New York City activist

January 29, 2008

Loose Change Final Cut – section on WTC 7

I recently had an opportunity to view Loose Change Final Cut. I like it a lot better than the previous versions of Loose Change. But I wish it had been titled “Loose Change, Third Edition,” rather than “Final Cut.” It still contains quite a few errors that I hope will be corrected at some point in the future, plus a few other ways it could be improved. Although David Ray Griffin has done a lot for the 9/11 Truth movement, he is, alas, far from the world’s most thorough “fact checker,” especially on technical matters.

In this post I’ll review, in detail, the segment “Act II, Chapter IV, WTC 7.” The following is intended both as constructive criticism of LCFC itself and also to call attention to some of the issues that LCFC raises. It will also contain some notes to myself on matters I should research further.

The segment begins with a brief history and physical description of WTC 7. Then, various tenants of WTC 7 are mentioned, including the DoD, SEC, IRS, CIA, and Secret Service. Fine so far.

The narrator then says, “Numerous cases would be closed due to its destruction.” Unfortunately, we aren’t given any specific examples of cases that were closed. It would be nice if we were.

When the CIA is mentioned, we are briefly shown a New York Times article titled “The Intelligence Agency: Secret C.I.A. Site in New York Was Destroyed on Sept. 11” by James Risen, November 5, 2001. I was able to find a copy on the web here. The printed copy displayed in LCFC contains the additional subtitle, “Attack Seriously Disrupted Spying Operations.” It would seem reasonable to suppose that the other federal agencies with offices in WTC 7 suffered some severe disruptions too, but more concrete evidence would be desirable, because various “debunkers” have denied this.

The New York Times article mentions that the CIA searched the rubble for any secret documents that might not have been destroyed. I would add one very important observation which wasn’t made in LCFC: If, by any chance, anyone in the CIA had anything to do with the destruction of WTC 7, then the CIA also had an opportunity here to remove evidence of same. Who knows what else they might have retrieved, along with (or perhaps instead of) classified documents, when they searched the rubble? This speculation doesn’t prove anything, but does answer some objections, by “debunkers,” as to how the crime could have been adequately covered up.

Next in LCFC is a description of the Office of Emergency Management Command Center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7. A CNN reporter is quoted as saying that New York officials were “confident it could handle even the worst crisis imaginable.”

Then we are given an abbreviated version of the following very interesting quote from NIST’s 2004 Progress Report, Chapter 1 (PDF), page 28: “The building fire alarm system was placed on TEST for a period of 8 h beginning at 6:47:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001. Ordinarily, this is requested when maintenance or other testing is being performed on the system, so that any alarms that are received from the system are considered the result of the maintenance or testing and are ignored.” Remarkable coincidence, to say the least. Not proof of anything, of course, but indeed one of the many anomalies which, taken together, add up to a suspicious pattern.

Next: “After the second plane strikes the south tower, the building’s power is shut off and its tenants are evacuated.” I’ll need to double-check the accuracy of this at some point. As we’ll see later, the question of when the power went out and when the tenants were evacuated may turn out to be very important.

Then the “major fires” in WTC 7 are enumerated as follows:

  • East face, floors 11 and 12
  • North face, floors 7 and 12
  • West face, floors 29 and 30
  • South face: Smoke obscures the entire south face of the building.

The narrator then mentions that, by 3 PM, fire chief Daniel Nigro had set up a collapse zone around WTC 7.

We are then shown the premature reports of WTC 7’s collapse on the BBC and CNN. Personally, I don’t consider these news reports to be a significant anomaly. More likely, they were just a mix-up based on reports that WTC 7 was expected to collapse. After all, a collapse zone had been set up, so, by the time of the false reports, surely a lot of people, including reporters, would have been told that WTC 7 was expected to collapse.

The question of why WTC 7 was expected to collapse in the first place is a separate question, and indeed an important question. But, whatever your take on that question, there is nothing additionally suspicious about the fact that a publicly announced expectation of collapse had been communicated to news reporters, or about the news reporters getting mixed up about it. Reporters get mixed up about things all the time, perfectly understandable given their hectic schedules, tight deadlines, and ever-tightening budgets. Whenever I’ve seen a news report about anything I’ve had independent knowledge of, there have always been at least minor inaccuracies, even on matters for which there could be no conceivable motive to distort things deliberately.

