Join 3,430 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Everything reduced to a mathematical representation
June 25, 2007 4:50 AM   Subscribe

Simulated jet colliding with the World Trade Center: Researchers at Purdue University have created a simulation to study in detail what likely happened when a commercial airliner crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. Youtube link.
posted by DreamerFi (90 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
...a simulation which, I'll wager, conveniently omits to include the mossad frogmen, Republican wiretappers, demolition teams and those wily, wily jews who were really responsible.
posted by Jofus at 4:59 AM on June 25, 2007 [11 favorites]


"Current findings from the simulation have identified the destruction of 11 columns on the 94th floor, 10 columns on the 95th floor and nine columns on the 96th floor," he said. "This is a major insight. When you lose close to 25 percent of your columns at a given level, the building is significantly weakened and vulnerable to collapse."

A major insight? The existing experimental evidence plainly pointed to this.
posted by three blind mice at 5:05 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


dumb. this could never happen.
posted by quonsar at 5:06 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like the level of detail, especially the simulated tourist in an anorak standing on the observation deck.
posted by pracowity at 5:16 AM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


You can't make a building invulnerable to a bomb. Sorry; you can't.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 5:20 AM on June 25, 2007


A major insight? The existing experimental evidence plainly pointed to this.

Well, come on. It's Purdue, not MIT.

[not collegeist]
posted by psmealey at 5:20 AM on June 25, 2007


Wow, computer voice technology has really improved! The narrator sounded somewhat human.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:25 AM on June 25, 2007


The narrator sounds like a ramped-up version of Stephen Hawkings' voice emulator.
posted by bwg at 5:27 AM on June 25, 2007


*shakes head at those out-of-touch academics in their collapsed ivory towers*
posted by DU at 5:29 AM on June 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


but... we already know what will happen.
posted by mr_book at 5:34 AM on June 25, 2007


Wait a minute--no comparison with reality? WTF.

Also, great question on the YT video: How could the buildings have fallen at near free-fall speed, indicating very little resistance, and yet produce tremendous pulverization of concrete, which indicates great resistance?

Apparently user "911REICHSTAG" has never heard of "the ground".
posted by DU at 5:36 AM on June 25, 2007 [8 favorites]


dumb. this could never happen.

"The knowledge that you are an idiot is what differentiates you from one."

But it's probably not a good idea to demonstrate that at every opportunity..
posted by c13 at 5:46 AM on June 25, 2007


Of course 9/11 nuts will just say the simulation was rigged.

How could the buildings have fallen at near free-fall speed, indicating very little resistance, and yet produce tremendous pulverization of concrete, which indicates great resistance?

It's not even really worth pointing these things out, but the problem with that question is that it requires a lot of knowledge that most people don't even have? how near is "near" free fall? Is it possible that some of the debris fell outside of the tower, and other debris fell inside the tower, which continued the chain reaction, while at the same time smashing more cement, but you couldn't see it as the view was obstructed? Isn't it possible that blocks pounded eachother as they fell, etc, etc, and how 'near' freefall is 'near' here? There are so many possible answers to that question, the 9/11 nuts can only pose questions and poke holes, they never show any actual evidence to support their claims.
posted by delmoi at 5:57 AM on June 25, 2007


Gee, turn down the snark for a minute?

Yeah, 9/11 produced three cases of what happens when plane meets building. In only one of those cases do we have detailed evidence of how the impact affected the building. With WTC1 and WTC2 it's all post hoc modeling based on film footage and some analysis of the resulting debris.

And of course, the relevant research news is less that they simulated one of the WTC impacts, but the development of their simulation and visualization engine.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:03 AM on June 25, 2007


Also, I suspect the narrator is an ESL speaker. It didn't sound computer generated to me.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:05 AM on June 25, 2007


Wasn't that great a simulation, there was no Dick Cheney in an undisclosed location rubbing his evil little hands together while sweating profusely and whispering "Mine! All Mine! Muh hahahahahaha!"
posted by From Bklyn at 6:16 AM on June 25, 2007


The part I'm interested in - the simulation showed the titanium shafts from down the center of each engine going through the far side of the building as if the building hadn't even been there.

Where did those end up in real life?

Also, if we're going to quote the nuttiest hippie WTC skeptics we can find, I think we need to give the other side equal time by quoting a respectable conservative think tank. "There is no evidence to support global warming" or "Between the start of the war and now, Saddam Hussein secretly shipped over 130 tons of nerve gas into Syria." That sort of thing. You know, fair and balanced.

I get that 1 and 2 fell down because an airplane ran into them. I'd still like a clear explanation for WTC7 that doesn't sound like a guy explaining the hows and whys of the "The Harmonic Convergence".
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:17 AM on June 25, 2007


I love the youtube commenters, especially the real wingnut ones. "the core columns in this video are inaccurate and misleading", "There is Nothing scientific in this animation !". Guys, Perdue has a world class structural engineering program. That simulation probably took a few weeks of supercomputer time to simulate and another day or so to render. They even modeled the fuel inside the tanks.

First rule of holes, when you're in one, stop digging.
posted by Skorgu at 6:18 AM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Kid Charlemagne you mean aside from a million tons of building collapsing 30' from it and the 12,000 gallons of diesel burning inside?
posted by Skorgu at 6:21 AM on June 25, 2007


Skorgu, you must remember that it's not fair to present a rational and believable explanation for the collapse of the building. As Kid Charlemagne says, please give the loonies a chance to talk about timed demolitions, etc.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:27 AM on June 25, 2007


Too soon!
posted by DonnieSticks at 6:36 AM on June 25, 2007


Simulations are only as good as the conditions upon which they are based. They pretty pictures are nice, but how valid are the base assumptions?

The previous finite element analysis used to substantiate the NIST report were criticized for being based on "simplifications, extrapolations and judgement calls". Yet no simulation of the collapse mechanism was ever shown, which makes it difficult to critique. It seemed to many that these assumptions were cherry-picked to bolster the desired conclusions, rather than describe actual conditions.

Personally, I want to see the simulation that explains how the BBC correspondent could report the WTC7 collapse while it still stood in the background of the live video feed...
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:37 AM on June 25, 2007


The annoying thing is that every time they run the simulation, I get a simulated phone call from simulated Israel telling me not to go into simulated work today. Which would be fine, but I'm starting to run out of simulated vacation days.
posted by Partial Law at 6:38 AM on June 25, 2007 [9 favorites]


Kid Charlemagne: I get that 1 and 2 fell down because an airplane ran into them. I'd still like a clear explanation for WTC7 that doesn't sound like a guy explaining the hows and whys of the "The Harmonic Convergence".

