Sunday, August 28, 2011

The "First Claim" Test

ae911truth has slapped together a pdf of old claims against the exhaustive NIST report. Readers of this blog are familiar with our approach to the glut of old information posing as new information 9/11 deniers pour out: The first claim is a smell test. It's their first stab at trying to convince you of something, so it's got to be good. If it isn't, the rest of the piece isn't going to be any better.

Here's the first claim from "How NIST Avoided a Real Analysis of the Physical Evidence of WTC:"

The 236 pieces of structural WTC steel that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) “catalogued” 2 for its WTC investigation included 55 columns that NIST discuss in paragraph 4.1 “CORE COLUMNS” in NIST NCSTAR 1-3C.4 NIST analyzed only four of these 55 columns for damage and failure modes. The remaining 51 columns were excluded from being examined for damage and failure modes based on the argument that only columns with a known as-built location in or near the impact and fire areas were of interest for the WTC investigation.

Wouldn't you know it, this claim's completely false. First, from page 118 of the NIST report:

NIST performed confirmatory tests on samples of the 236 pieces of recovered steel to determine if the steel met the structural specifications. Making a definitive assessment was complicated by overlapping specifications from multiple suppliers, differences between the NIST test procedures and the test procedures that originally qualified the steel, the natural variability of steel properties, and damage to the steel from the collapse of the WTC towers. Nonetheless, the NIST investigators were able to determine the following:

There were 14 grades (strengths) of steel that were specified. However, a total of 32 steels in the impact and fire floors were sufficiently different (grade, supplier, and gage) to require distinct models of mechanical properties.

The steels in the perimeter columns met their intended specifications for chemistry, mechanical properties, yield strengths, and tensile properties. The steels in the core columns generally met their intended specifications for both chemical and mechanical properties.


The mechanical properties of steel are reduced at elevated temperatures. Based on measurements and examination of published data, NIST determined that a single representation of the elevated temperature effects on steel mechanical properties could be used for all WTC steels. Separate values were used for the yield and tensile strength reduction factors for bolt steels.

So one, tests were performed on their entire sample. Possibly not for impact effects, but that would have been wildly inappropriate as not all of those columns were from a sample of the area directly impacted.

The only excuse I can think of is that ae911truth did not quote from the latest version of the final report; indeed, their cited text doesn't appear anywhere in the NIST final report. So, they're either lazy and incompetent, or outright dishonest.

What'll it be, ae911?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Government Brutally Silences Yet Another Dissident

Just kidding. His name is Richard Clarke, and he's taking the CIA to task for what appears to be his own incompetence.

His complaint is old: The CIA and the FBI, because of their parochialism and the great walls of red tape, were unable to effectively coordinate the trailing of al Qaeda members in 2000 and 2001. It goes unnoted that the dismantling of this great wall was a chief aim of the CIA and the Bush Administration immediately after 9/11 – nor that the sudden appearance of what looks an awful lot like an effective if monolithic intelligence community is also a chief complaint of 9/11 deniers, and yet here they are trotting out the existence of such as an indictment of the Bush and Obama Administrations.

We know 9/11 deniers already latched onto this claim and needed only a Federal official with a book coming out to hit the press circuit and defrost it.

Yet this version was particularly baffling to me, as they seem to point to Clarke’s own staggering incompetence on the issue. Around minute three:

Every morning I come in and I turn on my computer, and I get a hundred to a hundred-fifty CIA reports. ..You have to intentionally stop it, you have to intervene and say, ‘No, I don’t want that to go.’ And I never got a report to that effect.

So, as we are all grizzled Microsoft Outlook users, let’s assess this claim: The intel chief didn’t get an automatic update, and wasn’t sure how to go about getting it when it didn’t just land in his inbox.

I’m baffled as to how this claim is spreading back over the 9/11 denier community. Richard Clarke, whose real and valiant work in the name of intelligence reform has certainly saved many lives (and led in no small part to the much-bitched-about “drone war” focus of intelligence strikes), is a godsend to 9/11 deniers. He throws out complaints until they stick and, among them, quotes are mined that point to malfeasance. I’m hearing nothing even bordering on malfeasance. I’m hearing about an intelligence chief who was not proactive in digesting intelligence.

For those keeping score, this further adds to the tally of “people to blame” saddling already-sagging 9/11 denier claims: “Forty-eight CIA officials” who could have forwarded him those reports, but didn’t.

We therefore conclude that there was a high-order decision within the CIA ordering people not to share this information. I think it would have to be made by the director.

