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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Forensic Engineering Congress Faces the Truth

Vigil Demands Compliance with ASCE’s Code of Ethics

Written by Wayne Coste, PE

Every three years, The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has a specialty conference called the Forensic Engineering Congress. This year the Congress was held November 15-18 in Miami and represented an opportunity to reach forensic engineers who understand the issues related to how structures fail, reconstruction of disaster sites, laws of evidence and much more. This year the attendees got an additional educational opportunity not on the Congress’s published program – a Master Class in Ethics and Responsibility by two members of the 9/11 Truth Outreach and Georgia Activist teams. Wayne Coste, PE, and Michael R Smith, BSEET, combined their expertise in ethics and forensic evidence regarding the World Trade Center with their experience in activism to “teach” this extraordinary Master Class. 

The previous month, nearly a dozen volunteers held a similar vigil at the ASCE Annual Convention in New York City. Because of a tweet from Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), Georgia Activists and 9/11 Truth Outreach became aware that the organizers of the Miami Forensic Engineering Congress had returned the AE911Truth registration fee for an exhibit hall booth saying that “booths in the exhibit hall are limited to industry exhibits.” Such a stance may be in conflict with the ASCE’s stated 501(c)(3) status as a charitable, educational, literary scientific organization. Using the New York experience as a springboard, the vigil at the Forensic Engineering Conference was conceived.

With a professional sartorial presence characterized by suit and tie, the two activists were a unique spectacle in front of the Miami Hilton. Wayne’s necktie had an image of the World Trade Center Twin Towers superimposed on a red, white and blue American flag background. For the better part of three days – from the time of the opening reception on Sunday afternoon through the Tuesday lunch break – one or both of the men were present during daylight hours. The vigil included signs with a modified ASCE logo that contained the words “Americans See Conflicts of Ethics” on the left side and the question “Does the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Tolerate Fraud?” on the right side. This spectacle was as unusual for Miami as for any other city – and it quickly drew attention.

Vignettes from the Vigil

Upon our arrival on Monday morning, the Hilton management noticed us and made it clear that we could not trespass on their property. One of the managers said we could not even be on the hotel side of the street and that we had go to the distant side. As seasoned activists, we knew that we could be anywhere on public property with the usual caveats (e.g., not impede pedestrian movement). Once he was informed that we would remain in front of the hotel property, the manager said he would call 911 and report us to the police. He dialed his phone and walked away, never to be seen again. Throughout the vigil, some of the hotel staff accepted our informational flyers.

Early Monday morning a young engineer stopped by and was very interested in understanding the issues. The engineer wanted to know what possible motivation the ASCE could have to not correct the problem paper, which we were saying borders on — if not crosses the line into — fraudulence. After explaining the issue, I asked the engineer to take a dozen brochures into the conference area and leave them inside. Upon agreeing to do this for us, the conference participants began their first lesson of our Ethics Master Class.

Shortly after that, an older-looking engineer with a conference badge, possibly a professor, appeared at the far end of the sidewalk in front of the hotel, quickly took a picture of us from a distance and then ran back into the hotel. This underscored how unusual a sight our vigil was at the conference.

When the attendees left to do sightseeing — frequently with their spouses — many walked out of the conference hotel along a wall as far away from the sidewalk as possible to avoid encountering us. Sometimes they would walk closer and we would ask them if they wanted more information about what the controversy was all about. With a shake of the head or a wave of their hand, they indicated “no.” To some I asked if they wanted to be the last to know — to which there was never any further acknowledgement.

There were, however, about a dozen conference attendees interested enough to ask for more information and discuss the issues we were raising. Some spouses were receptive to the information and said they would bring the material to their husbands.

Members of ASCE WTC Clean-Up Team Respond

One of the spouses said her husband had been part of the ASCE team that worked on the WTC clean-up. Saying she thought he would be very interested, she offered to bring the materials inside for her husband to see. Later, two attendees from the conference came out to talk to us. They identified themselves as members of the ASCE team who had worked at the WTC clean-up and asked us to explain what we were saying.

When I told them that the hypothesis of the Bazant paper did not match the observations, they scoffed and said our explanation was erroneous. They explained that the incredible heat of the jet fuel weakened the steel, causing a gravity-only collapse. The collapse, they said, created air pressure so powerful that it broke the bolts and threw the perimeter columns in all directions at up to 60 mph. They commented on how some of the perimeter columns were hurled into neighboring buildings.