A map of the damage involved in 9/11 showed that buildings across a six-lane highway from WTC1 and WTC2 experienced severe structural damage. There are multiple reports from firefighters in or near WTC7 which indicate that it had sustained extreme damage. These reports include accounts of a gaping hole in the south face and the SW corner, visible sagging of the south face, and audible creaking and groaning. (See photos, although documentary evidence is hard to come by given the large quantities of smoke and debris.) Even the claimed "smoking gun" video filmed from the north side with most of the building obscured shows the superstructure on the south side of the roof dropping first, just before the rest of the building collapsed.

So the simple answer is that massive damage to the south side of the building from collapse debris, combined with a fire on multiple levels, caused the structural collapse of the building.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:41 AM on June 25, 2007


I was afraid that this simulation would not be state of the art. But, apparently, it is indeed state of the art. It's good to know that state of the art technology is being used for something like this. I'd be much less inclined to believe in its value if it wasn't state of the art.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:43 AM on June 25, 2007


Personally, I want to see the simulation that explains how the BBC correspondent could report the WTC7 collapse while it still stood in the background of the live video feed.

Do you want the simple, most likely answer, or the less likely but more sexy answer?
posted by odinsdream at 6:45 AM on June 25, 2007


Personally, I want to see the simulation that explains how the BBC correspondent could report the WTC7 collapse while it still stood in the background of the live video feed.

Do you want the simple, most likely answer, or the less likely but more sexy answer?


Time travel, both times.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:48 AM on June 25, 2007


They pretty pictures are nice, but how valid are the base assumptions?


Well Enron Hubbard, this is a pretty good question. Normally, what one would do is use an appropriate search engine to find the primary literature on the topic. Luckily, in this case there is a link to a pdf that describes exactly how the simulation was done and what assumptions were made. It's in the second link of the original post, as you surely know. Reading the paper will make it a lot easier for you to critique their methods and offer alternative hypotheses. Of course this would require you to have the necessary technical and scientific knowledge, but surely that would not be a problem, would it?
posted by c13 at 6:58 AM on June 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


All and all a pretty remarkable piece of work. I imagine they learned a lot, and we should thank them. That said, it made me sad for all the human wreckage.
posted by MarshallPoe at 7:03 AM on June 25, 2007


I imagine they learned a lot, and we should thank them.

They learned what happens when you throw a beer can at a wall at very high velocities.
posted by eriko at 7:16 AM on June 25, 2007


You know, at this point, I think the efforts of debunking myths about 9/11 are probably pointless and futile. The big question that remains is what is it psychologically about this event which leads some people to propose demolition teams with all the abilities of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny on top of the four well-documented aircraft disasters.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:32 AM on June 25, 2007


What I can't understand is why people are so hung up just on the collapse part of the whole affair. Ok fine, Bush/Jews/Illuminati are evil motherfuckers who staged 9/11 in order to bring about New World Order/Plice State/Apocalypse. WHY did they need to go to all the trouble of getting the ninja demolition teams to wire the buildings? Would flying two jumbo jets into them not be enough? Or, conversely, if nothing short of collapse would appease the High Priest, why couldn't they just set the charges off without the planes? Was Dr. Evil in charge or something?
posted by c13 at 7:48 AM on June 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu: Oh right, silly me. Also: Ob xkcd
posted by Skorgu at 8:12 AM on June 25, 2007


Of course despite all the discussion here the point of the simulation probably wasn't to appease 9/11 conspiracy theorists.
posted by delmoi at 8:14 AM on June 25, 2007


MY problem with using computer models to "prove" what is being modeled, rather than to understand what is being modeled is that you have to program everything into the model, and we don't have that information here (though I bet the paper that accompanied this has it).

For example, does this model accurately simulate the forces at work on each and every bolt? Were the steel beams modelled with precisely the right shear and tensile strengths, moderated by thirty years of fatigue? Was heat conduction along the steel beams modeled accurately? etc.

I don't dispute the "official" story of 9-11, but nonetheless I still don't like using computer models to prove things, even if I agree with them.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:14 AM on June 25, 2007


People model things protein-ligand interactions, nuclear explosions or aircraft performance. The models obviously work well enough, even though they don't account for EVERYTHING that happens. However, an imperfect model that has a reasonable predictive power is better than pure unsubstantiated hand-waving.

Also, people who use these models aren't really claiming that the model PROVES something. Then know better than that.
posted by c13 at 8:27 AM on June 25, 2007


What I can't understand is why people are so hung up just on the collapse part of the whole affair.

Why? Because that's not how buildings collapsed in movies prior to 9-11, and no matter what anyone says, for most americans, their idea of what a falling building looks like comes from the movies.

If their comparing it to real demolitions, then they are idiots, as no one demolishes buildings by wiring them with dynamite 80% up the vertical height of the building. If you watch the video, the towers are collapsing from the top, i.e. the part above impact is moving long before the bottom 20% is. In other words, to blow the buildings with explosives would have required wiring the exact floors that the planes hit (which would mean the pilots had to aim for a specific floor - a neat trick at 500 miles an hour).

And I love the armchair experts who never got farther than a C+ in pre-calculus who opine on matters of science and engineering. This isn't politics, not everyone's opinion counts. If you don't know what vectors or gradients are, you should probably shut the hell up.

I wish Feynman were still alive for the 9-11 Commission hearings. I imagine him barging into the chambers in the middle of some testimony and storming to the podium, saying "Everybody shut it - I'm a scientist."
posted by Pastabagel at 8:29 AM on June 25, 2007 [9 favorites]


Also, people who use these models aren't really claiming that the model PROVES something. Then know better than that.
posted by c13 at 11:27 AM on June 25


I realize that, and kudos to DreamerFi for properly framing it as a study.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:30 AM on June 25, 2007


For example, does this model accurately simulate the forces at work on each and every bolt? Were the steel beams modelled with precisely the right shear and tensile strengths, moderated by thirty years of fatigue? Was heat conduction along the steel beams modeled accurately? etc.

The point of simulations like this is NOT to exactly replicate real events in order to prove total knowledge. The point is to explore the parameter space. If the region of parameter space near the actual event gives results similar to the actual event, then the model successfully captures the essence (or alternatively, the event actually happened as claimed).
posted by DU at 8:47 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


The part I'm interested in - the simulation showed the titanium shafts from down the center of each engine going through the far side of the building as if the building hadn't even been there. Where did those end up in real life?

