, as a result, quite distant from the truth of Divinity even as the respective antagonists seek to argue that their delusional systems reflect Divine truths. Yet, Muhammad Abdu’s allegedly pioneering efforts in this regard have helped frame the way in which all too many Muslims today seek to engage the spiritual problems before us.

Motivated by a massive sense of inferiority because of the material success of the West and motivated by a deep sense of self-doubt which often asks the question of themselves as much as of God: namely, how could the alleged infidel be so powerful and dominant, while the true believers (i.e., Muslims) are so oppressed and unsuccessful, the quest of many Muslims – due to the teachings of so-called leaders like Muhammad Abduh -- becomes diverted by issues of wanting to feel superior, to feel powerful, and to recapture what they perceive to be the lost glory of a by-gone age … they want to be victorious and defeat an external foe, while ignoring the internal foe (their own nafs) which is caught up in trivialities.

What many Muslims seem to forget is that Allah has promised in the Qur’an that people’s faith will be put to the test in various ways. Sometimes the test will be through wealth and riches, and sometimes the test will be through privation and constraint.

Both the West and the East have been tested through historical events. Who comes out on top in a historical sense does not necessarily reflect the spiritual calculus that God uses to assess who passed and who failed such tests.

What many Christians, Jews and Muslims often share in common is an essential ignorance about the relationship between God and human beings. That ignorance is used to “reason” about life, the world, and what should be done in relation to a series of humanitarian crises that have been brought about by delusional interpretations that reflect agendas other than Divine purpose.

Samuel Huntington was quite wrong when he talked about an irreconcilable clash of civilizations involving the West and Muslims. What makes the clash irreconcilable are the delusional systems rooted in ignorance that populate both sides and which are driving the conflict … and Huntington, as well as people like Muhammad Abduh – each in their respective ways – has helped to perpetuate that problem of ignorance over the years.

Muhammad Abduh had been disappointed with his early encounters with education, feeling that too much emphasis was given to learning by rote and too little effort was invested in helping individuals understand the meaning and significance of what they were being required to memorize. He ran into the same kind of problem when he attended al-Azhar.

Consequently, one is somewhat perplexed when one reads about Abduh’s approach to certain facets of education. For example, he maintained that the children of craftsmen and peasants should be given no more education than is necessary for them to follow in the footsteps of their parents.

According to Abduh, this meant providing such children with nothing more than summaries of Islamic teachings, along with outlines of ethical principles that indicated what was considered to be right and wrong. In addition, such children should be provided with a list of reasons as to why Islam became ascendant in the world.

Yet, we didn’t come into this world primarily to become peasants or craftsmen or teachers. We came into this world to learn about and realize our relationship with Divinity, and, in effect, Abduh wanted certain classes of children to be subjected to little more than the very kind of rote learning with which he had been unhappy as a child.

Abduh believed that the curriculum for higher education should consist of, among other things, being exposed to the exegesis of the Qur’an, as well as learning about the science of Hadith, and being taught to have a rational understanding of doctrine. Again, one is confronted with the specter of rote learning in which one must simply learn and accept someone else’s ideas – the accepted beliefs of the time -- about exegesis, the so-called science of hadith, and what constitutes an allegedly rational understanding of Islamic doctrine. I don’t really see any focus in Abduh’s approach to learning that gave emphases to assisting students to learn how to become open to being taught directly by God rather than being taught through the intermediary of human interpretations, theories, and ideas about the nature of Islam.

In the realm of politics, Abduh maintained that the ummah or community is not only the fundamental source of authority for any ruler, but, as well, the ummah is the sole determiner of what is in the best interests of the ummah, together with being the sole determiner of the means which are to be used to realize such interests. Abduh also held that rulers are not permitted to interpret the Qur’an and that rulers are to be obeyed only as long as they adhere to the requirements of the Qur’an.

Elsewhere, Abduh argued that the final authority for everything is God and His Prophet. He further stated that in Islam, there is no authority except the call to do good and condemn the evil.

The foregoing several paragraphs -- although admittedly merely a summarized overview of Abduh’s perspective – seem somewhat problematic. If God and His Prophet are the final authority for everything, then it would seem that the source of a ruler’s authority may be something other than the ummah. Moreover, presumably, it is God not the ummah -- Who is the One that determines what is in the best interests of the ummah, as well as the One Who determines what is the best means through which things should be done. Is this not the whole point of revelation or guidance?

Moreover, just as a ruler is not to be obeyed if that individual deviates from the teaching of the Qur’an, so too, might one not suppose that the same principle applies to the ummah. In fact, one is a little fuzzy about just who it is, within Abduh’s scheme of things, that is to establish what constitutes the true teachings of the Qur’an.

Abduh mentions that shura, or consultation, should govern the relationship between the ummah and the ruler. Yet, the precise character of this process of shura and how it is to govern the relationship between ruler and the ummah seems somewhat amorphous.

He claims that it is not necessary for people to have been trained in various disciplines of argumentation, investigatory research, or the like in order to participate in the process of shura. According to Abduh, all that is required is that people be committed to the truth and to the pursuit of what is in the public interest.

What it means to be committed to the truth is an issue of some contentiousness. Moreover, what constitutes the public interest or welfare also tends to be a very complex issue.

Does shura require unanimous consensus? Or, can shura be just a matter of simple majority? Or, is it enough that only certain elite groups be in consensus concerning such matters? And, can individuals – without prejudice -- opt out of, and not be part of, something to which others may agree? Finally, if a ruler consults with the ummah and, then, rejects or ignores the direction indicated by the shura process, has the ruler abided by the requirements of shura? Just what are the requirements of shura?

These matters are not straightforward. They have not been settled in a definitive manner – although there are some people who claim that the fundamental features of all of this were settled by the 10th century and, consequently, further deliberations were not only unnecessary but, according to such individuals, were, somehow, haram or forbidden … although I don’t recall that God said any such thing in the Qur’an.

The foregoing problems are not being raised in order to argue that the idea of a Muslim community is unworkable. Rather, the problems are being raised as a way of pointing out that a great deal of additional thinking, exploration, reflection and discussion needs to take place in order to be able to have a better understanding of the possible relationships among ummah, authorities, the Qur’an, God, welfare/public interest, truth, and Shari’ah.

Abduh – and this also is true of many other Muslims – seems to want to give the impression that everything is known ahead of time … that principles of right, wrong, truth, public interest, authority, and purpose are already known by everyone and have been agreed upon. Consequently, all we have to do is measure the conduct of a leader against the established standard and everyone will know where they stand.

The Qur’an enjoins human beings to obey the Prophet and those who have been placed in authority over one. What is less clear is whether, or not, for example what the Prophet said more than 1400 years ago should be obeyed today especially when the Prophet himself gave the order – on several occasions -- that all collections of his sayings should be destroyed. Indeed, if we are supposed to obey the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and if the Prophet indicated that one should not keep collections of Hadith, then why are we listening to Bukhari or Muslim or Dawood rather than the Prophet, and on what justifiable and convincing basis can it be argued that I am obligated to follow such sayings under such conditions?

Even if it could be undeniably established that we should consult the Hadiths, there are a great many questions about how to apply those sayings, teachings, and principles to the problems of today. When someone tells me that the Prophet, if he were physically with us today, would do things in a certain way and we can tell what that would be by consulting what he said some 1400 years ago, the question arises in me: Would I be obeying the Prophet or would I be obeying someone’s interpretation of the Prophet, and if I were to obey the latter, would this necessarily be following the Prophet?

In addition, what is not clear with respect to the meaning of God’s words with respect to the process of having someone placed in authority over one is just that: What does it mean to place someone in authority over another individual? The Prophets have been placed in authority over human beings. Therefore, when the former directly indicate – that is, when one is in their physical presence, or when one is given a veridical dream or spiritual encounter – that a specific individual ought to do something, then one should try to obey them.

Parents have been placed in authority over their children. But, even here, the Qur’an indicates that one is not obligated to obey one’s parents if they depart from the teachings of Islam … although there is an etiquette to such departures and, as well, there is much upon which to reflect with respect to trying to determine what it might mean to claim that one’s parents had departed from the teachings of Islam.

Everyone and everything has certain rights over me. To the extent that I honor such rights, then people and things have authority over me, and I am obligated to obey such authority in relation to fulfilling the structural character of the rights that bind them and me.

My shaykh was placed in authority over me when I became his mureed. To the best of my ability, I sought to obey him.

Over the years, other individuals claimed to have been placed in authority over me. However, with time and experience I came to be skeptical concerning such claims.

Furthermore, I am much more cautious about whether, or not, what Divinity may have meant in relation to the idea of placing someone in authority over one is that this should extend to an assortment of would-be leaders and rulers simply because the latter individuals may have come to power in some way. After all, power and authority may not be co-extensive.

For example, one possible question is this: is coming to power through whatever means necessarily a matter of God having actively placed such people in authority, or is it merely a matter of Allah having permitted such things to happen without investing any Divine authority in those individuals, and, as such, these individuals have power but not Divinely sanctioned authority? I am equally uncertain that what God meant in the Qur’an with respect to obeying those who have been placed in authority over one means that one is required to obey whatever religious clerics, imams, muftis, mullahs, and other such authorities say simply because they claim that they have been placed in authority over one.

Would-be leaders – both Muslim and non-Muslim -- make many claims concerning how things in society should be arranged … about who should decide, and about how they should decide and in accordance with what criteria things should be decided and in relation to which goals decisions should be made and about what the obligations of people are with respect to such decisions. Nevertheless, it of essential importance that one not cede one’s intellectual, moral and spiritual sovereignty or authority to such so-called leaders until one is completely sure – and this might never be the case -- that such a process of ceding, if it does take place, will not be betrayed, abused, or exploited … and one only can become certain about such issues through a rigorous process of asking – and having satisfactory and complete answers be given – for an extensive variety of very pointed questions.


Besides studying jurisprudence and law in Qom, Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini also studied two other subjects, both of which were to have a tremendous influence in shaping how Khomeini understood Islam. These topics were (1) ‘irfan’ -- which has to do with the issue of gnosis or spiritual knowledge; and (2) ‘hikmat’ – which, as used and understood by Khomeini, is a form of wisdom that combines elements of, on the one hand, a system of thinking that is rooted in a form of logical scholasticism and, on the other hand, a way of seeking experiential understanding of ultimate reality.

For Khomeini, hikmat – wisdom – was the means through which irfan, or gnosis, was to be realized. By adhering to a discipline shaped by religious law as well as a set of spiritual practices, one would arrive, according to Khomeini, at a spiritual condition through which, if God wished, the individual would be ‘opened’ to spiritual truths.

Khomeini believed that irfan and hikmat were not antithetical to shari’ah but, in fact, were inextricably tied to Divine law. By following shari’ah one would be led to both hikmat (wisdom) and irfan (gnosis), and, as well, through kikmat and irfan one would be led to a deeper understanding of shari’ah.

There is no doubt that Khomeini was not only very knowledgeable with respect to traditional Shi’a poets, but he also knew about Sufi poets like Jalal-ud-din Rumi and Hafiz of Shiraz (may Allah be pleased with them). In fact, his familiarity with poets was such that it has been reported that a person could recite a line from almost any Sufi poet and Khomeini would be able to recite the following line. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence to indicate that Khomeini was fairly conversant with at least some of the writings of Ibn al-‘Arabi (may Allah be pleased with him).

Like Ibn al-‘Arabi (may Allah be pleased with him), Khomeini believed that the path to gnosis consisted of a process of purification. He broke this process down into four stages or modes of spiritual journey.

The first journey allegedly went from the human being to God. During this stage, the individual seeker of truth and ultimate reality attempts to transcend the realm of human limitations.

The second stage was said to be a journey with God through the Names and Attributes of Divinity. By means of this kind of journey, one supposedly came to understand how the Names and Attributes manifested themselves and governed different facets of reality.

The third facet of the spiritual journey involved the seeker’s return to the material world and society. However, during this stage, the seeker is not separated from Divinity but is intensely aware of the Divine presence.

The fourth and final stage of the spiritual journey occurs when the seeker, after having acquired gnosis, uses that understanding and knowledge to assist others to struggle toward Divinity. According to Khomeini, one of the ways in which such assistance would be given is when the spiritually realized individual implements a government of Divine justice through which human beings will be guided toward perfection.

For Khomeini, the individual who had completed the four stages of the spiritual journey was the ‘perfect’ human being. Such people were the vicegerents of God and the ones who were to be placed in authority over the rest of humanity.

In essence, Khomeini’s system of thought was an amalgamation of: (1) some of the teachings of ibn al-‘Arabi, Rumi, Hafiz and other Sufi poets/authors (may Allah be pleased with them) concerning various aspects of transcendental mysticism; (2) Suhrawardi’s philosophy of light (and this Suhrawardi is not to be confused with the Sufi mystic of the same name); (3) Avicenna’s school of rationalistic philosophy, and, finally, (4) Shi’a theology. What is far less clear is whether, or not, Khomeini ever actually successfully traversed any of the four stages of the journey -- outlined previously -- to become a spiritually realized individual or perfect human being.

Many people who are intelligent can spout the theory of, say, mysticism … and, indeed, academia is replete with these individuals. Such people can impress and dazzle many with their encyclopedic knowledge of poetry, doctrine, theory, and history, but none of this ‘knowledge’ necessarily means that such intellectually gifted people have realized the condition of gnosis concerning their relationship with Divinity. ‘Talking the talk’ of gnosis does not always entail ‘walking the walk’ of actually being spiritually realized.

Gnosis is not about genetically inherited intelligence. Gnosis is about the gift of experientially realized understanding which God gives to whomsoever Divinity pleases.

Furthermore, there are different modalities of human perfection. Human perfection is about the realization of primordial fitra or potential which defines one’s essential nature.

There are as many different kinds of human perfection as there are created fitras or potentials. The perfection of the Prophets gives expression to 124,000 kinds of perfection. The perfection of the saints gives expression to countless other forms of perfection. The potential for perfection in each and every human being gives expression to still further modes of perfection.

Perfection is not about becoming God. Perfection is about fulfilling the potential which is inherent within us.

Happy is the person who is content with such perfection. Longing for any other kind of perfection will be a tawdry exercise in endless disappointment, frustration, and problems – for oneself and for others.

Consequently, even if, by the Grace of God, someone is able to realize her or his primordial potential or fitra, this does not mean such a person should assume that she or he has the right or duty to ‘lead’ others. To be God’s vicegerent is to be a caretaker of creation, and having such duties of care does not necessarily mean one should become a political or social leader.

The individual who is a spiritually realized person has no need to seek to lead or guide others. By being who he or she essentially is, that person’s mode of being a vicegerent is manifested through whatever that individual does or does not do. God uses that perfect ‘tool’ in whatever way Divinity pleases to serve God’s purpose.

According to Khomeini, government can only be authentic when it acts in accordance with the rules of Divinity. Consequently, in order to be authentic, Khomeini believes that governments must implement shari’ah.

All too many Muslims have been brow-beaten into believing that shari’ah is purely a function of jurisprudence, legal doctrine, and legalisms. However, the Qur’an is not a legal document but a book of guidance, discernment, wisdom, example, balance, and knowledge which provides human beings with an opportunity to rigorously explore what it means to be a human being.

The Qur’an very clearly states that there can be no compulsion in matters of Deen, so just how does someone justify making government the medium through which shari’ah will be implemented and forced on the people in a given locality? The Qur’an also very clearly indicates that oppression is worse than killing, and, one wonders what could be more oppressive than when someone tries to force people to live in accordance with some given interpretation of shari’ah which reduces shari’ah down to little more than a narrowly conceived legal system.

Shari’ah is Divine Law, but this does not mean that such ‘Law’ must be explicated through legalistic doctrines and principles. Divine Law is the nature of the universe on all levels of Being … material, emotional, mental, human, spiritual, and transcendental.

Shari’ah is the path which leads to a place where, if God wishes, one may be opened up to the truth – literally, to drink the waters of reality -- concerning the nature of the universe, including the nature of one’s own essential self. To be sure, shari’ah is a path of purification, but there are many non-coercive, non-oppressive, and non-legalistic ways through which such purification may, God willing, be realized.

On the positive side, purification involves acquiring such qualities as: patience, courage, nobility, honesty, generosity, tolerance, integrity, friendship, forgiveness, repentance, love, steadfastness, humility, kindness, dependence (on God), longing (for God), and remembrance (of God). On the negative side, purification involves ridding oneself of such qualities as: jealousy, anger, envy, hatred, hypocrisy, deceit, selfishness, insensitivity, cruelty, resentment, arrogance, impatience, and heedlessness.

Can prayer, fasting, zakat, and hajj assist one with respect to the foregoing processes of purification? Of course, they can, but if one tries to compel people to pursue those practices, there is a very high likelihood that such compulsion and oppression will not only result in zero beneficial spiritual effects but quite possibly will have a problematic, if not destructive, spiritual impact on the people so oppressed.

Neither character nor morality can be legislated. One cannot be legally forced to develop character or to be moral since both character and morality are rooted in, among other things, having a purified niyat or intention, and methods of compulsion and oppression will never bring about such purification.

