Sunday, March 30, 2008

Engineer Accused of Coverups On 9/11 And Katrina Wants An Investigation -- Of Those Making The Accusations

The Associated Press reports that the American Society of Civil Engineers is being accused of serious corruption, and that the "expert" who led investigations into 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Oklahoma City Bombing is calling for investigations -- into the people accusing him!

I am not making this up. Gene Corley [photo], the "forensic expert" most implicated by these very serious charges, is quoted by the AP's Cain Burdeau as saying:
"I hope someone looks into the people making the accusations"
Most honest people would like to see investigations of the accusations first. Then -- if and only if the accusations appear to be specious -- an investigation into the people who made them would be in order.

As for the accusations themselves, Cain Burdeau explains:
The professional organization for engineers who build the nation's roads, dams and bridges has been accused by fellow engineers of covering up catastrophic design flaws while investigating national disasters.

After the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the levee failures caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the federal government paid the American Society of Civil Engineers to investigate what went wrong.

Critics now accuse the group of covering up engineering mistakes, downplaying the need to alter building standards, and using the investigations to protect engineers and government agencies from lawsuits.
The name "American Society of Civil Engineers" and the acronym ASCE are familiar to regular readers of this page, because of the ASCE connection to the Journal of Engineering Mechanics (JEM), which recently published a "research paper" by Keith Seffen [photo] concerning the "rapid and total" destruction of the two World Trade Center towers which "collapsed" on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Seffen's paper came to our attention via the BBC, which reported on its conclusions in an article of September 11, 1007, which said Seffen's "findings are published in the Journal of Engineering Mechanics".

The BBC article also quoted Seffen as saying some remarkable things:
"One thing that confounded engineers was how falling parts of the structure ploughed through undamaged building beneath and brought the towers down so quickly," said Dr Seffen.

He added that his calculations showed this was a "very ordinary thing to happen" and that no other intervention, such as explosive charges laid inside the building, was needed to explain the behaviour of the buildings.
BBC even went as far as to say that
Dr Seffen's research could help inform future building design
even though his conclusions seem ridiculous on their face, and even though his motivations appear much more political than scientfic, as Seffen explained in a press release from the University of Cambridge which was issued on the same day (9/11/07), and which says:
engineers continue to speculate about the speed and totality with which the buildings were demolished during the fateful attacks.

Some have even dared to suggest that the catastrophic events that followed two planes being flown into the buildings were the result of a conspiracy that extended to the top of government itself.

Dr Seffen, a Senior Lecturer in the Structures Group in the Department of Engineering, was moved to find a scientific explanation for the collapse when he heard about reports of possible insider involvement. Claims of "controlled demolition" were being suggested, in order to explain the speed, uniformity and similarity between the collapses of both towers.

"I thought immediately that there had to be a rational explanation for why collapse happened as it did, one which draws on engineering principles," he said.
In other words, Seffen recognized that "controlled demolition" was proof of "insider involvement" which would suggest "a conspiracy that extended to the top of government itself". He rejected this potential explanation of the day's events as "irrational", saying "there had to be a rational explanation", and then he set out to find that explanation -- one that draws on engineering principles, rather than evidence from the scene of the crime.

Suffice it to say that honest scientists don't usually start their investigations by ruling out explanations which appear to fit the observed evidence; nor do they usually proceed by developing mathematical models to demonstrate that their "rational explanations" are correct. But rather than speculating as to Dr. Seffen's honesty, let us focus on an undisputed fact: back in September of 2007, when both the BBC and Cambridge were saying Dr. Seffen's "findings are published", the opposite was true.

The paper had not been published, as a search of the purported publisher's website revealed.

Seffen's paper -- obvious trash which has been debunked over and over and never seriously defended -- was eventually published by the JEM, which -- just coincidentally -- is a publication of the ASCE, the organization which is now accused of covering up rather than investigating, and protecting government agencies, as detailed in the report from Cain Burdeau linked above:
In the World Trade Center case, critics contend the engineering society wrongly concluded skyscrapers cannot withstand getting hit by airplanes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency paid the group about $257,000 to investigate the World Trade Center collapse.