In the street a few blocks away. This page has some good photos and a map, and you should ignore everything else it says.
posted by smackfu at 9:07 AM on June 25, 2007


Wait, what is this 9-11 thing you people keep speaking of? I think I might've missed it. Was it in the news? Dammit, I'm always so freaking out of the loop...
posted by miss lynnster at 9:14 AM on June 25, 2007


I'd still like a clear explanation for WTC7 that doesn't sound like a guy explaining the hows and whys of the "The Harmonic Convergence".

Let me be simpler than the previous people who've answered you:

Some asshole threw a skyscraper at it and grazed it but good. There aren't many photos of the fucked-up part because to get them, you'd have to be standing in a fire, and fire is ouchy.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:15 AM on June 25, 2007 [9 favorites]


Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the lead pipe.

Three thousand people died. The culprits were a lethal combination of stupidity and gravity. The ones who committed the act, died in the planes. The ones who told them to do it got away scott free, and they will never be brought to justice for conspiracy to murder three thousand innocent lives.

The physics of it are irrelevant. It won't bring back the lost, and it won't bring justice to the guilty. I'd rather they had invested their time in something more useful, like making a video game that makes cute sounds. Boop bleep bleep!
posted by ZachsMind at 9:28 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think the real research end of this study isn't "planes caused the WTC to fall down" but "we have a rich simulation system that is easily connected to a system for producing 3d visualizations."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:31 AM on June 25, 2007


And I love the armchair experts who never got farther than a C+ in pre-calculus who opine on matters of science and engineering.

Hey, I got an A in pre-calc - doesn't that count for something?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:33 AM on June 25, 2007


I realize that, and kudos to DreamerFi for properly framing it as a study.

You're welcome, Pastabagel. I struggled a bit with the "how to post this", not really anticipating a lot of snarks (some of which were funny, thank you all!) but I did anticipate some conspiracy stuff, and I did anticipate a lot of bad feelings if I made any snarks myself - after all, about 3,000 people died.

Although I don't live in the USA myself, it's a day that will live in my own memory forever, and I understand it is still a very emotional thing for a lot of people. In the end I just brought it the way it was, a study, and you can see bits of my doubts in the title.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:37 AM on June 25, 2007


Of course 9/11 nuts will just say the simulation was rigged.

And everyone else will go OOO at the pretty pictures, while the real criminals in the Bush administration continue to get away with their coincidency.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:04 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's an excellently rendered visualization. Don't know how to tell if it's true but the work itself is nicely done.

I've heard that there was a boiler fire in WW7 and that the heat melted the columns of the building. Makes no sense to me.
posted by nickyskye at 10:05 AM on June 25, 2007


The other thing about WTC 7 is that there was an enormous diesel fuel tank on the room to power the building's backup systems; it is assumed the falling debris ruptured this tank, which is why 7 burned so hot even though it didn't get an airplane injection.
posted by localroger at 10:05 AM on June 25, 2007


s/room/roof d'oh
posted by localroger at 10:06 AM on June 25, 2007


Can you trust any report which begins:

September 11 WTC Attack Simulations Using LS-D...?

I think not.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:08 AM on June 25, 2007


The simulation failed to model the covert dissemination of the occupants vital bodily fluids.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:09 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


What I can't understand is why people are so hung up just on the collapse part of the whole affair. Ok fine, Bush/Jews/Illuminati are evil motherfuckers who staged 9/11 in order to bring about New World Order/Plice State/Apocalypse. WHY did they need to go to all the trouble of getting the ninja demolition teams to wire the buildings? Would flying two jumbo jets into them not be enough? Or, conversely, if nothing short of collapse would appease the High Priest, why couldn't they just set the charges off without the planes? Was Dr. Evil in charge or something?

Because it is actually the Bush-Jew-Illuminati conspiracy which is the running the "9/11 was an Inside Job(tm)" campaign in order to distract attention from their real agenda.
posted by geos at 10:16 AM on June 25, 2007


I thought the rendering of the jet fuel as it passed through the building was interesting. Easier to imagine it as apple cider colored jello blobs than superheated liquid death.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:06 AM on June 25, 2007


I didn't realise until today just how many conspiracy theories abounded on Youtube regarding 9/11. I'm simultaneously intrigued and horrified.
posted by wehrlebyrd at 11:14 AM on June 25, 2007


The 911 conspiracy theories are a huge distraction from the current problems. Every week, there is a news item, or some new bit of information about these theories. And it is all just theory - no proof at all. Tons of web-sites and grass-roots investigations, tons of energy focused on this issue.

But take some actual crime, a crime that we know our gov't recently committed. How about Maher Arar, as an example? There is plenty of news about him coming out of Canada - Canada is apparently serious about addressing known crimes committed by the gov't. But, in the American media, there is nothing about him. Most americans do not even know who Maher Arar is. There is no public out-cry over this - even though it is clear that some Americans broke American law in handling Maher Arar's case.

But everyone knows all about the 911 conspiracy.
posted by Flood at 11:20 AM on June 25, 2007


What matters is not what made the WTCs fall but what use has been made of it since.
posted by davy at 11:24 AM on June 25, 2007


PURDUE DID WTC
posted by fandango_matt at 11:26 AM on June 25, 2007


I agree, davy.
posted by wehrlebyrd at 11:32 AM on June 25, 2007


I consider myself pretty well informed and even I have no idea who Maher Arar is.
posted by fusinski at 12:55 PM on June 25, 2007


Blazecock Pileon, that cat, Jeff Wells, is my high guru of BatShitInsanity. Brilliant writing. BatShitInsanity of the very finest, most refined and intellectual order - you are clearly, sirrah, a connoisseur!
posted by From Bklyn at 12:56 PM on June 25, 2007


Conspiracy you can argue about. Engineering/physics, not so much.
Maher Arar wasn’t blown up live on t.v. so you can front him off with “national security” instead of putting out this dross.

But, ha ha ha look how stupid people are beliving there was missles or something that hit the towers on 9/11, ha ha ha! You’re not stupide like them are you? No way. You don’t believe in all that conspiracy junk, right? ‘Cos it’s all these crazies, ha ha ha! People are THAT stupid! Not you and me though.

/ha ha, smed, you idiot, you spelled “stupid” wrong - thus your entire argument fails and whatever it is you were on about must be wrong.

Ugh. Facile bit of reasoning, see it here all the time. Why it’s not cross connected I don’t know. (Although yes, obviously some idiots hold beliefs in opposition to physical principles, most of ‘em aren’t here. Don’t see the point of dignifying them with a response - about as useful as addressing creation-scientists.)
Nifty post though. Always intrigued by the high energy physics and such.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:02 PM on June 25, 2007


Three thousand people died. The culprits were a lethal combination of stupidity and gravity. The ones who committed the act, died in the planes. The ones who told them to do it got away scott free, and they will never be brought to justice for conspiracy to murder three thousand innocent lives.

