Nanothermite: Honeypot?

gretavo's picture

If there is one thing that I currently consider extremely risky to the success of the truth movement, it would have to be any kind of reliance on the seemingly conclusive discovery of nanothermite chips in the WTC dust. It seems to me that too much of the debate that has gone on between "debunkers" and the truth movement has focused on whether or not the red/gray chips reportedly found by truth movement researchers are indeed nanothermite. I have read the paper by Harrit et al. and I have no problem believing that what they found were not chips of paint, that they are indeed nano-engineered, and that they are highly reactive. I consider that debate to be a red herring, and the real question to be whether the samples used are representative--whether all the WTC dust contained these chips--or whether the samples used had been "spiked" as a way of sabotaging the truth movement.

Set aside for a moment the inevitable speculation as to who would have done the spiking and consider the ramifications. It is often argued by those who are convinced that AA77 hit the Pentagon that the issue of what happened at the Pentagon is a honeypot and that the movement, by focusing on it, risks having the government release video of the impact and, it is argued, immediately and irrevocably discrediting the movement.

Consider what would happen if the government were instead to reveal a stash of WTC dust which was shown not to contain a single red/gray chip--would the effect not be the same? In fact, independent analyses of the dust (cited in the footnotes to the Active Thermitic Material paper below) did not report finding red/gray chips, and while it may be argued that these various entities would have been wise enough to make no mention of such incriminating evidence, it is from their reports that we first learned of the existence of previously molten iron and molybdenum spheres, which are no less incriminating! And yet those who are so concerned about a Pentagon honeypot are among the most avid promoters of the nanothermite findings. As honeypots (which are usually "too good to be true) go, nanothermite chips in the dust are MUCH sweeter than an apparent lack of debris and damage in the vicinity of the Pentagon, no?

Suppose the government were in fact to release proof of AA77 hitting the Pentagon. That would hardly spell the end of the truth movement, since AA77 hitting the Pentagon could not have caused the towers be be demolished with explosives, and no one could get very far arguing that the truth movement was therefore discredited. If a convincing argument could be made (and if indeed the samples used by the truth movement have been adulterated it would be very easy to do) that the 9/11 truth movement had falsified evidence proving explosives were used to fell the towers, the damage done to our credibility would be infinitely worse. The public would turn on us faster than it turned on Dan Rather after his letters proving Bush was AWOL were discovered to have been written on a modern typewriter.

This possibility of a trap, however remote it may seem (especially to those who recoil from impugning the motives or sincerity of "truth movement celebrities") must be balanced against the value of the evidence. What is proven by the existence of nanothermite in the dust that isn't proven by the simple and elegant analysis of the kind conducted by David Chandler? By the clear evidence of molten iron flowing from the south tower? By the destruction in the basement reported by Mike Pecoraro as occuring simultaneously with the first plane impact? The case is a slam dunk without invoking nanothermite, and yet we take a huge risk by promoting the findings as incontrovertible evidence.

Given the importance of the provenance of the samples, I am copying below the relevant sections from the paper by Harritt et al.:

Previous studies discussing observations of the WTC dust include reports by the RJ Lee Company [14], the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) [15], McGee et al. [13] and Lioy et al. [16] Some of these studies confirmed the finding of iron-rich microspheres, which are also peculiar [5, 8, 11, 13-15] but the red/gray chips analyzed in this study have apparently not been discussed in previously published reports. It is worth emphasizing that one sample was collected about ten minutes after the collapse of the second Tower, so it cannot possibly have been contaminated by clean-up operations [17].


1. Provenance of the Samples Analyzed for this Report

In a paper presented first online in autumn 2006 regarding anomalies observed in the World Trade Center destruction [6], a general request was issued for samples of the WTC dust. The expectation at that time was that a careful examination of the dust might yield evidence to support the hypothesis that explosive materials other than jet fuel caused the extraordinarily rapid and essentially total destruction of the WTC buildings.

It was learned that a number of people had saved samples of the copious, dense dust, which spread and settled across Manhattan. Several of these people sent portions of their samples to members of this research group. This paper discusses four separate dust samples collected on or shortly after 9/11/2001. Each sample was found to contain red/gray chips. All four samples were originally collected by private citizens who lived in New York City at the time of the tragedy.