Ah, scratch that. Given that reports migrate upward, this may wind up in the hundreds.

Also, come on guys: Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a great band. Let’s not abuse their music in this fashion.

Clarke claims that this is the one species of report that was suddenly redacted from his daily clips. I call shenanigans. What was the through rate on those reports? Given that he could recall “100 to 150” reports landing in his box every day, how did this reporting fluctuate? From where? Just on Al Qaeda, or were there other reports Clarke about which never felt sufficiently motivated to call up his “friends” at the CIA and inquire?

Whose intern didn’t hit which “send” button? How were they ‘kept quiet’ after 9/11? Who was reprimanded on Clarke’s staff for the failure? And why is this being repackaged as a complaint against the CIA? Anyone? Please.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hatemail Sundays

A couple of e-mails came in last week bleeting the same tired tropes all true believers have to hurl against their detractors. Every skeptical blog you read gets them, so I’ll quote and refute with brevity.

“You, like Screw Loose Change and Mark Roberts, are asserting that all conspiracy theories are bunk.”

No, we aren’t. Or at least, I’m not. Iran-Contra was a conspiracy that was not bunk, for example.

My second complaint stems from the fact that you, like Mark Roberts, state that the assassination of John F. Kennedy was obviously the work of a lone nut

It was.

After reading Vincent Bugliosi’s vast and worthy tome on the subject I made this point in a previous post that this person obviously took exception to. In order to buttress this complaint a link is provided to a particularly pathetic defense of lunatic theories. I’ll be brief.

Part one is dedicated entirely to whining about “name-calling” in the book. Time for an important lesson: Ad hominem is only ad hominem if it is the entirety of the complaint. “You’re stupid,” is an ad hominem. “You’re stupid, and here’s why you’re wrong” is merely rude. Including footnotes, Bugliosi gives you 2,000 pages of reasons why every single conspiracy theory is false. Because this is a 9/11 denier blog and not a JFK denier blog I don’t want to dwell on this too much. As I breezed through this site I scrolled through for the key points, and so here is essentially a random sample of the lies this site tells, which, coincidentally, seemed to be the case with every sentence I read:

In this long Introduction Bugliosi … states that the critics have always written that no rifleman has ever duplicated Oswald's feat at the Texas School Book Depository on 11/22/63. That is firing three shots, and getting two hits in the head and shoulder areas in less than six seconds. He says that this charge is not accurate. He then points to an example in the Warren Commission of a mysterious soldier named Miller (no first name given) who a commanding officer said actually bettered Oswald's feat. Now, Bugliosi's implication here is that this has been out there for years and the critical community has ignored it since it would undermine their arguments…

Because when you examine the testimony completely it does not undermine the critic's case at all. Three "master marksmen" took two tries at duplicating what Oswald was supposed to have done. Now what does this qualification of "master marksman" mean exactly? As Meagher explains it, they were rated at the very top of the scale, not by the Marines, but by the NRA. In other words they were even better than the top shooters in the armed services by a level of two or more classes. In fact, they were so proficient they qualified for open competition and even the Olympic Games! Now compare this to Oswald who was one point above the minimum class possible when he left the Marines in 1959. Fair comparison right?

Bugliosi writes quite explicitly in his book that each of these riflemen were at precisely the same class as Oswald. Indeed it may be true that they are highly rated by the NRA as well, but as we have no idea as to what Oswald’s NRA rating would be, this constitutes systematic bias. Of course, the exact same feat – in which other Marines replicated Oswald’s supposed “perfect shooting” – was shown in a Discovery Channel special a few years ago, but conspiracy theorists aren’t exactly in it for the truth.

And so as not to bore you guys, here’s another shorter one. In a debate between Bugliosi and conspiracy theorist Gerry Spence filmed for London Weekend Television as a “mock trial” between “the Warren Commission” and JFK deniers, the audience and “jurors” sided with Bugliosi. The author of this site drags up a claim so silly I just had to share it here:

Finally, the trial never moved out of London. This was not a good idea. The actual evidence is located at the National Archives in Washington. So the attorneys were never allowed to present this material and the jury was never allowed to see it. This is quite important in a case where there is much indication of evidence tampering. It is a theme I will return to later.

Because, you see, there was no such thing as a fax machine or authorized copies or any such thing in the 1980s.

JFK and 9/11 conspiracy theories bear a lot of similarity in their penchant for dishonest de-contextualization and simple lying. Case in point.