The physics of it are irrelevant. It won't bring back the lost, and it won't bring justice to the guilty...

posted by ZachsMind at 12:28 PM on June 25


What matters is not what made the WTCs fall but what use has been made of it since.
posted by davy at 2:24 PM on June 25


I do understand and appreciate the sentiment, but the physics and science of why they fell actually do matter precisely because of the things the two of you mention. The Physics of it is part of the truth of the proximate cause of the attacks that leads you to investigate the underlying cause.

See, if there's a conspiracy, if Bush and the Jews (be they in Israel or in NY or DC). engineered and staged the whole thing, then it means that the US's engagement of the rest of the world before and after 9/11 do not matter. Conspiracy is where narcissism meets mob psychology. "We", the American people, are all one homogenous entity, and 'they', our American corporatist government, are all one homogenous entity arrayed against us. There is no one else. History does not matter. What happened in black and white in the 1950's and 60's doesn't matter. Bin laden, Hamas, Iran and all the rest don't matter at all, because they have no existence outside of serving as the conspirators' red herrings. But they have no thoughts or histories independent of that. The only threat comes from our dads government.

The 9-11 conspiracy theories are always the same. This isn't like the JFK assassination, which was perpetrated by any one or combination of the mafia, Castro, the Soviets, the military, The British royal family, LBJ, or defense contractors.

The 9-11 conspiracy is always that the government (both parties and all branches) did it to us to take away our whatever (liberty, privacy, lives, etc). The theory typically frames the government as monolithic, and we are all collectively the victims.

If you want the American public to appreciate that 9-11 is blowback to US foreign policy and mideast engagement since the 80's, and if you want americans to ask tough questions about their personal role in the world and their collective role through their country - in short, if you want justice in the platonic sense of the word - we need to agree on the facts first.

At 8:46 AM EDT and 9:02 AM EDT on September 11, 2001, two Boeing 767-200's full of fuel were deliberately flown into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, respectively. Now work backwards. The planes had been hijacked by five passengers after they left Boston's Logan airport earlier that morning.

Work backwards.

The passengers were muslim extremists who had planned extensively and coordinated their attack, with outside financing and help, purchasing tickets well in advance and preparing themselves mentally and physically the night before.

Work backwards. They were led by Mohammed Atta. Keep working backwards. He was a disaffected engineering student in Germany, son of a rather secular Egyptian, and not particularly religious.

Work backwards. Keep working backwards until the information stops coming from magazines or websites but rather from congressional testimony, then executive branch documents, then think tank policy papers. Keep working backwards until you are working from history books and the photos are in black and white. Keep working backwards until all the names are unfamiliar and the events are no longer your parents' childhood memories.

Eventually you'll realize that there is no conspiracy. There is no single story that explains it all. There's no villian, no mastermind. There is only short term thinking - political and corporate expediences synchronized to the four or eight year presidential election cycle. Mistakes that are acceptable to make because they won't show up until the guy who made them is out of office anyway.

Justice has to start from the simple truths. The kinetic energy of a 767 travelling at 500 miles per hour is transferred to a few dozen 30 year old beams on the 89th floor of a stationary building. The jet fuel burns. Paper burns. Things you never thought could burn, like motherboards and glass, they burn. The energy content of everything is released as heat. Plastic wiring ignites like the wick of a candle. Steel bends when it gets hot. Steel fails when it gets too hot. Throughout the building, free body diagrams each with thousands of vector components all summing to zero begin to collapse, the vectors shrinking. The only force that remains is the force of gravity.

Things burn and then things fall down.

And everybody looks for somebody to blame but themselves.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:09 PM on June 25, 2007 [12 favorites]


I blame myself!
posted by mazola at 1:16 PM on June 25, 2007


mazola: I blame you!
posted by darkripper at 1:42 PM on June 25, 2007


KirkJobSluder: "I think the real research end of this study isn't 'planes caused the WTC to fall down' but 'we have a rich simulation system that is easily connected to a system for producing 3d visualizations'."

IF that were the case, there's hundreds of thousands of other things they coulda picked to simulate for purposes of three dimensional visualizations. They chose to do Nine Eleven for the shock value - to get attention.

Geos: "Because it is actually the Bush-Jew-Illuminati conspiracy which is the running the "9/11 was an Inside Job(tm)" campaign in order to distract attention from their real agenda."

Now THAT's just talking crazy! *smirk*

Adam Savage wouldn't touch the Nine Eleven conspiracy myths with a ten foot pole, and he'll do ANYTHING for attention!

PastaBagel: "I do understand and appreciate the sentiment.."

With all due respect, Bagel. If you'd understood and appreciated my sentiment, you wouldn't have continued typing. You went on for several paragraphs trying to explain why my sentiment is immaterial.

The physics and science do not matter to those who are dead. IF there's a conspiracy, they won. The proverbial kid got his hand in the cookie jar and his parents are none the wiser. 3D models won't change this.

There are multiple forces at work here, and anyone running around crying conspiracy is being silly. There's way too many threads that weave into the tapestry of what led to Nine Eleven. Making computer generated cartoons of it just cuz you can, is insensitive and sick. By the way, how do I get my own copy of JFK Reloaded cuz that looks hella fun!
posted by ZachsMind at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2007


The physics and science do not matter to those who are dead. IF there's a conspiracy, they won.

This is specious reasoning. Nothing at all matters to the dead. If the world today was pure joy and happiness, it wouldn't matter to them.

And who is they? The conspirators? What did they win? Why does it matter to the dead whether they win or not?

When you originally wrote "physics and science do not matter to those who are dead" I took that to mean that there's no point in arguing over the details because it won't bring people back. Now I'm not sure what you're point was.

My point is that the physics and science of the buildings falling matters to the living, for the reasons I mentioned.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:13 PM on June 25, 2007


The physics and science do not matter to those who are dead.
The physics and science do not matter to those who are dead.

Not to be insensitive here, but the model was not made for the dead. The physics and science matter to the physicists and scientists, that's why they've built a model. I know this may shock you, but 9/11 was not THAT big of a deal in the great scheme of things. Many other countries have experienced and continue to experience things that are far worse. I don't guess that you, or many other people object to WWII video games, or animations of Hiroshima blasts on the Discovery Channel, or gun camera footage from Iraq. So your problem about the link to a work that was published in a pretty obscure scientific journal ( as far as general audience is concerned) and was not intended to be put on youtube seems somewhat out of place. They've build this model because they want to gain and refine the knowledge in their field of study -- civil engineering. It's right there in the link:
Purpose of the Effort

Use the simulation results to understand what the extent of damage done by the impact has been. Effects of the subsequent fire are not under consideration in this phase of the project.