Both attendees specifically said that the image in the flyer we were distributing, which suggested that the lobby floor was nearly devoid of rubble and was nearly visible, was misrepresenting the facts. They insisted that below what was marked as the “lobby floor” was actually the top of six stories of rubble. They did not appear dissuaded when we pointed out that it was inconceivable for only six floors of loose rubble to neatly tuck itself into the basement levels with no other rubble on top. I invited them to send me photographs showing the rubble below the North Tower lobby level.  In all the research I had done, I told them, I could find no photos or descriptions of rubble in that area. They accepted a copy of AE911Truth’s video “9/11 Explosive Evidence: Experts Speak Out,” and said that they would look at it. This was a “high-five” moment for the two of us!

The Public Response Was Overwhelmingly Favorable

Granted the pedestrian traffic in Miami was not as vibrant as during the ASCE’s annual conference in New York’s Times Square. However, we ended up distributing nearly 600 flyers. The majority went to pedestrians, but more than a few were handed out to bicyclists and even to some skateboarders as they whizzed by.

Sometimes the passersby asked why we were in front of the Hilton Hotel, and we told them about the ASCE forensics engineering conference going on inside. Although the ASCE flyer we had made specifically for the conference didn't provide the best introduction to the issues surrounding the World Trade Center, it served its purpose by letting the public know there is a controversy relating to ASCE’s Code of Ethics and 9/11. People we talked to about the brochures were very thankful for our information, because most were not aware of the specific 9/11 evidence we were addressing, let alone ASCE’s controversial sidestepping of the issue.

The general public, including hotel workers and taxi drivers, were friendly, open to our information, and presented very little pushback. Some people were aware of the 9/11 issues and asked what to do next. Many expressed a sense of the futility of trying to alter a system so resistant to change, but they were delighted that we were there.

We met several people who had lived in New York City during 9/11. One man recounted that, after he heard the first plane, he looked up to see the explosion at the top of the North Tower. Another woman shared that her friend’s brother-in-law had a contract to install the electrical wiring in the Twin Towers during their construction. When the Towers were destroyed, he theorized that the cause might have been the dislodgement of the huge elevator motors, which plummeted down, smashing everything in their way and causing all the destruction. While this is yet another novel explanation developed by people grappling with what they saw, it is no less plausible than the NCSTAR reports by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which blamed fire-softened sagging floor trusses for allegedly pulling in the perimeter columns simultaneously all around the building, resulting in a sudden-onset, gravity-only collapse.

Engineers and Architects Are Everywhere

Among the general public walking, bicycling or skateboarding past us, there were several architects and engineers.  Others had siblings, parents or other relatives who were engineers. Many were vacationing or had business in Miami. These included a mechanical engineer from Australia and architects or engineers from other places. Another mechanical engineer was from Jamaica and wanted an extra brochure for the owner of his civil engineer firm who had doubts about the official collapse story. They both understood that the destruction of the Twin Towers could not have been a gravity-only collapse, concluding that it must have been a controlled demolition.

Another passerby was an architect from Spain who wanted a brochure for his business partner. He empathized with our concern for ethics and then complained about the difficulties of doing business in the United States where he said he encountered an unexpected number of “impediments” to getting projects moving forward without “hitches.”

One passerby, a civil engineer who worked for the Department of Homeland Security, said that the reason we have trouble getting our message out is that we're being tarnished by the likes of media maverick Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists.  I explained that even when we stick to just the facts, the media doesn’t carry the information. When he kept repeating himself about the truth being made unpalatable by conspiracy theorists, I pointed out that we're having a noticeable impact already, judging by the fact that people are so much more receptive than they were a few years ago.

Upcoming ASCE Conferences

The ASCE will be sponsoring many conferences in the upcoming year where a vigil would be appropriate.  Two of the larger ones are: Geotechnical & Structural Engineering Congress, Phoenix, Arizona, February 14-17, 2016, and ASCE 2016 Convention, Portland, Oregon, September 29-October 1, 2016.


In the meantime, we can encourage the ASCE to retract the Bazant papers, issue an apology for their failed peer-review process, and develop protocols to prevent future ethical transgressions.


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