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A video on Youtube, “BBC Building 7 Collapse” is a televised news report from the BBC that states that WTC Tower 7 (aka the "Salomon Bros. Building") had collapsed. An overlay on the video by the uploader to Youtube, at around 0:42 in the video, states "WTC7 Collapsed? It's only 5:07pm". The video goes on to highlight the apparently live footage – which shows Tower 7 in the background, still standing. There's a whole web-site devoted to this rumour (which, I add, has a statement from Richard Porter, the head of news at BBC World).

According to the timeline of the WTC fall on Wikipedia, the first impact was at 8:46am (North Tower) and 9:03 am (South Tower), and WTC Tower 7 fell at just after 5:20pm. The anchor states that they are reporting “some 8 hours” after the attack (i.e. around 5pm). I didn't spot any clocks in the video or more accurate measures of time.

The video purports to be evidence that the BBC reported that WTC Tower 7 had fallen before the fall had taken place, and in particular:

  1. the report is apparently made at 5:07pm (i.e. 13 minutes before the tower fell); and

  2. the apparently live image in the background showed Tower 7 still standing, while the BBC was reporting that it had fallen.

The video overlays state that the falling of Tower 7 was a controlled demolition, but gives no evidence supporting that conclusion. It seems to be implying that the BBC had clairvoyant reporting because a planned press release had been circulated, and that the BBC's mistake was in reading off the press release before they were supposed to.

The correspondent is cut off from the news feed, which on any other day might be considered unusual, but given the chaos of September 11, 2001, I don't draw any negative inference from it.

Alas the correspondent, Jane Standley, who would seem the person most able to shed light on this conspiracy theory, seems to not be a public figure anymore. No useful results show up for her on google, as others seem to have tried.

First, did the BBC report the falling of WTC Tower 7 before the tower fell?

Second, if the BBC did report Tower 7's fall before the event, does that evidence support the conclusion of the existence of any nefarious conspiracy? (i.e. are there not more plausible explanations, e.g. an error by the BBC as Richard Porter has stated)

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Wouldn't a news reporter making a mistake be more likely than a multi-national conspiracy? Perhaps Truman's victory was also a conspiracy. –  Russell Steen Sep 12 '11 at 5:02
    
@RussellSteen: Can you see from my answer the type of answer I was hoping for, and why? –  Brian M. Hunt Sep 13 '12 at 17:22
    
As I seem to recall from the day they(the structural engineers on site) knew that tower 7 was going to come down and expected it sometime after 7pm so they were working to find survivors trapped before then. Then around 5 it was announced that the building was in danger of collapse at any time and that the search was being called off because it was too dangerous. Yes we all knew at 1 pm that WTC 7 was probably going to collapse. It was on fire and had sustained damage from the first 2 towers falling. After that day 2 local (Peoria IL) broadcasters changed careers as well. –  Chad Sep 13 '12 at 20:05
    
I heard it was a pull. –  SSpoke Sep 17 '12 at 17:07
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3 Answers

up vote 27 down vote accepted

Regarding the conspiracy, this page does a better job than I could: http://www.debunking911.com/pull.htm

What most likely, logically happened: While investigating and updating information on the collapse of the towers, someone at the BBC was given a report/press release that building 7 was going to collapse. [Edit: we now know they were monitoring the news from different outlets and that's where they learned of building 7.] According to the fire department, by 2:00PM they knew the building would soon collapse. Reporters KNEW this well before the collapse because there are videos of reporters talking about it before it happened. So we KNOW reporters were given information on WTC 7's imminent demise.

Everyone knew the building would collapse long before it did. In fact they knew hours in advance.

Then we found out, I guess around 3:00 [o'clock], that they thought 7 was going to collapse. So, of course, [we've] got guys all in this pile over here and the main concern was get everybody out, and I guess it took us over an hour and a half, two hours to get everybody out of there. (Q. Initially when you were there, you had said you heard a few Maydays?) Oh, yes. We had Maydays like crazy.... The heat must have been tremendous. There was so much [expletive] fire there. This whole pile was burning like crazy. Just the heat and the smoke from all the other buildings on fire, you [couldn't] see anything. So it took us a while and we ended up backing everybody out, and [that's] when 7 collapsed.... Basically, we fell back for 7 to collapse, and then we waited a while and it got a lot more organized, I would guess." - Lieutenant William Ryan

Yes, they reported it early. Since when did a news crew screwup become evidence of a multi-national conspiracy?