Use the simulation results also to construct animations and visualizations that vividly reenact of the impact, as it plausibly has been. This work will be Phase IV.

The dead have absolutely nothing to do with that.
posted by c13 at 2:32 PM on June 25, 2007


I, too, never understood why the conspiracy theorists focus all their work on seemingly impossible details ("the pentagon was missiled!", "WTC 1, 2, and 7 were explodedz!!", etc) when I think most of the public can readily accept that it seems very plausible to assume a building of that size would crumble under its own weight after having been crashed into by a full-size jumbo jet with 100's of gallons of jet fuel bursting into flames on impact.

That having been said, the conspiracy theorists have three things going for them :

1. Why were the tapes from cameras across from the Pentagon seized immediately and still never shown to the public?

2. There's a number of undeniable links between Big Oil(tm), Al Qaeda, Bin Laden (and family) and that of our current administration.

3. If this was all genuinely carried out by terrorists acting of their own volition, the current administration has certainly gained quite a bit towards the long-assumed conspiracy goal of one-world governments and increasing loss of liberty and privacy.

The exact methods of how it was all carried about, however, is where I (and I think most people) hold a point of contention. It's in our nature to see those fleeting attempts at "proving" something is Rotten In Denmark as evidence for greater untruths, and thereby making the whole conspiracy conglomeration seem like utter tinfoil-hat bullshit.

I was considering making a FPP about the full 2-hour "zeitgeist" conspiracy movie that's been making rounds lately, but the 30+ mins they spend on 9/11 makes me feel embarrassed to do so, despite the many other good points the piece makes.

Thoughts, anyone?
posted by revmitcz at 2:47 PM on June 25, 2007


As Kid Charlemagne says, please give the loonies a chance to talk about timed demolitions, etc.

The sad part is that the loonies don't make any less sense than things that were said by the "official sources".

The pattern, it seems, is that shit goes down, the President picks up the phone, calls central casting who then assembles a committee. The committee is charged with hastily reporting the pre-determined answer with a minimum of side investigations using as much jargon and tech talk as possible and glossing over anything that someone with just a skosh of curiosity might look at and go WTF? Conclusions will be easy to find. Getting observations and data will be like pulling teeth. (Note - the where the titanium rods ended up info came from a conspiracy site.)

And then someone tells you that glass and gypsum will burn if you get them hot enough and you start thinking about what the combustion products would be and the enthalpy of the that reaction and pretty soon you might as well check under your bed for Dick Cheny and Mossad agents because it's going to make as much sense as what either side of the debate is going to tell you.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:41 PM on June 25, 2007


revmitcz: I'll buy the idea that privacy and liberty has been curtailed, but recent events revealed that the U.S. has lost much more in the international sphere than it has gained. The current French conservativism seems more interested in France than playing nice with the Bush administration. Spain bowed out. When the U.S. floated the idea of a European missle shield, Russia snarled back, "not in our bloc!" and Rice seemed to blink first.

My view of the world is that the U.S. is not the superpower it was 10 years ago, and certainly does not have the influence over NATO countries that it enjoyed during the '80s, when a budding move by West Germany toward nuclear disarmament was met with a quick snap of the leash.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:45 PM on June 25, 2007


“The 9-11 conspiracy is always that the government (both parties and all branches) did it to us to take away our whatever”

I disagree. Not all the conspiracies are the same. There have been tangible benefits to certain parties intimately involved in the events around 9/11. The Iraq war - nearly doubtlessly - would not have happened without 9/11. Whether 9/11 was a deliberate perpetration by elements within our own government or the event was exploited for gain after the fact (by a number of (provable) collusions abusing the public trust for personal gain were made between two or more parties in secret agreement, by definition, a conspiracy) - is immaterial. A given conspiracy need not be predicated on certain physical facts of the destruction of the buildings to be a conspiracy. There most certainly was a conspiracy to hide the truth after the event - what that truth is, is subject to speculation, but most certainly there was a failure by many of the officials involved, which again, by definition is a conspiracy.
And indeed, 9/11 is by definition of it’s initial premises a conspiracy; a conspiracy by a cell of terrorists. And was indeed perpetrated by a mastermind (Osama Bin Laden). Most people don’t believe people outside of The Base knew of the attack - ok - but the CIC got a report stating OBL was determined to attack the U.S. and there’d been a bombing at the WTC before - lots of intelligence there. So, what, it came out of nowhere? Someone knew about it. Someone chose to ignore it. Further, NORAD could have acted better - apparently they had their heads up their asses. Anyone there fired?
Bob Graham, chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said the FBI blocked a congressional investigation into a relationship between several of the terrorists, the Saudi govt. and the Bush administration. Now maybe that’s totally because while they got the 303 Leopard squad to totally set up bombs in the towers with their magical trained homing pigeons they got the FBI to cover that up, or maybe Bushco doesn’t want a close ally smeared and is bending over backwards because they want to do business with the Saudi people - but either way, that’d be a conspiracy to distort responsibility.

Events, particularly foreign affairs, are not subject to vague short term inexplicable forces. Things happen because someone wants them to happen that way. Where there is resistance, someone else wants something else.
These things are not guided by vague rudderless forces - someone, somewhere ordered it so - whether their aims are nefarious, incompetant or benevolent.
A structural analysis is just fine for determining how. But it doesn’t answer why.


“Thoughts, anyone?”

To be explicit - what objective would be served by making the whole conspiracy conglomeration seem like utter tinfoil-hat bullshit?
As I said above, we see a similar sort of purposeful distortion on teh web (and on mefi) with purposeful misunderstanding, or misguided focus, specious reasoning, strawmen, nitpicking on spelling, to downright trolling, etc. etc. in terms of arguing a given subject.
There need not be a government driven disinfo program - why wouldn’t administration apologists et.al do this of their own accord?
People steal candidate signs from local elections all the time.

Further - one can invite an attack and there need not be direct collusion. It’s a very basic tactic and flows right down to personal combat (present an opening and hope your opponent takes it so you can set them up, or counter, etc). It’s been done in the corporate world often enough with soft monopolies or oligarchial monopolies on whatever (ADM comes to mind with lysine, they got caught, but it’s not like they’re not a company or not acting along similar lines anymore).