Back to LCFC. We are then shown the collapse of WTC 7, with the following commentary:

“The collapse of the building at 5:20 PM would cause speculation as to how it fell. The collapse of the main structure takes place in in approximately 6.5 seconds, and the building falls symmetrically, into its own footprint, barely damaging the surrounding structures.”

It is not accurate to say that the collapse barely damaged surrounding structures. Fiterman Hall, at 30 West Broadway, just north of WTC 7, was damaged irreparably.

However, what is true is that WTC 7 fell even more symmetrically than many known controlled demolitions with that aim. This kind of demolition is difficult to achieve. (See How Building Implosions Work by Tom Harris.) Hence it seems unlikely that a building could have fallen that way by pure chance.

We are then shown the resulting huge dust clouds, with the commentary: “It will create a pyroclastic cloud that mushrooms down surrounding streets.”

The word “pyroclastic” is misused here, as in all too many other videos about 9/11. The dust clouds had some but not all of the characteristics of a pyroclastic flow. (See the Wikipedia article on Pyroclastic flow.) The WTC dust clouds didn’t fry anyone, as far as I aware.

The narrator then says, “Initially, it was assumed that the building’s diesel tank may have been responsible for the collapse.” Then the 2002 FEMA report is quoted as saying, “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time.” (See Chapter 5 (PDF) of the FEMA report.)

I would add here that NIST’s 2004 Progress Report specifically noted an absence of diesel smells. (See Appendix L – Interim Report on WTC 7 (PDF) in NIST’s June 2004 Progress Report.)

Next, Steven Jones makes an appearance. He quotes the FEMA report as saying, about WTC 7, that “the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence” and that “Further investigation is needed to resolve this issue.”

Then the narrator tells us that, by the time of the investigations, nearly all the steel had been removed, and that no steel at all had been recovered from WTC 7 for an investigation. (At some point I’ll need to double-check whether there was in fact no steel recovered from WTC 7, or just very little. I think the narrator is correct, but I want to make sure. If indeed it’s true, this is, of course, highly suspicious.)

Next is another brief clip of Steven Jones, who tells us that we are still waiting for NIST’s long-overdue final report on WTC 7, which is separate from NIST’s investigation of the collapse of the Twin Towers.

We are then shown a clip of an appearance by John Gross, Leader of the Structural Systems and Design Group at NIST. He refers to “a write-up from controlled demolition experts,” but we aren’t told anything further about this write-up.

The narrator then contrasts the collapse of WTC 7 with the behavior of WTC 3, 4, 5, 6, and the Deutsche Bank building, all of which suffered far worse structural damage than WTC 7 due to debris from the Towers falling on them. But none of these other buildings collapsed totally. Nor did the Millenium Hotel, across Church Street.

The narrator asks if anything might have occurred inside WTC 7 to cause it to collapse. We are then shown a clip of an eye-witness describing an explosion inside WTC 7.

The eye-witness said, “We started walking down the stairs, we made it to the 8th floor. Big explosion. Blew us back into the 8th floor.” (My question: Who is this eye-witness?)

The explosion on the 8th floor is then confirmed in a televised statement by city corporation counsel Michael Hess, who spent an hour and a half trapped on the 8th floor of WTC 7, until he was rescued by firefighters. He had been on the 23rd floor and had started walking down the stairs when the power went out.

Then the narrator says that the NIST interim report on WTC 7 claims that the “explosion” was actually the collapse of WTC 1. That’s a mistaken citation, it turns out. I found no discussion of this episode in Appendix L of the 2004 NIST Progress Report. According to this 911blogger post, it is mentioned in NIST NCSTAR1-8 (PDF), one of the sub-reports of NIST’s report on the Twin Towers. Sure enough, the text displayed in LCFC at this point matches the top of page 110 of NIST NCSTAR1-8.

The narrator says, “the glass on the ground floor was not even blown out.” This is a claim I’ll need to double-check.

The narrator then asks, “Would debris and smoke rushing up the stairway be described as an explosion?” Probably not, but the wallop from a fast-flying large piece of debris from WTC 1 hitting a wall of WTC 7 might feel and sound like an explosion, if indeed the “explosion” happened at that time.

For a possibly better challenge to NIST’s claim on this matter, see this 911blogger post. Of course, the timing would need to be checked into very carefully. Among other things, it would be helpful to know when the power went out and when the evacuation began, as mentioned in Michael Hess’s testimony.

Of course, any explosion occurring at this time could not have been part of a controlled demolition, unless it was a charge that went off prematurely. It could perhaps have been something else entirely, such as a transformer explosion. But it’s worth looking into the eye-witness testimonies about this explosion.