These citizens came forward and provided samples for analysis in the public interest, allowing study of the 9/11 dust for whatever facts about the day might be learned from the dust. A map showing the locations where the four samples were collected is presented as Fig. (1).

The earliest-collected sample came from Mr. Frank Delessio who, according to his videotaped testimony [17], was on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge about the time the second tower, the North Tower, fell to the ground. He saw the tower fall and was enveloped by the resulting thick dust which settled throughout the area. He swept a handful of the dust from a rail on the pedestrian walkway near the end of the bridge, about ten minutes after the fall of the North Tower. He then went to visit his friend, Mr. Tom Breidenbach, carrying the dust in his hand, and the two of them discussed the dust and decided to save it in a plastic bag. On 11/15/2007, Breidenbach sent a portion of this dust to Dr. Jones for analysis. Breidenbach has also recorded his testimony about the collection of this dust sample on videotape [17]. Thus, the Delessio/Breidenbach sample was collected about ten minutes after the second tower collapsed. It was, therefore, definitely not contaminated by the steelcutting or clean-up operations at Ground Zero, which began later. Furthermore, it is not mixed with dust from WTC 7, which fell hours later.

On the morning of 9/12/2001, Mr. Stephen White of New York City entered a room in his apartment on the 8th floor of 1 Hudson Street, about five blocks from the WTC. He found a layer of dust about an inch thick on a stack of folded laundry near a window which was open about 4 inches (10 cm).

Evidently the open window had allowed a significant amount of dust from the WTC destruction the day before to enter the room and cover the laundry. He saved some of the dust and, on 2/02/2008, sent a sample directly to Dr. Jones for analysis.

Another sample was collected from the apartment building at 16 Hudson Street by Mr. Jody Intermont at about 2 pm on 9/12/2001. Two small samples of this dust were simultaneously sent to Dr. Jones and to Kevin Ryan on 2/02/2008 for analysis. Intermont sent a signed affidavit with each sample verifying that he had personally collected the (nowsplit) sample; he wrote: “This dust, which came from the ‘collapsed’ World Trade Center Towers, was collected from my loft at the corner of Reade Street and Hudson Street on September 12, 2001. I give permission to use my name in connection to this evidence”. [Signed 31 January 2008 in the presence of a witness who also signed his name].

On the morning of 9/11/2001, Ms. Janette MacKinlay was in her fourth-floor apartment at 113 Cedar St./110 Liberty St. in New York City, across the street from the WTC plaza. As the South Tower collapsed, the flowing cloud of dust and debris caused windows of her apartment to break inward and dust filled her apartment. She escaped by quickly wrapping a wet towel around her head and exiting the building.

The building was closed for entry for about a week. As soon as Ms. MacKinlay was allowed to re-enter her apartment, she did so and began cleaning up. There was a thick layer of dust on the floor. She collected some of it into a large sealable plastic bag for possible later use in an art piece. Ms. MacKinlay responded to the request in the 2006 paper by Dr. Jones by sending him a dust sample. In November 2006, Dr. Jones traveled to California to visit Ms. MacKinlay at her new location, and in the company of several witnesses collected a second sample of the WTC dust directly from her large plastic bag where the dust was stored. She has also sent samples directly to Dr. Jeffrey Farrer and Kevin Ryan. Results from their studies form part of this report. Another dust sample was collected by an individual from a window sill of a building on Potter Street in NYC. He has not given permission for his name to be disclosed, therefore his material is not included in this study. That sample, however, contained red/gray chips of the same general composition
as the samples described here.

[13] McGee JK, Chen LC, Cohen MD, et al. Chemical analysis of world trade center fine particulate matter for use in toxicologic assessment. Environ Health Perspect 2003; 111: 972-80. [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from:

[14] Lee RJ Group. WTC dust signature report, composition and morphology. December 2003. [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from:

[15] Lowers HA, Meeker GP. Particle atlas of World Trade Center dust. September 2005; [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from:

[16] Lioy PJ, Weisel CP, Millette JR, et al. Characterization of the dust/smoke aerosol that settled east of the World Trade Center (WTC) in lower manhattan after the collapse of the WTC 11. September 2001. Environ Health Perspect 2002; 110(7): 703-14. [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from:

[17] Delessio F, Breidenbach T. Videotaped testimonies at Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA, December 2007. [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from: , start at timestamp 34:54.