Planting bombs in the towers or other such schemes are as stupidly facile as pro-wrasslin’ - and as entertaining and as suspected of being taken in earnest.

Of all of these “conspiracies” does anyone think to themselves “this is how I would do it”?
Physical simulations are run because only the physical properties can be simulated. They can be derived from direct experiance. Steel bends more easily at ‘x’ degrees. A certain load shifts under ‘x’ weight in such and such a manner. Direct and verifiable.
Little wonder that it is there the debate is pushed.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:48 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


*note: I’m not endorsing any particular theory, merely asserting that such possibilities exist and are not unreasonable. And agreeing that there are indeed, unreasonable theories that aren’t worth much consideration. And enjoying beer cans hurled at high speeds.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:55 PM on June 25, 2007


Possibly the only thing on earth that frustrates me more than tinfoil-hat 911 conspiracy idiocy, is the legion of supposedly sane-minded individuals who are so quick to gobble up the official story in the hopes of "moving on."

You people are the reason this Gulf of Tonkin bullshit succeeds into dragging us endless wars.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:50 PM on June 25, 2007


If you'll pardon my painting with rather a broad brush Smedleyman, the problem is that nobody rational is endorsing a particular theory because all the 'particular theories' are patently horseshit.

I suspect that if you explicitly stated how far and in which directions you believe that failings and inaccuracies and downright lies exist in the public knowledge of 9/11, I'd come very close to agreeing with you. The problem is that that statement boils down to "we don't know shit." We certainly don't know everything, only a fool would believe that, but likewise that essentially accurate mistrust of the information provided is so monumentally far from being able to reconstruct a compelling alternate theory of the crime if you will, that specific theories are exercises in either intellectual masturbation, or batshitinsane rambling.

Also, there is a substantial difference between doubting the story of the motivations, flaws and errors of those responding to the events and doubting the physical processes of the events themselves. The twin towers and associated WTC buildings were destroyed by hijacked airplanes and the pentagon was damaged in the same manner, and it's doubts about these physical, manifest facts that stray into nutjob territory.

Can we maybe coin a new term for suspecting the motivations as opposed to doubting the events?
posted by Skorgu at 4:53 PM on June 25, 2007


@skorgu, do you mean something like..

9/11 : teach the controversy.
posted by revmitcz at 5:19 PM on June 25, 2007


Possibly the only thing on earth that frustrates me more than tinfoil-hat 911 conspiracy idiocy, is the legion of supposedly sane-minded individuals who are so quick to gobble up the official story in the hopes of "moving on."

No one in this thread said that they believe the official story. However, just because the official story is not perfectly clear, does not mean that it is ok to accept or come up with any wild ass illogical alternative. I can't tell for sure if Osama and Bush planned the attack together, I just don't know and have no way of fining out. But I know that if they were able to pull it off, they are not complete retards, and therefore would EITHER use explosives OR airplanes. There is absolutely no need to do both things at the same time. It's completely irrational.
Furthermore, in evaluating two competing hypotheses, it is wise to side with someone who knows what they are talking about, not some undereducated armchair architect-demolition expert-physisit, who reads at 8th grade level and cannot carry out a calculation beyond addition and subtraction.
Look at this thread. On one hand we have a link to a paper published by professors in one of the best universities in the world, describing what they did, how they did it and what their assumptions were. On the other hand, there is this half-hearted fart of a thought: i>dumb. this could never happen. Should the latter one be taken seriously?
posted by c13 at 6:08 PM on June 25, 2007


Events, particularly foreign affairs, are not subject to vague short term inexplicable forces. Things happen because someone wants them to happen that way. Where there is resistance, someone else wants something else.
These things are not guided by vague rudderless forces - someone, somewhere ordered it so - whether their aims are nefarious, incompetant or benevolent.
A structural analysis is just fine for determining how. But it doesn’t answer why.


I disagree. For every 'someone' who wants things to happen one way, there are countless other equally powerful someones who want them to turn out differently. Did Putin want us in Iraq? Did Iran? It's not enough to take the Marxist view of cui bono, you still have to prove that those who benefited from an event intended the event to occur in the first place. Putin and Iran certainly have benefited from the US action in Iraq, and the US has not. Do we then conclude that they wanted us there and the US didn't want to be there?

It is not a conspiracy if given the event, people take advantage of it. That is classic politics - turning crisis into opportunity. And still no one explains what the goal of any of this was.

You ask the question, "Of all of these “conspiracies” does anyone think to themselves “this is how I would do it”?" What the hell is it? That's what I still don't understand about these theories. What is the objective? Of doing all this?
posted by Pastabagel at 6:17 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've heard that there was a boiler fire in WW7 and that the heat melted the columns of the building. Makes no sense to me.

Fuel fires can't melt structural steel.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:27 PM on June 25, 2007


Wow. So many conspiracy crazies in one place, and I missed the entire thread. Fuck!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:44 PM on June 25, 2007


The 9/11 Conspiracy started on 9/12.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:57 PM on June 25, 2007


What Smedleyman said.
And what Blazecock Pileon linked to.
And what Pastabagel said too, which, whether he recognizes it or not is the same kind of intelligent response as Smedleyman's.

The 'conspiracy' was not what made the buildings collapse. In fact, what exactly the conspiracy was working towards is unknown, and unknowable. It was as though a secret signal went out that said, "All right all you crazy fucks, you've seen something really crazy, now go to it, explain!" (And too few (not here specifically, but generally) stopped to ask, "Explain what?", but instead just started blabbing away.)

And after a few years, there's slim to no hope of ever knowing what led those men to take over those airplanes and crash them into those buildings.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:32 AM on June 26, 2007


Good point, dirigibleman. It blows my mind when people claim that, but seem to forget that steel is forged in intense heat, and therefore, it's plenty likely to melt again, especially considering that steel can be recycled. And when it *is* recycled, what do they do with it?

Burn it.
posted by grubi at 5:39 AM on June 26, 2007


there's slim to no hope of ever knowing what led those men to take over those airplanes and crash them into those buildings

Why they did it really isn't a mystery.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:49 AM on June 26, 2007


There is also the argument that you don't need to "melt" steel in order to cause structural failure. Metal does two things when it gets hot: it softens and it expands. Having neighboring beams destroyed by impact debris increases the load on the remaining beams. So the argument goes that the combined effects of heat and increased load were severe enough to cause a beam to pop its rivets, and fall out of place. Each beam that falls out of place transfers its load to the next in line. "melting" is a strawman.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:18 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


“The twin towers and associated WTC buildings were destroyed by hijacked airplanes and the pentagon was damaged in the same manner, and it's doubts about these physical, manifest facts that stray into nutjob territory.”