In 2002, the society's report on the World Trade Center praised the buildings for remaining standing long enough to allow tens thousands of people to flee.

But, the report said, skyscrapers are not typically designed to withstand airplane impacts. Instead of hardening buildings against such impacts, it recommended improving aviation security and fire protection.

Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, a structural engineer and forensics expert, contends his computer simulations disprove the society's findings that skyscrapers could not be designed to withstand the impact of a jetliner.

Astaneh-Asl, who received money from the National Science Foundation to investigate the collapse, insisted most New York skyscrapers built with traditional designs would survive such an impact and prevent the kind of fires that brought down the twin towers.

He also questioned the makeup of the society's investigation team. On the team were the wife of the trade center's structural engineer and a representative of the buildings' original design team.

"I call this moral corruption," said Astaneh-Asl, who is on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Moral corruption" isn't the half of it.

The AP article also mentions some details regarding the ASCE's investigation of Hurricane Katrina:
In the hurricane investigation, it was accused of suggesting that the power of the storm was as big a problem as the poorly designed levees.

The society got a $1.1 million grant from the Army Corps of Engineers to study the levee failures.

The society issued a report last year that blamed the levee failures on poor design and the Corps' use of incorrect engineering data.

Raymond Seed, a levee expert at the University of California, Berkeley, was among the first to question the society's involvement. He was on a team funded by the National Science Foundation to study the New Orleans flood.

Seed accused the engineering society and the Army Corps of collusion, writing an Oct. 20 letter alleging that the two organizations worked together "to promulgate misleading studies and statements, to subvert appropriate independent investigations ... to literally attempt to change some of the critical apparent answers regarding lessons to be learned."
As mentioned above, the AP piece notes the reaction of
Gene Corley, a forensics expert and team leader on the society's report
said the society's study was peer-reviewed and its credibility was upheld by follow-up studies, including one by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

"I hope someone looks into the people making the accusations," Corley said. "That's a sordid tale."
A sordid tale, indeed!

W. Gene Corley, according to Wikipedia, also led the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing, after which
Corley explained about the design of the Murrah Building, "if a critical element fails, it may start a chain reaction of successive failures that collapses the whole building. "A majority of the fatalities were caused not by the force of the bomb blast itself, but by the progressive collapse of the building's floors which depended on the support of a few key columns that the bomb destroyed."
The problem with all this, apart from its eerie foreshadowing the "progressive collapse" of the World Trade Center towers, is that we've had credible reports of multiple bombs in Oklahoma City that day, and an "investigation" that looks an awful lot like a cover-up.

A piece written by Gene Corley and published on September 11, 2002, by the UK's Guardian, reveals that Corley's team was "fascinated" with a notion that could easily have "distorted" their approach:
The question that fascinated our team was not, "Why did the towers fall as quickly as they did?" but, "Why did they stay standing for so long?" The buildings really did extremely well. The most important thing to note is that the impact of the aircraft hitting the towers did not cause the collapse. We believe that the towers would have stood indefinitely until a second large event - such as a hurricane or an earthquake - hit them.
Focusing on the question "Why did they stay standing for so long?" would certainly divert attention from the matter of "Why did the towers fall as quickly as they did?" ... not to mention "Why did they fall at all?"

And of course, the question Corley was avoiding -- and the one Seffen tried to finesse -- remains: Why did the towers fall as quickly as they did?

Corley continues:
In this instance the second large event was the fire that broke out following the planes crashing into the buildings. It was this combination of the damage done by the aircraft followed by a major fire that could not be fought that led to their collapse.
The assertion that "the damage done by the aircraft" was followed by "a major fire that could not be fought" is unsupportable, in light of the evidence from the firefighters on the scene, who were recorded telling their supervisors just the opposite:
"Battalion Seven ... Ladder 15, we've got two isolated pockets of fire. We should be able to knock it down with two lines. Radio that, 78th floor numerous 10-45 Code Ones."
But Corley equates these "two isolated pockets of fire" with "a second large event - such as a hurricane or an earthquake." Why? Because evidence of what actually happened was of no value -- or, rather, negative value -- to Gene Corley and his friends at the ASCE.

It's no wonder they're being accused of covering rather than investigating.

And it's a very sordid tale, is it not?