Outward behavior may be controlled through such methods, but the inner world of the heart and mind will not be so-controlled … indeed, it is human nature to be inclined to respond in problematic ways with respect to such oppressive attempts. Since spiritual progress is a matter of inward transformation not just changes in external behavior, seeking to compel people to follow a given legalistic path – even if it were correct (an assumption about which I am deeply skeptical) – is doomed to failure as a means of assisting people to realize their spiritual potential.

Does the foregoing perspective mean there should be no regulation of the public space … that there should be no attempt to protect our better selves against our lower selves? No, it doesn’t, but the regulation of public space is not shari’ah. Rather, the regulation of public space is a process of creating conditions which are conducive to people being able to choose to pursue, or not, the actual path of shari’ah without adversely affecting the right of other people to make different kinds of choices concerning how to proceed in life regarding such matters.

One of the most precious gifts – and challenges – which God gave to human beings is the right to choose. Those who wish to make shari’ah a legalistic system of coercive rules seem to believe that they have the right to take away one of the most essential gifts that God has given to human beings.

Steps do need to be taken to ensure, as best as possible, that when the personal exercise of choice spills over into the public space in a problematic or destructive way, the possible deleterious ramifications of such choices for other human beings must be constrained and limited. However, the Qur’an offers up a tremendous variety of principles for dealing with such matters that do not have to be limited to legalisms … and, in fact, a very good argument can be made that to insist on such legalisms as the only way of regulating public space is to be oppressive with respect to the guidance and teachings of the rest of the Qur’an.

What the Prophet did with respect to the regulation of public space when he was in this world physically is one thing. But, none of us is a Prophet, and, therefore, we should not suppose that we have the wisdom, gnosis, or authority to regulate public space in the same way he did.

We have absolutely no reliable insight into, or understanding of, what went on in the mind and heart of the Prophet when he was called upon to make different decisions. We have absolutely no reliable proof that if the Prophet were physically with us today that he would decide matters in this day and age in precisely the same way as he did more than 1400 years ago.

People who seek to use only part of the Qur’an to regulate public space are not following the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Prophet’s character, understanding, behavior, insight, judgment and decisions were shaped by the entire body of the Qur’an – not just a part of it -- and there are very few, if any, people living today who can claim to know how all of this would come together to shape how the Prophet might seek to resolve any given problem involving the regulation of public space if he were physically living among us in today’s world.

In the ‘70’s Khomeini sought to convince students that they had an obligation to establish an Islamic state – that is, a government which was to be ruled by Khomeini’s conception of shari’ah. During this time, Khomeini also sought to persuade clerics that they had a responsibility to assume control of such a state and to ensure that the state would be regulated through the enforcement of shari’ah construed as a legal system.

Khomeini’s justification for seeking to establish an Islamic state was rooted in the doctrine of ‘Velayat-e Faqih’. This idea has been translated in a number of different ways including: ‘the guardianship of the legal jurist’ and the ‘theological vicegerency of the jurist’.

In turn, the notion of ‘velayat-e faqih’ is rooted in Khomeini’s ideas about the four stage spiritual journey to spiritual realization that culminates in a return to society through which the spiritually realized individual, or perfect human being, sets about leading other people to perfection. All of this is very presumptuous.

Khomeini seemed to assume that he was such a perfect man. He assumed that it is the right and duty of a perfect man to tell others how to live their lives. Khomeini assumed that it is the right and duty of such a person to impose shari’ah on others and to force them to pursue a particular way of life. He further assumed that a perfect person could lead others to perfection.

I believe that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a perfect human being, and, yet, the Qur’an clearly indicates that the Prophet cannot guide people to the truth. Only God can lead a person to realization of the truth. Only God can open up hearts to faith and knowledge.

The Prophet is the best of examples. He is a friend and supporter and one who prays for the forgiveness of his community and for all creation. He assists people – whether Muslim or Muslim – whenever he can and in accordance with the limitations of the sort of help which he has been permitted and enabled by God to offer. He gives counsel when asked, and, yet, he encouraged people not to ask him questions concerning Islam. Why did Khomeini believe that he could accomplish what the Prophet could not and, indeed, what was not even within the Prophet’s mandate to try to do?

Ibn al-‘Arabi (may Allah be pleased with him) – someone who Khomeini considered to be a perfect human being – never sought to establish an Islamic state nor did the former individual ever try to impose shari’ah (however he may have conceived it) on others. This is also true of Sufi mystics such as Rumi, Hafiz, and others (may Allah be pleased with them), and Khomeini looked favorably on all of these individuals.

However, somewhere along the line, Khomeini came to a very different conclusion than the spiritual predecessors whom he admired and quoted. This fact raises a lot of red flags concerning the legitimacy of Khomeini’s understanding of many things.

Once Khomeini achieved power he proceeded to seek to purify society by ridding it of the alleged forces of evil that had been serving, in one capacity or another, as agents of the deposed Shah. The manner in which this allegedly perfect man sought to lead the evil-doers to a purified condition was not through counseling, guidance, dialogue, spiritual assistance, or the like, but, rather, he purified them by having them executed, and such executions were followed by similar purifications of other lesser officials and military personnel.

The Qur’an indicates that one is justified in killing those who spread corruption in the earth, but this doesn’t mean that one must do this. Furthermore, one could engage in a rather lengthy discussion about who, exactly, was spreading corruption in the land with respect to the Iranian revolution … especially given that the Qur’an says that if it were a matter of taking humankind to task for their transgressions against God, then not one living creature would be left on the face of the Earth (Qur’an 16: 61).

Once he ascended to power, Khomeini increasingly wanted everything under his control. He didn’t do this because he was a spiritually realized individual and knew – via gnosis – what was best, rather he sought to control things because he apparently failed to realize that oppression and compulsion are not part of shari’ah.

Behavior sometimes is a good indicator of the intentions underlying it. In many ways and as the foregoing discussion suggests, Khomeini’s behavior betrayed his apparent belief that he was a spiritually realized human being.

Unlike Khomeini, the example set by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not involve oppressively and forcibly trying to control the lives of people … although that example did involve some instances of regulating public space in a way which resonated with the times in which, and circumstances under which, he and the rest of the community lived. Therefore, whenever a so-called leader presumes he or she has the right and authority to oppressively and forcibly control the lives of others, then one should observe due diligence in examining the theory of leadership out of which that person operates.

Hasan al-Banna, an Egyptian, was born in 1906 and passed away at the age of 43. Among other things, he founded the Muslim Brotherhood.

When he was approximately 12 years old, Banna joined a Muslim group that was concerned with issues of moral behavior. In fact, one of the primary purposes of the group was to induce its members to actively observe whatever the group considered to give expression to a strict code of Islamic behavior, and part of the inducement process was to levy fines on anyone who transgressed against that code.

A little later, he joined another group whose activities also revolved around issues of morality and bringing pressure to bear on anyone who might have erred – at least according to that group’s leaders -- with respect to some aspect of moral behavior. One of the practices of this group was to send threatening letters to the alleged miscreants.

When he was thirteen, Banna became associated with a Sufi Order. This group was not only committed to following a strict code of Islamic behavior, but, as well, it had a charitable arm that sought to reform the morality of others, and Banna became actively involved with this dimension of the Sufi Order.

Although Banna developed an appreciation for certain aspects of the Sufi mystical tradition, he also had reservations about certain practices associated with some Sufi groups. On the one hand, he was attracted to what he felt was the tendency of Sufis to adhere to the moral dimension of Islam, but, on the other hand, he felt that too many innovative practices, or bid’a, had become intermingled with the Sufi path.

Without wishing to make a pronouncement one way or the other as to whether, or not, Banna was correct in his assessment of the Sufi path, a point does need to be raised with respect to the issue of bid’a or spiritual innovation. More specifically, while the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had issued warnings about the dangers of spiritual innovation, his warnings tended to be of a general nature and done without specifying that which constituted innovation.

Unfortunately, it is a common practice of all too many Muslims to try to claim that what the Prophet meant when he gave such warnings has to do with whatever the Muslims are against who are invoking the saying of the Prophet concerning spiritual innovation. If those Muslims are against music, then music becomes bi’dah, and the claim is made that this is what the Prophet had in mind when he talked about spiritual innovation. If those Muslims are against certain kinds of art, then such art becomes bi’da, and the claim is made that this is what the Prophet had in mind when he warned about spiritual innovation … and so on.

Such Muslims may, or may not, be correct in their claims. The problem is that they don’t really know what the Prophet meant when he is reported to have said what he did with respect to the issue of spiritual innovation.

The Prophet did indicate on a number of occasions that people should not make or keep collections of his sayings. So, is it an instance of spiritual innovation, or bi’da, when people seek to cite the authority of the Prophet’s words to justify imposing beliefs or behavior on others?

While later in life, Banna never condemned the Sufi path, per se, he did argue that misguided Sufis should be reformed. Moreover, Banna indicated that Sufi writings should be rid of their impurities.

Determining who was a misguided Sufi and what writings needed to be cleansed were a function of Banna’s judgment concerning such matters. Moreover, Banna believed that it was people such as himself who should be the ones who ought to have influential authority in relation to determining how misguided individuals and impure writings should be reformed.

Indeed, one of the facets of the Sufi path with which Banna was much enamored involved the relationship between a seeker and the shaykh or teacher. According to Banna, the connection was one of absolute obedience – a characterization with which I would take exception since I do not believe it reflects the actual nature of the relationship between a shaykh and a seeker. Banna wanted to extend this theme of absolute obedience to other kinds of relational arrangements involving so-called leaders (which he considered himself to be) and followers.

Obviously, if Banna was a leader, then the generality of people – who are defined by Banna as followers -- should obey what he, and others like him, said with respect to matters of bi’da, impure writings, and being misguided. According to Banna, it is the prerogative and right of the leader to decide, and it is the duty of follows to follow the prerogative of the leaders.

I have no problem with someone like Banna believing anything he likes. This after all is the right of sovereignty concerning the exercise of choice which God has bestowed on human beings.

I do have a problem when what someone like Banna believes spills over into the realm of behavior, and through this spill over, Banna begins to try to control me, or others, so that I, or they, become obedient to, and are compelled to serve, his vision of things. Banna presumes he has a right – nay duty -- to interfere in my life and rid me of whatever misguidance and impurities he believes me to operating through, and his justification for doing so is that he believes that he is right and that I am wrong.

Even if Banna were correct with respect to his understanding of the ‘true’ Islam – and this is not a foregone conclusion – there is a logical jump he is making which needs to be justified independently of being correct about something. This logical jump concerns the following question: under what circumstances, and to what extent, does someone have the right to interfere in another person’s life even if one were to assume that the former person is correct and the latter person is wrong about some given issue?

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was told through the Qur’an that it was not the Prophet’s duty to guide others to the truth. Guidance belonged to Allah alone. Therefore, if the Prophet did not have the responsibility of guiding people, why does Banna believe he has the right and duty to do what the Prophet could not do?

When Banna was 21 years old, he wrote an essay to fulfill part of his educational requirements. In the essay he was critical of Sufis for withdrawing from society.

He believed that such a tendency limited their effective influence with respect to reforming society. Moreover, Banna argued that because regular teachers did not withdraw from society and, as a result, had a better opportunity to influence, change, and reform the lives of people, regular teachers were better than Sufi shaykhs.

Banna’s essay was predicated on the presumption that: it is the job of a teacher or Sufi shaykh to influence, change, or reform other human beings. Perhaps part of the reason why some Sufis chose to withdraw from society is because they wished to remove themselves from the temptation of trying to interfere in the lives of other people rather than focus on reforming and changing their own lives.

Banna’s essay is more than a little self-serving since, at the time, he was trying to satisfy the educational requirements for becoming a teacher. Moreover, his thesis seems not to reflect his earlier experience with a Sufi Order which did promote charitable acts with respect to the needy in society.

Of course, feeding, clothing, and housing people does interfere in the lives of people. However, this kind of interference is quite a bit different than trying to change, influence, reform, or purify the way people live their lives.

The former kind of interference has always been encouraged by both the exoteric and esoteric dimensions of Islam. However, there are many cautionary considerations surrounding the latter kind of interference … and one of these cautionary considerations is that the process of actively interfering in another person’s life in order to reform or purify such individuals would seem to come in direct conflict with the Quranic teaching that there can be no compulsion in matters of Deen, and, as such, therefore, possibly qualify as an expression of bid’a.

One of the central principles in the Muslim Brotherhood which Banna established in 1928 revolved around the idea of restoring the caliphate. Banna, among others, had been appalled when earlier Kemal Ataturk had done away with the position of caliph in Turkey, and Banna believed that restoring the caliphacy would be an important means through which to reform and purify society so that it could be brought back to the true Islam.

Later on, Banna argued that politics should not be subjected to the divisiveness of a multiparty system, but, instead should be regulated through just one party. Supposedly, having just one party would be a means to unify the electorate or ummah, but Banna does not seem to have appreciated the fact that divisiveness comes from individuals not parties … or said in another way, the divisiveness of parties is a function of the divisiveness of individuals as each, in her or his own way, seeks to find ways of controlling others to serve some agenda, and, therefore, the aforementioned divisiveness also can occur within single party systems as well as within multi-party systems.

Although Banna believed in holding elections, he believed that the people who ran for office should be restricted to certain classes of people. He felt that, on the one hand, only experts in religious law and public affairs, and, on the other hand, already established leaders of organizations, families or tribes, should be permitted to run for office.

Obviously, Banna was something of an elitist or oligarch and believed that power should be invested in a select group of individuals of whom Banna approved. Commoners, peasants, the un-empowered and women need not apply.

Indeed, Banna had a fairly repressive view of the role of women in society. He believed their activities should be restricted to motherhood, housekeeping, and staying out of sight. Consequently, he felt that women should not be taught religious law, technical sciences, or foreign languages but only those subjects which would permit them to be mothers, housekeepers, and invisible.

Apparently, among other things, Banna interpreted the Quranic ayat that men had been given a degree of superiority over women to mean that men had the right to take control of pretty much everything concerning the lives of women. However, although the Quranic ayat in question does not say in what way men had a degree of superiority over women, this has not stopped Muslim men from interpreting the passage in whatever way serves their interests, and, in the process, may be guilty of trying to introduce innovation, or bi’da into Islam.

For Banna, the government would manage all aspects of society. This control would extend from: ensuring that Islamic practices were correctly observed, to: censoring whatever books, films, songs, or ideas were considered to be antithetical to the ‘true Islam’.

Banna is presuming that he and the other leaders of society know what ‘true Islam’ is. He also is presuming that even if he did know this that he has the right to impose such views on other human beings. What part of: ‘there can be no compulsion in matters of Deen’ doesn’t he understand?

To be sure, society as a whole – not just government – has the challenge of determining how to proceed in a way that balances individual freedom with the need to protect the public space so that exercise of such individual freedoms do not adversely affect the capacity of others to pursue their own God-given right of sovereignty with respect to choice. This issue has a potential for being very problematic.

Nonetheless, acknowledging the existence of such a problem of social balancing does not mean that the government has the right or authority – although it may have the power to do so – to solve this problem for others and, in the process, impose its solution on the people.

Banna claims that leaders must listen to the will of the people. But, what does this really mean?

First of all, not every instance of the will of the people is necessarily in the best interests of the people, anymore than one can suppose that every instance of the will of an individual is necessarily in the best interests of that person. So, how does one decide between those expressions of the will of the people which should be listened to and those expressions of the will of the people which should not be listened to?

Secondly, if it is the will of the people which should be listened to, then, why is there any need for government? Can’t people carrying out their own will? If it is the will of the people which should be listened to, then why are only government leaders in charge of educating, reforming, propagandizing and purifying that will?

The way in which Banna organized the Muslim Brotherhood reveals his intentions with respect to society if he should ever gain control over the reins of government. By 1946, Banna had established a hierarchical organizational model in which Banna had control over every facet and level of the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Banna ran his organization in accordance with his erroneous understanding of the relationship between a Sufi shaykh and a mureed or seeker. Namely, Banna believed that everyone in the organization owed absolute obedience to him. While he did establish a smaller and larger body of members with whom he would consult concerning matters, the final decision would be his.

The process of becoming initiated into the Brotherhood is also very revealing. Candidates were required to take an oath of commitment to Banna’s conception of jihad in which a person should be willing to seek out death and martyrdom as he sought to convert the world to Banna’s ideological stance concerning Islam.

The foregoing oath of commitment was taken in a darkened room. During the ceremony, the would-be initiate had to swear secrecy concerning the Brotherhood while his hand was on a Qur’an and a pistol.

The pistol is a multi-faceted symbol. On the one hand, it implies a willingness to use force to carry out the agenda of the Brotherhood, and, on the other hand, it implies what lays in store for anyone who violates the oath of secrecy or the demand for absolute obedience.

Considered from another perspective, the use of both a pistol and the Qur’an in the initiation ceremony suggests a deep-rooted lack of faith in God. Among other things, the presence of the pistol tends to indicate that Banna seemed to believe that the Qur’an, by itself, was not considered a sufficiently adequate focus of loyalty, commitment or solution to life’s problems.

