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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
• 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
• 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
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.
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.
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:
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
- 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.