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This report (PDF) written by a New-York based demolitions expert, says exactly the same thing. “We were all standing around helpless...we knew full well it was going to collapse. Everyone there knew. You gotta remember there was a lot of confusion and we didn’t know if another plane was coming...but I never heard explosions like demo charges. We knew with the damage to that building and how hot the fire was, that building was gonna go, so we just waited, and a little later it went.” –  jozzas Sep 12 '11 at 6:20
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As if it was the first time when journalists exaggerate things... –  user288 Sep 12 '11 at 8:35
    
@jozzas -- great link, thank you. –  Russell Steen Sep 13 '11 at 23:34
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In that you are wrong. You're expecting proof of a negative -- ie, that there is no conspiracy. We can't provide that. What we (the skeptics forum) have provided (on this and other questions about 9/11) is plenty of evidence that conspiracy is not likely and that non-conspiracy explanations for the events are legion. But, BUT, we can't prove there's no conspiracy, because of the difficulty of proving a negative. In addition this is not SCIENCE, because we just can't repeat/test the experiment. We can make deductions on scientific bases, but these all point to again, no conspiracy. –  Russell Steen Sep 14 '11 at 14:19
    
@BrianM.Hunt, go on then. –  Benjol Sep 13 '12 at 12:15
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The essence of this conspiracy theory seems to be that the BBC was part of a greater conspiracy of 9/11 in which reports were scripted in advance of actual phenomenon, and in particular that the WTC-7 building fell as part of a planned demolition, and the BBC report of the building falling came from a script prepared for the conspiracy.

TL;DR: While it would be impossible to prove this, one way or another, to the satisfaction of some, I believe that the following ought to be a persuasive argument for most that a conspiracy is highly improbable.

Evidence in support of the claim

Foremost, the only evidence in support of the claim is the reporting of the fall of WTC-7 around 15 minutes before it actually fell. This is uncontroverted; the BBC acknowledges that this reporting happened in advance. This is the only thing that could be construed as direct evidence of conspiracy.

There is suspicious circumstantial evidence. Notably, some believed reporter Jane Standley had disappeared, the transmission of Ms. Standley was abruptly cut off, the original BBC tapes were lost. As well, the only reports of damage to WTC-7 were fire, and supposedly no steel building had ever collapsed from fire, the owner Larry Silverstein (who had apparently recently purchased and insured the buildings) had told the fire department to "pull it" before the building collapsed, and the building housed a number of US government departments including a floor dedicated to US federal agencies such as the CIA.

Disappearance of Ms. Standley

It seems that Ms. Standley is working at the World Food Programme.

Statement by BBC

Richard Porter of the BBC responded to the concerns about a conspiracy theory with a post on February 27, 2007. In it, he states:

  1. We're not part of a conspiracy. Nobody told us what to say or do on September 11th. We didn't get told in advance that buildings were going to fall down. We didn't receive press releases or scripts in advance of events happening.

  2. In the chaos and confusion of the day, I'm quite sure we said things which turned out to be untrue or inaccurate - but at the time were based on the best information we had. We did what we always did - sourced our reports, used qualifying words like "apparently" or "it's reported" or "we're hearing" and constantly tried to check and double check the information we were receiving.

  3. Our reporter Jane Standley was in New York on the day of the attacks, and like everyone who was there, has the events seared on her mind. I've spoken to her today and unsurprisingly, she doesn't remember minute-by-minute what she said or did - like everybody else that day she was trying to make sense of what she was seeing; what she was being told; and what was being told to her by colleagues in London who were monitoring feeds and wires services.

  4. We no longer have the original tapes of our 9/11 coverage (for reasons of cock-up, not conspiracy). So if someone has got a recording of our output, I'd love to get hold of it. We do have the tapes for our sister channel News 24, but they don't help clear up the issue one way or another.