According to Banna, the purpose of the Brotherhood was to offer assistance to the rulers. The form of this assistance concerned advising the ruler how to run the country in accordance with the ideals of ‘true Islam’.

Nevertheless, Banna also indicated that the Brotherhood should be prepared to use force if the rulers proved to be intransigent with respect to the ‘advice’ or ‘counsel’ which was being offered through the Brotherhood. In other words, his position seemed to be: ‘listen or else’, and as someone once told me, if you can’t hear no, then, what one is asking is not a request or a mere giving of advice and counsel.

The fact of the matter is that at times violence was employed by the Brotherhood, not only with respect to the government but, as well, in relation to individuals with whom the Brotherhood considered to be purveyors of something other than the ‘true Islam’. This willingness to resort to violence if one doesn’t get what one wants is a very slippery slope that very quickly ends up justifying all manner of acts of cruelty, brutality, and oppression.

Banna wanted to return to the teachings of the salaf, the spiritual forbearers of early Islam. However, his motives for wishing to do so are somewhat muddled.

On the one hand, he blamed the condition of the Muslim world -- vis-à-vis being in a position of degrading subjugation to Western imperialism and colonialism -- on the fact that Muslims had strayed from the teachings of ‘true Islam’. Banna argued that the salaf adhered completely to ‘true Islam’ and, as a result they were rewarded with control of a large part of the known world at that time.

Banna believed that if Muslims were brought back to the ‘true Islam’, then Muslims would, once again be rewarded by God – as he believed had been the case in relation to the salaf -- with control of the world and, in the process, would be permitted to throw off the shackles of Western oppression. Unfortunately, by thinking in this manner, Banna has muddied the waters of intention in which what is done by a Muslim should be done for the sake of Allah and not for the sake of any advantageous rewards or ramifications which might come from this.

The Muslim Brotherhood may have accomplished any number of good things such as: assisting the needy, feeding the poor, building schools, physically cleaning up neighborhoods, and helping the sick. However, such good deeds always had a hidden price and cost in which sooner, or later, people would be expected to pay for those good deeds by ceding their moral, intellectual, and spiritual authority to the leaders of the Brotherhood.

If God wishes, true Islam teaches individuals how not to cede their moral, intellectual, and spiritual authority to anyone but God. If God wishes, true Islam teaches individuals that one does not need to commit oneself to the way of God with one’s hand on a pistol and that the Qur’an, alone, is more than adequate. If God wishes, true Islam teaches individuals that while we have duties of care to others, nevertheless, seeking to fulfill such duties does not entitle one to absolute obedience from others. If God wishes, true Islam teaches individuals that trying to convert others to Islam is not one of the pillars of Islam and that the inclination of hearts to Islam is the business of God, not of human beings. If God wishes, true Islam teaches individuals that one should have some degree of humility with respect to the correctness of one’s understanding of the truth and that just because one believes one is right, this does not justify one’s trying to impose one’s beliefs on others. If God wishes, true Islam teaches individuals that there can be no compulsion in matters of Deen, and, therefore, to whatever extent one uses compulsion, force, and oppression in order to induce someone to adhere to one’s interpretation of the ‘true Islam’, then, one is violating one of the basic tenets of Islam.

Given the foregoing, I am of the opinion that there is a great deal about the ‘true Islam’ with which Banna was not familiar. Given the foregoing, I am inclined, God willing, to be prepared never to cede my intellectual, moral, and spiritual authority to would-be leaders like Banna who tend to filter reality through their own high opinion of themselves and believe they have been given Divine sanction to proceed in a direction that, unfortunately, seems far more likely to take people away from the ‘true Islam’ than toward it. 

Anab Whitehouse

Sunday, October 17, 2010

NIST, Junk Science, and Building 7

In a November 29, 2001 New York Times article by James Glanz entitled: ‘Engineers Suspect Diesel Fuel in Collapse of 7 World Trade Center’, the reporter describes how a variety of structural engineering experts seemed to agree that finding a way to explain how WTC came down may “be much more important to understand” than understanding how the Twin Towers fell because “no … modern, steel-reinforced high-rise had ever collapsed as the result of an uncontrolled fire.” There are several salient points inherent in the foregoing story.

First, there is an acknowledgment that “no modern steel-reinforced high-rise had ever collapsed as the result of uncontrolled fire.” Yet, on September 11, 2001, three buildings within several hundred feet of one another did come down.

The only explanation offered by technical experts in relation to the destruction of those buildings really reduces down to some sort of theory about the effects of fire. This is because the Twin Towers had been constructed in such a way that even if they were hit by something as big as commercial jet loaded with fuel, the buildings would not have crumbled, and, therefore, the NIST theory concerning their fall is functionally dependent on fire being the primary culprit in the destruction of the two buildings. Moreover, since no plane hit Building 7, the only conventional suspect is, once again, some sort of theory involving fire.

A second point to notice in the aforementioned Time’s article is that the term “uncontrolled fires” is used. Now, while it is true that there have been four or five instances of actual uncontrolled fires taking place in different parts of the world (America, South America, Europe, and Asia) involving modern, steel-reinforced high-rise structures, nevertheless, the presence of uncontrolled fires in those buildings did not result in the structures coming down. 

Consequently, notwithstanding the contrary claims of some individuals, none of the buildings at the World Trade Center that did fall were subject to uncontrolled fires since there is ample evidence to indicate that all of those fires were of a manageable kind – that is: the fires were not extensive on the floors where they did occur; the fires had not spread to most of the other floors in the respective buildings, and none of the fires were of a highly intense, impossible-to-put-out character which, as a result, lasted for an extended period of time.

Were there fires in each of the buildings? Yes, but none of them could really be considered to be of an: ‘uncontrolled’ or ‘uncontrollable’ nature, and I will come back to this point later in this chapter.

A third feature worth taking note of in relation to the aforementioned Time’s article revolves around the headline for the news item. According to the engineers to whom Glanz talked, they suspected that diesel fuel may have played a primary role in serving as a considerable source of fuel for fires which broke out in Building 7 since there were a variety of large diesel fuel storage containers in different parts of Building 7 that were intended to supply back-up generators in case the main power supply for the building were cut off or disrupted in some manner. If, somehow, those storage containers caught fire, then this might explain why the fires in Building 7 allegedly became ‘uncontrollable’.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) had issued a report in May of 2002 – ‘World Trade Center Building Performance Study’ -- which noted that the diesel fuel storage containers in Building 7 might have been a source that could have fed fires in that building for quite a long time. However, the report also indicated that such a possibility had a very low order of probability and finally concluded that the reasons for the fall of Building 7 were something of an unsolved mystery.

The diesel fuel idea was also part of the initial theory advanced by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to explain why Building 7 came down. However, when NIST released its final report on Building 7, it had largely discarded the diesel fuel angle even as the Institute continued to maintain that it was uncontrolled fires that, ultimately, were responsible for the demise of Building 7.

So, once again, we are left with the mystery to which Glanz alluded in his article. Namely, given that no other steel-reinforced buildings anywhere in the world had ever come down even when uncontrollable fires were present, why did three buildings at the World Trade Center come down on the same day within hours of one another when no uncontrollable fires were present?

When the 9/11 Commission released its report in 2004, it contained no discussion of Building 7. Building 7 was as much a mystery to the 9/11 Commission as it was to the structural engineers whom Glanz interviewed, and to the engineers connected to both FEMA and NIST.

One of most mysterious features entailed by the demise of Building 7 is the issue of the near freefall character of the structure when it came down. Although various people attach slightly different times to the duration of the building’s fall, all of those times are far more consistent with, and closer to, the properties of freefall than they are consistent with what one would expect if the building came down through some sort of conventional theory of collapse in which delays due to the conservation of momentum would have to be factored in and, as a result, the time required for the building to ‘collapse’ would be substantially higher than what was observed on 9/11 in relation to Building 7.

NIST even amended its final report concerning this aspect of freefall in conjunction with Building 7, when a high-school physics teacher, David Chandler, took NIST through the math and showed that there were at least several seconds of freefall that occurred when the structure came down. NIST made the correction but had no explanation to offer as to why or how the property of freefall was present in the demise of Building 7.

There really is only one way for such a period of freefall to be present. Somehow, one, or more, floors beneath a falling floor must be eliminated so that the falling floor encounters no resistance as it drops to the ground.

The question is: what eliminated the floors in question before the falling floor (s) reached the former location of the newly missing floors? Whatever explanation one comes up with to answer the foregoing question, it cannot be clothed in the garment of a pancake theory of progressive collapse in which each floor slams down on the floor below creating stresses that, in turn, lead to the failure of the lower floor, which, in turn, acts on the next floor below -- although, perhaps, somewhat more quickly since with each succeeding floor failure there is more mass moving in a downward direction to create increasingly severe stresses as one goes down the building.

The reason why the answer to the freefall mystery cannot be adequately addressed by any form of conventional collapse theory, is because at no time in such an explanation does a falling floor meet with anything but the floor below, and, consequently, this means that the issue of the conservation of momentum must always be factored into the calculations for determining the length of the time it would take for a structure to come down. There is never a period during such a scenario in which a falling floor encounters nothing but empty space in which one does not have to continue to take into consideration the conservation of momentum principle.

As a result of the foregoing considerations, some people have advanced a theory that Building 7 was brought down by controlled demolition. Among the reasons for advancing such a thesis is the following: (a) there were elements of freefall present as the building came down; (b) the descent of the building was relatively sudden, symmetrical and straight down – none of which is consistent with a conventional gravity-driven collapse; (c) the destruction of the building was, more or less, total in the sense that there were no steel beams left standing – again, something which is unlikely to occur in any sort of conventional progressive collapse; (d) the debris pile was relatively small.

In relation to this last issue – that is, the size of the debris pile for Building 7 -- while that debris pile was, relatively speaking, fairly small, it was larger than the ones found in relation to WTC 1 and WTC 2. This is rather odd, since both of the Twin Towers were more than twice as tall as Building 7. So, where did the mass from the larger two buildings go in relation to the size of the debris piles for the Twin Towers relative to the size of the somewhat larger debris pile for Building 7?

Notwithstanding the foregoing question, the fact of the matter is that the debris pile for Building 7 leads to a similar sort of question. Why didn’t that debris pile reflect the amount of debris there should have been present from a 47-storey building? It was significantly undersized despite containing large amounts of mud – the presence of which has never been explained -- and, therefore, the idea of controlled demolition may have difficulty accounting for the undersized character of the debris pile for Building 7.

Some individuals might counter the foregoing point by saying that the process of controlled demolition might have pulverized a lot of the concrete building material and, therefore, one would expect the debris pile to be smaller than anything that might take place through a conventional, gravity-driven. However, the extraordinary extent to which material was pulverized in all three buildings is not really consistent with the process of controlled demolition. Although controlled demolition does tend to lead to a break-up of materials, that process does not cause the pulverization or ‘dustification’ (Dr. Judy Wood’s term) of such materials which is what occurred at the World Trade Center.

The degree of pulverization present in relation to Building 7 was not quite as severe as was the case with respect to WTC 1 and WTC 2. Nonetheless, the extent of pulverization of building materials in Building 7 was greater than one would have expected to see if that structure was brought down either by a conventional gravity-driven progressive collapse or via controlled demolition.

A second problem with the controlled demolition thesis is that the seismic readings that were recorded in relation to the fall of Building 7 were inconsistent with what one might expect if that structure came down as a result of either some sort of conventional, gravity-driven pancake theory or if the building came down as a result of controlled demolition. In other words, the seismic signature for the fall of Building 7 was not as great as one might anticipate in relation to such a massive structure coming down.

In fact, the seismic recording was not much different than normal background rumblings that are produced by the work-a-day world of a major metropolitan area … and, to an extent, this fact tends to, once again, raise the question of what happened to the considerable mass contained in Building 7? Why wasn’t the fall of such a large mass reflected in the seismic recordings for the 9/11 event?

Both the proponents of the official government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 as well those individuals who do not accept the official government theory concerning 9/11 bring in their dueling experts (whether engineers or explosive experts) to say that, respectively, (1) Building 7 did not come down as a result of controlled demolition or that (2) Building 7 did come down as a result of controlled demolition. However, as the foregoing paragraphs indicate, there are problems entailed by both theories of what happened to Building 7 … problems that neither of the two perspectives that attempt to explain what happened to Building 7 can adequately resolve.

NIST has issued a number of interim progress reports concerning its study of the Building 7 issue. All of those reports have implicated fire – in one form or another – as playing a major role in the destruction of Building 7, but those interim reports also implicated the role which falling debris from WTC buildings 1 and 2 (i.e., the Twin Towers) may have played in the eventual fall of Building 7.

As reported by the magazine, Popular Mechanics, the lead NIST investigative engineer, Shyam Sunder, spoke of a huge gash in the side of Building 7 facing the Twin Towers that ran about 10 stories and which had scooped out approximately 25 percent of the depth of the building. This statement was part of the evidence NIST was putting forth as support for a working hypothesis that, somehow, the structural damage (such as the huge gash noted above) that supposedly had been created by debris falling from the North Tower was connected to fires allegedly raging out of control in Building 7 – presumably feed by pressurized fuel gas lines connected to a variety of fuel storage tanks-- that eventually led to the progressive collapse of that structure around 5:20 PM on 9/11.

There are, however, a number of problems inherent in the foregoing hypothesis. The North Tower was more than three hundred and seventy feet away from Building 7, and if the fall of that building was via a gravity-driven progressive collapse  --supposedly due to a combination of structural damage caused by plane impact and extensive fires (a theory which is neither credible nor proven) – then how did some thing or things massive enough to cause a 10 story gash which scooped out 25 percent of the depth of Building 7 get thrown laterally from the North Tower – especially given that the fall of the North Tower was largely symmetrical and straight-down?

Of course, there is considerable evidence (both visual and physical) to demonstrate that, in point of fact, there were multi-ton steel beams that were hurled from the North Tower, and, conceivably, one, or more, of these hurling masses struck Building 7 causing the gash described by Sunder. On the other hand, the existence of such hurling masses is entirely inconsistent with a gravity-driven progressive collapse because there is no excess energy left over from the collapsing process to be able to rip such multi-ton slabs from the building and, simultaneously, propel them hundreds of feet into surrounding buildings.

Sunder, apparently, wanted to both keep and eat his technical cake. Nonetheless, if he wants to propose – as he did -- that the Twin Towers came down as the result of a conventional gravity-driven progressive collapse, then, such a proposal cannot explain how multi-ton slabs were ripped from those buildings and, then, hurled between 300 and 500 feet in a, more or less, lateral direction. However, if Sunder wishes to claim – as he did -- that the structural damage to Building 7 was caused by debris from the North Tower, then he is going to have to jettison the idea of a conventional, gravity-driven progressive collapse of the North Tower because ‘falling’ (rather than explosively propelled) multi-ton slab beams are not likely to have reached Building 7.

Sunder can have -- theoretically speaking – a conventional gravity-driven progressive collapse of the Twin Towers (which NIST was never able to plausibly demonstrate) with no multi-ton steel beams being hurled laterally some 300-600 feet, or he can have multi-ton steel beams being hurled laterally some 300-600 feet without a conventional gravity-driven progressive collapse. But, he can’t have both, and, yet, Sunder claims – without any real plausible explanation for how it was possible – that both events occurred at the same time.

The foregoing considerations notwithstanding, they are all somewhat – but not entirely -- moot because in its final report on the destruction of Building 7 that was released in 2008, NIST indicated that the considerable structural damage to one face of Building 7 played a very limited and marginal role in the fall of that structure. Instead, NIST argued (and I will come back to this issue) that the fall of Building 7 was entirely the result of fires that weakened a key structural component of the building and when this key component failed, this led to a progressive, gravity-driven collapse of the building.

As a passing observation, one might note that to a large extent, both Popular Mechanics and Skeptic magazines based their accounts of what happened to Building 7 on the early working-theory of NIST that involved a combination of two main factors: (1) structural damage caused by debris from WTC 1 and 2, working in conjunction with (2) fires fed by broken, pressurized fuel lines linked to a number of diesel storage tanks in the building. In its final report on Building 7, NIST indicated – without saying it directly – that the accounts of both Popular Mechanics and Skeptic magazines were in error since NIST’s final report, issued in November of 2008, claimed that neither structural damage caused by ‘falling’ debris nor fires fed by pressurized diesel fuel lines had much to do with the fall of Building 7.

NIST held a press conference in August 2008 in which Shyam Sunder stated in his opening remarks that: “WTC 7 collapsed because of fires fueled by office furnishings.” Sunder also indicated in his statement that NIST had discovered a new phenomenon – namely, that is possible for fire, and fire alone, to “induce a progressive collapse” in a modern, steel-reinforced high-rise building – something which had never occurred previously even though there had been 4 or five instances in various parts of the world in which such steel-reinforced buildings had burned with uncontrolled fires for many hours without collapsing.

