"NIST demands $13,278 for massive photo/video library of 9/11 NYC events

This author recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a massive visual database of 9/11/01 events; it was accepted, though the terms required payment of $13,278.88. This large fee amounts to a de-facto denial of the request, a significant event for those citizens actively questioning the events of that world-altering day.

The NIST Collection
NIST, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is a federal agency which conducted a massive $20 million Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster. During the course of this study the visual database, comprised of 6899 photos and 6977 segments of video, was exhaustively compiled, organized, indexed and cataloged by NIST. Much of the media came from private, corporate or independent photographers, while some of it came from various government agencies including the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the Federal Emergency Managemement Agency (FEMA) and the NYC Police Dept. (NYPD).

Despite the final NIST report being published late last year, few of the photographs and none of the videos from the visual database have been publicly released.

A Need for this Information
The Internet is teeming with 9/11 related media: websites, photographs, stories, videos, sound recordings and more. Yet much of this media is of poor quality. Videos have missing audio tracks, low visual resolution, or are missing frames, context or identification of the source.

In some cases, audio tracks appear to be dubbed over the original recordings. For example, the same exact exclamation of fright, in the form of a scream, can be heard in at least two different video recordings of the destruction the World Trade Center towers 1 & 2. In other cases, the voices of newscasters completely obscure any other sounds the recording might have held, yet the newscasters were obviously recorded later than the image.

In yet other cases, identical series of moving picture frames (movie clips) are available over the internet with varying audio tracks; this makes identification of the original exceedingly difficult. Unfortunately, the ease with which media, especially digital data, can be manipulated without leaving much of a trace renders the majority of the readily available 9/11 recordings questionable in terms of integrity (regardless of the appearance or apparent source).

Unanswered Questions
This NIST visual database undoubtedly provides many details concerning what exactly happened to the three large buildings which were completely and suddenly destroyed on September 11, 2001. Fire engineers at home and abroad, as well as an American physics professor, have publicly questioned the NIST investigation; this further emphasizes the need for this visual database to be made public. Professors, writers, journalists, government officials, and ordinary citizens worldwide have seen through the inadequacies of the three official investigations (FEMA, NIST, 9/11 Commission) into the events of 9/11. The details of what happened in New York City that day are important because, despite the efforts of the mainstream media to repeat endlessly the conclusions of the unquestionably biased and ineffectual 911 Commission report, many United States citizens still have long lists of unanswered questions about that disastrous day.

The verified original source material for many of the 9/11 recordings, which NIST holds in its massive accumulation, would aid many professors, journalists, students, researchers and members of the general public to resolve their questions concerning some of the most contentious issues surrounding the total destruction of three buildings in NYC on 09.11.2001. For example, Professor Steven E, Jones, of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, recently (Fall, 2005) released a paper, entitled Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?, in which he explains the evidence which supports an alternative hypothesis for the destruction of the three buildings WTC 1, 2, & 7 in New York City on September 11th, 2001. Citing the symmetrical nature of the collapses, the presence of molten metal deep in the debris, the failure of any building to collapse similarly prior to or since 9/11, the presence of horizontal ejections of smoke and debris during destruction & the duration of descent, Jones calls for a truly independent, international panel to consider all viable hypotheses. His 25 page paper ends with this call:

To this end, NIST must release the 6,899 photographs and over 300 hours of video recordings – acquired mostly by private parties – which it admits to holding (NIST, 2005, p. 81). In particular, photos and analyses of the molten metal (probably not molten steel) observed in the basements of both Towers and WTC7 need to be brought forth to the international community of scientists and engineers immediately. Therefore, along with others, I call for the release of these and all relevant data for scrutiny by a cross-disciplinary, international team of researchers.

Unreasonable Demands
This returns us to the aforementioned $13,278 demand by NIST in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the NIST visual database ( available here ). NIST is not making this material easily available to the public, nor to any individual researcher. Their demand for this large sum limits this valuable collection to a few well funded institutions, or to very wealthy private individuals. NIST claims that this sum is to cover search and review fees, as well as duplication costs; this is difficult to qualify, and is not explained or justified by NIST (Unfortunately, nothing requires them to do so).

The above assertions demonstrate the unreasonable, unhelpful stance NIST is taking with regard to the serious claims, questions and debates many people both here and abroad are engaging in. The timely release of this data, even if only to qualified academics, at a reasonable cost is absolutely necessary for the international research community. To fail the academic community by refusing to make available this material is to engender suspicions, fuel many conspiracy theories and waste the tax dollars which paid for the collection. This failure is currently achieving all three."