Even more worthwhile would be a question which LCFC does not explore at all, namely the question of what kinds of sounds were heard, and how loud, immediately before and during the collapse of WTC 7. It has been alleged by various “debunkers” that no sufficiently-loud explosive sounds were heard at that time. Is that true? (See also this thread in the Loose Change forum.)

Back to LCFC. The narrator then summarizes, “So, we have a 47-storey steel-frame skyscraper which housed various government agencies and numerous important documents, damaged less than the other World Trade Center buildings. At 5:20 PM, all structural elements inside Building 7 simultaneously fail, and it collapses symmetrically, imploding into a pile of rubble.”

Minor nit: They didn’t all fail “simultaneously.” The global collapse occurred bottom up, and the core columns apparently collapsed, or at least began collapsing, before the perimeter columns. But the final global collapse was indeed amazingly symmetrical.

Then the narrator says, “This building had 81 columns, 24 core and 57 perimeter, running from the basement to the roof.”

An error here: The columns didn’t all run from the basement to the roof. The core colums that ran through most of the building ran only from the 8th floor to the roof. WTC was built on top of a Con Edison substation, which had a very different architecture. There was a transitional structure, involving large trusses, from floors 5 to 7.

Then the narrator says, “For the building to have collapsed the way it did, all 81 of these columns had to collapse simultaneously.” The perimeter columns had to collapse simultaneously, but the core columns had to collapse first, which they apparently did.

The narrator asks, “Could fires on a few floors have heated up all these columns to the breaking point at the same time?”

As far as I am aware, no one knowledgeable is alleging that all the columns broke due to heat. Even a cold column could conceivably break due to mechanical failure, given sufficient stress. Still, it’s remarkable that the failures could have been so symmetrical, especially given the asymmetricalities of the fires, the damage, and the building itself.

We are then shown a clip about the 9/11 Commission. Bob Dacy, host of a local TV talk show called The Simple Truth, based in Austin, Texas, interviews Thomas Kean, Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. Bob Dacy points out a bunch of things about WTC 7 and asks why the 9/11 Commission’s report said not a word about WTC 7. Kean dismisses the question by saying, “We didn’t find any evidence of the kind of thing you’re talking about.” (Had the Commission even looked for any such evidence? Apparently not.) This is followed by a clip of Steven Jones saying it was “unconscionable” that the 9/11 Commission totally ignored WTC 7.

Jones’s statement has been ridiculed by some “debunkers” on the grounds that the 9/11 Commission was not a scientific panel, hence could not investigate technical matters such as the cause of a building collapse. However, there are various non-technical questions that could have been investigated, such as the question of what kinds of maintenance had been done in the building in the months leading up to 9/11, and by whom, and whether any of the tenants observed any suspicious behavior by alleged maintenance workers or by anyone else. Admittedly, though, the Commission was given only 18 months to do its work, not enough time to investigate every aspect of 9/11.

Back to LCFC. The narrator then asks, “Did Building 7 collapse because of damage from the falling North Tower? Or was it also a controlled demolition?”

This is followed by a clip from an interview with Danny Jowenko. A transcript of the entire interview can be found here, in the Loose Change forum.

“Act II, Chapter IV, WTC 7” ends on that note.

P.S., 1/31/2008: I’ve posted a thread in the Loose Change forum linking to this review.

P.S., 2/9/2008: The symmetricality of WTC 7’s collapse is, in my opinion, our simplest and strongest phyiscal argument. See my post Straight-down collapse of WTC 7 – what do “debunkers” say?.


  1. With respect to the unlikelihood of a symmetric collapse –

    it really is next to impossible for a layman to make an informed judgement as to how a particular building should collapse in given circumstances. Clearly WTC7 looked, superficially, extremely symmetrical as a collapse. However, only a detailed analysis by qualified engineers can determine whether such a collapse is in any way suspicious.

    Such an analysis is possible given the information available. It would be quite possible to retain suitably qualified engineers who would examine the structure of WTC7, the witness reports of the damage and fire, video of the collapse and pictures of the rubble post-collapse. If they then stated that the appearance of the collapse was suspicious, or could not be explained by the fire and damage, that would be evidence that some other factor might have been present.

    Such an analysis should be thorough, of course. Mr Jowenko’s opinion might be that of an expert, but he would need to do more than view a single video.

    Comment by westprog99 — January 31, 2008 @ 4:53 pm | Reply

  2. westprog99 wrote:

    it really is next to impossible for a layman to make an informed judgement as to how a particular building should collapse in given circumstances.