The ‘new’ phenomenon to which Sunder was referring involved the idea of “thermal expansion”. While the concept of thermal expansion was quite well known to engineers prior to 9/11, what was new, according to Sunder, involved the way in which structural aspects of Building 7 were allegedly affected by thermal expansion to such an extent that the building was induced to have a progressive collapse … a fire-induced progressive collapse – the first in history.

According to Sunder’s press statement, debris from the North Tower: “started fires on at least ten floors of the building. The fire burned out of control on six [7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13] of these ten floors for about seven hours.”

Aside from the aforementioned issue of wondering how multi-ton steel beams would have been able to travel more than three hundred and seventy feet to reach Building 7 if the North Tower was merely collapsing due to a gravity-driven progressive collapse, one also wonders how fires were started on ten different floors of Building 7. The assumption that NIST and Sunder made is that something hot or on fire somehow reached Building 7 and eventually led to fires on at least ten floors.

However, the only things from the North Tower (NIST rejected the idea that anything from the South Tower would have been able to reach Building 7, some 675 feet away) that might have been hot or on fire would have come from just a few of the upper floors of the North Tower – the floors where a plane allegedly had crashed and started fires that, in fairly short order, were largely both oxygen starved and starved of fuel prior to the point when they came down. More than 100 floors in the North Tower were not on fire, so what evidence is there that material which was on fire or that was supposedly hot enough to ignite fires from the few floors that did have fires in the North Tower had been able to make the journey of more than 370 feet to Building 7 and land in a condition that was hot enough to be able to start fires on multiple floors of Building 7?

The fact of the matter is there is no evidence in support of the foregoing idea. It is pure conjecture.

Of course, NIST might wish to counter with something along the lines of: “Well, if the fires in Building 7 didn’t start as a result of debris from the North Tower, then, how did they start? This is a good question for which I do not have an answer, but being unable to answer such a question, does not automatically make NIST’s assumption about how fires started in Building 7 correct.

NIST, itself, admits in its final report on Building 7 that the cause of fires is actually unknown. Nonetheless, NIST indicates that the idea that the fires in Building 7 were initiated by debris from the Twin Towers is, nonetheless, likely. Likely, why?

What made it possible for hot/fiery material from the North Tower to travel more than 370 feet to Building 7? NIST doesn’t know but assumes that material “falling” from the North Tower sort of ‘fell; more than 370 feet away – an assumption which is rather implausible within the context of an allegedly gravity-driven ‘collapse’.

As indicated previously, NIST rejected the idea that any ‘falling’ material from the South Tower would have been able to reach Building 7. Why is it more reasonable to suppose that falling material would have been able to reach Building 7 from the North Tower some 370 feet away -- especially given that the North Tower came straight down.

What was the temperature of the material from the North Tower that hit Building 7? NIST doesn’t know.

How can one be certain that such material was hot enough to start fires? NIST doesn’t know.

How exactly did the material from the North Tower that supposedly hit Building 7 start fires? NIST doesn’t know.

The contention that the fires in Building 7 started as a result of debris from the falling North Tower is considered ‘likely’ by NIST because that idea is crucial to its narration of events since without such an assumption everything that follows in its report is problematic. In effect, the NIST assumption about how the fires started in Building 7 is ‘likely’ because NIST’s theory requires this to be the case and, therefore, it assumes the truth of its theory’s ‘likelihood’ despite the fact that there is little evidence to warrant describing such an assumption as ‘likely’.

In short, the assumption concerning how the fires in Building 7 started is ‘likely’ because the theory that NIST wishes to put forward as an explanation of events needs that assumption to be likely. The reasoning is circular and not evidentially based.

According to the opening statement of Shyam Sunder, the fires, once started, burned out of control for about seven hours. Yet, the final report by NIST concerning Building 7 indicates that the first videographic or photographic evidence of fire in relation to Building 7 was recorded at 12:10 PM. At that time, two fires were visible on the southwest corner of the 22nd floor.

If this is the case, then, Sunder has no evidential basis for saying that fires burned out of control in Building 7 for about seven hours. There is no evidential basis for such a statement because the earliest piece of photographic evidence indicating fires were burning in Building 7 was at 12:10 PM and this was in conjunction with the 22nd floor.

If one assumes that fires started as a result of ‘falling’ debris from the North Tower, then such debris would have begun ‘falling’ around 10:28 AM, and if one assumes that uncontrolled fires started in Building 7 shortly thereafter, then NIST’s contention that such fires could have burned for about 7 hours -- or until the structure fell at around 5:20 PM -- might be true. However, this is all a network of assumptions.

Two witnesses – namely, Barry Jennings, a former official of the New York City Housing Authority, and Michael Hess, the corporation legal counsel for New York City – indicated that they were trapped in the stairwell on the 8th floor of Building 7 for somewhere between: 1 ½ to two hours, and although they reported hearing and experiencing several explosions, neither one of them said anything about seeing fires. Information concerning their account of things is drawn from a number of sources including several NIST documents, interviews with BBC and Dylan Avery, as well as from a September 13th, 2001 article by Paul Vallely in The Independent, a British newspaper.

In a 2002 article in Leadership, Rudy Giuliani [who was a friend of Michael Hess but was not present at the time the two men became trapped since the two individuals had gone to the 23rd floor of Building 7 to be with Giuliani at the Emergency Management Command Center but the Mayor was not where he was supposed to be, and it was at that point the two men began to descend the stairs because the elevators were not working] Giuliani reported that the two men had been trapped by debris falling from the North Tower. Giuliani noted that the two trapped-men were fortunate that they were going down the north stairwell since the debris from the North Tower had been crashing down on the south side of Building 7.

Yet, if the two men were lucky that they were going down the north side stairwell because debris from the North Tower was raining down on the south side of Building 7, how did debris falling from the North Tower reach the two men on the back side of Building 7, more than 150 feet away from the south side of Building 7 – and this must be added to the more than 370 feet which separates the south side of Building 7 from the North Tower? How did the debris that allegedly was falling on the south side of Building 7 trap Jennings and Hess on the north, or back side, at the sixth floor of that building?

In contradistinction to what Giuliani said about the Jennings/Hess affair in the 2002 Leadership piece, the two individuals about whom Giuliani was writing originally indicated that what trapped them was an explosion – not falling debris -- because the explosion had blown out the stairwell below the sixth floor (not from above as would have been the case if debris from the South Tower were raining down on them), and, as a result, they could not continue going down the stairs any further. The two worked their way back up to the 8th floor at which time Barry Jennings took a fire extinguisher and broke a window in the stairwell and was able to alert someone on the street below that they were trapped in the building.

Barry Jennings also testified that the explosion that trapped them occurred before either of the Twin Towers fell. He reports that once they had worked their way back up to the 8th floor stairwell landing and after he had been able to draw attention to their plight by breaking a window and calling out, there had been two separate occasions during which emergency personnel were about to rescue the two trapped men and each time the rescue teams were forced to flee due to the collapse of one, or another, of the Twin Towers. Their rescue did not occur until, at least, 30 to 45 minutes after the second tower fell.

In other words, the explosion that eliminated the stairway below the sixth floor landing was not due to falling debris. It was an event that was entirely unrelated to falling debris from the North Tower because it occurred prior to the fall of either of the Twin Towers.

The foregoing testimonies are interesting because Shyam Sunder of NIST indicated in his August 2008 press conference statement that fires were raging out of control on a number of floors – including the 8th floor.  Moreover, Giuliani attempts to claim that the two individuals became trapped only after the North Tower came down, and, therefore, presumably – if one accepts the assumptions of NIST -- uncontrollable fires were “likely” to have begun shortly after the two individuals became trapped, and, yet, somehow, Jennings and Hess were able to survive for anywhere from an hour to more than an hour and a half under such circumstances.

According to NIST and Giuliani, two people were trapped in the stairwell of the 8th floor for an extended period of time when fires supposedly were raging out of control on 7, 8, and 9 and, yet, neither Jennings nor Hess gave any mention in their witness statements about seeing fires. They did indicate that there had been some explosions unrelated to what was happening in conjunction with the Twin Towers and that there was a thick smoke all around them and, as well, they felt some degree of heat from, presumably, a fire burning in some undetermined location.

Explosions, yes! Fires, no!

Was the ‘smoke’ that the two previously trapped individuals mentioned in their account from a smoldering fire somewhere or was it from a raging fire? Or, was the ‘smoke’ merely dust created by the explosions that they both reported in relation to Building 7 prior to becoming trapped? Or, was the thick ‘smoke’ from the dust that arose following the fall of the South Tower … something that, according to their initial statements, occurred after they had become trapped? Or, was it some combination of the three?

As someone who has been involved in an apartment building fire and stayed in the building long enough to go banging on doors trying to rouse people and to get someone to call 911, I know that my lungs and the lungs of someone whom I roused were sufficiently adversely affected by the smoke coming from the fire that I had trouble breathing for a bit of time after I got out into clear air. The fire was not that big and my exposure was not more than five or ten minutes at the most, but I don’t think I could have gone on much longer without encountering some severe breathing difficulty.

While there may have been some smoke from a fire in what was swirling all about them, one wonders how much of the thick ‘cloud’ was smoke from a fire and how much was dust from the explosions they had heard and felt prior to being trapped on the 8th floor and prior to the time when either of the Twin Towers actually fell and how much might have been dust from the fallen Twin Towers? Since, according to the initial statements of the two men, they were trapped in the 8th floor stairwell before either of the Twin Towers fell, then one wonders what the thick ‘smoke’ was from since – according to NIST -- no fires could have been started by ‘falling debris’ from towers that had not, yet, collapsed … or was the report of thick ‘smoke’ something that arose only some time after the first tower collapsed?

Which of the foregoing possibilities might be the case is hard to determine based on what I have seen of their witness statements. Nevertheless, no matter in what direction one would like to proceed with respect to trying to understand what took place in Building 7, there are a variety of questions that arise in conjunction with the testimony of Barry Jennings and Michael Hess concerning the accuracy of the NIST narrative involving Building 7 – especially in relation to the issue of how the fires in that building started or whether such fires actually were of the sort of uncontrolled nature claimed by NIST.

Moreover, if there were some fires on the 7th, 8th, and 9th floors, and, yet, those fires were relatively small (and, possibly therefore, producing more smoke than fire), this would be consistent with the photographic and videographic evidence mentioned earlier. That evidence indicated that fires were not seen in Building 7 until 12:10 PM, and those fires were on the north side of the 22nd floor, not on the 7th, 8th, and 9th, floors.

NIST assumes that fires starting – due to falling debris – on the south side of Building 7 eventually worked their way over to the north side of the building. However, they have no evidence to substantiate their contention concerning the spread of the fire since the first hard evidence of a fire burning in Building 7 is in relation to the 22nd floor on the north side of the building and not in relation to its south side.

In other words, NIST assumed that the fire started in certain places on the south side of Building 7, and, moreover, they assumed that those fires spread in a certain way to the north side of the building. However, they have no actual evidence to support either contention. It is all conjecture … and not necessarily “likely” conjecture.

In a 2004 publication entitled: Interim Report on WTC 7 (Appendix L) issued by NIST as well as in a 2005 NIST publication entitled: The Emergency Response Operations, an account, of sorts, is given concerning the Barry Jennings and Michael Hess experience of being trapped in Building 7 on 9/11. In certain respects, and for whatever reason, the authors of those two NIST accounts seek to paint a very different description of what supposedly took place on that day.

The NIST accounts tend to parallel the account given by Rudy Giuliani several years earlier. More specifically, the two aforementioned NIST accounts try to indicate that Jennings and Hess became trapped by debris from the North Tower as it came down and that the reason why the two individuals had to go down the stairs in the first place was because the fall of the South Tower had knocked out the power to Building 7 thereby rendering the elevators inoperable.

Both Hess and Jennings gave statements indicating that they had received calls prior to 9:00 AM to go to the Office of Emergency Management Command Center for New York City – which was the 23rd floor of Building 7 -- after the first plane had hit the North Tower but before the second plane had struck the South Tower. They indicated that the second plane hit the South Tower just after they arrived on the 23rd floor of Building 7.

When the two men arrived at the Emergency Management Command Center, they found the place empty. There was cups on some of the desks with steam still rising from the surface of the coffee, and, as well, there were some half-eaten sandwiches.

Jennings called several people trying to find out what was going on. One of the people he called told him to leave the building right away.

Consequently, the two men tried to quickly get out of the building. They attempted to take the elevators but found that the elevators, for some reason, were not operating.

According to the NIST account, the reason the elevators were not working was because the South Tower had fallen and knocked out the power. Jennings, on several occasions, has indicated that the foregoing scenario could not be true because only after they became trapped did the Twin Towers fall, and the reason why he knows this is because there were several occasions after the two men became trapped that emergency teams were about to rescue them but had to leave because on each occasion one of the Twin Towers fell.

In addition, the NIST account of the ordeal indicates, as did Giuliani’s description several years earlier and as a subsequent BBC video piece tried to suggest -- that Jennings and Hess became trapped by debris from the North Tower falling on Building 7. However, the same problem arises in conjunction with the NIST account and the BBC story in this respect as was the case in relation to Giuliani’s story – namely, if Jennings and Hess were going down the north stairway on the side of Building 7 furthest from the North Tower and if they had reached the sixth floor, then, how did so-called “falling” debris from the North Tower not only travel more than 450 feet to reach the back side of Building 7 but, as well, was able to strike that backside of the building down around the sixth floor?

Again, not only is such an account contradicted by Jennings testimony on several occasions that neither of the Twin Towers fell until after they had become trapped in Building 7, but, as well, neither the NIST account nor that of Rudy Giuliani make any physical sense. How did debris falling from the North Tower travel more than 520 feet and, somehow, strike Building 7 on the side furthest away from the North Tower down around the sixth floor?

I find it rather perplexing why NIST and Giuliani – neither of whom were in Building 7 at the time of the Jennings/Hess incident and neither of whom were in the stairwell with Jennings and Hess at the time of the incident – should insist that their account of the event is correct and that Jennings was, somehow, confused about things. Jennings is providing direct experiential data of life events, and, at best, NIST and Giuliani are interpreting that data through the filters of their own theories about 9/11.

Since neither NIST nor Giuliani can account for the explosions which Jennings and Hess mention, they try to force fit the experience of those two men into a world view that not only insists, but needs, the explosion to which Jennings and Hess refer to be the result of falling debris from the North Tower. The story being advanced by NIST, Giuliani, and the BBC makes absolutely no physical sense, and, furthermore, that story is contradicted by Jennings’ account which not only places the explosion prior to the destruction of the Twin Towers but provides evidence indicating that the Twin Towers came down only after they became trapped.

In addition to the foregoing considerations, and quite inexplicably, both NIST and Giuliani leave out other parts of Jennings account of what transpired in Building 7 on 9/11. More specifically, Jennings indicates that when they were finally rescued, they were brought down into the lobby area, and according to Jennings, the lobby was in such a devastated condition that the two had to be taken out through a hole in the wall rather than through doors.

Presumably, NIST might attribute the devastation to the effects of falling debris from the North Tower. However, Jennings reported that while they were trapped in the stairwell of Building 7, a number of explosions took place.

Was the destruction in the lobby of Building 7 from falling debris or from explosions or a bit of both? If NIST were to put forward the former idea rather than the latter idea, it really has no evidence to support or substantiate such a perspective.

All they have are assumptions and a number of unanswered questions such as: how was such extensive destruction brought about in relation to the lobby and where are the reports of steel beams from the North Tower being strewn about the lobby or penetrating into the lobby, and why didn’t NIST discuss any of this?

There is another set of questions that occurs to me in relation to the rescue of Jennings and Hess. Since the stairwell landing on floor 6 had been blown out, how did Jennings and Hess get to the lobby?

Presumably, they were taken to another stairwell. However, to get to such a stairwell, one might suppose that they had to enter one of the floors of Building 7.

Yet, out of control fires supposedly were burning on 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13 in Building 7. So, how did they cross over to another stairwell? Or, did they have to cross over? Were they, perhaps, somehow lowered down or assisted to climb down through the hole where the sixth floor landing was missing?

I have found no account of the actual rescue details with respect to their journey from a north-side 8th floor stairwell to the lobby of Building 7. If out of control fires were burning all around them, how did they get to the lobby?

By raising the foregoing questions, I am not questioning the story of Jennings and Hess concerning their ordeal. What I am wondering about is whether Shyam Sunder was accurate in his August 2008 Press Conference when he claimed that out of control fires were raging on floors: 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13 in Building 7 for a period of some seven hours …  one might suppose that under such harrowing circumstances, something might have been said by someone about the difficulties of being able to find a way down to the lobby.

Maybe, there are reasonable explanations for the foregoing set of questions. However, if there are, NIST certainly hasn’t supplied them.

In fact, NIST not only left out any account of the foregoing aspect of the rescue but, as well, completely left out the facet of the experience when the two men finally reached the lobby after being rescued and Jennings remarked how astonished he was with respect to the extent of the damage that had been inflicted on the very large area that, among other things, had contained escalators when Jennings had come to Building 7 around 9:00 in the morning. One wonders why NIST left out the foregoing aspects from Jennings account of his experiences.

Another part of Jennings account that NIST left out was the dead bodies (possibly) that Jennings came across in the lobby of Building 7 … dead bodies that Jennings had to step over on the way to the hole in the wall of the lobby which was to serve as an exit to the street outside. Again, one wonders why NIST left this detail out of its account.

NIST repeatedly has said that no one died in Building 7 on 9/11. Perhaps it left out the portion of Jennings account about possible dead bodies and a destroyed lobby because it doesn’t want to have to deal with inconvenient facts that run contrary to the way NIST is trying to frame the events of 9/11 – a process of framing rooted in assumptions and problematic data gathering rather than actual evidence.

Later, in a BBC program called ‘The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 – The Third Tower’, Jennings indicated that he never saw any dead bodies – only that he felt like he was stepping over them as he made his way to the hole in the side of the lobby of Building 7. On the other hand, Jennings previously reported that a firefighter who was with them and guiding them toward the hole repeatedly said: “Don’t look down.”

Now, why would a firefighter say such things? What was the fire fighter trying to spare Jennings and Hess from seeing?

Were there any dead bodies in the lobby of Building 7? Jennings indicated that it felt like he was stepping over dead bodies as he made his way to the hole in the wall. On the other hand, he told the people behind the BBC program that he never actually saw any dead bodies. Notwithstanding that fact, Jennings did say that he was warned by a firefighter with him not to look down as he made his way to the exit hole in the wall.

It is possible that both things could be true. In other words, while Jennings never saw any dead bodies, he may have had to step over them.

Moreover, Jennings was warned about not looking down as he made his way to the exit hole in the wall. Although Jennings was never told that the reason why he shouldn’t look down is because there are dead bodies on the lobby floor, nonetheless, one is left wondering why else Jennings would be told not to look down.

As it stands, the dead body facet of things in the lobby of Building 7 is something of a mystery. NIST has no evidence to prove that there were no dead bodies, but, at the same time, the existing evidence only suggests the possibility of dead bodies in the lobby and does not constitute proof that such was the case.

Rather than leave the issue as an unresolved mystery, NIST tended to sanitize the data it collected and retained. Whatever was inconsistent with the theory NIST wants to push – such as much of the account given by Barry Jennings -- is discarded and left out of their reports.

NIST is willing to include assumptions that lack any evidential basis in its reports. Yet, NIST is unwilling to include ideas in its reports for which there is evidence but which, for arbitrary reasons, NIST wants to keep out of its reports.

A second BBC program about Building 7 was aired on October 26, 2008. In this program -- entitled: ‘The Conspiracy Files – The Truth Behind The Third Tower’ -- Michael Hess, the person who had been trapped on 9/11with Barry Jennings in Building 7 was interviewed (Barry Jennings had passed away several months prior to the program’s release), and, reportedly, the interview was the first that Hess had given since the eventful day.

Although in an interview given to UPN 9 News shortly after being rescued on 9/11, Hess mentioned having experienced and heard explosions in Building 7, in the 2008 BBC interview, Hess recants his earlier testimony and says, instead, that there was no explosion on 9/11. In he latter interview, he recounts how although originally he believed there had been some sort of explosion in the basement, he knows “now this was caused by the northern half of Number 1 falling on the southern half of our building.”

The question naturally arises: How does Michael Hess “know now” what he claims to not have known on 9/11? If he was in a stairwell on the north side of Building 7 down near the sixth floor, he couldn’t possibly have seen debris from the North Tower raining down on him. So, what is the basis of his newly found ‘knowledge’?

On the basis of his previously reported experience on 9/11, he indicated that he heard and felt an explosion from below that knocked him back and which destroyed the landing for the sixth floor stairwell on the north side of Building 7. He knew that he could not continue down the stairs because there were no stairs to continue down, so he went back up the stairwell.

After Barry Jennings broke one of the windows in the 8th floor stairwell, he waited near that window for rescue to arrive. Finally, he was rescued and, somehow, he, along with Barry Jennings, were brought down to the lobby and helped to exit through a hole in the lobby wall.

What new facts does Hess have which now makes him certain that the ‘explosion’ experienced on 9/11 was actually the sound of debris from the North Tower striking the south side of Building 7? Actually, he has no new facts, but he has been presented with something that is new: a framing of events by NIST, Giuliani, and others that has induced Hess to re-interpret his original experience.

Hess’ new perspective on things cannot answer the following question. If what he heard on 9/11 was not an explosion but merely falling debris from the North Tower, how did that falling debris destroy the 6th floor landing on the back side of Building 7 furthest from the North Tower, more than 520 feet away from North Tower? And, given this question, how can Hess “know now” that the whole thing was the result of falling debris?

Hess cannot plausibly and credibly answer the foregoing question any more than NIST or Giuliani would be able to answer it. The fact that portions of a north side landing and stairwell leading down to the street were destroyed – a fact that led to their being trapped – undermines the picture which NIST, Giuliani, and BBC (each for their own individual reasons) is trying to paint concerning the nature of the experience undergone by Hess and Jennings on 9/11.

Hess, Giuliani, NIST, and BBC have no independent evidence to support their interpretation of events. Furthermore, there is a crucial question concerning physical evidence that none of them can answer in a plausible or credible way.

In addition, none of them has any evidence to contradict Jennings testimony that the explosion which took out the 6th floor landing had to occur prior to the fall of either of the Twin Towers and that only after they had become trapped did the Twin Towers fall. Jennings indicates that twice, emergency workers had tried to rescue the two trapped-men only to be stymied by the fall of the Twin Towers at two different points during the protracted rescue attempt.


On page 341 of NIST NCSTAR 1-9 (National Construction Safety Team Act Report), NIST indicates: “there was no evidence of floor-to-floor fire spread.” Thus, on the ten floors where fires, according to NIST, were believed to be  (six of which were supposedly uncontrollable – namely, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 13), those fires were independent of one another, and this means that one needs to come up with an explanation for how fires started on ten different floors and why those fires became out of control on some floors but not others.

Now, since earlier I indicated that NIST admitted that the answer to the question of how the fires started is unknown, this means that NIST has to make ten assumptions that, somehow, debris from the North Tower started each of the fires in Building 7. Or, to say the same thing in a slightly different way, NIST is just making one assumption, but they are applying that assumption to ten situations that they believe to be independent of one another. I’m not sure that the underlying assumption becomes more credible if one parses the situation in one of the foregoing ways rather than the other.

In any event, NIST goes on to maintain that each of the fires worked its way from the south side of Building 7 to the northeast side of the structure. Once the fires reached the northeast sector of the building, they are alleged to have burned long enough and with the requisite degree of intensity to bring about thermal expansion in a certain key, structural component and that this, in turn, led to a progressive collapse of the building.

There are a number of questions that can be raised in relation to the foregoing theory. (1) Did the fires spread in the way that NIST claims? (2) Did the fires burn for a sufficiently long period and with sufficient thermal intensity to bring about thermal expansion? (3) If thermal expansion occurred, would it have been capable of initiating a progressive collapse?

There is a sequence to the order in which some of the evidence for fires was reported in relation to Building 7. This evidence involves the capture of visual images.

As previously noted, the first photographic indication of fires in Building 7 was acquired at 12:10 PM in relation to the southwest corner of the 22nd floor. Prior to 2:08 PM, there were only three photographs that provided evidence of fires in Building 7. These photographs involved the aforementioned 22nd floor, as well as fires on both the 29th and 30th floors.

According to NIST, around 2:00 PM, and shortly thereafter, images of fires were captured in relation to the 7th, 11th, and 12th, floors. Another fire was photographed in conjunction with the east side of the 13th floor at approximately 2:30 PM.  Further fires were photographed on the 8th, 9th, and 14th floors at, respectively: 3:40 PM, 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM.

If fires supposedly were started in Building 7 by materials falling from the failing North Tower at around 10:28 AM, then why have only three fires shown up prior to 2:00 PM, some 3 ½ hours later? Moreover, why did it take so long for the fires that only appeared after 2:00 PM to show up?

Just as importantly, with respect to whatever visible fires showed up after 2:00 PM – which is most of them as far as photographic evidence is concerned – there is no evidence that any of those fires had been burning out of control for the seven hours that was indicated by Shyam Sunder in his August 2008 NIST Press Conference. On the basis of photographic evidence, the very most that NIST might claim that the fires burned would be not much more than a little over three hours … and, this assumes that those fires did burn consistently throughout that three hour period, and NIST has no evidence that is capable of substantiating such a contention.

NIST claims that there were some eyewitness accounts that suggested that fires were ongoing before any of the aforementioned photographic evidence indicates. For instance, on pages 298-299 of its document NIST NCSTAR 1-9, NIST talks about a security officer who: “saw a fire on the west side of the Floor 7 that he attempted to put out with an extinguisher, but was unable to do so.” The foregoing is said to have happened shortly after the North Tower came down.

A number of questions could be raised in relation to the foregoing. Did the security officer have any idea of what started the fire? If the fire was sufficiently big at a little after 10:28 AM to not be able to put out with an extinguisher, then why did it take until after 2:00 in the afternoon for photographic evidence to become visible since the fire supposedly had been burning for 3 ½ hours? Or, is it possible that the fire on the 7th floor was never really raging but worked its way through the inflammable material on the floor in fits and starts, thereby never really becoming visible until much later in the day?

On page 380 of NIST NCSTAR 1-9 NIST states: “At 12:15 PM when the cubicle fire had been observed on Floor 7, people being led from Floors 7 and 8 out of the building reported no fires, heavy dust, or smoke on Floor 8. Between 12:15 PM and 2:30 PM, fire activity on Floor 8 was observed at the south face by eyewitnesses near the southwest corner of the building.” Floors 7 and 8 were two of the floors where out of control fires allegedly raged for nearly seven hours according to Shyam Sunder of NIST.

Yet, at 12: 15 PM – nearly two hours after the fall of the North Tower – there are no eyewitness reports of any fires or smoke on the 8th floor. There are, on the other hand, alleged – but unidentified -- eyewitness reports in relation to the 8th floor concerning the occurrence of fire somewhere between 12:15 PM and 2:30 PM.

NIST – as I earlier indicated – stated that there was no evidence to indicate that the fires in Building 7 traveled between floors. The fires were alleged to be relatively independent of one another.

If there was no sign of fire or smoke on the 8th floor at 12: 15 PM, and if all fires were supposedly started by falling debris from the North Tower, and if fires did not spread between floors, then why were there no eyewitness reports of fires prior to 12:15 PM? More importantly, how did the fires start on the 8th floor given that there were no reports of fires or smoke prior to 12:15 PM?

Furthermore, if, according to NIST, fires were supposedly raging out of control on the 7th and 8th floors of Building 7 for 7 hours, how were people still able to survive on those floors at 12:15 PM? In addition, if people were on those floors for nearly one hour and forty-five minutes following the fall of the North Tower, why was there no mention of structural damage to those floors through which debris from the North Tower would have been introduced to start fires, and if such debris was present, but merely unmentioned by eyewitnesses, why hadn’t fires started by 12:15 PM, and if debris from the North Tower had crashed into those floors, why were those individuals still in the building?

Matthys Levy, a structural engineer, indicated in a documentary entitled: ‘9/11 Conspiracies: Fact or Fiction’ which was aired on the History Channel in 2007 that he believed fires actually had been burning in Building 7 since at least 9:30 AM.

Levy supported the official theory about what happened on 9/11 at the World Trade Center and, apparently, was trying to build a case for increasing the amount of time that Building 7 was exposed to fire and, thereby, make the idea that fires could have brought down Building 7 more plausible by indicating that the fires were very long-lasting  … nearly eight hours. This is an hour longer than Shyam Sunder claimed fires were raging in Building 7.

There are, however, some problems with respect to both Levy’s perspective and the position of NIST in relation to the demise of Building 7. First of all, if NIST claims that the fires in Building 7 all started as a result of debris from the North Tower that fell on the south face of Building 7, then, how did the 9:30 AM fires start?

Secondly, if fires actually started at 9:30 as Levy claims and if they were raging for eight hours – one more hour than NIST claims, then, why wasn’t there any additional photographic or eyewitness testimony to this effect? On what was Levy basing his 9:30 AM claims concerning the 9:30 AM fires and what independent evidence is there which supports his claim and why didn’t NIST acknowledge that claim in any of its reports?

Levy’s assertion concerning the existence of 9:30 AM fires is somewhat consistent with the initial reports of Jennings and Hess that there were fires, of some kind, in Building 7 prior to the fall of the North Tower – fires that may have been connected to the explosion that cut off their north stairwell exit at the sixth floor. However, if one accepts what Levy has to say, then obviously, NIST is quite wrong about a number of the things that it claims concerning fires and Building 7.

On the other hand, if Levy is correct with respect to the 9:30 AM part of his statement, he has no evidence to indicate that the fire(s) to which he refers actually sustained themselves for more than eight hours as he claimed to be the case in the History Channel documentary. This is merely his non-evidentially based inference.


According to NIST, although there was photographic evidence to indicate the presence of fires on the 22nd, 29th, and 30th floors of Building 7, the fires were short lived. NIST claims that such fires were of relatively brief duration due, primarily, to a sprinkler system that was functional on 9/11 … at least, the system was functional above the 20th floor while a separate sprinkler system servicing Building 7 from the 20th floor down was not operational since, according to NIST, it had been knocked out of commission when the Twin Towers fell.

Despite the absence of a functional sprinkler system for floors 1-20, NIST claims that after roughly 1:00 PM, there was no photographic or videographic evidence of fires anywhere above the 14th floor. Prior to 1:00 PM, there had been photographic evidence of a fire on the 19th floor, but this fire died out for reasons that NIST was unable to explain (see NIST NCSTAR 1-9, page 78).

One might reasonably ask: if a fire (the one on the 19th floor) which was large enough to be captured by camera could die out despite the absence of a sprinkler system, why isn’t the same scenario possible in relation to other floors below the 21st storey – the floors where the sprinkler system was not operative? Moreover, if fires allegedly were burning out of control on 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13 for seven hours – in part, presumably, because of the absence of a working sprinkler system – then why didn’t these fires spread to floors 14 through 20?

NIST had stated there was no evidence of fires – once they started -- migrating from one floor to another … either upwards or downwards. However, as far as I have been able to determine, NIST provides no evidentially based explanation for why this would have been the case.

In other words, NIST, by its own admission, doesn’t really know how any of the fires in Building 7 started. It doesn’t know why a fire on the 19th floor appeared to die out despite the absence of a sprinkler system. NIST doesn’t seem to know why fires failed to spread from one floor to another. Moreover, the only photographic evidence that NIST has of fires in relation to floors below the 14th floor comes after 2:00 PM.

Yet, NIST claims that fires were burning out of control for seven hours in Building 7. Why should anyone accept such a claim?

There is a further mystery concerning fires in Building 7. Earlier I noted that in one of its reports (NIST NCSTAR 1-9, 2008), NIST had described (pages 298-299) the account of a security officer who had tried to put out a fire on the 7th floor but was unable to do so.

The account given by NIST with respect to the security officer also describes how that individual had been searching various parts of the upper floors of Building 7 for people who might still be in the building after the fall of the South Tower. While engaged in his search, the security officer reports that the building shook with the fall of the North Tower, but the security officer’s account gives no indication that the building was being hit by debris from the North Tower as he was descending the building – and remember, NIST has tried to indicate that the force which knocked out the sixth floor landing on the back side of Building 7 that trapped Barry Jennings and Michael Hess (the side furthest away from the falling North Tower but the same side as the security officer was on) was a function of debris from the falling North Tower.

The security officer indicates that he continued his descent down the stairs. When he reached the 23rd floor, he checked to see if anyone was present on the floor and reports that the floor was filled with smoke.

The 23rd floor housed the Office of Emergency Management for New York City. This is the office to which Barry Jennings and Michael Hess had come in order to meet up with Mayor Giuliani but found no one there.

The office was specially constructed. Among other things, the windows were supposedly blast proof and bullet proof.

One wonders, therefore, what started the fire on the 23rd floor that was creating the smoke seen by the security officer when he checked for the possible presence of personnel on the floor. One might reasonably have assumed that if the specially reinforced floor was blast proof that it would have been able to withstand the assault of falling debris – and one might keep in mind that in the NIST account the security officer gave no indication of there being any such impacts -- and if the 23rd floor was able to survive being hit by falling debris and if all fires in Building 7 were only started by falling debris from the North Tower, then there is an unanswered question concerning the origins of the possible fires on the 23rd floor that were generating the smoke which filled that floor and which allegedly was witnessed by the security officer.

One might also note in passing, that the NIST account of the security officer’s experience on 9/11 with respect to Building 7 does not give expression to any indication that the sprinkler system was operating on the 23rd floor despite the fact that the floor was filled with smoke suggesting that some where on the floor there was enough of a fire to generate such smoke. In addition, the NIST account of the security officer’s odyssey does not provide any indication that the 23rd floor had been destroyed – either partially or extensively -- by falling debris from the North Tower.


There is nothing in the NIST report, except assumption, that supports the idea that fires were burning out of control on floors 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13 for seven hours.  There is no photographic evidence to support such an idea – and, in fact, much of the photographic evidence indicates that most of the fires in Building 7 did not appear until a little before mid-afternoon and that they were of limited duration. Furthermore, there is no reliable eyewitness testimony capable of demonstrating that any fires in Building 7 lasted for seven hours … or even two or three hours.

NIST created theoretical models for fuel loads to support the idea that on a number of the floors in Building 7 where the fires were supposedly raging for extended periods of time, there would have been a sufficient amount of fuel to be able to maintain fires for seven hours at high levels of thermal intensity. Those fuel load models were rooted in a variety of arbitrary assumptions about what was the case with respect to the amount of combustible materials in the work-a-day business world of the companies and organizations (for example, American Express and the Security and Exchange Commission) where NIST believed the fires had raged for some 7 hours.

In the NIST NCSTAR 1-9 report released in August of 2008 that invited public comment, NIST claims that American Express managers indicated that the amount of combustible material in their southwest section of the 13th floor was ‘high’.

According to NIST, those managers said that there was a “no clean desk” policy in play at the time, and as a result, files and folders might be found out in the open – on desks, book cases, cabinet tops, and the like.

In its final report on Building 7 released in November 2008, NIST changed the foregoing. In the later report NIST indicated that managers from the SEC – not American Express -- had told NIST that the amount of combustible material on the 12th and 13th floors was described as high. American Express occupied only one sector on the 13th floor, and the SEC occupied the rest of the floor space on 12 and 13.

The term “high” is not a quantitative or an exact term. It is a qualitative estimate made by people who do not think in terms of fuel load or, for that matter, who do not necessarily have much of an idea of what things might be like in other companies and organizations in Building 7.

Does ‘high’ mean relative to everybody else in the building? If so, one still really doesn’t know what ‘high’ means until one establishes what the amount of combustibles are for other floors of Building 7, and one is able to verify that, yes, the amount of combustibles on such floors is ‘high’ relative to the number of combustibles on other floors.

Does ‘high’ mean relative to what is the case at other times of the year in the offices on a given floor? If so, one still would need to establish some sort of bench mark for the rest of the year against one can measure the amount of combustibles and, thereby, lend some sort of sense to what the term ‘high’ might mean.

Even if one accepts the descriptor ‘high’, this says nothing about the distribution of the material across the floors. Were some offices worst than others? Were some areas relatively free of such combustibles? Was the amount of combustibles pretty consistent across the floors? If fires started in one section of such a floor, would the fire necessarily have a consistently high-density pathway of combustibles to enable the fire to migrate across the floor, or is it possible that there were areas of the floor which despite the overall average fuel load for the floor might, nonetheless, still have helped to prevent the fire from migrating very far? What if a fire started in an area that did not have a high-density fuel load? After all, it really doesn’t make any difference what the average fuel load for a floor is if the place where a fire starts is significantly below that average and, therefore, incapable of enabling a fire that will sweep across the floor.

NIST came up with an average fuel load of 32kg/m2 to give quantitative expression to the qualitative descriptor ‘high’. This estimate was more than half again higher than the fuel load average (20kg/m2) that NIST had invented for the Twin Towers.

The foregoing fuel load estimate for the 12th and 13th floors of Building 7 is completely arbitrary. There are several points that can be made to indicate just how arbitrary the NIST figure is in relation to the 12th and 13th floors of Building 7.

First, NIST set the fuel load figure for floors 7 and 8 of Building 7 as equal to the fuel load average for the floors in the Twin Towers – namely, 20kg/m2. NIST did this despite the fact that American Express occupied the 7th and 8th floors of Building 7 – as well as the southwest sector of the 13th floor – and had a ‘no clean desk policy’ just as SEC did. Yet, in the latter case, NIST came up with a figure of 32kg/m2 with no real evidential basis for arriving at a figure that was more than half again as large as the estimate for the American Express offices in Building 7, whereas in the case of American Express NIST used a much lower figure despite the presence of a “no clean desk” policy similar to that of SEC.

Secondly, on page 376 of NIST NCSTAR 1-9, NIST stated: “The density of combustibles on the 13th floor was varied and not well known. The average value was assumed to be the same as the 12th floor.” In other words, with little or no evidence to back up its contention, NIST made a wholly arbitrary assumption concerning the nature of the fuel load figure for the 13th floor.

In fact, one could argue that the estimates of fuel load for the 13th floor of Building 7 which was made by NIST is not just arbitrary but completely misleading – and, possibly, deliberately so. More specifically, on pages 56 and 57 of NIST NCSTAR 1-9, there is a description of the 13th floor which talks about a variety of testimony rooms that occupied considerable space on the floor that “were sparsely furnished, with just a table and a few chairs.” Furthermore, by its own admission (noted earlier), NIST indicates that it does not know much about the amount of combustible materials on the 13th floor.

On what basis, therefore, can NIST make the assumption that the fuel load for the 13th floor of Building 7 would have been the same as the fuel load for the 12th floor? Indeed, in light of its own previously noted description of the 13th floor, there really is no basis whatsoever for making such a high estimate with respect to the fuel load for the 13th floor, and, as a result, the very most that one can say for the NIST process for estimating fuel loads on both the 12th and 13th floors is that it was highly arbitrary, misleading, and, maybe, just wrong.

The process of making assumptions and estimates is a part of science. However, such a process is not very scientific or rigorous when the assumptions and estimates that are made are, more or less, pulled out of a hat because of their completely arbitrary nature and because they have been selected in order to help bolster the theory one is pushing.

Consequently, when NIST makes statements such as: “In the computation, the fire on the 12th floor, and thus the derivative fires on the 11th and 13th floors, generated significantly higher more heat than the fire on the 7th and 8th floor. This was in large part due to the higher fuel load in the simulations.” (NIST NCSTAR 1-9, page 386), one has no reason for supposing that such simulations accurately reflect what may have gone on in Building 7 on 9/11. In fact, unless NIST can provide substantial independent evidence that its simulations accurately reflect the conditions in Building 7 on 9/11, there really is no reason for accepting such simulations as having anything of value to say … they are just arbitrary simulations with no proven evidential connection to actual events in Building 7.

It would be like trying to say that because one has established that two plus three is five, therefore we are entitled to say that the value of pi is ‘x’. One really has nothing to do with the other, and when one begins to throw around totally arbitrary and unwarranted assumptions and estimates as NIST does in the foregoing, then the simulations that are rooted in such an arbitrary process really have little, or nothing, to do with accurately informing the public about the actual character of that which the model purports to model.


When a lot of fuel is available in one place, fires tend to burn slowly and might be capable of pushing temperatures up. When there is not much fuel available, fires tend to move – to the extent they move at all rather than die out -- from place to place rather quickly and with much lower thermal intensity as long as there is sufficient fuel available to permit the fire to migrate.

The photographic evidence in relation to Building 7 tends to indicate that whatever fires were visible from mid-afternoon onward were relatively fast moving and not long lasting. NIST ran some fire flow computer simulations which suggested that fires were longer lasting and traveled less quickly than the photographic evidence indicated, and, therefore, such fires might be able to account for the sort of sustained elevated temperature that would be necessary to support the idea of thermal expansion weakening certain structural portions of Building 7.

The problem with the foregoing computer simulation is that they don’t reflect the available physical evidence. NIST admits as much in NIST NCSTAR 1-9, on pages 382-383, when it describes how the computer simulations it ran for floors 11, 12, and 13 ran longer than is suggested by any of the photographic/visual evidence.

When simulations don’t reflect physical evidence, this is an indication that one must rework the model. Until a model is capable of accurately reflecting the physical events it is supposed to be modeling, then, the model is problematic, and NIST was never able to come up with a computer simulation that accurately reflected what was going on physically – based on photographic and eye witness reports -- in Building 7.

The computer simulation models devised by NIST might have been bedeviled by overestimations of fuel load on the various floors, and, as previously discussed there is considerable evidence to indicate this may have been the case. Those same simulation models might also have been betrayed through problematic assumptions concerning: where fires allegedly started, or how they started, or when they started, or what the fuel-load conditions were like in the spots where such fires started, or how fuel-loads were distributed across a given floor and, therefore, capable of shaping the way in which fires would migrate (if they did so at all) across any given floor.

NIST adopts a different point of view however with respect to its disconnect between actual physical evidence and the computer simulations it created to model such physical evidence. More specifically, NIST claims: “The observed fire activity gleaned from the photographs and videos was not a model input, and thus one would not expect a perfect correspondence between predicted high temperatures and observed fire activity,” (NIST NCSTAR 1-9, page 378).

This is like claiming that reality is at fault for not reflecting the predictions of the computer simulation. The computer simulation predicts high temperatures in its description of the spread of the fires, but the photographic evidence suggests that such high temperatures would not have been present, therefore, according to NIST one shouldn’t hold the computer simulation accountable for its failure to model reality … and, indeed, according to NIST, one would expect as much, since reality was not part of (i.e., it was not a model input for) the computer simulation’s structural character.

For example, according to a simulation study conducted by NIST, temperatures in the northeast section of the 12th floor were predicted to have been in the range of between 500 and 1000° C. around 5:00 PM.  Yet, according to NIST’s own admission, photographic evidence indicates that the fire on 12 had burned out by 4:45 PM.

There is additional photographic evidence that is inconsistent with the NIST simulation study for the 12th floor. Photographs taken just before 3:00 PM, as well as approximately thirteen minutes past 3:00 PM, indicate that the northeast section of that floor showed no indication of the presence of a fire – perhaps, having burned out at some earlier, undetermined time. Moreover, a photograph taken just before 4:00 PM indicates that the only remaining area of fire on 12 was in the northwest corner of Building 7. Finally, none of the photographs of Building 7 show a fire on the north side of the 13th floor at this time.

The 12th and 13th floors are two of the floors with respect to which NIST claimed that out of control fires of high intensity had been raging for seven hours. Yet, the aforementioned photographic evidence does not really support either the claim by NIST or its fire simulation study of with respect to the alleged existence of high-intensity, seven-hour fires on the 12th and 13th floors.

The absence of any fire in the northeast section of the 12th and 13th floors involves more than just another demonstration that there is a substantial disconnect between the simulation models used by NIST and the actual character of physical evidence for Building 7. The northeast section of Building 7 is where steel column 79 is located, and that beam is at the heart of the theory being promulgated by NIST since long-lasting fires of high intensity were supposed to have weakened horizontal beams and floor slabs connected to 79 through a process of thermal expansion and thermal weakening which, in turn, led to the buckling of Column 79, the failure of several floors, and, eventually, the progressive collapse of Building 7.

Unfortunately, for the NIST theory, the photographic evidence does not really provide very much, if any, evidence, to indicate that fires were either long-lasting or of high-intensity with respect to the critical northeast section of Building 7 … critical, that is, for the theory being advanced by NIST.

NIST also attempted to use the uncertainties inherent in the idea of a margin of error to bolster its case. In other words, NIST decided to consider three cases in relation to the fires that occurred in Building 7.

A middle case was based on the actual computations generated through its use of it Fire Dynamics Simulator. However, since the NIST engineers decided that the fires could have been, within a margin of error of 10 degrees, either slightly hotter than their FDS indicated or slightly cooler than its simulation indicated, they decided to use Case B – the one which was slightly hotter – as the source of computations for calculating what supposedly went on Building 7.

The choice of Case B was entirely arbitrary and there were absolutely no evidential considerations to indicate that Case B ought to be the scenario of choice. After all, what does it say about the confidence one has in the quality and accuracy of its Fire Dynamics Simulator to say that NIST is going to reject the results that are generated through that process and arbitrarily add 10 degrees to the temperatures that are predicted by the simulation model.

Earlier, I indicated that the simulations produced by the FDS process that were used by NIST did not even remotely reflect the photographic evidence concerning conditions in Building 7 on 9/11. If anything, the actual physical evidence indicates that both the duration and intensity of fires in the simulation model should be significantly lowered, and, yet, NIST believes that because of margin of error uncertainties, it is entitled to, arbitrarily – that is, without evidential support – increase the predicted temperature of fire intensity by 10 degrees.

When arbitrary choices concerning margins of errors are added to arbitrary assumptions about the start, spread, duration and intensity of fires, then one tends to end up with nothing but arbitrariness. Arbitrariness in a characteristic of junk science; arbitrariness is not a characteristic of real science, and in fact, the more arbitrary one’s investigation is, then, the more distant from truth and reality will one likely journey.

There is an old adage in computer science that states: “Garbage in!  Garbage Out.” Apparently, some of the people at NIST are not very familiar with the concept for they often became trapped in the problems entailed by such a maxim.

According to NIST, a combination of thermal expansion and thermal weakening of various horizontal beams and floor slabs led to the rise of a set of forces that came to bear on Column 79, and this set of forces eventually caused that column to fail and, thereby, initiated a progressive collapse of Building 7. Thermal expansion occurs at temperatures in the vicinity of 400° C (750° F.), while thermal weakening takes place at temperatures above 500° C. (931° F.)

What evidence does NIST have that temperatures necessary for either thermal expansion or thermal weakening would have been present in Building 7 on 9/11? The answer is none because at no point did NIST actually examine any physical specimens – i.e., in the form of steel beams -- from Building 7 even though such data did exist as a result of some metallurgical studies conducted at Worcester Polytechnic Institute by Jonathan Barnett, Ronald Biederman, and Richard Sisson, Jr. in conjunction with beam material from both the World Trade Towers and Building 7.

The entire theory of NIST concerning thermal expansion and thermal weakening is rooted in speculation. This is not because such things as thermal expansion and thermal weakening do not occur, but, rather, this is because the NIST theory consists largely of arbitrary: assumptions, calculations and simulated models about what was going on in Building 7, and, therefore, is basically conjecture and speculation unsupported by actual physical data.

NIST claims on page 53 of NCSTAR 1A that temperatures of certain areas of the beams supporting the 8th, 12th, 13th, and 14th floor exceeded 600° C. What is this claim based on? It is based on results from its Fire Dynamics Simulator.

What is the FDS based on? The FDS is based on a variety of arbitrary assumptions made with respect to: when fires started, where fires started, what the fuel load of a floor was, how long such fires lasted, how hot those fires became, and for how long such temperatures were sustained.

Was there any physical evidence to support such assumptions? No!

Was there any photographic evidence to support such assumptions? No!

Was there any eyewitness testimony to support such assumptions? No!

On pages 395 and 396, of NIST NCSTAR 1-9, NIST claims that the temperatures of many the northeast corner floor beams were above 675° C., or 1,250° F. and that many of the floor beams in the southeast half of the 13th floor reached more than 600° and were sustained at that temperature for more than an hour.

Earlier it was pointed out that NIST, by its own admission, did not know what the fuel density or fuel distribution was on the 13th floor. Now, however, NIST is claiming that temperatures of 600° C, or more, would have been reached and sustained for more than an hour on that floor.

Furthermore, photographic evidence – which, again, is supplied and discussed by NIST (and which I have cited previously) – does not support the theory being advanced by NIST that the northeast corner floor beams were likely to have reached close to the temperatures – and temperature duration -- claimed by NIST.

Everything which NIST is claiming in the foregoing is based on a plethora of arbitrary assumptions about: when and where fires started, what the fuel load for floors were, how long fires burned and at what intensities. NIST set up a simulation based on such arbitrary assumptions and seeks to claim that this sort of arbitrary process does, indeed, represent an accurate record of what took place on 9/11 in Building 7 – in fact, the simulation is so accurate that NIST is prepared to resort to the uncertainties inherent in the margins of errors surrounding its simulation to arbitrarily increase temperatures by 10 degrees.

There is not one piece of data in the NIST estimation of temperatures that is tied to the actual examination of a steel beam from Building 7. At least, if NIST had undertaken a metallurgic examination of actual steel beams drawn from Building 7, then they might have some data capable of supporting the idea that the temperatures being thrown around by NIST have some degree of rootedness in something other than arbitrary assumptions. But, sadly, this is not the case.

Could what NIST is claiming be true? If one is talking in terms of the realms of physical possibility, then, yes, what NIST is claiming might be true.

However, to say that something is possible does not make that something either plausible or probable. Plausibility and probability require much more in the way of hard evidence than NIST has to offer in conjunction with Building 7.

Yet, NIST wants readers to believe that whatever is possible is, automatically, also plausible and probable. This is not a very credible way of proceeding – especially when NIST has offered little in the way of hard evidence that would incline someone to accept their ‘possibility’ as something more rigorous and evidentially grounded than is the case.

In fact, even the photographic evidence that NIST puts forward to support its theoretical position actually doesn’t accomplish what NIST believes it does. Indeed, the photographic evidence actually tends to undermine the theory being promulgated by NIST.

In 2007, at a meeting of the National Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee, Shyam Sunder of NIST indicated in response to a question that one needed to keep in mind that it was not just the movement of fires or the duration of fires in any one spot that was critical to consider, but, rather, one had to understand that as the fires moved from spot to spot, the air temperature would continue to rise.