  5. If we reported the building had collapsed before it had done so, it would have been an error - no more than that. As one of the comments on You Tube says today "so the guy in the studio didn't quite know what was going on? Woah, that totally proves conspiracy... "

Follow-up by BBC

This is, of course, not the end of the story for the BBC. A further post by Mike Rudin, on July 2, 2008, includes the following:

The mystery of the missing tapes didn't last that long. One very experienced film librarian kindly agreed to have another look for us one night. There are more than a quarter of a million tapes just in the Fast Store basement at Television Centre. The next morning I got a call to say the tapes had been found. They'd just been put back on the wrong shelf - 2002 rather than 2001. Not so sinister after all.

...

The internet movie Loose Change has been viewed by more than 100 million people according to its makers and it asks this question in the latest film release: "Where did CNN and the BBC get their information especially considering the building was still standing directly behind their reporters?"

It turns out that the respected news agency Reuters picked up an incorrect report and passed it on. They have issued this statement:

"On 11 September 2001 Reuters incorrectly reported that one of the buildings at the New York World Trade Center, 7WTC, had collapsed before it actually did. The report was picked up from a local news story and was withdrawn as soon as it emerged that the building had not fallen."

I put this to the writer and director of Loose Change, Dylan Avery. I asked whether he believed the BBC was part of the conspiracy. Given the question his film had posed about the BBC I was surprised by Dylan's response: "Of course not, that's ludicrous. Why would the BBC be part of it?"

He added candidly: "I didn't really want to put that line in the movie."

And the reason the interview with the BBC correspondent, Jane Standley, ended so abruptly? The satellite feed had an electronic timer, which cut out at 1715 exactly.

NIST Report on WTC-7

On the engineering side, there is a thorough report of the collapse titled "Final Report of the Collapse of World Trate Center Building 7" that summarizes the cause on page 47ff as follows:

• WTC 7 withstood debris impact damage that resulted in seven exterior columns being severed and subsequently withstood fires involving typical office combustibles on several floors for almost seven hours.

The collapse of WTC 7 represents the first known instance of the total collapse of a tall building primarily due to fires. The collapse could not have been prevented without controlling the fires before most of the combustible building contents were consumed.

• WTC 7 collapsed due to uncontrolled fires with characteristics similar to previous fires in tall buildings. The fires in WTC 7 were similar to those that have occurred previously in several tall buildings (One New York Plaza, 1970, First Interstate Bank, 1988, and One Meridian Plaza, 1991) where the automatic sprinklers did not function or were not present. However, because of differences between their structural designs and that of WTC 7, these three buildings did not collapse. Fires for the range of combustible contents in WTC 7 – 20 kg/m2 (4.0 lb/ft2) on Floors 7 to 9 and 32 kg/m2 (6.4 lb/ft2) on Floors 11 to 13 – persisted in any given location for approximately 20 min to 30 min. Had a water supply for the automatic sprinkler system been available and had the sprinkler system operated as designed, it is likely that fires in WTC 7 would have been controlled and the collapse prevented.

• The probable collapse sequence that caused the global collapse of WTC 7 was initiated by the buckling of Column 79, which was unsupported over nine stories, after local fire-induced damage led to a cascade of floor failures. The buckling of Column 79 led to a vertical progression of floor failures up to the east penthouse and to the buckling of Columns 80 and 81. An east-to-west horizontal progression of interior column buckling followed, due to loss of lateral support to adjacent columns, forces exerted by falling debris, and load redistribution from other buckled columns. The exterior columns then buckled as the failed building core moved downward, redistributing its loads to the exterior columns. Global collapse occurred as the entire building above the buckled region moved downward as a single unit.

• The collapse of WTC 7 was a fire-induced progressive collapse. The American Society of Civil Engineers defines progressive collapse—also known as disproportionate collapse—as the spread of local damage, from an initiating event, from element to element, eventually resulting in the collapse of an entire structure or a disproportionately large part of it (ASCE 7-05). Despite extensive thermal weakening of connections and buckled floor beams of Floors 8 to 14, fire-induced damage in the floor framing surrounding Column 79 over nine stories was the determining factor causing the buckling of Column 79 and, thereby, initiating progressive collapse. This is the first known instance where fire-induced local damage (i.e., buckling failure of Column 79; one of 82 columns in WTC 7) led to the collapse of an entire tall building.