    The specifics of particular buildings may differ, but there are some basic principles involved here which, I think, are within the grasp of anyone with a solid knowledge of basic physics. Still, there are aspects of the situation that do require more specialized expertise, e.g. the strengths of the materials involved. I would love to see a debate about the collapse of WTC 7 between structural engineers or other mechanical engineers who have studied, in detail, the information that’s publicly available about WTC 7.

    I’m not a structural or other mechanical engineer myself, but I did take two years of physics in college and have a strong recollection of basic mechanics including the math involved. I’ve also spent some time studying the 2004 NIST interim report on WTC 7.

    I can see some arguments for the idea that WTC 7 could have been more easily induced, than other buildings of similar size and shape, to collapse in a more-or-less symmetical manner. For one thing, the core columns that ran through most of the building didn’t go all the way down to the ground, but only down to the 8th floor, where they were supported by a transitional structure, including large trusses, that ran between floors 5 and 7. So, sufficient failures within that transitional structure could cause all the core columns to sink, which would most likely pull the outer walls inward.

    But, on the other hand, the initiation of collapse would have to have involved plenty of other movements and forces as well, many of them hard to predict. And the design of the building was thoroughly asymmetical in many ways. So, even if it were relatively easy to make WTC 7 collapse in a symmetrical manner, it still seems unlikely to me that this would have been so trivially easy that it should be expected to have happened spontaneously. Again, I’d love to see a debate about this issue between people more qualified than myself.

    As I said, there are basic principles involved here that don’t require specialized knowledge. The main one is simply that the higher any object’s center of gravity is, relative to the size of its base, the harder it is for the object to stay in an upright position, other factors being equal. That’s the reason why, for example, tripods have three legs rather than just one leg.

    I’ve seen claims that this principle somehow does not apply to falling skyscrapers. But, in fact, it clearly does. The world’s one and only directly-relevant example was the top part of WTC 2, which indeed did tilt over quite a bit as it began to fall.

    Comment by Diane — January 31, 2008 @ 11:14 pm | Reply

  3. Diane writes, “Unfortunately, we aren’t given any specific examples of cases that were closed. It would be nice if we were.”

    Cooperativeresearch has some information on some of the cases that might have been affected by the collapse of WTC7. From their site:

    “Curiously, given all the Wall Street scandals later in the year, Building 7 housed the SEC files related to numerous Wall Street investigations, as well as other federal investigative files. All the files for approximately 3,000 to 4,000 SEC cases were destroyed. Some were backed up in other places, but many were not, especially those classified as confidential. [New York Law Journal, 9/17/2001] Lost files include documents that could show the relationship between Citigroup and the WorldCom bankruptcy. [Street, 8/9/2002] The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates over 10,000 cases will be affected. [New York Law Journal, 9/14/2001] The Secret Service had its largest field office, with more than 200 employees, in WTC 7 and also lost investigative files. Says one agent: “All the evidence that we stored at 7 World Trade, in all our cases, went down with the building.” [Tech TV, 7/23/2002] The IRS and Department of Defense were also tenants, along with the CIA, which, it has been revealed, had a secret office in Building 7.”

    Comment by tanabear — February 1, 2008 @ 6:03 am | Reply

  4. tanabear, thanks very much for the info.

    However, it would have been nice if you had included links to (or at least URL’s of) the specific page or pages where you got all that info. In the future, whenever you have occasion to quote stuff from a website, please include the URL of the specific page where you got it.

    I guess I’ll now have to do the extra work of Googling it myself. I’ll do that later ….

    Comment by Diane — February 1, 2008 @ 9:42 am | Reply

  5. I remember reading about it in the book, “The Terror Timeline” by Paul Thompson. I found the same entry on their cooperativeresearch website.

    Try this, if the site is up.

    [Comment edited by blog author Diane, to HTML-ize and prettify link.]

    Comment by tanabear — February 1, 2008 @ 3:43 pm | Reply

  6. The Cooperative Research site seems to be down. They were down a few days ago, too. I wonder what happened to them.

    Anyhow, if you copied the quotes from Paul Thompson’s book, could you please tell us the page numbers?

    Comment by Diane — February 1, 2008 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  7. Diane writes, “could you please tell us the page numbers?”

    It is on page 509. However, the entry in the book is similar to what is on the website.

    Comment by tanabear — February 2, 2008 @ 5:12 am | Reply

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