Of course, Sunder is assuming in the foregoing scenario that little, or no, heat was lost as the fires were moving from place to place. However, there only would have been little or no heat loss if the building were airtight and if no heat were transferred to other parts of the building, neither of which was true in relation to Building 7.  Because the building was not airtight and because of the heat sink properties of the building, heat would have escaped or been transferred away through walls (especially if there were holes in them due to falling debris from the North Tower), ceilings, floors, windows (especially if they were broken), and down elevator shafts.

Furthermore, if the building had been airtight, then whatever fires were burning on those floors would soon deplete the available air and become oxygen-starved fires. Such fires would either be very low-intensity fires producing more smoke than thermal intensity or they would have burned out altogether.

NIST also argues that heat would have been trapped by the insulation that was protecting the vertical and horizontal beams, as well as the floor panels. According to NIST, such trapped heat in conjunction with the rise of air temperatures could have brought about the sort of high-intensity temperatures that were cited earlier.

However, assumptions are being made in the foregoing about how: insulation, the amount of heat trapped by insulation, and heat transfer (or escape) would have interacted with one another at different locations across any given floor. Not only does insulation offer some degree of retardant protection to the steel that it covers, but whatever amount of heat may be trapped by the insulation (and there is a limit to just how much heat any given amount of insulation can trap), this heat is likely going to be radiated away within what is a very substantial heat sink (i.e., the structural character of the building) and, therefore, heat would not necessarily have the opportunity to increase the temperatures of either floors or ceilings to the degree that NIST needs for its theory to work.

The final report from NIST on Building 7 said on page 617 that: “Fires for the range of combustible contents in WTC 7 – 20kg/m2 on floors 7 to 9b and 32kg/m2 on Floors 11 to 13 – persisted in any given location for approximately 20 min to 30 min.” Elsewhere in the same report (pages 589 and 597), however, NIST indicated that 3 ½ hours “was not sufficient to cause an initiating event that would have led to global collapse.”

Thus, one of the challenges that NIST faces is to be able to plausibly connect the issue of fuel density to the idea of sustained high-intensity temperatures of more than 3 ½ hours. Unfortunately, other than in arbitrarily constructed computer simulations that are at odds with what could be demonstrated through actual physical evidence with respect to the conditions in Building 7 on 9/11, NIST cannot show in any rigorous, non-arbitrary fashion that the fuel loads it has assumed to have existed in Building 7 on 9/11 would likely, if not probably, have created fires that produced long-lasting high-intensity fires for more than 3 ½ hours in relation to either Column 79 or any of the horizontal structures connected to, or in the vicinity of, that column that plausibly would have given rise to the sort of necessary stresses that would led, first, to the failure of column 79, the failure of which would, in turn, have initiated a progressive global collapse of Building 7.


NIST accounts for the fall of Building 7 in the following manner: “Fire-induced thermal expansion of the floor system surrounding Column 79 led to the collapse of Floor 13, which triggered a cascade of floor failures. In this case, the floor beams on the east side of the building expanded enough that they pushed the girder spanning between columns 79 and 44 to the west on the 13th floor.” (p. 22 NIST NCSTAR 1-9) A short while later, the NIST report continues with: “This movement was enough for the girder to walk off of its support at Column 79. The unsupported girder and other local fire-induced damage caused Floor 13 to collapse.”

As was pointed out earlier, Floor 13 is a location for which NIST allegedly did not have much information with respect to the nature of its fuel load (i.e., combustible materials). Arbitrarily, NIST set the fuel load of the 13th floor equal to that of the 12th floor – namely, 32kg/m2.

Furthermore, as I noted previously: “Photographs taken just before 3:00 PM, as well as approximately thirteen minutes past 3:00 PM, indicate that the northeast section of that floor showed no indication of the presence of a fire – perhaps, having burned out at some earlier, undetermined time. Moreover, a photograph taken just before 4:00 PM indicates that the only remaining area of fire on 12 was in the northwest corner of Building 7. Finally, none of the photographs of Building 7 show a fire on the north side of the 13th floor at this time.”

In other words, the NIST theory concerning the failure of the 13th floor is a house of cards. There is absolutely no physical or photographic evidence to indicate that what NIST claims took place in relation to the 13th floor actually took place – especially in conjunction with the northeast sector of that floor.

Column 79 is of crucial importance to NIST because NIST wants to be able to account for several features of the fall of Building 7 that were captured on video and which occurred just before the demise of the structure. According to NIST: “Due to the buckling of Column 79 between floors 5 and 14, the upper section of Column 79 began to descend. The downward movement of Column 79 led to the observed kink in the east penthouse and its subsequent descent.”  (NIST NCSTAR 1-9, pages 22-23)

In a sense, the theory that NIST puts forward is an attempt to account for visible, hard evidence – namely, the video recording that showed the east penthouse of Building 7 beginning to descend prior to the fall of Building 7. Working backward from the video evidence, NIST developed a theory that purported to account for such evidence.

The problem with the foregoing, however, is that NIST has no evidence to support such a theory. Operating on a double standard, NIST wants to take credit for coming up with a theory that might account for the observed behavior of the east penthouse of Building 7 prior the structure’s destruction, and, yet, NIST doesn’t want to be held accountable for the fact that it has produced no physical evidence which is capable of supporting such a theory … in fact, the photographic evidence argues against the theory which NIST is espousing.

NIST has no evidence to prove: when fires started, where they started, how they started, how long they lasted, where they migrated, how intensely they burned, or how much thermal weakening and/or thermal expansion of structural components went on, if any, in relation to those fires. NIST has taken photographic evidence and made interpolations and extrapolations of that data that are entirely arbitrary (since there is no evidence to lend credence to such interpolations and extrapolations) in an attempt to support its Column 79 /13th floor theory.

If things did not occur as NIST claims is the case with respect to its Column 79/13th floor theory, then NIST has no explanation for why a the east penthouse began to descend when it did just before Building 7 fell. If this is the case, then NIST really has no explanation for why Building 7 fell.

According to NIST: “The cascading failures of the lower floors surrounding Column 79 led to increased unsupported length in, falling debris, impact on, and loads being re-distributed to adjacent columns, and Column 80 and then column 81 buckled as well. All the floors connections to these three columns, as well as to the exterior columns failed, and the floors fell on the east side of the building. The exterior façade on the east quarter of the building was just a hollow shell. “ (p. 23, NIST NCSTAR 1-9). The foregoing quote is stated as an assertion, but, in reality, it is a completely hypothetical network of ideas.

Archimedes is once reported to have said with respect to the physical principle underlying the capacity of a lever to move objects: “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” The statement has a hidden presupposition in as much as having the right place to stand would not be enough to enable someone to move the Earth. One also would need a lever of the right length and, as well, one would need to be able to establish an appropriate fulcrum point through which to leverage the Earth’s movement.

The theory that NIST is putting forth in relation to Building 7 is akin to what Archimedes promised. The only difference is that not only does NIST possess no solid ground on which to stand but, as well, it has no lever or fulcrum through which to move its theory any credible amount of distance.

NIST has no evidence to support its claim that the reason why the east penthouse began to descend was because of what NIST claimed happened in its theory of the fall of Building 7. NIST has no evidence to support its claim that Columns 79, 80, and 81 buckled as a result of forces set in motion by thermal expansion and thermal weakening in and around those columns. NIST has no evidence to prove that “all the floor connections to these three columns, as well as the exterior columns failed.”

What NIST has done is to: invent a hypothetical place to stand, create a hypothetical lever mechanism, and imagine a hypothetical fulcrum point through nothing but creative imagination. More specifically, (1) if fires started at a certain time (shortly after 10:28 AM), and (2) if fires lasted for longer than 3 ½ hours, and (3) if the fuel-load on the 13th floor were 32 kg/m2 (for which NIST had absolutely no evidence), and (4) if the fires reached a sustained temperature of 400° C. for a sufficiently long enough period of time in order for thermal expansion to occur (for which NIST has no evidence), and (5) if thermal expansion gave rise to certain forces which came to bear upon Column 79 (for which NIST has no evidence), and (6) if the fires reached a sustained temperature of 500° C. for a sufficiently long enough period of time in order for a certain kind of thermal weakening to take place (for which NIST has no evidence),  and (7) if such thermal weakening caused certain kinds of damage (for which NIST has no evidence), and (8) if columns 79, 80, 81 and related floors failed in the way NIST believes occurred (for which NIST has no evidence), and (9) if the failure of Columns 79, 80 and 81 led to the failures of Columns 76, 77, and 78 in the way NIST believes is the case (for which NIST has no evidence), and (10) if the foregoing collective failures could have led to a progressive global collapse (for which NIST has no evidence), then, QED, NIST has an explanation for the fall of Building 7. All one has to do is permit NIST to assume its way to such a conclusion without any independent evidence being required to warrant such assumptions.

One can prove or demonstrate virtually anything if one is permitted to derive one’s conclusion through purely hypothetical constructs. In fact, this is what NIST did. It showed that when one constructed a hypothetical construct with the right set of properties, then certain things might happen.

NIST showed that its virtual model had the potential to lead to certain conclusions if one granted NIST all of its many unwarranted assumptions. What NIST did not show, demonstrate, or prove – due to a complete lack of evidence -- is that its simulations and virtual models reflected what actually went on in Building 7 on 9/11.

Some people might want to argue that NIST has demonstrated a sort of  ‘proof of concept’ with respect to Building 7. In other words, what NIST had done is to show that Building 7 could have fallen in the way NIST claims, if certain conditions had existed in that structure on 9/11.

However, I could just as easily say that if someone gave me a million dollars, I would be a millionaire. Presumably, by stating the condition under which I might become a millionaire, I have established a ‘proof of concept’ with respect to the underlying hypothesis.

Nonetheless, unless I can demonstrate that those conditions are likely to be satisfied, then, in truth, I have demonstrated nothing at all with respect to the real world and my being a millionaire. Similarly, unless NIST can demonstrate that the conditions it needs to be fulfilled for its hypothetical framework to become a reality were, in fact, present in Building 7 on 9/11, then, NIST has shown, proved, and demonstrated nothing at all., and NIST has not been able to do this.

Alternatively, someone might wish to ask:  if the NIST theory is not true, then, what did cause Building 7 to fall on 9/11. The implication of the foregoing question is that if one cannot come up with a plausible alternative hypothesis, then, by default, one should stick with the one that NIST proposes.

This sort of approach to things is somewhat akin to the following example. If a person,  ‘B’, proves that someone -- say: ‘C’ -- did not kill a given individual, ‘A’, then, unless B can prove who actually did kill A, then, one must continue to suppose that C is the killer.

By showing that a culprit – namely, Column 79/13th floor – has not been proven by NIST (due to lack of evidence) to: have brought about the fall of Building 7, one is under no obligation to continue to support such a contention merely because one doesn’t know what actually did cause Building 7 to fall – in fact, this is one of the reasons why the investigation into various facets of 9/11 needs to be re-opened since a plausible explanation for the fall of Building 7 has not been established. Yet, in effect, NIST is arguing that there is no need for further inquiry because even though its own theory actually fails at almost every point, nonetheless, in the absence of any other proven candidates, one, nevertheless, should stick with what NIST has proposed … and such an argument makes absolutely no sense.

In its investigation into the Twin Towers, NIST found that only three of the columns it examined showed any indication of having reached -- even temporarily, let alone having shown evidence of sustained thermal intensity -- temperatures of approximately 250° C. or 482° F. Most importantly, the foregoing finding was in relation to having studied actual steel beam material from the Twin Towers.

In relation to Building 7, NIST examined no actual structural material form that building. Yet, it concluded that temperatures in Building 7 reached – for sustained periods of time – between 400° and 500° C.

However, NIST failed to examine any actual structural components from Building 7 to be able to support its conclusion concerning thermal intensity. Moreover, none of the photographic or eye-witness testimony produced by NIST was capable of lending any credence to its claims concerning the level of thermal intensity which NIST alleged had been reached in Building 7 for sustained periods of time – that is, between 3 ½ and 7 hours.


When members of NIST are reminded by critics that steel-framed buildings such as: One Meridian Plaza and First Interstate Bank did not collapse despite being consumed by fire for sustained periods of time and, yet, NIST is arguing that WTC 7 collapsed due to fires and how does one account for this oddity, NIST has responded along the following lines: “… the reason for the different outcomes likely lay in differences in the structural systems and in the details for how the steel frames were constructed. “ (p. 341, NIST NCSTAR 1-9 Draft) The phrase “differences in the structural systems and in the details for how the steel frames were constructed” is an allusion to the claim of NIST that shear studs had not been used to connect girders to floor slabs in Building 7, whereas they probably were used in conjunction with the steel-framed buildings that had been consumed with fire and, yet, had remained standing.

According to NIST, if shear studs had been present to connect girders to the floors, then the presence of thermal expansion would not likely have led to the problems of failed columns and floors that NIST believed occurred in Building 7 on 9/11. NIST contends that when floor beams expanded and brought about the failure of shear studs and, this, in turn caused girders and floor slabs to become disconnected from the critical Column 79, then a key ingredient that helped to maintain the structural integrity of the building was lost.

There are a number of problems that arise in conjunction with the foregoing perspective. First, with respect to the steel-framed buildings that were able to remain standing despite being consumed by fire, NIST admits that at least one of those buildings did not have shear studs that connected the girders to the columns and, yet, the building remained standing. Consequently, one cannot necessarily argue that if a steel-framed high-rise does not have shear studs, it will collapse.

Secondly, the steel-framed buildings that remained standing despite the presence of sustained fires were all different from WTC 7 in a very important way. There is no proof that WTC 7 was ever consumed by fire or consumed by fire for any sustained period of time, and, yet, despite the lack of proof concerning such fires in conjunction with Building 7, the latter structure fell while the other buildings that did have proven long-lasting fires of high thermal intensity did not come down.

Thirdly, even if one were to concede the point – which I don’t – that the reason why Building 7 fell is, in large part, due to the absence of shear studs, NIST has failed to demonstrate a necessary component of the related theory. More specifically, NIST has not shown that a temperature of 400° C. was ever reached, or ever reached for a sustained period of time, in Building 7 on 9/11 in conjunction with Column 79 and associated horizontal girder and floor connections.

Of course, at one point, NIST claims that: “The first failures observed were of the shear studs, which were produced by axial expansion of the floor beams, and which began to occur at [the] fairly low temperature of 103° C.” (p. 352, NIST NCSTAR 1-9) If sheer studs fail at such a low temperature, then why did NIST indicate elsewhere that differential thermal expansion – one of the primary culprits cited by NIST in its theory -- requires that temperatures of 400° C. be reached and sustained?

One possibility, of course, is that while it may be true that a few shear studs might fail at the lower temperature – perhaps due to imperfections introduced during the time of manufacture (and provided that temperature was sustained for a sufficiently long period of time) -- the vast majority of shear studs are likely to hold until one reaches the 400° C. mark, and, then, only if the latter temperature is sustained over a period of time. To say that shear studs fail at 103° C. is misleading and inconsistent with the bench mark that NIST itself established with respect to the temperature that must be reached for a sustained period of time – namely, 400° C. – in order for thermal expansion to occur … which, according to NIST, is one of the primary culprits (along with thermal weakening) indicated in the alleged failure of shear studs.

On the other hand, David Proe, a research fellow at the Centre for Environmental and Risk Engineering at Victoria University in Melbourne, disputed the statement by NIST that claimed shear studs would fail at temperatures as low as 103° C. He informed NIST that he had never witnessed such a phenomenon during his research and inquired about the underlying physical mechanism.

Apparently, NIST did not respond to Proe’ inquiry. In fact, as far as I have been able to determine, NIST does not provide any explanation in its reports concerning Building 7 as to why some shear studs might fail at low temperatures while others only fail at a much higher temperature.

Fourthly, in an interim report on WTC 7 which was issued in 2004, NIST states: “Most of the beams and girders were made composite with the slabs through the use of shear studs” although “studs were not indicated on the design drawing for many of the core girders.” (L-6-7 of the Interim Report on WTC 7)

As independent researchers such as Chris Sarns have pointed out, the critical girder connecting Columns 79 and 44 is not a core girder but is part of the eastern section of Building 7 (the section beneath the penthouse that began to descend prior to the fall of Building 7). Therefore, according to the foregoing statement of NIST that is contained in its interim report on Building 7, the aforementioned girder would, in fact, have been connected to the floor slab by shear studs.

NIST contends that although girders were not connected to floor slabs by shear studs, nonetheless, steel floor beams were so connected. However, when thermal expansion caused the latter shear studs to break, then there was nothing to maintain lateral rigidity or structural integrity and, thereby, prevent columns from beginning to buckle.

Nevertheless, aside from contradicting itself with respect to the existence of shear studs in relation to non-core girders, the above position of NIST still presumes that fires with sustained temperatures of 400° C. were burning in the vicinity of Column 79 despite photographic evidence (previously cited) indicating otherwise. So, once again, NIST really has nothing more to support its theory other than assertion – namely, because NIST says this is the way it was in Building 7, then, this is the way it was … no evidence is needed.