• WTC 7 was prone to classic progressive collapse in the absence of debris impact and fire- induced damage when a section of Column 79 between Floors 11 and 13 was removed. The collapse sequence demonstrated a vertical and horizontal progression of failure upon the removal of the Column 79 section, followed by buckling of exterior columns, which led to the collapse of the entire building.

• Neither the transfer elements (trusses, girders, and cantilever overhangs) nor the “strong” floors (Floors 5 and 7) played a significant role in the collapse of WTC 7. Neither did the Con Edison substation play a significant role in the collapse of WTC 7.

• There was no evidence to suggest that there was damage to the SFRM that was applied to the steel columns, girders, and beams, except in the vicinity of the structural damage from the collapse of WTC 1, which was near the west side of the south face of the building.

• Even without the initial structural damage caused by debris impact from the collapse of WTC 1, WTC 7 would have collapsed from fires having the same characteristics as those experienced on September 11, 2001.

• Early fires in the southwest region of the building did not play a role in the collapse of WTC 7. The fires in this region were not severe enough to heat the structure significantly; and, unlike the northeast region where collapse initiated, there were no columns supporting long span floors in the southwest region.

• The observed descent time of the upper 18 stories of the north face of WTC 7 (the floors clearly visible in the video evidence) was 40 percent greater than the computed free fall time. A more detailed analysis of the descent of the north face found three stages: (1) a slow descent with acceleration less than that of gravity that corresponded to the buckling of the exterior columns at the lower floors, (2) a freefall descent over approximately eight stories at gravitational acceleration for approximately 2.25 s, and (3) a decreasing acceleration as the north face encountered resistance from the structure below.

• Diesel fuel fires did not play a role in the collapse of WTC 7. The worst-case scenarios associated with fires being fed by the ruptured fuel lines (a) could not have been sustained long enough, or could not have generated sufficient heat, to raise the temperature of a critical column (i.e., Column 79) to the point of significant loss of strength or stiffness, or (b) would have produced large amounts of visible smoke that would have emanated from the exhaust louvers. No such smoke discharge was observed.

Blast events did not play a role in the collapse of WTC 7. Based on visual and audio evidence and the use of specialized computer modeling to simulate hypothetical blast events, NIST concluded that blast events did not occur, and found no evidence whose explanation required invocation of a blast event. Blast from the smallest charge capable of failing a critical column (i.e., Column 79) would have resulted in a sound level of 130 dB to 140 dB at a distance of at least half a mile if unobstructed by surrounding buildings (such as along Greenwich Street or West Broadway). This sound level is consistent with standing next to a jet plane engine and more than 10 times louder than being in front of the speakers at a rock concert. There were no witness reports of such a loud noise, nor was such a noise heard on the audio tracks of video recordings of the WTC 7 collapse.

The NIST report is thorough; it gives its rationale, methods, evidence and assumptions. It would take an expert to contest this report, however the report is open to evaluation by experts around the world, and no contest by an expert has been forthcoming to my knowledge.

Larry Silverstein

As regards Larry Silverstein, according to Wikipedia he was born in 1931 in Brooklyn and involved in real estate development since 1977. He won the right to develop WTC-7 in 1980. There is no evidence or even allegation (so far as I can tell) that he benefitted from the fall of the tower. Given that he was 70 at the time of the attacks, I find it rather unlikely that he would aspire to involvement in a conspiracy against his own property in his own neighbourhood and risk tarnishing his legacy; it is also strikingly against the mindset of real estate owners to destroy their own property. As a real estate investor and property owner in New York, the attacks of September 11, 2001 would undoubtedly have hurt the values of his numerous properties, and he was since involved with a significant dispute with his insurers after the fall of the towers. The fall of the towers was a significant expense to Mr. Silverstein; one must ask what incentive he would have had to conspire.