Skorgu I agree with that.
But in the broader sense this is ultimately in the same territory as the Scooter Libby stuff or what’s going on currently with Cheney and his magically unaccountable position within our government.
One does run into a wall wherein there is no information and one has to say - about our own government - I don’t know what they’ve been doing.
That, in and of itself, is a really big problem.
Cheney, for example, might be doing absolutely nothing wrong. But that doesn’t mean he can say “fuck you” to an investigation of how his office operates and why such and such are classified in whatever manner.
The fact that there was any coverup of any kind at all leads to some serious questions. I can put myself more easily into the scenario of conspirator in the events surrounding 9/11 than I could as an investigator or other member of the administration because I’d want to know WTF happened and I’d want justice to be done visibly. Asses would sting. That didn’t happen here. In fact the administration tried to block investigations. Why?
Perhaps ‘politics’ is a reasonable explaination, but that only makes it worse. If thousands of people died on my watch, I’d take responsibility and work to make sure the system supports the next guy in the chair so it doesn’t happen again. Not so here.
It’s at the very least a crime of omission and obfuscation because there are procedures in place for investigating terrorist attacks.

As a f’rinstance - the USS Cole, we think the Sudanese passed info about the ship being scheduled to fuel to terrorists. Which is how they happened to show up in a boat with all kinds of explosives at the time the Cole was vulnerable.
The facts surrounding that attack have been scrutinized and made visible. And, whether Sudan was in on it or someone within the U.S. government was in on it, that can be independantly verified (pretty plain someone outside the U.S. talked, but the point is the chain that information passed through was examined).
So, that bit of it aside - the C.O. of the Cole’s responsibility was called into question and examined as were his staff and other servicemembers involved.
As it turns out, he (and others) was absolved of responsibility.
The reasons he was absolved were laid plain and bare.
The reasons then - policy and procedures - were examined and questioned and found to be most directly responsible for the occurance of the event.
Therefore, (since the C.O. need not be charged as he was following procedure and the procedures themselves lead to the vulnerability) Navy policies and procedures were significantly changed.

Nothing like that at all happened with 9/11.
(Oh, there was the facimilie of an investigation and surface changes in procedures, but certainly nothing tangible wherein responsibility could be assigned)

Beyond all that I merely suspect that some of the nutjobs are motivated by something other than mere nuttyness. Certainly there’s the usual paranoia, self-assertion, etc. But it certainly serves the purpose of obfuscation to blather about what is to any reasonable mind ridiculous - whatever that purpose is.

“It's not enough to take the Marxist view of cui bono, you still have to prove that those who benefited from an event intended the event to occur in the first place.”

In the investigation of any crime - it is enough to prove opportunity and location, you don’t have to prove motive. It might be brought up, but motive doesn’t enter into it. Out here we have a guy, a father, who is charged with killing his own family. He was in the car, he had a gun, there are records of him purchasing a gun of the caliber used, there is forensic evidence - angles of bullets, etc. etc. that can all be used to convict him. We might speculate why he did it, but it’s such a horrible crime it’s tough to do so.
So too with any investigation into 9/11. COULD elements within our own government have pulled this off? All things considered, yes. Did they? I dunno.
As to how - well, I’m very much on board with the rest of you in terms of eliminating certain irrational views on the physical evidence.

“That's what I still don't understand about these theories. What is the objective? Of doing all this?”

Accountability and justice. Basic democracy where the people choose their fate rather than have it dictated to them for the benefits of a tiny minority of elites.
No matter who opposes whom or what their motives are or whatever - responsibility must correlate with the exertion of power in any way. Even in the negative, when power is not exerted.
Your assertion is that there can’t be a conspiracy because certain events were taken advantage of. I would advise you to read my argument more closely.
If I take no part in a crime, but cover up my responsibility for not preventing that crime, I am responsible for that much of it.
If I’m a night watchman and I’m sleeping on duty and some theives break in and rob my warehouse and I falsify the records to show that I wasn’t on duty - or I use my pull within the company, perhaps my brother is a VIP and he pulls some strings - or however it is done - the fact that I didn’t actually rob the place myself doesn’t negate the fact of my dereliction of duty or avoidance of responsibility.
I don’t assert any goal behind 9/11 because I - STILL - don’t know what the circumstances are behind it or where the responsibility for the vulnerability lay.
If it went exactly as the administration asserts it did - how did the terrorists know a training op was to occur that day? Or didn’t they and was it random? If so, a number of fantasically random events occured to favor the terrorists.
If 30 people in my town are murdered and in every instance Joe Blow was in the near proximity of them very shortly before their death, I’m unlikely to think it mere coincidence. Granted, it could be. I could go to Vegas and hit ‘00’ ten times in a row, it’s possible. (Of course...ever seen ‘Casino’?)
But even granting the possiblity - there were still major failures that occured, so the question there becomes given the money we spend, the training, etc. etc. - why did those failures occur, what has been done to remedy them, who was responsible and has justice been served regarding them?
Either the terrorists had help on the inside or there was a massive failure (translating to luck on the part of the terrorists)
If there was inside help - who helped? If it was a failure - where was the failure?
We still haven’t gotten an answer on those questions such that blame can be assigned, responsibility can be taken and a remedy can be employed.

And further - given the politics of opportunism - why haven’t we been given the choice whether to continue policy that opens us up to terrorist tactics of this sort - given we manifestly cannot defend against them (that last point in and of itself a failure that needs to be remedied and has not been addressed)?
Is lying to the American public about the blowback - intended or unintended, exploited or not - from the promulgation of certain policies not a conspiracy? Or do we all buy into the concept that they “hate our freedom”?

But dispel any illusion that I’m defending those conspiracy theories based on arguing against physical properties from evidence derived on watching video or some such thing.
I find them in fact decidedly inconvenient, if not downright deliberately obstructive of a reasonable discussion of the physical evidence.
Might as well deny powder residue on the hand, prints on the gun and other such properties of physical evidence.
We need the physical evidence for a clear picture of what occured.
And, as I said, what better thing to argue about in terms of any conspiracy discussion if one seeks to deflect reasonable discourse, what better red herring?
The nature of those pushing such nonsense notwithstanding.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:43 AM on June 26, 2007


In the investigation of any crime - it is enough to prove opportunity and location, you don’t have to prove motive.

You don't have to prove motive, but you do have to prove intent. Opportunity and location are not enough. In your example, no one has to prove why the guy killed the kids, they only have to prove that he intended to kill them. Having the gun in his hand and having bullets fired from that gun being the things that killed the kids pretty much establishes that he pointed the gun at them and shot.