In addition, even if one were to accept the contention of NIST that although girders were not connected to floor slabs by shear studs, steel floor beams were connected to the floor slabs by shear studs, one could raise the following question. How many of the 140, or so, shear studs connecting the five steel beams to the floor slabs would need to fail – and in what places and in what sequence -- before the floor would fail? I have not discovered an answer to this question in the NIST documents.

Fifthly, while NIST wishes to maintain that thermal expansion would cause shear studs to break, NIST doesn’t really offer any proof of this. NIST maintains that the differential thermal expansion between the steel beams and the concrete floor slabs will lead to the failure of the shear studs as a result of the torque forces that come to bear on the shear studs through that differential.

For the foregoing claim of NIST to be true, the linear expansion coefficient for steel and concrete would have to be substantially different.  However, the linear expansion coefficient for steel and concrete are, respectively, 1.24 and 1.20.

NIST has provided no evidence that such a small disparity in linear expansion coefficient for steel and concrete would lead to the kind of torque forces that would supposedly be generated by differential thermal expansion NIST claims is at the heart of its theory with respect to the failure of shear studs. When steel is exposed to heat it expands and so does the surrounding concrete that is being exposed to the same heat source. Indeed, reinforced concrete has structural integrity precisely because the steel and the concrete do have very similar linear expansion coefficients and, therefore, are not likely to be affected appreciably in a differential way with respect to temperature changes in the environment.

The fact of the matter is NIST admits that in relation to the simulations it ran, it heated steel beams without heating concrete floor slabs -- that is, NIST states: “No thermal expansion of material degradation was considered for the concrete slab as the slab was not heated in this analysis.” (p. 352, NIST NCSTAR 1-9)

How can one demonstrate that there would have been differential thermal expansion when one studies only one of two necessary components that are needed for the purposes of comparison? NIST heated the steel beams in its simulation, but NIST did not heat the concrete floor slabs, so whatever thermal expansion differential NIST claims to be present in such an analysis is purely an assumed one.


As was the case with the Twin Towers, NIST never actually accounts for why the fall of Building 7 occurred in the way that has been observed – namely, in a largely symmetrical fashion with elements of freefall. NIST claims that its “explanation” – if one can call it that – only extends to events surrounding the initiation that, supposedly, led to the alleged progressive global collapse of Building 7.  On pages 599-600 of NIST NCSTAR 1-9, NIST admits that: “Once simulation of the global collapse 0f WTC 7 was underway, there was a great increase in the uncertainty in the progression of the collapse sequence, due to the random nature of the interaction.” On page 44 of an earlier version (NIST NCSTAR 1A), of the aforementioned report (NIST NCSTAR 1-9) NIST makes the same point in the following language: “The simulations do show the formation of the kink, but any subsequent movement of the building is beyond the reliability of the physics of the model.”

The foregoing perspective of NIST is like someone claiming that they have developed a model which can predict who the first batter of a particular baseball game will be, but from there, the dynamics of the game fall outside the capacity of the physics programmed into the model and, therefore, since once one goes beyond the first person in the lineup stepping into the batter’s box, uncertainty rules the manner in which that game will progress. Could one say that what happened in the game followed from the initiating event – i.e., the first batter? Yes, one could, but being able to say this really does not provide any sort of credible explanation for what happened during the game or why the score ended up the way it did.

What impact did the first batter have on the rest of the game? One doesn’t know.

What impact did the alleged failure of column 79 have on the fall of Building 7? NIST doesn’t know but assumes – and by its own admission, NIST has no evidence to support its assumption -- that such a failure led to everything that was observed.

The problem facing NIST is actually worse than the foregoing baseball analogy suggests. The simulation model proposed by NIST with respect to Building 7 identifies what it believes is the initiating event for the fall of Building 7, but NIST doesn’t really even have a convincing case to put forth that its theory about such an initiating event is likely to have occurred.

To return to the baseball analogy, let us suppose that someone has a theory which predicts that Jacoby Ellsbury will lead off for the Red Sox at an away game with the Yankees. However, what happens to such a theory: if Ellsbury is injured prior to the game; or, the Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, decides that Ellsbury needs to rest a hamstring which has been acting up; or, Francona decides to drop Ellsbury down in the order to take some pressure off him that the manager believes has been adversely affecting Ellsbury offensive performance; or, Ellsbury comes down with food poisoning before the game begins; or, the game is postponed due to rain; or, the Yankees decide to forfeit the game in order to protest the fact that someone tried to bury a David Ortiz jersey in the new Yankee stadium when it was being constructed? There are many factors which might affect whether, or not, Ellsbury actually does lead off in the game against the Yankees.

Alternatively, what happens if the game does begin with Ellsbury leading off, but Ellsbury is hit by the first pitch and has to leave the game? What is the relationship between that event and the outcome of the game?

What if Ellsbury goes 0 for 5? What impact did that have on the rest of the game?

What if Ellsbury goes 3 for 5? What impact, if any, did that have on the rest of the game?

Given the foregoing considerations, why should one suppose that even if one were to concede – which I don’t -- that NIST had successfully identified the initial event that preceded the destruction of Building 7, then, therefore, such an initial event is actually what caused the building to fall? NIST was incorrect with respect to its first theory about the fall of Building 7, and, there is nothing that says NIST couldn’t be wrong with respect to its second theory about Building 7 … in fact, there is a great deal of evidence (much of which has been noted previously in this essay) to indicate that NIST is wrong with respect to its second theory about Building 7.

Maybe there are possibilities that NIST has not considered which might explain the fall of Building 7. Perhaps some of those alternative possibilities may have involved Column 79, in some fashion, so that although NIST could have been correct with respect to identifying the initial event in the destruction of Building 7 – which I don’t believe is the case -- nonetheless, NIST might be incorrect with respect to how Column 79 was connected to the actual character of the building’s destruction. Maybe some of the alternative possibilities have nothing to do with Column 79 and the 13th floor.

Unless NIST can demonstrate – through evidence and not assumption or assertion – that its Column 79/13th Floor theory is causally connected to the destruction of Building 7, then, the theory being put forth by NIST is not an explanation of much of anything other than that it gives expression to one possibility that might – and, I would emphasize the words: “one possibility” and “might” -- have taken place prior to the fall of Building 7.The connection which NIST claims exists between its Column 79/13th Floor theory and the fall of Building 7 is all a matter of assumption, and NIST acknowledges as much when it points out – as previously quoted – that explaining the character of the fall of Building 7 is really beyond the physics of its simulation model.

Despite the foregoing considerations, NIST has the audacity to say: ”Given the complexity of the modeled behavior, the global collapse analyses matched the observed behavior reasonably well,” and, then, proceeds to state: “The global collapse analysis confirmed the leading collapse hypothesis which was based on the available evidence.” (p. 44, NIST NCSTAR)

In what credible sense did the global collapse analysis of NIST confirm the leading collapse hypothesis? In what credible sense did the global collapse analysis of NIST match “the observed behavior [of Building 7] fairly well”?

The answer – although it is hardly credible -- to the foregoing two questions is actually the same in both cases. NIST believes that its ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ theory accounts for why a kink forms in the roof of Building 7 and for why the east penthouse began to descend prior to the fall of the rest of the building.

The ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ theory being propounded by NIST can account for nothing else – not the symmetry of the fall of Building 7, and not the freefall elements inherent in the destruction of Building 7, and not the missing mass in the debris pile, and not for the fact that seismic readings for the fall of Building 7 were not much different from background seismic activity for New York City. So, again, one might ask: How does the NIST theory revolving about the Column 79/13th Floor idea, reflect what was observed via video footage “fairly well”? Or, how does the NIST theory concerning ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ confirm “the leading collapse hypothesis” … especially when the leading collapse hypothesis is actually presupposed by the analysis that NIST did … so, in effect, the global analysis which NIST did is little more than an elaborate elaboration of what NIST believes would have had to have happened if its preliminary hypothesis is to be correct.

The computer simulation run by NIST is nothing more than its own hypothesis writ large. As such, the NIST analysis simulates nothing more than its own hypothesis and has little to do with reality in relation to Building 7.

In fact as has been pointed out previously, NIST cannot plausibly or convincingly demonstrate that its ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ theory is supported by evidence which shows that: fires would have started in Building 7 in the way NIST claims, or that the fuel loads on different floors would have been what NIST claimed they were, or that those fires would have migrated in the way NIST claims, or that those fires would have burned with the thermal intensity which NIST claims, or that such fires would have been sustained for even 3 ½ hours, let alone 7, hours as NIST claims, or that fires would have caused the sort of thermal expansion and thermal weakening in relation to Column 79 as NIST claims, or that the presence or absence of shear studs would be a deciding factor as NIST claims, or that shear studs would have failed in the way NIST claims.

The only thing that NIST has done is to come up with a theory – the ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ idea – that is consistent with what was observed in relation to some aspects of the roof of Building 7, but that theory is not consistent with anything else that was observed in conjunction with the destruction of Building 7. Moreover, there is nothing in the way of actual evidence that would indicate that the events which supposedly brought about the ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ scenario is rooted in anything more than a whole set of questionable assumptions that have been noted previously.


One glaring problem with the NIST ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ theory is that it cannot account for the largely symmetrical fall of Building 7. Everything in the NIST theory indicates that the fall of Building 7 should have been asymmetrical because Column 79 was beneath the east pent house which was observed to descend, somewhat, first, and, yet, after that, the fall was not asymmetrical but almost entirely symmetrical … from the roof line down.

Thus, rather than confirm the NIST theory, the observed symmetry in the fall of Building 7 disconfirms the ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ hypothesis. If that hypothesis had been true, then not only would one expect to see the observed kink and slight descent of the east pent house, but one also would have expected to see a cascading series of asymmetrical destruction that was set in motion by the initial asymmetry, but this is not what one observes.

NIST tries to obscure the manner in which its hypothesis is actually inconsistent with a major piece of observed data – namely, the issue of symmetry – by mentioning that too many dynamical uncertainties entered the picture following the failure of Column 79 and the 13th Floor and, therefore, such uncertainties were not capable of being handled by the physics programmed into its computer simulation. However, if there were so many dynamical uncertainties that entered the picture beyond the horizons of its ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ idea, then, why was the fall of Building 7 almost entirely symmetrical? How did all those uncertainties come together to generate a symmetrical fall?

NIST has no answer to any of the foregoing questions. In fact, the NIST ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ idea would have led to an asymmetrical fall of Building 7, and this did not occur, so either the theory being propounded by NIST is entirely wrong or that theory requires some sort of fundamental re-working because as it stands, it not only cannot account for what clearly has been observed to happen in relation to Building 7 by millions of people when it fell, but the NIST position would have predicted an entirely different, asymmetrical result.

Another glaring inconsistency between the NIST theory and what was observed to take place in relation to Building 7 concerns the issue of freefall.  In a technical briefing given on August 26, 2008 by Shyam Sunder of NIST, Sunder claimed there was no element of freefall during the descent of Building 7 and, then, said: ”… you had a sequence of structural failures that had to take place. Everything was not instantaneous.” A little before saying the foregoing, Sunder talked about the presence of “structural resistance” that would not be all that unusual during a progressive collapse such as Building 7 underwent.

In other words, there could not have been any element of freefall in the descent of Building 7 because the NIST theory required a sequence of column failures involving structural resistance (i.e., the principle of conservation of momentum in action). This meant that the fall of Building 7 could not have been instantaneous.

In effect, Sunder is implicitly acknowledging that if there had been any element of freefall in the descent of Building 7, then the NIST perspective would have been incorrect, but since Sunder is assuming that the progressive collapse thesis is correct, then, ipso facto, there cannot have been any element of freefall present in the descent of Building 7. In effect, Sunder is assuming his conclusions by saying that his theory precludes any possibility of freefall, and, therefore, by assuming that his theory is true, the element of freefall has been eliminated, in an a prior manner, from the discussion … at least, this is the case as far as Sunder is concerned.

In the NIST technical briefing, Sunder argued that the measurements made by NIST indicated that the building came down in a time that was roughly 40% longer than would have been the case if freefall had been in effect. David Chandler, a high school physics teacher, analyzed the analysis of NIST and indicated that NIST had made several mistakes.

Chandler pointed out that the first mistake committed by NIST was that it selected an arbitrary starting point for its measurement of the descent of Building 7, and by selecting such an arbitrary starting point, that choice made the actual descent of Building 7 seem longer by 1.5 seconds than actually was the case. The second mistake committed by NIST that was pointed out by Chandler is that NIST used an average acceleration figure to represent the rate of descent of Building 7 from the time used by NIST to mark the beginning of the descent (which is earlier than it should have been) until the roof line of the building disappeared.

Together, the two foregoing mistakes permitted Sunder and NIST to claim that the duration of the descent of Building 7 took 40% longer than would have been the case if any element of freefall had been present. By pointing out such errors, Chandler demonstrated that, in fact, elements of freefall were inherent in the descent of Building 7.

On page 607 of the final report by NIST on Building 7, NIST, once again, asserts that the duration of descent for the top 18 stories of Building 7 was 40 % longer than the presence of freefall would have required. However, NIST then goes on to say that, in point of fact, there was a: “freefall descent over approximately eight stories at gravitational acceleration for approximately 2.25” seconds.

NIST gives no explanation for the presence of such an element of freefall in the descent of Building 7. Undoubtedly, NIST might wish to argue that the hollow shell that NIST claimed had been created in relation to portions of floors 7 through 13 in the northeast sector of the building as a result of the failure or buckling of a number of columns in the vicinity of Column 79, could have created conditions of freefall for those 7, or so, stories. However, even if one were to concede that such a hollow shell existed beneath the northeast section of the building – and, there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that this was the case – such a concession would not explain why the entire set of eight floors (involving 24 interior columns, 58 perimeter columns, and numerous horizontal girders, steel beams, shear studs, and floor slabs) suddenly fell at freefall velocities rather than just the portion of the northeast section of the building that was alleged to be a “hollow shell”.

Finally, the ‘Column 79/13th Floor’ theory advocated by NIST cannot explain why the debris pile for Building 7 is only two stories tall and largely contained within the original horizontal dimensions of the building – or footprint (Building 7 was a trapezoid whose dimensions were: 150 feet on both the east and west sides, 329 feet on the north side, and 247 feet on the south side). More specifically, while the height of Building 7 was 610 feet, and therefore there were 24 core interior columns that ran the height of the building, NIST argues that there were multiple column failures of core columns between the 7th and 14th floors as a result of the damage done by the fires via thermal expansion and thermal weakening. 

Therefore, if what NIST claims is true, then one might expect to see sections of core columns measuring almost 430 feet long (thirteen feet for each story, and there were 33 stories above the 14th floor), and, yet, there was no evidence of this. There also was no evidence that any of the perimeter columns were anywhere near the foregoing length of roughly 430 feet. Moreover, one wonders why no such sections fell on nearby buildings such as the office buildings for New York Telephone or the Federal Reserve.

The presence of freefall, the symmetry of the fall, and the size and character of the debris pile in relation to Building 7 all serve to disconfirm the NIST hypothesis or theory concerning the destruction of Building 7. Yet, NIST wants to argue – as previously noted – that its analysis has confirmed its theory and that theory measures up “fairly well” and “reasonably well” with what was observed in conjunction with the destruction of Building 7.

What NIST has done in conjunction with its “analysis” of Building 7 is mostly a function of junk science. It is the same kind of “science” that all too many: tobacco, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies continually try to foist off on the public.

During the commission of junk science, people with degrees in medicine, science and engineering are used to lend an aura of “expertise”, “rigor”, and “competence” to a given study or investigation. However, the actual character of the investigation involves much that does not reflect such expertise, rigor, or competence … in fact, what junk science gives expression to involves quite another set of activities.

NIST assumed almost all of its conclusions in relation to its “explanation” of what happened to Building 7 on 9/11. NIST advanced conclusions that were not supported by verifiable evidence. Again and again, NIST used arbitrary criteria to shape its use and interpretation of its methodological activity, and, from time to time, NIST just fudged data (as was the case in the issue of freefall).

Last, but not least, NIST did not go through any sort of independent peer review process – either in conjunction with its “investigation” of the Twin Towers or in relation to its analysis of events with respect to Building 7. Calling for public comments on interim reports which one is free to ignore is not a process of peer review, although like much of the rest of its analytical, methodological, and investigatory activity, NIST tries to give the impression that something rigorous and scientific is happening when such is not the case.

All of the foregoing considerations are indicators for the presence of junk science, but junk science does not mean that someone is necessarily incompetent. Rather, what the presence of junk science indicates is that someone who engages in such a process is immoral and has allowed the quality of science to be corrupted by something other than a rigorous search for truth based on verifiable evidence that can be subjected to an independent review process that actually can alter the character of what is done and claimed in relation to the available data by means of a critical feed-back process.

The NIST report on Building 7 is steeped in junk science. The people at NIST -- and elsewhere in government, the media and academia -- who have permitted this to happen, are guilty of nothing less than moral turpitude.

To be guilty of moral turpitude does not necessarily mean such a person has engaged in a conspiracy. Rather, it means such an individual has failed as a human being within the frame of reference that is circumscribed by such junk science.

Anab Whitehouse