It was noted that that when Mr. Silverstein said "pull it" to the firefighters he meant to get the firefighters out of the building. Although "pull it" has a specific meaning in demolitions parlance, Mr. Silverstein was not a demolitions expert nor was he talking to one. In any case, saying "pull it" as in to destroy the building would be a bizarre and inexplicable admission.

As regards the tenants of WTC-7 being employees of the federal government, I do not see how this itself could convince anyone of a conspiracy. I do not think it is surprising at all that the CIA, IRS, Department of Defence, Secret Service and others to occupy centralized office locations such as the WTC buildings.

Conclusions

Which is all to say, there are reasonable explanations for the suspicious elements that otherwise contribute to an conclusion of conspiracy. However, in the circumstances, the likelihood of a conspiracy of the sort where the BBC or Reuters would have been handed a script is not likely, in my humble opinion. The question is one of what is more likely:

  1. That building 7 of the WTC fell

    • because of sustained irreparable damage from the fall of the nearby towers
    • the early reporting was a mistake in the heat of the moment of an event (which event was likely predictable by those on the ground); OR
  2. WTC-7 fell

    • in a controlled demolition
    • involved a conspiracy by the US government to bring down the towers with a secret yet complex set of controlled explosions by demolitions experts across numerous business towers in central New York
    • part of this conspiracy involved feeding Reuters/BBC information about the planned demolitions in advance of the actual demolitions.

Both are possible, but I believe the latter is improbable. The suspicious facts are allayed by reasonable explanations. Further, regardless of whether there was a conspiracy to bring down any WTC towers, I find it remarkably unlikely that the conspirators of such a grand scheme would take the effort to report news in advance of planned events. If their intention was to destroy the towers, the news would flow from the event; I have seen no rationale that would indicate a strategic benefit to reporting on the event in advance, and such reporting would have risked exposing the existence of the conspiracy.

In any case, even the protagonist behind the "Loose Change" video, which seems to be one of the most popular arguments in favour of conspiracy, seems to admit that the BBC was not part of any conspiracy.

In a parallel vein of reasoning, planned reporting on events that would inevitably be reported anyway does not in my mind indicate a conspiracy by actors of sufficient competence to pull off the events that transpired. Errors in judgment such as planned and early reporting that reveal the conspiracy would lead one to expect more errors by the conspirators that reveal the conspiracy.

Which is all that it is fair to conclude that the BBC did report early, but not as part of any conspiracy but as an accident that was part of the chaos of the day.

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Two points - One: I can't imagine why any fire official or structural expert would say hours in advance that they "knew" WTC 7 would collapse. No other modern high rise building has ever collapsed from fire. The conventional wisdom, prior to that day, was that it was all but impossible. Fire officials and structural experts would likely be the last people to predict the collapse of a modern high rise due to fire.

Two: From the NIST report, regarding the possible use of thermite: "It is unlikely that 100 lbs. of thermite, or more, could have been carried into WTC 7 and placed around columns without being detected, either prior to Sept. 11, 2001, or during that day."

Of the entire report, this one section is the least emphatic and authoritative. I did not get the feeling that the authors had any real conviction about that section.

100 lb of thermite would easily fit on one office dolly, and 100 lb of thermite would sever the critical column #79 that the same NIST report says led to the collapse of the building.

I don't necessarily think there is anything to the conspiracy notion, but the NIST report definitely appears to leave open the possibility of thermite being involved. The report also points out that the steel debris was all removed and destroyed prior to the investigation, so the NIST report is not based on any analysis of any actual materials from WTC7

Re: the original question, the BBC was obviously just reading a report that they got from other sources. I have not seen any analysis of where that report came from (Reuters?) or what the actual wording of that report was.

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-1 for no citations of first point. –  Andrew Grimm Feb 17 '13 at 6:53
    
"I can't imagine why any fire official or structural expert would say hours in advance..." -- BBC news at 17:07. Collapsed at 17:20. WTC North and South towers had collapsed that morning! Wikipedia says, "At approximately 2:00 pm, firefighters noticed a bulge in the southwest corner of 7 World Trade Center between the 10th and 13th floors, a sign that the building was unstable and might collapse.[37] During the afternoon, firefighters also heard creaking sounds coming from the building.[38]" –  ChrisW Oct 3 '13 at 14:28
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