But even granting the possiblity - there were still major failures that occured, so the question there becomes given the money we spend, the training, etc. etc. - why did those failures occur, what has been done to remedy them, who was responsible and has justice been served regarding them?
Either the terrorists had help on the inside or there was a massive failure (translating to luck on the part of the terrorists)


Okay, I think I understand. The government may be covering up post 9-11 it's screwups pre-9-11 that allowed it to occur. My only response to this is that it is ridiculously unreasonable to expect the government to be able to thwart every single attack like this. We still don't know who sent those anthrax letters, or why. That's a bioterror attack that's gone unresolved (and is conspicuously absent from most of these conspiracy theories).

Some random guy could rent a van, get some diesel fuel, mix it with fertilizers, pack the mixture into a van, and drive it anywhere he wants - into a tunnel, in front of a train station or airport terminal, etc. Furthermore, he can get 10 of his closest friends to do the same thing at the same time.
How many vans pull up to the Empire State Building every morning? How many pass through the NYC tunnels? How many cross the largest bridges in the country?

I can't imagine that the government is covering up its screwups because they aren't really screwups. The government can't control everyone and everything all the time. Shit happens, with bad shit happening only slightly less frequently.

To tighten the system up enough to track the hijackers down before the event or to stop the planes would require an America very different than the one we were living in in 2001, and far worse than one I would want to live in.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:02 PM on June 26, 2007


I suppose this is as good a place to ask this as any... has Osama bin Laden been seen recently? Or are the rumors of his death greatly exaggerated?
posted by Dave Faris at 12:05 PM on June 26, 2007


"You don't have to prove motive, but you do have to prove intent."
Not really. He was there. He pointed the gun at them and shot them. Perhaps he intended not to kill them but to wound them. Whatever. Doesn't make a difference in the establishment of the crime.
If what your saying is in sentencing or mitigation of the type of crime, yeah. I'll concede there's certainly a difference between manslaughter and first degree murder, and they both involve killing someone.
But in deriving the commission of a crime from the evidence, no.
From your argument - work backwards. Ok, building 'asploded because planes hit it. Who was flying. Ok, terrorists. Well, we know about their end, so how about our end - How'd they get past air defenses? Ok, training op. Well, what went wrong there, who was in charge of all that? *crickets*
We were on to these guys before they attacked, why weren't they arrested?
*crickets*
(etc.)
I grant we know some of the answers, but there's a difference between that and assigning responsibility and fixing the weak links.
(And indeed, the answers to those questions about what happened internally aren't uncontested.)

"My only response to this is that it is ridiculously unreasonable to expect the government to be able to thwart every single attack like this."

That's logical. But I disagree with your underlying premise (and anticipated it which is why I referred to the Cole).
First - if your insurance carrier doesn't pay off when you need them - why carry the insurance? Similarly, if the government cannot stop every major terrorist attack - what good are they and why are we paying taxes?

Some guy could indeed make a bomb and drive it somewhere and blow something up. He's a lone nut, not part of a terrorist organization.
Once he does get 10 buddies he's going to need something to tie them together.
An ideology, a cause, something, because megalomaniacal suicidal/homicidal nutcases don't just band together to kill people for no reason - as a matter of abnormal human psych. They need to have a unifying focus that targets noncombatants and makes use of spectacle - that makes them terrorists.
So he gets 10 guys - recruitment makes them vulnerable to infiltration. The gathering of certain types of materials (now infused with chemical taggants) make them traceable. Certain other requirements make them vulnerable to logistic patterns. If they're not organized into cells and practicing operational security and following good communication protocols they're probably going to get nabbed.
The FBI and other agencies are, despite certain shortcomings, damned good at following those lines of inquiry.
Certainly where the government fails to investigate or make some inroads, your assertion would hold. They can't catch them all.
But, as with the case of the Cole, they can create a "lessons learned" package and reorder their operations.
In the case of 9/11 there was warning, there was infiltration, there was and had been a successful investigation yielding valid concerns. There are numerous examples of this.
Those concerns were ignored on the policy making level, that is, by leadership, not by the rank and file guys we'd call "the government."
You're thinking of this in terms of a static set of occurrences rather than a set of dynamic process subject to adaptation.

In short, mistakes may happen, but they can be exposed to scrutiny so responsibility can be assigned and people can be punished or held accountable (which is what rule of law is all about) and/or procedures can be remedied so the same mistakes don't happen all over again.
Where screwups are covered up no remedy can occur.

An attack similar to what happened to the Cole cannot happen again because the rules of engagement (which were at fault, as opposed to the commander) have been remedied.
In the case of 9/11 because of all the coverup there hasn't been a real remedy, thus it could happen again. Which is the problem. And one due to leadership - similar to if the commander of the Cole refused to cooperate.

Secondly, there's no need to tighten the system. An excellent counterterrorism program has been in place for some time.
Mostly predicated on communication - which is natural because terrorists want to be heard (or the message with which they self-identify).
Lately though, the focus has been on killing or imprisoning, which is really Jack Bauer and all, but is actually counterproductive to fighting terrorism.
If you can't get the nut in the van talking, and you just ice him, you won't find out why his 10 other buddies are planning to blow up 10 other things around town.

Arguments abound whether it's better to electrocute people's testicles while having a chat with them to gain information or take the time to seduce them, bring 'em flowers, etc. and see if they'll tell you what a goon you are and what assholes your bosses are and why they plan to show you God's holy wrath when they rain fire on the Empire state building this July...oop. (or whatever they reveal)

Bit simplified there, but the work to prevent these kinds of attacks can be done. It can be done well, and without violating U.S. citizen's civil rights, and I grant it can be done sloppy.
But it doesn't matter how it's done or if it's done at all if leadership has another agenda that excludes all possibility of flexibility or admission of error or acceptance of responsibility or is following some private policy of their own.
All that subverts the democratic process and the rule of law.
It's that simple.
It's not the single event, it's the process.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:13 AM on June 27, 2007


Some random guy could rent a van, get some diesel fuel, mix it with fertilizers, ...

Actually, this is one of the (few) smart things they've done, though it was in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, which is to keep a close watch on things that can go boom that are not dynamite etc. So if you bought enough fertilizer to make one of these bombs, they would show up at your door and say, "excuse me, you do know Habeas Corpus is out the window, right?" And then presto! extraordinary rendition for you!
Welcome to Ouchistan!
posted by From Bklyn at 12:41 AM on June 27, 2007


« Older The human network...  |  Viewing American class divisio... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments